Heavy Hangover | Ayreon & Loc Brewery – Beneath The Waves
And River Of Time
15.000 spectators from 64 different countries around the globe are flooding the streets of the Dutch city of Tilburg in the weekend of September 15th. The fanbase of Ayreon will join their hero on his journey `Beneath the Waves’ for a 5-show stint at the local 013 venue. 5 Sold out shows that unite Ayreonauts in their celebration of Arjen Lucassen’s music featuring a star-studded line up of musicians.
Even since the creation of his first album, the friendly giant has stated his music isn’t meant to be performed onstage, as so many eagerly hoped for. His seclude persona didn’t add to the expectation of Arjen bringing his music to the stages, though everyone hoped his Star One performances of early 2003 proved otherwise.
THE AYREON LIVE EXPERIENCE
Hope and prayers answered, 2017 saw Ayreon finally taking the stage for a performance of his `Ayreon Universe’ live stint consisting of 3 shows, immediately sold out. Following the success Ayreon took on a more daunting direction by staging the exquisite `Electric Castle Live’ to his audience, exceeding expectations. 4 Shows and 12.000 Ayreonauts taking the city of Tilburg by storm, with everyone joining hands to make the endeavour a successful and memorable experience. As the 2017 stint exposed, Ayreonauts are the most die-hard fans in cult-history, celebrating their hero’s status not only with the pilgrimage to ‘his’ city, but also going all in on fandom such as merchandise. 2019 shows in the making, Tilburg City marketing started a collaboration with the Ayreon crew making `Electric Castle Live & Other Tales’ a success format.
Hotels and restaurants offering Ayreon specific experiences. Ayreon meals with servings of special Ayreon hamburgers, -steaks and even Ayreon – Mars ice-cream (Intermezzo ice), Ayreon packages added to the flavor of the experience. Giant banners with the Ayreon artwork welcomed his fans into the city while making aware their citizens of this unique festivity. The City-camping campsite booked solid with 1.000 visitors spending the night, Tilburg City Marketing and the Ayreon crew ensured the full experience. Rounding things up nicely with an exclusive exposition of the original artwork by Belgian artist Jef Bertels in the NS16 gallery, and the viewing of the `Ayreon Universe’ live shows at the local Pathé cinemas, things build toward total Ayreon fandom.
01011001 – LIVE BENEATH THE WAVES
As expected last month, 2019 was just the beginning. Intensifying for his 5 Sold Out show execution of his new live staging; `01011001 – Live Beneath the Waves’ things have grown. A bigger and bolder stage production in Dolby Surround, bigger visuals and special FX, this experience is made for the ages. Again, with a smacking line-up Arjen ensures a spectacular experience while his team vows for lifestyle experience of their Ayreonauts.
The successful collaboration between Tilburg City Marketing and the Ayreon crew proven, this year’s spectacle also features a pop-up merchandise story (rapidly Sold Out) and more intensified collaboration with Tilburg hospitality and entrepreneurs. Most appealing to me are Ayreon’s subsequent collaborations with local Loc Brewery. Its 2019 ‘Liquid Eternity’ (with its title derived from the `01011001’ album of the current tour) Pale Ale and their ‘Remember Forever’ Pale Ale lager marked the root for this next collab leading to two brand-spanking-new Ayreon beers, as reviewed below.
Both beers were secured and made available to me by our editor-in-chief Liselotte Hegt, one of this year’s participating performers!
AYREON & LOC BREWERY – Beneath the Waves
Receiving the ‘Best Pub & Bar award 2023’ from Restaurant Guru it isn’t a surprise the local brewery added volumes to their Ayreon collaboration. Packing solid from Friday onwards, based ‘just around the corner’ from the venue, Ayreonauts flood the place to get their hands on the brewery’s new 2023 brews, fresh from the taps of the pub.
