May 31, 2010

Short's The Magician Ale

When first seeing this on the shelves a few months back I thought "I know I need to try this BUT it's a red ale. It can wait". Red and Amber ales just are one of my favorite styles and there's always something other out there that I feel I want to try first. A few days later fellow local beer geek, good friend and eventual contributor this this very site Josh phones me up and says "Dale! I'm trying the Magician!"
"Yeah, I've seen it around now but you know how I am about reds."
"Me too but keep in mind it's a Short's so it's not a standard Irish red. It says right on the bottle its a Dark Red London ale, whatever that is, and it's pretty good. Come on over and try one tonight. It's really good."
Not to be one to turn down a free (good) beer I headed over that evening to give it a try. And you know what? He was right. It was pretty good but didn't take proper notes that evening so tonight I am sitting here with a glass of it in front of me to make amends for it.
Dark, almost brown when sitting in the glass but when held up to the light a rich ruby color shines through. The head was about a half inch of so which does melt a bit but doesn't quite go away through it's sipping so it leaves quite a bit of lacing all the way through the glass.
The aroma of Michigan garden herbs, some warm roasted malt and some woodsy characteristics are what comes out in the nose but the general overall scent is fairly subdued and mellow.
The flavor, which is what really matters anyway, do have a lot more pronounced things going on. Caramel and crystal malt are the first thing on the taste buds. They warm everything right up. The middle has brings out raisins and dark cherries and the back end has noticeable smokiness and white pepper to it. One of the things most interesting about this beer with all the levels of flavors it has is that it finishes quite clean making it quite sessionable. I can't say that it has me wanted to go and seek out other UK styled red's (okay...okay Dark Red London Ales if we want to split hairs) because I'm still not a huge fan of the style but there have been several times now since I've first tried it where I've found myself picking it up again.

May 27, 2010

FEVER B "The Lonely Sailor Sessions" 12inch EP

Be it his time in the Fevers, the Sweet Faces, Donny Denim and whatever other projects he's been involved in Brian Hermosillo aka Fever B knows his way around a loud, blaring and catchy as a virus going 'round pop song.
Armed with a rickety but reliable 4-track and some melodies inspired from tunes the "Good Times! Great Oldies" stations don't play anymore because they've decided to make room for Huey Lewis & the News and Billy Joel to skinny tie bands who albums haunt the dollar bins to Chinn & Chapman songs kids of the 70's know by heart (even if they don't know who Chinn and Chapman are but just by the bands who recorded their songs) to the the lo-fi garage trash 7inch blasts of the 90's-"The Lonely Sailor Sessions" encompasses a summer sound of carnival rides, late nights outside, frozen Cherry Cokes and young love that can (and usually does) go awry.
Five songs that blare but don't screech. Everything is stripped to it's bare essentials, once again proving the point that you can layer things in tons of gloop and throw all the garnishes you want but unless the meat that is the base isn't grade A what's the point. The priority here are the hooks that grab a hold where after even just one listen a person finds oneself humming the chorus and wondering "What IS THAT song?" Fever B doesn't meet those priorities. He exceeds them! Mark this one down as one of Smashin' Transistors highly suggested records for summertime 2010.

May 26, 2010

"ROCKIN' The Roche" June 11th in Port Huron

Sure, I've been part of dj's nights at the Roche Bar in downtown Port Huron for almost a year no but this is the first night we've done there where it's going to be EXCLUSIVELY ROCK-N-ROLL records. Join yours truly, Franck and very special guest Johnny Hentch (Yes, THAT Johnny Hentch of the Hentchmen fame) for an evening of tunes you can drink, dance and get rowdy to.

