Beer Review: Lagunitas Born Again Yesterday (2018)

Name: Born Again Yesterday
Brewing Company: Lagunitas Brewing Company
Location: Petaluna, CA
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 7.2%

From Lagunitas’s Brewing’s beers page:

We’ve discovered that the Lagunitas brewers are part time alchemists… they’ve figured out how to keep wet hops wet all freakin’ year long! Born Again Yesterday Pale Ale, which features a delicious concoction of wet hops, reborn and unfiltered into our Born Yesterday Pale Ale. Congrats… It’s a beer again!

It’s the Holy Grail pursuit of brewing in hoppy beer making: year-round wet-hop flavor. Hops are good, fresh hops are better, wet hops are the best. We say ‘wet hops’ because they have not been dried after harvest. We say ‘better’ because they possess the fullest expression of hop flavor; vine-fresh. But as with another herbaceous favorite of ours, they must be quickly dried to prevent mold and spoilage. That drying process is done delicately but something is always lost in translation. Other good brewers have taken up the quest. The results have varied. Ours is a homegrown process of time dilation for the delicate hop cone that the flower doesn’t even perceive and so delivers its still newborn self to our kettle months and months after its birth. Questing has no end and we are still tweaking our process but we hope you find this mid-summer anachronism to be as satisfying as we do.

Lagunitas is one of the more prominent and widely distributed American Craft breweries. Despite being owned by Heineken for a few years, the brewery has maintained a significant level of loyal beer drinkers and continues to churn out well-received and top selling beers, most prominently their best-selling IPA. Much of their portfolio is aggressively hop-forward so my palate didn’t match up with their output for the longest time. With my shifting palate and this beer appearing in a mix pack from one of my guests on the Fourth of July, I was looking forward to giving the beer a try.

Though not specifically a Summer beer, this Pale Ale is a seasonal Ale available in the summer months between May and August. Lagunitas considers this one a “Limited Release” and because of the varying hops and process utilized the ABV and IBU vary from year to year. The 2018 version is at 7.2% ABV and 55 IBU, while in the past it has ranged from 7.0 to 7.5 ABV.

I was a little hesitant about whether I would enjoy this beer, to be honest since I haven’t had much luck with any beers from Lagunitas. But when that yellow-orange hazy opaque beer poured from the bottle to the glass, I was locked in. The beer looked really appealing and gave off a pungent, inviting hop aroma.

A hops assault hits the taste buds on the first sip. There’s a lot of juicy goodness evoked by the hops, definitely citrus fruit like orange and some tropical notes like mango. It just sits really nicely in the palate…at least my palate.

The potent hops are balanced by a fairly strong malt backbone, but the juicy wet hops are the star of this beer. I think what seals the deal for me is the unfiltered nature of the beer. As a fan of Hefeweizens and Belgian style brews, I generally lean towards unfiltered beers. Given that, Born Again Yesterday hits all the notes I’ve come to appreciate in a hop-forward ale.

As a whole, this is a refreshing, juicy and delicious hop-forward pale ale. Nothing overly fancy, just a really tasty Pale Ale. Sometimes, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. I’m happy that I gave this one a shot and can see myself going out and purchasing a pack of this one when it hits shelves next summer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Pale as the Moon(Level 17)

Ahh, the trusty pale ale; crisp, refreshing, and always a good choice in a bind. That’s 85 different Pale Ales.

 

Draught Diversions: Cypress Brewing Company

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…

One of the breweries to emerge in the early wave of the NJ Brewery renaissance (if you will) after the laws changed in 2012 was Cypress Brewing in Edison. Charlie Backmann, Jason Kijowski, and Bill Lutz opened the doors to Cypress in 2015, but they were involved in NJ beer and brewing before that.

