I've been meaning to have a Williamsburgh Pub Crawl for ages! When I heard that Barcade was having a "Vintage Beer Night," I figured "what the hell!" I mean, that's as good a reason as any, right?!? But what in blazes IS a vintage beer night? PBR? Schlitz? Something hanging out in the cellar for three decades? I asked my friends and they suggested such "classics" as Heffenreffer Private Stock, Old Milwaukee, Ballantine, Rheingold, Carling Black Label, Schaefer, Meister Brau and Naragansett Cream Ale. Their nostalgia was touching—clearly, there's an "untapped" market here...
So, it turns out that "Vintage Beers" are special, heavy, one-off, batches from recent years (i.e., particular "vintages"), and all darrrrrk ales. The ABV, or alcohol by volume, for these brews was between 9 and 11%! (A typical beer, like Bud, is about 4-5%.) Naturally, due to the limited availability and high alcohol content, they were served in 10 oz. "girly glasses."
There were nine vintage ales: Allagash Four '07, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout '05, Chelsea Imperial Mild '08, Dogfish Head Immort Ale '08, Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter '05, Great Divide Yeti '06, North Coast Old Rasputin '07, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale '04, and the Southern Tier Choklat '07. I, of course, opted for the Brooklyn Black Chocolate. It was very rich and certainly worthwhile, but I have to confess I'm not entirely clear on the whole concept.
Let's start with the word "vintage" itself—vin means wine. Some years the wine is good, some years it is not. And unlike beer, wine ferments in the bottle, so in many cases, it gets better with age (to a point). Beer on the other hand, is bottled after fermentation (unless you're a Belgian monk). It can't get better with age. It can keep for a long time, but it should be kept out of the light (if bottled) and must be kept cold. There's nothing worse than a stale, skunky beer. So, yes, Virginia, beer should always be fresh—that's why I prefer draft beer in the first place! The vintage ales were rich and complex, but perhaps a tad sour? Am I wrong to prefer the fresh brews over these?
The crowd was fun and the place was hoppin'! Barcade is in a converted garage. Not much in the way of decorations, unless you count the bar and the dozens of video arcade games. By the way, don't mess with Robert—he'll whoop yo' sorry behind on any game!
I had sips of the Victory ESB, Southern Tier Choklat 2007, and the Captain Lawrence Pleasantville Smoked Porter—all good, but my next pour was a Climax Hoffman Hefeweissen. In fact, a bunch of us had Climaxes together. After that, I was feelin' frisky, so I went for the Defiant Little Thumper, a hoppy Pale Ale from Rockland County. Not bad. What really knocked my socks off, though, was the Cuvee de Cardoz, from Brooklyn Brewery. This is a Belgian style Pale Ale with an interesting yeasty flavor that included notes of clove and banana. Outstanding!!! more ⇒