Dogfish Head is probably one of the more recognizable names in the craft brew industry, not to mention one that is constantly coming up with innovative and fun new beers regularly. Likewise, Miles Davis is not only one of the most recognizable names in jazz music, but music in general. One of Davis’ most influential and innovative albums was Bitches Brew, not only changing the Jazz scene, but influencing other genres of music outside of Jazz as well.1 In 2010 when Sony released the 40th Anniversary edition of Bitches Brew, they collaborated with Dogfish Head to brew a special edition beer to coincide with the release of the album.
In 2010, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery was also the focus of a docu-series/reality show called Brew Masters on Discovery Channel. While it didn’t last past the first season, the first episode of the series was about the creation of the Miles Davis Bitches Brew beer. Following Sam Calagione, founder of the brewery, the episode showed a meeting with a Sony executive, the brewing process and the test batch tasting at the SAVOR craft beer and food festival.2
Bitches Brew is now a yearly release, and this is the first year I was able to actually track some down. The beer is described on Dogfish Head’s site as “a dark beer that’s a fusion of three threads of imperial stout and one thread of honey beer with gesho root.” More specifically, the honey beer with gesho root is based off of tej3, an Ethiopian mead that is brewed with honey and twigs and powdered leaves from the gesho shrub found in South Africa. This isn’t the first time Dogfish Head has borrowed brewing methods and ingredients from around the world. Its Ancient Ales series features beer recipes created from either chemical analysis of residue from old pottery or descriptions of ingredients and processes described from ancient texts.
Pouring the Bitches Brew beer with the Bitches Brew album playing in the background as prescribed by Calagione, I’m greeted with a completely opaque, black colored liquid with a quarter inch medium brown head that’s thick and leaves long trails when the glass is tilted. In a contrast to the dark liquid, the bright and light aroma has just a touch of sweet honey, spices, a little licorice, barley and just a hint of warm alcohol.
Taking the first sip I’m greeted with roasted malts, a touch of coffee, a bit of dry cocoa, and a light spiciness that almost hints of peppers. It’s a medley of flavors that are actually a little more cohesive than the music that I’m listening to.4 There’s a little bitterness, but just enough to offset the sweetness so it’s not really leaning one way or the other. The finish is a long, roasty toasty malt taste with some bold black coffee notes. Overall, the Bitches Brew is pretty highly carbonated, but it’s a smooth silky carbonation. The beer has a pretty light mouthfeel to it – probably in part thanks to the mead-like tej – though the silky carbonation gives it an overall medium mouthfeel.