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Archive for the ‘Brewer: AleSmith’ Category

The Blind Leading the Blind

October 15th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: AleSmith, Brewer: Deschutes, Brewer: Pennichuck, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: B-, Style: Porter, Style: Stout

Note: 2/3rds of this post comes courtesy of a trade with Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive.

When I get together with my friends DW and Batch, we like nothing more than to set up a blind taste test amongst some hard-hittin’ beers.  There’s no more accurate way to judge, and enjoy, a great beer than with no preconceived notions.  No inner monologue dancing around your head saying stuff like, “I think I kinda hate this beer, but it’s #13 on the Beer Advocate Top 100 so maybe I actually do like it…?????”

For this blind, I’m sure some beer geeks are going to get all up in arms that we pitted an American double stout vs. an American porter vs. a Russian imperial stout.  Blasphemy they’ll say!  He disrespected beer!  They might even start a nerdy discussion about it on the sad BA Forums.  But I’ll argue that it was an apropos matchup.  These styles are virtually the same and in this case, all three beers had near identical ABVs and, more importantly, strongly relied on coffee for their flavor profiles.*

The contenders were the currently #13 beer in the world AleSmith’s Speedway Stout, the #73 beer in the world Deschutes Black Butte XXI, and, just to throw a would-be tomato can into the mix, Pozharnik from Pennichuck Brewing from out in New Hampshire.

We were anxious to throw these down, but we faced one crucial problem:  how to set up a blind tasting when we were the only three people around.  Usually there’s a wife or a girlfriend, a macro-drinking friend, a teetotaling toddler, you can enlist to set up the glasses for tastings but in this case all those kinds of people were shunning us.  Three people born in the 1970s, well-educated, and we couldn’t possibly figure out how to set up a blind to drink ourselves.  Perhaps we were a little toasted too.  And I was most anxious to get on with this tasting as I was getting a firm case of drinking blue balls.

Finally, DW decided he could pull out nine total glasses, label three of them with a 1 on the bottom, three with a 2, and three with a 3, pour the same beer in the same numbered glass, then have Batch mix the glasses up, then have me distribute.  It worked.  May drinking beer never be so hard again.

On with the tasting notes:

Beer #1:  I found this one strongly smelling of soy sauce while all three of us detected a spicy chili pepper scent on the nose, recalling Dogfish Head Theobroma a bit I thought, oddly enough.  I found this one thin in the mouth, and bordering on unpleasant.  I didn’t even want to finish my blind taster glass.

Beer #2:  This was sweeter than #1 and quite flavorful.  I found it, likewise, to be a little thin on the mouth, but it was a very solid effort I enjoyed.

Beer #3:  By far the best of the three, all three of us blind tasters thought it easily won the troika matchup.  Rich in coffee taste and with a silky mouthfeel, toasty, roasty, and chocolaty, I greedily slurped this one up.

And the reveal:

Beer #1:  Black Butte XXI

Beer #2:  Pozharnik

Beer #3:  Speedway Stout**

We were all floored how resoundingly the beautifully wax-dipped Black Butte XXI got its ass kicked.  After the reveal, we still struggled to enjoy it and nearly considered passing the remaining 3/4th of the bottle to a bum outside.  (Respect that BA!)  XXI would be the only of the three bottles we didn’t enjoyably finish.  But, to be fair, it explicitly says on the Black Butte XXI bottle that the beer is best after 10/17/2010, but with such a lofty numerical standing and such rave reviews pretty much to a man at this very second in time, I would have hoped for better.  Nevertheless, I would really like to try another bottle of it exactly 369 days from now and I’ll give it a marginal benefit of the doubt til then.

The little-discussed Pozharnik was also quite a surprise, in the more pleasant surprise direction, and held up quite well in matching the wax-dipped XXI with a plastic plungered bottle.  The victorious Speedway Stout opted for the silver foil-wrapped top, completing the trifecta in what may not have been our greatest blind tasting ever, but was surely our greatest fancily-capped bottle tasting ever.

Black Butte XXI:  B-

Pozharnik:  A-

Speedway Stout:  A

*Commercial descriptions:

Speedway Stout: “A HUGE Imperial Stout that weighs in at an impressive 12% ABV! As if that’s not enough, we added pounds of coffee for a little extra kick.”

Black Butte XXI: “Building on the existing chocolate notes already present in Black Butte Porter, brewers added Theo’s Chocolate cocoa nibs from Seattle,  1000 pounds of Bellatazza’s locally roasted Ethopian and Sumatran coffee, and then aged a portion of it in Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey barrels.”

