Beer and Pavement

Best Beers of 2012

Posted in Beer by Zac on December 30, 2012

Like making a year-end list of best records, creating a list of one’s favorite is a silly yet necessary exercise. Silly because who really cares? Necessary because everybody’s doing it. In no particular order, here are beers that were either released this year, discovered by me this year, or finally made sense to me this year. I apologize upfront for the IPA-heavy list. I’m a hop head and have trouble remembering what I thought about most sours, stouts, Saisons, etc.

Trappist Westvleteren 12
I’ve had Westy before, but it was a small sample at the end of an evening of craft beer debauchery. My bother “won” one of those lottos just to get a chance to buy and $85 six pack. He shared as family is wont to do over the holiday. Half a bottle was more than enough for me to fully appreciate what many consider to be the best beer in the world. I don’t know about all of that or even if it’s the best Belgian quad, but it’s very very good.

Goose Island King Henry
This may have been released in 2011, but we never saw it locally. One evening in Lincoln, Nebraska at an excellent pizza joint offered me the opportunity to try this magnificent beast.

Bells Black Note Stout
I should not have had a glass of this beer, but I did. A sample was sneaked to me as I had to leave a Bells dinner. Imagine the molasses-fueled deliciousness of Expedition, mixed with the sweetness of a milk stout, and brewed in bourbon barrels. Even then, you can’t imagine how glorious this beer tasted.

Three Floyds Zombie Dust
I love me some APA’s but this one is on another level. So much Citra. So good.

Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA
Specially released IPA’s from Stone are all over my list. This one featured an amped-up version of what was my epiphany beer, if that was even possible… Of course it was! This was as good a tribute as any brewery has ever brewed.

Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA
I actually preferred this one to the September version. It’s possible this one was fresher, but both were consumed well before their best by dates. The idea of a ridiculously fresh IPA is nothing new, but this release made it a priority. There’s no way one of these will ever sit on shelves too long. I hope they continue to brew Best By IPA’s.

Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek (2008)
Obviously, this beer was not from this year, but I finally opened it and was glad I did. No one does lambics and sours like Cantillon. Probably no other more obvious sentence has ever been uttered regarding beer. Lou Pepe was no exception. I suspect the aging altered the beer, but I doubt I wouldn’t have loved it a couple of years ago.

Boulevard Rye-On-Rye
This one is on the brain as I just picked up the latest release of this great Smokestack Series brew. I always liked this beer but never really got it until this year. I don’t know whether that’s trying so many inferior rye beers or just the ongoing development of my palate, but it’s so rich and so good. Aside from Boulevard’s Saison Brett (another all-time favorite that could make this list every year), this is one of the true Missouri craft beer treasures.

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings
I stumbled upon one of these at a Whole Paycheck the day before Xmas Eve and figured it would make the perfect Xmas dinner drink. And it did. No one outside of these guys and Stillwater consistently make beers that go better with food. I was lucky I paced myself of this one would have put me under the table.

Broadway Brewery Columbus Single Hop IPA
Never in my wildest dreams would I have figured a beer brewed here in Columbia, MO would make a list like this, but this one stacks up. I’m sure the freshness factor comes into play here, but I dragged a growler nine hours to Ohio, another three to Cleveland – all of it in a cooler that was probably not properly chilled and a growler that was not properly filled to the top – and the beer survived. Hell, it did better than survive. It was downright delicious.

Odell The Meddler Oud Bruin
I had nearly given up on Odell’s special releases, but this one was decently priced and I like to try anything new in this style. The beer was beautiful from appearance to aroma to the all-important flavors within. It paired well with whatever I was eating that night. This beer renewed my faith in Odell.

Schlafly Tasmanian IPA (TIPA)
Schlafly has been experimenting with different varieties of hops, mostly through special keg-only releases and cask ale. Still, this one was a nice little surprise. It’s one of those beers that nails the hoppiness hop heads are always after, causing us to want to drink one after the other.

Millstream Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout
This is how pumpkin ale should be done. Screw the pumpkin pie and sour varieties. Put your pumpkin in an imperial stout or Baltic porter! As an imperial stout, it’s not my favorite. However, it made me rethink pumpkin beers just as I was writing them off.

Treble Kicker Beer New Slang Saison
My own Saison is easily one of my favorites. I upped the ante with this year’s version for my partner’s tenure celebration. More lemon zest and rosemary = a punch in the face Saison that is not playing around. Add in some dry-hopped Sorachi Ace hops and you have a lemon bomb/balm that needs to brewed again and soon.

Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
This one was met with many mixed reviews, but I loved the twist this one offered some lemon verbena and rye-induced spice that made for one of the more interesting/surprising beers this year.

Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA
Why isn’t the white/wheat IPA more popular? Because no one wants to take on Deschutes’ hold on hoppy beers. No one hops a beer like Deschutes. No one.

Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale
This was my beer of the summer. Refreshingly hoppy goodness in a can carried me through record-setting heat, including a 30-mile bike ride.

Green Flash Rayon Vert
I’m not sure how long this beer has been around, but it made its first appearances in middle-Missouri earlier this year and I’m sure glad it did. Another twist on the IPA (this time with Belgian love), Rayon Vert became the “heavy” beer of summer.

Stillwater Debutante
What can I say that hasn’t already been said before about Stillwater’s excellence. I could put any of their beers on this list every year. Still, this one made its debut in 2012 and I for one welcome it to the best lineup of Saisons this side of Belgium.

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
The Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale continues to dig out a niche in craft beer and Firestone’s entry is no different than the best of the style.

Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies
Did I mention Deschutes’ mastery of the hop. This fresh-hopped IPA and its fresh-hopped APA cousin (Hop Trip) do what fresh/wet-hopped beers are supposed to: capture the essence of Dionysus’ underwear… or something like that.

Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine
Most of the Mikkeller releases I enjoyed this year were not all that new to me. However, the experience surrounding the Royal Rye Wine made this possibly the most memorable beer of the year. Read more about it here.

What did I forget? What would you add? Disagree or agree with any of these?

The Dead Season

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Records by Zac on January 4, 2012

Tundra

January rolls around. We recover from our holiday hangovers and prepare to cleanse and write resolutions for the year. Typically, the same sort of reset happens with craft beer and indie rock. Both industries take a moment to breath in preparation for the new year, even if it’s our last.

I look at January as the “Dead Season”. There are no or very few major releases from either craft breweries or indie labels. Someone will point out that there are a few noteworthy releases, but this pales in comparison to the plethora of releases in November/December. Nope, this is the time of year little comes out as we collect our…er…collective breaths and prepare for what the year has in store for us.

Two notable releases will be my only respites during this Dead Season.

The first is the Guided By Voices album, Let’s Go Eat the Factory which features the band’s classic (and somewhat geriatric) lineup. And from what I can tell from listening to the stream on NPR, it’s an album that would have fit well among Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Under the Bushes Under the Stars. Now, it’s not as good as those albums, but Let’s Go… is a swell piece of nostalgia reunions alone could never completely fulfill. I look forward to my copy arriving in a few weeks and giving you all a complete review then.

The other release is Bells Hopslam. Hopslam season has been well-documented here by the coalition and probably will receive some attention when this year’s version hits store shelves. I’ve put in an order for my family to obtain a minikeg again. After months of imperial stouts and oak-aged barley wines weighing down my palate, that shining light that is Hopslam will burst into my mouth, most likely featuring loads of grapefruit and honeyed sweetness. Can’t wait!

So, the Dead Season will end joyously with the nectar of the gods rolling down my throat as the dulcet tones of Bob Pollard and his boys rattle my eardrums. The Dead Season will end soon enough.

Top 5 Stout Franchises

Posted in Beer, Top 5, Uncategorized by Zac on December 19, 2011

Breweries brew all kinds of beer, but only a few produce exceptional imperial stouts time and time again. Often, they use one base imperial stout in their aging and barreling programs, but other times they add ingredients to alter the flavor one way or another. These are the five best breweries at producing series of imperial stouts.

(Note – I considered including non-imperial stouts, but the list became too unwieldy and I tend to prefer imperial stouts this time of year. Had I gone with all stouts, Bells would have surely deserved a mention. Their imperial is excellent and their lineup of non-imp stouts is impressive.)

5. Mikkeller – Between the Black Hole series and all those Beer Geek Breakfast/Brunch beers, it’s hard to find a more intriguing set of imperial stouts. Add to that one of the better big beers I’ve had this year in Black, Mikkeller holds the title of best Danish/Gypsy brewer of imperial stouts all by himself.

4. Great Divide – Sometimes, it becomes easy to overlook the great beers that do regularly ship to one’s market. We get Great Divide here in Missouri which is a treat. Their Yeti series of imperial stouts is pretty impressive. They add chocolate, oak, Belgian yeast, etc. for a nice lineup of tasty imp stouts.

3. Three Floyds – I have had one Dark Lord in my lifetime and it was pretty great. If you look at any beer rating site, the top imperial stouts list is littered with variations of this one beer. This fact makes it hard to not rate it in my top-5, but the fact I’ve only personally had one bottle makes it even more difficult to rate it higher than the next two breweries.

2. Goose Island – GI is famous for a couple of things. One is the fact that they were bought out by ABI. The second is that they brew Bourbon County Stout. On it’s own, BCS is an incredible beer. However, GI does several versions that are hard to get, but if you do, it’s totally worth it. On top of that, they sell the base imperial stout used to age in those bourbon barrels known as Big John. Let’s hope the first fact mentioned here doesn’t interfere with the second.

1. Founders – Even beyond all the hype built for the release of Canadian Breakfast Stout in bottles this year, Founders brews a mean lineup of imperial stouts. The breakfast stout is the only beer with coffee (aside from some of the Mikkeller beers) that I will regularly buy. Then, there’s Kentucky Bourbon Stout and their “regular” imperial stout. Plus, there are periodically versions of these beers popping up here and there in kegs all over the Midwest. All of this make Founders the king of the imperial stout, IMO.

Also…

Southern Tier – The Darkwater Series is hard to deny. Check out Chokolat, Creme Brullee, Mocha, and Java for four of the tastiest dessert beers you’ll ever find.

Hoppin’ Frog – I haven’t gotten far into the Frog’s BORIS series, but what I’ve had is pretty good. It would help if they had a wider distribution in Missouri, but I can wait for periodic shipments from Ohio now and again. Rumor has it that a DORIS is coming my way.

Alesmith – Alesmith’s Speedway stout is a pretty grand imperial, but I just haven’t had enough of it or any of its variations to be able to report on it. Plus, although well-hyped in its own right, it just doesn’t hold the cachet of a Three Floyds yet.

My Response to Drinkify

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Pavement, Rock vs. Beer by Zac on November 8, 2011

Carrie Wade thinks she’s really funny, so funny that she posted this atrocity on my Facebook wall. Really? We’re supposed to believe that Pavement pairs well with 1 PBR? What, because they’re like hipster slackers of something? Eff that.

