Beer Review #200!: Jersey Cyclone’s Eye of the Storm Category 3

Name: Eye of the Storm Category 3
Brewing Company: Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company
Location: Somerset, NJ
Style: IPA – Triple New England
ABV: 12% / 100 IBU

JerseyCyclone_EyeoftheStormCat3

from the untappd page for the beer:

As Jersey Cyclone Brewing’s intensity increases each year, a legendary storm surrounds our brew house allowing the eye to create the perfect conditions for this massive and epic IPA. Each sip is explosion of citrus and sweet fruit notes across your palate. Dry Hopped with Citra, Galaxy, Idaho 7 and Columbus.

As I was approaching Beer Review #200 here at the Tap Takeover, I wanted make it a special beer, like I did for Beer Review #100 (Saison Dupont). One of my favorite breweries just celebrated three years, so the confluence of events brings me to Eye of the Storm Category 3, a Triple New England IPA brewed by Jersey Cyclone to celebrate three years in business.

I was able to attend the celebration, despite the awful weather. Jan and his crew were planning on doing an outdoor party, but pouring rain forced festivities inside. Although I arrived early, the brewery filled up pretty quickly. With 16 taps in the main taproom, they were pouring variants, like their Hefeweizen, “Life in the Clouds” with Raspberry added. I stuck to some more of the main non-variant offerings like this new beer.

I’ve highlighted Jersey Cyclone fairly often here on the Triple T, in reviews, monthly six packs, as well as the brewery feature. I grab four packs frequently as regular rotation beers (Touchdown, the Munich Dunkel; Rewal, their Polish Pilsner; and Beach Blonde Helles Lager to name a few) So clearly, I enjoy their beer. It doesn’t hurt that they are literally around the block from where I work and not too far from home. I’m a big fan of their lagers because of their incredibly consistent flavors and quality, but their flagship beer is Eye of the Storm Citra, a classic American IPA. For the third anniversary, Jan and his crew added Galaxy, Idaho 7, and Columbus hops into the fold to complement the ever-popular Citra Hop.

The beer I’m given is super-hazy. It appears more orange in the picture, but that’s down to the lighting because it is more of a yellow-orange, not dissimilar to orange juice. The head looks like frothy orange juice, as if just shaken before poured into the glass.

Hops waft off the beer and into my nose, giving me a hint of things to come. The first sip is a blast of hops, but not palate-wrecking. I’ve had enough palate-wrecking IPAs in my life and this beer is incredibly smooth and balanced. The Citra stands out, but I get some additional tropical hints, possibly from the Galaxy. At least some elements of Eye of the Storm Category 3 resonates with the Galaxy Hopped beers I’ve had in the past. The Columbus hops are a classic hop that brings some piney elements, balancing out the tropical elements from the Citra and Galaxy.

The overall flavor is of juicy, tropical hops, and maybe a little peachiness? One of the most impressive characteristics of this beer is how well masked the high ABV of 12% is. Like the hop profile, the alcohol element isn’t overpowering and even barely noticeable. Like I said of Jersey Cyclone’s Black Forest Cake in last month’s six pack, I can definitely understand why this beer is not served in large/pint sized glasses (even though it is sold in pint cans!)

I also want to call out the new can label designs Jersey Cyclone has implemented with this beer and their renamed Maibock. It really stands out and there’s a very strong sense of branding on the beer, with an outline of a large cyclone and the beer logo top center.

JerseyCyclone_3rdAnniversaryCans

Congratulations to Jan, Brian, Charles, Taylor, and the whole crew at Jersey Cyclone on 3 years of brewing delicious beers! You all should be proud of the beers you’ve been making, including this flavorful, balanced, hoppy delight. I can only, highly recommend fellow craft beer enthusiasts like myself visit the brewery.

