Calling out Names: BierWax’s Beer Name Playlist Volume 1 (Monkish)

My first piece here remarked on the essential connection between hip hop and craft beer, and clearly, we are not the only ones who feel this way. One of the exciting developments that reinforces our belief that BierWax reflects the cultural zeitgeist is the emergence of so many beers with names inspired by hip hop. One of the breweries leading the way in this regard in Monkish, out in Torrance, California. 

With this trend in mind, here’s a quick feature and playlist covering beers brewed by Monkish (some in collaboration with Other Half) with names inspired by rap lyrics. 

 

2-1 & Lewis

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Nate Dogg & Warren G – Regulate

Lyric: “So I hooks a left, on 2-1 and Lewis. Some brothers shooting dice, so I said, let’s do this”

“Regulate” is a classic guilty pleasure that was either the most unlikely or likely hit off the Above the Rim soundtrack. 2-1 and Lewis is the intersection at which poor Warren G gets got after a whimsical decision to enter a dice game. Now, Warren should have known never to enter a hood dice game on a whim; it can only end poorly. Luckily, his ace, the G-Funkdafied Nate D-O-double-G was there to bail him out. What are the chances that you’re cruising down 2-1 & Lewis, strapped with “16 in the clip and one in the hole,” while your homie is getting robbed on the same block? …Probably about the same chances that some dude who goes solely by “Leon” can throw down reverse dunks like Dominique at the ’87 Dunk Contest and pull up from half court like Steph Curry at the Rucker – all in in god damn couduroys and a thermal! But, great art sometimes requires the suspension of disbelief. Still, “Regulate” goes down as the only hip hop hit, in which the protagonist gets jacked, but saved by a gun-toting crooner. In the words of a much better rapper, I’d say that’s Rather Unique.

 

Biggie, Biggie, Biggie

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Notorious B.I.G. – Hypnotize

Lyric: “Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, can’t you see? Sometimes your words just hypnotize me”

Perhaps no hip hop artist was ever more capable of making hits for both the club and the streets, the radio and the Walkman, the stick-up kid and the nine-to-fiver, than the livest one from Bedford Stuyvesant. While “Hypnotize” is plenty guilty of ushering in the “shiny suit era” that dealt a major blow to boom bap, and largely shut the door on the golden era, it certainly gets people off their asses and can still turn a club out to this day. While it’s nowhere on my essential Biggie playlist, it’s an undisputed hit – so much so that it actually inspired a second Monkish beer, a standard IPA, entitled Days of Underoos.

 

Blowin’ up the Spot

Brewer: Monkish x Other Half

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr – Blowin’ up the Spot

Lyric: “And you don’t wanna hear the burners go pop. Gangstarr, motherfucker, what?! Blowing up the Spot”

This is Monkish’s second collaboration with Other Half. Both titled after Gangstarr tracks, JFK 2 LAX (covered later in this entry) was the first collab. Driven by the success of the first collab, this beer was highly anticipated and drew quite long lines on release day. “Blowin’ up the Spot” was one of the standouts on Hard to Earn, which is one of several golden era classics from Gangstarr’s catalog. On this track, DJ Premier flips some funky George Clinton samples as Guru’s unmistakable voice and smooth cadence drops the lyrics, which are slightly more on the aggressive side, relative to Guru’s overall demeanor.

 

Bomb Atomically

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Wu Tang Clan – Triumph

Lyric: “I bomb atomically, Socrates philosophies and hypotheses can’t define how I be dropping these” (Inspectah Deck)

I first heard Deck spit this verse about a year prior to the release (promo or full) of this song, as he delivered it on the epic Tony Touch tape #50, which featured “freestyles” from 50 emcees. It got rewound several times on that tape (as did the Nine verse, in which he names checked tons of rappers), but when “Triumph” hit, it ascended the verse to a whole other level. The Wu Tang Forever album was quite possibly the most anticipated hip hop album of all time. It’s hard to conceptualize and compare pre-internet, but no hip hop artist or group was ever as big and omnipresent as Wu Tang Clan at their pinnacle. This is especially awe-inspiring given that there were tons of other incredibly dope artists in their primes at the same time. “Triumph” delivered on the hype and only further built expectations for the album. The premier of the “Triumph” video was like a national event; the video was the first rap video with a million-dollar budget. And, Deck led it off (as he did on “Protect Ya Neck”), spitting this verse while scaling a building. The verse inspiring this beer is the most memorable verse on hip hop’s most anticipated album, and one of the all-time best leadoff verses on a full-on posse track. …”Shackling the masses with drastic rap tactics; graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths” still gives me chills!

 

Eric C is President

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Eric B & Rakim – Eric B is President

Lyric: Title of song

There is simultaneously so much, yet not much to say here. Off possibly the most influential album in hip hop history, we have possibly the most influential song from the most influential emcee. You can barely go four bars anywhere in the song without a line that was subsequently scratched into a chorus, or referenced in a subsequent lyric, or song or album title. Eric B is on the cut, and Ra is on mic – really doesn’t get better than this!

