Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival features 40 breweries | VailDaily.com

Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival features 40 breweries

if you go

What: Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival

When: Saturday, April 11, Noon to 5 p.m.

Where: Ridge Street, Breckenridge

Cost: $27.50 for unlimited tasting access if pre-purchased by Friday, April 10, or $35 if purchased the day of the event. VIP access passes are $70 if pre-purchased by Friday, April 10, or $80 the day of the event.

More information: visit http://www.BreckenridgeBeerFestival.com

Ridge Street in Breckenridge will be taking a step back in time to the '70s this weekend for the ninth annual Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival. In celebration of radio station KSMT's 40th anniversary, the festival has adopted a "funky" theme, honoring the station's longest-running specialty show, the Friday Funk Show. So don't be surprised if you run into other festivalgoers sporting bell-bottoms, psychedelic-colored shirts or crazy hair. A funky costume contest will yield prizes from attending brewers, while a nearby karaoke stage will give time to anyone brave enough to stand in front of a crowd with a microphone.

ENHANCING THE EXPERIENCE

"It's definitely grown over the past nine years, significantly," said Jen Radueg, event director with Radiate Live Events. "We have lots more breweries, there's lots more vendors there and lots more attendees as well. We've also really tried to, especially this year, upscale the experience. The VIP experience is going to be awesome this year."

Though typically smaller than the summer iteration held in August, the spring festival has grown almost every year, eventually moving from Main Street Station to its current location on Ridge Street, a block above Main Street.

Based off of ticket sales and people on the street, Radueg estimated about 3,500 people attended last year's festival. This year she expects that number to jump to around 4,000. Fortunately more breweries are attending too — a solid 40 over last year, which hovered around 30.

In addition to adding karaoke and a theme, along with gathering a three-band live music lineup, festival organizers have overhauled the specialty VIP section, making it much more than a slightly less crowded space with a slightly shorter bathroom line. Now it will act as a gathering place for craft beer enthusiasts who really want to dig into the specifics and taste some unique brews. Breweries attending the event will provide a keg of specialty beers to the VIP section, which tasters can then discuss with two certified cicerones — basically beer's version of the wine sommelier.

Local brewmasters Jimmy Walker of Breckenridge Brewery, and Jason Ford and David Axelrod, co-founders of Broken Compass Brewing, will also be present to discuss their specific beers.

"They're trying to get people who are more interested in beer, rather than just a drunk fest," said Ford of the VIP additions. "I really like where Breckenridge is taking it, it's kinda cool."

Broken Compass Brewing's specialty selection is a double IPA called "Two Turn Tables and a Microbrew," the official beer for KSMT's 40th anniversary.

Breckenridge Brewery is featuring specialty beers in both the VIP section as well as the general area.

"Our idea was to showcase what we do up here at the original brewery versus what they do down in Denver," Walker said. "A lot of times at beer fests, people are looking for something unique, they don't want to drink the same old. They know what Avalanche tastes like."

Walker's offerings include Southside — a Belgian double IPA; Big Drop — a "wee heavy," which he describes as a stronger version of a Scottish ale; his newest experimental Two Planker — a double IPA; and a salted grapefruit saison.

"We've got light beers, hoppy beers and malty beers. Something for everyone," he said.

TEMPT YOUR TASTEBUDS

Breweries attending the festival come from all over, from Pug Ryan's Brewing Company just across the county, to Front Range breweries, to out-of-state companies like Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery.

"It's an important one for us. It's great for us to represent our local community," said Pug Ryan's Brewing Company sales manager Chris Caldwell. "It's one we've attended for years and years."

Alongside well-known Pug Ryan's brews like the Peacemaker pilsner, Deadeye Dunkel and Hideout Helles will be the seasonal specialty Wassale brew, a brown ale with homemade wassail (spiced cider) added with orange and apple juices, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin spice and rum.

Two newcomers to this year's festival are Jagged Mountain Brewery, only a year and a half old, and Alpine Dog Brewery, which just opened in November, both in Denver.

"We're a pretty adventurous brewery. We try to do adventurous beers and we're all into the outdoors," said Jagged Mountain Brewery representative Chad Bratt. "We have a pretty active team and a pretty active motto behind our brewery and we wanted to start spreading ourselves out in the mountain towns some more."

Jagged Mountain Brewery will feature their Sawatch American IPA, Sky Pond pale ale and their Cougar Slayer blackberry saison.

"I'm excited about it," said Alpine Dog Brewing owner and brewer Gardiner Hammond of the Breckenridge festival. His selections will include the Colfax Gold Belgian golden style ale, the Gravity Check pale ale and possibly a smoked porter or coffee stout.

"Our whole name and brand is a metaphor for people who like to go and play in the mountains, so to speak," he said. "So I think for us it's very representative of who we are, which is why I squeezed into this one last-minute, because I like going to these festivals in the mountains."

FESTIVAL CAMARADERIE

Even with all the unique beers and tasting opportunities, the main aspect stated as the favorite thing about the festival wasn't the beer, but the people.

"I think it's the camaraderie of the other beer people in sales, the other beer reps," said Kelly Garoutte, the Deschutes Brewery sales specialist for the Colorado mountains. "We all bounce around to different festivals and I feel like the Breckenridge one really gets all of us together, because no one's going to miss out on this one."

The brewers agreed.

"My favorite part is this is the first one, kind of like the kickoff to the summer. It marks the passage of time. Being my own boss, I work crazy hours and there's no real routine to my life," said Walker with a laugh. "But that first beer festival marks, to me, the beginning of summertime and beer fest season. … For me it's more like getting out of school, summer vacation."

And the good feeling doesn't just stop there.

"It's really fun, it's definitely a good time," Radueg said. "There's lots of people but everyone really just enjoys themselves, … so it's a really fun vibe."