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Archive for the ‘Style: Strong Ale’ Category

The Stone Event at Blind Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double Dry Hopped Double Bastard (2009)

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

Ruination w/ Simcoe and Amarillo (cask)

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

Old Guardian (2007)

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

Arrogant Bastard Aged in Bourbon Barrels

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

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

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

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

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

Life and Limb

December 2nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Dogfish Head, Brewer: Sierra Nevada, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Strong Ale

10.2% ABV from a stubby bomber

The extended Thanksgiving weekend is a time of overindulgence, placation toward people you don’t really like, and ersatz enjoyment.  What I’m saying is, it’s a crash course on all that’s wrong with the television industry’s coverage of sporting events.

How do you fuck up televised coverage of sports?  Seems like you’d just need to find a good spot to place a camera or two, turn them on, then simply capture world class athletes doing world class things.  Yeah right.  Not even amateur pornography can be shot so haphazardly.

I won’t claim for a second that televised sports are worse now than they used to be.  Of course they aren’t.  Turn on ESPN Classic or check out an NFL Film and even games from the 1980s look so old that you half expect to see Knute Rocke or Vince Lombardi roaming the sidelines.  The graphics are comically bad, the font choices are laughably dated, the halftime sets more public access than “Wayne’s World” (that’s before they were sponsored by Noah’s Arcade, natch), and the basic footage is abominable.  Shit, even if you accidentally turn on a non-HD channel to watch sports nowadays you’re immediately like, “Mine eyes!  Mine eyes!!!” as if carbolic acid had just been poured on them.  How many times I’ve selected an inferior sporting event on an HD channel over a superior one only available on non-HD, ipso facto.

Nevertheless, despite the immense technological advances, today’s coverage of sports are not without their flaws.  Most of which can be summed up by the phrase:

TOO MUCH!

1.  Cutaways — Johnny Pointguard from Syracuse makes a nice layup.  CUT!  Johnny backpedaling downcourt with a smile on his face.  CUT!  Johnny’s parents–done come all the way from Plano, Texas–decked out in their brand spanking new ‘Cuse gear, lovingly cheering on their son.  CUT!  Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim observing the action, ostensibly happy.  CUT!  UNC coach Roy Williams observing the action, ostensibly miffed.  CUT!  Back to wide shot and we’ve just missed two steals, a monster dunk, and a three-point play.  If action is occurring on the court, WE WANT TO SEE THE ACTION OCCURING ON THE COURT!  We don’t want close-ups of players not currently involved in the play, craggy old coaches sitting stoically on the sidelines, coaches’ wives, parents in the stands, fans in the cheap seats, baby mamas, baby babies, fucking mascots, or even cheerleaders (unless they’re the USC Song Girls–vavavavoom!)  Just film the action please.  It’s what we’re watching this whole dog ‘n’ pony show for…the dog ‘n’ pony.  Not their wives.

2.  Graphics — On a similar note, enough with full-screen graphics.  Over the weekend I was watching one of those preseason hoops tourney tilts from some shitty tropical destination which is really just an outdoor American shopping mall with a Senor Frogs or two.  Any how, the game opened with one of those full scale graphic “Keys to the Game” things that look kinda like this:

The Funyuns Keys to Win-yuns

Kentucky

  • Dunk the ball a lot
  • Don’t point shave
  • Hope Coach Cal remembers to send 5 players out on the floor instead of 2 or 3

Bartlesville Tech

  • Recruit more athletes (black people)
  • Pray God exists and hates UK as much as everyone else
  • Poison opponents at half-time

The two D-list announcers were laboriously going over these most inane “keys” while underneath the graphic I’m hearing sneaker squeaks, rim clanks, and John Calipari’s hair grease dripping onto the hardwood like some sort of Greaseball Water Torture.

The announcers finally finish speaking, the graphics finally disappear, and we return to action, the score 5-2, 18:25 left in the half!

Networks cover sports as if a retarded person from another planet decided to watch his first game and needed to understand the most basic aspects of these contests.  When the fact is, 99% of people that follow sports–especially obscure early season games–know more about sports than 99% of these network buffoons running the show.

