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Archive for the ‘Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale’ Category

Saison D’Erpe-Mere Zymatore

May 21st, 2012 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: KleinBrouwerij De Glazen Toren, Country: Belgium, Grade: A regular, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

While at the great DBGB last night slip slidin’ the night away with the carpet salesman, I noticed a beer type of the like I’d never seen before:  a gin-barrel-aged brew.  Now, I didn’t even realize gin was made in barrels, but glad of it, because this beer was outstanding, a funky saison with a leafy, crisp botanical finish and just a slight hint of sourness from an additional barreling in pinot noir barrels (!).  Seems this saison is part of something called The Zymatore Project, as press-release-explained below:

The Zymatore Project is our endeavor to create liquids of unheard flavors and aromas that destroy the boundaries of beer, wine, mead, cider & spirits.

Using barrels of the highest quality and pedigree from acknowledged leaders in the wine & distillation crafts we take beers, meads & ciders to new and unexplored levels.

What may seem like unlikely combinations of liquids & barrels are designed to create new flavors & aromas that transcend conventional definitions.

Such quality makes it unique to be served to people playing casino games at classy casino floors. The unique blend of different flavors makes it a one of a kind product.

Now I’ve never had the base saison, heck, I hadn’t even heard of this brewery, but this is one of the more interesting tipples I’ve had this year, and it makes me want to seek out all the other intriguing offerings from “The Project.”  Which I most certainly will.

Of note, nerds on Beer Advocate–and Garrett Oliver no less (not calling you a nerd, good sir!)–have had a most interesting discussion about these beers.

A

Nebraska Reserve Series Apricot Au Poivre Saison Aged in Chardonnay Barrels

March 29th, 2011 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Nebraska, Brewer: Russian River, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Blonde Ale, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

6.5% from a 750 mL

(I apologize for the sideways picture–my iPhone is fucked up.)

So…I write a novel, I’m feeling pretty proud about myself, about my career, and yet I keep hearing from people, I keep receiving emails:

“Why don’t you review beer any more?!”

I guess I thought novel > beer blog reviews in the world of writing and entertainment, but apparently, to many people, that isn’t the case and, in fact, I alienated many of my fans!  They didn’t care about my stupid novel (that took years to write), they care about my subversive reviews of craft beer (that take a few minutes to write).

Who am I to be the arbiter of my fan’s enjoyment?  Thus, I am back.  And, I plan to be back with new reviews every single week now.  My first “back” review, though, is of a great beer by some of my good friends in the industry, Nebraska Brewing Company.

Nebraska burst onto the scene in 2010 with two of my favorite beers of the year:  Hop God aged in Chardonnay Barrels and Melange a Trois, a tripel aged in, you guessed in, Chardonnay barrels.  Here’s another beer aged in Chardonnay barrels, this time using their Apricot Au Poivre Saison as the base.

Now, oddly enough, I’ve had all of Nebraska’s rare, high-end, and pricey brews–which, luckily, they ship to me, gratis–but I haven’t had that many of their regular line.  I was fortunate enough to finally try their IPA the other day and it is as good as anything on either coast, and last summer I sucked down plenty of the standard Apricot Au Poivre.  That was a nice little brew, but the chardonnay aging takes this one to a completely different level.

Flawlessly effervescent.  A slight tartness yet the apricot fruitiness comes through with just a hint of stinging black pepper.  I put back a 750 of this in about 750 seconds.  I was loving it that much.  Another huge winner from Nebraska that demands being searched for.  It still doesn’t even have a single review on Beer Advocate yet!  Come on people.

A

Is Nebraska one of the best sour beer makers in America?!  Hard to say, there’s so many great ones and NBC doesn’t quite have as large of catalog (yet) as some other, older breweries.  But they might be the best Chardonnay-barreled beer maker around.  Or, damn close.  At the moment, I’d rank them 2nd to the American kings of the sour beer game, Russian River, who also favor Chardonnay aging.

Interestingly, just a few weeks earlier I tried a Russian River beer aged in these beloved barrels:

Russian River Sanctification

This is a 6.5% Belgian Blond aged in Chardonnay oak with 100% Brett added.  And, whoa!, is it a nice beer.  Perhaps the best-looking beer I’ve ever had.  Looks like fresh squeezed OJ with the pulp removed.  Not overly complex, but flawless in execution.  Tart, crisp, with the fruity taste of a nice white wine.  Not too sour, and totally refreshing.  A beauty.

A

Fantome Saison

December 22nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brasserie Fantome, Brewer: Southampton Publick House, Country: America, Country: Belgium, Grade: A regular, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

8% ABV from a 750 mL

I never thought I’d be a saison fan, but sure enough, I have become one late in 2009.  Coincidentally well out of saison season as we hit the snowy, bitter winter of New York.  Oh well, I’ve never exactly drank to season any how.  Of course, it’s easy to fall for these French-named, Belgian beers when you’re drinking some of the best of the style, as I did twice in the last week while snowed-in and with nothing to do but get drunk and play Cranium by myself (harder than you think).

I’d been looking for Fantome Saison for well over a year since I’m a shameless follower of the Beer Advocate Top 100, where Fantome has long resided and, luckily, I finally stumbled upon a sole bottle at a beer store in lower Manhattan.  Believe me, I paid a handsome penny too but it was well worth it.  I loved Fantome mainly because it’s not what I–probably erroneously–”expect” from a saison. It’s not thin, it’s not simplistic, it’s not bordering on non-alcohlic.  No, this sucker is like a double saison.  It opened so foamy it seemed like new life was still being created as it just oozed from my bottle.  Incredibly citric with the usual suspects of lemon, orange, and peach giving it a little tartness though this is no simplistic brew.  Very refreshing as per the style, but with some nice heft as well, though still majorly drinkable.  This was a solo drinking effort, and unlike Amelia Earhart I enjoyed every single second of the journey.

A

Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs

7.7% ABV from a 750 mL

While some of Southampton’s “little” bottles and tap-only selections are no great shakes, their big boys, specifically from the “750 Series,” are nothing but huge winners and that is again the case here.  You’d have to be an expert horticulturist to completely understand what you’re drinking as des Fleurs is flavored with a blend of edible flowers including L. augustifolia, A. nobilis, C. officinalis, R. canina and H. lupulus.  OK, whatever.  Excluding hops of course, the only other beers I can ever recall drinking that are made from, you know, flower flowers would be Elysian’s Avatar Jasmine IPA and Dieu du Ciel! Rosee D’hibiscus and neither of them hold a candle to this effort.  Extraordinarily fragrant, truly like stuffing your head in a rose garden while someone sprays perfume over you, the taste is also deliciously herby and sweet, atypically full-bodied and thick for a saison as well.  I just sucked it down like Vitamin Water.  Of course it’s incredibly unique, but this is truly one of the most flavorful saisons I’ve ever had and one of my most pleasant drinking surprises of the year.  (Then again, so was Southampton’s Grand Cru.  Perhaps I’m just not showing these Publick House boys enough due deference yet?  Never again will I folly.)  I shared this beer with my two non-beer connoisseur sisters who absolutely adored it as well, leading me to believe that us fellas can now present this beautiful flower beer to our wives instead of, you know, real flowers.  Of course, I’m not married, so why the fuck would you trust me on that?

Fantome Saison and Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs are truly at the apex of the saison style alongside only, let’s say, Boulevard Saison-Brett and, maybe, Hennepin and they should be sought out accordingly.  (And don’t think I don’t feel like a bit of yokel for having three of my four favorite saisons being from Kansas City, upstate New York, and Long Island.)

A

A Tale of Two Cherry Beers

August 3rd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 7 Comments | Filed in Brewer: New Glarus, Brewer: Southern Tier, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: F regular, Style: Fruit Beer, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

Southern Tier Imperial Cherry Saison

8% ABV from a bomber

Let’s touch on a few seemingly unrelated points just to begin:

1.  Southern Tier is one of the finest breweries in America.

2.  I have been accused of being a beer grade inflater.

3.  I always finish beers.

4.  I detest beer snobs and their liberal claims of “drain pours.”

Now let’s tie all these points together, starting with the last.

Few things in the beer community anger me more than the snobbiest of beer snobs and their frequent claims of “drain pours.”  To the uninitiated, to those people wise enough to avoid the pedantic and utterly nerdy embarrassment of the Beer Advocate forums–sample thread subject:  “What is the correct hand to use when drinking a dopplebock?  Left or right?”–there are attention seeking beer geeks that I have seen claim to have drain poured, that is, walked to the sink with a barely touched beer and dumped it down the pipes, some of the most glorious brews on the planet.  Now sure, it’s fine to not love a great, highly-regarded beer, but to detest it so much you dump it?

I’ve thought that was ridiculous for countless reasons.  Being a Jewish cheapskate of course I don’t want to squander the $7 or whatever I paid for the bomber and being an alcoholic I don’t want to squander those ounces of ecstacy either.

On the second issue, I don’t consider myself a grade inflater, I consider myself a lover of beer.  My A through F grades are not a perfect bell curve because I intentionally try to avoid shitty beer–unless it’ll make for a good video–and accomplished craft beer is almost always gonna be above average.

So with that, I am remiss to reveal that I drain poured the Imperial Cherry Saison.  Only the third beer I’ve EVER done that for.  (Bud Light Chelada & Crazy Ed’s Cave Creek Chili Beer would be the other two.)  Also, that in a few paragraphs it is going to get the lowest grade I have ever given a craft beer (and I’m even including the vile Leinenkugel as “craft!”)

This is shocking news.  Southern Tier is one of my favorite breweries on the planet, a fringe top-ten brewery in America if you ask me.  Furthermore, I’d hail them as second to only Dogfish Head in the experimental “mad scientist” brewing category as they put out some of the more adventurous beers around.

Well, unfortunately, when you push the envelope, sometimes the envelope is going to end up tasting like absolute shit.  Such was the case here.  Oh, I had such high expectations for the Imperial Cherry Saison.  But it is truly vile.  The smell of a dank macro lager with a really unpleasant tartness and a horrendous aftertaste.  Tastes like, say, original Coors with some cheap cherry syrup poorly mixed into it, which is amazing considering the time and effort Southern Tier usually puts into beers.  And probably put into this very beer as they claim it to be infused with real cherries and aged with French oak staves.

My drinking companion likewise hated it and suggested perhaps we were drinking it too warm.  Fair enough, I am known to prefer most all beers at room temperature and a nice, refreshing saison should probably have a little chill to it.  We threw it into the freezer, took it out a few minutes later, still vile.  Threw it in for longer, took it out, colder but still vile.  Threw it in one final time, totally forgot about it, pulled it out an hour later to now find the worst tasting slushy in the history of the world.  Even absolute zero would not be cold enough to enjoy this beer.

It is an utter disaster and I’m baffled how it has a Beer Advocate average of a B.  Is that simply the “respected brewery” curve?!  I highly suggest you avoid this at all costs.  I hate to hammer the great Southern Tier from my home state, but this beer was a golden sombrero of awfulness in smell, taste, price, and drinkability.

