Beer Review: 902 Brewing’s Kürtőskalács Milk Stout

Name: Kürtőskalács
Brewing Company: 902 Brewing Company
Location: Jersey City, NJ
Style: Stout – Milk/Sweet
ABV: 7.4%

“902 Brewing has crafted a very flavorful dessert stout and a great interpretation of the classic Hungarian cake/dessert treat.”

From 902 Brewing’s page for their beers:

Brewed to mimic a delicious Hungarian dessert we had in Budapest, this milk stout has just enough sweetness to round out the dark and roasty coffee presence with a cinnamon aftertaste.

Sometimes you get a taste of a beer at a Beerfest and you want more. That’s the case for this sweet dessert stout from 902 Brewing. Two years ago, at the Bridgewater Beerfest, I had a taste of this beer and liked it but wasn’t seeing in my local stores, I really wanted to get the “full pour experience” of this beer. I was finally able to snag a four pack of the beer and I’m very pleased I did. Subsequently, I thought to myself, “Self, what better time to review a beer from a brewery than around the time of the grand opening of their taproom?” You see, 902 Brewing has been contract brewing since they launched in 2014, but this month (June 2020) they officially opened their production facility and taproom in Jersey City. I’m looking forward to visiting the taproom and trying more of their beers.

On to the beer…

Pop of the can, pour of the beer and what do we have? A dark stout whose thick fluffy head is reminiscent of coffee or malted milk. In other words, it looks like the kind of stout that would be right up my alley. I don’t get too much of an aroma, maybe some of the cinnamon? But the certainly looks the part of a rich dessert stout.

First sip is on point for a Milk Stout with the roasted malt elements and the sweetness from the lactose. The cinnamon comes in immediately and is a dominant flavor element in the beer. I like cinnamon quite a bit so this is just fine by me.  For about a year or so, I was adding cinnamon into my coffee grinds for some added flavor, I’m reminded of that with this beer in a good way. I’m not sure how much of the hazelnut I get but the coffee is most assuredly present.

I also like the (here’s that word I hate) mouthfeel of the beer. The beer has the appropriate thickness for a stout of this ABV and I like how the cinnamon pops around in the beer. You don’t want to gulp this one, let it settle in your mouth a little and get all those flavors.

Aside from simply enjoying Kürtőskalács, there’s a bit of a personal connection with this beer. My uncle and grandfather are both Hungarian (grandfather was born in Hungary). Additionally, a good friend is Hungarian, and before the pandemic, she would visit her family in Hungary quite regularly. That’s the personal, Hungarian connection. As for the name, Kürtő translates to stovepipe and the pastry/cake looks like a hot chimney. A google image search proves it. I’ve had the “chimney cakes” in the past a few times, once at a local Hungarian festival, and another time, at a Christmas Flea Market/Fair, and thoroughly enjoy them. When the cakes are fresh off the interesting contraption used to make the cylindrical cake, they are delicious and one of the most popular variants or styles is with cinnamon sugar.

As an interpretation of the chimney cake, Kürtőskalács is a very successful beer. It hits the flavor notes, especially the cinnamon aspect, extremely well. The coffee elements are a welcome addition that complement the cinnamon very nice.

The Bottom Line: 902 Brewing has crafted a tasty and interesting dessert stout.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating / 4-bottle cap rating because sometimes, a beer tastes better a few days later.

Beer Review: Victory Classic

Name: Victory Classic’: Easy Drinkin’ Lager
Brewing Company: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downingtown, PA
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.8%

“Victory’s newest Lager, Classic is a flavorful cooler-filler for summer, tailgating, or any time you want a tasty beer.”

From Victory Brewing’s page for Classic:

Perfectly balanced and exceptionally drinkable, this lager is expertly crafted with specialty hops, malt and yeast to be the standard of refreshment.

Classic is the definition of drinkable with pilsner malt and Hallertau hops bringing perfect balance to this 4.8% refresher for game day, happy hour, mowing the lawn and everything in between.

In what will likely not come as a surprise to anybody who has read this blog over the last couple of years, the first non-NJ beer to be reviewed here in two months is relatively* local and from one of my favorite breweries, Victory Brewing. A few months ago, the venerable MyBeerBuzz blog posted that Victory Brewing was releasing a new‡ lager. I was very excited since Victory crafts lagers so well (Prima Pils, Festbier, Home Grown, Hip Czech Pilsner, Schwarz Pils, etc).

