by Marty Jones
This year’s Colorado Brewers Festival, June 26-28 in downtown Fort Collins, flows into town with some self-applied pressure. To herald its 25th edition last year, the COBF featured a nine-pack of new attractions that added fresh beer-lover and beer-maker appeal.
Those additions attracted a hefty 18,000 attendees to Civic Center Park, a 100% boost over the 2013 festival. They also signified the fest’s commitment to reclaiming its established and innovative status and maintaining its slot as one of the five oldest beer fests in the US.
So how does this year’s COBF top last year’s “tough act to follow” event? By once again shaking things up in big fashion. Sixteen-ounces-big, to be exact.
“We’re retiring the tiny taster mugs,” says COBF event director James Yearling. “This year, our beer-drinking patrons will all receive a special 16-oz glass and be able to enjoy taster portions or full pours of their favorite beer.”
That cup is a clear, unbreakable, reusable and recyclable creation from Govino that’s making its Colorado festival debut at COBF. But this wiz-bang beer vessel isn’t the only new feature of the pioneering COBF, which began way back in 1990.
“We’ve also eliminated the mass ‘cattle call’ waiting line to enter the festival,” Yearling says proudly, “and we’ve shifted the festival center from sun-soaked blacktop to the grassy, shaded park areas.”
Better still, the festival is adding an expanded number of beer stations and taps to ensure faster pouring of some 55 different beers from 44 breweries. That move is intended to eliminate the mixed blessing last year of jumbo crowds, but equally large lines for beers on the festival’s opening day session.
“The explosion in attendance last year was wonderful,” Yearling says, “and even though we planned for it, the Saturday crowd was bigger than we expected. This year we’re going to be ready for the big crowds. Our focus,” Yearling adds, “is on elevating the Festivarian experience.”
Such changes are a must in a state deep with summer beer fests and beer drinkers whose favorite question is ‘What do you have that’s new?’
To thrill such beer lovers, the COBF is presenting a new pre-fest Friday night event done in conjunction with the Colorado Brewers Guild. This beer-geek-minded event, dubbed “The Summit,” will showcase boundary-smashing and rarely available beers that make the Guild’s “The State of Craft Beer” mantra ring true.
“This will be an amazing and intimate experience for Colorado craft beer lovers,” promises the Guild’s marketing director, Steve Kurowski. “We’re asking our brewery members to dig deep and bring something very special, something they typically don’t serve at public events.” Brewers will be on hand to discuss their creations and breweries with attendees of this event, which will be limited to 600 people and is a fundraiser for the Colorado Brewers Guild.
Beer nuts who crave face time with local brewers can also get their fix on Saturday and Sunday at a newly designed area, The Neighborhood, that showcases the liquid art of twelve of Fort Collins’ best breweries.
The list of Neighborhood residents stretches from longtime favorites such CooperSmith’s, New Belgium, and Odell, to upstarts such as Horse & Dragon, 1933 Brewing, Snowbank and other newer breweries. These brewers will be on hand to serve and tout an array of summer-minded and extra-adventurous creations brought in just for the weekend.
Returning features from last year include free admission to the festival, an expanded Beer School, tasty fare from a fleet of the City’s most popular food trucks, and various attractions for families and children. Of course, there will also be live music (a festival tradition) on two stages. The music lineup includes ATOMGA, Taylor Scott, Afrosippi, andWasteland Hop.
While the bands will pay tribute to Fort Collins’ ever expanding music scene, the COBF will continue its 26-year effort to do the same for the beer culture of the City and the state.
The fest got its start when Fort Collins brewers Doug Odell (Odell Brewing), and Brad Page (CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing), approached the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association with the idea of a festival to showcase local brewers.
At the time Fort Collins had just three microbreweries, Colorado had nine microbreweries and the state’s brewery total was 11. Today Fort Collins has 16 breweries, Colorado’s brewery total has surpassed 250 and the state is an epicenter of America’s world-renowned craft brewing trade.
“The Colorado Brewers’ Festival,” Odell says, “has played a significant role in our City’s beer-centric progress and helped make Colorado one of the nation’s best states for craft beer.”
Yearling and his peers at the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association, intend to make sure that the COBF upholds that high standard.
“The festival has a long and rich history,” Yearling says, “and we want to build on our iconic status. This year’s changes make it easy for people to grab a choice beer and a bite from a local food star, then lounge in the shade surrounded by great music and Fort Collins’ beer-making heroes.”
COBF beer-tasting packages and tickets to The Summit showcase are available now at coloradobrewfest.com.
by Marty Jones