Beer Review: Yards’ Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale

Name: Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale
Brewing Company: Yards Brewing Company
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Style: Strong Ale – English
ABV: 8.0%

The beer’s description on Yard’s Landing Page for the beer:

This powerful and complex golden ale pays homage to Founding Father and fellow brewer, Thomas Jefferson. Yards Brewmaster, Tom Kehoe, worked closely with Philadelphia’s historic City Tavern to recreate this recipe, employing honey, rye, and wheat, just like the beer Jefferson made at Monticello.

Yards Brewing is one of the most recognizable and long-standing American Craft Breweries, an East Coast institution since 1994. Much of their portfolio leans heavily on British brewing traditions and early American brewing traditions, like the “Beers of the Revolution” subset, including this Tavern Ale, an interpretation of Thomas Jefferson’s recipe. With the President’s Day holiday yesterday and the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl two weeks ago, what better time to highlight a presidential beer from a Philadelphia brewery?

What exactly is a tavern ale? I’m not too sure, but what *this* tavern ale is is a Strong English Ale. That may not be may not the hottest or most popular style of beer, but that doesn’t mean the beer can’t be well-crafted and pleasing.

The beer pours a deep gold, almost amber, with a decent head atop the glass. There’s a lot of malt in this beer, the wheat and rye combine really nicely to give this beer a solid, appreciable backbone. There’s also a sweetness up front in the beer from the honey that makes Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale a really balanced ale.

This is more of a slow-sipping beer than a guzzler or a crusher. Whereas much of the American craft beer on the market falls into the IPA and Stout categories, it is nice to see a steadfast traditional style in continuous production.

The maltiness and overall way the beer felt as I was drinking it reminded me of an Oktoberfest or Märzen beer. This beer; however, is stronger, available year-round, and sweetened by the honey. That’s where you have to be a little cautious, the beer is very drinkable with the sweet malt, but the 8% makes it a beer you don’t want to crush. This is the type of beer you would enjoy in a pub amongst friends after a long day of work, while waiting for your barmaid or bartender to serve you that order of French Fries you’ve been craving.

Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale, like many beers from Yards, is very widely available, in bottles and on draft. It is also part of the Ales of the Revolution branding (as the label states) and available in an Ales of the Revolution variety pack along with General Washington Tavern Porter and Poor Richard Tavern Spruce. I haven’t had the other two “Ales of the Revolution,” at least since being on untappd, so I may have to give them a try.

I’ve only had small sips of this one at brewfests and beer tastings, but liked it enough to give a fully try. I’m glad I did and could find myself reaching for this beer again in the future.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: River Horse Chocolate Porter

Name: Chocolate Porter
Brewing Company: River Horse Brewing Company
Location: Ewing, NJ
Style: Porter
ABV: 6.5%

The yellow “Coaster” is from the River Horse 6K I ran with my wife in brother-in-law in April 2016. At the end of the race, everybody got a pint of Summer Blonde. Logo on the glass is the old-school, pre-2007 logo.

The beer’s description on River Horse’s Landing Page for the beer:

We start with a brown porter brewed with dark roasted malts, and add one pound of chocolate per barrel. We then throw in some Madagascar Vanilla beans to accentuate the chocolate flavors, resulting in a decadent porter. Available February – March.

As one of the oldest micro-breweries in the state, River Horse Brewing Company is a New Jersey Brewing institution. Originally started back in 1995/6 in Lambertville, NJ, new ownership took over in 2007, and they moved to a larger facility in 2013 in Ewing, NJ. Their mascot Brewtus (a stylized cartoon hippo) appears in various guises appropriate for each beer of the line-up (with cow markings for the Milk Stout, googly eyes for the Hippotizing IPA, etc).

Although I’ve mentioned their beers and the brewery in a few posts here at the Tap Takeover, I’ve had intentions of giving one of their beers a full review for a while. Initially determining which beer from their portfolio to highlight  first was a minor challenge since River Horse brews quite a few beers I like including the excellent Oatmeal Milk Stout and Tripel Horse, which was awarded a Bronze Medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival. In the end, I figured I’d highlight one of the special beers they consider a seasonal and available throughout their distribution footprint.