Following weeks of rain, the weekend of the live spectacle saw our Dutch ‘wetlands’ drying slightly as temperatures raised. Though not as warm and pleasant as one might wish for, the sun did its best to warm the fans and create terrace-hitting streaks to enjoy this year’s Ayreon IPA’s, the beers made for summer joy. Accessible and crisp, refreshing and crisp, this type of craftbeer fits the season better than a stout our classic triple even though thinking of the intracity of Ayreon’s musical endeavours I would certainly opt for different tastes.
Especially this White IPA is created for better weather. Blending the bittersweet freshness of an IPA with the lightly sour trades of a White Beer, Loc Brewery accomplished to create a pleasant and taste-altering experience. White IPA’s gradually take over the summer terraces due to their refreshing fusion of styles and their fruity light character. Dutch Craftbeer breweries gaining momentum, Loc Brewery has impressively proven their rise of craft.
Ayreon’s `Beneath the Waves’ is filled off in cans. The new benchmark for beer to retain its carbonation and taste, preventing light’s impact on content. The artwork and presentation are completely in line with the Ayreon experience of this year. `01011001’ album art used as background with the classic logo of Lucassen’s projects atop, slightly bend. Below the 70s shield with the title in a circus / show style with sunlight scattering towards us, his famous A-logo in a round. Banners on the top stating its ‘Limited Edition’ and below the beer’s style, ‘White IPA’, while the banner behind the iconic A mentions the 33cl content and alcohol percentage of 6.2%. Below the A ‘Tilburg 2023’ in golden brown, making the can a collector’s item for all fans out there.
On the right side of the can’s label again the Ayreon logo and reference `Live Beneath the Waves’, as well as the venue and dates of this weekend’s shows. Left side label hosts the brewery’s logo and ingredients statement along a brief introduction to the beer style and taste experience. An experience I make more pleasant playing Ayreon’s album opened by the water ‘broiling’ intro ,,Age of Shadows / We are Forever”. Funny enough, I open the can while the industrial clinging of metal hits the speakers, pouring my beer over the throbbing bass and drums of the opening. When spacey keyboards well, the interplay of the instrumental section sees the rise of the white foamy head in my glass, when Jørn Lande takes the helm belting out his restrained phrased vocals.
THE TASTE EXPERIENCE
The beers’ light golden 48 IBU color is nice, with a light hazy structure it perfectly displays the blend of dominant styles with the foam still building in the top of my glass. The head slowly opening it reveals a crisp nice scent. Remote some pineapple and tangerine zest, subtly present. This scent however is fading rapidly to the toffee-ish sweeter scent.
Blending styles of white wheat beers with IPA, Loc Brewery certainly understands the craft. Uniting the best of both worlds the manage to bring a pleasant, rich taste to the front. The bittersweet hoppiness brings a refreshing taste-pallet that is nicely balanced by the slightly draught fruitiness of the wheats in the white beer. While the album rolls onward in its subtle 2nd chapter with toned down passages and Van Giersbergen singing her angelic chants my tasting notes are jotted down, my first sip is pleasantly aligning with the scent. Pineapple, melon and lemon grass rather than its zesty smell, with some subtle fruit in the mix.
The wheat and hops dry the palate ready for a bigger gulp of beer. ,,Comatose” spins in the background. Lande clamps down on his bluesy Coverdale-register duetting with Anneke’s frail clean vocal delivery. It creates a wonderous atmosphere. Light mood swing for the tasting experience, enjoying my fish ‘n chips platter with salad on the side. Yes, indeed: Fish and chips… Where I usually recommend old cheeses and Danish blue for their spicier flavors blending with the structure and taste of the beer, or Mexican street -and fingerfoods, I was recently pointed out of this great combination. I have to admit; it is spot on!
The combination makes the beer flourish. There’s a light coriander subnote present and the hops come to the front more dominantly. I expect Cascade but it appears to be a blend of Centennial, Citra and Columbus hops creating the nice floral and light earthy tones. All very nicely balanced and subtle with hardly a crocking push, the swirl of grapefruit and pineapple ebbs into the bitter and dry waves, welling refreshing underneath light spicy accolades. The mouth bitterness is pleasant and screams for more.
