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Archive for the ‘Grade: B regular’ 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!!!

Marin White Knuckle DIPA

December 10th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Marin, Brewer: Telegraph, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: B regular, Style: California Common/Steam, Style: IPA

8% ABV from a bomber

One of the fun things about beer trading is getting sent stuff you absolutely have no interest in.  I’m being serious.  Every place in America has those certain beers that locals know about, and love, but that for some reason no one else seems to know about and love. Everyone knows about California’s Russian Rivers and AleSmiths and Stones, etc., but few have probably heard of Marin Brewing Co.  So, of course, when a local Californian like my pal Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive hooks me up with some West Coast beers I surely know, and had asked for, something like this White Knuckle DIPA stuck out like a store thumb and you can’t help but being like, “What the hell is this?!  I’ve never seen this on BA’s Top 100!  I’ve never heard about this being released on a one-day only $15 a bottle, four bottle limit party!  Surely this beer sucks.”

But of course it doesn’t.  There’s a reason why a smart guy and a savvy beer drinker like Jay insisted I have it.  And God bless him cause Goddamn is this good.  Wow!  Just a juicy, juicy smell and full of tasty hops goodness.  Packed with grapefruit and a tropical mango/peach/apricot-like melange of fruit flavors this is one complex sucker.  Piney yet with a balanced bitter/sweetness finish it just tickles the tongue.  I loved every sip of this one and drew out my enjoyment of the bomber so long you would have thought I was Tantric.

I really don’t understand why this beer isn’t more notable.  It’s even more bizarre that it get a solid, solid “A” on Beer Advocate.  Yeah, well then why in the heck isn’t every non-California beer dork demanding his California buddies send him some?!  You really should as it’s honestly one of the best IPAs I’ve ever had and one of the more unique ones too.  I really see no flaw in it AT ALL.

A

Telegraph California Ale

6.2% ABV from a corked-and-caged 750

A second heretofore-unknown-to-me California beer that Jay insisted I try was the aptly named California Ale from Telegraph Brewing Company.  Listed as a “California Common,” the only beer I’ve had of that style, and I would guess you have to, is the iconoclastic Anchor Steam.  But I haven’t had an Anchor Steam in ages so I don’t exactly remember the calling card of the style.  This beer poured incredibly frothy and foamy.  I loooooved the aroma of it and the first taste was fairly enjoyable.  It tasted like a malty saison to me if that paradox could possibly makes sense.  “Belgianish,” it was yeasty and bananay yet caramely.  A bit of an oddball.  I found it a little too carbonated, a little too thin of mouthfeel, but overall not too bad.  I was glad to try it.

B

Surly Darkness (2009)

December 8th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Surly, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Grade: B regular, Style: Helles, Style: Stout

10.3% ABV bottled

How do you remember how good a taste was?  My “normal” friends always wonder how I can recall what beers I liked and what I disliked.  How I can recall that a stout I drank in September of 2007 is better than one I drank in November of 2009.  And, you know, they raise a valid point.  How can one ever remember a purely visceral experience?  For beers, one could review their tasting notes, but I’ll be honest with you, for 99% of us beer reviewers they’re just going to be packed with trite buzzwords scrawled on a cocktail napkin while toasted.  IPAs are “hoppy,” “piny,” and “citrusy.”  Barley wines are “malted,” “caramely,” and “boozy.”  Belgian dubbels and quads have tastes of “candi” and “dark fruits.”  Stouts are “roasted,” “chocolately,” and “coffee-like.”  Yeah, big fucking help.  We’re all frauds.

It would be like trying to explain why some random sexual experience in 2005 was better than some random sexual experience in 2007.  Yet you could probably do that, right?  Because what you’re remembering–what you’re using to “rank” the experiences–is the remembered pleasure you got from it.  So, yeah, I do remember Surly Darkness 2008 as being maybe the sweetest stout I’d ever had in my life but I more remember sitting on my friend’s couch on a cold November night and both of our eyes just popping out of our heads, our jaws dropping to the hardwood, staring at eachother after the first sip and just saying similtaneously, “Is this not the best fucking beer ever?!”

And so, when I tell people Surly Darkness is the best stout I’ve ever had, I’m not telling them that based on side-by-side tastings with every other halfway decent stout I’ve ever had, but rather based on my seemingly clear but probably hazy memory of how I felt that one time I drank that one rare bottle.  An inexact science, sure, something that will always be influenced by the time, place, surroundings, and what happened before, during, and immediately after the experience, but it’s all we got.  And, hey, that bout of great sex you seem to recall having a few years ago probably is better in your memory than it actually was.

