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.
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. .
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the breweries (the last brewery we visited during the journey and a brewery I first visited back in 2017); however, shall not be named in this blog henceforth. This is despite the fact that I had a good beer during the visit. They shall not be named because the individual overseeing the taproom was extremely surly and rude to my wife and I. The overall vibe at this brewery was not too welcoming, at least from the folks working at this establishment. Let’s just say the brewery who shall not be named was a major guilty party in my post about Date Coding in Craft Beer since this brewery has the ability to stamp their beer with something, but instead of a date, they put a dumb phrase or song lyric. Bottom line, I won’t be visiting or purchasing their beer in the future.
Enough of my rambling, here’s the Six Pack for April 2022, where all but one of the beers is from a NJ Brewery…
Czig Meister is always a highlight for me and they are one of my overall favorite breweries in the State of New Jersey. I had a few beers during the visit and brought some home, but this IPA is the standout for me. Czig’s “Abyss” Series of New England IPAs are always excellent and this one is no exception. I especially appreciated the lack of aftertaste because this beer had a lovely, smooth finish that complemented the great blend of tropical hops.
This was my second visit to Buttzville, I really enjoyed my first experience there so I was looking forward to sampling their beer again. I decided on a Hefeweizen and this beer, a “fruited session ale” with raspberry, passion fruit, guava, and citrus puree. The beer element was still very present, meaning the fruit elements were not overpowering and were introduced into the brewing process very smartly. This would be a great beer to enjoy in the summer or warmer months.
Magnify is known more for their IPAs and Pastry Stouts, but when I saw they brewed what they call a Schwarzbier (and is listed on untappd as a Lager – Dark) I wanted to try the beer. I was pleased, the beer has a little more roasty bitterness than I like in Schwarzbiers, but it is a very solid effort from the North Jersey brewery.
When I saw this beer pop up on Tavor, I figured what the hell, I’ll give it a try. I’ve enjoyed the Dortmunder Lagers I’ve had, including Bull N’ Bear’s great take on the style. Lupulin Brewing (out of Minnesota) is known, from what I’ve gathered, primarily for IPAs. If this beer is an indication of the overall quality of their portfolio, then they are a damned fine brewery. Smooth tasting, with elements of toasted crackers and a sweet finish, I could drink this all day
Although I’ve been enjoying some of the regular rotation beers from Jersey Cyclone I’ve picked up at local stores, it had been too long since I stopped in Jersey Cyclone brewing for some freshly poured beer. This beer had all the things I’d like in a dessert stout, Black Forest Cake is a favorite dessert and this beer does a great job emulating the cake. Sweet, rich thickness, and a wonderful gestalt of Cherry, Chocolate, and Vanilla. In no way, shape, or form does this beer drink like an 11.5% beer. Because it is 11.5% ABV, it was only offered in tasters and half pours, no full pints on this one.
I’ve been hearing good things about Chilton Mill Brewing for quite a while now and I’ve wanted to visit them to sample their wares. I finally did this past month and was extremely impressed with this beer. Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits and this beer has blueberries in spades, but the “Fuzz” in the name is from the peaches which come across on the finish of the beer. The beer is a seamless transition from blueberry to peach and simply delightful. If Chilton Mill can pull off a beer with these flavor elements so successfully, I’m eager to try more of their beer.
While the above clearly indicates I had some really good beer, as do the beer reviews I posted this month, it was unfortunate that I had to add another NJ brewery to the “never patronize again” list, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph. On the other hand, there are well over 100 breweries in NJ and plenty within close proximity to me so it isn’t like I’m wont for a good place to get good beer.