Anyone who’s read my craft beer book, The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers, knows that one of its unique features is that I “paired” all 120-plus beers featured in it with a band, album or song. Since I’m now going to be doing weekly Brewtal Truth posts on the Decibel website, and I’m constantly trying new brews, it’s the perfect opportunity for making this a regular part of my online rotation.
For the first installment of “This Album With That Beer,” I’m sticking close to home. I recently picked up a four-pack of Holy Mountain’s Lesser Ritual Hoppy Pilsner and the resulting mind-blowing experience inspired me to pair this with something equally homespun. Holy Mountain does most beer styles well, but no one would claim that they specialize in Germanic styles, particularly not lagers. They definitely brew lagers, but, let’s just say that it’s not what they’re known for. Mixed fermentation saisons and farmhouse ales seem to predominate their taplist, but they certainly dabble in many different styles—all impeccably done.
Between the name and the label art, I had to bring a four-pack home from a recent visit to the brewery. I wasn’t disappointed. It is indeed a hoppy pilsner with Citra hops prominently featured and offering lemon, cannabis and resin notes, but not obtrusively. The hops do exactly what they are supposed to, which is to provide the floral counterbalance to the earthy, biscuity, grainy malt notes that are refreshingly clean and satisfying. This is a “lawnmower beer” (4.8% ABV) that is chuggable, complex and perfectly balanced. Not too bitter, not too sweet and a crisp snap on the finish. It was lagered for four weeks, so it feels perfectly integrated and smooth. Damn near perfect.
So why pair this beer, which features a label and name that seems to speak of an occult metal or black metal association, with a grunge album from 1990? Skin Yard’s Fist Sized Chunks album was released the year that I moved to Seattle and it was a definite pivot for the band toward a more metallic sound. Hell, Tommy Accüsed from the Accüsed even played guitar on the crushing opener “Slow Runner.” Obviously Skin Yard was not occult influenced, but there’s a track on Fist Sized called “Ritual Room” that always stuck with me. The “ritual” in the song is probably less demonic than narcotic, but this is a track (and album) that was best paired with something that captures the band’s raw thud, as well as its complexity. I got wrecked many a time at a Skin Yard show drinking cheap swill (probably Rainier), but something that’s easy to drink and yet is loaded with flavor seems more appropriate for pairing with this album.
If you live anywhere near Seattle, grab a four-pack of Lesser Ritual, slap on this classic Skin Yard album and imagine you’re at the Central or the Vogue or Squid Row, getting sweaty and bouncing off the walls.