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).


*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.


Pliny the Elder

August 15, 2008


8% ABV bottled

I am now a felon.

At least I think I am.

Eh, maybe it’s just a misdemeanor. But I doubt it. I fucking disobeyed the fucking United States Constitution. Article 2 of the 21st Amendment to be more exact:

“The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.”

After my Cuvee de Castleton story, a barrage of beer fans across the globe e-mailed me, offering anything and everything to get an extra bottle from me. One person stood out, a San Franciscoan named Marie, offering me a shit-ton of Russian River stuff.

Beer swapping is a big hobby nowadays, but this would be my first time to ever get involved, and I was a little nervous. A little nervous about everything.

Firstly, how to know if you’re getting a good deal? There sure isn’t a Beckett Price Guide for rare beer bottles. And, though I may talk the talk on this site, this Marie person was absolutely awing me with his/her knowledge of beer.

I say his/her because, though Marie is typically a woman’s name, I was so impressed with the abundance of knowledge Marie was displaying that my chauvinistic, misogynistic, and all sort of other -istic sides came out and I figured I was just dealing with a man with some weird name. No doubt a European. Like, Jose Marie Olazabal or something. Yeah, that made sense. Europeans know tons about beer.

However, later, when Marie started talking about all the homebrewing he/she does, I was even more blown away. I had to ask this person–positive it was a man–what sex they are.

I’m sure you know the answer, Marie was very much a woman. Obviously the coolest woman in the world. One that knows tons more about beer than me AND FURTHERMORE brews her own beer! Wow. I knew absolutely no other facts about her, not her age, not what she looked like, nothing, but I was still absolutely smitten. I had to ask her to marry me. (And my ex-girlfriend says I have commitment issues, ha!)

She obviously declined. She’s read my blog. It’s better that way. I consider having to cross Park Avenue a long-distance relationship. Much less crossing the country. Ah well. Maybe she’ll send me some of her homebrews one day.

Eventually, I had to capitulate to my own fears and face a single fact about a potential beer trade with Marie: I was overwelmingly ecstatic with the beers Marie would be sending me and I wasn’t too unhappy with sending away a Cuvee de Castleton bottle. So if we’re both happy, then no one’s getting ripped off, and the deal is more kosher than Hebrew National.

I accepted the trade, getting three beers from my most wanted list–Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig IPA, and Supplication–two of which are in Beer Advocate’s top 20 beers in the whole world while the third makes the top 40. Incredibly rare, this is in fact the first batch of bottled beers from Russian River, a brewery that still limits its distribution to only San Francisco and Sonoma County.

Now, the hard part came — packaging the brews. As mentioned before, sending beers interstate is absolutely a crime. Go to the US Postal Service and try to do and I’m sure the Postal Police will immediately throw you in the clink. So you have to use a private carrier. Still not technically legal, but the potential rammifications are much smaller. Thus, you have to pack these motherfuckers well. Not only so they arrive in perfect shape for your trading buddy, but also so beer doesn’t begin leaking out of your package mid-route and start raising red flags.

I was freaked out about packing up the bottles so I probably overdid it. Of course, I ain’t gonna pay for packaging so I went over to FedEx and grabbed about 15 bubble wrap bags, a small box, and one large box. Then, I grabbed about fifty Metros from a newspaper box. I first wrapped the bottle nicely in several swathed newspapers, paying specific attention to the delicate neck. I taped that tight. I put all that in one bubble wrapped envelope and sealed it tight. Then another. Then I put that thing in a small box, filling the empty space with even more crumpled newspapers and plastic grocery bags. Then, I put the small box into the bigger box, again filling all the open space with countless wadded up newspapers and plastic bags. Finally, I covered the entire box with several brown paper bags and then I used about fifteen rolls of packing tape to seal the whole thing up. It was going to be like opening a Russian matryoshka doll to get to my beer.

