Draught Diversions: November 2020 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…

November brought a copious amount of new beers, thanks in part the annual Birthday Beer Tour my wife took me on this year in Northeast New Jersey. I’ve already written about Four City Brewing in Orange, NJ but we also visited Brix City in Little Ferry, NJ (one of their beers I reviewed earlier in November); Seven Tribesmen in Wayne, NJ; ate dinner at the Gaslight Brewpub, and finished our journey at Ashton Brewing. I’ve had several delicious beers from Ashton over the last year, but that day was the first time I enjoyed a beer in their outdoor biergarten.

Even in addition to that, I was fortunate enough to have a wide variety of beers thanks to some work colleagues and my dad. Enough of a prologue, let’s dive into what I had and enjoyed.

Campfire Amplifier (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) | Stout – Milk / Sweet | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

It has been quite a while since I had a new to me Dogfish Head beer (almost 2 years ago), but 90 and 60 minute are good ubiquitous beers I’ve enjoyed throughout the year. When I saw they were brewing and bottling a milk stout with cinnamon, graham crackers, and marshmallow, I knew I wanted it. I’m glad I grabbed a six pack because this is a fine beer. I enjoyed the second bottle a couple of nights later and liked it even more. The marshmallows bring sweetness while there’s a little kick from the cinnamon (I would have even liked more of a kick) makes this a nice beer.

Hollow Sea (Kane Brewing Company) | Lager – Euro Dark (Tmavé Pivo/Czech Dark Lager) | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

 

Although primarily known for barrel-aged ales and IPAs, Kane brews across all styles so when I saw a Dark Lager I’d wanted to try in the past finally hit cans and distribution, I wasn’t going to miss out on this beer. As readers of the Tap Takeover might know, I love lagers, but  Ihaven’t had too many of the Czech Dark variety (or Tmavé Pivo as known across the pond). This beer is delicious with the bready malts evoking toasted pumpernickel (and that may be a visual connection because the beer’s color) with a low ABV of 5.5% Not many American breweries are producing and packaging Czech Dark Lagers, but more should.

Berry Noir (Boulevard Brewing Co) | Sour – Fruited | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Boulevard is a brewery whose portfolio of beers is impressively diverse, but getting their delicious beers in NJ is a game of hit or miss. Fortunately, a work associate who lives near Kansas City was kind enough to send me a box of beers from them, including this absolutely delicious fruited sour. For all the sweet and tart berry flavors in the beer, there’s a crisp apple element, as well. In addition to the outstanding taste, it is always cool to have a purple beer.

Toasted Coconut Flood Stoud (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Last year, I had Jersey Cyclone’s Flood Imperial Stout (and I have it every time I visit the brewery and it is on tap), it is a stout using only the core four ingredients and is comparable to Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal. Earlier this year, Jersey Cyclone bottled two variants, a chocolate cherry version, and this bottle which is fantastic. The toasted coconut is mild, but present and is a nice balance to the extremely potent hop presence. I’m hoping the Chocolate Cherry version is still available because I think I need to try that.

Unfiltered Pilsner (Jester King Brewery) | Pilsner – German| 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Jester King is one of the more well-known breweries out of Texas so when my Dad was able to procure a can of their Unfiltered Pilsner, I was intrigued because I’ve never had a Jester King beer and I like Unfiltered Pilsners. This beer is a well-crafted Pilsners, very flavorful and makes me wish more breweries would release/package unfiltered Pilsners. This one is crisp and bready and does what a Pilsner should do.

Welcome to Jersey City 2020 (902 Brewing) | Stout – Imperial/Double| 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

After about 5 years in the business of brewing beer, 902 Brewing opened their facility (production plus tasting/tap room) earlier this year. To commemorate their opening,  902 brewed this delicious Imperial Stout. I got a bottle of this for my dad for his birthday in September and he spoke highly of it and one of my friends who snagged a bottle also enjoyed it, so with my proverbial arms twisted, I figured I just had to grab a bottle for myself. I was extremely impressed with this beer, the malt brings a very sweet flavor profile with hints of chocolate and there’s a lesser hop presence than I would have expected. I’m looking forward to visiting their taproom in Jersey City and enjoying more beers from 902 Brewing

Only one really bad beer, and it was one of the worst I can remember having in quite a while. Even More Coco Jesus from Evil Twin was a mess of a beer, too many flavors blended very poorly. There’s maple syrup in the beer and it tasted like sour, bad, maple syrup. This was one of the most undrinkable beers I’ve ever had. I had one of their “More Jesus” beers last year and it tasted like burnt olives mixed with nail polish remover, so I think I’m done with that line of beers.

Until next month, Cheers!

