Burnt Hickory Brewing 3rd Anniversary

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Burnt Hickory Brewing doesn’t hold “tours” weekly like most, and I happened to stumble across their 3rd anniversary event (if you “Like” them on Facebook, you’ll have notice of their roughly monthly events).   After trying to drum up some company for this, the forecast arrived consistently indicating 100% chance of rain for the week prior.  Still, I have a rain jacket.  What the heck.  And with that bit of determination, I was imagining all the people who with the same intel would be crossing it off of their list.  Only, I was far from alone.  And, of course, the forecast was wrong.

Yep, a line.


So, here’s the map to the treasure.


And here’s the guide to the loot to be found.


The above list has a lot of creatively named beers, possibly named after song titles or lyrics, and their beer flavors are just as off-center as their names.  Burnt Hickory likes to experiment.  So, $10 later, a pint glass and 6 “sample tickets” in hand, off I go hunting for what ales me.  Below is the creekside tent, with an obvious “we’ll make this work” dispensing system.


First up was The Didjits Blood Orange IPA, ranked #25 in Paste Magazine’s blind taste test of 116 IPAs.  There were some stellar beers ranking lower, and to my taste, this was interesting and good, but not a champion.


Others sampled included the Cannon Dragger IPA (by far my favorite), Old Wooden Head Imperial IPA (2nd place), Killboy Powerhead Orange Creamsickle IPA (eh, no.) and the Big Shanty Graham Cracker Stout (pictured below) which was pretty enjoyable.  I had a sixth ticket, but… I didn’t really need it.  More to be told below.  Burnt Hickory is a small brewery, located in a small suburb of Atlanta, a town which by law, anyway, everyone is required to own a gun.  The brewery has its fans, scoring a very high average  of 4.39 out of 5 score on the Beeradvocate rating site.   Their employees either vote regularly or people really, really like their beers.  I’d put myself in the category of “pleasantly surprised,” and I liked several of the style (ales) that I favor.  I’d probably try others if I revisit on another event day.


They had some type of band playing within the brewery.  I never heard vocals, and I didn’t hear much of them, really.  It’s a small place.


Below was “Tap Box Two” pouring station, obviously in keeping with current events.  And, there was free candy.


Below were various costuming gimmicks for a photo booth.


Who needs props for a photo?


Well, maybe we do.  In any case, they were popular.


Here’s “The Rowdy” pouring station.  Beer was offered in so many unusual varieties that “necessity is the mother of invention” may well be the name of one of their next beers.


Below was “The Cask Hole” pouring station.  Going, going, gone.


I tried the Crop Circle Atomic Fireball Charred Walls of the Damned Quad, and forgot to turn in my ticket.  This was essentially a Belgian quad severely compromised with the flavor of cinnamon.  Points for trying, though!  Below, you can see that the crowd was pretty sizable, and this remains a minority view.

untitled-42Best T-Shirt of the event:


And then this guy happened along, toting a few remaining ounces of Toppling Goliath’s Pseudo Sue Pale Ale, from Iowa (of all places), but notably ranked at 100 by both Beer Advocate and Ratebeer.  I couldn’t turn that down.  And, go figure, Iowa’s got a beer worth tasting.  And the brewery is in Decorah.  Yeah, I had to check the spelling. Never heard of it.


Turns out this guy is in a bourbon buying club where they buy a barrel, then split the bottles between members.  There are packages going around the country for his 30 or so member group, and they send along beers from their respective areas as well.  I mentioned my smaller Rollin’ Golden Pub group was working on all 50 States, and he asked, “Got Ohio?”  We did, but he was already running to a secret stash and returned with Galaxy High, from MadTree Brewing in Cincinnati which he shared with us.  This 10.2% ABV scores a very respectable 95 and 98, respectively, at the aforementioned rating sites.  That was quite the bonus round.


The good news was, of course, that I arrived with a full stomach and took my time with these, lest I set a bad example for my kids or inflame my insurance company’s desire for my cash.

