Left Hand’s Hops+Handrails is not your typical beer fest. Sure, it has beer and music, what fest wouldn’t? It has the requisite food and local businesses giving out marketing in the form of swag and wheel-o-prizes that you can spin — I got a beaded necklace from Floyds and I’ll cherish it forever. It even has a 40-foot high ramp covered in snow and dominated by riders trying to impress the crowd with their best tricks.
“[Hops+Handrails] is really a celebration of everything we do great here in Colorado,” Left Hand’s Josh Goldberg tells Boulder Weekly. “It’s skiing and snowboarding. It’s craft beer. It’s jam-band, bluegrass-y music. And it’s outdoors with either puffy jackets on if it’s cold or flip-flops if it’s warm.”
The weather was typically Coloradan for the Fifth Annual Hops+Handrails this past March 11. With rain in the morning, the festival opened at noon to overcast skies and chill — a chill that quickly lifted with the first pour of delectable beer.
“Our goal and our mantra here is always to challenge ourselves and strive to create something we call, ‘Not Just Another Beer Fest,’” Goldberg says. “In the spring and summer, there are no shortage of beer festivals. Some of them are wonderful and dynamic and exciting, and others are a little stale or uninspired. They might be a couple of tents in a parking lot or they might be in a field, in a town park, but there is not a unique trait or story that it tells or experience that it creates besides drinking beer for $30 for four hours.”
The breweries that Goldberg invites are what make Hops+Handrails “Not Just Another Beer Fest.” Many of the usual suspects were on hand — Avery, Odell, New Belgium, Oskar Blues — but of the 70 breweries pouring more than 200 beers, a dozen or so were joining the festivities for the first time.
This was the first year The Bruery from Placentia, California, was featured and their offerings — Or Xata (7.1% ABV), a horchata-inspired blonde ale, and White Chocolate (13.8%), a bourbon barrel-aged wheatwine with cacao nibs and vanilla — were two of the best at the fest. The Bruery is well known among craft beer drinkers and having them pouring helps draw people in.
Hopefully, those people stopped by another first-timer’s tent, Open Door Brewing Company, and gave their delectable Over the Moon Milk Stout (5.6%) a quaff. Barely a year old, Open Door is a small Boulder brewery with only three labels as of yet — their Short Arms IPA (6.5%) was one of my associate’s favorites from the fest — and being featured at Hops+Handrails provides them with a significant amount of exposure.
Bringing attention to fellow craft breweries is a major part of Goldberg’s aim with Hops+Handrails. As he tells BW, Left Hand was equally nurtured as it was up and coming. Now that they have the resources to put together these types of festivals they can “rally the breweries together for a unique event.”
“If we keep doing good, we keep being a force for good, and we keep creating memorable experiences and bringing our beer brothers and sisters, then we’re doing a favor to the whole industry,” Goldberg says. “And we’re all going to be elevated as a result.