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Archive for the ‘Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale’ Category

Southampton Grand Cru

August 6th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Southampton Publick House, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

9.8% ABV from a 750 mL bottle

Here’s a little tip:  if I’ve “heard” of some “good” restaurant, or store, or part of some town that we need to visit, check out, see…don’t listen to me.  Or, at least, realize that I’m simply trying to secretly steer us near a desired beer.

Such was the case earlier this week when my mom was visiting my sister way out on the tip of Long Island in Port Jefferson.  They invited me to take the two-hour EXPRESS–God lord!–train out from Manhattan for dinner one night and I agreed.  You see, I had a plan.

“So, Aaron, what kind of food would you like for dinner tomorrow night?”

“Oh, you know, mom, whatever.”

“Whatever?  Thai?  Italian?  American?”

“Yeah, something like American food is fine.  I’m really easy, just whatever.”  PAUSE.  As if I had just had a great realization.  “You know…now that I think about it, I believe I recently read about a great little restaurant that just might be out that way.”

I sent my mom and my sister a link to the Southampton Publick House’s PDF menu and, wouldn’t you know it, they liked the looks of it.

So, early in the afternoon on Wednesday, I took the train all the way to the end of the line where my sister and mom picked me up in the car for a 45 minute ride through Long Island farm lands and sleepy hamlet after snoozing village before we finally arrived in the tiny town of Southampton.  There, we found ourselves on a residential neighborhood’s cul-de-sac street where what appeared to be a former mansion had been converted into greatness.

(Always puttin' on the Ritz, Aaron calls ahead to assure that exposed knees and socklessness are not against establishment dress code)

The Southampton Publick House is massive, nearly palatial, a whole estate with a lawn and outdoor seating galore and an infinite amount of different dining rooms inside, highlighted by a huge bar up front.  Upon entering my mom saw the working brew vats displayed off to the side through a window and she noticed the beer bottles on the wall with Southampton’s name and logo on each and every one.  A leery glare at me.

“This is some sort of brewery, huh?”

She then smiled at me.  She knows her son.  She had probably let me dupe her into going there.  What a great mom.

But what a great restaurant.  Not just a brewpub with a 100% focus on beer and an inept menu of greasy food simply for soaking up the booze so that you may drink more, the Southampton Publick House is surely fine dining.  A teetotaler could even have a great night there, and since the majority of diners were blue-haired blueblood Hamptons WASPs, I’d say I may have actually been the only person there to get loaded.

I got to sample a variety of delicious menu items including the Irish nachos (essentially a mix of some of the best French fries I have truly ever had, topped with nacho fixin’s), Thai spiced jumbo duck wings with orange ginger dipping sauce (could easily replace buffalo wings and bleu cheese as America’s ubiquitious bar snack), the gorgonzola-crusted pub steak (a flawless blend of stinky cheese and juicy meat), and a rack of baby back ribs (so gigantic and smoky I was sure they were beef, but a smell and succulent taste that was 100% pig.)

But one particular beer was why I had really come to Southampton…

I’d had some other Southampton brews in the past and found them nothing more than mediocre to slightly above average, though, admittedly, I had never tried any of their pricier big bottle selections.  The one brew I had connived my way to town for, though, was the 93rd ranked beer in the world, their Grand Cru selection.  Though, I was somewhat dubious at the lofty positioning of this beer, I was nevertheless anxious to try it.

And…I was floored!  It was truly delicious.  Such an unexpected surprise.  Sure I thought it would be good based simply on its esteemed standing, but Southampton had shown me nothing in the past to make me think they had this much greatness inside of them.  And one doesn’t usually expect such heights to be reached by a Belgian pale ale.  An imperial stout, a bourbon barreled beer, a DIPA, sure.  But a Belgian pale?  A Belgian pale made by a little Long Island brewpub with middling distribution?  Crazy.  Usually Belgian pales are just yeasty, a tad spicy, and, though palatable, somewhat boring.  But Southampton’s Grand Cru is absolutely packed with flavor and complexity.  Dried orange peel, coriander, star anise, pineapple, mangoes, a touch of sweet malts, and a slight delicious mustiness.  For the ABV this is as drinkable as lemonade and I had to slow myself down so I could actually properly savor it.

Yes, I am being a tad enthusiastic, and I wasn’t even sure whether this was an A or A+ as I greedily slurped it down.  My enthusiasm probably came from the fact that, though it’s local, I never thought I’d have the Grand Cru or even drink at the Publick House and I was having a truly great evening.  We were having a truly great evening.  My mom and sister even greatly enjoyed the Grand Cru and, for the first time, I saw an “AHA!” look in their eyes which was them finally “getting” how I could have such a beer passion.  How beer could achieve such heights in my mind.  Maybe I no longer will have to dupe them into going on beer adventures with me in the future.  (”So long as you don’t write about me on your blog!” says mom.)

I think this might be the best Americanized Belgium beer around and I wish I could send a bottle to every non-NY beer geek I know so they could see for themselves.  Whatever the case, even if the next time I have it I’m not quite as blown away, I do think it’s up there with the best of the style, even better than Brooklyn’s splendid Local 1.

Afterward, I had a flight of all the taps on the menu I had yet to try–L to R:  Tripel, Bavarian Wheat, Summer kolsch, Secret Ale altbier, and Lager–and though I could tell they were all good, solidly crafted beers, the Grand Cru was so fucking delicious, was still lingering so much on my palate, that it had turned these fine brews into tiny shots of dirty bathwater.  I simply wanted more Grand Cru.

