An electronic whiz who is comfortable incorporating jazz, funk, pop and soul into complex hip-hop textures, Dan "The Automator" Nakamura's latest project uses more old-world ingredients. Apples, for instance. And cilantro.
Like lots of Nakamura's other concoctions, "Positive Contact" is a mix-and-mash of seemingly random components. Unlike any of them, however, it is a beer.
This week, Delaware's adventurous Dogfish Head Brewery began shipping a beer-and-vinyl box set dubbed "Positive Contact," a limited-run collaboration that pairs a 10-inch white vinyl of Nakamura's Deltron 3030 music project with six 750-ml bottles of an ale brewed with Fuji apples, cayenne peppers and cilantro. It should be hitting California retailers in the coming days, if it isn't on shelves already.
Embarking on the project, Dogfish founder Sam Calagione assigned Nakamura perhaps the dream homework assignment of beer nerds everywhere: "I sent Dan every single beer that we make in bottles," Calagione says. "Every day or two for a month-and-a-half he would send me elaborate tasting notes on each beer. The goal was for me to figure out his palate."
Dogfish has a reputation as one of the more experimental -- or simply weird -- craft breweries. The beer designer was the focus of a Discovery Channel series "Brew Masters," which tracked Calagione's quests around the world for ancient, unexpected ingredients. Among its 34 beers are ales concocted with pinot noir juice and the "chemical analysis of 3,000-year-old pottery fragments found in Honduras." The company's former assistant brewmaster, Jon Carpenter, is the lead brewer at L.A.'s burgeoning Golden Road Brewing.
Dogfish's music connections run deep. Chicago resident Jon Langford, leader of long-running punk outfit the Mekons, has designed artwork for the brewery (Langford also paints, and Calagione owns one of his portraits of Johnny Cash). Dogfish has also released a Miles Davis-inspired beer (Bitches Brew) as well as one named after Robert Johnson (Hellhound on My Ale). Last year, Dogfish unleashed Faithfull Ale, a beer that celebrated the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam's "Ten."
The Pearl Jam ale has been retired, and Calagione doesn't expect to ever bottle it again. It is, as Calagione says, "a collector's item," and bids for bottles on eBay start at about $40. "Positive Contact" sets will be limited to a run of 8,000, and Dogfish is suggesting retailers sell the box set for between $60 and $70.
Nakamura says expanding into beer is a natural evolution. "It’s all sensual," Nakamura says. "Music is sensual. Food is sensual. Beer, wine and alcohol are sensual. So this all makes sense. Whether you make food, wine, music or beer, you’re dealing with emotions. That’s why there’s a certain kind of camaraderie among the elements."