3. Speaking of buffoons, now would be the time you might think I would indict announcers.  But, you know, I really don’t have a problem with most.  Announcers are like politicians:  boringly mediocre.  Sure, there’s the incredibly dumb and annoying ones (I won’t name names), even more rare the remarkable ones, but most are just mediocre, a hair better than incompetent.  For the most part, people become announcers and politicians because they aren’t good at anything else in life.  (And I say this having very good friends thriving in both professions–I doubt they read here though.)

4. No, what’s annoying and awful when it comes to personnel are the sideline reporters and studio show schnooks.

Sideline reporters — The absolute paradigm of the “too much” conundrum in sports coverage, I’m not quite sure why these people exist.  To get the “scoop” on how Phil Jackson feels being up by 7 at halftime?  Uh…good?  It’s even more shocking when a sideline reporter is ugly.  (Aren’t they supposed to be a little eye candy to make us not feel gay for spending all day watching underdressed buff Adonises grappling with each other?)  Or male.  (Craig Sager and his sweet suits excepted.)  The one time we do need sideline reporters is when a player gets injured so that we may learn of the severity.  Yet what do they always say:  “Uh yeah, Craig, Polamalu was just carted off to the lockerroom, seems to be grimacing in pain.”  Well no joke, we all just saw that!  It’s no wonder the typically deplorable Fox baseball broadcasts have scrapped sideline reporters altogether and now just have some lackey strap a Madonna “Vogue”-era mic onto Joe Girardi or Mike Scioscia between half-innings to have them quickly espouse their state-of-the-art theories on the crucialness of the three-run homer, Earl Weaver eat your fucking heart out.

Studio show schnooks — Perhaps the absolute scourge of televised entertainment.  Have you ever met a single human being that actually enjoys studio shows?  Who wakes up early on Saturday or Sunday to specifically watch them?!  Would they be your friend for one second longer if they did?  Featuring some of the most deplorable and annoying people on planet earth–the bulbous ooze known as Chris Berman being the most egregious offender–these are nothing more than hours-long yuckfests with minimal entertainment, oft-repeated platitudes, and absolutely no insight.  This is perhaps best demonstrated toward the end of these shows, right before the “experts” make their weekly predictions, when said “experts’” season picks records are posted, usually looking something like this:

The Diet Mountain Dew Code Red Picks of the Week
(through week 11)

1.  KENNY   12-25

2.  KEITH   11-24

3.  CARL   9-26

4.  BOOMER   5-21-1

Having these standings end a studio show telecast is more of a stomach punch than the endings of “The Sixth Sense” or “The Usual Suspects.”  “You mean I just wasted three hours of my life listening to these experts?!?!?!?!”

Yes you did.

It’s enough to almost make you want to attend these games in person.  Then again, that would create a whole new set of annoyances.

At the least, while watching sports at home, you can ignore the televised miasma with a little help from delicious craft beers that sports stadiums would never sell you.  Such as the new rarer-than-I-expected Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada collaboration Life and Life.  I apparently got a bottle from one of only three cases in the entire city, and I feel eternally lucky that my friend Kevin tipped me off on when and where to score some.  I’d been greatly anticipating this beer as a Dogfish Head acolyte and it certainly delivered.  Life and Limb is made with pure maple syrup from Sam Calagione’s Massachusetts family farm and estate barley grown on the Sierra Nevada estate and fermented with both breweries’ house yeast strains.  I loved the rich smell and the brew tasted like a root beer, actually more like a birch beer in fact with it’s syrupy mouthfeel.  Silky like a brown ale with a barley wine-like malty sweetness on the back end.  A nice boozy bite but immenently drinkable.  Well worth the cost if you locate it, I really loved this beer.

A

Lost Abbey Angel’s Share(s)

July 29th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: The Lost Abbey, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Strong Ale

Who says Twitter is useless?

Well, pretty much everybody who isn’t producing bad movies that they don’t want you to know are bad via word of mouth and Iranian elections protesters that no one is paying attention to.  I too found one swell use for it recently.  Allow me to elucidate.  Back in May I attended the SAVOR beer festival in our nation’s capital.  As is the case at most classy events–weddings, Bar Mitzvah’s, junior proms I’m chaperoning–I arrived appropriately soused.  And, when I’m appropriately soused, I’m inappropriately confident in my ability to seduce, impress, and entertain people.  Usually women.  But in this case, at SAVOR, I drunkenly marched up to Lost Abbey’s brewmaster Tomme Arthur and proudly slurred to him that just the previous day his Serpent’s Stout had handily defeated the more-legendary Deschutes Abyss in a blind stout drink-off my friends and I had conducted.  With a friendly smile and not much more, he seemingly dismissed me in the same way countless women have dismissed my drunken inveiglery.

