Friday, November 16, 2007

The Police, Charlotte Bobcats Arena, Nov. 15, 2007

Back in the day, I saw The Police on the Regatta De Blanc, Zenyatta Mondatta, and Ghost In The Machine tours. When they came around on the Synchronicity tour, I said, ah, no biggie, I'll catch 'em next time and didn't go. Little did I know that I would have to wait 23 years for that opportunity, and little did I know during those years that I would even get the opportunity. But I did, and 25 years after the Ghost In The Machine show, I saw The Police live for the 4th time.

As I was pondering all this earlier in the week, it struck me that I had never heard any of the songs from the Synchronicity album live. I got that and a whole lot more, on to the review.

First of all, we weren't sure the concert would even be held, as the previous night's show in Philadelphia had been canceled due to Sting having the flu. The only evidence of the flu was the little table he had next to him, which held a big box of Kleenex, some various sprays, and a mug of (presumably) hot tea. He had fun with the sprays, at one point spraying Andy Summers, as well as his own armpits, with one of the spray bottles. His singing was spot-on, and playing as usual was beastly.

But let me start from the beginning, with the opening act, which was Fiction Plane, consisting of Joe Sumner (son of Sting, on bass and lead vocals, imagine that) and a guitarist and drummer (imagine that). Previous reviews from this tour had led me to believe these guys sucked big-time, they were not all that bad. Joe's singing sounded just like his dad at times, and his bass playing was pretty darn impressive, dad must have showed him a thing or two. (Trivia - Fiction Plane is an anagram of Infant Police, Joe Sumner denies there is any significance to this). Their music was pretty standard modern rock, some songs sounded like U2, with maybe a little Wolfmother thrown in. They played 7 or so songs, then it was on to The Police.

As they opened with Message In A Bottle, I thought, "wow, these guys have got the ultimate arena-rock opening song" but then I realized when they wrote it, they were playing college auditoriums at best, definitely not arenas. Guess they were prescient, because if that one doesn't get you rocking, nothing will. The sound was great, the fascinating thing was it was just the three of them, no pre-recorded tracks, no extra instrumentalists, no background singers. They filled all the sonic spaces and then some, they have the power trio thing down.

Here's the setlist as best I could reconstruct it, with comments on highlights following it.

Message in a Bottle
Walking On The Moon
Synchronicity II
Voices Inside My Head
When The World Is Running Down
Don't Stand So Close To Me
Driven To Tears
Truth Hits Everybody
Hole In My Life
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Wrapped Around Your Finger
De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
Invisible Sun
Walking In Your Footsteps
Can't Stand Losing You/Regatta De Blanc

1st Encore -

King Of Pain
So Lonely
Every Breath You Take

2nd Encore-

Next To You

The first major highlight, other than just the thrill of it all, and amazement at how great these guys still are, was Voices Inside My Head leading into a very up-tempo, rockin' version of When The World Is Running Down, which featured about a 4 minute guitar solo from Andy Summers that blew everybody away. The guy is 65 years old, and still has massive chops.

Driven To Tears was incredible as well, all of the songs, even the pop hits, were played in a much more rocking fashion than on the albums. Andy rocked the house on this one as well. Then they launched into one of my personal faves, Truth Hits Everybody, the people who were there for the hits didn't quite know what to make of it, very punk, very rockin', of course I was singing at the top of my lungs - "Take a look at my new toy, it'll blow your head into a void!" Great stuff.

Hole In My Life featured Sting riffing on Hit The Road Jack in the middle, that was kinda cool. Wrapped Around Your Finger featured Stuart stepping up to his secondary drum riser, filled with all sorts of spinning cymbals, xylophones, marimbas, gongs, bells, tympani, etc. Very cool.

Walking In Your Footsteps - what can I say, head music to beat all head music. Sting didn't sing the part about Mr. Brontosaurus an octave up like he did 25 years ago, but they adjusted the instumental dynamics to make up for it. Stuart obviously played the exotic percussion on this one as well.

Can't Stand Losing You - This was great, then in the middle of it, they played Regatta De Blanc, very cool with 15,000 people singing "De-yo, de-yo, de-yay-yo" while the boys rocked out. Then back into some more of Can't Stand Losing.

