We are back from Breckenridge and have finally recovered from this years Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival. Big Beers never disappoints, but this year’s festival was the best one yet, and it seems it will only continue to get better. The level of beers being poured this year was pretty phenomenal. The outside events are also getting better with more events being hosted around Breck, especially on Friday night. And as always, the seminars during Big Beers were great. Here’s our highlights.
Friday in Breck
Outer Range Brewing was our first stop. Outer Range was packed with festival goers, brewers and brewery owners. It was a great first stop with top notch beers. I’ll always suggest that people stop by Outer Range when in the area.
The Small Plates & Craft Beer Pairing at Modis in Breckenridge with Melvin Brewing and Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales was an awesome event. Small and intimate with great food and beer pairings. The brewery reps and chef presented the pairings which often resulted in a fun display of showmanship, including a hilarious 3 person prologue by Melvin complete with synchronized treatise.
The outside events happening around town this year were awesome. We hit the Rocky Mountain Underground Tavern and Kenosha Steakhouse for some amazing tap takeovers. We saw beers from Cerebral, Surly, WeldWerks, Black Project, Modern Times and many others.
The Cigar Pairing Experience is always en event not to be missed. Free beers (and great beer at that), free hand-rolled cigars, all by the fire pits with dozens of your friends. This is a great event.
Saturday, The Main Event
In the morning, we went to the Experimental Brewing Seminar, titled “New England IPAs: The Bitterness Challenge!”. The panel included Neil Fisher (WeldWerks), Ross Koenigs (New Belgium), Lee Cleghorn (Outer Range) and Sean Buchan (Cerebral). They dropped some pretty technical knowledge on us, and for the non-brewer types like me, some of it was above my head. I did learn some about what IBUs really are, how IBUs are measured, how hazy IPAs are made and a host of other things. It was a great seminar.
The Commercial Tasting had a 2:30 start time. People lined up well before then. We decided to take it easy and line up at about 2:15. The line was long and snaked around the hallway. It took us about 20-25 minutes to get in. The entrance would definitely have benefited from a few extra people checking IDs and putting on wristbands. Or an even better idea, do this part as people are waiting in line to reduce the wait time. The IDs and wristband part was the biggest bottleneck.
Once inside, the first booth we saw was Side Project. This was awesome since they were at the top of my list. We stopped in for pours of Beer : Barrel : Time (BBT) and Derivation #8. Both of these beers were amazing. Next, we hit up Goose Island for some Reserve Bourbon County Stout, while there we noticed a small sign indicating that Double Barrel Bourbon County would be available at 3:30 (and yes, we came back for a pour of it and it was excellent). While in line, a few people told us that Black Project not only brought Cat Sabbath, they also brought Vanilla Cat Sabbath. WHAT!?!?! We beelined for Black Project and had pours of both. These were top-tier beers and one day I want to marry Cat Sabbath.
Other amazing, God-tier beers we tried included Bourbon Barrel-Aged Vastness of Space by Cellarmaker Brewing Company, The Obscure by Green Bench, Monsters’ Park Aged In Bourbon Barrels (Mexican Hot Chocolate) by Modern Times, Single Barrel S’mores Medianoche and Cherries Jubilee Medianoche by WeldWerks, SkaFace by Ska Brewing and Vanilla Here Be Monsters by Cerebral. These are just the highlights, there were many others we enjoyed. And I don’t care what anyone says, the Utopias aged on Cherries is gross af!
The festival itself was well organized this year. Last year, the hallways got way too crowded. They did something to make them much less crowded this year. Some beers ran out, but there was plenty of time to try those beers before they ran out. If you missed out on something, it was probably your own fault. Water and bread was available as well as some free buffet style food that was obtained with a ticket. Water for cleaning glasses at the tables was sometimes hard to come by.
All in all, this was another great year for Big Beers. The beer and brewery list itself was possibly the best one yet. The outside events are getting stronger, thanks to Breckenridge’s strong beer game. Cheers to another amazing Big Beers!