The 15 Bands You Must See At Riot Fest 2017

After taking last year off from Riot Fest I’m back at it this year! And that means I’m back at writing this post. Well it was posts but I’ve been busy so here’s one big post. These are the 15 bands you need to see at Riot Fest 2017!

At the Drive-In 7:40pm Saturday Riot Stage

I had tickets to see At the Drive-In but they cancelled on me. Then they broke up. Then they got back together and did a bunch of festivals that were very poorly received. Then they recorded a new album and played some shows that were more warmly received. So, take your chances but some of us are finally getting to see At the Drive-In.

Beach Slang 12:40pm Sunday Riot Stage

I saw Beach Slang at last year’s Goose Island block party and they were fantastic. Now they are back to rock another Chicago festival crowd. Beach Slang’s brand of fuzzy rock should be exactly what we’re going to need first thing Sunday morning.

Cap’n Jazz 4:25pm Sunday Riot Stage

Speaking of Goose Island they partly sponsored a free show with Cap’N Jazz a couple of months ago and it may have been the best concert I’ve ever been to. Cap’N Jazz did some reunion shows in 2010 that were fun and it was great to finally see them but in 2017 they’ve found a renewed vigor. If there’s a band that could legitimately start a riot at this year’s Riot Fest it’s Cap’N Jazz. Trust me you don’t want to miss this.

Culture Abuse 2:00pm Sunday The Heather Owen Stage

Not long after Beach Slang wraps up on Sunday another fuzzy punk rock band will take the stage. California’s Culture Abuse keeps building up their fan base since the release of last year’s “Peach”. It’ll be fun to see them play their catchy songs for a festival audience.

Dead Cross 3:25pm Saturday Roots Stage

Mike Patton leads a band that contains Justin Pearson, Dave Lombardo, and Michael Crain and it sounds exactly how you want it to sound. This super group was made for festivals. Will you get another chance to see them play together? Who knows! Don’t take the chance this is another must see band!

Dessa 2:00pm Sunday Rise Stage

Well. This is unfortunate. Dessa and Culture Abuse play at the same time. And for the exact same amount of time. So, we all have a tough choice to make and I haven’t quite decided how I’m going to let this play out. We saw Dessa at Riot Fest in 2012 and she was great. It would be hard to walk away from her set definitely the most frustrating conflict of the weekend.

The Hotelier 4:00pm Friday The Heather Owen Stage

I’ve yet to see The Hotelier since they released their sprawling third album “Goodness”. I’m very excited to see how it plays out in front of a big crowd. I’m also interested to see which older songs they sprinkle into their 40 minute set.

Hot Water Music 1:25pm Sunday Roots Stage

Hot Water Music release a new album on the Friday of Riot Fest. On Sunday they play a quick set early in the day. The new songs sound like the Hot Water Music we’ve come to know and love and I haven’t seen them since Riot Fest 2012. I wish their set was longer so they could play some deep cuts and introduce some new songs but Hot Water Music has been around long enough that I’m sure they’ll play a satisfying set.

INVSN 1:25pm Friday Roots Stage

INVSN is the “poppier” side of Refused front man Dennis Lyxzen. The music has an airy atmospheric quality I like but I’m very interested to see how something so sugary sweet goes over early in the day at Riot Fest.

Jawbreaker 8:45pm Sunday Riot Stage

Jawbreaker is playing at 8:45pm on Sunday. Jawbreaker is playing at 8:45pm on Sunday. Jawbreaker. Sunday.

The Lawrence Arms 5:30pm Saturday Rise Stage

The court jesters of punk rock The Lawrence Arms are always a must see but especially in front of a giant hometown crowd. Expect 30 minutes of exceptional punk rock and probably 30 minutes of stage banter.

Ministry 6:05pm Friday Riot Stage

I mean you’re going to see Nine Inch Nails on Friday night, right? So, might as well warm up for that set by seeing Chicago’s own Ministry. It has been a long time since I’ve seen them live but they were very loud. I mean don’t get me wrong these are classic industrial rock songs but they are also very very loud.

Nine Inch Nails 8:30pm Friday Riot Stage

After you get your ear drums blown out my Ministry it’ll be time for Nine Inch Nails. NIN was the first concert I ever went to TWENTY THREE years ago. And I haven’t seen them since. So this is definitely going to be a big deal for me. This is easily one of the biggest bands to ever play Riot Fest. You probably already know if you’re staying for Nine Inch Nails.

Radar State 3:00pm Friday The Heather Owen Stage

Radar State is another super group. This time we’ve got Jim and Matt of The Get Up Kids and Josh from The Anniversary doing sloppy rock and roll. So far 2 of the 3 songs sounds like “Ten Minutes” by The Get Up Kids. So, yeah you should probably go see Radar State.

The Smith Street Band 1:15pm Saturday Rise Stage

Much like Beach Slang on Sunday The Smith Street Band is Saturday’s “HEY WAKE UP AND SHAKE IT OFF” band. Show up early and be rewarded with 45 minutes of loud songs about love, hope, depression, and “lads” which I think is Australian for friend. You could sleep in on Sunday but I mean come on these guys came all the way from Australia.

