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Published: 2009/10/14
by Dean Budnick

Home Brewing With Kyle Hollingsworth

Photo by Tobin Voggesser

String Cheese Incident keyboard player Kyle Hollingsworth is an avid home brewer. So as he thought about ways to meld his vocation (music and in particular the release of his new disc, Then There’s Now) with his avocation (beer!), he landed on the Rock and Brew Tour. Hollingsworth is currently out West, performing with his current quartet, which also features three members of the Motet, past and present: drummer Dave Watts, bassist Garrett Sayers and guitar player Dan Schwindt. Along the way, he’s hitting the local breweries, often coordinating with his fans to do the same, which he did last month when he kicked all this off in Colorado, with the debuts of both Then There’s Now and Mountain Sun Brewery’s Hoppingsworth IPA. The following conversation touches on all this and glimpses at the future of SCI as well.

Let’s start things out with a topic of mutual interest…beer. You worked with Mountain Sun Brewery to create Hoppingsworth IPA. How did that come about and what role did you play?

Right now I’m on the West Coast continuing the Rock and Brew tour. It was a vision I had for the entire tour. When we started, I wanted to get my local brewery involved and figure out a way we could create a special event for my CD release. I’ve been working a lot with Mountain Sun in the past through different shows in Denver and Boulder and I love their beer.

So I went to them and at first they said the fans could come out and do a brewery tour. Then they said, “Why don’t we just make a beer?” I was so down with that and it was pretty much my dream, I just didn’t know how to ask.

So I got together with the head brewer Hutch. He and I made recipes together and talked about what we wanted out of it and talked about our favorite beers. Then after I put my input in I thought, “Why don’t I let him do what he does best and let him make the final choices.”

I went in, we brewed it together and got it ready for the release of the CD. Then they sold out of like 15 kegs in 5 days. I didn’t get enough and when I went it again it was gone.

In terms of your home brewing, has there been a particular style or batch you’ve been most proud of?

Mine are all very okay, not the best beers ever. That’s why I’m glad I had Mountain Sun help me. There’s a Sosa Spice I do which is coming up really soon. I am going to start doing that when I get home. It’s more of a holiday cheer type beer, pretty hoppy with nutmeg.

I’ve been thinking about this lately but I do feel there’s a connection between the way I home brew and the way I play music. I feel like you kind of have your basics under your fingers whether its keyboards or home brewing and then there’s that moment when you take that leap of faith. When you’re brewing, it’s, “Okay I know how to make beer but what’s the x factor? How can I jump off the ledge like I do when I play music in a live performance situation?” So you just kind of go for it and that when you try sassafras or that random citrus. There’s a baseline and then you take a leap of faith.

Speaking of those basics, I know that when you’re on the road with String Cheese, you maintain a regular personal rehearsal regimen. Are you able to do the same when you’re out with your band or are things a bit different?

What’s different is that I’m the main bandleader. I’m also doing a lot of the tour managing which takes up a lot of time, whether it be driving the van or making sure there’s non-smoking rooms for the bass player and vegan meals for the drummer. But I have been able to sneak away here and there to do some rehearsing. Of course I’m always pushing the band to the limit as far as rehearsing new arrangements or trying new songs. So I’m taking my passion for rehearsing and putting it on the band too and keeping everybody on their toes.

When I’m not doing that, I’m also trying to sneak away. Two days ago I went to the Stone Brewery here in San Diego. That’s one of best beers in the country and they took me on a tour and the band came out and we did a tasting. I’m going to go up to Portland and do Deschutes there, another great brewery. On the east coast we’re going to Magic Hat and then we’re going to Dogfish in the Portland area which is one of my favorites too.

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