Home     About Me    Most Beer Blogs SUCK     Top 10 Most Wanted     Very Best of the Vice Blog    

Archive for the ‘Grade: B plus’ 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.

A-/B+

Zeppelin German Wheat

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

B+

Native Amber

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

A-

Gran-Sport Porter

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

A-

F-5 IPA

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

A

DNR Belgian Style Golden Ale

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

A

Territorial Reserve Oak-Aged Imperial Stout

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

A+

Red Zeppelin

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

A+

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

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

Zoe

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

7.2% 500 mL bottled

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

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

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

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

A

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

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

B+

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

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

Goose Island Bourbon Country Brand Coffee Stout

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

13% ABV from a bomber

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

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

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

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

A+

Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout

13% on tap

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

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

A-

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

Maple Bacon Stout

6.5% on tap

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

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

B+

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

Tokyo*

March 4th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Country: Scotland, Grade: A plus, Grade: B plus, Style: Stout

18.2% ABV on tap

I’d pretty much avoided BrewDog ever since their inception, assuming they were just some gimmicky Scottish brewery more obsessed with constantly holding claim to the “most alcoholic beer in the worldtitle above actually crafting great stuff.  Plus, their few bottles were prohibitively expensive around me and they didn’t really get that great of reviews on Beer Advocate.  I couldn’t help noticing that my beloved Stone seemed to have a little international crush on BrewDog though, and the two collaborations they’d done together–Juxtaposition black pilsner and Bashah–had been quite good on tap, I just never cultivated any real interest for BrewDog offerings.

That all changed on a recent trip to DC where I made my first visit to Churchkey, one of the east coast’s finest new beer bars.  The manly 18.2% imperial stout stuck out like a sore thumb on the menu and, with Churchkey selling beers in as small as four ounce pours, I figured, “What the fuck?”

I was blown away.

Tokyo* (the asterisk is important) is flat-out one of the best, most unique stouts I’ve ever had.  This bad boy is not for sissies.  It makes Bourbon County Stout seem as mild as keg beer at a frat party.  Brewed with jasmine and cranberries added in the kettle, dry-hopped after fermentation, and aged for a few weeks on toasted vanilla oak chips, this beer is shockingly complex, flavorful, and sweet.  It’s remarkable that all the flavors I mentioned above actually come through, mixing flawlessly together.  It’s boozy sure, but not the kind of booziness that overwhelms that flavor into one hot mess.

Then again, four ounces was more than enough for me.  For one night.  Confused by lackluster ratings on Beer Advocate, a bit curious whether the few strong ales I’d had at the hotel before tippling Tokyo* had given me a screwy palate, I returned to Churchkey the next night for another four ounces.  Marvelous yet again.  Maybe even more so.  I have no fucking clue what these other online reviewers are thinking.  I really want to get a bottle of this, shit, I now really really want to try Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck.  I no longer think these Scottish boys are gimmickmeisters, I’m absolutely certain they are true beer artisans.

A+

Also at Churchkey, I was able to sample BrewDog’s Paradox Isle of Arran (Batch 016).  A 10% stout aged for six months in Single Malt barrels, this one sounded promising–there are so few beers aged in Scotch barrels as opposed to bourbon, at least that make it to the States–but this one didn’t quite stack up for me.  It was flavorful, smokey and roasted, a little earthy and boozy, but ultimately too thin for my liking.  Then again, maple syrup would taste thin after having some glorious Tokyo*.

B+

As a new BrewDog enthusiast, what are their must-try brews I need to seek out?

Founders Nemesis 2009

March 3rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Founders, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Style: Porter, Style: Stout, Style: Wheatwine

12% ABV bottled

You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I used to think that Founders Brewing Co. was, gasp…overrated.  The first two Founders brews I ever got my grubby little mitts on, oddly enough, happened to be their two most famous brews, Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, long-time Beer Advocate top 20 beers in the world*.  I was psyched to acquire these rare-to-me grown up sodas, so eager to suck ‘em down in all their glory, that when I tried them and didn’t spontaneously combust into knickers, I thought, “Ah, I see, another overrated brewery.”  Don’t get me wrong, I gave both those beers A’s at the time, I simply wasn’t OMFG floored.

So, whereas I tried my first two Founders beers with overly lofty expectations, I’ve tried my last dozen or more Founders efforts expecting nothing special.  But, damn, if those Grands Rapids boys haven’t won me over, and then some.  It started with their wet-hopped Harvest Ale, one of the most eye-opening drinking experience I’ve had in the last 365 days and a beer I’d put near #1 in the uber-hopped beer category.  I already can’t wait for the next release of it.

