Within moments of the plans being finalized, about 24 hours prior to departure, my preconceived notions were firmly in place. We were headed to Brooklyn the following day – a trip that beer-wise would consist mainly of an hour or two at Tørst, Evil Twin Brewing's Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø's beer bar – and my brain had already walked its way down the myriad of paths to what that day might hold.
My brain, forever the homely, disheveled, personal assistant that only has the job because we are related -- we'll call her Tonya -- was reporting back her predictions on the most likely of outcomes. And while I do not recall beep-bop-booping the necessary buttons on the aging phone system that keeps Tonya and I connected, apparently a request for this information was received. So there I was, imaginarily holding these imaginary cards retrieved from an imaginary envelope labeled notions that Tonya had just set on my very real desk.
I looked up from the cards and peered at Tonya over my glasses. She looked a mess. I wondered to myself if Tonya was ever going to get her shit together. She stormed out in a huff, as if she knew what I was thinking.
Generally, my pockets are filled with these cards, but rarely do I give them any more of my time than the few seconds it takes for me to flip through them. Some of the more ridiculous ones tend to make for good conversation – we all had a good laugh after I read aloud the one that said I should avoid the alley in my small town and take the long walk home because if there are street toughs out on the prowl, they are more likely to be in the alley.
Of course I’m still going to take the alley, I said. I'm nervous about it. I mean, I hadn't really ever thought about it until Tonya brought it up, but I'm going to do it, mostly because it is cold out.
As a teenager, I assumed everyone walked around with their jacket pockets stuffed with imaginary slips of paper containing subway map sketches of potential tears in the continuum. That is, until at the age of 18 I had my first beer and it all just slowed way down.
“Tonya, you take the night off. We've got things covered around here for a bit.”
There is a photo of me from that particular night and I am just a shit-eating grin wearing a Bouncing Souls t-shirt and somebody's grandfather's blazer. It is a photo all teeth, cheeks, and tweed; of a kid realizing that the constant hustle and bustle that was happening behind the scenes was no longer a requirement. Simply put, it was a photo of that moment after “this jobs sucks, I quit” but before that first thought of “money” creeps back in.
Fast forward another 18 years and not much has changed. My jacket pockets are still stuffed with slips of paper and strange maps because old habits die hard – but on this day, in Brooklyn, these maps are real and I drew them myself so we could get from point A to point B without wasting our phone batteries. So as I consulted my maps and we walked in the direction of Tørst, I mentally shuffled through those preconceived notions that Tonya had brought to me the day before.
Notion 1: I was going to be uncomfortable, socially. Not so much with my traveling companions – my brother (Joe) and a friend (Phil) – but with any other human I might have to interact with while at Tørst. Uncomfortable comma socially is pretty much how I am in any public setting, so add to that the unfamiliar arena of a beer bar in Brooklyn and I most certainly won't know what to do with my arms while I sit and attempt small talk with the bartender or other nearby patrons.
Notion 2: The vibe will be uptight. Really, this is just me transferring my anxiety to the establishment. It is a coping strategy that Tonya suggested. “You're not awkward,” she says, “the vibe is just off.”
Notion 3: I will spend a large sum of money on a comparatively small sum of beer. The Christmas money my mom gave me to put toward buying my daughter a “big girl bed” would most certainly be nothing but a fond memory after an hour or two at Tørst.
Notion 4: I will be disappointed with the beer. I think this one is Tonya's way of controlling my excitement level. She's kind of a control freak.
As you may have picked up from the foreshadow vibe I put out there in the title, all of the above preconceived notions were wrong.
The beer was fantastic – I was actually surprised at how good it was and I went in already a fan of Evil Twin. The prices were reasonable thanks to 5 oz., 8 oz., and (I think) 12 oz. pour options – we were there for about two and a half hours and my bill before tip was $33, which I couldn't believe. I've spent more in less time sitting in the basement bar of my local fire station. And the vibe was chill – so much so that after a few moments of getting settled, I was completely comfortable – like home bar comfortable, like basement bar under a fire station comfortable – but obviously with much nicer décor.
