THE DUCK FOOT BEER BLOG

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Fermentation
duckmin
March 29, 2021

Back on December 21st of last year, which would have been Frank Zappa’s 80th birthday, we kicked off a pre-release sale of a special beer in honor of his memory and of his vast catalog of amazing music. The beer, the Zappa team and the whole process of putting this release together was one of the most fun and interesting things I’ve done in our 6-year-old business.

The idea first came about when we found out about a special variety of hop that just happened to be called “Zappa”. We thought it would be fun to do a Zappa-esque beer using Zappa hops since we’re all fans of Frank’s music. The short story of the Zappa hop is that it’s a variety called neomexicanus and is a native North American hop. The flavor profile is very eclectic (not unlike its namesake) and has descriptors such as “spicy” and “tropical fruit”. Those flavors aren’t terribly unusual in the hop world, but Zappa has also been described as having “fruity pebbles” notes and also as just “purple”. Yes, it tastes purple. Now Frank Zappa was not known to be a consumer of psychedelic substances, but whoever described this hop as tasting “purple” may very well have been.

But the expectations were met the first time we tried this hop in a beer. It had a very aggressive spice note to it, along with a prominent grassiness. There was some fruitiness too, but we felt that this hop alone in an IPA was a little off-putting. So we tried it in combination with some other hops. We combined it with a few different hop varieties that we had on hand, making some educated guesses about which types of flavors the Zappa hop was missing. In the end, the Simcoe hop was the winner. Simcoe has a big tropical fruitiness and has long been one of our favorites, being featured prominently in our Hop’em Sock’em IPA.

On the malt side, we wanted to keep it simple to showcase the hops, but we did go with all Pilsner malt for a nice, light body with just a smidge of Flaked Rye to balance the hops out. Coming in at 7.0% ABV brought in some background spicy alcohol notes, but it finishes balanced, crisp and clean.

So with the beer itself all settled, we turned our attention to the art that would appear on the can. But wait, what if we could team up with the actual Zappa family and come up with super cool art AND have it all sanctioned and approved by the Zappa folks? Well, it turns out that one of Matt D.’s buddies, Pete, had played bass previously with the Zappa Plays Zappa band. We asked Pete for an intro to someone at the Zappa organization and in short order we were talking to Ahmet Zappa, one of Frank’s sons and the guy who is in charge of everything Zappa these days.

Over the next several weeks, we had some super fun meetings (over Zoom) with Ahmet along with Melanie and Erin from the Zappa organization. We talked at length about the man, the music and of course about beer. Ahmet mentioned some previously unreleased photos that we could potentially use for the can art and many brainstorming sessions were held to come up with a good name for the beer. Though some people may think that Frank never touched alcohol, Ahmet verified that he was not a big drinker but would on occasion have a beer. So armed with some good background info and some fun photos, we set about creating a label.

We threw around some ideas and came up with a short list of potential names:ZAP PA (Pale Ale)The Grand WazooSt. Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast StoutBeer ShampooDeadly Yellow Snow CrystalsCentral ScrutinizerOne Size Fits AllBut in the end, one name bubbled up to the top and became the undeniable favorite.Why Does It Hurt When IPA?

Now some folks got upset when the beer came out.”Why would you use that name when Frank died of prostate cancer!?!?!? It’s inseeeeeeeeeensitive!!!!”Well, Ahmet chuckled at that and we all felt it’s really missing the point of Frank’s entire body of work if you don’t appreciate the satire and sarcasm of a name like that.oh and just as an aside, we were joking about what foods would pair well with this beer:

  • Lumpy Gravy
  • Uncle Meat
  • Burnt Weeny Sandwich
  • Gumbo Variations
  • Watermelon in Easter Hay

Maybe we should have released an entire Frank Zappa meal?

Our only regret in this whole process is that In the early stages of talking about this release, we were planning on a livestream concert to happen to coincide with the release. It was to be some members of The Mothers and others and would have taken place in LA and been live-streamed to everyone who bought some of the beer (plus anyone else who was interested). Unfortunately, the pandemic reality came crashing down and we had to postpone the show indefinitely. The concert proceeds were going to be going to the MusiCares foundation which was set up to help musicians who have been out of work during the pandemic. In lieu of that both Duck Foot and the Zappa Trust made generous donations to them.