Nevertheless, that next week after having typed up a post reporting on that very same Imperial Stout Drink-off, I then tweeted to the masses:

My imperial stout drink-off btwn: @lostabbey Serpent’s @DeschutesBeer Abyss & Avery The Czar http://tinyurl.com/ry9c7k

(If you know nothing about Twitter, @’ing someone else’s screenname creates a link which allows that user, in the cases above, Lost Abbey and Deschutes, to read the tweet I posted.)

Well, lo and behold, a few hours later I got an e-mail from the big man himself, Tomme Arthur, who had seen my tweet, read my Vice Blog post, and been compelled to write me.  Excerpted…

“…I actually remember our conversation from Savor so score one for sobriety!  Send me your address where you would like some goodies sent and we’ll return the love…”

Not bad.  “Goodies.”  I assumed I’d be getting some keychains, bumper stickers, bottle openers, perhaps a t-shirt or some glassware.  Which would have been great.  So imagine my shock then when a massive package arrived the next week from FedEx, which I actually had to sign for and show my ID to prove I was 21–I was getting anxious!–and in which I found neatly packed a bottle of the Lost Abbey’s swell saison Carnevale and a bottle each of both their bourbon and brandy barrel-aged Angel’s Shares, two legendary West Coast rarities I thought I may never touch as long as I should live.

This previous Friday, friend and fellow beer blogger The Captain was visiting NYC and I joined him at his hotel room for an epic beer tasting–more of which I will discuss tomorrow–but which we led off with both Angel’s Share.

Brandy Barrel-Aged (2008)

12.5% ABV 375 mL bottled

First up was the lately-much-maligned brandy barrel-aged.  At one time, and we’re talking recently, like as recent as earlier this year, I can recall it being in the top 30 or so of Beer Advocate’s Top Beers on Planet Earth, but the events surrounding this very year’s release and some questionable carbonation levels–and some bitchy holy-than-though beer folks–caused it to have a most precipitous fall into oblivion.  I wasn’t sure what to expect other than that I would surely like the bourbon barrel-aged Angel’s Share better because, I mean, ipso facto, I like bourbon better than brandy.

I was grossly wrong.  This beer was absolutely sublime.  Smelled nearly identical to the glorious J.W. Lees Harvest Ale port casked beer, a glorious beer in and of itself.  This is called a strong ale, but the taste is very much that of a barley wine.  Dark caramel malts, tons of vanilla and oak flavors, a nice little candi hint, and of course a perfect amount of sweet, sweet brandy.  The brandy and the beer combine so flawlessly it’s amazing.  It’s like they were made for each other.  Truly a special and unique offering.  As for carbonation, it is indeed negligable, but I hardly cared.  This is a 12.5% fairly flat beer with a rich, syrupy, and luxurious mouthfeel.  And that’s how it should be in my opinion.  What, would you want, a fizzy, efferevescent beer with these same flavors?  Can’t please everybody I guess, but you sure pleased me, Lost Abbey.  And I’d be saying that even if I hadn’t gotten this expensive beer for free!  (Sorry for bragging, I got excited.)

A

Bourbon Barrel-Aged (2009)

12.5% ABV 375 mL bottled

OK, so Lost Abbey is the first brewery to ever send me free shit, which automatically makes them an inductee into The Vice Blog’s Turn-Me-Into-A-Shameless-Shill Hall of Fame, but luckily they are one of the finest breweries in America and I don’t need to shamelessly shill for them, I can be a straightshooter.  I had saved the bourbon barrel-aged Angel’s Share for second because nothing ruins my drinking experience more than having beer in qualitative descending order as opposed to ascending (see my recent De Struise tasting.)

For as much as people had been bashing the brandy barrel-aged, the bourbon barrel-aged had continued to get near unanimous praise, holding steady high on the BA Top 100, often drifting into the top ten even.  I love bourbon and I love bourbon-barreled beers, so I thought this would be a masterpiece.  But, you know, even though it was very, very, very good, it simply wasn’t as good as the brandy offering.  It was much hotter.  The taste harsher on the palate.  Is that due to the barreling or the year?  Hard to say.  But based only on what I tasted, I simply don’t feel like the bourbon combined quite as well with the strong ale as the brandy did.  Don’t get me wrong though, this is still a great beer, absolutely worth locating.  I kinda just wish I’d set it aside for a little longer to let the booziness calm down and mellow out, the bourbon mix into the beer a little better.  Hopefully I’ll get to do that some day.

