The Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival returns to Vail, Jan. 5-7 at host hotel Vail Cascade Resort. Now in its 12thyear, the three day festival begins with the Calibration Dinner on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., and continues with events all day on Friday and Saturday.
This year’s schedule includes special guest speakers, pairings, educational seminars, competitions, and the ability for attendees to sample specially crafted beer from more than 90 breweries over the course of the weekend.
The Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Featured Brewmasters this year are Todd Usry from Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado, and John Mallett of Bell’s Brewing Company in Kalamazoo, Mich., in addition to annual event hosts Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Adam Avery of Avery Brewing Company.
Special guest speakers and seminars include Todd Usry presenting “Colorado Double IPAs” with guests Doug Odell of the Odell Brewing Company and Dave Thibodeau of the Ska Brewing Company, moderated by Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild.
An example of the lighthearted creativity of some of the seminars will be John Mallet’s “Maltilicious – The Building Blocks of Flavor” and Sam Calagione’s “The Marriage of Good Beer and Good Music.” To see the full schedule of seminars and speakers go to www.bigbeersfestival.com.
New to this year’s festival is the Cigar and Beer Pairing sensory workshop with speaker Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association. Participants will enjoy two different types of cigars and experiment by pairing several different cigar friendly beers. Additional cigars will be available for purchase. Although an outdoor fireplace, heaters and good cigars will help keep people warm, all are reminded to bring a coat, since the actual smoking will take place on the Vail Cascade’s picturesque outdoor pool deck.
The Big Beers Festival weekend includes the Cicerone Workshop, led by creator Ray Daniels, a program similar to the Sommelier designation in the world of wine. The workshop offers an opportunity for education not only about the beer itself with regard to history, creation, styles and flavor profiles but also about serving, dispensing and trouble-shooting in the retail and restaurant environment. Sponsored by All About Beer Magazine, this workshop is free and the public is encourage to attend, whether attending other Big Beers ticketed events or not. Highly regarded within the beer industry, the certification is recommended for all food and beverage staff as well as beverage retailers and beer connoisseurs.
One of the more serious aspects of the festival is the intensity that homebrewers bring to their portion of the event. The homebrew competition is sponsored and sanctioned by the American Homebrewers Association. Homebrewers have been known to work on a beer for more than two years until they deem it ready for submission to this stepping stone to national recognition.
As the Grand Prize winner of this incredible challenge, the 2012 Big Beers Homebrew Competition entrant will have a Commercial Batch of his or her recipe brewed at sponsoring brewery Dry Dock Brewing, located in Aurora, Colo. The resulting brew will also be on draft at Falling Rock Tap House in Denver during Great American Beer Festival week as well as entered into the 2012 GABF ProAm competition.
A new competitive addition will be the Vail Cascade People’s Choice competition between qualifying participating festival beers. The winning beer will be dubbed the Vail Cascade Big Beer of the Year, which will land the winner a spot on the beverage menu for a year at Vail Cascade’s award winning restaurant, Atwater on Gore Creek.
Craft beer and artisan food and dessert will be offered year round in Atwater, as the resort embraces the spirit of the Big Beers Festival, and as the popularity of unique and hard-to-find brews continues to grow among visitors and locals.
Finally, the wildly popular Commercial Tasting on Saturday, Jan. 7 boasts more than 200 Belgian, experimental and big beers, which refers to alcohol content, from around the globe, and hundreds of attendees from novice tasters to passionate beer lovers flock to this event. Numerous brewers from around the world are on hand pouring and discussing their wares in person, an exceptional opportunity to visit with the brewers and try rare, experimental and some more familiar craft beers in one location.
The Big Beers Festival actively supports the efforts of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, a local organization that helps those who live and work in the Vail Valley and have critical financial needs due to medical catastrophes, accidents or long-term illnesses. For more information about the VVCF, visit www.vvcf.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Karen Simon at 970-926-9795.
Tickets for Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines can be purchased online at www.bigbeersfestival.com or in person at Grappa in Vail Village, Riverwalk in Edwards, West Vail Liquormart, Avon Liquous, Alpine Wine & Spirits in West Vail and Total Beverage in Westminster.