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Archive for the ‘Style: Pale Ale’ Category

Zoe

August 23rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Maine Beer Co., Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: B plus, Style: Amber Ale, Style: Pale Ale

7.2% 500 mL bottled

I’ve been so busy with other projects I’ve had little time lately to review beer.  Which means, if and when I do write a review, one of two things has occurred:  I got free beer from a brewery and felt obligated to glowingly write about it in order to keep the gratis schwag flowing OR I just had my mind blown. In the case of Maine Beer Company’s Zoe, the latter is true, but perhaps my effusive praise will soon lead to the former being true as well!

I’m surely one of the best “forced” travelers around as there’s no location I’m fully upset to have to visit–all due to this pesky beer obsession.  So when I was “forced” to head up to the great city of Portland, Maine this weekend for a wedding, even though I wasn’t in much of a traveling mood during these dog days of summer, I was still buoyed by the chance that I might get to try some beers from the upstart nanobrewery newish to town.

My man Sam had tipped me off that the best beer bar in Portland is now Novare Res and he was so very right.  Accessed by a bit of an alley off a main Old Port street, the bar was a site to behold.  An enormous “Best of Portland” award-winning outdoor patio deck, but nuts to that as I like to drink in the cool dark and the inside of Novare has that in spades*.  A slightly below ground cellarish feel, warm and cozy with a large segmented two cornered bar buttressed by some classy brick columns.  Unfortunately, the mediocre to so-so Rogue Brewery (from nearby the “other” Portland) had monopolized all 25 taps for an event.  That was shockingly fine since Novare has a most prodigious list of bottles stocked in a cellar room just peekaboo visible behind the bar.  It was an amazing list full of semi-rarities like Cantillon Cuvee des Champions and Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek but my goal was to drink local.  Unfortunately, Zoe didn’t appear anywhere on the reference book sized menu.  As I scanned it, slightly disappointed, looking for something else, I heard a woman whisper to the bartender, “Another Zoe,” as if divulging a secret password.

When the bartender returned to me I curiously inquired, “You got Zoe?”  Indeed they did have the sexy thing in the thin and sultry needle-nosed bottles I’d heretofore only seen Pliny the Elder employ.  The pour was darker than expected, more deep purple than amber but the smell was all fresh and bitter grapefruity hops.  The taste was even better.  A bitter explosion in the mouth, perfectly carbonated and tingly, tastes of tropical fruits yet still balanced perfectly with a strong malt backbone.  Simply put, it’s the best amber out there now, even better than the quintessential one Nugget Nectar.  If I lived in Maine, I’d be drinking Zoe weekly.  (Which actually might be harder to do than you think, even if you do live in Maine!)

A

Afterward, I was lucky enough to meet the progenitor of “Zoe” and the progenitors of Zoe–Maine Beer Company co-brewmaster David Kleban and his wife whose daughter the beer is named after–who coincidentally happened to be drinking at the bar.  While David’s wife cutely and ironically informed me that she typically imbibes “girlie” cocktail drinks, David told me that Portland gets a mere 144 bottles a week of Zoe–all he and his co-brewmaster brother Dan are able to make–and it goes fast.  Heckuva nice couple and helluva great beer.  I implore you to do whatever you can to find this stuff.

I also tried David’s Peeper Ale.  A no-frills quotidian pale ale that was nonetheless quite delicious.  Citrusy and yeasty, a perfectly delightful session beer.  Unfortunately, I drank it after Zoe which I was still drooling over.

B+

According to Beer Advocate, the Maine Beer boys have one other beer I’d sure kill to get my hands on, a draft only stout called Mean Old Time, which sounds like a perfect way to complete this exciting new brewery’s tasting trifecta.

*Novare Res instantly makes my top 10 beer bars (east coast) list and might be #1 overall in my ambience rankings.

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.)

B+

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.**

B

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

**Yankees in SIX!  Book it.

Bell’s The Oracle

October 22nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Bell's, Brewer: Founders, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: IPA, Style: Pale Ale

?% ABV bottled

The 3XL Underwear Date

I never am late but I was running late for this latest first date, if I can evoke the white rabbit a bit.  This was back in the early-2000s when preparation for a big weekend date involved polishing off a six-pack of Yuengling while watching the tail end of the afternoon’s college football games, opening my eyes and regaining some energy by drinking a can of Sparks while I showered, and finishing it off with a nice cocktail as I got dressed.  Not exactly a recipe for running on a tight schedule nor for impressing these women I was supposedly wooing.  Then again, they were often more drunk than me.

On this particularly night, out of the shower, I quickly prepared myself a gin and tonic to enjoy as I garbed myself.  I reached for one of the fresh unopened packs of boxer briefs I had just purchased.  Ripped the pack open, grabbed a pair, and quickly pulled them up and…they fell back down to my feet. They were fucking huge.  I glanced at the label.  3XL.  Shit.  I grabbed another pack.  3XL.  And the third and final pack.  3XL.  Fuck!

Earlier in the day I had been downtown near price-choppin’ clusterfuck par excellence Century 21 when I had fortuitously recalled that all my underwear were dirty and I had a date that very night.  I could, of course, just have hurried home and done laundry, but eh.  I rushed into the mess of a department store, plowed over some slovenly Slavic tourists like Adrian Peterson hitting the hole, and grabbed a stack of $5 three-packs of Hanes unmentionables.  (Undergarments are the most egregiously priced of all clothing and thus, as a miserly Jew, I always make sure to buy them at Century 21 where they sell for like 75% discount.)

Alas, in my haste, I had stupidly forgotten to check the size of the boxer-briefs, partially assuming I suppose that one size fits most, but, what with Century 21 being a tourist mecca, of course the default sizes were for the typically girthy Nebraskan or South Dakotan rather than being an M or L like most New York stores would stock.  I should have known better.  But there was no time to damn my luck at the moment, I had to come up with a plan for my date.