And maybe Twitter can help me out some more…

A

Dogfish Head Immort Ale

January 23rd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Dogfish Head, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Strong Ale

11% ABV

I hate bar crawls.  So lame.  I know that’s going against conventional drunkard wisdom but I just don’t like them.  A bunch of fat guys and ugly girls that never drink decide to make some t-shirts on Zazzle or at Kinko’s, mob together around a nebulous idea or celebration, say “Woohoo!” a lot, and pretend they are having a caaaaaaaaaaaa-razy time on a Sunday afternoon while the rest of us are just trying to have our steak and eggs and watch some college hoops.  Then, by the third or fourth bar, one guy is passed out in the corner, some chick has pissed her pants, and two friends are making out in a booth.  Boring.  That’s why I invented something truly interesting:

The 86ed Bar Crawl

Here’s how it works:  One may not head to the next bar until they have been ejected from the previous bar.

Sounds simple?  It’s not.  Especially when I list a few things you are NOT allowed to do.

1.  Use curse words or epithets — That’s too easy.  Any one can just throw out a few n-words or f-bombs or…cunts, and get tossed.  So have some creativity.  Say things that sound like curse words.  Like niggardly.  Dumb people think that’s an offensive word when it just means stingy or miserly.  Tell the black barkeep, “Jeez, pal, quit being so niggardly with your bourbon pours.  You only gave me like two fingers worth!”  You’ll be on your ass on the curbside in no time.

2.  Intentionally throw something or break something — As some one who likes to do these things when I am lit up, I will tell you that they often quickly lead to ejections.  For some reason, when I’m wasted I find it hysterical to “make it rain” using bar napkins or tiny red straws, grabbing an entire stack and throwing them in the air.  Yes, this is why no one likes me, especially service industry professionals.  You can however, legally, accidentally, drop your pint glass a time or two, but I will note that that action will actually not lead to many tossings and just causes a mess which will make you feel bad when you see the lonely bar back getting the mop out.

3.  Physically altercate someone — Everyone knows the easiest way to get thrown out of any establishment — bars, sporting venues, Synagogue — is by coming to blows with another human or employee or the Rabbi, so that is why fighting is simply not allowed.

4.  Actively try to goad someone into physically altercating you — This is a debatable issue but I don’t think it’s fair to get in some one’s face — especially a musclebound Red Bulled-up meathead — and encourage them to slug you.  Hitting on their girl, making fun of their sleeveless T and orangey fake tan, and slyly lampooning their drink choice (”Huh, you usually don’t see men order Sex on the Beach shots.”) is perfectly acceptable though.

5.  Tip poorly – Just not fair to the bartender or waiter.  Tipping with change or weird coinage (a buffalo penny?) is probably not verboten but it is pretty uncouth.  Then again, most all is fair in love, war, and the 86ed bar crawl.

So there you have it, your guidelines for the 86ed Bar Crawl.  Now venture out there, impressionable youngsters, and have some fun with it.  How many bars do you think you can get 86ed from in a night?  As for me, I do an ad hoc 86ed bar crawl nearly every time I go out drinking.  I think my one-night “record” is four establishments.  I really need to grow up.

How would you get ejected from each venue during an 86ed bar crawl?

Immort Ale

I would never claim to have tried every Dogfish Head beer, they make so goddamn many I could literally have a Vice Blog devoted solely to that brewery, but I thought I had at least heard of all their offerings.  Apparently not so as I was a bit excited to spy this on the shelves.  Arguably my favorite brewery, I never miss a chance to try another of their inventive offerings.  This was quite good, though not transcendent by any means.  It’s a very nice strong ale accented with juniper berries, vanilla, and maple syrup which gives it just a hint of sweetness that makes it feel almost like a strong ale/barley wine hybrid.  DFH claims it is oak barrel aged but I didn’t detect those tastes.  Very good.

A-

“On your deathbed, it’s your virtues, not your vices, that you’ll resent.”

(Author unknown.  I was cleaning up some papers just this morning and found this written in one of my notebooks.  But who said it?  Me?!)

