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Archive for the ‘Grade: A-/B+’ Category

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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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!!!

Marshall Brewing Co.

February 11th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Marshall, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Style: English bitter, Style: IPA, Style: Porter

When I actually lived in Oklahoma I wasn’t much of a craft beer drinker because, you know, I was just a little kid.  And little kids can only afford macro beers with their $1 a week allowances.  But as I got older and returned from college and beyond to visit Oklahoma family and friends, hit up the bars, I’d be stupefied by two things:

1.  Beers were often as cheap as 50 cents to a dollar a bottle.

2.  And not only was the majority of beer macro shit, it was low-ABV macro shit.

I remember just five years ago going bar hopping with an Oklahoma friend in his element and noticing that at each new bar we hit up he’d inquire of the bartender, “Is your beer 3.2?”

3.2?  What the fuck did that mean?  Well apparently, many Oklahoma establishments, perhaps even due to law (though I’m too lazy to even Wikipedia this), don’t serve your standard 4-5% macro garbage put serve even more watered down 3.2% macro garbage.

Worse, Oklahoma is one of three states that still doesn’t allow homebrewing!

This obviously did not help create a culture of craft brewing nor does it exactly lead to Oklahoma being a hot bed of quality beer.  Yet people persevere.

Without homebrewing, the minor leagues, or perhaps “semi-pros,” of commercial brewing, it’s hard to forge craft brewers in your state.  Nevertheless, Eric Marshall of Marshall Brewing was able to open a brewery in Tulsa, Tulsa’s first production brewery since 1940, and they make some pretty nifty beers.  I first became aware of them a few weeks ago when I saw a picture of their gorgeous wax-dipped bombers and instantly I wanted some.

Now they don’t distribute to New York City yet, but that didn’t stop me from sending a shameless e-mail to Mr. Marshall begging him to send me some bottles.  Gratis.  And he did.  Gratis.  (Meaning Marshall Brewing Co. is now in the Breweries-That-Send-Me-Free-Shit Hall of Fame along with The Lost Abbey and Buckbean, if you are interested FTC.*)  I received essentially Marshall’s full line with the exception of their summer seasonal Sundown Wheat and their Old Pavilion Pilsner, both of which I hope to try soon.  (A higher-ABV beer is also on the way apparently, which greatly interests me.)

McNellie’s Pub Ale

5% ABV bottled

Now the English bitter is not a style I deal with a lot, but, McNellie’s Pub Ale is ranked as one of Beer Advocate’s top of the style.  I feel like bitters can be easy to confuse for a macro if you don’t focus on their very nice subtleties.  This is a pleasantly light beer with a nice hoppy taste.  Surprisingly bready and malty, though just barely, just enough to balance it out and let you know you’re drinking something complex and well thought out.  The very bitter finish is it’s most noteworthy asset, while it’s overly prickly carbonation stands as its biggest debit.  Nonetheless, a terrific session beer I’d drink the shit of if I lived back in the Sooner State.


Atlas India Pale Ale

6.5% ABV bottled

I was most excited to try this offering, more of an English IPA than your San Diego uber-hopped example of the style.  Hoppy but not too bitter at all with a solid bready malt backbone.  The dry dry finish almost makes Atlas seem more like an ESB than an IPA but there’s nothing wrong with that.  A prickly carbonation (yet again) that I wouldn’t mind having toned down a tad.  Solid and incredibly drinkable, a terrific beer.


Big Jamoke

6.8% ABV bottled

This highly drinkable porter introduces itself with a very rich chocolate smell.  The taste is of dark cocoa with just a hint of hoppy bitterness, smoke, and a roasted coffee finish.  A nicely mild carbonation, I thought Jamoke was a little thin on the mouthfeel but that’s my only quibble.  I really enjoyed Jamoke and it’s a great effort.


One more thing on Marshall Brewing:  now the wax-dipped bombers may be what first piqued my interest about the company (I’m a sucker for fancy pants packaging) but they ended up being what I liked least about the beers.  The actual wax-dippings were more hardened plastic than silky wax, making the bottles hard to open and causing the brittle wax to keep breaking off into shards everywhere, onto my counter top, floor, some even fell into my glass as I poured.

*Brewers, if you’d like to join this prestigious Hall of Fame, please contact me:  theviceblog [at] gmail.com

The Bruery 2 Turtle Doves

December 16th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brasserie d'Achouffe, Brewer: High Point, Brewer: Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Brewer: The Bruery, Country: America, Country: Belgium, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

12% ABV on tap

“You’re not sthupposed to review that.”

I turned to see some weaselly-looking pot-bellied virgin in a Blue Point pullover addressing me.  He had a slight lisp which is always more annoying than a full lisp for some reason*.

“’scuse me?”  Usually when I go to beer bars to geek out I go by myself and at off-hours so no one will see me nor bother me, the same strategy most XXX theater fanatics employ.

“You’re not sthupposed to officially review sthuch a small serving size.”

The pot-bellied weasel aimed his unkempt pointer finger at the flight of four beers I’d just ordered.  Rattle ‘n’ Hum was hosting a winter beer blowout and with dozens of brews I wanted to try and only an hour or two to spare on a Tuesday afternoon, I had no time for full pours.

The pot-bellied weasel had apparently seen me making a few reviewing notes on my iphone and, wanting to show off the sort of annoying pedagogy that would assure a lonely life for him, had pounced on me.

“You’re sthupposed to at least have an eight ounce pour to officially review something.  You’re not sthupposed to review so many beers in one sitting either.”  He started into a stuttering chuckle.  “You’re what, what, what we call a ‘ticker.’  Someone who tries to quickly review as many beers as possible just to say they drank them.”

I smiled knowingly and calmly, sipped one of the four beers in front of me.  I like being berated by asocial nerds with slight lisps.  It’s like getting dressed down by Don Rickles except totally the opposite.  I said nothing.

“I’m just telling you for your own good, man.”

The pot-bellied weasel had finished his rant and looked down, ashamed of his standing in life.

“What are you, on Beer Advocate?” I finally spoke.

“BA?  Yes I am.”

“What’s your user name?  I bet it’s something like stoutslurper69 or something.”

“I’m totallyhopsome.”

“And your avatar?  Which ‘Star Trek: The New Generation’ character did you pick?  Data or Geordi La Forge?”

He didn’t respond as I quickly looked up his profile on my iphone.

“Ah…Number Six.  Sexy.”

I held up one of my tiny glasses of beer.

“Let me tell you something.  It’s just beer.  Repeat after me:  it’s just beer.  Just a liquid.  You see, cool people like me use this liquid to enhance our lives.  We use it to make us feel good, to help us celebrate life, to aid in our understanding of the universe.  I’m already interesting enough as it is but this beer is going to make me even more interesting and in a few hours I’ll use that turbo-boost of charisma to perhaps pick up a woman, take her home, and then Greco-Roman wrestle with her.  So yeah, I suppose my beer reviews could be lacking, but at least I like myself.”

