Beer Review: De Kleine Dood from Central Waters Brewing Co. & Local Option Bierwerker

Name: De Kleine Dood
Brewing Company: Central Waters Brewing Co. / Local Option Bierwerker

Location: Amherst, WI / Chicago, IL
Style: Bock – Weizenbock
ABV: 12.2%

From Central Waters’s page for “Specialty Beers:”

De Kleine Dood (formerly known as La Petite Mort) is a Belgian inspired Weizenbock brewed as a collaboration between Central Waters and The Local Option in Chicago, IL. This beer maintains the traditional characteristics of its Bavarian fore bearer, with the added complexity of Belgian ale yeast. La Petite Mort is dark amber in color; maintains a rich, full-bodied mouth-feel augmented by caramel; mild and dark fruit.

My feature on Bocks back in April should be an indicator that I enjoy the various styles of Bocks, with Weizenbock maybe my favorite of the Bocks. So when I stumbled across a Weizenbock I hadn’t tried, let alone knew about from a brewery that seems to have a solid reputation, I knew I had to give it a try.

Of the styles of Bock, the Weizenbock or Doppelbocks have the highest ABV (in the 7%-9% range) so imagine how big the beer would be if it aged in bourbon barrels. Well, Central Waters Brewing who has a solid Barrel Aging series as part of their brewing portfolio apparently were also curious how that would work. The result, in collaboration with Local Option Bierwerker out of Chicago, is this potent, rich, complex beer.

The beer pours a beautiful deep crimson/scarlet, a red bordering on brown. The photo doesn’t do the color of the beer justice. On color alone, this is one of the loveliest brews I’ve poured. The bourbon is extremely strong in the aroma, it really dominates although there is a slight hint of earthy/stone fruit in the undercurrent of the beer.

First sip…yep, that bourbon is omnipresent. Underneath it, the figgy/date/plum flavors evoked by the yeast are there, too. My first impression is that this is a long sipping dessert beer, but the flavors are muted a bit by the cold temperature. So, I just kept breathing in the beer every few minutes before each small sip so the beer could warm closer to room temperature.

Once it warms up, like most high ABV beers, especially those aged in barrels that previously held some kind of alcohol, the flavors can breathe. The beer comes into its full flavor profile and those stone fruit evocations from the yeast rise to the top. I managed to take about two hours to drink the full 22 oz, over that time, the bourbon settled down and the fruitiness evoked by the yeast became more prominent, even if the bourbon still dominated. I didn’t get much of the banana flavors that typically come from a weizenbock, but that wasn’t really a problem. At 12.2% even taking two hours to drink the beer still had a noticeable effect on me – about the only sensible thing to do after enjoying 22oz of a 12.2% beer is go to sleep.

The beer’s description does confuse me a little, I’ll be honest. A Weizenbock is one of the more Germanic styles of beer, yet the description says “Belgian inspired Weizenbock.” I suppose sine the fruit evocation is more of the stone fruit than a banana like flavor from true German brews the description does make sense. Either way, this is a really tasty beer and I would love to sample the base beer before it is aged in the bourbon barrel.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest – Weihenstephan (2018)

Name: Oktoberfest – Weihenstephan (2018)
Brewing Company: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. / Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan

Location: Chico, CA / Freising, BY Germany
Style: Märzen
ABV: 6%

From Sierra Nevada’s page for Oktoberfest: (This will likely change when the next year’s Oktoberfest beer begins to be marketed)

We’ve partnered with Bavaria’s Weihenstephan, the world’s oldest brewery, for this American take on the classic German Oktoberfest. A malt backbone is balanced by subtle hop character in this crisp, clean, and drinkable crowd-pleaser. Nothing captures the spirit of celebration like a beer among friends.

Oktoberfest 2018 is almost here! Get out your lederhose and dirndls, and join us in Chico, or Mills River for an epic party! Or try your hand at the Oktoberfest Game while you wait for the big event!

Since 2015, Sierra Nevada has been collaborating with a German brewery for their annual Oktoberfest offering and if my posts last year about their Beer Camp project was any indication (here and here), few breweries collaborate as often or as well as Sierra Nevada. I’ve enjoyed each of the last three years’ collaborations (Brauhaus Riegele [2015], Mars Bräu [2016], Brauhaus Miltenberger [2017]), so when Sierra Nevada announced they would be collaborating with Weihenstephan, perhaps my favorite German brewery to brew a Hefeweizen (Braupakt, which is a must have Hefeweizen) and an Oktoberfest, I was excited.

As one of the most recognizable styles of beers, Oktoberfests are pretty straightforward. What you should typically expect is an amber, dark golden lager with sweet malty overtones, with some hints of caramel and maybe even a hint of floral.

The beer looks exactly like you’d want an Oktobefest to look – golden amber in color. The head wasn’t too thick, but the aroma gave me exactly what I’d hoped for – a little bit of sweetness and a touch of hops. First sip hit my tongue and it was extremely tasty. I had to go for a large gulp on the second one, let it sit in my mouth to really taste it all. Yep, that caramel and malt are there and the carbonation was perfect. This is one of the better Oktoberfests I’ve had over the last couple of years and a really nice collaboration. In short, this beer lived up to my expectations. As of this writing, I’ve had three different Oktoberfest beers this season and so far this one is the best. Admittedly, that isn’t too large a sample size as I usually try at least a half-dozen Oktoberfest beers in late September and early October. Be that as it may, Sierra Nevada’s 2018 Oktoberfest collaboration with Weihenstephan is the perfect beer to enjoy this time of year and a must have.

A few brief notes about the label. While I like it, and it does evoke the traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest banner, I don’t like how it departs from the previous Oktoberfest collaborations. Sierra Nevada has redesigned some of their labels over the past year or so to mixed results. For example, they really need to go back to the classic label for their Narwhal Imperial Stout.

I know I’ve featured Sierra Nevada on The Tap Takeover quite frequently, and I try to vary it up with the beers I review, but with the Oktoberfest season upon us and just how delicious this beer is, I wanted to highlight it. Then again, this is my blog and I can write about whatever I choose.

Sierra Nevada  has a fun little Oktoberfest Game to while away your free time.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2018 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…

The longest, largest, and lager-est beer holiday is nearly upon us. Of course, I am referencing Oktoberfest – the time of year when German beers and German inspired beers are celebrated. Well, when they should be celebrated since some Oktoberfest beers begin hitting shelves late July and August. There are many, many, interpretations of the style from which to choose as nearly every brewery seeks to capitalize on the season and take the chance to brew a lager. Since we’re about a week and a couple of days away from the official start of Oktobefest (September 22, 2018), what better time to highlight a few I may try this year.

The Kaiser Avery Brewing (Newport, OR)

Image courtesy of Avery Brewing’s Web site

How do I *not* at least mention an Oktoberfest named The Kaiser? Avery, like many Colorado breweries, has a tendency to lean into Ales, particularly hopped up ales. Much of what they brew can be considered over the top so of course they push the limit on the Oktoberfest beer by brewing an “Imperial” Oktoberfest with nearly double the ABV.

What Avery says about the beer:

Just in time for fall and its most notable Fest, this limited release Imperial Oktoberfest Lager is our emboldened Prost! to one of the world’s most recognized styles. The Kaiser weaves together rich, toasted Vienna and Munich malts with the floral spiciness of Hersbrucker and Bravo hops to create a bold and brazen dry Imperial Oktoberfest.

Octoberfest Beer – Bell’s Brewing Company (Comstock, MI)

Image courtesy of Bell’s Brewing’s Web site

With Bell’s hitting NJ earlier in the year coupled with how much I’ve enjoyed the half-dozen beers I’ve had from them, I do want to give their Märzen a try. Everything I’ve had from them has fallen into the Ale half of the brewing divide so I’d like to see what they can do with a Lager.

Bell’s says this about the beer:

Crafted as a flavorful session beer and perfect for autumn, Octoberfest spends a full six weeks fermenting.

With herbal hop aromas, this balanced amber lager focuses on lightly toasted malt that lends body without too much sweetness. Perfect for a week-long wedding celebration in Germany or the start of the Michigan autumn.

Oktoberfest – Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, FL)

Image courtesy of Cigar City Brewing’s Web site

Cigar City made a decent splash when they first started distributing in NJ a couple of years ago, especially with their highly acclaimed Jai Alai IPA. Skimming through untappd, this one seems to connect correctly with folks looking for a quality Oktoberfest. That said, there is a bit of a contradiction for a brewery based in a state with temperatures averaging 80 degrees brewing a beer primarily associated with cooler autumn weather.