*I’m about 15 minutes from Pennsylvania border and Victory is close enough driving distance that I’ve visited a couple of times.

‡ For the most part, Classic seems to be a slightly reworked recipe (a slightly lower IBU) of their longtime mainstay Helles Lager which was a very good beer (which itself was rebranded from V Lager.

So, how does Classic stack up against other Helles Lagers and some of those aforementioned lagers from Victory?

The beer pours a perfect see-through yellow, much like many of the beers I’ve been reviewing lately. I don’t get too much of an aroma other than a fairly standard beer aroma. First sip is inviting, a beer that is refreshing. There’s that “beer that tastes like beer” thing going on all over the place with Classic on first impression. Victory; however, has crafted a more layered beer than that.

For Helles Lagers and Pilsners, I like the bready element to be present, which is the case with Classic, while the hop presence is quite mild and not bitter, which again, is what I like in a Helles Lager. I’ll take some mild hop bite in a Pilsner, but a Helles Lager, especially one labeled as an “Easy Drinkin’ Lager” should lean towards mild floral and fruit evocations in the hops, and not the bitterness. That mild hint of floral and fruity was something I noticed more when I had the beer the second time a day later (since I had two beers prior to Classic the first time I had the beer). In other words, the hops do what they are supposed to do in a beer like this and play very nicely with the bready elements from the malt.

A beer like this is deceptively simple in taste and presentation, but to achieve an elegance like this requires the kind of expertise that Ron Barchett and Bill Covaleski, the two masterminds behind Victory Brewing, have honed and shown over the years. I’m not sure how long the process took to refine the recipe for Classic or how long they worked on the previous Helles Lager recipe to get to this beer, but they’ve found success.

Classic is an especially welcome beer because it is a tasty new lager addition to a line-up that has strongly leaned towards IPAs and Monkeys the last couple of years. (Not that I don’t like their monkeys and IPAs!) Victory has been releasing some really interesting new beers over the last couple of years (Twisted Monkey, Cloud Walker, Easy Ringer), but this is their first new Lager in a few years and one I will definitely have in regular rotation.

Bottom line: Victory Classic is a welcome addition to Victory’s year-round lineup and of the quality I’ve come to expect from Victory Brewing’s lagers. I’d also slot Victory Classic in the top half of the Helles Lagers I’ve had over the last few years.

There’s an old advertising slogan, “Does exactly what it says on the tin” and considering the bottom of the can states “Easy Drinkin’ Lager that slogan is most apropos for Classic – the beer is flavorful, easy drinking at 4.8% ABV, and a beer you can enjoy without over-analyzation (says the guy with a 3-year old beer blog).

I want to also point out the can art, too. Eye-popping, great red-white-blue color scheme, which comes across a reflection of the beer inside.

The last anecdotal point is similar to a point I made in the the last non-NJ beer I reviewed (Sierra Nevada’s Barrel-Aged Narwhal): Victory Classic, is the 40th unique beer from Victory I’ve logged in untappd.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Lone Eagle Brewing’s King Kölsch

Name: King Kölsch
Brewing Company: Lone Eagle Brewing Company
Location: Flemington, NJ
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 5%

This relatively underappreciated style is a standout of its kind and one of the best beers to come out of Flemington’s Lone Eagle Brewing.

From the untappd page for the beer and can label:

This classic German ale is much like a nice crisp lager. A personal passion of our brewer, it has a nice malty sweetness to it while finishing with a slight bitterness. This Kölsch is true royalty. Long live King Kölsch!

Lone Eagle is one of a small handful of breweries within a 10 mile or so radius of me. As such (and as I’ve noted previously here at the Tap Takeover), I had been visiting them on again and off again for the monthly Board Game Night, both for gaming with friends and the beer. Of course, since March 2020 that hasn’t happened. When I saw that Lone Eagle was canning their re-worked Kölsch, I figured it was finally time I grabbed some of their beer.

