Mixing Malt And Music

Martin Johnson - Bands and brewers are getting together.

When it was announced this week that Budweiser was partnering with Metallica for a limited edition beer, I yawned. 

Not that I have anything against Mettalica. I don't choose to listen to their music often, but I respect their longevity; it's hard to keep a band together—even a successful one--for three years, and Metallica has been around for 34. No, I yawned because this seems like so much dog bites man. There are a lot of music and beer collaborations these days.

Among big players, Queen celebrated the 40th anniversary of their hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” by collaborating with related Pilsner called Bohemian Lager (this should leave anyone who knows half a thing about beer scratching their head). AC/DC, Motorhead, 311, Hootie and the Blowfish, Hanson (yep, MMMHop), Pearl Jam, also all have beers that seem to qualify more as brand extensions than engaging beverages. This onslaught begs the question can music and beer coexist together in business as well as they do in performance.

The answer happily is yes. Not all beer/band collaborations are about marketing. Three new beers offer culinary interest to match their marketing newsworthiness. 

Mahr's, the Bamberg brewery that makes extraordinary lagers, has made one with the Mastodon name on it. Craig Finn, of the Brooklyn based rock band The Hold Steady has just released a beer, Clear Heart, a collaboration with the Signature Brewery. And The Monks of Norica, a Benedictine sect in Italy, whose recording, “Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norica” (De Montfort), topped the Classical Music charts at Billboard for several weeks this summer, are about to release a delicious Tripel, the product of their studying with Trappist monks in Belgium.


The Mahr's is a classic lager; it's full of malty, bready overtones and a clean crisp flavor. Just like their Ungespundet Hefetrub, it's the sort of beer that is a potent reminder of why Germany is so revered for its brewing. The Tripel is cool and breezy with distinctive melon flavors, a yeasty mouth feel and a dry finish. It looks like the Monk's have learned their lessons well. Clear Heart is a Golden Ale with bright citrusy overtones.

I can't imagine this trend slowing down any time soon. The craft beer industry is teeming with refugees from the music industry and there's substantial crossover between sonic artistry and beer craftsmanship. Brewers like Brian Strumke of Stillwater are deejays and many jazz musicians like James Davis are home brewers. Budweiser and Metallica may garner the headlines but the real action in music and beer collaborations is going on at an underground level.

The Author:

Martin Johnson is a beer buyer and merchandising manager for Westside Market East Village in New York City.When not selling or drinking beer he writes about jazz and beer for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate, beer for Eater and about a variety of cultural and culinary topics for The Root.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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