Thursday, June 12, 2008

Today's Cues: Not bad, for a Slacker


God bless CNET.com podcasts. For folks that are slightly tech-nerdie like me, it's a gold mine of really cool information. Like the day their MP3 Insider podcast talked about Slacker. Slacker Radio is, IMO, the coolest streaming internet radio site yet. The name is a misnomer...this site works hard to keep you musically happy.

Like Pandora, Last.fm and other similar streaming music sites, Slacker allows users to build customized radio stations - for free on the basic subscription. You tell Slacker what you want to hear, build your station from your artist choices, name it, and away you go.

The area where Slacker rules over it's very worthy competitors is in the degree of user control. Because it's free streaming internet radio, you can't control what song you're going to hear. But unlike it's competitors, you can tell Slacker the artists that you only want to hear, and that's all you'll get. So, you won't get strange selections that Slacker thinks you'll like. Just the artists you want. Pandora and Last.fm, as great as they are, don't offer that option yet.

In your station options, you can choose to discover new music through Slacker, and it will throw in selections similar to your chosen artists in any given station. It does ok in this area, not great. Pandora, because of it's Music Genome Project background, still totally owns all other services in the music discovery arena. But if you're just in it to hear what you want to hear, Slacker is the hands-down industry leader...so far.

Want to check it out? Here's a Slacker playlist I put together called The Voice and The Pen, featuring singer-songwriters. Enjoy!

Today's Brew: Farmer's Friend...indeed.



I recently made a trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado - the first time I'd been there since I was a teenager. Great little town on Colorado's western slope - with great views and a very impressive peak (Mt. Sopris) not far away.

I happened into a liquor store on my first night there, looking for A) something nice and cold and brewed, and B) something I hadn't tried before. I found just the thing in Palisade Brewery's Farmer's Friend.

Palisade, Colorado has become better know recently for producing some pretty decent wine, but this beer should grab some attention also. Farmer's Friend is an Irish-style ale. The Palisade website describes it as "brewed by caramelizing the sweet wort in the kettle to develop a sweet malty character in the finished beer." I found the taste to be very similar to Smithwicks, although a touch more hoppy. This despite the website's indication of a low hopping rate. Nonetheless, it's a darn fine beer that finishes very nicely.

A note: as with most beers of this sort, your enjoyment will increase tremendously if you get it out of the bottle. Decant (and not into a plastic party cup, but something glass) and let it breathe for a few minutes. The extra oxygen really balances out the flavors.

Palisade Brewery has just recently begun distributing its beers throughout Colorado, unfortunatly I'm not sure if they're available outside the state yet. But if you're ever in the neighborhood, drop by their tasting room. You won't be disappointed.