Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I think all I did was click a link that someone had put up of their favorite new beer blogs, and that took me for the first time to the wild, self-referential, no-pulled-punches beer “blog” known as THE VICE BLOG. It was pretty obvious from the start that this wasn’t like those other beer blogs. (The headline at the top of the page – “Most Beer Blogs Suck” (and, sadly, they do) – was my first tip-off). The gentleman behind it was combining lurid tales of girl-hunting, public drunkenness, more girl-hunting and some hilarious, insane lists (Top Things I’ve Seen Orthodox Jews Do in New York, 10 Types of Women One Meets In Bars, Worst Things About Saint Patrick’s Day, etc.) with some of the most spot-on beer reviews I’ve ever read. Usually the beer review was tucked away at the end of some especially sordid story, almost matter-of-factly. “Oh yeah, I drank this Imperial Russian Stout that they only made 100 cases of, really loved it. Great smoky malts and all that. A+”.

OK, I’m not doing it justice at all. This is by far the best beer-related writing on the web or elsewhere, and I guess one big reason I like it is because I’m fairly well certain that 50% of the traditional beer-writing cognoscenti will hate it. You’re just going to have to go over THE VICE BLOG and see what I mean.

Aaron Goldfarb is the guy’s name. Just ask him – he’ll tell ya! Mr. Goldfarb correctly captures the weird psychodrama that comes with obsessive beer fandom better than anyone else, and does so in a supremely self-mocking manner that shows that his priorities – if nothing else – are straight (or would be, if there weren’t so many incredible bottles of beer to drink). We “sat down” over 3,000 miles of physical distance and did an email interview about The Vice Blog this past weekend. Attention to Mom, the pope and to rabbis, priests and future would-be employers everywhere: nasty word warning! Here’s what transpired.

Hedonist Beer Jive: If we’re to believe the stories on the Vice Blog, you’re regularly waking up next to women you don’t recognize and/or getting into bizarre flirtatious situations with some of the most beautiful female specimens in New York City. I’d imagine some people think it’s all total BS, served up as a way of advancing the beer reviews. Without giving away your secrets, what should a reader of the Vice Blog truly believe, and not believe?

Aaron Goldfarb: Legendary Hollywood producer/raconteur/scumbag Robert Evans famously said: "There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth." I suppose I add a fourth side to the equation: my side with a healthy dose of drunkenness. I care less about whether a reader believes me than whether they are being wildly entertained. Lost in the whole "James Frey fabricated everything!" faux-controversy from a few years ago was one crucial point: "A Million Little Pieces" was boring as shit. Wouldn't have mattered if it was 100% true or 100% fabricated. But for the record, and aside from some narrative prestidigitation purely for story flow, my stories are as accurate as I can remember them. And, no matter how drunk I was, or am, I remember them all quite well, for better or worse.

(A funny event happened earlier this year on my birthday when different sets of friends of mine who rarely interact with each other all collided in feting my thirtieth year on planet earth. Even some of my dearest friends were leery of some of my stories and they started pop quizzing each other: "That story couldn't have been true, right?" "No, I was there for that! What about that one story?" "I'm mentioned in that one! It's totally true!" And soon even my friends had corroborative proof that all my stories were the real deal. Not that I think my stories are all that crazy. Just the tales of an ambitious big-city drunkard.)

Hedonist Beer Jive: I’d imagine you’ve written elsewhere, before The Vice Blog – right? Or is this your first stab a true, “published” writing?

Aaron Goldfarb: No, not really. Frustrated after years of toiling with screenplays and Hollywood bullshit, where uncreative losers in suits tell you what's wrong with your art, where these people with no true skills aside from asskissing and dicksucking want to cut, edit, fuck with, and even add a new team of writers to overhaul your project (because of course nothing good can be written by a singular entity, you need like fifteen people to write something good!), where it takes months and months for the aforementioned idiots to even make a decision about your work and years and years for them to turn that writing into product that can be digested by the masses, I decided I wanted a new creative outlet. A creative outlet 100% controlled by me, where I wrote, edited, and had my writing appear exactly as I wanted it to, and, best of all, where mere seconds after finishing this work I could hit "publish" and let the entire world read it. Whether one person or one billion people read The Vice Blog, it's an intensely satisfying thing for me to write.

Hedonist Beer Jive: What was the driver behind making “beer” the theme behind the Vice Blog, which until somewhat recently seemed to often relegate the actual beer review to the last paragraph, almost as an afterthought? Did you want to bring in beer-loving readers that wouldn’t otherwise read the blog if it was just a generic personal-stories sort of thing?

