When we describe how beer tastes, there’s a propensity to follow the tasting note vocabulary that has become popularly accepted and propagated by lazy food writers (myself included). This small glossary of descriptors — floral, citrusy, cocoa, grassy, et al. — is functional and on occasion precise. But at a certain point, you get sick of hearing that another IPA smells like grapefruit.
That’s why I liked beer author Lew Bryson‘s description of Van Twee, a collaboration beer between Bell’s and De Proef that’s sort of a hybrid porter and Belgian dubbel, brewed with cherry juice. After the standard tasting notes, he writes of rarified brews like Van Twee:
Not for the general market. Which is okay. I mean, that’s who fugu sashimi is for, that’s who Ferraris are for, that’s who Thomas Pynchon novels are for, that’s who 12-tone music is for.
That kind of free association is as evocative to me as a shopping list’s worth of pre-approved terminology. I had one such special-occasion Thomas Pynchon beer last night: BrewDog Tokyo* on draft at Churchkey. It’s an 18% imperial stout, brewed with jasmine and cranberries and then oak aged. I probably wouldn’t notice jasmine if you put it in my breakfast cereal, and I didn’t really detect cranberry either. The beer was sweet and intensely boozy, the raw alcohol wafting up to singe my nostrils. It tasted like a Sharpie. Actually, it was more like 18 Sharpies and two of those scented markers they had in grade school before teachers realized they were a effectively giving 9-year-olds a leg up on huffing glue. Eighteen Sharpies and two scented markers, one orange and one cherry, that’s what this beer was like.
So what was your last Thomas Pynchon beer? Drop your description in the comments here, or even better, @beerspotter on Twitter.