I may not go back to a bar for the rest of the month as over-flowing NYC bars seem to be currently divided between these people that don’t like themselves at all and people that like themselves a little too much.  Rattle ‘n’ Hum last night was a Sharks and Jets battle between these two incredibly annoying populations.  On one side we had a bunch of drunken yahoos who had just come from their official work Christmas parties.  Idiots in cheap suits and tacky skirts, flirting with that fat HR girl, the guido idiot in the mailroom.  Ripping on their a-hole bosses.  Slobbering, slurring, trying to dance.  What happens at the Christmas party stays at the Christmas party and I unfortunately had to witness it.

On the other side we had the self-loathing beer geeks, pedantic in their pseudo-scientific non-enjoyment of beer, embarrassing in the nerdy browbeating way they ordered from the bartenders (”Uh…could I have a tulip glass please!”), pitiable in the “big dick contest” way they bragged about what saught-after beers they’d tried recently, aloof in how they presented their disgusting visages to the world.  You’d think the kind of person that cares so much about the look, smell, and craftsmanship of a silly liquid would care as equally much about the look, smell, and craftsmanship of their own person.  Naw, better to just rip on beers with bad carbonation than to worry about getting the orange wax out of your ears and do a few deep-knee bends.

Flying solo I had just four beers, all in smallish serving vessels the geek was right, but you’d have to be a dunce not to “understand” these beers after only 4 or 5 ounces:

I love the concept of The Bruery’s 12 Days of Christmas vertical and I too one day, when I open my own brewery, hope to have my own holiday themed vertical:  The 10 Plagues of Passover series.  (”Trade you two Death of the First Born quads for a Locusts barley wine?”)  2 Turtle Doves is, no duh, the second in the series set to conclude on Jesus’s bday 2019 when I’ll be 40 years old, still unmarried and without kids, but with 12 dusty bottles of beer to drink.  Yay for having dreams!  2 Turtle Doves is another boozy winner from The Bruery, maybe the most buzz worthy beermakers around at this second in time.  Chocolaty, nutty, caramely and roasted with perhaps some dark fruit flavors, slightly sour, a cordial finish, it gets better with each sip.  Glad I have several bottles of this.  A-

N’ice Chouffe is an odd little bird.  Like a Christmasy Belgian strong pale.  Which is as exotic and weird as it sounds.  Spicy and yeasty, a true Belgian take on a winter warmer.  A-/B+

I’d been searching for Ramstein Winter Wheat for awhile as I’d heard this New Jersey–New Jersey?!–offering was in the Aventinus ballpark.  Ha, not quite.  Aventinus is an utter masterpiece and a paradigm of the weizenbock style.  Ramstein Winter Wheat is dark and boozy hot, especially for a mere 9.5% beer, packed with banana esters and cloves, a little lacking in complexity, flavor, and expected silkiness.  Still enjoyable though.  B+

Pretty Things Babayaga is a rich and roasty 7% stout with a nice thick but not too viscous of mouthfeel.  It apparently has rosemary in it which I love in concept–it’s a favored addition to naan for me–but don’t taste in execution.  A solid effort but not sui generis or extraordinary.  Like the best crafted Guinness Extra Stout you’ve ever had.  B+

*I greatly admire the genius that decided to name the condition for people that can’t speak correctly a word that they could never pronounce correctly.  Listhp.  Maybe that’s the true test.  As soon as you can pronounce lisp correctly, son, then we’ll know you don’t have one no more.

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.


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?)


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.


Stone Collaborations

November 13th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Brewer: Cambridge, Brewer: Ken Schmidt, Brewer: Maui, Brewer: Stone, Country: America, Country: Scotland, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Pilsner, Style: Porter

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter

8.5% ABV bottled

Like corned beef, chopped liver, lox, and gefilte fish, macadamia nuts are one of those foods us Jews innately like for some reason.  But, unlike corned beef, chopped liver, lox, and gefilte fish, which you gentiles often don’t quite have a taste for, all human beings love macadamia nuts, arguably the world’s best nut.  Thus, I was quite excited for the first beer, I’m aware of, to be made using luxurious macadamia nuts.  As Morty Seinfeld once said, “They’re like 80 cents a nut!”  I’d really enjoyed the previous Stone collaboration beers I’d had–their Special Holiday Ale with Nogne O and Jolly Pumpkin and their Belgian Triple with Mikkeller and Alesmith–and luckily The Drunken Polack was able to secure me a bottle of this treat too!  This beer is cool in that one of the collaborators is a home brewer, the aforementioned Ken Schmidt, who won a contest Stone put on, crafting a beer so good the big boys from San Diego decided to try and recreate it on a larger scale.  This porter–as mentioned earlier this week, a “new” favorite style of mine–is getting near universal acclaim, but I wasn’t quite as floored as the masses.  And, I’ll readily admit, that’s probably due to my expectations.  What with its massively long name, essentially listing all the ingredients at once, I assumed the most prominent flavors would be of macadamia nuts and sweet coconut.  So, when I got a beer that was actually prominently focused on the Kona coffee, I was confused at first.  Eventually, being a big fan of coffee beers though, I grew to really enjoy this one.  This is very much a roasted, dark and rich beer ala Peche Mortel.  Not a hair of sweetness.  Really got only the slightest hint of slick sweet coconut and macadamia nuts on the finish, but maybe those with niftier pallates can extract those flavors better than I can.  Nonetheless, another great one from Stone.


Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

10% ABV bottled

Better and more succinctly named than the previous Stone collab, but equally hard to photograph with a non-label label I’m still not sure whether I like or not–major pain in the ass to have to get your magnifying glass out to figure out which of the collaborations you actually have–this was another beer sent to me by Drunken Polack.  A Stone completist, I absolutely needed to try this joint offering with BrewDog and Cambridge, but I actually wasn’t that excited for it.  A pilsner?  Bleh.  I was so wrong though, this was quite delicious.  After you get over the fact that you’re tasting an incredibly hoppy dark beer, you can see Juxtaposition for it brilliance.  Floral and piney on the smell, some added roastiness on the taste, shockingly drinkable for the ABV.  This isn’t quite the iconoclastic beer Stone seems to think it is–aside from the coloring–but it’s awesome nonetheless.  I wish I had more bottles of it.


Keep the collaborations comin’!

Smuttynose Robust Porter

November 9th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Smuttynose, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian Pale Ale, Style: IPA, Style: Porter

5.7% ABV bottled

The Most Underrated Brewery Around

This is an era of hype and of overrating things.  Of proclaiming each new thing the “best” and the “greatest,” and constantly trying to rank things in an easily digestible top 5 or top 10 or top 100 order. Even I had thought of doing a list of the most overrated breweries in America.  Because, of course, everything in this world nowadays is overrated in some way or other.  In fact, it would seem impossible for something, especially something well-known, to be underrated.  But sometimes things just slip through the cracks.  And today I want to talk about the most underrated brewery in America:  Smuttynose from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I’ve been guilty of underrating this fine brewery for far too long.  So has everyone else.  Why is that?  They have nicely named beers with great labels, their taps and bottles are ubiquitous on the East Coast and always at an incredibly reasonable price, and, naturally, all their beers are delicious.  But for some reason, I’ve never intentionally sought out Smuttynose beer, nor even reviewed a single one of their brews on The Vice Blog.  For shame, Aaron, for shame.  That’s all about to change with this post.

