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Captain Lawrence Smoke from the Oak (Apple Brandy Barrel Aged)

September 29th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Porter

My First Paid Writing Gig

It all started with a call from Scott.  He presented me with an odd yet enticing offer.  It seemed that his high school girlfriend Brandy–estranged daughter of a New York sports legend father and former supermodel mother, girlfriend of a current New York sports star, debutante, party girl socialite, and certified piece of ass–needed someone to write a grad school application essay for her for a large sum of money.  I was just the man and Scott gave Brandy my phone number.

She called a few hours late and soon I was en route to her mother’s Central Park South penthouse for dinner and to discuss the “project.”  I felt like Joe Buck*.  A writing gigolo.  And I loved it.

I had read about Brandy’s party-girl antics on Page 6 several times, but I’d never seen a picture of her at that point in time.  Nowadays you’d without question recognize her as she has since starred in her own reality program and even had a cameo role in a 2009 movie that topped the box office in its opening weekend.  But this was back in 2003 when she was still coming onto the “scene” and I was still a twenty-four-year-old buffoon.

That afternoon I tried to Google image search Brandy, but none appeared.  (Compared to just this second when some several hundred thousand images of her are returned in 0.22 seconds.)  Only pictures of her father of the same last name doing various things in increasing order of sordidness:  excelling at his sport; hugging teammates after a significant win; his regrettable one-year hiatus in which he became a semi-pro wrestler; him being carted off to jail in handcuffs for a drug possession arrest; and him making an appearance on “The 700 Club” as a now born-again Christian.  But, no picture of Brandy.  Rumor had it she was hot, so I spruced myself up like I was going on a date.  The thought never seemed to cross my mind that she was dating–that I was essentially competing with, ha!–a current sports superstar 35% bigger than me, 60% more handsome than me, and 1500% richer than me.  I told myself though that if he was Joe D, I could be Arthur Miller, the intellectual to the jock.  This was how my idiotic twenty-four-year-old mind worked.

A few blocks from Brandy’s apartment, Brandy called me and canceled.  “Family Emergency.”  I was pretty pissed at her having wasted my time, but what could I do about it?  Scott called me later that night telling me that the emergency was that her dog had just been neutered.  He also said Brandy was worried about meeting me, thinking that I would think her to be an “airhead.”  “I think YOU are an airhead,” I told Scott truthfully and hung up.

The next day I redressed for my date, trying to look a little artsy, writer-ish as well, and headed back to her apartment.  She greeted me with an overly intimate double cheek kiss and offered me a beer.  It was 10 AM.  I accepted the beer.  She must have thought writers needed to drink to create.  She thought exactly right.  She gave me a Bud Ice.  A five million dollar apartment I stood in, with a can of beer I wouldn’t have even drank in college.  Where was the good shit? Probably in the walk-in wine closet I noticed as she lead me to the penthouse’s library where we sat down at a monumentally large King Arthurian table.  As I pulled my notebook and pens from my messenger bag, the neutered dog would not quit jumping all over me.  How wild must this thing have been when he had some balls to play with?

Brandy quickly gave me her bio:

*Had attended the fourth worst SEC school for her first three years of college.  Despite her family’s money and connections this was the best school she could get into out of high school. Her father’s alma mater.

*Tired of being a New Yorker stuck in the middle of the south, she decided she wanted to spend her final year at a more respectable institution, opting to transfer to a semi-religious private school in Texas.  Her mother had been a cheerleader there.

*Now she was interested in attending design school in New York and she needed to write 500 words on “a life-affirming moment.”

“Could you do it?” Brandy asked.

“Of course.  It won’t be easy,” I noted as I took an overly long dramatic pause to help in building up my talent in the hopes of scoring as much money as possible, “but I’ll sure as hell try.”  I told her not to worry, I didn’t even need to know anything about her.  I told her I’d go home and just make up my own fake and dramatic, and sometimes humorous, life-affirming moment for her.  “Is that okay?”

Brandy didn’t talk a lot, but said that was fine.  How much money would she have to pay me?

I felt even further like a whore.  (”A hunded dolla’ for a half hour.  A dime for the hour.”)  I asked what she thought to be fair.  When being employed by the insanely rich NEVER set your own salary.  What they think is “fair” is usually double the money that you think is “outrageous.”

“Scott said you’d probably want about $100 an hour.”

Fucking A, $100 an hour.  I could have kissed Scott.  500 words would take me about the fifteen minute walk home to think up and an hour at most to write.

“Sounds a little low, but I’ll accept that since you’re a friend,” I told her, perhaps even adding a wink, though the muscles in my face aren’t quite supple enough to always execute that move.  “It won’t be easy, but I imagine I could get it done tonight if I pull an all-nighter.”

She ate it up.  I chugged the rest of my beer when she wasn’t looking, received the goodbye double cheek kiss that idiots prefer and went skipping home. I wrote the essay in under an hour.  I thought it was great.  I was a twenty-four-year-old man-boy competing against seventeen-year-old kids.  Actually probably forty-five- and fifty-year-old parents that were writing essays for their kids.  Well, I had gotten into every single college I had applied to when I was seventeen with the essays I’d written when I was seventeen, so I thought everything would be cool.

I woke up that morning at 4:45 AM and e-mailed Brandy the essay (”Spent all night working on it and just finished.”)

At noon when she woke up she e-mailed me back a response.  A simple :( emoticon.  I took that to mean she didn’t like it.  Were all editors this tough?  It was going to be hard to break into the writing business if that was the case.

Later she called me and told me the problem was that I just told a story about a made-up life-affirming moment in her life and I hadn’t explain well enough how smart and unique and creative she was.  Or, at least, how smart, unique, and creative she claimed to be and thought the college would want her to be if they were going to accept her.

I was fucking pissed.  She didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. But I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream.  I spoke calmly and tried to explain the faultiness with her life of thinking.  She didn’t understand what the hell I was talking about.  Alas.  Hot girls need to be reasoned with using analogies.

“Brandy, lots of guys hit on you at the vapid bottle service lounges you go to in the Meatpacking District, right?”

“Right,” she said, having no clue where I was headed.

“And, 99% of them buy you lots of drinks, and treat you nicely, and try to impress you with their bullshit and their money, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Now, that doesn’t work, does it?  You aren’t attracted to those guys, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.  Unless they’re, like, really rich or famous or something like my current boyfriend.”

“Well, when the 1% of guys come into the bar acting confidently, like they own the place, and treating you a little rude, and certainly not buying you even a single drink, don’t those guys kind of intrigue you?”

“No!”

“Be honest.”

“Usually.”

“Of course they do.  Well I just wrote you a 1% essay, and you’re wanting me to write you a 99% essay.  How are you going to stand out from the crowd with your ‘writing’ if you write the same boring ‘My-Greatest-Assets’ essay that every other kid is writing?!”

“Well…”

“You don’t tell people that you’re smart, that you’re creative, that you’re unique…you write an essay that proves you are smart, creative, unique.”  Pause.  “Get it?”

“Well, I’d just rather write something that’s more about me.”

“I don’t know a fucking thing about you though.”

I told her we had to meet again.  This was taking much longer than I expected and I was getting frustrated.  Our first time meeting I acted like that 99% of guys act around a hot girl.  This next time I was going to act like the elusive 1%.  Without even trying.

“Come back to my house tomorrow at noon.”

“I will if you have a turkey sandwich waiting for me!” I ordered.

So back to her penthouse, where I was greeted by her mom in a towel.  Said towel being held up merely by her mother’s fake “headlights.” Brandy was still in her pajamas, playing with the dogs in the playing-with-the-dogs room.  And, there was that turkey sandwich waiting for me.  A good fucking one too.  Not the corner deli Boar’s Head turkey sandwich I was used to.  This thing was gourmet.  Might have been on an artisanal baguette even.

Brandy and I sat down at her large table again and I started interviewing her.

“So…tell me some good stories about your life at college down in the deep south.”

“Uh…”  She couldn’t think of any.

“You can’t think of any!  None?”

“Not really.”

“You went to that university for three years and you can’t think of one fucking story?  I drove through that hick state once, for two hours, between 3 AM and 5 AM and saw some of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever seen in my life.  Yet you saw nothing?  I saw a house there built totally out of recycled soda cans.  I saw a guy having a barbecue in the median of the highway at 3:30 in the morning.  I saw a sheriff driving drunk down the road with his headlights completely off.  And you saw nothing?!”

