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Archive for November, 2009

Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale

November 28th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Moylan's, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: B-, Style: IPA

9.2% ABV from a bomber

So after Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive proposed we make our first cross-continental trade, one of the first beers I knew I would ask for from him would be Moylan’s Hopsickle.  The great-named imperial IPA, never available in New York, and long a mainstay on Jay’s all-time top 75, this was a beer I had long wanted to try.  Of course, and this sounds like a joke, literally the same week Jay’s massive beer package arrives–thanks man!–I notice that Manhattan bars and bottle shops are now stocked with Moylan’s.  Uh yeah…guess The Empire State finally got a distribution deal.  Alas.

Hopsickle just smells fantastic, absolutely excreting delicious grapefruit fumes.  The taste is dry and bitter, very herbal, with a nice little tinge of sweet grapefruit.  Packed with Tomahawk, Chinook, and Anthanum hops, this beer is incredibly fresh and earthy tasting.  Massively drinkable for the ABV with no bite whatsoever.  Just a terrific example of the west coast style.

A

A few days later I got to try Moylan’s “standard” Moylander DIPA on tap at Rattle ‘n’ Hum.  Everything great about Hopsickle, Moylander simply lacked.  While it was bitter too, it was quite simple.  No real body and despite the 8.5% ABV a quite thinnish mouthfeel.  The smell was solid but the taste simply didn’t match up.  Decent if this is the only Moylan’s around, but Hopsickle easily tops it as the brewery’s best DIPA.

B-

Nevertheless, I greatly look forward to trying more Moylan’s offerings as I come upon them.

Kuhnhenn Hairy Cherry

November 24th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Kuhnhenn, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Lambic

8.5% ABV on tap

Oh if Kuhnhenn hasn’t quickly become my latest brewery crush.  Yeah, they play a little hard to get here in New York City, only popping up on tap for a day or two at our finer beer bars, but damn if they’ve never done me wrong.  Their Raspberry Eisbock, Fourth Dementia old ale, and even their Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine were pretty much masterpieces, and the only other Kuhnhenn I’d ever had–the All Hallows pumpkin ale–was quite swell for the genre.  If we were scoring at home, the Warren, Michigan brewers would be batting 1.000 with, say, two homers, a triple, and a ground-rule double in my scorebook.  So of course when I saw yet another Kuhnhenn offering on tap at Rattle ‘n’ Hum last Friday–one oddly enough without even a single review yet on BA–there was not a chance I would pass.  And, delightfully, we had another triple, that probably could been stretched into an inside-the-parker.

The second I saw this one poured it was love at first sight.  A frothy, hazy ruby red pour that looked more like some freshly squeezed juice (with pulp!) than a beer.  It’s an awesome experience when you can tell just by sight and smell that you are about to have your ass rocked.  Even my friend stared with awe at my beer, immediately upset that he had ordered something else.  I haven’t had many lambics in my life–most of the tasty but kinda phony Lindemans variety–but if this is what a great one tastes like, I am a new fan of the style.  Hairy Cherry was absolutely bursting with flavor.  Straight up cherry explosion with a tad of a tart finish.  Not really complex, but who gives a damn, that’s fine when you’ve got such an overflow of one particularly delicious flavor.  Not exactly drinkable, I will admit, though I don’t consider that a debit in this case.  This beer isn’t less-than-drinkable because of a hot booziness–it’s actually shockingly pleasant and kid-friendly–but rather due to a dessert-like richness that leaves you more than sated after one tulip full.

True I’ve now had Kuhnhenn’s probably three most “famous” and well-regarded beers, but extrapolate out and these guys are on a Rogers Hornsby 1924 pace with me.  If the rest of their beers are anywhere close to as good as the five I’ve already had, then Kuhnhenn is unquestionably one of my top 10 favorite breweries, probably top 5 even.  I am in lurve.

A

*Note:  While Downtown Bar & Grill is perhaps the easiest place in town for a beer geek to photograph his beer, Rattle ‘n’ Hum is maybe the hardest.  Their taps are against the wall as opposed to on the actual bar, meaning if one wants to photograph an actual tap, he has to humiliate himself by asking the pretty bartenders if he may hand her his camera/phone and have her take a picture of the tap.  And then when anti-Ansel Adams fucks up the framing, you’ll quickly become person non grata by asking for a quick reshoot.  It’s also quite dark in the bar.  Good for drinking, good for flirting, bad for photographing lipstick red lambics to a satisfying degree.

Solstic D’hiver

November 23rd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel, Brewer: Mad River, Brewer: Thomas Hooker, Country: America, Country: Canada, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus

I’ve long said that barley wines are my absolute favorite style of beer.  Since the beginning in fact.  The first beer that ever truly blew my mine was Stone’s Old Guardian.  And it was a barley wine.  I’d never heard of barley wines at the time–I think the only styles I knew of then were “Shitty Tasting,” “Shitty Tasting Lite,” and “Shitty Tasting with Lime”–but I immediately assumed it must be my favorite style and began to seek them out with a reckless abandon.  Stuff like Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine and Brown Shugga, Sierra Nevada Big Foot, and Southern Tier Backburner were near-equally loved for their candy malted rich booziness, and I assumed I must like literally everything from the style.  For years I never passed a barley wine I’d yet to try without purchasing it.  But lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s still my favorite style, going so far to wonder if it’s an unsophisticated beer geek style that I’ve grown too old for.  A childish style you enjoy before “advancing” to the more adult imperial stouts and double IPAs and funky bunch sours.  Well, luckily, I had a few barley wines over the past few weeks that affirmed that I still very much like the style, even if it is probably no longer my overall favorite.

