Beer has been associated with the rock music lifestyle for as long as anyone can remember. Love songs have been written about it, punk rockers swear by it's powers, and--along with Jack Daniels (and possibly some illegal drugs)--it is today an integral part of any musician's rider, fueling many a raucous set and groupie encounter.
Most of the music industry's beer consumption, however, remains in the cheap-and-effective category--with few giving much thought to the brand or flavor of their chosen libation. But what happens when the rock stars themselves start slapping their names on bottles of beer to sell at shows? Or better yet, when members of a band collaborate with a microbrewery to create a one-of-a-kind signature brew?
Some companies offer a service where bands can choose a style of premade beer they like and pay to have a custom label (usually one with a punny name relating to a new album or song title) placed on it, But increasingly, these music-fueled beers are being made by well-known craft brewers not only in homage, but in affiliation with some of their favorite artists.
We drank through both basic and unconventional beers released recently in the name of music and found five that we thought best exemplified this indelible and growing connection. More than just beers that have a band or musician reference in the title (Auburn Ale House's ZZ Hop and North Coast Brewing's Brother Thelonious might top that list), this is a list of beers released by the musicians or labels themselves. They are brand-expansion projects, experimental beer concepts and soon-to-be fan favorites. Sorry ladies, Hanson's MMMHop IPA didn't make the cut.
5. Motörhead's Bastards Lager
Motorhead's Bastards Lager is a 4.7%ABV light beer that, according to the band testimonial blasted across their Drink Shop website is "distributed straight out of hell." While the beer is actually made in Sweden, we still like to think that a band that released an EP called Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers wouldn't skimp on their own brew's quality. Not much else is known in the States about this beverage's flavor, though, as it is part of a series of Lemmy-approved alcoholic beverages--that includes a shiraz and rose wine as well as a forthcoming line of vodka--that is only available in Europe.
4. Kid Rock's Badass American Lager
In the last few years, "Bawitdaba" singer Kid Rock (neé Robert James Ritchie) has been getting active in his hometown of Detroit, using his clout as one of the city's finest (besides Eminem, of course) to help restore economic glory to the city. Though he has donated songs to tourism offices and appeared in commercials advocating for the city, the Badass American Lager (aka "Badass Beer") is undoubtedly his most influential (and, dare we say it, "badass") move. Distributed only in Michigan under Kid Rock's own Made In Detroit brand, the light (like I-drank-a-lot-of-water-pee light) beer was being contract brewed at Michigan Brewing Company until last June when the brewery abruptly closed. A blog post on Badass' website promises an imminent comeback of the beer Kid Rock himself said that premium beer drinkers would hate. And until the beer returns, you can always purchase baby onsies and do-rags emblazoned with the Badass brew's logo.
3. Stillwater Artisanal Ales' Sensory Series v.1 featuring Lower Dens
Stillwater is a craft brewery run by Baltimore native Brian Strumke, a gypsy brewer who leases out and works with other brewers' equipment. Though he has made adventurous craft beers all over the world, Strumke always seems to make his way back to Maryland, where he continues to push boundaries and generate new collaborations in American craft beer. Last August, Stillwater announced its Sensory Series, which will see the brewery teaming up with equally-as-edgy music artists to craft ales based on interpretations of their songs. The first, featuring Baltimore chillwavers Lower Dens, was a spiced, hibiscus Belgian-style saison released in December. In true digital-age fashion, it is meant to be drunk while watching the music video linked via the QR code on the bottle's label.
2. New Belgium Brewing's Clutch
Born out of a chance encounter between Clutch singer Niel Fallon and New Belgium brewer Eric Salazar at a Colorado sandwich shop, this dark sour stout made its debut in 2011 as a one-off bottle-and-keg release under the Fat Tire brewery's experimental Lips of Faith series. As the story goes (see video above), all the members of the Maryland rock band are craft beer fans and were stoked to have Salazar offer to make them their own signature release.
The band determined what style they wanted to make, what alcohol content they wanted and eventually handed over the idea for a roasted strong ale blended with some of New Belgium's sours that became the aptly named Clutch--a beer that looks like a Guinness, smells like a Duchesse and tastes (according to one brewery employee) "like an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove."
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1. Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales' Music Series (including Bitches Brew, Hellhound Ale, Faithfull Ale and Positive Contact) If you watched the short-lived Discovery Channel TV show Brewmasters, then you're already familiar with
Vermont Delaware brewing weirdos Dogfish Head and its enigmatic owner Sam Calagione. With an infectious sense of humor and an unrivaled spirit for beer adventure, Calagione has made everything from historical ales to high-ABV monsters, so it wasn't much of a surprise when Dogfish was approached by Sony Legacy to create one-of-a-kind beers for a few of its artists. Starting with 2010's Bitches Brew--a blend of African and American beer styles made to represent the global fusion nature of the seminal Miles Davis album--Dogfish's music series of beers have set a precedent for other breweries looking to translate musical concepts into liquid beverages.
Others in the series include: Hellhound on My Ale, a double IPA brewed in honor of bluesman Robert Johnson (lemon was added to reference Johnson's mentor Blind Lemon Jefferson); Faithfull Ale, a golden ale made for Pearl Jam's 20th Anniversary of the album Ten (hopped to 20 IBUs during 10 incremental additions); and Positive Contact, a cayanne and cilantro apple-cider-y beer made in collaboration with Dan the Automator of Deltron 3030. A Grateful Dead beer called "American Beauty" is forthcoming (its secret ingredient being nominated by Deadheads, themselves), further assuring that Dogfish Head remain the indisputable kings of musical beer.