Going commando was out of the question.  It was a sweltering 98 degrees out and going sans-knickers in the city of the Knickerbockers would be a surefire recipe for having a most swamp-like crotch before I’d even arrived at the bar.  There was my old standby of teeny tiny soccer shorts as a proxy for undies, but that had gotten me into major trouble the last time I’d done such a thing and I didn’t want that evening’s date shrouded with such an anti-talisman.  Perhaps a “cleaner” pair of dirty underwear?  No, that was too disgusting even for me.  Alas, I had no choice but to wear the 3XLs.

I don’t exactly wear drainpipe jeans now and I certainly didn’t back then, but I’ve always favored a slim fit as I hate the jostling from non-sleek clothing.  Suffice to say, it was near impossible to pull my denims up over this brand-new blousey girdle.  It entailed a lot of constant tucking and shimmying and smoothing before I was finally able to get my jeans up.  And even then, the waistband of the offensive boxer-briefs was exploding from my dungarees, like a mushroom cloud, forcing me to fold them over my belt line and into wearing a thick, longish shirt so as to hide the craziness.  If I ever forgot and accidentally did a big yawning stretch, revealing my littleclothes, my date would surely think me Mormon.

I go to some upscale-for-a-dopey-24-year-old bar and I meet up with Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? but I’m unable to focus.  Unable to be my funny, charming, roguish self since I’m so concerned about my 3XL underwear, so uncomfortable with the saggy cloth surrounding my loins.  I’m can barely think of anything else, I can barely pay attention to my date, I’m writing my own prophesy as I almost don’t want my date to be a success for if it is a success of course we will go back to her place and start getting all inflagrante delicto and next thing I know she’ll be laughing at me and mocking me for my apparent sick fetish of wearing gigantic Pampers.

So I decide to drink heavily, which kinda eliminates my anxiety but which also makes me need to keep pissing which is another conundrum all to itself for once in the restroom I fear that if I pull too much of my pants and 3XLers too far down, then I’ll never able to get everything back in place again.  Meaning, I had to employ the most dreaded of all devices, the underwear piss hole.  I’m still have post-traumatic stress over that.

Amazingly, after countless cocktails I’m loosening up and Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? is becoming charmed by my slightly fidgety neurotic besotted behavior, and maybe she’s a little drunk too, or wanting to use me as a slumpbuster, so she invites me back to her pad.  And, despite my fears from before, I accept.

I had drunk so heavily at dinner that I thought I’d be unable to get my lumber out of the bat rack but, amazingly, once Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? started kissing me, all the biological things that are supposed to happen started happening.

I’m usually aggressive in bed but here, in this situation, I was being quite slow and tender, caressing and fondling Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? with her clothes completely on because, despite my stoned state, I know once I take her clothes off, she will take my clothes off and see my most unfortunate parachute of granny’s panties.  This incredibly slow progression toward love-making thus makes me appear to be a man interested in an incredible amount of foreplay, which makes Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? like me all the more as most men her age–including me when I was wearing boxer-briefs that fit–were probably a little too wham bam, thank you madame.

Eventually, Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? reached a fever pitch of foreplay ecstasy and there was only one final frontier left to explore.  She excused herself to the bathroom to do whatever it is girls do when they excuse themselves to the bathroom right before coitus.

(My top three guesses:

1.  Last second depilatory work
2.  Vigorous gargling
3.  Quick Google search of my credentials)

This was finally my chance and I sprung to action!  I quickly pulled down my jeans and whipped of my dreaded 3XL panties which had somehow become stretched out to 4XL or perhaps even 5XL underoos in the last five hours as these babies were expanding faster than the universe.  I took the Hanes and tossed them under Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha?’s bed and then quickly pulled back on my jeans.

Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? returned from the bathroom seconds later, placing some condoms on her nightstand.  She then attacked me, taking my fate in her own hands.  Although now I was at ease.  She pulled back down my Lucky’s and a pleased look came across her face.

“Commando…?  Mmmmm…sexy!”

Sexy is right.  I was finally free from my prison of skivvies and eager to celebrate my midsection’s liberation.  I pulled a perfect Cael Sanderson reverse and threw her to the mat, positioning myself on top of her.  She may have seemed a bit confused by my sudden personality change, but she was greatly enjoying it.

So was I.  I had done it!  I had triumphed over these Herculean jockeys determined to defeat me!

I reached for the nightstand and a prophylactic.  Expertly opened the package and put its contents on my manhood.

But something felt off.  Way off.

I looked down to see the condom hanging on my dick like a latex poncho.  Sagging and droopy, unweildy and unusable.  What the hell?

I grab the discarded packet off the floor.

Durex XXL.

Stacy or was it Laura or possibly Alisha? noticed the look of fret on my face, the tears now welling up in my eyes.

“Oh sorry,” she said, “I stole those from my roomie.  You should see her boyfriend.”

The Oracle

This limited, Michigan-only release from the legendary local brewers, was procurred for me by my good buddy the Drunken Polack.  With a meteoric rise onto the BA Top 100 putting it alongside Bell’s two other IPAs, Two-Hearted and the legendary Hopslam, I was certain The Oracle would be epic.  But all I can report is…eh.  I was great underwhelmed I’m sorry to say.  And you know that has to be the truth because I am nothing if not a grade inflater!  I found Oracle to have the nose of a malty barleywine, yet, oddly enough, one of the more dry and bitter tastes of any DIPA around.  But not in a good way.  I would hail Smuttynose’s “Finest Kind” to be the uber-bitter IPA The Oracle should aspire to be, but it’s simply just not quite as good.  A bit of a lacking-in-flavor grapefruit mess.  Oh well…at least you folks that will struggle to locate this beer don’t have to be too bummed out about that fact.  If you’re like me, I almost get excited when someone reviews a highly-rare, highly-sought-after beer that I shall never taste and then semi-slams it.