As for Eye of the Storm Category Three: Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

JerseyCyclone_EyeCat3

Draught Diversions: April 2022 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…

SixPack_2022-Apr

April was a fun month for beer as a few friends and I (with my ever-awesome wife taking cat-wrangling/driving duties) tackled the Skylands Ale Trail, which consists of 6 breweries in Warren and Sussex County. Alphabetically those breweries are Angry Erik Brewing, Buttzville Brewing Company, Czig Meister Brewing, Invertase Brewing Company, Jersey Girl Brewing, and Man Skirt Brewing Company. This past month, I’ve reviewed two beers I had during that journey across the breweries (Angry Erik and Man Skirt) and will feature a couple of beers from other breweries on the Skylands Ale Trail below.

One of the breweries (the last brewery we visited during the journey and a brewery I first visited back in 2017); however, shall not be named in this blog henceforth. This is despite the fact that I had a good beer during the visit. They shall not be named because the individual overseeing the taproom was extremely surly and rude to my wife and I. The overall vibe at this brewery was not too welcoming, at least from the folks working at this establishment. Let’s just say the brewery who shall not be named was a major guilty party in my post about Date Coding in Craft Beer since this brewery has the ability to stamp their beer with something, but instead of a date, they put a dumb phrase or song lyric. Bottom line, I won’t be visiting or purchasing their beer in the future.

Enough of my rambling, here’s the Six Pack for April 2022, where all but one of the beers is from a NJ Brewery…

Abyss Series – Dark Pulse (Czig Meister Brewing) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England| 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Czig_Abyss-DarkPulse

Czig Meister is always a highlight for me and they are one of my overall favorite breweries in the State of New Jersey. I had a few beers during the visit and brought some home, but this IPA is the standout for me. Czig’s “Abyss” Series of New England IPAs are always excellent and this one is no exception. I especially appreciated the lack of aftertaste because this beer had a lovely, smooth finish that complemented the great blend of tropical hops.

B’Ville Jam Session (Buttzville Brewing Company) | Fruit Beer | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Buttzville_BvilleJam

This was my second visit to Buttzville, I really enjoyed my first experience there so I was looking forward to sampling their beer again. I decided on a Hefeweizen and this beer, a “fruited session ale” with raspberry, passion fruit, guava, and citrus puree. The beer element was still very present, meaning the fruit elements were not overpowering and were introduced into the brewing process very smartly. This would be a great beer to enjoy in the summer or warmer months.

No Limit (Magnify Brewing Company) | Lager – Dark / Schwarzbier | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Magnify_NoLimit

Magnify is known more for their IPAs and Pastry Stouts, but when I saw they brewed what they call a Schwarzbier (and is listed on untappd as a Lager – Dark) I wanted to try the beer. I was pleased, the beer has a little more roasty bitterness than I like in Schwarzbiers, but it is a very solid effort from the North Jersey brewery.

Dortmunder (Lupulin Brewing Company) | Lager – Dortmunder / Export | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Lupulin_Dortmunder

When I saw this beer pop up on Tavor, I figured what the hell, I’ll give it a try. I’ve enjoyed the Dortmunder Lagers I’ve had, including Bull N’ Bear’s great take on the style. Lupulin Brewing (out of Minnesota) is known, from what I’ve gathered, primarily for IPAs. If this beer is an indication of the overall quality of their portfolio, then they are a damned fine brewery. Smooth tasting, with elements of toasted crackers and a sweet finish, I could drink this all day

Black Forest Cake (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | IPA – New England / Hazy | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

JerseyCyclone_GermanChocolate

Although I’ve been enjoying some of the regular rotation beers from Jersey Cyclone I’ve picked up at local stores, it had been too long since I stopped in Jersey Cyclone brewing for some freshly poured beer. This beer had all the things I’d like in a dessert stout, Black Forest Cake is a favorite dessert and this beer does a great job emulating the cake. Sweet, rich thickness, and a wonderful gestalt of Cherry, Chocolate, and Vanilla. In no way, shape, or form does this beer drink like an 11.5% beer. Because it is 11.5% ABV, it was only offered in tasters and half pours, no full pints on this one.

