Beer Review: Ashton Brewing’s Jersey Dreamin’

Name: Jersey Dreamin’
Brewing Company: Ashton Brewing Company
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 5.7%

“Ashton’s second canned beer is a superb interpretation of the classic lager.”

From Ashton Breiwng’s forpage for beers:

Jersey Dreamin’ is our Czech style Pilsner. It pours with a rich creamy white head and a burst of floral/spicy Saaz hops. Honey, cracker and spice all pop in the flavor and it finishes clean and balanced and says let’s have another!

Ashton Brewing is one of the newest New Jersey breweries (as of the date of this post, June 9, 2020), but they had the unfortunate timing to have had their grand opening scheduled when the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down public gatherings. They took over the former Demented Brewing facility in Middlesex, NJ, redid the interior and launched their brews. Despite the challenge they faced in the current times Ashton pushed forward, sold crowlers and growlers of their beers to what I’ve seen to be positive response. Shortly after they opened, Ashton began canning their beer, including this delightful Pilsner which is the second beer they canned.

Pilsners are one of my favorite styles and I’m always excited when a smaller brewery decides to craft any kind of lager, especially when a new brewery does their second canning run as a Pilsner. As soon as it was available I placed on online order and picked up a six pack at the brewery. As a result, I was check in number three to this beer in untappd, so I was also very happy to be one of the first to try the beer. Good thing the beer was delicious!

Visually, if you were to put this beer side-by-side with the last Pilsner I reviewed (also a Czech Pilsner), you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same beer. That’s a good thing because this clear and clean, golden yellow beer is largely what I would expect a pilsner to look like. The aroma gives off some hops and maybe some crackery/breadiness from the malt. More good signs for Jersey Dreamin’.

That first sip immediately becomes a gulp. Simply put, Jersey Dreamin’ is a delicious Pilsner.

Some Pilsners lean towards a breadiness/cracker element from the malt, some have a floral/fruity finish and some strike a balance between the two. Jersey Dreamin strikes that balance really nicely. It isn’t as “crackery” as some pilsners I’ve had – which is by no means a slight – but it has a full flavor whose elements come together really cleanly.

I spent a long Saturday afternoon in the sun doing yardwork the weekend after getting the six pack. My reward was this beer and it hit the spot perfectly, the beer was extremely flavorful, abundantly refreshing – an elevated “lawnmower” beer, if you will.

Many breweries who start up, at least in New Jersey, launch their canning program with multiple IPAs or some dark beers like porters & stouts. While Ashton’s first canned beer was their IPA, the fact that their second beer to be canned was a Pilsner – a style that has zero wiggle room for mistakes that can be hidden by adding more hops or adjuncts – is impressive. It shows confidence in the quality of the product they are sharing with consumers. Steve Ashton has a long history of brewing and working in the brewing industry in some capacity and that knowledge and confidence in his ability shows in this elegant and delicious Pilsner. This beer is good enough that it could be their flagship beer and a Pilsner that Lager-enthusiasts should definitely seek out. I for one can’t wait to have fresh draught of this Pilsner once the Pandemic concludes.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Ashton is accepting online orders for local delivery and pick up

Draught Diversions: May 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…

Social Distancing continues through May and so does the focus on NJ / Local Breweries. Two of the beers in this post are from a brewery who had a beer as a featured review over the past month, which is something I’ve tried avoid. I have mostly been able be a little more robust in my selections for two reasons: (1) I didn’t usually limit my purchases to just New Jersey and (2) I’ve also returned to some old favorites over the past month, so there weren’t as many new beers this past month compared to previous months. Enough with the reasons, here are the beers

Porter (Spellbound Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This was the other beer I picked up on my visit to Spellbound during the first weekend of the month. This is a straight-forward, malty, and roasty porter. I liked the chocolate hints and especially the coffee finish; the beer does exactly what a porter should do. This beer serves as the base porter for Spellbound’s outstanding, award winning Porter Aged on Palo Santo Wood.

Malachor (Conclave Brewing Company) | IPA – Black / Cascadian Dark Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave has been doing curbside crowler releases (and quickly selling out) for much of the pandemic, this one is the first opportunity I’ve had to enjoy one of those releases. I haven’t had a Cascadian Dark Ale in a very long time but this one really took me by surprise. It doesn’t look like an IPA, but the hops evoke a tropical flavor that works really nicely with the roasted malt. This is a standout beer for sure.

White (Cape May Brewing Company) | Wheat Ale – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Cape May had a summer witbier in their lineup for a few years which was OK. This year they removed that beer and added White as a year-round beer, but it works so well for the summer. This is basically Cape May’s take on a Witbier, and per CMBC, White has more wheat and less hops and that combination for me works a lot better than Summer Catch did. White compares favorably to Kane’s Cloud Cover (reviewed earlier in the month) and the standard, Allagash White. In other words, it is an excellent Belgian Style Witbier.

Snowtober (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Porter – Imperial/Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Yeah, yeah I know I have two beers in this six pack from breweries already in a feature review this month. Snowtober is one of the launch beers from Jersey Cyclone and is a superb milk porter, with additions of coffee and vanilla to embolden the flavor even more. I found the beer to be incredibly smooth with a very nice roasty and sweet finish. For their first anniversary, Jersey Cyclone let some Snowtober sit in barrels. I thought that was good, too, even if it was a little too bourbony.

