Great Central City Beer Fest

BeerFest_Dostal Alley

Hundreds clogged Main Street for free flowing brews

By David Josselyn

Main Street in Central City was blocked off to all but pedestrians for The Great Central City Beer Festival held on Saturday, August 23, 2014; and it’s a good thing they did. Although no official total has been announced, the street was as thick with people as the sidewalks around Mile High Stadium after a game. My knee-jerk reaction is to estimate thousands, rather than hundreds, but my judgment of crowds has been known to be way off. Suffice it to say, this was by far the best attended event in Central City this year. Considering there were nine, yes nine, other beer festivals on the same day around Colorado, Central City is making its mark among brewers and beer connoisseurs. This annual event brings craft brewers from all over the state to share their wares through thick rain, thin air, and beautiful sunshine against the backdrop of the historic mining town. Many of the brewers count this as the highlight of all beer festivals because of its unique atmosphere, the people it attracts, and the live music. Unlike other festivals of malted barley and hops, many of the people coming to this event are not familiar with craft brews and get their first taste of what a brew hand-crafted with care and love can be. Several brewers stated that Central City is the one festival they look forward to the most because of the atmosphere. New this year was the VIP Tent where patrons, having paid the higher price, could enjoy happy hour appetizers catered by Revelry Events and enjoy brews from every vendor represented.

Sellers of Suds

AC Golden – brewer Steve Fletcher and Jenny Jenkins were pouring AC Golden’s flagship beer Colorado Native Amber Lager. Steve enjoys coming up to Central’s beer fest to see all his buddies on the street. “It’s a fun fest!”

Arvada Beer Company – Kelly and Cary Floyd came to Central City to pour Arvada Beer Company’s Alexanders Altbier and Gold Mine IPA. Kelly said Central has “always been a great beer fest.”

Barrels & Bottles – Zach and Abby George came up from Golden to pour their Cin-ful and Go Wit It beers. Cin-ful is a robust porter with a hint of cinnamon and Go Wit It is brewed with spices, citrus, and mango juice. Barrels & Bottles is one of several tap houses based in Golden. When asked if the competition is tough, Zach replied that they really aren’t in a competition. When brewers like Cannonball Creek are successful, it helps to spread the word for the industry and they all see additional interest.

Blue Moon and The SandLot – Locally recognized brands Blue Moon and the SandLot came up to Central City to share their sweet and savory brews. Blue Moon provided the sweet with Imperial Raspberry Tart and Cinnamon Horchata while the SandLot provided the savory with Helles and Schwarzbier. While you can only visit the SandLot during Rockies games, they operate year round making seasonal recipies for ski resorts like Winter Park and Vail. The more recognizable Blue Moon brand was actually created at the SandLot. Keith and Jodi Villa along with Corey Christopher represented Blue Moon.

Cannonball Creek – Brian Hutchinson and Jason Stengl were happy to make the trip to Central City from their ever busy tap house near the base of Golden Gate Canyon and Highway 93. Today they were sampling the Rosemary Sourdough Saison with a tartness like the bread and Featherweight Pale Ale.

Tivoli Distributing – The folks at the Tivoli Distributing were there representing four different brewers: Tivoli Brewery, Centennial Beer Company, Grimm Brothers Brewery, and Aspen Brewing Company. Tivoli is keeping a Denver landmark alive, brewing the original recipe for Tivoli Beer, the oldest recorded brew in Colorado. Taylor Marshall, daughter of Gilpin residents Corey and Debbie Marshall, was pouring the Original Tivoli and Sigi’s Wild Horse beers for Tivoli along with Centennial Beer varieties.

Colorado Malting Company – The Colorado Malting Company was back this year with samples of their grains. The Company is a major distributor of brewer’s grains from 30-40 brew pubs to the big name brands. All of their grain is grown in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado. Patricia and Jason Cody, along with their adorable daughter, Violet, made the journey to Central to hand out samples of their grains. For the event, they brought along some San Luis Valley beer for the masses.

Dillon Dam Brewery – Mike Bennett and Darcy Rehn crossed the divide to provide samples of Hefeweizen, Sweet George’s Brown Ale, and Here’s Your Dam IPA. Hefeweizen is an unfiltered South German style wheat beer which allows other flavors to shine. The brewery loaded its brew with strong citrus flavors and hints of honey and banana. Mike Bennett usually reprents Dillon Dam Brewery at the Great American Beer Festival and due to alphabetizing, sits right next to Dostal Alley. Rubbing elbows with Central’s finest brewer was the motivation for Mike to make sure he came to Central this year to “check you guys out.”

Dostal Alley – Commissioner Buddy Schmalz donned his trademark baseball cap to represent Dostal Alley and their fine beer. Today they were pouring Jacob Mack Pale Ale, Summer Wheat Ale, and Gilpin Gold IPA. The Summer Wheat is a seasonal ale that won’t be around much longer. Buddy spent four hours picking local hops for the brewery the day before the event. Buddy was joined by Brian Gillespie and Barry Thomas.

Epic Brewing – the voice of the Colorado Craft Beer Show heard every Saturday on AM 760, John Turk, was in town both for his radio show and to represent Epic Brewing. Epic was founded in Salt Lake City; a challenging location for any business involving alcohol, and has recently opened a branch in Colorado. In honor of their new location, they created an Escape to Colorado IPA which they were sampling at the Fest, along with Mid Mountain Mild Ale.

