A Beer Fest, In Winter? OK, I Will Check It Out!


On January 28th, we had the opportunity to attend the Denver Winter Brew Fest. I have been a few times over the years and it’s always a good time, for a good cause. I started going to the Fest when it was held at the Oriental Theater over on 44th. It has since moved to the beautiful Mile High Station. Brewers from around the state were there to pour out beers. Some of them showed off special offerings, while others brought a few of their standards.

The Fest sold out this year as it has in the past. To combat the annual chaos created by Mile High Station’s layout, a large pavilion tent was put up in the back area this year. The tent was great addition that allowed for a bit more wiggle room during the peak of the event.

Beers? Yep, there were definitely beers there. I did my best to try and remember some favorites:

  • Dig from New Belgium was a nice change to the normal NB family. My companions really liked their Cocoa Mole but it was not for me.
  • Ska Brewing was just clearing out the last of a bit of Sethvleteren 8, an organic dubbel that I am a huge fan of. Delicious stuff.
  • Oskar Blues was there of course, and Chris Katechis was on hand to pour for them. I refilled with Ten Fidy a number of times.
  • Ghost Face Killah was on tap at Twisted Pine’s booth and it caused a bit of heartburn, but I have to say, in small doses I really, really like it.

Lots of the smaller local breweries were also present:

  • Wit’s End had some great beers. The Mad King was tasty and Green Man Ale was a solid drinker.
  • Strange Brewing was, well, as strange as usual but with as many fans as they have, who am I to cast aspersions?
  • Crazy Mountain proved again that they are a gem-in-the-making in Edwards.
  • Denver Cider Company, while packed in upstairs, was worth the wait. Grasshop-Ah is just the thing for a burnt-out beerfest palate. It is weirdly floral and just awesome stuff.

Due to the nature of the event, it’s often hard to talk to brewers, but I did get a chance to have a brief discussion with Betty and Danny from the fairly new Caution Brewing Co. Their beers were solid and they could not have been more excited to be there. They had a smoked porter on hand that was interesting–interesting, in that I found it really enjoyable (historically, I hate smoked beers). In the case of Toaster Bat, something about the smoke just worked. Pretty good stuff. I also found out that they’re expanding soon, so look out for a more formal tasting room.

In all, it was a fun night. A bit cramped, but what can you do? I had a chance to ask Brad Sandler, one of the organizers, a few questions. Take a look:

How long has the Winter/Summer event been going on?

5 Years and 11 Fests.

It has been at Mile High Station for a few years. What was the reason for leaving the Oriental?

Space. Oriental only holds about 700 and we are at about 2000.

With all of the festivals around, what do organizers want to be the draw to the Winter Beer fest?

We are a cozy intimate festival and we do not plan to grow any larger. We like to give our attendees a chance to talk with brewers and others at a more social intimate level. We also provide music, other vendors, and great local, organic food to our attendees.  Finally, its all about the glass. Everyone, including us, loves our glass and there’s nothing better than drinking beer out of a nice solid glass.

What is the overall mission of the festival?

To raise money and awareness of the great music and instruction organization, Swallow Hill Music Association.

How are breweries chosen? Do you put out an open call for breweries?

We do, but we have limited capacity.

The tent this year was a great addition. Did it allow for more breweries than would have normally been here?

Yes, it gave us the ability to have 49 brewers and more vendors. Before we were at 45.

What was your favorite beer of the show?

Wild Wapiti Wheat by Elk Mountain. It was just different then anything I have tasted for a while. The banana and clove essence made for a nice dessert beer.

Any local beers that weren’t there that you wish had been?

No, not really.  Some can make it every year, some can’t.

Any other thoughts?

Our plans for next year are more bathrooms and a touch fewer attendees, so buy tickets early!

To learn more about Swallow Hill Music visit www.swallowhilmusic.org or check out the Fest’s page.

About Chris Washenberger

What is my favorite drink? Huh... That is a tough one. What do you have? That is probably it.

  • http://www.denveromeletteblog.com Mama Monroe

    A touch fewer attendees would sure be a step in the right direction for this fest. I had a good time but it was way WAY oversold. Kind of seems like the way it goes for events at MHS…