In Madison's DIY climate, fusing passions can often lead to unexpectedly exciting collaboration. In the case of Purple Haus, all it took was a fresh look and a combination that's universal: music and beer. Randall Stewart, Adam Macintosh and Brian Kaphingst met as Madison Media Institute students who'd taken a leap of faith, leaving dead-end jobs to pursue their dreams of making music. It just so happened that they also liked making beer.
"We were in all the same classes together, and we were really into homebrewing," Stewart recalls. "One day it just kind of came to us: Why don't we have a brewery inside of a recording studio?"
Macintosh, who has been a musician since the age of 4, says, "I started brewing four years ago when my mom got me a homebrew kit for Christmas. One day while I was going to school with these guys I asked, 'Hey, you guys wanna help me brew?' We were in every single class together, and we just clicked on projects."
The seed had been planted, Stewart recalls, by the time the trio graduated in February 2012. "When it was time for our practicum, we thought, 'Can we logistically do [a studio and brewery]? Why not?' We've been trying to push it ever since, and it's been a crazy ride so far."
Currently, since Purple Haus is a limited liability company but not a licensed brewery, the team are spreading the word by sharing homebrew samples at events they call "Ear Tastings." The events feature live performances by the bands Purple Haus works with, accompanied by homebrew samples.
Eventually, Stewart says, "The main plan is to have a brewery, but ultimately we're focused on making a name for ourselves. Whether it's just a brewery, or just a studio, or whatever we can do, we're cool with rolling with the punches and just making it happen."
He adds, "When I first thought of this, I thought, let's have a house for recording so bands can stay for a week, a month, whatever they need, and we'll have a brewery downstairs in the basement. And slowly but surely, that's becoming a reality."
The recording side is already well under way, thanks to the team's expertise. Before studying at the Media Institute all three of the guys had been playing with sound for years, trying to fit in time for music amid the daily grind. Kaphingst and Macintosh moved into the Purple Haus, located on the east side, two years ago.
"We'd coined the name when we moved in. I mean, we were in a purple house," Kaphingst says, laughing.
The place, though small, suited their recording needs, and there was a basement for homebrewing.
"We had a few layout ideas for the house, and we realized we could also do mobile stuff. We were also homebrewing here, and the brainstorming just grew," says Macintosh. "You know when you get a yeast smack pack, you get it going, and it just takes off? It was like that."
So far, the Purple Haus team have recorded music by bands such as the Family Business and the Yes Yes Yesses (a Yeah Yeah Yeahs tribute band). They've also offered their beer, which has included a habanero wit and a hoppy cream ale, at multiple local events. They're in the process of getting the word out about their beer, their goals, and the advantages of their recording equipment and setup, including the mobility to come to bands' spaces and record, if desired.
When the team tested their samples on Frequency owner Darwin Sampson, he offered them an outlet for live performances. "Darwin likes our beer, and he was all about the Ear Tasting idea," says Macintosh. "Essentially, we book the bands, and each one will be paired with a different beer."
The next Ear Tasting will be at the Frequency on Friday, Aug. 30, at 8 p.m., featuring the Family Business.
As their plans go into action, the Purple Haus team remain mindful of their less tangible goal: to be a force for good in the music scene.
"We'd like to have high school students come check it out, use our space," says Stewart. "There are so many people who went through that phase of trying to do it on your own, but to have that guiding force, to show you that it can be done, is invaluable."