“Ullr, sure-footed glory of the gods, on broad fields and in tangled woods we see your might…your loyal subjects in CO are throwing you a party in anticipation of the coming winter. Live music, pig-roast (we aren’t able to sacrifice a virgin at this time), bonfire and costumed fun for all.”
The organizer of this event to benefit the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) approached us about providing the libations back in early October. At that point, we’d managed to navigate the various levels of government to obtain our license(s) to brew. Having originally assumed that those processes would take 90 days or longer, rather than 62, we had neglected to finish a few small details with the brewing system. Namely, how to keep the fermenting beer cold, how to transfer it into the cooler after fermentation, and how to carbonate it. Like I said, small details. Nevertheless, we offered up a tentative agreement to participate in what sounded like a certain winner of a festival. Beer, gelunde quaffing, costumes, Hardscrabble, food, and praying for snow. Difficult to go wrong. In the meantime, the clock began ticking. Needing at least 3 weeks to produce our first batch of quality, we knew brewing by mid-October was a necessity to fulfill our Snow God obligation. Mid-October came and went though and the tanks remained empty. Parts were on back order, heating elements were exploding, floor paint was drying, and hops were being shipped overnight. On October 23rd, we simply decided to go for it with what we had on hand. One boil kettle was only firing on 1 out of 3 elements, one of the mash tuns clogged continually, and one of us had a date with a hot chick. Somehow though, beer was made, and made well. The second day, we did it again, and again we limped by in a crippled state. By the third day, we were into the swing of things, and finished the afternoon with about 300 gallons of fermenting awesome.
What happened over the next 2-3 weeks is worthy of about 14 more blog entries for another time. This one though, after all, is about ULLR. ULLR wanted an IPA, but the IPA was not ready. So, on the third day of shaking and hoping, ULLR was promised a brown ale. The day before he needed it. Because the Snow God is a generous type, he accepted the last minute hail Mary prayer with a wry smile. The wind picked up, the costumes came out, and the beer flowed in ULLR themed glass steins. Snuggled up next to the Demshitz Brown were delicious beers from Crazy Mountain and Gore Range Brewery. PBR was the red-headed stepchild, hiding under the table for use in the gelunde quaffing — a glorious game of European origin in which teams of three compete to catch as many sliding beer mugs (and consume them, of course) as possible in mad dashes of 60 seconds each. There were some teams that had practiced for months, and others, for minutes. The Slippery Sistas. The Bag Slappers. The Snotcicle Extremes. Team Astroglide. All played with passion until the sun dipped and a champion (Astroglide) was crowned. Hardscrabble managed to belt out blue grass goodness despite temperatures flirting with zero. One by one, the kegs were kicked as the fire was stoked, and the revelers dwindled. Tradition required an Eagle County Sheriff’s deputy to check in on the festivities, to ensure no children were sacrificed or liquor laws broken. Having been satisfied as such, she departed without incident. Horned, caped, mohawked, and snow-suited ULLR hopefuls remained to pay their parting respects and admire the ULLR-Fest trophy — a hearty metal and wood sculpture. Reviews on the first keg of our first batch were overwhelmingly positive — with the highest compliment coming in the form of a pair of never-drink-beer Italians, eagerly gulping down pints of DSB. A pat on the back from the 13 year brewmaster of GRB didn’t hurt either.
ULLR-fest is certain to become a valley tradition — and its inaugural effort has already produced tangible results — 3 feet of snow fell on Vail in the week following the event. We are extraordinarily grateful to the event organizers for allowing us to participate, and we’re already on the path to developing an ULLR-exclusive beer. Here’s to the Snow God. Or Gods. We like them all. BB.