In March 2018, John Pedigo of local folk duo the O’s released a new album with a new band under a new name. Inspired by the home-brewed beer his father crafted in the family garage and kitchen when Pedigo was a little boy well below the legal drinking age, Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner, the album that shares the name of the band, is a country-rock gem Pedigo felt compelled to record following his father’s death from cancer in 2017.
The record was but one part of the overall tribute Pedigo envisioned. After teaming with Oak Cliff Brewing Company, Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner is set to see a grand new life as a local craft beer.
“This was the plan from the get-go,” Pedigo says about finding a way to release the new beer. “While I didn’t actually drink his beer, I was on his bowling team of the same name on and off for years along with my brothers and my mom. His garage beer is a part of the fabric of my upbringing, so doing this was only natural.”
Though Pedigo was too young to be an active participant in his father’s brewing passion, he remembers that while his dad loved doing it, he wasn’t necessarily an award-winning artisan. In describing his father, Pedigo says his dad, a chemist who owned his own medical supply company, was closer to the meth-cooking genius Walter White of Breaking Bad than to, say, beloved local brewery owner Michael Peticolas.
“He was incredibly ahead of his time,” Pedigo says of his father. “Literally no one made home beer back in the day. Now, I imagine there’s a guy on every neighborhood block that makes beer in his garage like it’s no big deal. His had sediment and he bottled it in old Lone Star bottles with random caps. To give an example, he brought a sixer of his beer to a house party and returned a year later to find his beer still sitting there unopened. People thought he was nuts.”
Pedigo adds that this new take on the family beer likely “isn’t very close to the regional,” simply because Oak Cliff “was going for something with actual drinkability.”
To be sure, home brewing wasn’t the mainstream, big-business hobby it is today. And even if it had been, it seems more than likely Pedigo’s dad wouldn’t have shelled out the dough for a fancy pre-packaged kit to make the process any easier. Pedigo remembers “some truly janky-ass gear, and some level of nefarious-looking gadgetry” filling up the family garage-cum-brewhouse. The younger Pedigo suspects some of the same gear used to make blood agar plates might’ve been employed as brewing equipment, but he’s not totally sure.
“He tried many times to make it, but there was no information out there to learn the ‘right’ way,” he says. “We’re talking late-‘70s and early-’80s. It wasn’t like he could Google ‘home beer making’ to figure it out. He found some random paper pamphlet that showed him a technique that he was basing it off of.”
Todd Holder of Oak Cliff Brewing is a local music fan who connected with Pedigo through mutual friends. He was excited about collaborating on a beer and music project, in part because he has enjoyed what he’s tasted from the beloved Toadies beers that Martin House Brewing in Fort Worth has offered in recent years. He wanted to honor the accessible spirit of the original Pedigo concoction with the non-craft drinker in mind, while, you know, making sure it would be drinkable.
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“I drink a lot of non-craft beer,” Holder says. “Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner, the beer, is very much in that same vein of the mass-produced domestic lagers, but we are using 100% German pilsner malt, so no corn, syrups or rice.”
All in all, Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner, the band, the record and now the local craft beer, make for a highly personal, artistically well-rounded and aptly rabble-rousing collection of tribute projects to a man local music fans can feel as though we know, simply by enjoying the creative output of his talented son. Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner performs this Thursday night at Sundown at the Granada for the release of Oak Cliff Brewing’s Pedigo’s Magic Pilsner.
Perhaps there will be another delicious tribute in the future. According to Pedigo, his dearly departed dad tinkered with something else in the kitchen, and with more success than he had with his quirky bottles of suds. In fact, it's something that seems like it's just as much a natural fit as beer and country music.
“At some point, he moved to making his own pizzas from scratch and really nailed that,” Pedigo says. “His pizza was truly legendary.”