Our drive to Estes Park could be summed up in one word: breathtaking. The canyon is split by a two-lane road that follows an ice-cold Rocky Mountain river straight to Estes Park. Along the way, the road is lined with precarious cliffs, tall Ponderosa pine, elk and bighorn sheep. Still, nothing compares to the moment that the Estes Park Valley comes into view. Snow-capped peaks rise above the horizon while the green floor of the mountain valley materializes below the speedometer. The view is dizzying yet demands contemplation on the vastness of the American west.
Jarred out of my thoughts, my children let out a chorus of: "Are we there yet?" I thought, without answering out loud: "Of course we're there, have you not been looking out the window?" We passed a sign which read: "Estes Park, Elevation: 7522 Feet." I wanted something from the mountains, something quintessentially Colorado, something that would taste like the Rockies. We found the Estes Park Brewery, and I put the car in park.
We walked in the front door, and I heard a welcoming voice: "Hey, would you like to sample some beer?" Sure, I thought, why not? We walked up to a bar, dedicated to handing out free beer samples, and tried everything from light wheats to the famous, full bodied Samson Oatmeal stout. The bartender, whose name embarrassingly escapes me, was full of knowledge on the beer making process and stories of local lore. Can you believe Estes Park is the inspiration for Stephen King's novel, The Shining? Just when I thought the kids might be getting bored, the bartender offered them a free sample of Stinger Root Beer, hand-crafted on site with crystal clear mountain water.
The bartender told us that the Estes Park Brewery has a restaurant with the largest selection of American pub fare, plus the only selection of local hand-crafted beers, in the Estes Park Valley. We went upstairs to the second level where we were greeted with warmth and sat at a table overflowing with rustic mountain charm. The full bar is complemented with a 200 foot mural and a mixologist who travelled from Transylvania, Romania to escape the perils of Communism, Socialism and Fascism. While my husband and I cozied up in a booth with a couple pints of Stinger Wild Honey Wheat, the kids played video games and shot a game of eight-ball on one of two pool tables. The food was served fast and fresh and our beer glasses were never empty.
Before departing, we stepped out onto the deck to enjoy the stunning views of Longs Peak, 14,256 feet, and the rest of the snow-capped peaks which encircle Estes Park. We were joined by the bartender who told us that the Estes Park Brewery is equipped to handle rehearsal dinners and receptions if my husband and I ever wanted to renew our vows. I laughed at the thought but have kept the idea tucked in the back of my mind...
Thanks for making our stay in Estes Park memorable.