How to Take a Newbie to a Beer Fest

I recently reconnected with an old friend from a few years back when I moved back down to Thornton. I wasn’t as far down the beer hole back when I last saw him, so he had a lot of questions about my new career and passion. Eventually, I asked him, “what beers do you usually like,chef-brew-2013-300x211 any craft beers?”. When he responded “I’ve had Shiner Bock, I liked that”, I understood just how little craft beer he had been exposed to, despite living less than a mile from award winning Echo Brewing Company. When a craft beer fest came up, and none of my other writers were unable to attend with me, I figured this was the perfect chance to share my world with him. Beer fests are great opportunities for those new to the world of beer. There are tons of different styles, pours are small, and if you don’t like it, there is probably a dump bucket around.

If you have some newbie craft beer friends, here is a guide to taking them to their first beer festival

1) Find a Fun Component: Matt is a foodie, so I knew I could convince him to attend this years Chef N Brew festival with me. Each brewery was paired with a restaurant that offered one or two dishes to pair with the beer. He was all over it. Even if he didn’t want to try the beer (we found out real quick that he was not a fan of hops), he still wanted to down the dish. There are tons of fests that have additional components, everything from food and music,IMAG0983 to curling tournaments, are offered along beer samples.

2) Translate: When the brewer looks at your newbie friend and says “This is our new saison, fermented in traditional style in open vats and we also added coriander and lavender late in the boil before running it through a hop back then dryhopped it on sapphire hops before barrel aging it in white wine barrels” be ready to run interference to stop them from running for the door. While this is information beer geeks want and crave, the average person has no flipping idea what the hell you are talking about. A simple “this is a saison, a lighter belgian style beer traditionally made on farms, and can have spices or herbs added” will suffice. Really, all they want to know right now is if it tastes good to them or not.

3) Get the VIP treatment: If VIP tickets are available, get them. Going in an hour earlier than most attendees will give your newbie a chance to get a grasp of how fests work without the crazy crowds that can easily be overwhelming. Give them a run down of typical etiquette for beer fests so they know what to expect. Don’t forget to remind them that if they don’t like a beer they can dump it, and no one will be offended. By the time general admission doors open, they will be a pro. Plus, you can take solace in knowing you are not with a group of bros or hipsters who insist on standing RIGHT IN FRONT of the booth drinking and eating their samples (and getting seconds) so no one else can get to them, because you taught your newbie well.

4) Meet People: Introduce your newbie to your craft friends. Make a point to show how a beer fest can be a gathering of amazing people. Strike up conversations with brewers. Telling the brewer “It’s my friends first beer fest! What would you recommend?”, might help you avoid #2 and also help them get a real personal connection to why you are all there.

5) Follow Up: Take note of beers or breweries they enjoyed. Grab stickers or free beer coupons from the table. Make a plan to visit one of these breweries soon. While only a couple of the breweries beers were available at the event, many more will be available in the taproom. Seeing the taproom and having a beer they enjoyed there will surely send them down the wonderful rabbit hole of beer. Or at least we hope.

I apologize for the lack of photos, and descriptions of the food pairings in this post. after a solid 10 year record, I lost my phone for the first time :-(

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Imperial Stout Triple Chocolate Cookies

I love cooking and baking from scratch. Using a pile of whole, real ingredients to make something beautiful and delicious is always an accomplishment. Unfortunately, baking from scratch isn’t always possible. On a blustery Saturday I decided to forgo my bike ride to bake some cookies for my family. After deciding that the low-fill bottle of Avery Czar would taste delicious mixed with the three types of chocolate chips I found, I went on a hunt for the rest of the ingredients in my moms kitchen. I found a 10lbs bag of sugar…but no flour. No flour. How in the hell am I supposed to make cookies?!?!

Oh look, a devil’s food cake mix.

photo (1)

While using ingredients like this isn’t my favorite, it sure does work in a pinch. Frankly, this might be the easiest cookie recipe I have ever made.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine the following ingredients in a bowl

1 box devil’s food cake mix

1 stick butter, melted but not hot

2 eggs

1/4 C Avery Czar Imperial Stout

2C of chocolate chips and nuts of your choice (I used 1/2c dark, 1/2C milk, 1/2C white and 1/2C pecans

Spoon 1 inch balls onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper

Bake for 11 mins

Hint: Don’t make the cookies too big, cake cookies hold up better in smaller form

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To The Next Class of The Beverage Business Institute

What a great decision you have made in joining the Beverage Business Institute at Colorado State University. You choose to enroll in this program to expand your knowledge on the beverage business to either further your career, or start a new one. You couldn’t have come to a better place to do so.