Before the laws changed in 2012, there was a fairly thriving community of brewpubs in New Jersey (and there still are quite a few successful brew pubs, to be frank). One of the more long-standing brewpubs is J.J. Bittings in Woodbridge, NJ which is not too far from where I grew up. Bittings opened in 1997 and I’d visited fairly often with my parents. Not sure if Charlie Backmann and Jason Kijowski were there when I visited (I honestly can’t recall the last time I was at J.J. Bittings), but Charlie and Jason spent some time there and homebrewing with Bill Lutz before the three friends decided to share their beers with New Jersey and open Cypress.

Tap List at Cypress Brewing – August 2, 2018

The name “Cypress” is the street where Kijowski lived, though the brewery has played off the 90s Hip Hop group Cypress Hill for at least one of their beers – “Insane in the Grain” pays homage to the great Cypress Hill song “Insane in the Brain.” That song was in constant rotation in my Fraternity’s basement at Rutgers University in the mid 1990s. As the brewery is in Edison, named for inventor Thomas Alva Edison, Cypress pays homage with some of their beer names, including Alva, an Imperial Porter. This link to their full beer list: http://cypressbrewing.com/beer_type/all-beers/, provides the names, description, and some of the interesting can art of many of the beers in their portfolio.

I’ve listened to a few podcasts featuring Charlie and one thing he pointed out was how open and welcoming the community of Edison was to the brewery. That’s such an important element to craft beer in New Jersey and makes for a better brewery and experience on the whole. In listening to those podcasts, it is pretty clear Charlie enjoys what he does.

The brewery is located in a small industrial park on Nixon Lane, which runs behind the campus of Middlesex County College. If you didn’t know to look for the brewery, you may not know where to search. Fun fact: I once had a summer college job at a moving company less than a mile away from Cypress. That moving company is no longer in the same location. Back to Cypress…The tap room is relatively small, but not tiny. I’d say the room was cozy. There were almost a dozen people there on my visit and there was still some room. The theme of the green Cypress tree is prevalent and very much an extrapolation of the logo.

The folks at Cypress are respected in the brewing community and have developed close ties with some of the growing number of breweries in New Jersey. This has lead to well-received collaborations with Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ (Necessity & Invention), Bolero Snort (soon to be) in Carlstadt, NJ (Cypress Love), Melovino Meadery in Vauxhall, NJ (Devil’s Tree), and Dark City in Asbury Park, NJ (Sacc’d Lunch).

The next question, of course: How is the beer?

Unfortunately, one of their beers I was extremely eager to try – Weize Guy – a Hefeweizen, was not on tap that day. I also would have liked to get a glass with Cypress’ logo, but they were all sold out. I suppose that just means I’ll have to head down to the brewery again in the future.

On to the beers I actually did try, including the flight pictured below during my visit to the brewery on the first Thursday in August. One thing I really appreciated about the flight was the price – just $6 for the flight of four beers.  Some breweries charge double that for a flight.

Back to the beers… It happened to be IPA Day when I visited so of course at least one of the beers in my flight, the first, was 17-Mile Cypress’s flagship IPA. The beer falls more on the West Coast style with a decent level of bitterness and piney flavor and just a hint of citrus. The beer (I assume) gets its name from the Lone Cypress on 17-Mile Drive in Montery, CA. For the second beer, I continued with the IPA Day theme and had Cypress’ interpretation of a New England/Hazy IPA, Ceclia. This was a spot-on interpretation of the style, which I enjoyed more than 17-Mile, but I tend to prefer the hazier IPAs.

Left to right: “17 Mile” IPA; “Cecilia” IPA – Double New England; “Peach Pit” Fruit Beer; “Alva” Porter – Imperial / Double

For a change of pace, I went with The Peach Pit as the third beer in my flight. This is a high-ABV fruit beer Cypress released for their Third Anniversary in July. I’m guessing the name comes from the popular hangout on Beverly Hills 90210. This beer is brewed with lactose and aged on peaches and Madagascar Vanilla beans. and makes for a sweet summer dessert brew. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it was very sweet. I closed out the flight with the aforementioned Alva, a potent Imperial Porter. The taste was OK, but the body was a little thin and had a slight aftertaste. Not a bad beer, but I definitely enjoyed the other three beers in the flight more.

