Beer Review: Carton Brewing’s 077XX

Name: 077XX
Brewing Company: Carton Brewing Company
Location: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Style: IPA – Imperial/Double
ABV:7.8%

One of the Classic NJ beers and a fantastic Double IPA – a must-have beer.

The beer’s description on Carton’s Landing Page for the beer:

Like all things truly Jersey, 077XX makes the most in balancing through its accentuation of extremes. Inspired by the west coast IPAs we love, we added a thump of hops to a dynamic malt profile and chose a yeast to drive these two further than they wanted to go. Throw our water into this mix and you will find dank green resinous hops popping over orange, mango and papaya aromas, with just enough sweetness of body to make the long finish a pleasure to have around. Drink O’Dub when your night matters.

With the state of the world as it is under the COVID-19 Pandemic, beer connoisseurs are unable to visit their favorite local breweries, but many breweries, like Carton Brewing here in New Jersey, continue to make beer. Some of these breweries are delivering beer within a small radius and their beer is already available in many NJ stores (some of which are also making home deliveries). These events lead to Carton being the first brewery to get a third beer the full review treatment at the Tap Takeover and what better beer than one of their most iconic of ales?

077XX is the second most popular beer Carton brews according to untappd (Boat is #1), and is probably as beloved by independent/craft beer “enthusiasts” in New Jersey. It is a double IPA so that means super hoppy, maybe dank, and fairly high in ABV. I’ve had a few of the “Dubviants” (variants on this beer, usually with a different hop, designated with two different numbers replacing “XX”), but the main beer never made it to my glass…until now.

Popping open the can, the beer pours a clear yellow orange, almost amber. In other words, “O-Dub” looks the part of a double IPA. Good start. The aroma is hoppy dankness, so two senses down, and this seems to be what I’m hoping it will be. How does it taste?

Like the description above suggests, the opening tasting notes of this beer are flavors that evoke tropical and citrus fruits. Maybe mango? Definitely a hint of orange. While those elements are very prominent, I wouldn’t quite say the tropical nature of this beer leans too hard towards a Hazy/New England IPA. The second act of the show is the hop bite of bitterness, a little piney resin, and some dankness, bringing a well-rounded balance.

The first thought I had when I was halfway through this hop-bomb of a beer is that I should not have put off trying this beer for so long. Well, my pre-IPA days make sense. But the last two years or so? This was a beer that was always there, maybe I took it for granted. That won’t be happing any longer because this is a reliable, very tasty beer that should be fairly widely available in New Jersey (and maybe New York).

What often happens with big stouts happened with this beer for me. It warmed up just a little bit and I found the hop bitterness to be softened and I enjoyed the beer after it “aired out.” The fruity elements at the start were still present, but the beer was even more balanced than those first few cold sips

077XX is a must-have New Jersey beer and a double IPA that deliciously straddles the line between the classic, malty piney IPAs and the more recent tropical Hazy/New England IPAs. In addition to delicious beer, Carton Brewing has always been true to its roots and been about the community where they are located, Atlantic Highlands, a shore town of New Jersey. Many of their beers pay homage to the region and this is maybe the biggest tribute as it set the standard for a subset of the IPAs they brew, the “Dubviants”, beers with the zip code. As such, this beer is a great homage to where Carton Brewing is situated in Monmouth County as 077 is the prefix of the Zip Code for many towns in Monmouth County.

I realize few people outside of New Jersey have access to Carton Brewing, but for folks in New Jersey, you know Carton and you likely know “O-Dub.” Drink Local during these dark times, keep these smaller, independent business thriving, especially breweries like Carton who make very high quality beer.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

A Beer Journal of the Pandemic: Supporting Local NJ Beer and Breweries

The world is facing an unprecedented global pandemic, but we as a society are trying to maintain life as close to normal as possible. There’s a fairly wide margin between today’s normal and the normal of a few weeks ago.

 

UPDATE, MARCH 31, 2020: As of March 30, Breweries in NJ have been once again permitted to deliver. The list of breweries who are delivering has shifted from what is below so your best bet is to visit your local brewery’s Facebook/Instagram/Website.

Governmental rules being enforced to protect society at large from the spread of the pandemic are changing on a daily basis. We really don’t know how long the world, specifically the United States, is going to be adjusting to this pandemic and what the long-range impacts will be once we have this in the rearview mirror. But that could be weeks to months from now. I’m not going to speculate beyond that, I’ll just suggest going to the CDC’s website for COVID-19 for more information and heed your local and State government.

Business, especially local businesses which are seeking to live out their own American Dream, are struggling or will be struggling. Sadly, there’s a very good chance that some of these small breweries may be unable to weather the storm the coronavirus has caused. The NJ Beer Community has always been a great, well-connected community. Breweries are always trying to help each other, the people who buy and drink NJ beer are very loyal to their local purveyors of that fine beverage made from water, grain, yeast, and hops. That theme has become very evident during this pandemic.

In New Jersey many breweries have relied on Taproom sales to be successful; drawing crowds to share their beer and conversation. Well, with the Social Distancing mandates being put forth, that side of the business for these breweries is not currently really possible. Many breweries are shifting to “to-go” sales only – that means packaged goods like cans, bottles, and for some, growlers and crowlers. Other breweries are delivering their beer in the immediate area of their production facility, thanks to NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 104. Like everything else about this pandemic, who knows how long this will last.

While some of the larger non-macro breweries are well worth supporting in these times (breweries like Sierra Nevada, Victory, Jack’s Abby, Bell’s, etc. who have illustrated a great sense of community in addition to making great beer), now is a better time than ever to support the ultra-local breweries in your area. Go to them and buy some of their to-go options directly from the brewery. Pick up some of their beer in your local bottle shop/liquor store. Hell, if you have the means, buy some gift cards to use at a later time.

For NJ specific breweries, Mike from New Jersey Craft Beer has been working to spread the word of the breweries that are doing the TakeOut option.

The list below, borrowed from the good folks over at reddit’s NJ Beer forum highlights the breweries who are doing to-go pickups (and deliveries) of their packaged goods. The reddit thread can be found here (https://www.reddit.com/r/njbeer/comments/fjwe06/covid19_brewery_update/) and seems to be continuously updated by Matty and the other moderators over there so the list below is probably incomplete as of the time you are reading this.

Many other states are likely following suit, I’d say check in with Breweries in PA for information about breweries in the Keystone state, like this post Breweries in PA Offering Delivery Options in Response to Coronavirus.

*Disclaimer…some of the posts I’ve got ready for the next week or so were put together before the world changed as drastically as it has.

Beer Review: Lone Pine Brewing’s Portland Pale Ale

Name: Portland Pale Ale
Brewing Company: Lone Pine Brewing Company
Location: Portland, Maine
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 5.2%

A clean, crisp, and flavorful American Pale Ale that should please almost all beer drinkers.

From Lone Pine Brewery’s beer page:

Our flagship pale ale carries a bright, clean body, with stone fruit and ripe citrus flavors from heavy late addition hopping.

When a new, out-of-state brewery begins distributing to your state, you want to give them a try. I’d been seeing beers from Lone Pine Brewing pop up on my untappd feed from in state friends, particularly Lone Pine’s double IPA Oh-J. However, I wanted something a little lighter and not quite as hop-aggressive. Of the Lone Pine beers available, Portland Pale Ale seemed to fit that bill.

The Pale Ale…not quite as popular as the IPA, but a defining style of American Craft Beer nonetheless. Noticeable hop presence, some malt body, maybe some sweetness from those two elements. What does Portland Pale Ale offer the beer drinker relative to those elements? Let’s take a look…or a drink.

The pop of the can hints at a nicely carbonatied beer, which turns out to be true when I poured the beer into the glass: a pale yellow, not quite clear, beer fills my glass. Topped with a thick white head, Portland Pale Ale is an eye-pleasing beer. A very nice and welcoming citrusy, hoppy aroma wafts from the can and glass.

A beer can look great, but does that positivity flow through to the taste? First sip brings a smile to my face. There’s a crispness to the beer I don’t typically associate with Pale Ales, more so with Pilsners. It isn’t unwelcome, or out of line with full profile of the beer, but a pleasant surprise.

After that first sip, a very nice hop flavor follows, accompanied by a balanced sweetness and a decent amount of body given the relatively low ABV. Lone Pine doesn’t list the hops in the beer, but I suspect there’s a blend of maybe Citra, Nugget, and Azacca? Or at least one of those? The hops give off a fruitiness that I can’t quite pinpoint to one specific fruit, maybe some citrus, or maybe some peach/apricot? That’s part of the fun of this beer is that the profile from the hops ring off some familiar notes, but maybe in a different key than I’ve had before or often.

Portland Pale Ale is quite simply a solid Pale Ale. You get hops, but they don’t bludgeon you. There’s enough sweetness to balance the inherit bitterness from hops, but it isn’t a cloying sweetness. The beer is very clean and balanced. In other words, a very well-made beer. This beer falls into the category of “pleasing to the more discerning/experienced beer, but not too aggressive for the macro-beer drinkers.”

Recommended, link to 4-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Gaffel Kölsch

Name: Gaffel Kölsch
Brewing Company: Privatbrauerei Gaffel Becker
Location: Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 5%

One of the first of its style is an outstanding beer, this ale masquerading is a lager is delicious.

From Gaffel Kölsch Page for the beer:

The classic Gaffel Kölsch is a particularly fresh speciality beer from Cologne, brewed according to a time-honoured family recipe and the German Purity Law of 1516 with water, malt, hops, and hops extract.

The delicately bitter, pleasant, slightly hopsy taste is characteristic for this traditional product and clearly distinguishes Gaffel Kölsch from all other Kölsch brands.

One of the more overlooked styles of beer is the Kölsch. This is a shame because it is a relatively straight-forward style, is a great introduction to the wider world of beer styles, and when done well – as one of the first of its kind from Gaffel – it can be a sublime and delicious beer.

So what is a Kölsch? I’ve fully reviewed two other Kölschs (Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch & Free Will Brewing’s Crisper) and those two beers likely took inspiration, if not directly, than indirectly from this beer. The style is one of those geographically protected style names, much in the same way that any sparkling wine produced outside Champagne cannot be called Champagne. One way to think of a Kölsch is that is an ale that is masquerading as a lager, Pilsner or Helles Lager specifically. The beer begins its fermentation process like an ale with top fermentation but finishes like a lager with colder, bottom fermentation. The result, when done well like this one, is a beer that has wide appeal for its refreshing flavor profile and lower ABV which is perfect for “crushing” or repeated enjoyment in a lengthy sitting. It is this beer writer’s personal and humble opinion that every small brewery should have a Kölsch available in regular rotation in their taproom.

Back to Gaffel’s classic take on the style after I briefly set the stage. I was in San Francisco for a few days on business and to my delight, an authentic German Restaurant (Schroeder’s, established in 1893) was two blocks from my hotel. Sure they had some local beers on tap, but selecting an authentically German style from an authentic 100+ year old German brewery was *exactly* the correct decision.

The first, most noticeable element of the beer is how transparent the beer is. In every visual way possible, this beer could easily be the beer next to the entry on “Beer” in an encyclopedia. There’s something to be said for a freshly poured draft beer. There’s also something to be said for the setting in which a beer is consumed. Outside of being in Germany, an authentic German restaurant is just about the perfect setting for enjoying this beer, which admittedly, may have added to how much I enjoyed the beer.

First taste is very good, it is even better than I expected it to be. There’s great flavor from the malt and a little breadiness that reminds me of a Helles Lager. The beer also has a mild sweetness that makes you want to go for a second sip while still holding the glass after the first sip. Some Kölschs can have a hop bitterness, but this one doesn’t, and although hops are definitely present, but there’s no lingering unpleasantness.

