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Archive for the ‘Country: America’ Category

The Abbey Brewing Company

April 11th, 2011 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: The Abbey Brewing Co., Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Style: IPA, Style: Stout

South Beach is the land of skinny people drinking Coronas, skinny people drinking margaritas, and skinny people (or Nicole Polizzi) drinking margaritas with Coronas dumped into them (for real).  Now, any one with tastebuds should rightfully detest Coronas and while I can occasionally enjoy a tropical beverage on a hot day, I’m not sure why one would want to water down a fruity boozebath with 4% skunk beer.  As for me, even in the land of skinny people, when there doesn’t seem to be a decent craft beer in sight, I like to find the large bearded guys.  They usually know where the good brews are.  Even in craft beer wastelands, you can usually find an oasis or two.  I found one such spot on a recent trip to Miami:  The Abbey Brewing Company.

A tad off the beaten path–if the “beaten path” is Ocean Drive*–I located The Abbey Brewing Company.  Minuscule in size, it’s been standing proud on 16th and Lenox since 1995.  Dark and cool inside, brewmaster/owner/former New Yorker Raymond Rigazio is a seasoned pro, having homebrewed (and home-wined) since well before you drank anything halfway decent.

On my quick jaunt there last Friday, Raymond had two of his house beers on tap, both of which were sublime.

Immaculate IPA

The same recipe since ABC opened, it’s good enough that there’s no reason to change it!  Settling in at a solid 6.2% ABV, this brew uses three different kinds of hops but is balanced quite nicely, and flawlessly refreshing.  I could have slugged these all day.

A-

Father Theodore’s Stout

Now the last thing I wanted at 3 PM on a sweltering Friday, mere hours before I had to appear respectable (and standing) at my sister’s wedding, was a big bodied stout.  But, surprisingly, this 9.5% monster is light.  I don’t mean light in mouthfeel or body, it’s a full-figured gal packed with complex flavors of chocolate and licorice, I mean light in that typical boozy taste that plagues many imperial stouts.  I was stunned at its ABV, double-checking with Raymond just to make sure.  Dangerous.

A

The Abbey also has a dubbel and quad (which I hear is amazing), but neither was on during my visit.  Raymond makes small batches and only brews a few times a year so enjoy what you can get!  He also has several other taps from great breweries across America, an impressive bottle list, and solid booze and wine selections.  I would set up a permanent camp in this joint if I lived in Miami Beach, and hope to be back sometime soon!

*In the oddest comparison you’ve surely ever heard, Ocean Drive reminds me of Mulberry Street in NY’s Little Italy.  What with the cookie cutter menus, the aggressive maitre d’s, and the outdoor dining and waddling tourists getting in your way and making movement a struggle.  Then again, you rarely see the bottom ass curvature of modelesque women on Mulberry Street.

Nebraska Reserve Series Apricot Au Poivre Saison Aged in Chardonnay Barrels

March 29th, 2011 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Nebraska, Brewer: Russian River, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Blonde Ale, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

6.5% from a 750 mL

(I apologize for the sideways picture–my iPhone is fucked up.)

So…I write a novel, I’m feeling pretty proud about myself, about my career, and yet I keep hearing from people, I keep receiving emails:

“Why don’t you review beer any more?!”

I guess I thought novel > beer blog reviews in the world of writing and entertainment, but apparently, to many people, that isn’t the case and, in fact, I alienated many of my fans!  They didn’t care about my stupid novel (that took years to write), they care about my subversive reviews of craft beer (that take a few minutes to write).

Who am I to be the arbiter of my fan’s enjoyment?  Thus, I am back.  And, I plan to be back with new reviews every single week now.  My first “back” review, though, is of a great beer by some of my good friends in the industry, Nebraska Brewing Company.

Nebraska burst onto the scene in 2010 with two of my favorite beers of the year:  Hop God aged in Chardonnay Barrels and Melange a Trois, a tripel aged in, you guessed in, Chardonnay barrels.  Here’s another beer aged in Chardonnay barrels, this time using their Apricot Au Poivre Saison as the base.

Now, oddly enough, I’ve had all of Nebraska’s rare, high-end, and pricey brews–which, luckily, they ship to me, gratis–but I haven’t had that many of their regular line.  I was fortunate enough to finally try their IPA the other day and it is as good as anything on either coast, and last summer I sucked down plenty of the standard Apricot Au Poivre.  That was a nice little brew, but the chardonnay aging takes this one to a completely different level.

Flawlessly effervescent.  A slight tartness yet the apricot fruitiness comes through with just a hint of stinging black pepper.  I put back a 750 of this in about 750 seconds.  I was loving it that much.  Another huge winner from Nebraska that demands being searched for.  It still doesn’t even have a single review on Beer Advocate yet!  Come on people.

