Tag Archives: Telluride Brewing Co.

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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Road Trip Part 2: Ouray and Telluride

We woke up the next morning just as the hot breakfast was being served. We ended up at a table with a couple of college kids from Denver and ended up staying at breakfast longer than we planned just chatting. They were there on a livingsocial.com deal too. The green chili egg bake and cream cheese danishes were an amazing way to start our second day of adventure.  Our original plan was to spend the morning sledding, but all the locals kept telling us there was no snow on the hill, and the ski hill was too busy for sledding because of Cabin Fever Days. We decided to nix the sledding and headed into Telluride.

We took the San Juan Scenic Byway into town. I have never been to Telluride, but as a Colorado native I’ve heard the legends and seen pictures. None of which actually do justice to this beautiful town. Parking was a huge nightmare and there were too many women with sunglasses bigger than their dogs walking at a glacial pace across crosswalks (I’m sure to avoid getting slush on their Uggs), but we eventually made it to Smugglers Brewpub. A small restaurant a of couple blocks from the main strip, it was dark and quiet inside with only a few other patrons. From the windows, you could watch a ski lift take the skiiers up and then watch them fall ski down the steep hill. We took a seat at the bar and started a nice conversation with the bartender about the beers. He was very knowledgeable about the beers and the brewery. There were SEVENTEEN beers on tap with super cute 5oz. mini stein taster glasses. There was no way we were going to the able to try them all, we each picked a couple we wanted to try. We tried Rocky Mountain Rye, Road Rash Red, Two Planker Porter, 10:13 Oatmeal Stout, and one just named Dunkel. I liked the red and the belgian style Dunkel(surprise!). The bartender informed us that it was a new style to them, as they just recently got a new brewer (we will find out why in Telluride). He then lead us to the elevator that took us down to the brew house.

The brewer, TJ, was very chatty even though he never once stopped switching couplers and transferring beer. We didn’t even have to ask him questions, he just talked. He also told us he brews (alone) “8-10 hours a day 6-8 days a week”‘ so I am sure he was enjoying our company! He was really young and had tons of enthusiasm. He really wanted to shake things up and produce some awesome new beers for Smugglers. The brew house was tiny with a 5 barrel kettle in the corner, and since he was brewing it was humid with plenty of water dripping from the ceiling. We didn’t stay too long, it was a small space and he was trying to work after all.

On our way out of the main downtown of Telluride, we passed a man standing in the middle of the street, wearing rose colored glasses, smoking a cigar and painting. Of course, we immediately pulled over to have a chat.

Talking with him was like running into an old friend. We stood in the middle of the street with him for a while discussing Fort Collins, which he knew quite well.

It took us almost 30 minutes to get to Telluride Brewing Co. even though it was less than 10 minutes away. We found it in a newly-built-to-look-old shopping strip just outside of town after second guessing ourselves, turning around a couple times and attempting to use the GPS on my 3 year old phone. The bar is tucked in a corner of the brew house and their are no chairs or tables. You have to walk past pallets of empty cans and large fermenters before you can order your beer. Both Alyse and I loved the set up, it makes having a beer there more about the craft than just drinking. My favorite part however, was the huge “Steal Your Face” painted above the bar with their logo and hop vines.

They went economical and their taster glasses are simply their pint glasses, which all have a 4oz. line printed on them. They have a deal where you can taste all 8 of their beers and keep the glass. We each went for the bargain- because we’re predictable like that. Alyse however asked for only 2oz or less in her pours as she was driving, which our beertender so graciously let some of the extras end up in my glass. Out of all that we tried there was only one that I wouldn’t have ordered again, and I am pretty sure it was brewed as an answer to the question, “what’s the closest thing you have to water bud light?”. 

