Friday, December 19, 2014

Beer: NOLA Brewing

New Orleans Lager and Ale Brewing Company (NOLA) started up in 2008, surely to help jump-start the craft brew scene in Louisiana (which, in my opinion, was sort of lacking). Since then, they’ve established themselves as premier purveyors of quality brews, and although their distribution footprint is only in a few Southern states, I was able to sample some of their brews thanx to a friend visiting New Orleans. Here’s my rundown:


Appearance: Pours a semi-clear golden amber, with a nice head of off-white bubbles. Lace is negligible.

Aroma: Crisp citrus hops and a touch of caramel malts. Very nice.

Taste: Heavy-handed on the hops — citrus and tropical fruit come through here loud and clear, with a lingering bitterness. I do detect a pleasant malty backbone, but this is first and foremost about the hops. Call this one a session IPA and it would be a big hit. Solid!


Appearance: Semi-cloudy amber, with some slight sediment. Maybe an older can? Big, thick head of bone-white carbonation, and a solid tree-line of lace.

Aroma: Subtle floral and pine hops. Not bad.

Taste: Tangy, bitter, acidic hops. Very spiky and incisive on the palate, with more pine and bitter citrus grapefruit hops dominating the malt backbone.

Not a bad IPA, just not a great one.

BROWN ALE - 3.5/5

Appearance: Pours from the can a muddy, murky brownish amber, with a fair head of fine off-white bubbles. Lace seems spotty and light.

Aroma: Nose is a dirty, earthy mix of malts — a tad sweet with a tinge of citrus underneath. I get some roasty chocolate malts, and some sweetness. 

Taste: Light and almost lacking. I get a slight nuttiness and roasty element on the palate, but the light body is deceiving. There’s enough taste here to remain drinkable and sessionable. This one is faithful to the classic English brown ale style, and pretty decent.

BLONDE ALE - 3.5/5

Appearance: Pours from the can a cloudy golden with substantial head of off-white bubbles. Thin wisp of lace.

Aroma: A little caramel, a little toasty grain, and a hint of citrus hops falling behind. Pretty solid.

Taste: Mild and malty, but balanced nonetheless. A very engaging session ale here, though it certainly won’t impress hop-heads or most beer nerds. I can imagine this being quite refreshing on a hot summer day. Overall, not a complicated brew, but certainly an enjoyable one.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

“A Free Bird” DVD (director Gregg Russell)

Charming indie redneck comedy

Endorsed by Headline News vixen (and amateur country pop singer) Robin Meade, this indie comedy certainly has its perks. Down-and-out slackerly country boy J.T. gets fired from his steakhouse job, sees his car break down, and has a jealous common-law wife on his ass about, well, everything (his slutty side girlfriend notwithstanding). 

Anyway, J.T. meets up with his not-so-upstanding friends to plot a robbery of the same steak house he was once employed by. So after hundreds of steaks end up stolen, and the boys can't find a buyer for the stolen meat, things just go further South. Equal parts comedy and silly drama, “A Free Bird” is a charmingly well scripted and acted film, albeit not as “hilarious” as the packaging proclaims. Still, this was an enjoyable little film that won’t get much notice, but could end up a sort of cult indie hit, given the right exposure. Well-done

Saturday, November 29, 2014

“Arkham Sanitarium: Soul Eater” DVD (director: Julian Grant)

Bad, bad Cthulhu

Like a scripted “Ghost Adventures” or “Ghost Hunters”, this lame flash-lit, hand-cam stinker has virtually nothing to offer toward watchability or interest. The premise? A team of pretty abhorrent paranormal investigators (each less likable than the last) enter the famous Arkham Sanitarium to discover Lovecraftian Cthulhu monsters. Really? If that sounds like a bad idea, you’re right. It is.

First, it must be said that a viewer has to empathize with the protagonists. We’re led to hate them all. They are simply bad people, with no redeeming positive qualities. The hand-cam “genre” (possibly inspired by the classic “Blair Witch Project”) has been beaten to death, and this one only serves to eulogize the style. Effects are poor, script is poor, and I could barely sit through this one. You won’t get the gore, the suspense, or the breasts that a great z-grade horror film requires.

Avoid this one at all costs.

Beer: Redhook - Winter Hook #30

REDHOOK - WINTER HOOK #30 (Woodinville, WA) - 3.75/5 (good)

Redhook Brewery, based near Seattle, Washington, is, needless to say, a mainstay and innovator in the craft beer world. Having been around since 1981, Redhook has created many beers that have undoubtably inspired countless brewmasters to start their own breweries. In short Redhook is an institution in the craft beer world.

