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Cigar City at Rattle ‘n’ Hum

February 23rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 12 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Cigar City, Country: America, Style: Brown Ale, Style: Cream Ale, Style: IPA, Style: Old Ale, Style: Stout

“I would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize for the events of the night of the 23rd.  I’m not accustomed to drinking alcohol.”  –Max Fischer, “Rushmore”

I woke up near noon, still completely dressed in what I’d worn the previous evening.  Jacket, shoes, jeans with wallet, cell phone, keys still in it, everything.  My head pulsated in pain.  Not surprising considered I’d celebrated my birthday the previous night at Rattle ‘n’ Hum, chasing pints of 13% Bourbon County Stout with shots of Irish whiskey in a perpetual Mobius strip of aggressive drinking.  But even worse than the pain in my head, was the pain in my gut.  What exactly had happened twelve hours previous?  Had I scarfed down too many orders of fried calamari and Buffalo wings?  Yeah, probably, but that wouldn’t cause this kind of pain.  A pain so intense it hurt for me to sit upright and killed when I tried to piss.

Oh right, I’d entered myself in an impromptu gut-punching contest Friday night.

Seems that after drinking steadily from happy hour til midnight, after all the women and responsible men had left my party and the bar, leaving only a quintet of degenerates remaining, someone, probably me, had gotten the wise idea to start a quasi-Fight Club in our little corner and we began exchanging a series of gut punches with each other.  I’d never done something like this before, never even had such a desire to do something like this before, but I’ve never been accused of not having strokes of genius when too lit up to remember them the next day.  And, this gut-punching stroke, did I only barely recall engaging in.

I have a long history of alienating friends, ruining relationships, losing my dignity, and flat out humiliating myself on my birthday.  It’s an annual tradition.  But in this case it seemed like none of the above had occurred.  I spent the day writhing in pain, staying supine, and texting with my friends to recount the night.

How many gut punches had we exchanged I wondered?  About fifteen, recalled Tony.

How hard were we hitting each other?  About 75% our maximum punching power, thought Graig.

And why the fuck weren’t we getting tossed out of the bar for such childish shenanigans?  Because Rattle ‘n’ Hum is the most awesome bar in the world, thought I.  Though, honestly, because my friends were probably racking up a combined grand in drinking tab.  Never let any one tell you that money can’t buy you happiness.  Or the ability to have an impromptu gut-punching contest in a heretofore civilized establishment.

But apparently the night wasn’t completely peaches ‘n’ cream at Rattle ‘n’ Hum.  Sal chipped in that eventually, after about a half hour of gut-punching, some guy, en route to smoke a butt outside, had told us to cut it out.  And apparently, I had told said guy where to stick it.

Oh God!  Who was this man?  A bartender?  A manager?  Hopefully not…the owner!

Typically, I wouldn’t care.  Wealthy Charles Foster Kane wasn’t worried that his beloved newspaper was losing him one million dollars a year because, as he noted, “at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place…in 60 years.”  And I’ve long realized that I can get 86ed from a New York bar this week, and one next week, and one the week after that, and at the rate of fifty-two 86ings per year, I’d have to move to a new drinking town…in 60 years.  But the circumstances were different here because Rattle ‘n’ Hum is my favorite bar in the world.

Now normally I’d just lay low for awhile til my statute of drunken limitations had expired.  But, in this case, that simply wouldn’t work.  You see, just three days later, Rattle ‘n’ Hum was having one of the greatest beer-drinking events in recent memory as the esteemed Tampa brewery Cigar City was coming to town to unleash more than their full lineup of beers.  There’s no fucking way I was going to miss this event.

I consulted with my friends.  Who exactly had I mouthed off to and exactly how mouthy had I gotten?  Was I truly 86ed?  Would I be recognized if and when I returned to the bar?

“You’re not exactly the kind of guy that people forget, Aaron,” noted Graig.  I don’t think that was a compliment.

After fretting all day, I had no choice.  I would have to attend the Cigar City event incognito.

In preparation, I shaved an uneven goatee into my scruff, wore some particularly shabby clothing (which is saying something for me, I normally dress like a hobo), put on a Syracuse cap pulled low as possible over my eyes and sharp eyebrows (my most prominent and memorable features), and even wore my nerdy reading glasses that never leave the house, just to have another thing blocking my face.  Of course, I had to fly solo, I couldn’t risk returning to the scene of the crime with any accomplices.

I felt nervous when I entered the fairly empty bar, especially when I saw the afternoon’s bartender was the very same kind Irish lass we’d had at my birthday.  I couldn’t recall if I’d been offensive to her as well.  I walked with an intentionally unconfident slouch, my head meekly drooping to hide myself further.  I looked down at the bar, never making eye contact, feigning intense nervousness as the bartender approached and slid a menu in front of me.

“What can I getcha, hon?”

My ruse had seemed to work.  She didn’t recognize me from Adam.  (If Adam was the name of one of the countless beer nerds that would be infestating the bar soon enough.  Damn, perhaps I should have stuffed a pillow under my shirt to create a faux-beer gut.  I didn’t need my flat belly giving me away.)

