Tuesday, January 15, 2013

13 is Lucky Number for Big Beers Festival

2013 Big Beers FestivalFrigid temperatures couldn't keep fans of the 13th annual Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines from attending one of the most popular beer festivals in Colorado last weekend (January 10-12, 2013). The Vail Cascade Resort & Spa in Vail, Colorado was once again the host location for this gathering of craft beer fans, industry reps and brewers for some of the best beer seminars and tastings from over 200+ rare beers from nearly 105 breweries around the world.

For those fortunate enough to grab tickets early, Thursday night January 10th started things off with a Beer Dinner hosted by Avery Brewing and Dogfish Head which was fantastic from reports heard at the festival. Then starting bright and early on Friday morning, a workshop designed to help people study up for taking the Cicerone exam was held.

Things really got going at noon on Friday with a big Welcome Reception. This was a chance for everyone to meet and greet over some great beer and food pairings. Three breweries provided a select beer that was paired with some delicious treats. Odell Brewing showed off their new Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout and was paired with a tiramisu-like dessert. Alaskan Brewing showcased their Imperial Red from their Pilot Series and was paired with a crispy stuffed pastry. And Brouwerij Van den Bossche (Belgium) touted their Buffalo Bitter Belgian Ale that was paired with a pork appetizer on a crisp bread roll. The pairings were great and everyone had a chance to exchange stories prepare for the weekend activities to come.

Odell Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout pairing Alaskan Imperial Red Big Beers Welcome Reception

During Friday afternoon, beer judges were busy tasting and filling out evaluations during the annual Homebrew Competition. There were 15 main categories and 396 different beers entered. The largest category was the Belgian Strong Dark with 40 entries. Each category gave out a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place award with several honorable mentions. The complete list of winners is listed here (PDF document). While the judges were busy tasting homebrew, others were immersed in taking the Certified Cicerone Exam.

Homebrew Competition Homebrew Competition Homebrew Competition

Friday evening saw many attendees split up and go toward's separate activities. At 6:30pm Julia Herz of the Brewers Association hosted the Beer & Food Pairing Taste-Off while others took off for an evening of food & drink at other venues around Vail. Several of us headed over to the Vail Ale House across the highway near one of the sponsoring hotels. The Ale House recently got a big remodeling and now offers 20 beers on tap with some pretty surprisingly good choices. Some of the outstanding samples were Odell Friek, Breckenridge Stranahan's barrel-aged Vanilla Porter, and Sierra Nevada Barrel-Aged Ovila Quad.

Ale House Tap Selection Odell Friek Ale House in Vail

Friday night was young and several of us opted to gather in a nearby condo for an evening of bottle sharing and fun. Gary Valliere, of American Craft Beer Radio kindly hosted the event over at the Simba Run Condos. We light the fireplace and about 8-10 of us ended up gathering and opened up a wide variety of beers. Among the attendees were Mark Robinson (Brewtally Insane) and his wife Patti, John Fayman from Backcountry Pizza, also - Ingrid Bush (Loveland), Lauren Hoff (Napa of Beer), Matthew Hess (Denver) and others. The bottle line-up was amazing thanks to everyone who brought over some of their favorites including: Three Floyds Dark Lord (2012), Deschutes The Abyss (2011) and Deschutes Black Butte XXIV, Uinta XVII Barley Wine, Bristol Venetucci Pumpkin Ale, Jester King Black Metal Imperial Stout, Coney Island Barrel Aged Human Blockhead Imperial Bock, Odell Bourbon Barrel Stout, Surly Five (brett dark ale) and many others. The bottle share lasted for nearly 5 hours and by then it was time for some shuteye. (Continued...)

Bottle Share Night Bottle Share Night Bottle Share Night
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- Thursday Night at the 2012 GABF.
- Burning Can Beer Festival delivers hot fun.
- Mountain Sun prepares for darkness. (2013 Stout Month)

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