Pozharnik: “The 2007 Pozharnik is an intensely flavored Russian Imperial Stout infused with espresso that compliments its rich chocolate & roasted malt character.  Pozharnik is guaranteed to warm a winter chill with its 10% ABV and dark fruit (raisin & plum) & vanilla undertones.  Notes of whiskey aromatics are brought on by the aging process in a “single barrel” whiskey cask.”

**Interestingly enough, the only of the three to NOT be barrel-aged.  Though, I’d love to try the barrel-aged version of this one if any one wants to hook a brotha up.

AleSmith YuleSmith

July 31st, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: AleSmith, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

8.8% ABV from a bomber

Listening to High School Kids Discuss Their “Favorite” Beers When It’s Clear They’ve Never Tasted Them Before

The setting:  a bowling alley in Port Jefferson, Long Island, Thursday night, 11:00 PM*
Our principles:  three pimple-faced high school boys, approx. age 15

“So…uh…what’scha favorite beer?”

“Uh…I like…Sam Adams…(?)”

“Yeah.  Yeah, me too.”

“Which one?”

“Which one?”

“Yeah, like, which…flavor?”

“I like the…uh…normal one.”

“Me too.  Not the light one.”

“Light beer is for pussies, right?”

“What my old man says.”

“The Summer one’s good.”



“Oktoberfest is nice to have at certain times.”

“In October?”


“The Winter one?”



“Yes.  What I was gonna say.”


“Guinness is heavy.”

“The heaviest.”

“Like a full meal.”

“But I like it.  I drink it with meat and potatoes.”

“I do too.”

“I like it…uh…cold.”


“Some people like it…warm?”

“British dudes.”


“That’s right.”

“You gotta have it on tap.”

“Some beers are better on tap.”

“But some are better…bottled.”


“Do you like foreign beers?”

“Love ‘em.”

“Me too.  Which…ones?”

“Which.  Ones?  Hmmm…”








“Blue Moon is some good foreign shit too.”


“Girly yeah, but good shit.”

“Good shit.”


“What’s the best beer for beer pong?”

“Millers.” “Coors.”

“Coors.”  “Miller.”



“Yeah, Natty.  Just not Bud.”

“Just not Bud.”

“Like fuckin’ water.”

“Fuckin’ water.”




“Oh hey?!  D’ya like Scotch?”

“I love Scotch.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Me too.”

“Which Scotches…?”

As this teen machismo beer charade parade continued, I considered going to actually buy these kids their first ever beers.  (I’ve long been a proponent of corrupting our nation’s youth who are already trying their damnedest to be corrupted if it simply weren’t for those pesky age laws.)  Unfortunately, the bowling alley’s only “craft” offerings–and, yes, the beer menu did actually have a column labeled “craft beer”–were deplorable brews such as Shock Top, Leinenkugel, Killians Red, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.**

I refused to corrupt these fine kids with such garbage.  I mean, imagine if your first career beer had been something as sublime as AleSmith’s divine YuleSmith.  Why you’d…probably detest it.  You’d think this top 100 beer in the world to be too piney, too floral, with far too much grapefruit, and too smooth of malt balance.  You’d think it too fresh smelling, too “West Coast,” too drinkable, too boozy and bitter.  And, yet, I think it one of the better DIPA’s I’ve ever had.***


*Do not ask why I was there.

**The “import” section was even worse.

***Much confusion here and maybe a reader can help me out in trying to figure out whether I drank the summer or winter YuleSmith.  Quoth AleSmith:

Our most popular seasonal ale, YuleSmith is brewed twice a year in two different, yet similar styles:  An Imperial/Double IPA and an Imperial/Double Red Ale.

For the winter season, YuleSmith is brewed as an Imperial Red Ale. This version is maltier, more balanced, and darker in color than the summer version. Although quite malty, big hop flavors and aromas are abundant making this an unforgettable winter warmer.   Winter YuleSmith is packaged in traditional holiday red and green.

Soooo…based on my red & green bottle above, it appears I got the winter release.  But why had the bar just got their bottles in?  And why was it so very IPA-y?  Alas…it was damn good.

AleSmith IPA

April 23rd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: AleSmith, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

7.25% ABV from a bomber

My Quasi-Celebrity Girlfriend, Part III


“Just go hail a cab for us!”

We stood in the lobby of the Land O’Lakes Girl’s building, me in normal date attire, her dressed like the Land O’Lakes Girl.

“You know, you didn’t have to trick me into coming to this trade show with you.  I would have gone.  I got nothing better to do.”