Will absolutely make my year end bottom 10.

F

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red

5.1% ABV bottled

You know how when a little kid throws up, they are now unable, for a very, very long time, to both mentally and physically ingest that food or drink that intentionally or unintentionally caused said upchucking?  For me, two of my first ever youthful vomitings happened after eating watermelon and enchiladas and thus I had to avoid those delicious items well into my teens.  Such was the case with the Imperial Cherry Saison.  I think it has made me disgusted with cherries, a fruit and flavor I used to love.

Testing out this theory, I had on hand to drink next, in comparison, a brew made by the American fruit beer makers par excellence, New Glarus, their Wisconsin Belgian Red, a Montmorency cherry-infused beer, currently rated the best fruit beer on the planet.

The Captain has been quite kind in securing me these great treasures from out of the Badger State, and the previous fruit beer I’d had from New Glarus, their Raspberry Tart, was indeed a huge hit.  This beer was splendid too.  If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t even know I was drinking beer.  You could serve this at the Passover seder to the youngsters.  A gorgeous maroon color, truly one of the best looking beers I’ve ever examined.  Highly carbonated, I drank from the one champagne flute in the house as recommended on the label.  (That’s a recommendation of drinking the Belgian Red from a flute, not a recommendation of ONLY having one flute in the house.)  Very silky and I actually found this quite complex with the taste of Hallertau hops and barley melding nicely with the oak and fresh cherries.

Usually, when you compare a great beer to a terrible beer that is a similar style, you tend to overrate the greatness of the better beer.  But, in this case, a part of me thinks that the Imperial Cherry Saison so disgusted me–see my vomitous theory a few paragraphs above–that I actually didn’t unequivocally love this beer as much as I should have.  Whatever the case, find yourself some Belgian Red.  It delivers.  And may the only cherry I drink for the next six months be floating at the bottom of my Manhattans!

(One minor gripe to New Glarus:  your wax dippings are god-awful.  The wax is thin and runny and not attractive at all.  It’s even hard to crack open your bottles due to the wax which furthermore just makes the neck look dusty and dirty.  I would either get a thicker wax or ditch the gimmick.  A gimmick I love by the way.  But your rustic labels are swell looking.  Props to that!)

A-

Boulevard Saison-Brett

July 15th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Boulevard, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Style: Quadrupel, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

8.5% ABV bottled (#08516 of 11925)

Boulevard hadn’t really impressed me in the past, especially on a last summer trip to Kansas City, but their highly acclaimed Smokestack Series would surely change all that.  My friend Taco Town Dave was visiting from Oklahoma and he asked if there was anything local I’d like.  “Any and every Smokestack possible,” I implored him.  I was most excited when he delivered the Saison-Brett, currently Beer Advocate’s #2 saison in the world with a remarkably meteoric rise to garner that lofty position.

Everything about this beer is just flawlessly crafted.  The taste is so balanced.  A blend of those classic saison flavors of orange peel, coriander, and spices, mixed with the wild yeast.  Earthy yeastiness, bitter yet still a touch sweet.  It’s not as funky as I expected but I suppose that’s because I’ve come to expect modern brewers to make Brett beers as stinky and tart as possibly.  Not this one.  This one uses the Brett to perfection.  Awesome and tasty to the extreme, I’m floored at the high ABV because I feel like I could, and I very much desired to, greedily throw down several of these magnums in a night. Truly top notch.

I’ve had many of the top saisons in the world this summer, fermented luminaries such as Saison Dupont, The Bruery’s splendid offerings, and Lost Abbey’s Carnavale to name a few, but I got to say that this one trumps them all.  I wish I had it in stock at all times, it is absolutely glorious.  One of my biggest drinking pleasures of this summer so far.

A

Let’s compare the above to Boulevard’s regular Smokestack Saison.  I’m not sure if this contains the exact same ingredients as the Saison-Brett–simply sans Brett–but it simply isn’t as good.  Coming in at a lower and yet more drinkable 6.2% ABV, this brew is yeasty as hell, spicy, fruity, but unfortunately not that complex, nor that tasty.  Still not a bad summer drink, but don’t trade the farm for it.

B+

And while we’re at it, Taco Town Dave provided me with one other Smokestack as well, The Sixth Glass, their attempt at a quadruple.

I knew my friend The Captain absolutely adored this beer, so I had lofty expectations, but unfortunately it didn’t quite deliver for me.  It’s tough for most quads to ever fully deliver when many of the best beers in the world are also quads, so like National League first basemen or Western Conference forwards, it’s a stacked playing field where even a great, great one can appear to be nothing more than an also-ran.

The 10.5% ABV Sixth Glass is somewhat muted in its typical quad tastes of dark fruits, biscuits, and malts, but it’s pretty solid.  I mean, what can I say?  It’s not Westy 12, Rochefort 10, or St. Bernardus 12.  But, then again, what is?  Still worth trying.

A-

Goose Island Juliet and Sofie

July 14th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Goose Island, Country: America, Grade: A-, Grade: B plus, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Style: Wild Ale

Was lucky enough to get to try the two newest releases from Goose Island’s Reserve Series, and here are your reporter’s humble findings.