I get a little bit of fruitiness from the hops, just enough to remind me of some pilsners I’ve had. The thing that makes this beer work so well is the simplicity. It isn’t flashy with abundant, tropical hops, it isn’t double dry hopped.

Gaffel Kölsch is one of those must-try beers of the world, it is relatively older style, defined by the region, is a superb example of a beer created using old world ingredients – and only old world ingredients – that has quite flavorful, especially considering the lower alcohol level.

Ein Prosit!

Recommended, link to 4.5-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Respect the Kölsch (Level 5)

The kölsch style has a rich heritage, originating in Cologne, Germany. It’s clear, crisp, medium hopped flavors are always refreshing.

 

Draught Diversions: February 2020 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…

Considering February is the shortest month of the year, even in a leap year like this year, I was able to sample a good amount of new beers. In fact, it was a very tough challenge to trim the new beers I had in February down to just six beers. We’re at the usual 50%-50% split with NJ and non-NJ beers this month around. One business trip provided me with the opportunity to try a few beers I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to in NJ, one of which makes this month’s six pack post. So, enough of the chit chat, here’s my February 2020 six pack.

Back for S’More (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Stout – Milk / Sweet | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone keeps impressing me with their output. Every new beer from them is excellent, regardless of style. They had a NJ Craft Beer Night on the first Thursday of the month, which I of course attended. During that night, Jersey Cyclone debuted this delicious Milk Stout brewed with Cinnamon and conditioned on Cacao Nibs and Vanilla. The cinnamon was utilized perfectly to balance some of the sweetness from the other elements. They canned this one, too. Well worth grabbing a four pack.

Bourbon Barrel-Aged Framinghammer (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Porter – Baltic | 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first “big” beer I’ve had from the great Lager brewery in Massachusetts. Yes, a Baltic porter is brewed using a cold/Lager process. I haven’t had the base non-barrel-aged beer, but this version is delectable. The bourbon is present, but not overpowering. Notes of vanilla and sweetness balance out the slightly high bitterness level associated with the style. A wonderful slow-sipper. Jack’s Abby brews several variants of this beer (S’Mores, Vanilla, Mole, etc) which I will most definitely be trying.

Flemington Fog (Lone Eagle Brewing) | IPA – New England | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

After missing a few sessions, I was able to get to Board Game night at Lone Eagle in February and I had one of their new beers, from their newish brewer and it is a dandy. Lone Eagle has brewed a few Hazy/New England IPAs (as has just about every brewery) but this one is the clear (pun half-intended) stand out in the crowd. This is a juicy beer with a pleasant bitterness on the finish. Just an overall good beer and I like the name as an homage to the city where the brewery is located.

Parabola (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Firestone Walker is, as I’ve noted here in the past, one of the leaders in barrel-aging and blending of beers. A beer many consider the apex of that program is Parabola, their big (13.6% ABV) Russian Imperial Stout. Like the BBA Framinghammer, the bourbon elements complement the flavors present in the beer, especially that aggressive hop finish strongly associated with Russian Imperial Stouts. This beer is simply outstanding.

Pliny the Elder (Russian River Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double | 5 bottle Caps on untappd

The very first Imperial IPA ever made and one of the best beers I’ve ever had. I was in San Francisco for business for a couple of days and I heard about this wonderful dive bar, the Toronado with 40 beers on tap, and Pliny a fixture. There was a great write-up by Jay Brooks recently for Flagship February which featured Pliny at the Toronado. Of course I had to go and have the beer, which lived up to the hype. An outstanding beer, never have hops tasted so wonderful. Quite simply, a perfect beer..

Good Morals (Conclave Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

I made my first visit to Conclave’s new facility and I was extremely impressed with the taproom. So much more space for customers, with tables and the typical old whisky/bourbon barrels. Very inviting, very spacious, and simply very nice. The beers have always been great, Carl (owner/brewer) uses hops from New Zealand so well and this Farmhouse ale has a couple of those, as well as that popular Norwegian Kviek yeast. At only 4.7% ABV, this beer is refreshing with a great amount of flavor. Just a great, great beer.

