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: 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.

Single And A Pint: Automatic Children “Now You Know”/Sixpoint Hi Res

Single And A Pint: pairing a new song with a new beer I’ve tried. This week we’re taking it to New York, with Automatic Children and Sixpoint Brewing.

THE SONG: Automatic Children “Now You Know”

Automatic Children take all the best qualities that made me fall in love with some of my favorite bands growing up (such as The Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Replacements) and creates catchy, guitar-friendly pop songs all their own. Plus I’ve known a few of them from my college radio days and they are an awesome group to share a pitcher of beer with.

“Now You Know” showcases the female-male vocal interplay between Crista Guiliani and Adam Lippman, with a beautiful effect. The video was shot in Brooklyn, fitting since most of the band resides in New York. It features shots in different decades and periods of time, which stemmed from the band shooting at Film Biz Recycling, which has lots of interesting props hanging around. The song itself is easy to relate to- about finding a connection with someone you’re just getting to know. and the warm guitar tones harken this track to something you’d listen to on a turntable with some good friends and good beers. It’s familiar without feeling trite. Basically, its a perfect soundtrack to what I do every weekend.

You can pick it up on a 7-inch pink vinyl, with another one of their tracks “Johnny”.

Expect to hear more soon from Automatic Children. The band plans to record more over the summer, and hopefully have an EP or full album out later in the year.

THE BEER: Sixpoint Brewery- Hi Res- Brooklyn, NY

As the slogan says, this beer goes up to 11. Kind of like the volume you’d expect at one of Automatic Children’s live shows. The name says it all- it’s a higher octane version of Sixpoint’s popular IPA Resin. Despite it’s 11% ABV and whopping 111 IBUs, it’s surprisingly drinkable. And like the rest of Sixpoint’s offerings, it comes in a concert-friendly can.

Single And A Pint: Dance, Charlatan!/ST Hop Sun

Single And A Pint pairs a new song with a new beer I’ve recently tried.
This week is a single which I’m pretty familiar with, from a band I know well from the area, Dance, Charlatan!. Kyle, Mark, and Pete make up the indie rock trio from Wallingford, Connecticut and did a little Q&A with me. Check out their song below and then see what they have to say about upcoming shows and their favorite craft beer!
THE SONG: “Held At Bay”, Dance, Charlatan!
THE BEER: Hop Sun- Southern Tier Brewing Company
Picture taken by Now Beer This at Now That’s Class, Cleveland OH.
I’ve been looking for Southern Tier’s Hop Sun all summer(not that hard, mind you), and only found it on Labor Day weekend, generally the last party weekend of summer. It’s a wheat beer, but it has enough hop flavor on the finish to attract someone like myself who often shies away from sweet-tasting wheat beers. Crisp and lemony, I do wish I had tried this beer with more summer weather to spare. I drank this one from a bottle at a punk rock club where I didn’t want to risk breaking glassware, so I can’t comment on this brew’s appearance.
As far as a pairing goes, Hop Sun would definitely pair well with seeing Dance, Charlatan! live. They have a ton of energy on stage that radiates into the crowd, and new audience members are often left pleasantly surprised at what they just heard. In that way, I was pleasantly surprised with this beer, and it’s light enough to go with a set of dancing!
Q&A:

You have released a single, “Held At Bay”. When can we expect an EP or full-length album from you guys?

Soon! We’re going back into the studio as soon as possible. We hope to have an EP out in autumn.
Where did you do the recording for this single?
The single was actually recorded at a church/recording studio in Trumbull, CT. The drums were tracked in the room where the sermons take place. It was weird. But it was mixed and mastered at Adorea Studios in Hamden. Where we’re planning on recording our next project.
Photo from Dance, Charlatan’s Facebook.
I know you guys are all pretty busy, but what is the likelihood for a future tour?
We would love to plan a tour eventually to promote this EP. It’s just a matter of finding the right time and another band to join us. Definitely not ruling it out.
You guys have recently played at some local craft beer bars, specifically The Outer Space and Knuckleheads. What’s the Dance, Charlatan craft beer of choice?
Kyle: I’ve been really into the Coffeehouse Porter by BBC lately.
Mark: I’m really into 668, but I got my hands on some Ghandi Bot last night and it was beautiful.
Peter J: Yin Stout by Evil Twin Brewing.
If you could sit down and have a beer with any musician who would it be?
Kyle: Tough question. I’d like to have a beer with Debbie Harry from Blondie. She seems fun.
Mark: Hmm. I’m thinking Yannis Philippakis of Foals. Seems like pretty a cool dude.
Peter J: Dave Grohl. He’s out of his mind in the best way and he’s a huge influence.
What does Dance Charlatan mean anyway?

