Beer Review: Neshaminy Creek’s Cherry Berlinerweisse

Name: Cherry Berlinerweisse
Brewing Company: Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company
Location: Croydon, PA
Style: Sour – Berliner Weisse
ABV: 3.5%

Tart, yet refreshing. A flavorful beer that makes you pucker, but sweet enough to make you want more.

A warm day by the pool is a perfect way to enjoy this beer.

From Neshaminy Creek’s page for the beer:

German-Style Summer Ale Conditioned on Tart Cherry Juice from King Orchards of Michigan.

Refreshing and tart with a balanced Cherry and cracker-like malt backbone, simple yet well defined, we’ve never brewed a beer this perfect for the Summer before, and we hope you agree..

This past weekend, Neshaminy Creek Brewing was hosting the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market. My wife and I went, having had a good time when visited the Flea Market in the past when they set up in (shocker!) Trenton. With Trenton being just a short ride over a bridge to Pennsylvania, the Flea Market has set up shop at Neshaminy Creek Brewing in Croydon, PA in the past. So, considering how much I’ve enjoyed Neshaminy Creek’s beers and the Flea Market had a day set in August at Neshaminy Creek Brewing, we knew we were going. I also knew I was going to walk out of there with something to take home. Keeping with a theme of lower ABV beers I’ve been following, I grabbed a four pack of this beer upon my wife’s suggestion. She knows I like the style and figured it would be a good summer beer. She doesn’t drink beer, but she’s extremely observant of what I like and when I ramble on about beer.

Short story: my wife was right about the beer. Long story: let me expand upon that.

I’ve had my fair share of Berliner Weisses, about 20, not nearly as many as I’ve had of Pilsner, Stouts, or IPAs. But enough to have a good idea of what I like in the style, what to expect. That’s just a precursor for where I come from when it comes to the style.

There was a huge pop when I cracked open the can. The funk aroma coming of the beer was welcome and gave me an indication that this beer was crafted fairly well. The beer pours out a reddish pink, which is exactly as expected given the beer was made with cherries. So far, so good.

First sip is potent, tart cherry. Maybe the most tart of any beer I’ve had with cherries. The yeast and acidic bacteria at play in the beer likely enhanced the natural tartness of the cherries. This is all good.

The tartness lingers throughout the progression of the flavors, but becomes less pronounced once the sweetness takes over. This beer is supremely tart, but extremely flavorful aside from the tartness. Fortunately, the tart/sour components don’t overpower the other flavor elements even they if are the most prominent elements of the beer. Many Berliner Weisse beers have some kind of sweet fruit – or traditionally in Berlin, a sweet syrup is added as I pointed out in my feature on the style – to balance the tartness. Using a fruit that exhibits both components – very sweet and tart, is a fine way to hew along that tradition and plays well into the base elements of the beer.

I probably should have let the beer sit in the fridge or on ice a little longer than I did, I was too eager to try it. Although the beer came from a fridge at the brewery, that fridge was constantly being opened and closed as the brewery was VERY packed with people, customers who were buying cans of beer, so the beer wasn’t at optimal coldness to begin with AND I’m about an hour drive from the brewery. Long story short (too late), I may have enjoyed it more were it colder, and it may have taken a little longer to warm outside if the beer was colder when I poured it. Be that as it may, the beer was still quite good.

I wanted to give this beer the full chance to shine, so I had a second can the following day. Just like the first can, it popped big time, the sugars and yeast making for quite a bit of pressure and a big fluffy head. I tasted even more than what I expected from the interpretation of the style – the tartness of the cherries popped a little more and carbonation was more fizzy. Both pleasing elements of the beer. It isn’t a beer you can chug (and really, who wants to chug a beer with this much flavor!), but with the low ABV, it is a flavorful ale with a low enough ABV (3.5%) that having three in quick succession would likely not knock you on your rear end.

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s highest profile beers are their IPAs, particularly The Shape of Hops to Come, one of the most acclaimed Imperial IPAs from the East Coast. However, in Cherry Berlinerweisse, Neshaminy Creek has brewed a flavorful, sour & tart Germanic inspired ale that shows off a similar level of complexity and a beer well-suited to warm weather and poolside sipping (as my picture above shows).

Neshaminy Creek has always had very eye-catching artwork on their cans and when they did a “rebrand” earlier in the year, they reached out to their longtime artist JP Flexner to help out. The art on the can below is shows a battle between (I’m guessing) the yeast, lactic acid bacteria, and cherries that give the beer its complex flavor all tamed by a brave undersea diver who just might be a brewer.