The boys left the stage at this point, then came back for a 4-song encore, followed by a second encore of Next To You. The highlight here was So Lonely, if I have my songs straight, Andy played an amazing "chord solo", of course he was playing incredible jazz chords all night, when the big screens showed his hands, you could see that he has some amazing "guitar hands" and can play some seriously wild chords.

This one definitely goes down in my top-10 all-time concerts, I must confess I had listened to very little Police music in the past 20 years, I will definitely not make that mistake over the next 20, seeing these guys still at the top of their game reminded me of just how good they were and are. Cream is probably the only other band I can think of where you get to see 3 virtuoso players (ok, maybe Rush) filling an arena with amazing music.

Sting said "we'll see you again", hopefully that will be sooner than 20+ years.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Concert Review - Porcupine Tree @ The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC Oct. 10, 2007

On October 10th I had the privilege of standing no more than 20 feet from Steven Wilson, progressive rock legend, musical genius, guitar hero, modern-day poet, master of sonic wizardry, and "international pop star". And of course the rest of the band, one of the world's great bands, IMHO.
I would go into all the details of my trip, but it's a week later, so here's the condensed version -
Opening act was Three, very Spinal Tap-ish, "people of weight" up front, all with B.C. Rich Warlock-type guitars, long hair, the lead player had a fan blowing on him to make his hair blow around, very cheesy. In the midst of these guys was a keyboardist/second drummer, who had a shaved head and a golf shirt, I told my buddies "I can't take this band seriously, that dude looks just like my brother-in-law". We saw him at Barley's after the show. Anyway, these guys were ok if you like sword-and-sorcery Ronnie James Dio type stuff, not my cup of tea.
After a short break between bands, PT came on, opening with "Fear of a Blank Planet"

TV, yeah it's always on The flicker of the screen A movie actress screams I'm basking in the shit flowing out of it

I'm stoned in the mall again Terminally bored Shuffling round the stores And shoplifting is getting so last year's thing

X-box is a god to me A finger on the switch My mother is a bitch My father gave up ever trying to talk to me

You get the idea, anyway, here's the setlist for those of you who are familiar with these guys- (looks short, but many of their songs are long). Highlights were Lazarus, one of the finest pieces of songwriting you'll ever hear , Blackest Eyes, when they kicked into that one, it was as if a jolt of electricity went thru the crowd, people starting really getting into it, Even Less, with it's epic arena-rock slide guitar (awesome song) and Dark Matter, great, great, classic/prog rock workout.
Lastly, Green Man IPA is a world-class beer, have one at Jack of the Wood next time you're in Asheville. You won't regret it. And if you have a fast computer, check this out, be sure to watch past the swirly intro until the robot dude shows up. VERY trippy. Be sure to crank it up.
What Happens Now?
Sound of Muzak
Nil Recurring
Open Car
Blackest Eyes
A Smart Kid
Way Out Of Here
Sleep Together
Even Less
Dark Matter

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Book Review - The Children of Hurin by J.R.R Tolkien

Being a huge Tolkien fan, (but not a total geek about it), I looked forward to the publication of this book, compiled by Tolkien's son Christopher (now in his eighties) from J.R.R.'s voluminous writings. I was not disappointed. I am going to try my best to avoid any plot spoilers, as I know some of you will read this book as well. Just a bit of background, this book takes place in the First Age, many years before The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The setting is the land of Beleriand, which is the Northwest of Middle-Earth, but by the time of LOTR, this land has been under the sea for hundreds of years. A handful of the characters from LOTR are present, Galadriel, Glorfindel, Elrond, and Sauron are all mentioned.

The story concerns the children of Hurin obviously, Hurin is a great warrior who is taken captive by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, of whom Sauron is but a servant at this time. Hurin defies Morgoth, so Morgoth puts a curse on his children. The majority of the book tells the tragic tale of Turin, Hurin's son. Turin's first sister dies very young (part of the curse), his other sister, Nienor, makes an appearance in the last few chapters of the book, but her role is significant enough to justify the plural "children" rather than the singular "child" in the title. Turin is probably Tolkien's most fleshed-out character, even more so than Frodo, probably because Turin exhibits the same traits that cause all of us humans grief, and Frodo is not human. Speaking of hobbits, you won't find any here, you will find elves, dwarves, Orcs, and Glaurung, "Father of Dragons".

