Dec 31 2016

The Best Music of 2016 and, of Course, Their Beer Pairings

Here’s a final list for 2016 for you to not care about. These are my top ten favorite music albums of the year and, of course, their beer pairings.

These are simply the albums that I enjoyed the most, and the beers didn’t need to be new to the world, just to me and right for the album.

(Previous “The Best Music of XXXX and, of Course, Their Beer Pairings” posts: 201520132012201120102009.)

 

In no particular order:

Blackstar and Dreg Pirate Roberts (Mixed Fermentation Ale)

david-bowie

David Bowie – Blackstar
Blackstar was an amazing postcard from Bowie as he disappeared at the beginning of the year. It is strange, challenging, and everything that isn’t walking gracefully into the sunset. His voice sounded strong and clear. His notes clean and measured like pallbearer’s steps. He lived dozens of lives within the one he was given. Bowie was as rare and unstable as the elements at the end of the periodic table. The fact that he wasn’t immortal is almost impossible to reconcile.
Favorite tracks: Lazarus, Blackstar

Barlow Brewing – Dreg Pirate Roberts
This is a repeat from 2014 (the first time I’ve done that), but it would be hard for me to have a pairing list without this beer. It won a gold medal in the National Homebrew Competition this year, and I was in Baltimore during the conference to pick up my medal. It was a four year old mixed fermentation sour that was aged in a barrel for 2 years, and that aging with gentle funk and sour notes made it a perfect pairing with Blackstar.

 

A Moon Shaped Pool and Acidulous Hop Trip (Sour IPA)

radiohead
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
A Moon Shaped Pool found the band becoming more orchestral. The buzzing fridge is still there, but swelling strings provided the lift that once came from guitars. Although it appears that I am the only one that finds the new version of True Love Waits, which took 2 decades to come into being, to be drained of life and the desperation that it deserves. You can believe differently, which is fine. It just makes you wrong. The album is very good and very human. The latter isn’t always synonymous in the art of Radiohead.
Favorite track: Burn the Witch, Ful Stop

Devils Backbone Brewing Company – Acidulous Hop Trip
This was a collaboration brew that I did with Jason and his crew at DBB. I was very happy with how this one turned out as it was a commercial brewery collab of mine that finally mirrored the insanity of my homebrewing creations. For further information on that beer, read about it here: Acidulous Hop Trip – Tart IPA with Devils Backbone.

 

Teens of Denial and Very Hazy (N.E.I.P.A.)

car-seat-headrest
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Although this list is in a random order, Teens of Denial was without question my album the year. Will Toldeo is clearly a student of music, and this album is spilling over with hooks and lyrical insights that are perfectly placed and painfully self-aware. Whether acting as simply character in his songs or speaking as himself, Toledo is quite conscious of his situation and surroundings, but still somehow perfectly captures the beginings of adulthood when you can do no right, but you still keeping trying.
Favorite tracks: Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An), Fill in the Blank

Tree House Brewing Company – Very Hazy
The New England IPA style has gotten a ton of beer geek attention during 2016, and there’s a good chance that you either love them or you hate them, and where you live is factor in your opinion, as well. I don’t dig the look of the cloudy junk that some breweries are putting out, and I couldn’t in good conscious serve something like that myself but, if done right, the “style” is delicious. Very Hazy was sent to me by a friend, and it was bright and lightly bitter with absurd amount of grapefruit and tropical fruit flavors. It pairs perfectly with Teens of Denial, which documents the transition through awkwardness that some of us never completely age out of unfortunately.

 

Coloring Book and Funky Gold Mosaic (Dry-hopped Sour Ale)

chance-the-rapper
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
At first, the mix of gospel and rap left me feeling uncomfortable with Chance’s latest mixtape. I couldn’t shift gears between the two, and that confused me for a time. But in revisiting the work of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?, I remembered how gracefully he transitioned between jazz, gospel, classical, and urban arrangements in a way that the world wasn’t quite ready for at the time. I’m not comparing the two, but with patience and a bit of slow rewiring of my brain, Coloring Book became one of the most rewarding albums of the year for me.
Favorite tracks: Blessings, All Night

Prairie Artisan Ales – Funky Gold Mosaic
I bought two bottles of this beer while on vacation, and I was excited to try it as I had had others from the Funky Gold series and they were amazing. The first bottle was awful. It was enteric and it took me an hour to get the baby diaper flavor out of my mouth. On a hunch, I let the second bottle age for almost 6 months, and it was wonderful when I finally cracked it open. Mosaic is an unusual hop in that it can stand alone and have the complexity that brewers can only usually achieve through the mixing of other hops. Funky Gold Mosaic had a beautiful funk character that balanced well against sour notes and the danker compounds of that hop which don’t usually pair well brett and lactic acid. It shouldn’t work, but it does and that is a perfect segue to Chance’s latest mixtape.