Beer Review: Pocket Treats (2020) from Listermann Brewing Company & WeldWerks Brewing Company

Name: Pocket Treats (2020)
Brewing Company: Listermann Brewing Company / WeldWerks Brewing Company
Location: Cincinnati, OH / Greely, CO
Style: IPA – Triple New England
ABV: 10%

“A superb blend of hops makes this beer a delicious bomb of flavor.”

Beer description from the untappd page for the beer:

Triple NE IPA brewed with Galaxy, El Dorado, Citra, & Sultana hops.

As I was reviewing my electronic archive of beer reviews, I realized the last IPA I reviewed was way back in May of this year (2020). When I was given this Triple IPA by my father and I tasted how delicious it was, I knew I’d want to review it. What sets a Triple IPA apart from it’s lower-tiered siblings? Most Triple IPAs are upwards of 9.5% ABV, are brewed with insane amounts of hops, more malt than standard IPAs, and a more pronounced hop resin feel to the beer.

I’ve known about WeldWerks for quite a while, Listermann was relatively new to me before this beer. What I know of WeldWerks is from a friend in Colorado who swears by their IPAs, so I thought this beer might be good.

I was NOT prepared for this beer, which is a compliment. Granted, this was only the fifth Triple IPA I’ve drank since joining untapped in 2014 so maybe I wasn’t prepared (and two other Triple IPAs were from the same brewery).

Out of the can, the beer is yellow-orange, with a pleasant cloudiness to the look. It pours fairly thick, as one might expect from a high ABV stout (yes, stout). Aroma is very hoppy with hints of tropical fruit, which is the standard aroma of a Triple IPA of the New England variety.

I am very pleased with that first sip, copious hops define everything about this beer. The overall flavor is of juicy, tropical hops, maybe orange and pineapple, along with some kind of melon maybe? While I can’t pinpoint the specific fruits that give the tropical flavor of the hops, I can say it is delicious. Galaxy is a great hop that can evoke some peachy elements and that could be part of the overall flavor profile and is a hop I seek out when I’m in the mood for an IPA. Sultana and El Dorado bring additional tropical and stone fruit flavors that help to give the beer a nice big, pleasant hop punch.

The feel of the beer is a little chewy, syrupy, and resinous, which is what I’ve come to expect from these kinds of uber-hopped beers. In some ways, I’m reminded of Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute in all the best ways. Overall, the one word I’d use to describe this beer is Dank.

Given this is a beer with a very high ABV (10%) and large hop flavor, the beer bursts with even more pronounced flavors as it warms.

Pocket Treats is an outstanding hop-forward beer from two great breweries and although seemingly canned in limited quantities, is a beer worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Tripping on TIPAs (Level 1)

Packed with a powerful punch of high alcohol hoppiness, Triple IPAs will definitely hit you hard. Often featuring a sweet flavor profile, these boozy brews can sneak up on you.

Draught Diversions: Four City Brewing (Orange, 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…

Four City Brewing in Orange, NJ has been generating some positive buzz since opening their doors for business about a year ago (2019). Their average beer rating on untappd is about 3.75 / 5, with many beers landing above a 4-bottle cap rating and a few friends rating their beers quite higher than that. Four City Brewing is one of three black-owned breweries in New Jersey (the other two are Montclair Brewing Company and Hackensack Brewing Company), too.

Four City Badge from Untappd

Four City is in a pretty good location, close to the downtown area of Orange and across the street from the Orange NJ Transit train station. Orange also has a history of brewing; Rheingold Beer, once one of the most popular beers in the NY/NJ area, brewed beer in Orange, but shut its doors in 1980. The beautiful building, once a warehouse and coal facility, is now a mixed use space developed by L+M Partners with the brewery just one element in the revitalization of the Downtown Orange. The space is very simply, a beautiful brewery. A very inviting exterior, a welcoming interior, as well as the friendly staff, help to make this brewery look so good.

Before the brewery opened, a lot of passion, work, and effort went into its creation. Like the origin story for many breweries, owners Roger Apollon Jr., Jeff Gattens, and Anthony Minervino were homebrewers who unofficially (or really, I suppose officially) called themselves “The Brew Council.” For about fifteen years, Roger sought out different beers wherever he went, before meeting Anthony and Jeff. As the brewery ramped up, they hired a full time head brewer, Joe Vitale. That was all about a year ago. They all settled on Orange as the location because they are all from the area and in addition to Rheingold once calling Orange home, way back in 1901, the Winter Brothers’ Orange Brewery was in the Township. The name, “Four City” honors the four Oranges of NJ (West, East, South, and Orange). As will become evident, many of the beer names are homages/tributes to the local diversity and history of the area. The design of the brewery, the design of the logo, and most of the can labels are very consistent. In other words, Four City has established a very strong brand identity.

