VAIL, Colorado - Americans did not invent beer, but we're perfecting it.Greeks invented beer.Greeks also invented democracy and philosophy. All three - democracy, philosophy and beer - tend to attract people with time on their hands.Which leads us to Vail and this weekend's Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines festival in the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, where expertise comes by the bottle. Brewmasters are demonstrating how talented people spent their time wisely and well perfecting beer, discussing the philosophy of beer and voting on their favorite beers - that's "beers" plural because it's unfair to choose just one.And after sampling a great deal of beer, it's apparent that Americans - especially American beer drinkers - are an abundantly fair-minded group. That's one reason more than 50 judges will decide Saturday's home brew competition, and the French figure skating judge will not be one of them.Bill, Laura and Ben FranklinLaura and Bill Lodge run Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines, and have for years. The festival started small 13 years ago when some industry insiders got together in Vail's Club 8150 to sample one another's wares. Thirteen years later, 8150 is a fond memory and the Big Beers festival is, well ... big."It's one of the best beer events in the country in terms of the quality of brewers and beer," said Trevor Cravens with Draft Magazine, dedicated to the brewing and drinking of craft beer, and the people who do both. "There are brewers here from all over the country."This is the country about which American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin famously opined, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."Speaking of God ..."These beers are heavenly," said Bill Phillips, who has been working the festival the last seven years.Beer isn't just beer anymore. Most of the beers at the Big Beers beerfest are more like cognac and other fine liqueurs, Phillips said.Sure, you can still buy a regular beer, the kind you drink and when you're done the bartender pours you another one. In between you talk about the NFL playoffs.On the other hand you can spend $30 on a bottle of Big Beers beerfest beer. In fact, a bottle of Sam Adams Utopia beers can cost $300 if you can find it.Why would you pay that? Because it's worth it.Bronco AlleyThey've thought of everything. Saturday's grand tasting runs about the same time the Denver Broncos ought to be administering a playoff pounding on the Baltimore Ravens. Take a stroll down Bronco Alley and you'll find a massive flat screen television with the game on.Better yet, along Bronco Alley will be lined with only Colorado craft beers.Then there's the science.The Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines festival is one of many times Vail lives up to its billing as American Bavaria.Stroll into the Vail Cascade and pretend you're in Bavaria conducting a science experiment.In the middle of Munich is a beer garden seven and a half acres big, a patch of green trees, relaxation and many types of beer.Therefore, Bavarian beer gardens and the Vail Cascade contain more than outdoor bars. They are research facilities.In the name of scientific illumination, hoist a glass this weekend.Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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