I decided to open my drinking with probably the manliest, not to mention priciest, flight of beers ever assembled, pictured above.  A straight boozy stout quartet of Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout, Hunahpu’s imperial Stout, and their bourbon-barreled counterparts.

Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout

This 11% ABV brew is bursting with distinct flavors of coffee, chocolate, toffee, and molasses.  A rich syrupy mouthfeel and great carbonation, this is an awesome effort.  (A)

Bourbon Barrel Aged Marshall Zhukov’s

I can’t believe I’m saying this, and I’m not sure I’ve ever said this in my entire life as I’ve long stood by the reasoning that awesome beer + bourbon barrel aging = awesomer beer but in this case I thought the incredible booziness here overwhelmed the subtler flavors.  Or maybe I’m just becoming a little pussy in my old age.  I’d love to try this one with a little age on it but even hot and young it’s quite good.  (A-)

Hunahpu’s Mayan Chocolate Imperial Stout

Currently resting at #38 on Beer Advocate’s Top 100 beers on earth after an amazingly meteoric rise, this 11% beer takes a base of Marshall Zhukov’s and ages it on pasillo and ancho peppers as well as vanilla, cinnamon, and cocoa nibs, giving it a nice little spiciness with a surprisingly sweet finish, and making it taste truly like no other imperial stout around.  As a huge fan of Latin spices, I absolutely adored this effort, and, for me, it was my clear stout winner of the day.  (A)

Bourbon Barrel Aged Hunahpu’s

Just like the bourbon-barrel Marshall Zhukov’s I think the intense bourbonness of this effort blocks out the awesome spices and makes it a less complex and enjoyable beer.  Having said that, it’s still quite good.  (A-)

After my first flight, I thought, let’s see, twenty-four total Cigar City beers available, if I keep flighting in out, I could knocked off the full lineup in only six total plate appearances.  Flight #2 coming up!

Creamsicle IPA

This sounded like an intriguing premise, an IPA that tastes just like a Creamsicle, but I doubted the execution was possible.  I was so wrong.  This straight out tastes like a bitter IPA backed by the orange creamy goodness of a popsicle.  Amazingly drinkable and quaffable.  (A-)

Flora IPA

This standard IPA with cedar and lavender added smells like a sack of weed and tastes like a flower garden.  And that’s a compliment.  Absolutely delicious and unique.  (A)

Humider Series Juniper IPA

I’d been floored by Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA aged on cedar so I was excited to try yet another IPA from their exciting Humidor Series, and this was just as good.  Like drinking a box of wood.  (A)

Brandy Barrel Winter Warmer

I honestly ordered this one just to fill out the foursome, but it absolutely floored me.  The normal Warmer Winter Winter Warmer–an old ale I still hadn’t had at this point so I can’t compare–aged on Laird’s apple brandy, this would end up being my favorite beer of the evening and one of the best beers I’ve had year to date.  Silky, syrupy, and sweet but not cloying, this reminded me of J.W. Lee’s delicious Harvest Ale Calvados, but even boozier and more delicious.  A huge winner.  (A+)

At this point I was getting pretty drunk and began fretting I would soon break into Leonard-Duran gut-punching numero dos.  I really had to focus and say “No mas” as there is surely some demon inside of me that now likes me to get punched in the gut.  I had brought a paperback and had planned to quickly drink my beers with my head ducked into the book, but, ironically, I kept finding myself talking to people over the two hours I was there and even made two new friends.

I now realized that having all six flights was probably out, but I figured I could squeeze in two more.  Unfortunately, their pricey cask selections, of which they had several, were not available in flight form so I had to go with full pours.  The remaining beers I slugged:

Double Cream (cask)

When I prepared my drinking order the night before I’d flagged this 9% strong cream ale as one I was particularly excited to try, but its corn and honey sweetness simply didn’t fully deliver for me and it would go down as the worst (relative term) beer I had for the day.  (B+)

Mango IPA (cask)

This IPA loaded with dry hops, mango acai tea, and a hint of lavender was my third favorite effort of the day.  As it warms the intense mango flavors come through nicely.  Flawless mouthfeel and drinkability.  Amazing.  One of my favorite IPAs of the year.  (A)

Maduro Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

After the mild failure of Brooklyn’s far more ballyhooed attempt at making a straight-up cookie tasting beer I didn’t expect any one could execute in that regard.  I was wrong.  This brown ale does taste just like an oatmeal cookie as the tart raisiness comes through nicely.  (A-/B+)

Cuban Espresso Maduro

Wow, just like the previous beer, this 5.5% brown ale aged on Naviera Coffee Mills #3 Espresso blend with chicory tastes like a flat out iced coffee.  Intense and smoky, simply delicious if you’re a coffee nut.  (A-)

At this point, the major-league beer nerds starting filing in, wielding their note-taking pens like rapiers and setting up their cameras on tripods (tripods!) to take pictures and videos of the scene…and I knew I had to make my exit, stage left, before I caught anything.

