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Archive for the ‘Style: IPA’ Category

The Abbey Brewing Company

April 11th, 2011 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: The Abbey Brewing Co., Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Style: IPA, Style: Stout

South Beach is the land of skinny people drinking Coronas, skinny people drinking margaritas, and skinny people (or Nicole Polizzi) drinking margaritas with Coronas dumped into them (for real).  Now, any one with tastebuds should rightfully detest Coronas and while I can occasionally enjoy a tropical beverage on a hot day, I’m not sure why one would want to water down a fruity boozebath with 4% skunk beer.  As for me, even in the land of skinny people, when there doesn’t seem to be a decent craft beer in sight, I like to find the large bearded guys.  They usually know where the good brews are.  Even in craft beer wastelands, you can usually find an oasis or two.  I found one such spot on a recent trip to Miami:  The Abbey Brewing Company.

A tad off the beaten path–if the “beaten path” is Ocean Drive*–I located The Abbey Brewing Company.  Minuscule in size, it’s been standing proud on 16th and Lenox since 1995.  Dark and cool inside, brewmaster/owner/former New Yorker Raymond Rigazio is a seasoned pro, having homebrewed (and home-wined) since well before you drank anything halfway decent.

On my quick jaunt there last Friday, Raymond had two of his house beers on tap, both of which were sublime.

Immaculate IPA

The same recipe since ABC opened, it’s good enough that there’s no reason to change it!  Settling in at a solid 6.2% ABV, this brew uses three different kinds of hops but is balanced quite nicely, and flawlessly refreshing.  I could have slugged these all day.

A-

Father Theodore’s Stout

Now the last thing I wanted at 3 PM on a sweltering Friday, mere hours before I had to appear respectable (and standing) at my sister’s wedding, was a big bodied stout.  But, surprisingly, this 9.5% monster is light.  I don’t mean light in mouthfeel or body, it’s a full-figured gal packed with complex flavors of chocolate and licorice, I mean light in that typical boozy taste that plagues many imperial stouts.  I was stunned at its ABV, double-checking with Raymond just to make sure.  Dangerous.

A

The Abbey also has a dubbel and quad (which I hear is amazing), but neither was on during my visit.  Raymond makes small batches and only brews a few times a year so enjoy what you can get!  He also has several other taps from great breweries across America, an impressive bottle list, and solid booze and wine selections.  I would set up a permanent camp in this joint if I lived in Miami Beach, and hope to be back sometime soon!

*In the oddest comparison you’ve surely ever heard, Ocean Drive reminds me of Mulberry Street in NY’s Little Italy.  What with the cookie cutter menus, the aggressive maitre d’s, and the outdoor dining and waddling tourists getting in your way and making movement a struggle.  Then again, you rarely see the bottom ass curvature of modelesque women on Mulberry Street.

COOP AleWorks

December 22nd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: COOP AleWorks, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Grade: B regular, Grade: B-, Style: Amber Ale, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Style: IPA, Style: Stout, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen), Style: Wild Ale

Back when I lived in Oklahoma, back in the 90s, there really wasn’t any decent craft beer.  (Of course, I was a teenager.)  I kinda felt like it would always be that way.  This is a state where you can’t buy cold beer over 3.2% anywhere.  Then, I started hearing some rumblings that a brewery called COOP AleWorks was really cranking out some legit shit.  So, when I made my triumphant return to town over the weekend for a “How to Fail” book tour signing, I knew I would have to seek it out.  On both Thursday night and Saturday, I met up with COOP partner/bon vivant J.D. Merryweather (above) for some serious tippling, pretty much drinking anything in the brewery he would let me.  I was like a kid in a candy shop.  Or, to be less trite, like a drunk in a brewery.  And, wow, was it all good.

Horny-Toad Cerveza

One of two canned COOP offerings (along with Native Amber; the rest are currently tap only), this 5.3% ABV American Blonde Ale would seem to be the “lamest” offering from COOP, the one meant to convert the Bud Light drinkers…and it is.  But that doesn’t mean it’s lame.  No sir, this is a 5.3% beer with some serious flavor.  The Noble hops, the malt body, the carbonation, made me think this was more along the lines of a pilsner, but whatever it is, it’s damn good.

A-/B+

Zeppelin German Wheat

Yeah, no craft beer drinker likes American wheat beers, right?  If more places were making great efforts like Zeppelin, that might not be the case.  5.6% and packed with tastes of wheat and rye with just a little hops coming through, this is a solid drinker, better than most on the market.

