Schell Stout

September 23, 2008

5% from a bomber

(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.


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.


Widmer Hefeweizen

June 19, 2008

4.7% ABV on draught

Attended a weekday happy hour event where all tap beers were just three bucks. Unfortunately, the limited draft beer menu chalked onto the wall looked something like this:


Ugh. It was as if the owner of the bar was a faithful reader of my blog and had created his beer menu by simply putting all my D- and F-rated beers on tap. What a despicable array. There was obviously only one beer I could possibly order, but I needed to know what it was. As most all people know, Hefeweizen is not a brand of beer, but rather a style. It was almost as if the beer menu looked like this:


I had to inquire with the bartender. I called the dunderhead over.

Aaron: “Hey, what’s the hefeweizen?”

Doofus: “It’s like, uh, a German wheat beer.”

Aaron: “Yes (dipshit), I know, but what kind is it?”

He must have thought I just couldn’t hear him over top the cackling hens seated near me cause he simply repeated what he said just a little bit louder.


Fine. I ordered it. I was upset that I would inevitably have to walk my fat ass all the way across the length of the bar, tell some finance poseurs to part for this Jew like they were the Red Sea as I learned between them to ogle the tap, then nerdily scribbled the name down on a cocktail napkin. Yeah, not the coolest move when you’re at a bar and hoping women will find you dashing.

However, I was excited that I was going to get to sample a beer without knowing what it was. I thus couldn’t be bigoted. I don’t try to be biased when I review beers but much like even if Scorsese puts out a stinker people are gonna give him decent marks, sometimes if you drink a bad beer from an esteemed brewery you can’t help but overrate it. I had no idea whether this beer was coming from the finest German brewery in the world or from some basement beermaker from the Bronx.

This mystery hefeweizen was solid. Refreshing. Though I had just walked 50 blocks to get to the bar, so I would have been happy to have a Gatorade on tap. This hefe ain’t too complex, not too lemony either (that’s a good thing). It could use some more maltiness and bite, it’s pretty low in alcohol, but then again most hefes are. Also, it’s a little salty. It could use some more spice, but not salt that’s for sure. I enjoyed this beer less and less between my first sip and my last. Sour finish with not the greatest aftertaste. It’s like an American macrobrewery’s version of a hefe. Not much else to say.

Once I was finished, a second bartender, looking a tad brighter than the first but still not exactly like a MENSA candidate, came over for my next round.

THE “HONOR” STUDENT: Ya’ want another?

AARON: Sure, but what is it?

THE “HONOR” STUDENT: It’s a hefeweizen. Like a German wheat beer.

AARON: CHRIST. I know. But what fucking brand is it?!

The bartender actually walked the length of the bar, eyed the tap handle like it was written in Sanskrit and then returned to me.

THE “HONOR” STUDENT: Uh…it says like Whyd-marr brothers or something. Vid-mer maybe? Vide-mar?

That was enough. I knew what he was talking about. I ordered something else.


Blue Moon Belgian White

June 4, 2008

5.4% ABV on draught (with a feeble orange slice included. And not even a pure Florida orange. This orange was from like Trenton or somewhere.)

After some plans I had were canceled I wasn’t in such a great mood so I decided to inflict on myself the ultimate form of self-flagellation: going to the most wannabe “hot shot” financeguy pub possible and subjecting myself to the kind of beers those cretins drink. And coming to the plate in the lead off spot…Blue Moon.

I wanted to start with Blue Moon (I won’t shorten it to BM even though I might find that abbreviation apropos, especially in light of how I felt the day after drinking it) because I have blasted the beer for so long. In fact, it’s probably in my holy trinity of most mocked beers alongside the criminally awful Heineken and Corona. But unlike those two beers which I constantly find myself being forced to drink for some damn reason due to bars and parties often having nothing else, Blue Moon is a beer I rarely drink. One I probably haven’t even had a sip of in a year or so. It was time to give the brew one more try, a hopefully unbiased shot.

Odorless. All I can smell is the Trenton orange in the glass. Seriously, I cannot get a read on the taste due to the orange overpowering everything else. That’s pretty bad. There, I plucked the fruity wedge from my glass and slung it at a fruity guy in a suit at the other end of the bar. Aha, now I see why most people drink this beer with an orange in it. Clearly stated, Blue Moon is not a good beer. But at least it isn’t heinous. It probably does not deserve my scorn. Perhaps if only because Blue Moon’s biggest supporters think they are drinking some obscure Trappist bottling made with the most precious of ingredients by vow of silence Belgian monks as opposed to a Coors bottling mass-produced quite carelessly by machines that are even cheaper to operate than would be the cost of paying illegal Mexicans.

