Saturday, January 02, 2016

The Great Speckled Bird - Selftitled (Good Country Rock Canada 1970)

Size: 94.5 MB
Bitrate: 256
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Artwork Included
Source: Japan 24-Bit Remaster

Great Speckled Bird is a country rock album by Great Speckled Bird, a band formed in 1969 by Canadian musicians Ian and Sylvia Tyson. The other group members at the time of recording were Buddy Cage, on pedal steel guitar, Amos Garrett, on guitar and backup vocals, and N.D. Smart, on drums. Nashville session musicians David Briggs and Norbert Putnam sat in, with Briggs on piano and Putnam on bass guitar. Although founding member Ken Kalmusky is listed in the original liner notes, he had actually departed the group prior to recording.

Historically, it is one of those albums that should have been re-released years ago on CD, as should discs by bands like the Amazing Rhythm Aces (hooray to Stony Plain for finally doing it!). And it still stands up as a good album. It is not the perfect album, but when you realize it was made in 1969, and the great courage it took for these two folksingers to follow their instinct and make this album, you appreciate it even more. 

There is a good and intelligent storyline in the lyrics, and some great music comes from the speakers. Listen to the interplay between Amos Garrett's (yes, the same musician who went on to fame with Paul Butterfield's Better Days and Maria Muldaur, and is still causing big guitar ripples) multiple string-bending guitar tones and Buddy Cage's (your memory is correct -- New Riders of the Purple Sage) steel guitar. 

The solid rhythm section provides a solid rock bastion from which to leap about and playfully take chances. It is a solid effort all the way through. Most of all, it should be listened to because it is an excellent album.

The album is notable for being the first album to be produced by Todd Rundgren.

Great Speckled Bird was a country rock group formed in 1969 by the Canadian musical duo Ian & Sylvia. Ian Tyson sang, played guitar and composed. Sylvia Tyson sang, composed and occasionally played piano. The other founding members were Amos Garrett on guitar and occasional vocals, Bill Keith on steel guitar, Ken Kalmusky on bass and Ricky Marcus on drums. They were named after the song, "The Great Speckled Bird", as recorded by Roy Acuff.

The group was featured in the film Festival Express, a documentary about the music festival of the same name that took place in 1970. The shows were scheduled, and the performers traveled by train, across Canada. In the film, Great Speckled Bird performs "C.C. Rider", along with Delaney Bramlett and members of Grateful Dead. A performance of the Dylan/Manuel song "Tears of Rage", without the aforementioned accompaniment, is included in the extra features of the DVD release.

In 1970, the group became the house band for the television show Nashville North, produced by the CTV network and filmed at the CFTO-TV studios in Toronto, which, after one season, became the Ian Tyson Show. The show ran until 1975.

Great Speckled Bird, led by the famous 1960s folk and folk-rock duo Ian & Sylvia, made a self-titled country-rock album at the end of the 1960s that has maintained a cult following over the years, though it didn't sell well. Some discographical confusion still surrounds the record. 

Often it is listed as an Ian & Sylvia release, though Great Speckled Bird were indeed a band, not just an Ian & Sylvia album title. The confusion was perpetuated by a 1972 album credited to Ian & Sylvia with the Great Speckled Bird.

Ian & Sylvia had included country material in their eclectic repertoire from the time they began performing and recording in the early '60s. By the late '60s, they were leaning decidedly more toward a country-rock direction, recording the 1968 album Nashville in Nashville itself. 

Great Speckled Bird, however, differed from that effort in that it was the work of a real band, not just Ian & Sylvia with session musicians. The pair founded the band in 1969, though there were some lineup changes before the album, including the replacement of ex-Bill Monroe sideman Bill Keith with pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage. Also in the band was drummer N.D. Smart, who had played with the Remains and Mountain, and would later work with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

Great Speckled Bird, recorded in late 1969 and issued at the beginning of 1970, had a fuller band sound than any Ian & Sylvia release. It was also more immersed in country music than their previous albums, although it was a definite country-rock fusion (with a touch of gospel), featuring the pedal steel-lead guitar lines of Cage and guitarist Amos Garrett, who devised the technique of bending two or three strings at a time. Produced by a young Todd Rundgren in Nashville, the album, recorded for their manager Albert Grossman's Bearsville Record Productions, suffered from poor distribution and consequent low sales.

Great Speckled Bird toured as well, but got a mixed reception, in part because those expecting straight folk from Ian & Sylvia weren't prepared for a full band with electric instruments. They were part of the Festival Express tour in 1970, which had them cross Canada with a traveling rock festival of sorts that also included the Grateful Dead, the Band, Janis Joplin, and Delaney & Bonnie. The band continued for a while, but it became uncertain whether they were their own entity or an adjunct to Ian & Sylvia, especially when Cage and Garrett left, and the Columbia Ian & Sylvia album was credited to Ian & Sylvia with the Great Speckled Bird. The record was more subdued than Great Speckled Bird, and the band dissolved in the early '70s, with Ian & Sylvia parting ways themselves by the middle of the decade.

The group backed Ian & Sylvia until the duo parted ways in 1975. They also backed Ian Tyson as a solo artist, for his 1973 debut solo album and his live performances, until 1976. Highly Recommended

Ian Tyson - guitar, vocals
 Sylvia Tyson - vocals
 Buddy Cage - pedal steel guitar
 Amos Garrett - guitar, background vocals
 N.D. Smart - drums
 David Briggs - piano
 Norbert Putnam - bass guitar

01. "Love What You're Doing Child" (Ian Tyson) – 3:39
02. "Calgary" (Ian Tyson, Sylvia Tyson) – 3:03
03. "Trucker's Cafe" (Ian Tyson) – 3:22
04. "Long Long Time to Get Old" (Ian Tyson) – 3:07
05. "Flies in the Bottle" (Ian Tyson) – 3:47
06. "Bloodshot Beholder" (Ian Tyson) – 2:58
07. "Crazy Arms" (Chuck Seals, Ralph Mooney) – 2:54
08. "This Dream" (Ian Tyson) – 3:40
09. "Smiling Wine" (Sylvia Tyson) – 3:11
10. "Rio Grande" (Ian Tyson, Amos Garrett) – 3:51
11. "Disappearing Woman" (Sylvia Tyson) – 2:10
12. "We Sail" (Sylvia Tyson) – 4:37

1. Speckled Bird
2. Speckled Bird
3. Speckled Bird

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Stu Gardner - And the Sanctified Sound (Funk/Soul US 1974)

Size: 83.4 MB
Bitrate: 256
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Artwork Included
Source: Japan 24-Bit Remaster

(Not easy to find a biography about this album) Veteran session keyboardist Stu Gardner assumes the spotlight for Stu Gardner & the Sanctified Sound, a solid if unspectacular funk outing indicative of its creator's journeyman status. 

Gardner and his band (including bassist Charles Fletcher) are undoubtedly gifted players, but his songwriting is pedestrian at best, drawing obvious inspiration from early-'70s icons like Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder but never reaching the same heights. 

A soulful, nuanced "Home on the Range" and the self-explanatory "Funky Neighborhood" nevertheless make for engaging listening, and DJs in search of sample fodder will find a number of funky breaks to plunder.

01. Devil In A Man 04:18
02. Added To A Broken Heart 03:50
03. Funky Neighborhood 03:14
04. Home On The Range 04:55
05. Mathilda (Instrumental) 03:06
06. Sanctified Sound 05:51
07. Sister Matilda 03:55
08. Leave Him Alone 02:53
09. The Sweetest Song 05:14
10. The Sweetest Song (Part 2) 02:04

1. Stu Gardner
2. Stu Gardner
3. Stu Gardner

Deep Purple - The House of Blue Light (UK 1986)

Size: 96.2 MB
Bitrate: 256
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Artwork Included
Source: Japan 24-Bit Remaster

Deep Purple evolved out of Roundabout who had been set up when two London businessmen, Tony Edwards and John Coletta decided to invest in a pop group. The name change to Deep Purple took place in April 1968 and coincided with their live debut in Tastrup, Denmark. The following month they recorded The Shades Of Deep Purple album. Musically they followed a pretty straight-forward pop format and the album peaked at No 24 in the US, although it didn't make the UK Charts at all. Similarly, their first single, Hush, a revival of a Joe South song with lots of great guitar work, rose to No 4 in the US singles Charts but failed to gain a Chart placing over here. A cover of Neil Diamond's Kentucky Woman gave them another minor US hit, but over here it was withdrawn shortly after its release.

In 1969 they were signed by EMI's then new progressive Harvest label. They had Exposition/We Can Work It Out and Wring That Neck included on the very rare promo-only Harvest Sampler album. Their first album for Harvest, The Book Of Taliesyn, followed a similar format to their first album. Again, it fared better in the States, climbing to No. 54. A cover of Ike and Tina Turner's River Deep, Mountain High culled from the album, gave them another minor US hit, peaking at No 53. Other versions included The Beatles' We Can Work It Out and a version of the theme from 2001.

Deep Purple, released in 1969, marked the end of their pop phase. It included a good version of Donovan's Lalena. The Painter and Why Didn't Rosemary certainly hinted at the heavier sound to come. Most of side two was taken up by the experimental and classically-influenced extended track April. After this the Tetragrammaton label folded and Simper and Evans were sacked departing for Warhorse and Captain Beyond respectively.

Ian Gillan and Roger Glover from Episode Six came in as replacements to form what is generally considered to be the strongest of the band's four line-ups. Musically this new line-up veered towards a much heavier sound. However, Concerto For Group And Orchestra, the new line-up's first album, attempted to merge rock and classical music with the band being supported by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Albert Hall. It gave the group their UK Chart debut, peaking at No 26 and, unusually for them did much better than in the US, where it only got to No 143.

They worked immensely hard in this phase of their career and gradually it began to pay off with Black Night, a superb slice of heavy rock, rising to No 2 to give them their first UK hit single.

Deep Purple In Rock was really their magnum opus. It became a million seller, climbing to No 4 in the UK (but only managing No 142 in the US). This album really is worth checking out with tracks like Speed King, Into The Fire, Living Wreck and Hard Lovin' Man epitomising all that was good about their frenetic brand of heavy rock.

However, there were signs that Ian Gillan, at least, was becoming restless. On 27 October he played the part of Jesus in a live performance of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Jesus Christ Superstar' at St Peters Lutheran Church in New York and he'd also played Jesus on the original album.

1971 saw the release of a new album, Fireball, which was similar in style to its predecessor. It topped the UK Album Charts and reached No 32 in the US. The title track peaked at No 15 in the UK 45 Charts at the end of the year, to give them their second Top 20 hit. Strange Kind Of Woman had made the UK Top Ten back in March. On 3 December Montreux Casino in Switzerland burnt down during a Frank Zappa set whilst the band were recording there, this led the band to write another classic song, Smoke On The Water, which was included on their next album, Machine Head. This was another mega seller, topping the UK Charts for three weeks and later climbing to No 7 in the US. In April 1972 Never Before from the album gave them a minor UK hit, climbing to No 35. The same month Jon Lord released an album, Gemini Suite, with the London Symphony Orchestra.

By now the band was deservedly one of the top live attractions in the World - playing the first night at the resurrected Rainbow Theatre in June 1972 and touring Japan in August of that year, where they were extremely popular. Material from some of the concerts on this tour was later released on the Live In Japan album, which later climbed to No 16 in the UK and No 6 in the US. Towards the end of 1972 Warner released Purple Passages, a US-only compilation of material from their three Tetragrammaton albums, and it peaked at No 57.

By now Gillan had made up his mind to leave the group because he felt the band was ceasing to progress, although he remained with the band until 29 June 1973 to honour touring commitments in Japan, where the band members were idolised. He later formed his own band. Roger Glover followed him shortly after, initially becoming the Purple label's A&M man and later pursuing a solo career. The following month their classic song, Smoke On The Water (from Machine Head) was released as a 45 in the US, becoming a million-seller and peaking at No 4.

The previously unknown David Coverdale, who'd been working in a menswear shop in Redcar, Yorkshire, was brought in, along with ex-Trapeze bassist Glenn Hughes, after responding to an advert placed by the band. This new line-up were responsible for the Burn and Stormbringer albums, which were both successful commercially, but this particular incarnation of the band was brought to a conclusion when Ritchie Blackmore announced his departure to form Rainbow on 7 April 1975. His replacement was Tommy Bolin, formerly with The James Gang.

This final line-up recorded a studio album, Come Taste The Band, and embarked on a World Tour of Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong, America and Europe. However, it was proving increasingly difficult for the band to harness the undoubted talent of its individual members to best effect and they finally split in June 1976. Inevitably there have been several posthumous releases and compilations.

Upon their demise Coverdale embarked on a solo career later forming Whitesnake; Lord and Paice became two of the trio known as Paice, Ashton and Lord; Hughes rejoined Trapeze and Tommy Bolin formed his own band back in the US. He later died of a heroin overdose on 4 December 1976.

For a good retrospective collection try The Anthology, released in 1985. This doesn't just follow the 'greatest hits' type format - it mixes the best known material with the obscure. In the latter category are three previously unissued tracks:- Freedom, recorded as a follow-up single to Strange Kind Of Woman in 1971, which never saw the light of day until 1985 and two tracks from the 'Roundabout' acetate in 1968 (Love Help Me and Shadows), before the group had chosen the Deep Purple name. Some of their rare 45s (Hush, Emmaretta and Hallelujah) are included, too, and there are plenty of stage favourites like Woman From Tokyo, Black Night, Child In Time and Strange Kind Of Woman. Appearances on Various Artists' compilations have included Into The Fire (from the Deep Purple In Rock album) on Harvest's 1970 Picnic (Dble LP) compilation; Hush on Harvest Heritage - 20 Greats (LP) and, more recently, Shield on the CD The Age Of Enlightenment - Prog Rock, Vol. 1.

As for Deep Purple, they're lovingly remembered as one of the finest and most influential heavy rock bands in the World.

2nd reunion album 1986

01. Bad Attitude - 04.46
02. The Unwritten Law - 04.37
03. Call of The Wild - 04.53
04. Mad Dog - 04.33
05. Black & White - 03.44
06. Hard Lovin' Woman - 03.25
07. The Spanish Archer - 04.59
08. Strangeways - 05.58
09. Mitzi Dupree - 05.05
10. Dead or Alive - 04.43

1. Blue Light
2. Blue Light
3. Blue Light

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Variety of Beer
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Why do we care about beer styles? What difference does it make if a beer is a Porter or Stout? An Amber Ale or a Red? A Russian Imperial or an American Double? The Aleheads are as guilty as anyone of focusing on what pigeonhole a specific beer is supposed to fall into. Does it really matter?

Martyn Cornell would say “absolutely not”. The British beer historian is one of the most respected beer writers working today. His blog, Zythophile, is a must-read for any beer enthusiast. Now, I’ll grant you that being one of the most respected beer writers is like being one of the most venerable porn stars. It’s not exactly a field that inspires reverence. 

Beers World Cup 
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“You write about beer? Good for you! And what’s your actual job?” But for those of us who care about beer, Cornell is a voice that commands respect. To be sure, he can be a bit of a crank. And sometimes his opinions just blatantly piss me off.* But he’s a true beer historian who relies on primary sources and never lowers himself to superficial on-line searches or Wikipedia quotes (like, umm, us). He’s a challenging, obstinate writer who likes to push buttons and illuminate the masses. If his posts sometimes read like he thinks he’s better than you, well…in terms of beer knowledge, he probably is.

*For an example of a Cornell post that I find infuriating, check out his “you’re not using the word ‘ale’ correctly” post. Essentially, since ale used to mean something different in centuries past, Cornell is  peeved that the word’s definition has been altered over the years to mean “any warm/top-fermenting malt beverage”. He doesn’t like to have to explain the true etymology of the word over and over again and he is clearly frustrated that the term no longer means what it used to. My take? He sounds like an old man bitching about how much better everything was back in the day. The word “gay” doesn’t mean what it used to either. Get over it.

Cornell recently took up the debate about the proliferation of beer styles and the overwhelming importance they seem to command in the brewing industry today. He points out something I think most of us were superficially aware of but never put much thought into. Namely, the whole concept of “beer styles” is an extraordinarily recent invention. He traces it back a mere 33 years when the most celebrated beer writer of all time, Michael Jackson (not the pedophile one), coined the term “beer styles” in his seminal work, The World Guide to Beer.

Since that time, beer style differentiation has become a cottage industry. Today there are debates over whether a brew is a Cascadian Dark Ale or a Black IPA. Double, Triple, even Quadruple IPAs stock our package store shelves. There are multiple types of Imperial Stouts, a variety of Wild Ales…even a style called “Wheatwine” which is basically just a Barleywine made with 50% or more wheat malt. The whole concept of beer styles sometimes seems to threaten to strangle the entire brewing world. Why not just sit back, crack open a beer, and enjoy it without worrying about whether it meets the industry’s rigid standards for the style?

I’m fairly certain that Martyn Cornell blames the proliferation of beer styles on one thing: Americans. Spend some time perusing his posts (and particularly his responses in the comments sections after the posts) and you’ll see that he doesn’t hold us Yanks in the highest regard.*

The Most Bizarre and Strongest Beers Ever
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*Here’s a choice anti-American quote from the “ale” article I referenced before. “It may seem dumb to you, matey, but that’s because you’re too dumb to have the imagination to realise that words didn’t always mean what a 21st century American thinks they should mean.”

I get the impression that he thinks our obsession with styles and guidelines stems from Americans’ deep-seated need to categorize and judge things. We need to proclaim “winners” and “losers” which means that beer judging has reached its zenith (or nadir, depending on your POV) in the States. As beer judging and beer competitions have started to dominate the brewing landscape, a concrete rubric for how to judge beers has developed along with it. After all, you can’t judge a beer unless you know what it’s “supposed” to taste like. Thus, beer styles have become more rigidly defined and their specific characteristics are being constantly debated and challenged by Aleheads.

Whenever I read one of Cornell’s (and other, mainly British, beer writers) frequent digs at American beer style obsession, I bristle a bit. This is for two reasons. One, while I like to mock America and all of our faults on an almost daily basis, I don’t like it when people from other countries do it. You have a Queen you crumpet-eating, loo-user…so stop throwing stones. And two, it bothers me because he’s correct. The recent focus on beer styles IS almost 100% due to America’s influence on the industry. We really ARE the culprit. But why?

I’m going to say something controversial that really isn’t: America is the best brewing nation on Earth. It sounds like fighting words, but it shouldn’t be. England invented most of the styles we take for granted today. Porters, Stouts, Brown Ales, IPAs. Germany has a horse in the race…it’s the birthplace of lager, wheat beers, and the Bavarian Purity Laws which essentially defined what beer was in Continental Europe for the past 500 years. And then there’s Belgium…a country whose sole purpose seems to be the production of high-quality brew. Even their monks brew beer. But all of those countries pale in comparison to the US these days. Why? Two reasons…

The Top 10 Most Expensive Beers in The World
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First, there’s the obvious answer. Volume! The US is the third most populated nation on Earth behind only China and India and we’re far and away the biggest beer-drinking nation. India isn’t exactly a hotbed of brewing since any grains produced in that country are generally used to feed their perennially starving populace. As for China, while their beer production is steadily increasing every year, beer culture is still fairly nascent in the world’s largest country. No matter how you slice it, America produces more beer than any other nation. We also have more breweries than any other country…roughly 1,500 with more and more cropping up every year.

The second major reason: America’s culture of innovation. I know, I know…we’re falling behind. Our schools are getting worse. We buy our cars and electronics from Japan. We buy our toys from China. We buy our clothes from El Salvador and Thailand. We call India when our computers break. We’re not what we used to be. But in the brewing industry, the US is still on top in terms of innovation and pushing the envelope. There are a few European ale factories like BrewDog that are making bold, exciting choices. But they’re the outliers. In the US, there are hundreds of craft brewers pushing the field to the next level. Breweries like Dogfish Head, Stone, Founders, Allagash, Avery…they’re exploring, experimenting, and completely changing the boundaries of beer-making. It’s an exciting time for American Aleheads!

All that variety and innovation leads to a couple of problems though. First is the issue of consumer confusion. Pop into a well-stocked package store and your head will start spinning. The options available sometimes seem limitless. It’s like walking down the cheese aisle at Whole Foods…it can feel like you’re just throwing darts at a board. If you’re just selecting beers based on the label or name, you’re not making a very informed decision. 

BUT, if the beer style is prominently displayed, life becomes a little easier. A Founder’s Dirty Bastard? That doesn’t sound very good. Oh wait…it’s a Scotch Ale! I love Scotch Ales! I’m definitely grabbing a four-pack of that. There’s no such thing as a perfectly informed consumer, but every little bit of information helps. When grabbing a beer at the bar or package store, knowing the beer style can mean the difference between finding something you love or being stuck with a six-pack you’ll never finish.

That first concern is universal, but the second is pretty uniquely American…our need to determine a “winner”. As I said earlier, we have a desire…an obsession really…to turn everything into a competition. Americans CRAVE winners. Everything has to be ranked. 

Everything has to be in a Top Ten list. We need to know who the best sports teams are. The best restaurants. 

29 Interresting Facts of Beer
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The best colleges. The richest people. The same is true with beer. The most popular posts we write on Aleheads are lists. When we rank beers and beer names, our hits jump up. It’s bred into our genetic code as Americans.

Determining the best beers is an immensely subjective undertaking. Personal tastes rule the day. If a beer has a dominant flavor (say grapefruit hoppiness) that I love and you hate, we’ll clearly rate those beers differently. It’s not “fair” to judge all beers equally since our own personal tastes will always win out. But if we start listing beer styles and determining the characteristics that define those styles, we begin to eliminate some of that subjectivity. 

Maybe I prefer Dubbels to Witbiers, but if I can separate those two styles into two wholly separate categories, I can judge them on their own merits. No one is going to change the American need to determine a winner. But beer styles at least make that process a little more fair…it makes the world of beer judging a little more meritocratic. Clearly a delicate Kölsch can’t stand up to a robust Russian Imperial Stout. Thanks to beer styles, it doesn’t have to.

So Martyn Cornell and his ilk are right, as he usually is. Americans ARE the problem when it comes to the recent beer style obsession. And focusing too much on beer styles can certainly be detrimental. Sometimes it’s better to just pop the cap and sip than it is to fret too much about whether your Double IPA has the proper amount of IBUs for the style. That being said, I think Cornell (as he often does) is living a bit too much in the past. When he was a wee lad, the term “beer style” didn’t even exist. Contrast that with the Aleheads…we were all born AFTER Michael Jackson coined the phrase in ’77. None of us existed in a world where “beer styles” weren’t something brewers thought about. How can we be expected to ignore the categorization of beer when it’s been part and parcel with our culture since we first put pint glass to mouth? 

I’ve been taught to think of beer styles since I first started drinking. We all were! I can’t stop thinking about them any more than I can stop silently judging the merits of a beer when I’m drinking it. To be honest, the whole idea of beer styles and beer judging is a big part of WHY I love beer. Just skim our site. Every tasting note talks about styles. Every Podcast has some discussion of styles. Every lengthy diatribe touches on how well certain beers fit into certain categories. The idea of beer styles practically defines our blog and the beer culture we’re a part of. It is what it is, Mr. Cornell. You can fight it all you want, but as I once described the act of arguing with the Commander, it’s like punching the ocean.

I will still read Martyn Cornell’s blog religiously, of course. He is a better historian than me. He is a better writer than me. He has forgotten more about beer than I will ever know. Reading his blog shames me into realizing just how bad I am at beer writing, but it also inspires me to keep learning and growing as a beer drinker and thinker. He is almost always right when I am wrong… but when it comes to beer styles, I’m not bowing to him.

I say that beer styles are important. I say that with the amazing variety of beer options available to us today, they are entirely necessary. I recognize the problems with worrying too much about which narrow pigeonhole every single beer needs to fit into, but I think the good far outweighs the bad.

When I drink a beer, I want to know what it “should” taste like before I sip it. That’s important to me as a drinker. It’s important to me as an American. Hell, it’s important to me as a human being! If wanting a mental template to refer to before I consume something is wrong…well…then I don’t want to be right. I love beer styles…and I’m glad they’re here to stay.

14 Craft Beer Infographic
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