Nothing gets a hophead more excited for summer than the first beer festival of the season, and for Summit County, that honor typically goes to the Lake Dillon Brew Festival.
Held annually at Marina Park overlooking the Dillon Reservoir, this year’s event will attract more than two dozen breweries from around the state, each pouring two or three beers, plus live music throughout the day and an after party at Pug Ryan’s Brewing Co.
A portion of the money raised by the Lake Dillon Brew Fest will benefit the Colorado Brewers Guild, a nonprofit association that advocates for Colorado’s craft brewers, keeping frosty, delicious, local beer in your hot little hands. So pony up the $30 admission fee, seek out one of the beers highlighted below and feel good knowing you’re helping to keep Colorado’s beer industry flourishing.
Backcountry Brewery, Frisco
Beer to seek out: Maibock
Others to try: Imperial Saison (if available), Berliner Weisse, Pilsner
Backcountry Brewery’s popularity at last weekend’s Colorado BBQ Challenge in Frisco was good and bad; good because people were washing down their barbecue with local craft beer, bad because it effectively wiped out a lot of the brewery’s stock of kegs. Head brewer Alan Simons said availability would dictate what he’s able to bring to Dillon.
“We’ll probably bring Maibock,” he said. “And if we can get the Imperial Saison transferred this week, we may bring some of that, maybe some Berliner Weisse, and one of our year-rounds, probably pilsner, which is what we have the most of now.”
Simons said the location of the Lake Dillon Brew Fest is really cool with how it sits, allowing festival frolickers to look out over the lake.
“It’s usually a nice day, typical Summit County weather, not too hot but warm enough,” he said.
Broken Compass Brewing, Breckenridge
Beer to seek out: Chili Pepper Pale Ale
Others to try: Helles
For Summit County’s newest brewery, Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge, the Lake Dillon Brew Fest will be a first foray into the festival circuit.
“Oh man, we’re just excited to do a festival in our backyard,” said David Axelrod, co-founder of Broken Compass. “To see all the other breweries, taste a lot of great beers, and it’s always fun to get together with everybody, not to mention the music.”
The brewery will be bringing two beers, a Helles and a Chili Pepper Pale Ale.
“With the helles, we wanted to make a lighter summer ale, something that’s crisp and clean, so it’s helles style, but it’s not exactly true to the style,” Axelrod said. “A helles should be a lager, but we did a helles grain bill with an American style yeast. So it’s a little more full-bodied than a typical helles but a delicious, nice clean summertime ale.”
The Chili Pepper Pale is made with five different types of chilies, giving it a nice nose without being an overpowering beer. The brewery has been pouring beers like mad since it opened less than a month ago on Airport Road, but even though they’re running a bit low on the chili beer, they wanted everyone to get a sample at the festival.
“It is running neck and neck with our IPA,” Axelrod said. “We wanted to bring the IPA, but we’re probably going to be out of it by the fest.”
Butcherknife Brewing Co., Steamboat Springs
Beer to seek out: IPA
Others to try: Blonde X
Butcherknife Brewing Co. in Steamboat Springs started commercial brewing a month and a half ago and dropped beer on its first wholesale accounts in Steamboat on Friday, June 6, making it the newest brewery in Northwest Colorado, said owner Mark Fitzgerald.
Because it’s so new, the brewery will just be bringing two beers to the festival. The first is its launch beer, Blonde X, a hoppy blonde, almost pale ale that’s low alcohol but relatively high on the bitterness scale; and the brewery’s second release, an IPA.
“Dillon is some of the first people to try our IPA, which we see as a flagship going forward,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s 7.2 percent alcohol, 85 IBU, it’s a pretty big IPA. It’s a good juxtaposition from the blonde, going from 4 percent to 7 percent.”
Butcherknife is hosting a soft opening this weekend just prior to heading to Dillon and will hold its grand opening Fourth of July weekend.
Carver Brewing Co., Durango
Beer to seek out: Dandelion Saison
Others to try: Session Pale Ale, Mexican Lager
The second oldest brewpub in Colorado, Carver Brewing Co. in Durango has been holding down the southwest corner of the state for the past 25 years and attending the Lake Dillon Brew Fest for the past three.
Assistant brewer Cody Looman will be making the trek to Summit County with three beers, including the Session Pale Ale, a low alcohol, low bitterness pale with a great hop aroma; a slightly dark yet light, crisp and refreshing Mexican Lager; and the Dandelion Saison summer seasonal.
“We brewed it with Turtle Lake Refuge, an organic farm here in Durango,” Looman said. “They picked all the flowers for us, roots and stems, and we put that into the beer; we brew it every year.”
Instead of using hops, the dandelions provide the bittering agent for this Belgian Farmhouse Ale. Looman said this would be his first time attending the beer fest in Dillon.
“I’ve never even been to Dillon,” he said. “I heard there’s going to be good music, I love beer fests in general, getting to meet new people. Everybody always seems excited about the beers we’re bringing, we get good feedback, and hopefully, it’s a nice sunny day, too.”
Elk Mountain Brewing, Parker
Beer to seek out: Cherry Wheat
Others to try: Ute Bill Pale Ale, Ghost Town Brown
Elk Mountain’s Cherry Wheat summer seasonal is made with 132 pounds of cherries per batch, which comes out to about 2 ounces per glass in weight, said brewer Zac Rissmiller.
“It’s an American wheat, with a light, dry finish,” he said. “Two-thirds of the cherries I put in just after fermentation is just getting to its peak and let those ferment up, and then I add 44 more pounds afterwards so I can get a little bit of cherry aroma and flavor into the beer without it being overpowering.”
The result is a dry beer that’s not too sweet, Rissmiller said.
“We don’t like sweeter beers, so we try to keep it dry as possible,” he said. “The cherry itself has a nice flavor to it without being overpoweringly sweet.”