Monday, December 3, 2012

[A Beer a Day] An Audio Collab: Peach Porch Lounger Ale ft. G. Love | New Belgium Brewing | Ft. Collins, CO vs. Positive Contact Beer Cider ft. Dan the Automator | Dogfish Head Brewing | Milton, DE

I am solidly convinced that 90% of the reason collaboration beers even exist -- and becoming rampantly faddish in the commonwealth of craft -- is to bring notably absent beer labels to a region where the one half of the operation can sneak under enemy lines without receiving official state licensing.  I think this is an excellent strategy implemented by these small-but-wildly-popular craft breweries from places that I assume the owls of the Texas ABC view as far-off, not-America provinces, like Michigan, Oregon, and California.  In doing these collabs, these perceived meek mice of the brewing industry are provided an economical opportunity to scramble past the billion dollar beverage commissions and into the welcoming coverall pockets of us Lennies of the beer collecting universe.

Something that is puzzling and counter-intuitive and altogether ironic about the whole process, however, is that collaboration beers tend to be considerable letdowns.  In the larger picture, collaboration beers suffer from the fragmentation of too many brewers in the kettle -- and honestly -- would be more engaging having Yates write the final manuscript, without the influence of Whitman and Melville affecting the story's central thesis.

But for everything collaboration beers are not, there is one very important aspect of their masonry that makes up for all their unintentionally twisted embellishment; the remaining percentage of 10 for which collaborations even exist in the first place: because drinking them is A LOT of fucking fun.

Apart from the scarcity of these limited releases, the hunt through each shop's beer-brary in search of the rarity, and the perception that two (or three) giants of the industry gathered together in reasonable proximity to make this specialty recipe, it is a most compelling of the collaboration beer for the drinker to pick the nuances of each master's hand that define the beer itself.  Typically, collaboration beers have philosophical landmarks from each brewery's tendencies: Belgian yeasts, bacterial inoculation, bittering hops, and so on, making the beer more like Scattergories than Jenga.

But what is most unusual about the two beers in this article, is that they weren't produced in partnership with people of the industry -- but with musical artists, who before now, I would have assumed, cared fuck-all about the brewing process.

However these relationships came to be, I was focused more on the fact that two of my favorite US brewers decided to honor both the primary and secondary theme of [AA] -- and that is beer and music.  And on a Friday night in Austin, a paring of the two is right in our honey holes.  It is something we like to insufferably blog about.

My first impressions of Peach Porch Lounger was, of course, largely visual.  Holding it in my excited grip I was dizzy with enthusiasm reading its contents:  Peach, lemon, other great shit that tastes great in beer.  And did I mention peach?  This past summer, I really got into the magnificence of peach-influenced beers -- and with this one being brewed under the banner of New Belgium's magnificent Lips of Faith series (La Folie, Tart Lychee, Cocoa Mole) I was ready for some serious alone time with it.

The second piece of visual information came to me in the image of a screen-printed bluegrassy-looking yokel, who, upon further investigation, ended up being something called Garrett Dutton of G. Love and Special Sauce.  What, was Jack Johnson unavailable?

I was genuinely surprised to hear that G. Love still got work, particularly as an interpretive brewer.  So, this restored my faith that I could still play for Newcastle United someday in the future.  But possibly more surprising, was that these delicate ingredients yielded a 9% denture rattler.

It appeared that New Belgium was attempting to intonate southern-inspired, hot-weather beer which would not only replicate something like a sweet tea, but a replacement for porch-tea altogether.  Brilliant, I thought.  All of this really coincides with New Belgium's inward facing determination of their Lips of Faith series -- although I still did have some bewilderment with the inclusion of the dude who wrote a song called Baby's Got Sauce.  (But hey, at least it wasn't Sublime).

My final impression of the beer erased any and all doubts of what New Belgium could really do with this limited release brew.  The infusion of lemon, peaches, and wild brettanomyces gave the sauce a very notable, albeit subtle, southern dialect.  Like 1,000 times better than any accent on The Walking Dead.  Autumn peaches and banana-inspired funk -- much like a fall hefeweizen -- were locked in a romantic hold.  It sort of stupidly reminded me of a mid-mall Orange Julius -- frothy, tropical, creamy -- and at 9.4%, disguised the enormous alcohol content like bluegrass disguises the upright bass -- that is, until you start to feel it thump you right in the head, making you aware of its existence.

ABV 9.4%
Acquired East 1st Grocery
Can I Find This in Austin? Yes, but disappearing quickly.  See above.
Album Charles Bradley | No Time for Dreaming (2010)

Everything that went right with Peach Porch Lounger, took a total, record-scratching halt in Dogfish Head's Positive Contact, which was brewed in conjunction with the shrewdly gifted musician and producer, Dan the Automator -- a man responsible for some of the most ingenious collaborations in modern music: Handsome Boy Modeling School (with Prince Paul), Deltron 3030 (with Del and Kid Koala), and Gorillaz (with an entire spectrum of indie and hip hop demi-gods).  But for every bit of controlled edginess and creative harmony in all of his other projects, Positive Contact was a cacophony of horribly engineered notes, complete with the drummer falling forward through his seven piece kit as a result of a bad Molly bender.

Positive Contact broke a cardinal sin in brewing experimentation -- and when you infuse beer with apple cider, cayenne, and fresh cilantro, thats exactly what one is going for -- experimentation.

The beer was soapy.

Typically this is a result of fermenting the beer in the primary for too long, but because Dogfish Head are scholars of the brewing business, I sincerely doubt that this beer was mishandled.  I just have to believe that this recipe had no chance to succeed and was fucked from the word Go.

But the problems didn't stop there, no.  An acetaldehyde flavor was very prescient -- typically caused by infected beer, leaving a tart, cidery, apple taste -- but again, not because of mismanagement, but because of ingredients.  Whereas wild ales would welcome these sour notes, this beer was not intended to taste like a stocking stuffer from Bath & Body Works.

Mercifully, Positive Contact finished up with itself -- but not before some disconcerting heat from the cayenne to heckle you from the gallery, leaving a trail of Skittle-like lava-phlegm that is damn near impossible to hack out without losing your uvula.

While Positive Contact had all the ambition of Plastic Beach, it all really amounted to a Damon Albarn rendition of Banana Pancakes, and that's just one fucking mess.

ABV 9.0%
Acquired Spec's
Can I Find This in Austin? I wouldn't recommend seeking out the few left.
Album James Blunt | Back to Bedlam (2004)

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