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Archive for March, 2010

The Stone Event at Blind Tiger

March 25th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Green Flash, Brewer: Stone, Country: America, Style: Chile beer, Style: IPA, Style: Smoked Porter, Style: Stout, Style: Strong Ale

Note:  any characters with similarities to persons living or dead (cirrosis?) is purely not a coincidence.

You go to enough beer geek events and you start wondering what “Piano Man” might have sounded like had Billy Joel hung around some of these creepy events stocked with some truly depressing lifeforms.  The events never start as late as nine o’clock on a Saturday, usually more like two in the afternoon on a Wednesday when the regular crowd shuffles in:

No man is ever making love to his tonic and gin (a spirit?!), but I always see this obese man with a minuscule Beetlejuice head atop his body stick his schnoz all the way into his tulip for a good minute before imbibing.  The mulleted Irishman at the bar may be named John, but he’s no friend of mine, in fact, his only friends seem to be a coterie of mental ward patients only allowed off Shutter Island for special craft beer events.  He’s never quick with a joke, and I doubt he smokes (would F up his palate), but he sure will bitch about the over-maltiness of a Double IPA.  Davy’s not in the navy but it looks like he eats gravy for every meal (what pairs well with that?) and he brags about being the first in line at every Captain Lawrence release (”I know Scott”).  The fat fat fat Italian lady doesn’t discuss politics but she sure will bitch at you if you get a bar seat before her (perhaps she’s…eternally pregnant?) and after five pints will start ranting in Italian.  Most of the guys aren’t real estate novelists–most likely in computers, or unemployed–and though few women would have them they have no time for a wife because there’s fucking wild ales to drink!  The tiny scraggly Asian quickly gets stoned on samplers of bourbon-barreled stout and never makes eye contact with any one, instead preferring to keep his nose in sci-fi pulp.  Then there’s the guy who looks like Jerry Garcia and wears shorts no matter the weather and the skinny ginger dweeb always passing out business cards for his crappy beer blog and the (male) Indian slob with bigger tits than Dolly Parton.

And the bar looks like a carnival (of side-show freaks) and the smelly British bloke is surely homeless yet he likes to brag about having surpassed 2000 reviews on Rate Beer…all these folks are sharing a drink called loneliness, well I guess it’s better than being a Trekkie queer.

I said Bill I believe these dorks are killing me, as the smile runs away from my face, well I’m sure I’d be full of more cheer, if I wasn’t into such fancy beer.*

Honestly, I always expect the worst and trod carefully when I go to beer geek events but the Stone one at Blind Tiger last night was stupendous–perhaps because I got a coveted bar seat in the mob scene, perhaps because I actually had an attractive girl with me (a site rarer than a bottle of Midnight Sun M amongst this crowd), perhaps because I quickly got loaded and entered my Stoic state–and I had some great offerings. Like most beer connoisseurs Stone was one of my first “idols” but, sadly, you get to a point where you don’t think they can impress you any more, you almost forget to drink them even.  I was wrong to ever be so blasphemous.

Chipotle Smoked Porter and Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean (cask)

Stone’s 5.9% ABV smoked porter is one of the best in the biz and I was curious to see what these additions would do to an already great beer.  A lover of spicy foods, the chipotles added a terrific zing to the brew which tickled my uvula and tingled the area behind my sternum as it went down.  Just liked Cigar City’s mindblowing Hunahpu’s Mayan Imperial Stout which is aged on pasillo and ancho peppers, I just love how these rich, maltier beers taste with a little chili heat.  (A-)  As for the Vanilla Bean, it had one of the best aromas I’ve ever encountered, just a luxurious and creamy vanilla smell, but unfortunately the taste didn’t quite stack up and was surprisingly mild in flavor.  (B)

Double Dry Hopped Double Bastard (2009)

Now I’m not exactly sure what double dry hopping means, but I do know that Stone’s highly limited, tap only Double Dry Hopped standard IPA has surged into the Beer Advocate Top 100, so I was intrigued to try this effort and it totally delivered.  A gorgeous ruby red grapefruit color but an incredible floral smell.  Kinda skirts the ground in between DIPA and barleywine, like a slightly aged Dogfish Head 90 Minute.  Whatever the case, an amazing beer.  (A)

Ruination w/ Simcoe and Amarillo (cask)

