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Archive for the ‘Style: Belgian White’ Category

Boulevard Smokestacks

September 10th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Boulevard, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B regular, Style: Belgian White, Style: IPA, Style: Tripel

In late-1800’s New York City, the top spectator sport at bars was dog versus rat fights.  This replaced the previously most popular sport, a man in heavy work boots trying to stomp out one-hundred rats as fast as he could.  Which, replaced the previously most enjoyed sport:  bear wrestling.  Yeah, the New York bar scene was pretty goddamn badass a way back when I have learned from reading Luc Sante’s essential compendium of New York vice “Low Life.”

Back then, many dive bars–known as “blind tigers” or “blind pigs”–didn’t even have glassware.  Men were issued a rubber tube which they then connected to a keg and from which they were allowed to drink as long as they could on one single breath of air for each beer purchase.  Predictably, always-savvy New Yorkers developed incredible lung capacities and devised ways to cheat the system.

But it wasn’t all days of wine and roses back then.  For one, most dives, usually located on the outskirts of Manhattan island, had actual trap doors in the floors in which deceased customers could be kicked into the East or Hudson Rivers.  Besides murder and suicide, frequent in-bar deaths might have been due to the fact that this rubber-tubed-sucked beer was abject swill, laced with all sorts of poisons that quickly got you drunk…and then killed you.  Or, at least blinded you.  Not exactly good for repeat business.

And the only women hanging at these dives were of the sporting kind.  Hookers who would, at best, fuck you full of STDs.  At worst, slip you a “Mickey Finn” when you weren’t looking and steal your wallet as you lay prone in an alley.  OK, so I guess I’ll quit complaining about the annoyingly shrill JAP habitues and hipster too-cool chicks so often surrounding me at the bar.

Suffice to say, craft beer was nowhere to be had, and, begrudgingly, I guess that means I have to admit that the 2009 New York City bar scene is better than the 1889.  Even if all we have to do at bars nowadays is play darts and “Big Buck Hunter.”  Not exactly a stomping-on-rats level of in-house excitement, but surely less messy and grizzly.

This past week I had the fortune to drink six beers that could of and would have never existed back in seedy 19th Century New York.  Six beers from Boulevard’s esteemed Smokestack line.  Three of which I’d had before and three of which added new notches to my brew bedpost.

Double-Wide India Pale Ale

8.5% ABV from a 750 mL  (1st in the series)

Double-Wide emits the always popular sack of weed aroma we’ve come to know and love in many West Coast IPAs.  A nice bitterness and packed with sour citrus.  Boozy yet drinkable, I was very impressed and if I was an east coast elitist man I would add that I was very impressed that this great IPA came out of Kansas City.  A part of me, though, wonders if this is an out of date bottle from when the initial Smokestack offerings were first released nearly a year ago.  That seems impossible because, damn, this beer was fresh and juicy.  Well worth locating.

A-

Long Strange Tripel

9% ABV from a 750 mL (2nd in the series)

This is a very respectable, damn good American tripel.  And, tasting it side-by-side with maybe my favorite tripel in the world, La Fin du Monde, Long Strange was outshined (outshone?) sure, but by not that great of magnitude surprisingly.  It’s incredibly yeasty with just a hint of nice sweetness.  Bubbly, fluffy, and pillowy, I really enjoyed putting this back in the mid-day patio sun, and was shocked at how easily it went down.

A-/B+

Two Jokers Double-Wit

8% ABV from a 750 mL (8th in the series)

Dangerously, shockingly, drinkable for such a high ABV beer, but then again, witbiers are so fucking lame, maybe I was just trying to get it down, slurping it down like flat apple juice, so I could move onto something more interesting.  You know, Two Jokers ain’t terrible–and I love the label–but it’s just not that interesting.  Packed with cardamom, coriander, orange peel, lavender, and the always sexy grains of paradise, I will admit this was a great beer to begin a long day of college football watching with.

B

I have now had six of the nine Smokestack releases* and here are my current overall rankings:

1.  Saison-Brett (an absolutely epic beer well deserving of all its acclaim)
2.  Double-Wide
3.  The Sixth Glass
4.  Long Strange Tripel
5.  Saison
6.  Two Jokers

*I have still yet to locate bottles of the 5th and 6th Smokestack releases, their Imperial Stout and BBQ (Bourbon Barrel Quad), nor of the newest release, the 9th in the series, the Seeyoulator Doppelbock.  I would kill to try any and all of them, especially the BBQ.  Hit me up at theviceblog [at] gmail.com if you can make a little Jewish boy’s dreams come true.


The Bruery Orchard White

April 27th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: The Bruery, Country: America, Grade: B-, Style: Belgian White

5.7% ABV on tap

I’m an egomaniac and a clinical narcissist and one reason I started this site is because I knew I would have a better beer blog than most of the other crap out there.  And now, I will write a better bar review than those written by the unpaid freelancing hacks at Shecky’s, et al.

