Kicking Grass: Now in its 10th year, Hops for Habitat at Aurora conservation center keeps growing

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AURORA | Drinking beer may be good for the environment for a change.

That’s certainly good news for libation lovers and conservationists alike, and it’s the hook for the Hops for Habitat brewfest at the Plains Conservation Center on Saturday.

The basecamp of their 1,100-acre site on East Hampden Avenue will be rocking Saturday with the help of 24 Colorado breweries, four local food trucks and the Robby Wicks Band broadcasting tunes from the stage. Given the bevy of delectable grub and suds, including some never-before-released samples courtesy of Aurora-based Dry Dock Brewing Company, one may be hard-pressed to find an excuse to skip out on a chance to be edacious and eco-friendly at the same time.

The festival will be celebrating its 10th year this weekend, and is expected to be the most lucrative and highest attended gathering to date, according to Melanie Zeitler, director of development for PCC.

“We’ve doubled our attendance in the last two years, and we’re hoping to have a big jump again this year,” she said. The brewfest attracted about 850 people in 2013, with anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 attendees expected this year, Zeitler said.

The increased attendance at last year’s event helped the organization bring in close to $25,000 for expansion projects on the 10,000-plus acres of grasslands at the center. Organizers would like to double their revenue in 2014 by offering a tiered ticket. This year, a VIP package can be purchased for double the standard, at-the-door ticket price and will offer a tasting of five specialty Dry Dock beers before the official festival start, private parking, bathrooms and bistro table seating as well as a private concert. Only 100 VIP tickets are available, and about 70 had already been sold as of July 13, according to Zeitler.

“We’ve really just had increased awareness, both from marketing and word of mouth,” she said of the center’s heightened fundraising and attendance. “Also, the brewers have good feedback about the event which makes folks and other brewers more interested in participating.”

The support of the brewers and all the sponsors has been an essential part of growing the festival’s notoriety, with Aurora-based Dry Dock brewing company leading the charge, according to Jeff Su, executive director of the PCC.

“Dry Dock has partnered with us since the early days,” said Su. “They’ve been amazing to work with, and are now our premier brewing partner.”

The festival also receives support from Waste Management, the City of Aurora and Visit Aurora, all of which have helped to facilitate the center’s main expansion project, located about 30 miles east of their Hampden location, an expanse of plains known as the West Bijou. The project aims to implement restorative grazing areas for bison herds in the area, and is where the majority of the money raised at Hops for Habitat will be focused.

“The conservation effort for the grasslands and for bison is a defined, managed area meant to restore the land and make it healthier, more diverse and attract new wildlife,” Zeitler said of the project. “Everything from microorganisms in the soil, to birds overhead, to large land mammals on the plains. There is a lot of life here.”

Hops for Habitat

Tickets for Hops for Habitat can be purchased here, or by calling Development Assistant Sara Armstrong at 303-693-3621

Tickets start at $40 in advance, and $45 at the door

Designated driver tickets n also be purcahsed for $20 in advance, and $25 at the door

VIP tickets ar $85 and may only be pre-ordered

The general festival runs from 6 – 10 p.m., and the VIP experience from 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Su echoed Zeitler’s and added that it’s the direct relationship the brewfest has with the West Bijou expansion project that he appreciates most about what Hops for Habit offers patrons.

“What we really love about the event is that we get to connect so many people to the grasslands, “ he said. “We all live here, throughout the Front Range, and there’s so much history connected with the land here. It could be someone’s first time out there, which we know it is for a lot of people, and we just want to show them the beautiful area we have out here.”