I was impressed with my wrap job. It was secure, no rattling whatsoever. I mimicked an oafish FedEx worker manhandling my box. I carelessly tossed it a few times on my bed to make sure it could take a hit. It could take one like Walter Payton turning the corner.

Onto FedEx where I expected to have to pay $30plus for ground shipping. But, first, I had to answer the proverbial question, “So what’s in the box?”

Here’s a hint, you don’t answer “illegal beer I am illegally shipping out of state.”

But you don’t want to lie, so you stretch the truth.

“Uh…it’s a gift for my friend.”

“And what IS the gift.”

“Fragrances, cooking supplies. They’re in glass bottles so handle with care please.”

Yes, pricey beers are fragrant and, of course, they can be used for cooking supplies. Even better, the whole shipment only cost me $7. Amazing!

Five days later, the FBI arrived at my door. Duh duh duh…

No, that’s not true, but that would have made the story really freaking awesome.

Instead, Marie’s glorious package arrived. I thought I had packed well but she had packed the box like it was going to be tossed thousands of feet from a helicopter onto a beer-starved country in nouthern Africa. An absolutely enormous box filled with these remarkable air cushion type things which I had never seen before. The entire box was like a Moonwalk. It was a remarkable packing job, twenty times better than mine.

Now I was scared shitless my bottle would arrived shattered. The next day, however, Marie got her end of the bargain and it too was flawless. Bottles are actually quite hard to break it seems.

Brief interlude to rip on the government like some kind of militia-man anarchist:

How stupid is it that a legal product–beer–cannot be mailed to a buddy? The goddamn goverment is so intent on preventing us from pleasure. The government hates it that people are enjoying themselves. They are so intent on taxing every thing in this world. If they can’t get a piece of the pie than no one can. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Among everything else, that was the best thing about this little experiment, being a scofflaw. Being a scofflaw is awesome. Just cause the United States has retarded laws doesn’t mean you have to follow them. No one gets harmed if beer is shipped, so be a scofflaw. Mail off beers, smoke some weed, spit on street corners, jaywalk, buy sex toys, get a bookie, and don’t report your gambling earnings to the IRS.

First, I had to try the Pliny the Elder*, one of the most sought after beers in the world, new to being bottled after years of it only being on tap in the San Francisco area. Bottled on July 10 of this year, the label is full of whimsical warnings such as “Respect your elder…drink fresh” and “Pliny the Elder is a historical figure, don’t make the beer inside this bottle one!” Yeah, they want you to have as hoppy of beer as possible.

The smell isn’t that potent, just a nicely balanced DIPA. And the taste is similar. Hops, pines, floral. Flawlessly balanced. But that disappointed me a little. I expected mindboggling and I simply got very great. It’s as good as, say, a Ruination, a Maharaja, or a Captain Lawrence’s DIPA, but I’m not actually sure I can say its better. Not what expected.

With all the hype, with all the anticipation I’ve had for years dreaming of trying this one, I end up with the least pleasing “A” beer of my life. Still, it’s no doubt one of the better DIPAs in the world. I just think its mad scarcity leads to it being slightly overrated. I wonder how its ranking will change as it become more ubiquitous?

Marie claims it’s better on draft. I believe her, she knows everything. I think I’m going to enjoy my second bottle of it a lot more now that my expectations are more muted.


*The real Pliny the Elder was an awesome dude who named the hops plant and who died during the famous 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. I want to die by volcano, what a badass way to go.

Hair of the Dog Fred

August 8, 2008

10% ABV bottle-conditioned

A quick-hitter today as I’m out of town for a wedding.  Splendid tales of vice to follow.

Hair of the Dog calls this a “golden special ale” but every one else classifies it as a barley wine and indeed it smells and tastes just like a good one.  No, a great one.  Immediate smell of apple cider upon my pour.  First taste floored me.  Right up my alley.  Just how I like a beer.  Incredibly strong and incredibly potent.  Almost like straight booze.  Flavors of Belgian candy and extreme hops with tons of yeast sediment.  Would love to taste this one aged.  A tad too astringent of finish and, whoa boy, glad I only had a 12 ouncer because I think a bomber would have Belushied me.  It’s not completely balanced either.  These are minor quibbles though.  This is probably the second best barley wine I’ve ever had after Stone Old Guardian.  A beaut.


