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Archive for the ‘Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)’ Category

COOP AleWorks

December 22nd, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: COOP AleWorks, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Grade: A regular, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Grade: B regular, Grade: B-, Style: Amber Ale, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Style: IPA, Style: Stout, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen), Style: Wild Ale

Back when I lived in Oklahoma, back in the 90s, there really wasn’t any decent craft beer.  (Of course, I was a teenager.)  I kinda felt like it would always be that way.  This is a state where you can’t buy cold beer over 3.2% anywhere.  Then, I started hearing some rumblings that a brewery called COOP AleWorks was really cranking out some legit shit.  So, when I made my triumphant return to town over the weekend for a “How to Fail” book tour signing, I knew I would have to seek it out.  On both Thursday night and Saturday, I met up with COOP partner/bon vivant J.D. Merryweather (above) for some serious tippling, pretty much drinking anything in the brewery he would let me.  I was like a kid in a candy shop.  Or, to be less trite, like a drunk in a brewery.  And, wow, was it all good.

Horny-Toad Cerveza

One of two canned COOP offerings (along with Native Amber; the rest are currently tap only), this 5.3% ABV American Blonde Ale would seem to be the “lamest” offering from COOP, the one meant to convert the Bud Light drinkers…and it is.  But that doesn’t mean it’s lame.  No sir, this is a 5.3% beer with some serious flavor.  The Noble hops, the malt body, the carbonation, made me think this was more along the lines of a pilsner, but whatever it is, it’s damn good.

A-/B+

Zeppelin German Wheat

Yeah, no craft beer drinker likes American wheat beers, right?  If more places were making great efforts like Zeppelin, that might not be the case.  5.6% and packed with tastes of wheat and rye with just a little hops coming through, this is a solid drinker, better than most on the market.

B+

Native Amber

Red ales are always a crap shoot for me as they are a delicate balance between hops and malt that if you fuck up, they are just gross.  But COOP nails this one.  Caramelly and biscuity with a nice hoppy finish, this is the beer Fat Tire wishes it could be.

A-

Gran-Sport Porter

Porters are another beer that breweries never seem to completely nail.  Often too bitter and acrid, COOP has made one of the best I’ve had recently.  Chocolately and nutty, this had such a smooth, fluffy finish I was certain it had to have been served on a nitro tap.  Nope.  I really enjoyed this one.

A-

F-5 IPA

I highly doubt there’s an IPA this good made within 500 miles of COOP.  The classic West Coast bitter grapefruit and pine IPA, a little hefty at 7%, this is the beer that will turn a ton of Oklahomans into hop heads.

A

DNR Belgian Style Golden Ale

What an insanely intriguing beer.  An over-the-top complex mix of Noble hops, European malts, and Belgian candi giving this tastes of vanilla, cinnamon, and dark fruits.  And, at 10% this is one of the most deceptively alcoholic beers I’ve ever had.  You’ll want to keep sucking them down.  But don’t.  Or do.  I don’t really care about your health.

A

Territorial Reserve Oak-Aged Imperial Stout

By now every brewery is trying bourbon-barreled stouts and they should excite me as much as another boxing movie being released.  But just like “The Fighter” stunned me and found new ways to tell the pugilist’s tale, COOP has made a real corker of a barrel-aged stout.  Aged on Bulleit bourbon barrels, this might seriously be the smoothest, most perfectly melded bourbon-barreled stout I’ve ever had.  It’s not lacking in boozy taste, no way, but it’s not something that brings you to your knees either.  Rich, chocolately, and a “mere” 9.0%, it’s quite dangerous when you’ve become friends with a guy with the ability to over-serve you this.  I probably had five full pints and never got sick of it.  Wow.

A+

Red Zeppelin

This final beer is one that isn’t even available yet, one whose recipe isn’t fully created yet, and one that I’m not even sure I’m allowed to publicly discuss (I’ll wait for a cease and desist from J.D.), but it was my favorite beer I had from COOP so I want to scream to the hills about it.  Red Zeppelin is Zeppelin German Wheat aged in barrels on wild bing cherries.  This is a recipe they’re still working on and, admittedly, by now the souring had given the beer a slightly vinegary nose which some more amateur beer drinkers found unappealing, but I fucking loved it.  Just the perfect tart, sour, yet still slightly fruity taste I love.  It actually reminded me of Cantillon Kriek if I can be so bold.  I will be.  I hope they release and bottle this one day–it’ll sweep the beer nation.

A+

COOP is only available in Oklahoma so for now you’ll have to hope your company sends you there for work if you want to get some (or maybe write a book and go on tour there???) and I’ll have to hope J.D. is kind enough to build a pipeline to my house so I can always have some around to enjoy.  COOP is gonna be a big player in the beer world soon.

Pick up a last minute copy of my book, HOW TO FAIL!!!

The Bruery 2 Turtle Doves

December 16th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brasserie d'Achouffe, Brewer: High Point, Brewer: Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Brewer: The Bruery, Country: America, Country: Belgium, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

12% ABV on tap

“You’re not sthupposed to review that.”

I turned to see some weaselly-looking pot-bellied virgin in a Blue Point pullover addressing me.  He had a slight lisp which is always more annoying than a full lisp for some reason*.

“’scuse me?”  Usually when I go to beer bars to geek out I go by myself and at off-hours so no one will see me nor bother me, the same strategy most XXX theater fanatics employ.

“You’re not sthupposed to officially review sthuch a small serving size.”

