Slow Club – Paradise

I am always looking for new bands to add to my already large library of music.  It’s always funny to see how I manage to find a new band.  Well new to me anyway.  I like to read a lot of different music sites, and I get a couple music magazines.  One of the most amazing things that has really helped me figure out what I like and don’t like is Spotify.  Before Spotify, I would download cd after cd without knowing if I truly really liked them.  I can remember trying to download albums, having them fail, and trying again.  A few days would go by before I could actually get the whole cd.  Then I would sit down to listen to it, and I’d find that it totally wasn’t worth the wait.  It would be a huge disappointment.  The past few months have been great since finding spotify.  I typically go on every morning to see if some of the albums that have been reviewed are actually worth it.   It has at least revolutionized the way I download music. Slow Club was a band found through these methods.  First, I saw a little write up on them on a music site, and later I read a little review of them in my magazine.  Listening to them on Spotify only further convinced me.

Slow club features the musical stylings of Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor.  That’s right, just like Matt & Kim, The White Stripes, Mates of State, Sleigh Bells, etc…,  this group only has two members.  Like some of those groups, this one has Watson taking over the guitar duties and Taylor dominating the drum duties.  They both share the responsibility on vocals; however, unlike their previous album, Paradise has Taylor taking over the dominate vocal duties.  Although only their second album, this album has them growing quite a bit from their previous effort.  Here they manage to be slightly more reflective and mature.

The album opens with the song “Two Cousins”.  This song is driven by both Taylor’s drumming and singing, as well as, some pretty catchy keyboards.  Here the pair manage to create a huge sound that I doubt could be recreated with just the two of them live.  Of course, I haven’t seen them, so I suppose that is next on my list of things to do.   I like how nearly every verse that is sung ends with a high, almost falsetto, tinge.  The drums follow the same rhythmic driving sound through out the entirety of the song.  However, the drums that drive the song don’t become boring either.  They actually help the song keep an almost danceable quality to it.  Overall, it is a really powerful way to open the album.

Slow Club does both the upbeat and slow songs really well.  “If We’re Still Alive”, the second song on the album, also follows the catchy quality that the first song builds on.  Once again, Taylor’s vocals and drumming is really relied on to start the song off; however, unlike the last song, we get more of Watson’s back-up singing to assist in harmonizing.  It really helps to create a more harmonious and less jarring feel that you get out of the first song.  “Where I’m Waking” has a little more balance in the instrument department.  Once again Taylor takes over the singing duties, while Watson provides the harmony.  I think I like this one a lot because it bounces between the very loud and very quiet aspects of the band.  Watson does manage to work his way into the main singing duties a little here; however, it also helps to show why he more handles the harmonizing duties.  Taylor’s voice is so loud and powerful, and his approach is much more soft.

The album manages to work in a lot of great softer material as well.  “Hackney Marsh” is a much more stripped down song.  
Starting with a simple quiet guitar, both members come in with a full on harmony that really blends well and leaves the guitar in the distant background.  Here the chorus is belted out without the music really being affected too much.  However, midway through, there is a saxophone solo that adds an interesting element to the song. “You, Earth or Ash” is another fine example of the groups ability to strip down their sound.  Here the music remains simple and mostly dominated by the female vocals.  This one is slightly more melodic than the previous song, and is definitely slightly more ambient as well. Interestingly, “Horses Jumping” is the longest song on the album and is the only song where Slow Club really features their male vocals.  This song is a little over ten minutes long, and therefore, also ends up feeling kind of like a few different songs all strung together.  I, however, like this format as it shows the groups true diversity.

Slow Club is a really good band that I think is truly beginning to develop their sound a lot more.  I wasn’t familiar with their first album too much, but through the use of Spotify, I was able to look at how they have developed since their first album.  They vary up their musical stylings a lot more on this album, and they seem to understand a little more where their strengths lie.  I’m very hopeful that this group will only continue their success.

Teacher Grade: B

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New Belgium – Snow Day Winter Ale

I feel like I’ve kinda been on a little mission ever since the winter beer season started.  Thus far I haven’t really hit a whole lot of them here on the blog , but I am starting to get around to a lot more of the brews now.  I kinda know what I like to drink during some of the other seasons; however, the winter is a little confusing.  I think before beginning my foray into craft beer, I basically relied on Sam Adams to tell me what beer season it was.  I liked to follow their seasonal schedule, and I never really questioned if there was a better seasonal brew out there.  Now that I have seen the light, I really want to try and experience most of what is available out there.  I kinda feel like a kid who just discovered candy.  I could taste every brand and every kind available; however, I know it’s not good for me.  I don’t know that it will stop me though.

