I get really annoyed when so-called experts publish their end of year ‘best of…’ lists. You would have to be really presumptuous, pretentious and full of your own self-importance to think that anyone else would be interested in your ill-informed and probably biased opinions.

And so here is my ‘best of 2016 in beer and music’ list.

New Music and Beer

2016 has seen the release of heaps of cool and original new music and beer. I have already extolled the virtues of the latest albums by Opeth, Dunsmuir and Crippled Black Phoenix in earlier posts, and with apologies up front to the many fine artists and brewers who I have not listed, these are some other new albums and beers that I have really enjoyed this year…

2016 proved to be good year overall for the US thrash metal old guard, with Death Angel, Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica all releasing good to great albums. But for me the best and truest of the lot was Testament’s ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ (Nuclear Blast) which continues the band’s renaissance since their reformation in 2003 following singer Chuck Billy’s recovery from cancer. Searing riffage, blistering solos and Billy’s full-throated roar coupled with memorable songs and great hooks make for a great, consistent album. And the perfect accompaniment is a similarly intense and in-your-face American IPA, namely the aptly named ‘War Hog’ (7.5% abv) from Feral Brewing. Pouring a pale straw colour but overflowing with big fruity hop aromas and lip-smacking resinous flavour, this is a serious and also seriously refreshing beer.

Flyying Colours brought shoegaze into the twenty-first century with their debut album ‘Mindfullness’ (Island/Universal), which combined the shimmering, soaring melodies, walls of guitars and ethereal vocals in the vein of My Bloody Valentine and Ride with liberal splashes of psychedelia and atmosphere reminiscent of The Church’s finest moments. It’s sweetly seductive, much like Big Shed Brewing Concern’s rather awesome ‘Golden Stout Time’ (5.4% abv). Honey aromas give way to some slight dark chocolate bitterness before exploding into the sweet, glorious flavours that are uncannily reminiscent of Golden Gaytime ice creams. Really clever and inspired brewing.

‘The Inland Sea’ (Elektrohasch) is the second full length album from another Melbourne band in Ahkmed. Their music blends post-rock, space rock, heavy psych and ambient elements to create stunning soundscapes that really evoke the vastness and shimmering heat of the Australian outback. Largely instrumental, each of the five lengthy tracks (the shortest running to ten minutes) evolve gradually, creating a sense of spaciousness. This is an album to lose yourself in, and preferably while quaffing a couple of lagers similarly evoke the wide open spaces. Something like ‘The Fox’ hop and rye lager from Rabbit and Spaghetti Brewing. No bland, watery lager this…’The Fox’ is actually quite a complex beer that balances malt sweetness with a whole bunch of spicy Australian hops, but finishes crisp and clean. Would that all lagers were made this way.

The ever-prolific Devin Townsend’s latest album under the Devin Townsend Project banner is, not surprisingly, a soaring, melodic and absolutely huge sounding album; ‘wall of sound’ does not begin to do ‘Transcendence’ (Insideout Music) justice. Most of the usual cohorts are present including Anneke van Giersbergen whose angelic vocals provide a stunning counterpoint. What sets ‘Transcendence’ apart from many previous releases is its consistency and coherence. This might be due to Townsend relinquishing some production and arranging control, but regardless this is one of his finest albums, and best paired with a comparably huge, grandiose beer. Enter Little Bang’s ‘Galactopus’ (10.1% abv). This mightily malted American style barley wine is thick and treacly in texture and overflowing with new world hops. A wall of flavour no less, that still hangs together beautifully. Handle with extreme care.

‘Live Vol. 1 – Europee Tournee’ (Elektrohasch) is, obviously, the first official live album from power trio Colour Haze. This sprawling double CD/triple vinyl set is drawn from across the Germans twenty-year, eleven album career and showcases their distinctive brand of warm, blissful heavy psych. Each song is masterfully structured, often just cruising along but steadily building in intensity culminating in the whole band really cutting loose. No better place to discover Colour Haze and there is no better beer to drink with it than Foxhat’s newly release ‘Red Pelt’ Red IPA (7.1% abv). Rich and velvety, with caramel malts offsetting the lashings of hops, and culminating in a bitter and resinous finish. A perfect match for Colour Haze’s fuzzed out grooves.

Beer Events

Locally in Adelaide there seemed to be pretty much something craft beer-related happening every week. Some standouts from my own, admittedly limited experience included the Wheaty’s ‘Good Beer Wheaty’ series of events in May, the Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival in July, which was bigger and better in its second year despite some very average weather, and the Fork on the Road ‘Craft Beer Fork’ in Light Square in November.

In the company of several other beer enthusiasts who shall remain nameless (let’s just call them John, Pete and Burf), I also once again made the pilgrimage to Melbourne for the GABS festival. Suffice to say, this is a pilgrimage that every craft beer (and cider) fan should make at least once.

Well done to the increasing number of local venues who are getting behind and showcasing craft beer. The Wheaty of course deserves recognition for their long standing and ongoing commitment to good beer (as well as good whiskey, live music and local artists), while the Franklin and the Kings Head/Sturt Street Cellars are a couple of other personal favourites.

Live Gigs

In no particular order some stand out shows for me personally in 2016 included:

  • Baroness at the Gov
  • Big Country (yes really) at the Gov
  • Black Sabbath at the Entertainment Centre
  • Holy Serpent/Lucifer’s Fall/Kitchen Witch/Thirteen Black at Enigma
  • Queensryche at Fowlers
  • Truckfighters at Enigma
  • Mournful Congregation at the Producers Hotel
  • Acid King at Fowlers
  • Iron Maiden at the Entertainment Centre

Well done to everyone who got along and attended shows throughout the year. Here in Adelaide we often have a big collective whinge when touring bands bypass our fair city, but unless people actually get along to the shows that do come our way then we will continue to miss out. So get amongst it in 2017!

In closing, many thanks for reading my blog in 2016 and I hope you have got some enjoyment out of it thus far. Best wishes for 2017 and I hope it is everything you want it to be and more.

Cheers

Jimmy Mac