Hopslam arrived here in frigid Middle Missouri and it brought along with it loads of hype and hops. My love for the beer has cooled but not totally gone cold. I have learned to temper my expectations, not lower them. This is a lesson learned from years of buying records and seeing rock shows. See, this blog’s original premise still works.
See, a beer like Hopslam is almost as much about hype as it is anything else. It’s released only once a year in limited quantities. It’s a beer geek’s beer, loaded with hops and booze. Those bright green labels picturing a poor bloke begin crushed by a giant hop calls craft beer consumers like voiceless sirens. (Can that even work?) The ~$20 makes you think that it’s a big deal. Oh, and it is a pretty good beer.
However, the next Hopslam doesn’t ever taste like the first one. This year’s version never tastes as good as last year’s or the one you drank seven years ago. I don’t know if it’s a problem of drinkers building it up too much in their own minds or something more akin to a heroin addiction. It’s probably a little of both. Either way, the hype and misperception leads to bitter disappointment every time.
Still, Hopslam is an excellent beer. I have come to expect a well-crafted beer that hides an incredible amount of booze while introducing my palate to some sweetness and bitterness without fail. What I don’t expect is the same burst of grapefruit or cat piss or whatever aromas the hops might unleash. It seems that big DIPA’s like this are really dependent on a large amount of hops. If one harvest or another is slightly off or just different in one way or another, the effects are magnified. The beer tastes different every year, but it is always well-brewed and worth a try.
I’m good with Hopslam these days, but that wasn’t always the case. Two or three Hopslams ago, the beer didn’t meet my expectations. I wanted that crazy honey-coated grapefruitiness that smelled of a cat lady’s house sweater I tasted just the year or two before. However, as explained above, the beer was different. On top of this disappointment, I really had to go out of my way to spend a lot of money on beer. Here in Middle Missouri, Hopslam lasts tens of minutes, not days or hours. So, if you want some, you better be prepared to stalk the local beer dealer. Then, you’ll pay $20 a sixer. I used to buy at least two, sometime more. If I had to work that hard and spend that much money on a beer, it better meet my expectations.
Hopslam didn’t meet those expectations. So, something had to change. Last year, I didn’t buy any in bottles, only on tap. The 2-3 Hopslams (plus a bottle from a friend) were more than enough. I didn’t overdo it. I don’t blow a wad of cash. It was a good beer among many. I was satisfied, but my exportations were not lowered as much as they were tempered. “Enjoy the Hopslam, not the Hypeslam” was my new mantra and it worked.
2014’s version rolled out this past week and I welcomed it. I wasn’t going to buy a sixer this year. I have a deal with my mom to grab one in Ohio where it sometimes sits on shelfs for weeks or months. Then, coworkers were running out in the middle of the day to see if the grocery nearby had some Hopslam. I joined them and scored a sixer. One’s enough.
I won’t write a beer review now. You should know that this year’s version is good. I’m glad I bought some and look forward to having more on tap or in a few weeks when my mom delivers the sixer she bought for me.
What I wanted to focus on was the idea of tempering expectations. As I mentioned above, tempering expectations is something I do. However, the ability to do such with beer has been a recent development. No, I’ve been tempering expectations for a long time in terms of what I expect to get from a new record or rock show.
I realize that it’s semantics and someone will undoubtedly argue that tempering expectations is the same as lowering them, but this is my blog post and I say it isn’t the same. Tempering expectations considers contexts and past experiences. It keeps me in the moment and more mindful of what I am experiencing. Tempering expectations doesn’t allow those expectations or preconceived ideas to taint reality. Instead, I can enjoy the experience in real time.
Take Stephen Malkmus’ new album Wig Out at Jagbags as an example. I loved, LOVED Mirror Traffic. My expectations were high for Jagbags, but I realized that this was going to be a different record and it needed its own opportunity to win me over. Of course, the album didn’t have to impress me at all. Malkmus has done enough in Pavement and with Jicks to earn my loyalty. Still, I listened with anticipation. To be honest, the first few listens didn’t impress. It took 3-4 concentrated listens for me to appreciate this record, but I did. Is it as good as Traffic? I don’t know. Does it have to be? All I know is that it’s a good record at this moment and I enjoy listening to it.
See? It’s all about tempering those expectations so that we can enjoy what’s right in front of us. Stay in the moment. This year’s Hopslam doesn’t have to be last year’s or the version bottled six years ago.
I bristled at the idea of writing yet another post about hipsters, but I felt this had to be addressed.
First, let me say that I am decidedly pro-hipster at best or ambivalent toward them at worst. It’s a label placed on certain stereotypes that I don’t feel like getting into at this point. All you should know is that being a hipster is relative and that we’re all hipsters compared to someone.