Cool can, tasty beer. What more do you need?

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s beers are available in PA, NJ, MD, and DE.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75-Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co’s Kentucky Coffee Barrel Cream Ale

Name: Kentucky Coffee Barrel Cream Ale
Brewing Company: Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company
Location: Lexington, KY
Style: Cream Ale
ABV: 5.5%

An extremely interesting beer with a balance of complementary flavors.

From Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company’s page for the beer:

The brewers at Lexington Brewing Co. took a traditional cold-conditioned cream ale brewed with flaked corn and added our own Haitian coffee to the mix. After resting in fresh bourbon barrels from some of Kentucky’s premier distillers, Kentucky Coffee Barrel Cream Ale becomes a sessionable beer packed with flavor. Big, bold notes of coffee on the nose and palate give way to a smooth finish of bourbon grains and oak. Subtle notes of vanilla and caramel complement this beer from time spent in the barrel.

Some might say the “Cream Ale” is one of the few wholly American created styles of beer, a light, easy drinking style that has some lager characteristics. Generally, Cream Ales can be sweet and refreshing. Personally, I haven’t had very many Cream Ales (most are the Coffee variants from Carton Brewing), but I find the style fairly tasty. In other words, yet another style for me to explore, oh the horror!

As for this Cream Ale from Lexington Brewing it is a very interesting beer. When I did one of my regular beer swaps with my Dad, this beer really intrigued me. From what I’ve gathered, all the beers produced by Lexington Brewing are barrel-aged and they brew across multiple styles.

Enough preamble, time for the actual beer, right?

The beer looks golden with some slight amber hints, but the wood floor where the beer is placed in the photo above is probably reflecting in the beer. Additionally, I’m guessing those reddish/amber hints are from the coffee and aging in bourbon barrels. There’s definitely a coffee aroma wafting off the beer, a welcoming aroma.

I get an immediate hit of coffee intermingled with the beer, which makes for an impressively complex initiation into the beer. Lots of coffee throughout the beer, but it isn’t extremely dominant. Complementing the coffee is the sweetness the bourbon barrel aging lends to the beer. Since a Cream Ale is made with more corn than most beers, there’s a natural sweetness to the style. Coffee is a naturally bitter flavoring component, so the two elements can potentially work against each other but actually balance each other, while the bourbon barrel characteristics brings it all together.

There’s a slight bitterness at the end that was a slightly counter to the sweetness I was getting from most of the beer. That might be the only slightly negative element of the beer.

Aside from the complex flavors, what I appreciate most about the beer is the alcohol level – 5.5% ABV where most barrel aged beers are closer to 10%. I’ve only had a few beers from barrels that were even below 7%. Lexington’s ability to coax as much barrel sweetness into the beer, while also maintaining both the beer’s original flavor and the coffee hints while keeping this beer at a lower, “sessionable” ABV is very impressive.

Hard not to compare a Coffee Cream Ale to Carton’s Regular Coffee especially as I live in New Jersey, but I’ll just say even though the styles are the same, they are different beers completely. Lexington’s Kentucky Coffee Barrel Cream Ale is flavorful and worth a try.

Recommended.

Link to Untappd 4-Bottle Cap rating, – a push from 3.75 to 4 for the interesting nature of the beer.

Draught Diversions: July 2019 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…

The first week of July is often one of the biggest month for beer sales, people want to fill their coolers for the summer or help fill their friends’ coolers for summer parties. As readers of this blog know, I’ve had a pool party/BBQ/family party for the last five years on the Fourth of July. People tend to bring beer for that, although I tend to get the cooler started with some beers I enjoy that I expect many other people will like. The “Cooler Foundation” pic is below, and the beer that proved the most popular was Sunshine Pils from Tröegs, only one from that 12 pack remained in the cooler by the end of the day. Of course, I had one or two myself.

OK, on to my Six Pack for July 2019…

SuperEIGHT (Dogfish Head Brewing Company) | Sour – Gose – Fruited | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

By now it is clear I can’t get through more than a month or two without having a really good “new to me” beer from Dogfish Head. This is something of a “sequel” beer to their smash hit SeaQuench and is equally refreshing. For all the fruit included in the making of this beer, the level of sweetness is perfect, not cloying, and balanced by a sourness/tartness. This was the first beer of the day for me and my only regret was putting just one six pack of the beer in my cooler, rather than 2 six packs because the six pack was gone early in the Fourth of July celebration..

