We don’t care how many records, CDs, T-shirts or sweat pants a band has sold in its career, it hasn’t officially “made it,” in our estimation, until it gets a beer named after it (or one of its songs). That is winning, no matter how you measure it. Even a little ol’ noise/math band from Montgomery, Alabama—that would be El Chupa Cobras—can attain such greatness, though they may never sell out the Enormo Dome.
On July 29, Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing released Black Whole, a “Multi-Dimensional Ale” in honor of El Chupa Cobras (and named after one of their newest songs, available here). That was the day that ECC—guitarist/vocalist Kenny Johnson, guitarist Steve Rowe, bassist Vonda McLeod and drummer Chad Baker—attained rock immortality. Naturally, we needed more details, so we dialed up Johnson on the typing communicator thingy.
How did it feel to be immortalized in a beer?
KENNY JOHNSON: It was really cool. I’ve known [brewer] Wayne [Wambles] at Cigar City for 20 years. We talk beer and music regularly, but I never expected to have those conversations bottled. We were totally flattered when he approached us with this. A rad honor indeed.
Will Cigar City send you off with a few cases of it when you tour?
JOHNSON: I wish! Unfortunately, no, because it’s a limited release brew. Only 144 cases were made for distribution in Alabama and Florida. We are working on a new recording now, so I’m sure the beer will be long gone by the time we can tour the album.
Did the band have any input on what style of beer it would be?
JOHNSON: Wayne had the recipe planned out when he called me a few months back asking which band he could honor with the brew. Midway through our conversation he said, “Why not you guys?” He thought it would be a perfect tribute to some of the things independent beer makers and musicians have in common—creativity, passion, drive, etc. Wayne and I played in a few bands together in the early-’90s and he felt the brew bridged our parallel paths. His in brewing, and mine in music.
What aspects of the beer do you think accurately reflect the El Chupa Cobras experience/sound?
JOHNSON: It’s a big complex and experimental beer that has a bold initial impact, but also has lots of subtle things going on in the background. The beer’s label says it “takes many twists and turns similar to our daily lives,” which I think is representative of the band. It is also surprisingly easy to drink for a high gravity beer (8%), making it a bit dangerous. Even though it wasn’t initially/specifically designed for us it really does reflect what it is I think we do was a band.
Any Montgomery or Alabama craft beers that Decibel readers should know about?
JOHNSON: Yes! Good People Brewing Company in Birmingham is fantastic. They’ve started canning their IPA, which I highly recommend. Back 40 Beer Co. in Gadsden is excellent too. Their Naked Pig Pale Ale is so good it’s trouble. Alabama also has Straight to Ale in Huntsville, which I haven’t tried, but have heard good things about. Free the Hops is also a great resource for what is happening in Alabama brewing.