Published: May 22, 2013
The beer festival - where else can you try 40 different beers in a day without the shame of trying 40 different beers before 5 p.m.?
Where else can you wear a necklace of pretzels without looking (too) silly or have 500 strangers cheer because you dropped your tasting cup?
As Colorado's craft brewing industry has exploded, so have the number of festivals celebrating it, from ski-and-drink soirees to the behemoth Great American Beer Festival that takes over downtown Denver in October.
Spring is the unofficial start of beer festival season. Here are some of the region's best:
Festival of the Brewpubs
Arapahoe Basin ski area; noon-4 p.m. Sunday; $25
Snow might allow A-Basin to run the lifts Memorial Day weekend, but the party will go on regardless, with samples from 10 breweries, live music and the always entertaining tailgate parties on "The Beach," where parking lot meets the snow.
Rails & Ales
Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, departing from La Veta (10:30 a.m.) or Alamosa (10 a.m.); June 22; $39-$169
Take a train ride to 9,400 feet on La Veta Pass for Colorado's most unique beer festival, in a remote meadow with a solar-powered concert venue and splendid views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Enjoy an afternoon of tasting and the relaxing ride back to civilization.
Colorado Brewers Rendezvous
Riverside Park, Salida; 1-5 p.m.; July 13; $35
Beer lovers occupy the Arkansas River town for a Saturday each July, as more than 50 brewers set up in a downtown park. Make the most of the day by camping in the many free sites along the river just east of town, and be sure to bring rain gear. It always rains in the afternoon for this one.
The Springs Beer Fest
America the Beautiful Park, Colorado Springs; July 20
This festival is moving from the shade of Antlers Park to America the Beautiful Park, and is a great way to while away a hot summer afternoon. Along with some 50 brewers, past years have had live music, beer trivia contests, a jumping castle, slide, bungee jump and a rock climbing wall - the latter always fun after you've had 15 beer samples. Past years have seen long lines for beer samples, though organizers assure that the new location and expanded brewer lineup will ease such woes.
Bluegrass and Beer Festival
River Run at Keystone Ski Resort; Aug. 3-4; $35 single day/$70 weekend until June 17, then $40 day-of for one day or $75 day-of for weekend.
Enjoy the music of Appalachia in the Rockies at this venerable Summit County festival, in its 17th year. Stay for one or both days and sample beers from 30 brewers.
Manitou Craft Lager Festival
Memorial Park, Manitou Springs; Aug. 10; $40 for both sessions or $30 for 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. or 4-8 p.m.
The Pikes Peak region's longest-running beer festival, it has been pared from two days to one, but you'll still find the finest lagers from brewers in Colorado and beyond. It's held in a shaded setting along Fountain Creek, and unlike other festivals, even has samples of Colorado-made liquors. Just be careful, as whiskey before noon can lead to a bad day.
Telluride Blues and Brews Festival
Telluride; Sept. 13-15; $170 for three-day pass
Enjoy the music of The Black Crowes, Jim James, Melissa Ethridge and others in the majestic San Juan mountains. And there's lots of beer. See if you can drink $170 worth.
Great American Beer Festival
Colorado Convention Center, Denver; Oct. 10-12; $75
The granddaddy of all beer festivals brings nearly 50,000 people and 600 brewers together for four days of tasting every beer under the sun. Tickets were tough to come by last year when the festival sold out in minutes, so be prepared to hustle or pay more on the secondary market to ensure you make it.
All Colorado Beer Festival
Freedom Financial Services Expo Center, Colorado Springs; Nov. 2
The festival has become bigger and better since its early days, when people crowded into the event center of the former Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center. With lots of space and more Colorado brewers added each year, you'll want to splurge for a VIP ticket, which grants access to special brews unavailable on the main floor.