The Lost Highway of Masculine Identity

Image: doubefeatureshow.com
Image: doubefeatureshow.com

Words by Darren TYNAN

David Lynch is the driving force behind the psychological thriller Lost Highway, and his idiosyncratic directing style propels a dark, intriguing and ultimately terrifying journey into the heart of masculine identity.

For those familiar with the latter films in Lynch’s repertoire (Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire), it is at no surprise that Lost Highway is a challenging concoction of film aesthetics. Lost Highway is an artistic meditation fuelled by pensive symbolism, subtle allegories and a non-linear narrative structure.

Despite the relentless ambiguity and moments of surreal confusion (albeit enjoyable) which are somehow conducive to the plot, the multiple threads of the film are woven around the enigmatic character of avant-garde saxophonist Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), who embarks on a journey into the treacherous core of his own sexual anxiety and inadequacies.

Many of the scenes in Lost Highway are explorations of what academic Nicholas Marino refers to as the ‘three metonymic facets of masculinity; body, identity and power’, and there is a sense of dread and uncertainty which binds these facets together within the film.

Lost Highway first offers a glimpse into the main character’s psyche with a series of vignettes which inform the audience of his sexual shortcomings. Fred suspects his wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette), has had an affair, and after the crushing realisation of infidelity sets in, his ultimate lack of virility and disempowerment results in psychological torment and despair.

There is an emotive scene in which Fred is unable to sexually fulfill his wife, and Lynch displays the entwined bodies as a symbolic device, illustrating gender identity in relation to this sexual tension. Juxtaposed with the ebb and flow of their bodies, an eerily ominous soundtrack creates a tone for the scene and signifies the patriarchal dread which the main character is confronted with. Here, Lynch invites the audience on a portentous expedition into the vulnerable aspects of Frank’s masculine identity.

The cause of Fred’s vulnerability is his inability to adequately have an intimate relationship with his spouse. Subsequently, Fred’s failures result in disillusionment, his future is seen to be foredoomed and his sanity becomes questionable as he revels in his inadequacies.

Fred’s internalised feelings of worthlessness are displaced and directed toward his spouse, and he is driven to explosive behaviour as the result of his own abjection, subsequently murdering Renee. Then there’s this complete shift in the film’s progression… there really is no point explaining it as you’ll find out when watching it, but suffice to say there are two seemingly separate narratives that Lynch blends together in a unique way.

Fred goes into state of repression as he attempts to deal with his own psychologically traumatised condition. Symbolically, Fred is protecting his masculine identity by repressing what academic Andreas Philaretou refers to as his ‘physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual weaknesses and shortcomings’.

There is a considerable ambivalence as to whether or not Fred commits murder in a violent frenzy of delusional identity crisis, a kind of ‘psychogenic fugue’ or split-personality disorder. It could also be interpreted that Frank’s dubious mental condition occurred directly after his heinous actions. Whatever the case, the reality of Renee’s demise is overridden by Frank’s denial and the aspects of masculine power and identity are interlinked.

The themes and allegorical representations in Lost Highway resonate within a masculine space, the anxiety-fuelled phantasmagoria of Lynch’s work operates as a terrifying yet intriguing exploration into the portentous aspects of masculine identity. Perhaps the muffled screams of sexual anxiety in Lost Highway are haunting, albeit they are thoughtful, and effectively heard.

The Harmonic Universe of Esperanza Spalding

Image: curtjazz.com
Image: curtjazz.com

Words by Darren TYNAN

There are occasions where language falls short in adequately conveying beautiful experiences. Multi-instrumentalist jazz musician Esperanza Spalding’s sophomore album, Esperanza, is such an aural journey that it defies description.

When prodigious musicians grace the planet, coupling their abilities with a dedication to their art, the world soon knows about it.

Growing up in a multi-lingual household in Portland, Oregon, Spalding showed bewildering talent at an early age, inspired by classical cellist Yo Yo Ma when she was four. It would seem as though this sudden revelation would shape her entire musical career.

‘It was definitely the thing that hipped me to the whole idea of music as a creative pursuit’, Spalding said.

