Thursday, November 28, 2013

Artistic Beer

Want to know another sign that Denver's is an ever-expanding beer culture? When cultural institutions start to combine brews with the world's finest music and art - and it blends extremely well.

In the past month, the Colorado Symphony and the Denver Art Museum have done just that. The results: one interesting combination and one night that was nothing short of spectacularly classy - and beer-y (if that's a word, you know ....)

First the brilliant: Colorado Symphony's new Beethoven & Brews program. The concept here is decidedly simple: Bring in a high-caliber brewery and let patrons enjoy several selections from it while listening to classical music. It's so simple, in fact, that symphony development officer Jackson Stevens told me he was surprised when he proposed the event and some people questioned whether the combination might work.

I dropped by the Nov. 8 event where a cellist, violinist and pianist took on Beethoven's "Ghost Trio" while Odell Brewing served up IPA, Isolation Ale, 90 Shilling and Mountain Standard at the Magnolia Hotel Ballroom. And the atmosphere was sublime. People of wide-ranging ages - many younger than your typical symphony crowd - strolled casually around the musical event, either sitting and listening intently or removing themselves a bit for conversation. When the musicians needed to introduce a piece or bring the crowd to attention, the 200 people in the room quieted. And the trio obliged it by coming up with a drinking game for its last piece.

As absurd as the idea sounds, in fact, it felt somewhat like the music actually paired well with some of the beer. Beethoven's moody, airy sounds were a perfect match, for example, with the dark, palate-pounding hops of the Mountain Standard double black IPA. Something just felt right about being there.

There are two more $40 Beethoven & Brews shows coming up - a Feb. 7 pairing with Funkwerks and May 9 collaboration with Denver Beer Co. at the same location. I highly recommend you bring a date, especially if the person you're seeing questions just how classy beer can be. And if you don't feel like doing that, just show up and look for me. I plan to not miss this again.

Just before Beethoven & Brews' second effort (the first was with Wynkoop Brewing earlier this year), the Denver Art Museum opened its "Passport to Paris" show featuring three exhibits of French masters. And, for the second time, it asked Dillon Dam Brewery to create a beer to go with it.

Brewmaster Cory Forster (pictured below) came up with La Seine Shine, a lighter golden effort with rosebuds and lemongrass added at the end of the boil, along with Meyer Lemons, a less pungent breed of the citrus fruit. The end game, he explained, was to create "sunshine in a glass" to go with the vivid depictions of nature throughout the exhibit.

Forster also made a biere de garde to celebrate the opening of the Van Gogh exhibit late last year at the museum, and the truth is that was a better beer. La Seine Shine ends with a slight tartness on the backtaste but largely flows over the palate without leaving the impression that the Impressionists have left with their art. But the effort is a worthy one, and the beer is still on tap at both the brewery and at Rackhouse Pub in Denver. If you can find a way to try it after seeing the show, you may understand just the effect that Forster was seeking.

Two artistic efforts. Two interesting results. So, I suppose we should just wait now for the Denver Performing Arts Center to offer up its take on an acting ale. And enjoy the beer culture that Denver offers. 

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Although I think I'd be less inclined to pair Beethoven's Op.70 Piano Trio with a black imperial IPA on my own time, pairing craft beer with classical music performances sounds like a great idea. It'd be interesting to see if orchestras and ensembles in other cities follow suit.
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