Rolling with Rick Astley
Thursday 25 May 2017
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Abuse of the internet is responsible for many horrible things: trolls, fake news and revenge porn to name just a few, but sometimes it also creates something wonderful, and the rehabilitation of Rick Astley as a cult figure is definitely one of them.
The ‘rickrolling’ sensation of 2007 put Astley back on the map of popular culture, introducing his 80s music to a whole new generation and making his kitsch early career something cool again. However, that was 10 years ago now and the news that one of the godfathers of ‘cool brewing’, Mikkel Borg Bjergso, was teaming up with Astley to make a collaboration beer caused virtually everyone to splutter into their pints a little (but in a childishly excited way).
Firstly, it turns out that Bjergso isn’t always as cool as he seems; according to inside sources at the brewery, as he was utterly star-struck at the idea of Astley being interested in making a beer that he could enjoy on tour and with pals down the pub. Apparently, Mikkel had posters of Astley on his wall as a kid and the idea of one of his musical idols wanting to work with him caused a bit of a stir in the heart of the generally granite-faced Dane.
Astley’s Northern Hop Lager, a play on not only the obvious beer reference but on the northern UK term for a dance, is the result. A red lager, with a hint of ginger, referencing Astley’s once bright-red hair, is a simple 4.7%, easy-drinking beer - a little out of character for the Mikkeller brand, known better for its wild and crazy flavours.
However, it fulfilled the brief exactly for what Astley wants, as he explained to me at the Draft House launch in Hammersmith, while trying to squeeze in something to eat between interviews and playing a gig at the Royal Albert Hall that evening to promote his album, 50. ”I wanted something that me and my mates could enjoy, something that would be good in the pub or after a gig, nothing too complicated,” says Rick. And, in fairness, who can blame him? Not normally a huge beer drinker - in fact, he admitted that when he was younger he disliked the taste of beer so much he’d lace it with Pernod and blackcurrant cordial - Astley was probably put off the idea ‘craft’ beer on the day of brewing development by Mikkel deciding that he should try some hop concentrate - a sight worth watching on the brand’s website www.astleysnorthernhop.com just for the vision that is Rick’s face as he struggles with the bitterness the green goop delivered.
However, the torture of his palate aside, his involvement in the project has given Astley a better insight to the world brewing and given him a new-found respect for it all. ”The passionate, creative side of it all reminds me of the music industry; it was refreshing that I met people that were as excited about creating beer as I am about creating music.” And it’s clear that a great bond has been forged with the brewery, as the first thing Astley did when he saw Mikkeller’s representative on the day, Mixen Limberg, was give him a huge hug, which, said Mixen when I spoke to him later, was a sign of how “nice and totally down to earth” Astley was to work with. And, the good news for Astley and Mikkeller fans (which would be a fascinating Venn diagram if ever I saw one) is that both Limberg and Astley hinted that this might not be the last time they work together - so keep your eyes, and ears, peeled for what’s next.
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