I have lots of vices in my life. I enjoy my vices. Here I offer critical (but non-pretentious) reviews of the many vices I indulge in. Mainly craft beer.
Contact me at aarongoldfarb(at)gmail.com
The Vice Blog HAS MOVED!!!!!
Check out the new and improved VB at:
Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale
11.26% ABV from a bomber (“limited early 2008 release”)
Any one who becomes known as a beer connoisseur—or a suppose a connoisseur of anything for that matter—will most frequently be asked to list their favorite(s) of whatever it is they lord a connoisseurship over. So the strip club connoisseur (read: your one asocial, sleazy, and most importantly lazy friend) gets asked to list his favorite peel joints across this great land, while someone like me is often asked what my favorite beer is. Most frequently to that question I answer Old Guardian. My favorite style of beer from my favorite American brewer. I’m not sure if it truly is my absolute favorite on all 365 days of the year, no matter the mood, but it’s certainly close. The thing is, though, that I intentionally avoid drinking this masterpiece 365 days a year, no matter the mood. That used to be unavoidable as it was pretty darn tough to even locate this bottling in New York City. I knew a few specialty beer stores that got Stone brewings (most usually Arrogant Bastard or their IPAs) but Old Guardian was rarely stocked. Thus, there was a time or two when I came upon a fresh shipment of the product and absolutely cleared a store out of bombers. (And do you know how hard it is to lug 12 bombers down a Manhattan sidewalk, clanking them around like you’ve stolen an alley’s bowling pins?!)
But, now, Old Guardian is fairly easy to find as most all Whole Foods have it at all times. So, now my rare drinking of the beer is done one purpose for, you see, I don’t want to ever not love this one. And, with my ever-present goal of trying as many different beers as possible, I often neglect to drink the ones that I’ve always loved, intentionally, and dumbly, avoiding them on the shelves. I probably hadn’t had an Old Guardian in a half-year or so when I saw it on the shelf and realized, It’s time again. A part of me is worried every single time that I retry an all-time favorite that it just won’t be the same. I simply won’t enjoy it as much. I’ll have somehow grown in my beer-drinking ways since my last sampling and realize a certain beer just ain’t what I used to think it was. I mean, my favorite movie used to be “Flight of the Navigator.” And then I turned 8. Therefore, I was a bit leery as opened a gorgeous bottle of Old Guardian. Wow, my fears were quickly assuaged and I was taken to heaven. This beer is so potent and so tasty. It’s almost not like beer, more akin to a Sam Adam’s high ABV Utopia, though clearly not as intense. The orange and banana alcoholic taste shocks your tongue. You don’t take big gulps, just tiny little sips, savoring every single whiff and drink of this beauty. The flavor staying with you well after you put your beer back down. I like to stick my face completely into the glass as far as it will go and inhale this beer deeply for a good minute or so like I’m some sixteen-year-old redneck that stole a nitrous tank.
I wanted to time how long it would take to drink, to savor, an entire bomber of Old Guardian. I started the stopwatch at 9:18 PM and with the final sip I clicked it off. It was 11:15. A two-hour beer! In fact, a two hour high. It’s like floating on a cloud, not like getting wasted or fucked up as a bad macrobrew makes you feel. In fact, I didn’t even realize I was drunk until my friend came home and I started rambling on and on about how sorry I was that his favorite NBA team, the Spurs, had just lost their playoff series to the Lakers. Only then did I realize how wasted I was. Someone must have roofied my Old Guardian. Then again, funny thing, I was by myself all night. And, I haven’t roofied myself since freshman year. Nope, the beer had done it’s work. And I went to bed happy. I love you Old Guardian, see you again in October or so.
Great Divide Titan IPA
Had this one in the fridge for a while and had been wanting to save it for a special occasion as I suspected it could be an all-time great. Since I have no plans to give birth any time soon—and probably wouldn’t drink a beer during that event—I decided to pop this one for the season 4 finale of “Lost.” My thinking proved fairly accurate. The Titan IPA has a gorgeous smell and yowsers! it’s hoppy (“aggressively hopped” according to the label). Orangey, piney, a nice bitterness but a sweet finish. And, I usually don’t give a shit about the color of a beer, but this one has a brilliant amber hue. At least I think it’s amber.* Don’t you hate those jackasses that try to so accurately describe the color of their beer? I mean, come on, I’m a cretinous beer-guzzler, not a paint expert at Sherwin-Williams. Unless I have a large swatch of color samples how can I possible tell the difference between amber and auburn?!
Yet, on every single snobby beer blog around, I’m forced to put up with dudes saying things like:
"Poured a very deep golden to light bronze with a slight haze…"
"…a gold-hued burnt orange with a couple of fingers of frothy, tight white foam…"
"…deep yellow color…""…light copper color…"
"Pale copper colored beer…"
"…amber brown with orange tinges…"
Yeesh! And this is all for the same beer! As legendary screenwriter William Goldman would say, perhaps it’s possible that “No one knows anything.” I know something though, and that’s that I care more about how a beer tastes, smells, costs, and gets me effed up than how it looks. Hell, I think I may care more about how the beer label looks than the beer inside’s actual color. True, most great beers are dark oranges, browns, and reds, but the slight differences between them don’t interest me that much or change my drinking pleasure.
