Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A February Full of Beer-Event Personality

Craft beer fans and football fans share a mutual disdain for the month of February. For football fans, it's that desolate time in between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft. For beer aficionados in Colorado, it's the lonely month between Big Beers Festival and Collaboration Fest.

Luckily, though, a few event organizers have heard the anguished cry of the craft-beer drinker and tried to do something to make this month more memorable. And over the next 28 days, a number of gatherings - including a pair of new or reborn events in particular - are going to fill calendars surprisingly quickly and make March seem it got here with no delay at all.

First there is Beer Fight Club, the brainchild of buddies Jeff Flood and Adam Schell that debuts on Saturday at Larimer Beer Hall. Less an all-out Tyler Durden-style brawl and more a civilized March Madness-style precursor, it pits eight River North neighborhood breweries against each other in head-to-head blind-taste tests until only one survives the bracket to be crowned Beer Fight Club champion.

Flood and Schell had wanted to get into the craft-beer promotion business, and so they talked with a number of breweries about what kind of event might draw out drinkers and get them through the doldrums of winter. What they came up with was a ticketed event in which the eight contestants bring a beer of their choosing and advance through the bracket based on the combined votes of audience members and a specially chosen panel of experts. Flood and Schell hope to host three more such events featuring different brewing neighborhoods in the coming months, and then have a "best-of''' bracket to determine the ultimate Beer Fight Club champion.

"Every weekend there's a different type of beer fest, so we asked how we do something different," Flood said of the event, scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Larimer Beer Hall featuring breweries like Epic, Mockery and River North - all of which will have folks at the event. "We really want to connect the beer drinker to the brewers, so they can establish a little longer-term relationship."

A smaller event was also the theme around which Colin Bickford and Patrick Brown wanted to organize the Mile High Beer Festival, a collection of 25 Colorado breweries that will be pouring beer at the Exdo Center in RiNo on Feb. 11 for both an afternoon and an evening session. They wanted reasonable lines, breweries that came from a reasonable distance away and a crowd that got to taste a substantive number of beers on the Colorado scene.

Bickford earlier organized the Epic Beer Festival with 80-plus breweries in 2013 and the Country Beer Festival in Jefferson County in 2016, but he wanted a different event in the heart of Denver this year. So, he and Brown gathered an array of Colorado craft breweries - from heavyweights like Odell and Crooked Stave to up-and-comers like ,Resolute and Verboten - and will have them pouring in a fairly intimate setting of some 500 attendees that revives the first Mile High Beer Festival, which Brown organized several years ago.

"We found that people don't want bigger. They just want a nice experience," Bickford said.

Those are two of the highlights for the month. Here's a few more:
* Denver Beer Co. which is becoming the master of the food-and-beer-pairing events, will host a beer, bacon and coffee festival at its main brewery from 8:30 to 11 a.m. on Feb. 12.
* A number of breweries and bars are hosting Valentine's Day events. But for my money, you can't go wrong going down to Freshcraft that night, which will be tapping Southern Tier Creme Brulee.
* On Feb. 15, Yak & Yeti Brewery officially becomes Spice Trade Brewing Co., which will continue to operate within the Arvada restaurant but as a separate entity. It will tap a Szechuan Saison and a Mayan Chocolate Russian Imperial Stout, among other things.
* On Feb. 18, Bristol Brewing brings back its annual Firkin Rendezvous, in which 40 breweries will tap experimental versions of their beers. Tickets are $45.
* And, of course, all month is Stout Month at Mountain Sun and its affiliated brewery restaurants. Their offerings include the likes of a Mint Chocolate Girl Scout Stout, a Coconut Cream Stout and a Norwegian Wheat Stout. Oh, yes.

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