Beer News, Reviews and More!

Going Big In Vail With Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines

I Love me a good beer fest and here in Colorado, there’s no shortage of good beer fests.  We’ve got plenty to choose from throughout the year.  But, it’s the Great Ones that keep me up at night.  The Great Ones that get me excited like a kid on Christmas morning.  The Great Ones that I’d jump on a flight to attend if I ever moved out-of-state.  (Gasp!)  The annual Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines in Vail is a Great Beer Fest.

Big Beers (or BBB or #Bigbeers for you twitterers / hash tag types), is a world-class event that educates beer lovers, brings us closer together with tastings and bottle shares and when all’s said and done, leaves us thirsting for more.  How the hell have I not been back to this event for the past 6 years!?!?  No clue, but I guarantee it won’t happen again.

On The Road Again

Our adventure began on Friday morning with a trip up old I-70.  No trip through the mountains is complete without a stop at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco.

DSC_0968

Within a few minutes of arriving, our group had secured spots at the bar and I had a glass of Old Beer Wagon Barleywine sitting in front of me, courtesy of Backcountry’s Head Brewer Alan Simons. The perfect beer to warm up with from the sub-freezing temperatures and blowing snow outside. We enjoyed lunch and I got my fill of Alan’s amazing Barleywine and hearty Breakfast Stout.

DSC_0971

Just as we were preparing to press on to Vail, Alan re-appeared and offered us a tour and the chance to check out Backcountry’s recent expansion.

DSC_0981

DSC_0989

In addition to the new family of fermenters, Backcountry has a new bottling line that should be rolling out 6-packs down the mountain shortly.  Alan was kind enough to share some special treats with us like his GABF award-winning Imperial Saison, Imperial Saison w/ Brett and Tart SaiZin, which was aged in Zinfandel barrels.  Another great visit to Backcountry.  Their great beers and hospitality can’t be beat.  Be sure to pay Backcountry a visit on your next trip up that way.

Warming Up With A Bottle Share

We pressed on and in no time, found ourselves pulling into Vail.  We hadn’t even checked into our condo yet, when I realized Gary V from American Craft Beer Radio was trying to catch up with us for a beer.  With not much else planned for the day and bone chilling, sub-zero temperatures outside, we decided to coordinate a bottle share for the night.

DSC_1006

DSC_1009

DSC_1022

Nice photo bomb Gary!

We had a solid group of craft beer enthusiasts including Dave from Fermentedly Challenged, John from Backcountry Pizza, Lauren from Napa of Beer, plus several homebrewers and our host Gary from American Craft Beer Radio.  It was a lot of fun just to sit around, taste and share a variety of beers from Cigar City to Jester King.  Surly Five is such a tasty, barrel-aged Brett beer.  Three Floyds Dark Lord seems to show up at every tasting we attend and I can’t get enough of the rich, inky stout. And Cantillon continues to be my favorite Belgian Brewery.

We talked and tasted into the wee hours.  Thanks to everyone involved for a great time!

The Main Event

On Saturday, with no kids to wake me up at 5 AM, I managed to sleep in until all of 7 AM.  A quick check on the phone revealed a lovely temperature of -15 F.

photo-13

Yeah, -15 F is pretty special.  No reason to fight it.  We just got the gang together, got the fire going, started a pot of coffee and whipped up pancakes, sausage and eggs.  Who forgot the bacon???

Before I knew it, we were off to the Commercial Tasting Session.

Starting things off right with some Rochefort and Orval.

DSC_1028

DSC_1039

Hair of the Dog!  Love me some Adam!  DSC_1041

DSC_1035

Great to see Allagash back in Colorado!DSC_1034

DSC_1042

DSC_1046

Brian and Great Divide had plenty of big beers, plus a special keg of Peach Grand Cru and a variety of cheeses to pair with their beers.DSC_1052

DSC_1051

Breckenridge Brewery brought out their big beers to share, including their Barrel-Aged Holidale.  DSC_1049

Jim, Kjell and Melissa from Rockyard Brewing brought a bunch of small batch, big brews, along with their collaborative Buddha Nuvo to share.DSC_1055

DSC_1056

DSC_1058

Look for Strange Brewing to bottle their award-winning, Dr. Strangelove Barleywine in the coming weeks.  This will only be available at the brewery in very limited quantities, so don’t miss out.  DSC_1057

Danny from CAUTION: Brewing showing off his newest growler design.  Emperor’s Royal Guard Red for those keeping score at home.  DSC_1032

