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Archive for February, 2010

Cigar City at Rattle ‘n’ Hum

February 23rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 12 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Cigar City, Country: America, Style: Brown Ale, Style: Cream Ale, Style: IPA, Style: Old Ale, Style: Stout

“I would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize for the events of the night of the 23rd.  I’m not accustomed to drinking alcohol.”  –Max Fischer, “Rushmore”

I woke up near noon, still completely dressed in what I’d worn the previous evening.  Jacket, shoes, jeans with wallet, cell phone, keys still in it, everything.  My head pulsated in pain.  Not surprising considered I’d celebrated my birthday the previous night at Rattle ‘n’ Hum, chasing pints of 13% Bourbon County Stout with shots of Irish whiskey in a perpetual Mobius strip of aggressive drinking.  But even worse than the pain in my head, was the pain in my gut.  What exactly had happened twelve hours previous?  Had I scarfed down too many orders of fried calamari and Buffalo wings?  Yeah, probably, but that wouldn’t cause this kind of pain.  A pain so intense it hurt for me to sit upright and killed when I tried to piss.

Oh right, I’d entered myself in an impromptu gut-punching contest Friday night.

Seems that after drinking steadily from happy hour til midnight, after all the women and responsible men had left my party and the bar, leaving only a quintet of degenerates remaining, someone, probably me, had gotten the wise idea to start a quasi-Fight Club in our little corner and we began exchanging a series of gut punches with each other.  I’d never done something like this before, never even had such a desire to do something like this before, but I’ve never been accused of not having strokes of genius when too lit up to remember them the next day.  And, this gut-punching stroke, did I only barely recall engaging in.

I have a long history of alienating friends, ruining relationships, losing my dignity, and flat out humiliating myself on my birthday.  It’s an annual tradition.  But in this case it seemed like none of the above had occurred.  I spent the day writhing in pain, staying supine, and texting with my friends to recount the night.

How many gut punches had we exchanged I wondered?  About fifteen, recalled Tony.

How hard were we hitting each other?  About 75% our maximum punching power, thought Graig.

And why the fuck weren’t we getting tossed out of the bar for such childish shenanigans?  Because Rattle ‘n’ Hum is the most awesome bar in the world, thought I.  Though, honestly, because my friends were probably racking up a combined grand in drinking tab.  Never let any one tell you that money can’t buy you happiness.  Or the ability to have an impromptu gut-punching contest in a heretofore civilized establishment.

But apparently the night wasn’t completely peaches ‘n’ cream at Rattle ‘n’ Hum.  Sal chipped in that eventually, after about a half hour of gut-punching, some guy, en route to smoke a butt outside, had told us to cut it out.  And apparently, I had told said guy where to stick it.

Oh God!  Who was this man?  A bartender?  A manager?  Hopefully not…the owner!

Typically, I wouldn’t care.  Wealthy Charles Foster Kane wasn’t worried that his beloved newspaper was losing him one million dollars a year because, as he noted, “at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place…in 60 years.”  And I’ve long realized that I can get 86ed from a New York bar this week, and one next week, and one the week after that, and at the rate of fifty-two 86ings per year, I’d have to move to a new drinking town…in 60 years.  But the circumstances were different here because Rattle ‘n’ Hum is my favorite bar in the world.

Now normally I’d just lay low for awhile til my statute of drunken limitations had expired.  But, in this case, that simply wouldn’t work.  You see, just three days later, Rattle ‘n’ Hum was having one of the greatest beer-drinking events in recent memory as the esteemed Tampa brewery Cigar City was coming to town to unleash more than their full lineup of beers.  There’s no fucking way I was going to miss this event.

I consulted with my friends.  Who exactly had I mouthed off to and exactly how mouthy had I gotten?  Was I truly 86ed?  Would I be recognized if and when I returned to the bar?

“You’re not exactly the kind of guy that people forget, Aaron,” noted Graig.  I don’t think that was a compliment.

After fretting all day, I had no choice.  I would have to attend the Cigar City event incognito.

In preparation, I shaved an uneven goatee into my scruff, wore some particularly shabby clothing (which is saying something for me, I normally dress like a hobo), put on a Syracuse cap pulled low as possible over my eyes and sharp eyebrows (my most prominent and memorable features), and even wore my nerdy reading glasses that never leave the house, just to have another thing blocking my face.  Of course, I had to fly solo, I couldn’t risk returning to the scene of the crime with any accomplices.

I felt nervous when I entered the fairly empty bar, especially when I saw the afternoon’s bartender was the very same kind Irish lass we’d had at my birthday.  I couldn’t recall if I’d been offensive to her as well.  I walked with an intentionally unconfident slouch, my head meekly drooping to hide myself further.  I looked down at the bar, never making eye contact, feigning intense nervousness as the bartender approached and slid a menu in front of me.

“What can I getcha, hon?”

My ruse had seemed to work.  She didn’t recognize me from Adam.  (If Adam was the name of one of the countless beer nerds that would be infestating the bar soon enough.  Damn, perhaps I should have stuffed a pillow under my shirt to create a faux-beer gut.  I didn’t need my flat belly giving me away.)

I decided to open my drinking with probably the manliest, not to mention priciest, flight of beers ever assembled, pictured above.  A straight boozy stout quartet of Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, Hunahpu’s imperial Stout, and their bourbon-barreled counterparts.

Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout

This 11% ABV brew is bursting with distinct flavors of coffee, chocolate, toffee, and molasses.  A rich syrupy mouthfeel and great carbonation, this is an awesome effort.  (A)

Bourbon Barrel Aged Marshall Zhukov’s

I can’t believe I’m saying this, and I’m not sure I’ve ever said this in my entire life as I’ve long stood by the reasoning that awesome beer + bourbon barrel aging = awesomer beer but in this case I thought the incredible booziness here overwhelmed the subtler flavors.  Or maybe I’m just becoming a little pussy in my old age.  I’d love to try this one with a little age on it but even hot and young it’s quite good.  (A-)

Hunahpu’s Mayan Chocolate Imperial Stout

Currently resting at #38 on Beer Advocate’s Top 100 beers on earth after an amazingly meteoric rise, this 11% beer takes a base of Marshall Zhukov’s and ages it on pasillo and ancho peppers as well as vanilla, cinnamon, and cocoa nibs, giving it a nice little spiciness with a surprisingly sweet finish, and making it taste truly like no other imperial stout around.  As a huge fan of Latin spices, I absolutely adored this effort, and, for me, it was my clear stout winner of the day.  (A)

Bourbon Barrel Aged Hunahpu’s

Just like the bourbon-barrel Marshall Zhukov’s I think the intense bourbonness of this effort blocks out the awesome spices and makes it a less complex and enjoyable beer.  Having said that, it’s still quite good.  (A-)

After my first flight, I thought, let’s see, twenty-four total Cigar City beers available, if I keep flighting in out, I could knocked off the full lineup in only six total plate appearances.  Flight #2 coming up!

Creamsicle IPA

This sounded like an intriguing premise, an IPA that tastes just like a Creamsicle, but I doubted the execution was possible.  I was so wrong.  This straight out tastes like a bitter IPA backed by the orange creamy goodness of a popsicle.  Amazingly drinkable and quaffable.  (A-)

Flora IPA

This standard IPA with cedar and lavender added smells like a sack of weed and tastes like a flower garden.  And that’s a compliment.  Absolutely delicious and unique.  (A)

Humider Series Juniper IPA

I’d been floored by Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA aged on cedar so I was excited to try yet another IPA from their exciting Humidor Series, and this was just as good.  Like drinking a box of wood.  (A)

