It takes a fair amount of moxie to hold an outdoor event in Golden, Colorado on the last weekend of January, but that is exactly what the UllrGrass Festival has in spades. According to the thermostat, the temperature didn’t climb above 50 and it was considerably less if you were standing in the shade, but no one really cared. Nor did the ice-cold glasses of beer bother them any. That is because beer has that dastardly little devil lurking in every last sud, alcohol, and that lovely warming agent makes standing outside under the threat of wind and snow from the Rockies a
ll the more pleasant. Toss in a few turkey legs, some Americana jam bands, and a whole lot of people dressed as Vikings and you got yourself a damn fine time.
Now in its third year, UllrGrass is a shaggy sort festival with just enough connective tissue to make the reasons rhyme, but with plenty of leeway so everyone feels included. The name “Ullr” comes from Norse mythology — he is the stepson of Thor and skilled at archery and skiing — and “Grass” in reference to the bluegrass music featured on the stage.
UllrGrass is a weekend long event with parades, music, food, and crafts but The Pint was there to cover the beer portion of the festivities which featured 27 craft breweries — most from the Centennial State but a few represented the coasts: Lagunitas from Petaluma, California; Ninkasi from Eugene, Oregon; and Dogfish Head from Milton, Delaware.
As far as weekend beer fests go, UllrGrass is pretty standard. Each brewery features two or three of their offerings, some pouring their heavy hitters while others looked to attract attention with upcoming brews — Breckenridge Brewery featured both their standard Nitro Vanilla Porter (5.4% ABV) and their Spring seasonal, Ophelia Hoppy Wheat (6.0%), an exceptional beer that will benefit from warmer temperatures.
But as good as Breckenridge Brewery is, they are a known quantity. The beauty of these festivals is to find breweries that are new to the scene or so far out of your travel radius you are flummoxed such a place even exists. One such brewery is the Fiction Brewing Company located on East Colfax in the Park Hill District. Fiction is owned and operated by husband and wife team, Ryan and Christa Kilpatrick — he’s the beer geek and she’s the reader — and with offerings like a honey wheat, A Beer of Very Little Brain (4.8%), and an American IPA, Somewhere Around Barstow (5.3%), Fiction is as cheeky as they are good. Their New England Style IPA, Logic is Relative (7.9%), was as quaffable as it was unusual, so much so, that a journey to Fiction Beer Company for further discovery isn’t far off.
As are visits to the local breweries of Golden: Golden City Brewery, Holidaily Brewing Co., and Barrels & Bottles Brewery. The latter featured three of the most interesting brews at UllrGrass: Spiced Orange Creamsicle Imperial Blonde Ale (8.6%), a delightful beer loaded with cinnamon, vanilla bean, and orange peel; Fromaggedon (12%), a big, beefy American-style barleywine; and Obsess Much? Stout (9%) brewed with cacao nibs and peanut butter.
The husband and wife team behind Barrels & Bottles, Abby and Zach George, caught the craft beer wave in 2006 and rode it into Golden, opening their doors on September 20, 2013. Speaking with Zach, it is clear that he derives a vast pleasure in doing what he wants, preferring to operate with a “shits and giggles” mentality, which perfectly fits Golden’s frontier town vibe. A vibe echoed by his local contemporaries: Holidaily Brewing Co. — an entirely gluten-free brewery — and Golden City Brewing — “Golden’s second largest brewery.” All three are currently working to produce a gluten-free beer for Collaboration Fest.
Trying to come up with a brew that is true to all three is a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge. It’s also a chance for Golden breweries to help each other out. As George points out, 450,000 tourists visit the Coors Brewing Company each year. Beyond the four samples you get on the tour, Coors isn’t the place to go and hang out and meet friends. That’s what the craft breweries are for. If Coors is the rising tide, then here’s to all the breweries in Golden, and to UllrGrass, that continue to be hoisted high.