The taproom is fairly large at 4,700 square feet and the tanks are visible, but I don’t recall what brewery’s barrel capacity is. What Jeff Gattens told me during our conversation was that Four City has a canning line and they have enough capacity to allow them to brew and can beer for their friends at Hoboken Brewing. The day of my visit, 11 beers were available in cans and 21 beers available on draught. There is some overlap there, for example, their flagship Pale Ale Citrus City was available in both Cans and on draught. In other words, Four City has a great set up to be a production facility that also can house patrons on site.

Four City’s Beer Menu, November 7, 2020

The day was unseasonably warm for November (I was wearing shorts). When we arrived, we were seated at a table inside, with all the tables amply spaced out for social distancing. The door was open and the coolish breeze was blowing through the brewery. The extremely friendly beertender greeted us and took our orders. While Four City wasn’t doing flights, they were pouring “medium” pours, which I think were about 8oz.

“Medium” Pour of Citrus City Pale Ale

I went with the flagship, Citrus City, the Belgian Dubbel, St. Cloud (reviewed Tuesday, 11/17) and Quad City, the Quadrupel. It isn’t often I see both a Dubbel and a Quadrupel (one of my favorite styles) on draught, so I felt very compelled to get Four City’s interpretation of these two styles that tend not to be uber-prevalent. I was very impressed with Citrus City, to the point I regret not bringing home a four pack of the beer especially since it has three of my favorite hops: Citra, Simcoe, and Centennial hops. It was everything I hope to enjoy a Pale Ale…hints of citrus, with hops and malt expertly balanced. The beer was very clean and would be a great beer for the cooler. I reviewed St. Cloud, so that leaves Quad City to discuss, albeit briefly. Wow. Simply, wow. There is so much flavor to this beer, hints of dates and figs from the potent yeast, a very sweet beer whose 10.2% ABV is dangerously masked. This is a fantastic Quadrupel.

“Medium” Pour of the delicious Quad City Quadrupel

As I noted above, many of the beers pay tribute to the history/diversity of the region. Citrus City is a fairly obvious homage to the nickname of the brewery’s home town. A series of IPAs, Hedison’s Phonograph are named in honor of West Orange’s Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph. The Miseducation of Loral Hops pays tribute to megastar Lauryn Hill of South Orange, NJ, Sak Pasé (a fruited Berliner Weisse) is a Haitian Creole greeting for “What’s Up?” and there’s a sizeable Haitian contingent in the Oranges; Brewellyn Park is an IPA named for West Orange’s Llewellyn Park; Eagle Rocktoberfest (a Märzen) takes its name from the Eagle Rock landmark; Brick Church is a dark wheat ale takes its name from the eponymous landmark minutes from the brewery, and 55 Sour Essex Ave is a Berliner Weisse named for the brewery’s address, and so on.

Four City Can Collage, images courtesy of Four City’s Facebook

Talking about the pandemic is unavoidable at this point, but Four City was in a decent position to pivot. The aforementioned canning line in the facility allowed them to package their beer for the home delivery now being allowed in the State of New Jersey. Also during the pandemic, Four City celebrated their 1st anniversary with four different beers: Hedison’s Medison with three different hops rather than the standard single hop; Darker than Blue, a pastry stout with cacao nibs, maple syrup, and raspberries; You Down Wit FCB, a witbier (the name is an homage to 90s rapgroup Naughty by Nature’s song “O.P.P.” and if you are humming that song as you read this then I suspect we’re about the same age); and It’s Better Than Yours, a Milkshake IPA who takes its name from the lyrics of the song “Milkshake.”

Four City Anniversary Beers, courtesy of Four City’s Facebook

Although Four City is just over a year old, they’ve already garnered some national recognition. Being a Black-owned brewery is one way they’ve stood out, not just in New Jersey, but nationally. There’s been a beer festival in Pittsburgh the last few years called Fresh Fest, which features Black-owned breweries. In 2020, Four City collaborated with Shu Brew of Zelienople, PA on a Dark Ale with Oreos, cacao, vanilla, coffee, and lactose they’ve called Brewers Gonna Work it Out. That sounds like a beer I want yesterday. Some of their beer has become available on Tavour, as well.

Four City/ShuBru Brewers Gonna Work it Out courtesy of hopculturemag via Four City’s Facebook

Prior to the Pandemic, Four City hosted onsite events, including Halloween parties, a night for a meet and greet with local artists, a Holiday Beerzar, a “Brews and Culture” night of local music, a cornhole tournament, and the requisite yoga nights. These events, along with the owners’ deep roots in the region, deep respect they have for the community, and honor they show with their beer names adds up to one thing in my mind. Just over one year into their existence, Four City Brewing is something of a template, or ideal of what a community Craft Brewery should be.