Legendary Minnesotan The Captain got me that one rare bottle of Darkness last year and the gracious dude also got me that one rare bottle this year.  I’d heard that this year’s recipe was completely different from last’s–apparently brewmaster Todd didn’t like how sweet his last batch had been–and so I was a little concerned.  The sweetness was what I had liked about last year’s batch, what I felt had set it apart from all the other legendary imperial stouts out there.  So now I had assumed Surly had just gone all status quo and made your typical *BUZZWORDS!* “roasted,” “chocolately,” and “coffee-like” stout.  You know, good, but nothing unique, just throw it on the pile.

I’m glad to report I was quite wrong.  Darkness 2009 smells incredibly hoppy, totally unlike last year (as I recall!).  Honestly, if you were blindfolded and this was put to your face you might guess it a DIPA or a barley wine.  The taste is also a little more hoppy and bitter but that special underlying sweetness is still there.  It’s really blurring the line between what we think of as a stout and perhaps the catchall “strong ale.”  Man, this one drinkable motherfucker.  Most imperial stouts naturally have a drinking “governor” on them if you will and through pure booziness you’re forced to take eye-dropper-sized little sips each time the glass comes to your face.  But not Darkness.  I could chug Darkness and it’s so damn good I struggled mightily to savor each sip.  In my mind, I feel like Darkness 2008 was a hair better–of course even if I had a bottle of 2008 a comparison now would be invalid as it would be aged a year–but Darkness 2009 is still one of a kind and out of this world.  I will continue to call it my favorite stout on planet Earth.

A+

I had warmed up for Darkness with, perhaps, Surly’s polar opposite of a beer Hell (likewise provided by The Captain).  The cool name betrays the very uncool style–helles lager, a kellerbier (aka zwickel bier) technically–and based on the internet geek buzz I was already kinda pissed off at this beer.  Why was the great Surly, makers of boozy masterpieces like Darkness and flavor-packed hybrids such as Furious, Bender, and Cynic wasting my time with such a lame, low ABV (5.1%) style?!

I was so wrong.  I totally expected to hate this, to bitch at Surly for eschewing their high-ABV flavorful beers, but I really dug Hell.  So crisp and refreshing.  Light and grainy.  Bready and sweet.  It’s like the best “shitty” beer I’ve ever had.  That sounds like faint praise I suppose, but Hell is what Bud/Miller/Coors should aspire to.  If I gave this to my macro-swilling chums there’s no way the wouldn’t now realize that Bud/Miller/Coors is adjunct-ingredient garbage.  I’m not sure this style could be rendered any better.  I could drink these all day long and probably would if I live in Minnesota.

B

RJ Rockers Bell Ringer and Blue Mountain Full Nelson

October 28th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Blue Mountain, Brewer: RJ Rockers, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Grade: B regular, Style: ESB, Style: Pale Ale

8.5% ABV bottled

It’s a workout being a beer geek!  Constantly researching the latest hot releases, scouring the city (if not the country (if not the world)) for bottles, walking aimlessly around town trying to find a bar with “acceptable” offerings for you palate.  You know, sometimes it just feels good to relax and drink with no expectations.  When I was at my friend DW’s house in Virgina recently, admiring his massive beer fridge, I saw two six-packs for two beers I’d never heard of from two Southern breweries I’d likewise never heard of.  The War of Northern Aggression seems to still have a lingering affect on the quality of microbrew coming out of the dirty dirty, but I’m always willing to try something new.  I asked DW if I could snag a bottle of each before I headed back to New York and he gleefully agreed, clearly wanting to get these brews off his hands.  I love to try new stuff and it’s great to test your reviewing skills on beers with absolutely no buzz–neither positive nor negative–that could taint your objectivity, but I still threw these two into my fridge expecting to use them as nothing more than 3-AM-last call-don’t-want-to-waste-the-good-shit-in-my-apartment beers.  I was, quite frankly, pretty wrong.  I actually ended up drinking Bell Ringer to kick off some early college football watching on Saturday.  It was a pleasant pleasant surprise.  I haven’t had many ESBs (Extra Strong Bitters) in my life and after this one I intend to try many more.  An ESB is kinda best described as a DIPA without the bitterness, oddly enough.  Bell Ringer was indeed hoppy hoppy hoppy sans bitterness, boozy but drinkable, well balanced and flavor-packed.  I wish I’d swiped more bottles from my buddy.  Don’t be scared to try this one if you live in the miniscule swath of land where it is distributed.  I believe this is the first beer I’ve ever had from South Carolina and in that regard, it’s the best I’ve ever had from the Palmetto State*.  (Whatever a palmetto is.)

