Perfect Harmony: Craft Beer & Indie Music

I’ve had this thought percolating in my head for a little while that has finally bubbled to the surface. There are a lot of similarities between the world of craft beer and the world of indie music.

I have come to realize that these two things (both of which I adore) occupy the exact same space in my brain, and for good reason:

      • Both are well crafted and authentic
      • Both offer almost endless opportunities for exploration and discovery
      • Both appeal to people who look beyond the mainstream
      • Commercialism is secondary to art
      • Neither is over-processed
      • Both make me very happy

The wheels for this little epiphany got turning the other day when Nate from Thank Heaven for Beer posted a Facebook link to a music video by the Avett Brothers, an indie folk duo.  Dave from Drunken Polack quickly chimed in saying he also loves their music. I hadn’t heard them before and gave a listen and liked it so much I downloaded one of their album on iTunes.

So there’s three dudes (manly ones at that) who love both craft beer and great indie music, and not the navel gazing whiney stuff, BTW.  And just like recommending a new, well-crafted brew to try, Nate recommended an authentic and well-crafted song to enjoy.  That’s when the notion really clicked for me.

But there are many signs that point to this cultural connection if you look. For instance, Paste Magazine, a staple for indie music fans, has a cross promotion deal with Oskar Blues. Ads for Dale’s Pale Ale grace the magazine and info about Dale’s Pale Ale Paste Downlow’d Club can be found on every can of Dale’s.  Members are treated to a free indie music download every month, courtesy of my favorite canned beer. The Paste editors also blog about craft beer frequently as well, and they seem to know their stuff.

I could go on and on, talking about how the group Mother Mother reminds me of Stone Brewing, or how a Victory Storm King tastes best while listening to The National, especially anything off their album Boxer.  Or how indie folk hero Bonnie “Prince” Billy starred with Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione in the Robot Brewery Tour video we posted here before.  The signs are everywhere people!

I also just realized that Don’s gonna have a field day with this one.  I can picture him pulling a flannel over his Led Zepplin t-shirt, polishing his .22 and taking aim at my metrosexual tendancies…

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21 Comments on “Perfect Harmony: Craft Beer & Indie Music”

  1. May 26, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    Cool post idea Jim.

    I have noticed this too…it makes sense that if one is seeking out music that doesn’t play on “99.whatever pop music station” they might seek out beer that isn’t brewed by the guys occupying the commercial space on any given television network.

    I was listening to In Rainbows just this morning, by the way.

    Thanks for the shout out!

    • May 26, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

      Happy to give you a shout out. It was you and Dave who finally jarred this fleeting thought into consciousness for me. I had realized it a number of times in the past, without actually realizing it, if that makes any sense.

  2. May 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    I’ll chime in as the fourth dude. Check out this Avett Brothers NPR Tiny Desk Concert, Jim. Acoustic, no amps or electricity of any sort. Just musicians, instruments, vocal cords and microphones all jammed into the corner of an NPR office. Brilliant stuff.

    If you get a chance to see them live, do. They’re fabulous recorded. But live, they are a force.

    • May 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

      Awesome link, Chad. Thanks!

      I’ve been listening to their album “The Gleam” almost non-stop since I downloaded it. I prefer one brother’s voice over the other (the guy who sings Murder in the City – I haven’t done my homework yet), but in general I love this band. I’m a big Iron and Wine fan as well as the Great Lake Swimmers. These guys fit neatly in-between.

    • May 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

      Beer poet, NICE! I actually watched this a few days ago. the Avett Bros. are coming to Detroit soon…I hope to catch them. Typically any extra money goes to beer, but i’ll sacrifice in this case.

      Jim…I love the Great Lake Swimmers. They are Canadian, eh?

      • May 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

        Toronto, eh.

  3. Rob Crozier
    May 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    There’s definitely a correlation between “indie” music and craft beer: it comes down to creativity and caring about the “product” being made whether it be music or beer. I try to correlate beers all the time – for example, I consider Sam Calagione as the Frank Zappa of beers; Sierra Nevada the Led Zeppelin of beers; BrewDog the Radiohead of beers…you get my drift.

    • May 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

      Now there’s a game we could play, Rob, which brewer/brewery is a match for which musician.

      Your analogies are right on.

  4. May 26, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    I’m hoping Don has more than a .22 with all those Sasquatches running around loose in the woods!

    Very interesting post – not much of an indie music fan so I can’t really appreciate what you’re talking about – but I do understand the shared values so it makes a lot of sense. That is all.

  5. Don
    May 27, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    First off, you’re a big chicken, because you knew I was going to be gone all day yesterday when you posted this piece of crap. Second of all that was a very unmanly thing to do. Some Indie music can be tolerated, but most is just garbage that is too bad to make it into the mainstream. Do you think if “The National” (Who I’ve never ever heard a song from) could get the airplay of Coldplay that they would turn it down? Of course not. But they obviously aren’t good enough to make it into the mainstream. Now I like a lot of non-mainstream music, lots of jam band stuff like Wilco, moe, String Cheese Incident, and Widespread Panic. They typically don’t make it into mainstream because the average length of one of their songs is about 12 minutes. So don’t say I am all classic rock because I am not, although I do love Led Zepplin.

    What I’m trying to say is that you do craft beer an injustice when you compare it to any one genre of music, and you Jim should know this. If you like Indie, that is fine, but you also liked Depeche Mode, they were your favorite in the 80s so don’t go getting all high and mighty that you have these great musical chops and I’m just a hack, or I’ll have the guys from Metallica come over and kick the shit out of your favorite metrosexual, sideways lovin’, lotion wearing indie band. Capiche?

