When I first heard the news of David Bowie’s passing, I thought it was a sick joke. As the reality slowly crept in, I fell more and more numb. One minute the world is dancing, celebrating his birthday released album, then all of a sudden it’s as if the world stopped spinning and the gravity of his final work truly kicked in.
I have been at a loss on how to properly put my grief into words. So instead, fellow Bowie lover and beer aficionado Kiersten Umbinetti and I have beersonified the life and work of David Bowie. From personas to songs to traits, we pair this pop icon with popular craft beer.
First we set the mood…
Now read on, then find *all the beers listed below at Elizabeth Station.
Major Tom: Ground Control Imperial Stout – Ninkasi Brewing
First of all, I need to put out there that we are fully aware of how painfully obvious this pairing is. At first, we planned to find a beer that took things a little deeper and dug into the makeup of Bowie’s Major Tom persona, but then we realized it would almost be insulting to avoid the beautiful harmony of this pairing. “Space Oddity” perfectly balanced Major Tom’s acceptance of death with Ground Control’s frustration, giving the song a whole new meaning after Bowie’s passing. Major Tom needs the dark, space yeast-filled imperial stout of Ninkasi’s Ground Control.
Ziggy Stardust: Space Fruit IPA – Coalition Brewing
Ziggy Stardust was the breakthrough introduction of David Bowie’s zany, sensual pop stardom. This flame-haired, androgynous alien rock star was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. He paved the way for weirdos across the world to let their freak flag fly for years to come. It should be noted that an obvious choice for this pairing would be Elysian’s Space Dust IPA, but we thought Space Fruit captured the fun-spirited nature of Ziggy Stardust more. Because really, Ziggy Stardust was a Space Fruit, and we say that with the most loving intentions.
Halloween Jack: Angry Boy – Baird Beer
The Diamond Dog who’s “a real cool cat.” Carrying on the red-hot mullet and rocking the signature eye patch and platform heels, it’s often said that Halloween Jack was a real inspiration for the punk rock movement. As for the pairing, I believe I’ll let Baird describe Angry Boy for themselves and no explanation will really be needed: “Beneath the cool façade of the warrior, a red-hot flame of intensity, determination and, yes, anger burns. So it is with this unpredictable Brown Ale: fleeting malty sweetness and warmth hide complexity, a barely controlled bitterness, and, naturally, a bit of an angry edge.” – Baird Beer.
Thin White Duke: Truthful Statement – Almanac Beer Co.
This stripped down persona showed a level of vulnerability that had never been seen before in Bowie. Ditching the extravagant costumes for slicked-back hair and a simple white suit, the Thin White Duke was also a noted time of darkness of Bowie. Dealing with drug addiction and emotional stress, Bowie claimed that during this time in his life he survived off a diet mostly consisting of red peppers and milk. Truthful Statement is a soured imperial stout with added cherries and oranges. With a velvety smooth dark stout in its core, this sour gives off tart and unexpected flavors, much like the Thin White Duke.
Jareth The Goblin King: Troublesome Gose – Off Color Brewing
Labyrinth was one of those films that terrified me as kid, but for some reason I just kept watching it. Jareth is dark and troubled, yet flirtatious and mysterious. A beautiful, human creature ruling the world of goblins. There’s something off with Jareth. He’s troubled with a great deal of angst, yearning for so much more than his Goblin King position. Off color notes that Troublesome Gose is a blend of two beers which is typically hard to contain, creating a unique funk to the Gose. The Goblin King also has a lot bubbling under the surface, as well as a complexity that creates a unique funkiness.
*”Let’s Dance”: Disco Lemonade – Aslan Brewing
“Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” This is a line we’ve definitely been trying to take to heart since the news of his departure. “Let’s Dance” has been an anthem at every dance party for years. I truly believe Bowie wouldn’t want the world to sit and mourn; he’d insist we all get up and shout, celebrating his life and music forever. This is a simple pairing, but a necessary one as well. (This beer you cannot find at Elizabeth Station).
“Changes”: Birthday Beer – Shiner Beer
All right everyone, stay with me here. There’s two main reasons we paired “Changes” with Shiner’s Birthday Beer. For starters, David Bowie’s 69th birthday will forever be associated with the changes the world experienced. Bowie released his new album, gave us three days to listen to it unbiased, then he left this mortal world. Unbelievable. The second reason we chose this pairing is because of the changing nature of the beer itself. Every year Shiner releases a new beer on its birthday, so it seemed appropriate to pair their Birthday Beer with “Changes.”
“Under Pressure”: Only Schip Worth a Damn – Urban Family Beer, Perennial Artisan Ales, Telegraph Brewing, and Snipes Mountain Brewing
When finding a pairing for “Under Pressure,” we were tempted to go literal and find a highly pressurized beer. Instead, we decided to focus on the collaboration aspect of the song. Queen and David Bowie coming together for this song has to be one of the greatest collaborations of all time. This beer collaboration is aged, balanced, and harmonious. It only makes sense to pair an aged beer that was the result of four breweries’ collaboration with one of the most successful collaborations in music history.
Marriage to Iman: From Amager With Love – Evil Twin Brewing
Speaking of collaborations, one of David Bowie’s greatest was his marriage to Iman. It’s rare to find celebrities with lasting marriages, which is what makes David Bowie and Iman’s marriage of 24 years all the more beautiful. Iman was his partner to the very end, keeping their personal life out of the limelight. From Amager With Love is an imperial stout with blueberries, created in collaboration with Amager Brewing. This beer is incredibly strong, however it’s beautifully balanced and sweet. We believe that it is the perfect metaphor for their marriage.
“Lazarus”: The Flowers Are Sleeping – Urban Family Beer
Since the news of David Bowie’s death, many people made the clear connection to the hidden meaning in his lyrics and video for “Lazarus.” It’s quite apparent that “Lazarus” was David Bowie’s final message to us all of his coming death. However, much like Lazarus of Bethany in the bible, Bowie will rise after death. His physical body may be gone, but his music and spirit lives forever.
With “Lazarus” becoming a metaphor for the end of David Bowie’s life, this was our most difficult pairing. We weren’t looking for anything specific. Instead, we walked around Elizabeth Station knowing that when we saw the perfect pairing, it would hit us both. When I found The Flowers Are Sleeping, my heart just sank. It seemed so hauntingly beautiful. I pulled it out, showed it to Kiersten, and she just made a gesture of a knife into her heart. This was the final beer pairing we found for for the day, and it was the perfect closure that we so desperately needed.