Beer and Comics Pairing: IDW’s The Hollows and Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Blackout Stout
This week, Jeremy Teel brings us a Beer & Comics Pairing, sampling Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Blackout Stout while reading IDW’s The Hollows, by Chris Ryall and Sam Kieth.
Jeremy lives in the far-west suburbs of Chicago where he and his wife transplanted from central Nebraska seven years ago. Don’t let his rural roots fool you; he grew up reading comics from the lone comic shop in a 90 mile radius, developing a taste for cosmic and “odd” tales over the usual superhero fare. His taste for beer developed relatively early when an acquaintance opened one of the earliest independent breweries in the state, Thunderhead Brewing, in 1999. Jeremy now works as a web content editor while maintaining several blogs, including SubBeerBia, which focuses on beer events and purveyors in the Chicago suburbs. Follow him at @Jeremy_Teel and @SubBeerBia on Twitter.
The Pour: I chose to pair Blackout Stout with this comic because of the dark artwork on the comic’s cover. It just seemed to fit. Cracking open the bottle, the stout pours space-black with a rather thin, brownish head. Immediately, the roasted barley aroma grabs my attention, making me recall times around a campfire swapping stories. Perfect. I grab my glass and comic, take a seat in my favorite reading chair and settle in.
Sip One: Still void-cold from the fridge, the stout coats my tongue with roasted malt first and foremost, followed immediately by mostly-coffee bitters that even it out. Lightly carbonated. I feel my body relax and dive into my reading.
I’ve always been a Sam Kieth fan, typically a divisive creator in the comics medium. For me, his art in Marvel Comics Presents and the Maxx was such a fresh break from the huge guns and pouches of the 90’s. His art holds a strange balance of completely absurd cartoonishness countered by real human attributes. Soft bellies instead of six-pack abs. Slumped shoulders and hunched figures in the shadows. Right away, The Hollows shows these aspects of his work haven’t changed.
Some readers could be turned off by the generally unfinished look of Kieth’s art in the book, but to me, this style is vital to the story. In some places, it looks as though his ball-point pen sketches made their way into the final pages. In others, the combination of ink and watercolor brings the page to life. Still, the artwork never feels disjointed from page to page. It all flows together organically and fits the tale so well that you forget someone else wrote the script.
Sip Two: A touch warmer now, some chocolate starts to come through. Definitely a bit sweeter.
I haven’t read anything else written by Chris Ryall, who is also IDW’s Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief, but I like that this is his script. Kieth certainly writes interesting tales of his own, but I think Ryall gives this script more direction and focus that Kieth would have. And, strange as it is, the story works and hooks me instantly. I want the next three issues yesterday.
Sip Three: Each taste now is like seeing a friend again after a long absence. The warmer this stout gets, the better it tastes as the sweetness blends with the roasted malt more and more. I swear I smell s’mores in there somewhere…
The Hollows creates a future Japan where two classes exist: one in giant tree cities the loom over the lower class below. In this radioactive wasteland roam the Hollows, monstrous shells of humans who feed on the souls of the survivors. When Kobayashi, a scientist from one of the supertree cities, swoops down using wings of his own creation in search of food and supplies, he crash lands while gazing at the troubled humans below.
Sip Four: Almost room temperature now, Blackout really seems to shine after warming. While the bitter roast still hits early on, the sweetness of the malt lingers longer.
A band of survivors takes Kobayashi’s unconscious form into their hideout. When he comes to, he learns just how much harder life is “down below.” Eventually overwhelmed by the shear amount of need and despair around him, Kobayashi takes off to return home, to safety, to the needs of his own family, but he can’t seem to forget all he has seen below.
Final Sip: The chocolate and malt have really taken the forefront as the beer warmed, which is just fine with me.
As I finish both the comic and the beer, I feel a distinct need for more of both. Stouts always reign supreme as my winter beer of choice, and Blackout Stout is a great example. And The Hollows, while probably not for everyone, has piqued my interest enough to make me anxious for next month’s installment. It seems like a perfect tale to wrap up in a four issue mini-series, just in time for winter to start wrapping up as well.
Beer Rating: 8.0 out of 10
Comic Rating: 8.5 out of 10