Vail beer festival is this weekend
January 5, 2011
VAIL, Colorado – Laura and Bill Lodge started off celebrating “big” beers – they’ve ended up with a big festival.The sister/brother team is now putting the finishing touches on preparations for the 11th Annual Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines festival that starts Thursday with various competitions, receptions and seminars. The big event, though, is Saturday’s commercial tasting, set for 2:30 to 7 p.m. More than 60 big and small breweries will participate this year, from Anhueser Busch to the Three Barrel Brewing Co. of Del Norte, in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Familiar faces will return, too, from the gang at Longmont-based Oskar Blues to the guys from Schmaltz Brewing Co. The Schmaltz crew combines craft brewing with a nod to the founders’ Jewish heritage, resulting in some of the most amusing beer names in the tasting room. This year’s samples include “Rejewvenator: Year of the Concord Grape,” a combination of both hops and concord grape juice.
One of the smallest – and newest – of this year’s participants are the folks from Crazy Mountain Brewing in Edwards. Brewery founders Kevin Selvy and Marisa Aguilar brought one keg of their first Belgian-style ale to last year’s event, and found a lot of friends. Selvey said Crazy Mountain’s one-beer booth at last year’s event helped kick-start the company.”Nobody had heard of us last year,” Selvey said. “We had a great reception – there was a line in front of our booth all day.”This year, Crazy Mountain is bringing three beers – a Belgian, a winter ale and a barley wine brewed to celebrate the company’s first anniversary.For Selvey, the warm welcome went beyond just those tasting to the people who run many of the breweries that attend.”That’s what makes this event special,” Selvey said. “Most festivals you’ll get representatives – this one you’ll get people from the brewery.”
As the event has grown over the past decade-plus, the Lodges spend more and more time putting it together. That work seems to have paid off – there could be more than 1,100 people at this year’s tasting.”Three years ago Bob Brewer of Anchor Brewing told us we have a tiger by the tail here,” Laura Lodge said. And the last few years have seen the festival really take off, and not just in terms of ticket sales – although those sales have continued to grow. There’s also been a jump in the number of seminars available.This year, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will speak about “Regional Brewing Traditions Around the World” based on his adventures for the Discovery Channel show “Brew Masters.”There’s also a free seminar for people who want to learn to be a “cicerone,” the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier. “I wish more people from the restaurants and stores would do that one – it’s a lot of great education,” Lodge said. There’s also a Saturday seminar on hops that Lodge is excited about.The festival, as well as a growing national trend, has created the demand – and the Lodges and others are just trying to keep up. Work on the 2012 event will start just about immediately.”But Sunday I’m just going to sleep until I wake up,” Lodge said.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.