THE PONY BAR

W. 45th and Tenth Avenue

After a soft opening two Thursdays ago, I decided to pay my first visit to Hell’s Kitchen’s newest bar exactly one week later.  A great drinking neighborhood, that is unquestionable, but the part of town westerly of Touristville is severely lacking in craft beer spots with only the two House of Brews to its name as well as Valhalla.*  The Houses of Brew (if I am to correctly pluralize) usually have a respectable enough beer lineup, but it’s not exactly a place I like to hang out as the ceilings are too low, the lighting too bright, the women too loud, the beer geeks too geeky, the food too beer-battered.  Valhalla is criminally underrated though, even if it is exceedingly dark in there and the bartenders are slobbering fools.

Upon first entering The Pony Bar I was impressed with the ambiance.  It’s quite unique with upturned barrels in the middle of the floor acting as little tables and all sorts of other faux-old-timey wood furnishings like an off-the-interstate Cracker Barrel.  It was also kinda like Al Swearengen’s Gem Saloon though I saw no canned peaches available for purchase.  Then again, the kitchen is not open just yet, though the menu on the wall looked respectable and economical.

I was quickly turned off by the bar’s paucity of pissing space with just a single commode for both men and women.  When I own a bar, there will be more places to piss than the number of dicks the Fire Marshall will allow in the building.

I’d been greatly anticipating my first visit to The Pony Bar as their website listed them as having The Bruery’s Orchard White and Black Orchard on tap.  One of America’s newest and brightest craft brewers, I’d yet to see these beers in Manhattan and was stoked to try them.  The Pony Bar’s nicely-designed website claims to offer “real time” updates about what is on their twenty taps at that very second, but by the time I had reached the watering hole, Black Orchard was no more.  So, unless that tap got changed out during my five minute walk, The Pony Bar are biliously lying to the bibulous.

Luckily, Orchard White was on tap and I ordered one post-haste.  I was disappointed to see it come in a mere 8 ounce glass but later learned that since literally every single beer at The Pony Bar is $5, some of the brews are served in smaller glasses.  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason though to what was served in these 8 ouncers.  It certainly wasn’t just high ABV stuff as Allagash’s sublime 7.5% Black was in a wee glass while Stone’s snotbox-punching 7.7% Ruination came in a full pint.  Nor, did it appear to be a rarity thing as some simple-to-find taps were in the itsy bitsy glasses as well.  But I quibble.

I found the Orchard White to be a quite fascinating witbier.  Spicy and medicinal, full of oranginess and a biting flowery lavender taste which overpowered me to a certain extent.  The prickly carbonation got to me as well.  Truth be told, I was somewhat glad this was served in a 8 ounce glass as I was ready for something else by about ounce 6.  A good beer, or at least an interesting one no question, I’m curious to try The Bruery’s other stuff.

It was easy to monitor the beers on tap and their ABVs and serving size as The Pony Bar has a splendid and large chalkboard covering the entire wall behind the bar.  One of my top bar pet peeves is when you enter a bar and ask a standard, “So what do you have on tap?” and the bartender gives an enormous eye roll followed by an abracadabra wave of her upturned palm as if to say, “The taps run the length of the bar, you can check them out for yourself.”  No one wants to run up and down the length of a bar, jutting their head between couples trying to ogle each tap, recognize ones you’ve never seen before, cull weird names from the askew heads.  Or, what about bars that list their beers on a dirty chalkboard, the various brews written in awkward pink or powder blue chalked atop the smudged black, made impossible to read by the dim lights of the bar.  It really irks me when bars don’t just have beer menus to peruse, and updated ones at that.

If only every bar would just do what The Pony Bar does with their amazingly easy to see beer wall which could be read despite the darkness of the establishment.  The on-the-wall ABVs are also great for a stat geek like me as it enables me to keep accurate tabs on my intoxication levels (”I’ve currently had 124 ounces of beer at an average of 7.1%!  Any one know a good massage parlor around here?”)

The lights were dark and the atmosphere jovial.  Though there was a gorgeous flatscreen TV in each corner, none were on, something I am not sure whether it had to do with the fact that the bar had yet to have the cable guy arrive–”Bars, they’re just like us!”–or whether it was to maintain a conversational atmosphere.  I will assume it is the former.  But a conversational atmosphere was certainly generated and the bar was packed to the gills with hot, hot women, all forced to order Ommegang Witte as it was the only “light” and “girly” beer on the current menu.  There’s hard liquor too, ladies, do not fret.

I’m the kind of guy that upon arriving at a beer bar immediately composes a “batting lineup” for my evening’s consumption.  No, I don’t go all the way 1 through 9 but I usually make it well past the clean-up spot.  I’d led off with Orchard White, slotted Stone Ruination in the two-hole in order to calibrate my IPA tastes before I planned on giving Blue Point Rastafar Rye a whirl.  Unfortunately, just as I was finishing my Ruination pint the bartender started hammering a boxing ring-type bell as if the judges’ decision was about to be announced by a Buffer brother.  I quickly learned that this bell was to alert a tap change.  I said to my drinking buddy, “Please say it ain’t the Rastafar Rye.”  It was and thus my batting lineup method lost in a unanimous decision.  Should have batted the Rastafar Rye higher.  Oh well.  The Pony Bar would change taps four more times that night, something I love.  True, they could just have five to ten more taps at all times, but just like you I’m a sucker and it excites me to watch thing change right in front of my very eyes.

