What’s a perfect way to celebrate the beginning of the New Year? A bustling beer festival in Vail, of course! The 13th Annual Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival rolls into town January 10-13, bringing with it a kaleidoscope of educational tastings, seminars, and beer pairing dinners. The festival brings together Professional Brewmasters, Homebrewers and beer connoisseurs for a 3-day study in the ages-old craft of brewing.

The Big Beers Festival is revered as one of the most interesting beer festivals in the country thanks to its vast international collection of beers, interesting format celebrating the craft beer movement, and the unique opportunity to earn Ciccerone Certification whilst attending the festival. Big Beers is smaller than Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, but just as highly regarded due to its fabulous setting and intimate, relaxed style. The festival prides itself on its annual collection of experts, who will lead a series of incredible seminars. This years’ invited speakers include owners and brew masters from American craft brew favorites Dry Dock Brewing Co., Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Left Hand Brewing Co., Alaskan Brewing Co., Boulevard Brewing Co., and Ska Brewing Co., as well as publishers of All About Beer Magazine and Here is a sampling of a few seminars not to be missed:

Friday 6:30 pm –’s Beer & Food Pairing Taste-Off. Julia Herz of the Brewers Association and moderates this popular event posing brewers head to head in competition to exhibit their food and beer-pairing prowess. The audience participates in the event, choosing the winner in this interactive showdown.

Saturday 10am – 12pm – Brewing Outside of the Box: Brewers Gone Wild!. This year’s seminar is entitled “Smoke”, and focuses on the artisan technique of smoking malt in order to create a unique, progressive flavor in hand-crafted beer.

Saturday 12:30-1:30pm – Brewing Belgian Styles. This brewing seminar is led by Steven Pauwels of Boulevard Brewing Co., who grew up in the beer industry in his native Belgium and brings a worldly wealth of experience to his celebrated brews at Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City, MO.

Saturday 3:30 pm – The Beer in My Cheese, presented by Ska Brewing, explores the classic and natural affinity of beer and cheese and what makes them click.

The Big Beers Festival also offers a unique program for brew experts-in-training. A free Ciccerone Certification Workshop (comparable to a Sommelier designation in the world of wine) offers an incredible opportunity for beer lovers to learn everything from “storage and draft equipment to beer styles and food & beer pairing…covering almost everything you can imagine in the world of beer”. The workshop is held from 8:30am-12pm on Friday, and is followed by an opportunity to complete one of the few annual offerings of the Certified Ciccerone Exam.

Home Brewers from Colorado and beyond are buzzing about the 2013 Homebrew Competition, the judging of which will take place during the festival on Friday afternoon. Competitors have shipped their entries ahead of time and are anxiously awaiting the Big Beers Festivals breadth of judging expertise to give the nod to the finest homebrews on the horizon. This event is a precursor and warm up for the National Homebrew Competition in Spring 2013; entrants give samples of their best work in an eclectic range of brew styles, from Bock, Braggot and Belgian Strong Ale to Smoked and Wood Aged Beers, Sour Ale and Weizenbock.

Another favorite element of the festival is the celebrated Brewmasters’ Dinners. The beer devotee’s version of tasting and food pairing, the dinners celebrate the unique characteristics of brews as partnered with well-devised malt-friendly menus. The weekend kicks off Thursday evening with the Calibration Dinner with Avery Brewing Company & Dogfish Head Brewing to “calibrate your palate” for the weekend. The Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Traditional Brewmaster’s Dinner on Friday evening will feature brews from the festivals Colorado and International Brewmasters, from Dry Dock Brewing and Firestone Walker Brewing. Both cornerstone events feature a 5-course, superbly constructed tasting menu, “double paired” with the brews from the night’s 2 features breweries. Chef Todd Bemis of the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa is at the helm of the food pairing for these 2 incredible dinners.

And last but not least, the Commercial Brew Tasting is the culminating event in which all 200+ craft brew companies showcase their finest in a world-class, international beer tasting. It is likely you will meet the brew master or owner of the specialty brewing operation at this impressive yet low-key collection of international selections. The diverse tasting takes place from 2:30pm-6pm on Saturday, and each station provides a mini-education about the companies’ different brew styles and brewing techniques, and the tasting is accompanied by creative nosh from Chef Todd Bemis. Eating is an important part of your experience at this event; to be categorized as a “Big Beer”, the brew must measure at least 7% alcohol – double the amount in a big-name, commercially brewed American lager – which can knock your socks off without a good foundation of food!

One of the most coveted aspects of the festival has nothing to do with beer at all – it has to do with the crisp air and fresh snow right outside your doorstep while staying in Vail for the festival. Spend a few hours tearing it up on the hill to get a good workout before bellying up to the afternoon and evening tasting events. Big Beers has partnered with several organizations to make it easy to get you on the hill, including discounted equipment rentals from local retailers. Get ready to experience the time of your life at Big Beers, having a “cold one” inside and out on this memorable crisp January weekend in Vail.

Simba Run is Vail’s Official Headquarters for Family Fun! Book online to make your Vail, Colorado hotels and lodging reservations, or check out our special lodging deals, then contact us at 800-746-2278.