Monkey Chased the Weasel (Carton Brewing Company) | Sour – Berliner Weisse | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Monkey Chased the Weasel has long been a part of Carton’s portfolio, I see untapped checkins going back to 2014, but this is the first time I had it. This is a mildly sour/tart ale, but the flavor is really nice making for a perfect, refreshing beer for the summer. I can’t say I’ve had a mulberry and only know of it from the song to which this beer pays homage, but I assume the pleasant sweetness comes from that berry. Bottom line: this is a great take on the Berliner Weisse.

Hazy Bones (Flying Fish Brewing Company) | IPA – New England | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the third major take on a New England IPA from Flying Fish and it is a spot on interpretation. I’ve only had Jersey Juice but I found this one to be closer to style and more flavorful. The beer has all the juicy/tropical elements typically associated with the style along with a noticeable bite of hops on the finish.

Some good stuff, but not much more variety of breweries for May 2020. I will call out one beer I had that wasn’t so great – Brewberry which is a blueberry coffee stout collaboration between Cape May Brewing and Night Shift Brewing in MA. I got almost no coffee notes and all tart blueberry notes. Brewberry was the only beer from Cape May that I flat out didn’t like.

Beer Review: Jersey Cyclone’s All Together

Name: All Together
Brewing Company: Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company / Other Half Brewing Company
Location: Somerset, NJ / Brooklyn, NY
Style: IPA – New England
ABV: 6.5%

The world wide collaboration is a prime example of the New England IPA – a good beer for a good cause.

From the ordering page of Jersey Cyclone Brewing and the untappd page for the beer:

A drinkable yet bold IPA collaboration organized by our friends at Other Half Brewing Company and Stout Collective brewed around the world to support hospitality professionals impacted by the COVID-19 Virus.

This recipe which consisted of a slight bittering hop charge followed by a big whirlpool addition of cascade and mosaic. We decided to push the limited and increase the already massive dry hop of Simcoe, Citra, Cascade and Moasic by almost 1.5 times to 7lbs/bbl! Drink this beer and think of the great times in the past and better times to come.

Taste/Aroma: Tropical Fruit, Citrus, Passion Fruit

Just before COVID-19 locked down the world as a whole, and the United States in particular, the great folks at Other Half Brewing released the recipe for All Together, a New England IPA. The intent of this recipe/beer is that it could utilized by breweries around the world, with the proviso he profits from the beer go towards relief for hospitality and brewery workers. In effect, they’ve released an open source beer. Although I’ve honestly been a little IPA’d out lately, I wanted to get at least one four pack from one of my most local of breweries, so when Jersey Cyclone in Somerset, NJ announced they were releasing a version, I pre-ordered some a four pack (which quickly sold old).

Beer for a good, nay, a great cause is wonderful, especially when the beer lives up to the cause.

The beer pours like orange juice minus any pulp. As the badge below indicates, this beer is “Haze for Days” and 100% looks the part of a New England IPA. The aroma is dank, hoppy, and juicy. Lots of citrus, some tropical, and lots of hoppiness. All points of the aroma and appereance lead me to believe this will be a prime example of the popular New England IPA.

That dank hoppiness of the aroma follows through to the first sips of the beer. The abundance of hops in this beer is extremely potent, almost to levels I’d expect from an Imperial/Double IPA. I get some of the Simcoe, a classic hop I’ve come to appreciate fairly recently. But the most prominent hop to my taste buds is Mosiac, which is a hop that I usually don’t care for. If I see a beer that is 100% Mosiac hops, I’ll avoid it, there’s something about the aftertaste of Mosaic hops that I usually find unpleasant. If it is mixed with other hops I like, then I’m usually O.K., but per the description above, the good folks at Jersey Cyclone upped the Mosaic in their take on the recipe considerably (along with other hops). A quick google search shows that I’m not the only person to have this issue with Mosaic, but we’re in the minority.

So…what does that all mean. Well, I brought a few cans of this to my parents’ house over Memorial Day weekend and my dad is a fan of the Mosaic hop and he liked the beer more than I did. That reinforces my belief that this is a well crafted beer, even if the flavors don’t quite agree with me personally.  This version of All Together is an extremely well-made beer, a fine example of the New England/Hazy IPA and a beer that would likely work remarkably well for people who like Mosaic hops.

Bottom Line – All Together is a beer worth seeking out from your local brewery – or breweries as many people have been doing since comparing the different versions has turned into a fun social media exercise among the beer community.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Haze for Days (Level 11)

You may not be able to see through the haze, but that juicy, hoppy goodness goes down smooth. What started as a trend is here to stay. That’s 55 different beers with the style of IPA – New England (Imperial or Single), Pale Ale – New England or IPA – Milkshake. Try 5 more for Level 12!

All Together (2020)

All Together is a worldwide, open-ended beer collaboration started by Other Half Brewing Co. but participated by hundreds of other breweries around the world with portions of the proceeds going to support the hospitality industry. Learn More

 

Draught Diversion: Summer Six Pack 2020

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…

Memorial Day is the unofficial kick off of Summer (even though the season actually changes June 20/21), so what better time to highlight a six pack of beers geared towards warmer weather and beers that work perfectly in the Summer? This year, I’m focusing only on New Jersey breweries (which is only a slight shift from the norm) because since about March and the Pandemic, I’ve really wanted to focus more on local. As I said last year, because a post about Summer Beers was the very first Draught Diversion I posted/published, I want to continue the tradition especially since I just hit the three-year mark here at the Draught Diversion.

