Beer Review: Conclave’s Gravitational Pull

Name: Gravitational Pull
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing
Location: Raritan Township, NJ
Style: India Pale Ale / New England IPA
ABV: 6.6%

From the beer’s description on Conclave’s Web site:

Juicy and hoppy. An American IPA double dry hopped with large amounts of Galaxy, Motueka, and Azacca hops. Not bitter with notes of fresh crushed citrus.

Here we are back to New Jersey for a delicious beer from the fine brewers at Conclave. Not only that, an IPA? What? We thought you don’t like IPAs that much, Rob? Yet here is the second beer review of an IPA and you’ve yet to review one of your favorite styles like Porters or some other styles you enjoy more. Well, two things. First, Porters are more of a fall/cool weather beer for me and we are just in our first year here at the Tap Takeover. Second, the fact that I’m “reviewing” a second IPA should be an indication of just how wonderful this beer is.

The first, most noticeable characteristic of the beer is the thick, hazy, orange color. It pours almost like pulpy orange juice, the same consistency and thickness, but without the pulp. The aroma is a refreshing blend of citrus and hops, a nice balance that is very inviting.

The first taste gives you the hops, but not in a bludgeoning overpowering way that many IPAs deliver. The citrus/juice-bomb finish of that first sip encourages you to drink more. It is such an elegantly crafted beer that one pint can go too fast. Although the taste expands a little bit as it warms to room temperature, for me, this one tastes better colder.

The blend of the three hops in the beer, the Motueka in particular, is what lends the citrusy tropical fruit flavor to this beer. I think this is the second time Conclave has brewed this beer and if I recall correctly from briefly chatting with owner Carl when I had my growler filled on Friday, the Motueka hops aren’t the easiest to acquire, nor are the Galaxy hops, both of which lend a citrusy/tropical fruit flavor profile. A brief Google search points to New Zealand as the source for the Motueka hops and Australia for the Galaxy hops, so that challenge makes sense. The more common Azacca hops in the beer to blend extremely well with the Motueka and Galaxy hops, enhancing that juice-bomb aspect to the beer.

Equation for Newton Universal Gravitation, used as icon for the beer on untappd

OK, that was a little bit of a science, geography, and business lesson, back to the beer.

I briefly mentioned Gravitational Pull in my August round up and my feature on Conclave, so again, the repeated mentions of this beer should only point to what a standout beer this is. The first time I had it was in a bar, so as soon as I saw a new batch was ready for growler fills at the brewery, I had to go. I was also hoping there would be some cans of it, but not just yet.

The first pour from the mini growler on Friday night was fantastic, so fresh and juicy. I wanted to save the remaining pint of the 32 oz. growler for the next night and it stayed just as juicy and delicious the following day. I don’t know that I’d want to get a full 64 oz. growler for myself over the course of multiple days because I just don’t know how long it would stay fresh. I’ve had growlers of stouts over the course of a few days and around day 3 or 4 the freshness and taste start to fade. For an IPA like this one, I think freshness is the key.

Image/Logo used by Conclave in advertising beer’s availability at the brewery

Right now on untappd Gravitational Pull is categorized as an “American IPA” though I suspect this might change to New England IPA since this beer seems to have all the characteristics I’ve read that are associated with NEIPAs. Irregardless, Gravitational Pull is a great, great beer and one that is helping to establish Conclave Brewing as one of the premier (out of 70~) NJ Breweries.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2017

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…

Oktoberfest…is there any time of year that is more of a beer holiday? I don’t think so. Sure there are beers for every season and every occasion, but few times throughout the year does beer, across the world, have such a spotlight shone upon it. As with many great beer-related traditions, this one goes back to Munich, Bavaria, Germany in 1810. What began as a celebration of the marriage of then Prince and soon King Ludwig to Princess Therese expanded to something that is a global celebration of German culture and Gemütlichkeit two hundred years later. With Okoberfest 2017 beginning this weekend, September 16 [ends October 3], what better time for a little post about the great German celebration?

From Wikipedia:

Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. Beers meeting these criteria are designated Oktoberfest Beer. The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest Beer under the aforementioned criteria are:
Augustiner-Bräu
Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu
Löwenbräu
Paulaner
Spatenbräu
Staatliches Hofbräu-München

Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers, which consists of the above six breweries.

From those breweries, the only Oktoberfest beer I haven’t had is the one brewed by Augustiner-Bräu.

