At first glance, modern classical music and beer would appear to make strange bedfellows.
One seems tailor-made for upper crust intellectuals donning monocles and dignified underbites. The other is, well, beer — a beverage traditionally linked to the common man with his work boots and rusted-out pickup.
On Thursday, Original Gravity, the Boston-based concert series, teams up with Rising Tide Brewing Co. for a show called The Sea Engulfs to illustrate that modern classical music and beer are closer to kin than you might think.
Original Gravity is in its third season of pairing New England composers with brewers for a night of classical music and craft beer. Before each concert, a brewer listens to the compositions that will be performed and, for the event, creates a one-time-only beer release inspired by the music.
When I asked Original Gravity’s Artistic Director, Keith Kirchoff, what connection he sees between modern classical composers and brewers, he said, “They are all creative artists who care very deeply about their craft. I’d actually argue that brewers and composers have more in common than less!”
Thursday’s event at the Fox Street brewery will be the first time Original Gravity has hosted an event outside the Boston area.
This is, in large part, due to Adrian Beck-Oliver, a brewer at Rising Tide who formerly brewed at Aeronaut Brewing Company in Somerville, where the Original Gravity concert series began.
I sat down with Beck-Oliver at Rising Tide to talk about Past the Barline, his farmhouse ale inspired by Thursday night’s music program.
“Inspiration for recipe creation comes from a lot of places,” he said. “On a hike, I might smell something that I want to impart in beer, or I might taste a dish made by a chef and want to create that flavor in beer. So, finding inspiration in modern classical music makes sense to me.”
When Original Gravity’s Kirchoff sent him the songs, Beck-Oliver put on his headphones and asked himself: What am I hearing in this music that I can bring out in beer?
In a synesthetic epiphany, the brewer heard the dominant sound of percussion on each piece.
“Since percussion instruments were the first instruments used to make music, I decided to go back to classic ingredients in beer,” he explained.
For the grains, he steeped spelt, rye, wheat and flaked oats, some of the earliest grains used in beer production. This grain bill will impart earthy, floral and woody flavors.
Since contemporary classical composers play with their genre, adding modern elements like electronic drum loops, Beck-Oliver wanted to add a twist to these traditional grains. In this spirit, he pitched a brettanomyces yeast, or wild yeast, to add a slightly tart flavor and give the beer big barnyard notes.
To hit that final flourish in Past the Barline, Beck-Oliver went to Whole Foods and bought every pomegranate in stock. He puréed the fruit in his kitchen and added it to the beer.
This farmhouse ale will feature a stimulating interplay between the earthy grains, the funky yeast and the slightly tart pomegranates — much in the way the musicians will play off each other as they perform on Thursday night.
As listeners sip Past the Barline, they will take in seven pieces from acclaimed New England composers, performed by three professional musicians and one robot musician, PAM (Poly-tangent Automatic Multi-monochord).
The night’s program will include “Machine Shop” by Portland’s much-lauded Daniel Sonenberg, a piece whose warm marimbas greatly inspired Beck-Oliver’s Past the Barline.
The Sea Engulfs will push the boundaries of the way you think about modern classical music and craft beer. Come with your ears and your palate wide open.
WHO: Original Gravity Concert Series and Rising Tide Brewing Co.
WHERE: 103 Fox St., Portland
WHEN: 7:30 to 10 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 11
THE MUSIC: Seven musical compositions by acclaimed New England composers performed by three professional musicians and a robotic music machine
THE BEER: Rising Tide brewer Adrian Beck-Oliver’s farmhouse ale, brewed with brettanomyces yeast and pomegranate and inspired by the night’s program
COST: $15 per ticket
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
Second Annual b.good Block Party
WHEN & WHERE: Noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 14, Post Office Park, Portland.
On Sunday, b.good hosts its second annual block party in the park in front of Sonny’s Restaurant and Lounge. Rising Tide Brewing Co. and Peak Organic Brewing will be pouring beer at this event, so expect crisp ales and lagers as you listen to live music, enjoy the dunk tank and eat food from b.good. All proceeds to benefit the b.good Family Foundation.
Saco River Brewing Company Opens Tasting Room
WHERE: 10 Jockey Cap Lane, Fryeburg. facebook.com
Add Saco River Brewing Co. to the growing list of new breweries in Maine. Located off Route 302 in Fryeburg, Saco River features a lineup of American style ales. The brewery is currently pouring four beers in its tasting room, where you can purchase samples and growlers. Its Clearwater Pale Ale is on draft at pubs and restaurants in the Fryeburg area. Expect a full write-up on Saco River in the coming weeks.