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Monday, November 04, 2013

More of This, Please: Music and Brewery Collabs

A week or two back, a tall gentleman knocked on our front door bearing beer and music.  (Note to the world: one way to get a hermit to answer the door is by bringing beer and music.)  He was Eric Nordby of the local band, Norman.  Owing to the fact that I am decrepit, I'd of course not been previously acquainted with the band.  Nevertheless, he presented me with Norman's latest release, Into the Eventyr and along with it a bottle of Calapooia's accompanying beer.  The beer and the CD have the same label and, wonder of wonders, if you scan the QR code on the side of the bottle, it will take you to a free download of the whole album.

The idea was to attempt to reproduce the character of the band in the beer--planned synesthesia, if you will.  I love this idea and have had the experience myself of tasting a beer and thinking of a band.  Music is a big inspiration for brewers, too, who regularly allude to songs, bands, or genres and who regularly have it playing at the brewery.  Matching the two intentionally seems like a perfect endeavor, and a totally Oregonesque one.  This is far from the first time music and beer have tangoed, but the integration has been taken to a high level.  I'd love to see more direct collaborations like this (and see more people showing up on my door with beer and music).

Okay, but: do the beer and band match?  Eric told us that he thought the beer tasted exactly how his band sounded, smooth and mellow.  He likened Norman to the Allman Brothers and when I glanced at the label and saw it ring at in at 5%, it seemed to pass the visual inspection stage.  Then we went on to round two, tickling the ear drums and taste buds.

Norman, the Ale
The label calls this a "Northwest pale ale" and for once, I agree.  It's the color of an amber, but the nose is pure hop saturation.  If I were describing it as a beer, I'd talk about caramel malts and hop varieties, but I allowed my tongue to experience it the way my ears hear music.  It has a heavy, fat sound, garaged-up with the buzz of the amp and the crackle of electricity.  To me, it had a grungy 90s sensibility, harmonic but intense and unpolished.  If I thought of it as a beer, I'd have found the caramel malts intrusive and the hops too raspy--but as a rock expression, that was perfect.  Loud and raw.  In my music mode, I just let the volume rise and swamp me.  Nice.

Norman, the Band
Eric is in the top middle.
I was surprised to find a very different experience when Into the Eventyr ("adventure") rolled out of the speakers.  It's a far softer, more polished sound.  Depending on which song you're listening to, the influences seem to have more with the folk-psychedelia of the sixties--Byrds, CSN, that kind of thing.  On some songs they have really nice vocal harmonies going on, in others its more guitar-accented.  (The final song, Leaving the Valley, does have an badass Allman's guitar thing going on.)  But the music is smooth, layered, and flows like water.  Definitely not garage-basic and raw.  If I switch from music mode to beer mode, it puts me in mind of something like a Bavarian weizen or cask bitter.

But hey, synesthesia isn't an exact science--your experience may vary.  Either way, you should definitely go find a bottle, scan the code, and run the experiment yourself.

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