Oct 31, 2010

North Peak Siren Amber Ale

Pretty sure I've gone off to some extent before about how I am on the fence with most amber ales. There's usually something about them that just doesn't strike my fancy with them. Either they're just bland or take the other end of the spectrum and end up to spicy or something. I guess it's one of those curses of macrobrew making something to get the mainstream beer audience to think they're purchasing something fancy or craft brewers flexing their know how and righting some wrongs. One of the things Traverse City's based North Peak Brewery seems to be shooting for is something traditional and true to the original pre-adjunct grains days-making something good but not going over the top with tweeking and experimentation.
Nice, reddish gold transparent color with a very minimal head from a medium pour. A slight ring of foam forms around the top of the glass leaving a spotty lace pretty much through the bottom of the glass. On the nose the malt is quite robust and earthy with some green apple and smokey notes. Slightly sour apple characteristics come out all through the flavor mixing well with the malt on the front of the tongue. It finishes up with a flourish of hop tinge. Not sticky but not buried either.
If you are looking for some amber that will blow your mind or filled with levels of flavor complexity this probably isn't going to be the one but if you are looking for a simple and solid one that is quite sessionable it's worth giving a try. Besides, with those stubby bottles and retro label design that have become a North Peak trademark you can invite an old-timer over and share a couple with them. It may get them telling some stories of the good old days.
http://www.northpeak.net

Oct 28, 2010

November's Sunday Sonance Shenanigans

The first Sunday of every month Mr. Franck and yours truly drop the needle on some tracks at the Raven Cafe in downtown Port Huron. People come in to listen and enjoy the food, drinks and folks while they are there. Conversations, fun and games always happen. Our next one is on November 7th. If you're in the area stop on by and say "Hi"
More info at http://www.ravencafeph.com/

Oct 23, 2010

Short's Bloody Beer

Just in time for Halloween. Nope, not pumpkin beer. I just had to pass on all those this year because I've had more than my share in the past but figured something called Bloody would work well for the seasonal theme and mention instead. What you have here is those crazy beer makers up in Bellaire, Michigan combining the ingredients that go into a Bloody Mary which in this case is Roma tomatoes, tellicherry peppercorns, celery seed, fresh horseradish and dill, brewing it up and bottling it. I'm all about a Bloody Mary almost as much as I am about great beer and judging from the ingredients it seems that they know what goes into a superb Bloody Mary so I was pretty curious about trying this.
There's an obvious red tint in the color from the tomatoes. No head to speak of but there is a somewhat of a runny and spotty lace that doesn't stick around much.
The scent of dill is really strong on the nose along with some slight notes of ground pepper and tomato juice. There is a slight thickness in the beer but hey-WE ARE talking about tomatoes here. The thing is though the flavor of tomato in the brew itself seems a little overrun by the domination of the dill that is all over the place. Letting it breath and adjust to room temp does take a slight edge off that, bringing some of the peppercorn and horseradish hot end but not by much. Dill everywhere.
Now, I can munch on some pickles while enjoying some suds but something here just ain't working for me. I do admire Short's for all their crazy experiments they do with beer. They deserve much credit for their ideas and innovations and but sometimes their things seem to fall into a novelty category. They have many things that get up and throw a no hitter-to these taste buds though, this is not one of their best days on the mound.
http://www.shortsbrewing.com/

