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Archive for the ‘Grade: A regular’ Category

Saison D’Erpe-Mere Zymatore

May 21st, 2012 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: KleinBrouwerij De Glazen Toren, Country: Belgium, Grade: A regular, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

While at the great DBGB last night slip slidin’ the night away with the carpet salesman, I noticed a beer type of the like I’d never seen before:  a gin-barrel-aged brew.  Now, I didn’t even realize gin was made in barrels, but glad of it, because this beer was outstanding, a funky saison with a leafy, crisp botanical finish and just a slight hint of sourness from an additional barreling in pinot noir barrels (!).  Seems this saison is part of something called The Zymatore Project, as press-release-explained below:

The Zymatore Project is our endeavor to create liquids of unheard flavors and aromas that destroy the boundaries of beer, wine, mead, cider & spirits.

Using barrels of the highest quality and pedigree from acknowledged leaders in the wine & distillation crafts we take beers, meads & ciders to new and unexplored levels.

What may seem like unlikely combinations of liquids & barrels are designed to create new flavors & aromas that transcend conventional definitions.

Such quality makes it unique to be served to people playing casino games at classy casino floors. The unique blend of different flavors makes it a one of a kind product.

Now I’ve never had the base saison, heck, I hadn’t even heard of this brewery, but this is one of the more interesting tipples I’ve had this year, and it makes me want to seek out all the other intriguing offerings from “The Project.”  Which I most certainly will.

Of note, nerds on Beer Advocate–and Garrett Oliver no less (not calling you a nerd, good sir!)–have had a most interesting discussion about these beers.

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The Abbey Brewing Company

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

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

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

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

Immaculate IPA

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

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Father Theodore’s Stout

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

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

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

Nebraska Reserve Series Apricot Au Poivre Saison Aged in Chardonnay Barrels

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

6.5% from a 750 mL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian River Sanctification

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

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COOP AleWorks

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

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

Horny-Toad Cerveza

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

A-/B+

Zeppelin German Wheat

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

B+

Native Amber

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

A-

Gran-Sport Porter

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

A-

F-5 IPA

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

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DNR Belgian Style Golden Ale

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

A

Territorial Reserve Oak-Aged Imperial Stout

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

A+

Red Zeppelin

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

A+

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

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

Zoe

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

7.2% 500 mL bottled

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

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

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

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

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

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

B+

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

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

Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

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

9% ABV from a bomber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smoke

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


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

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

THE FIRST ANNUAL BEER GEEK BLOGGERS CONFERENCE

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

Speeches and addresses currently scheduled:

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

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

Panel discussions will focus on:

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

Beer geek bloggers currently slated to appear:

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

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

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

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

Surly Smoke

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

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

Sink the Bismarck!

June 10th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Country: Scotland, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

I’m about as tired of the “Most Alcoholic Beer on Planet Earth” arms race as I am with the existential nerd debates over “What IS beer?”*  Sure, BrewDog’s 41% Sink the Bismarck! is a gimmick, but, surprisingly, it’s a damn fine one at that.

There’s nothing wrong with gimmicks–in all facets of life and art.  They often act as envelope pushers to enable the way for more “legitimate” enterprise.  Like the skanky strippers who gets Triple-D breast implants paving the way for the girls next door to get more reasonable and socially acceptable Cs.  However, sometimes, these gimmicks are damn fine in and of themselves.  Such was the case with this bad boy.

Sink the Bismarck! is shockingly considered a double IPA and, what is even more shocking is that it truly is one.  This is no boozy near-liquor mess, this is actually a beer with all the beer check boxes in place and checked off.  It smells boozy sure, so boozy in fact it singes your nose hairs (better clip ‘em before you sniff this one); but it also has a nice bitter hop presence wafting through.  And what’s even more amazing is that the beer is actually carbonated.  A very fizzy carbonation, in fact, totally indicitive of style.

It’s super alcoholic sure, and it necessitated my first career all-male sixsome with the 11.2 ounces (priced at about $7 per ounce–YOW!) to put the bottle down.  Two ounces per dude was more than enough and we probably could have split it eight ways.**  There’s no other beer in the world like this.  It’s so strange to drink something that tastes like liquor but is bitter.  So strange to drink something that tastes like liquor but has a tingly carbonation.  It’s not something your mouth is used to.***  The bitter hops taste comes through quite strong and this is amazingly neither a thick nor too sweet of beer, like most high ABVers are.  It’s a sipper, it might even make you cough, but it’s clearly a jet-fueled DIPA and a damn tasty one at that.

Comparisons will most frequently cite Sam Adams Utopias (a masterpiece in and of itself but far too flat and liqueur-ish to compare) or the similarly alcoholic DIPA Dogfish Head 120 Minute (amazingly MORE malty sweet and LESS carbonated than this one, even at half the ABV) but both are way off base.  As for me, the only similar thing I’ve ever imbibed to Sink the Bismarck! is a friend’s home-distilled hop liquor, which of course differed in that it wasn’t carbonated.  I haven’t exactly been floored by any of Brewdog’s “normal” ABVed stuff, but they are just killing it with the high octane brews.  Buy a bottle or buy a “share” of a bottle if you can.  You won’t regret it****.

