Beer Pairings: NHL Thanksgiving Showdown Edition Part 2: Boston

One of my dream jobs has always been to DJ hockey games. And/or drive the Zamboni. While I am a Bruins fan, I’m always happy to watch them face off with the team my cable company thinks I should be a fan of: the New York Rangers. In honor of the game that will take place the day after Thanksgiving, I am going to do a hockey playlist pairing from New York and Boston bands with five beers from around those areas.

Continue reading “Beer Pairings: NHL Thanksgiving Showdown Edition Part 2: Boston”

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Beer Pairings: NHL Thanksgiving Showdown Edition Part 1: New York

One of my dream jobs has always been to DJ hockey games. And/or drive the Zamboni. While I am a Bruins fan, I’m always happy to watch them face off with the team my cable company thinks I should be a fan of: the New York Rangers. In honor of the game that will take place the day after Thanksgiving, I am going to do a hockey playlist pairing from New York and Boston bands with five beers from around those areas. A tall order, you might say. I agree, so as with any good list, there are a few stipulations.

  • While the craft brewing movement is growing quickly enough to have 5 breweries in each city,  I am going to branch out include areas outside of these two cities proper.
  • These are not only two major cities for music, but they are also two major cities that I love. So I am going to pair it down to records that I would want to hear at a hockey game but for whatever reason, never do. It is still a ton of stuff to pick from, but I’ll try to be realistic.
  • On that note, I’m leaving out stuff you already do hear at hockey games. Sorry, Kiss.
  • I’m also picking beers I’d want to drink at a hockey game. Lower ABV, if it comes in a can and can fit in one of my many coozies, great. As good they can be, I have found that drinking a 12% Russian Imperial Stout before/during a game is not always the best choice.
  • Since I prefer to save the best for last, I will start with the New York pairings.

Continue reading “Beer Pairings: NHL Thanksgiving Showdown Edition Part 1: New York”

REVIEW: Steven Wilson “Hand. Cannot. Erase”/Stone Pale Ale 2.0

At the encouragement of several people, I am going to start writing reviews again. It’s been awhile, so many of these records won’t be that new. However, they are all ones I’ve enjoyed very much. The first one might be my favorite record of the year, and it is from a musician that I respect a great deal- Steven Wilson. While I generally love everything he has a hand in, his most recent solo album Hand. Cannot. Erase. felt more personal to me than his other recordings. I was also lucky enough to see the album performed live in New York this spring, which really brought it to life. Continue reading “REVIEW: Steven Wilson “Hand. Cannot. Erase”/Stone Pale Ale 2.0″

REVIEW: The Decemberists/ Heavy Seas Red Sky At Night Saison

It has taken quite a long time for the Decemberists to grow on me. Although they have been around for about 15 years, it is only now that I am beginning to realize their brilliance. At least, enough to write a review of their latest record, What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World.

Continue reading “REVIEW: The Decemberists/ Heavy Seas Red Sky At Night Saison”

Black Ales For Black Friday: Record Store Day Picks and Pre-Work Beers

It really is awesome that there are so many Thanksgiving beer pairings around the internet. But it made me wonder what beer someone working on Thanksgiving night (aka myself) or Black Friday should consume before heading into the masses. In keeping with Now Beer This Tradition, I’m also including a list of the only things worth buying on Black Friday: records. At local retailers, of course. Continue reading “Black Ales For Black Friday: Record Store Day Picks and Pre-Work Beers”

REVIEW: Electric Wizard “A Time To Die”/Thimble Island Dark Pumpkin

THE ALBUM: Electric Wizard A Time To Die 2014 Spinefarm Records

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It has been nearly 5 years since Electric Wizard’s last album. I feel like there have been random days where I just kept checking in on the Internet to make sure I hadn’t missed any news about it. But now it’s 2014 and it’s Time To Die. I feel like the years between records aren’t a bad thing. Electric Wizard’s latest is comparable to the erupting of a dormant volcano. We have been expecting it, without knowing when or how it will awaken. The time has come.

The record starts off with the 10+ minute burner “Incense For The Damned”. The first 30 seconds consist of the sound of trickling water, with an organ in the background, seeming to signify an (unholy) baptism. I would recommend burning some nag champa incense or candles before putting down the needle on the record.

“We wanna get high before we die” is the chant at the end of the song, and while I won’t argue that the music is totally fitting as a soundtrack for illicit activities, it’s also music that will figuratively get you high. Just sit back in a comfortable seat and let the fuzzed out guitars transport you into a different world.

The interplay between guitarists Liz Buckingham and Jus Oborn is incredibly effective. Especially on two of my avorite album tracks, “Lucifer’s Slaves” and “Funeral Of Your Mind”. The latter also features a great showcase of Oborn’s vocals. They sound a bit like they are echoing down a hallway, set slightly back in the mix while still remaining prominent. Halfway through the song the vocal effects change, and the low end and very high frequencies sound like they were slashed with a Viking sword, leaving only the mids. It gives the effect that Jus Osborn is singing to you through a telephone.

“SadioWitch” is the first single off the album. The video has “Clandestinely filmed scenes of Luciferian depravity”, as Oborn calls it. It is worth checking out, although probably not safe for work, depending on where you work. If you find drugs, witchcraft, torture, or Iceland offensive, then yes, possibly NSWF. EDIT: In fact, I am guessing a lot of people thought that, because I can no longer find a working link to the video anywhere.

“I Am Nothing” sounds like the thunderstorm at the end of the universe. I guess that is the second nature-related comment I’ve made about this album here. However, simply calling it “sludge” does not do the band justice. I think that this record is more fittingly compared to a natural phenomenon or disaster than a slew of other bands that have similar sunds. I found this album difficult to review because I love it, yet the things that I love most about it are hard to describe in musical terms. All I can say is that it is the perfect soundtrack for Halloween parties, black masses, fighting Cthulhu, and carving ‘Slayer’ into your forearm before returning to work.

I love “Saturn Dethroned” before listening to it, because I love astronomy references, especially in metal songs. I also appreciate mellotron in metal songs, and there just happens to be one in the beginning of this song, presenting it with an eerie vibe. It’s an instrumental album closer to remind you that there might be another 5 years before the next album, but it will be completely worth it.

THE BEER:

Find Our Beers

Pumpkin beer is everywhere. Some are great, and others are just okay. Thimble Island Brewing’s Dark Pumpkin porter is no Warlock, but it’s a bit easier on the liver with 5% ABV and the flavors are subtle and less of a sensory shock. It’s slightly sweet, but not anywhere near saccharine. There is roastiness makes me recall the taste of pumpkin seeds that were baked in the oven slightly too long. It pours a deep espresso color, that in the light almost shines an orange hue. I poured this on draft and the head was cream-colored, with a slight fluff that disappeared quickly. Unlike other pumpkin beers where I tend to maintain a “one and done” attitude, the Dark Pumpkin can go for a few more without being overwhelming.

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THE PAIRING: Thimble Island proves that not everything involving pumpkin spice has to be white girls in yoga pants. On a similar note, Electric Wizard proves that even the dankest of doom metal can have interesting elements that aren’t just heavy. But, in the words of Lavar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to the album, and while you listen, take a look at this great interview they did in 2005 that I actually just read for the first time. It’s pure gold. Just like this record should be.

REVIEW: Black Wail “Black Wail” [EP]/Brooklyn Defender

THE RECORD: Black Wail- Black Wail [EP]- 2014

Black Wail

I do not write about too many EPs on here because I feel that a handful of songs are not always enough to tell you about a band. Sometimes, however, brevity can be a good thing, because it leaves you curious and wanting more. This is the case with Black Wail’s self-titled EP. Formed earlier this year in Jersey City, Black Wail sounds like just about everything I played on my radio show in college rolled into one band. Even though there are only 3 songs, a sequence-nerd like me can still appreciate their order. “Fools” starts the show. It’s an ideal opener. The isolated drums get your boots stomping, and then the guitar riff comes in. And then it’s just… Rock. That’s what it is. “Fools” is the song you should listen to if you need to get from 0 to ROCK in the first 60 seconds. It’s your first beer of the night song.

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Photo credit: Virginia Kamenitzer

The middle track, “Guillotine” won me over immediately; this one is really lead by the keys. The sound harkens back to those 70s Hammond organs that I love so much, but when it flows with the guitars and vocal harmonies, it’s a completely new animal.

