ParrotDog DeadCanary

Tonight, I ate turducken.[1]

DeadCanary and Turducken

DeadCanary. Also pictured, dead chicken, dead duck and dead turkey.

A stuffed deboned chicken, stuffed inside a deboned duck, stuffed inside a (mostly) deboned turkey.  While this may be an special-if-unexceptional foodstuff for gluttonous Americans, down here in Thanksgiving-deprived New Zealand it’s truly a thing of rare and unusual wonder.  Its concept, its extravagantly unhealthy existence, makes us raise our eyebrows and say “wow” with a mixture of awe and disgust.

The turducken was delicious.  It was the best tasting turkey I’ve ever had, with all the duck fat keeping the turkey meat moist and soft, while the stuffing-infused chicken and duck meat was melt-in-the-mouth fatty goodness.

I decided during my lunch break to take a rigger of a local craft beer to the turducken-fest, so I popped down the road to Centre City Wines & Spirits. This bottle store at the northern end of Wellington CBD that has quietly put on a number of taps over the last few years, featuring good local beers.

Thinking to share, but unsure of my fellow guests comfort with flavoursome ales, my first instinct was to grab a bottle of the charming and accessible Emerson’s Pilsner, but at the fridge my hand suddenly veered and grabbed a 1.25ml of ParrotDog DeadCanary instead.

It wasn’t until I was back in the office did I make the connection.  Turducken. Dead Canary.  Turkey, duck, chicken, canary.  Well played, subconscious, well played indeed.

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Rhian Sheehan – Stories From Elsewhere (2013)

Wellington’s Rhian Sheehan has been constructing intricate and gorgeous instrumental (mostly) music for a while now, both for albums under his own name and for a number of film and television projects.   His 2009 album Standing In Silence was a masterpiece, propulsive electronic elements carrying forward an album tied together by sampled musical boxes, hints of guitar, and massive symphonic emotional heft.

"Stories From Elsewhere" cover art by Kieran Rynhart.

“Stories From Elsewhere” cover art by Kieran Rynhart.

Sheehan’s latest album, Stories from Elsewhere, is a more organic thing.  The electronica elements are still there – loops of bells, chimes and music boxes[1], but they’re further subsumed within great swirls of strings, piano, guitar and bass, and drums.

Drums.  When I first heard the live drums played by Steve Bremner roll into track two, “The Upper Sky,” I was taken aback by the unexpected new element in Sheehan’s sound. Deep and laden in echo, cymbals splashing white noise throughout the mix.

Almost distracting, quite unexpected, carrying a sense of organic space that was quite unlike the intimate closeness that lay within the sound of Standing in Silence.  But utterly representative of where Sheehan was going with Stories from Elsewhere.  If the prior album was a step away from Sheehan’s earlier electronica style, this was a massive leap into an orchestral style of post-rock, a further diving into the concept of a “soundtrack without a movie.”

One, track, “Nusquam,” is almost entirely the string section alone.  It is gorgeous.

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Golden Pints 2013 – the bar

Wellington. “Craft beer capital of New Zealand.”[1]  We drink a lot of it here.  And we have an ever increasing number of bars who stock tasty beers, as well as bars who specialise in them.  It’s a great place to have a beer.  Such as…

Bin 44 – buzz and hum’s favourite bar of 2013

A quiet pint at Bin 44 as the sun goes down over Wellington

A quiet pint at Bin 44 as the sun goes down over Wellington

Sometimes it’s all about having a local.

For years I hadn’t had one.  I live in a suburb whose hub consists of a superette, a Chinese takeaway, and a public toilet.[2]  I work down by Wellington’s railway station, a part of town not known for its vibrant craft beer scene.   But Bin 44 opened on Queen’s Wharf in 2012, and I soon discovered that was the perfect place to stop if looking for a pint of something good after work.

