Birthday Wishes

Posted by Jim on Nov 23rd, 2009
Nov 23

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Bull Moose.  I’m not sure of the actual date the first store in Brunswick opened, but since mentions of the anniversary have become more frequent, both at Bull Moose’s site and in the media, I figured the time was right for me to post some memories of my favorite music/movies/video games/etc. store.

I’m pretty sure that my first visit to a Bull Moose was in the spring of 1998.  Some friends and I left Waldoboro to drive into South Portland to do some shopping in the mall area.  On our way through Brunswick someone decided we should stop to visit a record store I had never heard of before; the only music store in town I was familiar with was the chain store at Cook’s Corner.  I remember walking in and being impressed with both the huge selection of music, but also with all of the other merchandise, as well as the cool music playing and interesting stickers and posters covering the walls and windows.  This wasn’t slick or corporate, it was like visiting a cool friend’s basement rec room.  I knew that in a few months, when I started attending Bowdoin, that I would be spending a lot of time at this quirky shop right down the road (it wasn’t until a few years later that I learned the founder of Bull Moose was a Bowdoin grad; I began to love the store even more).

I don’t have the receipt of my purchases that day, but I do know one of the discs I walked out the door with was Old and In the Way’s self-titled release.  I was getting into the Grateful Dead over the past year and had recently been introduced to Jerry Garcia’s diverse side projects.  This bluegrass effort seemed like a promising album and eleven years later, I still consider it one of my favorites.  Besides the CD I purchased, I do have one other memento from that day.  I signed up for my frequent buyers card during that visit, and I still have the same card in my wallet.  It’s been in my pocket longer than any other card I carry, and I’ve had to repair it with packing tape to keep it from breaking in half, but it is still the one card that I don’t leave home without.

Beaten and broken but still earning me points

Beaten and broken but still earning me points

I’ve had a lot of great experiences at the various Bull Moose stores, here are some of my favorites:

Walking down the stairs and into the Old Port location to find myself in the middle of a very low key El Vez live performance.

Spending a gift certificate for my birthday on The FeeliesOnly Life” album and being told by the cashier that “every time someone purchases a Feelies reissue an angel gets its wings.”

Being called out by name when I accidentally left my frequent buyer card behind at the counter.  Sure, maybe the only reason the girl working new my name was because she had just scanned my card, but I’d like to think it was because I was visiting the Brunswick store an average of two to four times a month.

Buying a copy of Johnny Cash‘s Unearthed box set (in pristine condition) from the used section and being complimented for my good taste in music while also being chided for buying it before any of the staff had a chance to set it aside for themselves.

I was in the Brunswick store late on a Saturday night when I was kicked out because the store was closing.  I was having somewhat of a tough time at college at that point, and this was one in a long number of Saturday nights I hadn’t done anything exciting.  I had decided to go cheer myself up with a music purchase.  The store was about to close and I didn’t want to leave empty handed, so I grabbed the Talking Heads Remain in Light disc.  I had never heard the album, and only knew that it was supposed to be good (Phish had covered it in its entirety and that was enough of a recommendation for me at the time).  The guy working who was kicking me out told me I had made an awesome choice as he rung me up. Unbeknownst to him, that little compliment made my day.  That disc also turned me into a devoted Talking Heads fan.  I now own all of their albums, all purchased from various Bull Moose locations.  [For years, the first thing I would do when I went to Bull Moose was check the used section for any Talking Heads CDs I didn’t own; about three years ago I finally found a copy of Little Creatures, the elusive holdout in my collection.]

As I implied above, in college I was a pretty big Phish fan.  The band was playing two nights at the Cumberland County Civic Center in December of 1999 and I wanted tickets for both nights.  I had quite the scare when I went to buy my tickets at Bull Moose.  I don’t know if the cashier hit a wrong button, but when I first tried to get them, he told me the show had just sold out (the people in front of me in line all got tickets).  Luckily for me, he tried again and was able to secure my tickets for the shows.

