Drinkin’ n’ Bloggin’ With Carson of Tombs

It’s a well-established fact that we like to drink beer and listen to metal. But second only to that pursuit is being able to talk brewskis with other like-minded beer geeks. So upon hearing that Tombs bassist Carson Daniel James is an equally devout barley-pop imbiber, we called him to talk (and drink) beer.
Decibel readers know you as the bassist of Tombs, but what’s your day job?
Carson Daniel James: I am the manager of a specialty coffee house in Green Point Brooklyn called Brooklyn Label. I do the coffee buying and I create the beer list for the place and everything. It’s a pretty fun job from that end. I get to drink whatever beer I want all the time. I get to introduce new beers that other people in the neighborhood might not know about or haven’t seen in other places.

Were you hired there for your beer expertise, or did you start out doing something else?
James: When I moved here from Philadelphia four years ago, this is the first place I got a job. [The coffee house] was actually trying to get its liquor license for some time, and talking to the owner, who doesn’t really know a whole lot about beers, it seemed like a logical step to have me curate the beer list. I have friends in the brewing community and in the brewing scene and my friends and I used to make beer and stuff like that. At the moment, we have a simple six draught lines [at Brooklyn Label] with a couple rotating seasonals. But it’s fun because I can get in and drink the beers that I really like and hopefully other people will enjoy them, too.

What are some of your personal favorites?
James: My favorite style of beer of all-time, all together is stout, mainly imperial stouts. The heavier and higher alcohol, the more robust and complex the stout is, the more I like it. I like the really malty, chocolaty, soy sauce, like squid ink darkness. The misconception with [stouts] is that they’re really heavy, when they’re really not actually a lot of times. They’re just super-dark because the malt is heavily roasted. Right now I’m drinking a Victory Prima Pils which I think is probably one of the greatest American pilsner-style beers. It’s got just enough of a hops bite to it, and it’s refreshing and light, so you can drink it throughout the day. Oskar Blues’s Mama’s Little Yella Pils [in a can] has probably been my beer of the summer. I’ve been drinking a lot of that; it’s a really good one.

Brooklyn has quite a brewing history and even today a lot of good beer is made there. Any locals that you’re partial to?
James: My favorite from the area has gotta be Sixpoint. They do a lot of specialty beers. As a matter of fact, just this past winter, they teamed up with Stumptown Coffee from Portland, Oregon—whose coffee we actually carry here—and they made a German bock with Stumptown coffee which was pretty awesome. They actually just got a canning system. Before that you could only get [their beer] on draft. Now you can buy 16-ounce cans. They make such an array of beers and they’re always changing. Brooklyn Brewery does one of my favorite beers, the Black Chocolate Stout. It’s absolutely phenomenal. It comes out in the fall, and every year for my birthday I crack one of those and drink it in the shower. You can age that beer, too. I’ve got a few bottles from a few years ago that I’m holding onto.

OK, finish this sentence for me: “The beer Tombs goes best with is…”
James: I’d say Harvey’s Imperial Stout. It’s an incredibly dark, complex, unyielding beer. Definitely not for everyone, but once you learn to appreciate it I think that you can really immerse yourself in it and enjoy it for what it is. It changes every time you drink it; you notice something different about the beer.

Any beers you’re looking forward to drinking on your upcoming European tour in support of Path of Totality?
James: I’m really excited to get back to England. The Samuel Smith brewery was always a favorite of mine, simply because the brewpubs in London are phenomenal. And because they are Samuel Smith’s own pubs, they only serve their beer, and it’s cheaper than all the other beers in all the other pubs. It’s nice to go get Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, as a opposed to a Guinness. That being said, I’ve never been to Ireland, and I’m very, very excited to have a shot of Powers [whiskey] and a pint of Guinness in Dublin. It’s one of the most clichéd things in the world, but everybody’s always told me that Guinness tastes completely different when you have it in Dublin. So I’m really excited to try that. In Germany, I couldn’t name one beer that I don’t want to drink. I really love German beer. I like the simplicity. I like crisp, clean lager and the fun social aspect of drinking German beer. You can’t drink a four-liter boot of a Belgian trappist beer. [Laughs]