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Archive for July, 2009

AleSmith YuleSmith

July 31st, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: AleSmith, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

8.8% ABV from a bomber

Listening to High School Kids Discuss Their “Favorite” Beers When It’s Clear They’ve Never Tasted Them Before

The setting:  a bowling alley in Port Jefferson, Long Island, Thursday night, 11:00 PM*
Our principles:  three pimple-faced high school boys, approx. age 15

“So…uh…what’scha favorite beer?”

“Uh…I like…Sam Adams…(?)”

“Yeah.  Yeah, me too.”

“Which one?”

“Which one?”

“Yeah, like, which…flavor?”

“I like the…uh…normal one.”

“Me too.  Not the light one.”

“Light beer is for pussies, right?”

“What my old man says.”

“The Summer one’s good.”

“Smooth.”

“Oktoberfest?”

“Oktoberfest is nice to have at certain times.”

“In October?”

“Exactly.”

“The Winter one?”

“Too…”

“Much?”

“Yes.  What I was gonna say.”

“Heavy.”

“Guinness is heavy.”

“The heaviest.”

“Like a full meal.”

“But I like it.  I drink it with meat and potatoes.”

“I do too.”

“I like it…uh…cold.”

“Cool.”

“Some people like it…warm?”

“British dudes.”

“Irish…?”

“That’s right.”

“You gotta have it on tap.”

“Some beers are better on tap.”

“But some are better…bottled.”

“Yeah…bottled.”

“Do you like foreign beers?”

“Love ‘em.”

“Me too.  Which…ones?”

“Which.  Ones?  Hmmm…”

“…”

“Foster’s!”

“Yes!”

“Australia.”

“Exactly.”

“Delicious.”

“Delicious.”

“Blue Moon is some good foreign shit too.”

“Girly.”

“Girly yeah, but good shit.”

“Good shit.”

“…”

“What’s the best beer for beer pong?”

“Millers.” “Coors.”

“Coors.”  “Miller.”

“Natty!”

“Natty!”

“Yeah, Natty.  Just not Bud.”

“Just not Bud.”

“Like fuckin’ water.”

“Fuckin’ water.”

“…”

“So…?”

“So…?

“Oh hey?!  D’ya like Scotch?”

“I love Scotch.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Me too.”

“Which Scotches…?”

As this teen machismo beer charade parade continued, I considered going to actually buy these kids their first ever beers.  (I’ve long been a proponent of corrupting our nation’s youth who are already trying their damnedest to be corrupted if it simply weren’t for those pesky age laws.)  Unfortunately, the bowling alley’s only “craft” offerings–and, yes, the beer menu did actually have a column labeled “craft beer”–were deplorable brews such as Shock Top, Leinenkugel, Killians Red, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.**

I refused to corrupt these fine kids with such garbage.  I mean, imagine if your first career beer had been something as sublime as AleSmith’s divine YuleSmith.  Why you’d…probably detest it.  You’d think this top 100 beer in the world to be too piney, too floral, with far too much grapefruit, and too smooth of malt balance.  You’d think it too fresh smelling, too “West Coast,” too drinkable, too boozy and bitter.  And, yet, I think it one of the better DIPA’s I’ve ever had.***

A

*Do not ask why I was there.

**The “import” section was even worse.

***Much confusion here and maybe a reader can help me out in trying to figure out whether I drank the summer or winter YuleSmith.  Quoth AleSmith:

Our most popular seasonal ale, YuleSmith is brewed twice a year in two different, yet similar styles:  An Imperial/Double IPA and an Imperial/Double Red Ale.

For the winter season, YuleSmith is brewed as an Imperial Red Ale. This version is maltier, more balanced, and darker in color than the summer version. Although quite malty, big hop flavors and aromas are abundant making this an unforgettable winter warmer.   Winter YuleSmith is packaged in traditional holiday red and green.

Soooo…based on my red & green bottle above, it appears I got the winter release.  But why had the bar just got their bottles in?  And why was it so very IPA-y?  Alas…it was damn good.

Lost Abbey Angel’s Share(s)

July 29th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: The Lost Abbey, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Strong Ale

Who says Twitter is useless?

Well, pretty much everybody who isn’t producing bad movies that they don’t want you to know are bad via word of mouth and Iranian elections protesters that no one is paying attention to.  I too found one swell use for it recently.  Allow me to elucidate.  Back in May I attended the SAVOR beer festival in our nation’s capital.  As is the case at most classy events–weddings, Bar Mitzvah’s, junior proms I’m chaperoning–I arrived appropriately soused.  And, when I’m appropriately soused, I’m inappropriately confident in my ability to seduce, impress, and entertain people.  Usually women.  But in this case, at SAVOR, I drunkenly marched up to Lost Abbey’s brewmaster Tomme Arthur and proudly slurred to him that just the previous day his Serpent’s Stout had handily defeated the more-legendary Deschutes Abyss in a blind stout drink-off my friends and I had conducted.  With a friendly smile and not much more, he seemingly dismissed me in the same way countless women have dismissed my drunken inveiglery.

Nevertheless, that next week after having typed up a post reporting on that very same Imperial Stout Drink-off, I then tweeted to the masses:

My imperial stout drink-off btwn: @lostabbey Serpent’s @DeschutesBeer Abyss & Avery The Czar http://tinyurl.com/ry9c7k

(If you know nothing about Twitter, @’ing someone else’s screenname creates a link which allows that user, in the cases above, Lost Abbey and Deschutes, to read the tweet I posted.)

Well, lo and behold, a few hours later I got an e-mail from the big man himself, Tomme Arthur, who had seen my tweet, read my Vice Blog post, and been compelled to write me.  Excerpted…

“…I actually remember our conversation from Savor so score one for sobriety!  Send me your address where you would like some goodies sent and we’ll return the love…”

Not bad.  “Goodies.”  I assumed I’d be getting some keychains, bumper stickers, bottle openers, perhaps a t-shirt or some glassware.  Which would have been great.  So imagine my shock then when a massive package arrived the next week from FedEx, which I actually had to sign for and show my ID to prove I was 21–I was getting anxious!–and in which I found neatly packed a bottle of the Lost Abbey’s swell saison Carnevale and a bottle each of both their bourbon and brandy barrel-aged Angel’s Shares, two legendary West Coast rarities I thought I may never touch as long as I should live.

This previous Friday, friend and fellow beer blogger The Captain was visiting NYC and I joined him at his hotel room for an epic beer tasting–more of which I will discuss tomorrow–but which we led off with both Angel’s Share.

Brandy Barrel-Aged (2008)

12.5% ABV 375 mL bottled

First up was the lately-much-maligned brandy barrel-aged.  At one time, and we’re talking recently, like as recent as earlier this year, I can recall it being in the top 30 or so of Beer Advocate’s Top Beers on Planet Earth, but the events surrounding this very year’s release and some questionable carbonation levels–and some bitchy holy-than-though beer folks–caused it to have a most precipitous fall into oblivion.  I wasn’t sure what to expect other than that I would surely like the bourbon barrel-aged Angel’s Share better because, I mean, ipso facto, I like bourbon better than brandy.

