Beer Review: Magnify Brewing’s Banana Bread Mind over Matter

Name: Banana Bread Mind over Matter
Brewing Company: Magnify Brewing Company
Location: Fairfield, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double Milk
ABV: 8%

“A balanced and flavorful dessert stout from popular North Jersey brewery.”

Magnify _BB-MoM.jpg

From the description of the beer onuntappd:

Banana Bread Mind Over Matter is a new variant in our series of double chocolate milk stouts featuring a new, refreshed label design. We set out to brew a double chocolate Milk Stout with as much flavor as our 10+% stouts a more manageable ABV. Banana Bread Mind Over Matter is brewed with lactose and conditioned on cocoa nibs, walnuts, wild Thai banana, cinnamon and vanilla.

Magnify has been one of the hottest New Jersey / Northeast breweries over the past few years, with about three new beer releases per week, their IPAs and other flavorful ales are highly sought by craft beer drinkers in the area. I personally haven’t had very many beers from them, so I was looking forward to giving something from them a try for the blog.

”Mind over Matter” is a series of Imperial Milk Stouts Magnify brews with various adjuncts, there’s a “S’Mores” version, a Pancake version (which I’ve had) made with maple syrup, a “Candy Cane” version, and so forth. This version looks to emulate banana bread, obviously, and is brewed with walnuts, “wild Thai banana,” cinnamon, and vanilla. I really enjoy banana bread and beer with most of these adjuncts, but I was admittedly a little wary of what the walnuts would bring.

The pop of the can is nice and the beer that pours into my glass is dark and thick. It definitely has the appearance I’d expect at the outset. The strongest element in the aroma for me was the cinnamon, which is quite welcome. I give the glass a little swirl and there’s a nice reddish/burgundy tint to the edges from the foam from the cinnamon.

First sip test….the beer easily passes that test. There’s a lot going on with this beer, just look at all those adjuncts I mentioned! I enjoy the taste quite a bit and I want to drink more to really figure out if the flavors I’ve tasted match up with the description

As I enjoy the pint over the course of about an hour, I begin to get a nice feel for this beer and what works for me. The sweetness is incredibly potent, but it isn’t overpowering and cloying. The cinnamon is the most prevalent additive I taste, which works for me, it is ever present. There’s a soft creaminess to the beer, too. I’m not sure how much of the banana is coming through, but on the finish, the walnuts assert themselves and I’m pleased. I suppose I like the flavor of walnuts, but I loathe having any kind of nut in my baked goods probably because of the texture. I just hate the way the hard crunchiness ruins the softness of say, a brownie or banana bread.

Banana Bread Mind over Matter is a damned good “beer interpretation” of banana bread. The cinnamon is wonderful, the hints of walnut give the beer a nice finish. If I can knock the beer for anything it is that the bananas themselves aren’t quite as present in the overall flavor profile of the beer compared to the other elements. However, of the 10 beers I’ve had from Magnify Brewing over the years, this beer is hands down the best beer I’ve had from them.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Twin Elephant Brewing’s Shimmy Ye’

Name: Shimmy Ye’
Brewing Company: Twin Elephant Brewing Company
Tap Takeover Feature Article: Twin Elephant Brewing Company (July 2019)
Location: Chatham Borough, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 7.6%

“A superb IPA from one of Northern New Jersey’s premier IPA breweries.”

From Twin Elephant’s landing page for the beer:

All in together now. Shoot, bloaw! The boom bap’s back so let’s begin, then. Lil’ Shimmy’s big bro, brah…This is salad days IPA with some new hoppy paw prints, Idaho 7 and Simcoe. Different flavors of the same ruthless wow raw juice. Dank En Garde, underlined twice, to satiate your primal hoppy biochemical urges. A ruffian track with slapshots and jackpots of trodden spring grass in the shadow of a pine forest. Gold plates and old truth, notes of funky Pu-erh tea, pungent pine, old trees, apricot jam, citrus marmalade & tropical gummy bears.

