There is a food or drink festival taking place somewhere in Colorado every single weekend of the summer of 2017. There is no shortage of wine, beer or barbecue gatherings from Fort Collins to Grand Junction and back. Along with long-running classics, there is a deep roster of brand new taste events that deliver the goods: great Colorado food and drink in an entertaining atmosphere.
The Pressed Conference
2 p.m. Saturday, May 27
Highlands Masonic Temple, Denver
Take a break from beer at the second annual Pressed Conference, the largest hard cider tasting event of the year in the state. It is a cool opportunity to sample apple, pear and other fruit ciders in many styles from sweet to very dry from across Colorado and the mountain states. This annual gathering of the Rocky Mountain Cider Association includes a slew of other tastings and workshops for the brewing geek.
Colorado BBQ Challenge
Even if you think you are a smokin’ expert, you’ll realize after a weekend at this mountain festival that you don’t know doodley about barbecue pork, ribs, chicken, brisket, sauces and side dishes. It’s a delicious re-education. The 70-plus teams that vie for the title of Grand Champion at this officially sanctioned competition are damn serious about their art and craft. Even after 24 years the Colorado BBQ Challenge retains its entertaining edge with seven bands, kids’ activities, barbecue demos, the Breckenridge Distillery Whiskey Tour and the Bacon Burner 6K race.
Slow Food Nations Colorado-Made Block Party
6:30 p.m., Friday, July 14
Larimer Square, Denver
One of the largest gatherings of foodies in the nation is taking place July 14-16 in Denver. Slow Food — the international sustainability-oriented organization — is presenting its inaugural Slow Food Nations, an event based on the biennial Terra Madre that draws thousands to Turin, Italy. The difference is that Slow Food Nations is scheduled to take place every year from now on in Denver. Among the notables participating are chef Alice Waters, musician Jack Johnson and Colorado culinary stars such as Hosea Rosenberg of Boulder’s Blackbelly Market. Most of the seminars are limited to conference attendees, but Slow Food Nations kicks off with a public event, a street food block party with tastes from Colorado farms and ranches, and chefs’ cooking demos, food exhibitors and producers, gardening and cooking activities for kids, and author talks.
American Cheese Society’s Festival of Cheese
7 p.m. Saturday, July 29
Colorado Convention Center, Denver
The Denver-based American Cheese Society brings “Cheese with Altitude,” its annual conference, competition and show, to its home town July 26-29. The public can attend the huge Festival of Cheese and sample more than 1,800-plus varieties of artisan cheeses from the event’s cheese competition plus crackers, charcuterie, salumi, chocolate and craft beer and cider. Best of all, you can shop at the ACS Cheese Sale, which offers many cheeses unavailable in Colorado at reduced prices. Proceeds fund scholarships for prospective cheesemakers.
Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival
Pueblo’s annual chile bash is an immersive and interactive experience. Let’s get real: We’re talking about sacks of fresh chilies stacked 6-feet high, the air thick with eye-stinging smoke from the chile roasters and your mouth alive and afire from multiple encounters with green, red and other chilies. You’ll find the peppers on hot dogs, in jam and on the quintessential festival dish, quesadillas sprinkled with cheese and topped with a whole, peeled, roasted Pueblo green chile. You can also sample Pueblo’s signature dish, “The Slopper,” consisting of open-face cheeseburgers in a bowl inundated with pork green chile with a garnish of onions, cheese and saltine crackers. It begs to be washed down with a non-craft brew.
2017 Colorado Governor’s Cup Winners’ Tasting Event
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3
History Center Colorado, Denvercoloradowine.com/governors-cup
Colorado wines still don’t get the recognition they deserve from the wine world, but the best winemakers are starting to make a splash in a beer-centric state with its beer-pioneer governor. The Colorado Wine Governor’s Cup is the only statewide annual wine-making competition reserved strictly for Colorado wines, with sommeliers, chefs, writers and wine experts from around the country judging more than 250 wines from 35 wineries. The winners are showcased at this dressy tasting event where the wines are paired with small plates from Colorado chefs.
Boulder Craft Beer Festival
1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19
West Central Park, Boulder
No brag, just fact: Boulder is the center of the American craft brew universe. This is the one beer-tasting bash focused solely on the stellar breweries of Boulder County, its wonderfully collaborative brewing community and the most savvy beer drinkers in the nation. The festival features samples from 25-plus breweries plus live music, food trucks and lawn games. Get tickets before it sells out.
Other notable Colorado summer food and drink events
Feast of Saint Arnold: In heaven there is no beer, that’s why we have this family-friendly tasting of ales, wines, spirits and food; noon to 4:30 p.m., June 10, Chapel of Our Saviour Episcopal Church, Colorado Springs; feastofsaintarnold.com
Colorado Brewers Festival: 90-plus Colorado breweries, beer school, music and food. June 24-25, Washington Park, Fort Collins; coloradobrewfest.com
BrüFrou: Dozens of chef and brewer pairings with live music; noon to 5 p.m. July 16, Tivoli Quad on the Auraria Campus, Denver; brufrou.com
Olathe Sweet Corn Festival: Wash the city out of your hair with a refreshing day of pancake breakfasts, endless corn on the cob, country music and regular folks out on the Western Slope; Aug. 5, Olathe; olathesweetcornfest.com
John Lehndorff is the former Dining Critic of the Rocky Mountain News. He writes the Nibbles column for Boulder Weekly and hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, kgnu.org).