Blueberry-Fuzz (Chilton Mill Brewing) | Sour – Fruited | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Chilton_BlueberryFizz

I’ve been hearing good things about Chilton Mill Brewing for quite a while now and I’ve wanted to visit them to sample their wares. I finally did this past month and was extremely impressed with this beer. Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits and this beer has blueberries in spades, but the “Fuzz” in the name is from the peaches which come across on the finish of the beer. The beer is a seamless transition from blueberry to peach and simply delightful. If Chilton Mill can pull off a beer with these flavor elements so successfully, I’m eager to try more of their beer.

While the above clearly indicates I had some really good beer, as do the beer reviews I posted this month, it was unfortunate that I had to add another NJ brewery to the “never patronize again” list, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph. On the other hand, there are well over 100 breweries in NJ and plenty within close proximity to me so it isn’t like I’m wont for a good place to get good beer.

Beer Review: Revolution Brewing’s Straight Jacket Barleywine

Name: Straight Jacket
Brewing Company: Revolution Brewing Company
Location: Chicago, IL
Style: Barleywine – English
ABV: 15% (2021 canning date)

A world class Barleywine, comfortably on the  proverbial Barleywine “Mount Rushmore.”

Revolution_StraightJacket

From Revolution Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Our Barleywine Ale features American and Belgian malts which provide the base of this extraordinary ale. After 12 months in bourbon barrels the award-winning Straight Jacket® emerges with notes of stone fruit, toasted coconut, molasses, and vanilla coming in waves as you swirl the glass. Enjoy now or store cold.

Barleywines have become one of my favorite styles over the past couple of year. #BarleywineIsLife or #BiL after all. Unfortunately there aren’t that many being brewed, packaged, and made available in my market. Occasionally, some of the local breweries will brew a barleywine in small a batch, but I don’t think I need to get beyond one hand in counting how many breweries in NJ brew barleywines in batches intended for distribution or beyond small batches.

Enter Revolution Brewing out of Chicago. Unfortunately, I’ve only really seen their IPAs in stores around me here in Central Jersey. Enter the online beer reseller Tavour. Tavour is where my wife purchased all those awesome out-of-region beers for my 20th Anniversary. Revolution has supplanted Goose Island over the last few years as the local/craft brewery of Chicago and their big booze bombs are highly regarded, including Straight Jacket, a Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine which is part of Revolution’s “Deep Woods” series. When I saw this pop up on Tavour, I had to have it.

The beer pours from the 12oz can into the glass smoothly. The color is murky brown, what I’d imagine liquified caramelized sugar or toffee might resemble and as I pass the snifter in front of my nose, the bourbon elements make me smile.

The first sip brings strong burnt sugar to mind, hints of toffee, and aggressive malts. The first word that comes to mind for this beer is smooth…everything about it is delightfully, sinfully, sumptuous, and smooth.

As the beer warms, the sweet elements become more prominent as does the barrel character. The bourbon elements could easily overpower the entire beer and drown out the malt and hops, but here in Straight Jacket the name of the game is accentuation. Each flavor element (hops, malt, barrel) enhances the other elements to a wonderful and delightful degree.

I haven’t had as many Barleywines as I’ve had stouts or lagers. I’m just shy of 40 Barleywines according to untappd. That said, without hesitation I can say that the 2021 canning of Revolution Brewing’s Straight Jacket is one of the best Barleywine Ales I’ve ever had.

Highest recommended possible, link to 4.75 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Man Skirt Brewing’s Quadrupel Take

Name: Quadrupel Take
Brewing Company: Man Skirt Brewing
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 13%

An extremely tasty and impressive interpretation of the monstrous Belgian Ale.

ManSkirt_QuadrupelTake

From the untappd entry for the beer:

Clocking in a whopping 13% ABV, our Belgian Quad is deceptively easy drinking. Golden in color, it’s rich and malty but without the cloying sweetness that can overpower a beer this strong.

Man Skirt Brewing is one of the “Hackettstown Trio” of breweries and a central brewery along the Skylands Ale Trail. Like Angry Erik Brewing, I visited Man Skirt for the first time during the 2017 Birthday Brewery tour. On the first leg of the journey through the Ale Trail with my friends, Man Skirt was the second brewery we visited. I’d visited a few times in the past and, by and large, I’ve enjoyed their beer and always found the folks at the brewery to be very friendly and welcoming. I don’t see too many Belgian Quadrupels on draft at the smaller/local breweries so I knew I had to try this one. Plus a friend on untappd gave the beer a very high rating.

