Downtown Alamosa, monstrous fun and You Nork

by Chris Aaland

Last Saturday saw a bunch of friends and I hit the road to Alamosa for a night of Fort Lewis basketball and an afternoon sampling the wares of the San Luis Valley Brewing Co. Aside from tastings at beer festivals, I’ve never really given their products much of a chance. The fact that they use hops and barley grown within a few miles of their pub on Main in downtown Alamosa made it all the more intriguing, captivating my inner greenie.

Unless you have family or business there, Alamosa is more of a gas-up spot on the way to points eastward than a destination. Regardless, SLV Brewing is worth the stop. The building was built in 1897 as the American National Bank. It later became a drugstore. Today’s décor pays homage to its roots, with the door to the bank vault restored and mounted behind the bar. But there’s a contemporary flare, too – Valley artist Kris Gosar developed the entire concept and style for the brewery.

But a pub is only as good as its fare. The menu is chock full of local favorites, including burger from the Salazar family farm and sausages from the Gosar clan. My buddy Eric had the biggest green chile cheeseburger I’ve ever seen; from his grunts and the speed he woofed it down, I could tell it was good.

The brewery is relatively young, celebrating its fifth anniversary next month. As such, owners Scott and Angie Graber are just hitting their stride as brewers. I sampled all six offerings they had on tap and found them to range from stunning to forgettable (see the reviews at the end of this list). Prices — both during happy hour and at regular price — were quite affordable.

So, with bellies full of beer and Baldo’s Mexican food (I can’t pass the big yellow eatery in Monte Vista without stopping for chicharones and rellenos), we descended upon a packed Plachy Hall at Adams State College and watched the Fort wrestle men’s and women’s basketball victories away from the home teams. A successful road trip, indeed, on all fronts.

Unless you’re a newcomer to the area or have been locked in the cellar for the past 32 years, you realize that we’re already well into the 33rd annual Snowdown. The theme of Durango’s winter celebration this year is “Snowdown Bites – It’s Monstrous.” And if, indeed, you’ve been locked in the cellar, no doubt you have some shackles and chains that would accent a dungeon outfit. Dressing for success is half the fun with Snowdown. There are countless activities ranging from tame to terrifying and the full schedule can be found on the facing page, at or in brochures around town.

The biggest event, of course, is the Snowdown Light Parade, which kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday following the traditional single Snowdown firework. The route, as always, is Main from College to 12th. If you want a bar seat to look down on the proceedings, then I suggest you call in sick Friday and belly up at your favorite vantage point at lunchtime.

Personally, I’m leaning toward entering the hot wing eating

contest at Cuckoo’s (Thurs., Feb. 3) or Lady Falconburgh’s Lunacy (which began Wednesday).

Coinciding with Snowdown is Super Bowl XLV; it’s the national holiday for red-blooded American males. For the Aalands, it marks our fifth straight wild game feast, with onyx, moose, partridge and sturgeon making their debut appearances on the menu. Kickoff is approximately 4:30 p.m. Go Pack, go!

The Abbey welcomes Big Gigantic at 8:30 p.m. tonight. Big Gigantic is the brainchild of Boulder saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken. Conceived in 2008, the duo found their niche and created its name in the electronic music scene. By combining vibrant jazz melodies over pulsating dance beats, Big Gigantic delivers an innovative, distinct sound that’s all their own.

Get zombified at Carvers Snowdown weekend with two of Durango’s finest acts. Waiting on Trial plays high-energy newgrass at 9 p.m. following the parade, while jammy blues-rockers Jack Ten High does an 8:30 p.m. gig Saturday.

This week’s Starlight highlights: a mummy-wrapping contest at 7 p.m. Saturday, with live music by You Nork to follow at 9, plus Musica del Mundo at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Elsewhere: The acoustic duo Eleven Pound Lemon does originals and covers at tonight’s weekly Ska-B-Q; Black Velvet plays the Diamond Belle Saloon at 4:30 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday; and the A-Men prep for Super Bowl Sunday with two sets of gospel brunch from 1-3 p.m. Sunday in the Belle.

This week’s Top Shelf list rates the six beers currently on tap at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company, descending from my favorite to my least:

1. ‘Ol 169 Oatmeal Stout. This one’s medal worthy. Dark, complex and creamy with a great malt character. Definitely worth your time.

2. Valle Especial. Of course an Alamosa brewpub has to have a Mexican lager. If you like Ska’s Mexican Logger, then you’ll enjoy the Valle Especial.

3. Cowbell Common. The smoothness of this seasonal and its slight maltiness made it stand out.

4. Alamosa Amber. I’m not a big amber ale guy. To me, they’re training wheels for people who are curious about real beer, but still addicted to their favorite mass-produced product. The Alamosa Amber serves its purpose, though, with more than enough flavor to suit beer geeks.

5. Saddle Up! Strong Scotch Ale. I love strong Scotch ales, but the Saddle Up! lacked finishing power despite its 9.5 ABV. I wanted to start strong out of the gate, so this was my first pint.

6. Hefe Suave. This American-style wheat was a bit too smooth and flavorless for my liking. Then again, mid-winter isn’t wheat beer season and perhaps my tastebuds were already overloaded.

It was a graveyard smash? E-mail me at



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