A very special, and very limited, entry in our venerable Yeti Series, Mexican Chocolate Yeti is a sensory delight. We’ve added a variety of spices, vanilla and coffee to Yeti Imperial Stout to create our version of a traditional champurrado drink. Spiced chocolate drinks have been part of Aztec and Mayan cuisine and culture for centuries, but they have yet to be paired with a Yeti! 9.5% ABV.
Great Divide is one of the big, reputable breweries based in Colorado. Founded in 1994, the brewery Brian Dunn started has won several awards for their beer, including their iconic Imperial Stout, Yeti. Over the years, Great Divide has brewed several variants of the Yeti, including this spicy, sweet Mexican Chocolate version.
Great Divide distributes mainly in cans, so for this specialty stout, they packaged it in a “Stovepipe” can of 19.2 oz. I like this size and prefer it to the once ubiquitous 22oz bombers that seem to have slipped out brewer’s fancy, the 19.2oz is just enough of a beer to enjoy by oneself. As for the liquid in this particular can, I’ve had the flagship Yeti a couple of times, the first time I thought it was just OK, but when I was on a business trip in Denver, Colorado and attending a networking event at Great Divide’s Barrel Bar and I had Yeti again, I liked it much more. So, when this specific variant was announced, combined with the fact that I like the spicy/chocolatey stouts, I knew I had to get it.
After the pop of the can, I pour the beer into the glass and it is a very deep black, just like an Imperial Stout should pour. Some pleasant aromas arise from the glass, a little bit of maybe cinnamon, definitely some chocolate and vanilla. Smells to me like this will make a fine dessert beer.
I’m hit with delicious stout flavors, but then the adjuncts take over. This is a feature, not a bug. The aroma, unsurprisingly, pointed the way to a degree. I get strong flavors of chocolate, more than the vanilla nose led me to believe. Again, not a bad thing, but the vanilla is there and in just the appropriate dose for me. Vanilla can often be overused in beers, particularly big stouts, but not here.
Mexican Chocolate Yeti finishes with a little bit of coffee and some of that spice I caught on the aroma. I’m guessing some cinnamon, definitely. Not sure what else, but probably some kind of pepper. What surprises me is a few flavor bursts of something fruity. Not sure what, maybe a slight hit of cherry? Maybe citrus? Whatever that fruit is, it blends extremely well with all the other flavors. …and of course the beer tastes better as it warms in the glass, allowing the flavors to really breathe, but that should be taken for granted by now for dark beers of a high ABV.
Great Divide’s Mexican Chocolate Yeti is more than full flavored stout, it is a beer to savor and experience. If you like Stone’s Xocoveza stout as much as I do, you’ll likely enjoy this one. It also reminded me a little of a local favorite, Conclave Brewing’s Mexican Morning Stout. Believe in the Yeti, especially this incarnation
A perfectly rendered stout that exhibits delicious qualities of both a Milk Stout and a Coffee Stout.
From the side of the can:
Just Wing It is brewed in collaboration with Heavy Reel Brewing. Jam packed with four different roasting malts and a huge addition of lactose and oats. Post fermentation aged on Chocolate and Coffee. The Coffee is from Happy Mug Roasters and Vanilla Bean.
It has been nearly 8 months since I reviewed a stout and with the weather getting cooler, now is a perfect time to take a look at a great NJ Stout. Some folks even call the colder months “Stout Season” since stouts just feel like cold weather beer with more roasted flavors and the darkness of the beer. This preamble leads to Just Wing It, which is a collaboration between two Jersey Shore breweries, Icarus Brewing out of Lakewood and Heavy Reel out of Seaside, NJ.
Let’s get the ball rolling…or the can opening, so to speak.
The crack of the can pops and I get a little bit of coffee aroma mixed in with the smell I’d typically expect a sweet stout to produce. This is a pleasantly dark beer, with a malted milk/khaki colored head. In other words, exactly how a stout should look. Having sampled a decent amount of beer from Icarus over the last couple of years, I’m even more hopeful this will be a good one.
