Another year another Big Beers, Belgians, and Barleywines festival in the books and another opportunity to gush about what a fantastic festival this continues to be. Laura Lodge and her crew make improvements year over year so that each festival is better than the last; with this year being no exception. Our hats are off and our glasses are raised to Laura and team for their successes year after year.
The 3-day festival continues to undergo changes since moving from Vail to Breckenridge last year.
One of the best things introduced this year was the Falling Rock Taphouse Popup.
This miniature bar was positioned near the hot tubs at the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center and featured a never-ending happy hour with $1 off all of their canned beers – they were selling 10 different ones – throughout the festival We stopped and picked up a Weldwerks Juicy Bits daily from them. We hope this continues to grace the festival going forward.
Local favorite Paradox Beer Company stole the show at the welcome reception on Friday afternoon with Divide Ethos featured as one of the 3 welcome beers being poured and paired with a delicate bleu cheese and fig tartlet.
The seminars held on Saturday morning were equally impressive this year with our favorites being:
Experimental Brewing Seminar
“New England IPAs: The Bitterness Challenge!”– Full update from Ryan coming soon!
Good Bugs: Flavor Expression of Fermentation
Helmed by Jensen Cummings of Brewed Food with fellow panelists John Giarratano of Inland Island Yeast, Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave Artisan Ales, Troy Casey Of Casey Brewing & Blending and Nile Zacherle of Mad Fritz Brewing Co., the seminar delivered insights into how to plan beers from a flavor profile standpoint and how to manipulate yeast and other bacterium with temperatures, chemistry, and skill to produce the desired results in a beer.
The Science of Pairing with Spicy Foods
Dr. Nicole Garneau has become a perennial favorite for her engaging talks on how you taste and perceive different aspects of beer This year she presented a seminar devoted to how spicy food impacts the palate and how beer isn’t really the ideal means to defuse the pain receptors activated by spicy food. In fact, she went on to say that IPAs may be the worst beer option with spicy food since the bitterness activates some of the same receptors in the mouth. Then again, maybe some people like to double down on the pain.
The commercial tasting on Saturday afternoon was amazing as always, with so many fantastic brews it’s impossible to name all the truly standout beers that were available…but that won’t stop us from trying to highlight a few:
Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales had some amazing offerings – their Cat Sabbath was a call back to their days as Former Future, a double barrel fermented super stout weighing in at 20+ percent ABV and served plain and as a vanilla variant. The vanilla version tasted like French vanilla ice cream dunked in a decadent stout, like a stout float without the chunks. They were also pouring Stargate – a golden sour ale aged in Law’s bourbon barrels with peaches and nectarines. The nose on Stargate was intoxicating and it tasted just as good – bursting with fruit flavors and aromas. This beer was available to the public for purchase via lottery, and we envy the lucky few who managed to score a bottle.
River North Brewery – was pouring their Vicennial series which they say can be aged for up to 20 years, but they were all amazing right now. God Complex – a Belgian Quadrupel, Shadowman – an American Imperial Stout, and Father Time – an English Old Ale; all spent time in whiskey barrels and all sported an ABV of 17% or higher. They were also all delicious.
Green Bench Brewing had the best English Barleywine in our opinion. The Obscure was a collaboration with American Solera and this complex and smooth barleywine spent 18 months in a rum barrel which only added to its dark complexity.
Boston Beer Company / Sam Adams always has to get a mention because they are always pouring Utopias and their 1994 Triple Bock (the beer that’s old enough to drink). The Utopias aged on cherries was delightful but also highly potent at 29%. Utopias is a unique blend of different aged beers that have spent time in a multitude of barrels, leading to a remarkable complexity and depth of flavor. Despite the high alcohol, it is very enjoyable and surprisingly easy on the palate.
It’s a blessing of sorts that this festival is in the afternoon. With that many BIG beers, you want to find something to soak it up afterward or you’ll be hurting – if not that evening, certainly the next morning. Hydration and food are definitely your friends before, during, and after. Still, it’s a festival not to be missed and remains one of our very favorites in the state of Colorado.