Brandy Barrel Winter Warmer

I honestly ordered this one just to fill out the foursome, but it absolutely floored me.  The normal Warmer Winter Winter Warmer–an old ale I still hadn’t had at this point so I can’t compare–aged on Laird’s apple brandy, this would end up being my favorite beer of the evening and one of the best beers I’ve had year to date.  Silky, syrupy, and sweet but not cloying, this reminded me of J.W. Lee’s delicious Harvest Ale Calvados, but even boozier and more delicious.  A huge winner.  (A+)

At this point I was getting pretty drunk and began fretting I would soon break into Leonard-Duran gut-punching numero dos.  I really had to focus and say “No mas” as there is surely some demon inside of me that now likes me to get punched in the gut.  I had brought a paperback and had planned to quickly drink my beers with my head ducked into the book, but, ironically, I kept finding myself talking to people over the two hours I was there and even made two new friends.

I now realized that having all six flights was probably out, but I figured I could squeeze in two more.  Unfortunately, their pricey cask selections, of which they had several, were not available in flight form so I had to go with full pours.  The remaining beers I slugged:

Double Cream (cask)

When I prepared my drinking order the night before I’d flagged this 9% strong cream ale as one I was particularly excited to try, but its corn and honey sweetness simply didn’t fully deliver for me and it would go down as the worst (relative term) beer I had for the day.  (B+)

Mango IPA (cask)

This IPA loaded with dry hops, mango acai tea, and a hint of lavender was my third favorite effort of the day.  As it warms the intense mango flavors come through nicely.  Flawless mouthfeel and drinkability.  Amazing.  One of my favorite IPAs of the year.  (A)

Maduro Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

After the mild failure of Brooklyn’s far more ballyhooed attempt at making a straight-up cookie tasting beer I didn’t expect any one could execute in that regard.  I was wrong.  This brown ale does taste just like an oatmeal cookie as the tart raisiness comes through nicely.  (A-/B+)

Cuban Espresso Maduro

Wow, just like the previous beer, this 5.5% brown ale aged on Naviera Coffee Mills #3 Espresso blend with chicory tastes like a flat out iced coffee.  Intense and smoky, simply delicious if you’re a coffee nut.  (A-)

At this point, the major-league beer nerds starting filing in, wielding their note-taking pens like rapiers and setting up their cameras on tripods (tripods!) to take pictures and videos of the scene…and I knew I had to make my exit, stage left, before I caught anything.

I had twelve of the beers, coupled with three others I’d had in the past, meaning I’d tried fifteen of the twenty-four available.  A 0.625 batting average.  Not bad and I hope to some how, some day, try the ones I missed, especially their Peach and Papaya IPAs which just sound phenomenal as well as the standard Warmer Winter.

Oh, and I’m putting myself on a self-imposed one month ban from Rattle ‘n’ Hum.

Ballast Point Victory at Sea

February 16th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Ballast Point, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Porter

10% ABV bottled

New York’s Worst Bars:  Lucky Strike Lanes Lounge

The first in a potentially ongoing series…

Meatloaf.  I was immediately assaulted with the odd smell of it.  Not Meatloaf as in Virgin Record’s recording artist, birth name Marvin Lee Aday, but meatloaf as in the gross shit your mom used to make when she was too lazy to put together a proper dinner for you.

I’d been invited to a friend’s party at Lucky Strike bowling lanes and, when he dumbly neglected to make a reservation for the Saturday night, we encountered a three hour wait and were forced to hang tight in the alley’s lounge.

Lucky Strike is so far west in Manhattan you’re almost to New Jersey.  I took a cab to Tenth Avenue, told my cabbie “It’s cool, I can walk from here,” and still took another fifteen minutes or so to get to the entrance on 42nd Street and the West Side Highway.  There’s absolutely nothing going on that far west on the island, not even hookers or drug deals, especially on a frigid February night, so it was especially galling when the three Neanderthals guarding the faux-velvet roped door scrutinized me to make sure I fit within the bowling alley’s lengthy dress code.

It’s bad enough that the sport of plebes has tried to be promoted to swanky in New York, but what’s even more annoying is when a piece of shit bowling complex situated amongst street meat Halal cart storage facilities and the Chinese Consulate (seriously), dares tell you what to wear to patronize their establishment.  Shitty bars in shitty cities have dress codes, not decent bars in New York.  Bars in New York that have dress codes have dress codes for one of two reasons:  they are trying to be “classy” or they are implicitly racist.

As one of the world’s great underdressers, I know a thing or two about defying dress codes.  And when the dress code at a bar such as Lucky Strike explicitly lists such no-nos as do-rags, hooded sweatshirts, jeans with graffiti on them, and sneakers, let’s just say…they aren’t trying to prevent a rich hipster in his American Apparel hoodie and Chuck Taylors from getting in.  Luckily, as per usual, I was wearing my black sneakers, the “trick” dress shoe for the elderly and lazy people that prefer comfort over class, and I easily slipped in the door.

The actual bowling alley portion of Lucky Strike is bad enough, disco lighting and garish scoreboards, but the lounge takes the cake.  Lucky Strike lounge is an upscale bar for people that think Heineken and Amstel Light are upscale beers.  For people that pronounce classy with the shortest short vowel a sound you’ve ever heard.  The decor there is strip club chic, gauche overstuffed pleather booths, tiny ottomans strewn about inexplicably, wall decor best befitting Henry Hill’s house circa 1977, and a bar with barstools screwed to the ground and countless bottles of flavored vodkas and the kinds of crappy overpriced tequilas only morons purchase.

The staff was truthfully not awful, no better or worse than any Manhattan bar, your typical handsome/pretty muscular/fake-titted wannabe actors/models/dancers that can’t remember drink orders, take forever to get your check, and spend most of the time playing grab-ass with their sexy cohorts.

Of course there was a DJ, a DJ so guido-rific he made Pauly D appear subdued in comparison, spinning the kind of hits that people found ironically funny no more recently than 1998.  Just like a playing of “YMCA” can quickly detect the idiots on the dance floor at a wedding, a bar’s playing of “Baby Got Back,” “Rumpshaker,” shit, any novelty song about big asses, can quickly identify the likewise idiots.

The clientele was even worse.  Of course gin-u-wine New Yorkers, real New Yorkers that is, not Gin-U-Wine as in the long-forgotten Southern rapper who, come to think of it, had one of the better songs ever written about big asses–or was that Juvenile?–would never set foot in this place unless invited for a party.  And I’m not even going to besmirch my beloved B & T brethren by acting like they formed the customer base either.  No, this was straight up tourists, and not the cool kind either.  These were the kinds of tourists that think, “If what I typically do in [insert crappy hometown] is fun, then that same exact thing must be even better in the Big Apple!”

“Eating at Applebee’s in Des Moines rocks, but in Times Square…?”

“Seeing ‘Stomp!’ at the Springfield Amphitheatre is a blast, but in the East Village…?”

“Bowling at the Brunswick Lanes in Tulsa is da bomb, but on the ass corner of Manhattan…?”

BLISS!

Around midnight or so, still an hour away from our bowling lanes being freed up, a man dressed like a giant bowling emerged from the lounge’s back room and started cavorting with drunken and overdressed tourista, much to their delight and amusement.  Many hilariously posed pictures were taken by the kinds of people that still used disposable cameras.  I’d had enough, needed to cut my losses and forget about trying to bowl my best game ever, and headed home to my actual good beer.

My last thought before heading back out into the cold was:  “Where was that fucking meatloaf smell coming from?”  I never found out.

Back home in a flash, I’d overzealously popped the top on Victory at Sea like I was returning to an old lover who had actually been at sea.  My man Jesse the Hutt hooked me up with this beauty and I enjoyed it for all it’s worth.  An imperial porter infused with vanilla and coffee this tasted to me like a liquidized Tootsie Roll.  Which is odd, cause I never really like Tootsie Rolls as a youth, but I loved this fucking beer.

A

Marshall Brewing Co.

February 11th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Marshall, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Style: English bitter, Style: IPA, Style: Porter

When I actually lived in Oklahoma I wasn’t much of a craft beer drinker because, you know, I was just a little kid.  And little kids can only afford macro beers with their $1 a week allowances.  But as I got older and returned from college and beyond to visit Oklahoma family and friends, hit up the bars, I’d be stupefied by two things:

1.  Beers were often as cheap as 50 cents to a dollar a bottle.

2.  And not only was the majority of beer macro shit, it was low-ABV macro shit.

I remember just five years ago going bar hopping with an Oklahoma friend in his element and noticing that at each new bar we hit up he’d inquire of the bartender, “Is your beer 3.2?”

3.2?  What the fuck did that mean?  Well apparently, many Oklahoma establishments, perhaps even due to law (though I’m too lazy to even Wikipedia this), don’t serve your standard 4-5% macro garbage put serve even more watered down 3.2% macro garbage.

Worse, Oklahoma is one of three states that still doesn’t allow homebrewing!

This obviously did not help create a culture of craft brewing nor does it exactly lead to Oklahoma being a hot bed of quality beer.  Yet people persevere.

Without homebrewing, the minor leagues, or perhaps “semi-pros,” of commercial brewing, it’s hard to forge craft brewers in your state.  Nevertheless, Eric Marshall of Marshall Brewing was able to open a brewery in Tulsa, Tulsa’s first production brewery since 1940, and they make some pretty nifty beers.  I first became aware of them a few weeks ago when I saw a picture of their gorgeous wax-dipped bombers and instantly I wanted some.

Now they don’t distribute to New York City yet, but that didn’t stop me from sending a shameless e-mail to Mr. Marshall begging him to send me some bottles.  Gratis.  And he did.  Gratis.  (Meaning Marshall Brewing Co. is now in the Breweries-That-Send-Me-Free-Shit Hall of Fame along with The Lost Abbey and Buckbean, if you are interested FTC.*)  I received essentially Marshall’s full line with the exception of their summer seasonal Sundown Wheat and their Old Pavilion Pilsner, both of which I hope to try soon.  (A higher-ABV beer is also on the way apparently, which greatly interests me.)

McNellie’s Pub Ale

5% ABV bottled

Now the English bitter is not a style I deal with a lot, but, McNellie’s Pub Ale is ranked as one of Beer Advocate’s top of the style.  I feel like bitters can be easy to confuse for a macro if you don’t focus on their very nice subtleties.  This is a pleasantly light beer with a nice hoppy taste.  Surprisingly bready and malty, though just barely, just enough to balance it out and let you know you’re drinking something complex and well thought out.  The very bitter finish is it’s most noteworthy asset, while it’s overly prickly carbonation stands as its biggest debit.  Nonetheless, a terrific session beer I’d drink the shit of if I lived back in the Sooner State.

B+

Atlas India Pale Ale

6.5% ABV bottled

I was most excited to try this offering, more of an English IPA than your San Diego uber-hopped example of the style.  Hoppy but not too bitter at all with a solid bready malt backbone.  The dry dry finish almost makes Atlas seem more like an ESB than an IPA but there’s nothing wrong with that.  A prickly carbonation (yet again) that I wouldn’t mind having toned down a tad.  Solid and incredibly drinkable, a terrific beer.

A-/B+

Big Jamoke

6.8% ABV bottled

This highly drinkable porter introduces itself with a very rich chocolate smell.  The taste is of dark cocoa with just a hint of hoppy bitterness, smoke, and a roasted coffee finish.  A nicely mild carbonation, I thought Jamoke was a little thin on the mouthfeel but that’s my only quibble.  I really enjoyed Jamoke and it’s a great effort.

A-

One more thing on Marshall Brewing:  now the wax-dipped bombers may be what first piqued my interest about the company (I’m a sucker for fancy pants packaging) but they ended up being what I liked least about the beers.  The actual wax-dippings were more hardened plastic than silky wax, making the bottles hard to open and causing the brittle wax to keep breaking off into shards everywhere, onto my counter top, floor, some even fell into my glass as I poured.

*Brewers, if you’d like to join this prestigious Hall of Fame, please contact me:  theviceblog [at] gmail.com

Alpine Great

February 3rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Alpine, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Barley wine

14% ABV bottled

Overrated and Underrated Drinking Days

With Super Bowl Sunday fast approaching, I thought I’d take a quick glance at what are the worst, and secretly best, days of the year to tipple.

Overrated

6.  Christmas Eve — This drinking day has gained a lot of traction in the past few years but it is still mainly just a day for single Jews to get drunk with other single Jews, which in theory isn’t the worst thing in the world, until you realize that most of this Jew mingling has been collated into specially organized “Matzo Ball” events which are essentially just lame J-Date-esque mixers.*  The alienated loneliness just permeates the latke-aromaed air, believe me.  A positive:  Jewish women are normally pretty easy, but at the Matzo Ball…every little Jewish boy feels like Sandy Koufax entering a bar in Flatbush after pitching a no-hitter.

5.  Halloween — Halloween used to be an underrated drinking day at the turn of the century, back when most adults didn’t even consider the fact that they could celebrate this holiday, but the continued infantilizing of adults and the oft-repeated meme that “all women dress like sluts” on Halloween has lead to the bars being filled with a lot of moronic yahoos on both sides of the gender aisle, bumping into you because they have no cognizance of their costume’s spatiality.  A positive:  all women dress like sluts.

4.  Valentine’s Day — A certain kind of man will tell you that Valentine’s Day is an awesome day to go drinking because the bars will be littered with sad and desperate single women.  Well, actually, that kinda is the truth.  But, what no one ever considers is that the bars will also be packed with the kind of irredeemable douchebags that go to bars on Valentine’s Day simply because they think the bars will be filled with sad and desperate single women.  A positive:  Still better than going to some crummy $500 “romantic” prix fixe with your boring S.O.

3.  Super Bowl Sunday — The Super Bowl is celebrated by all.  The young, the old, the gay, the straight, the cool, the dorky, the carnivorous, the vegetarian, the married, the single, the drinker, the teetotaler, the sports fan, the Olympics enthusiast.  And when something is celebrated by all, that means that a lot of morons will be out and about as most of the world is obviously moronic.  Like #2 on our list, Super Bowl Sunday can be majorly enjoyable when celebrated in a sealed environment amongst a select group of close friends, but if you dare to watch it in public well then caveat drinker.  A positive:  the early start time for the game means one can and should be shit-faced by 8ish and will often be passed out in bed before midnight, making Super Bowl Sunday one of the few drinking holidays that doesn’t wreck your next day.

2.  New Year’s Eve — Shockingly, the quintessential Amateur Night is only #2 on my list.  Admittedly it is an awful, awful night of over-priced food and drink, dumb plastic \ 2 0 1 0 / glasses and noisemakers, and packed bars full of the kinds of suburbanites, aging farts, and tourists that choose not to have fun on the other 364 days a year and who don’t know the actual words to “Auld Lang Syne.  But, at least these people are fairly behaved because the bars are too packed and service is too slow for any one to get enough drinks to get lit up, not that I’d dare set foot in a Manhattan bar on December 31st.  A positive:  free champagne toast at midnight!!!!!  (Just kidding!  Why do bars thinks a 50 cent plastic flute of Korbel is some great attraction?!)

1.  St. Patrick’s Day I’ve written on this topic before, but the day designated for celebrating…uh…I’m not sure has truly become a yearly celebration of daylight hours obnoxious buffoonery.  A positive:  acts as a bit of a drinking eugenics for these kind of bozos, giving them such massive hangovers and “I nevah wanna drink agains” that the bars will be pretty devoid of these fools from the late evening of March 17th til at least the 23rd or so.  Capitalize on that.

