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Archive for April, 2010

Hop God Reserve Series Aged In French Oak Chardonnay Barrels

April 20th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Nebraska, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

10.1% ABV from a 750 mL

Now beer bloggers are a loathsome lot.  They sit at bars avoiding social contact in order to furiously scribble tasting notes.  They spend forever getting the lighting just so in order to take a picture of their beers when you just want to pop the cork and split the fucking thing.  They slobber-ogle the stray female that accidentally finds herself in a committed craft beer bar.  They, also, shamelessly beg for free “review” samples all day long, perhaps the most loathsome part of the beer blogger ethos.  They’ll ceaselessly tweet their idolized brewmasters asking for bottles, they’ll e-mail them, they’ll harangue them at beer events.  It’s like a high school virgin begging for sex.  Just pathetic.

Though, just like the high school virgin eventually wears down his girlfriend, these beer bloggers typically wear down the brewmaster who’d like to just get back to, you know, making beer and the blogger gets the sample (and laudingly shillingly praises it online) and now no one–not the devirginized virgins, the beer bloggers, or anyone–feels good about it.

Not that I too won’t occasionally do that kind of thing.  (Hey, just because I’m a hypocrite doesn’t mean I am wrong.)

Sometimes, when a beer is rare or I don’t have access to it, I’ve had to tweet out a favor or two.  There’s another time I might try to get a review sample–when shit’s expensive and this Jew don’t feel like paying for it.  Such was the case with the ten-word titled beer I will discuss henceforth.

Nebraska Brewing had just entered the New York market within the past month and I’d greatly enjoyed their Hop God.  Hearing they had some bottles of it aged in chardonnay barrels (whoa!) I eagerly looked for the stuff.  Now, admittedly, it seemed to be pretty limited in the marketplace but I did see a bottle or two floating around in the $25-30 price range.  Quite a bit to pay for a beer from an upstart brewery, especially when said beer had only a half-dozen or so reviews online (even if they were all glowing.)  So, I danced around online and never outright asked for any, but insinuated that I needed some sent to me, man, so I could, like, review it officially and stuff.  No luck.

Finally, last week, while making a rare visit to the is-it-now-so-passe-it’s-no-longer-passe once great Gingerman, my drinking companion wondered, “Are there any expensive bottles here you’d like to split?”  I scanned the extensive menu.  “As a matter of fact, there is…”  And such is how I came to spend a mere $14 for a half-share of some ten-word special Hop God.

It was worth every penny.

I can’t think of many Belgian IPAs* nor many chardonnay barreled beers**, which certainly means I can’t think of a single chardonnay barreled Belgian IPA which makes this Hop God a nice oddball rarity in my book.

The taste was more God-like than hop-like, I didn’t get any hops at all quite frankly through the nose or taste, but that hardly matters.  This was one bottle of sour tart deliciousness.  Strong wood flavors come through with the oak and the Belgian yeastiness is accented nicely by some subtle wine flavors.  Just a hint of citric sour fruit flavors as well.  Tastes not Belgian IPAish at all, more like a wild ale, so while I feel somewhat silly filing this as a Belgian IPA I’m not sure there’s any Brett in the barrel to make this officially “wild,” if that would be the one distinction.

A good beer can never be priced too much for me once I finally see how good it is and this one falls into that category completely.  I nearly considered buying another bottle even.  Though I doubted their ways at first, now I greatly admire Nebraska’s aggressive release, distribution, and pricing strategies.  What a way to splash onto the scene.  If you know you got good shit, why wouldn’t you act accordingly?  Seek this one out, ladies and fellas, it’s really fucking good.

This beer was actually Nebraska’s third release in their Reserve series and I’ve heard straight from the owners’ mouth that the first two releases, Black Betty–a RIS aged in whiskey barrels–and Fathead–a barleywine aged likewise–may hit NYC soon.  Which means I will immediately start e-begging for those two bottles the second I hit publish on the post and tweet owner and brewmaster to “Hey, hey, check out my glowing post!!!!”

A

*Though adding “Belgian” or “Belgo-” to many Americanized styles is currently de rigueur in the industry.

**Though Google “chardonnay barreled beer” and only two breweries’ beers appear on page 1:  Russian River and Nebraska Brewing Co.  Not bad company at all, eh?

Brooklyn Wild One

April 16th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Wild Ale

ABV unknown from a 750 mL

My friends that don’t exactly know beer often assume that I will one day actually run out of beers to review.  I jokingly always assure them that if I simply reviewed every single Brooklyn Brewery beer that I’d have more than enough work to do for the rest of time.  And, you know, sometimes it does feel like I’m a hired mouthpiece for the Brooklyn boys.  Yes, my home team brewery has so many great releases that it seems I have a new one to try and review each and every week.  Their Wild One was a uber-rarity I had wanted to suck down for ages.  Long available only at beer fests and those pricey pairing dinners that sell out in a second, I finally lucked out earlier this week at a nifty Brooklyn Brewery event hosted by Blind Tiger.

