beer

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.

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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.

 

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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Vale?

Deconstructing Budweiser’s “Brewed the Hard Way” Commercial

There has been a lot of talk about the second Budweiser commercial that debuted during Super Bowl 49. This is not the one featuring a cute little dog to sell beer – now it’s officially a dog and pony show. I’m referring to the one that explicitly takes aim at the craft beer movement in the United States. If you missed it, here it is: Brewed the Hard Way

For Anheuser Busch InBev to spend several million dollars (still a drop in the bucket) on an advertisement mocking craft beer, then the small guys are really starting to bother the macro beer giant. Of course, with the recent acquisition of Elysian by AB InBev, the entire commercial is a slap in the face to their new craft beer portfolio. Allow me to break down some of the main themes and images below…

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Running throughout the sixty second slot are sounds and images that are grounded in history, humility, and pride. We are “proudly a macro beer” flashes early on in the commercial. This is the beginning of the juxtaposition that follows, with good ol’ Bud being pit against the snobbery of craft beers and their drinkers. Budweiser is clearly a populist drink for the everyday person.

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One of my favorite lines is “It’s not brewed to be fussed over.” As my wife pointed out, isn’t this message already admitting Budweiser beer is of inferior quality? I get it, though – Budweiser makes beer for people who like to drink. Simple folks who just want to throw a few back and care less about intellectualizing what they are drinking. Why bother having a deeper appreciation for the appearance, aroma, body, and taste of a beer? Beer is not to be fussed over, just consumed mindlessly. A few seconds later, “Brewed for drinking, not dissecting” flashes across the screen. They are really driving home the message. Like many other things in life, ignorance is bliss. Just drink it; don’t think about it too much!

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Upon closer inspection, our beer connoisseur is actually a hipster. He had to have a handlebar mustache, didn’t he? Just perfect!

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The commercial is titled “Brewed the Hard Way” after all. What does that really mean? I’ve been told that it actually takes a lot of work to make macro beers taste so consistently bland and water-like. I can’t necessarily badmouth automated brewing, because some of the larger craft breweries can afford computer-driven brewing equipment, as well. However, if you have ever been to a brewery that makes less than 50,000 barrels a year, you’ve probably witnessed an operation that takes hard work, patience, and extreme attention to detail to run smoothly. (Not to take away from the larger craft breweries in any way.) This message is probably the most offensive, in my opinion, as it undermines the blood, sweat, and tears micro-brewers around the country devote to their craft.

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“Let them sip their Pumpkin Peach Ale.” Another classic line. If you didn’t think they are going after craft breweries and craft beer drinkers with this commercial, now there is no mistaking it. Twitter was filled with great commentary in response to this particular line…

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And lastly…

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At the very end of the commercial, when they really start playing the Budweiser classic/historical card, the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses break through a gate. Why is none other than Adolf Hitler and possibly a highly ranking SS officer riding high on top of the majestic horses? I understand invoking German symbolism and even the Reinheitsgebot to sell beers, but this Nazi imagery just has no place in a beer commercial of any kind. (I was threatened with a defamation lawsuit in the past – I am not being serious. However, I’m still disturbed by that image.)

It’s pretty clear that falling beer sales, a 4% drop since 2008, is causing macro beer companies to be worried. This hypocritical and asinine commercial is further proof that the rise in the craft beer movement, especially during the last five years, is becoming a serious threat to the two major macro beer companies, SabMiller and AB InBev. The craft beer industry will continue to experience surging growth as more and more people develop a beer consciousness, caring more about the quality and integrity of the beers they consume.

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