Retro Relapse: A Miles Davis Sunday Experience

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

Technically, I guess this could be considered a review of two things and not just that but how these two things come together. Really though, it is a reflection on an experience more than anything else.

My football team has a bye week and I really don’t care about any other team enough to turn on the television. So I am left with not much to do. Then I came across the bottle of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew from Dogfish Head sitting in my fridge – waiting for the right moment to crack open. Without any plans other than having planned to sit down and write today, I figured I’d open the bottle and enjoy it while listening to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” album, the great work that inspired what I have been told is a pretty great beer. Then I figured, I’d kill two birds with one stone and that I would write about the experience while indulging in the experience.

First, the beer is an American stout. Being a fan of stouts, this dark and mesmerizing brew is right up my alley. It has a roasted coffee essence but it is pretty minimal. The beer is rich and robust and has some nice maltiness to it. I pick up other flavors, such as caramel, molasses and some light fruitiness. Physically, the beer itself is very dark, kind of like black coffee. It has a dark caramel-colored head that almost bubbles similar to a good root beer but not as quickly. It isn’t a highly carbonated beer and it is almost, in body and in flavor, pretty close to being a perfect stout.

As far as the album, “Bitches Brew” is one of the most complex and original jazz albums of all time. It is a departure from what the general public expected from Miles Davis and is deemed more experimental and primal compared to what many perceive as his more refined and traditional works. Well, I really wouldn’t consider this unrefined and the fact that isn’t considered “traditional” by many in that time, just goes to show the versatility Miles Davis had as an artist. He was one of the greatest musicians that Planet Earth has ever had and “Bitches Brew” not only solidifies that fact, it shatters the mold Miles himself made and goes on to transcend the incalculable level of greatness he had achieved before this unique album’s release. Sorry if I am selling this hard but I am a huge Miles Davis fan and this album is a vital piece of work not just in Miles’ catalog but in American music history.

When Rolling Stone’s Langdon Winner reviewed Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” album in 1970, upon its release, he stated something so profound that it sums up the album and the experience of listening to it perfectly. He said, “Whatever your temperament, “Bitches Brew” will reward in direct proportion to the depth of your own involvement.”

So what is it like to merge these two things: the album and the stout?

Well, the attitude and complexity of the album is only rivaled by the attitude and complexity of this meaty and potent jazz juice. Upon my first sip, this beer has risen up into the upper echelon of the brews that Dogfish Head offers. I’ve drank a lot of their stuff and there isn’t anything I haven’t liked. They are a brewery that does their own thing and strives to surprise the public, even though they have grown to a position where they could just sit comfortably and collect their profits. Dogfish Head goes way beyond that and continually creates some of the best brews in the world. With Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, they have created one of the finest stouts that I have ever had.

Going beyond that, they have created a stout that from a flavor and body perspective, captures the essence of the “Bitches Brew” album. Throughout history, there have been many products that have tied into other products. This is one of the very few tie-ins that makes a lot of sense and is truly complimentary. The people at Dogfish Head just get it and luckily for us, they also have the palates and knowledge in how to create a perfect compliment to something that in and of itself is already a near flawless piece of work.

Well, the album is nearly over and my beer is nearly gone. I’ll have to do this again some time. I’m sure it won’t be as majestic as this initial experience but it is an experience that I would welcome at anytime. Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew is a beer that Miles Davis would have been proud of. For the rest of us, it is a beer that we can relish in and enjoy with Miles’ most uncommon yet most interesting album.