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The Gentleman’s Shop

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You can’t say window displays are not important in drawing customers.  Leavitt & Peirce, located prominently at Harvard Square,  has the feel of a place that’s either been around a while or one that is particularly well positioned to draw in tourists with an “old Harvard” allure.



It’s only been there since 1885, when the building was constructed as a dormitory for its upper floors with retailers at the street.  For many, many years, this was a pipe, cigar, and tobacco store.  It still is, but… while there is an air of fresh tobacco, it seems likely that Massachusetts’ ban on workplace smoking back in 2004 ended a very long era in this company’s history, if not their identity.  I’m not a smoker, and, personally, I benefit from that law.  But I’d rather businesses choose their own policies, and I’ll choose where I spend my money accordingly.  Still, I can’t help snickering that there remains a tobacco shop at the doorstep of modern liberalism, which will one day, no doubt, demand it’s end for the greater good.  Note: you can click on any picture for a larger view.



I have no idea whether these are good, bad, rare, common, unusually packaged or under/over priced selections of tobacco.  I just remember that as a kid,when my dad smoked pipe tobacco, I liked the smell.  I also noted a paced enjoyment to it, as well as diligent cleaning of his pipe.  And far more recently, my few business excursions to tobacco warehouses and cigarette plants remain pretty heady places to “take in,” both for the aroma and the memories.

Leavitt & Peirce


I almost missed the door handle…


This little display is obviously dated, though not nearly as much as the framed photos of past Harvard football teams that are placed around the store’s upper reaches.  Still, it remains standing as politest possible middle finger.

Leavitt & Peirce

For the times, they are a’changing.  Hookahs.  Maybe the school has a secret society of advocates.


It’s not all about tobacco, though.  Shaving sundries, for one, has apparently been a fixture for the store as well.


That’s not enough, though, to sustain a specialty store given online purchasing options and encroaching mass retailers.  As a result, they have further expanded to things more likely to appeal to a  male clientele like cufflinks and pocket watches.


Fountain pens and desk or shelf ornaments as well.


They’ve also added a variety of games, including Mancala and Parchesi, the latter of which I played as a kid.


They also offer a variety of chess sets, poker chips/cases, chinese checkers and playing cards, the last of which is perfect for a “I feel like I ought to buy something (that isn’t heavy or awkward to carry around and fits in my suitcase)” purchase.  The store also has a lofted area which was formerly  a smoking area.  Now, it’s offered as a chess parlor.  During the visit, there was one guy sitting there with his laptop, who looked bored rather than engaged in competing against his computer.  In any case, it’s obvious that the store is nowhere close to its bygone status as a center of social activity for Harvard students.  But, they keep up appearances well. 


And, that’s the end of my in-focus photos.  Sadly, none actually show the really cool floors, ceiling lights, etc.  But, there’s a pretty good article on the store’s history that has just that.  Leavitt & Peirce (e before i?  yes!) is really just that kind of store that I hope to find that isn’t everywhere else, like, say, nearby Newbury Comics.

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Ions, Stay! Electrons, Move!

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Well, that’s for thermoelectrics.  For electrolysis, it’s “Electrons, Stay!  Ions, Move!”

What?  You’re still reading?

I’m often asked, “What type of research is your daughter doing at MIT?”  I think when people ask me this question, their expectation is “What leading scientific discovery is she pursuing, and can she get rich off of a business startup?”  Well, maybe the second part is me.  But they probably would like to hear something along the lines of “life changers,” like being four years away from creating a household fissionable energy source or a few months away from making a 3D printer raw material that will form a corn fed, aged beef filet, either of which I’m sure she’d love to do.

My reply usually is along the lines of “Extracting copper from copper sulfide using electrolysis.  It apparently might be useful someday as cost factors change.”  The followup question is asked with glazed over eyes, “Uh, what is her major?”  The third question settles into a comprehensible normalcy, “Does she like Boston?” 

