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Archive for the ‘Style: Barley wine’ Category

Alpine Great

February 3rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Alpine, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Barley wine

14% ABV bottled

Overrated and Underrated Drinking Days

With Super Bowl Sunday fast approaching, I thought I’d take a quick glance at what are the worst, and secretly best, days of the year to tipple.


6.  Christmas Eve — This drinking day has gained a lot of traction in the past few years but it is still mainly just a day for single Jews to get drunk with other single Jews, which in theory isn’t the worst thing in the world, until you realize that most of this Jew mingling has been collated into specially organized “Matzo Ball” events which are essentially just lame J-Date-esque mixers.*  The alienated loneliness just permeates the latke-aromaed air, believe me.  A positive:  Jewish women are normally pretty easy, but at the Matzo Ball…every little Jewish boy feels like Sandy Koufax entering a bar in Flatbush after pitching a no-hitter.

5.  Halloween — Halloween used to be an underrated drinking day at the turn of the century, back when most adults didn’t even consider the fact that they could celebrate this holiday, but the continued infantilizing of adults and the oft-repeated meme that “all women dress like sluts” on Halloween has lead to the bars being filled with a lot of moronic yahoos on both sides of the gender aisle, bumping into you because they have no cognizance of their costume’s spatiality.  A positive:  all women dress like sluts.

4.  Valentine’s Day — A certain kind of man will tell you that Valentine’s Day is an awesome day to go drinking because the bars will be littered with sad and desperate single women.  Well, actually, that kinda is the truth.  But, what no one ever considers is that the bars will also be packed with the kind of irredeemable douchebags that go to bars on Valentine’s Day simply because they think the bars will be filled with sad and desperate single women.  A positive:  Still better than going to some crummy $500 “romantic” prix fixe with your boring S.O.

3.  Super Bowl Sunday — The Super Bowl is celebrated by all.  The young, the old, the gay, the straight, the cool, the dorky, the carnivorous, the vegetarian, the married, the single, the drinker, the teetotaler, the sports fan, the Olympics enthusiast.  And when something is celebrated by all, that means that a lot of morons will be out and about as most of the world is obviously moronic.  Like #2 on our list, Super Bowl Sunday can be majorly enjoyable when celebrated in a sealed environment amongst a select group of close friends, but if you dare to watch it in public well then caveat drinker.  A positive:  the early start time for the game means one can and should be shit-faced by 8ish and will often be passed out in bed before midnight, making Super Bowl Sunday one of the few drinking holidays that doesn’t wreck your next day.

2.  New Year’s Eve — Shockingly, the quintessential Amateur Night is only #2 on my list.  Admittedly it is an awful, awful night of over-priced food and drink, dumb plastic \ 2 0 1 0 / glasses and noisemakers, and packed bars full of the kinds of suburbanites, aging farts, and tourists that choose not to have fun on the other 364 days a year and who don’t know the actual words to “Auld Lang Syne.  But, at least these people are fairly behaved because the bars are too packed and service is too slow for any one to get enough drinks to get lit up, not that I’d dare set foot in a Manhattan bar on December 31st.  A positive:  free champagne toast at midnight!!!!!  (Just kidding!  Why do bars thinks a 50 cent plastic flute of Korbel is some great attraction?!)

1.  St. Patrick’s Day I’ve written on this topic before, but the day designated for celebrating…uh…I’m not sure has truly become a yearly celebration of daylight hours obnoxious buffoonery.  A positive:  acts as a bit of a drinking eugenics for these kind of bozos, giving them such massive hangovers and “I nevah wanna drink agains” that the bars will be pretty devoid of these fools from the late evening of March 17th til at least the 23rd or so.  Capitalize on that.


5/6.  Fat Tuesday/Cinco de Mayo — Honestly, I have no idea what these holidays celebrate, nor even when they are celebrated–though I’m guessing the 5th of Mayonnaise for the latter–but damn if I don’t always somehow accidentally find myself in a bar on these two days.  And I always have a blast!  One would think these would just be the Cajun and Mexican versions of St. Patrick’s Day, a bunch of yahoos painting themselves purple/gold/green or red/white/green instead of orange/green, Creole stomping and Mexican hat-dancing instead of “woohoo” jigging, downing Hurricanes and tequila instead of Guinnesses, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  For some reason, I’ve only encountered cool and normal people looking to have a great–and more importantly, civilized-ish–time on these two fauxish holidays.  Plus, jambalaya and etouffee and burritos and chimichangas are vastly superior to rotten wet cabbage.  A negative:  Louisiana and Mexico pretty much only make shitty beers (I’m looking at you Abita and Corona.)

4.  Sunday nights – What kind of degenerate has all weekend to go out but waits until Sunday around 10:00 PM to do so?  What kind of subjugate goes out drinking on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and goes, “You know what?  That simply wasn’t enough” and heads out for some more?  What kind of unemployed, underemployed, or self-employed transgressive decides there’s no better way to start off his week than by waking up late Monday mid-morning with a wicked hangover?  I’ll tell you who–the kind of person we like!  A negative:  aside from the aforementioned, Sunday night bars can also be full of sloppy fat guys in tight football jerseys who have been drinking and eating wings since the 1:00 o’clock games and have just forgotten to go home.

3.  Christmas Night –  Christmas Eve may be a shitty Hebrewic drinking night but Christmas Night is incredible with bars full of true drunks of all religions and bar staff so upset they have to work they’ve decided to get sloshed, not give a damn, and over-pour your drinks and under-charge your bar tabs.  A negative:  most bars are usually not open or have limited hours.

2.  4th of July — While all the nimrods are standing outside slack-jawed and staring up into the dark sky, you’re inside avoiding the lame fireworks you’ve seen for the last 30 years–has there been a single technological innovation in fireworks in the last million years?!–getting loaded with the kind of people that realize drinking a good American beer and hitting on a bar floozy is patriotism to its core.  A negative:  you just end up watching the fireworks on the bar’s TV.  Which is actually kinda lamer.

1.  Thanksgiving Night — Now most everyone is “allowed” to go drinking on Thanksgiving night, but only a certain kind of person chooses to and these are the kind of people I really like spending time with.  The kinds of people that spent all day getting loaded to stave off the pain of having to deal with their annoying relatives and who now want to spend the evening getting even more loaded while commiserating with strangers about how annoying their respective relatives were that day.  A negative:  so bloated with Thanksgiving food you can’t find any more room to cram beer into your body.  Another positive:  not needing to pick up a drunken pizza slice at 3 AM but instead being able to go home to raid the fridge for leftovers which you of course eat straight from the Ziploc bags using your bare hands.

And maybe the most underrated time to drink is simply by yourself and at home, where I do most of my tippling.  I mean, it’s not like bars are going to be selling the delicious Alpine Great, generously provided for me by my main man in San Diego, Jesse the Hutt.

The smell of Great is right in my wheelhouse, powerfully intoxicating like J.W. Lee’s Harvest Ale, you can smell this one from across the room.  Awesomely boozy with a dark fruity richness, burnt molasses, toffee, and syrupy caramel.  It finishes with a bourbon vanilla scorch (though it’s actually Jack Daniels barreled which of course isn’t a bourbon but a Tennessee whiskey if we’re being pedantic).  A perfect dessert beer this one is just crazy complex, surprisingly smooth and drinkable for the thickness and ABV.  Minor bite on the finish but other than that no real complaints.  This one would surely be flawless with a little age to smooth out the slightly rough edges, but even youthful it’s one of the best barley wines I’ve ever had.  Sure wish I had another bottle!