The odd thing is, aside from their popular pumpkin seasonal beer, I’m not even sure if I’d ever even had a Smuttynose release until I tried their eye-openingly good Smuttynose Gravitation Quad at this year SAVOR event, finding it to be perhaps the best American quadruple around, and good enough to stack up with the legendary Belgians.  It was maybe my favorite beer at a festival that had dozens of rarer and more ballyhooed beers.

Now you would think my experience at SAVOR would have been a watershed moment for me and I would have begun to intentionally start seeking out Smuttynose beers.  But, dumbly, I still didn’t.  I still passed over the countless reasonably priced offerings for sale at my bottle shops, avoided their taps while tying one on, eschewed their offerings completely.  Perhaps it was the simple fact that I always knew I could get Smuttynose beers if I wanted to that led me to avoid them.  Like the slutty girl on your dorm floor that you never hook up with because you know you can always hook up with her if need be.

The next time I tried a Smuttynose offering was the next time I was forced to.  At a mediocre Williamsburg bar with all macro offerings save Smuttynose IPA “Finest Kind,” I obviously had no choice.  And so glad my hand was forced because this is one of the most unique beers I’ve had this year.  Far and away the most pungently bitter IPA I’ve ever had, on my first tasting I alternated between sips of “this is amazing” and sips of “this is absolutely wretched.”  But for the rest of the week I couldn’t get the beer off my mind, and with future tastings I came to adore it.  Finest Kind now stands as one of my favorite single IPAs that are readily available, and if I’m at a bar with a tap of it, I now always have to have a pint.  (A-)

Yet even with that experience I was still not a Smuttynose acolyte.  Next, while trying to find a beer my sister might enjoy, I gave Smuttynose’s Hanami Ale a whirl and I was greatly impressed by this spring seasonal.  A nice and refreshing beer, this is the rare fruit beer that isn’t too overpowering, nor does it have a phony, artificial syrupy taste like most fruit beers.  Hanami Ale is now one of my go-to recommendations to girls-that-claim-they-hate-beer-but-are-forced-to-drink-beer-with-me.  And, you know, they always love it.  (B+)

Later this very summer, while at Rattle ‘n’ Hum one Saturday afternoon, I noticed Smuttynose’s Baltic Porter as being the only beer on the menu I had never tried.  Interestingly, as much as I had ignored Smuttynose, I had been ignoring porters for even longer.  For some reason, I assumed them to be the red-headed step-brother of far superior stouts.  I’ve since learned that is very much not the case and, in fact, though they are similar and this is purely anecdotal, I’ve found, ceteris paribus, that I actually often enjoy porters more than stouts.  Whereas a bad stout can have that overly roasted, burnt taste like a Starbucks coffee, porters often have a more pleasant, sweet and malty taste.  Such is the case with this phenomenal Baltic Porter.  Big bold flavors of sweet dark fruits with just an underlying hint of chocolate, this is one incredible beer.  (A)

Shockingly, I still wasn’t on the Smuttynose bandwagon.  What the fuck did I need?!  Am I such a dope that I need a brewery to have multiple entries on the Beer Advocate Top 100, that I need them to have a slew of barrel-aged beers, that I need them to have countless small batch release parties and overpriced beers for me to hail their greatness?  I guess so, because, again, just this week while watching the Yankees clinch #27, I only ordered Smuttynose’s Star Island Single because I was forced to with nothing else appealing on tap.  Glad my hand was played again because this Belgian pale ale, Smuttynose’s newest regular lineup release, is imminently drinkable and quite tasty.  Strong tastes of banana Laffy Taffy-like esters, honey and a nice citrusy yeastiness, I could drink these all night.  And, in fact, I did for 9 innings.  (A-/B+)

Finally, after having liked, loved, and been blow away by five Smuttynose beers in a row, did I decide last night to intentionally purchase one, grabbing a bottle of their Robust Porter to enjoy with the “Mad Men” finale.  Of course, such as life, this was my least favorite Smuttynose beer so far, but it was still very solid.  Dry and roasted, with a nice coffee and chocolate taste, this is a no-frills beer that is quite drinakble.  (B+)

I feel like it’s taken me a full year, if not a whole beer-drinking lifetime, to “discover” a brewery.  A brewery whose beers have been around me since I first started tippling the good stuff.  I’m excited to now have tons of new beers I want to try from Smuttynose.  Their Really Old Brown Dog old ale and their Big A IPA and their imperial stout and wheatwine and barleywine and all their others I have yet to have.

I still don’t understand why Smuttynose is universally underrated, maybe it’s due to their odd name, maybe due to getting overshadowed by their sister brewery Portsmouth and their legendary Kate the Great imperial stout, but I will no longer underrate what has easily become one of my favorite breweries in America.  Nor should you.

Mikkeller Beer Geeks

November 4th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Mikkeller, Country: Denmark, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Stout

10.9% ABV bottled

On Geekiness

Now it makes perfect sense to me how the world of comic books and sci-fi and computer games can attract geeks.  Of course they attract geeks.  Geeks are stereotyped as overweight undersexed obsessive loner nerds.  Why wouldn’t they commit their free time to fantasy worlds better than their own?  To worlds where nerds just like them can get bitten by a radioactive spider and are all of the sudden the coolest pajamas-wearing dude in all of the five boroughs.  Where innately knowing how to wield a lightsaber gets your hot sister to want to make out with you just to make Harrison Ford jealous.  Where being a shut-in who is really good at video games affords you the opportunity to play Super Mario Bros. 3 in front of adoring fans.   Geekiness makes sense among fantasy world devotees.  These people aren’t geeks because they follow fantasy.  They follow fantasy worlds because they are geeks.

Then what about sports?  Sports, at first glance, would seem surely less a bastion of geekiness.  I mean, aren’t jocks the ones usually picking on geeks since the beginning of time?  And, any how, everyone likes sports.  And most people played them at one point in their life too.  So how does geekiness infest the sports world?  I would argue here it’s an aspirational thing.  A fantasy world that is actually feasible for real humans to achieve so long as they practice hard and take lots of PEDs.  Sports also attracts nerds because it allows them to implement their honors math skills in a real world setting.