On to the delicious Chocolate Porter…

Popping open the cap, the beer pours into the glass a silky dark brown that smooths into black when the light hits it the right way. Poured properly, there’s a small light brown or tan head. Once fully poured into the glass the beer practically screams: Drink Me!

Some porters can have a powerful (or overpowering) smoky element, which is not the case for this beer. The “one pound of chocolate per barrel” sweetens the beer and eliminates some of that bitter smoke/roast flavor. If anything, the roast/smoke is akin to the edges of a freshly baked brownie, but the overall flavor, if we’re continuing with the brownie analogy, is like the gooey, slightly under-baked deliciousness at the center of the brownie.

The texture of the beer is really smooth with only minimal carbonation; just enough that it still feels like a beer.  For me, this is a beer that works better when it is colder rather than warming to room temperature like many darker beers.  At 6.5% ABV, it isn’t too heavy, so you don’t have to take your time with drinking it for those reasons, but the decadent, sumptuous flavor makes you want to take your time with the beer you just poured. Even if you have another four or five in the refrigerator from your six pack.

River Horse’s Chocolate Porter is most definitely a dessert beer, if that hasn’t become evident at this point. In other words, if you could take the best brownie you’ve ever had and transformed what makes it so good into beer form, chances are you’d have yourself a bottle of River Horse’s Chocolate Porter. First brewed and bottled in 2015 (I think), the beer has become a highlight of River Horse’s annual lineup in February, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

If I were to build a shelf of Essential NJ Beers, River Horse’s Chocolate Porter would definitely have a spot. From River Horse’s long history in the state to the pure wonderful taste of this beer, I’ve had this in my rotation of beers since I first had and enjoyed the beer. I know I raved about Kane’s Sunday Brunch Porter a couple of weeks ago and don’t get me wrong that is a fine, fantastic porter. However, the simple elegance of chocolate makes this beer stand on its own and make it a sought after beer in the region.

Back in 2016, River Horse bottled an Imperial version of this Porter, I hope they do again and I hope I get to sample it.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: A Chocolate 6 Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

With Valentine’s Day tomorrow, today (February 13) seems the perfect time to assemble a six-pack of Chocolate beers. Without even planning it, the beer I reviewed last week had some chocolate flavorings. In addition to the beers I mention below, the beer being reviewed in Thursday’s post is a chocolate beer, too. One of my favorites, in fact.

As it turns out, there are a plethora of options when it comes to beers with chocolate, but many of those options feature other flavoring elements such as peanut butter, cherry, coffee or mint among other flavors. For this post, I’ll keep the taps pouring beers with only chocolate as the main flavor enhancement. As I have in the past, I’ll go alphabetical by brewery name.

Chocolate Stout Rogue Brewery, Newport, Oregon, 5.8% ABV

This is the second appearance from the fine Oregon brewery in one of my “Six-Pack” posts. It has been quite a while since I had this beer (back in 2014) but I remember loving it. There’s a great balance of chocolate in this beer, I don’t recall the chocolate being an overpowering presence and the overall beer being very smooth. As of this writing, Rogue only distributes this beer in 22oz bottles and on draught, but hopefully they will begin distributing into 12oz bottles. Rogue also brews a Double Chocolate stout I’ve yet to try.

Per the Web site: Ebony in color with a rich creamy head. An earthy flavor of oats and hops that gives way to a rich chocolate truffle finish.

Organic Chocolate Stout Samuel Smith Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, UK 5% ABV

Yorkshire’s oldest brewery (1758) produces one of the best chocolate stouts in the world. I’ve had this one a few times and each time I’m surprised that I’ve forgotten how perfectly brewed this beer is. There exists in this beer just about the perfect balance between the flavor profile of an English stout and the sweetness of chocolate. Again, the last time I had a bottle of this was a little over a year ago. Originally this beer was available only in 500ml bottles, but it was recently made available in 12oz bottles in 4-packs and as part of a variety pack from Samuel Smith.

Per the Web site: Brewed with well water (the original well, sunk in 1758, is still in use with the hard water is drawn from 85 feet underground), the gently roasted organic chocolate malt and organic cocoa impart a delicious, smooth and creamy character, with inviting deep flavours and a delightful finish – this is the perfect marriage of satisfying stout and luxurious chocolate.

Choklat Imperial StoutSouthern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY 10% ABV

At this point, Southern Tier appearing in one of these posts shouldn’t be a surprise. I like many of their beers and this, in my humble opinion, is one of their best beers. Whereas the previous beers I mentioned in this post are lighter bodied stouts, low in alcohol and fairly well balanced from a chocolate perspective, this one is decadent on all levels. Clocking in at 10% ABV, this beer packs quite a punch. It is a thick, rich beer where the chocolate dominates the beer and that is no problem at all. As the label indicates, this is a wonderful dessert beer. Originally available only in 22oz bottles, Southern Tier has softly re-branded their Blackwater Series (i.e. “high-gravity dessert beers”) with new labels/packaging and made those beers available in 12oz 4-packs. I really need to have one of these again, it has been far too long.

From the Web site: The Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, unfolds a complex web of mystery around a beverage known as Xocoatl. We’re not surprised that ancient hieroglyphs depict chocolate being poured for rulers & gods. Cacao is a mystical bean.

Choklat is, without a doubt, a dessert beer. It encompasses the complexity of the darkest, bittersweet candy together with that of the original frothy beverage of the Mayans. We combine the finest ingredients to tempt your senses &pay homage to history in every glass.

Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout Terrapin Beer Company, Athens, GA 6% ABV

One of my favorite seasonal stouts, I try to get at least a six-pack of this one every season, since Terrapin considers this a seasonal beer (Winter). One of the more cleverly named beers, it immediately (and intentionally) brings to mind the classic chocolate milk drink Yoo-Hoo. Terrapin’s beverage; however, is far more flavorful. I had this on tap once and it was a delight, but more recently (as of 2015) the beer has become available in 12oz cans in six packs, where it was previously a 12oz bottle 4-pack. I know I’ve gone on record as holding Firestone Walker’s Nitro Milk Stout as a standard-bearer for Milk Stouts, but Moo-Hoo is on that same level for me: an annual must-buy.

From the Web site: Dark brown to black in color. Aromas of dark chocolate. Dark roasted malt flavor with hints of caramel and chocolate, rounded out by a sweet, creamy finish. The Terrapin “Moo-Hoo” Chocolate Milk Stout proudly uses cocoa nibs and shells from Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company to give this beer its great taste.

Chocolate Love Stout Yard’s Brewing Company, Philadelphia, PA 6% ABV

Yards is one of the standard bearers of Craft Brewing in the US and a craft beer institution of Philadelphia, PA (some would say the best beer city in America). How could a list like this *not* include a beer called Chocolate Love Stout? Yards also brews a Love Stout that has some chocolate hints, but Chocolate Love Stout is the full chocolate beer experience brewed with Belgian Dark Chocolate and Chocolate Liquor for a rich chocolatey beer. I’ve had this a couple of times and really enjoyed it.

From the Web site: IRRESISTIBLY SMOOTH

Passionately brewed with over 200 pounds of pure, 100% cacao Belgian dark chocolate, this irresistibly smooth stout explodes with the taste and aroma of rich, dark chocolate goodness. This deep black beauty will seduce you with her roasty maltiness and hints of vanilla and caramel.

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout Charles Wells Brewing Company, Bedford, Bedfordshire England 5.2% ABV

This is one of the earliest and most widely available chocolate beers in the world and it holds up quite well, all things considered. Again, like a couple of these beers, it has been quite a while since I had this beer (back in September 2015), but I remember liking it quite a bit, giving it 4 bottle caps out of 5 on untappd. The beer is available in bottles and in cans, as well as on draught and is probably the easiest to find of all the beers on this post.

From the bottle (since there doesn’t seem to be a website with a page for the beer): Young’s Double Chocolate Stout has an intriguing twist. Chocolate malt and real dark chocolate are combined with Young’s award-winning rich, full flavored dark ale to craft a satisfyingly indulgent, but never overly sweet experience.

…and one for the road (if you aren’t driving)…

New Jersey craft beer institution, Flying Fish, brewed a beer with chocolate as part of their now-concluded Exit series: Exit 13 – Chocolate Stout. Unfortunately this is a “retired” beer of the Exit series, but hopefully the fine folks at Flying Fish will bring this beer back into circulation as they’ve done for a couple of the beers in the series. I may have more to say about this brew in the future.

Beer Review: SingleCut’s Eric, More Cowbell!

Name: Eric More Cowbell! Chocolate Milk Stout
Brewing Company: SingleCut Beersmiths
Location: Astoria, NY
Style: Stout – Milk/Sweet
ABV: 6.6%

The beer’s description on SingleCut’s Landing Page for the beer:

WE’VE GOT A FEVER – And there is only one cure: a lusciously creamy, slightly sweet Stout that sits atop a roast malt base and huge cocoa infusion that will rock all night long.

It has been quite a few reviews since I wrote about a stout, specifically a Milk Stout. I’ve tried to vary up the styles in these reviews even if Milk Stout is one of my favorites sub-styles of stouts. A multi-repeat style beer would have to stand out (in the blog’s first year) if I was going to review it, and ERIC, More Cowbell! Milk Stout certainly stands out from most stouts and the other 46 Milk Stouts I’ve consumed over the past few years.

The beer pours a deep black, blotting out all light and any black text on the glass (like the word “Bedford’s” on the glass in the picture). I smelled a little bit of chocolate as it poured. The beer was very cold when I first poured it but it was so good I had a tough time waiting for it to warm up, as is proper for most stouts.

The thickness of the beer was perfect, some other milk stouts I’ve had are far too thin, but this one is substantial enough that I was very pleased taking my time with it. The chocolate is not as potent, as say Terrapin’s Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout, and that is welcome. If I wanted a Moo-Hoo (which I like quite a bit) I would have bought a six pack of that beer. This beer has enough going on aside from the chocolatey sweetness to set it apart.

The lactose sugars are really nice and balance out the bitterness some stouts can have. There’s also a touch of toasted/roasted chocolate/malts at the back-end of the beer that was really welcoming. The finish lacked the bittersweet characteristics present in many stouts and milk stouts, too. In other words, I wanted to drink more and more of the beer to get to that finishing flavor. However, I slowed a bit as I noticed how much better the beer was once the temperature moved from ice cold to closer to room temperature.

I picked this up as a 16.9oz bottle and would love to give this a try on draught. This beer is well worth the $7 I plunked down (minus the NJ Craft Beer discount) considering how well made it tastes and because of the amount of beer.

SingleCut is one of the growing number of breweries in the boroughs of New York City, and this is the first one I’ve had from them but hopefully it will not be the last.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badge earned with this beer


Heavy Weight (Level 51)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 255 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

Draught Diversions: January 2018 Six Pack

Time for another slight change in protocol here at The Tap Takeover. With my first Monthly recap post for 2018, I’m going to trim back from writing about the majority (90%) of the beer I had in the previous month and go with six beers. Ideally, I’ll try to keep mention at least one beer that didn’t quite work for me. Also, this list of beers excludes any that have been featured as a single beer review. For this post, at least, I’ll go chronological from what I had early in the month to what I had most recently.

I’ve found myself drawn to more NJ breweries over the recent past, rather than nationally distributed brands, so two of the beers in this post are from NJ Breweries.

Café Con Leche Stout – Milk / Sweet – 3.25 bottle Caps on untappd

First up is the very first beer I had in 2018. Café Con Leche from Cigar City Brewing is a beer whose style is strongly in my wheelhouse, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Cigar City started distributing into NJ last year so I was looking forward to trying some of their beers. Especially their interpretation of a Milk Stout. While it wasn’t bad, and relatively true to style there was something unpleasant on the finish of the beer. An odd aftertaste made the beer, on the whole, not something I’d want to try again. This was one of the bombers I received for Christmas so I didn’t feel too guilty about not finishing the whole bottle.

Han Shot First IPA – Imperial / Double – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Next up is an IPA, or rather, Imperial/Double IPA from a fairly local brewery in Pennsylvania, Evil Genius Beer Company. I’ve had a few of their beers, the quality is good and the names are very clever, including this one, Han Shot First. This beer surprised me, it did not have nearly the level of hop bitterness I expected considering it is a Double. While the ABV is 8%, the IBU is 30, making this a very juicy, drinkable IPA. I’d definitely have this one again and not just for the name.

Collaboration No. 6 – Barrel-Aged Blend Other – 4.50 bottle Caps on untapped

The third beer in the January Six Pack is one of two beers I had at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Sol Mexican Cantina. Very good food combined with one of the best selections of beers in Somerset County, NJ are why I like this place so much. The first beer I had that night was Collaboration No. 6 – Barrel-Aged Blend, a collaboration between Boulevard Brewing Co. and Firestone Walker. I’ve only had a couple of Boulevard’s beers and liked them fine, I need to seek out more from them. This beer is listed on untappd as “Other” likely because it is a blend of four heavy styles, two from each brewery: Bourbon Barrel Quad (45%) & Imperial Stout X Tart Cherry (10%) from Boulevard and Stickee Monkee Belgian Quad (35%) & Velvet Merkin Oatmeal Stout (10%) from Firestone Walker. It probably will not come as a surprise that the Belgian Quad flavors come through the most, but the sweetness of the stouts is there, too. This quite simply an outstanding beer

It looks like this one was brewed in 2016 so I don’t know if it was a one-time beer or has been brewed again more recently. Either way, if you see this one, get it because it is a fine example of experimental, collaborative brewing.

IPA IPA – American – 4 bottle Caps on untapped

Number four is the first of two beers from New Jersey and the other beer I had at Sol Mexican Cantina: a straightforward IPA from Brotherton Brewing. This is the first beer I’ve had from the South Jersey brewery and boy was I impressed. This is a borderline juice-bomb; a hazy Citra-hopped unfiltered IPA. I could drink this all day and hope I can find some of this in cans near me. Like I said, this is just simply a tasty, well-made IPA. Sometimes a well-made standard style is just the beer you need.

Sunday Brunch Porter – Imperial / Double – 4.75 bottle Caps on untapped

The second New Jersey beer was probably the best beer I had in January and one of the best porters I’ve ever had. One of our (my wife and I) favorite restaurants is the Stirling Hotel – amazing food, great beer, and excellent beer events like the one I attended in the middle of the month. Essentially a Tap Takeover, Stirling Hotel hosted a “Kane Brewing Brewer’s Lunch,” which featured six beers from Kane and a unique menu. My meal was fantastic, waffles topped with a roasted duck leg and fig syrup. One of beers I had was Kane’s Sunday Brunch, an Imperial Milk Porter made with coffee, maple syrup, and cinnamon. At 9.5% this is a potent beer, but so smooth and sweet. This is one of Kane’s once per year beers and seems to only be available at special events like this and in 750ml bottles at the brewery.

Some people may be wary of anything with cinnamon, but the spice is used perfectly in this beer and compliments the flavor profile rather than overpowering everything else that went into the beer. This is a must have beer, especially if you live in or near New Jersey.

Two Hearted Ale IPA – American – 4.25 bottle Caps on untapped

Finishing off the six pack for January is one of the iconic American craft beers: Two Hearted Ale from the great Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. I have lamented in the past that Bell’s doesn’t (yet?!?!) distribute to NJ. I happened to see this one on draught at the Houston Airport. Considering I had some time to kill before my flight departed, I ordered a pour and was satisfied. I now know why this beer has the reputation it does, this is one of the best, most drinkable IPAs I’ve ever had. As I plead when I reviewed Bell’s other iconic beer, Oberon Ale, if folks from Bell’s are reading this, please get your beer into NJ. You’d make an entire state of craft beer consumers extremely happy.

There you have it – six beers, five of which were excellent and one that just didn’t work for me.