I ended my visit to the brewery with a taster of the delicious English Nut Brown, about which I went into detail earlier in the week. About two and a half years ago, at the fifth and final Garden State Brewfest I had Lighthouse, which a very tasty brown ale with coconut and the first widely available version of their Vanilla Imperial Porter, The V.I.P. I think I even went back for a second pour of V.I.P. As it turns out, Cypress has reworked both of those beers a bit and have released both in cans.

Cypress has been canning their beers for a year (or maybe two) with the beers making their way to NJ beer stores. On the day I visited, they had just canned a few of their beers and one of the folks (Tom) from Iron Heart Canning was there enjoying some tasty Cypress beer. Some good conversation about NJ beer and canned beer ensued. I hadn’t realized just how widely across the Eastern US Iron Heart is canning beer these days.

After all was said, done and consumed, I was left with some really good thoughts about the brewery, Cypress Brewing has a lot going for itself. First and foremost they make good beer. Of the seven I tried between my recent visit and two years ago at the Garden State Brewfest, all were above average in quality. They also seem to have really good relationships with other breweries in the state. The Edison Community has embraced the brewery to the point that in 2015, the Edison Chamber of Commerce named Charles Backmann their Entrepeneur of the Year! In short, a great start for Cypress Brewing. a solid and respectable first three years of business, and a bright future. I know I’ll be grabbing more of their beers off of shelves and ordering them on tap in the future.

Ein Prosit!

Cypress Brewing Company Web site | Instagram | Facebook | twitter

Some other links of interest:

Beer Review: Cypress Brewings’s Northern English Nut Brown Ale

Name: Northern English Nut Brown Ale
Brewing Company: Cypress Brewing
Location: Edison, NJ
Style: Brown Ale – English
ABV: 4.6%

From Cypress Brewing’s beers page:

Dark and malty with roasted barley and chocolate malt. Earthy hops and a sweet, nutty finish. Full flavored but very sessionable with a low ABV.

Cypress Brewing has been brewing and selling beer in New Jersey for about three years and this Brown Ale is one of their earliest brews. As it so happens, this beer was one of the first available when the brewery opened its doors to the public for the first time. I said back when I reviewed Bell’s Amber Ale that, in addition to the ever-popular IPAs and seasonals, many breweries have staple classic styles they keep on draft like Ambers Ales, straightforward Pale Ales, or in Cypress’s case this well-crafted Brown Ale.

I had this during a visit to the brewery about which I’ll go into more detail in a couple of days. Relative to this beer, I had a flight before getting a glass of this one and I was largely inspired to give it a try because one of the brewer’s assistants was hanging out in the tap room (whose name escapes me, sorry!). He said this beer was one of his favorites, even before he started working at Cypress. If I didn’t already have one flight, I would have ordered a full pour of this beer.

In look and aroma, the beer comes across just as you’d expect from the name – brown, opaque, and with a pleasingly sweet aroma. First sip is very tasty with the type of sweetness and feel that encourages you to take another, larger sip of the beer.

It has been a very, very long time since I had Newcastle’s Nut Brown Ale, but I imagine brewer/owner Charlie Backmann was trying to evoke that flavor profile (or at least in name) or maybe even Cigar City’s Maduro Brown. Whatever he and his fellow brewers at Cypress were *trying* to do with this beer, they created a really enjoyable all-day kind of beer. With the low ABV of 4.6%, this is a seissionable beer you could enjoy throughout the day without getting too verschnicken while still enjoying a flavorful beer.

Cypress has been canning many of their IPAs for distribution and selling a few of their beers from the brewery in cans, like their long-standing Hefeweizen (which I *just* missed having) or some of their smaller batch sours. Let’s face it, IPAs sell hand over fist what brown ales sell, I assume, but this beer seems like it is tailor made for a six-pack of 12oz cans.