I have already ventured out into one review of a specific Christmas brew; however, this is more of a general winter brew.  New Belgium is actually a pretty new brewery to the DC area.  Although I have heard the lore of Fat Tire for many a year now, I have had very few opportunities to actually taste the legend.  Therefore, it was actually quite a big deal when it finally arrived on the shelves of my local store.  I somehow managed to stay away from throwing a few reviews up here of some of their different products, but I have had a few of their different brews over the past few months.  Searching desperately for a few weeks now for an amazing winter brew, I was really happy to find a little single 12oz available at my local store.

The pour on this one came out a very dark black color with a light white head that develops on top.  Unfortunately, because I broke my tulip glass, I had to use a snifter on this one.  However, there seemed to be some ample head despite glassware.  The lacing was significant and managed to really cling to the glass for a while.  Swirling the glass really brought a lot of head back on top of the beer once again.  The actual liquid had a definite hazy quality to it.  Although you can see through it near the top of the beer, there is a cloud of mystery as you get lower in the glass; however, you can see the carbonation in the glass as well.

The hops steal the show in the smell department.  I have been so focused on different seasonal beers, stouts, and porters, that I actually almost forgot about how much I really love hops.  You can pull a slight orangey citrus scent out of here as well.  Hidden behind the hops is the very light chocolate smell, and hidden a little further back, you can pull out a little bit of the coffee scent here as well.  Overall, this seems like a much more hops forward beer based on the smell.  There is a crisp quality that you don’t get out of a lot of dark beers.

The taste confirms what was revealed in the smell.  The hops are the most prominent aspect of this beer.  Before the really strong hops come in, you get a very quite malty bready quality that helps intro into the hops.  The hops, however, will not be delayed for very long.  They come in strong and give you a very piney slap in the face.  Aside from being quite strong at the onset, they also last through the duration of the beer e as well.  Really they carry you pretty close to the finish of this beer.  The chocolate and coffee flavors are delayed for the end of the beer as the hop flavors begin to mellow.  The coffee is really pleasant and carries you into a slightly bitter aftertaste.

The mouthfeel here is really interesting.  I think this could be the first time I’ve had a beer noticeably dry my mouth out at the end.  I’m not sure that it is unpleasant, but I did notice that the beer leaves your mouth a little dry at the end.  The carbonation is fairly high on this one as well, but I think it works in the entire composition of the beer.  The aftertaste, while coming across a little dry, is not really unpleasant at all.  Yes it is slightly bitter, but what do you expect from something that combines coffee and hops.

Ever since having the Stone 15 year, I have hoped to find a good Black IPA that is a little more findable.  I’m not sure that this one is quite on that level, but it is quite good as well.  New Belgium actually doesn’t even bill this one as a Black IPA, but it does have a very similar feel. If you’re looking for a pretty good winter beer with a lot of hops flavor, you should definitely check this one out.

Teacher Grade: A

Paste’s top 11 Christmas Ales

First of all, let me start off by saying that I have finally decided to purchase my Lyrics, Libations, and Life domain name.  Therefore, if you actually need to look up this blog, you no longer need to type in the .wordpress addition.  I’m hoping that this is the first personal step to try trying to take this blog to the next level.

The other week I did a little post on Paste’s favorite winter ales.  Coincidentally, last night I managed to have their number one beer: Great Divide – Hibernation ale.  I did think it was one of the best winter ales I’ve had so far this year.  However, I did also notice that there is no way I could have had more than one.  It does have that big flavor and warming effect you look for in a lot of winter ales.  I’ll definitely be checking it out again for sure.

Paste has moved on and done another survey of the best Christmas ales available right now.  We have about one month to find and get these beers off the shelves. Thanks to my favorite local store, Rick’s, I’ve been able to actually take quite a few of these.  Here is their ranking of the top 11 beers out there for the Christmas Season.

