Beer Review: Bradley Brew Project’s Jersey

Name: Jersey
Brewing Company: Bradley Brew Project
Location: Bradley Beach, NJ
Style: Lager – American
ABV: 5%

Bradley Brew Project’s fantastic Lager program produced a tasty beer named for the great Garden State – Jersey.

BradleyBP_Jersey

Beer description:

Session Lager brewed with Saaz and Motueka hops. Bright | Crispy | Easy Drinking

Since having my first beer from Bradley Brew Project about a year ago, I’ve been sampling more of their beer and each one has impressed me equally. When I saw their American Lager named simply “Jersey,” I figured I’d give it the full-feature treatment here at the Triple T. Because how could I say no to a beer that proudly proclaims the name of the state right on the label?

From the can, the beer pours into the glass a translucent golden yellow. Essentially, when you say “beer” to most people, something like this beer is the image that would likely come to mind for them.

The aroma…nothing crazy, it smells like beer. First sip and I think, “That’s a nice Lager.” Upon subsequent sips and gulps, Jersey delivers a thirst quenching, beer-flavored-beer to my palate.

Saaz hops are a very traditional hop, a Noble Hop, if you will, utilized largely in lagers and a primary hop utilized for many pilsners and pale lagers. Motueka, on the other hand, is a more tropically leaning hop that is often used in IPAs and I’ve really enjoyed IPAs that feature Motueka. What the Motueka hop brings to this beer is that aforementioned slightly citrusy element and an overall sweetness that balances out the classic, earthy and spicy element the Saaz hops imbues into the beer. They complement each other quite nicely and I’d be interested in sampling more lagers, and specifically Pilsners, that feature Motueka hops.

Sometimes you just want a straight-forward, no-nonsense, yet flavorful beer to quench your palate. A beer that hits the senses the way a beer should, with the malt and hop elements in harmony. Jersey does that for me. The label is simple, straight-forward, like the beer itself, which I appreciate all the more. It is an excellent lager and more evidence that Bradley Brew Project brews some of the best Lagers in New Jersey. The four beers I’ve had from them have all been lagers, all four have been of high quality, including this latest one in my fridge, the wonderfully named Jersey.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Czig Meister’s 6th Anniversary Imperial Stout

Name: 6th Anniversary Imperial Stout
Brewing Company: Czig Meister Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Stout – Double / Imperial Oatmeal
ABV: 11%

The best beer Czig Meister has brewed, the best Oatmeal Stout I’ve ever had, and a damned fine beer to represent their 6th Anniversary in business.

CzigMeister_6thAnniv

From the untappd page for the beer:

This year’s blend comprises of 5 Elijah Craig barrels ranging from 8-12 years in age. Each barrel held imperial stout for anywhere from 9-18 months. After barrel aging, the blend was furthered conditioned on nearly 1lb per bbl of Vanuatu Vanilla. Expect marshmallow, coconut, intense vanilla ice cream, bourbon, and brownie batter. Enjoyed best at 50°F.

Czig Meister is one of the breweries who makes fairly frequent appearances here at the Tap Takeover. With their 6th Anniversary a couple of weeks ago (June 11), I made the trip to the brewery since I’ve attended most of their Anniversary bashes or at least had their anniversary beer (like their 4th Anniversary when COVID cancelled the party). As it so happened, beer also put me beyond the “50 beers from the brewery” territory, which has been happening fairly frequently with my favorite breweries as of late. I’ve enjoyed just about all the beers I’ve had from the great Hackettstown brewery, but even the nearly 50 beers before this one didn’t prepare me for the beer I had that day.

The beer I’m handed is fairly thick and black as night, just what I want from a barrel-aged, blended Imperial stout. The aroma wafting into my nose is a mix of bourbon and roasted malts. Maybe there’s vanilla hiding in the aroma, too. Or maybe I was thinking that because I knew it was in the beer.

The first sip from the cup…is simply divine. A little heat, but a strong stout with barrel notes. There’s quite a bit in that sip and I’m very much looking forward to having more to explore the nuances of barrel character and addition of vanilla .