*Remind me to tell you my best Matzo Ball story some time soon.

Flat Earth Winter Warlock

March 17th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 26 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Flat Earth, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Barley wine

9% ABV from a bomber

I’m not sure if this will be a popular sentiment, but I fucking hate St. Patrick’s Day.  More specifically, I hate the buffoonery surrounding the faux-holiday.  Most specifically, I hate the buffoonery surrounding the faux-holiday celebrations in Manhattan.

As early as daybreak, college dropouts from all over the east coast deluge Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, and the Staten Island Ferry before slowly woohooing their way toward midtown and Fifth Avenue, clad in their dumbass green t-shirts adorned with dopey sayings (”Erin Go Braless”), ludicrous floppy hats and preposterous glittery shades bought from a street vendor or the Spencer’s Gift at their local shitty mall, and all sorts of other unnecessary accouterments from wristbands to forearmbands to headbands to neckbands.  Perhaps even a special “drinking” glove.  All green, natch.  Many a cliched tattoo will be seen residing on these gents’ and ladies’ fakely tanned anatomies.  Very few non-accented sentences will be heard spoken.

My fellow New Yorkers aren’t a happy bunch on weekday mornings, clad in uncomfortable “work” clothing, crammed into mass transit, waiting in long lines for a coffee and a bagel, and nothing is more grating than some spiky haired dolt with a minimal grasp of the English language loading up on a Diet Red Bull mixed with an illicit hotel-sized bottle of Absolut getting in their way as they try to make it to their jobs.

Sitting in their offices, no matter how high of a skyscrapered floor, the bag pipes and plastic horns and drunkener woohooing will have made work today a near impossibility.  Looking out the window and seeing the top arc of some tramp’s areolae oozing out of her tank-top (”Irish You Would Buy Me a Beer”) will not make up for such a productiveless day.  Lunch will be ordered in so as to keep further interaction with these future reality show contestants minimal.

By now many of my friends are heading home, the end to a shitty day, trekking though the vomit of morons, stepping over the prone bodies of eighteen-year-olds that have never drank more than a few Solo cups of keg beer before today, gasping at the wasted frat boy from some community college digitally stimulating the shitfaced sorority girl from some cosmetology school right out in the open on a Hell’s Kitchen stoop.  The regular and usually sedate after-work bars now filled with the few retards whose mothers didn’t give them a curfew to get back home in time for supper.  The imbeciles perhaps pressing their luck to catch a later train back to Secaucus while they make one last ditched effort to score with the Rutgers University (major undeclared) chick they first met in some alley around noon as she tried to empty her bladder into a Gatorade bottle (32 oz).  Doing shots of Jaeger and slugging cheap macro swill doused with a one-cent drop of green food coloring which causes the chemical reaction of making the pint shoot up to $9 per.  At least the city’s tavern workers are making some nice money for a Tuesday.  I pity them nonetheless.

This day has obviously been a wash for any one with gray matter between their ears and a lack of venereal disease.  That’s life though when your home city is essentially America’s theme park.

Amazingly, I’ve had several people say to me today, “I’d assume you’d like St. Patty’s Day, Aaron.”  Do you really think that little of me?  Yes, I like booze, revelry, and women of questionable morals acting questionable, but that can be found any day of the week here in the greatest city in the world.  (I’d wager those things could be found in your cities as well.)

And as much as I like those things, I hate idiocy, loud obnoxiousness, unskilled imbibing, punny t-shirts and novelty clothing, and especially scheduled fun.  I detest St. Patty’s day just like I detest the scheduled “fun” of New Year’s Eve, Fat Tuesday, Saturday nights, and bachelor parties.

Don’t get me wrong, don’t think me a grumpy old curmudgeon, for I’m not above celebrating on those days, but they are just other days to me.  Why does one need an event to get drunk, have fun, try to see women’s bare breasts?  Do you have that little control over your boring life that you can only party on those mandated days?  I know you do, and that’s what makes you an amateur, and that’s what makes those days and nights into amateur days and nights.

As for me, I wouldn’t hit 5th Avenue or enter a Manhattan bar today if you paid me.  I’d rather sit at home relaxing and drinking a nice beer by myself such as Flat Earth’s Winter Warlock English barleywine.  Dirtyspeed over at Friday Night Beer hooked me up with the semi-rare local Minnesota brew I’d been curious to try for awhile as it is my favorite beer style.  Poured much lighter than expected though the bottle does label it a “golden” barleywine which I suppose explains that.  I typically expect good barleywines to be a rich amber, a glowing ruby color, so I was a little reluctant.  Nevertheless, Winter Warlock was solid.  A nice taste of pale malts and candi sugar with quite a bit of yeastiness.  Very little hops come through though.  The major debit is the beer’s thinness and lack of bite despite the ABV.  Pretty good effort though.

Soon, this day will be over and trains, cabs, and street sweepers will eject the St. Patty’s Day nincompoops from our fair city for another 364 more days.  And the buffoons will wake up tomorrow, green face paint embedded onto their pillow, woohoo just loud enough to not rattle their hangovers, and spend the rest of the year talking about “The most sick day evah, yo,” praying they can repeat it again next year and continue to annoy us all.

You know what I really like, going out on the day after these amateur drinking holidays.  Yeah.  That’s when the real pros show up.  Sunday night,  January 2nd, Fat Wednesday, and St. Patty’s day plus one.  So see youse tomorrow.  Woohoo!


Epilogue:  This is nothing against the actual holiday, which I quite frankly don’t even know what its purpose is.  But I’m sure there is one, or was one before it got bastardized by goofy trite white people.  I’ll go read about it on Wikipedia.

Schafly Reserve Barleywine (2007)

March 9th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Saint Louis/Schlafly, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Barley wine

10.2% ABV from a handsomely boxed 750 mL bottle

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”  -HST

It was 3:15 AM as I drunkenly approached the bartender.

“’scuse me, you guys got a pair of scissors I can borrow?”

Not even regarding my question the least bit oddly, the bartender thought to herself–”Hmmm…yeah, I think we do.”–before opening a drawer near the register and retrieving the clippers for me.

How boring must others’ lives be?  There’s no way to say that without sounding like a supercilious dick.  Yet it seems every time I go out with my friends for what I, what we, consider to be a “normal” evening, some stranger who has found him or herself inexplicably drafted into our events blurts out “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen!”  Or, “This is the most insane night I’ve ever had!”


The craziest?  The most insane?  Sadly, I don’t think these people speak in hyperbole.  They just live really fucking boring lives.  The same thing happened again Saturday night.

Graig, Sal, and I had begun drinking early with a 2:00 Syracuse/Marquette tip-off and by 8:00 were all worn out.  I suggested hitting the Village Pourhouse for one final drink before parting ways which soon led to us drinking rum and Cokes to stay awake which lead to us drinking full pint glasses of rum and Cokes to stay even more awake which lead to us getting absolutely loaded and over-caffeinated and having a hefty $400 tab.  (”The Village Poor House,” Sal joked.)

Throughout the whole day, I couldn’t help noticing Sal’s new hair cut.  Whoever had snipped it had gravely fucked up in the front as several wisps of stray hair were skirting over his forehead like miniature bangs, making him look quite foolish, and irking an obsessive compulsive like myself.

