Beer Review: Lagunitas Born Again Yesterday (2018)

Name: Born Again Yesterday
Brewing Company: Lagunitas Brewing Company
Location: Petaluna, CA
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 7.2%

From Lagunitas’s Brewing’s beers page:

We’ve discovered that the Lagunitas brewers are part time alchemists… they’ve figured out how to keep wet hops wet all freakin’ year long! Born Again Yesterday Pale Ale, which features a delicious concoction of wet hops, reborn and unfiltered into our Born Yesterday Pale Ale. Congrats… It’s a beer again!

It’s the Holy Grail pursuit of brewing in hoppy beer making: year-round wet-hop flavor. Hops are good, fresh hops are better, wet hops are the best. We say ‘wet hops’ because they have not been dried after harvest. We say ‘better’ because they possess the fullest expression of hop flavor; vine-fresh. But as with another herbaceous favorite of ours, they must be quickly dried to prevent mold and spoilage. That drying process is done delicately but something is always lost in translation. Other good brewers have taken up the quest. The results have varied. Ours is a homegrown process of time dilation for the delicate hop cone that the flower doesn’t even perceive and so delivers its still newborn self to our kettle months and months after its birth. Questing has no end and we are still tweaking our process but we hope you find this mid-summer anachronism to be as satisfying as we do.

Lagunitas is one of the more prominent and widely distributed American Craft breweries. Despite being owned by Heineken for a few years, the brewery has maintained a significant level of loyal beer drinkers and continues to churn out well-received and top selling beers, most prominently their best-selling IPA. Much of their portfolio is aggressively hop-forward so my palate didn’t match up with their output for the longest time. With my shifting palate and this beer appearing in a mix pack from one of my guests on the Fourth of July, I was looking forward to giving the beer a try.

Though not specifically a Summer beer, this Pale Ale is a seasonal Ale available in the summer months between May and August. Lagunitas considers this one a “Limited Release” and because of the varying hops and process utilized the ABV and IBU vary from year to year. The 2018 version is at 7.2% ABV and 55 IBU, while in the past it has ranged from 7.0 to 7.5 ABV.

I was a little hesitant about whether I would enjoy this beer, to be honest since I haven’t had much luck with any beers from Lagunitas. But when that yellow-orange hazy opaque beer poured from the bottle to the glass, I was locked in. The beer looked really appealing and gave off a pungent, inviting hop aroma.

A hops assault hits the taste buds on the first sip. There’s a lot of juicy goodness evoked by the hops, definitely citrus fruit like orange and some tropical notes like mango. It just sits really nicely in the palate…at least my palate.

The potent hops are balanced by a fairly strong malt backbone, but the juicy wet hops are the star of this beer. I think what seals the deal for me is the unfiltered nature of the beer. As a fan of Hefeweizens and Belgian style brews, I generally lean towards unfiltered beers. Given that, Born Again Yesterday hits all the notes I’ve come to appreciate in a hop-forward ale.

As a whole, this is a refreshing, juicy and delicious hop-forward pale ale. Nothing overly fancy, just a really tasty Pale Ale. Sometimes, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. I’m happy that I gave this one a shot and can see myself going out and purchasing a pack of this one when it hits shelves next summer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Pale as the Moon(Level 17)

Ahh, the trusty pale ale; crisp, refreshing, and always a good choice in a bind. That’s 85 different Pale Ales.

 

Beer Review: Cypress Brewings’s Northern English Nut Brown Ale

Name: Northern English Nut Brown Ale
Brewing Company: Cypress Brewing
Location: Edison, NJ
Style: Brown Ale – English
ABV: 4.6%

From Cypress Brewing’s beers page:

Dark and malty with roasted barley and chocolate malt. Earthy hops and a sweet, nutty finish. Full flavored but very sessionable with a low ABV.

Cypress Brewing has been brewing and selling beer in New Jersey for about three years and this Brown Ale is one of their earliest brews. As it so happens, this beer was one of the first available when the brewery opened its doors to the public for the first time. I said back when I reviewed Bell’s Amber Ale that, in addition to the ever-popular IPAs and seasonals, many breweries have staple classic styles they keep on draft like Ambers Ales, straightforward Pale Ales, or in Cypress’s case this well-crafted Brown Ale.

I had this during a visit to the brewery about which I’ll go into more detail in a couple of days. Relative to this beer, I had a flight before getting a glass of this one and I was largely inspired to give it a try because one of the brewer’s assistants was hanging out in the tap room (whose name escapes me, sorry!). He said this beer was one of his favorites, even before he started working at Cypress. If I didn’t already have one flight, I would have ordered a full pour of this beer.

In look and aroma, the beer comes across just as you’d expect from the name – brown, opaque, and with a pleasingly sweet aroma. First sip is very tasty with the type of sweetness and feel that encourages you to take another, larger sip of the beer.

