“Because beer should be silly and fun,” Steve responds with a sly smirk as JoJo drops a couple of sour patch kids into the bottom of my glass – “just to lighten it up” Steve concludes. I hold the watermelon-pink beer up to the light, give it a swirl, and then take a sip. Steve is right, it is silly and fun, tasting very similar to the candy’s tag line of “first they’re sour, then they’re sweet.” Another attendee next to me is telling his friend “this is the beer to try,” and I overhear yet another beer-drinker declare, “like Emergen-C in a beer.”
I am drinking the Sour Patch Malt Liquor beer by Dry Dock Brewing at the 14th annual Firkin Rendezvous at Bristol Brewing in Colorado Springs. The yearly event benefiting the Colorado Brewer’s Guild invites guild members from across the state to bring a firkin of their cask-aged ales to share with thirsty and eager beer drinkers every February. This year showcased 37 brewers from across the state.
The Firkin Rendezvous isn’t all about the most off-the-wall, obscure beer you can make, it’s also about showcasing your skills. For example, 4 Noses Brewing out of Broomfield, brought a solid Imperial Stout aptly named Big MF Stout. Aged one month in a rye barrel, with the addition of vanilla beans and cinnamon, the beer drinks dark and smooth with a hint of spiciness from the rye – and no alcohol burn to give away its 13% ABV.
The Firkin Rendezvous is also about showing what you do best, such was the contribution by Paradox Beer Company out of Divide. Their Whiskey Reaper Take My Mind was another beer that many of the attendees were raving about. Aged on a Laphroaig scotch barrel, with the addition of Palisade peaches and Carolina reaper peppers, the sour beer drank complex, with each of the flavors hitting your palate in stages, and combining at the end to create an intriguing beer that whether you loved it or not, stayed on your mind as an example the depth you can achieve with a beer and a few additions.
And it’s also about introducing craft beer drinkers to your brewery. I overheard John Bricker, owner of Three Barrel Brewing out of Del Norte, answer over and over again the question: “where are you located?” Bricker brought his delightful Thurday Special, a coconut brown lager named for a misspelling on a local barber shop’s list of hours in Del Norte, a town that boasts a population of less than 2,000 residents.
When asked why he takes the time to travel all the way from Del Norte to pour at this festival, John Bricker stated “It’s about camaraderie.” He loves supporting the Colorado Brewer’s Guild and the community they build. I have to agree with Bricker, the Firkin Rendezvous is about the camaraderie, and expanding the craft brewing scene, especially in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs boasts a diverse crowd of craft beer drinkers, but despite similar demographics, and being the second largest city in the state, the craft beer scene in Colorado Springs has not taken off as much as it has in Denver. While they have their fair share of wonderful small breweries, and a handful of beer festivals, at times it seems Colorado Springs still lags behind the craft beer growth of our brethrens to the north in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins. But as I looked around the Firkin Rendezvous I noticed a shift. The crowd was much more diverse than years past, including a wide breadth of age, gender, and ethnicity. And as a female craft beer drinker who has witnessed the craft beer scene blossom in this state, I was struck by the number of women attending the festival. Not only women with boyfriends and husbands, but women together as friends, and significant others, taking notes, asking questions, and thirsting to try new beers.
I am encouraged by this festival. Encouraged and excited about the future of craft beer, and what it will bring. The fun and the silly, the solid showcases of style, and the innovation and boundary pushing. Thrilled to see the expanding crowd of craft beer drinkers, and although it means longer lines for the bathrooms, the increase of women attendees who are truly there to taste, note and learn.