Hanson toasts 21 years as a band at Epcot

By | November 2, 2013

Orlando Sentinel 

If you still know Hanson as the three fresh-faced adolescents who gave us the hit song “MMMBop” in 1996, here’s a dose of perspective: This year the band reaches drinking age, and the brothers are celebrating with their own craft beer.

While the group has been around for 21 years, the brothers are well beyond that. The oldest, guitarist Isaac Hanson, turns 34 this month. On Monday and Tuesday, he joins brothers Taylor, 30, and Zac, 28, for concerts at Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, where they have performed for the past few years. Performances are at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. each day and are included with park admission.

“Taylor in particular is a big foodie,” says Isaac. “It’s kind of an easy gig for us, in the sense that we get do do three relatively short shows each day, then get the chance to eat some good food.”

Hanson has toured relentlessly in support of their six studio albums and they have cultivated more than a taste for good food along the way. The entreprenurial brothers have donated funds to charity efforts through sales of their own coffee (Kikombe Cha Kutoa), and this year they released their own craft beer, an American Pale Ale cheekily titled “Mmmhops.”

“We’re big beer fans and really appreciate the differences and wide varieties of beer you can find, especially local and regional beers that are popping up all over the country,” says Isaac. “When we show up in a city, we ask, ‘Where’s the best restaurant? What’s the best beer?’ You start doing that, and you get exposed to a lot of great stuff.”

So far, the brothers are keeping their brewing efforts close to their home state of Oklahoma. Mmmhops was launched this month by regional microbrewery Mustang Brewing. So far, the beer is available in Oklahoma and select venues in the Midwest. Still, Isaac isn’t ruling out an expansion.

“We had the beer at a show in Kansas and two in Chicago, and it sold out in a heartbeat,” he says. “Audience response to the beer was really, really good and luckily, I haven’t had anybody walking up to me saying they hate it. Knock on wood.”

The brothers were raised in Tulsa, and that’s also where they recorded Hanson’s latest album “Anthem,” which hit number 22 on the Billboard charts this year on the strength of the energetic single “Get the Girl Back.” It’s a song that showcases not only the signature harmonies of the band, but also shows new fans that these “boys-to-men” have been infusing their pop with R&B long before artists such as Amy Winehouse brought the style back in vogue.

“I like to think that is not coincidence,” says Issac. “I like to think that was us reading the tea leaves right, for lack of a better way to say it.

“We wanted to make sure that [R&B influence] was still a part of ‘Anthem,'” he says. “But as we went into it, there were things that went in a little more of a rock direction as well.”

In an age where so much pop has a shelf life as short as an adolescent’s attention span, we’ll drink to that.

tcaviness@tribune.com or 407-420-5677

Hanson performs at Epcot (off I-4 southwest of Orlando) for the International Food & Wine Festival as part of the “Eat to the Beat” concert series at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 4-5. The concerts are free with park admission ($90 plus tax adults, $84 plus tax ages 3-9). Details: 407-824-4321 or epcot.com.

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