30 Sept 2012

Alesmith Wee Heavy and Loss’s Despond

The beer 

Wee Heavy is not about colour. Ignore how it looks.

It smells like Heaney’s The Tollund Man.  All peat, bog and ancestry.

Beers that smell like this generally taste like the worst available whisky available to man.

Not this beer.

You wait for, anticipate the brutality, but it never comes.

Peat aromas are such an indicator of impending harshness that when sweet smoothness unfurls, complimented by subtle wood-chip chewiness, you feel at one with the trees, at one with the hills.

At one with everything that grows.

This is the beer that you want to tell the world about. To shake them until they listen.

There are no banal flavour specifics to go into here.

Articulate infinity. Define existence.

Language does not account for these things.

The album 

I don’t like to think about what music is.

I cannot comprehend how it evolved.

I am unable to explain what a profound effect it has on me. Sometimes it feels like all I am.

When I discover a band or artist that instantly forges a connection with my psyche, with my very being, it scares and delights me in equal measure.

Scares because I'm not sure where it will lead me, delights because it confirms that there is something more.

Loss’s Despond ticks all of those bizarre boxes.

I don’t imagine for a minute this is an album for everyone.

The growled – not shouted, not screamed – vocals will turn off pretty much everyone not well versed in heavy music.

I would hope the enlightened few might persevere, because is the music I've been looking for for a while.

Funeral doom meets blues meets the void.

Ultra melodic, super harmonic, guitar-centred misery.

The match

Contrast is often used as a device in song writing.

Quiet / loud is the most obvious example to cite, but there are plenty of others, such as fast / slow or melodic / discordant.

Loss’s Despond is relentlessly miserable and slow. But there is a contrast at work to great effect: that of beauty and sadness.

In this case a fragile, delicate beauty and a vast, endless sadness.

These two words are not antonyms, but they are opposing sensations that should feel very different.

They are, however, entangled. It seems to me neither can exist outside the context of the other.

It seems natural to behold both at the very same moment. I believe it may be something to do with the human condition

There’s a fleeting line in American Splendor which tells me I'm not alone in thinking this:

“Life seemed so sweet and so sad...and so hard to let go of in the end.”

And, without wanting to force a point or belittle the concepts I've named here, so it is with beer in a way.

The never-ending, perpetually-doomed affair of the bitter and the sweet.

Folded-armed, refusing to look at one another one minute, a naked, swirling embrace of passion the next.

Sometimes one the more dominant, sometimes the other. Sometimes equals.

Contrasting and complementary all at the same time.

The essence of what great beer is and the defining quality that Wee Heavy has in bucket-loads.

9 Sept 2012

Abbaye des Rocs Blanche des Honnelles and GBBF 2012

The beer

I’ve never had a bad Abbaye des Rocs beer.

Never had one I didn’t want to finish. Never had one I wouldn’t have again.

For some reason, in the context of beer, that seems an important point.

But Blanche des Honnelles is the first of their beers that has inspired me to put finger to keyboard.

Some beers interact with light in such a way that you can lose yourself in a spectrum of colours (okay, a spectrum of orangey browns).

This beer, however, has an impenetrable orange solidity.

One colour. Unchanging. Fuck light.

Have you ever frozen banana slices?

If not, you may not recognise the aroma this beer gives off.

Though you may recognise the whiff of booze, which is a bit odd given its 6% ABV.

I’m no wit connoisseur, but when a wit is right it refreshes the body, soul and mind in a way few other beers can.

This, this is right.

I’m not really sure how a beer can be ‘clean’, but there is no other word available in the English language that so succinctly describes the first time your mouth is introduced to Blanche des Honnelles.

If that was all there was, I’d be happy enough.

So when further complexity begins to emerge like a piece of paper unfolding for eternity my brain feels like it may pop.

Herbs and spices from every corner of the world wink at you from parallel universes as you are pulled into an infinite cosmic spiral.

Then something like blood – iron and raw meat – reminds you of your own physiology.

A hint of honey sweetness in the death throes calms the nerves and returns you to earth.

The event

The Great British Beer Festival took place a month ago.

I am only writing about it now, its status as anything approaching a hot topic a distant memory for most.

I suggest there are two possible reasons for this delayed reaction: a) that I am lazy or b) that there has been so much other stuff going on in my life that I have been physically and psychologically unable to devote the time and mindspace to even contemplate writing about it since my attendance.

In reality, it’s a bit of both, but I would be more comfortable if you went with the latter.

Certainly a lack of time and escalating stress levels hampered my ability to really engage with the event.

I went on the Friday with a few vague acquaintances who don’t know I write this stuff and only attend the event to get blind drunk and shout.

However, if any of you blind drunk shouters happen to stumble across this, please don’t assume I think there’s anything wrong with that.

As soon as I enter I am struck by how much better Olympia is than Earls Court. Oooh, look! Sunlight!! Actual architectural character!!!

As soon as I enter I know I am not in the right place mentally to endure this for more than a couple of hours.

The match

I’m not sure why I didn’t connect with GBBF this year. I feel like a Grinch.

I just wasn’t that interested.

A load of bars serving mediocre beers from around the country.

A German/Czech bar that had run out of anything I was excited about.

A US bar serving high-strength, heavily-hopped IPAs out of casks.

I considered just ploughing through some bottles, but then realised I could actually just drink them at home without being surrounded by cunts in novelty hats and therefore have a much better time.

So I bought every Deschutes and Epic beer available and headed toward the exit.

I stopped off at the Belgian/Italian/Other bar to have one for the road. And I’m so glad I did.

Blanche des Honnelles cut through my disillusionment like a claymore to the neck.

I almost stayed.

Instead I just purchased a few bottles of Blanche des Honnelles and left.