Extra Gold wasn’t extra great, but it was decent. American Beer? Not so much.
As the third cheap-o selection for January, Pennsylvania Style Lager falls somewhere in between. Decent might be a stretch, but it’s nowhere near the low level of the wretchedly bland and hangover-inducing American.
Pennsylvania Style is a disturbingly pale-colored brew with little in terms of scent or taste. There’s a light version as well, which ought to be called Pennsylvania Style Air because it’s hard to conceive of anything more tasteless.
Probably the best thing you can say about this beer is that you barely notice it.
That’s not a compliment — but again, we’re talking about the most inexpensive drinks on the market this month. So let’s look on the bright side and call it a modest victory.
‘Caught up in the Gears of Application’
11 songs, 38 minutes
Housecore Records (2016)
All the acumen is there.
For the non-immersed in heavy metal culture, Superjoint features former members of Crowbar and Pantera, the latter being architect of the indisputably heaviest album ever to debut at Billboard’s No. 1: “Far Beyond Driven.” So what you get is a shepherd’s pie of sludge and punk, drizzled with death metal squeals and less-than-appetizing subject matter.
The songs most sample-worthy on this effort include the title track, “Ruin You” and “Receiving No Answer to the Knock.”
With three full-lengths under their belt, these guys still have yet to pen their metal masterpiece. But with this recent display of discordant aggression and raw vehemence, these middle-age thrashers show no sign of mellowly aging with grace.
Amen to that.
It gets no more generically domestic than this.
American Beer is exactly that — American beer. Made in Pittsburgh, this is a sudsy blond drink that tastes of sweet corn. Its aftertaste is dry and somehow sticky, despite its light body.
There probably isn’t a brewer on Earth who could make American Beer great — again or ever — without a major makeover. It’s pretty stale and bland, to be polite.
Like all beer on the menu this month, this one’s a bargain. Hard to beat $11 for 24, even though Extra Gold Lager probably edges this one out on flavor.
Best of the month overall? We’ll see in three weeks.
By Leonard LaPlaca
If you’re searching for inspiration, Leonard LaPlaca’s new book is a great place to start.
Putting 50 years of research to good use, the Windber author, speaker and educator does all the heavy lifting to make for a highly charged and easily digestible read. “A—Z My All-Time Favorites” assembles motivational fables, parables and quotes that must rank among the most motivational in human history.
One telling testament of this compilation’s power: the endorsement of international speaker Jack Zufelt, winner of the Presidential Medal of Merit.
To open his new book, LaPlaca uses a Lao Tzu quote: “What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?”
In thoroughly researching and compiling this effort, LaPlaca demonstrates the many ways in which he’s still this kind of teacher.
Be honest: Your credit card is maxed and your bank account minimized.
It’s the month of January, a financial hangover from Christmastime’s gift-giving gluttony. So with imports and high-end craft beers out of the budget, let’s get real and look your most palatable cheap stuff — beginning with Extra Gold Lager.
Produced by Molson Coors Brewing Co., this stuff smells of straw and tastes of cereal and corn. The roasted malts and high carbonation are not negatives for this particular brew and, if you’re anything like this reviewer, it may even bring back some college memories.
No, it doesn’t compete with your premium brands — but at less than $15 a case, don’t cry about it.
Will this be the best (or least worst) of the bargain beers? Check back throughout the month to find out.
10 songs, 42 minutes
RCA Records (2016)
Their original fanboys and fangirls will be disappointed that the group’s roots as blues-inspired Southern rock seem gone for good. But Kings of Leon seems content enough in their more contemporary role as torch-bearers of arena alt-rock.
“WALLS,” the band’s latest release, appears to confirm this, as the Followill family writes a tight bunch of safely assembled pop numbers.
There are high points, to be sure. “Reverend” is driving and undeniably catchy, “Around The World” a sure-fire dance hit and “Muchacho” takes the music into refreshingly instrumental territory, with a fine solo backed by a Latin beat.