The pot-bellied weasel aimed his unkempt pointer finger at the flight of four beers I’d just ordered.  Rattle ‘n’ Hum was hosting a winter beer blowout and with dozens of brews I wanted to try and only an hour or two to spare on a Tuesday afternoon, I had no time for full pours.

The pot-bellied weasel had apparently seen me making a few reviewing notes on my iphone and, wanting to show off the sort of annoying pedagogy that would assure a lonely life for him, had pounced on me.

“You’re sthupposed to at least have an eight ounce pour to officially review something.  You’re not sthupposed to review so many beers in one sitting either.”  He started into a stuttering chuckle.  “You’re what, what, what we call a ‘ticker.’  Someone who tries to quickly review as many beers as possible just to say they drank them.”

I smiled knowingly and calmly, sipped one of the four beers in front of me.  I like being berated by asocial nerds with slight lisps.  It’s like getting dressed down by Don Rickles except totally the opposite.  I said nothing.

“I’m just telling you for your own good, man.”

The pot-bellied weasel had finished his rant and looked down, ashamed of his standing in life.

“What are you, on Beer Advocate?” I finally spoke.

“BA?  Yes I am.”

“What’s your user name?  I bet it’s something like stoutslurper69 or something.”

“I’m totallyhopsome.”

“And your avatar?  Which ‘Star Trek: The New Generation’ character did you pick?  Data or Geordi La Forge?”

He didn’t respond as I quickly looked up his profile on my iphone.

“Ah…Number Six.  Sexy.”

I held up one of my tiny glasses of beer.

“Let me tell you something.  It’s just beer.  Repeat after me:  it’s just beer.  Just a liquid.  You see, cool people like me use this liquid to enhance our lives.  We use it to make us feel good, to help us celebrate life, to aid in our understanding of the universe.  I’m already interesting enough as it is but this beer is going to make me even more interesting and in a few hours I’ll use that turbo-boost of charisma to perhaps pick up a woman, take her home, and then Greco-Roman wrestle with her.  So yeah, I suppose my beer reviews could be lacking, but at least I like myself.”

I may not go back to a bar for the rest of the month as over-flowing NYC bars seem to be currently divided between these people that don’t like themselves at all and people that like themselves a little too much.  Rattle ‘n’ Hum last night was a Sharks and Jets battle between these two incredibly annoying populations.  On one side we had a bunch of drunken yahoos who had just come from their official work Christmas parties.  Idiots in cheap suits and tacky skirts, flirting with that fat HR girl, the guido idiot in the mailroom.  Ripping on their a-hole bosses.  Slobbering, slurring, trying to dance.  What happens at the Christmas party stays at the Christmas party and I unfortunately had to witness it.

On the other side we had the self-loathing beer geeks, pedantic in their pseudo-scientific non-enjoyment of beer, embarrassing in the nerdy browbeating way they ordered from the bartenders (”Uh…could I have a tulip glass please!”), pitiable in the “big dick contest” way they bragged about what saught-after beers they’d tried recently, aloof in how they presented their disgusting visages to the world.  You’d think the kind of person that cares so much about the look, smell, and craftsmanship of a silly liquid would care as equally much about the look, smell, and craftsmanship of their own person.  Naw, better to just rip on beers with bad carbonation than to worry about getting the orange wax out of your ears and do a few deep-knee bends.

Flying solo I had just four beers, all in smallish serving vessels the geek was right, but you’d have to be a dunce not to “understand” these beers after only 4 or 5 ounces:

I love the concept of The Bruery’s 12 Days of Christmas vertical and I too one day, when I open my own brewery, hope to have my own holiday themed vertical:  The 10 Plagues of Passover series.  (”Trade you two Death of the First Born quads for a Locusts barley wine?”)  2 Turtle Doves is, no duh, the second in the series set to conclude on Jesus’s bday 2019 when I’ll be 40 years old, still unmarried and without kids, but with 12 dusty bottles of beer to drink.  Yay for having dreams!  2 Turtle Doves is another boozy winner from The Bruery, maybe the most buzz worthy beermakers around at this second in time.  Chocolaty, nutty, caramely and roasted with perhaps some dark fruit flavors, slightly sour, a cordial finish, it gets better with each sip.  Glad I have several bottles of this.  A-

N’ice Chouffe is an odd little bird.  Like a Christmasy Belgian strong pale.  Which is as exotic and weird as it sounds.  Spicy and yeasty, a true Belgian take on a winter warmer.  A-/B+

I’d been searching for Ramstein Winter Wheat for awhile as I’d heard this New Jersey–New Jersey?!–offering was in the Aventinus ballpark.  Ha, not quite.  Aventinus is an utter masterpiece and a paradigm of the weizenbock style.  Ramstein Winter Wheat is dark and boozy hot, especially for a mere 9.5% beer, packed with banana esters and cloves, a little lacking in complexity, flavor, and expected silkiness.  Still enjoyable though.  B+

Pretty Things Babayaga is a rich and roasty 7% stout with a nice thick but not too viscous of mouthfeel.  It apparently has rosemary in it which I love in concept–it’s a favored addition to naan for me–but don’t taste in execution.  A solid effort but not sui generis or extraordinary.  Like the best crafted Guinness Extra Stout you’ve ever had.  B+

*I greatly admire the genius that decided to name the condition for people that can’t speak correctly a word that they could never pronounce correctly.  Listhp.  Maybe that’s the true test.  As soon as you can pronounce lisp correctly, son, then we’ll know you don’t have one no more.

