Port Old Viscosity

September 24, 2008

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.

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Schell Stout

September 23, 2008

5% from a bomber

FROM THE READERS’ MAILBAG:
(in response to the pictures in yesterday’s Brooklyner Weisse review)

Question: When you go out in public are you undercover? Like Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent? Or do people know you are the World Famous Vice Blogger? I ask because you are always taking pics of the beers you drink. I am sure people see you and inquire WTF are you doing? What is your answer to them? Do you tell the truth? Or make up a story? And do they think you are weird for taking the pics? Do bartenders think you are taking pics of them? And did the people at the party think? If I saw some kid I didnt know at my party taking pics of beers in my fridge I would punt his ass out the window. Why? Because I wouldnt understand what he was doing, and when you dont understand others or they are different from you, then you are supposed to turn violent toward them. Intolerance is in the Bible so you know it is the right thing to do.

Anyway maybe this question is better answered in a beer review.

First of all, I have taken pics of the inside of your fridge before, Sal. And soon enough I will be posting on this very blog all those images I snuck of the Ziploc-ed severed body parts you are hiding in there. But I do agree with your theories on intolerance, good looking out.

When I began this blog, I used to be nervous about taking pictures of my beers while in public and would try to do it quickly, surreptitiously, and inconspicuously. Being that I am not a skilled photographer, I’m often drinking in dark places, oh, and drunk too, it sometimes was tough to quickly pull off an acceptable, publishable photo. Not to mention, I refuse to lug a camera around to the bars so I have to use my phone’s camera, which, if you’ve noticed, is not the most high-definition. Especially in dark places where IThe Vice Blog › Edit — WordPress‘m forced to put on the “night” switch and then hold the camera completely still for literally like 10 seconds to get a clear photograph. I feel like I’m using a Daguerreotype camera it’s so goddamn slow.

Occasionally, bartenders or other customers, party goers, or even my dates would catch me and brusquely wonder in confusion, “What are you doing?”

Initially, I tried to blow it off with a chuckle and a mumbled “Oh, nothing, don’t worry. I just have a stupid website where I write about beers…”

I wouldn’t even have a chance to finish my blow-off explanation before I’d hear “Cooooool!!!” Everyone loved it! The first bartender to “catch” me was so impressed he immediately started bringing me free glasses of Scotch, bourbon, and “secret” bottles of beer his bar had stored that I just had to try and then write about. Fellow customers with boring lives of their own immediately had something interesting to discuss with me. As did my dates. In fact, the only place that has ever reacted negatively to me taking a picture of a beer was once when I tried to do it while in Whole Foods, which inexplicably has a no-photography policy (“But how ‘r’ ma’ friends back home in Tupelo, gonna’ believe I actually went to one a’ dem fancy ore-gan-ick supermarkets?!”)

So now when I need to take a snap of my beer in public, I pretty much just proudly announce to any one in ear shot, “Excuse me, I need to take a picture of my beer for my blog.” And, usually, those around me stop everything, wanting to assist in the composition, lighting, and set-up for my beer shots.

Such was the case at the infamous party where the Brooklyner pic was taken as a fellow guest thought an in-the-fridge photo would be a unique composition. He was right.

Nevertheless, a good majority of pics, such as the one that kicks of this review, are taken in my home where no one can make fun of me except for the ghost that lives under my bed.

Of my first two career Schell beers, one was a solid success and one was a marginal success. This would be my third to try and the one I was most leery about. You see, stouts are always a risky proposition to me. When it comes to IPAs or pale ales or even barley wines, I still feel like I can enjoy a lackluster one. Of course I want a masterpiece every time, but I have no probably quaffing mediocre to bad ones and even finding a thing or two nice to say about them. That is not true with stouts. For whatever reason with stouts, if I don’t get a masterpiece or a near-masterpiece, I all but hate the beer. Thus, I always drinks stouts with tons of trepidation.

The 5% ABV worried me immediately. The stouts I’ve grown to love are American-style “imperial” asskickers, often so potent they make bourbons blush. This English stout was one of the least alcoholic stouts I can ever recall having, aside from, you know, Guinness.

