Before there was beer there was Hip Hop, a time when I wasn’t spending all my cash on bottles and cans to take home but instead it was vinyl. I wasn’t reading about different beers and the best places to drink them, I was reading EP reviews and looking out for the latest gigs. During my college years there was even a period of time that I dabbled in a bit of music creation myself, somewhere I could vent my passion just like I do now with beer blogging. I don’t know what it was that first captured me about rap, I was about 12/13 when I was handed a cassette recording of Xzibit Speed of Life LP and I was instantly hooked. I think it might have been because I was doing something completely different to everyone else at school. Wu Tang 36 Chambers soon followed and then I think I got a lot of my Hip Hop fix from recording Tim Westwood shows on Radio 1 to paly in my cassette player! The love grew, I soon figured out that I didn’t like the commercial Hip Hop that was coming out in the early 2000’s but I was seeking the 90s era boom bap and battle rap style Hip Hop. As I got a little older and went to college I first discovered UK Hip Hop thanks to my good friend Blokey (real name Paul!) who owned a record store in Southend called Root Beats Records. If I wasn’t helping out at the shop I was hanging out at the shop, mainly getting my work paid in records. UK Hip Hop artists like Skinnyman, Foreign Beggars, Mystro, Rodney P, Taskforce, Tommy Evans, Stig of the Dump and local artists such as Iron Bridge grabbed my attention and I could relate to the lyrics more so than the American artists. This went on for years but then out of nowhere a lot of the UK artists I loved just stopped, my speakers broke and wasn’t repaired then I sold some records, for a while I fell out of love with Hip Hop.
A couple years later the Craft Beer scene kicked off, I was hooked and the Half Pint Gentleman Blog was created. I never really thought about the two different passions and the scenes they sat in, however then out of the blue a challenge was presented to me. Rhythm and Brews is a podcast that explores the theory that music can change flavour in beer. The theory comes from scientific experiments in Belgium where they claimed to prove that different music changes and enhances certain flavours, the theory claims that high melodic music (Disney sound tracks were used in the experiment) is linked to sweeter flavours, deep bass for bitterness and discordant high pitch noises for sourness. During the collaboration podcast with Steve and Martin from Hopinions a discussion about Hip Hop not really working with the theory came up, and Steve spoke about how I was really into Hip Hop and about my micro pub in the back garden, Caps ‘n’ Raps (Bottle Caps & Battle Raps). The challenge was thrown down, I hit them up on twitter and accepted.
It wasn’t till I came to the pre podcast prep that I really started to think about my college years being involved with the Essex music scene and how independent music industry and the Craft Beer industry have so much in common. Both industries driving to create something from their passion after being fed up of having big cooperation products shoved down their throats and told to enjoy. I then started to think about growing up with Hip Hop, it was more than just music, it opened me up to different cultures, taught me American history, dictated the way I dressed and excited me that I was doing something different to every one else. I shared the same excitement in year 8 at school telling people I was listening to Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul than I did ordering a pint of Adnams Bitter or bottle of Duvel in college. In a weird way, thinking about the way I enjoyed being different by listening to Hip Hop, and wanting more than just listening to it but embracing it and researching it, was the same feeling I had with beer when I discovered Belgian beers and Craft Beer.
The format of the Rhythm and Brews Hip Hop Challenge Podcast was the following, I pick a beer for each of the podcast hosts Luke and Andrew and they pick a beer for me, we then pick a Hip Hop song to pair with the song that we think enhances the beer somehow. The beer that was picked for me was Evil Twin Bikini Beer, a 2.7% pale ale. Not too much on the nose, flavour wise you get faint tropical fruit flavours teasing your taste buds right at the back of the beer, moderate bitterness and it has an initial cereal flavours like rice crispies. I think the low ABV gives the beer a bit of a thin body but still just about holds up before becoming too watery. The high carbonation helps with the mouthfeel a little. Although this beer won’t be for every one I do like it, it has a “Summer-y” vibe to it and at its very low ABV is really sessionable. To help give the beer a bit more umph I thought I would need a good balance of both high tone melody to bring out the tropical fruit flavours a tad more and a bit of bass to enhance the bitterness but not too much.
The song I picked was “Pete Rock & CL Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y)”, one of my favourite Hip Hop songs of all time and possibly one of the most instantly recognisable samples used in Hip Hop. Ignoring the random intro of a break beat from “The Beginning Of The End”, the intro on the track which has just the sax sample from “Tom Scott – Today” has a high pitch melody which I think helps bring out the tropical fruit flavours and sweetness from the beer. This sample continues on the chorus of the song but with the addition of the bass line, which is a boomy base, not a big dirty bassline, this helps pick out the bitterness in the beer. CL Smooth has a higher sounding MC voice which throughout the track helps alongside the sax sample. The other factor in the beer flavour changing is experiential, the feel of the song, where it takes me. This song screams summer to me, its a happy positive feeling song. The beer fits perfectly with that feeling, long hot summer days washed down with an easy drinking light beer. Fingers crossed I have nailed both part of the music pairing! For an extra bully bonus points, it is also believed that bass can increase the feel of the ABV so maybe that helps too (not that I think you need to make the ABV feel higher with this beer).
Before featuring on the podcast I wasn’t convinced about music making beer taste better, but after sitting on my sofa with my eyes shut, headphones in, drinking the beer while taking notes with and without the music I think that it does in fact work a bit. You can listen to the whole podcast here and also see what music Luke and Andrew picked to pair with Signature Brew Signature Brew – Live Up and Magic Rock – Dark Arts.
Disclaimer – A huge thank you to Rhythm and Brews for inviting me onto the show. The cans of Evil Twin was bought for me by the guys at Rhythm and Brews and the cans of Signature Brew used for the show were kindly provided free of charge by Signature Brew