I was grossly wrong.  This beer was absolutely sublime.  Smelled nearly identical to the glorious J.W. Lees Harvest Ale port casked beer, a glorious beer in and of itself.  This is called a strong ale, but the taste is very much that of a barley wine.  Dark caramel malts, tons of vanilla and oak flavors, a nice little candi hint, and of course a perfect amount of sweet, sweet brandy.  The brandy and the beer combine so flawlessly it’s amazing.  It’s like they were made for each other.  Truly a special and unique offering.  As for carbonation, it is indeed negligable, but I hardly cared.  This is a 12.5% fairly flat beer with a rich, syrupy, and luxurious mouthfeel.  And that’s how it should be in my opinion.  What, would you want, a fizzy, efferevescent beer with these same flavors?  Can’t please everybody I guess, but you sure pleased me, Lost Abbey.  And I’d be saying that even if I hadn’t gotten this expensive beer for free!  (Sorry for bragging, I got excited.)

A

Bourbon Barrel-Aged (2009)

12.5% ABV 375 mL bottled

OK, so Lost Abbey is the first brewery to ever send me free shit, which automatically makes them an inductee into The Vice Blog’s Turn-Me-Into-A-Shameless-Shill Hall of Fame, but luckily they are one of the finest breweries in America and I don’t need to shamelessly shill for them, I can be a straightshooter.  I had saved the bourbon barrel-aged Angel’s Share for second because nothing ruins my drinking experience more than having beer in qualitative descending order as opposed to ascending (see my recent De Struise tasting.)

For as much as people had been bashing the brandy barrel-aged, the bourbon barrel-aged had continued to get near unanimous praise, holding steady high on the BA Top 100, often drifting into the top ten even.  I love bourbon and I love bourbon-barreled beers, so I thought this would be a masterpiece.  But, you know, even though it was very, very, very good, it simply wasn’t as good as the brandy offering.  It was much hotter.  The taste harsher on the palate.  Is that due to the barreling or the year?  Hard to say.  But based only on what I tasted, I simply don’t feel like the bourbon combined quite as well with the strong ale as the brandy did.  Don’t get me wrong though, this is still a great beer, absolutely worth locating.  I kinda just wish I’d set it aside for a little longer to let the booziness calm down and mellow out, the bourbon mix into the beer a little better.  Hopefully I’ll get to do that some day.

And maybe Twitter can help me out some more…

A

Old Rasputin XII

July 28th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 9 Comments | Filed in Brewer: North Coast, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Stout

Craft Beer Benders

It shrinks my liver, doesn’t it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yeah. But what it does to the mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I’m above the ordinary. I’m competent. I’m walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I’m one of the great ones. I’m Michaelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I’m Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I’m Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I’m John Barrymore before movies got him by the throat. I’m Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them. I’m W. Shakespeare. And out there it’s not Third Avenue any longer, it’s the Nile. Nat, it’s the Nile and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra.
–Ray Milland, “The Lost Weekend”

When I own a brewery we’ll make a beer called Methadone-ale.  A clean and near-flavorless low ABV session beer packed with healing nutrients which will help ween a man off the shit coursing through his body from a lost day, a lost weekend, a lost week of aggressive imbibing.

I’m finally free after what ultimately ended up being an eleven-day craft beer bender.  Through a confluence of events, parties, friends visiting, friends to visit, dates, meetings, and just general ennui, I was forced, forced I say!, to drink heavily for all these days.  Beginning in Philadelphia two weeks ago at the legendary Monk’s, ending just yesterday at Union Hall in Brooklyn, and knocking off along the way several states, cities, many famous watering holes, and many more famous beers, I finally have a respite right now.  My body is in pain though.  My mind is putty.  I must have lost five to ten IQ points in the time.  I am in full detox mode and it hurts.

We craft beer drinkers like to pretend we aren’t alcoholics, and most of us aren’t, technically, but many of us would be lying to say we aren’t at least drunkards.  Whether intentionally or accidentally.  Luckily, most of the macro drinking world isn’t aware of these facts.

They see a man getting wasted on the cheapest beer in the house, the thriftiest rotgut vodka around, and the sensors go off:  ALCOHOLIC.

They see a man like me slowly sipping a dark and viscous beer out of a chalice, a snifter, and they think: “What a classy young gent.”

If they only knew!

So the alcoholic is absolutely pummeling his body with Bud Lites and Popov vodka and Wild Turkey shots, seeing how fast he can get these into his system, the carcasses of label-peeled beer bottles and sticky shot glasses in his wake, and I’m slowly sipping an Old Rasputin XII.  Taking a good hour at least.  Probably more.  But, naw, he’s no alcoholic they say when they see me.  He’s a “connoisseur.”  I was psyched to locate the what-I-assumed-was-very-rare 12th Anniversary bottling of North Coast’s flagship stout Old Rasputin and I paid mightily for it.  The most expensive bottle of beer I’ve ever bought quite frankly.  Was it worth it?  Eh, perhaps.  Is fermented liquid ever “worth” it?

From what I understand, simply the “normal” and very good Old Rasputin aged in bourbon barrels, this is one delicious stout. However, it simply lacks a little “oomph.”  An ineffable je ne sais quoi to make it an unequivocal classic.  I like really, really boozy, bourbony, bourbon-barreled beers–Goose Island Bourbon County and Brooklyn Black Ops to name two–and this one doesn’t quite have that potency.  But it’s still good and very well made.  Incredibly smooth and silky, chocolately malts with more hints of vanilla than a full-out assault of bourbon and oak, and a nice, tingly little carbonation.  A thinner, less syrupy mouthfeel than I would expect and desire too.  So was it worth it?  Yes.  But only one time I would say.  I would never pay what I paid for it again, unlike other prohibitively highly priced stouts like the aforementioned Black Ops which I’m always happy to make it rain for.*

So how can that man drinking an Old Rasputin XII–a beer we’ve never heard of!–be an alcoholic or a drunkard?!  That man’s refined!

But he probably is one.  Just not one like all the other ones.  Like youse guys.

Differences between a craft beer drunk and a normal drunk:

1.  Price — Even in uneconomical Manhattan, a drunkard can belly up to a barstool at a classic dive like Rudy’s, Desmond’s, Doc Holiday’s, and drink the night away with $6 pitchers, $2 cans, $3 shots.  Even soak the beer up with gratis hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, and the like.  And if he’s friendly with the bartender, which he will be since the bartenders are likewise drunks and drunks are friendly to drunks, quid pro quo–usually–he’ll get out for under a single Andrew Jackson.  Meanwhile, us craft beer alcoholics are cavalierly ordering $50 rare bottles from the back room, “sessioning” with $10 barleywine snifters, and nightcapping with a $12 stout pour at 3 AM.  And for us, the bartenders never seem to knock on the bar, turn over an empty shot glass, and “Next round’s on me!” when you’re throwing back Ommegong Rouge at the Ginger Man.

2.  Speed — Low-brow alcoholics crack me up.  Striving for “nirvana,” drunkenness, yet throwing down cans of low-ABV macro-crap.  As Clay Davis would say, “Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet,” that’s going to take you all night to get buzzed.  Meanwhile, us craft beer drunkards can enter a bar at 5:05 and be wasted by 5:30, well before the happy hour rush, after having only had a pint of Oaked Unearthly and a snifter of Chimay.

3.  The people — You’re a standard alcoholic, you’re hanging with the unsavory hoi polloi of the vomit-soaked dive bar scene.  Fellow belching beerbellies too lit up and full of carbonation to possibly have a clever conversation.  But us beer snobs are in fine wood-panneled establishments, soft jazz playing, interesting chatter, real swank scenes, when we get our drunk on.  A buncha prententious a-holes you might even say.  Surroundings paint a false picture of realities.  A false picture of non-drunkardness.  But, honestly, some “established” craft beer bars have been the sites of the rowdiest nights I’ve ever seen.