Now, I don’t think most people could possibly understand how beer could be geeky.  I’ve been a beer connoisseur of varying degrees for at least a half decade and I didn’t even fully understand the magnitude of beer geekiness until recently.  I mean, beer is so cool, right?  Beer is what the “bad” kids in school drank under the bleachers while the rest of us were cheering at pep rallies.  Beer is what we fed to girls in college to get them to sleep with us.  And have you seen beer commercials?  Uh, does that look like a geeky time?  Shirtless hunks and gummy-bear-implanted women and a lot of “woohoo-ing” and Spuds McKenzie!  No fucking way is that anything but the antithesis of geekiness.

But, sorry to say, beer culture is just as geeky as Star Trek or comic books or LARPing or baseball card collecting.  Go to any beer tasting or convention or special release party or event where a legendary brewmaster is set to appear and you will be slack-jawed at the geekitude.  The air will be permeated with the stench of dork.  (It smells kinda like inappropriate sweating and unfounded pretentiousness.)  Oh man, could you imagine if craft breweries had commercials depicting the true world of craft beer?  It would’t be hunks and sluts and party animals and Wassssuppping and Clydesdales.  No sir, an accurate craft beer commercial would depict a sausage party with a paucity of pussy and guys with pubic-like beards in too tight of brewery t-shirts proudly wielding their own personal tasting glasses like Minnesota Fats brandished his prize cue while debating the difference between storing their cellared bottles upright or sideways and waiting for Sam Calgione to arrive so they could pester him with arcane questions about yeast strains.  Par-tay!!!!!)

Thinking about how such a seemingly cool thing like beer drinking could have as great a geek quotient as a Half-Life party got me thinking.  Are there geeks in other aspects of life?  Perhaps in all aspects of life?  Are there geeks even in what would seemingly be the most super-cool niches of this world?!

Rock ‘n’ Roll

With drug-addled, chain-smokin’ long-haired men on strobe-lighted stages singing symphonies to the devil while gyrating the armadillos in their trousers in overt sexual manners, rock music has long attracted a committed following from two specific groups.  Reprehensible sluts is one, obviously.  But scratch the surface just a bit and you see that rock also attracts massive geeks.  For whatever reason, gross Matt Pinfield/Lester Bangs/Cameron Crowe types have long loved obsessing over men that are much cooler than them and the minutiae of the music these men create in the spare ten minute refractory periods in between their groupie fivesomes.  Like beer geekdom, a “High Fidelity” like obsession with rock music also involves a lot of hanging out with men men glorious men.  Perhaps the reason John Norris is such a big rock ‘n’ roll geek, come to think about it.


Surely there must be hard-core drug geeks that take their love for illegal narcotics to the same highly-critical extremes that we do.  There’s got to be a Coke Advocate website somewhere.  “The pour of my Bolivian Marching Powder from my two gram Ziploc baggy onto my West Elm mirrored coffee table cascaded out in a luxurious white stream akin to Niagara Falls in December…”  There must be a RateMeth too.  “The symetrical crystals had a nice mouthfeel as I swallowed them whole, unable to locate my pipe and a spare sheet of tin foil, no matter how frantically I searched my house…”  And there’s surely the Great American Weed Festival held every year in Boulder or Portland or Madison to honor the year’s best in marijuana releases.  I’m certain of all of this.


The idea of sex geeks seems paradoxical, impossible even, but I know they must exist too.  Men that go on message boards to scrutinize technique with each other.  Who attend conventions of some sort to trade insider secrets on the state of the art of fucking.  Men with Excel spreadsheets where each sex geek meticulously logs his “wants” and “hads.”  (Had:  twins, GMILF, ginger;  Wants:  Albino, hermaphrodite, circus clown.)  Actually, come to think of it, I may very well be a sex geek.  Moving along…

But even if I am a geek in any other genre, by now beer geekiness must surely be my forte.  And my geek fancy couldn’t help but be tickled by a line of beers that so brazenly holds a mirror up to us.  Aside from last year’s collaboration with Stone, these would be the first beers I had ever had from Mikkeller and, whoa, what a place to start!

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

10.9% ABV in a 500 mL bottling

I was lucky enough to try this at the wonderful Paradiso in our nation’s capital and so glad I did because this is a stunner of a beer.  From what I understand, Mikkeller doesn’t have their own brewery–in fact, the Mikkeller brewmasters actually have day jobs!–and this was brewed at Nogne O’s brewery.  Brunch Weasel is an asskicker of an oatmeal stout brewed using “the world’s most expensive coffees” (according to Mikkeller it’s around $100/lb) and “from droppings of weasel-like civet cats. The fussy Southeast Asian animals only eat the best and ripest coffee berries. Enzymes in their digestive system help to break down the bean. Workers collect the bean-containing droppings for Civet or Weasel Coffee” (again, according to Mikkeller…uh, are they joking????)  Whatever the case, this cat-shit beer is incredible, frequently residing in the 95-100 range on the BA Top 100*.  One of the most coffee-tasting beers I’ve ever had, yet not in that burnt, unpalatable roasted way a lot of coffee beers unfortunately are.  This has a nice chocolaty sweetness and a good boozy burn.  Much better for waking you up during Sunday brunch than a measly Bellini.


Beer Geek Breakfast

7.5% ABV in a 500 mL bottling

Based purely on anecdotal evidence, Breakfast seems to be easier found than Brunch Weasel and, such is life, it’s also not quite as tasty.  Though it’s still solid.  Opened for me with a frothy, latte explosion.  Bitter and muted, oaty and dark chocolaty, I missed the lack of booziness in this one compared to Brunch.  Good, but not worth trampling over a kid in a wheelchair for (Brunch most certainly is worth trampling over a handicap child for.)

I’d passed over Mikkeller beers for far too long–perhaps due to their lofty price tags (about $12-15 for the smallish bottles where I live)–but now I’m most certainly eager to try more of their offerings to see what these crazy Danes have a-brewing.

Looks like there’s a few more from the Beer Geek line, though they appear to be small-batch bottlings only available in Europe.  Darn.


Question of the day:  Where have you seen utter geekiness where you least expected it?

*I should note I have now become almost disenchanted with the BA Top 100.  It has become just too much of a Sisyphean task to tackle it.  Every time I have a Top 100 beer, a new exciting release comes out and meteorically jumps onto the list.  And, then, that same release usually has several similtaneous, even rarer, tap-only iterations (bourbon-barreled, oaked, vanilla beaned, cocoa nibbed) which add two to four more beers onto the Top 100 and all of the sudden you’re not gaining any ground on conquering the Top 100.  And let’s not discuss those times when you finally take down a Top 100 “white whale”–see Veritas 004 which I had last night–only to see that beer become “retired”–which Veritas 004 will almost certainly be in a few weeks or so–and then totally disappear from the list.  It becomes frustrating and I feel like I’ve been stuck in the “had” 65-70 of the Top 100 for the last few months with little traction made.  Which actually makes me happy, because now I’ve decided to just enjoy great beer, may the Top 100 list be damned.  (Unless of course I ever get me hands on some Black Tuesday and then, woohoo!, #1 beer in the world!!!!!!)