Thomas Hooker Old Marley

10% ABV bottled

Downtown Bar and Grill is an absolute enigma of a craft beer bar.  Firstly, it’s unquestionably the most brightly lit bar in New York.  The picture above was taken without using a flash of any kind.  It’s late night “mood” lighting is brighter than a Ruby Tuesday’s AFTER the lights have gone up at 2 AM and the junior high flunkies have started vacuuming.  Likewise, it’s seemingly run by a group of ambiguously Middle Eastern men that seemingly know absolutely nothing about beer.  Or the English language.  You ask them for something on tap and they stare at you like you asked if you could fuck their wives.  You point to a tap and make friendly conversation, “How’s that one, any good?” and they just pour you a full glass and hold out their open palm for $7.  You wonder what style a certain oddball beer is on the menu and they turn and yell something in Sanskrit to their buddies.  They’re not rude there, don’t get me wrong, they’re just…clueless.  I think.  It’s like the oddest practical joke being perpetrated:  these half-dozen Middle Easterners decide to open a simple “American” bar and then for some reason start getting shipped some of the best beers in the known world.  Who is the Wizard behind their beer curtain?

Without question, they have the best bottle list I’ve ever seen.  Unlike Spuyten Duyvil which is very skilled at writing on the wall a list of amazingly impressive beers–and then even more amazingly impressive at never having any of these in the back room–Downtown B & G actually has everything they list.  And I’m not kidding about everything.  Pretty much every vintage of every Brooklyn Brewery or Dogfish Head beer ever made dating back a decade or more, bottles of Sam Adams Utopias and Millennium, fuck, they even have Westvleteren 8 and 12 (for a mere monk-angering $50 a whack.)  Another great thing about Downtown is that they have the most interesting happy hour deals you’ve ever seen.  Whereas most bars have the pitcher of Coors for $8, maybe a bucket of Heinies for $15, Downtown will have something like…a beautiful plastic cork-plungered 25 oz. bottle of 10% barley wine for $10.  Yes sir, that’s how to get properly slobber-knockered on a Monday!  I’d been quite pleased with Thomas Hooker’s highly acclaimed dopplebock, so of course I gave this a whirl.  And it wasn’t bad.  Certainly well worth the Alexander Hamilton.  A tad cloying in a malty syrupy way, but still pretty tasty.  Aged in bourbon casks this has a nice little touch of vanilla and oaky smokiness.  Took me a full half of football to finish and made my evening’s canoodling a bit of a disaster.

B+

Mad River John Barleycorn (2008)

9.5% ABV bottled

My man Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive hooked me up with this beer I’ve never heard of from a brewery I’ve never heard of.  But that’s cool, I haven’t heard of a lot of shit.  Like the famous Irish folk song this beer takes it’s name from (fun Wikipedia entry alert!)  So glad Jay sent this my way though, because it was very solid.  A nice burnt dried malty sweetness.  Very caramel tasting, but perhaps a little too boozy.  A little too boozy?!  Am I growing soft?  (Did I just end a second straight beer review with an inadvertant e.d. barb?)

B+

Dieu Du Ciel! Solstice D’hiver

9.8% ABV bottled

Montreal’s Dieu Du Ciel! (the exclamation point is part of their name (!!!)) has become THE latest brewery that, if I spot a bottle of their’s I have yet to try, there’s absolutely no chance I will pass on it.  Their stuff isn’t exactly super-rare or anything, it’s just that New York isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with stock of it.  And, ever since I tried their legendary Peche Mortel, a strong contender for best stout in North America, I’ve been on a mission to have everything they make.  True, I have yet to find anything quite as good as Peche Mortel–then again, few beers ARE as good as that–but everything I’ve had from the exclamatory brewery has been quite swell, unique little twists on standard styles.  Their barley wine was no exception.  Boozy caramel tastes like a fine liqueur you get in a hotel bar, with a strong bitter finish with the hops coming through strong.  Would be a nice candidate for aging but for the time being a quite pleasant sipper.  And Dieu Du Ciel always give you pleasant bottle artwork to admire as you start slip slidin’ away.

A-/B+

VSK

November 19th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Birra del Borgo, Brewer: Dogfish Head, Brewer: Kuhnhenn, Brewer: North Coast, Brewer: Sixpoint, Country: America, Country: Italy

I began preparing for Blind Tiger’s VSK–their annual Very Special Keg event in which they roll out some of the oldest and rarest beer they have hiding in their cellar–a full week in advance in just four easy steps:

1.  I began growing some bad facial, a prerequisite for admittance into any hardcore beer geek event.  I considered a burly unkempt hockey play-off beard, perhaps some mutton chops, but ultimately settled on a patchy goatee.

2.  Tried to find a friend to accompany me.  With a 4:00 PM start time, a surefire paucity of women, and a most definite sweaty stinky crowd, no one agreed to join me.  Obviously.

3.  Began examining the VSK beer list to make a batting order.  With so many sought-after beers to try, I needed a game plan.

I first eliminated the need to try certain beers for a variety of reasons.