 

Blond(e) and Savage (100% Brett Table Beer)

frank-ocean
Frank Ocean – Blond(e)
The lead up to the release of Frank Ocean’s latest album created a hype that was hard to surmount, and the first few listens left me confident that Blond wouldn’t equal Channel Orange. But I gave the album a lot of spins while I was at the track and it finally just clicked. As the sun set each evening, and I was running in circles between day and night, and the subtle ambiguity of Ocean’s songs won me over. Blond lives in the first few moments of waking up when the lines between dreams and life, man and woman, and desire and disgust are blurred. In a world that has become painfully boolean, this was a gift.
Favorite tracks: Self Control, Pink + White

The Veil Brewing Co. – Savage
The Veil has become one of sexy breweries for beer geeks, and I finally got a chance to visit them in Richmond during a homebrew competition. I tried a few of their insanely hoppy Double IPAs and those were fine, but Savage is what knocked me out. Savage is a 2.7% table beer that was fermented only with brettanomyces in wine barrels. This was a beautiful, golden beer with crisp notes of hay and citrus that was a masterful show of brewing skill. The beauty and simplicity of this beer makes it great company for Blond.

 

We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service and Oktoberfest

tribe-called-quest

Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
After the passing of Phife Dawg, I assumed that a new Tribe Called Quest album was impossible, but they delivered something both amazing and true to who they are 18 years later. This is old school rap with the members trading verses like you learned in grade school. While their style is tried and true, the topics are of the moment. They effortlessly transitioned between gentrification and race relations with the smarts they’ve always shown and the wisdom that has depended over time.
Favorite tracks: We the People…., Melatonin

Sierra Nevada/Mahr’s Bräu – Oktoberfest
The collaboration Oktoberfest between Sierra Nevada and Bauhaus Regale made this list last year, and their latest collab with Mahr’s Bräu was equally wonderful. Oktoberfests often work out tasting too…..something. Too caramel. Too hoppy. Too something, which ends up being distracting for me. The malt here was perfectly bready and full of crisp cereal grains. This oktoberfest also brought Record hops  to my attention, and I’m curious to see if this marks a return for this child of Saaz and Northerner Brewer hops. Bringing back traditional methods and ingredients to this beer, it pairs perfectly with the newest, and last, Tribe Called Quest.

 

A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings and Luponic Distortion Series (American IPA)

beach-slang
Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
I have a soft spot for Beach Slang. There’s too much Replacements in James Alex’s songs. Too much adolescent angst and alienation. But those were also the emotions that we all needed this year. We needed to remember that, “We’re not lost, we are dying in style. We’re not fucked, we are fucking alive.” We are, indeed, Mr. Alex.
Favorite tracks: Future Mixtape for the Art Kids, Atom Bomb

Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Luponic Distortion
Firestone Walker is no stranger to my lists, and they’ve earned another entry this year with their Luponic Distortion series. Brynildson and company are taking risks through the mixing of new and unusual hops, and you can either feel they are bold in doing so, or afforded the luxury of doing so by their size and reputation. Some of the Revolutions are better than others, but I applaud their experiments that swing from South African to German-influenced. These raw, but thoughtful, experiments pair well with A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings. And some middle-aged ones, as well.

 

Is the Is Are and Bear Witness (Oud Bruin)

diiv
DIIV – Is the Is Are

I don’t think that all 17 tracks of DIIV’s latest album are necessary, but there’s beauty in the depths that Smith digs into with his sound. For all the talk over the last four years about the new direction for the band, Smith produced something that sounds a lot like DIIV, but isn’t a bad thing. The circular scales and subtle hooks are immersive, and for an album that swirls around the drain of addiction, it sounds gorgeous. This was a year that needed a few hooks delivered by sewing machines rather than sledgehammers.
Favorite tracks: Dopamine, Valentine

Three Notch’d Brewing Company – Bear Witness
I was lucky enough to be a part of two beers that came out of Three Notch’d brewing this year. The first was a delayed variant of the Brettadocious beer we released last year, but it was aged on sour cherries. It was, quite simply, called Cherry Brettadocious, it was a big hit at the Top of Hops Beer Festival in Charlottesville. The beer that made this list was one that I played a much smaller role in and it was called Bear Wtiness. The beer was the idea of Levi’s at Three Notch’d to use the then empty wine barrel that contained some of Brettadocious, and to fill it with a dark, malt-focused wort to sour into a oud bruin (or Flanders brown ale). I merely supplied some thoughts and feedback, as well as the brett and souring bacteria for the beer. It was Levi’s baby and the resulting beer was dark and sour with dark fruit character and hints of caramel and sherry. A perfect paring with the complicated spinning of Is the Is Are.

 

Adore Life and Classic Saison

savages
Savages – Adore Life
Without question, the best live show I saw this year was the Savages at the 9:30 Club in DC. While this album is varied and challenging, their live show was a clinic on sound by a group at the zenith of their powers. Gemma’s guitar work created a wall of sound that never stopped as she kept pushing and noodling betweens songs, as well. It was as if the whole performance was one continuous feast and I walked away with full eyes and ears.
Favorite tracks: Slowing Down the World, The Answer

Blackberry Farm Brewery – Classic Saison
This brewery out of Tennessee surprised me with the simplicity of this saison. Just about every brewery has a saison, and they often have unusual herbs, spices, or weird peppercorns. It was amazingly nice to drink a beer in that style that was just a perfect love letter to the Dupont saison. Not a quirky variant. Not an attempt to be a clone. Just a seamless beer to pair with an amazing live show.