So the Zappa beer has come and gone with the entire batch of 250 cases sold out during the pre-sale. Lots of people were able to get ahold of some to enjoy (or maybe just to put up on a shelf in their Frank Zappa shrine) but a few got shut out too. We of course still get the question, “When are you going to brew some more?” We would love nothing more than to brew this delicious beer every day, but business reality also is a thing. We have to satisfy our other beer obligations for the other beers we brew so it gets a little tricky to brew another entire batch and hope it will all sell out. So, the conclusion is we’re not ruling out brewing another Zappa beer, but it may be something a little different and may take a little while for us to get to. And we still would love to make that concert happen, so stay tuned!

But taking a little glimpse into the future, we’ve got another musically beery collaboration in the works! For all of you who are fans of the iconic LA-based Mexican-American band Los Lobos, we just agreed to do a beer release for them! The details are still forthcoming, but we’re targeting a Cinco de Mayo release of a Mexican-style Lager in 16oz 4-packs. We’re very stoked to be able to keep doing releases like this for all the musicians that we know and love and to help them out during this rough patch that we’re all going through. Cheers!Brett

Do I Smell Tortilla Chips In Más Y Masa?

Do I Smell Tortilla Chips In Más Y Masa?

For this collaboration with Los Lobos we wanted to find something that would tie the beer to tradition while also pushing some limits. We wanted a crushable, light beer but that doesn’t mean that it has to be devoid of interesting character. So instead of...

read more
San Diego Beer News: Of Ducks and Wolves

San Diego Beer News: Of Ducks and Wolves

San Diego Beer News was founded by native San Diegan Brandon Hernández, an award-winning journalist and author who has covered the local brewing industry for more than a dozen years and written a pair of guides to the county’s breweries. Duck Foot Brewing...

read more
Spring Has Sprung

Spring Has Sprung

I have a little bit of a... well... addiction. I'm an avid gardener, but more importantly I require that (nearly) all of my plants should produce something edible. I know, it sounds a little bit tyrannical to demand that my royal subjects satisfy their king by...

read more
Duck Foot Brewing Company Is Born

Duck Foot Brewing Company Is Born

At the time it was a dream for me. The idea of opening up a brewery and making craft beer for a living seemed to have so much appeal. I was in my late 20's working in finance in New York City. As much as we could we would escape the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and...

read more
Beach Getaway – The Ultimate Encinitas Experience

Beach Getaway – The Ultimate Encinitas Experience

Duck Foot Brewing always does things differently, when we're in, we're ALL in! When discussion started about hosting a fun promotional giveaway for our community, we all had an opinion of what would be an epic prize. Things started off small, ideas like a merchandise...

read more
Which Came First, Beer or Baseball?

Which Came First, Beer or Baseball?

We are just under a week into the 2021 season of Major League Baseball, something that I never thought would bring tears of happiness to my eyes. With the 2020 season having been almost non-existent, the thought of returning to Petco Park (Go Padres!) and drinking a...

read more
Introduction to Our Head Brewer – Matt Akin

Introduction to Our Head Brewer – Matt Akin

As this is my first article for the Duck Foot Brewing Blog I figured I would take the chance to introduce myself and give some hints about the things I will be writing about in my monthly installments. So, hi, I’m Matt Akin and I make beer. I have made a lot of beer...

read more
Frank Zappa Collaboration IPA

Frank Zappa Collaboration IPA

From a lifelong love of his music and the coincidence that there was a hop named after the man himself Duck Foot Brewing is honored to launch our tribute beer to one of our all time favorite musicians Frank Zappa the Grand Wazoo! Matt Del Vecchio, Head Quack of...

read more
Mother Lover – Dry Irish Stout

Mother Lover – Dry Irish Stout

Mother Lover One fun aspect about releasing new beers is finding a fun name to go along with it. It's not always easy but it is rewarding especially when you can create a concept that has an underlying special meaning. Our recent release of our award winning Irish...

read more

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Wanna know what beers are coming out, tap lists for the weekend and events coming up? Well, ya gotta be in it to win it.

You have Successfully Subscribed!