It has been far too long since I enjoyed a beer from Twin Elephant Brewing, so when a can release coincided with me being in the area of the brewery, I had to grab a four pack of Shimmy Ye’, one of their top IPAs. Over the course of the last couple of years, Twin Elephant reputation as a premier IPA brewer in NJ has grown in stature; in many of the NJ focused beer discussion forums, Twin Elephant is often named in informal polls as one of the best makers of IPAs in the State As such, I was excited to dive into this IPA. I’ve had this beer’s “little sibling,” Lil’ Shimmy Ye’ which is an outstanding American Pale Ale, so I was looking to this beer even more so.

As I’m wont to write, enough preamble, let’s get to the beer.

A nice pop of the can and a pour into the glass is a super hazy beer, like an orange milkshake. That haziness is from the addition of oats. I’m surprised this beer is designated not as a New England IPA, but as an American IPA because the haze is extremely thick and opaque with this beer.

The aroma is a pleasant burst of hops. Between the look and the smell, this IPA seems like it will be in my (albeit smaller) wheelhouse for IPAs.

The first sip is something unexpected. There’s a very sharp bite from the hops, almost like they are sinking their pointy fangs into my tongue and palate. From the look of the beer, I wasn’t expecting such an aggressive hop announcement on my taste buds. What follows, from the tasting perspective, is a softness likely brought on by the oats.

The hops in this beer are Idaho 7 and a personal favorite, Simcoe. Both hops have tropical fruit and pine elements to their flavor, with Simcoe one of the “classic” hops from the turn of the 21st century, while Idaho 7 is a little more recent first released in 2015. The similar flavors complement each other quite nicely. Overall flavors of apricots and citrus elements play well with the potent piney elements of the beer, making for a very flavorful IPA.

Despite the aggressiveness on the front end of the beer, Shimmy Ye’ is a very approachable IPA. The full flavor the beer delivers the tropical and pine elements that are hallmarks of the style in a very impressive fashion.

I had to include the full wrap of can art because it is so eye-catchy. The gold and black combination pops very strongly and is another great piece of art from Tom Schmitt whose art has graced (I think?) all of the canned beer Twin Elephant has produced. His instagram page highlights much of his work for Twin Elephant.

TEBSHIMMYYEttb_1296x.jpg

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

TwinElephant_ShimmyYe.jpg

Beer Review: Cricket Hill Brewery’s Barrel-Aged Dopplebock

Name: Barrel Aged Doppelbock
Brewing Company: Cricket Hill Brewing Company
Location: Cricket Hill Brewery
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 8.5%

“This beer proves that one of the veterans of the NJ Craft Beer scene continues to craft superb beer.”

CricketHill_BBADopplebock

From the untappd entry for the beer:

This beer celebrates the centuries old recipes of German bock beers. It has a very rich, malty flavor with aromas of toffee, dates and raisins. It’s deep amber / mahogany color is like eye-candy, and the hints of oak and vanilla from the 4-plus months of barrel aging is an added bonus. 28 IBU’s and 8.5% ABV.

Cricket Hill Brewing Company is one of the most tenured of NJ Craft Breweries, having opened their doors back in 2001 in Fairfield, NJ. They’ve got a nice sizeable taproom, their beer has been in shops throughout portions of North and Central New Jersey, at least in my area, for most of that time. I visited the brewery recently and when I realized they had not just a doppelbock (an underappreciated style), but a barrel-aged version, I knew what I was getting.

From the draught pour, the beer looks a little murkier than I’d expect a doppelbock to be, but that is likely from the barrel aging. The aroma is wonderful, the bourbon is potent, but not overpowering. It isn’t the only element I smell, which is nice. I’ve had my fair share of poorly crafted barrel-aged beers where the only smell was heavy bourbon.

