Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Breckenridge Beer Festival 2009

The sun shined down as always on Breckenridge's Main Street Station for its annual summer beer festival this past weekend. Here's one man's scribblings-turned-into-opinions about the events.
The Good
Beer of the Festival: One of the joys of the event was getting to pit Breckenridge's 471 Double IPA against Great Divide's Hercules Double IPA head to head. And what I and others realized was the same fact that began to creep up at last year's Great American Beer Festival - that Breck's whammer may be less well known but just may be the best big IPA in Colorado, if not America. That's not to discount Hercules, which remains gruff and strong and challenging in its enormous hoppiness. But the 471 is one of the most stunningly drinkable ales in America for its size, sweet and natural and borderline soothing in its grassy splendor without going soft on the hops. Let's hope more festivals offer us the opportunity to make this comparison.
Surprise Beer of the Festival: All I'd heard about Ska's Mexican Logger before the show was that some Hispanics did not appreciate the picture of a sleeping Mexican beside a chainsaw on the label, feeling it might be stereotypical. The only place my mind went after sipping this, however, was to the sharp smoothness and great malt texture that made this seem like a totally different beer than other Mexican lagers, which can look and taste shockingly similar to urine in a bottle.
Sam Adams booth: Boston Beer Company once again brought two new creations to let the crowd rate and vote on them. While the Fearless Tasting Crew generally agreed that neither the pils nor the pale ale should be added to Jim Koch's permanent collection, true interactive relationships between the brewers and crowd at these gatherings are always appreciated.
The little guys: Beer festivals are partly about finding that unknown brewery. For this one, Grand Lake Brewing came strong with three offerings just as their product is starting to circulate statewide. And tiny Aspen Brewing showed off a very impressive Brown Ale teeming with nuttiness and body, enough to make you want to stop by the brewery the next time you're skiing.

The Bad
Festival organizers and their poor advertising: Check out the website for the festival and tell me where on it you can find that the show was only open to VIP ticket purchasers (at $75 a pop) until 2 p.m. Yet, that is exactly what ticket takers said to the crowds pulling up shortly after 1 p.m. and wondering why they couldn't get in. Organizers added that they had mentioned the VIP pricing on flyers around town. Well, for everyone who came from out of town - most of the crowd, I'd wager - it was a rude shock to find out the discrepancy. It was, at best, a poor job of conveying festival details to people who had traveled hours to get there and, at worst, a fraudulent way of trying to extract more money from the crowd.
The humdrum beer booth selections: Some festivals around the state inspire brewers to bring their most experimental wares, or at least something a little off the beaten path. For the most part, this wasn't the one. Kudos to Breck and Great Divide for going big, Flying Dog for having an imperial porter and a Belgian-style wit and Ska for saving a keg of double blonde for when its first tap blew. Otherwise, there were standard offerings from the big craft breweries that could be found on bar taps pretty much anywhere in the area. And, while we're bringing a more diverse beer selection, a few rinsing pitchers would be nice too, folks.

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