Vail Ale House serving more than bar food with hefty beer list
If you go ...
What: Vail Ale House, laid back local’s joint serving upscale bar food and craft brews.
Where: 2161 North Frontage Road W., West Vail.
Cost: Beer $3-$9; appetizers $9-$15; entrees $13-$22.
Signature dish: Rattlesnakes (bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers), gourmet Ale House burger.
More information: Call 970-476-4314 or visit www.vailalehouse.com.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published as a paid feature in EAT, a compendium of restaurant snapshots featuring the best in Vail Valley dining. Look for it on newsstands everywhere.
Diners at the Vail Ale House typically have one of a few reactions. Regulars sidle up to the large, wooden bar and order their favorite craft beer and appetizer. First-time visitors often are duly impressed with the quality of the food and affordability, as well as shocked that they never noticed the sports bar, which is tucked away in the West Vail Mall.
“We’re hard to find,” admits Rob Page, general manager and partner. “I always advise people coming for the first time to punch us into their GPS. Customers tell me all the time that they’ve lived in the area for years and never realized that we were here, but that they’re definitely coming back.”
Fittingly, the Ale House is a chameleon of sorts, simultaneously serving as an affordable, family-friendly dinner spot, an ideal space for banquets or large groups, a low-key apres stop for beer connoisseurs and a live music venue. During a typical week, the Ale House hosts at least a couple local or national live music acts.
As its name suggests, the Ale House is a goldmine for any brew lover, specializing in Colorado craft beer. Here, you’ll find anything from sours to stouts to lagers, especially from local breweries like Eagle’s Bonfire Brewing and Edwards’ Crazy Mountain. Non-beer drinkers will also appreciate the Ale House’s selection of fun cocktails and respectable wines by the glass.
What makes the restaurant a hidden gem, however, is the food, which impresses with fresh, high-quality ingredients and generous portions. Bar food gets the royal treatment here with towering, Colorado beef burgers and juicy Alehouse Wings (try the tongue-burning buffalo sauce or the finger-licking, sweet and sour Thai chili sauce).
When Page and business partners Jeremy Pagden and Mike Sweeney took over the Ale House last winter, they were careful to maintain the restaurant’s laid-back vibe while also incorporating menu options that foodies would appreciate. Instead of the usual pizza, the Ale House serves up sophisticated flatbreads. We suggest the fig version, featuring the chewy, sweet fruit, copious amounts of gooey goat cheese, balsamic onions and crispy, fried sage leaves.
And while it may be easy to pass up a salad at a sports bar, don’t miss the Roasted Beet Salad, with its tender, thin-sliced beets, blue cheese crumbles and tangy pickled onions. The Nuts and Berries Salad is a fresh option on dreary winter days with brightly colored strawberries and blueberries paired with candied walnuts and creamy goat cheese on a bed of greens.
During the day and evening, however, there’s something for everyone on the Ale House menu. Deal seekers will enjoy Social Hour from Monday through Friday, 3 to 6 p.m., featuring $4 wines, $4 craft beers and food specials. On football game days, fans will find plenty of shareable appetizers such as nachos, sliders, and chili on the Football Menu while they watch the game on the big screen.
“Our menu covers everything and everyone’s needs,” Page said. “I really see our menu as more than bar food, and I hope our customers see that, too — flavors and quality are very important to us.”
Prinzhorn launched Grannies in the Bush 17 years ago. It’s now EduTek, a Colorado-based nonprofit.