Sit back, relax, crack open a craft beer and get ready for a trip to another dimension. Not because the long-awaited season three of Rick and Morty has finally arrived but because Boston-based band The Lights Out and partners-in-crime AERONAUT Brewing Co. are rounding third on their trip through the cosmos and want you to tag a long for the ride.
In case you haven’t already heard, The Lights Out and the Bean Town brewers teamed up to release the first-ever album available exclusively on a can of beer.
The album, T.R.I.P., chronicles the band’s travels through parallel dimensions via a Light Machine built by the band. This machine manifests in a choreographed, wearable light show the band wears while playing the album live. The beer, which goes by the same name, is going down in the band’s cannon as fuel for these pan-dimensional travels.
Since the project went live in early November, those lucky enough to get their hands on the beer, thus the album, have had the pleasure of joining the unlikely duo on a first-of-its kind, full sensory experience, brought full circle by the band’s launch day performance at Brooklyn Boulders, an indoor rock-wall climbing facility near AERONAUT’s Somerville, Mass. brewery.
The album goes live Feb. 1 on all major digital platforms.
The band approached the brewery in hopes to have the album — the band’s first in two years — put on one of the brewery’s beers. Much to their surprise, the folks at AERONAUT took to the project and decided to design a beer exclusively for the album and the band.
“We were like ‘let’s do it, we get it,'” Ben Holmes, CEO and AERONAUT brewer said. “And I think it was really cool that they came to us. That’s not your typical collaboration that walks into your door every day.”
Once the brewers got a hold of a rough cut of the album, they got to work brewing a beer that would fit a project of this scope and creativity. What they came up with was a beer just as outlandish to the beer community as releasing an album on a beer can was to the music community.
“It’s pretty abstract,” Holmes said. “The concept of the beer was if I was traveling through dimensions or if I was socked and hauled away inside a spaceship, what kind of beer would we want to drink that could cram itself pretty effectively in a cargo hold, so it would need a good amount of alcohol but also, we would want to sustain ourselves completely on it. So it would have to be something I would want to drink for a good amount of time.”
In the end, AERONAUT produced, what they call, an “Imperial Session” IPA. With an ABV of 7.5% and only 55 IBUs, this smooth, tropical, yet slightly bitter IPA has quickly become a crowd favorite in the tasting room, according to Holmes.
To create this unique brew, the AERONAUT team doubled down on galaxy hops, to further connect the beer to the source material. The beer is hopped about three times throughout the brewing process; two or three times during fermentation following an initial “cold steeping” right after the boil. To get this cold steeping process to work, the brewers chill the beer down to between 160 and 170 degrees, according to Holmes. The recipe is constantly changing as the brewers continue to try and further perfect this style they seem to be creating.
“We’ve been doing a lot of recipe iterations even since we released the first can,” Holmes said. “This has been kind of a journey beer for us. We’re always hopping at different times.”
It’s by way of this cold steeping hop that the brewery is able to turn this Imperial IPA into a sessionable product. The proof is in the chemistry, a field very familiar to AERONAUT who set roots not in the beer industry but cutting-edge science and boast degrees from MIT and Cornell.
“Our original IPAs are in the range of about 65 to 80 [IBUs] for a standard strength IPA,” Holmes, a former NASA engineer, said. “One thing that can be subjective is IBUs can be pulled at different times throughout the brewing and fermenting process. So with this beer here, we actually use a cold steeping process and that’s how we get a hold of the hop flavor. Although it doesn’t lead to computed IBUs when you calculate it, you get a lot of this hop resin that kind of carries through so when you drink it, you get a perception of more bitterness than there really is.”
Although the brewery and the band have no set plans for furthering this beer can album idea, the brewery is far from finished with this way of going about brewing beer. Seeing the success of T.R.I.P., the beer, the AERONAUT brewers are launching an entire line of beers inspired by the cosmos. Next in production is a true, over-the-top Imperial IPA which is available now as Imperial Galaxic Cirrocumulus.
