Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Play this...and run for your beer!

September is Sucktember this year in Beer Bar Band land. As noted in my previous post for The Session, I'm in training for my second half marathon and hence needed to do some serious work on reclaiming fitness and pace after a lazy and indulgent winter.  Since May the days have been very short and very cold, resulting in the seeking of comfort through much fine cheese, dark chocolate and imperial ales.

So, the last 3 weeks - 25 days now - have been completely dry, as well as lacking any sweets/treats, even soft drink. With intake minimised, my training regime has been maximised. It has been intense, hard and painful, but the results are showing. I have been running at least 3 times a week, including very long runs every weekend. It’s necessary for all-round health…especially as someone who enjoys drinking so much good beer, of which there is no shortage around Australia at the moment!

My running may be much more amateur and sporadic than some of the other beer runners from across the globe, but I am proud to be part of the beer running brigade.

One week to go in Sucktember* and I’m on track. I've almost hit my weight goal and I have been able to reclaim my sub-4min.20sec/km race pace over 7-10km. Most importantly, I can cover the half marathon distance again without dying. On Sunday I made it to 21.55km.

When I finish the Melbourne Half Marathon on October 14, my reward will be our now traditional 'refuel with carbs and good beer' session at Mrs Parma's and Beer DeLuxe in Melbourne city. It's the motivation!

As with the vast majority of amateur runners in this portable-music generation, I run to music played from a smartphone strapped to my arm. I haven't used music in a race yet (mostly due to race etiquette and concentration whilst in the middle of a large crowd)...but am strongly considering it this time around just to help me get through the distance.

On countless running playlists you are bound to find the typical workout hits, such as the 80's classics of Eye of the Tiger, Born to Run and Scandal's The Warrior (yep...all of those songs are on my playlist…because as motivational gear-ups, they just work!). Oh...and no, my playlist does NOT include Flock of Seagulls' I Ran (So Far Away).

I love Australian rock, so the tracks that fill my ears as I run are a driving collection of tunes from local bands.

So here are 10 songs I recommend every music loving Aussie (and everyone else!) includes on their running playlist. It's a collection of strange, random and classic songs that have the beat, energy and somewhat appropriate lyrics to get you through the distance...

Ten Aussie Rock Tracks For Your Running Playlist

(Note: none of the below videos really do the songs justice...not in the way the original album versions thrive when in your ears!)

1.  'Till The End - The Living End (from State of Emergency, 2006)

Lyrics that drive you onwards: "'Til the end, 'til the end. I'm never gonna give up 'til the end, 'til the end. I'm not gonna stop til I've tried, not until I'm satisfied!"

The back catalogue from Melbourne’s rockabilly punk-rock-pop trio, The Living End, is full of excellent running playlist songs thanks to the pace of their punk-ish influence. The opening track from "State of Emergency" is nothing short of perfect. Fast, high energy and all the lyrics can easily be translated to a war cry for prevailing over a long run: "I'm never gonna give up 'til the end!"

Other rocking appropriate Living End songs for a long run include: Roll On, Into the Red, West End Riot, End of the World, Save the Day.

2.  1000 Miles – Grinspoon (from New Detention, 2002)

Lyrics that make you want to run further: "A thousand miles, come get all your files, put on that plastic smile, a thousand miles. Go go go, go go go!”

Like The Living End, much of the music (plus many of the song titles) from Western Australian rockers Grinspoon are ripe for running. The lyrics to 1000 Miles are brash and violent...but they'll get you running! This song ignites with a hard-rock electric guitar country-twang then... "Well, I got drunk and I got stoned, shot my family left my home, went out on a killing spree, 'coz what you did was fucked to me", sung by a (quite possibly) drug-fucked Phil Jamieson during the height of Grinspoon’s early success.

Other Grinspoon tracks to beef up your playlist: Champion, More Than You Are, Bleed You Dry, Just Ace.

3.  Pace It – Magic Dirt (What Are Rockstars Doing Today, 2000)

MAGIC DIRT - Pace It from Glendyn Ivin on Vimeo.