Bell’s The Oracle

October 22nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Bell's, Brewer: Founders, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: IPA, Style: Pale Ale

?% ABV bottled

The 3XL Underwear Date

I never am late but I was running late for this latest first date, if I can evoke the white rabbit a bit.  This was back in the early-2000s when preparation for a big weekend date involved polishing off a six-pack of Yuengling while watching the tail end of the afternoon’s college football games, opening my eyes and regaining some energy by drinking a can of Sparks while I showered, and finishing it off with a nice cocktail as I got dressed.  Not exactly a recipe for running on a tight schedule nor for impressing these women I was supposedly wooing.  Then again, they were often more drunk than me.

On this particularly night, out of the shower, I quickly prepared myself a gin and tonic to enjoy as I garbed myself.  I reached for one of the fresh unopened packs of boxer briefs I had just purchased.  Ripped the pack open, grabbed a pair, and quickly pulled them up and…they fell back down to my feet. They were fucking huge.  I glanced at the label.  3XL.  Shit.  I grabbed another pack.  3XL.  And the third and final pack.  3XL.  Fuck!

Earlier in the day I had been downtown near price-choppin’ clusterfuck par excellence Century 21 when I had fortuitously recalled that all my underwear were dirty and I had a date that very night.  I could, of course, just have hurried home and done laundry, but eh.  I rushed into the mess of a department store, plowed over some slovenly Slavic tourists like Adrian Peterson hitting the hole, and grabbed a stack of $5 three-packs of Hanes unmentionables.  (Undergarments are the most egregiously priced of all clothing and thus, as a miserly Jew, I always make sure to buy them at Century 21 where they sell for like 75% discount.)

Alas, in my haste, I had stupidly forgotten to check the size of the boxer-briefs, partially assuming I suppose that one size fits most, but, what with Century 21 being a tourist mecca, of course the default sizes were for the typically girthy Nebraskan or South Dakotan rather than being an M or L like most New York stores would stock.  I should have known better.  But there was no time to damn my luck at the moment, I had to come up with a plan for my date.

Going commando was out of the question.  It was a sweltering 98 degrees out and going sans-knickers in the city of the Knickerbockers would be a surefire recipe for having a most swamp-like crotch before I’d even arrived at the bar.  There was my old standby of teeny tiny soccer shorts as a proxy for undies, but that had gotten me into major trouble the last time I’d done such a thing and I didn’t want that evening’s date shrouded with such an anti-talisman.  Perhaps a “cleaner” pair of dirty underwear?  No, that was too disgusting even for me.  Alas, I had no choice but to wear the 3XLs.

I don’t exactly wear drainpipe jeans now and I certainly didn’t back then, but I’ve always favored a slim fit as I hate the jostling from non-sleek clothing.  Suffice to say, it was near impossible to pull my denims up over this brand-new blousey girdle.  It entailed a lot of constant tucking and shimmying and smoothing before I was finally able to get my jeans up.  And even then, the waistband of the offensive boxer-briefs was exploding from my dungarees, like a mushroom cloud, forcing me to fold them over my belt line and into wearing a thick, longish shirt so as to hide the craziness.  If I ever forgot and accidentally did a big yawning stretch, revealing my littleclothes, my date would surely think me Mormon.

I go to some upscale-for-a-dopey-24-year-old bar and I meet up with Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? but I’m unable to focus.  Unable to be my funny, charming, roguish self since I’m so concerned about my 3XL underwear, so uncomfortable with the saggy cloth surrounding my loins.  I’m can barely think of anything else, I can barely pay attention to my date, I’m writing my own prophesy as I almost don’t want my date to be a success for if it is a success of course we will go back to her place and start getting all inflagrante delicto and next thing I know she’ll be laughing at me and mocking me for my apparent sick fetish of wearing gigantic Pampers.

So I decide to drink heavily, which kinda eliminates my anxiety but which also makes me need to keep pissing which is another conundrum all to itself for once in the restroom I fear that if I pull too much of my pants and 3XLers too far down, then I’ll never able to get everything back in place again.  Meaning, I had to employ the most dreaded of all devices, the underwear piss hole.  I’m still have post-traumatic stress over that.

Amazingly, after countless cocktails I’m loosening up and Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? is becoming charmed by my slightly fidgety neurotic besotted behavior, and maybe she’s a little drunk too, or wanting to use me as a slumpbuster, so she invites me back to her pad.  And, despite my fears from before, I accept.

I had drunk so heavily at dinner that I thought I’d be unable to get my lumber out of the bat rack but, amazingly, once Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? started kissing me, all the biological things that are supposed to happen started happening.

I’m usually aggressive in bed but here, in this situation, I was being quite slow and tender, caressing and fondling Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? with her clothes completely on because, despite my stoned state, I know once I take her clothes off, she will take my clothes off and see my most unfortunate parachute of granny’s panties.  This incredibly slow progression toward love-making thus makes me appear to be a man interested in an incredible amount of foreplay, which makes Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? like me all the more as most men her age–including me when I was wearing boxer-briefs that fit–were probably a little too wham bam, thank you madame.

Eventually, Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? reached a fever pitch of foreplay ecstasy and there was only one final frontier left to explore.  She excused herself to the bathroom to do whatever it is girls do when they excuse themselves to the bathroom right before coitus.

(My top three guesses:

1.  Last second depilatory work
2.  Vigorous gargling
3.  Quick Google search of my credentials)

This was finally my chance and I sprung to action!  I quickly pulled down my jeans and whipped of my dreaded 3XL panties which had somehow become stretched out to 4XL or perhaps even 5XL underoos in the last five hours as these babies were expanding faster than the universe.  I took the Hanes and tossed them under Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha?’s bed and then quickly pulled back on my jeans.

Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? returned from the bathroom seconds later, placing some condoms on her nightstand.  She then attacked me, taking my fate in her own hands.  Although now I was at ease.  She pulled back down my Lucky’s and a pleased look came across her face.

“Commando…?  Mmmmm…sexy!”

Sexy is right.  I was finally free from my prison of skivvies and eager to celebrate my midsection’s liberation.  I pulled a perfect Cael Sanderson reverse and threw her to the mat, positioning myself on top of her.  She may have seemed a bit confused by my sudden personality change, but she was greatly enjoying it.

So was I.  I had done it!  I had triumphed over these Herculean jockeys determined to defeat me!

I reached for the nightstand and a prophylactic.  Expertly opened the package and put its contents on my manhood.

But something felt off.  Way off.

I looked down to see the condom hanging on my dick like a latex poncho.  Sagging and droopy, unweildy and unusable.  What the hell?

I grab the discarded packet off the floor.

Durex XXL.

Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? noticed the look of fret on my face, the tears now welling up in my eyes.

“Oh sorry,” she said, “I stole those from my roomie.  You should see her boyfriend.”

