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Archive for the ‘Country: Canada’ Category

Solstic D’hiver

November 23rd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel, Brewer: Mad River, Brewer: Thomas Hooker, Country: America, Country: Canada, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus

I’ve long said that barley wines are my absolute favorite style of beer.  Since the beginning in fact.  The first beer that ever truly blew my mine was Stone’s Old Guardian.  And it was a barley wine.  I’d never heard of barley wines at the time–I think the only styles I knew of then were “Shitty Tasting,” “Shitty Tasting Lite,” and “Shitty Tasting with Lime”–but I immediately assumed it must be my favorite style and began to seek them out with a reckless abandon.  Stuff like Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine and Brown Shugga, Sierra Nevada Big Foot, and Southern Tier Backburner were near-equally loved for their candy malted rich booziness, and I assumed I must like literally everything from the style.  For years I never passed a barley wine I’d yet to try without purchasing it.  But lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s still my favorite style, going so far to wonder if it’s an unsophisticated beer geek style that I’ve grown too old for.  A childish style you enjoy before “advancing” to the more adult imperial stouts and double IPAs and funky bunch sours.  Well, luckily, I had a few barley wines over the past few weeks that affirmed that I still very much like the style, even if it is probably no longer my overall favorite.

Thomas Hooker Old Marley

10% ABV bottled

Downtown Bar and Grill is an absolute enigma of a craft beer bar.  Firstly, it’s unquestionably the most brightly lit bar in New York.  The picture above was taken without using a flash of any kind.  It’s late night “mood” lighting is brighter than a Ruby Tuesday’s AFTER the lights have gone up at 2 AM and the junior high flunkies have started vacuuming.  Likewise, it’s seemingly run by a group of ambiguously Middle Eastern men that seemingly know absolutely nothing about beer.  Or the English language.  You ask them for something on tap and they stare at you like you asked if you could fuck their wives.  You point to a tap and make friendly conversation, “How’s that one, any good?” and they just pour you a full glass and hold out their open palm for $7.  You wonder what style a certain oddball beer is on the menu and they turn and yell something in Sanskrit to their buddies.  They’re not rude there, don’t get me wrong, they’re just…clueless.  I think.  It’s like the oddest practical joke being perpetrated:  these half-dozen Middle Easterners decide to open a simple “American” bar and then for some reason start getting shipped some of the best beers in the known world.  Who is the Wizard behind their beer curtain?

Without question, they have the best bottle list I’ve ever seen.  Unlike Spuyten Duyvil which is very skilled at writing on the wall a list of amazingly impressive beers–and then even more amazingly impressive at never having any of these in the back room–Downtown B & G actually has everything they list.  And I’m not kidding about everything.  Pretty much every vintage of every Brooklyn Brewery or Dogfish Head beer ever made dating back a decade or more, bottles of Sam Adams Utopias and Millennium, fuck, they even have Westvleteren 8 and 12 (for a mere monk-angering $50 a whack.)  Another great thing about Downtown is that they have the most interesting happy hour deals you’ve ever seen.  Whereas most bars have the pitcher of Coors for $8, maybe a bucket of Heinies for $15, Downtown will have something like…a beautiful plastic cork-plungered 25 oz. bottle of 10% barley wine for $10.  Yes sir, that’s how to get properly slobber-knockered on a Monday!  I’d been quite pleased with Thomas Hooker’s highly acclaimed dopplebock, so of course I gave this a whirl.  And it wasn’t bad.  Certainly well worth the Alexander Hamilton.  A tad cloying in a malty syrupy way, but still pretty tasty.  Aged in bourbon casks this has a nice little touch of vanilla and oaky smokiness.  Took me a full half of football to finish and made my evening’s canoodling a bit of a disaster.

B+

Mad River John Barleycorn (2008)

9.5% ABV bottled

My man Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive hooked me up with this beer I’ve never heard of from a brewery I’ve never heard of.  But that’s cool, I haven’t heard of a lot of shit.  Like the famous Irish folk song this beer takes it’s name from (fun Wikipedia entry alert!)  So glad Jay sent this my way though, because it was very solid.  A nice burnt dried malty sweetness.  Very caramel tasting, but perhaps a little too boozy.  A little too boozy?!  Am I growing soft?  (Did I just end a second straight beer review with an inadvertant e.d. barb?)

B+

Dieu Du Ciel! Solstice D’hiver

9.8% ABV bottled

Montreal’s Dieu Du Ciel! (the exclamation point is part of their name (!!!)) has become THE latest brewery that, if I spot a bottle of their’s I have yet to try, there’s absolutely no chance I will pass on it.  Their stuff isn’t exactly super-rare or anything, it’s just that New York isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with stock of it.  And, ever since I tried their legendary Peche Mortel, a strong contender for best stout in North America, I’ve been on a mission to have everything they make.  True, I have yet to find anything quite as good as Peche Mortel–then again, few beers ARE as good as that–but everything I’ve had from the exclamatory brewery has been quite swell, unique little twists on standard styles.  Their barley wine was no exception.  Boozy caramel tastes like a fine liqueur you get in a hotel bar, with a strong bitter finish with the hops coming through strong.  Would be a nice candidate for aging but for the time being a quite pleasant sipper.  And Dieu Du Ciel always give you pleasant bottle artwork to admire as you start slip slidin’ away.

A-/B+

Equinoxe du Printemps

August 20th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel, Cigars, Country: Canada, Grade: B plus, Style: Scottish Ale

8.5% ABV bottled

What Makes Sammy Strip?

I was at a networking event which is interesting because I absolutely loathe “networking” and can’t think of a typically less interesting answer in the world than that to the question:  “So, what do you do for a living?’