After visiting with her recently, and having her laboratory explained in a little more detail, my mind detoured to the safety details of the lab while she prattled on, but the title of this post is essentially the gist of what I think I heard.  So, to get the story straight, I had her tell it:  “Our group is trying to use electrolysis to extract copper from copper sulfide instead of from copper oxide.”  (Note, at this point, I’m patting myself on the back for the correctness of my abbreviated response to inquiries.)  “Copper sulfide is much more commonly found in minerals, but sulfides haven't been studied as fully as oxides, so it is harder to find an appropriate electrolyte melt to facilitate electrolysis.” 

“We are currently using Barium sulfide (BaS) as our electrolyte, but we don't know what the ideal composition is, the best operating temperature, whether we have to control the partial pressure of sulfur, or even how it is conducting electricity. My part of the project is to look at the conductivity of sulfide melts. The melts conduct electricity both ionically and electronically, which can be a bit of an issue. Ideally, we would only conduct it ionically, so that all power out through the system would be moving ions towards the electrodes where they would react (to form copper on one side and sulfur gas on the other). However, it turns out that around 75-98% of the current flow is due to electrons (again dependent on composition and temperature). The sulfides we are using are strange. Most materials either exhibit ionic, covalent, or metallic natures, but sulfides exhibit all three, with different characteristics dominating in different conditions. Metal sulfides are all semi-conductive as solids, and most carry this behavior over even when they melt. It's my project to figure out why, how, and when the melts will behave with different conductive traits.”  We pause this quote for a deep breath.

“One of the other projects in the lab is to make a thermoelectric device using sulfides as the thermoelectric material. For that project, having a great electronic conductivity (rather than ionic) would be ideal. I get to help find and characterize systems that will help for both projects. To characterize the materials, so far I've been running electrochemical tests to determine total conductivity, electronic and ionic transference numbers (the fraction of current transported by electrons vs ions), and looking at impedance spectroscopy data to see how the system responds to different applied frequencies, hopefully telling us what mechanisms are actually taking place in the melt.”

Here’s an example of what happens when you heat/cool the induction furnace too quickly.  Metal spilled when the crucibles broke while melting gallium in one experiment and copper sulfide in another.  The result was gluing things together that should not be stuck together.  As a side note, copper was accidentally formed.  As an asterisk to the side note, “Probably.  We can’t think of another source of copper that would have been around the set up, but it is vaguely possible we melted a sad stray wire.”  Genius!

Here’s a photo of the “standard variety” furnace she uses.

This is a graphite furnace which is used for the highest temperatures, around 2000oC.

This is an induction furnace with an alumina crucible in it.  It heats incredibly fast, but this can cause the crucible to crack if heated too quickly.  It normally has a metal case around it.


This is the central work bench, where she doesn’t really work, but at least it looks geeky. 

So… M.I.T.  Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Impressive.  Here’s her desk.

She shares the same room with eight others, plus one currently un-desked.  Living the high life.



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fondest regrets

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Eyes are distracted, smiles are shared
as moments are laid to hasten
enthused sufferings of niceties
well meant and, if heard, well taken

I've gripped listless cadavers
at times caught in a callous vice
what empty vassals these hands seem
mere instants in the course of  life

Wager but never mind the odds
on the roulette of the meet and greet
to connect with someone is rare
amid the handshakes of the fleeting

Count time, distance, and idleness as
harbingers of a golden rule faded grey
chips cashed and spent so lightly
sum the friends that have slipped away


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The Waterboys – Live at Variety Playhouse

After my appreciation of their 2013 show, the announcement for this show was almost immediately followed by a lightening of my wallet.  What an awesome show that was, and what great things would once again be.

Waterboys concert review

But first, a word about our selected pre-show venue, The Wrecking Bar Pub.  On my last visit, about a month earlier on a Thursday night, everything was “okay.”  Apparently, they retain their finest cook for Sunday nights. Less the raw onions… it was every bit as good as it looks.  Additional kudos to a very drinkable Victor IPA and In Quad We Trust, a fine Belgian glimpsed in the upper right. 

Wrecking Bar Pub

On to the show.  No sell out?  What the heck?  It was packed two years ago, and this isn’t a band that comes around often.  Well, that resulted in a good view while seated for a change.  Still, it was an enthusiastic crowd that greeted the band, who opened with “Destinies Entwined,” one of Mike Scott’s frequent nonjudgmental musings about faith.  The band just released Modern Blues, and this was the first of every song on that disc less one, “Beautiful Now.”