I had twelve of the beers, coupled with three others I’d had in the past, meaning I’d tried fifteen of the twenty-four available.  A 0.625 batting average.  Not bad and I hope to some how, some day, try the ones I missed, especially their Peach and Papaya IPAs which just sound phenomenal as well as the standard Warmer Winter.

Oh, and I’m putting myself on a self-imposed one month ban from Rattle ‘n’ Hum.

Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock and Fourth Dementia

September 9th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Kuhnhenn, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Fruit Beer, Style: Old Ale

13.5% ABV on draught

My addiction is consuming me.  I can no longer keep it at bay.  I am now Mr. Hyde 24/7.  I am not an alcoholic.  Oh no.  Far from it.  At least not your standard one.  I can go for days without having a drink (though why would I want to?!)  And loved ones never criticize me for my drinking (then again, I only love those that the love the drink themselves).  Nor do I ever feel guilty about my drinking (usually too hungover to experience any other emotion).

I am not an alcoholic, yet I do have an unyielding addiction toward alcohol.  Toward locating rare beers that is.  It’s all I think about lately.  These rare beers, these beers I’ve never touched before, these new releases, special releases, one-time releases are always on my mind.  I can’t focus on work any more as I visit Beer Advocate, Beer Menus, and Beer News countless times per day for the latest updates.  I read other beer blogs and trade e-mails with beer friends all day long.  It’s gotten so bad I can barely follow sports any more.  Or celebrity gossip!  It’s even affecting my social life.  I organize activities in neighborhoods that are closest to beer stores I need to visit.  Strongarm dates into joining me at local groggeries with special one-offs on tap.  Shit, I even found myself talking in my sleep the other night while in bed with a gal.*

I think the pinnacle of my abhorrent behavior occurred last Wednesday night.  I was sitting around relaxing, unwinding as my evening neared its end, watching “Intervention” on A&E and surfing the net.  I made my half-dozenth visit to Beer Menus for the day and my heart nearly hit the hardwood.  Somehow, amazingly, I had failed to notice that a full line of Kuhnhenn brews had gone on tap that day at Blind Tiger, including their highly acclaimed, Top 100s in the World, Raspberry Eisbock and Fourth Dementia.  Beers from a little Michigan brewery that had never before been in New York, that I thought I might never get to try.  That I had been dying to try.

I didn’t know what to do.  It was now past midnight and I was very sleepy.  I debated throwing on a bathrobe like a local kook and hailing a cab ASAP to get me the sixty-odd blocks downtown to Blind Tiger to just rotely suck down the beers in minimal enjoyment.  Alas, I decided that even I am not that obsessed.

I was wrong.

I couldn’t sleep that night, tossing and turning.  Had I truly missed all these great beers, perhaps never to have them again?  Why, I couldn’t live with myself if I did!

I woke up at the crack of dawn and proceeded to stare at the clock just watching the minutes slowing tick off until Blind Tiger’s 11:30 AM opening.  All the while, refreshing Blind Tiger’s currently-on-draught page hoping for an update.  A positive update, hopefully noting the beers were still there, but an update nonetheless.  It never came.  I played scenarios in my mind, of the kegs being slurped down by some lucky and unknowing sonofabitch that knew little about beer and just so happened to stumble into Blind Tiger on the luckiest of nights.  Of more savvy beer geeks than me filling up growler after growler with these rare beers until the keg was dry.

Mere seconds after Blind Tiger opened for the day, I burst in, panting and out of breath.  The first in the bar for the…uh morning, without taking a seat, without even answering the bartender’s friendly greetings, I simply stammered:  “Do you still have the Raspberry Eisbock?”

She laughed at my overzealous ardor.

Luckily, they did.  Luckily they still had every Kuhnhenn beer on tap in fact.  I suppose that’s what happens when you’re a brewery known for making thick and viscous double-digit ABV beers.

As the bartender pulled me my six ounce glass of the Raspberry Eisbock, I took out my camera to photograph it.

She smiled at me.

“Lemme guess…beer blogger?”

Nope.  Rare beer hunter addict!

Oh boy, and am I so fucking glad I got to try these beers!  The Raspbeery Eisbock is truly like nothing you’ve ever had before.  It’s fruity, sure, but thick and chewy like an imperial stout.  Tastes of raspberries, sweet malts, and smooth wheat.  And it goes down with a boozy, roasted dark fruit burn like a quad.  A six ounce glass of it was more than enough.  It is exceptionally good and well worth the hype of being the #45 beer in the world as we go to press here at the Vice Blog.  Damn hard to categorize stylistically, this is a true revelation of a beer.

A

Fourth Dementia

9.4% ABV on draught

Next, I got to try the currently 94th ranked beer in the world, Fourth Dementia, an old ale.  I’ve had very few old ales in my life until very recently but it’s quickly becoming a favorite style of mine and this is the best I’ve ever had.  Sweet and sugary, malty and boozy, Fourth Dementia is as equally unique as the Raspberry Eisbock but I liked it just a tad better.  A long-time lover of barley wines and other malty sweet boozebombs, Fourth Dementia is right in my brew wheelhouse.  Absolutely exquisite.