Served to me in an unlabeled corked-and-caged bottle, this beer is the always reliable Local One bourbon-barreled with Brett for nine months.  But, whoa, does that take a terrific Belgian pale ale and allow it to enter an entirely new stratosphere.  The smell is fresh and funky like a typical wild ale but the taste is completely different.  Bubbling and effervescent, of course, the initial tastes are likewise sour, but the backend finish is delightfully yeasty, bready, vanilla-like, and most notably sweet from the Local One influence.  I just loved the complexity of flavors and the nice sweet and sour game battling it out on my tastebuds.  It was too good to even savor, I greedily slurped it down like it was Gatorade after a long run.

I would stand in line in the freezing cold for this beer if it was released at a yearly one-off event, that’s how much I adored it.  I even went back to the bar for a second $26 bottle.  I am going to assume it is only lack of knowledge of its mere existence that prevents this beer from being one of the most coveted rarities on beer trading forums throughout America, because simply put, it might be the best wild ale I’ve ever had.

A+

Hop God

April 8th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Nebraska, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: IPA

9.2% ABV from a growler

Pretty much every American brewery has a neologistically hop-named beer, whether in the format of Hop ____, or ____ Hop, or even ____ Hop ____.*  Nebraska Brewing Company out of…uh, Nebraska, has their own hop-named beer, Hop God.  Great name for a beer, not necessarily a great name for this beer.  Though this beer is a pretty great beer, so a minor nomenclatural quibble.

The first and only beer I’ve ever had from out of Nebraska–the first and only beer I’ve ever heard of coming out of Nebraska–is a draught only offering that has just begun popping up around New York City in the last few weeks.  With a name like Hop God I assumed a classically bitter and uber-hopped San Diego-style India pale ale, but was pleasantly surprised to pop the plunger on my growler to be hit with that beautiful scent of Belgian banana esters just like a glorious Aventinus, which is a German beer actually, come to think of it.  The taste is indeed perhaps more Belgian, that of a golden yeasty tripel with an underlying silky hoppy taste and a nice hint of Laffy Taffy with a little spiciness and bitterness.  Imminently drinkable, I really really enjoyed this bad boy and went through my lone growler in a hurry.

I’m now excited to try more Nebraska Brewing offerings, and, luckily, they have a Chardonnay barrel aged Hop God which just sounds so inspired and delicious.  Bottles of this seem to be semi-rare, and I’ve started seeing them around town, but at a price point (don’t you hate when people say “price point” trying to sound smart–”price” will almost always suffice) of $25 minimum, I’m just not ready to take an economic gamble on such an as-yet-still little known beer (a mere four total reviews currently on Beer Advocate).  I’ll wait til some more people try it and hopefully rave about it before I whip out a Jackson and Lincoln for it.  Of course, if Nebraska Brewing wants me to be that guinea pig, they can always just send me a bottle for review (insert winking smiley face emoticon here).

A-

*A few favorites:  Hop Whallop, Hoptimus Prime, Exponential and Pure Hoppiness, and Me So Hoppy (the name for the nonexistant DIPA my as-yet-nonexistant brewing will brew.)

Brooklyn Dark Matter

April 7th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Brown Ale

7.5% ABV on tap

Highlights

J was the most beautiful woman I ever dated.  Using an “out-of-10″ number scale was futile when discussing her, but she was about as attractive as a normal girl could be.  Then again, she came from the loins of two un-normal people–a small-time model and a smaller-time CFL player.  She was modelesque, statusesque, and ultimately kinda crazy.  I tried to force chemistry with her just because I liked having such a tall knock-out on my arm wherever I went.  This was during my more egotistical days.  Though we never had a future, even from the get-go, I wish I still knew her.  I just liked sitting across the table from her in a restaurant and staring.

A was the best in bed, which is odd, because she was a mere 22 years of age when we began dating.  Even though I was 7 years her senior, she schooled me in moves, leading me to wonder how she was so sexually educated.  The fact that she was a neo-hippie that liked to follow jam bands around the country during the summer made me think she probably spent a lot of time on her back in muddy tents at field shows, a bearded stinker on top of her, trying out a Kama Sutra of shroom-influenced positions.  It also made me realize why she had a fairly respectable bush for a 22-year-old in the 21st century.

K was the most sexually willing.  She had a voracious appetite–both sexual and food-wise, come to think of it–and simply could not get enough of me (or Thai food).  She was kinda lazy in bed though, not very flexible, and had some self-lubrication issues.  Yet she always wanted it.  My weekly prophylactics tab was extraordinarily high, my shaft was always chafed, my knees ached worse than a hard court tennis player’s, and I didn’t even need to work out any more, all thanks to her.

S was the ugliest girl I ever dated.  She wasn’t “ugly” per se–not by a long shot–she just wasn’t super attractive with her bland face and slightly doughy body.  Meeting up with her for our first date after having picked her up loaded one evening earlier in the week at a dive bar, I was a little stunned by my false remembrance of her beauty levels.  Nevertheless, I was a trooper and drunk my beer goggles back on before falling into bed with her that very night and then went out with her again and again and again and next thing I knew we had been dating for half a year and I’d given myself a six-month long bender.