4.  Lack of care — If I were to polish off ten pitchers of Miller High Life, a friend, a drinking buddy, the fucking bartender would probably say, “Why don’t you go home buddy, you’ve probably had enough for tonight.”  But no one’s EVER going to say that to me:  “You’ve had enough, pal.  Call a cab.”  Enough?!  Why I’ve only had three beers all night!  Admittedly a 120 Minute, a bomber of Stone Old Guardian, and a Goose Island Nightstalker.  But still, that’s just three beers!  No one ever has a weepy intervention** with a craft beer “addict.”  “I think you drink too much, pops.”  Too much?!  I only had one beer on Saturday night!  Yes, technically true, but wasn’t it a bomber of Serpent’s Stout?

5.  Hangover — I unfortunately don’t (usually) get that hungover from craft beer.  I say unfortunately because it doesn’t teach me any lessons.  And one is supposed to learn lessons when they do harmful things to themselves. Frank Sinatra would probably feel sorry for me, but I feel sorry for these drunkards waking up with pulsating headaches, the adjunct cheap ingredients acting like a tornado inside their skulls.  Better ingredients, better hangovers, your desire to get drunk again not muted whatsoever by any worries.

6.  Productiveness — I’ve been perpetually drunk the last few weeks.  If I was just a measly alcoholic I would only have to show for that a protruded gut, a bulbous W.C. Fields nose and bloated face, and a pickled liver.  And while I may have a few of those things myself, as a craft beer drinker, my rampant alcoholism also allowed me to knock off twelve, count ‘em, twelve Beer Advocate Top 100 beers, nearly one per day, during this recent binge.  Why, that’s a major accomplishment!

I’m no alcoholic, I’m an ambitious overachiever!

A

*On a somewhat deplorable note about North Coast’s bottling of Old Rasputin XII.  It appears to be in a 750 mL bottle, and goddamn it’s certainly heavy enough to be a standard 750 mL bottle, but it’s got the thickest Harry Carey glasses bottom you’ve ever seen in your life, making it deceptively large and heavy when it fact it only holds a paltry 500 mL.  You’ll be sipping a glass thinking, “Swell, and I got at least another full glass to go.”  But, no, no you don’t.  The bottle is completely empty despite it’s great heft.  You’ll be stunned.  Dump it upside down searching for liquid.  But it ain’t there.  And all you’re left with is a heavy trophy of a bottle to shoot BBs at.

**Best reality show on TV and #2 ain’t even close!

Founders Double Trouble & Devil Dancer

July 27th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Founders, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Style: IPA

Double Trouble

9.4% ABV bottled

I’ve finally gotten more access to Founders beers which is a great thing because they make some fabulous brews wrapped by some of the best labels in the business.  (Turn your computer upside down to watch the faces change on this bottle.  I’m not responsible for any injuries if you have a desktop though.)  Two weekends ago I gorged myself on Founders double and “triple” IPAs all weekend, and here are my findings.

Double Trouble is incredibly bitter in both smell and taste but remains very drinkable and very delicious for a double IPA.  Citric, zesty, and hoppy, with just a tad of tasteable maltiness, certainly less than most higher ABV DIPAs like Unearthly or 90 Minute.  Fairly carbonated with a nice mouthfeel, this is a really enjoyable beer that goes down quite easily.  Didn’t floor me but incredibly well-crafted and I’d love to add it to my rotation.

A-

Devil Dancer

12% ABV bottled

The triple IPA is a somewhat phony style designation, but, then again, most style designations border on arbitrary so if Founders whats to have a triple IPA, then they shall!  Nicely amped up and ramped up from Double Trouble, Devil Dancer is also incredibly bitter on the smell but very malty on the taste as well.  If that paradox makes sense.  Hoppy and piney, thick and gooey, this beer is not super drinkable, but at that ABV what is to be expected?   A definite beast of a beer, it tastes a tad like a more quaffable 120 Minute (HA!) and is definitely worth seeking out.

A

Pannepøt - Old Fisherman’s Ale & Black Albert

July 22nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: De Struise, Country: Belgium, Grade: A plus, Grade: A-, Style: Quadrupel, Style: Stout

Never have I religiously continued to watch a show I so detest as I have continued to watch the deplorable “Entourage.”  For whatever reason, every Sunday night at 10:30 I’m back in front of the TV cringing through twentysomething hard-to-endure minutes of lame plots, boring cardboard characters, excruciatingly mundane and unoriginal ideas, and trite dialogue.

I don’t even think Doug Ellin and his cast and writing staff are still trying.  Take last Sunday’s episode which was supposed to end with a moment of great pathos, when, in the final scene, dunderheaded charismaless “A-list” movie star Vincent Chase returns to his house alone, confused, and saddened that he has to spend the wee hours of the night with just his brain to keep him company.  (”Entourage” viewers lament this fact on a weekly basis.)

Who hasn’t been crushed by an overwhelming sense of loneliness and despair?  Everyone has.  And we viewers might feel for Vinnie if not just an hour earlier in his night, in the episode’s penultimate scene, he got to fuck a 10-out-of-10-hot one-night-stand in his brand new Escalade.  Oh, not to mention, Vinnie has just attended the premiere of his new soon-to-be-both-critically-and-commercially-successful movie, Martin Scorsese’s “The Great Gatsby” retelling, in which he stars.  (Though it’s hard to imagine what role the effete and dull Vincent could possibly be fit to play.  My bet’s on Daisy Buchanan.)  And, have we mentioned that the house he’s alone in is a massive double-digit bedroomed mansion in the Hollywood Hills?!  Oh, whoa is me, Vinnie Chase!

And that demonstrates the exact problem with “Entourage.”  Its storytelling lacks any sort of tension, any sort of drama, any sort of human problems, which are the basis for truly good comedy.  Each week new-but-similar plot pivot points are brought up and within minutes they are solved and Vinnie and the boys go back to living a life of mind-numbing leisure.  Which would be perfectly fine if it was actually enjoyable to watch.  Which it’s not.

It’s always been hard to buy Vincent Chase as a huge movie star and the “best young actor of his generation” because, well, the actor that plays him, Adrien Grenier, is neither handsome enough, talented enough, or interesting enough to be anything more than a pay cable semi-star which ipso facto means he is not a “Vincent Chase.”  Most of the other acting, though, is admittedly passable.  Jerry Ferrara as Turtle is one-note but enjoyable enough, perhaps the only lovable character still on the show.  Kevin Dillon as Johnny Drama used to be a highlight of each episode with a good self-deprecatingly inward zinger or two toward his own lackluster career but now he’s become just a pathetic old manchild more concerned with making fun of who good buddy “E” is or is not fucking.  (In one of the lamest running plot gags in “Entourage” history, and that’s saying something, Drama has become obsessed with razzing E for maybe still having feelings for former flame Sloan as played by Emmanuelle Chriqui.  I don’t know about you, but I usually goof on my friends that are fucking one of the hottest women since the invention of breasts and vaginas.)  Speaking of E, Kevin Connelly seems to have developed some disease which is causing him to shrink at a rather alarming rate.  Always lilliputian, this season Connelly has become downright pocket-size, looking like some crows-feet-eyed ventriloquist dummy who gets to hang out with a movie star and fuck women that could tomahawk dunk on his wee head.  (Hmmm…that gives me an idea for a new pilot.)  I do actually like Connelly and think he is a skilled enough actor but Ellin does him no favors with the dialogue he places into his tiny mouth.  You can almost see Connelly cringing as he delivers feeble line after feeble line.  I feel bad for him.  Even Jeremy Piven as agent Ari Gold has become downright boring, though he’s such a good actor and such a better character than everyone else that by comparison he seems to be operating on an incredibly elevated comedic stratosphere.

