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Culinary history no doubt contains many successful marriages of food and drink, but few among those could conceivably compare to the divine wedding of chili and beer. This uniquely Western pairing will be celebrated once again at the 20th annual Mt. Crested Butte Chili & Beer Festival on September 8; a festival that’s one part small-town chili cook-off, one part top-notch craft beer extravaganza, and in sum, a whole lot of delicious fun.

Crested Butte Chili and Beer Festival - photo by Lydia Stern
You’ll find plenty to do at the Crested Butte Chili and Beer Festival. Photo Credit: Lydia Stern

Last year’s successful festival featured chili champs like Mel Yemma’s “Build Me Up Butternut” and best beers like Jagged Mountain Brewing Co.’s “Rocky Mountain Chowda.” This year promises even more brews and stews to fire up revelers’ palates … so you’re going, right? Cool beans.

If you haven’t purchased tickets to the festival yet, save money when you buy them online in advance at the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber’s site. If you do so before September 1, tickets are $30. On or after September 1, prices rise to $35 and online sales end September 6. Tickets purchased at the festival are $40. “Chili-Only” tickets are available for responsible drivers and attendees under 21, and those can be purchased before or at the Fest for $15 apiece.

Now that you’ve secured tickets, here’s an itinerary to ensure that you’re fully accommodated for all the bean stews and brews to come…

Day 1 — Get in, Get Settled, Venture out

If traveling for the Fest, start your visit on Friday and book your stay at the Elevation Hotel, as it just so happens that they’re offering 20 percent off their rooms for the weekend of the festival. It’s located at the base of Mt. Crested Butte, just steps away from the chairlifts and the Chili and Beer Festival, and is also a very short walk from the free shuttle to town. They also have outdoor hot tubs, bike rentals, and a full fitness center (because, newsflash: Chili and beer still have calories).

Elevation Hotel
Elevation Hotel is offering 20 percent off their rooms for the weekend of the festival. Photo Courtesy: Elevation Hotel

Once you’ve settled into your room and poked around town a bit, pregame with some tasty local suds at Elk Avenue Brewing Company’s awesome happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. They are well-known for cold brews and warm, friendly service. They also frequently feature live music and have the best pub food in town.

If your food cravings are trending more south-of-the-border, grab dinner at Crested Butte’s oldest restaurant, Donita’s Cantina. Open nightly at 5 p.m., it’s a great place for large parties, and reservations are accepted. Specialty drinks include fresh-lime, top-shelf Margaritas and Peach Sangria. Make sure to save some room for their famous fresh Paonia Peach Cobbler, topped with homemade Cardamom Ice Cream — a treat you will experience
nowhere else.

Day 2 — Prep and Party Down

If fun was had on Friday night, Saturday morning could be rough. Clear the haze with coffee and a delicious breakfast at McGill’s. They open at 6 a.m., and (for you late risers) serve breakfast well into the afternoon, offering both dine-in and take-out. If you need some hair of the dog, they serve Bloody Marys and Mimosas to take the
edge off.

By this point you’ll be loving Crested Butte so much that you’re already plotting a return trip. So while you’re enjoying breakfast, visit Crested Butte Retreats online to book your next Crested Butte Adventure! They offer hiking or biking in the summer and fall, and snowshoeing or Nordic skiing in the winter — both followed by a yoga session afterward.

Outfit yourself for the Fest or pick up gifts for family and friends at Alley Hats. They’re more than a hat shop — they carry fun accessories, crazy socks, great costume gear, clothing, gifts and more.

Mr. Jingles
You’ll find Mr. Jingles, the unofficial mayor of Crested Butte, at True Value. Photo Courtesy: True Value

The local True Value is the place to stop for last-minute necessities like sunscreen, snacks, toiletries, folding chairs and anything else you forgot to pack. It is also the residence of Crested Butte’s highly esteemed unofficial mayor, “Mr. Jingles” the cat. Stop in and greet the most lovable politician you’ll ever meet!

Finally, it’s time for the main event: Chili service begins at 11:30 and runs until 3 p.m. (or when the chili runs out, whichever comes first). It is recommended that you hit this portion of the Fest first so you don’t miss out. Don’t forget your ID, as you must present a valid ID even if you are only eating chili.

Once you’ve had your chili fill, go taste as many brews as you can between noon and 4 p.m. Organizers are expecting 30 breweries (and at least one cidery) to be pouring this year, so there’ll be plenty of delicious libations to enjoy. If you’ve never attended a brew fest (or have had a not-so-good experience at one before), here are some tips to ensure an optimal quaffing experience:

  • Drink water: You’ll stay happy and hydrated. You’re at high elevation and the air is dry, which is a one-two punch when you’re drinking.
  • Eat food: Either before you get to the festival, from the food truck parked at the festival, or make sure you get some festival chili before moving to the beer tents.
  • Know your limits: Pace yourself. Take care of the first two bullets here, and you’ll probably be covered on this one.

The Fest also features live music performed by Denver-based headliners A-Mac & The Height, who are known for their blending of genres like reggae, hip-hop, funk and alternative rock. Ragged Mountain Bluegrass will be the opener, so you can definitely expect plenty of variety from a musical standpoint.

Day 3 — Explore Some More and then Head out

Sunday morning, take Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle to a trailhead, or do an about-face from the previous day’s libations and take a Colorado Wine Country tour. Dolly’s provides on-time, safe, reliable and comfortable transportation to all destinations in the Gunnison Valley and beyond. They also offer transportation to the airport if that’s a trip you need to make. Call to book, at 970-209-9757.

Scout's General Store
Scout’s General Store is a fun spot to stop for unique gifts. Photo Courtesy: Scout’s General Store

Before you head out of town, visit Scout’s General Store for lunch and unique gifts. They offer a curated collection of local, handmade and one-of-a-kind goods, and serve artisanal foods produced by families and other small businesses. Here you’ll find cold drinks, coffee, healthy snacks and tasty treats to fuel your return trip.



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