The Johnny, a Tart Rosé Ale Inspired by the many personas of St. Vincent
Forgotten Boardwalk Brewery, Cherry Hill NJ
Written by Jamie Queli, Owner & CEO
Meet: The Johnny, a Tart Rosé Ale Inspired by the many personas of St. Vincent
Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing does a series of music inspired beers and collaborates on making beers alongside musicians and bands. This is the story behind of one of these beers.
I will start by telling you the exact same thing that I informed Annie Clark, the guitar virtuoso and incredibly talented musician behind the multi-layered persona of St Vincent.
“Annie - I got high one day while listening to Daddy’s Home. While in my kitchen throwing down some epic dance moves, I got inspired to share this groove. I named the beer and the dance after your recurring character, Johnny.
This beer itself is a sour ale that was conditioned with strawberries, raspberries, hibiscus and rose petals.”
True story. But maybe we should back up a little…
I started a deep dive into St Vincent’s catalog recently. I began with watching The Nowhere Inn, the mockumentary psychological comedy thriller, starring Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein. From there I fell down the rabbit hole of the St Vincent catalog and snagged tickets to see her perform at The Met, in Philadelphia in the fall of 2021.
Her band is a stellar cast of all-star musicians. I walked out of the show mesmerized and informed my staff at Forgotten Boardwalk that we were making a beer based on St Vincent.
The creative process started. What would I call the beer? If St Vincent was a beer, what type of beer would she be? What album do I start with? Which artist do I work with to bring the can to life?
The source material is highly visual. St Vincent changes her musical personas like a professional shapeshifting vixen on each record, stylistically matching herself to each of her albums ethos. I had plenty of material to work with, but I didn’t want to copy her work. I wanted to compliment her work. I resolved to make a beer for people to enjoy while listening to her complex compositions.
I had all of her records to listen to for inspiration but ultimately decided to concentrate on Daddy’s Home, which at that time was the most recent record in her catalog and the tour that I just finished seeing. Daddy’s Home is a 70s rock and roll tribute, an excessive party at the playboy mansion, post flower-child but pre-disco, sleazy, grimy and wonderful musical exploration.
I’m an avid cook. I know this seems out of place here but I spend a majority of my evenings cooking something extremely complicated, smoking pot (which makes things more complicated) and devouring music. This is my personal stage. I had Daddy’s Home spinning on vinyl and the first track, Pay Your Way in Pain is blaring out of the speakers. I’m doing way more dancing than cooking and then I notice the lyrics “sit down, stand up, head down, hands up”. I informed my cat that these lyrics sound very instructional - like a dance. My cat agreed.
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There are plenty of songs with dances around this time right? The Twist, The Hustle, The Dougie, etc. I wanted the name of the beer to be short, just like these dance names. While I was combing through her catalogue I remembered hearing the name John on multiple records. On [one of her earlier albums] Marry Me, she asked “John” to marry her, on [her self titled album] St Vincent she crowned “Johnny” as a Prince, and on [her most previous album] Masseduction, she sang “Johnny” a birthday song. I began to wonder if Johnny was a character, a real person or pieces of different people. This was character exploration within character exploration within character exploration! Sheesh.
Per St Vincent, “Johnny’s just Johnny,” she said. “Doesn’t everyone know a Johnny?”
I loved this thought - it’s simple, everyone knows a Johnny. So I turned it into the beer’s name with the line “now everyone can do the Johnny”, a dance so simple that everyone can do. Great! I have a name! And I have the concept. Now on to developing the label!
The character created is a janky little cartoon caricature of St Vincent who is showcasing her dance moves while holding St Vincent’s signature handkerchief - something she dances with during her live performances. I was thrilled to put this little detail into the artwork. The front of the can is stylized to resemble a guitar amp. The tonality are earth tones as 1970s art is devoid of the use of color. I often wonder if this is due to a color hangover from the psychedelic 60s. The notice placed on the can is a lyrical reference to Pay Your Way In Pain “The Show is only getting started - Enjoy Responsibly”.
What type of beer would St Vincent be if you could drink her up? Something intimate, powerful, avant-garde, masculine, & feminine. What I did know? St Vincent definitely is not a fucking lager. I was intrigued to know if there was a popular alcoholic drink during the 70s, something that rock gods of yesteryear were slinging, so I did some more research and found this beautiful photo of Jimi Hendrix drinking from a bottle of Mateus - a Rosé wine that was extremely popular in the 70s amongst musicians. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift from the universe.
I knew that I could easily replicate a rose wine in beer form. I decided to make a sour ale as it will mimic the low pH of a wine. We added hibiscus powder to change the color to a beautiful pink hue and from there we decided to add in rose hips and rose petals to enhance an aroma of a floral nose. Lastly, we conditioned the ale on copious amounts of fresh strawberries & raspberries to round out the flavor profiles’ mildly sweet berry kiss. This beer is wonderfully complex. Not to brag (but totally bragging), it has advanced twice to the final round of the Great American Beer Competition. I will win it next year.
A few months after I released The Johnny, St Vincent announced a new tour with Roxy Music and one of the stops was coming back into Philadelphia. I used this opportunity and wielded my charm at the venue. I wanted Annie to try to beer so I found a way to get a case of it into her green room with a little hand written note that started this story. Judging from her social media posts - she was a fan of the beer. And I am happy to have impressed her.