A few feet away, the doorman and a building custodian snickered at the costumed Land O’Lakes Girl while, nevertheless, ogling her fantastic tanned legs.

“Yeah, well I’m sorry about that, I thought you might be freaked out.”

“I can’t believe a ‘celebrity’ like you doesn’t get limo service to the Javits Center.”

She rolled her eyes at me.  “I get reimbursed on my cab fare.  Now will you go hail us one?  I don’t want to be stared at by everyone.”

“I won’t go out there unless you come with me.”

On the sidewalk, as the Land O’Lakes Girl glared at me and shivered, trying to cover up her exposed skin as best she could, I tried to flag down a taxi, while neighborhood passersby paid my quasi-celebrity girlfriend…no attention.  This is New York City, mind you, nine out of ten people dress like assholes.

En route, the Land O’Lakes Girl admitted that she was always humiliated at working conventions so she was glad she would have some support from me.

“If you’re so humiliated by this, then why do you do it?”

“Hey, it’s for $500.  And I don’t get much work nowadays.”

She looked in the cabbie’s mirror and adjusted her feather headband.

“Any how, it’s a good networking opportunity.”

Good networking opportunity?

“Oh yeah, wait til you see.  There will be so many amazing, important, and powerful people here.”

Then we arrived at the packaged and canned foods convention.  And I saw all the amazing, important, and powerful people at the Javits Center.  There was Tony the Tiger and Cap’n Crunch and the Sun-Maid Raisin Lady and Chester Cheetah and one of the Keebler elves and hey, isn’t that Snap, Crackle, and Pop?  I can never tell those guys apart, but luckily they have their names on their hats lest you commit a major social faux pas and call Snap Crackle and Pop Snap.*

All these huuuuuuuge “celebrities” manning information booths while fat slobs wandered the convention floor amassing any free shit they could.

The Land O’Lakes Girl was shown to her booth and I helped her set up.  We laid out brochures and informational pamphlets and tiny free samples of Land O’Lakes butter for, I guess, those humans who have never sampled butter before and finally wish to just pop an unadulterated pat into their mouth sans toast or waffles or flapjacks.

Morons would come by, schmooze up the Land O’Lakes Girl, stuff a few pats of butter into their fanny packs, throw some pamphlets into their convention bags, schmooze up the Land O’Lakes Girl some more, and then ask for a picture.  There was a Polaroid camera at our booth and convention-goers were encouraged to get their photo taken with my quasi-celebrity girlfriend like she was some Playboy Playmate or a Hooter’s waitress.  It was shocking how many men wanted their picture taken with the Land O’Lakes Girl like she was someone important.  Each new photo-requester making her feel less and less important to me like indigenous Papa New Guineans believe cameras steal your soul.  Of course, I was the one forced to snap the Polaroids.  I intentionally framed them poorly.

After awhile, our booth hit a lull and for the first time since we had begun dating I actually looked at a Land O’Lakes box at the convention table.  Weird that I had never done it previously seeing as nowadays I over-Google every new girl I meet before any sort of relationship proceeds.  Then again, this relationship had been a torrent whirlwind.  I put the box up beside the Land O’Lakes Girl’s head.   You know, she didn’t really look like the chick on the box at all.

“What are you doing?” she sternly asked.

Would the 3-D Land O’Lakes Girl look like the 2-D Land O’Lakes Girl if she was shrunk down to one hundredth size?  Hard to say.

“Nothin’.  Will you autograph a box for me sometime?”

I smiled slyly.

She kissed me on the lips and grabbed the box from my hand.  She examined it, smirked to herself.

“They sure made my face look a lot fatter on the box.”

She tossed it aside.

Just then, on the other side of the convention floor, an enormous man in dark forest tights covered up by a leaf-garbed one-sleeved onesie ala Andre the Giant, strolled by in a gawky gait.

The Land O’Lakes Girl could barely contain her excitement.

“I used to have such a crush on him.”

I retracted.

“The fucking Jolly Green Giant?!”

She nodded.

“We used to be at a lot of the same events together.  I’d always flirt with him but he was never interested.  I think he had a girlfriend.”

“But he looks like a buffoon.  His tights aren’t taut.  They’re saggy and you can see he has a poor body.  Droopy man boobs and little chicken legs.  Plus, how can you tell what he looks like under that green grease paint on his face?”

“Oh I saw him without make-up once.  Very good-looking.”

She said the final line quite emphatically.

I’d had enough of this wacky pathetic convention and the Land O’Lakes Girl for the moment.  I was bored and hungry and a little perturbed and I decided to take a lap of the convention floor, hopefully to find some food.  I quickly realized I could piece together somewhat of a lunch with all the free samples from the booths:  granola bars and energy drinks and trail mixes and children’s fruit snacks.

