Beer Man

New Belgium Brews Mary Jane Ale, Becomes Official Winter Park Craft Brewer

Winter Park Resort, which turns 75 this year, has struck a deal with the state's largest craft brewer that will guarantee plenty of Mary Jane Ale for the foreseeable future.

As part of the arrangement, New Belgium Brewing will make a certain number of barrels of the beer per year and become "the official craft beer provider of Winter Park and Mary Jane." That means the Fort Collins brewery will be guaranteed a presence at the resort, which is owned by the City of Denver and run by Intrawest Resort Holdings.

See also: Craft breweries and the ski and snowboard industries make fresh tracks together

Winter Park spokesman Steve Hurlbert says he can't divulge details of the contract, however -- including its length, the number of guaranteed tap handles and whether or not New Belgium is paying to be the official provider.

"What I can say is we're extremely proud to be working with New Belgium and hope the relationship lasts for a long time," he says. "They're an iconic company. They were the first in my mind, as a Colorado native, to take the art of craft brew to the next level."

The deal doesn't preclude other brands from being poured on the mountain, Hurlbert adds. Coors still has a large presence, and other craft beers are available, including several at the High Craft Bar, which is located at the top of Mary Jane in the brand-new Lunch Rock Restaurant.

"The key thing is that they are all from Colorado," Hurlbert adds. "Colorado is known for having some of the best brewing in the world... and people expect to have a great variety of craft brews at their disposal."

Mary Jane Ale was first brewed in 1994 by Rock Bottom. More recently, it has been made by Blue Moon Brewing at the Sandlot, the Coors-owned brewery inside Coors Field, as a Scottish-style red. The new incarnation of the beer "features Cascade, Amarillo and Simcoe hops," according to New Belgium. "It starts with notes of citrus, grapefruit and melon and finishes slightly bitter with malty sweetness as a counterpoint throughout."

"They started from scratch and created something they thought would be great," Hurlbert says. "It's a brand-new creation."

In addition to the brewing agreement, the Winter Park partnership allows New Belgium to host special events at the resort, including the launch of Slow Ride, a lower-alcohol session IPA that the brewery will debut there on January 10. New Belgium is selling a limited number of tickets (starting at $411 for two) for people who want to take the Amtrak train from Union Station to the town of Fraser (near Winter Park), and then stay for a weekend of skiing, schmoozing and drinking.

Two years ago, New Belgium opened a slopeside après-ski restaurant called the New Belgium Ranger Station, at the Snowmass ski area that serves ten of the brewery's beers; it also opened a separate bar inside the newly renovated Westin Snowmass Resort.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes