Draught Diversions: NJ Brewery & Beer Check In

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…

Is the bubble bursting or is the NJ Craft Beer landscape simply maturing? Read on for my take on the subject…

That’s been a “hot topic” of discussion in beer circles, and NJ Beer circles specifically. The third NJ brewery over the last 12 months has closed its doors, in one definition of the phrase. More specifically, these are the first three breweries to open after the 2012 laws passed to have closed. Earlier in the year (April 2019), Rinn Duin brewing became Toms River Brewing. Demented Brewing in Middlesex closed at the end of April 2019 after about a month of very public drama on social media. This past week/early June 2019, Common Sense Brewing in Bordentown closed and is in the process of being purchased/taken over by Tindall Road Brewery out of Robbinsville. Tindall Road didn’t have a location but their website claims the brewery to be active “since 2017” which is probably when they established the name.

Three brewery changes in a few short months is worth noting. One is a blip, two is a little more thought provoking, but could three be a pattern? Or could it just be a coincidence. I’ll provide my perspective of these three brewery changes below.

Demented Brewing Publicly Implodes, Closes

Demented’s closure was the most visible closure in NJ Beer (Beer Advocate forum discussion), it was also one of the first to open and close since the 2012 law passed that enabled breweries to have taprooms and serve beer on premise.  Demented Brewing established themselves in 2015 in Middlesex, NJ where the closest brewery was Harvest Moon Brewpub in New Brunswick. In other words, an area without a nearby brewery. They made some good beer, with some beers that were well-above average (by my ratings, over a 4-bottle cap rating on untappd). Cypress Brewing in Edison, NJ opened around the same time and were the closest brewery, but not exactly convenient for folks looking to make a visit to both breweries. Put it this way, you’d have to get on a congested highway and drive over 10 miles to get between breweries, they weren’t close to each other like the three breweries in Hackettstown, some of the NJ Shore breweries, the breweries in Hammonton, or even the Mount Holly breweries. In short, Demented was largely successful because they were relatively uniquely located and produced better than average product. Kegs were in bars in Central New Jersey and cans and 22oz bottles could be found in bottle shops since they had a distribution deal. In other words, it seemed like they were growing naturally at a nice rate.

Personally, I liked Demented quite a bit and had a quite a few of their beers, visited Demented probably as much or more than any of the NJ breweries since they were a mile or two from where I worked, close to where a few friends live, and close to my brother-in-law’s house. My first review here on the Tap Takeover also happened to be of one of their beers. In participating a few NJ beer online circles (NJ Craft Beer, reddit/njbeer, and Beer Advocate’s “Mid-Atlantic” forums), the consensus about the beer seems to be that it was good enough that Demented could have had a relatively lengthy lifespan. NJ Food writer Pete Genovese anointed Demented the best brewery in NJ when he did his Best Brewery tour in NJ. While that selection was rather controversial, at the very least, the “win” gave Demented some attention.

Demented Brewing’s problems were financial in nature in that they had difficulty paying taxes and didn’t always pay their employees. No matter how good the product is, the government won’t let you continue if you don’t pay your taxes. The employees won’t want to keep working if they don’t get paid. Just watch Bar Rescue. Sadly, some good people were working at Demented. Demented also had two annual Bottle Clubs – one for sours, one for stouts – almost like a subscription. Many who paid up front will not see the beer they paid for and will likely not see that money again.  All told, a sad end to what was a pretty good thing.

Rinn Dúin becomes Toms River Brewing

I knew very little about Rinn Dúin brewing aside from knowing they opened in 2014 at the early stages of the NJ Craft Beer boon. This was just 2 years after the big 2012 law passed. Their focus was on English and Irish styles as the name Rinn Dúin might imply and the brewery even temporarily closed in mid-2018 at one point. Having started in 2014, their reach in the State didn’t quite expand the way some other breweries who started at the time did, or even to the extent that Demented did who started a year later. In other words, much of what I say here relative to Rinn Dúin is from a bit of a remove.

From what I was able to surmise from some online posts, it seems they went bankrupt, but made good beer, just not styles that were lighting the world on fire.