 

Ghetto Style Proverbs

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr feat Inspectah Deck – Above the Clouds

Lyric: “Heed the words. It’s like ghetto style proverbs. The righteous men sacrifice to get what they deserve.” (Guru)

An unexpected, yet welcome pairing, Guru and the Rebel INS trade verses over another Preemo masterpiece. I always thought Guru’s verse was extremely poetic – it’s not overly complex in lyric or flow, just well-composed and delivered, with each word carefully chosen. Deck follows in typical form, riding the beat with above average lyrical acumen, characteristics that make Deck well-suited for any and all guest features.

 

Intelligent Embellishment

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Blackstar – Re-Definition

Lyric: “Intelligent embellishment, follow the fire element from Flatbush settlement” (Mos Def)

It was very tempting to type out this entire verse. Though Mos Def’s peak as an emcee was somewhat short-lived, at his best he’s simply one of the most talented lyricists and performers to ever touch a microphone. This verse is a clinic on how to completely own the English language, as Mos finesses an educated form of braggadocio while modulating his voice and flow. This is on my short list of favorite Mos Def verses. Major props to Monkish for this one as well, because it’s a pretty deep and obscure reference.

 

JFK to LAX

Brewer: Monkish x Other Half

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr – JFK to LAX

Lyric: “Nothing happened. Mind your business – yo, step. You know we connect – JFK to LAX:

Gangstarr’s Moment of Truth is a great album that is somewhat slept on. The duo is largely defined by a string of three albums that preceded this release, but it deserves the same reverence as the other classics in the catalog. “JFK 2 LAX” is a fairly short, chorus-less jam that showcases an essential, introspective and refined Guru over impeccable Preemo production. Few combos throughout hip hop history have ever delivered so reliably and consistently.

 

La Schmoove

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Fu-Schnickens – La Schmoove

Lyric: “La Schmoove! We ain’t got nothin’ to prove!”

Fu-Schnickens may be best known as the established group that basically launched Shaquille O’Neal’s rap career. They were also notably used as a de facto insult when Nas accused Jay-Z of emulating his style, claiming that prior his influence, Jay-Z “rapped like the Fu-Schnickens.” But, Fu-Schnickens had a short, yet relatively meteoric run in the early 90s, defined by their rapid fire, energetic flows. Along with “La Schmoove,” ‘What’s up Doc” (featuring Shaq), “True Fushnick,” and “Ring the Alarm” all made waves at time of release.

 

Relax your Mind

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: EPMD – You Gots to Chill

Lyric: “Relax your mind, let your conscience be free, and get down to the sounds of EPMD” (Erick Sermon)

EPMD is one of the greatest duos in hip hop history, and “You Gots to Chill” is one of their most classic jams, girded by one of the most recognizable and recycled samples/beats in the genre. I’ve always considered EPMD one of the best examples of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Neither Erick Sermon nor Parrish Smith are exceptionally talented emcees, and their efforts independent of the group are largely lackluster. However, the EPMD catalog contains multiple classic albums and many boom bap classics.

 

Sip the Juice

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Rakim – Juice (Know the Ledge)

Lyric: “Sip the juice, I got enough to go around. And, the thought takes place Uptown.”

The hood classic, Juice, was Tupac’s big screen breakout. The lead single off the Soundtrack was this banger from Rakim. Pretty impressive credentials, I’d say. “Deep Cover” is likely the most famous and celebrated hip hop track off a motion picture soundtrack, but this joint featuring the immortal Rakim, still in top form, has as good an argument as any for second place on that list.

 

Stampede the Globe

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Raekwon featuring Ghostface and Nas – Verbal Intercourse. 

Lyric: “Through the lights, cameras, action, glamour, glitter, and gold, I unfold a scroll. Plant seeds to stampede the globe.” (Nas)

Nas’s guest verse on Raekwon’s classic, Only Built for Cuban Linx, basically stole the show on the track, and is one of the standout verses on the entire album. Some might consider this Nas’s best guest appearance of his accomplished and prolific career. The period between Illmatic and It Was Written may be my personal favorite iteration of Nas. Die-hards will also recognize this verse from the once tough-to-find, unreleased track, “De Ja Vu” …I must have dubbed that track, along with some other Nas rarities, pre-internet, for more than two dozen people – because you know I was not actually lending out the original tape!

 

Have you had any of these gems from Monkish? If so, tell us which are your favorites. Next, we will feature some hip-hop inspired beer names from a selection of other breweries.

Labels

In explaining the concept of BierWax to friends, family, and colleagues, I often use the phrase “craft beer.” In fact, I’ve used it in previous posts here. But, what really is “craft beer?” How useful of a term is it? And, how should we describe our beer preferences?

When I first became aware of the wider world of beers with more complex flavors and a wider spectrum of taste and style, many of these products were referred to as “microbrews.” As I understand, that term fell out of usage because it was actually a legal term referring to breweries of a certain (rather small) size and many brewers of good beer grew out of that legal definition. So, our favorite microbreweries were no longer microbreweries. “Craft beer” emerged as the replacement term.

The Brewer’s Association defines a craft beer brewer as “small, independent, and traditional.” For their purposes, this definition is probably fine, but to me it doesn’t seem particularly helpful. For example, “small” is a relative term. As an example of the arbitrary nature of this definition, “small” currently means fewer than 6 million barrels, but this figure has been revised upwards as outfits like Boston Beer Company, better known as Sam Adams, outgrew previous caps.