Juliet

6.7% ABV on tap

It had been a real struggle to find this wild ale that’s been getting magnificent reviews, so when I learned that the very much underrated UWS beer bar George Keeley’s inexplicably had the only keg in the city, I decided to start Happy Hour at 2:00 PM and head up there.  So new, a tap doesn’t even exist for it–that’s just a computer label hastily scotch taped onto the handle–Juliet has an absolutely tantalizing description on the brewery website:  “Fermented with wild yeasts and aged in Cabernet barrels with blackberries, Juliet is a tart, fruity, complex ale. Notes of wood, tannin, dark fruit and spice make Juliet an ideal beer to suggest to Pinot Noir enthusiasts and beer drinkers who are fond of Belgian sour ales.”  Alas, I found that description a tad more erotic than the beer itself, though, don’t get me wrong, this is a very, very good beer.  Somewhat lacking in flavor upon first sip, the wild yeasts eventually came through strong, stinging my uvula with every sip for I have neglected to mention that I was nursing a sore throat.  It went down harsh but the taste was still great.  I probably should have just gargled and spat to prevent the intense throat pain.  But that wouldn’t be fair.  Oh, what I do for you guys, playing through the pain.  I truly am the Willis Reed of beer reviewing.

A-

Sofie

6.5% ABV bottled

The Captain secured this bottle for me, Goose Island’s wild yeasted and aged in wine barrels saison.  Wow is it fizzy, foamy, and effervescent.  Tingly on the mouth like champagne, a slight sourness from the wild yeast.  Tastes of citrus and pepper, this a solid enough saison though perhaps a tad boring.  Just like this review.

B+

And thus, my final overall rankings for the Goose Island Reserve Series:

1.  Matilda
2.  Juliet
3.  Pere Jaques
4.  Sofie

But they’re all quite swell.  Goose Island continues to make some pretty great to even mindblowing stuff and prove they are one of the Midwestern’s finest breweries.

The Lost Abbey Carnevale Ale

May 19th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: The Lost Abbey, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

6.5% ABV from a 750 mLer

You know you’re a New Yorker when you sing and dance to your ipod while walking the streets.  I’m not talking a slight, unwitting head bob, a silent mouthing of the lyrics to a favorite song in particular.  I’m talking straight up, belting out the lyrics with a 90% accuracy aided by impromptu dance moves and shit like you’re home alone on a Saturday night, drunk on wine, with nothing better to do.  Or better yet, like you’re Tony Manero in that famous opening scene.  You’ve finally reached full uninhibition.  You don’t care that you’re on a packed Broadway sidewalk.  You don’t care that the M&M Store bag-toting tourists are gawking at you.  (It’s a story they’ll certainly share with friends when they get back to Tulsa.  Golly!  Get a picture, Suzie!)  All you care about is enjoying your music.  The way you want to enjoy it.  Everyone else around you be damned.

With minimal private living space in the city you have to live publicly.  Uninhibited.

Restaurants become your dining room.  Eating at home in NYC would involve cooking in a kitchen the size of a closet, chopping and dicing things on a precariously-balanced cutting board teetering on the edge of the sink, boiling water a few inches from a sauce sloshing around, having to actually back out of the kitchen to fully open the oven door, and if by some miracle you can actually prepare something edible this process is finished off by pulling up to the closest thing you have to a dining room table, the coffee table, where you knock a few magazines and Netflix out of the way to free up a plate-sized space to chow down.  Nah, not worth it.  But are restaurants really better?  You’re not doing the cooking but you’re jam-packed into a minuscule dining space.  You’re nearly sitting on someone’s lap.  You can’t remember if you’re on a single date or a double because another couples’ table is one inch away from yours.  Your business is everyone’s.  So you might as well make it that way.  You’re going to overhear what other diners are saying and they’re going to likewise overhear you.  All the lovey dovey shit you might say.  All the embarrassing “job interview” questions you exchange on a first date.*  Everyone knows the couples on first dates.  The lack of rapport is palpable.  However, this close proximity dining can be most embarrassing when you’re spatting with a longtime romantic partner, hilarious when other diners are doing the spatting.  There’s a million stories in this city and you can’t help but hear every single fucking one of them.

The bar becomes your living room.  I have countless friends in New York.  And in how many of those people’s living rooms have I stood?  Maybe two.  That’s just not how it works here.  My friends could be homeless for all I know.  No one wants to go to another person’s part of town.  And few have living rooms big enough to accommodate more people than the one or two that actually live in the pad.  Thus, you make bars your living rooms.  You go there to celebrate, to mourn, to watch sports and big events, play games, shoot the shit, catch up on old times, create new times, and just like Tim Riggins, to make some memories.  The drawback of this, of course, is that there’s gonna be a lot of people in “your” living room that you don’t necessarily want there.  Ugly people, loud people, smelly people, and dumb people.  You have to find the bar with the patrons, the ambiance, the culinary output, the TV setup, and the drink most simpatico with your desires.  And you will.

The subway becomes your car.  Instead of sitting in a car in bumper to bumper traffic, you’re standing crotch to ass, face to crotch, hand to crotch…goddammit, how come someone’s smelly crotch is everywhere I turn?!  Instead of perfectly modulated air or heat in a sealed environment, you’re…well you’re always sweating your ass off.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a dog day of summer or the middle of winter, you will be sweltering.  Instead of peaceful music on your ipod dock DJ’ed by you, you’re listening to white noise, and squealing teenagers, panhandling ragamuffins, and that Mariachi band that goes from car-to-car on weekends.  Damn, they’re good.  I always toss them whatever loose change I have.

