interviews

Hanson — Yes, That Hanson — on Their New Beer, Mmmhops

Beer guys.

Beer guys.Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Sometimes I've wondered if the universe will reward me for the fact that I am actually a serious fan of Hanson — you know, the trio of singing brothers from Tulsa who became wildly famous in 1996 for their song "MMMBop" and who are also still making totally decent music. And then, lo and behold, two heavy boxes arrived at my desk, and the universe had responded: 24 bottles of Mmmhops, a new beer from Hanson. There was even a card exhorting me to try the band's "most fun new project, BEER!" But wait — Hanson beer? Is this a joke? Where did this idea come from? Luckily, middle Hanson Taylor and youngest Hanson Zac (who — get ready to feel old — is over 21 now) were free to talk about how Mmmhops came to be.

When did you decide, "It makes sense for Hanson to make beer"?
Taylor Hanson: About two years ago we first started talking about it. It’s a lot easier to work hard at something you’re passionate about. Whenever you have a new idea, you go, How passionate am I about this? Do I want to fight for this idea? We were talking about things natural to our evolving fan base, and at the end of the last album cycle, we said, "Gosh, you know, we should do a beer." Our fans are now of the age that many of them have been drinking for years, and it’s something we’re really into and know a lot about.

In what genius moment did you come up with Mmmhops? Were there alternative names on the table?
TH: I think technically Isaac came up with Mmmhops. Facetiously, we began taking titles from songs that could be the moniker for our beer. Where’s the Lager, from "Where’s the Love." Pilsner and Me, from "Penny and Me." Of course, hops is the ultimate ingredient that you think of with beer, so Mmmhops was set into the air, and everyone went, "You know, that’s actually kind of genius." Like, here we are at the end of a long day, you sit down at the bar and think, Mmm, hops. You can sort of imagine Homer Simpson saying it.

What do Mmmhops and Hanson have in common?
TH: We just all feel there’s this kinship between what we’ve been doing the last ten years, starting our own little label, and so many other breweries kind of fighting the fight in their own way. They’re going out there saying, "Hey, here’s my new beer, I don’t necessarily have a huge amount of capital, but I have this thing I’m really excited about."

Zac Hanson: I feel like it’s a symbiotic culture to music. That’s what I feel is kind of full circle about doing a beer — it completes the sensory experience of your band.

TH: Let’s focus on what’s important here: We’re finally getting into addictive substances. What’s similar between Hanson and beer — they are both amazing?

So, please convince me I should drink Mmmhops.
TH: Ultimately this is about creating a very drinkable, very approachable pale ale. It has a lot of flavor, it feels good in your mouth, it’s a full-bodied beer. The kind of pale ale that allows the super beer hophead and the more causal beer drinker that isn’t aware of every kind of microbrew to meet in a very comfortable place, and then to open up that world. A gateway drug. This is the beer that will change the way you look at craft beer.

Will there be more varieties in the future?
TH: We’ve racked our brains about every possible way to go about building it. What are the next flavors we want to try, if we can get this off the ground — we’re planning to try some different beers in different seasons, limited runs. This pale ale doesn’t bite your head off, but we have a super-hoppy IPA recipe we love which is much stronger. We don’t know how much we’ll be able to do in the short term, but in time we’d love to have a lager and a pilsner and try a variety of different things.

You must have a lot of awkward moments when people see you drinking in public and think, Ahhh, the Hanson brothers drink!
TH: People definitely check themselves a little bit. There’s plenty of "Wow, how can Hanson be having beer?" Somehow there’s a global theory that anyone who becomes famous at a certain age is forever living that age, living in a bubble and not growing. I always find it funny when people are like, "You’re older? Oh my GOD!" Well, you are, too.

Did you study other cases of musicians who have made beer? What goes well, and what doesn’t?
TH: We were more studying other breweries and beers. There are not a lot of musicians that have actually really done beer. A lot have done wine; some have done liquor.

Seriously, when is your sketchy pink liquor coming out?
TH: You know, I think if that never happens the world will be a better place.

Do you remember what you did for your 21st birthdays?
ZH: I think we were in the studio? We would have been making The Walk. It was a relatively ordinary day. We worked. We made that record in sort of a live-in studio in Oklahoma, so it was relatively uneventful.

TH: I don't remember how I spent my 21st birthday. Were we on tour? Let’s just say for the record I don’t remember. That's how good it was.

ZH: The funny thing about being in a band — most of the things about being 21 go along with being in drunken stupors — and when you’re in a band, not that I should maybe admit to this, but you have access to alcohol and all kinds of things for years. I’ve never gotten into cigars, but making our first record … I remember smoking cigars with our friend Mark Hudson. I mean, like, it’s part of the lifestyle. It happens once in a while. It wasn’t pretty, though.

Speaking of questionable decisions, do you suggest listening to "MMMBop" while drinking Mmmhops?
TH: I think a black hole would open up. The space-time continuum would be ripped, and we’d be cast into an alternate universe. Be careful if you do try that; it might be dangerous.

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