She finally spoke more than five words in a row.  “Uh, I guess, like, some kids would take their shotguns to class.”

“Okay, now we’re talking.”

We talked and ate for about an hour.  I got some decent biographical info about her life as a New York City JAP–she wasn’t Jewish, but a JAP nonetheless–going to school in the south.  This is what she wanted talked about in her essay, this is what I’d write about. I had plenty of ideas for what to write, how her life had been affirmed, and my mind was racing.

Then her mom–now finally dressed–came back to the room.

“Aaron, I should tell you something…”  She was acting like Brandy wasn’t even in the room.  Brandy always acted–mentally–like she wasn’t in the room.  Her mother continued, “Brandy had…”–unnecessarily large emphasis–”SHIT grades in college.”

I thought I’d join in the fun.  “Exactly how…”–unnecessarily large emphasis–”SHIT were they?”

Mom smiled.  She liked my style.  “Real FUCKING SHITTY.  Like a 1.2 GPA.”

A 1.2!

“A 1.2?” I exclaimed still looking at mom.  “How is that possible?  I once didn’t attend a class for an entire semester, never bought the books even, and still got a B-.  How in the world do you get a 1.2?  At the SEC’s fourth worst school no less!?”

Brandy’s mother liked seeing her daughter get berated.  This former model and now mom was surprisingly smart and sharp.

“I dunno.  Didn’t go to class I guess.  Partied and stuff.  That was during my coke phase I think,” Brandy noted.

“Oh I remember!  You were maxing out my credit cards monthly!”  She turned back to me.  “You’re the writing genius, Aaron,”–I was falling in love with this MILF, “and you’re going to have to explain away her SHIT grades if she has any prayer of getting accepted.”  She squeezed my shoulders as she retreated back to her room.

Brandy rolled her eyes at me after her mom left as if to say, “Do you believe her?! How embarrassing.”  What she did actually say though was:

“How much do I have to pay you?”

I thought about this for a second.  I asked myself how much did I really think was fair to be paid?  About $175 was what I felt fair for the work I had done, the work I would do the rest of the day.

“$2000,” I bluntly told her.

She didn’t flinch.

“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!  MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!”  She turned back to me.  “Jesus, is she fucking deaf?!  I’ll go ask my mom for to write a check for you.”

She left the room and walked down a long corridor to find her mother.

A few seconds passed before I heard screaming from the other room.

“$2000?!!!!!  That is fucking insane!!!  Is he fucking insane?!  What do you normally pay people to write your papers, Brandy?”

Apparently not much, or the wrong people, as her GPA attested.  I tried to contain my laughter.

A few seconds later Brandy returned with a check for $1000.  “My mom will give you the rest in cash upon completion.

Brandy’s mother must have thought I looked like a guy that would take the money and run.  Awesome.  Now I felt like a drug runner.  I liked that even better than being a gigolo.

I didn’t get any more cheek kisses as I left this time. I didn’t care.  That was the biggest single check I’d gotten in my short life.  The first money ever paid to me for my writing.  I deposited it at an ATM en route to my apartment where I quickly whipped out a stunning essay while riding this creative high.  Something I was legitimately proud of.  Something that I thought could have won the Pulitzer if they gave such an award to falsified college entry essays for acceptance at mediocre design schools.

Ecstatic with myself, I headed out to tithe into my liver 10% of my writing paycheck.  Returning home wasted at 4:15 AM, I e-mail off to Brandy my second stab at the essay.

And, I didn’t hear from her for a week.  I guess she liked me essay.  But I was still owed $1000.  I decided to send her an e-mail to ask what she thought of the essay, how she was doing, when I could collect the rest of my money.  She never responded.

A week later I decided to call her.  She must have not had my name in her phone because she actually answered.

“Hey Brandy, it’s Aaron???  Did you like the essay????”  I was speaking in lots of question marks, something that is not that easy when you have fully gone through puberty and your voice has dropped.

“Yeah, and thanks, but, uh, I think I’ve decided to…uh…go another route…in my, uh, life.”

“Oh, too bad.”  Like I cared.  “Um, so, can I get the rest of the money you owe me and we agreed on?”

I heard the phone snatched out of Brandy’s hand.  It was her mom.

“You are fuckin’ crazy if you think I’m gonna give you another $1000 for that shitty essay!”

*CLICK*

Brandy never applied to college ultimately and I never got any more money that I surely didn’t deserve.  Perhaps she should have applied to college though as her fame is dwindling quickly, though I hear she has a new MTV show coming out this year.  Presumably it will be life-affirming.

I still wonder if my essay would have gotten her accepted into that design school, even with her SHIT grades.  I guess I’ll never know.  I also wonder if I could have made a living writing essays for the dumb, lazy, and rich.

Smoke from the Oak (Apple Brandy Barrel Aged)

ABV unknown, from a 750 mL bottle (Batch #1)

Living less than thirty miles from one of my favorite breweries, Captain Lawrence of Pleasantville, NY, it had vexed me for the longest time that I had been unable to secure a taste of even one of their Smoke from the Oak releases.  Bourbon Barreled Aged, wine, rum…with each subsequent release, for some reason or another, I missed a chance at nabbing a bottle.  It was angering me!  Finally, with the latest release and perhaps the highest regarded release so far, Vice Blog superfan KH was able to offer a bottle for sacrifice. I was stoked.

For those not in the know, Captain Lawrence’s Smoke from the Oak series takes its outstanding Pleasantville Smoked Porter and ages it in various spent barrels.  In this case, for eight months in freshly emptied apple brandy barrels.  I absolutely adore the black licorice delicious smoked porter and the infusion of apples adds another layer of fascinating complexity and some welcoming tartness.  I can’t say I was absolutely floored by this offering, but it is most unique and I was most glad to try it.  Now I need to go backwards and try some other bottles from the series.  I always liked playing catch up.

A-/B+

*Jon Voight’s character in “Midnight Cowboy.”  Not the humorless sportscaster.

New England Imperial Stout Trooper (2006)

September 22nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Brewer: New England, Brewer: Sixpoint, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Stout

8.5% ABV on cask

The Great RV Trip Non-Debacle 2009

We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.

No.  We were somewhere around East Stroudsburg, near the Delaware Water Gap, when the vodka began to coarse through us.

No.  That’s not right either.  What is it about besotted road trips that makes every one want to pay homage to the master?  To steal from Hunter S?

I shall start again.

What is it about moving while drinking that makes it so much more enjoyable?  Whether on plane, train, boat, or car (hopefully not while driving) it is such a greater pleasure than to imbibe while static.

We were in a twenty-five-foot-long recreational vehicle, an RV you dope, hurtling down the highway as fast as King Otto could drive without the governor stopping us.  The governor on the car.  Not Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, though he wouldn’t have been thrilled with the activities we were partaking in as we marred his miserable state.

In the back, Cuseman and I sat in the booth across from one another.  Dean, Dean, the Sax Machine (aka:  The Tapdance Kid) lounged on the back bed dispensing homemade pineapple-infused vodka–much more potent than you will ever know–from a two gallon tub.  Atop the bunk bed, the babe of the trip, Epstein slept.

When King Otto suggested we rent an RV for our sojourn to State College, PA to see our beloved Syracuse Orange lose to Penn State, I was a little leery.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I signed up immediately, but I was certainly leery.  Leery about:

  • the quality and comfort of a rented RV
  • living with four men within the confines of about fifty square feet for forty-eight straight hours
  • King Otto’s ability to drive the thing
  • not dying from any of the above

One thing I wasn’t leery about:

  • actually getting a hilarious story from this most certain debacle of a trip.

I would live on the RV, tailgate with the RV, and hang with likeminded RVers, many of the professional variety, for an entire weekend so that none of my readers ever would have to.  I would be the Bear Grylls of driving, sleeping, relaxing, eating, pissing, and shitting all within the same vehicle.  I was certain I would be incredibly glad to have gone on this trip, and almost certain that I’d never want to do it again by trip’s end.

I have to say, I was so very wrong.