I’m taking it upon myself to pair some bands with beers that make sense. Comment freely or suggest your own pairings. The wrong that has been created on Drinkify must be stopped. I mean, we’re trying to build coalitions up in this joint.

Pavement – Saison
I considered choosing one beer for Pavement but settled on a style instead. With a band like Pavement, it depends on the record. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain  might require the smooth quirkiness of a Boulevard Tank 7, but Wowee Zowee is a Boulevard Saison Brett all the way. The Saison is one of the more versatile styles out there. These beers can be loved or hated, depending on one’s mood, but they are generally appreciated. The range of flavors (earthy to citrusy to sour to bitter) is only equaled by the range of Pavement’s discography. Also of note is that Stephen Malkmus represents the entirety of the Stillwater lineup of artisanal Saisons.

Wilco – Schlafly American Pale Ale
What goes better with dad rock better than a slightly hoppier pale ale from the St. Louis area? Wilco, of course. This easy-drinking lesson in hoppiness is the perfect beer for the dad who wants to still show that he’s cool without drinking anything too bitter or high in alcohol. I mean, he does have to drive home. I also considered Three Floyds’ Alpha King, but figured it only paired with Wilco’s more obtuse work like A Ghost Is Born.

Fiery Furnaces – New Belgium La Folie
They’re both difficult to love sometimes, but if you put forth the effort to find what’s good, it’s totally worth it. Because of this, both have the most loyal of fans who must learn to ignore all the judgmental stares  from their peers for choosing to like something so difficult. I considered several more artsy, more difficult bands (Joan of Arc, Beat Happening) along with other Flanders red ales (Duchesse De Bourgogne, New Garus Wisconsin Belgian Red). The pairing just seems right.

Guided By Voices – Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale
I realize that Bob Pollard drinks Bud, not sissy craft beers, but the classic IPA is perfect for macro-arena rock from the midwest. I was torn on several bands and IPA’s, but I settled on two classics. The best part of the IPA are all the variations it’s birthed along with other possible pairings. Dinosaur Jr ruins your eardrums like a Stone Ruination IPA (which is really  an imperial IPA) ruins your tastebuds. Other Stone varieties also pair well with similar indie outfits such as Cali-Belgique (Yuck) or the 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA (Chavez). Of course, there’s always old standbys like a Modus Hoperandi (Superchunk) or Lagunitas Hop Stoopid (Archers of Loaf)…I could go on and on, but there are other beers and bands to pair.

Where was I?

Sonic Youth – Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout
There is a ton going on in a Sonic Youth record. Layers of rebuilt guitars and alternate tunings upon alternate tunings create a cacophony that’s all their own. And over the years, SY has grown into almost a completely different band. While they sound nothing like themselves 30 years ago, only they could have evolved the way they have. This is much like Canadian Breakfast Stout, the much hyped and oft-cited imperial stout of the moment. At the moment, there’s a lot of noise in that beer. The suspicion is that it will undergo a Sonic Youth-like metamorphosis while in the bottle that sits in my cellar. I’ve had a taste, but I can’t wait to have another.

Sufjan Stevens – He-Brew Genesis 15:15
Speaking of having a lot going on, this musician and beer pack a whole lota flavor in relatively small packages. Sufjan Stevens brings one layered opus after another from his home in Brookly, much like the brewers at Schmaltz/He’Brew. The religious imagery and connotations are undeniable…This is a pairing made in heaven.

Wild Flag – Avery/Russian River Collaboration not Litigation
The members of Wild Flag were never in any danger of suing one another, but they have collaborated to create one the year’s best records. The Avery/Russian River collab is nearly as caustic and full of riot grrrl power as Wild Flag is. Plus, at nearly, 9% ABV, it makes you as woozy as one might feel after a Carrie Brownstein windmill combined with a Mary Timony classic rock non-riff. Confused? You should be.

I think I have more, but it will take some time to sort them out. In the meantime, what are your favorite beer/music pairings? Do you like any of the pairings I suggested above? Do you have a better pairing for the bands and beers I listed here? As usual, leave some comments.

Indonesian Pirates, Hand-Cranked CD Players, and Magical Beer Chillers

Posted in Beer, Challenge, Intersections by Zac on September 9, 2011

Somehow, Carrie the Destroyer was cropped out of her cast picture.

 

After my lame attempt at filling digital space on Wednesday, I figured that I would go with the suggestion that provided the best chance to write the most epic[1] Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement post ever. Then, I read the suggestions and decided to go with Carrie’s second suggestion anyway:

 You are on a cruise ship that gets ambushed by Indonesian pirates. You gave them a watch so they will let you live, but they are going to deposit you on an island with a machete, a hand cranked cd-player and a magic eternally chilly beer cooler that automatically refills when you run out–the only catch is that this magical beer chiller can only replenish the supply of 3 beers. They tell you that you may take only three albums with you. There is a good chance you might be stuck on this island for the rest of eternity. What 3 beers and what 3 albums would you choose to be on the hot, possibly enchanted, uninhabited island with?

I will get to most of the other suggestions eventually, but this is where I’ll begin. That said, expect another top-5 on Monday. Now, on with the exercise…

There are several factors to consider when choosing may three albums. First of all, I’m changing the rules so that it’s not a hand-cranked CD player and is instead a hand-cranked phonograph player. Just because I’m stuck alone on a deserted island doesn’t mean I won’t want to hear the warm crackle of some vinyl. That said, these three records better be so good that I won’t mind hand-cranking for my tunes, severely limiting my dance time.

