Beer Never Tasted So Good—Buena Vista’s Inaugural Rapids and Grass Beer Festival

It’s 3:30 on a glorious summer afternoon in the Colorado mountains. I’m riding my bike toward South Main in Buena Vista, and as I near the quaint, urban development, I’m stopped by two children selling lemonade.

It’s a scene straight from Mayberry, and while I sip my freshly poured glass, I think how strange it is that I’m on my way to Rapids and Grass, Buena Vista’s inaugural beer festival. I should be stumbling onto rowdy crowds, not young entrepreneurship.

But, this is Buena Vista after all. Despite the 850 tickets purchased and the 44 beer vendors that have descended upon South Main Square, the town’s magic makes the event feel like a quaint family affair, where people of all ages have gathered to enjoy an afternoon under a clear blue sky and along the magnificent Arkansas River. Along with that, there just happens to be dozens of craft beer vendors ready and eager to fill up your glass.

The line to enter the festival is short and moves quickly. I’m fitted with a cloth wristband and handed a small glass with the Rapids and Grass logo printed on the side. “Have a great time,” I’m told, and seconds later, I’m surrounded by craft beer tents sampling every type and flavor of beer imaginable.

The number of tents packed into the square is overwhelming, and I take a short stroll to see everything available. The festival has been open for a mere thirty minutes, and already there are lines at each tent. However, no one seems to mind as there are big smiles and laughter everywhere I look. I take inventory of the breweries. Some names are industry giants, some I’ve never heard of before. With this caliber, it’s impossible to believe I’m in Buena Vista. A town that, only a decade ago, had no music venue at all save for a Sunday night acoustic guitar set at a local café.

A bluegrass band is on a small but professional stage set along the river. Lights tilt and twirl as though set to illuminate a night sky. The music, however, is subtle, a perfect background for the drinking festivities. I have my glass filled with a cherry-flavored sour beer and sit on a rock to listen to the music. A security guard passes me. He’s wearing a purple tee-shirt with the words, “Peaceful Security” accompanied by a peace sign. “Too appropriate,” I note, as I take another sip.

Rapids and Grass is a three-day beer festival dreamed up by Sarah Haughey, owner of Buena Vista’s Jailhouse Craft Beer Bar. It began with live music at The Beach on Friday and a kick-off party at the Jailhouse. Saturday included eight hours of non-stop musical performances and three hours of tasting some of the country’s most artistic craft brews. The weekend concluded with a float on Sunday that carried 200 people down the Arkansas River.

As a great addition to Buena Vista’s July 4th weekend, Rapids and Grass Beer Festivalgave attendees more than a tasting event, but a total experience that involved music, camping, and rafting. For the breweries involved, it gave them an opportunity to be part of the beautiful—and growing—Arkansas River Valley.

 photo credit: Jeff Cricco

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About our extraordinary writer: Lindsay Diamond is a novelist and freelance writer living in the mountains of central Colorado. Visit Lindsay-Diamond.com to learn more.