 

My Woman and Golden Swan (Wild Blonde Ale)

angel-olsen
Angel Olsen – My Woman
I wasn’t familiar with Olsen before this album, but her wit and wisdom quickly made me a fan. For all of her playfulness, the songs are focused and straightforward. Many of her tracks are fearlessly sparse, too, as is the art of a someone confident in their craft and voice. The simple romanticism of “Show me the future, Tell me you’ll be there,” still lingers, as does the entirety of My Woman with me.
Favorite tracks: Sister, Shut Up Kiss Me

Pen Druid Brewing – Golden Swan
Pen Druid is a local brewery to me, only an hour’s drive away, but since they’ve got no distribution, it took me some time to finally swing by to try their beers. Pen Druid Brewing focuses on mixed and wild fermentation, barrel fermenting and aging, and spontaneous fermentation. They use a (relatively) small 5bbl system as well as an oak mash tun and open oak barrel fermenters. I tried a half dozen of their beers that day, and all were interesting and well crafted. My favorite was the Golden Swan, which was a delicate blonde ale with herbal notes and a hint of lemon. I look forward to more beers from Pen Druid as their obsessions match my own. This beer pairs wonderfully with the long, slow jam in the middle of the song “Sister.” Cheers.

 

Honorable Music Mentions:

Drive-By Truckers – American Band
Mitski – Puberty 2
Parquet Courts – Human Performance

Honorable Beer Mentions:

Champion Brewing Company – Fruitless
Green Bench Brewing Co. – Petit Provision
Westbrook Brewing Company – Key Lime Pie Gose

 

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Jul 1 2016

The Best Music of 2015 and, of Course, Their Beer Pairings (Belated to the Point of Pointlessness)

I wrote an absurd Music and Beer pairing post every year but, in my hiatus from blogging, I didn’t post a single one during the last two years. The moment has passed and I’m only posting this because I had done most of the work for the 2015 post last December, but I have not added the usual (lack of) polish and hyperlinkage.

So, like someone who publishes unfinished work as a reminder of the process and the celebration of warted early drafts, here is the sketch for 2015:

Here is the final list for 2015 that you don’t care about. I used to turn these yearly pairings into a blog post, but I’ve gotten to busy and unmotivated to maintain my brewing blog and the time it takes to post to that.

I don’t present these as the best albums from the year. (If so, Kendrick Lamar would have made the list. Maybe Courtney Barnett.) Just the albums that I enjoyed the most. And the beers didn’t need to be new to the world, just to me.

In alphabetical order:

Beach Slang - The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us

Beach Slang – The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us
And
Sierra Nevada & Brauhaus Riegele – Oktoberfest

– Maybe Beach Slang sounds a little too much like The Replacements, but how could that be a bad thing? In less than 30 minutes, they deliver an earnest dose of punk rock and roll, and memories of being young, too cool for the world and destructively bored.
Sierra Nevada and Riegele got together and made an amazing Oktoberfest that was bready, light in caramel and just damn easy to drink. It appears that Sierra Nevada will make this a seasonal collaboration with a different German brewery each year, and I’m looking forward to the future brews if this is any indication of the quality.

Bully - Feels Like

Bully – Feels Like
And
Devils Backbone – Hasselhoff

Bully is another throwback album that would have fit into my collection in the 1990s. In a list full of strong, female voices, Alicia Bognanno shows off a Kurt Cobain howl in this raw coming of age album.
– I was very lucky to have two of my beers brewed by local breweries and put on tap in 2015. Hasselhoff was a pro-am beer that I did with Devils Backbone. My original homebrew was a Bohemian pilsner that slid into German pils territory, so it wasn’t surprising when the DB version started as a German pils that slid into Bohemian pilsner territory. Light, dry and refreshing, this beer was as easy to drink and it was to make with Jason Oliver and the amazing Devils Backbone crew.

EL VY - Return to the Moon

EL VY – Return to the Moon
And
Wicked Weed – Montmaretto (Barrel-aged sour with Montmorency Cherries and Almonds)

– I don’t honestly know if EL VY is a coherent album. In a way, I was so hungry for a new The National disc that Matt Berninger’s voice over the sound of children banging on pots and pans would have been welcomed. EL VY is successful in adding musical variety to Matt’s word salad and I’m curious to see if this collaboration continues in the future.
– I tried this version of the Wicked Weed Montmaretto in Denver, and I was impressed with the sourness that played under the cherries and almonds. I expected the almonds to mimic some of the Belgian krieks I’ve enjoyed since those brewers leave some of the pits in the cherries to impart a light nuttiness. But these almonds conveyed a touch of Amaretto that I found interesting and refreshing.

Grimes - Art Angels

Grimes – Art Angels
And
Ballast Point – Grapefruit Sculpin

Grimes was a surprise entry into this list, but it hooked me quickly. Is this a logical evolution of K-pop, or the rare album with top 40 potential but bigger ideas? Maybe both, but Boucher knocked this out of the park.
– Ballast Point was sold for 1 billion, with a “B”, dollars last year. I don’t know if that was a great business deal for purchaser, but their Grapefruit Sculpin is a great tightrope walk between bitterness, hop aroma and pithy fruit.

