Draught Diversions: Jersey Cyclone Brewing (Somerset, NJ)

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…

Continuing the celebration of Jersey Beer Week at the Tap Takeover, I wanted to feature a new brewery that opened up very close to me. I know the majority of these brewery visits/posts feature New Jersey breweries, so what better week to feature a new New Jersey Brewery than this week?

A pint of one of their first beers, Quarter Off Kölsch in front of the brewery’s cool logo

With the growing number of breweries in New Jersey, location can be everything. Timing helps, too. Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company opened in Franklin Township/Somerset, New Jersey on May 4, 2019 marking the third brewery to open in Somerset County, NJ. I’ve visited four times since they opened, once was a brief stop in for a growler fill of their delicious Helles Lager, Beach Blonde Lager, which I reviewed back in June. So I figured after my most recent visit, and this week being New Jersey Craft Beer Week, I should do a feature on the brewery here at The Tap Takeover.

A sign from the streets points you to a storm, a Cyclone, you’ll definitely want to visit

A familiar origin story for Jersey Cyclone, friends and owners Jan Chwiedosiuk and Brian Teel were home brewers. Their road to opening Jersey Cyclone, like many new small business, hit some bumps. The idea for opening a brewery began around the time Super Storm Sandy hit New Jersey back in 2011. After a few years and a few potential spots not working out for Brian and Jan, they settled into their current location on World’s Fair Drive in Somerset, NJ. The location is very centrally located off of route 287, a few of miles from the main campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Even better for me is that I work around the block from the brewery. I found it very interesting to watch the progression of the brewery’s build out through social media, so I was very happy to be able to visit the brewery on their grand opening on May 4, 2019, which was also Star Wars Day (May The Fourth Be With You).

Tap list at Jersey Cyclone during their grand opening

During that visit, the brewery was extremely busy and filled with patrons glad to have a new brewery in their area especially with Demented Brewing (formerly located about a mile or two away) having closed a couple of weeks prior. Additionally, the NJ Brewing/Beer Community is, of course, always happy to check out a new brewery especially at the grand opening. While the region (Somerset/Middlesex County NJ) isn’t absent of breweries, it isn’t quite the destination spot at the moment that Hammonton or Hacketstown are with a few breweries within walking distance of each other. The closest breweries to Jersey Cyclone are the Harvest Moon brewpub in downtown New Brunswick, Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough and Cypress Brewing in Edison. All four can easily be done in one day, but some driving will definitely be required.

I was very impressed during that Grand Opening – the brewery/tap room was pretty packed when I arrived in the early afternoon. The owners and brewers took their time with everybody who approached them, never gave off a sense that they were rushed or overly nervous. They did everything correctly in other words. I briefly spoke to Jan and Mike that day and spent a little more time speaking with Charles, the brewer. All three gentlemen were friendly and excited, as they should be. Charles mentioned that he wanted to feature a lager in the near future. With the longer brew time for a lager, a lager wasn’t quite ready for opening day, but what I had was very impressive. I started with the Kölsch, which I found to be nearly perfect. It was a warm day and the crisp, flavorful ale that’s almost a lager hit the spot. Everything I like about a Kölsch was present in their take, which they call Quarter off Kölsch. I had a full pour/pint of it. The other beer I had was a variant of their Snowtober Porter, with Vanilla and Coconut. Some beers with Coconut are overpowered with Coconut drowning out all other flavors. Not this one, the flavor was there, but dialed in and in harmony with everything else.

Let me talk about their approach and roll out of beers. Some breweries come out of the gate very aggressively with 12 taps and 12 different beers. Jan, Mike, and Charles went with a more measured approach, and one that in the long run, I think will pay off nicely for them and their customers. 8 beers were served opening weekend: Four variants of Snowtober (i.e. a Coconut, a coffee, etc), three variants of their flagship IPA Eye of the Storm, each highlighting a different hop, and the aforementioned Kölsch. For me, that says they are focusing their efforts in an attempt to be as precise as possible. Sure there are 8 beers on that taplist, but it is really three beers at their base.

An interesting water fountain.

The interior of the brewery is beautifully designed and very roomy with plenty of space where the brewing happens with room to expand. From the exterior, you’d be surprised how much space is inside the brewery and taproom. The tables are constructed from locally sourced white oak built by Jan and Brian. A water fountain is made from a re-purposed fire hydrant from the Middlesex Water Company from the early 1950s. Jan spent much of his career as the director of distribution for the Middlesex Water Company and this is a very cool homage and a great functional, conversation piece. How many breweries dispense their drinking water through a fire hydrant? Not many, I’d venture to guess. About the only criticism I can level is that the taproom could use some more lighting and/or brighter lighting.

