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Archive for December, 2010

The Vice Blog 2010 Wrap-Up

December 29th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Lists

I drank a lot of great beers over the past 365 days–no surprise considering I spent 30 consecutive days going from beer bar to beer bar–but these are the ones I remember most fondly.

(Note:  If I included it on my “best-of” list for 2008 or 2009 then no matter how good that same beer is/was, I made it ineligible for this year’s list.  Also of note, Thank Heaven For Beer’s super-high ABV imperial stout homebrew was easily one of the three best beers I had this year, though I chose not to include it for the simple reason that none of you out there have any chance to ever purchase it.  For the moment at least.)

TOP TEN BEERS I DRANK IN 2010

1.  The Bruery Black Tuesday (2009 vintage)

I quaffed this during an epic high-ABV, highly-rare imperial stout tasting (some pictured above) to celebrate a friend’s marriage and this one easily took the wedding cake.  Due to the immense hype surrounding it, you might think Black Tuesday couldn’t possibly deliver, but it does big time.  Just a boozy, complex, and delicious big boy stout.  Everything I could possibly want in a beer.  Though you truly do need about five guys on hand to finish a 750 mL bottle.

2.  Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout

I had this several times during the year, including during the aforementioned epic stout tasting, and this was the only one that was able to go a few slug-’em-out rounds with Black Tuesday.  Regular Bourbon County seems to have been specifically created for me.  Deliciously hot and boozy, packed with chocolate and vanilla and about as un-subtle as a beer can get, the Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso added to Bourbon County Coffee makes it a little smoother, a little more palatable, a little more “user-friendly.”  It may be the best coffee beer ever made.

3.  Cantillon Blåbær Lambik

This had long been my “most desired” bottled beer in the world, one which I never thought I’d get to try, so I guess it’s good to have generous friends, ain’t it?  The Drunken Polack, that saint, a splendid acquirer of rare stuff, was kind enough to split his rare bottle with me one Saturday afternoon and we both just absolutely luxuriated with this blueberry lambic, surely one of the best sour ales in the world.

4.  Brooklyn Wild One

I’d long heard of this somewhat urban legend of a beer, but never thought I’d get to try it.  Never released commercially as far as I know, a small, small batch of Brooklyn’s Local One was bourbon-barreled with Brett added.  Local One is a terrific beer, one fit for countless occasions, but adding Brett makes it truly majestic!  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.  And, 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 American wild ale I’ve ever had.

5.  Alpine Exponential Hoppiness

The brilliantly named (it uses multiple kettle hop additions with the technique of doubling the hop amount each addition, thus exponentially) is sticky sweet with a bitter finish and the slightest hint of the oak chips it’s aged on while dangerously drinkable too at 10.5%.  ALL of Alpine’s IPAs are massive, massive winners, but Exponential Hoppiness, perhaps until I finally get to try Pliny the Younger, is the best DIPA I’ve ever had.

6.  Cigar City Brandy Barrel Winter Warmer

Cigar City entered the fray for “best brewery in America” honors this year and, luckily, I got to try dozens and dozens of their rarities at a few events around the city.  This was a beer I honestly ordered just to fill out a flight foursome, but it absolutely floored me, more so than anything else from the Tampa beermakers.  This is their normal Warmer Winter Winter Warmer–an old ale–aged on Laird’s apple brandy.  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.

7.  Nebraska Hop God Reserve Series Aged In French Oak Chardonnay Barrels

Nebraska Brewing Company burst onto the scene this year with some great efforts, but this was easily their best.  The taste is more God-like than hop-like, 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, though I’m not sure there’s any Brett in the barrel to make this officially “wild,” but whatever the case, this was an incredibly memorable brew.

8.  Surly Abrasive Ale

Surly does not fuck around and it’s quite likely they’ll have a beer appear in my year end top tens for the rest of time.  Within a few hours I was fortunate enough to get to try batch 1 on tap, batch 1 canned, and an ever so slightly tweaked batch 2 on tap.  Now while batch 1 and the first canned version I tried were both magnificent, both A level beers, batch 2, the batch that I suppose will be the recipe from now til iniquity, blew my mind and is clearly one of the best IPAs I have ever had.