Teaching herself violin, Esperanza had elevated to concertmaster for The Chamber Music Society of Oregon by the time she was 15, a community orchestra open to adults and children. In another prodigious sense, after three years of intense study, she became an instructor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music at the imponderably young age of 20.

Esperanza, a 2008 release, marks her debut as a solo artist, and unsurprisingly, it went on to become the best-selling album by a new international jazz artist in the same year. While there have been three additions to her discography since this release, it would seem a perfect place to begin, as she marks her independence and autonomy as bandleader.

The album is a pulsating soundscape of seemingly endless breadth. As bassist and singer, Esperanza’s multi-lingual approach to singing oozes a warm, hypnotic quality that is matched by her astounding physical beauty. English, Portuguese and Spanish vocals are scattered throughout the album, and it’s undeniable that each musician in the band is virtuosic in their own right. Spacious piano improvisations, spellbinding classical guitar, Brazilian rhythm and gloriously catchy walking bass lines are dispersed throughout the album.

Critic Kevin Le Gendre reflected on Esperanza’s band, saying, ‘There is no end of chordal finesse, finely wrought melodies, subtle but nonetheless hard-edged rhythmic pulsation, and above all a glowing sound canvas’.

Not atypical to the mastery of jazz musicians, the instrumental discourse of the album is never predictable and begs for repeated listening. Unlike the occasionally surging chaos of iconic experimental jazz albums such as Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, there is a kind of restraint shown which allows for an unpredictable yet structured sense of call and response. While such albums may seem cluttered or dissonant, at times lacking the sense of ‘release’ that allows musical tension to be provocative, the album Esperanza has a perfect balance of harmony and dissonance, instrumental chaos and negative space.

A highlight of the album is the song Mela, a seven minute long display of harmonic richness. Esperanza’s brilliance in jazz scatting is most evident toward the end of the song, and at times you may wonder how such vocal expansion is possible. Esperanza’s abilities show an amazing dynamic range here; she has precise control of phrasing, pitch changes, timbre and an endless sea of expressive qualities. It seems so boundless that it should exceed the capacity of vocal expression.

Esperanza is a harmonically enriching journey into musical sublimity. It exceeds the parameters of simply being called ‘jazz’, because there are so many different influences and genres at work. It is an album that presents so many interesting harmonic ideas that it could easily represent a life-time of listening; each track is a rigorous musical study in itself. Esperanza, now in her late twenties, has already accomplished so much as a musician. What could we possibly expect next?

Links

Live Esperanza – Nourish your soul
Official Homepage – For all your Esperanza needs

Kaufman Adapts With Finesse

Image: whatculture.com
Image: whatculture.com

Words by Darren TYNAN

As a film, Adaptation never really begins or ends. Images and sounds may cease, but the concepts of beginning and end, of understanding, knowing, and conclusiveness, continue floating around in a kind of boundless filmic space.

Directed by Spike Jones and released in 2002, the film’s writer, Charlie Kaufman, throws another meta-narrative spanner in the works. Based on Susan Orlean’s non-fiction novel, The Orchid Thief, the film’s plot is driven by Kaufman’s own struggles in adapting the novel into a film, yet it also portrays the dramatised events of the novel as a sub-narrative.

Using trick photography, Nicholas Cage plays both Charlie Kaufman and his fictional twin brother, Donald, and Meryl Streep brings Susan Orlean’s character to life, the Orchid Thief’s writer in the film and in real life. Susan is portrayed as a journalist who extracts information from orchid poacher John Laroche, and finds herself caught up in a potential career scandal.

The resulting combination is one exceptionally clever, humorous and curious film. It sometimes derails itself with self-mocking tangents: ‘It’s self-indulgent, it’s narcissistic, it’s solipsistic’, Cage says in the film, reflecting on his own character’s writing credibility.

The opening scene highlights Kaufman’s weariness in his search for originality; he doesn’t want to do ‘what works’ as a shortcut to success, but to have an original voice, if that’s possible at all. In a hilarious confrontation, Kaufman even mentions that he wants to write a film about human disappointment and how nothing happens in life.

