22 Apr 2012

Hertog Jan Pilsener and Agalloch @ Roadburn 2012


The beer

This post could be about any beer.

There’s no reason for this selection other than the fact it was the closest at hand. I’ll explain later.

Hertog Jan (‘Duke John’) is a Dutch brewery I know very little about.

The brand is owned by the InBev behemoth.

I believe I’m drinking the Pilsener. Out of a plastic cup.





















It’s gold and highly carbonated.

It smells of nothing and tastes very slightly sweet. There’s an allusion to Saaz at the end, but nothing more than that.


The performance

Agalloch are from Portland, Oregon.



















They are essentially a black metal band, but draw on a range of influences, like folk and post-rock, to create their vast, sweeping sound.

I’m at Roadburn, an annual celebration of music that takes place in Tilburg, in the Netherlands.

This is my second year in attendance; Agalloch are the first band I’m seeing.


The match

I left London at 9am this morning. It’s now around 5pm, I’ve just arrived at the 013, and Agalloch, one of the bands I’m most keen to see, are on in ten minutes.

I ditch my travelling companions, none of whom are that bothered about this band and have other priorities, and make my way to the main stage.

First things first though, I need a beer. I’m not standing watching a band for an hour without a beer in hand. That would be wrong.

Unfortunately, this venue doesn’t accept money. You have to exchange your real money for fake plastic money. I’m sure there’s a good reason for this.

Mission Token Acquire complete, I head to the bar.

I know Agalloch are likely to start with They Escaped the Weight of Darkness from their most recent – and in my opinion best – album, Marrow of the Spirit, and I want to be there from the start to bear witness.

There are a few familiar, but not massively appealing, bottles in the fridge, but I don’t know Hertog Jan, so I decide to give it a whirl.

I make my way to the main stage, find a good spot and await noise.

I don’t wait long.

If you like the sound a guitar makes, I can’t see why you wouldn’t like Agalloch.

Intricate melodies and harmonies build up a dream-like swell that sends me flying over Cascadian mountain ranges.

They have such an incredible sense of scale and scope that must surely come from inhabiting an area surrounded by such epic, natural beauty.

I’m craving something from Deschutes.

Instead I have to make do with something fairly insipid.

But that doesn’t matter.

I’m drinking a beer, getting lost in the sounds of an amazing band, at an incredible music festival that is almost tailor-made to my tastes.

And I’ve only been here twenty minutes.

8 Apr 2012

Odell Red Ale and A$AP Rocky

The beer

Odell Red Ale isn’t red.

















Certainly not in this picture, but not in real life either.

It’s dark copper, slightly murky, with a not-quite-white head.

It smells like Marmite, piles of damp leaves circa 21 October and a twist of lemon.

Pink grapefruit tells your mouth it’s morning, too much brown sugar in your coffee sets you up for the rest of the day.

Exceptional.


The rapper

I hate it when the masses start getting into something I like.

If we acknowledge the scientific fact that the vast majority of humans on this planet are so incredibly stupid and utterly devoid of taste that they must be a separate species to me, then you will understand that when something I believe to be of genuine quality attains popular status I get deeply annoyed.

A$AP Rocky is being hyped to death right now. Stop it. You’re ruining it for me.


















My music tastes are diverse. Hardcore punk, black metal, hip-hop and all sorts of weird ambient rubbish.

Aren't I an interesting, middle-class, down-with-the-kids Guardian reader?

I started listening to A$AP early last year, when I realised cloud rap connected with me. Main Attraktionz, rather than a magazine article, hooked me up.

What I like about A$AP's music is the space. The dreaminess. Those keys.

It takes me somewhere. Elevates my mind in the way only music can.

A$AP is at his best is when he works with Clams Casino, the producer that doesn’t seem to want to be a producer forever.

LiveLoveA$AP is real good. I’m irritated by the fact that simpletons enjoy it.


The match

This post is about two things: hype and colour.

Well, it's actually about one thing: drinking a great beer while listening to music I like, but my mind is wandering.

Hype comes in two forms for me: 1) the kind I can ignore because it’s about something so obviously rubbish, and 2) the kind that interferes with my life because it’s about something I like.

There’s all sorts of nuances and tipping points involved with 2) that I can’t really get into here, but needless to say I’m a deeply unlikeable person that can’t take recommendations well.

I worry this will happen with good beer. I want to promote it – but I don’t want cretins to like it and taint it with their idiocy.