E3 2017 Thoughts

If you follow me on Twitter you know that this year is most likely the last year I’ll take time out of my schedule to watch the E3 press conferences. It was also supposed to be the last time I was going to podcast about E3. Unfortunately the podcasts did not happen. So since I took the time to watch all the conferences I thought I would at least put my thoughts somewhere.

Things started on Saturday with a pretty lackluster EA press conference. Everyone is trying their hardest to get into eSports and EA is no exception. They are who you think of when you think of sports in video games so if anyone can pull off some growth in this space it’s them. Also, for some reason they are cramming in cinematic single player campaigns into all of their sports titles. Is this popular? Do people like that? A Way Out looks neat but if the game is too scripted it won’t generate any of those moments you talk to your friends about to see if it played the same for them. Finally, Anthem looks great but I’m curious to see how they’ll instill the infamous BioWare story elements into the game if at all.

Microsoft was up next and the Xbox One X looks great but man, I have never seen so many mixed opinions about a console. On the one hand some people seem to think that no one will really buy it because its meant for high end consumers but on the other hand I wonder if there’s enough people out there that will want it Day One that we’ll see shortages at launch. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds coming to Xbox is really cool news. The game is a phenomenon on PC so to letting console players in on the fun is great. State of Decay 2 looks like a ton of fun if you have time to play games like that. I don’t care about Sea of Thieves. I’m very sorry. Crackdown 3 looks…..like more Crackdown which is what I think everyone wanted but that trailer fell a little flat.

Bethesda had a cool conference. Wolfenstein 2 looks great. Its neat that they added Link weapons and armor to the Switch version of Skyrim. Bethesda doubling down on VR is interesting. I wonder if Skyrim and Fallout will be the thing that gets VR into the mainstream.

Ubisoft opened with a very cute Rabbids x Mario game. Unfortunately I’m not a big fan of strategy games so I’ll pass.  Starlink could be neat but toys to life seems like a weird thing to try now. And of course we finally got a trailer for Beyond Good and Evil 2. It was fun, but what is the game?

Sony’s conference was literally hard to watch. We had to restart the stream a few times and it stuttered a lot. Days Gone looks like a Vita spin off of The Last of Us that Sony decided to turn into a full PS4 title. Shadow of the Colossus remake seems like Sony testing the waters for green lighting a sequel. God of War looks fine. Detroit looks like a David Cage fever dream. And Spider-Man looks fantastic.

Nintendo had a breezy conference where the two biggest announcements were just mentions. Super Mario Odyssey looks like a lot of fun and might get me to buy a Switch. It was interesting that the Yoshi and Kirby games don’t have full titles but it’s possible those are coming. Outside of their Nintendo Direct they announced a new 2D Metroid which looks very promising.

There you go. It was a pretty sleepy E3. I’m sure I might hang with Fish and Dave next year for some of the off day conferences but I can’t see myself being very active anywhere but Twitter. So, thanks for reading, more beer and barbecue to come.

Dark Lord Day Survival Guide – 2017 Edition

With less than one week to go until this year’s Dark Lord Day I thought I would re-write my survival guide to include some things that I learned last year.

First, remember how I said you should hydrate the week of Dark Lord Day? Well, that might be a bit much. While I do think that you should watch your alcohol, caffeine, and water levels the week of the event my body got so used to using water to flush my system that by the time I got corralled into the cattle pens I had to pee so bad I thought my bladder might actually rip open. So I’d say try not to overdue anything the week of and depending on how early you arrive increase your water intake once you are IN the festival.

Continue to do everything in your power to not get sick. Take Emergen-C, work from home every day this week, don’t go to the doctor, do not get sick. And if you do get sick DO NOT take anything for it on Dark Lord Day. You have no idea how the medicine you take is going to interact with alcohol. That’s probably the part that will fuck you up more than just being sick that day.

I stand by what I said about the Friday night bottle shares. Partake at your own risk. Do you really want to get so messed up on Friday that you miss your Group B call time? And on top of that possibly be so sick that you don’t drink anything on Saturday?

I think the Camelbak bladder thing is a real good idea. Mine broke before things even got started last year. Luckily, I had backup water bottles. Definitely bring one or the other. I haven’t bought a replacement bladder yet, I might just go with plenty of bottles.

As far as food goes I say skip the festival food. Bring Cliff bars with you. They will get you what you need to keep you going as soon as you need it. The worst thing would be waiting in line for food while still bottle sharing and now you’re drunk because you were drinking on an empty stomach.

I’m just going to quote myself about tasting glasses from last year: “Don’t bring a tasting glass larger than 5oz. I know. It sounds crazy, right? But you will be drinking high octane beers for upwards of 12 hours. Take a 3oz taste, move on to the next thing. By the time you hit beer number 15 your taste buds are going to be shot anyways. You aren’t going to remember half of what you drank so why take giant pours that will only end up with you being very sad the next day.

