It’s been a couple weeks since the Manitou Craft Lager Festival but I’ve been busy planning Beers Made By Walking (which was last night and was awesome). I had a pretty good time at the Lager Fest and wanted to share with you some photos that our man Daniel Flanders took. At the bottom of the post I included some of my thoughts on the festival in general.
As you can see in the photo above of the Colorado Native booth, it did indeed rain during the festival but that didn’t stop most people from having a good time. We all crowded underneath the brewery tents and waited it out. And speaking of Colorado Native they won two gold medals at the festival for their German Pils and their regular Lager. The crisp German Pils was definitely in my top 5 drinks of the day.
|Some folks avoiding the rain|
We showed up on Sunday, avoiding the large crowds on Saturday. The rain storm was pretty
heavy although it only lasted about 15 minutes then the sun was back out again giving us all a pretty good sunburn.
Jason Leeman of Rock Bottom talking with Jason Yester of Trinity talking about the Warning Sign beer that Leeman made this year. 9 years ago Yester started the tradition of having a different brewery each year brew an Eisbock for the festival. The beer, or a portion of it, is frozen so the alcohol becomes more concentrated and you have a higher ABV in the beer. This process isn’t super common, but it’s definitely one that’s used here and there. It’s how BrewDog made the 32% Tactical Nuclear Penguin.
This is the Warning Sign tap handle. This year’s version was really tasty, although I’ve not been in town long enough to have tried previous versions. Many people said this version was the most drinkable so far. It turned out to be 9.6% which is apparently the lowest amount of alcohol in any version so far. This beer was also one of my top 5 of the day.
|Jason Leeman is armed and ready for battle|
Besides the Rock Bottom Warning Sign and the Colorado Native German Pils some of my other favorite beers were Pug Ryan’s Helles, Lost Rhino’s Chaser Pilsner and Schmaltz Brewing’s Albino Python, a type of wit/lager brewed with ginger, fennel, and orange peel. I also enjoyed their Blockhead Bock and the Bourbon Barrel Aged version of it. Schmaltz picked up ‘Best in Show’ with the Blockhead and they also won the ‘Pass the Paddle’ award which is a Most Creative Beer Award for the Albino Python.
I wasn’t too thrilled with Carver Brewing’s Pilsner, it tasted a bit soapy. I also wasn’t super happy with Odell’s Kölsch because it was way too bitter and hopped up for a Kölsch. The style is supposed to be much simpler and subtle but they turned it into some kind of pale ale thing. This was surprising to me as I had given my recommendation for these beers in a previous post.
Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the Craft Lager Fest was the fact that they had a whole slew of small batch and local distilleries. I’m not exactly certain why this was such a huge part of a “Lager Fest” but the rumor at the festival was that they hadn’t been able to secure enough breweries to participate so they brought in these folks. Not a bad move at all! I was a bit nervous that everyone at the festival would be shitfaced drunk from all the spirits but that wasn’t really the case. I tried maybe five different distilleries, mostly focusing on whiskey. My favorite was the Downslope Distilling’s whiskey which was double distilled and had 65% Maris Otter, one of my favorite types of grains in beer (behind Golden Promise malt). I also really enjoyed Roundhouse Spirits’ Barrel Aged Gin. I thought their regular gin was so heavy on the juniper but the barrel aged version really brought out a lot more of the subtle flavors in the background, like the coriander, and star anise.
Final thoughts. Pros/Cons of the festival:
Overall the festival was a lot of fun. The tickets are a hefty $40 at the door and I think they’re either $5 or $10 cheaper if you buy them in advance. Now that I’ve spent a year in Colorado Springs, my biggest complaint for the beer festivals here are that they cost so much money. I used to pay $10-20 for a sample glass and 10-15 tickets, then $1 for each ticket after that, each ticket giving you a 1-3oz sample depending on the festival. Then I could regulate how much I wanted to drink with how much I wanted to pay. $40 is an alienating price, a lot of people won’t be able to come to this festival because of it. Maybe that’s good? Maybe they’re trying to keep out the weirdos? But for me, I’m getting really tired of paying $35-$40 for these beer festivals (I did have a media pass to this festival, but I’m just saying…).
In terms of the beer, I’m not sure the $40 would have been worth it. There was some really fantastic beer at the festival but there wasn’t a ton of stuff that I can’t already find in town or in Colorado. I’d like to see more experimentation with the beers. Maybe each brewery takes one keg of their normal lager and adds something to it? I’d also like to see more small breweries. A Craft Lager Festival is really a fantastic idea, about as fantastic as a Saison Festival, so why aren’t there more Colorado breweries taking a stab at this?
Huge plus for the small batch distilleries! Oh man, that was really great being able to sample the local whiskey. I’m often tempted to buy a bottle but as they are a little more money than usual it’s hard for me when I don’t know how they taste. This was so helpful, I’ll definitely buy bottles of a few of the distillers that were at the festival. However, can we still call it a Lager Festival if the distilleries become such a huge part? I’m not saying to throw out the name, or the beer, or the distilleries, there’s something really good happening with it all together. And in my opinion the distilleries made the $40 a reasonable looking price.