I don’t know how embedded in the local bar scene Rinn Dúin was, whether they were able to get the kegs into bars in Toms River and neighboring locals. I assume they were since they’d been in business for nearly 5 years before changing over to Toms River Brewing. They may have done some brewery-only or super-local bottle/can releases, but they didn’t seem to expand beyond Ocean County, NJ from what I was able to observe. Rinn Dúin did seem to have a nice partnership/business relationship with local minor league baseball team Lakewood Blue Claws, which is the kind of thing you’d hope to see between “small” businesses.

Scrolling through Rinn Dúin’s facebook page, it appears they were fairly active in the community, had yoga nights and musicians; many things a lot of successful breweries do. On the other hand,, not many people were talking about the brewery outside of an occasional mention in a thread like “Unspoken NJ Breweries” in the Beer Advocate discussion forums (and the updated/2019 thread). As recently as February (two months prior to the name change/takeover), this brewery was still making and pouring beer as Rinn Dúin, whichh is when I had their tasty cream ale Sweet Nothing at the Meadowlands Beer Expo.

I think the name change is good and gives the brewery more of a local flavor. There was a press release earlier in the year about the buyout that reads a bit on the corporate/business side with talk of a “vertical integration plan.” The original name, Rinn Dúin, while not bad might work in a more mature beer landscape or even a beer landscape from the early 90s. Much as I enjoy a Guinness and a good Irish Red Ale like Great Lakes’ Conway’s Irish Ale, Irish/English styles aren’t the most popular/sought after styles. I realize Rinn Dúin had a more diverse output than that. Again, my observations are from quite a distance and relatively superficial.

What I can say about the name change / re-branding / relaunch is from a similar remove, but the observations are positive. Toms River Brewing is already canning their beer with canning giant Iron Heart Canning. They’ve been relatively active on social media and it looks like there’s potential for this brewery. With Icarus Brewing in somewhat nearby Lakewood (14 miles away), visiting one of these breweries might compel people to visit both breweries.

Common Sense Brewery Closes, Purchased by Tindall Road Brewery

This is the most recent brewery closure and marks the third over the last four months. I do have some more knowledge of Commons Sense Brewing than Rinn Dúin, at least. I visited Common Sense in November 2018 as part of my birthday brewery tour. In fact, Common Sense was the last of six breweries our group visited that day. The brewery looks great from the outside, is extremely well-placed in downtown Bordentown, NJ (a very underrated downtown), and has a very nice and inviting taproom.

But then you get the beer.

I had a flight and what I had was subpar, at best. A very thin Porter that tasted on the edge of being skunked, a decent Pumpkin Ale (helped by the spice rimmed glass) and what, in hindsight, seems strange – two brown ales. Brown ales are fine, in general, but not a style that you’ll typically see more than once on a daily taplist from a brewery. One of the brown ales I had was OK, but the other was outright undrinkable. Easily the worst beers I had that day out of the six breweries, but to be fair, three of the other breweries are relatively established award-winning breweries (Spellbound, Neshaminy Creek, and Village Idiot) and one a well-respected “elder statesman” of NJ brewery (Forgotten Boardwalk) so the comparison may be a little unfair. On the other hand, bad beer is just bad beer no matter how you cut it.

Common Sense was open for less than two years. If some of the comments on social media from locals and people who claim to have relatively intimate knowledge of the brewery are to be believed, than it seems like there was almost a Bar Rescue situation going on with at the brewery. People giving beer away, monetary issues, and a lack of knowledge about making good beer and running a business.

I only learned about Tindall Road Brewery a day after I learned of Common Sense’s closure, so hopefully there’s a positive outcome for whatever this brewery ends up being called. Third State Brewing who celebrated their fourth anniversary this month (June 2019), less than 10 miles away in nearby Burlington, helps to make this area a soft destination for beer fans. Tindall Road has been posting some of the progress of their takeover on their facebook page.

Side note – interesting naming for the two closed breweries – Demented and Common Sense. Almost a harbinger of things to come.

All is Not Dire, Quite the Opposite!

Despite these three brewery closures, I would argue that the bubble is not bursting at all as some might argue. I would even suggest that the “bubble” metaphor isn’t appropriate at this point and rather landscape is appropriate. A landscape implies a longer life span while a bubble implies something not very long-lasting. Quite simply, the New Jersey Craft Beer landscape is maturing. While there have been small independent breweries and brewpubs in the state for twenty or more years like High Point/Ramstein, Cricket Hill, Harvest Moon Brewery (where I had my wedding rehearsal dinner) and so forth – the landscape was really reborn, or reseeded to continue with a landscaping metaphor, with the aforementioned 2012 law change.