Cloud Walker Hazy Juicy IPA (Victory Brewing Company) | IPA – New England | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

As the New England/Hazy IPA continues to be the hottest style, especially with local/independent brewers, the larger brewers have been making attempts at the keeping up. Victory’s take on the style is probably the best of the larger brewery’s attempts at the style that I’ve had and an overall superb beer. The Citra and Mosaic are *perfectly* blended and the beer is a wonderful, juicy, hoppy delight. I hoped and expected to enjoy the beer, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. Victory has really come out strong this year with some of their new beers to go along with their rebranding.

Half-Timbered (Kane Brewing Company) | Bock – Single / Traditional | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been managing to have more Kane as of late, and this is certainly an interesting beer. Most barrel-aged beers are stouts, and if they are bocks aged in barrels, you tend to see higher ABV dopplebocks. But Kane doesn’t always hew along such lines. The bourbon barrel aging really enhances the sweet and caramel notes naturally inherit in the bock. This is a different, but very good beer that is a classic style (bock) with the added enhancement of a relatively modern technique of barrel aging.

Clearly Pils (Conclave Brewing) | Pilsner – Czech | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

When I realized Conclave brewed-up another Pilsner, I had to make a (very short) trip to the brewery. As it so happened, I visited on their 4th anniversary, but by the time I arrived, the 4th Anniversary IPA cans were sold out and the keg was tapped. Fortunately, the Pilsner was still available and it was a wonderful reward for a long day doing work in my yard. This beer does everything a pilsner should do and the Saaz hops so emblematic of a Pilsner are showcased beautifully.

Kristallwessbier (Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan)| Kristallweizen | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd


A Kristallweizen is a filtered Hefeweizen, so there’s no particulate or haziness to the beer. Much of the flavor remains and Weihenstephaner’s version is probably the gold standard. I haven’t had too many versions of the style, but I enjoy it. However, I prefer the standard, unfiltered Hefeweizen. I figured I needed to have a German beer in the boot glass one of my work team members got me as a souvenir on his honeymoon.

India Ale (Samuel Smith Brewing Co.) | IPA – English | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd


One of the oldest breweries in the world, I’ve got to think Samuel Smith’s IPA, or India Ale, is one of the earliest or longest continuously available India Pale Ales in the world. Some friends came over and brought me a four pack, he said he wanted to get me something I many not have had. He succeeded and I was pleasantly surprised with this beer. Very flavorful and once you realize it isn’t quite like the New England hazies or the West Coast IPAs, then you can appreciate what a good beer this is.

Of course, there were some clunkers in the month. As I said earlier, people tend to bring beer to the party on the Fourth of July and one dud happened to be from Pinelands Brewing Company, 08087 their most popular IPA. My company’s annual sales conference was in Orlando and I had a dud or two down there, particularly Bleach Blonde Ale from 3 Daughters Brewing. On the other hand, while not exactly new, I finally had the new, tweaked Prima Pils from Victory and it was fantastic. I always loved the beer and the tweaked version has a slightly lower IBU but still a wonderful, flavorful Pilsner.

Draught Diversions: Twin Elephant Brewing (Chatham, NJ)

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…

Bottom left image courtesy of Twin Elephant Brewing’s facebook

You might say this post is a reboot? A Retcon? A Revisiting. The brewery I’m focusing on today did get a small shout out a couple of years ago, but a minor one of about two paragraphs. Since that brief mention of my 2016 visit, Twin Elephant has grown in stature in New Jersey and even New York. Based in Chatham, NJ in the same building that houses an H&R Block office, Twin Elephant has a fairly convenient location, not far from NJ Route 24 and Interstate Route 78. Before my 2016 visit, Twin Elephant had a brewery launch event at The Stirling Hotel (one of the very best beer bars in NJ, in my opinion). That was the first brewery launch I attended and boy was it a good one. I had what would become the brewery’s “flagship” beers – Little Shimmy Ye Pale Ale and Diamonds & Pearls Coffee Milk Stout. At the time I wasn’t as into the hop-forward beers as I am now, but Little Shimmy Ye was so good I had to get a full pour after having a taster. So from my perspective, the brewery was off to a grand start.

Tap List @ Twin Elephant Brewing – 07-23-2019

But that was the public start to the brewery. Behind the scenes, founders Tim Besecker, his then-girlfriend and now-wife Cindy DeRama, and their pal Scott McLusky were home brewers for about a decade before opening their doors to share (for a very reasonable fee*) their beer with the public. To illustrate the smallness of this big world (and especially brewing in New Jersey), my brother-in-law went to school with Tim as all four of the people mentioned in this paragraph grew up in the Murray Hill/Berkeley Heights area of New Jersey. As for the brewery’s name? Well, elephants giving birth to twins is pretty rare, something special, if you will. In a little over three years Twin Elephant has proven to be something just as special.