Underrated

5/6.  Fat Tuesday/Cinco de Mayo — Honestly, I have no idea what these holidays celebrate, nor even when they are celebrated–though I’m guessing the 5th of Mayonnaise for the latter–but damn if I don’t always somehow accidentally find myself in a bar on these two days.  And I always have a blast!  One would think these would just be the Cajun and Mexican versions of St. Patrick’s Day, a bunch of yahoos painting themselves purple/gold/green or red/white/green instead of orange/green, Creole stomping and Mexican hat-dancing instead of “woohoo” jigging, downing Hurricanes and tequila instead of Guinnesses, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  For some reason, I’ve only encountered cool and normal people looking to have a great–and more importantly, civilized-ish–time on these two fauxish holidays.  Plus, jambalaya and etouffee and burritos and chimichangas are vastly superior to rotten wet cabbage.  A negative:  Louisiana and Mexico pretty much only make shitty beers (I’m looking at you Abita and Corona.)

4.  Sunday nights – What kind of degenerate has all weekend to go out but waits until Sunday around 10:00 PM to do so?  What kind of subjugate goes out drinking on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and goes, “You know what?  That simply wasn’t enough” and heads out for some more?  What kind of unemployed, underemployed, or self-employed transgressive decides there’s no better way to start off his week than by waking up late Monday mid-morning with a wicked hangover?  I’ll tell you who–the kind of person we like!  A negative:  aside from the aforementioned, Sunday night bars can also be full of sloppy fat guys in tight football jerseys who have been drinking and eating wings since the 1:00 o’clock games and have just forgotten to go home.

3.  Christmas Night –  Christmas Eve may be a shitty Hebrewic drinking night but Christmas Night is incredible with bars full of true drunks of all religions and bar staff so upset they have to work they’ve decided to get sloshed, not give a damn, and over-pour your drinks and under-charge your bar tabs.  A negative:  most bars are usually not open or have limited hours.

2.  4th of July — While all the nimrods are standing outside slack-jawed and staring up into the dark sky, you’re inside avoiding the lame fireworks you’ve seen for the last 30 years–has there been a single technological innovation in fireworks in the last million years?!–getting loaded with the kind of people that realize drinking a good American beer and hitting on a bar floozy is patriotism to its core.  A negative:  you just end up watching the fireworks on the bar’s TV.  Which is actually kinda lamer.

1.  Thanksgiving Night — Now most everyone is “allowed” to go drinking on Thanksgiving night, but only a certain kind of person chooses to and these are the kind of people I really like spending time with.  The kinds of people that spent all day getting loaded to stave off the pain of having to deal with their annoying relatives and who now want to spend the evening getting even more loaded while commiserating with strangers about how annoying their respective relatives were that day.  A negative:  so bloated with Thanksgiving food you can’t find any more room to cram beer into your body.  Another positive:  not needing to pick up a drunken pizza slice at 3 AM but instead being able to go home to raid the fridge for leftovers which you of course eat straight from the Ziploc bags using your bare hands.

And maybe the most underrated time to drink is simply by yourself and at home, where I do most of my tippling.  I mean, it’s not like bars are going to be selling the delicious Alpine Great, generously provided for me by my main man in San Diego, Jesse the Hutt.

The smell of Great is right in my wheelhouse, powerfully intoxicating like J.W. Lee’s Harvest Ale, you can smell this one from across the room.  Awesomely boozy with a dark fruity richness, burnt molasses, toffee, and syrupy caramel.  It finishes with a bourbon vanilla scorch (though it’s actually Jack Daniels barreled which of course isn’t a bourbon but a Tennessee whiskey if we’re being pedantic).  A perfect dessert beer this one is just crazy complex, surprisingly smooth and drinkable for the thickness and ABV.  Minor bite on the finish but other than that no real complaints.  This one would surely be flawless with a little age to smooth out the slightly rough edges, but even youthful it’s one of the best barley wines I’ve ever had.  Sure wish I had another bottle!

A

*Remind me to tell you my best Matzo Ball story some time soon.