Monday, January 3, 2011

Brew of the Week: Samuel Smith's India Ale

I'm not usually a fan of India Pale Ales.  IPA's are usually quite hoppy, and I'm much more into the smooth malt flavor.  So I didn't go into tasting the Samuel Smith's India Ale with much expectation.  Sam Smith makes fine beers all the way around, for sure, but IPA's just aren't my cup of...well, beer...

This one, though, took me by surprise.  The nose is quite malty - atypical for an IPA - with just slight citrus notes, and even a bit of apple scent..  And on first taste, the malt is very forward on the tongue.  The hops show up on the finish, but they never really get bitter.  They balance out the malt very nicely and make for a dry but still smooth finish.

Samuel Smith's beers are some of the more expensive imports you'll find in the store, but this one is well worth splurging on.  Cheers!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Brews Cues - Favorite Cues of 2010

It's funny. When I sat down to think of my favorite albums of 2010, I did some research on what the paid "critics" chose as their best albums of the year. And virtually none of my top 10 made their lists.

Do they know more than I do? That's entirely possible. But great music is in the ear of the beholder, and these are the ones from 2010 that I keep going back to, over and over again.

Give them a listen. I think you'll like what you hear.

10. Beach House - Teen Dream
This one actually was on many Top 40 lists. It's a very strong album that I only recently discovered, but I find myself consistently getting lost in the lo-fi pop beauty of it.  
Favorite Track: Silver Soul

9. Keith Urban - Get Closer
I actually think Urban's 2009 effort, Defying Gravity, is a better album, but he just keeps getting it right over and over again. Great pop-country.
Favorite Track: Right On Back To You

8. The Weepies - Be My Thrill
The Weepies - the duo of Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, put out some of the most consistently great lo-fi indie pop around. Their 2008 album, Hideaway, was one of my favorites of all time. And this one continues their rich tradition of simple songwriting with great lyrics and tremendous harmonies.
Favorite Track: Empty Your Hands

7. Little Big Town - The Reason Why
It's a crying shame that Little Big Town's 2007 disc, A Place To Land, didn't meet with the same platinum success as its predecessor, because it's a far superior album. But LBT kept the quality coming with 2010's The Reason Why. Another great country-crossover effort.  
Favorite Track: Kiss Goodbye

6. Anberlin - Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place
One of my favorite bands of the past few years. Like so many others in the last couple of years, I first heard them from fellow Blip DJ's on These guys have a knack for great lyrics wrapped inside killer melodies. They've been compared in some circles to the Goo Goo Dolls.  Maybe, if the Goo's were a bit more emo. Dark Is A Way, Light Is A Place, builds on the great foundation this band laid on Cities in 2007. A very worthy listen.
Favorite Track:  Art Of War

5.  OK Go - Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky
OK Go, the band perhaps best know for the "treadmill video" (Here In Your Arms) is actually a quite good pop band. On Of The Blue Color Of The Sky, the group stretches its wings a bit, incorporating new sounds and styles. This album is very different from their past efforts, but a real gem.
Favorite Song:  End Love

4. Mackintosh Braun - Where We Are
This band originated in Portland, and features a sound that something of a throwback to late 80's electronic pop, a la the Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and the like. And most every song features a hook you just can't get out of your head.  

3. Band Of Horses - Infinite Arms
I gotta admit - at first glance this Seattle-area band looks like they should be playing banjos and the jugs. Just sayin'. But, as they say, never-judge-a-book-by-its cover. Band Of Horses puts out some sweet indie pop/rock.  Infinite Arms is their most complete, consistent album to date. Excellent.
Favorite Track:  Laredo

2. My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
Post-punk power mixed with emo lyrics and a fantastic pop sensibility. I didn't think these guys could out-do 2006's Welcome the the Black Parade. I was wrong.

1. Athlete - Black Swan
My most cherished find of 2010. This band gets a knocked a lot for being similar to Coldplay. Who cares about similarities if the music is great? Which this is, in spades. My favorite album of 2010.

Check these out, and let me know what you think in the comments. Or tell me what your favorites were in 2010.  Cheers!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

31 Days, 31 Brews, 31 Cues: Day 31 - Happy New Year!

Friday's Brew: Shiner Bock

Finished off 2010 with an old favorite.

I "grew up" (in beer terms) on Shiner Bock, living the first 10 years of my post-collegiate life in Texas. Shiner Bock is Spoetzel Brewing's flagship beer; a favorite in the Lone Star State. As bock beers go, it's rather tame. It's got a full but very mellow flavor, and almost no hop bitterness. It really just scratches the surface of the traditional Bavarian bock style, but it's a fine beer. More than a few steps above traditional American macro lagers, but one that even casual beer drinkers can enjoy.

And considering I was celebrating New Year's in a Country bar (which, btw, was a blast) - having Shiner as a choice among the macro crowd was, indeed, nice.

Friday's Cue: Diana Krall - What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?
Ending 2010 with one of my favorite songs of the season. I got to spend New Year's Eve with my family and my fiancee - nothing could be better.

Here's wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2011. And thanks for reading along through my 31 days of beer and music. I hope you've all learned something, or that it's helped you discover a beer or a song you can enjoy for a long time to come.