A

Brooklyn Cuvee de Cardoz

June 21st, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

8.5% ABV on draught

I’m always excited when the Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver releases yet another of his wonderful, and unfortunately limited and tap-only, Brewmaster Reserve beers and I always hightail it to whatever bar has them available.  Such was the case last weekend when I was “forced” to make my first visit to a now new favorite bar of the Vice Blog, Rattle ‘n’ Hum, to try this most unique brew on tap.

I had thought it was going to be a saison, Brooklyn Brewery calls it a spiced wheat ale, and Rate Beer and Beer Advocate a Belgian Strong Ale.  Whatever the case, the inspiration for this beer is quite interesting, take it away stuff I didn’t write:

Our brewmaster is fond of pointing out that his closest peers, after other brewers, are chefs rather than winemakers. Brewers, like chefs, start with an idea and then build that idea into a reality through the use of ingredients and technique. A few years ago, Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver, an avid home cook, attended a class on spicing conducted by Floyd Cardoz, the Executive Chef of the justly famed Indian-inflected New York City restaurant Tabla. And a few new beer ideas started to form…

Raised in Bombay and Goa, Chef Cardoz trained in India and Switzerland before moving to New York City. After a five-year stint at the venerable restaurant Lespinasse, he opened Tabla with restauranteur Danny Meyer in 1998. Since then he’s earned a boatload of accolades (including three stars from The New York Times), not only for his Indian cooking but also for his ability to infuse Western cuisine with Indian spices and soul. In 2006, Chef Cardoz published his first cookbook, One Spice, Two Spice.

Now chef and brewmaster have combined their inspirations to bring you Brooklyn Cuvée de Cardoz. This golden wheat beer starts with a base of malted barley and unmalted wheat and then builds upon it a delicate balance of exotic spices selected by Chef Cardoz and then toasted and ground in the kitchens at Tabla. Ginger, tamarind, mace, black pepper, coriander, fennel, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and chilies are added in the kettle, and then the beer is infused with toasted coconut after the fermentation. Combined with our yeast and light hopping, these spices give the beer a gentle, complex perfume, a full fruity palate, and long, drying finish with a very faint prickle of heat.

Nicely written.  Now back to some words from the hack…

I love Mr. Oliver’s obsession with making beer a part of the entire culinary experience (watch this great video!) and while I drank this without a pairing of Indian food, I could tell it would be a swell match.  Hell, it was swell just by itself.  Spicy, yeasty, and a favorite description of mine:  dangerously drinkable.  I don’t even know what exactly most of the above spices in the beer even are, but the corriander, cloves, and especially chilies shine through nicely.  I’m not going to advise you to sprint out to get this one, it’s certainly not as great as Garrett’s previous effort, the Intensified Coffee Stout, but this is still another stellar, inventive effort from one of my beer idols.  A great, refreshing, yet still potent beer for summer.

A-/B+

Note:  I’d also like to say how cool it is that Garrett Oliver makes a special beer for several Danny Meyer restaurants.  The Cuvee de Cardoz for Tabla, the Blue Smoke Blend for the BBQ joint of the same name, and the Shackmeister for the vaunted Shake Shack to name a few.

SAVOR

June 2nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Odell, Brewer: Russian River, Brewer: Smuttynose, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale, Style: Quadrupel, Style: Wild Ale

Though I’ve had a slight compunction in the past in hanging out with the geekiest of beer geeks, this weekend I found myself at Washington, DC’s Savor beer and food “experience.”  Said experience was held in the lovely National Building Museum, a phenomenal space where smartly dressed people, and your’s truly, enjoyed fine beer and soggy finger foods.  A crowd seemingly consisting more of foodies, cultural scenesters, and folks that enjoy wearing blazers just for the heck of it, the beer geeks were easily spotted as those hirsute men taking copious notes in their Moleskines, spending far too many seconds with their noses inside the rims of their tasting glass before taking a sip, too scared to look any of the many attractive women in the eye, and those lads treating Tomme Arthur and the godfather of craft Jim Koch as if they were Dino and Frank (uh…guilty as charged*).

According to my count, I sampled 36 of the 118 available frat sodas, so take the following for what it’s worth.  My highlights from the “experience” include, in alphabetical order:

Avery’s aromatic and white-winey wild Brabant, Boulevard’s silky funky Saison-Brett, The Bruery’s bready and creamy Saison Rue, Foothills’s slightly overrated but still spectacular Sexual Chocolate (on tap!) and vastly underrated Hoppyum IPA, Great Divide’s decadent Espresso Oak Aged Yeti imperial stout, The Lost Abbey’s deserves-all-the-praise-it-gets Angel’s Share bourbon-barreled as well as their tart/sour/boozy Cuvee de Tomme, New Holland’s refreshingly zesty Golden Cap saison, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder which I had misjudged the first and only previous time I’d had it as this is an A+ worldbeater no question, and Two Brothers’s caramelly Cane & Ebel red rye.

