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Along the banks of the mighty Arkansas River, the first Big Water Beer Festival was held Saturday, July 5 from 1 to 6 pm at Riverside Park in Salida, Colorado. 1300 attendees got to sample 53 beers from 22 breweries. The holiday weekend weather cooperated fully and the laid-back crowd ranged in age from toddlers to retirees. The $5 admission got you a logo'd pint glass for sampling, marked with a 4 ounce pour line. Five sampling tickets were included with the glass and others could be purchased for 50 cents each. Fortunately, tickets weren't a big issue and everyone enjoyed that fact that there were no "beer police" like those at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Fast becoming a rarity at larger festivals, the brewers themselves were on hand, pouring their own beers and very willing to talk about them.

Rock & Roll tunes from a CD sound system at the nearby stage kept the atmosphere festive. Mid-afternoon saw a few kilted bagpipe musicians fire up their own sounds and they were joined by festival coordinator Tom Hennessy. The ample shade trees in the city park beckoned fest-goers to lounge on the plush grass and enjoy the mid-seventies temperatures. A few vendors had snacks available but most visitors descended upon the downtown restaurants after the event, making for some long wait times. The waits were made bearable however by restaurant staffs who made full pints available to those in lines.

Overall responses from the audience, brewers, and festival organizers indicated the event was a major success. Let's look forward to a 1998 event; with the addition of a few rinse buckets maybe the grass won't even get soggy.


Avery Brewing Co. - Boulder
Back Alley Brewing Co. - Colorado Springs
Breckenridge Brewery - Breckenridge
Bristol Bewing Co. - Colorado Springs
Crested Butte Brewery - Crested Butte
Eske's Brewpub - Taos
H.C. Berger Brewing Co. - Ft. Collins
High Point Brewing Co. - Denver
Irish Brewpub - Pueblo
Il Vicino - Albuquerque
Il Vicino - Salida
Il Vicino - Colorado springs
Left Hand Brewing Co. - Longmont
New Belgium Brewing Co. - Ft. Collins
One Keg Brewhouse - Arvada
Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. - Colorado springs
Rockies Brewing Co. - Boulder
Second Street Brewery - Santa Fe
Ska Brewing Co. - Durango
Tommyknocker Brewery - Idaho Springs
Trout Creek Brewing Co. - Fairplay

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - August, 1997

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