A

Is Nebraska one of the best sour beer makers in America?!  Hard to say, there’s so many great ones and NBC doesn’t quite have as large of catalog (yet) as some other, older breweries.  But they might be the best Chardonnay-barreled beer maker around.  Or, damn close.  At the moment, I’d rank them 2nd to the American kings of the sour beer game, Russian River, who also favor Chardonnay aging.

Interestingly, just a few weeks earlier I tried a Russian River beer aged in these beloved barrels:

Russian River Sanctification

This is a 6.5% Belgian Blond aged in Chardonnay oak with 100% Brett added.  And, whoa!, is it a nice beer.  Perhaps the best-looking beer I’ve ever had.  Looks like fresh squeezed OJ with the pulp removed.  Not overly complex, but flawless in execution.  Tart, crisp, with the fruity taste of a nice white wine.  Not too sour, and totally refreshing.  A beauty.

A

COOP AleWorks

December 22nd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: COOP AleWorks, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Grade: B regular, Grade: B-, Style: Amber Ale, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Style: IPA, Style: Stout, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen), Style: Wild Ale

Back when I lived in Oklahoma, back in the 90s, there really wasn’t any decent craft beer.  (Of course, I was a teenager.)  I kinda felt like it would always be that way.  This is a state where you can’t buy cold beer over 3.2% anywhere.  Then, I started hearing some rumblings that a brewery called COOP AleWorks was really cranking out some legit shit.  So, when I made my triumphant return to town over the weekend for a “How to Fail” book tour signing, I knew I would have to seek it out.  On both Thursday night and Saturday, I met up with COOP partner/bon vivant J.D. Merryweather (above) for some serious tippling, pretty much drinking anything in the brewery he would let me.  I was like a kid in a candy shop.  Or, to be less trite, like a drunk in a brewery.  And, wow, was it all good.

Horny-Toad Cerveza

One of two canned COOP offerings (along with Native Amber; the rest are currently tap only), this 5.3% ABV American Blonde Ale would seem to be the “lamest” offering from COOP, the one meant to convert the Bud Light drinkers…and it is.  But that doesn’t mean it’s lame.  No sir, this is a 5.3% beer with some serious flavor.  The Noble hops, the malt body, the carbonation, made me think this was more along the lines of a pilsner, but whatever it is, it’s damn good.

A-/B+

Zeppelin German Wheat

Yeah, no craft beer drinker likes American wheat beers, right?  If more places were making great efforts like Zeppelin, that might not be the case.  5.6% and packed with tastes of wheat and rye with just a little hops coming through, this is a solid drinker, better than most on the market.

B+

Native Amber

Red ales are always a crap shoot for me as they are a delicate balance between hops and malt that if you fuck up, they are just gross.  But COOP nails this one.  Caramelly and biscuity with a nice hoppy finish, this is the beer Fat Tire wishes it could be.

A-

Gran-Sport Porter

Porters are another beer that breweries never seem to completely nail.  Often too bitter and acrid, COOP has made one of the best I’ve had recently.  Chocolately and nutty, this had such a smooth, fluffy finish I was certain it had to have been served on a nitro tap.  Nope.  I really enjoyed this one.

A-

F-5 IPA

I highly doubt there’s an IPA this good made within 500 miles of COOP.  The classic West Coast bitter grapefruit and pine IPA, a little hefty at 7%, this is the beer that will turn a ton of Oklahomans into hop heads.

A

DNR Belgian Style Golden Ale

What an insanely intriguing beer.  An over-the-top complex mix of Noble hops, European malts, and Belgian candi giving this tastes of vanilla, cinnamon, and dark fruits.  And, at 10% this is one of the most deceptively alcoholic beers I’ve ever had.  You’ll want to keep sucking them down.  But don’t.  Or do.  I don’t really care about your health.

A

Territorial Reserve Oak-Aged Imperial Stout

By now every brewery is trying bourbon-barreled stouts and they should excite me as much as another boxing movie being released.  But just like “The Fighter” stunned me and found new ways to tell the pugilist’s tale, COOP has made a real corker of a barrel-aged stout.  Aged on Bulleit bourbon barrels, this might seriously be the smoothest, most perfectly melded bourbon-barreled stout I’ve ever had.  It’s not lacking in boozy taste, no way, but it’s not something that brings you to your knees either.  Rich, chocolately, and a “mere” 9.0%, it’s quite dangerous when you’ve become friends with a guy with the ability to over-serve you this.  I probably had five full pints and never got sick of it.  Wow.

A+

Red Zeppelin

This final beer is one that isn’t even available yet, one whose recipe isn’t fully created yet, and one that I’m not even sure I’m allowed to publicly discuss (I’ll wait for a cease and desist from J.D.), but it was my favorite beer I had from COOP so I want to scream to the hills about it.  Red Zeppelin is Zeppelin German Wheat aged in barrels on wild bing cherries.  This is a recipe they’re still working on and, admittedly, by now the souring had given the beer a slightly vinegary nose which some more amateur beer drinkers found unappealing, but I fucking loved it.  Just the perfect tart, sour, yet still slightly fruity taste I love.  It actually reminded me of Cantillon Kriek if I can be so bold.  I will be.  I hope they release and bottle this one day–it’ll sweep the beer nation.