This DIPA was straight danky and just like pure liquid hops.  As I was drinking this, coincidentally, a vagrant passed by the open bar window smoking a spliff.  I gotta say, the joint paired well.  (A)

Old Guardian (2007)

Old Guardian was my first ever “favorite” beer and the beer that made barleywine my first ever “favorite” beer style.  Lately though I found each yearly release of Old Guardian to be a little “hot” (could you calm down on the scare quotes, Goldfarb?) and hoppy.  Thus, I was psyched to try a three-year aged version, probably the oldest version I’ve ever had.  This old friend had matured wonderfully into a silky, malty, cordial-like drink.  Lovely.  (A+)

Arrogant Bastard Aged in Bourbon Barrels

Gotta say, did not see this one coming.  How could such a glorious beer aged in bourbon barrels not be startling?  It was startling, just startling in the wrong way–this was easily my least favorite beer of the night.  The bourbony flavors simple did not meld well at all with the legendary strong ale.  (B)

Imperial Russian Stout (2007) and Imperial Russian Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels (2008)

Despite all the amazing beers I had last night, comparing an already monumental imperial stout now aged and/or bourbon barreled (!) to everything else I had was just not fair.  Not much else to say.  Both were as good as you could imagine, probably better.  (A+ and A+)

So I batted 16 for 16 last night and tried every single Stone offering, not to mention the swell Green Flash tote Le Freak (a very spicy, yeasty saison) (A-/B+) and Pallet (sic?) Wrecker (a tap only rarity that is one of the best DIPAs I’ve had in a while) (A).  I stumbled home and may or may not have watched three straight hours of “Life” on my DVR pretending I was on a drunken safari (”Look out, ostrich!”)

*I’m not exactly Al Yankovic but I’d love if someone musically talented out there could write this song.

The First Annual Boxes of Beer Pool

March 12th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 41 Comments | Filed in Boxes of Beer

We’ve all been entering NCAA tournament pools for years if not decades.  $10, $20, win, usually lose, big deal.  They’re fun, sure, but I got a better idea.  With a suggestion from friend of the Vice Blog expectingrain5 I came up with this:

An NCAA tournament pool where your entry “fee” is beer.

So here’s the deal, to get into this tournament pool you just need to offer up a nice local beer from wherever you live.  Doesn’t have to be rare, doesn’t have to be expensive, doesn’t even have to be good (although, what kinda dickhead would offer up a shitty beer?)  You live in Wisconsin, offer up a bottle or two of New Glarus.  California, how about some Russian River?  I will probably offer a fancypants New York beer (Black Ops, hmmm?)  Now I’m not saying you have to be as generous of course.  I don’t want this be a burden or expensive.  A bottle or two of beer, plus shipping, will cost you max $10-15, around the same as any NCAA office pool.

Here’s our private group, “Boxes of Beer

Password is of course:  beer

No one’s forcing you to enter, so please, if you do enter, don’t be a jerk and not live up to your end of the bargain if and when you most likely lose.  I’ll be really pissed if that happens.  And I’ll be insanely jealous at the thought of the winner receiving box after box after box of beers all throughout April.

If you enter, please leave a comment below telling us your entry name.  It might also be fun to speculate what beer(s) you might send to the winner should you lose.  Also, use your real e-mail address when you comment.  No one can see that but me, and that way I can collect e-mail addresses to create a master list for our group.

Cheers!

(And let’s go Syracuse!!!!)

EDIT:

Two notes because I’m getting some questions:

*This isn’t only for beer bloggers.  Any one is free to enter and I gladly welcome you.  You just need to offer a local beer.

*And, of course, you must be 21 or older.  My lawyers are making me say that.  If you’re 18 or older though you can still date me.  My lawyers also made me say that.

Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad (BBQ)

March 10th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Boulevard, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Quadrupel

11.8% ABV from a 750 mL corked and caged (#5517/11248)

I’ve become a big enthusiast of Boulevard’s terrific Smokestack series over the last year or so, and being a completest in all I do, I of course have wanted to try them all and anxiously wait each new release (these boys at Boulevard seem to have a new one on the horizon every other month!).  The only problem is, there seems to be no place online to find a complete listing of the Smokestacks.  Boulevard’s website fucking sucks–no surprise, most brewery websites suck, they all for some reason so obsessed with bad Flash–and is woefully outdated, still only listing their first five releases.

