Freshly Tapped: Soused
phil runco | Apr 10, 2017 | 1:00PM |

By Philip Runco. Photos by Clarissa Villondo.

Freshly Tapped spotlights one recently released beer, whether it be a flagship, one-off, seasonal, or modified recipe.

Today, our beer is Soused, a 7% Nordic IPA brewed by Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and the band Sunn O))).

Previously in Freshly Tapped: Denizens’ Backyard Boogie; Port City’s Colossal 6; Ocelot and Meridian Pint’s Talking Backwards; Right Proper and Pizzeria Paradiso’s Maslow; Union and Ocelot’s Lucifer’s Trees; 3 Stars and Charm City Meadworks’ Two-Headed Unicorn; Aslin and Meridian Pint’s The Adventures of Audrey; Atlas Brew Works’ Dance of Days; Old Ox’s Funky Face; Handsome Beer’s White Ale; Ocelot and Bluejacket’s Raised on Promises; and 3 Stars’ #ultrafresh.

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There is rarely a simple explanation for the name of a Right Proper beer.

One can mean this, but it also refers to that, which is a play on some whole other thing, and really, it’s all subjective

Like almost everything about Right Proper – from the recipes produced in its Brookland and Shaw facilities to the murals on the walls there – these names reflect an approach to craft beer that’s both playful and deeply considered.

Take its kellerbier, Being There. One afternoon, I ask Nathan Zeender whether the unfiltered lager is named for the 1979 Hal Ashby film or the 1996 Wilco album. Right Proper’s head brewer should know the answer: He names his beers.

“Well, what’s your interpretation?” Zeender responds. “I like both.”

Even over the phone, I can see his smirk.

“Most directly, it’s the movie, and that’s usually what I tell people,” the brewer continues. “But if someone says, ‘Is it for the record?’ I say, ‘Yes, that’s a good record, too.’ Mainly, though, it’s the film, which is set in Shaw. It’s also a kellerbier, and it was Peter Sellers’ last movie. And, either directly or indirectly, I’m a big Shirley MacLaine fan. I’ve named four or five beers for Shirley MacLaine movies, which most people don’t know.”

References to artists and works of popular culture frequently pop up in Zeender’s beer. They come from fiction and film and poetry, but most of all, they come from music.

Astral Weeks. White Bicycles. Ornette. The Invisible City of Bladensburg. Range Life. This list goes on. With almost 200 beers under his belt – first at the Shaw brewpub, now at the Brookland production facility – Zeender has had plenty of opportunities to connect the threads of music and beer, even if he doesn’t exactly know why.

“It’s just something that somehow got lumped in my brain at some point,” he admits. “The synapsis makes sense to me.”

Over the weekend, the Right Proper brewpub debuted a new fruity pale ale, which most notably was fermented with the Nordic yeast strain kveik. Zeender is calling the beer A Single Ray of Light – a reference to a song by Trans Am, a band he’s seen live more times than any other. This Wednesday, the synthetic post-rock act will play at the 9:30 Club, which happens to be a mere 1500 feet from where A Single Ray of Light will be pumping through a draft line.

“I knew they were going to be in DC, so I was like, ‘Let’s call it A Single Ray of Light, and maybe when they’re in town they’ll drink the beer,’” Zeender explains.

Stranger things have happened.

About a year ago, Greg Anderson of venerated doom-metal band Sunn O))) was passing through town when he met up with an old friend for dinner and beers. That acquaintance, Mike Harbin, also happened to be friends with Zeender and knew that the brewer was fan of Anderson’s work.

In fact, Zeender had memorialized that appreciation on Right Proper’s draft lists several times over.

There was SunnAshRa, a dry-hopped sour ale “anointed” with salt, roasted sunflower seeds, and blue vervain, and brewed as a tribute to “the solar-mythic sounds of Sunn O))), Run Ra, and Ash Ra Tempel.”

