Draught Diversions: Man Skirt Brewing

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…

No pants, just great beer!

 

This week’s brewery focused post features Manskirt Brewing in Hackettstown, NJ, one of three fine breweries in the Northwestern town in New Jersey. This brewery was part of the 2017 Birthday Brewery Tour and the first one we visited in Hackettstown.  I’d heard/read good things about the brewery over the last couple of years and enjoyed the beers I had from them, so Man Skirt was fairly high on the list of breweries I wanted to visit.

Although Joe Fisher had the name “Manskirt” in 2008 when he was homebrewing, the doors opened in 2015 in what is an old bank (United Jersey and People’s Bank of New Jersey), which actually makes for a great gathering space. Joe launched a kickstarter to help open the brewery and in the two years since opening, they’ve built a nice reputation for tasty beer. Hackettstown has a pretty active Main Street and the former bank, which Manskirt calls home, is a prominent, hard-to-miss building along the strip. As a former bank, that would make sense (and cents to torture you all with a horrible pun).

But, converting an old bank to a production brewery took a significant amount of work. Joe kept the flavor of the bank since it is such an iconic building in Hackettstown having been in existence for nearly one-hundred years including the vault’s survival during a major fire in Downtown in the 1940s.

All that history is fine and dandy, but when it comes to a brewery, the most important element is the liquid. With a couple of core beers, including the fantastic Great Porter, Joe Fisher has something good going. I’d had that tasty porter prior to visiting the brewery (I think at Garden State Brewfest 2016), so I went for a few different beers in my flight. The first of those beers was another of Manskirt’s launch/flagship beers, Better than Pants, a tasty English Bitter. I haven’t had too many English Bitters so I can’t speak to how it represents the style, but I liked it very much and could think of far worse beers to have sitting in my refrigerator on a regular basis.

The bar top continues the “bank” theme with pennies under a glass top.

Rounding out the flight choices from the eight beers on tap was a tart Berliner Weisse dubbed Once, Twice, Weisse that hit the style notes well but could have maybe benefited from a fruit/sweet syrup addition. Since it was the beginning of November, their Oktoberfest was still on tap, which is nice representation of the classic German lager. Rounding out the flight was a very interesting and potent Saison, Cracked the Code. At 8.2% the ABV is a little higher than most Saisons. The addition of cracked peppercorns complement the yeast and other components quite nicely for a good early fall beer.

At the aforementioned Garden State Brewfest, I had two other beers from then brand new Manskirt: pleaTed wheaT a tasty hefeweizen brewed in collaboration with Linden, NJ’s Two Ton Brewing and Luftweizen Weizenbock. I think they still brew the pleaTed wheaT in the summer, I’m not too sure about the Weizenbock.

As I said, the brewery space is really good for gatherings, there’s ample room at the bar and some long tables setup allowing for quite a few people to enjoy their beer together. In fact, on the day I visited, I happened to run into a couple of friends from a past job who also part of the Brews and Board Games group that meets monthly at Lone Eagle Brewing. Truth be told, Brandon helped me to join the group at Lone Eagle. Man Skirt has plenty of events at their brewery, including a monthly trivia night and regular Yoga and Beer nights, which seems to be a thing many breweries are doing now.

From what I’ve gathered on social media (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), owner/brewer Joe Fisher is exactly the type of guy who should own a micro/craft/independent brewery in NJ. I’ve remarked previously how great the NJ Craft Beer community is, in terms of helping each other grow, looking out for the community as a whole, and the great collaborations. Joe seems to have as much passion for the community as he does for making his delicious beer. He’s brewed a couple of collaboration beers with other NJ Brewers and enthusiastically posts about beer from other NJ Breweries like Ramstein and Lone Eagle Brewing.

Man Skirt has been canning some of their beers, primarily two of the flagship beers (The Great Porter and Better than Pants) which are stored in the old bank vault. The brewery is well worth visiting as the staff are affable and welcoming and at least on the day I was there, the patrons were genial and friendly, giving the brewery a wonderful atmosphere. Of the five breweries we visited that day, I think I enjoyed the atmosphere at Man Skirt the most. I’d visit more regularly if it was just a bit closer and will probably head up to Hackettstown to check out what new brews Joe has on tap at some point in the future.

