Strong Ale Fest: An Ode to @ColoBeerMan

This one’s for you, Shikes.

Sure, we love beer. And we recognize that this love is a bit eccentric.

But beyond our love for beer, the coolest part about ANY beer festival is the people. Friends, new and old, gather together to share this mutual love of the fermented brew. One of  many we look forward to seeing at each beer fest is Jonathan Shikes, Westword’s Managing Editor and ColoBeerMan beer blog author. Genuine, passionate, friendly, fun, humorous, and just an overall awesome guy–that’s Shikes. Plus, with a face like this, how could you not love the guy? So in between the Sean-and-Shikes photowar posed on Saturday, we dedicate this post and this slideshow to you, ColoBeerMan.

Absolute and Full Disclaimer: This was my first time to Strong Ale Fest.  I’ll admit, I was a bit apprehensive. After all, the last time I muttered “Strong Ale,” it was coupled with a simultaneous blessing, curse, and prayer (damn you, Big Beers Festival). But I knew Avery Brewing Company would do it right. After all, they are home to Meph Addict, Samael, Sacrilicious, and Sour Fest. I was like the train that thought it could: I can do this.  We arrived at Avery Brewing to the tenth annual Boulder Strong Ale Fest, featuring 124 beers from sixty breweries.  A beer lover’s mecca, we were able to sip and sample a few strong brews (typically 8% ABV and above) not distributed here, like Surly, Allagash, and Cigar City.

The festival bracelet was slapped on and I grabbed the presented beer list. After a sunlit catnap by the Boulder Creek, a Qdoba burrito, and a full bottle of water, I was ready to rock this festival. I sent up a silent prayer of thanks for the burrito as I peered over the beer list; 124 beers named themselves, offered in homage to the beer gods and saints.

Like at any other festival in which I come ill-prepared, I made my game plan, sat down, penciled my wants and wishes, and sought them out with determination and speed. First up? Lost Abbey’s Cuvee de Tomme. Next up? The Bruery’s Melange #4. Ballast Point’s Sea Monster. Alpine’s Bad Boy. Sierra Nevada’s 2×4. Surly’s Five. Surly’s Smoke. Avery’s Barrel-aged Meph Addict. Avery’s 2006 Samael. Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov. Elbows were rubbed, high-fives were slapped, and hands were shook. Jazz played in the corner by the trio of young, talented, dapper-looking musicians. Sip the next drink. Gulp water. Wash the pint glass. Go for the next taste. Breathe. Repeat.

Here’s the recap:


Another Strong Ale Fest. That is my fifth in 6 years. My method is sound though. Spend the first hour tasting things that I totally want to remember, marking my sheet and saying very thoughtful things regarding the construction and profiles of certain beers. We discuss yeast profiles and malt balance and act very professionally. Then at the two hour mark, I  realize that I am generally yelling more than talking, laughing overly loud, chain-smoking in the sun and I have forgotten the last three beers that I have had – an all-around great day. I would love to describe my favorites but the only beer that stands out was Bad Boy from Alpine Beer Co. I usually assume the few that I remember were the best and worst beers of the show. This was (likely) my favorite of the day.


Having my Avery Strong Ale Fest cherry popped started out with myself, a very patient designated driver, and four strapping, bearded boys  sardine’d  into a crappy rental car built for four.  Hilarity and a brief glimpse into my fantasy life ensued. (What DID happen to that rapping gorilla?!)  Tasting glass in hand, I made my way through the main tasting room, outside and landing in the back room. Rinse and repeat several dozen times with continual sipping on some of the most delicious beer available anywhere.  I was drinking my overall favorite, Brett Bock from Grimm Bros. with fellow mustache aficionado Bess Dougherty, when Mr Mustache himself Ryan Conklin supplied us with our very own hipster, finger mustache tattoos!  Photo ops were endless and hilarious!  For a first timer, I could not have been more happy. I am sure the company had much to do with it, the beer a huge part, but the hospitality that Avery continually shows also plays a big role. In short, the beer was cold, the friendship and laughter was hot, and the Denver weather beyond perfect. Also, the Big Shikes from Ska sorta writes it’s own inappropriate jokes – and nothing beats cheap humor.

  • Most Surprising Beer – Sea Monster from Ballast Point
  • Favorite with Peaches – Brainless on Peaches from Epic
  • Favorite with Turkey – Wild Turkey Barrel Aged Fidy from Oskar Blues


My Top 5 Beers:

  1. Surly FIVE – Yes, this was also on my top beers list of Big Beers Fest.  It’s that good.
  2. Grimm Brothers Brett Bock – First time I’ve had this one, but I hope I get to have it again.  Just the right amount of sour.
  3. Grimm Brothers German Barleywine – Another amazing beer from the guys up in Loveland.
  4. Avery Brewing Co. Bourbon Barrel Meph Addict – I’m honestly surprised that this beer is only #4 looking back, but it just shows the level of competition at Strong Ale Fest.
  5. Redstone Meadery Meadre a Trois – A blend of mead and La Folie, I’ve never had anything like this before.


What can I say, there ain’t no party like an Avery party!  I love all of the mingling, people watching and facial hair.  Oh the facial hair…  Among my favorite beers were the bourbon barrel aged Meph Addict, Bad Boy from Alpine, Ballast Point’s Sea Monster not only does the name make me giggle uncontrollably but the beer itself was dangerously smooth, Epic’s Brainless on Peaches, Grimm Bros. Brett Bock, and Surly FIVE.  I would have liked to have seen a stronger, geekier section from Great Divide.  I heard a similar sentiment from quite a few people during both sessions of the festival.  All in all it was another amazing weekend drinking amazing beers with simply gorgeous human beings.


Hey remember when the @ColoBearMan was all like, “Hey where’d that rap gorilla group go?”  Well, now you do remember.  Hilarity started off the day of the year 3 thousand 2012 Avery Strong Ale Festival and the great times continued throughout.  Lot’s of great people and beautiful weather really kept me going even though I’d only had a few hours of sleep the night before.  Oh and I almost forgot to mention: there was beer!  Grimm Brothers from Loveland, Colorado always blows me away and it was really great to try their Brett Doppbock again as well as their barleywine.  Don’t take it from me though go ahead and visit next time you go up to the mountains and make a pitstop at the Dancing Pines Distillery while you’re at it.  Other highlights included AC Golden 11 month whiskey barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout and the Awkwardly Large Shikes (aka Big Shikes) coming from Ska Brewing in Durango.  The Avery Brewery is a really magical place and I always, always have a great time there so be on the lookout for Sour Fest tickets and I’ll see you there!


Check out the awesome pictures from Sean Buchan. Be sure you get this year’s Avery Festival Lineup on your calendar; they may be some of the last at this location before they move to their new site.

Cheers and see you next time!

About Jess Hunter

Jess is a lady and a scholar. If she's not mulling over the various names of famous mustaches and their respective bitter cocktails, she's nibbling on American Craft Singles and Cantillon. Connect with her by email at