Another factor to consider is the versatility of the music. My three favorite records might not be good for all occasions. What if I invite over a few head hunters for dinner and want some nice mood music? What if the party gets wild and I need music that we can thrash and dance to while cutting off the heads of our meal? What if we all enter a cannibal-induced  coma requiring us to relax a bit? What if I get lucky[2]? I need a soundtrack that meets many needs.

All that is true, but it has to be music with which I’ll never grow tired. We’re talking potentially an eternity. I have to be prepared. So, I picked mainly music from my favorite time period and favorite non-genre: 90’s indie rock.

  1. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement – I go back and forth whether this is my favorite Pavement album. It does fit the criteria I’ve laid out in that I love this record, it has a song for every situation, and I will never grow tired of it.
  2. Exile in Guyville by Liz Phair – I, like most men my age, love the idea of Liz Phair on Guyville. We like that she’s adventurous and just looking for a sensitive guy[3] and we think we can save her. Luckily, the reality of Liz Phair isn’t so appealing. Still, this is a great record that is fixed into my eternal top five or ten albums.
  3. Perfect from Now On by Built to Spill – I will need mood music that will also feed my anger and blood lust[4]. This record can do both and is really good.

Again, this might not be my top-3 albums of all-time[5], but they fit the criteria best. I’m also not trying to over-think this or – as I like to say – out-think the room. The goal was to pick three albums to take with me on a deserted island. Done. Easy. The beer portion of this post won’t be as easy.

The limitations are an unlimited supply of three different beers[6]. I figure one of those beers could be a beer one could drink all day long, a “sessionable” beer, if you will. There should also be a beer that will get me schnockered with just a few sips. I will need more bang for my buck. And when drinking the same thing all day or getting wasted is not my thing, I will need something I will really enjoy drinking.

Then, there’s the issue of style. I tend to prefer American craft styles over all others. So, that eliminates the imports. It’s a tough sacrifice, but I think that I’ll manage. Styles I like are Saisons, imperial stouts, sours, and IPA/DIPA’s. There are other styles I like, but these are the ones I generally reach for. The challenge will be to find three beers that fulfill my four (or five preferred styles).

I think I know what to do…

  1. Surly Furious – This IPA fulfills many needs. For one, it’s a hefty IPA that makes the DIPA unnecessary. Bitterness and citrus comes in a can, a very useful container on an island.
  2. Bell’s Expedition Stout – This is a case of me filling a need with a favorite. It’s boozy and sweet and ages well if need be. There was a temptation not to include an imperial stout since deserted islands tend to be tropical[7], but I decided to make sure that this flavor profile was covered.
  3. New Glarus Belgian Red – I was so going to go with a Saison or some extreme Russian River sour, but I thought about what this sort of beer can do. I decided that I needed a beer that fulfilled the sour/tart flavor profile while possibly providing an alternative that doesn’t taste so much like beer. Plus, this is a relatively hard-to-get beer[8]. Why not insure that I have an endless supply of a rare beer only sold in Wisconsin?
So, there it is, my altered desert island list of beers and records. What did I miss? What would you have put in place of my selections? Am I not taking head hunters serious enough? As usual, leave comments below.

Notes:
1Can I now tell you how much I despise the over/misuse of the word “epic?” I fucking loath the way this word is used in everyday conversation and especially online. Now, I no longer can use the term “epic” to describe a Built to Spill jam or a magnificently huge DIPA. The word has lost all meaning thanks to the improper overuse of the word. Thanks.
2Is it me or did this post just get kinda creepy?
3To fuck. I just went creepy again.
4For wild boar. Nothing creepy. A man has to eat. This all brings new meaning to “I would hurt a fly.”
5However, I suspect all three are in my top-10, if not top-5.
6Can limitations be unlimited?
7Particularly those frequented by Indonesian pirates and their kidnapped victims.
8Although, one is sitting in my cellar at this very moment. It’s a good thing I know people who head to Wisconsin on a fairly regular basis.

On Beer

Posted in Beer by Zac on April 8, 2011

I never really knew that I could love beer as much as I do today until one night at an Archers of Loaf show, many years ago. My friend Russ was drinking the shit out of some Columbus Pale Ale[1]. I joined him in the libations and was glad I did. The beer was so full of flavor and the bitterness was undeniable…but somehow this beer was très quaffable. How could anything that intensified the taste of beer, even drawing out the bitterness, be as good as this beer was?

Back in those days, the local brew was not that easy to come by[2], but I made it a point to order a Columbus Pale Ale whenever I could. Then there was the (once defunct, now back) Hoster Brewing Company[3], Barley’s, and Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company. All of these breweries made some tasty beers, but I didn’t know what was good and what wasn’t. I knew that they were better than the typical industrial, rice-adjunct lagers served in every bar. However, these beers weren’t as easy to obtain.

So, I drank other beers. There was Pete’s Wicked Ale and Sam Adams. Imports made their way into my belly. I mostly drank Guinness[4] and the occasional Bass. However, I learned to stay away from any German beer in a green bottle. Even back then, Heineken never tasted right[5]. I started frequenting this bar/bagel joint called Bernie’s. It was a hole in the basement, but some great rock shows happened there. Bernie’s was also a place that boasted a huge beer list[6]. On the side they called “the Distillery[7],” one could find a many pewter mugs hanging from the ceiling. Regulars who tried every beer on the list received their own mug with their name engraved. I made it halfway through the list before always settling on Sam Adams Boston Lager or Guinness[8].