Alas, the event had cigars, booze, splendid food, and a world-class skyscraper roof deck view to keep me sated.  Alack, the event was sans women in a “old boys club” kinda way, so I had no choice but to get loaded and talk to dudes.  How unseemly!

In fairness, it was a nice crew of upwardly mobile urban professionals dressed in nice clothes and living nice lives.  Most all with nice wives back at their nice (and owned) homes and apartments which meant the chicanery was at a lower–more “respectable” you might say–level than I’m accustomed to.

I was quiet and behaved, unable to speak much as the majority of conversation topics dealt with things I’ve never dealt with in my life nor may ever deal with:  seventy hour work weeks, nest egg creation, sweater vests, marriages, honeymoons, intended pregnancy.  I just sat back sucking down a Rocky Patel Ocean Club, a Holt’s Cigar company exclusive and a mini-masterpiece of a smoke, while tippling my second career beer from Canada’s brilliant Dieu du Ciel brewery, makers of the legendary Peche Mortel.  A “wee heavy” made with Quebec maple syrup, this brew has an unbelievable nose.  I expected greatness.  However, the taste is a little more muted.  Caramel malty and complex, but not an overwhelming explosion of flavors.  Nevertheless, an interesting and beautifully crafted winner.

I enjoyed my beer and smoke while enjoying the company, trying to learn a thing or two, decipher fancy business terms, acronyms, and unnecessary argot, vicariously living through these other men.  “Hmmmm…could I live this man’s life?” I wondered each time a I met a new, swell gent.

I didn’t think I could, but oh how quickly the sands go through the hourglass.  You never know.  Then, Sammy approached me.  A diminutive but jacked Indian, he was so aggressive in running up to me that I thought I was either being hit on, or that, more likely, Sammy was one of those hardcore networkers.  The kind of guy with a perpetual smile painted on his face, an overly happy demeanor oozing with artifice, an abundance of faux-enthusiasm that manifested itself in a lot of head nodding, “uh huh”-ing, and question asking.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  What do you do?  What can I do for you?  Oh, how do you know him?  Do you know her?  Gimme a card.  Shoot me an e-mail on Monday.  Let’s grab coffee.  Let’s get lunch.  Let’s do business together.  let’s facilitate a relationship.  Let’s make things happen.”

But, Sammy wasn’t like that.  Sammy had just entered the world of suits and ties, cubicles and offices, meetings and conference calls and coffee breaks.  He found the world of business quite boring.  But that was great for Sammy.  Sammy liked that.  For you see, Sammy’s previous job, career, occupation, vocation was a little more…interesting.

Sammy had been a male stripper.

I don’t know how the topic came up, I don’t know how we began discussing it, but as you can imagine, a besotted transgressive like me had plenty of questions to ask the man, it was almost as if I was interviewing Sammy.  And lucky for us, he was quite forthcoming in the sort of blase way that shows you he is so unimpressed with himself that he is surely being 100% honest.

“It’s a standard rule amongst male strippers:  no coming.  For some reason, these women have no problems with rubbing a strange man up and down, fondling him, touching him, pleasuring him, but the second he ejaculates, it’s like the record scratching at a party in old TV shows.  Now all of the sudden, the women are quickly sober and disgusted.  Not with themselves.  But with me!”

So you just have an erection for hours on end?

“No, a man has his needs.  And I could only take so much.  So I just decided to break the industry rules and let it fly.  But never in the face.  Never in the face.”

How did you get into this…field?

“I was poor.  Poor as dirt.  Working a shitty job at a shitty restaurant.  I became friends with one of the bus boys and one day he’s kinda staring me up and down.  What the fuck?  ‘You have a pretty nice body, dude.  Muscular.’  Is he hitting on me?!  No, he’s recruiting me!  Invites me to join him that night for a bachelorette party.  I couldn’t believe the bank.  How much cash I left with that night.  I was hooked!”

How much were you making?

“This is Ontario mind you, not New York City, but I was pulling $600, $1000 even a night.”

WHAT?!  Then why the fuck aren’t you still doing it?

“It was far too humiliating.  Embarrassing.  All these gross old ladies slobbering over me.”

You gotta be drunk, right?

“I’d drink a whole bottle of Patron before I went out there.  The naked part wasn’t the worst part it was all the dancing to cheesy music.  So fucking embarrassing.”

But all these women want you.  Doesn’t that make you feel good about yourself?

“I tell you bro, it’s hard for me to respect women after all the shit I’ve seen.  Women blowing me mere seconds after meeting me.  Grandmas, mothers, wives.  Fucking fiancees sucking my dick one day before their wedding.  It’s disgusting.  I can’t trust any women after that.”

None?

“None.  I guarantee you, most all the women you meet have done the same shit before.  Think of how nasty us men are.  Well women are worse!  They are all disgusting whores.”

Did they ever have sex with you?

“They all want to.  But I never did.”

Why?  Morals?

“Economics.  You never have sex with a client because once you pop, then you’re done.  How you gonna keep making money dancing with a deflated balloon hanging from your groin?  Not to mention all the women you don’t fuck are going to be jealous of the one woman you did fuck and are going to want to spite you.  So you tease all of the women, make each and every women think that she is the one you most want to fuck.  You tease them, milk the money, let them milk you, but never have sex with them.  Unless they are mindblowingly hot.  And then, only at the last second before you leave, after you’ve maxed out your earnings.”

“Pretty fucked up, huh?”

Absolutely.  I’m kinda disgusted with the human race myself.  Did you ever feel bad the next day?

“No.”

No?

“I felt rich.”

Uh, so you want to go another bar and try to pick up some girls?

“No.  I don’t have one night stands.”

