Every time a brewery releases a beer made in conjunction with its favorite band, it’s hard not to feel skeptical. For the longest time, I blindly assumed band-brewer collaborations were simply elaborate marketing stunts aimed at unsuspecting fans. Pure novelty.
Yet when challenged to dig into the subject, I was impressed by the wide and impressive swath of non-gimmicky alliances that surfaced. Turns out, it’s not just Hanson’s MMMhops Pale Ale vying for our attention and hard-earned cash. There are actually a handful of great beers out there made by bands and brewers.
In fact, these days, it’s almost harder to find a brewery that hasn’t taken a stab at making beer with its favorite musician. Goose Island, New Belgium, Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Cigar City have all dipped their toes into the pool. An overwhelming number of brewers seem to favor heavy metal and IPAs (the list is endless), but as the idea continues to catch on, mainstream pop and other musical genres have also started to find representation, and the variety of styles has expanded. Phish, Jimmy Eat World, Guided by Voices, Mumford and Sons, City & Colour, Frank Turner, Run the Jewels and Hootie and the Blowfish have all jumped on the bandwagon.
Not all of them float to the top, quality-wise, but we’ve discovered a few that are worth investigating. Seek out these five excellent collaborations that are either out now or being re-released this year. And as this topic will no doubt spark conversation, leave your favorite picks in the comments section.
1. Three Floyds Brewing + Pig Destroyer | Permanent Funeral
Possibly the craft brewery most famous for bridging the gap between metal and beer, Indiana’s Three Floyds struck gold with the 2013 release of Permanent Funeral, a collaboration with the band Pig Destroyer. The brightly aromatic and deliciously dank IPA won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival the same year and has been released about every six weeks since. Flavor-wise, huge hops tread a fine line with warm, sugary malts, making the entire package worthy of lavish praise from even the most aggressive grindcore fans.
2. Champion Brewing Company + Against Me! | Black Me Stout
Punk fan Hunter Smith of Virginia’s Champion Brewing Company says the brewery’s partnerships with a variety of notable rockers are all about celebrating the DIY spirit of both brewing and music. And celebrate they did, when two of the experiments proved so successful that they are now year-round beers. Stick In My IPA, made with NOFX, is a spicy rye IPA with fistfuls of hops, and Against Me!’s Black Me Stout tastes bittersweet and slightly dry at an easygoing 6% ABV. The brewery will re-release the spring seasonal with the Hold Steady again this spring, and Ramming Speed will join the roster around the same time, when they help brew what will likely be a super-hoppy black ale.
3. Surly Brewing Co. + Doomtree | Doomtree
Brewery-operations director Todd Haug is a musician himself, so it’s no surprise this brewery rocks at making beers with bands. This time around, they paired up with Doomtree for the group’s tenth-anniversary blowout show. The Twin Cities-based hip-hop collective contributed much during the creative process, developing a hybrid style that the brewery says is “built on a classic, but buck[s] convention.” The 5.7% ABV oddball was released in limited supply after its December debut, and the brewery recently announced it will be canned in the coming weeks.
4. Dogfish Head Brewery + Grateful Dead | American Beauty
Dogfish Head has a long résumé of collaborations, including the most recent, Beer Thousand, a lager made with Guided by Voices. The beer was brewed and packaged last November with a previously unreleased vinyl recording of one of the band’s live shows from 1994. The brewery has also collaborated with Pearl Jam, Deltron 3030, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Grateful Dead. American Beauty Imperial IPA was originally brewed in conjunction with the Dead in 2013 and will be resurrected for the band’s 50th anniversary this May. The band chose a high-gravity pale ale to act as the base, and the winning oatmeal-and-hops recipe was selected from among 1,500 fan entries. The beer was a big hit the first time around, so keep your eyes peeled for its return this spring.
5. Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company + Jimmy Eat World | #Futures 10 Saison
Brought together by their love for beer, Jimmy Eat World bassist Rick Burch and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company owner Jonathan Buford teamed up to craft a summery saison for the tenth anniversary of the band’s album Futures. The beer features ten ingredients native to the state, including prickly pear, chamomile, sun-dried salt and mesquite honey, creating what some fans have called a sassy saison “teeming with fruit character.” Buford says the release party last fall raised $8,000 for charities, and he plans to bring the brew back on draught as a seasonal special every September.
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