Ninkasi Brewing Co – Maiden the Shade

As summer winds down, I am really trying to push through all of my summer beers I have remaining in my collection at this moment. I guess there would be nothing wrong with popping the top on a summer ale in January.  Sometimes it’s nice to have the option of drinking something a lot lighter.  However, I don’t want to be left with any misfit beers this year.  Anyway, I received this beer in a recent beer trade with Megan vs Beer.  As I’ve already reviewed one of the beers from the trade that immediately caught my eye, I jumped to this one second because of the style.  Friday I got home from school, looked through my big bottle options that were cold, and I went with the most refreshing looking one.  As this is my 4th different bottle from Ninkasi I’ve reviewed, you’d think this was a really easy brewery for me to get a hand on.  Guess I just have some awesome people helping me.

Ninkasi describes Maiden the Shade as a salute to the playful side of summer.  I am personally not a big fan of the summer.  As a teacher, I love that I get time off from work and can travel a bit more; however, I find it to be a miserably hot experience most of the time.  I love the winter.  None-the-less, I’m glad to see this particular playful side coming out of Ninkasi.  Typically when I brew, I try to make sure I have a variety of hops in my beer to give it character.  Ninkasi decided to really add some depth and character to this beer with 7 different variety of hops.  They have included  Summit, Centennial, Simcoe, Columbus, Crystal, Palisade, and Amarillo.  It seems like it would be a crazy double IPA or hop bomb with that many different competing hops.  Instead, they used a light hand to create a well balanced hop forward summer IPA. Since I’ve really never had anything other than hoppy beers from Ninkasi, I’m not terribly surprised by the hop forward take on this summer beer.

This one poured out a very light golden coppery color.  There was certainly a very nice fluffy white head that built on top of the beer that lasted and lingered for quite the extended period of time.  There was some really great lacing that developed on the sides of the beer with a ton of sticky residue.  There was some very clear clarity working here, and you can see a very ample amount of carbonation in the glass as well.

The most significant aroma you get is a ton of really fresh hop scents.  The hops have a slight pine smell with a lot of the floral scents as well.  The tropical fruit aromas are quite big here.  You get light pineapple, citrus, and other more topical aromas.  The maltiness takes a back seat for big hops; however, you do have some slight sweetness.  Overall it smells quite fresh and crisp.

While the sweetness of the malts doesn’t really come across on the aroma, you certainly get it at the onset of the flavor profile.  The sweetness is quickly overrun by some great pineapple, citrus, and topical fruit flavors.  This helps to bring a nice summer freshness to the beer, and it also helps to transition into the plentiful hop flavors.  The hops have an overall big fresh taste to them.  They start a little piney and are actually a little jarring.  The pine might be a little strong for a “summer brew”.  Regardless, I’m quite a big fan of the flavor.  The hops move from that jarring pine to a much more subtle floral flavor.  The hops mellow toward the end of the beer as the citrus kicks back up for a floral citrusy hop finish.

The mouthfeel starts somewhat syrupy; however, the carbonation builds as the hops gain momentum.  The carbonation and the hops reach the pinnacle at the same time.  It finishes with a lot of hops to help it feel fresh from nearly start to finish.  While there is a section right in the middle of the tasting that seems a little too piney for the style, I’m quite a big hop head, so I’m certainly pleased.

I have a feeling I say this almost all the time, but I’m sure this one will be hard to find if you’re on the east coast.  If you happen to know where some is, rescue it from potentially being left behind some big malty pumpkin beers.  I have a feeling this one could make a great beer for a warm labor day!