The bartenders at The Pony Bar are friendly, though they don’t exactly seem to be fermented beverage experts.

AARON:  “So, how’s that Chelsea Hop Angel IPA?”

BARTENDER:  “Now that’s what we call an ‘IPA’ which stands for India.  Pale.  Ale…”

Consults notecard.

BARTENDER:  “…which means it will be quite…uh…’hoppy.’”

Finally, The Pony Bar offers growlers for sale of any and all beers they have on tap.  This seems to be a new “fad” in New York as in the last year or so at least a dozen bars have started offering this service.  Obviously, this is something I absolutely adore as I’m all for encouraging people to make impetuous purchases when lit up.  And, believe me, it’s quite easy to say, as you’re tabbing out your credit card:

“You know, could you just throw a growler of Double Bastard on their while you’re at it?”

Next thing you know you’re stumbling down 11th Avenue swigging straight from the 64 oz glass, stuck between the moon and New York City.

B+

*Seriously, Valhalla, it’s 2009, get a fucking website.  My mom even has one for God’s sake, and she’s a public school teacher.

Samuel Adams Imperial Series

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

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

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

Double Bock

9.5% ABV

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

B

Imperial Stout

9.5% ABV

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

B+

Imperial White

10.3% ABV

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

A-

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

Voodoo White Magick of the Sun

April 3rd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 17 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Voodoo, Country: America, Grade: B-/C+, Style: Belgian White

The Teetotaler’s Turn-On

I woke up with a pounding hangover and did the first thing I always did back then after a night of heavy drinking…I made sure I was still in possession of all my possessions.  Cell phone?  Check.  Keys?  Check.  Wallet?  Yep, that too, and inside I was still in ownership of my driver’s license, debit and credit cards, and oh look there’s a receipt for two slices of pizza purchased at 3:30 AM, don’t recall that and…a crumpled bar napkin.

“s.milligan@[blank]mail.com” sloppily scribbled on the napkin.  S. Milligan?  Did I know an S. Milligan?  Do I recall meeting one the previous night?  Nope.  So I’ll just throw the napkin away, right?  Not a chance.  For this was back in my first few months out of college when I was majorly hard up for some action.

I wasn’t born a natural when it came to women but I’ve always had a quick learning curve with anything and after four years of female study in college I was firing on all cylinders by second semester senior year, habitually in the zone, like MJ said, “When the rim looks like a big bucket.”  And I easily expected to make a seamless transition once I entered the real world of non-college girls.  Oh, I didn’t know how wrong I was.  My hubris has always bit me in the ass.  I was like an ace from the National League switching to A.L. batters and a DH and suddenly finding his ERA exploding.  In my case, finding my consecutive nights alone streak ballooning faster than any Baldwin brother.  “Real world” women didn’t put up with the simple seduction tactics of college buffoons.  Thus, I came to realize, I didn’t have any tactics aside from going round-for-round with pints of Long Island Ice Tea until I won the war of sexual attrition and a girl decided she had nothing better to do than go back to my Euclid Avenue apartment to “watch a movie” with me at 3 AM.*  Too bad women quit drinking LITs once they get their diplomas.

I was now about three months out of college with nary a success.  How had I met S.?  For the last three months when I was sober, or even semi-sober, none of my lines, my shtick, had been working.  And drunk?  Not a chance.  Nowadays, drunk or sober, it doesn’t really matter, I can just flip the autopilot switch and the ghost in my machine can make friends, meet women, you name it, and I don’t even have to really “be” there.  I’m frequently amazed to hear stories of how “on” I was on a night I mentally blacked-out.  It’s like hearing about another person you don’t even know.  You can literally admire yourself.  But back then, back in 2001, I could barely order a drink and find my way home when I was “Memento” shitfaced.

What if S. wasn’t even female?  Now that would be embarrassing.  The first person I pick up in my post-collegiate life is a man.  Some dude who said he could help me get Yankee tickets, or get me some freelance work, or a date with his hot sister.  I’d have to write an ambiguous e-mail to this mystery person.

“Hey!…”

No, the exclamation mark made it too “gay” and flamboyant if I was actually writing a man.

“Hey,

Good meeting you Friday night…”

God, let’s hope it was good meeting him or her.  What if I got the person’s e-mail address and then got in a blow-out fight with them  afterward?  Eh, they were probably as drunk as me.

“Good meeting you Friday night, you still interested in grabbing a drink this week?”

I was taking a gamble.  They wouldn’t probably recall whether or not they had truly expressed interest in grabbing a drink.

“Later,

Aaron.”

It was ambiguous, unisex, and if it was to a woman it was so damn aloof and blase she might even be impressed by my total lack of typical young twenties male over-exuberance toward the fairer sex.

Almost immediately I got an e-mail back.

“Great meeting you too, Aaron!  I was hoping you would write.  Yeah, let’s definitely grab a drink this week, you name the time and the place!

XO
Stacy.”

