From Mogwai to Pharrell, What is it with Musicians and Alcohol?

Scottish post-rockers Mogwai recently celebrated the release of their album Rave Tapes by launching their own limited edition whisky. RockAct81W — or plain old Mogwai Whisky, once you’ve had a few — is a 9-year-old single cask malt from the Glenallachie distillery on Speyside. According to guitarist John Cummings, one of several Scotch enthusiasts in the band, “it’s got a wee bit of smoke on the nose and starts with a pretty intense dark fruit and then gets a bit spicy.”

We’ll have to take his word for it, as all 324 bottles sold out within hours.


Mogwai are far from the only rockers adding their own brand liquor to the rider though. Not to be outdone, English indie band Maximo Park have given their name to Maximo No.5, a 5% amber ale with grapefruit, orange and lychee overtones (at least, that’s what it says here), while Welsh sonic wizards Super Furry Animals present Fuzzy, a “psychedelic wild Welsh beer,” at a generous 8.5% abv.

Now that fraternal boy band Hanson have reached the legal drinking age, they like nothing better than to sink a few cans of Mmmhops India pale ale. Real men however drink Iron Maiden’s Trooper beer, Motorhead’s delightfully monikered Bastards lager or, indeed, Slayer’s Reign in Blood Cabernet, while the ladies are supposed to settle for Pharrell’s wincingly-named Qream liqueur, available in strawberry, peach and have-you-got-something-less-patronizingly-sexist flavors.


But is a beer or a whisky any better for being associated with a band we like to crank up on the Jambox? Do we want to drink Marilyn Manson’s deadly Mansinthe? And can you expect any of these tipples to survive the bands that spawned them?

In the fraught world of the music industry, when it’s ever harder to make money by simply making music, it’s inevitable that musicians would start to explore new ways to market their brands, but deals like this inevitably create new conflicts. Instead of the band versus the record label, it’s now the band versus the multinational beverage company. In January, Pharrell announced he was suing Diageo North America, makers of Qream, for $5 million for mismanaging the launch, and marketing it as a “club drink” and not the “high end, leisure class” drink for women that he intended.

Sorry Pharrell. Guess it’s back to the day job.


Prohibition Was Repealed 79 Years Ago Yesterday

Raise a glass, you goddamn drunk. It’s thanks to prodigious Boardwalk Empire-style violence in the bootlegging world that teetotalers like Rockefeller reversed their support for the law that said you couldn’t. In the thirteen years prior to 1933, the distillation, serving, and imbibing of booze were tragically illegal in these United States. So apologies in advance, but if you’re not sipping lovely brown Kentucky bourbon at this very moment, you may be arrested for treason.

Okay, it doesn’t have to be bourbon. It just has to be something brewed in this country to count (meaning Budweiser is out; catch the next slow boat to Belgium, pal). Acceptable drinks would be: something microbrewed on Cape Cod, trendy designer small-batch gin, California sparkling wine, or actually-still-illegal moonshine that makes you lose your sense of smell for a few days, no big deal. Canadian Club is permitted for its historic smuggleability.

If possible, drinks should be consumed in public, at a bar or in full view of a police officer. Don’t be fazed when he tries to write you a ticket. Just patiently explain that Prohibition has been off the books nearly a century at this point, so there’s no need for legal penalties. You’ve got the freedom to drink whatever and stumble wherever and throw up on whomever you like—make sure he knows it.

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Nasty Thing To Do With Your Facial Hair: Make Beer From Beard Yeast

If Zach Galifianakis is ever hard-pressed for work in the comedy world, he need not fret. There is ample employment to be had right on his own face by harvesting his own "beard yeast" for beer. What is "beard yeast," you ask?

Beer Brewing 101 is that beer is made from yeast, hops, and other ingrediants. Knowing that yeast is found on living organisms from animals to vegetables, brewmaster John Maier, of Rogue Ales in Newport, Oregon, plucked nine hairs out of his own beard. (Side note: he had not shaved said beard in 34 years.) Off to a California lab  went the beard hairs to see if the yeast was usable for brewing.

He was in luck! To quote The Scientist:

Brewers yeast, mostly in the Saccharomyces genus, looks like creamy white, shiny circles, and when scooped has the consistency of butter. Then researchers cultured the yeast to see if it would actively ferment. The beard hair’s yeast surprisingly performed like a hybrid between the brewery’s “house” yeast strain, called Pacman yeast—which is used to make most Rogue Ales—and a wild yeast.

As gross as this all sounds, the resulting brew supposedly tasted quite yummy. The Scientist reports the beer had "a mild, fruity aroma and lacked any harsh, medicinal flavors that sometimes result from using wild yeast." Everyone was apparently so surprised that the beer tasted as good as it did that the lab doublechecked to make sure they had used the right yeast. 