B+

Peche Mortel

May 1st, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel, Country: Canada, Grade: A plus, Style: Stout

9.5% ABV bottled

They–meaning “good” people–always say to truculent assholes like me that, yeah, you’re right, the world will obviously still be up and running on all cylinders when me and you die, no matter how poorly we treat it, but we still have a responsibility to leave this world nice for our children and for our childrens’ children.  Recycling and maintaining itty bitty carbon footprints and not exploiting the land or our fellow man.

Well, I don’t plan on having any children*, so I guess I can continue to be an anti-environmental asshole, right?  Maybe.  But maybe not, if being a nice, sweet “green” dude means it will now be a part of my ethos to drink fair trade coffee.

Allow me to explain…

A few weeks ago I was bored, dicking around on Beer Advocate when I started studying their Top 100 list a bit trying to tip myself off to some great brews I had perhaps never heard of.  Those are sadly becoming fewer and farther between as my beer studies advance.**  However, this time I noticed a pop residing at the #15 position.  One I’d never heard of.  One with an odd “foreign”-soundin’ name.  Peche Mortel.  Interesting.  I didn’t do much further research at that moment and simply filed my newly-culled fact away in the ol’ Goldfarb memory bank.

Luckily, my research would serve me well as just a few days later I found myself at Whole Foods and came across a lone bottle of Peche Mortel residing on a high shelf.  My memory jogged like Chuck Bartowski’s Intersect-affected mind on “Chuck”–does any one in the entire world watch that show because that is one killer analogy I just made–and I quickly snatched the 12 ouncer off the shelf.  I examined the bottle.  Hmmm…an imperial stout from Montreal.  Odd, for some reason I thought it was gonna be a fruit beer from Belgium.  Maybe because I dumbly translated “peche” to mean “peach” and thought the funny language looked Belgian-y.  For the record, your honor, Peche Mortel actually stands for “Mortal Sin” if you’re as ineptly monolingual as I am.

That very weekend, while watching the sublime new “Thrilla in Manilla” doc on HBO, I popped the bottle with much anticipation and was floored by the intense coffee smell as the hot booze punched me in the snotbox the second I began to transfer the liquid from bottle to glass.  Whoa Nelly and Holy Cow, this is one great beer.  It tingles the tongue with a roasted coffee taste and pronounced bitterness, a smooth and creamy espresso body, and finishes with a subtle hint of sweetness.  I’ve had several great coffee beers lately, most notably Brooklyn’s Intensified Coffee Stout and Surly’s Coffee Bender, but this trumps them both.**  This is an incredibly complex stout and, personally, I think it’s even better than the much ballyhooed Kona-coffee-infused Founders Breakfast Stout.  That fair trade stuff is the real deal, brother.  And no, I still don’t really know what fair trade coffee is and am far too lazy to read the Wikipedia entry on it.

I honestly have no clue how rare this beer is as I just stumbled upon it through pure happenstance, but I am glad to learn that America, Jr. up north actually has another great beermaker aside from Unibroue.  Although, I’m not even sure if Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel makes anything else worthwhile as I know nothing about their other beers other than that they have some cool looking labels and their Aphrodisiaque sounds most exsquisite.  I’d love to get my hands on some if any one knows where to score ‘em.

Hey, it’s the era of grade inflation and I can’t help if I keep having masterpieces so…

A+

…I’ll try to drink something shitty this weekend, I promise.  Those are the most fun reviews.

Speaking of which, if any one has any tips for something abominable I can tipple for my next video review, please let me know:  theviceblog [at] gmail.com.

*On purpose that is, and probably not on accident either as I sit with a laptop on my balls for ten-plus hours a day, every day, and were my scrotum to be vivisected it would probably show a bed of long-perished spermatozoa floating atop a pool of neon green seminal fluid like dead fish at the end of a stream which has a tributary coming out of a nuclear power plant.

**If any one ever calls me an alcoholic, I’ll just start saying my beer studies are quite advanced.

**Quoth the brewers:

If you love really good coffee and really good beer equally, you will be thrilled with Péché Mortel. If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, and caffeine makes you bounce off the ceiling, then just put the bottle down and find something else to drink. This beer is all about coffee. Indeed, you may have seen ‘coffee stouts’ before, but no brewer has ever married coffee and beer so naturally and seamlessly.

Maudite

December 11th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Unibroue, Country: Canada, Grade: A-, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

8% ABV on draught

Let’s talk about dating bartenders. Seemingly the holy grail for a drunkard. Though in many ways that is true, those of us that have dated drinkslingers can attest that there are both pluses and minuses to the proposition. I thought of this dichotomy as I have just recently befriended an attractive female bartender, though we have yet to “date” per se.

I’ve never been one of those guys that likes dispensing dating advice, nor receiving it. Most people who are dating or relationship “experts” are all talk and no walk, similar to business “experts” that are poor and entrepreneurial “experts” that have never had a successful company. All those people are only successful at pumping out books of bad and untested advice that aimless and confused people for some reason actually pay money for.

Dating isn’t a do-this-and-then-that-and-then-she-will-like-you-bro game. It’s far more complex than that. And, if by my age you haven’t figured a few things out, you are in serious trouble. That’s why I like to document my successes and failures on this blog, so we can laugh at me, while still learning a thing or two. Simply put though, I’ve always felt if one is simply interesting, natural, and bold, then they will have much success in the world of women.

Having said all that, now it’s time for me to be a hypocrite as I have decided to make an if-then chart helping those decide whether they should date, fuck, or simply remain friends with a bartender.