There was Teeth of the Lions Rule the Divine, an “aromatized” Berliner weisse brewed with fresh-cropped dandelion flowers, greens, and roasted dandelion root. Its moniker nodded not only to a 27-minute song by drone metal progenitors Earth, but also something else named after that sprawling track – a supergroup featuring members of Electric Wizard, Napalm Death, and… Sunn O))).

And, lastly, there was The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, a biere de miel referencing a different track from Earth, who it bears noting were a defining influence on the formation of Sunn O))).

With all of this in mind, Harbin understandably thought Anderson might get along with Zeender, so he brought him to the Shaw Brewpub. As fate would have it, it was spring, and the seasonal Teeth of the Lions Rule the Divine was on tap.

“The first time I met Greg, I was able to pour him a beer name after a side band that he’s actually in,” Zeender recalls with a smidge of pride.

In another case of overlapping interests, Sunn 0))) – which is pronounced simply “Sun” – had recently released a collaborative record with reclusive cult legend Scott Walker, and on the list of Zeender’s all-time favorite artists, Scott Walker is at the top or very close to it.

“For the first 45 minutes of the conversation, it was like, ‘What was it like to meet Scott Walker?’” the brewer recalls with a chuckle. “Normally you meet someone, and it’s like, ‘Hey, nice to meet you.’ It’s not: ‘Hey, you know Scott Walker? How was that experience?’ I must have had 50 questions about Scott Walker. It’s kind of weird, but I guess I didn’t scare him off too much because he came back and did a beer with me.”

That beer is certainly an interesting one: a Nordic IPA resulting from the collaboration of not just Right Proper and an experimental metal band, but also two polarly opposite breweries: craft beer giant Stone and the three brothers of Pen Druid.

It’s called Soused.

The word can refer to something plunged in liquid, specifically of the pickling variety. See: soused herring. If you’ve ever visited Scandinavia, you know that sort of thing is popular where Soused’s Nordic yeast strain originated.

But for the purpose of this beer, the informal meaning of “soused” is more relevant: drunk.

There’s another layer to peel back, of course. The name of that record Sunn O))) and Scott Walker made together?

That’s called Soused, too.

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Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))________________

As with quite a few people from the craft beer industry, there was hardcore punk in Mike Harbin’s life long before ales and lagers.

As a teenager growing up in Central Pennsylvania during the late ‘80s, he fell in love early with loud and fast music. Soon enough, Harbin would find himself playing bass in a several notable bands from the area, but when the last disbanded around the turn of the decade, he moved to DC, where the hardcore scene was in full bloom.

Harbin immersed himself in everything happening regionally. On a national level, though, tangible limits existed on hardcore fandom.

“In the punk world, there were all of these smaller bands that didn’t have distribution on the other coast,” he explains. “So, we were recording stuff in our basement and then sending it elsewhere in the world in exchange for their music.”

Harbin connected with like-minded fans through what amounted to classified ads in the back of punk fanzines like Maximum RocknRoll.

“There was no internet back then, but it was comparable to message boards,” he recalls. “We had to wait by an actual mailbox for packages of new music. There was no emailing links to a YouTube video to check out!”

One of Harbin’s closest correspondents was a guitarist in a series of straight-edge Seattle punk bands including False Liberty and Brotherhood. His name was Greg Anderson.

“Greg and I were basically punk pen pals,” Harbin remembers. “We traded cassette tapes of punk bands and our bands, and then we just stayed in touch.”

By the late ‘90s, Anderson would relocate to Los Angeles, where he started Sunn O))) and the project Goatsake, and then, founded the massively influential heavy metal label Southern Lord to release their music.

Harbin, meanwhile, had ended up in the post-hardcore act Burning Airlines, in addition to tour managing big ticket bands like Spacehog, Shudder to Think, and Jawbox. Through the latter capacity, he would develop an interest in craft beer, and in the ‘00s, he would transition to that industry.

