“Oh, God of Progress, have you degraded or forgot us?
Where have your laws gone? I think about it now
Ancient hieroglyphic or the South Pacific
Typically terrific, busy and prolific
Classical devotion, architect promotion
Lacking in emotion, think about it now
Chicago, the New Age, but what would Frank Lloyd Wright say?
Amusement or treasure, these optimistic pleasures
Like the Ferris wheel.”
(“Come On Feel The Illinoise” – Sufjan Stevens)
(Clip courtesy of Sufjan Stevens on YouTube)
If I was pushed to name my favourite song/track, this would be it.
With the release of his album “Michigan”, Sufjan Stevens announced a “50 States Project”. That was, to record an album themed to each of the 50 states of the US. 50 albums. Think about it. Given how prolific Stevens was at that point, the music press took him seriously. “Illinois” (from which the above track – with its nod to Slade – is taken) was supposed to be the second in the series….until he revealed that it was all a marketing gimmick and he had no intention…..
The above paragraph is meant to highlight the sheer ambition of Stevens’ music. This damned track is so multi-layered, so huge, so sprawling, so bloody BUSY! Few could get away with it. Sufjan Stevens can though. And speaking of getting away with stuff, few could make a song about one of (if not THE) most prolific mass murderers in US history – John Wayne Gacy – sound like a thing of sad beauty.
Some of the tracks are little but snippets, but this is simply a HUGE album. 21 tracks from “UFO Sighting” through to “Jacksonville”, the banjo plucking “Decatur”, the lovely “Chicago”. A hugely underrated and chronically overlooked album.
And, as I said, my favourite track.
(Baner Peran – St Piran’s Flag)
When in Rome…..
Back in August, I went on holiday for a week to Perranporth in the beautiful county of Kernow (Cornwall, for those not in contact with their inner Celt!). Now Perranporth isn’t exactly overburdened with great drinking holes, so I spent most of my time in a caravan….on top of a cliff…..at the tail end of a hurricane influenced weather system. Not ideal. However, to brighten things up, a colleague – who isn’t a beer nerd – mentioned an off-licence in the village as being worth a shuftie.
So, one morning, I went for a short walk. Which turned into a 5 mile round trip! When I got there, the place had had a window shattered and was being attended to by Devon & Cornwall’s finest. A false start.
The Haven site bar I was at was all Skinners. Dispiriting. So I jumped in the jalopy (lesson learned!) and popped down to that “offie”. Called “The Corkscrew”, the name was suitably descriptive in that it majored on wines. However, the beer selection was ace! All local. Yes, of course, there was St Austell & Skinners – not to mention Sharps, but there were a few Micros in there too, so……
A few days later, we went to Truro, where I was lucky to stumble across a specialist beer shop named The Beer Cellar…..A place loaded with great craft beer….I could have gone daft…but instead restricted myself to some Cornish Micros…as I said “When in Rome”. So here’s my best 6….Don’t ask for prices……I can’t remember…I was too busy trying to keep that caravan on the ground in a Force 12!!!!
1. White Cross IPA – Black Flag Brewery (Goonhavern, Cornwall) – 5.7% abv – IPA – £1.95 (330ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)
If I’d have known that these guys were SO CLOSE to Perranporth, I’d have knocked on the door!
Full-bodied and really smooth on the tongue this packs a good tropical fruit punch with the mango, peach and a little kiwi in there too. This leads into a nice bitterness without being overpowering.
That fruitiness intensified with each sip, the bitterness leading to a quite punchy resinous pine hit in the aftertaste that lingers until the next fruity mouthful. A little belter this. A proper IPA.
I love the classy labelling of Harbour beers. Clean lines, bold, upfront, but so classy.
I also like the bold citrus aromas banging out of this deep golden beer! Lots of orange and fruity mango leaping from the white head!
Smooth as the proverbial bottom, this full-bodied beer slides into the mouth with some bitter orange marmalade muscle on a big digestive biscuit malt skeleton, this is simply a lovely beer.
There is a quite gentle bitterness to this that slouches to one side and allows the hoppy resins to rise to the occasion in a grassy /piney hop aftertaste. A seriously nice beer, picked up at a ludicrous price at a shop recommended by a work colleague.
An unusual one as well, in that Harbour’s Pale Ale is stronger than their IPA! Both lovely beers.
3. An Howl – Penpont Brewery (Altamun, Launceston, Cornwall) – 5.6% abv – Strong Golden Ale – £2.40 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)
With it’s translation from Celtic meaning “The Sun”, this is a crystal clear deep golden ale with an abundant white foamy head and a spicy nose full of orange peel, marmalade, with a touch of melon in there somewhere. In the mouth? Wow! All of the above and more!
Big and bold orange marmalade fruity mouthful. Full bodied with a nice smooth texture, almost creamy feeling strangely, a big bready malty feel in this, yet quite light and is well-balanced by that fruity hoppy character!
This has a lovely deep fruity flavour and it makes my mouth all tingly. Considering the bold fruity hoppy flavours, the bitterness isn’t as big as I’d expect, making this feel even smoother. The finish is slightly sweet, yet with a gentle pithy bitterness followed by a lovely grassy hop aftertaste.
An absolute cracker!
4. 1913 Stout – St Austell Brewery (St Austell, Cornwall) – 5.2% abv – Stout – £2.50 (500ml) – Corkscrew (Perranporth)
I haven’t drunk any St Austell beers for years (aside from the excellent Korev lager). Tribute isn’t my personal cup of Darjeeling and you don’t get much else up here. I didn’t even know that they did a dark beer, so I leapt on this like a vampire on a blood bag! Well. you know what I’m like with Stouts and Porters!
Black. Very black. Always a good sign with a Stout! Thin creamy tan head with a gentle, chocolate aroma with a light smoky edge.
Full-bodied and quite creamy textured, beautiful Roasted Barley bitterness as the beer hits the tongue, a touch of sweetness followed with a light waft of smokiness.
Next mouthful a chocolate character, slightly bitter develops following the roast & smoke. Beautifully smooth and creamy, the beer finishes sweet, with a chocolate and slightly herbal grassy hop aftertaste. A very pleasant surprise this.
Deep golden verging on amber. Light white head and an aroma full of sticky citrus & tropical fruit, orange, peach, passion fruit…
Ooh… Full bodied as you would expect. Lightly carbonated leading to a really smooth feel in the mouth. The first taste I get is something really tropical, passion fruit I think, this is followed by quite a big bitterness and then sticky pine. All really smooth.
Second sip reinforced the first, but a little mango and more peachy presence. All the while finished off with that bitterness and dry sticky piney stuff. A Big beer. First beer from this brewer for me. Don’t drink that many DIPAs, but this is very nice indeed!
Pouring a slightly hazy deep golden colour, this has a clinging creamy textured white head and aromas of woodland fruits like plum and a spicy note to the nose.
Oh but this is lovely! Full of autumnal fruitiness, this is a full-bodied mouthful with the initial Malteser like sweetness immediately countered with spicy hopping, a lot of spicy hopping. Leaving your mouth coated in oaky, fruity splendour. The longer I do this stuff, the more I learn to enjoy these big English hopped IPAs and this is a belter. But off to Cornwall if you want it people!
Well. That’s it. I suppose I’ve learned one thing whilst I was in Perranporth. There’s an awful lot of good stuff being brewed in that there Cornwall, a lot of good stuff indeed.
Now, for those of you that don’t know (and I didn’t, until I finished this post!). Firebrand, Penpont & Beer Cellar are all owned/run by the same people. So, whilst I note that Eebria were certainly stocking Black Flag and Firebrand beers until recently, your best shot at getting some of these beers is through Beer Cellar. Give it a go. You know you want to!
On that solicitous note….’til next time….