What happens when things mature? Things fall off, things change, things evolve – people lose their baby teeth, caterpillars weave a cocoon around themselves and emerge as a butterfly. The independent/craft beer scene is doing just that, I’d posit. Breweries not strong enough to survive and going by the wayside could even be seen as a healthy feature of something that is maturing and evolving. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if, before the year ends, another brewery or two goes through a closure/buyout/takeover like the three I highlighted in this post did..

You could also call this a “Brewing Darwinism” of sorts – the strong breweries are surviving, breweries like Kane Brewing, Carton Brewing, Icarus Brewing, Cape May Brewery, River Horse, and Flying Fish of the NJ beer scene. Hell, Cape May split into two companies, a brewery and a distributor. What further shows the strength of the NJ Beer Landscape is how some of the breweries that have opened are from people with experience at breweries like Kane, JJ Bittings (one of the oldest brewpubs in NJ), and Flying Fish. Additionally, breweries like Lone Eagle (Flemington), Bonesaw Brewing (Glassboro), and Mudhen Brewing (Wildwood) are attracting brewers with experience at leading, respected breweries like Dogfish Head, Founders Brewing, Victory Brewing, Funky Buddha, and New England Brewing Company to brew beer in New Jersey, brewers who have received awards. With just over 100 breweries in New Jersey, that is still a relatively small number of breweries compared to the population of the State.

Just two weeks after Demented closed in Middlesex, Jersey Cyclone opened about a mile or two away in Franklin Township/Somerset, NJ. Having visited Jersey Cyclone three times since they opened on May 4, 2019, I can say that I’m pretty impressed with their output, but more about one of their beers later in the week.

It isn’t just Jersey Cyclone having recently opened. Breweries continue to open in New Jersey on an almost weekly basis. Equally as important to a maturing landscape is that existing/established breweries are expanding – Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough is moving to a barn (or group of barns) not far from the current location that will provide them far more space. Angry Erik in northwestern New Jersey just moved into a facility they built after about five years in an office park. Lone Eagle in Flemington is expanding, by constructing and another building for manufacturing on their lot. There’s been word for at least a year that Conclave Brewing in Raritan/Flemington increasing capacity. Perhaps the most exciting thing for many NJ beer fans, longtime mainstay Bolero Snort is in the middle of building their facility in Carlstadt, NJ after years of gypsy brewing.

So yeah, the New Jersey Beer landscape is maturing, evolving, and still growing and healthy DESPITE the most recent legislative roadblock thrown in front of the breweries. But that problematic legislature is another topic.

At this point in the NJ Beer/Brewery landscape’s maturation; however, breweries more than ever need to produce better than average beer, not just passable beer. They need to brew beer that makes people come back for more. This is, of course, in addition to being smart about owning a business. Because the NJ Beer Consumers palates are maturing alongside the brewery and beer landscape.

 

Beer Review: Czig Meister Brewing’s The Herdsman

Name: The Herdsman
Brewing Company: Czig Meister Brewing
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Bock – Single / Traditional
ABV: 6.7%

“Czig Meister’s (Matt Czigler’s) German brewing skill and knowledge are on full display in this spot on take on the classic German Bock.”

Unfortunately, my reflection makes an appearance here

I’ve made it no secret that I enjoy the beers coming out of Czig Meister in Hackettstown, NJ. I also have proclaimed my enjoyment of Bocks beers and desire to see more of the style available, in all their varieties. So, when Czig Meister announced their third anniversary party the first weekend in June (Happy Anniversary!) I was hoping they’d still have this traditional German beer still available because I knew I was going to attend. I was planning on featuring one of their beers this week as a nod to their anniversary and I’ve been wanting to feature a bock for a while. Obviously they did or else I wouldn’t be writing about it and those two things came together.

The Anniversary party was in full swing when I arrived, with Czig’s large outdoor Biergaten relatively packed and the line to get beer both inside and outside weren’t short, but they were moving. The atmosphere, on the whole, was super friendly and the weather was perfect. The party was a great showcase for what a great community the NJ Craft Brewing community is, I was chatting with a couple of folks from Twin Elephant and saw folks from Fort Nonsense. Granted, those two breweries are relatively close and Czig Meister is one of the largest in Northern New Jersey. But on to the beer…

The beer poured into the glass a brownish amber and looked just like I’d expect a Bock to look. I’d say it is a little darker than the traditional German Amber Lager (i.e. the Columbia Street Lager from Karl Strauss I reviewed a couple of weeks ago) and slightly less carbonated. I smell malt, sweetness, and maybe a little nuttiness. I like how this is shaping up for me.