First of all, I was greatly impressed by our Cruise America “standard” rental.  If you’ve never had the fortune–yes, fortune–to ride in an RV, let me briefly explain its interior.  Though it looks no bigger than a utility van or a smallish U-Haul on the outside, inside it’s like a funhouse and you are simply blown away at how much is packed into the thing.  Pure American ingenuity and efficiency.  Above the driver’s cabin–identical to a truck cabin but with access to the back living quarters–a bunk bed big enough to house three heterosexual men that don’t mind incidental contact, three across like sardines.

In the middle of the living quarters, a sitting booth akin to what you’d see at a Denny’s or standard dinner.  A perfect place to play cards, eat fast food, or get tie one on hard while the “dad” of the trip–King Otto in this case–drove.

Loaded up and ready to go, King Otto took the wheel still smarting from layabout Cuseman’s insubordination in loading up and preparing to go in a timely manner (let’s hope the two of them wage a war of words within my comments below–it will truly be hilarious), and we were off.

The drive to State College from New York City is…well, honestly, I have no fucking clue.  I wasn’t paying attention in the least.  Nor really was Cuseman, Epstein, or Dean, Dean, the Sax Machine (aka:  The Tapdance Kid).  It was raining hard, it was dark out, but the back was like a bar where time simply doesn’t matter.  Yeah, sure, like a bar with no TVs, no women, inaudible car radio, and only four customers in it.  But the drinks were free, the cold beers were only an inch away from you at any time, and there was never a line to the pisser.  A bathroom about the size of an airplane lavatory, I should note.

Drinking on road trips is always not just a desire, nor a necessity, but of the utmost importance.  Shit, I’ve been known to risk life, limb, and the tender skin on my palms just to get an open bottle of beer for a ride.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone drinking and driving in the least and I’ve only done it once in my life–no lie–but I condone drinking and passengering with all of my being.

Why it is a crime in America to drink alcohol while not driving a car but while simply sitting in it is extremely baffling to me.  A typical case of America finding solutions to problems that don’t exist and which are really not solutions at all.  (Have a lot of drunk passengers wrecked the cars they weren’t driving?!)  I suppose lawmaking muckety-mucks would say you can’t drink and passenger because, well, because it sets a bad example for the man at the wheel.  Heck, it might even make him downright jealous.  Well shit then, shouldn’t it be illegal to not read while in the passenger seat?  Or do a crossword?  Or play air drums to “Dazed and Confused?”  Or fucking sleep?!  Cause, while I may not be any sort of vehicular safety expert, I know countless people that have successfully driven a car while lit up like a menorah, but I don’t know a single motherfucker that has successfully made it from point A to point B while fast asleep.

And that’s the great thing about having the RV.  With a car, you’re always conscious, always worried about a cop driving by and seeing you opening a cold one, about empties littering the floor, about needing to break the seal too early and slowing down your entire trip.  But all those problems are negated in an RV.  With the curtains closed, no one else on the road could possibly see what mischief we were getting into.  It was our private sanctuary, our own movable speakeasy, for throwing back the hooch with no consequence.  Unless of course King Otto wrecked the car and then we’d face the quite troublesome consequences of seeing what happens to a man who is standing in the back of an RV, chugging a beer, when said RV fishtails into a highway girder.  Perhaps we should wear helmets in the back next time?

Without question, this was the most enjoyable roadtrip I have ever had driving-wise.  On other roadtrips, you’re obsessed with the time while en route.  “How’s are time?”  “We making good time?”  “What time do you think we’ll be in?”  Why?  Well so you can get to the bar and start drinking.  But when the bar is with you, time is of the utmost insignificance.  We could have arrived at 9 PM, midnight, or next year and I wouldn’t have give a damn.  Unless the beer had ran out.

The insignificant time we did arrive ended up being 10:50 PM.  Pulling into the grass rolling hills of a parking lot at 10:50 PM we were floored.  Hundred upon hundreds if not thousands upon thousands of RVs already set up, as far as the eye could see.  There must surely be an RV caste system as we were ordered and then tucked away into a far corner of the lot amidst other smallish rentals and amateur RV enthusiasts.

We immediately grabbed a handful of beers and set out to explore.  To see the real RV pros at work.  We took laps around the ad hoc “streets” of the RV City, our wasted eyes agog like Dorothy in Oz.  We soon learned that the lot opens at 5 PM sharp on Thursday night with a line of RVs already ready to enter and set up, and for the next three days the place becomes like a slapdash wild west mining town, thrown up over night to assure a place’s newest and likewise temporary inhabitants, can find places to grub, drink, gamble, and fuck while finding as much gold as possible.  We were amazed to see impromptu sports pubs, dance clubs, karoake bars, and even gambling venues pieced together through a series of interconnected tents–closer to circus than pup–covering all sorts of tables, furniture, and electronics powered by miles and miles of extension cord connected to satellite dishes and RV generators.  Suffice to say, many if not most of these big time RV “establishments”–for lack of a better word–were larger, more spacious, and had far more eminities and creature comforts than not just my Manhattan apartment but most groggeries in New York City proper.

There’s nothing better than waking up at sunrise on Saturday, walking outside in your sleep clothes, taking a piss in the dewy grass, and immediately popping a beer to shake off the cobwebs, then sparking up the grill, and setting up the Cornhole boards.  (As we all know Cornhole is the greatest outdoor drinking game in the history of the world, and any time I get a chance I play it until my arm falls off, my liver explodes, or, more likely, the cheap wood board shatters.)  We drank and ate burgers and sausage, played Cornhole and Beer Pong until 11:50 AM before hightailing it to the stadium.

There’s not much worth discussing or explaining about the day’s game.  Beaver Stadium may the biggest stadium in America and the third largest in the world, but it’s fairly unspectacular.  You might say, well, Penn State was playing the miserable Syracuse Orange, sure.  And that does justify the fans lack of enthusiasm and propensity for sitting on their hands.  But that doesn’t justify it being an undistinguished Erector Set of a dilipidated sporting venue, nor the school have a shockingly ugly student base.  King Otto, Cuseman, Dean, Dean the Dancing Machine (aka: The Tapdance Kid), and Epstein can back me up on this, the four State fans in front of us were of another species.  A species that surely evolved and survived by not being the fittest, but rather by being so goddamn repulsive no predators possibly wanted to get near these mutants.  Literally slack-jawed with the gummiest mouths you’ve ever seen, acne-riddled skin, hair straight from the bird’s nest wig collection, and the dopiest hick hollers of “Cuuuuuuuuuuum’on, less’go Stuuuuuuuuuu-ate!”  Sickening.  And this is coming from a man that hadn’t showered or even brushed his teeth that morning.  My standards were not exactly high on that misty day.

Of course you can’t drink during the game because the hypocritical NCAA likes to pretend that it has some ethics, so I was forced to swig on Diet Pepsis all game, which I won’t deny were incredibly reasonably priced so yay for that.  After a 28-7 loss, after nearly falling asleep from our three hour lack of alcohol, we jumped back into drinking and exploring the RV scene.  (Marv Albert voice:  “With authority!”)

An expert myself, I am not one to haphazardly praise the drinking prowess of others, thinking most “party” schools to be grossly overrated, most hardcore imbibers hardly able to throw it back, but I can say this:  Penn State fans can drink.  They are one of the finest drinking schools I have ever dealt with.  Good lord, State College on a gameday might be the drinking capital of America.

As a connoisseur of drinking games, I was both intrigued and excited to learn that Cornhole and Beer Pong have pretty much become passe at State College.  Still respected sure, but more in a retro way like, “Ha, isn’t it cute.  We’re playing beer pong!  That game we used to play when we were in junior high!”  Oh no, these ugly Penn State fans have moved on to far more aggressive drinking games.  Games of the highest skill, abilities, and suicidal tendencies.  I learned at least four new drinking games but my two most eye-opening favorites were Dizzy Bat and Speedball, explained as follows:

Dizzy Bat–Take your classic yellow Wiffleball bat, cut the bottom of the handle off it, fill the barrel with an entire can of beer and…CHUG!  After you’ve finished chugging, put the bat on your forehead, bend over, and spin around ten times, then stand up and try to take a swing at the empty beer can as a friend/enemy tosses it at you.  Amazingly, or not considering how awesome America is, there’s actually countless great Youtube videos of this sport.