By the industry definition, Sam Adams is craft beer. However, most of the community who identifies as “craft beer drinkers,” would scoff at the notion of Sam Adams as craft beer. In fact, this post was partially motivated by a sign I saw at a local corner store advertising “craft beer” and featuring a picture of several varieties of Sam Adams. At the same time, a brand like Ballast Point might be considered more accessible craft beer, but ever since it was acquired by Constellation, it is no longer independent, and therefore not craft. In addition to a proxy for good beer, some people value the distinction of craft as a way to feel like they are supporting smaller, independent businesses. With more and more mergers and acquisitions, this issue is becoming a bit tangled as well.

On the simple grounds of taste, there’s beer that fits our more practical definition of “craft” that isn’t so great. There’s also beer that we don’t consider when we think of “craft,” that’s can be adequate. So, we have a term that has a technical definition, which doesn’t really reflect its colloquial use and is generally of minimal help. So, why do we use it?

Pause for appreciation of this post’s namesake

It seems to me that the false precision of the term functions basically as a lexical crutch. Take the phrase, “craft beer revolution,” or “emergence of craft beer” – both of which I’ve probably written in previous posts. What’s the alternative? “Good beer revolution?” That seems highly subjective, so I’m not sure it’s preferable.

More serious craft beer drinkers seem to understand what is meant by the term when used in like company. So, one may argue that as long we understand one another, it doesn’t much matter if common use is somewhat at odds with formal definition. But, perhaps the opposite is actually true. Beer enthusiasts can just refer to products by their proper names when speaking among ourselves – we don’t need a catch-all, genre-encompassing term. Those who need to understand what we mean when we use the term are precisely those who are on the outside. And, as long as the rift exists, it’s kind of hard to blame your cousin who, when you visit, tells you, proudly, yet condescendingly, that he picked up some “craft beer” for you because he knows you “like that stuff,” only to reveal Sam Adams Cherry Wheat or something.

As a thought experiment, imagine your beer-naïve friend is getting supplies for a barbeque and asks you what kind of beer you want. How would you answer that question without appearing too high-maintenance? Replying, “craft beer,” you’re likely not to know what you will get. You might be best off either suggesting some actual brands, or varieties, “I like IPAs, especially black IPAs,” for example.

As we market BierWax, we will likely use the term “craft beer” as a shorthand, often for practical reasons. But, we’re eager to get down to the nitty gritty, select particular offerings and engage our friends and clientele to help learn exactly what you like and how we can both satisfy and expand your palettes.

 

The BierWax List of Boom-Bap (2016 Edition)

2016, oh 2016!?! At least you brought us some great music. The following records were our favorites this year. In no particular order, here are our ten…

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Czarface – A Fistful of Peril

Inspectah Deck, 7L, and Esoteric continue to display amazing chemistry with their third album. Inspectah Deck has a post-Wu outlet for his talent and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air.

Highlights: Czar Wars; Dust

 

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Elzhi – Lead Poison

Elzhi took quite a while to finish this Kickstarter funded album, but it was worth the wait. Lead Poison is introspective and creative. Who else would pen a story about becoming a bloodthirsty vampire?

Highlights: Two 16’s; Introverted

 

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Skyzoo & Apollo Brown – The Easy Truth

Apollo Brown creates such a beautiful soundscape for Skyzoo. Simply a great listen from beginning to end.

Highlights: A Couple Dollars; Innocent Ambition

 

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Royce 5’9 – Layers

After the heralded PRhyme project with DJ Premier and his work with Slaughterhouse, Layers is a very well crafted solo project by Royce 5’9.

Highlights: Tabernacle; Shine

 

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Ugly Heroes – Everything in Between

Honest and thoughtful, it’s a delight to listen to Red Pill and Verbal Kent over another beautifully produced album by Apollo Brown.

Highlights: Today Right Now; Notions

 

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Smoke Dza & Pete Rock – Don’t Smoke Rock

Pete Rock is simply superb on “Don’t Smoke Rock.”

Highlights: Black Superhero Car; Milestone

 

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Masta Ace – The Falling Season

The 50 year old wordsmith continues to certify his legacy as one of the best. The beats on this album are a treat, as well.

Highlights: Mathematics: Story of Me

 

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Torae – Entitled

This album stayed on rotation for much of the year. Solid album. Definitely one of our favorites.

Highlights: Imperial Sound; Get Down

 

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A Tribe Called Quest – We Got if From Here…Thank you for Your Service.

A wonderful bookend to one of the greatest hip hop groups ever.

Highlights: We the People…; Whateva Will Be

 

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Common – Black America Again

Common’s Black America Again is timely, soulful, and poignant. A true return to form.

Highlights: Home; Pyramids

 

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Ras Kass – Intellectual Property: SOI2

A complete surprise. The beats on SOI2 serve as a proper platform to Ras Kass’ lyricism.

Highlights: Paypal the Feature; Constant Elevation

Okay, that was eleven.


These didn’t make the list, but are worth a listen:

Termanology – More Politics

There are a few great moments on More Politics (Just Politics, I Dream B.I.G., and We’re Both Wrong), but some of the beats and hooks are underwhelming.

