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The Vice Blog’s Year in Movies 2008

December 30th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 9 Comments | Filed in Lists

One of my vices even bigger than beer-drinking is movie-watching. I see pretty much every halfway decent release in a calender year, trying to miss nothing that is either critically acclaimed or affects the zeitgeist in some way. These are my thoughts on cinema 2008. Note: I consider a movie’s year of release by when it first came out in New York City. Thus, some films–mainly foreign stuff–may be considered 2007 films by the Academy and by other critics, but if I couldn’t see it in theaters til 2008, then that’s what I consider it.*

TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR

1. ROMAN dE GARE — I understand the gripes people have with this French film. It “cheats” a bit in the storytelling, it uses cinematic trickery, it’s intentionally manipulative (then again, aren’t all good films?), and one could even say it has plot holes. And I won’t argue with you if you feel those ways. Having said all that, no other film released in 2008 kept me as captivated for its running time. No other film had me as amped up when I left the theater. No other film permeated my brain as much. Had me thinking so much about it, reading as many online words as I could about it. This film was the most often my answer when people asked me, “Seen any good movies lately?” A lot of films are called “Hitchcockian,” but since the masters’ death, this is the rarity that truly is. I won’t tell you anything about its plot except to say this is not to be missed.

2. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK — I am admittedly a hyoooooooooge Charlie Kaufman fanatic and his past three major films have all made my year end top ten (”Being John Malkovich” at #2 in 1999, “Adaptation” at #1 in 2002, and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” at #2 in 2004). “Synecdoche” makes Kaufman’s other works seem like child’s play. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily better than the three aforementioned but it’s just as ambitious, if not moreso, than any of them. I think only time will tell whether this is a true masterpiece or just an awe-inspiring, mind-bending, mess of a curio. Still wrapping my brain around this one even after three viewings and it will certainly demand even more. Just because Kaufman is smarter than us all–and has no problem displaying that–doesn’t necessarily mean he is making incomprehensible films. This is one of the best ever movies about a man’s life.

3. GRAN TORINO — Simply based on the trailer, you might think this to be some trite, over-the-top joke of a work. Yes, perhaps in some one else’s hands (I’m looking at you DeNiro). But not with the great Clint Eastwood both directing and starring in it, in legitimately some of his best work in both venues. His gravelly rasp makes all his lines sound like immediate classics. A taut script with nothing extraneous and more comedy than I expected. Another masterpiece from the legend and if this is indeed his swan song as an actor a fitting career conclusion. I challenge you to exit the movie and not spend the rest of the day trying to gutturally growl like Clint. The end credit song, both written and sung by the cinematic polymath, is splendid too and will be stuck in your head for days, even if Clint sings a bit like Cookie Monster.

4. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIREYou know how blurb whores–lackluster film critics that LOVE every movie just so they can get their name on the advertising, posters, billboards, and DVD boxes–will sometimes say, “People were cheering in the aisles!!!” in order to note how great a movie was? Well, I certainly had never seen that literally happen until I saw this picture. “Slumdog” is so life-affirming, so touching, that, yes, I saw several people actually pump their fists, actually stand up and celebrate in the aisles after this movie about the harrowing life journey of a Mumbai orphan. (Not to mention a funny story surrounds my theatrical experience with this one.)

5. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON — A technical marvel, sure, all David Fincher films are, but a damn fine story too. I don’t get all the shit people having been giving this movie, calling it overly long and boring, throwing out har har epithets like “Benjamin SNOOZE Button.” I just don’t see that. It’s long sure, but as Roger Ebert always notes, “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” I totally agree and, even hungover like a motherfucker as I sat with the other Jews on Christmas Day, I was spellbound by all 166 minutes of the run-time. Some of the best and most award-worthy make-up and special effects work ever go into making Brad Pitt look numerous ages while Cate Blanchett has never been so beautiful. Your humble narrator may have even cried as the end credits rolled. Then again, he was alone on Christmas day.

6. THE WRESTLER — Mickey Rourke gives the best performance of the year as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. I hate when people say an actor “inhabited” a character, but that’s exactly what Sir Eddie Cook does in this one. If he wasn’t so famous you might think this was a real documentary about a down in the dumps wrestler trying to get back on…middle. A heart-wrenching story about failed dreams with little chance of any success for the rest of one’s life. The third act scene in the deli is mind-blowing, maybe the best single movie scene of the year. Darren Aronofsky is definitely back in top form after the mild failure of “The Fountain.”

7. THE COUNTERFEITERSEven Jews are fucking sick of Holocaust movies, but this is a great, unique one and it doesn’t even involve the reprehensible Roberto Benigni lying to his poor little kid. The semi-true story of a legendary Jewish counterfeiter taken in by the Nazis and then forced to helm a team to make counterfeit money and documents for them. Austrian/German with subtitles, natch.

8. THE VISITOR — Thomas McCarthy has big balls to make such a subtle, “quiet,” thoughtful film that does not necessarily give you a happy ending in its tale of a widowed professor who stumbles into the lives of two illegal immigrants. It’s less overtly political than you’d think too. Longtime character actor Richard Jenkins deserves an Oscar nomination simply for the final subway scene. He’s phenomenal.

9. 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYSIf a filmmaker was challenged to make a movie with the absolute LEAST chance of playing in a mall multiplex in middle America, it would certainly be this Romanian flick about two university students trying to arrange an illegal abortion. A stunning film that is both riveting, yet forces you to turn you head from the screen several times (especially toward the end) due to both shock, disbelief, and even disgust. Cristian Mungiu has several impressive long shots that seem to go on for 10 minutes straight. I can’t imagine how they were scripted or acted as they were so documentary-like. This is hardly “light” entertainment, nor is it a completely politicized picture, but overall, a very worthwhile film. You need to be in the right mood to watch it–not a great “date” movie fo’ sho’–but it’s surprisingly entertaining. I think this film will be on my mind for a long time.

10. SHOTGUN STORIESWhat David Gordon Green did for North Carolina, rookie filmmaker Jeff Nichols does for Arkansas. It was little surprise when the credits rolled and I saw Green had actually produced this one. A great and unique movie presented with incredible subtlety in telling the story of a feud between two sets of half-brothers following the death of their father. Hopefully this will finally make Michael Shannon a star. Though I doubt it.

MAN ON A WIREThe best documentary of the year, a nice blend of intrigue, mystery, romance, Quixotism, and inspiration. Masterfully made with a true character as its star, Philippe Petit. A remarkably good soundtrack for a doc. “You should live on the edge of life…on a tightrope.”

WALL*EThe best animated film of the year, but still a bit overrated as both a film and as part of the Pixar canon. Seemingly one part “Short Circuit,” one part “Idiocracy,” one part “2001,” and one part a ham-handed screed ala “An Inconvenient Truth.” I liked the “Short Circuit”-ness, LOVED the “Idiocracy”-ness, was flummoxed by the “2001″-ness, and hated the Al Gore shit. Let’s be honest, Pixar can’t make a flop. This movie is solid and beautiful to look at, but has a bit of a lagging story line. But still, any movie, especially a children’s one, that makes wicked fun of fat people is A-OK in my book.

Other notables (alphabetical): Bigger, Stronger, Faster*, City of Men, The Dark Knight, Encounters at the End of the World, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, In Bruges, Iron Man, Revolutionary Road, Snow Angels, Son of Rambow, Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, prologue to Tropic Thunder, and Vicky Christina Barcelona

GREAT PERFORMANCES

I don’t care if you were a movie star in every single scene or on camera for just ten seconds, if you gave a great performance you gave a great performance. Here are my year’s favorites in some semblance of an order. It was admittedly a somewhat weak year for the ladies.

Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”
Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”
Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino”
Phillip Seymor Hoffman in “Synecdoche, New York”
Dominque Pinon in “Roman de Gare”
Michael Shannon in “Shotgun Stories” and “Revolutionary Road”
Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”
Benicio del Toro in “Che”
Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Robert Downey, Jr. in “Iron Man” and “Tropic Thunder”
Colin Farrell in “In Bruges”
Dev Patel in “Slumdog Millionaire”
Karl Markovics in “The Counterfeiters”
Jason Segel in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”
Michael Angarano in “Snow Angels”
Werner Herzog narrating “Encounters at the End of the World”

Penelope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Anamaria Marinca in “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days”
Emily Watson in “Synecdoche, New York”
Rebecca Hall in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Cate Blanchett in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Kate Winslet in “Revolutionary Road”
Rosario Dawson in “Seven Pounds”
Fanny Ardant in “Roman de Gare”
Frances McDormand in “Burn After Reading”

WORST FILMS OF THE YEAR BASED ONLY ON THEIR ABOMINABLE TRAILERS

I go to tons of theatrical releases which means I am forced to see tons of shitty trailers for tons of presumably shitty movies. Here are the worst movies of the year that I never saw, based purely on their mind-numbingly vapid trailers that diseased my cerebellum.

5. WELCOME HOME, ROSCOE JENKINS — At least it’s not “Big Momma’s House 5.”

4. WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS — “I haven’t had sex in forever…And I need to have sex, cause I’m good at it!” Go have sex with yourself, Ashton.

3. YES MAN — “Was I chewing gum before?”

2. BRIDE WARS — “My hair’s blue! It’s bluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue!!!” I’m not even sure why Anne Hathaway needs to play pranks on Kate Hudson. If I was Anne I’d be like, “Kate, you’re already so much more uglier than me, there’s no reason for me to try and make you look worse.”

1. MEET THE SPARTANS, SUPERHERO MOVIE, & DISASTER MOVIE — I measure the intelligence of human beings by how many times they laugh during a spoof movie trailer. Zero times = over 80 IQ. One or more times = you are not allowed to be my friend.

WORST FILMS OF THE YEAR

I try my damnedest not to see bad movies, but sometimes–due to placating girls, accidental mismanagement of my Netflix queue, sexy trailers, in-flight “entertainment”–I just can’t help it. These are the worst films I actually saw this year.

5. P.S. I LOVE YOU – This film actually was released in late 2007, but I didn’t see it until last week when a girl and I were so fucking bored on a Sunday that she forced me to let her call it up on HBO OnDemand. Whoa boy. Comically offensive. Why is it that Hilary Swank can only play challenging parts well and when she is cast as a relatively normal person she is unable to handle the task? I luckily didn’t watch enough dreck in 2008 to have a fifth worst selection and I would be absolutely remiss if I wasn’t able to bash this crapfest. I challenge a human being to watch this one from start to finish. Alex DeLarge never had it so bad.

4. WANTED — Like “Fight Club” for dumb people, “Office Space” for people that don’t like to laugh. An absolutely ludicrous plot with dumb physics-defying action. Apparently, the DVD has deleted scenes showing Angelina and James McAvoy visiting the ATM to make sure the studio’s checks to them cleared.

3. YOUNG PEOPLE FUCKING — You know, I honestly hate to bash small-budget independent movies. We should admire all people that somehow have the gumption to get anything filmed and released to strangers. Nevertheless, if one has the audacity to name their film “Young People Fucking” then they should be able to handle some bashing. This is what passes for edgy sex comedy nowadays?! This is essentially an “Everybody Loves Raymond” level of sexual and romantic discourse. Sans laugh track of course. If you want an edgy movie on sexual mores go back in time and watch this in 1958. Or, I guess watch it in Canada where it was made. Provocative title but the emperor has no clothes. Unfortunately most all the movie’s characters do though. This bomb couldn’t even have the decency to give me tons of gratuitous nudity. The flick is overly talky too. I really just wanted these annoying young people to shut the fuck up and actually…fuck.

2. VANTAGE POINT – Loved the trailer, looked cool, unique, tense, something John Frankenheimer might have made back in the ’60s, and thus I was duped into seeing this disaster. Incomprehensibly terrible and a major waste of some serious talent.

1. JUMPER — The script to this one was awesome and the trailer was equally cool. Competent director Doug Liman has a history of pretty cool pictures, so this seemed destined to be one great, or at least adequate, popcorn movie. Nope. Hayden Christensen makes for one of the worst leading men ever and the plot is even more ludicrous than the special effects and dialogue. Unquestionably the worst movie of 2008. Maybe the entire decade. In fact, watching this may have even been the two worst hours of my entire year. And that includes the two I spent listening to my ex-girlfriend break up with me in Central Park. Oh wait, that actually took four and a half hours.

*2008 was somewhat of a so-so year for film, especially compared to the amazing year of 2007.

Notable 2008 movies as-yet-unseen: Bolt, A Christmas Tale, Doubt, Edge of Heaven, Flight of the Red Balloon, Frost/Nixon, Frozen River, Happy Go Lucky, I’ve Loved You So Love, Let the Right One In, Milk, My Winnepeg, Paranoid Park, Rachel Getting Married, The Reader, Waltz With Bashir, Wendy & Lucy

WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITES (AND NOT-SO-FAVORITES) OF THE FILM YEAR?

The Vice Blog 2008 Wrap-Up

December 26th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Lists

A friend’s father, a beer connoisseur in his own right, was recounting to me the best brew of his life. It was the summer of 1967, he was sixteen, and when the starting pitcher got injured before his town’s adult summer league game against a big rival, he was forced to come out of the stands where he sat as a mere spectator and take the mound.  A star high school hurler at the time, facing seasoned adult former-stars would be a whole ‘nother story.   And, after he amazingly struck out seventeen batters in a complete game win, he walked off the field where a family friend presented him with an ice-cold Pearl. Yes, sometimes the “best” beers we enjoy aren’t even that good of beers.

Like Rob in “High Fidelity,” I’ve always been one of those nerds obsessed with lists (”Top Ten Quarterbacks of All-Time,” “Best New York City Movies,” “Syracuse University’s 100 Sluttiest Co-eds”) and have always made them for personal use.  But, now that I have an award-winning blog*, I can make my own lists and disseminate them to the planet.

TOP TEN BEERS I DRANK IN 2008

1. Stone Old Guardian

This has been my favorite beer for a few years now and this year’s batch was no exception–yet another masterpiece of a tasty sweet barley wine.

2. Surly Darkness

Before I started this blog, here is a beer I would have NEVER had access to.  A small brewery in Minnesota makes just a few thousand wax-dipped bottles of which they only release on one frigid Saturday morning in November to geeks that have queued up since before sunrise.  Luckily, through the power of the internet and my hiiiiiilarious writing, I’ve made quite a few beer friends across the world this year. One such new pal is Minnesotan The Captain, who lives mere miles from the Surly brewery and who was so kind as to send me one of the limit six bottles of Darkness he was able to score.  Ranked as a top ten beer in the world, surely it couldn’t live up to the hype. You’re right, it exceeded it! The best stout I have ever had in my life.

3. J.W. Lees Harvest (1998 Vintage)

Is it cheating to include a beer I drank in 2008 that was actually bottled a decade previous? Perhaps, but this was one of the best beers I have ever had in my life.   So sweet, so smooth, so unique.

4. Westmalle Trappist Dubbel

A classic standard, the best trappist beer around.

