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.