Emmylou by First Aid Kit (7.5) So naturally on the eve of the 2nd greatest (nod to Thanksgiving) of holidays, I wanted my tribute-to-America WD to actually sound like America. And this track does, like that part of America beginning just at the Oklahoma/Arkansas border continuing east along I-40 to just outside Raleigh/Durham; north to the Michigan border and south to somewhere still north of Jackson, Mississippi. I’ve heard this area called many things. But if America were staring at us, its heart would be about the Chicago area. If you continue with this overlay, the area I’ve just described would cover the spleen. Thus making First Aid Kit, spleen music.
And their spleen music sounds like America. First Aid Kit is a sister folk duo from Ensksede, Sweden: Johanna (b. October 31, 1990) and Klara (b. January 8, 1993) Söderberg. And they are just about as cute as I’m allowed to think girls this young are without being creepy. When they do interviews, I imagine them not being able to speak English. They only sing in ‘merican as a pure replication of notes and tones and pitches, and don’t have any real idea what they’re saying. (N.B. Listen to the first verse when she says “I’m defeated and I’ll gladly weeear the crown.” No way they speak English.) (N.B. I assume most opera singers are like this as well.) I don’t know if this is true or not, it’s just how I picture it. But the album, and this song especially, hit me right in my American gut (N.B. potential band name.)
(Segue to part II of the WD about whose relation to the prior section you should be dubious.)
I’m not a wine guy. Don’t get me wrong, I love to drink it (N.B. love). But my wine palate has two settings: (1) mmmmmm tasty; and (2) salad dressing. That is, I can tell when wine is spoiled, and little else. I played the game for few years like any young and pretentious professional should. This Caymus is magnificent. The Rombauer really compliments the beef. That malbec was a bit much, huh? If you ever heard me say anything close to any of this, or watched me swirl wine in a glass then stick my nose in it, consider this my coming clean. I was faking it. I couldn’t tell the difference. The swirl-then-smell maneuver I copied from Sideways just like all of you did.
Beef = Red and Fish = White. If you had me over for a dinner party and were able to execute one of those two pairings, I complemented you and assumed you knew your shit when it came to wine. Even if you didn’t, please know that I still had a great time and would have drunk a flagon (Game of Thrones, sorry) of your wine wrung from the rag you mopped it off the floor with. So don’t feel like you have to impress me.
But I’ll get up in your grill about your beer. And on the eve of our 236th year, I’ll tell you right now, without pause, that the USofA makes the greatest beer in all the world.
Europe invented beer (so they’d like you to think), Germans to be exact (so they’d especially like you to think). It’s still just four ingredients: (1) water; (2) malt (a/k/a partially germinated cereal grains (barley, wheat, et cet) and the sugars extracted from them); (3) yeast (the single-celled organism); and (4) delicious hops (the female flower of the humulus lupulus). Boil the water and the malt together, sprinkle in hops (early on to bitter it, and toward the end for aroma), then dump in the yeast, which eats the sugar and shits alcohol and carbonation. Magically, you get beer.
That’s still how it’s made in Europe and it’s how I make it in my own kitchen. But like most things Europe does, they still assume they’re best at it. And maybe they are the best at the kind of beer they like to drink, but to me all they’re doing is finding more and more boring ways to refine it. I’m to the point where drinking any beer from the right side of the Atlantic feels like a history lecture, like I’m supposed to go mmmmmmmm this an interesting and historical beverage I just consumed. I understand its creation is the product of generations of monks finely tuning their fermenting processes and…… (nods off)
I’ve tried countless European beers only to be in awe of how much more I prefer their American counterpart. Spaten Optimator? I’d much rather a Left Hand Goosinator. Newcastle? Give me a Coop Native Amber. Even American Oktoberfest lagers, which according to German law can only be brewed within Munich, are complex and wonderful (Germany’s Hacker-Pschorr is still prolly the best, but try Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest or Marshall Brewing’s Oktoberfest Lager (brewed in the 918), both are exceptional.). Only you, Dear Guinness, remain sacrosanct.
We gave Europe rock’n’roll to perfect, and slowly but surely we’ve returned the favor by perfecting beer (N.B. I guess they’re also giving us back re-engineered spleen music). And we are perfecting it in America. Coast to Coast, border to border, they are making beer everywhere, and they’re making it better everywhere. And I love it. My first question at any bar in any new town is “do you have any local beers?” And it has trumped “How many Chili’s do you have here?” as the single best way to get to know a place.
Beers, like songs, can remind you of places like no forced tourist interaction or staged photograph ever can. I love how Anchor Steam reminds me of San Fransciso, and I’ve never been there. I love that Old Style (which is terrible) is the official beer of Wrigley Field. I love the Christmas morning feeling when the guy you work with goes to Dallas and brings you back a sixer of Fat Tire. (N.B. Fuck you, ABLE commission/Oklahoma liquor-law Gestapo. Fuck, Fuck, Fuck you.) I love how Boulevard is Kansas City, and that Elysian Fields Pale Ale was prolly the best thing I tasted in Seattle (N.B. and everything in Seattle tastes good). And I hope soon when Grizzly fans or Nuggets fans plan a trip to Action City at least one of them will think “I can’t wait to drink a Coop.” It’s official, beer is the gateway drug to America’s greatest cities.
(I.Y.I.: I’ve written of my love for Coop Aleworks F5 Pale Ale before. And I still think it’s the best beer in Oklahoma, but if you order one at Upper Crust on Classen Circle, they dress it with a slice of pink grapefruit. The first time they brought me one so garnished (with everything in me telling me to hate it), I almost left in protest. But I tried it…and wow. If before drinking an F5 was like French kissing a carbonated bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, with the grapefruit it’s like that bouquet has been chewing Juicy Fruit. Go get one, now.)
The craft-brew explosion is taking over America. And Coors, InBev, Miller, et al. know it. The swill they sell increasingly pales in comparison to the micro-brew masterpieces. This is, of course, why their marketing strategies have devolved into: (1) inventing new and increasingly assinine ways to make us believe they have found a way for you to pour it down your throat faster, Turbo-vented-vortex-spouts (because if you can main-line it into your arteries, you don’t have to taste it); (2) inventing new and increasingly asinine ways for us to drink it at the lowest possible temperature physics allows (because cold hides the taste), with my personal favorite being: having it delivered on an ice incased train, packaged in waterproof 12-packs you can then fill with ice after big-tits in the fur-lined bikini hands them out to you and your buddies, and then wrapped in “temperature sensitive” bottles to be certain you know when the swill inside has warmed up a few degrees from absolute-zero, and should thus be thrown away and replaced with swill of the “perfect temperature” ; and (3/4) injecting it with: Lime, Lemon, Chelada, Clamato, Aspen Edge, or Gold; and removing from it calories to such a degree that I can’t be sure if consumption of what remains can even be considered a gastronomical event (N.B. Budweiser Select 55? 55 calories, are you serious? 4 Melba Toasts (yes 4) have 80 calories.)
That beer is to get you drunk. And I don’t have any problem with that, because so are Left Hand’s, and so are Rogue’s, and so are Marshall’s. At least that’s why I drink them. That and I enjoy not having to feel like my face is being raped by a trashcan fermented snowman just to get a little Saturday afternoon buzz.
So, downloaders, here is my 4th of July prescription: brisket, prepared while consuming one Sierra Nevada Torpedo “Extra” IPA and one Left Hand 400 lb Monkey, then eaten with one Full Sale Amber Ale, then enjoy some fireworks from a porch splitting a Coop DNR with another patriot listening to two Swedish girls (who may or may not know English) reminding you of the greatness of America.