The connection between beer and rock and roll is long standing and deeply ingrained—clubs sell beer, audiences drink beer, bands drink beer.
In any local music scene, unknowns are handed drink tickets when they show up to their gig, which they almost always turn in for cold tall bottles of beer. John Fogerty complained about the drunk audiences, and the Blues Brothers were showered with fizz and glass shards until they remembered how to play “Rawhide” (only, of course, to be showered yet again). I once saw Black Label Society (the name itself a beer reference) front man Zakk Wylde play guitar with Les Paul at the old Iridium in a shirt that read “Fear no Beer.”
So drinking? Sure. But how about brewing? Not so much. Anyway, if a rock and roller is going to have a hobby, it seems natural that it would come later, in their middle age, and that it would involve hiring a dozen gardeners or buying a fleet of race cars—the sort of interest you pick up to find out if your bank accounts are actually undrainable.
Home brewing, on the other hand, is a calm, contemplative pastime, inevitably humbling, which pays off meticulous attention to detail. The antithesis of the supposed rock star life.
But Chris Arndt and his sister Jocelyn, who are currently on the road, touring in support of their new record, The Fun in the Fight, are possibly the only exception. Despite playing more than a hundred gigs a year, the Harvard educated musicians (yes, they both went there!) are serious homebrewers and beer geeks.
Further flummoxing the mythology of the rock and roll lifestyle, one big motivation for getting into brewing was that “it was also really cool to learn something alongside my dad,” says Chris. “He had done homebrew for a while in the ’80s and ’90s, but he got out of it once finding craft beer in stores became really easy, and he’d forgotten most of how it all works when I expressed an interest in brewing. We found his old box of equipment and figured it out together.”
And despite the incongruity of the two pursuits, Chris sees a lot of commonality. “I think it comes down to a love of making things. When I’m really into something (which I am with beer), I almost always end up trying to make it. I’ve always thought that being able to create something is the ultimate form of understanding—it’s the same reason I love being a musician so much,” he says. “My job is to dream up songs I like and then figure out how to make those songs work outside my mind. Beer is the same way; my dad and I will decide what kind of flavor profile we want to create, and then we have to figure out all the steps to making it into a beer.”
So far they’ve stuck with ales, although Chris insists that they are about to get a fermentation fridge so they can control their temperatures and start in on lagering.
As to the humbling aspect, so far they’ve only had one batch go truly south.
“I tried to keep a yeast culture in a glass in our fridge covered in plastic wrap, and it worked for four brews just fine, but something got into it before we brewed the fifth batch and made it really sour,” he says. “It tasted like a lambic on steroids. I actually have a friend who is way more into sours than I was at the time, and she loved drinking it, but my dad and I were not feeling it.”
Being on tour, of course, also has its advantages. He loves learning about regional beers. “Trying local stuff has always been one of my favorite parts of traveling, and our tour schedule grew pretty much in tandem with my interest in beer,” he says. “I’ve definitely got a long way to go as far as developing my palette, but touring so much has really broadened my horizons.”
“We’ve actually developed relationships with a few breweries around the country, and every time we visit I make sure to ask for any new brewing tips they’ve got for me. It always makes for a great conversation and I’ve gotten a good number of free pints out of it as well.”