Turntable is awesome because it takes something we’re all already an expert in (music we love) and adds an enthralling social media twist unlike anything you’ll find on any other online music site. Imagine yourself sitting in a room with four friends and each of you has every CD you’ve ever listened to sitting in your lap. You all take turns playing your favorite tunes, some of them classic, some of them brand new.
Now imagine that happening over the web, so you don’t have to be sitting in the same room, or even in the same city. And you can chat online while you play tracks for each other, and dozens of random people can listen in if they like your music recommendations. That is Turntable.fm.
I wish there was a website that could do for beer what Turntable does for music, but unfortunately brewskis don’t translate into streaming data bits as well as song files. So I’ll settle for writing a column that pairs great beer with some great music I like to queue up on this new site.
The first principle of Turntable, in my opinion, is that you shouldn’t spin tracks that all your friends already know. So no playing stuff you’ll hear on FM radio. If folks want to hear what’s playing on the radio, they can turn on the radio.
If they get on Turntable, they are looking to go deeper than the Billboard charts. That jives really well with the spirit of craft beer, where many of us are looking for new, interesting beers to check out instead of the old standards that the masses consume without much thought.
I still have a fondness for such great classicrock acts as Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Tom Petty. But when I queue up songs from those bands on Turntable, I don’t pull out “Brown Sugar” or “Free Falling.” I opt for deep tracks I’ve never heard on the radio, like the Stones’ “Sweet Black Angel.” That’s a song about social justice—political in nature. Although the cause is very different, Sweetwater is very active in fundraising for the Black Warrior Riverkeeper organization, which is trying to protect our water supply from corporate pollution. Right now you can sample their Waterkeeper Hefeweizen, which raises awareness of these efforts. It’s a Bavarianstyle hefeweizen with the banana and clove notes that characterize the style.
In addition to pulling deep tracks from classic rockers, it’s fun to explore entire genres that get no radio airtime whatsoever. One favorite of mine is what I’ll refer to here as “alt country,” for lack of a better term. I’d apply that to any country music that doesn’t get airtime on the sort of corporate-owned radio stations that dominate Birmingham airwaves. Toby Keith does not qualify. The Avett Brothers do. One Avett Brothers track I love has some serious twang, “The Traveling Song.” And you know what else has twang? Sour beers. A great sour beer that’s recently gotten some distribution in Alabama is Duchesse De Bourgogne, a Flanders red-style ale. It combines light, vinegar-like acidity with fruity red wine flavors.
Another important family of music that people flock to a site like Turntable for is independent music that doesn’t have the budget to get on corporate radio. Live 100.5 played some indie stuff before the plug was pulled by the corporate overlords, leaving exactly zero outlets for indie on Birmingham FM stations. Indie rooms draw the biggest crowds on Turntable.
Of course indie music spans a wide spectrum of genres, much of it defying easy categorization. And some of my favorite indie music features lyrics suitable for pondering over a good beer. For example, Bright Eyes’ “At The Bottom of Everything” features lines such as “We must blend into the choir, sing as static with the whole, we must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul.” I’d put that with an independently made beer that defies categorization, such as Tallgrass Oasis. The brewer calls Oasis a “double ESB,” which isn’t a recognized style. It’s part English ESB, part American IPA, all hoppy and delicious.
Check out Turntable.fm, and be sure you have the right beer on hand for your listening party.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to danner@ freethehops.org