We live in the era of multitasking—it’s impossible in this day and age to avoid combining two activities at once. But while recent scientific studies show that multitasking drains your reserves of mental energy, we’re here to tell you about one bit of multitasking that will do the exact opposite: a two-activity combo pack that will bring you life, joy, vigor, and a damn good time.
Yes, it’s the return of the Malt Ball, brought to you by the Portland Mercury and the Oregon Brewers Guild, in which the very two best things in the world—BEER and BANDS—are smooshed together into an afternoon and evening of ecstasy.
In other words, it’s the best multitasking you’ll ever do, as you listen to six of Portland’s best music-makers while simultaneously quaffing unique beers from six of Oregon’s best brewers.
Each Malt Ball beer has been paired with a band on the bill, resulting in a symbiosis of sound and flavor that will delight all the senses. It all goes down at Mississippi Studios on Sunday, July 17, starting at 2 pm, and your admission ($18 in advance or $25 at the door) also includes four beer tastings (four ounces each), with additional tastings for $1.50. Get your tickets now at themaltball.com before they’re all gone.
The Malt Ball! It’s the best-sounding beer festival in town, or the best-tasting music fest. Actually, it’s both. Here’s what’s on tap for your ears and mouth.
Months’ 2015 self-titled debut sounds like Elliott Smith returned to this earthly dimension to start a new band with Protomartyr’s Joe Casey. Throughout the album’s nine tracks, it’s like Months are playing two songs on different floors of the same building: On one floor there’s a tenderly hushed indie-folk guitar ballad, and on another a scream-sung punk song driven by the powerful immediacy of its fuzzy, electric riffs. Somehow these two parallel planes congruently fit together, letting Months’ seemingly disparate identities coexist in harmony.
HAIR OF THE DOG’S JULY
For their Malt Ball beer, Hair of the Dog will be bringing a special blend of brews that, combined, make for an easy-drinking thirst-quencher. According to brewer Alan Sprints, the exclusive July will be a mix of their Lila lager, their Rose tripel, and their special PigDog. The result is an uncommon beer with some real weight behind it, but one that also goes down easy. It’ll be a perfect match for Months’ inspired marriage of hushed melody and propulsive, krautrock-inspired tumult.
Relinquish all expectations of what a band should sound like before you see Bitch’n—they’re not making music that easily fits into the narrow confines of one genre. The band’s recent debut, Messed Out, plays like a free-flowing jam session, playfully morphing from funk into punk into psych. Bitch’n thrives in these unpredictably luminous gray areas, where instruments are flashlights and the only rule is earnest exploration.
HOPWORKS’ BITCH’N BREW
With IPA fatigue setting in on beer drinkers, it’s been gratifying to see twists on the formula—like this, Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Bitch’n Brew, an India pale lager that unites the bold, brash hoppiness of an IPA with the crispness and mellowness of a lager. Hopworks says it’s “light and crisp with a malty, cracker flavor,” with an aroma of “blackberries, tea, lime, and pine sap.” They put this one at 5.8 percent ABV and 50 IBUs, making for a sensible yet strong experience for your mouth.
Aan’s 2014 debut full-length, Amor Ad Nauseum, is skittishly experimental indie pop. Unconventionally structured songs often feature sunshiny melodies, but any sweetness is cut with sour, contrarian guitar riffs and ghostly harmonies. It’s cinematic music that slowly unfolds against layers of sound, a vast machine of countless moving parts that create symphonies of strange but beautiful pop.
DOUBLE MOUNTAIN’S RANDALL KNIFE IPA
Named for the song by the recently departed singer/songwriter Guy Clark, Randall Knife IPA is the newest beer in Double Mountain’s ongoing Lost Songwriter Series. It also functions as their Malt Ball pairing with Aan, and it’s at 7 percent ABV with 50 IBUs coming from Mosaic and Citra hops. Double Mountain says it’s got “a no-nonsense malt bill, and the house Kölsch yeast put these hops in the spotlight. The dewy scent of evergreen carves its way through a thicket of bright tropical citrus.”
THE GHOST EASE
The Ghost Ease make careening rock ’n’ roll full of abrupt stops and starts. On their 2015 debut, RAW, they cleanse punk with the musical equivalent of a sage burn—it’s eerie, shrouded fuzz rock that’s as unpredictable as it is catchy. Listening to the odd twists and turns of RAW feels like navigating a labyrinth made of stained glass, where figures cast long shadows but remain obscured and unreachable.
LOMPOC’S LAVENDER RED ALE
Putting an intriguing tweak on their fine Proletariat Red, Lompoc has added lavender to the mixture, presumably resulting in a bright floral bouquet for this tasty Malt Ball beer. With the cleansing herbal qualities of the lavender, this should be a potent and zesty tweak on a tried-and-true formula.
POINT JUNCTURE, WA
Fans of the breezy lo-fi folk rock of Point Juncture, WA rejoice! After reuniting at Boise’s Treefort Music Fest this past March, the five-piece is back with a brand-new record, Me or the Party, the long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s Handsome Orders. Point Juncture, WA makes music that can be gently subdued and ebulliently upbeat—dewy melodies suddenly rear and kick with untamed guitar riffs like a placid mini-horse-turned-bucking bronco.
FORT GEORGE’S ECONOMICS OF BASKETBALL
With an unforgettable name and a variety of hops from the other side of the globe, Fort George’s Economics of Basketball is a New Zealand-style pale ale that makes the most of that nation’s indigenous hops, such as Pacific Jade, Wakatu, and Rakau. With a Vienna malt backbone providing enough malt balance for the beer’s citrus-peel-tasting hops, this one’s a well-rounded drinker that’ll pair perfectly with Point Juncture, WA’s elegance and energy. It clocks in at 5.5 percent ABV and maintains a “rustic, earthy profile,” according to the kind folks at the Astoria brewery.
Natasha Kmeto creates R&B-infused electro-pop that pulses with soulful sincerity. On her latest album, 2015’s Inevitable, the producer/singer/songwriter embraces the dance floor as a space for chaotic self-discovery. With a voice capable of evoking several complex emotions in just a few syllables, every word Kmeto sings is charged with feeling. Her booty-shaking beats soar and crash with equaled fervor, mimicking the changes in her tone like a witch’s loyal familiar. Kmeto makes feels-heavy dance music, so get ready to let it all out.
STORMBREAKER’S PEACHY QUEEN
Mississippi Avenue’s StormBreaker Brewing has gone full fruit for its Malt Ball beer, with this Peachy Queen blond ale offering a kickass summertime thirst-quencher. Brewers Rob Lutz and Dan Malech tell us they started with a blond-base beer that already highlighted lemon and tropical flavors from a Citrus yeast strain via Gresham’s Imperial Organic Yeast. Then they doubled down with El Dorado hops, which offer surprising hits of mango, and then aged it on 170 pounds of peaches for a full week. There’s a ton of fruit happening in this 5.9 percenter, with peach dominating, obviously, but also notes of mango and citrus ringing through the 33 IBUs. It’ll be “crisp and refreshing,” Lutz and Malech say, “with just enough hop bite to balance out the sweet and juicy peach.” Like Kmeto’s music, it will be full of soul, sweetness, and bite.
Sun July 17, Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi, 2-11 pm, $18-25 (includes four beer tastings), $1.50 a tasting