Since getting that glass, it has become a favorite

There were couple of other nice elements in the experience of the tap room. I mentioned in my review of Beach Blonde Lager that Jan meticulously wiped down my growler with a water bottle. The servers/bartenders did the same for each pour in the taproom. I had the chance to speak with bartender Keith for a bit about the brewery, some of their plans, their approach and beer in NJ in general. From my conversation, it sounded very much like Keith was quite happy to be part of Jersey Cyclone. What all of this amounts to is that Jersey Cyclone is a welcoming, inviting place to enjoy good beer and conversation.

A 10.5 oz pour of Franklin Double, a very tasty Imperial IPA

On my second visit I only had a full pour of Franklin Double, their flagship Imperial/Double IPA. This is a classic Imperial IPA with a lot of hop bite, but with enough malt to balance out the beer so that it is approachable. Third visit entailed the copiously linked and noted growler fill of Beach Blonde Lager.

Compare this tap list to day one. It looks much better and features 8 unique beers.

The fourth visit was the most recent, and a few things stood out. While the taplist still consists of 8 beers, the taplist is more diverse. The 8 total beers includes two saisons/farmhouse ales, a pilsner, an imperial stout, an imperial porter, an Imperial IPA, an Imperial NEIPA, and a Pale Ale. Not a bad representation of different styles. The menu, from a font/physical standpoint, looks better, too. Thought and a bit of whimsy went into how they represent each beer on their taplist. The taproom looked just as clean and nice (but still a little too dark). On that Saturday evening, there were quite a few people and some patrons had pizza delivered.

New World Pilsner. Blurry, clearly not my best photo.

On to the two beers I had most recently. I’ve come to love Pilsners and I was very happy to see a new Pilsner on draught. New World Pilsner is a dry-hopped Pilsner that reminded me quite a bit of Victory’s Home Grown Lager, also a dry-hopped lager. It was refreshing, tasty, but a little more hoppy than I expect from a Pilsner. The next beer…oooh the next beer was Flood, an Imperial Stout that was brewed a couple of weeks prior to my visit. My picture below doesn’t quite capture the colors as well as I’d like, but the khaki head and deep blackness of the beer itself is *exactly* what I want to see in my Imperial Stout. The beer had a very pleasant aroma of chocolate malt and some hops. The beer tastes delicious, a nearly perfect take on an Imperial Stout. What I learned after speaking to Keith and what I really like is that there are no adjuncts, no coffee, no chocolate, just the core four ingredients of beer. To continue the comparisons, my taste memory for this beer kept returning to Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal – great roasted malt with a potent, yet unobtrusive hop bite at the end. For me, this is the best beer I’ve had from them so far. In my conversation with Keith, we both thought this would be a good beer for barrel aging.

10.5 oz pour of Flood

As has become a little evident, there’s a stormy/weather theme to many of the beers, as is appropriate with the impact Superstorm Sandy had on the region and the brewery itself. Flood is pretty obvious, the Cloudy/Hazy New England IPA is aptly named Storm Cloud, the standard IPA is called Eye of the Storm, the Pale Ale goes by Pier Pressure, the Imperial Porter goes by Snowtober, and the Saison with Hibiscus goes by Red Skies at Night.

In three and a half (I didn’t stay long for the Growler fill) visits over the course of 5 months, it seems to me that Jersey Cyclone is doing all the right things a new brewery should do. They opened with quality beer on May 4, they’ve been largely well-received by the community, and their quality and output improves. Jersey Cyclone has also recently expanded the hours of operation, opening earlier (3PM as opposed to 5PM on Friday), with the brewery adding Wednesday and Thursday hours. That tells me their beer is selling and people want to visit Jersey Cyclone. One thing that I was very pleased with is something I alluded to at the beginning of this post – Jersey Cyclone will always have a lager available. They didn’t immediately have their lager ready, but since Beach Blonde Lager has been on tap, the plan is to always have a lager of some kind. Right now the New World Pilsner fits that bill and soon a Dopplebock (a style I love) will be tapped.

It has been only about four months since Jersey Cyclone has opened but they are laying down a nice trajectory for the growth and maturity. Local places have been featuring some of their beer on draught including a favorite NJ Spot which I’ve mentioned previously – the Stirling Hotel. Jersey Cyclone has been making the round local beer festivals, too. Hopefully their growth continues and we can maybe see some bottles or cans from these folks. I know I feel very fortunate to have a brewery of this quality this close to my house and where I work. I’ve said this often about the breweries I’ve highlighted but repeating it makes it no less true – Jersey Cyclone is well worth the visit.