B+

Native Amber

Red ales are always a crap shoot for me as they are a delicate balance between hops and malt that if you fuck up, they are just gross.  But COOP nails this one.  Caramelly and biscuity with a nice hoppy finish, this is the beer Fat Tire wishes it could be.

A-

Gran-Sport Porter

Porters are another beer that breweries never seem to completely nail.  Often too bitter and acrid, COOP has made one of the best I’ve had recently.  Chocolately and nutty, this had such a smooth, fluffy finish I was certain it had to have been served on a nitro tap.  Nope.  I really enjoyed this one.

A-

F-5 IPA

I highly doubt there’s an IPA this good made within 500 miles of COOP.  The classic West Coast bitter grapefruit and pine IPA, a little hefty at 7%, this is the beer that will turn a ton of Oklahomans into hop heads.

A

DNR Belgian Style Golden Ale

What an insanely intriguing beer.  An over-the-top complex mix of Noble hops, European malts, and Belgian candi giving this tastes of vanilla, cinnamon, and dark fruits.  And, at 10% this is one of the most deceptively alcoholic beers I’ve ever had.  You’ll want to keep sucking them down.  But don’t.  Or do.  I don’t really care about your health.

A

Territorial Reserve Oak-Aged Imperial Stout

By now every brewery is trying bourbon-barreled stouts and they should excite me as much as another boxing movie being released.  But just like “The Fighter” stunned me and found new ways to tell the pugilist’s tale, COOP has made a real corker of a barrel-aged stout.  Aged on Bulleit bourbon barrels, this might seriously be the smoothest, most perfectly melded bourbon-barreled stout I’ve ever had.  It’s not lacking in boozy taste, no way, but it’s not something that brings you to your knees either.  Rich, chocolately, and a “mere” 9.0%, it’s quite dangerous when you’ve become friends with a guy with the ability to over-serve you this.  I probably had five full pints and never got sick of it.  Wow.

A+

Red Zeppelin

This final beer is one that isn’t even available yet, one whose recipe isn’t fully created yet, and one that I’m not even sure I’m allowed to publicly discuss (I’ll wait for a cease and desist from J.D.), but it was my favorite beer I had from COOP so I want to scream to the hills about it.  Red Zeppelin is Zeppelin German Wheat aged in barrels on wild bing cherries.  This is a recipe they’re still working on and, admittedly, by now the souring had given the beer a slightly vinegary nose which some more amateur beer drinkers found unappealing, but I fucking loved it.  Just the perfect tart, sour, yet still slightly fruity taste I love.  It actually reminded me of Cantillon Kriek if I can be so bold.  I will be.  I hope they release and bottle this one day–it’ll sweep the beer nation.

A+

COOP is only available in Oklahoma so for now you’ll have to hope your company sends you there for work if you want to get some (or maybe write a book and go on tour there???) and I’ll have to hope J.D. is kind enough to build a pipeline to my house so I can always have some around to enjoy.  COOP is gonna be a big player in the beer world soon.

Pick up a last minute copy of my book, HOW TO FAIL!!!

Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

July 12th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 7 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Karl Strauss, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

9% ABV from a bomber

Seems once a week some dork starts a thread on the Beer Advocate forums with some open question along the lines of “Why do brewers seem to only care about making double IPAs and barrel aged stouts–where are all the pilsners, bitters, milds, and goses?????!?!?!”

Uh…gathering dust on the shelves while everyone buys the double IPAs and barrel aged stouts I’d imagine.

In all seriousness though, Hypothetical Beer Dork does have a point.  It does sometime seem like breweries only care about making the baddest stouts and the most uber-hopped DIPAs.  Good thing so many of them are fucking delicious.  You’d think you’d get bored if not lose them in the enormous shuffle if not run out of ones to try, but good for us hopheads that the IPA mecca of San Diego keeps pumping out delicious stuff.

Honestly, I really knew nothing about Karl Strauss when my friend The Drunken Polack sent me a bottle of Big Barrel and told me this beer was 2 legit 2 quit.  Karl Strauss kinda sounds like the name of that weirdo German exchange student who visited my high school second semester 11th grade and helped us win the soccer championship AND get bratwurst added to the lunch menu, but come to find out they are actually a longtime mainstay of the SoCal beer scene and, in fact, it’s very first microbrewery.*  Wow.