The sweet malt presence is the first thing about the flavor I noticed. The traditional caramel-like flavor is very present, too, and it doesn’t go away. That is most definitely a feature for me for this beer. Some bocks have an aftertaste that is too bitter or too earthy for my tastes. That aftertaste is nowhere to be found with this beer. The caramel sweet-smooth flavor follows through to the end and picks up some nuttiness, giving the finish a nice rounded and appealing overall profile.

I had four total beers during my stay at the anniversary party, chatting with old friends and new alike. All four beers I had (three were 4oz tasters) were very good, but the delicious, sweet caramel aspect of the Herdsman lingered on my palate for quite a while after having the beer. Later in the evening when I was on my couch, I still caught hints of the caramel somewhere in my sense of taste. Again, this is a good thing.

A note on the label/can art. Czig Meister has developed a pretty consistent branding across all of their canned beers that makes their beer very identifiable, from a brand perspective, on the shelf. For The Herdsman, they went simple and to the point, featuring the iconic image of goat which has long been associated with Bock beer..

Czig Meister has a very solid reputation in the New Jersey brewing scene. Much of that reputation has been built on the vast number IPAs they brew, many which are part of their “Deep Sea Series.” The Herdsman is one of the rare Lagers they’ve brewed and have made available in cans. Sure they’ve done a pilsner and a few other lagers such as a special Dopplebock, but a “single” or traditional Bock shows the knowledge, skill, and confidence Matt and his crew have in their brewing abilities. As precise as a Pilsner can be, a Bock is just as complex a style to brew successfully and to keep dialed in with the appropriate flavor profile. That confidence is well-founded with this on-point interpretation of a Traditional Bock. I hope this beer continues to be part of Czig Meister’s portfolio.

One last Happy Anniversary to Czig Meister, a brewery that produces delicious beer and has some good people making that beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I’ll Be Bock (Level 10)

Once you’ve had just one, there’s no doubt you’ll be saying “I’ll be bock” for another. That’s 50 different Bock beers.

Beer Review: Tonewood Brewing’s Freshies

Name: Freshies
Brewing Company: Tonewood Brewing
Location: Oaklyn, NJ
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 5%

“The growing NJ brewery’s flavorful, hoppy take on the classic American Pale Ale is well-worth a spot in your cooler/refrigerator..”

From the Untapped page for Freshies:

Freshies – 5.0% ABV – American Pale Ale – A soft and crushable Pale Ale brewed with Wheat and hopped with Simcoe, Amarillo, and Cascade hops.

Tonewood Brewing opened up in 2015 and has been brewing well-received beer since then. Located in Oaklyn, NJ,  they aren’t exactly close to me, so I was very pleased to see a few of their beers at one of the three liquor stores at a major intersection on my commute home. Keeping to my recent trend of mostly lower ABV beers towards which I’ve been gravitating, I grabbed a six pack of Freshies with its relatively low 5% ABV.

Cracking open the can and pouring the beer into the glass, a pleasant hop aroma wafts to my nose. The beer is golden yellow and with the hints of citrus in the air, Freshies is very inviting to the senses. It is almost cloudy/hazey along the lines of the Northeast/New England style of Pale Ales, but not quite. The nose doesn’t lie with this beer, big hop presence, almost as much as an IPA. More of a pleasantly aggressive hop presence than some of the IPAs I’ve had, in fact. Lots of hops on the first taste and all the way through.

The hops used in this beer – Simcoe, Amarillo, and Cascade – are some of the most popular hops used in Pale Ales and IPAs. For example, Cascade is used in arguably the most important American Pale Ale – Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. Tonewood’s take on the style is less malty than Sierra’s flagship ale, but that’s not a knock on the quality at all. The blend of hops gives the beer its own identity. That blend, coupled with the ample wheat used in the beer, gives the beer a softer feel and with the relatively low ABV of 5%, makes for a flavorful beer that falls into the currently overused term of “crusher” category. In other words, great flavor along with a not-bludgeoning-you ABV.

