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Archive for September, 2009

Captain Lawrence Smoke from the Oak (Apple Brandy Barrel Aged)

September 29th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Porter

My First Paid Writing Gig

It all started with a call from Scott.  He presented me with an odd yet enticing offer.  It seemed that his high school girlfriend Brandy–estranged daughter of a New York sports legend father and former supermodel mother, girlfriend of a current New York sports star, debutante, party girl socialite, and certified piece of ass–needed someone to write a grad school application essay for her for a large sum of money.  I was just the man and Scott gave Brandy my phone number.

She called a few hours late and soon I was en route to her mother’s Central Park South penthouse for dinner and to discuss the “project.”  I felt like Joe Buck*.  A writing gigolo.  And I loved it.

I had read about Brandy’s party-girl antics on Page 6 several times, but I’d never seen a picture of her at that point in time.  Nowadays you’d without question recognize her as she has since starred in her own reality program and even had a cameo role in a 2009 movie that topped the box office in its opening weekend.  But this was back in 2003 when she was still coming onto the “scene” and I was still a twenty-four-year-old buffoon.

That afternoon I tried to Google image search Brandy, but none appeared.  (Compared to just this second when some several hundred thousand images of her are returned in 0.22 seconds.)  Only pictures of her father of the same last name doing various things in increasing order of sordidness:  excelling at his sport; hugging teammates after a significant win; his regrettable one-year hiatus in which he became a semi-pro wrestler; him being carted off to jail in handcuffs for a drug possession arrest; and him making an appearance on “The 700 Club” as a now born-again Christian.  But, no picture of Brandy.  Rumor had it she was hot, so I spruced myself up like I was going on a date.  The thought never seemed to cross my mind that she was dating–that I was essentially competing with, ha!–a current sports superstar 35% bigger than me, 60% more handsome than me, and 1500% richer than me.  I told myself though that if he was Joe D, I could be Arthur Miller, the intellectual to the jock.  This was how my idiotic twenty-four-year-old mind worked.

A few blocks from Brandy’s apartment, Brandy called me and canceled.  “Family Emergency.”  I was pretty pissed at her having wasted my time, but what could I do about it?  Scott called me later that night telling me that the emergency was that her dog had just been neutered.  He also said Brandy was worried about meeting me, thinking that I would think her to be an “airhead.”  “I think YOU are an airhead,” I told Scott truthfully and hung up.

The next day I redressed for my date, trying to look a little artsy, writer-ish as well, and headed back to her apartment.  She greeted me with an overly intimate double cheek kiss and offered me a beer.  It was 10 AM.  I accepted the beer.  She must have thought writers needed to drink to create.  She thought exactly right.  She gave me a Bud Ice.  A five million dollar apartment I stood in, with a can of beer I wouldn’t have even drank in college.  Where was the good shit? Probably in the walk-in wine closet I noticed as she lead me to the penthouse’s library where we sat down at a monumentally large King Arthurian table.  As I pulled my notebook and pens from my messenger bag, the neutered dog would not quit jumping all over me.  How wild must this thing have been when he had some balls to play with?

Brandy quickly gave me her bio:

*Had attended the fourth worst SEC school for her first three years of college.  Despite her family’s money and connections this was the best school she could get into out of high school. Her father’s alma mater.

*Tired of being a New Yorker stuck in the middle of the south, she decided she wanted to spend her final year at a more respectable institution, opting to transfer to a semi-religious private school in Texas.  Her mother had been a cheerleader there.

*Now she was interested in attending design school in New York and she needed to write 500 words on “a life-affirming moment.”

“Could you do it?” Brandy asked.

“Of course.  It won’t be easy,” I noted as I took an overly long dramatic pause to help in building up my talent in the hopes of scoring as much money as possible, “but I’ll sure as hell try.”  I told her not to worry, I didn’t even need to know anything about her.  I told her I’d go home and just make up my own fake and dramatic, and sometimes humorous, life-affirming moment for her.  “Is that okay?”

Brandy didn’t talk a lot, but said that was fine.  How much money would she have to pay me?

I felt even further like a whore.  (”A hunded dolla’ for a half hour.  A dime for the hour.”)  I asked what she thought to be fair.  When being employed by the insanely rich NEVER set your own salary.  What they think is “fair” is usually double the money that you think is “outrageous.”

“Scott said you’d probably want about $100 an hour.”

Fucking A, $100 an hour.  I could have kissed Scott.  500 words would take me about the fifteen minute walk home to think up and an hour at most to write.

“Sounds a little low, but I’ll accept that since you’re a friend,” I told her, perhaps even adding a wink, though the muscles in my face aren’t quite supple enough to always execute that move.  “It won’t be easy, but I imagine I could get it done tonight if I pull an all-nighter.”

She ate it up.  I chugged the rest of my beer when she wasn’t looking, received the goodbye double cheek kiss that idiots prefer and went skipping home. I wrote the essay in under an hour.  I thought it was great.  I was a twenty-four-year-old man-boy competing against seventeen-year-old kids.  Actually probably forty-five- and fifty-year-old parents that were writing essays for their kids.  Well, I had gotten into every single college I had applied to when I was seventeen with the essays I’d written when I was seventeen, so I thought everything would be cool.

I woke up that morning at 4:45 AM and e-mailed Brandy the essay (”Spent all night working on it and just finished.”)

At noon when she woke up she e-mailed me back a response.  A simple :( emoticon.  I took that to mean she didn’t like it.  Were all editors this tough?  It was going to be hard to break into the writing business if that was the case.

Later she called me and told me the problem was that I just told a story about a made-up life-affirming moment in her life and I hadn’t explain well enough how smart and unique and creative she was.  Or, at least, how smart, unique, and creative she claimed to be and thought the college would want her to be if they were going to accept her.

I was fucking pissed.  She didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. But I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream.  I spoke calmly and tried to explain the faultiness with her life of thinking.  She didn’t understand what the hell I was talking about.  Alas.  Hot girls need to be reasoned with using analogies.

“Brandy, lots of guys hit on you at the vapid bottle service lounges you go to in the Meatpacking District, right?”

“Right,” she said, having no clue where I was headed.

“And, 99% of them buy you lots of drinks, and treat you nicely, and try to impress you with their bullshit and their money, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Now, that doesn’t work, does it?  You aren’t attracted to those guys, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.  Unless they’re, like, really rich or famous or something like my current boyfriend.”

“Well, when the 1% of guys come into the bar acting confidently, like they own the place, and treating you a little rude, and certainly not buying you even a single drink, don’t those guys kind of intrigue you?”

“No!”

“Be honest.”

“Usually.”

“Of course they do.  Well I just wrote you a 1% essay, and you’re wanting me to write you a 99% essay.  How are you going to stand out from the crowd with your ‘writing’ if you write the same boring ‘My-Greatest-Assets’ essay that every other kid is writing?!”

“Well…”

“You don’t tell people that you’re smart, that you’re creative, that you’re unique…you write an essay that proves you are smart, creative, unique.”  Pause.  “Get it?”

“Well, I’d just rather write something that’s more about me.”

“I don’t know a fucking thing about you though.”

I told her we had to meet again.  This was taking much longer than I expected and I was getting frustrated.  Our first time meeting I acted like that 99% of guys act around a hot girl.  This next time I was going to act like the elusive 1%.  Without even trying.

“Come back to my house tomorrow at noon.”

“I will if you have a turkey sandwich waiting for me!” I ordered.

So back to her penthouse, where I was greeted by her mom in a towel.  Said towel being held up merely by her mother’s fake “headlights.” Brandy was still in her pajamas, playing with the dogs in the playing-with-the-dogs room.  And, there was that turkey sandwich waiting for me.  A good fucking one too.  Not the corner deli Boar’s Head turkey sandwich I was used to.  This thing was gourmet.  Might have been on an artisanal baguette even.

