Big Beers Festival Organizer Grants Interview Co-Founder Laura Lodge Discusses Event

By AlpineZone News |
Jun 24 2011 - 02:56 PM

Vail, Colorado–June 22, 2011–The Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival is a three day event held in January in Vail, Colorado. Offering beer and food pairings, a commercial tasting, educational workshops and seminars, Big Beers is considered a premier destination beer event and is open to the public. Brother and sister team Bill and Laura Lodge host the event; Bill as founder of the initial concept eleven years ago, and Laura as the active organizer of this charitable event for beer enthusiasts. Laura was recently interviewed regarding her role with Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines.

The Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines festival donates 100% of the proceeds to charity after paying the basic costs to run the event, such as the rental space and event programs, with no money going back to the organizers. How does such a major event operate on such a shoestring budget?
“All of the beers throughout the festival weekend are given to us at no cost by the importers and breweries so that we are able to donate 100% of the proceeds to local charity, The Vail Valley Charitable Fund . This also allows the top brewers from around the world to showcase their highest level of brews, as well as display some selections that are created only for this festival, while knowing that they are doing it for a good cause. Everybody wins by doing it this way: the attendees who have a great time, all of the brewers by gaining exposure, and the local charity we’ve chosen. Our sponsors help us to cover our event costs, too, whether in trade or currency, which also significantly increases the amount the event is able to donate. And our volunteers prior to and throughout the event are amazing!”

Beer Festivals and destination “Beercations” are becoming increasingly popular. Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines is one of the first events of its kind that encourages a large number of out-of-towners. Was that the initial goal?
“Absolutely, although it has exceeded our expectations in this regard. Vail is a world famous resort, and Big Beers has cultivated an impressive group of internationally renowned brewers that attend annually. It’s a perfect fit because people have the chance to vacation at one of the world’s best resort destinations as well as attend a world-class event. It almost seems as though “beercations” are the new evolution or generation of winery tours.”

Laura, you have recently learned that you have Celiac Disease, and thus require a gluten -free diet. How does that affect your participation in Big Beers?
“It certainly changes my personal participation as far as actually not drinking the beer. There are more brewers beginning to make gluten-free beers, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing how far they can raise the bar in terms of style and flavor profile . Also, I’m genuinely fascinated by the brewer’s stories about creating and working their craft, and it’s great to see returning participants and getting to know them. The event makes a point of offering options for all types of attendees with varied levels of experience and exposure to the brewing world, and includes features that aren’t beer related, such as offering meals with dietary flexibility and great camaraderie.”
How do you manage to work a separate full-time job and organize the entire Big Beers Festival at the same time?

“It certainly is a labor of love, and its inspiration each year springs from the people involved in the brewing industry, including the homebrewers and those who are so passionate about craft beer. The general public is just beginning to realize what these brewers are creating and how much more there is to the world of beer. Our festival is a unique opportunity to meet these amazing people and taste some of the often rare or limited-release craft and specialty beers, which are a privilege to offer. The stories behind the brewers are intriguing and eclectic, the histories of the beers is really rewarding. Each year I wonder how it’s going to come together as it grows bigger and bigger. Last year 103 breweries were represented in the Commercial Tasting. We hosted two food and beer paring dinners, a homebrew competition, and several educational workshops and seminars in addition to the grand finale: a sold-out Commercial Tasting with more than 1000 attendees. I credit the brewers for the growth that we continue to see with Big Beers as they spread the word on our behalf. This year we expect to sell out the Commercial Tasting, which is amazing to me!”

How is beer more friendly to pair with food than wine?

“Well, this is a topic that has brought some fun discussions to many industry events and festivals alike, and several well-known brewers have written books on the subject. One of my favorites is “He Said Beer, She Said Wine” by Sam Calagione and Marnie Old. On both a large and small scale around the country fun competitions have been staged to pit the two against each other with a single food, or selection of foods. The vote at the end of the competition by all participants tells the tale. Many times beer triumphs. Fundamentally, beers have an extreme range of styles and flavors that pair well with foods across the board–surprisingly so. Also, beer is not always an acid component to a food pairing, which wine is by the nature of its base ingredient. I won’t go further than that, and I’m well aware that even those two statements are hotly debated by devotees on either side of the equation. I suggest experimenting for yourself, which is the entire premise of the Big Beers Festival.”

More details regarding the information contained in this interview can be found at , and via direct email at [email][/email]. The12th annual Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival will be held January 5-7, 2012 at the Vail Cascade Resort in Vail, Colorado. An announcement of this year’s featured brewers will be made in late June, and can be found on the event website after the announcement has been madelongstanding European brewing traditions are fascinating, and what it takes to showcase these.

Media contact: Kirsten Texler [email][/email] 970-331-2121

The Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival is a three day event held in Vail, Colorado each January, featuring educational seminars, two Brewmasters dinners, a Commercial Tasting, a homebrew competition and other tastings and pairings. Designed to welcome the beer connoisseur, the innovative homebrewer, or the novice taster, participants will find events appropriate for all levels of interest. The festival regularly draws breweries from around the world offering literally hundreds of choices. The beer & food pairing competition is a popular option as well as the Cicerone Workshop, a program similar to the Sommelier designation in the world of wine. Additionally, the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival actively supports the efforts of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, a local organization that helps individuals who live and work in the Vail Valley that have critical financial need due to medical catastrophes, accidents or long-term illnesses. For more information about the VVCF, visit For more information about Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines visit