In the few Kölsch reviews I’ve posted, I’ve mentioned how the style is underappreciated, it isn’t an IPA, Stout, or even a Pilsner. However, if brewed well, a Kölsch can be very flavorful, refreshing, and satisfying. Those last three words encapsulate this beer, but read below for more…

The beer pours a clear, bright yellow into the Lone Eagle nonic tumbler which really catches my attention. An image just like the one at the top of this post is likely what many people will conjure in their minds if somebody asks them to picture “beer.”

I’m hit with a very clean tasting beer. What does that mean? Well, there’s a consistency to the flavor profile, good contribution from the water, yeast, barley, and hops. The core four ingredients are playing in harmony. There’s zero unpleasant taste on the finish or aftertaste, nothing lingers uninvited. Rather, the taste here with King Kölsch finishes in a way that makes me not want to put the glass down.

There’s great flavor from the malt, a little breadiness that reminds me of a Helles Lager. The beer also has a sweetness to it that makes you want to go for a second sip without having put the glass down from the first sip. Kölsch ales can have a bitterness on the finish, but this one doesn’t. While the hops are definitely present, but there’s no lingering unpleasantness.

I’ve had nearly 50 different beers from Lone Eagle over the last few years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect since I’d characterize them as “a very nice brewery.” While I’ve enjoyed the majority of their beer, only a few of their darker beers (Stouts and Dopplebocks) have stood above the crowd of their peers in an otherworldly sense. Again, not a knock necessarily because I’ve been more than pleased with what I’ve had – I wouldn’t have had almost 50 beers from Lone Eagle if they weren’t good.

However, this Kölsch is one of the best 3 or 4 best beers I’ve had from Lone Eagle Brewing. To put it simply, King Kölsch is a beer worthy of the title because it is a standout beer for a style that (unjustifiably) is not always a standout and a standout beer from a brewery who has been churning out good beer for about four years now.

Recommended, link to 4.25-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

My “Brewery Spotlight” on Lone Eagle Brewing from June 2017. (Three Years ago already!)

Beer Review: Ashton Brewing’s Jersey Dreamin’

Name: Jersey Dreamin’
Brewing Company: Ashton Brewing Company
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 5.7%

“Ashton’s second canned beer is a superb interpretation of the classic lager.”

From Ashton Breiwng’s forpage for beers:

Jersey Dreamin’ is our Czech style Pilsner. It pours with a rich creamy white head and a burst of floral/spicy Saaz hops. Honey, cracker and spice all pop in the flavor and it finishes clean and balanced and says let’s have another!

Ashton Brewing is one of the newest New Jersey breweries (as of the date of this post, June 9, 2020), but they had the unfortunate timing to have had their grand opening scheduled when the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down public gatherings. They took over the former Demented Brewing facility in Middlesex, NJ, redid the interior and launched their brews. Despite the challenge they faced in the current times Ashton pushed forward, sold crowlers and growlers of their beers to what I’ve seen to be positive response. Shortly after they opened, Ashton began canning their beer, including this delightful Pilsner which is the second beer they canned.

Pilsners are one of my favorite styles and I’m always excited when a smaller brewery decides to craft any kind of lager, especially when a new brewery does their second canning run as a Pilsner. As soon as it was available I placed on online order and picked up a six pack at the brewery. As a result, I was check in number three to this beer in untappd, so I was also very happy to be one of the first to try the beer. Good thing the beer was delicious!

Visually, if you were to put this beer side-by-side with the last Pilsner I reviewed (also a Czech Pilsner), you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same beer. That’s a good thing because this clear and clean, golden yellow beer is largely what I would expect a pilsner to look like. The aroma gives off some hops and maybe some crackery/breadiness from the malt. More good signs for Jersey Dreamin’.

That first sip immediately becomes a gulp. Simply put, Jersey Dreamin’ is a delicious Pilsner.

Some Pilsners lean towards a breadiness/cracker element from the malt, some have a floral/fruity finish and some strike a balance between the two. Jersey Dreamin strikes that balance really nicely. It isn’t as “crackery” as some pilsners I’ve had – which is by no means a slight – but it has a full flavor whose elements come together really cleanly.

I spent a long Saturday afternoon in the sun doing yardwork the weekend after getting the six pack. My reward was this beer and it hit the spot perfectly, the beer was extremely flavorful, abundantly refreshing – an elevated “lawnmower” beer, if you will.