Teacher Grade: A


Terrapin Brewing Co – Samurai Krunkles

I want to start off by saying I have never purchased a beer because I thought I wouldn’t like it.  I will admit that I’ve had my doubts when purchasing some beers; however, I have always gone into consuming a brew with a positive mindset.  There are certain breweries I have come to realize I like less than others, but I’m still more than willing to give their beers a try when I see them become available.  Terrapin is quickly becoming a hit or miss brewery for me.  I originally didn’t realize this was the case, but as I look back at the beers I’ve reviewed of theirs for this site, I haven’t particularly enjoyed any of them.  The first beer I had was a beer using chili peppers.  I thought the base was great, but the chilies ended up giving me a stomach ache.  The other was a beer I thought may have gone bad.  I can tell you I’ve tried a few other beers that I haven’t reviewed, and I’ve liked them quite a bit.  So I’m thinking I need to review one of theirs that I’m more happy with so I don’t seem like such a downer.

This beer really stuck out to me because of the extra additives to it.  Terrapin has billed this as their Asian IPA.  While featuring five different varieties of hops in the brewing process, it also uses ginger, green tea, and jasmine rice.  I didn’t realize the rice was in there till I checked out their site.  Anyway, I thought this could be really interesting.  I added ginger to my own saison with some pretty good results.  I also had Stone’s green tea IPA last year and thought it was pretty good.  So I really thought I had picked up a Terrapin special release that was pretty good.

I know Terrapin has released more than a few brews with that title Krunkles in it.  Unsure of what this word is meant to mean, I headed to the Terrapin site to find out more.  Krunkles, evidently, is a legend they hold to about a man obsessed with brewing hoppy beers with tons of different types of hops.  He traveled the world looking for hops, and they have modeled these hoppy special releases to honor his memory. Ironically, I looked Krunkles up online for a definition.  The only definition I found was from an Urban Dictionary that said it meant to hit someone in the testicles.  That may actually work for me on this one as I had a tough time finishing it even with a friend’s assistance.

This one pours a rich darker orange color.  It already has a very syrupy quality in the glass.  There is a very light frothy white head that develops on top of the beer.  Swirling the glass reveals some light lacing and fairly good sticky residue.  There is a lot of haze to the beer as well; however, despite the syrupy nature and haze you can still make out the little amount of carbonation.

The overwhelming aroma is some big orange citrusy smell.  The light spice of the ginger is fairly obvious, and you can definitely pull out the herbal scent of the green tea leaves as well.  While you would think the green tea aroma is a good thing, I actually think the scents are a little off-putting.  A thought started to come to mind while I was analyzing the beer, what if the leaves for the green tea started to compost.  Personally I thought it had a little bit of stinky wet compost smell to it.  The hops are certainly there as well, and it may be some strange reaction between the hops, ginger, and green tea I’m getting, but it has a certain off-putting aroma.

The one review I read about this beer said it tasted buttery.  I can certainly agree with the buttery flavor at the onset of the tasting.  It has a light buttery malty flavor to start off.  The big orange flavors come in and linger throughout the entire tasting.  There is a very slight hit of hops and a little spice as well.  The big ginger works in well with that very slight spice.  It’s following the ginger that it all goes a little strange and funky to me.  The tea comes in for the finish, but it manages to take the flavors in the wrong direction.  It may once again be the odd combination of ginger, hops, and green tea, but it really has a strange compost aftertaste that really lingers.

The mouth is quite thick, syrupy and, buttery at the beginning.  There is a certain freshness in the middle as the carbonation builds.  The hops and ginger help to add to that fresh quality as well.  It’s the ending that goes strange for me.  It’s something about the flavors that don’t complement each other.  I have loved these individual flavors in different brews, but something is amiss in this concoction.

I really wanted to like this beer for a lot of different reasons; however, it just didn’t do it for me.  I would probably steer clear of this bottle if you happen to come across it.  Like I said earlier, I don’t buy beers I think I’ll hate, but I sometimes manage to get those very beers in the end.  I’m hoping to find a special release from Terrapin I can rant and rave about, but this is not that release.

Teacher Grade: F

Boomstick “Porter”

A while ago, I blogged looking for advice on a new idea for a beer I wanted to create.  Ultimately, there were two ingredients I was looking to get into a porter that would be the main inspiration of the beer: Honey and Chipotles.  Well that beer has been brewed, fermented, and bottled.  For better or worse, we’ll see in a few weeks if I’ve created something inspirational or something destined for the sink.