What Cigar City Says about the beer:

In Florida the changing of seasons is decidedly more subtle than in most other places. Palm fronds rarely turn brilliant red and orange the way leaves do in the rest of the country, and for Floridians sweaters exist only as rumor. We at Cigar City rely heavily on our seasonal beers to mark the passing of each month and few beers are better at heralding the arrival of autumn than our Oktoberfest Lager.

Our Festbier nods firmly toward the style’s history with it’s amber color, bready malt complexity and restrained hop flavor and bitterness. At the heart of this beer is a malt bill of six different German malt varieties, including a generous helping of Munich malt. After adding Hallertauer Mittlefruh hops we ferment the beer with an authentic Bavarian lager yeast, resulting in a clean, dry and complex lager that’s at once intriguing and drinkable.

Oktoberfest (Marzen Style) – (Hackettstown, NJ )

Image courtesy of Jersey Girl’s Facebook page

I had to include at least one NJ brewery in this post since quite a few around me brew a version of the style. Of the half-dozen beers I’ve had from Jersey Girl, I’ve really enjoyed them all. I like that these are 16oz cans, as is all of Jersey Girl’s canned beer. Also, I’m not going to lie, I really like the label on this one.

What Jersey Girl says about the beer:

With an ABV of 5.9%, it’s a delicious Copper Hued Märzen. Oktoberfest started as a festival where the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal wedding of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese. In honor of this celebration we have brewed a medium bodied, Copper Hued lager.

Oktoberfest – Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI)

Image courtesy of Lakefront Brewery’s Web site

I’ve seen good things about Lakefront’s interpretation of the style (3.90 bottle caps on untappd) and I’ve had a handful of pretty good brews from the Milwaukee regional brewery. I don’t see their beers everywhere near me, but in enough of the liquor stores in my travel radius that snagging some shouldn’t be a problem. At the least, maybe I’ll throw a mix-six pack together at Wegmans and try to grab this one.

What Lakefront says about the beer:

The radiant copper-orange hue and rocky, off-white head of our traditional Märzen-style lager comes from generous amounts of Munich malt. Caramel malt aromas complement the German lager yeast’s slightly floral aroma. Mt. Hood hops balance the substantial malt body, while the lager yeast adds a subtlety to the flavor, making this a great rendition of a classic German lager. Prost!

Oktoberfest – von Trapp Brewing (Stowe, VT)

Image courtesy of von Trapp Brewing’s Web site

From one of the most Germanic of all breweries in America, von Trapp’s Oktoberfest one I’d like to try. I’ve enjoyed their Bock and their Helles Lager quite a bit, so I’m interested in tasting their take on the iconic style.

What von Trapp says about the beer:

The Bronze Medalist at the Great International Beer Festival and Attitash Oktoberfest “Best Brew Award” in both 2015 and 2016.

Oktoberfest is brewed with a blend of light and dark Munich Malts, which not only adds to its depth but delivers a residual sweetness. Carmel and toffee notes linger but are balanced by the subtle hops additions in this beer. We use hallertau and Tettnang hops which adds a floral yet peppery aroma to this beer. It’s our take on this traditional fest beer.

So there it is, my 2018 Oktoberfest Six Pack. I hope to try at least one or two of these over the next few weeks. Perhaps as you head into the coming weekend and prepare for next weekend’s (09/22/18) official start to Oktoberfest 2018, you’ll give one of these a try.

Beer Review: North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin

Name: Old Rasputin
Brewing Company: North Coast Brewing Co.
Location: Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9%

From North Coast Brewing’s page for Old Rasputin:

Produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia’s Catherine the Great, Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It’s a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish.

The Old Rasputin brand image is a drawing of Rasputin with a phrase in Russian encircling it — A sincere friend is not born instantly.

The Russian Imperial Stout is perhaps the biggest, boldest of all stouts. In most cases, it is the stout with the most pronounced hop presence. As the name implies, this style received the name because they were first brewed for Emperor Peter the Great of Russia. (or Catherine the Great?) Regardless, North Coast’s take on the style aptly named Old Rasputin is probably the most iconic and widely known American interpretation of the style.

I’ve had a few Russian Imperial Stouts (I even reviewed one from Carton) but generally, the barrel-aged versions are the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. For the longest time, the hop assertiveness wasn’t for me. Since I started enjoying more hop-forward beers I wanted to give one a try, one that wasn’t barrel aged so why not go for the granddaddy or “ded” of the style?