It has been a very, very long time since I had Newcastle’s Nut Brown Ale, but I imagine brewer/owner Charlie Backmann was trying to evoke that flavor profile (or at least in name) or maybe even Cigar City’s Maduro Brown. Whatever he and his fellow brewers at Cypress were *trying* to do with this beer, they created a really enjoyable all-day kind of beer. With the low ABV of 4.6%, this is a seissionable beer you could enjoy throughout the day without getting too verschnicken while still enjoying a flavorful beer.

Cypress has been canning many of their IPAs for distribution and selling a few of their beers from the brewery in cans, like their long-standing Hefeweizen (which I *just* missed having) or some of their smaller batch sours. Let’s face it, IPAs sell hand over fist what brown ales sell, I assume, but this beer seems like it is tailor made for a six-pack of 12oz cans.

A well-flavored classic style ale that hits the right buttons for wary craft drinkers and craft enthusiasts alike. The IPAs may draw folks to Cypress’s tap room in Edison, NJ, but I would caution people against leaving without giving this tasty ale try whether as part of a flight or a full pour.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Beer Review: Icarus Brewing’s Yacht Juice

Name: Yacht Juice
Brewing Company: Icarus Brewing
Location: Lakewood, NJ
Style: IPA – New England (untappd) / IPA – Imperial (Label)
ABV: 8%
Purchased/Consumed: Project P.U.B.

This picture doesn’t do justice to the bright beautiful beer. Didn’t want to be THAT guy snapping a photo in the crowded bar.

From untappd:

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.

As I said last week, few breweries have made as powerful and quick an impact on the New Jersey Craft Beer scene as has Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ. One of the beers that helped to engender that positive vibe over the past year is what amounts to their Flagship beer, a New England / Northeast IPA they call Yacht Juice, continuing the trend of Jersey Shore breweries (started by Carton) of giving at least one beer a nautically-themed name. Enough about the name, more about the liquid in the glass.

The beer is poured into a slim 10oz flute-style glass (which seemed an odd choice of glass-style for the style of beer, I would have gone tulip), likely because of the relatively high ABV of 8%. Aroma is sweet, hoppy, and juicy. The lighting was not the greatest in Project P.U.B. at the time I had the beer, the bar area was very crowded. That said, the beer was a pleasant yellow-orange is not done justice by my photograph. Between the color and aroma, the beer is very inviting; in other words, this seemed to be the profile I’ve come to enjoy the most in IPAs.

First sip is a nice pop of flavors – pleasant hoppiness that hits the sweet and juicy which profile. The description attributes three hop varieties in this beer, but for me the Citra is the dominant of the three. The level of juice in this one has a pleasant bitterness, I’d guess from the Mosaic hops. The Columbus hops are the hops with which I’m most unfamiliar, so I’m not sure how that factors into the beer, but I’m guessing it helps to bring a really nice balance between the Citra and Mosaic.

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, don’t think ths 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.

When this beer started making waves (no pun intended) in the NJ Beer community about a year ago, 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. I’m going to have to make sure I head down to Icarus and/or make sure I snag a four-pack when the next delivery drops at my local beer store.

As I suggested in the opening paragraph, a growing number of nautically-named beers are being brewed by NJ Craft Brewers, the first (and some would say the best) being Carton’s Boat Beer. Although Icarus is playing in similar waters with Yacht Juice, the style is a few steps removed from the sessionable Boat and stands on its own as a delicious New England or “Northeast Style” IPA. Aside from bearing nautical names and being somewhat hop-forward, the two beers are quite different and excellent.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating. To be honest, I continue to vacillate between leaving this at a 4.25 or upping it to 4.5. I guess I’ll have to make the sacrifice and seek out the beer again.

Beer Review: The Alchemist’s Crusher

Name: Crusher
Brewing Company: The Alchemist
Location: Stowe, VT
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8%
IBU: 110

From the back of the can:

Crusher is an American Double India Pale Ale that I started making years ago at the old pub. Hop heads were constantly asking for more hops. So in the words of Frank Zappa, “Did you say want some more? Well, here’s some more.”

While I enjoy Hops with the rest of them, I still try to maintain some semblance of balance and drinkability. This beer is oozing with hop flavor and aroma with a very dry finish. Enjoy responsibly, this one can sneak up on you.

Fans of small, independent breweries have known of the legendary Alchemist for years. It is basically the brewery that helped to give birth to the popular New England IPA style of beer. Brewer/owner John Kimmich’s most famous creation, Heady Topper, is one of those whale beers that every beer geek wants to try at least once and I was fortunate enough to share a can last Fourth of July with a friend. Fast forward a year and another friend happened to have just visited Vermont and he brought back some goodies from the Alchemist, including this Double IPA – Crusher.