A-/B+

BONUS REVIEW!!!!!

Founder Harvest Ale

6.5% ABV bottled

While we’re on the subject of hoppy beers, I got to make mention of by far the most enjoyable one I’ve had in the last weeks.  Oddly enough, BA lists this as a pale ale, but you know I hate to quibble about stylistic persnicketyness.  I’d generally liked all of Founders hoppy IPA-type beers I’d had in the past, but this was the first one that absolutely floored me.  One of the most fragrant beers I’ve ever had, with quite possibly even a more fresh piney smell than Pliny the Elder.  The taste is not quite as good as the otherwordly smell, but this is still some amazing shit.  Citrus, pine, and so much juicy hoppiness.  Wet-hopped beers are all the rage at the moment, even someone woke up the NYT to write an article about the phenomenon, and I finished off the sole four-pack I had of Harvest with a quickness.  Unfortunately, I can’t get Founders in NYC, but if I could, I would be absolutely plowing through bottles of this like some frat boy participating in a power hour until this fall season’s limited run was completely drank up.  It’s that good.  Not to be missed.

A

The Brooklyn Brewery Beers of Citi Field

June 30th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Grade: B regular, Style: Pale Ale, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

I’m a Yankees fan, but sometimes my friends can talk me into joining them for a nice and relaxing minor league baseball game.  Such was the case when I made my first visit to the Mets’ new Citi Field last week.  A visit that I eagerly anticipated–not for the baseball, but rather upon learning that Garrett Oliver had crafted some special brews for the ballpark’s Danny Meyer-owned concession stands.  This was especially exciting considering new Yankee Stadium’s lackluster beer and food selections.

Shackmeister Ale  (The Shake Shack)

ABV unknown

The most “famous” of Citi’s beer and food selections, this pale ale is also available at Manhattan’s two Shake Shack locations.  Just like its out-in-the-real-world counterparts, The Shake Shack concession is known for its overwhelmingly long lines, up to two or three innings waits I have been told.  Thus, I had no plans to stand single file with the hoi polloi, especially considering I find the highly-regarded Shack burger to be just a tad overrated (Lucky’s in Hell’s Kitchen has a burgerstand burger just as good and the wait will be like a hour less for you).  However, that all changed when a light rain delay sent the crowds home early and I was able to unzip the nylon ropes, slap the stanchions out of my way, and march straight to the front of the line where Dat (pictured above) gave me a foamy pint of the Shackmeister as well as some acupuncture advice (thanks, Dat, my lumbar region has never felt better).  The Shackmeister is a solid enough beer, quite tasty with nicely balanced English malts and Glacier hops, and an unexpected lemony zest and summery spiciness.

B

Blanche de Queens (Box Frites)

4.5% ABV

I’m a sucker for common foods pronounced in their fancy European way–just makes them taste better–and such is the case with Belgian frites.  Most unfortunately, it’s a crime against Jean-Claude Van Damme to call these anything more than frozen bagged American french fries dropped into a ballpark frialator.  Available with countless dipping sauces, I was excited when the girl gave me an extra tub of their bacon mayo “just for bein’ cute,” but a few minutes later I would realize she had probably been hired for a contract hit against me by some angry Leinenkugel enthusiasts.  The bacon mayo is surely one of the most ghastly things to enter my mouth in a while.  Luckily, it’s “paired” witbier, the only-available-in-Citi(-at-least-under-this-name) Blanche de Queens  is a helluva of swell ballpark brew.  Very yeasty and full-bodied, at first I thought this might be a saison with it’s spiciness and smooth drinkability.  I grew bored of it after my first pint, but it’s still a terrific hot weather beer, a perfect example of what a Blue Moon could taste like under a master craftsman’s hands.  I think your macro-loving friends will enjoy this one.

B

Sabrosa Ale (El Verano Taqueria)

ABV unknown

The shortest line in the centerfield foodcourt is for the taco stand, but it shouldn’t be, as the food got rave reviews from my crew.  And its paired Citi-only beer was the evening’s clear winner as well.  The taste I could only describe as being that of a very flavorful and spicy lager*, like Brooklyn Lager mixed with a packet of taco seasonings.  A perfect complement to Mexican food but delicious on its own as well.  This is a beer I would gladly drink at normal bars and even buy bottled.  Very nice.  It’s great to have such desirable offerings at a ballpark.

B+

A few notes:

I never got around to having the Blue Smoke BBQ stand’s special blended beer, but that’s easily had at its Manhattan restaurant.

All the Brooklyn beers at Citi are a reasonable $7.50 while the cruddy Buds and what-have-yous are $6.

The concession workers are really happy and nice, and don’t even mind some a-hole holding up the lengthy lines to take pictures of taps.

*For the record, the one review of Sabrosa on Beer Advocate calls it an American Pale Ale, but I’m somewhat dubious of that style listing for the time being.

Real Ale Brewing Company

May 29th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Real Ale, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Grade: B-, Style: Pale Ale, Style: Rye Beer

Nothing better than a surprise, and I answered the door a few weeks ago to find a nice little unexpected package from out of Houston.  My good friend Mike had packaged up a few of Blanco, Texas’s Real Ale beers and sent them my way.  Now, I’d heard of the brewery, but didn’t really know anything about them which–me being unfortunately intellectually hubristic and thinking I know all there is to know in the world–made me think these brews would be nothing more than mediocre.  Boy was I wrong.