Now the above “honorable mentions” are a smattering of A-’s and A’s and perhaps even an A+ or two, but my three Best in Shows in ascending order were:

3.  Smuttynose Gravitation (Big Beer Series) — By far my biggest surprise of the evening.  I knew the boys up in Portsmouth made good if not great stuff and I’d seen this one on shelves plenty of times, but who knew this 8.5% ABV quadruple was so goddamned spectacular?!  Actually, apparently no one knows that or even thinks that as it gets a pedestrian B user grade on Beer Advocate, but let me just state that this is one beauty.  A dominating explosion of sweet Belgian candi and sugary dark fruits, this beer still remains incredibly smooth and drinkable with absolutely no cloyingness.  Honestly, I really can’t think of a better Americanized quad out there, and lest you think I was already in the can and am thus overrating this one compared to seemingly everyone else…it was my first beer of the evening and next to nothing else came close to it for the next four hours.  In fact, periodically throughout the night I would revisit the Smuttynose booth to selfishly have a second and third and fourth pour.

A+

2.  Russian River Consecration — Already quite “famous” in its short period of existence, it deserves all its hosannas as this brew instantly replaces Allagash Interlude as both my favorite wild ale and red wine-barreled beer.  A rust red pour full of acidic tartness, oaky Carbenet flavors, green apple sourness, and some funky vinegar sensations this brew was shockingly refreshing and I could not get enough of its glory.  I’m also glad I didn’t have to pay the bloated costs for this one–reportedly around $25 a bottle–which perhaps led me to enjoy it at maximum capacity.

A+

1.  Odell Woodcut #2 Oak Aged Golden Ale — I’m embarrassed to admit I knew next to nothing about this Fort Collins, Colorado based brewery, had never had one of their beers before, and didn’t even have this brew on my fairly lengthy “to drink” crib sheet I was carrying around in my ass pocket.  Luckily, about halfway through the evening, I serendipitously ran into a beer geek friend and a seemingly innocuous question of “So…whadaya enjoying here?” let to him all but grabbing me by the scruff of my neck and dragging me over to the Odell booth where he claimed that easily the best beer in the house resided.  Quite skeptical, I took his word for it and, wow!, he was 100% right.  A handsomely champagned bottled with a slick label befitting the beer’s name, this is truly one of the most flavorful beers I’ve ever had in my life.  A creamy malt backbone with tastes of buttery toffee and caramel, clean oak, vanilla, and candi this beer is phenomenal and I feel lucky to have tried it.  Now I’m sorry I missed out on Woodcut #1 which my minimal research shows me was released last year in a stingy small case number.  I’d love to get my hands on a full bottle of Woodcut #2 but it doesn’t even appear to have been officially released yet and doesn’t even have a placeholder entry on BA yet.

Whatever the case, Odell hits a moon shot home run in their first at bat against me.  That’s a 1.000 OBP and a 4.000 slugging.  As good as it gets.

A+

*

Russian River Damnation

February 26th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 8 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Russian River, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

7% ABV on draught

My Sick, Perverted Fetish

No, it’s not as bad, or perhaps the correct word is as “weird” as BDSM or footjobbing or something hirsute-related, so I suppose my sexual fetish is more akin to dudes that love big asses or big breasts.  Let me backtrack for a second.  For my entire postpubescent life I have been most attracted to skinny, tall, long blond-haired, big-busted women*.  Ha!  Aren’t we all, you say?  But have I just been kidding myself?  Ignoring my true carnal desires?  No, I don’t completely think so, but I finally must come out of the closet and admit that, aside from the aforementioned archetypal women, I do have a secret outlier sometime fetish for a certain type:

Big-nosed Jewish gals.

Is it something in my Deoxyribonucleic acid?  An ingrained part of my Semitic libido?  I’m not sure but I can ignore it no longer lest I be considered a self-hating Hebe.

I no longer can deny that when I’m riding on the subway, sitting across from a big-beaked lady, kinky sidelock-esque hair cascading over her face like the Holy Ark’s curtains shrouding a nasal Torah, yeah, I get a little titillated.  And when I’m forced to party in Murray Hill, I may be outwardly smarting, acting vexed at being in the crummy establishment, when I’m secretly a little turned on watching the Toucan-faced recent GW or Michigan grad poorly shaking her gelt-maker to an ironic (or is it?) playing of R. Kelly’s “Ignition.”  Or when I’m grabbing some Jewish donuts on a Sunday morning at H & H on the UWS, I can’t help but feel like I’m in line at a Judaic orgy, a slew of sweatsuit and Uggs-clad equine-faced cuties spending their daddy’s shekels on a sack of cinnamon raisins.

Oh lord, Elohim, it’s only getting worse, my desire for these beautiful exotic creatures with their conical goat faces, too poorly bred or raised by too practical (cheap?) of parents to have gotten rhinoplasty for them as a Bat Mitzvah gift.  What can a boy do?

I know what you’re saying, “You are an insensitive asshole.”  Correct.  I know what else you are saying: “How can you like such flawed, if not downright ugly, women?”  Well first of all, fella, watch it with the anti-Semititism.  Second of all, though, I hear you.  I used to feel the same way, sort of.  But I believe you may be thinking about the absolute worst of the breed.  Those 4′11″ and squat, hippy and big-assed and huge titted, natch**, annoyingly nasal girls with hair like Hurley from “Lost” and a constant scowl on their mugs.

But I’m not talking about those Chosen lasses.  No, sir.

I’m talking ’bout Mayim Bialik as Blossom.