That first sip…it hits just about every button I want a Milk Stout to hit. The milk sugar sweetness is very present, but not to an overpowering degree. That sweetness form the lactose enhances the already sweet malts of the beer. As the beer finishes its journey through my palate, I get a very welcome burst of coffee flavor. I also taste more sweetness, likely from the chocolate which raises its proverbial hand in class to let me know it is present in the overall taste profile of the beer.
The beer has mild carbonation, and that khaki head dissipates fairly quickly. It is a smooth, delicious, flavorful stout that exhibits all the optimal qualities of both a coffee and a milk stout. A beer worth seeking out and a stout that illustrates the great quality of beer loyal customers of Icarus Brewing have come to expect.
Locally, I’d compare this beer very favorably to three NJ Milk Stouts: River Horse Oatmeal Milk Stout, Conclave’s Espresso Milk Stout, and Twin Elephant’s Diamonds & Pearls. For a national comparison, I’d stack Icarus & Heavy Reel’s take on the style next to Left Hand’s well known Milk Stout and Firestone Walker’s outstanding Mocha Merlin. Long story short, Just Wing It could sit comfortably on any shelf with any of those beers.
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…
Few breweries have made as big of an impact in as short a time as Icarus Brewing has since they opened in early 2017. Their beers seemed receive acclaim as soon as they appeared in bars and taprooms, and of course their brewery. But that’s now, late 2019. I’ve had a few of their beers over the years and most recently (late August 2019 and mid October 2019) I made two visits to the brewery. But let’s go back in time a little bit, to the brewery’s opening before returning to the present. Whereas many of the breweries featured here at the Tap Takeover had roots in home brewing, Icarus Brewing has a more “formal” path to brewing. Jason Goldstein, head brewer and owner, built up a very impressive resume before opening Icarus Brewing. Gaining the necessary knowledge studying food science, Jason spent some time at an Ohio brewery before heading to the prestigious Brewlab in England. Jason settled back into NJ where was brewing at Rinn Dunn (now Toms River Brewing) where his skills earned him some great recognition from one of the leading beer zines of note, Beer Advocate.
When he was trying to land on a name, (according to this reddit AMA), Jason wanted something that evoked Greek mythology, but could also have multiple meanings. In a very real life Icarus situation, the world famous Hindenburg disaster occurred in nearby Lakehurst, too. But Icarus, the figure from mythology, was also daring and tried something adventurous and new. Jason wants to try doing new and different things at Icarus whether or not they work. That’s admirable, but I think (and I’d guess many beer aficionados in NJ would agree) that Jason and the crew of Icarus have not flown too close to the sun yet and have managed to fly at the perfect height considering how well their beers are received and sell. The name also offers up plenty of potential beer names to play off the imagery and myth of Icarus.
Like many breweries of this size in NJ, Icarus is located in an industrial park/warehouse. These spaces often make for a great deal of flexibility in how the brewery builds out their taproom and brewhouse. They are not too far from the Garden State Parkway so getting there isn’t too much of a problem. Parking during my first visit didn’t prove problematic despite the taproom being fairly filled with several people coming and going while I was there. However, the second time I visited was for a special release, “Build Me Up Butternut” a collaboration with NJ Craft Beer/Mike Kivovitz, which was a Friday night and the lot was quickly filled and the street on which the brewery is located was tightly packed.
So what is in the tap room? Barrels function as the table base with round tops and a painting of the Icarus logo in the center. Hanging on the wall are some of the artistic renderings of some of their packaged labels. But the most noticeable element is the huge menu at the back of the taproom above the 24 taps. The bar is very nice with some of the Icarus branded products for sale on display (shirts, hats, glasses). There’s also a fridge where the canned beers and crowlers are sold.
In addition to the main taproom, just on the other side of a door is more space with another full length bar, some barrel tables, and some more seating. That special Butternut night, a band was playing in the secondary area where barrels are stored. What was nice is that the sound from that area barely impacted the main taproom. We knew a band was playing, but the only reason I needed to raise my voice a little bit was because the main taproom was pretty packed.