Sources and additional reading:

Best of NJ: Brew Jersey (August 2017)
I DRINK GOOD BEER blog (June 2016)
New Jersey Isn’t Boring (June 2016)
The Daily Record (October 2015)

Beer Review: Double Nickel Brewing Company Pilsner

Name: Double Nickel Pilsner
Brewing Company: Double Nickel Brewing Company
Location: Pennsauken, NJ
Style: Pilsner – German
ABV: 5.6%

Proper glassware

From the beer’s description on the side of the can:

A classically styled clean and crisp option for the lite beer drinker and beer geek alike. Our modern take on a traditional German pilsner is golden in color and perfectly balanced.

Pilsners – one of the classic and most widespread styles of beer the world around. Popularly brewed in Czechoslovakia and Germany, as well as America, the style was popularized by a certain brewery based in Milwaukee. As a result, the style may have fallen slightly out of favor in some circles, though the style has gained some more respect in recent years starting with the landmark American interpretation from Victory Brewing: Prima Pils. That said, beer journalist and expert John Holl (among others) has said the mark of a good brewer is if that brewery can produce a good pilsner.

Which, of course, leads to the subject of this post. Double Nickel Brewing in Pennsauken has been part of the growth, some might say boom (or boon), of Craft Beer in New Jersey over the last few years. They brew straightforward, classic styles including this wonderful pilsner I recently tried.

Out of the can, the beer pours a lovely straw-golden yellow and when poured properly into a Pilsner glass, emits a perfect, frothy head. The beer fills the glass more hazy than I would expect for a pilsner, but still, it presents just as a pilsner should. There isn’t too strong of an aroma with this brew, but the underlying hops are definitely present.

The beer tastes, note for note, exactly like you’d expect a pilsner to taste minus the mass-produced elements from the Big Beer makers. There’s a little bit of citrus overtone throughout, too. The hops aren’t overpowering at all, but are present as an integral element of the beer. Balanced, crisp, refreshing.

Double Nickel’s Pilsner is an extremely approachable beer, especially for folks who just want their Budweisers and Miller Lites and are wary of of “that snooty craft beer the hipsters are drinking.” What makes the beer so good is how the beer hits all the notes a classic pilsner should hit and is just simply a delicious beer. While approachable to non-craft beer drinkers, this pilsner will also please seasoned craft beer drinkers who’ve been enjoying Victory’s Prima Pils, Two Roads’s Ol’Factory Pilsner, or Tröegs’ Sunshine Pils. Double Nickel Brewing has made a beer that easily sits in the fridge with those American Craft interpretations of the classic German style.

Although the brewery is just over two years old, they are already changing the labels on their core line-up of beers. The new label for the Pilsner is below (courtesy of reddit).

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Badge Earned:

Crisp as Day (Level 8)

bdg_pilsner_lg

Light and crisp, a Pilsner is all you need to make your day great. Though, perhaps another one would make it even better.

Draught Diversions: 6 Beers of Christmas Future (2017)

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…

So here we are with part two of my Twelve Beers of Christmas duology. Why twelve beers? Well, that’s fairly obvious since beer comes in six-packs and many, many breweries will distribute 12-pack variety packs featuring multiple seasonal brews like Samuel Adams, Dogfish Head, Saranac,  and Sierra Nevada to name the most prominent ones. Whereas the previous Christmas 2017 Beer post shone the light on beers I’ve had and enjoyed during past Winters and Christmases, today’s post features a half dozen Christmas/Holiday/Winter beers I’d like to try in the future, as in this year for at least a few of those beers. I suppose the fairest way to highlight these beers is alphabetical by beer name, so here goes…

Belgian Freeze (River Horse Brewing, Ewing Township, NJ)
A brewery I haven’t written about very often, especially considering how much I enjoy the majority of the brewery’s portfolio coupled with having visited the brewery is New Jersey’s own River Horse Brewing. River Horse is one of the original New Jersey Craft breweries (they started in 1995 and were reinvigorated in 2007). The one beer from the Ewing Township brewery I’ve highlighted on the Tap Takeover is their Summer Blonde (my favorite summer ale). The “sister” or complementary seasonal offering to that is, Belgian Freeze which is considered a Belgian Dark Ale. This is a beer that’s always around bottle shops, but for whatever reason I never picked up a six pack or even a single in the mixed six packs at Wegman’s. I’ve liked nearly every beer from River Horse, so a beer that plays to the Belgian styles I’ve been drawn to more recently should be a beer I enjoy.