Lame plots, boring cardboard characters, excruciatingly mundane and unoriginal ideas, and trite dialogue.  You might say, “Entourage” isn’t supposed to be good, it’s junk food for the brain.  Fair enough, but it’s not even good junk food.  It’s not Sour Patch Kids but Brand X Sour Gooeys.  I could stomach the show in its first few seasons when it was actually presenting a world anyone of us would want to be a part of:  lots of fast rides, hard parties, and bare breasts.  But these ennui-riddled characters don’t do any of these things any more and it’s actually alarming how few bare breasts now appear on the show per week.  You get as much out of the “On next week’s ‘Entourage’” thirty-second teaser as you do watching a full episode.

If you want some actually enjoyable comedy junk food for the brain to replace “Entourage,” might I suggest Showtime’s “Californication,” now through two seasons.  While no masterpiece and perhaps not even a great or even very good show, it is an incredibly enjoyable show and an eminently digestible one.  The story of a famous New York novelist turned Hollywood fuckup, “Californication” revels in presenting onscreen similiar Los Angeleno pleasures as “Entourage,” laziness, driving fast cars around all day with no purpose, drinking, drug use, partying, and promiscuous sex, but it is all shown in such a more interesting and realistic way.  Like “Entourage” the show isn’t much about “anything” but it has sharp dialogue, funny and original situations, three-dimensional characters, the effortless charm and comedic chops of David Duchovny who is truly a great actor, and a Warren Zevon-infused soundtrack.  If you start this show on DVD or OnDemand you will burn through it quickly.  You won’t be talking about it or obsessed with it by any means by the time it’s over, and aside from Duchovny’s work you will have probably forgotten it within weeks if not months, but while watching it you will be highly entertained.

Going back to the late great Warren Zevon, his best song is fittingly “The French Inhaler,” a scathing critique of Hollywood dreams gone awry.  An all-time favorite track of mine, listening to the lyrics I can’t help but think the crummy “Entourage” would do good to take its cues from the brilliant song to realize how truly worthless it is.  How soon it will be just another piece of shit in television history if it doesn’t have a little course correction.  Were he not dead Zevon could have easily been talking about “Entourage” when he wrote this great piece of poetry.

How’re you going to make your way in the world, woman
When you weren’t cut out for working
When your fingers are slender and frail
How’re you going to get around
In this sleazy bedroom town
If you don’t put yourself up for sale

Where will you go with your scarves and your miracles
Who’s gonna know who you are
Drugs and wine and flattering light
You must try it again till you get it right
Maybe you’ll end up with someone different every night

All these people with no home to go home to
They’d all like to spend the night with you
Maybe I would, too

But tell me
How’re you going to make your way in the world, woman
When you weren’t cut out for working
And you just can’t concentrate
And you always show up late

You said you were an actress
Yes, I believe you are
I thought you’d be a star
So I drank up all the money,
Yes, I drank up all the money,
With these phonies in this Hollywood bar,
These friends of mine in this Hollywood bar

Loneliness and frustration
We both came down with an acute case
And when the lights came up at two
I caught a glimpse of you
And your face looked like something
Death brought with him in his suitcase

Your pretty face
It looked so wasted
Another pretty face
Devastated
The French Inhaler
He stamped and mailed her
“So long, Norman”
She said, “So long, Norman”

I think I’m done with “Entourage.”  As the failed actress said to her pimp in “The French Inhaler”:

“So long, Norman.”

Pannepot (2006)

10% ABV bottled

I had the great fortune to try my first ever De Struise beers over the weekend, not coincidentally their two most famed creations, both mainstays on Beer Advocate’s Top 100 list.  First up, the supposed #43 beer in the world, Pannepot.  There is so much going on with this beer, it is truly as complex as they come.  Like a mix between a quad and a stout, maybe even a strong ale, it’s really hard to even accurately categorize it.  A potent aroma you can smell across the room, packed with tastes of coffee, bourbon, and vanilla along with subtle hints of candi, molasses, cookies, caramel, sugar, and spice and everything nice.  I’m not sure if this beer is oaked or not, but it sure tastes like it.  I can’t believe how much flavor is packed into this thing.  It reminded me of a glorious Rochefort 10 with a whole buncha spices mixed in.  A true highlight of my beer-drinking year!  Seek out at all costs.

A+

Black Albert

13% ABV bottled

Next up I had De Struise’s stout Black Albert which teeters at the bottom of the BA Top 100.  I found Black Albert a little too burnt, bitter, and dull for my liking.  A muted coffee flavor, the smell was more enjoyable than the taste.  Somewhat thin and quite drinkable for the highfalutin ABV, I just didn’t love it, yet I still had to admit it was good and well-crafted.  It just made me wish I was still drinking Pannepot.

A-

Ithaca Brute

July 20th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Ithaca Beer Company, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Wild Ale

An oldie but a goodie, by popular request…

Miss Maine

“Sean, you’re going to probably say I’m crazy…but you know who I think the hottest woman here is…?”

Sean looked around.  We were at our close friend Joe’s wedding up in Portland.  A large guest list filled a large reception room at a large chain hotel.  There must have been several dozen tables with at least a good looking woman or two at each.

I continued.  “I think the hottest woman here is her.”  I nodded halfway across the room where an older yet truly sublime woman stood alone.  Flowing auburn hair, perfectly symmetrical features, a heaving yet firm bosom coming as close as possible to the appropriate/inappropriate chasm without breaching it negatively.

“Oh yeah, she’s gorgeous,” Sean concurred.

“How old do you think she is?”

We were 26-year-old dopes at the time.  Even 30-year-old gals were too aged and sophisticated for us and this woman was clearly older than any we’d ever encountered at Hoboken’s finest watering (hell)holes.

“35?  40?”  I guessed.  I had no clue.  I was certainly not fit to man a weight/astrological sign/age guessing booth at the county fair.

“I don’t know, it’s hard to say, but she is absolutely phenomenal.  One of the best looking women I’ve ever seen at a wedding.”

“Agreed.  Is she married?  What’s her deal?”

She’d been alone for most of the cocktail hour, but as it wound down, she was joined by four of the cutest young girls you’ve ever seen.  Ages approximately spanning from four to eight and clearly of her beautiful loins.  Yet not a man in sight.

“Is she divorced?  Widowed?  Maybe her husband just couldn’t show?”

“Who knows.  Why?  You planning on hitting on her?  Think you got the goods to tack the F onto the MIL?”

“Maybe.”

“Ha!  She is so far out of your league in every single category it’s not even funny.  She would laugh in your face and spit in your eye if you so much as approached her.”

He was right.  But I was still young, brash, optimistic, and drunk.  And, anyways, if you can’t hook up at a wedding you are an abject failure in life.  I told myself this.  Yes, I thought I might have a chance just yet.

