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Kuhnhenn Hairy Cherry

November 24th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Kuhnhenn, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Lambic

8.5% ABV on tap

Oh if Kuhnhenn hasn’t quickly become my latest brewery crush.  Yeah, they play a little hard to get here in New York City, only popping up on tap for a day or two at our finer beer bars, but damn if they’ve never done me wrong.  Their Raspberry Eisbock, Fourth Dementia old ale, and even their Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine were pretty much masterpieces, and the only other Kuhnhenn I’d ever had–the All Hallows pumpkin ale–was quite swell for the genre.  If we were scoring at home, the Warren, Michigan brewers would be batting 1.000 with, say, two homers, a triple, and a ground-rule double in my scorebook.  So of course when I saw yet another Kuhnhenn offering on tap at Rattle ‘n’ Hum last Friday–one oddly enough without even a single review yet on BA–there was not a chance I would pass.  And, delightfully, we had another triple, that probably could been stretched into an inside-the-parker.

The second I saw this one poured it was love at first sight.  A frothy, hazy ruby red pour that looked more like some freshly squeezed juice (with pulp!) than a beer.  It’s an awesome experience when you can tell just by sight and smell that you are about to have your ass rocked.  Even my friend stared with awe at my beer, immediately upset that he had ordered something else.  I haven’t had many lambics in my life–most of the tasty but kinda phony Lindemans variety–but if this is what a great one tastes like, I am a new fan of the style.  Hairy Cherry was absolutely bursting with flavor.  Straight up cherry explosion with a tad of a tart finish.  Not really complex, but who gives a damn, that’s fine when you’ve got such an overflow of one particularly delicious flavor.  Not exactly drinkable, I will admit, though I don’t consider that a debit in this case.  This beer isn’t less-than-drinkable because of a hot booziness–it’s actually shockingly pleasant and kid-friendly–but rather due to a dessert-like richness that leaves you more than sated after one tulip full.

True I’ve now had Kuhnhenn’s probably three most “famous” and well-regarded beers, but extrapolate out and these guys are on a Rogers Hornsby 1924 pace with me.  If the rest of their beers are anywhere close to as good as the five I’ve already had, then Kuhnhenn is unquestionably one of my top 10 favorite breweries, probably top 5 even.  I am in lurve.


*Note:  While Downtown Bar & Grill is perhaps the easiest place in town for a beer geek to photograph his beer, Rattle ‘n’ Hum is maybe the hardest.  Their taps are against the wall as opposed to on the actual bar, meaning if one wants to photograph an actual tap, he has to humiliate himself by asking the pretty bartenders if he may hand her his camera/phone and have her take a picture of the tap.  And then when anti-Ansel Adams fucks up the framing, you’ll quickly become person non grata by asking for a quick reshoot.  It’s also quite dark in the bar.  Good for drinking, good for flirting, bad for photographing lipstick red lambics to a satisfying degree.


November 19th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Birra del Borgo, Brewer: Dogfish Head, Brewer: Kuhnhenn, Brewer: North Coast, Brewer: Sixpoint, Country: America, Country: Italy

I began preparing for Blind Tiger’s VSK–their annual Very Special Keg event in which they roll out some of the oldest and rarest beer they have hiding in their cellar–a full week in advance in just four easy steps:

1.  I began growing some bad facial, a prerequisite for admittance into any hardcore beer geek event.  I considered a burly unkempt hockey play-off beard, perhaps some mutton chops, but ultimately settled on a patchy goatee.

2.  Tried to find a friend to accompany me.  With a 4:00 PM start time, a surefire paucity of women, and a most definite sweaty stinky crowd, no one agreed to join me.  Obviously.

3.  Began examining the VSK beer list to make a batting order.  With so many sought-after beers to try, I needed a game plan.

I first eliminated the need to try certain beers for a variety of reasons.