Location wise, it works very well. Sitting near the water, it’s slightly off to the side of the main routes through town, but this is a plus. A brief diversion for a drink before catching the bus for home, or for a few tasty beverages to start the night off before walking along the waterfront towards the bars in the Taranaki Street / Courtney Place / Dixon Street area.

If it’s a cold evening, stay inside – there’s booths, leaners, sofas and, one one side, restaurant seating. But when the sun is shining or the night is warm you’ll want to be outside. All the doors open, and tables sprawl out into the sunshine for almost a quarter of the plaza between the bar and the TSB events centre.

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Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (2013)

Cover art from Anti Records. Click on image to go to site.

I remember when I first heard Neko CaseThe Rough Guide to Americana, a Rough Guide compilation I’d bought in 2001 to help me expand my knowledge of alternative country, a genre I was just starting to explore.  Track 3, Neko Case & Her Boyfriends “Guided By Wire.”

Case’s pure country voice was instantly arresting. High and taut, with the dust of the prairie and a twang in the tail. The song was sung of hearing voices and struggling with mental illness, and with rough-edged guitar and an endearing single-take feel it became a quick favourite.

It sent me out to track down as many albums as I could, falling more and more in love with her songs and her voice with each purchase.

And to tell as many people as I could about her.  That’s a particular joy, discovering and falling in love with some new artist or album – or beer or bar – and seeing others discover them and their popularity grow.[1]

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Golden Pints 2013 – the beer

The idea of starting a beer-and-music blog has been long lurking around the back of my mind, from a suggestion planted by that creative madman Stu McKinley, of Yeastie Boys fame.[1] Good beer and good music.  Interesting beer and interesting music.  A pair of passions that take up far too much of my time and income, but they reward, entertain and comfort the attention I give to them.

I think about both similarly.  I’m always seeking out the new; new flavours, new sounds, new colours, new textures.  There are favourite beers and albums of course, brewers and artists I’ll always go back to, enjoy and discover (and rediscover).   But I’m not one to sit back and be content with the same beer every time I visit the pub, nor am I one of those people whose musical tastes ossify by their mid-twenties.

Others may be happy to drink the same beer and listen to the same music while doing so.  But it seems to me that such people are also those who complain that “there’s no good music being released nowadays.”[2]

Not me. I’m always seeking out tasty new beers and interesting new albums, and in this blog I’ll be taking turns to write about one then the other, linking the two when I can

But first, what better way to start this blog than by diving straight into presenting my favourite beer of 2013?  With no prior posts to establish any bona-fides or credibility, what better moment is there to pass judgement on the year’s best?

Of course, there’s no better moment.  I don’t claim to be any kind of expert – about either beer or music.  I just love them both, and want to share the love…

Gunnamatta

I went dry for a few weeks in the lead up to my 40th birthday. I broke the drought with this bottle of Gunnamatta, at Bin 44.

Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’– buzz and hum’s favourite beer of 2013.[3]

I didn’t like it.

I can’t remember exactly where I was when I first tried Gunnamatta, Yeastie Boy’s “dry leafed” IPA, flavoured with Earl Grey Blue Flower tea.  I’d certainly heard about it before hand, the excited reports coming back from the 2012 Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular – for which the beer had been specifically brewed – had New Zealand’s beer twitter community abuzz.

It was likely at Hashigo Zake.  And while I can’t remember exactly where I first tasted it, I can still recall my reaction.  Immediately, I felt my mouth tighten and go dry.  I might’ve gagged a bit.  I may not have finished the glass, as the intense tea bitterness had left me with a headache.

I’m just not a tea drinker, you see.  Tea’s tannic bitterness has always been difficult for me, and I find myself wanting to dump lots of sugar and milk into the cup.  Which is sort of defeating the point, really.  My reaction to my first tasting of Gunnamatta were clearly prejudiced by my “don’t like tea” attitude.  Almost certainly, I went into that first pint expecting not to enjoy it. And I didn’t.[4]

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years enjoying Yeastie Boys product is that there’s always a method to the madness, and each beer they produce deserves a second chance – results may surprise.

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