What’s the difference between beer snobbery, beer geekery and just enjoying beer? I’ve been thinking about this question, no joke, for the past two weeks. Is a geek someone who loves good beer and a snob someone who hates bad beer, as this forum points out? Is it a moot question, because you can’t be snobby about something so affordable, as this columnist argues? Is snobbery taking actual time out of your life to research the difference between a beer snob and a beer geek? Probably.
But if there’s any argument to be made that – in a growing world of mustachioed, Coors-hating, bourbon barrel-aged beer drinkers – the beer fans and geeks are winning, Oskar Blues’ Burning Can Beer Fest is it.
Sprawled out on a huge grass field enveloped in Rocky Mountains in Lyons, a mix of mountain bikers, kayakers, stoners, parents, college students and brewers come together for endless canned beer. Some band jams through Saturday evening. A smell of grilled meat from the Oskar Blues truck mixes with beer-drenched wet grass. There’s enough people to form a crowd, but it’s open enough to talk to the brewers without protests from the line behind you. The snobbiest thing there was the tent handing out “I (heart) NPR” bumper stickers, but the friendly man handing them out looked too much like a Doonesbury character for anyone to take to seriously. It was a good time.
Too good, in fact. I enjoyed myself so much that I didn’t take notes of all the other beer-related trends going on.
My girlfriend Danielle and I got to Lyons a couple hours before the festivities to scope out a campsite and grab some lunch. Because the floods last summer ravaged the usual camping grounds across town, we got to set up in a football field-sized patch right next to all the brewer’s tents – a refugee camp for drunks. The good news was we were in the middle of everything; we could hear and nearly see the band from our tent. The bad news was the half-mile hike from car to campsite.
We grabbed some burgers at Oskar Blues downtown (good food, good people, slow service) before heading back for the non-VIP 3 p.m. start. Anxiety hit when my online tickets wouldn’t load, but the good staff of Burning Can just had my name on a list. Why I even needed a ticket in the first place, I don’t know.
That led to a slow, steady stream of new beers from all over: Seattle, Utah, Denver, Indiana. We made the rookie mistake of eating a full meal beforehand, so we took a break an hour in. But otherwise it was a free-for-all until the beer ran out. Not even a late afternoon rainstorm could keep me from practically (sometimes literally) skipping around.
It’s hard to pinpoint what the best breweries were, or the best offerings. But the one that stood out most for me came from Bohemian Brewery out of Midvale, Utah, which apparently transports its hops and malts from the Czech Republic. Their Czech pilsner was the only beer poured for me up to the top of my can, and it’s the only one I came back for. Love that beer.
The biggest surprise was the non-beer options. I only found one brewery offering something other than beer – root beer, which kind of counts – but there was also a a cidery (Wild Cider out of Firestone, CO) and a meadery (Redstone Meadery out of Boulder). I can’t say if they were good or bad, since I don’t drink cider much and I hadn’t tried mead at all, but there’s nothing more refreshing after 15 IPAs than a crisp apple or honey beer. Wasn’t a fan of the blueberry cider, though.
As night crept in the crowd that stayed became kind of a family, whether it was from good vibes, good people or a universal drunkenness. I became best friends in turn with Mr. Doonesbury (Robert) at the NPR station, the head brewers at Surly Brewing out of Minneapolis, some parents leaving to pick up their kids from a party and some guy waiting in line at the bathroom. People from all ages, professions, “walks of life.” I don’t know about snobbery, but I’d like to see the same vibe at a wine tasting.