Aaron Goldfarb: After a night of hardcore craft beer imbibing one Friday night, I stood alone in the W. 4th Street ACE station thinking a lot of the thoughts I just elucidated in the previous question. But what to write about? Staring at a bottle of Southern Tier Backburner I'd picked up for a solo nightcap, it just came to me: all beer blogs suck. At the time they were all so pretentious and staid and "by-the-book" and fucking boring. Once I got home, I immediately registered a website, wrote a Jerry Maguire "mission statement," and...probably passed out wasted. But the next day, I reviewed that bottle of Backburner, fell in love with divorcee Renee Zelwegger (she completed me) and her annoying spiky haired kid, and the rest is history. A very, very, very minor footnote in history. I'd always wanted a blog but never had a topic to write about. I liked and knew a ton about sports, movies, pop culture, and a few other things, but there were already plenty of good blogs on those topics out there. Of course, I actually don't really know that much about beer aside from that I like it and drink it a lot, and that's probably why my "reviews" quickly morphed into stories from my life with the actual beer talk relegated to the margins.

And, for the record, I've since learned that not all beer blogs suck (notably: The Captain's Chair, The Drunken Polack, this very site you are reading this on, and a few others). But most do still.

Hedonist Beer Jive: What do you do in your normal, non bar-hopping, sports-watching life? In other words, how do you support the ability to regularly purchase bourbon-barrel quads and the like?

Aaron Goldfarb: I could be pretentious and say I'm a "man of letters." Or at least a little boy of letters. I could be bohemian chic and say I'm a "starving artist." Or I could be accurate and say...I'm poor. Despite that awesome rant against Hollywood two questions previous, what can I say, I love the medium and it's where my heart lies. It's the only thing I've ever wanted to do with my life. I got several screenplays in the works, got a stageplay I'm hoping to get put on within the year, and right now I'm even writing my first novel (to learn more about this, please flip to question 10). Oh wow, just realized I "broke" the news about yours truly writing a novel right here at the Hedonist Beer Jive. No one else knew about this until now! Man, the wire outlets are going to pick up on this story quickly. Hope I don't shut down your server, Jay.

But back to the question, I can always use a little freelance writing work and loot to pay the bills and I most certainly don't get enough currently. Funnily enough, as I wrote this answer, I actually got a e-mail from some online casino company that wants to pay me a decent amount of money for an ad. Do you believe that?! What kind of moron would want to advertise with little ol' me?! (For the record, any morons out there that want to advertise with The Vice Blog, I DON'T think you are a moron, I think you are quite savvy in fact. I get far more traffic than you probably realize and Vice Blog readers are well known to get drunk and then spend all their disposable income on the products and services advertised on the Vice Blog. For advertising opportunities please e-mail my advertising guy at theviceblog@gmail.com)

I'm also skilled at public speaking, house-painting, making guacamole, writing high school/college essays for dumb kids with rich parents who have no integrity, and cat-sitting and dog-walking if people want to pay me for any of that.

Hedonist Beer Jive: You’ll bravely try some of the worst gimmick beers on the planet just for the sake of the story. Is there one that you’ve tried that is the most foul of them all – the pizza beer, perhaps?

Aaron Goldfarb: Honestly, Mamma Mia! (don't forget the exclamation point!) Pizza Beer was shitty but it was not mindblowingly shitty. I was able to take the whole bottle down. The two worst beers I've ever had would indeed by Crazy Ed's Cave Creek Chili Beer (which I understand has now gone belly-up as a brewery and doesn't even produce beer anymore--good thing I still got some rare chili beer bottles "cellaring") and Bud Light Chelada which is a stunning mess of clam juice, tomatoes, and...well Budweiser, perhaps the worst of its several ingredients. That's available at your finer barrio bodegas. Look for the tallboy can written completely in Spanish ("la combinacion perfecta!")

If there's a word for schadenfreude against oneself (masochism?), I'd have that affliction, because I'm as excited to find a beer that may send me into convulsions as I am to find those corked-and-caged, foil wrapped, boxed and limited edition barrel-aged nectars from the gods, so please, if any readers know of beers that fit this bill and which I can video review, please send tips, or the shit-brew itself, to my shitty beer locator guy at theviceblog@gmail.com

Hedonist Beer Jive: One of the things I love about the blog is that you have the most open and non-private online persona I’ve ever seen. You put ridiculous videos of yourself drinking beer on the site, you publish photos of yourself drinking, you mention your own first & last name incessantly on the site. For many of us raised before “the Internet age”, telling the sort of stories you tell about yourself AND then not hiding behind anonymity would be totally unthinkable. What gives?