Also, “Put your rivals head in the guillotine/make sure people see a horrible scene” is a great line. I want to see a video for that song.

“Dyed” is my favorite track, and I like that it is the last one. In my opinion, it is the most metal of the three tracks, but it doesn’t feel too hard or out of place. Like the way “Emerald” closes off Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak even though you heard “The Boys Are Back In Town” a few songs earlier. Because to me, it’s music for headbangers that can also be booty shakers. I am proud to be both of those things, and looking forward to more to come from Black Wail. The cover art reads “LET JERSEY PROSPER”. Jersey is prospering, alright, and Black Wail is making that fact crystal clear on these 3 songs. Now, please listen to them on Spotify so AFI’s Black Sails In The Sunset isn’t the first thing to come up with I type their name in.

THE BEER: Brooklyn Brewery- The Defender

DefenderBlog

The Defender is a “hoppy amber IPA” that was brewed for consumption during New York Comic Con. These are not your grandfather’s hops, however. The Mosaic hop arrived on the beer scene only about 2 years ago. It’s one of the first hops that I’ve noticed to have a trademark, although apparently this is something that is becoming more common with newer varietals. It’s the lovechild of Simcoe and Nugget, and whenever I hear that a beer has Mosaic hops, I usually fall in love too. The flavors I took from Defender are tropical, and not quite so overwhelmingly bitter as some IPAs can be. As a bartender, I really enjoyed selling this beer because I think it surprised a lot of people in a positive way. The red malts make it a little bit roasty, which still gives it a taste that is familiar to seasoned (not necessarily craft) beer drinkers. It’s a beer I can nerd out about, and it’s also a beer I could share with my grandfather, or anyone else who doesn’t really care that much about where the hops came from. PLUS it has an awesome label.

THE PAIRING:

I wanted to find a brewery from Jersey City to find a beer pairing with this one, but I don’t know any breweries in Jersey City proper. Please comment below if you know of any to suggest to me. So I chose the Defender from Brooklyn Brewery. It’s not THAT far away, and I almost always drink a Brooklyn offering when I am at my favorite JC watering hole, BARCADE. It’s a geographically based pairing. It also works on a more intellectual level. The EP is only three songs, but it’s enough to tell you what kind of band Black Wail is. For me, they are the kind of band I wish I could be in. Like the way Defender surprises people in a positive way, I think Black Wail would also surprise people. The ways they seem to draw from such a wide variety of influences is like looking through a great record collection. Defender brings the familiar red ale malts and mixes them with a fresh new hop varietal to make something uniquely delicious. Black Wail brings the sound of the classic metal and rock albums that myself and so many others grew up on, and reinvigorates that sound to new life.

REVIEW: Opeth “Pale Communion”/Lost Abbey Deliverance

My reviews have been few lately, but not for lack of material. I was really excited about this record when it came out, and wanted to give it the proper listening it deserved before writing about it. and of course, it definitely needed the beer pairing it deserved.

THE RECORD: Opeth Pale Communion 2014 Roadrunner Records

I think that I like Opeth more and more with each record they make. At least, I feel that I appreciate them more. Every choice they make in writing and recording and producing just seems like a good one to me. Opeth is continuing to exemplify everything that I want progressive rock to be right now.

Organs on a record is usually a selling point for me. The first track “Eternal Rains Will Come” really just gets down to business. And makes me think that there had better be plenty of awesome organs on this record. It really sets the stage for what to expect for the rest of the album.

Mikael Åkerfeldt mentioned in an interview that this would be a more melodic record. The vocals do get heavier on songs such as “Moon Above, Sun Below”, but they are not growling, death metal vocals. They are dark in a different, more beautiful way. Heritage, their previous release, began to move away from the death growls of albums past, and Pale Communion seems to bring that journey to a new level. There are vocal effects that create a sound reminiscent of a Gregorian chant taking place inside a massive cathedral.