“Going from music to beer was logical because they were both something I was passionate about and had exposure to,” Harbin has said. “A lot of the bands I worked with would actually request microbrews or local beer, so I was already familiar with the world of smaller breweries.”

Harbin sees parallels between the cultures surrounding his earlier and later pursuits. In a way, he observes, friends who meet on message boards and trade beers aren’t so different from what he and Anderson were doing with punk tapes. There’s also the collaborative nature of the craft beer industry, where breweries often pair up for one-off releases.

“Making music is a collaborative art form,” he observes, “and I view doing collaboration beers the same way – it brings people together, and you’re creating art in a sense.”

By the time that Zeender’s path intersected with Harbin’s, the former hardcore bassist had risen to East Coast Regional Sales Manager for intuitional St. Louis brewery Schlafly. A fan of Right Proper’s beers, he would eventually facilitate a collaboration out in Missouri in 2015.

Almost two years later, Harbin finds himself slinging beer for a significantly larger company. Since July, the Falls Church denizen has been rechristened @StoneBrewHarbin – the DMV regional sales representative for Stone Brewing. And with the Craft Brewers Conference coming to DC this April, the California-headquartered brewery logically sought his advice on potential local collaborations.

Again, Harbin thought of Right Proper.

“I think they’re making amazing beers – very interesting, super flavorful,” he says. “I like that they have a number of offerings that are low ABV, too. I like drinking beer, so the fact that I’m able to drink a 3.5% beer like Ornette all day is fantastic.”

The Stone rep had something else up his sleeve, too: He noticed that Sunn O))) would be playing the 9:30 Club almost a month before CBC. And if the idea was to make Anderson’s band a part of the collaboration, there wasn’t a better partner than Zeender.

“Nathan and I have a lot of common musical interests, and I knew that he was a big fan of Sunn O))) and the stuff that Greg does on Southern Lord,” Harbin explains. “I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to get everyone together and do a collaboration beer?’”

What Harbin didn’t know was how neatly the pairing of a doom metal band and Right Proper would dovetail with another exploration of Scandinavian-rooted expression.

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Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))________________

For as long as he’s been brewing, Nathan Zeender has sought to tell other people’s stories.

Often, that’s meant brewing styles plucked from over a millennium of brewing history – a French mine worker’s grisette, a Danish sailor’s skibsøl, even a Viking’s Gotlandsdricka. He doesn’t set about recreating these beers, per se; it’s more about finding inspiration in their ingredients, and then telling a version of these stories that includes a portion of his own. Think of it as fermented bricolage.

And since Zeender’s homebrew days, the Nordic region is a part of the world that has intermittently attracted his interest.

“I’ve been excited about Scandinavian folk beers for a while,” the brewer recalls. “At home, I was doing all of these sahtis and strange beers. At the brewpub, I made a sahti, but one that would have been made for the women to drink, which I felt was more interesting.”

Late last year, his love affair with Scandinavian beers was rekindled during a bottle share at the Brookland facility with a few old buddies. Among them was Michael Tonsmeire – a longtime friend and frequent collaborator, in addition to an award-winning homebrewer and the published author best known as The Mad Fermentationist.

Tonsmeire had somewhat recently traveled to Norway for the country’s Norbrygg Hjemmebryggerhelgen – or “homebrewers weekend” – where someone had given him a bottle of ALU by Norse. A combination of ancient and contemporary Norwegian brewing traditions, the beer is a smoky swirl of juniper, “forest spice,” and the orange notes thrown off by a Nordic farmhouse yeast strain called kveik.

Months later, on a December night in Brookland, with the low-frequency ambient music of Earth buzzing through the air, Tonsmeire presented the bottle to the group. They had been drinking other beers, of course – like Russian River’s Beatification and the other rare and expensive things you’d expect when elite beer nerds dip into their cellars – but Zeender was transfixed by ALU.