Brandy and I sat down at her large table again and I started interviewing her.

“So…tell me some good stories about your life at college down in the deep south.”

“Uh…”  She couldn’t think of any.

“You can’t think of any!  None?”

“Not really.”

“You went to that university for three years and you can’t think of one fucking story?  I drove through that hick state once, for two hours, between 3 AM and 5 AM and saw some of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever seen in my life.  Yet you saw nothing?  I saw a house there built totally out of recycled soda cans.  I saw a guy having a barbecue in the median of the highway at 3:30 in the morning.  I saw a sheriff driving drunk down the road with his headlights completely off.  And you saw nothing?!”

She finally spoke more than five words in a row.  “Uh, I guess, like, some kids would take their shotguns to class.”

“Okay, now we’re talking.”

We talked and ate for about an hour.  I got some decent biographical info about her life as a New York City JAP–she wasn’t Jewish, but a JAP nonetheless–going to school in the south.  This is what she wanted talked about in her essay, this is what I’d write about. I had plenty of ideas for what to write, how her life had been affirmed, and my mind was racing.

Then her mom–now finally dressed–came back to the room.

“Aaron, I should tell you something…”  She was acting like Brandy wasn’t even in the room.  Brandy always acted–mentally–like she wasn’t in the room.  Her mother continued, “Brandy had…”–unnecessarily large emphasis–”SHIT grades in college.”

I thought I’d join in the fun.  “Exactly how…”–unnecessarily large emphasis–”SHIT were they?”

Mom smiled.  She liked my style.  “Real FUCKING SHITTY.  Like a 1.2 GPA.”

A 1.2!

“A 1.2?” I exclaimed still looking at mom.  “How is that possible?  I once didn’t attend a class for an entire semester, never bought the books even, and still got a B-.  How in the world do you get a 1.2?  At the SEC’s fourth worst school no less!?”

Brandy’s mother liked seeing her daughter get berated.  This former model and now mom was surprisingly smart and sharp.

“I dunno.  Didn’t go to class I guess.  Partied and stuff.  That was during my coke phase I think,” Brandy noted.

“Oh I remember!  You were maxing out my credit cards monthly!”  She turned back to me.  “You’re the writing genius, Aaron,”–I was falling in love with this MILF, “and you’re going to have to explain away her SHIT grades if she has any prayer of getting accepted.”  She squeezed my shoulders as she retreated back to her room.

Brandy rolled her eyes at me after her mom left as if to say, “Do you believe her?! How embarrassing.”  What she did actually say though was:

“How much do I have to pay you?”

I thought about this for a second.  I asked myself how much did I really think was fair to be paid?  About $175 was what I felt fair for the work I had done, the work I would do the rest of the day.

“$2000,” I bluntly told her.

She didn’t flinch.

“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!  MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!”  She turned back to me.  “Jesus, is she fucking deaf?!  I’ll go ask my mom for to write a check for you.”

She left the room and walked down a long corridor to find her mother.

A few seconds passed before I heard screaming from the other room.

“$2000?!!!!!  That is fucking insane!!!  Is he fucking insane?!  What do you normally pay people to write your papers, Brandy?”

Apparently not much, or the wrong people, as her GPA attested.  I tried to contain my laughter.

A few seconds later Brandy returned with a check for $1000.  “My mom will give you the rest in cash upon completion.

Brandy’s mother must have thought I looked like a guy that would take the money and run.  Awesome.  Now I felt like a drug runner.  I liked that even better than being a gigolo.

I didn’t get any more cheek kisses as I left this time. I didn’t care.  That was the biggest single check I’d gotten in my short life.  The first money ever paid to me for my writing.  I deposited it at an ATM en route to my apartment where I quickly whipped out a stunning essay while riding this creative high.  Something I was legitimately proud of.  Something that I thought could have won the Pulitzer if they gave such an award to falsified college entry essays for acceptance at mediocre design schools.

Ecstatic with myself, I headed out to tithe into my liver 10% of my writing paycheck.  Returning home wasted at 4:15 AM, I e-mail off to Brandy my second stab at the essay.

And, I didn’t hear from her for a week.  I guess she liked me essay.  But I was still owed $1000.  I decided to send her an e-mail to ask what she thought of the essay, how she was doing, when I could collect the rest of my money.  She never responded.

A week later I decided to call her.  She must have not had my name in her phone because she actually answered.

“Hey Brandy, it’s Aaron???  Did you like the essay????”  I was speaking in lots of question marks, something that is not that easy when you have fully gone through puberty and your voice has dropped.

“Yeah, and thanks, but, uh, I think I’ve decided to…uh…go another route…in my, uh, life.”

“Oh, too bad.”  Like I cared.  “Um, so, can I get the rest of the money you owe me and we agreed on?”

I heard the phone snatched out of Brandy’s hand.  It was her mom.

“You are fuckin’ crazy if you think I’m gonna give you another $1000 for that shitty essay!”

*CLICK*

Brandy never applied to college ultimately and I never got any more money that I surely didn’t deserve.  Perhaps she should have applied to college though as her fame is dwindling quickly, though I hear she has a new MTV show coming out this year.  Presumably it will be life-affirming.

I still wonder if my essay would have gotten her accepted into that design school, even with her SHIT grades.  I guess I’ll never know.  I also wonder if I could have made a living writing essays for the dumb, lazy, and rich.

Smoke from the Oak (Apple Brandy Barrel Aged)

ABV unknown, from a 750 mL bottle (Batch #1)

Living less than thirty miles from one of my favorite breweries, Captain Lawrence of Pleasantville, NY, it had vexed me for the longest time that I had been unable to secure a taste of even one of their Smoke from the Oak releases.  Bourbon Barreled Aged, wine, rum…with each subsequent release, for some reason or another, I missed a chance at nabbing a bottle.  It was angering me!  Finally, with the latest release and perhaps the highest regarded release so far, Vice Blog superfan KH was able to offer a bottle for sacrifice. I was stoked.

For those not in the know, Captain Lawrence’s Smoke from the Oak series takes its outstanding Pleasantville Smoked Porter and ages it in various spent barrels.  In this case, for eight months in freshly emptied apple brandy barrels.  I absolutely adore the black licorice delicious smoked porter and the infusion of apples adds another layer of fascinating complexity and some welcoming tartness.  I can’t say I was absolutely floored by this offering, but it is most unique and I was most glad to try it.  Now I need to go backwards and try some other bottles from the series.  I always liked playing catch up.

A-/B+

*Jon Voight’s character in “Midnight Cowboy.”  Not the humorless sportscaster.

New England Imperial Stout Trooper (2006)

September 22nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Brewer: New England, Brewer: Sixpoint, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Stout

8.5% ABV on cask

The Great RV Trip Non-Debacle 2009

We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.

No.  We were somewhere around East Stroudsburg, near the Delaware Water Gap, when the vodka began to coarse through us.

No.  That’s not right either.  What is it about besotted road trips that makes every one want to pay homage to the master?  To steal from Hunter S?

I shall start again.

What is it about moving while drinking that makes it so much more enjoyable?  Whether on plane, train, boat, or car (hopefully not while driving) it is such a greater pleasure than to imbibe while static.

We were in a twenty-five-foot-long recreational vehicle, an RV you dope, hurtling down the highway as fast as King Otto could drive without the governor stopping us.  The governor on the car.  Not Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, though he wouldn’t have been thrilled with the activities we were partaking in as we marred his miserable state.

In the back, Cuseman and I sat in the booth across from one another.  Dean, Dean, the Sax Machine (aka:  The Tapdance Kid) lounged on the back bed dispensing homemade pineapple-infused vodka–much more potent than you will ever know–from a two gallon tub.  Atop the bunk bed, the babe of the trip, Epstein slept.

