Draught Diversions: The Tap Takeover’s 1st Beerthday

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Today, the Tap Takeover is officially one year old. Or rather, only 20 more years since the beer blog I started can consume the products featured on it. From a beer perspective, it has of course been an interesting year. About a dozen or so new breweries opened in New Jersey alone since I started The Tap Takeover, bringing the total as of this post to 88 production breweries in New Jersey.

According to untappd, I had over 400 unique beers over the last year (May 22, 2017 to May 22, 2018). Of course, many of those (about 80) were tasters or part of a flight, so that’s a little over 300 different bottles/pints/cans of beer. A rough breakdown shows (again, via my untappd account) about 59 Stouts, 56 IPAs, 25 Porters, 20 Dubbels/Tripels/Quads, 19 Hefeweizens, 17 Pale Ales, and 17 Pilsners. If I were to tell the Rob Bedford who started this blog in 2017 that he would have (and mostly enjoy) more than 50 IPAs over the next 12 months, second only in style count to Stouts, he wouldn’t believe me.

That speaks to the biggest change in my beer consumption habits over the past year, I seek out IPAs and find myself buying IPAs more than any other style lately. Tangentially, I’ve also come to truly appreciate Dogfish Head Brewing more than I have since I first started enjoying craft/independently brewed beer.

In one year, I published over 100 posts, this is the 52nd Draught Diversion and Thursday’s beer review will be the 52nd Beer Review. As a little tease, I’m reviewing a beer from the brewery whose beer was the subject of the very first review here at the Tap Takeover. In terms of reviews of styles, the big three were Stout – 8; Porter – 6; and IPA – 5.

I visited a few more breweries over the past 12 months, too. The Hackettstown Trio of Czig Meister, Jersey Girl, and Man Skirt Brewing; Angry Erik Brewing in Lafayette, NJ; Ramstein in Butler, NJ; Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls, NJ; Free Will Brewing tap room in Peddler’s Village, NJ; Iron Hill Brewery (Brewpub chain) in Pennsylvania; Wet Ticket Brewing in Rahway, NJ (I plan on visiting them again); and Doylestown Brewing Company in Doylestown, PA. I also returned to favorite local breweries Conclave Brewing in Raritan/Flemington, NJ; Demented Brewing Company in Middlesex, NJ; Flounder Brewing Company in Hillsborough, NJ; Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands; and of course Lone Eagle Brewing in Flemington for the monthly board game night.

One other change about the blog that has probably been noticeable since the calendar changed to 2018. I went to a new format for my monthly tally/recap. Rather than going exhaustively over 95% of the unique beers I had per month I thought, why not whittle that down. So the Monthly Six Pack was born, an obvious framing device, I would think.

I would like to thank the readers of the blog and folks who have supported my little hobby by spreading the word and simply chatting up with me (virtually or in meatspace) about beer. I’d especially like to thank Mike K. of NJ Craft Beer, Al Gatullo, Mike Martinez (who homebrews a tasty saison!), John Anealio, Chuck of NJ Beer and Wine, of course my wife for supporting my enjoyment of this delicious liquid and my dad who has checked in here regularly. Both my wife and my father have given me beers that were the subject of a handful of these reviews, and my wife was the designated driver to many of the breweries featured.

I don’t know that there’s much else for me to say, I don’t want to sit here and stroke my own ego (any more than I already have). If nothing else, I hope I showed some folks good beer they should try and in some cases, some not-so-good brews to avoid.

Cheers to another great year!

Beer Review: New Phone Who Dis? | Evil Genius Beer

Name: New Phone Who Dis?
Brewing Company: Evil Genius Beer Company
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Style: Porter – Other
ABV: 6%

From Evil Genius’s beer page:

CARAMEL MACCHIATO PORTER
Your favorite espresso beverage has now become your favorite adult beverage! Brewed with American barley, caramel and chocolate malt, and a touch of dark wheat. Gently hopped with American and German hops, and then infused with caramel and locally roasted La Colombe coffee. Full-bodied, smooth and robust, with notes of sweet caramel, mocha, and chocolate.

