Barn to Brewery event celebrates local food, beer, chefs, programs

Chefs prepare appetizers ahead of the 2016 Barn to Brew event.
Michele Meyer/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Perhaps the way to best increase an understanding of food supply chains isn’t through our heads or our hearts, but through our tastebuds and our tummies. Community Agriculture Alliance’s sixth-annual Barn to Brewery delivers a celebration of local food and local beer — as well as local chefs and local food programs — at Butcherknife Brewing Co. on Sunday, Sept. 15. 

Here’s how it works: four local chefs each prepare appetizers made entirely from local ingredients, and each appetizer is paired with a Butcherknife beer. 

But going into the event, none of the chefs know what ingredients are available. Instead, they’ll find a surprise supply of fresh, abundant food donations, collected from about 15 local farms and ranches in the days before the event. 

“Some of the fun of it is the creativity — it’s sort of like ‘Chopped,’” Community Ag Executive Director Michele Meyer said. “They’ll create an appetizer from whatever they get.”

They’ll also talk about what they made, how and why they decided on the forms and processes they did and the broader idea of local, seasonal cooking and eating in the Yampa Valley. 

Representatives from Harwigs, Wilderbean Provisions, Taco Cabo and Marcia and Joe’s Kitchen will participate.

Farms and ranches that made these mystery-item donations include CAA Market producers 41North Food Supply, Area 51 Farm, Bee Grateful Farm, Butcherknife Farm, Cow Creek Ranch, Elkhead Creek Ranch, Hal Stover Orchard, Hayden Farm Fresh, Innovative Ag, Little Penny Cart, Murr Made Meats, Sand Mountain Cattle Co., Sunset Valley Meats, Truly Family Farm and Whaley Lamb Co.

All proceeds from the event benefit CAA’s local food programs. Meyer explains the breakdown of CAA programs in a three-part format:

  1. The customer side of programming: general community education surrounding local food products and systems and communication about CAA’s programs to potential and current customers.
  2. The producers side of programming: support for the ranchers and farmers who are growing and raising local food, including resources, connections and training programs. 
  3. The piece that brings customers and producers together: CAA’s facilitation of the sale of local products in the online farmers market, including transactions of sales and accessible, refrigerator- and freezer-storage for local items. 
If you go

What: Barn to Brewery
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15
Where: Butcherknife Brewing Co., 2875 Elk River Road
Tickets: $35 per person at; 21 and older only

“I think the bigger takeaway from this dinner is the understanding of the variety of local food we have available in the Yampa Valley,” Meyer said. “Attendees will, hopefully, get a bit more education about what it means to eat seasonally.” 

For example, she noted, most local shoppers are used to being able to run by any grocery store in the dead of winter and find strawberries to purchase.

“That’s wonderful, but it’s not necessary,” Meyer said. So, instead of making a set grocery list based off a set menu, an approach more in line with seasonal eating would be to survey what local items are currently fresh and available, then build a menu and grocery list from that. 

“Being aware of that idea a little more and being willing to be a little more flexible in our food choices is important if we really want to support local,” Meyer said. “Which I think a lot of people do.” 

“It’s amazing how much variety this community has available,” said Wilderbean Provisions chef Chereen Leong Schwarz, who will be participating in the Barn to Brewery event.

Besides local seasonal eating’s economic benefit of supporting local farmers and ranchers, Meyer adds that the practice is also environmentally beneficial — if you’re buying a cut of meat that was raised 10 miles from Steamboat Springs, the transportation of getting that meat to Steamboat has created a much smaller footprint than a cut of meat that’s traveled across several states to get here, as well as aesthetically beneficial — a lot of the beautiful, open spaces around Steamboat are beautiful and open because of agriculture. 

“To me, it’s not so important whether something is organic or non-GMO, because, if it’s from a small, local farm, it’s most likely both organic and non-GMO — (the farmers or ranchers) just might not be able to afford those certifications,” Leong Schwarz said. “Local food is fresher, tastier, and overall better, and it’s kind of magic that we have so much here.” 

On Oct. 17, CAA is set to put on a more formal iteration of the farm-to-table event at Harwigs: the Yampavore Farm-to-Table dinner, featuring a full, sit-down dinner. 

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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