The goodies I brought home from my visit to Four City

Since Four City was part of a tour of a few breweries fairly close together (a tradition for my birthday over the last few years), there are obviously a handful in the area that could comprise a similar tour. Montclair Brewery is the closest at 4 miles away, and we tried to visit, but they were extremely packed and because of the social distancing rules of the Pandemic, we couldn’t stick around because we had reservations at other places during the day. Also very close is the Gaslight Brewpub, which is where we went after Four City for dinner, they’ve got really good food. Melovino Meadery is about 5 miles away, Ghost Hawk Brewing, Magnify Brewing, and Cricket Hill Brewing (the latter two of I’ve visited) are relatively close at about 11 miles away.

The Kegstand, a delicious American Lager

I’ve written quite a bit about Four City Brewing at this point. One thing should be very clear – I like the brewery a lot. Between supporting local independent businesses, supporting black-owned breweries, and supporting breweries that make super beer, Four City is a must visit for those reasons. Four City Brewing is comfortably near the top of the 50 or so “new to me” breweries I’ve visited over the last few years and I look forward to visiting again.

Some other links of interest and sources of information for this post:

Four City Brewing’s Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Four City Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Four City Brewing on Beer Advocate | Four City Brewing on Untappd

Beer Review: Four City Brewing’s St. Cloud Dubbel

Name: St. Cloud
Brewing Company: Four City Brewing Company
Location: Orange, NJ
Style: Belgian Dubbel
ABV: 7.6%

A well made interpretation of the Belgian classic Ale.

Draught pour at the brewery

 

From the untappd entry for beer:

Our Belgian ale made with pilsner, pale and Munich malt with a generous amount of dark Belgian candi syrup

I’d been seeing good things about Four City Brewing over the last year or so of their existence, mainly from friends on untappd who have had a few of their beers. As such, I was very pleased to visit during my annual birthday beer tour. What I found even more pleasantly surprising was a Belgian Dubbel on draught (and available in cans). I like the style, but to say it isn’t in the upper tier of popular craft styles is an understatement, so when I see one available, I’m going to try it.

In the Belgian Tulip glass, the beer looks exactly the part, slightly brown and rusty with a creamy head. Aroma is strongly of the Belgian yeast. From a visual perspective, as well as an aromatic perspective, this Belgian Dubbel is true to style.

But what about the taste?

St. Cloud passes what I am now dubbing my “first sip test.” I get a lot of flavors and the texture/mouthfeel I associate with Belgian Dubbels; I’m impressed. The yeast is almost always the driving flavor factor in Belgian Dubbels (and most Belgian inspired styles for that matter) and that seems to be the case with St. Cloud. I get a very rich evocation of flavors, some stone fruit elements and maybe banana hints as well, which many yeast strains evoke. When I had the beer at the brewery, it was a potent blend of flavors and a beer to sip. Out of the can, the same elements help to lend a more measured approach to consuming. There’s a lot of flavor and enjoying the beer slowly allows one to appreciate the full profile of the beer.

Four City St. Cloud, an impressively delicious Belgian Dubbel

Perhaps what rings true strongest between Four City’s St. Cloud and the world class Dubbels I’ve had (Ommegang’s Abbey Ale and the Dubbel from Westmalle) is the mouthfeel (again, I hate that word). The carbonation and yeast give the beer a hefty weight, a chewiness that proves St. Cloud as a significant and rich beer. Fortunately, St. Cloud also hits the flavor notes of the style quite successfully, too.

I expected to have some good beers from Four City, but those expectations were for quality in their American styles (big stouts, hop-forward beers) like their American Pale Ale Citrus City which is a great beer. What I didn’t expect upon arrival at Four City was being so impressed with the nuance required for the classic Belgian styles like a Dubbel, which some say is a tough style to brew with high quality. Well, Four City Brewing has shown their true measure of quality with this beer.

Later in the week (Thursday), expect to see a full spotlight on Four City Brewing.

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle-cap Untappd check-in

Beer Review: Brix City Brewing’s Fruitastic Voyage: Mango, Orange, Peach

Name: Fruitastic Voyage: Mango, Orange, Peach
Brewing Company: Brix City Brewing
Location: Little Ferry, NJ
Style: Sour – Fruited Gose
ABV: 6.5%

A tart ale bursting with stone fruit flavors, a delightful American interpretation of a German classic.

