Graffiti and craft brewing have come a very long way from their rustic, inauspicious beginnings. What began as simple forms of expression and sustenance, respectively, have transcended their perceptions and expectations.
I have to wonder if the cave paintings of our ancestors were once regarded as defacing public property. Anthropologists and archaeologists will certainly have a different answer to my ruminations.
The “Romans Go Home” scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” also comes to mind. Seeing the Centurion berate and correct the nebbish Brian over his faulty Latin mile-high graffiti cracks me up every time.
Where drawing parallels between graffiti artists and brewers breaks down is status. Brewers have been long-held in esteem despite centuries of maintaining the status quo of styles. For a very long time their trade lacked vision and excitement. Graffiti artists used buildings and freight train cars not belonging to them to express their abilities. Despite sometimes creating visual feasts, their work was illegal.
Our societal mores evolved over the last couple of decades. Cities across the globe are dedicating entire sections of cityscape to more artistic – read: not haphazard or simply “tagging” – projects. Santiago, Warsaw, Melbourne, Paris, Venice Beach and even little old Pensacola all make the list. The same goes for craft brewing. Once deemed a commoner’s beverage, beer can be as elegant, complex and symphonic as Mozart. Both practices have come of age.
Modern American craft brewing is more like the professional graffiti artists. Both can take the time to bring bold visions to life, just trade vivid colors and a sense of visual movement for firecracker flavors and textures.
One such American IPA happens to be Art Car by Saint Arnold Brewing out of Houston, Texas. This beer was inspired by the work of graffiti artist GONZO247 – who hand-painted four cars for the brewery – and brings together both old and new hop traits.
Art Car’s canvas is a honey-gold body topped with a foamy head of whipped egg white. Columbus and Cascade hops lay down a base coat of pine scents while newer varietals – Simcoe and Mosaic – add depth and perspective through citrus and tropical tones. A trio of malted grain provides a sweet compositional balance to the brightness of spruce, grapefruit, papaya and tangerine. Even the mouth feel and finish are in harmony; crisp, sharp carbonation meets a slightly resinous texture and the taste lingers for a few minutes’ worth of fame.
Feed your artistic side and give this IPA some serious study. Think I’m going to put on the movie “Beat Street” to remind myself of when graffiti was wrong and American beer was bland, then chuckle to myself as to how far we’ve come.