The idea for this brew came out pretty organically.  I wanted to delve into a darker beer, and I wanted to use a pound of honey I received from a fellow teacher.  That was then changed into a chipotle porter when my wife suggested the idea for getting some spice in there.  I thought it was a great idea and I hit the blog hopping to get a little more insight into how I might go about creating a beer that utilized both honey and chipotle.  Being a lover of all big beers, I was immediately swayed to take the route of a friend who posted his advice on my Facebook.  He suggested soaking the chipotles and some oak chips in bourbon for a few days.  That would sanitize the peppers, and it would add to the flavor profile of the beer.  Needless to say, I jumped right on it.

The brew for the porter went pretty well; however, I realized at the end of the boil, that I may not have actually gone dark and heavy enough to call this beer a porter.  If you look at the quotation marks above, I’m calling it a “porter” because I have a feeling the actual porter qualities are a little lacking.  I was concerned that with having so many other flavors in there, I would overwhelm the palate if I added in a ton of coffee flavor.  So, I basically eliminated it.  I also didn’t really get enough chocolate in there either.  Although I wanted to wait for the bottle aging and carbonation development, I think I may have focused too much on the additives to the brew and not enough to the base.  You live and you learn.

Anyway, I think I may have made a second error when I decided to soak the oak chips and chipotles in the bourbon for near a week.   I decided to go with one of my favorite bourbons at the moment for the bourbon component: Bulleit.  I poured 14oz of the bourbon

My inspiration for the name

into a clean and sanitized jar.  From there, I added the oak chips and dried chipotles.  As you can see from the picture, it’s a very enticing concoction.  We went on vacation for a few days, and when I returned I took a straw full of the infusion to see how it was going.  The pepper was intense.  Despite this, I strained the solids out and added the liquid to the secondary.  There it sat for two weeks.

This past Friday I decided to bottle.  Once again I took a little sip of the uncarbonated brew hoping the peppers had managed to mellow out a little while blending together with the beer.  Although not quite as hot, the pepper was still quite ferocious.  I bottled it up none-the-less, and we’ll see in a few weeks if I have a winner or a loser.  Ultimately I decided to name this one Boomstick after the famous line from Army of Darkness.  I thought this one seemed like a double barrel shotgun with all the different huge flavors I decided to throw into it.  I have a feeling it may be a cult classic as well.

Although I may not have produced exactly what I set out to do, it was a great learning experience.  I’ve learned a lot in just the 5 different creations I’ve tried to brew since February.  I had a batch of DIPA that never carbonated, a pretty good saison that was overcarbonated, and a beer that may be too spicy.  Ironically, I produced a pretty good beer between each one.  The Yippie-Ki-Yay Hazelnut Brown Ale is a great beer, and I’m really happy with it.  So I guess I need to be a little less adventurous on my next brew.


Yippie-Ki-Yay Brown


Hair of the Dog Brewing Co – Adam

When I reached my one year anniversary I had a few thoughts for what would be a good goal for the up coming year.  I really wanted to increase my readership, I hoped to maybe garner some more attention from people in the beer industry, and I wanted to try to make some beer trades to increase the range of beer I had to review from.  Thanks to MeganvsBeer, I’ve finally managed to successfully complete my first cross-country beer exchange.  Having never done this before, I wasn’t really sure how much to get together to send out; therefore, I tried to gather up a really good sampling of some standard and rare offerings from the Washington DC area.  All together I boxed up 6 big bottles and three 12 oz bottles for her to sample.  I then eagerly awaited my supply from her.  I received the package and immediately tore into it.  One of the hardest beer decisions I’ve had to make in a while was figuring out what to review first.  Ultimately I went with the brewery I’ve been most interested in trying for a little while now.

