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A Tale of Two Cherry Beers

August 3rd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 7 Comments | Filed in Brewer: New Glarus, Brewer: Southern Tier, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: F regular, Style: Fruit Beer, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

Southern Tier Imperial Cherry Saison

8% ABV from a bomber

Let’s touch on a few seemingly unrelated points just to begin:

1.  Southern Tier is one of the finest breweries in America.

2.  I have been accused of being a beer grade inflater.

3.  I always finish beers.

4.  I detest beer snobs and their liberal claims of “drain pours.”

Now let’s tie all these points together, starting with the last.

Few things in the beer community anger me more than the snobbiest of beer snobs and their frequent claims of “drain pours.”  To the uninitiated, to those people wise enough to avoid the pedantic and utterly nerdy embarrassment of the Beer Advocate forums–sample thread subject:  “What is the correct hand to use when drinking a dopplebock?  Left or right?”–there are attention seeking beer geeks that I have seen claim to have drain poured, that is, walked to the sink with a barely touched beer and dumped it down the pipes, some of the most glorious brews on the planet.  Now sure, it’s fine to not love a great, highly-regarded beer, but to detest it so much you dump it?

I’ve thought that was ridiculous for countless reasons.  Being a Jewish cheapskate of course I don’t want to squander the $7 or whatever I paid for the bomber and being an alcoholic I don’t want to squander those ounces of ecstacy either.

On the second issue, I don’t consider myself a grade inflater, I consider myself a lover of beer.  My A through F grades are not a perfect bell curve because I intentionally try to avoid shitty beer–unless it’ll make for a good video–and accomplished craft beer is almost always gonna be above average.

So with that, I am remiss to reveal that I drain poured the Imperial Cherry Saison.  Only the third beer I’ve EVER done that for.  (Bud Light Chelada & Crazy Ed’s Cave Creek Chili Beer would be the other two.)  Also, that in a few paragraphs it is going to get the lowest grade I have ever given a craft beer (and I’m even including the vile Leinenkugel as “craft!”)

This is shocking news.  Southern Tier is one of my favorite breweries on the planet, a fringe top-ten brewery in America if you ask me.  Furthermore, I’d hail them as second to only Dogfish Head in the experimental “mad scientist” brewing category as they put out some of the more adventurous beers around.

Well, unfortunately, when you push the envelope, sometimes the envelope is going to end up tasting like absolute shit.  Such was the case here.  Oh, I had such high expectations for the Imperial Cherry Saison.  But it is truly vile.  The smell of a dank macro lager with a really unpleasant tartness and a horrendous aftertaste.  Tastes like, say, original Coors with some cheap cherry syrup poorly mixed into it, which is amazing considering the time and effort Southern Tier usually puts into beers.  And probably put into this very beer as they claim it to be infused with real cherries and aged with French oak staves.

My drinking companion likewise hated it and suggested perhaps we were drinking it too warm.  Fair enough, I am known to prefer most all beers at room temperature and a nice, refreshing saison should probably have a little chill to it.  We threw it into the freezer, took it out a few minutes later, still vile.  Threw it in for longer, took it out, colder but still vile.  Threw it in one final time, totally forgot about it, pulled it out an hour later to now find the worst tasting slushy in the history of the world.  Even absolute zero would not be cold enough to enjoy this beer.

It is an utter disaster and I’m baffled how it has a Beer Advocate average of a B.  Is that simply the “respected brewery” curve?!  I highly suggest you avoid this at all costs.  I hate to hammer the great Southern Tier from my home state, but this beer was a golden sombrero of awfulness in smell, taste, price, and drinkability.

Will absolutely make my year end bottom 10.

F

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red

5.1% ABV bottled

You know how when a little kid throws up, they are now unable, for a very, very long time, to both mentally and physically ingest that food or drink that intentionally or unintentionally caused said upchucking?  For me, two of my first ever youthful vomitings happened after eating watermelon and enchiladas and thus I had to avoid those delicious items well into my teens.  Such was the case with the Imperial Cherry Saison.  I think it has made me disgusted with cherries, a fruit and flavor I used to love.