The most noticeable element, initially, is how dark this beer is. I’ve had PLENTY of stouts, over 200, and Old Rasputin is one of the darkest stouts I’ve ever poured. This beer has presence, especially with that old Russian mystic staring at you from the bottle. The most pronounced element of the beer’s aroma was the roasted malts, I think. Atop the beer is a thick, fluffy head that looks like a frothy cappuccino head.

That aroma is a pretty good indicator of what to expect with the beer. There’s a lot of bittersweet in the beer, maybe some chocolate hints and maybe even some toffee. I’ve seen some comments / reviews of the beer that mention hints of cherry, but I didn’t get that at all. Most of these flavors come from the malts but the hops aren’t going to let you forget about them.

The hops have a big bite, but not unpleasant for me. The roasted malt brings most of the flavor in the beer and their potential sweetness is balanced out the hop presence. While this is a big, flavorful beer and the hops are assertive, I would have guessed the IBU lower than 75 IBU. In many ways, this almost a chewable beer for how thick and robust it is.

I had a bottle of Old Rasputin many years ago, long before being on untappd, so I can’t remember exactly how the beer worked for me. Now? Seems like it should be an annual acquisition as nights get cooler and the big bastard of a beer will help warm the soul.

Unsurprisingly, North Coast brews a barrel-aged version of the beer that I may have to try. As it stands, Old Rasputin is rightfully an iconic beer of the style. With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and tag this beer as an American Craft Beer Classic.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

For a great history of Old Rasputin, check out Jeff Alworth’s piece on All About Beer.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Imperial Czar (Level 5)

Originally created and brewed for Russian Emperor Peter the Great, the Russian Imperial Stout has a history as rich as it’s roasty, hoppy flavor. That’s 25 different beers with the style of Russian Imperial Stout!

2X (Level 31)

When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 155 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.

 

Draught Diversions: August 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…

I still had plenty of summer beers leftover from the Fourth of July party, but there was definitely room for some new beers, too. As always, the beers I feature here weren’t part of any other post. In other words, while I loved the Steam Whistle Pilsner, I featured the brewery and the beer in a post last week. As is often the case, half of the beers called out are NJ beers.

Luponic Distortion: Revolution No. 010 (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) IPA – American – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been enjoying Firestone’s beers over the past couple of months, this is the 10th in their series of IPAs featuring “flavors through hops” and the bottle is pretty accurate on the evocative flavors of peach and citrus. Oh, there’s still that bitter hop profile, but this is a solid IPA. In fact, when my wife makes chicken wings using the recipe from Cooking with Beer, the recipe calls for brining the chicken in a pale ale or IPA. For the most recent batch of those wings, we used this beer and the wings were delicious.

Wrath Aged In Bourbon Barrels With Coffee And Vanilla (2018) Stout – Russian Imperial (Demented Brewing Company) – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

When I mentioned NJ breweries celebrating anniversaries a few weeks ago, I neglected to call out Demented. Well, they had their 3rd anniversary party on August 19th and released 3 variants of their popular Russian Imperial Stout – Wrath. For me, the standout was the variant aged in bourbon narrels with coffee and vanilla. A delicious, full flavored stout.

Fruit-Full Fort (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) Strong Ale – Other 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Again, Dogfish shows up here on a monthly six-pack. I’ve been really digging the old-school craft breweries like Dogfish and Firestone as of late. This beer is bordering on wine territory or even a drinkable boozy fruit jam with the level of alcohol and fruit, but still has the qualities of a beer. Four berries (Blue-, Boysen-, Rasp-, and Elder-) provide the fruit profile. I really was able to discern the four berries and enjoyed this beer as a lovely dessert sipper. At 18% ABV, this isn’t something to chug. If anything, maybe it is something to split with a friend.

Process Pils Pilsner – German (Conclave Brewing) – 4.75 bottle Caps on untappd

 

I’ve made no bones about Conclave being my favorite local brewery. Like I said about Carton, I don’t think it is possible for Carl, Tim, and Bryan to make a bad beer. Much of their output has been Ales (IPAs, Pales, and Stouts) so it was nice to see the lager-loving Bryan produce a Pilsner/Lager. This beer is sublime, elegant, beautiful, and delicious. Easily one of my favorite NJ beers and a top pilsner for me. (I stopped in the following week and had their tasty Hefeweizen (Sommer) and Session Ale (Paper Castles).

Curmudgeon’s Better Half Old Ale (Founders Brewering Company) 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This is a beer I’ve heard about for years. Last brewed in 2012, Curmudgeon’s Better Half is one of Founders’ legendary barrel aged beers. Curmudgeon is a malty, molasses heavy Old Ale and this version takes the beer and ages in Maple Syrup Bourbon Barrels. I enjoyed Curmudgeon quite a bit. The esters from the beer are smoothed out a bit from the sweet Oak Aging. The flavor was outstanding, the body was a little thin. I’m going to let one of these sit for about a year, I think..

Smash the Golds (&telier – Carton Brewing Company/Barrier Brewing Company) Lager – Pale 4.25 bottle caps on untappd

Made an impromptu visit to Carton Brewing on the last day of the month, which is always a smart move. Over the past few months, Carton has been playing the collaboration game under the &telier name and this is their (second?) collaboration with Barrier Brewing out of Oceanside, NY. This lager is unlike most lagers I’ve had, there’s a fruity, almost buttery finish to the beer that makes this real pleasing. It drinks mostly a lager, but that finish threw me off in a good way.

So, not a terrible beer in this group like last month, but a couple of mediocre beers this past month. In past months, I’ve featured at least one beer that wasn’t great so for fairness sake, I’ll mention two disappointing beers: Samuel Adams’ Raspberry Gose (barely any sour/tartness from the beer) and Pabst’s new beer, American Pale Ale which is far less tasteful than their flagship PBR, which is a solid mass-produced Lager.

Draught Diversions: Steam Whistle Brewing (Toronto, Canada)

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…

Here’s a change of locale for a brewery post, North of the US border in fact. For my job, I’ve traveled fairly frequently this year to the tune of about one business trip per month. I don’t always have time or the opportunity to do much more than stick to the work/conference schedule for these business trips, but on one recent occasion, a brewery was literally across the street from where I was spending much of my time, so I of course had to visit. The location? Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The brewery? Steam Whistle Brewing.

The water tower is visible from blocks away, a beacon to follow for well-crafted beer.

Toronto is one of the Great North American cities and is Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s inspiration for the fictional DC Comics city of Metropolis, home to the Daily Star (now Planet) and of course Superman. Be that as it may, at the hub of downtown Toronto is the Metro Toronto Convention Center (where I was spending much of my time), Rogers Centre (home of the Toronto Blue Jays), and the world famous CN Tower. Near all those locations, directly across the street from the MTCC and adjacent to the CN Tower is Steam Whistle Brewing, which occupies an historic railway Roundhouse, thus the name Steam Whistle.

Steam Whistle is a relatively small brewery, especially in terms of what they produce. That focus; however, on ingredients, process, and care has allowed the founders of the brewery to create a delicious Pilsner.

Image courtesy of Steam Whistle Brewing’s Website

Walking in, the first thing I noticed was how bright and inviting the brewery was. There were some tables in the back near the brew tanks and a nice bar with friendly bartenders. Also noticeable – only two taps. That’s right, Steam Whistle only pours two beers – a Pilsner and an unfiltered version of the Pilsner. In essence, just one beer. And one beer using the tried and true four simple ingredients of a classic beer (from the “our beer” page on Steam Whistle’s Web site):

Steam Whistle is one of the only remaining Pilsners in the world that still adheres to the strict standards of the Bavarian Purity Act of 1516. We brew using only pure spring water, malted barley, hops and yeast. No corn syrup, no foam enhancers, no artificial preservatives.

The brewery has received several awards, including Toronto’s best microbrewery as well as other awards for the beer, for the brewery, as a workplace, and for how green/environmentally conscientious the brewery is. But to win those awards on essentially one beer is pretty fascinating. Sure, untappd will show other beers the brewery has made as one offs, but by and large Steam Whistle staked its reputation on a finely crafted Pilsner.

The delicious, fresh Pilsner I enjoyed at Steam Whistle Brewing.

…and what a delicious Pilsner it is (my untappd check in). The convention center had cans of the beer for one of the evening events, but I wanted to wait to try the beer fresh at the brewery and I’m glad I did. I haven’t had too many Canadian beers so I wasn’t sure how they’d compare to beers from America or Germany. But this beer, in its fresh from tap pour is absolutely fantastic and one of the better Pilsners I’ve had recently. This is a treat of a beer that shows just how simple basic ingredients can create an elegantly crafted beer at the hands of a master. Of course, I’ve been on a Pilsner kick for the past couple of months so that may have factored into how receptive my taste buds were to the beer, if I’m being totally fair.