Mike Scott Waterboys Concert Review

Mike Scott essentially is The Waterboys, the only common denominator since its origins in the early 1980’s.  Recordings have been somewhat infrequent, but he has a sizeable repertoire to choose from, including two excellent solo releases.  So while every artist is expected to play new songs to support their latest creation, it displaces the same number of fan favorites.  This isn’t to say that the concert was poor.  It wasn’t.  But it didn’t rise to the potential of the vibe reached of their previous visit, despite energetic performances from his band.  New songs take some getting used to, and the latest batch, which I’ll review shortly, is a mixed bag.  One thing, though, is that whenever long time band mate Steve Wickham steps up to play the “fuzz fiddle,” the best tendencies of the band usually follow. 
Steve Wickham The Waterboys Concert Review

In 2007, they played at Boston’s First Act Guitar Studio, an electric performance that gets “passed around.”  As evidenced there, one of Scott’s strengths is his ability to tell a story, typically with humor and in a very relatable manner.  This is observed in many of his lyrics, but particularly when he engages the audience to introduce a song.  There was some of that, such as the origin of “The Nearest Thing to Hip” and pronouncing “Aengus.” For a band that is largely unknown, that type of interaction builds a fan base, or builds bigger fans.  The feel of this show, aside from Brother Paul’s hyper antics on keyboards, was a band just passing through. Maybe it was the dismal day.  Maybe it was a few empty seats (the show competed against the Sweetwater music festival).  But the set list… 8 new songs out of 14 takes its toll.

Mike Scott The Waterboys Concert Review

Highlights included, as always, “We Will Not Be Lovers,” “Don’t Bang the Drum,” and the closer, “Long Strange Golden Road” which both on record and in concert rocks pretty well (also evidenced by Scott's frequent left leg kicks).  Below was from an excellent duo version of “Don’t Bang the Drum.”

Mike Scott The Waterboys Concert Review

Every show has to end, but this one ended strangely.  First, a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” is a surprise, and not a bad one.  It’s a little nugget that is the place setter for the expected finale, the band’s most recognized song “Fisherman’s Blues.”  Sure enough, the stage hand begins to walk out to hand Scott the acoustic guitar and… end of the show, with Scott surprising both the fans and the band.  Maybe his bladder couldn’t wait… but, meh.  Still, I’d see them again.

The Waterboys Concert Review

3 of 5 STARS_thumb

Set list: (order not certain)

Destinies Entwined
Still a Freak
A Girl Called Johnny
We Will Not Be Lovers
November Tale
Rosalind (You Married the Wrong Guy)
Glastonbury Song
The Girl Who Slept for Scotland
The Nearest Thing to Hip
I Can See Elvis
Song of Wandering Aengus
The Whole of the Moon
Don’t Bang the Drum
Long Strange Golden Road


Purple Rain (Prince cover)
Fisherman’s Blues – apparently planned but aborted.


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Lord Huron – Strange Trails

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A friend had recommended Lord Huron’s first CD, Lonesome Dream, back in 2012.  On the first listen, I liked it.  On the second… yawn.  There was a lulling sense of sameness that, despite the pleasant vocals and instrumentation, lost my interest.   Or, maybe it was the enjoyment of the western part of a genre that formerly was called Country & Western.  It’s not that exactly, but by feel, the recording oozed with wandering through prairies and communing with nature.  Still, I don’t have to love a record to take an interest in what the artist does next. 
lord huron strange trails CD review
Enter Strange Trails, with an album cover soaked in retro vibes, blending elements of the 60’s album covers, cheap backgrounds in B movies, and covers from sci-fi or horror pulp magazines.  So here we have “strange trails.”  Maybe the trail begins just beyond the tree.   Better duck to avoid that limb.