Aaron Goldfarb: (First of all, and maybe it's just ‘cause I went to crappy public schools growing up, but I was raised before the internet age too, essentially. I'm 30 and had never even touched the internet til my freshman year of college.)

You know, I always hated anonymity on the internet. I hated little men that tried to take down supposed sacred cows, that arrogantly voiced their off-base opinions, that slandered and libeled, and that snarked in comments sections all while hiding behind a zany screen name. And, I didn't want to add any more to the overwhelming anonymity of the internet. It's far more potent when "Aaron Goldfarb" says something than when "Beerbonger69" says something. Look, I completely understand why a lot of people online have to hide behind anonymity--they have jobs, wives, and children they like and don't want to lose--but I have the luxury, and oh man is it luxurious, to not have any of those things. So I have freedom. And it's liberating. Sure, my dad once found my blog during his apparently daily Google search of my name and was quite pissed off (some choice quotes from an e-mail he sent me afterward) but that blew over quickly.

I'm not ashamed of myself, I act the same way in person as I do on my blog, the blog hasn't affected my love or sex life (to my knowledge!), and I was already existing on the financial fringes of this world so it's not like that could be damaged. Plus, I'm a narcissist so if someone likes my writing I want them to know who wrote it!

Hedonist Beer Jive: Seems like even in the past year or two years, New York City went from being a beer-town afterthought to having some of the most amazing bars & breweries in the country. What happened? Or has it always been this way but it’s the people that finally caught up?

Aaron Goldfarb: No, New York has undergone a major beer renaissance. At least from this fairly young but now aging man's opinion. Don't get me wrong, back in the early 2000s I was mostly concerned with finding bars with the cheapest well vodka deals in town with a retinue of the most promiscuous women in town, but through and through I was still obsessed with quality beer. And it was fairly hard to find. Shit, I remember just like three years ago when finding a craft beer as common nowadays as, say, Arrogant Bastard was a near impossibility. And when I did stumble upon a large stash at a store I would have to clear them out and hoard my precious Bastards. There was really no halfway decent place to buy beer aside from a few nooks that I'm not even sure realized the quality of stuff they had (my favorite place at the time was an Israeli-run deli/sex toys store in Hell's Kitchen that had several coolers of great stuff tucked into the way back behind a beef jerky carousel) As for bars, Gingerman was one of the few places to get interesting American stuff and Markt the only watering hole to find the Belgian stuff like Duvel, Chimay, etc.

I'd never even been inside my two current favorite beer bars Blind Tiger or Rattle 'N' Hum just a year and a half ago (true, an impossibility for Rattle as it didn't even exist yet!) Likewise, New York breweries such as Southern Tier, Sixpoint, and Captain Lawrence to name a few have all come into prominence, if not existence, in the last few years, while Garrett Oliver at Brooklyn Brewery has really come to his own as a beermaker par excellence. Nowadays, I don't care how shitty of bar or restaurant you are, you better have some halfway decent stuff on tap or in bottles or there's simply no way New Yorkers will go to your place to drink and perhaps even eat. And with all those aforementioned breweries so easily available, if your bar doesn't have--at the worst--say a Brooklyn Lager, Sixpoint Bengali Tiger, or Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold on tap, then you're a fucking joke of an establishment.

I think as it stands now, NYC is the East Coast's premiere beer city--sorry Philly--and New York one of America's top five beer states. With a bullet!

Hedonist Beer Jive: Since your beer reviews tend to be more, uh, poetic than mine or most folks’, I’d imagine that you’re probably not reviewing everything new you’re drinking, and instead save the reviews up for the good ones or the truly awful ones, am I right?

Aaron Goldfarb: Yes, you are totally correct and it's something I struggle with. A bit to my own detriment and enjoyment, and my ADD need for novelty, I'm always more interested in trying new beers over enjoying old favorites, so as you can imagine, I drink a lot of different beers per week and I couldn't possibly write a post about them all. It's why my grade totals are so skewed. Sometimes I feel like I'm ONLY posting reviews of A and A+ beers which makes me look foolish and like a Harvard professor. It's gotten to the point where I only want to "officially" review the glorious or the gloriously awful. I also will always review a Beer Advocate Top 100 beer I'm lucky enough to try, a surprisingly good beer from a typically bad brewery, a surprisingly bad beer from a typically great brewery, a rare release or a new release that the blogosphere is curious about, or anything I'm excited for my readers to know about. It's those mediocre beers from mediocre breweries that I just can't find any gumption to write about. Writing about an A or an F beer is simple. Telling people why a C level beer is deserving of a C is hard work.

