Well today marks my 10th Anniversary on Beer Advocate which is one of two big beer websites ( the other being Ratebeer). I joined on March 7th 2003 as I was getting in computers and also outstripping my knowledge base of beer books and weekly tastings with my Father. Since then I have reviewed over 1500 beers and participated in many interesting debates on beer related subjects. I have used the site to research beer bars and breweries for trips to Portland, Maui, Winnipeg, Santa Fe, Seattle and almost the entire Washington State.
What has kept me on this site for 10 years is that it provides a home for my inner beer geek. I wrote 1500 reviews because it helps to catalog my feelings about a beer in an easy to use and access format. I admit that many BC beers and brewers are in the database because I helped add them. I care about that the website provides an archive for BC brewing and being the senior BC BA I have played a part in adding to that legacy.
I have met quite a few great people through BA in person and in trades . Though I no longer send boxes of beer across the country mostly due to the huge amount of great beer in BC now , I still remember the thrill of opening a big brown box and digging the treasures out of the packaging. It is through BA that my knowledge level about beer was raised to a much higher level through the forums and the reviews. Books and magazines have helped but a website updates all the time and the info within is prompt and can be debated by others.
Craft Beer is a social hobby that is perfect for a limited budget unlike wine or whiskey though special releases and the sheer amount of beer available make that more difficult than 10 years ago. I plan to stay on Beer Advocate so that I can stayed connected to the hobby I love even when I am not consuming beer ( which is most nights these days).
I remember being 13 years old and tuning into CITR radio which is the local University of British Columbia student station. It was a Saturday and I heard a fantastic deep Jamaican voice introducing these seemingly exotic roots reggae tracks. The voice belonged to George Barrett who has the Rockers Show on that station. I fell in love with the vibes and the rich language in Reggae. George has had the show for over 25 years now and also has a show on Co-op radio for over 30 years. He was born in Bath St Thomas Jamaica and brought his love of Reggae to Canada with him. He is related to Aston Barrett the famous bassist of Bob Marley’s Wailers. Thanks to George for introducing me to such a wonderful music .
Of course I soon discovered Bob Marley and bought all the albums on Vinyl though Kaya remains my favorite. Marley is really almost above the Reggae genre as he is a star in almost every corner of the globe and receives airplay on radio stations that play no other reggae artists. What interested me was the fact that Reggae has many different forms and has influenced so much of the music we listen today.
In the late 1970s Reggae was hitting a high water mark in both quality and influence. In the Bronx Kool Herc ,who was from Jamaica was bringing the concept of a Soundsystem to the projects. He repeated key breaks from old funk records much like Jamaican Selectors used to rewind key tracks for the dancers. The modern hip hop DJ evolved from the soundsystems of Kingston. Even the MC came from the Toasters that spoke over tracks played by those systems.
In London Reggae was heating up with both a vibrant homegrown scene and the strong import of Jamaican sounds. The punks such as Joe Strummer and Johnny Lydon listened to Reggae as it was the music of the streets . 1976 and 1977 produced amazing Reggae albums such as Cultures Two Seven Clash. Punk wouldn’t have evolved without the impetus of reggae. The Clash covered Junior Murvins Police and Thieves and influenced bands such as the Police and the Two Tone Scene which would bring back Ska music for a new generation.
Dance music owes a lot to Dub Reggae where the vocals are dropped out and the bass is moved to the forefront . This presaged remixes and also morphed into Jungle and Drum and Bass. All Bass music such as Dubstep and Moombahton, Reggaeton and Miami Bass stem from the sheer need for huge soundsystems to play Reggae. Dancehall reggae influences many dance styles ( and of course is Jamaican hip-hop). When you hear Skrillex and Damian Marley together you see the future of dance music.
When I was in Maui in 2012 I was amazed to hear reggae all the time on the two top radio stations on the island. They have made reggae a part of their lifestyle and it fits so well with the laid back vibe. I realized that the music really speaks to my soul and the rhythms seemingly help take away any cares. That is not to say that reggae is all sun and sand as the Rastafarian impact on the music has made is a forefront for speaking about oppression and greed. This is a music that can offer the blood and fire of roots to the lighthearted romanticism of Lovers Rock to the slackness of Dancehall.