Allagash Interlude ‘07 (delicious, but have had numerous times)
Bear Republic Apex ‘08
Blue Point 10th Anniversary IPA
(readily available)
Brooklyn Backbreaker (cask)
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout ‘04
Brouwerij De Regenboog Wostyntje ‘08
(never heard of–too lazy to look up on BA)
Captain Lawrence Nor’Easter (delicious, but have had numerous times)
Chelsea Bourbon Aged Imperial Mild
Del Borgo/Dogfish Head My Antonia
Dogfish 120 ‘08 (via Randall)
(never had on Randall, but have 120 countless times)
Dogfish Pangea (never really enjoyed it)
Goose Island Demolition (had before)
JW Lees Harvest Ale aged in a Calvados Cask (Wooden Pin) (delicious, but had before)
Kuhnhenn All Hallows
Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barleywine
Lagunitas Barrel Aged Ruben and the Jets
(didn’t really dig the non-barrel-aged)
North Coast Old Rasputin 10th Anniversary
Rockies Fresh Trak
(ain’t never heard of it)
Rogue Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop

Sierra Nevada Limb and Life
(can’t wait to try, but readily available)
Sixpoint Gorilla Porter
Smuttynose Big A IPA ‘07
(readily available)
Southampton Saison
Stone Vertical Epic ‘06

Next, I tried to make a batting order:


1.  Southampton Saison
2.  Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine (long on my Most Wanted List)
3.  My Antonia
4.  Old Rasputin X
5.  Sixpoint Gorilla Porter


6.  Brooklyn Backbreaker (intrigued, but thought I could roll the dice that other bars would eventually get this new release)
7.  Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout 2004 (have had delicious aged BCS countless times, but it never hurts to have again–still, not a priority)
8.  Bear Republic Apex

I arrived early, but still not early enough to get a seat as many geeks appeared to have camped out there overnight.  Wise to have grown my facial hair, my patchy goatee allowed to me to move with relative ease amongst these people, sliding like an eel in between beer guts aplenty, the geeks never the wiser about a non-nerd being on the premises.  If an outsider had poked his head in the door, he would have thought a bad beard convention was having a weekly meeting.  Of course, there was one, perhaps two, females in the house, save the bartenders, and luckily I was able to use my masculine wiles to seduce one for her barstool.

Savvily ordering half-pints, I was able to sample a ton more beers than I expected too.  And, here are my rankings in order*:

1.  Dogfish Head 120 Minute (via Randall)–I hadn’t even expected to order this one but, luckily, eventually a friend joined me and when he ordered one, I had to sneak a sip.  Good lord!  So glad I did as this was far and away the best beer of the night.  I’d long considered 120 a masterpiece, but Randall makes it even better.  Silky and boozy like a liqueur, about as packed with flavor as a beer can possibly get.  After loving 90 Minute via Randall as well, I’m beginning to think that crazy Randall machine could even turn Bud Light Lime into a masterpiece.  (A+)

2.  Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine–This was the beer I most coveted and it didn’t disappoint.  Absolutely delicious, packed with sweet caramel and hints of vanilla, nice and syrupy on the mouth, but, quite frankly a tad hot.  Could use a little age to smooth it out.  Whatever the case, Kuhnhenn has quickly become one of my favorite breweries, because they make beers the way I like them:  boozy.  (A)

3.  Sixpoint Gorilla Warfare Porter–A local beer I’d unfortunately never gotten to try, it was delicious.  Packed with rich coffee but not too roasted in taste, nice chocolate sweetness.  (A)

4.  Old Rasputin X–I’d, of course, long enjoyed the “regular” Old Rasputin.  And, I’d had the fortune to try their 12th Anniversary Rasputin earlier this year, but this two-year old keg of X beat them both.  Bourbon-barreled, and on nitro tap, this was quite creamy with sweet tastes of whiskey and vanilla, almost like a Jack and Coke.  The smell was world-class, better than the taste, and I have to give a minor debit for being a little thin on the mouth.  (A)