As in past Summer Six Packs, not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer..

Bull Pop | Sour – Berliner Weisse | 4.1% ABV | Bolero Snort Brewery | Carlstadt, NJ

A Berliner Weisse is a traditional German style of beer, lightly tart which is often counterbalanced by the addition of some kind of fruit. I’ve had a decent number in this style and even did an “Overlooked Style” post on the style. Bolero Snort’s take on the style emulates the Rainbow Ice pop that was in every body’s freezer in the summer.

What Bolero Snort says about the beer:

As a kid, it was fireworks on a hot summer night with a cold sticky treat to hold the heat at bay – so we decided to go all ‘Merica with this one and turn it into a beer! We started with a light, slightly tart base with added mouthfeel from a wheat heavy grist. Secondary fermentation on tart cherries, lime and raspberry gives this brew a red/pinkish hue with fruity aromatics and a dry finish. Grab one soon because just like the summer it will be gone before you know it.

Laid Back Lager | Lager – American Light | 5.3% ABV | Double Nickel Brewing Company | Pennsauken, NJ

Craft Light Lager…three words that are becoming somewhat more prevalent. There’s been a drive for lower calorie beers that maintain the same level of flavor as the standard craft fare and Double Nickel’s take seems to land pretty nicely in that spot. I haven’t had the opportunity to try this one yet, but based on the small sample size of beers I have had from Double Nickel, my guess is that this would be a tasty beer.

What Double Nickel says about the beer:

Everything you want in a Golden Summer Lager and more – drinkable, light, clean, and crisp – with notes of sweet summer melon from the Huell Melon hops–truly refreshing and crushable.

What the Butler Saw | Witbier | 5.0% ABV | Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing Company | Cherry Hill, MA

Shame on me for not including Forgotten BOARDWALK in any of my previous Summer six packs! Although What the Butler Saw is part of Forgotten Boardwalk’s year-round lineup (as Witbiers often are), the light, yet flavorful ale is perfect for a refreshing summer beer by the pool, after mowing the lawn, or on the porch.

What Forgotten Boardwalk says about the beer:

Brewed with: coriander, orange peel

Taste profile: light, refreshing, gentle spice

Shore Break | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 6.5% ABV | Slack Tide Brewing Company | Clermont, NJ

Slack Tide is a brewery whose beers I’ve yet to sample, but I’ve seen good things about their output. A Saison is a great beer for summer, considering the style was originally made as a reward/refreshment for Belgian farmers toiling in the fields. As such, the style is inherently refreshing and Slack Tide’s take looks really flavorful with the additional of orange peel. Prior to this year, I think this was only a taproom/draught only beer, making a debut in cans in Spring/Summer 2020.

What Slack Tide says about the beer:

Shore Break is our spin on a classic Saison. We use sweet orange peel and a Belgian yeast to develop a crisp yet sweet flavor profile. Then we dry hop the beer to give it a bit more aroma and citrus flavor. The result is summertime in a glass. Enjoy!

Poolside Lager | Lager – Pale | 5.2% ABV | Tonewood Brewing Company | Oaklyn, NJ

Tonewood has yet to disappoint me, but this is one of their many well-received beers I’ve yet to enjoy. How many times have I referred to a beer as a perfect “poolside” beer? Well, this has been part of Tonewood’s portfolio since they opened. Really, though, the name and label say everything you need to know for a perfect summer beer.

What Tonewood says about the beer:

Mexican Lager – Brewed with Saaz and Tettnanger hops, our Mexican lager yeast drives the flavor of this beer. Crisp and refreshing, the name says it all.

“Tastes Like Summer” Watermelon Wheat | Fruit Beer | 5.8 % ABV | Wet Ticket Brewing Company | Rahway, NJ

In some ways, I’m a weirdo. I’m about the only person I know who does not like Watermelon. I’ve always found the aroma and taste to be off-putting and overpowering so I’ve always strongly avoided beers with Watermelon. When I visited Wet Ticket about a year ago for a New Jersey Craft Beer night, my mind was changed. I had a glass of this beer and found it to be delicious and a perfect summer beer and wonderfully refreshing. That could be why Wet Ticket also calls this beer “Tastes Like Summer.” This is well worth seeking out

What Wet Ticket says about the beer:

Dominated by the fresh taste and aroma of watermelon, this beer is the perfect summer refresher. We started with a classic American Wheat recipe, then added the juice of 52 watermelons when the primary fermentation was almost complete. The resulting beer is crisp, dry, and will take you back to your favorite summer memories of finishing a backyard barbeque with a slice of watermelon.

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Beer Review: Kane Brewing’s Cloud Cover

Name: Cloud Cover
Brewing Company: Kane Brewing Company
Location: Ocean Township, NJ
Style: Wheat Beer – Witbier / Belgian-Style Wheat Ale
ABV: 4.8%

A light, flavorful ale from Kane Brewing, the premier NJ brewery, primarily known for hop bombs and big beers. A perfect summer beer!

From the Untappd Page for the beer:

Cloud Cover was brewed with continental pilsner, malted red wheat, unmalted wheat and oats. It was hopped with German Hallertau Mittelfruh with Indian coriander and Curaço orange peel added to the whirlpool. Light in body, dry and refreshing, Cloud Cover is the perfect match for outdoor dining or any activity as the days get longer and warmer.