Nevertheless, the pour was promising. Black and milky with the ever so smallest hint of a head. Smells of dark coffee, roastedness, and burntness. Everything seemed to be in order so far.

I’d like to claim that I tasted even the faintest hints of coffee, but I didn’t. It simply tasted smoky and borderline meaty to me, and, I must admit, a bit like inhaling some flatulence. Not much flavor, complexity, or kick to it. No carbonation or hops feel either, as to be expected. A slight creamy finish redeems the beer somewhat and it is indeed very drinkable. When I have them, I usually make stouts my last brew of the evening and only drink them on a somewhat empty stomach, but this one could be handled any time.

There’s not much else to say. I didn’t particularly love this one. However, admittedly, the more I drank it the more palatable it became and the more I like it. But I never loved it and wouldn’t have it again.

C

Shiner 99 Munich Style Helles Lager

September 23, 2008

5% ABV bottled

Believe it or not (DAD!) there are quite a few 50- and 60-somethings that like my blog. One is my friend’s father, a venerable fermented and distilled beverages connoisseur in his own right. And, when my friend was down visiting him in Texas recently, he made sure to send her back to NYC with one of his favorite local beers as a reviewable gift for the Vice Blogger. Thanks! Most appreciated.

Just like Boulevard in Kansas, Abita in Louisiana, Yuengling in PA, and Corona in latently homosexual frat houses, Shiner is an overrated local favorite. None of those are bad breweries producing bad beers (except for Corona of course), don’t get me wrong, but they are not as good of beers as the locals seem to think they are. And proud Texans are the worst when it comes to Shiner. Much like drawing a picture of Muhammad, saying God’s Hebrew name aloud, or taking your kid to a doctor if you’re a Xenu worshipper, not LOVING Shiner is akin to blasphemy in the Republic.

I’ve had most of the regular Shiner releases–admittedly several years ago–and I recall liking all of them, hating none, while likewise adoring none. Nevertheless, I was excited to try this special release, commemorating Spoetzl’s 99th anniversary (congrats!). A gorgeous label, very slick.

A malty smell dominates and indeed the tastes are of a crisp, light maltiness, some citrus flavors, and a slightly bitter finish. Very drinkable and refreshing. A good summer beer I probably shouldn’t have waited til a brisk September night to drink. Spoetzl has produced a great attempt of the famed Munich helles lager style and it is probably just my bias against this type of beer that hurts my personal grading of it. But helles fans will no doubt love this one, the second best American version I’ve had aside from Brooklyn’s Brewmasters Reserve effort of last year.

B+


Brooklyner Weisse

September 23, 2008

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


Budweiser American Ale

September 21, 2008

5.1% ABV bottled

Aside from those Domino’s oven-baked sandwich commercials and the inexplicable Dr. Pepper spots in which an aging Julius Erving plays beer pong by himself, no product has been as advertised on TV this fall as Budweiser’s new American Ale.  Yet for the past month or so I’ve been unable to find it.  The first Anheuser-Busch product I’ve wanted in my entire life and I simply could not locate it.  That changed last night as I finally stumbled upon some and greedily snapped it up.

The nicely designed bottle label sure makes it look like a respectable beer and the pour was downright craft brewery-looking.  A rich amber color, could have easily been mistaken for a beer from a skilled microbrewery rather than an assembly line suds factory.

Not too much smell and nothing more than adequate flavor.  A marginal effort I suppose, but a sour finish and a certain heft doesn’t even make it as drinkable as you’d expect this kind of swill to be.  It’s very “safely” made, Anheuser’s uninspired version of a Killian’s Irish Red I suppose.  I would probably only drink it again if the only other choices were light macrobeers.  And it’s not like I’d relish that.

Honestly, I don’t understand the point of this beer.  It’s nowhere near good enough for beer snobs to enjoy, yet is too “weird,” “dark,” and complex for macro-swilling hillbillies to tipple.  Too fancypants they’ll say.  I predict this beer finds no market and ends up as the Crystal Pepsi of the industry but, you know, without the Van Halen crap-rock soundtrack.

C


Schell FireBrick

September 20, 2008

5% ABV

When I was younger, I thought there would be nothing better than if I could one day live above a bar.  I would walk down there in my slippers and a bathrobe for a quick nip.  I could tell women I met there that I literally lived upstairs.  And if I got too wasted and passed out on the bar, my kindly bartender friend would excuse himself for a minute and fireman carry me upstairs to tuck me in.

I currently live above a bar.  And despite the sandwich-board advertised obscenely cheap drinks and quite raucous atmosphere, I’ve never been inside once.  You see, I live above a gay bar.

Look, I obviously have no problem with gays or gay bars, in fact, one can quite accidentally wander into gay bars in NYC, missing the tiny rainbow decal on the front window, and find themselves drinking there and enjoying themselves for quite awhile before noticing that the clientele is 100% fabulous men save a fat fag hag or two.  But this gay bar I live above is flamboyant gay.  More like Elton John than Lance Bass.  Blowjob-in-a-dark corner gay.

I sit in my bedroom drinking a bottle of Schell FireBrick as I prepare to go out.  A hearty pour with a foamy head.  Decent smell with a bit of skunk to it.  A pretty good taste, an all matl Vienna-style lager, like a slightly worse Negra Modelo.  I’ve been impressed with Schell’s offerings so far.  My room abuts the bar’s patio and its already starting to get rowdy down there.  I’m guessing they ain’t watching the South Florida/FIU game.

When I return tonight I will be greeted outside the bar stretching to in front of my building’s stoop by a herd of transvestites and transsexuals smoking Virginia Slims and cat-calling all the straight men that pass, trying to solicit them.  Even though I know the score, returning drunk at 3 AM I will always see one of those gender-reassigned, DD-siliconed, shaved-down Adam’s apple, flowing blond hair extensions “women” from afar and think, “Goddamn, who is that piece of ass in front of my building?!,” getting closer only to realize it’s clearly a former man.

However, most of the bar patrons hanging out front are John Waters’s Divine-style drag queens.  Personal performance artists not even trying to pretend they are female.  6’5″ with green wigs, stuffed to the gills bustiers, and sequined gowns.  I’ve started to know some of the regulars.  Nice gals and boy are they funny.  On occasion I’ll even find myself chatting with the trannies late at night, only waking the next morning hungover thinking, “Why the fuck did I talk to ‘Jasmine’ for fifteen minutes last night?!  What were we discussing?!”  I wonder if these drag queens think I’ll fuck them one day.  God I hope not.

B-


Harpoon Octoberfest

September 19, 2008

5.5% ABV bottled

In my mid-twenties I was friendless.  No, that’s not as bad as it sounds.  What I mean is that I was essentially friendless in the city I lived in, New York.  Through a weird confluence of events, several of my pals moved to Hollywood for greener pastures, several moved to other East Coast cities, quite a few got engaged or married and fled for the ‘burbs, and of my two most-usual drinking buddies one got shipped to Iraq and another picked up and moved with his fiancee to middle-of-nowhere New Jersey.  In seriously like a half-year I had gone from having two dozen friends and at least a dozen regular drinking partners to having no one.  But I still wanted to drink, I still wanted to go out, I still wanted to socialize, get in trouble, have stories to tell, and meet women, so I had to go out drinking alone.

Here are my tips for drinking alone.  On a Friday night.  In a packed bar.

1.  Arrive slightly early.  Just a few minutes before the rush because you absolutely have to get a chair at the bar.  This is incredibly crucial.  I will never drink alone at a bar unless I have a chair.  Guy sitting at bar drinking alone = passably normal.  Guy leaning against a pole in the corner drinking alone = creep.  Just the way it is.

2.  Gotta go to a bar with TVs so you have something to do when you’re still sober.  Some of these faux-dive bars that would be perfect for drinking alone don’t have TVs.  You know how hard it is to find something to do while sitting alone at a bar and still sober?!  You can only study the menu for so long.  You’re forced to stare vacantly ahead, usually at your reflection in the bar’s crappy schmutz-covered mirror, at the reflection of yourself.  The guy drinking alone.

3.  You don’t have to be too friendly and start conversations.  Big mistake drinkers-alone often make.  You don’t want to act like that one guy from your freshman dorm floor who went out of his way to say hello and introduce himself to literally every single person he came across in your first week of school.  God I hated that guy and so did everyone else.  Just sit there and like Ted Williams or Barry Bonds, wait for your pitch.  It will come.  The bartender will remark on something and you can respond.  You better be interesting, funny, smart, and certainly not needy, but it should be easy to quickly befriend the bartender.  Other bar patrons will follow suit.

4.  Nor do you need to lie about why you’re drinking alone.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with drinking alone.  You’ll get asked often, “Who you’re with.”  People that ask you this aren’t trying to play a cruel game of “gotcha” and make you tell them you’re a solo-sipping loser.  You’re not.  Yet a lot of people lie.  I don’t know why people think it better to tell someone that asks that they’re just “waiting for a friend” rather than drinking alone.  So you think it’s cooler to infer that you have been stood up by a friend or a date than that you are simply having a few by your lonesome?  Believe me, drinking alone is cooler and more sexy than you think.

5.  And not having to piss is more crucial than you think.  I used to have a massive bladder as a youth and never had to break the seal, but as we get older we all have to go out to water the horse a little more than we’d like.  Nothing sucks more than having to do that move where you put a cardboard coaster on top of your pint glass and then shuffle off to the little boys’ room, returning to find a happy hour group of seven people standing around your chair, considering taking your seat as you have to “excuse me, excuse me” your way to your barstool, the group staring needles through the back of your melon.

6.  Girls (and guys) will love you.  It’s probably apparent that my rules are pretty much written for males.  Look, I certainly have no problem with women drinking alone, but a lot of people do.  A lot of people call a woman that drinks alone a…prostitute.  So sorry for the malecentricity within my rules, but it is what it is.

The days of rugged individuals have long since passed and people are impressed by those that can exist as an island.  I go to bars alone, restaurants alone, and movies alone.  It’s not a big deal, it really isn’t.  But our pussified culture has gotten so used to hand-holding and the buddy system in all we do that most people simply don’t have the testicular or ovarian fortitude to be independent.  I do, and women are impressed by that.  But more importantly, people aren’t intimidated by someone drinking alone, they think he’s surely so hard up for companionship that he’d love to be approached by anybody and everybody and he will certainly be ingratiating.  And thus, they do all my work for me.  I never get approached when I’m with a group but when I’m alone at a bar I get bombarded with people coming up to me as if I’m an celebrity and they are an autograph seeker.  For some reason people want to know the guy drinking alone.  Men come up and shoot the shit with me, buying me drinks and introducing me to their girlfriends, and groups of girls come up to hit on me.  It’s kinda insane. People aren’t scared of someone drinking alone and it can be used swimmingly to your advantage.

7.  Soon enough you’ll be part of a group and no one will have even remembered you came alone.  You’ll be treated as just an old friend and asked if you’d like to join them at the next bar.  Of course you would.  This has happened to me countless times. And the best part is that these are just ad hoc friends so even if you make a fool of yourself–like you usually do–by morning none of these folks have your number or email address to call you or write you and ask what the fuck you were doing, thinking.  So you have no excuse not to at least attempt to be the life of the party!  Oh, and you will be!

Luckily, my friendless state only lasted for like a half-year or so before I had re-formed a crew.  Having said that, living in NYC one is forced to drink alone for at least 30 minutes stretches quite often when friends are late in arriving.  So these tips are good for those times too.

Such was the case just last week as my friend got caught in traffic and I hate to wait him out at the bar.  I sipped on Harpoon Oktoberfest, finding it kinda boring, but decent.  No real bite or flavor but smooth.  Malty.  Doesn’t exactly taste like a true Oktoberfest, and I wouldn’t want another, but it’s not offensive or anything.  I don’t know why some of these American breweries don’t think we can handle a full-bodied Germanic Marzenbier, but for Christ’s sake, we can!

C+