Evil Genius is one of a plethora of fine breweries out of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region. Although some may know the brewery from the uniquely named brews, the beers I’ve had have been quite good. After all, the beer names can draw the attention, but the flavor and taste keep you drinking.

As I poured the black beer into my glass, I caught sweet aromas of caramel. Evil Genius calls this a “Caramel Macchiato Porter” and it smells just like that. First sip is a big hit of that caramel, but enough of the porter characteristics are present, too.

This beer is extremely sweet as the caramel is the most prominent flavor component with very little of the coffee flavors coming through initially. After the first few sips of the beer, as the beer warmed to room temperature, the caramel power settled down. Although still definitely present, coffee flavors started to rise. It was then that the porter characteristics of the beer also began to assert themselves, with a slightly roasted finish flavoring the backend of the beer.

I can get why the sweetness of the caramel and cocoa in this beer might be too cloying for some. If you don’t like caramel, obviously stay away from the beer. For my tastes; however, the caramel notes were just enough. If you like dark beers like porters and stouts that include coffee in the brewing process or evoke the taste and feel of coffee, you’d probably like this one.

More caramel than coffee, but definitely a uniquely flavored porter, New Phone Who Dis? is a tasty dessert beer that won’t knock you over the head too strongly with the sweetness. For me, one was enough at the time I drank it, but I would return to this beer after a slice of rich chocolate cake to polish off the evening. This beer is continuing proof that Evil Genius’s experimentationial brews live up to their wacky names, which is a nice thing indeed.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating, a beer I liked enough to try and buy again. I can see myself enjoying this one more on a second try at a later date, too.

Draught Diversions: Summer 2018 6 Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Summer beer (especially Lienenkugel’s Summer Shandy and Sam’s Summer Ale) has been on the shelves and taps since April and I blame it all on Samuel Adams. But, since we’re a couple weeks away from Memorial Day, the unofficial kick-off of Summer so in anticipation of warmer weather, here are 6 summery brews I’m hoping to try when the warm weather settles in and I can enjoy a refreshing beer or three sitting in or by my pool.

Not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer. Naturally, the beers I highlight here will be those available in the NJ/Northeast so while a brewery like Ninkasi may have an interesting looking beer, since Ninkasi doesn’t distribute to NJ (making the beer unavailable to me), I won’t be mentioning the beer.

The Bog Cranberry Shandy Cape May Brewing Company (Cape May, NJ)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

Say what you will about the Shandy / Radler style of beer popularized in recent years by Leinenkugel, but the style is very refreshing. There’s a reason German cyclists (or Radlers in German) were given pints of this in the summer. Cranberries are one of my favorite fruits and fruit juices, and I’ve begun to see more beers made with cranberries in recent years. NJ also happens to be one of the major producers of cranberries in the US, so a cranberry infused beer from NJ’s second largest brewery seems natural. I really hope this one reaches distribution near me.

“What happens when you make a Cranberry Wheat and accidentally add too much cranberry? Embrace it and turn it into a Shandy! A tart cranberry wheat beer blended with lemonade, The Bog is light and refreshing while still packing tons of flavor.”

Holy Moses Raspberry White Ale® – Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, OH)

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site

Great Lakes doesn’t make bad beer, at least for my palate. Holy Moses is Great Lakes’s take on the traditional Belgian Witbier and this new iteration adds Raspberry to the beer for what should be a nice sweet, tart refreshing ale. I’ve still yet to try the original Holy Moses, so I hope to give that one a try, too. I’ve seen quite a few of Great Lakes’s core brews as well as their always popular Christmas Ale in my area, but haven’t seen Holy Moses too often. Hopefully that changes.

“In the spirit of Moses Cleaveland’s thirst for discovery, our classic White Ale meets fresh, juicy raspberries to forge a pint worth planting a flag in (or an orange slice!)

FLAVOR
Refreshment or bust! Tart raspberry flavors mark our White Ale’s spicy, aromatic terrain.”

