Not all heroes drink grapes
Before rapping about the new Czarface IPA, Don the Armor by Bent Water Brewing Co. in Lynn, it’s important to catch everybody up on the super hero for whom it’s named. Czarface is an all-star hip-hop amalgamation of the Boston duo 7L & Esoteric with Inspectah Deck from Wu-Tang Clan. If you’re late to this fantastic revelation, then oh boy, you just wait, there’s a whole lot more for you in store. Rhymed and designed by comic book heads for comic book heads, Czarface is a multimedia machine, cranking out memes, books, limited edition vinyl, T-shirts and, yes, now its very own India Pale Ale.
Like most of the beers in Bent Water’s arsenal and the Czarface musical catalogue to date, Don the Armor is the best kind of punch to the jaw. There’s lots of bite but still plenty of sweetness (red berries, oranges, and mangos, to be exact) to help the medicine go down. Remarkably, the knuckle sandwich lingers, with heavy hops stomping down hard enough on your taste buds to leave a deep impression. Like the gorgeous armor that it comes in, this 8-percenter is unflappable, impenetrable. Something you will want to savor—on your tongue, and then as a collectible after you rinse the remnant.
A lot of hip-hop acts don’t scream craft brew out loud. Come to think of it, the marriage of rap music and booze has largely been an obnoxious affair; what started with a noble early focus on 40-ounce varieties that consumed the culture in the ’90s devolved into so much dance floor bottle popping. That was fresh and all when Biggie was teaching us about France’s finer champagnes, but now it’s tired, and so a bulletproof on-brand offering such as Don the Armor is especially welcome. I’ll be buying four-packs until stores run dry; after that, the stickers I am peeling off the cans will feature prominently on my wall for many years. As for the brew itself though, it truly is downright delicious. I even like it warm.
In other news, since we’re talking about beer and super heroes, I want to sub-highlight Battery Steele Brewing in Portland. I got my hands on some of its cans this month, specifically the Flume Double IPA, and as I’ve said before, the crew up there cooks extra special suds. While I’m hardly inclined to hand out props to beers for not tasting like what they are supposed to be—I also hate it when food critics commend fish dishes for not tasting like seafood—that’s nonetheless exactly how I feel about Flume, a massive double-slam of a specimen that basically rolls down the tongue like hop candy. I drank my first one straight out of the can. For my second, I went with a pint glass to let it breathe and in order to ogle its clouds. I’d love to start imbibing Flume on tap, but honestly I would be nervous. I’d chug my way through the first three in a matter of minutes, and at 8% ABV, these spell out a recipe for the kind of injury one might endure on the wrong end of Czarface’s iron fist clutching a cold one.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.