Cage’s dialogue is fatigued as he talks about the maxims which he relies on to endure the pangs of his own existence. He mutters the kind of terse, uplifting phrases that are used as a defence mechanism to avoid the onset of banality or boredom: ‘I need to make the most of it’, and, ‘today is the first day of the rest of my life’.

‘I’m a walking cliché’, Kaufman sighs.

There’s something so recognisable about the way in which Kaufman tries to examine his own life and prove his significance. It’s a kind of oppressive self-imposed guilt – an apologetic disposition toward his sense of being. He poses the question – How do we begin to grapple with the intricacies of our own circumstances and predicaments, the course of all things leading up to a single moment? Knowing is something intangible and just out of reach.

‘I’ve been on this planet for 40 years, and I’m not closer to understanding a single thing’, he says.

The film expresses a strong desire to conclude, but it never does. Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories shape the subtext of the film, and there’s an implied necessity to adapt. None of us request to be born; we are thrown into existence and it’s our role to adapt to the environment, but as we fulfil our basic physiological needs, we yearn for more. We want to want something; we want to feel passionately about that something. We want to feel grounded and reassured in the unknowable magnitudes of life, yet we also desire an escape from our own incessantly circular thought patterns.

Kaufman is confronted with the immense anxiety of trying to understand the set of variables that have led him to a present moment in time, and finds it equally difficult to know which choices will shape his future as he feels trapped in his own body. The character of Susan Orlean laments similarly –‘There are too many ideas and things and people. Too many directions to go. I was starting to believe the reason it matters to care passionately about something, is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size’. It doesn’t.

Adaptation is a special film because it leaves you with an insatiable kind of curiosity – it’s ironically tragic and beautiful at the same time. Kaufman offers the idea our own adaptability is not merely biological in an evolutionary sense – but very psychological. It’s intelligently scripted, playfully circular and well worth a watch, especially if you’re bored of adapting to Hollywood car chases and contrived dialogue.

Futuristic Funk Duo Progress Local Music Scene

Axolotl
Axolotl

Words and photography by Darren TYNAN

If you find yourself drifting through a ghost town of musical stagnation, the lingering phantoms of predictable cover songs impressed in your brain, perhaps there can be no better remedy than a good dose of original funky grooves.

Funk duo Axolotl fuse technical innovation with a superb level of musicianship. Bunbury was lucky enough to get a triple set of Axolotl as part of the Underground Cabaret held at the Lighthouse Cellars Bar over September and October 2013, and you were mad if you missed it.

Dave Nolan, a drummer with an impressive 39 years of experience, drives a nuanced rhythm section that compliments Pat O’Connor’s hybrid bass/guitar. The duo use looping devices, effects pedals and a mixing board to create different tonal textures, often spontaneously.

Reinforced by Nolan’s rhythm, the music is layered and it’s amazing to think that such a dynamic soundscape is created by two people. With a baffling array of gadgetry, it’s lucky Mr Nolan has a background in audio engineering; the sounds are tight, and if you didn’t look twice you’d think the digital drum kit being used was a state of the art accoustic set.

Built by forward thinking company Novax Guitars, Mr O Connor’s instrument is a custom 8 string which allows for bass lines and chordal harmonies to be played at the same time. When asked about his decision for playing such an unorthodox instrument, Mr O’Connor explained that he felt the need to split his resources between guitar and bass. He mentioned that this investment was a ‘new door opening’ and although it took him a while to have full control of his new axe, it’s come together quite well.

‘I’ve had it for two years now and honestly, it’s a lot of work’, he said.

Regarding the improvisational qualities of Axolotl’s sound, Mr O’Connor said that ‘at least 50% of it is created on the spot’. Even though they humorously categorise themselves as ‘Heavy Elevator’, Axolotl shouldn’t be confused with interchangeable background music; their sonic terrain is shaped by soulful guitar bends, warm, nostalgic tones and sophisticated percussion. A true sign of their skills is that they communicate so well with each other on stage; they are never ostentatious or inaccessible and the focus is always on complimentary grooves.