Hop Along - Painted Shut

Hop Along – Painted Shut
And
Russian River – Ron Mexico

– That. Voice. Frances Quinlan’s transitions between girlish whispers to hoarse screams are everything in this album from Hop Along. Her words sounded rubbed raw and I hung on every line.

– HBC 438 was unusual new hop in that it was offered to homebrewers before commercial brewers. Russian River was allowed to play with this neomexicanus hop in their Ron Mexico beer given out at the National Homebrew Conference in 2015, and it had a smooth tropical fruit quality that stood out amongst the raw hop throat scrapers in southern California.

Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
And
Creature Comforts – Tropicália

– If every female country music singer isn’t taking notes from Kacey Musgraves right now, they are fools. Approachable, personal, playful and relaxed, this album doesn’t work in less skillful hands. Pageant Material is built to be sung on back roads in effortless harmonies with well-worn friends, and we all need more of that.
– I was lucky enough to get some Creature Comforts beer muled up to me by my nephew who goes to UGA. Athena was a nicely kettle-soured Berliner with yogurt notes, but it was the Tropicalia IPA that stood out. Juicy, and crushable, while leaning more towards orange than grapefruit. Seek out these cans if you want to try one of the premier IPAs on the east coast.

Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
And
Firestone Walker – Feral One (Batch 1)

– This return by the Sleater-Kinney ladies made this list before the end of January. Likely their most approachable album, but no less challenging or pointed. This wasn’t the mature masterpiece of 2005’s The Woods, but it was amazing to hear new music from them for the first time in 10 years, but it wasn’t surprising that they hadn’t lost a step.
– I had unreasonable expectations for Firestone Walker’s Feral One and they were easily met. This blend of four barrel-aged beers was big with bright citrus and juicy fruits. The high carbonation helped push forward the  noticeable barrel character. I only wish I had a dozen bottles enjoy and watch evolved. 

Tame Impala – Currents

Tame Impala – Currents
And
Three Notch’d Brewing – Brettadocious

– I love Tame Impala and Kevin Parker’s insane drive for perfection, but their latest almost didn’t make the list. Despite being an inconsistent album, it had some truly great tracks, and I respect Tame Impala’s ability to make psychedelic R&B, whatever that means, work.
Brettadocious was the second beer I had go on tap last year and it was with Three Notch’d Brewing. We brewed it in 2014 and it aged in two Pollack Vineyard wine barrels for a year with a dozen brettanomyces strains before blending them back together. The final beer was dry, funky and full of the complex notes that came from the wine barrels. One barrel was packaged straight up, and the other will hopefully be ready in 2016 after aging on pedio and tart cherry purée.

Thee Oh Sees - Mutilator Defeated at Last

Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated at Last
And
The Rare Barrel – Ensorcelled

– Despite breaking up or changing their line-up, Thee Oh Sees seem to make my list every year and I won’t make excuses for my homerism. They are my favorite, and most consistent, garage band, and they have perfected a formula of strange, fast and spacey rock with fuzzy psychedelics.
Ensorcelled is an inspired blending of a sour, red beer and a black, Brettanomyces beer and aging that blend on raspberries. The raspberries were bright in this beautiful beer and they sat nicely on top of funky leather and dark fruit sweetness. The Rare Barrel is becoming infallible.

Wilco – Star Wars

Wilco – Star Wars
And
Rothaus – Pils Tannenzäpfle

– It was nice to have a Wilco album released that meant something. I had difficulty listening to their previous three albums more than once or twice. I don’t know what happened to Tweedy, whether he was in a good place or sober, or whatever it was that took away his edge, but Star Wars felt alive and interesting. And it was the right amount of sloppy and passionate. I’m happy that his jaw isn’t broken and his bandage isn’t wrapped too tight. The world has less need for a fangless Tweedy.

– The Rothaus pils was a surprise to me and lagers often are. (This is my problem, but I’m working through that as most craft-loving Americans slowly do.) I tried this one at the local Kardinal Hall and could see myself easily sitting down to more than a few pints of this smooth, lager of light malt, grass and cereal.

 

Previous “The Best Music of XXXX and, of Course, Their Beer Pairings” posts:

2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

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Jan 12 2014

The Best Music of 2013 and, of Course, Their Beer Pairings

“Best of” lists are needy, pretentious and stupid.

Here is mine.

(No, I didn’t learn my lesson in 200920102011, or 2012.)

These were my favorite records from 2013. They were the ones I obsessed about throughout the year and could not stop humming and replaying. For each album, there is a beer pairing. These may be new beers, or simply beers that were new to me. But they all tickled my taste buds or pushed new boundaries.

 

In alphabetical order:

arctic-monkeys-am

Arctic Monkeys’ A.M. and Cascade Blueberry Ale

I’ve been following the Arctic Monkeys since their debut and their growing up in front of an audience has been slow and unpredictable. A.M. is another huge step forward for them and a throwback in terms of melodies and harmonies. Brash pub anthems have evolved into confident glam and sugar-coated cynicism. More please.