This week marks the Third Anniversary* of the Tap Takeover so I figured why not take a more in-depth look at the style of beer that launched the blog – a Witbier. Specifically, a Witbier from NJ. I realize Kane has been showing up here quite a bit over the last six months or so, but this is the first standard beer review.

Kane is known primarily for two kinds of beers: (1) IPAs and (2) Boozy, often barrel-aged, dark beers like Imperial Stouts, Quadrupels, and Barleywines. That’s a little bit of why I focused on a “smaller” beer in a style that is relatively taken for granted – a sub-5% Wheat Ale which is stylistically on the opposite end of the beer spectrum. Witbiers have always been a warm-weather/summer favorite, too. Plus, Memorial Day is this coming weekend, so a lot of pieces fell together. Given that preamble, what is the “forecast” for Cloud Cover?

Like most Belgian and Belgian-style beers, the yeast is a very prominent factor in aroma and flavor. A whiff of the cloudy, full-headed beer gives me the earthy yeast aroma I’ve come to expect from Witbiers.

Clean and flavorful…those are the two words that come to mind with the first sip of the beer. Cloud Cover is spot-on for the style and delicious. Witbiers were one of my early introductions to the the craft beer world and maybe because of that, especially over the last handful of years, I haven’t been gravitating towards them. Not out of a dislike, per say, just out of a gravitation to other styles. One thing Cloud Cover has reminded me is that how flavorful and great a well-made Witbier can be. When the yeast, grain, orange peel, coriander, and minimal hopping work together in a harmony of flavor in the way Kane brewed this beer, then you have a beer perfect beer for spring and summer months.

Some Witbiers have a pronounced spice characteristic from the Yeast, or some brewers will add spice to the brew process. Here in Cloud Cover, the spice element is subtle, which for me makes the beer even more of an easier drinking ale. I didn’t get too much of the orange peel in the first can of beer I drank, but there is a complexity to the overall flavor profile that is very pleasing.

The first can I had of the beer was on a warm day on my porch. The fence in the distance surrounds my (at the time, unopened) pool. About the only place better than my porch for this beer is poolside. This beer goes down easy, it gives you great flavor, and is very true to style. It compares extremely favorable to the American Gold Standard for the style, Allagash White.

Kane also brews a raspberry variant of the beer which I imagine would be just as perfect for the coming summer months.

Bottom Line: Cloud Cover shows that Kane Brewing can master many styles, even those “smaller” beers with subtle flavors.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

*For the last two years around this time (end of May) I published an “Anniversary” post. Given the pandemic situation, I’m shying away from a personal “celebration” like that, as meager as it would be.

Beer Review: Spellbound Brewing’s Hefeweizen

Name: Hefeweizen
Brewing Company: Spellbound Brewing Company
Location: Mount Holly, NJ
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 4.8%

A delicious interpretation of the classic German/Bavarian Wheat Ale – The Original Hazy Beer from a superb NJ Brewery

From the for Untappd Page for the beer:

Light and effervescent. Traditional German style beer with notes of banana, clove, and wheat malt sweetness

Spellbound is a brewery I visited back in 2018, I enjoyed what I had at the time, and have found their IPA to be one of the most consistent/reliable beers in their lineup. Like many breweries, Spellbound has brewed a Hefeweizen in the past, but in Spring 2020, Spellbound canned the beer for the first time. I knew it was a beer I wanted to try based on liking the 10 or so beers I’ve had from Spellbound.

At its heart, a Hefeweizen is a classic style, which pairs well with many foods. I’ve always associated Hefeweizens with warm weather, so a May can release for Spellbound’s take is perfect timing from my perspective (aside from the fact that a little bit of snow fell on the day I picked up the cans). How does it stack up against the many other Hefeweizens I’ve enjoyed?

The aroma of clove and fruity/banana flavors hit my nose once the can opens and I begin pouring the beer. We’re off to a great start. Once the beer fills the glass, the look brings it all together. The cloudiness and head are spot on for a Hefeweizen, the original Hazy Beer. The aroma continues to hint at what the beer might taste like.

Diving into for the taste, I get what the aroma and look promised – a delightful interpretation of a Hefeweizen. The beer is extremely clean with great flavors from the yeast at the forefront. Most Hefeweizens go one of two ways, in terms of the flavor profile the yeast evokes. Some will have a banana like flavor, with maybe even hints of bubble-gum. Other Hefeweizens will evoke clove and spice as the yeast expresses itself in the beer. I like both flavor profiles, but prefer Hefeweizens that lean a little bit more on the banana side. Spellbound’s Hefeweizen leans slightly more towards an expression of clove and spice flavors from the yeast, which despite the preference I just mentioned, was still extremely tasty.

I judge most Hefeweizens by two metrics: (1) How does the beer compare to Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (the best in the world) and (2) what would my Father-in-Law (who loves German styles) say about the beer? Well, on point one, Spellbound’s take is a very good interpretation of the wheat ale from the 900+year old brewery. Maybe a notch below the best in the world, but Spellbound’s Hefeweizen is still an excellent take on the classic beer style I would be happy to have in my cooler throughout the summer. On point two, I think my father-in-law would really like the beer, especially since it is a New Jersey beer.

Also, I thought it worth mentioning that Spellbound’s logo is one of my favorite brewery logos in the State of New Jersey and it provides a nice, consistent branding along their whole portfolio. The label for Hefeweizen incorporates the branding really well, while also nodding to the German heritage of the style in the color and font.