Speedball–Probably the most dangerous drinking game I’ve ever encountered aside from gloryholing, this game works like this:  Two-versus-two with each team set up on opposite ends of your typical beer pong length table.  Each player has a full can of beer placed in front of him.  One teammate hurls a ping pong ball at one of his opponents’ two cans and, assuming he hits a can, his partner is allowed to begin chugging his beer and chug it as long as he can until the “defending” team is able to retrieve the ping pong ball and lay it smack on the table.  Sounds easy, sure, but here’s the rub:  the player that hurled the ball at the defenders’ beer cans is allowed to chase after the ball and the defenders and use any means necessary–kicking, scratching, blocking, tripping–short of outright tackling, or covering the ball, to prevent the defenders from returning the ball to the table.  Teams go back-and-forth taking alternating shots, game is over when both of a team’s players have drained every last drop of their two cans.  You are guaranteed to be sweaty, tired, filthy, perhaps injured, and certainly wasted after a game of Speedball.  Fans gather around like they are watching a Michael Vick sanctioned canine UFC event.  Not surprisingly, all the players and spectators, are men.

As nightfall came and drinking games became an impossibility, now wasted and worn, we walked around the dark lot getting into trouble and creating memories at the various dance clubs, bars, and various drinking scenes.  Making friends with strangers, watching nationally-televised football games on projection satellite TV screens blasted onto walls and giant RVs, and eventually becoming shit-canned enough to hit on ugly ugly women (photographic evidence destroyed.)  We even managed to get a little illicit gambling done, with Dean, Dean the Sax Machine (aka:  The Tapdance Kid) absolutely mopping up.

I was worn and wasted before even 1 AM, after approximately seventeen straight hour of drinking and twenty-six of the last thirty-three hours with a drink in my hands, I aptly feel asleep that night still clutching a half-drunk brew.

I'm even a legend when I sleep

I'm even a legend while I sleep

Th next day, the RV was an absolute pig sty, our toilet not overflowed but filled to the brim, our two gallons of vodka killed, our three bottles of spice rum decimated, and 84 out of 96 cans of cheap beer taken down (OK, who was the slacker here?).  We were most certainly ready to get back to civilization.  Unfortunately, the drive back home to New York through the tumbling hills of nowhere land, where you can’t even find a McDonald’s for hundreds of miles, is a lot more boring when you’re hungover and not drinking.  Oh well, road trips always end poorly.  No one ever says:  “Man, you know what the best part of this road trip was?!  Driving home at the end of it!”

Having said that, I’m pretty sure the five of us are now RV enthusiasts for life.  It’s a lifestyle I think I could get into, the cornerstone of a splendid lost weekend, though I would die an early death if I did it more than once a year.

Though I guess I may have to change my life expectancy:  King Otto’s considering buying an RV.

After having not showered, or defecated, sorry for the too much information, for the entirety of the trip, I had to handle both post-haste upon re-entering Manhattan society.  But I also had to hightail it to Rattle ‘N’ Hum because after drinking garbage macro beer all weekend, I needed some flavorful, weighty, and potent sugary poison in my system, and luckily, my favorite bar was hosting the Gotham Cask Festival, with quite a few notables on tap amongst several dozens specialty casks.

I started things off with Sixpoint’s Hops of Love “IPA 4 Evah” dry-hopped cask beer.  I was quite impressed with this 6.2% offering and found it even better than their well-acclaimed Bengali Tiger.  Hops of Love was made specially for Sixpoint brewer Ian’s wedding and apparently they made far too much, which is our gain!  Our at least mine.  Dry-hopped with cascade and Northern, this is a flawless and complex blend of grapefruit, piny hops, and bitterness all in a slippery smooth little package.  I really enjoyed this luxurious beer which just coddled my throat (A-)

I also tried the official beer of New York City Craft beer week, the NY3, a collaborative effort between Empire State brewers Captain Lawrence, Ithaca, and Southampton, brewed with local honey from each of the three brewers, dry-hopped with Willamette hops among others from Pedersen Farms.  I eagerly anticipated this effort but was a tad let down.  A solid session effort no doubt, kinda like Liquid Gold Lite, but nothing spectacular, and a beer that easily got lost in the shuffle compared to all the legendary, high ABV offerings I had around during the past week (B+)

But I had come specifically to the cask festival at Rattle ‘N’ Hum for one much desired beer, a Beer Advocate Top 100 effort and no doubt George Lucas unapproved, the Imperial Stout Trooper.  A vintage 2006 keg no less!  I found the stout to be a most warm and relaxing imperial that actually tastes far more boozy than it truly is.  Burnt and roasted coffee tastes, a kiss of chocolate, silky and most delicious, though I don’t think it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with the all-time legends.  At least on cask.  I hope to snag a bottle this winter.

A-

*Of note, you can still drink at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, so fuck all you teetotaling heathens.

(Be sure and check out this fun interview Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive did with me)

Captain Lawrence Nor’Easter (3rd batch, 2008)

January 25th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

12% ABV from a bomber

Legend has it that noted Southern writer and drunkard William Faulkner would wake up most mornings after a night of heavy drinking certain that he had figured out the meaning of life the previous night.  Only problem was, now sober, he couldn’t remember what exactly he had realized while drunk.  Thus, the next night as he sat home imbibing alone he made sure to have a note pad at his side.  And, the next morning when he awoke prone on the floor, his head throbbing, a smile crossed his face as he stood up and promptly walked to his desk to find his notepad, which had scrawled on it in slurred handwriting his one brilliant thought from the previous evening:

“I’m drunk.”

I think we’ve all had great ideas while wasted only to realize they were simply great “ideas” once sobered up.  Tonight I had several offers for fun–a “Tiger Woods” Wii tournament in crazy ass Queens, some wine-drinking with a girl I just met down in the East Village–but, with the frigid temperatures and a desire for tranquility, I’ve decided to sit home drinking alone.

Luckily, I made a nice score today, finding Captain Lawrence’s semi-rare Nor’Easter at the Bowery Beer Room.  I was most excited as I had thought this limited quantity beer (only 225 cases, though, sadly, this beer “expert” still doesn’t know how many bombers are exactly in a case (help?)) was only available up at the Captain Lawrence Brewery in Pleasantville, New York and had already sold out even.

So, here’s the deal for this post, I’m gonna live blog as I get drunker and drunker throughout the evening.  Now, I don’t believe alcohol improves one’s writing–nor did Faulkner for that matter, he never wrote while drunk–but it should nevertheless make for an avant garde post here at the least.  Or, rather, maybe a really shitty post.  But artists have to try new things.  If I write honestly–and I will, never even correcting the drunken errors that will deserve (sic)s in the morning–it could get downright “The Truman Show” embarrassing as I’m not exactly a normal person when I drink at home alone.  It won’t be an exact science because–presumably–the fact that I am writing my own Saturday night ethnography will perhaps prevent me from keeping it 100% real, you know like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, you can’t observe something without changing it, like why reality TV innately can never be real.  Then again, the drunker you get the less self-aware you get, so who knows?

And with that, let’s begin, here at 10:06 P.M. as I pop the top on the Nor’Easter.  It should really have a “cork and cage” top, as would befit such a rare, high-quality beer as this one.  Pours quite dark, almost black with a maroon gleam to it.  Interesting taste.  The bottle labels it a winter warmer, noting it is an ale brewed with elderberries and aged in bourbon barrels.  I have no fucking clue what an elderberry is, sounds like it might be in the same genus as the snozzberry.

10:15 PM, I should note the conditions I’m dealing with.  Just on the positive end of recovery after a week-long cold.  My apartment is fucking freezing and I have a space heater on the floor pointed right at my balls.  Oh, and my internet is down for some reason forcing me to steal the linksys WiFi (”pixienet”) from the old bag that lives below me.  And I really have no plans for the evening, no movies or TV shows to catch up on, nothing to read or write, no correspondence to be made, nothing.  I’ll let the alcohol pave my way, shape my evening.  Currently, I’m just drinking and “watching” channel 628 on my cable.  That’s actually a golden oldies radio station that plays a lot of songs that most people my age have never heard of and would probably hate if they had heard them but which I inexplicably love and know every single lyric to, stuff like “Creeque Alley,” “The Book of Love,” “Happy Together,”* and “Lightening Strikes” by the inimitable Lou Christie.