Testing out this theory, I had on hand to drink next, in comparison, a brew made by the American fruit beer makers par excellence, New Glarus, their Wisconsin Belgian Red, a Montmorency cherry-infused beer, currently rated the best fruit beer on the planet.

The Captain has been quite kind in securing me these great treasures from out of the Badger State, and the previous fruit beer I’d had from New Glarus, their Raspberry Tart, was indeed a huge hit.  This beer was splendid too.  If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t even know I was drinking beer.  You could serve this at the Passover seder to the youngsters.  A gorgeous maroon color, truly one of the best looking beers I’ve ever examined.  Highly carbonated, I drank from the one champagne flute in the house as recommended on the label.  (That’s a recommendation of drinking the Belgian Red from a flute, not a recommendation of ONLY having one flute in the house.)  Very silky and I actually found this quite complex with the taste of Hallertau hops and barley melding nicely with the oak and fresh cherries.

Usually, when you compare a great beer to a terrible beer that is a similar style, you tend to overrate the greatness of the better beer.  But, in this case, a part of me thinks that the Imperial Cherry Saison so disgusted me–see my vomitous theory a few paragraphs above–that I actually didn’t unequivocally love this beer as much as I should have.  Whatever the case, find yourself some Belgian Red.  It delivers.  And may the only cherry I drink for the next six months be floating at the bottom of my Manhattans!

(One minor gripe to New Glarus:  your wax dippings are god-awful.  The wax is thin and runny and not attractive at all.  It’s even hard to crack open your bottles due to the wax which furthermore just makes the neck look dusty and dirty.  I would either get a thicker wax or ditch the gimmick.  A gimmick I love by the way.  But your rustic labels are swell looking.  Props to that!)

A-

New Glarus Raspberry Tart

May 14th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 7 Comments | Filed in Brewer: New Glarus, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Fruit Beer

4% ABV from a 750 mL bottle

LOST SEASON FIVE FINALE

I’ve been unable to focus all day as my mind is still reeling after “Lost”’s fifth season finale.

One of my bigger “Lost” nerd friends–who is actually a very attractive girl, go figure–asked me my thoughts and I figured I’d post them below as “Lost” is my favorite television show and the best show on television at the moment*:

At first, I thought the season finale was decent, but not epic.  Now, after having watched it a second time, I realize its genius.  And, while it wasn’t as good as the season three finale–one of the best episodes of television ever–it was still damn fine.

Analysis bullets:

*In the opening scene, sometime in the 1800s, as Jacob speaks with his nemesis–heretofore referred to as Esau–he mentions how the Black Rock’s impending presence, even if it will create fighting and corruption, will still be “progress.”  I believe this was the key line of the finale, if not the entire series.  All this shit–Jacob believes–is leading them toward an apex of greatness.  Esau, meanwhile, like two other certain people I will discuss in a bit, believes in peace and removal from the rest of society.  It is still unclear who will ultimately be right.  Heck, it’s still unclear which of these two are “good” and which “evil,” if they can even be classified as that.  Though the fact that Jacob is clad in white and Esau in black is certainly not a coincidence, especially in the “Lost” universe.

*Even though it was the 1800s, why was Jacob and Esau’s speech completely contemporary?  Is that a key point or just what it is?  And where did these fellas spring from?  Are they men or Gods of some sort?

*My friend mentioned, half-jokingly, that she was pleased that Jacob was so “freaking hot.”  An interesting point as Jacob’s looks were something I immediately noticed too.  However, I found them quite inconsequential.  For such an important character on the show, perhaps THE most important character, why was such a bland-looking actor cast?  Look at the “Jacob”-like presence behind all the mystery in JJ Abrams’ other splendid series “Fringe” who was also revealed this week in that show’s finale.  That character, William Bell, ended up being portrayed by icon Leonard Nimoy.  Why wasn’t Jacob portrayed by an equally famous actor?  Might it be because Jacob was not significant actually?  Or maybe, that he will play such a key part in season six–assuming he wasn’t killed by Esau–that there’s no way a famous actor could inhabit the role for a year of shooting?

*I also find the relationships of Jacob/Esau vis-a-vis Ben/Widmore to be quite fascinating and wonder where comparisons can be drawn.  Both pairs seem to be arch-enemies who lack the abilities to harm each other directly, either by some force of nature or by an artificial set of rules they both have agreed on (Ben:  “I’m here, Charles, to tell you that I’m going to kill your daughter. Penelope, is it? And once she’s gone… once she’s dead… then you’ll understand how I feel. And you’ll wish you hadn’t changed the rules.”)  And this is where the so-called “loophole” come in, with Esau realizing that he would have to find someone to do his bidding in order to finally kill his hated Jacob.  And, thus, everything he has done for his whole life has been a series of machinations to get it to the point where he could portray Locke and get Ben to be his subservient who would do anything he said.  Although, would it have really taken Esau some 150 years to bring his plan to fruition and conquer this loophole?

*As mentioned above, Esau–who I believe is also the Smoke Monster– obviously inhabited Locke’s body and Locke, of course, never did come back from the dead.  I thought it was interesting how the savvy Richard was suspicious of faux-Locke the whole time, perhaps unable to fully elucidate it, but thinking something was up, even questioning the faux-Locke as to how he could possibly come back from the dead.  Richard also admitted never thinking Locke was “special” and even grilling Jack about that point in particular.  Unfortunately, the always-fucks-shit-up Jack tells Richard to not “give up on him.”  But, Richard was of course right.  Locke (seemingly) never was special.  What a pathetic man he truly was.  A weak, easily-led, believes-in-hokum man, a perfect candidate for Esau to one day inhabit.

*The flashback childhood scenes were a little overdone, if not downright boring at times, but still added an interesting layer, though it is still not clear how Jacob’s presence affected those people’s lives, save, perhaps, bringing Locke back from the dead.   Juliet’s was particularly odd though as it both did not feature Jacob and it looked like it took place in this era, not the 1970s as it should have.  And what was it about this crew of people that, even from an early age, would make Jacob want to recruit them?

*Rose and Bernard are the two I mentioned above that seem to share the same ideologies as Esau about peace and solitary living.  Which makes me wonder if they are in any way actually associated with Esau.  Did Rose and Bernard know more than they let on in their impromptu meeting with Sawyer, Juliet, and Kate?  Was it even truly Rose and Bernard?  And why did Bernard try to stop Juliet–by offering her tea–before she headed to the Swan construction site with the bomb?  Did Bernard know what she was going to do eventually?  Finally, can the long-held belief that Rose and Bernard are the “Adam and Eve” skeletons in the cave now be debunked or is that still in play?

*The Ajira crew of Ilana, et al, MUST have known for quite awhile that “Locke” was inhabited by Esau and about to kill Jacob.  So why didn’t they stop it?  Who exactly are they working for and what dog do they favor in the Jacob/Esau fight?  It seems that they don’t favor either dog but are simply present in order to find a “candidate” to perhaps quickly replace the dead Jacob.  And would that candidate actually be the always-confused Frank Lapidus?  Also, why do they know Latin and have an awareness of Richard, who answered their question of “What lies in the shadow of the statue?” with…”He who will protect us.”

*Who broke the ring of ash that allowed whoever was in that cabin–and I now assume it was Esau–to escape?  Perhaps from an imprisonment by Jacob, though why did Locke and Ben visit this cabin when Jacob has seemingly been living in the foot of the statue for centuries?

*I think I agree with Miles that Juliet’s detonation of the bomb was “The Incident.”

*Where’s Clay-er (Claire)?  I swore she would appear in the finale in a crucial role but it seems like the producers have either given up on her or totally forgotten about her.

*Why did fickle Juliet suddenly change her mind about everything?  And Juliet’s break-up with Sawyer was certainly harsher than any I’ve gotten from women from my past.  I’ve sort of thought it for a long time, but now I truly think Sawyer might be the only smart character around.  At least he sticks to his guns and isn’t whimsical like everyone else.

*This bring us to Ben.  Has Esau been duping him for years?  Ben thought he could control the smoke monster, but if the smoke monster is Esau, was he just allowing Ben to think he was controlling him?  And why did Jacob treat Ben with such disrespect when all he wanted to do was serve him and be his “leader”?

*As for Jacob’s note that “They’re coming” before his death, or “death,” who is coming?  I believe it has to do with the final shot of the finale.

*At first I was mad at this season finale because it did not offer a little peak toward the next season, as all past “Lost” finales have (the light in the hatch, the flash-forward reveal, etc).  But, later, I realized it actually did.  The fact that the final title card was a black “LOST” on a white background, the complete opposite of the normal white-on-black title card, leads me to believe that season six will be a reverse of everything before and thus Esau will now control the island.  Juliet’s detonation of the bomb will zap our characters in 1977 to 2007 where they will now be on Jacob’s side in a war to wrest the island back from Esau.  As to who will be alive in this alternate 2007, and who will be on either deities’ side, that is anybody’s guess.

So questions going forward:

*Is Jacob really dead?  I will say no and think he will remain a key character in season six.  At the least, I got to believe more 1800s flashbacks of his and Esau’s lives will be shown, specifically when they meet the Black Rock crew and Richard.

*Is Locke really dead?  Again, I will have to say no, if for no other reason than we are not going to have a full season without the great Terry O’Quinn on screen.  Also, I believe Locke will finally get redemption in season six and maybe prove that, golly, he was indeed special.

*If Jacob is really dead, how will the death of Jacob affect Richard?  Will he now die?  Or start aging?  What will be his role going forward?

*Is it possible that Juliet will survive and be back in the love quadrangle with Jack, Sawyer, and Kate in the year 2007?  I’m going to say no on that.  I think she’s dead for good.

*Is Sayid dead?  I will say yes here.  I think his storyline has run its course.  Sorry Sayid, we hardly knew ye.

*Will Sun finally shut the fuck up?  I say, no, never.  She’s strongly battling Kate for most annoying character on television.

*And what about Ben?  Once a diabolical genius, he seems to be nothing but utter confusion nowadays.  The man that’s always had a plan now seems to lack one.  How will his battle with Widmore continue now with Jacob perhaps dead and Esau perhaps in control of the island?

As for New Glarus’s Raspberry Tart, the first beer I’ve ever had from the famed Wisconsin brewery, I found it quite good.  Sent to me by The Captain, currently residing at the #67 position on the BA Top 100, I was stoked to try this gorgeous wax-dipped bottle.  Pretty rich, yet wonderfully smooth and tart of course, I shared the big boy with several friends.  A fairly flawlessly made fruit beer, it does lack some complexity, tasting a bit like the kind of non-alcoholic sparkling juice they give the youngsters at the Passover seder.  But does a well-made fruit beer necessarily need complexity?  Not when it’s delicious I say, and this one indeed is.

A-

*Top six best hour-longs currently**:

1.  Lost
2.  Mad Men
3.  Damages
4.  Friday Night Lights
5.  Fringe
6.  House

**Best hour-longs of all-time:

1.  The Wire
2.  The Sopranos
3.  Lost (with a bullet!)
4.  Twin Peaks
5.  Six Feet Under
6.  Mad Men (with a bullet!)

notables:  St. Elsewhere, NYPD Blue, The Shield…