I’ve been watching the “Classic Albums” series on Netflix streaming obsessively over the last few days. The first was Phil Collins: Face Value, followed by Iron Maiden: Number of the Beast, Steely Dan: Aja, Lou Reed: Transformer and, Metallica: The Black Album. All of the installments—even the ones about albums that I don’t even have an emotional attachment to (The Black Album and Number of the Beast)—are quite good. Today, I very consciously watched Cream: Disraeli Gears and Classic Artists: Cream while enjoying a fitting pairing: Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye.

November 1967 brought the seminal second album from Eric Clapton/Jack Bruce/Ginger Baker British blues-rock supergroup, Cream—Disraeli Gears. Cream was already a magical coming-together of three (nearly) equally brilliant musicians (as well as lyricist/splitting maul, Pete Brown) in their own right that had established a strong following in the UK as well as the US. This new album, featuring hits, “Strange Brew”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and “Sunshine of your Love” and a slew of oddball original songs and rearranged blues classics masterfully produced by Felix Pappalardi and engineered by the late genius, Tom Dowd, would be the band’s greaest success and harbinger of the end of the band. The blazingly bright psychedelic cover art by Martin Sharp is the time and band encapsulate.

It should be noted that I am generally indifferent towards Clapton (largely diminished as a result of the yawn-inducing creative direction of the last thirty-plus years of his career) though his sound was ideal for this band at its time. However, I feel that Baker is one of the greatest jazz/rock drummers ever to pick up the sticks and the Bruce was the great rock singer during his tenure with Cream time and a superb bassist. It’s a shame that the guys couldn’t, or, more to the point, wouldn’t, work to repair their dysfunctions.

These videos are tons of fun. It’s always entertaining to hear Atlantic co-founder/VP of A&R, Ahmet Ertegun wax nostalgic about his “discoveries” (though his relentless fawning over “golden boy” Clapton is ridiculous). The Classic Artists video features lots of great interview segments with Clapton as the typically uninteresting, gentle, diplomat; Bruce as the haggard, personable old man in a dirty suit coat; and Baker as the hilariously acerbic, belly-acher. One can tell that by the time of the 2005 reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall/Madison Square Garden that Bruce and Baker were still at loggerheads (or, more likely, Baker spitting acid and Bruce just dismissively absorbing it), but all worked out just fine.

What is more fitting a psychedelic blues-rock album from 1967 that includes the track “Strange Brew” than, well, a strange brew? In this instance I chose Sierra Nevada’s Ruthless Rye (largely because it was already in my fridge). The beer features great modern/old-West “cover art” by an Aussie artist (Ken Taylor) just like Disraeli Gears. Here’s the skinny on the beer:

12 oz. bottle poured into a New Belgium globe glass
Appearance: rich, hazy, reddish amber with a quarter-inch light beige head
Smell:  broadly green/herbaceous overtone, floral hops, spicy and yeasty
Taste: dark, toasty malts and piney/citrusy hops in balance
Mouthfeel: rich but well carbonated to help dissipate hop bitterness

Overall, a bit disappointing. The rye is just hinted at with an earthy spiciness that one has to concentrate to notice. My hope was for more obvious rye presence given that it is, ostensibly, a rye beer. Certainly very drinkable and a nice, darker-malted IPA, but I would expect a bit of actual, you know, “ruthlessness” given the name. The overall balance makes it good for a couple of these in a session at 6.6%. This is a spring seasonal that is on its way out, but you may be able to find a six or twelve pack hanging around somewhere.

Worked for de-glazing the pan and steaming Italian sausages from Wagner’s Meats with sauteed red onions and green peppers on Challah rolls (most ingredients by way of the Baltimore Farmer’s Market). Served as a fine pair for the finished meal, too, holding up to the strong flavors well without competing.