Can you pair a beer with a musical composition the same way you match beer and food?
Can music soothe the savage yeast?
Brian Strumke of Baltimore-based Stillwater Artisanal Ales is taking the idea a step further: In September, he brewed a beer that he says is based on the song, “In the End Is the Beginning,” from “Nootropics,” the second album by Charm City band Lower Dens. Dubbed Stillwater Sensory Experience, Vol. 1, the beer (an ale brewed with spelt, hibiscus flowers and a touch of oak-smoked wheat malt) should debut in kegs and 12.5-ounce bottles within the next several weeks.
Strumke claims the beer isn’t merely an example of cross-marketing, like Michael Jackson hawking Pepsi. Rather, he insists, it’s “a true artistic collaboration that aims to create a full sensory experience — sound, sight, smell, touch and taste.” In fact, he intends to place a QR code on the label and coasters that will enable drinkers to link to a special video of the Lower Dens performing its composition. You’ll also be able to access the video at stillwatersensory.com.
Strumke, a musician himself and a so-called “gypsy brewer” who borrows other brewers’ tanks to make his beers, says that several members of the Lower Dens hail from Baltimore, but he hooked up with the band in Paris while he was on a European trip.
“I’ve been a big fan of their music; they’re big fans of my beer.” He would have invited them to Dog Brewing Co. in Westminster, Md., to help brew the beer, “but they were on tour at the time and couldn’t help out.”
“In the End Is the Beginning,” as Strumke describes it, is long, droning and minimalistic, “with a very intricate, psychedelic atmosphere.” He adds: “The band thought I would do a dark beer, but that would be too obvious, not in Stillwater’s mindset.”
Instead, he set out to make a beer that was “white but not bright,” like a fog-enshrouded sky, “light in color but with dark flavors.” The wheat in the beer represents “a cloudy, hazy vision of the song.” For hops, he used a New Zealand variety called Pacific Gem, which has a blackberrylike flavor, and East Kent Goldings, an English hop strain known for its earthy, musky aroma.
“It’s a nice, light, refreshing beer with a lot of crazy intricacies,” he promises.
Strumke says he’s talking with other bands and would like to release a new Stillwater Sensory Experience beer every quarter. “This isn’t a big commercial endeavor,” he says. “I’m not asking the artists to endorse it. It’s about working together to create art.”