The pinnacle of what one might call a music career (a hobby, really) came for me about 10 years ago when the band I was part of got invited to play the after party for a Robert Pollard book signing event in Manhattan. Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices, was there, essentially the guest of honor, and we, along with two other bands, were charged with entertaining the crowd.
And Robert Pollard was in that crowd. Did I mention that? And he watched us play and nodded his head. And he applauded. I'd been playing in some band or working on some thing since I was 16 (with a recorded public sighting as recently as 2012) but on that night I was in the basement of some seedy bar in Manhattan and Robert Pollard, the front man and creative engine of one of my favorite bands, was 15 feet away, just standing in the center of the crowd, taller than everyone, and he was watching us.
Also, Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos and tequila fame was in the crowd. And Josh Hartnett.
We didn't play particularly well. Or at least I didn't. But it didn't matter – Robert Pollard just watched our set. And he clapped at the appropriate times. I loved that night. I think I ended up at an after after party in Brooklyn. For years, whenever someone asked if I'd been to Brooklyn I would say yes based on my attendance to that party that I believed to have been in Brooklyn. Perhaps I was in Queens.
I most certainly crossed a bridge.
Currently, Dogfish Head's celebration of the 20th anniversary of Guided By Voices release of Bee Thousand, a 10% Imperial Lager aptly named BEER Thousand, is in my belly. And as I write this, the songs are in my ears. And I am loving it all.
I love that the combination of an empty bottle of a 10% Imperial Lager and the sounds of Guided By Voices brings me straight joy. The buzz from the beer only makes the buzz of the lo-fi recording that much better.
I love that I know about Guided By Voice only because of the record parties this guy Dave used to throw. We'd go to his house, drink beer, and he would put on record after record. We would jump and dance and throw ourselves over the furniture and then put on something slow and go stand by the kitchen window with our cigarettes.
One night, as he sat on the window sill, smoking, he said, “We should be buds.” And so we were and have been ever since. He played me the first two tracks off of Bee Thousand and I was hooked. Or maybe it was Track 4, “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory.”
Two tracks is all it should take. Track 1 and 2 from either Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes, the album that followed about a year later (my personal favorite), and you should have an idea if this is the type of thing that moves you (it should). Lucky for you, two tracks by GBV generally only take two and a half to three and a half minutes.
A few months ago, Eno Sarris, a self proclaimed Guided By Voices novice, wrote about Dogfish Head's plan for this beer – brewed with 10 grains, 10 hops, and like I mentioned earlier, coming in a 10% abv. There was also a 10-inch vinyl released of a live recording (of 10 songs) from the tour that accompanied the release of Bee Thousand 20 years ago.
I've seen Guided By Voices of few times, albeit not recently, and based on the speed at which Robert Pollard drank beer while performing and the sheer volume that appears to be consumed, I was a bit surprised at the choice to brew such a potent beer. A lager made sense. But a ten percent lager? It seems a bit much.
And it is. The first gulp brings practically nothing but gigantic, big beer flavor and booze. It takes a few more sips before the crispness from hop flavors start to take shape and the beer starts to round into form. But even then it still so much just a giant lager. With heat.
Not that I didn't enjoy it. In fact, half way down the glass I really started to like it. The heat on the finish is almost peat-like and outside of that rough punch of lager flavor and booze, the beer is flawless. Of course, I didn't arrive at that opinion until I was nearly finished and half drunk, but I wanted another one.
BEER Thousand, Dogfish Head (0.99 BAR, 110 Style+)
Appearance = 4.25/5
Golden orange like some west coast IPAs but with no head, just a thin layer toward the center that looks like a cross between the Jeff Goldblum version of The Fly and the rabbit from Donnie Darko.
Smell = 3/5
Smells like lager. Bready, sweet, and malty. Some hints of grass and earthy hop aroma.
Taste = 3.5/5
The initial reaction is to just a big, boozy, beer bomb of flavor. There are nice, crisp hop flavors that do start to take shape after you get over the initial blast – earth, some pine, some wood, some spice, some grass, some pine, and just a hint of citrus. Dare I say peat-like in the heat of the finish.
Feel = 4.25/5
Lager crisp and thicker than medium but not by much. Booze slick at the very end. And heat. Belly warming, mouth tingling heat.
Overall = 3.5/5
I would drink it again. It grows on you. If you want a boozy lager where the only flaw might be all the booze, than this is for you. Part of me would like to drink this all night and shout GBV lyrics with my bud Dave.
Follow J.R. Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt. Listen to the Drinking With Shirt podcast here at BeerGraphs or iTunes.