I suppose one way you could view this is similar to sparkling wine and Champagne in that only the sparkling wine from Champagne, France can truly be considered Champagne. Only those six brewers make “True Oktoberfest” beer.

There are many, many more Märzen/Oktoberfest/Festbiers available, brewed by German breweries and American breweries alike. Last year (in 2016) the Oktoberfest that I enjoyed the most was Ayinger’s so I’m probably going to get some of that this year. I almost always get at least a six pack of the Hacker-Pschorr and really want to pick up some of Weihenstephaner’s Festbier since I haven’t had theirs in a couple of years.

Then we get to the American Oktoberfest beers and boy is there a variety as it seems most mid level craft brewers have a fall Oktoberfest offering and even some of the local nano-breweries in New Jersey are brewing up the traditional Lager style of the beer.

As of this writing, I’ve only had two Oktoberfest beers so far in 2017 and I usually try to push off having any until after Labor Day. I may have ranted about that in the past.

The first I had was Sierra Nevada’s collaboration with Brauhaus Miltenburger, which was quite good. I like this annual tradition, you get a new version of the Oktoberfest every year, but with the Sierra Nevada brand, chances are it will be a good Oktoberfest.  This was the third year Sierra Nevada collaborated with a German brewery on an Oktobefest, rthe first was in 2015 with Brauhaus Riegele and last year’s (2016) was Mahrs Bräu.

The other was Two Roads’ offering, Ok2berfest which was a great interpretation of the style. I was not surprised considering I’ve enjoy just about everything from Two Roads, but I’d never had theirs in the past.

Annual American Favorites

The best Oktoberfest from an American brewery, for my drinking dollar every year, is Great Lakes Oktoberfest. The great Cleveland brewery doesn’t make a bad beer and their portfolio of beers is one of the most consistent in the American craft brew landscape Their Oktoberfest is an annual must for me, as it perfectly captures the malty, caramelly essence of a Märzen lager. Despite their size and distribution reach, Yuengling is still considered a micro brewery and their Oktoberfest is usually a very dependable, solid offering. It is ubiquitous this time of year in the Northeast and family and friends usually have this one in their fridge.

Victory Brewing’s Festbier is worth getting every year, too. That shouldn’t be a surprise coming from me at this point, if you’ve been reading The Tap Takeover every week. Local NJ Craft Brewer Ramstein / High Point Brewing makes a very good Oktoberfest, considering the strong German roots and basis for their approach to brewing, this is a natural beer for them to make.

Oktoberfest Beers to Try in 2017 for the First Time

From NJ breweries there are three I’d like to try. My friends at Flounder are brewing up an Oktobefest I’m hoping to sample in the next couple of weeks. Czig Meister in Hackettstown released an Oktoberfest this year and they’ve really been making a big push with cans into distribution so hopefully that’ll show up locally. Lone Eagle has one they’ve named “My Favorite Marzen” which on the name alone seems worth trying.

Outside of breweries in NJ, I really want to try Firestone Walker’s Oaktoberfest. I’ve only had excellent beers from the popular California craft brewery so I’ve got high hopes for this beer. Unfortunately this will only be a limited draft offering in 2017. With von Trapp’s beers entering the NJ Market, I would like to try theirs as well, considering the German brewing tradition behind the brewery.  For all the beers I’ve enjoyed over the years from Harpoon, I’ve never had their Oktoberfest.  I haven’t seen their beers as widely available in NJ as I did a few years ago.

I usually try to get to at least one Oktoberfest celebration every year.  A local restaurant has a big outdoor celebration every year, but it seems to get earlier and earlier every year. This year, I’m likely going to a mountain retreat for a big outdoor Oktoberfest celebration.

So, with that, a safe and enjoyable Oktoberfest to you all. Or as my ancestors say (mom was born in Germany!),

Ein prosit und Gemütlichkeit!

Beer Review: The Bruery Autumn Maple

Name: Autumn Maple
Brewing Company: The Bruery
Location: Placentia, CA
Style: Belgian Brown / Pumpkin/Yam Beer
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on The Bruery’s site:

Brewed with 15 lbs. of yams per barrel (in other words, a lot of yams!), this autumn seasonal is a different take on the “pumpkin” beer style. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, maple syrup, and fermentation with our traditional Belgian yeast strain, make this bold and spicy beer perfect for a cold autumn evening.

We have also created bourbon barrel-aged, barrel-fermented, and darker variations of Autumn Maple.