Jersey Cyclone Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Jersey Cyclone Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | untappd

Some other links of interest:

My Central Jersey on the opening of Jersey Cyclone (May 2019)
NJ Monthly Previews Jersey Cyclone (March 2019)

Draught Diversions: Interview with Mike Kivowitz of NJ Craft Beer

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…

Welcome to Jersey Beer Week at the Tap Takeover! A week long celebration of all things Beer in New Jersey. This is the second (or third?) year New Jersey Craft Beer is spear-heading the initiative, a week of events at NJ Breweries, bars featuring NJ Beer nights, and a week to #DrinkLocal and enjoy New Jersey beer rather beer from out of state.

To help kick off the week here at the Tap Takeover I figured I’d interview Mike Kivowitz, the main man in the New Jersey beer community who created New Jersey Craft Beer almost 10 years ago. I’ve met and chatted with Mike at a few events and breweries over the years and you won’t meet a nicer guy who has great taste in beer. Talking to him,  you get a sense of just how much he enjoys the community…and how much he enjoys seeing others take part in the New Jersey Beer Community.

Mike is one of the major reasons why the New Jersey beer community is the great place it has become over the last decade. New Jersey Craft Beer is a great resource for all things NJ Beer, whether it is information about Breweries in the state, stores that feature NJ beer, or a calendar of beer events in NJ.

The best part, for me and many members, is the Loyalty Program in the form of the NJCB Discount Card. For just $25 per year, you get an New Jersey Craft Beer card (all of mine are pictured below) which gets you discounts at liquor stores (the majority of the stores in my area offer 10% off all craft beer purchases), a range of discounts at breweries (money off flights or merchandise, for example), discounts at restaurants (anywhere between $1 off each beer you purchase to 10% off the entire bill!), and discounts at various beer events (Beer Festivals, Beer/Brewery Sponsored 5K races, etc). In short, it is the absolute best $25 I spend every year and often pays for itself by March. If you are visiting a brewery in New Jersey, there’s a decent chance you’ll run into Mike or one of his many co-conspirators.

Without further adieu, here’s a 12 pack worth of questions for our interview.

1. I’m sure most of the visitors to this blog have a passing knowledge of NJCB, but what is your TV Guide description of NJCB?

The source for beer in NJ with a loyalty program designed to explore beer all over the state.

2. What is this whole New Jersey Craft Beer Week all about, then?

Drinking in Jersey. Drinking Jersey beer.

3. New Jersey Craft Beer was founded in 2010, almost a decade later and the beer landscape has evolved. What is the biggest change to Craft Beer in NJ since you started NJCB?

The growth of local offerings. I launched NJCB with like 14 breweries on the list, now it’s 115+. Local breweries lead to bars and stores carrying more local.

Editor’s Note: The About page on New Jersey Craft Beer shows the large growth of the organization since its inception in 2010.

4. What is the most challenging and frustrating element of running NJCB?

Getting people to go to events. Everyone has events all the time. Getting support for some of them is hard. Especially when I spend like 70 hours of work on a 3 hour event and 10 people come. It’s souring but I learn and try harder next time.

5. What is the most rewarding element of being the go to guy for all things beer in New Jersey?

Meeting people and seeing how NJCB has changed their lives.

6. It might show some bias if I asked you your favorite NJ beer and brewery so I’ll ask you what your favorite style is and favorite non-NJ brewery.

West Coast IPAs will always be my favorite style. Firestone Walker is a good example of a non-NJ brewery I love.

7. What would you say is the one thing you would like people in NJ to get out of New Jersey Craft Beer?

Have fun. It’s beer. Just get moving and see what’s going on outside the keyboard you are reading this on. Ohhh, be nice too.

8. What 2 or 3 breweries in NJ deserve more attention? Everybody knows Kane, Carton, Magnify, etc. But with over 100 breweries, some are likely to fall through the cracks or not be as widely known.

Kelly Green Brewing, Vinyl Brewing, Bonesaw Brewing, Czig Meister Brewing, Hackensack Brewing and I can go on.

Editor’s Note: I wholeheartedly agree with Mike’s suggestions of Czig Meister Brewing and Hackensack Brewing Company.

9. What beer do you want to have again for the first time?

Spellbound’s Vices Porter on nitro I want everyday.

10. Do you have any correspondences or work in conjunction with similar organizations in neighboring states? Like Breweries in PA or NY Craft Beer?

I mean, yes and no. Most of the people I know that run other sites, I knew back in in and before I launched NJCB. Like Brew York New York for example. Some of the new guys like Breweries in PA started because of NJCB and reached out for input. I’ll talk to anyone, just don’t try to rip me off and steal my baby like that Instagram guy that’s now out of business. I don’t want to mention their name though.