Mr Nolan said that after years of jamming, embracing new technology meant musical possibilities were more open than ever.

‘I think the hybrid guitar and looping system work really well together’, he said.

The duo agreed that being a musician can have its fair share of hurdles, and that constantly aiming for progression is what drives them. In a world that teems with absurdly glamorised pop icons and superficial notions of success, it’s refreshing to see such a genuine and unshakable commitment to the art of music.

‘We’ve never been driven by money. It’s about a personal journey of getting better at what you do’, Mr Nolan said.

The duo said that touring and playing at the Ellington Jazz Club in Perth would be a great way to progress their careers. Axolotl’s musical horizons remain open and they look forward to upcoming corporate gigs and weddings. They even talked about potential collaborations with locals, which could be a great prospect for another Underground Cabaret, so stay tuned!

Links

Follow Axolotl on Facebook!

Watch ‘Spider Walk’ on Youtube

Check out ‘Traveler’ while you’re at it 😉

Tidal Wave of Sound

Image: karnivool.com
Image: karnivool.com

Words by Darren TYNAN

The most recent chapter of Karnivool’s ongoing sonic legacy, ‘Asymmetry’, hit shelves nationally on 19 July 2013 and unsurprisingly. I wasn’t the only desperate fan salivating upon its arrival.

The Perth rock outfit refined their work in 2005 with full-length debut album ‘Themata’, and 2009’s release, ‘Sound Awake’, gave musical sustenance to hungry fans. It’s been eight years since Karnivool’s debut, and like a complex ale that’s matured over the years, the band’s new album is richly layered with progressive flavours.

The fact that this album has a different feel to previous work will perhaps be a source of contention among fans. It’s dark, introspective, has more dynamic scope and is more spacious than previous albums. Don’t fear though. Put on your best headphones, immerse yourself, and be rewarded with a treasure trove of sounds.

Musically, Asymmetry is a mixed bag. Meandering layers of clean guitar, emotive and penetrating bass, vocal samples, deep, resonating overdriven chords and swirling ambience all culminate with sophistication and complexity.

The track ‘Om’ is an example of the new dimensions Karnivool are exploring. ‘Om’ explores the Buddhist idea of the illusion of separation. The track features a completely stripped back soundscape; piano keys ring out pensively while the power of the spoken word moves the listener.

‘A M War’ is another highlight on the album and truly showcases the musical control the band has over their instruments. It shows their masterful use of aural space – they know when to build suspense, when to attack hard, when to come to the fore and remain in the background.

This aforementioned track is saturated in darkness, as vocalist Ian Kenny warns, ‘We’re almost out of time, in this hopeless cold divide’. The suspense is thick, and the song builds again as dissonant guitar chords ring out, illustrating angst and dread.

Karnivool is still as heavy-hitting as always, but have infused their distinct sound with a new level of musicianship. I was lucky enough to catch Karnivool live a few years back, and their performance was excellent. One thing that stood out to me is how this album is tinged with a ‘live’ atmosphere at times.

The mixing never sounds too clinical or dry, and seems to be a perfect balance between studio production-quality music and the ‘raw’ human energy and attack synonymous with their live shows.

Asymmetry is palpably heavy in more ways than one. It is a sonically distinctive album, and is a must-listen for fans of contemporary Australian rock with a progressive edge. The breadth of the album is doubtless; the melodies linger in your brain long after they cease.

Time will tell that this work is a perfect example of the powerful art of storytelling through music; Asymmetry is a force to be reckoned with.

Links

The Vool’s website

Check out ‘We Are’

Moon Dog’s Perverse Potions

Brewing lunacy
Brewing lunacy

Words and photo montage by Darren TYNAN

What’s the difference between French cartoon icon Pepé Le Pew and Australian microbrewery Moon Dog? Although both are perverse in their methods of expressing love, there are no exaggerated stereotypes to be found in Moon Dog’s creations and Skunkworks is no exception.

