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Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott has managed to indulge his twin passions for craft beer and legendary ‘70s glam rockers Mott The Hoople. Stuart Clark finds out how....

“In honour of Spinal Tap it goes all the way up to 11% proof. It’s a take no prisoners American-style barley wine meant for sipping.”

Joe Elliott is talking about Louder Bangin' Strong Ale, his extremely rock ‘n’ roll brew, which has been in quality Irish bars and offies since April this year in 330ml form. New 500ml bottles are being released in the run-up to Christmas, with an IPA due early in 2015 and other Louder beers, all at that magical 11% ABV, being rolled out on a periodical basis after that. No mere “here’s a gazillion quid for using your name” celebrity endorsement, the Def Leppard singer developed the recipes himself in association with Porterhouse mainman Oliver Hughes. The duo had previously collaborated on Down ‘N’ Outz, a 5% ABV Pilsner named in honour of Joe’s Ian Hunter-worshipping side-project – more of whom anon – and which is the Porterhouse’s all-time third-biggest seller.

“It started, as so many brilliant ideas do, very late one night in Lillie’s Bordello, which is also part of the Porterhouse empire,” the proud parent reminisces. “One of the hostesses there, Jean Crowley, had seen the cover for the first Down ‘N’ Outz album, which was a picture of the bar in Sheffield’s none-too-salubrious Rutland Hotel. We’d photo-shopped one of the taps to say ‘Down ‘N’ Outz Beer’ and Jean said, ‘You have to make it happen for real!’ She introduced me to Oliver who went, ‘Fuck, this is great!’ and dragged me off to their brewery.”

Dragged? I imagine Joe sprinted there quicker than Usain Bolt.

“Actually, now you come to mention it...” he laughs. “I said, ‘Look, it can’t be bland. I want it to have a kick, so that people go, ‘Holy shit!’ when they taste it.’ When I gave one to Rick (Savage) to take home, he emailed me three days later saying, ‘I’ve gotta tell ya, it’s the best beer I’ve ever fucking drunk in my life!’ How it worked was that Oliver gave me all these little tasters and I went, ‘Like that, don’t like that...’ until we arrived at something we both absolutely loved. We did a Christmas, Ireland-only limited-edition of 11,000 bottles, which just flew out.”

While he’s being brand loyal today, Joe is appreciative of all the Irish breweries who are doing their bit to make life hoppier here.

“I’m a huge craft brew fan because, to me, it’s the beer equivalent of independent record labels,” he proffers. “’How do we get racking space in Tesco?’; ‘Do we go for a major distribution deal?’; ‘If we sell a million, will people think we’ve gone all safe and mainstream?’ It’s the same questions Geoff Travis at Rough Trade and the Stiff Records guys were asking themselves in the ‘70s. Inevitably you get some bandwagon-hopping with beers pretending to be indie when they’re actually owned by a major brand, but that’s all part of the game, the illusion. When you ring a 1-800-WANKMEOFF number, you kind of know she’s a big fat bastard but you can pretend she’s Pamela Anderson. A mate of mine goes to these places in Sheffield that sell limited-edition beers – the equivalent of our Get Your Rocks Off EP on Bludgeon Riffola – and I’m crying with laughter at some of his emails because they’re so bloody nerdy.”

Whilst he’s yet to run it by Oliver Hughes, Joe reckons he’s got the name for his next beer sorted.

“I’m going to call it ‘Squiddle Sweat’ in honour of a phrase Les Dawson used in a joke years and years ago,” he beams. “It’s no dafter than Bishop’s Finger or Hobgoblin!”

I’m not trying to be a brown-noser but Down ‘N’ Outz and Louder Bangin' Strong Ale are both infinitely superior to Trooper, the golden ale emblazoned with Iron Maiden’s Eddie mascot.

“No, please, brown-nose away! I haven’t tried Trooper, but they’ve sold three million bottles of it. Forget a Battle of the Bands, we’ll have a Battle of the Beers! Did you know that Rick Nielsen’s got his own his microbrewery? When Cheap Trick were opening for us four or five years ago in Chicago, he said, ‘You’ve gotta come to my pizza joint’, but neglected to mention that it’s right next to a little brewery he also owns. We only copped it when we were walking down the street and saw these three massive silver canisters – they’re about 15 feet high and eight around – through the window. It had a real steam punk look about it and the beer was brilliant. We're looking to bring Louder to the States, so I'll have to ring Rick up and see if he'll stick us on the shelves in his gaff."

Status Quo’s Piledriver, Elbow’s Charge, Super Furry Animal’s Fuzzy, Frank Turner’s Believe, Ed Harcourt’s Dark Heart, Professor Green’s Remedy Pale and – best of all! –

Mastodon’s Black Tongue are some of the other rock star/brewery hook-ups that have found favour with hop aficionados. In addition to Mr. E’s Porterhouse beers, Donegal Brewing have come up with a Sea Sessions Pale Ale and Pokertree’s Dark Nirvana American Black celebrates the fact that Kurt Cobain’s forefathers hail from Carrickmore in County Tyrone. If any brewery fancies the idea of developing a Brother Clarkus Trappist Ale with me, give us a holler.