Big Barrel is made with Nelson-Sauvin hops, the same hops most famously used in Alpine Nelson, one of my favorite all-time IPAs and a beer that it’s virtually impossible not to compare Big Barrel to.  But that’s not a bad thing as Big Barrel definitely holds its own.  A nice citrusy bitter bite but with an underlying tropical sweetness.  A bit aggressively boozy but I like that in my beers (and my women!)  Nevertheless, it is very drinkable and goes down quite easily (another thing I like in my women!)  It has that beautiful enamel-peeling taste us hop addicts just crave and I was sad when my lone bomber was finished.

Quite frankly, I’m not sure how Big Barrel is not more “famous” and discussed in the same breath with the Plinys, Sculpins, and numerous Alpines.  It’s that good and now probably one of my top 20 or so IPAs ever.

I can’t wait to explore Karl Strauss’s stuff a little more–if only they were available in New York!

A

*In all seriousness, a very nice story about who the real Karl Strauss was.

Sink the Bismarck!

June 10th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Country: Scotland, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

I’m about as tired of the “Most Alcoholic Beer on Planet Earth” arms race as I am with the existential nerd debates over “What IS beer?”*  Sure, BrewDog’s 41% Sink the Bismarck! is a gimmick, but, surprisingly, it’s a damn fine one at that.

There’s nothing wrong with gimmicks–in all facets of life and art.  They often act as envelope pushers to enable the way for more “legitimate” enterprise.  Like the skanky strippers who gets Triple-D breast implants paving the way for the girls next door to get more reasonable and socially acceptable Cs.  However, sometimes, these gimmicks are damn fine in and of themselves.  Such was the case with this bad boy.

Sink the Bismarck! is shockingly considered a double IPA and, what is even more shocking is that it truly is one.  This is no boozy near-liquor mess, this is actually a beer with all the beer check boxes in place and checked off.  It smells boozy sure, so boozy in fact it singes your nose hairs (better clip ‘em before you sniff this one); but it also has a nice bitter hop presence wafting through.  And what’s even more amazing is that the beer is actually carbonated.  A very fizzy carbonation, in fact, totally indicitive of style.

It’s super alcoholic sure, and it necessitated my first career all-male sixsome with the 11.2 ounces (priced at about $7 per ounce–YOW!) to put the bottle down.  Two ounces per dude was more than enough and we probably could have split it eight ways.**  There’s no other beer in the world like this.  It’s so strange to drink something that tastes like liquor but is bitter.  So strange to drink something that tastes like liquor but has a tingly carbonation.  It’s not something your mouth is used to.***  The bitter hops taste comes through quite strong and this is amazingly neither a thick nor too sweet of beer, like most high ABVers are.  It’s a sipper, it might even make you cough, but it’s clearly a jet-fueled DIPA and a damn tasty one at that.

Comparisons will most frequently cite Sam Adams Utopias (a masterpiece in and of itself but far too flat and liqueur-ish to compare) or the similarly alcoholic DIPA Dogfish Head 120 Minute (amazingly MORE malty sweet and LESS carbonated than this one, even at half the ABV) but both are way off base.  As for me, the only similar thing I’ve ever imbibed to Sink the Bismarck! is a friend’s home-distilled hop liquor, which of course differed in that it wasn’t carbonated.  I haven’t exactly been floored by any of Brewdog’s “normal” ABVed stuff, but they are just killing it with the high octane brews.  Buy a bottle or buy a “share” of a bottle if you can.  You won’t regret it****.

A

*Still, I suppose that’s better than them wondering what beer and pizza to serve a new Belgian neighbor.  (My suggestion:  Bud Light Chelada and skip the pizza, bring over a pasta bread bowl from Domino’s.)

**Ironically, while having a sixsome with this bottle of beer on the rooftop of Chicago’s swank Palomar Hotel during a friend’s bachelor party, nearby, countless sinewy homosexual lasses in tiny boy shorts seemed to be foreplaying their way to some gang sex in the pool.  It just so happened to be International Mr. Leather weekend in town.

***Apropos of the previous footnote, I won’t make any gagging jokes.

****And a few sips will make you forget the foreplay to gang sex you saw in the Palomar’s hotel swimming pool.

Mikkeller Single Hop IPAs

May 26th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Mikkeller, Country: Denmark, Style: IPA

As someone who doesn’t homebrew, I thought ingesting all of Mikkeller’s single hop IPAs in one sitting would make for a nice crash course in beer education for the price of a night at the bar (and perhaps bail money.)  For those unaware, the Danish brewer Mikkeller–I keep wrongly thinking I need to put an umlaut or one of those O’s with a diagonal line through it whenever I write their name–decided to release a series of IPAs built with the exact same recipe only altering the one single hop they use.  Now most IPAs are created using various different hops for bittering, aroma, and taste and rare is it to try an IPA made with one simple hop.

A completest, of course I had to try all nine available at Rattle ‘n’ Hum during Mikkeller week, and I surprised the bartendress upon placing my order*.  “You wanna order nine beers?  All for yourself?!”

She actually CUT ME OFF.

Before I’d ordered a single beer.

Before I’d even had a sip of alcohol for the day, so preposterous was my order she thought.

Eventually I laid on the Goldfarb charm and got my nine bitter ducks lined up in a row.  Now I didn’t expect most if any of these beers to be masterpieces, I was more looking to enjoy them side by side as experimental curios.  But, quite frankly, they all were pretty good and I gave them all fairly respectable scores.  It’s pointless for me to throw out your standard adjective descriptors for each of the nine, all between 6.9 and 7% ABV, so instead I’ll simply note that Nelson Sauvin was far and away the best of the lot, and no surprise I suppose being that Alpine Nelson, another IPA made solely with Nelson hops is maybe the best IPA in the world.  Simcoe and Warrior I would also add as the other two beers that could be simply enjoyed as “great beers” and not just “pretty good beers for what they are.”  I’d drink the three aforementioned any time, any place.  Meanwhile, Cascade and Centennial were each clearly the worst, quite a surprise considering those are perhaps the two most “famous” hops varietals.

My rankings:

1.  Nelson Sauvin (A-)

2.  Simcoe (A-)

3.  Warrior (A-)

4.  Chinook (B+)

5.  Tomahawk (B+)

6.  Stateside (B+)

7.  East Kent Golding (B)

8.  Cascade (B-)

9.  Centennial (B-)

*There are currently 10 available and Rattle ‘n’ Hum only lacked Nugget for some reason.  Mikkeller is soon to release 5 more single hops, plus an even more intriguing yeasts series.

Wachusett Larry

May 21st, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: New England, Brewer: Wachusett, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Style: IPA

7.5% ABV on tap and from a bomber

The east coast gets derided for making mediocre IPAs, “incorrect” IPAs, and perhaps rightly so, but a few weekends ago I stumbled across two New England gems while in Boston.  I was ostensibly in town to watch the Yankees rock the Red Sox in front of scads of pink Sawx hatted fans at Fenway, but my #1 (nonverbalized) goal for my traveling party was to actually make my first trip ever over to The Publick House to try their recent and much ballyhooed inspired collaboration with Wachusett.

Located right off the slow-(and-Caucasian)-as-sin T stop in Brookline, The Publick House is a beautifully large bar loaded with mostly Belgian taps and bottles, attentive bartenders, a surprisingly packed and good-looking (non-beer geek, thank god!) crowd, a very solid artisan cheese-laden food menu (the mac and cheese is particularly divine), and plenty of space for quiet contemplation of expensive beers.  It surely deserves mention on the short list of the east coast’s best beer bars alongside Blind Tiger and Rattle ‘n’ Hum in NYC, Monks in Philly, and Churchkey and Paradiso in DC.

I was bursting with excitement when I saw the Larry tap, having read much online about this newish and somewhat under the radar release stacking up to the best of the west coast’s IPAs.  I’m not sure if that’s completely true, but this is an enormous winner.  I’d had a few so-so offerings from Wachusett in the past, and though they were accomplished enough, there was nothing to show me those Massachusetts boys had this kind of greatness in them.  Larry has an insanely floral and piny nose and the taste is straight tropical citrus with mild bitterness.  A nice underlying hint of sweetness that really ties the beer together like Lebowski’s rug.  A mild carbonation and just incredibly juicy, this one goes down quick and easy, I loved every sip of it.  This has surely got to be the east coast’s best overall IPA.*  I liked it so much I had several glasses and then the next day visited the Publick House’s terrific beer shop next door, PH Provisions, where I loaded up on as many Larry bombers as I could carry.  Now I’m fretting where I can possibly get my Larry fix once my stash runs dry.  Sure wish this had year round, coastal-wide (length?) distribution.

A

New England Gandhi-Bot

8.8% ABV canned

The next day I hit up The Publick House’s newest (American) craft venture down the street, American Craft fittingly, because nothing excites me more than spending a beautiful spring day drinking inside a mostly empty dark bar that still smells like the previous nights bacchanalia.  There, I noticed a canned beer on the menu and, being semi-fetishistic toward canned craft beer, I ordered the tallboy which greeted me with one of the best and most amusing labels I’ve ever seen.  Now I’ve never had anything from Connecticut’s New England Brewing Co. before other than their somewhat overrated and very trademark infringing Imperial Stout Trooper, but after enjoying immensely this beauty, I’m eager to try more of their (canned?) offerings.  Gandi-Bot is another splendid “west coastish” IPA loaded with grapefruit and barely even a hint of a malt backbone.  Prickly and extremely dry and bitter, a well-hidden 8.8% ABV, I truly enjoyed this beer but felt it just lacked a little something, a little uniqueness, to catapult it into the true masterpiece class.  Nevertheless, well worth seeking out.

A-

*OK, if I’m gonna say something so brash then I best try to compile my own list.

IPA

1.  Smuttynose Finest Kind
2.  Clipper City Hop3
3.  Dogfish Head 60 Minute
4.  Dogfish Head Aprihop
5.  Victory Hop Devil

DIPA

1.  Larry
2.  Brooklyn Blast
3.  Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve
4.  Southern Tier Unearthly
5.  Smuttynose Big A

Two notes:  I didn’t even consider Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute because, even though it’s a masterpiece, it’s a whole ‘nother beast.  And, unfortunately, I’ve never had the much-lauded The Alchemist brewpub’s Heady Topper.  I would gladly kill for you if you could send me a growler of it.

I’m sure I missed some.  What’s your east coast top IPAs list look like?

Surly Abrasive Ale

May 4th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Ale Asylum, Brewer: Minneapolis Town Hall, Brewer: Surly, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Style: IPA

Like anything in American life, the IPA debate always gets whittled down to an East coast/West Coast thing and I won’t make a 2Pac/Biggie joke in the year 2010.  But there’s more to America than the coasts, than “flyover” country as us snobs call it, and the Midwest is making some absolutely stunning IPAs as well, the Eminems of the IPA debate if you will.  And why shouldn’t they be making good IPAs?  They have hops just like we do.  Then again, they have yeast and dough just like we do and their bagels still suck.

Abrasive Ale

9% ABV canned and tap

No matter how Beer Advocate classifies it, Abrasive Ale is not the much beloved 16 Grit simply repackaged and renamed.  Surly brewmaster Todd Haug told me as much.  It is recipe-wise very similar to 16 Grit though–a beer I unfortunately never got to try–and it is a magnificent beer.  Within a few hours I was fortunate enough to get to try batch 1 on tap, batch 1 canned, and an ever so slightly tweaked batch 2 on tap. Now while batch 1 and the first canned version I tried were both magnificent, both A level beers, batch 2, the batch that I suppose will be the recipe from now til iniquity, blew my mind and is clearly one of the best IPAs I have ever had.  This is a darker than normal DIPA, a rich and gorgeous caramel with potent smells of tropical fruits and hops.  The taste is as good as it gets–an over-explosion of hops with strong brunch tastes of grapefruit and sugar, a perfect combination that adds a kiss of sweetness to balance out the bite stripping the enamel from your teeth.  Wow.

A+

Tea Bagged Furious

6.2% ABV on cask

This has long been a most wanted beer of mine even though, like a dope, I didn’t even know what exactly it was.  I naively assumed it was your typical delicious Furious somehow infused with some tea flavoring.  Eh…I don’t know.  I now feel like some idiot 10 year old that never quite understood the birds and the bees until an older kid explained them to him.  Luckily, I finally did learn what the tea bagged refered to, right around the time I got to try this magnificent beer.  Tea Bagged Furious is simply Furious that has been dry-hopped in a firkin cask with various hop varieties in a bag.  OK, I think I get it now.  Kinda like Surly’s novelty answer to Dogfish Head’s Randall I suppose.  Whatever the case, this is a brilliant beer, packed full of juicy hops, made all the more interesting to enjoy on cask where that pesky carbonation doesn’t get in the way of your tongue picking up all those subtle flavors.  Not that this sucker is subtle in the least.

A

Town Hall Mango Mama

6% ABV on tap

A tap-only selection, pretty much only available at the brewpub, Mango Mama is another beer, another IPA, I’d long wanted to try.  I’m a typical “more is better and please Supersize that shit” American, so I usually skip right over IPAs and tell ‘em to make mine a double, but Town Hall’s regular 365 days a year offering, Masala Mama is a nifty little production, a no frills, incredibly drinkable and delicious effort.  The slightly rarer Mango Mama blows that one away and has to be arguably the best 6% ABV or lower IPA around.  I expected a sweeter IPA, but I guess I just don’t know what a mango is (most of my knowledge of fruit comes from the various Skittles packs, so that’s no surprise) because this was a shockingly citric and bitter IPA.  One of the more bitter ones I’ve ever had.  Seemingly no malt backbone or sweetness at all, this is just like straight fruit juice mixed with hops.  And that ain’t a bad thing.  Highly recommended.

