Given the opportunity to write about craft beer every month in Decibel has been eye-opening. The idea that our “Brewtal Truth” column would have lasted more than four years (and counting) and even spawn a book—The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers, out in November—is pretty amazing. Now it’s time to bring a little “Brewtal Truth” to the Deciblog. Each week we’re featuring a different craft beer that you should drink now. These aren’t so much reviews as recommendations. We won’t post anything here that we haven’t happily poured down our own gullet. There’ll be a new one every week at noon Eastern time, a little something to get you thinking about your imbibing options for the weekend.
This week’s selections may well rub a lot of readers the wrong way as it seems that there are still metal fans who hold the city of Seattle and its late-’80/early-’90s grunge bands responsible for “killing metal” or some such nonsense. Our take on the subject is that that “death” was more or less self-inflicted. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains et al. just kind of kicked the corpse aside and did their thing. But this is about beer. And in this same era, Seattle was also one of the key cities for the growth of craft beer. Elysian started as a brewpub in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1996 and has grown into one of the city’s best purveyors of interesting, tasty, creative brews. (Plus their Elysian Fields bar by Safeco Field and Centurylink Field is thee place to drink before Mariners and Seahawks games.)
Blood Orange Pale Ale 5.4% ABV
Loser was originally brewed five years ago to celebrate Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary, but it’s stuck around as a year-round offering. The original label had a live picture of Mudhoney on it, but the non-anniversary edition boasts the “Corporate Beer Still Sucks” tagline (a riff on SST Records’ “Corporate Rock Still Sucks” stickers and t-shirts from the late ’80s), a sentiment just as relevant today as it was a couple decades ago. Despite your feelings about grunge and the loser culture, this beer does not suck. At 7% ABV, it’s a robust version of an American pale ale (APA). Hell, this could pass for an IPA—sort of an English/American hybrid of the style. It has all the classic foresty/citrusy hop notes of a West Coast PA/IPA, but there’s a definite richness and roundness to the malt character and a certain lack of IPA crispness. It’s a big beer for summer sipping, but, man, is it well balanced and easy to drink.
The label of Superfuzz looks like something out of the psychedelic ’60s, but our own personal association is with Mudhoney’s seminal EP, Superfuzz Bigmuff, thus the pairing with Loser in this column. This is a warm-weather seasonal for Elysian and, unlike Loser, this is definitely more of drink-more-than-one thirst quencher. It’s not exactly a session beer, but it’s much lighter bodied and refreshing. Take a sniff and it’s pretty much like any other well-brewed West Coast APA. You can’t really detect much blood orange, or any orange. (Honestly, does anyone know what blood orange actually tastes like? Is it any different from an orange orange? Really?) But take a swig and the orange is there nicely complementing the hoppy citrus notes. It’s not “loud in the mix,” so to speak, but it adds a nice tart fruitiness. There’s just a hint of sweetness here, making the finish crisp and dry.
If you can find it in your heart to forgive Seattle for putting Ratt, Bang Tango, Cinderella, Warrant and about a hundred other useless hairfarms out business, then we suggest you try these beers.