Hearing music come from a bar is nothing unusual, but it’s not often that the music spilling out into the streets is a song like “Dough-Ray-Me,” a beer lover’s take on “Do-Re-Mi” from “The Sound of Music.”
Sample lyric: “Dough, the stuff that buys me beer/Ray, the guy who serves my beer/Me, the guy who drinks my beer.”
Enter Beer Choir, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Beer Choir is the brainchild of St. Louis choral composer and craft beer fan Mike Engelhardt, who created the club in 2015.
There are now dozens of chapters across the U.S., including the Inland Northwest Chapter, which will host its November meeting on Monday at Bellwether Brewing Co.
Max Mendez, professional singer and director of choirs at North Idaho College, is the chapter leader of the Inland Northwest Chapter, coordinating events in both Spokane and North Idaho.
Mendez helped establish the Inland Northwest Chapter of Beer Choir as a way to combine his passion for communal singing and his experiences in Irish and English pubs.
“You look at especially some of the European traditions, in Ireland where you go to the pub and sometimes you break out into song, and everybody has that shared experience,” he said. “They get along when they’re singing in most cases.”
After hosting a few pilot events last year, the Inland Northwest Chapter started in full this fall. The November meeting is the club’s third time getting together this year following events at Growler Guys in Coeur d’Alene and Black Label Brewing Company in Spokane.
In December, the club will return to Black Label for a holiday edition of Beer Choir.
“We try to find places that have local taps, so people can experience some of the local beer makers and have enough room to hold a number of singers,” Mendez said.
At Beer Choir meetings, attendees sing songs from the Beer Choir Hymnal, a collection of 21 beer-related tunes.
Some of the pieces are traditional Irish and German drinking songs and songs from English musician Thomas Ravenscroft that date back to the 1600s.
Others, like “Dough-Ray-Me” and “Beer Choir Theme Song” (Sample lyric: “The Beer Choir is the choir that sings while drinking beer.”), were written or reworked by Engelhardt.
“We try to keep a steady repertoire so that way when people come, they’re more familiar with the songs …,” Mendez said. “I think eventually we’ll start adding some other music into the repertoire, but we want people to get familiar with the common repertoire as we move through these events.”
Mendez said the last few Beer Choir meetings have drawn crowds of 50 to 75 people.
“Some are colleagues of mine and singers that I’ve had shared experiences with,” he said. “Some are people who think this is an interesting idea and want to check it out, and some people are there already in the establishment having a beer so we hand a hymnal and say ‘Hey, sing along with us.’ ”
No experience or audition is necessary to join Beer Choir. The club is also free to join, though singers are asked to support the breweries by buying a drink or two and those who want to take home a Beer Choir Hymnal are asked to make a small donation to the club.
Mendez said those who attend a Beer Choir meeting will immediately meet people with shared interests: beer and singing.
The positive aspects of communal singing are also enticing.
“I’m a big proponent that if we could sing a lot more together, we’d recognize the value in each other a little bit more, maybe solve some world problems,” Mendez said. “At least walk away getting to know people who come from different backgrounds and share that experience where we’re not talking politics and we’re not talking religion, we’re just talking beer and singing.”