We don’t sojourn to the Badlands because it’s “bad.” We go there because it’s good. It’s where we go to escape the noise, the hustle, and the daily trespasses. It may be vast, Paleolithic, simple and stark, but finding yourself on the sandy floor of an ancient ocean does wonders for the imagination, as well as the senses.
In the same way, our Badlands Black IPA looks anything but complex. It’s dark, a color we tend to associate with roasty heaviness… stoutiness….and porterness. Yet, if you close your eyes, and take a whiff, and let your senses truly lock in, you can visualize the fresh cut grapefruit, the juicy lemon and a fat and fragrant joint.
It’s like stopping amidst the gnarly junipers on the volcanic scree of the Flatiron Rock Trail to pick up a fossil, closing your eyes, and imagining a lush, long ago world where hungry T.Rex’s and scary finned and teethy shark-like creatures roamed the jungles and seas, respectively.
Well, maybe that’s a stretch. Let’s just say, the Badlands Black IPA plays tricks with your mind and delivers the unexpected.
The complexity comes from the way Chad brewed this beer, which we tapped from our 5 barrel system as part of our beloved "Heart and Soul Series" last week. When it comes to balance, Chad is like a zen master. He will not abide a beer that is too bitter, or too sweet. His mission is to add here, subtract there until he finds that bittersweet spot.
Chad layered in hop additions during the boil every 15 minutes, as opposed to a simple bittering acid bedrock at the base and an aroma push at the end. It took more time, and a uni-tasker's strict attention – not easy for a guy who’s simultaneously running a canning line, bottling line and a production brewhouse – but the fruits of said labor were more than worth it.
Chad carefully dosed the dark, roasted wort with the Church of Four C's – Centennials, Chinooks, Cascade and CTZ -- but his hop supplications were far from finished. After fermentation, Chad double dry hopped his Heaven-bound brew with citrusy Citra with another “new” hop, El Dorado, renown for it’s stone fruity notes.
Is our Bad any Good? I had my first pint yesterday and took notes. As you can see, with the rich crema head and mahogany blackness, my pre-quaff prejudice was towards a porter or stout. But the aroma came in with bright grapefruit and lemon, with a low to the ground dank pot-ness.
The first taste on the tongue was a strong roasted maltiness. As it warmed, I detected notes of chocolate and coffee, although these sensations may simply have arisen from a mixture of auto suggestion and romance. As I said, the Badlands IPA is a tricksterish beverage that toys with the head and tongue. My friend took a pull and imagined a chocolate tort with a raspberry drizzle, a strong and fairly unshakeable description I confess I was unable or unwilling to let go of.
All of this sounds "desserty" and “heavy” and yet the beer alights on the tongue with all the weight of fairy dust freshly sprinkled by a fasting Tinkerbell.
The finish is "hoppy," which translates as a detectable coat of hop field bitterness on the tongue. And here’s the fun part – it’s pleasant. The alcohol is warm and buzz worthy.
Folks, Badlands Black IPA has got legs. What does that mean? It means it’s got a future. It’s destined for The Mother Ship and eventually for delivery via cans or bottles or both.
“We’re limited on tank space but in June that will change,” predicts Chad, who never met a stainless tank he could not fill, on the double, on the spot. “When we’ve got the new tanks, I’d like to share our Badlands Black IPA with everybody.” It has occurred to him to horde, a thought ratcheting up in its intensity as we approach our final keg.
“This is my favorite Worthy brew of late,” the Balladeer of Balance continued. “Drinking this beer is like getting lost in the Badlands -- it helps me get shut of all the noise. And it opens my eyes to the amazing lights and colors all about, like a rainbow after a fresh rain in the high desert.”
OK. Those were not The Chadster's exact words. The Badlands tends to make everything sound better.
Get Good. Drink Badlands Black IPA.
BTW - Please go chase a rainbow along the trail in the Badlands Wilderness Area, about 16 miles East of Worthy Brewing off of Highway 20.
It's the dead of Winter and we needed photo ops of damp, gloomy fog wrapping around our Dark Muse. Our hypothesis was that the two go together - our Muse and melancholy. So we went to Seattle, where this time of year you should be able to count on being pushed by the dense, dreary fog into a dark-wooded old pub down on the waterfront to warm up and get unstuck with your favorite bottle.
But Seattle's in the Super Bowl. Instead of darkness at noon we found sunshine, blue skies, and about ten million "12" signs, which symbolizes the "12th Man," which is the town's way of saying "we're on the team, too." The town was lousy with good tidings, civic pride and optimism. No medieval fog. No brooding disenchantment. Our mission wasn't going to be easy.
First stop, the fish mongers at the Public Market. Nothing downbeat here. The monkfish had potential, but instead made me laugh. The slimy octopus tentacles were ghastly, but not exactly grim. They did make me think of Jules Verne's somewhat dark "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," but on a much smaller scale.
The street musicians outside jammed merrily, fueled by an invisible energy source, obliviously tucked in their own incongruous world. Nothing bluesy here. The guitarist politely asked me to leave, which was righteous. Artists should be touchy. The pianist kept his eyes shut the whole time, and didn't notice the fiver I dropped in his bucket. Stopped into a used book store. Being anarchists, they seemed to dig the dark vibes. Or was it nihilists? So far, instead of creeping social constipation, all I was getting was exuberant liberation. Click-bang, what a hang.