Every since that Harvest Ale, damn if every Founders beers hasn’t tasted absolutely glorious to me.  From their double and “triple” IPAs, Double Trouble (mind-blowing fresh on tap) and Devil Dancer, to their old ale Curmudgeon**, to countless more of some of the most disparate styles around.  They don’t knock everything out of the park–who does?–but they surely have a better slugging percentage than even a juiced-up Barry Bonds.

I’ve probably tried more different and new-to-me beer from Founders recently than from any other brewery and, now, my expectation levels are appropriate.  I now expect a good to great beer and I always get a good to great beer.  And since they seem to have a never-ending stream of releases, there’s always another Founders beer to try that I haven’t yet.  The only problem being that they don’t distribute in NYC at the moment.  Good thing I got good friends in Virginia, Minnesota, and other places who can hook me up.

My most exciting Founders acquisition of recent was their limited Nemesis release, the first in a new series.  I’d never had a wheatwine before, but as a barleywine nut, I was certain to like this effort.  And I did.  Probably not the most “normal” example of the style, Nemesis 2009 is maple bourbon barrel-aged using bourbon barrels which were once used to age local maple syrup.  The beer poured lighter for me than expected, much lighter than a copper barley wine, more the color of a golden ale of some sort.  The smell is straight boozy, just like I like it, with the flavor a combination of boozy bourbon, vanilla, oak, sweet syrup, and of course wheat.  Surprisingly more drinkable and less syrupy than I expected, this is a truly interesting creation.  I only wish I had another bottle!

A-

Founders Imperial Stout

10.5% ABV bottled

It’s heartening to try a delicious imperial stout that can actually be bought on store shelves!  That isn’t a limited release!  And more things to add exclamation points to!!!  This effort from Founders stacks up with the best of the style, limited release or not.  Amazingly complex and rich, with a mild roasted bitterness and a nice chocolaty booziness on the back end.  This beer is just so silky, I loved to let it dance on my tongue and gargle in the back of my throat.  Arguably the best on-the-shelves, non-barreled stout in the market today.  Though, unfortunately, not my market.  Come on, let’s get Founders in NYC!

A

Founders Porter

6.5% ABV bottled

As I’ve mentioned a lot recently, the porter has become one of my favorite styles, even though I’m still not quite sure what differentiates them from stouts.  Kinda like how I can’t tell a real blond from a bottle blond.  I don’t ask and just enjoy them both.  This is a great effort with another great label–besides making great brews, Founders is in the running for best labels in the biz too and I love their squat little bottles for even more plaudits!  Rich and tingly, a strong-roasted flavor with next-to-no sweetness, smokey and earthy.  Full-bodied yet drinkable, quite enjoyable.  This is a no-frills beer, but there’s nothing wrong with that sometimes.

B+

Now that I’ve fallen in love with Founders, now that it’s become one of my favorite brewers in America, in my mind one of the best in America, I’ve even gone back and tried those two famous beers, Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, with my now acceptable level of Founders expectations, and realized those two are truly glorious beers, some of the best of their styles.

In a world of such scrutiny nowadays, things aren’t overrated or underrated.  They are, for the most part, rated correctly.  It’s you, or me, that simply hasn’t encountered enough of the sample size to know that.  I know that now.  All hail Founders.

*Son of a bitch, why can I still not get a taste of Canadian Breakfast Stout?!?!?!?

**Or another old ale, Black Biscuit, for that matter?!?

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.

B+

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.

A-/B+

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.

A-

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

Brooklyn Cookie Jar Porter

January 29th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Porter

7.8% ABV on tap

I’ve recently started using my Twitter account to highlight, on a daily basis, the dumbest, most asinine, most asocially pathetic threads over on Beer Advocate.  It’s easier than you think.  Like today’s post by a guy fretting over how to pronounce the acronym for Double India Pale Ale (”Is it di-pah or die-pa?  Dee-pay?!?!?”).  Or yesterday’s post from a guy wondering if he’s allowed to drink a beer even though he’s just gotten over a cold.  Or last week’s pathetic thread par excellence from a guy concerned with drinking too many barley wines at a party, asking advice for whether he should spit out the potent potable after each taste so as to avoid ending the night doing the hokey-pokey by himself.  Now I may be a (shudder) anarchist libertarian, but I’m starting to understand why the government endorses nanny stateism so thoroughly.  How would these people know when to even wipe their asses if not for asking a message board of complete strangers?

One frequent thread topic that comes up though, which you make think is incredibly dumb or incredibly important, is whether some beer is “worth” whatever it costs.  For me, a beer I’ve never had is always worth paying for at least once.  And there’s no way I won’t shell out for each new release from Brooklyn’s tap-only Brewmasters Reserve Series.  Garrett Oliver has lately become obsessed with creating beers that taste like “other” things (i.e. cocktails or bacon or Indian food), and the idea behind this newest release, just out this very week, really tickled my fancy.  Take it away, Garrett:

“Last winter, while the Brooklyn brewing team sat around a peat fire drinking some inspirational drinks, brewer Tom Price mentioned that his friend’s bakery made some very fine oatmeal cookies. Before long, we were all talking about oatmeal cookies and how good they are with beer. Pretty soon we’d somehow decided that the cookies should actually become a beer. Funny, the things people come up with while drinking in front of a good fire.”

