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”

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Tin Bridge Brewing Bridges the Gap Between Beer and Music

A few months ago, I wrote about Within The Ruins’ guitarist Joe Cocchi’s brewery, Tin Bridge Brewing. I recently got an opportunity to chat one on one with Joe, and he was able to give me a little more background on the brewery, and balancing the brewing and being in a metal band.

Joe started out as a homebrewer, and talking to homebrewers-turned-owners always gives me hope that my own craft can become something larger than boiling water in my kitchen. The brewery got its name from a bridge where Joe used to hang out with his friends growing up in western Massachusetts. Which is fitting, since now Joe is hanging out with his friends and making beer. The brews of Tin Bridge are described as “high gravity”, and Joe said that many of them are stouts and porters with some really interesting ingredients. Barrel-aging is becoming so prevalent lately, and Tin Bridge recently picked up a used bourbon barrel from Woodinville Whiskey Company, which was also used to age maple syrup. They have plans to put a vanilla porter inside it, which is something I would love to try.

Band and breweries are two different animals, although they do have a few basics in common. Joe seems to have a good grasp on the balance of both. His partners at the brewery, which includes family and close friends, keeps a strong hold on things while he is on tour or recording with the band.

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With so many craft breweries popping up, packaging is more meaningful than ever, and really helps brand a brewery and catch people’s eyes. Joe said he that the labels on their bottles may reflect their metal background and possibly be similar to the artwork on Within The Ruins’ album covers. The band has had some really great artwork, so seeing that tied into a beer label would be pretty awesome.

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What I thought was really interesting that Joe mentioned was the prospect of Internet distribution for their beers. Having beer at the merch table while on tour isn’t a possibility. However, distributing it online would be a great way to bridge fans of the brewery and fans of the band. Not to mention attracting beer lovers from across the country and around the world.

Tin Bridge Brewing is open, but operates as a production space right now. So while there is no tasting room yet, the guys certainly welcome visitors who want to check out the brewing in progress and taste the finished project on site. Check out their Facebook for updates on what’s getting brewed! As for Within the Ruins, they will be on tour with Born of Osiris this month, which is really exciting. CT folks can catch them on Halloween at the Webster Theater in Hartford.

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.

Triple threat: Along with record, Tombs launches beer, coffee

Occasionally my penchant for beer and metal join forces and I write for Metal Insider.

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Lots of bands have their own beer, or even make their own beer, as we saw last week from Within The Ruins. But launching both a beer AND a coffee brand? Expect nothing less from Brooklyn’s Tombs. They just released their new album, Savage Gold, and are launching a new beer this week with Ardmore, PA brewery Tired Hands.

Read the full article here.

Intergalactic, Planetary Brewery: Bell’s Announces “The Planets” beer series

Sometimes, when several things come together, it’s described as cosmic. I can think of no better word to describe Bell’s Brewery’s latest beer series, “The Planets”. Music, beer, and astronomy combine for this series of seven beers inspired by The Planets.

English composer Gustav Holst wrote The Planets between 1914 and 1916. It is a seven-movement orchestral suite, with each part representing a planet of the Solar System that was known at the time, with the exception of Earth. Check out the whole thing below.

Bell says the composition “seemed to lend itself as a vehicle for commemorative beers,” Although they should be celebrated, however, the beers are meant to be consumed and enjoyed. Bell says, “We’re encouraging people to drink these; A double IPA to start with? You don’t want to save that for a year.”

This idea of drinking beer right away makes me very happy. Although I do have a few bottles aging away, I think it is great that Bell is encouraging good beers that are ready to consume at their best when they are released.

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I should mention that a few bands have been inspired to do their own take on The Planets as well. Check out King Crimson’s take on “Mars” from their 1969 performance at the Fillmore.

Bathory also arranged part of “Jupiter” on their song “Hammerheart” from 1990’s Twilight Of The Gods.

Mars, the Bringer of War, which is a double IPA, will be the first to arrive and be released in August. The schedule for the rest of the beers to be released is below. I think I am most looking forward to the Venus beer, and “Neptune, the Mystic” which is said to be inspired by one of Bell’s homebrews, “Dr. Bell’s Medicinal Stout”.

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Check the Bell’s website for more info on where to find these cosmic beers!