This is link to my sets on 8 tracks in which I often create Reggae Mixes
I tend not write as many blog posts as I should , mostly because I often feel that what I want to write about is not interesting to other people. I am critical of my self-expression in that I can easily convince myself that I am not good enough. There is one person that has always believed in me even when I do not and that is my wife Sandi. She is my inspiration for using this blog to express my creativity. She does it every day on her great blog and through her posts (which I admit I often forget to read ) she expresses her desires for everyone to have a better life. Her purpose is to create a space where people can ask themselves some often difficult questions and then use Sandi and her coaching to boldly pursue what is next in their life.
Photo by Sandi Faviell Amorim
Now, I don’t strive to coach anyone with my blog but I do know that my photography is where I have the biggest creative impact. It has taken awhile but thanks to feedback from Sandi and others in my life I have begun to own the power of what I create with a camera. It is the integration of the photos into my blog in which I find my voice. I would like to share a photo of Sandi and myself, and then tell you what she means to me.
Sandi is someone who is not willing to accept that things cannot improve. This wish to better her life and the life that we share together is a strong driving force for her and something that I love yet find scary at times. I am not the most motivated person and my slacker tendencies are an anathema to Sandi’s personality. It is when I step up to the plate that we enter into a space where our love can really shine. This picture above is us in Seattle and I remember that trip as one in which we shared all our interests ( honestly we mostly like the same things, though I like beer just a little more).
I love my wife because she challenges my sense of what I want out of life. I may get scared by the questions and the choices put in front of me but ultimately I know that we are in this together. Happy Valentines Sandi.
Just over a year ago my little Samsung P&S camera suffered a setback in the form of the LCD screen dying. It must have been from all those wet days shooting in the rain. Effectively the camera still works but you cannot see what you are shooting. You are taking pictures blind.
At first this seemed like a problem but I quickly realized that it was instead a challenge to use my instincts to take the shot. I started to visualize the picture in my mind and snapped the shutter. I had to trust myself that I had the shot that I intended as there was no playback and I would not see the finished product until I uploaded at home. Lo and behold a lot of the photos were great and almost exactly like what I visualized. It was fun and presented a challenge at the same time. Sure I blew some shots due to improper framing etc but in general it got results. Don’t get me wrong this is not my main camera and I don’t plan to use this blind camera for most shoots( I usually carry it as a spare).
How many people remember the mixtape ? It was the granddaddy of all mixes and it was labor intensive. You had to listen to ever track completely through while you made the tape, there was no drag and drop and be done with it. Every track counted and every song came from the original vinyl that you owned.
The first song on the mix tape was so important. to quote Rob in High Fidelity ( played brilliantly by John Cusack
- To me, making a tape is like writing a letter. There’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with “Got to Get You Off My Mind,” but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and…oh, there are loads of rules.
I made a lot of mixtapes for girls I liked or was dating at the time. This was around 1986-1990 when I was at the University of British Columbia and was a DJ at fraternity parties. Music was a huge part of me and the tapes I made were an attempt to subtly show my feelings through lyrics and song. It helped I had a huge record collection and thank god, good taste. I admit I played my hand too soon with some girls but in general people appreciated a good mixtape.
Not all mix tapes were for getting with the ladies; I had a mix tape exchange with a few friends who also loved music and had a good record collection. I still remember the mixes Patrick gave me over the UBC years . He wasn’t a particularly close friend but he loved the same indie music I did and was willing to make mixes in exchange for mine. There was no You Tube to share songs so a tape with music I didn’t own was a big deal.
I only have a small cassette briefcase ( remember them?) with some cassettes left. They are trader tapes from a Grateful Dead fan of live shows that I found in a thrift store. I am not sure why I am holding onto them as they are not personally made for me but they represent a time when a secret music life existed between fans; no easy to find web sharing site but rather an underground railway of great music.
Lately I have found a music sharing site called 8 tracks that allows members to create mixes for free and share with people everywhere. I have become addicted to creating mixes ( I am a little OCD) that document the different genres I had interest in over the years. The music sometimes comes from my hard drive and sometimes from Soundcloud which allows me to pull tracks from the internet ether. I can create 50 song mixes in as little time as I can think of the tracks and finish it off with a cover art from my photography. This is progress indeed yet the cassette mix tape still was special for the commitment and work involved in every step.