Eventually, I ventured out west for a summer, to Seattle. There, I discovered that same intense feeling I got from that first Columbus Pale Ale. The bitterness and citrus of the hops burst into my mouth with each new northwestern beer I tried. There was a lot of Redhook (pre-corporate takeover), some Elysian, and some breweries I can’t remember. Of course, there were still the nights of Corona I’d rather forget, but craft beer was taking a hold of me. I just didn’t quite realize it.

After several years of floundering with imports, “microbrews[9],” and the occasional seasonal release, I sort of reached my summit in beer drinking or so I thought. I was comfortable ordering anything that wasn’t made of rice and sold via ads during the Super Bowl. I wasn’t a connoisseur, but I wasn’t a bro either.

Then, one night, it happened.

I hoofed it up to the corner beer and wine shop at the end of my street while I waited for a sandwich to be delivered. I wanted a beer, maybe two. I didn’t really want to buy a whole six-pack. So, I perused the the stacks and coolers for something interesting. All the sixers that looked good were more than I was used to spending. Then, I walked around the corner and saw a cooler full of these big beer bottles with the most sinister images of gargoyles daring me to pull them from the cooler. One bottle caught my eye in particular. It said “Stone Ruination IPA” around a gargoyle ready to charge. The green and gold paint on the bottle told me that this was no ordinary beer. The narrative scrawled on the back confirmed this assumption. This beer challenged me to drink it and taste anything else for the rest of the night. I took two home right away[10].

Stone Ruination is the beer that “ruined” me. All that citrus and bitterness. This was nothing like the pale ales and IPA’s I had had previously[11]. It certainly wasn’t anything like the imports that once satisfied me. I grew to be obsessed with the beer. As soon as I discovered the pizza place down the street kept Stone on tap, I always made a point to go there for dinner or to see a show no matter who was playing. My bachelor party started at that very pizza joint and was lubricated with a pitcher of Stone IPA[12].

Then, we moved nine hours away to Missouri. I had no idea there would be no Stone, no Columbus Pale, and certainly none of my previous haunts[13] to supply me with the beer I was learning to love. However, I discovered some new beers and learned to appreciate those I had taken for granted back in Ohio.

It started with Boulevard and Schlafly, the “local” Missouri beers. Then, there was Flat Branch, the Columbia brewery[14]. I rediscovered Bell’s and learned to appreciate Two-Hearted Ale[15], a beer that was too much for me pre-Ruination. There was no Stone, but I was making due.

That was probably three years ago. I never really thought things could change, but they did. That was just the beginning for where I am today with my beer geekery. To learn that part of the story, you’ll have to come back Monday.

To be continued…

Notes:
1If you haven’t been reading this blog for long, I’m from Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Pale Ale was the beer we drank at nearly every bar in town. It was a heavier, more bitter pale than one would normally find. However, that flavor-forward character has waned in recent years. This is either due to my evolving palate or a change in the recipe.
2None of the locals bottled and not every bar served the local brews in the beginning. By the time I left central Ohio, nearly every bar in town served Columbus Pale Ale.
3Hoster had a nice restaurant/brew pub in the Brewery District, but it eventually closed. In recent years, another company bought the rights to the name and recipes and Hoster lives on.
4This was my session beer through most of my senior year of college. At the time, this was impressive. However, now that I know Guinness has an ABV just over 4%, it’s not such a big deal and explains why I could drink so much without getting drunk.
5What’s funny is that some people still prefer Heineken, despite the fact that those green bottles are perpetually skunked in this country.
6I believe the list was somewhere in the 70’s or 80’s. It was boosted by a ton of weird imports they rarely had in the case anyway. I grew tired of drinking skunked imports for extra cash and eventually turned to a few favorites.
7It wasn’t actually a distillery, but it did serve a lot of drinks for such a tiny bar.
8I’ve explained my healthy intake of Guinness, but I drank a lot of Sam Adams as well. To me, it was heavier than the Guinness and quite tasty in those days. Then, things blew up for Sam Adams. While I still respect all that they’ve done and do for the craft beer community, the beer just doesn’t taste the same.
9The old term for “craft beer” was “microbrew.” This contrasted with the corporate brewers being called “macrobrewers.” This false dichotomy suggested that what microbrewers did and macrobrewers did was the same aside from the scale. However, it is clear today that craft brewers produce beer that is completely different from anything churned out by their corporate counterparts.
10I think in an earlier blog post, I reported that I purchased one of these bottles along with a sixer of something else. Upon further review (meaning that I thought about it for a moment), I remembered taking two bottles home. I planned to drink one, but I drank them both instead.
11It was a long time before I discerned the difference between pale ales and India pale ales, but it’s rather clear today. Honestly, aside from a few American pale ales, I don’t really care for the basic pale. Give me an IPA every time.
12Yes, it was not Ruination, rather Ruination’s little brother. Still, that IPA on tap is potent hopbomb.
13Some of these “haunts” include two beer shops that I had no idea were as stocked as they were. I recently revisited two beer stores within a five minute of my old house and found pretty much every beer on my theoretical wish list. Sadly, I don’t make enough money to fill that list, so I made due with what I could gather.
14At the time, there was another brewery that didn’t last long. The owner also happened to be a bee keeper. So, there was honey in every beer and not in a good way.
15This beer used to just seem so heavy and filling to me. Now, it’s a go-to beer.

