In Suds & Sounds we turn the spotlight on breweries, focusing on the role of music in that brewery’s history, packaging, tastes, and in its city or town as a whole. The idea is to get beer and music lovers to connect with a side of the brewery that may often go overlooked, but one that we think is absolutely vital. To accomplish this, we are talking to the brewers themselves about their own love of music and the role it plays in how they approach their beer. And who knows, maybe we’ll even talk to a musicians from time to time to give a perspective from the other side.
In this age of $20 4-packs served up by hyper-local breweries to eager beer nudes who wait in line for hours, the craft beer scene can tend to be a little self-serious. Believe it or not, it’s possible to make really good beer and still have a sense of humor. Just ask the team at Melvin Brewing. Since 2010, the Alpine, Wyoming-based brewery has been serving up tasty brews to a rapidly growing fanbase and having a hell of a good time doing it. Their best known beer is the award-winning 2×4 double IPA, a high-ABV hop bomb that is so beloved the brewery decided to start a holiday around it with 2×4 Day, which takes place on February 4th (get it?) and features loads of rowdy activities. This year they will flip the numbers and hold 2×4 Day on April 2nd. The Melvin team also loves hip-hop and kung fu, so it’s only natural that their beers sometimes contain references to Wu-Tang, like their Killer Bees American blond ale.
Music, comedy and kung-fu play a role in everything the brewery does, from their Drunken Master double IPA to Chuck Morris (also a double IPA). At the 2017 Great American Beer Festival, the Melvin team parked a school bus on the convention floor and had a DJ cranking out hip-hop while their elephant mascot danced along, drawing plenty of attention from excited beer lovers who flocked to the party. In advance of the event they asked their fans to contribute suggestions to the GABF playlist. One time they even once staged a face-off between a craft beer ninja and a Budweiser ninja in a San Diego bar…guess who won. All of this is part of a strategy that involves a passion for good beer and fun. To get an inside look at what makes Melvin stand out in the craft beer world, we talked with Co-founder and Field Hoperative Jeremy Tofte.
How long have you been brewing and what do you consider your greatest triumph so far as a craft brewer?
I started home brewing when I was 19 and have now brewing professionally for 7 years. The greatest triumph was introducing our small town to the future of craft beer. When we first started in the back of a Thai restaurant in 2010, ½ of the town was hating on our beer saying things like “the hops are too young” and “they add vodka to 2×4 to get it to 10%”. Of course, we are a ski town and not a craft town, so there was no blaming people that didn’t have craft beer in their Top 10 most Important Things list. We almost started believing that the beer was not as good as we thought it was. And then in 2012, at our first Great American Beer Festival, we won Silver for Chchchch-Cherry Bomb and Gold’s for 2×4 Double IPA and Melvin IPA. We also won the coveted Alpha King award the day before. Mind = blown. Beer vindicated. Worldwide takeover eminent. By 2017 we finally won best beer in town in one of those newspaper vote-in things for 2×4, you know, the one with the vodka and young hops in it.
Talk about the beer culture a bit in your city. What do people look for in a good beer and what do you hope to provide, and also do you see the beer scene as being linked in any way to the music scene?
Just like music and beer, people just seem to like what they like and it’s not fair to hold that against them. The beer culture in our town is associated with jam bands. We are actually naming a beer “There are not enough bus accidents involving jam bands”. It’s long winded but I think it speaks to our core values. At our establishments, we play hip-hop and soul.
A lot of breweries seem to incorporate their own musical tastes into their packaging and presentation, whether it be a collaboration with a band, a tribute label, or a beer name that references something they like. Has you brewery ever done something like this, and if so can you tell us about it?
We may or may not have several beer names loosely adapted from a certain influential hip-hop group.
In your opinion, is there a particular band or genre that is ideal to listen to while brewing beer?
Metal and hip-hop, or as my dad likes to call it, The Rap, are the only two genres one is allowed to listen to while brewing. If anyone tells you different, they are doing it wrong.
Some breweries have gotten more into music through sponsoring tours, festivals, or even throwing their own versions of those. How do you think live music fits into the fabric of craft beer, and is this something your brewery has done?
Unfortunately, someone at almost every brewery has a roommate that decided it would be a good idea to start playing the mandolin. Playing around the bonfire in the backyard over a growler quickly escalated to open mics at the brewery. As the brewery grows, they bring the mandolin playing type bands around with them because it’s an easy way to sell beer: “Play that there hillbilly country music and sales will go through the roof!”. At Melvin, we have a strict roommate vetting process that was put in place to make sure that no employees will ever have a roommate that plays mandolin.
Do you have any musicians or noteworthy people that you can say are fans of any of your beers?
Melvin Van Peebles. Only one we know of and the only one that matters.
Breweries often collaborate with other breweries for beers and Melvin is no stranger to this. They also have been known to collaborate with musicians. Is there a musician or band that you would love to collaborate with, and if so, what kind of beer do you envision you would brew?
We would like to collab with the lead singer guy from Guns n’ Roses. Make the worst beer ever and make him drink it all. And then put a mandolin in his hand.
For all things Melvin Brewing, visit melvinbrewing.com.
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