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.

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Beer And Music Fest: Road Jam

Summer is brimming with festivals. If you live in Connecticut, there is one next weekend that is definitely worth checking out. Two Roads Brewing Company, out of Stratford, is holding its first-ever concert at the brewery. The festival of music and beer is called Road Jam Fest, named after their new raspberry wheat ale.

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The festival music lineup includes Atlas Gray, a soulful, piano-driven band from Hartford, local funk favorites The What Up Funk Band, jam collective The Alpaca Gnomes, and the Boston reggae crew John Brown’s Body. They are all a little different, but they will all provide lots of good beats to get beer-lovers dancing.

Tickets are $25, which gets you into the show and your first beer. Although the brewery itself is large, if the happy hour crowds are any indication, the limited number of tickets are going to go fast. Luckily you can get them ahead of time, on BeerFests.com. Beer tickets will be $5 each, which is a pretty decent deal for a beer at a festival, especially when you’re buying it RIGHT WHERE IT WAS MADE.

Food trucks will be present. Despite the spacious lot, parking can be tough there when it’s busy. Two Roads encourages carpooling, and I agree because it’s a festival, and an important aspect of that is cramming a whole bunch of people in one small vehicle, right? Anyway, the party starts at noon on Saturday, June 28. See you there!

CT Beer Week 2014- Best Bets

Last year’s CT Beer Week went so well, 2014 will bring not just one, but TWO weeks celebrating locally brewed beer. May 12-18 is the first week, and October 13-19 is the second.

The spring beer week has plenty of events going on across the state. The week kicks off with the 4th annual Rising Pint Brewfest, which takes place May 10 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT.

Culminating the week is the 20th Annual CT Craft Brewers Fest at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant in Naugatuck.

There are a LOT of events going on during the week, which you can see a full list of here. My local picks during the week are below.

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Cask Republic in New Haven will kick off the week by devoting all their draft lines (there are 56 of them!) to Connecticut beers on Monday, May 12.

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The Outer Space in Hamden will have a CT tap takeover on Tuesday, May 13. Tuesdays are also Honky Tonk Tuesdays at the OS, so expect to hear some awesome bluegrass tunes while you’re enjoying the brews.

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Knuckleheads is one of my new favorite places to get a beer and dinner in CT. It’s in Wallingford, the menu is awesome (they have macaroni and cheese pulled pork sandwiches), the beer list is great, there’s live music in the back room a few nights a week, and there are random Misfits and Iron Maiden references on their staff’s shirts and flyers. Wednesday, May 14, they will be celebrating CT Beer Week by tapping some locally brewed beers.

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Coalhouse Pizza regularly has homebrewing competitions, so it’s clear that they love craft beer. They will have a different event each night next week. I am most excited for the Rare Beer Night on Thursday, May 15, and their beer brunch with mead-mimosas on Sunday, May 18!

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Southport Brewing Company has been around and brewing for awhile, and they will be celebrating CT Beer Week with a collaboration with Half Full Brewery. The Southport location will have it on draft Thursday, May 15.
This year is looking to be even bigger than last year, so definitely check out these events and others in your area, and keep the craft beer love flowing!

 

OktoBEERfest: Connecticut

Despite the name, Oktoberfests are historically held in mid-September as a celebration to kick off the fall, and to welcome the month of October. While the biggest one is in Bavaria, of course, Connecticut is stepping up with a few of their own. All of them are awesome celebrations of seasonal as well as local beer, and most of them have some great musicians performing too! Here are some highlights of upcoming beerfests in the area coming in the next few weeks.

Ok2berfest

Saturday, September 21 and Sunday, September 22- Two Roads Brewery- Stratford, CT

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Two Roads Brewery’s Oktoberfest will span 2 days and take place at their brewery grounds. Music, food trucks, and of course, great beer. Just in time to try their rum-barrel aged pumpkin offering, Roadsmary’s Baby. One of my favorite bands, Slavic Soul Party, will be playing from 12:30-3:00 PM on 9/21, as well as local favorites, the Mclovins, afterwards. Admission on either day includes a beer stein!

Harbor Brew Fest

Saturday, September 28- Harbor Yard- Bridgeport, CT

I grew up in Bridgeport so I am happy to return for events that involve the things I love, such as Rush concerts or beer fests. Well, I already saw Rush last fall there, so this fall brings the Harbor Brew Fest which has a list of over 30 breweries that will be there. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Harbor Light Foundation, a non-profit that provides activities and programs to children in the Connecticut area. Bands that are slated to perform include John Reid, Tom Crowley & the Speakers, String Fingers, and Alpaca Gnomes. There will be a variety of food trucks, including my favorite, Super Duper Weenie! Plus for a $40 ticket, beer sampling is unlimited.

Milford Oktoberfest

Saturday, September 28- Fowler Field, Milford, CT

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I recently moved to Milford so I have to throw this one up here. Plus, there is a bratwurst-eating contest. Do I need to say more?