A

Also that day I had the fortune to try tasters of Kuhnhenn’s Flemish Sour Red and their ass-kicker par excellence, the 19% Solar Eclipse imperial stout, a beer that should be served in no vessel bigger than an eye dropper.  Kuhnhenn may be new to me, yet with pure extrapolation, I know that it is one of my favorite breweries on planet earth and I can’t wait to try more from them to actually prove this fact.  Hopefully I will.

I’m also happy to reveal that I haven’t visited beer websites since this fateful day, this moment of clarity.  I’m trying get a hold of my addiction before it gets hold of me.

Oh shit, it’s NYC Craft Beer Week in two days!

*“You were talking in your sleep.”

“Really?  That’s weird.  What was I saying?”

“You said something like, ‘That’s the best tripel I’ve ever had.’  What the hell does that mean?  Triple what?”

“Honey, I believe I may have been dreaming about beer.”

Founders Curmudgeon

August 11th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 7 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Founders, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Old Ale

9.8% bottled

Hat tip to reader Kyle who pointed me toward this I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-satire Q&A from the increasingly more irrelevant, growing grayer and grayer old lady, the inglorious New York Times.  This comes from the “Career Couch” section where some moron whose only job it is to answer dumb questions dumbly, claims expertise in the wild world of employment.  In this week’s installment, aforementioned moron Eilene Zimmerman tackles the terrifying world of drinking (not-exactly) on the job in the hiiiiiilariously titled:

Are Three Martinis Three Too Many?

Q. You are new to the corporate world and not sure what to do at business functions or after-hour gatherings where alcohol is present. If everyone else is drinking — including your boss — should you drink, too?

Eilene says (and seriously you GOT to see the pathetic artwork with this one):

A. For those new to the professional world, the line between a work event and a social event is often unclear. You may see all the trappings of a party — food, music, even dancing — but any gathering where colleagues are present is business and you should stay sharp and avoid alcohol, said Jody Queen-Hubert, executive director of cooperative education and career services at Pace University in New York.

“Don’t be fooled,” she warned. “You are always being scrutinized by colleagues, so professionalism at all times is a must.”

Cy Wakeman, president of a human resources consulting firm bearing her name in Sioux City, Iowa, says that when it comes to drinking with colleagues, “the risk is very high that something negative will come out of it.” She says that it’s acceptable to have one or two drinks but that it is best to stop there.

“I even advise staying out of photographs with groups of people drinking,” she added, “because it could wind up online somewhere, like Facebook.”

Everyone you interact with while drinking has the potential to affect your career. A colleague today may be your manager six months from now and will likely recall any indecorous behavior.

If colleagues regularly have drinks after work, order what everyone else is having but sip it slowly. “Make it last all night,” Ms. Queen-Hubert said. “Holding a drink without drinking is a way to feel like part of the crowd without compromising your judgment.”

Indecorous, ha!

First of all, the only advice I’m going to taking from a hyphenated-named Pace prof is where the closest subway stop is to get the fuck out of the gross downtown-spooning-with-the-Brooklyn-Bridge-area of Manhattan and to a more happening part of town.

“Don’t be fooled,” I note.  “In any job I’ve had I’ve scrutinized my nerdy coworkers and made fun of my lame colleagues that tried to exhibit such nebulous traits as ‘decorum’ and ‘professionalism’ versus absolutely punishing a free open bar and trying to make inroads with the new intern.”

Meanwhile, can you believe the glorious Times has to fucking call some rube all the way out in Sioux City just to get a pull quote?!  I mean, seriously, Cy, I understand why you’ve come to think it risky to drink with colleagues.  In fact, I would be on my best behavior if I was drinking near you.  And I most certainly would not want pictures of me to appear on Facebook if I was seen drinking with some hag that looked like you.*  Personally, in the Cys I’d rather fuck category, Young wins over you.  I’d rather drink with Cy Young too.

Revel in the glorious puffery of our Cy who self-describes herself as “a dynamic, well-respected national keynote speaker, workshop facilitator and trainer.”  Meanwhile, she looks like she just swallowed a fart.  Or maybe she’s just mad that I have more Twitter followers than her.

Seriously, how boring of fucking evening would one have if they had to go out drinking at the Sioux City, Iowa Applebee’s bar with Cy and with Ms. Queen-Hubert whose just trying her darn tootingest to fit in by HOLDING HER DRINK WITHOUT DRINKING IT.  FOR THE ENTIRE NIGHT!

Wow.  Is that really who you want to work with?!  An adult who pretends to drink in order to fit in but is too chickenshit to actually drink and have fun?   Christ on the cross.

Q. How do you politely decline to drink, especially if others are urging you to have one?

A. A simple “no, thanks” should suffice, said Debra Benton, a career coach and author of “C.E.O. Material: How to Be a Leader in Any Organization.” If everyone in your group is ordering a drink, get a soda or a tonic and lime.

You don’t need to make excuses, she said, or give a reason that reveals personal information, like “I’m on medication.” You can, however, give the reason if it is less personal — you will be driving, for example, or you need to finish some work when you get home.

