Thursday, November 19, 2015


As Marge Simpson says in a Tree House of Horror episode, “Hmm, I guess you should judge a book by its cover.
” And a nearby secret agent agrees, “Definitely! Especially if you count the inside flap as part of the cover, it usually gives you a great idea of what the book's about.”

You might argue about whether this is actually true of certain books, but in any case, how about beer? Can you judge a beer by looking at its label?

A literary drinking buddy and I were knocking back a bottle of Spiral Jetty that I’d brought home from Utah.  I asked him how he liked it.  “It’s fine,” he said, “but somehow it doesn’t taste the way I expect a beer called Spiral Jetty to taste, but then I don’t really know how I expect a beer called Spiral Jetty to taste.  Salty?  Sandy?  Arty? Of the land?”

         A good point, I thought, and I had no answer, only more questions, for instance: how should a beer taste that’s called Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale and has a label like this one?:

Should it be acidic, psychedelic, distorted, hair-curling, a bit sixties?  In fact it was perfectly OK – a bit cloudy, a bit thin, and to my ravaged taste buds without any taste of orange, bloody or otherwise.  But I don’t blame the beer for not living up to its label, because really how could it?

And how about a beer that has a label showing Thelonius Monk, with a keyboard halo and a skull?  Should it be improvisational, dissonant, idiosyncratic, straight with no chaser?  I had no idea.

Again, I thought that a probably no beer could live up to that image on the label, but then I tasted it and wow – it totally knocked my socks off.  It was intense strong, dark, tangy, smooth, complex – most of these traits definitely shared with the great Thelonius.  And the best thing of all – regardless of any label – if you drink enough of it, it gets you nicely drunk. 

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