Eat, Drink, Play: Summit brewers gear up for Oktoberfest |

Eat, Drink, Play: Summit brewers gear up for Oktoberfest

Caddie Nath
summit daily news

In recent years, Coloradans have developed a taste for beer. So much so that the state has been called the Napa Valley of the beer world. While Denver ranks first nationally in beer production per capita, independent brewers statewide, particularly here in the High Country, are constantly reinventing themselves, their labels and their beers.

And September is a season of creativity.

Oktoberfest is one of Denver’s longest running events. The festival came to Breckenridge 17 years ago and has since become one of the highlights of fall in Summit County.

The traditional German celebration began with the October wedding of a crown prince in Munich in the early 1800s. The citizens held horse races and other festivities outside the city gates to celebrate the occasion and over the years, the festival became a tradition, which later included popular beer stands, according to some historical accounts. Eventually Oktoberfest migrated to the U.S. and is now a September tradition in Colorado.

Local brewers celebrate the event with new seasonal labels or by whipping out old favorites.

The traditional Oktoberfest is a slow-brewed amber lager, but each brewer puts a unique spin on the beer and many get creative with other brews for the event.

The Backcountry Brewery, Frisco’s only brewpub and an establishment that usually keeps six flagship beers on tap, only promises two seasonals per year – though they sometimes do others – and one is the Oktoberfest.

Backcountry brewmaster Alan Simons says his Oktoberfest lager takes six weeks from the time it’s brewed to the day it’s tapped and usually only lasts through September.

Made with barley imported from Germany, the Märzen style amber starts off hoppy and finishes smooth.

“It is kind of an easy-drinking beer,” Simons said. “We brew it in a traditional fashion.”

Across the reservoir in Dillon, brewers have been working on their popular Oktoberfest beer since July. The Dillon Dam Brewery, a pub favored by locals and famous for its award-winning Sweet George’s Brown Ale, boasts a dark, clean Oktoberfest brew.

“It’s kind of a brown lager, but the malts we use are really clean Munich malts,” brewmaster Cory Forster said. “For the color, it’s still a really clean, malt finish. It has some hops zing in there, but it’s just a clean, malty beer for the most part.”

The Breckenridge Brewery, a brewpub regionally renown for labels like its flagship Avalanche distributed in Denver, is preparing several beers in anticipation of Breckenridge’s Oktoberfest Sept. 16-18.

The brewery will feature its Agave Wheat, an American wheat beer in the German tradition, brewers said, as well as its famous Avalanche amber ale. Brewers are also preparing a regal pilsner, a light, but strong brew with 7.7 percent alcohol and “distinct hoppy attributes.”

Frisco’s Oktoberfest continues today with live music and events from noon to 10 p.m.

Breckenridge’s 17th annual Oktoberfest begins on Main Street at Friday, Sept. 16 and continues through the weekend. Friday’s festivities include a formal dinner event, while Saturday and Sunday will bring all-day family-friendly street parties.

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