My debut album, Tasha Sits Close to the Piano, has a lot to do with marriage, and I thought of no better way to expand upon that than with the marriage of two of my favorite things: music and beer. I’ve paired a beer with each track off the album, with the help of my good friend and Cicerone-in-training, Eric Neujahr.
For an always guaranteed wonderful selection, we hit up Sunset Beer, a rad bottle shop/beer bar here in LA. We decided to go pretty high-brow with our pairings, so you won’t find a lot of these in your local spots, but don’t be discouraged! If you happen to find any one of these beers then it will feel super special, and besides, you can’t (shouldn't) drink all these in one sitting anyway, so it’s fine.
Now let’s go.
1.) Jaws of Love. / Beachwood Citraholic
Beachwood is a brewery out of Long Beach (close to here in LA), and for this first track I wanted something big and bold but familiar, so that screamed a classic West Coast IPA. Just like the song, the beer has a big pay-off – the citrus notes burst through the mix like the chord blasts in the song. Seemed like the perfect way to start this journey, and since this is one of my favorite songs on the album, it’s great that this beer is one of Eric’s favorite IPAs right now.
2.) Hawaiian License Plates. / Brouwerij West Falling Water
This is a New England hazy-style IPA, and the name is a great way to describe a scene in the song: I'm in Hawaii in the rain with my wife. The beer is sweet and approachable, juicy, with an immediacy as well – it’s instantly feeling good. Also, the beer is tropical with notes of mango, and it’s also cloudy, with unfiltered haze like the humidity on an island. Brouwerij West (pronounced “brewery”) is out of San Pedro, and the can design for this one is really cool, super trippy, gotta google that shiiiiit.
3.) Lake Tahoe. / Great Divide Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti
This is the most romantic song on the album – a song about two people trying to reignite the spark in a cabin in the snow – so it definitely felt like Imperial Stout time. Yeti is smooth, warming and sensual, especially with the chocolate notes, and I like that it’s a big bottle for splitting between two people. I’ve liked Great Divide’s Yeti series for a long time, so that consistency and longevity seems to work well here to encourage long-lasting relationships of all kinds.
4.) Microwaves / Hair of the Dog Otto From the Wood 2016
To me, this song would be the thesis statement for Jaws of Love., showcasing everything I love about the project, so I wanted a super strong, complex beer that you could have a journey with. We need a one-beer, one-night solo party that gets you drunk and zooming out on everything in your life, while helping you reach some sort of clarity by the last sip. Eric says Hair of the Dog is a brewery where the guy makes beer with no intention of releasing it, so it can be years between releases showing up in the shop. (I’m told they’ve made arguably one of the rarest beers in the world called Dave (hahaha, that’s a funny name of the rarest beer in the world)). This one is an American Strong ale, that hits you hard like you’re sipping rum or bourbon, probably because it features a whopping 13% abv. It also has the word “dog” in the name (Tasha in the album title refers to my Husky), so it all came together for me on this one, kind of like the song.
5.) Shrink… / New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin Ale
I know, I know, I know, I know – fuck pumpkin ales right? They are the collective seasonal pumpkin-spice-latte-groan of the beer community for sure. But this song has such a dark, haunting vibe that I really wanted something that felt like Halloween-time, and Eric and all his buds swear by this New Belgium one from their Voodoo Ranger series. It’s not too sweet (which is the main grievance for pumpkin ales), and it’s spiced with Saigon Cinnamon and Habanero. The latter gives it a nice kick that lingers a little, kind of like how the track wanders off into the distance. Super clean, dark, very dry, and very drinkable.
6.) Everything. / Green Flash Baroque Belgique
This is a beer Green Flash (San Diego) made 13 years ago, and then never again until now. Back by popular demand, the beer is characterized by the brewery as having a “funky finishing touch” and a “continuously evolving character." The latter perfectly describes this slowly unfurling track, and the former fits perfectly, too: What could be more of a funky finish than a sax solo!? This beer has Brettanomyces, which is a yeast culture added to give it a smoothness, along with a hint of cheese that lasts, which is also arguably the quality of a sax solo. But if that’s cheese, then cheese is fucking amazing. You hear that sax? You fucking hear that shit? OK, dialing it back now, sorry.