You will spend the next few months gaining invaluable knowledge, experiences and resources from the talent rich Fort Collins beverage industry. From learning law and policy, to inventory and shipping management, to the brewing process, all will be taught to you by industry leaders. You will be challenged to think critically, creatively and thoughtfully fromBBI - November 2013 Ad a vast array of speakers about industry issues. After days in the classroom, the learning will continue with exclusive, behind the scenes tours of some of the best business in the industry including New Belgium Brewing and American Eagle Distributing.

Look around the room. While you will only spend a total of 12 days with this group of people over the 9 months, you will learn a lot about them. Together, you will workshop through each others career and personal goals. You will learn about, make, and sip (lots) of beers together.  In the future, some people in this room will become great mentors, friends and business acquaintances.

At the end of the three day session you will be tired. You have just spent many hours in classrooms, and touring hop farms and distribution warehouses. You deserved some cold beers and you had some. It was a great 3 days.  At the end of the 4th session you will feel accomplished. You now have the tools you need to be successful in this booming industry. No matter if your plans are to open your own brewery, manage a marketing department, or fill the role of district sales manager, you will be the person for the job. You will be prepared. You will have the resources, connections and gumption to get the job done. You will be a BBI Graduate.

So go ahead, Beverage Business Institute class of 2014, pat yourself on the back. You made a great decision in enrolling in the 3rd cohort of the program and have now embarked on an amazing quest for knowledge. There are not many people in the world like you, and I can’t wait to shake your hand as a fellow alumni.

For more information on how to the Beverage Business Institute or how to register, please visit their website. While the program begins next week, it meets for 3 days every 3 months and participants can join at anytime.

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A New Taste in Beer: New Planet’s take on GF Beer

This Tuesday Contributor Series post is written by Irene Nissen, a regular contributor of Napa of Beer. Find her other articles here. 

I had the opportunity to visit with Peter Archer, the Marketing Manager for New Planet Beer, at their headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. Peter contacted me after seeing my post on where to find Gluten Free beers in Fort Collins.

In 2003 New Planet’s founder, Pedro Gonzales, was diagnosed with Photo #1celiac disease. Consuming gluten at even 5 parts per million (ppm) will knock him out. He couldn’t stand any other GF beers that were on the market, so that was his inspiration to start New Planet. New Planet has been distributed statewide in Colorado since 2010, and is currently in 40 core states, with 66 distributors. Their operations are based in Boulder, CO with 5 employees and their beer is brewed and bottled in Fort Collins at the Fort Collins Brewery.

Currently New Planet distributes 5 distinctly different ale sets. Their Blonde Ale was their original beer, and previously was known as Tread Lightly Ale. In August New Planet started labeling all their beers by style versus a name. This decision was made to make the process of choosing a beer simpler for the consumer. When it comes to craft brews people like to know what they are drinking, and especially when someone is trying to choose a gluten free beer, they want to know how it directly compares.

One of the most difficult parts of brewing gluten free beer is how to make beer out of ingredients that don’t taste like beer. Sorghum has a very distinctive flavor that can be hard to disguise. One of the expressions that Peter likes to use when talking about New Planet’s brewing style is that they are “using non-traditional beer ingredients to create a beer experience.”

Up until about 4 years ago all gluten-free beers were lagers. Budweiser was the most popular beer and Photo #2therefore gluten-free brewers decided to make the Budweiser for the sorghum world. This is often times why you hear that GF beers suck; you can’t make a good GF lager using sorghum.

The biggest knock on GF beers is that they are not flavorful, so New Planet strives to offer the entire flavor progression in their beers.

Their Blonde Ale is a super light, easy drinking ale brewed with sorghum.  Corn is added for more texture and mouth feel without adding more fermentable sugar and helps to keep the stability of the flavor profiles. A little orange peel is also added for a citrus pop on the finish and to clear out the sorghum taste.

Their Raspberry Ale is made more like a light drinking wine or cider. It is brewed with sorghum, corn, orange peel and raspberry puree from organic, sustainably grown raspberries in Oregon.

Their Belgium Ale is the only America made Belgian that is 100% GF. It is brewed with traditional Belgium Ale Yeast, Madhava organic wildflower honey from Longmont and spiced with Cinnamon and Vanilla to give a cinnamon and peppery finish.