5.  My Antonia**–I’d honestly never heard of this collaboration between Dogfish Head and the Italian brewery Birra del Borgo, and even though I don’t really dig pilsners, I was informed this one was exceedingly rare, so, you know..sign me up!  A hoppy aroma but with a bready taste, this one went down quite nice and easily.  (A-)

6.  Brooklyn Backbreaker–I never miss a new Brooklyn release, and this cask offering mightily excited me.  I’d heard nothing about it and, heck, there still isn’t even a BA entry for it!  So I’m not quite sure what style it’s ‘posed to be, but I’d have to guess it’s a…an…English IPA maybe????  I don’t know, but it was quite nice.  Smooth and hoppy, with a great little sweetness.  Perfect for a cask offering.  (A-)

7.  Kuhnhenn All Hallows–Maybe our palates were all screwy by the time we had this one, but both my friend and I agreed that it tasted more like a slice of apple pie than the slice of pumpkin pie you’d expect from a pumpkin beer.  Not a bad thing though.  Cinnamony, but not overspiced like many pumpkin ales, the fruitiness of it was sweet with just a hint of sourness, again, more akin to a golden apple than a pumpkin.  Alas.  (A-)

8.  Bear Republic Apex–By this portion of the evening I was well into my “maybes, assuming I wasn’t too wasted portion of the evening.”  I was probably too wasted, but a Bear Republic IPA has NEVER steered me wrong.  And this is another splendid one.  Piney and bitter, fragrant as hell, but nicely-balanced, definitely deserves a place alongside Hop Rod Rye and Racer X.  (A-)

9.  Magic Hat Sour Notion–Probably the only beer I didn’t love during the evening, this fairly lame attempt at a wild ale, was still quite quaffable, just not particularly sour.  (B)

Afterwards, wasted on some high-ABV shit, my friend and I ventured over to the Times Square Toys ‘r’ Us to freak out tourist youngsters, admire McFarlane sports action figures, and purchase “Modern Warfare 2.”  I’m as shitty at shooter games drunk as I am sober.

*Unfortunately, Southampton Saison was not available.


The bar is loud.

ME:  I’ll have a My Antonia.





BARKEEP:  There’s a book?

Stay in school, kiddos.  Or, actually don’t.  I wish I’d dropped out of school, didn’t know about Willa Cather, and was bartending at Blind Tiger.

Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock and Fourth Dementia

September 9th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Kuhnhenn, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Fruit Beer, Style: Old Ale

13.5% ABV on draught

My addiction is consuming me.  I can no longer keep it at bay.  I am now Mr. Hyde 24/7.  I am not an alcoholic.  Oh no.  Far from it.  At least not your standard one.  I can go for days without having a drink (though why would I want to?!)  And loved ones never criticize me for my drinking (then again, I only love those that the love the drink themselves).  Nor do I ever feel guilty about my drinking (usually too hungover to experience any other emotion).

I am not an alcoholic, yet I do have an unyielding addiction toward alcohol.  Toward locating rare beers that is.  It’s all I think about lately.  These rare beers, these beers I’ve never touched before, these new releases, special releases, one-time releases are always on my mind.  I can’t focus on work any more as I visit Beer Advocate, Beer Menus, and Beer News countless times per day for the latest updates.  I read other beer blogs and trade e-mails with beer friends all day long.  It’s gotten so bad I can barely follow sports any more.  Or celebrity gossip!  It’s even affecting my social life.  I organize activities in neighborhoods that are closest to beer stores I need to visit.  Strongarm dates into joining me at local groggeries with special one-offs on tap.  Shit, I even found myself talking in my sleep the other night while in bed with a gal.*

I think the pinnacle of my abhorrent behavior occurred last Wednesday night.  I was sitting around relaxing, unwinding as my evening neared its end, watching “Intervention” on A&E and surfing the net.  I made my half-dozenth visit to Beer Menus for the day and my heart nearly hit the hardwood.  Somehow, amazingly, I had failed to notice that a full line of Kuhnhenn brews had gone on tap that day at Blind Tiger, including their highly acclaimed, Top 100s in the World, Raspberry Eisbock and Fourth Dementia.  Beers from a little Michigan brewery that had never before been in New York, that I thought I might never get to try.  That I had been dying to try.