If you are at a dinner where bottles of wine are ordered, you don’t want to protest because it will bring unwanted attention, said Debra Condren, a business psychologist and president of Manhattan Business Coaching. “You want to fit in, and that might mean getting a glass of wine and having a few sips or just letting it sit there,” she said.

Cy, Ms. Queen-Hubert, and now Debras Benton and Condren. My lord, these bitches are so boring, such wet blankets, they make Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers seem like Dorothy Parker and Tallulah Bankhead.

Methinks these four were not exactly cool growing up what with all their concerned talk about “fitting in.”  I’ll tell you what ladies, and I may not have any made up titles behind my name like “career coach” or be the president of a phony institute, but the best way to fit in is to fucking relax and not act so goddamn inhibited.

Funny though, usually my friends, when they say at the bar, “I’m on medication,” aren’t making an excuse to turn down a drink, they’re just preparing me for the shit show that’s about to follow from them mixing Vicadin with Jameson.

As for me, I only decline a drink if it’s something real shitty and I feel like being a snob.  I’d never turn down something delicious from the Michigan greats Founders though.  I was thus excited to try their Old Ale, Curmudgeon.  Old Ale is a style I’ve recently gotten into, enjoying it’s somewhat suped up barley wine qualities.  This is a nice example too.  Sweet and flavorful with a slight bitterness, malty and sugary, boozy but not too hot, and fairly drinkable.  Another enjoyable effort from Founders.

Q. When you attend business-related social events with more-senior colleagues, they always seem to be holding a drink. Could your refusal to do the same draw attention to your youth and inexperience?

A. In some corporate cultures, having a scotch or bourbon is a way to build relationships, a way to take part, Ms. Condren said. “If you are at a high-profile event and all the executives are having a drink, you may feel you need one to be part of the club,” she noted. “That being said, you can still drink very little of it or have one drink and then switch to water.”

It’s essential, however, to know your limits. If you’re inexperienced in such situations and your clients or bosses are throwing back Johnnie Walkers, you can’t follow their lead, Ms. Condren said. If you try to keep up, you will likely drink too much and act unprofessionally — definitely drawing attention to your youth and inexperience.

Here’s some advice:  quit being such a fucking pussy and learn to drink.  What exactly were you guys doing at college?!

Q. If you wound up overdoing it at a company event, what’s the best way to deal with it the next day at the office?

A. If you offended or insulted anyone you must make amends, but do so privately. Making an apology to the entire office or department is unnecessary and can seem self-indulgent, Ms. Wakeman said. “Talk to people individually, saying you drank too much and learned a valuable lesson and that it will never happen again,” she said. “And remember that if it does happen again, you will lose your credibility.”

I usually just send a mass cc’ed e-mail:  “If you’re wondering…yes, yes I did.  And Cy gives terrible head.  Maybe if she drank more she’d be a little looser.  Ha, no pun intended.  LOLOLOLOLOL!”

If some dweeb came to me and said they learned a “valuable lesson” from the previous night’s tying one on, I’d immediately have them transferred to the Vice Blog’s Sioux City branch.

Q. Is it acceptable to call in sick if you are suffering from a bad hangover?

A. No. Even if the culture is one of “playing hard,” there is also an expectation you will work hard the next day, Ms. Queen-Hubert said. Use your trusted hangover remedy and soldier on.

If you are too sick to get out of bed, you will have to meet with your boss when you return and find some way to make restitution, said Dallas Teague Snider, founder of Make Your Best Impression, a business etiquette consulting firm in Birmingham, Ala. “Offer to work an extra day or take your sick day as unpaid vacation instead,” she said. “Your boss may say you don’t need to do that, but you should still offer.”

Absolutely!  No one gets “sick” any more.  Hangovers are the NEW sick.  And if you’ve unfortunately blown threw all your vacation and sick days already, start your day with a mimosa to turn the old engine over, a liquid lunch to keep you going.

(Seriously, the Times quoted a “business etiquette” firm out of Alabama?!  OK, they have GOT to be fucking with us, right?  Right?  Doesn’t business etiquette in Alabama start and end with wearing your best golf shirt to important meetings and making sure there’s no Carl’s Jr. sauce stuck in your mustache before speaking to clients?)

Q. How can you tell if you have a drinking problem that needs to be addressed?

A. If you can relax at professional events only by having a drink, that could indicate a problem, Ms. Condren said. “If you are embarrassing yourself or sometimes don’t remember your behavior,” she said, “it’s a good idea to seek professional counseling.”

You may be using alcohol as a crutch when navigating uncomfortable social situations, Ms. Wakeman said. Rather than relying on alcohol, find a co-worker who is naturally adept at mingling and ask if he or she could help you develop those social skills, too.

What does it say about me if I need alcohol as a “crutch” to read this column and am now using it as an even bigger crutch to help write these acerbic barbs?

Seriously, this section of the Times shouldn’t be called the “Career Couch,” it should be called, “How to be a Big Sniveling Vagina that Will Never Get Invited to Work Happy Hours.”  Well done, NYT!