Limey Gose – Victory Brewing (Downington, PA)

Image courtesy of Victory Brewing’s Web site

I’ve professed my enjoyment of almost all things Victory Brewing here before, with their Kirsch Gose one of my favorites. I’m hoping this new-ish Gose they are releasing is of the same quality because a sweet-tart Gose is a perfect beer antidote for a sweltering day. This was originally a brewery only-beer a few years ago and looks to get wide distribution this summer. I’m guessing if you like Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale (also made with limes) or Westbrook’s Key Lime Gose, you’ll enjoy this one, too.

“This lively GOSE brings the TART FLAVOR of KEY LIME PIE sprinkled with SEA SALT into a zesty SOUR LIME BIER.”

Onshore Lager – Flying Fish Brewing Company (Somerdale, NJ)

Image courtesy of Flying Fish Brewing Co.’s Facebook page

Flying Fish is the stalwart of NJ Brewing and they have a pretty solid line up of brews, in addition to their fantastic Exit Series. Over the past couple of years as the Exit Series drew to a close, Flying Fish started adding new, more permanent brews to their lineup. One of them is called Onshore Lager which has a great can design and sounds almost like a Pilsner. I don’t often go for Lagers, but when the Lager is Pilsner or a Bock, then I’m more inclined to give the beer a try. I’m guessing the sub-5% ABV on this one might lend Pilsner-like quality to the beer, too. Sign me up for a six pack.

“Our home is surrounded by a breathtaking stretch of ocean and beautiful waterways, and ONSHORE LAGER is our tribute to that environment.

Brewed without adjuncts, this beer pours a pure, golden color, and German-style hops provide a crisp, clean finish.”

Smooth Sail Summer Ale (Pale Wheat Ale) Heavy Seas Brewing Company (Halethorpe, MD)

Image courtesy of CraftBeer.com

The Pale Wheat Ale, popularized in the summer by Bell’s Oberon Ale and Samuel Adams Summer Ale. Not quite a Hefeweizen, not quite a pale ale, but very refreshing. This one from Heavy Seas seems to have a similar profile to the aforementioned two ales, with a hint of citrus which tells me I’d probably like this beer. From my very limited sampling of beers from heavy Seas, I think I’ll enjoy this one quite a bit. I’d seen it in stores the last year or two, but passed on it. I’ll be rectifying that this year.

“This is not your average summer ale. We’ve created the most refreshingly delicious American wheat ale. Brewed with lemon and orange peel, Smooth Sail finishes with a citrus kick. At 4.5% ABV you’ll have your new pool beer. Available on draft and cans only, it’s the perfect beer for trips to the park, hiking, or just sitting on the beach with your friends. A summer day. Kick back, relax, enjoy – a light breeze will take you to your happy place.”

When in Doubt Helles Lager – Tröegs Independent Brewing (Hershey, PA)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

While Tröegs already has a summer seasonal beer in their tasty Sunshine Pils, When in Doubt could perhaps be considered a “cousin” beer in that Helles Lagers and Pilsners are similar in style. This beer was part of Tröegs popular “Scratch series” a couple of years ago, then draft exclusive and now (according to the fine MyBeerBuzz beer blog), available in 12oz bottles. I’m hoping to try this one as soon as it is available (maybe June?) since I’ve really come to enjoy the Helles Lager style. At 4.3% ABV, this is a very crushable lager.

When in Doubt is all harmony. It begins with a single note, a clean and delicate pilsner malt reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Tradition hops add hints of wildflower and subtle bitterness, and our crisp lager yeast pulls it all together. In the end, this refreshing Munich-style Helles is greater than the sum of its parts and – when in doubt – always a good call.”

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Special thanks to the great MyBeerBuzz blog for images in this post specifically, and for tireless efforts to keep the craft beer community abreast of new beers and beer news.

Beer Review: Trooper Hallowed by Robinsons Brewery

Name: Trooper Hallowed
Brewing Company: Robinsons Brewery (Iron Maiden Beer)
Location: Stockport, Greater Manchester, England
Style: Belgian Dubbel
ABV: 6%

In the background: Enhanced/Remastered Number of the Beast CD (2002) opened to the lyrics of Hallowed be thy Name.

