Music Sounds Better With … Beer

Beer and music have a long and storied relationship. Most of us have appreciated a tasty beer while watching a live show – one just simply goes well with the other. Though, have you ever experienced a deeper connection between the two in some way — where the music and the beer combine to elevate the collective enjoyment of both?

How about the last time you sat and enjoyed a flight of seasonal brews in your favourite taproom? Did you happen to notice just how consistently fantastic the tunes were? This must come down to the fact that music in brewery taprooms is almost never an afterthought. In nearly every instance, though at times quirky, obscure or somewhat niche, the songs are expertly curated selections that truly seem to pair perfectly with the beer offerings. 

During a recent visit to The Establishment Brewing Company (4407 1 St. S.E.), I was frankly amazed by the silky-smooth transitions between indie- and post-pock, sprinkled with a touch of rockabilly and alt-country. By all rights, an unconventional and perhaps even unlikely playlist, but it simply worked; each song hitting the right spot even better than the last.

“Craft beer is kind of rebellious, it’s always been a sort of underground movement,” says Establishment co-owner and head brewer Mike Foniok. “Underground music goes hand in hand — it’s an essential part of the craft beer subculture — and I guess sometimes we just have fun playing weird stuff.” 

Foniok, an avid music lover, says the connection between enjoying beer and music together runs deep. He says that even years ago as a homebrewer he always, “cranked the tunes” while he brewed, and that the music often inspired the resulting beer.

For Establishment, the music connection goes beyond the taproom as well. Most of the beer is named after songs or albums. Foniok says that after he creates a beer, the brewery employees get together to come up with a name that usually involves a song that is in some way connected to the overall concept of the beer. This could involve any song from any musical genre; Foniok says they don’t discriminate — anything is fair game. That’s why you have brews such as My Best Friend’s Girl (The Cars) and Afternoon Delight (Starland Vocal Band).

Speaking of musical genres, if you are into jazz, then you really need to check out the live jazz nights at The Establishment. They plan to extend their programming to multiple days each month starting in September (keep an eye on @estbrew for dates).

Now, what if a brewery doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar taproom to call their own? How can a passion for music be reflected in the overall culture of the brand; is it possible for a beer drinker to make a connection musically to the beer in this case? XhAle Brew Co has found a way. Founder Christina Owczarek has been able to seamlessly connect her love of beer and her passion for electronic music by becoming involved as a major sponsor and supporter of various electronic music events and related initiatives.

“The dance music scene has been often overlooked by beer brands,” says Owczarek, “but it’s just right for us. It’s eclectic, and quite different from the typical patriarchal image that beer has commonly held. Electronic music is very diverse, and this parallels the diversity among the people attending the events — they aren’t necessarily your typical beer drinkers, and we aren’t your typical brewery, so it’s perfect!”

As a sponsor of several events, XhAle’s commitment to the EDM community goes beyond simply ensuring the availability of tasty beverages. XhAle often provides support in the form of funding, procuring equipment, and perhaps most importantly for Owczarek, educating participants about harm reduction. During events, you can often find her facilitating workshops teaching the function and proper use of Naloxone kits, as well as providing info and being a strong advocate for overall safety within the community.

You can enjoy XhAle products at several upcoming events, including the popular Tuesday night rooftop dance party Versions (Tuesdays throughout September at Modern Love, 613 11 Ave. S.W.), as well as the Concrete Dreams Block Party, Sept. 2 at the Containr Site in Sunnyside, put on by local dance music promoter Technu. 

The connection between beer and music is real — it’s something you can feel and experience. Whether through the enjoyment of the musical selections in your favourite taproom, or by extending that appreciation beyond the taproom, the relationship between the two is a constant and distinct element that people connect to on a deep level. 

Of course, musical preference, just like beer preference, is highly subjective; one person’s perfect imbibing soundtrack may be another person’s worst nightmare. That is just fine though, because due to the immense diversity of beer styles, there’s surely a beer to go with everything and everyone.