Cascade’s Blueberry Ale gives you blueberries by the bucket and the perfect amount of carbonation and acidity to balance that sweetness out. I don’t know if I could drink a lot of this beer, but I do know I wanted the 750 ml bottle to myself.  This is a hard score on the east coast, but the musk, fruit and sour of this beer is an orgy of flavor.

 

mikal-cronin

Mikal Cronin’s MCII and Deschutes’ Chasin’ Freshies

Power pop is a weakness for me, and Mikal Cronin delivered that this year. Big hooks and the garage-friendly fuzziness of MCII left a big, nodding smile on my face all year long. It had a very live sound for a one-man album and it felt like the purest memories of your high school crush.

Deschutes’ Chasin’ Freshies featured amarillo hops this year and it was wonderfully light and big in apricot. I’m not always a fan of wet/fresh hop ales, but this one walked the tightrope between sweet vs. bitter and hop presence vs. palate fatigue. Perhaps this was by design, perhaps due to aging and my transfer of it from California to Virginia. I don’t care. It was righteous.  

 

jason-isbell-southeastern

Jason Isbell’s Southeastern and Three Notch’d Brewing’s No Veto Brown

To be honest, Jason Isbell’s Southeastern is probably the best album on this list. Solid from beginning to end. From heartbreak to catharsis. His storytelling is emotional and empathetic, and it sits like a perfectly worn rocking chair. Unfortunately it seems new found sobriety often marks the decline of many an artist, but what we’re hearing here is an artist hitting his stride.

Three Notch’d No Veto English Brown was one of the launch beers that came out of this new brewery in Charlottesville, and Dave knocked this malty one out of the park. The beer delivered balanced notes of cocoa, caramel and an echo of coffee, but none of these aspects overstayed their welcome and they wicked away fast enough to leave you ready for the next sip. 

 

the-national-trouble-will-find-me

The National’s Trouble Will Find Me and Jester King’s La Petit Prince

My objectivity with regards to The National is gone. I can understand how others might not “get” them, but I fall helplessly in love with each new album. I sleep by the phone waiting for their 3 a.m. calls littered with drunken revelations. “God loves everyone, Don’t remind me.”

Jester King’s La Petite Prince weighed in a gentle 2.9% ABV, but this Austin brewery was bottling magic here. This farmhouse beer offered a light, barnyard brett caroming off a trampoline of lemon. In my perfect world, this would flow out of every tap in my house. Hunt this beer down and try not to be freaked out by the unsettling (OK, fucking creepy) label.

 

parquet-courts-light-up-gold

Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold and Barlow Brewing’s Bread Dawn

Parquet Courts offered a shambling sort of calculated sloppiness that didn’t undermine the smarts behind their music. They crisscrossed genres and contradicted themselves with utter abandon. This album was a fixture in my car stereo all year long and the cure for shiny, predictable music. Singing Stoned and Starving with my kids may not have won me Father of the Year again but, if that was the problem, I can do without that superlative.  

Many of my most interesting home-brews would appear to have been based upon a dare. This year I decided to make a Russian Kvass, which is a low alcohol beer made from stale bread, raisins, and lemons. Barlow Brewing’s Bread Dawn was just as bizarre as it should have been and twice as refreshing. It was great fun to brew and it was nice to collaborate with a friend who baked almost all the bread for the beer. Mashing in pounds of swollen, mushy bread was a chore, but it also made me appreciate the simplicity of a normal all-grain brew day. 

 

vampire-weekend

Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City and Night Shift’s Somer Weisse

Vampire Weekend was another band that took a big step forward in 2013. While always fun and catchy, nuance and variety was not something they always did well. This album was shockingly smart and loose, and I’ve no shame in being addicted to “Step” for months on end. Perhaps even still now. This was an album full of maturity, but they had the sense to make it fun, too. 

Night Shift Somer Weisse came out of nowhere and blew me away. My love of the Berliner weisse style is still no surprise, but this brewery’s take on it was amazing. Tart lemon and bread notes dominated, but the perfectly placed ginger flavor was the game changer. Find this one if you can.

 

queens-of-the-stone-age

Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork and Surly’s Pentagram

My album of the year is likely the latest from the Queens of the Stone Age. Josh Homme’s near death experience on the operating table gave the Queens a rebirth with kalopsia. It contained all the swagger of their previous albums, but the drug chants were expertly cut with vulnerability. Homme still wants to “Blow my load over the status quo,” but heartache is a now a shadow following the bow-legged strut.

Surly’s Pentagram was a 100% brett dark beer that had moderate amount of sourness without the sweet tart flavor that I find distracting. Surly did a great job balancing the leathery funk of the yeast with the sharper fruit of this light-bodied sour. I harvested the brett and bugs for this and I am curious to see how it affects a batch of my homebrew.

 

savages

Savages’ Silence Yourself and Crokeed Stave’s Hop Savant

It came to my attention last year that there is a term for the music I gravitate towards: Noise Rock. The Savages gave me my post-punk fix with piercing guitars and calculated intensity. But Beth’s vocals and the band’s power noise weren’t blunt weapons. There’s measure to the intensity and they don’t fall into the stereotypical misandry in their lyrics. I suspect this band will be a reckoning force in the future.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of 100% brett beers, especially brett IPAs. Crooked Stave’s Hop Savant was funky and delivered bright citrus over a dry, light body. I’d love to see this “style” catch on, but it isn’t an easy yeast to introduce into a brewery. I’m OK with these beers being like tattoos, because not everyone can handle them.