A+

COOP is only available in Oklahoma so for now you’ll have to hope your company sends you there for work if you want to get some (or maybe write a book and go on tour there???) and I’ll have to hope J.D. is kind enough to build a pipeline to my house so I can always have some around to enjoy.  COOP is gonna be a big player in the beer world soon.

Pick up a last minute copy of my book, HOW TO FAIL!!!

Zoe

August 23rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Maine Beer Co., Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: B plus, Style: Amber Ale, Style: Pale Ale

7.2% 500 mL bottled

I’ve been so busy with other projects I’ve had little time lately to review beer.  Which means, if and when I do write a review, one of two things has occurred:  I got free beer from a brewery and felt obligated to glowingly write about it in order to keep the gratis schwag flowing OR I just had my mind blown. In the case of Maine Beer Company’s Zoe, the latter is true, but perhaps my effusive praise will soon lead to the former being true as well!

I’m surely one of the best “forced” travelers around as there’s no location I’m fully upset to have to visit–all due to this pesky beer obsession.  So when I was “forced” to head up to the great city of Portland, Maine this weekend for a wedding, even though I wasn’t in much of a traveling mood during these dog days of summer, I was still buoyed by the chance that I might get to try some beers from the upstart nanobrewery newish to town.

My man Sam had tipped me off that the best beer bar in Portland is now Novare Res and he was so very right.  Accessed by a bit of an alley off a main Old Port street, the bar was a site to behold.  An enormous “Best of Portland” award-winning outdoor patio deck, but nuts to that as I like to drink in the cool dark and the inside of Novare has that in spades*.  A slightly below ground cellarish feel, warm and cozy with a large segmented two cornered bar buttressed by some classy brick columns.  Unfortunately, the mediocre to so-so Rogue Brewery (from nearby the “other” Portland) had monopolized all 25 taps for an event.  That was shockingly fine since Novare has a most prodigious list of bottles stocked in a cellar room just peekaboo visible behind the bar.  It was an amazing list full of semi-rarities like Cantillon Cuvee des Champions and Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek but my goal was to drink local.  Unfortunately, Zoe didn’t appear anywhere on the reference book sized menu.  As I scanned it, slightly disappointed, looking for something else, I heard a woman whisper to the bartender, “Another Zoe,” as if divulging a secret password.

When the bartender returned to me I curiously inquired, “You got Zoe?”  Indeed they did have the sexy thing in the thin and sultry needle-nosed bottles I’d heretofore only seen Pliny the Elder employ.  The pour was darker than expected, more deep purple than amber but the smell was all fresh and bitter grapefruity hops.  The taste was even better.  A bitter explosion in the mouth, perfectly carbonated and tingly, tastes of tropical fruits yet still balanced perfectly with a strong malt backbone.  Simply put, it’s the best amber out there now, even better than the quintessential one Nugget Nectar.  If I lived in Maine, I’d be drinking Zoe weekly.  (Which actually might be harder to do than you think, even if you do live in Maine!)

A

Afterward, I was lucky enough to meet the progenitor of “Zoe” and the progenitors of Zoe–Maine Beer Company co-brewmaster David Kleban and his wife whose daughter the beer is named after–who coincidentally happened to be drinking at the bar.  While David’s wife cutely and ironically informed me that she typically imbibes “girlie” cocktail drinks, David told me that Portland gets a mere 144 bottles a week of Zoe–all he and his co-brewmaster brother Dan are able to make–and it goes fast.  Heckuva nice couple and helluva great beer.  I implore you to do whatever you can to find this stuff.

I also tried David’s Peeper Ale.  A no-frills quotidian pale ale that was nonetheless quite delicious.  Citrusy and yeasty, a perfectly delightful session beer.  Unfortunately, I drank it after Zoe which I was still drooling over.

B+

According to Beer Advocate, the Maine Beer boys have one other beer I’d sure kill to get my hands on, a draft only stout called Mean Old Time, which sounds like a perfect way to complete this exciting new brewery’s tasting trifecta.

*Novare Res instantly makes my top 10 beer bars (east coast) list and might be #1 overall in my ambience rankings.

Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout - Laird’s Apple Brandy Barrel

August 8th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Cigar City, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Stout

11.5% from a growler

The Vice Blog just keeps racking up the awards. (Or getting spam emails.) To wit:

Dear The Vice Blog,

Congratulations! Madison here, and your blog, The Vice Blog, was determined to be one of the blogs to learn about your topic, and has received our 2010 Top 30 Alcohol Blogs award!

You can see your name amongst our winners here at: [redacted]

Winners were chosen through a scoring system led by internet nominations, which came from your reader base!

You can let your readers know you won by embedding the badge code to one of the different awards graphics found at: [redacted]

If you choose to accept or decline the award, please let me know.