 

Beer On The Gwar-bie: 5th Annual Gwar-B-Q Heats Up

As many of my reviews will show, I am a big fan of metal. It goes without saying that I love beer. I also enjoy barbeque. Lucky for me, there is an event coming this August that combines that sweet trifecta, and it is called GWAR B Q.

This year’s celebration is somewhat bittersweet. Gwar’s frontman David Brockie passed away in March. I myself wondered if the Fifth Annual Gwar B-Q would take place at all without the fearless leader. However, the show will still go on, and concert-goers will have the opportunity to party even harder in Oderus’ honor.

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GWAR B-Q 2014 takes place on Saturday, August 16 at Hadad’s Lake in Richmond, VA. A public memorial will also be held for Brockie the day before.

This year’s lineup features BODY COUNT (Ice-T’s metal band!), Goatwhore, Connecticut’s own Hatebreed, the Meatmen, Revocation, and more. Check out the full lineup here. It’s recently been announced that Gwar will indeed be performing. The lead singer is up in the air right now, although rumors seem to suggest that Beefcake the Mighty will take up those reins.

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As you may already know, Gwar has their own beer. According to their commercial above, the Gwar brew will be flowing copiously on August 16.

More awesome things? Well Hadad’s Lake is a waterpark, which has everything you would expect including a BLOB. A music festival at a waterpark is pretty much a summer dream- I can’t wait to see the red/brown water after everyone getting doused with Gwar Guts dives in. You can also dry off in the skate park, or not- and participate in the annual Spew-O-Lympics. Last year’s events included something called “Sperm and Slide and Die” and winners are determined by “obviously drunk judges”.

The barbeque is also sponsored by Slave Pit, Inc. as well as Ring Dog Rescue, which suggests that there may or may not be adoptable doggies there. Either way, I think it’s great that the sponsors are the group of artists and musicians that Gwar started from, and PUPPIES.

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Tickets go onsale Friday June 6 on the Gwar B-Q website, with 3 price levels. $45 is the single ticket, which is honestly a pretty good deal for an all day concert. $65 gets you a ticket and the official Gwar B-Q 2014 T-shirt. I am always kind of surprised that the shirts are black, because you can’t see the fake blood stains. If you are feeling like a serious baller, there are also VIP tickets for $150 which get you into the show with a shirt, as well as access to the official pre-party and after (Gwafter?) party. You also get a meet and greet with Gwar, Ice T, Hatebreed, and Bam Margera. Seriously, it’s kind of worth it just in case there’s a possibility of seeing all those guys in the same room and maybe even getting photo evidence.

So get your meat on- make Oderus Urungus in that bloody pit of horror in the sky proud, and get your tickets to the 5th Annual Gwar-B-Q when they go onsale June 6!

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Now Beer (And Eat) This: New Haven Restaurant Week Spring 2014

Having plenty of friends in the hospitality industry, I have mixed feelings about Restaurant Week. If you’re working it, it can be stressful. It’s also possibly not as lucrative for servers and bartenders as one would think, since the awesome $32 dinner prix fixe means people aren’t spending as much money, and therefore aren’t tipping as much.

But I digress. There’s a lot of inherently great things about Restaurant Week. It gives you a chance to try new things, and the restaurants participating are from a variety of countries and styles.

For craft beer fans, there are a few “best bets”.

Caseus Fromagerie Bistro

Caseus is known for their cheese-heavy fare, but I’ve actually enjoyed their dishes that are lighter on the dairy. For restaurant week, they will be serving up both lunch and dinner specials. When I go out to eat, I like to go all out and eat things I wouldn’t normally eat on the regular. At Caseus, the restaurant menu is full of decadent duck. Fried duck eggs are available to add to most of the courses, as well as duck confit and sausage. Although they only have a handful of beers on draft, they make the most of them available taps, tending to lean towards the Belgian styles.

 

 

With 56 beers on draft and over 80 interesting things in bottles, beer lovers can’t go wrong with Cask Republic. I’ve always enjoyed their late night menu, which tends to be pub fare stepped up a notch. For restaurant week, Cask is offering a choice of trout or steak as a main course, or a choice of two small plates. I would probably go for the small plates, because the short rib meatballs and cauliflower gratinado sound pretty awesome.

New Haven Restaurant Week goes from now until Friday; you can check out all the participating restaurants here. There’s also a $5 parking garage special! So you don’t have to worry about getting a ticket on the street or dealing with feeding a meter.