The Oracle

This limited, Michigan-only release from the legendary local brewers, was procurred for me by my good buddy the Drunken Polack.  With a meteoric rise onto the BA Top 100 putting it alongside Bell’s two other IPAs, Two-Hearted and the legendary Hopslam, I was certain The Oracle would be epic.  But all I can report is…eh.  I was great underwhelmed I’m sorry to say.  And you know that has to be the truth because I am nothing if not a grade inflater!  I found Oracle to have the nose of a malty barleywine, yet, oddly enough, one of the more dry and bitter tastes of any DIPA around.  But not in a good way.  I would hail Smuttynose’s “Finest Kind” to be the uber-bitter IPA The Oracle should aspire to be, but it’s simply just not quite as good.  A bit of a lacking-in-flavor grapefruit mess.  Oh well…at least you folks that will struggle to locate this beer don’t have to be too bummed out about that fact.  If you’re like me, I almost get excited when someone reviews a highly-rare, highly-sought-after beer that I shall never taste and then semi-slams it.



Founder Harvest Ale

6.5% ABV bottled

While we’re on the subject of hoppy beers, I got to make mention of by far the most enjoyable one I’ve had in the last weeks.  Oddly enough, BA lists this as a pale ale, but you know I hate to quibble about stylistic persnicketyness.  I’d generally liked all of Founders hoppy IPA-type beers I’d had in the past, but this was the first one that absolutely floored me.  One of the most fragrant beers I’ve ever had, with quite possibly even a more fresh piney smell than Pliny the Elder.  The taste is not quite as good as the otherwordly smell, but this is still some amazing shit.  Citrus, pine, and so much juicy hoppiness.  Wet-hopped beers are all the rage at the moment, even someone woke up the NYT to write an article about the phenomenon, and I finished off the sole four-pack I had of Harvest with a quickness.  Unfortunately, I can’t get Founders in NYC, but if I could, I would be absolutely plowing through bottles of this like some frat boy participating in a power hour until this fall season’s limited run was completely drank up.  It’s that good.  Not to be missed.


Captain Lawrence Smoke from the Oak (Apple Brandy Barrel Aged)

September 29th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Porter

My First Paid Writing Gig

It all started with a call from Scott.  He presented me with an odd yet enticing offer.  It seemed that his high school girlfriend Brandy–estranged daughter of a New York sports legend father and former supermodel mother, girlfriend of a current New York sports star, debutante, party girl socialite, and certified piece of ass–needed someone to write a grad school application essay for her for a large sum of money.  I was just the man and Scott gave Brandy my phone number.

She called a few hours late and soon I was en route to her mother’s Central Park South penthouse for dinner and to discuss the “project.”  I felt like Joe Buck*.  A writing gigolo.  And I loved it.

I had read about Brandy’s party-girl antics on Page 6 several times, but I’d never seen a picture of her at that point in time.  Nowadays you’d without question recognize her as she has since starred in her own reality program and even had a cameo role in a 2009 movie that topped the box office in its opening weekend.  But this was back in 2003 when she was still coming onto the “scene” and I was still a twenty-four-year-old buffoon.

That afternoon I tried to Google image search Brandy, but none appeared.  (Compared to just this second when some several hundred thousand images of her are returned in 0.22 seconds.)  Only pictures of her father of the same last name doing various things in increasing order of sordidness:  excelling at his sport; hugging teammates after a significant win; his regrettable one-year hiatus in which he became a semi-pro wrestler; him being carted off to jail in handcuffs for a drug possession arrest; and him making an appearance on “The 700 Club” as a now born-again Christian.  But, no picture of Brandy.  Rumor had it she was hot, so I spruced myself up like I was going on a date.  The thought never seemed to cross my mind that she was dating–that I was essentially competing with, ha!–a current sports superstar 35% bigger than me, 60% more handsome than me, and 1500% richer than me.  I told myself though that if he was Joe D, I could be Arthur Miller, the intellectual to the jock.  This was how my idiotic twenty-four-year-old mind worked.

A few blocks from Brandy’s apartment, Brandy called me and canceled.  “Family Emergency.”  I was pretty pissed at her having wasted my time, but what could I do about it?  Scott called me later that night telling me that the emergency was that her dog had just been neutered.  He also said Brandy was worried about meeting me, thinking that I would think her to be an “airhead.”  “I think YOU are an airhead,” I told Scott truthfully and hung up.

The next day I redressed for my date, trying to look a little artsy, writer-ish as well, and headed back to her apartment.  She greeted me with an overly intimate double cheek kiss and offered me a beer.  It was 10 AM.  I accepted the beer.  She must have thought writers needed to drink to create.  She thought exactly right.  She gave me a Bud Ice.  A five million dollar apartment I stood in, with a can of beer I wouldn’t have even drank in college.  Where was the good shit? Probably in the walk-in wine closet I noticed as she lead me to the penthouse’s library where we sat down at a monumentally large King Arthurian table.  As I pulled my notebook and pens from my messenger bag, the neutered dog would not quit jumping all over me.  How wild must this thing have been when he had some balls to play with?

Brandy quickly gave me her bio:

*Had attended the fourth worst SEC school for her first three years of college.  Despite her family’s money and connections this was the best school she could get into out of high school. Her father’s alma mater.

*Tired of being a New Yorker stuck in the middle of the south, she decided she wanted to spend her final year at a more respectable institution, opting to transfer to a semi-religious private school in Texas.  Her mother had been a cheerleader there.

*Now she was interested in attending design school in New York and she needed to write 500 words on “a life-affirming moment.”

“Could you do it?” Brandy asked.

“Of course.  It won’t be easy,” I noted as I took an overly long dramatic pause to help in building up my talent in the hopes of scoring as much money as possible, “but I’ll sure as hell try.”  I told her not to worry, I didn’t even need to know anything about her.  I told her I’d go home and just make up my own fake and dramatic, and sometimes humorous, life-affirming moment for her.  “Is that okay?”

Brandy didn’t talk a lot, but said that was fine.  How much money would she have to pay me?

I felt even further like a whore.  (”A hunded dolla’ for a half hour.  A dime for the hour.”)  I asked what she thought to be fair.  When being employed by the insanely rich NEVER set your own salary.  What they think is “fair” is usually double the money that you think is “outrageous.”

“Scott said you’d probably want about $100 an hour.”

Fucking A, $100 an hour.  I could have kissed Scott.  500 words would take me about the fifteen minute walk home to think up and an hour at most to write.

“Sounds a little low, but I’ll accept that since you’re a friend,” I told her, perhaps even adding a wink, though the muscles in my face aren’t quite supple enough to always execute that move.  “It won’t be easy, but I imagine I could get it done tonight if I pull an all-nighter.”

She ate it up.  I chugged the rest of my beer when she wasn’t looking, received the goodbye double cheek kiss that idiots prefer and went skipping home. I wrote the essay in under an hour.  I thought it was great.  I was a twenty-four-year-old man-boy competing against seventeen-year-old kids.  Actually probably forty-five- and fifty-year-old parents that were writing essays for their kids.  Well, I had gotten into every single college I had applied to when I was seventeen with the essays I’d written when I was seventeen, so I thought everything would be cool.