It doesn’t really mean anything in particular. We really liked the word “charlatan”. It means an impostor or a swindler. Then we thought we should give that charlatan a command. And what’s better than dancing?

I can’t think of a better response than that. You can find out where to dance to the Charlatan by following them on Facebook and Twitter

Nerding Out With W00tStout

Basically, if you want something to be cool, pair it with a beer. I think that’s the point of this blog. Even things that explicitly exude nerdiness get cool when they collaborate with a beer. Case in point, the latest from Stone Brewing Company, the Stone Farking Wheaton W00tstout.

“Oh, you love the thing that I love? Let’s love it together!”

-Wil Wheaton

I tried it on draft this weekend at the Outer Space. It’s probably not the beer of choice to drink at 2 in the afternoon, but it needed to be tested and time was of the essence. I was thrown off by the “partially aged” description. Upon research, I learned that one quarter of the batch was aged in bourbon barrels. So the beer did not have such an intense bourbon flavor, which was just right since there were so many different flavors at work.

It pours the color of dark chocolate, with a short, deep tan head. It is nutty, from the pecans that it is brewed with. Slightly sweet, mildly toasty. Although I had it on draft, I would be interested to pick up a few bottles for aging.

At 13% ABV it’s a bit of a monster. Fellow Outer Space drinker Sean C. says, “W00tstout is a destroyer. I think that is the strongest beer I’ve ever had.”

Wil Wheaton is best known for his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He is also a fellow blogger whose musings you can check out here.

Drew Curtis created the website Fark.com which provides weird, funny, and interesting news from around the Internet daily.

What would I pair this brew with? Well, I would probably have to say one of my favorite bands, Rush. Like Stone, Rush has been putting out solid material for years. Like Wil Wheaton and Fark, Rush has definitely developed a strong following in the “geek” community (I’m putting it in parenthesis because I really mean the AWESOME community). In the end though, craft beer lovers come from all walks of life and personalities. The more people that practice good beer-drinking habits the better it’ll be for everyone else, so drink up, and try the w00tstout if you see it on draft or in a bottle.

REVIEW: Ghost “Infestissumam”/CBC Sgt. Pepper Farmhouse Ale

THE RECORD: Ghost B.C. Infestissumam 2013 Loma Vista Recordings

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The Ghost abides. Sure, some people might seem skeptical of a band that is mostly anonymous and wears hooded clergy-style robes on stage. Maybe it’s a gimmick, maybe it’s campy, but I love the ridiculousness of it. After Opus Eponymous came out in 2011, I wondered how the band would top it. Luckily I did not have to wait long, and 2013 has brought Ghost’s second full-length record, Infestissumam.

The title and first track starts off almost as a Gregorian chant, with a choir of vocals that would not sound strange in a large gothic cathedral. Soon, the wail of guitars comes in and the familiarity of the previous record comes in.

Carnival-sounding organs are found on several tracks on this record, including track two, “Per Aspera Ad Inferi” and the single “Secular Haze”.

In some ways, Infestissumam is not as heavy as Ghost’s previous record, but it’s definitely not any less awesome. I get a psychedelic vibe from it, which is especially prominent on the 7+ minute rocker “Gheleh/Zombie Queen”. Reminds me of a few obscure, experimental records from the 60s I probably have floating around somewhere.

and of course, there’s plenty of Satanic references to be found on this record. Single “Year Zero” namechecks a variety of monikers for the Dark Lord himself with the opening lines,

“Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub,
Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer”

The video for this song is pretty awesome, albeit not safe for work. It features some interesting and artistic shots, as well as a good amount of nudity. I actually had trouble finding an uncensored version on Youtube, so you can check it out on Metal Insider after the jump below.

>year zeroI love that the band maintains their anonymity as well, with the band members only known as Nameless Ghouls and dressed in robes, and the lead singer going by the name of Papa Emeritus II and donning pope regalia. Papa even campaigned for Pope this year. I voted for him, of course, and the “Clergy” thanked me for my participation in the papal enclave. Speaking of the Clergy, their Facebook posts are worth checking out as well, specifically the way they thank audiences (“Children of ____”) for a great show (“worship”).

All in all, Ghost continues to be an incredibly fun band to listen to, and this record does not disappoint for sure.

