By Neill Pieper
In Breckenridge, people are sometimes defined by the size of the mountain they climb, the ski runs they do or the hours they spend on a bike, but for one weekend in January, it will be about the size of the beer they drink.
Billed as "one of the most fine festivals for beer on the planet Earth" by Julia Hertz of the Brewers Association, the Big Beers Belgians & Barleywines Festival hits town Jan. 5-7 at the Beaver Run Resort.
With beer festivals seemingly happening weekly around Colorado, one aspect that is typically overlooked is beer education. The Big Beers Festival, now in its 16th year, has set a gold standard for education for both brewers and enthusiasts. The three-day festival includes a commercial tasting, 13 educational seminars and four food and beer pairing events. Roughly 110 breweries and importers will be attend, pouring big beers, defined by organizers as one of the following:
- 7% ABV or higher
- Belgian in style
- Experimental in nature (and approved by event organizers)
Even though the event is wildly popular among the beer community, it takes a tremendous effort to pull it off. The future of the Big Beers Fest was in question just a few months ago. Festival organizers were at a crossroads as changes to the long-time venue (Vail Cascade Resort) were underway and Big Beers needed a new home. After surveying prior attendees, organizers reported the overall feeling was: “Move it, change it, but please don’t end it!”
Mission accomplished. The three days of conferences, seminars, tastings and pairings were moved to Beaver Run in Breck.
Should you be lucky enough to attend this year’s event, prepare yourself. Breckenridge can be an unforgiving town that'll knock you on your butt in a multitude of ways, whether its skiing, mountaineering, biking, or consuming “big beer” at an elevation of 9,600 feet. So, while you taste your way through beers pushing 15 percent ABV, make sure to hydrate and eat food.
Find out more about Big Beers Festival at bigbeersfestival.com