I’ve never seen anything from Hair of the Dog offered here on the east coast.  I haven’t necessarily hit up the entire east coast, but I do check a lot of places from NYC to Virginia for stuff that I’ve never had before.  That’s a fair sampling.  Anyway, seeing this little 12 oz bottle right on top of the box, I was very interested in getting to taste a brew from an establishment I’ve been hearing about for a while now.  Hair of the Dog specializes in bottle conditioned beers that can be improved with age.  If I were able to find more of their beers, I might be capable of waiting to drink their stuff, but I wasn’t allowing any time for this one to age.

This particular bottle is an old ale.  I’ve reviewed a few different old ales on here before.  I don’t think I’ve found one I’ve fallen in love with yet, but I’m alright with finding a new love.  The side of this bottle describes this brew as having the flavors of chocolate, figs, leather, and smoke.  I have a feeling there are a few people who would be put off by the thought of drinking something that tasted like smoke and leather, but I assure you, it’s actually pretty good.

This brew pours out a rich dark black espresso color.  There is ton of ample tannish brown head that develops on top.  Swirling the glass displays a ton of lacing and a nice amount of sticky residue leftover on the glass as well.  Clearly the beer is a little too dark to get a real feel for the clarity; however, you do see a little bit of the carbonation activity on the top of the beer when you swirl it.

The aroma has a ton of really sweet and malty smells.  The malts have a lot of big fig and dark red fruit scents to them.  There is also a lot of smokey smell here, and you get some very big chocolate as well.  I don’t really get a ton of hops here at all; however, I do get a lot of booze.

While the aromas are quite significant, you really get a lot of big bold flavors on the taste.  The really sweet malts kick off the flavor profile with a ton of huge fig and raisin flavors.  There is actually a yeast flavor that mixes in here.  I feel like it has that strong Belgian yeast flavor to it, but I know it isn’t a Belgian ale at all.  From there, the big bold fig flavor picks back up and there is a huge amount of sweet brown sugar and molasses that kicks in as well.  There really is a lot of smoke on the finish; however, you also get a huge hit of booze on the finish as well.  The booze lingers for a quite a while on the lingering sweet fig aftertaste.

The mouthfeel starts with a quick little syrupy sweet introduction.  There is a nice building of the carbonation throughout the better portion of the beer; however, the carbonation begins to disappear at the end as the big booze punch comes in.  There are a lot of big flavors in here that make this a delicious brew.

I wish I could find a few more bottles of Hair of the Dog around here.  I would really like to see what this one would do with a little bit of age.  Plus they make it with a barrel aged variance as well.  I’m pretty certain it’s delicious.  If you happen to find something from Hair of the Dog around you, then you certainly need to pick it up.  You’ll really be rewarding yourself.  Now I’ve got a few more bottles of beer from Oregon to work through.

Teacher Grade: A+

The Land of Misfit Beers

As the time for summer beers comes to a close, I can’t help but recognize what I’m sure happens to every avid beer consumer: leftovers.  This year, even more than last, I have seen quite a few people talking about how the Okoberfests and Pumpkin beers are hitting the shelves far too early.  Have no fear, I’m not here to dispute that at all, but I find myself running into a different problem.  I buy them even if I think it’s too early for them.  If you’re like me, you can’t help but purchase newer things that come out.  Just this past week I got a message that my beer store got in Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin and Hoppin’ Frog Double Pumpkin.  This is on top of the Avery Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest I bought and Schlafly Pumpkin I passed up on last week.  Somehow the start of August became the start of Fall.  

While I’m happy to take in all the fall offerings I can get my hands on, I can’t help but think about the summer beers I have laying around that I may now neglect.  My beer shelves and fridge become the land of misfit beers.  Having an unquenchable thirst for new and exciting beers, I find that beers that have already sat around for a few weeks wind up at the back of the shelf and forgotten about.  It’s not that I don’t love them, it’s just that they are forgotten and lose the prime spot on the shelf.  This happens the most with my 4 or 6 packs I purchase.  How do I keep my shelf from becoming a display of what’s hot and what’s not? I submit to you examples from last winter of how beers can suffer from the introduction of a new season of beers too early.

