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On Saturday, September 20, 1997 the sun shined brightly at the opening of this annual event now renamed the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival. That good fortune was not to hold however as a rainstorm moved in and temperatures dropped to the low fifties. The large tent at the center of Town Park had plenty of room to hold the 35 brewers and the customers standing at the front of the tasting lines but when the rains started, adequate shelter was nowhere to be found. As the faint of heart scurried away the hard-core tasters braved on. From their enclosed stage the Rico Blues Project played non-stop, much to the appreciation of the mostly college student crowd. Soon the storm had past and people no longer huddled tightly against the brewers' tables. The closeness of Fort Lewis College in nearby Durango probably contributed to the make up of the crowd that was evenly balanced between males and females. The cigar smoking fad continues to plague beer tasting events. Fortunately this open, outdoor event offered fresh air for those who require it to enjoy the aromas of fresh craft-brewed beer.

The 12 ounce plastic mugs of the past have been replaced by sturdy 6 ounce logo'd glasses that were filled to about two thirds full by most brewers. Only a few bottled products were in evidence as regional brewers took the opportunity to bring their most popular drafts. Although a few generous servers were cautioned by event "security", this festival remains one of the most popular with Colorado brewers due to the lack of "beer police" (unlike the GABF) and of course the great venue. The incredible valley vistas that included waterfalls on Saturday were enhanced even more by Sunday morning when all of the surrounding peaks glowed brightly from a blanket of fresh snow. The debut of Fall in Colorado.

Other than an extremely sour brew from Baked in Telluride, all of the tasting choices were well-received. Some standouts included the Eske's Beyond the Pale with its nice hoppy aroma and flavor. The Ska Pale was also outstanding as a hoppy, "American-style" Pale Ale. New Belgium showed their new seasonal, the Single Ale that replaces their Saison. This Fall brew has a medium body, nice fruity/estery aroma, and even malt and hops in the flavor.

This years event combined three days of music at three locations around town. For the Town Park venue, no alcohol is allowed! Performers included Lonnie Brooks Blues Band, Leon Redbone with Tom Roberts and Dan Levinson, W.C. Clark Blues Revue, The Poppies, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, and funky METERS. Prices were variable: an All Access Weekend Pass was $55, a Music Only Weekend Pass $45, individual shows were $10, $15, and $20, while the Sunday Blues Show was $20 in advance and $25 at the door. The Grand Tasting was a reasonable $16 in advance and $20 at the door for four hours of "unmetered" tasting. Although the Town Fathers are said to be "concerned" about liability when hosting this event, the well-behaved crowd and the strong local support should ensure we see an equally popular event next year. Let's hope for improved tent protection from inclement weather and adequate restrooms to reduce the 10 minute waits that cut into precious sampling time. One thing the organizers here do better than either the GABF or the Oregon Brewer's Festival, they survey the crowd (customers) in order to improve the event (service). What a concept!

Breweries:

Atlantis Brewing		Avery Brewing

Beaver Street Brewery		Berckenridge Brewery

Brewed in Telluride		Bristol Brewing

Carver's Brewing		Crested Butte Brewery

Durango Brewing			Eddie McStiffs

Eske's Brew Pub			Flying Dog Brew Pub

Glenwood Canyon Brewing		Great Divide Brewing

HC Berger Brewery		Il Vicino - Salida

Left Hand Brewing		Main Street Brewing

McFarlane Brewing		Moab Brewery

New Belgium Brewery		Oasis Brewery

Phantom Canyon Brewing		Pine Street Brewing

Rock Bottom Brewery		San Juan Brewing

Smiling Moose Brewing		Tabernash Brewing

Tommyknocker Brewery		Unita Brewing


Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - September, 1996

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