Vail Festival’s seminars = Beer for the brain
VAIL – Beer is manna to the body and soul, for sure, but it’s also an experience for the intellect. The Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, in Vail this weekend, has tastings for your maw and seminars for your synapses.
People are now enjoying craft beers on an everyday basis, rather than just on special occasions, said Julia Herz, publisher of CraftBeer.com and the Brewers Association craft beer program director.”We wanted to focus on food and craft beer because it comes together in the everyday home,” Herz said. “We’ll be working with cooking with craft beer and also pairing food with craft beers.”We’ll be taking people on a palate trip.”Herz, along with Steven Pauwels, brewmaster of Boulevard Brewing Co., will lead that trip in a seminar titled Craft & Specialty Beer Every Day: Pairing Palate Trips, taking place at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Vail Cascade Resort. Craft beer may not be the first thing that comes to mind when seeking food pairings. People tend to gravitate toward wine for their fine-dining needs. Herz said that’s the wonderful foodie aspect of what beer is doing today – craft beers pick up where wines leave off.”Wine, when you pair with food, the acidity from the grapes will nullify the salt and calm down the richness of foods,” she said. “(Craft beer is) not hanging its hat just on acidity, but complementing food with flavors from smoke, char, toffee, biscuit, toast, nutty – all of that can be perceived with the malt.”On the other side are the hops, which can both complement and contrast food, Herz said.”When a beer has flavor profiles of bitterness, the bitterness will do the same thing that the acidity does in the wine,” she said. “You’ve got a lot of ability to complement and contrast.”Herz said the seminar is a good fit for the Big Beers Festival.”I think it’s great that a town such as Vail that is so foodie focused is leading the charge of getting into the craft beer mix of selling locally produced, Colorado beer from small producers,” she said. “And anyone who thinks of themselves as food forward should be aware of craft beer from U.S. producers and how well it pairs with food.”
The Beer & Cigar Pairing Sensory Workshop late tonight, with Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, is new to the Big Beers festival. In fact, the idea of pairing cigars and craft brews is a new concept in general.Gatza said there’s a lot of literature related to whiskey and cigars and red wine and cigars, but there isn’t much in the way of beer and cigar pairings.”We’re going to start to develop this body of knowledge,” Gatza said. “And if they decide to continue this in the future, there will be different beers, different cigars, and there will be a resource of the information out there.”With such a fledgling idea, Gatza said, if people feel like investigating further, they have a place to start.”I think it’s a good choice because I’ve had some really nice experiences with the two, particularly with stronger, darker beer and stronger cigars, more flavorful cigars,” Gatza said. “I’m curious about what kinds of cigars can pair with a hoppy beer, like an IPA.”Travis Pappenheim, who reps 73 different cigar brands, Gatza said, will handle the cigar side of the evening. Attendees will choose a couple of cigars, try recommended pairings and mix and match to see how the flavors of the cigars change. They will then try all of the beers to see how the flavor of each brew changes with each cigar.Go early to get a seat for this one – reserved seating is sold out, Gatza said.
When Todd Usry, brewmaster and director of brewery operations at Breckenridge Brewery, was approached to lead a seminar at the Big Beers Festival, he considered hisfellow beer drinkers and where their interests lie.”Because it’s such a good, sophisticated group of people, I want to do something fun and something they can take home with them,” he said.This spawned the idea for a panel discussion of Colorado double IPAs, featuring Doug ODell, of Odell Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, and Dave Thibodeau, co-founder of Ska Brewery in Durango.”It was driven by the fact that it’s a big-beers festival, and I tried to think of what stands out to me personally – the evolution of big beers, high-alcohol beer in Colorado,” Usry said. “The double IPAs that other breweries are doing kind of drove me in that direction.”The educational component is what separates the Big Beers Festival from other brewing events, Usry said.”It’s fun to see what these great brewers bring, and to throw in the seminars – you can have a great time and also gain an education,” Usry said. “It’s atypical in the world of beer fest.”