When I say that craft beer has a “hipster problem”, what I am referring to is a perception of pretentiousness. Hipsters – right or wrong – are seen as pretentious. Whether it’s fashion, music, transportation, decor, or food, “hipster” is considered equivalent to “pretentious douchebag.” So, maybe it’s hipsters with the problem, but I digress.
Craft beer is neither exclusive to hipsters nor pretentious. However, as they say, perception is reality. And the perception is that craft beer is exclusive and loved by snobs. Exclusivity these days is blamed on hipsters for whatever reason.
The actual reality is that craft beer is decidedly not a hipster thing. The movement has been around for a while. The people I connect with craft beer are not very hipster-like. Just within my social circles, craft beer enthusiasts aren’t exactly the hippest lot. This is not a putdown. It’s just a reality. They are mainly white men aged 30-50. Yes, some of them own an Arcade Fire CD. Yes, some will wear ironic t-shirts. However, these are fairly benign practices these days. Ten years ago, they totally would have been hipsters. In 2014, not so much.
Now, a lot of hipsters are getting into craft beer. It’s artisinal. It’s really popular right now. It’s beard friendly. There’s a lot in the craft beer community for hipsters to like. However, when push comes to shove (and as the wallet empties), PBR and Hi-Life aren’t that bad.
Seriously. Craft beer is attractive to the North American Hipster because craft beer tastes good and gets us a little tipsy. That’s basically the same reason we all love it.
The more insidious part of craft beer’s perception problem is the pretentiousness with which the community has been unfairly labeled. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it features exotic flavors and production techniques. Yes, it’s better than what you normally drink. Yes, they have silly names. However, a preference for the finer things does not necessarily mean that one is pretentious.
If anything, craft beer enthusiasts and brewers are some of the least pretentious people I know. They willingly share. They participate in online forums such as this one. They share. They fucking drink beer with you. And they share.
I don’t know how craft beer can fix their “hipster problem.” I suggest we all continue to buy beers for our more skeptical friends and drink an industrial, rice-adjunct lager now and again just to show our more human side. The hipster perception is not a problem. Trust me. But the perception of beer snobbery is and we must do what we can to fix it.
(Maybe I should do the same for indie rock. Right, Taylor Swift?)
Recently, Stephen Malkmus was interviewed by Rolling Stone, closing with the following question and answer after admitting that he doesn’t make playlists “on those evil Spotify places” for his daughters.
RS: You’re anti-Spotify, then?
SM: Definitely. I think it sucks.
I am one of those parents who has made a Spotify playlist for my kid – a mixture of songs I think she should like and songs she actually likes. I use Spotify all the time. It streams throughout my work day, at home, and sometimes on the road. I used to make a daily playlist with the help of my Facebook network and that has turned into its own co-op. And yes, I pay a monthly fee not to hear commercials and to have the service available anywhere I go.
Spotify really is ideal. I don’t have to worry about the longevity and capacity of my iPod. There’s no need to figure out a way to lug my records everywhere. I have a service available to me that pretty much will allow me to discover and peruse almost any artist or band on the planet. Spotify is a fantastic breakthrough in music and technology.
But why do I feel so guilty for using the streaming service?
Well, other than Malk’s reaction to Spotify, there are other reasons I question its ethics. As you may or may not know, I am a big proponent of craft and indie industries, indie-craft, if you will. It irks me to see large corporations like Spotify and record labels profit from the hard work of artists. At the same time, musicians get a tiny cut of what is a billion dollar pot. There are plenty of reasons not to use Spotify.
Lost is the record collecting culture that used to be a huge part of music. Even those brought up on CDs long for the days of owning something again. Although almost any album by almost any artist is available to stream, it’s never really yours or free of the Spotify interface.
There are the horror stories of artists getting fleeced by the Swedes via dinky royalty payments. Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi famously broke down his paltry payments from streaming services on Pitchfork. And it can be argued that Spotify is not the friend of new and lesser known bands as compared to the payouts offered to catalogued bands and their corporate overlords.
Of course, this isn’t the whole story. Consider what the rest of Malkmus’ quote stated:
That doesn’t mean my music isn’t on there, though. I’m against a lot of things that I do in life, and I still do them, so there’s a lot of self-deception in all our lives. At least in the life of an unprincipled musician.
So, based on this statement, Spotify can be seen as a necessary evil. It’s akin to doing radio interviews or promos at best and selling songs to corporations for commercials at worst.
Of course, the real problem in all of this is the record industry as a whole. Why are we blaming a streaming tool like Spotify and not the greedy corporate leaches known as major record labels. Billy Bragg – champion of the working class – thinks as much and I tend to agree.
In his critique of the confluence of Pandora and Spotify, David Marcias takes issue and makes it clear why Spotify actually benefits musicians. Essentially, he makes my argument in favor of Spotify for me. (Yes, that’s where I’m going with all of this.)