11. Despite some of the obstacles, the number of breweries in New Jersey has grown consistently since 2012. Aside from the quality of the beer itself, what do you think are the key factors that will help a brewery succeed in New Jersey?

Quality is #1. Everything else is sort of hard to explain. See, some breweries just want to remain downtown/main street and not promote their beer on shelves but then they don’t want to do events, then when they do events, it’s like ohhh, I can only get this at one or two places around the brewery and not anywhere else. Then there’s the opposite where places only package the standard stuff and no one can get it anywhere else but the brewery but they sell kegs at every bar. Those people don’t want to leave their house. Sooo distro, labels/artwork, sales people, educated retailers. I can probably lump more into #2.

12. This question will likely generate a lengthy response, but here goes. With the evolving laws around beer in NJ, specifically the limits being placed on small, independent breweries, what can individuals do to prevent the rules from halting the great progressive growth of breweries and goodwill in the NJ Beer Community?

Editor’s Note: Visit SaveNJBeer.com for more information on the laws that could significantly impact many of the independent breweries in NJ.

Speak up. Write to your local officials and explain how you spend money and where and why. Also, get informed on the actual laws and wording. There’s 1 thing we need to do and that’s work together.

Beer Review: Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest

Name: Oktoberfest
Brewing Company: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Location: Cleveland, OH
Style: Märzen
ABV: 6.5%

An annual favorite from Great Lakes Brewing is a beer many consider the best American made Oktoberfest/Märzen. I would be hard pressed to argue with that notion.

The mug is the proper glassware for an Oktoberfest. Just look at the label.

From Great Lakes Brewing Company’s page for Oktoberfest:

One of our most celebrated and critically lauded brews has returned! Oktoberfest, our 3-time Gold Medal winner at the World Beer Championships, is back for another season of tailgates, cookouts, and bonfires.

Regarded as a world-class example of a timeless German style, the easy-drinking flavor of Oktoberfest is as hearty as it is approachable. With earthy hops keeping a gentle beat, rich notes of caramel and baked bread waltz together joyously, making Oktoberfest a celebration of all things malt! O’zapft is! Oktoberfest is here!

Oktoberfest will ship to all GLBC distribution markets in 6-pack, 12-pack, and draft beginning Monday, July 29. Oktoberfest is available now in the GLBC gift shop and will be on tap at the brewpub soon. Learn more about Oktoberfest below…

Über smooth with vibrant malt flavors and a festive flourish of noble hops (lederhosen not included).

I’ve mentioned Great Lakes Brewing a few times here on the Tap Takeover, but I figured what better beer from them than their World Class Oktoberfest to feature in a review. Brief disclaimer: I mentioned this beer back in my Oktoberfest 2017 post (before I had the six pack format down), but feel it deserves a full focus since it is often my favorite Oktoberfest/ Märzen every year.

On to the review…

As the beer pours from the bottle to the mug, I see perfection: a golden amber just as I’d want an Oktobefest to look like. The head is a little thinner than I’d expected or remembered, but that’s fine. I get malty sweetness from the aroma. In short, between the aroma and look, this beer is 100% on the right track.

A remembrance of quality, that’s what I feel when the first sip passes through my palate. This is one of the few beers I’ve reviewed here at the Tap Takeover that aren’t new to me for this blog. I’ve been enjoying this beer every year for the past four or five years and the 2019 version lives up to those memories. As good as previous years, but maybe the changes in my palate catch on to the sweetness from the malt more than I can remember. There’s a pleasant evocation of sweet caramel from the malts in the beer. As I have more of the beer and it progresses through my palate, I get some hints of toffee, and maybe, just maybe a little bit of breadiness.

I found this beer to be extremely consistent in its flavor from that first sip to the last at the bottom of the glass. Wonderful malt that makes up the strongest element of the beer and I was surprised at how well it tasted even at the end of the beer. I usually don’t think of lagers as styles whose flavors hold up once the beer isn’t cold out of the tap or refrigerator, but Great Lakes’s Oktoberfest bucked that trend for me – a slight bitterness I caught when I first sipped the beer was gone and the malty sweetness was more deliciously pronounced.

Given the history of German people in the Cleveland area, it should come as no surprise that Great Lakes Brewing produces one of the best Oktoberfest beers in the United States. Great Lakes also has annual Oktobefest Celebration at their brewpub. Further proof of beer’s quality is the fact that it is the #3 ranked German Märzen / Oktoberfest in the world on Beer Advocate.

If you want to try one of the best American interpretation of a classic German style, Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest is a must have. I think one thing above all else should speak to my feelings about the quality of this beer: I make sure to get some of it every Oktoberfest season.

