Ray Daniels, founder and director of the Cicerone Certification Program stands in front of 75 early risers eager to learn more about what makes a great beer. Daniels is a light hearted guy who takes his beer seriously. He dives into how barley is turned into malts, how to taste and smell a beer, and what language to use to describe said flavors. Dr. Nicole Garneau dovetails nicely off Daniel’s in her seminar: “Beer I.Q: The Science Behind Flavors,” which teaches beer nerds about how we have come to love bitter IPA’s, and how flavor is a personal experience.  

    The best part about Big Beers Belgians and Barleywines is that it feels small. For most of the 3-day festival, you only see about 75 people at a time.  You see the same faces, with the same interests as you. You might even make a couple friends. When the Commercial Tasting occurs, you are blown away by how many people are actually at this festival. Big Beers is populated by extraordinary beers, and refreshingly like-minded and craft-centric individuals.

137 total breweries were present during the Commercial Tasting at Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines on Saturday, the 9th of 2016 at Cascade Resort in Vail, and around 60 of those were Colorado breweries.

The tasting, however, was only a small part of the event, just as the finished product of “craft beer” is merely the crown jewel atop a masterpiece of work behind the product. Big Beers is the perfect blend of festival and conference that goes beyond the finished product, and into what makes craft beer a lifestyle.

Big Beers’ unique attraction was the array of seminars aimed at educating attendees on beer and food pairing strategies, beer I.Q, home brewing, as well as several presentations from award winning breweries such as Surly, Alaskan, Avery, and Trinity.

Alaskan Brewing Company hosted a seminar in which founder Geoff Larson explained that 60% of their brewery is powered by spent grain. Alaskan brewing resides in Juneau, AK and has been forced to get creative when it comes to recycling by-products, and using their resources wisely. They have literally found a way to have “Beer run Beer.”

Don’t come to Big Beers simply looking to get drunk on beer alone. Come to be immersed in a world of beer knowledge, to meet your favorite brewers, and to appreciate a craft that has manifested into a thriving community.

Tips from The Pint for first year attenders:

If you attend Big Beers, you will regret sleeping through seminars: Get up. Have some Coffee. Get there. Then drink beer the rest of the day while stuffing your head full of knowledge.

Pace yourself during the Commercial Tasting: “Big Beers” is no misnomer. Every brewery brings their biggest beers, belgians and barleywines. While this is FANTASTIC on so many levels, those 1 oz. pours add up pretty damn quick. Consequently, Big Beers has “Sobering” stations with giant bowls of bread and water.

Take your time: Take a look at the program and make a mental map of your “must have” beers. However, we encourage you to get out of your beer comfort zone. Colorado has over 120 small craft breweries, many of which are represented at the fest. You might just find the next big thing….

Parking: Forget driving. Take the Shuttle, or ECOtransit. Even if you stay off premise, in Avon/Beaver Creek areas, you are still better off taking a bus. Plus, drinking and driving on I-70 sounds like a great way ruin your weekend.