Robert Earl Keen — Texas musician, longtime beer lover… and brewer?
When he goes on tour soon to promote his new bluegrass album, “Happy Prisoner,” he might make mention of the beer he helped to launch last year with Pedernales Brewing in Fredericksburg. And if any of the stops on the tour are within the brewery’s distribution reach, Pedernales’ president Lee Hereford said, Keen’s fans will be able to try the beer while the musician, onstage, makes his live foray into bluegrass.
Keen didn’t do any of the brewing himself that led to Pedernales’ Robert Earl Keen Honey Pils, a sessionable European-style pilsner made with honey from Llano, but he was a big part of the planning process that led to the beer, Hereford said, including the decision to release it in cans.
“Robert’s assistant called and said (Robert) had three things to say,” he said. “‘First of all, he loves beer. Second of all, he really loves your beer. And the third thing is, he really appreciates the way you give back to the community… So would you guys be interested in doing a beer with him and having his name on it?’ I said, ‘Let me think about that. Uh, yes, we would like that a lot!'”
An initial meeting between Pedernales and Keen at the HEB in Fredericksburg quickly determined that the country music star loves pilsners, a style Pedernales recreates with the year-round session brew Lobo Lito, but Hereford didn’t just want to make any old pilsner.
“We told Robert we could do that, but we wanted to do something a little different because it’s Robert Earl Keen,” he said.
So Fain’s Honey, a longtime beekeeping and honey producing operation in Llano, sells the brewery 25 lb. jugs of honey to go into the beer, which as a result is deeper and richer than most pilsners are, Hereford said.
The 5 percent ABV Robert Earl Keen Honey Pils has become another of Pedernales’ year-round offerings, like Lobo Lito, but it can be tricky to find in stores because it’s constantly being bought up. Hereford said the first batch, released in October last year, was pre-sold “because everyone wants it. The first can they buy because of Robert Earl Keen, but the second, third and fourth we sell because they like it.”
He noted that part of the appeal of the beer is that every element of it comes from Texas. “You’ve got a singer from Kerrville, honey from Llano and a brewery from Fredericksburg,” Hereford said. “That’s irresistible.”
Keen’s bluegrass album drops on Feb. 10. For Central Texans looking for a chance to see him live, a good opportunity is at the Old Settler’s Music Festival in April.