Riff Raff Brewing Overview

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Riff Raff Brewing is located in Pagosa, CO inside an old victorian house in Downtown Pagosa. The brewhouse is really small, taking up about half of the house, with the remaining area used as a restaurant. The brewhouse is a very hands-on system, and does not appear to be much more than a scaled-up homebrew system. A lot of work was clearly put into this system to make a functioning brewery in certainly a less-than-ideal location. However, the brewery and restaurant has a great cozy feel that would not be possible otherwise.

The pub brews on a direct-fired 3.5 bbl brewhouse utilizing the vessels shown above. It is a very manual operation, and even included one of the assistant brewers climbing in the mash tun to get it nice and clean.

The brew house and cellar include five 7 bbl fermenters, with almost all of their beers being brewing as a double-batch. The small scale system allows them to do a lot of small experimentation. However, that ability is certainly limited by the space available for brewing equipment and ingredients.

While we had lunch, I got a taster flight to try a few of their beers. These included:
– Lazy Lightning, pale ale
– CryHop IPA, NEIPA using CryHops
– Hopgoblin IPA, west coast IPA, 6.5%, 83 IBU, Cascade, Centennial, & Chinook
– Plebian Porter, robust porter, 5.5%, 38 IBU, easy drinking with hints of chocolate and caramel. Miranda had a Black Cherry version of this beer which was also very tasty.

Each of these beers was tasty, unique, and enjoyable. I would have certainly stuck around for more if we weren’t trying to make it Durango before a toddler meltdown!

Currently, Riff Raff has a new 15 bbl brewhouse & canning line located across town (really only about a half mile away). With the new brewery and packaging addition, Riff Raff plans to expand outside of the Pagosa market with distribution to Denver. Also, Riff Raff plans to have tap accounts at a number of Old Chicago’s in the Denver area.

Another cool thing I learned from the Riff Raff website is that they utilize geothermal heating from the nearby hot springs to help power the brewery. Here is a picture of their geothermal heat exchanger located in the basement of the brewpub.

geothermal piping

It works by utilizing the 1,002 foot deep hot spring located under the town of Pagosa Springs. It employs a closed-loop heating system utilizing a geothermal pump network provided by the city to provide heating the the building. The supply water is between 129F and 136F. It provides heat for the domestic hot water, as well as heating the fermenters in the winter. The brewhouse uses the geothermal heat to preheat their mash and sparge water to 137F without using any excess energy. Additionally, at the elevation of 7,126 feet, water boils at around 200F so there is not a large energy load needed to go from the mash to the boil.

This is a pretty sweet system, and is certainly a cool way to brew using the local natural resources! Here’s to Earth Powered Beer!!

Besides the beers, Riff Raff also has a number of house-made sodas. Fisher especially enjoyed their root beer! Miranda and I can attest that the sugar kept him going for the remaining 2.5 hours of the car ride!

If you’re coming through Pagosa Springs, or looking to checkout some great hot springs, make sure that Riff Raff is on your list. You won’t be disappointed…and I can’t wait to see some Riff Raff beers available in cans soon on the Front Range!

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