To bring balance to this review, if there is anything about the beer that I can raise even the most minor of complaints about is that there’s a slight aftertaste in the beer. It is only very slight and doesn’t really detract from the overall pleasant and refreshing flavor of the beer as a whole. But the bottom line, as I said above, Spellbound’s Hefeweizen is a spot-on interpretation of the style which stands very comfortably in the top of portion the 70 or so Hefeweizens I’ve had, especially when you drill down to just those Hefeweizens brewed by American breweries.

Ein Prosit!

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Badge Earned:

Heffenista (Level 14)

It may not be cloudy outside, but your brew definitely is! That’s at least 70 different hefeweizens. Try 5 more to unlock Level 15

SpellboundCanGlass

Draught Diversions: April 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…

Another mostly NJ six pack for April, although a couple of beers lingered from before the Social Distancing began in March. One of the new beers comes Ashton Brewing Company a brand new brewery in New Jersey, whose “grand opening” coincided with the big lockdown. After months of preparation and remodeling the old Demented facility in Middlesex, NJ, Ashton rolled with the punches and did Crowlers and pre-filled growlers to go, as well as local home delivery. More on that, and the six pack for April 2020 below.

Wild Little Thing (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company) | Fruit Beer | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

An offshoot of the “Little Thing” brand I mentioned last month, this beer is sweet and tart. There are a few different fruits in this one, but I get a great deal of strawberry. Almost like if Strawberry Jam were added to a beer, which isn’t a bad thing. This would be a really nice beer to enjoy in the summer.

Firestone 23 (XXIII) Anniversary Ale (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) | Strong Ale – American | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

It seems that whenever I get one of the Firestone Walker Barrel Aged beers, it makes an appearance on the Tap Takeover. This one is no exception and is an extremely boozy, but wonderfully flavored beer. I haven’t had any of the previous Anniversary beers, but I’ve been very happy to see these special, single-bottle releases in my local shops in recent months. A definite slow sipper, which I enjoyed during a work virtual happy hour.

Billy Two Hats (Ashton Brewing Company) | English Mild Ale | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Ashton Brewing is New Jersey’s newest brewery and they started in an interesting time, but fortunately, they make interesting beer. Steve Ashton has been in the beer/brewing world for years and his craftsmanship shows in this tasty beer. I’ve had very few English Milds, but what impressed me was the complex flavor given the very low ABV (3.5). I’ll be visiting Ashton more in the future and I cannot wait to spend some time in the revamped former Demented Brewing tap room. Based on this beer (and the other I had) Ashton Brewing is off to a great start.

Blue Hotel (Kane Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

One of the few positive outcomes of COVID is that some breweries are making more of their beer available to stores and through home delivery. Case in point: Kane Brewing’s Blue Hotel was previously only available at the brewery. This is a delicious, tropical IPA whose potent flavors come from a single hop – Galaxy Hops.

Revolution (Tonewood Brewing) | Porter – Other | 3.75/4 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the third Tonewood beer for me and third time their beer appears on the Tap Takeover. That’s one way to say they make really good beer. This is a really solid coffee-infused porter with great roast flavor that one expect from a Porter complemented with the roast of coffee flavors. There’s a bit more hoppiness to the beer than I would have expected, but the beer settles nicely. I found myself enjoying the second can of beer more than the first, which I enjoyed a few days apart. Glad I still have a few in the fridge, because this is just simply a well-made porter.

Variabull 010 (Bolero Snort Brewing Company) | Stout – Milk/Sweet | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve had quite a few beers from Bolero this year and I have to say, this is my favorite so far and maybe the best beer I’ve had since they opened their brewery. I’ve always enjoyed their dark beers more than anything else they brewed and this Tiramisu-inspired stout is outstanding. I like Tiramisu as a desert and the flavors translate so well into a Milk Stout. Layered flavors from Coffee/Espresso, Cocoa, Vanilla, and touch of Lemon at the end make for a beer to enjoy slowly as it is a sumptuous, decadent dessert. At 8% it works really well as a nice night cap to enjoy while (as I did) watching an engrossing movie (The Invitation). Bolero released two other Variabull Stouts at this time, a “dirty banana” version and a mint chocolate version. I only had the banana (not a mint fan) and this one worked far better for me..

Not too much other new beers in April as I was sticking with some older favorites, but some good beers nonetheless.

Draught Diversions: BREWERY STRONG

Trying not to be COVID-19 all the time here, but it is a reality impacting every aspect of everybody’s every day life. Fortunately, the NJ Beer community is an incredibly strong community of breweries, beer sellers, and beer drinkers. I’ve praised the community in the past and how, in large part, through New Jersey Craft Beer, all the constituents – the people making the beer to the people buying the beer – realize that working together truly does make the participants stronger themselves and the community stronger as a whole.

Along those lines, about a week ago, the fine folks at South Jersey Beer Scene announced Brewery Strong:

Brewery Strong is a non-profit organization that supports people in the brewing, bar, and restaurant industries through programs offering financial assistance, continuing education, and other professional development opportunities.

Excerpted from their Brewery Strong’s opening blog post:

Brewery Strong is the result of Rob Callaghan’s vision to do something to help people in the brewery, bar, and restaurant professions during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Rob, the Sales Manager of Tuckahoe Brewing Company, was a guest on the South Jersey Beer Scene Live! show on March 24th, 2020 and ended the show by saying “Brewery Strong”, and it stuck. “I just wanted to do something to help where I could. We have an amazing community and a lot of people are struggling during this unprecedented time. I knew that we could do something to bring a little big of light to our brothers and sisters in the hospitality industry”.