A

Ale Asylum Bedlam!

Finally, we come to a Wisconsin IPA, and a Belgian one at that.  Bedlam!–I love when names of things force you to punctuate–is my first introduction to the brewpub’s offerings and one of my first introductions to citra hops, a semi-rare hop varietal that seems to add a somewhat green onion aroma and flavoring to the beer.  A not unpleasant and certainly unique sensation that makes you feel like you just got chives on your baked potato, scallion cream cheese on your bagel.  As we know, Belgian IPAs are pretty de rigueur right now and there’s several new and good ones on the market (Nebraska Hop God and The Bruery Mischief most notably) and this one stacks up for sure.  While not quite as good as those two, it’s certainly a unique offering as the citra hops meld with the overwhelming Trappist yeast for a nice bite and a silky finish.  Obscure, but worth seeking out fo’ sho.

A-

Hop God Reserve Series Aged In French Oak Chardonnay Barrels

April 20th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Nebraska, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

10.1% ABV from a 750 mL

Now beer bloggers are a loathsome lot.  They sit at bars avoiding social contact in order to furiously scribble tasting notes.  They spend forever getting the lighting just so in order to take a picture of their beers when you just want to pop the cork and split the fucking thing.  They slobber-ogle the stray female that accidentally finds herself in a committed craft beer bar.  They, also, shamelessly beg for free “review” samples all day long, perhaps the most loathsome part of the beer blogger ethos.  They’ll ceaselessly tweet their idolized brewmasters asking for bottles, they’ll e-mail them, they’ll harangue them at beer events.  It’s like a high school virgin begging for sex.  Just pathetic.

Though, just like the high school virgin eventually wears down his girlfriend, these beer bloggers typically wear down the brewmaster who’d like to just get back to, you know, making beer and the blogger gets the sample (and laudingly shillingly praises it online) and now no one–not the devirginized virgins, the beer bloggers, or anyone–feels good about it.

Not that I too won’t occasionally do that kind of thing.  (Hey, just because I’m a hypocrite doesn’t mean I am wrong.)

Sometimes, when a beer is rare or I don’t have access to it, I’ve had to tweet out a favor or two.  There’s another time I might try to get a review sample–when shit’s expensive and this Jew don’t feel like paying for it.  Such was the case with the ten-word titled beer I will discuss henceforth.

Nebraska Brewing had just entered the New York market within the past month and I’d greatly enjoyed their Hop God.  Hearing they had some bottles of it aged in chardonnay barrels (whoa!) I eagerly looked for the stuff.  Now, admittedly, it seemed to be pretty limited in the marketplace but I did see a bottle or two floating around in the $25-30 price range.  Quite a bit to pay for a beer from an upstart brewery, especially when said beer had only a half-dozen or so reviews online (even if they were all glowing.)  So, I danced around online and never outright asked for any, but insinuated that I needed some sent to me, man, so I could, like, review it officially and stuff.  No luck.

Finally, last week, while making a rare visit to the is-it-now-so-passe-it’s-no-longer-passe once great Gingerman, my drinking companion wondered, “Are there any expensive bottles here you’d like to split?”  I scanned the extensive menu.  “As a matter of fact, there is…”  And such is how I came to spend a mere $14 for a half-share of some ten-word special Hop God.

It was worth every penny.

I can’t think of many Belgian IPAs* nor many chardonnay barreled beers**, which certainly means I can’t think of a single chardonnay barreled Belgian IPA which makes this Hop God a nice oddball rarity in my book.

The taste was more God-like than hop-like, I didn’t get any hops at all quite frankly through the nose or taste, but that hardly matters.  This was one bottle of sour tart deliciousness.  Strong wood flavors come through with the oak and the Belgian yeastiness is accented nicely by some subtle wine flavors.  Just a hint of citric sour fruit flavors as well.  Tastes not Belgian IPAish at all, more like a wild ale, so while I feel somewhat silly filing this as a Belgian IPA I’m not sure there’s any Brett in the barrel to make this officially “wild,” if that would be the one distinction.