Draught pour at the brewery

From the untappd entry for beer:

Our heavily fruited, lightly salted, Gose returns! Fruitastic Voyage is brewed with Lactose and a touch of Fleur de Sel before being conditioned on double the amount of fruit as our Acid Blend series. For this newest batch, we conditioned this beer on an absurd amount of Mango Purée+Orange Purée+Peach Purée for a refreshing, over-the-top, fruit forward drinking experience. Come along and ride on a fruitastic voyage! // Lightly tart with notes of soft fleshy peaches, ripe mango, yellow Starbursts, and balancing salt.

Brix City in Little Ferry, NJ has gained a reputation over their last five years of being in business for brewing flavorful, fruited sour ales and Hazy IPAs. When I visited the brewery (on my Birthday in November) it was sunny and unseasonably warm in the 70s or 80s. When I saw this Gose on draft, I was very happy because the style is a great warm weather beer for enjoying outside with friends, which just so happened to describe the day exactly.

When the beer arrived, I wouldn’t have immediately pegged the beer as a Gose, it looked like an extremely hazy IPA or an unfiltered beer. When I passed the beer in front of my nose, I smelled some funk and fruit aromas from the beer, which disabused my initial notion that this is an IPA.

Image courtesy of Brix City’s facebook

The first sip tells me I made the correct decision to start the day with this beer. Huge fruit flavors assert themselves off the bat. Mango is one of my favorite fruits and Mango, in my taste buds, seems to be the most dominant of the three fruits. The peach is also prominent as well, but the two stone fruits complement each other very nicely any time they are paired together. The orange is subtle, but the acidic nature of that fruit, I think, brings a good balance to the sweet mango and peach.

In the description above, Fleur de Sel is called out as a brewing component, which sounds very fancy. I only just discovered that Fleur de Sel is salt and while I don’t get the level of salinity in this beer that I’ve tasted in other Gose/Gose-style ales, I think the salt is another additional balance on the fruit. Which makes Fruitastic Voyage almost a reverse Gose since salinity in the traditional Gose as brewed in Leipzig Germany is a natural component of the region’s water. Here the salt is added and I’m going to guess it was added so that the extremely copious levels of fruit in the beer are balanced and not cloying..

However the folks at Brix City achieved the end product that is this beer, it was successful. This version of Fruitastic Voyage with Mango, Orange, and Peach, is a knockout of a beer. I’d call it a Gose turned up to eleven and since this is a series of beers, I’ll definitely be seeking out the other fruited variants of this beer. The only other thing I’ll note about this beer is the ABV at 6.5% is a little higher than most Gose I’ve had which have largely been below 5% ABV. Not a negative point against the beer, just worth noting that it follows the theme of Brix hewing to their own path while also brewing an old world style.

I’ve only had 5 total beers from Brix over the years so based on this beer (and the Get Puft IPA I had during my visit), I really need to seek out their beers more often. Fortunately, their beers are often in the refrigerator at the liquor stores near me.

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle-cap Untappd check-in

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

What Gose Round (Level 6)

First brewed in the early 16th century, this peculiar flavored beer has made quite the come back. With a tart, salty combination, your taste buds are probably still tingling… and excited for more!

Draught Diversions: October 2020 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…

Shorter days, darker nights, and cooler temperatures arrive in October. Bigger beers begin to dominate the shelves in October although seasonal creep for Christmas Beers is also the norm now as favorites like Tröegs Mad Elf began appearing in the middle of the month. October 2020’s six pack includes beers from long time favorites, one new brewery, and a brewery I should be seeking out more often. A variety of styles this October; a couple of IPAs, a couple of dark beers, and a barleywine. Let’s dive in, shall we?

I Voted (Troon Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Troon brews some of the most sought-after beers in the State of New Jersey, with a reputation for big stouts, kettle sours, and hazy hoppy ales. (They rarely call their beers “IPA”) So when I took my wife on a wonderful socially-distanced tour of Sourland Mountain Spirits (on the same large farm complex), I had a pour of this beer at the Brick Farm Tavern (also on the big farm complex). This beer is a delicious, hazy IPA with a magnificent blend of hops. Now that I know how close Brick Farm Tavern is (which is a person’s best shot at getting a Troon beer), I’ll have to stop there in the future.

HopCyclone Hazy DIPA (Tröegs Independent Brewing) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4.25 bottle caps on untappd


It has been far too long since I had a new beer from Tröegs and I haven’t had a new IPA in my fridge for a while. HopCyclone ticked off both of those boxes and is an outstanding New England style IPA. There’s a blend of four hops in this beer, Citra, Sabro, Sultana, and Simcoe, which are a great combination. I like Simcoe quite a bit and that seems to shine through really nicely, overall the beer has pleasant hints of citrus, peach, and pineapple. Plain and simple, HopCyclone is a great beer.

