Big: a whale of a; capacious; chock-full; humongous; mammoth; sizeable; super-colossal; voluminous; walloping. No matter what synonym we choose to describe the Vail Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival, it just doesn’t seem to capture the delicious essence of the event. (Hence our list of eight, just to get our point across.)
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the festival is an extravaganza of big American craft brews and special imports. Brewers get to strut their stuff and mingle with serious beer lovers. Being able to duck off to Vail’s 5,200+ acres of ski terrain is an added bonus.
This event delivers serious beer and serious fun. The brainchild of High Point brewing couple Laura and Bill Lodge, the event has grown considerably in appeal and importance, with visitors coming from all over the country and around the globe. The siren song of commercial tastings, brewmasters’ dinners, seminars, an experimental brewing forum and an American Homebrewers Association–sanctioned homebrew competition makes for four days of extreme enjoyment in a winter wonderland.
Vail, Colorado, was first developed by intrepid ranchers, who were followed quickly by gold- and silver-hungry prospectors. At the Welcome Drinks, we realised we had hit the mother lode. We faced a dizzying array of big beers brewed specifically to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the event, served largely by the men and women who created them.
Ponder this short list of some of the highlights and you will appreciate the obviousness of the question: Where the hell do we start?
Allagash Brewing Co. – Curieux (a bourbon barrel–aged Tripel)
Anchor Brewing Co. – Our Barrel Ale (a blend of Anchor ales finished in rye whiskey barrels from the Anchor Distilling Co. and never released for retail sale)
Avery Brewing Co. – Sui Generis (a small-batch, Red Zindafel barrel-aged wild ale)
Boulder Beer Co. – Killer Penguin Barley Wine (a small batch, brewed once a year)
Bristol Brewing Co. – Skull and Bones (aged sour wheat)
Boulevard Brewing Co. – BBF 10th Anniversary Dubbel (spectacular!)
Deschutes Brewery – Mirror Mirror (a single-barrel vintage of Mirror Pond barley wine aged in French oak)
Dogfish Head – Sah’tea (Rye beer, the wort caramelised with hot river rocks and fermented with german wheat yeast, with the addition of juniper berries, black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and black pepper – insane and divine!)
Great Divide Brewing Co. – BBF 10th Anniversary Oak-aged Hades (Belgian golden ale aged in oak)
Grand Teton Brewing Co. – Howling Wolf Weizenbock (strong, dark, wheat lager)
Left Hand Brewing Co. – BBF 10th Anniversary Weizenbock (strong wheat lager brewed with Lapsang Souchong tea – we were skeptical, it was moreish!)
This is a mere taste of the lineup, many of which will be heading your way in the not too distant future!
Our takeaway from this event? American craft brewers are extremely creative. They are in throes of an experimental brewing boom and enjoying what may in the future be described as the ‘New Golden Age’ for American craft beer. The feeling at this event was joyous, exciting, friendly and unforgettable.
There is also a strong spirit of cooperation among these brewers. While there is friendly competition they all seem to understand that united they stand and customers they share.
We will certainly be back, and hopefully, many of our fellow BeerMasons will be able to come along with us.
Until next time – here’s to better and bigger beers!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
BeerMasons - rather large beers in a winter wonderland
As per my previous post, the good folks from Beermasons were off in Colorado on a beer trip. Here's their next installment: