Beck’s Sapphire: A Beer For the Club

High-end nightclubs—the kind with velvet ropes, VIP areas, and leggy waitresses—don’t seem like the kinds of places where you’re supposed to drink beer. Those joints are all about cocktails and bottle service, which usually means vodka. Even whiskey doesn’t feel right. It’s as if your booze needs to be clear and your mixers colorful to match the icy design aesthetic. Beer seems out of place in nightclubs, like your country cousins visiting the big city for the first time. But I suspect many beer producers—and beer drinkers—would like to destroy the notion of beer as a rustic, unsophisticated beverage, unsuitable for the posh confines of A-list nightclubs. The latest, boldest effort to class up the world’s most popular alcoholic beverage comes our way from Germany (by way of St. Louis, Missouri) with the release of Beck’s Sapphire.

The Bremen-based brewers haven’t come out and said this, of course, but one look at the bottle tells me all I need to know. It’s black like a New Yorker’s wardrobe, with silver accents and minimal decoration. It’s named Sapphire after the German sapfir hops it’s made with, but Sapphire could easily be the name of the hottest club in town, where all the celebrities hang out. Its elevated alcohol content of 6% is advertised on the neck (a standard lager like Budweiser is 5%), bringing it that much closer to cocktail strength. The words “smooth taste” are written at the bottom of the label. Smooth like Diddy. Or Clooney. Or Billy Dee Williams. It wouldn’t look out of place in a bottle service setup. You’re not wearing overalls and sitting on a bale of hay when you drink this. You’re dressed to the nines and hanging someplace sexy. 

But does it taste nightclubby? It does, by which I mean it has a very clean flavor with a crisp pilsner bite at the end. It is smooth—I don’t need the label to tell me that—and it is refreshing, yet not in a watery, light-beer kind of way. To be sure, it’s a proper beer, just like regular Beck’s is a proper beer (it’s practically the very definition of beer) but, thanks to Beck’s longtime adherence to the Reinheitsgebot, it’s not complicated by a bunch of weird flavors the way some craft brews are. No need to concentrate too hard on the symphony going on in your mouth, this brew’s all about relaxing, letting loose a little, and being cool.

Beck’s sent over some samples, and I can say I like Sapphire very much, as did everybody I shared it with. If I find myself in a fancy nightclub and it’s on the menu, I may well give the old vodka martini a pass and order one of these instead. I just hope they don’t charge me $18 for it. Nightclubs are many things, but they’re not cheap.

For now, you can try Beck’s Sapphire at One and One in New York and Señor Fish in Los Angeles.

M.I.A.’s New Gig: Beer Bottle Designer

M.I.A. has worked long and hard to paint a picture of herself as a counter-cultural warrior and for the most part she’s succeeded. Even when a New York Times reporter tried to paint her into a truffle-scented corner with a story about how the “Paper Planes” was talking revolution while pigging out on bourgie snacks, M.I.A. retaliated with her own recording of the interview proving that she wasn’t the one who ordered them.

So, when we read that M.I.A. was going to be designing beer bottles we were a bit confused. Is that really the sort of thing a visionary cultural force should be doing? The answer, we decided, was yes. After all, the art-school-educated singer said she was able to make the beer company work with the art she was making, not their own agenda.

“I was making that as a painting, or with those elements anyway, and I put together a version for them out of what I was making for myself at the time,” she said.

The work she’s doing for Beck’s—the label features a yin-yang and collage-style art reminiscent of, duh, a M.I.A. record—was inspired by a trip she took to India.

“My trip to India was to kind of explore the visual arts thing a bit more and while I was there I was coming across lots of things that were inspiring,” she said “I just wanted to get there and explore it without having to be pressured about making the record, you know? But they also go together all the time — it’s really hard for me to separate the two out.”

She’s not the only one. Artists from Jack White, who did a song for Coca Cola, to Gorillaz, which designed a line for Converse, and Kanye West, who has dreamed up shoes for companies from Nike to Louis Vuitton, have lent their talents to a brand without seeming hacky.

“Before artists would struggle with the art and commerce thing, but now I think you have to have a certain conviction about your work and I think the canvas is irrelevant, you can put it on anything these days,” M.I.A. said. “As long as you’re not like, you know there are certain things I won’t agree to, but sitting down and having a drink, and having a little chat is a good thing, and that’s what people tend to do, you know. They get drunk and get together, so.”