Category Archives: Beer Festival

Preview: Telluride Blues and Brews

The crowd was getting larger, but no one was sitting on the far bank of the creek yet. I held tight to my koozie containing a can of Palisade Brewing Hula Hoppy as I steadied myself across the rocks. The dirt was warm, with just enough space to sit before the canyon wall started rising high above the campsite. My feet were no longer caked with beer and dirt from the Grand Tasting, as the icy water had cleaned them. This beer tastes amazing right now.

Happy Place

Sounds of the waterfall to my left were drowned out for a brief moment while the fiddle player for Mohead turned her instrument. I didn’t look up though, as I was too busy watching a guy in Keens build an intricate tower of rocks. Balancing each one carefully on top of the next. The river was filled with rock towers of all shapes and sizes. A couple, laughing and slipping across the river knocked down the most delicate of them all. It was so small they probably didn’t see it.

I leaned back against the hill and closed my eyes. The hot sun on my face prompted more sips of my Hula Hoppy. It felt good to sit down and relax after 2 days of dancing and hiking. The moment was perfect. A splash of water across my legs and face prompted me to open my eyes.

“Hey, hows it goin?”, he said as he sat down next to me, not on the bank but right in the creek. His friend soon joined us on the other side as I found out he job as a wildland firefighter explained his sculpted arms. “Want to smoke a joint?”, his friend asked, just as the crowd began cheering the start of Mohead’s set. I couldn’t believe how perfect this moment was

Check back for a 3 part series on our adventure to the 2014 Telluride Blues and Brews Festival

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The Colorado Craft Beer Round Up

After I moved to Frederick, Colorado I started to become disillusioned with beer. I just couldn’t find the same passion and joy in the art of fermentation as I once had.. Logging onto Facebook, which I have to do for work, would just make me agitated seeing all the awesome beer tappings and events my friends attended but I was too far to join. It even got to the point where I would go a couple weeks without sipping a 20140816_180654sud, despite the overflow of beer from our fridge and working at a brewery. Was I subconsciously hoarding my small cellar of beer in case of another flood and I wouldn’t be able to get out of town to get more? Was I losing my taste for it? Could I actually- in a land of 10,000 beers- be BORED? What is going on!?!?

And then I saw it. A poster for the Colorado Craft Beer Round Up. A small festival put on by the Carbon Valley Chamber of Commerce, and walking distance from my house. A beer event that I didn’t have to drive 40 minutes to Denver, Boulder or Fort Collins to attend. Now, I don’t want you to think that I am totally deprived of beer out on the plains. I have found a hang out at Echo Brewing Company and thank whatever god you pray too that Georgia Boys Smoke House has 20 taps of beer other than bud light, but 2 places won’t give you that awesome of a bike tour.

The 20140816_155907night before the festival I perused the list of breweries serving. A few new breweries who I haven’t had a chance to make it to would be pouring, but the rest of the bunch were the usual suspects; City Star Brewing, Pateros Creek, Grimm Brothers Brewhouse and others. Live music was supposed to play all day, and knowing the lay out of the park I was excited for some dancing barefoot in a skirt possibilities.

Despite the advertisements that promised a taster glass with your ticket purchase, everyone was handed a clear plastic cup at arrival. As a collector I was disappointed they didn’t at least spring for a $.75 per person tiny plastic beer mug. However, I was surprised to see so many unusual beers to fill my cup with. So often small festivals just showcase a breweries standard beers, but I was able to sip on barrel aged, fruit & floral infused, double hopped 20140816_153844and more. Walking up to the Grimm Brothers tent, owner Aaron Heaton pulled a growler out of the cooler and poured me a serving of their new Gose. It was amazing. It is hard for me to find a Gose that doesn’t illicit salted vegetables on my palette, but this one had a malt sweetness to balance the perfect salty bite.

There was even a Grist style ale! This is a style I search out with little results. It is such a historic style, yet it is incredibly diverse in its execution. Very Nice Brewing out of Netherland brought theirs out and I am glad they did. The cloudy golden amber ale had a such complex taste, from sweet malt and spicy rye to an earthy finish. Lauren and Heather from Disposabowls kept going back for more. The “beer” I kept going back for more was the Pumpkin Cider from Wild Cider. A local cidery here in Frederick, I was all about their spicy sweet concoction available in a 16 oz. can.

Drinking beer was about it as terms as things to do at the festival. While they didn’t follow through on their advertising for the festival glass, they did follow through on it being family friendly. A family friendly beer festival is good in theory, but having half the festival grounds dedicated to the entertainment of the maybe 20 children in attendance was a bit over kill. The paying grown-ups 20140816_165725would like entertainment, too. And the lone guitarist who nearly ruined my favorite Tom Petty song with the worst cover I have ever heard didn’t count.