From Robinsons’ Landing Page for the beer:

Crystal Rye gives HALLOWED a blood red hue and a smooth dry finish. The Belgian style yeast we have used in this brew along with Noble hops combine to deliver a complex palate of subtle banana and a sweet plum finish.

A real ale enthusiast, band vocalist Bruce Dickinson has helped develop a beer with a true depth of character. Visit www.ironmaidenbeer.com & discover the latest news updates, HALLOWED stockists & much more.

I am a big Iron Maiden fan, they are one of my two or three favorites bands. A few years back, Robinsons Brewery (which began brewing in 1838) started brewing beers inspired by the band, the first of which was an ESB, simply titled Trooper. When I realized they brewed a Belgian Dubbel, I knew I had to find it and try it.

When I popped open the beer, the liquid that emerged was a deep amber/red which is what I’d expect from a Dubbel. The aroma is typical of the Belgian (style) yeast used in the brew process, too. Those two characteristics had me hopeful (especially since I didn’t care too much for the the original Trooper ale). First sip, and I thought, could this be some kind of error? But yes, this was a Belgian Dubbel from a British brewery. Not something I’d typically expect. Or rather, my knowledge of British/UK breweries is somewhat limited.

The sweetness and spice from the yeast creates such a wonderful flavor in the beer, it was hard to just sip it despite the fact that I only had one bottle of the beer. The typical plum/stone-fruit sweetness evoked by the Belgian-style yeast was present along with hints of banana. I don’t know what exactly other than tastiness. Sometimes the pure well-crafted nature of the beer shines through in the look and taste of the beer, this is definitely the case for Trooper Hallowed.

By the end, I realized the sands of time were running low. I took a look through the glass at the remainder of the beer. Could it be there was some sort of error? Was it really the end of the beer? Sadly, it was. But with other beers in the Trooper line of brews from Robinsons, I’m hopeful the others are closer in quality to Trooper Hallowed than the original Trooper beer. Unfortunately, the Red n’ Black porter is out of production.

The name of the beer is an homage to Hallowed be thy Name, one of the more popular (especially in concert) songs from Maiden’s landmark album The Number of the Beast, their third studio album and first to feature legendary, iconic lead singer Bruce Dickinson. Fans of the band may have noticed some lyrical homages in my review.

There’s a website dedicated to Robinson’s Iron Maiden/Trooper line of beer http://www.ironmaidenbeer.com.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

From the IronMaidenBeer.com web site: HALLOWED’s innovative bottle label pays tribute to Belgian beer, presenting IRON MAIDEN’s iconic mascot EDDIE, robed in traditional monk’s clothing: a nod to the Trappist monastic brewing tradition in Belgium.

 

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Dubbel, Tripel and Quad Oh My! (Level 7)

Dubbel, Tripel, or Quad, you can’t go wrong with these amazing feats of Belgian style brewing. Whether you’re looking for something light and golden or dark and boozy, one of these will do the trick!

Tower of Beer (Level 2)

While a pint traditional English ale will always remain a staple, the craft beer scene in England, much like the rest of the world, has continued to grow at a rapid rate!

 

Draught Diversions: April 2018 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

April closes out, thank goodness. It was not a fun month with travel I had and awful weather. But, there were some good beers for sure. Deciding on a final six-pack for the month was tough because April started out strongly with a few classics I hadn’t previously enjoyed. In fact, a good portion of the highlight beers for me for April can be considered Craft Beer Classics.

There are some definite Belgian leanings in this month’s six pack, whether a brewery from Belgium, American breweries known for Belgian-inspired ales, or a great, modern interpretation of a Belgian classic.  Let’s start with the most Belgian of American breweries…

Saison (Allagash Brewing Company) Saison / Farmhouse Ale – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Allagash has built a great reputation on brewing American interpretations of classic Belgian ales and few are more classic than a Saison. As it has turned out, the last few years I’ve been enjoying a different Saison on Easter Sunday. This was the perfect beer for Easter Sunday and a nice prelude to brunch. Light, sweet and well-rounded, I’ll be returning to this one in the future, for sure.

