Caribou’s ‘Swim’ vs. Russian River’s Supplication
The advancement of the internet and shipping options has made it possible for me to survive a somewhat ho hum lifestyle in Middle Missouri. If I want a particular record, I usually have to mail order it from Insound. Certain beers are only available through similar means. Unlike ordering records online, beer costs the consumer quite a bit of money on top of the price of the beer for shipping. So, I don’t order too many bottles online unless someone puts together a group order.
Such an order landed me a Supplication from Russian River. The beer takes all of eighteen months to create as it is dumped into Pinot Noir barrels full of cherries1. Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus and Pedicoccus bacteria give the beer its flavor and overall character. This is one of those white whale or bucket list kinds of beers. I was lucky enough to get in on an order that provided me one bottle.
As I said before, records are easier to come by. Distribution of music isn’t policed by the government the way alcohol is. The problem is when you live in a town that only has two “record stores” that often run out of copies or never order certain records in the first place. I have no patience for this and so I order my records online.
Caribou’s latest Merge release, Swim, was dropped off late last week. The MP3 was downloaded immediately, but I’d have to wait for an opportunity to drop the needle on the record2. Earlier this week, my wait for both indulgences ended as I sat down with Swim as it should be heard and poured my beer in a proper glass.
Medium: Vinyl (although had been previewed using the digital version.)
Packaging: Gorgeous bi-fold with bright colorful artwork inside and out. Merge always comes through with some pretty slick packaging3.
Best Song: “Odessa”
Let me get right to the crux of the situation. “Odessa”, the first track, is as good a song as I’ve heard in a long, long time. It’s complex and shows off Caribou’s ability to make even dance music seem interesting4. It’s just really cool. Check out the video…
Then there’s the rest of the record. To be honest, I don’t really want to write about it at all. It doesn’t excite me. It doesn’t anger me. I feel pretty meh about the whole thing. So, in order to protect a band I like a whole lot5, I’ll just leave it at that. By the way, have heard Andorra6?
Brewery: Russian River
Style: Sour Brown Ale
Beer Geek Stats: 7% ABV,
Packaging: A cool Belgian-style bottle with a cork that reminds you to use the proper glass7. The artwork is an woodblock print of an aeration device (I think), but for some unknown reason, RR persists to use COMIC-FUCKING-SANS8 all over their labels!!! I’ll revisit that later.
Pop! Actually, the cork made more of a drippy faucet sort of sound as I slid it from its place at the bottle’s mouth. The pour left me a beautifully foamy, tan head that didn’t want to leave. Clinging to the sides of the glass, this beer produced legs…er I mean lacing that slowly slid down the sides of my glass. The color was a rich, mahogany. My nose sensed Brett, caramel, cherries, funk, Pinot, fig, oak…I could go on and on. In fact, I may have smelt this beer too long.
The flavors were even more varied as the sour quickly gave way to the tartness of the cherries. The malt backbone was pronounced and worked with the cherries as opposed to one overpowering the other. The mouthfeel is nice as it coats your mouth. It’s not syrupy, rather, this beer is thick and it blankets your mouth instead of sticking to it.
I don’t often address packaging for a beer, but I have to continue a meme I started a while back concerning Russian River. STOP USING COMIC SANS!!! They craft some of the most tasty and beautiful beers in the world, take great care in branding their products through classy illustrations, and market themselves as the must-have brewer in an otherwise overcrowded market9. So, why does Russian River undercut their efforts by using comic sans on their labels?
Well, the beer is good. So, maybe it really doesn’t matter.
This really wasn’t even close. When I first thought to pit a beer versus a record/show, I thought this would be a good pairing. However, it was a blowout. In the future, I will try to do better. I have plans in the works to do a series of these posts with my homebrew Wowee Zowee against its namesake, Dark Lord versus the Liars’ record, and possibly a Mikkeller 1000 IBU versus another Pavement record or one of the three or so records I like from this year. Stay tuned and congratulations to Russian River. You have won the first ever Rock vs. Beer contest in BICTB&P history!
1There’s a video here in case you’re interested.
2Sometimes a record doesn’t make sense to me until I listen to it on vinyl, at home. It’s too easy to not pay attention in the car.
3I think this is one thing that separates them from many indies. The label’s packaging is not overtly extravagant. They just do what they can to match the artists’ vision, price be damned. Funny thing is that it usually pays off.
4Despite being named “best dancer” in my high school senior class, I can’t stand dance music, primarily anything electronic. I find its appeal fleeting. I welcome any examples that might prove me wrong. Animal Collective doesn’t count.
5I once saw these guys play in St Louis with backup drummer Ahmed Gallab and was simply blown away.
6Unbelievably great album. It was number 25 in my best of the oughts list.
7I don’t know if I took a picture or not, but the sides of the cork feature an illustration of a tulip glass and a pint glass crossed out.
8Easily the worst font of all fonts. That’s a fact.
9So, maybe Russian River doesn’t market themselves this way and the craft beer market is certainly not overcrowded. Allow me some license for a little hyperbole.