Stone Imperial Russian Stout

August 7, 2008

10.8% ABV from a bomber (“limited spring 2008 release”)

An open letter to Stone Brewery* AKA “Send Me Free Shit”:

Dear Stone,

A supermarket near me, of which I will not reveal the name, just got in a shipment of Stone Old Guardian and Imperial Russian Stout bombers which they incorrectly marked at $1.39 per, less than the Bud Light 40s comically enough. Being a responsible and moral man I immediately alerted the manager, letting him know that these semi-rare and highly-regarded beers should be more in the $6 range.

No, of course I didn’t do that! I backed a shopping cart up like I was robbing a bank vault and shoveled the entire stock in, needing a bum’s assistance to get all my glass bottles home. And why did I do this? Because I fucking love your beers! You’re my favorite brewery in the world (that isn’t operated by men of the cloth!)

Look at my rankings of your beers on my site so far:

Old Guardian Barley Wine……………………A+

Arrogant Bastard……………………………….A

Oaked Arrogant Bastard……………………..A

Ruination DIPA………………………………….A

India Pale Ale……………………………………A-

Pale Ale……………………………………………A-

My point? You should be sending me free shit.

There are countless beer blogs which I monitor on a daily basis–some great, many good, most shitty–and it boggles my mind and infuriates me how these bloggers get free beers, samplers, and other brewery swag seemingly heaped upon them!

Why don’t I get anything sent my way?!

Why doesn’t my favorite brewery send me some stuff? I’d love a few bottles of your 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout which I’ve been struggling so much to find in NYC over the past month. You know I’ll give it an A or A+ because it is undoubtedly awesome. Heck, even if sucks, tell you what, I still guarantee an A. That’s just the kind of whore I am. And that’s a message to all breweries, send me free stuff–shhh…it’ll be our little secret–and I’ll totally overrate your beers**. I don’t mind being a sell-out! If not the 12th Anniversary, Stone, then howzabout some of your coolass glassware for me to befittingly drink your delicious beers from? Or some hip clothing so I don’t have to do laundry as often can proudly walk through Manhattan freely advertising my favorite American beermaker as if wearing a sandwich board. I’d do it! Swear.

Why are these other blogs getting so many free beers and I am not? I have huge readership numbers and my google rank is better than almost all of them. That’s a fact. Is it cause those guys have “safe” and boring websites while mine is actually interesting? Is it cause I talk about nearly throwing up from a certain beer (you would have too), or of living with an alkie in an apartment building full of lunatics? Is it cause I compare drinking a certain beer to fucking a fat chick while I note that I love another beer so much that I’d give it a blowjob?! That’s not even possible you remark! How can one suck off to orgasm a fermented liquid?!

Are you telling me that I am not the kind of person you want to associate with? Is that it? I’m a big boy, I can take the truth. Be frank with me.

You’re a company known for being extreme. For creating big bold beers that kick the ass of “wussies” that typically drink pisswater. I’d think you’d want to be associated with such an awesome guy like me. I’ll be the MJ to your Gatorade. Don’t be like Mike, Be like The Vice Blogger! (OK, we’ll have to have marketing punch up that slogan a bit.)

But apparently you don’t want this to be.

If that’s the case, I would just say: uh, you know your products are ultimately for getting people drunk? How dare you stand on such high moral ground? How dare you be so haughty and supercilious toward me?

Whatever. You–and all the other breweries–can ignore me all they want, I’ll still drink your beers. Probably. And I’ll still love your beers, Stone.

