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Which Band’s Beer is Top of the Hops?

Ed Harcourt's Dark Heart beerMerch has moved on from T-shirts and posters, bands do beers these days. We line up the offerings from Elbow, Iron Maiden, Status Quo and more.

When you think of must-have rock star accessories, you think of celebrity other halves, private jets, debilitating drug habits. In 2014, however, there is only one thing every band wants: their own beer.

In the past few weeks, Status Quo unveiled Piledriver; Maximo Park launched Maximo No.5; and Elbow released their second beer, Charge. Later this month, Fuzzy, a collaboration between Super Furry Animals and Welsh brewery Celt Experience will go on sale.

Music and beer have always had a special bond. Both bands and fans drink a lot of it. But this wave of band-branded beers is being driven, very much, by business. It’s great publicity for the bands, and these beers sell. Last year, Iron Maiden’s Trooper turned into the kind of platinum-selling, global smash that made everyone – bands, their managers and breweries – sit up and take notice. In London, one company, Signature Brew, solely creates ales with musicians. You may have seen its Professor Green beer, Remedy, in Morrisons.

It is a painstaking process, says Signature Brew’s David Riley, with the musicians going through an initial four-hour tasting session and, thereafter, reviewing several small-batch test runs, as the head brewer tries to nail the flavours that the band loves: “We encourage them to comment on the taste, carbonation, colour and mouth feel.” Riley insists he allows the artists “as much creative control as possible. Although, we have a strict no-puns policy when it comes to naming the brew.”

But are these band-beers actually any good?

ELBOW, CHARGE
4.2% (Marston’s)

RobinsonsBuildARocketBoysElbowYou might say Elbow are too nice for their own good. Where’s the edge? The danger? Charge, their follow-up to Build a Rocket Boys!, the beer that arguably started this whole trend, is what beer geeks would classify as a “boring brown bitter”. Despite being advertised as a golden ale, it is copper coloured, ineffectually bittersweet, soapy, dull. But what do Bury’s finest expect? In a country awash with hip young craft beer outfits, they’ve hooked-up with Marston’s, the Chris Rea of British brewing.

Verdict: Disappointing second album.

FRANK TURNER, BELIEVE
4.8% (Signature Brew)

Believe bottle shot
A beer as confused as Frank’s politics, but far more palatable. This “modern twist on the traditional wheat beer”, is, in fact, much closer to a crisp, zesty pale ale or a proper, flavourful pils, than a wheat beer. It has a little background warm, wheaty sweetness, but don’t buy this expecting big banana and clove flavours. Which is fine by me. Finally, something that Frank and the Guardian agree on.

Verdict: Top 10.

IRON MAIDEN, TROOPER
4.7% (Robinson’s)

Trooper-bottles-line-Morrisons-shelves-up-down-the-country

Say what you like about that ludicrous pantomime of masculinity, Iron Maiden, but they are rarely dull. Unlike this beer, which, but for its musty, malty body of dark berries and peculiar sherbet-lemons aftertaste, is pretty mousy. Bruce Dickinson, a real ale enthusiast, was heavily involved in Trooper’s development. Let’s hope he’s a better pilot than he is brewer.

Verdict: Bargain bin.

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