9.  Three Floyds Barrel Aged Pop Skull

The “normal” Pop Skull, a collaboration brew between Three Floyds and Dogfish Head, was a kinda lame brown ale, but the bourbon barrel-aging turned this ordinary beer into something extraordinary, the rich vanilla tastes of bourbon latching on beautifully to the brown ale base.  A huge surprise of 2010, proving that it’s not only imperial stouts that can benefit from bourbon barrel aging.

10.  Maine Beer Co. Zoe

I got a tip there was a nano-brewery in Portland, Maine cranking out some amazing shit and sure enough that was the case, as I stumbled upon one of my most memorable beers of the year.  Packaged in thin and sultry needle-nosed bottles I’d heretofore only seen Pliny the Elder employ, Zoe is a bitter explosion in the mouth, perfectly carbonated and tingly, tastes of tropical fruits yet still balanced perfectly with a strong malt backbone.  Simply put, it’s the best amber ale out there now, even better than the quintessential one Nugget Nectar.  If I lived in Maine, I’d be drinking Zoe weekly.  (Which actually might be harder to do than you think, even if you do live in Maine, considering a mere 144 bottles are produced weekly!)

Honorable mention:

COOP Territorial Reserve Oak-Aged Imperial Stout

I had the pleasure of getting a private tour of this two-year-old Oklahoma City brewery and I was quickly wowed by all their beers, but especially this beauty.  Aged on Bulleit bourbon barrels, this might seriously be the smoothest, most perfectly melded bourbon-barreled stout I’ve ever had.

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout via a Meyers rum-soaked cherries Randall

I’ve enjoyed numerous beers through Dogfish Head’s Randall before, but always IPAs, and always a hops-filled Randall.  This was my first non-IPA, non-hops Randall and MY GOD was it amazing.  It even made a somewhat lackluster “How to Fail” book signing event at P.O.P.E. in Philadelphia memorable.

Stone IPA Double Dry Hopped

Had this at the epic Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover event at Rattle ‘n’ Hum.  Like a liquidized sack of fresh weed.  Yum.  Maybe the dankiest beer I’ve ever quaffed.

Stone Vertical Epic 07.07.07 red wine barrel aged

Also had this at the epic Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover event at Rattle ‘n’ Hum.  I wouldn’t have thought that red wine barrel aging would bring a Belgian IPA to such greatness, but indeed it did.  One of those most unique beers I’ve ever had.

Wachusett Larry IPA

I’m sure I had a few better IPAs this year, but I couldn’t quite shake from my mind the first time I had this on tap, over the summer in Boston at the Publick House.  I’ve had it bottled a few times since and while it’s always good, it’s never quite been as great as that first fresh time I had it on tap.  A brilliant East Coast IPA.

Others (alphabetical):

Alpine Duet
Ballast Point Victory at Sea
Birrificio Le Baladin Xyauyu

Brewdog Sink the Bismarck!
Brewdog Tokyo*
The Brewer’s Art Cerebus Tripel

Brooklyn Detonation Ale
Cigar City Guava Grove Saison

Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout - Laird’s Apple Brandy Barrel
COOP Red Zeppelin
De Dolle Stille Nacht (2004 vintage)

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout
Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

The Lost Abbey Isabelle Proximus

Nebraska Melange A Trois Reserve Series Aged in French Oak Chardonnay Barrels
Three Floyds Oak Aged Dark Lord Imperial Stout

Somewhat sadly, in a schadenfreude kinda way, I had such a great drinking year that I have nothing to submit for my always-amusing worst beers of the year list.  Bummer.  Hopefully next year.

Actually, hopefully not.  May we both continue our great beer drinking into 2011.

Happy New Year!

COOP AleWorks

December 22nd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: COOP AleWorks, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Grade: B regular, Grade: B-, Style: Amber Ale, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Style: IPA, Style: Stout, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen), Style: Wild Ale

Back when I lived in Oklahoma, back in the 90s, there really wasn’t any decent craft beer.  (Of course, I was a teenager.)  I kinda felt like it would always be that way.  This is a state where you can’t buy cold beer over 3.2% anywhere.  Then, I started hearing some rumblings that a brewery called COOP AleWorks was really cranking out some legit shit.  So, when I made my triumphant return to town over the weekend for a “How to Fail” book tour signing, I knew I would have to seek it out.  On both Thursday night and Saturday, I met up with COOP partner/bon vivant J.D. Merryweather (above) for some serious tippling, pretty much drinking anything in the brewery he would let me.  I was like a kid in a candy shop.  Or, to be less trite, like a drunk in a brewery.  And, wow, was it all good.

