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Thursday, August 21,2014

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Inaugural Boulder Craft Beer Festival aims to make a Boulder-sized event

By Cody Gabbard
Courtesy of Downtown Boulder, Inc.

Miss the 34-minute window to snag a Great American Brew Festival ticket this year? Still lamenting its move from Boulder to Denver 30 years ago? Fear not, for Boulder Downtown, Inc. is introducing the inaugural Boulder Craft Beer Festival, going down Aug. 23 on the west side of Central Park in downtown Boulder from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Although there won’t be more than 600 breweries, as there are at the GABF, 20 of Boulder’s best will be pouring 40 of their finest, and that’s not nothing.

But fact is, the size of the GABF was one of the initial obstacles for producers of the Boulder Craft Beer Festival. Though it’s hard to imagine now, GABF started in 1982 with just 22 craft breweries, and it only took two years to outgrow Boulder.

“There aren’t a lot of spaces that are big enough for the kind of beer festival Boulder wants to have,” says Event Director for Downtown Boulder Anna Salim.

Salim acknowledges Boulder’s cultural comparisons to cities that host big beer events like Austin, Texas, but points out that Austin is home to almost a million people, whereas Boulder’s population is just above 100,000.

“A beer festival that is the size of Boulder, not the size of the beer in Boulder,” is how Salim describes the vision for the Boulder Craft Beer Festival.

Organizers achieved that vision through an exclusive focus on beer made in Boulder County.

Downtown Boulder, Inc. has made sure that attendees can achieve ultimate Saturday-afternoon relaxation at the craft fest. There will be a lounge done up with inflatable furniture, games like ping pong and cornhole, acoustic and bluegrass music and a variety of food vendors.

Salim says not to expect the typical potpourri of random vendors and unrelated activities packed into every available area of real estate, but rather a convivial vibe of “hanging out in a really cool park in Boulder that doesn’t get used by the community very often.”

There will also be valet bike parking through Boulder B-cycle for a $1 donation. The money will go to the Boulder bike-sharing nonprofit.

With a lineup like that, Salim says the response from local breweries wanting to participate was strong, with names like Oskar Blues and Avery jumping on board right away.

But despite the extras, the centerpiece of the event is beer, and Salim anticipates participating breweries will bring their standards, but also some new and experimental beers.

“[Boulderites] are familiar with the brands, so what should they bring to show themselves off?” Salim says.

But Salim says one of the biggest attractions of the event is actually its smallest: nanobreweries, such as the seven-barrel brewhouse Wild Woods Brewery. Attending the festival gives you the chance to try Boulder’s finest brews all in one spot.

“You can go around to everyone’s taproom, but to actually go to one place and try everyone’s beer is a really unique experience,” says Salim.

And once attendees have tried them all, they’ll have the option to vote for the People’s Choice award, though Salim says the focus is more on collaboration than it is on competition.

Tickets are available online for $30, or $35 at the gate, and will include a sampling glass, unlimited two-ounce beer pours and snacks from Glutino and Udi’s Gluten Free. A designated driver ticket is also available for $10 and includes five nonalcoholic drinks and $10 worth of food at the event. Proceeds will benefit ongoing city events including Bands on the Bricks and the Lights of December Parade. For tickets and more information, visit www.boulderdowntown.com.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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