Cantillon St. Lamvinus

August 13th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brasserie Cantillon, Brewer: Brauerei Weihenstephan, Country: Belgium, Country: Germany, Grade: A plus, Grade: A-, Style: Lambic, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

The Indiscreet Charm of Brooklyn

Cat ears.  Across from me sat a man wearing cat ears.  Like those furry headband numbers chicks wear on Halloween when they want a slutty costume.  Aside from that, he looked fairly normal.  A little bit of a early-1990s “Reality Bites” grunge thing going on with a flannel unbuttoned shirt and some combat boots, but otherwise, fairly normal.  Except for those cat ears.  All the man was lacking was a makeupped on black nose and whiskers.  Cat man called for the check and his wee little “hee hee” Asian girlfriend picked up the tab courtesy of a Hello Kitty credit card.  I was the only one in the entire place rolling my eyes at the ludicrous behavior around me.

I sat in Radegast, a German beer hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  I had finally decided to make the scary plunge.  Manhattan may be a great beer town, but Brooklyn is often considered one of America’s beer utopias.  And me, being absolutely awful with direction, scared to go to any place without numbered streets, certain I will get lost if I ever travel below Houston, especially while lit up, had never been drinking in Brooklyn.  For shame.

I needed to pop my Brooklyn beer cherry sometime, and chaperoned by new friend KD, there was no time like the present.  Radegast wasn’t on my list of “must try” Brooklyn places, but KD insisted.  So glad she did.  Radegast is a beer garden that is surprisingly intimate, not a word often associated with beer gardens.  It has both a nice indoor and outdoor area and your standard Americanized beer gardeny things:  hilariously large glasses, picnic table seating, ___wursts of every kind (which I unfortunately forgot to sample), condom machines in the bathroom, and men in cat ears.  It’s also very dark in Radegast, again, mood lighting not something one usually associates with German beer halls, but a Brooklyn quirk that a squinty eyed drunk like me greatly appreciates.

There, I had a glass of Weihenstephaner Vitus, an absolutely lovely weizenbock that can deservedly be mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Aventinus.  Full of rich banana and bubble gum tastes, yeasty and boozy, this one goes down so, so nice.  A-

Foreground: the finished Vitus/Background:  man in cat ears

Foreground: the finished Vitus/Background: man in cat ears

From there, KD and I hoofed it to dba Brooklyn, using a trusty Google map she had printed out since we are apparently the only two people in the world without GPS-enabled iphones, which is something we could each greatly use.  dba Manhattan, in the East Village, was one of my major stomping grounds back in the mid-2000s with their stellar beer, bourbon, and Scotch lists, but I eventually grew sick of the jam-packed poseur crowds, surly bar staff, and hard to read libations chalkboards.

Well, I can proudly say that dba Brooklyn eliminates all the problems I have with their East Village location.  At this new dba location, similar in look and layout, one will have no issue with reading the massive chalkboard beer and spirits listings because the bar is as florescently bright as a Porsche showroom.  And there’s no poseurs to worry about rubbing ironic suede elbow patches with because…there’s no one in the fucking bar.  KD and I were the only drinkers there at 9 PM on a Thursday, and thus, it was downright impossible for the bar staff to be surly.  They were just psyched to see us and to have more than some spare change as their night’s gratuity haul.

We took our drinks to this backyard patio where a few other people were throwing back a few.  Including a man who, unceremoniously removed his t-shirt right in the middle of a date, reached into his man bag for a fresh one to put on, all the time not breaking conversation, nor having his drinking companion go, “W the F?!”

Ill at ease, we cut our dba visit abrupt and walked aways, under the roaring BQE overpass, to perhaps New York’s, maybe even the entire East Coast’s, most famous beer bar, Spuyten Duyvil.  I’d long heard about this beer mecca and I have to say…it met absolutely zero of my expectations.  Which is not a bad thing and which is not to say I didn’t like it.

I was surprised by how conspicuous of facade the bar had, the name barely noticeable.  A creaky swinging front door more akin to the screen door on some cracker’s porch, the interior of the place is shockingly small and fairly indescript.  Decorated like a hipster’s beat-up rec room, packed with thin weirdo grumps in drainpipe jeans, half of whom look like David Cross, the other half of whom look like a Flight of the Concords member.  At a robust 5′11, 175, I was a fucking leviathin amongst these little Brooklyn pixies.

Spuyten Duyvil is known for their remarkable–ahem “remarkable”–beer selection, but I quickly learned that they should be more known for their remarkable ability to list beers, which are all greatly overpriced, even by Manhattan standards.  Indeed, I was at first impressed by the massive amount of rare bottles they claimed, though greatly unimpressed that they only have six taps and one cask offering.  (Seriously?!)  I found myself greatly flummoxed when I tried to order from their bottle list.  I was a little tipsy and feeling jovial, so I tried to buy a rare $46 bottle from Cantillon.  “Sorry, we’re out,” said the hirsute hipster behind the bar.  I tried to buy a $26 bottle of Fantome Saison.  “Out of that too, but that beer sucks.  Have the Fantome Chocolate, it’s much better, dude.”