I woke up that morning at 4:45 AM and e-mailed Brandy the essay (”Spent all night working on it and just finished.”)

At noon when she woke up she e-mailed me back a response.  A simple :( emoticon.  I took that to mean she didn’t like it.  Were all editors this tough?  It was going to be hard to break into the writing business if that was the case.

Later she called me and told me the problem was that I just told a story about a made-up life-affirming moment in her life and I hadn’t explain well enough how smart and unique and creative she was.  Or, at least, how smart, unique, and creative she claimed to be and thought the college would want her to be if they were going to accept her.

I was fucking pissed.  She didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. But I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream.  I spoke calmly and tried to explain the faultiness with her life of thinking.  She didn’t understand what the hell I was talking about.  Alas.  Hot girls need to be reasoned with using analogies.

“Brandy, lots of guys hit on you at the vapid bottle service lounges you go to in the Meatpacking District, right?”

“Right,” she said, having no clue where I was headed.

“And, 99% of them buy you lots of drinks, and treat you nicely, and try to impress you with their bullshit and their money, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Now, that doesn’t work, does it?  You aren’t attracted to those guys, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.  Unless they’re, like, really rich or famous or something like my current boyfriend.”

“Well, when the 1% of guys come into the bar acting confidently, like they own the place, and treating you a little rude, and certainly not buying you even a single drink, don’t those guys kind of intrigue you?”


“Be honest.”


“Of course they do.  Well I just wrote you a 1% essay, and you’re wanting me to write you a 99% essay.  How are you going to stand out from the crowd with your ‘writing’ if you write the same boring ‘My-Greatest-Assets’ essay that every other kid is writing?!”


“You don’t tell people that you’re smart, that you’re creative, that you’re unique…you write an essay that proves you are smart, creative, unique.”  Pause.  “Get it?”

“Well, I’d just rather write something that’s more about me.”

“I don’t know a fucking thing about you though.”

I told her we had to meet again.  This was taking much longer than I expected and I was getting frustrated.  Our first time meeting I acted like that 99% of guys act around a hot girl.  This next time I was going to act like the elusive 1%.  Without even trying.

“Come back to my house tomorrow at noon.”

“I will if you have a turkey sandwich waiting for me!” I ordered.

So back to her penthouse, where I was greeted by her mom in a towel.  Said towel being held up merely by her mother’s fake “headlights.” Brandy was still in her pajamas, playing with the dogs in the playing-with-the-dogs room.  And, there was that turkey sandwich waiting for me.  A good fucking one too.  Not the corner deli Boar’s Head turkey sandwich I was used to.  This thing was gourmet.  Might have been on an artisanal baguette even.

Brandy and I sat down at her large table again and I started interviewing her.

“So…tell me some good stories about your life at college down in the deep south.”

“Uh…”  She couldn’t think of any.

“You can’t think of any!  None?”

“Not really.”

“You went to that university for three years and you can’t think of one fucking story?  I drove through that hick state once, for two hours, between 3 AM and 5 AM and saw some of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever seen in my life.  Yet you saw nothing?  I saw a house there built totally out of recycled soda cans.  I saw a guy having a barbecue in the median of the highway at 3:30 in the morning.  I saw a sheriff driving drunk down the road with his headlights completely off.  And you saw nothing?!”

She finally spoke more than five words in a row.  “Uh, I guess, like, some kids would take their shotguns to class.”

“Okay, now we’re talking.”

We talked and ate for about an hour.  I got some decent biographical info about her life as a New York City JAP–she wasn’t Jewish, but a JAP nonetheless–going to school in the south.  This is what she wanted talked about in her essay, this is what I’d write about. I had plenty of ideas for what to write, how her life had been affirmed, and my mind was racing.

Then her mom–now finally dressed–came back to the room.

“Aaron, I should tell you something…”  She was acting like Brandy wasn’t even in the room.  Brandy always acted–mentally–like she wasn’t in the room.  Her mother continued, “Brandy had…”–unnecessarily large emphasis–”SHIT grades in college.”

I thought I’d join in the fun.  “Exactly how…”–unnecessarily large emphasis–”SHIT were they?”

Mom smiled.  She liked my style.  “Real FUCKING SHITTY.  Like a 1.2 GPA.”

A 1.2!

“A 1.2?” I exclaimed still looking at mom.  “How is that possible?  I once didn’t attend a class for an entire semester, never bought the books even, and still got a B-.  How in the world do you get a 1.2?  At the SEC’s fourth worst school no less!?”

Brandy’s mother liked seeing her daughter get berated.  This former model and now mom was surprisingly smart and sharp.

“I dunno.  Didn’t go to class I guess.  Partied and stuff.  That was during my coke phase I think,” Brandy noted.

“Oh I remember!  You were maxing out my credit cards monthly!”  She turned back to me.  “You’re the writing genius, Aaron,”–I was falling in love with this MILF, “and you’re going to have to explain away her SHIT grades if she has any prayer of getting accepted.”  She squeezed my shoulders as she retreated back to her room.

Brandy rolled her eyes at me after her mom left as if to say, “Do you believe her?! How embarrassing.”  What she did actually say though was:

“How much do I have to pay you?”

I thought about this for a second.  I asked myself how much did I really think was fair to be paid?  About $175 was what I felt fair for the work I had done, the work I would do the rest of the day.

“$2000,” I bluntly told her.

She didn’t flinch.

“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!  MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!”  She turned back to me.  “Jesus, is she fucking deaf?!  I’ll go ask my mom for to write a check for you.”

She left the room and walked down a long corridor to find her mother.

A few seconds passed before I heard screaming from the other room.

“$2000?!!!!!  That is fucking insane!!!  Is he fucking insane?!  What do you normally pay people to write your papers, Brandy?”

Apparently not much, or the wrong people, as her GPA attested.  I tried to contain my laughter.

A few seconds later Brandy returned with a check for $1000.  “My mom will give you the rest in cash upon completion.

Brandy’s mother must have thought I looked like a guy that would take the money and run.  Awesome.  Now I felt like a drug runner.  I liked that even better than being a gigolo.

I didn’t get any more cheek kisses as I left this time. I didn’t care.  That was the biggest single check I’d gotten in my short life.  The first money ever paid to me for my writing.  I deposited it at an ATM en route to my apartment where I quickly whipped out a stunning essay while riding this creative high.  Something I was legitimately proud of.  Something that I thought could have won the Pulitzer if they gave such an award to falsified college entry essays for acceptance at mediocre design schools.

Ecstatic with myself, I headed out to tithe into my liver 10% of my writing paycheck.  Returning home wasted at 4:15 AM, I e-mail off to Brandy my second stab at the essay.