As with all of Tolkien's other works, people and places have multiple names, Tolkien was a linguist after all. This makes for difficult reading, in fact in looking back on the first 2 times I read LOTR, as a teen, I think this referencing people and places by multiple names is what caused me to have comprehension issues. Kudos to Christopher, however, as he has provided a glossary of names in the back of the book, when you get confused (and you will) you can turn to the glossary and figure out who or what is being referenced. The central character of the book, Turin, son of Hurin, changes his name about 12 times, I turned frequently to the glossary only to find "oh, that's Turin". I would kill to have a reference of this sort for Lord of the Rings, obviously these things are available online, there are hundreds of Tolkien sites, but it's nice to have it handy right there in the book.

Another plus is the inclusion of several beautiful color paintings by Alan Lee, who was involved with the design of the Peter Jackson LOTR movies. The other good news is that the book is short, can be read in 4 hours or so.

This is a very dark book, none of the whimsy found in the Hobbit, or the dry wit found in LOTR are to be found here. I have not read The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales, which both deal with this historical era, so I don't know if the lack of humor is J.R.R.'s or Christopher's. There is already talk of a movie, I'm not sure I would want to see it, the book is VERY violent, as it is set in a time of war between men and elves on the one side vs. Morgoth and his Orcs on the other. Lots and lots of blood and guts, as much or more than LOTR.

I recommend that you read the Introduction and Appendix, particularly if you are familiar with Tolkien's other works. I also highly recommend this website, the Encyclopedia of Arda (Arda is the planet where Middle-Earth is).

All that said, should you read it? Yes. We can all relate to the all-too-human failings of Turin, and Tolkien is one of the greatest writers of all time, this book just reinforces that.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Album review: Kings of Leon - Because of the Times

It's rare that I listen to new albums, preferring instead to mine the Internet and the racks at the used CD store for all the great stuff I missed back in the day. This album was recommended by a friend of a friend, so I decided to check it out. I am glad I did!

First a couple of general notes, then we'll take it song-by-song. This album has a similar vibe to The Loon by Tapes 'n' Tapes (see previous post "Indie-Rock Gem" for that review), but this one has much heavier guitars. The other thing that jumps out at you is that singer Caleb Followill's voice can be annoying at times, fortunately he does the Billy Corgan thing and uses different shadings on different songs, so it's not annoying on every song. These guys' bio is very interesting, I picked up on a Southern vibe (being American by birth, Southern by the grace of God myself) when listening to the album. Turns out they are all named Followill, 3 brothers and a cousin. The brothers' dad was a Pentecostal minister, and they grew up traveling throughout the South (Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles, dance...)
Amazon sez " the Kings Of Leon mix their own brand of Southern Rock with touches of Garage, Punk and Alternative swagger". Amen, brother.

Now for the tunes:

Knocked Up - Upon re-listening to this, I realized why it reminds me of Tapes ' n ' Tapes. It's minimalist (hold that thought, we'll get back to it later). In fact, I don't think there is a single overdub on the whole album, all of this could be played note for note live. Kewl. Coming to The Orange Peel in Asheville on June 2.

But I digress, back to the song. Nice U2 chime-y guitar lick over...hmm, what is it? I know, Bruce Springsteen "I'm On Fire". And talk about a rock'n'roll lyric - "I don't care what nobody says, we're gonna have a bay-bee....taking off in a Coupe DeVille" etc. etc. which sounds like it could have come from a 1950s rock'n'roll song, albeit one that would have been banned. The juxtaposition of the rockabilly guitar in the left channel with the Edge's sound in the right is fascinating. Only complaint is that it clocks in at 7:10, WAY too long, the coolness wears off
after about 4 minutes or so.

Charmer - this one starts off with a Devo "Mongoloid" bass line, bangin' on a trash can drums, very catchy punk tune. Another theme throughout the album is that many of the songs were "made loud to be played loud", this is one of them. Major drawback is the nails on chalkboard scream every 2 measures or so, you have to be in the mood for it, or you will hit the fast-forward to the next tune real fast.

On Call - I think I mentioned Caleb uses different "voicings" (pun intended) this one starts with a Leon Russell drawl, which apparently he uses on their other albums. Once the guitars kick in, he switches to a more conventional rock voice. This is the first single, if you love rockin' guitars, and I know that you do, you'll dig this. These boys rock.