The first beer I ordered, and consequently the one I took down the best tasting notes, was Beat It Nerd!, a brett IPA collaboration between between Brooklyn's own Other Half Brewing and Evil Twin. It was super bretty (if that makes any sense) in every possible way.
The appearance was cloudy and strange. The smell was pungent, sour funk. I'd say there was something reminiscent of cat piss in the aroma but I fear that would make you never want to smell it – and you want to smell this beer. The flavors, even with all the brett, still managed to be bright behind all the funk, with notes of citrus and even some pine. The feel had an airy feel and was nice and light on the front end as the funk got heavier and heavier on the back end as it warmed. The beer was unique and enjoyable – which these days are essentially the two things I look for that make we want to have more. Later in the night, after several other absolutely wonderful beers that I will list in a moment, I went back to this in the form of a few sips from one of my drinking companions' glass. And while it wasn't my favorite from the night, it was damn good.
So what beer was my favorite that night? Was it the Femme Fatale Blanc – Evil Twin's all Nelson hopped version of their Femme Fatale Brett IPA? Was it the Tequila Barrel Aged Spicy Nacho – Evil Twin's pale ale brewed with corn and japalenos? It might have been – I'm not a huge fan of tequila but I ordered one because I figured I'd probably never have another opportunity to try this version. And my word if it didn't completely knock my socks off. The corn, the peppers, and the edge the tequila gave it was just outstanding. It was refreshing and absolutely an easy drinker, something that took me completely by surprise.
Or maybe my favorite beer of the night was the Evil twin/Perennial collaboration Loomi Weisse – a black berliner weisse brewed with lime. It was a berliner weisse, albeit with a bit more body, that started tart up front, hinted at the lime, and then finished with roasty malt notes. When you licked your lips, the lime flavor was just everywhere after each sip. I am a complete sucker for anything that combines tart and/or sour with roasted notes. I might start putting lime in my coffee just to see if I get any satisfaction out if it. Also, this beer was probably the most perfect follow up to the Barrel Aged Spicy Nacho. Sometimes chance can be a powerful thing.
I finished my night at Tørst with a Short, Dark and Handsome – an American Stout by Other Half with big, rich, roasted characteristics in the aroma and taste. The feel was perfectly dry and almost crisp, without even a hint of that syrup feel that you start to dread as you reach the bottom of one of those beers that has that going on. This, to be clear, was not one of those beer. Was it possible this was my favorite? Is it possible that, even several weeks after the fact, that I am unable to figure out which one of these beers I most want to have again? They were all so very good.
Obviously, I want each one of them again, and not just be gluttonous or indecisive. I want to see if each one is/was as good as the notes I jotted down. I want to see if the reality matches the memories I keep replaying over and over again in my mind while I'm alone in the shower. Dare I type the words craft beer spank bank? Tonya is not going to like that.
Beat It Nerd!, Other Half Brewing Co./Evil Twin Brewing
Appearance = 5/5
Cloudy, yellow and caramel color, maybe a finger of white head.
Smell = 5/5
Sour, funky citrus, pungent yeast. As a fan of Brett, I loved the smell.
Taste = 4.25/5
So very bretty, as in heavy brett. Lemon and orange flavors are in there and they are nice and bright. Having trouble reading my notes – I assume it is lemon and orange – could be lemon and ovary, but I don't see how that applies. There some hints of pine and some tartness. But that funk is heavy.
Feel = 4.25/5
Light up front and then starts to weigh down as the funk builds at the back of mouthful. But overall, a nice, airy feel.
Overall = 4.25/5
Yeasty, tart and citrus are the take aways. Real nice combo of the three. The funk does start to build up in the flavor as you work your way down the glass.
You can follow JR Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt and you can listen to him and his brother T-Bone on the Drinking W/Shirt podcast right here on BeerGraphs or on iTunes.