Saturday, May 11, 2013

Beer: Williams Brothers Brewing - Historic Ales From Scotland

This set of Scottish ancient ales is produced by Williams Brothers Brewing in Scotland, and showcases some herbed beer variations that aren't made anywhere else.

According to the literature included in this lavishly-packaged 4-bottle set, these were all made according to ancient recipes, and all utilize local Scottish ingredients. Remember that my beer rating scale ranges from 1 (awful) to 5 (awesome). 


Pours a ruddy amber, with a limited head and no lace. Nose is nicely woodsy, with definite spruce and pine needles and oils coming through prominently. Quite unique and appealing! Tastes delicious -- very malty sweet, but the woody pine/spruce infusion adds an entirely different profile to this brew. 

I would gladly buy more of these if they were more widely available!


Pours a clean amber, with a solid head of off-white suds. Little residual lace. Nose is floral and honey-like, with some unusual herbal tones. Not bad. Taste is more of the herbal, with a touch of fruit in the mix somehow. Definitely a malt-based ale, this one brings a floral finish. 

Enjoyable and different from the usual craft ales.


Pours pretty well black, with only slight carbonation. No lace at all. Aroma is roasty -- actually very stout-like with some definite fruit notes. Tastes just as roasty and fruity, with tones of chocolate, raisins, dried berry, and an unusual herbal tone. 

A curious melding of a roasty stout and a fruit ale, this one is well worthy of a try.

GROZET - 3.5

Pours a clean amber, with limited carbonation and virtually no lace. Nose is unusual and fruity, with a hint of sour somehow. Not bad. Taste is fruit (gooseberry?) up front, with a follow-through of cereal grains. The finish ends up with a tinge of hops. But it's slight. Very moderate.

Enjoyable, and certainly not bad, just somehow underwhelming.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beer: Samuel Adams - IPA Hop-ology Mix Pack

Samuel Adams may be the biggest "craft" beer company around, and maybe some beer snobs see them as somehow less than "craft" brewers, but with mix packs like this one, I disagree. If it's good beer, enjoy it. And I was excited to try this "IPA Hop-ology" mix pack. Here's the lowdown. Keep in mind that my scores range from 1 (awful) to 5 (awesome).


Grumpy Monk is a Belgian IPA, so alongside the hops there's Belgian yeasts and candi sugar, yielding a fruity, spiced character as well. Pours a clean amber, with a thick head of off-white bubbles. Thick and beautiful lace. A on presentation! Nose is spices, and Belgian yeast, and fruit. Good and faithful representation. Taste is heavy on the spice, perfectly in line with the Belgian abbey tradition, but with a heavily hopped finish.

Overall, a well-done and enjoyable collision of styles. I'll enjoy this one again.


This "Baltic IPA" utilizes dark malts alongside the hops. The impression I get is, well, read on...Pours, as expected, a deep dark ruby, with a rich head of off-white suds. Lace is exquisite and beautiful! Nose is malty. I get some fruit tones, and caramel malts. Kinda "meh" here. Taste is rich and malty, with plenty of the toffee/caramel maltiness, as well some fruit notes underneath. Body is light, but flavor is rich and full. I get a tinge of hops at the finish, but calling this one an "IPA" seems a wee bit off to me. 

Overall, not bad, but not one I'd pursue again, either.


Ahh, I've grown very fond of Australian (and New Zealand) hops. This one's a definite winner. Pours a beautiful ruby-amber with a thick foam of tan bubbles. Gorgeous lace, so an A+ on presentation. Nose is hoppy but earthy, too. I get some orange tones. Superlative. Flavor is nicely hopped, but well-balanced by a fair malt profile. A little tart, a little sweet, and a strong earthy character. I'm reminded of dirt, leaves, and the like. And that's not a bad thing at all. 

Very delicious and I'd definitely buy a 6 pack of these if made available more widely!


Third Voyage is simply a heavier-duty double IPA, in the popular West Coast style.

Rich amber, with a huge head of off-white suds. Thick walls of lace. Nice! Nose is crisp citrus hops all the way. Not bad, but not remarkable, either. Taste is strong -- with plenty of acid and bitter notes. I get more citrus and pine tones, but there's also a thick malt backbone, balancing this big beer out somewhat, though it's still heavy on the palate. Alcohol bite is evident at finish, as well. 

Solid IPA here, but not one I'd return to.
Really, though not everything here was to my taste, this mix 12-pack (which also includes 2 bottle each of Latitude 48 IPA and Whitewater IPA) is well worth the $13.99 list price.

Jah Wobble and Keith Levene - "Yin & Yang" CD

A reunion of alumni from classic-era Public Image Limited, "Yin & Yang" is a definite harkening back to those great days of dub-influenced post-punk. The title track features huge Wobbly bass and Levene's dissonant guitars -- all that's missing are vocals by Lydon and it's virtually classic PIL, which is quite nice to hear. Wobble's vocals are adequate, but it's the music here that speaks loudest.

