Beer and Pavement

Benefits of Living in a Small-ish Town

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Life by SM on October 5, 2011

OK. So, Columbia, Missouri is not the smallest of towns. There are ~100,000 people here and a major university. However, we are a two-hour drive to any major city. We’re surrounded by farmland here. Columbia is far from metropolitan.

What this means for the beer/indie nerd is that we are often shorted our desired consumables. There’s no record store. There’s no 40+tap beer bar. Many bands pass over our town in search of larger crowds (or an unwillingness to make three stops in Missouri). And many special release beers never make it to our store shelves. One can feel pretty isolated in such a town.

We often turn inward, but even that has its limitations. Music scenes ebb and flow as kids graduate and move on before a new batch arrives. We’re relegated to the same two local breweries once we’ve consumed whatever’s left on the shelves. Small towns just can’t maintain a certain level of entertainment and consumables to keep the average gentleman dabbler properly occupied.

That said, there are benefits from time to time. These benefits or advantages don’t come around often, but when they do, it can be pretty satisfying. Of course, what I’m talking about mostly pertains to beer and indie rock as other small town benefits (decent schools, nice place to raise a family, everyone knows your name, etc.) are arguably not that great or not exactly for what one is looking. The biggest advantage to living in a small town is that when someone or something comes to town, there’s a much greater chance that one will be able to take part in the festivities than if the same thing happens in a larger city.

Click for source.

Take concerts and rock shows for example. I attended a Built to Spill show a few years back, something I had grown accustomed to over the years, especially in a town the size of Columbia. If and when a band came to town, I could secure a ticket or two with little difficulty. That evening, I was chatting with friends who had previously lived in NYC. For them to see a band like Built to Spill would have taken an extreme amount of luck and $10-20 more per ticket. If a band comes to Columbia, I will be able to get a ticket or at least through the door with ease. Sometimes, there might not be that many of us in the room. It’s a definite perk.

Interestingly, this phenomena also applies to most small-to-medium-sized cities. It worked well in Columbus, OH most of the time with a few shows that sold out before I could get through to the operator or the Ticketmaster desk at Krogers. However, cities like St. Louis and Kansas City are even easier to gain access to marquee shows. Take tonight for instance. I’m heading out to Kansas City for the Wild Flag gig, something I would have difficulty doing in a larger city. The band has a ton of buzz and is touring like mad, but I suspect a ticket in NYC or Chicago is hard to come by at the moment.

With beer, it’s all about the special releases. Like the bands who may or may not stop through town, we have to hope that distributors can find it in their hearts to allow us a case or two of the good stuff. Some beer we will never see, but some makes its way onto our shelves. Yesterday, for example, while some were getting shut-out, stores here in Columbia were quietly placing Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout on their shelves. Actually, in the case of the store around the corner from me, I was able to get a manager to go to the back and retrieve me a single bottle of the liquid gold. I figured that I was lucky enough to get one bottle and would leave the rest for others. It really was that easy to get my hands on a bottle of what is turning out to be a super-rare beer. There was no mad rush, no lines, no crashing computers.

I will complain a lot about the seclusion of living in this town, but I don’t ignore the benefits. When a band comes to town I wan to see, it happens. When a rare beer hits our shelves, I’ll more than likely get my hands on one. The lack of competition means that gentleman dabbling can continue despite other deficiencies in availability.

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Top 5 for October 3, 2011

Posted in Top 5 by SM on October 3, 2011

I’m super-busy at the moment. So, let’s get on with it…

1. Believers – When Believers hit it big, remember that you read about them here first. Or you already knew them and have known about them long before I started posting long rants on their potential greatness. Either way, the boys have released two tracks you can download for free. The first is a newer version of “Forward Forward Back.” The second is the excellent new track “Finder.” Check below for the tracks and/or visit the Believers’ site.

2. The Lost Season – This will go down as the year my Ohio State Buckeyes go missing for 3-4 months. The offense did NOTHING Saturday and things don’t look any better for the coming month of games. I’d rather not go into details. Just know that their offense can be described as offensive vomiting. This is probably the last I’ll post anything football-related as I am choosing to focus on positive things.