For hour after hour and round after round I continued imploring Sal that we had to cut his hair and he kept turning me down.  By 3:15 AM I’d had enough.  I told him I was getting scissors by any means necessary and snipping his errant coiffure myself*.  That is when I marched to the bar to retrieve my school supply which was so easily obtained.

Mind you, it’s the end of a Saturday night with a room full of wasted people–yours truly included–in a bar that isn’t exactly the Ritz Carlton’s piano lounge but one more akin to a underage college joint with a laissez-faire carding policy, a floor covered in sloppy suds, the jukebox full of songs that everyone knows every word to and has an uncontrollable urge to prove that fact**, women too shit-faced to be anything more chaste than a slut (though most are pushing the threshold of “skank”), and vomitus and buffalo wing detritus scattered in any place a person isn’t sitting, standing, or dry-humping.

You may think the bartender gave me some scissors at 3:15 AM because I have an “honest” face.  I don’t.  I always look like I’m up to mischief.  I do have one thing going for, though, and that is a remarkable ability to compose myself, even for just a few seconds, when I’m drunk and need to not sound that way when speaking to a figure of any level of authority.  Likewise, I’m a pretty confident confidence man.  I knew she’d give me the scissors if she had some.  But why?

Why in the world would a bartender give a drunken person scissors?  What if I had stabbed someone?  Or just cut…well anything?  Or anyone?  Hell, I’m having a hard time right now thinking of a single legitimate thing to do with scissors at 3:15 in the morning while drunk.  Make some fucking paper dolls?!

Well, I guess I can actually think of one thing, the thing we did, cut Sal’s hair to make him look less like an asshole.  As I toed the line above his bar seat and put his sloppy wisps between my forefinger and middle to line it up like a moyel about to snip off the foreskin, Sal chickened out.  “No, you can’t.  I don’t trust you!”

I won’t lie, I was going to give him a perfect cut, but I can still understand his reticence as I am a prankster par excellence.

Luckily, a girl Sal was flirting with stepped up and agreed to do the snipping.  Sal liked that idea much better, and though she did a far worse job than I would have, I believe Sal was pleased with the new cut, especially as he scored a date with the besotted impromptu barberess as a bonus.

Our general area of other bar patrons was buzzing after the events.  Personally, the events, the haircut, didn’t seem that odd to me.  Just necessary.

One guy, a stupefied look on his face, finally spoke up: “A haircut in a bar?!  That’s the most insane thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”

“Crazy” and “insane” from an outsiders’ perspective just seems par for the course in my life.  As does giving a man sorely in need of a haircut one at 3:15 AM in the middle of a packed bar.

I don’t know.  Maybe my friends and I are jaded.  Have been doing such “crazy” and “insane” things for so long that the weird now seems normal.  But, you know,  I don’t think that’s so.  I just think we “live.”

As a returned the scissors to the bartender I looked her deep in the eyes, shaking my head in disapproval:

“Why in the world would you give a drunk man some scissors?”

She just shrugged.

Schafly Reserve Barleywine

After the rousing success of Schafly’s Reserve Imperial Stout, I was stoked to try their barleywine.  Big badass imperial stouts are probably my second favorite style of beer, but barleywines still reign supreme in my eyes.  Their stout I had was a 2008 bottling while this barleywine was a year earlier.  I sampled it the same night I had Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine (2001) and I found the younger and less “famous” beer to be the better offering.  Nice and sweet yet still hoppy, the oak barreling shines through in this tremendous beer.  Incredibly drinkable for the ABV.


*I’d previously given two drunken haircuts in my life.  One great, one terrible.  The great one netted my friend hearty compliments for a week straight.  The terrible one got another friend laughed out of a family wedding.  So, yes, there is apparently something that goes over worse in church than a fart.

**”Santaria,” “Free Fallin,’” “Sweet Caroline,” etc.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine (2001)

March 6th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Sierra Nevada, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Barley wine

9.6% ABV bottled

A friend down in San Juan for the World Baseball Classic just sent me a text:

“medalla light tastes like puerto rican bath water.”

That got me thinking about good names for beers that (yet!) do not exist:


This high ABV ale tastes like cheap cologne because it’s main component actually is cheap cologne.  Be thankful though, the pungent cologne smells actually mask the even more potent body odor hints in this beer.


While CEOs and other upper-level executives get gigantic severance packages upon being fired or let go, us lonely plebes use to have nothing to look forward to but living on the streets and getting drunk on mouthwash.  Until now.  Golden Parachute Lager is the world’s cheapest beer, made from adjunct ingredients so poor they make rice and corn seem gourmet.  Packaged in handsome cardboard “drinky” boxes typically used for children’s juices, Golden Parachute is the only beer one is actually allowed to purchase with government food stamps.

LIGHT LITE (draught only)

The beer created for the discerning consumer who always approaches the bartender and asks, “Whadaya got light on tap?”  For the drinker that actually worries about the caloric content of their beer.  Ah, do not fret any more as Light Lite is a NO calorie beer that is crystal clear in color.  (Light/lite enough for ya’, Jack?!)  That’s because it’s actually tap water, garnished with an orange wedge because the same motherfucking idiots that ask for light beers are the same ones that think fruit slices should be in their adult beverages.

Now Bigfoot, that’s a great fucking name for one of the more legendary beers in the craft brewing world.  A stupendous looking brew with a glowing ruby color and possessing a world-class smell, I found this bottle a tad too boozy in taste.  But it was still quite good.  Spicy and hoppy, but lacking a little sweetness I prefer in my favorite barleywines (Old Guardian, JW Lees Harvest, GnarlyWine, etc).  Still, this is one of the best on the market.

Boy, I’d love some graphic logos for my aforementioned beer creations.  That sure would be cool.

But what about you?

I want to hear if you got any good, funny ideas for beer names.  Tell me in the comments.


Middle Ages Druid Fluid

February 21st, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 13 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Middle Ages, Country: America, Grade: B regular, Style: Barley wine

9.5% ABV from a bomber

For the first thirty seconds after you eat a habanero chili nothing happens.  You’re confused.  You’re like, “This is it?!”  Instead of being quizzical though, you should savor the moment.  Because the next six to twenty-four hours of your life are going to be one giant ball of misery.

It was Sunday afternoon wrapping up a weekend in Syracuse.  That Friday I had taken the Cave Creek Chili Beer Challenge and lived to tell about.  My friend Dean–who actually enjoyed the vile brew–and I had spent all weekend relishing in our love of spicy foods, wherever we went trying to indulge in spicier and spicier foods both as acts of machismo and to impress and repulse our tamer tongued friends.

I had recently seen a television special on the habanero, purportedly the hottest pepper in the world, chalking in at some forty times the heat of a standard jalapeno.  Both Dean and I were determined to find one and try it.  Our dream finally became reality at the end of the weekend as we stopped at Wegman’s for a bite before heading home*.

I’m a fast eater so I finished my sandwich before my friends and excused myself from the table to check out the store’s newly revamped beer selection.  I was quite impressed, especially from a Central New York point of view and grabbed a few things, including a bomber of Druid Fluid from Syracuse’s own fairly regarded Middle Ages Brewery.  I continue to be stupefied that I lived in the ‘Cuse for four years without even realizing a brewery resided there**.  Unfortunately, I found the Druid Fluid a tad sub-par.  Barley wine is probably my favorite style of beer so I expect greatness and when you’re comparing Druid Fluid to say, a Stone Old Guardian, a J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, even a Lagunitas GnarlyWine, it simply doesn’t stack up.  Too weak and sissy for a barley wine. Like they’re trying to make one normal folks will like.  Lacks complexity, lacks sweetness, lacks flavor.  Although, I will admit, the more I drank it the more I enjoyed it.  (Perhaps I was just getting drunk and my tastebuds were loosening.)

