Two beer dinners, a homebrew competition, a commercial tasting, and several packed seminars: The 13th year of the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival was an absolute revelation in the eyes of this beer novice.
Undoubtedly, novice or not, Big Beers was the principle mountain beer event to attend this winter. With some of the world’s most innovative brewers in attendance, there was no shortage of unusual international beers for festival-goers to wet their whistles and then some. Festival attendee and volunteer, Jessica Hunter stated, “Big Beers, Barleywines, and Belgians is one of my absolute favorite beer festivals to attend.” This was a sentiment that seemed to be shared by all as the Welcome Reception kicked off on Friday morning.
As craft brew lovers filed into the reception hall, they were greeted by beer pairings that would make the most devout wine lovers envious. Odell’s Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout escorted by tiramisu summed up in a glass with orange cream, garanache, Lady Finger, and chantilly cream; Alaskan Imperial Red coupled with grilled peach, mascarpone boursin wonton and finished with a cardamon smoke salt dusting; and Buffalo Bitter Belgian Ale rounding off the room next to lemon toasted sourdough plank topped with apple braised pork and Granny Smith slaw were just the tip of the iceberg Big Beers’ crowd would be experiencing over the course of the weekend.
“This year, I was determined to one-up myself. I did so by volunteering as a Novice BJCP judge,” said Ms. Hunter of the Homebrew Competition that followed the Welcome Reception on Friday. “And I’m absolutely hooked — who wouldn’t after sitting for 5 hours next to the nerds of nerds of beer.”
Charlie Gottenkieny and his Winter Solstice Saison walked away with the grand prize of getting a commercial batch of his recipe brewed, kegged and poured at The Falling Rock Taphouse in Denver and at Dry Dock Brewing, located in Aurora, Colorado.
Saturday’s Commerical Tasting was the main feature of the weekend. All 67 brewers and importers came together during one event for the public to partake in the beers they’d brought to showcase. Mouths were wrapped around glasses containing the likes of Bell’s Brewing Company’s Raspberry Wild One, Avery Brewing Company’s Odio Equum, Boston Beer Company’s Utopias (2013), and more.
This writer can’t omit the fact that I may have misused “main feature” when describing the Commercial Tasting. Towards the end of this event, festival-goers were glued to a 5’ television showing the Bronco’s playoff game. The sounds erupting from the sportsfans in the room were enough to attract an even larger audience and slowly bring the night to a close. And to see brewers bringing the crowd beers as they watched on their tiptoes, knees, table tops and other sturdy (or not so sturdy) fixtures, was…well, arguably the main feature of this “beercation.”