10:40, with nothing on television except for deplorable Dane Cook comedy specials, The Winter X Games and Australian Open, and “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins,” I’m forced to throw in the only Netflix I have sitting around the house, a somewhat acclaimed independent Argentinian film from last year, “XXY.”  Here’s the synopsis:  “Ines Efrom plays Alex, a 15-year-old hermaphrodite in this compelling tale.”  Let it never be said I’m not an open-minded guy.  I saw “Milk” last night, never would have guessed that would end up being only the second most “gay” film I would see this weekend.**

10:45, OK, “XXY” is incredibly artsy and subtitled.  Not a problem, typically, I love films like that as I am indeed a cineaste, but drunk I can’t understand anything so sophisticated and my reading prowess becomes too slow to keep up with the words on screen.  Oh, yes, I have somehow become quite buzzed.  I’m shocked the Nor’Easter is 12% as it goes down so smooth, but the results with less than a half bottle finished are evidence enough.

11:04, watching the Shane Mosley fight end, I’ve decided the Nor’Easter is quite good.  Thinner mouthfeel than I’d like, it actually goes down like a wine, maybe like a wild ale, and I do feel like I can taste a little wild yeast in there which adds to the intrigue of the beer.  It’s yet another unique offering from Captain Lawrence.  I’m starting to feel like they are one of the rare breweries–along with, say, Dogfish Head, Stone, and Allagash–that make beers so sui generis that from taste alone I can place exactly where they come from.  Quite a tribute to them.  I guess I’d like the Nor’Easter to be more bourbon-y but don’t listen to me, I like everything more bourbon-y.  Hell, maybe I should scrap beer and just make bourbon my daily drink, who am I kidding?

11:05, my stolen WiFi is only connecting at three out of five bars, making it too slow to look at porn.  Drag, isn’t it.***

11:15, I go to the bathroom to piss.  Heading out I glance at the mirror and notice my sideburns don’t see to be even.  I spend about ten minutes continually taking a “little off” each side trying to make them match.  Instead I just fuck them up more and make them a lot higher than I’d like.  God, I’m gonna look like a retard tomorrow.

11:16, I decide to call up some “Summer Heights High” on HBO On Demand.  You ever seen it?  A very funny Australian show, though not quite as genius as some people claim.  I highly recommend it though.  Puck you.  Getting tipsy far more rapidly than I expected or wanted to.  I’m eating some cheese and crackers to sop some of it up.  More specificially Australian cheddar from the Fairway Market.  Sublime!  Is their anything the Aussies are good at?  Eh, relief pitching I guess****.

11:17, Jesus, my fucking HBO On Demand cuts out too!  What the fuck, Time Warner?!  Luckily the best episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is currently on regular HBO:  “Krazee–Eyez Killa!”

11:45, I just did one-hundred drunken push-ups.  Some time ago I might have been embarrassed to reveal to you that, for whatever reason, I enjoy doing push-ups and free weight curls when I’m toasted, but in recent months I’ve learned from other male friends that they too enjoy that pasttime.  How bizarre!  Men are so weird, right?  I’ve thought long and hard about why I enjoy doing push-ups whilst drunk and I’ve come to two possible conclusions:

1.  When one is drinking home alone they are in a–somewhat–self-loathing state and they can’t deny the evidence that they are injesting hundreds if not thousands of liquid calories making them, perhaps naively, think, “Hmmm…I should probably at least do something to counteract this, fat ass!”

2.  It’s so fucking easy to do push-ups and lift weights while drunk as your pain threshold becomes astronomical.  Sober, even pumping out fifty in a row is…well, a workout.  But drunk, son, I can throw down one-hundred in a row, no problem.

12:01-12:09, wine-drinking girl calls me.  I don’t answer.  Not cause I’m asshole but because I never answer my phone no matter who calls.  Two minutes later she texts me:

“come over ;)”

“it’s too cold.  you can come to me if you want.”

“r u drunk?”

“not exactly.  but you are.  so don’t be a hypocrite.  and quit using “r” and “u” and emoticons in texts to me.”

Radio silence.

12:15, I realize I could probably be hooking up post-haste if I wasn’t such an asshole.  I should probably just accept that the women I date will write in what is almost a completely different language from what I know.  I decided recently that I’m too immature to date women my age so I started pretty much exclusively dating women born in the mid-1980s and higher.  “And worse” you might say if you are a woman my age.  But cut me some slack, they like what I like:  drinking, being attractive, not getting married, not having kids, and not moving to the sticks.  So, heck, I guess I should allow them to write to me like retards.  Settled.  My new philosophy starts tomorrow.  I shudder to think about the first 1990s girl I date.  Will I need a translator with me at all times?!

12:16, another text from her:

“YOU ARE an asshole.”

(Nothing I didn’t know.)

Aaron Goldfarb, influencing modern grammer more than Strunk and White.

So, I guess I need a new 1980s girlfriend now.  Any volunteers?  Please fax me your resume.

12:20, you ever have the strange remembrance come to your head of some girl (or guy) you had a one-night stand with years ago?  You knew them for all of, say, twelve hours, eight of which you were either drunk and/or sleeping, yet you’ve never forgotten them.  Not cause they were necessarily interesting or great in bed or even because they did something so oddball that you use it as fodder for bar stories for the rest of your life, but rather because…well who knows?  Any how, I thought of one of those girls and I decided to look her up on Facebook.  She’s more attractive than I recall.  Looks like she lives in San Francisco now.  I can’t tell whether she is still single.  I wonder if she has ever looked me up.

12:22, my friend Derek texts to tell me he’s drinking some Distiller’s Masterpiece.  I am so fucking jealous.  You have no clue what that is, do you?

12:35, I’ve finally finished the bottle and, I gotta say, I liked Nor’Easter better the more and more I drank it.  Just like Captain Lawrence’s Cuvee de Castleton this is a very complex, sophisticated beer.  So glad to have tried it.  Might be my record holder for the longest duration I’ve spent on a single bomber, clocking in at about the same time as a Greg Maddox complete game.

1:01, hmmmm, now what to do?  I’m not that tired but I do have a busy day tomorrow.*****  I’d like another drink but here’s the problem when you’re a beer connesseur:  I don’t have a Coors Light in my fridge.  And, that’s, truthfully, what I need now.  All I got in my fridge are 9% stouts and asskicking barley wines and highly esteemed beers I would never want to drink while so lit up.  So I’m screwed.  I’m not going to waste any good beer and even if I was willing too I would have to spend another hour or two to drink them and get incredibly hammered in the process.

I guess I’ll get in bed now and watch something stupid on E! or MTV.  I’ve had a nice night.  Don’t let anyone tell ya you can’t have fun alone.  Or drink alone.  I haven’t figured out any secrets to the universe, I haven’t figured out the meaning of life, either, but, to quote Faulkner:

“I’m drunk.”

A

*I chuckle every time the great “Happy Together” plays and the line, “If I should call you up, invest a dime,” thinking how precious it is that people used to use pay phones.  Oh, and a call was only ten fucking cents too!

**Was that offensive?  If so, let me apologize.

***Name the famous pop culture reference.

****Lookin’ at your Graham Lloyd.  Though you were great in bench clearing brawls.

*****Of drinking and watching sports, yes.

Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA

August 6th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

8% ABV from a growler

Necessity is the mother of all invention. Especially when it comes to getting drunk. No, I’m not talking about taking the only three items left in your fridge (soy sauce, Jagermeister, root beer) and inventing a new cocktail (The MSGager Barq Bomb*), I’m talking about something completely different. Whether prison wine, moonshine during prohibition, or a bottle of Scope when your children are so concerned about daddy that they’ve poured his bourbon down the drain (damn you brats!), humans have always found a way to get drunk under the most tricky of circumstances. Take the India Pale Ale, the IPA, for one. I think a lot of amateur drinkers are scared by the exotic, “foreign” name of it. I know I used to be. But you shouldn’t fret. IPAs are a delicious form of incredibly hopped and alcoholic beer. A splendid combo.  And, they have nothing to do with curry, tiki masala, or Ghandi.