 

thee-oh-sees

Thee Oh Sees’ Floating Coffin and Westbrook’s Gose

Floating Coffin is probably the Thee Oh Sees’ most accessible album, but that doesn’t undermine the power of it, or strangeness of the lyrics and fuzzed out psychedelic rock. The latest mutation from this garage band takes a step towards the mainstream, but maintains the sinister leer that makes them addictive. Do yourself a favor and get  a little more weirdness into your life.

Westbrook’s Gose makes no sense at all. Gose is another resurrected beer style that a few smart breweries are beginning to make again. It was a wheat beer accented with the judicious use of coriander and salt, and Westbrook not only nailed the style, but also put these in cans. It’s nice to see some good beer coming out of South Carolina and I hope more goodness is to come.

 

waxahatchee

Waxahatchee’s Cerulean Salt and August Schell Brewing’s Star of the North

Cerulean Salt was a simple, basement affair. Waxahatchee sounded like something I would have loved, without really understanding, in college. Earnest, stripped-down and wrenching songs confessed their way out of Crutchfield, and I look forward to her next disc but I fear this sort of crush might not survive subsequent albums. 

August Schell’s Star of the North was a nice surprise coming out of that Minnesota brewery, and I’m always a sucker for a well done Berliner weisse. (Yes, I am a broken record as well as record player.) I laid down one bottle, but the other I drank with friends, and it was full of lemon zest and fruit skin dryness with a nice, rocky head. The bottling and labeling of this beer as stellar, too. 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Speedy Ortiz

Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana – Noisy, nostalgic and full of swagger.

Chvrches

Chvrches – Bones of What You Believe – Upbeat, shiny and addictive

my-bloody-valentine

My Bloody Valentine – m b v – I cannot wait for their next disc in 2035.

king-krule

King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon – Young, simple, and passionate.

 

Song of the Year: Divine Fits – Ain’t That the Way

I still don’t know what this song is about. And it is very unlike me not to care. It’s not as menacing as it sounds, but the uncertainty is spellbinding as you sing along. “Your mommy’s got all she’s got/Your daddy’s got Epsom salt/To help with the bruises/Your mother’s got places to go/And daddy knows all he knows/About replacing fuses.”

 

 

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Dec 31 2012

The Best Music of 2012 and, of Course, Their Beer Pairings

I’m back to give you the thing you never knew you wanted. Again.

That’s right: The Best Music of 2012 and, of Course, Their Beer Pairings.

I didn’t learn my lesson in 2009, 2010 or 2011, and apparently you didn’t either. So let’s get to this. In no particular order:

 

 

Tame Impala - Lonerism

Tame Impala’s Lonerism and Russian River and Sierra Nevada’s BRUX

Tame Impala’s Lonerism is a tidal wave of swirling psychedelic spin (ear) art. I had hoped that they could surpass their debut, Innerspeaker, and this magical mystery tour delivers. But it is far from the isolation that the title implies. Lonerism feels like revisiting your old vinyl collection and falling in love with a younger you again.

The stand-outs are the lazy-boned merry-go-round of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and the driving Sabbath groove of “Elephant”. Sounding like transmissions from the 60s, Kevin Parker and company shoot past mere imitation and into something familiarly transcendent.

Elephant

Russian River and Sierra Nevada came together in 2012 to produce the BRUX which they called a “domesticated wild ale.” This one started out with a Belgian yeast, and then went through a secondary bottle fermentation with Brettanomyces bruxellensis.  

After the disappointment that was the Lost Abbey/New Belgium Brett Beer, I was delighted to find the BRUX dry, complex and amazing. As young as it is, this beer is a champagne of pepper, tart pear and biscuity spice. I am currently hording bottles of this beer. Yes, I’m a beer horder.

The pairing of Lonerism and BRUX is one that will age gracefully and confidently.

 

Father John Misty - Fear Fun

Father John Misty’s Fear Fun and Barlow Brewing’s You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett

I have to be honest here. I like the Fleet Foxes, but I don’t love them as much as everyone else seems to. They are a little too somber and a little too earnest for my tastes. Josh Tillman’s (the drummer for the Fleet Foxes) latest is so much different from the FFs, it is striking. His rambling freak, folk songs carom between funny, profound and foolish in the same verse.

Fear Fun is filled with fireside, cottonmouth songs that you can’t help but sing along with unconsciously. Clever words and nuanced imagery abound, and in quiet moments of regret you know what he means when he sings, “I would like to abuse my lungs / Smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved”

I laughed out loud when my youngest, who is always subjected to my musical tastes, quoted “I’m Writing a Novel” in conversation by saying, “My reality is realer than yours.” Tillman is not that pompous, but he knows that the trippy stories of those who believe that to be true are glorious distractions.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

I brewed my first 100% brettanomyces beers this year and my first attempt ended up being my best. You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett was a 100% Brett American IPA that I made with the advice of Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave. It was insanely hopped with Falconer’s Flight, Citra, Amarillo and Centennial pellets, and it was a mouthgasm of tropical fruit while it was young.

