Trillium Brewing – PM Dawn x Charlie Parker
Drink: PM Dawn American Stout w/ Cold Brewed Coffee – Trillium Brewing
Song: Charlie Parker Vol. II – Charlie Parker (1970)
Fast and slow. Quiet and loud. Expected and revolutionary. Opposites are what make jazz and beer both wonderful arts. You can go into a song or a pint with a general idea of what’s coming but, depending on presentation and execution, you can be pushed all over the room in ways you were never expecting. Charlie Parker was and is the most revolutionary sax player to play the horn. He took the swinging style of big band and the jumpy excitement of Dixieland and smashed them together and launched them into warp speed.
The old saying is “it’s the notes you don’t play” but in the case of Parker it was the extra notes that he was able to fit in that were so important to his style and the birth of bop.
By playing with such speed and ferocity, “Bird” was able to fit more into the same space, making the unexpected seem natural.
Turning a straightforward piece into a fever dream of excitement like a thousand firecrackers all going off in a row. If you can think of how Jimi Hendrix sounded compared to the guitar groups of the 1950’s you begin to get an idea of Parker’s giant leap forward.
As far as leap forwards go, Trillium has been moving the needle of craft (or is it “independent” now) beer a whole heckuvalot lately. Maybe the biggest name in New England IPAs and highly prized can releases, Trillium has taken a niche style of brewing and turned it into consistent liquid magic that has caught the attention of the national beer community.
One of the most “jazzy” aspects of Trillium’s style is the small tweaks on the same beer, often called out on the label. Temperatures by a few degrees, ingredients by a few pounds, variations of variety of hop used and timing of use are all small changes that can have a big impact on the final product, if you know what to look for. Like Bird’s hectic playing, Trillium beers are fun to just knock back but it turns from background fuzz to art once you start paying attention.
The brewery does hops at a world-class level, but they also nail the rest of their portfolio (no duh). Tonight I’m cracking open a pint of “PM Dawn” an American Stout brewed with Cold Brewed Coffee. This beer fits right in with Charlie Parker in that it combines things traditionally not married and creates a blissful union. For this beer it’s cold and coffee, coffee and beer, PM and Dawn. Everything plays together wonderfully while still being able to be teased apart to be appreciated on their own. I invite you to follow along with Parker Vol. II if you’ve got it handy or with just about any album of Bird’s.
The beer opens up with a big nose of light to medium roast coffee beans. If you’ve ever been to a roaster and get a bag that is fresh fresh then you have smelled this beer. Coffee beans, roasted malt, a touch of vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, that smell of a campfire that go put out a few hours ago, that other smell when you go to the coffee shop and they are putting out the chocolate donuts. The flavor of the beer follows along with amazingly smooth coffee. Many coffee beers overshoot or undershoot or use crappy beans or over-extract. Trillium nails it here with the flavor that, when you buy a new bag of coffee beans, you hope your coffee at home tastes like. Coffee, vanilla, sweet cream, caramel drizzle, that flavor of chocolate that is just a little too dark to eat like candy, black tea.
As you take the first few sips of this beer all the smooth flavors are pricked and popped by Bird’s electric version of whatever song you are listening too. Notes punch and counter punch at the same time without seeming to recoil. Every time up and down the scale make you go “oh well yea, of course, that’s perfect”. As songs fire by, the beer warms to reveal a hint more of sweet caramel and milk chocolate. Like one of those frappes or whatever they call the coffee milkshake. Still in balance, though. Hop and bitter malt keep it all in check so as to never get close to cloying.
Choose a live version of a Parker song so you can finish off the pint and savor the last bit of lingering flavor while the aroma is still stuck in the can and hear the last note ring out over the audience trying to comprehend what they just heard.
Maybe it is the notes he doesn’t play. Or not. I used to listen to Korn, what do I know?
Sip & Spin,
You need some Charlie Parker in your life. Click below to grab a great album and toss a few pennies to ADaaS. Cheers – Jon