Heading to the register to pay for my beers, I stumbled upon the chilis aisle and, wouldn’t you know it, I found a bag of dried habaneros.  Giggling like a little girl, I returned to my friends and handed the package to Dean.  We had to try them.  He concurred.  We were excited.

You might ask, “Aaron, why do you do these things?  Why do you put your body and health on the line for these dumb enterprises?”  It is because I am a man that loves novelty.  A man that loves to be able to say, “I have done that.”  It’s not about enjoyment necessarily, it’s about climbing that mountain and slaying that dragon.  I also like to see what unexpected things will happen.  It’s why I drank Chelada, why I drank the chili beer, why I was about to eat a habanero.

Dean was ready to bite into the habanero right in the middle of the food court, but I stopped him.  I explained that we had no idea what would happen to us and the last thing we needed is to be projectile vomiting amidst families enjoying some buffet bar sneeze-guarded General Tso’s chicken after a pleasant church service.  He agreed we best head out to the parking lot.

I noted we should have some cold fluid ready too, mentioning how I’d heard that, surprisingly enough, milk was the best savve for a hot tongue and throat wound.  Both Dean and I had no interest in milk–as Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “Milk is for babies.  When you grow up you have to drink beer!”–so we decided to go with something similar.  Dean bought a sack full of those milky frothy Starbucks bottled frappuccinos.

We headed to the parking lot and stood in the frigid cold mentally preparing ourselves.  Dean laid the numerous bottles of frappucino on our car’s hood, loosening the caps for quite access.  Meanwhile, I studied the habanero packaging where there was literally this warning: “Do not directly touch with hands, may burn.  Do not get anywhere near eyes.”


We were finally ready to eat the hottest spice on the planet.

Holding only the stem of a habanero, Dean and I each took a full bite of our respective pepper.  Nothing.  Dean and I looked at each other, confused.  This was it?  We are both incredibly arrogant about our ability to handle heat so we weren’t surprised.  Heck, I was about to pop a second habanero when–

Fire!  My whole head was on fire!  I was like one of those cartoon characters who has fire shooting from his ears.  I couldn’t control any function on my face.  It was like I was a stroke victim.  My eyes were watering, it felt like my ears were bleeding, snot was rushing like Niagara Falls from my nose, and phlegmy froth was coming from my mouth.  I grabbed a frappucino and chugged it.  I tried to speak to my friends but my tongue was anesthetized.  I couldn’t even feel it.  Correction, it felt like my tongue had become a giant airy inner tube hovering inside my mouth.  Words were not coming out of me, just slurs and babbling as my non-habanero eating friends cracked up and took pictures of me.

Dean was in worst shape.  His habanero kicked in a few seconds after mine and he jetted out of the area, now finding himself pacing madly some fifteen yards from where we stood.  After about ten minutes of misery, we both had somewhat calmed down.  We were in massive pain but finally able to somewhat talk, somewhat able to get in the car and head back to New York City.  I could barely recall what had occurred in the several minutes after eating the habanero.  It was as if I had entered a blackout fugue of spiciness.  They saw traumatic events are often repressed and this one was instantaneously.

The Audi was packed with five adults of varying girth and shoehorned into the back, Dean and I again found ourselves in a new sort of pain.  Like an hourglass, the habanero pain had left the northern extreme of our bodies and was now slowly creepy down.  Our esophagi felt like a tunnel of flames, each exhale, each burp god forbid, coming out like a fireball, as if we were dragons.  The floor of our stomachs feeling as if some Boy Scouts had kindled logs in our belly.  We were in too much pain to read the newspaper, too much pain to even listen to music.  And we had four hours of driving to go.

After thirty minutes of driving I could take it no longer.  “Pull over, pull over!”  Like a cosmic joke, at the instant, we passed a sign:  “Next Rest Stop:  22 Miles.”  We had no choice and the car was pulled over to the edge of the highway where I began projectile vomiting the entire insides of my stomach–eighteen inches of sub, several bottled frappuccinos, a whole Saturdays worth of pitchered beer and gin & tonics–for the next ten to fifteen minutes.  Eventually, my insides were ravished, the pepper poison rejected from me, only bile now left inside of me, and I was able to get back in the car.

Yeah, I felt good.  I smiled.  The pain was over.  I started laughing at my foolishness.  Only problem now was–having just upchucked lunch–I was starving.

Hubris be damned, thirty minutes later more pain would come.

Now, some hour and a half after the habanero indulgence, I’d finally cleared my head of heat, finally cleared my torso, but the pesky heat had one final southern stop.  I won’t get into details, but you guessed it.  We were forced to stop at the next rest area where I did something more foul in the public bathroom than anything Larry Craig has ever even considered.

However, that was luckily the final step.  And though I was a sweaty, stinky mess, like I’d just been in a record-breaking gang bang, I was finally free of pain.  Poor Dean, though, poor Dean who had yet to vomit or defecate, was pale as Casper and would remain that way the rest of the day.

Any time I do something stupid, no matter how much pain or indignity it gives me, I usually still admit that it was worth it.  It gave me a good story.  It allowed me to look back fondly for the rest of time and say, “I did that!”

Uhn uh.

Not this time.

Not this time at all.

I will never eat a habanero again.  I don’t care if you offered me $5000.  Not worth it.

Likewise, I would never even play a “prank” on someone–even my most mortal enemy–and secretly Mickey them with the vile pepper.  That’s just too cruel, bordering on felonious.  It really is some of the most pain I’ve experienced in my life and, considering that a newborn will never slide out of me, I think it will remain the worst pain of my life.


*You say, “Why would one stop at a supermarket to eat lunch?”  Well let me tell you, friend, that Wegman’s has some incredibly fine food of all cuisines which they serve up in a nice food court setting off to the side of the grocery area.  I prefer their Danny’s Favorite foot-long sub which is actually more like eighteen inches in length and near impossible to finish in one sitting.

**Then again, the 7 & 7 was my drink back then.  Yeesh!

Uinta Fifteenth Anniversary Barley Wine

February 5th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Uinta, Country: America, Grade: B-, Style: Barley wine

10.4% ABV

The G-Rated Seduction

NOTE TO MY READERS:  This is an atypical story here on the Vice Blog.  It does not involve debauchery, perversion, transgression, or sordidness.  It is nothing more than a sweet story about a gal.  And a guy.  And another guy.  And, yes, another gal.  (But not like that you sicko.)  So if you come here to live vicariously through my Red Sea of sleaze, you best sit this one out fella.

“Boy, Philadelphia has a lot hotter women than I would have guessed.”

“You think?”

My friend Mookie had picked me up at the Princeton train station around noon and driven us into the city for a day of vice.

“Well look at that girl right there.”

As we sat at a crosswalk, the cutest little blue blood WASP of a girl walked by.  Flawlessly put together, perhaps even a little overdressed for a lazy Saturday of shopping.  She wore a “It’s a girl” pink-colored blazer.  She wasn’t a ten out of ten or anything but she was so damn attractive, so damn enticing.  Unforgettable.

