Tunes and Brews - Can you pair Music and Beer?
There is no doubt that when you are enjoying a beer in public, there is most likely music playing. Whether it be in a bar with a bumping jukebox, at a music venue, or even a backyard party, there is a good chance that while you're consuming a few cold ones, you will have a soundtrack. This brought to mind the notion of pairing the beer you're consuming with the music you are listening to.
There is almost nothing more nostalgic for me than listening to a punk rock show and drinking a PBR. It brings me back to the basement shows I used to attend while I was a student at the College of Saint Rose. I can still hear the amp feedback and ringing in my ears every time I sip out of the signature red, white and blue can.
It is standard for music venues to offer alcoholic beverages for purchase at shows. With the craft beer movement continuing to grow stronger, it makes sense that a lot of music venues are starting to offer more varieties of beer for the audience's sensory pleasure.
New standards for beer at music events
Interestingly enough, it was recently announced that the upcoming Phish festival, Magnaball, will not only be featuring fan favorite Foam pilsner from California's Sierra Nevada, a beer specifically brewed for Phish festivals, but other highly sought after Vermont brewed beers. Names like Lawson's Finest Liquids, Hill Farmstead and Brooklyn's Sixpoint have also been announced as beer vendors for the festival, a three day event in Watkins Glen, NY. The FX Matt brewery also just brewed a double IPA in conjunction with Utica-native band moe. for their appearance at the brewery's Summer Concert series.
It used to be that you could only find large national brands at music venues. Now, you are starting to see, like the Magnaball festival, more and more music venues are offering craft beer choices. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) now offers a lineup of local New York State craft beers in their beer tent, and smaller venues like Putnam Den in Saratoga, The Low Beat in Albany and Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park have been increasing the number of craft beers they offer to concert goers for some time now.
What makes a "good" beer and music pairing?
A question like what makes a good pairing is just as ambiguous with music as it is with food. Of course, there are certain parameters that you can play with. For instance, when talking to August Rosa, musician and co-owner of Brew on Lark, a craft beer bottle shop and coffee joint on Lark Street, says when he thinks about pairing music and beer, he wants a similar sound to flavor profile. "If I'm listening to aggressive music, I want to drink an aggressive beer," says Rosa. Think along the lines of a massively hoppy Imperial IPA with hardcore music. The same way an intense hop note in beer can accentuate spiciness in food, an assertive beer can make the music seem that much more intense.
Linking the time period of popularity between a brewery and music can also be a good way to use similarities to pair the two. Melissa Hildreth, Craft/Specialty Manager for DeCrescente Distributing, said when she thinks of pairing beer and music up, she thinks of what someone's dad would listen to and drink. She found out first hand at the FX Matt Brewery in Syracuse that this is a solid place to start. Utica Club and Zappa Plays Zappa was the perfect pair!
Similar to food pairings, it is also important to take into consideration the origin of both the beer and the music. For instance, makes perfect sense to have Vermont native beers like Hill Farmstead and Lawson's Finest available at the Phish festivals, since Phish is also from Vermont. Metal band The Sword out of Austin, TX pairs nicely with Shiner Bock, also out of Texas.
Why pair beer and music?
Since drinking and listening to music are both sensory experiences, it makes sense that they can affect one another. When asked why beer and music go so well together, Ian Carlton, musician and daytime bartender at The Beer Belly in Albany, said, "well, I can't remember a time when I've played a gig or practiced and not been consuming beer! Unless I was deathly ill, but then I wouldn't be playing anyway." He also said it is so commonplace when playing live shows because the beer is usually free for the band, so why not indulge! Carlton ends our conversation by saying that his perfect record and beer combination would be a Dry-hopped Saison DuPont and a Herb Alpert record.
Much in the same way that beer and food can compliment and make the other taste better, music can sound better and beer can taste better depending on the environment. So next time you sit down to listen to your favorite record, think about what beer you want to drink while enjoying the sounds coming from your speaker. And if all else fails, in the words of Carlton, have a Miller High Life!
Matt Zaloga (aka Bow Tie Matt or Matty) is a man who is after the epitome of sensory experiences. Whether it be tasting the latest and greatest beer, testing out a new culinary experience or checking out a new band, his search for anything to excite and mystify his senses is never ending. Matt is as comfortable at home in the kitchen as he is out on the street, ensuring the public is well stocked with finely brewed liquid. You can find him wherever there is good food, tunes, and of course, great beer! Just look for the bow tie!