Rob asked a few of his friends how to make this happen, and within two weeks a Non-profit was formed, board members and trustees were asked to join, and a live announcement was made on the South Jersey Beer Scene Live! show on April 20th, 2020. The response was overwhelming and immediate with over 1000 Facebook followers in the first 24 hours. The message grew quickly and the organization received support from Craft Beer fans and many businesses, pledging donations and buying merchandise from the Brewery Strong Store (100% of the profit goes directly to Brewery Strong), and asking how they could help.

They are accepting straight up donations or, what I assume will interest many people, merchandise with the great logo on it, with 100% of the profit going directly to Brewery Strong.  Currently that merchandise includes T-shirts, mugs, and stickers with Pint Glasses (hopefully!) on the way.

In terms of the people behind the organization, they’ve got a virtual Who’s Who in NJ Beer/Brewing backing the organization:

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

TRUSTEES

Bottom line, this is a good organization with well-known people in NJ behind it, so it is worth donating to or supporting if it is within your means.

As a reminder, I’ve been updating the COVID-19 page here fairly frequently, including today.

Draught Diversions: NJ Shelf of Honor Six Pack #2

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 state of the Country being what it is and the social distancing requirements we are living under, I figured now would be as good a time as any to keep the focus on local breweries and beer. As you all know, that means New Jersey for me. So, with that in mind, I wanted to put some more NJ beers in my personal NJ Hall of Fame beers/Shelf of Honor for NJ. Some of the beers in these posts will have been featured in a monthly Six Pack or a full review. I’ve tried to focus on NJ beers that are fairly readily available, although one of these beers happens to be a one-time only beer (which I hope changes!).

In the event I need to state the obvious – this is all my opinion and the beers I enjoy. As per usual, beers are listed alphabetically by brewery

Hackensack Lager | Lager – Helles | The Alementary | Hackensack, NJ | 5.5% ABV | Reviewed in December 2018 on the Tap Takeover | Personal Untappd Rating: 4 Bottle Caps

The Alementary has been brewing beer out of Hackensack, NJ for a few years (since 2016, I think). They were the second Brewery in Bergen County, which over the past couple of years has become a beer destination of sorts in NJ with Bolero Snort and Hackensack Brewing opening nearby (and Ghost Hawk Brewing in neighboring Passaic County). Alementary’s outstanding Helles Lager, named after their home, is their flagship and a beer to be proud of. When I visited the Alementary about a year ago, they had recently completed the build-out of a facility because of how big a seller Hackensack Lager is for them.

Also about a year ago, The Alementary redesigned the label (the picture on the right) to give a very nice 3-D map/overview of the city of Hackensack. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, The Alementary is also promoting “Buy a beer for a healthcare worker” with this beer specifically, which is a prime example of local giving back to the community.

As I said in my review of the beer, “The relatively low ABV (though a bit higher than many Helles Lagers) makes for a very crushable beer indeed. Hackensack Lager is the epitome of an ever day beer; the utility player in your beer fridge that can sit in a glass with any meal. I’ve said this before about similar beers, but it is also true of Hackensack Lager – flavorful enough for folks who are well-versed in the craft beer world and inviting enough for folks who don’t stray away from the macro-produced lagers. The perfect beer to bring to a party if you aren’t sure what other guests will like in their beer.

What the Alementary says about the beer:

Rooted in pride and thirst, a local lager is never far. Whether you’re in Germany, Belize, or Jersey, there’s sure to be a favorite brew for wherever you’ve found yourself. Our Hackensack Lager, with its crisp golden malty goodness, reflects the diversity of our community and our love for the people who have made this place our home. Thank you, Hackensack!

Bergen County Bull Stout | Bolero Snort Brewery (Carlstadt, NJ) | – Stout – Pastry | 4.5 Bottle Caps | Reviewed at the Tap Takeover December 2019

I knew I had to include a beer from Bolero Snort in a Shelf of Honor, but I’ve enjoyed many of their beers over the recent past. OVB may be their best known beer, and I like it, but there are other beers from Bob Olson and Scott Wells (and company) I enjoy more. So…that led me to Bergen County Bull Stout the big annual barrel-aged stout they release, usually with a few variants. Over the years, they’ve been releasing a big stout around Thanksgiving with the initials of BCBS (sound familiar beer geeks?). I can only speak to one of the variants, but that alone makes it a worthy entrant for me and is one of those “event beers” that seems to satisfy quite a lot of people, with most of the variants over the years maintaining an untappd rating over 4 bottle caps.

This was a very limited release as was the full complement of Bergen County Bull Stout variants, so I was happy to get a bottle. Most stores were permitting only one bottle per customer. Nice label, cool font for the beer name, with the newly fashioned and stylized “BS” logo front and center. One last note on the packaging, I really appreciate that this is a 500ml bottle as opposed to what was once a standard, the 750ml bottle. 500ml is just over a pint and just enough for one person to consume on their own.

The full “herd” of 2019 Bergen County Bull Stout variants

 From my review: “This is a complex beer…I need to put that up front. The eggy-bread aroma of French Toast is present in the taste with the bourbon hints from the barrel making their way through everything. … A beer that has the flavor components of that rich, dessert-like breakfast while still retaining the stout qualities that give the beer it’s primary character.