Lyrics that pick up the pace: “Oh can you feel it, something comin' closer to you're body. Oh can you see it, someone's taken over from where you started…”

The album "What Are Rockstars Doing Today" was a big change in output for Magic Dirt. After their fuzzy loud and long, experimental garage rock beginnings during the early 1990s, many fans saw this album as a pop-sellout after the band signed with Warner Music Australia. However, songs like Pace It proved the Magic Dirt still had their garage grunge origins inside them. It's a song that builds and drives you faster with front-up electric guitars and Adalita's repetitive call of "can't see it, can't feel it, can't steal it, can't keep it, can't need it, can't believe it, can't trace it, can't face it, can't lace it, can't taste it, can't pace it, can't erase it..."

4.  Say Something - Something For Kate (Echolalia, 2001)

Lyrics that say you better run: "I don't want to stand and compute, I want days and weeks to burst out of you..."

Ok, so the often nerdy, philosophical and emotional lyrics of Something For Kate are a stretch to apply to running...but as a long time favourite local artist, they feature strongly on my playlist with solid tempo and energetic songs, especially from their first three albums. The album "Echolalia" helped me through some dark days of my twenties and so songs like Say Something are second nature to me, allowing me to tune out from the task of running and mentally escape to those rocking gigs at The Corner Hotel.

More Something For Kate speed work: Prick, Electricity, Hallways, Working Against Me, Cassandra Walks the Plank.

5.  Knockouts - Ouch My Face (from Ouch My Face EP, 2009)

Lyrics that drive you onwards: "Can you handle this?"..."I'm bulletproof, baby..."

This hard rocking trio from Melbourne's small bar scene rocked my face damn loud one New Year's Eve at The Espy, after which I bought their self-titled EP. This sweet heavy track, of which I really can't decipher any of the other lyrics, has been on my running playlist ever since.

I guess you'd describe their music as a bit of mid-90s post-grunge with a little screamo. They are one of those raw little gems you discover on dark late nights out enjoying live music at random pubs and bars.

When you want to run far, it's all about mind over matter...which is beautifully encapsulated by the opening statement of Knockouts from lead singer and artist, Celeste Potter: "Can you handle this?"

Run this too: Junk Punk Baby

6.  Miracle Mile - Expatriate (from Hyper/hearts, 2012)

Lyrics that drive you onwards: "I ran a miracle mile to live it today..."

Whilst the first single from their long awaited second album, released in July this year, is not my favourite Expatriate song, it certainly kicks off strong, is lyrically appropriate and definitely does the trick on a running playlist.

If you can’t be bothered making a playlist, Expatriate’s first album, "In the Midst of This" works well as a running playlist on it’s own (with the one exception of ballad You Were There).

Expedite your playing with more Expat tunes: Crazy, Are You Awake, Get Out Give In, Gotta Get Home, The Spaces Between

7.  Hurt MeThe Jezabels (from She’s So Hard EP, 2009)

Lyrics that drive you onwards: "Still now I can hear the dogs bark, I can hear the dogs bark..." ... "Hurt Me, Hurt Me, Hurt Me, come down to the world..."

Guess what, long distance running hurts! To get through it…sometimes you just have to ask for that hurt. And what makes you run faster than the thought of being chased by vicious dogs?

The first three EPs released by The Jezabels, before they smashed through to Aussie popularity with the release of their debut album, are full of great running tracks thanks to the fast hands of drummer Nik Kaloper. Hurt Me opens their second EP release, "She’s So Hard". It's full of emo and dark religious undertones...but the beat and recurring theme of hurt makes this song perfect for running. It was the song that helped get them noticed before the release of Mace Spray saw them explode across national radio via TripleJ.

More songs from The Jezabels to bring the party to your running playlist: Be A Star, Disco Biscuit Love

8.  Go Go - Ratcat (from Blind Love, 1991)

The go lyrics: "Can't stand still, can't say no, gotta go fast, yeah I gotta go. Go Go (gotta Go Go) Go Go here Go Go there Go Go Everywhere !! So speed kills I'm in for thrills, count me in, I play to win."

My wife was a Ratcat fan girl in her teen years...so I discovered them almost 20 years later through her collection (and catching a Simon Day solo gig at The Retreat back in 2010). Ratcat's 90' garage pop hits the right beat and fun for picking up the pace.