A good beer can never be priced too much for me once I finally see how good it is and this one falls into that category completely.  I nearly considered buying another bottle even.  Though I doubted their ways at first, now I greatly admire Nebraska’s aggressive release, distribution, and pricing strategies.  What a way to splash onto the scene.  If you know you got good shit, why wouldn’t you act accordingly?  Seek this one out, ladies and fellas, it’s really fucking good.

This beer was actually Nebraska’s third release in their Reserve series and I’ve heard straight from the owners’ mouth that the first two releases, Black Betty–a RIS aged in whiskey barrels–and Fathead–a barleywine aged likewise–may hit NYC soon.  Which means I will immediately start e-begging for those two bottles the second I hit publish on the post and tweet owner and brewmaster to “Hey, hey, check out my glowing post!!!!”

A

*Though adding “Belgian” or “Belgo-” to many Americanized styles is currently de rigueur in the industry.

**Though Google “chardonnay barreled beer” and only two breweries’ beers appear on page 1:  Russian River and Nebraska Brewing Co.  Not bad company at all, eh?

Hop God

April 8th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Nebraska, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: IPA

9.2% ABV from a growler

Pretty much every American brewery has a neologistically hop-named beer, whether in the format of Hop ____, or ____ Hop, or even ____ Hop ____.*  Nebraska Brewing Company out of…uh, Nebraska, has their own hop-named beer, Hop God.  Great name for a beer, not necessarily a great name for this beer.  Though this beer is a pretty great beer, so a minor nomenclatural quibble.

The first and only beer I’ve ever had from out of Nebraska–the first and only beer I’ve ever heard of coming out of Nebraska–is a draught only offering that has just begun popping up around New York City in the last few weeks.  With a name like Hop God I assumed a classically bitter and uber-hopped San Diego-style India pale ale, but was pleasantly surprised to pop the plunger on my growler to be hit with that beautiful scent of Belgian banana esters just like a glorious Aventinus, which is a German beer actually, come to think of it.  The taste is indeed perhaps more Belgian, that of a golden yeasty tripel with an underlying silky hoppy taste and a nice hint of Laffy Taffy with a little spiciness and bitterness.  Imminently drinkable, I really really enjoyed this bad boy and went through my lone growler in a hurry.

I’m now excited to try more Nebraska Brewing offerings, and, luckily, they have a Chardonnay barrel aged Hop God which just sounds so inspired and delicious.  Bottles of this seem to be semi-rare, and I’ve started seeing them around town, but at a price point (don’t you hate when people say “price point” trying to sound smart–”price” will almost always suffice) of $25 minimum, I’m just not ready to take an economic gamble on such an as-yet-still little known beer (a mere four total reviews currently on Beer Advocate).  I’ll wait til some more people try it and hopefully rave about it before I whip out a Jackson and Lincoln for it.  Of course, if Nebraska Brewing wants me to be that guinea pig, they can always just send me a bottle for review (insert winking smiley face emoticon here).

A-

*A few favorites:  Hop Whallop, Hoptimus Prime, Exponential and Pure Hoppiness, and Me So Hoppy (the name for the nonexistant DIPA my as-yet-nonexistant brewing will brew.)

The Stone Event at Blind Tiger

March 25th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Green Flash, Brewer: Stone, Country: America, Style: Chile beer, Style: IPA, Style: Smoked Porter, Style: Stout, Style: Strong Ale

Note:  any characters with similarities to persons living or dead (cirrosis?) is purely not a coincidence.

You go to enough beer geek events and you start wondering what “Piano Man” might have sounded like had Billy Joel hung around some of these creepy events stocked with some truly depressing lifeforms.  The events never start as late as nine o’clock on a Saturday, usually more like two in the afternoon on a Wednesday when the regular crowd shuffles in:

No man is ever making love to his tonic and gin (a spirit?!), but I always see this obese man with a minuscule Beetlejuice head atop his body stick his schnoz all the way into his tulip for a good minute before imbibing.  The mulleted Irishman at the bar may be named John, but he’s no friend of mine, in fact, his only friends seem to be a coterie of mental ward patients only allowed off Shutter Island for special craft beer events.  He’s never quick with a joke, and I doubt he smokes (would F up his palate), but he sure will bitch about the over-maltiness of a Double IPA.  Davy’s not in the navy but it looks like he eats gravy for every meal (what pairs well with that?) and he brags about being the first in line at every Captain Lawrence release (”I know Scott”).  The fat fat fat Italian lady doesn’t discuss politics but she sure will bitch at you if you get a bar seat before her (perhaps she’s…eternally pregnant?) and after five pints will start ranting in Italian.  Most of the guys aren’t real estate novelists–most likely in computers, or unemployed–and though few women would have them they have no time for a wife because there’s fucking wild ales to drink!  The tiny scraggly Asian quickly gets stoned on samplers of bourbon-barreled stout and never makes eye contact with any one, instead preferring to keep his nose in sci-fi pulp.  Then there’s the guy who looks like Jerry Garcia and wears shorts no matter the weather and the skinny ginger dweeb always passing out business cards for his crappy beer blog and the (male) Indian slob with bigger tits than Dolly Parton.

