3rd annual OktoberWest to host 13 breweries, live music | SteamboatToday.com

3rd annual OktoberWest to host 13 breweries, live music

Nicole Inglis

Jenny Hackleman and Noah Hester of Hawaii showed up to last year's Steamboat OktoberWest in costume. This year's event kicks off Friday with downtown events. The beer garden starts Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Gondola Transit Center.

— The aspen trees still may be decidedly green, but there are other indicators that the crisp fall air is here to stay.

Steamboat OktoberWest is another rite of passage into the shoulder season, a community and beer festival wrapped into one celebration of fall in Steamboat.

At this year's three-day event, which begins Friday, there will be two big changes. One might not be so obvious — the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association is organizing Friday's events but passed those responsibilities to the Mountain Village Partnership for Saturday and Sunday's events at Steamboat Ski Area. Main event planner Jill Waldman is handling the weekend festivities at the base area.

The other change will be apparent — and welcome — to beer lovers. This year, the purchase of a beer stein ($25 in advance, $30 day of the event) comes with free tastings of more than 30 styles of beer from 13 brewing companies that will be on hand at the event to talk about the beer.

"I think it's going to make the event amazing," Waldman said. "I think the people are going to love to just talk to the brewers. They're showcasing their fall beers, a lot of them."

In addition to free 4-ounce tastings, Budweiser and Bud Light will be for sale.

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Breweries include beer giants such as Anheuser-Busch as well as microbreweries from Colorado and Alaska. New Belgium will bring its Hoptober Golden Ale, and Tommyknocker will offer its Maple Nut Brown Ale.

As for local brewers, Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill will be represented as always. And making its debut before a planned 2012 Steamboat Springs opening is Butcherknife Brewing Company, which will offer samples of its dry-hopped IPA and Irish Red.

Waldman said there also will be wine and premium soda (nonalcoholic) for non-beer drinkers.

The festival is from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, and admission is free. All ages can wander the festival, but only attendees older than 21 with valid IDs can drink.

During the festival, OktoberWest traditions like the lamb cook-off, pie-eating contest and mechanical bull riding competition will continue to provide something for everyone.

And then there's the live music.

Jam-grass favorite Great American Taxi, hailing from Nederland and fronted by Vince Herman, of Leftover Salmon, plays at 4 p.m. Saturday. Bluegrass band MST plays at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Waldman said there will be places to stay dry if it rains.

But Saturday's festival isn't the only aspect of the weekend event. The celebration really kicks off Friday night with the Suds & Grub tastings and the Pedaling Posse Parade bike ride.

Starting at 5:30 p.m. in Little Toots Park, everyone is invited to ride their cruiser bicycles around downtown dressed as their favorite movie character. The Suds & Grub event will take place at 6 p.m. at about a dozen restaurants where patrons can buy beer tokens and ride around to various downtown watering holes to taste a variety of microbrews and enjoy food specials.

On Sunday, there will be a $10 brunch at the top of the gondola.

Mountain Village Partnership board member and Cafe Diva owner Paul Underwood has been helping organize OktoberWest this year — in addition to preparing for the lamb cook-off — and said he's looking forward to the community vibe of the event.

"I think it's just going to be, moving forward, the event for Steamboat Springs," Underwood said. "I think there's a lot going on, and it's a great thing for the community. And as we move down the road, I think we'll see more folks coming from out of town to enjoy the Americana and the celebration of fall."

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com