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Jeremy P · Updated Jan 30, 2015 · One True Pairing

OTP: Cowboy Beerhop

Welcome to our new column OTP where we combine anime with amazing things! AnimeChicago member Jeremy P. has an exquisite palette for great beer and great anime. Here are his recommendations on what you should drink while watching our January Round Table selection.

Cowboy Bebop is such a deep and vast series that to pin one particular style or theme is definitely difficult, if not downright impossible. So then, how can one try to suggest a few beers to try while watching this show? It too is a feat in and of itself. I could write a list a mile long and not be anywhere near the complexity that Cowboy Bebop proved was possible through anime. Therefore, I figured that I should try to be as narrow as possible and only focus on a single, encompassing theme that the show demonstrates to provide a good set of great beer suggestions. By no means should you take this list as a “be all, end all” compact synopsis of everything that Cowboy Bebop encompasses.

For this article, I have chosen a theme that plays throughout not only Cowboy Bebop but also the entire works of series director Shinichirō Watanabe. Shinichirō Watanabe has been described before as the Tarantino of anime, with good reason. He offers a varied worldview through his various shows that is nearly unmatched by any other director in anime today. Some of his works, including Cowboy Bebop itself, feel outside the traditional anime norm with its more, dare I say, western cinematic influence. I believe that is one of the reasons for its continued success in the United States (not to mention just being a downright fantastic series). Like Tarantino, Watanabe utilizes a wide variety of influences in his works to create a diverse story. Sometimes those influences would not seem to fit together normally, but if done right, as Watanabe has done in the past, they work with each other in such a way as to garner a whole new experience for the viewer.

This style of mixing influences can be found in a small, but growing, number of beers available today. Instead of sticking with the BJCP (BCJP stands for Beer Judge Certification Program and represents the hard rules for what a certain kind of beer should taste and look like) guidelines on beer styles, many brewers are starting with one type of base beer and combining that with a whole different set of styles.

This, in its own special way, represents the kind of storytelling and direction that Watanabe provides to his various series. Therefore, I would like to suggest three beers that go against the convention of the BJCP while still being superb on their own and prove that sometimes going outside the guidelines makes for great entertainment and great beer.

1) Night Cat – Two Brothers Brewing – Warrenville, IL.
Although Spike Speigel himself had an aversion to pets and children, this cat is self described as a “hoppy wheat ale.” However, once you see it in the glass, you would never tell it was a wheat ale with its dark, almost jet black color. Wheat beers have always been known for their bright, golden color and focus on the malt character. Where this beer defies this convention is not only in its dark color, but the way that the bitter, citrus hops play against the wheat malt character shows that this beer is in a category by itself. Its low ABV makes it easy to grab a six pack of cans and enjoy a good portion of the series with no trouble.

2) Graveyard Shift – Arcade Brewery – Chicago, IL.
Arcade Brewery is a relatively new brewery that has been putting out a respectable lineup of beers over the last few months. This recent addition, as Coffee Pale Ale defies most logic in that the vast majority of beers made using coffee are stouts and porters. Where in those beers, the coffee is used as a complement to the dark, roasty flavors characteristic of their styles, Graveyard Shift utilizes the coffee for a compliment to the hops of the pale ale. It is very much a different experience and well worth accompanying a few episodes of Cowboy Bebop.

3) Bitches Brew – Dogfish Head Brewery – Milton, DE.
Just like Cowboy Bebop is heavily influenced by jazz and its culture, this beer shares the name of a Miles Davis album, which itself was a revolutionary blend of jazz and rock. Three parts imperial stout, Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew is blended with honey beer, providing for a taste that is not really found anywhere else. It is this blending process that makes the beer unique. Normally, blended beers are given a bad rap in some beer circles mainly because of the belief that all of the targeted flavors should be realized in just one brew. However, where many blends fail, this beer succeeds in both nose and flavor. With its high ABV, let it warm up a bit, get relaxed and watch an episode or two, reveling in the show’s excellent soundtrack.

Just as there are many, many anime series out there catering to all different kinds of fans, there are as many beers and beer styles. Navigating the catalog of each should be a journey with no real final destination. Until, next time, see you space cowboy.