Louder wasn’t the only turning up to ‘11’ Joe did this year, with the Leps co-headlining their way round the USA with the mighty KISS.

“All we did was sit down and eat, talk and drink about The Sweet, The Move and The Dave Clarke Five whose ‘Any Way You Want It’ they covered on KISS Alive II,” he beams. “Gene (Simmons) and Paul (Stanley) come across as being really American, but all the bands they were into growing up were English.

“Our show was big but theirs was this fucking massive steel spider that dwarfed Bowie’s glass one. I ended up introducing them about a dozen times which was a real thrill-ripper, and Phil (Collen) became only the second non-band member in 40 years to get up with them in full costume and do ‘Deuce’. They’re fantastic to watch. You’d swear they’re miming – and we know groups that do! – but there are no backing tracks or extra guitarists hidden under the stage. It’s fashionable to knock KISS but how can you criticise something that they set out to do – ie. being one of the biggest, brashest bands on the planet? Forty years in, they’re selling out 25,00-seater sheds while their contemporaries, Black Oak Arkansas and Foghat, are playing fucking dustbowl state fairs in front of 500 people.”

In addition to those epic KISS shows, Def Leppard also scored a Vegas residency playing their multi, multi, multi-platinum Hysteria album in its entirety.

“I got to spend 23 nights in the same bed, which is something I haven’t done since the ‘80s. We had Germans, Russians, Japanese, Australians and a Tasmanian at the meet & greets – people travelled, it was a really big deal. While delighted to be giving Hysteria the million dollar set treatment, we were like, ‘How do we contrast that? We’re gonna go fucking stir crazy playing the same 12 songs in the same order 11 nights in a row. Let’s open for ourselves as Ded Flat Bird – I’ll explain the name in a moment – where we don’t play the same set twice and dig deep, deep into the back catalogue.’ When Phil’s then wife was giving birth to his first child, the midwife asked her, ‘What’s your husband’s band called?’ She groans, ‘Def Leppard’ but the nurse mishears it as ‘Ded Flat Bird’ and the joke stuck. We also gave ourselves sort of porn star names – I was Booty Ruben, Phil became Chingy Chapman, Sav was Fleetwood Beck, Rick was Camp Out – and set up in front of the stage with no drum-riser or access to the ego ramp. We disguised ourselves, put on dodgy London accents and did that classic thing of giving out about the headliners – ‘The fucking singer in fucking Def Leppard won’t let me use the ego ramp. Fuck him!’ Most people knew it was a joke, but the very close companion of one of our guests –

I’m not going to name them! – was totally taken in and said afterwards, ‘I don’t know how you put up with that asshole support band slagging you off!’ We did stuff like ‘Morning Freedom’, which was the B-Side of ‘Hello America’ in 1980 and High & Dry’s ‘On Through The Night’, which we’d never played live before. U2 should do it!”

Having clocked up such serious mileage with their bands, most singers would try and beat that record by spending more than 23 nights in the same bed, but not Joe whose idea of taking it easy is going out on tour this month with Down ‘N’ Outz whose once-off paying tribute to Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople has turned into a parallel career.

“I didn’t set out in 2009 to start another band because I was bored or woke up one morning thinking, ‘Def Leppard just doesn’t offer me enough,’” he reflects. “What happened is I got an email in February that year from Ian’s wife Trudi, which just had ‘Shhhh!’ as the title. She says, ‘Mott The Hoople are getting back together in October’. I’m like, ‘Oh shit!’ and send an email out to everyone in Leppardland going, ‘Don’t book any gigs for October. I’m not doing them. I’m gonna go watch.’ I naively thought they’d want me to introduce them but it was, ‘No, you’re opening on the final night.’ I’m like, ‘Def Leppard? That’s not going to work.’ Trudi says, ‘The Quireboys have offered their services’ and I’m thinking, ‘Okay, that works because they don’t sound anything remotely like my band. They’re The Faces, Mott and the Stones all rolled into one. Tight but loose. Great, this’ll be fine.’ We came up with the idea of doing the songs the various Mott The Hoople members did after they split. Sort of like if The Beatles magically reformed and Jeff Lynne came out and warmed the crowd up with ‘Live And Let Die’, ‘It Don’t Come Easy’, ‘Imagine’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’.

“It was meant to be a one-off, but afterwards in the Hammersmith Apollo bar we had people coming up to us crying because they never thought they’d hear ‘Overnight Angels’ and ‘Shouting And Pointing’ on the same stage again. One lad said, ‘Please record these songs. Tell the world they exist.’ So we did! Three albums and several tours later, it’s taken on a life of its own, which is as satisfying to me as Def Leppard is. Those songs are in my DNA and I love, love playing ‘em as you’ll see when we hit Belfast and Dublin before Christmas.”

Down ‘N’ Outz give their The Further Adventures Of... album a live airing in the Limelight, Belfast (December 17) and The Academy, Dublin (18).

See for info on Louder.

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