(Besides the two below, Mike also sent me their Brewhouse Brown Ale which unfortunately was decimated in shipping)

Full Moon Pale Rye Ale

5.6% ABV bottled

Thinking I wasn’t about to pop anything special when I opened this one, I was floored by its great hoppy smell and its even better flavor.  A smooth rye malt sweetness makes this one tasty brew.  Quite unique actually and one of the best rye beers I’ve ever had.  Honestly.  I must admit I did not expect Full Moon to be this good, but it was simply delicious.  I could drink these all night, and was saddened to only have a single bottle.  If I lived in Texas, this brew would be in my fridge at all time.  Then again, if I lived in Texas, I’d probably do all my drinking in the back of a pick-up while armadillo hunting or somethin’.  Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good life actually.

B+

Rio Blanco Pale Ale

5.2% ABV bottled

After I sucked down every last drop of the Full Moon and stuck my tongue into the bottle to try to get even more delicious flavors, I was stoked to try their Pale offering.  Unfortunately, it was not quite as good as the rye beer, though still solid.  A tad too much unbalanced bitterness in its spicy hoppiness, I actually enjoyed this more as it warmed which, as you probably know, is fairly odd for an pale ale.  Another nice session beer from the folks in Blanco, wherever the hell that is.

B-

Aesop had his morals and, after enjoying Real Ale, I can have mine too:

There’s plenty of non-”famous” beermakers out there crafting really delicous shit.  Us beer geeks don’t have to be disappointed when we’re not drinking some, say, Dogfish Head, Stone, Three Floyds, etc.  Texas folks don’t know how lucky they are.  Or maybe they do.  I’ll need to get try some more Real Ale.

Alpha King

December 9th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Three Floyds, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Pale Ale

6% ABV bottled

The Board Game Olympiad

I’m certainly not above doing nerdy things in my life and have done plenty. There was the time I taught myself origami and enjoyed publicly showing off my skills to friends using random bar receipts.* There was that one winter I began to carry around a voice recorder to keep track of all my “funny” ideas.** And who can forget that one summer I started wearing ascots.*** But entering New York City’s Board Game Olympiad may be the nerdiest thing I have ever done.

Being that I was good at, you know, actual sports growing up, I didn’t really play a lot of board games as a youth. I always liked Trivial Pursuit but found many of the other major board games boring and more based on happenstance than any sort of skill, something I detest, and avoid. It was a bit of a surprise when a friend e-mailed me one day a few weeks ago asking if I would be the fourth and final teammate on her board game squad. I kindly explained to her what I have just explained to you good folks, that I don’t play board games, I don’t even know how to play many of the more famous board games, and why would she possibly want me on her team.

“You’re the most insanely competitive person I know, I don’t want to lose, and I know you won’t let us.”

She had me there, I hate to lose anything. The agony of defeat is far worse than the thrill of victory. I learned something a long time ago and that is that if you try insanely hard to win at just about anything, you usually will win. So few people in this world put effort into anything. And, assuming most of us have similar levels of innate talent, an incredible will to win will always serve you well. That is, if you want to win like I do. Many people don’t even care whether they win or lose. Those people have already been beaten, not that it matters a lick to them.

I still had one more question, though, before I committed and she read my mind before I had even asked it: “Yes, Aaron, it’s at a bar.”

Good. I will attend just about anything if it is at a bar.

Before heading to the Olympiad’s inexplicable location in the financial district, I had a few tipples. On a recent trip to Chicago to watch Syracuse defeat lowly Notre Dame in football, my friends Graig and Sal acquired some Three Floyds beers for me. Three Floyds is a highly acclaimed American brewery located in Munster, Indiana, but with a terrible distribution reach I had never had any of their brews before. The Three Floyds beers are also the ones I was only allowed access to after taking part in the dreaded Pizza Beer tasting.

Alpha King has one of the coolest beer labels ever, some sort of crazy demon god-monster ruling over us, presenting us with his fine beer. Looks like one of those gold leaf foil insert cards they started putting in baseball cards sets around the time everyone quit collecting. It poured a surprising ruby red. Smell is glorious, seriously hoppy. Bold citrus character, with alotta grapefruit. And, wow, if this is what Three Floyds consider a pale ale, I would love to see what they consider an IPA or DIPA. Simply a great beer. If it’s an IPA than it’s one of the best I’ve ever had, and I feel likewise if it’s a pale ale.

I arrived downtown for the Olympiad a tad early. No other teams or players were there but the organizers were setting up. Some serious nerds here. Imagine how nerdy it is to enter a board game olympics. Now think about the kind of people that want to create and run a board game olympics–unable to participate mind you–only reffing the events. Yeah, pretty nerdy.

After some small talk with the organizing nerds I headed to the bar, ordered a Guinness. “You with the Board Games Olympiad?” the cute blond bartender asked me. I was already humiliated and I wanted to feign ignorance, but it was clear I was and I humbly admitted my reasons for being there. Instead of looking down on my, though, she simply smiled and walked away. She hadn’t been mocking me, even questioning me, she just wanted to make sure I was with them in order that I get my beer for free. Nice! I hadn’t known this was an open bar, but now it all my sense, why else would they have been such a hefty entry fee? Not that I had paid any portion of the entry fee, I’m like a poker player that gets staked, I never pay my own way.

Soon my team arrived as did the other teams. My team wasn’t exactly the Four Tops in coolness, but my god, compared to those other squads we looked like the cast of “Gossip Girl.” The other teams were stocked with major nerds. Men with oversized glasses and scraggly beards, t-shirts with “funny” sayings or retro cartoon characters on them. The women flat-chested little tomboys in baggy sweatshirts, their wispy hair pulled back in unflattering and limp ponytails.