I see this low-stakes, simple beer as an olive branch to a reunion.”
7.) Love Me Like I’m Gone. / Rothaus PILS Tannen Zapfle
A crisp pilsner immediately came to mind for this one, because the song provides a refreshing break from the piano on the rest of album, and becomes something lighter and effervescent (it’s the first song to have any guitar). This beer is a very clean, super dry pilsner from Germany, with a nice toasty finish, fitting with the classic vibe of acoustic guitars, perhaps around a campfire in the woods. Not a happy-go-lucky campfire vibe though, the melancholia still remains: the wooden guitar stares at his wooden friends in the fire… soooo awkward. Fun fact, too, is that this song, according to Spotify, is killing it in Germany, so double points for locational symbiosis.
8.) Before the Hurting Lands. / Boulevard/Creature Comforts/Arizona Wilderness Collaboration No 7
I felt like a dense, complex song needed a dense, complex beer, and I never thought a Lager would do the trick. Eric, however, introduced me to this collaboration by three very reputable breweries: Boulevard from Kansas City (shout out to Boulevardia – my main band Local Natives played this year, super fun), Creature Comforts from Athens, GA, and Arizona Wilderness from Gilbert, AZ. It’s an oak-aged Lager with peach, lemon zest, and riesling grape juice; a mouthful for sure, but surprisingly restrained. The longer we drank it, the more the fruit started to come through. The beer even became sour after a bit and showed the tartness typical for two of the three collaborating breweries. Collaboration bloomed as it developed, similar to my track. Basically if you wanted to dig into the flavor, it seemed like you really could. I also love the collaboration aspect, because this song is one of the collaborations I did with my buddy COMBAT! (he added some electronic ear-candy on four of the album’s tracks).
9.) Costa Rica. / Evil Twin Bikini Kill
Costa Rica is about my brother, and new to me is the interesting story of sibling rivalries in the beer world. Mikkeller and Evil Twin are two Danish breweries, started by two brothers, who apparently hate each other. I had to just solely go with the story on this one. I picked Evil Twin since I believe it’s the younger brother, and this song is somewhat of a peace offering to mine. The beer is a session pale ale, and at below 3% ABV, it still feels like its hydrating. People in medieval times would drink low ABV beer instead of water to avoid the plague, so I love the idea of a beer you have to drink to maintain a quality of life. I see this low-stakes, simple beer as an olive branch to a reunion.
10.) Nightlight. / Grimm Sumi Cacao
Even the name of the beer seems to fit the dark, orchestral vibe of Nightlight., which has no drums, and almost feels bottomless. The song is about been woken up in the middle of the night by loud noises, and being swept away from peaceful dreams into an unknown, scary place, so I liked the idea of an Imperial Stout. On a practical level, you could have some and go right back to sleep. On a more existential level, it’s the embrace of darkness that helps you brave the night, and the beer embraces with soothing dark espresso, dark chocolate, and vanilla notes, and a warming alcohol. Seems like a great way to end the album as well. I think we’ve been embracing a sort of darkness this whole time.
Thanks again to Eric Neujahr and Sunset Beer for the help, and if anyone actually wants to drink all of these at the same time and listen to the album, I’m game. Just pop open a Boroque Belgique, and I’ll be there, outside your window, floating, like Casper, but if Casper was a 31 year-old Cicerone wannabe, and his name was Drunk-y. (Drunk-y the ghost! Holy shit, I have the mascot for the album.)
Really though, thanks for taking this time with me, and I hope you can enjoy some of these beers with the album sometime soon. Or even just a six-pack of Dale’s. I love Dale’s.