Oct 22, 2010

JOE KILE "Southern Beauty Queen" LP

Getting pinned as a "singer-songwriter" can be either a blessing or a curse. To most people means denim shirt wearing Mr. Softee's like James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg. It's a pleasant and pretty and doesn't scare off grandmothers and little kids. And of YOU KNOW they're singing from their heart because you can hear their voice that doesn't ever crack clearly in the big soft comforter production. Of course those in that camp music is a remedy to fall asleep that is just effective as a couple shots of NyQuil PM with Wild Turkey chaser. But that's besides the point. After all "Just listen to their self confessional sensitivity'.
Then there's the other camp. The one that has Townes Van Zandt, Gene Clark, Daniel Johnston (well, in his "True Love Will Find You In The End" period at least) and Uncle Lou Reed during the last couple Velvet Underground albums. While all the first camp sounds like they're wearing cable knit sweaters in front of some cozy fireplace in a Colorado mountain cabin or staring at a mountain of blow in some Laurel Canyon hideaway and, in either setting, a blonde with with ironed straight hair-the second sounds dressed in faded and frayed clothes and playing for tips in some broken down coffee house or a dive bar that's usual clientele is there not to hear some songs but because the place has the cheapest cheap draft beer and well whiskey prices in town. They'll listen to the sorrow as they drown their own. The person giving the six string accompanied confessionals love probably works behind the bar but she isn't there tonight and isn't answering her phone either. That's the camp New Orleans based Joe Kile has set up tent in.
Owning a voice that sounds like old wax paper, a surface that is smooth but sports some discoloration from age and somewhat brittle & will crackle Joe Kile's songs sounds as if they were recorded at 4am and as hushed as he could be as to not wake the others dwelling around a pay by the week efficiency apartment and to be listened by those nursing a very melancholy Sunday morning hangover. Accompanied mostly by a weather beaten guitar save for the occasional second guitar, some pump organ sounding wheezes and a couple drinking buddies supplying a few seconds of call and response the songs touches on loves losts, lusts wanted, bad luck and many mentions of winter. They all sound as if they could fade off into distance at any given moment so they're songs that are made to be listened close as they could just disappear. When doing so there's slight rays of light trying to fight their ways out of the overcast.
http://www.easternwattsrecords.com/

Oct 21, 2010

SUPER WILD HORSES "Fifteen" LP

"Four chords, One finger, All feeling...." That was the consensus of my friend Brian when I showed them the video of these two Australian gals tune "Golden Town". Another friend Lon said something to the extent of "Wow! They make a lot of sound with such a limited set up" when seeing the same video. For both of them it was their first introduction to the band. I told them nothing other than a note saying "Check this out" and link. Both of their comments could pretty much sum this album into a nutshell but since I gave them both credit now I guess I just can't plagiarize what they said and call it a day on this review now can I? Besides, the record has been spending plenty of time on my turntable since it arrived I have a few things I would like to add to what they had to say anyway.
With just the right amount of drone complimenting the melody in the guitar lines, a voice that that sounds like sweet and soothing honey that was then aged in a gun powder keg and then rolled in talcum powder with their mixture of sweetness and volatile swings and a drummer that isn't afraid to bash the hell out of the kit (and I don't mean "...for a chick" either. I mean if the drums were a living creature they'd be without hardly a drop of blood left in them after the pummeling. I mean she's no Keith Moon or anything but she also and pussyfooting either) Super Wild Horses make every other band dubbed in every other blog page as "the next Vivian Girls but better" sorta pointless. It seems a lot of those bands that have been called that were looking for that exact description as where this band sound like they have much better things on their mind.
Bits of late 70's DIY-punk, perhaps an idea or two gleaned from a scratchy hand me down Jesus and Mary Chain record (but without the total over the top ridiculous reverb on everything sound that a lot of the apparent modern day JAMC apers go all ga-ga on), one string melody buzz that stick in the brain like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich does to the roof of the mouth if there's no glass of milk around to wash it down make for a listen here that asked to played flipped over again and again as each side end.
http://www.myspace.com/superwildhorses

Oct 15, 2010

BadAss American Lager

Michigan Brewing Company out of Webberville gets in cahoots with Kid Rock. He tested and approved this beer. Tastes like a fresher Bud Light.
http://www.americanbadassbeer.com/

Oct 12, 2010

MMOSS "i" cassette

With a sound that hits more on London's UFO club circa 1967 than probably what is usually coming out of whatever rock dives they haunt in their home base of modern day New Hampshire USA-Mmoss make psychedelic music that smears that fine line of where a "normal pop sensibility" ends and the "what are these hippies experimenting with" questions begin.
With the basic guitar, bass and drum foundation being adorned by the band members multi-instrument know how of flutes, organs, cellos, glockenspiels, dul-sitars and ship bells (to name just a handful listed in the tape cover's j-card) the songs & sounds here can range from sublime and scenic to downright peculiar and stormy.
While some songs like "Grown Down", "So Below" and "Hedge Creeper" lean towards a Britania meet the Byrds in Syd Barrett's garden there's also the tinkering with Krautrock/Drone Trip on tracks like "And I Do Set My Bow In The Clouds" and "Epistle To Shon" as well as speculating on what it would it would sound like Big Star 3rd came out in '66 and had a seriously influence on the Small Faces on things like "Kitty Sorrow".
For those that find themselves playing some of the modern psych bands like the Black Angels and Sleepy Sun will be doing themselves a favor if they were to check their father's basement or thrift store for a functioning cassette player (or hell, even the junkyard so you can have one in your car) and then score a copy of this tape.
http://burgerrecords.webs.com/