Workingman’s Dublin Porter (Toms River Brewing) | Porter – Other | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Tom’s River Brewing keeps impressing me. This is an Irish-inspired Dublin porter, which isn’t a surprise considering the brewery’s roots. Madagascar Vanilla beans and local honey add another layer of flavor to the beer. What those adjuncts do in this beer is soften the bitterness of the coffee, for an overall tasty beer.

Whip (Carton Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Sully photobombing this shot. Pilsners, especially great ones, are perfect for sitting on the porch relaxing while your dog keeps watch over the yard.

Carton has been brewing and canning a series of Pilsners over the past few months, this one they are calling an “American Pilsner.” I call it a delicious Lager/Pilsner. There’s a very clean flavor profile with the core four elements of beer working in harmony. This maybe the lightest yellow pilsner I can remember having, but damn if it isn’t a fine beer.

Chocolate Caramel Cookie Sharing Size (Free Will Brewing Co.) | Stout – Imperial / Double Oatmeal | 4.5 bottle caps on untappd

Free Will Brewing has a taproom in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA and during the month of October, there was a socially distanced haunted walking ghost tour called Murder Mystery: Homicide and Hauntings from Without a Cue, which was a blast. Of course I grabbed a beer from Free Will, this is their Hallowe’en beer, four different stouts inspired by popular Hallowe’en candy. This one is inspired by the famous “right cookie” and “left cookie” brand and was an outstandingly balanced sweet stout, brewed in collaboration with Breweries in PA. Cool label art, too

Helldorado (2017) | Firestone Walker Brewing Company | Barleywine – American | 4.5 bottle caps on untappd

Firestone Walker calls this a “Blonde Barleywine,” I call it an outstanding barrel-aged big beer. Firestone Walker has such skill with barrel aging so when I noticed a local shop had a 3-year old barrel aged barleywine from these masters of blending and barrel aging, there was no way I was NOT getting myself a bottle, especially at a $9 price tag. This is one of the best barleywines I’ve ever had. The beer has a strong bourbon aroma and the flavors that emerge include vanilla, chewy hops, toffee, and caramel. Simply an outstanding beer.

Another solid month overall for new beers, I could have easily highlighted 8 to 10 beers this month. Only one real drainpour, a Salted Caramel Pumpkin Ale, which was disgustingly oversweet.

Beer Review: Icarus Brewing’s Kalishnikoffee: PSL

Name: Kalishnikoffee: PSL
Brewing Company: Icarus Brewing
Location: Lakewood, NJ
Style: Stout – Russian Imperial
ABV: 14.5%

A big, tasty, flavorful stout from one of NJ’s top breweries that imparts flavors of the most ubiquitous of fall beverages.

From the untappd entry for beer:

Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Wildflower Honey, Brown Sugar, Cinamon and Nutmeg. Conditioned on a blend of Fresh Coffee and Vanilla Beans.

This is not the pumpkin beer you’re looking for…. Icarus Brewing (who I’ve made no bones about being one of my favorite, maybe my top favorite, NJ brewery) is able to produce a delicious variety of beers from few base recipes for a couple of series. One of those “multitasker” (to borrow an Alton Brown phrase) recipes or series is Kalishnikov, their Russian Imperial Stout, which has seen quite a few variants, some of which I’ve had, including a delicious barrel aged version.

This version looks to emulate that ever present fall drink, the pumpkin spice latte (i.e. the “PSL” of the beer name). While there are no pumpkins in this beer, the spices associated with Pumpkin Pie – cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, along with the beer having been conditioned on Coffee and Vanilla Beans – help this the beer evoke autumn, at least in name. The standard Kalishknov is brewed with honey…so yeah, a decent amount of additional flavor components in the beer.

Pouring the beer into the glass, it mostly looks the part of a big burly, Russian Imperial Stout. It isn’t pitch black, exactly, but rather a black that was mixed with a very deep brown. The aroma gives off hints of the malt and spices, so nothing out of the unexpected.

The first sip is of autumn. As I said, I’ve had and enjoyed a few different variants of this beer, in addition to a couple barrel-aged versions of Icarus’s Russian Imperial Stouts and this beer seems to match up to those expectations nicely. As I have more of the beer and it warms up, those autumnally associated spices begin to awaken, with the nutmeg asserting itself a tad more strongly than the cinnamon.

In past versions of this beer, the wildflower honey balances out the bitterness inherently associated with Russian Imperial Stout, from a style perspective. The autumnal spices mask the honey and accentuate the bitterness of the coffee adjunct, and combined with the vanilla, give the beer a very earthy overall flavors for me.