The first sip test: smoothness and sweetness are what initially strike me. Dopplebocks tend to have a toffee element to their flavory profile and I get that in spades from this beer. Not sure I get raisins, but maybe dates as well? The barrel character rounds out the beer very well.

The finish of the beer is great. Again, some poorly crafted dopplebocks can have a sharp, unpleasant character to the finish. Not with this fine lager from Cricket Hill Brewing. The finish is pleasant and clean, making me want to go back immediately for another sip and taste. What I also appreciated about this beer was the ABV. Often barrel-aging a beer will leapfrog the alcohol level into the 10% range. Here, keeping the beer under 10% makes for a balanced beer that won’t knock off your barstool after one serving.

At 20 years in the NJ Craft Beer scene, this Barrel-Aged Dopplebock is proof that Cricket Hill is still offering some finely, elegantly crafted beers. I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this beer based on a handful of other beers I’ve had from Cricket Hill Brewery, but I didn’t expect the beer to be quite this stellar.

This beer seems to be an annual offering from Cricket Hill and it is a beer worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Wet Ticket Brewing Company’s Pineapple Hopper

Name: Pineapple Hopper
Brewing Company: Wet Ticket Brewing Company
Location: Rahway, NJ
Style: IPA – Milkshake
ABV: 7%

“A balanced, sweet twist on the New Jersey brewery’s Flagship IPA.”

WetTicket_PineappleHopper

From Wet Ticket’s our beer page:

A Milkshake IPA featuring a subtle addition of vanilla and just enough pineapple to accentuate the tropical fruit hop flavor: Lush and creamy featuring layers of Pineapple, Vanilla and Citrus notes with just enough lactose to tie it all together.

From the untappd entry for the beer:

We’ve taken the Trolley Hopper off the tracks! Amping up the pineapple notes in the original with fresh pineapple juice from our friends at Rahway’s own Juice Hub, then conditioning it on milk sugar and Madagascar vanilla beans. To complete the package, the “Pineapple Hopper” was dry hopped with 06297 which very subtly complements the vanilla and adds just the right amount of hop flavor.

Milkshake IPAs…one of the more popular styles to emerge recently, some might say a cousin to or adjacent to New England IPAs, since both beers are hazy and often feature lactose as one of their adjunct ingredients. Technically this is the second Milkshake IPA to be reviewed, I say technically because the term “IPA – Milkshake” was barely a fully recognized style for that review back in 2018 (Bolero Snort’s BOVB (Blood Orange Cream Pop IPA)). Here we have Wet Ticket’s hazier take on their flagship Trolley Hopper NEIPA (which I reviewed about two years ago). Wet Ticket does a smart thing with this beer, something quite a few breweries have done: take a successful “brand” and spin off a variant. Does the theory work out in practice?

The addition of milk sugar (lactose), Madagascar Vanilla, and the Pineapple, which gives the beer its name, are three ingredients that have within them the potential to be overpowering on their own, so nuance and skill are required to blend those elements together. Fortunately, Tim Pewitt and his crew have that skill, nuance, and craft brewing experience to make this beer work very nicely.

The look test: Unsurprisingly, the beer pours very hazy and opaque in the glass. One could be forgiven for thinking the beer was actually a pineapple juice. The aroma is of hops and some pineapple. 

The first sip: a very pleasant surprise. The surprises is just how well balanced the flavors are. There’s hit of pineapple, some vanilla, and hops; all as advertised. What becomes more evident is just how well made this beer is. Any one of the adjunct elements could be overpowering, but there’s great balance between the pineapple, vanilla, and milk sugar, and none of them outshine the hops.

I usually think of stouts as dessert beers, but Pineapple Hopper is a beer that work for that post dinner treat. That said, the sweetness is balanced enough and won’t overpower your palate for most meals. All told, Pineapple Hopper is a beer that shows Wet Ticket’s continued skill and excellence at craft brewing.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Twin Lights Lager

Name: Twin Lights Lager
Brewing Company: Twin Lights Brewing Company
Location: Highlands, NJ
Style: Lager – Pale
ABV: 4.8%

A superb Lager boldly launched Twin Lights Brewing into the growing NJ Craft Beer Landscape.

