Prior to catching last night's stand-up performance by Kevin Nealon — which was pretty brilliant, by the way — Bryce Crawford and I attended Saturday's Winter Bier Fest at Woodland Park's Ute Pass Cultural Center.
BierWerks was the host outfit, joined by nine others: Trinity Brewing Company, Durango Brewing Company, Dry Dock Brewing Company, Odell Brewing Co., Great Divide Brewing Company, Del Norte Brewing Company, Ska Brewing Company, AC Golden Brewing Company, and Blue Moon Brewery at the Sandlot (at Coors Field).
Backed by the fun Denver gypsy-grass outfit the Gristle Gals, each brewery poured two beers on average.
In no particular order, here are some impressions, awards (from us) and highlights. (Note: Click on any of the photos to enlarge.)
• Best schwag: Odell Brewing Co. Stickers — check. Bottle openers — check. And logo patches? — check. "Why yes ... we'll stay and sip your delicious pilsner and red ale a little longer ..."
• Best presentation: Great Divide Brewing Company and Del Norte Brewing Company (tie).
Great Divide also handed out stickers, but two sweet brewery reps poured samples straight from bottles cooled by a giant ice bucket on the table. We enjoyed both the GABF-medaling Hoss Rye Lager and Claymore Scotch Ale, but we loved a friendly sneak-sample of the Grand Cru. The Belgian-style dark ale hits 11 percent ABV while delivering its fruity, yeasty goodness, and it's currently on tap at Thunder & Buttons II, if you want to try it. (Most beers from the event can be found in liquor stores, for that matter.)
Del Norte's owners poured their Luminarea Bock, Orale Lager and Mañana Mexican-style Amber Lager from a colorful cooler display while educating us on their concept, built around being the only brewery in the U.S. brewing strictly Mexican-style lagers. (One reason for the dearth: It's a more time-consuming process.)
The amusing thing about the Mañana in particular is that it won a gold medal at this past year's GABF in the American-style Amber Lager category, even though it is a Mexican-style beer. Turns out, the beer really owes its roots to Vienna-style lagers, so nationality aside, it's the brewing process that distinguishes the style. All the outfit's drinks are lightly sweet from the addition of flaked corn to the barley, and they're as easy drinkin' as commercial Mexican beers.
• Bryce's favorite beer of the day: Ska Brewing Company's winter seasonal offering, the Euphoria Pale Ale. Think grapefruit, and lots of it. The fruit overwhelms the bouquet and lingers in the flavor with significant bitter hops. But it's not all acidic bite, with a rich body for a little counterbalance.
• My favorite beer of the day: BierWerks' Weizenbock. Coming in at a sneaky-strong 8 percent ABV, it's a more robust wheat beer with a lively yeast profile and big mouth-feel. Brewer Brian Horton explained that he roasts the barley, wheat and malts to the point where they take on a tiny chocolate flavor. He sometimes thinks of chocolate banana bread when he sips this beer, the fruit coming in from the yeast, which also provides a tiny hint of clove spice.
• Best beer name of the day: Dry Dock's Sample Cock Bock. Tee-hee.
According to event organizer
Kristen Kristin Taylor, who is also the Colorado State Fair homebrew and craft beer coordinator, a total of 195 folks attended the beer tasting, while 29 more folks purchased tickets to a simultaneous wine tasting ($25 in advance, $30 day-of for either).
Her goal for this first year's event was 150 heads; given the extra interest, she's confident about organizing a Year Two and continuing to grow the event further. A total of $800 was raised for the Woodland Park Arts Alliance via the tastings.
On the wine side, offerings were a little more slim, with only Broomfield-based Turquoise Mesa Winery and a representative from Banana Belt Liquors pouring sweet Valentine's-minded selections from her nearby store.
The winery respectably uses only Palisade-grown, Colorado grapes for its wines, but honestly, we weren't bowled over by any of the five varietals we tried. In fairness, our palates could have been a bit blown out by sampling the beers first ...
... though our sweet receptors were plenty intact when it came to trying a perfectly fine $6 bottle of Cavit Moscato d'Asti and the same Chocovine that I first tried at last weekend's Salute to Escoffier at the Broadmoor. Turns out that only costs $9.99 a bottle at Banana Belt.
Guess I've got cheap tastes sometimes.