Beer and music is a perfect pairing—especially when that beer is from a craft brewer known for its experimental varieties, and the music is from a band recognized for blending genres and technology to reimagine the experience of seeing a live band.
In 2016, Aeronaut Brewing Co. of Somerville, MA, collaborated with The Lights Out, a music and light project, to develop a line of beer that supports the spirit of the band’s new album, titled T.R.I.P. (The Reckonings In Pandimensionality). Called Intergalaxyc T.R.I.P., Aeronaut’s new Imperial Session IPA, brewed with galaxy hops, is packaged in a can that not only captures the experience of the band’s live performance but also provides consumers access to the new album.
As Lights Out guitarist Adam Ritchie explains, T.R.I.P. takes people on a journey through parallel worlds; each song is a report back from an alternate reality the band has visited. “It’s about parallel realities and infinite possibility,” he says. “Shoehorning it into the usual formats right out of the gate would have shortchanged the spirit of it. So rather than shopping it to a record company, we took it to a brewery instead.”
As Ritchie tells it, the project was rife with coincidences rooted in the band’s and the brewery’s shared interests in science, music, and beer. “The odds of a band writing about the multiverse and a brewery rooted in science-based storytelling both existing in the same city at the same time—and finding each other—were very unlikely. It was just one of many unusual coincidences surrounding this project from day one. When those things happen, you know you’re on a path.”
A carefully crafted brew
Aeronaut Brewing operates out of a former warehouse and is a craft brewery and food hub under one roof, with its team of brewers and scientists collaborating with farmers and food makers to drive the invention of craft beers and spur a renaissance of local victuals. A great supporter of music, Aeronaut features live bands nearly every night and live recording sessions every Wednesday.
Say Ritchie, “We approached Aeronaut because they talk about the multidimensional journey their beer takes you on in the same way The Lights out talks about taking our audience from one universe to the next. They’re into beers that tell a story, and beers that can be taken with you on an adventure.”
After one meeting, the band and brewery agreed to collaborate, with The Lights Out providing Aeronaut with a rough cut of their album so the brewery could begin prototyping a complementary beer. The result is an Imperial Session IPA—a style which shouldn’t exist, says Ritchie. “But if you believe in paradoxes and infinity, which is a running theme throughout the album, then they exist somewhere,” he remarks. “And Aeronaut brought the idea to life in this contraindication of a beer.”
Intergalaxyc T.R.I.P. is the pilot beer in a new series by Aeronaut that will explore the flavor of the galaxy hop, a variety from Australia known for being rare and juicy. “We designed this beer to pair with the album,” says Aeronaut CEO Ben Holmes. “It’s packed with galaxy hops, clocks in at 7.5% ABV, and is refreshing to drink.”
Says Ritchie, “It would have been easy for Aeronaut to slap a name on an existing beer and call it a day. That didn’t happen. Aeronaut took it to heart, and the project yielded two creative works: an album and a beer.”
Pandimensional pilot is focus
To design package graphics for Intergalaxyc T.R.I.P. that would capture the experience of The Lights Out’s live music experience and the album, Raul Gonzalez, an artist who has created all of Aeronaut’s beer labels, sat down with the brewer and the band. “Raul was there for our conversations with the brewery from the beginning,” Ritchie says. “We gave him live photos and videos of the band so he could get a sense of the look our drummer and resident visual director, Jesse James, had already created. Raul’s assignment was to merge that with his own aesthetic, while making two clients happy and remaining true to his art.”
For the “Aeronaut universe” of beers, Raul has created a cast of characters. For T.R.I.P., that character is one of The Lights Out’s “pandimensional pilots,” adorned with the glowing LED goggles that the band wears during its live performances. As Ritchie explains, the artwork also features a vehicle shooting through a hole between realities—“that represents the Color Machine, the preferred means of travel when The Lights Out passes from one dimension to another.” Another art element is an eye on the traveler’s chest, which is a recurring symbol in Raul’s work. Coincidentally, The Lights Out singer Rishava Green has a matching tattoo of the eye on one of his arms.
Packaging’s role in discovery
What brings the whole project full circle is that The Lights Out released its album in fall 2016 via the can. In a fragmented and highly competitive media landscape, the band felt the best way to release such a unique music experience was through a unique format.
“We’re fascinated by the role packaging plays in discovery, both live and on the shelf,” says Ritchie. “For an unsigned band making new music, we could release it digitally, but where’s the fun in that? We could put CDs and vinyl on a record store shelf, but people aren’t discovering new bands that way anymore. If they’re going to a record store, most of them are picking up something they already want, by someone they already know. But a lot of the people who used to walk the aisles of a record store looking for new music every weekend are now going to the liquor store at least that often, where they want to discover something new. Most beer purchase decisions happen right there in front of the cold case. The opportunity for someone to discover a band there caught our curiosity.”
Consumers obtain the new album when they follow instructions printed on the side of the T.R.I.P. beer can and send a tweet to The Lights Out, using a special hashtag, also printed on the can. From there, they receive a response from the band telling them what an alternate reflection of themselves is doing right now in a parallel reality, along with a link to a site where they can stream or download the album, learn more about the project, see photos and videos, sign up for the band’s fan club, and see a list of upcoming shows.
“We’d like everyone to experience the beer and the music together, because we’re trying to create a complete sensory experience,” explains Ritchie. “Nothing is preventing someone from accessing the information without purchasing the beer. It’s an honor system, and one that we are comfortable with, given the nature of this audience. Craft beer fans appreciate small things that are creative and of quality.”
The beer is sold in four-packs for a cost of $14.50. It is currently available in stores in the Boston area as well as at Aeronaut’s brewery.