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Picture of the week - Flower popart

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I'm still not done playing with gimp and my flower picture. I went back to the pictures I created in the last post and decided to make a popart inspired series using the hue/chroma tool. The hue part of the tool basically takes the colours in a picture and moves them an equal distance along the colour wheel. I played around with it until I found 3 colours I liked additional to the original.

In black:


And white:



Christmas beer - Malbygg

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Another Brewery in Reykjavík and another one founded in the past five years (this one in 2017). They specialise in IPAs and Sours, and therefore should not be my friends. They collaborate with a bar I like though (because of their amazing jalapeño cheese dip pretzel), so they are forgiven. If your taste is different from mine (and wrong) you can check them out here.

Smidjan_ChristmasBeer

Like Smiðjan they have 3 Christmas beers, which come in 0.5l cans, so beer tasting was again done in collaboration with random friends. Jeff features again with Jólakisi (the Christmas cat, not pictured), another IPA. He really liked it, I found it very drinkable, it was sparkely and refreshing. Not very fitting to the name, the Icelandic Christmas cat, is a monster, which eats childeren, who have not gotten new clothes for Christmas. Maybe I start to acquire a taste for IPAs.
One thing I will definitely never aquire a taste for are sours. Malbygg have one sour as a Christmas beer Djús Kristur, a kettlesour with mandarine and vanilla. The name is a pun on Jesús Kristus, Icelandic for Jesus Christ, djús means juice. I tried this and the following beer with Friggi. We were trying to write bylaws for a workers' coop and decided it will go better with beer (it didn' t). We both were not impressed. It tastes like a sour version of a really flat, cheap orange lemonade. Or maybe an orange juice made from concentrate with too much water used.
We quickly moved on to the next beer, Hnetubrjótur, a hazelnut milkstout. This beer is like drinking liquified chocolate nut brownies. It is nice, to drink after dinner as some sort of dessert, I would not have it all the time, though. It does work very well as a Christmas beer and is not an IPA or a sour, so points for that.

I really would like to go and have a beer and pretzel with jalapeño cheese dip now, is the plaque over yet? Goals for 2021, I guess.


Christmas beer - Smiðjan

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Smiðjan Brugghús was founded in 2018 in Vík as a brewery and pub. The booming tourist industry was not the only reason so many breweries were founded in Iceland in the past 8 years, the government also had several grants one could apply for to found a business in the tourist sector. It is somewhat of an Icelandic tradition to always be creating gold rushes. Before the collapse in 2008 it was the financial sector, in the past 8 years it was tourism. Sustainable growth of any industry is just not an Icelandic thing. It is one of the reasons Covid had an immediate devastating impact on the Icelandic economy and the poster child of the bubble and the the aftermath of it bursting is Vík, which is the main tourist hub on the south coast. Smiðjan (as most of the other micro-breweries I have covered) seems to be surviving for now and you can still visit their bar if you make it to Vík.

They have three Christmas beers and one of the reason I am covering them late, is because they only come in 500ml cans, and this is too much to drink on my own, so the following opinions are by me and two friends. Santa's blue balls, a milkshake IPA with vanilla and bilberries and Choc Ho Ho, a milk stout with chocolate and peanut butter were featured at Christmas dinner with Mariska and Jeff, who have appeared on this blog before. Jeff was willing to share (my) beer with me, we did have some fights how to interpret me just wanting to try a little of it, for me this means half a glass, for him it means just a sip. Jeff likes IPAs and he liked Santa's blue balls (hehehe). We both had been disappointed by All That Glitters Ain't Gold Raspberry Ale from Lady Brewery for lack of fruitiness, but with Santa's blue balls, Jeff was happy that the bilberry beer tasted of bilberries. I only tasted hops. Choc Ho Ho tastes like liquid peanut butter, it is strange.
Ris a la Sour, the last Christmas beer from Smiðjan, is a sour and I was lucky that a friend of mine, who does not like beer at all, but likes sours came by my place. They loved it and were excited to drink most of it for me, so I only had to have a few sips to try. It does not taste like beer at all, it is not as terribly sour as the one from RKV Brewing company, but it is still a sour.






Christmas beer - RKV Brewing Company

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There is not much to say about RKV Brewing Company. They have been around since 2018, are based in Reykjavik (bar included) and are founded by some banker, who left the financial market to brew beer. They have 4 Christmas beers, and one of them, to my horror is a sour. I always thought IPAs were the worst beer and I could not wait for them to go out of fashion (there was a time 90% of beer you could get here were IPA or way to hoppy lagers) and for the next trend to start. Then the next trend were sours, the beer for people who hate beer. Seriously, the only person I know who likes sours does not like beer. Things I do for science.

