Last month I wrote a fun (for me at least) article pairing some of my favorite Pearl Jam songs with local craft beers. I immediately wanted to follow it up with some similar articles based on the work of my other favorite bands. While Pearl Jam is my all time favorite band as a whole, my favorite singer has to be Chris Cornell. His range was incredible, and he has a great catalogue of songs across the different stages of his career, from Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog to Audioslave and some of his solo stuff (although I think we can all agree to forget that Timbaland album). His death last May was a huge blow, I don’t usually get worked up about losing celebrities that I never met, but that one hurt. Last week the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle unveiled a statue honoring Chris Cornell, so I thought it would be a good time to roll through a number of my favorite songs from all his different acts and pair them with local beers!
Rusty Cage (Soundgarden), Bissell Brothers The Substance: One of the all time great lead tracks on an album pairs with one of the greatest first beers released by a brewery.
Outshined (Soundgarden), Allagash Dubbel: Dubbel is one of the best versions of this traditional abbey style, but the beer was recently discontinued by Allagash because it’s sales were outshined by other beers. By the way, this is my favorite Soundgarden song, and the perfect vehicle for Chris Cornell’s huge vocal talents.
Searching With My Good Eye Closed (Soundgarden), Maine Beer Company Dinner: The title of this song makes me think of whalez and whalez-hunters, constantly searching for the hardest beers to find (and missing the great and readily available beers that are right in front of their eyes). So why not pair the song with one of the great local whalez, Dinner from Maine Beer Company.
Mind Riot (Soundgarden), Element Summer Pilsner Fusion: An oatmeal pilsner that combines the full body of a stout with the light flavors of a pilsner. A strange combo, but it works surprisingly well, even if it messes with your head a little.
Holy Water (Soundgarden), Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude: It feels fitting to pair a song with this title with a brewery in the middle of nowhere that draws beer fans from around the world on pilgrimage-like journeys to try their creations.
Fell On Black Days (Soundgarden), Backlash Death: At their best Soundgarden made some pretty dark music, so we need to mix in some dark beers. Death is about as dark as you can get, from the name to the beer to the can art.
Superunknown (Soundgarden), Definative Ale: One of my favorite title tracks pairs with a new flagship beer that takes it’s name right from the brewery. It seems like both practices are waning as flagship beers decline in favor of constant rotations and as albums become more obsolete in the era of streaming music.
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden), Jack’s Abby Sunny Ridge Pilsner: I bet you thought I was going stout or porter here. Beyond the names, I think it is fitting to pair the most well known Soundgarden song with a stellar example of the most consumed beer style in the world.
Burden In My Hand (Soundgarden), Mystic Day of Doom. A dark and heavy song like this needs a complex and heavy beer like this boozy Belgian style quadruple. This song also showcases the power of Cornell’s voice as well as any in the catalog.
Ty Cobb (Soundgarden), The Shed Profanity Ale: If you don’t understand the pairing you should listen to the song, just not near any impressionable or easily offended ears.
Been Away Too Long (Soundgarden), Pretty Things Our Finest Regards: The brewery that I miss the most had to find it’s way onto this list, and this barleywine was Pretty Things at their best. By the way, I really like the last Soundgarden album. It’s not Superunknown or Badmotorfinger, but it has a number of good songs. It really sucks that there will never be a follow-up.
Big Dumb Sex (Soundgarden), Lamplighter So Much For Subtlety: As Soundgarden grew in popularity and gained more experience they made huge leaps forward musically and lyrically. This early song is an example of how far they needed to come, with a catchy guitar hook mixed with some lyrics that are the opposite of subtle (very NSFW).
Reach Down (Temple of the Dog), Foundation Epiphany: Chris Cornell formed Temple of the Dog after the death of his friend Andy Wood, making the album with a group of musicians that would form into Pearl Jam soon after. This fruitful collaboration seemed to fuel the creative energy of all involved, immediate after they wrote and released Pearl Jam Ten and Soundgarden Badmotorfinger, two of the quintessential albums of the early 90’s.
All Night Thing (Temple of the Dog), Notch Session Pils: This pretty ballad off of the amazing Temple of the Dog album pairs with a delicious session beer, the type of beer you want if you’re staying up all night.
Light My Way (Audioslave), Tree House Bright: Super group Audioslave took some flak because of what they weren’t, namely Soundgarden or Rage Against The Machine (kind of an impossibly high bar). They still wrote 3 albums full of very good rock songs that showed a departure from the styles that each artist was known for. What better beer that a less heralded but still spectacular release from a brewery that sets the bar extremely high.
Doesn’t Remind Me (Audioslave), Bog Iron Devil’s Footprint: Can you name another braggot aged in mezcal barrels? Neither can I.
Original Fire (Audioslave), Geary’s Pale Ale: In a craft brewing community obsessed with the newest thing it is important to pay respect to the beers that started it all, especially breweries like Geary’s, the first craft brewery in Maine.
Wide Awake (Audioslave), Night Shift Awake: One of my favorite Audioslave songs pairs perfectly with my favorite local coffee porter. The mixture of caffeine and alcohol is necessary if you are reading about current events, and Chris Cornell credited his time in Audioslave with opening his eyes to many of the injustices in the world, which came through in many of the songs he wrote towards the end of his career.
Seasons (Chris Cornell), Sam Adams Octoberfest: My favorite Chris Cornell solo song, off of the quintessential Singles soundtrack, pairs with the first seasonal beer that I really fell in love with.
Higher Truth (Chris Cornell), Idle Hands 34: I’m writing this article while I watch the Red Sox playoffs and early season Celtics, and it’s impossible not to think of David Ortiz (Red Sox #34) and The Truth Paul Pierce (Celtics #34), two living legends that elevated their games to the highest level when it mattered the most.
Sunshower (Chris Cornell), Trillium Sunshower: The easiest call on this list, Trillium named their super saison after this song. If I ran a brewery I would name multiple beers after the amazing works of my favorite singer of all time. RIP Chris.
Now I’ll pass it to you, what are some of your favorite Chris Cornell songs, and which beers are the perfect pairing?
Lead photo credit: GIA KNAEPS / GETTY from an article in The New Yorker