I imagine there is one beer from my three example of leftovers that may have a few people up in arms.  Troegs’ Mad Elf is a beer I know many seek out when the winter season arrives.  I have even heard of people who stock pile it.  How then is it that this bottle has been in my possession for nearly a year?  I know some of you will claim you have one in your cellar, but I have intended to do no such thing.  It has simply sat on the shelf for nearly a year waiting for the return of the holiday season.  This next one isn’t really my fault.  Pyramid Brewing Co’s Winter Warmer was given to me by my brother this past spring.  I was happy to receive it, but he was still capable of purchasing it in the spring. I put it aside thinking I might consume it in the near future.  It has however collected dust over the past few months eagerly anticipating the day it would serve its purpose.  The final beer I have is also not my fault. My wife decided to reward me with beer for assisting her in setting up her classroom for this school year.  Arriving at the store, I saw a bin that said sale beers.  Intrigued I looked in and found a bottle of Uinta Brewing Co’s Yard Sale winter lager for $1.  It wasn’t the only beer in the bin, but it was certainly the saddest looking bottle out of the entire collection.  It reminded me of the runt of the litter.  Somebody had to give that beer a home.  I quickly grabbed it and brought it home to introduce to its fellow beer brothers and sisters.  Having only purchased it in July, I don’t feel terribly awful at not having consumed it yet, but I may kick off the winter season with it as a way of pledging to not allow any winter beers to sit through all the seasons again.

I can already see my next batch of misfit beers developing with the arrival of these premature beers.  Why would I continue to drink the summer ales, saisons, and lighter belgian beers I’ve accumulated over the summer when there are newer beers arriving.  I’ve consumed those lighter ales all summer, and I know the flavor profile I expect to get out of them.  Perhaps it’s time to delve into the maltier beers the fall brings on.  While these thoughts run through my mind, I know I can’t allow more beers to be relegated to the back of my shelf till the next summer season.

Therefore, let’s do our best to leave no beer behind this summer.  Before the first leaves falls, before you pick your first pumpkin, or before you warm up some apple cider on a cool autumn evening, make sure you’ve polished off your summer collection.  Only you can prevent the ever increasing quantity of misfit beers.

Don’t forget about us!

DC Beer Week

This week is beer week here in Washington DC.  Although it certainly isn’t surprising to have a week dedicated to beer in a
major city, I would like to think that DC has been improving by leaps and bounds when it comes to craft beer in the past few years.  It wasn’t long ago that Port City, the first craft brewer outside the city limits, opened up.  Then, not long after that, the first brewery inside the DC limits opened as well: DC Brau.  There are now multiple brewers you can find both inside and outside of the city limits.  Chocolate City has been slowly building steam, Lost Rhino can be found not too far into VA, and both 3 Stars and Bluejacket premiered this week.  With quite a few different pretty good beer bars in the city now, I think it’s safe to say DC is becoming a beer destination.  Maybe we aren’t a Portland, Oregon, but we are doing alright for ourselves over here.

Of course I had to hit up an event or two for DC Beer Week.  How could I stay home when this is the very topic I love to discuss?  The unfortunate part to all of this is trying to fit these events in with a busy schedule.  I started back to school this week, so I have some responsibilities arising again.  Additionally, I’m at my own restaurant three times a week, so I can’t skip work to try the rare and special brews offered at more beer-centric establishments.  Finally, we are also buying a house, so we had to do some house hunting and paperwork for an offer as well.  It’s quite possibly the worst week for it to be beer week for me.  Thankfully, I did manage to get over to Smith Commons Wednesday night to enjoy a few beers from some breweries that are a little harder to find in our area.