B+

5.6% ABV bottled

Bell Ringer was a very pleasant surprise and Afton, Virginia’s pale ale offering was pretty darn enjoyable too.  Bursting with a nice Cascade hoppiness yet still fairly balanced.  A pronounced bitterness, yet quite drinkable.  Easily as quality a pale ale as some of the more “famous” breweries’ flagship offerings.  I would never be upset to do a little session self-shitcanning with Full Nelson if I lived in Virginia.  I need to quit being so reluctant to try all these “unacclaimed” beers out there in the world, because, as I just found out, many are quite nice.**

B

*Though I’d love to get my hand on some COAST stuff.  Any one?  Any one?

**Yankees in SIX!  Book it.

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.

A-

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.

A-/B+

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.

B

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.


Cigar City Jai Alai IPA

August 21st, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Cigar City, Country: America, Grade: B regular, Style: IPA

7.5% ABV on tap

Presented in ascending order, my most desirable American breweries to try a beer from, that I’ve never had a beer from.  Did that make sense?  So these are breweries–or tiny brew pubs in many cases, no surprise–in which I have never had a single beer from, yet are ones that I most would like to have a single beer, any beer, but preferably many beers, from.

HONORABLE MENTION:  Shorts, Midnight Sun, Alaskan, Sweetwater, Aaron’s Imaginary Microbrewery

10. Pisgah (Black Mountain, NC)

9.  Flossmoor Station (Flossmoor, IL)

8.  Central Waters (Amherst, WI)

7.  COAST (North Charleston, SC)

6.  Moonlight (Fulton, CA)

5.  Live Oak (Austin, TX)

4.  Barley John’s (Minneapolis, MN)

3.  Bullfrog (Williamsport, PA)

2.  Kuhnhenn (Warren, MI)

1.  Cigar City (Tampa, FL)

For whatever kooky reason, I’ve wanted so badly to try Cigar City beer from since even before they’ve been a brewery.  Seriously.  I started following their splendid blog over a year ago as they day-by-day cataloged their “trials and tribulations of opening a brewery in Florida.”  Then, when the brewery did finally open early this year and immediately started getting boffo reviews for its first releases, I was even more smitten.  The fact that they had a meager, meager distribution arm made them even more enticing.  Heck, my sister lives in Florida, Fort Lauderdale to be exact, and even she wasn’t able to get Cigar City for me.  These beers were playing hard to get and I was captivated.

So imagine my surprise when, just this week, Cigar City finally, ahem, penetrated the New York City market.  I rushed to the great Rattle ‘N’ Hour at the first hour I found happy on Thursday, the first day they tapped New York’s first Cigar City offering, the highly regarded Jai Alai IPA.

And I was bitterly disappointed.  The IPA I tasted had a mild, mild carbonation almost bordering on cask ale.  I assure you it was straight from the tap and I believe it was tapped correctly.  The most muted of piny–not Pliny unfortunately–and hops smell with just a hair more flavor than aroma.  A decent hops bitterness and a tad of malt sweetness to smooth it out on the back end.  Reminded me of a poor, poor man’s Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA.  I felt this IPA was made very cowardly, with the weakest of flavors in all capacities.  I can’t express how gravely disappointed I was.  One compliment, and only one compliment, is that I am stunned how high the ABV is.  Jai Alai rolls down your throat like a 5% beer, again though, perhaps due to the real lack of biting carbonation.

I hate to be arrogant, I hate to reveal my big city elitism in all its inglory, but the mediocrity of this beer yet again makes me question the veracity of highly rated brews coming out of the exact opposite of beer oasises.  Oases?  (OK, that isn’t underlined in red so I must have spelt it right.)

Beer geeks that live in New York or Philly or Chicago or San Diego or Seattle, etc, have access to countless great brews.  So if a new upstart comes on the market, it better be fucking good or it simply will not survive the Darwinian beer race.  But Florida and specifically Tampa has shitty beer.  A new brewery hits the scene and even if they’re just making B+ quality beer, the locals go nuts.  (Sure better than Corona!  Or well mai tais!)  They’ve never had anything this great before.  And don’t deny the rah rah local homerism either.

