Left Hand Brewing’s annual fest is complete with 60 breweries, live bluegrass, and snowboarding.
A snowboard competition on a sunny, 70-degree March day on the edge of the Colorado prairie? That’s Hops+Handrails, a Left Hand Brewing event that’s part beer festival, part rail jam, part concert, and part benefit.
The happening took place near the brewery’s Longmont headquarters, drawing riders from throughout the Front Range keen on winning up to $1,000 in prize money. Bros, gals, and juniors clad in spring ski gear climbed a 40-foot run built high on metal supports throughout the day, sliding off rails and down an ever-melting layer of snow. Others came for bluegrass legend Sam Bush, as well as Colorado string bands Jeff Austin and Friends and Rapidgrass. Ticket proceeds supported nonprofits S.O.S. Outreach, Chill, and the Left Hand Brewing Foundation.
Beyond the action sports and great music, more than 60 craft breweries set up tents offering four hours of unlimited sampling. Colorado breweries dominated the lineup, although those in the know sought out farther flung tastes, from Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing or Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery. To stave off drinking on empty stomachs, there was a special craft station where you could make pretzel necklaces to munch on throughout the fest. The move of the day: Spicy Red Curry Chicken Dumplings from Sister’s Pantry chased with a Left Hand Good Juju ginger beer.
As Jeff Austin and Friends took the stage, the Rail Jam was well underway. Snowboarders jumped, slid rails, and flipped off of the ramp, trashcans, and even a white Toyota truck—sometimes landing dangerously close to cheering spectators—all set to a score of strings.
By the time Bush took the stage, the tasting was over, letting everyone focus on the mandolin/fiddle maestro. A Kentucky native, Bush acknowledged Colorado by means of a Rockies jersey. He was glad to see everyone outside of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (where he is known as the King). In Telluride fashion, the encore saw almost all the musicians from the day back on stage for Bob Marley’s “One Love.”
—Words Kiran Herbert | Photos Tory Pitarelli