Your delicious Imperial Russian Stout pours jet black with a foamy head that looks like Nestle’s Quik. Incredible lacing. It’s chocolately with a roasted bitter coffee taste. Hints of currant with a nice, alcohol-laden finish. One of the most palatable stouts I’ve ever had, making my tongue tingle with each sip of its potent flavor. Goes down smoothly like dessert. By the time I’m done with a bomber of this, I am always on my ass. Feel free to put that on your bottle like a movie critic blurb. First one is gratis.

“By the time I’m done…I am always on my ass.” –The Vice Blog

Stone, you already make my favorite barley wine which is also probably my favorite overall beer. You make one of my favorite DIPAs, strong ales, doubly strong ales, and smoked porters, so it’s no fucking surprise that you make arguably my favorite stout too.

BOOM! Another A to add to the chart.

Stone Imperial Russian Stout……………………….A

That’s just the kind of guy I am.

Now, hold up your end of the bargain and send me some free shit:

theviceblog [at] gmail.com


*But other brewers feel free to pay attention.

**Nope, not you Corona, nice try.

Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA

August 6, 2008

8% ABV from a growler

Necessity is the mother of all invention. Especially when it comes to getting drunk. No, I’m not talking about taking the only three items left in your fridge (soy sauce, Jagermeister, root beer) and inventing a new cocktail (The MSGager Barq Bomb*), I’m talking about something completely different. Whether prison wine, moonshine during prohibition, or a bottle of Scope when your children are so concerned about daddy that they’ve poured his bourbon down the drain (damn you brats!), humans have always found a way to get drunk under the most tricky of circumstances. Take the India Pale Ale, the IPA, for one. I think a lot of amateur drinkers are scared by the exotic, “foreign” name of it. I know I used to be. But you shouldn’t fret. IPAs are a delicious form of incredibly hopped and alcoholic beer. A splendid combo.  And, they have nothing to do with curry, tiki masala, or Ghandi.

The name comes from back in the 18th century when the British were faced with a terrible conundrum: how to keep beer fresh on long shipping voyages. Specifically, how could the British East India Company keep their beloved porters and ales from spoiling during the months-long journeys to India where relocated British expats and soldiers demanded fresh beer. Due to the extreme conditions of shipping, beers were arriving flat and sour. Thus, a solution was needed and it came in the form of most certain genius George Hodgson.  He figured out that if tons of hops and alcohol were added to beer, an unfriendly environment would be created that was adept at fending off microbes and bacteria and thus spoilage. These beers were able to store for lengthy periods without going bad. And they tasted fucking delicious too.

Even sweeter, since us Americans rightly think anything bigger is better, we decided to up the ante and create double IPAs which typically have 50% more malt and 100% more hops. We’ve essentially created something overpowering out of something that was already created to be overpowering.  Awesome.  Like adding bacon to a double-cheeseburger.  The double IPA is definitely one of my favorite styles of beer.

Thus, upon my trip up to the Captain Lawrence brewery to snag the rare Cuvee de Castleton bottles, I brought along my empty growler, and, when faced with the seemingly difficult decision of what to fill it with, there was no struggle–I knew I would be honored to try their DIPA for the first time.

I could barely contain myself and wanted to start slugging from the growler on the train ride back. I didn’t though and waited til I was safely in my apartment. A brilliant smell hit me the second I unscrewed the growler’s cap. And, once poured into a glass the fragrance truly came to life. Unbelievably hoppy, woody, and floral. The girl I was with–no, not a prostitute–thought it smelled like a fresh sack of high-end weed, and she was kinda right. But don’t consider that a negative. The taste was amazing. Tons of hops, with lots of citrus flavors, and a nice little amount of sweetness. So damn tasty I wanted to tilt the growler back and just chug from it as if I was some sort of high-brow frat boy. And, indeed, this is one highly drinkable DIPA as the alcohol is quite masked, you don’t really feel it until it hits the back of your throat, massaging your mouth for quite a while after each sip.

I suppose there’s nothing truly unique or unconventional about this beer, which is kinda strange since Captain Lawrence is known for their unconventionality. But it’s hard to lodge such a petty complaint when this is such a quality brew. A pretty flawless IPA, maybe the best east coast version I’ve ever had. I really have nothing to criticize about it other than to say I really wish Captain Lawrence bottled their beers so I could have this in my home at all times.


