photo: Bob Tilden
by: Brad Jackson
If there is one person who embodies Texas as a spirit, a people, a nation, it’s Willie Nelson. The man is literally a living legend. It doesn’t matter who you are, politician, celebrity, average Joe—when you’re in the presence of Willie, when you get a chance to see him perform, it’s amazing.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Willie Nelson perform many times, most recently with The Federalist’s own Ben Domenech at last year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. That day Willie was joined on stage by a dozen people, including other musicians who were performing at the festival, his family, and the man who serves as his unofficial sidekick, the man who introduced him to the tens of thousands of people in the crowd, Matthew McConaughey.
The musicians who joined Willie on stage, including Margo Price and Nathaniel Rateliff, sang along on several songs. He went well past his allotted time singing encore after encore, but no one stopped him, because he’s Willie. It was an incredible show!
One of Willie’s best songs is a duet with another music legend, the one and only Ray Charles. “Seven Spanish Angels” is a classic the duo first recorded in the 1980s. An old-school country ballad, the song tells the story of bandits trying to evade the law. The couple is on the run in Mexico and in a last-stand gunfight they know they can’t win. Instead of being taken back to Texas, they go down in a blaze of glory. As Willie and Ray Charles tell it:
There were seven Spanish angels
At the altar of the sun
They were prayin’ for the lovers
In the valley of the gun
When the battle stopped and the smoke cleared
There was thunder from the throne
And seven Spanish angels
Took another angel home
It’s one of the saddest country songs you’ve ever heard, and the two music legends sing it so well. It’s a song that deserves a toast to the lovers brave enough to go down guns blazing, to be together forever “at the altar of the sun,” and thanks to Brazos Valley Brewing Company, there is the perfect beer to do that: Seven Spanish Angels Coffee Ale.
I’ve talked about coffee beers before, but what makes this one different is the base it is built upon. Most coffee beers are porters or stouts, but this one is a brown ale. The brewery worked with Independence Coffee Company to combine their cold-brewed pecan coffee with this “bitchin’ brown ale” to create a coffee ale that is lighter, brighter, and easier to drink than most coffee beers. It’s cold-brew coffee and beer, not a heavy beer with coffee, and I like it a lot. Shiner also has a beer out right now that incorporates cold-brew coffee, but this one is better.
Brazos Valley Brewing Company is from Brenham, Texas. You may know Brenham as the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream. If you don’t have Blue Bell in your local grocery store, I weep for you. It is some of the best ice cream on God’s green earth, and that comes from someone who used to manage an ice cream store (of another brand) in high school.
I made ice cream every day, and I never made any as good as Blue Bell’s. Their cookie dough ice cream is the best you’ll find, and Brenham is their home. It’s a little town between College Station and Houston, in Southeast Texas. A small but growing community of salt of the earth people, they know their ice cream and their beer.
Brazos Valley Brewing doesn’t only make good beer, they make beautiful beer cans. The artwork on the Seven Spanish Angels beer is amazing. It depicts a woman with long hair, feather earrings, and a green checked shirt holding a rifle, ready for a showdown. It’s easy to phone it in with some boring Bud- or Coors-style artwork on a beer can or bottle label these days, but with Seven Spanish Angels, Brazos Valley Brewing doesn’t just give you a beer you can enjoy drinking, it also gives you a can that is so pretty it’s a shame to put it in a koozie.
As you listen to Nelson sing the sad tale of lovers who rose to “the altar of the sun,” raise a can of Seven Spanish Angels to salute one of America’s greatest musicians with a sip of some great Texas beer. Cheers!