Beer nerds far and wide mark their calendars every winter for Big Beers Festival, a celebration of beer dedicated entirely to ridiculously strong beers, Belgians and barleywines. For many in the brewing industry, this event is even bigger than the Great American Beer Festival. Here are some crucial pointers and informative tidbits to help you navigate this tremendous festival with the best of them - if you were lucky enough to snag tickets that is.
"The Big Beers Fest in Vail is one of my favorite events of the year. It sells out quick and it rules." - Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head
The epic event is held at the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa, and you will find it astronomically helpful to lodge nearby the event location. Official Big Beers-related activities run from Thursday, January 7 through Saturday, January 9. While most of the festivities are conducted from the Vail Cascade, there are also auxiliary happenings at locations nearby like Vail Ale House in West Vail. The town of Vail becomes transformed into an extension of the festival, and you will want to be a part of it.
Throughout the weekend there will be a constant rotation of events ranging far beyond just simply tasting beer or getting trashed. By all means, take advantage of the educational aspect of the festival. Seminars and workshops on a wide variety of beer-related topics will be held throughout the event by some of the best minds in the industry. Each seminar will be be led by a carefully selected brewmaster and will last 50 minutes on a topic of the brewmaster's choice. Attendees can even sign up to take the Cicerone certification exam at the event.
A wise strategy for all beer festivals is to eat something. At Big Beers, the weekend kicks off with a Calibration Dinner featuring Avery and Dogfish Head brews. There will be many options throughout the weekend to enjoy big beers paired with local cuisine, and the ticket includes a voucher for chef-driven food options at the tasting portion of the event. There will even be a beer and cigar pairing on Friday night. Here are some menu highlights from last year's Calibration Dinner:
Fruit forward roll, mango, papaya, pineapple, avocado, soba noodles, poblano pepper, caviar
Dogfish Head Festina Peche & Avery Black Eye
Potato-wrapped monkfish, green leek puree, ginger brown butter roasted shallots, confit tomato
Avery Obscuro and Nimbosis & Dogfish Head Festina Lente
Hundreds of breweries will be bringing the heat to Big Beers, which is why it's important to keep your head on straight and not get overwhelmed. The Commercial Tasting Event happens on Saturday afternoon, and is widely considered to be one of the most impressive collections of beer under one roof. Approach it the right way, and you could just have the best beer drinking experience of your entire life.