Allagash Interlude ‘07 (delicious, but have had numerous times)
Bear Republic Apex ‘08
Blue Point 10th Anniversary IPA
(readily available)
Brooklyn Backbreaker (cask)
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout ‘04
Brouwerij De Regenboog Wostyntje ‘08
(never heard of–too lazy to look up on BA)
Captain Lawrence Nor’Easter (delicious, but have had numerous times)
Chelsea Bourbon Aged Imperial Mild
Del Borgo/Dogfish Head My Antonia
Dogfish 120 ‘08 (via Randall)
(never had on Randall, but have 120 countless times)
Dogfish Pangea (never really enjoyed it)
Goose Island Demolition (had before)
JW Lees Harvest Ale aged in a Calvados Cask (Wooden Pin) (delicious, but had before)
Kuhnhenn All Hallows
Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barleywine
Lagunitas Barrel Aged Ruben and the Jets
(didn’t really dig the non-barrel-aged)
North Coast Old Rasputin 10th Anniversary
Rockies Fresh Trak
(ain’t never heard of it)
Rogue Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop

Sierra Nevada Limb and Life
(can’t wait to try, but readily available)
Sixpoint Gorilla Porter
Smuttynose Big A IPA ‘07
(readily available)
Southampton Saison
Stone Vertical Epic ‘06

Next, I tried to make a batting order:

MUSTS

1.  Southampton Saison
2.  Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine (long on my Most Wanted List)
3.  My Antonia
4.  Old Rasputin X
5.  Sixpoint Gorilla Porter

MAYBES, ASSUMING I WASN’T TOO WASTED

6.  Brooklyn Backbreaker (intrigued, but thought I could roll the dice that other bars would eventually get this new release)
7.  Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout 2004 (have had delicious aged BCS countless times, but it never hurts to have again–still, not a priority)
8.  Bear Republic Apex

I arrived early, but still not early enough to get a seat as many geeks appeared to have camped out there overnight.  Wise to have grown my facial hair, my patchy goatee allowed to me to move with relative ease amongst these people, sliding like an eel in between beer guts aplenty, the geeks never the wiser about a non-nerd being on the premises.  If an outsider had poked his head in the door, he would have thought a bad beard convention was having a weekly meeting.  Of course, there was one, perhaps two, females in the house, save the bartenders, and luckily I was able to use my masculine wiles to seduce one for her barstool.

Savvily ordering half-pints, I was able to sample a ton more beers than I expected too.  And, here are my rankings in order*:

1.  Dogfish Head 120 Minute (via Randall)–I hadn’t even expected to order this one but, luckily, eventually a friend joined me and when he ordered one, I had to sneak a sip.  Good lord!  So glad I did as this was far and away the best beer of the night.  I’d long considered 120 a masterpiece, but Randall makes it even better.  Silky and boozy like a liqueur, about as packed with flavor as a beer can possibly get.  After loving 90 Minute via Randall as well, I’m beginning to think that crazy Randall machine could even turn Bud Light Lime into a masterpiece.  (A+)

2.  Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine–This was the beer I most coveted and it didn’t disappoint.  Absolutely delicious, packed with sweet caramel and hints of vanilla, nice and syrupy on the mouth, but, quite frankly a tad hot.  Could use a little age to smooth it out.  Whatever the case, Kuhnhenn has quickly become one of my favorite breweries, because they make beers the way I like them:  boozy.  (A)

3.  Sixpoint Gorilla Warfare Porter–A local beer I’d unfortunately never gotten to try, it was delicious.  Packed with rich coffee but not too roasted in taste, nice chocolate sweetness.  (A)

4.  Old Rasputin X–I’d, of course, long enjoyed the “regular” Old Rasputin.  And, I’d had the fortune to try their 12th Anniversary Rasputin earlier this year, but this two-year old keg of X beat them both.  Bourbon-barreled, and on nitro tap, this was quite creamy with sweet tastes of whiskey and vanilla, almost like a Jack and Coke.  The smell was world-class, better than the taste, and I have to give a minor debit for being a little thin on the mouth.  (A)

5.  My Antonia**–I’d honestly never heard of this collaboration between Dogfish Head and the Italian brewery Birra del Borgo, and even though I don’t really dig pilsners, I was informed this one was exceedingly rare, so, you know..sign me up!  A hoppy aroma but with a bready taste, this one went down quite nice and easily.  (A-)

6.  Brooklyn Backbreaker–I never miss a new Brooklyn release, and this cask offering mightily excited me.  I’d heard nothing about it and, heck, there still isn’t even a BA entry for it!  So I’m not quite sure what style it’s ‘posed to be, but I’d have to guess it’s a…an…English IPA maybe????  I don’t know, but it was quite nice.  Smooth and hoppy, with a great little sweetness.  Perfect for a cask offering.  (A-)

7.  Kuhnhenn All Hallows–Maybe our palates were all screwy by the time we had this one, but both my friend and I agreed that it tasted more like a slice of apple pie than the slice of pumpkin pie you’d expect from a pumpkin beer.  Not a bad thing though.  Cinnamony, but not overspiced like many pumpkin ales, the fruitiness of it was sweet with just a hint of sourness, again, more akin to a golden apple than a pumpkin.  Alas.  (A-)

8.  Bear Republic Apex–By this portion of the evening I was well into my “maybes, assuming I wasn’t too wasted portion of the evening.”  I was probably too wasted, but a Bear Republic IPA has NEVER steered me wrong.  And this is another splendid one.  Piney and bitter, fragrant as hell, but nicely-balanced, definitely deserves a place alongside Hop Rod Rye and Racer X.  (A-)

9.  Magic Hat Sour Notion–Probably the only beer I didn’t love during the evening, this fairly lame attempt at a wild ale, was still quite quaffable, just not particularly sour.  (B)

Afterwards, wasted on some high-ABV shit, my friend and I ventured over to the Times Square Toys ‘r’ Us to freak out tourist youngsters, admire McFarlane sports action figures, and purchase “Modern Warfare 2.”  I’m as shitty at shooter games drunk as I am sober.

*Unfortunately, Southampton Saison was not available.

**INT. BLIND TIGER — NIGHT

The bar is loud.

ME:  I’ll have a My Antonia.

BARKEEP:  Huh?

ME:  MY ANTONIA!

BARKEEP:  WHAT?!

ME:  LIKE THE BOOK!  MY!  ANTONIA!!!!!

BARKEEP:  There’s a book?