A well-flavored classic style ale that hits the right buttons for wary craft drinkers and craft enthusiasts alike. The IPAs may draw folks to Cypress’s tap room in Edison, NJ, but I would caution people against leaving without giving this tasty ale try whether as part of a flight or a full pour.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Draught Diversions: June 2018 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…

Most of the beer I consume in July centers around my big Fourth of July party…between the beer I buy for it and the beer guests bring, my fridge and cooler are pretty much set for a the better part of the month and some of August. Some good beers were brought, some I had in my travels throughout the month. Despite being out of the State for a week, two New Jersey beers show up on this month’s six pack. Let’s get started, shall we?

American Kolsch (Boulevard Brewing) Kölsch – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I wrote about Boulevard a couple of weeks ago, inspired partly, by this and a few other beers. My brother-in-law brought a variety pack of Boulevard Cans (including this, the tasty Jam Band and Unfiltered Wheat Beer) on the Fourth of July and those beers went quickly. Of the four beers, I think this one was my favorite. Unfortunately, it isn’t that prevalent of a beer in this area, outside of the that variety pack. If you can find it, grab it because it is a clean, tasty perfect ale for summer sipping.

BETAparticle Blood Orange Wheat Ale (Oyster Creek Brewing) Pale Wheat Ale – American – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Didn’t get a photo of the beer, so here’s the logo!

Here’s another good beer I discovered on the Fourth of July. My cousin knows the brewer (or owner?) here and actually messaged me asking which beer from their beer list she should bring to my Fourth of July party. Well, I suggested this one and I was not disappointed. Blood orange is a good additive to beer, especially wheat-based ales and it works really well in this beer. This was a nice surprise from a new brewery (opened in May 2018). I’m looking forward to having more beer from Oyster Creek Brewing.

Double Trouble (Founders Brewing) IPA – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Shockingly, a Founders beer makes an appearance on my monthly six pack. Well, the last time this beer was on shelves (2016), I probably would not have even tried it since I avoided IPAs. Now; however, I like it very much. A very tasty, malty and citrusy Imperial IPA. This beer served as the base for Doom, the first IPA in Founders’ Barrel Aged Series and one of my favorite beers from last year.

Orval Pale Ale – Belgian (Brasserie d’Orval) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Orval, the beer from the Belgian Trappist brewery who makes just one beer, a beer that is beloved by many and rightfully so. This was the first time I had the beer and I really enjoyed it. The bottle I had was bottled in 2015 so it aged a bit, I think this one is good for up to 8 years with the bottle conditioning, but I certainly want to try a more recently packaged bottle. Hearing Augie Carton and John Holl talk so lovingly about this beer on their Steal This Beer podcast had me wanting to try the beer for a while. I’m glad I did.

Kalashnikov Buckwheat Whiskey Barrel Aged Stout – Russian Imperial (Icarus Brewing) – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Yeah, I know the last beer I reviewed was from Icarus, but this beer was absolutely outstanding and one of the best Russian Imperial Stouts I’ve ever had. One of Icarus’s regular offerings is their Kalishnikov Russian Imperial Stout, which I haven’t yet had, which serves as the base for this beer. The fine folks at Icarus age that beer for 7 months in Catskill Distilling Buckwheat Whiskey Barrels and is a potent sipper. The beer is listed as 100 IBU but I didn’t get any hop bitterness at all. This was brewed in celebration of the brewery’s first anniversary of tapping beer. Put simply: outstanding. I would love to give this beer a little more time to warm up.

Flesh & Blood (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) IPA 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Dogfish has been my jam lately and this is one just cements that status. When you are traveling and attending conferences, chances are the beer choices aren’t always the best. In a best case scenario there are one or two craft beers that happen to get wide distribution wherever the conference is being held. In this case, Dogfish’s juicy IPA with (there it is again) Blood Oranges in the mix was available at one of the bars of the hotel, which was a nice surprise. I may have to put this one in regular rotation.