Although there is no Pumpkin in this beer, the additional spices normally associated with the gourd are and that’s where the additional flavor elements of this beer shine. Hell, pumpkin itself isn’t a all that flavorful, but it holds the spices quite nicely, as does this beer. The ever-present honey in the “Kalishnikoff” line of stouts from Icarus helps to enhance the overall potency of the spices.

Playing with a proven fan favorite beer in their Kalishnikoff Russian Imperial Stout and mixing it up with the autumnal spices of the ubiquitous coffee beverage, Icarus has yet another winning beer in their portfolio.

Highly recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check-in

Beer Review: NOSFERATU from Great Lakes Brewing Company

Name: Nosferatu
Brewing Company: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Location: Cleveland, OH
Style: Red Ale – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8% | IBU: 70%

“A great balance of hops and malt help to define an American Craft classic and a seasonal Hallowe’en Classic.”

 

From Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Nosferatu page:

Don’t be afraid of things that go hop in the night! Rich roasted malt flavors haunt the shadows of our Imperial Red Ale’s bitter teeth.

FLAVOR
Ruby red in color with a toasty malt body lurking beneath a stunning hop bite.

Great Lakes Brewing is one of the most respected independent American brewing companies of the last few decades. One of their seasonal favorites (along with their outstanding Oktoberfest and Christmas Ale) is Nosferatu, a hoppy, malty Imperial Red Ale, the beer spotlighted today.

I’ve had quite a few beers from Great Lakes, I’ve enjoyed most of them to a fairly significant degree but Red Ales haven’t been much of a go to for me. A few things led me to finally grabbing a four pack of this beer:

  • Hallowe’en is approaching, one of my favorite holidays/times of the year
  • I’m long-time fan of horror fiction, and the Vampire/Nosferatu is one of the most iconic horror images
  • Seeing this beer favorably compared to an all-time favorite in Tröeg’s Nugget Nectar

In other words, this beer brings together my love of great beer and dark tales.

The pop of the bottle cap is a nice sound I don’t hear too often any more, most of the beers I’ve been drinking have been out of cans. As for the beer that pours into my glass – yep, that’s a red ale. A deep red that is somewhere between amber and crimson, in my eyes. There’s a nice foamy head initially, too. Aroma is a little bit of hoppiness, but to be honest, nothing else too noteworthy. It smells like a beer.

There’s a very prominent hop presence in that first sip. Given the relatively high IBU level of 70, that’s not a surprise. It is not off-putting the way some overly hopped beers are because Great Lakes brewed this beer with a significant level of malts, three kinds, that provide a caramel sweetness to balance the hops. Going by the fact sheet on Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site, the hops used here are Simcoe and Cascade, both extremely popular hops and hops that helped to drive the hop-forward beer movement of the 90s and early 2000s. Simcoe has emerged, for me, as a favorite in recent years so it was especially nice to see its pronounced flavor complemented by the great Cascade hop in Nosferatu. I had a second bottle about a week after the first bottle and the Simcoe hops help to make this beer work so well for me.

Insert standard suggestion for higher ABV beer to let the beer open up to room temperature a little for greater enjoyment.

The name of the beer and label are immediately recognizable, the silent film Nosferatu is a film that has left an indelible mark on horror genre and the vampire mythos. The beer is a worthy homage to that image and character – Nosferatu the beer is a wonderful, complementary marriage of hops and malt that gives a flavor worth savoring.

Nestled in with some classic Vampire novels, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin, They  Thirst by Robert R. McCammon, ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Dracula (Annotated) by Brahm Stoker, I Am Legend by iIchard Matheson, The Southern Vampire’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. Review links to a few at the end of the post

A beer like Nosferatu is a bold reminder that some beers with a little bit of history behind them are worth enjoying now and in the future. It is also a beer that helps to showcase the great diversity in the portfolio of Great Lakes Brewing Company. Given the name of the beer, the eye-catching imagery of the label, and most importantly, the bold, delicious flavor, I can understand why Nosferatu has been an annual favorite from Great Lakes Brewing Company. I know it will be in my refrigerator for Halloweens to come.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

*Those aforementioned book reviews:

Beer Review: Cosm of Darkness (Timber Ales/Eight State Brewing Collaboration)

Name: Cosm of Darkness
Brewing Company: Timber Ales in collaboration with The Eight State Brewing Company
Location: New York, NY / Greenville, SC
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 12%

“An outstanding Imperial Stout crafted with multiple adjuncts that is a bounty of flavor.”