I loved this idea because I’ve long had issues with the fact that nearly all “oatmeal” stouts, whether delicious or awful, have virtually no oat-y taste in them at all.  Alas, here would finally be one that stuck the landing!  So earlier this week I popped into Rattle ‘n’ Hum for an afternoon chin chin.  I was the only one in the place aside from a handy man changing light bulbs and two bartenders comparing their manicures.

My Cookie Jar Porter was served surprisingly frigid and in a pint glass.*  Honestly, I expected a bit of a cookie sweet dessert beer and this tasted nothing like my expectations.  Quite frankly, I didn’t even much like Cookie Jar at first as I found it shockingly tart for a porter as the bitter raisins were over-powering me a bit, and not in a pleasant way as in Dogfish Head’s delectable Raisin d’Etre.**  Eventually, as the beer warmed, the oatmeal cookie flavors (courtesy of Jersey City’s Feed Your Soul Bakery) start coming out more, especially on the back-end with hints of brown sugar and vanilla.

I wish the whole beer had tasted like the finish, but really this ended up being somewhat of a standard porter.  I really don’t think if you didn’t know the story of Cookie Jar would you even take a sip and go, “Wow, what is that?”  I greatly admire Brooklyn’s ambition, but just like another recent Brewmasters release, Manhattan Project, this is a bit of a mildly flawed effort.  Nevertheless, please keep ‘em coming, Brooklyn!

Now back to the is it “worth it”?  I paid $8 for this pint, a high-average price for a pint in New York.  So would I rather have my $8 back?  OF COURSE NOT.  Then I would just be a guy with $8 still curious as hell how good this crazy Cookie Jar porter is, anxious to try it.  Now I’m a guy $8 poorer, that knows that Cookie Jar Porter is a…

B+

*I’ve never had a problem with the Rattle ‘n’ Hum’s serving glassware or temperature, but I think the JV was working the noon-time shift.

**Re-reading that review–wow–was I a tougher grader back in the day.  Now I’m all “YAY BEER!” on everything.

Terrapin Hopsecutioner and Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout

January 23rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Terrapin, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: IPA, Style: Stout

Drunk Promises

Nothing’s worse than waking up after a night of hard core drinking with that awful, awful feeling.  No, not the feeling of being hungover.  No, this feeling is even worse.  The feeling of recalling a drunken promise you made.

Now, sometimes drunken promises can be between a guy and girl, but usually these promises are made between two or more guys.  Late at night, more like early in the morning, 3 AM or so, when the bar has cleared out, there’s just you and a friend or two, and you guys are shit-faced.

It starts with someone bringing up an innocuous point.

“Yeah, these mojitos are pretty good, but you know where the best mojitos are?  This little Cuban restaurant on Miami Beach.”

“Oh, I’ve always wanted to go to Miami.”

“You’ve NEVER been to Miami?!”

“No, but I’ve always wanted to go.”

“That’s it!  We’re all going tomorrow!”

“Yeah!”

“We can borrow my brother’s car.”

“I’ll call in sick for work!”

“Let’s leave by noon.”

“I’m in!”

“I’m in!”

“I’m in!”

You wake up the next morning, hungover, and with a certain existential dread.  Fuck!  Did I really agree to road trip to Miami today?!  I can’t road trip to Miami today.  I don’t want to road trip to Miami today.  I got plans, shit to do.

You spend the whole morning fretting, praying your other drunken promise friends don’t call.  “Hey, Aaron, I’ve picked up the car and I’ll be by in an hour to grab you.”  Because we’re guys, and even when we make drunken promises, promises we’d never make sober, we refuse to break them.  We would have to go to Miami.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t pray that one of our friends breaks the drunken promise to get us off the hook.

However, after years of regretful drunken promises, I’ve finally learned a secret:  no one wants to uphold them.  So I no longer regret drunken promises.  I no longer spend the entire morning after a drunken promise fretting that I may have to do something I don’t want to do.  Drunken promises aren’t really promises.  They are just manly bluster.