Please do not hesitate to call or email if you have any questions. Many questions can be answered at [redacted].

Again, Congratulations, and I hope to see your badge soon!

Cheers,
Madison Evans
2065529587
www.onlineschools.org

Thank you, Madison.* I am honored. So fucking honored to be a recognized leader in my “topic.” And I have chosen to…take my talents to South Beach. I mean, I have chosen to…

ACCEPT the award.

To wit some mo’:

Dear The Vice Blog,

Congratulations! Madison here, and your blog, The Vice Blog, was determined to be one of the best blogs to learn about your topic, and has received our 2010 Top 50 Clubbing Blogs award! [...]

Whoa, Madison, I’ll accept that sucker too. And to think I thought no one had been noticing all the great topical clubbing content on The Vice Blog!

And check out these sweet “badges” I have been awarded to trick out my site. Score!

[redacted]

Get a load of this beaut. I may make that into an actual badge to stitch onto my Ed Hardy shirt and wear out when I’m doing all this award-winning clubbin’.

[redacted]

Now that I’m an award winner–TWO TIME AWARD WINNER–I will have to carry myself differently. Classier and what not. In the manner befitting a two time award winner of a spam email contest. I’ll start that by now sloppily putting up posts, ones with photos that aren’t even correctly turned.**

I’ll also continue to drink incredibly rare and delicious beer, only rarely deigning to tell you about it. The Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout aged in Laird’s Apple Brandy Barrels is one I just had to brag about trying though. Only coming in at 89 total lottery-issued bottles, I was lucky enough to score a taste from one of a mere (reported!) twelve 64 oz growlers that the brilliant new Hawthorne’s Cafe filled a few months ago. They have one of those special growler fill stations so a thick and boozy stout can keep almost indefinitely and indeed our growler opened with a nice pffffft!

Now the first ever Cigar City beer I drunk and reviewed, their flagship Jai Alai IPA, I didn’t particularly love and said as much on this here AWARD WINNING blog. Joey Redner, Cigar City founder, was nice enough to write me and chew me a new asshole but eventually we came to a nice understanding and even became somewhat of online buddies and he even said he’d send me some more beers for review (they never arrived. Sad face emoticon.)

But every since that Jai Alai, literally every single Cigar City beer I’ve had has been good and most have been great, highlighted by the epic 30plus Cigar City beer event Rattle ‘n’ Hum put on this February which I still think is the best overall beer event Manhattan has ever seen.

At that event, in which my besotted grade-inflating ways awarded eleven beers an A- or higher, my two biggest winners for the day were the much ballyhooed “normal” Hunahpu’s, a most unique imperial stout aged on pasillo and ancho peppers as well as vanilla, cinnamon, and cocoa nibs and–totally unexpected to me–Cigar City’s Warmer Winter Winter Warmer Old Ale aged on Laird’s Apple Brandy. I previously knew nothing of this beer and simply ordered it to fill out a foursome flight, but it was far and away my favorite beer of the evening and currently in the running for my #1 overall beer of 2010. A true masterpiece I will never forget. So as you can imagine, I was most excited for that masterpiece of Hunahpu’s aged on that very same Laird’s Apple Brandy. And the shit didn’t disappoint one bit.

Amazingly, the spiciness of the base Hunahpu’s still comes through quite nicely but is somewhat neutralized by the delicious and slightly sweet apple brandy which adds an insane complexity. The thick and chewy mouthfeel reminded me of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout–I’d love to see a Brandy County Brand Stout!–and it was so amazingly luscious. There’s really nothing else on the planet like this beer–all the more reason we need some other brewers to try apple brandy barreling. The beer improves greatly as it warms and I relaxingly indulged in a good 1/3rd of the growler on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I still like the Laird’s aged Warmer Winter a tad better, but this beer will most likely make my top 10 beers for 2010 as well.

I’d encourage you to go find it, but like most of Cigar City’s experimental beers, you probably won’t be seeing this anywhere. Then again, neither will I again.

A+

*Fun fact: The classic 80s comedy “Splash” actually popularized if not created the name Madison. Daryl Hannah’s (spoiler alert!) mermaid character takes her name from Madison Avenue after walking past the street sign. In the years since the film was released, the name’s popularity has skyrocketed by the kinds of parents who name their children after a mermaid slut from a Ron Howard movie.

**In all honesty, blame the iphone’s fucked up new OS for that quirk. Any one else having problems with this shit? I’m going to be really pissed if I have to dig my digital camera out of some drawer.

Black Betty Imperial Stout Reserve Series Aged In Whiskey Barrels (2009)*

July 19th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Nebraska, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Stout

9.3% ABV from a 1 pint, 9.4 FL oz

You’d be surprised how often I get solicited.  No, not solicited for paid sexual services.  That rarely happens any more.  Rather, solicited to talk about a product here on my blog.  Usually one that’s vice related, no surprise.  I’ll get an e-mail along the lines of something like…

Hello The Vice Blog!

