Home     About Me    Most Beer Blogs SUCK     Top 10 Most Wanted     Very Best of the Vice Blog    

Archive for the ‘Style: Porter’ Category

Smoke

June 17th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Surly, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Porter


FOR OFFICIAL RELEASE
(to be reblogged, retweeted, hashtagged, Facebook statused, liked)

Many of you said the world of beer geekery couldn’t get any more geeky.  We said not true.  That’s why we at Lager Lady Magazine, in conjunction with our corporate underwriters Punchy Brewery Ales, Meads, and Rootbeers, The Garden of Hedonism E-Zine, and the Wet Nurse Brewpub, are pleased to announce:

THE FIRST ANNUAL BEER GEEK BLOGGERS CONFERENCE

Now when FDR, Churchill, and Comrade Stalin met for the Yalta Conference they were trying to reorganize postwar Europe, but at this conference (to be held December 12-14 at Tulsa’s Convention Center) it will be all about making the imbibing of intoxicants as sterile and pedantic as possible.

Speeches and addresses currently scheduled:

* TALKING TO YOUR BEER WHEN NO ONE WILL TALK TO YOU (Keynote)
* GOING TO BARS EVERY NIGHT YET NEVER GETTING LAID
* GETTING WASTED ON THREE PINTS BEFORE MAKING LOVE TO SOME NACHOS
* THE INSUFFERABILITY OF TWEETING EVERY SINGLE THING YOU DRINK
* CONSIDERING BUD, MILLER, AND COORS (AND MAYBE EVEN SAM ADAMS) MORE EVIL THAN HITLER
* CALLING OTHERS BY THEIR BEER BLOGGER NAME IN PERSON (“WHY HELLO THERE, HOPMANIA.”  “IT’S GREAT TO SEE YA, MALT-MAN!”)

* “ADVOCATING” QUALITY BEERS IN PUBLIC WITHOUT GETTING PUNCHED BY THE GUIDO DRINKING A HEINEKEN
* THE ALSTROM BROTHERS:  GODS OR JUST DEMIGODS?

Panel discussions will focus on:

* STARTING YOUR OWN BEER BLOG:  FROM OWNING A COMPUTER, TO FINDING WIFI, TO REGISTERING A FREE WORDPRESS ACCOUNT, TO HITTING ‘PUBLISH’ ON YOUR DRIVEL THREE TIMES PER WEEK
* CHOOSING A BEER BLOGGER BODY TYPE:  SKINNY AND DORKY, OR FAT AND BEARDY?
* HOW TO INCREASE YOUR ALEXA RANK FROM 25,000,000 WELL INTO THE 10,000,000s
* HOW TO CREATE PORTMANTEAUS OUT OF “HOPS” AND ANOTHER COMMON WORD
* HOW TO INSINUATE YOU DRINK BEER YET ARE STILL QUITE SEXY AND POSSIBLY UP FOR FELLATIO (Female only panel)
* MAKING PEOPLE THINK YOU CAN TRULY DETECT SUCH AROMAS AND FLAVORS AS PARSNIP, MARIGOLD, LYCHEE, AND “BARNYARD”
* TAKING PICTURES OF YOUR BEER COLLECTIONS IN ORDER TO BRAG
* SUCKING UP TO BREWMASTERS SO HARD YOU SCARE THEM AWAY
* BEGGING FOR FREE SAMPLES OF EASILY OBTAINABLE BEERS

Beer geek bloggers currently slated to appear:

* The Deadhead who always wears shorts no matter the weather
* The pinhead who brags about his total number of Rate Beer reviews
* The troll who insists he “knows” Greg and Garrett
* The grad student type who insists on @ replying and RT’ing everything every other beer person writes
* The sloppy British guy obsessed with cask beer
* The ugly girl only in it for male attention
* The other ugly girl only in it for male attention
* Yet the other ugly girl trying her hardest to fuck Sam Calagione

* The male that actually gives attention to the ugly beer women
* The dipshit who wants you to become a “Fan” of his stupid blog on Facebook
* The guy that Tweets “Good night all!” at the end of every night before crying himself to sleep alone
* The hash-tagging #dweeb
* The pimply faced freak who never fails to be first in line at rare beer releases
* The dude who spends a good minute with his face in his tulip before taking a sip

* The freak who berates the bartendress for putting his pilsner in a hefeweizen glass
* The loser who won’t drink an IPA if it was bottled more than 4 hours ago
AND COUNTLESS OTHERS…!!!!

Hope you can join us, and hope to see you in beautiful Tulsa in December!

Surly Smoke

Some beer blogger dork (just kidding, Captain) hooked me up with this badass and what a thankful boy am I.  Now I might typically eschew lagers, but I wouldn’t if they were all this damn good*.  So smooth yet so complex.  Meaty yet sweet.  Roasted but mild.  Boozy but drinkable.  This but that.  This yet that.  (I could go on with dichotomies all day.)  Slight prickly carbonation.  Damn if it’s not pretty perfect, and damn if there’s probably no more bottles of it left.

A

*It’s called a Smoked Lager on the bottle, Beer Advocate files it as a Baltic Porter, Rate Beer as a “Smoked” beer, further explaining it as a Smoked Baltic Porter aged in oak barrels.  Hmmm.  How is a porter a lager?

Founders Nemesis 2009

March 3rd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Founders, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Style: Porter, Style: Stout, Style: Wheatwine

12% ABV bottled

You know, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I used to think that Founders Brewing Co. was, gasp…overrated.  The first two Founders brews I ever got my grubby little mitts on, oddly enough, happened to be their two most famous brews, Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, long-time Beer Advocate top 20 beers in the world*.  I was psyched to acquire these rare-to-me grown up sodas, so eager to suck ‘em down in all their glory, that when I tried them and didn’t spontaneously combust into knickers, I thought, “Ah, I see, another overrated brewery.”  Don’t get me wrong, I gave both those beers A’s at the time, I simply wasn’t OMFG floored.

So, whereas I tried my first two Founders beers with overly lofty expectations, I’ve tried my last dozen or more Founders efforts expecting nothing special.  But, damn, if those Grands Rapids boys haven’t won me over, and then some.  It started with their wet-hopped Harvest Ale, one of the most eye-opening drinking experience I’ve had in the last 365 days and a beer I’d put near #1 in the uber-hopped beer category.  I already can’t wait for the next release of it.

Every since that Harvest Ale, damn if every Founders beers hasn’t tasted absolutely glorious to me.  From their double and “triple” IPAs, Double Trouble (mind-blowing fresh on tap) and Devil Dancer, to their old ale Curmudgeon**, to countless more of some of the most disparate styles around.  They don’t knock everything out of the park–who does?–but they surely have a better slugging percentage than even a juiced-up Barry Bonds.

I’ve probably tried more different and new-to-me beer from Founders recently than from any other brewery and, now, my expectation levels are appropriate.  I now expect a good to great beer and I always get a good to great beer.  And since they seem to have a never-ending stream of releases, there’s always another Founders beer to try that I haven’t yet.  The only problem being that they don’t distribute in NYC at the moment.  Good thing I got good friends in Virginia, Minnesota, and other places who can hook me up.

My most exciting Founders acquisition of recent was their limited Nemesis release, the first in a new series.  I’d never had a wheatwine before, but as a barleywine nut, I was certain to like this effort.  And I did.  Probably not the most “normal” example of the style, Nemesis 2009 is maple bourbon barrel-aged using bourbon barrels which were once used to age local maple syrup.  The beer poured lighter for me than expected, much lighter than a copper barley wine, more the color of a golden ale of some sort.  The smell is straight boozy, just like I like it, with the flavor a combination of boozy bourbon, vanilla, oak, sweet syrup, and of course wheat.  Surprisingly more drinkable and less syrupy than I expected, this is a truly interesting creation.  I only wish I had another bottle!

A-

Founders Imperial Stout

10.5% ABV bottled

It’s heartening to try a delicious imperial stout that can actually be bought on store shelves!  That isn’t a limited release!  And more things to add exclamation points to!!!  This effort from Founders stacks up with the best of the style, limited release or not.  Amazingly complex and rich, with a mild roasted bitterness and a nice chocolaty booziness on the back end.  This beer is just so silky, I loved to let it dance on my tongue and gargle in the back of my throat.  Arguably the best on-the-shelves, non-barreled stout in the market today.  Though, unfortunately, not my market.  Come on, let’s get Founders in NYC!

A

Founders Porter

6.5% ABV bottled

As I’ve mentioned a lot recently, the porter has become one of my favorite styles, even though I’m still not quite sure what differentiates them from stouts.  Kinda like how I can’t tell a real blond from a bottle blond.  I don’t ask and just enjoy them both.  This is a great effort with another great label–besides making great brews, Founders is in the running for best labels in the biz too and I love their squat little bottles for even more plaudits!  Rich and tingly, a strong-roasted flavor with next-to-no sweetness, smokey and earthy.  Full-bodied yet drinkable, quite enjoyable.  This is a no-frills beer, but there’s nothing wrong with that sometimes.

B+

Now that I’ve fallen in love with Founders, now that it’s become one of my favorite brewers in America, in my mind one of the best in America, I’ve even gone back and tried those two famous beers, Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, with my now acceptable level of Founders expectations, and realized those two are truly glorious beers, some of the best of their styles.

In a world of such scrutiny nowadays, things aren’t overrated or underrated.  They are, for the most part, rated correctly.  It’s you, or me, that simply hasn’t encountered enough of the sample size to know that.  I know that now.  All hail Founders.

*Son of a bitch, why can I still not get a taste of Canadian Breakfast Stout?!?!?!?

**Or another old ale, Black Biscuit, for that matter?!?

Ballast Point Victory at Sea

February 16th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Ballast Point, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Porter

10% ABV bottled

New York’s Worst Bars:  Lucky Strike Lanes Lounge

The first in a potentially ongoing series…

Meatloaf.  I was immediately assaulted with the odd smell of it.  Not Meatloaf as in Virgin Record’s recording artist, birth name Marvin Lee Aday, but meatloaf as in the gross shit your mom used to make when she was too lazy to put together a proper dinner for you.

I’d been invited to a friend’s party at Lucky Strike bowling lanes and, when he dumbly neglected to make a reservation for the Saturday night, we encountered a three hour wait and were forced to hang tight in the alley’s lounge.

Lucky Strike is so far west in Manhattan you’re almost to New Jersey.  I took a cab to Tenth Avenue, told my cabbie “It’s cool, I can walk from here,” and still took another fifteen minutes or so to get to the entrance on 42nd Street and the West Side Highway.  There’s absolutely nothing going on that far west on the island, not even hookers or drug deals, especially on a frigid February night, so it was especially galling when the three Neanderthals guarding the faux-velvet roped door scrutinized me to make sure I fit within the bowling alley’s lengthy dress code.

It’s bad enough that the sport of plebes has tried to be promoted to swanky in New York, but what’s even more annoying is when a piece of shit bowling complex situated amongst street meat Halal cart storage facilities and the Chinese Consulate (seriously), dares tell you what to wear to patronize their establishment.  Shitty bars in shitty cities have dress codes, not decent bars in New York.  Bars in New York that have dress codes have dress codes for one of two reasons:  they are trying to be “classy” or they are implicitly racist.

As one of the world’s great underdressers, I know a thing or two about defying dress codes.  And when the dress code at a bar such as Lucky Strike explicitly lists such no-nos as do-rags, hooded sweatshirts, jeans with graffiti on them, and sneakers, let’s just say…they aren’t trying to prevent a rich hipster in his American Apparel hoodie and Chuck Taylors from getting in.  Luckily, as per usual, I was wearing my black sneakers, the “trick” dress shoe for the elderly and lazy people that prefer comfort over class, and I easily slipped in the door.

The actual bowling alley portion of Lucky Strike is bad enough, disco lighting and garish scoreboards, but the lounge takes the cake.  Lucky Strike lounge is an upscale bar for people that think Heineken and Amstel Light are upscale beers.  For people that pronounce classy with the shortest short vowel a sound you’ve ever heard.  The decor there is strip club chic, gauche overstuffed pleather booths, tiny ottomans strewn about inexplicably, wall decor best befitting Henry Hill’s house circa 1977, and a bar with barstools screwed to the ground and countless bottles of flavored vodkas and the kinds of crappy overpriced tequilas only morons purchase.

The staff was truthfully not awful, no better or worse than any Manhattan bar, your typical handsome/pretty muscular/fake-titted wannabe actors/models/dancers that can’t remember drink orders, take forever to get your check, and spend most of the time playing grab-ass with their sexy cohorts.

Of course there was a DJ, a DJ so guido-rific he made Pauly D appear subdued in comparison, spinning the kind of hits that people found ironically funny no more recently than 1998.  Just like a playing of “YMCA” can quickly detect the idiots on the dance floor at a wedding, a bar’s playing of “Baby Got Back,” “Rumpshaker,” shit, any novelty song about big asses, can quickly identify the likewise idiots.

The clientele was even worse.  Of course gin-u-wine New Yorkers, real New Yorkers that is, not Gin-U-Wine as in the long-forgotten Southern rapper who, come to think of it, had one of the better songs ever written about big asses–or was that Juvenile?–would never set foot in this place unless invited for a party.  And I’m not even going to besmirch my beloved B & T brethren by acting like they formed the customer base either.  No, this was straight up tourists, and not the cool kind either.  These were the kinds of tourists that think, “If what I typically do in [insert crappy hometown] is fun, then that same exact thing must be even better in the Big Apple!”