THE BREW: Cambridge Brewing Company Sgt. Pepper- Cambridge, MA

What a crazy beer. I tried this for the first time last week and was blown away by it. The first taste is entirely different from the taste that you get after you’ve been sitting on it for awhile. The initial taste is refreshing and lightly malty.The flavor you get at the end of the bottle or pint is downright spicy, verging on uncomfortable depending on your tolerance for that sort of thing. It pours a dark amber-gold out of the bottle and has a very dry mouthfeel.

This beer is brewed with four different types of peppercorns; black, green, white, and pink. All of those different peppers have very specific flavors on their own. When added to the pot of Pilsner, CaraVienne, and Rye malts, with Magnum and Spalter hops, it produces a very unique result.

THE PAIRING:

Like Ghost, some might think this beer is taking flavors a bit too far, and perhaps a gimmick. However, also like Ghost, this beer manages to pull it off because it is well done. This is a great example of the farmhouse style, and for someone like myself who is fairly picky about saisons (and metal to be honest), I think it is a great one.

I suppose I could go out on a limb and say that the spicy heat from the pink peppercorns on the finish is similar to the fire and brimstone of Beelzebub’s backyard, but I won’t.

Plus, the label on the bottle automatically makes a it a wonderful pairing with a record. It has a turntable surrounded by psychedelic orange and pink flowers on it, which is sounds the setting of where I’ll be playing the copy of Infestissimum that came in the mail recently! On blood red translucent vinyl, of course.

Ghost had added additional tour dates for the summer, including one in Connecticut, which will take place Saturday, July 27 at the Webster Theater in Hartford. An added bonus? Skeletonwitch will be opening up for them! Click here for tickets.

REVIEW: Soundgarden “King Animal”/Samuel Adams Winter Lager

Here at Now Beer This we love having other voices talking about the two things that matter most- beer and music! This week we have guest writer Sean, who also has a review blog of his own, giving his take on the latest Soundgarden record. He even did a beer pairing with it! Thanks, Sean! Glad to have you on board!

THE RECORD: SoundgardenKing Animal– Released November 12, 2012

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Where were you in 1996?

Think back to it. I was in 1st grade. I loved Nintendo, spelling tests, and Jonny Quest. At this point in time, Soundgarden would be releasing their last album, Down on the Upside. A combination of their harder sound and a more eclectic style, it was an album so at odds with their iconic sound that it would prove to be their most difficult album to record and promote. The boys of Soundgarden would announce their breakup in 1997 and go their separate ways.

Fast forward to 2012. I’m roughly the same person with a host of new interests (though I don’t care for spelling tests anymore, obviously). Getting a hold of the new Soundgarden record, it’s clear that the band is in the same mindset as me: love for the nostalgic and the cutting edge.

As for the record? 15 years after their implosion, Soundgarden delivered with King Animal. Big time.

King Animal proves to be a difficult album to swallow. It’s a rough amalgamation of all the eras of the Soundgarden sound, yet it’s not merely nostalgic. It’s surprisingly contemporary yet shows the slightest hints of evolution to the band’s sound. In an alternate universe where Soundgarden never split up, I wholeheartedly imagine that they’d still release King Animal in 2012. The music is exactly where fans would expect Soundgarden to be in this point in time. It’s truly like they never left us, and that we just haven’t listened to them in years.

The album kicks off in full gear with “Been Away Too Long”, an explosive launch that soars. The song itself allows room for the band to breathe and show off the individual talents found within the rhythm section, the guitars, and the vocals. Cornell’s voice shows wear and tear over the years, but this rusty feel is appropriate in the track. “I’ve been away for too long/but I never really wanted to stay” seems to be the band’s sentiment that this is no mere cashgrab- Soundgarden would reform only when it was absolutely appropriate. The band is tight and connected, creating a track that has Pearl Jam-esque energy to it, but it never loses that intangible Soundgarden feel.

“Non-State Actor” finds the band in a sort of Audioslave territory, with a clear political message and sense of angst. The combined efforts of Cameron and Shepherd give the rhythm section a much needed boost, with intricate patterns and attacks that Audioslave’s rhythm section could only wish they could do. Crank up the volume in the beginning and feel the two-count kick drum hit you square in the chest. I promise you, it’s awesome.

“By Crooked Steps” and “A Thousand Days Before” flow seamlessly together despite clearly coming from two distinct eras in Soundgarden’s history. “By Crooked Steps” has a distinct Badmotorfinger quality to it, with it’s tricky time signatures and Chris Cornell’s vocals cutting through the track like a wave. It’s unabashedly Soundgarden, and it succeeds wholeheartedly. “A Thousand Days Before” would seem at home on Down on the Upside, and thus feels more eclectic. It’s surprisingly upbeat and exciting, lacking some of the darker edge found on most of the other tracks on the album.