Be well Mark
Used to be that finding a good IPA in BC was a tough gig. Up until Tree brewing from Kelowna came up with their now classic IPA there was no IPAs in BC ( this was back in about 1997). Seemed we were allergic to hops in our lovely Province ( blame the Granville Island Pale Ale and the Ok Springs Pale Ale for the paucity of IBUs). You had to go across the line to Washington to taste the joy of a good hoppy IPA
Fast forward to 2013 and we are rolling in top quality IPAs. When Central City came up with their Red Racer IPA a few years ago and put in cans they started a revolution in IPAs that are the best in Canada. Add Driftwoods sublime Fat Tug to the mix and the bar is set at a very high level. Lately I have had amazing IPAs from Dead Frog ( Fearless) and Coal Harbour( Powell IPA). There are DIPAs that are world-class such as Russell’s Hop Therapy , great Cascadian Dark Ales such as Parallel 49s Black Christmas and even White IPAs such as Vancouver Island’s Bomber. This is all part and parcel of the huge growth in craft beer in BC in the last 5 years.
I love the vibe walking down Main Street in Vancouver or almost any area of Portland Oregon. Those guys and girls in the tight jeans and ironic retro tees are the reason culture continues to evolve and thrive in most cities. The hipster is a figure of ridicule to some as the look is often a bandwagon in which young people want to jump on and be part of the scene. However, the artists, musicians, photographers, small business owners are often the people with too many tattoos and thrift store chic.
In Jack Kerouac’s On The Road , the main protagonist Sal exists in a new world in which all is possible and being an outsider is the key to having the freedom to create and be in the moment. The original hipster evolved out of the Beatnik culture that was created in cities such as New York and San Francisco. The amount of great literature, poetry and music ( both folk and jazz) that was nurtured in the Beat scene was huge and still resonates with us today ( Dylan anyone?).
The culture in a city like Vancouver is often created from the ground up and those so-called Hipsters are the ones making chap books in their living room, creating blogs, having art exhibits , forming bands, brewing beer and generally letting their creative sparks start small fires in the urban landscape.
This week it was announced that the Waldorf Hotel was being turned into Condos with the last day being January 20th. This is a sad fact that an older landmark was renovated and turned into a creative space for bands, recording , cocktail culture and then thrown onto the slag heap of modern living. This old city loses one more space for the expression of creativity.
Give me a independant coffee shop with hipsters parking their single speed bikes that they built themselves , writing in their Macbook or Moleskine over a soulless Starbucks downtown full or corporate suits dreaming of their new Audi.
This can be a tough time of the year for many Vancouverites with day after day of unending rain . As a photographer I need to stay creative when part of me wants to revisit shots from Hawaii and dream of warm climes. The first step is to get out there and shoot even though the weather is terrible. Forget the umbrella as you need those hands for the camera so instead put on your best rain jacket , waterproof shoes or boots and get moving.
The camera is an often delicate piece of equipment and rain can really cause problems for all but the highest end DSLR ( or waterproof P&S). Most photographers have more than one camera and I now designate my older Samsung P&S as a rain camera. Actually it was using it in the rain that caused the LCD screen to stop working . It still shoots OK but I have to shoot blind , feeling the shot by instinct or experience. I think this has made me a better photographer as I need to sense the shot in my mind and not rely on the viewfinder. The bottom line is do not use an expensive camera that is not waterproof for shooting in the rain as it may be a victim to the elements.
Where to shoot?
The gray skies and low clouds often make the big vistas in Vancouver dull and uninteresting but sometimes the weather creates cool clouds and lighting on the North Shore mountains. Shooting in rain in Stanley Park or English Bay can be great or a bust but it is worth looking for breaks in the weather to make the trek to these spots. There is little shelter in these spots so getting warm and dry is not really an option.
I think a better place to shoot is areas such as Chinatown, Downtown or Granville Island. Lots of people around with umbrellas and rain jackets makes for interesting portrait work. You have the ability to go inside to dry off and get a hot drink or even to shoot interior shots ( Granville Island is great for this kind of work). Keep a dry cloth to wipe of the lens and watch for fogging on the lens as you enter a warm inside building ( the fogging can create a diffused effect that is interesting). Look for puddles to lower the camera to ground level and create reflections of the scene ( keep the camera about 3 inches off the puddle for greatest effect). Think about how the shots will look in B&W to help create the rainy mood. You may have to increase your ISO to account for the lower lighting.
