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This is another American import that cost me a pound of flesh and then some. Apparently you can get this in the States for 8 bucks a six pack. Hmph. I’m fairly sure this bottle cost me $8. Dear Australian alcohol prices: I hope you die after being shot, stabbed and eviscerated in a dark, filthy alley with a homeless guy pissing on your corpse.
Digression aside… it’s a well known, well regarded America IPA. I’ve had a few of these stalwart American ales, and they all have a few things in common - a fairly hefty alcohol kick (even when the alcohol sees fairly standard at 5 or so % - this one isn’t, but still, the principle is the same - they sneak up on you!), a stunning hop aroma, and a certain taste, distinctive taste. American IPA all the way, that piney, oily, bitter taste that’s so typical of these brews. And I’m a big fan, trust me. The malted rye is strong enough to make an impression, but only just. The hops are what makes this beer shine. As I said, it seems to be very well regarded amongst the brewing fraternities. I’m not blown away with it like those people seem to be, but that’s probably because I’m more used to the Aussie style of hoppy ales. It probably didn’t travel all that well either, as beers just don’t really like being transported thousands of miles, generally. Still, it’s very, very good and I would drink it more, if I didn’t have to auction off my organs to do so. Obviously a gross exaggeration, but if I can get good locally brewed stuff for less, I’ll go for the local stuff every time. Still, I know why it’s a stalwart from the tasting - very dependable American IPA right here.
And speaking of dependable - Motörhead. Critics may say “they’ve not changed their sound one iota since the damn 70s!” Well… (a) Not entirely true (the style hasn’t changed, but the sound definitely has) and (b)…that’s a bad thing? If you’re onto a winning formula, and if it’s an awesome winning formula, why oh why would you fuck with it? The best thing Lemmy Kilmister ever did was get kicked out of Hawkwind for carrying drugs onto a plane, because it started one of the most enduring rock/metal bands in history. There will never be another uncompromising, in your face band like Motörhead who are as successful, or who kick the same amount of arse even now. I mean, Lemmy’s pushing 70 and he’s still going strong. And this album above, 1986’s Orgasmatron, is testament to Lemmy’s ability to pick up the pieces and keep going after it’s all gone to shit. The previous album, Another Perfect Day, had a mismatched guitarist (Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy fame - a brilliant axeman but definitely not ‘Head material) and a more melodic aesthetic which just didn’t work all that well. Orgasmatron,however, just slayed from the starting gates. With a totally new lineup, they had plenty to prove - and they killed it. In a year where thrash metal was producing some of its finest albums, Motörhead still sounded vicious, raw and hungry. I would have loved to have been old enough to see them play in this era. That being said, I reckon Lemmy will outlive me…
Kölsch. What the hell is it? If you couldn’t be bothered clicking on the link, it’s a lagery style which is very regional (Cologne, Germany) and it’s brewed to a very exacting standard. It apparently hasn’t stopped foreign breweries trying it out, though, and now it’s Australia’s turn.
As most of you know, lagers and I generally don’t see eye to eye. So this brew has surprised me by being my favourite of the regular 4 Pines output. On the face of it, it’s nothing special - a hoppy (but not overly so), a nice robust mouthfeel (for the style, anyway) and bitterness that is very nicely balanced with a malt backbone. I really like this beer, and it makes me want to try other kölsch-style beers, preferably the actual ones brewed in Cologne as that would give a good idea of how it’s supposed to be brewed. It’s also a real summer drink and is very sessionable in the Australian heat And as my hometown of Melbourne has actually put on a reasonably good summer this year (other people don’t agree. They’re wrong), I’ve enjoyed my fair share of this beer. And at the very least, it’d be a good gateway beer for those who are used to the normal macro fare and want to get into microbrews.
My segue way works! Kind of. In a “gateway heavy metal” kinda way..,When one thinks of Scorpions, one usually thinks: AOR. Hair metal. Poppy hard rock. But the hypothetical one would be wrong, because early in their career, they performed some shit-hot heavy metal (and that’s not even getting into their earlier psych stuff). This album, In Trance, was the one where they developed the sound that would make them squillionaires - anthemic heavy metal. And this album is hellishly good. Riffs, solos, soaring vocals, the ballads don’t suck, and I’ve got the original cover with the girl’s uncensored boob. What’s not to love?! Seriously, if you’ve pigeonholed them into the cheese category, give the albums from this one at least until 1982’s Blackout a try. I predict you’ll be pleasantly surprised. At least get take a long, hard stare at some of their very lurid art work. Just don’t look too hard at the original Virgin Killer artwork. I love the album, but I’m glad that one was changed to the more boring one of them staring awkwardly into the camera (and no, I’m NOT linking to the original. For a damn good reason. What the fuck were they thinking??)
