At some point last year a drummer with arm sleeve tattoos wandered into Coda Brewery in Aurora. He struck a conversation with the owner, Luke Smith, a pharmacologist turned brewer and lifelong musician, and the local band Dragondeer came up. Blank quickly went to the back of the brewery to give the swampy blues-inspired band a listen, and when he returned the mystery patron was gone. But Smith's impression of Dragondeer stuck.
"I would love to make a Dragondeer beer," Smith thought to himself as he listened to the trio.
This wasn't the first time Smith thought about brewing with music in mind. He started Coda unofficially in his barn years before it opened at it's current location in 2014, serving up his brews at jam sessions with his band. Every beer he serves has an "audio pairing" listed on the menu, and even the name "coda" refers back to the music -- coda generally refers to the climatic end passage of a song.
"We were already drinking Coda beer during band practice and taking it to shows," Smith says. "We realized that was a niche and a road we wanted to go down. Let's make beer musicians want to drink."
That ethos led to the audio pairings, the small stage in the tap room, and even the beer names. "Rosalita," the inaugural brew, was named after a song Smith wrote. "Blackseeds" their Munich Helles Lager, is named after a New Zealand reggae band (Smith loves reggae) and appropriately features hops from New Zealand.
When he heard Dragondeer, and realized they were a local band picking up a lot of steam, it was a no brainer to call them up and find a way to create a Dragondeer beer.
"I poured them everything on the board and was like 'what do you like to drink?'" he said. "What is the best reflection of you while you're on stage?"
"We had a couple of ideas," says Eric Halborg, front man of Dragondeer, about the collaboration. "We were thinking a sour beer and a Mexican-style lager, but a little bit punchier."
Both of those were out of the question, as sour beers and lagers have a long, complicated process to them. So, they settled on a sour saison. "It's a saison but then it has a sourness to it that mimics a traditional sour beer," Halborg says. "It's a good spring/summer beer."
A ten barrel batch is currently in the works, and on March 6 the first keg will be tapped, on stage, and then Dragondeer will play as they and fans will enjoy the unique brew until it runs out. Smith says he hopes to someday be able to bottle and sell the collaboration beers, but right now is enjoying the temporality of the collaborations, he calls it the "Coda experience."
"Hearing is that last sense that you don't get with a beer," he says. "So I'm just tapping into that sense by collaborating with musicians."
Smith has no plans to slow down his collaborations, he is going to work with local band Foxfeather later this year and plenty more in the future. He knows without music he wouldn't be who he is and Coda wouldn't be the brewery it has become.
"The science is building up the beer and the music is what's driving it," he says. The music is actually pushing it and giving it that unique spin."
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