From Twin Lights Brewing’s landing page for their beers:

Our first core beer to hit the market was our Twin Lights Lager. This beer will comes in with a crushable ABV of 4.8%. Brewed with pilsner & victory malt, and topped off with a touch of Saaz & Perle hops.

Twin Lights Brewing did something bold. They launched their brand amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. Their first beer, this beer, was a lager. While more breweries are including Lagers as part of their Portfolio and even a flagship beer, the Pale Ale and IPA are still the primary styles the majority of breweries have at their core and flagship.

Let’s look at what exactly a Pale Lager is, briefly. As I noted in an earlier review, Dark Lagers were prevalent and popular in Germany for many, many years before the lighter-in-color lagers came along, beers like Helles Lagers and Pilsners, which are part of the group of Pale Lagers. Essentially, a Pale Lager can be considered an “almost Pilsner.” Or another thought is All Pilsners are Pale Lagers but not all Pale Lagers are Pilsners.

This brings us to Twin Lights Lager, the launch beer for contract-brewer Twin Lights Brewing.

The look test: the beer looks like a pilsner, or a pale yellow beer. In other words, on point for the style. The aroma is what I expected: it smells like beer, maybe a little bready?

The first sip test: I like this. The flavor hits all the notes I hope a good lager will hit, hints of malt and breadiness, and a slightly sweet finish from the hops. That sweetness is maybe a little floral? Saaz hops are one of the most traditional of European lager hops, a Czech Noble Hop in fact and the Perle hop is a traditional German hop. The two hops are very predominant in lagers and here they balance each other quite nicely.

The malt and hops come together for an extremely flavorful beer, especially considering the sub 5% ABV. The sentiment that characterized my post about Ross Brewing’s Shrewsbury Lager is true for Twin Lights Lager: this launch beer is proof that Twin Lights has some impressive skill at the craft of brewing. This “Pilsner-adjacent” lager is a perfect introduction to what Twin Lights may be capable of brewing and a fine example of an everyday, always-in-the-cooler, approachable beer.

Hats off to Twin Lights on a fantastic beer. Although Twin Lights Brewing does not yet have a taproom to call home, they have been making a very nice push into liquor stores and bottle shops with about 18 beers having been released over the last year or so across all styles so I’d recommend trying one of their beers that aligns with your favorite style.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Maine Beer Company’s a tiny beautiful something

Name: a tiny beautiful something
Brewing Company: Maine Beer Company
Location: Freeport, Maine
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 5.5%

Subtle flavors make for a delicious clean, American Pale Ale.

From Main Beer Company’s page for the beer:

Our single hop pale ale brewed to highlight the flavors and aromas of El Dorado hops.

FLAVOR PROFILE: ORANGE MARMALADE AND APRICOT WITH FLORAL PERFUME NOTES, SPICY AND EARTHY

Maine Beer Company is one of the more respected New England breweries despite having a relatively small portfolio of about only 20 beers (as listed on untappd). The majority of what they brew are pale ales and IPAs, the styles they make are close to perfect interpretations of the styles, from the few I’ve had and from the reputation they’ve gained since they opened in 2009. All of their beer comes in 500ml bottles, which is convenient and something that sets them apart from a branding perspective. a tiny beautiful something is one of their Pale Ales, maybe the style that comprises the majority of their portfolio.

The bottle opens and pouring the beer into the glass produces a bright orange-yellow beer with a nice fluffy head. The hop aroma wafting into my nose is quite pleasant and combined with the look, makes for a very welcoming beer.