Smith Commons isn’t necessarily my number one choice when it comes to seeking out craft beer in the district.  Don’t get me wrong, they have a great space on H Street.  It’s clean, good-looking, and slightly expensive.  Yeah you picked up on that last note right?  Anyway, like in years past, they broke up their week into areas of the country for their tastings.  Wednesday night they tapped some beers from the West Coast.  There are many different breweries from the West Coast I would have loved to see there, but the three-tiered distribution problem must prevent them from getting Russian River stuff.  While a little disappointed that a few breweries weren’t represented, I was quite pleased to see a few that are just slightly more infrequent.  The breweries they were featuring on this particular night were Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Stone Brewing Co., Epic Brewing Company, Black Diamond Brewing Company, Anchor Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Maui Brewing Co., Anderson Valley Brewing Company, and The Bruery. It’s quite a lot of different options, and I actually enjoy all of these.  Getting over there around 8 pm, I quickly got to the bar to examine the options I had from each of these breweries.

This was the first of a few little let downs.  During beer week, I’m hopeful to find beers I can’t normally find.  This however seemed to be an opportunity for many of those who have yet to delve into the craft beer scene to try some of the most prominent products from these companies.   For instance, I would have liked to see Stone 16 year Anniversary IPA on tap.  Instead my choices were Arrogant Bastard ale and Ruination.  They are both great beers, but I’ve had them many times before.  This was pretty much the case for most of these, and although I can blame some of it on having a little more experience than your typical DC resident, I went there really excited that there would be something there I hadn’t had before.  The other disappointment was that there wasn’t actually anything from The Bruery there.  I have had one or two things from them, but they are a company I simply haven’t fully explored as of yet.

I managed to pull together two beers to taste.  The first beer I tackled was Black Diamond’s Brandy Barrel Grand Cru.  I’ve had one beer out of Black Diamond before, Peak XV, and I remember not being overly impressed with the offering.  However, after viewing the fairly disappointing list, this one stood out as sounding somewhat unique.  I wouldn’t say it was perfect for a warm summer night, but it was certainly a good beer.  I’ve had many different beers that have been aged in many different devices, but I don’t think I’ve ever had this particular combo before.  It was certainly a Belgian beer, but the brandy barrels added a lot of taste and booze.  My wife complained she could smell it across the table.  The second, and last, beer I went with was Maui Brewing Co’s Coconut Porter.  This is a beer that I can certainly get in the area, but I’ve delayed quite a bit in picking it up, so I was happy to get a chance to give it a try.  I really enjoyed the use of coconut in this brew.  I’m a very big coconut fan, but it was once again a little heavy for a night on the pack porch in August.

There were a few other bottles I would have picked up, but I was ready to head home at this point.  I thought about grabbing one of the ones I’d had before ( Lagunitas – Lil Sumpin Wild, Sierra Nevada – Bigfoot, Sierra Nevada – Hoptimum, or Firestone-Walker -15th Anniversary), but I was done for the night.  It was a great line up of beers, but I was a little upset I couldn’t find more I had never had before.  At $5 a draught, it was certainly a good deal, but I may have to head back down tonight for Northeast night or tomorrow for Mid-Atlantic Brewers.  Either way, I would like to get to one more event before I have to wait till next year.

The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

It’s been a little while since I reviewed an album on here.  I’m not saying nothing good has come out, but I feel like I have to put a whole lot more effort into reviewing an album than a beer.  Not sitting in front of a computer or working in a place where I could really listen to an album for review makes it difficult for me to fully listen to and appreciate what I’ve picked up recently.  Then an album comes out that I have been looking forward to for months, and I can’t help but find time to listen to it.  Last week, while sitting on the beach, I listened to a few albums nearly every day.  So here comes the first music review in months.

Gaslight Anthem isn’t exactly a brand new band.  Hailing from my home state of New Jersey, this is their fourth album in a career that spans back to their inception in 2006.  Their initial album, Sink or Swim, helped them get their feet under them and develop a following.  The next two albums helped them build a huge following; however, all three albums were on small record labels.  This album has been released on Mercury Records which you will find is associated with Island Def Jam and the Universal Music Group.  Thus, this is somewhat their big album to “make it”.  I haven’t heard them on the radio yet in this area, but I heard them multiple times on some trips to PA this summer.  Of course, this gets the high school version of me mad that they would “sell out”, but I’m just glad they haven’t gone and broken up.