When King Otto suggested we rent an RV for our sojourn to State College, PA to see our beloved Syracuse Orange lose to Penn State, I was a little leery.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I signed up immediately, but I was certainly leery.  Leery about:

  • the quality and comfort of a rented RV
  • living with four men within the confines of about fifty square feet for forty-eight straight hours
  • King Otto’s ability to drive the thing
  • not dying from any of the above

One thing I wasn’t leery about:

  • actually getting a hilarious story from this most certain debacle of a trip.

I would live on the RV, tailgate with the RV, and hang with likeminded RVers, many of the professional variety, for an entire weekend so that none of my readers ever would have to.  I would be the Bear Grylls of driving, sleeping, relaxing, eating, pissing, and shitting all within the same vehicle.  I was certain I would be incredibly glad to have gone on this trip, and almost certain that I’d never want to do it again by trip’s end.

I have to say, I was so very wrong.

First of all, I was greatly impressed by our Cruise America “standard” rental.  If you’ve never had the fortune–yes, fortune–to ride in an RV, let me briefly explain its interior.  Though it looks no bigger than a utility van or a smallish U-Haul on the outside, inside it’s like a funhouse and you are simply blown away at how much is packed into the thing.  Pure American ingenuity and efficiency.  Above the driver’s cabin–identical to a truck cabin but with access to the back living quarters–a bunk bed big enough to house three heterosexual men that don’t mind incidental contact, three across like sardines.

In the middle of the living quarters, a sitting booth akin to what you’d see at a Denny’s or standard dinner.  A perfect place to play cards, eat fast food, or get tie one on hard while the “dad” of the trip–King Otto in this case–drove.

Loaded up and ready to go, King Otto took the wheel still smarting from layabout Cuseman’s insubordination in loading up and preparing to go in a timely manner (let’s hope the two of them wage a war of words within my comments below–it will truly be hilarious), and we were off.

The drive to State College from New York City is…well, honestly, I have no fucking clue.  I wasn’t paying attention in the least.  Nor really was Cuseman, Epstein, or Dean, Dean, the Sax Machine (aka:  The Tapdance Kid).  It was raining hard, it was dark out, but the back was like a bar where time simply doesn’t matter.  Yeah, sure, like a bar with no TVs, no women, inaudible car radio, and only four customers in it.  But the drinks were free, the cold beers were only an inch away from you at any time, and there was never a line to the pisser.  A bathroom about the size of an airplane lavatory, I should note.

Drinking on road trips is always not just a desire, nor a necessity, but of the utmost importance.  Shit, I’ve been known to risk life, limb, and the tender skin on my palms just to get an open bottle of beer for a ride.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone drinking and driving in the least and I’ve only done it once in my life–no lie–but I condone drinking and passengering with all of my being.

Why it is a crime in America to drink alcohol while not driving a car but while simply sitting in it is extremely baffling to me.  A typical case of America finding solutions to problems that don’t exist and which are really not solutions at all.  (Have a lot of drunk passengers wrecked the cars they weren’t driving?!)  I suppose lawmaking muckety-mucks would say you can’t drink and passenger because, well, because it sets a bad example for the man at the wheel.  Heck, it might even make him downright jealous.  Well shit then, shouldn’t it be illegal to not read while in the passenger seat?  Or do a crossword?  Or play air drums to “Dazed and Confused?”  Or fucking sleep?!  Cause, while I may not be any sort of vehicular safety expert, I know countless people that have successfully driven a car while lit up like a menorah, but I don’t know a single motherfucker that has successfully made it from point A to point B while fast asleep.

And that’s the great thing about having the RV.  With a car, you’re always conscious, always worried about a cop driving by and seeing you opening a cold one, about empties littering the floor, about needing to break the seal too early and slowing down your entire trip.  But all those problems are negated in an RV.  With the curtains closed, no one else on the road could possibly see what mischief we were getting into.  It was our private sanctuary, our own movable speakeasy, for throwing back the hooch with no consequence.  Unless of course King Otto wrecked the car and then we’d face the quite troublesome consequences of seeing what happens to a man who is standing in the back of an RV, chugging a beer, when said RV fishtails into a highway girder.  Perhaps we should wear helmets in the back next time?

Without question, this was the most enjoyable roadtrip I have ever had driving-wise.  On other roadtrips, you’re obsessed with the time while en route.  “How’s are time?”  “We making good time?”  “What time do you think we’ll be in?”  Why?  Well so you can get to the bar and start drinking.  But when the bar is with you, time is of the utmost insignificance.  We could have arrived at 9 PM, midnight, or next year and I wouldn’t have give a damn.  Unless the beer had ran out.

The insignificant time we did arrive ended up being 10:50 PM.  Pulling into the grass rolling hills of a parking lot at 10:50 PM we were floored.  Hundred upon hundreds if not thousands upon thousands of RVs already set up, as far as the eye could see.  There must surely be an RV caste system as we were ordered and then tucked away into a far corner of the lot amidst other smallish rentals and amateur RV enthusiasts.

We immediately grabbed a handful of beers and set out to explore.  To see the real RV pros at work.  We took laps around the ad hoc “streets” of the RV City, our wasted eyes agog like Dorothy in Oz.  We soon learned that the lot opens at 5 PM sharp on Thursday night with a line of RVs already ready to enter and set up, and for the next three days the place becomes like a slapdash wild west mining town, thrown up over night to assure a place’s newest and likewise temporary inhabitants, can find places to grub, drink, gamble, and fuck while finding as much gold as possible.  We were amazed to see impromptu sports pubs, dance clubs, karoake bars, and even gambling venues pieced together through a series of interconnected tents–closer to circus than pup–covering all sorts of tables, furniture, and electronics powered by miles and miles of extension cord connected to satellite dishes and RV generators.  Suffice to say, many if not most of these big time RV “establishments”–for lack of a better word–were larger, more spacious, and had far more eminities and creature comforts than not just my Manhattan apartment but most groggeries in New York City proper.

There’s nothing better than waking up at sunrise on Saturday, walking outside in your sleep clothes, taking a piss in the dewy grass, and immediately popping a beer to shake off the cobwebs, then sparking up the grill, and setting up the Cornhole boards.  (As we all know Cornhole is the greatest outdoor drinking game in the history of the world, and any time I get a chance I play it until my arm falls off, my liver explodes, or, more likely, the cheap wood board shatters.)  We drank and ate burgers and sausage, played Cornhole and Beer Pong until 11:50 AM before hightailing it to the stadium.

There’s not much worth discussing or explaining about the day’s game.  Beaver Stadium may the biggest stadium in America and the third largest in the world, but it’s fairly unspectacular.  You might say, well, Penn State was playing the miserable Syracuse Orange, sure.  And that does justify the fans lack of enthusiasm and propensity for sitting on their hands.  But that doesn’t justify it being an undistinguished Erector Set of a dilipidated sporting venue, nor the school have a shockingly ugly student base.  King Otto, Cuseman, Dean, Dean the Dancing Machine (aka: The Tapdance Kid), and Epstein can back me up on this, the four State fans in front of us were of another species.  A species that surely evolved and survived by not being the fittest, but rather by being so goddamn repulsive no predators possibly wanted to get near these mutants.  Literally slack-jawed with the gummiest mouths you’ve ever seen, acne-riddled skin, hair straight from the bird’s nest wig collection, and the dopiest hick hollers of “Cuuuuuuuuuuum’on, less’go Stuuuuuuuuuu-ate!”  Sickening.  And this is coming from a man that hadn’t showered or even brushed his teeth that morning.  My standards were not exactly high on that misty day.