New Haven Brewshop Gets ‘Lucky’ With Kickstarter

The downtown New Haven Luck and Levity Brewshop opened its doors a little over a year ago. Since then, the shop has been growing into a much-needed haven for lovers of all things fermented. Recently, the shop successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds that would take the shop to the next level- a community workshop space for food and beermaking.

Crowd-sourcing is a fairly new resource for raising money, and for Luck and Levity, it was just the source they needed. They raised over $20,000 between September 25 and November 5, exceeding their goal.

To celebrate a new year and new things to come, the shop will be having a Gala on Friday, November 22nd. Anyone who donated $15 or more to the Kickstarter campaign is on the guest list, and for everyone else, admission is $30 for a night of celebration with beer from local CT beermakers Thimble Island Brewing Company, food from the Caseus Cheese Truck and Sweet Mary’s Cupcakes. There will also be Tarot readings, to answer the question of what beer you’re destined to brew next (the answer is actually all of them, but you should probably come by anyway). Check out more details in the flyer below, and see you on Friday evening at L&L on Court Street.

Q&A: Natalie Tuttle

Working at a craft beer bar that is also a music venue definitely has its perks. It’s one thing to see great musicians every night, but it’s another to work with them. The Outer Space’s own Natalie Tuttle will be playing a show at the Spaceland Ballroom with Ohio singer-songwriter Griffin House on Wednesday, November 6. I did a quick Q&A with Natalie about some of her favorite records, being a performer who’s also an engineer, and of course, her favorite craft beer.

You have a show with Griffin House at the Spaceland Ballroom coming up. What can we expect? Are you playing solo or with a band?

I will be playing the show solo. This will be my first solo show in 3+ years. I am excited to present some brand new material!

You’re an audio engineer- how does your background in sound affect you when you’re on the other side of the console- as a performer?

Being a sound engineer and performer can make me a bit more specific at times as well as helps me find my “comfort zone” on stage by communicating with the sound engineer my specific needs.

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What are some records you’re listening to right now?
I am currently listening to “Repave” by Volcano Choir, Blackberry Light by Charlie Mars, and any Jackson Browne song I can get my hands on as well as Andy Mckee.
What are some older or less recent records that you return to for inspiration in your songwriting or performing?
I tend to find my inspiration from live performances/life experiences. Live performances by James Taylor, Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds, Owen etc are really what inspire me to become a better performer.

As a fellow employee of the Space compound, we love our craft beer. What are some of your favorites right now?

This is a loaded question. I love our IPA selection – Lagunitas IPA would be one that sticks out.
Check out Natalie’s music here and see her live at the Spaceland Ballroom in Hamden, CT on November 6!

BrewTravels: Cleveland, OH

Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Capital of the World. Also home to some great breweries and places to eat and enjoy these brews. I visited this fine city a few weeks ago to visit a dear friend of mine. Here are some of the things I ate, record stores I went to, and beers I drank.

On route to Cleveland, I had a layover in Philadelphia, which gave me plenty of time to sit down with a Chocolate Love Stout from the Pennsylvania brewery Yards. I had this in lieu of another cup of coffee when I arrived at the airport at 8:30 AM. Dark, malty, a great winter brew. Jet Rock, the bar at the airport that I had this at was actually really awesome and had a ton of craft beer on tap. Totally a great recommendation if you have a layover there.

When I got to Cleveland, the first food stop was the Happy Dog. Basically for $5 you can get either a meat or vegan dog with anything you want on it. Seriously. Anything. I went for the pimento mac and cheese, ginger sesame coleslaw, black truffle honey mustard, bacon balsamic marmalade, and topped with a fried egg. YUM. I tried the peanut butter cup coffee porter from Ohio brewery Willoughby Brewing, which was good but didn’t really sit well with all those hot dog toppings. I have yet to find a truly great peanut butter beer too, although this one comes pretty close.

3Floyds has limited distribution in Ohio, so I jumped at the chance to find one of their beers on draft at the Happy Dog. They had Gumballhead, the American wheat ale apparently named for an underground comic book cat. It’s definitely the kind of wheat beer I would expect from 3Floyds- full of flavor, with flavors of late summer fruit like peach, orange marmalade, and other citrus notes.

I closed up with a pint of Fat Heads Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry ale. One of the best blueberry ales I’ve ever had by far. Refreshing, but not overly sweet from the honey. It’s a great beer to finish off the last few warm days before autumn begins.