Port Old Viscosity

September 24th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Port, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Strong Ale

10.5% ABV from a bomber

Much like Da Vinci had the Medicis and Samuel Johnson had Lord Chesterfield, I too have patrons that provide me with the necessary supplies to carry out my artistry. Recently, a few of my patrons–a married couple–were up in Seattle for a brief vacation and to catch the Oklahoma/Washington football tilt.

I was elated when they returned home with numerous Port and Lost Abbey offerings and quickly asked if they had plans for the weekend. Seeing that they didn’t I all but forced them to invite me over for some hifalutin beer samplings. And I use the term “samplings” in the same loose way that a chain restaurant calls a four feet in diameter plate covered in greasy foods a “sampler.”

Arriving over at their place* I was overwhelmed by all the goods they had brought back to New York. I had to contemplate long and hard the batting order for the night’s drinking. I was most intrigued by the Old Viscosity, a bourbon-barrel aged supposed-strong ale. My friends were most frightened by this brew so we all had to warm up with a few batting practice beers first (final baseball metaphor I swear!). Two of which were the new Budweiser American Ale which I had picked up for a combined $6.29 across the street. I chuckled to see the pricing label from the Pike Place Market store still on the Old Viscosity: $5.99. And why do people continue to drink macro shit?!

The Port beer poured a ton darker and (no shit) viscous than I had expected, more like a stout than a strong ale, even a Herculean-in-strength strong ale. And the taste was stylistically perplexing as well. No wonder, even Port admits they’re trying to trick us! From their grammatically-fucked-up website:

“Not your Dad’s Wimpy 30 Weight” is how our original label used to describe this massive chewy and thick beer. Code named by our brewers-”The Big Black Nasty,” this is monstrous dark ale is brewed to no particular style. Thick and sludgy like oil from the crankcase of a wheat threshing combine, Old Viscosity blurs the boundaries of Porter, Stout, Old Ale and Barleywines.

At first I mostly tasted coffee, wood, and a bit of chocolate, much like a good Russian imperial stout. Being such a bourbon freak I was a bit miffed that it wasn’t as initially prominent as I had hoped for. This beer is very alcoholic in taste which is something I love but which I’m afraid many won’t. As the Old Viscosity warmed due to my drinking partners’ fear and neglect, the bourbon started to shine through quite a bit and I began to really love this one. It’s an asskicker for sure, and polishing off a bomber by yourself might be considered an act of personal euthanasia in some cities (please check your local municipality’s ordinances), but goddamn is this a fine beer. Highly recommended–a home run (OK, I lied).

A

*For you many Vice Blogger stalkers out there that blow up pictures of the beers, trying to see what is behind them in order to create an idea of the apartment I live in to aid in your perverted slash fiction fantasies about you and me, know that I was not in my home for this drink-a-thon. Believe me, my home has nothing nice in it.

He’Brew Rejewvenator

July 30th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Shmaltz, Country: America, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Strong Ale

7.8% ABV from a bomber

I’m a bad estimator of how much I plan to drink in an evening. Luckily, my eyes are bigger than my liver and I always overestimate, often causing a stockpile of beer to…well, stockpile. Pre-barring Friday night I knew I wanted my first two beers to be the pricey and potent Westmalle Dubbel and Hair of the Dog Fred. I thought I might need just a tad more beer before I headed out so I opted for the Rejewvenator. Why? For three reasons:

1. It was only $3.99 for a bomber and after having spent an incredibly pretty penny on 12 ounce bottles of the Dubbel and Fred I needed some bang for my buck.

2. Jewish pride always gets me. Seinfeld, Woody Allen, Hank Greenberg, Ryan Braun, Neil Diamond, Pauly Shore…if you are Jewish I will most certainly overrate you.

3. I’ve never had a fig beer before. Hell, I’ve never heard of a fig beer before. Fuck, I think I’ve only had figs before in Newton form. This could be interesting.

Of course, I was already kinda in the tank after the brilliant Westmalle Dubbel (review later this week), so I decided to pass on the highly acclaimed Fred for another time (review next week), and head straight for the marginally acclaimed Rejewvenator to “get the job done” before heading out on the town.

