Amid the Hamilton mania that has made the show a phenomenon, some of the cast members have found ways off the stage to reach new fans of the Broadway hit outside of the typical theater community. With help from the "Happy Hour Guys," a video serieshosted by Broadway actors Jimmy Ludwig and Mark Aldrich, Hamilton cast members Javier Muñoz, Kamille Upshaw and David Guzman have helped create Rise Up Rye, the inaugural craft beer from the Broadway Brews Project.
"Broadway and craft [beer] are both such creative industries, and they take enormous risks," Ludwig says of the combination. "You put together an idea of something and then you pray."
Ludwig and Aldrich realized how their craft beer fandoms aligned while running in the same circle of Broadway performers. They joined forces on "Happy Hour Guys" soon after, and they've released over 300 videos of them trying out various brews. Finally combining their two passions, the pair saw a collaboration with the cast of Hamilton — a show that has not only taken a unique spin on American history and theater but has also reached beyond fans of the medium — as the perfect fit.
"They reached out to us," explains Guzman, a new addition to the show's ensemble along with Upshaw. Together with Muñoz, the alternate for the show's title role who has performed for the Obamas and Beyoncé, the trio jumped at the chance and were involved in every step of the brewing process.
"They had a lot of ideas as to what they wanted to see and what they thought would work and what 'their people' would want," says Dave Lopez, the co-owner of Gun Hill Brewing, which produces Rise Up Rye.
"That was the coolest day, I think, of all of this is that we got to go to the brewery, we got to handle the hops and put them in and see the whole process and be there for the day," Muñoz says.
Gun Hill Brewing happened to be a natural fit for this project. Not only is its aesthetic one that recalls 18th-century America, but it also already produced a beer inspired by the Schuyler family, who play a central role in the tale of Alexander Hamilton, since he married one of their daughters. The family's matriarch, who burned her husband's wheat crops to keep the British from harvesting them, inspired Schuyler's American Wheat.
Rise Up Rye will also pay tribute to the Schuyler family, with proceeds from the beer being donated to Graham Windham, the private orphanage Eliza Schuyler launched as a tribute to her husband, Hamilton. "To see the proceeds from this and a lot of things that we do go towards that, it's inspiring," Upshaw says.
Only one batch of Rise Up Rye has been brewed and bottled, and it's only available in a few locations around the city as well as at the Gun Hill's Bronx location. A limited number of 16-ounce tall boy cans of the beer will be available at the concession stand in the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where Hamilton is performed nightly, at the end of June.
"It's just the beginning," Ludwig reveals. "It's only the first Broadway Brew. I'm hoping that in a couple years, we'll have the whole Broadway six-pack, with six different beers from six different shows."