Taking an hour break in the middle of the day is still really good advice. If the weather is actually decent this year you’ll be able to walk around the festival grounds. See a band, buy some merch, soak it up. You’re at Dark Lord Day!

And finally, stop drinking. When it looks like the people you are with are ready to head out stop taking pours. Put your glass away and pat yourself on the back. You survived Dark Lord Day!

Thoughts on the Wicked Weed Acquisition

 

This morning, I opened Twitter and at the same time as everyone else I learned that Wicked Weed Brewing had been acquired by Anheuser-Busch. My social media feed was flooded with posts about Wicked Weed and ABInBev. My first thought was “wow, my social media is going to be a shit show today”. And it still is.

I wish Wicked Weed all the best.

However, if anyone brings Wicked Weed to a bottle share I attend from this moment forward I will have to say something. Probably something hilarious like “we better drink this before it turns into Bud Light” or “didn’t Anheuser Busch already make sour stouts in 2015” a very funny zing referring to the infected bottles of Bourbon County Stout.

Anheuser Busch wants to destroy craft beer. When they bought Goose Island in 2012 you couldn’t buy craft beer in Chicago any more. I’ve switched to spiked seltzers.

I wish everyone at Wicked Weed the best and I know they will continue to make great beers. It’s too bad they made beer so good that a lot of people want to drink it.

Sincerely,
Jim Plachy

The Best Pork Shoulder I’ve Smoked (So Far)

Last Sunday even with the threat of rain I decided to crank out another pork shoulder. This time I rubbed it with mustard and managed to find time to brine it for about 16 hours. This is how it looked after it came out of the brine. I love seeing the molasses adhere itself to the fat cap.

At 4:45am the shoulder was on the smoker and this time I changed the way I handled the wood. I hid hickory and apple chips throughout the charcoal while setting up the bowl for the minion method. Then when I put the shoulder on I added a large chunk of hickory. I then alternated apple and hickory chunks every hour until the shoulder hit 160 degrees. I was planning on wrapping the shoulder but I was getting such good heat out of the smoker that I skipped it.

This is what the shoulder looked like towards the end of the cook. The bark was super dark and crunchy which is how I like it but I am very interested in doing a wrap one of these days. I was going to do a shoulder this weekend but my schedule didn’t allow for it.

After 12 hours the shoulder came off the smoker and after a 45 minute rest I pulled it. I mixed it up with additional rub and the spice and moisture level was perfect. Doling out the smoke every hour worked great. The meat had a perfect smokey aroma and it didn’t dominate the flavor of the pork. I also think the brining is a must. It adds so much moisture to the finished product. After finishing this shoulder I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to finally doing that brisket. Maybe Memorial Day weekend? Stay tuned!

COOK LOG

43 degrees
225 degrees

 

77 degrees
240 degrees

 

112 degrees
240 degrees

 

7:45am (Water pan refill)
135 degrees
238 degrees

 

152 degrees
218 degrees

 

160 degrees
227 degrees

 

10:45am (changed coal, water pan refill)
165 degrees
225 degrees

 

166 degrees
233 degrees

 

12:45pm (water pan refill)
171 degrees
258 degrees

 

178 degrees
240 degrees

 

184 degrees
243 degrees

 

190 degrees
232 degrees

 

195 degrees
247 degrees

Cooking a Huge Pork Shoulder Slowly and a Tri-Tip Quickly

Last weekend it looked like the weather was going to hold out for a good long smoke, so for the first time ever I went to the butcher to get a pork shoulder and decided to get a tri-tip for good measure. I’ve always bought my pork shoulders at a big grocery store. I find that Meijer actually has real good butchered in house pork shoulders. The other guys have cryovac packed Hormel shoulders which are fine because lets face it the original point of barbecue was to take the cheapest cuts of meat and smoke them until they are tender and delicious. That’s been one of the great things about this hobby and what can make it so “relaxing”. Even if you screw up you still have great food at the end of the cook. It might not be what you wanted but it’s edible. The butcher sold me a whole bone-in shoulder that came fresh out of the shrink wrap. He trimmed it up a bit but unlike the stuff I buy at the grocery store I had to do further trimming once I got home. This is what it looked like when I unpacked it.

I trimmed off some of that raised fat. I did an ok job but what I didn’t know is that I would be doing even more fat trimming later in the day. Even with the trimming this shoulder was over 10lbs the biggest shoulder I’ve ever tried to cook. My goal was to get it done as close to 5:00pm as possible so I started the fire at 3:45am. I knew it was going to be a cold morning and that the temp wouldn’t start to rise until almost 9:00am so I had to get things going early. While the fire got going I rubbed the pork. I used olive oil instead of my usual mustard because I had done it two weeks prior and I thought it helped with moisture. I don’t think it did so I’ll be going back to the mustard. For a rub I used this recipe from the Virtual Weber Bullet website.