In that facility, Icarus currently has the capacity to have 24 beers on available on draught in their Tap Room, with styles rangiing from lagers to saisons to IPAs/Pale Ales to porters to Stouts. When they first opened, Icarus had 5 beers taps…so yeah, they’ve come a long way. I have to say (and my wife said it when we visited in August on our way back from our annual trip to the Chicken or the Egg in LBI) their menu looks great from an overall presentation perspective, and specifically, the care that seems to go into how the beer names are written. Really eye-catching stuff.
During that first visit in August, Mike Kivovitz from NJCB happened to be at Icarus and we chatted for a while in the comfort of the taproom. Many people were coming and going with multiple 4 packs of beer. As for the beers I had, I was extremely happy with my flight selection. The first beer was part of their Berliner Weisse series, Fruited and Flying and this version featured Pineapple, Mango, and Blackberry. This was a great beer, perfect for a summer day. Next was their pilsner, Extinguish which was very tasty. Third up was a super delicious pastry stout, Smooshing Chocolate Parts, a variant of the Smooshing Sweet Parts stout. Fourth was the hazy, juicy Drinking Crayons, so named after as a nod to one of the employee’s daughters who was in the brewery coloring the day the beer was first brewed. Turned out the name made for really terrific logo. I wound up getting an additional taster, their second collaboration with Brix City, Yacht Jams Vol. 2 Hurricane, a Hazy/New England IPA conditioned on tropical fruits.
I’ve mentioned a few of their beers in the past (the DDH Not a Schooner as the best beer at the 2018 Bridgewater Beerfest, my review of Yacht Juice, the flagship beer, and Velvet Fjord in last month’s six pack. In addition, the beer I’ll be reviewing this week is from Icarus, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
The aforementioned Yacht Juice is the beer that put them on the proverbial map and Icarus has brewed several variants of the beer: an imperial double dry hopped versions featuring Citra, an imperial double dry hopped versions featuring Mosiac, a session version (“Lil Yacht Juice”), a milkshake version with lactose (“Yacht Shake”), as well as collaboration with Brix City (Yacht Jams) which is conditioned on passionfruit, pomegranate, tangerine, and lime zest.
Other highly rated IPAs include Milking It (an Imperial Milkshake IPA), Power Juicer (a New England/Hazy IPA), Spelt Check (An Imperial New England/Hazy IPA), Touching the Sun (a Triple IPA), and Drinking Crayons (An Imperial New England/Hazy IPA).
Icarus brews a nice stable of dark beers, too. Maybe the most popular and well known is their Russian Imperial Stout Kalishnikov, a 14% Stout that has several variants, Kalishnikoffe (with coffee), My Little Friend (a smaller ABV version of Kalishnikov) as well as a few barrel-aged versions. Their first two dark beers were ChewBocka the Masticator Dopplebock (named after Jason’s dog), and Yukon Cornelius Coffee Porter. There’s a nice range of Dessert/Pastry dark beers, too: Smooshing Sweet Parts (and its variants), Making Whoopie, and King Arthur’s Steed (Porter with toasted coconut).
Jason and crew have collaborated with several breweries in their short life: Cypress Brewing Company (Edison, NJ); Levante Brewing (West Chester, PA), Brix City Brewing Company (Little Ferry, NJ), Gun Hill Brewing Company (Bronx, NY), Dark City Brewing Company (Asbury Park, NJ), Imprint Brewing Co (Hatfield, PA), Lost Tavern Brewing (Hellertown, PA), Heavy Reel Brewing Co (Seaside Heights, NJ), and Last Wave Brewing Co. (Point Pleasant, NJ).
So yeah, that’s a small fraction of the beers Icarus has brewed over the last couple of years. They have just over 300 beers cataloged on untappd.
Speaking again of collaborations, in what has become an annual tradition, Jason brews an “anti pumpkin” beer with Mike Kivovitz of New Jersey Craft Beer. The beer is Build Me Up Butternut which is a porter brewed with Mike’s butternut squash soup made with some chipotle and guajillo peppers. The release of this beer in the taproom is what prompted my second visit to Icarus Brewing. The taproom was pretty tightly packed as was the secondary taproom where the band was playing. I also had a delicious, perfect every day beer when I first arrived, Life in Helles a beautiful Helles Lager. I spent most of the night talking with Mike and his friends and my friend Matt, the new taproom manager at Icarus. It was a great night, with bands playing and quite a lot of people hanging out. In other words, just about everything you’d want in a brewery visit – good beer, good friends, and good conversation.
