Pairing Beer and Music: 1, The Velvet Underground & Nico 1967


Today I decided to try something new. It came to me when I was writing an article and listening to The Velvet Underground. I thought: People pair beer with food all the time. Why not pair beer with music? So here we are. Throughout this series of articles I will list an album, and then I will pair it with a type of beer and give a few examples of breweries that have good examples of that given beer. I will walk you through the songs and the distinct notes in the music, and how they pair with your drink. Without further ado:

The Velvet Underground & Nico 1967

If you have never listened to the Velvet Underground let me introduce them quickly. The VU was a New York band produced by Andy Warhol. That is why their first album has his artwork on it. The band has a nihilist sound in their simplistic instrument style, repetition and deadpan vocals provided by Nico and Lou Reed. The music deals with the shady part of New York during the late 60s. The things not really shown in Madmen. Heroin use, transvestites, death, and sex are topics all covered in this album. This is Why I pair it with a craft pilsner. Pilsners to the untrained seem boring. Your big beers; Bud-Light, Miller, PBR, etc. are all pilsners. Pilsners are common and expected. The Velvet Underground is not common or expected but to the untrained ear, they sound like any other rock band. On the surface the majority of the songs do sound simplistic and the album opens on a crisp note with, Sunday Morning. Pilsners open the same way. The reason the VU sounds similar to other rock groups you may have heard is because since this 1967 album came out. Everyone wanted to sound like the VU. Rock music has existed long before the VU but the VU were game changers, my beer recommendations based off this album are what I think to be game changers in the Pilsner category; beers that have a hint of familiarity but are unique in subtle ways, ways that make others want to brew what these beers have attained.

Because of the avant-garde, nihilism aesthetic of the album you may be asking, “why does the beer need to be craft? can’t I drink a Miller Light and call it good? I’m a nihilist why should I care?” You should care because The VU were classy. They were from upper Manhattan. They hung out with bohemian socialites at Warhol’s factory. The VU were eclectic. To get into that mindset you need to class it up a bit. Step away from the boring, plus, those big batch pilsners are all phony anyway, they’re flavored with rice and corn. The VU is not phony. That being said here are some good pilsners to try with this album.

Monarch – Snake River Brewery, WY || Mama’s Little Yella Pils – Oskar Blues Brewery, CO || Pescadero – Ballast Point Brewing, CA || Joe’s – Avery, CO || Pine Mountain Pilsner – Deschutes, OR || Special Pilsner, Capital Brewery, WI || Bell’s Beer – Bell’s Brewing, MI || *If you’re gonna do this cheap then, PBR – PBR, WI*

*Note, Drink these beers from a pint glass. It is the only way to g


The album will start with Sunday Morning. The chime bells should open up nicely with your pilsner’s crisp coolness. When that baseline hits you should start to begin to feel those deeper malt notes. Wheat, a distinct sourness. Maybe your beer has a skunky sort of smell? Really pay attention to this beer let it open to the opening track.  

When I’m Waiting for the Man  comes on, you should really start just drinking your beer, and pay attention to how your mouth feels. Dry? slick? Where in your mouth do you feel these sensations? This song is about buying heroin FYI.  

We’re at about 10 minutes into the album at this point. You’re probably done with your beer now. Femme Fatale is about a naughty woman. If you are thinking of your ex at this point you’re a lightweight. Time to crack another because Venus in Furs is about to come on. This one I think requires some careful listening. I think it is about the Vietnam War, but I am not entirely sure. It has a fairly eerie sound. What is the beer telling you? If you have a buzz going on this song will help you to realize it.

Run Run Run is more fast paced. You should concentrate on the bizarre electric guitar while sippin on your pilsner and enjoying the full complexity of this song and your beer.

All Tomorrow’s Parties was Warhol’s favorite VU song. He was a bit eclectic and so is this song. It is based off an old nursery rhyme called Monday’s Child. Bowie also has a song based off the same rhyme called Thursday’s Child. The song is hauntingly sung by Nico and slow paced and a great lead-in to Heroin my favorite song on this album. You should be pretty buzzed at this point if you have been drinking consistently throughout this album. This song is full of tempo changes and and crazy noises and lyrics about doing heroin. Let the song play and see if you can find any new sensations in your beer. This is thinking music so maybe you will be stimulated to finding something new in your beer.

There She Goes Again: I am fairly certain is about a transvestite or maybe just a regular prostitute. Be happy with your life and enjoy your beer.

I’ll Be Your Mirror: A pleasant little tune to finish your 5th beer off to if you haven’t at this point.  

-Sam Hill

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