I smiled and said no thanks, I wasn’t in the mood for that particularly beer, which angered the wee bartender who booked it away from me.  Then, I noticed a Cigar City bomber on the back counter.  Cigar City is a new brewery from out of Tampa that has quickly garnered great acclaim despite their miniscule distribution reach.  I’d been trying for most of the year to score any of their product and this was the first time I’d ever seen it in person.  Excited, I flagged down another bartender.  “Excuse me, what is that Cigar City beer back there?”  Like I had just interrupted him while he was watching an Apes and Androids show, he turned around with a scowl.  “I DON’T KNOW!” he yelled at me and scurried away.  I asked another bartender if I could buy the Cigar City beer and he looked as if I was quizzing him with some Mensa level stuff:  “Look, I don’t know, I’m not sure, I don’t think so, no!” he exhale moaned and stormed away.

I continued staring at the menu, trying to figure out anything to drink.  The first bartender returned, pissed off.  “Look!  Are you EVER going to order something?”

I menacingly looked him straight in the eye, restraining myself from grabbing him by the collar of his vintage snap button cowboy shirt:

“Motherfucker, I just tried to buy a $46 and $26 bottle of beer, both that you were out of.  Gimme a fucking break.”  He smirked but his demeanor quickly changed.

From that point on the scuzzy drinkslinger gave me the respect I so desired.  I finally ordered what I should have in the first place, Cantillon’s most famous offering perhaps, St. Lamvinus…on tap!  Score.  I found it a lot less fruity that I expected.  A subtle red wine grape taste but with an effervescent carbonation.  Mild funk and sourness, a true treat.  I also had Ithaca’s delicious Brute on tap for the first time, and though that still remains a great one in my mind, St. Lamvinus just blew it away.  A true granddaddy of a lambic.  Not to be missed.

I also found a $20 bill on the floor and a pregnant women drinking in Spuyten Duyvil’s back room so I ain’t sweating things much.  Look, I won’t lie, Spuyten Duyvil certainly deserves much acclaim and I will certainly go back there again, but with its paucity of taps, high prices, lack of bottles of which it claims to have, and absolute fuckheads working there, I see absolutely no way we can consider this a better NYC beer bar than, say, Rattle ‘N’ Hum or Blind Tiger, both which have superior tap lists, perfectly respectable bottle lists, clientele that doesn’t smell like clove cigarettes, and bartenders that treat you like human beings.  I’ll probably only return to Spuyten Duyvil in the future when they have a particularly rare and limited offering.

Well lit up at this point and it now 2 AM, KD and I decided to press on to one more stop, nearby Barcade.  Again, my expectations were completely different, but, this time, this was a very good thing.  I was absolutely shocked at the size of the bar.  A huge warehouse type industrial space with every single wall tightly packed with vintage arcade games, several dozen in fact, surrounding a bar in the middle.  A solid tap list, I grabbed a delicious Avery Hog Heaven and a stack of quarters and KD and I went to work.  I must say, shit like “Tetris,” “Ms. Pac-Man,” and “Q-Bert” are exceedingly hard when you are wasted yet still guzzling high ABV barley wines.

My last memories are Q-Bert falling off the side of his staired pyramid, KD and I trying to find a gypsie cab back to her place…

I shall return to Brooklyn again.

A+

The Brooklyn Brewery Beers of Citi Field

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

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

Shackmeister Ale  (The Shake Shack)

ABV unknown

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

B

Blanche de Queens (Box Frites)

4.5% ABV

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

B

Sabrosa Ale (El Verano Taqueria)

ABV unknown

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

B+

A few notes:

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

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

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

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

Summer Beers

June 12th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 5 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Goose Island, Brewer: Surly, Country: America, Grade: B regular, Grade: B-/C+, Style: ESB, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

One of the most detestable arguments a craft beer enthusiast can have with a macro swilling moron is when it comes to warm weather tippling.  We’ve heard them all.  “You don’t want one of yer fancy beers while out there on the golf course.  Ya need a frosty Bud Light.”  “Can’t have one of those dark brews you drink on the beach, ya need a chilled Corona.”  “You really wanna sit on a patio with those expensive bombers you like, ya need an ice cold can of Coors.”

Ugh.  Just because the weather’s hot I need to drink shit?!  There’s plenty of flavorful beers out there that also manage to be “refreshing” and even lower-ABV, stuff like Three Floyds Gumballhead, countless saisons, and even some of the bigger microbreweries’ boringly labeled for the mainstream “summer” beers are quite nice, notably Sam Adams’ offering.

I’m the kind of man who has no problem drinking a snifter of 20% stout even in 100 degree heat–oh, the looks at get at the nudist beach!–but there will be times in the next three months or so that I need something a little lighter, so it was with great enthusiasm that I tried two summer, but not “summer,” offerings from two of my favorite breweries.

Surly Bitter Brewer

4% ABV canned

Oh, my beloved brewery.  The Minnesota cans-only brewery that’s instantly become one of my favorites.  I don’t get to have it often because its current distribution reach is super-limited, but every time The Captain hooks me up with a new offering I am eternally grateful…and then floored.  There’s their awesome IPA Furious (A-), gorgeous brown Bender (A-), inventive farmhouse Cynic (A-), infused Coffee Bender (A-) and of course their wax dipped and rare Darkness, perhaps the best stout on planet earth (A+).  Thus, it is always with much excitement when I hear a new release from them is on the market.  Unfortunately, Bitter Brewer is the first Surly I haven’t unequivocally loved.  It undoubtedly smells great with a nice floral and citrus aroma, but the taste just isn’t there.  It’s really watery.  Like a slightly off homebrew.  Having said that, they go down easy and I could drink a zillion of these.  It’s obviously a superior summer beer to anything in the BMC family or Corona, but it’s nothing special.  I hate to say this, but the fact that this bordering-on-”near”-beer offering gets an A- on Beer Advocate is nothing but Surly fanboyism.  I gotta think if this was a macro offering it would be absolutely skewered by the geek community.

