Article & Pics by David Thrower
Nowadays it would seem every band and their dog has an alcoholic beverage bearing their name – Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’ cabernet sauvignon, Quo’s (falling) ‘Down Down’ cider and the wonderfully named ‘Amber Smashed Face’ from Cannibal Corpse for example – so where a group’s popularity used to be measured in record sales it now appears it can also be gauged in fluid ounces. You only need look at the success of ‘Trooper’ beer from Iron Maiden to understand the symbiotic relationship rock music has with alcohol with the league-leading brew selling over 3.5 million pints in its first year and that’s without Robinsons Brewery spending a single penny on marketing.
Consider also the rise in popularity of craft breweries, their willingness to take on an established musical brand that will both promote the brewery and, more importantly, sell sufficient numbers and you can see the appeal for both parties. Factors that played a significant role in the creation of ‘Tyger Blood’ by family-run Newcastle concern Box Social Brewery and made in conjunction with NWOBHM luminaries Tygers of Pan Tang.
Box Social Brewery, founded by ex-fireman Steve Holland and his son Ross, who had previously worked in the brewing industry, officially launched in May of 2015 intent on providing artisan ales, think traditional style with a modern twist, based around the American brewing model. However, promoting what had been merely a hobby for Ross into a fully-fledged business wasn’t without its hitches.
“We got the brewery back [from Stockport] but had no idea how to install it so it was all a bit of guesswork,” co-owner, head (and only) brewer, barman, tour-guide and ex-musician Ross admitted. “There’s still a bit of pipe leftover – we’ve no idea where it goes!”
Box Social crafts exceptional ales that have found their way to select locations in the North of England resulting in contact being made by Tom Noble, manager of the Tygers, in a rather fortuitous, if somewhat circuitous, route.
“[Tom] had emailed Wylam,” said Ross, name-checking a further Newcastle micro-brewery, “and asked if they’d be interested in brewing a beer with the band. Wylam said it’s not something we do, we don’t work with bands, however, speak to Ross at Box Social – he’s well into his metal.”
Tom then reached out to Box Social who were not only immediately interested in working with one of the North East’s most iconic bands but Ross also had a fully-fledged idea in mind for the style and name of the proposed beer – a red IPA named ‘Tyger Blood’ – but first he needed to knock around ideas with the band.
“Robb [Weir – founder and guitarist with the Tygers] came down with Tom and we had a sit down,” Ross explained, his enthusiasm for the band and the breweries involvement almost palpable. ”I asked what beer they’d like to do, to which Robb replied ‘Well, I’m not a beer drinker. I drink white wine!’” A small matter made even harder when Robb explained the rest of the band had requested something ridiculously strong. However, once Ross had explained his thoughts on ‘Tyger Blood’, a beer both saleable and relevant, the go-ahead was quickly given.
Crafted using a variety of hops and packing a deliciously fruity taste the 5% session IPA launched on the 21st October 2016 to coincide with the Tygers of Pan Tang eponymous album release and the band’s homecoming show at The Cluny in Newcastle to kick off their UK tour and went down a storm. It was as well that Box Social took along an extra barrel to the venue even though the Cluny had only requested the one. It was this lack of understanding of the rock punter that caused other locations on the tour to also under-estimate fan interest.
“When I was trying to sell [‘Tyger Blood’] to the different venues on the tour no-one bothered [taking it up] apart from Merthyr Tydfil of all places,” Ross laughed, “until launch night – since then all the venues have been in touch.” Considering the brewery is a small affair the issue then arose regarding the logistics of delivery to which Robb had the perfect solution – the band would take the beer with them on tour. It sold out.
Not surprisingly when, in Robb’s wine-drinking opinion, the ale is ‘tremendous.’
Despite this new-found partnership and subsequent craft beer still finding its feet the brewery and the Tygers of Pan Tang are already making plans to introduce ‘Imperial Tyger Blood’ onto the market. ‘Imperial’ has a pre-Christmas release date and comes closer to the original remit from the band with an alcohol level of 8%. Due to launch in December at the brewery’s first bar near Newcastle Station (The Box Social) and with interest in ‘Tyger Blood’ already being shown from the States, Spain, Poland and the label’s home-town of Copenhagen (hell, even Florence-based vocalist Jacopo Meille wants it made available in Italy) expansion for both the brand and the brewery appears to be firmly on course.
Ross estimates around 90% of brewers are failed musicians so the current influx of band-related beverages looks set to continue. As a result expect to see ‘Carnal Fecophelia Due to Prolonged Exposure to Methane (and Stout)’ from Cattle Decapitation in your local supermarket sometime in the future – you heard it here first.
For further information on the brewery please visit the following –
Alternatively, should you wish to imbibe ‘Tyger Blood’ for yourself, The Box Social drinking establishment can be found at this address –
Arch 11, Forth Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne