Colorado Ski Resorts are Great Places for Beer Festivals
What do ski resorts do after the snow melts?
At Keystone and Snowmass in Colorado, they sure don’t shut down. Instead, the summer season launches full blast with a series of events and festivals of all types and sizes. But if you’re reading this, we know which festivals most interest you.
Two Rocky Mountain-high beer festivals mark the season this summer: the ninth annual Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brew Fest on June 8-9, 2012, in Snowmass, Colorado; and the 16th annual Keystone Bluegrass and Beer Festival August 4-5 at River Run in Keystone.
Here’s a look ahead at both of them.
Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brew Fest
They don’t fool around with the “chili pepper” part of this festival. Chili cooks from across the country will cook their secret recipes on site to win a spot in the International Chili Society’s 2012 World Chili & Salsa Championship, to be held October 5-7 in Charleston, West Virginia, and a chance at more than $3,000 in prize money. Categories include traditional red chili, chili verde and salsa. The heat will range from mild to “Omigod, I need something to drink NOW!!”
So it’s a good thing that there will be more than 50 breweries pouring during the festival’s two tasting sessions. (though if you’re trying to quench the chili heat, you might want to wait for things to cool off before sampling the Twisted Pine Ghost Face Killah, which itself is brewed with six types of chili peppers and packs a spicy punch). The festival includes professional and homebrew competitions, too, so there will be chances to taste beer that you won’t find anywhere else.
Music is a big part of the festival, too. Headliners include gypsy punk band Gorgol Bordello performing Saturday at 6 p.m., along with New Orleans funk band Galactic at 1 p.m. On Friday, West African reggae band Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars will take the stage at 4:30 p.m. and open for The Congress, a southern rhythm & blues/rock ‘n’ roll band, who will play at 6:30 p.m.
There are a variety of ticket prices and packages available. If you don’t use public transportation to get there or have a designated driver, there are some very reasonably priced lodging and ticket packages available.
Road Trips for Beer correspondent Ryan Whaley covered the festival for us in 2011. Here’s a video he created of the experience.
Keystone Bluegrass and Beer Festival
Whether it’s the Appalachians or the Rockies, there’s something about mountains and bluegrass music that feels right.
And there will be plenty of music at this festival for fans of the genre. Confirmed acts are: Head for the Hills, Oakhurst, the Farewell Drifters, Darrell Scott, Tim O’Brien, Casey Driessen, Haunted Wind Chimes, Henhouse Prowlers, Dead Winter Carpenters, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Town Mountain, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, and The Grinz. More will be announced.
This is a rare family-friendly beer festival. The young ‘uns can enjoy a variety of activities in the Kid Zone, though it sits outside the beer-sampling area. If you and your spouse both enjoy tasting beer, you might want to plan to take turns watching the kiddos. Not that they’re not welcome throughout River Run; in fact, you only need a ticket if you want to taste the beer. Anyone else is welcome to enjoy the music and atmosphere.
There will be more than 30 breweries from Colorado and elsewhere pouring samples, and often you’ll find the brewer him- or herself behind the table.
A word of advice: If you are more into a “party atmosphere,” plan to attend on Saturday. If you want a more intimate beer tasting experience, go on Sunday when the crowd is thinner. Either way, waits at the sampling booths rarely exceed a few minutes. Better yet, have the best of both worlds and book both days.
A variety of ticket options are available, and as at the Snowmass fest, Keystone offers very reasonably priced lodging and ticket packages. Call 800-239-9291 or visit them at www.keystoneresort.com for more information on those. You can even book a room at a discounted rate the day of the festival, if you end up imbibing a little more than you had planned.
You might want to buy your tickets in advance or arrive early, especially on Saturday, as the line for tickets builds up quickly after the festival opens.
If you want to make an even longer weekend of it, you can visit one or more of the four breweries in Summit County. Foodies will love the variety of dining venues. We recommend the Ski Tip Lodge and the Bighorn Steakouse. For a one-of-a-kind experience, make a reservation for Der Fondue Chessel, which sits at an altitude of 11,444 feet – you need to ride two gondolas up the mountain to get there. Styled after a Bavarian beer hall – complete with an oom-pah band – you’ll enjoy platters of way too much food and a variety of dipping and cooking fondues. For a casual beer-and-a-burger meal, drop in at the Kickapoo Tavern, right at the bottom of the slopes in River Run.
Road Trips for Beer editor Gerard Walen attended the 2011 Keystone Bluegrass and Beer Festival, and he put this video together.
Disclosures: Snowmass Village compensated Road Trips for Beer for admission and lodging for the 2011 festival. Keystone Resorts did the same, plus provided airfare and some meals. Regardless, all opinions expressed are honest.