Now, I’m not going to help you actually intrigue, actually pick up the bartender, that’s your job. All I would say is to please treat bartenders like normal females. Seems simple, but I notice that 99 out of 100 men don’t. Yes, she may be garbed in overly tight clothing that heaves her bosoms onto the bar unwittingly mopping up beer condensation. And, yes, she may be bottomed in hot pants that barely cover her labia.  But that doesn’t mean she is a slut.

Likewise, she is not a hooker and giving her an unnaturally large tip does not count as a pick-up line, in fact, it just makes you look sad and clueless. (Though, I suppose if it’s like $1000 on a two-pint tab that might be enough to get some future dates with her in which you can give her lots of jewelry and nice dinners and shit.) Furthermore, remember, while you are getting increasingly drunker throughout the night, she is usually remaining sober. So if she doesn’t seem truly interested in you by the time you get to, say, drink number four, just assume she isn’t interested in you at all. Post-drink four, you may think you have finally seduced her, but she is laughing at your jokes and siding with you in the dumb pop cultural arguments you are having with your buddy (”Who would win a fight, Sonny Corleone or Henry Hill?”) simply to placate you. In fact, she sees you as just another besotted slob like every other drunk male in the bar.

A few questions to ask yourself before jumping in:

1. How much do I like the bar she works at?

2. Do I foresee a long-term relationship with her?

3. Would a single one-night stand be enough?

4. How do I feel about future awkward situations?

I suppose the kind of lame “experts” employed by those sorts of men’s magazine that stink like bad cologne would say something pithy and trying-to-be witty like, “Don’t shit where you drink,” but I don’t completely agree with that unless you live in fucking Mayberry. I especially disagree with that statement if you live in New York City. There’s another bar just around every corner. Then again, there’s plenty of women around the corner too. So you have to decide to what level you like each because, as economists know, the world is all about trade-offs.

Is the bar some place you treat the same way Jerry treated Monk’s coffee shop, a place you gather everyday after work for drinks with friends, to watch the big game, to eat mozzarella sticks? Is the bartender a girl you could legitimately see yourself dating for a lengthy time period? Or is she just too fucking hot to pass up a night of meaningless sex with, future consequences be damned?

Some other things to consider. Dating bartenders can be very demanding. Many of them have to work til closing time and still count the register, turn off the countless TVs, and mop up shit, leaving you to sit tired at the bar watching a fifth straight running of “Sportscenter” on closed-captioning as the bar backs and bouncers angrily stare at you, mostly mad because you’re the guy dating their coworker they’ve had an unrequited crush on for so long. Likewise, visiting your bartender girlfriend on a busy night can be somewhat akin to dating a stripper as you are forced to sit by yourself as your amore faux-flirts with other males while pretending to accept their sleazy advances. I find it utterly amusing to watch males flounder in their seductions, but I know most men get jealous upon seeing such things.

Let’s look at some sample scenarios:

1. Bar is your home away from home. Your living room in another location. It’s where all your friends hang, it’s where you meet all your hookups, it’s “your” place, man. The bartender is highly attractive but you see the potential for her annoying you down the road.

AARON SAYS: Just stay friendly with the bartender. You’ll get some free drinks out of it at best.  At worst, you won’t alienate you and your friends from a favored watering hole.

2. Bar is on the other side of town. The side of town you fucking hate. Bartender is a, let’s say, 6 out of 10.

AARON SAYS: Try to pick her up that night for a one-night stand. If you fail, no harm no foul. That side of town sucks and you’ll never need to visit that bar again.

3. Bar is on the Upper East Side–

AARON SAYS: Whoa, stop right there. Why in the world are you on the UES? Hail a cab and get the fuck out of there!

4. Bar is decent and unremarkable, nothing distinguishing it from any other bar in the city. Bartender seems like someone you could marry.

AARON SAYS: Then fucking date her! It’s not that hard. What do I need to hold your hand on all your decision?! Jesus.*

Now let’s get to my situation. Having some time to kill before meeting a friend on a Friday night, I wanted to find a place to grab a few drinks and possibly some grub. I walked through lower Hell’s Kitchen trying to find the crummiest bar I could. Crummy because with it being a Friday happy hour I wanted a quiet spot where I could actually get a seat and avoid being jostled by slobbering Heineken drinkers. After several false starts–walking in the bar, seeing the scene, immediately walking out of the bar–I finally found a place that looked like a dump. A place I had passed by for years but had always avoided. Surely this place would be empty. It was.

However, it was also incredible! The outer facade of a dive bar but the interior of an upscale watering hole. I hunkered down at the bar and was floored by their unbelievable tap selection: Allagash Black, several Ommegangs, and a few Unibroue offerings as well, all at a mere $5 a pint. I ordered a sandwich and it too was sublime. Throw in some gorgeous flatscreens from which I monitored several NBA games at once and I was absolutely digging this little gem I’d discovered.

Then the bar had a shift change and I was greeted by a new bartender. We flirted, we hit it off, I made a smooth exit, she stalked me on Facebook, and you’re up to speed.

Our first “date” wasn’t exactly a date. It was quiet on a Tuesday night, I was at home plotting how to rule the world when I got a text from her:

“bored at work, come by.”

No problems there. I arrived at the bar at 10:00 PM to find myself the only patron there, save one crazy lunatic in the corner drinking Guinness with a shot of Stoli Vanil poured in (seriously). The bartender and I spent the next few hours shooting the shit and learning about each other while she continued to refreshen my pints. I got to try Maudite on draft for the first time, something I was quite amped up for being that Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde is one of my favorite brews on the planet. Thinner mouthfeel than I expected but still very good. Malty and spicy with some fruit esters. I felt it could have used a tad more carbonation as well but I don’t have many more complaints than that.