The name comes from back in the 18th century when the British were faced with a terrible conundrum: how to keep beer fresh on long shipping voyages. Specifically, how could the British East India Company keep their beloved porters and ales from spoiling during the months-long journeys to India where relocated British expats and soldiers demanded fresh beer. Due to the extreme conditions of shipping, beers were arriving flat and sour. Thus, a solution was needed and it came in the form of most certain genius George Hodgson.  He figured out that if tons of hops and alcohol were added to beer, an unfriendly environment would be created that was adept at fending off microbes and bacteria and thus spoilage. These beers were able to store for lengthy periods without going bad. And they tasted fucking delicious too.

Even sweeter, since us Americans rightly think anything bigger is better, we decided to up the ante and create double IPAs which typically have 50% more malt and 100% more hops. We’ve essentially created something overpowering out of something that was already created to be overpowering.  Awesome.  Like adding bacon to a double-cheeseburger.  The double IPA is definitely one of my favorite styles of beer.

Thus, upon my trip up to the Captain Lawrence brewery to snag the rare Cuvee de Castleton bottles, I brought along my empty growler, and, when faced with the seemingly difficult decision of what to fill it with, there was no struggle–I knew I would be honored to try their DIPA for the first time.

I could barely contain myself and wanted to start slugging from the growler on the train ride back. I didn’t though and waited til I was safely in my apartment. A brilliant smell hit me the second I unscrewed the growler’s cap. And, once poured into a glass the fragrance truly came to life. Unbelievably hoppy, woody, and floral. The girl I was with–no, not a prostitute–thought it smelled like a fresh sack of high-end weed, and she was kinda right. But don’t consider that a negative. The taste was amazing. Tons of hops, with lots of citrus flavors, and a nice little amount of sweetness. So damn tasty I wanted to tilt the growler back and just chug from it as if I was some sort of high-brow frat boy. And, indeed, this is one highly drinkable DIPA as the alcohol is quite masked, you don’t really feel it until it hits the back of your throat, massaging your mouth for quite a while after each sip.

I suppose there’s nothing truly unique or unconventional about this beer, which is kinda strange since Captain Lawrence is known for their unconventionality. But it’s hard to lodge such a petty complaint when this is such a quality brew. A pretty flawless IPA, maybe the best east coast version I’ve ever had. I really have nothing to criticize about it other than to say I really wish Captain Lawrence bottled their beers so I could have this in my home at all times.

A

*© ® ™ The Vice Blog 2008 patent pending

Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton (2nd batch, 2008)

July 29th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Wild Ale

PREVIOUSLY ON MY TOP TEN MOST WANTED LIST

No ABV listed but purpoted to be 6%

Throughout my entire childhood I was a collector extraordinaire. Baseball cards, comic books, Pez dispensers, action figures, celebrity autographs, movie paraphernalia, Wheaties boxes, vinyls, and things so much more nerdier that even I am ashamed to discuss them. Or, have repressed them from my memory as if they had sexually abused me (pogs anyone?). I went to card and comic shows, flea markets, garage sales, auctions, and autograph signings to procure my minor treasures, usually accompanied by my father or a fellow nerdy collecting buddy. Eventually, I got bored with amassing shit as I moved into my teens and more interesting and loftier pursuits entered my frame of reference. And, I thought I’d pretty much given up collecting for good around age 15 or so when I virginally realized that I didn’t want to ever bring a girl back to a bedroom filled with displayed Starting Lineups and Spawn comic books. I was wrong.

I am very much still a collector. I am very much still a nerd. I am a beer collecting nerd. I came to this eureka moment in a most startling and sudden manner this previous weekend.

The weekend saw the release of Captain Lawrence’s exceedingly rare (only 840 bottles released per annum) and highly acclaimed (a perfect score on Rate Beer) Cuvee de Castleton. I could not find a single person to go with to the brewery, but that wouldn’t stop me, I knew I had to make the 38 minute train trek upstate by myself. My readers and my taste buds deserved it. Also, this beer could only be purchased on site. I’m always up for an adventure and this was going to be my first time entering the world of true beer freaks. I expected a scene, but I was totally blown away by what I was to witness.

The release was at high noon and based on the buzz on beer forums and messageboards (yes, these exist) I speculated if I got there between 10:30 and 11 AM I should be in fine shape. Stupidly, I went out and drank hard on Friday night, not being tucked into bed til 5 AM or so. Back up at 8:30 I threw on some dirty clothes and my hangover shades and hustled to Grand Central, catching a 9:30ish train off the isle. Of course, fucking Metro-North was delayed but I still pulled into Pleasantville, New York around 10:50. The Captain Lawrence website claims the brewery is only 8 city blocks from the station, but I got incredibly lost, proving that either I was still very drunk or am very much a retard. However, I opt for option C and will claim that the Pleasantville locals are retarded as every single person I passed gave me conflicting directions. People! One of the finest breweries in all of North America is in your tiny hamlet and you don’t know where it is?! Good lord, it is your town’s greatest treasure.

Any how, after probably walking on every single inch of sidewalk in Pleasantville and the surrounding towns, after considering hitchhiking and praying for the only cab for surely hundreds of miles around to pass by me, I finally stumbled upon the right path, sweating pure grain alcohol and fried bar foods from my pores as I sauntered into the Captain Lawrence parking lot at 11:59, just as brewmaster Scott Vaccaro arrived, the doors were opened, and the beer was released to the public. I was well in the back of the line and probably looked and smelled homeless–though I didn’t hear anyone clever enough to quip, “Hey buddy, this isn’t a special release party for Cuvee de Mad Dog 20/20, hehe.”–but I nevertheless tried to schmooze up the people around me.

Always anxious to learn things I don’t know, to pick the minds of strangers, I started talking to the guy right behind me in line. He looked normal–nice clothes, a smart haircut, claimed he had come up from Brooklyn–but he was an unbelievable dork. It was like trying to talk to a fucking MIT doctoral candidate. I’m not sure if he knew more about beer than me, but he was using all sorts of unnecessary esoteric terms, treating beer as if it wasn’t some pleasure to be consumed and enjoyed and used to stimulate female loins but rather some public policy initiative to filibuster about. He also kept mentioning his “girlfriend.” People that find a reason to constantly mention their “girlfriend” unprovoked and apropos of nothing–”Wow, the weather’s sure nice today, just like my girlfriend said it would be.”–usually haven’t had carnal knowledge of a female in years. And, in fact, out of the hundreds and hundreds of people camped outside the brewery, the only three members of the fairer sex I saw were one obese chick who had been dragged along (wheelbarrowed along?) by her boyfriend, and two cute little girls that had been brought with their no-doubt-deservedly divorced father. (I was quite curious whether those girls would be allowed to purchase any bottles as each person was only permitted to buy four maximum.)

I couldn’t even converse with this nerdy little twit behind me, as he was doing all the talking, pontificating, droning on about beer as if he was trying to hypnotize me. I finally reached my last straw when we were each handed a tiny sample of some other brew. You see, it was a convivial atmosphere in line, with people all across the northeast converging at Captain Lawrence, most folks bringing along a bottle or two of interesting and semi-rare beers from their neck of the woods in order to share with those unable to get the stuff in their own areas. My nerdy cohort and I were lucky enough to be handed a few plastic cupped ounces of Ithaca TEN, a rare brew I’d been wanting to try for a while. I cheersed the man who gave me the free tasting and quickly gulped it down. Indeed it was tasty. That whole process took me, oh, about 45 seconds, you know, like a normal human being. After dispatching of my drink I looked next to me to see that the nerd had been hovering with his nose above the beer–eyes sensuously closed and erotically fluttering, natch–for the entirety of the previous minute, looking as if on the verge of passing out from carbon monoxide poisoning. Then, with an unannounced but quite ceremonious fury, my man ferociously sniffed, nay snorted, the fumes of the strong beer as if he was trying to double-barrel some coke so viciously that it would instantly go up his nasal cavity and explode his brain to smithereens. As you can imagine, the additional processes he went through in order to finish and fully enjoy the ounce or so of beer took several more minutes. I cannot imagine going out drinking with this bloke and his “girlfriend.”