“That one’s a hazy, straight out imperial IPA,” Holmes said. “It’s actually a lot of the characteristics we worked on for the T.R.I.P. but its way stronger. And its kind of cloudy so we look at it kind of as stardust. But we’re going to keep working on this process until we’ve perfected it and once we’ve perfected it, who the hell knows?”
After the success of their foray into craft beer, the band is simply enjoying the ride and momentum generated by the project. Fresh off a series of shows around their area, the band is simply “having a blast and drinking beer and playing music” according to TLO guitarist, Adam Ritchie.
“And that’s all good and that’s what it’s about,” Ritchie said. “It was about doing something that hasn’t been done before and we’re doing it. Whether it goes anywhere from there or not, it doesn’t matter. No one can take this from us at this point.”
The roots of the idea go back to a time when music was the cultural king and craft beer was still in it’s early infancy. When Adam and the band were coming up with the idea, they drew upon memories of a time when people shopped for music much like beer drinkers shop for new beers. People used to walk into a record store and browse the shelves for something that caught their eye. Then they would bring it home, put the album or record on, relax and probably have a beer. This physical ritual is something Ritchie and the band no longer see in today’s digital music era.
“It has all the fun of dragging and dropping a gallon of milk onto your online grocery list,” Ritchie said. “A new album comes out, there it is on Spotify. You drag it over then that’s it, you’ve got it. Its instantaneous but you’ve lost something big time there.”
With the rise of dragging and dropping, Ritchie mourns the loss of what were important moments in his musical and cultural life. And something he hopes is brought back to the forefront when people drink T.R.I.P. the beer while listening to T.R.I.P. the album.
“I can remember what the incense smelled like when I got home with my first Pearl Jam album,” Ritchie said. “That smell was completely tied to that music. When I hear that music, I still smell that incense. So wouldn’t it be so cool if years down the line, a Lights Out fan were to be like ‘gosh, when that album came out, I remember the way those galaxy hops tasted’ and maybe they’ll encounter them again one day in a different beer and it will take them back. The music and the sound and everything gets tied together and it’s your story and your memory. That doesn’t exist today with digital.”
As if connected by an unseen thread of enriching and redefining culture, a huge push for the folks at AERONAUT is to bring together legacy and contemporary art in a setting attractive to the modern cultural consumer.
“Although we’re a brewery, we want to be a cultural factory in the greater Boston area,” Jason McCool, AERONAUT’s Art and Culture Liaison said.
McCool and AERONAUT have tapped into a similar vein to the one tapped by The Lights Out when they decided to release an album on a beer can. Within this vein lies a cross section of the population, at least in Boston, that desires something beyond the mainstream when it comes to music, art and, naturally beer. But as McCool put it, places like museums and art galleries may not attract a crowd as much as a new brewery might. So when Aeronaut brought the “fine arts” to their tasting room, the results were something never-before-seen.
“The most dynamic cultural collaboration is coming out of unlikely combinations,” McCool said. “People want mind-blowing art and beautiful things but not in such a stuffy environment.”
Recently, AERONAUT – fresh off a gold-medal performance at the Great American Beer Festival — has been creating this not so “stuffy environment” and filling it with cellist performing the works of Johann Sebastian Bach or revisiting Brooklyn Boulders to throw a 1917-themed New Year’s bash. The event drew around 700 people dressed in era-appropriate attire whom were treated to a full, live brass band and craft beverages.
“Overall, I think people want something new and unusual,” McCool said.
What the future holds for culture, craft beer and the combination of the two is still up in the air. Unless you to are a pan-dimensional traveler. In that case, everything that can happen will happen, unless it already has.
“Everything that can happen is happening or has happened,” Ritchie said. “That’s fertile ground not just for a song but for an album and for a band … In an alternate universe, we’re totally winning a Grammy for this album.”