Monday, March 23, 2015


New Belgium Lips of Faith: Gratzer



You will like if you:
Like smoked beers
Like sitting directly in front of a campfire with the wind blowing it straight in your face
Get excited to try brutal, harsh beers as a test of what you can drink

You will not like if you:
Don't like smoked beers
Don't like eating campfires
Exclusively enjoy smooth, easy sippin' brews

Hatebreed was one of the first truly hardcore metal bands I ever got into. I remember closing down the Pizza Hut I worked at in high school and blasting Satisfaction is the Death of Desire after hours. And the rest of the band's albums are prominent fixtures on my workout playlist. Listen to this and tell me you don't want to go outside and like wrestle a bear or something:

That's pumpin' iron music.

I saw them around 2002, with Snapcase opening. Absolutely brutal. My body was bruised and spongy the next day, and more than one person at work asked if I had gotten into a fight. I could hardly walk, and both eyes were bruised.

 It was one of the best shows I'd ever seen. 

Like I've said before, I grew up in a healthy family environment. Never truly mad, though I did have my share of angsty teenage years. But stress builds in us all. Video games helped, and now, beer does too. But sometimes you just want to jump around and wail on the dude next to you while getting wailed on in return. I'm not a fighter, not even close. But I can see the appeal of it. 

These shows are therapy. Cheap therapy. For about twenty bucks you can let out every anger, every stress, every source of anxiety. And for a few hours, there are no rules. It's freedom. 

So when I saw they were coming back to town, now in my early thirties, I stopped to think for a moment. I haven't been to a real hard show in years. Did I need to unleash the inner beast mode Jason? 

And then I remembered I worked in a school.

Ticket bought. 

And they are just as brutal as I remembered. If there's one thing Hatebreed does well, they take care of their own. Every song is about empowering yourself and rising above adversity and making things better. Often through rage, but you can interpret that how you see fit. They stopped the show several times, amusingly, to make sure the pit didn't get out of control. Apparently the fans rioted last time they were here, and the police were called and it was just chaos. 

That's the thing. These shows are violent. They're about violence. But it's consensual violence.

Also, a local band The Anchor opened. There were a handful of other hardcore bands as well, but these guys crushed it. They have more of a melodic hardcore sound, almost like a Poison the Well vibe. Check it out:

This was a tough event to pair beer with. Ultimately I settled on the 3 Floyds/New Belgium Lips of Faith collaboration, Gratzer.

First of all, that is a pretty metal label. Zombies riding bikes. Blood dripping everywhere. One of my guilty pleasures is choosing a new beer based solely on name or label. It's like a beer adventure. A beerventure. This beerventure was a centuries-old medieval Polish beer style. Which just adds to the metalness. 

It pours dark, coffee-like. An easy foam head that settles quickly. The picture doesn't do it justice, it's a delicious toffee color. Smells like smoked malts with coffee. They added lacto bacteria to the wort to sour it, but I didn't get any of that. 

Honestly it tastes like how burnt wood smells. Not as aggressive as it looks. I expected more of a roasty taste with the malt, and it's only 4.5%. But this is one was of those beers that fully utilizes smell as well as taste. It hits you in the front with toffee and blasts you in the back with rolling smoke and embers. The Gratzer would probably go great with grilling meats or relaxing around a campfire. My first thought would be winter camping, but that's up to you.

Now I'm not a huge smoked beer fan. But I can definitely enjoy the work put into them. This was a bit harsh to finish. Bitter, smoky, kind of angry. Again, harsh. Definitely reminiscent of a smoky, dark, metal show. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Woah ooh ooh ooh, ooooooh ooh oooh oh oh!

Great Divide Belgian Yeti


United Anarchists

You will like if you:
Enjoy the heaviest of stouts
Are like me and want to someday travel to Belgium and visit all the monastery breweries
Are in your thirties or so and still like the beers and music you did when you first started liking beer and music

Probably the best deal I've ever gotten.
So this one was a hard one to pair with. Saturday, March 14, my favorite band in the world, Pennywise, came to town. What's that? You don't know Pennywise? Or you just know their one song, the one song that everyone knows, even if you don't listen to punk rock?
Pennywise released their album, Full Circle, in 1997. I was fifteen, barely in high school and without any sort of identity. I had friends that I'd hung out with since elementary school. Friends that were way cooler than me. They would take me out and dress me up in nice clothes and spike up my hair and literally throw me at girls at Elitch's. I'll never forget the night that a group of kids at a movie theater broke up laughing and called us the Backstreet Boys.