I didn’t know what to do.  It was now past midnight and I was very sleepy.  I debated throwing on a bathrobe like a local kook and hailing a cab ASAP to get me the sixty-odd blocks downtown to Blind Tiger to just rotely suck down the beers in minimal enjoyment.  Alas, I decided that even I am not that obsessed.

I was wrong.

I couldn’t sleep that night, tossing and turning.  Had I truly missed all these great beers, perhaps never to have them again?  Why, I couldn’t live with myself if I did!

I woke up at the crack of dawn and proceeded to stare at the clock just watching the minutes slowing tick off until Blind Tiger’s 11:30 AM opening.  All the while, refreshing Blind Tiger’s currently-on-draught page hoping for an update.  A positive update, hopefully noting the beers were still there, but an update nonetheless.  It never came.  I played scenarios in my mind, of the kegs being slurped down by some lucky and unknowing sonofabitch that knew little about beer and just so happened to stumble into Blind Tiger on the luckiest of nights.  Of more savvy beer geeks than me filling up growler after growler with these rare beers until the keg was dry.

Mere seconds after Blind Tiger opened for the day, I burst in, panting and out of breath.  The first in the bar for the…uh morning, without taking a seat, without even answering the bartender’s friendly greetings, I simply stammered:  “Do you still have the Raspberry Eisbock?”

She laughed at my overzealous ardor.

Luckily, they did.  Luckily they still had every Kuhnhenn beer on tap in fact.  I suppose that’s what happens when you’re a brewery known for making thick and viscous double-digit ABV beers.

As the bartender pulled me my six ounce glass of the Raspberry Eisbock, I took out my camera to photograph it.

She smiled at me.

“Lemme guess…beer blogger?”

Nope.  Rare beer hunter addict!

Oh boy, and am I so fucking glad I got to try these beers!  The Raspbeery Eisbock is truly like nothing you’ve ever had before.  It’s fruity, sure, but thick and chewy like an imperial stout.  Tastes of raspberries, sweet malts, and smooth wheat.  And it goes down with a boozy, roasted dark fruit burn like a quad.  A six ounce glass of it was more than enough.  It is exceptionally good and well worth the hype of being the #45 beer in the world as we go to press here at the Vice Blog.  Damn hard to categorize stylistically, this is a true revelation of a beer.


Fourth Dementia

9.4% ABV on draught

Next, I got to try the currently 94th ranked beer in the world, Fourth Dementia, an old ale.  I’ve had very few old ales in my life until very recently but it’s quickly becoming a favorite style of mine and this is the best I’ve ever had.  Sweet and sugary, malty and boozy, Fourth Dementia is as equally unique as the Raspberry Eisbock but I liked it just a tad better.  A long-time lover of barley wines and other malty sweet boozebombs, Fourth Dementia is right in my brew wheelhouse.  Absolutely exquisite.


Also that day I had the fortune to try tasters of Kuhnhenn’s Flemish Sour Red and their ass-kicker par excellence, the 19% Solar Eclipse imperial stout, a beer that should be served in no vessel bigger than an eye dropper.  Kuhnhenn may be new to me, yet with pure extrapolation, I know that it is one of my favorite breweries on planet earth and I can’t wait to try more from them to actually prove this fact.  Hopefully I will.

I’m also happy to reveal that I haven’t visited beer websites since this fateful day, this moment of clarity.  I’m trying get a hold of my addiction before it gets hold of me.

Oh shit, it’s NYC Craft Beer Week in two days!

*“You were talking in your sleep.”

“Really?  That’s weird.  What was I saying?”

“You said something like, ‘That’s the best tripel I’ve ever had.’  What the hell does that mean?  Triple what?”

“Honey, I believe I may have been dreaming about beer.”