I am a huge fan of The Vice Blog, keep up the great work! I am writing to you about a fun new campaign that would be of great interest to The Vice Blog readers: LAME BREWERY’s “Salute to Summer’s Web Jam,” an initiative launched by CORPORATE BEER USA in association with MyspaceTM. In honor of the program, celebrity chef Tyler Florence and celebrity celebrity Maria Menounos have created an exquisite new menu of fun summer treats and grilled dishes that pair perfectly with the delicious flavor of LAME BREWERY’s new line of 55 calorie products.

Below, we have included a press release and high-res images which would make for a GREAT The Vice Blog post your readers would surely love.  Can you blog it?

Also, please URGE your The Vice Blog readers to become a Facebook fan of LAME BREWERY and “Salute to Summer Web Jam” at http://www.facebook.com/#!/lamebrewerysalutetosummerwebjam

Regards,

Stacy Dumbass
Social Media/PR
Lame Brewery

Lazy, impersonal, artificial, and worst of all boring.  Wait, no, even worst of all–insulting.  Ten minutes ago I didn’t even know about your product, now I fucking hate it.  And once I sober up I’m going to write something bashing you and your product. Do these companies think I’m so hard up for material and so entranced by transparent consumerism to be suckered into doing their online bidding for them?!

Can you imagine if I tried to treat these companies the way they treat me?

Dear Lame Rum Company!

We here at The Vice Blog know you like your alcohol, so how about naming a future rum bottling after us?!  We’d suggest calling it Vicey Pure Cane, but feel free to come up with any idea you see fit.  Below we’ve even offered a prospective recipe as well as some classy label art we designed.

Thanks for the time and don’t forget to tell all your friends about the Vice Blog as well as becoming a Fan of us on Facebook…

What morons at these beer and booze (and other) companies think these are effective means of getting their product name out there?

Yet I get several of these e-mails per week.  Perhaps they’ve noticed my blogging has tapered off to a few measly posts per month and they think, “Man, I really used to love Aaron’s site but now he’s clearly starved for content.  Let’s help the guy out!!!”  But, no, I really doubt that’s it.  They’re just lazy and feel superior to a meager blogger and assume surely he’d love to be an e-whore and help the big guys out.

Here’s my favorite recent, unsolicited e-mail.  I’m still not sure whether it’s a sly joke or from the pen of a crazy person.  Whatever the case, they got me to talk about them and offer a hyperlink so I suppose they won.

I just ran into your site and wanted to say hey! I’m Matt - I’m a college student and I run a little site on the side.I just wrote a post about necktie cakes for Father’s Day that I’d like to offer you to use (I know how hard it is to come up with blog posts). But if anything - it may give you inspiration for your own Father’s Day themed post :)

Here is the link to the post - http://www.tiepedia.com/tie-blog/49-crafts/155-tie-cake

My site is pretty new and would definitely benefit by getting linked to from you. Let me know if you have any questions or if you need anything!

-Matt

At least tie guy is incredibly honest:  “My site…would definitely benefit by getting linked to from you.”

Isn’t that exactly the same thing these other unsolicited e-mails want from me?

Our beer would definitely benefit by getting linked by you.

Our booze would definitely benefit by getting linked by you.

Our book would definitely benefit by getting linked by you.

Fair enough…but how the fuck do I benefit?  How the fuck do my readers benefit?  This shit has to be quid pro quo friend-o (ask your corporate lawyer way down the hall what that fancy Latin term means.)  And it’s not just enough of a quid pro quo that you’re giving me a little corporate-speak content.  Howzabout giving me something I might like?  Like, oh, I don’t know?, some free fucking beer?  Or booze?  Then you might get me to write about you.

Admittedly, most of these terrible solicitations come from corporate giants.  Faceless beer and booze makers, behemoth book publishing companies, and the like.  Almost never from craft beer makers and artisanal booze crafters.

Here’s a hint, morons, actually develop relationships with your customers or would-be customers.  It ain’t that hard.  Take Nebraska Brewing Co. for example.

I’d heard about this new brewery from Nebraska who had just brought their beers to the New York market and who were getting some decent buzz.  Nebraska?  “Could there really be great beers coming out of Nebraska?!” thought this east coast elitist and former Tom Osbourne hater.  I had to find out.  I got a growler of their Hop God.  Wrote a semi-positive review of it.  Tweeted it.  Paul Kavulak and Tyson Arp from NBC began following me.  Began to respond to my tweets.  When out of my own pocket I paid, what I assumed to be, a fairly steep $30 for Hop God Chardonnay I tweeted how awesome it was and Tyson responded with a “Toldja!”  They even posted my review in their brewpub.  One day a few weeks later, I got a DM from Paul.  “What’s your address Aaron?”  Soon, I received bottles of Black Betty and their Fathead barley wine.  Later some Melange a Trois, a chardonney-barreled Belgian blonde.  Now, a few months later, I consider myself friends of Nebraska Brewing Co.  Friends of Paul and Tyson and even his wife Angela.  I HAVE NEVER MET THESE PEOPLE.  I am some 1200 miles from where they live.  Fuck, I have never even spoken to them in more than 140 character bursts.  Yet I consider them some sort of friends.  And, you better believe, I love evangelizing to my “real” friends about the greatness of my Nebraska friends’ beer.  They have won me over for sure.  And it doesn’t hurt that they are making some DAMN fine product (which when it comes down to it is more important than the most savvy advertising/marketing/networking in the world.)