To compare the two in terms of what they’re paying out is a completely fallacious construct. When Mr. Krukowski complains about the amount that he got paid on his BMI statement for his song, what he should be comparing it to is how much he got paid for an equivalent number of spins at terrestrial radio on that same BMI statement. My guess is that he did not get 7900 spins on terrestrial radio; one of the great gifts of Pandora and other tech-based companies like them is that they give an opportunity for music to be heard that terrestrial radio has neither the bandwidth nor interest to play. Technology has been a boon to independent musicians. I would also like to ask what his compensation from Sound Exchange was, both as an artist and what his label made from those spins. Whatever it was, it was more than what was paid out by terrestrial radio, who pays no compensation to owners of recordings. If you want to protest THAT, I’ll grab my pitchfork and meet you in the town square.
Basically, artists are getting paid per play at a better rate than what they get for radio, which is basically nothing. Additionally, Spotify (and Pandora) offer artists exposure the marketing departments at their labels, radio stations, or MTV (LULZ) combined. They’re getting paid and exposed on a tool they despise? That doesn’t make sense.
Then consider the pirating issue. While pirating music does offer a certain amount of exposure, it offers nothing monetarily for artists. Pirating sites and participants are the real enemies of musicians, not Spotify. Although I don’t totally trust the correlation, Spotify has made the argument that their service has contributed to the decrease in pirating in the Netherlands. It’s a fairly weak argument, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to imagine Spotify or similar services making pirating obsolete or at least unnecessary.
I use Spotify and don’t have a problem with it. I pay a monthly fee so that I have access offline and don’t have to hear ads. I make endless playlists. Still, I generally listen to whole albums. Several recent discoveries have been via the service. And even then, I still buy a lot of vinyl or go to shows when I can. If anything, Spotify has improved my financial support of many great artists.
Is Spotify evil? Maybe. It is a corporation making money off of art. That said, I’m just happy I can listen to the music I love whenever I want and wherever I want.
BTW, most of what should be read on the Spotify issue can be found here and a playlist celebrating our corporate overlords is below via Spotify, of course.
Lesbian bed death is the idea that lesbian couples tend to lose their sexual dynamic over time and just end up doing a lot of cuddling. This is how I would describe the state of my love for craft beer. What was once a fiery, passionate affair bordering on the edge of obsession has slowly devolved into lukewarm feelings toward my lover, craft beer.
Craft beer is taking up less and less of my resources – monitory, three dimensional, mental capacity, etc. It’s been forever and a day since I’ve attended a monthly tasting with my beer enthusiast club. I can’t even remember the last tap takeover or special release I attended at one of the many watering holes around town.
Like my blogging, beer became a chore. How was I going to get my hands on another special release? Weeknight tastings took a toll on showing up for work the next day. One $20 bottle after another was being released, filling my beer closet faster than I could drink the beer already within. When I wanted a beer with dinner that wouldn’t knock me out due to either size of the bottle or advanced alcohol levels (or sometimes both), there was nothing. Every beer I owned or longed for was a barrel-aged, special release topping double digits in alcohol content percentages. It was exhausting, not to mention terrible for my health.
I actually ran a marathon last spring. The strides I made physically have basically been lost. Sure, some of that is because I haven’t run as much as I should, but high gravity beers haven’t helped.
So, I fell out of love with craft beer.
However, like lesbian bed death, my deteriorating love affair with craft beer is actually a myth. I haven’t given up supporting craft breweries. I haven’t gone cold turkey by any means. I still buy and sample fancy beers whenever I can. The craft beer craze for me has just settled a bit.
What’s funny is that I have avoided talking about craft beer fatigue for fear of being ridiculed. For example, some members of my beer club’s Facebook group go over the edge when they can’t get their hands on certain releases. I’ve suggested now and again that it’s just beer and there will be other beers. To my dismay, I virtually found my manhood challenged. If we had membership cards, I would have been forced to turn it in. It was and is unthinkable for some beer geeks that maybe the latest and greatest beer isn’t always necessary.
One reason I have blogged for so long (although not very often as of late) is that I enjoy the discussions that occur. I’ve made a lot of friends through blogging, some of whom I’ve never met in-person. Hell, I have over 830 friends on Facebook, a high percentage I’ve never talked to face-to-face. I love that I have so many virtual friends. It’s kept me sane in times I felt alone.
Still, it’s nice to see a friendly face now and again, to shake an actual hand. And I was able to do a lot of that at the Bill Callahan show.
