The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was the album that took Dylan from an unknown artist to a megastar, with the Beatles listening to it constantly and drawing inspiration from it. For me personally, it was the album that took me from Dylan “appreciator” to Dylan fan. I loved the simplicity of it, Bob alone with his voice, guitar and harmonica. I loved how you could really dive deep into what he was singing about as the focus was firmly on his poetry with light, calm and soothing melodies in the background. I remember my first couple times listening to it and thinking that I could listen to it all day.
While Dylan’s first album only contained two original songs, Freewheelin’ contains eleven. It was the emergence of the “Dylan style” where he would take traditional songs and place original lyrics over them. The lyrics were what truly separated Freewheelin’ from other folk music of the time, creating surreal imagery and taking on topics in a much more mature way than you’d expect from a 21 year old.
You could pick up the protest nature of it from first listen, with the iconic “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Oxford Town” and the obvious “Masters of War.” There’s also songs of longing, reflection and loss, like “Girl From the North Country”, “Down the Highway”, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and “Bob Dylan’s Dream.” There are fun and somewhat absurd moments in “Bob Dylan’s Blue” and “Talkin’ World War III Blues.” Then there’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.”
Hard Rain received a lot of notoriety as the Cuban Missile Crisis started about a month after his first performance, leading many to speculate that the rain Dylan spoke of was atomic rain, especially with the line “the pellets of poison are flooding the waters.” Dylan also touched on nuclear fallout in “Talkin’ World War III Blues” as well as “Blowin’ In the Wind”, although he refers to the weapons as cannons. However, Dylan has said that particular line was about lies and the influence of the media. One idea is that the rain refers to The Book of Genesis and story of Noah, and depending on how you interpret it, refers to making the best of your situation before the rain falls, the fruitlessness of it all since all will be washed away eventually, or the need to change our ways to prevent the rain from a-coming. Regardless of interpretation, “Hard Rain” remains one of Dylan’s most impressive works, with incredible imagery that is deeply complex that remains epic to this day.
Unlike previous blog posts, I’m not going to go into deeper dissertations about more individual songs and their meanings, but I’d invite you to sit down with this album and a pair of headphones and discover the songs for yourself. This is pure Dylan, without the “distractions” that other musicians create (although “Corina, Corina” does have light drumming).
For Freewheelin’ Experimental IPA, I wanted to carry over some of the same ideas and themes as the album, specifically the “pure Dylan” I just wrote about, the complexity of the lyrics, the emergence of the “Dylan style” and the shift from Dylan toward original compositions.
This IPA only uses one type of hop that is so new, it doesn’t even have a name yet, known now as Experimental Hop 07270. I get dank with a touch of apricot in the nose while I pick up the same dank with mandarin in the flavor. It is far from one dimensional and is very unique. The hop grower recommended using it with a bit more caramel character for balance as it is quite expressive. For this beer, the hops represent Dylan’s lyrics. Just as the lyrics were in the spotlight on the album, the hops are the star for this beer with the malt providing a calm background for support.
Just as the album has Dylan stripped down with light melodies in the background, I wanted to keep the malt bill fairly simple. In December 1962, Dylan traveled to London for a BBC special and took in the British folk scene, inspiring him to write and record several songs for the album. In that spirit, we used Crisp Maris Otter, an English malt, for about 86% of the grist, with the rest consisting of Crystal 40 for light caramel flavors and color, wheat for head retention and CaraPIls for body.
The hopping schedule got it’s inspiration from lyrics in “Hard Rain”, where Dylan says “I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains” and “I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans.” It’s the only number he mentioned twice in the song. Therefore, we did 12 hop additions. For the non-brewers out there, 12 is quite high and complex (another lyrical reference). Our Edgewater IPA, for example, has 4. I also feel like my homebrew spirit comes out with a recipe containing 12 hop additions, and I compare that to some of the fun and absurd moments in the album.
Just as Dylan had taken traditional tunes and layered his original words on top, I feel we did that in the beer. IPA originated in England, and our malt bill is very similar to a “traditional” English IPA, while we layer on a brand new hop that most people haven’t had the opportunity to have yet, giving it a unique spin. As the album was the start of Dylan’s original compositions, this beer is the start of your experience with this hop. And as the album was completely different than many of the other folk records of the day, this IPA will be very different than any of the other one’s out there right now.
The vital stats are 7.07% ABV, around 75 IBUs and 11 SRM. I feel it is noticeably more bitter and richer than our Edgewater IPA, while there is some crossover in the flavor. Experimental Hop 07270 was bred with a cross of Apollo and Wye Target hops, and we use a significant amount of Apollo in Edgewater.
While I’m attempting to wrap this up, I’m becoming a little reflective of the entire Dylan series as a whole, and how this started as a drunken idea that has now come to full fruition. I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to all of you who have come in to try our beers, attend our listening parties and reading this blog. This series has given me a great creative outlet, as it was designed for me to take some chances and brew some styles of beer I wouldn’t otherwise have thought about. We can’t do this crazy thing we call Joyride without all of you, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate every single one of you. One of my favorite all time lines from Dylan comes from this album in “Talking World War III Blues.” In the song, Dylan is talking to a doctor about a dream he had, where he was the only one left after nuclear fallout, and that now it seems a lot of people are having the same dream. In the song, Dylan says “Half of the people can be part right all of the time/Some of the people can be all right part of the time/But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time/I think Abraham Lincoln said that/I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours/I said that.” I’ve loved having you in my dreams, and thank you for letting me be in yours. Cheers.