Recall, this was back in the dark ages of the internet.  Nowadays, I wake up all the time with names, numbers, and e-mail addresses from girls I met the previous night.  Some I recall meeting, some I don’t.  Doesn’t matter.  I just throw the info I have into Google or Facebook, Twitter or Myspace, official company websites, and now I pretty much know everything I need to know both internally and externally about a person before going on a date with them.  Countless times have I called off a date, or, rather, simply not contacted someone, because of something I discovered online.**  I gotta think it was a lot easier for fat, ugly, annoying women to get dates–first dates at least–back before the social networking revolution and Google image search function.  Sorry ladies.

But as I said, I was hard up back in August of 2001, and even if this girl was gross, I’d probably try to bust my slump.  If you’re batting oh for your last thirty-five, you don’t look down on a Texas Leaguer.

I’d have to pick a dark bar and get their way early, couldn’t chance entering the place with Stacy already there, coming face to face with her, and then not recognizing her.  I’d have to be drunk too in case she was heinous.  Naw, check that, I’d have to be sober and sharp and on my game in case I had lied to her on the night we met.  I don’t believe in lying to women in the least nowadays, but back when I was 22 I was shameless.  Never flat out lies, but straight up embellishments, braggadocio, bravado, and foolish boasts.  Not an attractive quality and since it didn’t help me ever succeed, only a dope wouldn’t have ditched the lame tactics.  Blatant honesty is both disarming and sexy.

I got to Bar Eight early, a place so motherfucking dark it was like a haunted house.  I sat at the bar and started drinking vodka Red Bulls, my secret drink at the time as the caffeine would keep me sharp while the potent vodka made me uninhibited.  I always felt like Alex DeLarge when I swilled it.

Stacy arrived.  Stacy found me in the packed dark bar somehow.  Stacy was cute.  Stacy didn’t drink.

Let me repeat that:  Stacy didn’t drink.

Are you fucking kidding me?

How had blackout me, childish, dopey, idiotic, drunken young me picked up such an attractive teetotaler?  I had to have been slurring, had to have been slobbering, had to have been acting moronic.  I was scared to ask for that night’s highlights.  So I didn’t.

I just started drinking hard, because I felt like I was on a date with an alien.  It was nerve-wracking.  I didn’t know any one my age who didn’t get loaded back then.  Was she religious, allergic to alcohol, I didn’t know.  Again, I didn’t ask.

But she liked me, she really liked me.  I hadn’t lied and told her I was famous, rich, important–I was un(der)employed at the time even and I had honestly told her that–but she thought I was hilarious, awesome.  Sometimes, you just thank your good fortune and don’t ask questions.  When you’re young you do at least.  When you get older you realize there’s no such thing as a free lunch and there’s no such thing as a teetotaling, attractive girl that could like a insane, immature alcoholic and still be normal.

That first date we had a decent enough time and I again got blackout drunk and woke up the next morning in Stacy’s bed.  I was batting 2-for-2 in remembering how my nights were ending with Stacy but it didn’t really matter because I was hitting it out of the park each time.

Later, I would come to realize, to learn, that of course Stacy wasn’t normal.  She didn’t drink because she had been drinking since she was 14 or something and she couldn’t control herself on the sauce.  One drink led to a zillion which lead to her dancing on bars and filling her belly-button with cheap liquor to be slurped out by gross men and to one night stands and to getting her stomach pumped.  Frequently.  Stacy was indeed crazy.

So she had quit drinking totally, but she still loved the craziness surrounding the lifestyle.  She was drinking vicariously through me.  She goaded me to get drunk, drunker, drunkest.  Bought me my drinks even, got mad if I wasn’t drinking them fast enough.  “Back, when I was drinking, I’d be three vodkas up on you right now!” she’d taunt me.  Stacy actually only liked me when I was drunk.  That’s fine, I used to only like me when I was drunk too.

I was drunk a lot back then.

Our “relationship” lasted a few months.

The Road to the Final Four

Quick, boastful recap on last week’s basketball predictions.  You should have followed the Vice Blogger, yes you should have.  Make that your mantra in all areas of life.  For you’d be a rich man as I got every single Sweet Sixteen pick right, and only missed one game all weekend (Michigan St. over Louisville.)

Let’s discuss Tom Izzo, who now has a strong claim to being the best coach working today.  5 Final Fours in 10 years (with a bonus Elite Eight during that time) all with relatively sub-par talent.  Incredibly.  I mean, has he had as many future NBA players under his helm in the last decade as say Roy boy has had this year alone?!  And what about Roy Williams, now in his 7th career Final Four.  A terrible in-game tactician, no question, but how can you deny his greatness if he gets a 2nd title?  Or what if that scumbag Calhoun wins his 3rd?  Makes me sick to my stomach to think of it but you would have to then rate him as, at worst, the 5th best coach in college basketball history (and I’m even including old fucks like Henry Iba and Branch McCracken in the debate)**.  Finally, Jay Wright, destined to be the best coach in the game sooner rather than later.  A title at such an early age would put him on a legendary path.

I’m rooting for no one, but I’ll predict UConn over Mich St., UNC over Nova in a game the Wildcats will really want vengeance for due to the 2005 screw-job (but unfortunately won’t get), and UNC over UConn.  I don’t think even Roy can fuck up here.

My wishful thinking prediction includes Jim Calhoun crying, tearing apart the press conference room, and retiring before UConn goes on probation.