Now onto colour – A$AP Rocky’s music is drenched in purple.

How can sounds be saturated with colour? Why purple? Er, I couldn't possibly say...

As I mentioned above, Odell Red Ale is not really red.

It references and evokes red. Without really being red as we think of red.

Synesthesia, wassup?

Embrace beer's full range of sensory experiences. Listen to A$AP.

7 Apr 2012

Squatters Wee Peat Scottish Ale, Red Rock Brewing Nut Brown Ale and Salt Lake City

The beer

Squatters Wee Peat Scottish Ale appears in an enticing mahogany brown shade.

There’s little in terms of aroma, but that’s probably because I’m sweltering next to the kitchen in a brewpub, and my nostrils are ruined by a million competing aromas, one of which is my own sweat.

Then bang – a whole load of woodchip, soil and peat are thrown into my mouth, rounded out by some toffee sweetness.





















Red Rock Brewing Nut Brown Ale is maroon like antique furniture. Shiny, like it’s just been polished.





















Baked bread aromas, the kind pumped out by supermarkets to get you to buy stuff, are instantly recognisable.

Then wallop – hop smack to the face. You just got knocked the fuck out.

Barman says ‘it’s American style’ in reaction to my facial expression.

Yeah, I can dig, I’m cool, I’m down with ultra-hopped beers. Listen, I’ve taken 1000 IBUs and smiled. I just wasn’t expecting that kinda bitterness in a nut brown ale, okay?

The merest hint of caramel sweetness calms me down.


The city

I’ve banged on enough about Salt Lake City already.





















Just in case it’s not clear: I like the place.

Mountains, beer and friendly vibes. If you think those things suck then don’t read what I write.

If you want to learn more, the internet will help you.


The match

This is my fourth post about Salt Lake City; that’s as many as I’ve written about Bruges.

And I could have written a few more.

Like my time at the ski resort, sliding about in a tweed blazer and a pair of Grenson’s, convinced I was Hugh Grant starring in a film about a foppish Englishman up a US mountain, imagining I was using my charm and boyish good looks to win over the locals, all the while drinking Uinta Brewing Yard Sale Winter Lager.

For that performance I received the prestigious Most Inappropriately-Dressed Man Up A Mountain Ever Award.

I’d like to thank God. Without Him, none of this would have been possible. Oh, and my agent, my management, and everyone at beerandlifematching.com. I love you guys.

Or I could have written about the conference I was at. The conference that served free local craft beer pretty much non-stop. When I think about the corporate events I’ve been to where there’s been unlimited free warm Beck’s...

But that’s enough now; the rest of the memories are just for me.

The final thing I want to communicate about Salt Lake City and beer is this: service.

Exceptional service.

I know the US has a service culture, and those involved in the service industry over there are dependent on tips blah blah yawn blah.

Don’t care.

Americans understand service and why it’s important. Especially in bars.

The reason I’ve covered two brewpubs’ beers in this post is because the service – and genuine friendliness – at both locations was so beyond what I usually encounter it needed documenting.

It was the same everywhere I went.

US-style beer bars don't really work in the UK.

Why?

Well, because actual US bars have decent table service. That’s why there can be stools running along the length of the bar with dudes sitting there all night. You don’t need to go to the bar to get served.

The way to get served in British pubs is so removed from that, so deeply ingrained in British culture, that it just does not translate.

Let’s just have great pubs that serve outstanding beer in a way we all understand, and leave the US beer bar experience to the people who know how to make it work.



6 Apr 2012

Epic Brewing Sour Apple Saison and Beer in the Beehive

The beer

Glistening pale gold with a cirrus cloud-streak of white across its horizon, Sour Apple Saison is an instantly-appealing proposition.

















There’s a suggestion of haze, but nothing more.

Held at arm’s length you still succumb to its intense fragrance –mulled wine, cinnamon, apple, and star anise.

I’m drinking Release #9, and it comes as no surprise that it’s spiced with 'ground Ginger, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Anise Seed, Grains of Paradise and Coriander'.

They’re all there in the mouth too, along with honey sweetness and a crisp snap of marmalade at the end.

It’s a lot to deal with, but there are no unpleasant spikes in the flavour profile. Nothing dominates, nothing overpowers.

Those spices are truly blended, and as your palate adjusts to cope, you can sit back, relax and simply enjoy this unique, distinctive beer.


