Winter Brew Fest 2013: The best beers to drink while seriously annoyed

I’ve been attending the annual Winter Brew Fest and Summer Brew Fest in Denver for several years. The first couple of years I went (2009 & 2010) were great. The venue, Mile High Station, worked well for the event and had plenty of space for attendees to enjoy their beers; it was fairly crowded but not unbearable. But the number of tickets keeps increasing each year:

  • Winter Brew Fest 2010 sold 1200 tickets
  • Winter Brew Fest 2011 sold 1500 tickets
  • Winter Brew Fest 2012 sold 2000 tickets
  • Winter Brew Fest sold…? This information is not available on their site.

This year, in addition to selling out, the folks at Brew Fest decided to employ a “1 in, 1 out” system, due to the fact that they had a “ton of requests from people who did not buy tickets in time.” Now, I don’t know when exactly the tickets went on sale, but when they did, I got an e-mail about it and ignored it. Then–weeks later–I saw a “daily deal” for half-priced tickets…so I figured I might as well do it. It’s not like GABF, where tickets were gone within mere minutes. But Brew Fest obviously wanted to make as much money as possible, not caring that they were basically screwing the rest of us competent people who actually purchased tickets. The “1 in, 1 out” system allows a non-ticket holder to pay and enter once another person is done and leaves. That way, instead of allowing ticket holders a little bit of breathing room toward the end of the night, the festival stays completely packed the entire time. There are certain breweries which are basically impenetrable after the first hour or so due to the enormity of the crowd (if anyone was there, think upstairs near the restrooms). And at one point, my friends and I found ourselves “in line” to simply try to get to the other side of the room. Beyond annoying.

So, which beers were best (and tastiest) at taking the edge off?  Here are my picks:

It was also my first time trying Fate, as they are gearing up for their grand opening in Boulder next week. I am highly interested in Fate and plan on paying them a visit in the very near future.

I’m not sure if I’d had anything from Elevation before, but these two beers were amazing. I’ve tried many bourbon barrel aged stouts, and this one was a standout for sure. And the horchata porter?! Brilliant idea.

I had heard of Big Choice, yet I hadn’t had their beer until this festival. I’ve decided it’s definitely worth the short drive to Broomfield to see what else they have to offer.

I was not aware of No-Li, so I was pleased to discover a new (to me) brewery. I found out they just started distributing in Colorado about 3 months ago, so I’ll be looking out for them.

And Copper Kettle’s Mexican Chocolate Stout is one of my all-time favorite beers. Ever. Always a winner.

That is probably the last time I will attend a Denver Brew Fest (Summer or Winter), as it’s getting (gotten) out of hand. But I’m glad I went last weekend, as I discovered some new favorites. Should the festival organizers decide to either move it to a larger venue or keep ticket sales under control enough so as to not feel like sardines in a can…count me in. But I’m not holding my breath.

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Will says:

    The only way we attend any of these festivals is if we can get the early bird VIP tickets. You usually pay about $10 more, but you also get in an hour or two before everyone else. We’ve attended the Summer Brewfest a few times, and were so glad we got the VIP tickets each time. The minute they opened the doors for the normal tickets, it was a flood of humanity and just as you described.

    We love everything from Elevation, but have yet to try Oil Man, which I’m positive is as good as you say it is. Their taproom in Poncha Springs is nice as well, and like I said, every single one of their beers is incredible.

    I had No-Li at GABF and was impressed with them also, the owners/brewers are great guys.

    1. I’ve done the VIP a few times. But as of last time I thought even that was too crowded as well. So, we’ll see what the future holds for it. 🙂

  2. napaofbeer says:

    I was wondering how the one-in-one out would work. You should just “sell out” when you “sell out”. Was beer running out quickly at the end?

    1. I agree with the sellout idea.
      Surprisingly, most of the beers I kept going back for were still available up until the end. That’s often an issue at festivals, but it seemed o.k. here.