That wasn't me.

I decided I'd had enough. I didn't like wearing khaki cargoes and buttoned up shirts. I didn't like spiking my hair. And I just wanted to stay at home and play video games. I didn't care about dating or partying or alcohol or any of that. 

At this time, my only albums were the Mortal Kombat soundtrack -

(still awesome)
And the Escape from LA soundtrack - 

(Bangkok rules: Nobody draws till this hits the ground)

So I guess I was into industrial electronic music?

Then I heard Full Circle. My friends were into punk rock at that age, and I sort of vicariously picked up a few bands through them. I remember AFI being big back then. Nothing could have prepared me for Pennywise. Everything changed. My entire musical existence had been altered. Every song, from the first second to the last, was an audio assault on my ears and emotions. 

Written shortly after their bassist, Jason Thirsk, committed suicide, every single track is an emotional blast of pure punk rock energy. Every track was full of anger and sadness, a true punk rock therapy album to work through their issues and the loss of their friend. 

All of a sudden I was listening to a new world of music. Bad Religion, Offspring, Millencolin, AFI, Lagwagon, Good Riddance....

I came from a supporting, loving home, and I never really felt the need to rebel or truly rage against this so-called machine. 

But all of a sudden I felt like I had found me. 

In the early 2000's, Pennywise rarely came to Colorado. I remember they opened for 311 once at Red Rocks, and I skipped my senior year homecoming dance to go. I feel like I made the better choice. I didn't really care much for 311; I enjoyed their music, but I came to see Pennywise. 

My mouth dropped when the pair of kids behind me asked, "Who is Pennywise? I haven't heard them on the radio, they must not be good."


My buddy and I got rowdy when our favorite band came on, and were pretty much the only  kids in the pit. Which was a feat in and of itself, for Red Rocks, as you know, is a layer of nothing but stairs and benches. We still tore it up, and then left before the main event started. We were there for one purpose. 

The next time I saw them, in 2009 or 10, they headlined a show at the Fillmore. After several albums that all kind of sounded the same, that all sounded mellowed out and radioed-up, their performance was lackluster. Something was off, and I didn't enjoy it at all. You can tell if a punk rock or metal or hardcore band isn't into it. In Flames, as much as I love them, put on one of the worst shows I've ever seen. They were tired, lethargic, and just plain didn't want to be playing that night. I'll never forget that, and that sucks because it colored my perception of one of the better metal heavyweights. That night, like In Flames, Pennywise seemed to just be going through motions, and I left the show feeling empty.

Shortly after, frontman Jim Lindberg left the band citing personal reasons. And that was fine. Nothing lasts forever. But it was the end of an era. 

I won't go into too much detail, but All or Nothing, the album put out with new frontman Zoli Teglas of Ignite was SICK NASTY. Most Pennywise fans will say it wasn't truly Pennywise without Jim, and it didn't sound like the classic band. 

That is true, I'm not disputing that. But let me tell you that was the freshest punk sound I'd heard in years. 
I saw them live with Zoli leading the charge and it was amazing. Sorry die-hard Pennywise fans. It was amazing. Zoli had energy, the band was having fun, and they absolutely nailed the performance, both new and old songs. 

Skip ahead to 2012. Jim returns, they reconcile, and put out Yesterdays, a bunch of never-released tracks from the 80's. Pennywise had returned. 

That meandering story leads us to March 14. I had seen Pennywise open for Bad Religion and Offspring over the summer, and it was a pretty paint-by-numbers show. They did the old stuff, the new stuff, and killed it. But Pennywise excels best at small venues. And the Gothic Theater is about as small as you can get. 

That's punk rock. Getting rowdy with a thousand other fans, twenty feet from stage. With Jim once again leading the charge, they absolutely crushed it. They were having fun. They played their old hits. They took requests. They covered Bad Religion, they covered Beastie Boys (which was as amazing as it sounds), they played Stand By Me, which I have never heard them play live. 

There was energy, there was anger, there was therapy, there was happiness.

