Not all brew fests are just about the beer, which is a good thing.

Sometimes you’re in the mood to sample random beers with a couple thousand strangers in an arena, and sometimes other proverbial pretzel necklaces are calling your name. It’s good we live in a city, and region, that’s home to a variety of brew experiences, including warm-weather destination fests at picturesque mountain locales, as well as a number of more intimate events focusing on specific themes or styles.

Think of the 719 Day Brewfest as the backyard barbecue of the bunch. Actually, make that the “biggest, baddest backyard barbecue ever,” said Jon Eddy, whose production company owns the festival celebrating the suds and sounds of the 719 area code.

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Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Eddy’s backyard-style fete Friday at Weidner Field aims for less rowdy and more camaraderie. The 13th annual Springs Beer Fest follows up on Saturday in America the Beautiful Park.

“I really don’t want this thing to be a kegger. I want it to feel like you’re hanging out with friends, not drinking to get hammered, drinking to get to know the breweries in your community,” Eddy said of the 719 Day Brewfest.

The moveable fest, held on July 19 since 2015 — except last year on July 20, due to a conflict with a Switchbacks home game — this year falls on a Friday, and they’ve got the space free and clear. To mark the occasion, for the first time, 719 Day will include a free after-party and concert, by indie recording artist Shawn James, in the Basement at Oskar Blues downtown. The Springs Local Motive Party Bus will provide free round-trip transportation from the fest grounds off Barnes Road to the music venue on North Tejon Street.

“Being that it’s on a Friday night, and it’s actually on 7/19 this year, we want to make this a full-night experience and give people a little bit more than they bargained for and more than they’re paying for,” Eddy said. “And since people are going to be having alcohol at 719 Day, we want everyone to get to the basement safe.”

The tunes start long before the after-party, though, with a fest stage lineup including solo alt-rocker Brandon Henderson, alt rock band Stray Suns and headliner Steely Dead, a cover band mashup of Steely Dan and Grateful Dead tunes.

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“When first started with 719 Day getting in, we didn’t anticipate that live music would be such a huge part of this whole thing,” said Eddy, whose concert has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities, including The Gazette/El Pomar Empty Stocking Fund.

He said attendance has risen steadily — he expects ticket sales to crack 1,000 this year — but plans are to keep things tight. Seventeen local brewers and distillers will be pouring this year.

“I don’t want this to be a big, ‘Oh we have the most breweries, most people, you’re going to get the most drunk,” Eddy said. “I don’t want that. I want this to be a fun, enjoyable event where people get to know beer and brewers and then want to patronize these places in the future. It’s not like a national brew fest where you’re never going to see these beers again. This is very much about community.”

Continue that community conversation, over more live music and beers for charity, at the 13th annual Springs Beer Fest on Saturday in America the Beautiful Park. The city’s largest beer festival benefits nonprofits such as the Boys and Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region, Springs Rescue Mission and TESSA. It began as an inspired tailgate party by beer-loving friends and today continues, in part, as a memorial for one of its founding members, late Bristol general manager Josh Osterhoudt, who died in 2012.

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More than 40 brewers, plus cideries and other craft beverage makers, will be on site, with expanded presence and special beer samples by Springs Bristol Brewing Co., which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“They’ll have some of their special anniversary beers that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Katherine Mills, program and events manager for CraftWorks Foundation, the charity arm of the company that owns Old Chicago and Rock Bottom Brewery chains.

Bring your thirst and goodwill, but leave the kids and dogs at home. “Service animals only. That’s something we run into every year,” Mills said.

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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