So, not a terrible beer in this group like last month. That’s largely because July consisted of some above average beers and just a couple of mediocre beers not worth mentioning.

Beer Review: Icarus Brewing’s Yacht Juice

Name: Yacht Juice
Brewing Company: Icarus Brewing
Location: Lakewood, NJ
Style: IPA – New England (untappd) / IPA – Imperial (Label)
ABV: 8%
Purchased/Consumed: Project P.U.B.

This picture doesn’t do justice to the bright beautiful beer. Didn’t want to be THAT guy snapping a photo in the crowded bar.

From untappd:

North East style IPA filled with Citra, Mosaic, and Columbus leaving it with a combination of citrus and dank aroma and flavor. We may not own a Yacht, but at least we can enjoy the Juice.

As I said last week, few breweries have made as powerful and quick an impact on the New Jersey Craft Beer scene as has Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ. One of the beers that helped to engender that positive vibe over the past year is what amounts to their Flagship beer, a New England / Northeast IPA they call Yacht Juice, continuing the trend of Jersey Shore breweries (started by Carton) of giving at least one beer a nautically-themed name. Enough about the name, more about the liquid in the glass.

The beer is poured into a slim 10oz flute-style glass (which seemed an odd choice of glass-style for the style of beer, I would have gone tulip), likely because of the relatively high ABV of 8%. Aroma is sweet, hoppy, and juicy. The lighting was not the greatest in Project P.U.B. at the time I had the beer, the bar area was very crowded. That said, the beer was a pleasant yellow-orange is not done justice by my photograph. Between the color and aroma, the beer is very inviting; in other words, this seemed to be the profile I’ve come to enjoy the most in IPAs.

First sip is a nice pop of flavors – pleasant hoppiness that hits the sweet and juicy which profile. The description attributes three hop varieties in this beer, but for me the Citra is the dominant of the three. The level of juice in this one has a pleasant bitterness, I’d guess from the Mosaic hops. The Columbus hops are the hops with which I’m most unfamiliar, so I’m not sure how that factors into the beer, but I’m guessing it helps to bring a really nice balance between the Citra and Mosaic.

Some of the hops that emulate fruit flavors give you a really distinct fruit profile, some orangey, but this one is almost like a tropical punch with a heavy dose of orange juice. That said, don’t think ths a carbonated glass of orange juice. Oh no no no. This is a beer through and through and the hop finish on this one latches on to your taste buds and makes it really tough to drink this slowly.

When this beer started making waves (no pun intended) in the NJ Beer community about a year ago, I didn’t give it much consideration since I thought it was “just another hazy IPA.” I was certainly wrong about that, this is a beer that really lives up to the hype. I’m going to have to make sure I head down to Icarus and/or make sure I snag a four-pack when the next delivery drops at my local beer store.

As I suggested in the opening paragraph, a growing number of nautically-named beers are being brewed by NJ Craft Brewers, the first (and some would say the best) being Carton’s Boat Beer. Although Icarus is playing in similar waters with Yacht Juice, the style is a few steps removed from the sessionable Boat and stands on its own as a delicious New England or “Northeast Style” IPA. Aside from bearing nautical names and being somewhat hop-forward, the two beers are quite different and excellent.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating. To be honest, I continue to vacillate between leaving this at a 4.25 or upping it to 4.5. I guess I’ll have to make the sacrifice and seek out the beer again.

Draught Diversions: 5 More Breweries to Visit, Part 3 of a Series

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…

It has been a while (October of 2017) since I did one of these “Breweries I’d like to visit” posts and since then, I think my taste in beer has evolved. I’m seeking out IPAs, enjoying sours and really starting to appreciate beers from some of the more established Craft Breweries/Craft Beer Brands. The first couple of these posts were fairly easy, as I had dozens of beers from many of those breweries. So this time around, I’m ordering these alphabetically.

Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, MI (1983)
Total Bell’s beers checked in on untappd: 4
Bell’s Beers reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Oberon Ale and Amber Ale.

Seems like I find new reasons to talk about Bell’s Brewery every month, doesn’t it? Well, that alone should be an indicator of what a big deal this brewery is and how happy many folks in New Jersey are that their beers are available to us. Just about everybody I know who had Two Hearted for the first time within the last couple of months loves the beer and folks are pleased Oberon was here in time for the summer.

Image courtesy of Bell’s Brewing’s Web site

In addition to those beers, I’ve had and enjoyed the Amber Ale and Pooltime Ale. Their Eccentric Café looks extremely inviting, doesn’t it?

With 20+ draught options, a full-service restaurant, a luscious Beer Garden, comfortable patio and a state-of-the-art music venue, Bell’s Eccentric Café is the premiere craft beer destination in Michigan.

Our kitchen offers inspired fare, made with locally sourced, primarily non-GMO and sustainable ingredients, made from scratch to complement our beer.

All of that adds to Bell’s reputation as not just one of the Great Midwestern Breweries, but one of the Great American Breweries.

Boulevard Brewing Beer Company Kansas City, MO (1989)
Total Boulevard beers checked in on untappd: 11
Boulevard Beer reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Bourbon Barrel Quad

Boulevard is another Midwest/Southwest brewing institution. With nearly 30 years of brewing history based out of Kansas City, Boulevard has been pleasing fans in the Missouri and Kansas region for years. One of the beers that helped to build the Boulevard name is their renowned Saison, Tank 7. I had the beer years ago and liked it, but over the past year or so, I’ve come to really enjoy saisons even more so I think I need to revisit this beer. This past Fourth of July, I had the chance to sample two of their most popular beers thanks to the variety back my brother-in-law brought: Unfiltered Wheat (touted as the best-selling beer in the Midwest) and American Kolsch. These two beers were perfect for a warm fourth of July.

Image courtesy of Boulevard’s Facebook page

Probably the best beer I had from Boulevard was the one I reviewed earlier in the year: Bourbon Barrel Quad. This beer part is of their Smokestack Series, “A collection of bigger, bolder, more complex beers, these delicious, higher alcohol offerings are perfect for sipping or sharing.” Other beers in the series include a Double IPA, an Imperial Stout, a Whiskey Barrel-Aged Stout and the aforementioned Tank 7.

Image courtesy of Boulevard’s Web site

While the story of Boulevard’s growth is a great American story, the brewery was purchased by Duvel Moortgat in 2014. This is not like the other craft beer purchases in recent years. Boulevard seems to remain true to its original roots and continues to produce beer as an independent brewer would – pushing the definition of beer.

For some really great insight into Boulevard, I highly recommend listening to the Craft Beer and Brewing podcast featuring Boulevard’s brewmaster Steven Pauwels.

My wife and I took a trip out to Kansas City and Saint Louis about 8 years ago. At the time, I didn’t know nearly as much about Craft Beer as I did now, though I did manage to visit Schalfly. Unfortunately, we did not visit Boulevard but we were barely in Kansas City for 24 hours. Next time.

Cape May Brewing Company, Cape May, NJ (2011)
Total Cape May beers checked in on untappd: 3
Cape May Beer reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Coastal Evacuation Double IPA

A New Jersey brewery? Really? Well, Cape May is at the southern tip of the state and not exactly a day trip for me. Cape May is one of the great Jersey Shore vacation destinations, my parents spend a weekend or two there every year. Every year, they visit the brewery and this past year, they brought me back what is now one of my favorite NJ beers: Devil’s Reach, a delicious, nearly perfect Belgian Strong Golden Ale. That beer is far from the only beer they brew; many of their IPAs are highly regarded including their Double IPA Coastal Evacuation.

About a year or so ago (May 2017), they redid their label art and “brand design” and for my eyes, their cans and overall design aesthetic is some of the strongest of any brewery in the State.

