For the second release of our Bob Dylan series, we fast forwarded 10 years from our first release, Bringing It All Back Home. This time difference resulted in a lot of change for Dylan, most notably his motorcycle accident in 1966 that lead to him not touring for 8 years, as well as becoming estranged from his first wife, Sara. Although Dylan has claimed in subsequent interviews as well as in his autobiography “Chronicles Volume One” that Blood on the Tracks is not autobiographical, he was also quoted in April 1975 of saying “A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It’s hard for me to relate to that. I mean… people enjoying that type of pain, you know?” Jakob Dylan has also been quoted as saying “When I’m listening to Blood On The Tracks, that’s about my parents.” Wherever the truth may lie, the fact that the album is filled with sorrow, loss and bitterness in a confessional style is unmistakeable.
Dylan has always had a way of expressing his insults in song, like on “Positively 4th Street” and “Just Like A Woman”, but the lyrics from Blood on the Tracks’ 4th song, “Idiot Wind” are probably his most scathing. “Idiot wind, every time you move your teeth. You’re an idiot babe, it’s a wonder you still know how to breathe” before turning on himself, “We’re idiots babe, it’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves” are revealing, to say the least. Some have called it one of the best breakup songs of all time. The bitterness here is undeniable.
Near the middle of the album is an epic story song, “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” In my mind, this tale of bank robbers and murder is an extremely fun interlude in the middle of other songs expressing heartbreak is a fun number, especially the end of every stanza ending with “…The Jack of Hearts.”
The album concludes with 3 songs that perhaps show Dylan resigned to his fate and showing sentiment, with “If You See Her, Say Hello”, “Shelter From The Storm” and “Buckets of Rain” ending on a somewhat of a sweet note.
We decided this beer should be a Red IPA (or an IRA, if you will), for several different reasons. The color of the beer is an obvious reference to the name Blood on the Tracks (as well as to reference the Jack of Hearts), while the bitterness from the hops represent the bitter undertones that carry through this album, while the sweetness carried through from the specialty malts represent the end of the album, ending slightly sweet. We also used a percentage of Carafa Special III, a black malt used for color, to represent the dark time that Dylan was going through personally.
Some may question why we decided to do another IPA after our Bringing It All Back Home Sour IPA was meant to show a departure from the norm. One of the reasons I decided to do another IPA is many consider Blood on the Tracks to be a “comeback album” for Dylan, having not had an enormous commercial and critical success since 1966. I also view Dylan as a different artist in the 70’s, no longer confined to the labels he had developed in the 60’s, like the “spokesman of his generation” and had shed those responsibilities and burdens. By 1975, Dylan had transformed into a more mature artist, and could proceed how he wished. This is our way of “coming back” to where we started, as well proceeding as we wish. After a visit to the Pacific Northwest last month, I sampled many India Red Ales that I thought were delicious and fun, and thought that they would match well with the fun groove of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.”
I also felt a Red IPA (IRA) would highlight one of the great contrasts of the album, Dylan’s sorrowful and longing lyrics over some of his most beautiful music he ever created, such as “Tangled Up in Blue.” I think IRAs do a fantastic job of messing with people’s perceptions of how that red beer in their glass will taste.
To make this beer, we used 5 different American and German malts as well as Apollo, Mosaic, Equinox and Simcoe hops and fermented it with our house ale strain. Dylan famously rerecorded this album at the last minute, so to honor this “double recording” we did a double dry hop with a blend of Mosaic and Equinox. The beer finishes just slightly sweet, but still goes down very easily. I get notes of peach, mango and a lot of blueberry in the aroma and flavor. There is only but a hint of roast in the far back.
If you are an IPA fan, I think you are really going to love this beer. The hop aromas and flavors are so very unique and pleasant, it’s hard for me to put a glass down. Even if you think “every day’s been darkness since you been gone”, I hope this beer can give you “shelter from the storm.” Hop On.