4 Pines brewery popped up out of nowhere down here in Melbourne. Well, it seems that way to me, at any rate (the caveat of course being that I’m violently anti-social and don’t really keep my ear to the ground. The two are related, I promise you). All of a sudden, their beers were everywhere, even in my local grocery store. I was immediately suspicious and thought they were Lion Nathan or the other big mob trying to gain another foothold in the microbrew market. However, according to a source I trust, they were among the first microbreweries in Manly/Sydney/that big glamorous city to the north of us. And when I tried their beers, not knowing anything about them, I was very impressed. I’d actually rate their Kolsch over this pale, but it’s more of a summer drink, whereas for sessionability I like pales because they are suitable (for me) in almost any weather. And this is a really nice example of a pretty faultless, pleasurable pale. It’s perfectly balanced to these tastebuds, just the right amount of hop bitterness to malty flavour at the end, the body is just about right and the finish is dry enough to be satisfying but not so much that it leaves you parched. I’m quite fond of this brew, and by the looks of it, I have to go to the brewery one day to try the stuff that doesn’t make it past the doors.
And here we have one of my very favourite bands, Pagan Altar, with yet another re-release of their previously unreleased, quite poorly produced but still magical, EP The Time Lord. When they first hit the scene, they were probably just a little too weird and sinister and yet melodic for the average heavy metal listener (well, actually, hard rock listener, since this stuff was recorded and being played on stage in the late 70s) to really dig. But they were an enigma, and only years later was their material given a proper release (and a few bootlegs as well) and by then they were old farts who probably couldn’t be arsed dressing up in the robes anymore, and just let the music do the talking. And it’s the sort of stuff I just can’t describe, really - you either love it or you scratch your head and look confused. Especially with the vocals, which I think fit perfectly but others have been heard to complain about their “high-pitched, nasal shittiness”. Suffice to say, those people are wrong.
Pagan Altar’s material’s getting very hard to acquire on vinyl, so whenever I get a change I grab it, and I’m glad I managed to get my greasy hands on this beauty. Most of the songs on this EP were re-recorded on their late-released first album, but I’m quite enamoured with the murkiness of these scratchy recordings when these guys were young lads, no idea of how their music would later inspire many a young doom metal fan.
(I’m thinking of moving this blog, or at least mirroring it elsewhere. I’m not really sure that tumblr is the right platform for it. Too much distraction, which means whenever I log onto it I spend hours looking at freaking rage comics and metal blogs rather than updating the damned thing. Anyway, onwards)
So, Mountain Goat. I’m a complete fanboy for these guys. There’s something about the hop-driven goodness they create that just makes me remember why I love beer so much. I’m a huge fan of these limited runs they do, and not only for their weirder experimental brews, but also the stalwarts. This stout is one of them, and you know what you’re going to get before you even pop the seal, even if it’s not for the famous hops. It isn’t as…well, stouty as some. Mouthfeel sure isn’t heavy as you expect it to be, but on all other fronts it ticks the boxes. That being said, I’m probably not the best judge on mouthfeel as I’m only just starting to understand its intricacies. As far as the roasted coffee, faint chocolate and slightly sweet finish go, they’re all present and accounted for and make this a pretty good example of an Aussie stout brewed for easy drinking. I have memories of having this at the Goat brewery after running through all their selections on offer…to say that the memories are hazy would be a bit of an understatement. But it’s definitely better in these longnecks.
And I know it’s an obvious ploy to pair this up with a Black Sabbath vinyl, but bugger it, it’s being done anyway. This was the first album without Ozzy, and it was about time too - their previous two albums had been, to put it kindly, stale. It probably wasn’t all Ozzy’s fault, but with the presence of the impressive-as-hell pipes of Ronnie James Dio (R.I.P.), it gave Iommi some new territories to explore riff-wise, and they moved away from their doomy sound to a more driving heavy metal sound with power metal flourishes. Yes, power metal, but not that flowery shit that gets touted as “power” these days. Forgetting about trying to pigeonhole this into a genre, it’s just a great heavy metal album which, while it might not be my favourite Sabbath album, clearly rejuvenated a tired band and set them up for the next decade at least. At the time it was hated by a large proportion of their fans because it was clearly different, but time has proved this to be a classic.
(sorry again for the delay - maybe I should do short and sweet henceforth)
I like this brewery’s stuff, generally speaking. They do a very nice pale ale and a serviceable amber ale - in fact, I remember drinking that pale to almost exclusion a couple of summers ago. But this witbier is, plainly speaking, fucking rank. Now, yes, I’m not all that big a fan of the style. But this is probably one of the worst microbrews I’ve ever had. So what did I get? All those nasty aromas I associate with macro lagers, a thin as hell body with an accompanying soapy, grainy taste and one of the worst LAGERARSE finishes I’ve ever had (yeah, and it’s not even a goddamn lager). Big thumbs down. I hate to give a bad rap to a local outfit but seriously, how the hell this passed muster is a mystery to me.
