The San Juan Brewfest came of age Saturday – celebrating its 21st birthday – and according to Business Improvement District Executive Director Tim Walsworth, it was the best one yet.
He said that while the final numbers are still being calculated, the festival raised a record amount of money for its charity, United Way of Southwest Colorado.
He said the quality of the beers was also exceptional.
“The breweries always bring good stuff,” Walsworth said, “but we asked them, because we were turning 21, if they would bring something special. As I went through the list of beers, there were 146 different beers for people to taste, and there was just some super amazing ones.”
Forty-nine breweries were represented at the event.
After getting runner-up several years in a row, Bayfield’s Bottom Shelf Brewery won the People’s Choice Award. The brewery, which will be six years old in October, has been at the Brewfest for the last five years.
“Our first batch of beer that we ever brewed, we kegged minutes before coming to this Brewfest, so (winning) means a lot,” said owner and brewer Chris Young. “It feels good to know that people enjoy what we’re doing.”
The brewery brought Wings of Silence Golden Ale, Bear Necessity Blackberry Wheat, Broken Bridge IPA and Shark Wheat Blood Orange Ale, the collaboration beer that the brewery created with six women from the local chapter of the Pink Boots Society, a nonprofit organization that supports women working in the brewing industry.
The Shark Wheat ale debuted at the Pine River Festival on Aug. 3 and may be on tap in the brewery by the end of this week. It was the first keg to be emptied at Bottom Shelf Brewery’s booth, said Greg Allen, the brewery’s other owner and brewer.
Elevation Beer Co. of Poncha Springs was the runner-up for the People’s Choice Award this year. Jessica Ayela, who represented the brewery this year, said the brewery brought its Red Wine Barrel-aged Apis IV Honey Quadrupel, Raspberry Gulch Imperial Saison, Elevation Pilsner, and Mosaic IPA to this fest.
Walsworth said that in addition to the money raised for charity, the San Juan Brewfest is a boon to the local economy, saying that over 2,000 people attend the festival and the associated Thirsty 13 Half Marathon and about 40% of them come from outside the area.
Two additional Brewfest events that were planned for this year, a food and beer pairing class and a class on women in the beer industry, were canceled because of a lack of ticket sales to the events. Walsworth said the Durango Wine Experience, which features a number of events in addition to its Grand Tasting, proves that the model can work. As such, the BID will likely attempt to feature similar events next year.
The Next San Juan Brewfest will be on Aug. 29, 2020.