“We opened it up, and I got so excited,” he remembers. “Everyone was excited, but I was really excited. It was my favorite beer of the night, against all of these other world-class beers.”

Both Zeender and Tonsmeire felt stirred to explore the alchemy of ALU in their own beers, which is the sort of thing that’s happened before.

“There have been a number of times where Mike and I will share a beer together, and then we’ll both get very excited about it,” shares Zeender. “As homebrewers, we’d both go brew separate interpretations of that beer at home.”

“I think after you have so many great IPAs and stouts the formula feels cracked,” Tonsmeire tells me over e-mail. “You can make one a bit better, but you aren’t going to get that rush of excitement you did when you were first getting into craft beers finding a new favorite style. Trying a wonderful example of something so unlike anything else you’ve tasted is stimulating in a way a flawless barleywine isn’t any longer for me.”

Tonsmeire brewed a test batch with kveik pulled from a beer that he brought back from Norway and found it to be a little tart for his taste, so he purchased a different strain called HotHead from Omega Yeast Labs. (The cutesy name refers to the fact that kveik ferments at unusually high temperatures without throwing off unpleasant flavors.) With that yeast, Tonsmeire brewed another batch – this time, a smoked ale with juniper branches pulled from his own backyard. This beer would contribute directly to the first entry in Right Proper’s current Nordic trilogy: Hyperborea.

A collaboration between the DC brewery and Modern Times (who frequently enlist the homebrewer’s expertise), Hyperborea is the Zeender’s most direct reference to ALU. Much like the Norwegian creation, Hyperborea is a roughly 6% farmhouse ale brewed with a juniper infusion and smoked malts. It was fermented with kveik that had been grown up from Tonsmeire’s homebrew, in addition to ale yeast, which Zeender added out of concern that the Norwegian yeast strain’s distinctly orangey character would dominate a smokey ale.

In another kind of beer, though, that might not be a bad thing.

“When I tried Mike’s homebrew batch, we were both of the idea that kveik would work really in a hoppy beer,” Zeender recollects. “In a hoppy pale ale, orange is great, so we could just let that yeast strain rip.”

The opportunity to produce such a beer would come when Harbin brought the Sunn O)))) collaboration to Right Proper.

While the band may hail from the West Coast, its music is often associated with the heavy metal scene of Norway. Sunn O))) and a hoppy Nordic beer felt like a match made in heaven – or, you know, whatever celestial bodies you choose to believe in.

Plus, when you’re talking about Stone, you’re probably talking about hops.

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Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))________________

If you’re going to work in craft beer, Jim Sipp isn’t a bad name to have. You might even call it a birthright.

For over two decades, Sipp has been doing his ancestors proud as a brewer for Red Hook and, as of seventeen months ago, at Stone’s new facility in Richmond, Virginia. But a lot has changed in brewing technology over that timespan, and nowhere is that more evident than his current place of employment.

As Brewing Process Manager, Sipp oversees a gargantuan, state-of-the-art facility where the smallest batch size is 180 barrels and the system is almost 80% automated. After opening last March, it produced 50,000 barrels that year, and Sipp projects 120,000 over the course of 2017. That’s a lot of beer. Here’s the kicker, though: The place is built to crank out 750,000 barrels annually.

In other words, they’re just scratching the surface. The same can be said for much of the plant. It sounds like a garage full of Ferraris with next to no mileage.

“There’s equipment that I haven’t really used yet,” Sipp admits, noting his mostly unutilized special creation tanks, blending line, and refiltration systems. “There’s so much we can do here. It goes on and on and on.”

Stone’s Richmond facility was designed to supply everyone east of the Mississippi River with flagships like Arrogant Bastard, Stone IPA, and Ruination Double IPA, along with the wildly popular Enjoy By series. And while increased efficiencies and decreased shipping costs are the primary objectives, the company wouldn’t mind the halo effect of being a local brewery in the DMV either.

So far, though, that’s proved a challenge for a company that’s been closely associated with San Diego since 1996.

