"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!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

New Brew Fest showcases Colorado's greenhorn breweries

Brewery oversaturation: a played-out idea.  It’s not real (at least not for another few decades).  There are a thousand reasons why the notion of brewery oversaturation is a crock but I’ll leave you to your own devices on that one; search the internet and find the mythbusting facts for yourself (you can start here).

Since that little alarmist’s cry has been stifled, people have been conjuring up new ways to rain on craft beer’s parade.  Now, it’s not about how many new breweries are opening, it’s about how many new breweries are good.  It’s become a quality issue and, if you talk to Chicken Little, a few bad beers are poised to take down the entire industry.  Again I say, get on Google and search the topic yourself.  There’s no shortage of doomsayer articles.

I’m not writing a treatise on why the quality debate should, like the oversaturation debate, be dropped but I can’t help but make a few points.  First, commercial Darwinism is real.  The strong breweries will survive while the weak wither and die.  I hate to see any craft brewery close but that’s the cold, harsh reality of capitalism.  Paying customers will weed out subpar breweries before they do any real damage to craft beer’s overall public image. 
Whistle Stop Park

Secondly, the definition of “bad beer” is very, very subjective.  Official BJCP style guidelines exist but, in the end, customers drink whatever they want to drink regardless of whether or not it fits a certain parameter.  In Denver, there are breweries most “experts” deem as in need of improvement yet walk by any given weekend and the place is crammed with thirsty patrons.  You can rationalize it, say those patrons are idiots for supporting such a lacking establishment, but it doesn’t change the fact that the brewery is doing good business and people are enjoying their experience.  All due respect to the late Paul Walker but, if it were in my hands, I’d scrub the earth clean of every copy of every Fast and Furious movie because it’s an undeniably insipid film franchise.  But, it’s also a successful franchise and hasn’t done anything to diminish the erudite reputation of Cannes’ arthouse films.  This reality is paralleled in craft beer.  

Lastly, who’s to say good beer isn’t destroying the craft beer industry?  Pliny the Younger and Heady Topper are the Citizen Kane of craft beers, widely considered the top of the heap.  However, would Fast and Furious fans accrue any pleasure from viewing Orson Welles’ masterpiece?  No.  They’ll say it’s boring and then bring up Netflix to order Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  Why should anything different be expected when the man who’s only drank Bud Light his entire life sips an imperial IPA?  Undoubtedly, he’ll hate it and assume all craft beer is as awful and bitter, henceforth eschewing independent breweries.  As a matter of fact, this man should be given a terrible craft beer because it’d be more in line with his usual fare.  Once he’s introduced to the world of craft beer, he can explore further and grow and develop into a more sophisticated drinker.  Bad craft beer is, in essence, a gateway beer to bigger and better things.        

I’m dubious as to how detrimental new brewery quality really is to the industry as a whole.  I’m especially dubious after having attended the New Brew Fest in Niwot this past weekend—a beer fest for breweries five years or younger—where almost everything on tap tasted fabulous!

Sponsored by Colorado Beer Trail and Bootstrap Brewing, the inaugural New Brew Fest was held at Whistle Stop Park, a small, railroad-themed patch of grass on the edge of Niwot parallel to Diagonal Highway and the same freight train tracks running by Sanitas Brewing Co.  Having a locomotive roar past, ten feet from the beer tents, added an extra element of excitement to New Brew Fest; it mixed in a sense of danger and connected back to Colorado’s industrious past.  It’s such a simple thing, a careening train, but it added much to the event’s ambiance.  Click here to see just how close the train got to the festival.

Some stand-out moments from New Brew Fest:

·         Every first-time event has a few hiccups.  At New Brew Fest, the most obvious concern was the insufficient number of port-o-potties.  Indeed, a beer fest could rent every port-o-potty in the world and it’d still be insufficient because every beer festival attendant is a potential Niagara Falls.  Nonetheless, there was certainly room for more stalls and they could have cut the wait time by at least a few minutes. 

Okay, there was one other hiccup. This seems legit enough until...
...I think there's something missing here
·         When a beer fest features live music, to me it’s either white noise or intrusively loud.  However, I have to give it up to the first band at New Brew Fest who performed a bluegrass-yet-rock-n-roll rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”  My inner “Weird Al” Yankovic fan appreciated the humor of it all.  That wasn't their only great cover, either; Nicole couldn't help but find herself singing along with and swaying to their music.
·         Nicole and I made a concerted effort to visit the breweries we’ve yet to see in person and, because the breweries at New Brew Fest are so new (or because Nicole and I just haven’t gotten around to them), we had a lot to visit.  They included 300 Suns Brewing, 4 Noses Brewing Co., Powder Keg Brewing Co., 12 Degree Brewing Co., Very Nice Brewing Co., and Wonderland Brewing Co.     
·         Some memorable beers from New Brew Fest: the sour and spritz-y Mimosa, a sour ale aged in Champagne barrels with Satsuma oranges, from Powder Keg (their hibiscus saison was also stellar), the fruit-tastic and summery Passion Fruit Wheat from Industrial Revolution Brewing Co., the green-tea infused Lu Yu Golden Ale from The Post Brewing Co., and the New Zealand-hopped Legal Nelson from 12 Degree Brewing Co. 

New Brew Fest wants you to play it safe and ride your bike.
Hold your head high, new breweries; although the current trend is to drag your good name through the dirt, insinuate your poor-quality beer will eventually destroy the craft beer niche that more senior breweries worked so hard to hew out, the truth is it’s all just generational bickering.  The Baby Boomers disparaged the Gen Xers and the Gen Xers thumb their noses at the Millenials just as older breweries put down new breweries.  That’s fine; today’s new breweries will surely continue the tradition of crapping on the new guys when next decade’s breweries roll out.  In the meantime, though, know that new breweries pose no serious threat to the industry as a whole—New Brew Fest made that abundantly clear.



P.S. The gourmet waffle food truck was to die for.  We ordered the caramel apple waffle and it was a glorious pile of whipped cream, sugar, caramel, and everything else that is terrible for the body.

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