Friday, May 29, 2015

Burning Can: A Different Kind of Beer Festival

The idea behind most beer festivals is simple. Get a whole bunch of breweries together. Maybe create a theme for their beers. Put them all together in a field or in a hall. And if you want to come up with some peripheral booths or contests, great. The idea usually works.

But on Saturday, the town of Lyons will host what is arguably the state's premier beer festival at which the beer (or a beer/food pairing) is not soaking up 95 percent of the attention. Yes, there will be more than 60 craft breweries pouring more than 200 types of canned beer at Oskar Blues' fourth annual Burning Can. But there will be so much more as well.

Held as part of the Lyons Outdoor Games, attendees will be able to watch kayaking and boater cross and can, if they want, round up a team to participate in a morning Beer Relay that will test participants' ability to run a team 5K run while receiving extra points for drinking a beer. There will be dirt-bike jumping, slackline acrobatics, a concert by New Orleans' The Revivalists and camping so that people can fully immerse themselves in the outdoor experience.

Oh, and did I mention beer? With 510 craft breweries now canning about 2,000 different beers nationwide, canning pioneers Oskar Blues get more inquiries about being a part of their event each year and have added about 12 breweries each annum to the lineup. Those include beer makers whose products aren't available otherwise in Colorado, such as Sun King Brewery of Indiana and La Cumbre Brewing of New Mexico. And it also includes breweries that may be canning just for this event on Oskar Blues' special "Crowler" system, ranging from City Star Brewing to Left Hand.

Oskar Blues marketing guru Chad Melis believes the event serves as a sort of big-tent revival to allow Colorado's second-largest craft brewery to preach about the advantages of cans, from their environmental benefits to the way they protect beer better from oxygen and light. But for a company that chose the location of its second brewery (in Brevard, North Carolina) based in large part on its proximity to killer mountain-biking, it also serves as a chance to proselytize on the seamless inclusion of craft beer in any outdoor lifestyle.

"There's a full top-to-bottom outdoor experience there," Melis said. "To be able to pack in a full day of outdoor activity, to be able to try beers from across the country that you can't get, and then to top it off with a full concert, I don't think there are a lot of events like that. We really want to make it a destination festival."

And while the $45 event won't lack for attendees, the 4 to 7 p.m. beer-tasting portion of the day also isn't sold out yet.

Burning Can may not be everyone's cup of tea. Not every beer drinker has to feel like they're sipping at the X Games to enhance their experience. But it's one of the more unique events on the beer circuit in Colorado and may, for that reason alone, be worth the trip this weekend.

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