Keep the camera as dry as possible by using your jacket pocket or sleeve ( this is why a small P&S works best). Try not to aim upwards much to keep the water off the lens . Look for flashes of colour such red to add interest to a mainly monotone background. If is really pouring try to show the drops coming down as this will bring the viewer into the picture better. All in all have fun and embrace the rain that is part of our great city
It seemed like Summer went right up until the first week of October in Vancouver this year. 20 degree sunshine and all the accoutrements of that carefree season. Then the rains started and the trees finally took their cue from mother nature and turned into the glorious fashion show that we anticipated.
Beer also follows the mood of the seasons and Fall brings a return to the darker flavours and a shift away from the lighter less complicated styles of the Summer. Pumpkin Ales , Oktoberfests, Autumn Ales and Porters replace the Hefes, Kölschs, Summer Ales and lagers that dominate the patios and BBQs of the last few months.
It is sad though to have all these great beers and be able to share them with my Father who loved this time of the year.
Walking into the Government liquor store in Park Royal it surprised me to see 8 different Pumpkin beers available. This is the style of the moment for Fall seasonals with consumers craving the comforting baking spices layered upon either an amber lager or ale. My picks for the most interesting would be Parallel 49′s Schadenfreude which is a pumpkin Oktoberfest lager. Tons of flavour yet nuanced and easy drinking . They also make a Pumpkin Chocolate Porter called Lost Souls which is also great.
Howe Sound has the Imperial pumpkin Ale called Pumpkin Eater which is big and bold and will last in the fridge nicely through the Holiday season. St Ambroise has a Pumpkin beer available in 4 packs which is full bodied and excellent for this often mishandled style.
The Oktoberfest style is often a Marzen or Vienna lager in North America ( Most Oktoberfest in Germany are closer to a standard lager to appeal to the throngs of drinkers at the Munich festival). Sam Adams is available in BC and their Oktoberfest is a classic easy drinking marzen with a nice biscuit malty finish. Russell makes a Marzen which is available in 750ml bottles . If you can’t find any in your store then get a nice Dunkelweizen instead to drink with your sausages and sauerkraut.
Really any darker beer from a nice Porter ( try the Porter from Okanogan Springs) to a Stout ( there is a new Stout out from Central City which is now only available in their new mixed pack) will satisfy the wish to settle in a comfy spot , turn on the fire and drink a beer which exudes comfort.
I used to own over 4000 albums until one fateful day my parents sold them at their garage sale. I was warned about doing something with them as I lived away from home and the records were at my parents house. Of course I did nothing until they were sold for a $100. That memory ranks 3rd in my all time bad list behind my father’s death and my first wife leaving me on Valentines Day.
I still do not own any vinyl to this day as it is an addiction for me that I can’t have in the house. I refuse to buy a new turntable because I know that I will buy records to play on it. So in the days of MP3s and streaming audio why does vinyl still matter to me?
Vinyl matters because it represents a time when recorded music was accorded a sense of respect. People bought a record to hold in their hand and look at the artwork , place carefully on the platter and actually change to listen to the other side. People actually sat and listened to an album rather than multi-task with the computer playing streaming audio. The inner sleeve was often covered with lyrics , photos and credits in a format that was big enough to read unlike the CD or cassette. Records actually sold in numbers to support musicians financially and record stores still could make a profit.
In today’s world all the big chain music shops are gone and only a few local independent shops still exist . A lot of those surviving shops make most of their money off vinyl. Now that online music has decimated CD sales , young people are getting into buying vinyl as a kind of retro hipster thing. I went to Record Store Day in April and almost all the people buying records were under 30. Vinyl will always be cool because it has that tactile thing that CDs never really had. It only takes someone to pick up a record and look at the large cover art to get how records were about the feel and personality. MP3s are great in that they are convenient and take up room but they have zero sensual appeal.
Vinyl even sounds better on a good stereo. It has warmth and depth that a good CD often lacks. Lets not even talk about the quality of MP3s. It took a long time for CDs to improve as the first releases of many big artists were sub par compared to the vinyl version.
I may never own vinyl again but I will always love records for the permanence they represent.
Be Well Mark