With Record Store Day upon us let’s take a moment to reflect on beer and music. The two have long enjoyed a relationship of mutual love and respect. It’s celebrated every year at events large and small from Inverness, through Cumbria’s Silloth, past Conwy in Wales, down to Hastings, East Sussex.
In fact, it’s in Sussex where Harveys brew Revival Ale, the beer of folk group Bellowhead. You might not know them, but they know their brews: Revival is their second after Hedonism; both are golden ales named after albums by the band.
Rock music has a rich history of brewing, with some of the genres giants holding aloft their mighty goblets of beer. Many are (or were) lagers, AC/DC (Australian Hardrock), Kiss (Destroyer) and Motorhead among them. The latter has also recently teamed up with Cameron’s Brewery in Hartlepool to create Road Crew, a pale ale of which Lemmy would be proud.
Fancy something a little less mainstream? Take a gulp of Hunter from metal monsters Mastodon, whose Black Tongue is an extremely dark IPA that would no doubt make the devil-horns gesture at Pearl Jam’s Faithfull Ale.
Some guitar-heavy beers are stronger than others – Clutch’s Lips Of Faith is a loud 9% ABV – but none are more popular than Trooper Ale from those national treasures Iron Maiden. The number of the beast in this case is five million; that’s the pints estimated to have been sold (at the time of writing).
Other British musical institutions have successfully produced their own ales. Mercury Prize winning Elbow have two brews to their name with Charge and Build a Rocket Boys, while ska legends Madness are three beers to the good with Gladness, Lovestruck and Night Boat.
Now it’s time to pop over to Germany. It’s a country with musical pedigree, particularly in the genes of classical – Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner, to name very few – and electronic, including the pioneering Kraftwerk. (Not to mention big-haired metal dudes Scorpions and Nena of 99 Red Balloons fame.)
Germany is also the homeland of exquisite ales. There are numerous varieties from almost countless brewers – but a special few can be had at what is probably the best-known annual celebration of beer: Oktoberfest.
Running for 16 days from late September, Munich’s Oktoberfest allows only ales brewed within the city limits and to strict rules of purity.
Millions of litres are sunk each year to the near-constant strains of music. Sing-alongs are common in every beer tent. Ein Prosit (I Salute You) is the number one selection and involves a lot of cheering and swigging. Want something less Bavarian? Angels by Robbie Williams and Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline crop up with extreme regularity, no matter where you go.
But enough of Germany; it’s time to return to the UK. About now, you’re probably thinking, “What if I want a refreshing malty pint without having to wave a cigarette lighter in the air?”, well, you’d best ask beer writer Pete Brown, who holds music-matching events to find the sounds that will most improve the taste of your beers. His talks are based on neuroscience and explores how human senses can overlap.
Not everyone’s convinced that trumpets improve the flavour of hops, says Pete, but he keeps refining the content of his advice and “some audience members… find it seismic in changing their perceptions”. Must be worth a listen.