Quenching A Collaborative Thirst

Vortex Music Magazine

Portland beverage makers and bands join forces.

Editor's Note: Last summer, we printed our Music & Food Issue but unfortunately never published much of the issue's content online. Better late than never, we believe there's still value in day-old bread so let's explore the intrinsic connections between the purveyors of fine food and drink in Portland and those who make the sweet sounds that fill our ears. Here's to all that our musicians and chefs are cooking up together—cheers!

The ladies of Lenore. add their secret sonic ingredient to the brewing of Basic Witch at Breakside Brewery: Photo by Jesse RostenThe ladies of Lenore. add their secret sonic ingredient to the brewing of Basic Witch at Breakside Brewery: Photo by Jesse Rosten Last December, Natalie Rose Baldwin spoke from Holocene's DJ pulpit about the Lady Brewer Girl Gang, “a group of women who have found each other in the beer industry,” she explained. As the R&D brewer at the accolladed Breakside Brewery, her presentation told the history of women in brewing and underscored the importance of female unity in such a male-dominated industry, noting that women were once portrayed as witches, in part, to deter potential customers from consuming their potions.”

So when the self-proclaimed “witch folk” ensemble Lenore. took the stage later that evening at the PechaKucha Night, Baldwin knew she had to brew something with them. From this initial meeting, Basic Witch—a saison with honey and rose petals—was born. Baldwin invited the ladies of Lenore., vocalists and songwriters Rebecca Marie Miller and Joy Pearson, to the basement of Breakside’s Dekum brewpub on the night of a full moon, at midnight, of course. While their creation boiled and bubbled, the rich, intermingling vocal harmonies and cello, provided by Jessie Dettwiler, cast a mellifluous spell.

“Give someone a stage and they perform. That’s what we did for each other,” Baldwin says of the collaboration, which sparked shoutouts on social media, a video (watch below) and even a spot on KGW’s news—plus, it was served at a Friday the 13th gig this spring.

Whether it’s coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon or a beer to wind down at night, chances are you’re regularly sipping on something throughout your day. The music you listen to probably plays a large role in your life as well, and the two might be more connected than you realize, especially in our maker-driven city where creators large and small find ways to collaborate and support each other.

Gigantic Brewing Company’s devotion to the local music scene is already well documented in its collaborations with Sons of Huns, Hosannas and Y La Bamba, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters has been supporting musically inclined staff for almost two decades. A follow-up to 2001’s Worker's Comp Vol. I—featuring employee bands recorded live, after hours at the original SE Division shop—just dropped in May, and Vol. II sees the coffee chain feature employee acts from across the nation, flying them all to Portland to record at The Map Room with producer Mike Coykendall—listen below. But the above are far from the only brew-focused music allies in town.

It seems obvious that McMenamins, with its dual roles as a formidable chain of craft breweries and small- and medium-sized performance venues, would try to combine brews and bands. And it has, for events like the annual Sabertooth Micro Fest. Notably, brewer Ryan Lund created The Brown Wizard in collaboration with psych rockers Máscaras (and named it for guitarist Carlos Segovia’s onstage alter ego).

McMenamins’ Crystal brewer Stephen Harper with SoCal thrash punk rockers Battalion of SaintsMcMenamins’ Crystal brewer Stephen Harper with SoCal thrash punk rockers Battalion of SaintsThe Blasphemous Collaboration Series is a more regular event, with quarterly beer releases celebrating a partnership with a band (often metal) in Lola's Room. “We make a beer inspired by the headliner and have it available for $4 a pint at the show,” says Drew Phillips, a brewer at McMenamins’ Crystal Ballroom. “It’s a super fun atmosphere where the bands are usually all hanging out and mingling in the crowd. We try to make it ‘Portland’s heavy metal living room’ as much as possible, aided by the six or seven couches in Lola’s."

Phillips also strives for reciprocity in his Blasphemous series. “I’m a diehard music fan, so it’s fun for me to have my favorite bands play down the hallway from the brewery,” he tells. “But these beers are [also] a nice break from the commodity and production-focused aspects of brewing—sometimes I get to do something more high concept when I work with the bands, trying to make abstract concepts in their songs tangible as flavors or aromas in the beer.” This October marks the event's third birthday, and Phillips is teaming up with Portland's Witch Vomit for the celebration. “I'm thinking a green sour,” he says.

Shook Twins at Northwest String Summit in 2017—click to see more photos by Jessie McCallShook Twins at Northwest String Summit in 2017—click to see more photos by Jessie McCallNot all business partnerships between bands and brews have to be alcoholic. “You can't drink beer all day at a music festival,” says Tedd Simmons, the community marketing manager for Townshend's Brew Dr. Kombucha. Brew Dr. is always open to partnerships with music acts, partly because so many musicians are employed by the company, and partly because of its success at music festivals where people are looking for something more interesting than water to keep them going, without the effects of alcohol.

In fact, the probiotic peddlers have had a business partnership with Shook Twins since they caught them a few summers ago at Northwest String Summit, where they had a booth. With the real-life identical twins, it's a simple influencer marketing arrangement. The band give shoutouts to their favorite fermented tea on social media to spread the word of the fizzy brew (which, though pretty popular in Portland and among the health-conscious, doesn't quite have a national following), and in return, they get all the tart tonic they can drink.

White Glove and wet-processed Guatemalan, banjos and booch, folk and a farmhouse ale—these aren't just fun to say, nor are they just pairings: They're business-savvy collaborations in our thirstily creative local ecosystem.

Explore more stories of how to pair Portland's fine music, eats and drink in our Music & Food Issue.

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