Reks – The Greatest X

Too damn long, but there are an album worth of fantastic tracks on the 2016 release.

 

36 Hours in LA: A BierWax Tale

It’s Thursday, and I’m already on a hastily put together overnight trip to Beacon. It’s dark, the road is narrow and winding, and we are trying to make up some of the time lost in traffic. In a moment of silence, I happen to glance at my Instagram feed and I’m reminded that Casa Agria Specialty Ales in California is releasing Guayaba de Oro bottles on Saturday. “Would you like to go to California tomorrow?”

NOTE: This is not necessarily a guide of what to do in Los Angeles, just what I happen to have done in the roughly 36 hours I was there.

El Albajeño – 4513 Inglewood BLVD , Culver City CA 90230

We arrived Saturday morning with no plans; just with the goal of making it to Oxnard, California. But first, we had to find food… We searched for best tacos and El Albajeño popped up. The place was relatively busy, with lots of locals. The menu was chock-full of Mexican dishes, but very few tacos. Once i got my food, I was immediately envious of the Menudo and the other soupy stews I saw at every-other table. I would come back to El Albajeño… just not for the tacos.

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Casa Agria Specialty Ales – 701 N Del Norte Blvd #310, Oxnard, CA 93030 | https://casaagria.com

It’s my first time in LA, so we drive through Santa Monica and Malibu up the Pacific Coast Highway. The sun is shining and I’m overdressed. The scenery is beautiful yet oddly familiar; I have seen it plenty of times in movies and video games. I want to stop several times at the beaches and canyons, but there’s a schedule to keep.

Casa Agria is a “boutique Ventura County based brewery, focusing on mixed fermentation farmhouse style ales and barrel aged wild ales.” I first had their stuff at Hunahpu Day 2016 in Tampa, Florida, and Guayaba de Oro was one of the top beers I had that day, and a definite crowd pleaser. Based on that experience, I promised myself that if it was ever to be released I would make my way to California to get it.

When we arrived to the Casa Agria address just 15 minutes shy of the release time, we almost drove past it. Casa Agria is nestled in a nondescript industrial park; the bold gorgeous logo affixed to the front window of the suite, is the only visible cue that a brewery lives there. Waiting for the doors to open, I was somewhat surprised about the relatively small number of people that were in a loosely formed line. It is a small brewery, and it is Oxnard, but this stuff is good.

The line moves quickly, I get my bottles, and I remark that I came from NY to get these. That gets the attention of some of the staff including Ryan (one of the owners) that asks if I was the one that said that on social media. We chat for a second and he admits that he had thought to himself “Yeah Right” and yet there I was.

I’m determined to make my way through the entire tap list, starting with Guayaba de Oro itself. It’s more sour and a bit more unbalanced that I remember but no less great. Grisita and Eclipse Solaire impressed, but I was blown away by Western Glow, an IPA dry hopped with Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Columbus, that comes in at an ABV of 7.5%. It’s juicy, it’s tropical, resinous yet soft. I regret not bringing my growler, and now I have other reasons to come back besides the sours. If you’re in California, Casa Agria is worth traveling for!

09

 

The LINE Hotel – 3515 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010 | http://www.thelinehotel.com

We didn’t have sleeping accommodations, heck, we had booked the rental car while cruising at 39,000 feet. We had tried to book an AirBnB but, as expected, that didn’t work so well on last minute notice. The whole trip had been on a whim, so we ended up at the Line Hotel, in Koreatown/Downtown. The Line Hotel sits at the top of Travel + Leisure’s 13 sexiest hotel rooms in the world, and with good reason. It boasts poured concrete walls, floor to ceiling windows, and every room is artistically appointed. Opting in for the Hollywood Hills view may further cut into your beer budget (we did), but hey it’s LA.

As dusk settled, I finally gave in to jet-lag, and I went to sleep far too early for a person who is in LA for the first time, but I’m sure the clubs and bars did just fine without me.

 

El Huarachito – 3010 ½ N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA

Well rested but hungry, I suggested we have chilaquiles for breakfast, so off we went to northeast LA, to El Huarachito, another mom and pop operation. The chillaquiles were good, but the Huevos Divorciados blew me away. I had never heard of the dish, but now I’m and instant fan. The meal checks all the boxes; you get two eggs over easy, topped with chilaquiles one with salsa verde and one with salsa roja, and separated by refried beans, and bacon (upon seeing it you may even say, ah, I get name now!). When in LA go there, do it! And don’t forget to bring cash along with your appetite.

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Monkish – 20311 S Western Ave, Torrance, CA 90501| www.monkishbrewing.com

The next stop was Monkish, and as luck would have it there was a can release on that day. I was really excited and couldn’t believe my timing; however, we got there only to find out it was sold out. There was no room for lament though. I did not go to LA to sit and wait in a line, so I did the next best thing and ordered one glass of each as they had them on tap. They both were slightly disappointing, only because they tasted a little green, and frankly because my comparisons are the superb JFK 2 LAX (collaboration with Other Half) and stuff like Dreaming of the Usual, and Swap Meets.

The brewery was crowded, and I was surprised at its relatively small size. The brewery is tucked in an industrial park and a small sign over the door displays the name and logo. The taproom itself was cozy with a high exposed ceiling. There isn’t much space in the taproom, but the brewery floor sports a much bigger seating area.