,,Beneath the Waves” exquisitely is emptied upon the start of its name-giving tune, rounding the circle of this experience. The White IPA isn’t always my favored style as the wheat-style beers don’t always go down well with me, but this collab certainly does. It is a beer made for summer, enjoyable and refreshing. Not an earth shaker, but a very pleasant addition to the icon’s legacy and the brewery’s roster.
AYREON & LOC BREWERY – River of Time
Stating here before my leaning toward more classic styles, this `River of Time’ sees me more enthused immediately. Cascadian Black IPA, a Pale Ale full of roast and dark notes. The presentation matches the Ayreon style with the maestro himself featured on the dark blue can. The image is one of Arjen holding off the darkness, dressed in his long black leather coat. An image we have seen on the internet before, am I right?
Multiple layers of deep blue give the can a striking appeal. The full Ayreon logo on top, lightly bend, the shield bears his picture. Matching the appearance of `Beneath the Waves’, even though it strikes as entirely different. Same ‘old style’ name of the beer, and recurring banners on the top and bottom of the art define the previous finding. Its top banner refers to the beer’s limited batch, stating it to be an Ayreonauts only edition. The bottom banner flies around the A-logo shield and is enhanced with barley and corn, as well as a hop flower, on the bottom. ‘Tilburg 2023’ also returns to create the consistent line of this year’s edition.
THE TASTE EXPERIENCE
The image ads to the luster of the pitch-dark contents of the can that instantly appeals. Rich and full is the head poured in my glass. Nice and creamy, medium to dark brown, foamy. It reveals the hoppy scent right away that balances on the roasted malts present. Light coffee, piney with grassy hops and little herbal. Again, this fits the can’s appeal and the Ayreonautic experience of fuelling your rocket ship ready to embark on a journey to explore the musical universe.
It is well dosed rocket fuel, especially on first sip. The roasted malts break to the front and the light carbonation makes it enduring. Light caramel and earthy hops that swizzle with the pine and citrus notes, making it go down pretty easy. The bitterness is significant, but not too heavy, making the experience pleasant and refreshing, maintaining the dark roast as fine line in taste. Second taste, waltzing the beer in mouth back to front for a couple of seconds, reveals roastier toasty malt profiles. Light alcoholic resin comes forward, but the caramel intensifies significant, with dark chocolate mildly present as well. The hop-bitterness is fusing well, making `River of Time’ my favorite Ayreon beer to date. It goes down easy, but isn’t one to start slamming, adding to the experience.
In line with its colorful blue can I decided not to play any Ayreon tunes but settled for Star One, by far my favorite album of the Dutch master. Popping the can to ,,Lift off” makes a great experience all in all. Pouring it into the half-titled glass with precaution to ensure the head not to grow to wild, I was ready for first sip as ,,Set Your Controls” blasted from my stereo. Well, let’s say; Russel Allen and the heavy-hooked rock track make a great ambience for tasting `River of Time’. Strutting riffs make you waltz the beer vigorously (be careful!), but it makes for a great evening. Man, was I glad I rediscovered this album again….
While the fish ‘n chips where fainting, the cheese platter I brought in later perfectly added to this tasting. Roquefort and Comté make a great dish for this dark beer. French dry saucisson, including a comté variant and one with boar, well wonderfully with the beer. ,,High Moon” spinning…. The droning riff and classic Hammond create the ominous mood for the rest of the evening. Full moon?
No, both beers add to the experience of Ayreonauts drawing together for the celebration of Ayreon’s music. It is a collectible anyone will try to get their hands on, as much as one will try to get tickets for the next Ayreon show. Salute!
All beer photos by Edwin van Hoof
Dutch multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer who is best known for his progressive metal/rock opera project Ayreon. Other projects are: Star One, Guilt Machine, The Gentle Storm, Ambeon and Stream Of Passion. Also known for Dutch hard rock bands Bodine and Vengeance. Active since 1980.
Photo credit: Lori Linstruth
Progressive rock, metal, rock opera