Golden City Brewery – Open since 1993, Golden City Brewery was represented by Bryan Clark. He brought with him their Double IPA and 2nd Degree Irish Stout for sampling. Bryan bragged that their small brewery is now the 2nd largest distributor in Golden and can be found in several major liquor stores in the Denver area.

Grimm Brothers Brewhouse – Jeff White, from Tivoli Distributing, was representing another brand today, the Grimm Brothers Brewhouse and Aspen Brewing Company, also distributed by Tivoli. Jeff poured Little Red Cap and Fearless Youth varieties for Grimm Brothers and Independence Pass Ale and This Season’s Blonde for Aspen Brewing. Grimm Brothers sets themselves apart by being “purveyors of old world style beer” using the recipes handed down for generations.

Kokopelli Bewer Company – Open since January 2014, Kokopelli was represented by Amanda Adams and Katie Schroepfer. Pouring from their taps was Red Moon Ale and Cow Tipper. Amanda and Katie came up to Central for the exposure of their new enterprise and because they like the area.

Mountain Toad Brewing – Mountain Toad Brewing had the most representation at the Fest with Josh Robbins, Kaylee Robbins, Brian Vialpando, and Thad Briggs all taking turns tipping the tap. They were sampling Mount Zion IPA, Grain Shed Farmhouse Ale, and Craft Cream. They describe Grain Shed as a “funkier” beer.

Our Mutual Friend Malt & Brew – A newcomer to Central City’s Beer Fest and only twenty months old, Our Mutual Friend was represented by brewer Jan Chodkowski and Bryan Leavelle. Jan and Bryan sampled the Farmhouse, Brown, and Chinook Red varieties. Chinook Red’s flavor is described as “dank.” Jan wanted to come up last year, but they “didn’t have enough beer” for the event.

Tommyknocker Brewery – Arguably Gilpin’s closest neighboring brewery, Tommyknocker came back to Central. Jim McCann and Jen Oliver were pouring the Jack Whacker Wheat, Pick Axe IPA, and Maple Nut Brown Ale. Jack Whacker Wheat’s citrus tones are from lemongrass.

Twisted Pine Brewing Company – Chuck Hixon and Morgan Way were giving out samples of La Petite Saison, Hoppy Boy, and Ghost Face Killah (while it lasts) for the Fest. Ghost Face is only found in bottles and for a premium due to the cost of making the brew. It goes down like liquid roasted chilies with a good after burn. The La Petite Saison has recently been designated a year round beer.

Very Nice Brewing Company – Owner and Gilpin resident Susan Green represented her Simultaneous Saison with Ginger beer.  The Simultaneous Saison is a product from a challenge in which every brewer made the same recipe and gave it their own twist. Green’s twist is the added ginger. Very Nice is a local brewer in Nederland and can be found on tap at the Stage Stop in Rollinsville.

Wynkoop Brewing Company – Whether good, bad, or ugly, Wynkoop Brewing is associated with Governor Hickenlooper although he divested himself from the company to run for office. C.J. Fishler was representing Wynkoop today and sampling their Rail Yard Ale and Mile High Pale Ale. C.J. gladly came up to Central because Wynkoop is a pioneering part of Denver just as Central is a pioneering part of Colorado and you “gotta remember where you’ve been.”

Not quite a brewer, but worth getting to know

Colorado ranks fourth in the nation for craft breweries per capita (2013 statistics) with 175 breweries in the state. Dan Rabin decided to try every single one of them shortly after being laid off from a software job. This brewery tour turned into a guide book, Colorado Breweries, found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tattered Cover, and others. Unfortunately, Dan could not complete his journey because breweries are popping up in this state right and left; so he set a date and stopped visiting one year ago so that the book could be published. Dan said a sequel is inevitable, “but not for a while.”

Other non-brewers

Local favorites JKQ BBQ were selling out of their products before the event ended. Joe and Kara Tinucci have become an expected staple at Central City’s events with their smoker making passersby yearn for their pulled pork. Others on the street include Simple Beauty, Rocky Mountain Outback, Cholua Brothers Coffee, Gilpin Market, Reserve Casino, Dostel Alley, and Century Casino.

The Bands

Three bands accented the festival with their artistry: Changing Lanes Experience, Jewel & the Rough, and Marty Jones & the Great Unknown. As fantastic as never-ending beer is, the crowd was continuously drawn to the other end of the street where the musicians performed. The great tunes and quality of the music was outstanding and made the day exceptional. Changing Lanes Experience is a ten member band professionally covering tunes from the last decade and making segue an art form; they never have a break between songs, but allow the beat and harmony to flow from one song into the next.

Last Call

The Great Central City Beer Fest is a huge success and is likely to continue for many years to come. Congratulations go out to Kirsten Ferguson of Elevated Events for putting this and other summer events together. This was the last ‘big’ event of the season although there is plenty more to do and see. The art galleries will be open through September and the Visitor’s Center gallery is year round. The Creepy Crawls will be playing out the last two weekends of October and the popular Tommyknocker Craft Fair will be here in December.

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