“Eating at Applebee’s in Des Moines rocks, but in Times Square…?”

“Seeing ‘Stomp!’ at the Springfield Amphitheatre is a blast, but in the East Village…?”

“Bowling at the Brunswick Lanes in Tulsa is da bomb, but on the ass corner of Manhattan…?”

BLISS!

Around midnight or so, still an hour away from our bowling lanes being freed up, a man dressed like a giant bowling emerged from the lounge’s back room and started cavorting with drunken and overdressed tourista, much to their delight and amusement.  Many hilariously posed pictures were taken by the kinds of people that still used disposable cameras.  I’d had enough, needed to cut my losses and forget about trying to bowl my best game ever, and headed home to my actual good beer.

My last thought before heading back out into the cold was:  “Where was that fucking meatloaf smell coming from?”  I never found out.

Back home in a flash, I’d overzealously popped the top on Victory at Sea like I was returning to an old lover who had actually been at sea.  My man Jesse the Hutt hooked me up with this beauty and I enjoyed it for all it’s worth.  An imperial porter infused with vanilla and coffee this tasted to me like a liquidized Tootsie Roll.  Which is odd, cause I never really like Tootsie Rolls as a youth, but I loved this fucking beer.

A

Marshall Brewing Co.

February 11th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Marshall, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Style: English bitter, Style: IPA, Style: Porter

When I actually lived in Oklahoma I wasn’t much of a craft beer drinker because, you know, I was just a little kid.  And little kids can only afford macro beers with their $1 a week allowances.  But as I got older and returned from college and beyond to visit Oklahoma family and friends, hit up the bars, I’d be stupefied by two things:

1.  Beers were often as cheap as 50 cents to a dollar a bottle.

2.  And not only was the majority of beer macro shit, it was low-ABV macro shit.

I remember just five years ago going bar hopping with an Oklahoma friend in his element and noticing that at each new bar we hit up he’d inquire of the bartender, “Is your beer 3.2?”

3.2?  What the fuck did that mean?  Well apparently, many Oklahoma establishments, perhaps even due to law (though I’m too lazy to even Wikipedia this), don’t serve your standard 4-5% macro garbage put serve even more watered down 3.2% macro garbage.

Worse, Oklahoma is one of three states that still doesn’t allow homebrewing!

This obviously did not help create a culture of craft brewing nor does it exactly lead to Oklahoma being a hot bed of quality beer.  Yet people persevere.

Without homebrewing, the minor leagues, or perhaps “semi-pros,” of commercial brewing, it’s hard to forge craft brewers in your state.  Nevertheless, Eric Marshall of Marshall Brewing was able to open a brewery in Tulsa, Tulsa’s first production brewery since 1940, and they make some pretty nifty beers.  I first became aware of them a few weeks ago when I saw a picture of their gorgeous wax-dipped bombers and instantly I wanted some.

Now they don’t distribute to New York City yet, but that didn’t stop me from sending a shameless e-mail to Mr. Marshall begging him to send me some bottles.  Gratis.  And he did.  Gratis.  (Meaning Marshall Brewing Co. is now in the Breweries-That-Send-Me-Free-Shit Hall of Fame along with The Lost Abbey and Buckbean, if you are interested FTC.*)  I received essentially Marshall’s full line with the exception of their summer seasonal Sundown Wheat and their Old Pavilion Pilsner, both of which I hope to try soon.  (A higher-ABV beer is also on the way apparently, which greatly interests me.)

McNellie’s Pub Ale

5% ABV bottled

Now the English bitter is not a style I deal with a lot, but, McNellie’s Pub Ale is ranked as one of Beer Advocate’s top of the style.  I feel like bitters can be easy to confuse for a macro if you don’t focus on their very nice subtleties.  This is a pleasantly light beer with a nice hoppy taste.  Surprisingly bready and malty, though just barely, just enough to balance it out and let you know you’re drinking something complex and well thought out.  The very bitter finish is it’s most noteworthy asset, while it’s overly prickly carbonation stands as its biggest debit.  Nonetheless, a terrific session beer I’d drink the shit of if I lived back in the Sooner State.

B+

Atlas India Pale Ale

6.5% ABV bottled

I was most excited to try this offering, more of an English IPA than your San Diego uber-hopped example of the style.  Hoppy but not too bitter at all with a solid bready malt backbone.  The dry dry finish almost makes Atlas seem more like an ESB than an IPA but there’s nothing wrong with that.  A prickly carbonation (yet again) that I wouldn’t mind having toned down a tad.  Solid and incredibly drinkable, a terrific beer.

A-/B+

Big Jamoke

6.8% ABV bottled

This highly drinkable porter introduces itself with a very rich chocolate smell.  The taste is of dark cocoa with just a hint of hoppy bitterness, smoke, and a roasted coffee finish.  A nicely mild carbonation, I thought Jamoke was a little thin on the mouthfeel but that’s my only quibble.  I really enjoyed Jamoke and it’s a great effort.

A-

One more thing on Marshall Brewing:  now the wax-dipped bombers may be what first piqued my interest about the company (I’m a sucker for fancy pants packaging) but they ended up being what I liked least about the beers.  The actual wax-dippings were more hardened plastic than silky wax, making the bottles hard to open and causing the brittle wax to keep breaking off into shards everywhere, onto my counter top, floor, some even fell into my glass as I poured.

*Brewers, if you’d like to join this prestigious Hall of Fame, please contact me:  theviceblog [at] gmail.com

Brooklyn Cookie Jar Porter

January 29th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Porter

7.8% ABV on tap

I’ve recently started using my Twitter account to highlight, on a daily basis, the dumbest, most asinine, most asocially pathetic threads over on Beer Advocate.  It’s easier than you think.  Like today’s post by a guy fretting over how to pronounce the acronym for Double India Pale Ale (”Is it di-pah or die-pa?  Dee-pay?!?!?”).  Or yesterday’s post from a guy wondering if he’s allowed to drink a beer even though he’s just gotten over a cold.  Or last week’s pathetic thread par excellence from a guy concerned with drinking too many barley wines at a party, asking advice for whether he should spit out the potent potable after each taste so as to avoid ending the night doing the hokey-pokey by himself.  Now I may be a (shudder) anarchist libertarian, but I’m starting to understand why the government endorses nanny stateism so thoroughly.  How would these people know when to even wipe their asses if not for asking a message board of complete strangers?

One frequent thread topic that comes up though, which you make think is incredibly dumb or incredibly important, is whether some beer is “worth” whatever it costs.  For me, a beer I’ve never had is always worth paying for at least once.  And there’s no way I won’t shell out for each new release from Brooklyn’s tap-only Brewmasters Reserve Series.  Garrett Oliver has lately become obsessed with creating beers that taste like “other” things (i.e. cocktails or bacon or Indian food), and the idea behind this newest release, just out this very week, really tickled my fancy.  Take it away, Garrett:

“Last winter, while the Brooklyn brewing team sat around a peat fire drinking some inspirational drinks, brewer Tom Price mentioned that his friend’s bakery made some very fine oatmeal cookies. Before long, we were all talking about oatmeal cookies and how good they are with beer. Pretty soon we’d somehow decided that the cookies should actually become a beer. Funny, the things people come up with while drinking in front of a good fire.”

I loved this idea because I’ve long had issues with the fact that nearly all “oatmeal” stouts, whether delicious or awful, have virtually no oat-y taste in them at all.  Alas, here would finally be one that stuck the landing!  So earlier this week I popped into Rattle ‘n’ Hum for an afternoon chin chin.  I was the only one in the place aside from a handy man changing light bulbs and two bartenders comparing their manicures.

My Cookie Jar Porter was served surprisingly frigid and in a pint glass.*  Honestly, I expected a bit of a cookie sweet dessert beer and this tasted nothing like my expectations.  Quite frankly, I didn’t even much like Cookie Jar at first as I found it shockingly tart for a porter as the bitter raisins were over-powering me a bit, and not in a pleasant way as in Dogfish Head’s delectable Raisin d’Etre.**  Eventually, as the beer warmed, the oatmeal cookie flavors (courtesy of Jersey City’s Feed Your Soul Bakery) start coming out more, especially on the back-end with hints of brown sugar and vanilla.

I wish the whole beer had tasted like the finish, but really this ended up being somewhat of a standard porter.  I really don’t think if you didn’t know the story of Cookie Jar would you even take a sip and go, “Wow, what is that?”  I greatly admire Brooklyn’s ambition, but just like another recent Brewmasters release, Manhattan Project, this is a bit of a mildly flawed effort.  Nevertheless, please keep ‘em coming, Brooklyn!

Now back to the is it “worth it”?  I paid $8 for this pint, a high-average price for a pint in New York.  So would I rather have my $8 back?  OF COURSE NOT.  Then I would just be a guy with $8 still curious as hell how good this crazy Cookie Jar porter is, anxious to try it.  Now I’m a guy $8 poorer, that knows that Cookie Jar Porter is a…

B+

*I’ve never had a problem with the Rattle ‘n’ Hum’s serving glassware or temperature, but I think the JV was working the noon-time shift.

**Re-reading that review–wow–was I a tougher grader back in the day.  Now I’m all “YAY BEER!” on everything.

Maui CoCoNut Porter

December 21st, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Maui, Brewer: Minneapolis Town Hall, Brewer: Williamsburg AleWerks, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Style: Porter

5.7% ABV canned

I’ve been too precious with my beer lately.  Just keeping it on the shelf, in the fridge, admiring it more than drinking it.  Almost scared to uncork my bottles if not for a special occasion.  Right, like I have special occasions.  I’d become like some douchebag who owns a fleet of Porsches and Ferraris yet never takes them out of the hangar, instead pedaling a beat-up Schwinn to the store every time he needs a carton of milk.  So this past weekend, with a load of looming trades headed my way, I decide to take some inventory and free up some space in my cellar.*  By drinking through my bottles one by one.

I’ve been drinking a lot of porters lately–a style I’m starting to think I can only differentiate from stouts in my mind–and each one of these three came in a trade from my three favorite fellow beer bloggers.

I don’t know why, but I’d wanted to try Maui’s CoCoNut porter for a long time.  Maybe because it just sounds exotic.  Maybe because it would be the first Hawaiian beer I’d ever had.  Maybe because I have a weird fetish for quality canned beers.  Or maybe just because I’m a fan of unnecessary midWord capitalization.  Alas, I finally got a can courtesy of my man Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive.  I’m sad to report, though, I was a tad disappointed.  Much like the Stone’s Ken Schmidt collaboration (which, yes, also included some help from Maui), I think this is another middling review that we somewhat have to blame on my own faulty expectations.  I don’t know why I keep expecting these coconut beers to taste like a liquidized Mounds bar, but I just can’t shake the desire for that taste.  Just like Ken Schmidt though, this one tastes nothing like that but instead is a very, very roasted offering.  I also found it somewhat lacking in complexity for such an ambitiously created beer.  A slightly thin mouthfeel would be another debit, but this is actually a pretty nice drinking porter for the low ABV.  I may not sound like I liked it, but I truly did, I just wasn’t floored by it.  I’d love to get my hands on the rest of Maui’s offerings as well.

B+

Minneapolis Town Hall Odin

8.4% ABV from a growler

Minnesota has become a craft beer mini-mecca and luckily my man The Captain lives right in the eye of the storm and, even luckier, has no compunction with mailing heavy ass growlers halfway across the country for, you see, two of Minnesota’s top breweries–Town Hall and Barley John’s (which I have still yet to try an offering from)–are tap/growler only.  After their legendary Masala Mama, Odin is the second offering I’ve had from the Town Hall boys and it’s another very good one.  Full bodied and roasted but with a hint of nice sweetness on the back-end.  Beautifully complex and quite enjoyable.  Not too boozy but a little too heavy to be super drinkable, then again, I had no clue the ABV on this was so high until I just this second looked it up on BA.  I enjoyed this one quite a bit and hope to continue stockpiling Town Hall growlers.

B+

Williamsburg AleWerks Bourbon Barrel Porter

ABV unknown from a bomber (#0334/2009)

This final offering comes from Dave the Drunken Polack.  I had, quite frankly, never even heard of this Virginia brewery but when Dave asked if I was interested in this beer I saw those three magic words–BOURBON.  BARREL.  AGED–and I was sold.  Wise decision as this is a very solid offering in perhaps my favorite sub-style of beer.  Aged two months in oak bourbon barrels with tastes of caramel, chocolate, toffee, brown sugar, vanilla, and bourbon this is a very complex and very strong beer.  It smells like a masterpiece but the taste doesn’t quite deliver as it’s a little hot and a little bitter.  Well worth seeking out though and along with Williamsburg’s absolutely outstanding Pumpkin Ale that I had back in October but never formally reviewed, I’d definitely have to label this relatively-known brewery as one to watch.

A-

*Like I have a cellar!  Ha.