Holiday Ale (Two Roads Brewing, Stratford, Connecticut)
As readers of this blog may be aware, Two Roads is one of my favorite breweries. As all the posts at the link to the left where I at least mention Two Roads demonstrates. They are a relatively new brewery, only about 5 years old (starting in 2012), and I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve had from them. I’ve yet to try their Holiday Ale, the style Two Roads went with for their holiday offering is a very obscure style and I can only recall trying one in the style previously: Biere de Garde. This beer, according to Two Roads, is a Biere de Noel, a holiday take on the French style of beer. France is not a country that comes to mind when I think of beer and brewing traditions, but the fine folks at Two Roads are experts on all styles so I expect this will be a tasty, malty brew.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep (Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY)
Ommegang brews mostly in Belgian styles, but seeing something slightly askew from their typical line of brews can be welcome. Such is the case with Lovely, Dark, and Deep, an Oatmeal Stout listed on their Web site as a “Winter Ale.” Outside of the Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout, I don’t recall Ommegang making many (or any) stouts. Makes sense since there is no true Belgian Stout style, just a “Dark Ale.” That said, I remember seeing this last year and passing on it, but I think I’ll go for a six at some point this year. I really like oatmeal stouts (in fact, River Horse’s Oatmeal Milk Stout is one of my favorite stouts) so this one seems like a no-brainer for me.

Santa’s Private Reserve (Rogue Brewery, Newport, Oregon)
This seminal Christmas beer from Rogue seems to have changed up the recipe in 2017. In past years, I recall this being an Imperial Read, which makes sense considering Santa’s attire. I don’t typically gravitate to Red Ales, their hop profile isn’t to my usual liking. I may have even had an earlier version of Santas’s Private Reserve years ago, but I can’t recall. This year; however, Rogue lists the beer Belgian Strong Ale with Cherries & Raspberries which sounds wonderful. This beer is available only in 22oz bombs and probably on draft.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (Brewery St Bernard, Watou, Belgium)
Having tried Delirium Noël / Christmas for the first time last year, I think I need to try one of the other Belgian Christmas classics. Going through my untappd account feed, people seem to hold St. Bernardus Christmas Ale in just as high regard, in terms of Belgian Christmas beers. I even saw some comments to the effect that if folks like Delirium Noël, then they should try St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. This one is even darker than Delirium and is listed on Beer Advocate as a Quad at 10% ABV. I had and really enjoyed St. Bernardus Prior 8 earlier in the year, which is a classic Belgian Dubbel so I expect the Christmas Ale would sit well with me, too.

10 Lords a Leaping (The Bruery, Placentia, California)
The Bruery
is a very high-end Craft Brewer out of California who only seems to distribute their beer in 750ml bottles and on draft. They’ve been working a long game, in terms of brewing projects – The Twelve Beers of Christmas. When I got deeper into the Craft Beer world a couple of years ago, I discovered this line of beers with the eighth installment, 8 Maids-a-Milking which I loved. I may have enjoyed the 2016 installment 9 Ladies Dancing even more. I’m really, really looking forward to the 2017 installment and tenth beer 10 Lords a Leaping which they call a dark wit and includes, appropriately enough, 10 different spices. I can’t say I’ve had any dark witbiers, but this sounds delicious. FWIW, untappd lists it as a “Belgian Strong Dark Ale.”

So there you have it. 6 beers I hope to try this Christmas and Winter Season. Don’t know if I’ll get to all of them (hopefully a couple of the 12 oz bottles are available at my local Wegmans so I can “craft my own six pack“), but I expect to have at least a few of them.

Draught Diversions: 6 Beers of Christmas Past & Present (2017)

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…

Just like Thanksgiving, Christmas is a time for gathering with family and enjoying a hearty meal. I’ve written about Christmas beers on my other blog in the past, so I’ll touch on some over here at The Tap Takeover. Many breweries brew Winter Ales (darker, maltier beers that often have some kind of cinnamon/nutmeg spic component) while still others brew Christmas Ales, specifically. Today’s post of half-dozen beers, I’ll touch on six I try to have every Christmas/Winter along listing a few I’ve enjoyed. I’ll do another post focusing on Christmas/Winter beers I’m hoping to try this year.

