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JJ Grey is ready to rock his own beer: interview

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JJ Grey

JJ Grey and his band Mofro will perform in front of a capacity crowd Friday at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg to celebrate the launch of JJ Grey's Nare Sugar Brown Ale. COURTESY PHOTO BY JENSEN HANDE

Editor's note: JJ Grey's concert Friday at Jannus Live is sold out. "We are proud (and sad) to announce that the JJ Grey Launch party in St. Petersburg is completely full," reads an update on JJ Grey's "Nare Sugar Brown" Ale Facebook page from late Wednesday. "We thank all of you for responding and attending! Patio seating will be available on a first come first serve basis in St. Pete and the music will be pumped outside to accommodate. There is still room at the Ft. Lauderdale Launch event on Nov. 2..."

Perhaps, someday, people will point to these craft beer and independent band pairings in Florida as the template for a national trend. Maybe, in the near future, it will become routine, at least across the state, to witness a singer taking a minute in between songs to tout the merits of his band’s custom brew, which is being sold at the venue’s bar. For now, though, let’s just enjoy the newness of it all and take pride in helping launch a business model that actually makes sense for musicians and brewers, music lovers and beer lovers.

JJbrewFor anyone who hasn’t at least skimmed Ticket in the last few months, Rock Brothers Brewing’s brilliant idea of pairing craft beers with bands began in May. Rock Bros. contracted with Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing Company to create High Road Ale for Bradenton’s Have Gun, Will Travel. In June, the custom beer won the United States Beer Tasting Competition’s National Grand Championship in the Pale Ale category. High Road Ale can now be found at craft beer bars from Sarasota to Bradenton to St. Petersburg to Tampa and some other fine drinking establishments across the Sunshine State.

In other words, it’s a success, which paved the way for Rock Brothers Brewing to reteam with Cigar City and a fresh Florida band. The result is a custom craft beer dubbed “JJ Grey’s Nare Sugar Brown.” That would be for Jacksonville native JJ Grey, who with his band Mofro has built an international following in the jam band scene with a striking blend of soul, rock, funk and old-school R&B. True to its Have Gun, Will Travel model, Rock Brothers will distribute the custom craft beer only in an act’s home state. The official release party for Nare Sugar Brown is Friday at Jannus Live in downtown St. Pete. Grey & Mofro will headline the main stage and Have Gun, Will Travel is schedule to perform at the adjoining MacDinton’s.

“I can’t wait to drink it while I’m playing,” Grey says by phone. “I’m psyched about having it on the side of the stage. They’re talking about putting it in cans by the first part of next year and then I’ll bring it everywhere with us.”

Grey is proud of both the beer’s taste and its name, which honors his grandfather. In rural North Florida, he drank coffee without sugar, or “nare sugar” as Grandfather said. The whole process of creating and naming the beer came as a surprise to Grey.

“The idea sounded great to me but I didn’t know what they were going to do,” Grey says. “I kind of assumed I would go to Cigar City and pick one out of like four suggestions and put a label on it. But it was way cooler than that. They really wanted to create a beer based on my taste.”

JJ GREY & MOFRO: NARE SUGAR BROWN RELEASE PARTY
with Thomas Wynn & The Believers
7 p.m. Friday; Jannus Live; 200 First Ave. N., St. Petersburg; $30; (727) 565-0550; jannuslive.com.

JJ GREY & MOFRO: NARE SUGAR BROWN RELEASE PARTY
with Thomas Wynn & The Believers
7 p.m. Friday; Jannus Live; 200 First Ave. N., St. Petersburg; $30; (727) 565-0550; jannuslive.com

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo has been an entertainment reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: November 4, 2013
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