First sip is extremely refreshing and is gives off the “will always hit the spot” kind of beer. After a few more sips of the beer the hop presence emerges.  a tiny beautiful something is exclusively hopped with El Dorado hops. I don’t know that I’ve explored the El Dorado hop as much as some other hops, it is more often than not one of the hops in a hop blend rather than the “feature” hop of the beers I’ve had and enjoyed. It is a fairly new hop, having been released in 2010, but because of the hops’ tropical elements, El Dorado has gained a great deal of popularity with the emergence and growing popularity of Hazy/Juice IPAs and Pale Ales. Based on El Dorado being the only hop in this beer, I’m a fan.

The descriptor above from the brewery is spot on. I found the beer to have a subtle, yet pleasant and noticeable citrus/orange presence, which isn’t uncommon for most hops. There’s also a hint of spice on the finish and some other fruity elements. I don’t know that I can pinpoint it as apricot like the brewery describes, but the flavor is very tasty. The evocation of the fruit elements persists in a very positive way, it made me want to keep drinking to get more of that flavor.

Of the 125+ different Pale Ales I’ve had, a tiny beautiful something might have the cleanest finish of any of those Pale Ales. What I mean by that is there’s no real negative after taste, the beer ends on a very pleasant note.

a tiny beautiful something is s superb Pale Ale. I’ve had three other beers from Maine Beer Company and they’ve all been excellent. This all just makes me want to explore more of their beer.

Recommended, link to 4.25-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Flagship February/Beer Review: Ross Brewing’s Shrewsbury Lager

It is officially Flagship February in the beer world, a “movement” started by beer writers Stephen Beaumont and Jay Brooks a couple of years ago and it is wonderful idea. Basically, we as beer drinkers should remember the beers that helped to lay the foundation for craft beer. Beers like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale or, as I posted a couple of years ago, as part of my American Craft Beer Classic series of posts, Allagash White.

For the 2020 iteration of this “celebration,” I featured two of the NJ beers that helped to establish the craft beer landscape in New Jersey. The creators of Flagship February decided to shift slightly with their focus to highlighting breweries and what they see as their Flagships in 2021 given the drastic changes the COVID Pandemic has forced upon the world. As such, I thought I’d similarly shift with a newer brewery who is set to open their doors during these turbulent times: Ross Brewing and the beer they are announcing as their Flagship Lager, Shrewsbury Lager. So the beer sort of eschews the traditional historical component of the “foundational” idea of Flagship February, but it is the beer the brewery calls their Flagship.

Ross Brewing Company has been around for a couple of years, contract brewing small batches for distribution in New York, but late 2020/early 2021, they made a big push into the NJ Craft Beer scene, their home state. After a few setbacks prior to the COVID Pandemic, then the COVID Pandemic, Ross Brewing is looking for a mid-2021 opening in Middletown, NJ. Like every brewery, they’ve got an IPA as one of their top beers, at least by number of Check Ins in untappd. But I’m featuring one of the more “taken for granted” styles, the Amber Lager. Here are the stats for the beer, in the standard Tap Takeover format.

Name: Shrewsbury Lager
Brewing Company: Ross Brewing Company
Location: Port Monmouth,NJ
Style: Lager – American Amber / Red

From Ross Brewing’s landing page for Shrewsbury LagerOur flagship lager is inspired by the river that runs to the south of our hometown of Red Bank—the scenic Shrewsbury. Low in bitterness and high in malt character and complexity, the subtle use of hops makes a balanced, refreshing lager with a crisp, dry finish, perfect for drinking on a boat, a beach, a deck, or just about anywhere!

Let’s take a look at this beer, or rather, here is what I think of Shrewsbury Lager.

In the Northeast (and more of the US recently), one beer epitomizes the American Amber Lager and it is the beer that can simply be ordered at the bar as “Lager.” That beer, of course is Yuengling’s Lager. It is a beer everybody knows and everybody has had. Ross Brewing’s Shrewsbury Lager is of the same style.

The look test: a pour into the glass reveals a deep amber beer, which is exactly what it says on the can. I’d say this is a bit darker than Yuengling’s take on the style, which is a hint to me that this beer might be more flavorful.