Horny-Toad Cerveza

One of two canned COOP offerings (along with Native Amber; the rest are currently tap only), this 5.3% ABV American Blonde Ale would seem to be the “lamest” offering from COOP, the one meant to convert the Bud Light drinkers…and it is.  But that doesn’t mean it’s lame.  No sir, this is a 5.3% beer with some serious flavor.  The Noble hops, the malt body, the carbonation, made me think this was more along the lines of a pilsner, but whatever it is, it’s damn good.

A-/B+

Zeppelin German Wheat

Yeah, no craft beer drinker likes American wheat beers, right?  If more places were making great efforts like Zeppelin, that might not be the case.  5.6% and packed with tastes of wheat and rye with just a little hops coming through, this is a solid drinker, better than most on the market.

B+

Native Amber

Red ales are always a crap shoot for me as they are a delicate balance between hops and malt that if you fuck up, they are just gross.  But COOP nails this one.  Caramelly and biscuity with a nice hoppy finish, this is the beer Fat Tire wishes it could be.

A-

Gran-Sport Porter

Porters are another beer that breweries never seem to completely nail.  Often too bitter and acrid, COOP has made one of the best I’ve had recently.  Chocolately and nutty, this had such a smooth, fluffy finish I was certain it had to have been served on a nitro tap.  Nope.  I really enjoyed this one.

A-

F-5 IPA

I highly doubt there’s an IPA this good made within 500 miles of COOP.  The classic West Coast bitter grapefruit and pine IPA, a little hefty at 7%, this is the beer that will turn a ton of Oklahomans into hop heads.

A

DNR Belgian Style Golden Ale

What an insanely intriguing beer.  An over-the-top complex mix of Noble hops, European malts, and Belgian candi giving this tastes of vanilla, cinnamon, and dark fruits.  And, at 10% this is one of the most deceptively alcoholic beers I’ve ever had.  You’ll want to keep sucking them down.  But don’t.  Or do.  I don’t really care about your health.

A

Territorial Reserve Oak-Aged Imperial Stout

By now every brewery is trying bourbon-barreled stouts and they should excite me as much as another boxing movie being released.  But just like “The Fighter” stunned me and found new ways to tell the pugilist’s tale, COOP has made a real corker of a barrel-aged stout.  Aged on Bulleit bourbon barrels, this might seriously be the smoothest, most perfectly melded bourbon-barreled stout I’ve ever had.  It’s not lacking in boozy taste, no way, but it’s not something that brings you to your knees either.  Rich, chocolately, and a “mere” 9.0%, it’s quite dangerous when you’ve become friends with a guy with the ability to over-serve you this.  I probably had five full pints and never got sick of it.  Wow.

A+

Red Zeppelin

This final beer is one that isn’t even available yet, one whose recipe isn’t fully created yet, and one that I’m not even sure I’m allowed to publicly discuss (I’ll wait for a cease and desist from J.D.), but it was my favorite beer I had from COOP so I want to scream to the hills about it.  Red Zeppelin is Zeppelin German Wheat aged in barrels on wild bing cherries.  This is a recipe they’re still working on and, admittedly, by now the souring had given the beer a slightly vinegary nose which some more amateur beer drinkers found unappealing, but I fucking loved it.  Just the perfect tart, sour, yet still slightly fruity taste I love.  It actually reminded me of Cantillon Kriek if I can be so bold.  I will be.  I hope they release and bottle this one day–it’ll sweep the beer nation.

A+

COOP is only available in Oklahoma so for now you’ll have to hope your company sends you there for work if you want to get some (or maybe write a book and go on tour there???) and I’ll have to hope J.D. is kind enough to build a pipeline to my house so I can always have some around to enjoy.  COOP is gonna be a big player in the beer world soon.

Pick up a last minute copy of my book, HOW TO FAIL!!!