Towards the end of the festival Echo Brewing Company was presented with an award for “VIP Choice Beer”. There was no earlier mention of a voting or judging, or even a formal ceremony to present the award. Even the brewery reps who won the award didn’t know how the contest was won or why they won. “Some dude just gave us this”, was how they described their hard earned win.

The festival offered most of what it promised, lots of family friendly activities with an20140816_163016 unlimited amount of beer. Without the Brewers Association and the help from brewers (an owner of Echo Brewing paid $100 out of his own pocket to fill in a contract disagreement between the musician and the chamber), I don’t think the chamber could have pulled this off.

Despite the numerous signs at the festival declaring “for children 12 and under only” restricting me from most of the area, attending this festival helped renew my passion for beer. It helped me discover why I was becoming so disillusioned with beer. It reminded me that the thing I love most about beer is the social aspect and camaraderie. Drinking an amazing, barrel aged, bottle conditioned, rare hopped whale isn’t as fun by yourself as it is with others who also appreciate the craft. It was great to catch up with Aaron from Grimm Brothers and Paul from Pateros Creek and meet so many new people.I learned that there is indeed life outside the brewery mecca that is Fort Collins.

 

 

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The 2014 Big Beers Festival, Part 1

Photos by JulieannaD Photography

Huge wet snowflakes blanketed the pavement almost faster than heated sidewalks of Vail Village could meltJulieannaD_140110__JLD0861 them for nearly 3 days. This didn’t stop hundreds of brewery employees and craft beer aficionados from flocking to the Vail Cascade Resort for the 2014 Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival. “It’s like we are in a snow globe!”, photographer Julieanna Jablonski exclaimed as she snapped pictures during our dinner at the Red Mountain Grill the night we arrived in Eagle County.

I warmed a globe of Bourbon County Stout between my hands as we shared dishes of chili shrimp, ribs and ahi tuna salad. It was Julieanna’s first time at the Big Beers Festival, and my second, but you couldn’t tell who was excited more. Earlier in theJulieannaD_140109__JLD0447 day we had kicked off the weekend with a stop at Crazy Mountain Brewery. We shared a taster tray of all of their offerings. I was surprised to see such a light colored taster tray in the middle of winter, but over the weekend my expectations of beers and styles would be shattered over and over. I have always enjoyed Lawyers, Guns and Money, and their Bridge Street Holiday spice ale was Julieanna’s favorite.

We decided to stay in Avon rather than Vail for a cheaper hotel rate. We ended up with a great deal at the WestinJulieannaD_140109__JLD0484 Riverfront Resort and Spa, and a beautiful room. The first night ended with a relaxing soak in the hot tub, steam swirling up to meet the falling snow while I sipped a can of Eddyline Brewing River Runners Pale Ale. We shared the hot tub with a group of Australians, and while we tried to share our beer, their pallets just were not accustomed to American hops, and this beer definitely has a big pine punch.

Friday cameJulieannaD_140110__JLD0506-Edit bright and early as we headed back to Vail Cascade Resort for the Cicerone Prep Course sponsored by All About Beer. I may have freaked out just a bit when I arrived and saw that none other than Ray Daniels, founder of the Cicerone Program, would be our instructor for the day. The huge room had wall to wall sprawling tables with industry expert and newbie alike ready to learn more about the craft of brewing. For the next 3 and a half hours we sipped beer, crunched malt, and sniffed hops all to understand more about a beverage we all loved.

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The course featured history lessons, off flavor attributes, and more, as well as hands on experiences. The “flavor vs. taste” experiment JulieannaD_140110__JLD0573-Edit (1)was an interesting way to learn about how you taste beer, and you can find out more, here. Try it at your next beer tasting.The course is a non- ticketed event offered annually, check it out if you can. I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the course information I already knew, and it gave me more confidence in finishing out my certification soon. The actual Cicerone Certification test is also available during the weekend.

TheJulieannaD_140110__JLD0698 foyer of the conference hall filled up quickly after the Cicerone prep course for the Welcome Reception. As media members and homebrew judges checked-in, Ommegang, Pretty Little Things Beer & Ale Project, and Cambridge Brewing Company each poured a beer to pair with a small dish. Three Philosophers from Ommegang became a completely different beer when paired with the Triple Chocolate Cake. The beer showed more cherry and other dark fruit flavors with the cake, creating a delightful truffle effect.