In one of many musical discoveries, I remember being at the Scarborough store with my then girlfriend, now wife, and hearing some impressive rockabilly/bluegrass/awesome music over the loudspeakers.  After about 15 minutes of listening while browsing, we had to find out what we were listening to.  It was Langhorne Slim‘s When the Sun’s Gone Down album, a copy of which we promptly bought (and have been fans of ever since).  [Which reminds me, I need to come in and get his latest release!]

While not happening in the store, nor exclusive to a single event, I need to list this decidedly Bull Moose occurrence.  If you are like me, and love to spread your love of Bull Moose, I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience.  I love watching the reactions of friends and family members when they unwrap a gift to discover a dreadful looking CD, only to open the case and realize what they are actually holding is a Bull Moose gift certificate.  [Also, I have to celebrate that Bull Moose still offers gift certificates in “bad cd” form; it’s so much more fun to give or receive than a gift card.]

All of these moments stand out enough in my mind for me to recount them here, but I think the small, insignificant experiences that blend together are the ones that I  remember most fondly.  I don’t know many times my friends and I have walked into a store and spent literally hours browsing, trying to decide which or the thousands of great discs we should spend out money on.  At this point in my life, my collection is too large to remember where each CD came from, but I know a number originated as a discovery in the used section.  Usually when I find a great disc for a pre-owned price I think about how lucky I am, but once in a while I feel sorry for the person who had to give up such great music.  I can’t think of another store that makes something as mundane as shopping into such a wonderful experience for me.

I’m really glad that Bull Moose is still with us (the full 20 years for some of you, 11 for me).  We hear a lot about how the recording industry is changing and that it is impossible for independent music stores to survive.  At this time of the year, when we think about all the things we are grateful for, I am very thankful that Bull Moose has proven to be successful in spite of what is occurring in the words of music and movies as well as in the face of such difficult economic times.  I hope it is around for a long time to come.  I can’t imagine buying my music, movies, or video games any place else.

Lastly, a collection of some of the words of wisdom printed on my old receipts:

  • steely dan makes me weep.
  • experience the awe of the moist gumball
  • beck really wants you to dance
  • harry potter books not sold here
  • ask chad why he’s called “chadmatoes.”
  • harry connick mowatt jr.
  • …hang on to the sasss…
  • dinosaurs once roamed here—never forget
  • I was negative 2 in 1985
  • how many times can you watch zombies?
  • my lips feel like warm cheese
  • pathetic attempt to sound indie
  • it’s not a glow-stick, it’s a slim jim!
  • what about the voice of geddy lee?

Still reviewing

Posted by Jim on Oct 30th, 2009
Oct 30

It’s been a while since I’ve added any beer reviews to this site; here are my impressions of a couple of brews I sampled this week.

Redhook Treblehook

B+ / 3.9
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | drink: 3.5

Poured from a chilled 22oz bottle into a pint glass. It has nice brown hue and is very clear. There is a small tan head that dissipated quickly in my glass (the other half of the bottle was poured into my wife’s glass, and that pour had much better head retention). The aroma has a floral hoppy scent. There are also traces of sweetness and something akin to bourbon. The flavor is the beer is dominated by a strong hoppy character. It is both floral and slightly bitter, with the bitterness getting stronger as the beer sits in your mouth. It lingers on after you swallow. I can also taste some of the alcohol; with this beer, you know you’re drinking a barleywine. The body is a bit fuller than average with low carbonation. The bitterness of the hop oils really coats my mouth and leaves it tingling. I don’t like this sensation all that much. This isn’t a beer would drink all night. In fact, I’m glad I split the bottle with my wife. Still, I do enjoy this beer and will cellar a bottle for a year to see how it ages.

