"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Brief Interlude from the Beer Bloggers Conference: A Re-Cap of Fermentation Festival

We interrupt this series of Beer Bloggers Conference posts to bring you a re-cap of a local beer event.  The conference posts will recommence shortly.

a. The anaerobic conversion of sugar to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast.
b. Any of a group of chemical reactions induced by living or nonliving ferments that split complex organic compounds into relatively simple substances.

The imposing Highlands Masonic Center

Sounds riveting, does it not?  Perhaps the dictionary definition sates the eggheads among us but, for the average, everyday beer geek, one need only know fermentation is your friend.  Fermentation is the difference between hopped barley-tea and actual beer.  It’s the creator of alcohol.  Connoisseurs of craft beer (rightfully) shun those who drink merely to become inebriated and one trend in the industry is session (AKA low-alcohol) beer but, one must nonetheless admit, craft beer would not have nearly as strong a fanbase if we weren’t all catching a little buzz (just a little, though; I stand with every true beer geek when I implore to always drink responsibly). 
Learning how to make fruit wine
Indeed, it is a beautiful thing, this process known as fermentation.  Even beer geeks who failed high school chemistry understand and appreciate the science.  What some may not realize, however, is that fermentation takes forms beyond the realm of beer.  Liquors, before distillation, are fermented.  Sauerkraut, the favorite German condiment, is fermented.  Kimchi is fermented.  Kombucha tea?  Yep, that’s fermented, too.  Why’s fermentation so popular?  Historically, it was a way to preserve food but, nowadays, we also know fermentables work wonders on the digestive tract; it’s healthy and fun—a combination rarely seen.  To partake in the grandest celebration of fermentation, one need not look further than The Fermentation Festival & Market.

Held this past weekend at the Highlands Masonic Center, the Fermentation Fest is more than just another beer festival (not that there’s anything wrong with “just another beer festival,” mind you; the rapidity in which Great American Beer Festival [GABF] tickets sell-out proves there’s still an unmet demand for beer-centric fêtes), it’s a place to eat, drink, and—dare I say—learn; between sips and snacks, festival-goers had the option of attending classes ranging in topics from homebrewing kombucha to cooking sauerkraut to the demonstration Nicole and I attended—making fruit wines.  Lest the libations erased one’s memory, folks at Fermentation Fest left more educated than when they arrived.

Homebrewed fruit wine 
The uniqueness of Fermentation Fest—in addition to the inclusion of all fermentables and the educational aspect—is in the location; walking up to the Masonic Center's massive stone façade, defined by Ionic pillars and a massive front door, one might forget they’re actually in Denver and not Washington, D.C., ancient Greece, or King Kong’s mausoleum.  It’s an intimidating structure.  I felt as though I was to be judged (and subsequently condemned) by the high priests.  Not helping to ease my mind are the myriad conspiracy-theory pseudo-documentaries on the History Channel which concern the Freemasons—schlocky shows attempting to convince viewers that the said secret society is hell-bent on world domination.  I don’t really buy into that stuff, though; methinks the Freemasons are more benign and wield less influence than the Stonecutters.  PROOF: I never saw a guy named Homer Glumplich at Fermentation Fest; they can't be the same entity.
Delicious fermented foods
There’s another aspect to Fermentation Fest which makes it one-of-a-kind (at least as far as I’ve experienced): indoor and outdoor event spaces.  Want to soak in the rays?  Head out to the parking lot where beer tents intermingle with the IndyInk shirt station (they screen-print shirts right in front of customers; they’re the Benihana of casual apparel), pickle-toss competitors, and food vendors (including some superb pickled jalapenos and kimchi from Dae Gee; as an ethnic German I’m predisposed to enjoy sauerkraut but my promiscuous palate often leads me to Asian food.  Thus, Dae Gee’s offerings were a mélange of the two).  Is the sun a bit harsh for ya?  Go inside to the banquet hall where more beer, food, and spirits await (I was quite impressed with Beer Bites Premium Jelly and Vital Cultured Foods—the former was an inventive take on beer-based snacks and the latter an expert on traditional fermented foods).  Likewise, the demonstrations were held in separate rooms—upstairs in meeting halls that looked like British parliament or the Great Hall of Hogwarts.  I thought it a clever touch, allowing attendees to float from one area to another, keeping the event spread out over a larger area and therefore thinning the crowds to a manageable size.

Enjoy Fermentation Fest indoors...

...or outdoors!
The beer, of course, was Nicole and I’s impetus in attending Fermentation Fest and we were not disappointed.  In terms of number of participating breweries, Fermentation Fest lags far behind most other beer festivals.  Beer geeks were not left wanting, though; there were but a few brewers in attendance, but many of them were not the ones typically found at other festivals.  These included new, small breweries such as City Star Brewing, 12 DegreeBrewing, and Verboten Brewing as well as yet-to-open businesses like Kokopelli Beer Company and Großen Bart Brewery.  Beer geeks may not have had as much selection as they’re accustomed but the selection they did have was of beer they’d most likely never had before.  I, personally, would rather have a little new brew than a lot of the same old suds; the tried-and-true beers are great but I prefer to drink what’s not always readily available.  My favorite of the event was City Star’s Barnhouse Beast, the house saison for Beast + Bottle.
Jellies made of beer
Jellies made of beer
This was the first year for Fermentation Fest and, hopefully, not the last.  Every successful beer festival has a twist that keeps people coming back (GABF has sheer size, Parade of Darks caters only to dark beers, Rails & Ales Brewfest is held in a spectacular location…etc.) and I think Fermentation Fest’s niche—the inclusion of all fermentables—is an idea worth keeping alive.  Besides that, when, besides Fermentation Fest, are you going to get into a Masonic lodge without knowing the secret handshake?  See you at next year’s fest! 



Chris told me we were invited to the Fermentation Festival and I was unsure what to expect.  I teach fermentation to middle schoolers but it’s mostly in relation to what happens to muscles during exercise.  I never get to talk about the good stuff like yeast burping carbon dioxide and making alcohol.  However, as I found out, I forgot about the many non-alcoholic fermented foods and beverages that I could possibly teach to minors.

Our first stop at the festival was a class on making small batch fruit wines.  I’d been entertaining the idea of making cider for quite some time but I’ve been afraid I don't have the proper equipment.  As it turns out, the stuff that makes beer (which we already have) is essentially the same stuff that makes wine.  We learned how to process the fruit, which herbs to add, and that it takes a lot longer for good wine to bottle condition than good beer.  I’ll let you know how it goes when I eventually venture into wine making.
Watermelon gin

Next stop: pick up our festival t-shirts.  The guys at IndyInk made the t-shirts while we waited and we also learned about their glassware printing services.  I’m thinking I might have pint glasses made for our wedding party next summer and these guys have some pretty good deals.

Then we tried some fermented foods.  I had kimchi and pickled radishes for the first time and both were surprisingly tasty.  As we wandered outside from booth to booth, I overheard someone mention a watermelon drink so we headed inside and found Roundhouse Spirits serving a gin cocktail infused with fresh watermelon.  It was a refreshing summer drink and, as we chatted with the rep, he mentioned that their fall offerings will include a pumpkin liqueur.  My ears perked up at that information; I’ll be on the lookout in the coming weeks!  It seems Roundhouse Spirits will be serving drinks this weekend at the Taste of Colorado so, if you plan on attending, check out their yummy drinks.


IndyInk screen-printed shirts on the spot 

So, this guy just walked around Fermentation Fest with a bird on his shoulder

No comments:

Post a Comment