Bass player for The Sweet Lillies, Julie Gussaroff, knows well how important it is to support bluegrass. She and her bandmates host a weekly open session, the Wednesday bluegrass pick, at Beyond the Mountain Brewing in Boulder, Colorado.
"We absolutely love our jam at Beyond the Mountain Brewing," Gussaroff said. "It brings together such a wonderful group of musicians and friends each week to share songs, laughs, and stories. Beyond The Mountain Brewing is a constant supporter of live music and has continually made us all feel loved and welcome at the brewery."
It's the inclusiveness that spreads that love. It's an affection not just for the music but for the musicians themselves, who might range from professional to beginner. Anyone who often participates in open jams or pick sessions can tell you: it's precisely that openness and acceptance of warmly welcoming all people that makes these sessions so fun.
"Our pick is open to everyone of all ages and skill sets," explained Chuck Hixon, Beyond the Mountain Brewing owner. "Just show up with your instrument, and you get to play. We have no cap on the number of participants. We've had picks range from as small as four or five people to as many as 30. The main rule is to just have fun."
Although the brewery features all sorts of music, Hixon said it does offer "a heavy bluegrass presence."
"Boulder has an amazing bluegrass community, with many influential bands such as Leftover Salmon, Hot Rize, and Yonder Mountain String Band cutting their teeth here," Hixon explained. "So we thought it important to embrace the history of the music here as well as trying to add our little footnote to its legacy."
For Hixon, his products are a match for the sounds heard at the Wednesday jams.
"Bluegrass music goes great with beer in many ways," he said. "Mainly, bluegrass music is very up-tempo and energetic, so it's perfectly complimented by a good brew. We at the brew also like to think the way bluegrass features improvisation influences our approach to recipe creation. Sometimes you just have to go with what you feel."
Those recipes produce products that sometimes even have bluegrass performers at their core.
"One thing that I believe really makes us stand out and reflects our love of the local music community is our artist collaboration series," Hixon said. "Once or twice a year, we get one of our favorite local bands to come in and make a beer. They pick the style, the name, and a local charity that receives $1 from every pint sold. Most recently, we worked with Big Richard, who is currently making waves in the bluegrass scene."
"While we brew all sorts of different beers, we like to think that we excel at brewing very clean beers that are true to classic styles," Hixon explained. "But that doesn't mean we won't make something really 'out there' from time to time. Currently, we have a beer made with Reese's Puffs cereal on tap."
In addition to the Wednesday pick, the brewery also features weekend performances from various genres.
"We try to focus mainly on bluegrass, rock, Americana, and 'jam' bands for our weekly entertainment," he said, "although sometimes we do have a one-off from another genre."
Hixon doesn't include bluegrass to enhance and reflect the local scene; he does it because he is a fan.
"I grew up as mainly a classic rock kid until shortly after college, a friend took me to Floyd Fest in Virginia," he recalled. "That was a very eye-opening weekend for me, getting to experience so much bluegrass music for the first time. Since then, I've become a huge fan of the genre and am a familiar face at all the bluegrass festivals in Colorado."
"While I'm not a talented musician," he added, "I do like to play a little mandolin and bass at home. Maybe one day I'll actually work up the nerve to join in the bluegrass pick myself."
In summary, Hixon wanted to thank all the people who participate in making Wednesday nights so entertaining and community-spirited.
"We are very lucky to have such great people join in our bluegrass pick every week," Hixon said. "The familiar faces and sense of community the pick has built really warms my heart."
"I am also very thankful that The Sweet Lillies continue to host it," he added. "It wouldn't be half as good without them. They have been great friends of the brewery over the years and were actually the first band we ever collaborated on a beer with."