A shift to a California brewery this time around, The Bruery. A brewery known for big, bold, flavorful brews distributed in what seems to only be 750mL bottles and draft. I’ve never seen any of their beers in 12 oz bottles here in New Jersey. I’ve seen many of their bomber bottles and have had two of their “Days of Christmas” series and loved both. I recently received a promotion at work and my wife, knowing what kinds of beers I enjoy, picked me up a bottle of this in congratulations. The timing was also perfect as I was approaching unique check-in #1,000 on untappd. I figured this beer would be a perfect celebration of both of those things and I was correct in that assumption. As you can see by the screen-grab to the right, Autumn Maple was my 1,000th unique beer on untappd.

As the name of this beer indicates, Autumn Maple is an annual Fall / Autumn release. It pours very brown and a little bit cloudy, not the brownish-orange-amber of many fall beers like Oktoberfests or Pumpkin beers. The first thing that struck me with this beer was the Belgian yeast, it came through in the aroma along with the spices associated with pumpkin beers (cinnamon and nutmeg in particular) even if this isn’t really a pumpkin beer. The longer I breathed in the aroma, the more I could smell the spices and knew this could be a really tasty beer.  That aroma did not lead me astray.

The presence of the Belgian yeast is up front in the taste, too. A quite potent presence at that. But then the spices come through and there’s a nice intermingling of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla with that yeast strain that is quite interesting. I don’t quite get the taste of the yams (despite 15 pounds of them) as much as the spices, but they give the beer an added earthiness and weight. Even when I have candied yams or sweet potatoes they act more as a delivery mechanism for the other flavors.

The beer is a big one, not just in the size of the bottle, but ABV at 10%. I wound up enjoying this one gradually and I slowed down even more once I realized how much more flavorful the beer was once it had the chance to air out, warm up, and have more open space for the flavor components to play together. Those spices played even more with the yeasts to make this a very, very tasty beer. For an unfiltered beer, there wasn’t really much sediment at the bottom of the glass, good or bad.

The label says this is a “Belgian Brown Ale” but the beer sites consider it a Pumpkin/Yam/Vegetable beer. I don’t care how Autumn Maple is categorized, because quite frankly, I found it to be a unique, delicious beer. Definitely an out-of-the-box take on the traditional fall Pumpkin beer, I can see myself returning to this beer every Autumn.

It was an early September evening when I enjoyed this beer, a cool evening that felt more like Autumn than late summer. This is a beer to drink alone while you are engrossed in a great, enjoyable book for a couple of hours (as I was) or one to share with a friend or family member over a hearty, Autumn meal or as a desert beer following that same hearty meal.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Draught Diversions: Conclave Brewing

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…

The brewery visit posts I’ve published here at the Tap Takeover have all been New Jersey breweries. When I first started the Tap Takeover, my goal was to feature more brewery visits and brewery focus posts than just the breweries of the 70 currently in New Jersey, but that’s easier said than done. There’s also a nice selection of breweries very close to my house, so featuring those first seems quite logical. None of those breweries are as close to my house as the brewery featured today, Conclave Brewing in Raritan Township, NJ, which is only about five miles from me. The brewery has another added appeal, my fraternity’s annual meeting is called Conclave. While I’ve enjoyed the majority of the beers I’ve had from those other breweries I’ve featured, from the top to the bottom of their list, Conclave makes the best beers. Last year for my Birthday, my incredible wife got me in the car and took me to a handful of breweries within driving distance (Twin Elephant, Kane, Beach Haus, Carton, and Conclave). Conclave’s beers were at the top of those I visited that day.

Carl and Tim are the two guys behind the brewery, high-school friends who had a passion for great beer. Although they are originally from Northern New Jersey, life coincidentally brought their careers and lives to proximity once again to Hunterdon County. They eventually decided to open Conclave, which according to them got its name thusly:

The name comes from a secret society of brewers. The myth we created is that they merged old world techniques with new world craft beer styles.”

Conclave is also the smallest of the breweries I’ve highlighted here, but every single beer I’ve had from them has been top shelf and excellent representations of the style. I’ve only had 9 of their beers and the lowest rating I’ve given one of their beers on untappd was 3.75 bottle caps, everything else was 4 or higher. Conclave Brewing is also relatively new, they opened up in 2015, but their reputation has grown very nicely in that time with those honed and focused brewing efforts. The picture below illustrates just how small the brewery is, they typically offer only 6 beers on tap. But that small quantity means that the focus on quality is spread across 6 magnificent beers. Not on the list, technically, are the cans of Gravitational Waves (Conclave’s highly rated and much-loved IPA) being sold that day.

