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Ask the Rappers: The Humdinger

(from left) Skinny Deville and Fish Scales look on as head brewer Peter Kiley transfers The Humdinger out of barrels.

The Humdinger is the latest collaboration beer between Monday Night Brewing and hip hop legends, Nappy Roots. An imperial rye stout aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels with Ugandan vanilla beans, The Humdinger shares the name of Nappy Roots’ monumental independent album. We talked to two of the Nappy Roots: Skinny Deville and Fish Scales about the inspiration behind the beer, and how they’re setting out to bridge gaps between community and craft beer with their collaborations.

Tell us about the inspiration behind The Humdinger:

Fish Scales: It was a style of beer we hadn’t done yet. Stouts are my favorite style, so we figured we couldn’t go wrong. After tasting Tears of My Enemies, we figured there was no better place to do a stout than here at Monday Night. As Nappy Roots, we’re trying to do something different with every beer.

Skinny Deville: The Humdinger was our third album, but our first independent album. It changed our lives, in regards to what we put in to make that album what it was. We got off Atlantic Records in 2005 and didn’t find another home to put our music out on until 2008. So we spent three years making an album that was gonna “wow” people and knock their socks off. That’s what The Humdinger meant to us. It was the end-all-be-all, the top-of-the-line, the snowcap on a mountain. To make a beer that aged as long as this one…that’s why this beer takes the namesake of our first independent album, The Humdinger.

What’s your favorite part of creating a beer with a brewery?

FS: Drinking it.

SD: That was going to be my answer.

FS: Drinking it. We brew at home, too, as Nappy Roots. So we know the process, we love the process and—I still say—tasting it at the end, sitting around drinking it with friends, is the best part.

Beer is a conversation piece that opens you up to so many other people and cultures that share the same common denominator. – Skinny Deville

Do you channel the same creative energy to develop beers as you do to write music?

FS: Yes. Skinny talks about it all the time—how it’s such a similar process, but a different mentality. We are way more open to criticism on our beer than our music. Beer is something we’re more in the beginning of, and that’s refreshing. With music, a lot of people have heard Nappy Roots, they’ve heard what we do, they know what we do, now they need a new product to go along with it. And this beer is it.

Do you have any advice for people looking to get into craft beer or homebrewing?

FS: Homebrewing builds communities. Microbrewing builds communities. One of our missions as Atlantucky [the group’s own nanobrewery] is to introduce craft beer into the black community and introduce the black community into craft beer. That has not happened fully, and a lot of craft breweries are happening right in black communities. So one of our goals is to be a bridge for that relationship. It can do so much for us all. Beer is the reason I’ve met so many good people, and I want to introduce people to that. I tell my cousins all the time, who are black people from small towns, I tell them, “come with me to a brewery, bro. You’ll meet some of the nicest people who will just want to sit and talk beer.”

SD: I say try something new, man. Don’t be afraid to try something. Everybody who is from my era—of hip hop or living—we’re always afraid to try new things. You can’t be afraid to try new things. And if you do, you’ll learn something.

FS: That’s how we found this.

SD: Beer is a conversation piece that opens you up to so many other people and cultures that share the same common denominator. A beer would get you into a great conversation with a doctor. With a hip hop guy and a doctor, what are we talking about? We’re talking about the beer first, and then what we do, and our careers, and how that applies to beer. But now I’m talking to a doctor, or a lawyer, or a farmer.

FS: Or a guy in Belgium who brews his beer differently than us, but we communicate on how our beers are different.

SD: Just trying to open yourself up and not limiting yourself. That’s what I would tell someone trying to figure out about beer these days—is to just try it, man.

The Humdinger is an exclusive release, launching Friday, May 18 at the Monday Night Garage. Join us for the release party, with a DJ set from WERC’s Jeremy Avalon, half-priced Front Porch Pale Ale, and maybe even some hangtime with Nappy Roots. The party starts at 6 pm.

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