*© ® ™ The Vice Blog 2008 patent pending

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier

August 5, 2008

5.4% ABV

A long lost high school friend John found my blog the other day. He’s a Germanophile who’s lived in the country numerous times over the last decade and even has his own–far more successful than my own, damn him!–blog in which he pokes fun at the culture there. It’s a good read, I highly recommend it. Thus, John–who was actually in German class with me in school come to think of–was a bit aggrieved to see I only had reviewed three German beers.

He’s right to feel that way as Germany is maybe the most significant beer country in the world, producing and drinking both the 2nd most beer in the world. Having said that, and I hope the beer gods don’t hit me with a lightening bolt, but I find German beer kinda…well, kinda boring. I’d almost always rather explore Belgian and American beers.

Don’t get me wrong, any time I have a top shelf German beer, it is always without question good. It’s just, as a whole, German beers are kinda bland to my palate. I think it has to do with their whole Reinheitsgebot beer purity laws which state that beers can literally only be made with water, hops, barley, and yeast. I admire them for sticking with these recipes for so long, but I’m an adventurer and I like novelty in all aspects of my life. I like beers made with figs and bananas and oak-barreled and all sorts of other weird shit. Sometimes these beers are failures, often their successes. With German beers I know what I’m getting–usually a doppelbock or a hefeweizen, not exactly my two favorite styles–but with American beers, I feel like there’s so many things to explore. And, that excites me. Imagine only being allowed to use steak and potatoes to make a meal. Sure it could be great, but it gets boring after awhile.

Also, German beers have such long, cumbersome, vowel-laden names that you can never remember your favorites to reference later. “I think I like that one with nine e’s that ends with ‘er.'” There’s a reason the dreadful Beck’s is the best selling German beer in America. It’s the only one we can remember. Also, German beers have boring labels that all look the same. Again, making it difficult to recall which is your favorite for later purchase. It’s easier to just stick with American or Belgium beers that have cool name (Arrogant Bastard, Delirium Tremens, etc) and awesome labels.

I asked John to tell me his favorite German beers and I’d review them in his honor, but before he had a chance to email me back a response I went across the street to my supermarket for dinner and happened to notice that they had only one German beer–and I mean “real” German beer, I’m not counting St. Pauli Girl–stocked. Fittingly, it was from Weihenstephaner, the oldest brewery in the world dating back to 1040. That’s amazing.

This is one of the most fragrant hefes I’ve ever grabbed, very yeasty smelling. The lacing just sticks to the sides of the glass, it’s very impressive. Very tasteful too, creamy, buttery, taste of bananas. Of course, tons of wheat and malt too. A bit more carbonation than I’m used to in more American style hefes but this is a classic no doubt. A standard bearer for hefes. I typically enjoy stronger, more potent and more complex beers, but its hard to find much to complain about regarding this one. Maybe I should drink German brews more often.


Captain Lawrence Cuvee de Castleton (2nd batch, 2008)

July 29, 2008


No ABV listed but purpoted to be 6%

Throughout my entire childhood I was a collector extraordinaire. Baseball cards, comic books, Pez dispensers, action figures, celebrity autographs, movie paraphernalia, Wheaties boxes, vinyls, and things so much more nerdier that even I am ashamed to discuss them. Or, have repressed them from my memory as if they had sexually abused me (pogs anyone?). I went to card and comic shows, flea markets, garage sales, auctions, and autograph signings to procure my minor treasures, usually accompanied by my father or a fellow nerdy collecting buddy. Eventually, I got bored with amassing shit as I moved into my teens and more interesting and loftier pursuits entered my frame of reference. And, I thought I’d pretty much given up collecting for good around age 15 or so when I virginally realized that I didn’t want to ever bring a girl back to a bedroom filled with displayed Starting Lineups and Spawn comic books. I was wrong.