Black Betty[...] poured thinner than I’ve come to expect from the myriad of syrupy and sticky barreled aged imperial stouts that have deluged my life in the past few years.  But that’s fine as the oak and bourbon come through even better and aren’t overpowered by any sort of hotness.  The taste is ridiculously smooth, I kept checking the ABV to make sure it wasn’t 5% or something as it goes down like a lower ABV dry stout.  But the taste is pure Russian Imperial.  Boozy but not scorching, more creamy than dark chocolaty, like a mix of vanilla and fudge.  Mild roastiness and espresso-like qualities.  Nice carbonation and splendid mouthfeel.  A really delicious effort I was sad to see go.  Nebraska has quickly gone from off the radar to the hottest new brewery of the year, one I demand you check out if at all possible.

If the crux of this post looks to be like I’m giving a little lesson to bloggers on how to score some free shit, I’m not.  My lesson is for these corporations that don’t understand social media and networking.  The ones that claim to read The Vice Blog and enjoy The Vice Blog and think The Vice Blog and it’s readers would love to hear about X, Y, and Z (and who love to use form letters and e-mails as well.)  Guys, don’t worry about me and my content.  My content is just fine.  I don’t need some 300 word “corporate speak” press release to get my post totals up.  If I like your fucking product, if I LOVE your fucking product, I’ll have no problem cranking out a 1500 word love song to it like I just did here.  Now beat that.

A-

*I think we have a new longest beer title record, breaking Nebraska’s previous effort Hop God Reserve Series Aged in French Oak Chardonnay Barrels.

Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

July 12th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 7 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Karl Strauss, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

9% ABV from a bomber

Seems once a week some dork starts a thread on the Beer Advocate forums with some open question along the lines of “Why do brewers seem to only care about making double IPAs and barrel aged stouts–where are all the pilsners, bitters, milds, and goses?????!?!?!”

Uh…gathering dust on the shelves while everyone buys the double IPAs and barrel aged stouts I’d imagine.

In all seriousness though, Hypothetical Beer Dork does have a point.  It does sometime seem like breweries only care about making the baddest stouts and the most uber-hopped DIPAs.  Good thing so many of them are fucking delicious.  You’d think you’d get bored if not lose them in the enormous shuffle if not run out of ones to try, but good for us hopheads that the IPA mecca of San Diego keeps pumping out delicious stuff.

Honestly, I really knew nothing about Karl Strauss when my friend The Drunken Polack sent me a bottle of Big Barrel and told me this beer was 2 legit 2 quit.  Karl Strauss kinda sounds like the name of that weirdo German exchange student who visited my high school second semester 11th grade and helped us win the soccer championship AND get bratwurst added to the lunch menu, but come to find out they are actually a longtime mainstay of the SoCal beer scene and, in fact, it’s very first microbrewery.*  Wow.

Big Barrel is made with Nelson-Sauvin hops, the same hops most famously used in Alpine Nelson, one of my favorite all-time IPAs and a beer that it’s virtually impossible not to compare Big Barrel to.  But that’s not a bad thing as Big Barrel definitely holds its own.  A nice citrusy bitter bite but with an underlying tropical sweetness.  A bit aggressively boozy but I like that in my beers (and my women!)  Nevertheless, it is very drinkable and goes down quite easily (another thing I like in my women!)  It has that beautiful enamel-peeling taste us hop addicts just crave and I was sad when my lone bomber was finished.

Quite frankly, I’m not sure how Big Barrel is not more “famous” and discussed in the same breath with the Plinys, Sculpins, and numerous Alpines.  It’s that good and now probably one of my top 20 or so IPAs ever.

I can’t wait to explore Karl Strauss’s stuff a little more–if only they were available in New York!

A

*In all seriousness, a very nice story about who the real Karl Strauss was.

Smoke

June 17th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Surly, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Porter


FOR OFFICIAL RELEASE
(to be reblogged, retweeted, hashtagged, Facebook statused, liked)

Many of you said the world of beer geekery couldn’t get any more geeky.  We said not true.  That’s why we at Lager Lady Magazine, in conjunction with our corporate underwriters Punchy Brewery Ales, Meads, and Rootbeers, The Garden of Hedonism E-Zine, and the Wet Nurse Brewpub, are pleased to announce:

THE FIRST ANNUAL BEER GEEK BLOGGERS CONFERENCE

Now when FDR, Churchill, and Comrade Stalin met for the Yalta Conference they were trying to reorganize postwar Europe, but at this conference (to be held December 12-14 at Tulsa’s Convention Center) it will be all about making the imbibing of intoxicants as sterile and pedantic as possible.

