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Seeing double: San Juan Brewfest divides in two

Marcus Smith raises a toast above the crowd at the 2017 San Juan Brewfest as the band Dragondeer plays. After a year off, the festival will return in 2021 with the bands Prophetic Calaveras, Afrobeatniks and (DJ)-Calvin. (Courtesy of San Juan Brewfest)
August 2021 festival will feature fewer breweries but same number of beers

After taking a year off during the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Juan Brewfest is returning this year with twice as many days as normal.

The festival will occupy Durango’s Buckley Park from 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 28 and noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 29.

Despite having twice the days, in total the event will be about the same size as previous ones, said Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District and organizer of the event.

Instead of filling the park with about 2,500 people like the brewfest typically does, each day will accommodate about 1,200 total, he said. Organizers will sell 1,000 tickets for each day, which should give attendees more room and prevent elbow-to-elbow crowds from forming.

“That’s going to make a tremendous difference in the feel of the event,” he said. “It provides the breweries a different opportunity to interact with customers. It doesn’t mean there’s not going to be lines; they just won’t be as long.”

In 2019, the San Juan Brewfest featured 49 breweries and 146 beers. This year, the festival will be split across two days, with a similar number of attendees divided across the Aug. 28 and 29. (Nick Gonzales/Durango Herald file)

Walsworth said there will be fewer breweries in attendance than in previous years, with about 30 breweries instead of 50, but the ratio of brewery to attendee will be the same or slightly higher.

For past brewfests, breweries were asked to bring at least two half-barrel kegs – two different beers – while this year they are asked to bring three.

“I think it’s super fair to say there will be 100 different beers for people to try – which is traditionally how many we’ve had – spread between fewer breweries,” he said.

Of the breweries attending this year, Walsworth said he is excited to see new ones, including the two breweries that have opened in Durango since the 2019 festival: Anarchy Brewing Co. and High Trestle Brewing Co. (the brewery that operates out of Durango Beer & Ice Co.)

Notable breweries from outside La Plata County include Ouray’s Red Mountain Brewing, Salida’s Soulcraft Brewing and Two Roads Brewing Co. of Stratford, Connecticut.

“I’ve tried their IPA and it’s really freaking good, man,” Walsworth said of Soulcraft Brewing. “It’s really, really good.”

For attendees who want to drink but want a break from beer, there’s Palisade’s Talbott’s Cider Co. and Mancos’ Fenceline Cider. Some breweries may also bring hard seltzers, he said.

Tickets are $45, which includes four hours of unlimited tastings, a souvenir 5 ounce tasting glass, and the music. Food will also be available for separate purchase. Designated drivers can get a ticket for $30, which will get them entry into an area with mocktails specially made by local restaurants just for them.

“We try to treat them nice because they’re doing everyone a big favor by volunteering to drive somebody home,” Walsworth said.

Tickets are on sale now on the festival’s website, he said, and those for Aug. 28, a Saturday, are selling much quicker than those for Aug. 29.

“If you want to go on Saturday, you have to get your tickets pronto,” he said.

Melissa Clopton with Mountain Stir Fry serves up stir fry at the 2019 San Juan Brewfest at Buckley Park. Food vendors have not been announced for the 2021 event. (Nick Gonzales/Durango Herald)

The opening musical act both days will be Latin funk fusion jam band Profetic Calaveras. Funk collective Afrobeatniks will headline on Aug. 28, and (DJ)-Calvin will headline on Aug. 29.

The event, which is presented by Bank of the San Juans, is a benefit for United Way of Southwest Colorado and typically raises about $50,000, Walsworth said.

San Juan Brewfest also benefits the local economy, he said.

“It’s good for downtown because we pack the town with people after the families have gone home and before Labor Day and before the colors turn,” he said. “And so we’ve added another weekend for our businesses to make money.”

And in the wake of the pandemic, it is simply exciting to have events once again.

“It’s just fun,” Walsworth said. “I like going to festivals. Part of what I love about Durango is all the fun festivals and community gathering things we have for good causes.”


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