Anyone who has been to the charming town of Vail, Colorado knows the magical quality it inspires. When you visit this small little town, nestled deep in the heart of the Rocky mountains, you immediately feel as if you’ve been transported halfway across the world to a picturesque Alpine village; and it is easy to forget you’re just a short drive West of Denver.
A popular ski and snowboard destination in the winter, the charm of this town is something that will indulge the senses and delight you year round. From the cobblestone streets, to the flags of the world proudly displayed at multiple establishments, Vail is a melting pot of cultures, inviting tourists from all over to enjoy all that the village has to offer. Mimicking tradition German architecture, many of the buildings sport wooden roofs and paneling, accentuated by the splashed of color provided by bright geraniums during the summer months. The charming Gore creek, bubbles through the center of town and when the weather permits you see children and dogs alike splashing in the cool, running water. It is not hard to see why people, such as myself, fall in love with this quaint little town and get up to the “high country” to visit every chance they get!
So when I heard about the Vail Craft Beer Classic, which combined two of my favorite things: craft beer and my love for all things Vail, I knew I would have to check it out, and was lucky enough to partner with the Vail Craft Beer Classic and have the opportunity to partake in this amazing experience. The Vail Craft Beer Classic is a very unique four day long beer festival, because it offers different options you don’t find at many other festivals. Besides your typical beer tasting event, there are other choices throughout the weekend such as fishing and hiking with the brewers; making this an exclusive event that allows you to connect with the superstars of your favorite local breweries while simultaneously creating memories as you partake in traditional outdoor summer activities.
There is more than enough to keep you occupied the whole weekend, but finally come Saturday afternoon the main event “The Toast of Vail” begins at 3pm. Beer vendors set up their tents along the streets of Vail so you are encouraged to stroll amongst the various boutiques and storefronts as you sip a variety of tasty beverages. This was a nice change of pace, because all participants were not packed into a crammed area, making the festival feel spread out, as well as created shorter lines to sample the beers. At the epicenter of the village was a stage where local musicians kept the tunes bumping throughout the event. Live music and beer festivals go together like peanut butter and jelly, and there is nothing better than drinking a cold beer outside and listening to some jams.
One thing that I appreciated, was due to the fact that this festival was located in the heart of Vail, it was open to anyone and everyone. Near the stage there was a tent selling various 12oz cans of craft beer, which I thought was a great way to include a beer option for patrons who wanted to sip a brew and enjoy the music but were not fully committed to the full three hours of tasting. Contributing to an inclusive atmosphere that created fun for everyone, and I saw beer nerds and families alike enjoying a fantastic time outside. One other amenity that Vail Craft Beer Classic provided that I was very thrilled about was the Smart Water tent also located towards the center of the event. There were a plethora of regular and sparking Smart Water bottles available for anyone to grab, and strategically placed as a subtle reminder to drink more water. It is easy to forget the town of Vail is just over 8,000 feet elevation, and when there are so many tasty beer vying for your attention, water can sometimes be pushed to the back burner; we have all been there. I know this is a minute detail, but it is the small things like this that set Vail Craft Beer Classic apart.
Now on to the important part: the beers! With over 45 participating breweries, there was a nice showcase of different varieties available to sample. Obviously as IPA’s are one of the most popular styles, you could find anything from traditional West Coast style, to New England hazies such as Four Nose’s “Orange Velvet” which is a Blood Orange Milkshake IPA brewed with Lactose and Vanilla. Vail Brewing’s “Supernova” Brut IPA was also on display and was one of my favorites, and a delicious showcase of this newly emerging style. Due to their easy drinkability many breweries opted to bring their lighter selections; and there were many Berliner Weisse’s and Gose’s that offered a low ABV, refreshing option that allowed you to pace yourself quite nicely. “Seaquench” from Dogfish Head is a tart and exhilarating option with the subtle hint of salt and lime. Crooked Stave’s “Sour Rosé” was a delightful Wild Ale aged in Oak with Raspberries and Blueberries, and had you chanting “Rosé all day” while indulging. Although the general majority do not enjoy drinking dark beers during the warmer months, I was very pleased that a few breweries did not leave this style out and made sure to bring something for us Stout and Porter lovers. Bonfire Brewing brought a Vanilla Porter and Whiskey Porter that were both quite tasty. With a modest ABV of 7% and light barrel profile the Whiskey Porter offered a taste of a nice barrel aged beer without knocking you on your butt afterwards. These were just a few that stuck out in my mind, but obviously when you have 45+ breweries and they each bring multiple beers it is hard to remember them all. The main point is that there was no shortage of good beer at The Vail Craft Beer Classic.
If I could do this experience all over again, which I would do without hesitation, there is only one thing I would change. This weekend happened to be me and the “Boo thang’s” 4 year anniversary, so on Friday night we decided to have a nice anniversary dinner at our favorite restaurant in Vail: Sweet Basil. But I had serious FOMO about the “Sip at the Summit” event, which is at the very top of Vail Mountain and accessible only by Gondola! This is deemed the “highest altitude beer tasting event” and I hear the views are spectacular. Obviously because I will continue to go to this event year after year from here on out, next year I’m going to happily see what the “Sip at the Summit” is all about. Everything else was absolutely fantastic and I couldn’t be happier about my partnership with Vail Craft Beer Classic, and will cherish the amazing time I had at this festival. Definitely one for the books! Cheers.