Speeches and addresses currently scheduled:

* TALKING TO YOUR BEER WHEN NO ONE WILL TALK TO YOU (Keynote)
* GOING TO BARS EVERY NIGHT YET NEVER GETTING LAID
* GETTING WASTED ON THREE PINTS BEFORE MAKING LOVE TO SOME NACHOS
* THE INSUFFERABILITY OF TWEETING EVERY SINGLE THING YOU DRINK
* CONSIDERING BUD, MILLER, AND COORS (AND MAYBE EVEN SAM ADAMS) MORE EVIL THAN HITLER
* CALLING OTHERS BY THEIR BEER BLOGGER NAME IN PERSON (“WHY HELLO THERE, HOPMANIA.”  “IT’S GREAT TO SEE YA, MALT-MAN!”)

* “ADVOCATING” QUALITY BEERS IN PUBLIC WITHOUT GETTING PUNCHED BY THE GUIDO DRINKING A HEINEKEN
* THE ALSTROM BROTHERS:  GODS OR JUST DEMIGODS?

Panel discussions will focus on:

* STARTING YOUR OWN BEER BLOG:  FROM OWNING A COMPUTER, TO FINDING WIFI, TO REGISTERING A FREE WORDPRESS ACCOUNT, TO HITTING ‘PUBLISH’ ON YOUR DRIVEL THREE TIMES PER WEEK
* CHOOSING A BEER BLOGGER BODY TYPE:  SKINNY AND DORKY, OR FAT AND BEARDY?
* HOW TO INCREASE YOUR ALEXA RANK FROM 25,000,000 WELL INTO THE 10,000,000s
* HOW TO CREATE PORTMANTEAUS OUT OF “HOPS” AND ANOTHER COMMON WORD
* HOW TO INSINUATE YOU DRINK BEER YET ARE STILL QUITE SEXY AND POSSIBLY UP FOR FELLATIO (Female only panel)
* MAKING PEOPLE THINK YOU CAN TRULY DETECT SUCH AROMAS AND FLAVORS AS PARSNIP, MARIGOLD, LYCHEE, AND “BARNYARD”
* TAKING PICTURES OF YOUR BEER COLLECTIONS IN ORDER TO BRAG
* SUCKING UP TO BREWMASTERS SO HARD YOU SCARE THEM AWAY
* BEGGING FOR FREE SAMPLES OF EASILY OBTAINABLE BEERS

Beer geek bloggers currently slated to appear:

* The Deadhead who always wears shorts no matter the weather
* The pinhead who brags about his total number of Rate Beer reviews
* The troll who insists he “knows” Greg and Garrett
* The grad student type who insists on @ replying and RT’ing everything every other beer person writes
* The sloppy British guy obsessed with cask beer
* The ugly girl only in it for male attention
* The other ugly girl only in it for male attention
* Yet the other ugly girl trying her hardest to fuck Sam Calagione

* The male that actually gives attention to the ugly beer women
* The dipshit who wants you to become a “Fan” of his stupid blog on Facebook
* The guy that Tweets “Good night all!” at the end of every night before crying himself to sleep alone
* The hash-tagging #dweeb
* The pimply faced freak who never fails to be first in line at rare beer releases
* The dude who spends a good minute with his face in his tulip before taking a sip

* The freak who berates the bartendress for putting his pilsner in a hefeweizen glass
* The loser who won’t drink an IPA if it was bottled more than 4 hours ago
AND COUNTLESS OTHERS…!!!!

Hope you can join us, and hope to see you in beautiful Tulsa in December!

Surly Smoke

Some beer blogger dork (just kidding, Captain) hooked me up with this badass and what a thankful boy am I.  Now I might typically eschew lagers, but I wouldn’t if they were all this damn good*.  So smooth yet so complex.  Meaty yet sweet.  Roasted but mild.  Boozy but drinkable.  This but that.  This yet that.  (I could go on with dichotomies all day.)  Slight prickly carbonation.  Damn if it’s not pretty perfect, and damn if there’s probably no more bottles of it left.

A

*It’s called a Smoked Lager on the bottle, Beer Advocate files it as a Baltic Porter, Rate Beer as a “Smoked” beer, further explaining it as a Smoked Baltic Porter aged in oak barrels.  Hmmm.  How is a porter a lager?

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?

Goose Island Bourbon Country Brand Coffee Stout

May 13th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 12 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Goose Island, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus

13% ABV from a bomber

I always get asked by non-beer geeks what my favorite beer is.  It would be easy to be a snob and name some hard to find curio that they’ll never get to try, that I may never get to try again, but that’s just annoying.  So I usually name Goose Island’s Bourbon Country Brand Stout, a masterpiece of a beer that can be easily found just about anywhere and which, despite the lack of rarity, stacks up with anything and everything.  I never get tired of it.