RKVBrewing_ChristmasBeer

The four Christmas beers they have are:
Frostrósir, a traditional white ale and my favourite. I noticed during the weeks of beer tasting that I prefer the beers with no or few added ingredients. This beer manages to be light and fruity and still feel like a winter beer. It tastes like a crisp winter morning. There, this is my poetic line of the day.
Eftir Sex a wild amber. Brewed with wild yeast and slightly sour as these kind of beers are (not a sour though!) this is not as much to my taste as Frostrósir, but it feels like the pinot noir of beer, complicated and maybe not for every day, but if you are in the mood for it amazing.
Eitthvað Fallegt? a season IPA with mandarins and Christmas tree(?????). The sweet mandarins balance out the bitter IPA taste nicely, I do not know how Christmas tree tastes (it is pine they added) and I did not taste it. I guess considering some tendencies of Icelandic brewers (looking at you Steðji) I should be thankful for any beer ingredients, which do not include bones or testicles. Throw a tree into your beer, why not?
Jóla Magnús frúktus we ave arrived at the sour. This one is using skyr (an Icelandic yogurt, which is actually cheese, full of protein, so quite healthy and usually yummy) for the milk acid part of the beer. The fruit parts of the beer (billberries and cherries) do not even out the extreme sourness of this beer. It tastes like fruit skyr that has gone sour.

Sours are an abomination.


REM Christmas singles

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I never was part of the REM fan club. It must have been cool being part of it though, they put a lot of work into their official fan club, sending news letters (per post! after all they are a 80s / 90s band) and releasing a free Christmas single for fan club members since 1988 (with 2 - 4 songs on it each year). As these singles were only released to fan club members, each were only about 6000 copies each. Thanks to the internet though, nothing is ever truly lost, so after some hunting I found all 23 of them (my Christmas present to myself). I feel kind of bad talking about them after listening to them, there are a lot of delightful and silly surprises in there, which I will spoil.

Some of the singles were just recordings of live performances, some were covers, some were instrumentals (left over song ideas from recordings), there are two original songs: Live for Today (1997) and Magnetic North (2007) and of course Christmas covers. Most of all they are a lot of fun, they mostly used the opportunity to be silly.

There is not a lot to say about the live performances, at some point Radiohead show up. Some were released as videos (in 1998 they send a VHS tape as the Christmas single to their fans via post...) I actually removed the 20 live performances from my playlist, leaving me with 30 song: two original songs, fun covers and silly Christmas antics.

Of the two original songs, Magnetic North is the more complete one. It sounds more like something from New Adventures in HiFi than from the Around the Sun era (thank god): Maybe it's the organ.

The covers are two kinds, either songs from small unknown bands they met during the years or off beat covers of famous songs, clearly recorded as a joke live or in the studio. I really enjoyed getting to know some of the unknown songs, highlights include See No Evil, Academy Fight Song, Where is Captain Kirk (a punk song) and Crazy Like a Fox, which sounds like it is from the 60s, but was written in the 80s. I remember hearing this version of I Will Survive before, it is also really close to the Cake version, popular in 1996. You can hear Stipe giggle during his performance.

The instrumentals are relaxing breaks between the songs, though they are clearly unfinished ideas for songs, I really like IHT->U->EDIYTW a dubmix instrumental.

But let's get to the meat, the actual Christmas songs. I don't think they took the Christmas part very serious, it took them until 2002 to record a a Christmas song, which was not a joke of some kind.
Of course the fanclub singles had to be recorded and produced long before Christmas, but the drunken Christmas party vibe is strong with a lot of them. We have drunken playing (Parade of Wooden Soldiers), drunken singing (Good King Wenclas) and drunken everything (Christmas Time Is Here Again, where they have to restart as no one is in the same tempo or key). Christmas Griping is just them complaining about Christmas over playing Christmas songs badly (and teaching me the phrase "frosts my _ off", REM, still teaching me English through their songs 27 years later).
Sometimes they got lazy. Ghost Reindeer in the Sky is just Ghost Riders in the Sky with added reindeer. Christmas in Tunesia is a left over instrumental, which just got a christmassy name.
Even some of the the not drunkenly recorded Christmas songs are hilarious. Toyland could be a song for a Christmas themed horror movie and Silver Bells has Mills singing in what I think is supposed to be a Texan accent (I asked a friend from the South and they were not sure what that was supposed to be, but it was not a Georgian accent). He even does the little cowboy yodel. Santa Baby on the other hand, is super funny because Mills sings it straightforward, as it is a very silly song by itself. Sometimes when men sing it they change the lyrics, not here, Mills is sincerely telling Santa Baby that he was a very good girl and deserves the diamond ring he wants for Christmas. I think I ship them now.
Speaking of Mills, he really shines on this play list. He sings a lot of the cover songs and all the properly sung Christmas songs (except Toyland). He has such a warm and happy voice, which sounds very 60s, which is perfect for a Christmas album. Merry Xmas Everybody and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) are the two best Christmas songs on this album and both sung by him.

Shout outs:
  • Java is quite a known instrumental, it was familiar to me through cultural osmosis. Stipe is improvising some spoken lyrics over it, which are super weird. I think he is reading some coffee advertisement?

  • Crazy Like A Fox and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) makes me wish Mills had released a solo album with covers of classic songs. They are just so ... happy.




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