Several hours later and several miles away, Mookie and I were enjoying a cigar in Rittenhouse Square when who should vamp by but pink blazer girl.  Our jaws dropped to the pigeon shit covered cement.

Then, another hour later, as Mookie was putting some money in the meter, who should walk by again but pink blazer girl.  This was getting ridiculous.

That evening, Mookie and I hit up the Smith & Wollensky bar for some early evening steaks and cocktails.  Conversation was completely devoted to pink blazer girl.  Damn!  It couldn’t have been coincidence.  How did we run into her in three separate places today?!  Even if it wasn’t anything more than coincidence it was still crazy.  Dammit!  Why didn’t we stop her, talk to her, make her our dual girlfriend?  Had she even noticed us?

A group of elegant old ladies dining beside us heard our story and were soon part of our circle.  I was convinced–convinced!–that the fates wanted us to be with pink blazer girl.  I was certain we’d see her again that night.  Certain that later in the evening, at some bar, at some tavern, some watering hole, our beautiful pink blazer girl would walk in and we’d dance, we’d flirt, we’d make her our dual girlfriend.

If and when we did see her again, Mookie and I swore to ourselves that we would finally stop her.

By now, more people at the bar, including the surliest bartender in the world, had become a part of our story, debating whether it was coincidence, fate, were we being stalked?  Or maybe we were just liars, complete fabricators of this tale?  Men that go into classy bars to spin yarns, test out their raconteurial skills simply to win over crowds, become the center of attention, maybe get a free drink bought for them or something?

And then…

Pink blazer girl walked into the restaurant.

Twenty feet away, the bar erupted, like Ryan Howard had just hit a walk-off.

But pink blazer girl didn’t notice as the maitre’d quickly whisked her to the upstairs dining room.  Leaving the bar in stunned silence.

“Was that her?  No!  It couldn’t be!  Is this a joke?  Are we on a hidden video show?”

The bar was buzzing.

“Mookie, what should we do?”

“What can we do?”

“We have to do something.”

The bar echoed like a Greek chorus:  “You have to do something.”

I nodded at Mookie.  “We promised ourselves.  We have to do something.”

But what?

As if we were the quarterbacks and the rest of the conveniently set up bar-in-the-round was the huddle, we discussed our options.

Walk upstairs and introduce ourselves?

Naw.  Too brash.  And who knows who she is with.  A husband, a boyfriend.  We’d start a steak house fight.

Wait for her to exit and then flag her down?

Too risky.  We could miss her.  Borderline creepy too.

Then what?

The bar sat in quiet contemplation for a half-minute.

“I got it!  Let’s send her an old fashioned junior high note.”

“I love it!”

I asked the surly bartender for some paper and he begrudgingly handed us a blank receipt, it’s back completely blank.

We quickly judged that Mookie had better handwriting so he became the stenographer as a note was dictated, the rest of the bar oohing and ahhing with each choice of words:

First we saw you at the crosswalk at __ & __.  Then, you walked by us in the park.  Later, you passed us on the sidewalk as we fed the meter.  And, now, the fates have brought us together here.  We know you are stalking us.  Come downstairs, show some courage, and introduce yourself.  Signed, the two guys you are stalking.

“What if she has no sense of humor?  She won’t get the jokes?”

“She’ll get ‘em.”

“What if she doesn’t know who we are?”

“Then, we’ll draw a map.”

And, thus, Mookie added to the bottom of our note a sketch of the bar, and two X’es marking the spots where we sat.

“But how to pass it on?”

“We’ll need a ‘grease man,’” Mookie noted, a regular Danny Ocean.

Why was everything so difficult in the game of childish seduction?  We debated how to pass it on.  None of our friends at the bar were willing to act as messengers.  A Mexican dishwalker walked by.  “How’s your Spanish, Mookie?”  He shook his head, “No.”  “He’ll bungle it.”

“Then, we’re gonna have to have the maitre’d do it.”

“He’ll laugh in our face.”

“No, go to the female hostess.  Girls like playful games.  Girls like matchmaking.”

Mookie wasn’t sure.

“Then hand her a fiver.”

Mookie still didn’t think it would work and, “Hey, why do I have to do our dirty work?”

I explained:  “Because you’re believable.  I have a look about me, a certain look, maybe it’s my devilish eyebrows, perhaps the constant smirk on my lips, that makes people think I’m up to something.  Which, admittedly, I usually am.  Conniving, scheming, plotting.  It’s worked well for me in many facets of life, but not here, no.  But, you, you have a kind, truthful face.  And your patter is so smooth and believable as well. It’s why you’re a good salesman.”

Mookie nodded.  He knew I was 100% right.

He walked over to the female hostess and I saw him speaking to her, gesticulating, giving her his skillful patter.  She was laughing, laughing hard.  Very good.

Mookie returned.  “It’s a go.”

While the hostess was gone, we debated what was going to happen.  About half the bar thought pink blazer girl would come down, the other half thought she’d be creeped out and just slip out the back door.


The hostess returned to us.  What had happened?  She explained that pink blazer was dining with her parents and the three of them had giggled when she got our note.  But would she come down?  The hostess was unsure.

I ordered her back to her hostess stand lest she ruin things.  She complied.

You see, I was now certain pink blazer girl would soon be downstairs.  I explained to the rest of the bar that parents get a huge kick out of seeing their children do things they don’t want to do.  Things they’re scared to do.  Trying out for school plays, speaking to adults, going to the neighbors’ house to ask for something.  My parents certainly got a kick out of watching my sisters and I squirm.  And so would her’s.  So even if she had no interest in dealing with us–which she probably did–her parents would goad her and implore her and then finally force her to go downstairs and speak to us.  Older people have learned that one must do things they don’t viscerally want to if they are to live an adventuresome life.  Or maybe they just like to order their progeny around.

I explained that it was taking so long because this “I don’t want to, mom and dad!”/”No, you have to, honey” debate was going on concurrently.  They probably told her they’d drag her to the bar themselves, embarrass her further, if she just didn’t up and do it herself.

And then, after about ten mintues, pink blazer girl came downstairs and over to Mookie and I.  We played it cool.

“What took you so long?”

She was shy, damn shy, she could barely look us in the eyes.  Younger than we reckoned too, probably a college sophomore or so.  She clearly had not dealt with many men in her life.  She thanked us for the note, said it was sweet, and, yes, she had remembered us, even noticed the coincidence too.  She coyly remarked that the note was, in fact, the cutest thing a guy had ever done for her.

It had made her day.

Oh, and before you go back to your parents, what’s your name, darling?

“Blakely.  My name is Blakely.”

“Have a good evening, Blakely.”

“See ya, Blakely.”

That’s all we wanted.

And she left, Mookie and I backslapping and high-fiving.  “Blakely!  What a perfect name!”

The hostess came over with a huge smile on her face.  It was then that I noticed that she was even better looking than Blakely.  She was the ten out of ten, a movie star perfect button nose and flowing golden locks.

“You guys are the cutest!  I wish some guys would do that for me.”

She smiled.

“Thanks for making my day.”

Batting two-for-two on that front.

“I’m Briton by the way.”

Blakely and Briton.

Briton and Blakely.

We didn’t kiss them, hug them, or certainly hook up with them.  And we didn’t exactly want to.  That would have spoiled things.  99% of the time seduction is a means to an end, but in the case of Blakely and Briton, seduction was the entire game.

