This weekend, more than 30 of Colorado’s microbreweries will descend upon Keystone for the 18th Keystone Bluegrass and Beer Festival, serving up the suds with a backdrop of live bluegrass on three stages.
“Colorado has become synonymous with beer, especially microbrews and craft beers,” said Maja Russer, Keystone Neighbourhood Co.’s event and marketing director. “Our state is known for its love affair with beer and for its ever-growing number of breweries of all different shapes, sizes and flavors.”
One of the only festivals in the state to exclusively pour Colorado beers, the event benefits the High County Conservation Center. Jessie Burley, community programs manager for HC3, said the money raised would go toward the organization’s general budget, which supports its community programs.
“We’re a nonprofit organization, so most of our money comes from partnerships like this and grants,” Burley said. “We have programs in sustainable foods, such as the community gardens and Summit CSA; we do energy-efficiency audits, waste-reduction programs and our composting and zero-waste events.”
Jen Schenk, executive director of HC3, said the festival is a great fundraiser, and it’s pretty amazing for the Keystone Neighbourhood Co., host of the event, to partner with nonprofits.
“It’s a pretty awesome community benefit to invite nonprofits to be beneficiaries, and that’s going above and beyond,” she said. “It’s not the norm.”
Breweries go ‘green’
Supporting sustainable initiatives has become habit for many of the breweries attending the festival, as well, both on the road and at home at their own facilities.
“We’re based in our communities, and craft brewers feel a connection to those communities and wilderness resources,” said Katie Wallace, sustainability specialist with New Belgium Brewing Co. “These are real humans operating businesses here, so these things are kind of inherent in the way that we do business.”
New Belgium starts by levying an internal tax on itself, a fee for every kilowatt-hour of electricity it purchases and consumes, Wallace said.
“We put that into a savings account so we can invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy at our brewery,” she said. “This year, we’re installing 99 kilowatts of solar over the roof of our canning line. That will be adding to the 200 kilowatts of solar over the bottling hall.”
Wallace said though solar power is great, the most sustainable watt of energy is one that was never consumed in the first place, which is why New Belgium also puts an emphasis on energy efficiency. These projects might not sound as “sexy” as installing solar panels, she said, but they can often save even more energy and money.
“A second project we’re doing with that is insulating all of our cooling for our beer that goes out into the tasting room,” Wallace said, citing another use for the internal tax dollars. “We’re getting a new glycol system, and we were able to invest more money into that project to make it much more efficient through improved insulation.”
New Belgium’s innovations help the brewery crank out dozens of styles of beer each year, including the Rampant Imperial IPA and the Snapshot Wheat, which will be poured at the festival.
Aimee Valdez, with AC Golden Brewing Co., said that brewery’s production process naturally supports a smaller carbon footprint.
AC Golden uses 100 percent Colorado ingredients, including all of its barley, hops, water and yeast, only distributes its beers within the state and has bottles and cans made in nearby Wheat Ridge and in Golden, respectively.
“All this adds up to a smaller carbon footprint, since it reduces shipping for all the above,” Valdez said. “It’s a pretty simple story but very effective in minimizing our impact on the environment.”
The brewery will be pouring Colorado Native Amber Lager and Colorado Native IPL, both made from 100 percent Colorado-grown recipes, at the festival.
Upslope Brewing Co. in Boulder has taken its recycling efforts to extremes by partnering with a local company, Superior Ecotech, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and explore new algae technologies.
“The plan is to reduce our CO2 emissions, which occur naturally during the brewing process, by venting into an algae culture, which is currently being installed on the roof,” said Skylar Schalit, with Upslope, citing a target completion date in September. “The carbon dioxide will provide food for the micro ecosystem, and the end product will be omega-3 oils.”
The brewery also utilizes a hot water on demand tank, which cuts down on excessive water use and saves money; uses 100 percent recyclable, Sustainable Forestry Initiative packaging materials and hands off all of its spent grain to farmers to use as livestock feed.
All of this leads to a reduced impact on the environment when creating brews such as Upslope’s Craft Lager and Belgian Style Pale Ale, which will be on tap at the festival.
Don’t forget the music
Along with the outstanding array of beer, the Keystone Bluegrass and Beer Festival will feature three stages of music, headlined by Grammy Award winner Peter Rowan. If you’re antsy to get your weekend of beer and beats started, check out the tunes early with the festival Spotify playlist or attend the pre-festival jam session on Friday, Aug. 1, at Warren Station with Band of Heathens.
“There’s no better way to celebrate summer in the Colorado Rocky Mountains than with beer and bluegrass music right here in River Run Village after a day of hiking, biking, rafting or just relaxing,” Russer said.