I picked up the Ithaca Box of Belgians: 12 bottles of four different Belgian-style beers. The first Music Box series went well, so I decided let’s do it again! Beer tasting is subjective and influenced by everything from your mood to who you’re with. So, why not lean in to that and listen to a full album while drinking the beer and see what happens?
The beer: Ithaca Hopbloem (Belgian India Pale Ale)
The music: Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)
Immediately I know I’ve made a good choice, in music and in beer. The Hopbloem: the spicy, fruity esters that I go to a Belgian for. Maybe a touch of diacetyl, but if it’s there it works well.
As for the Against Me!, I’ve been hankering for punk/hardcore that strays towards pop recently. My kids have gotten a few weeks of Rise Against in the car, and honestly I’ve been looking forward to this Music Box largely so I could listen to the album by itself afterward: I want each listening experience to have been my first, and so I bought the album and let it sit on my phone, unplayed, until I could open the beer.
My first sip and I find the hops that make this an IPA. They aren’t overpowering, though I suspect they’ll grow as the beer warms. (Being out of practice, I left the bottle in the fridge until very recently) In an American style I’d probably say this was an APA at most, and maybe it would be better deemed a Belgian Pale Ale, but who am I to tell the beer what to call itself?
Drinking With the Jocks
This is Against Me!’s first album since singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender, hence the title. It’s a deeply personal album, one I respect and appreciate for existing.
Although the music has turned aggressive, the beer demands my attention while being disconcertingly drinkable. 8%? Ithaca, you’re killing me. It’s got all the makings of an incredible tripel, but then the brewers tripped and tossed in the entire vacuum-sealed bag of hops.
As with the Turbonegro last go around, these songs are quick and dirty. The longest is the title track at 3:17. I might actually finish the album with a decent amount of beer left, though that might be because I’m letting myself sit back and enjoy the beer and music and how they swirl together.
The hops that I had complained weren’t very prominent have made their predictable stealth assault: it’s been a minute or so since my last sip, and yet my tongue is still tasting of resin.
This beer is quite good. It’s not a Belgian beer with more hops, or an IPA with Belgian yeast. It’s simply a beer, one fully realized and with every aspect holding hands and working together.
The music is much darker than the beer, dealing with self loathing and death. This makes sense, given that transgender people are much more likely to deal with suicide and violence.
It’s not depressing music, though, not in the way that Lost in the Trees’ All Alone In An Empty House is once you realize that many of the songs are about the singer dealing with his mother’s depression and suicide attempts as a child. Granted, it’s easy for me to gloss over the sadder aspects as a cisgendered (non-trans) man and deal with the music at face value.
“I wanna piss on the walls of your house,” starts the chorus of “Black Me Out,” the final song. Well, okay, maybe the album’s a bit angrier than I was initially giving it credit for.
Listen to Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Drink Hopbloem. Together, separately, but experience both. This has been a great start to series two of Music Box.
Against Me played the Harbor last summer. Wish they served CBW at the Harbor, but I digress.. but you inspired me Dan, I think I might get a growler of CBW and spin some vinyl. !