B-/C+

Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale

4.2% ABV bottled

Goose Island is yet another brewery I much adore with their glorious A pluses Bourbon County Stout and Night Stalker.  This brew is completely on the other end of the dark and kick-your-ass spectrum, but I was still excited to try it and it didn’t disappoint.  I don’t typically like American wheat beers but 312 is solid.  A lemony crispness and…well, wheat.  Wheat and lemon, that’s about it.  Nicely put together, not complex in the least, but still quite tasty.  Refreshing but boring.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that.  A mild success, a good summer offering.

B

Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock (2008)

April 28th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Schneider, Country: Germany, Grade: A plus, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

12% ABV bottled (#28600)

Last year a friend introduced me to Aventinus and I quickly fell in love with it, making the German brew one of those beers that I must have frequently.  I’m a man that gets off on novelty in all aspects of life and that is especially true of beer.  Even the beers I love I don’t drink more than a few times a year, much rather preferring to roll the dice with something new, yet I still manage to have Aventinus at least once a month.  Which shows how very much I like that beer.

Thus, I was quite intrigued when I found this semi-special bottling of Aventinus on the shelf at Whole Foods.  It looked pretty similar to the original with its iconic purple label.  The only difference seemed to be the limited edition numbering on the back.  As I’ve mentioned once before, I’m a huge sucker for gimmicks, so there was zero chance I wouldn’t pick up a specially numbered bottle, no matter what was inside.

When I got home, I did my research to discover just exactly how this bottling differed.  And, straight from the brewer’s website it’s story-tellin’ time:

Aventinus, the Wheat Doppelbock of Bavaria, has always been known to be the most intense and complex wheat beer in the world. This was the case for the past sixty years, but not anymore…

Up until the 1940’s, Aventinus was shipped all over Bavaria in containers lacking temperature control. Consequently, the precious drink partially froze during transportation. Unaware that the brew was concentrated by the separation of water from the liquid. People were baffled by this unique version of Aventinus. By chance, the first Aventinus Eisbock was created.  Well aware of this story, Hans Peter Drexler, brewmaster of the Schneider brewery, decided to recreate this classic “mistake” in a modern controlled facility. Thus, the Aventinus Eisbock is reborn sixty years later… Prost!

Certainly sounded intriguing.  And, with 8% “normal” Aventinus a top 100 beer, “supersized” Aventinus might bring me to orgasm.  Or at least make me Prost! in my pants.

My first sip of supersized Aventinus punched me in the back of the throat and I started coughing and snorting like some junior high kid taking his first hit from a bong.  After I composed myself, I greedily went back to the teet for more.  Goddamn was this good.  Packed with banana flavors, like liquized bubble gum and, oh so freaking boozy.  The smell, consistancy, and taste of a port wine, perhaps a Belgian dubbel, or we could just say a wheat barleywine, with hints of dark fruits and spices.  Phenomenal.

I am so glad an act of kismet–or marketing gimmickry–caused me to grab this beer because it is one of the best I’ve had this year.  Hell, it may be in my top ten of all time.  I’m gonna be stocking up on it while it is still around.  If you love Aventinus, you’ll be floored by this.  Hard to believe Aventinus can get even better but with this it has and it is.

A+

Aventinus

December 16th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Schneider, Country: Germany, Grade: A-, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

8% ABV bottled

A friend who I trust said this was a world class beer, and with a top 100 Beer Advocate rating to back his lofty claim up, several bottles were procured.

This beer unexpectedly taught me a lot about beer connoisseurship.  But not in the way you might expect.  The first time I sampled this weizenbock–essentially a mix between a wheat beer and a dopplebock in the murky world of style classifications–was at the tail-end of a night of heavy drinking.  I was not impressed.  I thought it was bland, flavorless, uninspired.  Another one of the many boring Reinheitsgebot purity law beers from out of Germany, I snickered to myself.  I detected nothing noteworthy as I sipped it and was barely interested enough to even take notes.  I jotted a few down in between doing whatever it is drunk people do at 2:00 AM, ultimately deciding to score this beer a C+.

Luckily, I was so backed up in beer reviews I never officially got to enter that into my blog.  Let me stop for a second to answer the real beer geeks’–the ones that are sanctimoniously aghast right now–questions.  No, I typically do not “officially” review quality beers when I am shitfaced.  It’s not fair to myself, my blog, my millions of readers, or the brewery.  I usually only review a beer if it is one of the first three or maybe four of my night.  (Or morning if I’ve decided to say, “Fuck the world” and get snockered at 8:00 AM.) But as with many things, we humans are not exactly good at judging how drunk we are.

“I ain’t tha’ drunk, I can drive us.”

“Whadaya talkin’ bout?  I’m not tipsy, I can totally work that chainsaw.”

“I’s a barely had any beers, a cours’ my dick still works.”

Likewise, I didn’t think I was that drunk at all when I first tried Aventinus.  But the fact is, I must have been, and my beer-drinking senses must have likewise been totally FUBAR, for me to think this beer shitty upon our initial introduction.