This beer is full-flavored, full bodied and boozy. Some of the character of the bourbon barrel seeps through the whole of the beer, it isn’t intrusive but rather complements all the other additives Bob Olson and crew have thrown in the mix for this beer.

What Bolero Snort’s Says about the beer:

🍁 🥞 French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout 🥞🍁 a brand new variant for 2019 Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Maple, Cinnamon, Cocoa and Madagascar Vanilla 🤤.

Double Nickel Pilsner | Pilsner – German | Double Nickel Brewing Company | Pennsauken, NJ | ABV 5.6% | Personal Untappd Rating: 4 Bottle Caps | Reviewed at the Tap Takeover December 2017

Proper glassware with the older label showing the “Double Nickel Bridge” a.k.a. the Tacony–Palmyra Bridge

Pilsners…one of the classic styles of beer the world around. Many brewers and “beer connoisseurs” will say a well made Pilsner is a beer that shows the mark of a good brewer. A well crafted, fresh Pilsner is one of my favorite styles of beer and this one in particular is the first Pilsner to make it to my “Shelf of Honor.”

Double Nickel’s Pilsner is an extremely approachable beer and tastes, note for note, exactly like you’d expect a Pilsner to taste minus the mass-produced elements from the Big Beer makers with a little bit of citrus overtone throughout. The hops aren’t overpowering at all, but are present as an integral element of the beer. Balanced, crisp, refreshing. What makes the beer so good is that it is just simply a delicious beer that hits all the notes a classic Pilsner should hit and will also please seasoned craft beer drinkers who’ve been enjoying Victory’s Prima Pils or Tröegs’ Sunshine Pils. Double Nickel have made a beer that easily sits in the fridge with those classic American Craft interpretations of the classic German style.

The only slight downside for me is that I’m just outside of Double Nickel’s distribution radius so I can’t grab this beer as frequently as I would like.

What Double Nickel says about the beer:

A classically styled clean and crisp option for the lite beer drinker and beer geek alike. Our modern take on a traditional German pilsner is golden in color and perfectly balanced.

Exit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout | Stout – Russian Imperial | Flying Fish Brewing Company | Somerdale, NJ | 10% ABV | Personal Untappd Rating: 4.75 Bottle Caps

Flying Fish is one of the original craft/independent breweries in the State of New Jersey and one of, if not still, the largest brewery in the State of New Jersey. Over the years they’ve gone through some re-brandings, but perhaps their most acclaimed contribution to beer in New Jersey was the Exit Series of beers. These were beers that honored the exits of the NJ Turnpike, with each beer emblematic to that exit. For Example, Exit 9 was honoring Rutgers University, home of the Scarlet Knights so the beer was a delicious Scarlet Ale.

The beer I’m talking about here; however, was Exit 17 Russian Imperial Stout. In my humble opinion, this is the best beer in the Exit series, and maybe even the best beer Flying Fish ever brewed, and one of the best stouts ever to come out of the state of New Jersey, which is why it gets a spot on my Personal Shelf of Honor.

Here’s what I said about the beer when I first mentioned it here on the Tap Takeover back at the end of 2017:
Not content with brewing a Russian Imperial Stout, Flying Fish aged this one in Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey bottles. Although I’ve come to love beers aged in bourbon barrels, allowing this beer to sit in Rye Whiskey bottles helps to set it apart from its barrel-aged brethren. Flying Fish’s description says this is a “one of a kind” beer and I’d be hard-pressed to dispute the claim. Not content with brewing a Russian Imperial Stout, Flying Fish aged this one in Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey bottles. Although I’ve come to love beers aged in bourbon barrels, allowing this beer to sit in Rye Whiskey bottles helps to set it apart from its barrel-aged brethren. Flying Fish’s description says this is a “one of a kind” beer and I’d be hard-pressed to dispute the claim.

I would love to see Flying Fish bring back this, or any of the Exit beers in some capacity.

What Flying Fish says about the beer:

Richly complex stout features roasted malts, toffee, dark chocolate, caramel, espresso and cocoa. We then aged the beer for two months in Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey barrels, which infuses rye, oak and vanilla into this one-of-a-kind beer.

Yacht Juice | IPA – New England | Icarus Brewing Company | Lakewood, NJ | 8% ABV | Personal Untappd Rating: 4.25 Bottle Caps | Reviewed at the Tap Takeover July 2018

Icarus has been getting a lot of love here at the Tap Takeover because they make outstanding beers across all styles. (Full disclosure: a friend works at the brewery.) While many breweries in NJ make IPAs, one of the State’s standouts of the New England variety is Icarus’s Yacht Juice, which, continues the trend of Jersey Shore breweries (started by Carton) of giving at least one beer a nautically-themed name. Aside from bearing nautical names and being somewhat hop-forward, the two beers are quite different and excellent. Enough about the name, more about the liquid in the glass.

When this beer started making waves (no pun intended) in the NJ Beer community in 2017, I didn’t give it much consideration since I thought it was “just another hazy IPA.” I was certainly wrong about that, this is a beer that really lives up to the hype. Like Hackensack Lager, Yacht Juice is Icarus’s flagship IPA.

Some of the hops that emulate fruit flavors give you a really distinct fruit profile, some orangey, but this one is almost like a tropical punch with a heavy dose of orange juice. That said, I would not call Yacht Juice a carbonated glass of orange juice. Oh no no no. This is a beer through and through and the hop finish on this one latches on to your taste buds and makes it really tough to drink this slowly.

