Courtesy of Ryan Cox Photography

Collaboration Festival Is One of Colorado’s Best Beer Fests

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There’s a craft brewery on every street corner in Colorado (or, at least, it sure feels that way), which can make it difficult to pick which one to visit on any given weekend.

 

But, at the upcoming Collaboration Beer Festival on March 30, you don’t have to choose. In the months leading up to this annual gathering, nicknamed Collab Fest for short, brewers from across the state join forces to create limited-edition sips together. The resulting “collab” beers are often innovative, outside-the-box or just downright quirky—a few years ago, for example, two Denver breweries made their collaboration ale while rafting down the Platte River.

 

Big-time beer fans eagerly await the arrival of Collab Fest each spring. For drinkers, it’s an opportunity to sample more than a hundred unique concoctions, made specially for the event. This is likely the only time these beers will ever be available—once they’re gone, they’re gone—and that fleeting nature makes Collab Fest irresistible. And, this year, a record-breaking 180-plus breweries are participating.

 

Courtesy of Ryan Cox Photography

 

Breweries look forward to Collab Fest, too, because it gives them a chance to get together, talk shop and play off each other’s ideas—they get to experiment and let loose a little bit.

 

Unlike other hyper-competitive industries, craft beer tends to be pretty mellow and cooperative to begin with—brewers regularly share ingredients, equipment and knowledge with each other. They also collaborate to raise money for charity, such as just after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic or after the East Troublesome fire, which burned nearly 200,000 acres in Colorado’s Grand County.

 

If you’re hoping to attend, it’s a good idea to snag tickets now, because Collab Fest sometimes sells out. The event will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. at The Westin Westminster, a large hotel and conference center with plenty of on-site parking situated about halfway between Boulder and Denver.

 

Courtesy of Ryan Cox Photography

 

General admission tickets are $65. Or, for $85, you can enter the festival an hour early. And for folks who want to enjoy the festival without drinking, there are “designated driver” tickets for $40.

 

On that note, many people use Lyft, Uber or public transit to get to and from the event. Your best bet is the Flatiron Flyer bus route, which drops off at the U.S. 36/Church Ranch bus stop, which is just a short walk from the hotel. If you’d rather just stay put afterward, book a room at the hotel—Collab Fest has reserved a block of rooms, with rates starting at $119 a night.

 

Food will be available for purchase at the event, or you can make a reservation at Kachina, the hotel’s ground-floor restaurant. The Westin is also located right next to a shopping center, called the Westminster Promenade, so you’ve got lots of snacking options within walking distance, such as Smashburger and Dave’s Hot Chicken.

 

Courtesy of Ryan Cox Photography

 

Most outside food and beverages are prohibited at the festival—but, of course, the rule doesn’t apply to pretzel necklaces, which are a time-honored beer festival tradition.

 

A few beers to keep an eye out for at the festival:

 

– “Party Laps,” a German-style helles lager that’s malty, with notes of peach, apricot, sweet melon and yuzu from the hops. This is the “welcome beer” you’ll be handed right when you walk through the door at the start of the festival. It was created by the board of directors for the Colorado Brewers Guild, the nonprofit trade group that represents the state’s craft breweries and puts on the festival each year.

 

– “Bending Corners,” a Finnish-style farmhouse ale known as sahti. Though this beer style has long been popular in rural Finland, it’s unusual to find it in North America. This one resulted from a collaboration between Mythmaker Brewing and Odell Brewing Sloan’s Lake Brewhouse & Pizzeria. Look for other historic and forgotten beer styles throughout the festival, too.

 

– “Hanami Lager,” a Japanese rice lager with plum. The story behind this international beer goes something like this: Last year, Garrett Scahill, the head brewer at Vail Brewing Co., took a ski trip to Japan. While there, he spent some time at Hakuba Brewing and got to know owner/brewer, Dan Cockburn. The two men decided to team up for the festival and make a beer that celebrates cherry blossom season in Japan. You’ll find other “collabs without borders” at the festival—most made by Colorado breweries pairing up with U.S. craft breweries in other states.

 

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