Moon Dog are certainly not purveyors of clichéd beer. Since beginning their niche microbrewery in 2010 their legacy so far has been brief yet ridiculously eclectic and inspired. With beer names like Perverse Sexual Amalgam, Henry Ford’s Girthsome Fjord and Mr Mistoffelees it’s worth sampling these beers if for nothing but to baffle your friends with the frivolous titles. Moon Dog may have an impudent disregard to orthodoxy when it come to their marketing, but the lads create each brew with professionalism and take their craft very seriously. They are intrepid warriors in a beer war against indifference and blandness.

Categorically, Skunkworks is a Double IPA aged in cognac barrels but you could think of it in numerous ways… perhaps a stupendous love-potion collected from the tears of a wizard. Its 9% ABV is a little on the hefty side, but let’s face it, this isn’t the kind of beer you’d be carelessly gulping down watching a football game.

What kind of beer is it, you ask? It’s the kind of beer you could drink while contemplating the vicissitudes of the human condition, adorned in your finest furs and sitting on your chesterfield. Contrarily, it’s also the kind of beer that you may drink however you want… sprawled on your kitchen floor or while building a barn with your dad. Bathe in it, if that entertains your perversions which it probably does.

Appearance-wise Skunkworks pours a copper/amber colour with a small head. There’s no sediment but the beer is opaque, providing minute lacing on the walls of the glass and a murky and perhaps unassuming appearance. The aroma is next, and there are whiffs of marmalade, there’s a very faint aroma of cognac here, and surprisingly, not a great deal of hops.

A native inclusion in Moon Dog’s packaging is that they offer a list of ingredients in each beer, in Skunkworks, Summit, Horizon, Chinook and Amarillo hops are used in the kettle, and Citra and Cascade in the barrel. The aroma hops are subtly evident, there are some lovely resinous/grapefruit characteristics, presumably from this dry hopping.

The taste is an amalgamation of marmalade, caramel and resinous/grapefruit hop character, all tied together with delicious cognac sweetness that reminds one of port. The aftertaste has a decent duration and the focus is on this aforementioned sweetness. There’s a hint of ‘booziness’ toward the end that reinforces the 9% ABV, which becomes more pronounced as the ale warms. Generally speaking, this wouldn’t be desirable in the context of Double IPA style guidelines, but a lot of Moon Dog’s ales exist outside of style parameters entirely, so it’s irrelevant to have such a quarrel.

So what’s the verdict overall? Skunkworks is a medium-bodied ale with a delicious cognac presence that’s blended well with subtle hop character. Its hop presence is seemingly subdued considering it’s a Double IPA, but I think more hops would detract from the focus, that lovely cognac sweetness. If you’re interested in innovative Australian beers that explore flavour boundaries, I say give this a try. Stay adventurous!

Links

Moon Dog’s tasty brewfolio

Beer – a World in a Glass

Beer - a world in a glass

Words and photography by Darren TYNAN

Kölsch, Smoked Marzen, Lambic, Saison, Witbier, Trippel, American IPA. What do these worldly creations have in common? They’re all beer styles, and they’re all delicious.

‘Write about what you love’, the saying goes. Which brings me to a frightful dilemma: how will I find enough paper to express my love for beer, without being toppled by deforestation activists? Luckily for me, I’m a digital child, and for the most part I can avoid the necessary evil of paper lust. It doesn’t stop the curious and insatiable appetite for craft beer I’ve been having lately, so I sit down to vent my enthusiasm on Vortext33.

There’s a wealth of artisan beers out there and, after spending some time researching last year, I began my own humble home brewing endeavours, admiring all the processes that enable malted grains to magically convert to liquid in a glass. Alas, it’s not magic in a theatrical sense; there is no sleight of hand or a clichéd rabbit in a hat, but it is a science, an art and a craft.

More than any phrase in the English language I despise the three words, ‘It’s just beer’. Just beer? Just beer!? How may one degrade this godly beverage in such a nonchalant manner?! My rage is stockpiled yet again. Ok, so I may have exaggerated my point, but you can catch my drift. I love beer and so should you!