Cape May’s 3 flagship beers, DEVIL’S REACH is one of my favorite NJ beers

Currently, Cape May Brewing Company is the second largest brewery in NJ (by capacity, I think) which combined with the beer community’s high regard for many of their beers, are reasons enough to visit and sample some of their beers. Additionally, where I live (Somerset County) is just outside of Cape May’s current distribution footprint. I’m really hoping as their capacity ramps up, I’ll begin seeing their beers (especially Devil’s Reach) on shelves at my local Gary’s, Wegman’s, or Petrock’s.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, CA (1996)
Total Firestone Walker Beers checked into untappd: 8
Firestone Walker Beer reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Nitro Merlin Milk Stout

California has many, many breweries. I mentioned one I’d like to visit in the first installment of this “series,” in fact. I haven’t had many of their beers largely because much of their core line up is hop-forward (IPAs and the like). I’ve come to appreciate IPAs recently and in my greater appreciation of some of the more storied American Craft Breweries, just how great an impact Firestone Walker had on the craft beer scene.

The first beer I remember having from them was Pivo Pils, a great Pilsner. Every beer I’ve had since that Pivo Pils has been of very high quality. In fact, two of the best beers I had last year came from Firestone Walker: Nitro Merlin Milk Stout and Mocha Merlin, one of the best coffee stouts I ever had.

Image courtesy of Firestone Walker’s Twitter feed

Like Boulevard, Firestone Walker was purchased by Duvel Moortgat in 2016. I can’t speak to the quality of the beer too much prior to the sale (except for maybe Pivo Pils), but it seems the purchase has afforded Firestone the ability to grow even more – in addition to the core lineup (Lion & Bear series), they’ve initiated two different IPA “series:” Leo v. Ursus and the Luponic Distortion series of IPAs that rotates about every 120 days. Their barrel aging program is some of the most robust of any brewery: The Proprietors Vintage series focuses on darker brews like Stouts, Browns, and Barleywines. The Barrelworks Wild Ales are barrel-aged sours.

Image courtesy of Firestone Walker

I had Union Jack their flagship IPA for the first time recently and really enjoyed it. This has me wanting to explore the bulk of their IPA line-up. What is really surprising to me is that their flagship beer, the beer upon which their name was initially built – Double Barrel Ale – is tough to find here in New Jersey. As for visiting? Well, their production facility, from what I’ve seen on line, seems to be a marvel.

Harpoon Brewery, Boston, MA (1986)
Total Harpoon beers checked in on untappd: 17

Samuel Adams isn’t the only craft brewery to emerge in Boston, the other brewery, often referred to as “Boston’s Brewery” is the great Harpoon Berwery.

Image courtesy of Harpoon

Harpoon began in a very grass roots manner, distributing their own beer and being the first brewery to obtain a permit to brew and sell alcohol in Massachusetts in more than 25 years. Their IPA, a beer upon which the brewery’s foundation was built, is still their most popular beer according to untappd. While Anchor may have been the first American Craft Brewery to brew an annual Christmas beer, Harpoon’s Winter Warmer is one of the more longstanding Winter beers available every season, and one of the brewery’s more popular offerings.

Other early offerings, included UFO Hefeweizen and UFO White, two wheat beers (Hefeweizen and Belgian Witbier respectively). The UFO brand is now its own entity with a continuing schedule of releases with various fruits added or seasonals, like the Pumpkin/Fall UFO, the Winter/Coffee UFO, or Pineapple UFO. I’ve enjoyed some more than others, to be completely honest. I still think the original UFO Hefeweizen is one of the better American Hefeweizens on the market.

Image courtesy of Harpoon’s twitter

One of their more popular seasonal beers in recent years is Camp Wannamango, a Pale Wheat Ale with (as the name implies) notes of mango. On a hot day, this is one of the more refreshing beers on the market.

