Last year's All Colorado Beer Festival was a perfectly enjoyable time. Held at Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center as it was, though, space was somewhat limited (and the venue is a little bit wonky to get to anyway).
This past Saturday brought the festival's first year at the Freedom Financial Services Expo Center. Created by a partnership between the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (whose campus police were also in attendance) the expo provided a pretty sweet spot to break some records, says festival organizer Randy Dipner.
"We don’t have final numbers, but the following estimates are certainly in the ballpark," Dipner writes in an e-mail. "We had about 1,000 attendees at the afternoon session. (The most at an afternoon session previously was about 400.) We had about 1,300 at the evening session. (The most previously was about 950.)"
It certainly seemed like a lot. I arrived roughly an hour after the evening session's 5:30 start time, and people paying $30 packed the hall, sampling a slate of beers from roughly 35 breweries. All told, over $30,000 was raised for recipients THEATERWORKS, The Home Front Cares and the Empty Stocking Fund.
• Year-old Bonfire Brewing in Eagle, whose beers were new to me, had an interesting raspberry IPA that seemed neither one or the other; mild in flavor, and mild in bite, it was still nice to see variety-wise.
• Denver's Strange Brewing Co. poured a few good beers, including a tasty and well-spiced wit.
• My first taste of our own Kevin Baity Kraft Beers was something of a disappointment. Its much-heralded lavender brew was out, while the offered pale ale was flat and muddled in flavor, and left an unpleasant lingering bitterness.
• The Lighting Strike Stout from Rockyard American Grill & Brewing Co. in Castle Rock, and its deliciously rich, malty, chocolate flavor, were also new to me.
The only complaint I have — if it's kosher to complain about a nonprofit(s) fundraiser featuring hundreds of gallons of beer — is one that's been iterated by blog Focus on the Beer. Here's writer Eric Steen talking about the Craft Lager Festival:
There was some really fantastic beer at the festival but there wasn't a ton of stuff that I can't already find in town or in Colorado. I'd like to see more experimentation with the beers. Maybe each brewery takes one keg of their normal lager and adds something to it? I'd also like to see more small breweries.
And at least, like Strange and Bonfire, there were small breweries at ACBF, besides the Averys and the Skas and the Left Hands (all amazing breweries, just, they brought stuff I can get anywhere). It was great to see Woodland Park's BierWerks Brewery, whose apelbier was made with 115 pounds of apples, and came off like a kick-ass glass of boozy cider.
It was so good, in fact, the joy of it could only be dampened by the sound of the band, located 20 feet away, bouncing their guitar riffs off the concrete floors. (Note: The people who went ape-shit for "Don't Stop Believin'" may not agree.)
"We will work on that for next year," promises Dipner.