Saranac Octoberfest

B / 3.7
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Poured from a cellar temperature bottle into a normal pint glass. The beer has a pretty copper color and a small but respectable white head made of small bubbles. As the head is settling a little bit of lace is left behind. The beer has a pleasant aroma; there seems to be a bit of malt in it and a few spices, but nothing that I can definitely identify. The thing that strikes me first as I taste the beer is it’s full body. It’s more syrupy that I expected, but at the same time it goes down easily. I think I could drink a number of these without complaint. The flavor is more malt than hops. There are certainly some toasted grains in there, and maybe a hint of spices. Not much in the way of hops, but there is a slight lingering bitterness that is enjoyable.

Last weekend I enjoyed many new beers at Novare ResNERAX event.  All of the samples I had were 4 oz pours, so I did not review anything.  Monday brings us a cask event at Sebago Brewing Company in the Old Port.  If the pours are big enough, I’ll try to take some tasting notes.  Based on a Twitter post, it looks like Shipyard will be bringing a cask of the Longfellow Winter Ale.  I’m excited to try that.

Drunky McJim

Posted by Jim on Nov 17th, 2008
Nov 17

I finished Novare’s Uprising challenge tonight.  Eric gave me a recomendation for my final beer, which followed, it was quite excellent.  Overall, it was a rewarding and fun experience to fullfill the Uprising.  If you are a beer fan I recommend you take a shot at it.  It may be expensive, but it’s worth your while.

In other news, this is my 300th Post.

Beer Party

Posted by Jim on Nov 16th, 2008
Nov 16

Tomorrow evening, at about 5:30pm, I’ll finish Novare Res’ Uprising challenge.  I have two beers left.  Unfortunately, neither are the actual beers that are on the list, just substitutions (I haven’t had a beer that is actually listed on the card for about 6 or 7 beers).  Join me at Novare tomorrow if you want to see the festivities associated with an Uprising completion.  Apprently, I get to go behind the bar to pour my final beer.  Eric (the owner) told me he’d make sure to be there when I finish.  It’s apparently quite a big deal.  I’m excited for it.  I hope to see you there!

WMPG Record Sale 2008

Posted by Jim on Nov 8th, 2008
Nov 8

Here are the eight albums I purchased at this year’s WMPG records sale (for $2 each!):

  • Robert Palmer – Pressure Drop
  • The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute
  • Yaz – Upstairs at Eric’s
  • Laura Nyro – Eli and the 13th Confessional
  • Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (1975)
  • The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues
  • David Bromberg – Demon in Disguise
  • David Bromberg – Sideman Serenade

There were a few albums I decided not to purchase, like some Tom Rush, Kenny Loggins and live Genesis.  I did not find any Randy Newman lp’s I didn’t alreadyown, which was disappointing, but I was very excited to find two David Bromberg albums I didn’t own.  Overall, a sucessful record sale.

On the bike ride home, I stopped in to Novare Res and had a few more bottles.  I’m now at 184 out of 200 for the Uprising.  There are two people (that I know of) ahead of me (in addition to the four who have already finished).  I estimate that I’ll be done by Thanksgiving.  I’m really excited!  It has been a very elightening and rewarding journey thourgh all sorts of new beers.

Also: good news regarding the Trappist event at Novare this Tuesday.  Even if you can’t pony up the $60 to take part in the Trappist beer tasting that night, you can still go and enjoy a few fine bottles of beer.  The tasting will be taking place in the side room (sorry fans of darts and leather couches); the main room will be open to the public.  Perhaps I’ll see you there!

A Drink with Rob Tod

Posted by Jim on Jul 2nd, 2008
Jul 2

Despite last night’s Allagash gathering at Novare Res, the title of this post is actually in reference to a brief interview Rob Tod gave to  Rob is the founder of the Allagash Brewing Company.

Defending my New Favorite Hangout

Posted by Jim on Jun 27th, 2008
Jun 27

The MaineToday site has been down all morning.  A note on the site earlier today said it would be back up at 9 AM.  I’ve been able to connect to the site occasionally since then, but the load times are terribly slow (if the page loads at all).  I was able to read this blog post by Amy Martin about Prost! and Novare Res.  I wanted to comment on it, offering my rebuttle to her complaints about Novare Res and praises of Prost!, but because of the hosting site’s uptime issues, I have been unable to leave a comment.  So, for your reading enjoyment, here’s what I had to say.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to post the comment later on today, once MaineToday gets itself fixed.