Sometime later, with nothing else to drink in the house, I begrudgingly had to drink another bottle of Aventinus still sitting around in the back of the fridge with some healthy salad dressings everyone buys but no one ever uses.  I was totally disinterested in the beer now, only drinking it to get the necessary proteins into my system.  And by proteins I mean alcohol.

With the first sip I was floored.  Whoa!  Where was that shitty beer I’d had weeks ago?!  This thing was amazing!  I was sober and I was blown away.  Smells of banana, cloves, and boozy alcohol.  In addition to those flavors, an incredibly creamy and smooth wheat and yeast taste.  Almost like a tripel with its primordial ooze of unfiltered and unfermented yeast.   A glorious beer, unquestionably.

Perhaps I should become one of those nerds I so hate that lock themselves in a sensory deprivation chamber when sampling a new brew.  Hmmm…wonder where I can find a guy to build a sensory deprivation chamber in Manhattan?

A-

Gumballhead

December 10th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: Three Floyds, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

4.8% ABV bottled

And another beer I was afforded access to only after drinking liquidized pizzabrau!

Every state, even the great Empire State, has its own absolutely insane beer laws. Dumb nanny state laws ostensibly meant to protect ourselves from ourselves. Or, to at least better line the government coffers. One great thing about New York is that all six-packs can be divided up into singles, allowing one to sample numerous beers during a drinking session, never forced to dive in with six of the same. Unfortunately, Illinois doesn’t have such a rule and one is legally constrained to always buy full sixers.

My friends Graig and Sal found this out on a recent trip to Chicago to watch Syracuse whoop Notre Dame in football. Like I do with all of my friends when they travel–friends that will inevitably soon hate me with a passion despite my blog’s great service to society–I sent them with a list of regional rarities I wanted brought back for me. The list mainly consisted of stuff from Munster, Indiana’s acclaimed Three Floyds Brewing Co., a place that doesn’t distribute much farther than the Second City and, thus, one whose beers I had never sampled before.

Upon reaching Chicago, my pals stumbled out into the freezing Windy City and through an act of great kismet quickly found a place called Binny’s, which from the looks of their website is a beer drinkers’ nirvana. My god. At the alcohol “depot,” they found quite a few Three Floyds’ beer, but, of course, all were only available in six packs. Now, Graig and Sal are two very kind people but they obviously were not going to bring me back several six-packs. It would simply be too heavy and where would they find the luggage space, what with all of Sal’s purchases of Syracuse memorabilia and Sears Tower tchotchkes?

Then, the savvy Sal came up with a brilliant idea. Noticing that all Three Floyds’ bottles have the exact same cap, he replaced some Alpha King bottles with Gumballheads, calmly walked to the register whistling “Puttin’ on the Ritz,”* and next thing you know he had pulled off the lamest heist since “Ocean’s Thirteen.”** Take that Illinois!!!  Just try to extradite us all back!

I was most excited to dive into this one, making it my first career Three Floyds’ beer even though I expected it to be nothing more than slightly above average. I was so wrong.

I popped the top and was immediately floored. Wow, what a smell! I usually expect wheat beers to be boring, simple, and standard. Not this one. Much more hops than I expect from a wheat beer. I actually had to look it up on the internet halfway through the brew’s drinking to confirm that this truly is considered a wheat beer cause this could easily be mistaken for a pale ale, and a good one at that. Then again, their Alpha King could easily be mistaken for an IPA so maybe Three Floyds just likes to overhop everything. Cool with me.  I’d put hops in my chef’s salad if I could. Gumballhead has lemon zestiness with unfiltered, hazy yeast sensations as well. Very, very complex for a wheat beer. Truly extraordinary. My first Three Floyds beer and it was a decisive winner!

Furthermore, I’m shocked the ABV is so low. A macro-drinking friend once asked me if I could ever find a low-ABV beer to be a masterpiece. I sheepishly admitted that I probably couldn’t. I suppose I’m a typical craft beer bigot that thinks good beer can’t exsist at such a low ABV, but this proves me completely wrong. I am a changed man. And next time someone claims they drink Corona or Bud Light because it’s hot out, or because they’re drinking a lot that day, or because they need something cool and refreshing–and craft beers are none of those things they’ll say!–point them to this sucker. I could drink this at the beach all day, I could drink this everywhere and anywhere and at any time. In fact, let it be noted that I first drank this on a frigid December night in NYC where I was struggling to stay warm…and I fucking loved it!

Far and away the best American wheat beer I’ve ever had and neglecting further research the best under-5% beer I’ve ever had too.

A-

*Taco’s version, not Fred Astaire’s.

**Let’s talk about “Thirteen” for a sec. Missed it on its theatrical release. A huge fan of “Eleven,” a marginal fan of “Twelve,” I should have liked the, hopefully, end of Soderbergh’s trilogy. I didn’t. It is currently available on HBO On Demand and literally every single time I have ordered it I have fallen asleep before Elliot Gould’s “with” credit appears on-screen. And I am decidedly not the kind of person that falls asleep during movies. Avoid unless you have insomnia.

Brooklyner Weisse

September 23rd, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 2 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brooklyn Brewery, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

5.1% ABV bottled

The other day I went on a date with a girl named Cecilia. She didn’t break my heart, she didn’t shake my confidence (daily!), nor did we make love in the afternoon up in my bedroom (more like 3 AM in her living room.)

This got me to realizing that I’ve dated quite a bit of girls named after famous songs.

