Brewers from across Colorado will gather this weekend in the shade of Riverside Park to share samples of over 300 beers during the 2017 Brewers Rendezvous. The beer festival that opens to the public at 1 p.m. Saturday will host 79 of Colorado’s 348 breweries.

As a summertime tradition in Salida, the rendezvous itself is now of legal drinking age in its 21st year. The annual meeting brings brewers from across Colorado and beer lovers from across the country. It also serves as an annual meeting of members of the Colorado Brewers Guild, making the rendezvous one of the premier events in the state’s flourishing beer culture. The venue can’t be beat, said Andy Astor of Elevation Beer Company.

With such high demand and limited space, the Brewers Rendezvous has to turn away brewers and resort to a lottery system to decide who gets to show off their latest brews. Despite the competition, all of the Arkansas Valley’s local brewers will be represented.

Visitors at the rendezvous will get unlimited beer tastings, access to food vendors and live music at the Salida Rotary Amphitheater.

The annual beer festival began much more modestly when Tom Hennessy, then owner of Il Vicino Pizzeria and Brewery in Salida, was playing around with the idea of hosting an event in the valley, said Lori Roberts, executive director the Salida Chamber of Commerce. The Colorado Brewers Guild, a nonprofit representing brewers in the state, had recently formed and was looking for a place to hold an annual meeting. Together, the Salida Chamber of Commerce, the Brewers Guild and Salida’s lone brewery saw a perfect fit. There was an opportunity to promote the Arkansas Valley and craft beer, Roberts said. In 1995, the first Salida Beer Festival was held. There were 56 breweries in Colorado.

From there, interest in craft beer has only grown. The following year, in 1996, 33 new breweries were established and the festival became known as the Brewers Rendezvous. As recently as 2016 another 42 beer-brewing businesses were added to the state’s already heady lineup of brewers. While Colorado is at the forefront of beer culture, it trails only California in total number of breweries. California boasts more than 750 breweries of its own.

Brewers and visitors can expect a unique experience at the 21st Annual Brewers Rendezvous. “Our members look forward to the Rendezvous more than any other Brewers Guild event,” said Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild. It is an opportunity for brewers to talk business and drink beer. Guild members will also enjoy an opportunity to float the Arkansas River and attend the annual party hosted by Elevation Beer Company following the rendezvous. It is one of only a few times during the year that Elevation is closed to the public. “We are excited to be a part of such a successful event,” said Astor. Elevation has participated every year since it was established in 2012.

Music for the rendezvous will be performed by a mix of Salida musicians that make up Wanderlust Road, Velvet Soul and The Riff. Combing a gypsy, jazzy, swinging, funkin’ rock blues and eclectic retro, the music will be familiar to regular attendees of the rendezvous. They will play at the Salida Rotary Amphitheater throughout the day.

The Brewers Rendezvous opens to the public at 1 p.m. with two ticket options. A VIP ticket, at a cost of $120, allows entrance to the rendezvous at noon and includes food, VIP restrooms, commemorative swag, unlimited tastings and more. Tickets for general admission cost $40 online ($50 at the gate) and include unlimited tastings, a commemorative glass and access to vendors. A “designated driver” ticket is available for access to vendors but excludes beer and is an option for those under 21 years old. Kids under 12 are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased online at salidachamber.org.