Also: Racing, Run & Hide, Yes I Wanna Go

9.  My Car Doesn't Break - Spazzys (from Aloha! Go Bananas, 2004)

Lyrics to bring the speed: "Alright, lets go, step on the gas, it's time to lose this disco trash. Cruising, moving much too fast and I can't make it on time, flying down the boulevard, sun is shining, feeling fine."

Ahh yes...in the middle of the last decade there was the Spazzys, Australia's best all-female Ramones tribute band! Ok, so they weren't really a tribute band...but they were VERY Ramones in sound and style. They even ended up touring and playing with Marky Ramone. They had some minor hits, most notably a cover of My Boyfriend's Back, which may have been too cutesy punk-pop to capture their live energy and punk-ish rockability, so their Video Hits efforts were dismissed by the audience that would have loved them in the pub with their threeway rock-chick vocals. Say what you want about this flash-in-the-pan, they rocked live and they were fun. They promised a better second album...but it was never delivered. The fast Spazzys songs roll nicely on a running playlist, whilst dripping in memories of 2003-2005.

Get spazzy on your run with: Action City, Zatopeks and Zombie Girl

10.  Blood, Sweat and Beers BugGiRL (from Blood, Sweat & Beers EP, 2009)

Lyrics that drive you onwards: "You gotta sweat, you gotta bleed, rock and roll is all you need... blood, sweat and beer!"

Brother and sister pub-rock duo, Bug GiRL, bring the AC/DC and Motley Crew sound to the 21st century with these lyrics that just say it all... sweat for beer!

Bug up your run to the pub with other tracks like: Fire Highway, Motor City Lover and V8 Motor

Other great, sometimes random, Aussie songs on my running playlist:
  • Baby2 and I Don't Ever Want To Change by The Drones
  • Benedict and Military Strongman by Jebediah
  • Buy Me A Pony by Spiderbait
  • Go Go Go and Let's Heart Attack by Bit By Bats
  • Killer by Whitley
  • Lullabies, Lies and Goodbyes and Mix Tape by Big Scary
  • Honey and Sgt. Suffer by Papa vs Pretty
  • Imorta, Little Death and Say It by The Clouds
  • Teenage Rampage and Boys Boys Boys by Sin City
  • Cassandra by The Galvatrons 

Get out there for a run! You don't need to go far, just get started. Keep at it and soon you'll be running much further than you ever expected. You're heart will thank you and the beer you drink will be so much more rewarding. Cheers!

*5 days to go and about 33kms of running to knock over...then it's time to taper and once again taste a beer...!

Friday, September 7, 2012

How Many Breweries in 2017? (The Session no.67)

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin's archive page.

This month's Session is hosted by Derrick Peterman of the blog Ramblings of a Beer Runner. His chosen topic: tell us how many breweries the Brewer's Association will count five years from now in 2017, and why you think it will be that number.

"Where is it all going? The growth shows no sign of stopping and the biggest problem most breweries have is that they can't brew beer fast enough. But can the market really absorb all these new breweries? Are we headed for a cataclysmic brewing bubble where legions of brewers, their big dreams busted, are left to contemplate selling insurance? Or is brewing reaching a critical mass, only to explode even more intensely in a thermo-nuclear frenzy of fermentation?"

Well, this is a timely appropriate topic for The Session...for two reasons.

First, the host is Derrick Peterman who blogs as Ramblings of a Beer Runner and, for me, this month is all about running! For the second year in a row I have signed up to run the Melbourne Half Marathon in October. I had never run before the age of 29ish, but slowly took up running in late 2009 with Jenn to loose weight and improve our overall health. It worked (after much hard work) and we completed our first 10 km fun run in October 2010.

After every fun/event run we do, we celebrate with a beer session afterwards. Often it’s an immediate-ish post run beer at Beer DeLuxe (as most of the runs tend to be around central Melbourne).
8Wired Tall Poppy post 14km Run for the Kids 2011

The health balance of beer and running actually makes very good sense, once you start down that path. I’m not one who stays fit and in easily, after an obese youth and early adult years. So distance running ensures I can maintain the shape that took me 3 years of harsh effort to claim.

I also enjoy following online the exploits and writings of other (real) beer runners from around the globe, such as  Tim Cigelske (The Beer Runner!) and Claire Walsh (Will Run For Beer) and Suzi Storm (Ok, just one more beer...)

