The name Interrobang has been reserved for several months in the place where I keep prospective beer names (on a Post-It stuck to my computer monitor—I have a sophisticated filing system). It’s been on the bubble because Harpoon Brewing beat me to the name, and they actually sell beer and stuff. Theirs is an 18% ABV imperial stout, which is no doubt worth an interrobang.
However, one day, probably in the Mexican food aisle at Ralph’s, I had a vision of a mango habañero beer. I’d had a sixpack of Ballast Point’s Habañero Sculpin and was not a huge fan—while I love some heat, this brew had just too much of it.
But dialing that taste back so there was just a hint of it on the palate, and then balancing the citrusy flavor of this pepper variety with some mango sweetness—this would be an interesting idea. And the sweet/spicy combo felt like an interrobang of an entirely different font.
This felt like an American wheat ale, smacking of summer. I built the rest of the recipe with hops I chose to enhance the sweet fruit / citrus duality (including a substantial dry hop) and a Kveik yeast known for emphasizing tropical fruit.
I plied a few advanced techniques for the fruit adjuncts. The habañeros were diced and extracted in food-grade ethyl alcohol, with only the liquid making it into the fermenter. I used my favored new technique for breaking down and pasteurizing the mango: held in a sous vide bath for 24 hours with some additional sugar added for enhanced maceration. When it came time to bottle, I stole a move from Thunderbolt City, prepping some homemade mango syrup and using that mix for my bottle-conditioning.
Final analysis: visually, I would have expected this to be a whole lot hazier, with wheat at about 50% of the grain bill. The habañero is just a whisper—your nose can pick up just a bit of the sting, your tongue even less. Next time I may use twice as many and still not worry about overspicing it. The mango asserts itself in a balanced way and the beer drinks crisply. Excellent for these end-of-August days.
I struggled for some time to conceive of an appropriate label image. For a while I was stuck on the idea of a pile of Gutenberg press movable type beside the head and hands of a dozing typesetter, rendered in a Renaissance style. This felt like it wouldn’t really register.
Thinking about the beer’s wheat component, paired with unusual or mystic symbols, unlocked a new direction: crop circles. In short order the entire visual became clear, with a perspective from atop a hill, next to a mango tree, overlooking an idyllic farm in the valley below.
In a daring artistic expansion of the HLH Cinematic Universe, the snow monkey from my Jigokudani label is taking in the scene (he showed up in the Ionization seaside town as well). Last fun fact: the artist for this label, Carlos7727 from Peru, doesn’t do characters. Failing to find an artist who could add the monkey, I asked DALL E 2 to throw a 3D snow monkey rendered in a cute anime style into the scene. It did an unnervingly good job and gave me a couple of reasonable alternatives. The robots are taking over.
Is Yacht Rock really a thing? Michael McDonald, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins, Chistopher Cross, Boz Scaggs, Toto…. at the time (1975-1984), this wasn’t a genre, it was just what music sounded like. And it kind of sucked, TBH. I know. I was there.
But perspective requires distance, and it took until 2016 for J.D. Ryznar and his colleagues to codify Yacht Rock as a genre to the point where it deserved its own Wikpedia page. Now, all the Yacht Rock artists of note have embraced the term and jumped aboard. When you build a seawall around Yacht Rock and can think of it not as the bounding main but instead a sheltered lagoon along the way, it can be enjoyable.
(And turns out Christopher Cross is a huge Zappa fan, so there would appear to be some weird eddies beneath the gentle waves.)
But the question remains: before a Yacht Rocker knew they were a Yacht Rocker, were they truly a Yacht Rocker?
All of this is a windup for my proposed addition to our pantheon of genres: “Trash Prog.”
This is what happens to Glitter Rock when you take it to 1975 Times Square and drag it through the gutter for a while before inviting it into a peep show. Simultaneously exalted and debased.
The Tubes are the Christopher Cross of Trash Prog.
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