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Back in the early 90s, there was a drastic change in the musical landscape. A new style of music was launched upon the scene; some called it grunge, others called it alternative. Either way, it was artsy, angsty and different from anything we heard before. Nirvana hit the scene and quickly exploded into what would become one of the most popular bands in history. Another band left an equally impressionable mark on the changing music landscape…Pearl Jam.
The first song I heard from Pearl Jam was “Alive”. I saw the video on 120 Minutes (an alternative music show) on MTV. I remember going out and buying the tape (yes…a cassette) and listening to it over and over again. In the late 80s and very early 90s, I was a metalhead and listened to bands like Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer. After listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana, my whole perspective on music changed and I was listening to bands like the Butthole Surfers, NIN, Ministry, Soundgarden and so on.
I’m not going to claim that I am the biggest Pearl Jam fan, but I am a fan of their music for sure. I have bought most, if not all, of their albums over the past 20 years and still break them out on occasion. I can be caught singing “Alive”, “Jeremy”, “Better Man”, “Even Flow” and a number of other songs in my car.
My point is, I know this band, and I definitely have an idea of what their music should taste like.
Thinking about the quintessential Pearl Jam song, “Jeremy”, I can see sitting back to something malty and hoppy, something that warms up the palate as well as the stomach, a slow drinking beer that gives me a good mellow buzz. Maybe an American Barley Wine-style beer, like Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot, or possibly an Imperial Stout brewed with peyote jam (insider joke). Even when considering other songs in their backlog, I envision a flavor profile like this; malty, hoppy, sweet, dark, not overly complex but not overly simplified.
Enter Dogfish Head. To help celebrate Pearl Jam’s 20 years since the release of their first album, Ten, Dogfish Head brewed a beer and announced a $20,000 donation to The Nature Conservancy. The beer is decribed from Dogfish Head’s website as, ” a Belgian-style golden ale is delicately hopped to 20 IBUs and fruit-forward from 10 incremental additions of black currants over a one-hour boil. Faithfull clocks in at 7% ABV.”
What? This does not sound anything like what I was envisioning. A golden ale? Delicately hopped? Black Currants? 7% ABV???? I started to question this beer immediately. I was expecting a dark, heavily hopped, high-ABV beer. Let’s see if this works…
The beer pours a clear golden-amber. The head is thick and fluffy. Small, tight bubbles float to the top from the center of the glass in a tight, cyclonic swirl.
Smell? Mouth-feel? Please…this is an AntiReview. Smalls like I want to drink it. Feels like liquid. There.
The taste is slightly sour and slightly sweet. I have no frikkin idea what currants taste like, but there is a sour fruitiness to the beer, sort of like apricots. If I were to compare this to other golden ales, say Duvel, I’d say it’s pretty average. It doesn’t pop for me like other Dogfish Head beers do. In a word…meh.
Does this exemplify Pearl Jam in a bottle? I don’t think so. I’ll admit that a golden ale could work as a Pearl Jam beer after tasting this and considering the possibilities, but it would still be vastly different in my mind. Maybe a hoppy golden ale with a jacked up ABV aged in barrels. Or something like that.
I’m still left trying to figure out this beer. It’s OK on its own, but I still don’t get the Pearl Jam relation. Golden anniversary? Nope, that’s 50 years. Currants? That I don’t get at all. What do currants have to do with Pearl Jam? Any songs? [EDIT: There is a Pearl Jam song named Faithfull from the album Yield, damn good song too] History? Oh well. Maybe something I’m missing that someone can enlighten me about.
The beer is highly sought after by beer geeks. It’s cool to find and have in your collection, sure, but as a beer on its own, it’s not really outstanding. Just average.
Last week, Daniel Del Grande (@bisonbrew) announced a contest called the Bison vs. Guinness #StoutDay Challenge. For the challenge, six bloggers were chosen from Twitter if they tweeted, “Hey @bisonbrew! Enter me to win a spot in the Bison vs. Guinness
#StoutDay Challenge!!!“. The winners would be sent a package, including samples of Guinness Draught Stout and Bison Brewing’s Organic Chocolate Stout, some propaganda materials and a pint glass from Bison Brewing. I was lucky enough to be one of those chosen.