Whatever the case, this is a great IPA. Although, a tad too strong to be a session beer. Even for a badass like me.
*Not that my photo would help you in color IDing being that I take my beer pictures with a crappy camera phone in usually poorly lit surroundings while I’m shitcanned. I’m not Ansel Adams to say the least.
(After penning this, I found several pretty interesting articles about the importance of beer color. They kinda made me feel like a dummy, but oh well, it still is not of great import to me. Google “beer color” and you’ll find a lot of nerdy stuff on the subject that you probably don’t even want to know.)
Sam Adams Summer Ale
5.2% ABV on draught
I’ve made clear my disdain for “summer” beers several times in the past, continually claiming I will never drink one again. Alas, I found myself out of town and at a Philadelphia Phillies game last weekend, shocked to see the nice, new stadium had the most meager of beer selection. In fact, Sam Adams Summer was the only craft beer on tap in the entire joint as far as I could tell. Alas, I decided to give summer beers one more whirl. I’m glad I did. I’m certain I’ve had Sam Summer in the past, but I don’t recall it being this good. While most summer beers seem to be brewed for little sissies that don’t like the taste of beer and want the lowest of ABVs in order to not risk getting any alcohol poisoning, Sam still packs a bit of a punch. In fact, I kept asking my buddy, “Are we sure this is Sam Summer? Is it possible the tap was screwed up?!” It’s darker than most all pisswater yellow summer beers and actually has a nice, complex taste. Summer beer usually equals pussy beer (wouldn’t that be a great bottling, “Sam Adams Pussy”?) but not in this case. I don’t know if this is “how” you make a summer beer, but it’s how you make a tasty beer. Thus, based on a exceedingly small sample size and one single plastic cup draught at a ballgame, I will declare Sam Summer the best summer beer in the bid’ness.
4.5% ABV from a can
My earlier lambasting of Corona resulted in me getting a flurry of angry e-mails, texts, and carrier pigeon missives. I always knew there was no way that Corona was the official beer of Mexico, but who know that swill was the official beer of American douchebags and pre-pubescents? (“d00d how can u hate on korona??!”)
Most people simply wanted to know if not Corona, what was my favorite Mexican beer? What would I order while grubbing on some fajitas or quesadillas? To that I answer…can I opt for a frozen margarita instead?
Well, Negro Modelo is the only good to great Mexican beer that I know of, but there are a several I enjoy. Pacifico is pretty good and at least doesn’t come in a clear bottle. Dos Esquis has several bottlings that ain’t bad and seem to at least be brewed with more ambitions than to simply make you piss a lot. And, of course, Corona is a terrific bottled water as you at least you know it’s been purified.
All things considered, though, my favorite would have to be Tecate. A beer that is prohibitively cheap, even in NYC where a sixer of cans will set you back like $3 (age 29 and I still enjoy ripping beer cans from the plastic ring) and a tallboy checks in at like a buck. It doesn’t taste that great I will admit, but there’s just something that makes me like drinking and getting drunk on Tecates. And, if it’s a beer that’s good enough for the hard-nosed bordertown rancher played by Tommy Lee Jones in “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” then it’s one that is good enough for me. Sometimes you just need to pound a few cans of Tecate to make you feel less like a cosmopolitan northeast urbanite and more like a gritty badass.
Victory Storm King Stout
9.1% ABV bottle
Nothing worse than drinking a great beer at the wrong time. But much like golf in Scotland, sometimes imbibing has to occur under inclement conditions. If you only golfed when it was 65 degrees and calm and only drank while relaxing on your sofa then you would miss out on lots of good opportunities. Better to try a great beer under less than optimal circumstance than to just pour another Bud Light down your gullet. Thus, after an entire day of “sessioning” with Dogfish Head 60 Minutes and stuffing my belly with greasy food while I celebrated the eventual national champion Syracuse University lacrosse team’s victory, I found myself winding the night down in a classier establishment. And the best beer on that bar’s menu that I had never had before was Victory Storm King. True, I was in that state where you’re not wasted but you’ve been marathon drinking so long that sumpin’ ain’t right with ya’ and I was also so bloated from all the beer and food inside of me that I felt ready to explode, but I still needed to try this one. Victory has rarely let me down before.
So, with that in mind, my thoughts: I always claim I’m not a stout guy but maybe I need to change my tune because any time I drink a stout from a top-notch brewery I like if not love it. I always approach stouts carefully for some reason, and I always am leery of them, but then I always enjoy them. Maybe my fear lies in the fact that they are so heavy and potent that I can only drink one in a sitting, and often that is even a struggle. I never feel relaxed when drinking a stout, despite how good they are. It’s like, no matter how much you love lobster, all things being even, ceteris paribus, you rarely order it because you know that it’s gonna be a fucking workout to shell the thing and get just the tiniest bits of meat down your face. True, it’ll be outstanding, but 99% of the time I think we’d rather lay back and enjoy something more accessible. Like a cheeseburger or an IPA.
Victory King is a very stout, stout. Very smoky with potent tastes of coffee and some chocolate. It was tasty. Damn tasty. Took me forever to get this one down. What can I say, this beer kicked my ass. And like the straight-laced CPA that enjoys hitting the BDSM scene at night…I kinda liked it!
5.9% ABV on draught
This beer upsets me less for what it is than for what it isn’t. I popped into a new, out-of-the-way bar for a single drink and amongst their plain Jane collection of taps there were actually, surprisingly three beers I didn’t know anything about. I was intrigued and tried to get any info on the three beers from the bartender. Her expertise seem to lie more in shaking up overly-sweet shot concoctions, flirting with the unemployed poet at the end of the bar, and rigging the jukebox to play nonstop Smiths songs than in giving me the scoop on her own fucking bar’s craft beer selection. I even pulled out my old trick where I act absolutely torn by the selections, hoping this will lead to the bartender giving me a little taste of each. She was too busy reading her poet suitor’s latest Sonnet to a Slutty Barkeep to help me out though. Thus, I was forced to take a chance on the beer from the only one of the three breweries I had heard of, Arcadia.
Thoughts: Arcardia IPA has a nice smell but it is fairly muted. It also has a bit of a sour taste I don’t like. Not like an enjoying hoppy sourness, but just a bad sourness. Speaking of hoppiness, this beer could use a tad more bite, surprising since it’s around 6% which is what I consider a good level for an IPA. Give me more hops though, I’m a man, I can handle it. This one almost taste like the tap wasn’t hooked up right and the beer was flat. It still had it’s charms though.
That is, until I returned home and hit up Beer Advocate like a big nerd to check out the two beers I had passed on. Not surprisingly, those beers scored respective A and A+ ratings! Goddamn, did that piss me off as it is unlikely I will be back to that bar any time soon and thus missed a chance to drink two fairly obscure masterpieces that I had never seen on tap before. It’s like finding out at your ten-year reunion that the hot cheerleader had always had a crush on you. And, it kinda made me hate Arcadia IPA like the single mother hates her accident baby for ruining her life and not allowing her to hit the clubs any more.
4.7% ABV on draught
This beer isn’t great. The Italian Budweiser. I wouldn’t typically drink it. Yet it was only $2 per pint at a Little Italy dive over the weekend. Handed the ditzy waitress an Andrew Jackson and told her to keep ‘em coming. Thus, I drank plenty and got drunk, quod erat demonstrandum.
Blue Point Blueberry
(Gotta drink the blueberry beer in a opium den-like pitch-black bar so as no one sees ya’!)
I flat out love this beer, and I’m manly enough to admit that. Heck, I even called it "sublime" once before. And, I’m always—more so than most beers—trying to get my friends to try the wonder of this brew. Perhaps just so I’ll have some more blueberry-drinking buddies to paint the town purple with. I always have to preface my imploring to them with, “I know it sounds gay, but…”
1. Blueberry beer is sublime.
2. Blueberry beer is phenomenal.
3. Blueberry beer is like a blowjob in your mouth…no, that doesn’t sounds so good. Let’s stick with sublime.
Most friends refuse to listen to me and try the beer, even when this miserly Jew offers to buy them one, but those that do wholeheartedly agree, thanking me profusely for bringing this into their lives. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It smells like a delicious blueberry waffle has been crammed into a twelve ounce bottle. And it tastes even better than that. So, though many people will swivel their heads to stare at the fruit ordering a fruit beer, proudly march up to your local barkeep and order a Blue Point Blueberry. You’ll thank me later. And learn tons about your sexuality.
Schneider Weiss Hopfen Weiss (Schneider & Brooklyner)
8.2% ABV from a bomber
This brew is the result of the long friendship of Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver and Schneider brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler. Garrett had always admired the delicate balance of flavors in Schneider Weisse, while Hans-Peter had long enjoyed the effusive hop character of Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and BLAST! Garrett’s concept for the collaboration was that each brewmaster would brew essentially the same pale, hoppy weissbock in the other’s brewery, but with different hopping to reflect the local hop flavor.
Was excited to see this one on the shelf. Had loved the Brooklyn version of this bottling a few months back and this was the first time I’d seen the German version on the shelf. The Brooklyn version was a near masterpiece but I don’t recall it having this high of ABV. Looking through my notes though, I see that indeed it did.
This beer pours a huge head. Or maybe I’m just a drunk asshole who doesn’t know how to transfer from bottle to pint glass. Smells about as good as a beer can smell to me. Very malty.
I feel like I might like this one a tad less than I enjoyed the Brooklyn version, but mind you I’m not doing a side-by-side test and only recall my thoughts from months ago. I will admit that I like the smell of hefes often better than I like the taste. Although this is a great beer, no bones about it. I think from now on I will exclusively drink wheat beers during the hot weather instead of those thin, lemony crap beers most brewery releases under their “summer” line. This brew has a nice amount of hops, especially for a wheat.
This is how you do a hefe, other beermakers take note.