Although this is a standard review here at the Tap Takeover, I would consider this American Craft Beer Classic.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Web site

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2019 Six 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…

Oktoberfest is sort of like the Easter of beer holidays. It isn’t always on the same exact date, but it is generally the same time of year. Mid-September is when the great German celebration of the marriage of then Prince and soon King Ludwig to Princess Therese begins. In 2019, Oktoberfest spans from September 21 through October 6, but seasonal creep gets these beers on our shelves in August. We* here at the Tap Takeover try to keep things seasonally appropriate, so here about a week or so is my annual Oktoberfest 6 pack of Oktoberfest beers. (*By “we” I mean me) A mix of national and New Jersey breweries, a mix of Oktoberfest beers I’ve had and have yet to try. You know, the typical.

Oktoberfest | Cape May Brewing Co. | Cape May, NJ | 5.8% ABV

Image courtesy of Cape May Brewing’s Facebook

Cape May Brewing is slowly climbing up my list of favorite NJ Breweries. They nail IPAs, debuted a superb Pale Lager earlier this year, and seem to excel at all styles. It is a no-brainer for me to want to try their take on the classic German Lager and with their increased distribution footprint, I was easily able to find six pack. Cape May knocks it out of the park with their take on the classic Märzen. I found it to be a little sweeter than I’ve had, but that is a feature and not a bug for me. This has immediately become an annual must have for me. This beer should be available throughout NJ and some of Southeastern PA.

What Cape May says about the beer:

Rich and complex, this amber-colored lager is smooth and clean due to a cool fifty-degree fermentation, mellowing as it lagers. Well-balanced with a hint of hops presence, Oktoberfest is focused on the grain bill of Vienna, Munich, Caramunich, Pilsen, and Melanoidin malts.

Oktoberfest – Czig Meister Brewing Company | Hackettstown, NJ | 5.3% ABV

Image courtesy of Czig Meister’s Facebook

Czig Meister has been putting this beer in cans for a couple of years, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet. I’ve liked most of the beer I’ve had from them, so I don’t expect that trend to cease once I try their Oktoberfest. This beer should be available throughout NJ and some of NY.

What Czig Meister says about the beer:

Medium bodied light orange color. Flavors of toasty graham crackers and light honey notes.

OktoberFish | Flying Fish Brewing Company | Somerdale, NJ | 6% ABV

First brewed waaay back in 2002, Flying Fish’s take on the classic German Lager is one of the oldest versions continuously brewed in NJ. Many of the beers from their early years incorporate “Fish” into the beer name, just like this one. For me, this has been something of a staple for nearly twenty years. It has always been a very consistent beer for the season. Over the past couple of years, Flying Fish has gone through a facelift, updating the packaging for many of their beers, including this one which plays with the traditional iconic blue diamond pattern for Oktoberfest. This one should be available throughout the NJ/PA/NY region

What Flying Fish says about the beer:

We present this German style lager in celebration of the season. To be enjoyed with the fest fare and especially when paired with lederhosen.

Copper Legend | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Framingham, MA | ABV 5.7%

Image courtesy of Jack’s Abby’s Facebook

Jack’s Abby has been on the shelves in NJ for only a few months, but as my posts have indicated here at the Tap Takeover, I’m VERY impressed with their beer. With that German Brewing tradition at their heart, an Oktoberfest (in this case the slightly lighter version, Festbier) is to be expected. I’m going to make sure to grab some of this beer before Oktoberfest ends during the first week of October. This beer should be available throughout much of the Northeastern US.

What Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers says this about the beer:

Celebrate Octoberfest with this malty, smooth and exceedingly drinkable lager. Copper Legend is the perfect beer for creating legendary times with legendary people. Raise a can to Honor Today’s Legends. Brewed with noble hops. Prost!

Oktoberfest | Revolution Brewing Company | Chicago, IL | 5.7% ABV

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing’s Facebook

I’ve seen Revolution’s beer sporadically throughout NJ over the past couple of years. I don’t know that I can think of a more appropriate image to adorn a beer meant to ring in Oktoberfest than a big burly German man wearing lederhosen and an Oktoberfest hat playing a tuba on the label. If I’m able to grab a can or two this season, I’ll certainly be happy to try it.

What Revolution Brewing says about the beer:

Our Oktoberfest Bier is a German-style lager that was brewed in the summer and “cold stored” until late August to celebrate the coming of fall! Traditional German malts such as Pilsner, Vienna, Carared and Munich lend a beautiful burnt orange color and a pleasant toasty malt flavor and aroma to this lager. Initial Magnum hopping along with multiple additions of German Saphir and Select hops throughout the boil provide a crisp balanced bitterness and spicy/earthy aroma to round out this robust beer! For fermentation we use a Bavarian Lager yeast and then lower the temperature to 32 °F and store the beer cold for 4 weeks. This cold maturation time helps provide a smooth round mouthfeel and clean crisp finish.