After a rather forgettable rock/dub crossover ("Strut"), the sharp spoken invectives and near-familiar bass of "Jags & Staffs" recalls "Religion" to some degree. "Mississippi" is an effective down-home pop song with a carefree Americana vibe (though Wobble's sub-sonic bass is still present), and "Fluid" touches on a dub/jazz fusion, with big brass alongside Wobble's stalwart bass. The brief dub of "Vampires" features Little Annie, before "Understand" and "Understand Dub" close things out, with spiky vocals from Nathan Maverick (who I'm not familiar with, but whose vocal style sounds eerily similar to Lydon). 

Wobble and Levene form a formidable post-punk duo here, and here's to hoping they can continue on this path if there are to be future endeavors. 

Cherry Red/30Hz Records

dUg Pinnick - "naked" CD

Pinnick is frontman for legendary prog-rock act King's X, and this solo album begins with the confessional "What You Gonna Do?". From there, the anthemic and personal "If You Fuk Up" continues until the heavy rock of "Speeding Love" brings out the metallic heaviness. If not for Pinnick's soulful vocal stylings, there would be some competent metal here. But with Pinnick's strong lyrics and diverse vocal stylings, "naked" moves beyond simply heavy rock and enters a more unique and inventive rock arena. It's a great mix reminiscent of stuff like Living Colour or some of the material on Bill Laswell's Black Arc label of the 90s.

"Courage" features some seriously heavy downtuned guitars, but alongside Pinnick's melodic vocals, it's not only heavy but heartfelt. "The Point" approaches a psychedelic driftiness, while the remaining 4 tracks don't let up the intensity. Having not been too familiar with his past work (shame on me), "naked" proves he is an expert songwriter and top-tier musician. Bravo, Mr. Pinnick!

Paul Ellis - "I Am Here" CD

Taking cues from the analogue electronic space music of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Jean-Michael Jarre, veteran American composer Ellis here crafts a series of three extended soundscapes that honor the ancient Chinook people and a small island Ellis recently discovered that holds a very mystical allure.

Beginning with the 20-minute "She Who Watches", Ellis' constructs complex and shimmery rhythmic electronic spaces -- percolating sequences, deep synth textures, and dabblings in melody that don't point to pop-song structures, but to celestial expanses. "Chinook Wind" follows, and is another 20 minutes of wispy and fleeting synth-strings, bells, and chimings that are simultaneously elegant, mysterious, and amorphous. At about the 12 minute mark, it opens up to lovely strings and flowing water. This, for me, is a crescendo of "I Am Here". Just lovely.

The final track, the 29-minute "I Am On An Island In The Columbia River", evolves from flowing Berlin-style sequencer-driven sounds to space ambience. It's a beautiful journey that Ellis has created with "I Am Here", and I'm glad to have taken a ride.

Mierdaster - "La Furia" CD

Veteran Chilean hardcore metal act Mierdaster here bring their 4th full-length, and it's a solid metallic assault that takes cues from several heavy genres. There are definitely accents of punk rock and hardcore in tracks like "La Envidia" or "Verte Caer", being full of singalong choruses and crisp highs and lows. The guitarwork is clean and layered, whereas vocalist Mauricio Almazan has both a melodic side as well as a gutteral power metal scowl. 

"Infierno" showcases guitarists Martin Capdevila and Claudio Melo with some serious leads and a definite nod to classic metal. "Idiosincrasia" also shows an affinity for the golden era of metal. "Predicador" is a hyped-up hardcore cut, while the remainder of the album mixes it up similarly. Solid work here, not going too far out on a limb, but more than listenable for heavy rock fans.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Beer: Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf and Calumet Queen

Munster, Indiana's Three Floyds is one of America's most coveted and respected craft breweries. Their "Dark Lord Day", in which their Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout is released, makes news headlines around the world, and their Gumballhead wheat ale is among the best anywhere. I recently had a chance to try some bombers of their lesser-known brews, and here are the results. Remember that I score beers on a scale of 1 (awful) to 5 (awesome). Prost!


Pours a cloudy amber, with lots of sediment. Seems to have been on the shelves for too long. No lace, either. Still, the aroma is wonderfully hoppy. I get big citrus and tropical fruit like mango and floral notes. Exquisite! Taste is quite hoppy, as expected, with more tropical fruit and tangy wet citrus. Malts are strong, too, and even if this wasn't too fresh, it's still a formidable beer.


Pours a heavy golden, with no lace. Aroma is grainy, malty. Nothing outstanding.
Flavor is toasty grains. Very malt-forward. There's a hint of citrus towards the finish, as well as some fruit. 

Overall, a solid kolsch, but unremarkable.