Rye #1, their first ever batch as they only opened in October of 2011 was hoppy but sweet, just how I like it. Face Down Brown, Tempter IPA and the Stout (made with oatmeal and cocoa nibs) were fantastic and well balanced. We ended up purchasing a growler of Red Fish Ale and a 6 pack of Bridal Veil Rye Pale Ale to take home to our friends. Red Fish Ale is named after Fish, the brewer and master mind behind Telluride Brewing Co. The medal winning ale we liked so much at Smugglers? His recipe! He was the brewer their for nearly a decade before branching out on his own last year, and for good reasons. He obviously knows what he is doing. Luckily he was around brewing a batch and we got to talk with him a bit. If I were to ever open a brewery, Fish and Telluride Brewing, would be a huge influence in its conception.

Now that I was a bit tipsy from Alyse’s left overs we headed to Colorado Boy Pub and Brewery. On a street in downtown Ridgway that is not even paved just a few minutes outside Ouray sits an adorable little pub with a small bar and only a couple tables. The small brewing system sits right inside the door next to the bar with a small wall around it. We heard from the locals that the beer was OK but the pizza is amazing so we had planned on having dinner here. I love traveling with Alyse because she is adventureous, as soon as we got the menu we agreed to order something fun and local that we can only get in Ridgway. We settled on the Home Pie, a pizza with San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, copicollo ham, farm egg, and fresh argula. The bartender told us everything but the cheese was local. The yolk of the egg, placed in the center of the pizza, broke apart when you sliced the pizza and became a dipping sauce. The locals were wrong, it wasn’t amazing, it was phenomenal. Not a word was said between us as we ate the entire pizza. We also ordered a flight of their beers, 5 in all which had generic style names but came with a flip top bottle of water. We settled on a red as our favorite, continuing our trend.

As 5pm approached on the Friday afternoon the place began filling up. Patrick sat next to us, a local who works across the street at a shop that makes the Grammy awards. We got to stop by and see many years worth of the trophy’s on display on the walls. Patrick even gets to attend the big event every year.

Next, a little down time in the hot springs…..

After a little relaxation, a shower, and lots of lotion thanks to the hot springs in winter, we walked over to the Ourayle House. At every stop along the way so far when we mentioned we were staying in Ouray we were asked, “are you going to the Mr. Grumpy Pants brewery?”. This guy certainly has a reputation. He is supposedly secretive about his brew house, keeps random and inconvenient hours and can sometimes be quite rude. We were slightly nervous to go in. Located in an old commerical garage, the inside looked like a 1890’s log cabin with a wood stove and both vintage and modern ice climbing equipment on the walls. There are wooden signs all over the place with snarky, sarcastic quips about how he doesn’t care if you like his beer or service. We ordered one flight, because he only has enough glasses to pour one. There are games located all over the tiny bar, and we played a few rounds of cards.  His beers have names like “Super sexy bitch pants jenny -something-something-something”. I can’t remember all of it, but I know super sexy bitch pants was in there. Usually, I have a notebook to write stuff down, but for some reason here I didn’t. Later I found out the sign that says “days since last beer Madonna” was to mock people who think they know everything about beer, which according to Mr. Grumpy Pants includes those who write stuff down. I guess I just had good intuition to not bring my notebook. All the brews were a little different than things I’m used too. A lot sweeter and almost no taste of hops. My favorite was the Mongolian Mountain Majik.

Eventually, Mr. Grumpy Pants came near us and I got up the nerve to strike up a conversation. Now, all the people we met who actually live in Ouray do not call him Mr. Grumpy Pants, and do not call his brewery the Ourayle House. They call him Hutch and his bar “Hutch’s place”, so I knew he couldn’t be all bad. He has been open for four years after all. He was incredibly nice and open. I don’t know if it is because we are of the female persuasion, we brought him beer, or if we just caught him on a good day. We ended up staying there, having pints, chatting with him and a couple of ice climbers until late.

We didn’t make it to Ouray Brewery because we were having such a good time at Hutch’s, we forgot to look at the clock until after they closed.

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