The first sip test: this beer is flavorful, refreshing, and whispers: “there’s more, don’t stop there.” I listen to that whisper and continue, realizing Shrewsbury Lager has some pleasant and subtle sweetness from a nice malt profile. The beer has just enough substance that it has great flavor, but it isn’t overpowering, making for a beer that lends itself to enjoying a couple to few pints in a row. In other words, this beer is a crusher.

There’s also a slightly toasted element to the malt profile of the beer, with hints of caramel. Those elements come together very harmoniously making for a very altogether flavorful beer floating at 5% ABV level. The longer lagering process allows for flavors to develop and mature during the brewing process, which seems to be exactly what happened with this beer.

What does this all mean? The fact that Shrewsbury Lager is both a launch beer and the flagship Lager for Ross Brewing is very impressive.

This beer works as an everyday beer that could sit in the cooler, sit at the dinner table with just about any meal that asserts enough flavor on its own, but won’t overwhelm whatever meal with which you pair the beer. With each can I had over the course of a few days, I found myself enjoying the beer more each time, appreciate the elegance of the beer and finally, with the fourth can in that four pack, wishing I had more.

Back to the Yuengling Lager comparison…I think it is a very smart move for a brewery to brew / can / sell a beer that is comparable to the most ubiquitous non-Macro Lager because it works perfectly as a beer to introduce craft-wary consumers (admittedly, a shrinking group of people) to more flavorful, local options especially folks who may be averse to “hoppy beers.”

Bottom line, if Shrewsbury Lager is any indication of Ross Brewing’s abilities, then they are definitely on the right track to success. It most definitely is a beer worthy of “Flagship” status.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untappd badges earned with this beer:

Paint the Town Red (Level 10)

Get out there and raise a ruckus with your favorite Amber or Red Ale. That is 45 different beers with the style American Amber / Red Ale, American Amber / Red Lager, Irish Red Ale, Imperial / Double Red Ale, Red Ale – Other or IPA – Red.

Beer Review: Source Farmhouse Brewery’s Winter Saison

Name: Winter Saison
Brewing Company: Source Farmhouse Brewery /
Location: Colts Neck, NJ
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Saison / “Super Farmhouse Saison”
ABV: 10%

An outstanding Farmhouse Ale from the Garden State’s premier Farmhouse Brewery.

From the untapped page for the beer:

This elegant, dark brown beauty will glimmer with deep garnet hues and quickly form a long-lasting head of fine, khaki-colored foam.

We sourced local NJ Pine Barrens honey to boil along with a wort composed primarily of sugars from Pilsner, Munich, and rye malts, and gave it a touch of herbal and spicy hop character.

The nose is first greeted with spicy Belgian yeast character and an abundance of dark fruits, followed by sweet honey, toasty malt, and caramelized sugars. Despite its sweeter aroma and flavors this brew has a light body and finishes quite dry.

We get notes of black cherry, honey, prune, raisins, toasted bread, candied figs, scorched brown sugar, black pepper, clove, bananas foster, and cranberry chutney.

Source Brewing is one of the hottest, newer breweries in NJ. They release their canned beers through an online purchasing portal that tend to sell out in moments. The people behind the brewery have a great pedigree, owner Phil Petracca is the man behind Fizzics, head brewery Greg Taylor has multiple brewing degrees, and one of the brewers, Jeremy Watts, gained experience at Carton Brewing. Source typically releases only direct from the brewery, so I was very pleased to see a couple of their beers in a local bottle shop. That’s a very small snapshot of the brewery, what about the beer?

It makes sense that a brewery who labels themselves as a “Farmhouse Brewery” would make a few Farmhouse Ales, including this Dark Saison.

The beer pours dark brown/black with a slightly khaki head. Most saisons are a bright yellow, often slightly cloudy so right off the bat this beer is set apart from the crowd. Aroma…I get mostly the yeast which is often the strongest component of Saisons and most Belgian-inspired ales.

