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Archive for the ‘Brewer: New England’ Category

Wachusett Larry

May 21st, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: New England, Brewer: Wachusett, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Style: IPA

7.5% ABV on tap and from a bomber

The east coast gets derided for making mediocre IPAs, “incorrect” IPAs, and perhaps rightly so, but a few weekends ago I stumbled across two New England gems while in Boston.  I was ostensibly in town to watch the Yankees rock the Red Sox in front of scads of pink Sawx hatted fans at Fenway, but my #1 (nonverbalized) goal for my traveling party was to actually make my first trip ever over to The Publick House to try their recent and much ballyhooed inspired collaboration with Wachusett.

Located right off the slow-(and-Caucasian)-as-sin T stop in Brookline, The Publick House is a beautifully large bar loaded with mostly Belgian taps and bottles, attentive bartenders, a surprisingly packed and good-looking (non-beer geek, thank god!) crowd, a very solid artisan cheese-laden food menu (the mac and cheese is particularly divine), and plenty of space for quiet contemplation of expensive beers.  It surely deserves mention on the short list of the east coast’s best beer bars alongside Blind Tiger and Rattle ‘n’ Hum in NYC, Monks in Philly, and Churchkey and Paradiso in DC.

I was bursting with excitement when I saw the Larry tap, having read much online about this newish and somewhat under the radar release stacking up to the best of the west coast’s IPAs.  I’m not sure if that’s completely true, but this is an enormous winner.  I’d had a few so-so offerings from Wachusett in the past, and though they were accomplished enough, there was nothing to show me those Massachusetts boys had this kind of greatness in them.  Larry has an insanely floral and piny nose and the taste is straight tropical citrus with mild bitterness.  A nice underlying hint of sweetness that really ties the beer together like Lebowski’s rug.  A mild carbonation and just incredibly juicy, this one goes down quick and easy, I loved every sip of it.  This has surely got to be the east coast’s best overall IPA.*  I liked it so much I had several glasses and then the next day visited the Publick House’s terrific beer shop next door, PH Provisions, where I loaded up on as many Larry bombers as I could carry.  Now I’m fretting where I can possibly get my Larry fix once my stash runs dry.  Sure wish this had year round, coastal-wide (length?) distribution.

A

New England Gandhi-Bot

8.8% ABV canned

The next day I hit up The Publick House’s newest (American) craft venture down the street, American Craft fittingly, because nothing excites me more than spending a beautiful spring day drinking inside a mostly empty dark bar that still smells like the previous nights bacchanalia.  There, I noticed a canned beer on the menu and, being semi-fetishistic toward canned craft beer, I ordered the tallboy which greeted me with one of the best and most amusing labels I’ve ever seen.  Now I’ve never had anything from Connecticut’s New England Brewing Co. before other than their somewhat overrated and very trademark infringing Imperial Stout Trooper, but after enjoying immensely this beauty, I’m eager to try more of their (canned?) offerings.  Gandi-Bot is another splendid “west coastish” IPA loaded with grapefruit and barely even a hint of a malt backbone.  Prickly and extremely dry and bitter, a well-hidden 8.8% ABV, I truly enjoyed this beer but felt it just lacked a little something, a little uniqueness, to catapult it into the true masterpiece class.  Nevertheless, well worth seeking out.

A-

*OK, if I’m gonna say something so brash then I best try to compile my own list.

IPA

1.  Smuttynose Finest Kind
2.  Clipper City Hop3
3.  Dogfish Head 60 Minute
4.  Dogfish Head Aprihop
5.  Victory Hop Devil

DIPA

1.  Larry
2.  Brooklyn Blast
3.  Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve
4.  Southern Tier Unearthly
5.  Smuttynose Big A

Two notes:  I didn’t even consider Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute because, even though it’s a masterpiece, it’s a whole ‘nother beast.  And, unfortunately, I’ve never had the much-lauded The Alchemist brewpub’s Heady Topper.  I would gladly kill for you if you could send me a growler of it.

I’m sure I missed some.  What’s your east coast top IPAs list look like?

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)