As per standard operating procedure, all was a whirlwind at this year’s 2017 Big Beers, Belgians, and Barleywines festival, which for the first time was held at Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center in Breckenridge. As one might imagine, the confluence of hundreds of brewers and breweries, brought together for a weekend-long mountain beer festival – a big beer festival nonetheless, could only lead to a certain level of, shall we say, elevated mindset.
From January 5-7, beer enthusiasts were invited to take part in a series of beer-minded events, seminars, pairings, and even beer and yoga. All of which led up to Saturday’s main event, the Commercial Tasting event. Featured, were over 400 high percent ABV beers – none under 7%, some reaching upwards of 17-18%. All delicious, plus tons of rare and hard to find beers, all your favorite breweries, and some that were yet to be discovered.
The Big Beers, Belgians, and Barleywines festival, is for the extreme beer geek: the closest thing to heaven that can be experienced on earth. And with all of the pure-white snow capped trees, snow bunnies and beer angels about, one might not be faulted for thinking they did die and go to heaven. Though Sunday’s hangover will well remind one that they did not die, and had only wished they had.
The amount of beer knowledge that can be obtained at the Big Beers festival can be overwhelming. Throughout the weekend, multiple educational seminars took place, ranging in topics from brewing beer, pairing beer with food and cigars, to beer history. The Pint was able to attend 2 seminars. The first, “Unearthing Ancient Styles,” was a look into various historical beer styles, and their importance for modern brewing. Moderated by Grimm Brother’s Co-owner, Aaron Heaton, a discussion among beer-world royalty ensued. Dogfish Head founder, Sam Calagione, Tony Simmons, Owner of Pagosa Brewing Co., James Howat, Brewer, Blender, Commander-in-Chief, Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, and Don Chapman, Co-Owner of Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, each presented a beer sample resembling their take on an old world beer style, giving their synopsis of why they brewed it and how it came to be.
Listed they are:
Dogfish Head – World Wide Stout – Stout
Pagosa Brewing – Big Dick – Old Ale
Black Project – Oxcart – Gueuze
Grimm – Snowdrop & Imperial Snowdrop – Kottbusser
The second seminar was a “Sensory Workshop,” titled “Who Needs Milk When You Can Have Beer With Your Cookies!” Which is as it sounds, a beer and cookie pairing event. Led by Julia Herz, of the Brewers Association and Craft Beer program director, who was filling in for “Dr.” Bill Sysak, Founder & CEO, Wild Barrel Brewing Company. The seminar pushed attendees to reconsider what it means to pair beer with food, and that in the end, there is no wrong way to go about it. Attendees were given 3 beers to pair with 3 separate cookies. Great Divide’s Hibernation ale was paired with a salted caramel and chocolate cookie. Avery’s, The Reverend, went with an oatmeal raisin cookie, and Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy was paired with a double fudge white chip cookie. The point of the pairing was to showcase how different flavors react with each other in one’s sensory inputs. We learned that different people react differently to different flavors, but in essence when pairing beer with food, flavors are either enhanced, created, or muted. All beer and cookie pairings were put together by “Dr. Bill” and in Herz’ words, “He nailed it!” Beer and food pairing can truly be an exciting experience and fun to experiment with.
Big Beers, Belgians, and Barleywines festival caters to unabashed beer geeks. If this event has something for the more general population, that would certainly be the Commercial Beer tasting, which is a showcase of over 100 brewers and importers from around the world, who all brought their biggest, best, and rarest beers. The tasting offered ticket holders unlimited samples of beer among a crowd of thousands of like-minded individuals.
In all there was an estimated 1750 for attendance, 120 breweries and importers pouring, and well over 400 beers. In addition there were 13 educational seminars, 3 dining events, a welcome reception, a homebrew competition, the Commercial Tasting and the brewers reception.
In The Pint’s opinion this beer fest is the most beer-centric event we have attended, it is not for the faint of heart, but it is an amazing experience for anybody that wants to expand their beer horizon. Always a great festival, can’t wait for next year!