One thing that I've always liked about Crosstown Brewing is the straightforward simplicity of its beer. It's good because it is good. No hook required. So, when I heard about their new collaboration with WYXR — Raised by Sound Session IPA — I thought it was ridiculous. The beer has literally had a boom box broadcasting Memphis' newest radio station at it while it sits in the vat doing its beer thing. It's not an offensive type of ridiculous, just the kind that prompts people to talk to houseplants or try to get an EKG out of yogurt.
Was it possible I missed the whole point of the exercise? Well, anything is possible.
According to Clark Ortkiese of Crosstown Brewing, it started out as a neighborly collaboration. WYXR (91.7 FM), itself a partnership between the University of Memphis, Crosstown Concourse, and the Daily Memphian, launched in October. The free-form format leans heavily on the personalities of its volunteer on-air talent for its content. All of which sounded pretty interesting to the guys at Crosstown Brewing, who were glad to have another cool neighbor down the way. I sat down with Clark, WYXR's Executive Director Robby Grant, Programming Manager Jay B. Boyd, and a six-pack of Raised by Sound Session IPA.
No one could quite explain where the idea came from. "It's all about collaboration," said Clark about pulling in Tom Martin — who does branding for both the station and the brewery. For what it's worth, the visual continuity of the project is tight.
Jay B. added, "It's about what you can create when you're sequestered. What's bottled up." Suddenly the whole thing started making a little more sense. What can I say? I like puns. With a successful collaboration, it is hard to determine just who, exactly, popped the cork on the thing.
"It's about sparking a conversation," said Robby. And now we were getting to the root of the matter: a local beer and a free-form radio station with a living song list that focuses heavily on homegrown talent. An idea rarely cares who hatched it, so why should I? But the big question remained: How does it taste?
It's a great session (read: quaffable) IPA. Clean and straightforward, it delivers but isn't anything we'd call predictable. The use of the lighter calypso and lemon-drop hops lets you know that you are into an IPA, even if it is a mellow, citrusy one. Drinking it, you never have the compulsion to suck your tongue.
Does listening to Memphis music 24/7 while in utero make a difference for a beer? Look, I'm a mostly rational adult. I try to avoid New Age foolishness and never take health advice from anyone who has ever had even a supporting role in a major studio motion picture. On the other hand, I also think that Wagner's "Entry of the Gods into Valhalla" makes for great hangover music. (Don't sneer until you've tried it.) So, again, anything is possible.
"It feels refreshing to have something light," said Jay B. "A beer that makes me think that I haven't made any strong decisions." Then by way of minor apology, "If you taste anything bitter, it's probably my show." (That's Beale Street Caravan, if you're wondering.) Even a mellow IPA is supposed to be a bit bitter. How else do you know it's there?
"It's about shared time together," said Clark, but I was never sure if he was talking about the project collaboration, drinking a good six-pack, society as a whole, or all of the above. Does it even matter?
Okay, so playing music to your beer is a ridiculous gimmick — fair point — but it is a gimmick that hypes a worthy cause: Memphis business, homegrown arts, and hanging out with your neighbors. Uncorking what's bottled up.
Raised by Sound IPA is a can of Memphis.