Stay in school, kiddos.  Or, actually don’t.  I wish I’d dropped out of school, didn’t know about Willa Cather, and was bartending at Blind Tiger.

Veritas 004

November 18th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: The Lost Abbey, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Wild Ale

The Brew Slut*

The Brew Slut had considered calling herself the Brew Hottie, or the Brew Bitch, or even the Brew HasAVagina, but ultimately nixed all those options.  The Brew Hottie sounded too childish, the Brew Bitch sounded too aggressively feminist, dykeish even, and she in no way wanted any cute beer geeks to think she swung that way.  That’s why she had briefly considered the Brew HasAVagina, but ultimately thought that might be seen as clinical if not confusing.   What has a vagina?  The brew itself?!  Suffice to say, Brew Pussy was also out for obviously reasons.

Thus she decided to become the Brew Slut (to differentiate herself from those boring girls that actually cared about beer), bought a URL from GoDaddy, and registered her new beer blog with Wordpress.  She was ready to go.  To take over the beer world.

Now the Brew Slut didn’t really know much about beer, but that was fine, she was young and didn’t know much about anything.  But she sure liked to drink, loved going to bars and having all the boys fawning all over her.  Not the cool bars of course.  At the cool bars the cool boys paid attention to the legitimately attractive girls, the thin girls, the non-annoying girls.

The Brew Slut had gone from club to lounge to tavern to pub to dive to watering hole until she finally found one place where men paid attention to her:  the craft beer bar.  At first, she had thought she’d accidentally wandered into a gay bar.  Besides the waitress, there wasn’t a single female in the joint!  But no, these men were dressed too schlubby and were far too out of shape to be gay.

She had sat down, ordered an Allagash White–the only beer on tap she’d ever even heard of–and before she’d taken one sip, guys were talking to her.  Yeah, the guys were kinda chunky, slathered in bad facial hair, wedged into tight beer-related tee-shirts, nervous and fidgety despite being socially lubricated–but they were talking to her!  They didn’t care that she was mediocre-looking, that she had a big beer gut, or that she was loud and annoying, they still desired her!  These were now her people!  And so long as she pretended that she might one day fuck these dorks, they continued to slobber all over her.  And she loved the attention.

The Brew Slut started posting three days a week on her Brew Slut blog, mainly cut-and-paste jobs of brewery press releases, stolen Google images of beer bottles, a rare review of a common beer she’d had which were essentially just regurgitations of other smarter people’s earlier reviews of said beer.  But what the Brew Slut most specialized in were posting photos of herself.

The Brew Slut comically hugging a huge flight of beer samples.

The Brew Slut shoving her sloppy tits into some unwitting bartender’s face.

The Brew Slut clinking glasses and cheers-ing her “fellow” beer geeks.

Man, the Brew Slut thought she was one gorgeous creature.  And why wouldn’t she?  For every time the Brew Slut posted pictures of herself she’d immediately get an enormous influx of comments from web-surfing beer geeks:

u look hawt brew slut lol

I really like you in that dress, Brew Slut.

more pics plz!!!!! :)

The Brew Slut’s blog traffic was increasing rapidly, as beer geeks told their geeky friends about this chick–this Beer Slut!–that actually likes beer!  Like US.  She must be the perfect woman.

Trying to spread her “brand”–the Brew Slut was one of those dumb people that always spoke in buzz words like “branding” and “paradigm”–the Brew Slut took to Facebook and Twitter with abandon..  She would use all the tools of “Web 2.0″ and “social networking” to become a star.  She befriended on Facebook all the big wigs in the industry.  Began writing to them on Twitter too.

The BrewSlut @dogfishbeer Hope to one day have a pint with Sam! #whore 1 minute ago from txt

TheBrewSlut @sierranevadaca Your beers make me horny! #whore 2 minutes ago from TweetDeck

TheBrewSlut @StoneGreg Me, you, and an Arrogant Bastard sounds like a terrific 3some!  #whore 3 minutes ago from Twitterific

Shamelessly e-flirting.  Dozens upon dozens of tweets and re-tweets and re-tweet-tweets per day.

Wouldn’t you know it, the guys that ran the beer industry soon took to her just like the beer geeks did.  They started buying advertising from her, inviting her to beer festivals and private tastings, special release parties and pairing dinners–gratis, comped, on the hizzy–where she would yak their ears off about her brand under the guise of interviewing them for her blog.  All the while shoving her tits in their faces.

The brewmasters were only human and a girl–even a mediocre one that brays like a donkey–was still more fun to be around than 99% of the beer geeks that hectored them with questions about proper attenuation.

Drunk one night off of some of the rarest beers in the world, after finally reaching the top, the Brew Slut went to bed thinking:

“What’s everyone talking about us gals having it tough?  All you gotta do is find an industry with a lack of females in it, and a ton of loser-ish men, and you will easily conquer it.  Man, it’s great to have a vagina.”

It was the only wise thought the Brew Slut had ever had.

Veritas 004

8% ABV bottled

I enjoyed this Lost Abbey masterpiece during an impromptu souring tasting alongside Temptation and Beatifcation–masterpieces in their own right–yet Veritas blew both out of the water.  My man DW provided this ultra-rare retired beer, a blending of Yellow Bus, Duck Duck Gooze, and Cuvee de Tomme, one of which I’d had before (Tomme), one of which I own but have yet to tipple (Duck Duck) and one of which I shall probably never touch sadly enough (Yellow Bus.)  I didn’t know what to expect and was a little thrown when the brew poured an an apricot orangey yellow with just a touch of foam.  Didn’t exactly smelled sour and I started to get confused about the style.  But my first sip was magnificently wild and each additional one was even better.  Fizzy but smooth, strong tastes of sweet peaches which blended nicely with a citric and grape tartness to make for some sumptuous drinking.  Just silly complex, juicy and bursting with flavor, I see absolutely no flaw in this offering.  Even most A pluses have a minor flaw or two, but not this one.  Not only the best wild ale I’ve ever had, Veritas 004 is in the running for the best beer of my life.  You’ll probably never get to try this beer and, shit, I probably will never get to try it again, so I guess we’re both back to square one now, aren’t we?

Fuck what all the haters keep lobbing toward Lost Abbey–overpriced, overflat, etc–they have quickly become maybe my favorite brewery in America.

A+

*Any similarities to sluts living or dead, is probably intentional.  And, if there actually is some “Brew Slut” somewhere out there, I appologize for taking her name in vain.

Stone Collaborations

November 13th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Brewer: Cambridge, Brewer: Ken Schmidt, Brewer: Maui, Brewer: Stone, Country: America, Country: Scotland, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Pilsner, Style: Porter

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter

8.5% ABV bottled

Like corned beef, chopped liver, lox, and gefilte fish, macadamia nuts are one of those foods us Jews innately like for some reason.  But, unlike corned beef, chopped liver, lox, and gefilte fish, which you gentiles often don’t quite have a taste for, all human beings love macadamia nuts, arguably the world’s best nut.  Thus, I was quite excited for the first beer, I’m aware of, to be made using luxurious macadamia nuts.  As Morty Seinfeld once said, “They’re like 80 cents a nut!”  I’d really enjoyed the previous Stone collaboration beers I’d had–their Special Holiday Ale with Nogne O and Jolly Pumpkin and their Belgian Triple with Mikkeller and Alesmith–and luckily The Drunken Polack was able to secure me a bottle of this treat too!  This beer is cool in that one of the collaborators is a home brewer, the aforementioned Ken Schmidt, who won a contest Stone put on, crafting a beer so good the big boys from San Diego decided to try and recreate it on a larger scale.  This porter–as mentioned earlier this week, a “new” favorite style of mine–is getting near universal acclaim, but I wasn’t quite as floored as the masses.  And, I’ll readily admit, that’s probably due to my expectations.  What with its massively long name, essentially listing all the ingredients at once, I assumed the most prominent flavors would be of macadamia nuts and sweet coconut.  So, when I got a beer that was actually prominently focused on the Kona coffee, I was confused at first.  Eventually, being a big fan of coffee beers though, I grew to really enjoy this one.  This is very much a roasted, dark and rich beer ala Peche Mortel.  Not a hair of sweetness.  Really got only the slightest hint of slick sweet coconut and macadamia nuts on the finish, but maybe those with niftier pallates can extract those flavors better than I can.  Nonetheless, another great one from Stone.

A-

Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

10% ABV bottled

Better and more succinctly named than the previous Stone collab, but equally hard to photograph with a non-label label I’m still not sure whether I like or not–major pain in the ass to have to get your magnifying glass out to figure out which of the collaborations you actually have–this was another beer sent to me by Drunken Polack.  A Stone completist, I absolutely needed to try this joint offering with BrewDog and Cambridge, but I actually wasn’t that excited for it.  A pilsner?  Bleh.  I was so wrong though, this was quite delicious.  After you get over the fact that you’re tasting an incredibly hoppy dark beer, you can see Juxtaposition for it brilliance.  Floral and piney on the smell, some added roastiness on the taste, shockingly drinkable for the ABV.  This isn’t quite the iconoclastic beer Stone seems to think it is–aside from the coloring–but it’s awesome nonetheless.  I wish I had more bottles of it.

A-/B+

Keep the collaborations comin’!

Russian River Temptation & Beatification

November 11th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Russian River, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Wild Ale

My favorite sport, college basketball, began this week which means it’s time for me to start drinking shitty beers.  I never mean to, but it always occurs.  Now I’m not exactly avoiding bars like Carrie Nation during the off-season, but once college hoops begins, it seems like I’m living in watering holes.  And, while in the off-season I’m a fixture at fine establishments such as Rattle ‘n’ Hum and Blind Tiger, drinking cask IPAs, quads, and imperial stouts, I’m forced to move to more, ahem, hoi polloi drinking establishments to watch games.  Good beer bars simply don’t excel at having good, if any, TVs to watch big games on (though Rattle ‘n’ Hum is passable) and I am fine with that.

Thus, I move to indistinguishable bars in the East and Greenwich Village that do have great TVs, all the obscure sports packages, but don’t have great beers.  Sure, this is Manhattan, and even the absolute most pathetic bars usually have Brooklyn and Sam Adams Lager on tap, a comically overpriced Chimay even on the bottle menu, but it’s impossible to avoid the $5 pitchers of Bud when you’re hunkering down for the next twelve hours to watch hoops.

And, you know, that used to trouble me.  The more refined my palate gets–I can’t believe I just said that–the less I’m able to even chug down a macro for pure drunken sustenance.  I used to think, the only thing that would make watching the great Syracuse Orange crush Georgetown yet again, would be if I was sipping a glorious beer while I watched the game, as opposed to the Miller Lite I held in my hand.  But now, I’ve come to realize, that I no longer believe that.  In fact, I know that’s patently false.  For you see, I think I maybe have become one of those douchebags that actually enjoys contemplating his fine beers.  Shit, I can’t have a TV blaring a silly game between a group of pituitary cases trying to stuff a ball through a hoop interrupt my beer enjoyment!  Thus, I think I am now thankful for shitty beer.  Thankful I can have something to do–like Jerry Tarkanian biting on his towel, Leo Mazzone rocking in his dugout seat, Jim Leyland smoking–to keep me occupied and keep my nerves at bay as I watch my favorite team in another nail-biter.  A pint of some obscure Belgian lambic simply wouldn’t do the trick.

However, when I’m not drinking shitty beer on game days, I’m gonna have to be tippling the shit out of the good stuff.  Like last week, when I was able to put together a pretty nice beer tasting leading up to game 6 of the World Series courtesy of friends DW (Beatification) and Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive (Temptation).

Temptation (BATCH #4)

7.25% ABV from a 750 mL corked-and-caged

Temptation, currently the 30th ranked beer in the world, is a blonde ale aged for nine to fifteen months in French oak chardonnay barrels.  A goldenrod color with a bubbly head.  Flavors of sour apples, white wine, oak and, of course, Brett, all nicely balanced together.  I didn’t find it to be that mindblowingly complex, but it’s nevertheless flawless for what it is.  Perfect for fans of wild ales that are smoother and less mouth-puckering.

A+

Beatification (BATCH #2)

6% ABV from a 375 mL corked-and-caged

A wordsmith, of course I love a beer that teaches me a new vocab word–”a state of supreme happiness”–as well as how to pronounce it–it’s bee-AT-uh-fi-key-shuhn not BEAT-uh-fi-key-shuhn as I dumbly thought–right there on the back of the label.  Currently the 85th ranked beer in the world, Beatification ages in the absolute oldest barrels Russian River has that no longer have any wine flavor or oak flavor left in them. Russian River notes, however, that “a cocktail of ‘bugs and critters’ (Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus & other wild yeast & bacteria) remains in the barrel.”  This is easily the most tart Russian River beer I’ve ever had, making Temptation seem soft in comparison.  Citrusy and earthy, I personally enjoyed this a tad more than Temptation, but, for you, it will all depend on how much you personally enjoy physically interacting with your adult beverages as this one will keep you puckered and wincing til the last drop.

A+

As it now stands, I’ve had four of the five Russian River -tion wild ales on the Beer Advocate top 100–Santification is all I’m missing, any one got a bottle to spare?–and perhaps I should be embarrassed, though I’m not embarrassed, that I have given them all unequivocal A pluses.  They are all that fine.  It’s amazing how unique each one is.  Russian River isn’t just pumping out the same wild ales and making different labels for them, no sir.  These are carefully crafted beers, each rather easy to different from one another, all worth going to the trouble to locate (and pay out the ass for!)  Russian River brings it ever single time, clearly in the argument for finest brewery in America.

And, just for the hell of it, my rankings at this second in time for their wild ales:

1.  Consecration
2.  Supplication
3.  Beatification
4.  Tempation

For anyone who has had 3, 4, or, lucky bastard, all 5 of the major Russian River wild ales, what are your rankings?

Smuttynose Robust Porter

November 9th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Smuttynose, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian Pale Ale, Style: IPA, Style: Porter

5.7% ABV bottled

The Most Underrated Brewery Around

This is an era of hype and of overrating things.  Of proclaiming each new thing the “best” and the “greatest,” and constantly trying to rank things in an easily digestible top 5 or top 10 or top 100 order. Even I had thought of doing a list of the most overrated breweries in America.  Because, of course, everything in this world nowadays is overrated in some way or other.  In fact, it would seem impossible for something, especially something well-known, to be underrated.  But sometimes things just slip through the cracks.  And today I want to talk about the most underrated brewery in America:  Smuttynose from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I’ve been guilty of underrating this fine brewery for far too long.  So has everyone else.  Why is that?  They have nicely named beers with great labels, their taps and bottles are ubiquitous on the East Coast and always at an incredibly reasonable price, and, naturally, all their beers are delicious.  But for some reason, I’ve never intentionally sought out Smuttynose beer, nor even reviewed a single one of their brews on The Vice Blog.  For shame, Aaron, for shame.  That’s all about to change with this post.

The odd thing is, aside from their popular pumpkin seasonal beer, I’m not even sure if I’d ever even had a Smuttynose release until I tried their eye-openingly good Smuttynose Gravitation Quad at this year SAVOR event, finding it to be perhaps the best American quadruple around, and good enough to stack up with the legendary Belgians.  It was maybe my favorite beer at a festival that had dozens of rarer and more ballyhooed beers.

Now you would think my experience at SAVOR would have been a watershed moment for me and I would have begun to intentionally start seeking out Smuttynose beers.  But, dumbly, I still didn’t.  I still passed over the countless reasonably priced offerings for sale at my bottle shops, avoided their taps while tying one on, eschewed their offerings completely.  Perhaps it was the simple fact that I always knew I could get Smuttynose beers if I wanted to that led me to avoid them.  Like the slutty girl on your dorm floor that you never hook up with because you know you can always hook up with her if need be.

The next time I tried a Smuttynose offering was the next time I was forced to.  At a mediocre Williamsburg bar with all macro offerings save Smuttynose IPA “Finest Kind,” I obviously had no choice.  And so glad my hand was forced because this is one of the most unique beers I’ve had this year.  Far and away the most pungently bitter IPA I’ve ever had, on my first tasting I alternated between sips of “this is amazing” and sips of “this is absolutely wretched.”  But for the rest of the week I couldn’t get the beer off my mind, and with future tastings I came to adore it.  Finest Kind now stands as one of my favorite single IPAs that are readily available, and if I’m at a bar with a tap of it, I now always have to have a pint.  (A-)

Yet even with that experience I was still not a Smuttynose acolyte.  Next, while trying to find a beer my sister might enjoy, I gave Smuttynose’s Hanami Ale a whirl and I was greatly impressed by this spring seasonal.  A nice and refreshing beer, this is the rare fruit beer that isn’t too overpowering, nor does it have a phony, artificial syrupy taste like most fruit beers.  Hanami Ale is now one of my go-to recommendations to girls-that-claim-they-hate-beer-but-are-forced-to-drink-beer-with-me.  And, you know, they always love it.  (B+)