As the Welcome Reception ended, the homebrew competition began. I helped steward the competition last yearJulieannaD_140110__JLD0610-Edit, but decided not to participate this year in order to spend some time outside of the fest. If having your beer judged by some of the best pallets in the beer industry is something you are interested in, start brewing your beer now.

The wind wasn’t very enjoyable, but we walked around Vail Village anyways. Huge snow flakes continuedJulieannaD_140110__JLD0742 to fall as parents carrying ski’s and pulling along preschools strolled by. Ski school must have just ended. We ended up at Mountain Standard and grabbed a seat at the bar, but still with a view of the floor to ceiling windows. Outside was a fire pit surrounded by benches next to the river, and two snow caked men carving ice into a whimsical wall.

Mountain Standard was hosting a Schmaltz Brewing Company tap take over, and all 8 taps IMG_20140110_151512featured the New York made brews. I was excited when I saw their Jewbelation 8th Anniversary ale on tap, and we ordered the full flight. However, the bartender failed to mention that the beer would not be tapped until 8pm, and even still charged us full price for the flight. Luckily, the hickory, bourbon caramelized onion soup made up for it. Clearly they couldn’t call it french onion, as the added ingredients gave it an American twist. The savory soup complimented the sweet vanilla and cinnamon flavors of Reunion Ale ‘13.JulieannaD_140110__JLD0732

It was too cold to walk around anymore, so we headed back to The Fireside Bar at the Cascade. During the festival the bars at the resort stock plenty of craft beerJulieannaD_140110__JLD0874 brought in just for the event. You could hear the roar as soon as you walked in the building, as the room was filled with revelers catching up from the last beer fest they met at. Even the lobby had brewery shirt glad guests passing bottles around to share. I felt bad for the families here to enjoy a quiet relaxing weekend, as that atmosphere can’t be found when you put that many brewery people in one room. With several readily available kegs, no less.

I sipped a Trinity wheat and chatted with Chris and Tommy of Telluride Brewing whileJulieannaD_140110__JLD0925-Edit we waited for the Winter Seasonals seminar hosted by CraftBeer.com. It’s no secret that I think Julia Herz is the bee’s knees, and I never miss a chance to learn from some of the best. She hosted the panel of brewers from Dillon Dam Brewery, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Very Nice Brewing Company and Surly Brewing. We tasted 4 very distinct and different beers in a blind setting, meaning we didn’t know the style of beer we were tasting. Truly, styles didn’t matter for these beers. Each one pushed one border or another. Some, like Surly’s Misanthrope, a wine barrel aged Saison, blew guidelines out of the water. Panels like this really give a personality to the beer you are drinking. Scott Vaccaro from Captain Lawrence may have spentJulieannaD_140110__JLD0973 more time laughing then he made us laugh, which was quite a bit. Make sure you get on the list for CraftBeer.com’s seminar next year, which you can do for a $10 donation the Vail Valley Charitable Fund

We finished off the night again at the Fireside Bar with some warming comfort foods and a glass of Sam Adams Utopias, but it was a bit quieter as other events were going on around town. The festival hosts not one, butJulieannaD_140110__JLD0981-Edit 2 beer pairing dinners on each Thursday and Friday nights. I have never attended one before, as the price tags usually are $100+, but I have heard they are worth every penny. Other businesses get in on the fun too, such a Bol that hosted a brewery vs. brewery bowling tournament. The night ends with a cigar and beer pairing, that usually results in legendary stories year after year. This event is on my must do list for next year.

Soon to come….a sensory seminar featuring Ginger Johnson of Women Enjoying Beer, a barrel aged beer blending seminar, the Grand Tasting, and the best after party I have ever been too.

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How to buy tickets for the Connoiseurs Tasting event

Last year one of the highlights of my summer was the Connoisseurs Tasting event put on by Choice City Butcher and Deli the Friday before the Colorado Brewers’ Festival. While the festival the next day was full of flagship and standard beers, owner Russ Robinson was able to use his role in the beer community to obtain some truly amazing beers for the Connoisseurs Tasting, an event he holds annually. Plus, these great beers were paired with delectable bites from Choice City Butcher and Deli.

This year, the Connoisseurs Tasting is happening not once, but twice.

It was a beautiful night at last years Connoisseurs Tasting

It was a beautiful night at last years Connoisseurs Tasting

The Downtown Business Association  is putting on the event without Choice City Butcher and Deli. Without Choice City’s permission, they took the idea that Russ has spent the last 5 years developing and evolving and are now using it as their own idea to help fund their organization.

