Got Beer? Music in a Bottle

I was sitting in Boneheads, a very cool rock ‘n’ roll themed wing bar in downtown West Warwick, when I spied an interesting bottle with a familiar image from an Iron Maiden album on the label. Naturally I had to give it a try.

Music-themed beer is an interesting phenomenon. Many breweries honor the music they love, like with Abita’s Purple Haze or DFH’s Miles Davis Bitches Brew. I haven’t seen the Mmmhops American Pale Ale made by Hanson, though I hear it’s an okay enough beer. Lagunitas released a number of Frank Zappa-inspired brews a few years ago, which were actually quite good. Music and beer complement each other nicely, and with the right pairing of themes, the two can play well together.

Several years ago, a collaboration of music and beer yielded The Trooper by Robinsons Brewery in the UK. Supposedly developed by vocalist Bruce Dickinson and based on the song of the same name, which is, in turn, based on The Charge of the Light Brigade, this brew has a lot of inspiration behind it.

The Trooper is a pale ale, a nice English bitter, that falls on the lighter side with bittersweet malts, crisp hops and a rich copper color. To be honest, it’s about what I expected from the bottle. Maybe it’s me, but I would expect a beer named after a metal band to have a little more kick to it. It’s only 4.7%, so it’s very sessionable, but I expected something a little more hardcore.

That being said, it’s not a bad beer. It’s a decent English pale ale with good body and hops. Maybe I’m just too used to the extreme American beers we have here. I don’t go into every beer expecting an explosion of crispness and sweet malts that dance along the palate and end with a nice clean tingle on the tongue, but when those are the kinds of beers you get used to, it’s hard to be impressed by a humble English pale ale. Perhaps that’s why most beer snobs shy away from novelty beers, and I certainly understand, but I’ve never been one to turn away a decent brew. Perhaps our standards are too high. Maybe they’ll release an IPA called Aces High made with Sorachi Ace hops, or a stout called 2 Minutes to Midnight that’s as thick and black as motor oil.

Of course, there’s a difference between a big name musician releasing a beer and a brewer making a beer in their honor. We’ll not get into the Jimmy Buffet beer in this article, not without a lot of shame, but that’s a perfect example. On the other end of the spectrum, North Coast releases Brother Thelonious, a Belgian Abbey ale, 21st Amendment has a beer called Back in Black and Heavy Seas has a porter called Smoke on the Water, but the difference here is that these are brewers honoring musicians, not musicians honoring themselves with beer. I think that’s the key difference between an homage beer and what is basically a gimmick. It’s about the art, style and love that a brewer puts into his or her craft when honoring the source of their inspiration as opposed to slapping a label on a beer and hoping the name recognition will sell it. There’s nothing wrong with a little commercialism, but I really doubt Jimmy Buffet knows very much about craft beer.

As a quick aside, I personally call dibs on brewing a series of Alice in Chains inspired beers. Sorry, guys, but it’s sort of a life-goal of mine.

GIBF

The Great International Spring Beer Festival is once again upon us, taking over the Rhode Island Convention Center on April 25. This is one of the biggest festivals in New England and a great showcase for craft beer, perfect for those who want to try craft beer without committing to an expensive six-pack. Over 60 breweries will be represented (with 250+ brews), showcasing their finest fare.

They also pair music with beer (not to mention pizza). This year there will be live performances by The Network and The Rock (the local band, not Dwayne Johnson).

This venerable fest helped start the beer fest craze, and this year it celebrates its 21st birthday – so you’ll also get to see what happens when a beer fest reaches legal drinking age. (Note, the spring fest is only 9 – it’s partner in October is now 21)

Get your tickets in advance, because they sometimes sell out at the door. This is your chance to expand your palate and find out what craft beer is all about.

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