Beer is one of the world’s most beloved beverages, made from malted grain, hops, yeast and water. Other ingredients may be added, although Germany’s beer purity law, Reinheitsgebot, a law ensuring that only these four ingredients are used, has become common practice from brewers across the world. It is both a simple and complex process of fermentation; that wondrous dance of yeast cells that transforms fermentable sugars into alcohol and CO2.

If you have read this far you might be nodding your head, thinking, ‘Yes, but I know all this. Beer is good’. You may also be thinking, ‘Why does he feel the need to hypothesise about what I’m thinking?’. Forgive me, but this is all to segue into my next suggestion: Why don’t you try making your own beer? I guarantee it’s easier to get started than you think. If you have a large pot and access to a store that sells fine-meshed fabric, you can brew your own recipes on your stove top using these four natural ingredients.

Brewing all-grain is fun, rewarding, and it’s just like the pros do it. It’s less expensive to get going than most assume as you can get started with some basic equipment and ingredients. If you have time, patience, some minor research skills and a passion to create, rest assured you’ll be rewarded. I recommend this purely because I have found it to be so enjoyable, and the sky is the limit when you have the raw materials.

Have an idea for a smoked porter or fruit beer? Make it. Love a palate-destroying hoppy ale but can’t afford the price tag? Make your own custom batch to share with your friends. If you’ve been looking for a new hobby and love a good brew, I say go for it. Good luck and happy brewing.

As a home brewer, below is a list of some tutorials and information I have found invaluable. I am in no way affiliated with the authors nor do I benefit from these recommendations.

Links

Easy to follow BIAB tutorial

A supportive community of brewing minions 🙂

BIABbrewer.com

The guys from Northern Brewer show us the ropes

Founders Fervently Fight for Flavour

A hop beast
A hop beast

Words and photography by Darren TYNAN

Much like the alliterative title of this article, Michigan brewery Founders relied on a sense of constancy in their beginnings: a constancy of passion, tenacity and a communal will to uphold a vision.

While the word ‘craft’ may denote unnecessary notions of elitism, separating beer lovers from the common interest that unites them in the first place, Founders nonetheless take pride in being at the forefront of the American craft scene. They also have their hearts in the right place, having an impenetrable brewing integrity and a vision that has never been compromised. Their slogan, ‘Brewed For Us’, states in an unselfish way, that the brewery is doing everything they want to do and is true to their vision. It also implies that if you’re interested in joining them on their passionate journey, you’ll inevitably be rewarded.

Founders embody the value, pride and substance of what brewing should be all about; they face up to the detached, impersonal commodification of beer. They push away the bullying brewing juggernauts that churn out the blandest of beers and rely on demographical indifference and a sense of complacent mediocrity to thrive. All in all, it’s not a war grounded in hostility or separation – it’s simply a matter of taste, but in a growing empire of beer choices and innovative, forward thinking marketing, isn’t life too short to drink mediocre beer?

Facing financial hardships in their early days, the spirit of Founders can only provide a positive feeling from such throttling persistence and determination. Mike Stevens, Founders front man, said that there is a kind of universality to their vision that extends far beyond beer.

‘Ultimately we want other people to grab life, embrace everything that you do. Founders is more than just beer. It’s that feeling’, he said.

When confronted by a wall of beer choices, let’s all face it, IPA’s are by no means an endangered or rare breed of beer; there seems to be a new one being created every day with increasing regularity. Despite this, the All Day IPA is certainly a unique beer. One may argue that it is hard to ‘stand out’ amidst the ubiquity of such a style, but Founders make their mark.

This beer pours a light amber colour, the lacing is substantial and there is some opacity in the appearance. Considering the aroma, there are huge pineapple notes which inform a tropical fruit profile, resonating with the flavours. Subtle passion fruit, lemon and a cheeky bit of peach are also evident. Taste-wise, this beer takes the delectable fruit characteristics of hops, and places them upfront – this is backed by a firm bitterness that taps you on the shoulder and confidently says ‘I’m here, I serve a purpose, and I won’t be an imposition’.