“We’re still getting it into people’s heads that we’re local,” Harbin says. “It’s a tough thing for people to wrap their heads around. We’re still viewed as a West Coast brewery. You ask people what they generally drink, and they say, ‘Port City.’ It’s all local. I have to tell them that we have a brewery down in Virginia.”

According to Sipp, there are a few cultural differences in Richmond, too.

“We’re not full of surfer dudes,” deadpans the brewer, who reminds me more than a little of a few high school football coaches I had growing up. “You start there.”

One way that Stone is encouraging the local association is by allowing the Richmond facility some autonomy outside of core brand production. Partly, that means collaborations with nearby breweries like Triple Crossings, Champion, Ardent, and Hardywood.

“With the collabs that are outside of our brewery, we’re pretty much able to do whatever we want, as long as it somehow fits the Stone thing,” Sipp tells me on the brew day for Soused.

And what exactly is “the Stone thing,” I wonder.

“We’re very hop-forward,” he responds. “It’s not just a beer for beer’s sake. But, yeah, we like very hop-forward beers, and I think this will be one.”

Soused is indeed a hoppy a beer. Moreover, it is the hoppiest beer that Right Proper has ever produced.

As with Hyperborea, the brewing process started with making tea. More specifically, Zeender boiled fifteen pounds of fresh Juniper branches in the hot liquor tank for 24 hours. According to Zeender, this yields “a very pleasant, wonderful, juniper-focused drinking beverage that I’d be happy to drink every morning.”

The malts were then mashed with this single infusion of “tea” rather than regular water, lending the liquid a strong – though not tannic or woody – juniper character. And if visitors to the Right Proper production facility weren’t equally as fond of juniper aromas wafting through the air, well, that was too bad.

“It was typical,” Right Proper co-founder Thor Cheston says of the process. “Nathan was getting out of here on a Friday afternoon, just when we were starting to set up for a busy weekend in the tasting room, and as we’re crossing paths, he stops and says, ‘Oh hey, the whole brewhouse might smell like juniper all weekend long because the mash is infused with juniper.’ It’s just like, ‘OK.’ That’s a pretty standard conversation with him.”

To hop the beer, Zeender opted for two American varietals: Comet and Mosaic.

The first is a hop that you’ll often find in Right Proper’s beers. The citrusy cultivar is one of the few commercially viable hops that’s indigenous to the United States. That’s one reason Zeender brews with Comet – it has a good story.

“It’s an American hop breed, and I like that neat pedigree,” he tells me. “I like the bitter orange flavors, too. It’s not too expensive, and it has a lot going for it. It’s also readily available… until everyone finds out it’s the world’s greatest hop! Allagash just started doing a beer with it, and I was like, ‘Oh no.’ There’s only one farm that makes Comet hops.”

If Comet was included in Soused to represent Right Proper, the same can be said for Mosaic with Stone.

“Stone makes very juicy, hopped beers, and Mosaic is a hop that I would associate with them,” Zeender continues. “And they were very generous by giving us access to their supply of it.”

A good supply of those hops would matter more after an unlikely participant determined how many pounds would go into the beer.

“I got Greg and Van [Carney] and the gang from Stone together, and I was like, ‘We need to decide on the hopping bill for this beer,’” Zeender recalls. “People came up with different ideas, and I was like, ‘Well, given the intensity I was looking for, I was thinking maybe around two pounds per barrel in the kettle.’”

There was some consensus.

Then Sunn O))) made its opinion known.

“Greg, who has never brewed in his life, was like, ‘Three! Three pounds per barrel!’” Zeender continues bemusedly. “At that point, I’m not going to say, ‘No, Greg!’ So, we just had a good laugh and were like, ‘That sounds great.’ Luckily, we didn’t clog up our heat exchange or anything like that, though it probably would have been a better story if we had.”

The enormity of collaborating with an iconic brewery like Stone is not lost on Cheston.