Top Five Beers and Records to Always Have on Hand

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Records by Zac on January 24, 2011

The Hopry is starting a new series where they list top-5 beers that fill a particular need. The first post in the series focused on the top-5 beers you should always keep in the fridge. You can see their list and eyeball mine below. After that, I’m also including a list of top-records to always have around.

Keep in mind that these might not be the five best beers/records. The idea is to have every need covered with just the five selections. While I recognize my fives don’t have everything for everyone, it’s still my house. This is what I have to offer.

So, check it…

5 Beers for the Fridge

Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale – Saisons are a versatile alternative to the over-hopped/hyped IPA’s and dirty, dirty stouts. They are light with a touch of tartness and spice, perfect for pairing with fish and/or poultry. This is easily one of my favorite saisons. Now that it’s available in 12 oz. bottles[1], it’s easy to keep some on hand for any occasion. I considered sticking The Bruery’s Saison Rue in this slot, but The Bruery is not available in Missouri and they only come in 750 mL bombers.

Ska Modus Hoperandi – One has to have a hopbomb around, right[2]? Modus is quickly replacing spots in fridges around Middle Missouri that were once held down by Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale[3]. The fact that this beer comes in a can makes it perfect for this list. Cans tend to keep IPA’s better than bottles and they’re easily stored. I eventually want a beer fridge and have fantasized filling the “can dispensers” in those things usually reserved for PBR and Coke Zero with some Modus.

Bell’s Expedition Stout – This is maybe my favorite beer. Bigger, blackerer, and full of molasses[4], Expedition is a go-to imperial stout that should be in every fridge and beer closet. Besides sipping on the good stuff, I periodically make ice cream out of this Texas (via Michigan) tea. The best part is that the ice cream recipe leaves me a half bottle to finish as I churn the creamy concoction.

Cantillon Kriek – I considered New Belgium’s La Folie for the token sour stand-by, but that only comes in bombers. Cantillon is the fine wine of the beer world and they sell their beers in smaller bottles for a somewhat affordable treat[5]. This beer fills the sour need as well as showing your guests that fruit does belong in beer from time to time.

Dogfish Head[6] India Brown Ale – This is the only beer not readily available in Missouri, but I try to have it around as much as possible. Besides being a really great beer, IBA is the perfect beer to pair with almost any food, especially those of the greasy, meaty variety. I essentially proclaimed that the most perfect pairing ever was a Booches burger and a DfH IBA and I still stand by that assertion[7]. The combination of hops cutting through grease and sweet malty goodness balancing the richness of the meat is too good not to experience at least once.

As you can see, my beer list is pretty diverse. The records didn’t turn out that way, but my taste in music is much, much narrower than my taste in beers. Just look at the blog’s title[8]. I identify a band but refer to beer in general. That can tell you a lot about this blog. Now, on to the records…

5 Records for the Turntable

Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane of the Sea – This is an absolute classic that will hold down a spot on my overall top-5 every time. No other record is as good a discussion starter as Aeroplane. Aesthetically, it has some folky acoustic guitar, trumpet flourishes, love for our lord and savior Jesus Christ… Really, everyone should own this album[9].

A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory – You need dance music? Wanna kick it old school? Your only black friend is over for dinner[10]? Drop the needle on this hip-hop classic and let the groove take over. Not only does your cred go up a notch for actually owning  hip-hop record, but you own one of the most revered and highly decorated albums of all time.

Pavement Quarantine the Past – Put this one on for your kids and explain that this is what the nineties sounded like. Normally, I’d put a specific Pavement album (or possibly their entire catalog) on this list, but Quarantine the Past is a near-perfect compilation that spans the group’s run quite nicely. Now, you can expose your friends to Pavement without making them sit through every 7″ and reissue extra[11].

Slint Spiderland – At this point, my musical biases have gone over the top. Nearly all the nineties essentials are now covered with Spiderland joining the party. However, this album is diverse enough to handle both a dark mood and the end-of-the-evening comedown. That and like Aeroplane, this record offers plenty about which to talk. “Did you know that Will Oldham took the picture on the cover?” “Did you know that PJ Harvey answered the band’s call for a female singer in the liner notes?” “Did you know that there’s a children’s book created for the final track?” This record is a discussion-starter for sure.

Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion – Want to lighten the mood while simultaneously raising the discourse in the room? Put on Merriweather Post Pavilion, one of the most cerebral dance records of the last decadea[12]. Plus, you can stare at the “moving” record sleeve all night long.

What are your five to always have on hand? Are my musical tastes too narrow? Leave a comment or three.