Their Amber Ale is meant to be similar to a standard American amber ale. It is made with a little brown rice extract and molasses to help change the texture and format of the beer. It doesn’t have quite the hop load as a lot of Colorado amber ales, and not as much of the malt back, but there is a nice texture across the middle, and Cascade is used for the finishing hop to give you a nice crisp bite.

With their Pale Ale, they set out to the make the hoppiest 100% GF Pale Ale in the industry. Sorghum is not a great stable base, so it’s hard to balance out. They couldn’t just throw a bunch of hops at it, as it would have resulted in an unbalanced beer with a very bitter flavor. The result is a GF beer with a much bigger mouth feel and more flavor than most GF beers; they describe it as a very assertive beer and it is their #1 seller across the country.

They are also working on a Brown Ale, although it is not commercially available yet. The difficult part of brewing a GF Brown Ale is that sorghum cannot be roasted. So how do you create the experience of a big brown ale without any of the traditional ingredients? Their head brewer had the idea of using Brazilian Coffee and Cocoa to add texture, give mouth feel and add a roasted flavor. The result was a delicious brown ale that you would never guess is a GF beer.Photo #3

The choice to brew 100% GF from start to finish, versus traditionally brewing beer that is “gluten-removed” is something that Pedro feels very passionately about. In gluten-removed beer, the protein chain gets chopped up so small that it becomes difficult for tests to detect. Individuals with Celiac have a limit of what they can take; so “gluten-removed” beer can be dangerous.  The only way to ensure that a product is gluten free is to brew it from start to finish gluten free. New Planet wants their customers to not even have to think about it when they choose their beer. They are extremely passionate about transparency and believe that people need to know what they are ingesting.

Recently the FDA ruled that a product made either from gluten-free grains or from gluten-containing grains, that has undergone a process to reduce the amount of gluten, could be called gluten free if it has less than 20 ppm of gluten. Pedro believes “there is a lot of miscommunication going on, so anything you can do to help the consumer decide is ideal.” New Planet includes the full nutrition and ingredient information on all their bottles. This is not required in the U.S. for alcohol products.

The FDA believes that in order for consumers with Celiac to have an array of foods to choose from they cannot lower the 20 ppm rule, otherwise food and beverage manufacturers may shy away from making GF foods. However if down the road they can find information showing that they can test lower than 20 ppm and people are being affected by less than 20 ppm they may lower this standard. The government is always working to find the middle ground and the important thing is to educate the consumer so they can make the best decision for them. As it stands right now if a GF beer is labeled gluten-free, is it “gluten-free.” While New Planet is comPhoto #4pletely GF, they cannot label it as such since the tests do not go that low.

New Planet caters to three different consumers. There are the 50+ late diagnoses Celiac consumers who gave up beer a long time ago, the young consumer Celiac who wants to drink craft beers and wants choices on styles, and the Gluten Free by Choice (GFBC) consumer who is trying to decide if they should drink a traditionally brewed craft beer and cheat, or drink a gluten free beer. By offering 5 district styles and flavor profiles for consumer to choose from New Planet offers a safe, gluten-free alternative for a wide range of consumers.

If you would like to taste New Planet’s beers and learn more about their passion for brewing GF, their newly opened tasting room is located at 6560 Odell Place, Unit D, in Boulder CO and is open every other Friday trough the end of October from 4:00-6:00 pm.

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In Area Bursting with Fests, Fall Harvest Stands Out

The last big brew boom began about 3 years here in Fort Collins with the newest wave of smaller craft breweries. But before we had Equinox, Grimm Brothers and Funkwerks we had the Fall Harvest Brewfest. A benefit to raise funds Animal House Shelter, the fest is happening for the 5th time this year. The 5th Annual Fall Harvest Brewfest will be held this Friday, September 6th at the Lincoln Center in Old Town Fort Collins. Tickets are still available online and at the door.

The fest has grown as the area’s beer culture has boomed. Sponsored byfallharvestimage Wilbur’s Total Beverage, the fest includes over 40 local brewers and distillers such as Lefthand Brewing, City Star and Feisty Spirits. New this year will also be a food truck section featuring Umami, Common Link and the Waffle Lab, offering samples to pair with your beer or full meals for market price. There will also be food pairing samples from other local restaurants such as Mo Jeaux’, Cheba Hut and Chimney Park.  If food and beer isn’t enough for you, live music will be playing all night from Winchester Holiday.

Make sure to visit their website to purchase tickets, check out the line up and find out more about Animal House Shelter.

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