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.


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”.


I don’t know, but I loved it.



Jan 4 2011

The Best Music of 2010 and, Of Course, Their Beer Pairings

Better late than never, it is time for my annual best CDs of year and their beer pairings list. Lots of hacks write end of year articles about what they deem are the best albums. The problem is a) their lists suck, and b) they don’t bother to tell you which beers should be paired with the discs. But I care about you more than that. Yes, you. I’m a giver.

And, just like my Top CDs of 2009 (and their beer pairings), these are the albums that simply freaking worked for me. They got the most spins, and were worth my time in 2010. Lighten up.

The beers were under the same loose and sloppy rules, too. They might be brand new beers or, through distribution, they might have just been new to me. They might not be the *best* I tried on 2010, but they were great and pair amazingly with the right tunes. It’s my list. I can make up whatever shit I want to.

In no order, my top 7 CDs and top 4 singles of 2010 and their beer pairings:

No Age – Everything in Between and The Bruery – Hottenroth Berliner Weisse

No Age’s Everything in Between got a lot of plays in my iWhatevers this year. This band rumbles through a bunch of genres without getting too loose and messy. Dean Spunt and Randy Randall deftly deliver punk and noise with a gooey center of ambience, despite the inherent oxymoron of doing so. “Fever Dreaming” feels frenetic, but somewhat mainstream, until the screeching guitars spread a thick layer of noise over your ears. Just what you didn’t know you needed. But you did.

The Bruery’s Hottenroth Berliner Weisse is a great beer, but it is also a session beer. Despite much talk from the beer world, I’m still impatiently waiting for session beers to come into fashion in the U.S., but store shelves are still crammed with gigantic, high-alcohol beers. The Bruery certainly makes its share of ABV beasts, but they knocked one out of the park with this 3.1% beer. Lemony, crisp and tartly sour, this beer is infinitely drinkable and refreshing. The Hottenroth blends those pieces together seamlessly like No Age spins together disparate musical elements without ear fatigue.

The National – High Violet and 21st Amendment Brewery – Back in Black

The National’s High Violet got the most obsessive plays of any disc this year. From the start of its lo-fi opening track, High Violet is dark and subdued, and it grows a bit more expansive and disconcerting with each listen. But maybe it isn’t apparent at first.

One of my favorite tracks on the disc is “Lemonworld”, and it illuminates pathetic first-world melancholy: “With cousins and colors and somewhere overseas / But it’ll take a better war to kill a college man like me”. The clear single is “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and it captures that listless spot between youth and adulthood with “I still owe money / To the money / To the money I owe / I never thought about love / When I thought about home”.

Black IPAs (India Black Ales, Cascadian Dark Ales, or whatever-the-hell they are being called this week) blossomed and became a big deal this year. Is it a new style? Is it really a hoppy porter? What should it be called? Why should I freaking care?

I can’t get my hands on many Black IPAs in Virginia, but the one I most enjoyed was the 21st Amendment’s Back in Back. (Although I did enjoy my own Black IPA homebrew, in all humility, and the Brew Ridge Trail Collaboration BIPA). It was smooth, crisp, roasty and in a freaking can. A win on many levels. You don’t need to put on your thinking cap on to figure out why this dark and mysterious style pairs well with High Violet. Put these together and mope about your house in the way that only the overeducated can.

LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening and Terrapin Brewing – Moo Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout

LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening opens with 9 minute track that is a clinic of everything you expect from them. “Dance Yrself Clean” trickles along for a few minutes with the social commentary (“Talking like a jerk / Except you are an actual jerk”) and cleverness you anticipate, then it erupts into full dance mode. James Murphy’s howl at the 5:23 mark is one of my favorite musical moments of the year.

I caught LCD Soundsystem live in 2010, and it was one of my favorite shows of the year. If I had all the money in the world, they could come to my sprawling estate and be the house band that never gets old or stale. And irony would only fuel them. But “Drunk girls know that love is an astronaut / It comes back, but it’s never the same”.

Terrapin’s Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout was a surprise late in the season for me. It sounds like it might be sickly sweet, but this brew is on a gyroscope. The balance between the mouthfeel, and deep, dark chocolate of the cocoa nibs, and the smoky bitterness and full sweetness is astonishing. What is even more amazing is that after having this glass of decadence, you want more. Sit back and put This Is Happening and Moo Hoo on repeat.

Sleigh Bells – Treats and Ballast Point – Sculpin IPA

Sleigh Bell’s Treats came out of nowhere, and I immediately liked them, and I immediately assumed that they had no staying power. Their initial assault of noise was like touching live wires and that couldn’t last, right? Wrong. Even now they still hit me like a sonic wave, and they backed it up when I saw them live late this summer. From the swagger of “Infinity Guitars” to school yard daydream of “Rill Rill”, the songs on this discs just sounded new. Isn’t that the most you can ask of an artist? My only question is how they are going to capture lightening in a bottle again with their next disc?

At least once a year, I feel like I’ve hit the end of the hoppy IPA road. That there is nothing left to be done and all the flavors have been had. Then Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA comes to town, and I’m wowed again. It slams your mouth with tons of hops delivered in handfuls of mango, pine and peaches. But there is a solid backbone of burnt sugar malt in there, as well. Just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun, here comes the Sleigh Bells and Sculpin.

The Roots – How I Got Over and Odell – Deconstruction

Having a steady late-night gig should have made The Roots fat, lazy and complacent. And who could blame them? But they served up a lean disc with equal parts gospel, trip-hop, R&B and indie folk. No matter the guests that appear on tracks, it is all organic and, almost unfashionably, optimistic. They can keep their day, or rather night, jobs if The Roots can deliver this sort of CD every few years on the side.