In need of instant inspiration, I stopped into a Hard Rock to shamelessly pose next to a few rockers who left us much too early. Jimi always struck me as mildly impervious to hang ups . "Cllick-bang, what a hang," he'd say unworriedly, as in: get over it, sh** happens, move on, convert it. And we all know The Voodoo Chile didn't do himself in. It was the dimwitted girl and the careless medics. They let him gag to death. Cobain? Now he seemed tortured. The real deal. Hmmm. Please don't get any ideas here. The Muse is for romantics. Truly. BTW, the Dark Muse art was inspired by an album cover another recently departed, my hero Lou Reed. You don't say?
Where was I? Yes. Searching. Stopped by the Needle, just because. Created by architects in the late 1950s, who probably unjammed with uninspiring suds like Hamm's, Rainer and Blitz. With all the great beers out today, we should be erecting observation towers exponentially loftier and much more mind-boggling. Then I got lost, ended up down at the tracks. Found my way to The Labor Temple, where I said a prayer to all my friends and clients afflicted with asbestos poisoning, and before you could say "Peace, Land and Bread," I stumbled across a gigantic statue of Vladimir Lenin, perched ominiously in the Fremont district.
It was getting late so stopped at a Church to collect my thoughts. Lots of happy folks in t-shirts out enjoying a scandalously sunny day in Winter. Not alot of fodder to feed the flames of grief, despair, longing or anguish, even if as a properly neurotic environmentalist you should be regarding a heat wave in winter as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
It was dark out and I ambled up to a Renaissancian hotel with gilded cornices and a bronze lion door knocker. There's got to be bottled up intellectuals and artists in there. Met a charming chap at the foyer, explained my unrequited mission and he sympathetically offered that his Muse in fact was on the cusp of getting all bollixed up. Music to my ears. Finally, a semi-despondent Seattle-ite, who dressed well to boot. So we uncapped our bottle and took a tour of his "lovely lady," which he whispered conspiratorially was "haunted." I love a dapper English bloke who has worked long enough at a historical landmark that he prides himself as being "an exhibit." My dour looking docent of course turned out to be a hoot.
One look at this big black beauty and you fancy the notion that whatever sucks in your life is about to get sucked and sorted out.
Against the mental backdrop of a dark night, a deep whiff registers as a thunderous explosion of sweet roasted malt and pungent coffee, like the grande finale of your favorite fireworks show. The bulb’s no longer as dim. Beguiling tendrils of dark candied fruit, fudge brownie, maple syrup and oatmeal fill in the crevices of the brain like a creeping London fog.
Even for a melancholiac, the gears are starting to shift, and something good’s about to happen.
Opposition is True Friendship*
The malt sweetness almosts freezes time and space. Almost, but the need to cling to all that roasted goodness gives way without much resistance to a pleasant hop bitterness that’s been emboldened by the electric zing of unsweetened cacao and espresso. Another swish and dark fruits abound, buttressed by toasted almonds, and brought home with an entrancing bourbon booziness.
Suddenly, opposites begin to attract, dark becomes light, sorrows become joys, braces relax and bright flowers spring forth from the fetid, standing pools of the mind.
The Muse Awakened
The Muse arose not with a stick in its eye, but with a mature joy in its heart. Blake once wrote that “all deities reside in the human breast.” He meant that in each of us lurks the creative power to imagine and build another, better world. Tapping that creative force has always been the challenge.
Dark Muse is like that proverbial mother who gently awakes you from a deep and salubrious slumber, initiating that slow and delightful transition from death’s counterfeit to crystalline awareness. The beer slowly dances on the tongue, languidly, as your consciousness gradually sharpens and expands. She holds you tight with her full-bodied favors. You feel the pull of her carbonation and the push of her bluesy, boozy alcohol. The stuff once heavy begins to float.
Dark Muse is an imperial stout that pairs well an inclination to shake up the status quo. The Muse probably won’t alight when all is well. She needs an invitation, which inevitably arises when there’s a disturbance in your melon. Look, we can’t always be skippy. Sometimes you hit a low. Might as well capitalize – the brain’s lousy with perfectly good seeds – all you need is the elixer to make ‘em grow.
Speaking of unjamming oneself, Dark Muse herself was a bit of a jammer. Chad pumped in so much grain the Muse actually snapped the stainless steel plow stabilizing arm on our lauter tun. You don't have to know what a “plow stabilizing arm" is, just picture a bowl of oatmeal so thick that it bends your spoon when you try to stir it.
Dark Muse demanded more sugar, but she gave less nectar. We normally can count on about 30 barrels a batch. After twice the normal amount of brew time, and about twice the malt bill of our Lights Out stout, the Dark Muse yielded a precious 17 barrels. The brewer's equivalent to converting carbon into diamonds.
Dark Muse is easily our most potent libation. At 10.1% ABV, she has plenty of candle power. And yet, for a vintage port surrogate with that eye fluttering bourbon barrel flavor, The Muse is as pleasantly sippable as the rest of our beers are happily drinkable. Extreme Balance, as always, continues to be our code.
Look for our limited edition Dark Muse in a bottle shop near you. We’ll be saving a few kegs for our restaurant. So if you’re feeling stuck, or just want to sort things out, let our Dark Muse unbottle your inner genius.
* William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793).