The beer I’m handed is slightly more translucent and not quite a dark brown as I’d expect from a Quadrupel. The aroma is there, though.

That first sip…is quite impressive and flavorful. The beer delivers what I hope an expect from a Belgian Quadrupel. My impression is that this is a flavor-filled beer and quite sweet. The yeast evokes tastiness like stone fruits, like plum? and caramelized banana. Like the best Quadrupels, this beer is quite complex. What I find most surprising is that, despite a 13% ABV, it wasn’t as boozy as I’d expect. Don’t get me wrong, I noticed the alcohol presence especially as less and less of the beer was in my glass, but it wasn’t an overpowering hit of alcohol.

This is the biggest beer I’ve had from Man Skirt, out of the dozen or so I’ve had and it was maybe the best I’ve had, too. While I liked their pilsner, Czechs and Balances for its clean, straight-forward flavor profile, I like the complexity here in Quadrupel Take. My point here is that Joe Fisher and his crew at Man Skirt can make quality beer across a range of styles, and high quality in two of the more complex styles to brew.

I don’t know how often Man Skirt brews this beer, but it is worth seeking out when they do brew it.

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Angry Erik Brewing’s Two-Shoe Brew

Name: Two-Shoe Brew
Brewing Company: Angry Erik Brewing
Location: Hampton Twp, NJ
Style: English Bitter
ABV: 6%

A classic English pub-style ale that has excellent flavor whose relatively low ABV encourages multiple pints.

AngryErik_TwoShoe_Draft

From the Beer Description on untappd:

This copper ale is named for our late dog Brewer who loved to carry a shoe or two around the house! A fruity aroma (sweet cereal malt & subtle citrus), typical of traditional English-style amber ales complement a crisp, refreshing body with nutty/biscuity flavors and a lightly bitter Australian hop finish.

Angry Erik Brewing has been part of the New Jersey Craft Beer scene for 8 years, they were a stop on one of the early Birthday Brewery Tours (2017), which is when I made my first visit. Since then, owners Heidi and Erik have moved to a purpose-built production facility a few miles down the road with a spacious taproom and greater capacity of beers on tap. I visited recently since they are part of the Skylands Ale Trail and knew I had to finally give one of their beers a full review, but what beer in particular? Well, I figured I’d go for a style I typically don’t have and since this beer is named in honor of an old family dog, Brewer (whose handsome picture greets visitors to Angry Erik’s web site and graces the can art below), I had my candidate. After tasting a pint on site, I knew I’d want to tak some home

Two-Shoe Brew is an English Bitter and directly aligned with Angry Erik’s focus on English and German style beers. The can calls this a “Copper Ale” or “English Style Amber Ale” which is essentially an English Bitter. As I said, I haven’t had too many English Bitters, a few Extra Special Bitters (including the fantastic ESB from Odd Bird Brewing), but it isn’t one of the more prevalent beer styles in these times.

The beer I’m handed looks exactly like a beer I’d expect to be served in an English pub or an American interpretation of an English pub. First sip is very pleasing, mostly sweet malts.

I was enjoying this beer with friends at the brewery and it was the perfect beer to start the day. It has a prominent flavor of malts, mild bitterness, and some welcome fruit evocation from the hops. All these elements hit every button on my palate extremely well. It wasn’t a knock your taste buds out of your mouth kind of beer, but one that fits the mold of “beer flavored beer.” I’d love to try this on cask for the full English/British effect.

We had the opportunity to speak with co-owner and head brewer Heide quite a bit during the visit, she was able to help us out with our Skylands Ale Trail passports and despite the growing crowd at the brewery spent time with us, talked about the beers amongst other things. While my friends were settling their tabs, I was chatting with her husband, Erik about the brewery’s new facility which has a spacious loft that I think was being used that day for a private event. The main floor of the brewery was very welcoming and reminiscent of a Viking or Danish beer hall you might see (though much more clean, less bloody, and less profane) on The Last Kingdom or Vikings. Outside, plenty of seats were available around the building with firepits to warm people in cooler weather.

