This blog is all about beer and music with a little bit of life mixed in along the way; however, I have really wanted to do a post that combined the two main aspects of my ramblings into one post. I, as usual, can’t really take credit for this concept. My go to blog for inspirations came up with the idea far before I ever conceived it. I, however, have tried to think of a way in which to work this into my blog ever since the first time I saw one of his beer & music combination blog. I have been trying to figure out how to combine a beer and music review for a while, but none of the albums seem to really have matched up well with the beers I have been tasting. This combination finally came to me rather organically this week.
For a few years now I have struggled to find new Christmas music that really grabs my attention. Really, the same thing I’ve been going through this year with different Christmas and Winter ales. I tried the Sufjan, My Morning Jacket, and Rosie Thomas holiday albums; however, none of them really grabbed my attention. I really typically find them somewhat too boring for my taste. I do like your traditional holiday tunes, but I am fairly sick of them after a few days of continuous play. This year She & Him has graced the music industry with their own Christmas CD. Hopefully this would be the year I find an album to get excited to put on while being dragged out to shop every black friday.
Similarly, I found myself at a Total Wine in Virginia beach. While there I managed to make my own six pack of various holiday and winter ales. One of them that really caught my eye was the Schlafly Christmas Ale. I don’t have a ton of experience with the beers in the Schlafly line-up, but I am very aware that this is a go-to brewer for a lot of different lovers of beer. Therefore, it definitely took up residence in the first sleeve of the six-pack I was constructing.
She & Him have a certain allure, deserved or undeserved, being fronted by the multi-talented Zooey Deschanel. Much like the Schlafly name, she brings a certain need-to-watch quality to just about everything she does. The packaging on both items is simple and to the point. This Christmas ale pours out a bright and sunshiny orange/reddish hue. It develops a light while head that manages to dissipate quickly. Meanwhile, Ward and Zooey doll themselves up for this album “pouring” on a heavy dose of holiday cheer. However, despite the appealing look of both, the proof is always more in the consumption.
I wouldn’t say you are ever really all that surprised by what you get when you pick up a She & Him album. The same thing happens here when you put on this particular album. Zooey keeps her sweet female crooner voice going most of the CD, and they pepper in a little bit of the spicy M.Ward vocals here and there. Schlafly provides a similar concept as you take in the aroma of the blend. The sweet orange peel smell takes center stage. It permeates the majority of the smell with a very warm candy tone. There is, however, lingering in the background a slight hint of spicy cloves. While not the star of the show, they manage to really provide a lot of depth and body to the composition.
She & Him manage to tackle many of the traditional holiday classics. “The Christmas Waltz” opens the album and sets the tone for the rest of CD. Zooey’s crooning takes center stage while a simple guitar provides most of the musical background. There is a little Charlie Brownesque piano that comes in for a little interlude; however, it stays rather low key and low tempo. Actually the majority of the album can be called low tempo. Other songs like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Silver Bells”, “Blue Christmas”, and “The Christmas Song” all provide a similar feel to this introductory tune. They just seem to be lacking something and are a little drab.
Other places on the album, we start to see a little more of the sweet peppy aspects the Christmas season is intended to bring. “Christmas Day”, “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree”, “Sleigh Ride”, and “Little Saint Nick” still feature Zooey heavily, but there is a different feel to them. They exude that fun loving aspect that Christmas embodies a little more. However, for me, the best parts of the album come with the little bit of spice M.Ward brings to the mix. ”Christmas Wish”, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, and even some of the guitar work on some of the other songs bring that little extra spice to help make them feel really enjoyable. They really need the full scope of all of their important components.
Schlafly’s Christmas Ale follows a similar development. The taste enters with a sweet malty intro that pulls you in. From there, the sweet orange peel takes over and, would be completely overwhelming, if it weren’t for the spicy clove flavor that helps to bring a balance and enjoyment to the entire composition. Therefore, the beer ends with a nice blend of the spicy and orange flavors. The overall mouthfeel is quite interesting. It has a very crisp and clean flavoring at parts, but there are other parts where you get a slight syrupy quality. The clove seems to really help to mellow out that syrupy nature, and actually, almost reverse the adverse effect I would feel if the clove weren’t there.
While some might consider it a stretch to try and compare a beer to a piece of music, I think the comparison works quite well in this instance. The beer and album tend to be a little too sweet and syrupy at parts, but it is the spicy quality that helps to bring balance to the entire product. There, however, feels as if something is missing in each instance. She & Him strips down everything to put their own spin on a bunch of Christmas classics. The album ends up feeling like a little like a one trick pony, and actually, a little boring at parts. Similarly, I would have liked to see a little something extra in Schlafly’s beer. I like the flavors that are there, but I feel like it’s missing something. It just doesn’t quite measure up to what I was hoping their Christmas Ale would be. They are both still good products in the end, but just like one would make great background music for a Christmas party, the other would make a good beer for mass consumption at those same holiday parties.
She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas: C
Schlafly Christmas Ale: B-