I get how this works.  I grew up in Oklahoma City.  Not exactly the Paris of the southern USA dining world.  Afloat in a sea of chain restaurants, any time some halfway decent “exotic” Chinese or Thai or Japanese or “New York style” pizza place would open, locals would flip their culinary shit like they were wielding their fork or chopsticks at Thomas Keller or Ferran Adria joints (not that they would know who those master chefs are (good lord, could I be more arrogant?!))  For the simply reason that they only had the deplorable Applebee’s and Panda Express at the mall food court to compare these places too. These places would be nothing more than also-rans in New York or San Francisco, but in a less competitive place they were superstars.  And I’m starting to believe the same goes for some of these purely local breweries out there.

So thus, I am now leery of the other highly rated Cigar City beers, and the incredibly highly rated Live Oak stuff coming out of Austin (not exactly Ghent), and all the other A-level beers coming out of places like Des Moines and Little Rock and Tulsa and Utica.  No offense.  Wait, yeah, OFFENSE.

Ho hum…I plan to give both Jai Alai and a few other Cigar Citys another shake this weekend.  I hope I have my tastebuds swayed.

So, what are your most desirable breweries to try a beer from which you have never tried a beer from?  Maybe we can get some local trades going, quid pro quo and shit for everybody.

B

The Brooklyn Brewery Beers of Citi Field

June 30th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Grade: B regular, Style: Pale Ale, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

I’m a Yankees fan, but sometimes my friends can talk me into joining them for a nice and relaxing minor league baseball game.  Such was the case when I made my first visit to the Mets’ new Citi Field last week.  A visit that I eagerly anticipated–not for the baseball, but rather upon learning that Garrett Oliver had crafted some special brews for the ballpark’s Danny Meyer-owned concession stands.  This was especially exciting considering new Yankee Stadium’s lackluster beer and food selections.

Shackmeister Ale  (The Shake Shack)

ABV unknown

The most “famous” of Citi’s beer and food selections, this pale ale is also available at Manhattan’s two Shake Shack locations.  Just like its out-in-the-real-world counterparts, The Shake Shack concession is known for its overwhelmingly long lines, up to two or three innings waits I have been told.  Thus, I had no plans to stand single file with the hoi polloi, especially considering I find the highly-regarded Shack burger to be just a tad overrated (Lucky’s in Hell’s Kitchen has a burgerstand burger just as good and the wait will be like a hour less for you).  However, that all changed when a light rain delay sent the crowds home early and I was able to unzip the nylon ropes, slap the stanchions out of my way, and march straight to the front of the line where Dat (pictured above) gave me a foamy pint of the Shackmeister as well as some acupuncture advice (thanks, Dat, my lumbar region has never felt better).  The Shackmeister is a solid enough beer, quite tasty with nicely balanced English malts and Glacier hops, and an unexpected lemony zest and summery spiciness.

B

Blanche de Queens (Box Frites)

4.5% ABV

I’m a sucker for common foods pronounced in their fancy European way–just makes them taste better–and such is the case with Belgian frites.  Most unfortunately, it’s a crime against Jean-Claude Van Damme to call these anything more than frozen bagged American french fries dropped into a ballpark frialator.  Available with countless dipping sauces, I was excited when the girl gave me an extra tub of their bacon mayo “just for bein’ cute,” but a few minutes later I would realize she had probably been hired for a contract hit against me by some angry Leinenkugel enthusiasts.  The bacon mayo is surely one of the most ghastly things to enter my mouth in a while.  Luckily, it’s “paired” witbier, the only-available-in-Citi(-at-least-under-this-name) Blanche de Queens  is a helluva of swell ballpark brew.  Very yeasty and full-bodied, at first I thought this might be a saison with it’s spiciness and smooth drinkability.  I grew bored of it after my first pint, but it’s still a terrific hot weather beer, a perfect example of what a Blue Moon could taste like under a master craftsman’s hands.  I think your macro-loving friends will enjoy this one.

B

Sabrosa Ale (El Verano Taqueria)

ABV unknown

The shortest line in the centerfield foodcourt is for the taco stand, but it shouldn’t be, as the food got rave reviews from my crew.  And its paired Citi-only beer was the evening’s clear winner as well.  The taste I could only describe as being that of a very flavorful and spicy lager*, like Brooklyn Lager mixed with a packet of taco seasonings.  A perfect complement to Mexican food but delicious on its own as well.  This is a beer I would gladly drink at normal bars and even buy bottled.  Very nice.  It’s great to have such desirable offerings at a ballpark.