I’ve visited over 50 of the 130+ breweries in New Jersey and Heide and Erik rank near the top of the list of the nicest, most welcoming people in the NJ Craft Beer Scene. A brewery worth visiting for the tasty beers and a brewery whose welcoming atmosphere makes you want to stick around for more than just one pour.

As for the beer under review – Two-Shoe Brew – I was extremely pleased with the beer, which I found to be elegant and straightforward. Not too fancy, just a tasty beer. I think what speaks to my enjoyment of the beer the most: I liked it so much I was compelled to bring home some for my fridge.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

AngryErik_TwoShoe_Can

Draught Diversions: March 2022 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…

March did not go out like a mouse, the weather here in New Jersey the last couple of days of the month skirted all four seasons, in terms of temperature and precipitation. But I digress, you all visit for my “hot takes” (as the kids say) on beer, specifically, 6 beers I enjoyed or wanted to highlight from the previous month. For March 2022, the pack contains two IPAs and 4 lagers; 4 from New Jersey breweries, one New York brewery, and one brewery based in the Czech Republic.

Enough of my rambling, here’s the Six Pack for March 2022…

John (Bradley Brew Project) | Pilsner – German | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the third beer I’ve had from Bradley Brew Project and it might be the best one. A clean, crisp, extremely well-crafted interpretation of a German Pilsner. This beer does just about everything correct for the style. There’s a slightly lemon/lime presence on the finish, but overall, an excellent beer

Lake Shore Fog (Southern Tier Brewing Company) | IPA – New England/Hazy | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Over the last handful of years, Southern Tier seems to be focusing more on their IPAs than their stouts. I was a big fan of the stouts they had in regular rotation about 5 years ago or so and haven’t had too many of their beers in more recent years. This beer is their take on the New England IPA. It is a perfectly acceptable take on the beer, not the best I’ve ever had, but one I’d be happy to enjoy again.

Kozel Černý / Dark (Pivovar Velké Popovice) | Lager – Dark | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

While this is not the original Czech Dark Lager, it is a Dark Lager from a brewery in the Czech Republic. I’ve come to enjoy the style a great deal over the last year as I’ve discovered it. Kozel is a is different, unique, and quite tasty, especially at 3.8%ABV and a beer that shows how complex lager beer can be.

BIČ (Carton Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Czech | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

While Carton Brewing may be known for Boat, the O-DUB series of IPAs and the Coffee Cream Ales, what I enjoy most is their Pilsner game. Their base American Pilsner (Whip) is modified to fit the profile of several region’s/country’s Pilsner. BIČ is the Czech-inspired Pilsner and is absolutely delicious.

DDH Power Juicer [Julius] (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – New England / Hazy | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

ommegang3phildoubchoc

Another month, another Icarus beer. Power Juice is one of the many “series” of beer Icarus brews in the IPA realm. I love the main/original version, but this one is very tasty too. As the name implies, this beer is double-dry hopped with Julius hops. Icarus really knows how to blend hops together harmoniously.

Black Orpheus (Sunken Silo Brew Works) | Schwarzbier | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

When I visited Sunken Silo in February, the friendly beertender informed me this beer would be ready in about a month. I knew I had to visit again for this beer (and to make may way through season 2 of the Hunterdon County Beer Trail). This beer is a collaboration with Ashton Brewing and is just as good as the version brewed and canned at Ashton’s facility in Middlesex, NJ. A slight roast, wonderful malty elements with a great lager finish.

Another month with a plethora of new beers, mostly good. There was one experience; however, I’d be remiss for not noting. I’m not one to throw a brewery under the bus, so I won’t mention by name the brewery I’m about to discuss. Said brewery recently moved into a beautiful new facility, only a couple of miles away from their small, original facility in an office park. I hadn’t had beers from this brewery in over four and half years for various reasons including the beer being just “OK.” After all, other breweries as close (or closer) to me were making much better beer. But I figured I’d give them a try because I’ve heard the beer has improved and the new facility is supposedly quite inviting. Well, the new facility is really nice, I’ll give them that.

