a beer that tastes like houston
A party to celebrate an art exhibition immediately conjures images of well-dressed people standing around sipping wine, but that won’t be the case this Saturday, November 5 at Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts. Instead, attendees at Saturday night’s Urban Nights: A Communal Art Experience will be drinking a very special beer.
The Moody Center invited Emeka Ogboh, a Nigerian-born, Berlin-based artist whose lightbox work Spirit and Matter is featured at the center, to collaborate with local brewery Astral Brewing on Japa, a stout that’s intended to capture the flavors of Houston. The result is a beer that has smoky, spicy, and sweet flavors.
“I do a lot of work around beer,” Ogboh tells CultureMap. “Most times, people see beer as just something for consumption, but I see it more like an entry point.”
In this case, the beer serves as an entry point for how Houston’s Nigerian community feels about their adopted city. Before creating the beer, Ogboh distributed a survey to members of the local Nigerian community. One of the questions asked respondents to describe the flavor they most associate with Houston.
“That is a tough one. How do you summarize a city in one flavor,” Ogboh acknowledges. “Savory and spicy were at the top of the list. A lot of people said ‘diverse,’ which is not really a flavor. It’s saying Houston is not bland.”
Ogboh and Astral Brewing brewmaster Ian McDonald tasting Japa.Photo courtesy of Astral Brewing/Moody Center
The name “Japa” has meaning, too. Taken from the Yoruba language, it’s the term Nigerians use to describe someone who immigrates to another country, a group that includes Ogboh’s brother and his family.
“That is the story of Nigerians in Houston” Ogboh says. “We are here as economic migrants. It’s better opportunities for them. They come for school or to work.”
“Emeka does super interesting work,” adds Astral co-founder José Ceja. “It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to work with someone outside our comfort zone.”
In addition to tasting of Japa, the Urban Nights party will feature food trucks, dance, art installations, and a performance by Houston hip hop artist Lil’ Flip. It’s presented in celebration of the the center’s latest exhibit, Urban Impressions: Experiencing the Global Contemporary Metropolis. On display through mid-December, Urban Impressions explores how people experience cities in the 21st century.
As for Japa, the stout will be available at the Moody Center while supplies last.
The Urban Nights party happens from 6-10 pm Saturday, November 5. For a complete list of performers, please see the Moody Center's website.