Hedonist Beer Jive: Which of these beer-scene fetishes are the most annoying, cringe-worthy or appalling: Outright beer douchery/snobbery? Brewery bands (i.e. bands that play beer-themed songs)? Going overboard about the need to pair food with beer? Or pure, unadulterated alcoholism masking itself as a “beer hobby”?

Aaron Goldfarb: Hold up, slow down...there are actually "brewery bands" playing beer-themed songs?! WOW. I have never heard of such a thing. Can you provide some links to this kind of stuff, Jay? (Editor's note - here you go). That might not be simply the most cringe-worthy thing on the beer scene, but the most appalling thing in all of American society today. As a connoisseur of the cringe-worthy, I got to hear some of that music! From what I can tell, the most annoying thing on the beer scene are beer release "parties." Believe me, as Seinfeld once said, "sometimes a picnic isn't even a picnic," and a beer release party is almost never a party. Unless you consider it a party to throw down with overly skinny little bearded geeks in vintage tees who spend fifteen minute smelling a beer before scurrying to a dark corner to take ten minutes worth of notes, no attractive women in sight, no drinking games, no sports to follow, and lots of thrilling discussions about diacetyl levels and Brettanomyces. As for me, I show up at those releases and slap down my ducats, snatch that rare beer, and get the fuck out of town and back to planet earth! (And now the beer nerds reading this are up in arms! "Hey, we had fun last week at Cuvee de Dork batch #4 Day!")

I'll add one more annoying, cringe-worthy, and appalling thing in the beer world right now: the forums at Beer Advocate. Holy shit. Have you read these things?! I wish I didn't read them, but I just can't help myself! They are an addiction. I thirst for them every day! They are like a car wreck that you not only rubberneck at, but that you keep coming back to gawk at. I just can't imagine the kind of shut-in, asocial, approval-seeking nerds that write these forum posts. Sometimes I think they have to be satire. Not a lie, here are some current topics of discussion over there as of this second: "Burnt Tongue--affecting taste?," "Sinus infection ruining my beerjoyment (sic)," a guy that thinks he's cool for getting all pedantic about "premium" and "domestic" beer while at Fenway Park, and the harrowing tale of a guy who drank a single beer last night to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and has been prone and shitting himself all day today. You seriously cannot make this shit up. It's one of my favorite places on the entire internet to visit and I implore you to jump down the rabbit hole. At the least, it'll make you feel a lot cooler about yourself. I think I need an intervention.

Hedonist Beer Jive: Finally, where do you take it from here? If Harper Collins or Harvard University Press comes to you with a book deal proposal, are you going to take the plunge?

Aaron Goldfarb: I mean, not to be arrogant, but in all honesty they should. Not to name names, but have you seen some of the books being released nowadays? In fact, a really really crummy beer blogger has a book coming out within the next 50 days. I can't imagine how (s)he scored a deal. (S)he must have fucked someone in the publishing industry who was going through a sexual slump of a lifetime.
As I said, within the next few weeks I'll have my novel ready to shop around to publishers--it's not about beer in any way aside from the fact that the main character is, of course, a drinker--and I'll gladly kiss my own ass and say it's as funny and certainly original as anything out there today. I'd love to publish a book about beer too, whether someone wants to collect the Vice Blog's writings and slap it between two covers or pay me to produce completely new content.

Well, I suppose that's enough, I didn't come here to praise myself, it just ended up that way. And now I'm a little embarrassed at my blatant self-promotion.

Publishers can feel free to write me at theviceblog@gmail.com and I'll put you in touch with my manager.


Dave said...

I couldn't read the article. I saw Aarons mug and had to quickly close out of the browser

Hah nice interview.

Rational Realist said...

Brilliant. I laugh at some of Aaron's takes. I hope he remembers The Vice Blog when he get published. The "traditional beer-writing cognoscenti" wouldn't hate or resent beer bloggers so much if blogs like The Vice Blog and Hedonist Beer Jive weren't so well written and informative.