Let's play a game of word association: I say "Insane Clown Posse." You might say a thousand different words, none of which, I'd wager, are "craft beer."
But that's exactly the association I set out to explore February 22 at Juggalo Weekend, a two-day music festival featuring performances by the infamous Detroit horrorcore rappers Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J and some of their longtime associates from the worlds of rap-rock and industrial like the Kottonmouth Kings and Powerman 5000.
Juggalo Weekend is the little brother to the more famous fan pilgrimage: the Gathering of the Juggalos, a weeklong Midwestern bacchanal that seems to draw nearly as many documentary filmmakers as fans. Last year's Weekend was in New Orleans (which, talk about a match made in heaven), 2018's was in Las Vegas (ditto), and this year it was in downtown L.A.
Apart from the venue being a short bus ride from my house, there were two unique features of this year's Weekend that piqued my interest. The first was an associated event: the Clown Chuggery Beer Fest, which advertised unlimited samplings of "over 60 craft beers and ciders" and was, according to organizer Rockstar Beer Festivals, its first event in association with ICP. The second was the debut of three ICP-branded craft beers from Riverside, California-based Inland Empire Brewing Company.
Now, the naming conventions here are kind of confusing. "Frothy Whoop Dub" is the name of the series comprising three different beers: Blue Ballz, a mixed berry kolsch that is, in fact, blue; Punk Slap, a grapefruit kolsch that is a deep purple color; and Neden Wet, a dragonfruit honey amber ale that is actually a gorgeous shade of rosy amber and also has glitter in it. (One ICP fan I met helpfully offered up that "neden" is Juggalo slang for "pussy," a fact I was glad to have learned after tasting the beer.)
Adding to the confusion is the fact that nowhere on the cans—which were designed by ICP—does it indicate what type of beer they contain, leading me to believe at first that despite them being advertised as craft beers, they would be in actuality some sort of Four Loko flavored-malt-beverage situation. (ICP briefly got into the energy drink game in the late oughts so this seemed a more logical next step.)
But craft beers they are, a point emphasized by Inland Empire brewing's Ken Williams, who says all three beers were created using local grain milled on-site, malt from Oregon, plant-based coloring agents and, in the case of Neden Wet, "organic, all-natural, food-grade glitter."
"The main goal was to come up with three very creative craft beers, true to craft beer, that were colored and flavored in their own unique and interesting ways," Williams said. "We went with the Kolsch style because it's a very sessionable kind of beer—we wanted something that would be very easy to drink—but specifically, the Kolsch style was picked because it would lend itself well to coloring." Each of the beers is also a very clown-chuggable 4.5% ABV.
Another Inland Empire employee, when I asked whether she'd been involved with the brewing of the Frothy Whoops, told me she'd spent hours pouring individual portions of glitter into every can (evidently IE has done glitter beers before and they decided to do it this way because getting glitter out of the vats—like getting glitter out of anywhere—proved impossible.)
Going in, I was fascinated by the possibility of meeting people at the intersection of the Juggalo/craft beer aficionado Venn diagram—people who could detect the mid-palate banana bread explosion in a fine German Helles through the petroleum notes of their clown makeup. I was just working off the theory that Juggalos, like anyone, refine their tastes as they age. ICP has been around for decades, and their older fans are well into their 40s and have likely outgrown mixing Wolfschmidt vodka and Faygo Red Pop. Perhaps Frothy Whoop Dub was ICP's attempt at serving this market?
Alas, I didn't find much evidence to support my theory. For one, while a few vendors I spoke with told me they had encountered some curious patrons who peppered them with questions about their products, there seemed to be a consensus that most attendees were more attracted to the first half of the phrase "unlimited beer." When I asked one vendor—whose booth had a good-sized crowd waiting for pours—what the draw was, he told me, "I think they're just drinking it because it's here."
For another, the beer nerds I did find seemed fairly unimpressed with ICP's initial foray into craft brewing. One guy, Nick, likened the collaboration brews to "a seltzer without the carbonation of a seltzer"—this was meant as a compliment I'm pretty sure. Another—and I'm positive this wasn't a compliment—told me "You looking for quotes? I'll give you one. It tastes like they used actual Juggalo lymphatic fluid." For my own part, I quite enjoyed the Blue Ballz, which was crisp and sweet without being cloying. I felt the other two didn't have enough body to counterbalance, in the case of Punk Slap, the bitterness of the grapefruit and in the case of the Neden, the Amber malts.
But who's to say ICP's initial foray into craft beer will be their last? Perhaps new Frothy Whoop Dubs, like the Juggalo Weekend itself, will become an annual tradition. Dark Carnival Stout, anyone? Bizzar-ley Wine? Whoop whoop, indeed.