Extreme beer -- defined as brews that are ultra-aged, ultra-strong, and/or made with exotic ingredients -- is poised to be The Next Pabst among people who define their self-worth by the cachet of their beverages. So says no greater authority on cool than The Wall Street Journal.
Connoisseurs say it's an acquired taste, akin to fine ports and whiskeys. But the extreme-beer movement, which flies in the face of "freshness dating" and other traditional beer-marketing tactics, has thus far only taken hold on the East Coast, spurred most notably by the Boston Brewing Co. (maker of Sam Adams), which regionally markets aged beers with alcohol contents as high as 23 percent. By comparison, the suds poured at The Great Lakes Brewing Company top out at a girly 6 percent.
Though Cleveland has the nation's highest number of bars per capita, we appear to be slow to grasp the extreme trend. "I'm not familiar with that term," says Brian Lottig, brewmaster at Great Lakes. But he's also not that impressed. "I would rather have a whiskey."
Great Lakes is looking to produce a higher-alcohol beer this fall, a Belgian triple bock with a 9 percent booze ratio. But even if Lottig wanted to go truly extreme, Ohio would shut him down: State law mandates that beers contain no more than 12 percent alcohol. "It'll probably be another 50 years before we're allowed to serve anything with 20 percent alcohol," Lottig says.
Speaking of extreme, Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O must have killed an entire keg prior to her May 2 show at the Beachland. At varying points, Miss O poured a bottle of beer down her chin, fellated the microphone, writhed in mock orgasm, hurled the mic stand, and sang from beneath a sheep fleece, which she subsequently tore to shreds and threw into the crowd. She also humped a lot of things, all the while wearing a smile that swung from lascivious to maniacal.
Alas, this was one of Karen's more conservative shows. When she's really riled up, she' s prone to flash the audience -- or at least show off her pasties.
Punch's official position on all this debauchery: She'd make a very entertaining baby-sitter.
James Frey's f'd up
There's a nonstop buzz swirling around James Frey, the former crackhead turned literary sensation. His recently released memoir, A Million Little Pieces, which details his descent into angry junkiehood and return to even angrier sobriety, has won both praise and scorn for the former Shaker Heights resident.
But though he's now a dainty New Yorker, he still speaks fluent Cleveland, dropping more f-bombs than an auctioneer who just got kneed in the balls.
In a recent New York Observer profile, Frey pissed on the notion that Dave Eggers -- whose own memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, had the literati all agog three years ago -- is the best writer to slouch out of Generation X.
"Fuck that. And fuck him and fuck anybody that says that. I don't give a fuck what they think of me," ranted Frey, 33, before vowing to take a shot at the title. "And maybe I'll fall flat on my fucking face, but I'll fall flat on my fucking face trying to do it."
There's nothing better than seeing a local boy go pro, yet still retain his Heartland manners.
Another satisfied customer
Eastlake Mayor Dan DiLiberto has long been a fan of this esteemed rag. But his affection no doubt increased after our story "Money Pit Park" (April 30), which questioned the logic of building a baseball stadium in a city that can barely afford police.
The stadium happened to be Mayor Dan's pet project, and though he didn't talk to our Action Reporter, Tom Francis, he did take a moment to sing Scene's praises on Channel 12, which might best be described as the Tass of Eastlake.
"There's a newspaper -- I wouldn't even call it a newspaper -- in Cleveland," gushed Dan. "It writes nothing but negative things all the time. It talked about what the effects of this (stadium) will be with our city. It was very negative . . . but that's the way they write. They don't write anything positive, Scene magazine. The people that are feeding this were the negative people that were here all the time."
Punch has to admit: The mayor's gotta point. And let it not be said that this rag doesn't heed the advice of its fans.
Look forward to next week, when our cover story attacks that most pressing question: "Small Children or Kittens: Which Are Cuter?"
Christine & the Big O
In other breaking self-referential news, Scene theater critic Christine Howey was on Oprah last Wednesday, discussing her transformation from a man to a woman with the Big O herself. Howey appeared with her daughter, former Scene managing editor Noelle Howey, who is promoting her memoir, Dress Codes.
The interview was followed by a much-teased segment on Live on Five. Noelle talked about how her book tried "to show the humor of this and show a family that is like every family out there." She also spoke of her love for Dad: "She's funny, she's acerbic, she's a great writer herself, and now she's actually a happy person. "
Perhaps more revealing was the Oprah interview, in which Christine inadvertently shed light on the source of her trenchant theater reviews. As a man who wanted to be a woman, she explained, "I learned sarcastic humor very well. I could put people down and just slice 'em and dice 'em." Overwrought actors and pretentious directors, consider yourself warned.
All opposed, say "neigh"
When the law came looking for Brian Garry-Crum, Crum went looking for an alibi. He had a good one.
Crum was arrested in October for protesting a speech given by President Bush in downtown Cincinnati. The offense: assault on a police horse. Authorities claimed Crum punched Cody the Horse on the muzzle.
Unfortunately for the cops, Crum is a vegetarian musician/pacifist and longtime animal-rights activist who does part-time construction work because sit-ins don't pay the hummus bills. It's the kind of résumé not easily converted to that of a horse beater.
"They kinda pinned the wrong charge on me," says Crum, who nonetheless was treated to a four-day trial. The case broke down when police testimony didn't match the arrest report, and the horse didn't take the stand.
Crum was acquitted.