By Jamie Wiggan
BLQ METAL IPA is back again – this time in cans.
When guitarist Byron Nash teamed up with Helltown Brewing for the inaugural Fresh Fest in 2018, it was supposed to be a one-and-done. Now they’re back for the third time
“Usually Fresh Fest collaborations are a one-time thing,” Nash says. “But people in the service industry were like, ‘hey, are you doing it again?’”
So they did. After debuting with a double IPA in 2018 and returning with a west coast in 2019, this time Nash and Helltown are going back to basics in the form of a solid American IPA. Nash describes it as “a good old-school IPA… with a citrus kind of overtone.”
The brew is going canned this year due to on-going restrictions within the service industry. 600 cases will make their way to distributors across the city next week.
Admittedly it’s hard to infuse sound into beer, however Nash, a veteran of the hospitality industry, brings more than just his marketable persona to the collaboration. He talks malt and hops with the brewers, leads the way with design ideas, and then pours his energy into promoting the finished product.
“They had me involved in every part of it.”
Nash and Helltown were paired by chance for the 2018 Fresh Fest, but it proved to be a winning combination for two brands that together represent the alternative faces of beer and music.
“We were lucky enough to be paired with someone that first year, that really the jigsaw piece just slid into place,” says Mike Schmidt, territory sales manager at Helltown. “…If we were paired with a jazz artist, I don’t know if we would be doing a third year.”
Fresh Fest was founded by Pittsburgh-based entrepreneurs and beer enthusiasts Mike Potter, Ed Bailey, and Day Bracey, to encourage greater Black representation within the national brewing scene. This year they hosted it digitally, with Nash performing as a headline act.
Nash says BLQ METAL IPA gives a discreet nod to his racial identity, but the abbreviated spelling also emphasizes his roots in the skating scene of the 80s and 90s. “Everything I actually am as a person is represented in this.”
Against the current backdrop of racial unrest, Nash says the collaboration makes a “powerful statement” as the outworking of a long-term “authentic” partnership.
“…It shows unity in cultures,” Nash says. “They’re like a white brewery and I’m black, and we’re working together to do something better. I think during these tense times, I think that’s a good thing to put forward.”
For more about Byron Nash, visit his website at: www.byronnash.com. For Helltown Brewing, visit: www.helltownbrewing.com.