Back to the beers from Icarus… Over the last year or two, cans of Icarus have been appearing on shelves in many stores in NJ as Icarus Brewing self-distributes. That is a good thing because not everybody can head to Lakewood for the latest can release from Icarus. The only downside is that cans of Icarus beer don’t last in stores for very long, especially their popular and highly regarded Hazy IPAs. More of their beers can be found on draught through a decent portion of New Jersey
Like many of the smaller breweries in NJ, Icarus is a fixture in their community. That sense of community began even before the brewery opened, as Lakewood wanted a brewery to open in their town. Another example of Icarus supporting local is that they use hops grown at a local farm in neighboring Colts Neck. Icarus has also helped to raise funds for several fire departments and Jason is a volunteer fireman himself. Icarus has brewed beer to benefit charitable organizations, including an Imperial IPA they call For the Story, the proceeds of which went towards City Stair Climb fund which honors 9/11 First Responders. Icarus also sponsors an annual Unity Tour fundraiser, which honors officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Furthermore, Icarus hosts an annual McKenzie Blair Foundation event to raise funds and awareness for Sudden Unexpected Death in Childhood.
As I noted early in this post, Icarus has grown into one of the most respected breweries in the State (and even surrounding states) with many highly sought out beers. On untappd, for all the beers they’ve brewed, they have an overall 4.04 bottle cap rating and their average rating for all their beers on Beer Advocate is 4.06. NJ Monthly named them on of the 16 best breweries in NJ (out of 100 at the time of the articles writing). At the Beer BBQ Bacon Showdown, Kalashnikovcoffee was named best overall beer and Icarus received the “Best NJ Beer Award” at the 2019 Asbury Park Beerfest.
Another standout element of Icarus Brewing is the fantastic can art as many of the pictures throughout this post illustrates. The person responsible for the eye-catching can art is British based artist Ben Paul.
Icarus is in their third year of existence and it is clear they are one of the leaders of the New Jersey beer scene. Their taproom/brewery is a must visit, their great core beers are well known, but many of the tap room only beers are easily as good (like Build Me Up Butternut, Life in Helles). The taproom makes for a great hangout spot and chances are there might be a food truck parked outside. Icarus would be a great destination by itself and is near enough to some other breweries (Heavy Reel Brewing in Seaside Heights, Last Wave Brewing Company in Point Pleasant Beach, Kane Brewing Company in Ocean, Jughandle Brewing Company in Tinton Falls) that a multi-brewery tour of sorts could be worth a full day’s trip.
In short, try some Icarus beers or head to the brewery.
Special thanks to Matt Barnish, the new Taproom Manager of Icarus for helping out with some of the information in this post.
Creamy, toffee aromas balance the bitterness of Munich malts in our roasted brown lager. Although dark in color, Dunkel is medium in body and finishes dry and clean, resulting in a rich lager that can be enjoyed throughout the year.
With my trend towards Lagers over the past few months, I’ve been wanting to highlight one of the lagers from Von Trapp Brewing (yes, that Von Trapp Family) who brew traditional Austrian/German Lagers. I’d had a few of their beers over the past couple of years, but this Dark Lager is one that eluded and intrigued me. I haven’t had too many beers of this style – Munich Dark Lager – usually preferring a Dopplebock or a Dunkelweizen for my dark German-style beers. I wanted to feature this beer specifically because I wanted to try something different, I like Lagers, and I like featuring styles that deserve more attention when I can. Of course, I didn’t know if I would enjoy the beer, but having enjoyed Von Trapp’s Helles and Pilsner in the past, I knew I was getting 2 beers I’d enjoy in their Variety Pack, and since the Dunkel was in it and I wanted to try the beer, I grabbed said Variety Pack.