Voodoo White Magick of the Sun

6% ABV from a bomber

Yet another Voodoo sent in trade from Sickpuppy at Should I Drink That?, I was grateful to acquire it, but sad to admit I didn’t really love it.  Whites just aren’t my style.  They’re always too weak for me, and such is the case here.  Now, I don’t mean “weak” it terms of ABV–6% is certainly respectable enough, especially for a witbier–but I mean more in terms of bite, complexity, and boozy flavor.  The hops don’t really come through here nor does the spiced coriander, bitter orange peel, and juniper which is supposedly in this one.  Voodoo also claims this brew possesses “Jeremy’s favorite [mystery] spice,” again, something I didn’t really taste.  Not that I’d know what to be looking for!  The fruit doesn’t really come out, I hate to say it.  I suppose this could make for a decent summer beer on a hot day.  And, as Voodoo claims:  “Blows away carbonated water!!!!!”  Fair enough.

B-/C+

*Oh college girls, how many times they actually came back to my room drunk at 3 AM and literally and quizzically said, “We aren’t really going to watch a movie right?”

**And I assume the same has happened in return to me.  Hello ladies!

***Current list:

1.  John Wooden (despite UCLA’s easy west coast regional route to championship games and blatant Sam Gilbert cheating)
2.  Adolph Rupp
3.  Coach K
4.  Bobby Knight

Brooklyn Grand Cru

September 29th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 11 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Belgian White

8.4% ABV on draught

I got into a friendly argument with my friend The Captain the other day, and it really wasn’t even an argument cause he was just regurgitating what he had heard others say. So I guess I was really getting into an argument with faceless and nameless people I don’t even know. Or, better put, I was just arguing in my head with myself and my “voices.” That’s why I need to drink, the drinking turns the multiple personalities into one. One asshole personality, but still.

Any how, The Captain had finally gotten to enjoy some lower-level Brooklyn Brewery beers (their solid IPA and their bleh Pennant Ale) and though he had generally enjoyed them, he had not been blown away by either. Nor should he have been by the ones he’d had. He noted on his blog that Brooklyn was like the east coast’s version of Leinenkugel, “not undrinkable, but not great.” Being an unabashed hater of Leinenkugel–my lawyer advises me not to further discuss them, pending the outcome of our poisoning case–and a shameless homer toward Brooklyn, I had to quickly take umbrage without even further considering what he had said. I am a knee-jerk reactionary, no doubt about it.

Later, I started thinking about the reasons Brooklyn Brewery is not hailed in the upper echelon of craft breweries even though they probably deserve to be. And, what I’ve concluded is that this is because Brooklyn makes a lot of “pay-the-bills” beers. You know, B-grade stuff that every one likes: lagers, pilsners, the boring shit. You’re never gonna get a masterpiece of a lager or a pilsner, and not surprisingly, the bigger boys in the craft brewing game–Stone, Russian River, Lost Abbey, et al–don’t even make them. And I would wager it is because they don’t wish to besmirch their fine names with such mainstream styles. It would be like Daniel Day Lewis appearing in a sitcom.  You would think him appearing on “Two and a Half Men” wouldn’t make his work as Daniel Plainview any less “good,” but yeah, it would to most.  That’s just how people are.

Brooklyn, just like Sam Adams, makes “accessible beers” that non-beer geeks can understand and enjoy. And while I’m not saying they should be honored for this, they shouldn’t get demerits for this charity work either. I think we need to consider Brooklyn Brewery as being two breweries: their Joe Sixpack brewery and their actual craft brewery. Conveniently enough, that is almost literally the case as Brooklyn’s so-called boring beers are actually bottled–prepare for a quasi-dirty little secret–at the Matt Brewing Company up in Utica, while their interesting releases, of which I will discuss in a second, are presided over by the legendary brewmaster Garrett Oliver at their Williamsburg, Brooklyn plant*.

I don’t even think a lot of beerdrinking New Yorkers realize that Brooklyn makes stuff beside their bottled products, most specifically their ubiquitous and solid Lager. But it is their draught stuff–and these only come on limited draught save the Local 1**–that is by far their best stuff, stuff that puts them in the majors with the big swingin’ dicks of beer. Called the Brewmasters Reserve, every few months Garrett Oliver releases them to select bars in the city. And very few bars at that.

These beers are always really interesting, unique, and ambitious stuff: abbey beers and imperial IPAs and helles and saisons and a lip-smacking dopplebock I had last year that I would have given an A+ to if I’d had my blog at the time.  It absolutely floored me.

Their most recent release is their Grand Cru, an always cocky designation for any beer, put perhaps especially for a witbier. But goddamn it’s a good one. Wheat yeast comes through strong on the nose with a very fragrant orange smell.  In addition to those, potent tastes of spicy coriander and a nice honey sugarness too.  It’s also has an uncharacteristically high ABV for a witbier which truly makes this one a minor classic.

It kind pisses me off that Brooklyn doesn’t bottle its beers like the Grand Cru and make them more accessible. I can find their Lager, Brown Ale, etc. on bottle in even the crappiest deli and on tap at even the crappiest bar here in Manhattan. Yet even being a huge beer geek with a lot of time on my hands and a lot of drinking hours to fill in my week, I’m lucky to have even a single pint of each new Brewmasters release. Makes no sense to me.  Why can’t I get these beers bottled to enjoy in the comfort of my uncomfortable tiny apartment?  To exchange with my friends that live in more boring cities and states?  This needs to happen.

