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 to 13 in Vail.VAIL, Colorado - The anticipation is building ... and people are beginning to look beyond the holidays toward some recovery options. One of the best events local to the Vail Valley offering the opportunity to relax and enjoy a good beer (without a ticket) is the Vail Cascade Fireside Bar during the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, slated for Jan. 10 to 12, and the Fireside Bar portion will run until the crazy beers are tapped out.More than 20 breweries will donate a keg to the Big Beers Festival for the purpose of raising money for the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. These kegs will be set up on a draft rotation throughout the weekend, starting on Thursday afternoon, in the Fireside Bar. All five draft handles will pour diverse, limited-release, international selections of craft beer, and the bar will be crowded with craft beer folks from all around the world.Four of the offerings that will be incorporated in the three-day draft rotation include Surly Smoke, Goose Island Matilda, Bonfire Mistress Winter Wheat and Redstone Meadery Nectar of the Hops.Surly Brewing Co. is located in Brooklyn Center, Minn., and brought some eclectic products to the Big Beers Festival in 2012. Smoke is an oak-aged, smoked Baltic porter with black malt flavors meshing with notes of raisins, plums, figs and licorice, with the subtle smoke on the side. It provides a complex and luxurious, yet silky smooth, drinking experience, despite being 8.2 percent alcohol by volume.Goose Island Brewing Co. has its roots in Chicago and has recently become available in Colorado. Matilda is a Belgian pale ale that is wild in character (fermented with brettanomyces wild yeast) and has a slightly fruity aroma and spicy yeast flavor. It's dry and quenching and pairs very well with many different kinds of foods.Local to the Vail Valley, Bonfire Brewing Co. will provide Mistress Winter Wheat for Fireside patrons to enjoy. Mistress Winter Wheat has recently been released in cans and is the brewery's winter seasonal. A twist on a traditional summer wheat beer, the Bonfire team tossed in blue agave, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and some midnight wheat malt, and you get a winter warmer-style wheat that you won't recognize at first glance.Offering a switch from the malt and grain, Boulder's Redstone Meadery participates annually in the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywine Festival. They will be sending up their Nectar of the Hops, taking mead (honey wine) in a different "beer" direction by dryhopping the mead and offering an intriguing blend of hoppiness and honey for the palate.So mark your calendar for some interesting craft beer sampling and chillin' with friends to begin 2013 in style. The Big Beers Festival offers more information about the whole weekend of events at www.bigbeersfestival.com, and if you'd like to learn more about its worthy beneficiary, please check out www.vvcf.org for Vail Valley Charitable Fund information.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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