McFearless - Balls to the wall metal. Crank it up. 'Nuff Said.

Black Thumbnail - Not sure how to describe this one, except as a great rock'n'roll song. I could get used to this cool 2-guitar, one-in-each-speaker sound. If you only listen to one song on this album, this is probably the one. Already inching up on my all-time fave list.

My Party - Kind of a space-funk vibe, fuzzed-out bass, distorted vocals. Nine Inch Nails with soul. If none of your body parts move while listening to this song, I regret to inform you that you are dead. Kick-ass.

True Love Way - After the 4-song roll they've been on, this one is somewhat of a letdown, still has their unique sound, but more of an old-school vibe. Not a highlight.

Ragoo - U2 goes reggae. "I wanna play til they're kickin' down the doors" - there are some very fired-up lyrics on this album. Caleb's voice is starting to bother me by this time, even though the song is great. These guys could be even better if they switched off the vocals on some songs. That said, the incredible guitar playing will get you past any reservations about the vocals.

Fans - this time the left-hand guitar is acoustic. Caleb's voice has the Dave Matthews whine to it, which I guess is appropriate with the acoustic guitar. Once again, though, the guitars will pull you thru. Fans (pun not intended) of DMB will love this one. Nice guitars once again, but I'm not big on the whole DMB sound.

The Runner - the boys go mellow here, and do it well. Caleb sounds like Randy Newman here, singing "I talk to Jesus, Jesus says that I'm OK". All that preachin' they heard growing up sunk in. Nice, laid-back, syncopated drums.

Trunk - Chris Isaak guitars, reverb-drenched, as are the vocals. Lifted the guitar lick from Psych Furs "All of This And Nothing". Grand Funk "Survival" vocals. Obviously all of those styles mixed together gives you something unique. And very cool.......I dig this one.

Camaro - ROCK'N'ROLL! As I'm listening to this, though, it sounds incredibly familiar. I finally figure out what it is, and am dumbfounded.
Sure enough, it sounds remarkably like UFO's first album, which is nothing like their later, much more well known Michael Schenker phase. I think it's the vocals again. Phil Mogg of UFO was trying to sound "bluesy" back then, and he and Caleb Followill just seem to have the same timbre, it is spooky how much these vocals (and the guitars, too) sound alike, on albums released 37 years apart. Weird. If you go down this path, check out "Timothy" on the UFO album vs. this song. Spooky. Not quite so spooky when you consider that the UFO album is even more minimalist than the Kings of Leon, as it only has ONE guitar.

Arizona - the boys go old-school on this one, typical mid-tempo, guitar fade-out album closer. In spite of being stereotypical, it's very nice.

So there ya have it. Somewhere in there (it jumped out at me on the first listen, but not so much on the second) was a song that sounded very much like CAN, the greatest of the mighty Krautrock bands, but there again it's the minimalism. Bottom line? This is a superior album, indeed a classic.

Rock is dead? Not on your life. Granted, it's not ubiquitous like it was in my youth, but if you look for it, it's there. Great rock'n'roll music, like this album, is still out there, if you make the effort to find it, you will be richly rewarded.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Peabody's Winter Beer Guide Pt. 3

I think I mentioned last time that the spring beers are already in the grocery stores, that is actually good news, because it means the winter beers are on sale as they move 'em out. This week I review 3 that I picked up at Lowe's Foods (first time I'd shopped there, I'll be back often, best beer selection I've ever seen in a pure grocery store, at great prices).

Brooklyn Winter Ale

I mentioned in a previous post that some brewers create their "winter" offerings by adding spices, this one has a very nice "wintery" flavor created with no spices. Malt, malt, malt, malt, no hops evident (they are there, of course, but certainly not in the forefront). If you're having a malt craving, this is the one for you, a good Scottish ale. I'm drinking one as I write this.

Nice feature article on

This one is very drinkable, as long as you are not craving hops. Definitely a good one to go along with a hearty stew or something.

Mendocino White Hawk Original IPA
From the review I posted on

Nice dark golden color, not much aroma, what is there is pine-y. First impression is pine-y hops, then malt peeks thru. By the second beer, the malt becomes a little too sweet, which is the only complaint I have with this beer. All in all, as others have noted, not a world-beater, but a very decent IPA. Next time it's on sale, I'll pick up some more.