Oktoberfest | Sly Fox Brewing Company | Pottstown, PA | 6.1% ABV

Image courtesy of Sly Fox Brewing’s Facebook

Sly Fox is one of the many great breweries out of Pennsylvania. I haven’t had too much of their beer in recent years as it seems they’ve scaled back distribution into NJ a bit, or at least in my immediate area. I remember having this one on draught a couple of years ago and being very pleased with the overall taste and profile. If I see a sixer of it in one of the shops in my regular driving radius, I’ll likely grab some. Available in PA, NJ, DE, NY, MD, VA and Washington D.C.

What Sly Fox says about the beer:

Ein Prosit! This seasonal gem is best enjoyed under a humongous tent while you and thousands of your closest friends sing enthusiastically. Or anywhere, really. It’s all about the gemütlichkeit, baby!

Beer Review: Free Will Brewing’s Crisper

Name: Crisper
Brewing Company: Free Will Brewing Co.
Location: Perkasie, PA and Lahaska/Peddler’s Village, PA
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.4%

A flavorful take on the classic German Style. Every brewery should have a Kölsch like this in their lineup

A bright, clean beer looks even brighter with the sun shining on it.

From Free Will Brewing’s page for the beer:

A clean and crisp cold-fermented ale brewed in keeping with German tradition.

I think the Kölsch is one of the more overlooked and underrated styles of beer. Not exactly obscure, but not many people are out hunting for the latest Kölsch the way people hunt and gather new IPAs and Stouts. It is a style every brewery should have in their portfolio and every small brewery should have on tap – it is the beer style that “tastes like a beer” and a great style to draw people into craft beer. I’ve made the following comparison a couple of times when discussing the style in beer circles: a Kölsch is an ale that is similar to a pilsner. The comparison is apt (and I said this without initially knowing) that Kölsch ales are conditioned at colder temperatures the same way lagers are. In terms of being flavorful and enjoyable, Free Will nailed the style. Let’s start at the beginning, and answer the question, “Why did I enjoy this beer so much?”

Let’s look at the color, first. I was fortunate to get a perfect ray of sunlight to shine on this beautiful golden ale when I took my photo. Almost clear, bright golden-yellow with a nice head – you tell people to conjure up an image of “beer” and I’d bet 8 out of 10 people might have an image like the photo I snagged in their heads. I no longer have any cans of the beer in my fridge, but looking at that photo makes me wish I did.

So, like I said the beer looks inviting. Aroma is very clean and the first sip is extremely refreshing – I get a little bit of that pilsner/lager hint from the beer, but there’s some definite hints of fruitiness in the beer, too. I keep thinking to myself that this is a damned good beer with each successive sip or gulp of the beer. The most appropriate word I can think of to describe this beer is “clean.” There’s just a nice, well-rounded “beer flavor” to the beer that makes it work so well for me.

I like to have a lighter beer with my Friday pizza and this paired perfectly. Some beers pair specifically with certain types of foods, Crisper is a beer that has solid flavor of its own, but won’t intrude on any food you’re eating while enjoying the beer.

The ABV on this, like most Kölsch/ Kölsch style ales is pretty low at 4.4%. A beer for “session” drinking, a four pack you can enjoy over the course of a long afternoon or evening that will likely not dump you on your rear end. But unlike the big mass-produced beers at this ABV, this Kölsch is extremely flavorful. You’ll want to drink the beer for the flavor and not suffer through inferior taste. This beer has continued my personal trend of enjoying flavorful, low ABV beers.

If hasn’t become clear by now with many of my reviews and posts, then Pennsylvania – a neighbor state to New Jersey – has a great many breweries (the most beer produced per state) and I’ve been enjoying quite a few of those breweries. Peddler’s Village is a Buck’s County shopping destination and a couple of years ago, Free Will Brewing opened up a Tap Room in the center of the great outdoor village. A great spot that has been at maximum capacity the few times I’ve visited Peddler’s Village over the last couple of years. It doesn’t hurt that Peddler’s Village allows people to walk around with their cup of beer…and Crisper from Free Will is a damned fine beer to enjoy whilst walking around the lovely sights of Peddler’s Village. Again, flavorful with a low enough ABV that one pint won’t prevent you from driving home.

Peddler’s Village is about a half hour from my house, so when my wife had to go to one of the specialty shops while I was at work, she thoughtfully brought back a four pack of Crisper. She said she remembered me saying I like the style and figured it would be perfect for the summer. I married very well, to say the least because I couldn’t have been happier with this beer. If anything, it exceeded my expectations. Bottom Line: a Kölsch this good should be a staple in every brewery’s lineup.