Oct 10, 2010

Founders Nemesis 2010

As a music fan and working in various degrees of the business involved around it for years I used to get a laugh out of the obsessive collectors. You know the type, The ones that have to have every single released format variation of their favorite artist. Never satisfied with having the music in one form they'd have to have the 12inch, the 7inch, the import 7inch on colored vinyl, the picture disc 7inch, the 12inch with a different color variation than the other 12 inch, the CD single because the mix is slightly different than the one on the import 7inch of colored vinyl and on and on. They would haunt record stores, distributors, trade lists etc on a daily (and in some cases an hourly) basis scaring up copies. It would get to a point where you'd see them, make eye contact and just give them a nod of the head to let them "No, we don't have it yet" and save the breath of telling them so.
Nowadays, things are different. With the internet and a paypal account they can usually end up finding whatever record you're looking for and, if price is no object, possess their very own copy to add to the shrine. I was always like "Hey man, I just want it for the music. What's the big damn deal." Then I became a beer geek.....
With almost all of Founders specialty brews I scoured the county for at least one bottle of this years Nemesis. My trusted beer sellers were just as frustrated as I was about not being able to get any (because they love GOOD beer too) and then would make comments about the local distributor of Founders only being good at keeping up on things that come in cans and are advertised on the Super Bowl. I ended up scouring the next county over and following an anonymous tip rolled into a particular store. Lo-and-behold there was one lowly bottle sitting on the shelf. She's been sitting in my fridge ever since taunting me. Until tonight.
Brown/almost black in color while sitting in the glass and a deep mahogany when held up to the light I'm a little taken back because I'm am more used to barley wines looking a bit more of an amber color than this. I know they style can variate in color and all that but I guess I've just haven't seen many this dark. Very minimal head but a millimeter or so size ring hangs tight all through the glass leaving some spotty and running lacing behind.
Lots of chocolate come out first in the scent followed by aromas of date nut bread, cherries that have been soaking in bourbon for a couple of months and some slight coconut. Not much notice of alcohol to this nose which is surprise because of it hitting a 12% abv. The taste has a very interesting complexity to it. A dark like licorice and tart like grapefruit hop bite comes out that then is wrapped cozy by coffee, maple and bourbon flavors. With each sip it's the same experience-here comes this bite then it's surrounded and softened up. The finish gives the hops some hang time again with some coffee hanging in the background. Founders always does a good job covering up their higher end alcohol content and here is no exception. Very mellow. It's different than the Nemesis of the past but each year tweak has never been a sidestep. If you see one on the shelf-snatch it, sip it and savor it. It's gonna be another year til they're spotted again.
http://www.foundersbrewing.com

Oct 3, 2010

Short's Key Lime Pie

It seems that every week now there's a new limited "weird beer" (Smashin' Transistors blanket term for all the odd and interesting experimental brews that use ingredients outside of you usual hop, malts and so on) made by up-north Michigan brewery Shorts. Almost too many. It's hard for this humble reporter to even keep up at times. On the label of this one it informs the potential drinker that it's brewed with mashmallow and lactose with lime and graham crackers added. Definitely not something the average beer drinker would think is "normal" wouldn't you say?
Burnt orange in color (not lime green but then again that might just be a little too weird) and clear with average sized off white fizzy head that fades somewhat quickly but leaves fair amount of spotty lacing. Lime peel and sweet bready notes (the graham crackers perhaps?) in stick out quite a bit scent. The taste first gives off a sweet milk cream flavor up from followed by a sour candy. There is a creamy texture all the way through the sips of the brew giving it a very soft feeling in the mouth. The lime flavor is noticeable but seems to stick out a little more towards finish even though it gets enveloped again by the sweeter cream flavors. There also seems to be a slight rye tinge in the aftertaste too.
Is this one of my most favorite "weird beers" from Shorts that I have tried? Not really. My vote still goes with their Soft Parade, Nicie Spicie (which is their summer wheat which I have to say kicks Bell's Oberon butt) and Strawberry Shortcake. Is it interesting and drinkable? Yes, for a couple of bottles it is at least. Give it a shot and share it with friends if you see some around. It'll make for some interesting conversation.
http://www.shortsbrewing.com/