Pilgrimage Music Festival #makethepilgrimage

Tennessee Craft Beer Magazine is proud to have attended the inaugural Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival in 2015, through to the Third annual Pilgrimage Festival September 23th and 24th, 2017 at the beautiful and picturesque Park at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin, Tennessee. The Musical lineup for the festival’s first year was nothing short of incredible, combining up and coming acts and big name headliners. Last year’s festival continued this trend and this year the wrung on the ladder is even higher!! The Pilgrimage Festival is now on the radar of many a festival goer, and they are certainly not going to be disappointed, especially with the announcement that has Justin Timberlake signed on as a partner.

This year’s festival features non-other than new partner JT which promises to be quite a show! Other headliners include Eddie Vedder, Ryan Adams, The Avett Brothers, Better Than Ezra, Marty Stuart, Shovels and Rope, Fitz and the Tantrums… (you get the idea)….anyway back to music and beer right?

Festival goers at #makethepilgrimage

I have always been intrigued by the allure of Nashville and the diverse music scene it proudly thrives on. Nashville has an amazing ability to draw visitors and locals alike into its arms and gently release them back into the ever changing city having shown them something they will not soon forget.

Nashville’s beer scene, like its music counterpart, is blossoming as well. With nearly 30 breweries in operation in Middle Tennessee and many others in the planning stages, we are becoming a craft beer destination as well as a music destination.

Like the old commercials said (with a slight craft beer/music twist) “Hey! You’ve got your craft beer in my music…two great things that go great together”.

So why are music and craft beer so synonymous? In a past edition of Tennessee Craft Beer Magazine, we interviewed legendary Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione about the company returning to Tennessee. Dogfish Head has long maintained a fascination with the intersection of music and craft beer, leading the brewery into collaborations with the likes of Pearl Jam, The Grateful Dead, and the Miles Davis Foundation.

At the Pilgrimage Festival several local craft beer options in Mill Creek Brewing, Tailgate Brewing, and Franklin’s own Mantra Artisan Ales have been offered. Other craft beer options were also offered in Wild Heaven Craft Beers and Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company. Let’s see what this year’s craft beer lineup looks like!

Mantra Artisan Ale’s Saffron IPA

My first interview with Derrick Morse, Founder of Mantra Artisan Ales who was involved last year said the following;

MC: How did you approach last year’s festival?

DM: Yeah, the first year we did not even have our Brewer’s notice, so last year we felt it was a great opportunity and an important one to showcase our beer to our neighbors since the festival was in our backyard. A lot of the people that would be attending the festival would be Williamson County folks, so we saw a good opportunity to introduce Mantra and our new brand Steel Barrel to many people who hadn’t tried it yet.

MC: It appeared that Mantra Artisan Ales was the sponsored beer for the Pilgrimage artists and performers, was this by design? I noticed many performers on and off stage with some Saffron IPA!

DM: We thought it would be really cool to get in front of the artists. We donated several cases of Saffron IPA, and some of our barrel aged Cassis. I was glad to see it went over so well.

MC: Mantra host’s a block party celebrating your beers and music. What role do you see music playing as it pertains to craft beer?

DM: Our first block party was predominately a showcase of our beer, as we had something like 52 different Mantra beers on hand. In the future, we hope to see this event grow so that we have to move it and incorporate more music. I think it is great to spend 6-8 months with something whether it is a song or a recipe, and see where it goes, sometimes inspiration hits you and it is immediate, for example we designed “Goo Goo Gish” in about 15 minutes and it’s our number one rated beer on Untapped and Rate Beer so you never really know. I do know that we like to pair our music with what we are brewing that particular day to get the team motivated and have a little fun. As far as the other side of things, I certainly hope that there would be plenty of artists that get inspired from the beers we make and go out and make good music. (Note: Goo Goo Gish is a celebration beer created in honor of a recently lost dear friend Jeff Gish who was heavily involved and loved within the Nashville Craft Beer community) We at Mantra would love to work with some artists going forward, we have not had the opportunity to collaborate with musicians in a while, and with it being Nashville and there being so many big names that make this their home, we are way open for it! (There you have it musicians, a chance to collaborate with a great brewer to create a great beer… Hmmm, maybe even a special edition Pilgrimage beer in the future!!!)

There is something about music that sets the stage for so many things we enjoy in life, and this festival was certainly no different. We hope the Pilgrimage Festival goers all enjoy a great craft beer while listening to great music by artists whose passion is apparent. The Brewers and musicians will once again make us smile.

What follows are some mini interviews with some of the artists that played the Pilgrimage Festival in year’s past and their take on the intersection of music and craft beer.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation

Big Sam’s Funky Nation
I got to the interview with these guys, and as I walked up and started my introduction and who I was writing for…I got a huge “oh no, we are liquor drinkers” followed by a bunch of laughter. As I went on and stated that there have been many brewers and breweries that have made beers based on inspiration of a band or style of music, Big Sam perked up and said, “Hell Yes, I would definitely like to try a beer based on our music and see what that tastes like”. Big Sam saw the Craft Beer angle and now it is on their list of things to accomplish. I can see the recipe coming together right now, Funky sour beer with an attitude anyone?