This beer passes the first sip test with flying colors. While it may not look like a typical saison, the aforementioned yeast elements firmly establish this beer as a Saison.

But wait, there’s more!

On the finish, the presence of the honey is most welcome and balances out the beer so well. Saisons can lean towards the earthy side, with a slight aftertaste, but the honey eliminates that and enhances the spice and clove character that comes from the yeast. Fruity elements intermix as well, not sure about the cherries mentioned in the description, but perhaps some figginess and definitely hints of banana. In other words, there is such a magnificent complexity to this beer in the flavor, aroma, and look that I can only be impressed with the delicious dark liquid that sat in my glass. Source calls this a “Super Saison” and I can’t argue that moniker, it is delicious and it does not drink like the 10% ABV listed on the can.

To that point, saisons were typically brewed for warmer months as something of a reward for farm workers (thus the name, Farmhouse Ale), but typically did not have an alcohol content more than 7% ABV and used grains and ingredients grown on said farm. After all, the farmers didn’t want their workforce to get too inebriated and hungover for their next days of work. Or, as stated in a great Beer Connoisseur article:

They have a low ABV, and quite the correct bitterness. They are designed to refresh.

This beer is most definitely refreshing, but 10% ABV is not exactly low. In fact, the second can I enjoyed was after a 3 hour shoveling session thanks to nearly two feet of snow (see picture above) and I could think of almost no better beverage reward for that hard work. While I typically go for a big stout on cold winter nights, this beer definitely works in that regard – big bold flavor, slightly higher alcohol, and a dark hue to match the darkest nights.

Outside of Saison Dupont, Source’s Winter Saison is the best saison I’ve ever enjoyed. It may not look the part of a typical saison nor does it hew to the lower ABV of a typical saison, but the flavor elements are very traditional and the fact that a farmhouse brewery created this beer speak to this beer’s identity as a true Farmhouse Ale/Saison.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.5 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Trip to the Farm (Level 11)

 

You have a keen taste for this Belgian masterpiece. Did you know the Saison style beer was invented by Belgian farms, brewed in the Winter and served the Spring/Summer to all their workers? Well now you do! That’s 55 different Saisons.

 

Beer Review: Lakefront Brewery’s Eastside Dark Lager

Name: Eastside Dark
Brewing Company: Lakefront Brewery
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Style: Lager – Dark / Bavarian Dark Lager
ABV: 5.6%

“A flavorful, every-day, easy drinking lager. What’s not to like?”

From Lakefront Brewery’s landing page for the beer:

Honoring the eclectic East Side of the city, this Bavarian dark lager is a blend of three specialty grains, creating a rich, smooth, dark beer that anyone can enjoy. Our most award-wining beer of all time!

ABOUT THE BREW

Pours a clear, dark color with an off-white head. Hints of roasted malts find their way into the aroma, and form a pleasant background to the dark, rich flavor. The German lager yeast rounds out this brew with a smooth, complex finish. Winner of the 2014 and 2016 European Beer Star Gold Medal for Bohemian-Style Schwarzbier.

What is the most common image conjured for the word “lager?” I would guess in America, that image would be fizzy, yellow liquid. While understandable, that idea undermines the fact that long before Pilsners came to dominate the world, dark lagers were far more prevalent. In their Eastside Lager, legacy Wisconsin Craft brewer Lakefront Brewery looks to evoke that classic, old-world style. This beer would seem to land somewhere between a Schwarzbier and a Munich Dunkel, both of which are styles I like. How does the final result match up?

The beer pours a translucent brown, looking more the part of a Munich Dunkel than a Schwarzbier. Aroma doesn’t stand out too much, it smells like a bready lager.

There’s a very pleasant malt element in this beer that gives me bready hints. The malt gives a very balanced sweetness, it is far from cloying, but is definitely present. I don’t know if it is the color of the beer that has me down this path, but pumpernickel bread comes to mind as what the bready malts evoke in my palate.