Recommended link to Untappd 4 Bottle Cap rating.

Draught Diversions: August 2019 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…

August is like the Sunday of summers. You know the cooler weather is coming, but there are still some warm days and good time to lounge by the pool with some good beers. A variety of styles, but back to a split of 3 NJ beers and 3 non-NJ beers this month.

The Tiller – Blackberry Saison (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Czig Meister continues to rise in my personal ranks of New Jersey Breweries. Great straightforward styles, and really interesting out of the box takes on traditional styles. Saison is one of the most traditional of styles, but as the color of the beer above suggests, purple is not exactly a traditional beer color. The flavor; however, is traditional in that it hits the palate with bold flavors. The sweetness from the blackberry works extremely well with the earthy base of the saison. Great for summer, great for an anytime refreshment.

Hoponius Union (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Lager – IPL (India Pale Lager) | 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

India Pale Lagers are far from a standard, available-everywhere style and I’ve only had a couple before trying this delicious, hoppy beer. It is the top checked in beer of Jack’s Abby, a brewery that has not disappointed in their entry to New Jersey. The hops are *perfect* in this beer, you get a burst of flavor from the hops, without overtaking everything else about the beer or knocking you over the head with hops. There’s a reason this beer is the top rated (as of this writing) Lager on Beer Advocate – it is simply outstanding.

Irish Queen (Bonesaw Brewing Co) | Cream Ale | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Bonesaw is one of the NJ breweries I’ve been hearing and seeing great things about since they opened. Unfortunately, they are on the far end of the state from me, so I was happy to see one of their beers available when my wife and I went to a Trenton Thunder (AA Affiliate of the New York Yankees) for Pork Roll Fridays. On those days, they team becomes the Trenton Pork Rolls. Anyway, the beer – a Cream Ale infused with Coffee – was a perfect way to start the night, clean, extremely flavorful, and light. The best parts of an iced coffee and beer in one. Think Carton’s Regular Coffee but about a third of the ABV.

Kalon (Trustworthy Brewing Co) | Schwarzbier | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Las Vegas…not exactly a great beer city, but the hotel I was staying at for a work conference just opened an onsite brewbpub – Trustworthy Brewing. I knew I had to visit for at least a beer and when I saw this Schwarzbier, I latched onto it. A Schwarzbier is one of the more obscure, yet traditional German lagers. Smoky and roasty the same way a porter is, but it has a nice lager-y finish. The roast is just shy of being burnt so Trustworthy crafted this beer really well. This is basically a porter by way of a lager and really nice.

Saewart’s Oatmeal Stout (Highrail Brewing Company) | Stout – Oatmeal | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I’m always happy to see a new brewery open in New Jersey, it seems to happen on a monthly basis. Highrail is less than a half hour from me, which is really nice so a few weeks after their opening I stopped in and had two beers, both of which were quite good, but this edged out the other just a little bit. Like the Schwarzbier on this post, this oatmeal stout is perfectly balanced with all the flavors dialed in for harmony. A little creaminess from the oatmeal, good malted roast that evoke some coffee. Head Brewer Brian said this beer was a surprisingly great seller considering the summer release but considering the quality of the beer, I’m *not* surprised at how well it is doing for Highrail.

Underground Mountain Brown (Founders Brewing Co.) | Brown Ale – Imperial / Double | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

It has been a while since I featured a beer from Founders in a six pack and this is a really good beer. I like the base beer even before it sits in barrels – Sumatra Brown – quite a bit, so letting it sit in bourbon barrels for a year adds even more complexity to the beer. There’s a ton of coffee in this beer and aside from the flavor profile of a brown being present, the coffee is the star of the beer for me. I’m glad the bourbon was rather subtle because I think my palate has changed to the point that most barrel aged beers just aren’t doing it for me. This beer; however, is delicious and one of the better Barrel Aged Series offerings from Founders over the last couple of years.

Not necessarily new to me, but for the first time in nearly four years I had a pint of Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweis, probably my favorite American Hefeweizen. It was on draught at Gordon Ramsay’s Burger in Las Vegas. For reasons beyond my understanding, I haven’t seen this beer anywhere near me in New Jersey in about four years.

I was able to visit three new-to-me breweries in August:

  • Trustworthy Brewing Company in the Venetian in Las Vegas
  • Highrail Brewing in High Bridge, NJ (Opened late July 2019)
  • Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ – I’ve had a few of their beers, but finally visited the brewery. A great brewery for sure. Also was lucky enough to run into Mike K. of NJ Craft Beer during my visit.

Beer Review: Brasserie Dupont’s Saison Dupont (Beer Review 100!)

