A lot has changed since the 90s. I’m no longer wearing JNCO jeans and Hanson t-shirts and Hanson is now making beer (yes, they are over 21). Though they are still producing new music (six albums in total) and celebrating their 25th anniversary with a world tour this year, they also became part-time brewers and created the Hanson Brothers Beer Company in 2013.
Now, while my 12-year-old self would have been thrilled to meet Zac, Taylor, and Isaac at a mall concert back in the day, I was just as excited to sit down with them ahead of their fourth annual Hop Jam Beer and Music Festival in Tulsa on May 21 to learn a thing or two about booze.
Here’s what they had to say.
Q: Ok, so where did the idea to start a beer brand come from?
Taylor: I am a total foodie and I love to cook. So, when we were traveling the world over years, we started to develop an interest in craft beer. We’d try one here and try one there, and then all of the sudden you’re one of those people that is bad to be around at a dive bar. You want more, you want better quality. So, we started talking about it as more of kitschy thing that we should make our own beer.
Isaac: It kind of began almost 10 years ago – we were getting more steeped in the local brewery culture when we were touring and started visiting all of these microbreweries. So, we were fans first. Then it’s a casual question of like can you imagine combining being a band and making great beer? That would be so cool.
Q: And what about the name Mmmhops?
Isaac: Well, we were kind of just goofing around asking each other what would the names of the beers be? Of course, one of the first ones was Mmmhops. It was just like the elephant in the room. And everyone is like that is stupid. That is a dumb idea, wait a second…
Taylor: It was so goofy that it works.
Zac: Let’s dissect the beauty of Mmmhops, It’s not Mmmhops, it’s mmmm, hops. Like, it would be a great beer name regardless of the ironic Hanson song that is associated with it.
Taylor: Then we were asked to speak at Oxford University in 2011 and Zac mentioned the idea in passing and we were like, ok I guess we’re going to start making beer!
Q: Something that started as just a random idea seems to have become more serious. Are you trying to take over the Oklahoma beer scene?
Zac: Oklahoma, unlike some states, has had more struggles because it has been a traditionally dry state.
Isaac: The laws just changed and now breweries will be able to actually sell their own product on premise.
Zac: There was certainly a secondary element of us looking at this very small community of brewers in Oklahoma and going, we need to find ways to make this grow. Brewers, in many ways, are similar to musicians where they are sort of like, we’d do it for free man!
Q: I don’t drink a ton of beer. What is your most important advice to someone who is new to craft beer?
Zac: The most important thing to understand about beer is if you don’t like beer, you probably just haven’t tried enough beer. There really is such a broad swathe going from a traditional English beer or German beer to sours and infused beers with peach.
Taylor: Try a range of beers because in dark beers alone you can get coffee notes, chocolate, fruit, etc. It’s diverse.
Z: In May, our amber beer will come out, so in between the four beers that we are just currently selling under our brand—a porter to an amber to a saison to a pale ale—there is a lot of difference in there, so don’t give up on beer.
Taylor: Don’t give up on beer.
Q: If you like certain elements like the chocolate or fruit, should you ask a bartender for beers with those notes?
Isaac: If you like chocolate, you’d be well suited to try some kind of dark beer like a stout or something or porter. People think of dark beers as being an intense flavor, but it’s not necessarily intense in that way.
Taylor: If you like chocolate, buttery things and rich stuff, you’re probably going to like porters and stouts and empirical stouts.
Q: What’s the best way to go about finding out what you like then?
Zac: Go into a good liquor store where they have that “pick six” option and pick six different beers. Get some darks and get some lights.
Taylor: I like this plan of action here. Start with light and then go dark. It doesn’t matter the brand because you’re going to find what brands you like eventually. But, what you’ll learn is if you tend towards darker or lighter styles, you’re going to go, man I really like the amber because it’s right in the middle somewhere. Then you go find out the other brands that make great ambers.
Zac: If all else fails, the best way to learn is to find someone who loves beer. Just ask your friend who is into craft beer what they recommend and they will almost certainly thank god you finally asked them. For them, it will be like the skies opened up and Jesus handed down a craft beer.
Taylor: Yeah, I’m pretty sure Jesus drinks beer.
Isaac: Yes, and it’s made from the tears of angels.