Well, I stroll up to the bar on a Friday evening and ask if they are serving flights. After an uncomfortable pause and an inaudible exchange with the manager(?), the beertender said not tonight and removed a sign that I can only guess mentioned flights. While there were a good amount of people at the brewery, there were empty tables throughout, so Strike 1.

My next question, “Oh, are you filling growlers or crowlers?” Response, “Sorry, only members of our ‘Special Club’ can get growler fills.” Call me crazy if I find that to be a thoughtless policy. You don’t want patrons to bring your beer home to enjoy? Better yet, you don’t want people yo share the beer with friends who may potentially be new patrons? To not offer growler/crowler fills as a blanket policy is one thing. But to offer them only to a special club that has a limited membership is short-sighted and an ill-advised business move. I’ll just say I’m not too surprised. I’ve had my fair share of beers from NJ breweries (75 NJ breweries), so I might be a decent judge of good NJ beer. While some of the beers I’ve had from this brewery have been good, on the whole, the beer from this brewery is by no means anywhere near good enough to warrant an exclusive club with privileges. There are maybe 3 or 4 breweries in the State that *might* be able to pull of something like an exclusive members only club. This brewery isn’t nearly established enough with the quality of their beer to do so, in my humble opinion. It is a barrier of exclusivity that works more as a turn off. I had one beer that Friday night and it wasn’t great, thus I will not be visiting this brewery or sampling their beer again in the future.

This has been my TED Talk.

Beer Review: Four City Brewing’s La Baie Noir

Name: La Baie Noir
Brewing Company: Four City Brewing Company
Location: Orange, NJ
Style: Sour – Fruited
ABV: 6%

A superb fruited sour from a NJ brewery who has shown ample talent across nuanced styles.

4City_LaBaieNoire

From the untappd page for the beer:

Sour fans can rejoice! La Baie Noir (French for “the black berry”) is our dark sour brewed with blackberry puree. Tart with a sweet finish, this beer will be a springtime favorite!.

I’ve been eager to try more of Four City’s beers since I visited the brewery during my 2020 Birthday Brewery tour. The people were really chill and the beer impressed me. I was very pleased when a liquor store I frequent started carrying their beer (per my untappd notifications), so I visited and landed on this beer to try, I wanted something a little different. Since I like blackberries this one called out to me quite loudly.

A rather fancy looking can, the beer name in script with a vine of hops on one side of the name, with blackberries on the other. Yup. That tells you what you’ll get.

The beer I pour into the can is quite dark, slightly translucent. From a distance, it looks black, but under the light there’s a purple tint. As dark as this beer is, there’s no mistaking it for a stout or porter. Aroma is potent blackberries, but there’s an underlying funk I’d expect from a sour ale.

My first sip follows the nose. An initial funkiness, which is what I expect from a sour beer. The blackberries come in and take over as the primary flavor element. A balanced amount of blackberries, though. While a this beer probably has ample amounts of blackberry puree, there’s still the underlying sour/tart and funky elements to keep the “backbone” of this adult beverage in the beer category.

The few beers I’ve had from Four City include beers that aren’t the easiest to make and styles that illustrate a brewery’s/brewer’s skill: Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Quadrupel, and this one. Many breweries are making Sour Ales, but many of them are throwing lactose (or cream cheese!) into the beer and overloading the beer with extremely large amounts of fruit or other “non-traditional” adjuncts…smoothie sours that barely resemble beers when poured in the glass. This beer, La Baie Noir, is showcasing great flavors with fewer components and it shows – there’s not much room to hide mistakes and the sour elements and blackberries shine.