CT Museum Quest Oktoberfest

Sunday, September 29- Old Heidelberg- Bethel, CT

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CT Museum Quest is embarking on a Connecticut Food Tour of the World! They have already traveled to Portugal and Venezuela, and the third stop will be Germany. What better time to taste German cuisine than Oktoberfest season?

Can’t make it on Sunday? That’s okay, the Old Heidelberg will be celebrating Oktoberfest every weekend starting on September 13 and culminating on the 29th.

Luck and Levity September Brewlounge

Tuesday, September 17- Luck and Levity Brewshop- New Haven, CT

This one isn’t being referred to as an Oktoberfest, but any gathering of beer drinkers during this time frame might as well count! So get down to the Luck and Levity Brewshop on Tuesday for some beer sharing! You don’t need to be a homebrewer to participate, and for this one, you can bring either a beer or something deliciously autumnal to eat. Plus if you’ve never homebrewed before, it might just encourage you to start!

Six Pack Project: Connecticut

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Being a beer blogger has opened me up and introduced me to a lot of cool people and ideas. This month, I am excited to be participating in Bryan Roth’s Six Pack Project. It’s a project that brings beer bloggers from across the country together, through giving props to local brews. The rules are pretty simple:

  1. Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
  2. Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
  3. Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include. Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.

Without further ado, here is my six pack!

Cannoli Beer- Shebeen Brewing Company– Wolcott, CT


I love the presentation of this beer when I tasted at the brewery. They rimmed the glass with powdered sugar and sprinkled cocoa powder all over it. Very much a dessert beer because of its sweetness, but in a different way than say, a sweet milk stout. The cannoli beer is most certainly unlike any other beer I’ve tasted.

Conntucky Lightning- 2 Roads Brewing Company– Stratford, CT

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Lots of brewers are testing out the waters of barrel-aging, with some results better than others. 2 Roads’ Conntucky Lightning is one of the better ones. I’ve had it on draft and have yet to taste it from a bottle to compare. Brewed with corn grits, Conntucky Lightnin’ has a bit of a moonshine flavor to it. I like that it’s a relatively low alcohol content in comparison to other barrel-aged beers out there.  It allows the flavor to come through while remaining drinkable.

Misty Mountain IPA- Back East Brewing Company– Bloomfield, CT


As a fan of Lord Of the Rings as well as Led zeppelin, I love the name on this one. For a 7% ABV IPA, Misty Mountain goes down incredibly smoothly and easily. Back East has recently started canning it, so it’s easy to bring on road trips to the beach or camping. This one is definitely my favorite offering from Back East Brewing.

Ten Penny Ale- Olde Burnside Brewing Company– East Hartford, CT

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A tasty, almost-session (5.6% ABV) Scottish ale. Named for the old saying, “You can get a good beer for a nickel, but a really good beer will cost you ten pennies!”. Drink well, it’s worth the price. The blend of 2-Row and Caramel malts give it a well-balanced sweetness. The label illustrates a story of the brewer’s grandfather working as an ice deliveryman, and drinking a beer after a long day of work. Ten Penny is a great end-of-the-workday beer.

668 The Neighbor Of The Beast- New England Brewing Company– Woodbridge, CT

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A surprisingly big beer that can be found in a can. 668 is a Belgian-style strong ale at 9% ABV. Its name says it all- “the neighbor of the beast”. 668 is pretty beastly in its own right, sneaking up on you with it’s flavor that hides behind the beautiful golden color and lighter body. The label is great as well- it’s a cartoon of a kindly older man dealing with the tribulations of living next door to Satan. You know, getting your shrubbery burned down occasionally. This one is from New England Brewing, which is located just outside my own city of New Haven, Connecticut.

Coffee Stout- Thimble Islands Brewery– Branford, CT

Thimble Islands Brewing is another fairly new brewery to Connecticut. They have 3 flagship brews- a pale ale, an IPA, and my favorite, the coffee stout. It’s delicious, and definitely showcases the flavors and aromas of roasted beans. The brewery itself is actually down the road from Willoughby’s Coffee, a company that has been roasting their beans in the New Haven area for over 25 years.

Check out the rest of this month’s 6 packs here!

LocalBrew: Shebeen Brewing

The 4th of July holiday gave me an extra day off, so I got the chance to check out Shebeen Brewing in Wolcott, CT.

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The brewery opened earlier this year. Pronounced “shuh-been“, The brewery’s name comes from the Irish word “sibin” which means “an unlicensed establishment or private house selling alcoholic liquor“. Basically, the term for local brewhouses. Shebeen has already created a variety of interesting brews. I tasted the Irish Pale, Royal IPA, Pineapple Wheat, Cannoli Beer, and Rye Porter. I was hoping to try the Bacon Kona Stout and the Concord Grape Saison, but they did not have any kegs available. I definitely plan on returning when they brew more of those two!

The Irish Pale, at around 3% alcohol, is a perfect session beer. Light, slightly sweet, a great beer for all-day consumption.

