When you walk in the Manitou Springs Heritage Center, it’s almost like being taken back in time, to the days when Manitou was a bustling water town. You read that right: before being a hotbed tourist stop for cliff dwellings, the Manitou Incline, and candy stores all along the town’s center, Manitou Springs made its mark as the mineral water capital of Colorado. At the turn of the 20th century, bottles of Manitou Springs water sold in cafes in New York, London, and Paris. “Colorado had two drinks we were known for,” says Michael Maio, volunteer at the Manitou Springs Heritage Center. “Golden got the beer, but we got the water!”
This next weekend, at least, Manitou Springs will also have the beer. The Heritage Brew Festival will be returning for its third straight year. However, this year, the festival has been moved to the Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort located at 2 El Paso Boulevard in Colorado Springs. The festival brings together over 30 local Colorado breweries, serving almost 100 different types of beer to sample and enjoy. The best part? Unlike some bigger and crazier festivals, the Heritage Brew Festival caps attendance at 1,000 guests, allowing for more space to spread out, and more opportunities to rub elbows with industry leaders and brewers.
“Every year, the Brewfest turns into an amazing party,” says David Walker, another volunteer at the Manitou Springs Heritage Center, and one of the primary organizers of the beer festival. “From great music, to awesome food, and of course, the beer… It’s really magical.” The Heritage Brew Fest will also feature live music from musical groups GregJ, Ruxton Railsplitters, Skean Dubh, Mo Mungus, and J Miller Band.
All proceeds from the Heritage Brew Festival go towards the Manitou Springs Heritage Center, which opened its doors in 2011. Inside, the Center showcases strange, interesting, and sometimes hilarious moments from Manitou’s wild history.
One such exhibit is the story of Emma Crawford, a local of Manitou, who requested that her body be buried at the top of Red Mountain – the big incline sitting just south of town. She moved to Colorado, hoping the mountain air would help cure her tuberculosis. While the mountain air did do her good, she was generally too weak to climb the mountains herself, prompting her dying wish to be buried on top of the mountain. It took 12 men to haul her casket up the mountain, where she supposedly was laid to rest. This strange journey (and the subsequent controversy surrounding Crawford’s final resting place) is what brings the Emma Crawford Coffin Races to Manitou every year.
Another odd tale in Manitou’s history involves Ulysses L. Baxter. Baxter, a local musician, was bet that he could not push a peanut over Pike’s Peak. For nearly three weeks, the man crawled on his hands and knees, pushing a peanut up the massive peak – a feat that he would complete, despite it nearly killing him. The peanut that Baxter managed to push over Pikes Peak is on display at the Heritage Center.
“When people come to Manitou, and they want to learn about the history of this unique town, we’re usually their first stop,” says David. “The money raised at the Brew Festival helps us develop our exhibits. It helps us pay for the building we’re in. It helps us finance our expeditions to find more artifacts.”
“This place is partially funded by generous beer drinkers!” Michael adds.
For more information about the Heritage Brew Festival, the Manitou Springs Heritage Center, and to purchase tickets, be sure to check out the Center’s website.