“Goblin” is entirely instrumental, and gives the listener a chance to appreciate each instrument as it stands out. We can all thank Steven Wilson for that- he mixed this record and has done some really amazing work. My first experience with him was through his band Porcupine Tree, whom I love. Wilson is no stranger to Opeth record production; he produced Blackwater Park, Deliverance, and Damnation. On Pale Communion, Wilson is meticulous to the craft. He uses the finest tooth comb over each of the tracks. After so many years of working together on different projects, Steven Wilson has the production process of an Opeth recording down to a science that they have perfected on Pale Communion.

Folk metal is certainly a genre, but I do not often hear Opeth’s music described as such. However, the song “River” has a really interesting folk element to it. Driven mostly by an acoustic guitar and harmonies, it fosters my imagination that I am walking around a Swedish fjord in springtime. It’s serene for the most part, but about half way through the song the organ returns and introduces a gorgeous electric guitar riff. That is incidentally how I imagine Scandinavian countries; ethereal for the most part, but also full of heavy metal bands.

 

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I include a larger image of the cover art so that you can see the detail in it. It reminds me of an exhibit in a museum. Opeth’s music truly is a work of art, and seeing it portrayed as visual art is fitting. Travis Smith, who has done cover art for the likes of Death and King Diamond, designed the cover for Pale Communion. The inscriptions in Latin translate to quotes that really stuck with me, and are from a Swedish statesman, a Roman/North African playwright, and a Roman poet respectively.

“Don’t you know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?”

“In these days friends are won through flattery, the truth gives birth to hate.”

“He grieves truly who grieves without a witness.”

I am going to end on those, because I feel like between those quotes and the record itself, long conversations are destined to happen. All you need is a beer or two…

THE BEER: Deliverance- Lost Abbey- San Marcos, CA

I had this beer during my trip to San Diego last month, which was around the time that this record was released. What a gorgeous ale. There are so many “epic” beers coming out and I usually scoff at them or quote this internet meme. But I just tried this beer and loved it. Yes, it is ridiculous. It is a blend of bourbon-barrel aged Serpent’s Stout and brandy-barrel aged Angel’s Share. It’s heaven and hell that you can pour into a snifter and consume. It definitely tastes boozy, but not in an offensive way. I tried this during one of the events at the Beer Bloggers’ Conference, and I remember I really just wanted to stop whatever else was coming next to take more time to talk about this amazing beer. It tastes like a chocolate covered fig that someone let sit in a cabinet for a few years. I like the idea of blending beers too, and witnessing the ways that flavors and ingredients work together. I’m sure it does not always work out so deliciously, but I am glad that it has for this Lost Abbey offering.

THE PAIRING:

Opeth has an album called Deliverance that was released in 2002, but I actually wasn’t thinking of that when I chose this beer to pair. I thought Deliverance the beer was dark and beautiful, much like Pale Communion. I also liked the religious undertones to both the record and the brewery. I believe that 12 years of attending Catholic school has a direct relationship with my love of metal and beer, but that’s just me. Honestly, this is a record that you really need to sit down and listen to on a quality set of speakers with a delicious beer in proper glassware at the right temperature. Yes, both the beer and the album are tasty at their core, no matter what. But it is worth the extra effort to consume both of them carefully, and with an eye for all of the details.

BrewTravels: San Diego, CA (BBC14 Part 1)

I find the best way to explore new cities is to start off with a beer in my hand. That is what I wanted as soon as I stepped off the plane, traveling from the east coast to San Diego, California. I arrived a day early for the Beer Bloggers’ Conference so I could explore the city on my own a bit ahead of time.

It’s amazing how saving money will cause me to go out of my comfort zone. Not wanting to pay for a $27 cab ride from the airport, and realizing that hotel was not as close as I realized, I decided to navigate the public transit system. and won! The bus line runs 24 hours and was much easier than I expected and I felt somewhat less touristy. The trolley was simple as well. After I salivated all over the bus looking at tons of taco joints, I checked into my hotel and planned the rest of my day. I originally set out for Seaport Village, but hunger for sustenance in my belly and liver won over and I stopped in the Knotty Barrel on Market Street. A nice little bar with outdoor seating and an indoor shuffleboard table, happy hour had just started so I decided on a beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts and a nice big lump of beer cheese (made with Allagash Black) with pretzel bread. What made me really happy was that I had not had OR heard of many of the beers on the menu.