  3. Carolyn O'Hare says:

    They added a tent in order to accommodate the increase in breweries at this festival – that explains the increase in ticket sales for the past few fests now that they sell out. I understand that they have to turn away breweries at each fest as they are becoming more and more popular. Did anyone wait in line to buy tickets at the door if anyone left? I didn’t see anyone when I left the fest. I had a great time and did chose to buy a VIP ticket!

    1. Yes–they have had the tent for the past couple years but still continue to increase ticket sales (e.g.–the tent was there in 2011 for 1500 people, and the same size tent was there in 2012 but for 2000 people).

      I have done VIP a few times, but after last time it was extremely obvious they had majorly increased the number of VIP tickets as well. The first couple times I did VIP it was so nice and not very crowded at all.

      I can’t speak about the “1 in, 1 out,” as I didn’t leave until it was over. But since they organizers said they had “tons” of people asking for it, I imagine they had plenty of takers.

      Glad you had fun! I’ve just been to both Winter & Summer Brew Fests so many times that I see the direction it’s been headed, and it’s somewhat disheartening. A bigger venue would work: more breweries and more room for the beer drinkers.

      1. Amy says:

        Hi Colorado Beer Girl-

        First off, thanks for coming to the festival! We’re very sorry to hear you were annoyed, but glad that you still enjoyed yourself and discovered some new favorite brews. We welcome feedback because we truly strive to offer a quality, enjoyable event.

        We have chosen the Mile High Station because we think it’s a beautiful historical building which makes for a nice setting for enjoying beers. We feel it’s much better than tasting in a hotel ballroom or convention hall. Another reason we like the venue is they have two sets of large restrooms to accommodate attendees, and this year we added a group of porto potties outside of the tent.

        The tent we used this year and last year is the biggest tent we can get as there are light poles in the parking lot that get in the way for a larger tent. In 2011 and 2010 we had a tent, but it was significantly smaller than the last two years, hence our ability to allow more attendees in 2012 and 2013. We actually decreased the amount of people we let in this year, but it seems like it wasn’t quite enough. We offered the 1 in 1 out to try to accommodate those who missed out in buying before it was sold out. We will consider the capacity amount and the 1 in 1 out policy for future fests. Another consideration is making the event a 2 day event.

        We’d love it if you gave us another chance and hope to see you at the Summer Brew Fest in July.

        Cheers!

  4. The Infamous Mr. Thorp says:

    100% agree with you about sardine can feeling. Really ruins what could be an awesome festival. I truly hope they move to a larger venue( them decreasing ticket numbers probably wont happen)

  5. Thanks for your response, Amy. Adding a second day sounds like a good option.

    I like Mile High Station and the festival; it’s just gotten to the point where I personally feel it’s far too crowded, and I am not alone. But many people obviously don’t mind. It’s just frustrating to not be able to get to the breweries due to the massive crowd. And along those same lines–many people just creep up from the side and shove their way ahead of everyone else who’s been waiting. So for those reasons I’m not really inclined to return, unless something changes.

    On another personal note, I felt the “1 in, 1 out” was unnecessary since tickets were available for weeks. I purchased mine 2 weeks before the festival (through a half-off deal even), so it isn’t as if people did not have plenty of time to take action. Festivals, concerts, etc. sell out, and when there is ample time to get tickets, those who weren’t on the ball just have to miss out.

    You noted the festival decreased the number of people let in this year; can you please tell me how many tickets were sold and (if possible) how many additional folks entered via the “1 in, 1 out?” Thank you very much and again, thanks for your response.

    1. Amy says:

      Sure thing! We thought the 1 in 1 out was a good solution, similar to the policy of bars and restaurants when they’ve reached capacity. We sold 1,900 for this festival and maybe 20 more came in through the 1 in 1 out system. Our VIP session has always been limited to 500 attendees, so it’s interesting that you felt the VIP session was too crowded too. Over the years we have added more breweries, which takes up more space, and adds more people to serve the beer. I think we’ll both agree that more breweries at our fest is a good thing!

  6. Thanks, Amy! I appreciate the info.

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