Editor's note: This is the first in a series of columns about special beers being served at the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, slated for Jan. 10-13 in Vail. VAIL - The countdown begins, beyond Christmas and New Year's Eve to the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, less than 30 days away. The 15th anniversary of this beer-centric weekend showcases breweries from all over the world, double beer-pairing brewmaster's dinners, educational seminars, the homebrew competition judging, and an incredible tasting of commercially available "big," Belgian and experimental beers to top off the weekend. But there's another component to the weekend that doesn't require a ticket or any advance planning ... in the Fireside Bar of the Vail Cascade Resort.For four crazy days, Jan. 10 - 13, the draft handles in the Fireside Bar will have a major identity crisis. All of the draft selections are pulled on Thursday morning, and beer donated by brewers and importers from all over the world begins to flow to benefit the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. Five different beers continually rotate through over the course of the four days, offering a multitude of styles and a full spectrum of flavors for the beer-lovers palate. Rare, unusual, limited release, unavailable, flagship, new releases ... the gambit of possible beers will present themselves over the course of the weekend.Firestone Walker Brewing Co., co-featured brewmasters of the 2013 event with Dry Dock Brewing Co., will send a keg of Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA for patrons to enjoy. Black IPA is a relatively new style, and Firestone Walker has twisted it a bit with the addition of rye. They describe the flavors as follows: "Rich dark malts and spicy rye careen into bold citrus laden hops creating a new dimension in IPA flavor. This brew has been left unfiltered and unfined to retain all of its texture and character. Wookey Jack is gnarly on the outside yet complex and refined on the inside. Only available in the mountains of Colorado since Oct. 1, this Paso Robles, Calif. brewery has won extensive recognition for their products worldwide."Odell Brewing Co. will be featuring a new offering in its four pack series during this year's Big Beers Festival, a Chocolate Milk Stout called Lugene. Named after the Odell family's long-time friend and farmer who feeds his dairy cows their spent grain, Lugene is a full-bodied stout brewed with lactose (milk sugar) and milk chocolate. Expect much to-do from the Odell crew from Fort Collins when this keg is tapped in Fireside Bar.Papago Brewing Co. from Scottsdale, Ariz. is highlighting its Oude Zuipers in Fireside Bar, a truly authentic Belgian Tripel. Rich golden color and lots of yeast character define this strong beer, which is brewed for them in Belgium. Translating direcly as "old drunk," Oude Zuipers has been a popular selection at Big Beers for several years.Flying Dog Brewery will send its Centennial Single Hop Imperial IPA from Frederick, Md. for the Fireside collection. This is one of six different Single Hop Imperial IPAs made in 2012 to highlight a specific variety of hops. Based upon the same grist bill with the different hops being the sole variable, the series makes for an interesting comparison from one to another. After trying this one, attendees will likely work to source the rest.For more information about the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, visit www.bigbeersfestival.com. Further information is available about the Vail Valley Charitable Fund at www.vvcf.org.Laura Lodge is one of the founders and coordinators of the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival. Email comments about this column to email@example.com.
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