Love At First Sight

Jeffrey Wiser, November 26, 2013

It was love at first sight. I don't usually buy a beer for the label, but ever since I saw it, I knew I needed to try this one. Not only is the label visually appealing, but it's named after a legendary jazz player, conjuring up auditory feelings as well. Which beer is it? If you guessed Brother Thelonius by North Coast Brewing, you were almost right. Instead, it was Dogfish Head's Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, an American Imperial Stout.

Like all good stories of "what could have been," I didn't order the beer initially and returned to the bar a week later only to find they no longer had it. Because this is a place that I frequented prior to moving, I checked back every so often but to no avail. Into the refrigerated case of bottles, I would peer and scan, hoping to find the mesmerizing label staring back. Like that incredibly attractive guy or girl you pass on the sidewalk just once, the label's visual stayed in my mind and I couldn't shake it, yet I had no idea just what the beer would taste like.

Although I admittedly didn't hunt very hard, the beer alluded me. Months passed and I moved four hundred miles away. Hope was essentially lost and that was fine with me. I don't usually drink a lot of dark beers and moved on. Well, I was back in Phoenix over the weekend to visit some outstanding friends and went out for drinks, back to my old haunts, and there it was, in the refrigerated case, front and center.

I decided right there that it wouldn't escape me again and ordered it from the nearest bartender in such a flurry that I got some dirty looks for being "pushy." Pushy or not, this was destiny.

  • Appearance: deep brown, almost black. Head is firm and coffee colored (3.5)
  • Smell: toasted malts and hint of sweet tanginess (4)
  • Taste: malts, sweet charcoal, hints of coffee and spice, very complex (3.5)
  • Moutfeel: smooth and lingers on the palate in a really pleasing way (4)
  • Overall: a little too stout for my usual taste but a very pleasing, memorable brew (3.75)

The beer was really interesting. Its got quite the unique profile as it's a "...fusion of three threads of imperial stout and one thread of honey beer with gesho root." Designed to reflect the avante garde jazz of Miles Davis' album by the same name, Bitches Brew is quite complex. Although I've been learning to trust my palate, this beer really confused my mouth. Don't believe me? Read some of the recent Beer Advocate reviews and see just how much others have struggled to nail down the distinctive tastes.

While I couldn't make out the flavors with any kind of true definition, I appreciate what the beer achieves. Like good jazz, it's hard to understand and imparts more of a feeling rather than exuding characteristics of a particular category. As a beer drinker, you have to embrace this if you sip the Bitches Brew because it won't jive with your standard definitions of beer and its flavors. This beer forces you step back, acknowledge the unknown and embrace it.

Which gets me back to my quest to find it in the first place. It was only after I had given up my search and given in to the Beer Gods that I was rewarded with the chance to drink this beer. Kind of like abstract art of any discipline, you can try as hard as you want to understand it, but you're better off if you just let it come to you.