Steeping out of the taproom and onto the brewery, I see a guy babysitting his haul as he chats with a group of friends. He says hi, and comments that he remembers me from the prior day at Casa Agria. We chat for a bit and I tell him I’m from NY and I’m visiting. He then goes ahead and pulls down on a can of Foggier Window and hands it to me. I feel my jaw drop and my eyes widen (this is why I love beer people). I offer him my eternal appreciation, and I offer to buy him a beer. He declines the latter and I promise to ship him something from NY. (Note to self: I have to do that)

I’m surprised to find out that Monkish started as a brewery focused on Belgian styles, and that they had even (infamously) displayed a sign in the brewery that read NO IPA NO MSG until early this year, since I’ve only known them for their sought-after IPA can releases. It’s crazy to fathom how much of a following and success they have enjoyed for the short amount of time they have been brewing IPAs. To honor that tradition (and really because I didn’t want to walk away with just the one can) I bought a bottle of Knowledge and Peace, a rice saison i cant wait to try.

 

Smog City – 1901 Del Amo Blvd B, Torrance, CA 90501 | www.smogcitybrewing.com

There are a few more breweries a stone’s throw away from Monkish, but the one I was most interested in visiting was Smog City. Typical for the area, it’s another brewery that calls an industrial park home. Access to the brewery and taproom is through a huge roll-up door. The space start relatively narrow but opens up to a sizable seating area stacked with barrels.

I try to sample as wide a range as possible, and I end up with very varying styles. Unbeknownst to me, Smog City is well known for its use of coffee and its Coffee Porter is a great example of that. I highly recommend it if you like a hint of beer in your coffee. Bottom line, there’s tons to love here. Bourbon O.E. was great if a bit sweet and boozy; Cuddlebug took me by surprise, perfect prickly carbonation, tart/sour juicy berries, and easy drinking.

They have bottles to go, which I considered, but my next stop was The Bruery, and I had only 1 suitcase to contend with.

 

The Bruery –717 Dunn Way, Placentia, CA 92870| https://www.thebruery.com/

Before I knew anything about any west coast breweries, there was a name that always came up in conversation and online; The Bruery.

With their big bottle format, they have, in my mind, cemented an image of quality and class. With beers like So Happens its Tuesday and Reuze (just how do you pronounce this?) becoming more easy to find in NYC, this image is well supported. So needless to say, I was excited to finally visit them.

Located further out east in Placentia, CA, the ride provided some time in between breweries. This is a big brewery producing a huge amount of beer. The size and scope becomes evident as you enter the parking lot; all but one of the suites in the industrial park is taken up by The Bruery. Interestingly enough, they have recently split the operation into two; creating The Terraux brand in order to focus it on the production of sours.

The taproom is spacious and the tap list challengingly huge. As I strategize how to tackle it, there’s an announcement made that tours would start soon… and that beer, may or may not be served on this tour, so we decided to jump on it. The tour was led by Josh who was as funny as he was informative. There were only four of us total, so the tour beer stops meant we got large pours. I learned, I laughed and when I came out I needed to hydrate and reconsider the idea of hitting the tap-list.

If you’re in the area, The Bruery is not to to be missed. However, do come early, do the tour, and stay a while. There’s a huge tap list that’s sure to please.

 

El Farolito – 201 S Bradford Ave, Placentia, CA 92870| http://www.elfarolitomex.com/

After the tour we also found ourselves hungry. We had long decided we would only eat Mexican food on this trip, and the online search led us to El Farolito. This highly ranked restaurant boasts a great menu and a good family vibe. It’s definitely popular, and on peak times expect to wait in line. We had a flight to catch that night and so we took the food to go. We ended up with a Carnitas platter that we lovingly devoured back at The Bruery since we needed a place to sit, and we had to make sure we took some of those bottles home with us.

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In California or the West Coast as a whole, San Diego gets a lot of love for their beer scene, and rightly so, some of those San Diego breweries have been pioneers in the craft beer movement, and the community is big and vibrant. However, LA is putting out really great stuff, and making a name of its own. My first time in LA was amazing, given the time spent there I did most of the things I wanted to do. I do wish I had visited Bottle Logic, and had a chance at the Monkish cans, as well as visiting/discovering some breweries and beer spots I hadn’t heard of, but there will definitely be a next time!

Broken Language

The “beer nerd” can be pretentious and annoying. Reading pedantic and bombastic beer reviews can be insufferable. But, the existence of this highfalutin drivel might actually serve a greater purpose.

Hip hop has grown to become the dominant global pop culture, yet despite the occasional Hamilton outlier, it remains relatively segregated to the artistic ghetto. Many still don’t consider rap to be “real music” and don’t see a lack of familiarity with even the most seminal artists as a cultural blind spot of note. Why is this?

I would argue that language itself is a significant factor in the gulf between hip hop’s cultural influence and artistic standing and acceptance. Specifically, the manner in which something is discussed greatly influences how it is perceived. Given the ubiquity of hip hop music and culture, there appears a relative dearth of scholarly, poetic, and critically analytical discourse surrounding it. There aren’t enough successful people in the mainstream speaking personally and passionately about the impact of hip hop in their lives.