And here’s a little early 80s heavy metal gem, from an LA (where else?) band called Bitch, who were best known for their frontwoman Betsy “Bitch” Weiss who did the whole dominatrix getup onstage and was probably the cause of many a post-show fap by horny teens. But by god she had a voice to back up the image - rough, powerful, and utterly alluring. No, she wasn’t the best female metal singer but she’s up there in the top for me simply because it fit the music so damn well, which was dirty, sleazy, rip-roaring heavy metal to the bone. The guitar sound on this album is a personal favourite of mine - grimier than your average fare coming out of LA at the time, and rough as guts. This is a reissue which the label’s taken great pains to make look exactly like the first pressing, down to the back info, and it’s a great one to spin while drinking.
For easy-drinking session beers, you could do a lot worse than the beers from Malt Shovel Brewery. They’re generally flavoursome enough that they satisfy, so long as your palate isn’t wanting a particularly orgasmic tastebud experience. I’ve had many a Golden Ale (pale) or an Amber Ale on a warm day and been happy downing a few in a session. However, as is no secret, I hold a healthy suspicion of most Aussie-brewed lagers, and stay away from them. This pilsener doesn’t exactly make me want to convert, either. It’s by no means the worst of its kind - LAGERARSE is very minimal, hops are good and present, but apart from that, it lacks in character. Again, on a hot day, I’d have no problem imbibing a few of these in a row, but it’s just not the sort of beer that grabs me.
And you know what? Again, the theme fits. This Alice Cooper album was actually the first I ever heard, long before I’d heard of “School’s Out” and the other cool horror-themed rock Cooper released in the 70s. This, his 18th album, is pure late 80s hard rock - which isn’t altogether a bad thing. Every track was written to a simple formula, and the formula’s pretty effective - cool but simple riffs, incredibly catchy vocal melodies and hooks, and sexual innuendo up the wazoo. Of course it’s effective - most of the great rock/metal songs are written this way, so why fuck with a winning strategy? That being said, though, I’ve heard much better formulaic 80s hard rock, and as much as this album is lauded, I only find myself playing it every now and then. Good bread-and-butter headbanging material but nothing overly remarkable. Good starting point for delving into a fascinating musical career, though. And thus, we come full circle…pilseners and lagers were the gateway beers for me before finding my true loves: Ale ale ale ale….
Coopers was the brewery that opened my eyes to the possibility of better beer. Growing up drinking the normal macro fare, when I had my first Coopers Red it was an amazing revelation. The Red and the Pale Ale still reign as among my first choices for session beers, even though my taste has largely moved on to bigger and hoppier things. I will always feel everlasting gratitude to this brewery for its role in making me hate Caaaarldon, making me realise that life is too short to drink crap beer, no matter how cheap it is. However, this brewery has done some horrible things, such as Coopers Clear, and some middling things, like this lager.
It’s better than your average macro pale lager, don’t get me wrong. On tap, this is actually quite drinkable, probably because it’s served ice cold. However, at fridge temperature, the more unsavoury flavours come out and does it no favours. On the whole it’s a fairly inoffensive Euro-style pale lager, but it’s got the typical stale malt notes, that grassy aroma that I find a little unappealing, and very little that’s memorable except for the faint, ever-present LAGERARSE. These sorts of lagers have to be drunk Aussie style to be palatable - near freezing, on a hot day with a shitload of dead charcoaled meat. Otherwise, it’s pretty bland.
Which brings me to this Judas Priest album. I think Judas Priest is one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time. They have a legacy that is unquestionable. However, they also have some very iffy moments. This is not exactly one of those iffy moments, but it definitely led them straight to Ifsville. This was where the more commercial elements they’d introduced in the previous album, Killing Machine/Hell Bent for Leather (name depending on if you’re the rest of the world versus America), really came to fruition. While those commercial elements worked quite well for the latter album, they fall flat on this one. There are a couple of their signature razor-shard speed metal tracks mixed with mainstream rubbish. They basically made an even-more accessible version of Killing Machine, and of course, every chump loved it, and people still say it’s their best. Which is complete bollocks: that honour goes to either the 70s masterpiece Sad Wings of Destiny, their 80s comeback Screaming for Vengeance or the utterly insane (if terribly overproduced) speed metal monster of Painkiller. British Steel is the first Priest album I ever owned/heard, and I still spin it occasionally because it’s a fun listen, but it’s in no way their best, and in fact led to the crime that was Point of Entry. Just as the lager above led to the abysmal horror that is Coopers Clear and Coopers 62 Degrees. I have spoken.