I started off with a Grazias Cream Ale from Hess Brewing. Malty deliciousness, it reminded me of those Vienna finger cookies I used to devour when I was a kid. A nice simple style that went well with the bread and cheese.

My next pint was from Acoustic Ales, another San Diego brewery. I enjoyed their Shake Your Money Maker Brown chatting about New Haven with not one but TWO people sitting on either side of me. It’s funny how you can go all the way to the other end of the country and bump into people who lived in New Haven.

I never actually made it to Seaport Village, although there are still a few more days if I really want to. I ended up spending my paycheck before it got direct-deposited throughout the Gaslamp Quarter. As a brewer, bartender, and audio engineer, I work with my hands a lot. So nail polish isn’t something that sees my nails a lot. But a few beers deep and no plans to wash dishes until Tuesday, I decided I needed a manicure from the ladies at Va-Va-Varnish. It was a great little space and if I had more time, more cash, and longer nails I would have considered more of their services.

I also did some shopping for non-beer related merchandise since I figured I’d spend more than enough on beer in the coming days. Lots of interesting shops, but I am still on a quest for a coozie to add to my collection.

I’ll be at the Beer Bloggers’ Conference until Sunday, so check in on here for my daily recaps, as well as drunken/witty posts on Twitter, beer porn on Instagram, and the beers that I remember to check into on Untappd. All under @nowbeerthis.

 

 

REVIEW: Jenny Lewis “The Voyager”/Two Roads Road Jam

My first introduction to Jenny Lewis was in the 1989 campy (literally) comedy Troop Beverly Hills. When I was a teenager, I listened to Rilo Kiley, and when I was in college, her solo forays. Between her acting in TV movies and her music, Jenny Lewis was a voice throughout the background of my formative years, without me even thinking about it.

THE RECORD:

Jenny Lewis- The Voyager– Warner Bros. 2014

When the single “Just One Of The Guys” dropped a few weeks ago, I liked it, but didn’t love it or know how it would stack up to a whole album. Maybe it was seeing Kristen Stewart in the video; I’m not a fan (but bonus points for Anne Hathaway playing the key-tar). However, after a few listens, The Voyager quickly grew on me.

This record has a very California sound, full of bright guitars and simple drumbeats. I love the guitar solos on songs like “She’s Not Me” and “Slippery Slopes”. The latter of which uses some cool psychedelic effects pedals that go nicely with a lyric about psychedelic mushrooms. Lewis’ vocals, which are really multifaceted, are especially showcased on this one as well. “Late Bloomer” features dusky vocal harmonies, almost reminiscent of Stevie Nicks or other 70s singer-songwriters. The use of these vintage vocals work well bringing the story about a friendship between a teenager and an older girl to life.

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The first time I listened to “Slippery Slopes”, I could not help but hear the chord progression of the title track of the Rilo Kiley album Under The Blacklight. However, after listened to both songs a few times, I found much greater differences, and I actually like the solo song better.

All of Jenny Lewis’ lyrics are incredibly relatable because of the way she weaves her words together. From her messages, she appears as a sage, who has gained wisdom from experiences and different perspectives that she has witnessed over a relatively short time.

The way the lyrics tell stories of growing up is like looking back at an old photo album or scrapbook. Piecing together memories through emotions makes the songwriting on The Voyager incredibly powerful.

The melodies are as colorful as a California sunset- or the rainbow blazer that Lewis is wearing on the cover.

I agree totally with Ken Tucker’s review for NPR that calls The Voyager “an album to spend time with”. and there’s still a few hazy, warm weeks of summer left that makes the timing for this one perfect.

THE BEER:

Road Jam- Two Roads Brewing- Stratford, CT

Image credit: Brauista

I’m pretty particular about fruit beers. It’s not difficult to make one that tastes good, but it is not easy to make one that really stands out among the rest. Two Roads’ Road Jam is definitely a knockout in this category. Red and black raspberries make it sweet and give it a juicy color with a light pink fluffy head. Lemongrass gives it a slight citrusy sour flavor that balances out the sweetness.

THE PAIRING:

Jenny Lewis
Image credit: Pop Whore blog

The album is fun, but the lyrics give these pop songs more depth. Similarly, the beer has a great color and has a sweet fruity taste, but its dryness makes it drinkable and more than just a one-pint wonder.