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*Still, I suppose that’s better than them wondering what beer and pizza to serve a new Belgian neighbor.  (My suggestion:  Bud Light Chelada and skip the pizza, bring over a pasta bread bowl from Domino’s.)

**Ironically, while having a sixsome with this bottle of beer on the rooftop of Chicago’s swank Palomar Hotel during a friend’s bachelor party, nearby, countless sinewy homosexual lasses in tiny boy shorts seemed to be foreplaying their way to some gang sex in the pool.  It just so happened to be International Mr. Leather weekend in town.

***Apropos of the previous footnote, I won’t make any gagging jokes.

****And a few sips will make you forget the foreplay to gang sex you saw in the Palomar’s hotel swimming pool.

Wachusett Larry

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

7.5% ABV on tap and from a bomber

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

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

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

A

New England Gandhi-Bot

8.8% ABV canned

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

A-

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

IPA

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

DIPA

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

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

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

Surly Abrasive Ale

May 4th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Ale Asylum, Brewer: Minneapolis Town Hall, Brewer: Surly, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Style: IPA

Like anything in American life, the IPA debate always gets whittled down to an East coast/West Coast thing and I won’t make a 2Pac/Biggie joke in the year 2010.  But there’s more to America than the coasts, than “flyover” country as us snobs call it, and the Midwest is making some absolutely stunning IPAs as well, the Eminems of the IPA debate if you will.  And why shouldn’t they be making good IPAs?  They have hops just like we do.  Then again, they have yeast and dough just like we do and their bagels still suck.

Abrasive Ale

9% ABV canned and tap

No matter how Beer Advocate classifies it, Abrasive Ale is not the much beloved 16 Grit simply repackaged and renamed.  Surly brewmaster Todd Haug told me as much.  It is recipe-wise very similar to 16 Grit though–a beer I unfortunately never got to try–and it is a magnificent beer.  Within a few hours I was fortunate enough to get to try batch 1 on tap, batch 1 canned, and an ever so slightly tweaked batch 2 on tap. Now while batch 1 and the first canned version I tried were both magnificent, both A level beers, batch 2, the batch that I suppose will be the recipe from now til iniquity, blew my mind and is clearly one of the best IPAs I have ever had.  This is a darker than normal DIPA, a rich and gorgeous caramel with potent smells of tropical fruits and hops.  The taste is as good as it gets–an over-explosion of hops with strong brunch tastes of grapefruit and sugar, a perfect combination that adds a kiss of sweetness to balance out the bite stripping the enamel from your teeth.  Wow.

A+

Tea Bagged Furious

6.2% ABV on cask

This has long been a most wanted beer of mine even though, like a dope, I didn’t even know what exactly it was.  I naively assumed it was your typical delicious Furious somehow infused with some tea flavoring.  Eh…I don’t know.  I now feel like some idiot 10 year old that never quite understood the birds and the bees until an older kid explained them to him.  Luckily, I finally did learn what the tea bagged refered to, right around the time I got to try this magnificent beer.  Tea Bagged Furious is simply Furious that has been dry-hopped in a firkin cask with various hop varieties in a bag.  OK, I think I get it now.  Kinda like Surly’s novelty answer to Dogfish Head’s Randall I suppose.  Whatever the case, this is a brilliant beer, packed full of juicy hops, made all the more interesting to enjoy on cask where that pesky carbonation doesn’t get in the way of your tongue picking up all those subtle flavors.  Not that this sucker is subtle in the least.

A

Town Hall Mango Mama

6% ABV on tap

A tap-only selection, pretty much only available at the brewpub, Mango Mama is another beer, another IPA, I’d long wanted to try.  I’m a typical “more is better and please Supersize that shit” American, so I usually skip right over IPAs and tell ‘em to make mine a double, but Town Hall’s regular 365 days a year offering, Masala Mama is a nifty little production, a no frills, incredibly drinkable and delicious effort.  The slightly rarer Mango Mama blows that one away and has to be arguably the best 6% ABV or lower IPA around.  I expected a sweeter IPA, but I guess I just don’t know what a mango is (most of my knowledge of fruit comes from the various Skittles packs, so that’s no surprise) because this was a shockingly citric and bitter IPA.  One of the more bitter ones I’ve ever had.  Seemingly no malt backbone or sweetness at all, this is just like straight fruit juice mixed with hops.  And that ain’t a bad thing.  Highly recommended.

A

Ale Asylum Bedlam!

Finally, we come to a Wisconsin IPA, and a Belgian one at that.  Bedlam!–I love when names of things force you to punctuate–is my first introduction to the brewpub’s offerings and one of my first introductions to citra hops, a semi-rare hop varietal that seems to add a somewhat green onion aroma and flavoring to the beer.  A not unpleasant and certainly unique sensation that makes you feel like you just got chives on your baked potato, scallion cream cheese on your bagel.  As we know, Belgian IPAs are pretty de rigueur right now and there’s several new and good ones on the market (Nebraska Hop God and The Bruery Mischief most notably) and this one stacks up for sure.  While not quite as good as those two, it’s certainly a unique offering as the citra hops meld with the overwhelming Trappist yeast for a nice bite and a silky finish.  Obscure, but worth seeking out fo’ sho.

A-