Homebrew and beer nerds will want to read the whole story over at The Scientist. But don’t get any ideas, Brooklyn. 

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The White House Shows You How To Brew Beer

Those effete liberal snobs in the White House just love rubbing it in our faces how snooty they are with their vegetable gardens and their home brewed beer. Here Sam Kass, White House assistant chef, and Tafari Campbell, White House sous chef, show how they the presiden’ts own honey porter and honey brown ale.

The White House not only brews its own beer, but bottles and labels it as well. Handy for a another "beer summit," I say! They’re careful to say in this video that President Obama pays for the materials himself, as I suppose its right to assume some Tea Party asshat would blow a gasket if he thought Americans’ tax money was paying for presidential booze.

For those of you who want to play along at home, the White House has also posted the recipes for their home brewed beer — so your kitchen can stink like hops just like the White House kitchen does.


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It’s Getting Too Expensive To Get Drunk For Cheap

The bodega around the corner jacked the price of my usual Coors Light 24 oz. tallboy up from $1.85 to $1.99. Not cool, Thrifty Mart or whatever-the-fuck-you’re-called. 

Here’s the thing: I need those 15 cents so that I can get pretzels from the vending machine at work. At first I thought I could just slum even further to save money, (i.e. start drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon) but it turns out this brewer is fleecing the hipster demographic: even that shit is now a full $2.49! And it does not taste any better than it did in college. (Just kidding, I drank Milwaukee’s Best in college, just to give you a sense of my poor standards.)

Weirdly enough, the regular Coors tallboy has stayed at the $1.85 price level. It’s like I’m supposed to pay extra to not get as fat as fast. What about something “imported” from Mexico? NO, I WILL NOT GO ABOVE $3. DO NOT INSULT ME, TECATE. Consider the 40 oz. bottles, because we’re getting antsy here. Yes, go with what the bums drink—I love malt liquor that gets all warm while you’re powering your way through it, or goes flat when you put the remainder in the fridge. Don’t even talk to me about the current Four Faux Loko recipe.

I’m going down the street to buy a bottle of Alexis vodka for $9.99. It won’t last, but it feels like a bargain. Especially when you lose sensation in your legs.

Village Voice’s Choice Eats Event Last Night, Guided Photo Tour Inside

When you stick hundreds of New Yorkers into a space the size of an amphitheatre, filled with over 80 of the five borough’s top restaurants, alcoholic beverages, and desserts, and tell them it’s “all-you-can-eat and drink,” what happens?

We turn into CAVE PEOPLE. Voracious, thirsty, hungry cavemen and women. Wildly primitive desires emerged at last night’s Choice Eats event, as men and women aggressively made their way to the front of the shoelace-long lines, grabbed for the largest meat-covered crostini, shrimp roll, and bowl of salted caramel ice cream, and ran around with toppled food platters and sauce-covered fingers.
So we were full after 15 minutes, or we have some frou-frou diet to attend to. Who cares! For one night, we went wild. And it was oh-so-necessary.
Here’s our guided photo tour of the evening’s best:
Doughtnut Plant
Doughnut Plant’s peanut butter glaze and blackberry jelly donut. I’m still full, but I’m still craving this. 
Scrumptious sausages at Kafana.
Bep’s mango salad makes healthy delicious. 
Ample Hills Creamery
Ample Hills Creamery’s Salted Crack Caramel ice cream. Made with salted butter caramel ice cream and bits of their "crack." Aptly named. 
Mile End
Mile End’s smoked meat bun. Sweet. Fluffy. Meaty. 
Fried brussel sprouts topped with yogurt, tahini, and pomegranate sauce. Tanoreen does it again. 
Good Batch
The Good Batch’s chocolate chip cookies. So soft, but chewy, yet doughy. An enigma, actually.
Fay Da Bakery
Fay Da Bakery’s pork bun. Always the best.
S'more Bakery
S’mores Bakery. Toasted right infront of you. 
Ditch Plains
Ditch Plains’ mac ‘n’ cheese-covered hot dog. It’s worth the heart attack. 

Flawed Study Slanders Boston as “Least Drunk” City

A study conducted by Men’s Health magazine, which will be released in the March issue, has ranked the most and least drunk American cities. A more complete ranking can be found here, but I’ll give you a quick roundup. The most drunk cities, from most to least, are: Fresno, CA., Reno, NV., Billings, MT., Riverside, CA., and Austin, TX. The least drunk, from least to most, are: Boston, MA., Yonkers, NY., Rochester, NY., Salt Lake City, UT., Miami, FL. As a native Bostonian and an adopted New Yorker, I take umbrage with this list — severe umbrage! No lily-livered, cheeba-puffing, foie gras feasting, West Coast hippie town could ever compete with us hard-drinkin’ Nor’easterners in a straight up boozin’ competition! Men’s Health magazine, you, SIRS!, have insulted not just me, but my entire way of life. I must defend my cultural heritage!

