Very few things go together as well as beer and storytelling, except maybe husbands and wives who have a kick-ass band. And, when the husband and wife band in question focuses on telling stories with and through their music, I can think of zero reasons, outside of my own laziness, for me not to pair beers with the songs from their latest album.
November was released by Grace & Tony, a punk-grass band from Tennessee, late in 2013. I didn’t become familiar with the band until this past January when my family and I saw them on the Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center. An excellent live act, I was pleased to discover that Grace & Tony’s energy and charm translates well on their debut full-length album. And, for me, one of the draws of the album, besides the interesting and well-done juxtaposition of different music genres, is the rich narrative scope of the songs. It’s the type of album that hearkens back to men and women sitting around campfires after a hard day’s work and regaling each other with fun and amazing anecdotes. Of course, no campfire storytelling session is complete without some form of alcohol. So, buy November, invite some friends over, and listen to the album’s tracks while enjoying the accompanying beers recommended below. It probably doesn’t need to be stated, but feel free to experiment and discover other beers that you believe pair well, if not better than my suggestions, with November.
I will only be pairing beers with the first six tracks from the album. Two reasons: six beers is a good number, obviously; and, I don’t want you to have to read three thousand plus words before you begin enjoying this album paired with beers. Oh, and if you’re worried about paying for this much craft beer, good friends will pitch in to help pay for the beer.
Track 1: “Hey Grace, Hey Tony”
The album opens with a cheery back and forth between the obviously-in-love duo. But, no worries, this upbeat song never delves into the world of the saccharine. This opening track, from a band that incorporates musical tension into their sound and relationship, should be paired with a beer that incorporates outside aroma and flavor notes, but doesn’t give up the smells and tastes that make it distinctly beer
Beer Pairing: Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
While the bourbon notes of Goose Island’s famed Bourbon County Brand Stout transcend typical beer characteristics, the bourbon notes never overwhelm the beer. This bourbon stout is rich and complex; yet it is also imminently and surprisedly drinkable.
“Holy Hand Grenade” is a rousing story of a pair of heroes who “are off to save the day.” The danger is real, the depth of the villain’s evilness is palpable, but the heroes are resolute and sexy. Is there a beer that reflects the narrative of this song? Of course there is.
Beer Pairing: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
It is a tragedy that many craft beer lovers sleep on the Pale Ale from Sierra Nevada. But, it’s hard to find a tastier pale ale. And, more importantly, this beer was one of the first shots across the bow of the evil macrobreweries that want to imprison your taste buds with shitty beer. For those of us who love craft beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of our sexy heroes.
Track 3: “November”
A recognition of past foolhardy expectations, “November” speaks to the moment when many of us recognize that our promises in the past were plain foolish. There is a style of beer that many craft beer newbies swear is not for them; until, that is, their beer taste buds no longer act like a child and grow up.
Beer Pairing: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
If I had a nickel for every time I heard “I just can’t get into IPAs,” I’d be able to buy several six packs of what many consider to be one of the gold standards for IPAs. And, if I had another nickel for every time I heard from the same individual, roughly a year after the first claim, “I really like IPAs now,” I’d be able to buy pretty much the same number of six packs as the first bag of nickels bought me.
Track 4: “The Chameleon”
A fun loving yet darkly tinged song with a troubled protagonist who strives to save himself by saving fellow humans. Drifting from town to town, he ultimately fails because his troubled past is eventually discovered. With “The Chameleon,” Grace & Tony have created a very well balanced song that nimbly trips and twirls along the fence that divides over earnest from flippant.
Beer Pairing: Founders Double Trouble is as well balanced an American double/Imperial IPA as can be found. It’s so balanced (and delicious) that unless you already know, you’ll discover too late that what you’re drinking has an abv of 9.4%. However, unlike the protagonist in “The Chameleon,” the only reason Founder Double Trouble will be vacating your fridge is because you will be pouring it down your gullet.
“Can We Save This” is a beautiful yet deceptive song. If the listener is only partially listening, they may mistakenly assume that “Can We Save This” is a comforting love song. But, if the listener pays attention (and the listener should), the song reveals that, while a love song, it is the story of a couple who longs to communicate, but finds their relationship muffled by the fears and selfishness that all relationships have to navigate. It’s the rare love song that resists the saccharine to tell about the honest struggles of love and yet is still heartwarming and beautiful.
Beer Pairing: Coast 32°/50° is a wonderfully tasty example of the Kölsch style beer. Kölsch is a lager/ale hybrid that gives the drinker the best of both worlds. If the drinker isn’t paying attention (and the drinker should pay attention), Coast 32°/50°will reveal to the drinker that it contains more flavor than you traditionally find in a summer session beer. In other words, this beer from Coast Brewing can be enjoyed as much on a crisp fall day as it can be after finishing mowing the grass at the height of summer.
Track 6: “Electricity Bomb”
For years I’ve been a willing sucker for post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian books and movies, and apparently songs now, because “Electricity Bomb” is my favorite song on November. The protagonist of “Electricity Bomb” practically chortles his glee at his good fortune to find his previously unrequited love now requited. Why? An electricity bomb was dropped. This song is an ode to what really matters in love and a fun dismissal of the tangentials that can hijack feelings.
Beer Pairing: Cigar City Brewing Jai Lai is currently my favorite IPA. If that’s not a good enough reason to pair it with my favorite song from November, how about this, then? Jai Lai is named after a supposedly dead (or at least dying) sport. But, the dirty little secret is that from the ashes of bell-bottomed and oversized sunglasses filled South Florida arenas, a new wave of amateur jai lai players, trained by some of the old forgotten pros, are beginning to make names for themselves – if that doesn’t sound like an ESPN produced dystopian movie, then nothing does. Plus, this IPA may very well be the best on the market.
Drinking beer while listening to music is not new. At this very moment, a frat party is raging with a keg of stale-ish Bud Light sitting on a folding table and Nickleback blaring. But that doesn’t count – for many reasons. The main reason it doesn’t count, and the reason your party last week doesn’t count, is because there is probably no one taking the time to enjoy both the music and the beer. If you’ve read this far, you probably love both music and beer. Time to combine the two loves. So, go to Grace & Tony’s webpage and buy November, send some friends to your area’s best craft beer stores (Total Wine will do in a pinch), and sit back and see if you agree with my beer/song pairings. Even if you don’t agree with me, and please let me know if you don’t, I guarantee that you’ll have a good time enjoying excellent music, excellent beer, and friends.
 Or just in time – depends on how you look at it, I guess.
 Bud Light is practically stale upon bottling, it doesn’t matter how “fresh” it is.
John is a theatre artist and writer based out of Arlington, VA. Nowadays, though, most of his artistic output is spent on keeping his two young children amused, occupied, and off of the top of the bookshelves.