I haven’t written about a Local Option beer in more than a year, but not because they haven’t rolled out anything new. The saison Walk ov Shame debuted on draft in November, and a second batch, split between kegs and 500-milliliter bottles, started shipping about a month ago. And a bottled beer is a beer I can review at home. (Another new Option beer, Exorcist!, should be on shelves within the month; in November I said it “might be the hoppiest stout I’ve ever tasted.”)
Like everything released so far under the Local Option name, Walk ov Shame was developed by owner Tony Russomanno and alumnus Noah Hopkins (he left in July and now works for Dark Matter Coffee). It’s still a work in progress: the second batch, for instance, used a slightly higher fermentation temperature in an attempt to bring the esters in the beer further forward. Up till now I’d only tried the first batch, but even then I had to double-check: There’s no fruit in this? Really?
Walk ov Shame is one of eight Local Option beers pouring today at the bar’s latest Catalina Wine Mixer (which doesn’t have anything to do with wine—it’s a joke from the 2008 movie Step Brothers). There won’t be any Exorcist! on tap, alas, but the 31 beers on the draft list include a staggering variety of sought-after rarities, many of them prohibitively high gravity. I’ll return to that list later, but for now I’ll just say that this is a good argument for flights at the Local Option. To Tony and company: If you’re willing to wash all those little glasses, I bet people would pay a premium for the opportunity to range more widely among your beers without ending up in the Dark and Forgetful Place.
Walk ov Shame is an unfiltered saison with a relatively modest alcohol content of 5.8 percent. I’m pretty sure I paid $4.99 for my bottle, but the guy at Andersonville Wine & Spirits razored off the price tag. Like every Local Option beer, it’s brewed with 100 percent German grain. LO brand ambassador Alexi Front tells me it’s fermented with a yeast similar to the proprietary strain at Fantome (surely the “Wallonian producer” referenced on the bar’s website), which gives it a distinctive strawberry-yogurt note.
The Local Option folks are gypsy brewers, and right now they’re exclusively using the equipment at Pub Dog in Maryland—their other regular partners, Dark Horse and Against the Grain, can’t spare the capacity due to ongoing construction and renovation projects. In fact 60 to 70 percent of Pub Dog’s annual output consists of LO beers—the brewery benefits from the premium prices the Option can command (as compared to those for its own products). That said, Russomanno is having trouble keeping up with the demand for Local Option beers, and he’s looking for new host breweries to help.
Walk ov Shame definitely has some strawberry yogurt on the nose, though I can’t promise I’d be wording it that way if Alexi hadn’t used that phrase. It also smells like whole wheat toast with clover honey, cut peaches, and jasmine tea, with a gentle spiciness that hints at cinnamon and ginger. Maybe it’s just because I hadn’t had lunch yet when I took these notes (it’s OK for me to drink before lunch—I’m a professional), but my mouth started watering before I’d even taken my first sip.
On the tongue this beer is dry, tingly, and peppery, with lots of earthy, funky yeast flavors mingling with crackery malts. It’s still plenty fruity and floral too: I get that strawberry yogurt again, and the peach flavors lean toward raspberry now, if that makes any sense. I can also taste dried fruit—mostly apricot, papaya, and unsweetened pineapple.
Now, about that label. With the weeping priest and the skull-faced fellow mopping off his private parts. (I can’t help picturing a much smaller skull on the end of his business.) Alexi assures me that there’s not only a backstory behind the image but also a grand narrative linking all the Local Option labels and the various characters on them. (The artist is a friend of his, vocalist Axel Widén of Swedish thrash band Zombiekrig.)
Alexi told me it’d probably take him more than two hours to explain the whole thing, so I settled for a few bullet points. The skull guy is Sweet Leif (also the name of the Option’s Belgian-style biere de garde with Chinese green tea). The horsepower-addicted bird of prey in the artwork for Outlawger and American Muscle is called Motorhawk, while the mulleted goat on the label of the Option’s Voku Hila maibock shares the beer’s name.
Sweet Leif has a skull head because when he was a kid his parents took him to a Meshuggah show, where the extreme metal literally ripped his face off. His folks, presumably unnerved by his new look, gave him up to a convent to be raised by nuns. That upbringing (and a youthful exorcism, the details of which I didn’t quite follow) have given Sweet Leif a kind of immunity to the depredations of corrupt clergymen. Hence the image here: the priest has attempted to have his sinful way with our hero, only to have the tables turned. The less of the ensuing scene you try to picture, the better off you’ll be.
- Courtesy the Local Option
- Maybe a label schematic will be easier to parse?
Other Local Option beers at tonight’s event include Voku Hila, Sweet Leif, and the barrel-aged modified weizenbock La Petite Mort (subject of my very first Beer and Metal review). Everything was tapped at 3 PM, but if you arrive early enough you might still get some of the prime nerd bait—they’ve got Firestone Walker’s 18th-anniverary beer, Goose Island’s Backyard Rye Bourbon County variant, and the Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout (which I haven’t had since 2009, when I found it at Dark Lord Day). Also on deck are the Great Divide American Sour, Half Acre’s Big Hugs, Blot Out the Sun and Permanent Funeral from Three Floyds, and no fewer than seven Pipeworks beers, among them Citra Saison, Mocha Abduction, Sure Bet, and the Tired Hands collaboration Black Tuna.
At 10 PM the Catalina Wine Mixer hosts a Guitar Shred Contest—the first of three qualifying rounds for a grand finale in October. Each participant gets two minutes to perform “the sickest solo possible”; to register, e-mail your name to 666 [at] localoptionbier [dot] com. All equipment is provided (though you can also bring your own guitar).
Now that it’s time for me to post music, I feel obligated to share Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers, performing “Por Ti Volaré” at the original Catalina Wine Mixer.
But this is Beer and Metal, so you’re also getting “Bad Priest,” a song released by Japanese avant-thrash band Doom on the 1988 EP Killing Field. (Exceptionally attentive readers may remember that I wrote a blog post about these guys in late 2012.) Takashi “Taka” Fujita, Koh “Pirarucu” Morota, and Jyo-ichi “Joe” Hirokawa formed Doom in 1985 in the Kanto region of Honshu, which includes greater Tokyo. The bonkers fretless bass you’re hearing comes courtesy of Morota, who left the band in the early 90s and was found dead in 1999, apparently drowned.
Doom split up in 2000 but reunited last year, with Fujita as the only original member still aboard. There’s no new material yet as far as I can tell, but for obvious reasons this is a hard band to Google.