Freshies is a delicious beer that is a fine addition to the style of American Pale Ale. Perhaps the best way I can describe this beer is as follows: between the color, level of haze, and hop profile, Freshies perfectly straddles the line between a “traditional” American Pale Ale and the juicy Northeast/New England Pale Ale. It compares pretty favorably to some of the other pale ales I’ve enjoyed recently and mentioned here on the Tap Takeover including Kane’s Sneak Box and Industrial Arts’s Tools of the Trade. While it may not be as widely known as those two breweries and beers, Tonewood’s Freshies, for my drinking dollars, is no less a beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Pale as the Moon (Level 21)

Ahh, the trusty pale ale; crisp, refreshing, and always a good choice in a bind.

 

Draught Diversions: May 2019 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

May turned out to be a stronger month for new beers than I expected. I was able to visit three new to me breweries while returning to a couple of local favorites throughout the month. An interesting mix of beers for sure, and another monthly six pack without an IPA. I had a few IPAs in May (as last week’s review can testify as will this week’s review) but a few of the styles represented here don’t often get as much attention as they should. On to the six pack.

A Quarter of Kölsch (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Kölsch | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone is one of the newest breweries to open in New Jersey, they began serving beer to the public from their brewery on May 4. I visited and was very pleased with what I had and the brewery in general. The standout for me was this Kölsch, a style I’ve really come to appreciate. A very easy drinking German ale that is sort of the ale equivalent of a Pilsner. This is a beer perfect for warm weather and a beer I hope will be in constant rotation at the brewery around the corner from where I work. I can see myself getting growler fills of this on Fridays to share with friends by my pool in the summer.

World Wide Stout (Dogfish Head Brewing Company) | Stout – American Imperial / Double | 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

It has been a couple of months since Dogfish Head showed up here at the Tap Takeover, but with the recent release of World Wide Stout, their appearance in a six pack shouldn’t be a surprise. This is one of their biannual releases, and this year’s version is the first I had. Well, the I had the variant of Oak Aged World Wide Vanilla Stout a couple of years back and this one is just as good. I don’t think I’ve had a beer this high in ABV (18%) that was so deceptive in its booziness. This is a sweet beer for sure, but delicious all the way through. Even the 12oz bottle might be worth sharing, or for me, enjoyed over the course of an hour.

Hefeweizen (Wet Ticket Brewing Company) | Hefeweizen | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been talking up Wet Ticket quite a bit lately, haven’t I? Well, they make really good beer. There happened to be a NJ Craft Beer “Beer Up” / meet up at Wet Ticket in early May, which turned out to be a great event I attended with my Dad (who lives the next town over). I had the chance to talk with owner Tim Pewitt, Mr. NJCB himself Mike Kivovitz, and Al Gatullo of the AG Craft Beer Cast. This Hefeweizen was my first beer of the night and it is a really good interpretation of a classic German style. Tim’s version leans more towards banana than clove and was fantastic way to get the night rolling.

Peril & Perish (Conclave Brewing) | Saison / Farmhouse Ale | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Usually if I visit Conclave, chances are one of their beers will appear on the monthly six pack. Such is the case with this lovely, elegant Saison they brewed/released in Mid-May. There’s a really good balance of sweetness, almost citrusy in nature, and earthiness in the beer, just what I hope to taste in a Saison. The hops used in this one, Hallertau, brings a very nice, pleasant bitterness throughout the beer.

Hefeweizen (Mission Brewery) | Hefeweizen |  4 bottle Caps on untappd


Two new hefeweizens in the month, which is a rarity. I love the style, but it isn’t hugely popular. I recall having some Mission beer a few years ago here in NJ (pre-untappd) so when I had a San Diego business trip on my calendar, I knew I wanted to visit them. I did and this beer was great, just what I want in a Hefeweizen, like Wet Ticket’s this one is a little more on the fruity side with maybe even hints of pear. Regardless, this was a very pleasant beer and a welcome refreshment after a long day flying (two flights added with the layover amounted to about 11 hours of travel) from NJ to CA.

