A sizable percentage of indie rock fans also enjoys craft beer. Shocker.
Joe Ploof brews and markets for Hartford's Hanging Hills Brewing Company. He has a thing for The Hold Steady — one of Minneapolis' best known, hardest partying, most-endurable rock bands, led by charismatic singer-songwriter Craig Finn.
"They're one of my two favorite bands," Ploof says. "It's the Hold Steady, the Drive-By Truckers, and then everyone else."
Recently, Ploof convinced The Hold Steady to lend its name to Massive Nights IPA, a 6.9% ABV / 46 IBU liquid tribute brewed by Hanging Hills, packing "heavy handed additions of citra and El Dorado to a silky wheat and oat malt bill to form a hazy, fruity and all-around enjoyable IPA."
"Massive Nights IPA" is named for a rollicking, organ-drenched song from The Hold Steady's 2006 album "Boys and Girls in America," a sort of updated, Thin Lizzy-ish pub-rock banger. The beer was on tap during the band's Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 run at the Brooklyn Bowl in NYC.
"The Hold Steady were easy to work with," Ploof says. "They're excited to work with the brewery. Their guitarist Steve Selvidge is a big IPA guy, so it made sense to him."
A family tree of beer-band collaborations, of which Massive Nights IPA is a part, includes Wilco Tango Foxtrot (a joint venture by Lagunitas Brewing Company and indie rock band Wilco) and Black Tongue Double Black IPA (by Signature Brew and the Atlanta metal band Mastodon).
"They're getting to be more and more common now," Ploof says. "There are a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of indie rock and indie craft beer, in terms of who's drinking what and who's listening to what."
Matt Hess, a friend of Ploof's, operates the interactive Hold Steady fan site Clicks and Hisses, where he and other users annotate lyrics and geolocate sites deemed important in the band's mythology.
A big red pin in the map hovers over Hanging Hills. Before the collaboration, Ploof and his partners brewed Water Tower Kettle Sour (a reference to the Hold Steady song "Constructive Summer") and A Stage and an IPA ("a kinda sexy but kinda creepy brew").
Over time, Hess developed a relationship with the band. Ploof, upon learning of the Brooklyn Bowl run, reached out the Hold Steady's manager: "I've been brewing this beer. Are you interested in doing something for the show?"
Weeks passed. In mid-October, with time running out, Ploof posted a mockup of the Massive Nights IPA label to Twitter. The next day, the band responded.
"A Stage and an IPA was the original name," Ploof says. "It was more of a West Coast style IPA." When the Hold Steady signed on, "we took the old recipe and made it more of a Northeast juicy style IPA."
The partnership between Hanging Hills and the Hold Steady isn't an endorsement, Ploof insists, nor is it a sponsorship.
"Hopefully, it's a friendship," Ploof says.
For now, Massive Nights IPA is only available in New York City and at Hanging Hills. Ploof expects it to run out soon.
"We didn't even make that much of the beer," Ploof says. "It's pretty exclusive."
Last Sunday, roughly 40 beer drinkers lined up outside Hanging Hills to buy it.
"If you look through the social media stuff, a lot of people were like, 'Hartford?'," Ploof says.
Fifth in line was a couple from Cincinnati who had expressed interest on Instagram. "I recognized them immediately," Ploof says. "I bought them a beer and they were excited. They bought their allotment of two four-packs and drove back for work the next day."
"We all share interests, whether it's food or music," Ploof says. "The crowds tend to flow together in synergy. We all think alike."
Ploof has seen The Hold Steady 13 times; at the Brooklyn Bowl, he'll snag shows 14 and 15. He'd gladly go to more shows, but he has kids.
"I'm going Friday and Saturday, and then they also put me on the list for the soundcheck. I'm 37 years old and living out my rock and roll dreams."