Stone Collaborations

November 13th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Brewer: Cambridge, Brewer: Ken Schmidt, Brewer: Maui, Brewer: Stone, Country: America, Country: Scotland, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Pilsner, Style: Porter

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter

8.5% ABV bottled

Like corned beef, chopped liver, lox, and gefilte fish, macadamia nuts are one of those foods us Jews innately like for some reason.  But, unlike corned beef, chopped liver, lox, and gefilte fish, which you gentiles often don’t quite have a taste for, all human beings love macadamia nuts, arguably the world’s best nut.  Thus, I was quite excited for the first beer, I’m aware of, to be made using luxurious macadamia nuts.  As Morty Seinfeld once said, “They’re like 80 cents a nut!”  I’d really enjoyed the previous Stone collaboration beers I’d had–their Special Holiday Ale with Nogne O and Jolly Pumpkin and their Belgian Triple with Mikkeller and Alesmith–and luckily The Drunken Polack was able to secure me a bottle of this treat too!  This beer is cool in that one of the collaborators is a home brewer, the aforementioned Ken Schmidt, who won a contest Stone put on, crafting a beer so good the big boys from San Diego decided to try and recreate it on a larger scale.  This porter–as mentioned earlier this week, a “new” favorite style of mine–is getting near universal acclaim, but I wasn’t quite as floored as the masses.  And, I’ll readily admit, that’s probably due to my expectations.  What with its massively long name, essentially listing all the ingredients at once, I assumed the most prominent flavors would be of macadamia nuts and sweet coconut.  So, when I got a beer that was actually prominently focused on the Kona coffee, I was confused at first.  Eventually, being a big fan of coffee beers though, I grew to really enjoy this one.  This is very much a roasted, dark and rich beer ala Peche Mortel.  Not a hair of sweetness.  Really got only the slightest hint of slick sweet coconut and macadamia nuts on the finish, but maybe those with niftier pallates can extract those flavors better than I can.  Nonetheless, another great one from Stone.

A-

Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

10% ABV bottled

Better and more succinctly named than the previous Stone collab, but equally hard to photograph with a non-label label I’m still not sure whether I like or not–major pain in the ass to have to get your magnifying glass out to figure out which of the collaborations you actually have–this was another beer sent to me by Drunken Polack.  A Stone completist, I absolutely needed to try this joint offering with BrewDog and Cambridge, but I actually wasn’t that excited for it.  A pilsner?  Bleh.  I was so wrong though, this was quite delicious.  After you get over the fact that you’re tasting an incredibly hoppy dark beer, you can see Juxtaposition for it brilliance.  Floral and piney on the smell, some added roastiness on the taste, shockingly drinkable for the ABV.  This isn’t quite the iconoclastic beer Stone seems to think it is–aside from the coloring–but it’s awesome nonetheless.  I wish I had more bottles of it.

A-/B+

Keep the collaborations comin’!

Smuttynose Robust Porter

November 9th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Smuttynose, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian Pale Ale, Style: IPA, Style: Porter

5.7% ABV bottled

The Most Underrated Brewery Around

This is an era of hype and of overrating things.  Of proclaiming each new thing the “best” and the “greatest,” and constantly trying to rank things in an easily digestible top 5 or top 10 or top 100 order. Even I had thought of doing a list of the most overrated breweries in America.  Because, of course, everything in this world nowadays is overrated in some way or other.  In fact, it would seem impossible for something, especially something well-known, to be underrated.  But sometimes things just slip through the cracks.  And today I want to talk about the most underrated brewery in America:  Smuttynose from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I’ve been guilty of underrating this fine brewery for far too long.  So has everyone else.  Why is that?  They have nicely named beers with great labels, their taps and bottles are ubiquitous on the East Coast and always at an incredibly reasonable price, and, naturally, all their beers are delicious.  But for some reason, I’ve never intentionally sought out Smuttynose beer, nor even reviewed a single one of their brews on The Vice Blog.  For shame, Aaron, for shame.  That’s all about to change with this post.

The odd thing is, aside from their popular pumpkin seasonal beer, I’m not even sure if I’d ever even had a Smuttynose release until I tried their eye-openingly good Smuttynose Gravitation Quad at this year SAVOR event, finding it to be perhaps the best American quadruple around, and good enough to stack up with the legendary Belgians.  It was maybe my favorite beer at a festival that had dozens of rarer and more ballyhooed beers.

Now you would think my experience at SAVOR would have been a watershed moment for me and I would have begun to intentionally start seeking out Smuttynose beers.  But, dumbly, I still didn’t.  I still passed over the countless reasonably priced offerings for sale at my bottle shops, avoided their taps while tying one on, eschewed their offerings completely.  Perhaps it was the simple fact that I always knew I could get Smuttynose beers if I wanted to that led me to avoid them.  Like the slutty girl on your dorm floor that you never hook up with because you know you can always hook up with her if need be.

The next time I tried a Smuttynose offering was the next time I was forced to.  At a mediocre Williamsburg bar with all macro offerings save Smuttynose IPA “Finest Kind,” I obviously had no choice.  And so glad my hand was forced because this is one of the most unique beers I’ve had this year.  Far and away the most pungently bitter IPA I’ve ever had, on my first tasting I alternated between sips of “this is amazing” and sips of “this is absolutely wretched.”  But for the rest of the week I couldn’t get the beer off my mind, and with future tastings I came to adore it.  Finest Kind now stands as one of my favorite single IPAs that are readily available, and if I’m at a bar with a tap of it, I now always have to have a pint.  (A-)

Yet even with that experience I was still not a Smuttynose acolyte.  Next, while trying to find a beer my sister might enjoy, I gave Smuttynose’s Hanami Ale a whirl and I was greatly impressed by this spring seasonal.  A nice and refreshing beer, this is the rare fruit beer that isn’t too overpowering, nor does it have a phony, artificial syrupy taste like most fruit beers.  Hanami Ale is now one of my go-to recommendations to girls-that-claim-they-hate-beer-but-are-forced-to-drink-beer-with-me.  And, you know, they always love it.  (B+)

Later this very summer, while at Rattle ‘n’ Hum one Saturday afternoon, I noticed Smuttynose’s Baltic Porter as being the only beer on the menu I had never tried.  Interestingly, as much as I had ignored Smuttynose, I had been ignoring porters for even longer.  For some reason, I assumed them to be the red-headed step-brother of far superior stouts.  I’ve since learned that is very much not the case and, in fact, though they are similar and this is purely anecdotal, I’ve found, ceteris paribus, that I actually often enjoy porters more than stouts.  Whereas a bad stout can have that overly roasted, burnt taste like a Starbucks coffee, porters often have a more pleasant, sweet and malty taste.  Such is the case with this phenomenal Baltic Porter.  Big bold flavors of sweet dark fruits with just an underlying hint of chocolate, this is one incredible beer.  (A)

Shockingly, I still wasn’t on the Smuttynose bandwagon.  What the fuck did I need?!  Am I such a dope that I need a brewery to have multiple entries on the Beer Advocate Top 100, that I need them to have a slew of barrel-aged beers, that I need them to have countless small batch release parties and overpriced beers for me to hail their greatness?  I guess so, because, again, just this week while watching the Yankees clinch #27, I only ordered Smuttynose’s Star Island Single because I was forced to with nothing else appealing on tap.  Glad my hand was played again because this Belgian pale ale, Smuttynose’s newest regular lineup release, is imminently drinkable and quite tasty.  Strong tastes of banana Laffy Taffy-like esters, honey and a nice citrusy yeastiness, I could drink these all night.  And, in fact, I did for 9 innings.  (A-/B+)

Finally, after having liked, loved, and been blow away by five Smuttynose beers in a row, did I decide last night to intentionally purchase one, grabbing a bottle of their Robust Porter to enjoy with the “Mad Men” finale.  Of course, such as life, this was my least favorite Smuttynose beer so far, but it was still very solid.  Dry and roasted, with a nice coffee and chocolate taste, this is a no-frills beer that is quite drinakble.  (B+)

I feel like it’s taken me a full year, if not a whole beer-drinking lifetime, to “discover” a brewery.  A brewery whose beers have been around me since I first started tippling the good stuff.  I’m excited to now have tons of new beers I want to try from Smuttynose.  Their Really Old Brown Dog old ale and their Big A IPA and their imperial stout and wheatwine and barleywine and all their others I have yet to have.

