Saturday, November 01, 2014

Best. November. Ever.

Traditionally, the time between the Great American Beer Festival and Christmas largely has been a dry season, when  brewers worry about getting out their winter seasonals and beer drinkers allow their livers to recover. But not this year.

Instead, this month brings a bevy of opportunities to sample a great variety of beers in settings that are new or only just becoming familiar. And before the snow gets really good in the mountains, it may be worth clearing your calendar and dedicating the next four weeks to beer tasting.

Saturday, Nov. 1: All Colorado Beer Festival, Colorado Springs
What started many years ago as a mid-sized festival has grown to 67 breweries serving 200 beers this year - plus two cideries and a kombucha maker. And if last year's selection was any indication, the brewers will be getting creative with what they bring.

 One thing that's cool about the All Colorado Beer Festival - aside from the state-centered focus implied in its name - is the fact that it's one of the few festivals in the state that awards medals from a panel of certified judges. (And celebrity judges like yours truly, hence the picture above.) It's the best beer fest in the Springs area, and it's worth the $35 price for tickets to the 1 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. sessions.

Saturday, Nov. 8: Boulder IPA Fest
Avery Brewing's annual celebration of the hop shows off not just its grassy products but a lot of other fine stuff as well. Tickets are $45 and the festival runs from noon to 5 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 15: Left Hand Nitro Fest, Longmont
This celebration of nitrogenated beers is believed to be the first such specialty festival in Colorado and maybe in the country. But when the beer gurus at Left Hand thought about a clever way to celebrate their 21st birthday this year, thoughts turned quite quickly to focusing on a style of beer that the brewery is becoming known for nationwide.

Twenty-three breweries will be bringing nitro beers, and many will be available for the first time in Colorado or anywhere outside of the breweries. These aren't just the porters and stouts that have become known as the primary brewery styles, either - Green Flash's West Coast IPA, Elysian's P. Smoove Pumpkin Cream Ale and Dogfish Head's Chicory Stout are among the others on tap.

And Left Hand will move beyond the three beers it has universally available on nitro and offer three more - its session IPA, its Black Jack Porter and its coffee porter, marketing director Emily Armstrong said. Tickets for the 3 to 7 p.m. festival are $50.

Sunday, Nov. 16: Denver Bacon and Beer Festival
This is the third year for the celebration of pork, porter, pales and pilsner, and it's growing once again. A full 1,100 tickets are available for the show at the Curtis hotel, which is scheduled from 2:30 to 5 p.m.

If you haven't been before, the idea is no fancier than the title. About 20 breweries bring beers that they think might pair well with something porky and salty, and about 25 breweries bring something clever they've made with bacon. Attendees travel from booth to booth in a blissful celebration of beer and carnivorous behavior.

Organizer P.J. Hoberman of Denver Off the Wagon, which also is offering a five-course dinner for $65 at The Lobby the night before, said the appeal is pretty obvious. "I think honestly most beer does pair well with pork. Think about a nice roasty stout with a good piece of bacon." I'm sold.

Thursday, Nov. 20: Chef and Brew
One of the premier combinations of food and beer (assuming you like food other than bacon) is back at the Exdo Center in Denver. Twenty breweries are paired with 20 chefs from such low-end restaurants as Acorn, Panzano and Rioja to come up with a lasting combination. People are still talking about some of the combinations from last year's festival, if that gives you any indication what you'll get for your $49 general admission ticket.

Friday, Nov. 21: American Craft Beer Radio Holiday Beer Bash 
Moving this year to Wings Over the Rockies Museum, Gary Valliere's big party (pictured at top) will feature about 35 breweries. Last year, the majority of them poured some version of their winter seasonals, making this the perfect gathering for people who love to check out what they should be drinking throughout December. The show runs from 5 to 9 p.m., and tickets are $35.

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