Beer and Pavement

Top Five Beers and Records to Always Have on Hand

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Records by SM on January 24, 2011

The Hopry is starting a new series where they list top-5 beers that fill a particular need. The first post in the series focused on the top-5 beers you should always keep in the fridge. You can see their list and eyeball mine below. After that, I’m also including a list of top-records to always have around.

Keep in mind that these might not be the five best beers/records. The idea is to have every need covered with just the five selections. While I recognize my fives don’t have everything for everyone, it’s still my house. This is what I have to offer.

So, check it…

5 Beers for the Fridge

Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale – Saisons are a versatile alternative to the over-hopped/hyped IPA’s and dirty, dirty stouts. They are light with a touch of tartness and spice, perfect for pairing with fish and/or poultry. This is easily one of my favorite saisons. Now that it’s available in 12 oz. bottles[1], it’s easy to keep some on hand for any occasion. I considered sticking The Bruery’s Saison Rue in this slot, but The Bruery is not available in Missouri and they only come in 750 mL bombers.

Ska Modus Hoperandi – One has to have a hopbomb around, right[2]? Modus is quickly replacing spots in fridges around Middle Missouri that were once held down by Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale[3]. The fact that this beer comes in a can makes it perfect for this list. Cans tend to keep IPA’s better than bottles and they’re easily stored. I eventually want a beer fridge and have fantasized filling the “can dispensers” in those things usually reserved for PBR and Coke Zero with some Modus.

Bell’s Expedition Stout – This is maybe my favorite beer. Bigger, blackerer, and full of molasses[4], Expedition is a go-to imperial stout that should be in every fridge and beer closet. Besides sipping on the good stuff, I periodically make ice cream out of this Texas (via Michigan) tea. The best part is that the ice cream recipe leaves me a half bottle to finish as I churn the creamy concoction.

Cantillon Kriek – I considered New Belgium’s La Folie for the token sour stand-by, but that only comes in bombers. Cantillon is the fine wine of the beer world and they sell their beers in smaller bottles for a somewhat affordable treat[5]. This beer fills the sour need as well as showing your guests that fruit does belong in beer from time to time.

Dogfish Head[6] India Brown Ale – This is the only beer not readily available in Missouri, but I try to have it around as much as possible. Besides being a really great beer, IBA is the perfect beer to pair with almost any food, especially those of the greasy, meaty variety. I essentially proclaimed that the most perfect pairing ever was a Booches burger and a DfH IBA and I still stand by that assertion[7]. The combination of hops cutting through grease and sweet malty goodness balancing the richness of the meat is too good not to experience at least once.

As you can see, my beer list is pretty diverse. The records didn’t turn out that way, but my taste in music is much, much narrower than my taste in beers. Just look at the blog’s title[8]. I identify a band but refer to beer in general. That can tell you a lot about this blog. Now, on to the records…

5 Records for the Turntable

Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane of the Sea – This is an absolute classic that will hold down a spot on my overall top-5 every time. No other record is as good a discussion starter as Aeroplane. Aesthetically, it has some folky acoustic guitar, trumpet flourishes, love for our lord and savior Jesus Christ… Really, everyone should own this album[9].

A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory – You need dance music? Wanna kick it old school? Your only black friend is over for dinner[10]? Drop the needle on this hip-hop classic and let the groove take over. Not only does your cred go up a notch for actually owning  hip-hop record, but you own one of the most revered and highly decorated albums of all time.

Pavement Quarantine the Past – Put this one on for your kids and explain that this is what the nineties sounded like. Normally, I’d put a specific Pavement album (or possibly their entire catalog) on this list, but Quarantine the Past is a near-perfect compilation that spans the group’s run quite nicely. Now, you can expose your friends to Pavement without making them sit through every 7″ and reissue extra[11].

Slint Spiderland – At this point, my musical biases have gone over the top. Nearly all the nineties essentials are now covered with Spiderland joining the party. However, this album is diverse enough to handle both a dark mood and the end-of-the-evening comedown. That and like Aeroplane, this record offers plenty about which to talk. “Did you know that Will Oldham took the picture on the cover?” “Did you know that PJ Harvey answered the band’s call for a female singer in the liner notes?” “Did you know that there’s a children’s book created for the final track?” This record is a discussion-starter for sure.

Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion – Want to lighten the mood while simultaneously raising the discourse in the room? Put on Merriweather Post Pavilion, one of the most cerebral dance records of the last decadea[12]. Plus, you can stare at the “moving” record sleeve all night long.

What are your five to always have on hand? Are my musical tastes too narrow? Leave a comment or three.