“Love Like Ghosts” might have been a typical love song, but it’s not.  Love, or its consequences, are something that haunts at night, along with the creepier possessive aspect of “if I can’t have you then no one will.”  Well, we knew it’s a strange trail, not a scenic overlook.  We carry on, but immediately find that we’re decidedly off the beaten path where a visitor from another planet warns of the world’s doom: 
I had a visitor come from the great beyond.
Telling me our time in the world is done,
and to watch for a sign in the midnight sky.
“Dead Man’s Hand” is probably my favorite lyric of the bunch, driving  along at night to discover a dead body in the road, bury it and then find it speaking of “there ain’t no thrills in the afterlife” and to lift him up so he can wander the desert.  Okay.  “Hurricane” hints not just towards an affinity to moral darkness but beckoning a special someone to join you there.   Mythology has its place as well, with a siren on the mountain who calls men and leaves men broken, followed by a desire to be buried with her at his side.  Strange indeed.

Even falling madly for a woman is clouded by doom.  “A Fool for Love” challenges the other interested party, Big Jim, which ends as badly as expected:
​I lie in the drifting snow
​Bleeding out as it covers me up
​If Spring comes before I'm found
​Just throw my bones in a hole in the ground
Maybe he becomes the “World Ender,” raised from the dead to create chaos, killing everything fair, brave and good, including the girl.  While communing with nature is hinted at in this and their prior album, “Meet me in the Woods” is a reminder of which woods one should enter.  Here, it’s more like any-fantasy-writer’s Mirkwood, a dark place where he begs another to join him to bring her fears to life.   “The Yawning Grave” hardly relieves the tension:
I tried to warn you when you were a child.
I told you not to get lost in the wilds.
I sent you omens and all kinds of signs.
I taught you melodies, poems and rhymes.
Oh you fool, there are rules, I am coming for you.
You can run but you can't be saved.
Darkness brings evil things, oh the reckoning begins.
You have opened the yawning grave.
“Frozen Pines” includes yet another walk in the woods, establishing the frozen trees as a barrier between staleness and growth, or life and death, with, of course, a willingness to charge ahead to the next life.  “Cursed” is another siren call, less on myth and more of a “love” that is bent to ruin men for her own pleasure.  Are we enjoying our trail?

“Way Out There” is another cursed end for a person who has traveled “strange trails” to such a distance that they’re not redeemable.   Except, “Louisa” happens.
I turned my back on the world.
I wasn't always like this, girl
Do you know what loneliness does to a man?
Turn him into the walking dead
I may have died but your lovin' raised me.
There.  All better!

Not.  “The Night We Met” isn’t a fond remembrance as lovers might recount.  It’s a desperate cry to go back to the starting point and adjust the relationship to a happy ending, rather than being “haunted by the ghost of you.”  Ouch.  End of the trail.

Aside from the CD cover art, the booklet has several photos with one line snippets from our prophet of woe.  Lyrics?  Not included.  I had to find them online.  Why release a concept album and not include the lyrics?

And, having listened to the CD five or more times, I found them to be rather a pleasant surprise (in the context of strange trails, a title which may have had absolutely nothing to do with the contents).    I enjoyed the music.  The rootsy sound, the 50’s reverb, great harmonies, the rockabilly vocal styling, the soft percussions, the improved melodies, the addition of a female vocalist – Lord Huron did a lot of things very well here.   But why is it that the lyrics were such a surprise?

Through those listens, the only words that registered were “ghosts” and “frozen pines.”    It’s partly the production.  The vocals seem to have a small slot in the sonic mix.  Maybe it’s the multi-tracking of the lead singer and/or the other vocalists.   And, maybe it’s the pronunciation.  Some singers can be clearly understood.  Without the lyrics in   breaks in song gaps.
And, that’s unfortunate.  It’s not that I won’t appreciate the CD.  I will.  I think it’s pretty good and one that I’ll revisit if just for the mood of the music.  But it’s still not what it could have been.  Despite the briskness of the songs, it tails off toward the end, and I’m aggrieved by the couple of spots that there is an audible gap when the tracks change from one song to the next when it’s obvious that the music carries through. 

Recommended songs:  “La Belle Fleur Sauvage,” “Fool for Love,” “World Ender”

  4 of 5 STARS_thumb

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