Odells’ Deconstruction brings together a lot of disparate pieces. I got the opportunity to try this golden ale at the GABF, and I got back in line for it more times than I want to admit. It is a blend of “44% ale, 33% ale aged in oak barrels, 20% ale aged in bourbon barrels, 3% ale aged in wine barrels.” Could be a shitshow, huh? It isn’t. Fruit, citrus, vanilla and some sour get together and bumps uglies in your mouth. And you thank them for it. How I Got Over and Deconstruction fit together like jigsaw, and you don’t need any of those silly straight pieces.

Janelle Monáe – Archandroid and New Glarus – Raspberry Tart

If you’ve seen a “best of list” that’s worth looking at, I’m sure Janelle Monáe’s Archandriod is on it. If R&B ever went away, this futuristic concept album brings it back. Wait, let that sink in: a concept R&B disc. Everything about the Archandriod is sweetly addictive without the tunnel vision that precedes an insulin coma. I could not get “Tightrope” out of my head for days on end while she effortlessly shouted along sounding like the Jackon 5. Janelle is legit (“I tip on alligators and little rattle snakers / But I’m another flavor / Something like a terminator”), and made even more interesting by being on the Bad Boy record label.

New Glarus is an amazing brewery in Wisconsin that does not distribute beyond its state border. So getting their beers in Virginia is a show, but so very worth it. The New Glarus Raspberry Tart is berries, berries and more freaking berries. There’s a slight sourness and prickly fizziness, but it all serves to get all that raspberry goodness into your mouth. This is like drinking a Luden’s cough drop. It is as absurd and joyous as it sounds. Spin Janelle and this New Glarus together and see how close to a stomachache you can get with these cures.


Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz and Flying Dog – Raging Bitch

I thought Sufjan Steven’s Illinois was a masterpiece in no uncertain terms. As frail and honest and heartbreaking as a recording can be. I expected his next disc to be a disappointment, but it was horse of a different color. Ripping and ricocheting electronic beats surf on top of swelling orchestration. This feels like his Kid A, but without the themed or induced alienation. I think The Age of Adz (pron. Odds) will sink into to the collective critic consciousness sometime in the middle of 2011.

When hoppy Belgian beers became more mainstream a few years ago, I wasn’t on that bandwagon. In fact, I found them completely undrinkable. Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch was one of the first crossovers that made sense to me. This American IPA fermented with Belgian yeast and then crushed with a ton of Amarillo hops was remarkable everytime I tried it. The cask version, that I was lucky enough to try a few times, was transcendent.

Honorable Mentions:

The Budos Band – Budos Band III
and Dogfish Head – Bitches Brew

The Black Keys – Brothers and Flossmoor Station – Pullman Brown

Transference – Spoon and Tuppers – Pils

Superchunk – Majesty Shredding and Half Acre Beer Company – Daisy Cutter Pale Ale

Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest and Stone Brewing – 10.10.10 Vertical Epic

Top 4 Singles of 2010

Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You and Shorts – Key Lime Pie or Copper Canyon – Apple Streudel Tripel

Seriously. Cee-Lo pulled off a hit called “Fuck You”. This is desperate, or a joke after a few seconds if it isn’t done well. Cee-Lo delivers because he has soul. He’s not imitating, he’s perpetuating. It reminds us of what are artist can get away with when he was the skills. Maybe even the skillz.

Copper Canyon and Shorts can get away with beers that taste like Key Lime Pie or Apple Streudel because their brewers are insane artists. They might not be the beers you want to drink all night long, but there are mouthgasms to be had in trying.

Gorillaz – Stylo and Surly Brewing – Bender

I’m Damon Albarn apologist from his Blur years through to today. Stylo starts with a club beat that finds Albarn and Mos Def trading vocals in the comforting, but too familiar, way that “Clint Eastwood” or “Dirty Harry” did. Until Bobby Womack shows up. Womack’s voice slices through the formula with a machete. He’s a long way from the 70’s, but his vocals have aged like worn leather. How could the video be anything less than a high-speed chase scene? “Yes, this love is electric.”

Surly Bender comes in a freaking can. I could stop there, but this oatmeal brown ale serves up a small twist on browns. It is malty and creamy with some assertive late hopping. Like Womack’s voice, it is experienced and worn to smoothness. Yeah, you like getting it in the can, don’t you?

Beach House – Norway and Drie Fonteinen – Oude Geuze

When Beach House begins to play, the fog machines turn on. Norway swells and ebbs, but is never displaced by Legrand’s smokey voice. It’s looking back at high school through Nagel paintings with the sharp corners worn away by letting go of regret. It is the way memory differs from the here and now. A comforting despair.

After the thermostat catastrophe at Drie Fonteinen in 2009, many of us assumed they were done brewing. But they have continued, although with a much different model and partners, but the quality is the same. This sour, acidic, yeasty beer lives on. It is drier and milder than other commercial examples of the style, but that is in no way a slight.

Grinderman – Worm Tamer and Brooklyn Brewing – Reinschweinsgebot

Confession: I’ve never gotten into Nick Cave. Friends, whose music taste I respect, love him. The Bad Seeds, to be cute, haven’t haven’t taken purchase in my soil.

But Ginderman is nasty. They’re that hot chick, with dirty fingernails smoking under the bleachers. A prototypical suicide girl making due with racoon-eyes until the needles can canvas her.  “Well my baby calls me the Loch Ness Monster / Two great big humps and then I’m gone”.

I’m not even sure I like Grinderman. But I might love them sometimes.

The Brooklyn Reinschweinsgebot was the inspiration for my homebrewed bacon (dry-porked) beer.  After having this at the Rare Beer Tasting during the GABF, my mind was open to the awesomeness and absurdity of fat-washing. So smoky, woody and reminiscent of BBQ. So decadent and good. Meat is delicious murder.