Notes:
1Interestingly, for those who are not familiar, Tank 7 is part of the Smokestack Series, celebrating Boulevard’s famous smokestacks bearing their name. The original series came exclusively in tall, like smokestack-tall 750 mL bottles. So, the move to 12oz. bottles was awkward, but Boulevard pulled it off beautifully as they chose a taller, sleeker 12 oz. bottle.
2This is rhetorical. Of course one must always have a hopbomb in the fridge/cellar. I have been known to go buy an IPA or DIPA even though I have a cellar full of perfectly good beers simply for the purpose of insuring that I have at least one hoppy beer around. And those are the beers I consume the quickest, so it makes sense to always have some around. Don’t question the logic. Go out and buy an IPA right now.
3Two-Hearted is still a perfectly acceptable option here, but Modus is newish around these parts and it comes in cans.
4I like bourbon, oak/vanilla, and chocolate in my imperial stouts, but molasses brings it. This preference is possibly due to my dad’s practice of pouring brown sugar all over his Cheerios. Yes. You read that correctly. The best part was when you came to the end and had nothing left but creamy brown sugar.
5The 750 mL bombers run in the $30 range. So, ten bucks for 12 oz. of really, really good beer is sometimes justified.
6Dogfish Head has been taking it on the chin as of late. It’s most likely a backlash from the Brew Masters debacle/nondebacle. Let’s get this straight. Dogfish Head makes some of the best, if not most interesting beers in craft beer. Additionally, founder Sam Calagione has maybe done more for the growth in craft beer aside from anyone named Michael Jackson or Jim Koch.
7Seriously, I challenge you to find another better pairing. Do it. Until you’ve had this pairing, you won’t ever understand the food and beer pairing. This is the standard. See if you can exceed it.
8It does seem to me that I judge music based on degrees of Pavement. I’m OK with that.
9In fact, I know several people who own it but don’t appreciate it. I suggest for those who don’t get it (and this may very well go for any so-called classic record) that they should read the book in the 33 1/3 series to get the context. If you can’t appreciate Aeroplane after that, there’s nothing I can do for you.
10Oh, I know my demographic: middle-class white folk who can’t seem to rid themselves of white guilt. It’s okay. Embrace your racism. I’ve made peace with mine.
11Doing so would be a perfectly acceptable practice as well.
12I don’t like dance music. So, I’m sure you could name a better dance record. Still, this album would have to be in your top-10 of the last decade.

Hopslammed

Posted in Beer by Zac on January 19, 2011

A really dark iPhone pic of said beer.

A little over a year ago, I wrote my first post for this blog (January 14th, to be exact). It was about waiting for Tuesday, the day Hopslam[1] was unleashed in Middle Missouri. I compared it to the wait for Tuesdays when all the new albums are released[2].

Anyway, Hopslam has arrived once again and I feel I need to address it’s return to our shelves and, more importantly, our bellies.

First, after several delays, the beer we all covet was supposed to arrive in stores yesterday. It didn’t come due to yet another snafu. Meanwhile, my sister who happens to work in a Cincinnati-area Whole Foods said she witnessed 20 cases being delivered to the store last week. Our little college town is only (re)scheduled to get 30. So, jealousy is setting in[3].

In order to interrupt our Hopslam envy, the favorite local watering hole of the local beer nerd circuit[4] tapped a keg Tuesday night for a Bell’s dinner they were hosting and made it public to the average beer enthusiast. Of course, I and every other beer geek within 50 miles was there for this year’s offering, even if we didn’t have tickets for the dinner.

How was it? It was like the year before last. Last year’s was full of grapefruit courtesy of loads of Simcoe hops. This year’s version toned down the cattiness brought a ton of heat. It’s super-balanced and not annoyingly sweet or syrupy. It’s a near-perfect DIPA and doesn’t disappoint.

Sure, the beer is good, but why do we want need it so badly?

Well, it’s actually one of the few highly-sought-after beer releases we get here in Middle Missouri. It’s like going to a show for a band you’re kinda into mainly just because their only stopping in a few cities and towns[5]. A lot of breweries who do special seasonals on par with Hopslam either don’t distribute here[6] or don’t send us their special releases[7]. So, this is a pretty big beer holiday in Columbia, Missouri.

Also, a seasonal that depends on so many hops really varies from year to year. The debates will begin instantly whether this year’s version measures up or not, especially since there are no more bottles of last year’s batch still lying around[8].

Hopslam Day is like Xmas in these parts. We talk about it all year long and chase this white rabbit as long as it holds down shelf space and bar menus. I remember a few years ago three mystery cases showed up about a month after our initial shipment. Last year, one bar discovered a rogue[9] six-pack in the back of the cooler. In both cases, the beer was consumed quickly.

Music doesn’t have this same effect on me anymore, but I’m beginning to wonder if beer is close behind in my waning interest. The last couple of years, I’ve probably purchased a case or so of Hopslam for each release, but this year is looking like a one-and-done kind of year. Sure, the beer is as good as ever, but I have more diverse interests and don’t have the funds nor time for just one.

What I’m getting back to is actually enjoying beer again[10]. I plan to pick up some new releases by Epic and Stillwater to supplement the hole in my cellar left by unpurchased sixers of Hopslam. It’s time to diversify and get back to rediscovering other kinds of beer.

Besides, cutting back on the Hopslam might actually help me to enjoy and appreciate this seasonal even more. Just as I am stepping back a bit from tired practices in music listening, I’ll get back to some discovery and a smorgasbord mentality when it comes to my beer consumption. Still, Hopslam will be relished for the fine beer that it is. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. It will be time to move on to the next great beer.