The tap list at Conclave on September 2, 2017

In their two years brewing beer, Conclave has gained a well-earned reputation as smart artisans of craft brewing. Last summer, NJ.com posted an article which touted Conclave as the highest rated NJ brewery on untappd (with one of the highest rated beers, Gravitational Waves). The current average on untappd by all users for all Conclave beers is 4 bottle caps. A majority of their beers on Beer Advocate have average ratings above 4 (out of 5) and all of their beers with over 15 community reviews are cumulatively rated above 4.25 (out of 5) and have a lively discussion thread in the Beer Advocate forums which illustrates their local, dedicated fan base. Just couple of weeks ago, Conclave was ranked highest in the “Philadelphia Metro Area.” So yeah, well-earned recognition which drives people make to make out-of-state trips just to sample their beer and fill their growlers.

What those two paragraphs above prove is that perfecting a smaller number styles is a smart way to build a brewery, dedicated customers, and a reputation that spreads beyond the borders of the state. The only reason I gave one of the beers a lower than 4 rating is that it is typically not my go-to-style of beer. It was still a very good beer.

The first time I visited the brewery in November 2015, I sampled and filled one of my growlers with Espresso Milk Stout. To this day, it is one of my favorite Milk Stouts and one of my favorite beers brewed in New Jersey. The beer is brewed with lactose and coffee beans from local roaster Benfatto Roasters. With Conclave starting to occasionally can beers, this seems like a perfect candidate for 16oz four-packs.

From a growler fill last November. Such a lovely, dark stout. If you squint enough, you can see the black Conclave logo on the glass.

As if the Espresso Milk Stout weren’t good enough, this beer has a delicious spicier cousin Mexican Morning. Few beers I’ve ever consumed produced such a cacophony of wonderful flavors that came together in a symphony of delicousness. Carl, Tim, and Bryan take their wonderful Espresso Milk Stout and: “kick it up with dried red chile de arbol peppers, vanilla bean, cinnamon and cocoa nibs. Sweet and complex, it brings just enough heat to invite one sip after another.” The process for making this beer is timely and more complex due to the peppers (among other things), so only once that I know of did Concalve offer this in growlers, and only 320z growlers. When it is on tap at the brewery, they usually only offer 4oz pours. For me, it is a mandatory pour every visit to Conclave when on the menu. Sadly, as my picture of the tap list above indicates, Mexican Morning was not available during my most recent visit.

Photo of Mexican Morning from Conclave’s Website

As much as I love Mexican Morning (and most people who have had it seem to love it, too (a cumulative review of 1,244 untappd users rates it at 4.27 as of this writing), Tim and Carl upped a beer which is already an amped up beer. At the Garden State Brewfest in September 2016, Conclave was pouring a Barrel aged version of this beer. They used bourbon barrels from Four Roses (one of the premier bourbon distillers). I feel lucky to have had a sample of the beer, it was sublime and elegant. They’ve done a couple of brewery pourings of this one, too. Hopefully this one will be available again, as B.A.M.M was easily the best beer I had at that Brewfest and probably one of the best beers I ever head.

From Garden State Brewfest 2016

Like a lot of breweries in NJ (and across the country) have been doing lately, Conclave began canning some of their beers. I think the first was Hop Ritual Pale Ale and the release was smashing successes. When they released the cans, they did a special release and the brewery was very, very crowded with all the cans going quickly. The next release in cans was (and is) Gravitational Waves. Again, when they announced it, the beers flew off the shelves. What they’ve done more recently in these can releases is not announce it, and simply have it available at the brewery in a “soft release,” but the 4-packs still sell. As I said, I think Espresso Milk Stout would be a great beer to go in cans, but something tells me either Gravitational Pull or Tyrion might be next. Regardless I’ll be buying if they are for sale. Conclave’s plan may be to go with the “soft release” of the cans which ensures the regular visitors will have first shot at the 4-packs.