I haven’t had too many dark sour beers, especially recently since I’ve come to enjoy sour beers more. I recall one from Carton Brewing and one from New Belgium, but bothe beers were consumed a good handful of years ago so comparing La Baie Noir to those beers isn’t exactly apt. What I can say is that Four City’s Blackberry Sour is an outstanding beer that should please many craft beer drinkers. It isn’t face-puckering sour, but sour enough to establish itself as a sour beer. The blackberry flavor is wonderful. A nice dessert beer, for sure.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Fruits of Your Labor (Level 19)

It’s been a long day and now it’s time for a reward. Crisp, tasty and refreshing, enjoy that delicious fruit beer! That’s 5 different beers with the style of Fruit Beer, Sour – Smoothie / Pastry, or Sour – Fruited (Gose or Berliner Weisse).

FourCity_LaBaieNoire

Beer Review: Lumberjack Sap from Readington Brewery and Hop Farm

Name: Lumberjack Sap
Brewing Company: Readington Brewery and Hop Farm
Location: Neshanic Station, NJ
Style: Dark Ale
ABV: 7.1%

An interesting, fun beer from one of New Jersey’s newest breweries.

Readington_LumberjackSap

From Readington Brewery’s Instagram post for the beer:

Ale created entirely with sap tapped from the maple trees on our property.

When a brewery opens up less than 2 miles from your front door, that’s a good thing. What’s even better is that each time I’ve visited and sampled the beer at Readington Breweryand Hop Farm, I can taste improvement. They’ve had traditional styles like Pilsners, Dunkelweizens, and IPAs, but the brewery has also had some playfully crafty styles like this beer made with Maple Syrup.

The beer I’m given looks like maple syrup, which is not a shock. There’s a slight maple aroma, again, that’s expected.

First sip is a delight. There’s a nice malty element, but the maple is the most prominent flavor component. I’ve had issues with some beers that feature maple syrup, some have been far too overpowering and cloying or even an unpleasant sour taste. This beer, Lumberjack Sap, has a wonderful balance. The maple flavor is omnipresent, but not over dominant, if that makes sense. Through and through, this is a beer.

I really like how the sweetness from the maple sap plays with the carbonation. It is pleasant and makes you to keep drinking more, and that’s important. Of course the “wants to make you keep drinking it” is important. Also important is the fact that, carbonation is a main characteristic of beer and the carbonation here proves that yes, this is indeed a beer.

If I can level any criticism at the beer is that it felt a little thin on the body. For 7.1% ABV, I’d expect the beer to have a bit more thickness to it.

This beer is called a “Dark Ale,” which is a rather wide descriptor. It isn’t a stout by any means, nor is it a porter. It isn’t hoppy enough to be considered a Black IPA or Cascadian Ale. Regardless of what this beer style is, the flavors are delicious.

I’ve had Readington Brewery’s Pilsner, Dubbel and others and they’ve all been quite tasty. This beer is unique and interesting and the kind of one-off / small batch beer that makes visiting a brewery so much fun. You’ll likely always find something interesting like this beer and I hope to enjoy fun one-offs (as well as many other beers on their tap list) like this in future visits to Readington Brewery and Hop Farm.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Burlington Beer Co.’s Beekeeper

Name: Beekeeper
Brewing Company: Burlington Beer Company
Location: Burlington, VT
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double New England/Hazy
ABV: 9%

My first sampling of a Burlington Beer Co beer is a delicious, sweet hoppy IPA that should have wide appeal to craft beer drinkers.

BurlingtonBeekeeper

From Burlington Beer Co.’s landing page for the beer:

Beekeeper is a New England style Honey Double IPA brewed with an absolutely absurd quantity of Vermont Honey. Heavily hopped with Simcoe, Cascade, and Amarillo to provide flavors and aromas of Dank Weed, Ripe Peaches, and a bouquet of Fresh cut Flowers.

Cans of Burlington Beer Company started appearing on shelves in coolers here in NJ over the last 6 months to year, the majority of which are their IPAs. I’ve been looking to sample one of their beers since then, but was looking for something slightly outside their main/flagship IPAs. When this beer, brewed with an “absurd” amount of honey, showed up at one of my local liquor stores, I found the one to ry.

