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BIG Winter Classic provides craft beer and music right when we most sorely need it

By Liam Prost
Come a beer fan, leave a music fan — or vice-versa — at the BIG Winter Classic! Also check out SOLIDS during the festival. Photo: Nina Westervelt

Come a beer fan, leave a music fan — or vice-versa — at the BIG Winter Classic! Also check out SOLIDS during the festival.
Photo: Nina Westervelt

CALGARY — Forget summer. Forget sunburns and sunspots. Forget sweaty sleepless nights and unflattering swimming trunks, 2016 is the year Calgary takes back winter and the BIG Winter Classic is leading the way. BeatRoute spoke to Adrian Urlacher, who, when asked about his role with BIG, self-describes as, “I guess I’m the founder?”

BIG came about largely in response to the Stampede, which, while a Calgary institution, only lasts 10 days. “Summertime is full in Calgary,” says Urlacher, “We really wanted to showcase what [Calgary] is like year round.”

But the Winter Classic does not simply replicate the summer festival experience during our city’s coldest months, they are embracing winter to make something thoroughly unique. The crux of the Winter Classic is the two outdoor stages, the legendary rooftop patio of Broken City, and Last Best’s hybrid outdoor area. When asked what the contingency plan is for a blizzard or the typical Calgary winter chill, Urlacher attests, “That’s what we want.” But if things get too chilly, heaters and cover will be provided, BIG has made it the mission of the festival to make it true to the season while still ensuring that “nobody will be cold.”

Besides, how could one be cold thrashing your limbs to the music of bands like SOLIDS and Guantanamo Baywatch? Especially when you have a couple craft brews flowing through your veins. And the beer will be plentiful. The BIG Winter Classic is as much a beer festival as a music festival.

“I’m not really convinced craft beer is really just a summer thing,” Urlacher argues. It’s hard not to believe him as he casually swills Last Best’s Not Your Father’s Lager, a beer whose proceeds are partially donated the United Way, and is labelled specifically as a winter drink. BIG organizers put together a “beer town hall” and curated some of the best breweries from the surrounding area to bring their beers into Broken City and Last Best. Bands will even get their own specific beers, Mounties, SOLIDS, Guantanamo Baywatch among other bands will be tapping them onstage to be served exclusively during the respective sets. BIG wants you to show up a music fan and leave a beer fan, or vice versa, show up a beer fan, and leave mouthing the words to Mounties’ “Tokyo Summer.”

But 2015 is just the beginning, BIG wants to get even bigger. The “long term goal for the festival,” according to Urlacher, is to “develop a full street festival.” So if you leave a BIG believer, you will have even more Winter Classics in your future.

The BIG Winter Classic runs January 28th to 30th at Last Best and Broken City in Calgary.

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