Some collaborations between brewers and musicians are created solely by the participating brewery and feature little input from the musicians other than their stamp of approval and a quick publicity photo. Other collaborations are flimsy attempts by established artists to nab a quick buck, but these 10 beers exemplify how musicians can work hard in the brewhouse with brewers to create unique and fascinating brews.
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery – BNL Strong Beer – According to Canadian alternative pop-rock band Barenaked Ladies, “It’s All Been Done.” Though they weren’t originally singing about the craft beer segment, the song’s thesis could certainly be applied to the wacky recipes many breweries invent daily. The band themselves, with help from Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, crafted a very sweet imperial stout (11% ABV) brewed with cocoa nibs. Kevin Hearn, keyboardist for the band, created the artwork that adorns the bottles and the entire group took a trip to the brewery in order to help with the brewing process. Though this was a limited release, it was around for longer than “One Week.”
Hanson Brothers Beer Company – Mmmhops Pale Ale – After skyrocketing to the top of the charts in 27 countries with their syrupy 1997 pop masterpiece, “Mmmbop,” Hanson (a trio of brothers) experienced dwindling success and diminishing returns following the incredible success of their debut single. The members of Hanson continue to make music and tour, but they have also branched out into the world of craft beer as Hanson Brothers Beer Company. Their brilliantly titled flagship is Mmmhops, a citrusy pale ale with a hefty hop backbone brewed in collaboration with Oklahoma City’s Mustang Brewery.
Surly Brewing Company – Doomtree Beer – Doomtree are a highly regarded Minnesota hip hop collective; Surly Brewing Company is a popular brewery in Minneapolis. Since they share both a state and a passion for pushing the limits, they decided to release a collaboration beer. The group met at Surly’s facilities to help brew an interesting hybrid between old and new styles – a very quaffable dry-hopped English bitter. After a few of these, there’s no doubt that more beer and more rhymes will flow.
Photo credit: Dogfish Head Brewery
Dogfish Head Brewery – Rosabi – Julianna Barwick’s enveloping ethereal harmonies transport listeners to a magical place they never knew existed – the selfsame place where many of Dogfish Head’s cutting-edge creations can take imbibers. While the brewery has sometimes billed beers as collaborations when in fact they are simply tributes (Bitches Brew for Miles Davis, Hellhound On My Ale for Robert Johnson), Barwick actually traveled to the Delaware brewery and helped brew Rosabi, a strong pale ale with Simcoe and Centennial hops as well as Barwick’s requested ingredient, wasabi. She even grated it herself! Barwick, a prolific artist, also recorded a four-song EP from found sounds – things she heard at the expanded brewery – which was placed alongside special six-packs of Rosabi.
Stillwater Artisanal Sensory Series – Various – One of the most interesting collaboration series, this annual release features Baltimore’s Stillwater Artisanal Ales brewing beers based on single songs from participating indie bands. So far, Stillwater’s inspirations have been: Lower Dens, Small Black and Tennis. Each beer is completely different and dependent on its parent track. Every bottle also contains a QR code, scannable by smartphones, that links to an exclusive performance of the original song, which is meant to be enjoyed as you drink the beer. According to Stillwater’s website, the aim is “to create a full sensory experience – sound, sight, smell, touch, and taste.”
Photo credit: insuranceguybeerblog.com
Stone Brewing Company – Collective Distortion IPA – What would a list of collaboration beers be without mentioning Stone? Known for its wildly variable collaborations and scintillating style experiments, Stone makes no exception with this IPA. Brewed in collaboration with Keri Kelli, a beer enthusiast and guitarist for Alice Cooper, Kyle Hollingsworth, an ardent homebrewer and the keyboardist for The String Cheese Incident, this fascinating brew features a striking blend of old and new. Elderberries and coriander, two old-world ingredients, create a spicy taste profile that is balanced by the sultry tang of Vic’s Secret, a brand new hop from Australia. This is not Hollingsworth’s first collaboration either; he has also partnered with Boulder Beer Company to create Hoopla Pale Ale and Cigar City Brewing to craft its Happening Now Session IPA.
Ska Brewing Company / DC Brau Brewing Company – Taster’s Choice Doppelbock – Sometimes, a musician and brewery collaboration is a self-fulfilling prophecy. DC Brau’s lead packaging tech, Jason Budman, moonlights as the drummer for Washington D.C. ska stalwarts The Pietasters. When Ska Brewing Company President Dave Thibodeau discovered that he and DC Brau co-owner Brandon Skall shared a love for ska and that one of Skall’s employees was in a respected ska band, the only response was to brew a beer involving all three. DC Brau hosted the brew, and The Pietasters gave an exclusive performance at a nearby club for the release party of the doppelbock-style Taster’s Choice, which features a bready malt sweetness backed with generous helpings of coffee from Colorado’s Desert Sun Coffee Roasters.
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery – City & Colour Imperial Maple Wheat Ale – Wheatwines are a rather rare style in the world of craft beer. Who better to help resurrect them than Canadian folk-rock troubadour Dallas Green? His songs, recorded as City & Colour, feature lush fingerpicking, silken vocals and evocative lyrics that harken back to his days of “Comin’ Home” to Canada’s beautiful forestland. Canada’s unkempt flora inspired Flying Monkeys and Green to employ one of the country’s biggest exports as the crux of their collaboration – maple syrup. With that ingredient as the backbone, this gossamer brew clocks in at 11.5 percent ABV – perfect for staying warm in chilly Canadian forests.
Elysian Brewing Company – Loser Pale Ale – Before being bought out by AB InBev, Elysian Brewing Company released this tribute to the 20th anniversary of Seattle’s famed Sub Pop record label. The brew debuted in 2011 with the phrase “Corporate Beer Still Sucks” emblazoned on its bottle art as a tribute to label alumnus Nirvana. Elysian wanted to craft a beer as singular and forward-thinking as the record company that inspired it, so brewmasters employed elusive Sorachi Ace hops to create a zesty, tropical pale ale.
Signature Brew – Black Tongue – This second beer made in collaboration with Atlanta metal band Mastodon replaced the first, a lager that fell far short of being thoroughly metal. A fizzy, rather dull concoction left metal-heads wanting more power and flavor in their Mastodon-themed beer. Enter London-based Signature Brew, a brewery that specializes in collaborations with musicians. With the band by their side, Signature Brew crafted Black Tongue (as metal a name as one could hope for), a “palate-crushing” double black IPA with smoky notes and a thunderous malt profile.