Later this very summer, while at Rattle ‘n’ Hum one Saturday afternoon, I noticed Smuttynose’s Baltic Porter as being the only beer on the menu I had never tried.  Interestingly, as much as I had ignored Smuttynose, I had been ignoring porters for even longer.  For some reason, I assumed them to be the red-headed step-brother of far superior stouts.  I’ve since learned that is very much not the case and, in fact, though they are similar and this is purely anecdotal, I’ve found, ceteris paribus, that I actually often enjoy porters more than stouts.  Whereas a bad stout can have that overly roasted, burnt taste like a Starbucks coffee, porters often have a more pleasant, sweet and malty taste.  Such is the case with this phenomenal Baltic Porter.  Big bold flavors of sweet dark fruits with just an underlying hint of chocolate, this is one incredible beer.  (A)

Shockingly, I still wasn’t on the Smuttynose bandwagon.  What the fuck did I need?!  Am I such a dope that I need a brewery to have multiple entries on the Beer Advocate Top 100, that I need them to have a slew of barrel-aged beers, that I need them to have countless small batch release parties and overpriced beers for me to hail their greatness?  I guess so, because, again, just this week while watching the Yankees clinch #27, I only ordered Smuttynose’s Star Island Single because I was forced to with nothing else appealing on tap.  Glad my hand was played again because this Belgian pale ale, Smuttynose’s newest regular lineup release, is imminently drinkable and quite tasty.  Strong tastes of banana Laffy Taffy-like esters, honey and a nice citrusy yeastiness, I could drink these all night.  And, in fact, I did for 9 innings.  (A-/B+)

Finally, after having liked, loved, and been blow away by five Smuttynose beers in a row, did I decide last night to intentionally purchase one, grabbing a bottle of their Robust Porter to enjoy with the “Mad Men” finale.  Of course, such as life, this was my least favorite Smuttynose beer so far, but it was still very solid.  Dry and roasted, with a nice coffee and chocolate taste, this is a no-frills beer that is quite drinakble.  (B+)

I feel like it’s taken me a full year, if not a whole beer-drinking lifetime, to “discover” a brewery.  A brewery whose beers have been around me since I first started tippling the good stuff.  I’m excited to now have tons of new beers I want to try from Smuttynose.  Their Really Old Brown Dog old ale and their Big A IPA and their imperial stout and wheatwine and barleywine and all their others I have yet to have.

I still don’t understand why Smuttynose is universally underrated, maybe it’s due to their odd name, maybe due to getting overshadowed by their sister brewery Portsmouth and their legendary Kate the Great imperial stout, but I will no longer underrate what has easily become one of my favorite breweries in America.  Nor should you.

Mikkeller Beer Geeks

November 4th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Mikkeller, Country: Denmark, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Stout

10.9% ABV bottled

On Geekiness

Now it makes perfect sense to me how the world of comic books and sci-fi and computer games can attract geeks.  Of course they attract geeks.  Geeks are stereotyped as overweight undersexed obsessive loner nerds.  Why wouldn’t they commit their free time to fantasy worlds better than their own?  To worlds where nerds just like them can get bitten by a radioactive spider and are all of the sudden the coolest pajamas-wearing dude in all of the five boroughs.  Where innately knowing how to wield a lightsaber gets your hot sister to want to make out with you just to make Harrison Ford jealous.  Where being a shut-in who is really good at video games affords you the opportunity to play Super Mario Bros. 3 in front of adoring fans.   Geekiness makes sense among fantasy world devotees.  These people aren’t geeks because they follow fantasy.  They follow fantasy worlds because they are geeks.

Then what about sports?  Sports, at first glance, would seem surely less a bastion of geekiness.  I mean, aren’t jocks the ones usually picking on geeks since the beginning of time?  And, any how, everyone likes sports.  And most people played them at one point in their life too.  So how does geekiness infest the sports world?  I would argue here it’s an aspirational thing.  A fantasy world that is actually feasible for real humans to achieve so long as they practice hard and take lots of PEDs.  Sports also attracts nerds because it allows them to implement their honors math skills in a real world setting.

Now, I don’t think most people could possibly understand how beer could be geeky.  I’ve been a beer connoisseur of varying degrees for at least a half decade and I didn’t even fully understand the magnitude of beer geekiness until recently.  I mean, beer is so cool, right?  Beer is what the “bad” kids in school drank under the bleachers while the rest of us were cheering at pep rallies.  Beer is what we fed to girls in college to get them to sleep with us.  And have you seen beer commercials?  Uh, does that look like a geeky time?  Shirtless hunks and gummy-bear-implanted women and a lot of “woohoo-ing” and Spuds McKenzie!  No fucking way is that anything but the antithesis of geekiness.

But, sorry to say, beer culture is just as geeky as Star Trek or comic books or LARPing or baseball card collecting.  Go to any beer tasting or convention or special release party or event where a legendary brewmaster is set to appear and you will be slack-jawed at the geekitude.  The air will be permeated with the stench of dork.  (It smells kinda like inappropriate sweating and unfounded pretentiousness.)  Oh man, could you imagine if craft breweries had commercials depicting the true world of craft beer?  It would’t be hunks and sluts and party animals and Wassssuppping and Clydesdales.  No sir, an accurate craft beer commercial would depict a sausage party with a paucity of pussy and guys with pubic-like beards in too tight of brewery t-shirts proudly wielding their own personal tasting glasses like Minnesota Fats brandished his prize cue while debating the difference between storing their cellared bottles upright or sideways and waiting for Sam Calgione to arrive so they could pester him with arcane questions about yeast strains.  Par-tay!!!!!)

