Dissonance. It sometimes works in music. Chords bumping into each; a rhythmic disturbance that somehow works; slow, fast, slow, fast, C# Minor and G Major played at the same time perhaps, though given that one chord contains C and the other C# it might be stretching things a bit too far. However, I’m also thinking of John Coltrane, whose work I don’t know much beyond a Love Supreme, but I remember enjoying it years ago. The Jesus & Mary Chain could do a nice riff in dissonance as well — the Beach Boys (or the Monkees) filtered through Lou Reed Metal Machine Music perhaps? Even in Elgar’s transcription of JS Bach’s Fantasia in C minor there’s a nice line in creative dissonance when it seems like the orchestra is starting to slow down and fall apart but something happens to keep it all together and the music moves to new heights of beauty.
And what this has to do with beer? The other night I opened the bottle of Meantime’s Cali-Belgian IPA that I had been sent. Described as a golden Californian-style IPA given a Belgian twist, I found it an intriguingly dissonant beer with the Belgian yeast giving it a bright and spicy character, while the IPA side of things brought forward a concentration of grapefruit, orange peel and fresh mango, though it wasn’t an easy-going fruitiness. It was a fascinating beer and one that really deserved to have some time spent with it. It made me think and with each sip I loved the beer more. And as I drank it I thought that if Californian-style IPA was rock, then Cali-Belgian IPA was most definitely jazz and that is when I started thinking about dissonance.
There’s a wildness, a flutter of different harmonies, an itch developed to explore more, a feeling that such a beer is not an easy conquest, but something to be contemplated, not instantly understood. And it was then that I thought about jazz, a form of music that I’ve never been too fond of though what I’ve heard from Coltrane and Miles Davis has always intrigued me. That’s the same thing with this beer — it intrigues me, it makes me think and best of all it revives what I sometimes worry is a palate being jaded by too many IPAs, that everyone and their mother nowadays makes. I loved it but if you want some best be quick as it’s part of the Brewers’ Collection, a monthly beer from Meantime. Next time around there’s an Imperial Pilsner , which I really hope I can try. That won’t be dissonant — contrapuntal perhaps?