5. Samuel Adams Utopias (2007)

The most alcoholic brew ever made, this is more akin to a port, sherry, or cognac, and is banned from being sold in fourteen U.S. states.  Unreal.  I fly a thirty-six star flag over my mansion because I can’t respect any territory where Utopias is illegal.

6. Westmalle Trappist Tripel

The monks make a tripel nearly as good as their dubbel.  Another masterpiece that almost makes me want to believe in God.

7. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

It has been jokingly called “beer-barreled bourbon” it is so damn boozy.  Just how I like it.  So potent this can barely be called a sipper.  One should probably get an eyedropper to sprinkle the smallest amount of the beer onto the tongue when imbibing this Chicago classic.

8. Brooklyn Black OPS

Perhaps my most anticipated beer release of the year, this one totally lived up to the hype, another bourbon-barreled classic.

9. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Black OPS cost me $20 for a bomber while Brooklyn’s “regular” stout is almost exactly as good, runs around $2.50 a bottle, and can be found in just about every deli, grocery, and bodega in the city.  The steal of the year and by far the “cheapest” beer on this list.

10.Allagash Interlude (2007)

The only red wine-barreled beer on the list, this is a glorious Portland, Maine brew unlike anything you have ever had before.

Honorable Mention (alphabetical):

Avery Maharaja
Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA
Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton (2nd batch, 2008)

Koningshoeven La Trappe Quadrupel

La Fin Du Monde

Port Hop 15
Russian River Pliny the Elder

Russian River Supplication
Schafly’s Reserve Imperial Stout

BONUS:

Favorite liquors of the year:  Scott’s Selection Royal Brackla 1976 and The Glenlivet Nadurra

Favorite cigar of the year:  Padron Anniversary 1964 Maduro

WORST BEERS I DRANK IN 2008

5. Michelob Golden Draft

The same man that procured for me the second best beer on this list, also implored me to try this swill, noting that “It’s basically horse piss, but all the mullets around [Minnesota] drink it like it’s their job. I wouldn’t touch it with someone else’s lips.”  Unfortunately, I did.  I needed a lip transplant afterward.

4. Landshark Lager

Jimmy Buffett’s attempt to make people throw up.  Rather, his liquid attempt to make people throw up, not his musical attempts which just cause wrinkly oldies to dance while hopped up on margaritas.

3. Trader Jose Preium Lager

Trader Joe’s is-it-racistly-named-or-not Corona clone which smells so skunky the second I took the cap off my face was hit with such a explosion of repellent stench that my neck snapped back like I was in a head-on collision.

2. Bud Light Chelada

Beer and Clam Broth? La combinacion perfecta!

1. Corona Extra

This beer offends me more than racism.

Inglorious mention:

Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer — honestly not as bad as I expected but still, come on, it’s a beer steeped with fucking pizza!

PERSONAL FAVORITE VICE BLOG STORIES FOR 2008  (AKA: HOW BIG OF EGO DO I HAVE?)**

1. My Porno Hook-Up — Even as we get older, sometimes we still just “get lucky.”

2.  The Vice Blogger and the Alkie — The universe decides to play a practical joke on the Vice Blogger, forcing him to live with a full-blown alcoholic for nearly a month.

3.  Bangladeshi Mystery Whiskey and the Lost and Found Cell Phone — What happens when I drunkenly lose my cell phone in a cab one Saturday night?  Why I’m forced to head out to Queens on Monday afternoon to retrieve it from the Bangladeshi cab driver.

4.  Pitch ‘n’ Putt ‘n’ Get Yourself Drunk — The Flushing Meadows public course is like a bar that you just so happen to be able to golf at.

5.  Aaron Visits a “North Country” New York Wal-Mart, He Will Never Be the Same — The title says it all.  Rereading this one just now made me realize that I’m a bad person.  But at least I’m not fat and dumb.

Honorable mention:

The X-Rated Tale of an Ex
The Hooker Lottery
The Most Annoying Person in the World:  the Fat Girl at the Bar
The Freaks Living Amongst Me in My Hell’s Kitchen Walk-Up
Sunrise on a Murphy Bed
Tips for a “Successful” First Date–#1. Arrive in Another Man’s Underwear
My Ex-Beloved Gets Hit By a Car
Aaron Tries Too Hard at Friendly Drinking Games.

And there you have it.  My year in vice.  Feel free to criticize it, debate it, celebrate it.

Now I’m interested in what were some of the best (and worst) things you drank, smoked, inhaled, and fucked this year.  Let me know–and feel free to link to your own blogs–as I light up a cigar to celebrate the end of the year, showing off my sexy chest hair.

*It has never actually won an award.

**List based on a quick survey of my friends.

Brooklyn Black OPS

December 25th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Stout

10.7% ABV from a bomber

One of my best friends Mookie, a frequent reader of the Vice Blog despite the fact that he has never had a sip of alcohol in his life, sent me an angry text on Christmas Eve:

“I am reading the Vice Blog on my phone and am trying to plow through the beer snobbery to get to a funny story.  You gone soft on us?”

No, I haven’t gone flaccid and I don’t need any Cialis.  Just nothing that particularly interesting has happened to me in the last week or two while I am simultaneously trying to unload a backlog of beer reviews before the New Year.  Having said that, I’ll offer a brief anecdote from last week to tide you over, Mook.

Drinking heavily on Thursday after an office Christmas party, my friend Johnny and I decided to go the absolute diviest bar in the neighborhood.  One of those Irish joints–Blarney Stone, Blarney Rock, Blarney Shit, I can never recall  its exact name–where anything goes, with the exception of smiling or happiness.  The kinda place that doesn’t even have mixers behind the bar, you best drink your liquor straight, perhaps on ice.  The kinda place that would even be too dingy for Mickey Rourke’s character in “Barfly.”

Just as Johnny and I were entering the Blarney, the bartender was furiously ejecting four girls.  Four fairly attractive and marginally put-together girls.  Certainly not the kind of females that typically go to this joint.   (The kind that do go usually need to put two barstools together to create a super-stool to sit their wide loads on.  The kinda lasses that bring in their own pizza pies to the bar.  The kinda women that order entire pitchers for themselves.  Though I ain’t hating.)

When the Irish barkeep returned I asked him what had happened.  His still seething response of which I will not try to replicate the cadence of?

“So I picked up one of those girls and took her downstairs to the basement to fuck her.  Since I’m the only bartender tonight, I told her friends to serve themselves while I was gone.  When I returned they had plowed through tons of top shelf bottles!”

The nerve!

I only wish I’d arrived at the bar a half hour earlier.  No, not to pick up the slut before him for a quick downstairs romp, but rather to be left to my own devices and bottles of Jameson Gold.

“Movie and some Chinese food?” is what every non-Jew thinks he is being highly comical in asking a Chosen Person about their Christmas day plans.  It’s the “Check please!” joke of the holidays.  In stereotypes there are some truths though.  I do indeed spend Christmas at the movies–always–because, shockingly, even in Manhattan, almost everything is closed.  After a movie or two I usually grab a steak and then proceed to get loaded.

Today’s (first) libation was Black Ops.  I’d been anxiously awaiting this beer.  Since Brooklyn Brewery refused to announce an exact release date for it, I was forced to call the Whole Foods Bowery Beer Room literally every single day from the Friday after Thanksgiving until just a week ago when the fed up employees were finally able to change their answer to my question of “Has Black Ops arrived?” from “Are you the guy that keeps fucking calling every day?” to “Yes, it is finally here!!!”

I expected nothing short of a masterpiece from Black Ops and indeed it is.  I’ve been having lots of bourbon-barreled beers recently, the world class Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout just two days ago in fact, so I was in perfect shape to compare this one to several other greats.

Aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat (no clue what that means), and re-fermented with Champagne yeast with an always seductive cork sitting atop it.  A filthy black pour that instantly stained the sides of my glass.  A deliciously boozy aroma of chocolate, vanilla, and much roasted coffee.  The oaked bourbon sensations absolutely pummeled my tongue.  I half-expected to piss stout after finishing this bottle.  A great beer that I felt could have used just a tad more sweetness, though that is the most mild of gripes.

This is a beaut, but I’d say it still loses by the smallest of margins in a photo finish to Bourbon County which remains the king of bourbon-barreled stouts.

(Oh, one final note, I really didn’t think this tasted like Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout at all, though I’d like to do a side-by-side comparison to be sure.  I had thought that Black OPS was simply a bourbon-barreled version of that one but now I believe this is a completely different stout.  Though I may be wrong.)

A+

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

December 24th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Goose Island, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Stout

13% ABV bottled (2008 BATCH)

Beer connoisseurship is kind of like drug addiction.  I just realized this.  Every “lower” beer a gateway to something higher.  Once you’ve had a 6% stout it becomes hard to ever enjoy a 5% one.  And once you’ve had a 10% beer it becomes hard to enjoy that 6% one you so used to love.  Bourbon or whiskey barrel that 10% brew and now a “normal” 10% tastes like a Coors Light!  It’s a slippery fucking slope.  Us beer geeks are always looking for the higher buzz and it makes us jaded men and women.  It’s not a good thing to be at the point where throwing back pale ales is like drinking a root beer.

I’d been anxious to try Bourbon County for several years now.  It’s not exactly a rare beer, but it never seems to make it to the East Coast.  Though it seems now that its distribution has been kicked up a notch throughout all of America.  The 29th ranked beer in the world, my friend had lucked into a bottle the day before Thanksgiving.  On Thanksgiving day, when he went to grab the bottle, it placed atop the fridge, he slammed the Kenmore a little too strongly and the bottle rocked, rocked, rocked and then in slow motion tumbled the five feet, shattering with a glorious and potent explosion.

In shock and holding back tears, we fell to the floor, using our fingers like a cat uses his paws in a milk dish in order to taste a little of the wasted brew.  Yes, despicable but true.  We had no choice.  We thought we might never get to try it again.  Fortunately, I again found a bottle of it this week and snatched the sucker up.

Aged in sixteen-year-old charred oak bourbon barrels for 10 months this is one massive brew.  One Beer Advocate commentator described it as a “beer-aged bourbon.”  That about sums it up.  This one kicked my ass and I spent well over two hours indulging in the 12 ounce bottle.

Packed with hints of vanilla, caramel, smoke, chocolate, and a prominent and scalding bourbon booziness which I totally dig, this is right up there with Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and the likewise bourbon-barreled Schlafly Reserve.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that this is the second best stout I’ve had in my life after Darkness.

A+

Schlafly Reserve Imperial Stout (2008)

December 24th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Saint Louis/Schlafly, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Stout

10.5% ABV

The same gentleman who tipped us off on the greatness of J.W. Lees went to the back room and returned with what he called his #1 beer of the year.  I would have been leery, being that I’d never heard of the beer, much less the St. Louis-based brewery, but the bomber was in a cheap cardboard box (not pictured), and as I mentioned just yesterday, I’m a sucker for beers in boxes.  And this one is also aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels.  A daily-double!

I’ll be goddamned but that beer geek was absolutely correct.  Oh, it’s not the best beer of the year, but it is indeed a classic.  I had it over Sunday brunch–seriously–and was floored.  What a way to start the day!  A roasty, rich and malty stout with hints of caramel.  The oak and bourbon really shine through too, making this an absolute boozy delight.  Highly recommended.

And just like sands in the hourglass, so continues our week of cardboard boxed, barreled beers that score an…

A+

Allagash Interlude (2007)

December 23rd, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Allagash, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

9.5% from a bomber

Brewers, if you want me to buy your product, here’s a few simple and cheap things you can do to dupe me into purchasing it:

1. Cork the beer and add one of those cheap metal caps and twisty things.

2. Cover the cap and neck in that cheap Reese’s peanut butter cup-like foil.

3. Put the bottle in a cheap cardboard box.

4. Call it a limited bottling and perhaps even add numbers to the label or aforementioned box.  It doesn’t even matter if it is that truly of limited of bottling.

And one more expensive thing you can do to dupe me is to barrel your beer in something else. This week is coincidentally dedicated to beers like this, many of which coincidentally are also world-class beers.

Allagash is one of my favorite breweries but also one whose beers I rarely sample for reasons two-fold:  their bombers are prohibitively expensive and New York City seems to always be sold out of the truly good ones.  For the longest time I’ve thought the two top Allagash beers were the rarely-seen Curieux and Interlude, in that order, but this weekend, sampling one after the other, I would learn that the reverse is actually true.

Interlude is created with two yeast strains, a Belgian farmhouse yeast and a house strain of Brettanomyces wild yeast, which contributes flavors including pear, apricot, graham cracker, and bread crust.  Then, unlike the Curieux which is aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels, Interlude is aged in French Merlot and Sirah oak barrels.

Much more of a bourbon fan than a red wine fan–though I do like it–maybe I had convinced myself ipso facto that I preferred Curieux more.  However, side by side I quickly saw Interlude as being the ultimate Allagash masterpiece.  And, I know I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but there really is not another beer on the planet like this one.  In fact, I’m struggling to think of another major beer released that is aged in red wine barrels.  Although please correct me in the comments if you know of any, and, again, I’m not talking about special limited limited dicking-around releases from breweries no one has ever heard of.

Interlude is really winey, tart and funky, with a nice bit of carbonation and booziness.  Not much else to say except that this is a classic and I hope you’re lucky enough to one day find it.

A+

J.W. Lees Harvest Barley Wine

December 22nd, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: J.W. Lees, Country: United Kingdom, Grade: A plus, Grade: A regular, Style: Barley wine

ALL 11.5% bottled

My friend DW called me last week. He’d just acquired a bunch of rare and highly-touted beers. He thought I should come down to Washington, DC to visit him. That’s how I plan vacations, that’s how I’m lured out of town, by the offer of quality brews. Not much else matters.

DW was most interested in me trying a new discovery of his, the J.W. Lees collection of barley wines. I had never heard of them and actually thought he had misspoke and was talking about the horrific J.W. Dundees, makers of the terrible Honey Brown gas station lager. He wasn’t. He was talking about a brewery in England that comes out with a highly-notable and limited barley wine which they release every year on December 1 to celebrate the newest harvest of barley and hops. According to J.W. Lees, only the first delivery of the year’s classic barley malt ‘Maris Otter’ and the classic hop variety ‘Goldings’ from East Kent is used. Sounded exciting.

Meant to be laid down for years, DW was able to score vintage bottles from 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2004, all of which I tried.

In ascending order of quality, my thoughts on each.

2000

Though I found this vis-a-vis the others to be the “weakest” vintage, it was the first one I tried coincidentally, and I was still absolutely floored.  There’s really nothing like this, save one other beer I will mention in a bit.  Pretentious and annoying beer nerds might denigrate this with a favorite buzzword of their’s:  “cloying.”  To some beer dorks, any beer with even the slightest bit of sweetest they consider to be bad.  Now sometimes sweetness is a bad thing–those candy flavored malt beverages chicks dig par exemplar–but when it’s such a pure, fruity sweetness as here, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Like all the Harvests, it pours dark like a port or sherry.  Goes down so smooth, it is absolutely shocking that it has such an high ABV.  A near-flawless brew, but better ones were yet to come.

A

2004

Whenever the Vice Blogger leaves town, upon his return his local friends e-mail him and text him, “Heh heh, bet you got some great bloggable stories from the weekend, eh?”  And, you know, that’s not always the case.  I had an absolute fucking blast this weekend, punishing my body with booze and tons of greasy foods that were dipped into tons of mayonnaise-based sauces, but my weekend really didn’t produce any “blog-worthy” stories.  I hooked up with no women, I got in no trouble, very little hijinks occurred.

Well…maybe one story.  Wasted on Friday night, my friends and I weren’t let into a “speakeasy” in Alexandria, Virginia.  No big deal, I don’t like the kind of place that in the year 2008 thinks I’m going to be impressed by a faux-exclusive faux-hot spot.  Though we had heard that the bar harbored lots of sexy and willing cougars typically competed for by effete local men.

Later in the night, at a smoky dump filled with women with bad bangs and the men that tolerate them, DW stumbled upon a Pulaski County, MO sheriff’s badge that some visiting man of the law had apparently drunkenly left behind.  I’ve lost countless things behind at bars whilst drunk, but never a badge.  Me and my friends are not the best people in the world and quite turpitudinous, but even we looked to return the badge.  Casually.  Unable to find a drunken Andy Griffith tumbling off a bar stool, we left the dive and headed back to the speakeasy.

We located the secret blue light denoting the hidden front door, rang the bell, and when the hostess slid open the tiny eye slot to speak with us–”Sorry, we’re full.”–DW slapped his badge in her face, asking her:  “You don’t have a soft spot for law enforcement do you?”

Shockingly, she didn’t.  And three phony police officers weren’t let in.  I have a feeling the same thing didn’t happen to Elliot Ness way back when.

The 2004 vintage I thought to be a hair better than the 2000.  Dark fruits like a dubbel, but smooth and sweet like a barley wine.  Like all the Harvests, a nose of maple syrup.

A

1999

Now we were getting to the big boy vintages.  1999 was damn near perfect, huge with barely any carbonation.  DW and I drank them room temperature, splitting 12 ounce bottles, which was more than enough for both of us.  Though not that boozy or punishing, this is one helluva sipper.  And, actually, while this is not punishing in a biting alcohol way, it is sure punishing to the palate.  Stone calls their double IPA “Ruination” because they jokingly believe that it will absolutely destroy your palate from possibly enjoying any other beers in the future.  Well, Harvests are the real ruination.  The syrupy brews absolutely coating the insides of your cheek, your tongue, and your throat.  We tried to drink a very well-regarded beer after this bottle and it tasted like a fat man’s bathwater.

We found that one either needs to drink several shit beers to cleanse their palate after Harvest or use some equally extreme beer to do the trick.  The delicious and overhopped-in-a-great-way Sam Adams Imperial Pilsener worked wonders for us in the latter regard.

A

1998

We expected this to be the creme de le creme of the Harvests and we were not disappointed in the least.  I believe this is the absolute oldest vintage of Harvest still able to be found on the market, but I could be wrong.  And it’s certainly the oldest beer I’ve ever had, excluding the thousands and thousands of Milwaukee’s Best cans I drank back during my sophomore year of college in 1998.

DW got turned onto Harvests when he was talking with a local beermonger and mentioned that Utopias is one of his favorite beers in the world.  The guy noted that if he liked Utopias that Harvest 1998 was similar…and better.  I refused to believe that, but, you know, the guy was 100% right.

A similar nose and taste to Utopias, it’s slightly less ABV and slightly more sweetness makes it more a bit more palatable.  Quite a bit cheaper per ounce too.  Boisterous and fruity, this one is hard to classify as any sort of alcohol.  As much like a port as a barley wine, I can safely say that you have never tried something quite like this.

One of the best beers I’ve ever had, world-class.  Seek out at all costs.

A+

Dogfish Head Burton Baton

December 19th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 8 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Dogfish Head, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

10% ABV bottled

This may or may not become a weekly, monthly, yearly, or whenever-I-feel-like-flaggelating-myself series.

MY WORST HOOK-UPS OF ALL TIME, Presented in Random Order

#2. Jersey City Heights Lows

Oh I used to be so innocent, so fresh-faced, so idealistic, and optimistic. My early twenties. Going out still meant something. It was still exciting to me. I ritualized it to extreme levels. Now? I’ll go out on a moment’s notice. Throw on some filthy jeans with a hole in them, a dirty t-shirt, old sneakers caked in mud. I don’t care. I may not even brush my teeth. But back then, no way. Joe DiMaggio, when asked why he played so hard, famously remarked: “There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time. I owe him my best.” Well back then, I thought if I didn’t try my best and look my best, ain’t no way I could possibly meet a girl that was seeing me for the first time. Of course, now I realize that’s terrible thinking.

I lived in Hoboken.  My roommate back then was Freddie, a clean-cut kid one year my junior who just looked well-scrubbed, the All-American boy. His hair was flawless, as if it was actually part of his head like a Ken doll, never a strand out of place yet it seemed as if he never needed a hair cut nor used any gels, mousses, or sprays. The hair simply was. Freddie made Richie Cunningham look like Marilyn Manson. He wasn’t necessarily good-looking, but he always looked good.

We’d start prebarring after dinner, always splitting a six-pack, usually of Yuengling. We were so concerned with our later-in-the-night dealings with women that we refused to allow ourselves any more than three beers while at home. We thought that to be the appropriate number of brews to have in one’s system before entering a bar, the correct amount of beer needed to correctly seduce a girl. Cause, man, if you had a fourth beer–a fourth beer?!–before you left the house, fuck, who knows how sloppy and insane you’d be once you got to the watering hole. You’d totally be too sloshed to have any sort of wit or repartee need to slay and lay a lady.

We’d pop beer #1 and begin shining our shoes. Yes, back then we actually wore shoes to the bar that necessitated shining. We actually had instruments. Smallish shine boxes. And every single time we went out we wanted the toes of our shoes to look like fucking mirrors courtesy of Spit Shine Tommy. On the day in question of this story I had just gotten a new pair of Kenneth Cole shoes I was quite proud of. $175 dress kicks that were on sale for only $80.

Beer #2 and one of us would head for the showers, taking our beer in with us, resting it on the sink ledge as we hosed off, reaching outside the plastic curtain for a tug every so often. The other man would watch TV. Then, the reverse would occur. Freshly showered, we’d pop #3 to imbibe as we got dressed. Always in a “nice” button down shirt with brand new collar stays added. In warm weather we’d ever-so-slightly roll our sleeves up in that way on-the-road politicians do to try and look like a “Man of the People” when they’re at an auto parts plants or meeting with a sports team. We all know, though, that if they were real Men of the People, they’d probably be wearing a Jimmie Johnson t-shirt and some Crocs. Likewise, if we had actually been cool back then we wouldn’t have dressed like such fucking tools. But I digress.

We’d finish beer #3, brush and gargle, ogle each other up and down to make sure we be lookin’ good, and head out. To the bar across the street from our apartment. Full of drunks and scumbags in Giants jerseys despite the fact it wasn’t a game day. Despite our naivety, despite our foolishness, we always did quite well with women back then. Freddie more so than me. A fact that always vexed me.

I thought to myself, neither of us is great looking, but we’re both decent looking. And I’m much more the talker than him. Much more the female strategist.  He was fine in talking with the boys, but somewhat shy and bumbling around ladies. I’d do the approaches for us, get us set up with women, and he’d kinda just coast on my coattails. Or so I thought. But the most attractive women always latched onto him, not me. I was perpetually confused.

On this occasion, an absolute knockout 10-out-of-10 with 400 ccs of sexiness proudly displayed on her chest just came over and literally dragged him away from me and our conversation, not a word even said.

After I regained my composure, found my bearings, I realized I’d had enough.  I had to know.  And when Freddie went to the little boys room, I approached the knockout, Katie.

“Let me ask you. Beautiful women like yourself always approach my friend Freddie…”

Histrionic pause.

“Why?!!”

As Freddie returned from the bathroom she studied him as if he was a model on the catwalk.  She deviously smiled at me.

“He’s just so innocent looking. We all want to defile him.”

If they only knew. He may have been innocent looking but he was just as depraved as me and every other guy our age.

Soon, with little effort on Freddie’s part, Katie was all over him and he was all quid pro quo back at her.  In the brief seconds in which the three of us actually conversed, we learned that Katie had just sold her company and was seemingly now quite loaded, despite being just 28. An age that actually seemed ancient and “MILFy” to us.  I was getting whiplash shaking my head in amazement at the beauty of Freddie’s life.

That was it, I was tired of my jealousy, I had to compete with the Joneses. Luckily, Katie had a friend. Not a knockout, but pretty damn cute. I would take her down.  Back then, I needed to hook up with women to feel good about myself.  I don’t believe that’s true any more but I could be wrong.

Of course, I quickly floundered, and the Silver Medalist rebuffed me with no prejudice, soon leaving to speak with a much taller, muscular, and stupider man.  Thus, I was left talking to Katie’s second friend who I, who Freddie, and even who Katie, had been ignoring the whole night, and who the world had probably been ignoring for her lifetime.  Katrina, a friend visiting from out of town.

Coco Chanel had a famous saying, “There are no ugly women, just lazy ones.”

I used to subscribe to that theory. Any women with a bit of a workout regime, a bit of pride, and a bar of soap in her house, should at least be passable. In fact, I’d always felt that so long as a women is within ten pounds of her BMI she could rate no worse than a 5 out of 10 on my scale.

Good lord was I wrong. This girl didn’t have an ounce of fat on her 5′5″ frame and she was the ugliest non-retarded, non-violently scarred human being I had ever encountered.  I don’t even wish to describe her.  Think of the ugliest female you have ever seen, now put her eyes, nose, and mouth in different places, make her hair even more like a bird’s nest, and her body even more like a Kenyan marathon runner.

And now I was forced to talk to her exclusively as Freddie and Katie had begun gloriously making out and pawing at each other in the corner. I’ll say one thing, Katrina may have been ugly, but at least she had a great personality. Ha. No she didn’t. Her personality was worse than her alopecia.  Worse than the hairy mole on her neck.

It’s commonly thought that less attractive people have better personalities than attractive ones. That’s not exactly true. I get why people think that. They believe that the Brads and Angelinas of the world have no need to develop a good personality since they can coast by on their looks in all facets of their life since day one. Meanwhile, a, say, Tina Fey would have to develop a great personality early on if she ever wanted to succeed at things. True. But at a certain point, an ugly person is so heinous that they don’t have a chance at constructing a good personality because no one wants to be around them. You can’t develop a good personality sitting in your room alone talking to your dolls.

I wanted to go home but Freddie forced me to stay.  Finally, last call came and I was free to go.  Wrong.  Once outside the bar, knowing his situation was potentially precarious–as all hook-ups are–Freddie became like Dr. Octopus, somehow using one arm to flag down a cab, another arm to prevent Katie from leaving without him, and yet another to stop me.

I was all but sprinting home and Freddie got right in my face.  “Katie won’t let me come over unless you come too.  She doesn’t want Katrina to have to be alone on her couch.”  He stared at me with a “Come on motherfucker, help a brother out” look.  I glared over Freddie’s shoulder at Katrina who was picking her nose.  “I’ll owe you.”  “You’re goddamn right you will.”

I have no problem “sitting on a grenade” so that a friend can hook up with an attractive pal.  It’s certainly been done for me, though I never expect it.  But Katrina wasn’t just a grenade, she was a fucking landmine.  We cabbed out of Hoboken, climbing up to Jersey City Heights and arriving at a stunning three-floor town house which Katie had just bought.  A panoramic view of Manhattan from her living room, it was one of the nicer apartments I had ever been in.

Once inside, Katie got through the formalities as fast as possible, not even speaking commas–”There’s the couch there’s the TV remote beer’s in the fridge liquor’s in the cabinet pillows sheets towels in the closet good night”–before ushering Freddie up to her bedroom on the third floor where they loudly began humping, rocking the entire house.

I stared at Katrina.  Shivers went up my spine.  I went to the kitchen and poured myself several fingers of Katie’s expensive Port.  Threw it down my throat with authority.

After all I’ve told you, what I reveal next won’t make much sense but you must remember that back at this point in my life I did not cut my losses.  And if I took the wrong fork in the road I never turned back, I always forced my way on.  I returned to the living room to find Katrina watching “The Parent Trap” on the Disney Channel.  I sat next to her on the sofa.  She didn’t react.  I moved in to kiss this cold, ugly fish.  She immediately responded and began tonguing me down with a ridiculous force, she surely hadn’t kissed a man in ages, perhaps in her life.  The inside of her mouth tasted like a mix of Certs, burnt coffee, and cigarettes.  Yet I hadn’t noticed her smoking once that evening.  It was like making out with the high school janitor.

I retracted my head as far away from her face as possibly as I began to disrobe her.  She must have been drunk or simply didn’t care because when I unclasped her bra, tissues fell out.  She was stuffing like some 12-year-old.  And I soon saw why.  A chest so flat it was concave, topped off by areola as big as hockey pucks.

Yet I surged on.  A “treasure” trail creeping all the way past her outie belly button should have tipped me off, but I was still such a fool.  I’m sure some man has found the end of the rainbow only to see not a bucket of gold but a pile of shit.  I am that man.  Plunging my middle and index finger into something so coarse, so prickly, it was like trying to finger one of those “pin art” things executives had on their desks in the 1980s.  And her legs were so wooly I was getting cuts on my shins.

I had had enough.  But even in this I didn’t get to control my own destiny as she spoke up first.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have sex on the first date.”

HA!  Who knew this was a date?!

I rolled off the couch like I was a suicidal lemming plunging off a cliff, turned my back on her, and went to sleep fully clothed on the hardwood floor, using my new shoes as a pillow.

A couple of hours later at 6 AM the sun starts coming in through those same glorious panoramic windows, scalding me as I sleep on her floor. I have to get the fuck out of there. I stand, put my shoes on and go outside.

My cell phone is dead, I can’t call a cab, I don’t know how the bus system works, I don’t know where to get a bus even, so I have to walk. The three or so miles from Jersey City Heights back to Hoboken. It’s hot out and my feet must be swelling because my new and unbroken-in shoes are so damn tight, barely even bending with each step. I’m in intense pain.

At noon, I’m laying on the couch, hating life, icing down my bloodied and bruised feet, when I see a candy apple red Porsche pull in front of our apartment. Then, Freddie walks in, grinning ear-to-ear like he’d lost his virginity all over again. I could have killed him.

“Why’d you leave so early? You should have stuck around. Katie made Belgian waffles.  Fresh fruit, whipped cream, they were amazing!”

I could have murdered him.

“Oh, and those fake tits!  WOW!  Best I’ve ever seen.”

I could have defenestrated him.

“You should have seen her bed. California King, pillow top, sexy canopy. Unbelievably comfortable.  She even had a skylight above her bed.  Ha!”

I could have bludgeoned him.

“What’d you do?  Walk?!  It’s like four miles!  Katie would have given you a ride home in her new Porsche.”

I could have pulverized him.

“Oh, hey, you took my shoes by accident, we have the same pair. $80 on sale, right? Of course, you have a size 12 and I got a 9.  Ha, good thing I didn’t have to walk home in these big boats.”

I could have killed, murdered, defenestrated, bludgeoned, and pulverized myself.

BURTON BATON

I’d been anxious to try this beer for quite awhile now, especially since my friend Dave considers it maybe his favorite brew on the planet.  This is a blend of oak-aged English strong ale and DFH’s 90 Minute I.P.A., one of the most perfect beers around, one I will certainly give an A+ to whenever I get around to officially reviewing it.  Citrus notes from Northwestern hops meld with vanilla notes from the oak.  Very creamy but I felt that the boozy agressiveness of this one muted any hops.  This tastes far more like a strong ale than an IPA.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Quite frankly, while this beer was great, it wasn’t as unique as I expected it to be and wasn’t completely a tour de force.  I prefer the 90 Minute.  Burton Baton is still damn good though.

A

Aventinus

December 16th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Schneider, Country: Germany, Grade: A-, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

8% ABV bottled

A friend who I trust said this was a world class beer, and with a top 100 Beer Advocate rating to back his lofty claim up, several bottles were procured.

This beer unexpectedly taught me a lot about beer connoisseurship.  But not in the way you might expect.  The first time I sampled this weizenbock–essentially a mix between a wheat beer and a dopplebock in the murky world of style classifications–was at the tail-end of a night of heavy drinking.  I was not impressed.  I thought it was bland, flavorless, uninspired.  Another one of the many boring Reinheitsgebot purity law beers from out of Germany, I snickered to myself.  I detected nothing noteworthy as I sipped it and was barely interested enough to even take notes.  I jotted a few down in between doing whatever it is drunk people do at 2:00 AM, ultimately deciding to score this beer a C+.

Luckily, I was so backed up in beer reviews I never officially got to enter that into my blog.  Let me stop for a second to answer the real beer geeks’–the ones that are sanctimoniously aghast right now–questions.  No, I typically do not “officially” review quality beers when I am shitfaced.  It’s not fair to myself, my blog, my millions of readers, or the brewery.  I usually only review a beer if it is one of the first three or maybe four of my night.  (Or morning if I’ve decided to say, “Fuck the world” and get snockered at 8:00 AM.) But as with many things, we humans are not exactly good at judging how drunk we are.

“I ain’t tha’ drunk, I can drive us.”

“Whadaya talkin’ bout?  I’m not tipsy, I can totally work that chainsaw.”

“I’s a barely had any beers, a cours’ my dick still works.”

Likewise, I didn’t think I was that drunk at all when I first tried Aventinus.  But the fact is, I must have been, and my beer-drinking senses must have likewise been totally FUBAR, for me to think this beer shitty upon our initial introduction.

Sometime later, with nothing else to drink in the house, I begrudgingly had to drink another bottle of Aventinus still sitting around in the back of the fridge with some healthy salad dressings everyone buys but no one ever uses.  I was totally disinterested in the beer now, only drinking it to get the necessary proteins into my system.  And by proteins I mean alcohol.

With the first sip I was floored.  Whoa!  Where was that shitty beer I’d had weeks ago?!  This thing was amazing!  I was sober and I was blown away.  Smells of banana, cloves, and boozy alcohol.  In addition to those flavors, an incredibly creamy and smooth wheat and yeast taste.  Almost like a tripel with its primordial ooze of unfiltered and unfermented yeast.   A glorious beer, unquestionably.

Perhaps I should become one of those nerds I so hate that lock themselves in a sensory deprivation chamber when sampling a new brew.  Hmmm…wonder where I can find a guy to build a sensory deprivation chamber in Manhattan?

A-

Dogfish Head Pangaea

December 15th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Dogfish Head, Country: America, Grade: B-, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

7% ABV from a bomber

“So first of all, I picked her up without saying even a single word…”

I was launching into another epic tale, my friend Wes’s very favorite tale of mine, one he insisted I write up for the Vice Blog.  We sat around his luxury highrise apartment playing NHL 2008 on XBox, surely the best sports video game ever, and I say that as a guy who hasn’t watched a single hockey game since Chris Chelios was still in the league.  Huh?  He’s still in the league NOW?!

We drank a semi-rare score, a bottle of Pangaea, from one of my favorite breweries in the country, Dogfish Head.  I’m excited to try all new Dogfish Head offerings but especially this one as the beer is made with ingredients from all seven continents including most prominently crystallized ginger from Australia, moscavado sugar from Africa, basmati rice from Asia, and a bit of a “cheat” in using water from the McMurdo Science Station in Antarctica.  An interesting idea no doubt and a splendid name and label, yes, but ultimately, I found this beer to be a bit of a gimmick, it essentially just tasting like liquid ginger.

And, again, as I’ve been saying with a lot of DFH’s “weirder” offerings lately, I was glad to try it, but really don’t want to ever try it again.  I don’t know why DFH puts their oddball beers in bombers.  Even splitting it with a friend it becomes a bit of a chore to drink and you just end up resenting the beer even though it’s not actually half bad.  Perhaps they need to sell it in larger, more expensive quantities in order to give them the ability to actually make the inventive beers, something I completely understand.  I will admit that by bomber’s end I actually started warming up to the beer, thinking it might be most interesting with a meal of spicy Asian food.

“So first of all, I picked her up without saying a single word…”

This was back three years ago, I was a single man visiting the folks in Oklahoma City.  That city is burgeoning I suppose, but there’s still not tons for a young single man to do.  Even going out to drink can be a major pain in the ass, trying to find drivers to escort you and locations that actually have people in them.  Having said that, though, when a New Yorker like me finds a “happening” or even “kinda happening” or even “35% full” bar in Oklahoma City, it can make for a great time for reasons twofold:

A.  Shit is so fucking cheap.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been running a tab for an entire group of friends in Oklahoma City and after a full night of drinking–though remember, bars close at 2:00, at 1:00 the house lights go up, and at 1:30 hick bouncers start yelling at you, the patron who has spending good money for the past several hours, to “Get the FUCK outta my bar!!!!”–went to tab out and seen the bill and begun laugh.  Laughing like I’d heard the funniest joke of all time.  Countless beers, top-shelf cocktails, shots, greasy sampler platters for a party of five?  Let’s say $45.  “How much I owe you?” a friend says.  “On me!” I say!  Which is an expression any one will tell you the Vice Blogger has never said once in New York City.  But in Oklahoma City, a visiting New York instantly becomes a millionaire.

B.  And this is true for all American cities that aren’t Los Angeles and maybe Miami…women irrationally love a guy from New York City.  You don’t have to be handsome, rich, thin, interesting, straight, or even showered, you simply have to live in one of the five boroughs of the city of New York.  Not that a girl from Oklahoma City even knows what a borough is.

I found myself at some hell-hole of a bar in my former hometown.  It was packed, indeed, but that doesn’t matter as most people in OKC are still smoking and it’s actually legal to still puff indoors there.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m adamantly against nanny stateism and for debauchery and think humans should be allowed to smoke inside bars–if that is what the owner wishes–but I still can bitch about the stink.  Also, people in Oklahoma City don’t like to inter-group mingle, just finding their own booths or tables to smoke and chit-chat and I guess play quarters or something.

So I suppose I was a little grumpy at not finding any ugly local girls to talk to but I was nevertheless excited that I was drinking bourbon neats for $3.25.  You know you’re in a non-major metropolis if drinks cost something “…and a quarter.” It was Christmas day and surprisingly the bar was packed.  I hadn’t showered or tried to style my hair in any way because I don’t really care what I look like when I’m outside of New York.  I wore a dirty white Hanes undershirt with simply a pea coat over top of it.  I looked miserable.  I was talking to only my sister.  We were probably mocking former classmates of ours.

My friend Matthew–now a proud father and in a semi-common-law marriage–had been working a girl hard all night.  Like all night.  I wasn’t sure if he was making ground or not and I didn’t really care.  All I knew was that it was 1:30, the lights had just gone on, and I wanted to drink for the next one, two, seven hours.

“Hey Matthew, any fucking place we go get a drink now?”

Matthew turned to me for the first time in an hour or so.  The girl he was flirting with turned toward me as well.  A gentleman, he introduced us.

“Allison, this is my friend, Aaron.”

She stuck out her hand aloofly.

“He’s from New York.”

Her eyes bulged out of her head, if she had a dick she would have got a boner, and “NEW.  YORK.  CITY?” she exclaimed and pulled me in for a hug.  “It is so great to meet you.”

She all but pushed Matt out of the way to get to me.  I still hadn’t said a word to her.  Do I feel bad that when I–or any of the other 4.1 million-ish New York men–go to other measly cities we get treated like George Clooney simply because we pay ungodly amounts of rent and know how to read a subway map?  Well…yeah, actually I kinda do.  But, in the same way I feel a bit embarrassed if I have to use a bridge to hit a shot in billiards.  I’m still gonna take credit for the sunk ball and I’ll still hook up with the girl.

Matthew’s a smart guy and he already had seen the folly of his ways.  The folly of telling “his” girl I was from New York.

“So, do you know any place to drink, Aaron?” said “my” girl.

Actually, I had just thought of one.  Before leaving the house that night I’d been searching through my parents’ home for a snack and come across the motherload.  My parents are essentially teetotalers nowadays yet I guess they continued receiving bottles of liquor as gifts over the years and kept them in one out-of-the-way cabinet.  Earlier that night I’d found that stock, and there was plenty, ranging from the normal (Grey Goose, Johnnie Walker Black, Crown Royal) to the “What-asshole-gave-you-that-as-a-gift?” (Hennessey, Malibu Rum, something that looked like moonshine and had tropical fruits floating in bottle.)

“Actually I do…everyone to my parents’ house.”

My sister stared at me like, “Really?”  I was wasted off $3.25 bourbons so I nodded back, “Yes, really.”

A group of about ten of us headed to my parents’ home, my annexed girl giving me a ride.  I had the foresight to make everyone park one street over.  I was 26 years old, but my parents, especially my mom, is not one for reckless debauchery.  I made everyone, save my sister and Matthew, stand around the corner of the front door as I unlocked it.  My mom has ears like a hawk and always awakens when I get home from boozing.  She came out of her room.

“Hey mom, I invited Matthew over to hang out for a little bit.”

My mom loved Matthew who was maybe my oldest friend, one I had met when we were both three-year-old wunderkinds in the four-year-old preschool class at the Jewish daycare Matthew’s Christian family had inexplicably enrolled him in.

“Oh that’s fine.  Hi, Matthew.  Good night.”

My mom went back into her room and then me and my sister and friends old, new, and just met got wasted, polishing off literally every drop of booze in the house, though I wouldn’t learn this til later.

Noon.

I awaken.

A pulsating headache.

I hear my loud family awake and romping around.  My dad cooking a late brunch in the kitchen.  My mom roughhousing with the dogs in the living room.

Beside me, in my twenty-five-year-old twin bed that still has NFL sheets on it, the naked girl from last night.  How many words have I said to her in my life?  I don’t even know her name.  All I know is that she is fucking naked and my parents are nearby.

Now my parents are the kind of people that have no respect for boundaries.  The kind of people that have no problem just opening a door and marching into your bedroom.  In fact, every previous morning of this little Christmas vacation my mom and/or father had, without knocking, entered into my room with the wild dogs to wake me up at whatever point they deemed fit.  I was certain we were mere seconds from that happening again.  My childhood bedroom didn’t have a lock.

I started shaking the girl, trying to wake her ass up.  She wouldn’t bulge.  It was like she was dead.  I stared at the Magic Johnson poster on my wall, what had become of my life?  Could I get an assist, Earvin?  I shook her some more, which jarred something loose and caused her to begin to loudly snore.  I was kinda freaking out, and I wasn’t sure why.  I was a fucking grown man, I could do whatever I want.  Right?

Even moreso being that both my sisters, both younger than me, each in a bedroom on either side of mine, had their boyfriends in town for the holidays and were sleeping with them every single night, something my conservative parents surprisingly never had a problem with.

I thought, fuck it, I’ll just wake this girl up, march her through the house toward the front door and proudly proclaim,

“Good morning mother and father, this is the one-night stand I had last night.”

And that would be that.

Naw, I couldn’t do that.  I didn’t need my parents to know I was the kind of person that got wasted and had promiscuous liaisons with girls I picked up through the most frivolous of reasons.  Actually, I laughed to myself, the real reason I didn’t want my parents to see my one-night stand was because she was ugly.  Well, not ugly, but kinda just mediocre.  A six out of ten.  Yeah, which made her a nine out of ten in Oklahoma, but I digress.  I would have proudly marched a beauty out of my room, let my parents know that their son had some serious long-ball power, but I couldn’t disappoint them with my previous night’s middling lay.

I went to the bathroom to wash my face and game plan.  I ran into my sister in the hall way.  She snickered.  “So whatever happened to that girl last night after I went to bed?”  She really didn’t know.

“She’s still in my room.”

“BULLSHIT!”

“Shhhhhhhhh…”

I shrugged.  You doubt me, sibling?  I opened the door to my room a crack.  My sister peaked her head in.  The girl’s bare ass was hanging outside the comforter.  My sister started cracking up.  I saw nothing funny about it.

I went back into my room and shook the girl as hard as possible.  She finally awoke.  Now I don’t know about you, but if I woke up–as a mid-twenties adult–in the childhood bedroom of a stranger I had just had a one-night stand with, I would be a little disturbed and perturbed with myself.  Not this one.  Uh uh.  She casually smiled.  “Mornin.’”

I would have been like, “Where the hell am I?  What the fuck happened?  Are those your parents I hear????  Is that Walter Payton on this pillow?”  Again, not this one.  She just yawned, noted she was hungry for an omelet.

I walked over to my bedroom window, the sill covered with all my childhood sports trophies.  I began to clear them away.

“What are you doing, Aaron?”

“I really apologize for this, but you have to jump out my window.  I don’t want you to deal with my parents.  It’s better for both of us.”

“OK.”

I liked this girl, nice, supplicating, and malleable.

She began to casually get dressed, staying naked far longer than a normal person would, slowly, slowly, slowly, putting on each sock and then…

A knock on my door.   SHIT!

I nodded at her to get under the covers and hide.  The end game was near and my parents weren’t going to be humiliated by their son’s pathetic pick-up.  She did as she was told.

I opened the door a crack.  It was my sister.  She had just remembered–just remembered!–that her bedroom had a rarely-used side door that we could allow Elvis to leave the building through.  Perfect.

The girl got dressed, we quickly ushered her through the hallway, into my sister’s bedroom, and then out the door.

Once the girl was outside my sister and I started madly cackling.  We ran to the front of the house and its windows, spying on the girl as she walk-of-shamed across several lawns and to her car parked on the next block.  Mission accomplished.

We headed to the kitchen for breakfast where my sister continued to make countless thinly-veiled references to my miserable hook-up, my parents somehow never catching on.  They were just mad me, my sister, and Matthew had somehow drank fifteen bottles of their booze in one night.  “Your father and I were gonna drink that one day!”

B-