I’ve mentioned Great Lakes Brewing company in past Draught Diversions in the past for their variety of beers. One of their big seasonal brews (maybe their most prominent) is the Christmas Ale which I’ve been enjoying every Christmas for the past few years. I felt like I hit jackpot a couple of years back when a local growler filling station had a keg of this. Where many winter ales have cinnamon as a prominent spice, Great Lakes adds honey to balance the spice for a beer that is great to enjoy while trimming the Christmas Tree, wrapping presents, or gathering with friends on cold winter nights.

One of the best beers in Samuel Adams/Boston Beer’s annual line up is the classic Christmas / Winter Ale, Old Fezziwig Ale. With cinnamon and ginger playing together in the rich malt, Fezziwig is a beer people have been begging Jim Koch to release in six packs for years. Alas, the beer is available annually in the Winter Classics variety pack along with stalwarts Boston Lager and Winter Lager and usually some kind of bock, most often a Chocolate Bock. More than any beer in the Samuel Adams lineup, I really wish they hadn’t changed the label for this beer and kept our top-hatted friend (pictured above) on the label rather than just the “icon” of a top hat.

I’ve found myself writing about Tröegs in a lot of these posts, for good reason. The independent brewing brothers craft wonderful beers and a highlight every year is the Belgian Strong Dark Ale brewed with Honey and Cherries known the world ‘round as Mad Elf. This is one of the beers that helped to put Tröegs on the map years ago. Every year around Christmas, somebody at one of the many parties I’m at (family and friends alike) has at least a six pack of this one to share. One year, one of my uncles brought the giant 101 ml bottle to Christmas Eve and we all had to finish it. That isn’t a complaint, but I think I appreciate the beer now more than I have in the past.

As long as I can remember drinking and enjoying beer, Harpoon Winter Warmer has been around and I’ve been enjoying at least a six pack every holiday season. This one is similar to Old Fezziwig, though not quite as malty. One year, around Christmas time, we had a anniversary party for my in-laws. When stocking up on the liquor for the party, the liquor store mischarged me for Winter Warmer, I paid the six-pack price for the whole case. In any event, there’s a lot of nostalgia for me around this beer. This is one case of a label change I do like.

A classic Belgian Christmas beer I had for the first time on Christmas Day 2016, but one that I’ll be sure to have this year and in the future is Delirium Noël / Christmas.  Huyghe Brewery in Belgium, which brews most of the beers under the Delirium brand is immediately recognizable from its pink elephant mascot. The Christmas beer is a Strong Dark Belgian Ale  brewed for the first time in 2000 from what I can tell on their Web site. This is beer is filled with spices and hints of stone fruits like plums and cherries, which mixes so wonderfully with the Belgian yeasts. This was one of the most flavorful Christmas beers I had when I first tried it Christmas 2016. Either that or I was so accustomed to the American beers and Delirium Noël / Christmas with its stark Belgian character gave me something different that I immediately considered a favorite.

Last, and certainly not least, is the granddaddy of all American Christmas beers, Anchor’s Merry Christmas & Happy New Year beer. The first holiday beer in Craft Brewing, Anchor first brewed a version of this beer in 1975, a year after I was born, so this one is almost as old as me. I think I’ve had about 6 or 7 versions of the beer, either in six packs or grabbing a bottle at the Wegman’s near me in their “Craft Your Own Six Pack.” I enjoyed last year’s so much, I’ll have to get a six pack this year.

On my next post (this Thursday) I’ll ponder six Christmas / Winter beers I hope to try this year or early next year.

Draught Diversions: November 2017 Beer Pours

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…

A great variety of beer passed across my palette in November 2017 due, in large part, to the North Jersey Brewery tour my wife took me on for my birthday in the middle of the month. I’ve already highlighted one of those breweries, Angry Erik, and I’ll briefly touch on the four other breweries later in the post as I may wind up doing a feature/full Draught Diversion on at least one of those breweries. That, combined with visiting a couple of my very local breweries and some other assorted beers throughout the month really shine the focus on New Jersey breweries for November. Since the last day of November was on a Thursday (when Draught Diversions normally posts), I figured I’d hold the post for an extra day to squeeze in that one last new beer.

