by Jeff Stiglic
Saturday, August 26, Glendale’s Infinity Park will once again host the popular Bruises +Brews Beerfest. Coinciding with the always exciting RugbyTown 7s rugby tournament, the festival is in its fourth year of providing fans and spectators with enticing local suds and a few spirits. The Saturday event will feature more than 20 local breweries, as well as cider brewers and distilleries.
The United States has a long history with beer. Due in large part to English and Dutch colonists, beer, rather than wine, established itself as a national beverage in the colonial period. Following the repeal of the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) in 1933, brewing, sale, and distribution of beer made a strong return to the American way of life. Today, beer makes up more than 85 percent of alcoholic beverages consumed in the country annually.
In recent decades, craft brewing has seen a meteoric rise in the country, becoming a $22 billion industry as of 2016, with continued growth projected. Colorado has been and remains at the foreground of that growth — the state has one of the highest numbers of breweries per million inhabitants in the country and is among the top five states in craft beer output. New Belgium Brewing in Ft. Collins is among the top five largest craft brewers in the country. The Mountain West is considered a hot spot for beer making because the region supports the growth of many of the hop varietals used in brewing. Local beer makers will display the fruits of their labors with those hops at Infinity Park’s August festival.
Craft beer making in Colorado and elsewhere is about more than fruitful agriculture, however. Employee and/or family ownership, local ingredients, and themed beers indicate the strong sense of community within the realm of craft brewing. That sort of local, community-based ethos makes craft brewing and Glendale rugby especially well-suited bedfellows.
Annette Gilman is the owner of Scrum Enterprises, the concessionaire that holds Infinity Park’s liquor license. Gilman, who manages the annual beer festival, is in command of securing all of the participating breweries and distilleries. Beginning in August 2014, she has worked tirelessly to combine beer and spirits with the RugbyTown 7s tournament. According to Gilman, the festival has grown in size and popularity every year, successfully introducing thousands of beer lovers to the game of rugby. A joint effort between Infinity Park and Scrum Enterprises, Bruises+Brews also utilizes local rugby players as barbacks for the festival. In return, the non-profit, Glendale Youth Rugby Foundation, which supports rugby development for young players, receives a portion of the festival proceeds as a donation.
Barret O’Brien, merchandiser for Infinity Park and Executive Director for Glendale’s Youth Rugby Foundation, says the exponential growth the festival has experienced over the years has been thrilling. “Anybody who’s a beer lover knows that beer festivals are a dime a dozen in Denver. This brings to the table an entirely new experience for most beer enthusiasts — rugby and beer just go together naturally.”
It is noteworthy that the one-day beer festival happens amidst the now internationally renowned, weekend-long RugbyTown 7s tournament. Attracting teams from across the globe, including teams from all five branches of the U.S. military and players from the gold medal winning Fijian team, the tournament promises an action-packed background against which to enjoy Colorado craft brews. Sevens rugby, which debuted in Olympic competition at the Rio games in 2016, is a fast-paced, hard-hitting variation on traditional 15-a-side rugby play. Matches consist of two seven-minute halves — the short duration ensures there will be no dull moments for spectators, and allows an entire tournament to happen over the course of the weekend. Twenty teams from six nations will compete in over 60 matches for the winner-take-all $10,000 purse.
As rugby and craft beer continue to surge in national popularity, so too will Glendale’s annual Bruises+Brews Beerfest — rugby and beer: better together.