The park becomes your backyard.  Instead of sitting peacefully on your porch smoking a cigar, laying in your hammock drinking a lemonade, grilling a big tenderloin on your massive propane grill, and playing catch with your Weimaraner, you’re mentally figuring out how big a chalk outline of your dead body would be and finding that requisite amount of hopefully dry grass space throughout Sheep Meadow, hopefully the Great Lawn, or maybe a Westside or Eastside pier, or some other place you know, and plunking down amongst all the other sweaty bodies.  Trying to read or do a crossword, but it’s too sunny.  Trying to wet your whistle, ah, but the closest vendor is one-hundred yards away and charges $4 for a Gatorade.  Trying to enjoy a bee-you-tee-full Padron but, “Hey guy!  Could you put dat fuckin’ see-gar out, before I snap it in two.”  And, grilling a nice steak, ha.  Yeah, right.  Get a reservation and have a good credit limit.  At least your teeny tiny dog found a rock to shit on.  Now does any one have a plastic baggy I can borrow?

A back alley becomes your love den.  A nice five-bedroom house with a massive bedroom, a canopy bed worthy of a sheik with nice silk sheets and fluffy pillows?  Yeah, right.  Neither of you have a car of course and she lives in Park Slope and you live near Columbus Circle.  Your place?  She’s not that kind of girl.  Her place?  Eh, I’m not interested.  And cabs are pricey!  The back alley seems perfectly fine for a quickie.  Ooh, and so romantic.  I guess it wasn’t garbage day today.  And did that cardboard box just rustle?  Why, it must be some poor fella’s house.  Just shut up and hurry up.  OK, I’m trying.  I’m sorry the brick wall is scraping up your palms and I’m sorry you’re tired of having that skirt above your head.  Yeah, I do agree, it does stink back here.  Whoops, just grafittied the wall.

I sit writing this in my detestable Starbucks.  For it is my office.  I have the absolute worst seat in the house, the one right next to what would be called the “Fixin’s” Bar if we were at a Jersey Turnpike Roy Rogers.  My back touches this counter, my laptop screen visible to every one that visits it after receiving their order.  You wouldn’t believe how long people spend there preparing their coffees.  What exactly are they doing?  I drink my coffee black so adding stuff to your coffee seems somewhat foreign to me.  Having said that, I drink my iced coffee with Sweet’N Low and a splash of skim milk so I know how long it takes to accomplish that menial task.  Like fifteen seconds.  Yet all these Upper West Side mommies, real-life Gossips Girls, wannabe artistic scenesters but really Central Park West trust funders, and lingering Columbia U students take upwards of two minutes to add all the ingredients they want to add to their coffees.  Cinnamon and vanilla and nutmeg and, well, I guess that’s just the cheapskates’ way of making their Joe more fancy.

But, alas, I still prefer being here to writing at my home office, i.e. my lap on my sofa.  I can actually focus better here, enjoy myself, put myself in that special little place I need to go to get writing done.  Sadly, I can’t stop my special little place from playing bad Muzak (on sale for just $11.99 at the counter!).  You win some, you lose some.  Each person at the Fixin’s counter, oh, and there’s a new one every twenty seconds or so, stacking up like lemurs at the edge of a cliff, tries to read what’s on my laptop screen.  It’s a natural human reaction, I understand.  Luckily, I have become fully uninhibited.  The most important thing in this tiny and cramped world I live in.  So I DON’T GIVE A FUCK–can you see that over my shoulder?  Should I bold that?–I DON’T GIVE A FUCK and have no problem if they read this.  If YOU read this, fat mommy behind me in ill-fitting Capris, revealing a little too much of your prickly bobby-socked cankles, chowing down on an 800 calorie Marshmallow Twizzle and frozen limeade on your emasculated working hubby’s dime, propping your Peg Perego “Duette” stroller with your in vitro-fertilized ugly twin babes right beside my right ear, allowing them to loudly bellow in off-key synchronicity the theme song to some show I’ve certainly never heard of nor ever will because I don’t have any fucking kids.  Lady, you punish me with all the above and yet you still want to read over my shoulder?  Well go ahead, I just don’t care…

My second career The Lost Abbey brew, kindly shared with me by my pal DW from his The Lost Abbey Patron Saints Club bi-monthly shipment.  I’ve just gotten into saisons hardcore this spring and early summer and this is a nice example of the style.  Very fruity with tastes of lemon zest and orange citrus, a mild spiciness, and a potent yeastiness.  Slight hops and a minimal sour funkiness, but I would have preferred a perhaps more bold use of Brett for added complexity.  Incredibly drinkable and refreshing, it smells a heck of a lot better than it tastes, but it tastes pretty damn good too.

B+

*I would never go on a first date to a restaurant.  Dumb.

The Bruery Saison De Lente

May 12th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 6 Comments | Filed in Brewer: The Bruery, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

6.5% ABV on tap

Truths, Myths, Misconceptions, Malodor, and Consequences at New York City Civil Court Jury Duty

I’d of course forgotten to set my alarm the night before.  But, luckily, the weather was nice so the all-male Orthodox Jewish preschool housed directly underneath my bedroom window had allowed its pupils to play outside on this fine morning and several dozen giggling and shouting yarmulked and fringe-clothed little pischers woke me at 7:09, the earliest I’d been up that didn’t involve impending air travel or the tail end of a bender in at least three years.  I had to be downtown by 8:00 for my first career stint at jury duty.

111 Centre Street is quite the hike from the Vice Blogger’s fortified drinking compound, but I wasn’t concerned, I had no plans to shower, to even look presentable.  My few friends who’d had jury duty assured me it was an in-and-out procedure.  “A normal guy like you, eh, you’ll be dismissed before noon,” was the boilerplate refrain I’d oft-heard to my probing questions.  Fantastic.  My friends thought I was normal!  I already had plans to meet an unemployed pal at a super-early happy hour by 3 PM that day.

