Saturday, April 4, 2009
Forty one years ago today, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead in Memphis, Tennessee. I've been to Memphis; what a crazy town...full of folks that know how to get down and throw a Wang Dang Doodle! At the time when I visited, I was much younger and impressionable, but I did recognize the significance that Memphis had on the history of the United States. Although Rev. King was not on my mind when I was stumbling around Beale Street, I understood that a deep conflict within the South had always been present. Instead, I thought about Graceland, Johnny Cash making it big at Sun Records along with Jerry Lee and Carl Perkins, Dollywood and the big river separating Arkansas from Tennessee.
These days, the musical history of our country is still in my mind, but the people who helped to influence our daily lives inspire me more and more. I was at work last summer when my buddy Floyd played the entire "I have a dream" speech from the stereo in his truck. We were blasting it with all the doors open - as if to attempt a kinetic link to those outside earshot - and took it all in. What a speaker! The man really was a voice that moved millions; I'm sad that I wasn't alive to see and hear him myself, I think I really would've dug the energy of this guy. They don't seem to make enough people like Dr. King anymore, that's for sure, but when a person like him comes around, we need to embrace them. These are the people that help us to THINK. While rushing about in our little lives, we easily forget the important things that keep our humanity in check. Maybe that's why I take the little things so personally; they mean so much to me, I guess. And although King spoke of large ideas that would effect many people and overturn vast prejudice, I believe that his message, in order to be effective, would start with one brave person. King called on the American public to be courageous enough to support the idea that all people can have a fair shake. I just can't imagine how torn up this country was when Rev. King gave his monumental speeches...however, there is relief that there were enough people who gave a shit about the state of our country to go out there and support the man and his ideas of a better United States. Not since Obama have we seen such a rally. I'm glad at least I lived to see that!
So, to honor Rev. King Jr., I'm brewing a massive India Pale Ale today. Lots of German malts, some home-toasted for flavor and color and a dash of wheat malt for head retention. And then there's the hops....by my calculations, I'll be using over 8 ounces of hops in this mighty beer. In an average Pale Ale, one might utilize 2-4 ounces of hops. When it comes to IPA's, the sky is the limit - and although I'm not one to shoot for blistering bitterness that leaves a beer undrinkable, I am shooting for a big beer with enough hop FLAVOR to balance the incredible sweetness that I'll get from my Pilsner malt. I think of this beer in my mind's eye as a companion to the soul of MLK Jr: big and mighty, a force to be respected, courageous in spirit.
The sun has burnt off the thick layer of morning fog, the birds are singing in anticipation of this warm weekend, my mash is converting in the igloo cooler and the Doug Fir's are calm in the gentle wind that rolls over my quiet neighborhood. This is a good day.