Of course you can’t drink during the game because the hypocritical NCAA likes to pretend that it has some ethics, so I was forced to swig on Diet Pepsis all game, which I won’t deny were incredibly reasonably priced so yay for that.  After a 28-7 loss, after nearly falling asleep from our three hour lack of alcohol, we jumped back into drinking and exploring the RV scene.  (Marv Albert voice:  “With authority!”)

An expert myself, I am not one to haphazardly praise the drinking prowess of others, thinking most “party” schools to be grossly overrated, most hardcore imbibers hardly able to throw it back, but I can say this:  Penn State fans can drink.  They are one of the finest drinking schools I have ever dealt with.  Good lord, State College on a gameday might be the drinking capital of America.

As a connoisseur of drinking games, I was both intrigued and excited to learn that Cornhole and Beer Pong have pretty much become passe at State College.  Still respected sure, but more in a retro way like, “Ha, isn’t it cute.  We’re playing beer pong!  That game we used to play when we were in junior high!”  Oh no, these ugly Penn State fans have moved on to far more aggressive drinking games.  Games of the highest skill, abilities, and suicidal tendencies.  I learned at least four new drinking games but my two most eye-opening favorites were Dizzy Bat and Speedball, explained as follows:

Dizzy Bat–Take your classic yellow Wiffleball bat, cut the bottom of the handle off it, fill the barrel with an entire can of beer and…CHUG!  After you’ve finished chugging, put the bat on your forehead, bend over, and spin around ten times, then stand up and try to take a swing at the empty beer can as a friend/enemy tosses it at you.  Amazingly, or not considering how awesome America is, there’s actually countless great Youtube videos of this sport.

Speedball–Probably the most dangerous drinking game I’ve ever encountered aside from gloryholing, this game works like this:  Two-versus-two with each team set up on opposite ends of your typical beer pong length table.  Each player has a full can of beer placed in front of him.  One teammate hurls a ping pong ball at one of his opponents’ two cans and, assuming he hits a can, his partner is allowed to begin chugging his beer and chug it as long as he can until the “defending” team is able to retrieve the ping pong ball and lay it smack on the table.  Sounds easy, sure, but here’s the rub:  the player that hurled the ball at the defenders’ beer cans is allowed to chase after the ball and the defenders and use any means necessary–kicking, scratching, blocking, tripping–short of outright tackling, or covering the ball, to prevent the defenders from returning the ball to the table.  Teams go back-and-forth taking alternating shots, game is over when both of a team’s players have drained every last drop of their two cans.  You are guaranteed to be sweaty, tired, filthy, perhaps injured, and certainly wasted after a game of Speedball.  Fans gather around like they are watching a Michael Vick sanctioned canine UFC event.  Not surprisingly, all the players and spectators, are men.

As nightfall came and drinking games became an impossibility, now wasted and worn, we walked around the dark lot getting into trouble and creating memories at the various dance clubs, bars, and various drinking scenes.  Making friends with strangers, watching nationally-televised football games on projection satellite TV screens blasted onto walls and giant RVs, and eventually becoming shit-canned enough to hit on ugly ugly women (photographic evidence destroyed.)  We even managed to get a little illicit gambling done, with Dean, Dean the Sax Machine (aka:  The Tapdance Kid) absolutely mopping up.

I was worn and wasted before even 1 AM, after approximately seventeen straight hour of drinking and twenty-six of the last thirty-three hours with a drink in my hands, I aptly feel asleep that night still clutching a half-drunk brew.

I'm even a legend when I sleep

I'm even a legend while I sleep

Th next day, the RV was an absolute pig sty, our toilet not overflowed but filled to the brim, our two gallons of vodka killed, our three bottles of spice rum decimated, and 84 out of 96 cans of cheap beer taken down (OK, who was the slacker here?).  We were most certainly ready to get back to civilization.  Unfortunately, the drive back home to New York through the tumbling hills of nowhere land, where you can’t even find a McDonald’s for hundreds of miles, is a lot more boring when you’re hungover and not drinking.  Oh well, road trips always end poorly.  No one ever says:  “Man, you know what the best part of this road trip was?!  Driving home at the end of it!”

Having said that, I’m pretty sure the five of us are now RV enthusiasts for life.  It’s a lifestyle I think I could get into, the cornerstone of a splendid lost weekend, though I would die an early death if I did it more than once a year.

Though I guess I may have to change my life expectancy:  King Otto’s considering buying an RV.

After having not showered, or defecated, sorry for the too much information, for the entirety of the trip, I had to handle both post-haste upon re-entering Manhattan society.  But I also had to hightail it to Rattle ‘N’ Hum because after drinking garbage macro beer all weekend, I needed some flavorful, weighty, and potent sugary poison in my system, and luckily, my favorite bar was hosting the Gotham Cask Festival, with quite a few notables on tap amongst several dozens specialty casks.

I started things off with Sixpoint’s Hops of Love “IPA 4 Evah” dry-hopped cask beer.  I was quite impressed with this 6.2% offering and found it even better than their well-acclaimed Bengali Tiger.  Hops of Love was made specially for Sixpoint brewer Ian’s wedding and apparently they made far too much, which is our gain!  Our at least mine.  Dry-hopped with cascade and Northern, this is a flawless and complex blend of grapefruit, piny hops, and bitterness all in a slippery smooth little package.  I really enjoyed this luxurious beer which just coddled my throat (A-)

I also tried the official beer of New York City Craft beer week, the NY3, a collaborative effort between Empire State brewers Captain Lawrence, Ithaca, and Southampton, brewed with local honey from each of the three brewers, dry-hopped with Willamette hops among others from Pedersen Farms.  I eagerly anticipated this effort but was a tad let down.  A solid session effort no doubt, kinda like Liquid Gold Lite, but nothing spectacular, and a beer that easily got lost in the shuffle compared to all the legendary, high ABV offerings I had around during the past week (B+)

But I had come specifically to the cask festival at Rattle ‘N’ Hum for one much desired beer, a Beer Advocate Top 100 effort and no doubt George Lucas unapproved, the Imperial Stout Trooper.  A vintage 2006 keg no less!  I found the stout to be a most warm and relaxing imperial that actually tastes far more boozy than it truly is.  Burnt and roasted coffee tastes, a kiss of chocolate, silky and most delicious, though I don’t think it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with the all-time legends.  At least on cask.  I hope to snag a bottle this winter.

A-

*Of note, you can still drink at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, so fuck all you teetotaling heathens.

(Be sure and check out this fun interview Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive did with me)

Brooklyn Manhattan Project

September 16th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Brewer: Dogfish Head, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Rye Beer

8.5% ABV on tap

When I was a prepubescent I wanted to meet my favorites sportsmen, guys like Darryl Strawberry and Charles Barkley and Barry Sanders, and get their autographs on balls and cards.  When I became a pubescent I wanted to meet my favorite rock stars and learn why women loved them so.  When I was in college I wanted to meet my favorite filmmakers and writers and ask them about their craft, perhaps learn a thing or two.  But now that I’m thirty, I simply want to meet my brewing idols to thank them for making the sugary poison that enhances my life.  And by “enhances,” I mean gets me drunk and causes me to do funny things.

Luckily, yesterday I would get to meet my two biggest beer idols, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery–coincidentally the two most-reviewed breweries here on the Vice Blog–both making appearances at Blind Tiger and Rattle ‘N’ Hum respectively to celebrate New York Craft Beer Week.

I headed to Blind Tiger in the early afternoon to beat the rush but soon the place had become the typical Star Trek Convention-esque scene like most big beer geek events.  Men either incredibly lithe or incredibly burly, no one weighing anywhere in between (i.e. “normal”), all hirsute of face, in vintage t-shirts and Rivers Cuomo spectacles.  I came alone and, with no one to whisper mocking barbs to, was lucky enough to quickly find a compadre, the only girl at the event who didn’t have a look on her face of “I can’t believe my boyfriend dragged me to this nerdfest/I can’t believe he gets this excited for beer/I can’t believe I fuck this loser/Hey, is that the Vice Blogger over there?!”  She had shockingly come under her own cognizance.

With a full slate of Dogfish Head beers on tap, I sipped on some I’d had before, some I hadn’t.  I enjoyed:

Raison D’Extra (2008)–This 18% amped up version of Raison D’Etre is maybe the most boozy beer I’ve ever had.  But I like that!  Dried fruits, spices, strong malts, and an oaky vanilla finish, this brew pummels your throat like a bourbon neat.  A-

Black & Blue (2007)–Not nearly as fruity as I expected, nor boozy, especially compared to their great Fort, I found this one light and refreshing.  A sure “panty dropper” for the ladies as it’s a surprising 11%.  Not sure if aging does much for this one though.  B+

120 Minute IPA and World Wide Stout (2007)–Though I’d had both ABV-asskickers (21% and 18% respectively) bottled numerous times, I’d had neither of these on tap before and was most excited.  120 Minute is a masterpiece any way you slice it, a true Hall of Famer in the beer world, and it was a pleasure to finally try it on tap where the hops come through more and make it far less the de facto barleywine it usually is.  As for World Wide Stout, I’ve always liked, but never loved “young” bottles of it.  Found them lacking in complexity and far too boozy.  But aged for a few years and on tap, this stout becomes a masterpiece that can surely be mentioned in the same breath as the other imperial stout big dogs of America.  both A+

Halfway through my World Wide Stout, the beer geeks started squealing like little girls do when a Jonas Brother enters the room, signaling to me that Sam had clearly arrived.  Perchance, I happened to be the first person he talked to and the most congenial man chatted it up with me for a good five minutes about his upcoming Life and Life collaboration with Sierra Nevada.  He was very excited for its November release, as am I.

(I was also excited to meet a surprise guest–pictured above with me and Sam–Achouffe brewmaster Chris Bauweraerts.)

After Sam moved on to placate some other geeks and avoid getting lice from their unkempt, greasy beards, someone remarked, “Wow, he was really nice.”

Uh, yeah, he makes and drinks beer for a living.  I’d be the nicest motherfucker in the world too if that was my life.

By now the scene at Blind Tiger was getting unruly with pencil-necked, raggedy-armed men gushing over Sam and making the line to get a drink at the bar at least a half-dozen deep on all sides, so I left to hotfoot it thirty-some-odd blocks north to Rattle ‘N’ Hum to meet beer legend #2.

After four straight double-digit-ABV Dogfish Head beer, I probably needed a respite, but audentes fortuna iuvat, fortune favors the bold, and any how, low ABV beers kinda suck.

Rattle ‘N’ Hum had a full slate of Brooklyn brews and I was stunned to see one I’d never had before, a DIPA, Brooklyn Blast Pale Ale, available on both cask and tap.  I opted to try both.  You know, science experiment reasons.

And wow, what a great beer!  An intense smell of pine and grapefruit, a wet and juicy hops taste with just a tad more sweetness on cask than tap.  Complex with just the right blend of maltiness and bitterness.  This might be the most “West Coast”-style IPA I’ve found on the East Coast as most of our DIPAs tend to gravitate more toward the malty sweet barleywine variety (see:  Southern Tier Unearthly or Dogfish Head 90 Minute, both divine though, don’t get me wrong).

I ask, how is Blast not more “famous”?  It certainly deserves mention in the same breath with not simply the east coast’s best DIPAs, but all of America’s.  I sure wish this was a more common find in these here parts for it is truly superb.  Either on tap or cask, and I don’t typically love cask IPAs mind you, I could drink it all fucking day long.  A

Relaxed and bordering on post-coital after downing two separate Blasts, I was excited to see Garrett in the house and made my way over to shake his hand and cajole him into a “Can we smile big and pretend we like and know each other?” picture.  He kindly obliged.

He also gave me the scoop on his new bacon beer (none of us hoi polloi are ever gonna get to try it) and his upcoming $350 pairing dinner at Per Se (none of us hoi polloi could ever possibly afford it) before I had to be escorted away by security so that he could get back to enjoying a slider.  (Garrett Oliver eats sliders?!?!?!)

Besides meeting Garrett, though, I had come to Rattle ‘N’ Hum with one other major goal in mind, having one of the world’s first tastes of his new Manhattan Project, a beer still of this second without even a single review on Beer Advocate.

Lately Garrett has become obsessed with using his Brewmasters Reserve series to make experimental beers that taste like other, atypical to beer, things.  And, with the Manhattan being his favorite cocktail, he was curious if he could make a beer that tastes like that amazing concoction.  It’s by far my favorite cocktail too so this was right in my wheelhouse and I expected to make a mess in my pants over it.

A rye beer aged in Rittenhouse Rye whiskey barrels and then infused with botanicals from sweet vermouth and bitters, this beer smells spot-on like a glorious Manhattan and the taste is right there too.  It is a most interesting execution, something maybe only Garrett could come up with.  Really boozy, you can feel the rye.  A little too sweet in a cough-drop type way, but that’s a minor quibble.  A slightly uneven blending, with a tart cherry finish, this isn’t quite as seamlessly smooth as I’d like and I’d probably enjoy a thicker mouthfeel.  Or, maybe, I’d just enjoy a straight up 100 proof Manhattan.  Naw, this beer is great, a truly sui generis offering.  I hope it’s around for a long time to come.  It’s a beer I’m gonna remember for a long time.

A-

New York’s Best Beers

September 10th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Brewer: Ommegang, Brewer: Southern Tier, Lists

Sure, it’s easy to heed the refrain “Buy local!” when you’re an elitist living in an awesome major city enclave that has awesome food and drink.  But what if you live in a real shithole?  I’ve lived in places where buying “local” would mean picking up a pack of franks and a Sno-cone at the corner gas station.  Luckily, I live in a place now where I could probably solely exist by eating and drinking local (if only it wasn’t for my pesky love of camel burgers, d’oh!).  New York state is one of top five craft beer states in the nation, and even though Southern Tier in Lakewood is further from me than Richmond, Virginia and Ommegang in Cooperstown further than Philadelphia, they are still part of my state and them’s the rules.  So, with that, and with NYC Craft Beer Week beginning today, I give you…

New York’s Best Beers

Note:  I’ve only included yearly releases.  I don’t care whether they are seasonal or even ultra-rare, so long as they are released each year, I have considered them in the rankings.  This, unfortunately, eliminates one-off experimental stuff like Brooklyn’s great Brewmasters Reserve series.  Additionally, in the fine print at the bottom I list some notable NY beers I’ve unfortunately never tried.

1.  Brooklyn Black Ops (bottled and available here)

For better or worse, the best beer in New York state is also probably the most expensive.  If you can still find it.  Black Ops sold for around $25 a bottle–in a gorgeous bowling pin of an engraved corked-and-caged 750 mL–when it was released last winter, and it completely lived up to the hype.  Now, no longer able to be found in stores, your finer local groggeries still have some jacked-up-priced bottles hanging around in the back room and indeed I’ve since had it several more times.  Aged for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat (no clue what that means), and re-fermented with champagne yeast.  A filthy black pour that instantly stains the sides of your glass.  A deliciously boozy aroma of chocolate, vanilla, and much roasted coffee.  The oaked bourbon sensations absolutely pummels my tongue.  I half-expect to piss stout ever time I finish a bottle.

