Once a month, theologian and music scholar Kristen Leigh performs spiritual anthems ranging from "Amazing Grace" to "Imagine" for an enthusiastic congregation in Asheboro, North Carolina. But despite the pious-sounding name of the hosting establishment, Four Saints Brewing Company is no church.
Four Saints is, however, like a house of worship, a gathering place for the citizens of Asheboro -- many of who come for the music and stay for the beer. Each Saturday night, the brewery hosts everything from bluegrass, to folk, to rock performances on its stage; additional monthly shows include the aforementioned referenced "Beer And Hymns" and an open mic night; every other Wednesday, guests are treated to Irish traditionals.
"On any given night, we've got people who are newly 21…to 85-year-olds drinking with their grandkids," points out Joel McClosky, co-owner and CEO of Four Saints. "We have such a diversity of customer base and we carry such diverse styles of beer -- it makes sense to have a diverse range of music."
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Music brings in outsiders beyond the typical brewery customer, which is as good for the business as it is for the community. "There are a lack of music venues in our town, and of the two or three here, there are covers involved,” McClosky explains. “That's one thing we don't do." By not charging a cover, Four Saints encourages more walk-ins, and the band always knows exactly how much it's going to make. "That gives us a better chance to create a real relationship [with the artists]," McClosky says.
Live music was always a part of McClosky's business plan with co-founder Andrew Deming. "There's something about [live music] that adds life to the community and the space," he says. And "life" is exactly what Four Saints is peddling: beyond the dependable lineup of beers (consisting mostly of well-made, straightforward American classics like IPA, stout, and one of the cleanest, tastiest American blonde ales south of the Mason-Dixon), the brewery offers a gathering place for the community in the form of an old-world-style pub. No modern gimmicks or frills -- just "great beer for great people," as the brand motto states.
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Nick Hawthorne-Johnson, co-founder of Durham's Ponysaurus Brewing -- another North Carolina brewery tightly intertwined with music -- views his establishment in a similar light. "We, as a brewery, think of ourselves as a community hub, or a gathering place; a place for everyone in the community to feel welcome and get together,” he says. “Breaking bread, having drinks, and music touches all of the senses."
While Ponysaurus doesn't host shows on premise, the brewery did produce Don't Be Mean to People, an incredibly successful concert featuring 25 performers -- including headliners Hiss Golden Messenger and Megafaun -- for a total of almost 1800 attendees. The event was inspired by a beer of the same name -- "A Golden Rule Saison," brewed in collaboration with over 40 participants to raise money and awareness for HB2, North Carolina's infamous "bathroom bill" -- and raised a little over $25,000 for the state ACLU.
Why is a concert the ideal fundraising vehicle? "Music is a pretty unifying force," Hawthorne-Johnson explains. "Everybody listens to music. Everybody's life is improved by turning some music on. And so, it's an easy way -- particularly right now, in the political climate that we're in -- to focus on the things that we can all agree on. I think it’s time to seek out things that bring us together."
Beer and music also both share the ability to help people to cut loose. "Even the sound -- the pssssh -- that a can makes when it opens, it kinda signals, 'Ahhhh, it's 5 o'clock!' It's like the starting gun for enjoyment," Hawthorne-Johnson reasons. "I think music is that, too." Indeed, music, like beer, is a tool for enjoying life; a gateway to simply being.
And as Joel McClosky points out, musicians also share a common artisanship with brewers in that both must hone their craft, and then take the risk of sharing new creations with the public. "For the most part, these people that are playing on our stage, this is how they make their living…. They're busting their asses to do what they love…in the hopes of being able to put food on the table. Any craft brewer that's worth their salt -- that's essentially what they're doing, too."
Though breweries large and small from all around the country have long supported live music, a few in particular have partnered with big, national touring acts for especially impressive shows and festivals. Visit any one of the four spots below for performances as legendary as the suds you'll sip!
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Lagunitas in Petaluma, California, is known for hoppy pale ales and IPAs that are as dank and resinous as they come. And nothing pairs with dank brews and -- ahem -- "vibes" like a little bit of groovy live music. Fortunately, the brewery has an outdoor amphitheater smack dab in the middle of its property, where it’s hosted weekly shows from June through October for the last six years. In the past, they've welcomed Delta Spirit, Deer Tick, and Parquet Courts to the stage; this year's lineup brings in acts such as Mavis Staples, Lake Street Dive, and The White Buffalo, among many others.
If you're wandering the Mid-Atlantic region in search of world-class beer paired with world-class live music on a weekend, look no further than Dogfish Head's newly renovated and redesigned Brewings & Eats brewpub in downtown Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. With live acts ranging from Richard Lloyd of the band Television, to lo-fi indie rock legends Guided By Voices, this stop is an absolute must for any beer and music fan -- with no cover required! And for those looking for a more laid back show, guitarist-singer Bruce Anthony performs next door at Dogfish's Chesapeake & Maine restaurant every Friday evening this summer from 5-8pm.
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Perhaps no brewery offers more impressive summer programming than Brewery Ommegang. This year alone, the Cooperstown, NY, Belgian-style outpost has hosted acts such as Cake, Old Crow Medicine Show, and The Avett Brothers in its backyard, while Ween, Foster the People, Elvis Costello, and The Shins are all slated for upcoming appearances. More than 20,000 concertgoers attend Ommegang's shows each year while eating and drinking incredibly well to the tunes. And for those into slumber parties under the stars, overnight camping passes are available for an additional $15 to the first 1000 ticket-purchasers who want one.
These Minneapolis heavy metal fans and OGs of the modern Twin Cities beer scene have long been supporters and sponsors of touring metal acts like Power Trip, Mastodon, and Amon Amarth at local venues like Triple Rock Social Club or 7th Street Entry. But the brewery has most recently partnered with First Avenue to produce much bigger shows at the now year-old Surly Brewing Festival Field. Don't expect an exclusively metal lineup, either – the venue has already welcomed acts such as Dr. Dog, and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and will next host Father John Misty this August.