From the untappd description of the beer:

Cosm of Darkness is an Imperial Stout brewed in collaboration with our friends from The Eighth State Brewing Company. This beer has been aged on Ugandan vanilla beans and cassia bark before being canned for your enjoyment.

Few beers are as welcome on a cool evening as a big, bold stout. Timber Ales is a relatively new brewing company, a contract brewer at that, but they have burst out of the gates with big stouts/barrel-aged stouts and barleywines/barrel-aged barleywines, as well as the requisite IPAs. One of my local shops had a single of this beer for sale and based on hearing Jason Stein on Al Gattullo’s Craft Beer Podcast, I had to give a beer from Timber Ales a try.

Pouring the beer into the glass, all I see is darkness and I like it. As the head forms, there’s a hint brownish red, which is a slightly different tone than a typical stout. Aroma from the beer hints at the vanilla the can indicates is in the beer. This looks to be, and has the aroma of, everything I want in a big Imperial Stout.

There’s something else to the beer at the outset lending additional layers to the look and aroma. I assume it is the cassia bark. Before having this beer, I never heard of cassia bark. A quick google search educated me – it is essentially a form of cinnamon. In theory, cinnamon and vanilla pair very nicely together. In practice, in the form of this beer…oh hell yeah.

First sip is of roasted malts with hints of vanilla with the cassia bark shining through. Those three elements are the basis of the flavor of the beer and they all play together perfectly, with the cassia bark perhaps being the star of the trio. It is definitely cinnamon, but unlike cinnamon I’ve had in the past. Especially cinnamon in beer.

Like all big beers (and this is a gigantic beer at 12%), the flavors emerge to a greater, and more delicious degree, as the beer settles from the cold of the fridge to room temperature. Again, as the beer warms, the cassia bark is what is most prominent to me as a lovely compliment to the roasted malts and vanilla.

Jason, I believe, began as a homebrewer and has since partnered with Twelve Percent Beer Project in Connecticut where all of Timber Ales are brewed. Seems like a great partnership, at least based on this beer.

Cosm of Darkness is an outstanding Imperial Stout that is a great beer to enjoy over the course of an hour or so. Based on this beer, I’ll be seeking out more beer from Timber Ales.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Beyond a Shadow of a Stout (Level 65)

We all love Stouts, and now we have a dedicated badge to celebrate your dedication to these dark, top-fermented beer in multiple variations, like Oatmeal, Milk and more! Which one will you start with? That’s 325 different beers with the style of Stout. Try 5 more for Level 66!

 

 

Beer Review: Tonewood Brewing’s Woodland Lager

Name: Woodland Lager
Brewing Company: Tonewood Brewing Company
Location: Oaklyn, NJ
Style: Lager – American
ABV: 5%

“Tonewood brings an interesting brewing technique to a classic lager style for something unique and flavorful”

From Tonewood Brewing’s page for Woodland Lager:

A traditionally brewed lager aged in an all American Oak foeder. This beer has notes of oak, soft vanilla, and pillowy marshmallow, finished out with crisp notes of fresh baked biscuit and floral lilac.

Tonewood is a brewery that has been impressing me with each new beer I’ve had and the latest to do so is this beer, Woodland Lager. I follow Tonewood on Instagram and when this beer popped up as a pending release, I was very intrigued by the description of the beer and was hoping this Woodland Lager would make it into their distribution footprint. It did, thus this review. 😊

I’ve had several higher alcohol beers aged in some form of wood (stouts, porters, dopplebocks) and wild/sour ales aged in wood, but very few low ABV lagers aged in wood, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. How much would the wood/oak foeder change or modify the taste of the lager?

When the beer fills up the glass, it looks more like a witbier than a lager to my eyes. The color and even the head give me that impression. I’m already a little perplexed, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The aroma is more lager than the appearance would lead me to believe; however.

There’s a subtle sweetness that is noticeable on first sip. But this is definitely a lager with the malt elements lending hints of soft bread or crackers. Something else is underlying the traditional lager flavors, which likely comes from the beer having been aged in that Oak foeder. That “something else” is very pleasant and complements the classic lager flavor nicely.

What are those flavors? Well, there’s some hints of vanilla, undoubtedly which likely comes from the oak. I mentioned the malt elements lending soft bread, but more specifically, this beer is like vanilla sweet bread, w/slightly burnt edges, baked in an oak pan. It is utterly sublime, not like many other beers, specifically not like any lagers I can recall drinking.

The ultimate proof of how much I enjoyed the beer is this:  I barely finished the first 16oz can before I cracked open the second can. Woodland Lager is one of the more fascinating lagers I’ve ever had. This beer is a great example of the interesting kinds of beers Tonewood seems to be crafting on a regular basis.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.