In the evening, I toured Great Lakes Brewing Company. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary as a brewery this year, and have grown exponentially in this time, currently producing 125,000 barrels a year and distribute to 13 states. Their beers are award-winning. The Great American Beer Festival Gold Medalist, Dortmunder Gold, is a favorite at bars all over Cleveland. I tasted the Oktoberfest amber lager, Edmund Fitzgerald porter, and Eliot Ness amber lager. The porter was definitely my favorite, followed by the Eliot Ness and Dortmunder Gold respectively. Both the Dortmunder and the Eliot Ness use Mount Hood hops, but Eliot Ness has a greater variety of malts, including Munich, one of my favorites.

I later went for a pint of the seasonal imperial red ale, Nosferatu. Definitely a nice change from the Oktoberfests and Pumpkin ales of the autumn. Big and hoppy, with an awesome ruby red color.

Inside the brewery, they were working on the popular Christmas Ale, which is brewed with honey, ginger, and cinnamon. Needless to say, it smelled amazing inside there. The Christmas Ale is apparently a popular and sought-after beer in the Cleveland area. As soon as it’s released, people rush after it to enjoy it.

Great Lakes also recently attempted a Sumerian-style beer. I am fascinated by ancient ales and was interested to see how the Cleveland brewery went about this one. First they collaborated with a team of professors from the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. They brewed the beer as close as possible to the way it was made 4,000 years ago, foregoing stainless steel fermenters for ceramic vessels recovered from Iraq, heated over a manure-fueled fire. The beer itself was spiced with cardamom and coriander, and sweetened with dates. The Sumerian beer was unfortunately not available for tasting and won’t be seen around the brewpub anytime soon, however.

My next day in Cleveland involved a trip to Melt, a self-described “bar and grilled”, with grilled cheese sandwiches that can only be described as EPIC. I went for the Parmageddon- which is potato and onion pierogies with napa vodka sauerkraut and sauteed onions sandwiched between two huge slices of bread with cheddar cheese. My drink of choice was a “beerita”, a margarita made with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. Really interesting drink! The hoppiness of the IPA balanced out the sweetness of the margarita really well and I didn’t even mind the salt rimmed pint glass.

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Oh yeah. As if this place doesn’t need to be any better, it’s also got a ton of KISS-themed stuff everywhere.

Now That’s Class is a great punk rock bar, with skate ramps in the back room and plenty of cold Schlitz tallboys. After all the cheese and deliciousness I had consumed however, I kept my beer drinking light with a Southern Tier Hop Sun wheat ale. I ventured over for a monthly “noise lunch”, where musicians sign up and create noise music based around a given theme. This month’s theme required musicians to interpret art pieces through their music. It was really great, and unlike anything I had seen before. That’s just one example of the wonderful music and arts scene around Cleveland. In some ways, it reminds me a lot of Brooklyn but less snobby and expensive to live in. Very welcoming for new musicians too.

Speaking of music, there are so many great record stores in the area. My Mind’s Eye was my favorite, where the only Black Sabbath albums in the store were from the Bill Ward-era. Blue Arrow was great too, especially because it doubles as a cat rescue organization in the back. Loop is another shop that does double duty, which is a coffee shop downstairs and a record shop upstairs. I picked up Skeletonwitch’s Forever Abomination on clear and green speckled vinyl (for $7!!), Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and the Doors Strange Days.

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Speaking of music, at any point that I was in a car during my trip, we generally rocked out to the sweet sounds of one of my favorite college radio stations- WRUW from Case Western Reserve University. I unfortunately missed their annual Studio-A-Rama concert (this year featured Mikal Cronin as the headliner), but I will always support this awesome station and listen online whenever I can at home! A lot of cool local-Cleveland bands and talk shows, and a ton of variety on the airwaves. It’s worth checking out whether you live out there or not!

Other notable places: The Beachland Ballroom (where I had a beer-y Mary with tomato juice, vodka, and Newcastle!), Barrio (which is kind of like a taco version of the Happy Dog where you can pretty much get anything you want on your taco), the Five O’Clock Lounge (where I won a dance contest at the Secret Soul Club), and Nano Brew (which has a bicycle repair station at the back of the bar!). And of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum! Seeing all the Rush stuff was a RUSH to say the least… But seriously, it’s probably one of the coolest museums ever.

Thanks to Adam Spektor, host of the Spektrum on WRUW and all the new friends I met while visiting! Can’t wait to come back!