Bradenton band inspires new craft beer

mclear@bradenton.comApril 13, 2013 

One day last year, Wayne Wambles' boss handed him four CDs and said "Listen to these and get back to me,"

"I didn't know what he had in mind," Wambles said.

Wambles is the brewmaster at Cigar City Brewery in Tampa, so it seemed odd that his boss would ask his opinion of albums by Bradenton-based Americana band Have Gun Will Travel.

He soon found out: Wambles was assigned to create a beer inspired by the band and its music.

Beer lovers and Have Gun Will Travel fans will get their first taste of the finished product April 28, when High Road Ale, named after a song from Have Gun Will Travel's upcoming fourth album, is introduced to the public.

Right now, the world's entire supply of High Road Ale is still resting in a large metal vat where it's gaining carbonation, getting ready for its big debut.

That'll be at the High Road Festival at the Postcard Inn in St. Pete Beach.

The free festival features -- besides Have Gun Will Travel and High Road Ale -- music from Woody, Geri X, Danfield and DJ Marcos Udagawa. It runs from 1 to 6 p.m. April 28, and it's free.

Cigar City Brewery is brewing the beer for Rock Brothers Brewery Co., a new Tampa company that wants to create beers inspired by bands. But for now, High Road Ale is its only product.

"We wanted to launch a brand here," said Kevin Lilly, a co-owner of Rock Brothers, "and we thought, 'Why don't we support a local band?' "

Have Gun Will Travel was their first choice.

"Cigar City was kind of already a fan," said Matt Burke, the singer and songwriter for Have Gun Will Travel. "We've played a couple of events for them."

So how does one go about turning a band into a beer?

Lilly, Wambles and Cigar City vice president Justin Clark, sat down with the band and discussed ideas. ("We like our beer," Burke said) and decided to emphasize the band's Bradenton home. Have Gun Will Travel rehearses

right across the street from the Tropicana plant, so that became a key to the beer's flavor.

"It's a lighter American pale ale that has a lot of hops varietals," Wambles said. "It features a lot of citrus flavors, especially orange."

Although there's no citrus at all in the beer, the combination of hops that Wambles used give it an unmistakable aroma of grapefruit and orange rind, and a slightly fruity taste combined with a pleasant bitterness.

It's exactly the kind of beer the band members, who are all craft beer fans, had in mind when they described their preferences to the people from Cigar City and Rock Brother.

"We're all very happy with it," Burke said.

High Road Ale will be available only on tap. It will always be a limited-edition beer, Clark said, and will be sold primarily at bars and clubs where Have Gun Will Travel frequently performs.

In Bradenton, High Road Ale will soon be available at the Lost Kangaroo Pub at 406 Old Main St. It will also be available at all World of Beer locations, including the one at 8217 Tourist Center Drive in Sarasota.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411. ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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