If you were near a radio the summer of 1997, you heard the catchy pop song: “MmmBop,” by Hanson. The group of three teenaged brothers lived not far from me at the time in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa, a small city in northeastern Oklahoma, is perhaps most well known for being part of America’s early twentieth-century oil boom, or the occasional target of small there is no definitive proof they are a result of fracking earthquakes.
In 1997, I was in my final year of high school, dating my now-wife (yes, we were adorable high school sweethearts), and working at an ice cream store. Our high school football team was a dynasty. We played for and generally won the state championship every year. It’s middle America, so football is king.
As a band geek, I loved music and still do (one of the many reasons I now call Austin, Texas home), so I listened to the radio and made mix tapes for my girlfriends. That year there was no way to avoid “MmmBop,” an insanely catchy pop smash hit.
The Hanson brothers were local celebrities. Tulsa isn’t Los Angeles, New York, or Austin. There aren’t a whole lot of famous people who live there. These days Garth Brooks and Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) can be seen around town, but in 1997 Hanson was big news. We still had Blockbuster movie stores then, and I remember seeing one of the Hanson brothers renting a video one time. My friend who was with me asked for an autograph.
Now, years later, you can’t see the Hanson brothers at a video store, you may not see them on your latest Spotify playlist, but you can see them at the bar, because they make beer. That’s right, beer. In partnership with Mustang Brewing from Oklahoma, the Hanson brothers now have beers, mostly available on tap at bars in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and, oddly enough, Disney World. I got a bottle of it from my brother for Christmas.
Farmhouse Ales Offer a Wide Variety
The band’s original beer was called, appropriately enough, MmmHops, and first debuted in 2013. I haven’t had that one, but it has been described as a full-bodied pale ale that has a solid but not overpowering hoppy flavor. It is their most common beer. I’m sure the catchy name helps.
I had a bottle of the Hop Jam Festive Ale. A spiced farmhouse ale, it pours a beautiful copper color with the tastes of spice, coriander, and orange. The barley, rye, and wheat give it a nice, smooth flavor that’s easy drinking. As you can imagine, farmhouse ales come from a history of farmers in Europe who wanted to make a beer with what they had on hand. These weren’t “craft brewers,” monks, or even professional brewers at a large or small brewery. These were farmers who needed something to quench their thirst.
Farmhouse ales are difficult to pin down. They’re not all the same, but they do tend to include barley, rye, and wheat, plus a slew of flavors like coriander, citruses, juniper berries, and some hops. I usually like these beers. They’re often bottle-conditioned, pack a decent ABV, and have a range of flavors that is reminiscent of the many varieties of gin.
It’s perhaps appropriate that the Hanson brothers make a farmhouse ale. Although it’s not an agricultural city, the area around Tulsa is known as “Green Country.” Its rolling hills and lush valleys produce some amazing tomatoes and other great garden crops. In fact, if you ever find yourself in Tulsa, track down some Bixby tomatoes. With a little mozzarella, basil, and olive oil, and a touch of salt and pepper, these meaty, ripe tomatoes will blow your mind. My parents still drive some down to us in Austin every year. They don’t last more than a couple days.
The Hanson brothers set aside a portion of the proceeds from each beer sold to help communities in need. When MmmHop debuted in 2013, the brothers donated money from the sale of the beer to fellow Oklahomans recovering from a terrible string of tornados. It’s always nice to see people supporting those in need right in their backyard, and when that comes as a result of beer, that’s a wonderful combination.
So if you find yourself in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, or Disney World and want to see just what a 1990s pop-band is doing these days, grab a glass of Hanson Brothers Beer. A fair warning though: you’re likely to have MmmBop stuck in your head for the days thereafter.