May 24, 2010

the GOODNIGHT LOVING "Arcobaleno" 12inch EP

The start of summer for more years than I care to count I have made a mix titled "Up North" and the year that correlates to it. It started with cassettes, then CD's and now a folder in my Mp3 player.
It's all the songs I want to hear when I'm miles north of this town, smelling the pine, wood smoke, bar-be-que and the lake (being it one of the Great ones or one of the over 11,000 inland ones we have here in Michigan. Over 11,000 of them! HAH! Take THAT Minnesota) with not one chemical factory around for 100's of miles. Music for listening to the late night crickets and bullfrogs and the birds at sunrise.
Tunes for hitting the highway, rolling the car windows down and looking at the lush green land and big sky vistas. The kind of songs you can both fish to and fire up a dirtbike and hit some hills, have ice cream with the kids in the afternoon and beer with the grown ups after dark.
The Goodnight Loving first weighed in heavy on those mixes in 2005 (when all they had were some demo tapes that were circulating of the songs on it was "Up North Girl" which seems so appropos for such things. A couple of years later a recorded by Greg Cartwright version of was released as the a-side to the Goodnight Loving single my label, Bancroft, released. And before you ask, YES! I do have a scant few copies of it left if you are looking to score one) and have ever since.
Though there's only 5 songs on this (all on one side-the other side being a beautifully etched earth, sun and flowers motif) I'm having a hard time paring down what track of two I should include into this years mix.
"4&3" starts off the record with surfing & spying feel. It's followed by "You'll Own My Heart" where a listening to CCR on the back porch mood finds it way into a hazy late night Nashville jam session.
Both "Sweet Clover" and "Pinalope" nod in the directions of 60's pop-The former with a Shangri La's if they were scuffy boys from Wisconsin kinda of thing; the latter something like bloodshot eyed Mersybeat and the ferry crossed the Great Lakes. "Orphans" closes the record like a rustic and happy go-lucky sing along that includes a whirly organ bit in the middle.
Finding a band where one member writes consistently solid songs over a period of a few albums seems to be becoming a rarer and rarer treat in these times. Goodnight Loving has the advantage of each member coming up with good ones over and over again. I think instead of trying to nail down to just a song or two from this on this summer's mix I may just have to take everything they done with me on my up north trips.

May 19, 2010

Sunday Sonance for June

Drinks, eats and good tunes. Join Franck and I the first Sunday of every month at the Raven Cafe in Downtown Port Huron for all those things. Hey, the weather's getting nice and that back balcony deck they have there is always nice to hang out on.

May 17, 2010

LES HULKS "Pussy Cola" 7inch

Sick, loud and lumbering France's Les Hulks are here to drop a load of lead on your head. Praise the Fatals and pass the Tussin here cuz guitars screech, drums bash and vocal chord shred but unlike those zinester dolls of Christmas past (and one of the loudest band I've seen in my life. I never feared for the welfare of my trusty old Music Man HD 130 amp ever except for a couple nights in America where I let them use it), who wanted to do it all at whiplash paces and sound like the Oblivians from hell actually IN HELL, these frogs nod to the grunge before grunge was even cool days and move more all thick and gurgling at mudslide speed.

May 15, 2010

the TUNNELS "No Love" 7inch

To use the much hackneyed cliche "Everything's bigger in Texas". Even when it comes Methaqualone comforted fuzzy pop like the Austin's Tunnels do. It's just the way things are done in the Lone Star State.
Even when it comes copping feels from the Velvet Underground. Most bands of the last 20 years or so doing that thing are three or four piece bands. The Tunnels have five in their line up.
"No Love" sports the same sleepy and bloodshot eye'd dreamstate jangle that Galaxie 500 mined from Grandpa Lou and his cronies. Unlike Galaxie 500, who always sounded like they to shy to crack a smile and, if forced, would greet you with a cold, clammy and not too firm handshake, this songs embraces you with a big hug of mellow hazy smoke and organ bits that fill the emptiness the former had like a warm fuzzy sweater.
Pulling you in deeper to the vibe is "Pretty Thing", which twists Spacemen 3's Velvets twisting into something taught at the church of Roky. It's not in a hurry to reach it's destination but the route it takes is quite scenic with it's washes of color.

