Vail Brewing Co. hosts band Astronaut Mountain for free show |

Vail Brewing Co. hosts band Astronaut Mountain for free show

Caramie Schnell
Astronaut Mountain is, from left to right, Shawn McKeown on drums, Justin Ernest on guitar and Niek Velvis on bass.
Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

Who: Astronaut Mountain.

Where: Vail Brewing Co., located at 41290 U.S. Highway 6, unit B2 and B3 (in part of the old Route 6 space), Eagle-Vail.

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

Cost: Free.

More information: Visit

EAGLE-VAIL — One of Eagle County’s newer bands is playing at the valley’s newest microbrewery Saturday night. Astronaut Mountain plays a free show from 6 to 9 p.m. at Vail Brewing Co., located in Eagle-Vail.

“It’s a relatively new band,” said bass player Niek Velvis. “It’s a reincarnation of some of the members of other bands in the valley. We’ve been around since last summer when we did a festival in Boulder.”

Along with Velvis, Shawn McKeown plays drums and Justin Ernest plays guitar. The band plays a mix of blues-influenced originals and funk-based cover songs.

“We just came out of the studio and we’re about to release a demo,” said Velvis who after living in the Vail Valley for a few years moved to Denver a year ago. “We’ve done gigs at Main St. Grill, Crazy Mountain Brewery and Agave a few weeks ago. We all love beer and we love playing music so (Vail Brewing Co.) seemed like the perfect fit.”

The three members of Astronaut Mountain were a part of the band Upside, with musician Kevin Heinz for two and a half years, Velvis said.

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“Kevin moved to San Francisco so we’re Upside minus one. It’s not necessarily a new lineup, just less of a lineup.”

Ernest, the band’s guitarist, chose the name, Velvis said.

“It described our music very well,” he said. “We love being in the mountains; we love rock and roll, but we also like to get a little jam and space element in there.”

Astronaut Mountain is excited to play the brewery for the first time, Velvis said.

“I’ve been there a couple times,” Velvis said. “I thought it was great. There’s some really fantastic beer. I think that it’s a new spot for the Vail locals to hang out; they have the fireplace there, and a great beer selection and they have a great corner for music.”

Ernest celebrates his 40th birthday Sunday, so the show is celebrating that milestone as well, Velvis said.

“We always get excited for playing, but there will be a little extra fire on Saturday night,” Ernest said.


Vail Brewing Co. has been hosting live music on most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights since they opened in early April.

For brewery co-owner Scott Harrison, Colorado craft beers and good music go hand in hand.

“It’s a great social environment,” Harrison said about the brewery. “Even though there are other places in the valley that do live music, we really want to make sure we have a family-friendly venue. A lot of times you’ll see kids running around the brewery and you can bring in your dog and sit on the patio. We’re not just catering to the nightclub scene or the young crowd, we have all walks of life come in. That’s why we like to do our music a bit earlier.”

The brewery plans to host Jackson, Mississippi group Jason Daniels Band on May 31.

“One song sounds like Van Morrison. That’s what I think of when I hear them. Other songs sound more folk. It kind of varies,” Harrison said.

The brewery opened April 3 with six beers on tap. On Wednesday, there were 10 options, including the fantastic Castaway Kolsch. The beer has bright, clean flavors and a hint of fruit thanks to an infusion of passionfruit tea, sourced from Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea in Minturn. It’s the kind of beer you could drink all summer long without losing your thirst for it.

Head brewer Garrett Scahill has lived in the valley for 13 years, and been homebrewing for 17 years.

“The goal for right now is to make the best beer we can, really,” Scahill said. “We’ll sell out of (the brewery) and we want to get into a few restaurants. We want slow growth and to perfect the beer. We want to stay small and stay local.”

A glass garage door separates the space between the brewery and the patio. It will likely be open whenever the weather is nice. The owners plan to install a retractable awning that will cover the patio and have bands set up on the patio and play into the brewery this summer. Nice dogs are welcome on the patio, as long as they’re leashed. There’s a big bike rack out front that even has slots to accommodate fat tires.

To learn more about the brewery, stay tuned for a story set to run in Wednesday’s High Life section.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or Follow her on Twitter @caramieschnell.

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