Grateful Dead experts can talk at length about the band’s varying periods, be it the band’s jazzy, never-ending folk excursions or its blues-rock roots. But regardless of the era, if you have ever listened and enjoyed any of it, and then thought, ‘I wonder how this would taste,’ now is your time to speak up.
Delaware’s adventurous Dogfish Head Brewery is in the final stages of soliciting ingredients from fans for its American Beauty, a pale ale it is concocting with the help of surviving members of the Grateful Dead. Submissions are due at midnight, but don’t think you can just rattle off an ingredient (a legal one, of course) to enter. Dogfish’s Sam Calagione wants a story about how your suggestion ties in to the band.
Writes the brewery, “Did you trade a bushel of fresh clementines for tickets to a two-night stand at Long Beach Arena? Or maybe your dad first laid eyes on your mom sipping a cup of green tea in the parking lot of the legendary Cornell ’77 show?”
No doubt the band’s varied history will inspire plenty of crazy suggestions, but chances are Dogfish is up to the challenge. Among its more than 30 beers is one concocted with Pinot Noir juice and another was inspired by the “chemical analysis of 3,000-year-old pottery fragments found in Honduras.” The ingredients for Dogfish’s recent Birra Etrusca Bronze came from “analyzing drinking vessels found in 2,800-year-old Etruscan tombs” in Italy.
So, Deadheads, fans of Dogfish are counting on you to be creative here. Those who pick the winning ingredient -- to be chosen by Dogfish and the surviving band members -- will win a trip to the brewery to witness the beer-making process.
Dogfish’s music connections run deep. Chicago resident Jon Langford, leader of long-running punk outfit the Mekons, has designed artwork for the brewery. Dogfish has also released a Miles Davis-inspired beer (Bitches Brew) as well as one named after Robert Johnson (Hellhound on My Ale). In 2011, Dogfish unleashed Faithfull Ale, a beer that celebrated the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s “Ten,” and last year, Dogfish teamed with electronic artist Dan the Automator on a beer/vinyl collaboration (Positive Contact).
“I learned more about growing Dogfish by studying the music industry,” Calagione told Pop & Hiss in 2012. “There’s so many parallels between music and beer. For example, Top 40 music is the equivalent of light lager beer. It dominates commercially, it’s accessible and it’s not distinct -- it’s intentionally not distinct.”
But while Dogfish’s beer and music credentials are impeccable, Pop & Hiss can’t help but note how serendipitous it would have been had L.A.'s own Golden Road Brewing been granted the Grateful Dead assignment.
Golden Road, after all, takes its name from the Dead track “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion),” and if that isn’t enough to prove that the folks at Golden Road Brewing are a bunch of hippies, their brown ale Either Side of the Hill is inspired by a lyric in the Dead’s “Ramble on Rose."
But no matter, where beer and the Dead are concerned, there are sure to be bootleggers the world over crafting their own Dead-inspired homebrews. Dogfish’s American Beauty is due in the fall of 2013.
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