14th Annual Vail Big Beers, Belgians & Barlewines Festival

Well, it’s 2014. Sure, fireworks and the ability to buy weed without having to contact that sketchy guy who always wants you to come in and smoke a bowl (or three) and talk about the meaning of life, are great ways to ring in the New Year. But, an even better way to say hello to 2014 is to drink beer, duh. Not just any beer and not just anywhere – high gravity beers at high altitude, now that sounds like fireworks to me.

2011 Festival, Photo ©David Foxhoven

2011 Festival, Photo ©David Foxhoven

This weekend marks the 14th annual Vail Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, hosted by the Vail Cascade Resort. The Commercial Tasting on Saturday afternoon,  is the main event, a shit show to mark all shit shows – hello, have you ever drank copious amounts of 8-12% ABV beers at 8,150 feet? Yes? Well then you know what I’m talking about.

This festival, however, is more than just slugging down some one-ounce pours and stumbling out into the beautiful winter wonderland that is Vail. It is an educational experience and an opportunity to bulk up your beer and beer-food pairing knowledge with some of the best in the biz.

2013 Festival, Photo ©David Foxhoven

2013 Festival, Photo ©David Foxhoven

This year’s Fest includes seminars and workshops from Trinity’s Jason Yester, Deschutes’ Cam O’Connor, Boulevard’s Steven Pauwels, Jolly Pumpkin’s Ron Jeffries, Crooked Stave’s Chad Yakobson as well as Julia Herz, the Brewers Association’s Craft Beer Program Director and John Holl, Editor for All About Beer Magazine.

Some festival goers will test their knowledge on the Certified Cicerone Exam, proctored by Ray Daniels himself, while homebrewers will compete to see whose Belgian, Barleywine and Strong Ale is king.

In addition to the kickoff Calibration Dinner on Thursday evening with eats from Vail Cascade’s Executive Chef Todd Bemis and brews from Avery and Dogfish Head (Milton, DE), and the Traditional Brewmaster’s Dinner on Friday with Deschutes (Bend, OR) and Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. (Elmsford, NY), this year’s Festival will include a third beer dinner in Vail Village at Lord Gore Restaurant with brews from Funkwerks and Goose Island.

With over 200 specialty beers from breweries around the world and a plethora of seminars and food pairings, this year’s Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival is the ultimate “beercation.”

Check out our coverage of Big Beers over the past few years:

About Sarah Haughey


Editor, Denver off the Wagon. Sarah is a native of the "Napa Valley of beer," but her beer-drinking roots stretch all the way back to the Emerald Isle where Haughey (Haw-hee) is famous. Sure, our name may have got it's rap from the corrupt prime minister, but we like to think it stands strong due to our long-standing ability to pound a few too many pints. After stints on the East Coast and in San Francisco, Sarah came running back to Denver where her full-time job is exploring all the city's new craft breweries one sip at a time. Follow me @sarahhaughey4 to see where I'm grabbing a beer or for news about local breweries. Like to cook? Me too, check out: Lifewithalittlespice.com