While some of that kind of discussion can also ring a bit precious, it goes a long way to legitimize culture and art to the masses. We’ve seen this happen with previous generations of music, morphing from sex, drugs, and rock and roll to revered artistry, and birthing cultural touchpoints with which we are all supposed to be familiar. The evolution of the discourse around the music was a substantial driver of that transition.

Nowhere is the notion of language influencing perception more familiar than when it comes to food and drink. You can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a pureed nut spread with grape relish reduction on artisan brioche.

Food and drink is not only tasted, but experienced. So, the way a beer is represented is part of the priming of that experience. This is especially relevant for a restaurant or bar. Ideally, a description of a beer will communicate its vital stats as well as a bit of insight into its flavors in an accessible, descriptive, and succinct manner.

big_pun‘Language is fatal and it’s hypnotizing. I’m only emphasizing, I’m all about business and enterprising.” – Big Punisher

My last post touched on the fact that beer has remained in the alcoholic beverage underclass. The emergence and now unprecedented growth of the craft beer movement is a huge step in evolving the perception of beer, but the existence of these products is not enough on its own. Changing the discourse around beer is an important next step as well.

Have you ever been to a nice restaurant with an extensive wine list and asked your server about their beers, only to get a list of six generic, bland beers, five of which are the same varietal (usually lager)? Implicit in this kind of offering is the assumption that a beer is a beer. Some of the nerdy beer talk plays a role in forcing people to re-examine that naïve premise, which – in turn – leads to better and more diverse offerings for consumers.

So, when I read forced beer review that waxes poetic about notes of caramel, pure golden hues, aromatic complexity, and a crisp finish, I try to also keep in mind that if this was how we spoke about beer more broadly, it would be very rare to walk into a decent restaurant and be unable to get a good beer.

A BierWax Guide to Barcelona Beer

As soon as we exited the Barcelona airport, the shining tanks at Estrella Damm’s brewing facility greeted us. And that’s the last you will hear about the most popular beer in much of Spain. This guide, though not exhaustive, will focus on the exploding craft beer scene in Barcelona which has experienced a rapid growth spurt during the last couple of years. I wish we had more time to tick off a few more spots on our list. The following photos and words will highlight a handful of spots that we explored before and after an epic Spanish wedding. Based on the quality of the beer and the ambiance of these spots, I think we visited the best of the best (for the most part).

Abirradero – Carrer de Vila i Vilà, 77, 08004 Barcelona | http://www.abirradero.com/

We were eager to try Barcelona-made craft beer. Abirradero was our very first stop and it surely did not disappoint. With 40 taps for your imbibing enjoyment, we focused on sampling their roughly 20 house beers. The brewpub’s beer is brewed right next door in a space that is part brewery part brewing school. El Instituto de la Cerveza Artesana (I.C.A.) is the official name of the brewery, so we intentionally only ordered beers labeled I.C.A., not beer from their several guest taps. We had two flights.  Nearly everything we had was above average and spot on for the style. Our bartender, once he discovered our special love for craft beer, scribbled a few names and addresses on a napkin. We then had a few more spots to add to our list and find. Next time we return to Barcelona, we’ll certainly try their food menu.

 

Brew Pub Le Sec – Carrer de Margarit, 52, 08004 Barcelona, Spain

Per the Abirradero bartender’s recommendation, we made our way to this tiny brewpub a few blocks away. It was a charming space; however, their two house-made beers were forgettable.  The space was extremely cozy and I appreciate their nano-brewery sized set up. I’d return again to give another two beers a shot.

 

La Rovira – Carrer de Rabassa, 23, 08024 Barcelona

What a kickass beer bar!? We loved their tap-list and thoroughly enjoyed their food menu. I was even able to stomach (and enjoy) olives for the first time EVER! I had a fantastic mouth-puckering Biere de Garde from BFM (Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes) and sipped on a few other really great beers. If La Rovira was located in NY, I’d be a regular for sure.

BrewDog Barcelona –Carrer de Casanova, 69, 08011 Barcelona | https://www.brewdog.com/usa/bars/worldwide/barcelona

I was excited to finally visit a BrewDog location. I only really had BrewDog beer a few times in the states. I enjoyed their TV show on the Esquire Network and appreciated their penchant for pushing boundaries. This visit was a complete letdown. We ordered two flights to try as much as possible. The beers were all lackluster and the server was even more of a letdown. During our layover in England, a few local beer-heads also spoke badly of the brand. Bollocks!

 

BierCab Barcelona – Calle Muntaner, 55, 08011 Barcelona | http://biercab.com/

After drinking Sevilla’s own Cruz Campo for most of the wedding, we craved something with more hop bite and ABV once the reception was over. A fellow craft beer enthusiast at the wedding pointed us in this direction and we were in for a treat. BierCab, short for Bier Cabron, has an extremely impressive bottle-list and beers on draught that are tough to find in the U.S. I started off with Westbrook’s Mexican Cake on tap. Manuel, the super gregarious owner/manager, opened up the next door bottle shop for us and we were mesmerized. I hear the food at BierCab is equally excellent, so put them on your must-visit list.