By 4:30am I had the shoulder on the cooker. I used a 75/25 mix of Apple and Hickory wood. I usually brine my shoulders two days before I cook them. Unfortunately I didn’t have the shoulder in time for this cook so I decided I was going to spray the shoulder with a 75/25 mix of apple juice and apple cider vinegar. I did this every hour for 3 hours starting at 10:30am. This is what the shoulder looked like when I lifted the lid for the first time at the 6 hour mark.

At this point things started getting hectic for me. The fuel in the cooker was starting to run out, the water pan was empty, and I decided it was time to get the tri-tip ready for lunch. When I took the tri-tip out of the fridge and unwrapped it I found out that the butcher had left the fat cap on one side. I definitely didn’t want or need that much fat so I had some trimming to do. It took me a few minutes but I can’t believe what a great job I did.

I didn’t have any made for beef rubs so I found my original tri-tip recipe someone sent me when I started smoking last year. That recipe had a rub in it and something didn’t feel right when I was making it but I was pressed for time and I threw it together and rubbed it on.

I decided to run my Mini Smokey Mountain for the tri-tip since I had the pork shoulder on the bottom rack of the full size smoker and I wanted this guy to come up to temp quickly.  Here’s a picture of me running both my smokers simultaneously for the first time ever.

After 45 minutes on the smoker I was getting 118 degrees in the thickest part of the meat. So I took it off and placed it on my smoking hot Weber Q. I did 3 minutes on each side and after letting it rest a few minutes it looked fantastic.

But what happened when I cut into it I can’t even describe. I’ve been trying to make beef that looks like this my entire adult life.

So, how did it taste? Well, that’s the problem. The rub I applied to the beef was heavy on salt and cayenne so it was a bit salty and a lot spicy. I wrapped up the leftovers for people to try later and it had mellowed out a little bit but I’m currently searching for a better tri-tip rub.

The pork shoulder cooked on the smoker for about 12 hours total. At the bottom of this post I’ll put the hourly temps so you can see how it progressed. I was pretty happy with how the smoker held temp. I only had to change the coals completely once probably due to the very low temps in the morning.

When I went to go take the shoulder out of the cooker it was so tender that the whole thing fell apart while transferring it to the pan. Here’s a pic, sorry its so bad. I’ll work on my camera techniques.

And then about 45 minutes later I pulled it all by hand….well, hand and shredders. This is the finished product.

A couple of quick notes about the finished shoulder. I forgot to sprinkle additional rub into the meat as I pulled and mixed it and I DID NOT use enough wood for a 10lbs pork shoulder. As with all barbecue it tasted fine and everyone was happy to eat it but I can definitely say this was one of my worst shoulders. I went out and bought a Hormel for this weekend. I’ll definitely have time to brine it and its a little smaller at 8.7lbs. I’m also going to work on smoke management a bit more. Making sure there’s wood smoke until the shoulder hits about 160.  I’ll be sure to do my best to document the cook. Thanks for taking the time to read all this!

COOK LOG

4:30am
38 degrees
225 degrees
5:30am
54 degrees
238 degrees
6:30am
85 degrees
236 degrees
7:30am
112 degrees
239 degrees
temperature dropped to 30 degrees, wind held steady
8:30am
132 degrees
236 degrees
9:30am
148 degrees
226 degrees
Temperature up to 39 degrees but wind picked up
10:30am
159 degrees
207 degrees
11:30am
164 degrees
208 degrees
12:30pm
167 degrees
247 degrees
1:30pm
171 degrees
258 degrees
2:30pm
181 degrees
245 degrees
3:30pm
189 degrees
252 degrees
4:00pm
195 degrees
Pulled off smoker

I Hope You Like Barbecue

To say that craft beer is my hobby would be a massive understatement. Craft beer is in every fiber of my being. I think about it constantly. I drink it often. I’m always buying beer or wishing I was somewhere buying a beer. My social media accounts are dominated by craft beer. I’ve made friends……on Untappd.

Over the course of the last 18 months I’ve been very slowly dipping my toe into the world of barbecue. Lets get this straight. Barbecue as in slow smoked meat. I don’t mean grilling, I don’t mean sauces, I mean slowly cooking meat over wood and charcoal. After spending all of last year barbecuing on a Weber smokey joe that used a tamale pot as a chamber(seriously, its a thing)I decided to buy a real Weber Smokey Mountain cooker. Luckily, the weekend I bought it we had amazing weather(it was February in Chicago….there should have been snow, it was 65 degrees). I’ve already cooked two pork shoulders, and 3 whole chickens on it. My goal is to spend the whole season cooking a wide variety of things all leading up to the mother of all barbecue…brisket. That’s right, I want to do a brisket. I bought the 14.5″ WSM so I’ll probably have to stick to either doing the flat or separating the point from the flat. I think I’m going to start by just doing a 5-6lbs flat.

What I’m getting at is that barbecue has become my hobby and its a fun one to document. So prepare for me to start writing posts about my barbecue cooks. The first one is coming by the end of this weekend. I hope that you enjoy these posts. I would love feedback. And hopefully writing about cooking will get me writing some more stuff about beer and music. I’d love to be more active on this blog.

2016: A Beer In Review

2016 was certainly a beer to remember. If you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while now you’re probably wondering where the Jim Plachy Beer Awards are. Well, for some reason no brewery ever came to pick up their award and quite frankly while they were a fun idea I felt like a lot of the beers I really enjoyed got left out because it didn’t win an award. I thought about doing honorable mentions in each category but instead I came up with this brilliant idea. A list. What if I made a list of my favorite beers I drank? So here we are. I’ve made a list of my top 50 beers, my top 10 ciders, and some other assorted things I wanted to highlight. So, what are waiting for? Grab a beer, or a cider, or you know whatever you were already drinking because odds are you didn’t set aside time to read this, you’ll just skim and shrug.

A NOTE ABOUT NE-STYLE IPAs: If there was one hot trend in beer this past year it was the New England style IPA. And while I didn’t drink nearly all of them the ones I did drink I very much enjoyed. Some people have turned their nose up at the style because it removes the bitter element from the India Pale Ale but I have to be honest with you guys. After years of drinking and enjoying very bitter IPAs I found these to be refreshing in more ways than one. So, you’ll see a bunch of them in the top 50. Are they a fad? Who knows? But it’s my list and there are quite a few on there. It’ll be interesting to see how many stick around next year.

Best Place to Drink Beer: Link’s Taproom


For the third year in a row Link’s Taproom in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago is my favorite place to drink beer. The comfortable atmosphere, never ending parade of delicious beers, good food, and friendly staff make this a place that I honestly never want to leave once I’m inside.

Best Brewery: Hoof Hearted Brewing



In my short time drinking craft beer I don’t think I’ve ever seen a brewery with as much momentum as Hoof Hearted. I started to read about them on BeerAdvocate earlier this year and the next thing I knew I kept hearing about Konkey Dong. Every where I went, dong this and dong that. After doing some trading we were able to acquire about 15 of their beers. Each one was excellent. The NE style stuff tasted true to the style, the stouts were great, and the off kilter stuff never disappointed. They even opened a brewpub this year that is high on my list of must visit places in 2017. I hope to see them soon.

Top 10 Ciders of 2016

You’ve heard this from me a hundred times by now but if it wasn’t for hard cider I wouldn’t be drinking craft beer. It was embarrassing how many great ciders I had this year. I actually went up to Michigan this past Spring to visit Vander Mill and Virtue, had almost every cider at this year’s FoBAB, and even made it to the years in the making Chicago cider bar The Northman. Not to mention I held my second annual cider bottle share which was a ton of fun. So without further ado here are the ten best ciders I had this year.

10. The Northman House Cider
9. Virtue Cider Cherry Mitten
8. Prima Most
7. Angry Orchard Understood in Motion #1
6. Vander Mill Barrel-Aged Totally Roasted
5. Virtue Cider Michigan Brut
4. E.Z. Orchards Semi-Dry Cidre
3. Domaine Dupont Cidre Reserve

We saved this to be the grand finale of our second annual cider bottle share and it did not disappoint. You get some great funk in the aroma and the taste is  calvados barrel and sweet apple. I was very sad when this bottle was empty. Because it meant our bottle share was over and I couldn’t have any more of this magnificent cider.

2. Seattle Cider Co. Wild Fermented Heirloom

No picture of this cider really exists so here’s the Seattle Cider Co. team showing off their medal at this year’s FoBAB which is exactly where I had this funky, dry cider. It was the best cider I drank at the event and also one of the stand outs of the whole session. Seattle Cider Co. impresses me more and more as time goes on and this wild barrel aged version of their Heirloom limited release cider is the best thing I’ve had from them.

Photo courtesy of http://peaksandpints.com/2016/11/14/seattle-cider-company-medals-festival-of-barrel-aged-beer/

1. Vander Mill Barrel-Aged Mango with Citra

Another cider that has no photo taken of it. I had this at the tap room and I’m not sure it made it very far out of the tap room. I see lots of people check in to a Vander Mill Mango Citra cider but this was a barrel aged version. Is this cider traditional? Not even close. It tasted like mango puree but somehow even more citrusy. Then there was a little bit of flavor from the barrel but honestly not much. Not that I cared because I could drink this cider just for the intense mango flavor for the rest of my life. Vander Mill expanded big time this year and I hope we get to see more unique stuff like this make its way out of the tap room and into stores and then into my mouth.

Top 50 Beers of 2016

Here it is my first ever top beers list. I won’t be providing descriptions for every beer just the top 10.  Mostly because 11-50 is not what I would call an exact order. You could interchange spots between a few of these beers. My top 10 though is definitely my 10 favorite beers in order.  So, I’d love for you to read this, give me some feedback, let me know what you think. Beers to a great 2017!