Back-tracking a bit, if it sounded like I am ripping on the Lager and the other “normal” Brooklyn beers, I’m not. Those are certainly not bad beers, and I frequently get loaded on all of them.  And am happy to. In fact, Brooklyn–and Sam Adams–are damn near heroic for guaranteeing that the absolute worst beers you should ever have to drink in an east coast bar are from one of their breweries.  But because of their prevalence, the bottled Brooklyns and mainstream Sams are the general public standard bearers for the breweries when they certainly shouldn’t be.  Sam Adams should be judged for their Utopias while Brooklyn should be judged for their always winning Brewmasters Reserve beers. If that was the case, then both breweries would be considered greater in esteem than they generally are.

Just make the Brewmasters Reserves more accessible, Garrett!

A

*Which amusingly enough used to be a matzo ball factory. Only in New York, kids.

**Brooklyn  Brewery’s website is annoying to no end.  Why do people continue to make flash websites?  Look, I’m just going to your website–like I go to all websites that aren’t re: nekkid ladies–to cull information. And when I have to pass through all sorts of slow-moving bells and whistles just to learn minor things, it really fucking pisses me off.

Hoegaarden Original White Ale

June 25th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brouwerij van Hoegaarden, Country: Belgium, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian White

4.9% ABV from a scalding hot glass fresh from the dishwater, garnished with a lemon even though I explicitly did not ask for fruit in my beer. AKA: Ideal drinking conditions.

My friend was besmirching Hoegaarden at the bar the other day, saying real nasty things like, “I don’t even think it’s better than Blue Moon,” so I had to defend its honor and give it a Vice Blog-approved tasting to prove that it is indeed a superior Belgian white. I haven’t had Hoegaarden in ages, perhaps years (is a year longer than an “age”?), but it still holds a special place it my corroded heart. It was the first Belgian beer I ever had and it immediately made me sit up and realize WOW, they are doing things with fermented beverages in that country that I have never experienced before. In my Leffe Blonde entry I discuss first falling in love with Belgian beers and Hoegaarden (along with Leffe and Duvel) are the one that started that romance, making me into the brew-guzzling snob I am today.

The more I got into beer, though, stuff like Hoegaarden just seemed too “mainstream,” too low in ABV for me to still order at bars. But having just had it again, I must admit that Hoegaarden is still delicious. In fact, it’s perhaps the best Belgian white in the world with only Allagash, Ommegang, and St. Bernardus’s releases as worthy competitors.

Hoegaarden–God I’m sick of spelling that name, I can never remember which vowel to double! It’s worse than Haagen-Dazs but at least it has no umlauts–has a perfect spice blend like in any great witbier, giving it a terrific smell and taste. This is a beer that is truly great in the summer, fuck those other beers that have to put “summer” on their label to make you think they are refreshing. I don’t need to know what season I’m supposed to drink your beer, fella. Hoegaarden is citrusy with just a hint of wheat and creaminess, a nice easy finish. In retrospect, there’s nothing mind-blowing about this beer, but is there anything mind-blowing about any Belgian whites? It’s not exactly a style that lends itself to going out on a limb and creating something to blow your testicles off. They’re simply beers that are light and taste good. Hoegaarden nails it.

B+

(And it’s always cool to drink a beer in its own brand-labeled, specially-designed glassware!)

Southampton Double White Ale

June 16th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Southampton Publick House, Country: America, Grade: B regular, Style: Belgian White

7% ABV

I’m the guy that’s always trying new things out, looking for something better in this world. When I’m out of town I’m searching for obscure little holes-in-the-wall to dine at. When it comes to movies I want to find the most obscure foreign ones to watch. And, of course, I’m on a constant Ponce de Leon-like canvassing of the globe for new and exciting beers to try. My lifestyle is one reason I live in New York — because I know I will always have a bevy of new restaurants, bars, and other establishments to take a gamble on. It’s my insatiable thirst for finding the Elysian Fields of everything.

However, most people aren’t like this and even I will admit that there are positives and negatives to living both my way of life and its antithesis. If you just like to consume the mass-produced things of culture you will generally be happy. Stuff like “Iron Man,” Chili’s, and Budweiser is good enough I suppose, and certainly not “challenging.” At the least, you know summer blockbusters, chain restaurant food, and macro beers are NOT going to be mindblowingly heinous (except for Corona I guess. Oh, and Stella. And most light beers suck too. Ah, but I digress). But, when you go out on a limb and try something obscure you could find a homerun, but sometimes you can also find a total dud, and the scale is more tilted toward the latter I’ve come to find. Being complex and “going for it” is the only way to reach greatness and create masterpieces, but it’s also the only way to sink to abject failure. I’m willing to go for it though.