The first thing that stands out to me is this really cool can art. It fits with what seems to be the branding for Burlington Beer Company; the complementary colors of yellow/gold and blue, really pops out.

Out of the can, the liquid that fills my glass could easily be mistaken for orange juice shaken vigorously just prior to being poured in the glass. In other words, it fits the mold of a Hazy IPA. I breathe in the beer and get mostly hops on the nose. Again, pretty much what I expect.

I finally take a first taste/sip of the beer and my palate is greeted with bold hops of the tropical nature. Maybe peaches like the description says, but more of a mélange of juicy flavors. There’s some thick dankness to the beer, too. I’m pleased there isn’t a strong bitter finish, which is probably from the abundance of honey that coats the entire flavor profile. It isn’t too sweet, rather it is quite delicious.

Burlington calls this a “Honey IPA” and I can’t argue the name. Beekeeper is undoubtedly an IPA with all the hoppy goodness one would expect, but the sweet honey flavor is in harmonious balance with the blend of the Simcoe, Cascade, and Amarillo hops. Simcoe is a hop that will call to me if I see it as a predominant hop in an IPA, it strikes a nice balance between the piney/bitter West Coast IPA, but also has some nice tropical hints that work well in the Hazy/New England IPAs.

All told, Beekeeper is a damned fine beer. It is the type of IPA that will appeal to beer drinkers who have some aversions to hop-forward beers, but is hoppy enough and has a strong enough IPA profile to appeal to die hard hop heads.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Ashton Brewing’s Shore de Garde

Name: Shore De Garde
Brewing Company: Ashton Brewing
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: Farmhouse – Bière de Garde
ABV: 7.8%

A fantastic take on a relatively obscure Farmhouse Ale demonstrates the high quality beer I’ve come to expect from Ashton Brewing.

Ashton__ShoreDeGarde

From Ashton Brewing’s landing page for beers:

The 2021 Motown MASH Best of Show winner, Erik Shore, created this delicious country ale. It is a Bière de Garde, which is a French Farmhouse Ale. This beer is malty, clean, dry and smooth. Truly a keeper.

I’ve been really enjoying the beers coming out of Ashton Brewing over the last couple of years, regardless of style. I happened to stop in recently and saw this beer on draught, a style I don’t see often – Bière de Garde, a French Farmhouse Saison-type of ale which translates as “beer for keeping.” Whereas a Farmhouse Ale of the Saison variety is lighter in color, like straw, a Bière de Garde is a little more malty and darker in color. As such, I don’t have too much to compare Shore de Garde against, with the exception of Two Roads’s tasty Holiday Ale.

Before getting the full pour, Donna (one of the owners) kindly allowed me a sip/small taste of this beer and the Saison/Farmhouse they had on draught that day. Both were good, but this one was different enough that I wanted the full pour.

The beer I’m given is a relatively clear golden-burnt umber color. It looks relatively unique, which is enticing. Aroma…I didn’t get anything out of the ordinary on the aroma portion of the show, so I dive in for my first sip.

First taste…is both unique and somewhat familiar. I think the yeast elements give the beer some familiarity, kind of what I’d expect from a Saison or Farmhouse Ale. But the malt character…that’s what is unique, at least what I expect in this style of beer. There’s a sweetness that is rather different from most Farmhouse Ales I’ve enjoyed. The fruitiness is more earthy, maybe figginess and dates? Whereas the Saison side of Farmhouse evokes more of a banana flavor.

This is a very surprising, pleasant beer. The more I drink, the more I enjoy it. It is a fun beer in many ways, in terms of trying to determine what flavors are coming from the yeast and malt combination, and quite delightful.

As the description calls out, this beer is a product of MASH. As I noted in my Brewery Spotlight for Ashton Brewing, Steve is a member of MASH (Morris Area Society of Homebrewers) and I think this is the second beer (at least) that is a product a MASH contest and it is a damned fine one at that. Donna mentioned to me that the batch on draught that day was essentially a test batch and that it did well enough that Ashton will be canning this beer with the next full batch. This is a unique style, a flavorful, well-crafted ale that is worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.