Beer pairings bring to mind cheeses, entrees, or desserts, but the Original Gravity Concert Series pairs craft brews with an unlikely accompaniment—modern classical music.
Started in 2014 as the brainchild of Boston-based classical composer and pianist, Keith Kirchoff, Original Gravity exists as a set of four concerts, one per season, set in breweries around the greater Boston area. Although it’s not uncommon for breweries to host bands, seeing bass clarinets, xylophones, and toy pianos among kegs and fermenters is definitely out of the norm. “The idea,” Kirchoff explains, “was to start a concert series that would help promote new classical music to newer audiences.”
Kirchoff looked to the jazz world, where performances take place in relaxed nightclubs rather than stodgy concert halls, as an inspiration for engaging the public with modern, often avant garde compositions. He also looked to his own interests: “I’m a huge beer fan, a homebrewer and active in the local beer scene, so I wanted to try finding something that I could do that would satisfy both passions.”
Kirchoff originally reached out to other local homebrewers of craft beers based on his concert compositions, but turned to commercial breweries when he discovered that he couldn’t sell or distribute the homemade beers. His timing was impeccable. As Kirchoff planned the debut series, Aeronaut Brewery was preparing to launch. Aeronaut, located in a 12,000 sq. foot former factory in Somerville, Massachusetts, is not a typical brewery. Co-founder Ben Holmes describes Aeronaut as, “a big community space,” with a mission to provide space for local artists and musicians. The brewery and a local food incubator take up about two thirds of the floor plan, while the remaining space is devoted to the community for art and music.
So it was almost pre-destined that Kirchoff and Aeronaut would find each other. “Before we opened, Keith walked in the door and he was so excited,” recalls Holmes.
Aeronaut hosted the entire 2014 season. Kirchoff has events planned next year at Aeronaut, but is also working with other brewers, including Bantam Ciders and Blue Hills Brewery. Regardless of the space, the format remains the same. Well in advance of each concert, Kirchoff shares recordings of the upcoming pieces with the brewery staff to help determine a beer or set of beers to pair with the compositions. Sometimes the brewery creates a completely new beer (like Aeronaut’s Capercaillie—a Scotch ale that is now a brewery staple) and sometimes they make one-off casks that complement the music. In all cases, the brewer and the composer have opportunities to address the audience during the concert, providing insight into the interplay of the beer and the music.
The next concert, scheduled for November 21st at Blue Hills Brewery, will feature the guitar ensemble, Mobius Trio. More information is available here.
Can’t make it to Boston? Check out these videos of previous performances:
“Artifice” by Ramon Castillo, performed by Ramon Castillo and Keith Kirchoff
“Vestibule III” by Curtis Hughes, performed by Transient Canvas