As good as the beer is from Harpoon, The Harpoon Beer Hall itself has long been a Boston destination for hop heads. Fresh beer, pretzels, and limited release beers are available in addition to the many festivals held at the brewery/beer hall including an annual Octoberfest that I’d love to attend.

Not a bad group of breweries this time around, I think.

Draught Diversions: Happy Anniversary Conclave, Cypress, Czig, & Icarus

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…

Over the past couple of weeks, a few New Jersey breweries celebrated anniversaries. I’ve visited one of them (multiple times), and have had beer from all four. As it works out, of the four, the brewery I’ve visited the most often is also the first alphabetically, so I’ll go down that path and start off with Conclave Brewing.

Little Creature – Grisette (L) Intuitive Function – IPA – Imperial / Double (R)

I wrote about Conclave Brewing last fall and I’ve visited a few times since then. The trend of excellence continues – from fantastic IPAs, to robust, flavorful dark ales (stouts, porters, brown ales) to Belgian inspired ales, everything is excellent. A skim through the Mid Alantic states forums of Beer Advocate will often show the thread dedicated to Conclave one of the more active and praise for the brewery throughout that sub forum.

When I visited this past weekend, Conclave had just released their Third Anniversary Ale, a Double / Imperial IPA they called Intuitive Function. Like all of the IPAs I’ve had from them since becoming an IPA convert, this beer is filled with flavor. Brimming with wonderful hops that evoke citrus and melon, the finish gives a really nice hop bit that remains … without the bitterness.

What has been promising is that Conclave has been releasing cans more regularly over the past year. Let’s hope that frequency increases so more folks can enjoy their beers.

Gong down the alphabet, Cypress Brewing in Edison celebrated their third anniversary as well. I’ll go into more history about the brewery after I eventually visit them and do a full write-up, but at minimum, their beers have a fairly solid reputation in the state. Their capacity has been increasing over the three years they’ve been selling their beers – cans are getting into stores through distribution more regularly. They’ve collaborated with both Bolero Snort and Icarus Brewing.

The two beers I had from them were delicious, a Vanilla Porter that has since been re-worked and a Brown Ale. I recall having those beers at the 2016 Garden State Brewfest (the last one, sadly) and that porter being one of only two beers of which I wanted 2nd and 3rd pours.

Cypress is located in a fairly easy to find location in the big Raritan Center industrial park in Edison, NJ. Hopefully in the next couple of months I’ll be able to make my way to get down the “fun” highway of Route 287 to the brewery.

Another brewery to recently (June) celebrate an anniversary is Czig Meister in Hackettstown. I wrote about them in January after visiting them as part of my birthday brewery tour. I visited the brewery again a couple of months later for the second annual Stout Fest and was even more impressed. In two years, Czig Meister has made a big name for themselves in terms of respect for their beers and how widely they’ve been distributing. I see more and more of their cans and bottles every week and see good things about the beer they are brewing. That’s a pretty good combination, I think – availability and repuation.

Few breweries in New Jersey over the last half decade have made as quick and big an impact as has Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ. Lakewood is a large NJ Shore community and Icarus is helping to make the NJ Shore (along with Carton Brewing and Kane Brewing) a destination for finely crafted beer. This past Saturday, Icarus celebrated one year with a One Year Canniversary

Like Cypress Brewing, I only had their beers at a beer festival, The Bridgewater Beerfest back in May, but boy howdy was I impressed. As I said in that post, I found myself getting 2nd and 3rd pours of their IPA, DDH Not a Schooner. In less than a year Icarus has been dropping their cans as far north as where I live (about 70 miles away). That said, the cans go extremely fast – my favorite beer store generally sells out of their Icarus stock within hours of getting it delivered. Their flagship (no pun intended) beer is Yacht Juice a New England IPA

I know a few other breweries likely hit milestones over the past couple of months, but honestly, keeping up with all of them is a pretty big task especially since this is more of a hobby for me and there are so many in South Jersey that I’ve yet to visit or sample. Bottom line…New Jersey really is growing a strong brewing reputation.