*The brewery charges $10.50 for a flight of five 4oz tasters. That is a damned fine price for 20oz of beer. Especially because other breweries I’ve visited charge up to $12 for a flight of four or more than that.

As for the brewery itself, it has a very comforting, rustic feel. Much of the seating area is made from wood reclaimed from a collapsed barn. The material, along with the lower benches around the perimeter, as well as some high tables in the middle give a mixed, yet intimate feel. The seating gives communal feel, all told. There’s an outdoor biergarten, but the first thing you see down the hall when you walk into the brewery is a lovely mural of their brewery’s logo – an elephant with two hop cones in its trunk depicted in black on off-white background that really pops.

So what about the beers? A space can be welcoming and comforting, but if the beer is unpalatable, then those seats will not be occupied for long. Little Shimmy Ye and Diamonds & Pearls are the Twin Elephant with the most check-ins on untappd, and their hop-forward beers, i.e. their IPAs, are what bring all the drinkers to the yard, to butcher a song phrase. Twin Elephant occasionally will do a can drop of one of their beers, but be sure to arrive early because those cans go VERY quickly. They’ve been very good about announcing these can releases across social media, mainly Facebook, as well as their email newsletter.

Let’s get back to Little Shimmy Ye an absolutely outstanding American Pale Ale. Twin Elephant uses probably the most popular hops used by brewers for the citrusy profile – Citra and Mosaic, but they also utilize Belma hops, one with which I’m not as familiar. I was so impressed with the citrusy, nectary taster I had during the brewery launch I had to order a full pint. Maybe the only Pale Ale from a NJ brewery that I liked more than this one is Kane’s Sneakbox although another taste/can/pint of Little Shimmy Ye might be required to give a full accounting since I haven’t had the beer in quite a while. Little Shimmy Ye is also the beer Twin Elephant cans more than any of the other beers in their portfolio.

Image courtesy of Twin Elephant’s Facebok

The other “flagship” is one of the best Coffee Milk Stouts brewed by a NJ brewery – Diamonds & Pearls. A perfect beer and coffee marriage with just the right amount of sweetness to make for a sublime and delicious beer. Twin Elephant has canned this one multiple times, too, I was lucky enough to get 1 can during a past canning run.

From my May 2017 untappd check-in

One of the other beers they’ve canned multiple times is Here There be Monsters, but on the second canning, they redid the artwork with an absolutely stunning piece by Tom Schmitt. As I said in my September 2018 Six Pack, “The beer inside, which evokes those juicy citrus and tropical notes that so many IPAs do nowadays, lives up to the dark and lovely can art on the outside of the beer.”

Awesome can art, right? Glass from their “Brewery Launch” at the Stirling Hotel

Twin Elephant has quite a few beers that honor New Jersey. The beer I reviewed this week, Bowcraft shares its name with a recently and sadly closed amusement park in Scotch Plains, NJ. An imperial Red Ale I had during my visit to the brewery, The Bayonne Bleeder, is the nickname of Chuck Wepner, the boxer from Bayonne, NJ who went 15 rounds with Muhammed Ali and inspired Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky film and character. I couldn’t pass it up since my Mom is from Bayonne. Red Ales aren’t my go to beers, but I liked this one. Chuck’s Garage is named for the place where Tim, Cindy, and Scott refined their brewing skills, Chuck is also Scott’s dad. A porter, Old Raritan gets its name from the largest river to run through the State of New Jersey. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey’s theme song is “On the Banks of the Old Raritan,” too. I really need to try this not just because of the name (as readers may well know, I’m a Rutgers grad), but because of the smorgasbord of ingredients in this spicy milk porter. Their brown ale, Jersey Squirrel is pretty obviously named for the ever-present tree rodent. Maybe the sibling beer to Bowcraft is Action Park a Pale Wheat Ale. Action Park is probably the most infamous “amusement park” in NJ’s history. After all, it is nicknamed “Traction Park” for all the injuries sustained at the park.

Twin Elephant lists 273 beers on untappd and a quick glance through the beers I haven’t had makes me really want to try them based on the quality of those I’ve enjoyed. In addition to the beers I’ve already mentioned, one big standout is Grimmace, probably one of the best fruit-infused beers I’ve had. This is a wheat beer conditioned on blueberries and lemon peel and is absolutely delicious. My picture doesn’t capture how great the purple beer looks. I called out the banging summer beer, “Worker Drone” as the biggest highlight of the Bridgewater Beerfest recently. Dude Maintain has elements of West Coast IPA (piny) and East Coast IPA (Juicy) for a really nice blend and a wonderful hop profile. Chingas, a Black IPA which had the best elements of a stout and IPA in one beer. Tag You’re Wit was the third beer I had back on their launch day and hit the spot as a really nice Witbier. Gathering Clouds was maybe the best single IPA I had at the Bridgewater Beerfest in 2019.

