VAIL - The 2013 Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival is here, and though the crown jewel for most revelers each year is Saturday's Commercial Tasting, featuring more than 100 breweries and their biggest, baddest beer offerings, you would be amiss if you passed up some of the other seminars and features of the festival. Here are a few highlights to put on your calendar:Friday, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Cicerone Workshop, freeRay Daniels created the cicerone program as beer's alternative to the ranks of sommelier. There are three levels of cicerone certification: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone. This morning's workshop is dedicated to putting brew enthusiasts on the road to beer fluency, featuring a brief curriculum aimed at the entry level, Certified Beer Server. The specifics are in the hands of the cicerone educational team, but past workshops have covered everything from how to clean and maintain draft lines to how to pour the perfect beer. Due to the generosity of signature sponsor All About Beer magazine, this workshop is offered free of charge. Friday, 1:30 p.m.: Belgians, Barleywines and Strong Ales Homebrew Competition, free to spectateEven if you missed the Dec. 15 deadline to enter your home brew in this year's competition, you can still learn a lot about the festival judging process and see what it takes to be a winner by attending the homebrew competition on Jan. 11. Entries range from bock to braggot, and a panel plucked from all levels of the brewing industry weighs each beer's merits. The winning brew will be served on draft at Dry Dock Brewing Co. in Aurora and the infamous Falling Rock Taphouse in Denver. Additionally, if the ProAm competition for Denver's Great American Beer Festival is continued in 2013, the winning home brewer will get a chance to pair with Dry Dock and enter his or her masterpiece in this prestigious contest. Saturday, 10 a.m. to Noon: Brewing Outside of the Box, $10This year's experimental brewing seminar is all about smoked brews. The murky flavor of these beers comes from smoking small batches of malts and incorporating them into the recipe, but smoking substrates can range from traditional Scotch-style peat to various types of wood, giving these beers a range of flavors. Ro Guenzel, head brewer at Left Hand Brewing Co., and Geoff Larson, co-founder and CEO of Alaskan Brewing Co., will be the featured speakers and will discuss their smoked beer creations and how these brews deviate from the norm.With a full schedule of dinners, seminars and tastings, no matter where your interests lie in the world of beer, you can pursue them at Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines. For a complete lineup of seminars and events or to purchase tickets, visit the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival website at www.bigbeersfestival.com.For more news on your favorite brews, visit vailhophead.blogspot.com. Email comments about this story to email@example.com.
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