I had the chance to chat briefly with Bryan and Matt this past weekend, who were working the growlers and taps in the back room where the brewing equipment and seating was located. Bryan is one of the brewers and when I asked what Conclave has on the horizon, I was happy to hear three of my favorites from would soon be returning: Gravitational Pull (A New England IPA), Equinox Brown (the best brown I’ve ever had), and the main Espresso Milk Stout. Bryan mentioned more than one of their customers who always returns for fills of Equinox Brown when I told him how delicious I think the beer is. I got a growler fill of that one New Year’s Eve two years ago and couldn’t have been happier with the beer. It was a smooth, tasty beer that was much cleaner than many browns I’ve had, the beer had a sweet almost caramel finish.

Despite what was probably a frozen glass and not the best pour from the bartender, Gravitational Pull was fantastic.

My only regret with regard to Conclave is that it has been so long since my last visit. With the brewery so close, I’m going to make a point of returning more often, for small growler fills, sampling, and to check to see what cans are available. Two years into their existence, Conclave has proven to be a great brewery and I look forward to seeing what they brew next. I certainly feel lucky to live so close to the brewery where these fine folks make and pour their beer.

Resources for this post and additional reading about Conclave Brewing:
Best brewery in Philly region (August 2017)
Brew Jersey (May/July 2017)
NJ.com June 2016
Hops and Horns beer blog (April 2016)
Courier News (Hunterdon County, December 2015)
NJ Monthly July 2015
Hunterdon Happenings (no date, probably July 2015)

Beer Review: Dogfish Head Oak Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout

Name:Oak Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout
Brewing Company: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton Delaware
Style: Stout / Imperial Stout / American Double
ABV: 16% IBU: 70

If hasn’t become clear by now by how often it appears in beer reviews, this is one of my favorite beer glasses.

From the beer’s description on Dogfish Head’s site:

Rare and often rumored about in the darkest corners of the beer community, World Wide Stout is dark, rich, roasty and complex, and lingers somewhere beyond the limits of the average beer.

Brewed with a ridiculous amount of barley, we’ve now taken this Dogfish Head classic and aged it on oak with real vanilla beans! With a little tender love and care we foster this beer from smooth, sweet wort into the big, bad blackend stout it always longed to be. Its bold, port-like complexity goes great with (or as) dessert.

With its high ABV, this is an excellent candidtate for cellaring, so grab a few bottles to enjoy now and lay the others down for a few years.

I seem to be making my way through some of the foundationial Northeastern Craft Breweries on these beer reviews without even planning it, having reviewed great beers from Tröegs and Victory in Pennsylvania and Flying Fish right here in New Jersey. Few breweries and brewers have as much respect in the world of craft beer as Dogfish Head and Sam Calagione. From experimental brews to beers that are icons in the American Craft Beer landscape, Dogfish Head has been brewing it all since 1995 and Sam even had a TV Show (Brew Masters).

One of their semi-regular releases is World Wide Stout, big 18% Stout that catches a hefty price tag. One bottle can be pricier than a six-pack of a quality beer. I was foolish when the beer was released last year, I didn’t pick up a bottle. However, I was not going to let this Oak-Aged Vanilla variant go off the shelves without picking up a bottle.

My, oh my am I glad I picked up a bottle.

The first thing I did after pouring the beer in the glass pictured above was nothing. Just look at how pitch black and beautiful that beer looks. I wanted to let it sit for a bit, come up to room temperature and breath to let the flavors come alive. Strike that, I took a big whiff of the beer and there was a great punch of vanilla.

I was slightly nervous, I have to admit. I’ve had a couple of beers with vanilla beans or some kind of vanilla component and I was a little disappointed, the vanilla was too over powering in those beers. I won’t name names, I try to focus on the positive when talking about specific beers here at the Tap Takeover. Knowing the quality of Dogfish Head’s beers, I really should not have worried. If the aroma was a hint of things to come (and it was), the vanilla here was quite present but not dominant.

The first sip was just sublime, the roasty flavor of a stout comes through, there’s a little bit of the oak, but that vanilla shines through so well. Like I said, it doesn’t hit you in the face and overpower you, but it is a noticeable, perfect blend with the stout flavors you’d expect along with a hint of the oak.

The beer is a whopping 16% ABV and isn’t too noticeable on the first sip, but the more you have of the beer, the more the potency comes through. Again, not in an overpowering way, but as a perfect element of the gestalt of this beer.

One other element of the beer that surprised me was the high IBU at 70 IBUs, when I saw that I earned another level on “Hopped Up” badge (for beers with an IBU over 65). A lot of these higher ABV stouts have a large hop presence, but there was no real bitterness to the beer, the hops were just slightly noticeable to me at least. Again, a perfectly applied component of a delicious beer.