    • May 27, 2010 at 11:50 am #

      First off I liked Depeche Mode, but I loved LOVED The Smiths (which is far worse on the moaning-navel-gazer scale).

      Second, there are all kinds of indie music, from folk to rock, to electronic to alt country. All the genres are represented, so comparing craft beer to indie music actually allows for a ton of latitude and variation. It’s a perfect analogy.

      And Coldplay’s best album (by far) was Parachutes and it was an indie release that got them signed into the mainstream, where IMO they then began to make U2-derivative over processed crap music. I now find them largely unlistenable and I used to adore their stuff. It’s like if InBev bought out Stone – their art would certainly suffer as they were faced with the pressures of making it big.

      And the fact that you say indie bands are crap because they aren’t “good enough” to make it into the mainstream is a really uninformed thing to say, Don. Indie music is more authentic and is created to appeal to the artist, not watered down for the masses. It’s exactly like great beers. Following your reasoning, Dogfish Head makes shitty beer that isn’t “good enough” to sell as much as Budweiser. Horseshit.

      • Don
        May 27, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

        Blah blah blah…all I know is there are a lot of Metallica lovers that truly love craft beer too. I actually met a couple at the Metallica concert in Boise and we talked craft beer for much of the night (in between shows of course). So when Metallica produces and Indie album I will be an indie listener, but to say that your namby pamby indie music anology holds water is full of holes. There are plenty of classic rock lovers that drink craft beer, but in your world they don’t exist, lots of classical music lovers drink craft beer, but you say they don’t, and yes, even heavy metal lovers love craft beer too. If those three genras of music were indie they would be watered down and InBev like. So don’t go saying this is a good analogy, because it doesn’t fit. There you go shoving a square peg into a round hole. Why don’t you try lubing it up with some of your manly hand cream to get it to fit.

        • May 27, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

          You need to pay more attention to what you read, Don. I’m not saying craft beer can ONLY be compared to indie music. I just think it’s a great fit. Our buddy Rob pointed out that he considers Sam Calagione as the Frank Zappa of beers and Sierra Nevada the Led Zeppelin of beers. I’m down with that. Two great breweries and two great bands that appeal to people who enjoy authentic, well crafted things. Solid analogy.

          I’m also not saying craft beer lovers only listen to indie music (or listen to it at all for that matter). There’s tons of folks out there that listen to all sorts of stuff that also enjoy craft beer. What I’m AM saying is that people who eschew the mainstream in search of more authentic things could certainly enjoy both craft beer and indie music. It’s a rock solid analogy, bro.

          Also, I’m not sure your Metallica example holds much water. Metallica isn’t just for rockers, as many guys and gals with an open mind and a love of cool music enjoy their stuff. They’re like the U2 of hard rock. Now if you were at a GWAR show, that’d be a different story…

        • Don
          May 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

          You need to stop throwing U2 around like they are the only mainstream band. And plenty of people love Coldplay, and they may have just evolved their style, and not sold out like you like to think they did. People said that about Metallica too, but I don’t buy it. I think if you are an artist that you put your all into every piece you create. To run your statements to their logical conclusion the only truly genuine artist would be Kurt Cobain who killed himself when he ran out of ideas. Some artists choose to evolve and make different sounds etc. rather than kill themselves. I don’t know maybe that had something to do with his Heroin addiction…

          But to pigeonhole craft beer into a realm of goobers is wrong. Why don’t you go play your dungeons and dragons or your world of warcraft and leave the annologizin’ to people who aren’t out of touch with reality.

  6. May 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    Funny interaction. For my two cents, I’d say this issue is shear volume. The shear amount of music out there has just exploded. The reason it’s great and bad at the same time is because it’s so much easier to self-produce than it was even 10 years ago. There is just so much stuff out there, we are hard pressed to find something (sort of ironic) good. The question is whether to discover of just consume what’s put in front of us.

    I personally find the analogy apt because main-stream/popular media is not something I listen to a lot. Sure, it’s widely palatable and the majority of people are okay with consuming it. Occasionally, an indie artist will make it big. I think Stone and New Blegium are the sorts of indie artists that make it big, so to speak. The reason that some breweries never make it big is for the same reason that some indie artist never make it big. They are either bad or they are really good but not palatable to the general public. Popular appeal is not always an accurate measure. Imagine DFH not being iconoclastic and attempting to make a light pilsner. Imagine Led Zeppelin, whom I love, not being a ground breaking band (they didn’t have much popular appeal at first, and were basically a biker’s band). I guess my point is that there is a lot of good indie music and indie beer out there but they are getting harder to find with bigger influxes all the time. So, we revert to sticking with what we love and know sometimes.

    I’ve personally made an analogy along these lines before.

  7. May 29, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    Jim, you make an interesting point and the brother banter was fun to read. Fugazi,huh? I saw Fugazi live a few times. Once we saw them play in a parking garage.

    • May 29, 2010 at 8:59 am #

      Thanks, Rachel. I’m not a big Fugazi guy, but I’d certainly watch them for free in a parking lot.

  8. May 31, 2010 at 1:22 am #

    Jim, my Wife and some friends saw Morrisey not too long ago in Montclair. Last summer? (Funny beer story behind how she scored the tickets.) Did you go to that show? He did a lot of Smiths materiel.

    I think its a good analogy, but rage on Don!

    • May 31, 2010 at 11:12 am #

      No, I didn’t see that show. I’ve found it’s impossible to get out to see bands now that we have little ones. Last time I bought tickets I wound up not using them, which was a bummer and a waste. That was for the Decemberists in Montclair last year.

      I think this will be the case until my daughter drags me out to whoever replaces Justin Bieber in a few years. Not sure if that’s something to look forward too!

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