Gaslight Anthem continue in the great tradition of music the forefathers of NJ set out before them.  Bruce Springsteen sang about the life he grew up in and around.  He sang, and still continues to sing, about the life of the middle class factory worker and other people struggling to get by.  Bon Jovi even did this to some extent in some of their songs.  Listen to “Living on a Prayer”.  Anyway, Gaslight comes across with a similar message and sound to their music.  No they aren’t an 80’s glam rock band, but they have a gritty sound meant for hardworking Americans.  Their lyrics also comes across in much the same way.  They sing about people struggling with many facets of life.

The first song on the album, “45”, also happens to be the first single released for the album. It’s an upbeat song that hooks the listener and really gets you singing along right from the start.  It’s also an excellent middle of the road song to introduce someone new to the style Gaslight has been producing for years.  The melodic nature of the band really comes across on this and many other songs on this album.  Although singer Brian Fallon’s voice doesn’t exude the tone of a typical melodic singer, you can tell how the music is an entire package.  It allows for Fallon’s gritty voice to create great melodies that only compliment the music.

Gaslight tends to produce two different types of songs.  They make songs like “45” that are upbeat and get you moving.  But, they also create some really surprisingly good slow songs.  “Handwritten” is another great upbeat song on the record.  Although Fallon actually starts with a little more of his quieter approach on the singing, the upbeat drumming and guitars keep the song fast paced.  “Handwritten” topically follows the same themes as another song on the album.  It talks about the emotion involved with something being handwritten.  “Too Much Blood” is a much slower song, but you can tie the actual act of writing something emotional to “Handwritten”.  The lyrics, “What can I keep for myself if I tell you my hell? / What would be left to take to my grave? / And what’s left for you, my lover to save? / What’s left for only you to take? / If I put too much blood on the page”, help display the emotion of letting it all go through the written word.  Obviously Fallon understands the power of the written language.  “Too Much Blood” does happen to be one of my favorite songs on the album.  The music is quite a bit slower than some of the other songs, which allows Fallon’s voice to really shine through.  He almost sounds like he is in pain about revealing too much of himself.

There are certainly a few other really good songs on this album as well. “Keepsake” is similar in sound to “Too Much Blood”.  The music tones down to allow Fallon’s voice to really take control.  The chorus picks up musically to match the passion in the vocals. I really like both “Mae” and “National Anthem” as well.   “Mae” features some of my favorite lyrics because they have some of the prototypical lyrics for Gaslight.  He sings about both “Betty Davis eyes” and waiting for kingdom come “with the radio on”.  For those of you who aren’t Gaslight fans, they are lyrics that have shown up in previous songs.  While “Mae” is a slower song on the album, “National Anthem” is the slowest one.  The music is completely stripped down to just a guitar and some stringed instruments.  Fallon’s voice is slightly more melodic with only a little hint of grit.  However, it seems to just tell the story of struggling through life.  It’s something really different for them, but it is a great song.

There is really only one song I don’t like on the album.  Gaslight, however, is only slightly at fault for this.  They decided to cover “Sliver” by Nirvana.  Perhaps this speaks a little more to their influences; however, I personally don’t really like Nirvana at all.  I immediately thought it sounded like a Nirvana cover the second I heard it.  The only reason I don’t like it is because it doesn’t feature the same melodic style I’ve come to enjoy from Gaslight.

If you happen to pick up this CD, you should definitely check out their back catalog.  Although they have cleaned up their style a little, they are still sticking to the style that gained them followers in the first place.  Sure, They’ve joined a bigger record label, and I’ve heard them on the radio, but they aren’t looking to lose their original fans either.

Teacher Grade: A