I’m not overwhelmingly familiar with this brewery’s output. I know I’ve had an English-style bitter which was a bit of alright, and - horror of horror - a no-carb beer (old reviews of these coming soon). Of the latter, I can safely say I would rather emulate a golden shower porn actor than drink that vile concoction again. Yes, it was that bad. Fuck it, bring on 2 girls one….actually, no.
Anyway, this is a beer blog…so where was I? Yes, this one. A schwarzbier according to beeradvocate.com, which doesn’t tell you much, and a limited release like the English-style bitter. And according to the label, a black coffee lager. Well, call me intrigued. As you can see, it looked and poured like a stout, but tasted nothing like one, really. Coffee of course was the predominant flavour and very upfront, but it didn’t really come across as a lager - which is a good thing. More like Coopers Dark Ale but with a much more distinctive taste. But not distinctive enough to make it a habit. As far as their limited edition beers go, I’d much rather the bitter, and they still haven’t made up for that no-carb abomination. Still, I remember it being pretty good for what it was, maybe nothing particularly special or different as I was expecting, but drinkable enough.
And behind it we have Acca Dacca. The comeback album after Bon Scott died tragically (and, let’s not deny it, fucking stupidly). I don’t like Brian Johnson-led AC/DC nearly as much as I like the early, arse-kicking, whiskey-and-beer-and-smokes-drenched AC/DC of the 70s, but this album is still worthy. The title track is, of course, utterly legendary, and you could tell they were channeling Bon’s spirit as it’s a real barnstormer of an album. Yet another original pressing, and another one banged up as all hell, but completely worth it. RIP, Bon Scott, this was a pretty fitting tribute.
Much of the reason I started this project on Facebook and why I continue it over here is about learning. With each new beer I drink, I learn. Not just about what I like and don’t like, but more about styles, brewing techniques, what travels well, &c. &c. And people who followed my last lot of posts know that I have developed a particularly strong antipathy towards lagers. Generally, I find them lacking in character and taste, and as they’re the brew of choice in the mainstream, there are a lot of really bland to bad ones. I have never forgiven my beloved Coopers for succumbing to the pressures of bean counters and making the worst example of a low-joule lager (and that’s facing some pretty stiff competition) I’ve ever had the misfortune of drinking. Even lagers made by reputable microbrewers I find to be fairly rank. And if they don’t have a bland boring taste, there’s what I call the “LAGERARSE” taste - a stale, grainy aftertaste that I’m sure is indicative of lagers but which I find wholly unappealing.
However, every now and then I come across one that is not just drinkable, but which I would happily drink multiples of in a night. This is the first time I’ve come across an American lager that I like (having, admittedly, only had Bud and Miller and a few Canadian lagers…which I don’t really consider beer, but anyway…). This one, Brookyln Lager, is brewed “pre-Prohibition style” according to the propaganda, and with an appealing hop aroma, and a really nice blended malt and hop profile in the tasting department. If this is what lagers were like pre-Prohibition, then seriously, fuck you, Prohibition. It’s partly your fault, Elliot Ness. This is what a lager should taste like, goddamnit. The lack of LAGERARSE is much appreciated, Brooklyn. Now, if only I could get it cheaply. Considering local brews are stupidly priced due to our excise laws, that’s unlikely in the near future. Bastards.
Now, as you might have gathered, I try to match a brew with a record if I can. And these two go together…well, they’re both from New York. Yeah…anyway, Sir Lord Baltimore should have been up there with Sabbath, Deep Purple and Zeppelin as the founding fathers of metal. In fact, they were apparently the first band to be described as “heavy metal”, in a rather deprecating way, of course. This one’s their first album from 1970, another original pressing, and it’s banged up as hell, but the scratches just add to the pulverisingly heavy sound, the almost uncontrolled chaos of the haphazard production, and the way they sound utterly manic and on edge. Apart from the one song where they do a weird Joni Mitchell-esque ballad they put in there for some reason, the rest of the songs are like a stampeding horde of barely-held-together post-apocalyptic trucks bearing down on you while you scream for mercy. Okay, maybe I’m waxing lyrical here, but the first time I heard these songs it’s kind of the impression I had, along with knowing the historical context of when these were laid to tape. Their next and last album was pretty shit - very streamlined 70s hard rock which suffered from the comparitively pristine production, foot off the pedal approach and apparent penchant for trying to write prog. Someone should have told them to keep it loud and ballsy and leave the prog to King Crimson. Anyway, one to definitely hear before you die.