|I Thought I Knew What Beer Was
||[Mar. 2nd, 2010|04:55 pm]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
Last night I had an impromptu beer tasting at Ski Bar in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with my friends Jeff, Alex and ex-Space and Time publisher Gordon Linzner. It was supposed to be a short night, just an hour or two of tasting some fine, rare beers, since it was a weeknight and all. Right. I got there at 7 PM; by the time I got home, it was nearly 2 AM. I was also completely drunk, and all it took was three beers. That's not about my tolerance level. You see, these weren't your average beers.
A little backstory: For most of my adult life, my idea of beer revolved around Amstel Light, Corona, Sam Adams and Heineken, with the occasional forays into flavored beers like Magic Hat and Blue Moon. I thought I knew what beer was. Jeff, a beer aficionado, was convinced he could teach me otherwise. He was right. After last night, I've come to the realization that what I've been drinking isn't beer, but a pale facsimile.
Here's what I had at Ski Bar, in order of consumption:
1) Brooklyn Brewery Cookie Jar Porter Not as sweet as its name or its deep, rich, stout-like color would imply, which is surprising considering it's made with brown sugar and raisins. Once it warms to room temperature, it has a great nose and a flavorful, desserty aftertaste. My first indication that a beer can be more than good, it can actually be delicious. Alcohol by volume: 7.8%.
2) Dogfish Head World Wide Stout The best stout I've ever had, hands down. It puts Guinness to shame. Light and flavorful without being too bready the way some stouts can be. This one's definitely a sipping beer. One pint lasted me an hour, maybe two. Gordon likened it to a fine whiskey. ABV: a whopping 18%. At this point I was already tipsy and engaged in a vehement discussion of Doctor Who with Alex and Gordon.
3) Sam Adams Utopias One of the rarest beers in the world. It's only brewed once every other year, in limited quantities, and then allowed to age. A single bottle--actually a copper-finished kettle--routinely sells for a couple hundred dollars. Aged kettles sell on Ebay for five hundred or more. A single glass is usually comprised of two ounces, and can cost around $25. I split one with Gordon, each of us getting one ounce in a small glass. This, too, is a sipping beer. That single ounce lasted me another couple of hours. Strong and sweet, Utopias is like the sherry or cognac of the beer world. One of the finest beers I've ever tasted. ABV: a face-to-the-floor 27%, making it one of the strongest commercial beers in the world, if not the strongest. An ounce or two may not seem like much, but believe me, you don't need more than that.
So, in roughly six hours, I only had three beers, but what beers they were! As I said, I thought I knew what beer was, but I was wrong. Oh, so wrong. The folks at Ski Bar know their beers, and I can't wait to go back to try more. I'm dying to try the Brooklyn Black Ops Barrel Aged (even if it's $35 per 25-ounce bottle because they're aged for four months and Brooklyn Brewery allegedly only made 1,000 of them). Once this hangover passes, I mean. Boy am I moving slow today.