This year’s Winter Hook is Redhook’s 30th year producing this cold weather seasonal beer, and every year’s recipe has been different to some degree. In celebration of its “dirty thirty”, Redhook brewmaster Nick Crandall has revisited some of the best recipes of the past 3 decades and combined some of the ingredients. The result? A nicely warming brew that’s well-balanced for the cold months. Here’s the breakdown:

Appearance: Dark caramel-ruby, with a full-size head of light khaki bubbles. Lace is spoke-like, thick but not too frilly.

Aroma: Dark fruit, yeast, some citrus hops, some spice. Nice potpourri.

Taste: Spice and fruit up front of the palate, mild and easy. Finishes with a hoppy tone, bitter with some spice and heat. A complex and enjoyable winter warmer here, perfectly suited to cold weather.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Beer: Jolly Traveler Shandy

JOLLY TRAVELER SHANDY (Burlington, VT) - 3.75 (good)

Based in Vermont, and apparently tangentially affiiated with Magic Hat and Samuel Adams’ Boston Brewing, Traveler Brewing’s Shandy line has found great success with their lighter fruit-based beer and offerings. This is their new seasonal for Winter months, and it’s pretty tasty.

Appearance: Clear amber with nice off-white head of carbonation. Patchy, spotty lacing on the glass.

Aroma: Spices, sour fruit, pomegranate, orange. Not bad, and actually quite inviting.

Taste: Very Winter-spiced indeed! The spices (cinnamon, and maybe nutmeg) play well alongside the fruitiness. A tasty and enjoyable (and light at 4.4% ABV) alternative to the heavier, darker beers of the cold months.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rigor Mortis - “Slaves To The Grave” CD/DVD

Fitting epitaph for fallen thrash warrior

As a final statement after the untimely passing of founder and guitarist extraordinaire Mike Scaccia, this posthumous Rigor Mortis album, their first since 1991, shows a band who might have planned on so much more. The album’s opener, “Poltergeist”, even hints at a more spacious sound. But “Rain Of Ruin” dives into what Rigor Mortis were always known for — lightning speed thrash metal. Scaccia’s guitars are, if anything else, both swifter and cleaner, and vocalist Bruce Corbitt’s voice has gotten gruffer and thicker, if that makes any sense. The band themselves are tighter and more potent than ever before, making “Slaves To The Grave” a fitting return slash epitaph for this underrated Texas act.

Recorded at Ministry’s 13th Planet Studios (the home to many of Scaccia’s works with that band), the album is a clean and killer mix of fiery speed and scalding songwriting. “Flesh For Flies” is a blur, approaching grindcore, even, while “Fragrance Of Corpse” is a fun and bouncy tale of dead bodies, re-animating corpses, and everything gore-fixated that the band was known for. “Curse Of The Draugr” showcases Scaccia’s mighty riffs well, and this album serves as a final tribute to the man who was loved by many, and in some ways was the heart of Rigor Mortis. 

The bonus DVD, attached to the first pressing of this album, is a 20+ minute look into the studio recording of the album, with all four of the band present. It’s mostly in-studio discussion with some playing, and a couple of live cuts thrown on toward the end. Nothing essential, but a great collectors’ piece for fans. 

R.I.P. Mike, and thanks to the rest of the band for realizing this final release in his honor. Thrash on!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rigor Mortis - “Rigor Mortis” CD

Classic thrash

The legendary debut album from Texas’ infamous thrash metal innovators has been at last reissued, with an added bonus track for fans (the punk-tinged “Spivey”). Originally released way back in 1988, Rigor Mortis (whose members would later go on to further notoriety with bands like Gwar and Ministry) dared to fuse ultra-speedy thrash metal with their gore movie fascination. Tracks like “Wizard Of Gore” or “Re-Animator” hold their inspirations proudly on their sleeves, and they obviously had a lot of fun doing it. Kudos for not taking themselves too seriously.

Coming around at roughly the same time as Slayer, Rigor Mortis mined much the same territory, never receiving quite the acclaim as their Bay Area brothers, but producing at least as heavy a din. Production on “Rigor Mortis” is clean, thanks to Skinny Puppy producer Dave Ogilvie’s mix, but the real treat here is the band’s skill at lightning-fast, yet clean instrumentation. Vocalist Bruce Corbitt has a raspy growl, but it never gets to the point of going all “Cookie Monster”, and guitarist Mike Scaccia had some of the speediest guitar riffs I have ever heard. This is old-school thrash metal, pure and unadulterated, and one of the genre’s most beloved templates.

Unequivocally a big influence on many a death metal act, Rigor Mortis’ debut is a recording that may not get it’s full due, but certainly has a place in many a metalhead’s heart.