Name: Saison Dupont
Brewing Company: Brasserie Dupont
Location: Tourpes, Hainaut Belgium
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Saison
ABV: 6.5%

The legendary template for a beer is that world class rarity – a beer that lives up to its reputation and may even exceed it.

I love the “holes” in the fluffy head.

From Brasserie Dupont’s page for the beer:

The Saison Dupont is a top fermentation beer with refermentation in the bottle. Since 1844, this beer has been brewed in our farm-brewery, during the winter time. Then this beer became a second refermentation in the barrel. During the next summer, this very thirst-quenching beer was served to the “saisoniers” which were working on the fields.

Surely therefore, our Saison Dupont is considered as “the classic” among the Belgian season beers! Coppery blond, the finest aromas and a strong bitterness transform this beer into a thirst-quenchener with no equal, just the way it was created. Our selection of yeasts is the perfect base for these typical aromas and ditto taste. A real refermentation in the bottle, which will continue for a long time in your cellar, result into this complex and particular aromatic beer..

This is something of a momentous review – Beer Review 100 at the Tap Takeover. A little over two years to get to that number, but here it is. I wanted to do something a little special for review #100, specifically a beer held in high regard by many people, one that is fairly readily available, but one I haven’t yet tried. I finally settled on what many consider the standard bearer for the Belgian Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Saison Dupont.

Another stylistic preface – Saison/Farmhouse Ales aren’t a go to for me. I don’t dislike the style, but it isn’t always my first choice. I’ve had a little over 40 over the past few years, largely because it is a fairly widely available standard style. Most of the Saisons I’ve had are American; however. The style likely originated in the 1700s in Belgian farms in Wallonia, mostly from ingredients on the farm. The beer that eventually became Saison Dupont (or a version of it) was first brewed in 1844 and with the same recipe since the 1950s. The beer gained much more popularity in the late 1970s and 1980s after Michael Jackson visited the brewery and encouraged Dupont to partner with a US importer. All About Beer has a great article on the beer, which is where I gleaned much of the information I just spouted about the beer.

The above is all well and good, but what do I think about the beer?

Anytime a beer has the cork and cage, that tells me it is special even if the science behind this capping technique is the real reason why it is capped this way. The cork pops not unlike champagne/sparkling wine (no surprise since Belgian brewing and French wine are geographic neighbors), and out flows a beautiful earthy scent. I let the beer settle after the aggravation of the cork popping and then pour the beer. It is hazy, golden yellow, and creates a very thick and fluffy head. Even tilting the glass at 45 degrees doesn’t prevent the thick head from taking up more than half of the glass. Lots of yeast and at work in the beer for sure.

More earthy, almost bready aroma from the beer as I inhale the aroma more fully. Maybe sweetness and spice, too. I wait for the head to settle before taking a sip.

That first sip is … legendary. Beautiful, complex, potent, and flavorful. Belgian ales and Belgian style ales, in my mind, are most strongly characterized by their yeast, and that is definitely the case with this beer. Dupont has been using the same yeast/yeast strain since about the 1940s so the beer has been consistently delicious, if this batch bottled in early 2019 is any indication.

The yeast evokes pure earthiness, and a saison to me is probably the most earthy style of beer – I get slight hints of lemon, some breadiness, a sweetness throughout most of the time the beer is traversing my palate. It finishes with a bit of spiciness and a pleasant dryness.

The bottle is big, 750ml so it isn’t one to drink quickly. Compared to most other styles, I probably wouldn’t let this one warm to room temperature too much. Straight out of the bottle you get so much flavor that the only real reason to wait before taking that first pleasant sip is for the head to dissipate. Once that happens, dive in and enjoy.

This is an extremely versatile beer that I can imagine pairing with just about any meal. As the global template for the style, Saison Dupont should be readily available in most liquor stores and bottle shops. I’ve seen the beer in both the big 750ml bottles and 4 packs.

Saison Dupont is an absolutely delicious beer that is rightfully the measuring stick for every saison being produced today. All the qualities I’ve had in other saisons are on bold display here – strong yeast character, clean delicious taste, and a transportative element that transcends most other beers.

Jeff Alworth over at his Beervana Blog has a great article on Saisons, which highlights Saison Dupont. It is well worth a read, as is anything Jeff has to say about beer.

Without hesitation, I can say this beer is an absolute must-have. This is a beer that absolutely lived up to the reputation it has earned over the last 70 or so years. I know, I’m really pushing the envelope here on my 100th beer review with those statements about such a revered beer.

This is a beer that is supposed to age fairly well, so I’d like to try a bottle with a little more time on it as this bottle has a 2019 bottling date.

Recommended. Link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.