I still don’t understand why Smuttynose is universally underrated, maybe it’s due to their odd name, maybe due to getting overshadowed by their sister brewery Portsmouth and their legendary Kate the Great imperial stout, but I will no longer underrate what has easily become one of my favorite breweries in America.  Nor should you.

The Blind Leading the Blind

October 15th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: AleSmith, Brewer: Deschutes, Brewer: Pennichuck, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: B-, Style: Porter, Style: Stout

Note: 2/3rds of this post comes courtesy of a trade with Jay at Hedonist Beer Jive.

When I get together with my friends DW and Batch, we like nothing more than to set up a blind taste test amongst some hard-hittin’ beers.  There’s no more accurate way to judge, and enjoy, a great beer than with no preconceived notions.  No inner monologue dancing around your head saying stuff like, “I think I kinda hate this beer, but it’s #13 on the Beer Advocate Top 100 so maybe I actually do like it…?????”

For this blind, I’m sure some beer geeks are going to get all up in arms that we pitted an American double stout vs. an American porter vs. a Russian imperial stout.  Blasphemy they’ll say!  He disrespected beer!  They might even start a nerdy discussion about it on the sad BA Forums.  But I’ll argue that it was an apropos matchup.  These styles are virtually the same and in this case, all three beers had near identical ABVs and, more importantly, strongly relied on coffee for their flavor profiles.*

The contenders were the currently #13 beer in the world AleSmith’s Speedway Stout, the #73 beer in the world Deschutes Black Butte XXI, and, just to throw a would-be tomato can into the mix, Pozharnik from Pennichuck Brewing from out in New Hampshire.

We were anxious to throw these down, but we faced one crucial problem:  how to set up a blind tasting when we were the only three people around.  Usually there’s a wife or a girlfriend, a macro-drinking friend, a teetotaling toddler, you can enlist to set up the glasses for tastings but in this case all those kinds of people were shunning us.  Three people born in the 1970s, well-educated, and we couldn’t possibly figure out how to set up a blind to drink ourselves.  Perhaps we were a little toasted too.  And I was most anxious to get on with this tasting as I was getting a firm case of drinking blue balls.

Finally, DW decided he could pull out nine total glasses, label three of them with a 1 on the bottom, three with a 2, and three with a 3, pour the same beer in the same numbered glass, then have Batch mix the glasses up, then have me distribute.  It worked.  May drinking beer never be so hard again.

On with the tasting notes:

Beer #1:  I found this one strongly smelling of soy sauce while all three of us detected a spicy chili pepper scent on the nose, recalling Dogfish Head Theobroma a bit I thought, oddly enough.  I found this one thin in the mouth, and bordering on unpleasant.  I didn’t even want to finish my blind taster glass.

Beer #2:  This was sweeter than #1 and quite flavorful.  I found it, likewise, to be a little thin on the mouth, but it was a very solid effort I enjoyed.

Beer #3:  By far the best of the three, all three of us blind tasters thought it easily won the troika matchup.  Rich in coffee taste and with a silky mouthfeel, toasty, roasty, and chocolaty, I greedily slurped this one up.

And the reveal:

Beer #1:  Black Butte XXI

Beer #2:  Pozharnik

Beer #3:  Speedway Stout**

We were all floored how resoundingly the beautifully wax-dipped Black Butte XXI got its ass kicked.  After the reveal, we still struggled to enjoy it and nearly considered passing the remaining 3/4th of the bottle to a bum outside.  (Respect that BA!)  XXI would be the only of the three bottles we didn’t enjoyably finish.  But, to be fair, it explicitly says on the Black Butte XXI bottle that the beer is best after 10/17/2010, but with such a lofty numerical standing and such rave reviews pretty much to a man at this very second in time, I would have hoped for better.  Nevertheless, I would really like to try another bottle of it exactly 369 days from now and I’ll give it a marginal benefit of the doubt til then.

The little-discussed Pozharnik was also quite a surprise, in the more pleasant surprise direction, and held up quite well in matching the wax-dipped XXI with a plastic plungered bottle.  The victorious Speedway Stout opted for the silver foil-wrapped top, completing the trifecta in what may not have been our greatest blind tasting ever, but was surely our greatest fancily-capped bottle tasting ever.

Black Butte XXI:  B-

Pozharnik:  A-

Speedway Stout:  A

*Commercial descriptions:

Speedway Stout: “A HUGE Imperial Stout that weighs in at an impressive 12% ABV! As if that’s not enough, we added pounds of coffee for a little extra kick.”

Black Butte XXI: “Building on the existing chocolate notes already present in Black Butte Porter, brewers added Theo’s Chocolate cocoa nibs from Seattle,  1000 pounds of Bellatazza’s locally roasted Ethopian and Sumatran coffee, and then aged a portion of it in Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey barrels.”

Pozharnik: “The 2007 Pozharnik is an intensely flavored Russian Imperial Stout infused with espresso that compliments its rich chocolate & roasted malt character.  Pozharnik is guaranteed to warm a winter chill with its 10% ABV and dark fruit (raisin & plum) & vanilla undertones.  Notes of whiskey aromatics are brought on by the aging process in a “single barrel” whiskey cask.”

**Interestingly enough, the only of the three to NOT be barrel-aged.  Though, I’d love to try the barrel-aged version of this one if any one wants to hook a brotha up.

Captain Lawrence Smoke from the Oak (Apple Brandy Barrel Aged)

September 29th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Captain Lawrence, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Porter

My First Paid Writing Gig

It all started with a call from Scott.  He presented me with an odd yet enticing offer.  It seemed that his high school girlfriend Brandy–estranged daughter of a New York sports legend father and former supermodel mother, girlfriend of a current New York sports star, debutante, party girl socialite, and certified piece of ass–needed someone to write a grad school application essay for her for a large sum of money.  I was just the man and Scott gave Brandy my phone number.

She called a few hours late and soon I was en route to her mother’s Central Park South penthouse for dinner and to discuss the “project.”  I felt like Joe Buck*.  A writing gigolo.  And I loved it.