Hopsecutioner

7.2% ABV bottled

There’s so many beers I want to try but it’s getting harder and harder to find them.  It’s likewise getting harder and harder to find “noted” breweries I have yet to try.  In a recent trade with The Drunken Polack, he luckily sent me my first beers from a brewery I’d been looking to explore:  Terrapin Beer Co. from Athens, Georgia.  I just love their labels, funny little scenes of terrapins doing stuff best befitting the beer name.  Hopsecutioner is their newly released single IPA–their first ever single IPA, coming on the heels of a successful DIPA release.  Unfortunately, Hopsecutioner is just so-so.  Mild in taste, with only a slight bitterness, I would have sworn this was just a normal pale ale.  Average body, average carbonation, average flavor.  There’s nothing bad about Hopsecutioner, but no there’s no wow factor either.  And in today’s exciting craft beer climate that’s just not quite good enough.

B+

Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout

8.1% ABV bottled

I’d unfortunately missed Terrapin’s much-ballyhooed Depth Charge Espresso stout so I was excited to try this “cousin” of a beer.  And it was pretty good.  Roasted, bitter, very coffee-infused but a little thin.  A well hidden ABV makes this a terrific light stout, though, again, no real wow factor.

So I wasn’t floored by my first two Terrapin beers, but I feel like they got enough “there” to make me curious to try more of their offerings.

B+

Maui CoCoNut Porter

December 21st, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Maui, Brewer: Minneapolis Town Hall, Brewer: Williamsburg AleWerks, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Style: Porter

5.7% ABV canned

I’ve been too precious with my beer lately.  Just keeping it on the shelf, in the fridge, admiring it more than drinking it.  Almost scared to uncork my bottles if not for a special occasion.  Right, like I have special occasions.  I’d become like some douchebag who owns a fleet of Porsches and Ferraris yet never takes them out of the hangar, instead pedaling a beat-up Schwinn to the store every time he needs a carton of milk.  So this past weekend, with a load of looming trades headed my way, I decide to take some inventory and free up some space in my cellar.*  By drinking through my bottles one by one.

I’ve been drinking a lot of porters lately–a style I’m starting to think I can only differentiate from stouts in my mind–and each one of these three came in a trade from my three favorite fellow beer bloggers.

I don’t know why, but I’d wanted to try Maui’s CoCoNut porter for a long time.  Maybe because it just sounds exotic.  Maybe because it would be the first Hawaiian beer I’d ever had.  Maybe because I have a weird fetish for quality canned beers.  Or maybe just because I’m a fan of unnecessary midWord capitalization.  Alas, I finally got a can courtesy of my man Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive.  I’m sad to report, though, I was a tad disappointed.  Much like the Stone’s Ken Schmidt collaboration (which, yes, also included some help from Maui), I think this is another middling review that we somewhat have to blame on my own faulty expectations.  I don’t know why I keep expecting these coconut beers to taste like a liquidized Mounds bar, but I just can’t shake the desire for that taste.  Just like Ken Schmidt though, this one tastes nothing like that but instead is a very, very roasted offering.  I also found it somewhat lacking in complexity for such an ambitiously created beer.  A slightly thin mouthfeel would be another debit, but this is actually a pretty nice drinking porter for the low ABV.  I may not sound like I liked it, but I truly did, I just wasn’t floored by it.  I’d love to get my hands on the rest of Maui’s offerings as well.

B+

Minneapolis Town Hall Odin

8.4% ABV from a growler

Minnesota has become a craft beer mini-mecca and luckily my man The Captain lives right in the eye of the storm and, even luckier, has no compunction with mailing heavy ass growlers halfway across the country for, you see, two of Minnesota’s top breweries–Town Hall and Barley John’s (which I have still yet to try an offering from)–are tap/growler only.  After their legendary Masala Mama, Odin is the second offering I’ve had from the Town Hall boys and it’s another very good one.  Full bodied and roasted but with a hint of nice sweetness on the back-end.  Beautifully complex and quite enjoyable.  Not too boozy but a little too heavy to be super drinkable, then again, I had no clue the ABV on this was so high until I just this second looked it up on BA.  I enjoyed this one quite a bit and hope to continue stockpiling Town Hall growlers.

B+

Williamsburg AleWerks Bourbon Barrel Porter

ABV unknown from a bomber (#0334/2009)

This final offering comes from Dave the Drunken Polack.  I had, quite frankly, never even heard of this Virginia brewery but when Dave asked if I was interested in this beer I saw those three magic words–BOURBON.  BARREL.  AGED–and I was sold.  Wise decision as this is a very solid offering in perhaps my favorite sub-style of beer.  Aged two months in oak bourbon barrels with tastes of caramel, chocolate, toffee, brown sugar, vanilla, and bourbon this is a very complex and very strong beer.  It smells like a masterpiece but the taste doesn’t quite deliver as it’s a little hot and a little bitter.  Well worth seeking out though and along with Williamsburg’s absolutely outstanding Pumpkin Ale that I had back in October but never formally reviewed, I’d definitely have to label this relatively-known brewery as one to watch.

A-

*Like I have a cellar!  Ha.

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.