You can imagine my excitement when news came that 2010 would see the release of several new iterations of the beer.  It was like hearing a half-dozen new sequels would be made of your favorite movie!*  Last year saw the release of Nightstalker, essentially just Bourbon County before being bourbon-barrelized–I think it’s apt that while most breweries are bourbon-barrelizing ever solid beer they make, Goose Island, arguably the creator of the modern bourbon barreled stout decides to reverse engineer it back to its base–and that was a swell little brew with a breathtaking complexity.

The first release of this new series was Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout and, while I of course expected it to be rarer than its godfather, I never expected it to fly off shelves as quick as it has and become one of the rarest and hottest beers on the market today.  Luckily, luckily, luckily–because I would have cried if I’d missed out–my man Sam surprised me with a bottle and I am eternally grateful.  Simply put, this beer stacks up to its predecessor if not most of the bad boy stouts on the market.  I had it alongside, just off the top of my head, Black Tuesday, Canadian Breakfast Stout, Darkness, and several Dark Lord vintages and it was definately able to mix it up with those bullies.

Regular Bourbon County seems to have been specifically created for me.  Deliciously hot and boozy, packed with chocolate and vanilla and about as un-subtle as a beer can get, the Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso added to this Bourbon County Coffee makes it a little smoother, a little more palatable, a little more “user-friendly.”  I can completely understand why this effort has meteorically shot up to, as we speak, #3 on the BA Top 100 list while the regular Bourbon County languors a little lower at #45.  Bourbon County Coffee simply has less things to dislike about it.  Personally, I think I like the initial effort just a tad better–I like the harshness of it–but let’s say that maybe two out of seven days of the week I might like Coffee Brand better.  It may even be the best coffee beer ever made.  Not to be missed.

A+

Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout

13% on tap

I thought I could relax in my whale-hunting for a bit as the 2nd release in the Bourbon County series wasn’t slated until October but while procrastinating yesterday afternoon I happened to notice online that The Pony Bar was having a Goose Island event which would have this little gem on tap.  Not sure if I’d ever luck into a bottle of this, I had to hightail it over to Hell’s Kitchen for what I’d long expected to be my favorite of the Bourbon County series.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Bourbon County Vanilla is good, amazing even, but just a little lacking and certainly not in the class of regular, Coffee, or even Nightstalker.  It’s incredibly hot and boozy right now which is saying something when it’s coming from a guy like me who likes hot and boozy (and not just in my women.)  It’s also extraordinary sweet right now.  Bourbon-barreled beers are already quite vanilla-y due to the bourbon and oak presence and adding even more vanilla on top of that makes it almost superfluous.  A “Death by Vanilla” your favorite Times Square chain restaurant might call it on the dessert menu.  The eight ounce glass I had was more than enough.  This is a quite interesting beer but it could surely use some age, which makes me wonder if the bottled release in October might be significantly better.  Let’s hope.  Until then, though, I’m gonna give it an…

A-

To my knowledge there’s quite a few more iterations coming, though I’m not sure that all will be bottled.  A raspberry one, a “rare” one aged in 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels (one of my favorite bourbons ever), and a blueberry one that, oddly enough, several “people in the know” keep insisting is the best.  Excited to try all of them.  Hopefully.

Maple Bacon Stout

6.5% on tap

One of the worst things about being a beer “collector” is that if you see a beer you’ve never tried before, and may never get to try again, and you want to try it…well, regardless of your plans for the day, you’re going to have to try that beer.  It’s not like being a coin collector or something where, if you hear about a rare coin somewhere you can just sprint downtown and buy it.  No, us beer geeks actually have to affect our bodies’ chemistry to enjoy our hobby.  So while I had absolutely no plans to get drunk yesterday, to have even a sip of alcohol, the second I started seeing all these Goose Island oddball rarities on tap, I had no option but to drink them.  I mean, this could be my only chance ever!  And there was no way I was passing up something called “Maple Bacon Stout.”

Not another issue from the Bourbon County series, just a “simple” “low” (enough with the scare quotes) ABV stout, but with some seriously weird shit going on.  It smells like a meaty rauchbier (a style I just haven’t got into yet) but the maple addition adds a nice sweetness to the taste that levels it out and makes it a quite pleasant non-imperial (an endangered species!) stout.  I considered asking for a one ounce taster before purchasing a full glass but, fuck it, I’m a man.  I dove in head first.  Glad I did, cause this one was pretty good.  It’s the perfect beer for those kind of ugly fattish girls that like to pretend they enjoy stuff that men like in order to ingratiate themselves to said men.  “See, I’m not like those other girls–I like beer!  And bacon!  And football!  And giving you unrequited head in the men’s bathroom!”

B+

*Then again, I wish that single sequel had NEVER been made to “2001:  A Space Odyssey.”