11. Rogue – Santa’s Private Reserve

10. Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale Brown Shugga

9. Sierra Nevada Celebration

8. Sweetwater – Festive

7. Bell’s – Christmas Ale

6. Anchor – Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

5. Port – Santa’s Little Helper

4. Mikkeller – Santa’s Little Helper

3. Scaldis – Noel

2. Corsendonk – Christmas

1. St. Bernardus – Christmas

A few thoughts on their top 11 list.  First, I find it interesting that the Sierra Nevada Celebration made it on this list.  Although the name and label kind of suggest a holiday theme, I’ve always taken this beer to be more of their winter beer.  I’ve managed to sample the Bell’s, Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Rogue, and Scaldis off this list.  The way that they arranged these few on here I think are correct. I am quite interested in the Mikkeller option as well.  Although I have had very few from them, I know they are typically a very high rated brewer.  Once again, and this happened with their last list as well, I now really want to try this St. Bernardus brew.  To me, it’s no surprise that they found this brewer to be the best at what they do.  They typically brew some amazing brews.  So, the next time I get to the store, it’s my hope to score a bottle or two of this highly ranked brew.

Check out the rest of Paste’s comments.  

What beers do you think should be on this list?  We’ve got one more month to compile our beers for Christmas dinner.  What beers do you want at your holiday table?

 

Black (Beer) Friday!

Prior to Thanksgivings day, there were plenty of posts about the different beers that would be consumed during everyone’s big meals.  I, however, was unable to participate in this discussion.  We headed up to a retirement community to eat dinner, and there is definitely no beer served at all with the meal.  Therefore, I have decided that the day after Thanksgiving needs to be celebrated for more than just a day of mass spending.  In addition to many others’ mass consumption, I’m hoping for a little beer consumption myself.  It only seems appropriate that I would consume any beer that is Black on Black Friday.  Now I know we should not make too much out of the actual color of the beer, but I have to on a day called black friday.

Here was my hopeful purchase of the day.  I’m up in Pennsylvania for the holidays and about 10 miles from Victory Brewing company.  According to their site, they released Dark Intrigue the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Now Dark Intrigue is Victory’s Storm King Stout aged in Jim Beam and Heaven Hill Distilleries bourbon barrels.  Now I was extremely hopeful for this to be my big Black Friday purchase; however, it was released Wednesday.  So, I was extremely hopeful that there was still a bottle available.  However, when I arrived at the brewery, they informed me that there had been a couple hundred people there on Wednesday.  Needless to say, I found myself without a bottle.

We decided instead to sit down in the Victory restaurant before making any purchases.  I enjoyed my bbq sandwich and a few different pints.  As I said, I would only be drinking Black beers on Black Friday; therefore, I enjoyed both the Storm King Stout and Yakima Glory.  The Storm King made up half of the Dark Intrigue.  Never having enjoyed their imperial stout, I really enjoyed the extremely dark and rich roasted malts and coffee.  I wish I would have been able to taste it aged in bourbon barrels.  The Yakima Glory reminded me more of a Black IPA, but it was lacking in some of the rich malty roasted quality.  Now they don’t bill it as a black ipa, but as a dark ipa.  This is a lot closer to what it really was.  It had some of those rich malts and a whole lot of the hops as well.

In the end I still ended up taking a bottle home.  This is slightly surprising because it is a lot harder to buy individual bottles when shopping in Pennsylvania.  However, I guess a brewery was able to swing it.  I ended up buying a bottle of their Otto Ale.  This apparently is a Smoked Belgian Dubbel.  This is not their standard beer, which means it has no description on their site.  The little manuel at the restaurant described it as a Rauchbier, which only made me more interested.  Therefore, I’m still pretty happy with my purchase.

Even though I didn’t get the beer I wanted, I’m still really happy I enjoyed some black beers on black friday.  Tonight I’m going to keep it up, and I will only be consuming black beers.  Consider this my way of celebrating black friday.

So what are you black friday beers?  Maybe you haven’t really considered it yet, but you really should.  Buy something tonight purely based on the color of the alcohol.

Epic & DC Brau Brewing Co – Fermentation without Representation

Two months ago I put up an interview I did with Jeff Hancock from DC Brau.  In that interview, he did me a huge flavor and released information about an upcoming collaboration with Epic Brewing Co.  This was their first venture out into a new realm of brewing, and beer news sites actually really latched on to it.  A few hours after making the post, I had been quoted by beernews.org and dcbeer.com.  Then, a few days later, I was also referenced by The Washington Posts online post Going out Gurus.  Thanks to that post, I managed to have my biggest one day total (91), and my most popular post to date (180 overall).

