It was raining when Chill Moody arrived at Dock St. Brewery one recent morning to start canning his new beer, but that was no surprise. Downpours have followed the West Philly hip-hop artist for years, often signaling key moments in his career.
“Ninety percent of my outdoor shows are in the rain," he said. Just two days earlier, at a concert on the patio of the City Tap House, he said, “It didn’t start coming down until we took the stage.”
That drizzly Monday in late May marked the release of Moody’s nicethings Cream Ale. It’s his second collaboration with Dock St.; the first, 2016′s nicethings IPA, was a bigger success than expected — the first limited-edition batch sold out immediately, and he and Dock St. ultimately brewed four more. Right away, Moody started thinking about what he wanted his next beer to be.
He decided on cream ale because it’s not traditionally a style he enjoys. “I wanted to challenge myself to make one I did like," he said.
Cream ales are typically pale, light, and golden, like lager. Moody’s, however, has a rosy pink color from blackberry puree. It tastes mellow and refreshing, with a smooth malt flavor. It costs a little less than his IPA did and has a lower ABV to make it appealing for a hot afternoon at a cookout.
Moody has bigger goals: more varieties of beer with distribution beyond the Philadelphia region, his own brewpub with shelf space for local retail brands and a stage for performances, and, ultimately, a local craft beer scene that is populated with more people who look like him.
“I wanted to find a way to combine cultures," Moody said. “Introduce some hip-hop culture into the craft beer scene, which I have done just by being there. At the same time, I wanted to introduce my people to the other side."
Part of that, he said, is opening some people’s eyes to beer that tastes better, and feels better, than the cheap, high-alcohol malt liquor he grew up around.
“On this side, you have a beer with taste and flavors you like. On the other, you’re drinking just to get drunk," he said.
Moody’s foray into brewing comes as craft beer sales are slowing, which some industry experts attribute to a customer base that has remained overwhelmingly white and male. In recent years, craft brewers have begun looking at ways to bring women and people of color into their customer base, and to encourage brewers from more diverse backgrounds to join the industry.
Beer is just one of several side hustles for the 34-year-old Moody, who in addition to his music career runs a music label, consulting firm, and a clothing line under the “nicethings” name. He’s Philadelphia’s music ambassador, a position to which Councilman David Oh appointed him, and serves on the local governing chapter for the Grammy Awards.
Moody grew up not far from Dock St.'s brewery at 50th and Baltimore, attending Masterman and Overbrook High School. He connected with Dock St. after the brewery released a beer inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan, and that led to his first Chill-branded brew.
In order to make the hoppy, pineapple-infused nicethings IPA, Moody spent time at Dock St. learning the process, just as he did this year for his second collaboration. Nicethings IPA launched in 2016 as a limited release, just 16 kegs available only at Dock St. and Heritage in Northern Liberties.
After Heritage kicked two kegs within 24 hours, Moody and the Dock St. brewers ended up making four more batches. After canning it in 2017, the cans went to about 80 bars and stores, including Johnny Brenda’s, Spruce Street Harbor Park, Whole Foods, and MilkBoy. Most of those have long since sold out of their supply.
After some planning, Moody and Dock St. head brewer Mark Russell met in early May to brew the cream ale. On May 28, it was ready for canning, and a day later, it was headed to bars, stores, and restaurants throughout the city.
Within a few weeks of the cream ale’s release, it was in more than 40 locations, including Dock St. — but Moody was confident that number would grow. He’s hosting events this week that will showcase the beer: his own stage on the Benjamin Franklin parkway on July 4, featuring performances by himself and other artists, then a party at Uptown Beer Garden on Saturday.