B+

A few notes:

I never got around to having the Blue Smoke BBQ stand’s special blended beer, but that’s easily had at its Manhattan restaurant.

All the Brooklyn beers at Citi are a reasonable $7.50 while the cruddy Buds and what-have-yous are $6.

The concession workers are really happy and nice, and don’t even mind some a-hole holding up the lengthy lines to take pictures of taps.

*For the record, the one review of Sabrosa on Beer Advocate calls it an American Pale Ale, but I’m somewhat dubious of that style listing for the time being.

Summer Beers

June 12th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Goose Island, Brewer: Surly, Country: America, Grade: B regular, Grade: B-/C+, Style: ESB, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

One of the most detestable arguments a craft beer enthusiast can have with a macro swilling moron is when it comes to warm weather tippling.  We’ve heard them all.  “You don’t want one of yer fancy beers while out there on the golf course.  Ya need a frosty Bud Light.”  “Can’t have one of those dark brews you drink on the beach, ya need a chilled Corona.”  “You really wanna sit on a patio with those expensive bombers you like, ya need an ice cold can of Coors.”

Ugh.  Just because the weather’s hot I need to drink shit?!  There’s plenty of flavorful beers out there that also manage to be “refreshing” and even lower-ABV, stuff like Three Floyds Gumballhead, countless saisons, and even some of the bigger microbreweries’ boringly labeled for the mainstream “summer” beers are quite nice, notably Sam Adams’ offering.

I’m the kind of man who has no problem drinking a snifter of 20% stout even in 100 degree heat–oh, the looks at get at the nudist beach!–but there will be times in the next three months or so that I need something a little lighter, so it was with great enthusiasm that I tried two summer, but not “summer,” offerings from two of my favorite breweries.

Surly Bitter Brewer

4% ABV canned

Oh, my beloved brewery.  The Minnesota cans-only brewery that’s instantly become one of my favorites.  I don’t get to have it often because its current distribution reach is super-limited, but every time The Captain hooks me up with a new offering I am eternally grateful…and then floored.  There’s their awesome IPA Furious (A-), gorgeous brown Bender (A-), inventive farmhouse Cynic (A-), infused Coffee Bender (A-) and of course their wax dipped and rare Darkness, perhaps the best stout on planet earth (A+).  Thus, it is always with much excitement when I hear a new release from them is on the market.  Unfortunately, Bitter Brewer is the first Surly I haven’t unequivocally loved.  It undoubtedly smells great with a nice floral and citrus aroma, but the taste just isn’t there.  It’s really watery.  Like a slightly off homebrew.  Having said that, they go down easy and I could drink a zillion of these.  It’s obviously a superior summer beer to anything in the BMC family or Corona, but it’s nothing special.  I hate to say this, but the fact that this bordering-on-”near”-beer offering gets an A- on Beer Advocate is nothing but Surly fanboyism.  I gotta think if this was a macro offering it would be absolutely skewered by the geek community.

B-/C+

Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale

4.2% ABV bottled

Goose Island is yet another brewery I much adore with their glorious A pluses Bourbon County Stout and Night Stalker.  This brew is completely on the other end of the dark and kick-your-ass spectrum, but I was still excited to try it and it didn’t disappoint.  I don’t typically like American wheat beers but 312 is solid.  A lemony crispness and…well, wheat.  Wheat and lemon, that’s about it.  Nicely put together, not complex in the least, but still quite tasty.  Refreshing but boring.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that.  A mild success, a good summer offering.

B

Dark Horse Brewing Co.

May 20th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Dark Horse, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Grade: B regular, Style: IPA, Style: Smoked Porter, Style: Stout

My good buddy Aaron over at The Captain’s Chair thought I’d do well to try some brews from Marshall, Michigan’s acclaimed Dark Horse Brewing Company, and being that we don’t get any in NYC, he kindly sent me a nice little passel of them.

(My usual caveat to those readers that skim over the beer review parts and simply read this blog for the humor, insight, and perversion:  skip this post*)

Plead the Fifth Imperial Stout

12% ABV bottled

From their limited Holiday Stout Series, I unfortunately did not love this much-adored beer.  But I still liked it quite a bit.  I found it a solid but unspectacular Russian Imperial Stout with a predominantly roasted malt flavor accented by a slight chocolate sweetness and a smidge of hops bitterness.  I did love its smooth booziness and I gots to tip my hat to any 12 ouncer of beer that can put me down for an evening.  Hope to give this brew another try in the future to hopefully find out if I’m missing anything.