 

Mikkeller Bar Barcelona – Carrer de València, 202, 08011 Barcelona | http://mikkeller.dk/location/mikkeller-bar-barcelona/

We’ve brushed shoulders with Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso and the folks at Tørst numerous times, so his twin brother’s bar in Barcelona was high on the to do list. I’ve enjoyed all of the Mikkeller beers I’ve tried and I adore Keith Shore’s art which adorns most Mikkeller labels and the walls of their bars. The bar is simply gorgeous. We were able to observe each corner since the bar was totally empty, in complete contrast to Tørst in Greenpoint. Each beer we tried was excellent. Yet another place we could have spent much more time at.

 

Barcelona Beer Company – Carrer de Muntaner, 7, 08011 Barcelona | http://www.barcelonabeercompany.com/en/Taproom

Based on the name alone, we had to visit. Pretty taproom, decent beer. We didn’t have any food, but the options looked great. I wasn’t blown away by the beer, but it’s another much-needed alternative to Spanish lager. It is important to note that there is no such thing as a “flight” in Spain.  Just ask for a “mix.”

 

Garage Beer Company – Carrer del Consell de Cent, 261, 08011 Barcelona | http://garagebeer.co/en/

Garage Beer Company is churning out amazing beer, collaborating with top-notch American breweries such as Other Half, and is certainly making a name for itself in the growing Barcelona craft beer scene. Their American IPA, Slinger, was excellent. Blacksmith, their Imperial Stout, was also solid. They will be expanding to a larger space in the near future. Garage Beer Company successfully crowd-funded over 490,000 Euros, 90,000 more than their original goal. They will soon be able to move out of the garage, but keep their name.

 

NaparBCN – Carrer de la Diputació, 223, 08011 Barcelona | http://www.naparbcn.com/

Hands down, this was our best beer and food experience in Barcelona. I do have to admit a minor bias: Our friends who were recently married are friends and neighbors with Sven, one of the owners of Napar, so we were able to really get to know Napar’s food and beer quite well. Sven, a Spaniard of Belgian descent, is a beer fanatic. We spent time with Sven, trying various Napar beers and sampling an assortment of tapas. Sven wanted NaparBCN to stand out in Barcelona’s emerging beer scene, creating a locale that is recognized not only for great beer but also for its gastronomy. He is pairing cloudy Vermont-style IPAs and Imperial Stouts with plates that push the boundaries of traditional Spanish cuisine. Napar’s beer cellar list is the most impressive I’ve seen in a long time, with bottles of La Trappe from as far back as 1968 mingling with Westmalle Dubbels from the 1990s. His most prized cellared beer is an Oude Geuze that is allegedly 55 years old. As the story goes, the bottles were found in an old barn in Belgium under piles of hay and wrapped in newspapers from 55 years ago. Sven told us that he is the only person who has paid the 195.00 Euros to see what the beer actually tastes like. The photos don’t do NaparBCN justice. The brewpub is unlike any beer venue I’ve seen before. Immaculate!

 

Ale-Hop – multiple locations in Barcelona | http://en.ale-hop.org/

If you are looking for beer, don’t go here! If you need an emoji pillow or mole-skin notebook, you’ve found the right place. Apparently, there is an actual Ale-Hop beer spot in Barcelona. I wonder if it also has a life-sized cow to greet customers in the front.

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I USED TO LOVE H.E.R.

BierWax unquestionably loves hip hop. But does hip hop love beer?

As impressionable teenagers coming of age in what many canonize the “golden era” of hip hop, the music and culture greatly influenced our sensibilities and preferences. While I believe most of us stopped short of seeing rappers as role models, they were certainly among the arbiters of cool and taste. So, it’s no surprise that long before embracing the glorious world of delicious craft beer, many nights were spent passing forty ounce bottles of malt liquor around park benches with friends.

Hip hop had us believing that Heineken and Guinness were atop the pantheon of brews and that St. Ides, Olde English, and Ballantine were standard, every day fare. Rappers even made commercials advertising malt liquor. While BierWax is chiefly devoted to beer, I can’t help but also note some of the equally poor choices of spirits lionized in golden era hip hop, such as Brass Monkey, E&J brandy, and Bacardi rum. And, who could forget “thug passion,” hip hop’s Arnold Palmer – a mix of Hennessy and Alize? Craft beer was neither available nor marketed to “the hip hop community.”

As boom-bap gave way to bling-bling, the tastes embraced by hip hop began to evolve, though largely driven by conspicuous consumption as opposed to connoisseurship. Strictly Timb boots and army certified suits were replaced by Versace silks. Henny became Louis XIII. And, somehow champagne became a beverage of choice among a group that otherwise seemed quite concerned with representing itself as alpha males. But, what happened to beer?

Judging from a lyrical content perspective, one might conclude that beer was phased out of the hip hop lifestyle. Absent glamour brands to serve as low common denominator proxies for wealth, one could posit that beer went “underground.” Those with more refined taste in both hip hop and beer were nudged away from the mainstream to find flavors that simultaneously reflected such “purist” sensibilities, yet broke molds and expanded palettes.

BierWax does not see fine beer and consciously curated vinyl music as two random interests, but rather a foreseeable pairing. Those passionate about beer will seek brewers and varieties the way one might “dig” for records. One can grab a six-pack of Bud off the shelf as easily as one can turn on the radio, but the discriminate consumer tends to gravitate toward forms that better capture the essence of the entity.