I am very much still a collector. I am very much still a nerd. I am a beer collecting nerd. I came to this eureka moment in a most startling and sudden manner this previous weekend.

The weekend saw the release of Captain Lawrence’s exceedingly rare (only 840 bottles released per annum) and highly acclaimed (a perfect score on Rate Beer) Cuvee de Castleton. I could not find a single person to go with to the brewery, but that wouldn’t stop me, I knew I had to make the 38 minute train trek upstate by myself. My readers and my taste buds deserved it. Also, this beer could only be purchased on site. I’m always up for an adventure and this was going to be my first time entering the world of true beer freaks. I expected a scene, but I was totally blown away by what I was to witness.

The release was at high noon and based on the buzz on beer forums and messageboards (yes, these exist) I speculated if I got there between 10:30 and 11 AM I should be in fine shape. Stupidly, I went out and drank hard on Friday night, not being tucked into bed til 5 AM or so. Back up at 8:30 I threw on some dirty clothes and my hangover shades and hustled to Grand Central, catching a 9:30ish train off the isle. Of course, fucking Metro-North was delayed but I still pulled into Pleasantville, New York around 10:50. The Captain Lawrence website claims the brewery is only 8 city blocks from the station, but I got incredibly lost, proving that either I was still very drunk or am very much a retard. However, I opt for option C and will claim that the Pleasantville locals are retarded as every single person I passed gave me conflicting directions. People! One of the finest breweries in all of North America is in your tiny hamlet and you don’t know where it is?! Good lord, it is your town’s greatest treasure.

Any how, after probably walking on every single inch of sidewalk in Pleasantville and the surrounding towns, after considering hitchhiking and praying for the only cab for surely hundreds of miles around to pass by me, I finally stumbled upon the right path, sweating pure grain alcohol and fried bar foods from my pores as I sauntered into the Captain Lawrence parking lot at 11:59, just as brewmaster Scott Vaccaro arrived, the doors were opened, and the beer was released to the public. I was well in the back of the line and probably looked and smelled homeless–though I didn’t hear anyone clever enough to quip, “Hey buddy, this isn’t a special release party for Cuvee de Mad Dog 20/20, hehe.”–but I nevertheless tried to schmooze up the people around me.

Always anxious to learn things I don’t know, to pick the minds of strangers, I started talking to the guy right behind me in line. He looked normal–nice clothes, a smart haircut, claimed he had come up from Brooklyn–but he was an unbelievable dork. It was like trying to talk to a fucking MIT doctoral candidate. I’m not sure if he knew more about beer than me, but he was using all sorts of unnecessary esoteric terms, treating beer as if it wasn’t some pleasure to be consumed and enjoyed and used to stimulate female loins but rather some public policy initiative to filibuster about. He also kept mentioning his “girlfriend.” People that find a reason to constantly mention their “girlfriend” unprovoked and apropos of nothing–“Wow, the weather’s sure nice today, just like my girlfriend said it would be.”–usually haven’t had carnal knowledge of a female in years. And, in fact, out of the hundreds and hundreds of people camped outside the brewery, the only three members of the fairer sex I saw were one obese chick who had been dragged along (wheelbarrowed along?) by her boyfriend, and two cute little girls that had been brought with their no-doubt-deservedly divorced father. (I was quite curious whether those girls would be allowed to purchase any bottles as each person was only permitted to buy four maximum.)