Hi Amy, glad to see you jumped right in to this blog.  I’m looking forward to your reviews.  Since you mentioned you haven’t been there yet, let me recommend that you try Novare Res soon, despite your complaint that they don’t have local micros.  Don’t let that deter you.  It’s the kind of bar you go to to not drink the same Shipyard and Geary’s selections everyone else in town has.  It’s about expanding your pallet and trying something exciting and new.  And, even if you are on a locals only kick, they have plenty of the great Allagash beers that no one else has.

Even better, you don’t have to deal with clueless waitstaff in gimmicky costumes.  Novare Res’ staff is very knowledgeable and have always been able to offer me a suggestion or recommendation.  Don’t expect them to have tried every beer availble (there are well over 200), but you can get an opinion on any style available.  I see it as a bonus that you don’t have to worry about being offered a shooter or some silly combination of flavored vodkas presented as a martini.  It’s all beer, with a few choice wines, ports and tequilas, all made for sipping and savoring, not for getting you drunk.  That should keep away the “dude-bags.”

As for alienating their loyal customers, I have seen nothing that would suggest that. [Should they expand their hours? Sure, but that’s because I can’t get enough, not because I’ve been shooed out the door.]  If anything, I think they are catering to the loyal customer, not the guy from Massachusetts who’s up for the weekend.  Like a good librarian knows what kinds of books you’ll like, the waitstaff there wants to know what kind of beers you enjoy.  They want to have your drink ready when you sit down, not because you always order the same thing, but because they know you’ll love the new Trappist that was just delivered.

I have yet to try out Prost!, so I won’t say that I won’t like it there, but everything you said about it (and what I’ve read on the other beer blogs in town) makes me want to avoid it.  A bar that wants to cater to beer connesseurs that is attached to a dance club and offers Goldschlager and Jagermeister shots makes question it’s true motives.  I guess I’m looking at it this way:  Prost! is like an Applebees or Chilis (silly, gimmicky and trying to pull in as many passerbys as possible) and Novare Res is like Street & Co. or Bresca (a restaurant/bar for people who are passionate about food/beer).  There is so much offered at Novare Res, why would I go to a competitor that offers a lesser experience?

One last note: Novare Res also had some issues with taps when they first opened.  Maybe it’s the ghost of Neal Dow haunting the new bars in town that’s causing problems with the free flow of alcohol?  I hope not!  Anyway, good luck with the blog.  One question for you: how soon until the banner with John’s goofy expression is replaced?

Radio Star

Posted by Jim on May 27th, 2008
May 27

WMPG has seen fit to give me a regular show, airing 4-6:30am on Monday mornings.  You’ll notice a new entry in the links listed above, WMPG Playlists, where I’ll be posting my weekly playlists and other important information (such as how you can listen to the show live over the internet).  There is one entry there, from the first show I did, which was on this past Monday.  Sorry I didn’t get the word out sooner, but I didn’t find out until late on Friday that I got the show, and Nissa and I have been busy with moving.  Still, you’ve now been informed.  So if you find yourself up an ungodly early hour on a Monday, and you ahppen to be near a radio or a computer, give my show a listen.