As soon as I entered Mojo’s patio preceding the actual venue, I was greeted with friendly faces chilling, enjoying the nice weather. There were friendlies at the merch table and every step between me and the bar. People I usually hang with at another bar were at the end of Mojo’s bar. On my way there, I passed friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. And more pals, acquaintances, friends-of-friends, etc. poured in from the back as Callahan’s set neared.
You don’t know how meaningful this is for a guy who once penned a blog called “living in misery.” Don’t get me wrong, I long for city-living, but if I have to live in Middle Missouri, I at least want to hang with some good people. It was a nice night to say “hello” and catch up with folks. I suspect the same will happen in the fall when Neutral Milk Hotel(!) stops here.
Speaking of friendly faces, Bill Callahan started early – which works for working parents like myself. He opened with “Sycamore” and danced around his catalog without moving much for the rest of the night. He brought with him a couple of players – one on guitar and the other on bass – both seated. The crowd was a bit ornery as the drinks flowed, but as soon as anyone realized Callahan was singing again, they politely stopped talking. I’ve never seen anything like it, but maybe all those people really are as nice as I think they are. You know the type: friendly midwesterners. And Bill Callahan was liking it, sneaking in a pleasant smile here and there.
I like friendly faces filling my favorite hangouts and occupying their stages. There’s nothing quite like a familiar smile, warmed with alcohol, and willing to chat. I had a little of this in previous lives, but not quite like this. In adulthood, there’s less transition as folks settle in for the long haul. Sure, people move, but adults know each other for decades. I haven’t lived in Middle Missouri for even one of those, but I already have found a community of friends, pals, acquaintances, and friends-of-friends to make an enjoyable evening with a wordsmith like Bill Callahan so much more enjoyable.
Last night I took my four-year-old to see punk and riot grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna speak for a Women’s History Month series held at Columbia College. While between projects at work, I decided to see what was written about the talk. The regular news sources summarized Hanna’s visit succinctly, but there was nothing coming from a local blog. There aren’t many good blogs in this town these days, but a void needs filling and I’m about to get back on that horse.
As I mentioned above, I took my daughter to see a woman whom I think is a great role model as she grows and develops. Kathleen Hanna is a strong, smart, and creative adult woman I want my kid to look to for inspiration. She has people like that in her life now, but it doesn’t hurt to find more.
My kid was in awe. First of all, she insisted on sitting in the front row. We skipped over a couple of seats that looked to be saved and settled in. It just so happened that one of those seats was Kathleen Hanna’s! When a woman began to welcome the audience, my daughter asked whether or not that was Kathleen Hanna. I promptly informed her that no, Kathleen Hanna was sitting next to her. It was all that four-year-old could do to contain her excitement.
She really loved any time Hanna referred to rocking and bands. See, my daughter loves riot grrrl bands. She’s particularly fond of Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag. (She just wrote a letter and drew a picture for Wild Flag to be mailed ASAP.) She loves the power and upbeat energy from that era of music. The fact that it’s all made by women doesn’t hurt either.
Hanna gave the kind of talk one would expect. She told her story, full of valley girl vernacular. She had slides of rarely seen zines and flyers. There were grainy videos of her various bands. She had great anecdotes of major indie and punk rock players. She told stories of inspiring young women fighting the patriarchy at every turn.
A running theme was her attempt to take back space normally occupied by males. There were rooms in a community center, rock venues, even the space in front of bands to be occupied. Underlying all of this was the space men and boys take up that can’t be seen, the space occupied by ideas and words. Hanna challenged these spaces and found room for herself and the girls who joined her in the fight.
At some point, a guy sitting in the back yelled out some fairly off-topic statements and questions. I won’t dignify either the content nor the deliverer of such idiocy as it completely disrupted the night by identifying or detailing what was said. Hanna was knocked off course a couple of times. Finally, she regained her bearings and told the guy to “shut-the-fuck-up.” Then she demanded he leave.
Instead of leaving quietly, the “heckler” continued to be obnoxious until college staff and a few audience members helped him leave. The debate over his comments continued today on Facebook, but I don’t want to spend anymore time on this as the dude was totally out of line.
Two beautiful things resulted from this conflict. First, the outburst demonstrated Hanna’s point about men always taking up space that wasn’t theirs, infringing on a woman’s chance to express herself. Second, it provided an opportunity for my daughter and really any young woman in the crowd to see a need for feminism as well as said feminism in action.
Fuck that dude and all the jerks and bullies like him.
Hanna recovered and continued to present her story. I geeked out over a video of Bikini Kill. My daughter geeked out over a Le Tigre video. We both laughed over the cabaret video Hanna shared.
It was a fun and empowering night. I wish my daughter could have met Hanna, but that will have to wait for the letter my girl intends to write to one of her newest heroes.
If you see this, Kathleen Hanna, know that you made an impression on our little college town and one four-year-old in particular.
For more on the talk, check out The Missourian’s take.