Rejewvenator came out in a ruby red pour. Does it taste figgy? Eh, not exactly. At least I don’t think. But it has a unique flavor and a good one at that. I taste chocolate, malts, a little hops, and a bit of a sour finish. It was tons better than I thought it would be. Very flavorful, pretty complex, nice bite.

I was really digging this beer early on in the bottle but by bomber’s end I had grown a bit tired of it and wasn’t liking the pronounced alcohol taste.

Having said that, for the most part, I had a really enjoyable time drinking this one, especially considering I bought it as a bit of a goof.  L’chaim.

A-/B+

Samuel Adams Utopias (2007)

July 3rd, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Boston Beer Company, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Style: Strong Ale

25.6% ABV

I’ve put my Patrick Ewing kneepads on, I’ve taken a few swigs of water for moisture, I’ve loosened up my cheek muscles, unhinged my jaw, and the dental dam is firmly in place…it’s time for me to fellate Samuel Adams Utopias.

This is not just the best beer ever, it is not just the best fermented drink ever, but it is perhaps the best alcoholic beverage in the history of mankind. Let’s just say, the long-dead American patriot shouldn’t just be honored to have his name on this, he should be greatly worried that history will remember Sam Adams Utopias the beer before they remember Sam Adams the man. This beer is so motherfucking good that people should learn the lost art of epic poetry simply so they can compose epic poems to it. It is a greater achievement than landing on the moon or discovering evolution. Jim Koch, the Samuel Adams brewmaster, should win Time’s Man of the Year.

Utopias comes in a bomber-sized, ceramic genie-bottle-shaped vessel that if you rub the side and unscrew the cap a spirit (luckily one NOT voiced by the insufferable Robin Williams) pops out, not granting you three wishes but instead telling you that if you have just a few ounces of this beer you will achieve nirvana.

Oh, have I mentioned…

It is the most alcoholic beer ever crafted!

Did you hear me?

THE MOST MOTHERFUCKING ALCOHOLIC BEER CREATED!!!

And, it is to be drunk in two-ounce servings from specially-designed Utopias glassware. Yes, the Boston Beer Company does not think any other glasses in the history of the world have been created to appropriately drink their beer from. Thus, they crafted their own (see bottom picture). How awesomely arrogant is that?!

Even more interesting, due to silly Christian laws created and inspired by the Brigham Youngs, Jerry Fallwells, and Jim Joneses of the country, Utopias is not allow to be sold in fourteen U.S. states. Here is that damnable lineup:

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia.

I don’t even recognize states as being part of our union if they don’t allow this brilliant concoction to be tippled by constituents. I actually proudly fly a thirty-six star American flag over my heavily-fortified drinking compound.

I will not recognize you despicable fourteen states until you let your citizens drink Utopias!

Not that they could actually locate it as Sam Adams only releases 12,000 bottles of heaven per two years. I am lucky enough to have tried Utopias on three different occasions. Each time, loving and understanding it just a little more.

OK, so we know it’s potent, we know it’s pricey, we know it’s rare, we know it merits a blow job, but how does it taste? I thought nothing more appropriate for this beer than to actually review it like a legit beer snob (not that a legit beer snob would preface his review with a highly-graphic fellatio prologue). If any beer merits pretentiousness it is this one.

Appearance: An absolutely gorgeous amber like what that dinosaur-blood-sucking mosquito was frozen in “Jurassic Park.”

Smell: A bouquet of incredibly potent maple syrup, but this ain’t Aunt Jemima, it’s the good shit you buy at a hippie farmer’s market. The aroma goes up your nose as the Utopias’ odorants bind with olfactory neuron cell bodies. Their axons synapse in the olfactory bulb region in your brain, making you go, “God Damn! I said God Damn!” like Mrs. Mia Wallace in “Pulp Fiction.”

Taste: More full-bodied than Aretha Franklin. Maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, honey, several different types of yeast, caramel malts, and a whole lotta hops though not much bite. Earthy with some spice and hints of bourbon and sherry due to aging I believe. A creamy, chocolate and coffee-like finish. More sublime than “40 Oz. to Freedom.”

Mouthfeel: Nearly indescribable. As complex as beer, if not any alcohol, can possibly get. God did not create a human with enough writing prowess to adequately discuss the Utopias’s feel. It is absolutely unlike beer, lacking in carbonation and with no need for refrigeration. It would best be described as nearer to being a potent barley wine, a sherry, an aged port, maybe a bourbon, or most likely fine cognac as composed to a measly brew. The difference between the “beers” of Utopias and, say, Bud Light is more pronounced than the the slugging difference between George Herman Ruth and Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

Drinkability: Eminently drinkable though one will probably never consume more than an ounce or two in a sitting as it is like drinking money. Figuratively of course.