He was the paradigm of the kind of beers snobs I hate, and others like him were all around me. At this point, I decided to give up on talking to people, just hoping to quickly nab my rare beers and get some free samples in me as the previous night’s drunkenness was wearing off and the delirium tremens were sneaking up. The line was moving slowly, however, and I couldn’t help but observe the other anxious tipplers around me. The dorks around me. Fat, poorly dressed, hirsute, goofy, and annoying. Just like the populous of any sort of convention where a small coterie of like-minded collectors gather. Later, I would actually hear one man to say his friend as they first sipped the Cuvee, “Dude, we are livin’ la vida loca.” Swear to God.

I’m not sure if beer is enough of a social lubricant for these people. I suppose beer can lubricate one enough to give them the courage to speak, but never enough to make one say things interesting. Or normal. I looked at these people with disdain. How can we share the same interests I wondered?!

Then, I did what I always do when around a freak show alone, I texted a friend to share in my hilarious misery.

AARON: “people that go to special beer release parties are the biggest nerds in the world. seriously.”

FRIEND: “are they dressed in beer costumes? real nerds always wear costumes.”

She was just making a joke, but she didn’t realize how prescient she actually was. I smirked and then looked up to realize that, yes!, everyone was in costume. Every dork in line proudly wore a crusty old XXXXL t-shirt celebrating their favorite beer or brewery. Hats commemorating beer festivals they’d been too. And, each nerd had brought along a favorite beer drinking vessel in order to have their first tastes of the Cuvee de Castleton. Yeah, it wasn’t as bad as dressing like Hermione, or Geordi La Forge, or fucking Captain America, but it was still a goddamn costume.

It was then, as I was in my fifteenth minute or so of queueing*, that I realized waiting in line for a rare beer wasn’t that much different than waiting in line for Ozzie Smith to not look up at you as he quickly scribbles his 5th grade penmanship autograph on an official MLB baseball for $20. It hit me, my God!, I’m like the John Cusack character in “High Fidelity,” who may be kinda handsome and put together, who may attract sexy women and get laid, but who nevertheless is as much of a geek as the loner weirdos that shop at the record store he owns!:

“I get by because of the people who make a special effort to shop here–mostly young men–who spend all their time looking for deleted Smith singles and original, not rereleased–underlined–Frank Zappa albums. I’d feel guilty taking their money, if I wasn’t…well…kinda one of them.” (”High Fidelity” 2000)

It all made sense now.

I came to an upsetting realization: normal people must look at me with the same disdain as I was looking down on these nerds! To an outsider I was indistinguishable from these cretins!

Aw, fuck it, I wasn’t “one of them.” I was much cooler than all these people. I may not be George Clooney, but goddamn I was still a different species from these Trekker types.

By 12:45, and just a few minutes before the beer was sold-out completely, I had my maximum four bottles, I had a refilled growler of their double IPA, I had a free sample or two in my belly, and I had glanced at a train schedule to realize I had just 4 minutes to sprint back to the station and get the fuck out of Dodge. With fifty pounds of glass and beer clanging in bags draped over my chest, I flip-flop sprinted back as hard as could. I must have looked the part of the consummate Vice Blogger on my ride home as I hogged three seats across with several hundred ounces of beer on me, a cigar protruding from the front pocket of my Polo begging to be smoked, all as I cavalierly read from the latest issue of “Playboy.”

I’m not sure if I can handle going to one of these nerd beer conventions again. It really held a mirror up to myself that scared me, that made me question who I am as a man, that busted my self-confidence in two, that made me think I should grow a sloppy beard and talk about original gravities, wort, and diacetyl all day.

Oh, who am I kidding?! The second another limited release comes out I’ll be up at Captain Lawrence or some other regional brewery dorking out, no doubt scorned by the others after everyone has read this anti-beer-nerd missive.

But let’s get down to brass tacks. How does this magical beer taste? It is surely one of the most limited released beers in America, and certainly the rarest brew I’ve ever had (compare to the 12K bi-yearly release of Utopias).

Captain Lawrence compares it to a champagne and they aren’t lying. I popped the top and it nearly exploded, ejaculations of foamy whiteness coming from the bottle like I was celebrating New Year’s. It pours fizzier than any beer I’ve ever seen before. On the label it is described thusly as a “…combination of Belgian style ale which has been re-fermented with hand picked Muscat grapes & aged in wine barrels. As the beer ages in the oak it undergoes a secondary fermentation using the wild yeast known as Brettanomyces.”

Cuvee de Castleton smells very much like a champagne and tastes like it too. Upon my first small sip, I almost retracted my tongue, I was so surprised by the intense tartness as this is the first wild ale I’ve ever had before. Definitely the most non-beer-tasting beer I’ve ever had as well. Even more so than Utopias. This really has nothing that really grounds it to being a beer except for the slight Belgian Ale of it. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Very carbonated, some good bite. You smell and taste white grapes and some spice too. Lemons and green sour apples. You’d have a hard time convincing a lot of people that this is actually beer though.

The sourness nails you at first so don’t give up on this beer after the first sip. It takes a while to figure out this brew’s brilliance. Luckily I got 4 bottles**, two of which I am making my first attempts at cellaring, which should actually make the beer even more sour Captain Lawrence claims.

Due to the tartness you have to drink it slowly, but that’s a good thing as it helps you absorb it better. I don’t think any one besides me will say this, but ask yourself if you like Sour Patch Kids before having this one. (Oh he’s so irreverent say the beer snobs reading this!) The tartness is remarkable though, my mouth was puckered for at least an hour after having the bomber. Everyone around me must have thought I wanted to kiss them. Perhaps I did. The beer makes you giggly and high just like some champers. I don’t completely buy that it’s 6% either. I was kinda fucked up after one solo-consumed bomber.

Cuvee de Castleton becomes more beer-like the more you drink it and the warmer it gets. The oak flavor starts to really come through in this insanely complex brew. I was confused at first by this beer as it’s my first wild ale, but by the end I was loving this and glad I have so many more bottles.

I really don’t think this is a beer that impatient neophytes will like and it would be hard to convince them otherwise. They should probably avoid it as I could see them doling out knee jerk F grades. And, considering I’ve drank one bottle and thus there are at maximum 839 left in the world, good chance these folks will never get to try this masterpiece.

Finally, I have never struggled so much to score a beer. I danced back and forth between maybe something in the Bs upon my first shocking taste before settling down, understanding the beer, and sometimes thinking it an A, many other times thinking it an A+. Really though, I think an A+ beer should be a no doubt about it. Of my only three A+’s, I knew they were A+’s the second I tasted them and likewise in each and every subsequent sip from there on out until the glass was drained. Thus, after far too much in-head deliberation, much like “Twelve Angry Men” inside my cerebrum, I had to finally admit that Cuvee de Castleton deserves an…

A

My final sip was an A+ though and I can’t wait to try bottle number two.

*Nerd fact: Only word in the English language with five straight vowels.

**Beer traders interested in having a bottle, please check out my Top Ten Most Wanted list and make me an offer in trade!

Captain Lawrence Pleasantville Smoked Porter

June 19th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Smoked Porter

6.4% ABV poured from a growler

I lied somewhat when I said that the horrid Amstel Light was the only beer available at my aunt and uncle’s place during Father’s Day. There also happened to be a full growler of Captain Lawrence’s delicious smoked porter in the house. Say what? You see, my relatives live in Pleasantville, NY, a little upstate from the city. I’d been a fan of Captain Lawrence’s Liquid Gold for the past year or so, but hadn’t realized that the brewery was located in Pleasantville until just a few weeks ago. Thus, I thought I could kill many birds with one stone (and get plastered before an uncomfortable family gathering) by visiting the brewery early in the afternoon before the Father’s Day festivities. Unfortunately, the place is only open on Fridays and Saturday. Drats.

That greatly disappointed me because the new brewery (only open since 2006) just placed 5th on Beer Advocate’s top 50 American breweries list. Yet, living just 31.8 miles away from it, I still rarely see their beers any where in Manhattan. In fact, I’m not even positive they bottle their beers. All I have ever discovered is the Liquid Gold on draft which increasingly more and more local bars are stocking. I was tipped off though that their smoked porter was phenomenal so I emailed my uncle early in the week and ask him if he could make a run to the brewery and pick up a few bottles of it for our dinner.

