Beer Man

Big Beers Festival, WeldWerks Invitational Both Canceled Again

Big Beers Festival, WeldWerks Invitational Both Canceled Again
Ska Brewing
The organizers of the much-loved Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival and the highly anticipated WeldWerks Invitational have both canceled their upcoming events. It is the second year in a row that both festivals were canceled because of the pandemic.

"[We] have been closely monitoring public health concerns and after receiving feedback from participating breweries, in which nearly half had expressed that they either would not be attending or on the fence, WeldWerks came to the conclusion that this year’s iteration of the Invitational would not be the world class experience that has become synonymous with the festival," WeldWerks says.

All ticket holders will be automatically refunded in full, and 2021 ticket holders will have the first right of refusal for 2022 tickets. The 2022 WeldWerks Invitational is currently slated for "mid-year."

As for Big Beers, festival co-founder Laura Lodge said Tuesday in a statement: "We have worked through a myriad of ideas about how we could find a way to host Big Beers safely. Some of our weekend events could be adapted to socially distance and creatively mask, but the Commercial Tasting — our cornerstone event that carries us financially — simply isn't feasible.


"Different ideas about multiple sessions, reducing attendance, requiring proof of vaccination/negative test, masking to pick up your beers and returning to your table ... none of them ultimately provide assurance that we could provide a 100 percent safe environment, an experience that matches the caliber of our traditional Big Beers Festival, and is financially feasible," she continued.

The event was supposed to have taken place January 6-8 in Breckenridge. Now Lodge and her board will put their focus on 2023, when they also hope to include spirits. (See her full statement below.)
click to enlarge BREWERS RENDEZVOUS
Brewers Rendezvous
Several other beer festivals planned for the next few months are still going forward, however, despite rising COVID-19 rates and the threat of the Delta variant. These include: Ska Brewing's 25th (and 26th) Anniversary on September 4 in Durango; Denver's 51st Annual Oktoberfest, September 17-19 and 24-26; and the Brewers Rendezvous in Salida, hosted by the Colorado Brewers Guild, on October 2.

In fact, the Guild announced its brewery lineup for the 25th annual Rendezvous on Tuesday, as well, with names like Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Ratio Beerworks, 4 Noses Brewing, WeldWerks, Odell Brewing, Our Mutual Friend Brewing, Burns Family Artisan Ales and Station 26 Brewing.

One key difference between the Rendezvous and festivals like Big Beers and the WeldWerks Invitational is that it is outdoors, says Guild director Shawnee Adelson. "The park will be spaced out, and given that it is an outdoor event, the health department feels comfortable with what we have in place."
BIG BEERS FESTIVAL
Big Beers Festival
In addition, the Guild reduced the number of breweries and other vendors, and is requiring its staff to be vaccinated. Consumer attendance has also been cut by 50 percent. As with everything these days, however, Adelson cautioned that anything could change between now and October.

Ska Brewing's anniversary party, another large festival, is also outdoors, but the brewery recently notified attendees that they will need to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test in order to get in the doors. That policy is in line with what some other venues are doing now.

Here is the full letter from Laura Lodge about the Big Beers festival:

Once again, our Big Beers board has met and discussed how we, as an event and as part of the craft beer community, should react to the pandemic in all of its aspects.

The path we have each walked throughout this unprecedented time differs greatly, personally and professionally. Breweries are a good example of this, with some experiencing tremendous growth and others hanging on by their fingernails.

We have watched other events carefully throughout this year to see how event planners within and outside of the beer industry have been managing the risks that gathering in large groups can present. In April we were excited that we would most likely be able to hold Big Beers as planned in January and reached out to our brewers to see if it would be financially feasible for them to participate. We got an overwhelming "yes!" to our inquiry, although with many qualifications about bringing fewer people, not staying in Breckenridge for as many days, and ensuring the safety of their teams.

Since that time we have watched the gradual slide toward reformatting events, requiring proof of vaccine/negative tests, converting events to being virtual again, and cancellations.

For our part, we have worked through a myriad of ideas about how we could find a way to host Big Beers safely. Some of our weekend events could be adapted to socially distance and creatively mask, but the Commercial Tasting - our cornerstone event that carries us financially - simply isn't feasible. Different ideas about multiple sessions, reducing attendance, requiring proof of vaccination/negative test, masking to pick up your beers and returning to your table to consume...none of them ultimately provide assurance that we could provide a 100% safe environment, an experience that matches the caliber of our traditional Big Beers Festival, and is financially feasible.

[If you are thinking that hosting the Commercial Tasting outside in January in Breckenridge is a sane idea, consider frostbite and frozen beer before you even work through the expense. I know someone will!]

This is not the email that I wanted to be sending at this point in 2021. I wanted to be emailing all of the brewers to tell them how to register for participation in January to celebrate our 21st Anniversary and finalizing everything with the ticketing company to put tickets on sale in the next 10 days.

However, as a Board of Directors we were unanimous in our decision that we need to wait to safely celebrate. We remain clear that we need to prioritize the health and well-being of our guests, brewers, sponsors, volunteers and staff over the disappointment of postponing our 21st Anniversary again. And we know that when we can safely gather it will be one amazing festival; fantastic beer, phenomenal people and a terrific reunion.

Beaver Run continues to support Big Beers and has offered every flexibility that we could possibly ask. They have been patient and understanding, prioritizing the next 10 years of Big Beers over forcing us to do an event in 2022. For this we are eternally grateful. We plan to be back in Breckenridge in person in 2023, and hope that you will all save the dates of January 5 - 7 for Big Beers.

Our perspective about a virtual Big Beers hasn't changed (we can't even come close to our actual event experience), but we are brainstorming how to be present over our traditional Big Beers dates in some different way via newsletter and social media to celebrate with all of our Big Beers family. If you have ideas about how we could achieve this, please let me know.

We are still thinking that our 21st Anniversary will include an emphasis on blurring the lines between beer, wine and spirits - within beer - specifically along the lines of barrel aging and cocktail inspired beers. If you have additional ideas, please send them my way.

So for now we wish you, your family, and your community good physical and mental health + good business health, and are happy to support you in any way that we can.

Most sincerely, Laura, Bill, and the Big Beers Board of Directors
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes