Pumpkin beer
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Goat Patch Brewing Co.’s Pumpkin Patch Punch.

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Winter beer fests rarely come with glass sampling cups, and for good reason. When it’s cold outside, you’re probably festing indoors. That means solid floors, the kind that don’t play well with fumbled fragile-wear.

The other challenge for organizers of cold weather beer festivals: finding a large-enough temperature-controlled space.

Owners of roomier establishments can open the house or throw up tents and patio heaters to temporarily expand (a la Bristol’s annual Firkin Rendezvous at Ivywild School). But what do you do when you run a fest that draws 70 brewers and close to 3,000 attendees?

Elbow room wasn’t quite as pressing an issue when the first All Colorado Beer Festival kicked off in 2007, with 20 brewers and close to 900 guests, at event space at Mr. Biggs fun center.

That business closed in 2012, and the fest moved to an expo center on North Nevada Avenue, where it remained and continued growing through 2016, when the site was tapped to house a new cybersecurity center. After an “interim stopover” in 2017 at Norris Penrose, this year’s event will play out in a new home yet again.

On Nov. 10, just tell ‘em you’re going to the mall.

In its 12th year, the area’s largest winter beer fest opens its doors at the former Gordmans store at Chapel Hills Mall.

The space now known as Chapel Hills Event Center has 44,000 square feet and direct access to ample parking, which will “handle us very nicely,” said assistant festival director Randy Dipner.

There are other bonuses to the new digs, too.

“It will allow people to exit on the mall side of the space and go out into the mall, then return to the festival,” Dipner said. “And even though we’ll have food vendors at the fest, if they want to run out to the food court and come back, they can do that too.”

Or, say, you’re attending with a designated driver who maxes out on the spectator sportiness of things.

“If they want to do a little shopping or wander the mall a little bit, or take the kids and go to the movies and come back at the end and pick up the other half,” he said. “I think it’s got a lot of nice potential.”

Other than the new address, ACBF will offer what it’s become known for: a smorgasbord of Colorado beer.

“We’re still signing people up, but expect around 70 brewers and 200-ish beers, with a lot of everybody’s favorites back again and hopefully some new brands folks haven’t tried,” he said.

Also back is the Oskar Blues Silent Disco, a designated driver area and the “Brewer Insider” pass, which buys early entry and access to the brewers lounge, special tastings and food. The $65 passes are limited to 25 for each session, afternoon and evening, and sell out quickly.

“You get a meal in there and get to sit and hobnob with the brewers, and we always have a couple of extra kegs of different beers in there that you can’t get elsewhere,” Dipner said.

Since its founding, the all-volunteer and nonprofit festival has given more than $500,000 to local charities, including The Gazette/El Pomar Empty Stocking Fund, TheatreWorks, Home Front Cares and a scholarship fund at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Reporter

Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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