There are so many intersections between art and alcohol that an attempt to depict them visually would be an artistic endeavor in and of itself. Words and flavors are my medium, not oils, so this week we'll explore the nexus of art and beer. I'll sample beers from several breweries that are on the cutting edge of fusing beer and art. My notes this week view the brewer as an artist, and the beer as an intentional statement. Cheers!
Collective Arts Ransack the Universe (Hamilton, Ontario)
Brewery Statement: “ Our co-founders Matt and Bob started Collective Arts for their love of art, beer, and music. Whether a craft beer drinker is already integrated into the creative consciousness or not, the goal is to get the drinker inspired by the art/music, create a vehicle to introduce drinkers and artists, and simply bring more creativity into the world!”
Artist: The can features the song “Won't Keep Me Up at Night” by Sun Seeker, off their album “Biddeford.”
Critique: The Ransack pours a hazy yellow, with a puffy pillow of white foam. Both are reminiscent of the opening notes of the song, whose judicious use of phasing and fuzz effects creates a lazy atmosphere. The first sip combines apricot, tangerine and pineapple with notes of asphalt, skunk and herbs. The contrast between the tropical fruit flavors and the darker, earthier flavors echoes the lyrics, whose breezy delivery belie a more complex and slightly sinister meaning. Like the song, the beer loose steam after a strong introduction. The aftertaste is one long, slow fade out into a fuzzy of fruity static.
Dogfish Head Mixed Media (Milton, DE)
Brewery Statement: "By blending the two seemingly opposite worlds of beer and wine together we’ve discovered that they collide quite nicely, and the combination of the two adds an additional thread of flavor and a layer of complexity to the mix.""
Tasting Notes: Pollock's paintings and Escher's drawings questioned the limits of two-dimensional mediums. Similarly, Sam Calagione's beers stretch the traditional limitations of the brewer's medium. The Mixed Media pours a pale yellow with a abundant bubbles and no head. The aroma is a delicious fusion of Viognier grapes and Belgian basements. The initial sip is a palate challenger. The light, limpid body and grape acidity screams "wine," but the Belgian yeast character and malty sweetness murmurs "beer." The dichotomy of flavors raises questions abut the line between beers and wines. Many Belgian beers are served in huge bottles, corked, and muttered over in a stuffy, erudite way, like wines, while many wines are quaffed out of juice glasses for refreshment alone. Perhaps the separation between these beverages is narrower than we assume?
Untitled Art Grisette (Madison, WI)
Brewery Statement: “I grew tired of kitschy names and long back stories. It's exhausting and silly. You write a description of the beer on the bottle, and you're telling the consumer what to think about the beer. I wanted to remove all that, and let consumers decide what to think. You can infer what you want, but it's up to you to make up your mind.”
Critique: Pours a cloudy yellow with a dreamy pillow of white foam. The aroma mingles pine cones and wet wood. The first sip combines bracing acidity and a savory lick of salt. Dried citrus and basil soar in after the snappy opening — an unconventional interpretation of the style. Indeed, interpretation is key in appreciating this style. First, because Grisette was "lost" for so long that all modern Grisettes are, by definition, approximations of a lost archetype. Second, evidence suggests that Grisettes were not unlike modern mass-market lagers, a blank canvas upon which drinkers projected their own expectations. In an ironic deviation, Levi Funk pumps up the hop flavor and acidity of his beer, perhaps in defiance of the original limits of the style. Despite professing a fondness for a blank canvass, Funk is either too talented, or too opinionated, to produce an inoffensive, tasteless beer.