Honorable mention to a beer I haven’t had in about 4 or 5 years – Java Cask from Victory Brewing. This beer is the great Pennsylvania brewery’s take on the bourbon-barrel aged stout…not just a stout, a coffee stout. It is as good as I recall it being. To balance it out, I stopped in a few breweries in NJ at the end of the month and one really disappointed me – Magnify Brewing. Maybe I just caught some bad beers, or not the best they made (I had an English Mild, an IPA, and a Stout) but for the reputation they seem to have, I was expecting much, much more.

Beer Review: Yards Brewing’s Loyal Lager

Name: Loyal Lager
Brewing Company: Yards Brewing Co.
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Style: Lager – American
ABV: 5%

A new Lager from a brewery known primarily for Ales is a welcome addition to their portfolio.

From Yards Brewing’s Page for Loyal Lager:

PHILLY’S HOMETOWN LAGER

25 years after opening our first garage brewery in Manayunk, we’ve built our dream brewery in the heart of the city – all thanks to our fans who have been loyal since the beginning. As a sign of our gratitude, we’ve used our new world-class brewing system to create Loyal Lager: a crisp, easy-drinking American Craft Lager brewed with two-row malt and aromatic Loral hops. It’s what a clean, high-quality lager is meant to be.

When a brewery as renowned as Yards is and has been brewing beer for as long as Yards has been brewing beer introduces a new year-round beer to its core line-up, it is noteworthy. Especially when that beer is a Lager, considering that Yards is primarily a brewer of Ales. Yards has been “brewing Philly’s beer since 1994” and you’ll see much of their advertising/marketing indicating they are “Philadelphia’s Brewery,” which considering they are the largest operating brewery in Philadelphia is a fair statement. All that makes “Philly’s Hometown Lager” a logical slogan for this beer.

Since the beer launched in September 2019, I’ve been intending to give it a try, and finally did so when I saw some positive chatter about the beer in the forums of Beer Advocate from some fellow Lager “enthusiasts” and my refrigerator was empty of any kind of Lager. It is always a good idea to keep at least one of each style in the fridge if you ask me and since you’re here, you’re asking me. 😊

Image courtesy of Yards Brewing’s Facebook

So what is my experience with the beer? The beer pours a clear golden yellow as one would expect a straight-forward lager to pour. Nothing super noticeable on the aroma, maybe a little bit of breadiness…the old adage of a “beer that smells like beer” comes to mind.

First taste is very good, it hits the notes I expect a well-crafted lager to hit. That breadiness from the aroma is more pronounced in a very pleasant way. Hops aren’t very bitter, but they are present. The flavor profile doesn’t change too much from sip to sip, but that consistency in a straight-forward “American Lager” is on-point for the style. It tastes like beer on your fist sip and your last sip. To counter what I say about the bigger ABV beers, I wouldn’t want to let this one warm to room temperature. Drink it cold and enjoy it any time. For me, I’ve found a new “Friday Pizza beer” to add to regular rotation.

Loyal Lager is a very tasty lager that should do well for Yards especially as a significant segment of craft beer drinkers are turning to lagers and lower-ABV beers. As a traditional style, it fits in quite nicely in their core alongside Philadelphia Pale Ale and Brawler. This beer has enough flavor to satisfy people looking for a new lager and will welcome people who are curious about independent craft beer. It will especially be welcoming to people with the type of trepidation who associate “craft beer” only with “IPA” or beers that are “too hoppy.”  I go to at least one Philadelphia Phillies game every year, so I expect this will be one of the offerings once opening day starts. Seems a perfect place to enjoy this tasty beer.

For a quick, fun aside, Tom Kehoe, founder and president of Yards, “took Loyal Lager on a tour of the Yards facility” when it first launched, as documented on twitter.