Last week that collaboration actually came out.  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a bottle, and I even contacted Jeff hoping I could buy one off him.  But, thankfully, my local beer store in Virginia managed to get in a supply of it.  Initially I didn’t know what type of beer they were brewing, but later on, it was revealed that they were releasing an imperial pumpkin porter.  I was really interested to give this one a try.  I’ve had plenty of pumpkin beers, but I don’t think I’ve ever had this particular combination.  Then, reading the DC Brau site, my interests were only peaked more.  Here they stated that it is brewed with allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and whole cloves; accompanied by 600 lbs of pure pumpkin puree and 7 lbs of Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans.  This all combined with a porter base sounded incredible.

The pour is definitely dark for most of the pumpkin beers I had this particular pumpkin beer season. It pours out a dark brown to something that is kind of bordering on black.  There is a moderate amount of head that develops on the pour.  The head is a nice light shade that does manage to dissipate kind of quickly.  The lacing coats the sides of the glass in a delightful sticky residue that manages last for a while.  Despite the dark color, you can still see that the beer is slightly hazy in the light, and there is some visible carbonation in the glass as well.

I do initially pull pumpkin out of the smell; however, the pumpkin doesn’t tend to be quite as overwhelming as a lot of other pumpkin ales.  Here, you can definitely pull out a lot of the different other elements that were used in the brewing process. Aside from the pumpkin, you can also pull out a lot of the spices that play a major role.  In my opinion, I do get a lot of the cinnamon and nutmeg in particular.  As the base, I pull out a lot more of the porter quality.  There is a little coffee and chocolate that seem to mix at the end of the entire profile.  The pumpkin and porter quality form an interesting blend between the gourd and the coffee nature.  Pumpkin is not always my favorite flavor in beer, although it has become a more enjoyable flavor this season.  Coffee, on the other hand, is one of my favorite flavors in beer.  Therefore, I’m hopeful for a fun new taste.

The taste starts off with a lot of the rich malty flavor.  This quickly gives way to the combined taste of the pumpkin and spices.  Interestingly, the pumpkin is not the star of the show here.  It fits nicely into the blend of the rest of the brew.  The spices all blend together really well, although I do wish that I could pull out some of the more individual spices that they state they used in the brewing process.   As the pumpkin and spices fade out, I start to feel like the coffee and chocolate come in.  There is an interesting blend of both the pumpkin and porter flavors that I enjoy.  The aftertaste is a strong lingering taste of the porter and pumpkin flavors.  Overall, a pleasant aftertaste.  I think if the pumpkin and spices had been more powerful there would be no way it would have all worked together.

The mouthfeel is an overall nice blend.  The carbonation has a moderate to high quality.   I found it interesting that drinking the beer immediately had the carbonation actually intensify some of the spices, but allowing the carbonation to sit and mellow allowed the spices to mellow as well.  There is a slight syrupy and boozy quality here as well, but once again, the carbonation helps to keep this quality under control.

I will have to admit that I was really looking forward to this particular beer.  Thanks to the amazing guys at DC Brau, they really upped my readership.  So, this kind of felt a lot like a product that had some special meaning to me.  In the end, I’m still really happy with the product.  These two breweries took a style of brew that is really popular this time of year and managed to put their own spin on it.  Although I have a feeling this won’t be for everyone, I think they did a great job of managing to keep all of the flavors in line so they taste good together.  If one flavor had been too dominant, I’m not sure it would have been quite as enjoyable.  Now I have to increase my knowledge of the other beers produced by Epic.

Teacher Grade: A

It’s a Beer Christmas

Every year my mother asks me for a list of things she can get me for Christmas this year.  It’s not like I am going to get everything

RIP little glass

off the list or anything, but she needs ideas.  We see each other 3-4 times a year now, and she really doesn’t know anymore what I want or need.  Sure, I could just tell her to give me money, but I know she really likes to see her kids open up stuff on Christmas morning.

This year is the first time since beginning this blog that I have beer related gifts on my mind.  In the past I have always asked for different music gifts.  Everything from cds to stereo equipment to concert dvds have wound up underneath the tree.  This year is a little different.  I’ve been thinking a lot more about what I could possibly get that would assist me in my new venture into the world of craft beer.

These are some of the items that have made it on this years Christmas list:

1. New glassware – If you read my review of Old Rasputin, then you saw my note at the end that I recounted the sad demise of my tulip glass.  Due to a limited supply of glasses in my possession, this actually leaves me with only snifters.  Therefore, I am asking for a few different styles of glasses.

