Autumn in the Rockies – A Perfect Time for Beer

by Erich Hennig on August 2, 2011

A new brewery opening is always good news, and having one take shape in the challenging economic environment of a mountain town is even better. This September, Telluride Brewing Company will open its doors in the Lawson Hill area of Telluride. A joint project between long-time Smuggler’s Brewpub head brewer Chris Fish and business partner Tommy Thatcher, TBC is intended to be a production brewery, with distribution of canned product and 22-ounce bombers to begin locally in southwest Colorado this fall. Tastings will be offered at the brewhouse, with the full lineup of TBC brews to be available at the Llama Restaurant and Pub on Main Street in town. The final decisions as to which styles of beer will be offered initially were not set at the time of writing, but Fish indicated that he thought a Rye Pale Ale might be the first out of the gates, as he has won medals at the Great American Beer Festival for that style of beer in the past. The grand opening celebration is planned for the week of Blues & Brews, and TBC will be pouring at the festival as well.

The 18th Annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival will take place September 16-18th in Town Park. The party really gets going during the grand tasting on Saturday, this year featuring 53 breweries from across the West. The musical lineup is slightly different than in years past, with Willie Nelson headlining, along with the Flaming Lips, Robert Cray, Big Head Todd, Dweezil Zappa and Moe. According to event press director Bill Kight, the intent this year was to attract a broader audience and then expose them to some serious blues musicians alongside less-traditional blues music. I personally consider Willie among the top three on my list of the greatest living Americans (the other two being Bob Dylan and Jimmy Carter), and hearing the mellow notes and bourbon-smooth sound of his guitar and voice flowing pure and true through the crisp fall air at 8,750 feet is reason enough to make the trip.

If you do go, be sure to stop in at the newly re-opened Baked in Telluride for some tasty goodies. Following a tragic fire that destroyed the entire building two years ago, owner Jerry Greene undertook the arduous task of rebuilding the establishment, a process completed this past June when the doors were opened in time for the summer season. Though he used to produce and serve his own beer, BIT now serves several styles from Smuggler’s on tap.

For some reason, September is the month to celebrate the greatest of all beer holiday, (and perhaps the greatest of all holidays, period), Oktoberfest. Based on a fairy tale originating from old Germany, the annual event, supposedly commemorating some dude’s wedding, is celebrated around the globe, and makes a wonderful excuse to get together with a couple thousand of your closest friends and neighbors to drink beer and eat brats in the streets of a friendly mountain town near you. Seriously, claiming meaning for Oktoberfest is about as ridiculous as the messenger of Easter being a magic egg-laying, long-eared mammal. Having attended my share of these celebrations in various locales across the West, I will call out the annual event held in Durango, Colorado, at the end of the month as my personal hometown favorite.

Up in Keystone, the 15th Annual Bluegrass and Beer Festival will take place August 6-7th at River Run Village. Featuring dozens of breweries, and tastings on both days of the event, this festival bears particular attention as bluegrass legend Peter Rowan and his Bluegrass Band will play two full sets on Saturday, and a third on Sunday. A one-hour song-writing/guitar-picking workshop session with Peter is also on the schedule for Saturday morning. If you don’t know his history, as a young man, he was a member of the Bluegrass Boys backing up the grandfather of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe. In the early ’70s, he, David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements and John Kahn formed Old & In the Way, a traditional single-mic unit that began a bluegrass revolution that is still going strong today. I personally own and operate something like 50 albums and live recordings of his music spanning five decades, and make sure to get tickets whenever he comes to Colorado. At the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June, he introduced his song, “Panama Red,” by saying, “Some people think this song is about drugs. Some people think that I take drugs. But I don’t need to take drugs … I AM ALL DRUGS.” Can I get a yee-haw to that!?

Erich Hennig, an avid home brewer, is the Four Corners correspondent for the Rocky Mountain Brewing News. He lives in Durango, Colo.  


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