50. Revolution Fistmas Holiday Ale
49. Great Lakes Alberta Clipper Porter
48. New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
47. Half Acre Maple Orin
46. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin
45. Half Acre Beer Hates Astronauts
44. Central State Table
43. Surly Todd the Axe Man
42. Solemn Oath Ravaged by Vikings
41. Pipeworks The Lizard King
40. Bell’s Hopslam
39. Trillium Double Dry Hopped Congress Street
38. Founder’s Backwoods Bastard
37. Modern Times Aztec Mummy with Guava and Mango
36. Goose Island Bourbon County Koval Cuvee
35. Ballast Point Single Malt Whiskey Victory at Sea
34. Pipeworks The Jones Dog
33. The Bruery Ride That Goat
32. Perennial Sump
31. Perennial 17
30. Half Acre Galactic Double Daisy Cutter
29. Central State Polyjuice Potion
28. Perennial Maman
27. Ram Schaumburg Side Note S’more Luv
26. Trinity Brewing President’s Club
25. Half Acre Deep Space
24. Central Waters Seventeen
23. Almanac Grand Cru
22. Perrin No Rules
21. Three Floyds Red Death
20. Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout
19. Jester King Nocturn Chrysalis Blend 4
18. Toppling Goliath Golden Nugget with Mosaic
17. Prairie Artisan Ales Christmas Bomb!
16. Alesmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout
15. Lagunitas Born Yesterday Unfiltered
14. Hoof Hearted Konkey Dong
13. Perennial Abraxas
12. Destihl Dosvidanya Vanilla Rye
11. Central Waters Cassian Sunset
10. Cantillon Kriek

After years of Cantillon alluding me I finally got to try some of their beer. A couple of friends spent some time in Belgium and brought back Rose de Gambrinus, Gueuze, and Kriek. While all 3 beers were delicious, delicate, and some other word that starts with “d” it was the Kriek that impressed me the most. I’m going to come off real dumb saying this but I finally understood why New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red is named what it is. I’ve always loved that beer but after drinking the real thing I now fully appreciate it.

9. Tree House Brewing Julius

All that really needs to be said about Julius at this point is that it lives up to the hype. A beer that is supposed to look and taste like orange juice. And that’s exactly what it tastes like.

8. Prairie Artisan Ales Birthday Bomb!

There’s no reason to mess with the near perfection that is Bomb! but Prairie feels they have to do it anyway and I’m so glad they do. The addition of sweet caramel to the spicy, roasty flavors of Bomb! elevates the beer to a whole other level. It was great having something cut the heat just a bit. Adding caramel didn’t make much sense to me but after I drank it I knew it was perfect.

7. Off Color Barrel-Aged Dino’Smores

When John Laffler says he’s going to release a barrel-aged stout you show up and go get that barrel-aged stout. After spending 18 months in rye whiskey barrels Dino’Smores transformed into a spicy, whiskey soaked chocolate covered marshmallow. It was the perfect dessert beer.

6. Hoof Hearted Everybody Wants Some Citra

As mentioned above I was fortunate to not have to live in Ohio but also drink a lot of Hoof Hearted. This was the best of them. EWS: Citra was a pillowy soft tropical fruit salad hop bomb. This was my first foray into the NE-Style IPA and I sat there for a while just staring out the window wondering if I’d ever be able to go back to bitter IPAs. This beer tilted my whole perspective on things and was the best IPA I had in 2016.

5. Odd Side Ales Hazel’s Nuts

There’s something about getting a pour at FoBAB late in the show when your palate is at its most fatigued and the beer cuts through all the bullshit and makes you take notice. At FoBAB 2016 that beer was Hazel’s Nuts. Barrel-Aged Nutella is a lazy way to describe it but I can’t think of a better one. I’m a sucker for hazelnut flavored beers and I fell hard for this one.

4. Goose Island Bourbon County Rare (2015)

While this beer has been mired in controversy lately there’s no denying how much I love it. That chocolate covered butterscotch flavor from last year has faded giving way to tons of oaky goodness. No other barrel-aged beer truly shows off the magic of the barrel like Bourbon County Rare.

3. Goose Island Netflix & Chill

At the Goose Island 25th anniversary party in 2012 a beer called Bourbon County Napa was poured. It was BCBS aged in red wine barrels and I believe I said it was my favorite beer of 2012. The red wine mingled so well with the Bourbon County. The first time I went to the barrel warehouse I saw wine barrels marked “BCS NAPA”. I got very excited. However, the beer never materialized. Or did it? Back in January at Goose’s new taproom they poured Netflix & Chill. It was a red wine barrel-aged imperial stout. And some friends and I agreed that it was most likely BCS Napa. It just tasted too close to that beer we had four years ago.

2. The Bruery Rum Barrel-Aged Black Tuesday

Black Tuesday is a beer that ends parties. A 20% ABV barrel-aged stout that is so strong and so potent some people just leave. This one off Rum barrel-aged version smooths the edges a bit. The Rum gives the beer a more approachable profile lending that familiar Rum sweetness. This version of Black Tuesday went down almost too easy but I savored every sip of this rare beverage.

1. Prairie Artisan Ales Apple Brandy Barrel Noir

I don’t know how else to say it so I’ll just say it. This beer tasted like apple pie a la mode. That’s it. I loved it. I had no idea what apple brandy would do to a stout and I was blown away. It was perfect. It messed with my mind so hard that I never forgot about it all year. It was my beer of the year from the moment I took my first sip.