I couldn’t even converse with this nerdy little twit behind me, as he was doing all the talking, pontificating, droning on about beer as if he was trying to hypnotize me. I finally reached my last straw when we were each handed a tiny sample of some other brew. You see, it was a convivial atmosphere in line, with people all across the northeast converging at Captain Lawrence, most folks bringing along a bottle or two of interesting and semi-rare beers from their neck of the woods in order to share with those unable to get the stuff in their own areas. My nerdy cohort and I were lucky enough to be handed a few plastic cupped ounces of Ithaca TEN, a rare brew I’d been wanting to try for a while. I cheersed the man who gave me the free tasting and quickly gulped it down. Indeed it was tasty. That whole process took me, oh, about 45 seconds, you know, like a normal human being. After dispatching of my drink I looked next to me to see that the nerd had been hovering with his nose above the beer–eyes sensuously closed and erotically fluttering, natch–for the entirety of the previous minute, looking as if on the verge of passing out from carbon monoxide poisoning. Then, with an unannounced but quite ceremonious fury, my man ferociously sniffed, nay snorted, the fumes of the strong beer as if he was trying to double-barrel some coke so viciously that it would instantly go up his nasal cavity and explode his brain to smithereens. As you can imagine, the additional processes he went through in order to finish and fully enjoy the ounce or so of beer took several more minutes. I cannot imagine going out drinking with this bloke and his “girlfriend.”

He was the paradigm of the kind of beers snobs I hate, and others like him were all around me. At this point, I decided to give up on talking to people, just hoping to quickly nab my rare beers and get some free samples in me as the previous night’s drunkenness was wearing off and the delirium tremens were sneaking up. The line was moving slowly, however, and I couldn’t help but observe the other anxious tipplers around me. The dorks around me. Fat, poorly dressed, hirsute, goofy, and annoying. Just like the populous of any sort of convention where a small coterie of like-minded collectors gather. Later, I would actually hear one man to say his friend as they first sipped the Cuvee, “Dude, we are livin’ la vida loca.” Swear to God.

I’m not sure if beer is enough of a social lubricant for these people. I suppose beer can lubricate one enough to give them the courage to speak, but never enough to make one say things interesting. Or normal. I looked at these people with disdain. How can we share the same interests I wondered?!

Then, I did what I always do when around a freak show alone, I texted a friend to share in my hilarious misery.

AARON: “people that go to special beer release parties are the biggest nerds in the world. seriously.”

FRIEND: “are they dressed in beer costumes? real nerds always wear costumes.”

She was just making a joke, but she didn’t realize how prescient she actually was. I smirked and then looked up to realize that, yes!, everyone was in costume. Every dork in line proudly wore a crusty old XXXXL t-shirt celebrating their favorite beer or brewery. Hats commemorating beer festivals they’d been too. And, each nerd had brought along a favorite beer drinking vessel in order to have their first tastes of the Cuvee de Castleton. Yeah, it wasn’t as bad as dressing like Hermione, or Geordi La Forge, or fucking Captain America, but it was still a goddamn costume.

It was then, as I was in my fifteenth minute or so of queueing*, that I realized waiting in line for a rare beer wasn’t that much different than waiting in line for Ozzie Smith to not look up at you as he quickly scribbles his 5th grade penmanship autograph on an official MLB baseball for $20. It hit me, my God!, I’m like the John Cusack character in “High Fidelity,” who may be kinda handsome and put together, who may attract sexy women and get laid, but who nevertheless is as much of a geek as the loner weirdos that shop at the record store he owns!:

“I get by because of the people who make a special effort to shop here–mostly young men–who spend all their time looking for deleted Smith singles and original, not rereleased–underlined–Frank Zappa albums. I’d feel guilty taking their money, if I wasn’t…well…kinda one of them.” (“High Fidelity” 2000)

It all made sense now.

I came to an upsetting realization: normal people must look at me with the same disdain as I was looking down on these nerds! To an outsider I was indistinguishable from these cretins!

Aw, fuck it, I wasn’t “one of them.” I was much cooler than all these people. I may not be George Clooney, but goddamn I was still a different species from these Trekker types.

By 12:45, and just a few minutes before the beer was sold-out completely, I had my maximum four bottles, I had a refilled growler of their double IPA, I had a free sample or two in my belly, and I had glanced at a train schedule to realize I had just 4 minutes to sprint back to the station and get the fuck out of Dodge. With fifty pounds of glass and beer clanging in bags draped over my chest, I flip-flop sprinted back as hard as could. I must have looked the part of the consummate Vice Blogger on my ride home as I hogged three seats across with several hundred ounces of beer on me, a cigar protruding from the front pocket of my Polo begging to be smoked, all as I cavalierly read from the latest issue of “Playboy.”

