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Bonnaroo 2019: Beers and bands 'match made in heaven' as collaborations grow

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 6/15/2019 Jessica Bliss
a group of people sitting around a table: Festival goers trade beer in the exchange in the group campground on Friday, June 14, during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. © Shelley Mays / tennessean.com Festival goers trade beer in the exchange in the group campground on Friday, June 14, during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

Beers are like songs.

There's a baseline flavor, some high notes of fragrance — and a great buzz.

So the mashup of musicians and beer-makers makes sense.

"Of course, it’s a match made in heaven — beers and bands," says Kristyn Corder, who along with her husband Jared, comprise Nashville band *repeat repeat.

It may have started with the likes of Hanson's Mmmhops Pale Ale, but these days tons of breweries are making beer with their favorite musicians. It's a trend that everyone from Panic! at the Disco to Metallica is embracing.

And that's music to our beers. 

Big names like Goose Island, New Belgium, Stillwater have produced beer-band collaborations. Dogfish Head has a long résumé of partnerships and even produced a limited-edition vinyl called Music to Drink Beer and Make Love To. The small craft brew market is also hot on the scene.

So enter Sean O'Keefe. Just a few years back, O'Keefe was a business manager for the Nashville Predators. Now, he's co-owner and CEO of Pontoon Brewing Company in Atlanta. This week, O'Keefe is mixing his Tennessee ties with his passion for hops and showing up strong at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival with two unique collaborations.

a close up of a bottle: Two unique music-beer collaborations appeared a Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival on Friday, June 14 in Manchester, Tenn. The creations, courtesy of Pontoon Brewing, include 'Glazed' (a sour for Nashville band *repeat repeat) and Mad Tea Party (made specially for Camp Reddaroo, one of the largest group camps at Bonnaroo and organizers of the campground craft beer exchange.) © Shelley Mays / tennessean.com Two unique music-beer collaborations appeared a Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival on Friday, June 14 in Manchester, Tenn. The creations, courtesy of Pontoon Brewing, include 'Glazed' (a sour for Nashville band *repeat repeat) and Mad Tea Party (made specially for Camp Reddaroo, one of the largest group camps at Bonnaroo and organizers of the campground craft beer exchange.)

Inspired by *repeat repeat's new album "Glazed" comes a Berliner Weisse with the same name, plus the delicious description Tropical Creamsicle Sour.

The other is a unique-to-Bonnaroo beer was created this year just for Camp Reddaroo — one of the largest Groop campsites at the festival. The Mad Tea Party can even boasts the Bonnaroo logo. So it's totally legit.

Both beers can be found for the very first time at the Broo'ers Fest on the festival grounds, and in the cool pools of one of Bonnaroo's most awesome — and least talked about — experiences, the campground craft beer exchange.

An inspirational beer frenzy

Way out in the wilds of Bonnaroo groop camping, more than a mile from the festival entrance, a crazy phenomenon takes place.

A beer frenzy, if you will.

a group of people sitting around a table: Festival goers trade beer in the exchange in the group campground on Friday, June 14, during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. © Shelley Mays / tennessean.com Festival goers trade beer in the exchange in the group campground on Friday, June 14, during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

Hundreds of beer-toting campers gather under a tent, kneeling next to coolers, big tarps and small pool inflatables filled with ice and overflowing with beer cans.

It's the annual Reddaroo craft beer exchange, and the concept is simple: You bring one beer in, you take one beer out. The idea is to take advantage of all the tastes from across the country that import themselves via Bonnaroo campers to Manchester every year.

Last year, *repeat repeat played a surprise show in the campground, making friends with the Reddaroo folks that host the exchange.

Later in the week, the band hung out at the beer exchange where their first beer collaboration with Pontoon Brewing — a mango and pineapple brew called Surf Rock Candy Shandy — was being poured for the hundreds of six-pack snagging visitors looking for specific, rare and desirable flavors.

"Being in a touring band, at some point you think you have seen all of the beers at all the bars and all the festivals," Kristyn Corder says, "but there every single thing was new. I didn't see a single beer I recognized."

Having Pontoon at their campground inspired Reddaroo.

"They loved the beer, loved meeting the band and asked us if we wanted to be the official beer of Reddaroo and make them something to commemorate it," O'Keefe says.

Of course the answer was yes. They published a contest on social media coming up with a few options of fun flavor profiles. This year, Camp Reddaroo's theme is Alice in Wonderland, and what is most memorable about that? Well, the tea party, of course.

Pontoon made a blueberry, lemon peel, Boulder Blues Tea into a refreshing sour with a caffeine punch that's almost as much as a cup of coffee. Which, O'Keefe says, will "keep Roo’ers jamming throughout the festival."

Summery and sweet and bubbly

Brewing a beer that music fans will enjoy while also being true to a musician's unique brand is a difficult balance. 

For *repeat repeat's latest collab — that tropical creamsicle Berliner Weisse with tangerines, peaches, mangos and vanilla — Jared and Kristyn wanted the creamsicle part and O'Keefe chose the fruit. At first, Kristyn admits, she was surprised by the choices, but "now I'm really into it," she says.

Because Jared and Kristyn are vegans, the brewery made sure that everything was animal free. They also let Kristyn use her creativity to design the beer can, kind of a 60s/90s aesthetic that fits with their brand and vibe.

The end result, Jared says, is a perfect reflection of who they are.

"It's summery and sweet and bubbly," he says. "We would never put out a dark winter porter because that’s not us."

When done right, band collaborations help musicians expand their brand and craft breweries reach new drinkers.

"The merriment of music and beer definitely makes sense," O'Keefe says.

"When creating a beer, you’re not just coming up with a flavor profile, you’re coming up with an experience. Music is an experience and (with *repeat repeat) we wanted to embody their rad and vibrant music style."

'It's delicious'

In the campgrounds at Bonnaroo on Friday, both Glazed and Mad Tea Party were a huge hit.

With hundreds of beer-seekers and six-pack swappers swarming the area, Pontoon set up behind under at tent at Camp Reddaroo's Monkey Bar. They poured tastes of each beer, a line crushing ahead to get a try.

a group of people standing around a table: Kellie Copsey hands out beer made for Bonnaroo by Pontoon Brewing in the group campground on Friday, June 14, during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. © Shelley Mays / tennessean.com Kellie Copsey hands out beer made for Bonnaroo by Pontoon Brewing in the group campground on Friday, June 14, during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

Just an hour in, Pontoon had already run out of both beers. 

Jason Cavey got the very last taste.

"It's delicious," he said as he drained the final drops of Mad Tea Party. 

"It's how it's meant to be," he said about the harmony between hops and half-notes. "I don't think you would have beer without music, and you can't have good music without beer."

Reach Jessica Bliss at 615-259-8253 and jbliss@tennessean.com or on Twitter @jlbliss.

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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Bonnaroo 2019: Beers and bands 'match made in heaven' as collaborations grow

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