E-mail: ccouch@nytimes.com

I’m just drunk enough right now to think that a good idea.

A-

*I love how Cy has already added this very article to her “In the Media” section of her ugly website.  Prestigious!  Maybe she’ll have more Twitter followers than me soon!

North Coast Old Stock Ale (2008)

March 26th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: North Coast, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Old Ale

My Super Sweet Sixteen (Not Featuring Annoying Little Twats*), Part II

Part I

If this was 1982, the Columbia Broadcasting System’s coverage of the NCAA Tournament might be considered state of the art, but now, in an era in which I can watch Paula Dean and her many chins cook artery clogging yet surely delicious fried foods on numerous high-definition channels (not advised), it is unacceptably bad.

Let me run down all of CBS’s crimes against sports viewers, starting first with the misdemeanors:

Studio show patter –  Amongst the unintelligentsia of sports studio shows, CBS’s troika of the fatter, kinder Gumbel, solid Greg Anthony, and smarmy Seth Davis is actually somewhat tolerable.  But it’s still unnecessary.  With so many things going on at once, us fans want to actually watch games, or at least highlights, not three guys analyze the most obvious shit we just spent the last hour watching ourselves.  At least CBS’s show isn’t a straight drunken giggle-fest like all the detestable NFL shows.  Seth Davis’s prognostications this year have been an abomination though.  Some “expert.”  Who will be the first network, what will be the first major sporting event, to eliminate the studio?  I think it could work.  Surprisingly, I’ve yet to have a complaint with any of this year’s announcers, all who seem to be doing steady, quality work.

Bland home courts — If it’s not bad enough that this year’s first round sites were either in cities that couldn’t give a shit about college hoops (see: Miami) or completely biased home team venues (see: Greensboro and Philadelphia), all of this year’s courts are exactly the same, bare bones parquet floors with nothing more than the off-centered (why?**) NCAA logo decal affixed at center court.  I’d like to see the typical, all-year floor markings for the school, the arena, whatever.  It’s what makes each place unique.  The NCAA doesn’t like uniqueness though, they just like everyone bowing down to their “greatness.”

Commercials –  This isn’t exactly CBS’s crime, they’re just selling the spots, but seriously, businesses, companies, etc., if you’re going to buy hundreds of hours of commercial air time for the three weeks of the tournament, at least produce a variety of different spots.  Or at least interesting ones.  Novel concept, huh? Take what is clearly the most ubiquitous commercial of this year, the Buffalo Wild Wings spot where loser beer-bellies hate their at-home lives so much–and I guess enjoy chain restaurants to such an astounding degree–that they beg the world’s most connected and powerful bartender to assure the current game they watch on the big screen goes into overtime so they may eke out just a little more besotted fun that evening.  I have nothing against BWW, and in fact the one time I found myself in a location I actually really enjoyed the food and ludicrously cheap steins of macro-beer, but I have been so deluged with this commercial that I now have a guttural, Pavlovian hatred for the joint that were I to find myself in Omaha or Cheyenne with a hankering for some mango habanero boneless chicken wings and frosty mug of Coors Lite, I would probably just skip the joint.  It seems that companies think “raising brand awareness” even while annoying potential customers and wasting millions on a campaign is a good thing. Think again.

And onto the felonies…

Channel coverage — A few months ago, my Time Warner cable actually exceeded 1000 channels.  As recent as the turn of the century I remember having only double-digits.  I now have channels numbering into the 1900s.  1900s!  Yet the NCAA Tournament–perhaps the greatest multi-game sporting event in America–is only available on one channel at one time.  How fucking silly is it that fans have to spend all week trying to figure out what game their market is going to get?  Whether or not they’ll have to sprint to a sports bar at noon to watch their team compete.  (I pity my Syracuse friends now living in California who had to find a bar open at 9 AM on Friday in order to watch our opening round trouncing of Stephen F. Austin.)  How ludicrous is it that I can watch every single NIT game from the comfort of my home yet can’t do the same for the more important tournament?   ESPN fucking sucks in a multitude of ways, but at least the “Worldwide Leader” utilizes all of their channels–the Deuce, U, Classic, Espanol–to broadcast important and overlapping stuff.

Come on CBS, get with the times and use your own assets–the CW, CBS College Sports, even fucking Showtime–so that we can see all the games at once.

DirecTV package — Ah, but you say, “Aaron, you can see all the games at once, just don’t be a cheapskate and purchase the DirecTV package.”  Yes, I may be a cheapskate but I have friends that are not and do purchase the package (and then I invite myself over to their house to watch the games, drink their beers, and eat their food.)  Now this is an idea I’m perfect satisfied with and at $70 for the entire tournament that’s a perfect reasonable rate to assure you can watch every game.  Except…you don’t get to watch every fucking game!  Er, at least, you don’t get to watch every fucking minute of every fucking game.  And that’s because you don’t just get committed feeds of each game, something that would make sense, but rather the straight regional coverage of each which are still afflicted by the greatest demon of them all…

Cutaways — The anonymous, nameless, and faceless God-like entity–picture Ed Harris in “The Truman Show”–who decides when games should be cut from to go to other games deserves to be strung up by his hairless balls.  Last Friday late night I coincidentally found myself at a Union Square sports bar which was serving as the shared NCAA “headquarters” for both Ohio St. and Florida St. fans.  Amazingly, both teams were playing at the same time and, even more amazingly, both were in tight affairs, the Buckeyes heading into double OT with spunky Sienna, the ‘Noles going into OT with frisky Wisconsin.  And despite the dozens of televisions occupying all four walls in the bar, fans never knew which screen to glare at to follow their team’s game.