I found myself at an Oscar Meyer booth absentmindedly looking through some pamphlets promoting the newest line of Lunchables pizzas when a rep at the booth–clad in a hot dog wiener costume natch–began schmoozing me up.

“So, you a rep?”

I looked up, confused.

“Huh?  Uh no.”

“In distribution?”

“Uhn uh.”

“School administrator then?!”

The wiener did an index finger gun point at me to emphasize what he thought was a correct guess.

“Naw.  Just looking for free samples.  I’m actually here because a friend of mine has to work.”

The wiener went into an Igloo cooler behind him and pulled out a box of Lunchables Maxxxed Out Peperoni Pizza.

“Friend, huh?  Any one I’d know?  I go to a lot of these dumb things.”

He ripped the cellophane off the top of the Lunchables tray and began preparing a piece for me, squirting some ketchup red sauce on a Matzo-cracker of a “crust” before adorning it was areola pink discs of low-grade meat.

Pure deadpan:  “Oh yeah, she’s pretty ‘famous,’ it’s the Land O’Lakes Girl.”

His eyes got huge as he handed me the pizza he had finished preparing.

“Yeah, she certainly is ‘famous.’”  He had accented the “famous” in a more mocking way than even I had.  I believe he was making fun of the Land O’Lakes Girl.  Hey, no one makes fun of my quasi-celebrity girlfriend but me!

“Great picture of her on the box, huh?”

I couldn’t tell if he was joking.

“Are you joking?”

He shrugged.

“So that isn’t her on the box is it?  Is that what you’re saying?  It sure doesn’t look like her.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

I eyed him, trying to get a read on what he was implicitly trying to tell me.  If he was trying to tell me anything.

“Well good to talk to you, pal.”

He smiled.  “It was good to meet Mr. Land O’Lakes too,” he said with a huge smile, trying to get my goat.

“These are terrible by the way,” I said as I frisbee tossed the remaining half of my slimy Lunchables pizza into his booth’s garbage.

“I know,” I heard him mumble as I headed back to the other side of the Javits Center.

Upon returning to the Land O’Lakes Girl’s booth, I found her no longer alone.  Nope, now The Jolly Green Giant was in the booth and they appeared to be canoodling, giggling with each other.  She looked surprised to see me, like she had forgotten I was there with her.

“Aaron, uh, hey…”

The Jolly Green Giant extended his hand.

“Aaron, this is Eric.”

I’d had about enough of this scene and wanted to leave, but if you know Manhattan then you know the Jacob K. Javits Center is way on the west side, nestled in that beautiful region boxed by the Westside Highway, the Lincoln Tunnel, and sexy Eleventh Avenue, also known as…the middle of fucking nowhere.  I’d have to walk forever or spend a shitload on a cab to get back to civilization.  I’d just grin and bear it and wait for the Land O’Lakes Girl and her reimbursable cab ride to take us home.

Luckily, the convention was dying down by now and the Land O’Lakes Girl decided it was time to clean up a bit and soon leave.  The Jolly Green Giant headed back to his booth to do likewise.

“Eric was thinking we should all go get a drink after this.”

“Who the fuck is Eric?”

The Land O’Lakes Girl gave me a look like I was a moron.  “Uh, The Jolly Green Giant.”

I could definitely use a drink but I wasn’t sure I felt like hanging out with him.  Then again, even though I was getting sick of the Land O’Lakes Girl, no little fruit…er, vegetable…was going to steal her from me.

“Come on, he’s a nice guy, I swear.”

The Land O’Lakes Girl smiled at me and gave me a kiss and I remembered why I liked her in the first place.

And soon we were standing on Eleventh Avenue trying to get a cab, none, of course, to be found.

“I know a great bar within walking distance,” Eric, the Jolly Green Giant, chirped.