3. Wild Flag in KC – I get to see Wild Flag Wednesday night in Kansas City. I’m pretty excited to see this band. Also, it’s at a venue I haven’t been. It will be a late night, but I expect it to be an excellent show, something I’ve needed for a while.

4. Home Brew Updates – Black Francis sits in bottles, doing what it needs to do. I won’t crack one open for another two weeks just to see if it’s ready. Even then, I suspect some more time in the bottle will be required. Conversely, I just brewed an all-grain version of my Simcoe-dependency, an all-Simcoe IPA, a week ago, it fermented about as well as any beer I’ve ever had, and I promptly added another ounce of Simcoe for the dry-hop. The OG for the beer was 1.066 and the FG dropped around 1.012. That puts the beer over 7% ABV. It’s super-bitter and dry, nearly perfect at this point. I’ll wait another week to bottle. Then it might be ready about the same time I try the stout.

5. Redesign – As hinted last week, there are some aesthetic changes coming. Well, sort of. I will most likely do little to the blog. There might be a move to my own URL, but the blog will generally remain untouched. That said, I plan to put together an actual website, linking all my resources and other online shenanigans. I’m not sure what exactly I’ll host on the new site, but it will generally be tied into what’s going on here right now. Stay tuned…

Wild Flag vs. Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Posted in Beer, Records, Rock vs. Beer by SM on September 14, 2011

 vs. 

Sometimes it is hard to find everything in a band or beer that you want. Sometimes a little imbalance accentuates positives, but it also reveals a downfall in design. Balance is nice, but it’s even better when it features superiority in all parts. Supergroups and anniversary ales usually come through with elite components that fill our every need and want.

The supergroup is a unique collection of great musicians from other great bands. Each member of a supergroup was a key piece in other bands. The supergroup is often left to fantasy, but once in a while, they come to fruition.

Wild Flag is a super group for the grrrl set. There are two members of Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss) which provides the band instant credibility. There’s also Mary Timony of Helium and Rebecca Cole of the Minders[1]. Together, these four womyn make a pretty powerful quartet. Fire and brimstone happens when the collective power of this supergroup comes down upon you. Just watch what they’re capable of and you’ll understand…

The beer equivalent of that nastiness above is Stone’s 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA. It’s dainty Sublimely Self-Righteous’ badass older sister who wears black eyeliner, a mohawk, and a “Show Me Your Riffs” t-shirt. She just kicked your ass and you liked it – not in a creepy way; you were just happy to be a pawn in her riot grrrl plan to rule the neighborhood. Anyway, the beer is loaded with all the components you want from a beer: big hop flavor and aroma, super-roasty malt character, booze, and just the right amount of sweetness not to let the rest get out of hand. It’s a near-perfect beer. And despite the high ABV, it should be consumed yesterday. I feel lucky I bought two[2], but the second won’t last much longer.

And there’s music…

Wild Flag is raucous from the first bombast of “Romance,” a track that makes even romance sound a bit punk. “Something Came Over Me” features the cool tones of Timony, recalling the best guitar rock-era Helium material she used to shell out circa the Beavis and Butt-head 90’s indie[3]. Carrie returns to the mic to bring home the steady “Boom” that features some nice guitar play and the added benefit of Cole on organ.

“Glass Tambourine” again features Timony fronting the band’s version of something Weiss might have played as a Jick with its flourishes of prog rock excellence. “Endless Talk” continues the Brownstein-Timony-Brownstein pattern to the album’s vocal leaders. Brownstein’s turns are a definite nods to her and Weiss’ Sleater-Kinney days, but these songs are more new wave than punk (in a totally cool way).

“Short Version” showcases some of the band’s guitar chops. “Electric Band” is loaded with late-Helium imagery of dragons and rock bands or whatever Timony used to go on about[4]. Still, this band’s superiority to her final Helium efforts is rather apparent on this track. “Future Crimes” drives and actually features a nice bit of urgency for a group of rockers hanging around their 40’s.