Candi Stout (Brewery Ommegang) Stout – Other – 3 bottle Caps on untappd

The other American brewery who built their reputation on Belgian inspired ales is Cooperstown, NY’s Brewery Ommegang. I enjoy much of their output, but when they stray too much from their wheelhouse – like this stout (or their Nirvana IPA) – then the results are mixed. I guess I get what they were aiming for with this beer, unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

Tripel Karmeliet (Brouwerij Bosteels) Belgian Tripel – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Proper Glassware from a proper Belgian bar

This ale is an absolute world-class, and classic, beer. I loved the sweetness and overall flavor profile with the magic produced by Belgian yeast. Although I would likely enjoy this beer *anywhere*, enjoying it on draught in a bar that serves only Belgian beer (25 on tap, 50 in bottles) didn’t hurt the experience. I had this on my business trip in the Austin, TX bar Mort Subite. I’ll likely need to go to Austin again for business and I’ll be hitting up Mort again.

90 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double – 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

Why did it take me so long to come around to IPAs!?!

I’m all in on IPAs now and found one that can be a steady go-to, the beer Esquire Magazine once called “the best IPA in America.” Perfect, absolutely perfect balance of malt and hops, with a pleasant hop bite and great hit of citrus sweetness. The reputation is well-earned because this beer does EVERYTHING a perfectly crafted IPA should do: it is true to style, innovative, and just plain delicious.

Devil’s Reach (Cape May Brewing Co.) Belgian Strong Golden Ale – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Belgian yeast = magic.

Cape May Brewing Company, the 2nd Largest NJ Craft Brewery, has a great reputation, they brew across the board, with a somewhat greater focus on IPAs. But this beer? This beer is outstanding, a delicious, sweet explosion of flavor that is deceptively high in ABV (8.6%) but so easy drinking. In some of my reviews I mention “an iconic shelf of NJ Beers” and I would definitely make room for this one. Not many NJ breweries make a “Belgian Strong Golden Ale” (as far as I know) so there honestly isn’t too much competition in the State for this style. Regardless, this is an absolute stand-out ale.

G.O.R.P. (Carton Brewing Company) Porter – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve professed my enjoyment of Carton’s beers often on this blog. The fact that some of Carton’s long-time brews are now hitting distribution in cans pleases me immensely. Especially when I’ve been wanting to try Good Old Raisins and Peanuts for a couple of years now and the beer largely lived up to what I was hoping it would be. The quality I was expecting because the Carton logo is on the can, but the flavors were a little less expected. Some beers that have peanuts or peanut butter can be too cloying in the PB sweetness. Here with G.O.R.P.; however, the sweetness of the raisins and roasted peanuts come together deliciously on the finish, especially as the beer warms a bit.

Honorable mention to an annual April Favorite: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. This is a beer that absolutely lives up to its reputation and the 2018 vintage is outstanding.

Draught Diversions: Bridgewater Beerfest 2018

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

I’ve been to several Beer Festivals, including all five of the past Garden State Brewfests and a few in Philadelphia. Those beer festivals ranged from small with only a few hundred attendees to some with over a thousand attendees. There are benefits to both types of festivals, and the Bridgewater Beer Festival (April 28 at the Bridgewater Jewish Community Center) falls in the smaller more intimate end of festivals which helped to reinforce the sense of Community around New Jersey beer.

There were many things to like about the Bridgewater Beer Fest, or at least many things that *I* enjoyed about the Bridgewater Beer Fest. I’m not going to lie, the fact that this Beer Fest was only a few miles from my house was a big reason why I decided to attend.

Two other plusses? The price…as a member of New Jersey Craft Beer, a $25 discount was available. Related, the “Designated Driver” ticket was only $10, which is fair, I suppose. Well, significantly better than past Garden State Brewfests which was $25 for the designated driver plus parking fee. If you are charging somebody to be responsible and herd the cats that are drunk people, the $25 fee is enough, throw on the parking fee and it is almost like responsibility (having a sober driver) is being punished. It was also nice that there was no parking fee at the Bridgewater Beer Fest.

