I picked up the Ithaca Box of Hops: 12 bottles of four different hoppy beers. I considered writing about them on the blog, and realized I’m most happy with my beer writing when I consider the situation in which I’m drinking the beer. 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 Flower Power (India Pale Ale)
The music: Dungen, 4 (2008)
The initial jazzy piano, bass and drum of Sütt Att Se call to mind a combination of Do Make Say Think and Peace Orchestra (specifically, “The Man Part One”) while my initial sniff of Flower Power calls to mind, well, Flower Power.
At least around here, this is what you think of when you think IPA, right? (Except for ours, right?). A pleasant, pungent bitterness that gives way to a balanced finish, whispers of citrus amonst the Pacific Northwest hops that my wife say taste like earwax.
The bass line in this, seriously! There are lots of jokes about the bassist being unnecessary (my favorite being from Metalocalypse when they say Murderface can do whatever he wants because they’ll just mix it down to zero), but I find my favorite bands have a prominent bassist. I’m not sure if this means I like bass or that bands that give equal thought to each instrument tend to appeal to me more; either way, John Entwistle is a badass.
Twenty heavy hammers smashing down
Since this was the only beer I’ve had before, I considered pairing it with the only album I had heard before (well, I’ve heard A Rainbow in Curved Air, but hadn’t remembered it). You very nearly got Flower Power x Harvey Danger’s Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?, and while they might be justifiably called a one hit wonder I absolutely love them: Merrymakers is in my top five albums. Maybe it just caught me at the right time, as many of the songs have an air of angry superiority and condescension that spoke to me in high school.
I decided to expand my horizons, though, and as I did with Apocalypse Dudes I asked for help: Alex immediately responded to my text with 4. I’m glad he did: I really can’t get past my love of the rhythm section. The distorted guitar on “Samtidigt 1” does a good job of giving me something else to pay attention to, though.
I’m glad they put something under nine freaking percent abv in this box. Thus far I’ve had one beer per album, but I might go for two with 4. Like reviewing a restaurant, I think it’s foolish to claim you understand a beer after one visit. You need two, three (possibly over the course of days) before you can fully have a handle on it. I wouldn’t say I “know” you after we’ve met once, so I shouldn’t do the same for beer.
For instance: now that we’re more well acquainted, the hops aren’t quite as aggressive. They’re just there. Present in force, giving me exactly what I want when I reach for an IPA, but not being ostentatious about it.
Meanwhile, 4 and I are getting on smashingly. My initial reaction has remained: they’re sort of like Do Make Say Think but a little louder, with the builds that make me love the post rock genre but in shorter, nearly poppy doses (especially in the case of Finns Det Någon Möjlighet).
The beer and album go together well: I find myself jamming to the music while appreciatively taking sips. I briefly pause to open a second bottle from the fridge, and immediately drink to prove a point to myself. Yes, indeed, you need to let this warm up a bit: it’s good, but not great, because my taste buds are too busy being frozen to fully appreciate the beer.
Perhaps the Swedish song titles (and lyrics) would turn some people off to Dungen. For me it has the opposite effect: “Ooh, something new and strange! I bet I’d love it!” I mean, after a few years of seeing the disgusted faces members of the Niagara Association of Homebrewers would make when I brought up the traditional Egyptian beer they made I finally was able to get a bottle for the newer folk to try. “Tastes like a dirty diaper, you say? Crack it open!” (It was disappointingly not that disgusting. I mean, people had set a bar for terribleness)
I zone out a bit and just listen to the music. I’ve been a little regretful that this experiment has resulted in me more or less constantly writing, rather than stopping to experience the music and beer. What can I say? I love the sound of my own voice.
Bandhagen, the final track, comes to an abrupt, withering end, and with it the finale of Music Box. Well, for now. I quite liked doing this, because I quite like music and beer and writing and here I get to squish them all together into a little ball, so you probably haven’t seen the last of it.
Box of Hops, you treated me well.