CO – The State of Craft Beer (& spirits)

Recently I had the good fortune to join 80 fantastic CO Brewers at the 19th annual Colorado Brewers Guild Rendezvous in historic Salida, CO. Salida is a beautiful mountain town bordering the mighty Arkansas River, nestled in a fertile valley surrounded by the majestic, snow-capped 14,000’+ Collegiate Peaks with lots of great whitewater and trails for those paddlers, hikers and mountain bikers among us (a little exercise makes the beer taste even better, right?). Salida and Buena Vista are not exactly located close to any major population centers, yet this event consistently attracts 3,500 attendees and key leaders from Colorado’s craft brewers.

Brewers have to enter a lottery many months prior in order to secure a spot making this nearly as competitive as GABF! This fundraising event also coincides with the key mid-year meeting of the Colorado Brewers Guild where critical updates are provided related to the Colorado Craft Beer industry. At this year’s meeting, it was announced that as of June 2015, CO is home to 300 licensed brewers, putting it at #3 in the breweries per capita count – WOW!

One unique theme to this event is that each year a different challenge is issued from the CBG leaders to the CBG members who can elect to brew a specific style in order to compete for the coveted “Brewers Belt” (yes, the award really is a belt). This year the challenge was to brew a replica of George Washington’s Porter.

George Washington Porter Brewers BeltThe 2015 Brewers Belt was awarded to Bonfire Brewing for an excellent interpretation of this brew. Red Leg, Barrels & Bottles and Great Storm all had wonderful entrees as well. Congratulations to Bonfire!

Next year the 2016 Brewers Belt beer style will be a single hop ale or lager using ALL centennial hops. Extra credit if the centennial hops are sourced from Colorado, the Centennial state, also known as the state of craft beer. Not only is CO home to 300 breweries, but it would be negligent not to mentioned the CO craft distilling scene which is alive and well with approximately 70 licensed distillers.

While in Salida, I also was able to spend some time with P.T. Wood of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery and sampled some delicious gins, including their Mountain Hopped Gin made with CO grown hops in the botanical mix and also their tasty whiskeys like the Tenderfoot and Alpine Rye (rumor has it there is some Briess malt in these).

So if you are planning a summer getaway for next year – 2016, I’d strongly encourage you to consider the Colorado Brewers Guild Rendezvous in Salida!

Cheers,

Rich

Tasting room at Wood’s. Of course all the spirits are great straight, but you should also try the quenching Whiskey Sour, South Side or one of their signature gin-made Bloody’s like the appropriately named “Dinner” garnished with local vegetables, cured meats and cheeses or the “Spicy Thai” garnished with edamame and homemade pickled shrimp – YUM!

Tasting room at Wood’s. Of course all the spirits are great straight, but you should also try the quenching Whiskey Sour, South Side or one of their signature gin-made Bloody’s like the appropriately named “Dinner” garnished with local vegetables, cured meats and cheeses or the “Spicy Thai” garnished with edamame and homemade pickled shrimp – YUM!

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