The variety of ways you can take home some Steam Whistle Pilsner, including their award winning Suitcase pack.

The first day I visited I had the large pour of the Pilsner. The brewery is, as I said, a great space and with the international nature of Toronto, naturally going to attract people from all over the world by virtue of its location. I had the chance to chat with a chap from Scotland about the beer and other worldly things. I was about halfway through my beer when the brewery filled up very quickly. A Toronto Blue Jays game had just concluded and as I was exiting, there was a line to get into the brewery since it was at maximum capacity. I suspect they have this problem very often.

The second day, just before jumping on the train to the airport, I had the unfiltered version of the Pilsner (my untappd check in) which I enjoyed even more than the standard Pilsner.

The Unfiltered Pilsner, only an 8oz pour, may have been a tad better than the standard Pilsner.

I remarked to the bartender how delicious the beer was and lamented the fact that Steam Whistle is only available in Canada and not in the States. He said that may be changing. If the brewers are able to maintain the flavor and a hint of the freshness in the beer as it journeys across the border, that will be good thing for fans of well-crafted Pilsner in the US.

Full view of the front of the Roundhouse

I don’t know how many folks reading this will be visiting Toronto, but I can without hesitation heartily recommend a visit to Steam Whistle Brewing.

Beer Review: Jersey Girl Brewing’s Rake Breaker

Name: Rake Breaker
Brewing Company: Jersey Girl Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: New England Style IPA (Jersey Girl) / India Pale Ale – American (untappd)
ABV: 6.5%

From Jersey Girl Brewing’s beers page:

Tropical IPA with Mosaic and Amarillo. Fresh, and incredibly drinkable. A tornado of tropical hops will be sure to break your perception of traditional bitter IPAs.

Jersey Girl has been around the NJ beer scene for a few years now and I was lucky enough to visit the brewery last November. Supposedly, the name came about because the mash rake used in the brewing process broke because there was so much grain in the brew. At the time, I was relatively averse to IPAs so I didn’t try any of their hop-forward ales. What I had I enjoyed, but as they were tasters/part of a flight and the last brewery of five I visited that day, I didn’t feel a review of any of those beers would be appropriate or truly reflective of my true experience with the beer. Then I had their flagship IPA Rake Breaker and I knew I had to write about the beer.

When the waiter at 22 Tap and Grill delivered the beer to me, I was very pleased at the look. There’s a hazy, bright, inviting look to the beer that looks like the juicier IPAs I’ve come to enjoy. A whiff of the beer brought the hoped-for citrus/hoppy aroma I was hoping to get, which proved to be a nice hint of what the beer would deliver.

The first sip matched the aroma really well. A great combination of citrusy hops with a really nice grasping hop bite on the finish. Second sip was much of the same, proving Rake Breaker to be a really balanced India Pale Ale. Although untappd calls this an “American IPA,” I’ve seen Jersey Girl refer to this as a New England or Northeast Style IPA.

Whether this is a true New England IPA (I lean towards yes, based on the citrusy hops and the look of the beer) or an American IPA, Rake Breaker is an extremely pleasing IPA. The Mosiac hop is a really nice hop that has become more prevalent over the past couple of years because of the way it brings the bitterness, aroma, and citrus/sweet flavors together. The Amarillo also has a nice citrus profile, too. The two hops combined bring the citrusy hops together for that pleasing flavor I mentioned earlier.

As I said, I overlooked this beer (despite it being something of a flagship for Jersey Girl) when I visited the brewery for my birthday tour last year. I won’t make the mistake again. With all the buzz that breweries like Carton, Kane, Twin Elephant, Cape May, and Three 3’s gets for their IPAs, Rake Breaker shouldn’t be lost in that shuffle and overlooked. In other words, a quality IPA that proudly represents the quality of brewing one can and should expect from a New Jersey brewery.

My only minor complaint isn’t necessarily about the beer itself, but about the availability. I see plenty of NJ brews in the stores in my immediate travel radius (i.e. the liquor stores on my way home from work), including beers from fellow Hackettstown brewery Czig Meister. For whatever reason, I haven’t seen Jersey Girl’s beers in those same shops since the brewery first started canning and distributing. On the other hand, I have been looking for an excuse to make the drive up to Hackettstown again.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 26)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 130 different IPAs.