I’m talking ’bout Lizzy Caplan or Kat Dennings.***

I’m talking ’bout Leelee Sobieski, Sarah Silverman, and House’s boss on “House.”  Helen Hunt, Sarah Jessica Parker before she started looking like a drag queen (we’re talking “Honeymoon in Vegas” days), and Jennifer Grey in “Dirty Dancing” before she went under the knife and never got booked again.  And let’s throw in Soleil Moon Frye for good measure.

It’s feels good to finally admit this, to no longer have to agree with my friends that, yes, she’d be perfect if she just had a normal schnoz.  No, she already is perfect!

Finally, I know what you’re thinking, sicko, and, no, I don’t want them to do anything unseemly with their nose whilst in the bedroom, that’s not why I like them.****  It’s just something visceral.  Something that can’t fully be explained unless you feel the exact same way I do.

Now I guess I should finally meet one of these dames.  I’m heading to my local Hadassah meeting.

Russian River Damnation

My first ever Russian River beer on tap.  I’d heard a rumor that Philadelphia was one of the rare cities that would be getting the coveted Pliny the Younger on tap and, finding myself conveniently in town a couple of weeks ago, I had hoped to score some.  Scouring the city, however, I came up dry.  I did find Damnation, though, at the marvelous Tria and quickly ordered it with no prejudice.  Unfortunately, it was not as good as I had hoped and now stands as the first Russian River beer I haven’t unequivocally loved.  Thinner than expected and quite mellow.  Almost felt like a very weak tripel.  Not much taste, not much complexity, light Belgian spiciness, slight sourness, some citrusness.  It was closer to “refreshing” than delicious.  Not what you want from a 7% Belgian strong ale.  Comparing it to Country Time lemonade also is probably not what we’re looking for here.  Having said that, the across-the-board reviews of Damnation seem much better than my initial experience so I do hope to try it again.

B+

*And, yes, agreed, you should really like women for what’s inside of them.  Sure enough–and you should also probably like a movie for its plot and not how many fiery explosion, scatological jokes, and bits of gratuitous nudity they include.

**Yes, all Jewish women have gargantuan breasts.  It’s a stone cold fact.  I don’t know why this is, it just is, perhaps something in the Manischewitz, maybe an evolutionary adaptation dating back to the wandering the desert days when it would be quite swell to have two large milk canteens strapped to one’s chest.

***Ibid.  And, Holy.  Shit.

****Jewish women also have gargantuan sexual appetites.  Another empirical fact.  I have no explanation for this one either.  I welcome theories in the comments.

photo credit:  Brian B

Allagash Interlude (2007)

December 23rd, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Allagash, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

9.5% from a bomber

Brewers, if you want me to buy your product, here’s a few simple and cheap things you can do to dupe me into purchasing it:

1. Cork the beer and add one of those cheap metal caps and twisty things.

2. Cover the cap and neck in that cheap Reese’s peanut butter cup-like foil.

3. Put the bottle in a cheap cardboard box.

4. Call it a limited bottling and perhaps even add numbers to the label or aforementioned box.  It doesn’t even matter if it is that truly of limited of bottling.

And one more expensive thing you can do to dupe me is to barrel your beer in something else. This week is coincidentally dedicated to beers like this, many of which coincidentally are also world-class beers.

Allagash is one of my favorite breweries but also one whose beers I rarely sample for reasons two-fold:  their bombers are prohibitively expensive and New York City seems to always be sold out of the truly good ones.  For the longest time I’ve thought the two top Allagash beers were the rarely-seen Curieux and Interlude, in that order, but this weekend, sampling one after the other, I would learn that the reverse is actually true.

Interlude is created with two yeast strains, a Belgian farmhouse yeast and a house strain of Brettanomyces wild yeast, which contributes flavors including pear, apricot, graham cracker, and bread crust.  Then, unlike the Curieux which is aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels, Interlude is aged in French Merlot and Sirah oak barrels.

Much more of a bourbon fan than a red wine fan–though I do like it–maybe I had convinced myself ipso facto that I preferred Curieux more.  However, side by side I quickly saw Interlude as being the ultimate Allagash masterpiece.  And, I know I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but there really is not another beer on the planet like this one.  In fact, I’m struggling to think of another major beer released that is aged in red wine barrels.  Although please correct me in the comments if you know of any, and, again, I’m not talking about special limited limited dicking-around releases from breweries no one has ever heard of.

Interlude is really winey, tart and funky, with a nice bit of carbonation and booziness.  Not much else to say except that this is a classic and I hope you’re lucky enough to one day find it.

A+

Dogfish Head Pangaea

December 15th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Dogfish Head, Country: America, Grade: B-, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

7% ABV from a bomber

“So first of all, I picked her up without saying even a single word…”

I was launching into another epic tale, my friend Wes’s very favorite tale of mine, one he insisted I write up for the Vice Blog.  We sat around his luxury highrise apartment playing NHL 2008 on XBox, surely the best sports video game ever, and I say that as a guy who hasn’t watched a single hockey game since Chris Chelios was still in the league.  Huh?  He’s still in the league NOW?!

We drank a semi-rare score, a bottle of Pangaea, from one of my favorite breweries in the country, Dogfish Head.  I’m excited to try all new Dogfish Head offerings but especially this one as the beer is made with ingredients from all seven continents including most prominently crystallized ginger from Australia, moscavado sugar from Africa, basmati rice from Asia, and a bit of a “cheat” in using water from the McMurdo Science Station in Antarctica.  An interesting idea no doubt and a splendid name and label, yes, but ultimately, I found this beer to be a bit of a gimmick, it essentially just tasting like liquid ginger.

