Vail brewers festival is no small beer
Inhaling a whiff of the dark beer in a plastic cup, Rick Hagerbaumer pauses to think.”It’s a stout,” he whispers.He sips the beer, considers and then nibbles on a square of Scharffen Berger chocolate.”It goes very well with chocolate, bitter chocolate,” the 45-year-old Superior resident says.Hagerbaumer would know. The star of his own weekly beer podcast, he came to the eighth Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival in Vail on Saturday to expand his already fine-tuned palate. “I like to experience all the different types of beers I can,” he said. “It’s about quantity versus quality. I’m trying good beers. You can get a case of beer for cheap, but these are the good ones. These are the best you can buy.”This year’s festival featured a pairing contest in which six brewers matched their beers with squares of chocolate and aged cheddar. Audience members of varying levels of drunkenness picked the winner.The trophy went to New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins for its combination of cheese and Mothership Wit, an organic beer made from wheat, barley, coriander and orange peel.In the next room, beer enthusiasts toting snifters sampled more than 150 beers from across the globe. More than 700 people packed the Vail Marriott in Lionshead for a crash course on specialty beers.Inspired in part by the movie “Beer Fest,” cousins Scott Smits, a 24-year-old from Edwards, and Josh Grubich said they came to have a good time and try new beers. “It’s a lot of fun,” Smits said. “So many sips of 1-ounce increments of beer equal a great evening.”Grubich said his favorite was Utopias 2007 from Samual Adams, a beer that would normally cost $150.Between beer pours at the Samuel Adams table, account manager David Molite explained that Utopias is the strongest beer in the world, with 27 percent alcohol content.The company that produces it, Boston Beer Co., was showing off four different styles of beer. “It’s all about education, just to get people to trade up from the mass domestics to the crafts,” Molite said.A few tables down, the Smaltz Brewing Co. from San Francisco rolled out a line of He’Brew beers. Among them was an imperial amber ale with a hint of pomegranate and “Jewbelation 11,” a strong winter beer.”I want people to realize we are a serious beer company along with having a lot of fun with our schtick,” owner Jeremy Cowan said.Along with tasting beers, do-it-yourself types submitted 204 entries for a homebrewing contest. The prize went to Rich Krahl, a Thornton resident who turned in an imperial India pale ale he made for a friend’s wedding.”I was shocked,” Krahl said. “This is a very rigorous competition.”The prize: He’ll have a commercial batch of his recipe brewed and kegged by Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora.Along with the contest, this year’s festival included dinners and seminars on topics such as experimental brewings. The event is the brainchild of Bill Lodge, owner of High Point Brewing in Gypsum.Frustrated that most people did not try beers other than amber and ales, he decided to do something about it.”I wanted people to branch out,” he said. “A lot of these beers are just incredible but run $8 to $150 per bottle. So here’s an opportunity to try a lot of really expensive beers without having to buy a whole bottle to figure out you don’t like it.”High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or firstname.lastname@example.org.