Gumballhead (3 Floyds Brewing Co.) | Pale Wheat Ale – American | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd


I’ve been wanting to try a beer from the vaunted Indiana brewery for years so when my wife and I stopped in one of our favorite restaurants (and one of the best beer bars I’ve ever visited) Isaac Newton’s and saw this on the beer list, I was thrilled. There were a few beers from 3 Floyds, but I wasn’t in an IPA mood and I’m glad I wasn’t. This is one of the best “Pale Wheat Ales” I can remember enjoying. There’s a wonderful sweet, lemony finish to the beer that was absolutely perfectly balanced. This is a very simple straight-forward beer whose excellence and craftsmanship pushes it far above the taken-for-granted style. Great stuff.

There were a lot of good beers in May, but there were a couple of not so great and one really terrible, un-finishable beer. That awful beer has a name that is the complete antithesis of the liquid itself, Stone Delicious IPA. I had it at the Stone bar at the San Diego Airport, one of the biggest wastes of money on beer I ever spent, especially considering how much more expensive beer is at an airport.

Beer Review: Tree House Brewing’s Haze

Name: Haze
Brewing Company: Tree House Brewing Company
Location: Charlton, MA
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8.2% | IBU: 90

“A quintessential juice bomb, a definitive and foundational Imperial Hazy New England IPA. Simply a must have beer.”

From Tree House Brewings’s page for Haze:

Our core double IPA! Haze is crafted with pale malt and an extreme kettle and dry hop dose of our favorite Northwest American hops. We smell a ton of peach on the nose, with complimentary notes of orange and passionfruit. The flavor is similar with a blast of citrus fruit & peach quickly followed by a bounty of tropical fruit. A lingering and pleasant saturated hop oil finish awaits. . . . A real juice bomb of a beer, and a true Tree House original.

Tree House Brewing is one of the highest profile, most well respected independent small breweries in the country. They are at the forefront of breweries pioneering and making popular the style of New England IPA. I haven’t visited yet, but fortunately, a few friends at work have and were kind enough to pass along one of their “extras” to me because you can only get the beer at the brewery.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, the visuals of the beer. If you gave me the beer I poured into the glass without the can, I would guess that it was orange juice. The nose give hints of that, there’s a nice mix of citrus sweetness and hoppy bitterness wafting off the hazy beer. While the underlying scent is beer, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this for orange or orange citrus punch by look and aroma.

Diving in and tasting it, I’m hit with a soft, hoppy, delicious beer. There’s a creaminess and a very soft (I hate this word) mouthfeel to the beer, one of the most pleasant “feeling” beers I’ve ever had. Makes it hard to believe this beer is ratcheted up at 90 IBUs. The finish is tropically sweet with a pleasant hop bite and hints of the hop oil I’ve come to expect and enjoy from the more well-made Imperial IPAs (I’m looking at you Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute and Burton Baton).

The flavor is super potent to the point that this beer is as close to a chewable IPA as you’ll find. That citrus/hoppy juice bomb lingers long enough for you to take your time enjoying the beer. Considering the ABV is 8.2% taking your time with this beer is a wise choice. On the other hand, the beer is so delicious you want more. And more. And more. All of *that* having been said, unless you live in Massachusetts near the brewery, getting beer from Tree House Brewing is far from an easy task so you really want to savor the beer for as long as possible.

One thought that came to me as I was enjoying the beer is that this would be a good beer for breakfast or brunch. I’d normally think a Breakfast Stout (brewed with Oatmeal and Coffee) would be the ideal “breakfast beer.” Then I had this juice bomb, with that delicious hop profile, this wouldn’t be a bad choice for a fancy brunch.

This is one of the beers (along with their flagship Julius) that helped to put Tree House Brewing on the map, helped to establish the style of New England IPA on an “Imperial” or “Double IPA” level, and transform the idea that an Imperial IPA can evoke juiciness just as much as it can evoke pleasant bitterness. This beer may even be considered a modern American Craft Beer Classic.

Quite simply, this is one of the best IPAs I’ve ever had.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.75-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: Summer 2019 6 Pack

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…

With the official kick off of summer, Memorial Day, behind us, I may be a little tardy in putting up a Summer Six pack, but life’s been a little busy this time of year for me. Be that as it may, since a post about Summer Beers was the very first Draught Diversion I posted/published, I want to continue the tradition. There are so many light and flavorful options for Summer, I could probably do a case’s worth of Summer Six packs. Like last year, not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer. For example, I think  a crisp Pilsner or Helles Lager can make for wonderful summer brews.