It was one of the best shows I'd ever seen. 

Which leads me to Belgian Yeti, by Great Divide. 

Pennywise is my favorite band, and Great Divide is my favorite brewery. Ah, see the connection? You thought I had lost my train of thought. Acting!

So Belgian Yeti is their base flagship of the Yeti Stout, which is delicious in its own right, fermented with Belgian yeast. The result is a chocolaty, roasty, heavy, angry, spicy stout that I am able to enjoy at any time of year. I usually save my heavy stouts (and this is a heavy one) for colder weather. Because I'll just be honest, I'm a big baby with higher alcohol beers in the heat. 

But Yeti brewed with Belgian yeast turns it into an easier-drinking delight. So imagine my dismay when, in 2012, they stopped brewing this beer. 

Fast forward to last June. Great Divide reveals it was all a ruse! They had stored and cellared an entire shipment of Belgian Yeti! Beer that was already aged two years! Entire cases for sale! FOR 25 DOLLARS.

Listen here. I've spent well more than 25 dollars on a single bottle. And you're telling me I can get a case of 12 bottles of one of my favorite beers for 25 bucks?! You better believe I bought two cases. My only regret is that I didn't make enough money back then to buy ten cases. 

Because I drank all but two. Those two I have stashed in my beer cellar. AKA, the cupboard above my fridge. The cupboard that requires a considerable amount of effort to reach, thus allowing my beer to age in peace.

Two-year aged Belgian Yeti took on a darker tone. Plums and coffee and molasses and wine barrel came through. The pour was as black as black could be, with a creamy golden-brown head like bread crust. It's an assault on the tastebuds from the first sip to the last. 

Heavy, spicy, roasty. 

Great Divide was the first real "big beer" brewery I liked. My entire beer tastes changed after I tried a Yeti, and I saw beer differently after that. 

My first love in punk.

My first love in beer. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

A man's not dead while his name is still spoken.

Atrial Rubicite



You will like if you:
Enjoy sour farmhouse ales
Aren't put off by descriptors such as "musty" and "mildewy" or "tastes like barrel"
Are willing to throw everything you know about wild beers out the window

You will not like if you:
Don't enjoy sweet or sour beer (like woah, this beer is sweet and sour)
Prefer your beer efficient and perfected
Think this whole wave of fruit beer is just a fad and will thankfully pass

The man. The legend.

I just....

I have no words. 

My favorite author in the history of authors has passed away. Sir Terry Pratchett, creator of Discworld. I think the above image satisfies how he wanted to be remembered. And I was surprisingly gloomy about it. So many famous folk have passed away, actors and musicians and artists that I admired and looked up to, and though I felt sadness, I was never really hurt by their deaths. I didn't personally know them, but I respected their work and what their loss meant for their medium

Losing Pratchett felt like losing a friend. I don't remember when I discovered Discworld. I just know that I was hooked instantly. His words leaped from the pages and filled me with happiness. I can't think of any other way to describe it. His take on Death was magnificent:

“You can't give her that!' she screamed. 'It's not safe!'
'She's a child!' shouted Crumley.
'What if she cuts herself?'

His reasoning through Sam Vimes was spot on:

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

Much of my philosophy and personal way of thinking was sparked through Pratchett's writing. Which is weird to say about a satirical fantasy author.

I spent two days reading Pratchett quotes and being mopey. And I decided that I would choose to celebrate his life, rather than being terribly sad about it. I think that's he would have preferred his fans to react. So we move on.

I am reminded of my summer road trip to Austin, Texas to visit a friend. It started with the food. The barbecue warrants its own post, and just thinking about it makes me hungry despite having just finished dinner. 

No, the highlight of the trip, despite the hellish temperatures of Texas in July, was Jester King Brewery. A true farmhouse brewery, Jester King changed the way I thought about farmhouse and wild beer. 

Located in the middle of a field, complete with the aforementioned farmhouse and barn, Jester King absolutely opened my eyes. I was taught that beer needed to be meticulous and precise, and that every step needed to be monitored. Jester King just kind of does their own thing. They utilize their own strains of local wild yeasts and bacteria, pulled from the surrounding fields and fruit. They brew according to when certain fruits are in season. They pump their wort to an open coolship atop their barn. And they let their beers just sort of take over themselves. 

As a result, each batch is different, and each beer is a surprise. 

I brought back, among other bottles, Atrial Rubicite.

A bottle-conditioned farmhouse sour brewed with raspberries, Atrial Rubicite pours ruby red with a ruby-hued head. Ruby foam lace rings the glass and light filters ruby through the ruby beer.

Do you notice a theme here? The beer is red as red can be. It starts sweet and fruity and finishes tart. But not terribly sour. Atrial is mellowed by a creamy finish with musty and barrelly flavors at the end. 

It is absolutely amazing. I don't think they distribute outside of Texas, and the seasonal window literally depends on when they are able to get their hands on fruit, but if you can manage to snag a bottle, DO IT. I can't recommend it enough, along with their other beers.

I chose this beer to accompany this post for a reason. I discovered Pratchett rather unexpectedly, and he changed the way I read books. His words rewrote my brain to (try to) use humor to examine the injustices and wrongs of the world. Which sounds like a teenage angsty thing to say, but I feel young at heart and I discovered him in my teenage angsty years.

Jester King kind of surprised me as well. I didn't know what to expect from Texan beer, but it sure wasn't Jester King. It delighted and left me craving more. Atrial Rubicite was a celebration of beer and the unpredictable nature of life itself. 

And my memories of Pratchett remain a celebration of books and silliness and philosophy.

“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.”

Well said you glorious bastard.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Stone Enjoy After

Stone Enjoy After 12/26/15

You will enjoy if you:
Like funky beer
Have willpower
Salivate at the word "Brett"
Think it was worth the wait for Netflix to renew Arrested Development and are sill holding out for Firefly

You will not enjoy if you:
Think Stone is overrated
Don't like gimmicky beer
Like your beer slow and steady, at the ready

Okay, so, the NHL trading deadline is over.

And wow, what a snoozer for Colorado fans. Chicago and LA bolstered their depth at forward and defense, respectively, to gear up for the playoffs. Vermette will be a solid addition to the Blackhawks, and LA grabbed one of the more sought-after defenders in Sekera. Arizona and Buffalo stripped their teams to the bare bones in what is clearly a race to the first overall draft pick.

Colorado kind of sat on their hands. We lost veteran penalty killer and team-guy Talbot in return for a once-highly touted power forward Caron. Now don't get me wrong, he has had flashes of brilliance:

So I mean, the kid has hands. But everything I've read about him has been disappointing. His childhood team was the Avalanche, however. And that means something to me. I can appreciate a player who really wants to be here. Sometimes players do need a change. Peter Mueller a few seasons back is a perfect example.

But overall, exactly none of the team's needs were addressed. No young defensive prospects, no trading away our veterans for draft picks.

What they did do, however, was set up about ten million dollars to come off their salary books next season. Ten million that could be used to snag a juicy defender in free agency. So it seems to very much be a hurry up and wait situation.

Which brings me to the beer.

Following on the wildly popular Enjoy By series, Stone released the Enjoy After, a fine, ambitious IPA brewed with brettanomyces. The beer itself is fairly tame. The hops aren't overpowering, and it has a mellow finish with a slight spice. It pours a bit wild with a foamy head, and it leaves a soap-bubbly lace around the glass with each drink. And just look at that golden color. Beautiful.

The ambitious part is the aging process. Enjoy After practically demands to be bought two at a time. One to taste immediately after returning home, and one to age for a bit. How long you age it is dependent solely on your willpower. Personally, I put all my aging beer in the cupboard above my fridge, a place that would take considerable effort to reach.

I tried it on January 16 and the brett bacteria was subtle. It gave the beer the slightest of hints of funk, with a tart pucker in the back of the mouth. I'm hoping I can hold onto my second bottle for at least a year and compare with my notes from this year.

Which brings me back to my original point. This trade deadline came and went with the tiniest of splashes. Nothing spectacular, but there is hope. That lingering, frustrating, just out of reach hope. The hope that keeps me coming back year after year.

I hope I can keep that beer up there, in the cupboard above the fridge, for at least a year.

I hope the brettanomyces ages that brew into a funky, spicy beast.

And I hope the Avs management team knows what they're doing for next season.

That's a lot of hope and a lot of waiting.