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Archive for the ‘Style: ESB’ Category

RJ Rockers Bell Ringer and Blue Mountain Full Nelson

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

8.5% ABV bottled

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


5.6% ABV bottled

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


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

**Yankees in SIX!  Book it.

Summer Beers

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

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

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

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

Surly Bitter Brewer

4% ABV canned

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


Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale

4.2% ABV bottled

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


Southern Tier Harvest Ale

November 11th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Southern Tier, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: ESB

5.2% ABV on draught

Drink Your Way to Happiness!!!

I have a generally happy, positive disposition. I am rarely down, my demeanor is always at an even keel, celebrating the great pleasures in life, while ignoring the agony, most of which is pretty minor, truth be told. As my idol Marcus Aurelius said, something can only hurt you if you let it: “If you do not think you are hurt, you are not hurt.” I subscribe to this belief–the mind is an awesomely powerful thing–and though, yes, I was lucky enough to be naturally born with a happy demeanor, years of experience and stoic study have allowed me to become near-fully incapable of sadness. Save for a bad Syracuse basketball loss.

However, though I would like to build myself into a completely unfeeling robot, I am not one, yet, and sometimes random agony is able to penetrate my system and get me down. A few weeks ago I was hit with a perfect storm of wretchedness in a mere matter of afternoon hours: a potentially lucrative deal fell through, girl problems unexpectedly bubbled to the surface, I was dead lonely and lacking in companionship or friendship for the evening, and, even worse, there was nothing decent on television.

Lying in bed was not going to extinguish my doom, so I was forced to try other things. I ate one of my favorite comfort meals, an epically large chicken salad hero. It was good, but, nope, I still felt like shit. I threw a film on the DVD player. A huge movie buff, cinema can almost always cheer me up. An old classic revisited, or a new masterpiece as yet unseen which pulls me into its own domain, making me forget my real-world troubles. However, after a few false starts, a couple of DVD switcheroos, I flung a Netflix of “The Orphanage” across the room like a frisbee, movies would not be my antidote for the evening either.

I tried to do my beloved writing. Like a goth, emo fifteen-year-old Sylvia Plath-loving schoolgirl who is only happy when “journaling,” writing too can salve my mental wounds. But, alas, that didn’t work either and I just wrote the first few pages of a dumb and never unusable movie script about baby snatchers, the lame plot of which I will not lay out for you here.

Trying to change my clearly negative body chemistry, I set off for a long run. Jogs are usually the place I meditate, examine my life, strategize, create ideas, stare at hot scantily and spandex-clad women, and before you know it, seven miles have been trotted and both the body and mind are healthier. But on this occasion, the dark silence as I ran through a deserted Riverside Park just gave me more time to stew in anguish. And wonder if I was about to get bum raped.

At home and showered, I realized I had only two choices*: to go to bed right then and there at 8:00 PM or head to a bar and drink my way to happiness. Hating to waste time sleeping and loving to waste away my bank account, I opted for the latter.

It may be surprising that a guy who has a vice blog does not condone or usually partake in drinking for the pure outcome of becoming happier. But it is indeed true, I only use alcohol as a mood-alterer in case of emergencies. They call alcohol a depressant, but goddamn it is great at rescuing me from mild depression a few times a year. Would it be so were I to sip at home drinking by myself? Not hardly. I need to head to a packed bar.

There, I’m not looking to do anything but anonymously solo tipple. I only mumble the necessary formalities to the bartender, I don’t chat up any fellow drinkers nearby, I don’t hit on any girls, I barely even watch the NHL and NBA games on the TV, I just sit and drink. And think.

This time I sat polishing off one Harvest Ale after another. Actually, polish might be the wrong word. I drank slowly, casually, relaxed. The kindly dope of a bartender had told me this was Southern Tier’s Oktoberfest style but from the first sip I could tell he was quite wrong. It’s clearly an Extra Special Bitter and a very good one at that. A fragrant, clean and hoppy smell. The taste is nice and crisp, tons of citrus flavors, sweet malts, a good amount of carbonation. An incredibly drinkable brew which I think suffers from such a bland if not awful name. This was a great session beer, fella.

After one or two I was already feeling better and by four or five my depression was gone and I could head home. On the walk back to my apartment, with a smile on my face, I came to realize that it wasn’t the drinking that cheered me up, it was simply being around people. More specifically happy, social people. Couples fraternizing, men raucously cheering on the Knickerbockers and Rangers, a co-ed softball team celebrating after a win, two fat slobs throwing back chicken wings with blatant disregard for the bones. I would be one of those people again, probably by the next day and in 99% of the following ones. I was happy now.  Being around people and life was the cure, not the beer.


*OK, actually three, but after a few minutes of NSFW web-surfing I learned another outlet that would not be my salvation for the night.