Nice write-up on Mendocino's web site:

Forgot to mention, we are moving out of the "session" beers (remember a "session" beer is for when you are having several) and moving into what I call "sipping" beers, this one is 7% ABV (alcohol by volume).

Cottonwood Frostbite High Gravity

I have mixed feelings on this one, I'm not a big fan of Cottonwood's offerings (actually Cottonwood was bought several years ago by the Carolina Beer brewery, makers of Carolina Blonde). Cottonwood's Low-Down Brown tastes like tap water from rusty pipes (to me, all Brown Ales with exception of Newcastle taste like that), their Endo IPA is terrible, etc. I found this stuff last year, thought I would give it a try. I thought it was some of the best beer I had ever had, comparable to Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (review coming soon) in its excellence.

What I liked so much was this: Huge hoppiness, but then you notice, hmm, equally strong rich maltiness. Like dueling flavors in your mouth. Most impressive. But, like I said, that was last year. This year (at least the 2 sixers I had a month ago, I picked up another one last week) the rich maltiness was replaced by the rusty pipe taste, almost like they just poured some hops into some Low Down Brown.

Bottom line - last year's batch was awesome, this year's, while still good, not awesome. I'll let you know if my opinion changes after this new sixpack.

Closing note: Careful with this one, it's 8.5% alcohol, if you drink 3, you will be tore up.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Indie-rock gem!

Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon

Being a hopelessly unhip old fart, I don't keep up with the hottest new bands anymore (not that I ever did, I liked what I liked, cool or not). I had seen a blurb somewhere, in fact more than one somewhere, about this album and band. Now that I have an iPod, I took all those CDs piled up in the rack that have one or two good songs on them, ripped the good songs, and took them to Manifest to trade in. I picked up the remasters of Led Zep II and III, the G3 (Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, and Steve Vai) DVD, and this.

Popped it in the CD player in the car, have not taken it out since, have listened to the whole thing 4 or 5 times now. The last album I listened to that much from the get-go was Candy-O by the Cars back in '79. You know how you put in a CD, and listen for the "good" songs, of which there are usually 1 -5, and the rest is filler? Not the case here. The only album I've listened to in the last few years that was this good start to finish is How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb by U2.

A little background, the group is from Minneapolis, according to their website they played Chapel Hill last Halloween. They have opened for Franz Ferdinand and Soul Asylum, and are lined up for this year's Coachella festival in California. They have a self-titled EP and then this, which I think is a masterpiece. I'm not going to do a song-by-song review, because they are all awesome. The first time I listened to it, I thought, hmm, this is weird. You know me, I'm all over weird, heck, I think Trout Mask Replica is one of the greatest albums of all time. Anyway, there was something beyond the weirdness that compelled me to listen again. Now, in hindsight, I realize the weirdness was due to the instrumentation and arrangements, which are very unconventional and unique. The instruments are very sparse, with an occasional weird noise pulled in for rhythm. Having seen some live videos (links below), the sparse instrumentation allows for very accurate re-creation on stage.

The something beyond the weirdness is genius. These are great songs, and the unique arrangements take this far beyond same old, same old status. The best way I can describe this is Dinosaur Jr. meets The Replacements (Minneapolis influence) meets early Talking Heads, with a little Radiohead thrown in for good measure.

I cannot recommend this album enough, you'll find yourself listening to it over and over.

Rating: *****, with a Peabody Certified Head Music stamp to boot.

Links: Check this one out, killer live video, they even have iPod versions, which I will definitely be downloading. -

Tapes 'n Tapes official page

Wikipedia entry for Tapes 'n Tapes

Friday, February 16, 2007

Peabody's Winter Beer Guide Pt. 2

Yes, I know the spring beers are already on the grocery store shelves, but it's still plenty cold here in NC, so we'll keep talking winter beers. We left off with "session" beers, here's a couple more -

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

“…best beer ever made in America.”
– Stan Sessor, San Francisco Chronicle

I don't know that I would go as far as ol' Stan, but I will say this is one of the best beers ever made in America, and a perennial favorite of mine. This is very much an IPA (India Pale Ale), so it is hoppy by nature, what this beer has that many hop-bombs don't is a sort of crispness. As I said before, one of my favorites. Highly recommended, particularly for hops fans. This is what Winterhook wants to be when it grows up.

Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale


Again a cut above the Winterhooks of the world, this one is a nice brownish-red color, has some maltiness to it that is not entirely drowned out by the "mystery hop named Rudolph" the brewers snuck in. Very drinkable, have several! There are breweries that occasionally get it right, then there are those that simply don't make any bad beer, Rogue is certainly in that category, you can't go wrong picking up one of their beers. So once the Santa's Private Reserve is gone for the year, have a Dead Guy, on me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Peabody's Winter Beer Guide Pt. 1

Yes, I know I never finished my cruise blog. I learned my lesson there, blogging has to be done real time, you can't expect to do it after the fact, it just ain't gonna happen. Here's the short summary of the rest of the cruise - Jamaica was by far the prettiest place we went, if you just looked at the natural scenery and avoided looking at the poor people. Of course, everywhere they took us was behind gates, so we didn't see that many poor people. The Ft. Lauderdale airport on a Saturday when several cruise ships are dislodging thousands of passengers SUCKS!!!

On to the beer -

Now that Old Man Winter has us firmly in his grip, time to talk BEER! Winter is my favorite beer season, the winter seasonal offerings are far superior, IMHO, to any other time of year.

First, a couple of general beer notes:

There are 2 kinds of beers, "session" beers (as in "I'm gonna sit down for a session of beer drinking" i.e. you are having more than 1 or 2) and sipping beers (richer, heavier, usually higher alcohol beers). The other important thing to note is that "normal" ABV (alcohol by volume) beers, usually less than 6%, only have a shelf life of 3-4 months, after which they become
"green" or "skunked". This is why when you go to someone's house that you know is not a big beer drinker, and they offer you a Michelob out of the refrigerator, you should never take it unless their company is so annoying you are desperate for the alcohol. Higher ABV beers (generally 8% and above) can be "cellared", although you should never "lay them down" on their side, and kept for several years even, like a fine wine, they get better with age. Genres that age best are barleywines and imperial stouts, we'll talk more about those in future postings.

Let's start with the session beers:

Redhook Winterhook -

Definitely a session beer, as it is not quite as full-bodied as one would hope, that said, it is very, very quaffable, dark, hoppy, good and bitter. Just the thing to slam several of and shake that Seasonal Affect Disorder.

Sam Adams Winter Mix Pack -
Contains 4 each of the following -
Boston Lager (their flagship brew)
Old Fezziwig Ale
Winter Lager
Holiday Porter
Black Lager
Cranberry Lambic

The Boston Lager everyone is familiar with, the Winter Lager is very similar to the Winterhook noted above. The Holiday Porter is not the worst Porter I have ever had, but it is certainly not in my top 10. The Cranberry Lambic was a pleasant surprise, as I expected it to be nasty, it was actually a decent Belgian (a whole 'nother world of beer, stay tuned for a future blog on the world of Belgian beer. The short version is that Belgian beers are more like a fine wine than the beer most of us are used to, very little in the way of hops, more fruity type flavors. Like I said, more on that later). The cranberries were very understated, providing just a hint of fruitiness, none of the "twang" one gets from cranberry juice.

I forgot to mention earlier that "winter" beers tend to fall into 3 categories - 1) those that are spiced, like Russian Tea or whatever, usually cinnamon is the spice of choice, 2) those that are hopped up to provide lots of bitterness and "warm you up" that way, and 3) those that are higher in alcohol, sometimes in combination with 1 and 2 above, in order to provide "warming". Indeed, many of the beers I am describing are classified as "winter warmers".

All that to inform you that the Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale falls into the spiced category, it was actually nice, some that I have tried go WAY overboard with the cinnamon, it's like drinking cinnamon toast, this is pretty close to "just right" in terms of the spice. Other than that, merely average.

Lastly, the Black Lager, which is a Schwarzbier (German for "black beer"). These tend to be very dark (hence the "black" descriptor) and malty, this one is no exception. Not a bad beer, but not on par with the best Schwarzbier I have had, Rogue Schwartzbier (intentionally mispelled) which unfortunately has been retired.

Next time: More session beers, then on to the "good stuff".