If you know anything about the bars way on the westside of Manhattan…well, if you know anything about those bars then you’re probably a low rent hooker, a stevedore, a junkie, or one real badass.  These are serious dive bars, son.  You may think you go to dive bars.  You may laugh at the surly bartender who gives you a slightly foggy pitcher of cheap macro swill.  You may be tickled at how grossed out you are by the unisex bathroom with a standing water floor and graffitied walls.  You may be real amused at the jukebox full of David Allen Coe and George Thorogood ditties.  But you don’t go to dive bars.  You go to faux-dive bars.  Saying you go to dive bars is like an eleven-year-old claiming he went to an authentic haunted house last October 30th when his parents drove him to that warehouse right off the highway and paid $35 apiece for some unsuccessful drama club failures to spook the youngster.  The dive bars you go to are essentially just Hollywood sets erected to cater to you and your need to “slum” it for a night.  Real dive bars aren’t nestled between a Zagat-rated French restaurant and a free trade coffee shop et fromagerie.**

Real dive bars are on Eleventh and Twelfth Avenue, nestled between storage facilities and motorcycle repair shops and secret brothels and hot dog cart supply companies.  They have names like Ollie’s and McCullough’s and Joe’s.  If they have names at all.  Most are anonymous, just a blacked out sign, a neon High Life light in the front tinted window, and a door with a few nine millimeter holes in it.  You can’t see into these bars from the street so it’s a gamble–a major gamble–every time you push the swinging door open and enter one.  Who knows what you’ll find, what seediness, sordidness, clientele. If you have ZERO chance of getting killed for accidentally looking at someone funny or for saying the wrong thing, then you are not in a dive bar.

We headed to one of these scary dive bars on Twelfth Avenue and the low Forties, the Jolly Green Giant proudly fucking strutting down the street as the few transients that far west stared at the freak.  The Land O’Lakes Girl walked beside him and I hung back a few steps, like I might not actually be with these two.  The Land O’Lakes Girl turned around angrily.

“Are you embarrassed to be seen with me, Aaron?”

“Nope.  Not you.”

Soon we were at the dive bar and, of course, as we entered–”So an Indian girl, a Jolly Green Giant, and a pissed off Jew enter a bar…”–all the beefy, flannel-clad roughnecks rubbernecked toward us.  The bartender with a Rollie Fingers handlebar mustache snickered.

“I’d ax for youse guys’ IDs, but then again it pro’ly wouldn’t mattah, eh?”

The completely male population of the bar gruffly chuckled, each tippling denizen seeming to base their own personal style off of that of a Major League relief pitcher of the last few decades.  There was the guy at the back pool table with a “The Mad Hungarian” Al Hrabosky mop of hair, the guy stuffing his Mitch Williams curly mulleted face with some pretzels, the guy chugging Wild Turkey shots and then slurping the excess whiskey out of his Goose Gossage fu manchu.

It was an uncomfortable scene.  At least for me as I wondered how my life got to the point where I was sitting on a barstool seat essentially made out of duct tape, alternating between swigs of Budweiser and Wild Turkey as two costumed freaks surprisingly seemed to be making friends with the entire dive bar who were somewhat tickled by the two.  The two huge celebrities also seemed to be coming together in a union the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since the great DiMaggio and Norma Jeane Mortenson.

There’s probably a “Ho, ho, ho” joke in here somewhere regarding the Land O’Lakes Girl so cavalierly eschewing me.  Then again, I’m just an average Joe.

Eventually, the Land O’Lakes Girl headed off to the bathroom and The Jolly Green Giant sidled up beside me.

“So Aaron, you and Sara dating or just friends?  I can’t really tell.”

I thought about my torrid one-week relationship with a maybe-faux-quasi-celebrity and decided…

“Go for it dude.”

…it was over.

This story was not a fable because it was true and I am not Aesop and thus, unlike a fable, it has no moral, no significant principal culled, no lesson learned, no “one to grow on.”  I guess, the one thing to take away is to just not date crazy girls.  Or, just don’t date them for too long.  You’ll know when you’ve reached the precipice.

I winked at the Jolly Green Giant as I left the bar.  I finally understood why that bartender had winked at me just one week previous.  The Jolly Green Giant was in for quite a week I reckoned.

When I got home, free again, I popped a much coveted bomber of AleSmith’s highly rated IPA.  A smell so fresh, piny, citrusy.  Nicely carbonated and quite fizzy.  Strong grapefruit tastes with a very dry finish that lingers on the tongue with an awesome bitterness.  Very sticky, it makes your mouth and throat phlegmy like you’ve just had some freshly squeezed OJ, an oddly telling sign of a great hoppy IPA.  DIPA or IPA, who cares, this is freaking wonderful.  I have no quibbles but it’s not exactly transcendent either so I’ll give it “just” an…


*CLASSIC line on Wikipedia regarding the three pitchman elves jobs:  “opinion varies concerning Crackle’s occupation, but Snap is always portrayed as a baker and Pop as a marching band leader.”  I think Crackle is probably unemployed.  He looks like he spends most of the day sleeping and smoking weed while his more productive brothers make rent money.

**Real dive bars also aren’t featured in a handy dandy “guide” book written by some bitch named Wendy Mitchell.