A sipping beer to enjoy over the course of 45 minutes or so, or “slow, easy drinking” as I said on my untappd comment. This one helped me through the finale of Game of Thrones. While the show delivered some of what I expected, the beer went above and beyond to the point I was sad when there was no more.

This is an outstanding beer that I cannot recommend enough, if you are able to track down a bottle. I know I will because I want to see how this beer tastes a couple of years from now.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.75-star rating.

Draught Diversions: August 2017 Beer Pours

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…

The variety of new beers I consumed and enjoyed in August was lower than the new beers in July. Partly because there were still quite a few leftover beers in the fridge from July; I finished off the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp pack in July; and several people brought a variety of beer to my house in July. There were still quite a few new ones I enjoyed, though.

The first new beer of the month was Smuttynose’s Summer IPA, a beer that surprised me. A refreshing, low-hopped IPA that had a nice citrus flavor component. I picked up a single can but if it returns to shelves in summer 2018, then I’ll likely get a full six pack at the least.

One of my favorite breweries, Victory, launched a new beer recently. A beer they are positioning as an every-day beer and I think that goal was achieved with Home Grown New American Lager. Low in ABV with a refreshing hop component, this is a crisp, tasty Lager that has some elements of citrus in the hops. I liked the single bottle my friend brought over enough to pick up a full six pack to share with friends while we sat poolside later in the month. I shouldn’t be surprised by how much I enjoyed the beer largely because the big red “V” on the label.

An excellent “non-summer” poolside brew

Von Trapp (yes, that Von Trapp family) has been brewing beer since 2010 and their bottled beer has recently been distributed in NJ. I tried the Bohemian Pilsner and thought it to be a good representation of the style. I may have to try some of the other Von Trapp styles, too. For the first time in a while, or since joining untappd, I had a bottle of Ommegang’s Three Philosphers, a wonderful, rich Belgian Quad. It is easy to know why, after drinking this beer, why the beer has such a great reputation. This is a big beer at over 9% ABV so it should be enjoyed slowly.

 

I covered in detail what I had during my first visit of the month to Flounder, the Dinkelweiss was definitely the highlight. Such a fantastic interpretation of the light style. On my second visit, I had the Dinkelweiss again, but with Raspberry syrup and it was just as good as it was with the Elderflower. I also tried the Milkshake Genevieve IPA on a later visit in the month, which was delicious. The addition of lactose really calmed down the hops in the beer. That weekend, my neighbor brought over a six pack of Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale, a Red Ale with a nice malt/hop balance. Of the dozen or so brews I’ve had from the Trogner brothers, I can only think of 1 that didn’t quite do it for me.

As has become clear by now, I love Bavarian Hefeweizens especially those brewed in Germany by a German brewery. I’ve seen Andechs Weissbier Hell at my local beer shop for years and finally picked up a 500mL bottle, I was very pleased, as I have been by the 3 or 4 other brews I’ve had from Andechs. This was a great interpretation of the style. I just wish more German breweries would distribute their beer in 6-packs rather than big 500mL bottles.

In a proper, large Hefeweizen glass

Every year, at least one day in the summer, my wife, brother-in-law, and whomever else can join take a day trip down to Long Beach Island an go to The Chicken or the Egg (Chegg’s) for wings and other great food. This year, I skipped the wings and went for Cinnamon Bun French Toast, which is just as decadent and delicious as you might guess. Last year, we added a stop at the then newly opened Ship Bottom brewery to the itinerary. When we visited the brewery last year, they were open for only about a week and only had one beer remaining from their launch party. This year, their brewery was a year older, there was a relatively lively atmosphere for the middle of the day, and many more beers were on tap. I had a flight including their Beach Patrol Hefeweizen (the best of the bunch), the Blueberry Bikini Bottom Wheat (which reminded me of Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat as both beers reminded me of Fruity Pebbles), the Barnegat Lager (a red lager) and NYD 2017, a Russian Imperial Stout. A decent group of beers, I’d definitely go for the Hefeweizen again. NYD 2017 was a solid Russian Imperial, too, though more bitter than I like.

From L to R: Barnegat Lager, Blueberry Bikini Bottom Wheat Ale, Beach Patrol Hefeweizen, NYD 2017 (Russian Imperial Stout)

The Sunday ritual of Game of Thrones and a big beer continued with the last two episodes of the season. One of which will get a full review next week, the other was Westbrook’s 6th Anniversary Hazelnut Chocolate Imperial Stout which was delicious. This beer has a lot of flavors that balance and complement each other very well, not surprising since Chocolate and Hazelnut typically work well together. In the beer, they are almost one flavor and they mask the high 10% ABV nicely. This was a great beer.