As it aged, it got funkier unintentionally since I packaged it through my “sour” bottling bucket and it surely grabbed some lacto and pedio bacteria from other batches. Despite not having a home in any BJCP category, it scored well in several contests and even recently earned a gold medal at the CASK Beer Blitz competition as a Category 23 specialty ale.

Absurd, over-the-top and yet remarkably enjoyable and sessionable, You Bretta, You Bretta, You Brett pairs beautifully with a night of non-sensical and gregarious adventures with Father John Misty.    

 

Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Japandroids’ Celebration Rock and Devils Backbone Eight Point IPA

Rock and roll should be simple. The Japandroids’ Celebration Rock is 35 minutes of driving, chant-along songs that don’t need footnotes or a lot of introspection.. The album starts and finishes with literal and metaphorical fireworks and bleeds the kind of positivity that never rings false or exhausts. And I dare you not to follow along with your own “oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh” to “The House That Heaven Built”.

Celebration Rock started to get spins in my car in June of this year, and I don’t see it leaving that rotation anytime soon. “When they love you, and they will / Tell ’em all they’ll love in my shadow / And if they try to slow you down / Tell ’em all to go to hell.”

Damn straight.

The House That Heaven Built  

Living in Central Virginia, I’m lucky enough to have the winner of the GABF Champion Small Brewpub & Brewmaster Award for 2012 in my backyard. Unfortunately, that still means Devils Backbone is 50 minutes away from me, but it is a pretty drive when I make it. Jason Oliver brews solid beers and I needed that this year.

Every U.S. brewery has their massive American IPA, and it seems like I tried them all in 2012. In terms of a nicely balanced IPA that I could drink every day, DBB’s Eight Point IPA was perfect, and it was on every local shelf so I didn’t have to drive down to their brewpub or The Outpost to drink it. I even had the chance to try a 100% Brett version of the Eight Point, too, and…..well, that deserves its own post in the future.

Perfectly balanced and not over-thought, Japandroids’ Celebration Rock and Devils Backbone Eight Point IPA is a pairing of simple goodness.

 

Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE

Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE and Cigar City’s Cucumber Saison

You don’t need me to tell you about Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE. He’s on every list for the best albums of 2012 and he’s been hailed as some sort of  second coming R&B revivalist. But throw those accolades out the window and just spend some time with his tracks.

“Sweet Life” immediately hooked me with Motown sway, but Frank’s falsetto on “Bad Religion” reveal a man in perfect control of his voice and message. He shifts between Stevie Wonder and Prince, but never as mere imitation. He’s always genuine, even when he’s voicing of one of his many unreliable narrators and turning the world of the crackhead or angst-ridden super rich kids into art.

Thinkin Bout You

 

Cigar City’s Cucumber Saison sounds like a polarizing beer. Either you hear about it and immediately seek it out, or you’ll cringe and you’ll dismiss the idea. I feel bad for those who would dismiss this amazing concoction. You get the cucumber aroma right away, and it quickly gets backed up in the flavor, as well.

I’m not completely sure how they did it, but I’m guessing that a lot of cucumber puree and sorachi ace hops came into play. This is a wet saison with hints of lemongrass and pepper, and it is stunningly refreshing. I hope they bring this beauty back next year as a seasonal.

Kick back and enjoy the sweet life with Frank Ocean and a Cucumber Saison.

 

 

Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits

Divine Fits’ A Thing Called Divine Fits and Champion Brewing’s Tart (Berliner Weisse)

I’m an huge Spoon fan and when I heard about a collaboration between Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and the Handsome Furs, I was immediately and comically drunk with high expectations. When A Thing Called Divine Fits landed it seemed almost equal parts Britt and Dan. The same Spartan beats and hooks I expected, but the keyboards drove more than a few songs and filled in the gaps without becoming over-produced.

What was interesting to me is that Daniel seemed to be happy hanging in the background of some of these songs. More relaxed than he’s seemed in a long time, and I wonder how he would evolve in a band of peers. I don’t know if we’ll see more albums out of the Divine Fits, but I hope so. Their raw, potential alchemy is undeniable.

 

Would That Not be Nice?

Charlottesville got a new brewery at the end of 2012, and I’ve very excited to see the quality beers that Hunter and Champion Brewing have produced. Champion has benefited from the recent signing of the Virginia SB 604 bill, which gives brewery license holders permission to sell their beer for on-premise consumption where it is made. For new breweries, be they nano, micro or macro, this is quite a financial boon and an equalizer with the many local wineries.

But lets’ cut to the chase: Champion is making great beers. I could have easily chosen their delicious Pacecar Porter, but they had the balls to make a Berliner Weisse during the first few months of brewing. The fearless choice to do a sour mash on their new system and roll out a tart session ale is worthy of making this list alone.

And, most importantly, the beer is fantastic, too. The Champion Brewing’s Tart is clean, slightly puckering and infinitely drinkable. I expect big things from these guys, and bold moves like this beer assure their success.