And the bar looks like a carnival (of side-show freaks) and the smelly British bloke is surely homeless yet he likes to brag about having surpassed 2000 reviews on Rate Beer…all these folks are sharing a drink called loneliness, well I guess it’s better than being a Trekkie queer.

I said Bill I believe these dorks are killing me, as the smile runs away from my face, well I’m sure I’d be full of more cheer, if I wasn’t into such fancy beer.*

Honestly, I always expect the worst and trod carefully when I go to beer geek events but the Stone one at Blind Tiger last night was stupendous–perhaps because I got a coveted bar seat in the mob scene, perhaps because I actually had an attractive girl with me (a site rarer than a bottle of Midnight Sun M amongst this crowd), perhaps because I quickly got loaded and entered my Stoic state–and I had some great offerings. Like most beer connoisseurs Stone was one of my first “idols” but, sadly, you get to a point where you don’t think they can impress you any more, you almost forget to drink them even.  I was wrong to ever be so blasphemous.

Chipotle Smoked Porter and Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean (cask)

Stone’s 5.9% ABV smoked porter is one of the best in the biz and I was curious to see what these additions would do to an already great beer.  A lover of spicy foods, the chipotles added a terrific zing to the brew which tickled my uvula and tingled the area behind my sternum as it went down.  Just liked Cigar City’s mindblowing Hunahpu’s Mayan Imperial Stout which is aged on pasillo and ancho peppers, I just love how these rich, maltier beers taste with a little chili heat.  (A-)  As for the Vanilla Bean, it had one of the best aromas I’ve ever encountered, just a luxurious and creamy vanilla smell, but unfortunately the taste didn’t quite stack up and was surprisingly mild in flavor.  (B)

Double Dry Hopped Double Bastard (2009)

Now I’m not exactly sure what double dry hopping means, but I do know that Stone’s highly limited, tap only Double Dry Hopped standard IPA has surged into the Beer Advocate Top 100, so I was intrigued to try this effort and it totally delivered.  A gorgeous ruby red grapefruit color but an incredible floral smell.  Kinda skirts the ground in between DIPA and barleywine, like a slightly aged Dogfish Head 90 Minute.  Whatever the case, an amazing beer.  (A)

Ruination w/ Simcoe and Amarillo (cask)

This DIPA was straight danky and just like pure liquid hops.  As I was drinking this, coincidentally, a vagrant passed by the open bar window smoking a spliff.  I gotta say, the joint paired well.  (A)

Old Guardian (2007)

Old Guardian was my first ever “favorite” beer and the beer that made barleywine my first ever “favorite” beer style.  Lately though I found each yearly release of Old Guardian to be a little “hot” (could you calm down on the scare quotes, Goldfarb?) and hoppy.  Thus, I was psyched to try a three-year aged version, probably the oldest version I’ve ever had.  This old friend had matured wonderfully into a silky, malty, cordial-like drink.  Lovely.  (A+)

Arrogant Bastard Aged in Bourbon Barrels

Gotta say, did not see this one coming.  How could such a glorious beer aged in bourbon barrels not be startling?  It was startling, just startling in the wrong way–this was easily my least favorite beer of the night.  The bourbony flavors simple did not meld well at all with the legendary strong ale.  (B)

Imperial Russian Stout (2007) and Imperial Russian Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels (2008)

Despite all the amazing beers I had last night, comparing an already monumental imperial stout now aged and/or bourbon barreled (!) to everything else I had was just not fair.  Not much else to say.  Both were as good as you could imagine, probably better.  (A+ and A+)

So I batted 16 for 16 last night and tried every single Stone offering, not to mention the swell Green Flash tote Le Freak (a very spicy, yeasty saison) (A-/B+) and Pallet (sic?) Wrecker (a tap only rarity that is one of the best DIPAs I’ve had in a while) (A).  I stumbled home and may or may not have watched three straight hours of “Life” on my DVR pretending I was on a drunken safari (”Look out, ostrich!”)

*I’m not exactly Al Yankovic but I’d love if someone musically talented out there could write this song.