If I actually cared about these teams I would be infuriated–as all these fans indeed were–but instead it was simply comical to watch both schools’ alumni meatheads spinning around and swiveling and craning their necks every few seconds like cats watching a racquetball match and “It’s now on that screen!” as dopey CBS was constantly and frequently cutting back in forth between each game depending on region and market and the current timeout and commercial situation.  Once, even shockingly cutting away as a potential Ohio St. game-winning shot was IN THE AIR.  Unacceptable.  I thought there was going to be a riot in the bar, and this was before both games ended in the higher seeded, bar-rooting teams losing.  (I privately pumped my fist and give a subtle wink to the sole dude in a Sienna t-shirt; I had picked both the Saints and Badgers in my now-in-1st bracket pool.)

Look CBS, just commit to the feed of single games and eliminate the Goddamn cutaways.  This is 2009, we don’t need cutaways, we don’t need “live look ins,” we don’t need split screens and quad screens, we just need singular feeds of each ongoing game, each on a different channel–charge us if you want, that’s fine–and the relaxed luxury of turning that channel on and enjoying the game we want to watch from tip until the final horn.

Maybe one day you’ll get it right.  Morons.  At least your theme song is still awesome and gives me chills every fucking time a day of games opens.

What are your NCAA tournament, CBS, or sports coverage pet peeves?

Now my breakdown for the Friday/Sunday games:

MIDWEST

Much like Pitt, Louisville was another #1 seed that looked quite lackluster in rounds one and two.  I’m less concerned if I’m a Cards fan, though, because I guarantee Rick Pitino has gotten his boys back in line this week.  It also helps that they have the easiest remaining route to the Final Four of any #1.  Their tilt with faux-Cinderella (Pretenderella?) Arizona should offer a minor challenge early as they actually have the athletes and NBA bodies to compete with Louisville, but Louisville has the superior coaching and basketball players.  Louisville’s offense isn’t great but Arizona has the worst defense left in the tournament and thus the #1 seed’s superior depth and pressure defense will make this one a second half laugher.

Meanwhile, in a matchup from earlier this year won easily by the Spartans, Michigan State will yet again take on Kansas.  The defenses will be stout–and the offenses inept–in this game and you could see the winning team garnering only 55 total points (which would actually make for a blow-out in the Big 10).  Goofy Cole Aldrich will be the best player on the floor and may have 30 of those.  I can’t believe I’m saying this for as recent as the start of the New Year I thought they were fo’ sho’ NIT bound, but Kansas will indeed ascend to the Elite 8 (despite a huge coaching disparity between Izzo and Self).  An amazing achievement coming off a title and the loss of countless NBA-bound starters.  Nevertheless, the fun ends in the next round as Louisville will absolutely humiliate them.

LOUISVILLE

SOUTH

UNC/Gonzaga is every square’s upset special of the weekend and you’ve no doubt been hearing a lot of, “You know, I think the Zags can actually give the Tarheels a run.”  Well, I’m a huge hater of the Spokane, Washington program–not cause of anything they do, but rather because the national media continues to act year after year like they are one of the big dogs on the college hoops landscape.  Little secret:  they ain’t.  It was over a decade ago that they had that singular, “magical” run to the Elite 8 and ever since then it’s been a ton of overseeded, crying-on-the-court flameouts–but I mildly concur.  Gonzaga’s defense is good but somewhat overrated, while UNC’s offense is great but somewhat overrated, especially with Ty Lawson still banged up.  UNC would have lost to any truly decent team last Saturday, but they will be more focused this week and should prevail by 10 or so.

I refuse to make a prediction on my alma mater versus the Sooners, but I will offer some analysis.  I’ve been unable to sleep all week for reasons two-fold:  1) due to a gluttonous opening rounds weekend I’ve decided to detox on booze til this game on Friday (falling asleep sober is tough!  Luckily there’s Jimmy Fallon!) and 2) I can’t get out of my mind the thought of the now stellar Cuse 2-3 zone forcing OU into bad shot after bad shot which leads to miss after miss…which leads to Blake Griffin rebound after Blake Griffin rebound for gorilla dunk after gorilla dunk.  However, were I an OU fan I’d be also up all night this week wondering how the hell the mediocre Oklahoma D can possibly stop the guard triumvirate of Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Andy Rautins.  This will be the highest scoring game of the Sweet Sixteen–much different than the 2003 Elite 8 waxing won 63-47 by the good guys–and if I wasn’t an atheist I’d be praying the Hall of Fame legend James Arthur Boeheim will prevail for career win #800.