When I arrived at my uncle Les’s house on Sunday he quickly apologized. Seems Captain Lawrence doesn’t sell bottles at their brewery. He regrettably mentioned that all he could secure was a growler of the brew. That merits an apology?! Are you fucking kidding me?! I wanted to hug my uncle. It was one of the greatest things ever purchased for me. My very own growler.

I’ve always wanted my own growler. For those that don’t know (and you can read Beer Advocate’s lengthy and excellent explanation here), a growler is this giant half-gallon (64 ounce) jug, for lack of a better word, that looks like something that should have the label XXX on the side of it. You fill your growler with draught beer fresh from the brewery, greatly serving the beer-guzzler-on-the-go. Finish the half-gallon of beer off, wash out the growler, and then you can return to the brewery where you got it for cheap refills. As far as I know, The Whole Foods Bowery beer room and The Ginger Man are the only places in Manhattan that sell growlers of beer, but I may be wrong.

Look at my growler above. So medieval, so MANLY. Captain Lawrence’s own note on the growler claims “…this is how beer was MEANT to be tasted.” I could not agree more.

Of further amusement, my uncle seems to believe that Captain Lawrence’s brewmaster has like a Monday through Friday day job and then just arrives on Saturday afternoon to brew some WORLD-CLASS beer and shoot the shit with locals in the tasting room. This is clearly not true. In fact, Captain Lawrence’s brewmaster, Scott Vaccaro, majored in Fermentation Sciences in college at the University of California at Davis. Is that not the coolest major in the world?! Thus, the man most certainly knows what he is doing.

Any how, I was ready to crack open my growler and start chugging it with our Father’s Day meal but, unfortunately, or fortunately, my uncle Les noted that I should just take my growler home, claiming the beer looked a little too dark for him to drink and insisting that there’s no reason to open it since I couldn’t finish it all in one sitting…blah blah blah. We may be related but he obviously doesn’t know me that well. I could have finished that growler by myself in a few hours. Heck, I would have liked to have finished the growler in a few hours, washed it clean with hot water and ran back to the brewery for another fill-up before going back to Manhattan.

Any how, I did cart my growler home on the Metro-North. After a day of having it in the fridge, I could resist no long and had to pop the top. Let me firstly state that a growler is goddamn heavy. Luckily I am incredibly buff and an arm wrestling enthusiast but I’m not sure most men have enough strength to even upright the full growler in order to pour it into their pint glass. You should not be ashamed in asking for help.

Pours dark like STP. Smokey, obviously, with tastes of rich chocolate, coffee, creaminess and nuttiness. Hints of black licorice which is my favorite part of this beer, making it very unique. Yum. Absolutely delicious.

I’m usually wishy-washy on porters because, though I love the taste of them, they are often avoided by me because after one I feel unable to drink for the rest of the night. They are so hefty and potent. After a single porter, my stomach doesn’t feel like adding any more beer to it while my mouth is so overwhelmed that I can’t drink anything else. But this is a surprisingly drinkable and refreshing smoked porter. Stone is maybe the only other brewery that makes a smoked porter I like as much as this one. The flavor stays in your mouth and your tongue well after you’ve swallowed a gulp. And you do gulp this beer it is so amazing. So complex. Don’t drink this one too cold or you’ll miss out on its subtleties. It can be enjoyed at near room temperature, maybe just a little chilled. A beautiful, unique beer. Not for everybody, not for “amateur” drinkers, but I think this is one most beer enthusiasts will adore.

I can’t wait to hopefully find and try more Captain Lawrence beers. It is surely one of the most exciting American breweries around nowadays.

And now I have an empty growler. Time to start a jug band.

A

Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold

June 17th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Belgian Pale Ale

6% ABV on draught

House of Brews can kind of feel like a research library instead of a bar. I mean, yeah, they have plasma TVs showing sports, and they have a menu loaded with greasy and delicious foods replete with mayo-based dipping sauces, and sometimes even females show up there. On purpose. But, I don’t think people do a lot of picking up there–I certainly haven’t–and I don’t think many people get hammered there, and certainly there are not a lot of recently graduated frat boys that go there to pound Goose and tonics, yo. It’s a place to indulge in quality beer, nothing more, nothing less. Most people drinking there are alone or with a single other person. And, that’s absolutely fine by me. I hate being served high-quality beer by a pop tart of a bartender that knows more about drinks that end in -tini than she does about the nerdy questions I need to ask her about my brew (”Excuse me, miss, how many IBUs are in this barley wine?”). I hate trying to enjoy my brew in a refined manner while some finance guido whose bald pate is busting out of his dress shirt tries to get his bros to do SoCo and lime shots with him. Thus, House of Brews is a perfect place for peacefully drinking alone.

The last time I was there, sitting to my right was some mid-fifties guy from the Midwest wearing bifocals on the absolute tip of his nose like Santa Claus does when he’s making his list and checking it twice. The guy sipped his beers with the tiniest of sips, once every five minutes or so. In between each sip he would sniff the beer, twirl it in the glass, and hold it up to the light. Beside him, he had a massive sheet of paper, his “tasting notes.” He was lost in the beer experience so I was able to look over his shoulder in the same manner I cheated on physics tests in college. These tasting notes had tons of boxes to check and data to fill it. It was more befitting a tax return or maybe a census form. The man meticulously copied all the information about his beer that he could cull from its bottle onto his notes. He then looked into the air with his tongue upturned like Charlie Brown used to do when he was thinking real hard before he began laboriously writing his thoughts on each aspect of the beer. It took him well over a half-hour for each beer.

The man on the left of me was a mid-thirties tourist. Possibly European I would guess by his dress. Beside him at the bar he’d plunked down his Fodor’s type guide book. However, it wasn’t a book that told you about museums and theatres and boring shit to take your bitch wife to. It was something called “The New York City Bar Guide.” Wow, that sounds like a pretty awesome vacation. I know it’s what I want to do whenever I’m on vacation (”Did you go to the Louvre?” “Is that a bar???”). OK, so I thought this man had to be pretty awesome. Then, he pulled his laptop from his bag and opened up an Excel spreadsheet. He then began to log information about the beers he was drinking into the file. Good lord. Nerd alert. Christ. Giving beer drinkers a bad name. Who brings a fucking laptop into a bar?

These were some fairly loathsome creatures in my humble opinion. I didn’t even want to shoot the shit with them, even if they might have had tons of knowledge to share with me. Please, please, please if I currently am, or ever become, one of these folks, make my next shot hemlock. You know how I make my “tasting notes”? I either fucking remember how good, bad, or mediocre my beer was and write it down later. Or, if I have some really unique or important or world-altering points to get down–remember, Louis Pasteur did say “A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world” and I’d like to think several bottles of beer would apply as well–I grab a stack of cocktail napkins and furiously scribble my stream of conscious notes down. Waking up the next morning to have my thoughts spewing out of my pockets written on anything I could find to write them on. The more notes I have is inversely proportional to the number of people I was drinking with the previous night. Alone, with nothing to do, I’m writing briskly like Dostoyevsky. But if I have friends to hang out with and women to mack on, then you better be fucking sure I’m not excusing myself from some girl’s “fascinating” story about her cat to write about beer. I’m trying to, you know, enjoy my life. It’s not too hard to recount my feelings about drinking a beer the next day or so. I mean, do you take notes when you fuck? I don’t, though that would be funny (maybe a microrecorder in the bed post? “Test, test, OK, my partner’s neck is kinda salty. Her ‘mouthfeel’ is clean, crisp, kissable. I think she ate a burrito earlier today as I detect hints of guacamole…”). Yet, we are all still able to recall in intense detail both our worst and best sexual experiences, sometimes years past the fact. And so am I when it comes to beer.

OK, onto this beer review as I look through my crumpled cocktail napkins trying to piece my thoughts together. I was alone when I drank this one and had absolutely no interest in befriending the dorks around me. Liquid Gold has a great smell that I adore and an even better taste. It’s very unique in flavor, befitting it’s cool name. It’s very spicy, exciting the mouth. Almost like a mouth full of Pop Rocks. It’s really malty and alcoholy tasting. Tons of summer fruits, honey, and even some sourness. Nicely carbonated, yet goes down easy. I’ll drank as many of these I can this summer and will hope more and more city bars begin to stock this local brew. Love it.

A-