“I’m just blown away,” he says in his delicate speaking voice, something that rarely climbs beyond a whisper even in a buzzy tasting room. “I mean, why would Stone want to come here? Like, they’re Stone. Having someone that large and well-respected make the effort to come work with us is mind-blowing.”

Before Cheston co-founded Right Proper, before he was the beer director of Pizzeria Paradiso, before even he tried a craft beer, there was Stone. He cites Arrogant Bastard as one of the beers that opened his horizons. He notes their pioneering of “the whole Belgian IPA kick.” He has thought a lot about Stone over the past dozen or so years.

“They’ve always just been a brewery that I’ve really admired,” Cheston says. “So, it’s really cool to have them here.”

But if the Stone’s collaboration with Right Proper is indeed mind-blowing, the craft beer giant working alongside Pen Druid is something else altogether.

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Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))________________

“Wood is carbon neutral. It’s there. It’s available. It smells good. I love splitting it.”

Van Carney is explaining all of the benefits of wood to me.

Wood is how his two brothers heat their copper brew kettle, which is located outside on a farm in Sperryville, Virginia. This bucolic landscape is where you will find Pen Druid.

“In manufacturing, you have three things: efficiency, time, and cost,” he continues. “Using wood knocked all three of those down.”

Carney and his brothers did not intend to open a wood-fired brewery.

“We kind of did it out of novelty at first – like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do this outside and use wood?’” the long-haired and copiously bearded brewer continues. “Then we were like, ‘Holy shit, you can get wood so hot.’”

Standing nearby, leaning against a railing, Jim Sipp has some questions.

“What type of percentage pour-off are you guys getting?” he wonders.

“I would say it really depends on the weather,” Carney answers. “I have to be honest: We have a lot of boil overs, so it would be hard to say. It’s maybe 10%. Sometimes it’s more like 12%.”

Sipp nods. “That gets to be considerable,” he says.

One of these men runs an automated facility built to produce three-quarters of a billion barrels annually and stock shelves across half of the country. The other started a brewery specializing in wild – occasionally spontaneously fermented – beers, with no intention of selling these beers outside a tasting room. Yet here they are, on the production floor of Right Proper, talking shop like any two typical brewers.

“You couldn’t have a more diametric opposite between what we do and what Stone does,” Carney says. “We have a copper pot outside with a wood fire. We don’t sanitize. Half of our beer is fermented in wood. We love inconsistency.  We don’t need the same beer to be same color twice or even the same alcohol content. There are three of us. Meanwhile, they have god-knows-how-many employees. They’re going to put forty 325,000-pound fermenters on a roof in Berlin. Forty of them! The physical infrastructure is insane. It’s just the total opposite. But at the end of the day, Jim and I are both putting malt into the hopper, we’re smelling hops, we’re producing the same thing. We both make beer. We’re sitting here drinking it now. It’s a communal thing”

Carney talks fast and sounds like someone who has had a lot of deep conversations about beer. With the financial backing of Jonathan Staples, he and his brothers Jennings and Lain started Pen Druid 18 months ago after almost a decade of psych-rock trio Pontiak being their primary focus. The band is still active – in fact, it released a new album on Thrill Jockey just a few weeks ago – but there’s no questioning where their priorities lie these days. Aside from a few interim tour dates this spring, you can generally find the three in Sperryville.

“The label wants us to tour more, but we’re like, ‘We can’t possibly leave,’” he says. “They’re cool with it.”

Sperryville is where Zeender met the Carneys earlier this year to brew a coolshipped, barrel-aged biere de miel that probably won’t be done for another. When it comes to Pen Druid, there is never any rush.

“It was like 20 degrees and snowing – the coldest day of the year,” Right Proper’s head brewer reminisces of the visit. “We had a beer early in the morning, outside, and it was great. I spent the whole day with the three brothers there, and I think we got along really well.”