Novare Res First Impressions

Posted by Jim on May 21st, 2008
May 21

Just got back from the soft opening…  A great draft selection, about 20 or so beers, no locals, closest is a Suttynose.  They have Beamish!  The bottle menu is about 5 pages long, divided up by style.  There is a limited menu of plates of appetizers…no hot wings or anything like that, more like cheese plates and tasty olives.  The staff is new to the bar scene (it seems)…my pal Jeff ordered a $5 beer, paid with a $20, and got a $5 and $10 bill as change; he wasn’t able to leave a tip since he didn’t have anything small.  Overheard friends of the bar who claimed the problems with the taps were due to the person who ran the keg lines doing a bad job.  A shout out to my friends at the Maine Beer Writers Guild: I overheard a few people who, like me, learned of the early opening through your blogs.  Thanks for keeping us all informed!  So far the second room and outdoor seating aren’t licensed, but should be open by next week.  Everyone was very friendly.  The owner gave a little speech at one point, telling everyone that it was his and his wife’s dream to open a place like this.  To make up for the taps pouring poorly and the staff not being quite prepared to handle all of the customers, he bought a round for the house.  It was quite generous.  Overall, I’m not going to say it’s my new favorite Portland bar, but it is very nice, certainly in the top 3, and has strong potential to become number 1, once the few problems are sorted out.  I’ll be back tomorrow so Nissa can try it out, and I expect to be back numerous times this summer.  I’m very sure this is the first bar I’ve been to where there isn’t a single beer available I wouldn’t consider drinking.  Congratulations Novare Res.  Here’s to a long and successful run!

Hop Head

Posted by Jim on May 13th, 2008
May 13

Maybe it’s all this nice weather, or maybe that I’ll soon have my very own private back yard to drink in, or maybe just that I feel more in shape thanks to the exercise program Nissa and I are on, but I’ve really been craving some fancy beers lately.  Not just six packs to consume in an evening, but good beers to enjoy over a period of time and really savor.  I got to try a new beer last night (Brooklyn Summer Ale, for those keeping score), and this past Friday I indulged myself with a sampler of fine beers at the Great Lost Bear.  I don’t get over to the Bear nearly as much as I should.  And now with all the competition coming and me moving farther away, it will be even harder to get to 540 Forrest Ave.  There are four beers bars listed at Portland Food Map that are worth paying attention to; here is my take on each.

Novare Res: I don’t know much about this place, other than it looks fancy.  Chances of exotic beers (read: non-North East breweries and International beers you can’t get at Hannaford): 50%

O’Brien’s Bar & Grill: I think there’s even less information available about this palce than Novare Res.  It’s labeled as a pub and has an Irish name, so I’m guessing there will be foreign beers here, but nothing too surprising.  Chance of exotic beers: 30%

Pannepot Cafe: a brewpub for a foreign brewery whose beers I have never tried means the chances for new beers is very high.  Unfortunately, the chances of this brewpub actually opening aren’t as good.  The word here is that the plans have been put on hold indefinitely, but a more recent rumor places the Cafe outside of Portland and into the space currently occupied by Eggspectaions.  I certainly hope the rumor proves to be true.  I’d love for a great brewpub to open up in my soon-to-be town of residence.  Chance of exotic beers: 100% Chance it will open: 50%

Prost! International Tap House: This seems too good to be true…a beer centric bar in the Old Port with 100 taps?  A mug club with prizes based on how many different beers you’ve tried?  It seems like a dream!  GLB is already overwhelming, and this place proposes to have nearly twice as many beers on tap.  I don’t know how I’ll cope.  Of course, this assumes that the taps will be used for good and feature a wide range of craft beers and not every Miller and Anheuser-Busch product known to man.  Forgetting this unlikely possibility, there is only one thing that causes me to feel apprehension towards this bar—it’s location.  I haven’t lived in Portland for too long (approaching 4 years now), but all that time, the Wharf, Temple and Fore streets area has been utterly repulsive to me.  Not just the establishments but also the kind of people you have to deal with when walking through that area (it’s always through the area for me, never to that area).  Is it possible for a place to open there that I will not only want to go to, but actually enjoy?  Will the place be classy enough to weed out the kind of patrons that make going out in the Old Port so unenjoyable?  I really hope so; and I’ll make at least one visit to find out.  Chance of exotic beers: 90%

Things are looking good for us Portland beer lovers.  As I said earlier, I hope the old favorites like GLB don’t get lost in all this competition.  Of course, GLB has been a textbook definition of a great beer bar for close to 30 years now; I doubt they’re worried about these new kids on the peninsula.

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