The book

Like Greg Schrif, who I referenced in my last post about Salt Lake City, Del Vance is a figure central to Utah’s compelling beer story.

In Beer in the Beehive he documents that story.





















Del co-founded Uinta Brewing in 1994, producers of Utah’s most popular craft beer.

In 2001, he co-founded the Bayou, where I ate outstanding Cajun-style food and sampled a number of beers from an incredible list.

His latest venture – the Beerhive – is one of the best beer bars I've ever been to. Seriously.

So he knows what he’s talking about.

And his knowledge is revealed as he unveils the richness of Utah’s beer history – a tale that is as fascinating as any the world has to offer.


The match

It’s all too easy to dismiss America’s brewing history as a footnote to its European origins.

There are no ancient civilisations, no monasteries and no Reinheitsgebots.

But there is the foundation of a new land, migration, and most crucially, prohibition – a beast that still casts its shadow across the land – that mark it out as a separate entity.

Then there’s the more recent history, centred on the rise of the monolithic brewery and the craft-beer resistance movement at the end of the last century.

I was bewildered by Salt Lake City’s beer scene when I arrived. It was richer and more vibrant than I could have possibly imagined.

Every sliver of information that I stumbled across, and every new beer bar I passed, gave me a thirst to learn more.

And to drink more beer, obviously.

I bought Beer in the Beehive at Epic Brewing’s Tap-less Tap Room, just as they were closing up for the night, in order to satiate this thirst for more information.

Epic Brewing aren’t mentioned in the book.

Why?

Because they are the most recent chapter in Utah’s ever-evolving beer story.

In 2008, Utah law changed to allow a microbrewery to brew strong beers of the type Epic specialise in.

Bizarre zoning and licensing laws mean that Epic cannot open a brewpub on their existing site (if I’ve interpreted the situation correctly).

I cannot begin to really explain how gripped I am by all of this.

Salt Lake City is such an exciting place to drink beer. Beer in the Beehive is the perfect accompaniment.

1 Apr 2012

Wasatch Beers Polygamy Porter and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The beer

Wasatch Beers Polygamy Porter looks like Coca-Cola.





















The merest hint of carbonation and a barely perceivable off-white head enhance the illusion.

The smell of burnt toast shatters it.

It’s relatively thin-bodied, with an ABV 1.4% lower than my Fuller’s London Porter benchmark of 5.4% (there’s a reason for the 4% ABV, which I’ll cover in a future post).

So it’s not quite got the complexity or richness of the World’s Third Greatest Porter According to Ratebeer®, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable.

Subdued roast coffee flavours mix pleasantly enough with a suggestion of caramelised sugar.

Let’s face it though; it’s all about that name really, isn’t it?


The Christian primitivist movement

You’ve probably heard of Mormons, but I’d hazard a guess that most secular people, particularly in Europe, know little about their history or beliefs.

Whatever your take on religion, the story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is a fascinating one.
















One full of unique perspectives on the mainstream Christian narrative, of ‘battles’ and ‘wars’, of persecution, of arduous migration, and, ultimately, of settlement and the foundation of a city.

And one that does have a relationship – well, more of an intertwinement – with beer.

Key to understanding this entanglement is knowledge of the Word of Wisdom, a code practised by LDS devotees that warns against consumption of alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea and tobacco.


The match

Greg Schrif, founder of the Schrif Brewing Company, Wasatch Beers and key partner in the Utah Brewers Cooperative, has a story that to me is every bit as enthralling as that of the LDS.

One that’s forever defined by interactions with the LDS.

In some ways it weirdly mirrors some aspects of their tale.

Greg changed laws. Changed laws.

When he set out in 1985 to open Utah’s first brewery since the last closed in 1967, the forms didn’t exist at the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that would allow him to do so.

Brewpubs were illegal in Utah until Greg came along. Illegal.

He faced down Mormon legislators who seemed determined to halt his progress.

Sitting in a specialist beer bar in Salt Lake City, a city founded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, drinking a beer that pokes a bit of fun at Mormon practices is a truly a distinctive experience, one that can’t be replicated anywhere else.

It’s my first evening in this city and I’m both bewildered and giddy with excitement.

I’m reading a local entertainment guide. Its cover reads ‘How Beer Saved Utah’.

I have no idea what’s going on at this point.

I haven’t covered the story of either The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or Greg Schrif in any detail in this post – there just isn’t the room to do either justice.

I hope this entry inspires people to read more about both subjects.