Top Shelf

Oktoberfest, beer dinner  and Vince Herman

by Chris Aaland

Durango Beer Week, which kicked off at Ska’s ridiculously entertaining anniversary party last Saturday, continues with a slew of events this weekend.

Namely, it’s Durango Oktoberfest 2012, which runs from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday. Main Avenue will be blocked off with beer flowing from Carver’s, Durango Brewing, Ska and Steamworks. Traditional German food will also be served with polka music by the Alpiners, the Polkanauts and Farmington Hill (OK, the Hill isn’t exactly a polka band, but Bubba sure would look good in lederhosen … not to mention Katie in a dirndl).

Steamworks celebrates its 16th anniversary at 7 p.m. Friday with a special gourmet beer dinner. Each of the five courses is paired with a specially selected Steamworks brew. The menu includes rabbit confit bruschetta paired with Third Eye Pale Ale; composed arugula salad, Thistle Whistle Farms goat cheese, roasted beets and Earl Grey & Palisade peach dressing paired with Devil’s Fruit Basket; grilled turducken filet, Flander’s gastrique, potato threads and fava beans paired with Flander’s Red; plum-infused bacon-wrapped Sunnyside pork tenderloin, guajillo chile sauce and masa cake paired with Steamworks Barleywine; and bourbon barrel-smoked chocolate and vanilla crème trifle paired with Bourbon Barrel Scottish Ale. Diners will also leave with a once-in-a-lifetime goodie — I’d let you know, but Steamworks honcho Kris Oyler vowed to take away my beer privileges forever if I let the secret out. The 2nd & 8th gang is no stranger to this sort of affair. They were the first brewpub invited to participate in the inaugural craft beer dinner held at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City a few years ago. The shindig will be held in Steamworks’ North Courtyard.

Phil Lesh, seen here in vintage form, & Friends will play Telluride Blues and Brews this weekend.

An old friend returns to town this week for a worthy cause. Vince Herman, he of Leftover Salmon and Great American Taxi fame, will join the Six Dollar String Band to play a benefit for a local family farm at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Lost Dog. A silent auction will also be held. Due to legal issues the family’s name can’t be publicized. I’ve seen Herman do the troubadour thing before, and it’s a drastic and welcome departure from the role he usually plays as the guy who wanders through festival campgrounds singing “Wake & Bake.” He’s a thoughtful songwriter and underrated picker who can create whimsical and serious songs on the spot. He opened a Durango Acoustic Music show for Acoustic Syndicate in 2003, surprising the sell-out crowd with a singer-songwriter set that Guy Clark would’ve been proud of.

It may be Durango Beer Week here, but it’s also the 19th annual Telluride Blues & Brews across the San Juans. The lineup is a stellar one: Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule, the B-52s, Little Feat, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Robert Randolph & the Family Band and countless others. The tunes are just half the fun. The beer-guzzling highlight is Saturday’s free grand tasting (noon-3 p.m.), with more than 50 microbreweries on hand. All attendees with three-day or Saturday-only passes will be given a souvenir mug upon entering the festival grounds. The list of participating brewers is too long to include, but in addition to the usual suspects at every beerfest, there’s also a bunch of lesser-known Colorado companies: Amicas, Aspen, Asher, Bonfire, Bull & Bush, Carbondale Beer Works, Colorado Boy, Crazy Mountain, Dillon Dam, Dolores River, Eddyline, Gunnison, Horsefly, Kannah Creek, Mahogany Ridge, Main Street, Ouray, Pagosa Springs, Pug Ryan’s, Revolution, Rockslide, San Luis Valley, Strange, Stronghold, Telluride and Upslope. And, of course, our four locals will be on hand.

I’m bummed I’ll miss Phil & Friends when the former Grateful Dead bassist takes the stage at 6 p.m. Sunday for two full sets. No doubt the place will go crazy. Lesh is a warrior. In 1998, he underwent a liver transplant as a result of chronic hepatitis C. In 2006, he was treated for prostate cancer. The bassist is passionate about becoming an organ donor — a cause that I’m all too familiar with. On the day that my son Gus died, I happened to be wearing my purple Dead tie-dye from their Pepsi Center gig in 2009. Gus’ final hours were on life support waiting to see if he was eligible to be an organ donor. I pointed to my Dead T-shirt, and Shelly and I made the easy decision to volunteer our baby’s organs. So when Phil goes into his donor rant, listen. It saves lives. It moved Shelly and me, at least.

There’s a local tie to Blues & Brews this year, too. Psychedelic Mojo struts its stuff at 9 p.m. tonight (Thurs., Sept. 13) at Telluride’s Lost Dog Saloon.
Moksha — a funk-rock outfit that bills itself as Las Vegas’ secret weapon — plays the Summit tonight. Using guitar, keys, bass, drums and horns to generate their sound, Moksha has been called a cross between Rush and Pink Floyd that frequently shifts genres from reggae and world music to funk, rock and experimental jams.

Also of note: the Black Velvet duo plays the Derailed at 6 p.m. tonight, while the full band does the Balcony at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Hooligans love beer. They also love it when the home side stares down their sworn enemy. They’ll get the best of both worlds Sunday when Oktoberfest precedes the 3:30 p.m. grudge match between the defending national champion Fort Lewis men’s soccer team and arch-rival Colorado Mines. But Hooligans take note: It’s the Skyhawk women’s footballers who are stealing the show in 2012. Currently ranked No. 2 in all the land, FLC’s women’s side gets another crack at Mines — the team that knocked the Fort out of both league and NCAA playoffs last fall. Kickoff for the women’s game is 1 p.m.
In honor of Phil Lesh’s appearance at Blues & Brews, this week’s Top Shelf list recalls a few Grateful Dead songs written or co-written by the bassist:
1. “Mindbender,” with Jerry Garcia, 1965
2. “Cardboard Cowboy,” 1966
3. “New Potato Caboose,” with Bobby Petersen, 1967
4. “Box of Rain,” with Robert Hunter, 1970. Written as a gift for Lesh’s dying father.

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