I really wanted to like this beer. I tried to figure out how I’d rate the beer if someone handed it to me and told me it was some Belgian that’s in Beer Advocate’s top 100. I closed my eyes and focused as I tasted it one final time. Didn’t matter. I still didn’t like it. It’s very bready. I feel like I have to chew it. It’s salty too. It’s like I’m drinking liquid Wonder Bread with hints of artificial orange flavoring. Shock Top is a far better beer in the macro-faux-Belgian-release-that-tastes-like-Sunkist-orange-soda category.


(At least this review made me realize that C is about the absolute worst rating I will give to a beer that I don’t like but which doesn’t repulse me in any way.)

Sunday afternoon drinking at 123burgershotbeer

June 4, 2008

This bar sprung up seemingly overnight just down the street from me. Here’s their conceit:

That absolutely blew my mind and I refused to believe it. Nevertheless, I trekked back over for some day drinking. The interior of the bar is pretty damn classy. Almost like a furniture showroom. You can still smell the fresh lacquer on the floor. The waitresses are cute and inexplicably dressed in hot pants in which the bottom curvature of their butt-cheeks show. I remained focused as I pointed at the sign seen above and said something like, “Uh…that true?” Indeed it was. The waitress told us that the burgers were sliders—she proceeded to spend far too long explaining the concept of a slider to me like I was some alien from a non-burger-eating planet—and indeed were just a buck. Likewise, every single beer on tap was just $3. Wow. I was impressed. They had a marginally respectable tap too. Here are some of the beers I had. I was in a jovial mood so I probably overrated all of them. Plus the beers all came in absolutely frigid mugs. A sensation I love. I wouldn’t want to drink a high quality beer from a frozen mug, but shitty beers and root beer are phenomenal in them.

Shock Top Belgian White

5.2% ABV on draught

This beer has one of the oddest, eye-popping taps around: a transmogrified orange with sunglasses and a mohawk. For $3, I’ll take a whirl with this one. It came with an orange slice and while I typically hate fruit in beer I decided to just go with the flow. Glad I did. This beer tasted almost like a Sunkist soda. VERY orangey. I like Sunkist so I liked this beer. Not sure I could drink several but it was enjoyable. I was surprised when I got home to see that it’s an Anheuser-Busch beer. You’d think it would be in more bars. It’s better than most of that macro-brewery’s selections for sho’.


Goose Island IPA

5.9% ABV on draught

A nice, solid example of an IPA. Nothing more, nothing less. I could drink these all day were it actually served in more NYC bars. It has a nice little spiciness to it. And if we’re talking about taps, Goose Island has got to have the best tap in the bid’ness, a big, long goose neck coming out of the bar. Who hasn’t wanted to tug on a goose neck before?


123 Amber (house beer)

No clue on ABV. Draught.

“House” beers always amuse me. I used to be real impressed. “Wow, this crappy little bar actually makes their own beer?! That is so cool!” Quickly I learned differently, the dirty little secret that bars just make their own TAP and throw it overtop some other macro beer. I don’t know the legalities of this and I don’t really care, but alas, I’m no longer impressed. Every time you ask a bartender or waitress about the house beer they say something like, “Oh, it tastes a little bit like [beer you’ve heard of.]” The beer you’ve heard of is in fact the beer they’re trying to sell as their own. The waitress at 123 didn’t know what their house beer tasted like, but I’ll assume it’s the Michelob Amber Bock, which I think I’ve had sometime in my past. This is not a great beer and the frozen mug theory greatly improves it. No doubt making it go from tasting bad to not tasting at all. For such a dark color how can it be so lacking in taste? Odd. Since it doesn’t taste at all that already makes it superior to most macros. I wish they had put a little more effort into make this house beer taste good.


Oh, final note: if any sissy or frat boy cares, the $2 shots are the kind of silly-named shots that are like 90% mixer and 10% cheap booze. I mean really, if you’re having a shot it should be 100% liquor. I’ll expound on this at some other time. Suffice to say I only completed the 1 and 3 of the 123. The burgers were damn fine too, like upscale White Castles.