2.  Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (bottled and tap)

Surely one of the most economical great beers in all of America as a six-pack–seriously, what 10% beer comes in a six-pack?!–usually only runs around $12.  That thriftiness could surely factor into one’s rankings, but it in no way factors into mine here.  Here we’re only talking about taste and, luckily, Black Chocolate Stout packs a ton.  Six varieties of chocolate, black, and roasted malts, complex and perfectly balanced, smooth and drinkable with no alcoholic bite whatsoever.  I slightly prefer Black Ops, but I drink Black Chocolate Stout by a degree of ten more.  Recently, I’ve started seeing vintage kegs of this–ones as old as 2006–at the city’s more respectable watering holes such as Blind Tiger and Downtown Bar & Grill.

3.  Southampton Grand Cru (bottled)

When I made the trek out to the Southampton Publick House just over a month ago, never did I think I would fall in love, but I did, with this masterpiece of a beer.  Absolutely packed with flavor and complexity, tastes of dried orange peel, coriander, star anise, pineapple, mangoes, a touch of sweet malts, and a slight delicious mustiness, the Grand Cru is about as tasty as beer gets.  Not to mention, for the ABV (9.8%) this is as drinkable as lemonade and I had to slow myself down so I could actually properly savor it.  I’d really like to have a bottle of this in my apartment at all times as it is perhaps the best American “Belgian” beer around.

4.  Ithaca Brute (bottled)

My #5 beer gets all the buzz in the New York state wild ale game, which is weird considering this is a Beer Advocate Top 100 beer…and it’s actually better than the Cuvee de Castleton.  Brute, from Ithaca’s Excelsior! line, is fermented in oak with three champagne yeasts rendering it sparkly, carbonated, and effervescent.  The nice sweet citron tastes of it makes Brute almost like a beer mimosa.  Of course it has 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.

5.  Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton

Perhaps New York state’s most annually anticipated beer–one has to stand in a long line in a parking lot with enormous nerds in order to score a rare and highly coveted bottle–this limited release lives up to its hype.  On its label it is enticingly described as a “…combination of Belgian style ale which has been re-fermented with hand picked Muscat grapes & aged in wine barrels. As the beer ages in the oak it undergoes a secondary fermentation using the wild yeast known as Brettanomyces.”  Very carbonated and with some great bite, it smells and tastes of white grapes and spices too, lemons and green sour apples. You’d have a hard time convincing a lot of people that this is actually beer, but that’s a great thing in this case.

6.  Southern Tier Unearthly/Oaked Unearthly (bottled and tap)

Southern Tier’s “regular” DIPA, Unearthly, is arguably the best of its style on the East Coast.  It tastes so fresh and so clean, with a malty booziness that almost makes it into a barley wine.  Oaked Unearthly is even better.  Sweeter and even maltier with strong vanilla flavors from the oak, though some zesty citrus and pine comes through.  Both of these are “state-of-the-art” pushing the envelope outside the box IPAs from the always-inventive Southern Tier.  But the best compliment I can give them is that–despite the fact I am a man that is always looking to try something new–if I enter a bar with either of these on tap, there’s no fucking way I can neglect to order a glass.

7.  Ommegang Hennepin (bottled and tap)

Probably New York’s most purely drinkable beer, I usually order this 7.7% saison for my macro-beer drinking friends after “forcing” them to go to my nerdy beer bars.  Sweet and fruity with just the slightest and most subtle spicy funk, this one drinks like a bottle of Gatorade.  Another great Belgianized beer from New York, I honestly think this might be the best saison on planet earth nowadays.  I’m always happy to have a glass.

8.  Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve Double IPA (bottled and tap)

The other beer in the debate for New York’s best DIPA, the Captain’s Reserve is much hoppier in taste than the Unearthlies and smells like a sack of fresh weed.  The fact that it was, until very very recently, only available on tap, meant that it was as fresh-tastingly hoppy as can be, having been “born”–as those charlatans at Anheuser Busch might say–at the source just days earlier.

9.  Captain Lawrence Nor’easter (bottled)

With a third beer on my top ten list, Captain Lawrence could most certainly reign supreme as the king of New York breweries.  Nor’Easter is their special winter release, a sui generis Belgian dark ale brewed with elderberries (whatever the fuck those are) and aged in bourbon barrels.  This is a beer that as you’re drinking it you aren’t unequivocally wowed, but once you’re done, you can’t stop thinking about how goddamn impressive it was.  You’re also silly drunk.

10.  Brooklyn Local 1 (bottled)

Both the third Brooklyn Brewery beer on my list and the third American “Belgian” as well.  I never particularly loved this beer upon its initial release several years ago but as time has gone on, and with this past year’s release of Local 2, I revisited the Local 1 for comparative purposes…and was floored.  Spicy, yeasty, and candied, brewmaster Garrett Oliver considers this beer his “strong saison.”  I consider it imminently drinkable and delicious and I’m thinking that perhaps its awesome tastes were just too subtle for my immature palette back when I first slugged it.

Notables:

Brooklyn Intensified Coffee Stout (tap)
Ithaca White Gold
(bottled)
Middle Ages Wailing Wench (bottled)
Ommegang Rouge (tap)
Southern Tier Choklat Imperial Sout (bottled)
Southern Tier Pumking (bottled and tap)

The Top Highly-Accessible Beers

Solid brews that can be located at pretty much every bar, restaurant, bodega, deli, gas station, and massage parlor in this fair town.  These are also lower ABV beers you can drink dozens of in a night.

1.  Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold (tap)

If and when Captain Lawrence ever starts bottling and distributing its full line, I am almost certain this beer will become an iconic session beer in America, akin to, say, a Dogfish Head 60 Minute.  Belgian pale ale Liquid Gold is so damn tasty and so unbelievably drinkable, I am always excited when a bar I’m drinking at “just” has this on tap.  Why thank you very much and keep ‘em coming!

2.  Brooklyn Lager (bottled, canned, and tap)

This was the beer I always ordered “way back when,” nearly a decade ago, when I didn’t know shit about beer and kinda just cared about getting drunk.  It seemed to taste good enough back then.  Nowadays, every time I’m “forced” to get this at a bar with the most meager of tap lists, I’m certain my sophisticated–nay, pretentious–tongue will no longer enjoy this.  But, boy, am I always wrong and my eyes are always opened again and again by what must be the tastiest pure lager on the east coast.  This could easily be called the official beer of New York City.

3.  Sixpoint Bengali IPA (tap)

Why order a single IPA when you can order an asskicking double instead?  Because Bengali exists!  Incredibly balanced in both hops and malts, this tap-only selection from straight outta Brooklyn is as fine as they come.

4.  Blue Point Blueberry (bottled and tap)

I remember the first time a girl told me to try this on tap.  I wanted to fornicate with her so I placated her and ordered one.  And my eyes popped out of my head.  I couldn’t believe how refreshing, flavorful, and subtly fruity this was.  Like a liquid Eggo waffle!  I must have drank 500 pints of this back in the summer of 2006 and though I eventually got burned out on it a bit, I still greatly enjoy it from time to time.

5.  Brooklyn Weiss (bottled and tap)

I don’t particularly love wheat beers, but damn if this one isn’t tasty.  A great smell with a refreshing yeasty taste, slight banana flavor, citrus esters, and even hints of bubble gum. And, of course, some full-bodied wheat potency. This ain’t no watered-down hefeweizen.  Simply delicious.

Others of note:  Blue Point Hoptical Illusion, Blue Point Toasted Lager, Brooklyn Brown, Ommegang Witte, Saranac Pomegranate Wheat, Sixpoint Sweet Action, Southampton Double White Ale, Southampton IPA.

