Slowly but surely, it's become easier to enjoy a decent beer while watching live music. Where once your only chance to combine good beer with good music was at a festival that allowed you to bring your own or a live music venue that had resisted the lure of a tap contract, these days you can find breweries like Young Henrys and Colonial partnering with music and arts festivals or bands creating beers for tours and events.
The lines between beer and music festivals have started to blur, particularly with a large number of the former putting live music at the centre of their offering; each year, Beer InCider in Brisbane lines up a collaboration between brewery and headline act (last year, Ballpark Music and Green Beacon; in 2018, The Smith Street Band and Fixation). So why shouldn't it work the other way? Or even go a step further: why can't a music festival have its own beer?
As BIGSOUND 2018 kicks off in Brisbane today, it's marking its 17th year with its first festival beer, Beer of BIGSOUND, or B.o.B. for short. It's been brewed with Mountain Goat, whose brewers have affectionately nickname the beer “Bob. Bobby. El Bobarino. The Bobinator.”
Goat brewer Shane "Naz" Edwards says: "I’ve always considered music to be the fifth ingredient when making great beer. First job in the morning is to select the day's soundtrack, then the brewing can begin.”
When it came to brewing BOB, programme coordinator Maggie Collins flew to Melbourne on behalf of the festival to get her hands dirty on brew day.
"I bloody love beer! A bit too much,” Maggie says. “There's nothing like sharing a growler with whoever's around on a Friday afternoon.”
But of course, experience in drinking beer doesn’t always equate to knowing how to brew.
“In my years as an avid beer drinker, I thought I had a good grasp on my brewing knowledge. That is, until I rolled up my sleeves and got in there to crack open a bag of malt…”
The result is a hazy pale ale, designed to be fun and fruity enough to add harmony to the music, but easy drinking enough to sate the thirst of a broad range of festival goers.
It's not the first festival aligned beer to make an appearance in Australia. WA's Otherside Brewing Co was spawned as an offshoot of music events company Sunset Events.
The owners were keen to brew a beer for their major shows and festivals and the project, which kicked off with the contract brewed Festive Ale, ended up gathering so much steam they opened their own brewery venue in Perth earlier this year, while continuing to support the world of music through ventures such as providing grants for WA based band managers.
And then there's the FKA Mango Sour doing the rounds at the minute. FKA is the name of an upcoming music festival at Hope Estate in the Hunter Valley. It's home to Hope Brewhouse, which was launched through owner Michael Hope's desire to brew his own mid-strength lager for the gigs he hosted – the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Midnight Oil – but which has grown its own legs (or maybe wings given it's on target to hit something like 40 times the output of its first year in year five...).
Today, the brewery knocks out about 30 to 40 different beers under the Hope banner every year and the team there decided this was the year to create one for the FKA (Formerly Known As) festival.
"We thought about doing something with one of the bands, but decided just to do one ourselves to help promote the festival," says head brewer Matt Hogan. As such, it's already on release in cans that act as liquid flyers for the event.
He says the idea is that "people will put beer and music together and think, 'We'll come along.'."
For its major events, Hope Estate typically pours only mid-strengths, which is where the Mango Sour sits. And, despite its low pH – Matt says it clocks in at just 3.3, trainspotters, which is riesling territory – it has a perceived fruity sweetness that nudges it closer to alcoholic fruit drink territory than beer as it was once known.
"We played around with a mid-strength pale but that's been done to death," he says, instead focusing on creating a fun and approachable festival offering.
"I'm about brewing balanced beers that everyone can enjoy. If they've not had a sour before, they won't have this and say, 'Fuck me! This is like cat's piss!' They can appreciate it for what it is."
Like B.o.B. or Otherside's Festive Ale, it's a far cry from the industrial lagers festival-goers have been enduring for decades. And we'll drink to that.
BOB, it's exclusive to BIGSOUND 2018, which runs from today until Friday, featuring 150 bands and 270 showcases across 18 venues, all within three blocks in Fortitude Valley’s live music precinct.
FKA Festival hits Hope Estate on October 13, headlined by The Jungle Giants and British India. General Admission tickets cost $79 plus BF with VIP packages ranging from $149 to $299.