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I’ll admit that I haven’t been into this craft beer drinking-n’-wanky-reviewing jobby for very long; the calibre of my “reviews” should tell you that. I’m not one of those people who can detect the scent of grapefruit and vestal virgins in a beer, nor can I taste liquefied rainbows and unicorns. However, I did think I knew the mechanics of the brewing process fairly comprehensively, how it’s generally quite simple, and that there wasn’t all that much room for “innovation”. Turns out I am continually surprised, not necessarily by innovation, but by the dragging out of old brewing techniques to add something special to the beer, or, if I’m being cynical, to add marketability. The latest surprise was from the brewery I formerly maligned, Stone & Wood, and this, a take on a (yet another) variety of brew which I had never heard of - the Munich Dunkel Lager. The different technique? The ancient method of using superheated stones to boil the wort, which for obvious reasons is not a widespread practise anymore, but can apparently lend some very unique flavours to a brew.
I’ll be honest here - this is the beer that started my re-evaluation of this brewery. I was very pleasantly surprised - I wish they’d brew this more often (it’s a yearly thing), although I can understand why it’s only limited batches as superheating those stones must in itself be a mammoth pain in the arse. But it produces a quite interesting brew in this case. A lovely dark ruby hue, a very savoury aroma in which even I can smell toasted malts with the usual strong hops, and that slightly roasted, smoky flavour which I associate with beers brewed in old fashion (rauchbier is another one that comes to mind). As you’d expect, the malt flavours dominate over the hops but the latter do come through at the end with a nice bitter (but not overly so) finish. I was impressed, and I plan to get a few more of these before this year’s brew is finally sold out. I still don’t know if it’s worth all the effort on the brewer’s part, but I do look forward to trying the different iterations of this brew in the future.
Sigh are one of the most intruiging bands Japan has ever produced. And if you know your Japanese metal, that’s a big call, but I’m making it anyway. Starting out in the early 90s as European-inspired black metal but with some very Japanese flourishes, they have progressed musically on pretty much every major release. This, a limited edition reissue of their second album Infidel Art, is strange and ethereal even today - black metal with symphonic elements thrown in seemingly haphazardly (not symphonic black metal ala Dimmu Borgir or similar cruddy extreme metal acts), with complex keyboards played effectively over dirty guitar riffing and tortured screams and screeching black metal vocals. It sounds like a mess, and it could have very easily turned out that way, but through some inspired, original songwriting and atmospherics they more than pulled it off - they created a masterpiece. This is up there with my favourite Sigh release, and Sigh remain one of the few black metal acts I like who are more innovative. I generally like my second-wave black metal raw and primitive (like early Mayhem), and I have very little time for modern examples of the style. Sigh are the exception, as they seem to understand what black metal is all about without being stale - a very hard thing to pull off.
The link with the beer? I suppose I could grasp at straws and say it’s like innovation come full circle or some such shit - but I just thought the colour schemes went together…
So, I said I’d re-review this beer from the days of my old Facebook photos, and I see no better time than now, a couple of days into the new year.
I did rip their lager a new one, but upon having this very Aussie version of an American pale both on tap and this new bottle, I’m finally a fan. This is the quintessential hot weather drink - it goes down so smoothly when you’re hot and bothered, and has great sessionability but, again, in the right season. When I first had this, it was winter, it was freezing, and the lack of body and the fairly minimal finish made it highly unappealing. However, right now, the amazing floral, almost tropical aromas followed by enough of a hop bite upfront to keep one interested, lack of grainy taste and that minimal finish makes it absolutely perfect for slamming down in the sun. As someone who doesn’t really like pilseners, I lack a good summer beer, and this is the one. So I apologise, Stone & Wood, for originally doubting this beer. I still don’t like your lager, though.
Again, I’ll pair it with the original vinyl I had it with, although again it doesn’t match, but for a different reason. Atlantean Kodex are an epic metal band from Germany, thus they probably require a strong ale or a Bavarian wheat beer or a pils of some kind. Anyway, they are up there on my list of favourite bands of all time. Calling to mind early Manowar, with viking-era Bathory, and a Manilla Road-esqe sense of grandeur and an obvious, obsessive love for homeland and lore, the absolute passion they display on their recordings is second to none. Beautiful, barbaric, melodic and, that word again, passionate heavy metal. When I listen to their stuff, shivers run down my spine. This double vinyl is their demos repackaged and put onto wax like it should be. I’ve annoyed many a neighbour with this band, and I will continue to do so…
Yes, dear readers, another lager. Why do I do this to myself? Because I love all of you and want to be the voice of informative reason and….nah, fuck that, I just like whingeing.
So, I’ve had mixed responses to this brewery in the past. I originally hated their Pacific Ale, but I’ll do a re-review soon, because I’ve actually grown to like it, and drinking it in summer makes me comprehend what they were trying to do much better. But this is a review for their lager, and as much as I want to like it, I can’t. It’s not horrid, but it has all the usual hallmarks of adjunct-style lagers with a few hops added in there to try and mask the nasty. And it doesn’t work. Stale grain and odd bitterness at the end make for a middling drink. Avoid. They can (and do) do much better than this.
I’ll come out and say it - I prefer the Rolling Stones to the Beatles. I always have. I know that their backgrounds compared to their respective musical styles/images are a bit mixed up (i.e. the [originally] clean-cut Beatles were actually Liverpudlian thugs and the Stones were twats from art school) but the Stones, for me, were always harder edged and more interesting. And in terms of longevity, well, this album was released in ‘73, and the Beatles were, well, dead by this time. Let It Be, fuckers. And any bloke who can be clinically dead like Keith Richards and still be SOMEHOW WALKING deserves kudos. Anyway, digression aside, this album was laid-back, but quite dark and in some places raucous and hellish, like a lot of their catalogue. Famous for the single “Angie”, I like it for the infamous “Star Star”, or “Starfucker”, as it was called and should have remained so. A very cool album which was bagged by that shithead Lester Bangs but which deserves its place alongside their classics.