Aside from myself and a fellow male teammate of mine, it didn’t look like another person in the room had ever lifted. And I don’t mean weights. I mean, like, lifted anything: remote controls, forks, soda cans. These were some spindly armed, pencil-necked geeks. Twenty and thirtysomethings that still hadn’t gone through puberty.

The organizers gathered the several dozen teams and explained the rules, something all of us should have already known had we read our introductory e-mail sent a week earlier. I hadn’t read it because it was far too many words long and included no pretty pictures or hilarious FAIL videos. Essentially, the teams would compete in a round-robin format of several games spread over the first couple of hours, some games necessitating only one or two teammates, others needing the entire foursome. At the end of the round robin, the top two teams in the standings would compete in one final surprise game.

First up, I was enlisted to play Battleship while EC played Connect Four and Liz and Kay took on two other girls in Memory. Those are games that seemingly don’t take much skill, are games of much happenstance just as I previously mentioned hating, but my team swept all three events. Suddenly I didn’t hate these games of luck and as our opponents bitched about their bad guessing and bad fortunes, I brought out my best Gary Payton trash-talk, telling them they had just faced some superior opponents and how dare you call Battleship a game of luck. I fucking knew you were hiding that tiny plastic boat on B1 through B4.

After our sweep I hit the bar to order a few more beers for myself. My teammates were worried that my burgeoning drunkness would affect my gameplay but I assured them it wouldn’t. In fact, I explained that I am like professional darts players who aim to enter “the drink,” some non-sober point at which their nerves become most steady, their focus most clear, and their strategy most lucid. They are at one with the dart, their arm just an extension of their mind. I too after a few drinks am at my best in anything: writing, fucking, improvisational insults of fellow bar patrons, Pictionary.

We surged to the leaderboard as we headed to the next round of games. EC and I handled two-on-two Uno, while Liz and Kay battled some others in who could most quickly put together a two-hundred piece puzzle. Again, we swept those two games and lengthened our lead.

Next, our team got to finally join as one for a Trivial Pursuit match with a team consisting of three girls and a guy, one of the lady’s boyfriends. EC and I immediately began goofing on them before the first die had even been rolled and soon they were frazzled. Any time sports questions came up to ask, EC and I would mock celebrate, sardonically chauvinistically telling the “girl’s team” that they would never be able to get the sports question. They crumbled like a house of cards and after we had beaten them by a score of six pie wedges to two, I saw the girl and the guy arguing in the corner about something, she crying, no doubt ashamed that her man didn’t know what city the NBA Grizzlies first played in.

For the final round-robin game, our team faced off against the #3 team in the current standings in four-on-four Pictionary. We had already qualified for the championship, our lead untouchable no matter the result of this final game, but we still wanted to sweep the round robin with maximum points. Unfortunately, that would not be the case as the pedantic Pictionary nerd judge screwed us on several debatable answers and we lost the game.

Afterward, all teams were gathered to announce the final round-robin standings. We finished first with an ungodly score, nearly doubling up second place and causing some nerd in the crowd to call the kettle black by turning to us and decrying us as the “nerds.” Whatever, we made the finals, bitches. Our championship game opponent ended up being the team that beat us in Pictionary, only qualifying for the final due to that victory.

They say the best revenge is living well. Finding out your ex-girlfriend is dating some huge fucking loser is even better. And getting a chance to take down some rival who had just smoked you in Pictionary some ten minutes earlier is the best!

Before the final game was announced I went to the bar for yet another Guinness. The bartender brought me my beer along with a handwritten tab for the six others I’d already had. Apparently I had misread the situation, there never was an open bar set up for us, and I was simply walking away from paying her every single time! Son of a bitch.

I’ll say one thing about the organizing nerds, they were very clever, realizing that by night’s end many competitors would be drunk and tired.  Thus, they made the championship match a game of Operation. Now, I had never played before but I have to believe every one understands the concept of the game, one that requires a player to be steady and supple in removing tiny plastic body parts with cheap metal tweezers from a cartoon patient lying on the surgical table. Something that is somewhat hard normally and should be quite harder for some one drunk.  Oh, and some of these nerds were now very sloppy.

Long story short, my team removed seven of the thirteen body parts before the other team, and we claimed the victory. As we hoisted the Operation game board like it was the Stanley Cup, we wondered what our victory prize would be. Perhaps a trophy, some celebratory t-shirt, heck, maybe even a nice bar tab. Nope. Nothing. The prize for winning the board game olympics was simply getting to hang with huge nerds for five hours. Oh well, at least we beat them and became king of the nerds.

A

*Aborted when I realized I was only skillful at making the boring crane.

**Aborted when I got wasted and lost said microrecorder.

***Aborted when I decided I wanted to start meeting women again.

Magic Hat #9

October 21st, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Magic Hat, Country: America, Grade: B-/C+, Style: Pale Ale

5.1% on draught in a poorly washed pint glass

As Milena, the sexy and lithe Bulgarian barmaid with the teased hair, fetched us some pints of Magic Hat #9, I told my friend how I’ve stumbled upon a very easy way to ingratiate oneself with foreign babes. Although, actually, this seems to work with all foreigners–cab drivers, street meat vendors, happy ending masseuses, et al–which is quite swell in a melting pot such as NYC.

I figure it works because America is perceived as a cut-off, jingoistic, egotistical place that only cares about the goings-on inside its borders. That may be true, or it may simply be that the most interesting stuff in this world happens inside our borders, but we won’t debate politics here. All that matters is that perception is reality in the game of seduction.

So here’s the secret, all you got to do to impress a foreign women in New York:

Mention the most famous soccer player in her nation’s history.

It’s as simple as that.