Consuming this beer will ruin you for the rest of the day (if not your entire existence on planet earth). Not cause it’s that potent–remember, you’re only savoring a few ounces of it max–but, rather, because everything afterward will taste so goddamn sub-par. After my most recent drinking of Utopias I followed it up with some Allagash Odyssey, a world-class beer in itself, that I was barely able to enjoy at first. My tongue was still tingling from the Utopias and my memory so seared by its brilliance that I had to eat damn near a loaf of bread to get the greatness out of my mouth and mind. I had to not just cleanse my palate, but cleanse everything I’d known about the world previous, just to appropriately review the Odyssey.

Let it be said, Utopias will change your thoughts about beer and imbibing for the rest of time. If you are ever lucky enough to find this beer, pay whatever is asked for it (or do the “Hey, look over there!” trick and filch it).

I don’t believe in a higher power but I still love Ben Franklin’s famous saying, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” He could have easily been referring to Utopias.

My absolutely highest recommendation. A masterpiece.

A+

Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

July 1st, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Stone, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Strong Ale

7.2% ABV on draught

Batch thinks I’m a Stone “homer” and he’s absolutely right. I’m the motherfucking Harry Caray of Stone Brewery except I’m a cheerleader for a line of beers that is always world-class while the Cubbies have been pretty much futile for going on a full century. Having said that, the Oaked Arrogant Bastard was the rare Stone beer I hadn’t loved the previous, and only time, I’d had it before. Which is weird because I’m a huge regular Arrogant Bastard fan and “oaking” a beer without question usually makes it even better. What is an oaked beer you might ask? Pretty much just what it sounds like. You take a strong ale (or other high ABV beer) and throw it in a oaked barrel–usually, but not always, one that previously stored bourbon, Scotch, or wine–and let the brew further age and mature. In fact, many of my favorite all-time beers are oaked, brews such as Old Yeti imperial stout and countless beers from the magnificent Allagash brewery. Oaking a beer pretty much elevates it to a higher class of drink as it becomes infused with hints of wood and whiskey (among other things) that simply can’t be imparted in the standard beermaking process.

So why didn’t I like the somewhat rare Oaked Arrogant Bastard the first time I had it but absolutely loved it this time? Let’s get to that question in a moment, but first I want to discuss the beer. Stone beers are famous for their power and potency (heck, they put “You are not worthy” on their caps) and with the exact same ABV as the un-oaked Arrogant Bastard this one is no exception. However, the wood chips seem to mute the alcoholic, whiskey taste on the tongue that the un-oaked version provides. I’m not sure it’s that great of thing for pure taste reasons as I love a very alcoholic-flavored beer, but it surely does make the Oaked more palatable, drinkable, refreshing, and well-rounded. This beer also feels less hoppy, but it still has a ton of taste so that’s a minor quibble. Caramel maltiness, sweet with vanilla hints, and just a tad bitter. Georgeous.

I will definitely be drinking Oaked more in the future than the standard Arrogant Bastard as it is a bit more unique and complex. But I truly adore them both, what can I say, I am the Harry Carey of Stone, Holy Cow!

So going back to my earlier question–why did I find the Oaked on tap to be a near masterpiece after having not been too pleased with the bottled version? Could it simply have been a bad batch the first time or was it something completely different?

Maybe it is that draught beer is superior to bottled? Who knows but personally I do prefer draught all things being even. There is in fact a huge debate amongst beer snobs as to whether draught or bottled beer is better. Actually, there’s not much of a debate as most everyone agrees that tap beer is better. The debate is over why it is better. Even connesseurs aren’t 100 percent sure. Many claim it could even just be a psychological thing! You’ll see all the “experts” throw out numerous reasons for draught’s superiority with the most common thoughts being that it:

*is fresher, closer to being straight from the brewery’s tanks.

*is more rounded with less bite.

*has less chance of being exposed to ruinous sunlight.

*has less chance of coming into contact with the elements making up the beer’s container. Ever noticed that most crappy canned beer tastes metallic?