Recommended, link to 3.75-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

 

Flagship February: River Horse Brewing’s Tripel Horse

The second of my Flagship February posts for 2020 features another NJ Beer, this one from the second oldest independent brewery in the State. The beer itself has received some national recognition, it has proven to be the brewery’s most consistent seller, and one of the brewery’s most acclaimed beers over the course of the brewery’s almost 25-year life (which saw an ownership switch in 2007). In some ways, this beer as the brewery’s flagship is not what would one would typically expect to be a flagship beer from a brewery in the United States: a Belgian style Tripel. The beer: Tripel Horse. The brewery: River Horse Brewing Company in Ewing, NJ.

A Belgian Tripel is not a beer style that immediately comes to mind as a top/flagship beer, especially from a US brewery. Granted, two other Northeast/Mid-Atlantic brewery’s Flagship beers are Tripels (Golden Monkey from Victory Brewing in Downington, PA and Merry Monks from Weyerbacher Brewing in Easton, PA), all three breweries have been brewing beer for close to the same amount of time. Either that’s a strange coincidence or speaks to the beer tastes of people living in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Be that as it may, one would likely think of an IPA, Pilsner, or even Stout as more of an expected Flagship beer.

River Horse initially opened up in 1996, but about a decade later (2007), the original owners sold to a couple of finance professionals with a passion for beer. A few years after that (2013), River Horse moved from Lambertville to Ewing, NJ into a larger space with far more capacity for growth and production, and the brewery certainly grew from that point in time. Through all of that, Tripel Horse has been the most prominent beer they’ve brewed, though it may have been tweaked over the years.

A Beer like Tripel Horse is, I suppose, an ideal candidate for Flagship February. Not that Kane’s Head High wasn’t, but as respected River Horse is and for as long as they’ve been in operation, River Horse isn’t a NJ brewery that is as top-of-mind as a brewery like Kane, Carton, Icarus, or Magnify. I say this as a person who enjoys much of River Horse’s portfolio. Again, from the Flagship February Web site:

What sometimes gets lost amid the constant stream of special releases are the beers that paved the way for today’s remarkable global beer market, or in other words, the flagship beers that got us here.

Tripel Horse is a beer that has been continually available in New Jersey for nearly 25 years (giving the beer true classic status) and it is NOT an IPA (the hottest style). However, that lengthy history for River Horse has allowed them to maintain their status as one of the top 2 or 3 breweries, by size, in the State of New Jersey. Hell, I haven’t had this specific beer in a couple of years, but I do seek out the newer beers River Horse brews because the quality has almost always been there for me.

Before I give my “current” experience of the beer, let’s take a look at what River Horse says about Tripel Horse:

Image courtesy of River Horse Brewing’s Web site

Our take on a Belgian Style Tripel Ale, brewed with spices and fermented with a Trappist yeast strain which lends hints of vanilla and creates a variety of complex flavors. ABV – 10.0%

Hops: Chinook, Hallertau, Saaz

Malt: Pilsen, White Wheat, Caramel

I can remember the first time I had the beer. In fact, it is one of the more vivid and clear memories I have of a specific beer. My wife and I had just bought and moved into our current home, so we are talking almost fifteen years ago. I’m not sure if it was around my birthday immediately after we moved into the house or the following fall, so we’re talking 2005 or 2006. Anyway, we went down to a restaurant (The Porterhouse Pub) in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA with my parents that was featuring only River Horse beers, including some beers usually only available at the brewery. But what I went for was Tripel Horse. (That restaurant has since ceased that exclusive partnership with River Horse). While we were waiting for a table, we sat at the bar and I downed two full pours of the beer. I was initially taken aback and wowed by the abundant flavors in the beer, which is why I had a second beer. At the time, I possessed far less knowledge of beer as a whole, with regard to beer styles or breweries and the closest thing to Belgian-style beer I had that wasn’t Blue Moon was the old Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic. Be that as it may, our table was ready and the two full pours of Tripel Horse at 10% ABV caught up to me as we left the bar to go to the table. Standing from the barstool initially proved to be a little difficult. From that point on; however, Tripel Horse has been a beer I would always associate with a great night and River Horse as a brewery that crafted flavorful beer. Over the years I’d get the beer in six packs, but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t always the first River Horse beer I’d gravitate towards but it has a been a beer I could always rely on for great taste. For everyday beers, I leaned more towards stouts, porters and some lagers.