Mark Crowe and Alyssa Bonagura

Alyssa Bonagura and I sat on the front porch on the grounds of Harlinsdale Farm and chatted about the surreal and beautiful environment of the festival while the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was next to us having a photo shoot. Alyssa had just finished her great set to a very happy and supportive crowd…and first thing she says as I walk up is “Did you bring me a beer?” I said I didn’t think you would want one after your set…”before, no, but after….yes!” , so off I went to acquire a couple of Emergency Drinking Beers by Wild Heaven Craft Beers. (What an appropriate beer after that conversation!) Alyssa talked about how she sees a connection to writing music and making a craft beer, “you have to be a rebel and make your own path, you never know where your creativity will take you, I think the same way a brewer layers his ingredients and gets the proper mix, I like to think I write my music as a very organic process, and hopefully end up with a good product. Alyssa went on to tell the story of how her song “I make my own sunshine” became an anthem for a Lowe’s commercial. With Alyssa’s amazing energy, great outlook on life and appreciation of the creation of art in any form, her new album Road Less Travelled is bound to be a hit. As a final question I asked her an off the wall question about what she would pour into herself if she were a fantastic beer chalice (You know trying to ask some Howard Stern or Super Bowl media row questions to mix things up), without hesitation she says, “Chimay”. Well played Alyssa!

Adam Ezra

Adam Ezra was not an interview I initially had scheduled, but after hearing his Boston version of the famous Charlie Daniels song; his version called “The Devil came up to Boston”, I had to talk to him. The song was great, filled with lots of “wickeds” and “Chowda” type lingo complete with some appropriate off color lyrics for the fiddle competition between a guy from Boston and a guy from New York battling it out for a “lotto card and pack of Marbs”…give it a listen on YouTube for a treat. As I met Adam he was thrilled that I had brought him a beer to have during the interview, “my tastes in beer are suspect”…Oh no I thought here is a macro beer drinker, but was pleasantly surprised that he tends to like his beers on the warmer side! I was pleased as I knew he appreciated the taste and not just something cold. Adam and I talked about his love for several craft beers including Mystic Brewing and Black Hog Brewing that makes his favorite Ginga Ninja. Adam mimicked what others have said about the similarities of creating music to what he thought it was like for a brewer to create a beer, both having to be tested and tweaked and fussed over for a great final product.

Rueben Bidez

Reuben Bidez has been in Nashville for about 2 years, and uses his job as a bartender at Rolf and Daughters to play his version of a game called “what do they want?”. Going on to say that a lot of times people will describe their tastes and how they don’t really know what they want. From there, he enjoys making drinks and suggesting craft beers and seeing if his choice has been approved. Reuben even went so far as to describe the process using a great Anchorman analogy…”Do you really like Lamp, or are you just saying that because that is what you are looking at?” Reuben, Ron Burgundy would be proud. We went on to talk about great beers and how we both appreciate the creative forces that go into making great beers and great music. Reuben said to the Chalice question that a favorite beer of his is Creature Comforts.

Einstok, the beer of Icelandic sensation Kaleo

Kaleo is from Iceland, and having lived there as a child and still being fascinated by it as an adult, I had to get backstage and talk to them…they certainly #madethepilgrimage. We talked about their great set and how no one ever thought that an Icelandic Brewery could be widely distributed in the USA, and how successful Einstok Brewery has been; even in Nashville. “Hey do we have any Einstok on the tour bus?” Jökull (The lead singer and guitarist) yells out to his tour manager, and sure enough next thing we know we are drinking an Icelandic craft beer straight from Iceland during a music festival in Franklin Tennessee. Now that is what I call an intersection of craft beer and music!

In the end, I was not able to talk to as many of the artists as I had hoped, schedules didn’t work, or they were being pulled in too many directions…come on Rolling Stone Magazine, can’t I talk to any of them?


What I did get out of the day, was that craft beer is here to stay and its connection to music is there; sometimes hidden, sometimes front and center. Music is defined on Dictionary.com as “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” It is perhaps also arguably true that making beer is an art form that also expresses ideas and emotions through flavors and styles.

Nick Purdy’s Wild Heaven Beer

I was able to talk to Nick Purdy, founder of Wild Heaven Beer and discovered his connection to the festival and the craft beer community; Nick also founded Paste Magazine, a music and entertainment magazine, “Connection with music is why we are all here”, and Nick’s two passions embodied in craft beer and music surely support the connection. The event was once again a smashing success, and from the smiles and glow coming from Harlinsdale farm, the Pilgrimage will be around for many years to come, and we are all looking forward to September.

TCB reporter Mark Crowe and Nick Purdy of Wild Heaven Beer.

Nashville, keep making us great beer and music, and we will keep drinking and singing along. 

By Mark Crowe
Photography by Andrew Manzardo, and Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival