Burning Can, Dogs, Bikes, and Running...All Packaged Together in One Festival

Last weekend we attended the annual Burning Can festival in Lyons, organized by Oskar Blues Brewery. In many ways the festival was unique and felt very much like it belonged in Colorado - we had the beer portion which celebrated canned beer from 35 breweries across the US, no bottles or kegs allowed, a 5k run beforehand, camping, a bike competition, dog competition and more. In fact, all these things were connected as part of the Lyons Outdoor Games. It all worked together in it's own Colorado way. Really though, the more I think about canned beer the more it seems to make sense in correlation with outdoor sports and lounging. I'll tell you what I mean...

We arrived in Lyons after a nice two hour drive and we could see the High Park Fire near Fort Collins from the highway. You can actually see some of the smoke from the fire above the hills and tent in the above photo (those are not clouds). The temperature was over 90, so we put on our hats, loaded up on 70spf sunscreen, filled up our water bottles and headed in. The first thing we had to do was get our sample cup, which was an 8oz sized topless beer can with a Burning Can sticker. I was curious how this festival would work, would we get a full can of beer or would beer be poured into a glass mug, or something else? The little beer can was a fun way to start things off. At the beginning of the day the cans were being partially-filled with beer on a mobile canning line.

Telluride Brewing made what may have been my favorite beer of the festival - Bridal Veil Rye Pale Ale. The beer was awesome, nice and crisp, a bit earthy with lighter malts, bready notes, a perfect amount of spice from the rye, and an IPA-sized citrus hop flavor and bitterness. If we start getting this beer in our local stores soon I would buy it all the time, perhaps as much as I buy Ska's Mexican Logger (which is a lot). I've been talking with Isaac and a few other people about how no Colorado brewery makes a light but ultra crisp IPA, one that leans heavily toward the hops but not necessarily 'balanced' by caramel-like malts. Those caramel notes can just get to sweet for me. I've wanted to see something along the lines of a Laurelwood Workhorse IPA or a Half Acre Daisy Cutter. This is that beer! Can't wait to try more of it.

Within no time the festival was packed, lines were forming (never had to wait more than a minute or two) and people were having fun in the sun. We took a break, drank some water, and watched the BMX Dirt Jump Competition, happening about 30 yards from the beer fest.

I'm glad beer cans are recyclable! If you recycle a beer can you save 95% of the energy it takes to make one from scratch, that's enough energy to power a television for three hours. Why not just bring a bunch of kegs to the festival though? Kegs are reusable and you don't have so much leftover material. Besides the novelty of calling it a beer can festival, I believe that combination of beer cans and outdoor activity is a seamless one. Nothing will break if I drop it, when I'm done I can squash it into a small, carryable, size and the beer tastes very fresh. On top of that, you definitely drink it differently, it's more about enjoying the taste than contemplating all aspects of the beer and geeking out, it goes down faster, you don't see the beer. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, but when you're outside running around, it perhaps is a better choice. Whatever it is, it's just a different and fun way to enjoy a good beer.

We asked this group of runners from Denver why they like the combination of beer and running. They said that after a run, a beer is the perfect thing. One of them said that if they know there's beer at the end of the run, they'll run twice as fast. So far they had enjoyed Ska Mexican Logger and a number of hoppier beers, including the Pale from Crazy Mountain.

I noticed these folks because of the Jack Quinn's running club shirt. Sure enough, they were fellow Colorado Springers! If you see them around, say hi. From left to right we've got Michael, Mark, Colin, Ashley, and Tini. I asked them about running and beer and they agreed that a refreshing beer after a run is ideal. When asked what kind of beer they prefer they said it's gotta be cold, and they prefer something hoppy.

A couple more runners, Susan and Katie, from Denver. Their favorite beers of the fest so far were the Crazy Mountain Wit, the High Noon Saloon (Leavenworth, KS) Raspberry Wheat, and the 21st Amendment (San Francisco) Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. They said that beer is their reward for running.

There were lots of dogs running around this festival
We had to stick a naughty-Ska photo in here somewhere
Daniel found a good way to protect his beer

There were a ton of beers that I've never been able to try before so I had a lot of fun with those. Many of the beers are not distributed in Colorado yet, so unfortunately we won't get to buy a number of the beers we tried, but I'm thankful for such a fest to work to bring in those beers. I didn't get to try everything though, it was just too hot to drink a lot so I went at a reasonably slow pace. Here's a list of beers I really enjoyed - in no particular order - ones that I've not ever mentioned on the blog before (sorry Oskar Blues and Ska!) and ones that I hope to drink again soon:
- Telluride Brewing Bridal Veil Rye Pale Ale - Like I said above, perhaps my favorite beer of the festival.
- Sun King Brewing (Indianapolis) - Everything was awesome and I especially liked their Sunlight Cream Ale and Osiris Pale Ale.
- Golden Road Brewing (Los Angeles) Point the Way IPA was lovely. Had it multiple times.
- Steamworks (Durango) Colorado Kölsch I've had before, but not often, so I tried it and I really think this beer is top notch.
- 21st Amendment (San Francisco) Monks Blood is a dark and complex belgian beer with cinnamon, vanilla, figs, and oak. A lot of fun to drink.
- Great River (Davenport, IA) Roller Dam Red Ale was a nice malty and earthy red ale with a nice earthy bitter finish.
- Maui Brewing (Hawaii) Mana Wheat is a refreshing pineapple wheat beer that is perfect on a hot day.
- Other Mental Note - I noticed that I'm much more inclined to drink a light and/or hoppy beer out of a can than a heavier or roasty beer.

Great times at the Burning Can Fest! We ended the next day, after camping and visiting the Oskar Blues Brewpub, with an hour or so of the dog competition, where dogs jumped into the water to fetch sticks as quickly as possible. A great way to end the weekend. In putting together this post I'm reminded of how fun and expansive this festival was, truly unique and strange in it's own ways and I look forward to it in the future.

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BeerEric Steen