In addition to building a sense of community in their brewery and through their beer names, Twin Elephant gives back to the community. Tim, Cindy, and Scott are involved with MASH, the Morris Area Society of Homebrewers. This is a fantastic example of people giving back to something that helped them to get to their point of success. Twin Elephant holds a Toys for Tots drive during the holidays. The Twin Elephant crew is very supportive of other breweries in the region, I saw Tim at Czig Meister’s third anniversary party and had the chance to briefly chat with him and realized for as great as their beer is, Tim is just as nice of a guy. Twin Elephant has also collaborated with regional breweries on a few beers: Lost Tavern Brewing out of Pennsylvania and Five Boroughs Brewing out of Brooklyn and can be seen at beer fests in the area. Cindy is often called out as one of the relatively few (but growing number of) females in the NJ Brewing community.

Some of the cans released by Twin Elephant

In short, Twin Elephant promotes and exudes the community spirit in all facets of the idea.

Just over three years into their brewing life and Twin Elephant has made an impact and built a respected reputation for exceptional beer. Back in March 2017, they gained some good buzz when they reached the final four of NJ.com’s search for the “Best Brewery in NJ.”  and NJ Monthly had them as one of the 16 best breweries in New Jersey (out of about 100 total breweries in the state). Their cans sell out VERY quickly and their discussion thread at Beer Advocate is one of the more active threads for a NJ brewery.

Great beer, fine people, and a cozy, welcoming tap room. What other reasons do you need to visit Twin Elephant?  That’s enough for me, just make sure you get there early if they happen to be releasing cans on that day!

Twin Elephant Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | twitter | Twin Elephant Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | untappd | Twin Elephant discussion thread @Beer Advocate

Some other links of interest:

Beer Review: Bowcraft by Twin Elephant

Name: Bowcraft
Brewing Company: Twin Elephant Brewing Company
Location: Chatham, NJ
Style: Belgian Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.9%

“Twin Elephant has gained a stellar reputation on their IPAs, but this Belgian Blonde is equally praiseworthy.”

From the Twin Elephant’s page for Bowcraft:

The fanny pack is fastened. Snug and bedazzled functional drip glistening in a sun whipped Route 22 afternoon. Slap-bracelet…THWAP! Umbros blowing in the wind and the Reebok hi-tops pumped up on max, cheek all packed with Big League about to get quarters deep into some hadouken bursts! Space-mountain, The Cyclone, Batman the Ride…ain’t got nada’ on the legendary spot. This funnel cake is all about the sweet and grainy carousel of Franco-Belges malt flavors sliced into highlights of Belgian yeast expression and riding it all down the flaked oat coaster. Notes of plum in fruity esters, subtle lemon, light sugar-like character, subtle yet complex hot weather suds for the hatch.

Twin Elephant has gained a reputation over the past few years as a great IPA/hop forward house (spoiler, the reputation is well-earned), but more on that later in the week. I hadn’t visited in almost three years, so hitting up the brewery was well overdue. I had a flight of five (again, more in that later in the week), so when a beer named Bowcraft was on the menu, I had to at least try it. As it turns out, I really like it. Bowcraft, as many people who grew up in the North Central New Jersey area over the last 50 years know, was a small amusement park in Scotch Plains, NJ with a mini golf course, small rides, and an arcade that attempted to emulate the feel of the New Jersey boardwalk. I spent many evenings there during my high school and early college years. As it so happens, Twin Elephant is a relatively short drive from where Bowcraft once stood.

Two of the signs outside of Bowcraft, the left is probably from the 70s or 80s, the right the last sign. (Right Half of image courtesy of TapInto.net)

Bowcraft the beer is a Belgian Blonde Ale. As the style clearly states, the beer pours a golden yellow, there’s a tiny amount of haze. Just a skosh, if you will. Aroma is a little fruity from the Belgian-inspired yeast, as one might expect. Color and aroma – spot on for the style.

How about the taste? Well, the beer was absolutely on point for the day. It was very warm in the brewery, as it was extremely hot outside (one of the hottest day of the year) so the beer hit the spot perfectly. It was the third beer of the flight I had and the slight fruity sweetness was very pleasing. The beer also has a welcome crispness that hit me at the start of the beer that isn’t exactly in contrast to the fruity flavor profile at the end, but the two relatively conflicting flavor aspects work well together.