*has less CO2 to screw up taste and add bitterness, as compared to the massive CO2 added upon bottling.

*not pasteurized or filtered as opposed to most bottled beers (bottle-conditioned brews excepted of course).

*is better “handled” in transportation. I mean, have you ever seen the kinds of roughnecks that transport beer across this fine country?

I’m not sure if I agree with any of those reasons over any other, but I agree with all of them to a certain extent. The key thing is that draught beer has less chance of having something go wrong with it that could fuck up the beer’s flavor while bottled beers have about a zillion things that could go wrong with them from the list above. But, don’t be confused, my majority of beer consumption is from bottles. It simply has to be if one wants to drink beers from not just this entire country but from this entire world. I’m not trying to say that bottled beer is bad, just that it is usually a hair worse than it’s draught counterpart. But, it’s still beer and if you are drinking a quality one it will still be delicious poured straight from the bottle into a nice piece of glassware.

I’ll end the debate by saying I hope to have another Oaked Arrogant Bastard bottle soon and see what I think. I’ll report my findings. Drinking numerous Stone beers as part of a draught vs. bottle science fair experiment ain’t exactly a tough life!

A

Goose Island Matilda

June 17th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Goose Island, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Strong Ale

7% ABV on draught

Remember that beer I passed on and thus missed out on back in this entry? I never named the beer but it was indeed Goose Island Matilda. I thought I might not get to ever try this brew until one of my beer spies tipped me off that the great Valhalla had it on tap. Being that the bar is only a kicked aluminum can in distance from the discarded refrigerator box I call home in Hell’s Kitchen, I was soon headed there. Upon arriving though, the bartender claimed that all they currently had available from Goose Island was their IPA. This confused me.

If there’s one quibble I have with Valhalla it’s how fucking dark they keep the place (which explains my obscenely dark photos). You’d need fucking infrared goggles to see the taps on the wall. Shouldn’t a bar that prides itself on its diversity and plethora of beer want it so people can actually see what they goddamn offer?! And, the beer menus they have for perusal are not much help either as they never seem to update them. In fact, the menu I was reading still listed Dogfish Head Aprihop on it — a beer that hasn’t been in release since at least March or April. Furthermore, I counted some 48 taps on their wall, yet only 31 beers on the menu. What the fuck? Finally, while finishing my first quaff, a Nostradamus Brown Ale, I noticed that there were in fact two of the iconic Goose Island taps on the wall.

I called the surly bartender over to me, he was already annoyed with my multitude of questions. “What’s that tap?” I pointed to one gooseneck. “It’s the IPA.” “OK, then what’s that one?” I pointed to the other gooseneck all the way on the other side of the wall near the slutty female bartender’s “station.” He curiously walked over. “It says Matilda, but we’re not supposed to have that one.” He poured himself a tiny sample, sipped it. Indeed it was Matilda. At last!

Good things come to little boys that wait. I sipped the beer they weren’t supposed to have. And it was niiiiiiiiiiiice. Served in a gargantuan balloon glass, more befitting some five-scoop banana split buttfuck sundae from Serendipity or some other girly place where you ask for your ice cream with two spoons to share with your amore. Or, more likely your other fat and ugly girlfriends.

Matilda is so alcoholic, so tasty. Right in my wheelhouse. Without looking I had no idea on the style but I would have guessed a strong, strong ale which indeed it is, though not as potent as it actually tastes. It does have a near perfect mix of alcohol, hops, maltiness, and sweetness. Also a touch of juniper which gives it hints of gin flavoring which is fairly unique for a beer. I must admit, though, the Matilda just didn’t quite blow my mind (or any other body part!) enough to give it a full A. Nor does it seem to truly offer anything better than my most favorite strong ales (Arrogant Bastard for one). A damn solid brew though and I look forward to drinking it again, if I ever find it again. I could see myself growing to like this one more than I did on my first sampling.

A-

Legacy Hedonism Ale

June 7th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Legacy, Country: America, Grade: B plus, Style: Strong Ale

7% ABV on draught

I’m truly shocked how high the ABV on this one is. Not sure if the draught is less than the bottle but it really didn’t feel that potent at all. Though, it is extraordinarily hoppy which, yes, does often signal a high ABV. A nice smooth bitterness and sourness with the every so slightest hints of orange sweetness. Light and surprisingly refreshing. Worth trying for sure.

B+