I had read about Brandy’s party-girl antics on Page 6 several times, but I’d never seen a picture of her at that point in time.  Nowadays you’d without question recognize her as she has since starred in her own reality program and even had a cameo role in a 2009 movie that topped the box office in its opening weekend.  But this was back in 2003 when she was still coming onto the “scene” and I was still a twenty-four-year-old buffoon.

That afternoon I tried to Google image search Brandy, but none appeared.  (Compared to just this second when some several hundred thousand images of her are returned in 0.22 seconds.)  Only pictures of her father of the same last name doing various things in increasing order of sordidness:  excelling at his sport; hugging teammates after a significant win; his regrettable one-year hiatus in which he became a semi-pro wrestler; him being carted off to jail in handcuffs for a drug possession arrest; and him making an appearance on “The 700 Club” as a now born-again Christian.  But, no picture of Brandy.  Rumor had it she was hot, so I spruced myself up like I was going on a date.  The thought never seemed to cross my mind that she was dating–that I was essentially competing with, ha!–a current sports superstar 35% bigger than me, 60% more handsome than me, and 1500% richer than me.  I told myself though that if he was Joe D, I could be Arthur Miller, the intellectual to the jock.  This was how my idiotic twenty-four-year-old mind worked.

A few blocks from Brandy’s apartment, Brandy called me and canceled.  “Family Emergency.”  I was pretty pissed at her having wasted my time, but what could I do about it?  Scott called me later that night telling me that the emergency was that her dog had just been neutered.  He also said Brandy was worried about meeting me, thinking that I would think her to be an “airhead.”  “I think YOU are an airhead,” I told Scott truthfully and hung up.

The next day I redressed for my date, trying to look a little artsy, writer-ish as well, and headed back to her apartment.  She greeted me with an overly intimate double cheek kiss and offered me a beer.  It was 10 AM.  I accepted the beer.  She must have thought writers needed to drink to create.  She thought exactly right.  She gave me a Bud Ice.  A five million dollar apartment I stood in, with a can of beer I wouldn’t have even drank in college.  Where was the good shit? Probably in the walk-in wine closet I noticed as she lead me to the penthouse’s library where we sat down at a monumentally large King Arthurian table.  As I pulled my notebook and pens from my messenger bag, the neutered dog would not quit jumping all over me.  How wild must this thing have been when he had some balls to play with?

Brandy quickly gave me her bio:

*Had attended the fourth worst SEC school for her first three years of college.  Despite her family’s money and connections this was the best school she could get into out of high school. Her father’s alma mater.

*Tired of being a New Yorker stuck in the middle of the south, she decided she wanted to spend her final year at a more respectable institution, opting to transfer to a semi-religious private school in Texas.  Her mother had been a cheerleader there.

*Now she was interested in attending design school in New York and she needed to write 500 words on “a life-affirming moment.”

“Could you do it?” Brandy asked.

“Of course.  It won’t be easy,” I noted as I took an overly long dramatic pause to help in building up my talent in the hopes of scoring as much money as possible, “but I’ll sure as hell try.”  I told her not to worry, I didn’t even need to know anything about her.  I told her I’d go home and just make up my own fake and dramatic, and sometimes humorous, life-affirming moment for her.  “Is that okay?”

Brandy didn’t talk a lot, but said that was fine.  How much money would she have to pay me?

I felt even further like a whore.  (”A hunded dolla’ for a half hour.  A dime for the hour.”)  I asked what she thought to be fair.  When being employed by the insanely rich NEVER set your own salary.  What they think is “fair” is usually double the money that you think is “outrageous.”

“Scott said you’d probably want about $100 an hour.”

Fucking A, $100 an hour.  I could have kissed Scott.  500 words would take me about the fifteen minute walk home to think up and an hour at most to write.

“Sounds a little low, but I’ll accept that since you’re a friend,” I told her, perhaps even adding a wink, though the muscles in my face aren’t quite supple enough to always execute that move.  “It won’t be easy, but I imagine I could get it done tonight if I pull an all-nighter.”

She ate it up.  I chugged the rest of my beer when she wasn’t looking, received the goodbye double cheek kiss that idiots prefer and went skipping home. I wrote the essay in under an hour.  I thought it was great.  I was a twenty-four-year-old man-boy competing against seventeen-year-old kids.  Actually probably forty-five- and fifty-year-old parents that were writing essays for their kids.  Well, I had gotten into every single college I had applied to when I was seventeen with the essays I’d written when I was seventeen, so I thought everything would be cool.

I woke up that morning at 4:45 AM and e-mailed Brandy the essay (”Spent all night working on it and just finished.”)

At noon when she woke up she e-mailed me back a response.  A simple :( emoticon.  I took that to mean she didn’t like it.  Were all editors this tough?  It was going to be hard to break into the writing business if that was the case.

Later she called me and told me the problem was that I just told a story about a made-up life-affirming moment in her life and I hadn’t explain well enough how smart and unique and creative she was.  Or, at least, how smart, unique, and creative she claimed to be and thought the college would want her to be if they were going to accept her.

I was fucking pissed.  She didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. But I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream.  I spoke calmly and tried to explain the faultiness with her life of thinking.  She didn’t understand what the hell I was talking about.  Alas.  Hot girls need to be reasoned with using analogies.

“Brandy, lots of guys hit on you at the vapid bottle service lounges you go to in the Meatpacking District, right?”

“Right,” she said, having no clue where I was headed.

“And, 99% of them buy you lots of drinks, and treat you nicely, and try to impress you with their bullshit and their money, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Now, that doesn’t work, does it?  You aren’t attracted to those guys, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.  Unless they’re, like, really rich or famous or something like my current boyfriend.”

“Well, when the 1% of guys come into the bar acting confidently, like they own the place, and treating you a little rude, and certainly not buying you even a single drink, don’t those guys kind of intrigue you?”

“No!”

“Be honest.”

“Usually.”

“Of course they do.  Well I just wrote you a 1% essay, and you’re wanting me to write you a 99% essay.  How are you going to stand out from the crowd with your ‘writing’ if you write the same boring ‘My-Greatest-Assets’ essay that every other kid is writing?!”

“Well…”

“You don’t tell people that you’re smart, that you’re creative, that you’re unique…you write an essay that proves you are smart, creative, unique.”  Pause.  “Get it?”

“Well, I’d just rather write something that’s more about me.”

“I don’t know a fucking thing about you though.”

I told her we had to meet again.  This was taking much longer than I expected and I was getting frustrated.  Our first time meeting I acted like that 99% of guys act around a hot girl.  This next time I was going to act like the elusive 1%.  Without even trying.

“Come back to my house tomorrow at noon.”

“I will if you have a turkey sandwich waiting for me!” I ordered.