The propaganda stated that their Chocolate Stout falls in the Dry Stout or Irish Dry Stout category, same as Guinness. They also claimed that their stout “possesses a keen likeness to Guinness”. We’ll see…
My first challenge was to do this as blindly as possible. My wife called earlier in the day to say she would be home late. The only other people home with me were two of my kids. How was I going to do this blindly? I found two pint glasses that were the same and labeled the bottom of the glasses. I poured the beers myself, trying my best to not look at them as I poured. I then stepped out of the room and had the older of the kids move the glasses around. I came back into the room, picked them up, and further mixed them up. I decided I am not going to judge color, head, etc, just taste. This made it easier for me to close my eyes, pick a glass at random and start writing notes.
Still, it wasn’t that easy. The fact is, Bison’s Chocolate Stout’s head dissipated quickly while Guinness’ head stuck forever. I don’t know what the hell Guinness adds to their beer to make the head stick so long and thick, maybe egg whites (calm down, that’s a joke).
As blindly as possible; we’ll call the beer on my left “Bison” and the beer on my right “Guinness”.
“Bison’s” aroma was heavy on the chocolate, hints of vanilla and medium-roast coffee. ”Guinness’” aroma was of copper and diet cola.
“Bison’s” mouth-feel was a medium body and lightly carbonated. ”Guinness’” mouth-feel was flat and watery.
“Bison’s” taste was bitter chocolate (and lots of chocolate), cola, a faint hint of copper and medium-roast coffee. ”Guinness’” taste was heavy on the copper, very bitter chocolate, medium-roast coffee and cola.
I decided afterwards to sip back and fourth. A few sips here, a few there, one here, one there. ”Bison” was clearly my favorite. I like the mouth-feel better because it wasn’t so light (read: watery). I disliked the taste of “Guinness” because of its coppery awkwardness. Also, “Bison’s” chocolaty goodness absolutely wins.
Do these beers possess the likeness that Bison claims? Side-by-side, I say no. But I do think if you brought your Guinness-only friend to the bar and truly blindly gave him a Bison Organic Chocolate Stout alone, he would probably not notice (and even proclaim the Guinness here tastes better, like it does in Ireland…like a milkeshake! *moan*).
Winner? ”Bison”. By far. And I’m not just saying it because they were so nice to me for sending me free beer and shit. I’m saying it because it’s the truth man! I only wish Bison were more available in Colorado. I like organic food stuffs because I feel we are better off without pesticides and all that crap. And it’s not often you find an organic beer. But more importantly, the beer is good and tasty. (And it’s perfect for this cold weather we are having right now in Colorado)
Oh yeah, and “Bison” is…do I really need to tell you?
EDIT: See the results from the other bloggers here: http://bisonbrew.com/blog/bison-rises-to-the-top-in-friendly-stoutday-challenge/
The protagonist of the show and movie “The Horse Whisperer” is described as a “talented trainer with a remarkable gift for understanding horses“. I’ve been described by some of my neighbors and friends as being, “The Beer Whisperer”. I suppose I am a “talented drinker with a remarkable gift for understanding beer“.
I tend to agree with them.
- I ALWAYS talk about beer. Yes, I talk about other things but I brighten up and get all chatty when beer becomes the subject.
- I ALWAYS post about beer. On Twitter. On Facebook. Everywhere.
- I know a lot about beer. A LOT.
- I can taste things in beer that others either cannot, or never realized.
- I have tried many, many beers. I love them all.
- If I could quit my job and do whatever I wanted right now, I would open something beer related. Like a beer bar or brewpub.
- I seek out rare, hard to find beers. When I travel, I always try to drink locals only (if/when possible).
- I read books about beer. I read magazines about beer. I read the interwebs about beer. I read about beer all the time.
- I buy and try new beer every week. No really…every. single. week.
I have had other blogs before, but I hope to make this one different by not taking things so damn serious. No beer reviews, at least not the traditional type. Mine will be called “AntiReviews”. What this means is, I will tell you about the beer, what I like about it, but will not give aroma/taste/mouthfeel/etc comments. And I will not give grades or ratings. There are too many sites out there that already do that, so I will just tell you, “Mmmm, this is fucking good”. (maybe a little more than that).
I will also be trying to talk about Beer in Society. How people react to those of us fascinated with beer. How we are treated by the “non-believers”, the “unconverted”. How we are viewed by the media. What are the results of trying to introduce and educate about craft beer. And so on.
Finally, I will discuss events and news that I see fit.
Please come back, check it out and have fun.