We never saw Blakely and Briton again and that too is perfect as they now live on in our minds as two unflawed beacons of womanhood.  Both G-Rated seduced by two masters of the rarely practiced art form.  It felt good to make their days.

But, I won’t lie, I still would like to run into them one day in the future.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Uinta Fifteenth Anniversary Barley Wine

Barley wine is probably my favorite style of beer and being that it’s a fairly under-created style I’m always anxious to try new ones, pretty much picking up any I see.  Same goes for anniversary releases.  I can’t help but purchase them.  Which is weird because I haven’t heard anything about Uinta brewing for its entire fifteen years of existence and now I’m eager to celebrate with them?!  Kinda feels like a stranger coming up to you on the street:  “Hey, I just turned 25 today, buy me a present.”  I found this barley wine decent but unspectacular, far too much scalding booziness which is the problem I find with most middling barley wines.  Still, at only $2.99 it was worth a shot and, hey, my first career beer from Utah!


Three Floyds Behemoth Blonde Barleywine

January 13th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Three Floyds, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Barley wine


12.5% ABV from a waxed-covered bomber

Living in a city like New York, food isn’t hard to come by, no matter the time, your location, or your mental state.  Thus, when wasted, one should always be able to get a slice of pizza, perhaps some cheap Chinese or Indian food, or even a sandwich at the all-night bodega.  But sometimes you get so drunk that you lose your wallet, or your bearings, or…your sense of self, and next thing you know you find yourself grubbing on the most despicable of concoctions.

This rarely happens for me, but here are some of my worst ever drunken meals.

5.  Macadamia nuts — “Macadamia Nuts?!” you say.  How can that be my 5th worst drunken meal ever?  Aren’t macadamia nuts delicious?  Indeed they are.  In fact, I’d dare call them the second best nut after the unshelled pistachio.  So what gives?  Here’s what gives.  I was in DC for a wedding and, as the only single guy amongst my friends, I was forced to get my own room at the ritzy hotel.  After a night of drunken floundering with female wedding guests I returned to my room alone.  Where I apparently ate an entire jar of macadamia nuts from the mini-bar.  Something I don’t remember at all.  By morning there were none left save one single nut on the floor.  I tried it.  Phenomenal.  Price for jar:  $35!  As Morty Seinfeld once said, “They’re like 80 cents a nut!”  I think I paid an even higher rate.  I would have been better off buying two PPV porns.

4.  Burger King — No explanation necessary.  If you ever are drunk and BK is your only choice, just save yourself the 1500 calories and go to bed.

3.  Can of uncooked vegetarian chili — For a while I lived with a vegetarian female roommate.  Meaning that I stayed quite skinny as she never had anything worthwhile to steal when I came home drunk at 4:00 AM.  However, one night I was so desperate for sopping-up-the-booze sustenance that I swiped a can of her vegetarian chili, spent about 45 minutes trying to figure out how to use a can opener, before eating the cold, uncooked chili straight from the tin like some boxcar hobo.  It was disgusting.

2.  Circus Peanuts — A few months ago I went out drinking hardcore and I don’t even remember how I got home, a running theme I’m sure you’re starting to notice.  The next morning I woke up in bed completely clothed, even my shoes still on.  And, surrounding me in bed and on the floor was a spilled bag of circus peanuts.  You know, those orange gelatinous chunks of disgustingness.  I hate those things when I’m sober.  Why in the world did I buy some at 4:00 AM?  Was I hankering for Styrofoam? I picked one peanut up and took a bite.  I immediately sprinted to the bathroom to dry heave.

1. My most humiliating drunken eating experience happened just last week though.  I had gone out drinking with the boys but had arranged to end the night at the apartment of a girl I hook up with on occasion.  Arriving at her place at 3:00 AM I didn’t think I was that drunk.  I didn’t think I was that hungry either.  The next morning though, when I woke up, the girl had a strange look on her face.

“What did you do in my kitchen last night?”


“There’s Parmesan cheese everywhere.”

Oh god.

I had a drunken flashback to the night before.  After we had hooked up, she had immediately crashed.  I, however, realized that I needed a nosh.  Like a cat burglar I snuck into her kitchen to examine her vittles.  Fuck!  She had nothing.  Literally nothing to eat.  No chips, cookies, leftover pizza, nothing.  All she had in her fridge was salad dressing and…one of those large shakers of Kraft Parmesan Cheese.

Now in my sober life, I hate that shit.  If I’m eating pasta, I want real fresh Parmesan shaved over top it.  Not some powdery, chalky pseudo-cheese.   But, I guess at 5:00 in the morning drunk, I thought this would satisfy.  And, in my flashback, I recall turning my head upside down over the sink, like someone about to get their hair shampooed at the salon, before I proceeded to literally shake the cheese powder into my face, for the most part missing my pie hole and getting it everywhere else.  In the full-of-water cups in the sink, on the counter-top, coating the floor.

I was so humiliated, I just had to pretend that I had no clue what had happened.  I even blamed her roommate.  And, of course, the girl didn’t accuse me of eating powdered cheese straight from the shaker because, I mean, come on, what kind of deviant would do that?!

The kind of deviant like me that starts his night with a bomber of 12.5% barley wine.  Recently when I was visiting friends in DC they took me to one of the best beer bars in America, Birreria Paradiso, where I was stunned to see that they had a single off-the-menu bottle of the famed Three Floyds Behemoth Barleywine, a beer I thought I would never be lucky enough to indulge in.

They charged us $20 for the bomber but it was well worth it.   The smell was potent and awesome, tons of malts and hops.  The taste was similar, quite burning and boozy, minimal carbonation, with tastes of pine, citrus, and caramel.  My minor issues is that the mouthfeel is a little thin and it could use a tad more sweetness.  Not the absolute best barley wine I’ve ever had, but damn fine.


So what are some of the worst things you have ever ate (eaten?  I can never conjugate correctly) while drunk?

J.W. Lees Harvest Barley Wine

December 22nd, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: J.W. Lees, Country: United Kingdom, Grade: A plus, Grade: A regular, Style: Barley wine

ALL 11.5% bottled

My friend DW called me last week. He’d just acquired a bunch of rare and highly-touted beers. He thought I should come down to Washington, DC to visit him. That’s how I plan vacations, that’s how I’m lured out of town, by the offer of quality brews. Not much else matters.

DW was most interested in me trying a new discovery of his, the J.W. Lees collection of barley wines. I had never heard of them and actually thought he had misspoke and was talking about the horrific J.W. Dundees, makers of the terrible Honey Brown gas station lager. He wasn’t. He was talking about a brewery in England that comes out with a highly-notable and limited barley wine which they release every year on December 1 to celebrate the newest harvest of barley and hops. According to J.W. Lees, only the first delivery of the year’s classic barley malt ‘Maris Otter’ and the classic hop variety ‘Goldings’ from East Kent is used. Sounded exciting.

Meant to be laid down for years, DW was able to score vintage bottles from 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2004, all of which I tried.

In ascending order of quality, my thoughts on each.