You say, that’s silly, why should that work? If you’re an American woman, you think, “If I was in, say, Germany and some Aryan gent sprinted up to me, thinking I’ll drop my panties simply because he is mildly conversant on Lebron or Kobe or Eli Manning, he’d have another thing coming to him.” And, you’re absolutely right. You wouldn’t give a rat’s ass. But that’s because America has thousands if not millions of interesting things about it. Thousands of celebrities that represent our homeland. Thousands of celebrities that we don’t even need to give a shit about. But, other countries don’t. Other countries have nothing going on and usually only one or two great celebrities in the nation’s history. Only one or two great celebrities that every native must love.

Thus many travelers to America, many emigrants, feel an inferiority complex about their place in America, thinking that us locals know nothing about their culture. Thinking that we believe all Latinos are Mexicans, Asians are all the same, and nothing goes on in Africa except zebra-hunting and AIDS contractions.

Hence, just the most minor knowledge of a person’s country and culture is enough to blow them the fuck away. And knowing a much revered soccer player from their land is often that tipping point. Luckily, I know most countries’ great futballers. Not cause I’m some sleaze that memorized these names in order to bed heavily-accented women, like some nerd memorizing pi to fifteen-hundred digits to impress at a Mensa convention. I know simply because I’m a soccer fan with a remarkable memorable for the arcane.

Try it out next time you encounter a foreign woman. You don’t even need to be smooth about inserting the fact into conversation. You can really just yell across the room: “Miiiiiiiiiiiiiilena!”

And when she turns her head with a what-the-fuck-is-this-drunk-a-hole’s-problem look on her face, you just say, pronouncing it correctly and slightly accented: “Hristo Stoichkov.”

She will sprint toward you, shoving you in the shoulders like Elaine used to do to Jerry–”Get. Out!”–a stunned and intrigued look on her face.

“You know who Hristo Stoichov is?!”

But of course.

And play it off coolly. “What, doesn’t everybody know who Hristo Stoichov is?” you will say, fully aware of the answer. She will tell you that, of course, not, no other Americans know who Hristo Stoichov is, and not only that, but most idiots assume she’s Russian. Don’t you Yanks know there’s more than four countries in Europe?

Well, I do. You got Romania (Gheorghe Hagi!) and Northern Ireland (George Best!), Ireland itself (Roy Keane!) and you can even go to Africa and hit up Liberia (George Weah!) or South America and Colombia (Carlos Valderama, though every rube remembers him) and the list is endless.

It’s such a simple way to impress*. And you don’t even need to know anything about the player. Just his name. Shit, I only kinda remember the hot-headed Stoichkov from the 1994 World Cup, but aside from that, I really can’t tell you anything about him. Not his stats or his club teams or even what he’s up to nowadays. Doesn’t matter. All you need to know is the name and you will forever win a place in her heart. At least for the rest of the night. Now you got your in, and it’s on you to do the rest of the work.

As for the Magic Hat #9, the one craft beer that has somehow become inexplicably ubiquitous, I hadn’t had it in quite a while, though it is halfway decent. Pretty much just a fruit beer (apricot)/pale ale hybrid. I don’t think real craft beer fans could ever love this one, and certainly never buy a six-pack of it, but it’s another decent gateway beer to some real quality stuff, and it’s always a welcome draught option over mediocre macros.

B-/C+

*Admittedly, this strategy isn’t full proof and all-encompassing. It doesn’t exactly work for Italian, German, French, and Dutch women, though it probably wouldn’t hurt to casually throw the names Baggio, Klinsmann, Cantona and Cruyff into conversation. Likewise, in the rare country that doesn’t regard soccer with great esteem, you might need to know a world-class cricketer, rugby scrummer, or, I don’t know…curler.

Dale’s Pale Ale

October 15th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Oskar Blues, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Pale Ale

6.5% ABV canned

On Friends With Anti-Game and the Myth of “Cockblocking” or Maybe Just a Spurned Man’s Bitter Missive

Tim Wakefield winds up and throws but his pitch doesn’t knuckle, instead fluttering to the plate at a mere 58 MPH, fodder for a big leaguer. But rather than crushing it out of the park, your teammate brutally swings and misses, embarrassingly striking out. Even worse, his strike out immediately causes you and your other teammates to whiff too. Besides being the complete antithesis of what the Rays did to the Sox last night, this serves as a metaphor for what it’s like to try and hit on girls with a friend that has anti-game.

The above scenario typically isn’t a problem for me. All my friends are cool, funny, witty, handsome, debonair…OK, well at least they know how to talk to drunken women without causing them to reach for their pepper spray key ring. Likewise, living in New York evolutionarily forces a man to hone his inveigling prowess. This isn’t fucking Tulsa or Little Rock, this is the majors, son, survival of the fitness, and if you don’t quickly develop some competent skills of seduction you will be self-sentenced to a lifetime of celibacy.

Being that I moved to the greatest city in the world, a rarity amongst the populous where I grew up, whenever any sort of former acquaintance, of even the sometimes most minor sort, comes to town on business or vacation, I am searched out. And in this era of Facebook and MySpace that ain’t too difficult to accomplish. Thus, a few times a month and countless times a year, being that I’m always up for an adventure, especially if that involves drinking, I will agree to go out with what is essentially a stranger. A person I often haven’t seen or even spoken to since I graduated high school in 1997, if not earlier than that.

Several weeks ago, I was bombarded with three faces from the past over a string of five separate nights. The first two old chums were an absolute joy to hang out with and we drank and got into trouble until the sun came up. The third…well…

The night started out fine enough. We casually drank at Stout, a could-be-so-much-better beer and skank megaporium* near Penn Station. My New York friend and I quickly became kinda bored and for entertainment purposes decided to get the out-of-towner’s easily provoked goat by continually telling him–only half-jokingly-in-delivery-but-really-not-jokingly-at-all-in-our-heads–how much hotter the women are in Manhattan than in his barely top 50 in population metro area.