2. The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. Book – I haven’t really heard a lot of chatter about this book.  If you read this site often at all, then you know that Stone is one of my favorite breweries.  So, I’m curious to give it a read.

3. The Oxford Companion to Beer – I have actually heard both good and chatter about this book.  I think I more want it out of morbid fascination.

Although this is a kind of short list right now, I’m interested in making it grow.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my wife snuck me a random 750 ml bottle or something, but I’m not sure what else to put on here.

So, what are some of your beer christmas presents you want this year?  I’m certainly searching for a few more ideas myself, and I would love to steal some of yours.

North Coast Brewing Co. – Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Inspiration is a funny thing.  My beer tasting schedule is pretty set in stone.  Fridays I try to do one of the 750 ml bottle, and either Tuesday or Wednesday I do a 120z bottle.  This results in getting about two reviews a week to post on here.  The only thing to really decide is which beer to have on those days.  I have a bunch of 120z bottles, so that tends to be the harder decision.  Well, Tuesday evening a good friend sent me a picture of the Old Rasputin Stout they were consuming.  Having not yet cracked open the beer I would be reviewing that day, I immediately knew which beer would be tasted that night.  Really, to be more specific, it was the plentiful head of the beer that had me wanting.

A Russian Imperial Stout is a little different from just your typical stout.  Of course anything imperial will be considered the heftier version of the initial product.  So you can imagine that an imperial stout will be rather heavy and dark.  Additionally, the Russian aspect means they produced it in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia’s Catherine the Great.  Therefore, this one has some really great history to it too.

The other thing that really interested me in picking up this bottle is the great label and name attached to it.  Rasputin’s name of course only helps further connect this to its Russian origins.  This picture shows Rasputin as some strange healer, which he was considered to be.  However, it’s the definite creepy aspect that really helps make it interesting.

As I was expecting from an imperial stout, this one pours out as black as midnight.  There is virtually nothing that can be seen in or even through it. You can’t really see anything to really talk about clarity, and you can’t even see if there is carbonation in there either.  This of course is the first really good sign of a tasty beer (for my tastes); however, the second is the aspect that got me to it want to drink it in the first place.  There is a ton of thick foamy brown head that develops on even a moderate pour.  This head doesn’t fade very quickly either.  It continues to last even till the end of consuming the beer.  Just like the plentiful head, there is also a lot of lacing.  I was actually kind of reminded of drinking a glass of oj with pulp in it.  The remnants of the head stay in the glass for quite a while.

Fairly expectedly, the coffee smell is the smell that takes over most everything.  As I have said before, I love coffee.  Therefore, the smell of coffee is a great sign for me.  Backing up the coffee is an ample supply of toffee and chocolate.  The roasted smell is also there.  However, at the very end, you can pull out a little of the earthy hoppy smell.  Of course, the combination of both hops and coffee is an amazing blend for me.

I can definitely say that the taste here can be summed up as bold.  It really hits you in the face and lingers for a while.  Tasting first results in a quick clean malty flavor.  This is met by a quick little hit of the sweetness that comes from the toffee and caramel.  The full coffee flavor quickly comes in after that and smacks you in the face.  Really coffee is the longest lasting and most prominent flavor in the whole profile, but before it all comes to a finish, the hops combine with the natural bitterness of the coffee to give a really strong bitter end.

The mouthfeel here is a really nice blend of coffee, sweet chocolate and caramel, and some well placed hops.  I like the high amount of carbonation.  This imperial needs the high carbonation to really help mellow out a little bit of the strong bitterness of the coffee and hops.  However, swirling the glass and letting it warm up allows the carbonation to mellow a little, and you can also get a better hit of the bitterness if you want.  Thankfully, this has a super rich and bold flavor without coming off as syrupy.

I had heard people mention this one before, but I had never managed to actually have it.  Seeing the single 12 0z bottle available, I knew I had to give it a try.  Now that I’ve had it, I need to pick up a few more bottles of this.  I have a feeling this could be a really nice addition to my attempts at cellaring.  If you see this one out there, definitely pick it up.  You won’t be disappointed!

(Side note: I kicked the lovely glass in the picture at the top of the page off my coffee table after drinking this one.  RIP Sierra Nevada glass)

Teacher Grade: A+