This was a fun little exercise.  I’d greatly encourage my readers and other beer bloggers to do the same.  I’d love to hear other’s thoughts on their fine states’ Top Ten brews (California?  Pennsylvania?  Colorado?  Michigan?  Minnesota?).  So have at it!

Cheers and happy drinking!

Aaron Goldfarb

*Notable beers I have yet to try (ie. please find them for me and send them to me too!):

Blue Point Old Howling Bastard, Brooklyn Blue Apron Ale, Captain Lawrence Little Linda’s Liquid, Captain Lawrence Rosso E Marrone, Captain Lawrence Smoke from the Oak (any and all), Ithaca Alphapha, Ithaca ELEVEN, Southampton Imperial Russian Stout, Southampton Saison Deluxe.

Boulevard Smokestacks

September 10th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Boulevard, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B regular, Style: Belgian White, Style: IPA, Style: Tripel

In late-1800’s New York City, the top spectator sport at bars was dog versus rat fights.  This replaced the previously most popular sport, a man in heavy work boots trying to stomp out one-hundred rats as fast as he could.  Which, replaced the previously most enjoyed sport:  bear wrestling.  Yeah, the New York bar scene was pretty goddamn badass a way back when I have learned from reading Luc Sante’s essential compendium of New York vice “Low Life.”

Back then, many dive bars–known as “blind tigers” or “blind pigs”–didn’t even have glassware.  Men were issued a rubber tube which they then connected to a keg and from which they were allowed to drink as long as they could on one single breath of air for each beer purchase.  Predictably, always-savvy New Yorkers developed incredible lung capacities and devised ways to cheat the system.

But it wasn’t all days of wine and roses back then.  For one, most dives, usually located on the outskirts of Manhattan island, had actual trap doors in the floors in which deceased customers could be kicked into the East or Hudson Rivers.  Besides murder and suicide, frequent in-bar deaths might have been due to the fact that this rubber-tubed-sucked beer was abject swill, laced with all sorts of poisons that quickly got you drunk…and then killed you.  Or, at least blinded you.  Not exactly good for repeat business.

And the only women hanging at these dives were of the sporting kind.  Hookers who would, at best, fuck you full of STDs.  At worst, slip you a “Mickey Finn” when you weren’t looking and steal your wallet as you lay prone in an alley.  OK, so I guess I’ll quit complaining about the annoyingly shrill JAP habitues and hipster too-cool chicks so often surrounding me at the bar.

Suffice to say, craft beer was nowhere to be had, and, begrudgingly, I guess that means I have to admit that the 2009 New York City bar scene is better than the 1889.  Even if all we have to do at bars nowadays is play darts and “Big Buck Hunter.”  Not exactly a stomping-on-rats level of in-house excitement, but surely less messy and grizzly.

This past week I had the fortune to drink six beers that could of and would have never existed back in seedy 19th Century New York.  Six beers from Boulevard’s esteemed Smokestack line.  Three of which I’d had before and three of which added new notches to my brew bedpost.

Double-Wide India Pale Ale

8.5% ABV from a 750 mL  (1st in the series)

Double-Wide emits the always popular sack of weed aroma we’ve come to know and love in many West Coast IPAs.  A nice bitterness and packed with sour citrus.  Boozy yet drinkable, I was very impressed and if I was an east coast elitist man I would add that I was very impressed that this great IPA came out of Kansas City.  A part of me, though, wonders if this is an out of date bottle from when the initial Smokestack offerings were first released nearly a year ago.  That seems impossible because, damn, this beer was fresh and juicy.  Well worth locating.

A-

Long Strange Tripel

9% ABV from a 750 mL (2nd in the series)

This is a very respectable, damn good American tripel.  And, tasting it side-by-side with maybe my favorite tripel in the world, La Fin du Monde, Long Strange was outshined (outshone?) sure, but by not that great of magnitude surprisingly.  It’s incredibly yeasty with just a hint of nice sweetness.  Bubbly, fluffy, and pillowy, I really enjoyed putting this back in the mid-day patio sun, and was shocked at how easily it went down.

A-/B+

Two Jokers Double-Wit

8% ABV from a 750 mL (8th in the series)

Dangerously, shockingly, drinkable for such a high ABV beer, but then again, witbiers are so fucking lame, maybe I was just trying to get it down, slurping it down like flat apple juice, so I could move onto something more interesting.  You know, Two Jokers ain’t terrible–and I love the label–but it’s just not that interesting.  Packed with cardamom, coriander, orange peel, lavender, and the always sexy grains of paradise, I will admit this was a great beer to begin a long day of college football watching with.

B

I have now had six of the nine Smokestack releases* and here are my current overall rankings:

1.  Saison-Brett (an absolutely epic beer well deserving of all its acclaim)
2.  Double-Wide
3.  The Sixth Glass
4.  Long Strange Tripel
5.  Saison
6.  Two Jokers

*I have still yet to locate bottles of the 5th and 6th Smokestack releases, their Imperial Stout and BBQ (Bourbon Barrel Quad), nor of the newest release, the 9th in the series, the Seeyoulator Doppelbock.  I would kill to try any and all of them, especially the BBQ.  Hit me up at theviceblog [at] gmail.com if you can make a little Jewish boy’s dreams come true.


Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock and Fourth Dementia

September 9th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Kuhnhenn, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Fruit Beer, Style: Old Ale

13.5% ABV on draught

My addiction is consuming me.  I can no longer keep it at bay.  I am now Mr. Hyde 24/7.  I am not an alcoholic.  Oh no.  Far from it.  At least not your standard one.  I can go for days without having a drink (though why would I want to?!)  And loved ones never criticize me for my drinking (then again, I only love those that the love the drink themselves).  Nor do I ever feel guilty about my drinking (usually too hungover to experience any other emotion).

I am not an alcoholic, yet I do have an unyielding addiction toward alcohol.  Toward locating rare beers that is.  It’s all I think about lately.  These rare beers, these beers I’ve never touched before, these new releases, special releases, one-time releases are always on my mind.  I can’t focus on work any more as I visit Beer Advocate, Beer Menus, and Beer News countless times per day for the latest updates.  I read other beer blogs and trade e-mails with beer friends all day long.  It’s gotten so bad I can barely follow sports any more.  Or celebrity gossip!  It’s even affecting my social life.  I organize activities in neighborhoods that are closest to beer stores I need to visit.  Strongarm dates into joining me at local groggeries with special one-offs on tap.  Shit, I even found myself talking in my sleep the other night while in bed with a gal.*

I think the pinnacle of my abhorrent behavior occurred last Wednesday night.  I was sitting around relaxing, unwinding as my evening neared its end, watching “Intervention” on A&E and surfing the net.  I made my half-dozenth visit to Beer Menus for the day and my heart nearly hit the hardwood.  Somehow, amazingly, I had failed to notice that a full line of Kuhnhenn brews had gone on tap that day at Blind Tiger, including their highly acclaimed, Top 100s in the World, Raspberry Eisbock and Fourth Dementia.  Beers from a little Michigan brewery that had never before been in New York, that I thought I might never get to try.  That I had been dying to try.

I didn’t know what to do.  It was now past midnight and I was very sleepy.  I debated throwing on a bathrobe like a local kook and hailing a cab ASAP to get me the sixty-odd blocks downtown to Blind Tiger to just rotely suck down the beers in minimal enjoyment.  Alas, I decided that even I am not that obsessed.

I was wrong.

I couldn’t sleep that night, tossing and turning.  Had I truly missed all these great beers, perhaps never to have them again?  Why, I couldn’t live with myself if I did!

