Grodziskie Point Ale

The Polish Champagne of Southern California!
  • Grain bill:  Oak Smoked Wheat Malt, White Wheat, Red Wheat
  • Hops:  Kazbek
  • Yeast:  Omega Gulo Ale OYL-501
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Origin Story:

Grodzisk Gratzer

Our progenitor brew

I picked up Randy Mosher’s book Radical Brewing as a perk for renewing my membership to the American Homebrewer’s Association this year.  In the book’s Foreword, Michael Jackson (no, the beer one; yes, it’s confusing) notes Mosher’s recipe for a beer style I had never heard of:  the Polish Grätzer, also known as Grodzisk, after the longest-surviving brand under which it was marketed. 

What intrigued me was that this low-ABV beer was made entirely with wheat malt—primarily oak-smoked wheat malt.  Hefeweizens, with a equal mix of barley and wheat, fall into the crisper, more refreshing end of the beer spectrum.  I presumed that a Grodzisk would take this a bit further, with the smokiness adding another dimension.  And indeed, according to its Wikipedia entry, Grodzisk was nicknamed “the Polish Champagne” and highly esteemed.  Definitely worth adding to my repertoire.

This wasn’t challenging from a brewing perspective.  I adjusted the recipe a little—75% smoked wheat, 25% non-smoked (combination of red and white wheat)—just to tamp down the smoke a touch.  It’s a nice change of pace—my father-in-law Richard, who has very simple tastes in beer, really likes this one.

Zabriskie Point movie poster

74% on Rotten Tomatoes my ass

The name of my beer tips its hat to Michaelangelo Antonioni’s 1970 film Zabriskie Point.  I became familiar with this movie primarily through my Pink Floyd scholarship.  Antonioni asked the Floyd to write the soundtrack to the film, but only a bit of what they composed made it to the screen, with other tracking being provided by Jerry Garcia and some second-tier US psychedelic bands.

As a Floyd completist back in the 1980s, I of course had to see the film.  In today’s celestial jukebox of media, it’s hard to remember how hard it was to get your hands on obscure old titles—this became a bit of a holy grail for me.  Finally a copy showed up at my local Blockbuster, available for rent.  I eagerly dove in.

As I recall, the film was meandering and unwatchable.  Endless, pointless, stoned conversations between hippies about the evils of the system.  No forward momentum whatsoever.  In the movie’s climax, one of the main characters (the man or the woman, I don’t remember, it doesn’t really matter) walks away from a Neutra-style house that explodes in a giant slow-motion fireball.  Then it does it again.  And again.  I’m still not sure what this is supposed to signify.

Replicating this scene for the label was a bit on the nose, but the image needed to be something explosion-related.  I cast about for inspiration for a while, and then one night I had a dream.

In this dream my family, inclusive of my in-laws, was on vacation.  We had packed up to leave our hotel and were getting ready to drive on to the trip’s next leg.  But I had just gotten an offer from a man who said he would turn me into a balloon person.  I was excited by this opportunity and wanted to explore it further, so I sat down to discuss it with him. 

It isn’t clear to me at this point what becoming a balloon person entailed or in what way it would have benefitted me.  But this is beside the point.  The major dramatic thrust of the dream was that my family just wanted to get on with their vacation and were annoyed at me for wasting their time with this intensely personal journey of self-discovery.

In retrospect, this dream probably made about as much sense as Zabriskie Point.  But it did provide the inspiration for a label scene wherein a balloon man walks into a bar and eagerly awaits a freshly-poured glass of sharp, poky things.  Krisnasatriafeb from Indonesia illustrated this in a 1950’s All True Romance Comics style which I just adore.

Music Pairing:

There are two basic dramatic forms:  comedy, which is about sex; and tragedy, which is about death.  The vast majority of rock music casts its lot with the comedians.  I suppose death metal, by definition, raises its hand for tragedy; and if we’re counting noses we can throw in In the Court of the Crimson King and its like. 

But if you’re not representing for one or the other, you’re really pretty small beer.  This is probably why I was pretty choosy with the prog I let into my specific tent.  Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway describes a journey through a shadow world of monsters and  magic—but its narrator Rael’s primary concern is a sexual awakening that leaves him disfigured in a way that can only be ameliorated through castration.  Just a hop, skip, and jump away from “Little Red Corvette“.  Or “Tutti Frutti” for that matter.

While Robyn Hitchcock generally isn’t writing about the act itself (exception:  “Wey Wey Hep Uh Hole” from his Soft Boys days) you get the basic gist as he sublimates like no one’s business:  abounding with food, amphibians, fish, insects—all things squelchy, moist, fecund, and exploding.

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