One of my favorite beers from a New Jersey brewery is Cape May’s Devil’s Reach – a near perfect interpretation of the Belgian Golden Ale/Strong Golden Ale. What I’m getting from Bowcraft is along the same lines, except turned down a notch. The yeast isn’t quite as assertive and the beer is a bit lower in alcohol. Not surprising since Bowcraft is a standard Belgian Golden and Devil’s Reach is a Belgian Strong Golden. I don’t think it would be a stretch to consider Bowcraft the younger cousin to Devil’s Reach .

While Twin Elephant’s most well known beers are their hop-forward beers and an outstanding Milk Stout, a Belgian Golden Ale Bowcraft is a testament to their skill and ability to craft beers in old-world styles.

To sum it up, I liked Bowcraft enough at the brewery that I brought some home in my mini-Growler.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Allagash Brewing’s Pick Your Own

Name: Pick Your Own
Brewing Company: Allagash Brewing Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: American Wild Ale (Beer Advocate’s description American Wild Ale is at the end of the review)
ABV: 6%

“A complex, flavorful fruit forward beer that is artfully delicious.”

From Allagash’spage for the beer:

Pick Your Own begins as a sour red ale that’s aged in an oak foudre with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus for two years. After adding fresh, local raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries, we age it for an additional three months. The finished beer is a vibrant, ruby red with an aroma of ripe berries and vanilla. As you might expect, berries fill the flavor. Pick Your Own finishes dry with notes of bread crust and a lingering, tart juiciness.

Allagash has done more to push the Belgian art/science of brewing in America than just about any brewery that doesn’t rhyme with dome-nang. But seriously, from their White, Triple, and Saison, to their more “high-end” barrel-aged beers, Allagash is synonymous with quality and Belgian-inspired brewing, which brings me to Pick Your Own, one of their many wood-aged, funky beers I’ve been intending to try for a while.

The first, most noticeable element of the beer is the color. It is a red bordering on purple, or a blue with hints of red, or a deep red edging over into purple. No matter what you call the color, a beer this color is pretty damned intriguing to me. The second, and more overpowering element is the aroma. This beer has a funky aroma to it. As I’ve come to appreciate sour beers over the past couple of years, this aroma, with hints of berry underlying the funk, is very, very appealing. (An anecdotal point – I did *not* like Victory’s Sour Monkey when I first had it a few years ago. I revisited it last year and enjoyed it quite a bit.)

Back to Pick Your Own

The nose leads the taste and I get some funkiness initially that is immediately overtaken by the abundant berry flavors from blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. For me, the raspberry and blueberry stand out initially with a wallop of sweet tartness – just a lovely blend of those fruits. I don’t get much strawberry in the fruit flavors, but I’m guessing the strawberry brings it all together since the natural sweetness of the strawberry probably balances out the tartness of both the blueberries and raspberries. I get maybe a hint of cherries on the finish because there’s a welcome smoothing/rounding of the beer on the backend that is absolutely divine.

I don’t know if I get much “bread-crust” on the finish (per the description above), but it is a fantastic smoothness that might be the vanilla hinted at in the description. While the complex beer has such a movement of flavors – all delicious – there’s something about that finish I found my palate chasing each time I drank from my glass. A finish I enjoyed, but was gone too quickly. Stouts are typically thought to taste better as they warm, but the last few sips of this beer were sitting in my glass for a while and were closer to room temperature and the complex flavors came more alive at that point.

Pick Your Own is a delightful beer – one of the most complex beers I’ve had in a while. Readers of this blog know I love a straight-forward pilsner and how deceptively complex a great pilsner can be. There’s nothing deceptive about a beer like Pick Your Own – it is aged for two years in a foudre (barrel), it has multiple potent fruits added, it has beneficial/good bacteria working magic for two years in that foudre before those fruits are added. And you know what? You can taste all of those elements in a progression as it seeps into your palate. In short, it is a wonderful beer to experience.

I know sour beers can be an acquired taste or even a turn-off to some. Hell, I’m living proof. But this is a beer that proves just how complex a consumable liquid classified as beer can be, how so many flavors can amalgamate into a singular goblet of deliciousness. Pick Your Own is a wonderful beer to enjoy as the night winds down, a fantastic summer desert beer. Flat out, it is a sublime and wonderful beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.50-bottle cap rating.