As I take further sips, that silky smooth character envelopes my palate like a luxurious blanket. The barrel character emerges more prominently, but *perfectly* accentuates the roasted malts of the beer rather than overpowers the flavor profile. Those elements by themselves would make this a world-class Imperial Stout, but then the Vanuatu Vanilla emerges. The only other beer I’ve had with Vanilla from that particular part of the world is Conclave’s Sable, I liked it in that beer and it is deployed flawlessly in this beer, too. It isn’t overpowering and like the barrel and blending portion of the show, is outstanding. What Matt Czigler has done with the gestalt of the base beer, barrel aging, blending, and Vanilla is surreal and sublime. I shouldn’t be surprised since Matt (as I noted in my spotlight on Czig Meister way back in 2018) spent time at Kane helping to develop a couple of their most highly regarded dark beers – A Night to End All Dawns and Morning Bell.

I was totally blown away by this beer, it was more than I expected to be and everything I hope to taste in a barrel-aged, blended stout. The beer is available in limited distribution in New Jersey in cans.

Congratulations to Matt Czigler, his family, and his crew on 6 years of brewing delicious beer. I haven’t had a bad beer from the brewery and this beer is a wonderful statement of their quality. If you’re within driving distance of Hackettstown, the brewery is more than worth the visit.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.75 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Tmavy Lezak by Icarus Brewing & Hackensack Brewing

Name: Tmavy Lezak
Brewing Companies: Icarus Brewing Company & Hackensack Brewing Company
Location: Lakewood, NJ & Hackensack, NJ
Style: Lager – Dark / Czech Dark Lager
ABV: 5.3%

Two NJ Breweries come together to brew an outstanding Czech Dark Lager.

Icaus-Hack_TmavyLezak

From Icarus Brewing’s facebook post for the beer:

We decided to brew a traditional Czech-style Dark Lager with our freinds from Hackensack Brewing in anticipation of Icarus Brewing Lagerfest 2022. Tmavy Lezak was brewed with floor malted German Pilsner Malt, debittered Black Malts, and German Crystal Munich Malts. It was then hopped with German Saaz and lagered for an extended period of time. Meaning “Dark Lager”, Tmavy Lezak swirls Dark Malt notes full of Caramel and Subtle Roast through its easy-drinking yet brooding body. This one is a wonderful Dark Lager to welcome the summer and enjoy with freinds!

My Lager Leanings (over Ales) have been well-documented here at the Triple T and one Lager in particular has caught my fancy over the last year or so – Czech Dark Lager. One of my favorite beers last year was the one-off “Czech Dark Lager” Weyerbacher and I’ve had a few since. When Icarus Brewing announced their annual Lagerfest (last year the Czech Pils with Conclave was great), I was hoping a Czech Dark Lager would be one of the beers. Fortunately, they canned Tmavy Lezak, a collaboration with Hackensack Brewing and put into distribution ahead of Lagerfest. Tmavy Lezak translates from Czech as “Dark Lager.”

From the can, the beer pours a deep/dark brown but not quite black. Nothing special on the aroma – it smells like beer. That’s not a bad thing.

First sip is a pleasing mouthful of malts. There’s a nice breadiness to the beer and maybe because of the color pumpernickel bread comes to mind. There’s a thickness to the beer I don’t typically associate with lagers but find a very welcome characteristic of Tmavy Levak nonetheless.

There’s an underlying crispness to the beer, too. That’s a more common lager trait, to be sure. That crispness is most noticeable on the finish, with a snap and even a slight spiciness from the Saaz hops. It is a nice contrast to the initial malty breadiness.

I want to call out the can art on this beer, too. Frankly, the can art on Icarus’s beers are some of the best in the State of New Jersey and this one is no exception. I find the font for the beer name very appealing and the colors and overall design evoke the flag of the Czech Republic with the historic center of Prague silhouetted in the background of the center of the can. Everything, design-wise, comes together quite nicely.

I’m a fan of Hackensack Brewing’s beers (particularly their outstanding pilsner, Parking Lot Pilz) so I thought the collaboration would be really good. I was right, these two breweries know how to make lagers separately and they’ve collaborated on a relatively obscure (at least here in the us) lager style with excellent result.

This beer was released ahead of Icarus Brewing’s annual Lagerfest, which happens June 18thLagerfest, which happens June 18th of this year. Many of the beers they are pouring will be collaboration brews like Propriety Pils brewed with Conclave Brewing, I LIFE (with Lime) brewed in collaboration with Destination Unknown Brewing. Icarus recently installed a slow pour tap, for their lagers. It is worth the trip any time for a visit to Icarus Brewing, but this weekend especially if you enjoy the Lager Life.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Muckraker Beermaker’s Maple Black & Blue

Name: Maple Black & Blue
Brewing Company: Muckraker Beermaker
Location: Franklin, NJ
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Other
ABV: 7%

A fruity, funky, tasty, and interesting beer that demonstrates flair and inventiveness.

Muckraker_MBBB

From Muckraker’s landing page for the beer:

Farmhouse ale with Pilsner and Wheat malts from our good friends at Rabbit Hill Farms and referemented it on 6lb per gallon of Atlantic County blueberries and blackberries from the amazing people at Pastore Orchards in Hammonton.

While the beer was undergoing an extended refermentation, we drove up to Brattleboro, Vermont, where by happenstance we ran into a just-emptied barrel from the spirit-masters at Saxtons River Distillery.

The American Oak barrel had been first used to age their Sapling maple bourbon, and then to finish a special reserve of their maple liquor of the same name.

We filled a single barrel with the beer and let it age for about nine months in the oak before we keg conditioned it.

Muckraker is one of the more interesting breweries in the State of New Jersey. Owner Tom Troncone (a former journalist, thus the name Muckraker) eschews the standard styles. Sure he has an IPA on draft, but just one of those. Most of his beers are Wild Ales / Spontaneously Fermented Ales. Some of the beers Tom brews blur the lines that typically divide and categorize beer, cider, seltzer, slushie and wine. I’ve been wanting to try some of these beers for a while, especially after hearing Tom on an episode of John Holl’s Drink Beer, Think Beer podcast. Well, I finally stopped in the brewery with some friends since we were in the area on the Sunday before Memorial Day. When I saw a beer made with blueberries and blackberries, I had to give it a try.

The beer I’m given is a blueish purple, which given the quantity of blueberries and blackberries in the beer, is not the least bit surprising. A fruity, funky aroma drifts into my nose and graces my sense of smell. I think I might like this beer.

First sip is all the fruit. Fortunately, I liked the fruits in this one a lot so I like what I’m tasting. I have probably pointed out in the past that blueberry might be my favorite fruit and the blueberries (and blackberries) in this beer are from Hammonton, NJ, the blueberry capital of the world. There’s a slight funk to the beer, more than I’d expect from most Farmhouse ales, but the sweetness and tartness from the blueberries and blackberries balances out the funk nicely. The yeast element is an underlying element that keeps this true to being a beer, particularly a farmhouse ale.

The finish of the beer, for me, is akin to an intriguing journey that began pleasantly and comes to a delightful conclusion. The maple and vanilla come into play in a most welcome fashion. That’s something really nice and unexpected given the fruits, but going back to the description is on point. Hints of maple increase the sweetness and the oak character comes through very nicely. There’s a little bit of vanilla from the barrel which plays extremely well with the copious amounts of berries in the beer. Blueberry and vanilla are a natural combination and while vanilla isn’t in the beer, the way in which oak can evoke hints of vanilla is present and pleasant.

My friend bought me a bottle and the beer from the bottle I drank about a week later seemed quite different. The funk/sour/tart level is amped up considerably and even the color is darker. I don’t get the maple and oak elements quite as much from the bottle, either. One could be forgiven for thinking the beer from the bottle and the beer served on draught are even different beers. The quality is still high, but the flavor profile is different.

Muckraker_MBB_Bottle

Maple Black & Blue is a fascinating, complex, experimental beer that eschews the norm when it comes to beer in general and farmhouse ales in particular. If you are interested in trying really well-made beer outside the normal/standard styles, this one fits the bill as do most of the beers from Muckraker Beermaker. If funky with some fruit is a beer style you like, give this one a try.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Draught Diversions: May 2022 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…

SixPack_2022-May

May is really when the warm weather begins to settle into New Jersey and the lighter beers are filling up shelves and store displays. That doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t room for a big, boozy stout on occasion, as t b is month’s six pack proves! This month’s six pack is predominantly NJ Beer with one out of state beer influenced by something NJ Beer related. Although there are two IPAs, they are very different takes on the style so you could say six different styles comprise this month’s six pack.

On with the show…

The Patriot (Readington Brewery and Hop Farm) | IPA – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Readington_ThePatriot

The first new beer of the month was at the new local brewery, Readington Brewery and Hop Farm. I figured I would try their flagship IPA, which is 100% Centennial Hops (much like Bell’s Two Hearted) and it was pretty good! Drinking a freshly made beer where the hops are grown is a great way to enjoy your beer. In the background are the hop bines where their hops are grown. Glad this place is so close to home

Battle Hymn (Twin Elephant Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

TwinElephant_BattleHymn

My wife and I enjoyed a nice dinner at a local spot (The Landing in Hillsborough) with some good friends. The food is always good at this place and there are always some good NJ beers available, like this superb hoppy pale ale from the good folks of Twin Elephant out of Chatham, NJ. The hop blend here is the ever popular Citra, along with one of my favorites, Galaxy, as well as Callista. A smooth, fruity/tropical beer.

We Sink Together (Icarus Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_WeSinkTogether

With the warmer weather upon us, I was really in the mode for a Gose and as fate would have it, cans of this tart beer from Icarus happened to be on the shelf at my local Wegman’s. We Sink Together has Mangoes, as well as vanilla and toasted coconut to give the beer a pleasant tropical flavor. Pink Himalayan sea salt is added to give the beer the salinity which is a prime characteristic of a gose. A very tasty and refreshing beer.

Urgency of Now (Kane Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial/Double | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane_UrgencyNow

Urgency Now is another outstanding barrel-aged stout from Kane Brewing, but what sets apart is that all proceeds from the beer go to The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. The organization seeks to drive reform for social and racial justice in New Jersey. As always from Kane, a great beer but this one is for a great cause.

Pils (Heater Allen Brewing) | Pilsner – Germany | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

HeaterAllen_Pils recall hearing owner Lisa Allen being interviewed on the Steal this Beer podcast and the praise being heaped upon their Pilsner. When it became available through tavour, I wanted to try and I was immensely pleased. This beer is just about everything you’d want from a German-style pilsner.

Fjord Crosser (Angry Erik Brewing) | IPA – Belgian | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

AngryErik_FjordCrosser

Another trip up to Angry Erik to retrieve the sweatshirts for the Skylands Ale Trail means another new beer for me to try. I was in the mood for an IPA and a different one at that and Fjord Crosser hit the spot. This is a “Belgian” IPA meaning the yeast plays more of a role in the flavor profile. A great balance of flavors with mildly pleasant tropical and citrus elements from the hops

May was another month with a great variety of beers, I could have easily added another 3 beers to the best of the month, but we like to stick to some kind of structure here at the Tap Takeover.

Beer Review: Jughandle Brewing’s Bee Sting

Name: Bee Sting
Brewing Company: Jughandle Brewing Company
Location: Tinton Falls, NJ
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Saison
ABV: 6%

A sweet, refreshing Saison perfect for spring/summer warm weather.

Jughandle_BeeSting

From the untappd page for the beer:

A seasonal classic of Jughandles, Bee Sting is a farmhouse style Saison brewed with Honey, lemon zest and dry hopped with Lavender. The result is a bone dry Saison body with a hint of unfermented honey with a delicate bouquet of lavender and lemon on the nose.

Jughandle was the very first brewery to receive a spotlight here at the Tap Takeover (and you all can see how very rough around the edges that is), but this is the first beer review appearance for them here. When I did that early review, Jughandle was about to celebrate their first anniversary. Here we are five years later and they’ve moved to a larger space with more production capacity. This beer has been in regular rotation for the brewery for a few years as their spring/summer seasonal. When I stopped in the brewery with a good friend of mine, I was hoping this one was available on draught because I was in the mood for a saison.

Image courtesy of Jughandle Brewing

The aroma of the freshly poured beer hits my nose. The lemon and lavender are present. The picture above isn’t as representative of the beer I had, it was towards early evening and the shadows playing in the brewery make the beer look darker than it appears. It was actually more of a bright yellow golden as opposed to an orangey/yellow golden.

The first sip is very, very pleasant. It was relatively warm that day and the refreshment level on that fist sip encourages me to take a second sip very quickly. I’m not typically a big fan of lavender, it can be very overpowering to my sense of smell. But the lemon and honey drew me to the beer and I’m glad I got the full pour. The lavender is present, but provides a really nice floral finish to the beer. The honey is present throughout the beer as it traverses my palate, but more so as a sweetening and balancing element than the flavor of honey itself. The Belgian-inspired yeast that is such a defining characteristic of saisons is prominent, too.

I’ve had close to 70 different saisons, or so untappd tells me. Many of those saisons have had something added, be it a fruit (like blackberry), an herb, or a flower (like hibiscus). I can’t say I’ve had any saisons with lavender in it, but the balance here between the honey, lemon, and lavender is very impressive and I like what the lavender element brings to the beer despite my aforementioned aversion to plant.

Bee Sting is a great warm weather beer, extremely refreshing with some sweet and citrusy elements, and a clean, dry, earthy finish. This beer is a good indicator of why Jughandle has been making beer for 6 years and had to move to a larger facility. .

Highly Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Jughandle_BeeSting

Draught Diversion: Summer Six Pack 2022

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 to weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Summer is nearly upon us and the Summer Beers have been in stories for the better part of the last month, with upcoming Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial kick off of Summer. I mixed it up a little bit with NJ and PA beers compared to last year, and each beer is a different style, at least according to how they are categorized on untappd. As I preface this Summer Beer post every year, because a post about Summer Beers was the very first Draught Diversion I posted/published, I am continuing the “tradition.”

As in past Summer Six Packs, not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer and have been organized alphabetically by brewery.

Seconds to Summer | Lager – American| 4.5% ABV | Allagash Brewing Company | Portland, ME

Image courtesy of Allagash Brewing Company’s Facebook

Allagash is a traditionally Belgian-leaning brewery and the majority of Belgian brewing tradition leans to the Ales and Wild Ales. Typically, they don’t produce many lagers, but their reputation as one of the most accomplished breweries in the country is well-earned. I’ve no doubt this will be a good beer.

What Allagash Brewing says about the beer:

If the sun is out and your schedule is clear, this easy-drinking lager is for you. We brew Seconds to Summer with traditional hops from the Czech Republic and ferment it with Belgian yeast for a crisp, refreshingly hoppy flavor. With this can in hand, summer is just a sip away.


Longliner Lager | Lager – American| 5% ABV | Cape May Brewing Company | Cape May, NJ

Image courtesy of Cape May Brewing Company’s Facebook

Cape May Brewing leans more IPA than any other style, but the random lagers they’ve brewed have been very good. While I really like Tan Limes, I still miss the first lager they canned, “Cape May Lager.”

What Cape May Brewing says about the beer:

Soft, crisp, and balanced—Longliner Lager is a beer that will keep you going all year long. Whether you’re toiling away in the brewhouse, hitting land after a long two weeks at sea, or kicking back on your day off, Longliner will be there for you.


Beach | IPA – Session | 6 % ABV | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ

Image courtesy of Carton Brewing Company’s Facebook

This is one of two beers in this six-pack I’ve already had. I remember enjoying this beer quite a bit, the zesty orange is a nice complement to the hoppy profile of the beer. Plus, with a name like “Beach,” the beer is an ideal summer beer. For the first time in their history, Carton is offering beer packaged in a 12-pack, lending even more of a summer-cooler vibe to the beer. Their flagship beer, Boat is also getting the 12-pack treatment. Previously, it was only available on draft and 16oz four-packs.

What Carton Brewing says about the beer:

Like the tension and relief of a day spent flitting between laying on sand under the beating sun and bobbing on the ocean’s cool surf, summer session drinking needs leisurely contrast. With Beach we find that midpoint where Kolsch yeast’s fruity character matches its lean dryness and where an amber’s roundness gets pulled taut by cracker notes. The hops’ fruity aromatics flow, and the bitterness ebbs, with a swash of orange zest to be clean and lean, bitter and bright. Drink Beach and be chill.


Private Beach | Blonde Ale | 4.1% ABV | Icarus Brewing Company | Lakewod, NJ

Image courtesy of Icarus Brewing Company’s Facebook

When former Governor of New Jersey was photographed on a NJ beach despite beaches being closed, the brew-ha-ha inspired Icarus to brew this beer, a very easy-drinking refreshing beer you might want on a beach. I haven’t had it yet, but I’m hoping to change that in the near future.

What Icarus Brewing Company says about the beer:

4.1% American Blonde Ale brewed with American 2 Row Barley, lightly hopped with Citra then delicately Dry Hopped with New Zealand Motueka.


Ray Catcher | Lager – American | ack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Framingham, MA

JacksAbby_RayCatcher-Pool

I know I featured this beer in my August Six Pack last year and that’s even the same picture, but dammit doesn’t that just scream summer? The beer is so damned good I wanted to mention it again. Here’s what I said last summer: This beer was better than I expected it would be. Extremely refreshing and flavorful, the addition of lemongrass gives the beer a citrusy cooling finish that epitomizes what a warm-weather beer should be.

What Jack’s Abby says about the beer:

Soak up the summer with Ray Catcher, a light and breezy golden lager brewed with lemongrass. Pilsner malts and citrusy hops join to create refreshing flavors of lemon and tea.


Summer Break | IPA –Session | 4.6% ABV | Sierra Nevada Brewing Company | Chico, CA

Image courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Facebook

The ubiquitous ever-present IPA remains the most popular style on shelves and few breweries whose beer is made available nationwide brew hop-forward beers as good as Sierra Nevada. This session IPA is brewed with Amarillo, Chinook, Comet, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Strisselspalt hops. With the low ABV (4.6%), this beer looks to define the term “Hoppy Summer Crusher.”

What Sierra Nevada Brewing Company says about the beer:

Drop into summertime, stocked with a Session Hazy IPA brewed for long days of play. Go anywhere with hoppy notes of mango and passion fruit, backed by smooth malt flavor.

That’s my Summer Six Pack (and sixth Summer Six Pack overall!) for 2022. I know I’ll have some of these beers over the next couple of months, hope you all have some good cooler/poolside/beachside/post-lawnmowing beers over the next few warm months!

SixPack_Summer2022

Draught Diversions: Five Years of the Tap Takeover

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…

Suddenly, Five Years Later…

TTT-5

It is hard for me to believe I’ve been writing about beer here at the Triple T for five years! To say that a lot has happened since this blog went live is an understatement, at least in the world of beer and NJ Beer specifically. When I started the blog back in 2017, there were approximately 75 breweries in the State of New Jersey. As of this writing, there are over 130 breweries in the State. This is about the same as last year, but four officially closed in 2021: Atco Brewing, Camden; Dark City, Asbury Park; Human Village Brewing, Pitman; Raritan Bay Brewery, Keansburg. I’d only every been to Dark City and was never compelled to make a second visit. The Referend moved from NJ to PA, and a couple more have opened. There are 21 Brewpubs, with 20+ breweries/brewpubs soon to be opening, per New Jersey Craft Beer.

Five years ago, there were three breweries in close driving distance to me, one of those has since moved, now I’m less than two miles from a brewery that opened in 2021, plus a another half dozen or so are within close proximity. Because of COVID, home delivery is now an option many breweries are offering. Some of the more prominent/popular NJ breweries have expanded their offerings and distribution, like Kane, Tonewood, Cape May, and Icarus for example. Breweries previously not available in NJ have begun distribution into the State, such as Bell’s, Jack’s Abby, and 3 Floyds. In other words, right now is a good time to be a fan of independent/craft beer.

The “craft” beer landscape is flourishing, nationally and locally in New Jersey and our neighboring states of Pennsylvania and New York. On one hand, that makes it easy to find a new beer on a mostly weekly basis to review/feature and an additional 6 over the course of the month to highlight in my monthly six packs. IPAs are still the unavoidable and dominant style, sours (and those beer-in-name-only smoothie sours) are all over the place, but lagers have been continually on the rise. I’ve obviously been leaning towards Pilsners and Lagers, but I’m always seeking other styles that may be a little off the beaten path to review and feature here at the Triple T. So maybe over the next year or so, I’ll try to feature styles like Hefeweizen, Old Ale, Barleywine (I love them, but don’t see nearly enough of them on shelves), Shandy/Radler (quite popular, but largely derided by “craft” beer enthusiasts), Scotch Ale, Cream Ales, and so forth.

As in past years, I thanked the readers of the blog and folks who have supported my little hobby by spreading the word over the years via social media and simply chatting up with me (virtually or in meatspace) about beer. I’d especially like to thank Mike K. of NJ Craft Beer who I’ve run into a few times at breweries and events. Mike is always one of the first to spread the word/retweet my beer posts. Additionally, I’d also like to thank some of the other people who’ve spread the word on social media about my beer ramblings: the folks behind Breweries in PA ; John Couchoud and the the Crew of South Jersey Beer Scene; Al Gatullo of Al Gatullo’s Craft Beer Cast, my old college pal Chuck of NJ Beer and Wine; the great beer writer John Holl; the crew over at reddit/njbeer; the folks at the Beer Advocate Northeast subforum, the people who follow my beer ramblings on twitter and Instagram. Thanks to my wife who supports this little hobby of mine and my dad for introducing me to “microbrews” when I was in college like Sam Adams Cherry Wheat and Pete’s Wicked Ale as well as my friends who’ve joined me on some of my beer adventures.

Cheers to another great year!

Beer Review: Drake’s Brewing’s Amburana Death of the Sun (2022)

Name: Amburana Death of the Sun (2022 Vintage)
Brewing Company: Drake’s Brewing Company
Location: San Leandro, CA
Style: Stout – Double / Imperial
ABV: 12.7%

A Delicious Barrel-Aged Stout with a unique kick that sets it apart from the crowd of Barrel-Aged Stouts.

Drakes_DotS_Amburana

From the Drake’s landing page for the beer:

Death of the Sun came the day the world went black. A beast of an Imperial Stout aged for over a year in the cosmic dark of St. George Single Malt Barrels. Notes of layered malt, dark fruit, and chocolate tame its heat. A beer so good you will rejoice its perpetual darkness. Bourbon barrel aged Stout made with Amburana. Notes of chocolate and vanilla

It has been about 3 months since I posted a review of a Stout on the blog and it happened to be a barrel aged stout. Considering I’ve had more stouts than any style (according to untappd), I seem overdue for a stout review. Death of the Sun is another beer courtesy of Tavour and it is more than just a barrel-aged stout. The beer is aged with Aburana wood, which drew me to the beer. The wood, as I learned upon reading about it, lends a spicy character to whatever it touches. I was intrigued.

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The first thing that impressed me was the label, very eye-catching and cosmically fantastical. That’s right in my wheelhouse in terms of imagery as longtime readers of this particular web locale will be aware. Let’s get to the actual beer inside the bottle, or rather, the beer poured from the bottle into my glass.

Pitch black liquid pours into my glass with a slight khaki-colored head. The aroma is strong of bourbon and maybe even oak. What I’m smelling reminds me of some of the better barrel-aged stouts I had, which has me hopeful.

I take the first sip and I get smooth sweet malt along with notes of bourbon. I also get some spice from the Amburana.

As I drink this beer and the level in my glass lowers, I’m really enjoying the experience. The strongest element is the barrel character, without a doubt. It isn’t subtle, and it is about a step away from being over the line and taking over the entire beer itself but doesn’t cross that line. I appreciate that kind of restraint, because I’ve had bourbon barrel aged beers from some nationally distributed breweries where all I could taste was bourbon. Knowing when and how to keep the stout/beer present without the barrel drowning out the beer elements, is the true mark of a brewer’s skill.

The finish of the beer with the Amburana wood lends an interesting layer of flavor. Hints of cinnamon elements are present, with vanilla coming through more strongly thanks to the complements of the bourbon barrel. There’s a gingerbread thing going on, too, but more of a nutmeg kick. I’m not a fan of nutmeg, those hints aren’t too overpowering. I’m left pleased with the complexity of this beer from nose to final taste and everything in between.

This is the only beer I’ve had from Drakes’ Brewing at this point, but they started small distribution into New Jersey. Largely their IPAs, but based on this beer, I’d be drawn to more beers from them.

Highly Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

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Beer Review #200!: Jersey Cyclone’s Eye of the Storm Category 3

Name: Eye of the Storm Category 3
Brewing Company: Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company
Location: Somerset, NJ
Style: IPA – Triple New England
ABV: 12% / 100 IBU

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from the untappd page for the beer:

As Jersey Cyclone Brewing’s intensity increases each year, a legendary storm surrounds our brew house allowing the eye to create the perfect conditions for this massive and epic IPA. Each sip is explosion of citrus and sweet fruit notes across your palate. Dry Hopped with Citra, Galaxy, Idaho 7 and Columbus.

As I was approaching Beer Review #200 here at the Tap Takeover, I wanted make it a special beer, like I did for Beer Review #100 (Saison Dupont). One of my favorite breweries just celebrated three years, so the confluence of events brings me to Eye of the Storm Category 3, a Triple New England IPA brewed by Jersey Cyclone to celebrate three years in business.

I was able to attend the celebration, despite the awful weather. Jan and his crew were planning on doing an outdoor party, but pouring rain forced festivities inside. Although I arrived early, the brewery filled up pretty quickly. With 16 taps in the main taproom, they were pouring variants, like their Hefeweizen, “Life in the Clouds” with Raspberry added. I stuck to some more of the main non-variant offerings like this new beer.

I’ve highlighted Jersey Cyclone fairly often here on the Triple T, in reviews, monthly six packs, as well as the brewery feature. I grab four packs frequently as regular rotation beers (Touchdown, the Munich Dunkel; Rewal, their Polish Pilsner; and Beach Blonde Helles Lager to name a few) So clearly, I enjoy their beer. It doesn’t hurt that they are literally around the block from where I work and not too far from home. I’m a big fan of their lagers because of their incredibly consistent flavors and quality, but their flagship beer is Eye of the Storm Citra, a classic American IPA. For the third anniversary, Jan and his crew added Galaxy, Idaho 7, and Columbus hops into the fold to complement the ever-popular Citra Hop.

The beer I’m given is super-hazy. It appears more orange in the picture, but that’s down to the lighting because it is more of a yellow-orange, not dissimilar to orange juice. The head looks like frothy orange juice, as if just shaken before poured into the glass.

Hops waft off the beer and into my nose, giving me a hint of things to come. The first sip is a blast of hops, but not palate-wrecking. I’ve had enough palate-wrecking IPAs in my life and this beer is incredibly smooth and balanced. The Citra stands out, but I get some additional tropical hints, possibly from the Galaxy. At least some elements of Eye of the Storm Category 3 resonates with the Galaxy Hopped beers I’ve had in the past. The Columbus hops are a classic hop that brings some piney elements, balancing out the tropical elements from the Citra and Galaxy.

The overall flavor is of juicy, tropical hops, and maybe a little peachiness? One of the most impressive characteristics of this beer is how well masked the high ABV of 12% is. Like the hop profile, the alcohol element isn’t overpowering and even barely noticeable. Like I said of Jersey Cyclone’s Black Forest Cake in last month’s six pack, I can definitely understand why this beer is not served in large/pint sized glasses (even though it is sold in pint cans!)

I also want to call out the new can label designs Jersey Cyclone has implemented with this beer and their renamed Maibock. It really stands out and there’s a very strong sense of branding on the beer, with an outline of a large cyclone and the beer logo top center.

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Congratulations to Jan, Brian, Charles, Taylor, and the whole crew at Jersey Cyclone on 3 years of brewing delicious beers! You all should be proud of the beers you’ve been making, including this flavorful, balanced, hoppy delight. I can only, highly recommend fellow craft beer enthusiasts like myself visit the brewery.

As for Eye of the Storm Category Three: Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

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