Combine free acoustic music from some of the nation's biggest names with a bevy of brews to sample and you have a raucous, fun mountain festival in the making. Bluegrass & Beer returns to Keystone for a 16th year this weekend, kicking off tonight with a concert at Warren Station Center for the Arts. On Saturday and Sunday, the craft brews will flow from the taps of more than 25 participating brewers, and the music lineup hits heavy with 16 bluegrass performances on three stages.Doors open at 8 p.m. for tonight's bluegrass party at Warren Station, with music by Oakhurst and the Farewell Drifters starting at 9. Tickets are $10. Music enthusiasts can get an early start Saturday with a choice of bluegrass seminars, including guitar instruction by national flatpicking champion Tyler Grant at 9 a.m. or banjo instruction with Jesse Langlais at 10. Seminars are scheduled throughout the weekend and include fiddle with Casey Driessen, songwriting by Grammy nominee Darrell Scott and singing instruction from Tim O'Brien. These are free to Keystone lodging guests and $10 otherwise.Free, live acoustic music will emanate from the festival stages Saturday and Sunday from 12:30-5 p.m. Sunday's acts include Head for the Hills at 3 p.m. on the River Run Events Plaza stage and Darrell Scott at 3 p.m. on the Montezuma Plaza stage. On Saturday night there will be a bluegrass party from 8:30-11 in Warren Station featuring Tim O'Brien and The Casey Driessen Singularity. "Saturday night should be a great show," said Maja Russer, events and marketing director for the Keystone Neighborhood Company, the event's host. "Last year and continuing on this year we put resources toward upping the level of the bluegrass music. We've added more variety and more bluegrass seminars, and the beer component is back and strong as ever." Unlimited beer tasting costs $40 for one day or $75 for both, and the price includes an official Keystone Bluegrass & Beer sampling mug commemorating the festival's 16th year. Tasting runs from 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Nearly all of the music is free, so the other options are to listen to bluegrass sans suds or shop for $5 pints one at a time at the Shock Top Beer Garden, starting at noon Saturday and Sunday. Food vendors offer their fare from noon to 5 p.m. "It's so unique that our whole festival is actually free," Russer said. "Last year was one of the biggest Bluegrass & Beers ever." All signs point to good attendance this year, too.Organizers have a new plan in place, including a touch screen system to handle the tasting mug line, which Russer admits was long last year. Mugs can also be purchased online at www.keystonefestivals.com until the event's start on Saturday. Gate sales open by 11 a.m. and tasting starts at 1 p.m. Russer recommends locals and those seeking a mellower experience give Sunday a try. "Sunday is such a good day to get that local feel and say 'hi' to all your friends," she said. "The local secret is to come on Sunday. It's a little quieter and you can get more time talking to the different breweries and listening to the music."Those traveling to the festival can take advantage of lodging specials, which include beer tasting, through www.keystoneresort.com.Bluegrass & Beer benefits the High Country Conservation Center's mission to find practical solutions to waste reduction and resource conservation.
TONIGHT8 p.m. - Doors open for Oakhurst with the Farewell Drifters, Warren Station Center for the Arts, $7 in advance/$10 at the door, music starts at 9 p.m.SATURDAY9 a.m. - Guitar seminar with Tyler Grant, Warren Station Center for the Arts, $1010 a.m. - Banjo seminar by Jesse Langlais, Warren Station, $10 Noon to 5 p.m. - Shock Top Beer Garden ($5/pint) at Warren Station, festival food at River Run and kids activities at Ina's Bridge12:30 p.m. - The Grinz, Shock Top Beer Garden stage, Quaking Aspen Amphitheater, free12:30 p.m. - Town Mountain, River Run Events Plaza stage, free12:30 p.m. - Henhouse Prowlers, Montezuma Plaza stage, free1 p.m. - Mandolin seminar by Frank Solivan, Warren Station, $10 1-5 p.m. - Unlimited beer sampling, River Run Events Plaza, $40/day, $75/two days3 p.m. - The Grinz, Shock Top Beer Garden stage, free3 p.m. - Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, River Run Events Plaza stage, free3 p.m. - Dead Winter Carpenters, Montezuma Plaza stage, free7:30 p.m. - Doors open for Tim O'Brien & The Casey Driessen Singularity, Warren Station, $14/advance, $17/door, music starts at 8:30 p.m. SUNDAY10 a.m. - Fiddle seminar by Casey Driessen, Warren Station, $1011 a.m. - Singing seminar by Tim O'Brien, Warren Station, $10Noon to 5 p.m. - Shock Top Beer Garden ($5/pint) at Warren Station, festival food at River Run and kids activities at Ina's Bridge1 p.m. - Songwriting seminar by Darrell Scott, Warren Station, $101-5 p.m. - Unlimited beer sampling, River Run Events Plaza, $40/day, $75/two days12:30 p.m. - Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, Shock Top Beer Garden stage, free12:30 p.m. - Haunted Windchimes, River Run Events Plaza stage, free12:30 p.m. - Henhouse Prowlers, Montezuma Plaza stage, free3 p.m. - Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, Shock Top Beer Garden stage, free3 p.m. - Head for the Hills, River Run Events Plaza stage, free3 p.m. - Darrell Scott, Montezuma Plaza stage, freeINFOInfo and beer tasting: www.keystonefestivals.com Lodging: $85/person/1 day of tasting/lodging, $169/person/2 days tasting/lodging, call (800) 239-9291 or visit www.keystoneresort.comFront Range Ski Bus: $30 round-trip public transportation for adults ($15/kids under 12) to and from the festival from three spots in Denver. Reservations: www.frontrangeskibus.com.