Editor’s note: The 2019 Winter Craft Beer Festival has moved indoors to the Balch Fieldhouse at Folsom Field at the University of Colorado. Learn more at www.wintercraftbeerfestival.com.
Ross Bowdey wants to disrupt your winter.
In a fun and tasty way.
He wants to get you off your couch. To pry your eyes from Netflix — at least for one wintery Saturday. And to inspire you to try something new. Like some new craft beer.
Maybe you’ll discover your new favorite flavor, he says.
“Disrupt, drink and discover” is the mission behind the annual Winter Craft Beer Festival, which takes over the underground parking garage at the Twenty Ninth Street Mall on March 3.
In its fourth year, the celebration expects to draw about 2,000 people and feature about 52 breweries.
But unlike many Colorado beer fests, this one doesn’t just feature local brewers. It mixes out-of-state brands with local ones, big names with small hidden gems. The variety makes it unique, says Bowdey, co-founder, of Louisville.
So does the time of year.
Typically held late February, this year Bowdey bumped the event back to early March, hoping for slightly milder weather (although in Colorado, you can never know). Last year’s fest was super cold, he says. To make it more tolerable this year, organizers also are ending an hour earlier, before sunset; are stationing it deeper inside the parking garage where they expect less windchill and have some higher-magnitude heaters lined up.
But part of the fun and adventure is braving the chill to kick back some brews, organizers say. Just dress the part. Wear warm woolen socks and layers and pack some hand warmers, like a day on the slopes.
Bowdey says he was inspired to launch the Winter Craft Beer Festival after he organized a fundraising beer fest for the Louisville Chamber of Commerce.
“I had so much fun doing that but I felt like this was just the beginning of what could be something bigger,” he says.
He says he was attracted to wintertime as a way of promoting the many interesting seasonal beers.
“There are so many seasonals in the wintertime that you won’t find at the May through September beer fests,” he says. “We felt like there are a lot of seasonals that don’t get in front of a lot of people like all of the summer beers do.”
Adding in the out-of-state brewers just mixes up that selection even more, he says. This year, 10 different states will be represented, including six or seven out-of-state breweries who have never been featured at Winter Fest before.
“It’s a good opportunity to try something you might never have had,” Bowdey says. “A lot are big names, and there’s our local, two-year-old brewery pouring right next to them.”
All breweries at Wintercraft are independent, not corporate-owned.
And Winter Craft still raises money for a good cause. Twenty percent of proceeds go toward the nonprofit Community Cycles, which repairs, recycles and refurbishes donated bikes to make bikes more accessible in the community.
Its first year, Winter Craft highlighted 19 breweries and drew 500 people. Numbers have increased about 500 people each year. Bowdey expects 2,000 people this year, although the space could hold more.
In addition to beer samples, Winter Craft will feature live music, vendors, games, contests and more. The event is 21 and older and no pets are allowed.
Highlights For Winter Craft 2018
Out-of-state brewery highlights:
- Melvin Brewing, Wyoming (named the Small Brewpub and Brewer of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival)
- Surly Brewing Co., Minnesota
- New Holland Brewing, Michigan
- Cigar City Brewing, Florida
Local brewery highlights:
Tips for the Winter Craft Beer Festival
According to Bowdey:
- Stop watching Netflix and come.
- Plan well. Come with the right group of friends, the right attitude and a plan. There’s going to be 150 beer options. Look at the list a couple weeks ahead and pick the 30 you want to try. Come with a game plan of how to do it.
- Come properly dressed.
- Considering getting a VIP ticket. VIPs get in an hour early to avoid the lines. Plus, about two dozen of the brewers are bringing a limited amount of rare, small-batch beers for VIPs only.