We’d notice the typical fat friend and…

“You see her? Cankles over there? That’s a SEVEN in your burg.”

We’d noticed a mediocre, early-thirties, twenty-pounds-overweight barfly and…

“You see her? She’d be a NINE in your city.”

The out-of-towner was apoplectic, hemming and hawing and “You have no idea what you’re talking about, Aaron, you just don’t know the right places to go in my town. The women there are soooooooo much prettier than in New York.”

And then we saw a classic butterfaced skank with a legit bod and not much else going on and…

“You see her? In your city…?”

Histrionic pause.

“…she’d probably be like a FIFTEEN.”

“OUT OF TEN?!?!?!? You guys are caaaaaaaa-razy!”

But we weren’t. From firsthand experience we knew those also, also-rans in New York would be the belle of the smoky tavern in his town. Yes, we were being a bit cruel, but we mainly did it to entertain ourselves, to wink-wink, smirk-smirk at our friend’s indignatious outrage.

Our former friend was a nice guy no question, perhaps a “nice” guy at worst. Oh, there’s a big difference believe me. One of those fellows that plastered-on smiles and talks to everybody, flirting at any life form with a pussy in the same asexual way your grandpa goofs around with women four times less his age. The kind of guy that reads a waitress’s nametag and condescendingly calls her by her name before she’s even introduced herself.

“Hi Wendy, I’ll have the chicken fingers and a Guinness and when you have a chance could you be a doll and put the Cardinals game on…(looks around and finally points) that screen?”

Later, after a few drinks, my New York friend and I, still both stone-cold sober, and the out-of-towner, now buzzed in that goofy begins-to-act-giggly-like-a-girl way, decided to head to some new haunts.

Tonight’s your night, out-of-towner, so where do you want to go we asked?

“Where ever I can get laid,” he said, emphasis on the last word and without an ounce of bad-80s-movie irony.

Well OK. My eyes rolled so much in my head that I think I saw behind me. I couldn’t possibly imagine a scenario in my mind where the out-of-towner could land a lady. That is, unless she was absolutely wasted. Thus, I somewhat selfishly suggested my hood, land of the alcoholic, easily wheedled floozy.

We bounced from place to place in Hell’s Kitchen, the out-of-towner never satisfied with the scene. The scenes were solid in your author’s humble opinion and I fucking hate barhopping. I was getting bored and when I get bored I always steer my party to a place where I can play “Big Buck Hunter.” And thus I did.

En route, we saw a quite attractive young girl returning from happy hour and trying to unlock the front door to her apartment building.  One thing led to another and soon we were talking to her and eventually I had convinced her to join us at the bar.

Before I go on, a disclaimer. Even sober I am cocky and arrogant, but with a few drinks in me my confidence and self-assuredness reaches Caesarean, Odyssean, GeorgeClooneyan levels of hubris. So when I say I think our picked-up girl wanted me, take that for what it’s worth.

The out-of-towner didn’t take it for much, as people with anti-game have some of the worst interpersonal read-and-recognition skills this side of an Asperberger’s sufferer.  Instead of relaxing and just sitting back, a group of four people drinking and conversing, he decided to immediately try and steal the show.  He locked arms with the girl and marched her to the bar, gallingly ordering him and her pints (the wretched Steeeeeeeeella!) while ignoring me and my pal.

From there, the out-of-towner led her to a crammed corner seat where he proceeded to angle her in a way that blocked her from any sort of conversation with us, using his arms braced against the exposed brick wall as a gate locking her in like a roller coaster contraption.  Over his 5′7″ shoulders I could see her often make eyes with me, but I knew it was over.  Predictably, the out-of-towner dominated the conversation, doing the opposite of regaling her with boring anecdotes about the life of a middle manager on the road.  You can’t defeat anti-game like that.  You simply have to ignore it, know your chances have been foiled, and get on with your life.

Thus, my friend and I went to the corner to get drunker and play “Buck Hunter.”  I had my first ever Dale’s Pale Ale and was floored.  I typically don’t like pales, thinking they are boring and unadventurous but had heard good things about this one and goddamn was it good.  An almost IPA level of hops, solid malts, a great little sweetness and citrusness, and extraordinarily drinkable.  Maybe the best pale ale I’ve ever had and I could see myself downing these all night long.

From afar I noticed the out-of-towner making ways with the girl.  Her body language seemed to indicate that she was into him and indeed she was no longer glancing my way.  Good for him.  Perhaps I had been wrong in my assessment of her vis-a-vis me.  It’s certainly happened in the past.

A half hour later, the out-of-towner came over to inform me and our friend that he was going back to the girl’s apartment to fuck her.  I was a bit surprised, but New York women are certainly not known for being coy.  And then…nothing happened.  The girl refused to leave with him.  She finally came over to us.  “You guys should come back too.”  Her eyes bolding, italicizing, and underlining the TOO.

Really?

I didn’t believe her nor did my friend.  We’ve seen this behavior before.  Girls too embarrassed to leave for a one-night stand so they act like everyone’s invited back and then when everyone correctly plays their part by turning the offer down she can simply say, “Well, I invited them.  Guess it’s just me and you, huh?”

But she wasn’t playing any games.  And eventually the out-of-towner came up to us playing “Buck Hunter” and embarrassingly explained, “Look guys, you really have to come back TOO.”

He explained she had a roof and we could drink her beer and her hot roommates would be there too.  Alas, we turned him down.  He was going to have to accomplish this mission on his own.