I threw on the previous night’s stinky drinking clothes and topped my bedhead off with a backwards Syracuse cap.  Gangsta.  I passed on a swipe of my pits with the Speed Stick and a brush of my pearlies with the Crest.  I was on the 2 train headed south a mere six minutes after the Jew-kids had woke me up with their four-square playing.

Getting off at the Chambers Street stop I felt like I was in a new city as this was not a part of Manhattan I find myself in more than once a year.  I mean, the bar scene stinks down there!  I was running late and somewhat lost and by the time I got to the court building, I was at the tail-end of a long snaking line of potential jurors all angrily staring at the same red and white dot matrixed card I’d received in the mail a few weeks previous.  As I waited to go through the metal detectors, my first myth of jury duty service was immediately dispelled:  people at jury duty are not the rag-tag rough-and-tumble bunch I’d expected.  I was prepared to, even in my filthy state, be one of the best-dressed, least-foreboding, and most put-together of the entire lot but that was far from the truth.  In fact, I was arguably the worst of the worst.  I was what I expected everyone else to look like.  What’s that quote from “Rounders?” “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the (poker) table, then you ARE the sucker.”  Well, if you can’t spot the scumbag while waiting in line for jury duty, then you are that scumbag.

The people around me were a sophisticated bunch of businessmen and women dressed to, at least the eights, perhaps even the nines I would dare say, praying they could quickly get out of service to actually go to work.  To actually go to work!  What a revelation.  And now it hit me, of course jury duty wasn’t going to be populated with the layabouts and idlers and profligates and bones, thugs, and harmony who I had expected to see.  Those are the exact kind of people that could never in a million years handle getting something in the mail, reading that something, remembering that something, waking up at 7-something AM, and getting their something in gear down to the court house.  Shit, I was just a few percentile points of laziness, disrespectability, and irresponsibility from being one of those aforementioned something or others.  The kind of person that would actually promptly and correctly respond to a government call for mandated service would of course be the same kind that has their shit together enough to have a job and to shower and to not drink til 3 AM on weeknights.

The line was overflowing with men in Ferragamo lace-ups and women in the whatever kinda pumps Carrie Bradshaw got clitoral erections over, all trying to figure out where that terrible smell was emitting from, all eventually honing it’s epicenter down to the brow-sweating man in beat-up jeans and Nike Shox, the only sneaker- and denim-clad person in the line, oozing booze from every pore in his body not already clogged by pizza and cheeseburger grease.

I still had a wicked hangover from the previous night.  Though I’d typical avoid Mexican St. Patty’s Day because I hate bullshit fratboyified drinking holidays, I’d had a date and started my Cinco de Mayo drinking early at the Ginger Man, excited to see The Bruery’s Saison De Lente there on tap.  I’d found their flagship Orchard White a mild disappointment but could still tell this was a creative brewery–still just in its first year of existence–to look out for.  And this motherfucking saison floored me!  Incredibly floral and citrusy with an earthy spiciness and a sourdough bready maltiness.  A mild funky Brettness, this is one of the hoppier saisons I’ve ever had but still silky smooth.  It just slides down your throat like a kid on a Slip ‘n’ Slide.  Like you’re drinking some KY jelly.  (Wait, that sounded more perverse than I wanted it to and inferred things that I have no interest in inferring.)  Saison De Lente is incredibly interesting and delicious.  Instantly becoming one of my top saisons.  Well done, The Bruery!

On a typical day the longest I go without caffeine entering my system is maybe like fifteen minutes after rising.  A hungover, miserable day like this was no time to break any records as I neared a full hour of uncaffeination.  Passing through the out-of-date metal detector, I was praying that the courthouse had a food court or something en route to my jury room.  Luckily, I stumbled upon a Middle-Eastern chap selling cardboard pastries, donuts, bagels, and coffee too, but unluckily what he had to offer was some of the hottest, most acrid coffee I’d ever had in my life.  I needed the caffeine but it was terrible tasting and I could also tell it would have remarkable laxative qualities and, what with a 2 AM styrofoam Hallal street meat still in my belly from just several hours earlier, I didn’t want to find myself on the public court house can.  I shuddered to think of that.  I shuddered more to think of sitting there as the head of the jury room called my name, “Goldfarb?  Goldfarb?  Has he skipped out?!  Contempt of court!”

I entered the massive jury room, similiar to the kind of facilities fly-by-night churches have to rent for weekly services and took my seat at the unfortunate front of the room.  The smarter kids had some how known to arrive early so they could get the cherished seats in the way back where they could goof and doze off without any repercussions*.  The head of the jury room came out to welcome us and yet another myth was dispelled–the workers here were some of the most upbeat and kind people I’d ever met in my life.  Incredibly helpful and good humored, and willing to answer the ad nauseum dumb questions asked of him by my fellow jurors.

These folks may have been better-dressed and ostensibly more respectable looking than me but goddamn were they dumb.  An infilade of daft and dopey queries exploded from these dunderheads’ pieholes like the retards in your college lecture hall classes who hectored the prof with the most asinine inanities.  “Will this be on the final?,” “Should I keep notes?,” and “Do we have to read every book on the syllabus?” were replaced by shit like “Do we get a lunch break?,” “Will we ever be sequestered?,” and “Is this just like ‘Law & Order?’”