And, I didn’t hear from her for a week.  I guess she liked me essay.  But I was still owed $1000.  I decided to send her an e-mail to ask what she thought of the essay, how she was doing, when I could collect the rest of my money.  She never responded.

A week later I decided to call her.  She must have not had my name in her phone because she actually answered.

“Hey Brandy, it’s Aaron???  Did you like the essay????”  I was speaking in lots of question marks, something that is not that easy when you have fully gone through puberty and your voice has dropped.

“Yeah, and thanks, but, uh, I think I’ve decided to…uh…go another route…in my, uh, life.”

“Oh, too bad.”  Like I cared.  “Um, so, can I get the rest of the money you owe me and we agreed on?”

I heard the phone snatched out of Brandy’s hand.  It was her mom.

“You are fuckin’ crazy if you think I’m gonna give you another $1000 for that shitty essay!”


Brandy never applied to college ultimately and I never got any more money that I surely didn’t deserve.  Perhaps she should have applied to college though as her fame is dwindling quickly, though I hear she has a new MTV show coming out this year.  Presumably it will be life-affirming.

I still wonder if my essay would have gotten her accepted into that design school, even with her SHIT grades.  I guess I’ll never know.  I also wonder if I could have made a living writing essays for the dumb, lazy, and rich.

Smoke from the Oak (Apple Brandy Barrel Aged)

ABV unknown, from a 750 mL bottle (Batch #1)

Living less than thirty miles from one of my favorite breweries, Captain Lawrence of Pleasantville, NY, it had vexed me for the longest time that I had been unable to secure a taste of even one of their Smoke from the Oak releases.  Bourbon Barreled Aged, wine, rum…with each subsequent release, for some reason or another, I missed a chance at nabbing a bottle.  It was angering me!  Finally, with the latest release and perhaps the highest regarded release so far, Vice Blog superfan KH was able to offer a bottle for sacrifice. I was stoked.

For those not in the know, Captain Lawrence’s Smoke from the Oak series takes its outstanding Pleasantville Smoked Porter and ages it in various spent barrels.  In this case, for eight months in freshly emptied apple brandy barrels.  I absolutely adore the black licorice delicious smoked porter and the infusion of apples adds another layer of fascinating complexity and some welcoming tartness.  I can’t say I was absolutely floored by this offering, but it is most unique and I was most glad to try it.  Now I need to go backwards and try some other bottles from the series.  I always liked playing catch up.


*Jon Voight’s character in “Midnight Cowboy.”  Not the humorless sportscaster.

Boulevard Smokestacks

September 10th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Boulevard, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B regular, Style: Belgian White, Style: IPA, Style: Tripel

In late-1800’s New York City, the top spectator sport at bars was dog versus rat fights.  This replaced the previously most popular sport, a man in heavy work boots trying to stomp out one-hundred rats as fast as he could.  Which, replaced the previously most enjoyed sport:  bear wrestling.  Yeah, the New York bar scene was pretty goddamn badass a way back when I have learned from reading Luc Sante’s essential compendium of New York vice “Low Life.”

Back then, many dive bars–known as “blind tigers” or “blind pigs”–didn’t even have glassware.  Men were issued a rubber tube which they then connected to a keg and from which they were allowed to drink as long as they could on one single breath of air for each beer purchase.  Predictably, always-savvy New Yorkers developed incredible lung capacities and devised ways to cheat the system.

But it wasn’t all days of wine and roses back then.  For one, most dives, usually located on the outskirts of Manhattan island, had actual trap doors in the floors in which deceased customers could be kicked into the East or Hudson Rivers.  Besides murder and suicide, frequent in-bar deaths might have been due to the fact that this rubber-tubed-sucked beer was abject swill, laced with all sorts of poisons that quickly got you drunk…and then killed you.  Or, at least blinded you.  Not exactly good for repeat business.

And the only women hanging at these dives were of the sporting kind.  Hookers who would, at best, fuck you full of STDs.  At worst, slip you a “Mickey Finn” when you weren’t looking and steal your wallet as you lay prone in an alley.  OK, so I guess I’ll quit complaining about the annoyingly shrill JAP habitues and hipster too-cool chicks so often surrounding me at the bar.

Suffice to say, craft beer was nowhere to be had, and, begrudgingly, I guess that means I have to admit that the 2009 New York City bar scene is better than the 1889.  Even if all we have to do at bars nowadays is play darts and “Big Buck Hunter.”  Not exactly a stomping-on-rats level of in-house excitement, but surely less messy and grizzly.

This past week I had the fortune to drink six beers that could of and would have never existed back in seedy 19th Century New York.  Six beers from Boulevard’s esteemed Smokestack line.  Three of which I’d had before and three of which added new notches to my brew bedpost.

Double-Wide India Pale Ale

8.5% ABV from a 750 mL  (1st in the series)

Double-Wide emits the always popular sack of weed aroma we’ve come to know and love in many West Coast IPAs.  A nice bitterness and packed with sour citrus.  Boozy yet drinkable, I was very impressed and if I was an east coast elitist man I would add that I was very impressed that this great IPA came out of Kansas City.  A part of me, though, wonders if this is an out of date bottle from when the initial Smokestack offerings were first released nearly a year ago.  That seems impossible because, damn, this beer was fresh and juicy.  Well worth locating.


Long Strange Tripel

9% ABV from a 750 mL (2nd in the series)

This is a very respectable, damn good American tripel.  And, tasting it side-by-side with maybe my favorite tripel in the world, La Fin du Monde, Long Strange was outshined (outshone?) sure, but by not that great of magnitude surprisingly.  It’s incredibly yeasty with just a hint of nice sweetness.  Bubbly, fluffy, and pillowy, I really enjoyed putting this back in the mid-day patio sun, and was shocked at how easily it went down.


Two Jokers Double-Wit

8% ABV from a 750 mL (8th in the series)

Dangerously, shockingly, drinkable for such a high ABV beer, but then again, witbiers are so fucking lame, maybe I was just trying to get it down, slurping it down like flat apple juice, so I could move onto something more interesting.  You know, Two Jokers ain’t terrible–and I love the label–but it’s just not that interesting.  Packed with cardamom, coriander, orange peel, lavender, and the always sexy grains of paradise, I will admit this was a great beer to begin a long day of college football watching with.


I have now had six of the nine Smokestack releases* and here are my current overall rankings:

1.  Saison-Brett (an absolutely epic beer well deserving of all its acclaim)
2.  Double-Wide
3.  The Sixth Glass
4.  Long Strange Tripel
5.  Saison
6.  Two Jokers

*I have still yet to locate bottles of the 5th and 6th Smokestack releases, their Imperial Stout and BBQ (Bourbon Barrel Quad), nor of the newest release, the 9th in the series, the Seeyoulator Doppelbock.  I would kill to try any and all of them, especially the BBQ.  Hit me up at theviceblog [at] gmail.com if you can make a little Jewish boy’s dreams come true.