Proper Glassware x2, snifters with the iconic Brooklyn brand

The first new beer I had in November was from craft beer stalwart Harpoon, specifically the new fall offering from their popular UFO Hefeweizen line, Cranbeery. I’ve enjoyed most of the UFO beers a great deal but this one didn’t quite do it for me, it was more tart and sour than I expect from a Hefeweizen. Next up and a couple of days later was an outstanding beer I shared with my father. Well, I gave him the bottle for his birthday in September, but we shared it for my birthday: Brooklyn Black Ops, a delicious Russian Imperial Stout which comes in at 11.6% ABV and tasted better as it settled into the glass. The bourbon barrel aging came through nicely in both the aroma and taste.

Sadly, I broke this glass after only using it twice.

The season of stouts continued with Sierra Nevada’s annual Imperial Stout release, Narwhal. I’ve had this in year’s past so was looking forward to having the beer and was not disappointed. Like most stouts, this got better as it warmed. For whatever reason, this was a tough beer to find in my area of New Jersey, with the closest liquor store to me listing it on beermenus about 25 miles away. Fortunately, the store is close to my parents so my dad picked up a six pack for me. Sierra’s been changing some of their labels, over the past year or so including this one. While the new label is nice, I loved the previous label. Keeping with the annual release theme, Founders released Backwoods Bastard and like last year’s vintage, this year’s vintage was outstanding. As I’ve said, I think I like this one more than I like KBS.

Hop Ritual w/ Vic Secret

As I’ve been doing with more regularity, I stopped into my local brewery, Conclave in November since they released a couple of new beers, both of which were very good. The first was a fall porter, Transcendent Leaf Peeping. The other new beer was a variation on their Hop Ritual Pale Ale. This one is called Hop Ritual with Vic Secret, so named for the strain of New Zealand hops used in the beer. I wasn’t expecting to be as blown away by this beer as I was, but it was so delicious I had to bring home at least a half-growler for myself.

Next was the big Birthday Brewery Tour, courtesy of my wife. Last year was a handful of Jersey Shore breweries, this year was North Jersey breweries. We started out at the venerable brewers of high-quality German style beers, Ramstein / High Point Brewing. As it so happened, that day was when Ramstein was releasing their famous Winter Wheat beer. I had the equivalent of a pint since my wife gave me her free samples. What a phenomenal beer, an absolutely outstanding dopplebock that has rightly earned a reputation that draws people from far and wide to fill their growlers with this delicious beer. The other new-to-me beer I had at Ramstein was the outstanding Imperial Pilsner. I just wish Ramstein’s distribution reached a little more into Somerset County because this is one of the beers they bottle and I’d have this in my house regularly.

The second brewery was Angry Erik, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, with the final leg of the journey being the triumvirate of breweries in Hackettstown, NJ. The first of those was Man Skirt Brewing, the highlight (and surprise beer there) was Better than Pants, a tasty excellent English Bitter that earned me the “You’re Extra Special” badge on untappd. All five beers I had were good. From there, we walked around the block to Czig Meister Brewery which was insanely packed, in part, because a portion of the brewery was cordoned off for a party. The standout here was Habonde a barrel-aged barely wine. I may have to pick up a bottle since Czig is now distributing cans and bottles throughout New Jersey. The last of the Hackettstown Trio was Jersey Girl Brewing. The beers in the flight were extremely consistent in quality with their King Gambrinus Belgian Tripel standing out to me the most. I’ll most likely be dedicating an entire Draught Diversions post to some (maybe all) of these breweries where I’ll give some more details on each beer I had.

A deep, dark, roust Imperial Stout from Lone Eagle

At the monthly Brews and Board Games at Lone Eagle, I tried their Imperial Breakfast Stout, a malty stout aged on coffee beans then aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels with some blood orange puree added on the finish. All the characteristics of an excellent stout along with hints of an Old Fashioned thanks to the Bourbon and Orange. The other beer I had was a juicy Pale Ale they call Local Pale Ale.

Possibly the best beer in Flying Fish’s Exit Series – Exit 17

Tröegs Mad Elf is a seasonal favorite and the 2017 batch might be the best yet. Then came Thanksgiving weekend. The first beer is one I’ve been holding onto for a couple of weeks, a beer I was fortunate enough to snag because only 750 were bottled, the final beer (for now?) in Flying Fish’s Exit SeriesExit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout, which might be the best beer of the month for me. This is probably the best beer in the Exit series, too. Not content with brewing a Russian Imperial Stout, Flying Fish aged this one in Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey bottles. Although I’ve come to love beers aged in bourbon barrels, allowing this beer to sit in Rye Whiskey bottles helps to set it apart from its barrel-aged brethren. Flying Fish’s description says this is a “one of a kind” beer and I’d be hard-pressed to dispute the claim. I also had the new version of Southern Tier’s Warlock, which they changed from previous years and unfortunately, not for the better. They dropped the ABV from 10% to 8.6% and the whole flavor is different, it doesn’t taste too much different than Pumking, which isn’t bad, just not what I was hoping to have. The last beer on Thanksgiving is the beer I reviewed earlier in the week, Stone’s Xocoveza Imperial Milk Stout.