And, again, as I’ve been saying with a lot of DFH’s “weirder” offerings lately, I was glad to try it, but really don’t want to ever try it again.  I don’t know why DFH puts their oddball beers in bombers.  Even splitting it with a friend it becomes a bit of a chore to drink and you just end up resenting the beer even though it’s not actually half bad.  Perhaps they need to sell it in larger, more expensive quantities in order to give them the ability to actually make the inventive beers, something I completely understand.  I will admit that by bomber’s end I actually started warming up to the beer, thinking it might be most interesting with a meal of spicy Asian food.

“So first of all, I picked her up without saying a single word…”

This was back three years ago, I was a single man visiting the folks in Oklahoma City.  That city is burgeoning I suppose, but there’s still not tons for a young single man to do.  Even going out to drink can be a major pain in the ass, trying to find drivers to escort you and locations that actually have people in them.  Having said that, though, when a New Yorker like me finds a “happening” or even “kinda happening” or even “35% full” bar in Oklahoma City, it can make for a great time for reasons twofold:

A.  Shit is so fucking cheap.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been running a tab for an entire group of friends in Oklahoma City and after a full night of drinking–though remember, bars close at 2:00, at 1:00 the house lights go up, and at 1:30 hick bouncers start yelling at you, the patron who has spending good money for the past several hours, to “Get the FUCK outta my bar!!!!”–went to tab out and seen the bill and begun laugh.  Laughing like I’d heard the funniest joke of all time.  Countless beers, top-shelf cocktails, shots, greasy sampler platters for a party of five?  Let’s say $45.  “How much I owe you?” a friend says.  “On me!” I say!  Which is an expression any one will tell you the Vice Blogger has never said once in New York City.  But in Oklahoma City, a visiting New York instantly becomes a millionaire.

B.  And this is true for all American cities that aren’t Los Angeles and maybe Miami…women irrationally love a guy from New York City.  You don’t have to be handsome, rich, thin, interesting, straight, or even showered, you simply have to live in one of the five boroughs of the city of New York.  Not that a girl from Oklahoma City even knows what a borough is.

I found myself at some hell-hole of a bar in my former hometown.  It was packed, indeed, but that doesn’t matter as most people in OKC are still smoking and it’s actually legal to still puff indoors there.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m adamantly against nanny stateism and for debauchery and think humans should be allowed to smoke inside bars–if that is what the owner wishes–but I still can bitch about the stink.  Also, people in Oklahoma City don’t like to inter-group mingle, just finding their own booths or tables to smoke and chit-chat and I guess play quarters or something.

So I suppose I was a little grumpy at not finding any ugly local girls to talk to but I was nevertheless excited that I was drinking bourbon neats for $3.25.  You know you’re in a non-major metropolis if drinks cost something “…and a quarter.” It was Christmas day and surprisingly the bar was packed.  I hadn’t showered or tried to style my hair in any way because I don’t really care what I look like when I’m outside of New York.  I wore a dirty white Hanes undershirt with simply a pea coat over top of it.  I looked miserable.  I was talking to only my sister.  We were probably mocking former classmates of ours.

My friend Matthew–now a proud father and in a semi-common-law marriage–had been working a girl hard all night.  Like all night.  I wasn’t sure if he was making ground or not and I didn’t really care.  All I knew was that it was 1:30, the lights had just gone on, and I wanted to drink for the next one, two, seven hours.

“Hey Matthew, any fucking place we go get a drink now?”

Matthew turned to me for the first time in an hour or so.  The girl he was flirting with turned toward me as well.  A gentleman, he introduced us.

“Allison, this is my friend, Aaron.”

She stuck out her hand aloofly.

“He’s from New York.”

Her eyes bulged out of her head, if she had a dick she would have got a boner, and “NEW.  YORK.  CITY?” she exclaimed and pulled me in for a hug.  “It is so great to meet you.”

She all but pushed Matt out of the way to get to me.  I still hadn’t said a word to her.  Do I feel bad that when I–or any of the other 4.1 million-ish New York men–go to other measly cities we get treated like George Clooney simply because we pay ungodly amounts of rent and know how to read a subway map?  Well…yeah, actually I kinda do.  But, in the same way I feel a bit embarrassed if I have to use a bridge to hit a shot in billiards.  I’m still gonna take credit for the sunk ball and I’ll still hook up with the girl.

Matthew’s a smart guy and he already had seen the folly of his ways.  The folly of telling “his” girl I was from New York.

“So, do you know any place to drink, Aaron?” said “my” girl.

Actually, I had just thought of one.  Before leaving the house that night I’d been searching through my parents’ home for a snack and come across the motherload.  My parents are essentially teetotalers nowadays yet I guess they continued receiving bottles of liquor as gifts over the years and kept them in one out-of-the-way cabinet.  Earlier that night I’d found that stock, and there was plenty, ranging from the normal (Grey Goose, Johnnie Walker Black, Crown Royal) to the “What-asshole-gave-you-that-as-a-gift?” (Hennessey, Malibu Rum, something that looked like moonshine and had tropical fruits floating in bottle.)

“Actually I do…everyone to my parents’ house.”