That night I learned that the bar is so infrequented that my bartender is allowed to close it whenever she thinks business is done for the night. On this evening, that was around 1:00. Perfect. I can handle that. Waiting for your girl to finish her shift at 5 AM is fucking terrible.

She is a great person and we instantly had a connection.  She is also attractive, and young, and has other career options she is fervently pursuing.  Likewise, this isn’t a bar I had ever even been to previous than a week ago so I would have no problem if it was taken away from me.  Seemingly a perfect storm for taking the plunge and dating the bartender, right?

Not in this case.  Truth be told, I don’t think we will ever date cause quite frankly I think we have no sexual chemistry–and both of us realize it. But that’s still great because that means we can be just friends and our relationship will never sour, and she will never dump me or me her, and, thus, I can continue to drink glorious free beer in perpetuity. And I have a new good friend in the neighborhood to boot.

Everyone’s a winner. Especially me. Though, I guess, not especially whoever owns that bar that I’m milking for all its worth, absolutely plowing through pricey beer kegs.  I’m guessing I will put this place out of business soon.

A-

I’d like to hear your stories about picking up and/or dating your bartender. Bonus points if you are a woman that has used a male bartender only to get free drinks.

*I wish there was some sort of algorithm one could plug the stats into–how attractive the bartender is, how much of a catch she is, how cool the bar is, how often you go to the bar per week, how little disregard you personally have for your own future–to come up with a number exactly telling you what to do, but I couldn’t conceive of one.  Maybe my nerdier friends could help me there.

Unibroue 17

October 9th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Unibroue, Country: Canada, Grade: A regular, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

10% ABV from a bomber

My reviews this week have been pretty off-beat:  I had one for a mysterious (and possibly poisonous) homemade Bangladeshi whiskey, one for an artificially-colored red Barbadian lager that tasted like cinnamon soda, and tomorrow’s post will be a bit oddball as well.  Thus, I realized that I’d better get up a review for a legitimately good craft beer tonight, lest all the nerds in my audience feel alienated and desert The Vice Blog (”He used to be good.  Now all he reviews are pickle-flavored pilsners and malt-liquors with fruit roll-ups infused in them.”  “I agree totally.  And I think he makes up most of his stories too.”)  Naw, I can’t play my beer geek audience like that.  I couldn’t live with myself if they left me and were forced to read about quality beer on the websites of annoying and humorless pedants that use words like diacetyl in ordinary conversations (”I’m sorry, Mike, I’m not much of a beer guy, I don’t think I know the term ‘diacetyl.’  Could you speak to me in layman’s terms?”  “Uh…that was layman’s terms, Jim.”).  Pretentious twits that don’t even swallow.  The beer that is.  They don’t want to get drunk.  Not that their wives would allow them to, it might fuck up their chances of completing tomorrow’s “honey do” list.

My friend picked up a bottle of Unibroue’s Seventeenth anniversary last weekend and I was itching to try it.  Thus, I had to peer pressure him into letting me have some.  I’m still not sure how that works.  I don’t know why I don’t drink more Unibroue beers when I love them so much.  Heck, they produce one of my ten favorite beers on planet earth.  And their selections are both plentiful and cheap in NYC.  Maybe I take them for granted.  Or maybe I’m embarrassed that I have no idea how to pronounce the French-Canadian brewery’s name.  I always say “unibrow” as in, “Man, Ernie, your boyfriend Bert sure has a prominent unibrow.  Has he considered waxing or plucking?  Lasers even?”  But I know that pronunciation has to be incorrect.  Any how, I’m an American jingoist and I don’t like to say things with a nose-in-the-air, snotty French accent that sounds like you’re dry-heaving:  Oooo-na-brrrrrrrrrreeeeh.

Whatever the case, Unibroue makes great fucking beers and this special one-time-only release is quite swell too.  The fun thing about anniversary beers is that you rarely know what style you’re getting.  It’s always exciting to pop the cork or cap and–”Whoa!  I didn’t expect something that dark!”  I had no clue this was going to be a bottle-conditioned Belgian strong dark.  And a good one at that.  Smells and tastes of tons of purple fruits:  plums, grapes, raisins, and cherries.  Some nice potent heat, like a Scotch or red wine.  But still very drinkable, though I only had about 30% of the bottle (let’s just say my friend I was sharing the bomber with ”enjoys” quality beer at a slightly faster rate than me).  As with most potent brews, I enjoyed this one more the warmer it got.  Search it out and nab it if you can find it.  17 reminded me that I need to start reviewing more Unibrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeehs.

A

Bleue Legere Light

August 27th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Labatt, Country: Canada, Grade: D regular, Style: Macro!

4% ABV from bottles, cans, taps, and anything and everything else

In French Canada the Labatt Blue Light flows like water and the men make David Beckham look like John fuckin’ Wayne. I think I drank about seventy-five “Blue Lights”–as they’re known in the region–in slightly over two days while not seeing a Mapleleaf male with a waist larger than 26 inches the whole time.

On Saturday night we drove into the big city of Lakefield, Quebec looking for a place to wet our whistles and possibly our nether-regions. Driving around a town that is striving to one day be two-bit, we surprisingly found numerous watering holes, but not a single one of them a straight bar. How queer! Why were there so many gay bars and so many homosexuals in this town? It was like the Christopher Street of the Great White North. Eventually, we realized these pixieish little men, with their sleeveless mesh shirts, Rafael Nadal capris, circa year 2003 faux-hawks, and aviator sunglasses worn indoors, were in fact the straight men of the town. Great Caesar’s Ghost!

No matter, the women in the town were sah-moking hot and when Gary, Dan, and I–three strapping young Americans–entered the bar, the ladies got whiplash they spun so quickly in their seats to ogle us. Despite the fact that we are of average build and dress in the States, to these women we must have looked like some UFC fighters passing through the area.