Notes:
1Interestingly, for those who are not familiar, Tank 7 is part of the Smokestack Series, celebrating Boulevard’s famous smokestacks bearing their name. The original series came exclusively in tall, like smokestack-tall 750 mL bottles. So, the move to 12oz. bottles was awkward, but Boulevard pulled it off beautifully as they chose a taller, sleeker 12 oz. bottle.
2This is rhetorical. Of course one must always have a hopbomb in the fridge/cellar. I have been known to go buy an IPA or DIPA even though I have a cellar full of perfectly good beers simply for the purpose of insuring that I have at least one hoppy beer around. And those are the beers I consume the quickest, so it makes sense to always have some around. Don’t question the logic. Go out and buy an IPA right now.
3Two-Hearted is still a perfectly acceptable option here, but Modus is newish around these parts and it comes in cans.
4I like bourbon, oak/vanilla, and chocolate in my imperial stouts, but molasses brings it. This preference is possibly due to my dad’s practice of pouring brown sugar all over his Cheerios. Yes. You read that correctly. The best part was when you came to the end and had nothing left but creamy brown sugar.
5The 750 mL bombers run in the $30 range. So, ten bucks for 12 oz. of really, really good beer is sometimes justified.
6Dogfish Head has been taking it on the chin as of late. It’s most likely a backlash from the Brew Masters debacle/nondebacle. Let’s get this straight. Dogfish Head makes some of the best, if not most interesting beers in craft beer. Additionally, founder Sam Calagione has maybe done more for the growth in craft beer aside from anyone named Michael Jackson or Jim Koch.
7Seriously, I challenge you to find another better pairing. Do it. Until you’ve had this pairing, you won’t ever understand the food and beer pairing. This is the standard. See if you can exceed it.
8It does seem to me that I judge music based on degrees of Pavement. I’m OK with that.
9In fact, I know several people who own it but don’t appreciate it. I suggest for those who don’t get it (and this may very well go for any so-called classic record) that they should read the book in the 33 1/3 series to get the context. If you can’t appreciate Aeroplane after that, there’s nothing I can do for you.
10Oh, I know my demographic: middle-class white folk who can’t seem to rid themselves of white guilt. It’s okay. Embrace your racism. I’ve made peace with mine.
11Doing so would be a perfectly acceptable practice as well.
12I don’t like dance music. So, I’m sure you could name a better dance record. Still, this album would have to be in your top-10 of the last decade.

Give Lagers a Chance

Posted in Beer, Intersections by SM on April 5, 2010

I’ve recently reviewed a couple of albums on this blog that I referred to as “growers.” What I mean is that they are records whose greatness is not revealed upon the first listen. It takes several listens to get what the band or artist is trying to accomplish. It may never be a great record, but a grower needs time and commitment to enjoy. One has to give it a chance.

The same can be said for beer styles1. Most beer geeks I know prefer big, hoppy brews that are bitter, rich, complex, the opposite of your basic, rice-based American lager. “Lager” is often considered a bad word in beer geek circles. It’s associated with Bud, Miller, Old Milwaukee, Pabst, Keystone, etc. Watered-down beers that can only be consumed ice-cold are avoided by folks who like to taste their beers2.

However, I think lagers should be given a second look3.

Rogue out of Oregon brews their Dirtoir Black Lager using home-grown ingredients (plus a few grown elsewhere4) to delicious results. The beer is technically a Schwarzbier or German dark lager. Rogue’s take on the Schwarzbier is what one might hope a Scharzbier would taste like5. There’s a pleasant bitter hoppiness present with a sweet chocolate and coffee malt flavor as compliment. Yes, lager heaven does exist and it’s in Oregon.

If the Schwarzbier is the black sheep of the lager family, the Pilsner is the golden boy. However, more than any other beer style, Pilsners have been bastardized in order to sell to the masses. Beck’s, St. Pauli, and Heineken come to mind when one first thinks of Pilsners, but many, if not most, mass-produced American beers are based on the style. This is probably what gives lagers and Pilsners such bad names among beer geeks.

That’s generally how I’ve felt about Pilsners6 until Easter weekend encouraged me to break open my 750 mL bottle of their Imperial Pilsner, a first-time collaboration with Belgian brewers at Orval7. This beer is like a Belgian golden ale in lager form. Bananas8 burst at every sip and temperature. Unlike most Pils, the beer even gets better as it warms. The Boulevard Smokestack series has rarely disappointed me and this is no exception. Really, it’s a great beer to enjoy with spicy foods such as Thai and Indian. And at 8% ABV, it can stand up to rich, fatty foods like few Pilsners can.

To prove my point that lagers are not all bad (or typical), I’ll cite three beers. The third is actually a Kriek, or that’s what New Belgium wants you to believe. Their Lips of Faith Series Transatlantique Kriek is a blend of a Belgian lambic and a special brown lager9 brewed by their own brewer. This is the dirty little secret of many lambics. They are often just regular beers with sweetener and artificial flavorings added to make them fruity. Some are true to form, but this NB Kriek is an original. The folks at some of the beer rating sites don’t like it much10. Unlike the Rogue and Boulevard beers that stuck pretty close to traditional styles and techniques while perfecting the results, this Kriek does things a little differently. The cherry presence is subtle and the finish is crisp and dry. I didn’t feel like I was drinking sparkling cherry syrup…nor did I feel like it was just a lager.

These are not the only reasons one should try a lager now and again, but these are beers you should try.

Notes:
1Yes, I am actually writing about beer on this blog. It may finally be time to retire this beer blog and consolidate my prose.
2Or at least want their beers to taste good.
3Like I may have to do for wheat beers.
4I believe the yeast strain is German so as to be true to the style.
5I always imagine that German beers are wonderful since beer is so important to Germans, but I am usually disappointed. Germans and British have nothing on Belgians and Americans.
6With the exception of random craft brew releases of super hoppy pils that seem to come and go, never really establishing themselves among the beer elite.
7By far one of the best beers I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting…and it’s readily available almost everywhere.
8Good beer either makes you think “raisins” or “bananas.” It’s cliche but true.
9Although, the bottle says ale and the website says lager. I’ll go with the website for my purposes. The point is that this is a surprisingly good beer.
10Beer Advocates often rate beers on their proximity to a classic style or how much the beer slaps them in the face with over-the-top flavor. This beer does neither, so it is considered just worthy to the beer elitists. However, Beer Raters do like it.