This article was originally published in the March 2013 issue of Scene Magazine. You can find Scene Magazine on news stands and in local businesses all over Northern Colorado beginning the 1st of each month.
At a recent night at The Aggie I took a moment to take in all that was going on around me. The place was packed to see hometown favorites Head for the Hills and The Holler!. Bombers of Fat Tire filled the hands of most of the audience. Hats from Odell’s Brewing Company and Equinox Brewing shirts were too numerous to count.
It was a great snap shot of the culture of Northern Colorado. The importance of both beer and music. This isn’t new, as people have been drinking and listening to music since before there were lutes and especially before turn tables and auto-tuners. Both of these are important aspects of our lifestyles here in the Choice City and the way they interact is unique and beneficial to many players.
Not only does The Holler! play venues like the Aggie, one of the largest in Northern Colorado, but has been known to frequent smaller spaces like Equinox Brewing, A small brewery on Remington Avenue with an even smaller outdoor beer garden that hosts live music acts 2-3 times a week. Despite breweries not being logistically easy for bands to perform at, bands relish a chance to perform there.
Nearly every brewery in Northern Colorado has live music on a regular basis. There is no stage, no PA system available and the buildings were not meant for acoustics. Just a corner of a room, of people drinking beer. That’s how they like it. “There are no expectations”, says Sam Meunier, lead vocals and guitar of Blue Grama.
“You can just go in, get creative, try new things and have a good time. The people are going to come here to drink beer whether we are playing or not”.
Blue Grama stuffs their 6 member band and their equipment into Equinox about once a month. He is being humble when he says the people would come whether they were playing or not. When Blue Grama plays, the brewery will reach capacity. In the summer, the beer garden gates will be flung open, so people can dance in the alley.
Breweries in the area are not designed to be music venues, but the suds and the sounds seem to flow together beautifully.
“There is a level of intimacy and connectivity that is very unique compared to a standard music venue” expresses Michael Kirkpatrick of The Holler!, “the people are up close to the stage, they can talk to the performers, there is a warmth and friendliness that comes with the brewery culture that is echoed in these events”
Playing for the crowds in breweries can help musicians gain exposure. The crowd is a different mix than what you would find in a music specific venue. Meunier calls this playing for the working man.
“We are playing for people that are coming in after work, maybe for happy hour. The shows always start and end early”. Playing for this different demographic allows musicians to expand their reach.
Kirkpatrick agrees, and claims, “the brewery culture has allowed the band and me as a solo performer to reach a captive and targeted audience.” One that Kirkpatrick identifies himself with. “I have been able to reach more people through the popularity of the breweries’”
Plus, the beer selection is better, according to both Meunier and Kirkpatrick who proclaim a love for craft beer. Blue Grama refers to Equinox as “the company store”. The large band rings up such a big tab not only when they play, but coming in just to hang out and relax.
Their affinity for good beer works out in their favor as often bands are often paid in beer to play at breweries. At Equinox, a taproom employee is in charge of booking all musical acts. With a small cash budget and some beer, Justin Reynier manages to fill every weekend with entertainment. Patrons enjoying the music never have to pay a cover.
You can find music at more breweries than just Equinox. High Hops Brewery in Windsor actually has a stage set up in their indoor beer garden where they host musical acts weekly. In Loveland at Grimm Brothers Brewhouse you can find an open mic night on Thursdays showcasing several local talents.
Some breweries have even made music inspired beers. New Belgium Brewing made a collaboration beer with G.Love last year known as Peach Porch Lounger. Equinox brewed the official beer for the FoCoMX Festival, Sound Wave Pale Ale.
There is no intersection of music and beer in Northern Colorado, but rather the roads run together. “People who frequent breweries have a love for supporting the local scene”, believes Shaefer Welch who plays breweries frequently as a solo act and with his duo, Rosewood Devine. This support of both music and beer is creating new avenues and inroads for all involved.