This summer, Def Leppard are teaming up with Journey for a massive co-headlining tour that kicks off May 21 and runs through Oct. 7. But that’s not the only collaboration the hard rock titans are embarking on in 2018: The Sheffield rockers have teamed up with Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Company to craft Def Leppard Pale (6% ABV), a brand new brew that will make its debut on May 23 (the second date of their tour) and be available at most stops on their tour, as well as select bars and restaurants.
“It tastes great – that's the most important thing I can tell you,” singer Joe Elliott tells Billboard. “I would pass on doing an interview about this if I didn't like it. That to me is the most important thing.”
In fact, Elliott likes it enough that he could see it becoming “the new normal to have it in the fridge,” but hardly for vanity’s sake. “We're not going to drink it just because we put our name on it,” he says, laughing. “I don't walk around wearing our fucking t-shirt.”
When the opportunity to work with the British heavy metal icons presented itself, Elysian Brewing Company jumped at the chance. “For our brand, our ethos is guitar, bass and drums," Elysian CEO and co-founder Joe Bisacca tells Billboard. "It's not ballad-y, it's not a quiet love song -- it's hardcore rock.”
Hammered out over the course of numerous emails, Skype calls and some FedEx-ed samples that led to tweaks -- “It's like a song – you can't rush it," Elliott says -- Def Leppard Pale reflects both the band and the brewery.
“We had the idea here that the beer should celebrate something of the band and something of us,” Bisacca says. “The best of British beer is the malt body and that beautiful malt balance. And the best thing about American beer is the citrus, piney hops. So we’ve taken those two aspects, put them together and come up with a beer you can actually drink a few of -- 6% ABV you can drink all night long.”
“They're great, they're confident, they seem very rock n’ roll and we like that,” Elliott says of working with Elysian. “We like the people we're working with, we like the beverage, and that's a great way to start.”
And Def Leppard does see this as just the beginning. “There's no cut off time on this,” Elliott says. “If it takes off and people like it, it can be around. Iron Maiden has a beer named Trooper and they've done really well with theirs. We have to see if we can match that. It’s been around five years or so by now, so there's a long way to go to keep up with them and all these other people [with branded alcohol such as] Jimmy Buffett. We don’t know what kind of legs it's going to have -- come back to me in a couple years on that one, I’m not gazing into a crystal ball right now.”
Likening this venture to the experience of putting a new song into the world, Elliott opines that “you gotta leave it and see if it becomes part of the fabric” of the band. “We'll see how it's going by the middle of the summer hopefully.”
In addition to being sold at Def Leppard/Journey concerts, the beer will be available at some bars, pubs and restaurants in the vicinity of each show, potentially a week in advance of the concert and a few days after. And while the venues can choose to stock it via 16 oz. cans or have it on draft, Bisacca is gunning for the former.
“I'd rather get the can out because the can looks really cool, and then people connect with the band and the beer a little bit more.” Adapted from the iconic artwork for the band’s blockbuster album Hysteria, Bisacca says it was an easy enough decision to keep the beer’s design within the Def Lep wheelhouse. “We'd be a little crazy to go in there and screw a whole lot with it,” he chuckles.
Once the tour wraps, both of the Joes (Elliott and Bisacca) are hopeful the beer has legs to go further than the stadium scene, potentially ending up in chain stores. “We get it out there, get feedback and see if it sticks,” Bisacca says, noting that Elysian is ideally located for this particular beer’s mix of British malt body and northwest hops. “There’s a valley not far from here that’s the number one hop growing region in the world. And in western Washington, Idaho and British Columbia are some of the best malts in the world. We’re spoiled rotten.”
While Elliott is clear that he doesn’t “want to shove it down people's throats,” he still genuinely hopes people give it a shot. “I like it, people gotta give it a try,” he says. And this may not be the band’s only foray into the branded alcohol realm. “Some stage down the road, maybe we’d do a wine,” he says. “There's nothing wrong in having merchandise, people have been doing this since before we were born. I don’t see any harm in it at all. There's some good stuff out there – some great rock n’ roll wines, and then some where it's like ‘mmmm… no thanks.’ We'll wait and see where this goes.”