Still, it’s hard not to expect a little more from these guys. And even their more recent fans seem to agree: After debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 20, the album dropped swiftly to No. 20.
If considering this Magic Hat offering for your New Year’s Eve toast, you may want to look elsewhere instead.
Demo Black I.P.A. is 6-percent ABV and has a rich head that dissipates swiftly. The scent is sharp, almost acidic, but the taste is dominated by dark chocolate malt and a trace of raisin. As for mouthfeel, it’s deceptively light.
This is a beer that can’t decide if it’s an India pale ale, porter or stout. It does several things simultaneously, which is fine, but does none of them particularly well.
If the words “LIMITED ENGAGEMENT” on the label indicates that this won’t be on shelves forever, that won’t be such a shame. There are better brews out there, especially from Magic Hat.
‘Countach (For Giorgio)’
Nine songs, 40 minutes
BCR Records (2016)
The formula for Shooter Jennings could have been simple and quite lucrative.
As the son of country music legend Waylon Jennings, all he had to do was hire some Nashville writers, perch a cowboy hat on his head and croon about tractors. But Shooter aims for whatever fits his whim — and his fans are richer for it.
With the release of “Countach (For Giorgio),” Shooter pays homage to famous Italian producer Giorgio Moroder, who worked with artists such as Blondie, David Bowie and Donna Summer. All tracks on the album were either composed or inspired by Moroder.
The result is a decidedly ‘80s-sounding assortment of up-tempo, ambient tracks featuring a diverse list of studio guests: Marilyn Manson, Brandi Carlile and Steve Young (the country singer, not football great). It’s a fun, easy listen, one that’s far less than intense than 2010’s “Black Ribbons,” which was darn near a masterpiece.
“Countach (For Giorgio)” probably isn’t Shooter’s best album, but if death is boredom, this release can be said to at least keep things lively.
When you drink at least one new beer a week, you can become a little numb and tough to surprise. But Kellerbier is certainly a standout in many ways.
Though unfiltered, this lager is only slightly cloudy. It pours blond and has barely perceptible carbonation. The scent is citrusy, which belies its hop-forward flavor — a flavor that also includes a full complement of floral hops.
Kellerbier has a 5.5-ABV, and a spice and a pungecy that fades swiftly on the tongue. This gives the beer a crisp and clean feel that adds to its overall drinkability. And that makes this the second solid Saranac beer sampled in the past few weeks.
If you haven’t tried anything from this brewer yet, you might want to give them a try. They seem to keep things fresh and interesting.
17 minutes, 39 seconds
Puddinhead Bros. (2016)
Ever wonder what “It’s a Wonderful Life” would have been like if set in present-day Johnstown?
Well, Matt Yeager and Jeff Skowron have brought that vision to life with Greg & Donny’s new “This Life Ain’t So Bad, Jagoff” Christmas special. And that ain’t so bad, either.
True to form, our local protagonist isn’t lassoing the moon — he’s shooting it with a shotgun, drying it out and making moon jerkey of it. The storefront cameos include some iconic area restaurants: Santo’s Gourmet Pizza, The Haven, The Boulevard Grill and, of course, Coney Island. And there’s even a WJAC-TV reference tossed in.
“It ended up being our most ambitious undertaking,” Skowron told AMPED. To see it for yourselves, yinz can find it on the Greg & Donny Facebook page.
A product of Magic Hat, Winter Mingle states “A PERFORMANCE IN EVERY BOTTLE” on each rear label.
In essence true to its word, this beer’s performance can be described in three acts.
Act No. 1: the scent. Roasted and nutty, with a trace of cocoa.
Act No. 2: the taste. Malty and sweet, evidence of the advertised vanilla.
Act No. 3: the aftertaste. Akin to coffee and bitter, with a commendable sense of finality.
Winter Mingle is solid. Stout aficionados may not be entirely satisfied, but it’s not the worst thing to find under your tree.