We watched an instructional video on “how” to be a juror and though I wanted to not pay attention, it was hard to ignore this 1980s VHS tape hosted by Diane Sawyer and featuring Don Johnson in jury room dramatizations as it offered such helpful bon mots as:  “…if you get excused from duty, do not worry, it is not a judgment of your intelligence.”  Oh, don’t worry Diane, I wasn’t worried.

Afterward, we had to line up to submit our pay forms in order to be remitted $40 for our service, where yet another kind courthouse employee, a most gregarious man, cheerfully read each person’s occupation aloud as he accepted forms.

“Ah, a professor, whadaya teach?”

“Looky there, a firefighter!  Thanks for your service!”

“Cool, a lawyer!  What firm?”

I started playing a little game, guessing what each person did, anything to keep me busy.  This group of jurors was like an Ivy League class reunion.  Some serious heavyweights in the room.  But not completely…

For about every fourth person or so, the gregarious fella would look at the card and excitedly say:

“Well you’re not today!  Today, you’re making forty bucks!”

Wow, the unemployment rate was high.

And then, we sat and waited.  And waited and waited and waited.  The room had wifi and I had brought my laptop, but leaving in such a rush I had forgotten my power cord and arrived with only an hour of battery life left.  By 10:00 that was completely sapped.  I tried to read a novel, but all I’d packed was a heady Thomas Wolfe work I couldn’t focus on.  I tried to amuse myself by reading the NYC Juror Weekly newsletter–this seriously exists–but it sounds more humorous that it actually is.

So all that left me to do for the interminable hours was to observe those around me.

To my right, an obese gentleman slept, snoring loudly, and leaning so far back in his cheap plastic chair that I was certain it would soon snap. Behind me, a sassy Jamaican lady kept telling any one that would listen that Judge Judy wouldn’t allow no snoring in her court. She also implored the gregarious man to change the single juror room television from CNN to one of her soaps, but her wish was not granted.  To my left, a Jewish gent who conspiratorially informed me that he could not seem to access “lewd and lascivious” websites via the jury room’s wifi.   Testing him, I entered “JILF amateur porn” into Google and clicked on the first link it gave me.  One such JILF–juror I’d like to…know biblically–was sitting directly in front of me, her blonde hair cascading down over her chair and nearly tickling the tips of my knees.  The hot piece of work dressed ever so smartly, she had listed her occupation on her jury card as “archaeologist.” (Gregarious man:  “Wow, cool stuff!  Any ‘Jurassic Park’ stories you can tell me?”)  I wanted to know her in the worst way but I don’t think she had any interest in digging up my bone.

Come to think of it, there were more hot women in my jury room than in any bar I’d been in this year.  Gorgeous, statuesque, modelesque women listing their jobs as doctors and lawyers and just ambiguously as “CEO.”  Wow, what a catwalk the center aisle of the jury room was.

Lunch time in that deplorable part of town full of lawyers in cheap suits and oldass Chinese people selling crustaceans that you thought extinct but had somehow just died within the past minute, and I only had one choice for dining in my mind.  I high-tailed it up to Katz’s on Houston for a pastrami on rye, a knish, and a beer to even me out.  I think being drunk at jury duty is a class A felony but going postal and killing everyone in the room is probably worse.

After lunch I found myself surrounded by an all new crew:  two old biddies who apparently became friends in the morning session now loudly working a NY Post crossword together (”1 ACROSS: ‘Line before ‘Twist and Shout.” “Hmmmm…’Shape it on babe?!’”  “It fits, Joyce!  Perfect!”).  A Jeffrey Steingarten lookalike reading an RL Stine book.  Go figure.  A bespectacled gray-haired chap rocking nonstop in his chair ala Leo Mazzone in the dugout.  Very annoying.  A sexy school-teacher with a high hemline grading elementary schools essays and affixing gold stars to every other one.

And me, the hungover, stinky, smelly, pissed-off Jew, amusing himself by lampooning those around him.

Many people have said to me, “Ah, I’d LOVE to have jury duty once!”  What?  You think it’s some awesome “Law & Order” shit?  You think you’re gonna be Henry Fonda and heroically and correctly sway the hearts and minds of eleven other angry men with your brilliant rhetoric?  You really think you’re going to work some awesome quadruple homicide or drug-running case or something involving terrorism?  Naw.  With jury duty you are simply being sentenced to the adult version of detention.  I’m a wiseass so I of course had detention a time or two in junior high and high school and the adult version of it is much worse.  MUCH worse.  At least you kinda felt like a badass, a rebel, when you had high school detention.   Adult detention just makes you want to be a former felon so that you will never ever never be eligible for this shitty service again.

At least I got a respite for another six years.

A-

*I remember being five or six or so and first hearing the story of Rosa Parks.  “But why would she WANT to sit in the front of the bus?!  You can’t goof off in the front of the bus!  The bus driver can see you!  Didn’t she realize the best seat is in the back of that bus?!”  Hush that fuss.

Surly Cynic

October 2nd, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Surly, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

6.5% ABV from a 1-pint can

You hear her laugh the second she enters the joint.  One of those tilt-your-head-back-and-just-eject-noise-from-your-mouth laughs.  She might literally say “HA.”  HA! HA!! HA!!! HA!!!!  The thing is though, that no one probably even said anything funny.  It’s simply an attention-grab.  But you don’t need to turn in your barstool.  You know who has just entered the bar.  And you pray she doesn’t sit by you lest your night be ruined.  But, of course, she does.