My sister stared at me like, “Really?”  I was wasted off $3.25 bourbons so I nodded back, “Yes, really.”

A group of about ten of us headed to my parents’ home, my annexed girl giving me a ride.  I had the foresight to make everyone park one street over.  I was 26 years old, but my parents, especially my mom, is not one for reckless debauchery.  I made everyone, save my sister and Matthew, stand around the corner of the front door as I unlocked it.  My mom has ears like a hawk and always awakens when I get home from boozing.  She came out of her room.

“Hey mom, I invited Matthew over to hang out for a little bit.”

My mom loved Matthew who was maybe my oldest friend, one I had met when we were both three-year-old wunderkinds in the four-year-old preschool class at the Jewish daycare Matthew’s Christian family had inexplicably enrolled him in.

“Oh that’s fine.  Hi, Matthew.  Good night.”

My mom went back into her room and then me and my sister and friends old, new, and just met got wasted, polishing off literally every drop of booze in the house, though I wouldn’t learn this til later.

Noon.

I awaken.

A pulsating headache.

I hear my loud family awake and romping around.  My dad cooking a late brunch in the kitchen.  My mom roughhousing with the dogs in the living room.

Beside me, in my twenty-five-year-old twin bed that still has NFL sheets on it, the naked girl from last night.  How many words have I said to her in my life?  I don’t even know her name.  All I know is that she is fucking naked and my parents are nearby.

Now my parents are the kind of people that have no respect for boundaries.  The kind of people that have no problem just opening a door and marching into your bedroom.  In fact, every previous morning of this little Christmas vacation my mom and/or father had, without knocking, entered into my room with the wild dogs to wake me up at whatever point they deemed fit.  I was certain we were mere seconds from that happening again.  My childhood bedroom didn’t have a lock.

I started shaking the girl, trying to wake her ass up.  She wouldn’t bulge.  It was like she was dead.  I stared at the Magic Johnson poster on my wall, what had become of my life?  Could I get an assist, Earvin?  I shook her some more, which jarred something loose and caused her to begin to loudly snore.  I was kinda freaking out, and I wasn’t sure why.  I was a fucking grown man, I could do whatever I want.  Right?

Even moreso being that both my sisters, both younger than me, each in a bedroom on either side of mine, had their boyfriends in town for the holidays and were sleeping with them every single night, something my conservative parents surprisingly never had a problem with.

I thought, fuck it, I’ll just wake this girl up, march her through the house toward the front door and proudly proclaim,

“Good morning mother and father, this is the one-night stand I had last night.”

And that would be that.

Naw, I couldn’t do that.  I didn’t need my parents to know I was the kind of person that got wasted and had promiscuous liaisons with girls I picked up through the most frivolous of reasons.  Actually, I laughed to myself, the real reason I didn’t want my parents to see my one-night stand was because she was ugly.  Well, not ugly, but kinda just mediocre.  A six out of ten.  Yeah, which made her a nine out of ten in Oklahoma, but I digress.  I would have proudly marched a beauty out of my room, let my parents know that their son had some serious long-ball power, but I couldn’t disappoint them with my previous night’s middling lay.

I went to the bathroom to wash my face and game plan.  I ran into my sister in the hall way.  She snickered.  “So whatever happened to that girl last night after I went to bed?”  She really didn’t know.

“She’s still in my room.”

“BULLSHIT!”

“Shhhhhhhhh…”

I shrugged.  You doubt me, sibling?  I opened the door to my room a crack.  My sister peaked her head in.  The girl’s bare ass was hanging outside the comforter.  My sister started cracking up.  I saw nothing funny about it.

I went back into my room and shook the girl as hard as possible.  She finally awoke.  Now I don’t know about you, but if I woke up–as a mid-twenties adult–in the childhood bedroom of a stranger I had just had a one-night stand with, I would be a little disturbed and perturbed with myself.  Not this one.  Uh uh.  She casually smiled.  “Mornin.’”

I would have been like, “Where the hell am I?  What the fuck happened?  Are those your parents I hear????  Is that Walter Payton on this pillow?”  Again, not this one.  She just yawned, noted she was hungry for an omelet.

I walked over to my bedroom window, the sill covered with all my childhood sports trophies.  I began to clear them away.

“What are you doing, Aaron?”

“I really apologize for this, but you have to jump out my window.  I don’t want you to deal with my parents.  It’s better for both of us.”

“OK.”

I liked this girl, nice, supplicating, and malleable.

She began to casually get dressed, staying naked far longer than a normal person would, slowly, slowly, slowly, putting on each sock and then…

A knock on my door.   SHIT!

I nodded at her to get under the covers and hide.  The end game was near and my parents weren’t going to be humiliated by their son’s pathetic pick-up.  She did as she was told.

I opened the door a crack.  It was my sister.  She had just remembered–just remembered!–that her bedroom had a rarely-used side door that we could allow Elvis to leave the building through.  Perfect.

The girl got dressed, we quickly ushered her through the hallway, into my sister’s bedroom, and then out the door.

Once the girl was outside my sister and I started madly cackling.  We ran to the front of the house and its windows, spying on the girl as she walk-of-shamed across several lawns and to her car parked on the next block.  Mission accomplished.

We headed to the kitchen for breakfast where my sister continued to make countless thinly-veiled references to my miserable hook-up, my parents somehow never catching on.  They were just mad me, my sister, and Matthew had somehow drank fifteen bottles of their booze in one night.  “Your father and I were gonna drink that one day!”