He left and five minutes later he returned.  Seems he got to roof and unceremoniously went in for a kiss and she even-less-ceremoniously pushed him away.  She wasn’t “feeling it.”  She then immediately went to her bedroom, leaving the out-of-towner alone on the roof, forced to find his own way downstairs and back to the bar.

The girl may or may not have liked me but anyone with even a modicum of game could have quite easily picked her up.  She was drunk, willing, bored, and had already predetermined the outcome to her night once she had entered the bar with three strangers–she was sleeping with (at least) one of them.  The only thing that could torpedo the chances of group success was a person with anti-game.  And that’s what happened.  If he had simply sat there quietly he would have had a better chance with –probably ultimately succeeded with her!– than he did in trying to impress and “be himself.”  Oh well.

The last indignity of the night came when I went to the bathroom and the out-of-towner pulled my friend aside to utter the final salvo of the loser: “cockblocker.”  Indeed he was calling me a cockblocker due to his own personal failures.  Remember, children, people with anti-game can’t look within themselves, can’t conceive, can’t accept that something they do or did could be the reason why they didn’t succeed with a woman.  And thus they have no recourse but to cavalierly call someone around them a cockblocker.  But the fact of the matter is that cockblocking simply doesn’t exist among adults.  If a woman wants to fuck you she will, and there ain’t nothing another man can do to stop it.

A-/B+

*Arguably the greatest single drinking “space” in Manhattan, the place has a respectable enough beer menu but they haven’t updated it once in the half-decade the place has been open. They have tons of terrific TVs but they always have them showing something like minor league cricket or the Greg Schiano Show. Tons of attractive woman go for happy hour but Stout blasts completely inappropriate techno music so loud that one can barely speak or certainly build rapport. Not that the bartenders are ever near your premises to get an order what with the fact that the place has a bar longer than a bowling lane but at best two drink slingers working at even bustling times. The food is pretty good but comes out slowly and cooled to a sog. And buybacks? You got to be kidding me. Go to the nearby Ginger Man+ instead. Everything Stout wishes it could be if its management wasn’t so obviously lazy and resting on its laurels in operating something I statistically know to be a major cash cow.

+Then again, Ginger Man has some issues nowadays too.

Summit Extra Pale Ale

October 2nd, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Summit, Country: America, Grade: B-, Style: Pale Ale

5.1% ABV bottled

I continue to be stunned how watching this year’s political debates has become appointment television for most people. These same folks who I’ve never once heard utter a political thought in their lives are now rushing home, setting up spreads of food and drink on the coffee table, even hosting parties and gatherings like it’s the fucking Super Bowl, in order to watch two losers debate. Ha, “debate.” Political debates are not debates. They’re nothing but carefully orchestrated and choreographed theater. High school forensics leagues are more riveting and exciting and unpredictable. Does any one watch a debate nowadays and have their opinions swayed? Of course not. Because it’s not a debate, it’s two people standing on the same stage kinda near each other and shoe-horning their already well-tread platforms into brief snippets of answers to questions. It’s a vanity contest, no more significant than the speaking portion of a beauty pageant. A sound and a fury signifying nothing. You know who the winner of these debates is? The person who speaks clearest, who smiles the most, who looks up the most, and who has the nicest suit on. It’s ludicrous. George H.W. once “lost” a debate because he checked the time. Nixon lost one because he forgot to shave. And someone will “lose” tonight because they farted. Or sneezed. Or said Gesundheit to that sneeze instead of “God bless you!”  (”‘Gesundheit?’ What are ya’, a German atheist?!”) Or wore clashing socks. It’s insane. But, the biggest crime is that it’s just fucking boring.

Your Vice Blogger will be out getting loaded tonight. Something actually fun. And though he probably won’t be voting–nevertheless, as Marx said (I think) “We are all political animals”–so it’s certainly possible he’ll get into a drunken political debate with a buddy or two. Now that would be riveting television. That I would understand if all of America wanted to watch me drunkenly debate my likewise-drunk friends.

The only thing worse than watching a modern-day political debate is when you go to a bar and they have the debate on, muted, with the fucking closed-captioning scrolling. Are you fucking serious?! Like I want to drunkenly read the no-content ramblings of Joe Biden*.  Sure.  This happened to me last week and I was gobsmacked. I will not allow that to happen tonight. Any bar that does that will be quickly 86ed from my life.

And now I come to the penultimate beer review from the big care package of Minnesota brews The Captain sent me so long ago. The EPA has not much of a smell. Faint hops and pine scents. It tastes a little bland. Earthy, pine hints, slight orange tastes. No carbonation, no alcoholic bite, no bitterness = about as drinkable as a halfway decent beer can be.

A pleasant enough little pale ale. Very easy to drink and enjoy. I don’t know how any one could NOT like this. Then again, I don’t know how any one could LOVE it. And I still don’t know how any one could love political debates.  Please, just don’t watch them.

B-

*Cuse alumni shout out!

Schell Pale Ale

September 18th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: August Schell, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Pale Ale

5.75% ABV

As my “in box” of yet-to-post reviews stacks up it’s time to send some to the “out box” via quick-hitters…

I’ve never really liked pale ales.  Rightly or wrongly, I’ve always felt they were kinda like IPAs for Dummies.  But not this one.  This one, from America’s second oldest family-owned brewery, I really dug.  It has a great, smooth flavor.  Incredibly drinkable.  East Kent golding hops give it a most pleasant smell.  It also has a solid full-bodied taste.  Love the maltiness.  As far as session beers go, this is top notch.  I could imagine myself bellied up to a bar in St. Paul polishing off several dozen of these.  I think it’s a better pale ale than even Sierra Nevada’s famed one.  If you have access to this one, be sure and try it.

B+