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Musical Space

Musical Space: Music Goes With Beer


Oktoberfest is officially on in Munich with the tapping of a strong local golden lager brewed in March and fermented all summer.

Integral to the party is the music that goes with it: traditional brass music and light German pop called “schlager.” Neither the style of the brew or the tunes is my scene, frankly, but my point is that human culture pairs music with beer.

They have gone together from the very beginning. The first writing about beer is actually a song, the “Hymn to Ninkasi,” a beer recipe sung in praise to the Mesopotamian goddess of beer in the 18th century B.C. Ever since, they both are found wherever people gather, and I don’t think it’s possible either could exist in its present form without the other. Both are social lubricants, excuses for people to get together, ways to celebrate special days and to make ordinary days better.

This is a great time to be a music lover *slash* beer drinker - there are so many choices. A generation ago we had basically three national breweries and a couple of radio stations deciding what we would drink and listen to. The craft beer movement and the digital revolution have changed all that. Sure, there’s still good old American Lager, the perfect thing to cry into over a sad country song. But we can now pair a Belgian ale with our jazz and an IPA with our EDM. Maybe most important is the rise of pub culture. Kansas bands are playing in neighborhood brewpubs. The ancient coupling of malt and music lives on.


Listening list:

Do beer pairings

Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, “Bubbles in my Beer,” (1947)

Hank Williams “There’s a Tear in my Beer,”
Recorded 1950 but not released until 1989.

John Lee Hooker, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” (1966)
Originally written by someone else in 1953

Black Flag, “Six Pack,” (7” single version - 1981)

Beastie Boys, “Brass Monkey,” Licensed to Ill (1986)
Thought to be a mixture of Olde English and orange juice

Beck, “Beercan,” Mellow Gold (1994)

Replacements, “Beer for Breakfast,” (b-side 1997)
They liked Grain Belt beer.

MF Doom, “One Beer,” MM...Food? (2004)

Split Lip Rayfield, “3.2 Flu” Live at the Bottleneck (2006)