Many breweries who start up, at least in New Jersey, launch their canning program with multiple IPAs or some dark beers like porters & stouts. While Ashton’s first canned beer was their IPA, the fact that their second beer to be canned was a Pilsner – a style that has zero wiggle room for mistakes that can be hidden by adding more hops or adjuncts – is impressive. It shows confidence in the quality of the product they are sharing with consumers. Steve Ashton has a long history of brewing and working in the brewing industry in some capacity and that knowledge and confidence in his ability shows in this elegant and delicious Pilsner. This beer is good enough that it could be their flagship beer and a Pilsner that Lager-enthusiasts should definitely seek out. I for one can’t wait to have fresh draught of this Pilsner once the Pandemic concludes.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Ashton is accepting online orders for local delivery and pick up

Draught Diversions: May 2020 Six Pack

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

Social Distancing continues through May and so does the focus on NJ / Local Breweries. Two of the beers in this post are from a brewery who had a beer as a featured review over the past month, which is something I’ve tried avoid. I have mostly been able be a little more robust in my selections for two reasons: (1) I didn’t usually limit my purchases to just New Jersey and (2) I’ve also returned to some old favorites over the past month, so there weren’t as many new beers this past month compared to previous months. Enough with the reasons, here are the beers

Porter (Spellbound Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This was the other beer I picked up on my visit to Spellbound during the first weekend of the month. This is a straight-forward, malty, and roasty porter. I liked the chocolate hints and especially the coffee finish; the beer does exactly what a porter should do. This beer serves as the base porter for Spellbound’s outstanding, award winning Porter Aged on Palo Santo Wood.

Malachor (Conclave Brewing Company) | IPA – Black / Cascadian Dark Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave has been doing curbside crowler releases (and quickly selling out) for much of the pandemic, this one is the first opportunity I’ve had to enjoy one of those releases. I haven’t had a Cascadian Dark Ale in a very long time but this one really took me by surprise. It doesn’t look like an IPA, but the hops evoke a tropical flavor that works really nicely with the roasted malt. This is a standout beer for sure.

White (Cape May Brewing Company) | Wheat Ale – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Cape May had a summer witbier in their lineup for a few years which was OK. This year they removed that beer and added White as a year-round beer, but it works so well for the summer. This is basically Cape May’s take on a Witbier, and per CMBC, White has more wheat and less hops and that combination for me works a lot better than Summer Catch did. White compares favorably to Kane’s Cloud Cover (reviewed earlier in the month) and the standard, Allagash White. In other words, it is an excellent Belgian Style Witbier.

Snowtober (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Porter – Imperial/Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Yeah, yeah I know I have two beers in this six pack from breweries already in a feature review this month. Snowtober is one of the launch beers from Jersey Cyclone and is a superb milk porter, with additions of coffee and vanilla to embolden the flavor even more. I found the beer to be incredibly smooth with a very nice roasty and sweet finish. For their first anniversary, Jersey Cyclone let some Snowtober sit in barrels. I thought that was good, too, even if it was a little too bourbony.

Monkey Chased the Weasel (Carton Brewing Company) | Sour – Berliner Weisse | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Monkey Chased the Weasel has long been a part of Carton’s portfolio, I see untapped checkins going back to 2014, but this is the first time I had it. This is a mildly sour/tart ale, but the flavor is really nice making for a perfect, refreshing beer for the summer. I can’t say I’ve had a mulberry and only know of it from the song to which this beer pays homage, but I assume the pleasant sweetness comes from that berry. Bottom line: this is a great take on the Berliner Weisse.

Hazy Bones (Flying Fish Brewing Company) | IPA – New England | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the third major take on a New England IPA from Flying Fish and it is a spot on interpretation. I’ve only had Jersey Juice but I found this one to be closer to style and more flavorful. The beer has all the juicy/tropical elements typically associated with the style along with a noticeable bite of hops on the finish.

Some good stuff, but not much more variety of breweries for May 2020. I will call out one beer I had that wasn’t so great – Brewberry which is a blueberry coffee stout collaboration between Cape May Brewing and Night Shift Brewing in MA. I got almost no coffee notes and all tart blueberry notes. Brewberry was the only beer from Cape May that I flat out didn’t like.