Friday, January 18, 2013

Beer: Sour Power Sampler Pack (Petrus and Monk's Cafe)

As the popularity of the old-school "sour" and wild farmhouse ale grows, Global Beer Network (United States distributors for Belgian greats like Gulden Draak and Piraat) has released a "Sour Power" mix pack. Retailing for around $24, this set of six 11.2 oz. brews includes 2 bottles each of Petrus Oud Bruin, Petrus Aged Pale Ale, and Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale. Here are my in-depth looks at each of these fine brews.

First up is the Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale from Brewery Van Steenberge, which I've had before and always enjoyed. At 5.50% ABV, this is a light and highly enjoyable experience unlike any other beer I've had before or since. It pours a lovely deep, clean ruby with a substantial head and superlative lace. The aroma is a fruity, musty sour vibe, with hints of tart cherries. Taste proved similar, with a delicious and refreshingly light-bodied feel. Tart berries and cherry dominated, with some sweetness and earthy elements rounding out the palate. Delicious, unique, and a tasty brew!

Next up, we have Petrus Oud Bruin. Produced by Brewery Bavik, this "old brown" ale is made by combining aged pale ale with fresh brown ale. It's a light drinker, at a modest 5.5% ABV. It's also a delicious thirst quencher. This one pours a clean ruby-brown, with a thick head of carbonation and an attractive lace web. Nose is caramel, a bit of fruitiness, and a yeasty earthiness. Pretty appealing and complex. The taste is sweet and malty up front, with tons of fruit and berries. I get some tartness more towards the finish. Subtle, unique, and quite enjoyable.

Finally, we have the heavier Petrus Aged Pale Ale (at 7.3% ABV), which is a golden ale aged in Calvados Barrels from Alsace, France for 24-36 months, then dry hopped. It pours a cloudy golden, with a medium head of fine white bubbles. Thin lace. Nose is tangy and sour, with indications of fruit, green apple, and a lactic, yeasty character. Nice. Taste is nicely soured, with green apple tones most prominent. I get no trace of the oak barrels that this was aged in. Instead, it's a wild and tangy tart fruit vibe with a slight warming finish. A delicious treat!

For serious craft beer fans, this is a very worthy set of unique brews from some of the world's finest Belgian craft breweries, and at around $4 a bottle (you'd pay that much for a junk lager at your local bar), the Sour Pour Sampler Pack is a bargain for the experience and the taste.

For more info and for a list of local stores carrying Global Beer Network merchandise, visit:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Swans - "Feel Good Now" CD

As a document of the band's scathing and nuanced 1987 "Children Of God" tour, this "official bootleg" was originally released in a small edition on double-vinyl and CD. This resequenced reissue omits "Trust Me", but is still quite worthy for devotees of Swans' transcendent sound and vision.

Opening with the gutteral "Intro", the band launches into "Blind Love", which  pummels mantra-like for over 20 minutes. "Like A Drug" is a bowel-churning attack, while "Beautiful Child" is a churning assault with murderous intent. There's no weak spot here, and though some may feel the 75 minutes here are far too much to endure, I  feel to the contrary, especially as the softer moments (highlighted by Jarboe's foreboding "Blood And Honey") serve to pace the otherwise bludgeoning assault of sound.

Make no mistake, "Feel Good Now" is a raw, bootleg-quality recording. It was, after all, recorded on a Sony Professional Walkman by the band's sound engineer. However, as an album and experience, it's still quite worthy for serious fans, as it showcases a particularly volatile and inspiring period for the band, right between their powerful (even threatening) early work and their more melodic middle period. The intensity is not lost on the relatively low fidelity here. 

Visceral and unembellished, "Feel Good Now" is a cathartic experience with few parallels. It's best to close your eyes and absorb. Magnificent! 

Sincera - "Cursed And Proud" CD

A sort of "supergroup", with members of several Norwegian black metal bands collaborating, Sincera's sole release combines 3 studio tracks with 5 live cuts, and this is all of pretty forgettable quality. The raw-sounding "studio" set is fairy typical black metal, with blurry guitars and monotone screeched vocals.  

"Cursed" even goes for an operatic, dramatic direction with a mid-song melodic breakdown, which to these ears is simply silly. The live tracks are of dubious "bootleg" quality and, unfortunately, pretty forgettable. The closing cut, an entrance song for Norwegian wrestler Byron Lawless, titled "Byron Lawless", is another laughable transgression from a band that doesn't really make the cut among their peers.