First of all, let’s examine this study’s methodology. How are you measuring “drunkenness”? According to USA Today, the study “drew upon such data as death rates from alcoholic liver disease, booze-fueled car crashes, frequency of binge-drinking in the past month, number of DUI arrests, and severity of DUI penalties.” Is you kidding me with this, Men’s Health magazine?!?! I’m starting to think you guys aren’t even social scientists. A few points:

A) Most of these are inverse measures of drunkenness. The better you are at drinking, the less often you’re going to die from alcoholic liver disease (I’m pretty sure), the less booze-fueled car crashes you’re going to get into (at least that’s what my Uncle Pete told me), and certainly the less DUI arrests there will be. You know what we call a DUI arrest in Boston? I don’t know, because we don’t have them! I mean, what’s next, are you going to start arresting people for going to church?Also, people on the East Coast, and in Boston in particular, have this thing called public transportation! We don’t drink and drive because we don’t have to drive to get drunk! How can you hold this against us?

B) We Bay Staters are a surly lot, we’re certainly not going to answer honestly if some pansy-ass magazine consultant calls up to find out how often we’ve been binge-drinking in the last month. “Oh, binge-drinking, I never do that [dissolves into laughter].”

C) Even if a Bostonian did decide to answer honestly, chances are they’d have no idea what binge-drinking meant (“does wine count, or are we just talking grain alcohol here?”) or, if the magazine called past noon, would already be too blottoed to answer coherently.

In short, this study is bogus. Flawed metrics, major selection bias, etc. Nice try Men’s Health magazine, but ain’t no way those hippies can out-drink the Boston Irish.

Naked Women Arrive on Scotch Bottles

Stuck in its ways and sometimes smelling distinctively of peat moss, scotch is the old man of liquors. It’s increasingly difficult for scotch makers, who are subject to rigid regulations affecting everything from distilling to bottling, to move their product into new markets and compete with younger, freer American whiskey brands. Desperate times call for desperate measures: Naked women coming soon to a bottle of Macallan near you.

(‘DiggThis’)Sales for scotch priced under $40 per bottles have remained relatively flat for the last decade, according to Forbes. Under $40, scotch has to compete against the Maker’s Mark ilk of whiskeys and its arsenal of flashy bottling and smooth tastes, ready for drinking or mixing (even brandy is getting buzz). The only room for Scotch to grow is in the “super-premium segment.” To usher sales along, some scotch makers have begun paying attention to which casks they use, handpicking leftovers used in the production of sherry and whiskey to create new tastes and hopefully capture a larger share of the American market.

At least one brand is turning to the oldest marketing trick in the book to get bottles off the shelves. Macallan hired fashion photographer Rankin to shoot a series of raunchy Polaroids for some of its 30-year, and all 1,000 bottles, priced at $1,700 each, sold almost immediately. A dirty old man is a smart old man.

Burger King Discovers Allure of Burgers and Beer

Love Burger King’s all-beef burgers but hate taking time out of your busy drinking schedule to eat them? Your prayers have been answered! Last Friday, Burger King announced it would open a “Whopper Bar” in South Beach, Miami next month, serving the delicious meat sandwiches you crave alongside the alcohol you need to dull the pain of modern life 24/7. Like most things in Miami, it will be frighteningly blingtastic, with 20 tangy sauces displayed in a super-classy “visible toppings theater.” To combat any charges of Frenchness (after all, the Europeans did it first), the beers served will be all-American. “That adds a new element to the Burger King brand,” analyst Tom Forte said of the idea. “It also creates a different mystique for going to a Whopper Bar versus a traditional restaurant.” Because nothing says “mystique” like Budlight Lime!

(‘DiggThis’)According to Forte, “edgier” brands like the subversive Carl’s Jr. (or should I say, Karl’s?) and that den of iniquity Jack-in-the-Box might be next to follow suit. Is this the next big thing for American fast food? Will letting people get shit faced in the Play Place ruin the down home, Palin-esque, family values image of restaurants like McDonald’s and Dairy Queen? Will the presence of alcohol in close proximity to Happy Meals turn our chubby kids into even chubbier boozehounds? To which I say: The world’s imploding around us; none of us are ever getting real jobs again; we can only afford non-food items such as Big Macs; everything will cease to be in 2012, anyway; might as well have a beer. These are lessons children should learn sooner than later.