The classic adage claims that all press is good press, and in the case of rapper Kanye West, it’s a point of frequent debate.
But for Stillwater Artisanal Ales’ Brian Strumke and his recently released I Miss the Old Kanye, an imperial Brettanomyces porter—which is labeled with the words “I Miss the Old Kanye” patterned in a peach image reminiscent of West’s recent “Life of Pablo” album—press is proving a serious problem. Following the attention generated by widespread coverage of his beer in publications from Pitchfork to Food + Wine and Eater, Stillwater’s recent release is being recalled amid a legal imbroglio with a firm that claims to represent the merchandising rights to Kanye West.
“I hope that it’s cleared up because [the beer] made a big splash and got a lot of attention,” said Strumke.
Multiple distributors that All About Beer contacted for this story said they’ve been given notice that the beer is being recalled.
I Miss the Old Kanye is the third beer in Stillwater’s Pop Culture series, following Moneytree$, a hybrid gose-session IPA made in tribute to Kendrick Lamar, and Hopvine Bling, a dry-hopped Berliner weisse made with sauvignon blanc grapes in tribute to Drake (whose Twitter handle, it’s important to note, is @champagnepapi).
To Strumke, I Miss the Old Kanye was but one part of “a big art project.” The Pop Culture series, he said, takes the characteristic styles and personas of rap artists and translates them into inspired beers. “It’s not just a marketing scheme,” said Strumke. “Everything I do I kind of envision as an art project.”
Strumke made Moneytree$ a hybrid gose-session IPA because both beer styles were cutting edge at the time of Kendrick Lamar’s latest release; the rapper is known for his innovative mixture of rawness and poetics. Similarly, Hopvine Bling plays on the title of Drake’s recent smash hit “Hotline Bling,” and is a “soft wheat ale” because “it’s kind of the lady pleaser … it’s what Drake’s slow jam, crooner songs are all about.”
Kanye as an artist eludes easy definition. Media and fans are frequently left to speculate where the artist stops and where the man begins, and this confusion has been brought to a head in actions from his interruption of Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards to the provocative lyrics and music video from his latest album. Even West is aware of the conflict, and sometimes stokes it: “I can see a thousand years from now in real life/ Skate on the paradigm and shift it when I feel like/ Troll conventional thought, don’t need to question/ I know it’s antiquated so sometimes I get aggressive,” he raps on the track “Saint Pablo.”
Strumke deconstructed and rebuilt the characteristics of Dr. Pepper in Stillwater’s I Miss the Old Kanye imperial Brett porter. He did this because he said the exact flavors of the soft drink, like Kanye West’s persona, have long been a subject of debate, and are also often polarizing.
“I kind of envisioned Dr. Pepper to be one of those things that people don’t know what it it’s all made up of, even though they tend to enjoy it,” said Strumke.
That, he said, has “another relation to the artist at hand.”
TASTING NOTES: Stillwater I Miss the Old Kanye
Stillwater Artisanal Ales
8% | Imperial Porter w/ Brettanomyces, Juniper, Prunes, Plums, Star Anise, Etc.
If I Miss the Old Kanye is meant to harken back to classic Dr. Pepper, then this is certainly only an homage. This is Dr. Pepper grown-up, post-Homecoming, and very much in a good way. Notes of cherries and roast are on the nose, and the beer’s mouthfeel has that characteristic Dr. Pepper creaminess. But instead of full-bodied sweetness, I Miss the Old Kanye is smartly restrained to subtlety—notes of cola, roasted coffee, raspberries and tart cherries peek through brightly, but are corralled in by dry funkiness and an edge of vinegar. As the beer warms and segues into its aftertaste, you get more of that almondy and vanilla Dr. Pepper characteristic that I loved so much as a kid, but again, it comes in a restrained way, and with a dash of booziness. I drank this porter in 96°F weather and it was in no way distasteful in the heat; I’d drink it year-round if it were available. And it’s a pity. Should it go, I’ll miss the I Miss the Old Kanye. – Bo McMillan
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that the brewery was involved in legal discussions with Kanye West, when in fact Stillwater received a correspondence from a firm claiming to represent the merchandising rights to Kanye West.