The Colorado Brewers’ Festival is the biggest fundraiser for the DBA and helps fund other events such as First Night Fort Collins and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. In 2009, nearly 20,000 people packed the festival, but caused issues with local businesses and had to be moved. Since then, attendance has dropped to nearly half, leaving the DBA without much needed funding. While I support the DBA’s efforts in the community, and the Colorado Brewers’ Festival, the way they are choosing to go about recovering that lost revenue is appalling.

The Downtown Business Association is an organization meant to promote and support our local businesses, not poach off their success and hard work. This past week, the DBA  sent out emails to all of its members, declaring the week before the Colorado Brewers’ Festival as “beer week” and encouraging businesses to hold special promotions, events and more in support of our beer community. But where is the DBA’s support?

According to Robinson, the DBA did not contact him about any sort of collaboration efforts to host the event. He only found out that his event was taken when he was tipped off by members of the beer community. Robinson was already in the planning stages of his event, which he intends to host at The Aggie Theater, where it has been held in previous years. When speaking with a local brewer, who wishes to remain anonymous, when he was contacted about supplying beer for the Connoisseurs Tasting, he was lead to believe that this was the same event that Choice City has hosted for the last 4 years.

When you purchase your tickets for this years Connoisseurs Tasting event, make sure you are purchasing the tickets from Choice City Butcher and Deli to support the event they have spent years crafting.

Tickets for the 4th Annual Connoisseurs Tasting go on sale Wednesday June 5th and you can purchase them at Choice City Butcher and Deli!

Messages left with the Downtown Business Association have not been returned. 

UPDATE: Statement from the DBA

For 24 years there has been a Friday night event before the Colorado Brewers’ Festival called “Brewers’ Dinner”. It has historically been a chance for just industry professionals to connect and socialize. 

Over the years, the public has asked for more chances to interact with their favorite brewers and taste specialty and exclusive Colorado beer. 

A few years ago a connoisseur event was created by Choice City Butcher and Deli, this seemed to be a great opportunity for collaboration. Last year, we partnered with Choice City Butcher and Deli on an exclusive public beer tasting event. It was successful in bringing beer geeks and media together with our Colorado brewers and industry professionals, and filled a much needed element of the Colorado Brewers’ Festival. 

Unfortunately this year, we will both be doing independent events to celebrate Colorado beer. So out of respect, we are changing the name of our Friday night event to “All Brewers’ Eve”. 

It is a great chance to meet with brewers and taste some of the premium brews Colorado has to offer. Here’s to a great 2013!

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Winefest Fort Collins

Occasionally, I do imbibe in beverages other than beer. I know, shocking! Before I nannied for a family that owned a brewery, I nannied for a family that owned a winery, Two Rivers in Grand Junction. At family holiday gatherings, there is a handle of whiskey next to the crock pot of spiced cider. Beer is not my first language of booze, even though that is what I am most fluent in. In the spirit of education, I plan on attending the Fort Collins Winefest in a couple weeks at the Hilton in Fort Collins.

winefestpic

In its 31st year this event is a fundraiser for Disabled Resource Services(DRS). Each year DRS provides nearly 6,000 people with varying disabilities assistance to help them maintain a good quality of life. Winefest features both a silent and live auction to raise additional funds for DRS. In the silent auction you can bid on a private beer tasting for 15 from me. Thanks to Odells Brewery, No Li Brewhouse and Elite Brands for beer donations for the tasting.

During the fest, over 400 wines and some local beers will be featured. Tasting wine is a great way to expand your palates sensitivity for tasting beer. I am excited to try new things and learn more about another fermented beverage.  Small bites of food will also be available to pair with your favorite wines, including fresh oysters from Fish Restaurant. There will be casino tables to test your luck, a photo booth and even a caricature artist to keep you entertained if the wine and food isn’t enough. It sure does sound like a heck of a party for my first Winefest.

One of my favorite ways to spend a few hours is at a beer festival. Sampling new and favorite suds. Chatting with brewers and reps. Making new friends and catching up with the ones I haven’t seen since the last festival. However, I have a feeling that this festival will be a bit different. Instead of a large ratio of bearded men to women, I bet there will be a large ratio of girls night out participants to husbands holding purses. Instead of beards and well worn brewery shirts, there will be lots of jewelry and probably some heels.  I am kind of sad about the beards part, but I am excited to put on make up and skirt and not look over dressed or dragged in by my boyfriend.

You can purchase tickets through Napa of Beer to get a $10 discount and 2 free raffle tickets for the Wall of Wine drawing to win a wine rack full of all the wine and beer you can drink. Just make sure you use this link.  I hope to see some of my fellow beer lovers there, trying new things and teaching their taste buds a thing or two.

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