“Blood on the Valley Floor”, by comparison, is HEAVY. It’s a vicious, slow-churning song, full of crunch and snarling attitude. Cornell sings “Once we were the end/ the end of a long road”, perhaps signaling the death and rebirth of the band. It’s 1 of 2 favorite tracks for me, full of breakdowns and bridges that fully utilize the band’s rhythm section and guitars. There is no sense of ego here.

“Bones of Birds” showcase a new element to Soundgarden: that they’re aging, wisened men on life’s journey. The eerie melodies are reminiscent of “Zero Chance” from Down on the Upside, and tell a story of a man tending to his life and family despite running low on time. “Taree” stays on this sense of sentiment, where Cornell desperately clutches to someone he lost. It’s a particularly difficult song to get through, full of evocative imagery (“Crying in your ghost’s smile” is particularly awesome), remorse and regret. Easily one of the most powerful songs I’ve heard all year.

The album hits a snag with “Attrition”. While it’s nice to hear something faster after trudging through 3 slower tracks, Chris Cornell’s vocals are weak by comparison, almost bored by the music. I don’t know if that was his intention, but it doesn’t work here. The album rebounds quickly with “Black Saturday”, a creepy set of promises between the singer and his audience to cut him down if he becomes a burden. While the band hits a cool acoustic tone on this song, Cornell lays down perhaps his best vocals on the album. It’s equally unsettling as it is exciting and mystical, very much in line with something off of Superunknown. The bridge of the song goes down an even darker tangent, lingering only long enough for the listeners to develop a pit in their stomach.

“Halfway There” is clearly from Chris Cornell’s solo career- it’s a good song, but it’s just very removed from what we know as the Soundgarden sound. Hardcore listeners might be forgiven for skipping this track because it’s so different from the rest of the album. As a single, it could carry some weight, but it’s an unusual fit on this album.

“Worse Dreams” basically incapsulates everything I love about Down on the Upside-era Soundgarden. It starts innocently enough with a cool bass line. Soon, the rest of the band joins in, and the track is off the rails, taking great twists and turns. It’s a delight coming in so late in the album’s tracklisting, and first-time listeners won’t see it coming for miles. Very much like their last album, “Worse Dreams” never settles into a comfortable groove; it keeps you on your toes, just changing enough at a fast pace to lock you in.

“Eyelid’s Mouth” is certainly a relic from the Badmotorfinger days of Soundgarden. It has an almost Alice in Chains feel to it, but it doesn’t totally succeed. The song settles into a disappointing rut, but it’s saved by a rather decent bridge that turns into the outro. For some reason, it reminds me of something Cameron and Cornell would have left off the Temple of the Dog album.

“Rowing” closes the album in probably the finest way possible. A slow foot stomp of a beat matched with a unique bassline. Cornell wailing about taking life by the balls. Kim Thayil slowly trickling in layers of snarling guitar. The song sets a cool, attitude-filled vibe quickly, making the chorus a chant that you can’t help but repeat. The song loses its composure and drops the hammer in what might be the absolute coolest breakdown ever: Guitars soar and stab from out of the darkness, the rhythm section kicks in full tilt, and Cornell is left telling us to get our hands dirty and “keep on rowing”. Just before this mood settles in, it quickly drops out into the moody chorus one last time before each band member takes his leave. The song disappears in echoes, and the listener finally knows where the rabbit whole ends.

Soundgarden avoids what every other reunion album seems to be doing wrong these days; there’s no sense of a cashgrab or nostalgia ride here. It’s an honest, great album made by people who love music. It’s a near-perfect set of songs that come together in a wonderful way. The best part is that these layers grow on you after repeat listens; some songs might catch you right away, while others build up on you until you realize “Wow, why wasn’t I listening to this first??” King Animal succeeds in so many ways that it becomes inspiring. I love this album, and if you have even an inkling of love for Soundgarden, there’s something for you to love, too.

THE BREW: Samuel Adams Winter Lager

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I know it’s a cop out to pick a beer from a well-known company, but hear me out. For the past few years, I skipped on Winter Lager because its taste was, in a word, lousy. I could never enjoy one until this year. I think it’s the perfect combination with this new Soundgarden record because its a return to form; just like the new Soundgarden record gets almost everything right, Winter Lager gets comes together and tastes better than ever. It’s filling and satisfying, slightly bitter, and incredibly refreshing. Just like King Animal. It’d be wrong to place something foul to match the aggressive music of Soundgarden- King Animal, like Winter Lager, is something that took years to get right, and Goddamnit if they don’t go together great.