The chair abutting yours she slides into.  Slinging her purse over an arm, causing the big sack full of cherry chapstick and Milanos no doubt to rest uncomfortably on your knee.  She throw her coat off and hangs it on the chair back, again in your way.  Immediately she wants food.  “I’m staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarving.”  How can that be?  Happy hour just started.  (This is what her companions are thinking.) And I saw what you ate for lunch at your desk just a few hours ago.  Two whole slices of Sicilian pizza.  Yeah, I know you daubed them with napkins to sop up some fatty grease.  Sure, now it’s health food, huh?  And for breakfast you brought in one of those big black trays with the clear lid you remove.  A whole fucking spread of food.  Who eats home fries on a weekday?  Isn’t that more of a casual brunching type item?  Not for you I guess.

Her companions–one of four types:  either the exact same kind of person, a co-worker unaware of her outside-the-office persona, an uncool homosexual, or a hard-hard-up heterosexual–humor her as she peruses the bar menu.

“Poppers?  Any one want jalepeno poppers?”

Everyone shrugs.  “Sure, whatever.”

“But how many orders?”

The waitress comes and takes the drinks.  She gets a vodka and diet tonic water.  “And an order of poppers.”  The waitress turns to leave and she spins her back like a top, atten-hut.  “Better make it two orders.  Oh, and do you have nachos?”

Of course.

“Can I get chicken on those?  And an extra sour cream.”

She scarfs the food down, taking far more than the even-percentage of food she should take.  Then she has the gall to ask, as there’s one final popper left on the communal plate, “How many did everyone have?” scanning the circle.  “Three…three…you had two…and, let’s see, I had…three.  Hmmm…the math doesn’t seem to add–”

One companion cuts her charade off:  “Oh just take it.”

“You sure?” she says as she’s already bitten into the popper, the cheap Velveeta exploding out the fried back end, hitting the bar like some Peter North come shot hits a girl’s tattooed coccyx.

She begins to drink, the pile of food in her belly amazingly unable to soak up the booze.

By the end of drink one she has become louder.  Doesn’t seem possible to be louder but this bitch goes to 11.  She’s touching all the guys that walk by, flirting like she’s fucking Mae West.  And it’s become impossible for you to enjoy your night, to speak with your drinking partner, to enjoy the music or sports on TV.  She’s got the attention she so desired.

By the end of drink two she’s begun to dance.  Honey, just because the “deejay”’s iPod accidentally shuffled to his ironic download of R. Kelly’s “Ignition,” doesn’t change the fact that you are in a fucking Irish pub.  And no one wants to dance with you.  It makes me thankful that it is literally illegal to dance in most bars in New York.

By the end of drink three all of her quasi-friends have deserted her for “previous dinner plans,” and she’s alone hitting on the unhappy bartender, sloppily asking him if she can get up on the bar “for a little show.”

And by drink four she has annoyed me so much that I have to leave the bar and go home.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, we are discussing fat girls, the absolute worst creatures in the world.

And before you call me a bigot, allow me to defend myself, and defend all other guys (and many girls) in the process because they feel the exact same way as me:

Look, we don’t hate you because you’re fat.  We won’t fuck you–sober at least–because you’re fat, but we don’t hate you for that reason.  We hate you because you are all so goddamn annoying.  Quit overcompensating for your insatiable love of chicken fingers by trying to be interesting and funny, by trying to “steal the show.”  It doesn’t work.  Just relax.  As Jules Winnfield would say, “Bitch, be cool!”

People always wonder how guys can hate fat girls while having countless fat male friends.  That’s because fat men are no more or less annoying than in-shape men.  But fat women are almost always as annoying as they come.  I have a fat female friend or two–I guess I should probably call them overweight or “voluptuous” or, can women be?, husky–and I like them because they act like normal human beings.  Their weight isn’t even an issue, not affecting their personality in the least.  They know how to sit at the bar and speak when there is something pertinent or interesting to say, interject a funny aside or even a full anecdote when necessary, and simply be cool.  Like all my friends do.  But that’s sadly a rarity among the Rubenesque.

Fat girls, you probably think if you just lost that final fifty pounds every one would like you and every man would want to fuck you.  Actually you probably don’t think that because you are all delusional and already think everyone likes you.  But if you do think that, don’t.  Because even if you were skinny and attractive you would still be the most annoying things in the bar.  If you were skinny you might not have such a massive well to produce the loud basso chortles and wails from, but you would still suck.

After this recent fat girl encounter I angrily marched home, glad to find a Surly Cynic waiting for me.  My first time to try it.

It has a nice yeasty smell and tastes a bit like a poor man’s Belgian trappist tripel.  But that’s no insult here.  French malted barley, English oats, and Slovenian hops, though I found the hoppiness to be only mild.  Tastes of honey and floral sensations.  The can claims the recipe also includes apricot, peach, and black pepper notes–which sounds quite intriguing–but I couldn’t really separate those out.  Whatever the case, I really fucking enjoyed this one.  And, remarkably enough, it may be my favorite of the three outstanding Surlys The Captain sent to me.  I can’t wait to try more.

A-

Birrificio Del Ducato Nuova Mattina (New Morning)

June 4th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Birrificio Del Ducato, Country: Belgium, Grade: B-, Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

5.9% from a bottle

Another Tria selection.

One of the oddest beers I’ve ever had, which is a statement you might notice I seem to say a lot after visiting Tria.

This beer has ingredients in it such as coriander, ginger, green pepper, chamomile, and licorice. It smells like it does when you mow the lawn. But the taste is actually less unique than you might think. It’s a little weak and far too bubbly for my liking.

I’m not gonna act like I loved this brew, but I’m sure glad I experienced it. Kinda the same way I felt after my first furries orgy.

B-