In this pub slash discotheque slash pool parlor, as the men unironically danced to such 1980s hits as Canada’s own Corey Hart’s “I Wear My Sunglasses At Night” (while as previously mentioned wearing their sunglasses at night), we were free to slug cheap beers we purchased with loonies and twonies while making plays on the gorgeous ladies. That was fun and successful, but not as fun as trying to figure out why French Canadian men dress like late-1990s American sitcom interpretations of what flaming homosexuals dress and act like. Alas, we never came to a definitive answer. But we laughed a lot. Especially at all the biker “gangs” that likewise inhabit the region and bar scene. Let’s just say, the motorcyclist in The Village People would even call these straight men “fruits.”

Oh yeah, Blue Light kinda sucks too. Labatt regular is a solid enough, above-average macro, but the Light tastes as if they’ve treated the regular like a concentrate and added 2/3rds water to each bottle to make it less potent. I guess Franco-Canadian men are in fact so sissy that they need to feel some false machismo by claiming they can polish off thirty beers in a night. Well fuck, an old lady hooked up to a dialysis machine could drink Labatt Blue Light all night and I’m not even sure her doctor would mind.

D

Humorous postscript: I saw several “men” at the bar drinking some oddly labeled bottle called 0.5. As in 0.5% ABV. Labatt’s Low-low alcohol beer. Sheesh. What a province of pussies.

Molson Export

August 26th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 8 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Molson, Country: Canada, Grade: C-, Style: Pale Ale

5% ABV from a bottle

Looking for fun in a seemingly boring town? Stuff your pockets with a few beers and hit the local Wal-Mart. Smalltown Wal-Marts are like wild game resorts. But instead of shooting bullets and arrows at deer, you can go to these white trash locations to hurl laughter, insults, and invectives at the fucked up local people and their even more fucked up products.

Such was the case when I was in North Country this weekend with my friends Gary and Dan, two brothers who grew up in the area and somehow survived to prosper. After having already seen the Dunkin Donuts inside the gas station and the old man that whittles on the edge of his porch, we needed to locate some more fun. Gary told me if we went to the Malone, NY Wal-Mart Supercenter that I would see things that would scar me for life. Or, at least, make me laugh until I was keeled over on the tobacco chaw-stained linoleum*.

So, after pounding a few Molson Exes–a surprisingly adequate beer, not great, but some decent ale body and flavor, and very drinkable compared to most shit macros–we headed over to the big box store, a taupe-colored monolith on the horizon. Gary warned me that inbreeding was prevalent and I would see some of the ugliest people on planet earth, but I still wasn’t completely prepared for what I was to witness.

Firstly, every person in town is constantly drinking Mountain Dew. It’s the only thing these people swallow beside beer and the slobber running down their gape-jawed faces. I would speculate that these giant beasts need the intense caffeine in order to locomote themselves around town, but I cannot be certain as not much walking seems to be done. Whereas in a normal city like New York where I live, the most prominent sodas are going to be your Cokes, your Pepsis, maybe Sprite or Dr. Pepper, in Malone those are the sodas of hoity toity fancypants folks. In Malone they say, “Give me Dew, or give me death.” I was absolutely stunned how the Wal-Mart soda selection was about a fifteen feet cooler across of all various flavors of the typically green nectar. I bet you think that all that exists is Mountain Dew and Diet Dew. Heck, maybe you’ve even heard of Code Red. Well you would be stunned at how many other variants there are. I don’t recall their wacky names, but I saw blue Dew, purple Dew, orange Dew, teal Dew, and countless other flavors and colors I can’t even remember. It was stunning.

For solid sustenance, the local indulgences of choice are hot dogs and ice cream. More, specifically, Glazier hot dogs, a bizarre fire engine-red-cased wiener unique to the area and made at a nearby meat plant. More specifically than that, the folk like their dogs “Michigan” style, which is a Glazier dog covered in some cheap spaghetti sauce. I’ve never seen people who give such a damn about meager hot dogs. In most of the world, people specifically avoid hot dogs unless they are broke, at a ball game, or in an eating contest. But not in North Country. Everywhere we went people were stuffing their faces with Glaziers like they were manna from above. And anywhere we went people would offer us these dogs. This must have happened two dozen times in a long weekend. When we turned them down, they thought we were the crazy ones. Who in their right mind would turn down a hot dog?! It was fucking bizarre.

Likewise with ice cream. I’ve never seen so many stands, huts, and shacks selling ice cream in a single location. Ice cream is not simply a dessert, not simply an occasional summer treat to cool down in North Country. No, there it is the stomach lubrication that guarantees one will continue to function while producing asses so big they aren’t allowed to ride roller coasters and need houses with custom wide-mouthed toilet seats. Ironically, just like the Dew cans which are also wide-mouthed.

So, these behemoths are riding their rascals and pushing their shopping carts through the Wal-Mart while they eat Glaziers, lap up ice cream, and guzzle Mountain Dew. Appearance-wise, most have completely shaved heads though those with hair have ratty ponytails or John Kruk-quality mullets. And facial hair is a must. Most opt for a goatees though fu machus are popular too. These are absolutely ridiculous looks as the locals have such fat fucking faces that goatees which are typically located on the most southern point of one’s face–i.e. their chin–are instead floating somewhere in the middle of their mugs, several extra chins of ooze residing underneath. This causes an oddball look similar to Al Jolson’s white ring around his mouth when he dressed in blackface to sing “Mammy.”