An American Wild Ale, is something like an Americanized version of the Belgian Lambic. According to Beer Advocate: Sometimes Belgian influenced, American Wild Ales are beers that are introduced to “wild” yeast or bacteria, such as Brettanomyces (Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus or Brettanomyces Anomolus), Pediococcus, or Lactobacillus. This introduction may occur from oak barrels that have been previously inoculated, pitching into the beer, or gained from various “sour mash” techniques. Regardless of the method, these yeast and/or bacteria leave a mark that should be noticeable to strong, and often contribute a sour and/or funky, wild note. Mixed-fermentation examples will display a range of aromatics, rather than a single dominant character.

 

Draught Diversions: Hackensack 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…

I know I’ve said this a few times here at the Tap Takeover (and to anybody unfortunate enough to be in my presence in “real life”) but keeping up with the rapid growth of Craft / Independent Beer around the country and new brewery openings in New Jersey is not an easy task. But when family members enjoy beer almost as much as you do, you learn about breweries near them as the breweries open. Especially when that family member brings a couple of crowlers and a growler to your house for your annual family Fourth of July Party. The brewery I’m alluding to is, of course, Hackensack Brewing in Hackensack, NJ.

After having some of their beers on the Fourth of July, I made an impromptu visit to the brewery with my wife and my aunt and uncle. (My uncle is more like a brother as there’s fewer years between the two of us than there are between my wife and my brother in law, but I digress). Anyway, my wife and I were heading up to my uncle’s house and he twisted my arm and suggested we visit Hackensack Brewing. Who am I to say no to my uncle?

The brewery is a little unassuming in terms of where it is located, if you don’t know it is there, you can easily pass it. Mike Jones and his crew set up shop in an old warehouse of sorts. When we arrived, the sun was out, so the big bay doors were open with plenty of standing room visible from the parking lot. Through the main entrance, there’s a very nice and inviting taproom, with some board games and a table at one side and barrels stood up as tables throughout the taproom for plenty of standing and conversing. It was fairly early in the day, but there were already a few people in the brewery. At the center of it all seemed to be big Mike Jones, head brewer and one of the owners. That’s a good thing, because a visible owner/brewer can be a good thing for any business, especially a business like a small brewery that generates a sense of community.

Image courtesy of Hackensack Brewing’s Facebook page

Mike came across like Sam Malone of Cheers, except a little more outgoing and with a North Jersey accent. Everybody knew him, he seemed to know everybody walking into the brewery, and remembered my uncle from when my uncle grabbed the crowlers and growler earlier in the week. The two reminisced about legendary beer bar Andy’s Corner Bar in Bogota, NJ, a spot known nationally for its amazing beer selection. Many a North Jersey resident learned to appreciate great beer at Andy’s over the years. No less an authority than Michael Jackson had wonderful things to say about Andy’s. I had a few beers there over the years, too.

An affable owner/face of the brewery is great, but making beer is the name of the game, so about now is a good time to get to that. A little bit more on Mike later. I was going to go with a full pour/pint of something, but my wife convinced me to go for a flight. Smart suggestion especially with the varied selection. I appreciated that wide variety, which included the requisite IPAs and Pale Ales, as well as a stout, a Blonde Ale, a couple of lagers, a Pilsner, and a Fruit Beer.

Tap List at Hackensack Brewing Company on July 6, 2019

A four pour flight for $10 is a good price and I think they were four ounce pours. I started off with Nu Bajan Breakfast Blend, a 5.1% ABV blonde ale with vanilla and coffee. The standard Nu Bajan Blonde is a Blonde Ale with vanilla, this variant is aged on coffee beans and is a wonderful beer. Conventional wisdom with beer typically slots coffee to stouts as a flavor adjunct (outside of Carton Brewing’s Regular Coffee game). The coffee is perfectly balanced and there’s some added sweetness that makes for an extremely flavorful ale. A great start. The second in the flight was the Parking Lot Pilz, which I reviewed on Tuesday but I wanted it super fresh from the tap. The freshness was a slight improvement on an already great beer. Beer number three was another Lager, as regular readers may have noted or as I pointed out a couple of months ago, I’ve been drawn to lagers quite a bit lately. Beach Badge is a 5% ABV Pale Lager that has some fruity notes at the end thanks to the Sabro hops utilized in the beer. Very refreshing and a great summer / warm weather beer. The last of the flight was Fruit Stripe, a 5.5% ABV Fruit beer with apricot for a sweet refreshing finish.