So, let’s dive into the beer simply called Dunkel…
The Munich Dark/Dunkel Lager is far from a popular style here in the states, although I’ve been seeing a few from local breweries as of late. As the name would imply, it is popular in Munich, Germany and a style with deep history. The Von Trapp is a family with history and their lodge in Vermont began brewing in 2010 with this Dunkel as one of their year-round beers.
Crack of the can, pour of the beer. Not black, but a nice dark brown. In the glass, Dunkel looks really appealing for this dark beer lover. Aroma … I did not get too much off the aroma, maybe a little sweetness? First taste … it tastes like a lager, but then more of the malt characteristics come through.
The malt utilized by Von Trapp in this beer imparts a tasty sweetness that evokes notes of caramel/toffee and chocolate. Not a chocolate bomb like River Horse’s Chocolate Porter, but rather subtle hints of the chocolate. Chocolate isn’t used in the brewing of the beer so all those sweet flavors come from the malts themselves which even further highlights the quality of the beer and brewers at Von Trapp. The beer finishes with a very important element – enough great flavor that made me want more. It finishes with a slight roast and a very pleasant sweetness. Unlike most lagers, but like darker beers, letting the beer get just a little closer to room temperature benefits the overall flavor.
An equivalent beer on the Ale side of the brewing spectrum would probably be a Brown Ale, as both it and Munich Dunkel are very similar in color and flavor profile. A pretty popular/easily available Brown Ale that compares favorably is Bell’s Best Brown so if you like Bell’s Best Brown, you’d likely enjoy Von Trapp’s Dunkel.
I appreciate that Von Trapp simply went with “Dunkel” as the name rather than a quirky “clever” name for the beer. The can art/label is equally straightforward, with the horned goat for the Von Trapp logo and the beer title in an attractive font does making for eye-catching can. You know what you’re getting. A straight-forward name for a beer that is also straightforward delicious. I haven’t had enough Munich Dunkels (only a taster of Spaten’s at a beer festival) so I don’t have a good comparison. As a flavorful Lager, I really liked it and hope I can find some six packs of this one near me because it works perfectly in cooler fall months, but is balanced enough to be an every-day/year round lager.
A barrel-aged mashup of two classic cocktails: the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan.
This inaugural Proprietor’s Vintage release features a blend of five notable Firestone Walker beers, including select lots of Parabola and Helldorado aged in cherry, orange and aromatic bitters barrels.
The result is a barnstorming beer that exhibits pronounced whiskey notes while artfully expressing essences of both the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan cocktails.
Originally conceived as a brewery-only Black Friday release, Old Man Hattan now makes its Proprietor’s Vintage debut due to popular demand.
I’ve been wanting to feature a beer from Firestone Walker on here for a while. Granted, one of their beers (Nitro Merlin Milk Stout) was the second beer I ever reviewed here at the Tap Takeover, but their barrel aging program and blending programs are arguably the best/most respected in the country, whether those beers are on the sour side or on the big stout/dark ale side.
The beers in this “Proprietor’s Vintage” aren’t always the most widely distributed or easiest to find, and when they do appear on shelves they don’t last for long. I’d been hoping to get a bottle of this one specifically given that part of the aim of Firestone Walker in brewing this beer is to evoke the classic “Old Fashioned” drink, my favorite cocktail. So, let’s get into it, shall we?
The beer pours dark, maybe a very deep brown, maybe black, maybe even dark burnt sienna. In one of the lights in my house, I can almost see a deep reddish brown. The aroma is strongly of beer, strongly of the bourbon, and of the bitters. At least from the aroma perspective, I’m getting the evocation of the Old Fashioned and Manhattan Firestone was aiming to evoke. So far, so good.
That first sip sure is interesting, I don’t quite think I’ve had a beer like this before. That’s good, by the way, because I like what I’m tasting. More of the beer proves the same. The beer elements remind me of a stout, but not quite as heavy on the roasted malts as a stout. I’d expect some roasted malts from a Russian Imperial Stout (Parabola) and maybe hops from a Barleywine (Helldorado), the two styles of beer which comprise this blend. Again, the absence of the strong roasted malts isn’t bad. The hop presence is mild, too. I get a little bit of hops, but not overpowering. The beer elements are there, bottom line.
