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Session #9: No, no, it’s BEER & music

The SessionSomebody at the San Francisco Chronicle must have got the wrong memo. They’ve got a feature today about wine & music. Hey guys, the theme of today’s Session is Beer & Music.

Music to drink wine by: Vintner insists music can change wine’s flavors is no lightweight read. It runs almost 1,900 words.

As the writer notes, Clark Smith qualifies as a wine industry provocateur, so the response has been mixed.

“Just about everybody who hears about what I’m doing is either completely baffled by what I have to say or they think it’s so obvious that they don’t see any point in talking about it,” he said.

It’s worth your time to read the whole thing, but here’s a snippet:

He has even found a piece of music (the North Water Street Tavern Band’s polka-like “Milorganite Blues”) that made Sutter Home White Zinfandel taste better than any of the reds, including his own $100 Cab.

Smith has only a few guidelines so far for music and wine pairing.

“Never play polkas with anything,” he says, unless you really like White Zinfandel.

“Red wines need either minor key or they need music that has negative emotion. They don’t like happy music. With expensive reds, don’t play music that makes you giggle. Pinots like sexy music. Cabernets like angry music. It’s very hard to find a piece of music that’s good for both Pinot and Cabernet.”

Smith may be onto something here, but typically, pronouncements like “Cabernet tastes better by firelight, in a cave” aren’t quite scientific enough for the academic community.

Russian River Brewing barrel roomThis reminded me of a story from Russian River Brewing owner/brewer Vinnie Cilurzo. Cilurzo worked at his family’s winery when he was growing up and said that his father used to play Frank Sinatra for the wine while it was fermenting. (Before his father started the winery he was an Emmy-winning lighting director, working with the likes of Sinatra.)

The picture is from the barrel room at Russian River. Notice the boom box by the carboys (which happen to be full of enough wild yeast to destroy a major American mainstream brewery). “My dad played Sinatra,” Cilurzo said. “I play rock music.”

He was talking about what his barrel-aged beers “listen” to, but I wish he’d added, “And it makes the yeast go wild.”

Also related: Lucy Saunders’ post on tonal progressions and pairings.

Further reading: This is Your Brain on Music.

9 Responses to Session #9: No, no, it’s BEER & music

  1. Eric Trimmer November 2, 2007 at 12:15 pm #

    Polka is beer music, anyway…

    Roll out the barrell!

  2. Craig Hartinger November 2, 2007 at 1:39 pm #

    An honestly amazing polka band: Brave Combo, from Denton, TX.

  3. Rick November 2, 2007 at 1:49 pm #

    On the plus side, regarding SFC, they did run a beer column by Jay Brooks today too – about wet hopped beer.

    Always a good thing to see good beer writing in print.
    – Rick

  4. Stan Hieronymus November 2, 2007 at 1:49 pm #

    Spot on, Craig. They play our way every once in a while.

    Definitely a beer band.

  5. SteveH November 2, 2007 at 2:40 pm #

    I’d post the Happy Schnaaps Combo information, but they broke up a few years ago. 🙁

  6. Stan Hieronymus November 2, 2007 at 6:42 pm #

    My indignity with the SFC was pretty much mock. That story is really interesting. Thing is, if it is true for wine then it is true for beer.

  7. maggie d November 3, 2007 at 11:38 am #

    Music is as subjective as smell, and I think that article is a giant crock of poo.

    While this idiot was busy testing whether Dave Matthews goes with his California diacetyled-to-hell Chard, some of us were volunteering at our local food banks, helping people who are so hungry they often become delusional. I wonder what music you hear in your head when you haven’t eaten in three days?

    Some people can’t afford to devote such time to the pursuit of such twee aesthetics, and articles like that one make me want to bring back the guillotine.

    What beer goes best with righteous anger? I’m gonna go with Schwarzbier. Dark yet refreshing.

  8. Stan Hieronymus November 3, 2007 at 1:50 pm #

    Maggie, you are the guillotine ;>)

    I would suggest Surly Darkness for your righteous anger.

  9. Rick Green November 8, 2007 at 9:38 am #

    I’m involved in a beer & music project with a couple of beer drinking classical music musicians. A piece is being composed for an octet that will be played on 08/08/08 at 8:00. We’ll celebrate with cask ales and Stone Vertical Epic 08.08.08.

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