Though I found this vis-a-vis the others to be the “weakest” vintage, it was the first one I tried coincidentally, and I was still absolutely floored.  There’s really nothing like this, save one other beer I will mention in a bit.  Pretentious and annoying beer nerds might denigrate this with a favorite buzzword of their’s:  “cloying.”  To some beer dorks, any beer with even the slightest bit of sweetest they consider to be bad.  Now sometimes sweetness is a bad thing–those candy flavored malt beverages chicks dig par exemplar–but when it’s such a pure, fruity sweetness as here, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Like all the Harvests, it pours dark like a port or sherry.  Goes down so smooth, it is absolutely shocking that it has such an high ABV.  A near-flawless brew, but better ones were yet to come.



Whenever the Vice Blogger leaves town, upon his return his local friends e-mail him and text him, “Heh heh, bet you got some great bloggable stories from the weekend, eh?”  And, you know, that’s not always the case.  I had an absolute fucking blast this weekend, punishing my body with booze and tons of greasy foods that were dipped into tons of mayonnaise-based sauces, but my weekend really didn’t produce any “blog-worthy” stories.  I hooked up with no women, I got in no trouble, very little hijinks occurred.

Well…maybe one story.  Wasted on Friday night, my friends and I weren’t let into a “speakeasy” in Alexandria, Virginia.  No big deal, I don’t like the kind of place that in the year 2008 thinks I’m going to be impressed by a faux-exclusive faux-hot spot.  Though we had heard that the bar harbored lots of sexy and willing cougars typically competed for by effete local men.

Later in the night, at a smoky dump filled with women with bad bangs and the men that tolerate them, DW stumbled upon a Pulaski County, MO sheriff’s badge that some visiting man of the law had apparently drunkenly left behind.  I’ve lost countless things behind at bars whilst drunk, but never a badge.  Me and my friends are not the best people in the world and quite turpitudinous, but even we looked to return the badge.  Casually.  Unable to find a drunken Andy Griffith tumbling off a bar stool, we left the dive and headed back to the speakeasy.

We located the secret blue light denoting the hidden front door, rang the bell, and when the hostess slid open the tiny eye slot to speak with us–”Sorry, we’re full.”–DW slapped his badge in her face, asking her:  “You don’t have a soft spot for law enforcement do you?”

Shockingly, she didn’t.  And three phony police officers weren’t let in.  I have a feeling the same thing didn’t happen to Elliot Ness way back when.

The 2004 vintage I thought to be a hair better than the 2000.  Dark fruits like a dubbel, but smooth and sweet like a barley wine.  Like all the Harvests, a nose of maple syrup.



Now we were getting to the big boy vintages.  1999 was damn near perfect, huge with barely any carbonation.  DW and I drank them room temperature, splitting 12 ounce bottles, which was more than enough for both of us.  Though not that boozy or punishing, this is one helluva sipper.  And, actually, while this is not punishing in a biting alcohol way, it is sure punishing to the palate.  Stone calls their double IPA “Ruination” because they jokingly believe that it will absolutely destroy your palate from possibly enjoying any other beers in the future.  Well, Harvests are the real ruination.  The syrupy brews absolutely coating the insides of your cheek, your tongue, and your throat.  We tried to drink a very well-regarded beer after this bottle and it tasted like a fat man’s bathwater.

We found that one either needs to drink several shit beers to cleanse their palate after Harvest or use some equally extreme beer to do the trick.  The delicious and overhopped-in-a-great-way Sam Adams Imperial Pilsener worked wonders for us in the latter regard.



We expected this to be the creme de le creme of the Harvests and we were not disappointed in the least.  I believe this is the absolute oldest vintage of Harvest still able to be found on the market, but I could be wrong.  And it’s certainly the oldest beer I’ve ever had, excluding the thousands and thousands of Milwaukee’s Best cans I drank back during my sophomore year of college in 1998.

DW got turned onto Harvests when he was talking with a local beermonger and mentioned that Utopias is one of his favorite beers in the world.  The guy noted that if he liked Utopias that Harvest 1998 was similar…and better.  I refused to believe that, but, you know, the guy was 100% right.

A similar nose and taste to Utopias, it’s slightly less ABV and slightly more sweetness makes it more a bit more palatable.  Quite a bit cheaper per ounce too.  Boisterous and fruity, this one is hard to classify as any sort of alcohol.  As much like a port as a barley wine, I can safely say that you have never tried something quite like this.

One of the best beers I’ve ever had, world-class.  Seek out at all costs.


Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine

November 7th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Lagunitas, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Barley wine

9.7% ABV on draught

Everyone stands or sits chatting in small groups. Three. Four. Never more than six or so. They drink cheap light beer on “special,” the kind of deals that seem like good ones until you actually do the math. “Hey wait a sec, $20 for a bucket of ten pony-bottles is NOT that good of deal!” Bars are great at using prestidigitation to make consumers think they are getting to imbibe on the cheap. Luckily for the watering holes, people usually just accept the fact that they are getting a good deal if they are simply told that they are. Other folks drink Diet Coke or even water, after all it is a Wednesday night. Patrons snack on greasy but delicious platters of fried food which they dip into sauces–mozzarella sticks into marinara, jalapeño poppers into Ranch, chicken tenders into honey mustard. For the most part, the groups don’t inter-mingle, except during the pardon-me dosadoes one must do to get through the packed crowd and toward the bathroom or bar. The men never hit on the women and the women never flirt with the men. Then again, these aren’t typically the kind of ladies a man would have any interest in hitting on. Nor are these the kind of fellas with the testicular fortitude to make a seductive salvo.

And then, with the tension palpable, some unseen person, the moderator, taps on a mic connected to a small amp. The crowd immediately hushes, hundreds of drinkers and you’ve never seen a bar so silent.

The moderator clears his throat of post-nasal drip and speaks:

“What was once known as Max Crossett’s X-tra Fine Salad Dressing?”*

Immediately, with a cacophony of hushed whispers, every group of friends swarms together with each other like a tight football huddle and begins to debate the answer to the aforementioned question.

Friends, this here is trivia night, pub quiz, and I’ve been playing it several times a month, pretty much every single month, since pretty much the age of 21. I don’t know if you have it in your town, but being that I’ve played it in Syracuse, Hoboken, and 60% of the NYC boroughs, I’m assuming it’s just as big of semi-sensation where you live as where I do.

If you’ve never participated before, here’s how it works:

Trivia nights are almost always on Tuesday and Wednesday, the two lamest going-out nights of the week. Bars are obviously too busy on Fridays and Saturdays to have them. Monday usually means Monday Night Football, and Sunday and Thursday are usually out of the question as well for a variety of reasons.

Having a good seat for your team is of the utmost importance. You don’t want to have to debate answers while leaning against the revolving bathroom door or standing in the route the barback always take to discard slop. Thus, people like to get to the bar early to score a coveted table or corner bar seat putting them in a safe haven from distractions.

Prizes are almost always in the form of a bar tab which usually breaks down to something like $50 for the winner and perhaps $20 and $10 for the runners-up.

Most quizzes last about an hour and a half, maybe two, with five to seven rounds of five to ten questions. Most of the rounds consist of a basic question-and-answer Trivial Pursuit format, stuff on history, pop culture, current events, and the like. Alas, there are rarely questions on sports as these quizzes are often created by huge nerds that don’t admire the sporting life and answered by hipster dork participants that have hated football every since the junior high QB made fun of their lisp in biology class. The maybe one time every hundred questions that you do get one on sports, it is always a piece of cake (”Who was the MVP the last time the Jets won the Super Bowl?”) yet amazingly no one besides you will know the answer.