I woke up at the crack of dawn and proceeded to stare at the clock just watching the minutes slowing tick off until Blind Tiger’s 11:30 AM opening.  All the while, refreshing Blind Tiger’s currently-on-draught page hoping for an update.  A positive update, hopefully noting the beers were still there, but an update nonetheless.  It never came.  I played scenarios in my mind, of the kegs being slurped down by some lucky and unknowing sonofabitch that knew little about beer and just so happened to stumble into Blind Tiger on the luckiest of nights.  Of more savvy beer geeks than me filling up growler after growler with these rare beers until the keg was dry.

Mere seconds after Blind Tiger opened for the day, I burst in, panting and out of breath.  The first in the bar for the…uh morning, without taking a seat, without even answering the bartender’s friendly greetings, I simply stammered:  “Do you still have the Raspberry Eisbock?”

She laughed at my overzealous ardor.

Luckily, they did.  Luckily they still had every Kuhnhenn beer on tap in fact.  I suppose that’s what happens when you’re a brewery known for making thick and viscous double-digit ABV beers.

As the bartender pulled me my six ounce glass of the Raspberry Eisbock, I took out my camera to photograph it.

She smiled at me.

“Lemme guess…beer blogger?”

Nope.  Rare beer hunter addict!

Oh boy, and am I so fucking glad I got to try these beers!  The Raspbeery Eisbock is truly like nothing you’ve ever had before.  It’s fruity, sure, but thick and chewy like an imperial stout.  Tastes of raspberries, sweet malts, and smooth wheat.  And it goes down with a boozy, roasted dark fruit burn like a quad.  A six ounce glass of it was more than enough.  It is exceptionally good and well worth the hype of being the #45 beer in the world as we go to press here at the Vice Blog.  Damn hard to categorize stylistically, this is a true revelation of a beer.

A

Fourth Dementia

9.4% ABV on draught

Next, I got to try the currently 94th ranked beer in the world, Fourth Dementia, an old ale.  I’ve had very few old ales in my life until very recently but it’s quickly becoming a favorite style of mine and this is the best I’ve ever had.  Sweet and sugary, malty and boozy, Fourth Dementia is as equally unique as the Raspberry Eisbock but I liked it just a tad better.  A long-time lover of barley wines and other malty sweet boozebombs, Fourth Dementia is right in my brew wheelhouse.  Absolutely exquisite.

A

Also that day I had the fortune to try tasters of Kuhnhenn’s Flemish Sour Red and their ass-kicker par excellence, the 19% Solar Eclipse imperial stout, a beer that should be served in no vessel bigger than an eye dropper.  Kuhnhenn may be new to me, yet with pure extrapolation, I know that it is one of my favorite breweries on planet earth and I can’t wait to try more from them to actually prove this fact.  Hopefully I will.

I’m also happy to reveal that I haven’t visited beer websites since this fateful day, this moment of clarity.  I’m trying get a hold of my addiction before it gets hold of me.

Oh shit, it’s NYC Craft Beer Week in two days!

*“You were talking in your sleep.”

“Really?  That’s weird.  What was I saying?”

“You said something like, ‘That’s the best tripel I’ve ever had.’  What the hell does that mean?  Triple what?”

“Honey, I believe I may have been dreaming about beer.”

Dogfish Head Fort

September 3rd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 7 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Dogfish Head, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Fruit Beer

On the Manliness of Drinking Beer

Come on pussy, meet me out at the bar.  I don’t care if you got shit to do.  I don’t care if you gotta get up early.  It’s time to drink beers.  The manliest thing a man can do!  What’s so manly about drinking a shit ton of beers you ask?  I can’t believe you don’t fuckin’ know.  Uh, lemme count the ways:

1.  Doing something as many times as you can possibly do something is manly.  Giving it your all!  Whether it’s fucking tons of bitches, eating fifteen cheeseburgers, or drinking two dozen beers until you fall off your bar stool, all that shit is M-A-N-L-Y.

2.  Drinking a lot of beer gives you a beer belly.  Nothing more manly than that.  It also makes you burp, fart, shit, and sometimes even throw up.  Manly!  Except throwing up.  That’s for bulimic little fairies.  Unless you like do a ton of car bombs or somethin’, then it’s acceptable I guess.

3.  Drinking a ton of beers makes you do stupid shit.  Like get in bar fights and hit on ugly women and sometimes even get arrested.  And all that shit is manly.  You think a pussy would do that kinda stuff?  No way!  Only a drunk man’s man.

4.  But it’s most manly to not get drunk.  That’s the paradox.  Hey, I can’t even believe I know what the word paradox means but that’s the paradox.  That we’re going out to get drunk.  To get wasted, shitfaced, cocked, hammered, blitzed and three sheets to the motherfuckin’ wind.  And in order to save time and money you’d think we’d want to get drunk as fast as humanly possible.  But that’s not manly.  Getting drunk after a beer or two is more pussy than coming after two pumps inside a chick.  What’s manly is to take hours and hours on end, and drink beer after beer after beer, before you’re even buzzed.  Sometimes when I’m at the bar, I’m like on beer number ten and my friend is like, “Whoa, I’m getting buzzed” and I’m like, “Shit, I barely feel like I’ve drank anything.  I could go drive my truck right now flawlessly.”  And I think less of my friend from that point on.  You know why?  Cause I’m manly and manly men don’t get drunk until they’ve had like an entire case minimum.

Man I’m so manly, yeah, and you’re manly too I guess, but look at all these so-called men around us.  Look at all these pussies drinking their faggot beers.  I don’t mean “faggot” like homosexual, I mean faggot like GAY, bro.  That guy over there with his beer with it’s fancy foreign name.  If you don’t like American beer, like this Bud Light I’m drinking, then go back to wherever you’re from.  What’s that you say?  Your saison is an American beer?  And my Bud Light is actually owned by In-Bev, a Belgium company owned by Brazilians?!  So fucking what?  It’s the image that matters.  And Bud Light is manly and your frou-frou “saison” beer is womanly.

Look at that guy, he’s been nursing that dark beer for the last hour.  Hey!  Drink up you fucking pussy!  My lil’ sister drinks faster than you, hahaha!  What’s that you say?  You’re drinking an 19% Russian imperial stout?  Russian?  Jesus H. Christ, again with the foreign beers.  You say your beer is nearly five times as alcoholic as my Bud Light?  Yeah, so what?  I’m drinking tons more bottles than you and that’s all that matters.  I’ve drank like three in the time it’s taken youse to drink just one of those sissy Communist beers.  More beers drunk equals more manly drinker.  And that’s me!

And, another thing.  Beer isn’t supposed to be dark and warm like that beer you’re drinking.  It’s supposed to be yellow and fizzy and foamy.  And made out of shit like corn and rice, not oooh fancy organic local ingredients.  And you ain’t supposed to drink it out of that balloon bulb of a glass.  I’m embarrassed for you.  Straight from the bottle!  Like a man.  Like a manly man that doesn’t want to dirty up a glass and hafta wash the dishes like some little housewife later in the night.  (Uh, ’scuse my language, ladies.)

Oh, and check out that queer over there.  The one surrounded by the hot chicks.  He must be the biggest pussy of them all.  Drinking a fruit beer!  Just perfect.  A fruit drinking a fruit beer.

“Did I hear you making fun of me buddy?  It may be a fruit beer but it’s the world’s strongest fruit beer coming in at a whopping 18% ABV.  In fact, I’m not so sure I would even call this a fruit beer.  With it’s boozy alcohol burn and tastes of dark fruits highlighted by an overabundance of Delaware raspberries, this tastes more like a quad than a fruit beer too me.  Even at the high ABV it is quite drinkable and quite delicious.  Fruit beer or whatever, I don’t know, it’s simply fucking delicious.”

A quad?  A quad?!  A quadruple what?!  Like I’m s’posed to know what that shit is?  Maybe you’re just a quadruple pussy.  Now I’m gonna go slam my Bud Light and leave this pussy bar.

A