What does come through are the whiskey/bourbon elements from the aging of the two base beers. I also strongly get fruit elements from the bitters barrels, cherry and orange most strongly. The beer finishes its journey through my palate with the same little pep that an Old Fashioned does. A great flavor finish that encourages careful and thoughtful consumption, rather than quickly throwing back the beer.
This beer is a great example of how complex flavors can be coaxed into beer through innovative brewing, blending, and barreling methods. I’ve had two of these boxed barrel aged beers from Firestone Walker and now I want to give more of them a try, particularly the beers blended to make this beer. Ten bucks for a 12oz beer, but you’re getting a beer bottled in very limited quantities (3,000, I think) and a beer that has undergone an extensive aging/blending process to get to what is in the bottle. It is also clocking in at just under 10% ABV, so the price is more than justified and well worth trying.
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…
The weather is supposed to begin getting cooler in September, but there were quite a few days in the 80s in New Jersey. Oktoberfest begins in Sepember and the darker beers become more prevalent in my fridge. This month features more NJ beers than the usual half split since New Jersey Craft Beer Week fell in the middle of the month. That, coupled with going for some “old reliable” Oktoberfest beers (plus a couple already highlighted in this year’s Oktoberfest feature and I didn’t want to double dip) made for a mostly NJ six pack this time around.
Sierra Nevada continues its annual Oktoberfest tradition of collaborating with a German Brewery. I’ve liked all the collaborations they’ve brewed, this one might be near the top of the list. A great malt flavor, nice crisp finish, and very refreshing. My only problem with the beer is that I wasn’t eating a bratwurst while drinking the beer.
I realize I mentioned this beer on my Brewery review of Jersey Cyclone, but even a couple of weeks later this beer stands out to me. An absolute delight of a brew, a perfectly balanced Imperial Stout whose flavors are drawn from the core four ingredients with no adjuncts. If I’m going for an Imperial Stout that isn’t aged in a barrel, Flood is exactly what I’d want.
Over the last couple of years, the venerable Flying Fish has been updating their look and some of their beers. Their can art has come a long ways from where it was a couple of years ago and this beer is an update to their original Pale Ale I really liked how the Citra hops were featured in the beer. This could be a nice every-day pale ale.
Czig Meister’s Hefeweizen was really tasty, it leaned more on the clove/spicy spectrum of Hefeweizens than the banana-bubblegum flavors. Not a bad thing, in fact a very solid Hefeweizen. For all the attention their many IPAs get, their old school standards are really nice, too
Been a while since Carton featured here and this is a beer I’d been wanting to try for a while. Carton calls it a “Late Hopped Wheated Pale Ale” and I was super happy to see it on the menu Twenty/20 Taphouse. One of my favorite hops, Vic Secret, shines in this one with its citrusy profile. Great stuff and a fine example of a perfectly balanced hazy, hop forward ale. I didn’t want to snap a picture of the beer during dinner, but it had the look of a hazy pale, which is exactly what it is.
This one just made it under the buzzer, so to speak. I was part of another beer/bottle share with some work friends (my contribution was La Trappe’s Quadrupel, which was well-received) and one of the other participants brought a four pack of this beer. He happens to live very close to Icarus which was fortunate for all of us. He was kind enough to let me have one of the cans he brought and what I tasted on the bottle share was even more evident in a full beer – this is a delicious, sweet IPA. Lots of hops, a bunch of lactose and vanilla on the finish made for a really good beer. Plus that magic Kviek Yeast many brewers have begun using as it is a hot commodity in the beer world.
Other odds and ends… An old favorite, a new not favorite
I returned to an Oktoberfest beer I haven’t had in a few years, Victory’s Festbier which was just as good as I recall it being. I’ve got to stick to some of the classics and not be hesitate when I’ inclined to go for old favorites beers every now and again. Unfortunately, a beer I had high hopes for seriously disappointed me – Bomb! from Prairie Artisan Ales. This is an Imperial Stout with coffee, vanilla, cocoa, and peppers. I usually like those spicy stouts, but this one may have been a bad batch. I couldn’t even finish the beer..