This past weekend’s Big Beer Festival (Jan. 9-11) in Vail was heady with the aroma of Belgian and barley-style beers and the bristle of facial hair (follow this link for a rundown of the best food and beer pairings at the festival). Brewmasters from the nation's best brew pubs, tasting rooms and breweries gathered for the 7th annual event. Every turn of the head revealed bearded men pulling some of the country’s most creative craft beers. Little did they know, they have helped define an American subculture.
“The beard, until recently the scruffy fashion statement of the plaid-shirt-and-craft-beer creative underclass, has lately been institutionalized, co-opted by The Man not only in the form of pinstripe-clad Beltway insiders, but by Wall Street titans, professional sports golden boys, Us Weekly cover boys and morning-show television hosts,” wrote Alex Williams of the New York Times on Jan. 8, 2014. Even White House press secretary Jay Carney sported a beard at the first press conference of the year.
In New York, they call it the “Brooklyn Beard,” craft beer makers call them “Mighty Beards. As mighty and bold as the brews their wearers create,” says Jason Morgan of Craft Brewing Business (CBB). The fuzzy facial hair trend has become so prolific, Rogue Beer introduced a Beard Beer made from the yeast created from Brewmaster John Maier’s Beard. Yes, from his beard. The yeast likely found a hospitable home in his old growth beard (not cut since 1983) that has witnessed more than 15,000 brews.
In March 2013, Morgan and the CBB collected the finest beards in beer making for an online contest. Scott Witsoe of Wit’s End Brewing Company in Denver placed second on the CBB competition and he is on this Big Beer Fest list. In our list, you will see the beards paired up their beers. Leave a comment about your favorite beers and beards from Big Beer Fest.
Dry Dock Brewing Company, Aurora
Dry Dock Belgian-style Tripel is lightly colored with hints of peppery phenolic and fruity esters produced by the yeast during fermentation. The alcohol is balanced by a bit of residual sweetness. It’s best enjoyed in a Belgian goblet Between 45°- 50°F. 8.75% ALC/VOL 30 IBU
Wit's End Brewing, Denver
Wilford: Belgian Oatmeal IPA. Flaked oats play a major role in this Belgian-American porridge. Pungent spicy noble hops, citrusy American hops, and a Belgian yeast all wrapped up in a silky blanket of oats--yes please.
Yak and Yeti, Arvada CO
Brahmin Dubbel Knowledge – An amber-colored, yeasty with a distinct banana ester thisBelgian Abbey-style Dubbel is made with 25lbs of housemade Belgian candy syrup. Hopped with StyrianGoldings and nobel hops from Germany. 7.8%ABV. ~14 IBUs
Very Nice Brewing, Nederland, CO
"Monk's Phunk": First flagship beer, and version of the traditional trappist style of beer. Light on the hops, heavy on the grain and honey. This is a sipping beer that one usually detects an immediate sweetness that mellows out into more of a drier taste. It has the signature milky caramel finish of the Trappist strain of yeast.
Yak and Yeti #2, Arvada CO
LoonyToonTripel - A Belgian-Abbey-Style Tripel that is big in alcohol and even bigger in fruity and citrus flavors. There is no fruit or spice added to this beer, it all comes from the special strain of yeast. 8.2% ABV. ~ 31 IBUs
Stone Brewing Co, Escondido, CA
Cali-Belgique IPA: This beer is indeed a complex and surprising combination of flavors, but behind the fancy title is simply delicious Stone IPA dressed up in new Belgian duds. The addition of a carefully selected strain of Belgian yeast adds unexpected layers of flavors and aroma, providing a deliciously funky overtone to the hoppy brightness you already know and love as Stone IPA. Think of it as an otherwise identical twin to Stone IPA that was raised in a Belgian culture. Literally.
Great Divide Brewing Co. Denver
Hades: Belgian-Style golden ale brewed with a rare Belgian yeast strain that gives a complex spicy flavor and aroma. Noticeable hops and medium malt character make it a very well balanced, crisp ale. ABV.: 7.8%
Bristol Brewing Company, Colorado Springs, CO
Tripel. Belgian Series: A golden, richly aromatic beer that's high in nuance, low on fuss. Clean, dry, and biscuity with a dense, snow white head.
Back Country Brewery, Frisco CO
Dubbel: Rich malty beers that are traditionally brewed by Monks to provide revenue for their Monasteries. Today, these breweries are called Trappist breweries. We used the beers from these Monasteries as inspiration for our Dubbel. In fact, we borrowed a yeast strain from one of them. You can expect notes of cherry, raisin, and plum (from the malted barley) and those flavors are nicely balanced by a unique spiciness from the yeast.
AC Golden Brewing Company, Golden CO
Gooseberry Colorambic: A lambic brew of malted barley, raw wheat, and 3-year old Slovenian hops, with Colorado fresh gooseberries for an extended aging period.
Green Flash Brewing, San Diego, CA
Saison Diego: unfiltered golden farmhouse ale, brewed with Seville orange peels, Chinese ginger and grains of paradise. Light, bright, spicy aromas, lively carbonation, and earthy flavors.