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Time to better your beer selection

Shauna Farnell
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BEAVER CREEK – Ever wish it was possible to have all of your favorite Colorado microbrews available on tap at one given place? The Park Hyatt at Beaver Creek is making it happen Saturday, bringing in 35 of Colorado’s 98 breweries for a beer tasting in conjunction with Beaver Creek’s blues and barbecue festival.As each brewery will bring in at least two of its signature brews for sampling, patrons stand a chance of overloading their palates, not to mention their tolerance. When it comes down to identifying good beer, however, brewers say that the only real factor in distinguishing a quality beer from a not-so-quality beer is a simple matter of personal taste.

“Going to these beer-tasting events, it’s more about the individual than anything else,” said Chris Rippe of Denver’s Flying Dog Brewery, which will be on hand Saturday along with New Belgium Brewery, O’Dell, SKA, Estes Park Brewery and local brewers from Gore Range Brewery, among many others from around the state.”There’s 1,600 breweries in the United States, not just one,” Rippe pointed out. “I encourage people to go and try everyone’s beer and find out the style and flavors you like. It’s a great chance to explore and expand your horizons.”

According to the Brewer’s Association, Colorado produces more beer per capita than any other state. As far as variety, brewers at Beaver Creek this weekend will likely bring one of their seasonal brews and plenty of styles of lighter beer for summer.”The way we choose which beer to bring has a lot to do with season,” Rippe said. “You’re not going to serve your stout in the middle of the summer. Dark beers are not refreshing when it’s 90 degrees out. You want your pale ales and light beers and save your dark beers for winter.”There are detailed guidelines as to how a taster can assess each category of beer, but some of those don’t come into play as much when patrons are tasting for pleasure rather than rank.”There’s a lot of ways to evaluate beer,” said Marc Weinberger of the Dillon Dam Brewery. “If you look at guidelines of what a style of beer is supposed to be, you try to nail it. Take a dry, Irish stout. That beer should be dark, milky and velvety with a low alcohol content. That’s one way to evaluate. Another way is to look for mistakes.”

One beer’s sour taste might be deliciously bitter to one taster and repulsive to another. But Weinberger said there are some broad-reaching signs of a bad brew.”Things can go wrong with beer,” Weinberger said. “The carbonation could be off. It could be too warm or too cold. Some kind of contamination could happen that would give it off flavors. A vegetable taste could be an off flavor, or a metallic taste.”Of course, contaminated beer will not be mixed into the offerings at this weekend’s beer festival. Most of the breweries invited have won awards for one brew or another, and the assortment will be vast and pure.

“You’ll be dealing only with award-winning beer,” Weinberger said. “Colorado is one of the forerunners in craft beer. Beer is brewed to be consumed in quantity, but you don’t want to drink too much. Most people are not used to trying 60 different beers, and a beer festival hangover can be pretty bad. Just pace yourself.”

Despite whether or not a beer has been ranked No. 1 by an expert, some brews will surely appeal to one taster more than another.”Just because a beer won a gold medal doesn’t mean it’s for everybody,” Rippe said. “The domestic light beer (makes up) 87 percent of beer sales in the U.S. If you’re favorite beer is PBR, good for you. You found a cheaper alternative. But just like anything, you don’t want the same thing all the time. Eating Mac and Cheese every night is boring. I’m a big proponent of drinking what you like. Beer festivals are a perfect opportunity to find more of what you like.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 748-2936, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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