Some artists have been immortalized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Others are in the history books due to a Grammy Award or particularly momentous chart position. But a select few received a rarer accolade: a beer named in their honor. It may be more fitting than any of the institutionalized honors. Music, after all, often possesses a rebellious edge. And alcohol-related tributes give off a somewhat illicit spirit. Today, as many of us settle into summer and backyard barbecue gatherings, it's entirely possible to fill the coolers with drinks that reflect a killer playlist. Here are some unexpected – and noteworthy – artists commemorated with a craft beer.
At the Gates
Indiana's 3 Floyd's Brewing Co. likes its music heavy, having worked with hard-hitting and experimental metal acts such as Pelican. So when it unveiled a beer named Blood of the Sunsets, one, without even being familiar with Swedish metal stalwarts At the Gates, could safely assume aggressive melodies influenced the evocatively named brew. The maroon-hued IPA, concocted from a hearty mix of bitter American hops and sweeter European ones, has been described as a study in contrasts between assertive and fragrant notes. Sounds about right, given the beer takes its moniker from a 1993 song that lifts off with a rush of swirling guitar riffs and suddenly does away with instrumental ornamentation to focus on the unfettered pairing of voice and drums. It's controlled chaos, like a recipe of clashing flavors.
Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast is rightly considered an essential metal album, cherished for its breakneck guitar interplay, varied tempos, and dramatic lyrical readings from vocalist Bruce Dickinson. It's also no longer viewed as a symbol of Satan worshipping, as it had been at the time of its release in 1982. In other words, the record has aged well. Check, for instance, a tune like "Run to the Hills," which still sounds fresh with corkscrew guitar notes twisting around a propulsive rhythm. Or the ballad-like "Children of the Damned" and its racing finish. Or "22 Arcadia Lane," which begins in a relatively straightforward manner only to become more operatic as it progresses. Fittingly, The Number of the Beast got immortalized as a barrel-aged ale by the San Diego area's Lost Abbey. Dark, hearty, and dry – the beer often gets compared to an oatmeal raisin cookie – Lost Abbey's The Number of the Beast recognizes some art needs to grow a little older before it's properly appreciated.
Much of Pink Floyd's music has been said to have mind-altering abilities. So it was only a matter of time before those who worked with actual brain-modifying substances took inspiration from the British band. The group's 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon remains as much a song cycle as something akin to a tone poem, as sounds waft in and out while melodies and harmonies emerge and vanish, the band seemingly conjuring a spell as the record unfolds. When there's a moment of clarity, as on "Money," it gets delivered with such acidity that it feels hallucinatory. Michigan's Brewery Vivant aims for a high-intensity with its Tart Side of the Moon. The stout boasts an elevated alcohol-by-volume percentage and a heavy sourness, ensuring the beverage is built for contemplation. And hopefully, the only "Brain Damage" one experiences is the actual track on the album.
Breweries have always had a relatively cozy relationship with Chicago's adventurous rock band Wilco. Regardless of the group's sonic diversions, Wilco has remained seeded in American roots music, a hearty and melodic style that works well in a pub or at a barbecue. Lagunitas, for instance, created Wilco Tango Foxtrot, a brown ale that alludes to Wilco's breakthrough album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Across the globe, New Zealand's music-obsessed brewery Yeastie Boys found tremendous success with Pot Kettle Black, which shares the same name as a song on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Merging the dark smoothness of a stout with the hop bite of a pale ale, Pot Kettle Black aims to channel Wilco's genre-hopping ways. That it gives a chance to revisit the tune after which it's named – a sly pop number with some odd rhythmic ticks and a soaring finale – arrives as a bonus.
On any given night in any major city, you can most certainly find a pairing of food and wine or beer. But upstate California's North Coast Brewing may have hit on an even better combination: beer and wine. Its Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey pays tribute to jazz great Thelonious Monk. The strong drink is accentuated with charred-tasting fruit characters, making it a sipper. But if you're listening to Monk, best to settle in and get comfortable. The pianist had a way of feeling both elegant and unexpected, letting melodies saunter, strut, or gallop without warning. A beautiful introduction can give way to sudden breaks or a swinging groove. But Monk's shifts never prove jarring. He, and this liquid concoction, places us in the hands of a master.
Photo credit: Ester Segarra