The potential regional finals will almost certainly feature a one-on-one matchup I’ve been begging to see all year:  either Griffin versus Tyler Hansborough or Flynn versus Lawson.  Both UNC guys are biasedly more ballyhooed, but Griffin will absolutely massacre Psycho T and make him wish he was already riding the NBA pine, while Flynn should finally prove that he is the best point in the game.  Teamwise, I don’t think OU has the supporting cast to offensively hang with North Carolina, while UNC/SU could be a high-flying, high-scoring, All-Star game defense shootout for the ages.

????

(Have I mentioned that if Syracuse wins the title this year I have to get on my own body all the same tattoos Devendorf already has on his?  I’d do it with pleasure though having the name of another man’s child on the back of my neck could be a little odd.)

There you have it, UCONN, NOVA, LOUISVILLE, and ????, my Big East-biased Final Four.  I’ll be back next week to gloat about my awesome picks, or to make excuses for my prognostication failures in the same way smarmy Seth Davis do.  And to offer my Championship thoughts.

North Coast Old Stock Ale

11.7% ABV bottled

Stumbling upon this in the store, I’d mistakenly thought I’d made a splendid score.  I was mistakenly recalling their highly touted Old Stock Cellar Reserve, I presume the normal Old Stock bourbon barreled.  Nevertheless, this “normal” beer was still quite good.  A great strong ale smell and taste.  Caramel malts and a little hops, a thickness and richness like a weak cognac.  Flavor not quite as complex as I’d like but still quite good as most North Coast product is.

A-

*Save Greg Paulus.

**Hat tip:  KOIII

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special 30 Reserve

January 21st, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 61 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Harviestoun, Country: United Kingdom, Grade: A-, Style: Old Ale

8% ABV handsomely bottled

She was so hot.  And I was on my game.  I’d make a joke, she’d laugh.  Uproariously.  I’d make a witty observation.  She’d nod in agreement.  “So true.”  She was impressed with me!  Both my present lot in life and my dreams for the future.  I was instantly in love with her.  We made plans to have our first date on Friday.  Sex was inferred.  Lots of it.  She went to the bar’s bathroom.

“Why are you talking to that disgusting pig?”

Sal butted in.   My other friends were mocking me.

“What are you talking about?  That girl’s way attractive.”

“Not at all. She’s like a 4 out of 10.”

BULLSHIT.

I thought my friends were getting my goat.  Fucking with me.  And who says that they have good taste?  They drink shitty macro beers and are disgusted by anything that actually has hops in it.  Why should their thoughts on women be any more than unsophisticated? I was certain the new love of my laugh was gorgeous.

A girl she was with started to dry heave in the bathroom so they had to split.  I spent all the next day fantasizing about her, even though I couldn’t picture her and didn’t even recall her name.

She finally Facebook friended me Thursday night.  And my friends were indeed wrong.  She wasn’t a 4 out of 10. 

She was like a 2.

“And those are good pictures of her,” my asshole of a friend chipped in, without me even asking.

Oh, did I mention I was like twenty beers deep on Wednesday?

I had started drinking at 5:00 PM with some quite hefty brews, uncorking a bottle of the Ola Dubh Special 30 year. We all know my thoughts on beers that are corked, foil-wrapped, boxed, and/or barrel-aged (in this case in Scotch) so this was certain to be a winner. And indeed it was. Scotchy, boozy, though still quite drinkable with a smooth creaminess and nice mouthfeel. A very good brew.

Obviously, I had to make up a lie and back out of our scheduled date.

I told this story to another friend on Saturday and he gave me an incredible pearl of wisdom:

If you are incredibly drunk and a girl is still seemingly into you, then she is probably disgusting.

I thought back to my interactions with the girl on the night in question and I began to have some flashbacks.

I remembered some of the jokes I was making. Cringe-worthingly unfunny. I recalled some of the antics I pulled. Just really fucking annoying. I harkened back to the topics I discussed with her. Embarrassingly self-indulgent and dumb.

Now I understood why my friends did not want to deal with me that night! And, I also understood why the girl did. She wasn’t amused by me. Nor was she impressed. And she certainly didn’t find me funny. She was simply sucking it up and letting me act like a drunk asshole for the plain and simple fact that I was…a man. A man actually talking to her, hitting on her, for once. No attractive woman–fuck, no average-looking woman–would have put up with my garbage. This girl was forced to.

Unfortunately for her, I actually have standards–quite brutal standards–when I’m sober, so obviously she had no chance with me by the next day. Women, if you really want me and you’re ugly, you better find me on a wasted night and seize the day then lest you never get another shot.

Though my friend’s nugget of insight really changed my drunken seduction mindset, it also upset me.

“So does this mean that I can never get an attractive women when I’m absolutely shitfaced?” I asked him.

He smiled knowingly.

“Nope. She can be even drunker than you and wake up the next day looking at you sleeping beside her and think, ‘God, what have I done?’”

A-