May 10, 2010

North Coast Old Stock Ale 2009

There's a couple of California's North Coast brews that I would put up against any other beer in the same styles and would be confident that if they didn't come out on top-they'd still make a major impressive showing. This is my first go round with this, their old ale (a style I'm still bit of a neophyte about), though and expecting goodness.
Nice dark rust in color that reminds me a bit of apple cider fresh from the mill. Minimal head but a constant ring around the top of the brew all the way through leaving a thick, runny lacing all the way down the glass. A firm but not overbearing aroma of grapes and caramel stand out in the scent. There is a dent of alcohol that comes out on the nose too but no as strongly as one would expect with it's high abv (11.5% to be exact). A woodsy nuance comes out too where one would almost think it is barrel aged but there's nothing on the label stating such. A very warming and friendly smell all around.
First sip and there's already a lot of different levels of flavors coming out. A smooth buttery caramel steps up first softening up the tastebuds. Next comes a finely aged quality port wine likeness that is just as quickly followed by either something that reminds me of cherries or green apples. It's hard pinpointing which exactly. I had my better half take a sip as to see if she could tell which and she's torn between the two as well. The finish has a little bit of hotness from the high alcohol count but is mellowed out by vanilla and more of that caramel taste that it had in the beginning. As the brew comes closer to room temperature the more of all the above things come out even more. Without a doubt here's a lot of craftsmanship that goes into this and they're no denying they know what they're doing.
Between the high test booze level and the many different tastes that come out of it this is definitely a sipper. To compare it to another beer just for reference points flavor (but not necessarily style) wise-calling it a big brother (or older cousin) to Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA wouldn't be far off. Just what I was looking for tonight.

May 7, 2010

Tap Room No 21's Moe's Backroom Pale Ale

So I am Kroger the other day picking up some groceries needed to get through the weekend. I don't usually peruse the beer aisle there normally though but they do carry a few things (some Bell's, Great Lakes, Sierra Nevada, the occasional New Holland) that strike my fancy especially when they're on sale. None of the above were any of the featured deals but this pale ale was. I'd never heard of it so I was instantly suspicious of it being another megabrewery stab at trying to appear like a little upstart that somehow fought it's way on the the giant grocery store chain shelves. The bottle didn't give me any clue at all but, with being on quite a budget these days thanks to Michigan's completely tanked economy, the price was right so I figured it was worth giving it a shot either way.
Light amber in color with quite a bit of visible carbonation in the glass. The head was fizzy, had absolutely no firmness and depleted very quickly. I could've swirled the brew around in the glass for minutes on end and there'd still be no lacing also (Yes, I tried to make it happen too by doing just that). Not off to a good start at all. The aroma showed something wrong too. At it's best it reminded me of Abita's Christmas Ale (which out of all the Christmas Ale's/Winter Warmers I tried that past season stuck out in my mind to never bother trying again). That's at it's best and me being nice about it though. It actually smelled closer to a stale Labatt's Blue that some one tried to fancy up by adding a handful brown sugar to it and then filtering it through a box of corrugated cardboard.
The taste is mostly metallic, aluminum foil to be exact, with a trace of sickly sweet malt. There is a little puff of something for a second in the back end that may be hops but they taste almost artificially enhanced and disappear as soon as they appear. The aftertaste was what it smelled like.
I did some checking around on this and though the label says it's brewed in Rochester, NY the parent company is City Brewing of La Crosse, Wisconsin. I hate to bag on Wisconsin because as any reader of this blog knows some of my favorite people, music and things come from that state. I started to make a joke that maybe City Brewing was a microbrewery version of former La Crosse mass contract cheap beer brewing company G. Heileman only to find out that City Brewing IS the company that purchased the original G. Heileman brewery a couple years back.
There are some in the beer geek world that say the big breweries shouldn't be knocked for trying to make "craft style" beers because it may introduce folks to something better than they usually drink leading them to be more adventurous and trying some of the actual honest to goodness real microbrews out there. I'm cool and fine & dandy with that but if this was someone's introduction to what else is out there other than macro adjunct lagers I would not blame them if they just wanted to stick with what they can find at any given mini-mart. I've toughed my way through some beers that I didn't care for eventually finishing the 6 pack over a few weeks. This is the first time in a long time I've dumped 4 uncapped beers (Yeah, Two is all I could stand. Seeing them in my fridge kept making me shudder) down the drain. If I ever see this Moe guy in his backroom I am going to make him give back my $7.49 plus tax and deposit.