It's an alt-beer. It's an indie rock album. It's a daring pairing.
When they decided to deliver a new album on a bottle of beer, Telegraph Brewing Company and the indie group, Buellton, gave new meaning to one-stop shopping. The world of beer and music is the better for it.
Silent Partner doubles as the name of a spry, saison-style ale and the name of Buellton's new long-play album. Buy the ale and you've also bought the album. This beer-music pairing is going to make your happy hour a lot happier.
Accessing the Silent Partner track-list is easy. It's printed right on the side of Telegraph's shapely bottle, immediately drawing you in, especially if you're already familiar with Buellton, the indie group from California's Central Coast that's back after a multiyear hiatus.
To unlock the music, twist off the wire cage and retrieve the download code from under the cap. It's your digital key to Silent Partner, the album. Visit www.buelltonmusic.com. Tap in the code. Download, and you're there.
To unlock Silent Partner, the ale, pop the cork, pour -- and quaff. And do yourself a favor: Enjoy the ale and listen to the album at the same time. When you experience the music and the beer together, you'll see why pairing this band with this brewery was a good idea.
Silent Partner is a perfect summer drink -- it works in stand-alone mode or as an aperitif. It may just be a cousin of Kölsch. Starting with a hint of dry citrusy-ness, it vanquishes your thirst and finishes with a nice, dry back-palate tingle. Unlike Kölsch, it's a medium-bodied brew, and at 7.4 percent, it delivers a smooth buzz. Telegraph's brewer tweaked the hops and clearly got things just right.
Like the beer, the album Silent Parter is straight-up fun and it puts Buellton's strengths on parade. With short solo runs, smooth group vocals and interesting harmonies, this is snark-free music that draws you in instead of clobbering you with Big Sound. The occasional Grateful Dead-flavored riff reminds you that this is a California band.
A band and a beer make an unorthodox mix by themselves. But -- call it freakish or call it funny -- somewhere along the way, the feds also got into the act, which amped up the quirkiness of the Silent Partner pairing even more.
Since the bottle label promotes the album and shows the track-list, a Treasury Department office scrutinized the arrangement before the release. The feds signed off on the label in the end, making Buellton's record the only indie rock album known in history with a stamp of approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Putting an album on a bottle of beer is High Concept, but it's also savvy marketing. For all the magic in the brew and the music, the inventiveness of bundling an album with a beer gets high marks in its own right. It's bound to earn a spot in the Creative Packaging Hall of Fame, and somebody should get a promotion over it, if they haven't already.
That said, if craft beer and craft music didn't fit together so well, and if Buellton and Telegraph Brewery weren't such natural collaborators, you might be tempted to pass off the ale-album rollout as gimmickry. It's not.
The band and the brewery evince a sort of native genius and they're rooted in the local scene. They're a natural pairing, and the beer and music are real. This is High Concept that delivers.
Taste the brew, taste the record. There's a lot to love here.
Tom Conrad will lead a small band of beer lovers, craft beer enthusiasts and Slow Food fans on a beer and brewery tour to Germany in October. The group will visit craft brewers, abbey breweries and independent beer-makers in the nooks and crannies of Bavaria.
Info: Treasures of Europe Tours www.treasuresofeuropetours.com
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Photo credits: Telegraph Brewery, Alessandro Castillo. Band photo: (l-r) Erik Herzog, Graham Palmer, Curt Crawshaw and John Nygren.