I stopped at a local bar (The Royal) on the last Friday of August with a friend and was pleasantly surprised to find Tröegs, Founders, Three 3’s, and Conclave on taps alongside the typical “local watering hole/neighborhood bar” staples. I had a Three 3’s S.S. Tide Pool, a crushable delicious session IPA and a Conclave Gravitational Pull, which blew me away. Such a juice-bomb of an IPA, the bitterness was balanced perfectly with the juiciness of the fruit evocation. This is an IPA I would drink again and again. Conclave is close enough to my house that I need to head down there again as it has been far too long since I stopped in for a growler and the requisite 4oz pour of Mexican Morning.

The last beer to make it into this post is Dogfish Head’s Oak-Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout, but I’ll have more about that beer on Tuesday September 5 for my next beer review.

Ein Prosit!

Beer Review: Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock

Name: Troegenator Double Bock
Brewing Company: Tröegs Independent Brewing
Location: Hershey, PA
Style: Dopplebock
ABV: 8.2%

From the beer’s description on Tröeg’s Web site:

Monks had fasting figured out. No food? No problem. Just drink a Double Bock. Thick and chewy with intense notes of caramel, chocolate and dried stone fruit, ‘Nator (as we call him) serves as a tribute to this liquid bread style.

Tröegs is a foundational Independent American Craft brewer, not just in the Northeast (Pennsylvania specifically), but very likely in the United States. The Trogner brothers founded the brewery in 1996 and have been crafting delicious beers over the last twenty years. One of the highlights of their line-up is their famous Troegenator, a double-bock brewed in the Germanic tradition of malty, sweet beers. The naming convention also follows German tradition, which includes the suffix of –nator to denote a dopplebock (or double bock).

Bock is in the family of lagers, and therefore involves a longer brewing process compared to Ales, which may be one reason few breweries included bocks of any kind in their regular rotation of brews. The Troegenator has been part of Tröegs line up nearly since the brewery’s inception and has proven to be one of their most respected offerings, winning medals at beer festivals, garnering fans, and helping to put Tröegs on the Craft Beer map. Why is that?

Let’s start with opening the beer… When the beer pours from the 12 oz bottle into my fluted glass, the deep amber or brown color is the most noticeable element. Finishing off the pour leaves a thin foamy head that presents a very inviting beer. Aromas of caramel waft from the glass across to the palate.

The first sip for me this time ‘round (I’ve had this one a few times, my Dad tends to keep at least one six pack of Tröegs in his fridge and this is usually the one) was maltiness and sweetness. That’s exactly what a Dopplebock should deliver. The beer is relatively thick, the malt and sweet give rise to a caramel taste. Again, essential flavor components one should expect with a dopplebock. What gives this one a little more complexity are the spices that follow, giving the beer a more robust flavor profile than the standard Dopplebock. There may be some hints of chocolate in the beer, but that sweetness was given further complexity with a fruitiness as well.

The heaviness of the beer, complex sweetness and thick maltiness make this a beer you might want after dinner. I suspect it would also pair nicely with a rich hearty meat, too. Like many beers with higher ABV, Troegenator’s flavors release even more potently as the beer warms from fridge temperature to room temperature. I finished the beer off on a late August evening with cool air blowing in through the windows, which seemed perfect. This is a beer you’d probably enjoy more when the weather is slightly cooler, like late summer, early fall, or early spring. But, this really is an anytime beer because it is so damned good.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy a Troegantor, this is a must-try beer of the American Craft Beer landscape. If you have tried it, then chances are you’ve had it more than once.

Tröegs brews a barrel-aged variety of this Big Beer which I need to find and enjoy. I’m not sure how limited a release the beer is or if it is a brewery-only release, but somehow, some way I will be getting my hands on a bottle of it.

Lastly, Tröegs recently (2015, just ahead of their 20th Anniversary) revamped their label designs to go for more of a hand-drawn arty style, created by a local artist, rather than labels with a thicker line art.

Previous, iconic label of the beer.

Fortunately, for long-time fans of the beer and brewery, the horned head of the original Troegenator logo is still on the beer.

New Logo, which still sports the horned character, who I assume is god Pan

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.