What Icarus says about the beer:

North East style IPA filled with Citra, Mosaic, and Columbus leaving it with a combination of citrus and dank aroma and flavor. We may not own a Yacht, but at least we can enjoy the Juice.

Porter Aged on Palo Santo Wood | Porter – American | Spellbound Brewing | Mount Holly, NJ | 6.9% ABV | Reviewed in December 2017 on the Tap Takeover | Personal Untappd Rating: 4.75 Bottle Caps

This beer is the second porter to make it to the Shelf of Honor, but that shows (1) How much I enjoy the style and (2) how good this beer is. Additionally, this beer received two medals at the Great American Beer festival (including Gold!) so I’m not the only one who thinks highly of this beer and a beer with multiple GABF medals at least deserves consideration for any kind of honor status. The taste of the beer cements its place on a Shelf of Honor.

As with many dark beers, allowing the beer to warm from fridge temperature to room temperature is advisable as the beer can breathe and the flavors can unleash. The label even suggests you do this with the beer and I can only agree. As wonderful as the beer was on the first pour into the glass, the complexities, sweetness and sheer deliciousness of the beer only increased. The only slight I can give to the beer, and the minimal element that keeps it from getting a perfect score, is a very slight lingering bitterness after the finish. Again, it was only very minor so the fact that it gets a 4.75 out of 5 and that it won a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival should let you know this is a World Class Beer.

This is easily one of the best porters I’ve ever had (I know, I said that about River Horse’s Chocolate Porter in my first NJ Shelf of Honor post), but two beers can qualify as “one of the best ever!” Since I initially reviewed this book back in 2017, Spellbound’s distribution footprint has expanded and I’ve seen this and some of those other beers in select stores around me. This beer is undoubtedly worth seeking out – it is wood aged in a unique way, provides some different flavors when compared to the barrel/wood aging, and is a beer that truly stand out among the crowd of porters.

What Spellbound says about the beer:

PALO SANTO WOOD AGED PORTER – GABF SILVER MEDAL 2015, GABF GOLD 2017 IN THE WOOD AGED CATEGORY

Our year round porter aged on palo santo wood. The palo santo brings out more of the chocolate flavor. The beer changes flavors and aromas as it warms. Most notable are chocolate, vanilla, anise, and even hints of mint.

So there you have it, another six beers made in New Jersey that stand on my personal “Top Shelf” of beer.

Beer Review: Man Skirt Brewing’s Czechs and Balances

Name: Czechs and Balances
Brewing Company: Man Skirt Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 5%

A delicious interpretation of the classic Czech Lager. Worth seeking out if you’re in NJ.

First time I’ve seen an “Imperial Can” but I like it! The beer inside is even better!

From Man Skirt’s page for beers:

Man Skirt’s take on the original Pilsner. Classic grain flavors shine through, with just the right amount of Sterling hops. Clean, crisp, refreshing, and never boring.

Man Skirt Brewing is one of the first breweries I did a spotlight for here at the Tap Takeover (back in December 2017) and now I’ve finally come around to reviewing one of their beers. In part, I don’t see cans of their beers too often around me, and another part, Hackettstown is not super close to me. That said, I’m always happy to try a new Pilsner and after my wife got me in the car during the pandemic to go on an adventure to get out of the house, we wound up in the Hackettstown, NJ area. Naturally I grabbed some to go beers from Czig Meister and Man Skirt, two breweries in Hackettstown around the block from each other.

I’ve seen a few friends check this beer in untappd and they had good things to say about the beer, which had me looking forward to trying it myself. I was very pleased this was one of the “to go” options from Man Skirt available in an interesting “Imperial Can” which is a can with a cap, go figure. For a beer like a Pilsner, which is traditionally relatively low in ABV, this is a great size for the beer. But what about the beer already?.

What came out of that “imperial can” was clear and clean looking, though a slightly darker golden yellow than I would expect from a pilsner. The aroma is the “beer that smells like a beer” smell, I get the typical slight malt, slightly hoppy, and slightly sweet smell I’d expect from a Pilsner. In other words, based on looks and smell, I’ve got a good feeling about the beer .

As the beer passes my lips, I begin to smile. This pilsner is really what I wanted it to be. There’s the trademark enjoyable flavor of the Pilsner here – a good hint of breadiness/crackery goodness from the malt, one of the hallmarks of a great pilsner. Although the IBU is not too high at 37, it is higher than many pilsners and only slightly lower than Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale (a beer considered to be hop-forward). This is by no means a problem, I like the hop presence in Man Skirt’s take on the Pilsner – it helps to give the beer its full flavor.

Full Can Label art

More than anything, this beer has a very clean profile – the flavor elements are playing together very harmoniously. The hops complement the malt in a classic one-two punch of flavor – like a pair of championship-level Tag Team wrestlers. They bring different elements to the beer, but complement each other in a superb, unified flavor.

Czechs and Balances is as good a Czech style pilsner as you’ll find in the State of New Jersey (and easily in *at least* the top third of the 75+ pilsners I’ve had). I could easily see this beer on regular rotation in my fridge (if I were just a bit closer to Man Skirt!). As it is, this is a beer I’ll be seeking out again and probably the best beer out of the 10 or so I’ve had from Man Skirt. Joe Fisher should be very proud of this beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Badge Earned:

Crisp as Day (Level 16)

bdg_pilsner_lg

Light and crisp, a Pilsner is all you need to make your day great. Though, perhaps another one would make it even better.