Crooked Stave brought pretty much everything, including the kitchen sink!  DSC_1061

DSC_1064

Awesome as always.  Thanks guys!  DSC_0002

I finally had the opportunity to sample the variety of sours from Colorado’s Three Barrel Brewing. They are hoping to get bombers into the Denver market later this year.  I really enjoyed all of their beers and if you’re a sour fan, I’d definitely keep an eye on them.
DSC_1068

DSC_1070

DSC_0005

DSC_0008

Dry Dock Head Brewer Doug Hyndman was happy to share some Bligh’s Barleywine.
DSC_0007

DSC_0009

DSC_0011

DSC_0014

Sam Adams 10th Anniversary of Utopias was flowing during the fest.  At nearly $200 / bottle, it was probably my last chance to try this big, rich and tasty beer.  DSC_0015

DSC_0043

DSC_0028

Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione was almost as excited as we were when Bell’s “lost shipment of beer” showed up to the tasting.  DSC_0034

DSC_0038

Xandy from Elevation was pouring Apis IV, plus their next two beers, Oil Man and Señorita.  You won’t want to miss these upcoming bottle releases.
DSC_0050

DSC_0070

DSC_0078

DSC_0083

DSC_0080

DSC_0084

Goose Island had plenty to choose from, including Bourbon County Brand Stout and Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout.DSC_0086

DSC_0114

DSC_0099

DSC_0111

Keep an eye out for Roadhouse Brewing from Jackson Hole, WY.  They won’t open until later this Spring, but already have a tasty IPA, Saison and Belgian Strong Ale.  DSC_0112

DSC_0116

DSC_0122

Brewtally Best of Show

With so many amazing beers, covering a wide variety of styles, it was nearly impossible to narrow down a favorite.  But here are three that stuck with me.

Big Beer: Bell’s Brewery – Raspberry Wild One.  With the ridiculous amount of stellar beers pouring, I could easily list 10 as my “Favorite Big Beer”, but I’ve done my best and narrowed it down to this one.  The Wild One.  The tartness, mixed with the sweet fruit, was what made me enjoy this one so much.  It’s got complexity and depth with the oak presence, acidity and sour notes. Raspberry Wild One was just a great beer that really stuck out in my mind from the weekend.  Great job Bell’s!

Belgian: Brasserie d’Orval – Orval.  This is the Trappist that goes against the grain.  While the other Trappist monasteries brew some of the finest Dubbels and Quads around, Orval takes a different approach with their dry, slightly hoppy and funky Brettanomyces brewed beer.  I could drink Orval all day.  Drink it fresh for the hops, or age it for a little more Bretty funk.  Orval is a delicious beer and the only one the brewery puts into bottles.

Barleywine: Strange Brewing – Dr. Strangelove.  This is an American Barleywine with tons of sweet, caramel malt, balanced by a generous does of hops.  Head Brewer Tim Myers, said he hopes to bottle Dr. Strangelove later this month and sell bottles at the brewery shortly thereafter.  Job well done.  Beer hunters, snag some if you can.

With 200+ beers pouring this past weekend, it’s downright unfair to pick just 3, so here are a few others that definitely deserve a mention: Wynkoop – The Chancellor Barleywine, AC Golden – Peach Sour, Mission Brewing – Double IPA, Hair of the Dog – Adam, Three Barrel – Penitente Chimayo, Surly – Abrasive, Rockyard – Buddha Nuvo, Trappistes Rochefort – 10, Renegade – Black Gold (Peanut Butter Cup Stout), Oskar Blues / Ska – OSKAr the G’Rauch, Goose Island – Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, Elevation – Oil Man Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Boston Beer Company – Utopias 10th Anniversary, Crooked Stave – L’Brett d’Or, Backcountry – Imperial Saison with Brett, Grimm Brothers – Wee Heavy Bourbon Barrel Brett and on and on and on.  As you can see, the list was phenomenal!

Here’s some links to last week’s radio shows, both of which were live from Vail:

Colorado Craft Beer Show

American Craft Beer Radio

Vail Big Beers gives beer lovers a rare chance to sample some of the finest beers on the planet AND talk to the brewers that create them.  Such a great weekend and a BIG Thank You to all involved.  We can’t wait to go back next year.

Cheers!

Advertisements

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Weekend Beer Buzz 01/17/2013 « Brewtally Insane!

  2. Pingback: Beer Trippin’ in California. Part 6 – Mission Brewery | Brewtally Insane!