Other rounds usually include an identify-the-picture game whereas grainy Xeroxes of nobodies, somebodies photographed in a strange way, or semi-known locations perhaps, are presented for identification. Finally, most quizzes usually opt to make the last round a “Name That Tune.” This ain’t like “Jeopardy!” so there’s almost never a final question you can wager on, though sometimes there is.

People, including me–not surprisingly an ultra-over-competitor in everything in life–take this shit far more seriously than you could ever imagine**. Cheating via shared answers or use of a phone call to a roommate that stayed home or by looking up the answer on a Blackberry is an easy way to make one persona non grata. Yelling out the answers is another. Oh how many times I’ve been playing bar trivia when some drunk stumbles into the bar, no idea that some game is going on, certainly no idea of its importance, and shouts out “Joe Namath!” only to see an entire bar of nerds turn to him with great scorn. You want to see nerds angry? Go to a pub quiz and yell out answers. It’s scary, my friend, scary.

My team is quite small for a pub quiz squadron. There’s me, the de facto captain. I’m a dictatorial micro-manager so I pretty much demand that I get to hold the answer sheet and pen and write down the answers. Luckily, I’m very skilled at trivia so my teammates passively accept this. These teammates include a good friend and his wife. Every so often a wild-card will join us, maybe my girlfriend of the second, but they are rarely blessed with any trivia prowess and quickly find that they don’t exactly enjoy sitting in a bar on a Wednesday night and answering questions. Admittedly, pub quiz isn’t exactly fun per se. Then again, no competition is fun to me unless I win. Lombardi was right.

I’m forced to ambiguously call them “my team” because we don’t have a team name. Or at least the same team name. That’s an underrated good or bad aspect, depending on how you look at it, of pub quizzes. That one needs to think of a new team name each and every week. Some teams stick with the same ones. We will on occasion if we’ve thought of a particularly funny one or built up a win streak. But, usually, and we hate this part, we have to come up with a new name each week. In the half-hour before the quiz we debate and debate, what would be the perfect name. Of course, most teams try to be funny. Unfortunately, most humans are decidedly not funny and the team names suck, rife with references to once- and never-funny shit such as Chappelle’s Rick James bitch, Michael Vick and his canine issues, and anything and everything Britney. The best names are slickly related to funny current, current events. For instance, we scored hyoooooge laughs and nerd feting when we named our team “Don’t Tase Me, Bro” mere hours after that story first broke. Of course, merely a week later had one named their team that, they would have just seemed out of touch if not pathetic.

Over the last year or two we’ve played at and grown tired of countless bar trivias for a variety of reasons. There was the place in Murray Hell that had an egotistical moderator that thought he was the fucking man, all the questions relating to him in some way (”My favorite band is Pink Floyd, I recall losing my virginity to Sherry Evans in the 10th grade as ‘Comfortably Numb’ played on my stereo. For two points, who is the bassist in Floyd?”), and who also always fed his fat mustachioed friend the answers, allowing the slob to win 9 out of 10 quizzes in a row before we got fed up.

There was the place on the UES that had a dickhead moderator with a Napoleon complex which I’d probably have too if I was unable to fully see over a standard-sized bar. He didn’t police cheating or illegally large teams effectively and each week’s quiz was won by a group of participants that looked like they were hosting a banquet amongst themselves, fifteen people seated at a put-together table as long as a bowling lane.

There was the place in the Village that brought out the nerds par excellence. Nerds that made these other places look like Studio Fifty-fucking-Four. Nerds that refused to even have a single beer less the alcohol start impairing their total recall one iota. Nerds that ceaselessly debated the semantics of certain questions after their answers were deemed incorrect (”Look Ken, I’m not debating that Xenon is a noble gas, I’m just saying that it’s also an inert element! I deserve credit, darnit!”). Nerds that left the bar the second the winner was announced, too nerdy to even stick around for a few minutes post-quiz just to chill. It was all too much for me.

Moderators in general suck. It’s inherent to the job. Just think of the kind of person that would actually want to use his spare time to craft a trivia quiz, then go to a bar and sit there — without drinking mind you, can’t start slurring the Q’s and A’s — reading questions to a bunch of strangers and then grading answer sheets like some schoolteacher. As you might predict, these moderators are usually guys that think they are some sort of comedian simply lacking a venue, pedantic losers that like to try and show off what marginal cerebralness they have, dorks that wish to command a large room but who have never been able to in a normal setting by simple force of will, and those that wish to rule over their fellow man even in a most meager way.

We tried a new place last week, a place with $1 glasses of beer. Of course, they utilized a deceptive mug with overly-thick Harry Carey glass making it appear to be about twelve ounces when it was merely ten and with a rapid tap pour the brews had enough head that by the time they subsided you really had only about seven ounces of liquid. It still ended up being a marginally good deal though.

Before the quiz I had a meeting with my producer at The Ginger Man. I didn’t plan on drinking there, but, aw shucks if they didn’t have something I’d been wanting to try for quite a while, Lagunitas GnarlyWine. One of the most fragrant beers this Jew has ever dipped his schnoz into. And sweet fancy Moses do I love the sweetness of it. Candy tastes explode to the front but it’s also packed with fruits, especially oranges, berries, and cherries. This is a near flawless barleywine, my one complaint being that despite the high ABV, it lacks an alcoholic bite, which you may actually consider a good thing. It’s a great barleywine, no question, but, sorry Dave, it’s not THE best one around. Though it’s admittedly damn close to Old Guardian’s glory.

I should have never drank several high-ABV barleywines as I showed up at the quiz overly-lubricated and my mind now mush. I have no problem getting loaded once a pub quiz begins but I usually like to at least show up to the bar stone cold sober, chugging a huge can of energy drink or soda to give my brain a kickstart for answering questions. On this day my team got epically trounced by some loser male nurses fresh of shift and still in scrubs (great look by the way!), some older women that could only dream of being called MILFs, two LARPer-looking dudes with questionable facial hair that each ordered an entire appetizer sampler platter as a meal, and some young girls with terrible hairdos who unapologetically spilled red wine on my friend’ s new jacket.

Oh well. We’ll be back. We’ve won countless quizzes in the past and we’ll win countless quizzes in the future. The VBer guarantees it.


*Oh…and the answer was Miracle Whip.

**I regretfully recall making my last girlfriend cry after one quiz when I told her that, during the trivia, “You are my teammate, not my girlfriend.”

Pike Old Bawdy Barley Wine (2007)

October 8th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Pike Pub, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Barley wine

10% ABV from a bomber

Catching up on some old reviews, this is another bomber my friends brought back from their Seattle trip, one I split after having earlier in the evening shared the ass-kicking Old Viscosity. Probably not ideal circumstances but I still enjoyed this one very much. Pours a ruby red with no carbonation or head. Bold and malty, very alcoholic in taste and warms you up quite fast with tastes of Scotch, dried fruits, and maple. Certainly not for amateurs and I’m not even sure if my co-drinker finished his half of the bottle.

And that’s all I got to say about that. But lest you think I have writer’s block, I don’t, the Vice Blogger never gets writer’s block, I’m more prolific than Isaac Asimov. I’m simply sick and barely able to function. Someone* bring me some matzo ball soup, chamomile tea, a DVD of some mainstream comedy release that I am too smart to enjoy while my mind and body are firing on all cylinders but which I will find hilarious while sick, and come take care of me. I need to quickly regain my health, the world needs me to get into more hilarious adventures and offer my blustery prose to the masses…


*Offer only applies to females.