There was Desiree who was not very sweet and a diehard feminist. She stormed out of a restaurant mid-meal when I told her that I didn’t like any female musicians. Once she was gone I remembered that I’m a huge Debbie Harry fan. How could I have forgotten my “Sunday Girl”?

Rita wasn’t a meter maid (she worked in securities I believe) nor was she lovely. She kicked me out of an all-Indian Halloween bash she was hosting in her midtown high-rise when I got drunk on some “witches brew” punch and threw an hors d’oeuvre tray out the window and into her courtyard.

Allison never let any of my friends take off her party dress–so far as I know–but she didn’t have a problem with my pals constantly goofing on her. She wasn’t very bright and I don’t think she got their sarcastic jokes.  She’s married now and has two kids last I heard.

And when I finally got to live my lame dream of dating a girl with the last name of Brown, I never got the chance to meet her mother and subtly say in a heavily accented British accent, “Mrs. Brown, you’ve got a luv-ly daughter.” It didn’t make a bloke feel so proud.

There was Eleanor who I met just last week. Gee, I thought she was swell but she thought I was…drunk. Fair enough. She missed out on getting to be my pride and joy, et cetera.

And finally Michelle, who was decidedly not ma belle, but rather one big fucking cunt. McCartney would have struggled to write fawning lyrics about her, I’m certain of it.

If you ever go out with a girl with the same name as a song, especially a super famous one written by Paul & Art, best not to ever bring that up. She’s heard it plenty of times and doesn’t find it amusing. But you can still snicker in your head about it. And, your relationship is going to be nowhere close to as interesting, ideal, and romantic as the eponymous song. Perhaps that’s why there doesn’t seem to be any good songs of recent vintage named after women.  Life’s just more complex now than it was in the 1960s.

Cecilia took me to a party her friends were throwing. People might think it weird that I’d go to a party full of strangers for a first date but I kinda agree with wise Costanza.

GEORGE: I’m going out with her tomorrow, she said she had some errands to run.

JERRY: That’s a date?

GEORGE: What’s the difference?

She’s quite a bit younger than me, as are her friends, so I didn’t think for a second there would be anything decent to drink at the bash. I was quite wrong, and a tear fell from my ear when I saw Brooklyner fully stocked in the fridge.

I’ve never been a huge wheat beer fan as I think they are generally uninteresting, simplistic, and boring, but I’ve always loved this one. And when I see it on tap at NYC bars, I can’t help but grab a few dozen of them. This was my first time to drink it bottled and it was just as swell.

A great smell with a refreshing yeasty taste. Slight banana flavor, citrus esters, and even hints of bubble gum. And, of course, some full-bodied wheat. A slight sour finish but incredibly drinkable though that doesn’t mean it is lacking in potency or complexity. This ain’t no watered-down hefeweizen. I absolutely adore this beer. Have been drinking it for years and will continue to indefinitely.

So in summation…

Jubilation, I loved this beer again.  (I wanted to finish this entry by again paying homage to “Cecilia” by bastardizing its lyrics.  Eh.  That’s the best I could do.)

A-

WORKS CITED:

*”Cecilia,” Simon & Garfunkel from “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Columbia Records 1970
*”Desiree,” Neil Diamond, 1977
*”Lovely Rita,” The Beatles from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Capitol 1967
*”Allison,” Elvis Costello from “My Aim is True,” Columbia Records 1977
*”Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” Herman’s Hermits, 1965
*”Elenore,” The Turtles from “The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands,” White Whale Records 1968
*”Michelle,” The Beatles from “Rubber Soul,” EMI 1965

Boulevard Lunar Ale

August 14th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 1 Comment | Filed in Brewer: Boulevard, Country: America, Grade: B-, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen)

4.5% ABV bottle-conditioned sixer

My stay in Kansas was never to end! We’d only been there for a mere 15 hours and it felt like an eternity. If you want to become immortal, just move to Kansas and your life will never end. We woke up at 7 AM on Saturday to get an early start on our google-map-claimed two hour drive to Manhattan*. The drive west was generally boring, it was raining torrentially and there was nothing on the side of the road except wastelands and a remarkable amount of halls of fame and museums. Off the top of my head we saw several for aeronautics, one for agriculture, an insect zoo, and a Wizard of Oz museum. Not to mention two wineries. We somehow managed to resist these remarkable temptations and only make two stops along the way.

First, a breakfast run to Sonic. My friends had seen the irreverent commercials for the fast food joint for years up here on the eastern seaboard but had never once encountered an actual restaurant. Suffice to say, we were all greatly pleased by our sublime breakfast burritos with a side of tots. Our other stop was in Lawrence to see the University of Kansas’s Phog Allen Fieldhouse. We struggled to locate it, especially when the only people on campus we could ask directions of seemed to be Nigerian exchange students with no clue about where a “baw-skeet-bol jeem” might be. Nevertheless, we eventually stumbled upon it. And, so glad we did, it was a beautiful facility with an amazing museum that all other college programs should strive to have something as good as. We were in awe at seeing The Big Dipper’s jockstrap, Bill Self’s spare toupee, and the school’s 2003 second place trophy.

We soon got to Manhattan which was uneventful but the wedding was indeed fun.