Notes:
1Huge imperial IPA from Michigan brewing company Bell’s. It’s a yearly release that features tons of hops, particularly those of the Simcoe maybe Amarillo varieties, and lots and lots of booze. Plus, it has the malt backbone to hold up to even the most distinguishing tastes.
2Does anyone do this anymore? I try to pre-order records from Insound so that they arrive on Tuesdays, but they always come anywhere between the Friday prior to the following Wednesday. We need release days like Tuesday to keep the middle of the week interesting.
3I was so close to having her grab one for me, but I knew that we’d get our share eventually. It’s cool. I can wait.
4This is the swanky Sycamore. They feature just a few rotating taps, but every beer is high-end. Then you see their bottle list and know that you’re home. It is rare to find fine dining with such an extensive beer selection and excellent comfort food these days. And when you find it, I give them as much of your money as you can afford.
5However, I’m not really doing that anymore. I’ve made a point in the past to see bands I’m so-so about simply because they’re coming through town or doing an outdoor gig in the fall or spring, but that’s almost not enough these days. (See this post.)
6This list is very long, but instead of naming the breweries who refuse us their delicious beers, I’ll list a few who are on their way this year: Stone, Firestone Walker, Stillwater, and Epic.
7Looking your way Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Avery, etc.
8Generally, it’s a bad idea to hang onto an IPA/DIPA for a long time. What makes them great (citrusy, piny, bitter aroma and flavor) fades over time. However, Hopslam is one of the few DIPA’s that’s boozy enough to be cellared. What comes out are the notes of honey and caramel. I honestly have one more I purposely held onto for a mini-vertical. I won’t do this again, but at least I can say I did it once.
9That’s a “rogue” with a little “r,” not to be confused with Rogue out of Oregon. No one’s going ape-shit for their beers.
10That and homebrewing, bug I think I’ve caught again. I’m thinking up an IPA, Saison, and Wit for the coming spring.

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Tuesdays

Posted in Intersections by Zac on January 14, 2010

Tuesdays used to be a big, big deal for me. I would see somewhere weeks ahead of time that a record was set to release on a particular Tuesday. The date would be marked on my calendar immediately. I’d count down those days, insuring that I had the money in my account to make that purchase (and a few others) on the day of the release.

There was a time in college when I’d even wait in line at midnight to pick up certain albums as they were released to the public. I don’t know why I had to have those albums right then. I just did.

Eventually, I learned that my favorite record store sold the new album’s promo copy days before the official release. It was technically cheating, but I didn’t care. Whatever I could do to get that new release in my hands was fine with me.

Things changed around the time Napster rolled in. Maybe it was because the record industry told us it was stealing as they sued unwitting college kids for ten times their tuition or it was my steadily growing income that kept me from pirating my favorite bands’ music. Whatever it was, I realigned my trips to Used Kids with the Tuesday release schedule.

Right up to maybe eighteen months ago, I was going to the record store religiously every Tuesday. As I grew older and had more responsibilities, I had less time to read the magazines and blogs in order to know what was coming out when. So, it was a surprise every week.

Then, I discovered Insound and the pre-order. Now, as release dates are announced, I put in orders for three or more records at a time, spread out over a couple of months. The UPS lady thinks I’m a DJ I get so many records these days. They’re always shipped several days before the release day and usually arrive by the weekend prior to the designated Tuesday. Even with this little end-around maneuver, I look forward to giving every record it’s due time by it’s release Tuesday.

I developed another hobby which involved release dates. Craft brewers like to do big PR campaigns whenever they bottle something new. Blogs start hinting at bourbon barrels, collaborations between breweries, and copious amounts of hops being dumped into brew kettles for weeks. Then, out of nowhere, much like a Pitchfork leak of an album cover, the label is posted somewhere. I drool much the same way when I heard Built to Spill or Pavement had another record on the way.

The difference between craft beer and music is that breweries have their own version of Tuesdays. Sometimes they’re Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, etc. A beer could be released on a Monday in Denver, but we won’t see it in Missouri for another two or thee weeks. Sometimes, it takes months to get a new release. The practice of waiting on Tuesday for record geeks just doesn’t equate for beer geeks.

That is, until this Tuesday here in Columbia, MO.

As word spread that Bell’s of Kalamazoo, Michigan was planning on releasing their insanely hoppy and hyped double IPA early this year, the collective beer community waited patiently for word of the beer’s arrival. I mean, with a name like “Hopslam,” it’s no wonder why hopheads across the nation long for this annual release every year. We here in Columbia (aka COMO), knew our day was Tuesday.

For me as a record geek, the arrival of one of maybe my three favorite beers in the world made me feel right at home. I wasn’t swinging by the record store, scoping shelves for new arrivals, but I was bugging grocery employees for any information I could garner regarding the sweet, sweet nectar that is Hopslam.

When the day arrived, it was all I could do to wait and try my new purchase. When I still bought CD’s, I’d remove the cellophane and pop the disc directly in the player, take the long route home, and listen away. Beer doesn’t quite work that way. There are “rules” about not opening the beer in a car as well as “suggestions” not to consume while driving. I even had to wait until my work day was over to enjoy this year’s release.

And like a great new album by one of my favorite bands, Hopslam doesn’t disappoint. Last year’s version was an over-the-top hop bomb that punched you in the face with grapefruit and cat piss. Unbalanced for some, I enjoyed the beer immensely for its aggressive style. However, this year’s beer impresses me even more. It’s so well balanced with a more pronounced honey and malt presence, somewhat missing from last year’s fresh version. Either way, the hype and the wait for this beer makes this annual event a lot of fun.

Release dates – whether for beer or records – is a religious experience. My Tuesday is a Christian’s Sunday or Jew’s Saturday. Tuesday is my Sabbath. It’s the birth and rebirth of my savior rolled into one day of the week, every week. Even when the UPS truck arrives on Monday or that new Southern Tier imperial stout drops on Friday, Tuesday is the day I worship. And isn’t that what religion is about? It’s about practices that bring peace and calm to your life.

I don’t pray to a god. I crack open a Hopslam, take in its Simcoe nose and roll the malt and honey over my tongue. I tear off the cellophane from a newly-arrived LP and drop the needle before leaning back. These things bring me peace. These are the times I can reflect upon and feel OK with the world.

Tuesdays do all that for me.

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