Beer Man

New organizers cancel Craft Lager Festival, citing a lack of breweries, planning

The brand new owners of the popular Craft Lager Festival -- which has taken place in the Manitou Springs area for eleven years -- announced this week that they have canceled the event this August because of poor planning and a lack of available breweries.

"We only got eleven signups; a lot of the breweries had already made prior commitments for that weekend," says Johnny Walker, the executive director of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, which was supposed to run the fest for the first time this year.

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"We were a bit late with our invitations as well. Mistakes were made. Deadlines were missed. As a result of that, instead of trying to pull it off and having an inferior event, we decided to pull the plug and bring it back next year to the level it was meant to be at."

The announcement was made on Facebook, and it frustrated some fest-goers, a few of whom had already purchased their tickets.

The news also shocked festival founder Julian Heron, who created the Craft Lager Festival eleven years ago as a way to donate money to military charities; after running and organizing it for all of those years, he gifted the event -- including the name, bank accounts, equipment and intellectual property -- to Pikes Peak or Bust last year.

"I was as surprised as anyone to find out about it," he says, adding that the new organizers had posted a Facebook message just two weeks ago saying, "We will definitely be having the festival this year," and listing the date, August 9.

Heron believes that Walker underestimated the amount of time and effort that go into planning a festival which, at its height, involved more than fifty breweries and distilleries and attracted upwards of 10,000 people. (The 2013 version was smaller because it had to be rescheduled and moved following a flood in Manitou Springs.)

"Saying that they couldn't get enough vendors is not, in my mind, the real issue. We've held it in the second week of August for eleven years, so most of the breweries already had it on their calendar," Heron says. "I think they failed in the execution."

Wallker didn't really disagree. "This thing is a monster, and I didn't see it coming," he says. "By the time I put together a crew, a lot of time had passed."

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

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