I’m not sure if I can handle going to one of these nerd beer conventions again. It really held a mirror up to myself that scared me, that made me question who I am as a man, that busted my self-confidence in two, that made me think I should grow a sloppy beard and talk about original gravities, wort, and diacetyl all day.

Oh, who am I kidding?! The second another limited release comes out I’ll be up at Captain Lawrence or some other regional brewery dorking out, no doubt scorned by the others after everyone has read this anti-beer-nerd missive.

But let’s get down to brass tacks. How does this magical beer taste? It is surely one of the most limited released beers in America, and certainly the rarest brew I’ve ever had (compare to the 12K bi-yearly release of Utopias).

Captain Lawrence compares it to a champagne and they aren’t lying. I popped the top and it nearly exploded, ejaculations of foamy whiteness coming from the bottle like I was celebrating New Year’s. It pours fizzier than any beer I’ve ever seen before. On the label it is described thusly as a “…combination of Belgian style ale which has been re-fermented with hand picked Muscat grapes & aged in wine barrels. As the beer ages in the oak it undergoes a secondary fermentation using the wild yeast known as Brettanomyces.”

Cuvee de Castleton smells very much like a champagne and tastes like it too. Upon my first small sip, I almost retracted my tongue, I was so surprised by the intense tartness as this is the first wild ale I’ve ever had before. Definitely the most non-beer-tasting beer I’ve ever had as well. Even more so than Utopias. This really has nothing that really grounds it to being a beer except for the slight Belgian Ale of it. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Very carbonated, some good bite. You smell and taste white grapes and some spice too. Lemons and green sour apples. You’d have a hard time convincing a lot of people that this is actually beer though.

The sourness nails you at first so don’t give up on this beer after the first sip. It takes a while to figure out this brew’s brilliance. Luckily I got 4 bottles**, two of which I am making my first attempts at cellaring, which should actually make the beer even more sour Captain Lawrence claims.

Due to the tartness you have to drink it slowly, but that’s a good thing as it helps you absorb it better. I don’t think any one besides me will say this, but ask yourself if you like Sour Patch Kids before having this one. (Oh he’s so irreverent say the beer snobs reading this!) The tartness is remarkable though, my mouth was puckered for at least an hour after having the bomber. Everyone around me must have thought I wanted to kiss them. Perhaps I did. The beer makes you giggly and high just like some champers. I don’t completely buy that it’s 6% either. I was kinda fucked up after one solo-consumed bomber.

Cuvee de Castleton becomes more beer-like the more you drink it and the warmer it gets. The oak flavor starts to really come through in this insanely complex brew. I was confused at first by this beer as it’s my first wild ale, but by the end I was loving this and glad I have so many more bottles.

I really don’t think this is a beer that impatient neophytes will like and it would be hard to convince them otherwise. They should probably avoid it as I could see them doling out knee jerk F grades. And, considering I’ve drank one bottle and thus there are at maximum 839 left in the world, good chance these folks will never get to try this masterpiece.

Finally, I have never struggled so much to score a beer. I danced back and forth between maybe something in the Bs upon my first shocking taste before settling down, understanding the beer, and sometimes thinking it an A, many other times thinking it an A+. Really though, I think an A+ beer should be a no doubt about it. Of my only three A+’s, I knew they were A+’s the second I tasted them and likewise in each and every subsequent sip from there on out until the glass was drained. Thus, after far too much in-head deliberation, much like “Twelve Angry Men” inside my cerebrum, I had to finally admit that Cuvee de Castleton deserves an…


My final sip was an A+ though and I can’t wait to try bottle number two.

*Nerd fact: Only word in the English language with five straight vowels.

**Beer traders interested in having a bottle, please check out my Top Ten Most Wanted list and make me an offer in trade!