Top 10 Albums of 2016

I’ve listened to 100s of hours of music. I’ve listened to the same albums over and over again. After many hours of agonizing deliberation here are my top 10 albums of 2016. There were so many good albums this year that I contemplated doing a top 15 or 20 but no. No, I said. I must whittle them down to 10. Although, stay tuned I’m doing an article about my honorable mentions and why they didn’t quite make the cut.

This year I’ve switched from Spotify links to Apple Music links. Sorry, if that’s an issue but we’re an Apple household and Apple Music makes more sense. I’m sure you can figure out how to listen to these albums on Spotify. After each album you’ll get the link to the album and at the end you’ll get a link to the playlist of one song off each album. Alright, got it? Here we go!

10. Solange – A Seat at the Table (Columbia Records)

While her sister is busy racking up number one spots on every other best of list I vastly preferred this album. At 21 tracks and 50 minutes this album seems like it might be pretty daunting but it is downright breezy. The album features many interludes that start out appearing every few songs and then end up being between every song. And each one fits the track it’s about to introduce perfectly. I found myself enjoying every second of the album and actually being shocked when it was over. I couldn’t believe 50 wonderful, soulful, daring minutes had passed.

Link: https://itun.es/us/m0khfb

9. Joyce Manor – Cody (Epitaph)

Joyce Manor quietly released their best album back in August. So quietly that I only listened to it twice and then…..kind of forgot about it. When I went to go make this list I saw Joyce Manor and couldn’t for the life of me remember what I thought. I was sure it wouldn’t make the top 10 but I ended up listening to it twice in a row. By the end of the second listen I was in love with it. Joyce Manor has grown up and made their most mature album yet. All while still retaining all the things you love about Joyce Manor.

Link: https://itun.es/us/KN5-db

8. Newmoon – Space (Mayfly Records)

In 2014 Newmoon released their criminally under-appreciated debut EP Invitation to Hold. After that I assumed that maybe they had called it quits. But now here we are over two years later with their stunning debut album. Space is everything you wanted it to be. Delivering on the promise of Invitation… but expanding and refining its sound into one of the best rock records of the year. No one did reverb better in 2016 than Newmoon.

Link: https://itun.es/us/tT_Efb

7. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost (Run for Cover)

Speaking of pop-punk bands getting mature. No one embraced that this year more than Modern Baseball. Their last album was a mostly light-hearted romp about girls breaking your heart. This album is centered around missing loved ones both alive and dead, depression, suicide, and hopefully getting better. The only question now is whether or not these guys are going to cheer up by their next album.

Link: https://itun.es/us/JNa2ab

6. Sioux Falls – Rot Forever (Broken World Media)

Rot Forever the debut album by Sioux Falls (now known as Strange Ranger) makes zero sense on paper. 72 minutes of music that is supposed to sound like the entire range of indie rock in the 90s. Miraculously the band pulls it off flawlessly. Rot Forever sounds like an album you found in your older brother’s car. Something formative, exhaustive, that you could listen to every day without getting bored of it. How they could ever follow this up I have no idea but it’ll definitely be exciting.

Link: https://itun.es/us/pdG7_

5. The Hotelier – Goodness (Tiny Engines)

In one fell swoop The Hotelier cemented their place in the Emo revival with their incredible 2014 album Home, Like Noplace is There. Just a little over two years later the band returns with the grandiose Goodness. Everything from the announcement of the album to the packaging is infinitely more intricate than Home. And that goes for the music too. The band effortlessly weaves from spoken word interludes to tight chaotic indie rock jams. It’s the bands first attempt at inching towards something epic and they nail it. It’s clear that The Hotelier didn’t want to be pigeonholed as just another Emo band and they deftly dodged that tag with Goodness.

Link: https://itun.es/us/Q8tkbb

4. Balance and Composure – Light We Made (Vagrant)

The first time I heard Postcard the lead single from Balance and Composure’s third album it made me a bit weary. First of all it ripped off Radiohead’s I Might be Wrong and second of all…..it didn’t sound anything like Balance and Composure. Had the band gone off the deep end? We’re they trying to commit career suicide? Nope, turns out they made their best album. The album in full doesn’t sound that much different from the band’s previous work. They just added new layers on top of their existing sound. Light We Made is one of the most refreshing original sounding rock records of the year.

Link: https://itun.es/us/GzFOdb

3. Into It. Over It. – Standards (Triple Crown Records)

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Standards is the best Into It. Over It. album. The album is filled to the brim with rock solid pop-rock with just enough embellishments to make things interesting. These songs are easy to listen to and I don’t mean that as a negative. I mean that the album feels like its over before it begins and then you just want to start it again. After the first listen I knew this was going to be a top 3 album of the year. Without hesitation one of the best albums of the year.