So back to her penthouse, where I was greeted by her mom in a towel.  Said towel being held up merely by her mother’s fake “headlights.” Brandy was still in her pajamas, playing with the dogs in the playing-with-the-dogs room.  And, there was that turkey sandwich waiting for me.  A good fucking one too.  Not the corner deli Boar’s Head turkey sandwich I was used to.  This thing was gourmet.  Might have been on an artisanal baguette even.

Brandy and I sat down at her large table again and I started interviewing her.

“So…tell me some good stories about your life at college down in the deep south.”

“Uh…”  She couldn’t think of any.

“You can’t think of any!  None?”

“Not really.”

“You went to that university for three years and you can’t think of one fucking story?  I drove through that hick state once, for two hours, between 3 AM and 5 AM and saw some of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever seen in my life.  Yet you saw nothing?  I saw a house there built totally out of recycled soda cans.  I saw a guy having a barbecue in the median of the highway at 3:30 in the morning.  I saw a sheriff driving drunk down the road with his headlights completely off.  And you saw nothing?!”

She finally spoke more than five words in a row.  “Uh, I guess, like, some kids would take their shotguns to class.”

“Okay, now we’re talking.”

We talked and ate for about an hour.  I got some decent biographical info about her life as a New York City JAP–she wasn’t Jewish, but a JAP nonetheless–going to school in the south.  This is what she wanted talked about in her essay, this is what I’d write about. I had plenty of ideas for what to write, how her life had been affirmed, and my mind was racing.

Then her mom–now finally dressed–came back to the room.

“Aaron, I should tell you something…”  She was acting like Brandy wasn’t even in the room.  Brandy always acted–mentally–like she wasn’t in the room.  Her mother continued, “Brandy had…”–unnecessarily large emphasis–”SHIT grades in college.”

I thought I’d join in the fun.  “Exactly how…”–unnecessarily large emphasis–”SHIT were they?”

Mom smiled.  She liked my style.  “Real FUCKING SHITTY.  Like a 1.2 GPA.”

A 1.2!

“A 1.2?” I exclaimed still looking at mom.  “How is that possible?  I once didn’t attend a class for an entire semester, never bought the books even, and still got a B-.  How in the world do you get a 1.2?  At the SEC’s fourth worst school no less!?”

Brandy’s mother liked seeing her daughter get berated.  This former model and now mom was surprisingly smart and sharp.

“I dunno.  Didn’t go to class I guess.  Partied and stuff.  That was during my coke phase I think,” Brandy noted.

“Oh I remember!  You were maxing out my credit cards monthly!”  She turned back to me.  “You’re the writing genius, Aaron,”–I was falling in love with this MILF, “and you’re going to have to explain away her SHIT grades if she has any prayer of getting accepted.”  She squeezed my shoulders as she retreated back to her room.

Brandy rolled her eyes at me after her mom left as if to say, “Do you believe her?! How embarrassing.”  What she did actually say though was:

“How much do I have to pay you?”

I thought about this for a second.  I asked myself how much did I really think was fair to be paid?  About $175 was what I felt fair for the work I had done, the work I would do the rest of the day.

“$2000,” I bluntly told her.

She didn’t flinch.

“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!  MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!”  She turned back to me.  “Jesus, is she fucking deaf?!  I’ll go ask my mom for to write a check for you.”

She left the room and walked down a long corridor to find her mother.

A few seconds passed before I heard screaming from the other room.

“$2000?!!!!!  That is fucking insane!!!  Is he fucking insane?!  What do you normally pay people to write your papers, Brandy?”

Apparently not much, or the wrong people, as her GPA attested.  I tried to contain my laughter.

A few seconds later Brandy returned with a check for $1000.  “My mom will give you the rest in cash upon completion.

Brandy’s mother must have thought I looked like a guy that would take the money and run.  Awesome.  Now I felt like a drug runner.  I liked that even better than being a gigolo.

I didn’t get any more cheek kisses as I left this time. I didn’t care.  That was the biggest single check I’d gotten in my short life.  The first money ever paid to me for my writing.  I deposited it at an ATM en route to my apartment where I quickly whipped out a stunning essay while riding this creative high.  Something I was legitimately proud of.  Something that I thought could have won the Pulitzer if they gave such an award to falsified college entry essays for acceptance at mediocre design schools.

Ecstatic with myself, I headed out to tithe into my liver 10% of my writing paycheck.  Returning home wasted at 4:15 AM, I e-mail off to Brandy my second stab at the essay.

And, I didn’t hear from her for a week.  I guess she liked me essay.  But I was still owed $1000.  I decided to send her an e-mail to ask what she thought of the essay, how she was doing, when I could collect the rest of my money.  She never responded.

A week later I decided to call her.  She must have not had my name in her phone because she actually answered.

“Hey Brandy, it’s Aaron???  Did you like the essay????”  I was speaking in lots of question marks, something that is not that easy when you have fully gone through puberty and your voice has dropped.

“Yeah, and thanks, but, uh, I think I’ve decided to…uh…go another route…in my, uh, life.”

“Oh, too bad.”  Like I cared.  “Um, so, can I get the rest of the money you owe me and we agreed on?”

I heard the phone snatched out of Brandy’s hand.  It was her mom.

“You are fuckin’ crazy if you think I’m gonna give you another $1000 for that shitty essay!”

*CLICK*

Brandy never applied to college ultimately and I never got any more money that I surely didn’t deserve.  Perhaps she should have applied to college though as her fame is dwindling quickly, though I hear she has a new MTV show coming out this year.  Presumably it will be life-affirming.

I still wonder if my essay would have gotten her accepted into that design school, even with her SHIT grades.  I guess I’ll never know.  I also wonder if I could have made a living writing essays for the dumb, lazy, and rich.

Smoke from the Oak (Apple Brandy Barrel Aged)

ABV unknown, from a 750 mL bottle (Batch #1)

Living less than thirty miles from one of my favorite breweries, Captain Lawrence of Pleasantville, NY, it had vexed me for the longest time that I had been unable to secure a taste of even one of their Smoke from the Oak releases.  Bourbon Barreled Aged, wine, rum…with each subsequent release, for some reason or another, I missed a chance at nabbing a bottle.  It was angering me!  Finally, with the latest release and perhaps the highest regarded release so far, Vice Blog superfan KH was able to offer a bottle for sacrifice. I was stoked.

For those not in the know, Captain Lawrence’s Smoke from the Oak series takes its outstanding Pleasantville Smoked Porter and ages it in various spent barrels.  In this case, for eight months in freshly emptied apple brandy barrels.  I absolutely adore the black licorice delicious smoked porter and the infusion of apples adds another layer of fascinating complexity and some welcoming tartness.  I can’t say I was absolutely floored by this offering, but it is most unique and I was most glad to try it.  Now I need to go backwards and try some other bottles from the series.  I always liked playing catch up.

A-/B+

*Jon Voight’s character in “Midnight Cowboy.”  Not the humorless sportscaster.