Zeender had met the Carney brothers at the opening of Vanish Brewing a year or so earlier, and later they would come visit Right Proper. It didn’t take long to discover they were mutual admirers of each other’s work.

“Right Proper just makes awesome beer,” Carney says. “The way that Nate does it is really inspiring and cool. There’s passion. We vibe with them 100%.”

It’s not hard for Cheston to decode this friendship.

“Pen Druid are kind of kindred spirits with Nathan in the way they approach beer,” he observes. “Just look at them. Nathan has a mystical quality to him, and with Pen Druid that’s part of their ethos, as well.”

In early discussions with Harbin about Soused, the Right Proper head brewer immediately thought of including Pen Druid. He knew the brothers were fans of Sunn O))). They also happened to be in a band themselves.

To represent Pen Druid in the beer, he asked Carney to bring up some malted oats from Copper Fox Distillery. As neighbors of the maltsters, Pen Druid frequently brews with its grains.

The malted oats accounts for about 17% of the grist – the rest is 65% pale malt and 18% Munich – but it lends the beer a distinct quality.

“It’s pretty rustic stuff,” he says. “It’s not the kind of malted oats that you’d get from a commercial maltster. It has a real identity. It’s certainly a bit earthy.”

According to Carney, you should be able to taste the good vibes in the Right Proper production facility that day, too.

“There’s this guy who wrote that book about how positive and negative thoughts can change the structure of water,” he tells me. “When you love what you’re doing, I think it translates to the beer.”

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Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))Sunn O)))

Soused - Right Proper, Stone, Pen Druid, and Sun O)))

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We all love a good story, but the particulars of Soused are almost too good to be true.

Its brew day coincides with the first stop of Sunn O)))’s North American tour… which happens to fall on a Sunday… on the morning that daylights savings kicks in and the afternoons get a bit sunnier.

“This is all so weird,” Cheston cracks wryly.

Anderson is there, fresh from arriving into DC late the night before, not wearing a cloak. He, Zeender, Harbin, and Carney chat in a circle. Meanwhile, off to the side, Tonsmeire holds court with a thermos of kveik IPA he’s recently homebrewed with mango and vanilla.

“It’s just exciting to play with a new palette of flavors,” he tells me later. “There are many different kveik strains, and we’re in the early stages of figuring out what they might be really good at.”

Soused’s kveik had been purchased commercially and then used at the brewpub to ferment A Single Ray of Light – the second entry in Zeender’s Nordic trilogy. That beer was more functional than anything else: Right Proper needed to “step up” (or strengthen) the yeast.

“Whereas the beer at the brewpub is 5% and pretty hoppy, this beer is 7% alcohol and very hoppy,” Zeender says, noting that after dry-hopping, beer has about five-pounds-per-barrel of Comet and Mosaic. “They’re a lot of breweries that are going well, well beyond that these days, but that’s well beyond our norms.”

Whether the brewer will return to kveik further down the road remains to be seen. Perhaps a surprise at another social gathering will take him in a new direction.

“Working with Nathan is really cool because you really get the sense that he’s not just making a recipe – he’s having a conversation with the yeast,” Cheston says. “Beer is almost the afterthought. It’s the result of the conversation he’s having with the yeast.”

Even if Right Proper remains a yeast-first brewery, it’s a pleasure to see a collaboration recipe so thoughtfully constructed: Stone’s Mosaic, Pen Druid’s rustic oats, Right Proper’s Comet, the Scandinavian juniper and kveik as a nod to Sunn O))).

“Nathan’s really pulls together what each brewery does,” Harbin shares. “He did a great job of being mindful of everyone’s influences here. He should take all of the credit for that.”

Almost on cue, Carney ties the thread of music and beer together.

“Brewing is like making music,” he says. “Nobody has to listen to it. Nobody has to drink our beer. You just put it out there. You put it out there with passion and intensity and love and just let it go.”

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Sunn O)))