The last Saturday of the month of new brews  were enjoyed at Revolutions a fine Craft Brew bar Morristown, NJ. I met up with a friend who lives in Morristown. We’d visited the bar before and were impressed with the beer list and menu, with its heavy focus on German brats. That night I had two very good beers: Malus from Kane Brewing, in Ocean. This is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but the flavor is sweetened by the addition of apple cider. The beer went down very easily for a 9.5% ABV. The other brew I had was one of the best Pilsners I’ve ever had, which was unsurprisingly, from a German Brewery. The beer is Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle from Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The crispness, freshness and underlying roastiness makes this, in my humble opinion, a world-class Pilsner.

Lastly, the final new beer of November 2017 was last night’s Moo Thunder Milk Stout from Butternuts brewery, which was a little thin and flat for a Milk Stout. I’d seen this on the shelf in area liquor stores for a few years now, it is hard to miss or forget with the big fat cow on the can. Unfortunately, that label is the most appealing element of the beer for me.

I’d have to say the two best beers of the month for me were Exit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout from Flying Fish and the Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle.

Beer Review: Stone Xocoveza

Name: Xocoveza
Brewing Company: Stone Brewing Company
Location: Escondido, CA
Style: Imperial Milk Stout
ABV: 8.1%

From the beer’s description on Stone Brewing’s Web site:

There’s nothing like making a beer so beloved that people feel compelled to campaign for its return. So, in the spirit of the holiday season, we are very pleased to give our fans the number one item on their wish lists. As illustrated by the avalanche of social media requests, that is Stone Xocoveza, an insanely delicious take on Mexican hot chocolate brewed with cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. First brewed in 2014 with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker after his recipe won our annual homebrew competition, this imperial stout is layered with smooth roastiness, semisweet chocolate and a touch of spice. Thanks entirely to you, this creamy, mocha stout has gone from initially being a one-time offering to a yearly tradition. Happy holidays from all of us to all of you…and feel free to continue enjoying it long into the spring and summer, as this gem will age beautifully and is definitely not exclusive to the winter season!

Quick Take: A brewery known for hopped up ales brewing a stout warrants notice. When the beer is this delicious, well, it warrants more than just “notice.”

One of the giants in American Craft Brewing is Stone Brewing. If Sierra Nevada is the top of California Craft beer, then Stone is a pretty close second in terms of longevity, quality, and influence. Opened in 1996, the brewery is known for a range of hopped up IPAs and Arrogant Bastard, a beer strong enough to form its own “brewery within a brewery” known shockingly as “Arrogant Brewing.”

I’ve come to realize beers with more of a West Coast hop profile don’t always go well with my taste buds. I’m not going to rattle off the big name West Coast breweries who brew renowned beers that don’t work for me. That’s not what the Tap Takeover is about, in fact, the opposite of that. I’ve had a few from Stone and enjoyed the ones that fall in my style wheelhouse (a regular Milk Stout, Witbier, and Saison) so I was anxious to give Xocoveza a try. I like milk stouts, but that West Coast hope profile gave me a pause. On the other hand, the profile and ingredients were a very close match for the wonderful Mexican Morning Stout from Conclave Brewing. How could I not try this beer?

Once the glass is full, nothing appears to hint at the complex flavors. It looks like a beautiful, black stout. The head is a little off-white, with maybe a little bit of red giving it a color that’s slightly different from most stouts and the hint of, maybe, something special.

The aroma, though, the aroma gives the hints of the flavors to expect. Chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, even vanilla come through in a perfect balance of flavors. The lactose, which is what makes this a milk stout, adds a creaminess that helps to balance the spice from the cinnamon and later, the pepper. The end is when the peppers come through and combined with the cinnamon that still lingers, gives a nice tingly taste along the palette and even down in the belly as the beer settles.