And, since no one else so far as I can tell has taken up the task, I decided to create a helpful repository for other folks to consult.  With a little drunken research, as best I can do, here’s my in order listing of the Smokestacks. (* denotes I’ve never had before)

#1  The Sixth Glass
#2  Double Wide IPA
#3  Long Strange Tripel
#4  Saison (retired)
#5  Saison-Brett
#6  BBQ
#7  Imperial Stout*
#8  Two Jokers Double-Wit
#9  Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale*
#10 Seeyoulator Doppelbock*
#11 Harvest Dance
#12 Collaboration No. 1 Imperial Pilsner
*
#13 Rye-on-Rye*
#14 Dark Truth Stout*

Now BBQ is a beer I had long wanted to try and luckily my friend KH came through with a bottle for us to share just recently.  BBQ is The Sixth Glass quad fermented with cherries and bourbon which makes for a most unique effort and an initial taste I completely did not expect.  At first I thought it too boozy and sour but soon I was love.  This is like a suped up St. Bernardus with a nice underlying hint of vanillay bourbon and tart cherries.  Still, at this age, it was a tad rough around the edges and I wish I had another bottle to put a few years on.  Nevertheless, one of the most interesting and best quads I’ve had in awhile.

A

*Soooooooo, if any one can hook me up or help me out in getting these, I’d be your best friend.  Or, at least, you could be mine.

Tokyo*

March 4th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Country: Scotland, Grade: A plus, Grade: B plus, Style: Stout

18.2% ABV on tap

I’d pretty much avoided BrewDog ever since their inception, assuming they were just some gimmicky Scottish brewery more obsessed with constantly holding claim to the “most alcoholic beer in the worldtitle above actually crafting great stuff.  Plus, their few bottles were prohibitively expensive around me and they didn’t really get that great of reviews on Beer Advocate.  I couldn’t help noticing that my beloved Stone seemed to have a little international crush on BrewDog though, and the two collaborations they’d done together–Juxtaposition black pilsner and Bashah–had been quite good on tap, I just never cultivated any real interest for BrewDog offerings.

That all changed on a recent trip to DC where I made my first visit to Churchkey, one of the east coast’s finest new beer bars.  The manly 18.2% imperial stout stuck out like a sore thumb on the menu and, with Churchkey selling beers in as small as four ounce pours, I figured, “What the fuck?”

I was blown away.

Tokyo* (the asterisk is important) is flat-out one of the best, most unique stouts I’ve ever had.  This bad boy is not for sissies.  It makes Bourbon County Stout seem as mild as keg beer at a frat party.  Brewed with jasmine and cranberries added in the kettle, dry-hopped after fermentation, and aged for a few weeks on toasted vanilla oak chips, this beer is shockingly complex, flavorful, and sweet.  It’s remarkable that all the flavors I mentioned above actually come through, mixing flawlessly together.  It’s boozy sure, but not the kind of booziness that overwhelms that flavor into one hot mess.

Then again, four ounces was more than enough for me.  For one night.  Confused by lackluster ratings on Beer Advocate, a bit curious whether the few strong ales I’d had at the hotel before tippling Tokyo* had given me a screwy palate, I returned to Churchkey the next night for another four ounces.  Marvelous yet again.  Maybe even more so.  I have no fucking clue what these other online reviewers are thinking.  I really want to get a bottle of this, shit, I now really really want to try Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck.  I no longer think these Scottish boys are gimmickmeisters, I’m absolutely certain they are true beer artisans.

A+

Also at Churchkey, I was able to sample BrewDog’s Paradox Isle of Arran (Batch 016).  A 10% stout aged for six months in Single Malt barrels, this one sounded promising–there are so few beers aged in Scotch barrels as opposed to bourbon, at least that make it to the States–but this one didn’t quite stack up for me.  It was flavorful, smokey and roasted, a little earthy and boozy, but ultimately too thin for my liking.  Then again, maple syrup would taste thin after having some glorious Tokyo*.

B+

As a new BrewDog enthusiast, what are their must-try brews I need to seek out?

