For a brief time this summer, one of San Diego beer's most recognized brands will be selling brew in a 40-ounce bottle. AleSmith Brewing has teamed up with Long Beach reggae-punk band Sublime to release a co-branded Mexican lager. Sharing a name with Sublime's first album, 40 oz. to Freedom, the beer's July release is timed to commemorate the record's 25th anniversary.
9990 Alesmith Court, Miramar
Of course, 40-ounce bottles have most often been associated with potent, cheap-to-produce malt liquors — arguably the furthest thing from craft beer on the fermented-grain spectrum.
Colt 45 Malt Liquor TV commercial, 1980
Asked about the nod to 40-ounce bottles in the album name, Sublime drummer and founding member Bud Gaugh reflects that the band drank a lot of them in the early days, mostly Schlitz and Budweiser. "40s were cheap, you could get your party started right away," he recalls. "Especially on the weekends. We'd be playing backyard parties in the early days…or we'd meet up with friends at the studio, 40 in hand."
As the 25th anniversary of the album approached, Gaugh says he, Sublime bassist Eric Wilson, and Troy Holmes — widow of singer/guitarist Bradley Nowell — wanted to mark the occasion. "We were talking about things and thought, Wouldn't it be cool if we had our own 40?”
However, after having put the band's name on a hard lemonade release in 2000, they wanted something closer to something they'd actually drink. "We kind of wanted to keep it small and homespun as much as possible," Gaugh says. "We didn't want to go with a kind of major-label brewery. We wanted something close to home…more artistic in that sense."
Gaugh lives in Reno these days and in recent years has developed a taste for hoppier beers, including some by AleSmith. However, he notes he and Wilson have spent a lot of time drinking Mexican-produced lagers, like Pacifico and Negra Modelo, while surfing Baja together. "That was one thing we all agreed on when we were talking flavors," he says. "Everyone agreed Mexican lagers were a staple. The best thing to wash the saltwater out of your mouth after a session."
Through their management they contacted AleSmith, which happened to be developing a beer in this style. Speaking via press release, AleSmith owner Peter Zien said, “We wanted to create our thirst-quenching version of a traditional Vienna-style lager (famously brewed by the Mexican breweries) that showcases a grainy, malt-forward sweetness and easy drinkability."
After trying the beer for the first time, Gaugh says he immediately became a fan. "It had a craft beer flair to it. It wasn't too hoppy, but definitely flavor-forward…. I wanted another one."
A limited run of 40s will be sold directly from the brewery, while 12 oz. six-pack cans of the beer will be distributed nationally.