While this beer does indeed remind me of a Munich Dunkel, I’m also finding similarities to an English Brown Ale. If you put this beer next to an English Brown, it might not be easy to correctly pinpoint the style of the beers from a visual standpoint. Some of the flavor elements are similar, but the lager yeast in this beer would be where the differences would be noticeable. This is not to knock Eastside Lager but what I’m saying, more or less, is if you enjoy English Brown Ales, you’d likely enjoy this beer.

One of the important characteristics of a beer is how it finishes in one’s palate. For me, Eastside Dark has a strong finish – the pleasant flavor makes me want more. The sweetness and refreshing elements often associated with lagers is on point here, I want to enjoy more of the beer..

Eastside Dark is a flavorful, easy drinking lager that would work well alongside any meal or anytime you’re in the mood for a no-nonsense tasty beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer (one of the cooler looking badges, in my opinion):

Schwarz-buckler (Level 3)

Ahoy schwarz-buckler! Beware of the evil Black Beerd, as you sail the dark sea of suds matey. That’s 15 different beers with style of Schwarzbier, Lager – Dark, or Lager – Euro Dark.

 

Beer Review: Conclave Brewing’s Sable

Name: Sable
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing Company
Location: Flemington, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 11.3%

“A big flavorful stout from one of the brewing gems of the Great Garden State.”

From the description of the beer on untappd:

Ever since we moved to the new brewery we wanted to brew a big stout – Sable is it! Formulated with a Maris Otter base, a lot of flaked oats and a bevy of roasted malts, we came pretty close to maxing out the system. On top of that we conditioned it on the most amazing vanilla beans from Vanuatu. It’s a rich intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish.

Just before the Pandemic took hold of the world in early 2020, Conclave Brewing moved one building over to a larger facility that allowed for ramped up production. They doubled their tap list and started more crowler and can releases. Many of those have been IPAs, but I was hoping they’d release a new stout and or dark beer. Sable is that beer, as they state in the description, this beer needed the larger capacity to brew and as such, Sable my first new beer review of 2021. Conclave has proven that their measured approach to brewing pays off in this big stout.

Conclave’s IPAs are popular and beloved and while I’ve enjoyed just about every IPA I’ve had from them, as readers of this blog are aware, I have always been more of a dark beer drinker. Conclave’s stouts and porters are outstanding; Mexican Morning, Mexican Evening, and Espresso Morning Stout are just superb and their Vanilla Porter, Grey Havens from a couple of years ago was delightful. In other words, I was very excited to get a growler fill of this beer

I opened the growler the day after I bought the beer but it still held up with some carbonation for a thin head. Overall, the blackness of the beer screams Imperial Stout. Aroma? Check…I get some of that vanilla overlaying the roasted malt.

My first thought about this beer is how it resonates with one of my favorite stouts, Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout. The big roasted malt element and the potent hops are similar in a lot of good ways. Then that vanilla slides into the flavor profile, and brings a welcome element to balance out the big dose of hops. I imagine if Sierra Nevada made a Vanilla variant of Narwhal (maybe they have), it might taste similar to Sable from Conclave.

Most of the beer I’ve been seeing and enjoying with Vanilla highlights the island of Madagascar as origin of the Vanilla . I’d never heard of Vanuatu before this beer, but it is an island in the South Pacific. That factoid doesn’t really have too much play on the taste of the beer, just more of an anecdote. Anyway, what I appreciate most about the Vanilla component is that it comes through just a shade more potent than subtle. What does that mean? The Vanilla doesn’t scream at you the way I’ve experienced in some beers, but rather a natural element of the beer.

I managed to enjoy the full 32oz half-growler over the course of the evening and would welcome more of this beer in the future.

Sable is a bold, potent announcement of a beer from Conclave that proclaims, “Yeah, we do great IPAs, but don’t forget our Stouts are as equally delicious!”

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.