P was the kindest and never got mad at me for any of the countless stupid and selfish things I am always wont to do (like writing a female superlatives catalog.)  In retrospect, she was actually kind of a doormat (and would have said nothing about me writing a female superlatives catalog–though would have secretly seethed.)

F was the sexiest and of course wasn’t American because, you know, the anti-jingoistic rumors are true–American women just aren’t that sexy typically.  Then again, when American men call a women “sexy”–a term American men rarely use because it’s just one of those embarrassing words to say unironically–they usually just mean that she has an over-the-top sexuality.  Which, again, few American women possess.  American women wear jeans and hooded sweatshirts and pony tails and flip-flops and subscribe to dumb time-frame rules before hopping into bed.  A woman like F wore slinky dresses and flowing locks where ever we went, whenever we went there, subscribed to no rules besides “tongue kiss any one and every one you find attractive,” and quite frankly made me feel inadequate and inhibited, which is never a nice feeling.

Q was the smartest girl I ever dated but I really don’t have anything to say about her because she was just so boring and never liked to do anything fun and actually was kinda more book smart than smart smart.  Which in retrospect makes me realize she was kinda dumb.  Because any one that is 30 that you are still calling book smart, even though they’ve been out of their US News & World Report Top 10 college for a decade, is probably not that smart at all.  It’s the “cute face” of backhanded intellect compliments.

L was the dumbest girl I ever dated.  I had to intentionally make myself about 40 IQ points dumber every time I spoke to her just so she would understand me.  I couldn’t really use polysyllabic words such as “polysyllabic” with her, which is not really a word one should ever use any ways, especially in romantic or sexual situations, but I was just making a point there.  Just like with ugly S, I had to always be drunk with L just so I could exist with her because:  her sober equaled me after about 15 beers IQ-wise at least.

B was the most annoying.  She never quit fucking talking and it wasn’t like she had a silky voice either.  Her voice was shrill and nasally and jarring.  I was embarrassed to take her in public, but alone it was like babysitting a toddler (not that I’ve ever babysat a toddler before, but I can imagine based on some sitcoms I’ve seen.)  There was really no excuse to ever even be in the same room with her except for the fact that I was bored and lonely at that time in my life.  I’m glad I’m no longer bored and lonely.

I’m not sure I’ve ever dated a truly funny women, but B had the best sense of humor.  And by that, I mean, of course, she laughed every time I said something funny, which is rare to find in a woman oddly enough.  But did she make me piss my pants in laughter?  No, of course not.

U was the best drinker.  60 pounds lighter than me yet no matter where we went she could match me drink for drink.  Buckets of beer, pitchers of sangria, shots of Jameson, didn’t matter.  She drank everything, quickly and thoroughly.  I’d have called her an alcoholic but she was far more responsible than me, never seemed to get hungover, never called in sick for work, and oddly seemed a paragon of health.  She may have been a drunkard of a superhero in respect.

And I had my first ever glass of Brooklyn’s Dark Matter with a new girl, which is always the best girl.  Yet another offering in Brooklyn’s stellar every-month-or-two, tap-only Brewmasters Reserve series, this is one of the best I’ve had yet.  Created in the same way as Brooklyn’s stellar Black Ops, though this time using an imperial brown ale for the Woodford Reserve bourbon-barreling as opposed to a big boy stout.  Boozy and rich, with tastes of caramel, vanilla, and oak, this is a quite worthy “little brother” companion to Black Ops.  Decent chilled, as it warms the flavors explode, more so than any beer I’ve had recently, and I’d advise just drinking it at room temperature straight from the get go.

A-

Gouden Carolus Easter Beer

April 1st, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brouwerij Het Anker, Country: Belgium, Grade: A-, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

10% ABV on tap

Ever had an Easter beer before?  Nope.  Ever even heard of an Easter beer before?  Nope.  Then we’ll call Gouden Carolus Easter the best of this most minor sub-style and what an apropos paragon it is.  (Fittingly, there are no Passover related beers as Jews just get loaded on wines during the holiday–”It’s ceremonial, man!”)  I had this pricey $10 goblet of beer on tap during my first ever sojourn to the East Village’s most unique Burp Castle the other night and went away quite impressed.  A straight up boozy assault, this one is not for the faint of heart.  Absurdly complex with a most unique melange of flavors.  It’s easy to come up with unique and specific flavors for a holiday like Christmas (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc), but what are the specific flavors of Easter?  I have no clue aside from Cadbury-ness, but this beer is loaded with rich dark fruits like raisins, candi sugar, a Brandy-like quality, but an underlying hint of banana esters, Belgian hops, and subtle spices.  Syrupy and viscous, a sipper for sure, but I savored every one of those tiny eye drop sips of this beer.  Honestly, I have no clue how available or unavailable this beer is as I’d never seen it before, but I can’t recommend trying it enough–I’ve yet to have anything but a great beer from Het Anker–and downing a bottle of this by yourself would certainly be a lot more fun on Sunday than looking for eggs and shit.

A-