Flight, clockwise from top left: Nu-Bajan Breakfast Blend, Parking Lot Pilz, Beach Badge, Lawn Stripes

As for the beers I had on the Fourth of July, which my uncle brought, both were IPAs of the New England/Haze variety. The first was Musket Haze, effectively Hackensack’s flagship beer. This beer is a 6.3% ABV New England IPA which poured super hazy and was a delicious juice bomb. Citra and Motueka stand out in this beer if I’m not mistaken. This is a beer that draws all the IPA and haze lovers into the brewery, it is Hackensack’s most checked-in beer on untappd. The other Hazy was It Was All A Dream an Imperial New England IPA that was even juicier and more flavorful. This one has Citra (as just about all NEIPAs do) and Idaho 7, a hop that does some nice things, too. Overall, these two beer were excellent examples of the Hazy IPA/IIPA.

Like a lot of independent, “local” breweries, Hackensack brewing pays homage to the history and culture of the area with their beer names. The aforementioned Parking Lot Pilz is “An ode to the tailgating culture we grew up with in North Jersey/NYC” i.e. The Meadowlands, a short drive from Hackensack. Musket Haze is dedicated to New Bridge Landing, a key crossing during the Revolutionary War (“The Bridge That Saved a Nation“) just up the road from the brewery. Nu Bajan Blonde hearkens back to pre-Revolutionary War days, when Hackensack was known as New Barbadoes Township. The people of Barbados are referred to as “Bajan” (pronounced “bay-jun”), hence the beer’s name. Moment’s Notice, a 5% ABV Stout, is an ode to Hackensack’s unique place in Jazz history. In the 1950’s the sound of Blue Note records, and thus the sound of Jazz globally, was defined by Rudy Van Gelder and the artists that came together in the recording studio he set up in his parent’s living room up on Prospect Avenue. Moment’s Notice is a track of off of John Coltrane’s masterpiece “Blue Train”, recorded in that Hackensack living room back in 1958. Blizzard of ’96 is a nod to the big blizzard that hit New Jersey (and the whole Northeast) in 1996. I think that was one of the few times, and maybe first, that Rutgers University cancelled classes because of the weather. I remember how bad the snow was, I was working at the Menlo Park Mall and it closed because of the storm just as I arrived for my shift at Herman’s World of Sporting Goods. Mike first brewed this Weizenbock when the brewery opened and he told me the beer went much faster than he expected. I love weizenbocks and wish it was on tap when I visited. Oh well, just an excuse to visit the brewery again if it shows up on tap.

Thought the mirror was cool, too bad I made it into the picture. But you can get a glimpse of the open area.

Let’s get back to Mike, shall we? Like Tim Pewitt and Wet Ticket, Mike (at least when I visited the brewery) was the face of the brewery. He took time to speak to me as well as all the other patrons, making sure people were happy and felt welcome at Hackensack Brewing. In chatting with Mike, I asked how long he’d been brewing beer and he said about 15 years. It shows in the quality of the beers I had and as I said on Tuesday, the fact that he brews such a delicious Pilsner is further proof of Mike’s skill. Talking to Mike a little more, the guy has passion – passion for the beer he makes, knowledge about the hops and ingredients he uses, passion for being part of the community in Hackensack, and the NJ Beer Community. In other words, like Tim, or Joe Fisher of Man Skirt Brewing, Mike is exactly the kind of person and personality who should be running a brewery. A great guy and a great brewer.

Mike also mentioned a canning line (or canning machine?) was on the horizon in the near future. I was also impressed that barely 6 months into their “life,” Hackensack Brewing has a crowler machine and a fridge full of crowlers for easy to-go beer. If my research is correct (and the articles linked below is where I found the information), Hackensack Brewing opened up with 8 taps. Again, I visited the first weekend in July, five months after they opened, and the number of taps increased from 8 taps to 12 taps. That tells me Hackensack Brewing is making beer people want to drink.

I haven’t seen beer from Hackensack Brewing near me in Somerset County yet. Then again, some of the beer in the breweries more local to me haven’t traveled up to Bergen County yet. However, with the aforementioned canning capabilities and the quality of the beer, I wouldn’t be surprised if taps and stores start selling some of Mike Jones’s delicious beers soon.

Barely a half a year into being open and Hackensack Brewing is already making a name for themselves with the quality of the beer they make. They are definitely worth the visit because they make great beer, have a fun tap room, and with The Alementary just around the corner, Hackensack is growing into a beer destination.

Cheers to Mike Jones, Alex Ferenczi, Herbert Lamont Barr III, and Irfan Qureshi to many years of great beer!

Hackensack Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | twitter | Hackensack Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | untappd

Some other links of interest: