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In this blog’s previous incarnation, I reviewed Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, and wasn’t overwhelmingly positive about it. It seemed pedestrian and, from where I sit in Expensive Land (aka Australia), not worth the asking price. This one, however, puts paid to that. Now, I’m a massive hophead and I love IPAs, so I suppose my bias is a little apparent, but this was very special. Wonderful aromatic hops on the nose, strong (and I mean bloody strong) hops which still has enough of a malt presence to ensure you’re not making a lemon face, and one of the chalkiest (in a good way), driest finished I’ve ever experienced in a beer. If this, like all imported beers, were not so ludicrously dear over here, I’d happily make it a regular in my beer cupboard. It’s summer here now, and for my mind, nothing goes down better on a balmy night like this than a good, hoppy ale. It also makes me want to try the rest of their range.
For this American classic, I thought pairing it with a classic American roots artist would be the way to go. Ry Cooder’s influence on roots music, and guitar music in general, is undisputed. The man is a stringed-instrument genius, and one of those rare guitarists who can make a guitar really sing, especially when he played slide. On this album, his second, he took other people’s songs and put his own eclectic mark on them. This is one of the few instances where covering Johnny Cash worked (his version of “Hey Porter” is weirdly appropriate). He’s not much of a vocalist, but when you can play guitar like that, who the hell needs vocals?
So, let’s get this ale-soaked ball rolling, shall we? This first post combines possibly my favourite brewery with possibly my favourite band.
Mountain Goat is a Melbourne instution, venerated by average punters, hipsters and beer afficianados alike. They’ve made a name for themselves for their homebrew-on-a-larger-scale approach and their signature hop-driven ales. They also try new things, such as their Crossbreed series which are generally limited edition and bit out of left field. Like this India Pale Ale blended with coffee. And it’s noticeable, not just a coffee tinge. You get the IPA aroma and flavour upfront, which is, disappointingly not enough for me, being the massive hophead I am. And the coffee flavour was at first strong and a little strange, but after a while it melded very nicely with the rest of the flavours. Very unusual, but once you get used to it it’s quite pleasant. This is not my favourite beer from them but it’s a nice experiment. I still prefer a straight IPA though, not to mention a paint-strippingly strong coffee in the morning.
Manilla Road. The best band no one’s ever heard of. They’ve been going strong for over thirty years and keep on plugging away, never veering off the “true metal” path but staying interesting and just plain fucking awesome. This album, released in ‘88, was a bit of an extension of their sound into thrash metal territory, which was seriously vicious but still majestically epic. A short-lived experiment but one that’s definitely worth of the ‘Road name. (and this is the only Manilla Road original pressing I own thus far [apart from their more modern releases Voyager and Playground of the Damned]. The asking price for some of those original pressings is, quite frankly, ridiculous…)