BIG TIMES AT BIG BEERS

Throw a party with some of the hardiest, kick-ass beers from around the world and the results are big, really big. The Vail Cascade Resort hosted last weekend’s winter warmer in the Rockies. From seminars and workshops to an afternoon of tasting nearly 300 beers from around the world, the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines 16th Anniversary Festival was no small feat.

Marni and Tim Myers from Strange Craft Beer Co., kept the welcome reception rolling on Friday, pouring Super Kriek, a wheat ale. The Imperial Belgian blonde ale was loaded with cherries and rang up at 9.5 percent. The Bruery in Placentia, Calif., offered up its White Chocolate, a 14.25 percent ABV summer barley-wine style ale, with cacao nibs and fresh vanilla beans. It definitely tasted like a rich dessert. And Deschutes Brewing Co., in Bend, Ore., poured The Abyss, a barrel-aged Imperial Stout that boasted 12.2 percent ABV. The welcome-reception offerings were just the tip of the glass.

Later in the weekend, a Cicerone Program provided beer certification to participants similar to a Sommelier Program for wine. The newly anointed experts now have a hand up on all things beer. Chef Adam Dulye teamed up with Julia Herz of the Brewers Association to present awesome food and beer pairings. Speaking of experts, Brewmasters Geoff Larson, president of Alaskan Brewing & Bottling Co., and Omar Ansari, owner of Surly Brewing Co., also provided vital beer-geek information and pairings. The beer, nor the presenters, were lightweights during this three-day festival.