This is an amazing IPA if you like tropical/stone fruit characteristics in your beers. It’s on that tipping point of being robust or perhaps ostentatious, to being accessible and literally packed full of flavour. Hops are not abused in this beer, they are mindfully used. However, if you still want more hard hitting hops from an IPA, Founders have taken care of that too; their Double IPA, aptly named Double Trouble, is a colossal beer released from May-June, and is one to look out for.

One may appreciate the passion that goes into crafting this beer, and notice the intentional use of restraint with hops. It’s all blended together without being excessive or showing off (not that that is a bad thing) and the quality of flavours and aromas in Founders’ beers translates their vision in a language of its own.

The remaining question is, could we really drink this IPA all day? If we could evade the vague parameters of alcohol-related social acceptability, I’d say it’d be hard to say no to such a good thing.

Links

Founders history, beers and availability/

Beer Advocate ratings

Mikkeller Creates Hop Monster

Mikeller100ibu for wordpress
Words and photography by Darren TYNAN

It’s arguably one of the most bitter and intense Imperial IPA’s commercially available, and with a name like 1000 IBU – a theoretical figure which refers to the beer’s ‘international bittering units’, it’s a beer marketed at pure hop heads and beer geeks alike.

For those not familiar with beer styles, an IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a style of beer that you might think of as a variation of a Pale Ale, with an emphasis on hop character. While American and English style IPA’s can be vastly different, there has been a trend among some American brewers to truly push the envelope and cram as much hop flavour, bitterness and aroma into a beer as possible.

This is Danish microbrewery Mikkeller’s tribute to the power of the hop, carrying all the weight of a heavy-hitting boxer. It’s only brewed once a year and has strictly limited availability in WA, but I can assure you it isn’t a lacklustre affair in any way.

Sitting down to savour this 9.6% hop monster, I had a feeling I was some kind of hop-masochist, but who was I kidding? I knew exactly what I was in for. The beer pours a hazy amber/orange-red colour, has excellent head retention and lacing on the glass. The aroma does not fully inform the immense hop character this beer has, and implies a nice malty sweetness. This surprised me, considering that I was expecting a more ‘unbalanced’ beer without this kind of pleasant malty character.

Then the flavour comes in ruinous waves, like a hop avalanche that assaults the taste buds. The first sip is intensely bitter, but soon the palate becomes accustomed to the complexity of flavours and you crave for another sip. Pine, resin and citrus flavours are married perfectly with a big bold bitterness and a long aftertaste. But what really impressed me about this beer was how surprisingly balanced it was. There’s a lovely biscuit/caramel sweetness to this beer, which seems to shine in the aftertaste, lingering around and seducing the senses for another sip.

The bitterness is very firm but isn’t at all acrid. I found the alcohol to be blended very well and the hops ‘sizzle’ on the tongue with a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel. This beer isn’t as inaccessible as one may think either, although I may have the bias as a self-confessed hop lover.

This isn’t a beer for closed-minded drinkers; it’s a purely experimental creation, and one which coincides with Mikkeller’s vision: To brew beer that ‘challenges people’s taste buds – whether it’s in a bitter, spicy, sour or fruity manner’.

Don’t let the title fool you either; it’s pure novelty and aims to be controversial. Mikkel from Mikkeller even released a statement to enraged beer connoisseurs, stating that he intended for 1000 IBU to not just be a gimmick, but a beer that tests limits in brewing. ‘We do know about the difference in theory and actual measures and never stated to have brewed a beer with an actual IBU of 1000’, he also reminded.

Overall, this is a beer that’s as novel as it is exceptional. I’m glad I’ve ticked this one off my IPA bucket list, but is it worth the $22.99 price tag for a single 375ml stubby? There are plenty of intensely flavoured IPAs to try that are much cheaper than this one; Green Flash Brewing’s Palate Wrecker or Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum to name two. However, if you’re still searching for the final hop-frontier after those two and love big, bold and ‘in your face’ beers, this one is for you.

Mikkeller’s 1000 IBU is available to order online and in-store from the International Beer Shop in West Leederville, Western Australia.

Brewing ingenuity/