Back awake at 7 AM on Sunday, we hungover sped back to Kansas City to catch our noon-time flight. Then, all the trouble began. Getting off the rental car agency-to-airport shuttle bus at our airline, I was stunned to see that my bag was no long on the luggage rack. Some dunce had apparently mistakenly taken my bag instead of his own. My bag was big, black, had Midwest Airlines tags, and had a bum wheel. His was tiny, squat, black, and had no wheels. It was inconceivable to me that he could have mistaken my bag for his. I sprinted down the length of the airport, searching for the stupidest-looking human being I could find.  I was finding those wherever I looked however.  Luckily the entire length of KCI is shorter than a football field so I could check everyone and every visible bag, but unluckily I never found him or my bag.

I was fuming. Apoplectic. If I had come upon this guy at that moment I surely would have popped him. My flight was taking off in an hour or so but it didn’t matter at this point. Especially since the departures monitor had “LGA - DELAYED (INDEF) on them.  The only time a delay has ever been welcomed.

After a four hour circus which involved me speaking to idiots on the white courtesy phone, idiots in the airport police department, idiots in the lost and found department, idiots at Northwest Airlines, idiots at United, and the extraordinarily helpful NON-idiots at Midwest, I finally heard a nearly inaudible public address system announcement (from another idiot natch) that my bag might be at US Airways.

Sprinting down there, I saw my bag, and standing next to it, the doofiest motherfucker the world has ever known. You remember how Gary Larson would draw troglodytic morons in his absolutely brilliant “The Far Side”? Yeah, that’s exactly how this guy looked. Slack-jawed, buck teeth jutting far out of his mouth and over his front lip. Messy bangs down to his brow with a cheap mesh hat on his head and a t-shirt from some vacation decades ago on his torso. He spoke a near foreign language to me.

DOOFUS: Where’s ma’ bag?

AARON: Excuse me?!

DOOFUS: ‘ah got yer bag, so where’s ma’ bag?

AARON: Listen idiot, I don’t have your bag cause I don’t take the wrong bag cause I’m not some dumb motherfucker.

DOOFUS: So wha’ shud ‘ah do?

AARON: I’m guessing your bag is still on the rental car shuttle, taking perpetual loops from airport to rental center and back.

A 5 watt lightbulb went off in his head like the idea had never occurred to him in the previous four hours to call the rental car place.

AARON: Dummy, I just got one more question for you. At what point did you realize you had the wrong bag?

DOOFUS: When ah’ went to the secur’ty line and dey said I had wine and beer bot’les in ma’ bag. I ‘as like, no I don’t…then I ree-lized, hey, this prolly ain’t ma’ bag.

My vices actually saved some retard from unwittingly taking my bag full of an expensive suit, an ipod, and, yes, wine and beer bottles, back with him to Little Rock or Knoxville or wherever the fuck he was from. You see, I had overaccumulated wine and beer to drink before and after the wedding and thus, thinking it a sin to toss the stuff, I had packed it onto my bag which I had planned to check.

Relieved, I went to the shitty airport pub to unwind and wait for my flight to become undelayed. At a certain point, I’d been in the bar so long that I got concerned. I asked the racist bartender*, “At what point of drunkenness will they not let a person on a flight?”

“Yer fine, honey, just don’t wobble.”

I wasn’t, in fact, fine as our noon flight was eventually canceled by 7:00 PM or so. Weather issues in New York. My other delayed friend and I scrambled to find a hotel room to share. Seems the airlines don’t comp you unless your plane is delayed due to malfunctions. At this late of notice, we were only able to get a small single-bed room at the airport Marriot.

We sequestered ourselves back in that room, furious at spending another night in the city, not wanting to ever leave the room til morning. Stripping down shirtless and into gym shorts since it was so freaking muggy, ordering room service so as not to deal with any more locals than necessary, drinking beers and complimentary wine to relax, and watching Olympic men’s gymnastics….well, because there was nothing else on, I swear!. Suffice to say, when the room service waitress arrived with our salads and baked potatoes–us trying to eat healthy after a weekend of decadence and a day of deplorable airport food–she gave a smirk, looking at the two shirtless men watching gymnastics, drinking wine, and sharing a bed. I could tell she thought a lot of sodomy would be happening that night, no doubt taunting the maid on her walk down the hall, warning her about all the anal flowback she would surely have to clean up off the two “New York City fruits’” comforter.

The beer keeping us company and sane was the final Boulevard we tried that weekend, their Lunar Ale. They call it brown beer but everyone else simply calls it a dark wheat beer. I thought it oddly enough smelled, and tasted, like a poor man’s (a very, very poor man’s) La Fin du Monde though. Which isn’t a bad thing to aim for as it’s one of the finest beers in the world and probably one of my top ten favorites. Of course, at a paltry 4.5% ABV, it lacked the potency, bite, and flavor that La Fin has and which all other Boulevards seem to also lack. I really wish the company made beers in the 6 to 8% range cause they might then actually craft something great.

Monday, we were back up at 4:30 AM, trying to get home. Further delays, a plane running out of gas, and later being diverted to Pittsburgh, were all par for the course on this trip, as we finally touched down around 5:00 PM, nearly thirty hours after we were supposed to have seen Kansas in the rearview forever.

B-

*With completely empty highways, speeding along at like 90 MPH in a cheap rental car, we were there in like 85 minutes. I’m sure the record cannonball run from KC to Manhattan is under 45 minutes.

**Indeed she freely tossed around the n-word as if us white folks had some inside joke.  When I told her we had gone to the Isle of Capri and it had sucked she said, verbatim, “Well a course it sucked.  Dat’s da n***** casino.”  Yes, she got a bad tip from me.  Fight the power.