Like many stouts, especially the higher ABV stouts, this one benefits from sitting in the glass and warming to room temperature. The tingling from the pepper and cinnamon are even more pronounced at this point and flavors explode together with more strength

Xocoveza is an outstanding, potent stout that is perfect for the cold months considering the spices infused in the beer. After homebrewer Chris Banker won the Stone competition in 2014, this beer became a seasonal release for Stone. Since I tried it this year, it will be a seasonal must buy for me.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

A final aside, this was the first beer I had whose bottle was graced with the Independent Craft Beer Logo (below).

Draught Diversions: Thanksgiving 2017 Suggestions

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…

Perhaps no American holiday is more centered around food, feasting, and gathering together for a sit-down meal as is Thanksgiving. Sure, Christmas Dinner is a focal point for many families around the world, but food is the primary icon of what many Americans call “Turkey Day.”

You can probably justify any style pairing for the day since there are so many potential dishes as part of the overall day, so I’ll just run off a few styles that I’ve had over the past few years I’ve found to be really nice. First and foremost; however, I’d suggest grabbing a growler or two from your favorite local brewery to bring to the family gathering if at all possible. This is by no means an exhaustive set of beer suggestions and a lot of people (myself included), split the day and do dinner at one location and desert at another location so you may have a special beer you’d rather share at one place than another.. There are plenty of lists like that floating around the internets (Craft Beer and Brewing, GQNY Times, Food and Wine, among many others).

When first arriving and chatting with your family and friends, something light and sessionable might a good option. Maybe a Session IPA (like Founders’ All Day IPA or Southern Tier’s Tangier) or a Hefeweizen (Any of Harpoon’s UFOs including the Winter Blonde would be nice as would Tröegs Dreamweaver Wheat), both are low in alcohol (floating around 5%) and provide a distinct flavor. Or something really good as starter is a good ol’ American Lager and it doesn’t get much more American than the Lager from America’s Oldest Brewery, Yuengling.

The dinner beer is even more open for debate and consideration. Some might lean towards a solid IPA or Pale Ale, but not me. I think the hoppiness might clash too much with the earthy flavors of the main course.  Here’s where you want a brew that is a little more hearty, something with weight to it. Last year, I enjoyed a Moonglow Weizenbock from Victory Brewing and it paired wonderfully with the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and especially the sweet potatoes. At 8.7% with a tasty malty base, you’ve definitely got a hearty brew. Along those lines, a Dubbel like Ommegang’s world class Dubbel Ale or a Dopplebock (like the Troegenator I reviewed a few weeks ago) would be both make for nice pairing.

A brown ale could go really well, here, too, Newburgh Brewing Company makes an excellent Brown as does Smuttynose, with their classic of American Craft Beer, Old Brown Dog Ale. About as close as I’d come to thinking IPA for dinner would be say a black IPA like Two Roads Brewing’s Route of All Evil could be good here with a nice hop and malt balance. A porter; however, would be perfect, some have roast and the style is just complementary enough for most meals that something like Great Lakes’s Edmund Fitzgerald or the American craft beer standard for porters, Anchor Porter could work well for many palettes.

Here we come to dessert. Some folks will go for a beer with their dessert, I usually don’t. In this case, maybe a sweeter brew like Southern Tier’s Choklat, which is a rich, sweet stout. Same goes for Terrapin’s fabulous Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout. Since Pumpkin Pie is a staple dessert at Thanksgiving, why not go for a pumpkin beer at this time? One of the classics of the style is Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale, a beer I haven’t had in a couple of years. Perhaps I’ll remedy that this year.

Once the food is done and you want to relax and maybe take that nap, splitting a sipping beer to top off the day might be nice. Perhaps something barrel-aged and/or higher in ABV.

I was able to snag a bottle of Flying Fish’s Exit 17, which is a Russian Imperial Stout aged in Dad’s Hat Whiskey bottles. This was a fairly limited release, with only 750 bottles put into distribution. Really, though, one of the dessert beers could be good here, too. If you were lucky enough to snag multiple bottles of KBS, it might not be a bad idea to share one of those after the food is done. Something like one of these higher ABV stouts are Barleywines might be good to sip throughout the day, too.

 

Obviously these are all only suggestions. Mostly based on what I’ve enjoyed in year’s past at Thanksgiving. The only additional thing I’ll say is more than a suggestion, a request. Drink responsibly. If you have more than two or three (hell more than one of some of the beers I mentioned in this post), don’t get behind the wheel.