Link: https://itun.es/us/zZ2Aab

2. Touche Amore – Stage Four (Epitaph)

By now you probably know the story behind Stage Four. An album that documents the journey of singer Jeremy Bolm after his mother dies of cancer. But listening to it is another beast altogether. The first time I heard it I could not believe some of the lyrics. They aren’t just honest they are so intensely personal you will cringe. Some of the lyrics aren’t even relatable they are straight up just lines from someone else’s diary. It is very hard to listen to at times. Luckily Bolm is backed up by his more than capable bandmates who continue to combine bracing hardcore with increasingly more jangly indie rock. The closing track Skyscraper is mandatory listening in 2016. I always think there’s no way Touche Amore could outdo themselves and they continue to defy my expectations at every turn.

Link: https://itun.es/us/iwm4cb

1. Frank Ocean – Blond (Boys Don’t Cry)

Frank Ocean spends the first three minutes of one of the most anticipated albums in recent history with his voice pitched up so high he sounds like an alien. And quite frankly he might as well be. Every four years Frank Ocean descends from the Heavens and blesses us with an album. An album that never sounds like anything else. Something that sounds like it came from another planet or even another solar system. Something so groundbreaking that no one even attempts to duplicate it. There is no one else that sounds like Frank Ocean. There is nothing else that sounds like Blond. Every time I listen to this album something new unfurls. A sound I never heard before. Wordplay I never thought about before. I look forward to the next four years between this album and the next. As I continue to uncover all the little treasures this album has buried in it. Maybe one day Frank Ocean will make an album because so far all he’s made is masterpieces.

Link: https://itun.es/us/m6yueb

Playlist Link: Coming Soon

Honorable Mentions, EPs, 7″s, Etc.

Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Kevin Devine – Instigator
Planes Mistaken for Stars – Prey
Super Unison – Auto
Self Defense Family – Colicky
Self Defense Family/Null – Split
Dangers – The Bend in the Break
Oathbreaker – Rheia
American Football – American Football (LP2)
Hesitation Wounds – Awake for Everything
The World is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Long Live Happy Birthday
Wilco – Schmilco
Deftones – Gore
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Bon Iver – 22, a Million

How To Not Get Embarrassingly Drunk At Dark Lord Day

Last year was my first time attending the craft beer wonderland known as Dark Lord Day. I had zero idea what to expect. I wasn’t ready for bottle sharing in line, the guest taps, or the tents full of 3 Floyd’s beer. But I had heard the stories. The stories of people getting blackout drunk by noon. The people who were so hungover they couldn’t leave their hotel rooms the next day. I knew I didn’t want to suffer the same fate so I came up with a plan. And the plan worked. I wasn’t hungover the next day and I never felt out of control drunk. Maybe that’s what you want to do and you don’t need a guidebook to tell you how to get so drunk you trip over your shoes and smash your face into a barricade. But if you want to stay coherent and enjoy the rest of your weekend follow this guide.

  1. You should be hydrating now. There are only a few days left and you should already be avoiding alcohol and caffeine. You should also be increasing your water intake by at least double. I have a 20oz reusable water bottle that I fill every couple of hours at work. Soon you are going to be drinking more beer than you could possibly imagine. You can go a few days without beer.

2. Don’t get sick. I bought a box of Emergen-C and I’ve been drinking a packet every day this week. You DO NOT want to be sick for Dark Lord Day. I know someone who was sick last year and it did not end well.

3. Don’t go HAM at the Friday night bottle share. Do you really want to wake up hungover on Dark Lord Day? Have a couple of small pours and make some new friends but do not over do it. Yeah, I know…there’s a bottle of barrel aged Hunahpu just sitting there waiting for you to try it but trust me there are going to be plenty of whalez for you to tick come sunrise.

4. Buy a camelbak bladder and put it in your backpack. Last year the best thing I did was bring a 2.5 liter camelbak filled with water. Ran the hose up the top and through the loop on the backpack. BOOM! I had water whenever I needed it. For every oz of beer I drank I sipped an equal amount of water. You will pee….a lot. But it will all be worth it. Trust me.

5. Don’t bring a tasting glass larger than 5oz. I know. It sounds crazy, right? But you will be drinking high octane beers for upwards of 12 hours. Take a 3oz taste, move on to the next thing. By the time you hit beer number 15 your taste buds are going to be shot anyways. You aren’t going to remember half of what you drank so why take giant pours that will only end up with you being very sad the next day.

6. Take an hour break. Seriously at some point just stop. I know…someone just popped a Bourbon County Vanilla Rye and it’s tasting SO GOOD but I need you to get up and stretch your legs. Go watch a band, go eat some food(you definitely need to do this), take in all the majesty that is Dark Lord Day. You made it. Soak it up. When you’re done you’ll be ready for round 2.

7. Stop drinking. I know it’s hard but when you feel like things are wrapping up and it’s time to call the Uber back to the hotel, stop drinking. You are done. You will have had dozens of beers at that point. What more do you think you can taste? What more could you possibly need? Seriously around 5pm its time to wrap it up. You did good. I’m proud of you. You survived Dark Lord Day and tomorrow you’ll even be able to remember enough of it to tell your friends what happened.