Another reason that became stronger as the event drew closer was the list of breweries and beers that were to be poured including a focus on barrel-aged brews. Or that Dogfish Head was pouring a vintages of some of their classic brews. Or that Weyerbacher was pouring their 20th Anniversary Ale, a delicious Belgian Strong Dark Ale I missed when it was in stores a couple of years ago. Or that a not too-easy to find (and relatively pricey) barrel-aged weizenbock collaboration between Stone Brewing and the Bruery called Fahrt die Zeige was being poured. Not bad, right?

Another great feature of this beer festival was the predominance of NJ breweries, I’d say well over 50% of the beer and breweries were NJ based. I was especially happy that breweries I haven’t yet had the chance to visit, like Backward Flag (Forked River, NJ), Brotherton Brewing (Shamong, NJ), Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ), Double Nickel (Pennsauken, NJ), 902 Brewing (Jersey City, NJ), Brix City Brewing (Little Ferry, NJ), and Three 3’s Brewing (Hammonton, NJ) were pouring beer since those breweries aren’t exactly close to me. Before the festival, I never had any of Backward Flag’s beers (Oak Armored Ale), and only one each from the some of other breweries so it was great to have new great beers from Backward Flag and three new, tasty beers, from Brotherton Brewing (Cedar Wudder Amber Ale), Double Nickel (DNA Batch #3, Cascara IPA), 902 Brewing (Kürtoskalács, a cinnamony coffee milk stout), Brix City Brewing, (Gloria [Belgian] Blonde Ale), and Three 3’s (Pulpitations IPA).

I was also looking forward to meeting and chatting with Mike Kivovitz, the head honcho of New Jersey Craft Beer and one of the most important folks in the New Jersey beer community. I was chuffed (as the Brits say) when Mike recognized me from my ramblings about beer here on the Tap Takeover, Twitter, and Facebook. Mike is a cool guy and helped bring into focus how connected the beer community is. Talking with make also made me realize what great connections exist between the Craft Beer community and the Geek community (aka, much of what I have been writing about for years at places like SFFWorld, SF Signal and my other blog). I hope to share some beers with Mike in the future at the various breweries and bars in New Jersey. It as also nice to chat with some of my friends from Flounder Brewing as well as Tim from Conclave Brewing and Matt from Czig Meister as well as making new acquaintances at all the breweries, which only added to the sense of community in NJ Beer.

On to the beers themselves, I checked into about two dozen on untappd, with about ¾ of those being NJ beers. Most were very good with a a few of them being outstanding. That said, I’ll stick to my 6-pack format and touch on the six beers that stood out the most for me. I generally try to have beers I’ve never had before at these festivals. For example, much as I enjoy beer from Demented Brewing, they were pouring a couple of beers I had prior to the fest so I didn’t go for them. Also, this six pack is primarily NJ brews with the exception of one major, phenomenal beer.

Brewer Choice Hefeweizen (Hefeweizen)
Backward Flag Brewing (Forked River, NJ)

As I said, Backward Flag is a brewery I’ve wanted to visit for a while now, since hearing about them around 2016. Unfortunately, they are about an hour and half one-way trip. Backward Flag is a veteran/woman owned brewery and I think the veteran portion of that is unique, at least in NJ. They were pouring two beers and for me the standout was their Brewer Choice Hefeweizen, a damned fine example of the classic Bavarian Wheat Ale. This is a delicious brew and better than a couple of German Hefeweizens I’ve had.

Deep Sea Series: Tropics (IPA – New England)
Czig Meister Brewing Company (Hackettstown, NJ)

In two visits to Czig Meister Brewing Company, I never had any of the many IPAs they brew. I always stuck to Stouts and non-IPAs. Well, I sure was missing out because their Deep Sea Series of IPAs, if this beer is any indication, is a solid, dependable line of IPAs. Hell, the Deep Sea Series – Galactic 7 was awarded Best IPA at the Atlantic City Beer Festival about a month ago (March 2018).

Wolves Among Sheep (Stout – American Imperial / Double)
Angry Erik Brewing (Lafayette, NJ)

Although I visited Angry Erik back in November, I missed out on Wolves Among Sheep at that time. I was *very* pleased to see this beer was being poured at the beer festival. Some barrel-aged stouts can take on too much of the oak/barrel characters and wipe out the taste of the base stout. The brewers at Angry Erik avoided this common pitfall and produced a very balanced beer with enough booziness, enough stoutiness, enough sweetness, and enough bitter-sweetness.

Mexican Evening (Stout – American Imperial / Double)
Conclave Brewing – Raritan Township, NJ

My favorite stout of the day was Mexican Evening from Conclave Brewing, which is an imperial/double variation on their popular Mexican Morning Milk Stout. Cinnamon hits first, followed by sweetness from chocolate and vanilla with a spiced hit from the chili de árbol peppers. Even though the ABV is higher in this beer than it is in Mexican Morning, I think that heightened ABV calms down the peppery finish making for a fantastic, complex, delicious dessert beer.

DDH Not a Schooner (IPA – New England)
Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ)

“There is NO Easter Bunny!”

DDH Not a Schooner from Icarus Brewing was my favorite IPA of the day. Icarus is out of Lakewood, NJ and for their relative youth in the NJ Beer landscape, their reputation of a purveyor of tasty beers started pretty strong and has grown from there. This beer is a Double Dry Hopped version of their popular Not a Schooner New England IPA. This beer just exploded with juiciness and I enjoyed it so much it was the only beer I of which I had two samples.

Olde School 2014 vintage (Barleywine – American)
Dogfish Head Brewery (Milton, DE)

It is almost not fair to compare a four-year old Barleywine to anything else, but here we are. Dogfish Head’s Olde School Barleywine from 2014 was the standout pour of the day for me. This was one of the brews I had high on my list to get and it exceeded what I hoped it would be. For me, the hops can come across too assertively in some Barleywines, but maybe because this Barleywine aged for four years, everything smoothed out. At 15% ABV, even a 12 oz bottle of this beer is something you should share…or sip extremely slowly while watching a long movie. What I know is this – I’ll be getting some more of this in the future.

All told, I couldn’t have been happier with the Bridgewater Beer Fest. I hope the festival returns next Spring because I hope to attend again.

Draught Diversions: A 6-Pack to Bring Back

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

When I learned recently that my go-to Summer beer was being discontinued (Yeungling Summer Wheat, a solid mass produced Hefeweizen), it got me thinking, and thinking rather forlornly. Sometimes a brewery releases a beer you really enjoy, maybe it was a seasonal, maybe it was a beer in regular rotation. Then the season comes for the beer to hit the shelves and you find out the brewery ceased production on those beers or the beer just goes out of rotation. Or, even sadder, the brewery is no longer in business. I’ve come up with a 6 pack of beers I wish would return. One of these I’ve had since joining untappd so it hasn’t been too too long since a couple disappeared, while others have been absent from taps and liquor stores for many years.

Dogfish Head Raison D’Être

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head

I know Samuel Adams was the brewery that drew many people, including me, to craft beer 20-ish years ago, but Dogfish is one that showed all the interesting things that could be done in beer. This beer is a classic and at the time I first had it and continued to buy it, I didn’t know the difference between a stout and Belgian Strong Ale, which is what this beer is considered. I just knew that the peculiar ingredients for a beer (at the time) which include Beet sugar and raisons (coupled with the Belgian yeast) made for a rich beer that I thoroughly enjoyed. As the link above describes the beer: “A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beet sugars and green raisins.” This one appears on beermenus occasionally and may show up at Dogfish tap takeovers, but damn would I love to see a six pack of this in my local bottle shop. I think the last time I had it was probably at least five years ago.

Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat

Original label with iconic Long Trail bear mascot

For years for this slightly fruited wheat ale from Vermont was a perennial summer favorite; it was very refreshing, perfect for enjoying pool-side, or in the yard after a hard day’s yardwork. There was a big uproar as this great All About Beer article points out when the beer was pulled from production/circulation in 2014 after being the brewery’s #2 seller at one point in time. I know technically this beer returned in cans a year or two ago, but I don’t think the beer made it to NJ. At least no stores around me seemed to carry it.