B+

Fore Smoked Stout

ABV unknown and Dark Horse ain’t telling…

Another from the Holiday Stout Series, I solidly enjoyed this one.  Smoked porters and stouts are often a tricky exercise in brewing and all too often I find them poorly balanced in one way or the other.  Either far too smokey or far too sweet.  This one wasn’t.  It was very smokey, obviously, like a piece of BBQed meat, but well balanced with sweet tastes of licorice and chocolate malt.  A nice mouthfeel and quite drinkable, but I must admit, the smoked beer I drank immediately after this one I enjoyed a bit more…The Captain’s homebrewed smoked porter.**

B+

Crooked Tree IPA

6% ABV bottled

I’d had a worldclass IPA to-be-named-later previous to this one, so maybe that distorted my palate, but I still suspect that this is just a good, but not great IPA.  It smells fresh and fragrant but the taste is just too bitter and unbalanced.  Salty even with next to no citrus profile like you’d expect.  Nevertheless, it’s a nice drinking single IPA and I could polish off a tub of these in a night.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

B

All in all, none of this troika of Dark Horses floored me, but I dug them all and could tell this is a brewery with some chops and inventiveness.  I hope to try more of their intriguing brews in the future.

*And come back tomorrow.  I’ll have a tale.

**Suck up alert!  Send me more!

Samuel Adams Imperial Series

April 6th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Boston Beer Company, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Grade: B regular, Style: Belgian White, Style: Bock, Style: Stout

Within the last month, Sam Adams released a new series of imperial brews in order to “offer beer lovers’ an intense version of some of their favorite traditional beer styles by boosting the ingredients and testing the limits of each traditional style” said the press release robot employed by the brewery.*

I was excited to try all of these as I can’t help but love Sam.  Sure, they aren’t the most adventurous beermakers in the world–save the brilliant Utopias–but they always make quality stuff and you have to admire the heights they’ve attained in the world of beer while not making watery swill.

Double Bock

9.5% ABV

I don’t particularly love most bocks, but this was a pretty good effort.  Incredibly malty, the bottle actually claims you could make a loaf of bread with it.  I believe that!  So rich, I honestly struggled to finish the bottle and liked it less and less the more I drank it I was so overwhelmed.  Though the initial flavor is admittedly pretty solid.  Robust and syrupy tastes of malts, caramel, and spices.  Worth trying, though I’d recommend splitting a bottle.

B

Imperial Stout

9.5% ABV

Inexplicably, Sam had never had a major release stout before this.  Odd for one of the most common and desired style.  Thus, I was excited to see what they could accomplish with this release.  I found it very boozy and harsh tasting for the not-to-so-high(-for-an-impy-stout-at-least) ABV.  Still, not bad.  High level of roasted coffee notes and malted chocolate but not much else going on.  It actually reminded me of a less polished version of Founders Breakfast Stout with a mouthfeel and a drinkability like a Guinness Extra Stout.  This would be a splendid “starter” imperial stout to give to a friend you are trying to get into craft beer. A worthy effort fo’ sho’.

B+

Imperial White

10.3% ABV

What a shocker!  I was least interested in trying this one of the three.  I mean, what do you think of when you hear American white beer?  You probably think nothing.  Flavorlessness.  The bland faux-micro macro Blue Moon.  Again, nothingness.  No flavor, just nothing.  Imperializing a white seems like an oxymoron.  How can something so bland be made “bigger” and “bolder”?!   Ultimately, what I’m saying is that I hate whites and much like two times zero still equal zero, I figured two “times” white would still equal shit.  It’s like imperializing tap water.  I saw no way this would be good.   Boy was I wrong.  This was incredibly flavorful, complex, interesting, and potent.  Tons of orange with strong coriander notes.  A hyooooge mouthfeel and body.  And the ABV!  Wow.  I will definitely get this again, and, actually, I kinda want one now. Truly one of the bigger beer surprises of the year.  I don’t even feel foolish saying this is one of a kind.  Beer Advocate actually may now have to create an “imperial white” style category.

A-

*He cost $2.5M to design but his brilliant and totally human-sounding statements meant to inspire customer loyalty and create a new fan base has paid off ten-fold!