Image courtesy of River Horse Brewing’s Web site

As I said, I haven’t had a bottle or pour of Tripel Horse in a few years, so I was very excited to reintroduce myself to the beer again. I’ll admit to some slight trepidation on revisiting the beer because, to borrow a term from my science fiction and fantasy online community, I did not want the “suck fairy” to strike. Basically, when your current experience of a thing you enjoyed in the past does not live up to the memory enjoying that thing in the past.

So…a pour of the beer into my Belgian-style tulip glass and the beer looks the part of a Tripel, unsurprisingly. It is of the cloudier variety, so I’m not sure if this is filtered. Comparatively speaking, it isn’t as clear or see-through as Tripel Karmeliet or Victory’s Golden Monkey but more like the cloudiness featured in Westmalle’s Tripel. By no means is this a flaw, simply a difference. Aroma is of the yeast with some fruitiness. Again, exactly as what I would expect from a Tripel.

The first sip gives me many of the flavors from the yeast with some spice. Very, very pleasant and flavorful. I can tell it is a high-octane beer, but I’d only guess at the 10% ABV range because of how the beer asserts itself as a Tripel. There’s also a strong fruit flavor coming from the yeast, maybe peach or apricot? Maybe pear? I can’t quite pinpoint it, but it is a welcome element in the overall profile of the beer. As the beer warmed in the glass, that fruity element grew and I found myself enjoying the beer to a greater degree. The last few sips when the beer was closer to room temperature were fantastic. Again, I need to remind myself to let these bigger beers warm from the fridge, even a little bit and even if they aren’t barrel-aged stouts. I enjoyed that first bottle I used for the photograph so much that two nights after having the first of the six pack, I had two bottles because the beer just hit every button in my sense of flavor so well. Some of the enjoyment probably comes with the great memory associated with that first beer all those years ago, but more than anything, Tripel Horse is just a damned good beer.

Over the years, Tripel Horse has received largely positive reception from the beer writing community, including nice write-ups/reviews at All About Beer, Draft Mag, The Full Pint, and Porch Drinking to name a few. But perhaps the most prominent acknowledgment of the beer’s quality occurred in late 2017 at the Great American Beer Festival where Tripel Horse received the Bronze Medal (3rd best Tripel overall) for Belgian-Style Tripel.

Image Courtesy of River Horse Brewing’s Facebook

A beer that is a flagship will often have “Spin Off” beers and this is true of Tripel Horse. A few years ago, River Horse first released a version with Raspberry, Raspberry Tripel Horse, which I reviewed here at the Tap Takeover almost exactly a year ago. This version started out as a brewery-only release but proved popular enough that River Horse bottled it for distribution. Additionally, River Horse has also released a sour version of the beer, Sour Tripel Horse. and in even more limited quantities, River Horse produced a Bourbon Barrel-Aged version of Tripel Horse. When River Horse was invited to partner with Jameson Whiskey as part of their Caskmates program, one of the beers they featured was One Score and Two Years Ago, which is, you guessed it, Tripel Horse brewed with spices and orange peels, fermented cherries and aged in Jameson barrels. That is a beer I’d love to try because those ingredients look to mimic one of my favorite cocktails, the Old Fashioned.

For all the reasons I’ve outlined in this post, you might say that Tripel Horse can be seen as River Horse Brewing’s “Work Horse” beer. Come on, there was NO way I wasn’t going to make that pun at some point.

In the end, Tripel Horse is a great example of a somewhat non-standard Flagship beer and a beer that helps to show the quality and diversity of beer available in the State of New Jersey. Be warned; however. If you plan to have more than one don’t stand up too quickly after you’ve downed a couple and be sure to pass your car keys to your friend/significant other.