By now the guests were seated, the most beautiful MILF in the world flanked by two daughters on each side of her.  I was the Best Man and took the dais to deliver my speech.  Predictably, I killed it.  Oh, you’ve surely seen a good speech or two before but this time I motherfucking killed it.  Like Eddie Murphy “Raw” killed it.  I had the tuxedoed and ballgowned guests slayed, rolling around on the tacky industrial carpeted floor.  Hell, I had been so damn good, my Q-ratings quickly soared so far through the roof that I usurped the luster of the bride and groom.  Something you never want to do.

Though few of us will ever be celebrities, we all have those times in our lives where something we have done, or had happen to us, turns us into a provisional celeb for so ever brief of time.  Maybe just a few minutes, or even a few hours, perhaps even the whole night.

Well my bravura Best Man speech turned me into wedding celebrity numero uno for the remainder of the evening.  Men wanted to shake my hand, old folks wanted to Mazel Tov me, women wanted to flirt with me.

Though not the one woman I wanted to.

But still, who was she?  I called over Joe.

“Psst.  Who is the middle-aged piece of ass in the turquoise gown?”

“No idea.  Never seen her before in my life.  Yeah, she’s cute.  Hey, Shelly…” he called over his wife of just an hour.  “Do you know who that lady is with the sparkling necklace?”

“Her?!  That’s Miss Maine.”

“Miss Maine?”

“Yeah, she finished like 3rd in the Miss America contest one year.”

“What year?”

Shelly was getting borderline perturbed by my questions.

“I don’t know.  Sometime in the seventies.  She was a classmate of my mom’s.  She’s like 50.”

“50?!”

I didn’t care, she was gorgeous.  Yet I still couldn’t figure out a way to reach her.

When she was seated, she was surrounded by her little girls who she was clearly deeply devoted to.  Any time she stood to grab another beverage, hit the cake table, use the ladies room, she was surrounded by her phalanx of daughters.  And on the dance floor, the four surrounded their mother like a force field, she amazingly able to skirt the line between dancing erotically and like the best mom in the world.  Or maybe I was just sexualizing her to the nth degree.

It was no use, I couldn’t get anywhere close to her.  I would never get a chance to have a private tete-a-tete with her.  And, shit, even if I did somehow seduce her, then what?  Why we’d have to get a babysitter to watch her four daughters as we headed back to my hotel room to make sweet, sweet love.  Sean was a helluva friend, but I didn’t think he’d play babysitter just to facilitate the culmination of my fetishisms.  No one should trust their kids with Sean any how.

Finally, I decided to say “no mas” and give up.  I started drinking heavily and set my sights on the second most attractive girl at the event.  A girl my age.  A girl clearly into me.  We would indeed hook up that very night, we would amazingly become boyfriend and girlfriend eventually.

At 11:59 PM as the reception was all but a wrap, my girlfriend-for-the-night and eventual girlfriend-for-two-years excused herself to use the restroom.  Giving me my first moment of solitude perhaps all night.

I stood on the edge of the dance floor having a nice moment to myself.  A goofy, drunken and euphoric grin on my face as I replayed the pleasantries of the evening behind me, speculated on the perversities of the wee hours ahead of me.

There was almost no one left in the hall.  A few couples having one final musicless dance, the cheesy mustachioed DJ packing up his equipment, a hotel employee or two vacuuming.

And then…

A light tap on my shoulder.

I turned around to find myself face to face with Miss Maine.  She was alone.  If she was a 10 out of 10 from the, at closest, ten feet I ever get to her all evening, she was amazingly even more beautiful from close range.  Luminescent eyes, not a wrinkle in sight, taut and elastic skin, and clearly not a buck of “work” done on her.

I was speechless, only able to raise my eyebrows to implicitly say, “Yes?”

“I absolutely loved your speech.  I’ve been keeping my eye on you all night and I just wanted to say, whatever girl snatches you up, is the luckiest girl in the world.”

She smiled, leaned in and kissed my cheek, then immediately exited from the banquet hall and my life.

Brute

7% ABV (Batch #: E!010)

Picked up a bottle of Brute and several other new classics this weekend at Philly’s splendid Foodery store.  Brute, from Ithaca’s Excelsior! line, would end up being one of the most exciting beers I had in an over-indulgent great beer weekend.  Fermented in oak with three champagne yeasts, this wild ale acted as a splendid Saturday morning breakfast beer–quote Cash:  “The beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert.”–sparkly, carbonated, and effervescent with a nice sweet citron taste making this almost like a beer mimosa.  Of course it had a subtle sourness and maybe lacks a little complexity but this still remains one of the most balanced yet flavorful wild ales I’ve ever had.  Really enjoyed it.

A

Three Floyds Dark Lord Imperial Stout

July 16th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 8 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Three Floyds, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Stout

13% ABV bottled

My Drinking Life

Author’s note:  Inspired by a recent reading of Pete Hamil’s exquisite classic “A Drinking Life,” I decided to write my own imbibing bio.

I remember once when I was fifteen or so I walked into the living room and saw my dad drinking a beer while watching TV.  It was a Corona.  “What the fuck are you doing, dad?”  We cursed heavily and with great aplomb in my family, one of the few things my parents were highly laissez faire on.

“I’m having a beer, what?”

What?  What?!  I had never seen my dad have a single sip of alcoholic in his life.  And now all of the sudden he thinks he’s Homer Simpson, able to just come home from work, pop a beer, and veg out in front of the boob tube?  Where did this mystery bottle of beer even come from?!  He surely didn’t go to the store and buy it.  He wouldn’t even know how to do such a thing!

Suffice to say, alcohol did not really play a part in my parents’ or my life as a youth.  No, my parents weren’t teetotalers.  Alcohol just seemed to not interest them in the same way, say, American politics or CBS’s primetime lineup simply doesn’t interest me.*

Thusly, in high school I hardly drank at all which makes you think I must have been one of three things:

1.  A huge nerd

2.  A huge health nut.

3.  A huge religious freak

EH!  Wrong.  I certainly wasn’t Big Man on Campus Jock King Sirfucksalot or anything but I was quite popular, even the class president one year, though we all tend to overrate how high our approval ratings were at a younger age.  Likewise, though I played various sports year-round, my diet pretty much consisted of Taco Bell, McDonald’s, chain pizza, and the like.  I wasn’t exactly a foodie just yet.  And, even before my face necessitated shaving, I already was a virulent atheist amongst a sea of kids that thumped the bible, studied the bible, and quoted the bible on the back page of your yearbook (”Aaron, Have a terrific summer but never forget Proverbs 10:5 ‘He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.’”)  Not to mention, even if I wasn’t an atheist I was a Jew and we’re allowed to drink religiously from like age 5 on.**  Alas, the Manischewitz always made me start snoozing during the latter part of shul.

I never snuck off into the woods to drink, I never stole a nip of some uncle’s vodka and refilled the bottle with water, I never paid an older kid to get me a six pack from 7-11.  In 12th grade I got busted by the police for simply being at a party where underage people such as myself were drinking.  I’d only just arrived and had only had a single sip of cheap keg beer.  The schnook of an Oklahoma City cop tried to emasculate everyone by forcing those under eighteen years of age to call their parents on speaker phone in front of the entire party to tell them, “Mommy, daddy, Officer Jeffries has just busted an alcohol drinking party I was attending and you need to come pick me up lest I get a ticket from this kindly man.”  Pretty sure he broke protocol for what was a most cruel and unusual punishment.

Those eighteen or older like me didn’t have to call our parents but we were cited with a hefty Minor in Possession ticket and an ensuing court date.  The whole ride home after having picked me up, my histrionic mother cried and shrieked, “Now you’ll never get to go to college!”  “But mom, I’ve already been accepted.”  “Syracuse will find out and they’ll take your scholarships away!  They’ll throw you out of school!  You’ll have to go to some shitty community college!  Your future is ruined you fucking idiot!”  Eventually my court case was thrown out, my ticket was revoked, I was allowed to attend and even matriculate at Syracuse, and that still, amazingly, as far as I can recall, remains my only brush with the law.  Alcohol related brush that is.  Purely alcohol related brush that is.

At the aforementioned college, Syracuse, I drank just like everyone else, nothing special, nothing to brag about.  Thrown into a collegial melting pot with kids from major cities such as New York, LA, Chicago, and Miami, and, more significantly, kids from ramshackle blue-collar drinking towns such as Scranton, Pittsburgh, Utica, a kid from Oklahoma quickly realized how much of a bumpkin, how much of a drinking neophyte he truly was.  Many of these kids had not only been inside bars, they were regulars at bars already.  They didn’t just drink whatever they could score, they actually had favorite beers and liquors.  Admittedly, in retrospect, their favorites were shitty, but being that I only knew about those beers that had major network commercials and those liquors that had full-page ads in Sports Illustrated, I was duly impressed.

I shouldn’t have been.  What we, what everyone drank, in college was foul.  Kegs of shit like Milwaukee’s Best (”Beast”), cans of Natty and Genny Light, bottles of Labatt if we were splurging.  Plastic handles of Popov, airline bottles of Seagram’s 7 we’d stolen from whomever, fifths of Bacardi if we were super lucky.  Always mixed with a potent punch or a generic supermarket cola to make the vile liquor even less detectable.  We drank worse than many local bums.

By now I loved getting drunk, but I didn’t love drinking.  It was a means to an end.  I sucked it up for that first hour or so just to get to the ultimate euphoric feeling.  I eventually switched to potent Long Island Iced Teas just to ameliorate and expedite the process, and for economy’s sake (they were only $5 a pint at our favorite bar.)

I loved getting drunk, but I couldn’t help thinking:

This can’t be it.

This can’t be why everyone drinks.

There has to be more to this.

For thousands upon thousands of years, man has drunk, and man has considered beer and liquor the nectar of the God’s.  And I’m not talking about just the morons over the centuries, the beerbellies, the buffoons, the dummkopfs, the rubes throughout history.  No, I’m talking about truly smart people:  Pliny the Elder, US Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Edgar Allen Poe, Dorothy Parker, Hemingway, Ben Franklin, and Winston Churchill.  There was just no fucking way that these great people were praising something as horrific as Molson Ice from a tallboy can.

Yet, I seemed to be the only person my age questioning things.  The only person around having an existential drinking crisis.  Everyone else was perfectly content with sucking down vile pisswater so long as it eventually got them shit-canned.

There had to be more.  And I was going to discover it.  I was determined!

I was still more a liquor than a beer guy back at the turn of this millennium and now, while prebarring back in my college hovel with my friends, I’d get on the dial-up internet and go to cocktail websites, find one or two drinks that sounded interesting, that had a cool name, and then order them that very night.

I’m not proud to admit that I became the kind of twenty-two-year-old jackass who went to packed college bars on a Thursday night and would order a round of drinks for his friends like this:

“Yeah, could I get two of the $4 Coors pitchers for my friends, and for me…a Rusty Nail.”

To which, inevitably, a fellow classmate of mine, forced to tend bar to earn enough for the following semester, just trying to get through the night, maybe get a sexy female patron’s number, hopefully not have to clean up too much bathroom vomit, would incredulously reply:  “What the fuck’s a Rusty Nail?”

Luckily I’d memorized all the drinks I wished to try and I could proudly say, “Why that’s three parts Scotch and one part Drambuie.  Serve over ice in a rocks glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.”

“Uh…yeah…I don’t think I know how to make that.  I can pretty much only make ‘blanks’ and ‘blanks’ where both ingredients are named in the name or shots that slutty women drink to justify their promiscuous behavior.”

He’d turn over his shoulder to the “senior” bartender, some drop-out from our very college who was now twenty-five and still bartending to fund his drug and fucking young sorority girls habit, and call out, “Eh, Scotty?  We got Drambuie?”

“Dram–what?”

“–buie?”

“Buoy?  Like in the water?

“Drambuie?”

“Oh, yeah, I think I’ve seen a bottle of that stuff.”

And ten minutes later a dust-caked bottle of Drambuie would surface, the cap soldered onto the bottle by the sticky liquid and the fact that it hadn’t been twisted off in years, since the last time some wannabe had taken a gamble on it, and then the poor bartender, who by now had missed dozens of drink orders and ensuing tips, who had caused a line of peeved dipsomaniacs to congregate at the bar, would try his damnedest to make me a Rusty Nail.  And it would inevitably be overly heavy on the booze component because we were college kids and we made our drinks strong and, you know, who wouldn’t prefer more liquor in a drink than mixer?  Only a fool.

I feel bad about these years, this behavior of mine.  And most of the drinks I forced these poor bartenders to make were fucking horrendous.  Old man drinks from the roaring 20s when I guess people had more tolerance for absurd recipes that featured components like milk, honey, and even onions.  Sure, I discovered a great cocktail or two that I still throw back on occasion to this very day–a Manhattan, an Old-Fashioned, even a simple gin and tonic–but I mainly drank a lot of overpriced-for-a-college-kid and poorly-mixed-by-a-college-kid cocktails.

I was trying, I was embarrassing myself, and my drinking life was most certainly not improving.  Nor was my sex life as no twenty-one-year-old dame really wants to fuck the weirdo drinking a Sidecar in a bar loudly playing Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me.”  And I was getting drunker quicker than all my friends as I matched their watery pitchers of lite beer with Scotch and bourbon based drinks.

My first year out of college I moved to Hoboken, a helluva drinking town, anecdotally called the “per capita bar capital of America,” “more bars per block than any place else!” locals will tell you, but if you’ve ever done even a modicum of traveling in this country you’ll quickly learn there’s about a dozen places in America that make these same ludicrous and uncomfirmable claims (Austin, TX; Athens, OH; Lacrosse, WI; Newport, RI; Anchorage, AK; to name a few.)

In Hoboken I was fortunate enough to live with two friends that greatly shaped my drinking career.  One, an inveterate drunkard from Scranton taught me about manly bar culture.  How to get the bartender’s attention, how to order a drink, how to tip on a free round, how to drink a Guinness, how to throw back Irish whiskey, and how not to get 86ed for inappropriate behaviors.  Seemingly simple things to know now, sure, but so is kissing, yet everyone sucks at that the first times they try.  You have to learn these things somewhere.  The other friend, a well-heeled white boy from Cincinnati, Kevin, taught me about the finer vices in life.  Raised by a country club epicurean father, he knew about good Scotch, cigars, and vittles by the time he graduated from high school.  Not to mention, he’d spent a summer of college actually working in Belgium.  He told me that this was the greatest beer producing country in the world, first introducing me to the more ubiquitous Belgian fare:  Leffe, Hoegaarden, Chimay, and Duval.  All these beers absolutely fucking floored me.  Yes!  I was finally drinking, and getting drunk!, on good stuff.  My dreams were becoming reality.

Now, on Friday and Saturday nights, in the early evening, while our other friends were throwing back cheap pitchers at some dive, Kevin and I would go to Belgian bars like the wonderful Markt–then in the Meatpacking District–where we’d casually and coolly sit at the relaxed bar like two proper gents.  Enjoying delicious Belgian brews from their appropriately logoed and designed glasses–a revelation!–amongst Markt’s typical crowd of golddiggers and men that dress like celebrities (fedoras, sunglasses indoors, sneakers with pinstriped suit pants) but aren’t really celebrities (musicians without gigs, scenesters, “artists”).  Of course by drink four we were back down the street at the late, great Village Idiot where we would recklessly drink pitchers of Miller High Life, vomit onto the sawdust covered floor, try to find a woman sans STDs, and misplace our memories.  Yeah, real proper gents.

I still assumed American beer was shit, “fucking close to water” as they say, I mean it’s all but axiomatic isn’t it?, but this final barrier would change sometime later that year on my first ever visit to the glorious Ginger Man.  Strolling the garbage covered, urine soaked streets of the W. 30s while on a day date, looking for something to do, looking for clean air to breath, I recalled having read about this brilliant nearby bar with a gobsmackingly prodigious draught list.

I would later, upon becoming a regular, learn that this huge place is usually packed during happy hour and on evenings, but on this one particular Saturday afternoon it was completely empty. Me and my date were the only customers. (And, yes, I do take dates to dark bars in the middle of a beautiful weekend day. What, like I’m gonna go hold hands at a museum, Christ.)  The sole bartender on that first day of attendance was bored out of her wits. She needed to find some way to liven things up. You know how Baskin-Robbins lets you sample some of their 31 flavors with those little pink plastic spoons? Well, on this Saturday afternoon, the bartender let me sample many of the Ginger Man’s seemingly hundreds of craft beer draught offerings.

One tap that day immediately caught my eye: Arrogant Bastard. What a name! It was exactly what I thought I was at the time (I was actually just a Big Douchebag but that isn’t a great name for a beer). Arrogant Bastard’s gargoyle logo was so freaking cool too. Oh, and the taste! It was an eye-opening experience, like losing my virginity. I didn’t know beer could smell so good, look so good, and taste so fucking good.

Instantly, on the drunken spot, I declared Arrogant Bastard my favorite beer in the world. Believe me, it didn’t have that stiff of competition back then.  By the sober next day, after kicking the girl out of bed, I was on the Stone brewery website reading all I could about my new favorite brew. I even ordered an Arrogant Bastard t-shirt and pint glass. I wore my shirt proudly and often that ensuing year and it garnered much attention and chuckles, acting as a great conversation piece. I think most people assumed it was one of those faux-vintage pseudo-hip fake company t-shirts you get at Urban Outfitters.

“Nope, it’s a real beer,” I’d tell them, “It’s my FAVORITE beer.”

Wow. I thought I was so freaking cool for having such an “obscure” non-macro as my favorite brew. Back then it was pretty hard to find Arrogant Bastard. Only a few bars had it on tap and only a specialty store or two in the NYC area had it bottled. Now, of course, it’s one of the most ubiquitous craft beers around.  One I rarely even have much any more because I’ve come to take it so much for granted.  But, the few times per year I do have it, it brings back nostalgic memories much like it must have done when Proust bit into his madeleine.  Simply tasting it makes me feel young and dumb again.  And you can’t beat that.

From that point forward, my life would never be the same.  I discovered Beeradvocate.com and their “Top Beers on Planet Earth” list, printing it out in a minuscule footnote-sized font so I could keep it as a handy reference in my wallet at all times.  Now, whenever I hit a beer store or nice bar I would discreetly pull out my list and see if they had anything on it.  They rarely did.  An Old Rasputin here, a Victory Storm King there, but those were few and far between.  Even as recent as 2004/2005 most of these “great” beers simply could not just be stumbled upon, you truly had to seek them out.  And I still had no clue where to look and the majority of my friends certainly didn’t want to assist me in my new found hobby.  They all still preferred drinking Miller Lite.  But my drinking was still improving and I was on my own discovering new craft breweries to love by the week.  Not just Stone but Victory and Dogfish Head, Rogue, Allagash, and of course local favorite Brooklyn Brewery.

And now here I am in 2009, often drinking many of the finest beers in the world.  Such as the great and faux-limited Dark Lord.  OK, it is fairly limited, something like 20,000 bottles made per year, and, of course, only available on one day per year (aproposly, Dark Lord Day.)  And, yes, I couldn’t get it any other way than in being lucky enough to know a great guy like The Captain who kindly procured a bottle for me.  So I am indeed eternally grateful to have it.  I am blessed in my beer-drinking life.

Back in the mid-2000s, really so recently, I would look at the BA Top 100 and fantasize about having any of the big dogs.  I was near certain I would never, never, never get to even sniff any of the legendary bottles on that list from places like Russian River, Founders, and Three Floyds.  Where did you even go to get such oddities?!  Hell, as recent as 2007, probably the best, most highly-regarded beer I’d ever had was Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout.***  But now I get to try all the great stouts.

Dark Lord is a glass-staining black stout with a potent aroma of roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee, and stinging booze.  Additional tastes of dark fruits with just a hint of candi sweetness.  Smooth mouthfeel, neither too carbonated, nor too syrupy.  Wonderful and meaty, a top ten stout in the world for sure.  I didn’t quite like it better than Darkness or Kate the Great, but when we’re getting into such rarefied air, it’s like splitting hairs now, isn’t it?

And my drinking life goes on…

A+

(I’d be curious to hear other beer bloggers’ (or simply drinkers’) “A Drinking Life,” either in the comments or your own blogs.  Go for it!  Let’s make this an internet sensation!!!!!!)

*What’s that great Jim Gaffigan joke:  “When you don’t drink, people always need to know why. They’re like, ‘You don’t drink? Why?’ This never happens with anything else. ‘You don’t use mayonnaise? Why? Are you addicted to mayonnaise? Is it OK if I use mayonnaise?’”

**Not to mention, according to Dr. Drew on a recent episode of The Adam Carolla Podcast, Jews can’t even become alcoholics.  Something wacky about our Semetic blood.  Nice!

***I currently count some 58 beers I’ve had on the Top 100 as of this second.

Brooklyn Katz’s Ale

July 15th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: B-/C+, Style: Brown Ale

ABV unknown, on tap

(Earlier today a VB commentator wrote:  “why, oh why, is this becoming just another beer blog?… get ye into the streets and find us adventure!”  Though this post will be “just another beer blog” post, mea culpa!, I want to assure this kindly man, or woman, that I will be back with a vengeance immediately after this post with an onslaught of adventure posts.  Be ready.)

And here is one of the great things about living in New York.  In most cities, you’re drunk at 3, 4 AM, you better hope you got a frozen pizza at home.  Maybe you can hit an all-night Taco Bell for “fourth meal.”  You live in one of the major, major cities on this planet, you can probably find some good pizza, a good burger, a cheesesteak, or other local delicacy late night.  But in New York, man, drunk at 3 AM in the morning, you can have one of the finest sandwiches in the world at the finest deli in the world.

Tired of dealing with summer interns and youthful morons corrupting the Lower East Side as we bar-hopped last Friday, my friend looked at me at around 2:30 and said, “You know, fuck it.  Fuck drinking any more.  Let’s go get a pastrami sandwich.”  Genius!  I had never heard of a better idea.  And a nice pastrami and corn beef on rye, schmear of spicy mustard, with a side of matzo ball soup…well, that’s better than any cramped bar, any overpriced bar tab, and picking up any miserable woman to spend the rest of your night with.

I’m not going to give a Katz’s itself a full-scale review…yeah, it’s a tad overpriced, yeah it’s cash only, yeah it has the harshest lighting this side of standing five feet from an angry cop’s halogens, yeah it has a surly staff, and yeah it has the occasional tourist taking a dopey picture of the “When Harry Met Sally” spot.  But, despite all that, the sandwiches are heaven on earth.  As good as meat between bread can be since the day the Earl of Sandwich came up with the idea.

And though we’d already said, “Fuck drinking” by this point of the night, while in line I had an epiphany.

“Hey, wait a second, Aaron, didn’t you read that Brooklyn Brewery makes a special beer for Katz’s?” the Vice Devil on my left shoulder whispered in my ear.

My friend disputed it.  No way.  How ridiculous!

He shouldn’t have.  Garrett Oliver seemingly makes a unique beer for every goddamn restaurant, venue, stadium, and food stand in the city.  He is truly the hardest working man in brewing.  The motherfucking James Brown of beermaking.

I am nothing if not a cheerleader for Brooklyn Brewery, an avowed religious worshiper and evangelical trumpeter of Mr. Oliver and his magical beers.  I give them hosannas left and right, but it would be pure bias not to review the rare Brooklyn beer that I absolutely did not care for.  Maybe it was because it was 3 AM and I was somewhat drunk, maybe it was because I had just eaten a pound of cured meat, maybe the pounding overhead lights were making me dizzy, it’s hard to say, but I simply think this is not a good beer, and a totally inappropriate beer to pair with deli.  Which is odd, since Oliver is the beer pairing master par excellence.  Hell, he even wrote the book on it!  (Highly recommended.)

Katz’s Ale is an overly syrupy and malty brown ale, more like a dopplebock on the mouthfeel, and I simply could not choke it down.  It wasn’t unflavorful, necessarily, it wasn’t bad, exactly, it was just not good, and a terrible match for what I was eating.  Unfortunately, I could barely finish it.

Still, I’m grateful to have tried one of the rarer drafts in New York.

B-/C+

Boulevard Saison-Brett

July 15th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Boulevard, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Style: Quadrupel, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

8.5% ABV bottled (#08516 of 11925)

Boulevard hadn’t really impressed me in the past, especially on a last summer trip to Kansas City, but their highly acclaimed Smokestack Series would surely change all that.  My friend Taco Town Dave was visiting from Oklahoma and he asked if there was anything local I’d like.  “Any and every Smokestack possible,” I implored him.  I was most excited when he delivered the Saison-Brett, currently Beer Advocate’s #2 saison in the world with a remarkably meteoric rise to garner that lofty position.

Everything about this beer is just flawlessly crafted.  The taste is so balanced.  A blend of those classic saison flavors of orange peel, coriander, and spices, mixed with the wild yeast.  Earthy yeastiness, bitter yet still a touch sweet.  It’s not as funky as I expected but I suppose that’s because I’ve come to expect modern brewers to make Brett beers as stinky and tart as possibly.  Not this one.  This one uses the Brett to perfection.  Awesome and tasty to the extreme, I’m floored at the high ABV because I feel like I could, and I very much desired to, greedily throw down several of these magnums in a night. Truly top notch.

I’ve had many of the top saisons in the world this summer, fermented luminaries such as Saison Dupont, The Bruery’s splendid offerings, and Lost Abbey’s Carnavale to name a few, but I got to say that this one trumps them all.  I wish I had it in stock at all times, it is absolutely glorious.  One of my biggest drinking pleasures of this summer so far.

A

Let’s compare the above to Boulevard’s regular Smokestack Saison.  I’m not sure if this contains the exact same ingredients as the Saison-Brett–simply sans Brett–but it simply isn’t as good.  Coming in at a lower and yet more drinkable 6.2% ABV, this brew is yeasty as hell, spicy, fruity, but unfortunately not that complex, nor that tasty.  Still not a bad summer drink, but don’t trade the farm for it.

B+

And while we’re at it, Taco Town Dave provided me with one other Smokestack as well, The Sixth Glass, their attempt at a quadruple.

I knew my friend The Captain absolutely adored this beer, so I had lofty expectations, but unfortunately it didn’t quite deliver for me.  It’s tough for most quads to ever fully deliver when many of the best beers in the world are also quads, so like National League first basemen or Western Conference forwards, it’s a stacked playing field where even a great, great one can appear to be nothing more than an also-ran.

The 10.5% ABV Sixth Glass is somewhat muted in its typical quad tastes of dark fruits, biscuits, and malts, but it’s pretty solid.  I mean, what can I say?  It’s not Westy 12, Rochefort 10, or St. Bernardus 12.  But, then again, what is?  Still worth trying.

A-

Goose Island Juliet and Sofie

July 14th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Goose Island, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Style: Wild Ale

Was lucky enough to get to try the two newest releases from Goose Island’s Reserve Series, and here are your reporter’s humble findings.

Juliet

6.7% ABV on tap

It had been a real struggle to find this wild ale that’s been getting magnificent reviews, so when I learned that the very much underrated UWS beer bar George Keeley’s inexplicably had the only keg in the city, I decided to start Happy Hour at 2:00 PM and head up there.  So new, a tap doesn’t even exist for it–that’s just a computer label hastily scotch taped onto the handle–Juliet has an absolutely tantalizing description on the brewery website:  “Fermented with wild yeasts and aged in Cabernet barrels with blackberries, Juliet is a tart, fruity, complex ale. Notes of wood, tannin, dark fruit and spice make Juliet an ideal beer to suggest to Pinot Noir enthusiasts and beer drinkers who are fond of Belgian sour ales.”  Alas, I found that description a tad more erotic than the beer itself, though, don’t get me wrong, this is a very, very good beer.  Somewhat lacking in flavor upon first sip, the wild yeasts eventually came through strong, stinging my uvula with every sip for I have neglected to mention that I was nursing a sore throat.  It went down harsh but the taste was still great.  I probably should have just gargled and spat to prevent the intense throat pain.  But that wouldn’t be fair.  Oh, what I do for you guys, playing through the pain.  I truly am the Willis Reed of beer reviewing.

A-

Sofie

6.5% ABV bottled

The Captain secured this bottle for me, Goose Island’s wild yeasted and aged in wine barrels saison.  Wow is it fizzy, foamy, and effervescent.  Tingly on the mouth like champagne, a slight sourness from the wild yeast.  Tastes of citrus and pepper, this a solid enough saison though perhaps a tad boring.  Just like this review.

B+

And thus, my final overall rankings for the Goose Island Reserve Series:

1.  Matilda
2.  Juliet
3.  Pere Jaques
4.  Sofie

But they’re all quite swell.  Goose Island continues to make some pretty great to even mindblowing stuff and prove they are one of the Midwestern’s finest breweries.