B-

PranQster

September 2nd, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: North Coast, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

7.6% ABV

86ed.  The ol’ heave-ho.  Booted.  Tossed.  Ejected.  Whatever you call it, Saturday night was the first time in a while I have been thrown out of a bar.  I thought I was getting too old for this shit, but sadly, apparently not.  I’m no stranger to the great indignity of being forcibly dragged from numerous drinking establishments by some steroid-fueled missing link and thrown out onto my tush.  I’ve been bounced from bars, pubs, discos, restaurants, peel joints, classrooms, sporting stadiums, weddings, Bar/t Mitzvahs, golf course clubhouses, and once even a booze cruise (a tad hypocritical I contend).  But, my favorite 86ing happened on an airplane.

It was back four years ago.  I was returning to New York after having visited my sister at college down in Miami.  I was seated next to an older-than-Esther stereotypical Florida Jewish lady.  A curly afro of dyed charcoal black hair ala Linda Richman, dressed to the nines with pearls and gold jewelry, and a dousing of No. 5.  No big whoop, I don’t like to talk to my seatmates unless they are gorgeous women.  And I have never once been seated next to a gorgeous woman on a flight.  But I am constantly sat next to crying babies, BO-reeking fatties, and people that consider the Sky Mall catalog fine literature.

Nevertheless, we all know old people are very chatty.  And Jews are even more chatty.  And oldass Jews are about as chatty as they come.  Estelle asked me why I had been down in Florida.  I answered whatever was the exact sanitized opposite of “getting wasted on cheap drinks at college bars and trying to hook up with my sister’s classmates.”  91-year-old Estelle told me she always went down to Miami in the winter because she was still an avid golfer, walking a course several times a week.  In fact, while on this trip she had just broken her age, carding a 90!  What a woman.  I was blown away and told her so.  She then hit me with the downside.  After her most recent round of golf, the other player in her twosome, coincidentally her identical twin sister, had passed away.

Estelle began to cry.  I don’t deal well with crying no matter if the person is age 0, 25, or 91.  I tried to console her.  “Fuck it!” she snapped back up and wiped her tears away.  “She lived a good life.  Have a drink with me, Aaron.”  With pleasure.

I don’t typically drink on flights both because they have an abhorrent selection, I don’t want to have a broken seal and have to piss for an entire flight, and also I’m delusional enough to think that if the plane were to crash I could probably save myself while the other dopes aboard perished–that is so long as I were sober.  However, when a 91-year-old Jew with no doubt fantastic stories pulls a wad of twenties from her gigantic handbag and forces you to slug drinks with her in order to reach nirvana, well, no gentleman could turn that down.  She wanted to drink red wine and that was cool with me.  If you’ve never ordered wine on a flight, it comes in a tiny little bottle that has about a glass’s worth and is usually some mediocre bottling from the Gallos.  We had one glass, then quickly another.  Estelle could drink and I was actually struggling to keep pace.

After four glasses the air waitresses began to ignore us as admittedly we were getting rowdy, other passengers staring at the combined 116 years of drunken belligerence.  Estelle wouldn’t stand for this.  Next time the drink cart came by, pushed by an aloof and dismissive flight attendant, Estelle simply speared her varicose-veined arms into the cabinet at the bottom and, with the suppleness of a Bourbon Street pickpocket, filched two more bottles for me and her.  Nice.  Who says you can’t learn things from your elders?

After our free bottle number five, Estelle again tried to use the standard method for ordering as often employed by assholes, signaling for drinks by holding two fingers aloft ala Churchill or Nixon.  Those gents meant “V for Victory” however when drinking the V becomes the universal sign for “Two more, please, chop chop.”

“Hey!  Where’d you two get another bottle of wine?”  The bitch flight attendant who had de facto cut us off sprinted over.  She was clearly onto our scheme.

“The other stewardess served us,” I slurred.  Whoops.  I forgot that “stewardess” is the n-word in the flight attendant game.  Nevertheless, still such a more elegant term that the unwieldy politically correct nomenclature.

“I explicitly told that flight attendant NOT to serve you two again.”

“We’re fine and still temperate,” Estelle piped up, using a term for sobriety that hadn’t been heard since the speakeasy days when the old lady was no doubt flapping around with F. Scott.  “Now hurry up and get us another drink, sweetheart.”

“You two are cut off and if you bother me any more about it I’ll have authorities waiting for you guys at the gate.”

Estelle rolled her eyes at me and let out a “bitch” under her breath as the flight attendant waddled her fat ass back to the jump seat.

The great Estelle had one final trick up her sleeve though.  With a shit-eating grin full of false teeth, she pulled a makeup kit out of her hand bag.  Subtly unzipping that she removed a minibar-sized bottle of Grand Marnier.  She took a slug then handed the orange cordial over to me to finish off just as the flight began its descent.

By the time we had taxied to the gate, Estelle was shitfaced, but still savvy enough to pull off a move that would guarantee her lifetime enshrinement in the Vice Blog Hall of Fame.  Though a vigorous women perfectly capable of walking eighteen holes, Estelle quickly realized that the countless bottles of wine had made her incapable of hoofing it upright.

“Could someone get a crippled old lady a wheelchair!” she hollered.