And Gary was right. Their faces, oh their faces. They just look mentally impaired. Doofy motherfuckers with always-opened mouths and eyeballs with nothing going on behind them. Everyone is so pale too. And of course they literally have rednecks.

For clothes, cheap and dirty construction crew t-shirts lacking sleeves. Sleeves are anathema to North Country. For lowerwear, I don’t think you will be surprised that jorts are the haute couture. Possibly topped off with a NASCAR hat or some fishing bucket cap. Any outfit fancier than that will betray you as being an outsider. One local man wondered Gary was so “spiffed” up. My pal was wearing a Joba Chamberlain t-shirt jersey, dirty cargo shorts, and flip-flops!

And we actually met a man named Bub. A man named Bub!

I’ve never heard such overt racism. Which is funny because after ordering food from a black Burger King employee at a rest stop on Thursday night somewhere about an hour north of the city on I-87, I didn’t see another person of African decent for the next four days. Everywhere we went it was n-word this and n-word that. I saw a motorcyclist at the Wal-Mart with a bumper sticker affixed to his helmet which simply read: “If you don’t speak English, get the fuck out of my country.” Suffice to say, I pretended I wasn’t a Jew, spending the weekend introducing myself as “Christian Christiansen” while eliminating all the Yiddish words and expressions that often spice my communications. Thus, “tchotchkes” became “shit on da’ walls at da’ diner,” “nosh” became “grub on some Glaziers,” and bagel because “crazy hole bread.” Likewise, when the drunk rednecks pulled out the firearms and munitions I had to catch myself from saying, “Oy vey, this is mishigas!”

Other favorite local argot would include “pussy” and “faggot.” As in, “‘eh pussy, quit bein’ a feh-gat and lets go get sum Glay-sher hawt dahgs.” In North Country, if you don’t do something some one wants you to do, thinks you should do, then you are immediately a pussy or a faggot.  Sometimes both.

Not that you can understand what these folks are saying. A drunk Bela Karolyi would be far easier for me to understand. Their speaking style is a cross between someone with Bell’s palsy and someone that accidentally staple-gunned their lips to each other. Their cadence is loud and jutting. Words explode from the back of their throats, with incorrect syllables given some extra oomph. Not that many polysyllabic words are spoken. Their accents are an oddball amalgam of Buffalo lower class, Canadian lower class, and person pretending to be a retard. Makes the accents of Western NYers sound sophisticated. Or at least good enough for voiceover work. I just nodded when these folks spoke to me, unsure what exactly was being conveyed. Eventually I figured some things out.

Thus the common North Country phrase:

“Waaaaaaaaaah, luck ada tiiiihts ahn ‘er. Yer’ a pah-oooooooooo-see if ya’ done ga’ ‘it on ‘er, ayh gahya.”

Would translate to:

“Wow, look at the tits on her. You’re a pussy if you don’t go hit on her, eh guy.”

Not that there are any tits worth looking at for hundreds of miles around. Ever heard the crass expression “fun bags”? Well I would say that the women in the area have un-fun bags, gigantic sacks of fat dangling from their obese torsos, pulling their back down and make them hunched over as they drag their sickly little retard children around on leashes.

Oh, the products these people buy! They stuff their carts with all sorts of shit. Upon entering I immediately saw a section of beer signs. You could literally buy the kinds of cheap signs promoting cheap shit beers that many eighteen year olds hang in their dorm rooms. And they seemed to be doing a brisk business as that area was one of the more messed-with sections of the store.

You can also purchase food at Wal-Mart. All of it frozen and fat-laden. Tons of microwave pizzas and sacks of knock-off Ore-Ida products. The most fucked up thing I saw though were hot dogs wrapped in pancakes (both chocolate chip and blueberry flavor!)

The beer section is a tribute to quantity not quality.  24 cases of beers you’ve never heard of for the low, low price of $4.99.

Finally, in the back of the store, we stumbled upon an entire aisle devoted to furry steering wheel covers. An entire aisle! I didn’t even know this product existed, but in Malone their must be a huge demand for it. Firstly, why do you need to cover your steering wheel with anything and second, why would you want it to be furry like a cheap bath mat?! I do not know these answers. I don’t not know the answers to most of the questions I was confronted with during my hour in Wal-Mart. I was as flummoxed as the first time I heard about String Theory. It became too much. I felt weak, I felt like throwing up. I needed to get back to the car and just be alone for a while. And be thankful I would never enter the North Country Wal-Mart again.

C-

*Gary encouraged me to blast his hometown as much as I could. He noted that no one there knows how to use the internet so no one from there will ever read this. I don’t completely believe him so I look forward to hearing from North Country folks in the comments.

La Fin Du Monde

June 24th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Unibroue, Country: Canada, Grade: A regular, Style: Tripel

9% ABV from a bomber

When most people think of beer drinking in Canada, they probably imagine two hosers like the McKenzie Brothers pouring can after can of Labatt or Molson down their faces while ice fishing, eating poutine, butchering the English language, and rooting on the Mapleleafs. And, admittedly, Labatt and Molson are solid enough beers. For getting wasted while ice fishing, eating poutine, butchering the English language, and rooting on the Mapleleafs. But, surprisingly enough, there are some world class brews coming from America, Jr. And, it all begins with Montreal’s Unibroue brewery which produces what might be the country’s best single beer in La Fin Du Monde (which my Francophile friend tells me means “End of the World”–nice!).

Not just that, but La Fin Du Monde is extraordinarily accessible in the Northeast U.S. That’s partly due to the fact that La Fin is “bottle conditioned.” This means that the beer isn’t fully fermented and contains yeast sediment (”on the lees” it’s called) which allows for further fermentation after bottling. This allows for several things. First, it lets the beer be cheaply shipped and stocked, making it very accessible in outside markets. I pick up bombers of La Fin and several of Unibroue’s other quality beers for around $6 a bomber at my local supermarket. In fact, La Fin is quite possibly the “high-brow” beer I drink the most. And, at that cheap of price and with that high of ABV, you can make your night end nicely for an amazing cost.