Summer Catch | Witbier | 5.5% ABV | Cape May Brewing Company | Cape May, NJ

Two years in a row for Cape May Brewing in my summer, six pack. I’ve since had and enjoyed the Cape May beer in my Summer Six Pack from 2018/last year. However, this one says “Summer” in the name. Witbiers, for me, are always a good option for summer/warm weather months. Light yet flavorful, works great at a barbecue or by the pool. When done well, it can be an elegant and classic style. I haven’t had this one yet, but that will likely change as I expect to have this in my cooler in the summer.

What Cape May says about the beer:

Citrusy and refreshing, notes of orange peel and tropical fruits dominate this Belgian-style Wheat Ale. Lightly dry-hopped with Citra and Amarillo hops to give it a noticeably American twist, this crushable wheat ale is complex, yet approachable, just like the Jersey Shore.

Salt and Sea | Sour – Gose | 4.3% ABV | Flying Fish Brewing Company | Somerdale, NJ

Image courtesy of Flying Fish’s Facebook

Like Cape May Brewing Company, I featured a brew from the venerable NJ brewery last year for this post, so I figured why not again? Especially since Flying Fish has continued to smartly evolve their portfolio and this beer screams summer on its label, description, and name. Salt & Sea evokes beach and a Ferris Wheel screams boardwalk, both scream summer as does the low ABV. I picked up a six pack of this and really enjoy the beer, not too tart and not as sour as a typical Gose, but quite flavorful.

What Flying Fish says about the beer:

Memories are made by the sea, and this Session Sour is inspired by evenings on the boardwalk. Enticing aromas of strawberry and lime evoke hints of salt water taffy, providing a souvenir twist to this unique style.

Blood Orange Wheat | Shandy/Radler | 4.0% ABV | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Framingham, MA

Image courtesy of Jack Abby’s blog

This is part of Jack Abby’s year-round line-up, but really works for summer. Shandy/Radlers are great for summer consumption, the lemonade/fruit addition to the beer is a natural mix to refresh and cool down after yard work or relaxing by the book. Enough flavor to satisfy, but low enough in ABV to allow for a long session of thirst quenching. This beer is a big seller for Jack’s Abby and is strongly positioned for the summer, especially those big pool and barbeque gatherings with the availability in 15 packs. Jack’s Abby has an interesting story on their blog about this beer, where they say Blood Orange Wheat combines blood orange seltzer with a wheat lagerJack’s Abby is one of the most respected breweries focusing on German styles in New England and a Radler (the German word for bicycler or cyclist) is always a great warm weather style.

What Jack’s Abby says about the beer:

Blood Orange Wheat debuted in our Beer Hall and it quickly became a fan favorite. This German-style radler is fruit forward, juicy and bloody refreshing. Lean back and enjoy!

Cruise Control Helles Lager | Lager – Helles | 4.8% ABV | Two Roads Brewing Company | Stratford, CT

Image courtesy of Two Roads’s facebook

This is the newest year-round beer from Two Roads and one of the few lagers in their portfolio. I’ve come to trust just about everything out of the great Connecticut brewery and this beer is something of a cousin to their Ol’ Factory Pils. I haven’t had this beer yet, but I definitely see it on the road of my future.

What Two Roads says about the beer:

An effortlessly refreshing golder lager built for kicking back and taking it easy down the Road Less Traveled.

Kölsch | Kölsch | 5.0% ABV | von Trapp Brewing | Stowe, VT

Image courtesy of von Trapp’s Facebook

A Kölsch is a really underrepresented and underappreciated style of beer. The umlaut should tell you this is a beer with German origins and von Trapp is the other pnomiment breweries in the New England brewing German style beers. One comparison I made to a local brewer is Kölsch is  an ale that drinks almost like a pilsner, he nodded in agreement. Light/easy drinking, flavorful and refreshing, this is another one I’ll be seeking out. That plus the fact that von Trapp slaps “Summer Session Ale” on the label proclaims this as von Trapp’s Summer seasonal.

What von Trapp says about the beer:

Kölsch is a style of ale that famously originated in Cologne, Germany. A true summer session ale, this Kölsch utilizes German Tettnanger and Hallertau Hops, that combine to provide a hoppy explosion packed in every can

Summer Crush | Pale Wheat Ale – American | 5.0% ABV | Yards Brewing Company | Philadelphia, PA

Image courtesy of Yard’s Facebok

It isn’t too often when the venerable Philadelphia brewery releases a new beer, but Yards has done just that with Summer Crush this year. In general, the style of the Pale Wheat Ale is kind-of-sort-of an Americanized Hefeweizen. The description Yards puts out for this reminds me a bit of Samuel Adams Summer Ale or even Bell’s Oberon Ale, both classic Summer Ales. A good thing, if you ask me. Since you’re here, I suppose you are sort of asking me.