Can redesign. Still haven’t seen this in NJ

There was a time I’d see Long Trails tasty beers all over the place (this along with Double Bag and Triple Bag are favorites) but not quite as much in recent years. I would always keep Blackberry Wheat and Sam’s Summer Ale in constant rotation from Memorial Day to Labor Day and found their Survival Pack (which included BBW) to be a great variety pack to pick up at a moment’s notice when people came over in the summer.

 

Pete’s Wicked Summer Brew

Ah, Pete’s Wicked, one of the sadder stories in American Craft Beer. They were 1 and 2 with Samuel Adams, as I recall, in the mid to late 90s craft beer movement. I even remember the radio commercial for “Pete’s Wicked Summer Breeewww” and thanks to YouTube, the humorous folksy TV ads featuring brewer/owner Pete Slosberg. The lineup of Pete’s Wicked included the flagship Brown Ale, a delicious Summer Wheat and a Strawberry Ale. As the link to All About Beer indicates, the name was sold to Gambrinus a number of years ago so it is doubtful the brand or the beers will return. For many people my age (and older) Pete’s Wicked Ale will conjure up pleasant memories of when the American Craft Beer scene when it was in its youth, maybe less confusing, and with an unknowable level of growth potential.

Samuel Adams Honey Porter

This was one of the first dark beers I remember enjoying and for the years it was available, my favorite year-round offering form the Boston Beer company. It was brought back a couple of times after it was discontinued in 2000, once and in six packs in 2007 and again as part of a “Brewmasters collection” in 2010. I know my tastes have slightly changed since I last had the beer (I wouldn’t go near an IPA back then) but Porters are still a preferred style, so I would hope the suck fairy wouldn’t strike if this beer were to be available again.

Basically, the suck fairy is what happens when you revisit an old favorite and it turns out not to live up to the high regard in which you hold it in your memory.

Tilburg’s Dutch Brown Ale

I’m not sure the last time I saw this one or had it, but it had to be about 10 years ago, at the most recent, but I recall that Weird eye-catching bottle art from Hieronymus Bosch drew me to the beer, initially. There was a very good bottle shop on my way home from work that allowed you to make mixed six packs, and this was before I was aware of Wegman’s. I remember grabbing one for the mix and after enjoying it getting it regularly on its own. Even before I realized how much I enjoyed Belgian beers, I was enjoying a brown Belgian ale. As it so happens, I now work within walking distance to that same liquor store.

Brewed by Koningshoeven brewery (A.K.A. La Trappe, one of the great Trappest breweries) in the Netherlands, this beer was just a Belgian Brown. But it was so much more unique than the Brown Ales I knew of at the time (Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog and Newcastle) and made me feel fancy whenever I drank it.

Wolaver’s Organic Wildflower Wheat

I’ve made it pretty clear here at the Tap Takeover how much I enjoy wheat ales and for a few years, so multiple wheat ales on a post like this shouldn’t surprise anybody. I’ve only had a few from the venerable Vermont brewery and this was far and above my favorite. It was a great warm weather ale and had an extra hit of honey to balance out the whole flavor profile. Otter Creek discontinued the Wolaver’s Organic line of beers (including a very tasty Pumpkin Ale as well as a Coffee Porter called “Alta Gracia Coffee Porter”) a few years ago and seems to be focusing more on beers with strong hop profiles in recent years, so I doubt this beer will be coming back, but it was fantastic. I had it three times while on untappd, each time on draft, and it was perfect on those warm August nights.

The beer was described as: Wildflower wheat is a delicious unfiltered wheat ale brewed with organic chamomile flowers and a hint of pure organic Vermont honey.

So to close out with a final thought, here’s my ranking, from most likely to least likely, of the chances of these beers returning:

  1. Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat
  2. Dogfish Head Raison D’Être
  3. Samuel Adams Honey Porter
  4. Tilburg Dutch Brown Ale
  5. Wolaver Organic Wildflower Wheat
  6. Pete’s Wicked Summer Ale

So there you have it, 6 beers out of circulation/production I would drink right now. Any favorites you, my fine readers, wish would return?