Bottle conditioning also produces beer that is perfect for cellaring. Filtered beers have a short shelf life and necessitate tacky “born on” dating because once their compounds begin breaking down the beer becomes unpleasant tasting. Most folks would counter that most of your filtered macro beers already are unpleasant tasting. Remember kids, filtering something does not always make it better, despite what Brita may have us believe. The live yeast inside an unfiltered bottle-conditioned beer acts against these processes, giving the brew a longer, if not infinite, shelf life in which the flavor will continue to get better and better and the taste more and more complex as it ages.

These points are all moot for me, however, as my career record for the longest I’ve ever gone without drinking an amazing beer I’ve purchased is some ten days. And that was only because I was ill during that time and only able to consume egg drop soup. Plus, living in a fifth floor Manhattan walk-up, I don’t exactly have room to stow countless beers while they age. And, I certainly don’t have a cellar. Rather, I do have a cellar but it’s a communal building one where we deposit our trash and recyclables, maintain a menagerie of vermin, and provide a creepy, dank place for our perverted building super Chet to bring hookers home to. I can just imagine what would happen were I to start “cellaring” my La Fins and top-fermented trappist ales down there. Let’s just say, I know one bum that would greatly appreciate going from drinking Boone’s Farm to aged Orval.

As mentioned, bottled-conditioned beers have yeast sediment in them. So, if you open the beer early you will literally see chunks, for lack of a better word, of products floating in the beer. It’s like the fresh-squeezed pulp of the industry. You unadventurous people that exclusively drink macros will probably be freaked out and think you have a rotten, tainted beer, calling the company to file a complaint, but it is in fact nothing to worry about.

Pouring the goldenrod La Fin out, the head of the beer is like a primordial soup, with so much activity occurring in the foam. It’s like a lab experiment. You could probably look at it under a microscope and see organisms interacting and fucking each other! But not to worry–the yeast sediment is incredibly tasty with very earthy flavors, and, best of all, it’s packed with Vitamin B! Did someone say health beer?! In fact, in some countries, it’s a ritual to separate the sediment from the beer and drink it as a shot.

Sweating my balls off in my bedroom as a busy weekend comes to an end this was a perfect beer to wet my whistle. Technically a tripel, La Fin smells great, one of the best and most odoriferous beers I’ve ever encountered. It’s incredibly tasty, incredibly malty, incredibly yeasty of course, incredibly everything. It’s creamy, buttery, full of fruit hints like apple and pear. And it has a spicy and peppery finish. Near perfect. Got to be about the most drinkable 9% beer on the planet. I really can’t imagine someone disliking this beer.

If the world was truly coming to an end, you would certainly go out in style with a La Fin Du Monde as your last tipple. The French name reminds me of my favorite Latin saying: Bibamus, moriendum est. Death is inevitable, let’s get drunk.

A

Labatt Blue

June 12th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Labatt, Country: Canada, Grade: C-, Style: Macro!

(Beer not pictured since I’m rarely sober enough to operate my camera when drinking this one)

5% ABV in six-pack bottled form

I don’t know much about the Muslim culture. Not cause I’m a bigot, but simply because you don’t usually stumble upon the Islam entry on wikipedia when you’re starting on things like “Brian Bosworth” and working your way around hyperlink by hyperlink (Bosworth > Bo Jackson > Baseball > Asia > Islam, voila!). Having said that, I don’t think the Muslims that run the bodega next door to my Hell’s Kitchen hovel much like me. Not because I’m a jerk or anything, but rather because my lifestyle is most certainly antithetical to their Muslim beliefs. At 10:00 AM I’m paying for a roll of Mentos, “Oh, and I’ll take the twenty pack of Durex behind you.” On Sundays I’m strolling out of bed hungover and unshowered at two in the afternoon and asking them if breakfast sandwiches are still available. And, on many Friday and Saturday nights at 4 AM I’m returning from the bars to pick up some brews for a nightcap. You see, let’s just say that not a lot of high-brow beer purveyors are open at these late hours and thus I’m forced to patronize the Muslim bodega if I want to keep my buzz goin’. And pick up some Cheetos. It is at these times that I get leered at by the Muslim owners as if I’m a black in the Jim Crow south. (Note to self: Look up wikipedia entry, “Muslims and their beliefs on American alcoholic, promiscuous youths.)

And, it just so happens that Labatt is the best beer my bodega sells. Luckily, I love Labatt like any upstate boy should. It’s probably my favorite macro in fact. I wouldn’t insult it by calling it a “session” beer but goddamn I love to throw ‘em back. So I guess it’s my favorite late-late-night session beer. Canadians make good macros like Labatt and Molson because at least they put some punch in their beer. 5% is a good number when you’re drinking piss water. Most American macros hover in the 4th percentile. Shameful. I won’t claim that Labatt tastes great, and on those rare times when I drink it sober I’m like, “God lord, did this beer go bad?!” However, Labatt is not nearly as watery as the America macros, has a bit of taste, and actually doesn’t hurt sliding down your throat like it’s peroxide. Bonus points for feeling like I should root for the Maple Leafs while drinking Labatt.

Labatt is like the kinda chubby girl you booty call only when you’re shitcanned. The girl who you finish your business with and then whose house you have left before your BAC is back into single digits. Both serve their purpose and so long as you don’t indulge in them while stone-cold sober than you won’t have any problems.

C-