The Royal IPA was excellent as well. I tasted it both at the brewery and at a local bar, the Pourhouse Tavern, which is one of a handful of bars starting to carry brews on tap from Shebeen.

The Rye Porter is lighter and has many qualities of a brown ale, with more of a toasty flavor.

The Pineapple Wheat was surprising. The tropical flavor was not overwhelming, and the pineapple taste was strongest on the finish.

I love that they take classic styles and put an interesting spin on them. My favorite that I tasted was the cannoli beer. Sweet and spicy, I tasted vanilla and cinnamon. An awesome sweet beer, and a perfect alternative to the sweet stouts I enjoy so much. I also loved the presentation on this one- the glass was rimmed in powdered sugar and the fluffy, cream-colored head was sprinkled with cocoa dust.

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If the numerous beers already brewed aren’t enough of an indication, the size of the brewery shows that there is a lot of room for growth. During the tour, the head brewer explained that he purposely got a larger space (2,500 square feet!) that they could expand into quickly, without running out of room.

The brewery has tasting hours Wednesday through Sunday, which vary by the day and can be checked out on their website here.

CT Beer Week Kickoff

In my opinion, every week in which you are drinking delicious craft beer should be considered beer week. But making it official just allows for additional celebrations, and now Connecticut will have their own. CT Beer Week 2013 is May 11-18, 2013.

The mission is more than just encouraging people to drink better beer though. The official CT Beer Week site states that the week’s main purpose “is to inform policy makers of the significant contribution the three-tier system makes to Connecticut’s economy. This week long, statewide event was created to celebrate the vibrant beer industry in Connecticut.” As a bartender at a craft beer bar, I am definitely an advocate of craft beer creating more jobs, so this mission statement sounds great to me!

CT Beer Week will kick off with the Rising Pint Brewfest, which takes place this Saturday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. I spoke with Bryon Turner of the CT Beer Trail, who is helping to promote the event. He says, “For many of us, The Rising Pints Beerfest marks the start of Connnecticut’s brewfest season, drawing a great crowd of local craft beer enthusiasts.  This year the event will also help kick off CT Beer Week, a week long celebration of our local beer community.”

To celebrate even more, the CT Beer Trail is giving away tickets to the event, which you can enter to win online at the CT Beer Trail site.

Check out all the events happening this great week here!

CT Tap Takeover @The Outer Space!

Spring has sprung officially, although it might not feel that way outside. So what better way to warm you up than a tap takeover at a great bar with some of Connecticut’s finest breweries?

Come by the Outer Space in Hamden on Monday April 1 to hang with the seriously awesome crew at the bar and the best beer reps this side of the Hudson, and make some new friends. The tastings start at 6 PM, and I should mention that the reps will be bringing some of the coolest beer swag around as well as their brews, so coming early is definitely recommended! All of the past beer tastings at the Outer Space have been a great time and always pack a crowd of beer-lovers. The reps usually bring samples of things that haven’t come out yet or special beers that you can’t get anywhere else, which is always really fun. I might even bring some samples of my homebrews too, so it’s even more of a reason to come by! Get more info and RSVP here.

The following breweries will be there and slinging samples of their latest and greatest ales and lagers:

New England Brewery

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City Steam Brewery


Olde Burnside Brewing

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Two Roads Brewery


Thimble Islands Brewing

Bar Bru Room

Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford, CT

Last week I took a tour of one of Connecticut’s newest breweries, Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, CT. As usual, I am happy to see Connecticut jumping into craft beer, and even more pleased to see a new brewery that’s located close to where I grew up (Bridgeport).

Let’s start with the appearance. Two Roads Brewery is located inside of a 100-year old factory building. The building itself is beautiful from the outside, with massive windows that show people outside all the glorious brewing going on inside. The inside has been renovated, scraping away all the old brick and wood of the past. However, the old materials are not gone; the bar inside the tasting room is constructed from recovered wood from the building’s interior. It’s inviting- if I still lived in that area, I would definitely stop in more frequently just to enjoy a pint.

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I think Two Roads has shown a lot of ambition. I think it’s great that they work with other breweries to do contract brewing- they are really fulfilling a lot of potential with the space. I also thought it was ambitious to start off with multiple beers and making the most of their equipment. A lot of new breweries start small, whether it be a small space or making one brew at a time. But Two Roads already has 4 flagship beers, as well as seasonals and plans for more (I can’t wait to try the oak-aged Russian Imperial Stout!).They are all solid beers too! I especially like that they aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel here and try to do something no one else has done. They are taking classic styles and making them delicious and drinkable. So far my favorite is their winter seasonal, a biere de garde, which is a nice, cold-weather style to see alongside a sea of winter warmers.

It’s nice to have something else for Connecticut to be proud of, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else they come out with! If you are in the area, you can pretty much stop in for a tasting or to fill a growler (or growlito- the 32 oz. version) any time they are open, usually until 8 PM. There are scheduled tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 and 3 PM. There is also usually a food truck parked outside on the weekends! For more info, check out their website.