Thus, after a scorching round of golf on Saturday, we headed to the liquor store where my friends Graig and King Otto went for several six packs of Bud Light. I grabbed a sixer of Southampton’s Double White. “Do you like that beer?” Nope. I’d never had it before quite frankly. My friends were correct to question me on the whimsical acquisition. Like always, there was a terrific chance that after a single sip of beer number one I would regret my purchase (see: The Great Leinenkugel Debacle of Last Weekend). So why try it? Some insight to my thinking: well…firstly it was the only beer in stock that I’d never had before, exempting ciders, girlie malted beverages, and near beers). Plus, I’d heard good things about the brewer. I’m not exactly a huge fan of many white ales but I’m a sucker for New York state beers and any time you see “double” (or better yet “triple” or “quadruple” or maybe some day “quintiple”) on the label you know you’re going to have a brew with some pop. I like pop. My six Southampton Double White Ales equal 42% of total ABV while my friends’ six Bud Lights total 25.2% ABV. Wow, that’s pretty stark when the numbers are laid out in front of you. Now I’m starting to realize why I’m always the friend getting in trouble, making scenes, and losing my cell phones and dignity when we go tie one on. When you are drinking quality beer and matching your friends and their pisswater round for round, you are on a nitro-infused racecar headed for asshole-dom while they’re cruising along in the pace car.

Of course, I was mocked for the rest of the day as being a beer snob for simply not being normal and grabbing a mass-produced American beer, but, eh, what can you do about it? Maybe I should mock my friends for drinking weaker beer than me. I was really torn on this beer. It has a nice smell and is incredibly spicy. One of the spiciest beers I can ever recall having. Thinking back on it now I almost feel like I really enjoyed the beer, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t find it a complete success. Some sips I was loving it, others I wasn’t. It’s very carbonated but still goes down well. I didn’t know the ABV as I drank it and was guessing it around 6% so it has that going for it. I wouldn’t say this was a great beer, but for a light summer beer around the BBQ it ain’t half bad. And it’s certainly unique. It’s very flavorful and packs a punch. I would maybe try this again. My friends will definitely try their Bud Lights again. And again. And again, and again…ad nauseum. Which fittingly enough is Latin meaning “to the point of nausea.”

B

Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat

June 9th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Jacob Leinenkugel, Country: America, Grade: D regular, Style: Belgian White

4.9% ABV

When it’s the best of times, a beer aficionado likes nothing more than popping a nice expensive bottle of maybe an Allagash or a pricey Chimay. But when it’s the worst of times, that would be totally inappropriate, thus wasting and squandering a potentially pleasurable experience. It is on these sad occasions when I act like Despondent Man #1 in a trite movie and head to the store, buying the cheapest six pack possible with some loose change. In my opinion they should cut out the middle man and make CoinStar machines that dispense cheap beers as opposed to gift certificates to Linens ‘n Things or Borders. After buying my cheap beer I return home to my bedroom where I don’t even refrigerate the beer, instead setting the six pack right beside me in bed as I polish off bottle after bottle in a dark room. The six pack selected for this episode was Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin’s (hometown of both Annie Hall* AND Jack Dawson**) Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat.

Nice name, nicer label, I was surprised it was literally the cheapest beer in my supermarket. I had no right to be. It was terrible. After the first sip I began to reanalyze my sadness, wondering to myself, “Am I really in that bad of place where I need to drink six of these things?!” I don’t truly think I was, but alas I am nothing if not a completest. Once I start a task, by golly I finish it!

I really do not like this beer at all. I hated it as much by the sixth beer as I did with the first. It did not “grow on me.” I should have donated my sixer to the bum on the corner that sleeps on a warm subway grate. I will say one thing, though, Sunset Wheat is definitely unique. I taste wheat and blueberry and, yes, I believe that’s hints of toothpaste. Seriously, I taste fucking Colgate in this beer. I almost thought this beer was like one of those mouth rinses you do as a kid where you gargle it and then a few seconds later your teeth are bright red where there’s tartar build-up.

I wish I liked this beer, Leinenkugel is America’s 7th oldest brewery and I was gobsmacked to see this one gets great reviews on Beer Advocate. Maybe I got a bad batch. I truly hope I did. But as for now, I can only find one positive about my first Sunset Wheat experience. By the time i was done with the sixer i felt like I’d visited my dentist and had a full fluoride treatment. And my gums have never felt so healthy!

D

*The eponymous character of my all-time favorite movie.

**Really wish I didn’t know that!

Blue Moon Belgian White

June 4th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Coors, Country: America, Grade: C regular, Style: Belgian White

5.4% ABV on draught (with a feeble orange slice included. And not even a pure Florida orange. This orange was from like Trenton or somewhere.)

After some plans I had were canceled I wasn’t in such a great mood so I decided to inflict on myself the ultimate form of self-flagellation: going to the most wannabe “hot shot” financeguy pub possible and subjecting myself to the kind of beers those cretins drink. And coming to the plate in the lead off spot…Blue Moon.

I wanted to start with Blue Moon (I won’t shorten it to BM even though I might find that abbreviation apropos, especially in light of how I felt the day after drinking it) because I have blasted the beer for so long. In fact, it’s probably in my holy trinity of most mocked beers alongside the criminally awful Heineken and Corona. But unlike those two beers which I constantly find myself being forced to drink for some damn reason due to bars and parties often having nothing else, Blue Moon is a beer I rarely drink. One I probably haven’t even had a sip of in a year or so. It was time to give the brew one more try, a hopefully unbiased shot.

