Cafe Craft delivers creative brews and a relaxing festival experience

On Saturday, September 30, RMFR was on site at Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort in Colorado Springs to take part in the first Cafe Craft Coffee & Beer Invitational from co-presenters Focus on the Beer and The Little London Show. A manageable crowd of a little over 100 guests came out to try the collaboration beers built specifically for the occasion.

The festival consists of a dozen area breweries and eight roasters and gives each entity a canvas to create something innovative in partnership. Brewers present at Cafe Craft (and numerous past festivals) confide in us that they welcome a deviation from their traditional flagship beers.

“I’ve come to like festivals where it’s small and local and the beers brewed there are for the festival,” says Travis Fields, co-owner of Fieldhouse Brewing Company. “To bring the coffee in as well, crossing similar industries, was a cool idea. It was one of my favorite fests this year.”

Travis Fields, brewer at Fieldhouse Brewing Co. holds his black IPA.

Fieldhouse found a coupling with Hold Fast Coffee Co. who operates out of the same space as Peak Place. They share a wet-hopped black IPA brewed with local cascade and chinook hops, double dry hopped with citra and galaxy then infused with Costa Rican cold brew coffee. Together they also turn-out a “Hoppagato” which consists of hop-infused espresso shots poured over Josh & John’s vanilla ice cream.

Beer and ice cream = brilliant.

Attendees seem to embrace the down-to-earth, vintage campground feel that the location offers and the minimal crowd size makes for non-existent wait times.

“We wanted to buck the trend of what one of the brewers called a ‘”cattle call”‘ at most beer festivals with one ounce samples and then people getting right back in line,” says Ryan Hannigan, creative director of Focus on the Beer. “We offered slightly larger pours and because every beer was created for the festival specifically, it spurred the communication between the brewers and patrons. There’s nothing that is individual about a lot of beer festivals so the inspiration behind this particular fest was to have the brewers make something different and something that they’re proud of.”

Paradox Beer Company had a wine-like science experiment feel at their booth complete with a live demonstration. Brewer/Blender, Jeff Airman, merges the contents of a large beaker and a carafe which yields a lovely marriage of a special cold brew from Loyal Coffee and The Cherished, their brandy barrel-aged cherry/cacao dark sour.

Switchback Coffee Roasters teams up with Fossil Craft Beer Co. and Local Relic and each brewery shows up with an abundance of options. We find the Kentucky Common from Fossil made with El Salvadoran coffee surprisingly accessible and with a touch of oak and maple. The coffee lemon IPA and coffee Brett from Local Relic rank high on our favorites list.

Storybook Brewing Co. and Story Coffee Co. bond over their common nomenclature and exhibit how coffee can go beyond the minimization of only a tasting note in craft beer. The coffee pale ale uses a naturally processed Ethiopian roast to bring out strong amounts of blueberry and some citrus qualities.

We spend a fair amount of time at each table able to converse with the brewers and roasters at length and appreciate their descriptions while we get to taste, instead of shoot, our beer. The glassware and hearty sample sizes also help the cause.

 “A lot of the people said that they really like how chill it was, says Josh Howard, co-host and contributor at Focus on the Beer. “The brewers and roasters said that they really appreciate the atmosphere and it was nice to be at a festival where people weren’t asking for the highest ABV thing you’ve got. They actually wanted to try the beer and not just get their drink on. We had generous pours and people could go back and get more of what they wanted. None of the breweries were concerned about running out. It was low key, casual, uncrowded.”

The hosts sweetly surprise us all with Amy’s Donuts and there was an organic efficacy in the way the day flows. Guests mingle and the participating brewers and roasters also take the time to visit and sample their fellow industry friends approach to the concept.

“People said that they loved the vibe,” says Darcie Hannigan, co-host of The Little London Show. “There’s no better feedback than people telling you it was one of their favorite festivals lately and we want to be involved in anything that strengthens our community and supports our small business owners in Colorado Springs.”

Focus on the Beer gives RMFR the scoop in a follow-up interview that there is already talk about barrel-aging certain beers from this year’s fest and that they’re brainstorming improvements for Cafe Craft 2018.

Didn’t make it? If you’re interested in trying some coffee beers post-festivus look up participating breweries from Cafe Craft to find out who still has their coffee beer available on tap. RMFR tracks down a few choice pours:

Red Leg Brewing Co. has their “Cup of Joe” coffee porter made with their friends at Inertia Coffee that features roasted ground coffee from El Salvador that was added post fermentation.

The mocha latte stout from Goat Patch Brewing Co. made with their Lincoln Center neighbors Building Three Coffee Roasters boasts a rich chocolate milk feel from a concentrated blend of Guatemalan and Brazilian cold brew.

Cerberus Brewing Co. is serving their weather appropriate coffee saison, Fog at Dawn. A fruity and floral Ethiopian- Kochere Debo from Loyal Coffee and their farmhouse yeast and brettanomyces claussenii brings in the funk and gives this beer a good tang.

East-siders at JAKs Brewing Co. pair up with Black Forest’s R&R Coffee Cafe to brew a Caffeine Withdrawal Coffee Stout. Rich chocolate malts smooth out the strong Malabar cold brew to establish a velvety, layered beer with some zip.