And as everyone else on the airplane got out of her way, a crew rushed a fold-up wheelchair onto the airplane where they retrieved a drunk Estelle and wheeled her back down the aisle like a modern day Cleopatra, a VIP ride to the baggage claim.  As she exited she gave me a wink as an ever-so-slight smile came on her face for just a millisecond.

Now back to the present and Saturday, where like any red-blooded American male I spent the day watching college football and drinking beer.  The beer of the day was my first ever tippling of PranQster, a surprisingly effective American version of a Belgian strong pale ale.  Nice, refreshing, and imminently drinkable, but perhaps not that complex.  However, a few of those bad boys are probably not the best final beers before heading out to an evening bar.

Then again, if the bar is a piece-of-shit Murray Hill hellhole like Bar Twelve, then you should hope you drink enough to forget your time there.  You should also probably consider a disguise lest someone sees you entering such a dump like some trench-coated perv entering an 8th Avenue peep show establishment.  The place was admittedly decent before the midnight hour with reasonably priced drinks, reasonably attractive young women, and not much reason to leave.  Then at the witching hour, the lights darkened, the TVs were turned off, the place changed its name to the Ski Bar lounge (seriously), the dress code apparently began to require Pac-Man Jones jerseys and do-rags, and impromptu dance offs began.  I thought nightclub dance-offs only happen in movies made by stuffy white Hollywood executives in an attempt to appeal to a quote-unquote urban demographic, but no shit, these things are fo’ real.  I actually saw two men wager on one such dance-off though I have no idea how odds are generated and pay-offs occur.

Trying to avoid the sweatiest dance circle I’ve been near since the last time I hora’ed, I moved to a corner with some women I’d met during the more normal portion of the evening and thought I’d made some inroads with.  As I began my end game ala Kasparov some meaty paws encircled my shoulders.

Three-quarters of the time when you get 86ed from a bar you have no idea why.  That’s expected.  You’re wasted while the bouncers aren’t (though they are debatably retarded).  You think you’re swaggering around the joint like Dean Martin, regaling women and turning men’s heads in awe, always ready with a quick bon mot or a blush-inducing line of seduction, and next thing you know some goon in a Rochester Big & Tall sales rack suit has lifted you by the scruff of your neck and thrown you into a newspaper box outside (hopefully a rubber The Onion one as opposed to a sharp metal USA Today one).

That’s exactly what happened to me.

And then, let’s just assume I walked across the street to a “safe zone” and began yelling obscenities at the bouncer, telling anybody that was considering entering Bar Twelve blatant lies about the place.  Lies such as the fact that the antisemitic bouncers called me a Hook-nosed Heeb or that they are only playing Afroman and Baja Men music inside.  The truth would be enough to turn off most normal people but the lies were funnier to me at the time.  And the homeless people on Second Avenue laughed at my beer-addled wit, but they were drunk on fortified wine and probably thought if they sycophantically chortled I might give them some money.  Little did they realize I needed that to flag a cab home to pass out.

Then the next day I woke up hungover and admittedly ashamed, but not ashamed enough to recount the whole evening right here, topped off with one final point I’d like to add, in an effort to optimize this entry to hopefully become Bar Twelve’s number one returned google search:

BAR TWELVE NYC SUCKS!

BAR TWELVE NYC SUCKS!

BAR TWELVE NYC SUCKS!

BAR TWELVE NYC SUCKS!

BAR TWELVE NYC SUCKS!

BAR TWELVE NYC SUCKS!

B+

Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale

September 1st, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Stone, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale

8.6% ABV from a bomber (limited release)

A bit tardy to the party, but better late than never!

Here’s the deal, the great Stone brewery–who still won’t reward my beloved touting of their mindblowing beers with any free shit–releases a new specialty beer one year, one month, and one day from the previous Vertical.  This started on January 1, 2001 (01.01.01) and will end on December 12, 2012 (12.12.12).  The thinking is that one will collect all the bottles and cellar them until after 2012 at which point they will do a “vertical” tasting, that is start with Vertical one and working all the way up until Vertical twelve at which point they will have been in a coma for a few hours.

I love the thinking, but I’m not much for planning that far ahead into my future.  Not much for commitments.  I mean shit, how can I know what I’ll be doing on 12.12.12?  I barely know what I’ll be doing on 09.09.08.  By 12.12.12 I’ll probably be a thrice-divorced teetotaler, living in a Buddhist commune in Little Rock, Arkansas, making spending money by selling I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter sculptures at county fairs.  And, if I’m not, if I’m still the world-famous Vice Blogger, then I’ll just find some friend with the foresight to have kept all the Verticals and mooch off of them.

08.08.08 smells fantastic, just like a Duvel which is one of my all-time favorites.  Unfortunately, it does not have quite as much flavor as Duvel.  Spicy, cloves, fruity (mainly citrus and other tropical ones are noted), Belgian yeasts, and a surprising amount of hops.  Sweet and bitter at the same time.  A tingly aftertaste nicely lingers.

Quit frankly, not quite enough bite and potency for my liking.  Which probably means I am a maniacally insane dipsomaniac because most other people online are calling this brew too alcoholic for their tongues.  Pussies.  Though a tad weak, this is still a very good beer though from the untouchable Stone.

One final point for my homebrewing friends.  Stone is cool enough to literally list the complete recipe for their beers online.  Remarkable.  I hope someone I know attempts it.

A-