Telluride Festival: Beer, blues and autumn colors


If you’re feeling the fall blues, your cure just might include heading to Telluride this weekend for the 16th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival. Now an autumnal classic, the festival features three days packed with music and an afternoon dedicated to tasting some of the finest microbrews available. The festival kicks off this Friday, Sept. 18, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 20, with the Grand Tasting of the microbrews on Saturday.

The blues musicians

This year’s Blues and Brews Festival features six different artists performing on the main stage each day. The lineup includes a variety of artists, from classic blues artists from Chicago and the Delta, to more contemporary and crossover musicians, and includes some big names every night. A personal pick for Friday would include Big Head Todd and the Monsters, playing an afternoon set, and the timeless Joe Cocker wrapping up the evening. Saturday, legendary bluesman Buddy Guy headlines the show and will certainly produce some of his legendary guitar riffs for the late-night crowd. Taj Mahal and The Phantom Blues Band are not to be missed on Sunday, followed by Bonnie Raitt and her gritty, bluesy, country-style rock. These artists are merely a highlight of an incredible gathering of musicians.

The brews artists

With nearly 150 microbrews from 53 breweries all over the country, the Grand Tasting brings the best of beer to Telluride. For three hours (noon to 3 p.m.) on Saturday, festivarians can drink to their heart’s content, right on the festival grounds. This event sets the festival apart from any other music festival. Where else can you sample so many different beers while listening to great music? This year’s tasting features some well-known breweries, such as Sierra Nevada and Samual Adams, but most of the breweries attending the festival are smaller brewhouses more familiar to their local constituents. Dolores River Brewing (Dolores, Colo.) and newcomer Eddyline Brewery (Buena Vista, Colo.) are familiar to the paddling community. Kona Brewing (Kona, Hawaii) is well known in the Islands. Moab Brewing (Moab, Utah) and the Eldo Brewery and Taproom (Crested Butte, Colo.) are favorites with avid mountain bikers.

The plan

Given the distance, the six-hour drive from Denver/Boulder makes Telluride more suited to a three- or four-day weekend than a two-day getaway. Skipping work on Friday and getting out of Boulder early that morning will put you in Telluride by noon, just in time for the opening act. If you can swing it, plan to return on Monday morning, so that you can enjoy the entire Sunday lineup (finishing with Bonnie Raitt). With a long weekend in mind, plan for some other, more active recreation in the mornings, so you are ready to chill in the afternoon, drinking beer and listening to music.

Telluride is known for its spectacular scenery and stunning autumn colors, readily seen from town, but even more spectacular when viewed from the high country. Bear Creek Trail is a great autumn hike, weaving up through golden aspens, yielding stunning views of the surrounding peaks at higher elevations. The trail leaves from town, very near the festival grounds, so it makes for a perfect morning hike before the music starts at noon. More ambitious hikers can hike all the way up the pass over to the town of Ophir for a truly dramatic view of the San Juan Mountains.

For more information on the 16th Annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival go to

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