Big Beers, Belgians and Barley Wines (commonly known as just Big Beers) once again took to the snowy peaks of Breckenridge for a celebratory weekend of the craft beer industry. Paired with educational seminars, decadent beer dinners and cigar tastings, the event is capped off with a commercial tasting event. Featuring an impressive line-up of local and national breweries, the event has gained a reputation in the industry as one of the best beer festivals in Colorado and is becoming the place where local breweries flex the hardest. It doesn’t hurt either when your hangover cure is a powder day.
Fresh tracks aside, the beer flowed nonstop last Saturday with many cups overrunning with high-ABV beers — as the name of the event would suggest. There were plenty of expected favorites like the Weldwerks Medianoche line-up — which always garners fanfare for its rich variations of the barrel-aged imperial stouts. However, for this pouring, the traditional Medianoche shone the brightest whereas its other spinoffs like the peanut butter variation lacked a similar clarity in flavors. But despite, Weldwerks’ local fame, one exception to the Colorado love-fest was the consistently long line at Side Project. This is in part because you can’t taste the beers outside of its Missouri taproom. Nevertheless, their showing was strong with a mix of barleywines, barrel aged stouts and wild ales. A personal favorite included the Punchdown Pinot Noir made with pinot noir grapes and aged in wine barrels — among the vast selection of stouts, it was a welcomed departure. Similarly, Great Divide’s Wood Werks series was a pleasant find. The No. 2 version of the series was a Flemish-style sour brown ale with strawberries. Aged in red wine, whiskey and bourbon barrels, the beer had a welcomed layer of complexity that somehow wasn’t overly fussy.
Finally, another local favorite, Amalgam Brewing, capped off the decadent day with a wonderfully diverse line-up. Alongside its balaton reduction and peach golden sour, was one of the best showings of a stout. Aged in bourbon barrels on vanilla beans, toasted coconut and cocoa nibs, “All Becomes Void” was poured straight from the barrel. The result had all the classic notes of a barrel-aged stout with a clean finish, which was a welcomed reprieve after a day of big beers.
Dates have already been announced for 2020. So mark your calendars for January 9 – 11 and don’t miss out on one of the best-kept secrets of the Colorado beer industry.
All photography by Brittany Werges.