For Kyle Hollingsworth of the String Cheese Incident, making beer and making music are creatively one and the same
There's a moment on stage when Kyle Hollingsworth just lets go. It's a crucial moment, especially for a jam-style musician who relies on his instinct and his skill when he's performing to help lead the band in the right direction.
The same is true for brewing beer, says Hollingsworth, a longtime home brewer and the keyboardist and songwriter for the String Cheese Incident. "I've been trying to connect the dots in my life -- the art and creativity that goes into making beer and the art and creativity that goes in creating music," says Hollingsworth, who lives in Boulder.
"At least for me, the way I choose to live my life is that I take risks. That moment. The moment when you take a leap of faith, a lot of creativity goes into it. You have to be alert and aware," he adds. "Is it a good time to experiment or not?"
On stage, that moment -- that leap of faith -- means Hollingsworth will lead the jam a certain way; when he's home brewing, it could mean adding rosemary or sage to a beer.
"Either it will be a great jam and come out unexpected, or it will come out totally sucky," he explains. "The important thing is to take that leap."
On Saturday, Hollingsworth takes his latest leap when Boulder Beer taps Hoopla Pale Ale, which it brewed in conjunction with the musician. Named for the hula hoopers who come to his shows, Hoopla will be available in bottles in 35 states.
"It's tasting really great," says Hollingsworth, who tried the beer while it was being bottled earlier this week. "We wanted to make a lighter beer, for festivals. But I personally like hoppier beers and I didn't think the hops would hold in a lighter beer, like a lager. So this is a pale ale. We call it a Festival Pale Ale."
And it's not the first time the musician has brewed beer or played in a brewery. Some other examples include:
In 2009, he embarked on a "Rock and Brew" Tour and then celebrated the release of his solo album, Then There's Now, at Boulder's Southern Sun brewery, whose head brewer, Brian Hutchinson, had collaborated with Hollingsworth on Hoppingsworth IPA. Later, in the year, he visited or played in several East Coast breweries, including Magic Hat and Dogfish Head. He end the tour by playing at New Belgium in Fort Collins.
And then in July 2010, he led Kyle's Brew Fest at Great Divide Brewing in Denver; the fest, which included beers from more than half a dozen breweries, was in part to promote String Cheese Incident's three-day run at Red Rocks.
Late last year, he also went on a Hoppy Holidays tour, which ended at Avery Brewing in Boulder, where Hollingsworth had collaborated on two small-batch beers, a juniper and orange peel-spiced IPA and a classic IPA dry-hopped with rosemary.
He's also brewed with Upslope and Odell and plans to work with Odell, Avery and Twisted Pine for a second Kyle's Brewfest, which is scheduled to take place on July 23 at Boulder Beer. This time there may be around twenty brewers on hand, and Holllinsgworth wants to actually brew on stage in between sets.
"I could mash in, then do a a jam, then stir in the hop and play again," he says.
A risk? Yeah. But that's what he lives for.
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