The next track, “Racehorse,” is maybe the band’s most conventional rock sound. I imagine the video for this song would feature the band playing their instruments seductively[5] while dressed in horse costumes for a salivating Bob Nastanovich[6]. At the song’s climax, Bob foams at the mouth and has to be carted away by paramedics. The album comes to a close with the Timony-voiced “Black Tiles” with her most mid-90’s Helium-esque delivery yet. This final track ends abruptly, but it does what the last song of an album or show should do: make you want more.

This record and beer demonstrate how overwhelming strength in all areas can make for a pretty fantastic experience when done right. The Escondidian doesn’t back down in flavor components. Each part overwhelms the senses with smile-inducing quality. Wild Flag’s debut does much the same thing with some pretty solid parts of its own. Brownstein and Timony play back and forth perfectly, much like the hops and roasted malt of the Escondidian. They are backed well by Cole on organ and backing vocals. Also bringing it on the backing vocals is maybe the best drummer alive: Janet Weiss. For me, she’s the booze that comes full-force without overtaking the delicious malt and hop characters. Or something like that[7].

I’m for supergroups and superbeers that bring a ton of character but still find a way to balance its best attributes. Both Stone’s 15th Anniversary brew and Wild Flag’s self-titled debut bring this concept home. Now, all I have to do is find a moment when I can sip on one and drop the needle on the other without interruption.

Notes:
1The Minders are associated with the Animal Elephant Six Collective. So, there’s that.
2How could I not buy two at just under $6 a pop? There is no better deal in craft beer.
3I really have no idea what this sentence means. Maybe I was just trying to string some words together in an incoherent rant – a feeble attempt to read like a 90’s ‘zine.
4I wonder if Timony ever had a thing with Jack Black when he was writing all that silly Tenacious D material.
5This is redundant and not because they’re ladies playing guitars. No. It’s redundant because they’re rock stars, rocking balls/ovaries to the wall and all that. That’s sexy no matter what you are. Don’t believe me? Go watch Jon Spencer or Annie Clark or Daniel Johnston…well, maybe not that last one.
6I just read for the second or third time today that one of the leading reasons for the Pavement tour last year was Bob’s horse betting debts. So, this seemed apropos.
7That was maybe stretching it too far.

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Top 5 List for September 12, 2011

Posted in Top 5 by SM on September 12, 2011

Acer japonicum Vitifolium JPG1fu

I feel like this feature has to make it two more weeks for it not to be forced. This is number 3, I believe. Digest what I have to tell you and know that there will be a beer and record review on Wednesday.

1. Anniversaries
Yesterday was the three-year anniversary of our daughter’s birth. That’s right. She was born on September 11th. While not thee September 11th, it’s a pretty important day in our house. Eventually (or now), I will grow tired of every September 11th focusing on patriotism, terrorists, and fireman. For once, I’d like it to be a day my daughter can look at as her own. She’s too young to realize what a big deal everyone makes over this day. I have chosen to move on and remember this day for the life it has wrought instead of the death. Also, the Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA was pretty great and will be featured in Wednesday’s post.

2. The Womyn of Merge
Also featured in Wednesday’s post will be Wild Flag, but I’ve said too much already…I recently acquired albums by Eleanor Friedberger and Wye Oak. These were nice gets as both albums are really powerful and of the highest quality. However, since I was so late to their bandwagon, I’ll just mention them here. The Wild Flag will get a proper review with a beer (see above) on Wednesday.

3. Black Francis
Black Francis is the imperial stout I brewed that’s currently sitting on oak chips, cocoa nibs, and vanilla beans all soaked in bourbon. It tastes pretty awesome at the moment, but I’ll probably leave it in the secondary for a little while longer just to let it acquire as much flavor as possible. The plan is to bottle by October so that I have it ready for the holidays.

4. Seasonal Beers
The stores are loaded with beers meant for fall: pumpkin ales, Oktoberfests, etc. However, I’m more excited for the beers featuring freshly harvested hops that will be slowly released all fall. These beers feature a sharp bitterness that is lost in your average IPA. I’ve grown a little weary of those who go on and on about pumpkin beers and just wait patiently for my fresh-hopped beers to show.

5.  OK. I couldn’t resist. Here’s some Wild Flag…