What Yards says about the beer:

JUICY, MELLOW, REFRESHING

NEW IN 2019!

The moment it hits your lips, there you are. Summer Crush is an easy drinking, flavorful Wheat Beer with a juicy citrus finish that transports you to bright summer days and hot summer nights. Brewed with orange and lime zest, this crushable delight brings the refreshment to the shore, the front stoop, the rooftop, and everywhere else you celebrate summer.

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Draught Diversions: The Tap Takeover’s 2nd Beerthday

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…

Are you all sick of me rambling about beer yet? Because it has been two years since I launched the Tap Takeover. Well, yesterday marked two years since I launched the Tap Takeover. I figured I’d wait a day and not break my Tuesday/Thursday pattern.

Bottle caps from some of the beers featured here at The Tap Takeover

Not too much I can say now compared to what I said on the one year anniversary of the Tap Takeover. I haven’t quite reached 100 reviews or 100 Draught Diversions yet. The 89th review went up this week and this post marks the 87th Draught Diversion, for a total 73 posts of the last year. Still not too shabby and on average, more than one post per week.

Maybe a few things have changed since last year. Sam and Sam….or rather Jim and Sam are now business partners as Boston Beer and Dogfish Head announced a few weeks ago that they are merging, more breweries have opened in New Jersey since last year, with the sad closing of Demented Brewing. I’m not going to go into too many details about Demented, aside from saying the quality of their beer was good enough to sustain them in the area. Business/financial and personal reasons caused them to close. But, with the increase of more breweries in NJ (105 as of this writing, according to New Jersey Craft Beer), I’ve found myself gravitating even more to NJ beer as some of the breweries are more widely available via distribution. I’m looking at you Cape May Brewing Company, thank you!

In terms of my evolving beer tastes, I continue to enjoy and seek out IPAs. Over the last year or so; however, I’ve come to re-embrace the beauty of Lagers in their many varieties, Pilsners, Helles Lagers, Pale Lagers, Amber Lagers, with a hope that more Bocks will be made. Like a many beer drinkers, I overlooked Lagers for a while. But as the smaller/independent/regional breweries began to embrace lagers, and make delicious lagers, I’ve really taken to the style once again. Alementary’s Hackensack Lager is an incredible beer, Cape May’s Pale Lager, simply called Lager,  is a delicious, complex beer, last week’s review beer, Post Shift Pilsner from Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers, might be my favorite Pilsner right now, the two Pilsners I had from Steam Whistle were revelations last year, maybe my favorite beer at the Meadowlands Beerfest earlier in the year was Steamworks’ Pilsner, and Carton Brewing’s This Town is near the very top of the list of my favorite NJ beers. I have a feeling my cooler will be filled with a variety of Lagers this summer.

I had the opportunity to visit some more breweries since the blog began its second year, including these which garnered a full Draught Diversions/Brewery Spotlight post:

Other breweries I visited for the first time are below in chronological order. Not all of these breweries were great, some I will be or would like to visit again. Other breweries below, I’m far less inclined to visit or try their beer again. I’ll leave the guessing up to all of you.

I also returned to favorite local breweries Conclave Brewing in Raritan/Flemington, NJ pretty frequently; Carton Brewing a couple of times, one day at the end of the Summer and again for their annual New Year’s Day (sort of) tradition for the release of the latest variant on Regular Coffee; River Horse (for their second 6K race), Beach Haus and of course Lone Eagle Brewing in Flemington.

Like last year, I would like to thank the readers of the blog and folks who have supported my little hobby by spreading the word and simply chatting up with me  about beer. I’d especially like to thank Mike K. of NJ Craft Beer, Al Gatullo, Chuck of NJ Beer and Wine, the new podcast Two Brewthers, Matt of Massive Beers, and John Holl, among many others.

I can also be found on Instagram as @robhbed where I’ve gotten into the habit of posting one beer photo (very amateurishly taken) per week.

With all of that, Cheers to another great year!