A Feral Hop Hog post Run for the Kids 2012
Now, to help make some dint in the 5kgs I’ve stacked on so far this year, we have committed to a month long detox, health kick and training program during September to restore my power to knock off 21 kms in 90 minutes. It also helps confirm that we’re still not alcoholics...yet. Some people do Febfast, others do Dry July. Previously we've done our own personal month long detox and fitness kicks, namely NO!vember, even Half-Arsed Febfast. This time, it is Sucktember. And yes, 7 days in...no booze or soft-drink, chocolate & sweets, low carbs...lots of running and exercse...it sucks!

Anyway, following on from that, the second benefit of this Session topic is that it’s not focused on beer as a beverage. No tasting or consumption of alcohol is required to review beers or discuss styles, allowing me to participate without any hindrance to my alcohol free efforts during Sucktember. Nice one (…only 23 days to go!).

Anyway...time to get onto the topic…

My exposure to the US beer industry is minimal. Hey, I’m down under in Australia! So I’ll need to take a slightly different angle with this post.

We do receive a small number of beautiful beery exports from America, such as Moylans, Southern Tier, Victory, Rogue, Green Flash and Heretic. However, I am mostly oblivious to the business side of the US beer industry. Hence, I’m not really in any position to comment on how many breweries the Brewer's Association will count five years from now.

Aussie brewers tend to suggest that the craft beer industry in America is a good 10 to 20 years ahead of Australia’s young craft brewing endeavours. Our local craft beer industry is experiencing some good times, with new growth and recognition, but there is still a very long way to go. So I suspect Australian beer will mostly continue to plod along at about the current rate up to 2017.

Although, I do wonder if history will repeat. Both in Australia and the USA there were several times during the last century when breweries were plentiful and producing a large range of beers, but they were eventually all bought up and consolidated by the largest breweries in the name of big business. Will it go that way again?

Craft beer popularity is indeed rising. The market share is still tiny, but growth is strong. The big multinational breweries are watching closely the performance of the craft beer market and developing strategies to be major players in the sector. Presenting very attractive offers to acquire the top performaning craft beer brands is surely the next part of the 1980s to return to life in the 21st century...?  We are already seeing a change in strategy of the big, now foreign-owned, breweries in Australia, with Lion (under Kirin) buying out Aussie craft beer pioneer (of sorts) Little Creatures.

In Australia, I predict that the number of breweries will still be increasing in 2017, but begining to plateau as the market space for small breweries becomes a little squishy.

Maybe. Although, I hope not. I hope this a good beer explosion Australia-wide, a true craft be reveloutin that overruns the taps of all pubs and bars. Pipe-dream...but let us dream!

Over the last 15 years, new (primarily craft) breweries in Australia have had to work very hard to turn the common drinker of bland lagers onto flavoursome craft beers. However, they have had free reign over their local market and plenty of opportunity to break new ground in Aussie brewing.

Today, it is surely becoming harder for brand new beer businesses to capture some of that virgin market. Breweries are everywhere now and many of them are innovating. It will soon take something extra special for a new brewery to be noticed.

However, let us never believe that any form of innovation and evolution will ever stop. Who knows what 2017 hold for beer here there or anywhere! There may soon be an X-Men style giant leap forward in brewing that will completely change the game from the ground up.

Nonetheless, I suspect many of the traditional beers styles will still dominate in 2017 but there will be new varieties, hybrid and beer concepts that we can’t even fathom yet!

Ok, enough randoming and rambling, here is my concrete prediction for Derrick's Session topic: I’ll be visiting the US brewing industry as a tourist sometime in the next 5 years (...umm...better start saving!) and much more of America’s craft beer will be legitimately available here in Australia (fingers crossed for Russian River, Dogfish Head and Stone)!

Since I’m not a betting man, I'll end with less of a prediction and more of a desire for 2017. In five years time I'd like to be actually working in the beer industry…maybe with a craft beer shop, maybe with a brewpub (better get that lotto ticket), more likely in communications support for the craft beer industry…or maybe it’s still unlikely that the beer industry will support professional beer writers in 2017. Where's my DeLorean?