1987. Three years after we seemingly, collectively, broke free from Big Brother’s dystopian world of thoughtcrimes and mind control, the notion of people thinking—and drinking—what they wanted gained a cultural foothold. To dive into the world of craft beer requires a broader willingness to eschew the mainstream, to take a personal stand against that which is pre- and mass-packaged for consumption in any form, be it drinkable, or, in my case, listenable.For me, it started with the Pixies. Their debut mini-LP, Come On Pilgrim, came out 25 years ago today. One of my favorite songs, “I’ve Been Tired,” even features a beer cameo as singer Black Francis shrieks/coos:
I said, I wanna be a singer like Lou Reed.
I like Lou Reed, she said, sticking her tongue in my ear.
Let’s go, let’s sit, let’s talk.
Granted, I didn’t discover it until it was repackaged with their indie full-length Surfer Rosa (yes, I spent a good number of years thinking my single CD was called Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim), but I still look to ’87 as the turning point. Or maybe it should be 1989 when I first saw the Pixies in concert on their Doolittle tour with Bob Mould (fresh off Husker Du) and John Doe (on-and-off X), for which I’m eternally grateful to my friend Robbie’s mom for driving us since I wasn’t yet 16. The Pixies never were and could never have been Top 40. Black Francis’s lyrics and singing style just weren’t easily digestible. Joey Santiago’s guitar riffs were fun but not predictable enough. Kim Deal’s bass lacked any clean professionalism, which made her more endearing. Alas, I have nothing to add about David Lovering’s drums but he’s awesome nonetheless.
Ultimately, the Pixies flipped the switch for me and many others. Kurt Cobain credited them for influencing Nirvana’s Nevermind. I may not espouse the grunge era, but I’m forever grateful that it killed off the hair metal era.
In some ways, that’s exactly what the craft brewing class of 1987 achieved. It marked the end of the beginning of craft brewing. No less an authority than the Hopfather of the industry, Charlie Papazian, in his blog post about “Trailblazers of American Craft Brewing, Part 1” cites the era as occurring from 1983-1987 (regardless of the fact that a small handful of micros had opened—and in a couple cases closed—before then).
Twenty five years ago, an elite clique of breweries opened for business. On the West Coast, there’s Anderson Valley Brewing Company in California and Full Sail (nee Hood River Brewing Company) in Oregon. On the East Coast, there’s the Brooklyn Brewery in New York and Stoudt’s in Pennsylvania. But it wasn’t just the coasts. Brewpubs and micros sprang up all over including Bayern in Montana and the Lakefront Brewery in Wisconsin.
Considering I was 13 in ’87, my taste in beer and indeed my affinity for it didn’t kick in for several years, but Dixie Blackened Voodoo was my Come on Pilgrim of beer. Dismiss it as not “craft” if you must, but it really was Dixie’s first all-malt beer and it’s not like the schwarzbier style is all that Top 40. Come to think of it, Blackened Voodoo and Black Francis make for a killer pairing.
What was brewing in your life a quarter century ago? Did it in any way put you on the path to better beer? And while you’ve probably reminisced about the beer that turned you many times, where does it fit into the soundtrack of your life?