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Musings on Beer, Beards, and Beethoven

As we prepare for our October 19 concert in a local brewery, I thought it’d be fun to try and connect some dots regarding our cheeky concert theme: Beer, Beards, and Beethoven.


Beer


Good beer is making a comeback. Beer, in the general (watered down) Bud Light sense, has always done well in this country. I once interviewed a director at Brewer’s Association who said beer sales in the United States average around $100 billion a year. That’s as much as wine and spirits combined. But independent breweries, like Rahr and Martin House, have only been able to tap into the market because of fairly recent generational trends. Americans, especially younger Americans, want to know where their beer comes from, and they’re less willing to fall for the marketing ploys that served Miller, Coors, and Budweiser well for decades. The fact that we chose a new local brewery, Wild Acre Brewing Company, reflects the fact that craft breweries are now social hubs for curious folks who gather at these venues to hear music or watch a show while hoisting a brew.


Beards


We chose the word “beards” as a play off the mustachioed, skinny jean wearing hipster you’ve probably all seen walking out of Avoca or Brewed. Facial hair is no longer exclusive to the realm of biker bars and lumberjacks. It’s no surprise that many of the folks who work in breweries also don beards, some long enough to make Santa blush. A recent satirical meme on Facebook summed the trend up nicely: A Charleston man is under arrest this morning after police determined he was operating a craft brewery without a beard.


Beethoven


Not surprisingly, there isn’t a lot of academic research into the beer drinking habits of our great composers. Brahms famously included pub songs in his “Academic Overture.” For fun, I e-mailed TCU musicology professor Dr. Will Gibbons for any other tidbits he may know about.


“There are definitely fewer pieces about beer than about wine, but there are a few (and I’m sure lots more than I can think of). I’d definitely agree with the Brahms Academic “Festival Overture” as a good example. There’s a good drinking song about beer in Romberg’s operetta “The Student Prince,” and also one in Smetana’s opera “The Bartered Bride.” To my knowledge, beer probably wasn’t served in the Italian opera houses that most Mozart would have been performed in in Vienna, but the middle class Theater auf dem Wieden where Singspiel like the Magic Flute were performed probably had some. Also, we know for SURE beer and sausages were all over the place in Prague theater where Don Giovanni was premiered.”


Thanks Dr. Gibbons. See, this is the kinda stuff I wish I had learned in college. Whatever the historical connections between beer and classical music, our October 19 concert will a fun

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