In that respect, it’s understandable why contemporary rappers haven’t embraced good beer. With a more electronic soundscape for the music, and computer programs replacing turntables, the music itself presents as less “craft.” Good beer and good music strive to leave a signature imprint, while beer and music for the masses seek to be inoffensive, often achieving that through blandness. The notes in a good craft beer can remind me of Large Professor banging out drum loops or the layering of samples in a Bomb Squad record.

Unfortunately, the golden ages of craft beer and hip hop didn’t really overlap. Still, I can’t help but wonder what would have been if they did, since they are something of a natural philosophical fit. Perhaps Eazy-E might have rapped that he had the Imperial Coffee Stout rollin’, and maybe we wouldn’t have wasted so much of our youth drinking bad beer!

What are your beer and hip hop related memories? And, what are your favorite beer-related songs or lines?

Good Hip Hop Inspired by Bad Beer Playlist

Dust + Dignity

Art is such a powerful way to encourage dialog and to challenge us to think critically about some of the issues that we continue to face in the United States, including the rising tide of neo-fascism, continued police brutality, and economic inequality.  I was invited to experience Dust + Dignity, an incredible collection of vinyl record covers that all speak to civil rights and social justice. Dust + Dignity was organized and curated by Bruce “DJ Junior” Campbell, Jr., PhD, who is a professor at Arcadia University.  The exhibit included records from some of Philly’s most legendary DJs and record collectors: Cosmo Baker, King Britt, Rich Medina, and Skeme Richards.

Here is the essence of Dust + Dignity in DJ Junior’s words:

Today, we are experiencing on outing of the racial ignorance that has long existed in our city, country, and surrounding world. Born out of this injustice and in response to the ignorance is art. In art, we find sound. Music keeps us together; it heals and connects — it motivates and celebrates. Lyrics give life to our souls, the melodies align our hearts, and the rhythms stoke the fire of our movements. Often overlooked is the powerful connection between an album’s music and the visual artwork that binds it together.

From Gil Scott Heron’s “Moving Target” to Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy Award-Winning 2015 release, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” the evolution of album artwork has transmitted the dynamism of music and social injustices.

Here are most of the covers…

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Stay tuned for a NYC Dust + Dignity exhibit hopefully coming soon.

-BierWax

The Inspiration

It has certainly been quite a while. I apologize for the long hiatus. I’ve been busy business planning, working at two breweries, home brewing, and focusing on making this dream a reality in the very near future. (I failed to mention my duties as the director of a pregnancy prevention program, husband, and father of twin three year old girls.) I’m juggling it all and happy to be nearly finished with the Bierwax business plan.

Right from the business plan, here is our mission statement…

Bierwax is a craft beer tasting room and vinyl record listening room. We are as passionate about our beer as we are about vinyl records, with a finely curated tap-list mingling with over 3,000 vinyl records. Bierwax is malted grains, water, hops, and yeast mixed with a pinch of 45s, a cup of boom-bap, and a heaping tablespoon of funk. We respect beer and aim to preserve the legacy of analog music.  

That’s what I will be opening in a year or two. Here are two bars that have been tremendous influences on what Bierwax will be…

Inspiration Numero Uno:                         

A few years ago, a couple of friends and I rented bikes in Amsterdam and somehow managed to find our way to Cafe de Duivel. We were intrigued by the description of the bar online and decided to see firsthand what a hip hop bar in Amsterdam would be like. The bar was pretty traditional with the exception of the music. There was a live DJ at the back of the bar spinning early 1990s and underground hip hop vinyl records. He was seamlessly mixing and cutting in and out of each track. The crowd, who I assume were mostly local Dutch folks, was going crazy and even knew the lyrics to some of the pretty obscure hip hop songs. That’s Europe for you! I remember wondering why something like Cafe de Duivel doesn’t exist in New York. Since I don’t travel to Europe with much frequency, I’ve longed to revisit Duivel or another venue just like it.

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Inspiration Numero Dos:

Nearly ten years ago, I was invited to spend a few days in Hong Kong with a close friend of mine. We had a layover in Tokyo for a few hours and the airport alone was unlike anything I had ever experienced. One day we’ll stack enough cheddar to actually afford to spend some time in Tokyo. Until then, I’m living vicariously through culinary/travel shows like No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and Mind of a Chef. I stumbled upon photos of this place below, dubbed Jazz, Blues and Soul (JBS). While explaining an early iteration of Bierwax to a friend, he asked if I ever heard of JBS in Tokyo. I hadn’t and was completely blown away when he showed me a few photos on Instagram. This was basically what I had been dreaming up all along, except JBS mainly serves whisky and is on the other side of the world. The sole owner and manager of the bar, serves up both an excellent whiskey selection and an impeccable collection of vinyl records. You might find Kobayashi-san throwing on a Charles Mingus LP or Nas’ classic debut Illmatic. It all depends on his mood at the time.

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As I round third base with my business planning, expect to hear more from me. I appreciate all of the support and good vibes as I make something like Duivel or JBS a reality in New York.

Cheers,

Chris Maestro