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AUG/SEP 2005 | REGIONAL | ROCKIES

Killer B’s : Beaver Creek Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival
By Dan Rabin

It may be coincidence that three of life’s great pleasures — beer, blues and barbecue — all begin with the letter B. But when one of Colorado’s posh mountain resorts offers up this alliteration of tastes and tunes, a wise choice is to make a B-line to Beaver Creek for the annual Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival.

The event was originally a single-day, mid-May brewfest, but it has undergone a major makeover since its inception a decade ago. The fest was moved to Memorial Day weekend, and a second day was added. By including top-shelf blues, slow-smoked ’cue and activities for kids, the BB&B has been transformed into a more diverse, inclusive and family-friendly affair, albeit a tad tamer than its earlier incarnation.

After a hiatus of several years, I made the three-hour drive from Denver to the 2005 BB&B. Food booths, picnic tables and a free-to-the-public music stage were set up amidst the boutique shops and restaurants of Beaver Creek Plaza, in and around what serves in winter as an ice skating rink. Nearby, kids splashed in a fountain, climbed a rock wall and bounced on a bungee trampoline.

The beer tasting, featuring Colorado-brewed beers exclusively, took place just off the plaza in the cushy confines of the five-star Park Hyatt Resort & Spa. The Hyatt’s long list of honors includes Best Hotel in North America for Skiers (Condé Nast readers) and Colorado’s Best Spa (The Denver Post).

Throughout much of the year, the haute hotel caters to the well-heeled wine-and-cheese crowd. But during the BB&B, affordable beer-tasting/lodging packages entice brew lovers to the stylish Rocky Mountain retreat for a few days of first-class indulgence. After all, beer folk need pampering too sometimes.

With top-shelf blues, slow-smoked ’cue and activities for kids, the BB&B is a diverse, family-friendly affair.

“We came up yesterday,” said Denver-area resident Caroline Carlson as bluesman Sean Costello warmed up the plaza crowd on a pristine Saturday afternoon. “I got my toenails painted,” she boasted, wiggling a set of crimson-tipped digits on display in a pair of sandals.

Caroline was accompanied by her husband, John, and their three-year-old son, Jack, who was working intently on a plate of beef burnt ends. The food was the creation of Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, one of several Kansas City–based restaurants serving up fine smoked meats and other edibles alongside local eateries.

“At least it didn’t snow this year,” John observed, recalling last year’s weather-challenged festival. The executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild, John had just returned from a reconnaissance mission to the Hyatt’s beer hall and gave thumbs-up reviews of several beers he’d sampled.

I took a cue from little Jack, devoured a plate of the fork-tender beef, and set off to taste some brews.

Maybe it was the thin mountain air, but the vibe inside the Hyatt seemed especially high-charged for early afternoon. As the day evolved, a great party ensued.

I was first steered to a superlative weissbier from Castle Rock’s Jarre Creek Ranch. Its big banana and clove character was a perfect foil for the lingering flavors of the smoky barbecue.

In a nearby booth, Denver’s Flying Dog Brewery was dispensing a notable high-impact offering. The limited-edition Gonzo Imperial Porter was brewed in honor of the late author and Colorado resident Hunter S. Thompson. According to the brewery’s Web site, the heady 9.5% ale “will bite you in the ass if you don't show it the proper respect.” Hunter S. would surely have approved.

The outgoing folks from Summit County’s Dillon Dam Brewery continually posed the question, “Who needs a Dam beer?” In front of the Oskar Blues booth, individuals were performing cartwheels, somersaults, backflips and various other contortions to take advantage of a “brewery schwag-for-tricks” offer from the popular Lyons, Colo., brewpub.

Though time was in short supply, I made occasional forays back to the plaza for plates of ribs and brisket and to catch parts of the high-energy sets of blues rocker Tommy Castro and soul singer Bettye LaVette.

By early evening, day one of the festival had ended, at least officially. After dark, a group of revelers kept the party alive with an impromptu gathering at the Hyatt’s outdoor hot tubs.

My only regret was that I had to make a Sunday morning departure and couldn’t attend the festival’s second day. But when next spring arrives and I’m in need of a little pampering, I’ll be back for another BB&B. Be-lieve it.

Dan Rabin writes about travel, beer and other adventures from his home in Boulder, Colo.

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