Founders Nemesis 2009

March 3rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Founders, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Style: Porter, Style: Stout, Style: Wheatwine

12% ABV bottled

You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I used to think that Founders Brewing Co. was, gasp…overrated.  The first two Founders brews I ever got my grubby little mitts on, oddly enough, happened to be their two most famous brews, Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, long-time Beer Advocate top 20 beers in the world*.  I was psyched to acquire these rare-to-me grown up sodas, so eager to suck ‘em down in all their glory, that when I tried them and didn’t spontaneously combust into knickers, I thought, “Ah, I see, another overrated brewery.”  Don’t get me wrong, I gave both those beers A’s at the time, I simply wasn’t OMFG floored.

So, whereas I tried my first two Founders beers with overly lofty expectations, I’ve tried my last dozen or more Founders efforts expecting nothing special.  But, damn, if those Grands Rapids boys haven’t won me over, and then some.  It started with their wet-hopped Harvest Ale, one of the most eye-opening drinking experience I’ve had in the last 365 days and a beer I’d put near #1 in the uber-hopped beer category.  I already can’t wait for the next release of it.

Every since that Harvest Ale, damn if every Founders beers hasn’t tasted absolutely glorious to me.  From their double and “triple” IPAs, Double Trouble (mind-blowing fresh on tap) and Devil Dancer, to their old ale Curmudgeon**, to countless more of some of the most disparate styles around.  They don’t knock everything out of the park–who does?–but they surely have a better slugging percentage than even a juiced-up Barry Bonds.

I’ve probably tried more different and new-to-me beer from Founders recently than from any other brewery and, now, my expectation levels are appropriate.  I now expect a good to great beer and I always get a good to great beer.  And since they seem to have a never-ending stream of releases, there’s always another Founders beer to try that I haven’t yet.  The only problem being that they don’t distribute in NYC at the moment.  Good thing I got good friends in Virginia, Minnesota, and other places who can hook me up.

My most exciting Founders acquisition of recent was their limited Nemesis release, the first in a new series.  I’d never had a wheatwine before, but as a barleywine nut, I was certain to like this effort.  And I did.  Probably not the most “normal” example of the style, Nemesis 2009 is maple bourbon barrel-aged using bourbon barrels which were once used to age local maple syrup.  The beer poured lighter for me than expected, much lighter than a copper barley wine, more the color of a golden ale of some sort.  The smell is straight boozy, just like I like it, with the flavor a combination of boozy bourbon, vanilla, oak, sweet syrup, and of course wheat.  Surprisingly more drinkable and less syrupy than I expected, this is a truly interesting creation.  I only wish I had another bottle!

A-

Founders Imperial Stout

10.5% ABV bottled

It’s heartening to try a delicious imperial stout that can actually be bought on store shelves!  That isn’t a limited release!  And more things to add exclamation points to!!!  This effort from Founders stacks up with the best of the style, limited release or not.  Amazingly complex and rich, with a mild roasted bitterness and a nice chocolaty booziness on the back end.  This beer is just so silky, I loved to let it dance on my tongue and gargle in the back of my throat.  Arguably the best on-the-shelves, non-barreled stout in the market today.  Though, unfortunately, not my market.  Come on, let’s get Founders in NYC!

A

Founders Porter

6.5% ABV bottled

As I’ve mentioned a lot recently, the porter has become one of my favorite styles, even though I’m still not quite sure what differentiates them from stouts.  Kinda like how I can’t tell a real blond from a bottle blond.  I don’t ask and just enjoy them both.  This is a great effort with another great label–besides making great brews, Founders is in the running for best labels in the biz too and I love their squat little bottles for even more plaudits!  Rich and tingly, a strong-roasted flavor with next-to-no sweetness, smokey and earthy.  Full-bodied yet drinkable, quite enjoyable.  This is a no-frills beer, but there’s nothing wrong with that sometimes.

B+

Now that I’ve fallen in love with Founders, now that it’s become one of my favorite brewers in America, in my mind one of the best in America, I’ve even gone back and tried those two famous beers, Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, with my now acceptable level of Founders expectations, and realized those two are truly glorious beers, some of the best of their styles.

In a world of such scrutiny nowadays, things aren’t overrated or underrated.  They are, for the most part, rated correctly.  It’s you, or me, that simply hasn’t encountered enough of the sample size to know that.  I know that now.  All hail Founders.

*Son of a bitch, why can I still not get a taste of Canadian Breakfast Stout?!?!?!?

**Or another old ale, Black Biscuit, for that matter?!?