A sight to behold

Sanitas Taco Fest marries tacos, craft beer and wrestling

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Nick Gossert

How often in this food section do we get to talk about lucha libre wrestling?

But such is the state of food in Boulder County. If someone can dream up an event, it can be paired to food and beer. There will always be a brewery or restaurant looking to stand out and draw people to a spectacle, and hopefully, try something new.

Josh Kravetz had a vision to make Sanitas Brewing’s beer fest into a spectacle as dazzling as the bright costumes, vibrant comedy and lively atmosphere of a lucha libre wrestling match. Last year, Kravetz, who now runs marketing for Sanitas, launched the inaugural Sanitas Taco Fest, building off the brewery’s in-house connection to McDevitt Taco Supply.

Kravetz says there were immediate concerns that this was a bridge too far; that not even tacos and beer could make a lucha libre show fit in Boulder.

“Boulder is a little slow to adapt to change,” he says, “But everyone was blown away.”

Indeed, ticket sales back up the claim: there are three times as many people signed up to attend this year’s event on July 21 than the total amount of people who came to last year’s festival.

There’s something about “the high-flying, hard-hitting” wrestling group that people were attracted to, Kravetz says. Come to think of it, maybe it’s because of the fact that Boulder can rest on its food laurels that the spectacle was such a resounding success.

Kravetz is an expert at pairing spectacle with food. He runs Oskar Blues’ Burning Can event, where dirt bikes fly through the air and guests sample over 100 beers. Kravetz also helps run New Belgium’s Urban Assault Ride, a city-wide obstacle course in rotating cities (including Boulder and Denver) that results in beer in food. Then there’s the Oskar Blues’ winter bike rally, the Beer Relay and the Diva Dash, a women’s obstacle course that blends costumes and beer.

So what tethers all these ideas to reality? What pops into Kravetz and Company’s heads when they think up a wild idea and try to make it real?

“I like (making) events that I want to go to, then I figure out, how do I make it affordable and everything?” he says. The key is to “do something different and entertaining.”

And lucha libre wrestling is just that. It’s a full-blown spectacle with professional comedian DJs and multiple rounds with various character wrestlers.

“There are tons of beer fests,” Kravetz says. “(But) there’s nothing like this.”

The linchpin of it all is the quality of both Sanitas and McDevitt. McDevitt, which opened a shop recently in South Boulder, serves “heady” tacos out of a shack at Sanitas’s expansive brewery. The tacos rotate often, and you’ll end up with wild variations like chocolate chipotle beef, buffalo cauliflower, blackened “catphish,” kimchi pork and honey sriracha chicken.

Kravetz says McDevitt is supplying the festival with 40-plus variations of tacos, which seems to be a lot of diversity for a festival with only one caterer. The folks from McDevitt will be dishing a Mr. Roboto taco (Asian steak with tangy slaw) along with their revered “kale-yeah” tacos.

Kravetz is right when he says it’s a relatively foolproof foundation for the festival — “I think everyone loves tacos,” he says. But add in 20 brews from Sanitas made specifically for Taco Fest and it starts to seem like the lucha libre is the least spectacular thing about the event.

Sanitas is going to serve a cadre of experimental and unique beers that Kravetz says fit in with McDevitt’s offerings, but also with the heat and festivity of the summer event. There’s going to be a blueberry sage saison, a coffee brown ale (one of several dark beers Kravetz says will be on hand to mollify those picky beer drinkers) and a “purple” version of the Grapefruit Smuggler, which pairs Centennial and Azacca hops in an IPA that’s brewed with whole grapefruit and grapefruit peels.

The creations come courtesy of brewer Chris Coyne, who started brewing as a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Massachusetts and coupled that passion with studies in engineering and biology. Michael Memsic, Sanitas’s other founder, discovered his love of beer at the University of Colorado and studied the craft at Oskar Blues.

The event runs the whole afternoon, and is rounded out by live music, an inflatable obstacle course (of course), and adult- and kid-oriented piñatas. Indeed, the festival is intended for families and craft beer aficionados alike, and those who just come for the wrestling. And if you’re just coming for the wrestling, you sound interesting, and we’d like to meet you.

The zaniness will continue for another year, and here’s to hoping it brings more spectacular events to Boulder County’s food and beer scene. 

On the Menu: Sanitas Taco Fest. Sanitas Brewing Co. 3550 Frontier Ave., Boulder.12-8 p.m., July 21. Tickets are $20 in advance ($25 at the door), with a $50 VIP ticket that gives you access to air conditioning, a good spot to watch the wrestling, and more beer and tacos. sanitastacofest.com.