Successful “supergroups” and delicious brewery start-ups are unicorns. Pair together the Divine Fits and the Champion Tart and marvel in your own genius for seeing their genius.

Fiona Apple The Idler Wheel... Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel… and The Alchemist’s Heady Topper

Fiona Apple is exhausting. Hell, the full title of her album is The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. If you invited her over to you house, you’d expect the visit to end after a vase was broken, a screaming match leading tearful hugs occurred, and all of your pens were stolen. Her fidgeting drama and her scalded truthfulness can be too much. But your house is so empty when she’s gone.

The Idler Wheel…. is not the slow burn album that the critics would lead you to believe that it is. “Every Single Night” and “Werewolf” are standouts of feverish defiance and melodic fishhooks. Give in to her songs that hold her madness and despair at bay. Apple will tell you herself that there’s “Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key”

 

Every Single Night

Heady Topper from The Alchemist was one of the seemly endless amount of American Imperial IPAs that I tried this year. Some were too bitter and some had attenuation issues but, for the most part, they were all good. And completely uninspiring.

What was different about the Heady Topper? This canned beauty smelled and tasted just like fresh flower hops, without the vegetal flavors that other hop bombs couldn’t seem to avoid. Just tropical fruit, pineapple and pine. And, for an added bonus, pour this beer into a glass and enjoy the hop blizzard snow globe it creates.

If you want musical and alcoholic melodrama done right, crack open an Alchemist Heady Topper and Fiona Apple’s latest. But maybe follow their directions and drink this 120 IBU beast straight from the can.

Diiv - Oshin

Diiv’s Oshin and New Glarus’ Home Town Blonde

Diiv’s Oshin was a surprise on my musical radar this year, and I was lucky enough to catch them live when they opened up for Wild Nothings in town. I’m a sucker for shoe-gazing bands who have a precision sound without losing the melody. These young guys did that in spades and I look forward to seeing how they evolve.

A personal standout from the album is “How Long Have You Known”. There’s nuance in their hypnotic guitar and, at the 1:57 minute mark, they drift off into another plane of inclusionary detachment.

How Long Have You Known?

A good friend brought back a few beers from the lovely state of Wisconsin and the big stand out was New Glarus’ Hometown Blonde. This Bohemian pilsener was pristine with a nice, grainy nose and mildly grassy hops. Even while tailgating before a game and being muddled between other beers varying wildly in strength and style, this beer was a clear winner. Clean, slightly sweet and endlessly drinkable.

Unfortunately, New Glarus doesn’t distribute outside Wisconsin, but Hometown Blonde and Diiv are a match made in pure heaven.

 

 

Grizzly Bear - Shields

Grizzly Bear’s Shields and Crooked Stave’s Wild Wild Brett Persica

 

Grizzly Bear’s Shields is no Veckimast, so let’s just get that out of the way. This album was harder to get my head around, but the lyrics are less like clues and more like poetry. And there was a give and take in that.

In Shields, every song sounds like it comes from the soundtrack of one of my favorite coming-of-age movies. Where all the characters believe so deeply in arbitrary things because…..well, they want to believe deeply in *something*. In anything, really. This one is a grower, but it deserves the multiple spins needed for it to unfold.

Yet Again

The Crooked Stave’s Wild Wild Brett Persica is a golden sour ale on peaches. And, as a homebrewer, I know how hard it is to pull peach flavor out of the fruit and into a beer. This fantastic ale does that along with apricots, bright acidity, and a faint and trailing hint of vanilla oak.

I brought this one to a 4th of July party and it was a jaw dropper for everyone who tried it. Another amazing beer from Chad and Crooked Stave, and I’m looking forward to being a Cellar Reserve member again in 2013.

Stretch out your brain and enjoy some complexity with an evening of Grizzly Bear and Crooked Stave. And quit being such a damn philistine.

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Cat Power’s Sun and Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA 

Dum Dum Girls’ End of Daze EP and Deschutes’ Chainbreaker White IPA

Cloud Nothings’ Attack on Memory and Black Raven Brewing’s Pour Les Oiseaux Viognier Barrel Saison With Brettanomyces

Purity Ring’s Shrines and Green Flash’s Rayon Vert

 

 

Songs of the Year:

Carly Rae Jepsen, Jimmy Fallon & The Roots – “Call Me Maybe”

Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was inescapable this year, and I fell for it, too.

But I didn’t hear Carly Rae’s version until much later after I had heard and fell in love with the performance she did on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. She, Jimmy, and The Roots played the song with classroom instruments (!?!?) and I could. Not. Stop. Watching. The. Video.

It became a problem.

I love The Roots and they find a way to make my music and beer pairings list every year, but this was something else. Pure fun, playful energy and a nasty earworm.

Purity Ring – “Fineshrine” 

This was the creepiest damn song I heard all year, and I could not get it out of my head. In the car, at the beach, and even when I was trying to fall asleep.  This song, and the entire rest of the album, is haunting. These songs were the doll’s eyes that you can still feel watching you in the darkness. They are what to whisper into the executioner’s ear to give him nightmares.

“Get a little closer let it fold / Cut open my sternum and pull / My little ribs around you”.

WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

I don’t know, but I loved it.

 

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