Thinking about how such a seemingly cool thing like beer drinking could have as great a geek quotient as a Half-Life party got me thinking.  Are there geeks in other aspects of life?  Perhaps in all aspects of life?  Are there geeks even in what would seemingly be the most super-cool niches of this world?!

Rock ‘n’ Roll

With drug-addled, chain-smokin’ long-haired men on strobe-lighted stages singing symphonies to the devil while gyrating the armadillos in their trousers in overt sexual manners, rock music has long attracted a committed following from two specific groups.  Reprehensible sluts is one, obviously.  But scratch the surface just a bit and you see that rock also attracts massive geeks.  For whatever reason, gross Matt Pinfield/Lester Bangs/Cameron Crowe types have long loved obsessing over men that are much cooler than them and the minutiae of the music these men create in the spare ten minute refractory periods in between their groupie fivesomes.  Like beer geekdom, a “High Fidelity” like obsession with rock music also involves a lot of hanging out with men men glorious men.  Perhaps the reason John Norris is such a big rock ‘n’ roll geek, come to think about it.

Drugs

Surely there must be hard-core drug geeks that take their love for illegal narcotics to the same highly-critical extremes that we do.  There’s got to be a Coke Advocate website somewhere.  “The pour of my Bolivian Marching Powder from my two gram Ziploc baggy onto my West Elm mirrored coffee table cascaded out in a luxurious white stream akin to Niagara Falls in December…”  There must be a RateMeth too.  “The symetrical crystals had a nice mouthfeel as I swallowed them whole, unable to locate my pipe and a spare sheet of tin foil, no matter how frantically I searched my house…”  And there’s surely the Great American Weed Festival held every year in Boulder or Portland or Madison to honor the year’s best in marijuana releases.  I’m certain of all of this.

Sex

The idea of sex geeks seems paradoxical, impossible even, but I know they must exist too.  Men that go on message boards to scrutinize technique with each other.  Who attend conventions of some sort to trade insider secrets on the state of the art of fucking.  Men with Excel spreadsheets where each sex geek meticulously logs his “wants” and “hads.”  (Had:  twins, GMILF, ginger;  Wants:  Albino, hermaphrodite, circus clown.)  Actually, come to think of it, I may very well be a sex geek.  Moving along…

But even if I am a geek in any other genre, by now beer geekiness must surely be my forte.  And my geek fancy couldn’t help but be tickled by a line of beers that so brazenly holds a mirror up to us.  Aside from last year’s collaboration with Stone, these would be the first beers I had ever had from Mikkeller and, whoa, what a place to start!

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

10.9% ABV in a 500 mL bottling

I was lucky enough to try this at the wonderful Paradiso in our nation’s capital and so glad I did because this is a stunner of a beer.  From what I understand, Mikkeller doesn’t have their own brewery–in fact, the Mikkeller brewmasters actually have day jobs!–and this was brewed at Nogne O’s brewery.  Brunch Weasel is an asskicker of an oatmeal stout brewed using “the world’s most expensive coffees” (according to Mikkeller it’s around $100/lb) and “from droppings of weasel-like civet cats. The fussy Southeast Asian animals only eat the best and ripest coffee berries. Enzymes in their digestive system help to break down the bean. Workers collect the bean-containing droppings for Civet or Weasel Coffee” (again, according to Mikkeller…uh, are they joking????)  Whatever the case, this cat-shit beer is incredible, frequently residing in the 95-100 range on the BA Top 100*.  One of the most coffee-tasting beers I’ve ever had, yet not in that burnt, unpalatable roasted way a lot of coffee beers unfortunately are.  This has a nice chocolaty sweetness and a good boozy burn.  Much better for waking you up during Sunday brunch than a measly Bellini.

A

Beer Geek Breakfast

7.5% ABV in a 500 mL bottling

Based purely on anecdotal evidence, Breakfast seems to be easier found than Brunch Weasel and, such is life, it’s also not quite as tasty.  Though it’s still solid.  Opened for me with a frothy, latte explosion.  Bitter and muted, oaty and dark chocolaty, I missed the lack of booziness in this one compared to Brunch.  Good, but not worth trampling over a kid in a wheelchair for (Brunch most certainly is worth trampling over a handicap child for.)

I’d passed over Mikkeller beers for far too long–perhaps due to their lofty price tags (about $12-15 for the smallish bottles where I live)–but now I’m most certainly eager to try more of their offerings to see what these crazy Danes have a-brewing.

Looks like there’s a few more from the Beer Geek line, though they appear to be small-batch bottlings only available in Europe.  Darn.

A-/B+

Question of the day:  Where have you seen utter geekiness where you least expected it?

*I should note I have now become almost disenchanted with the BA Top 100.  It has become just too much of a Sisyphean task to tackle it.  Every time I have a Top 100 beer, a new exciting release comes out and meteorically jumps onto the list.  And, then, that same release usually has several similtaneous, even rarer, tap-only iterations (bourbon-barreled, oaked, vanilla beaned, cocoa nibbed) which add two to four more beers onto the Top 100 and all of the sudden you’re not gaining any ground on conquering the Top 100.  And let’s not discuss those times when you finally take down a Top 100 “white whale”–see Veritas 004 which I had last night–only to see that beer become “retired”–which Veritas 004 will almost certainly be in a few weeks or so–and then totally disappear from the list.  It becomes frustrating and I feel like I’ve been stuck in the “had” 65-70 of the Top 100 for the last few months with little traction made.  Which actually makes me happy, because now I’ve decided to just enjoy great beer, may the Top 100 list be damned.  (Unless of course I ever get me hands on some Black Tuesday and then, woohoo!, #1 beer in the world!!!!!!)