Odorless. All I can smell is the Trenton orange in the glass. Seriously, I cannot get a read on the taste due to the orange overpowering everything else. That’s pretty bad. There, I plucked the fruity wedge from my glass and slung it at a fruity guy in a suit at the other end of the bar. Aha, now I see why most people drink this beer with an orange in it. Clearly stated, Blue Moon is not a good beer. But at least it isn’t heinous. It probably does not deserve my scorn. Perhaps if only because Blue Moon’s biggest supporters think they are drinking some obscure Trappist bottling made with the most precious of ingredients by vow of silence Belgian monks as opposed to a Coors bottling mass-produced quite carelessly by machines that are even cheaper to operate than would be the cost of paying illegal Mexicans.

I really wanted to like this beer. I tried to figure out how I’d rate the beer if someone handed it to me and told me it was some Belgian that’s in Beer Advocate’s top 100. I closed my eyes and focused as I tasted it one final time. Didn’t matter. I still didn’t like it. It’s very bready. I feel like I have to chew it. It’s salty too. It’s like I’m drinking liquid Wonder Bread with hints of artificial orange flavoring. Shock Top is a far better beer in the macro-faux-Belgian-release-that-tastes-like-Sunkist-orange-soda category.

C

(At least this review made me realize that C is about the absolute worst rating I will give to a beer that I don’t like but which doesn’t repulse me in any way.)

Sunday afternoon drinking at 123burgershotbeer

June 4th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Anheuser-Busch, Brewer: Goose Island, Brewer: House Beer, Country: America, Grade: B regular, Grade: B-/C+, Grade: C regular, Style: Belgian White, Style: Bock, Style: IPA

This bar sprung up seemingly overnight just down the street from me. Here’s their conceit:

That absolutely blew my mind and I refused to believe it. Nevertheless, I trekked back over for some day drinking. The interior of the bar is pretty damn classy. Almost like a furniture showroom. You can still smell the fresh lacquer on the floor. The waitresses are cute and inexplicably dressed in hot pants in which the bottom curvature of their butt-cheeks show. I remained focused as I pointed at the sign seen above and said something like, “Uh…that true?” Indeed it was. The waitress told us that the burgers were sliders—she proceeded to spend far too long explaining the concept of a slider to me like I was some alien from a non-burger-eating planet—and indeed were just a buck. Likewise, every single beer on tap was just $3. Wow. I was impressed. They had a marginally respectable tap too. Here are some of the beers I had. I was in a jovial mood so I probably overrated all of them. Plus the beers all came in absolutely frigid mugs. A sensation I love. I wouldn’t want to drink a high quality beer from a frozen mug, but shitty beers and root beer are phenomenal in them.

Shock Top Belgian White

5.2% ABV on draught

This beer has one of the oddest, eye-popping taps around: a transmogrified orange with sunglasses and a mohawk. For $3, I’ll take a whirl with this one. It came with an orange slice and while I typically hate fruit in beer I decided to just go with the flow. Glad I did. This beer tasted almost like a Sunkist soda. VERY orangey. I like Sunkist so I liked this beer. Not sure I could drink several but it was enjoyable. I was surprised when I got home to see that it’s an Anheuser-Busch beer. You’d think it would be in more bars. It’s better than most of that macro-brewery’s selections for sho’.

B-/C+

Goose Island IPA

5.9% ABV on draught

A nice, solid example of an IPA. Nothing more, nothing less. I could drink these all day were it actually served in more NYC bars. It has a nice little spiciness to it. And if we’re talking about taps, Goose Island has got to have the best tap in the bid’ness, a big, long goose neck coming out of the bar. Who hasn’t wanted to tug on a goose neck before?

B

123 Amber (house beer)

No clue on ABV. Draught.

“House” beers always amuse me. I used to be real impressed. “Wow, this crappy little bar actually makes their own beer?! That is so cool!” Quickly I learned differently, the dirty little secret that bars just make their own TAP and throw it overtop some other macro beer. I don’t know the legalities of this and I don’t really care, but alas, I’m no longer impressed. Every time you ask a bartender or waitress about the house beer they say something like, “Oh, it tastes a little bit like [beer you’ve heard of.]” The beer you’ve heard of is in fact the beer they’re trying to sell as their own. The waitress at 123 didn’t know what their house beer tasted like, but I’ll assume it’s the Michelob Amber Bock, which I think I’ve had sometime in my past. This is not a great beer and the frozen mug theory greatly improves it. No doubt making it go from tasting bad to not tasting at all. For such a dark color how can it be so lacking in taste? Odd. Since it doesn’t taste at all that already makes it superior to most macros. I wish they had put a little more effort into make this house beer taste good.

C

Oh, final note: if any sissy or frat boy cares, the $2 shots are the kind of silly-named shots that are like 90% mixer and 10% cheap booze. I mean really, if you’re having a shot it should be 100% liquor. I’ll expound on this at some other time. Suffice to say I only completed the 1 and 3 of the 123. The burgers were damn fine too, like upscale White Castles.