You’ll notice there’s no glass of beer in the photo – the Alchemist recommends drinking most of their beers directly from the can, which I did with this beer. The 16oz can opens and out drifts an aroma of hops that is both different than other IPAs I’ve experienced, yet similar, but just more of it, if that makes sense.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect, but that first sip is a bombastic assault of hops flavor. Crusher’s hop profile is a banging bouquet of deliciousness, one of the most perfectly citrusy hopped profiles I’ve ever had in a beer. I couldn’t believe what a cornucopia of flavors was in just a sip of the beer so, of course, I took another taste, though more than a sip. I let the beer sit in my mouth a bit to get the full flavor and my goodness does this beer do so many things perfectly well. I wanted to drink this one quickly because it was so delicious, but I didn’t want it to be gone quickly so I didn’t guzzle it.

Like a lot of DIPAs, this beer has a maltiness that balances out the hops very well. Fortunately, the bitterness of the hops is not the least bit cloying. Rather, the bitterness for me was absolutely perfect. To that point, I find it almost impossible to believe the IBU of this beer is 110, the highest IBU of any beer I’ve ever consumed and enjoyed. Perhaps the most standout element of this beer is how sweet it is compared to many other IPAs and DIPAs I’ve had. That is a virtue/feature and not a problem/bug.

What makes this such a wonderful beer is how elegant it is – sure there’s a lot going on in the hop profile, but beyond that, it is a fairly straight-forward DIPA but one crafted in an almost magical mix of water, hops, yeast, and malt.

Like the description above points out, while the name may be “Crusher” and the lovely taste may encourage you to drink a few pints of this beer in quick succession, the ABV of 8% will make you realize quite quickly that taking your time is more prudent. Especially because the beer is so damned delicious, you don’t want it to be gone too fast.

Although Heady Topper (which I had and loved) and Focal Banger (which I had and didn’t like as much) are the two beers the Alchemist is better known for producing, I thought Crusher was better than both and a nearly perfect beer in its own right. This is a beer that lives up to the hype surrounding the brewery and brewer who created the beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.75-star rating

Can Art courtesy of MyBeerBuzz and The Alchemist

Beer Review: Flying Fish Brewing’s Onshore Lager

Name: Onshore Lager
Brewing Company: Flying Fish Brewing Company
Location: Somerdale, NJ
Style: Lager – American Light
Style: 4.9%

From the beer’s description on Flying Fish Brewing’s Special Page dedicated to the beer:

Our home is surrounded by a breathtaking stretch of ocean and beautiful waterways, and ONSHORE LAGER is our tribute to that environment. Brewed without adjuncts, this beer pours a pure, golden color, and German-style hops provide a crisp, clean finish. The employees of Flying Fish are just like you. They enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends, and they want to ensure the beauty endures for generations to come. That’s why Flying Fish is not only committed to brewing high quality beers, but we also practice sustainability and care for the environment throughout the process. 463 solar panels help with our electricity needs, 19 solar tubes in our warehouse reduce the need for artificial lighting, recaptured steam in the brewing process minimizes water waste, and rain gardens on site prevent erosion. And spent grains? They go to local farms with happy cows.

Light Lager is perhaps the most popular style of beer in America. Conversely, it is probably the most maligned style in the craft beer world. The brewery once out of Saint Louis and the brewery out of Colorado whose Light Lagers are the two most popular beers in the world. Though popular, those two beers are absent of flavor, or at least *good* flavor. But like almost any style of beer, when done well, the beer can taste very good.

This brings me to Onshore Lager from one of New Jersey’s oldest independent breweries and the largest in the state, Flying Fish Brewing Company. This beer is a new (first available in June 2018) year-round offering from Flying Fish.

After popping the can, the beer pours a bright golden yellow into the glass with a nice fluffy head. This is a much brighter beer than some of the macro-produced light beers people are accustomed to seeing, it is quite inviting. The first sip was more than I expected, the malts and crispness of the lager come through really nicely. Even though this is a light lager with an ABV of 4.9%, the beer still as ample flavor and a decent body. Light Lagers are a style I almost never get, go out of my way to try, and I’ll even avoid them if possible. This beer, on the other hand, this is a good beer to always keep in the cooler, whether poolside, to enjoy after yardwork, or tailgating. I’ll be honest two days after I had the first one from the six pack, I had another and enjoyed it even more.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a movement in the craft beer world back to low ABV lagers: pilsners, light lagers, Helles Lagers. Firestone Walker’s simply named Lager is a great example, as a I mentioned recently and Founders Solid Gold seems to be doing well. Far be it from NJ’s elder states-brewer to stray from this trend, as this beer was first announced back in February and I was thinking back in May it might be a good crushable summer beer. I was more than pleasantly surprised with the full flavor of this beer. I’ll admit that I hoped it might lean more towards a Helles Lager style, and there’s a bit of that bready/grainy/toasty element to the beer, but much more subtle than a straight-up Helles Lager like Firestone’s Lager or Carton’s This Town. Suffice it to say, Onshore Lager is an excellent beer and like Bell’s Amber Ale, which I featured a few weeks back, is a perfect beer to ease folks wary of craft beer over to the craft beer/Independent Beer world.

It is really great to see a brewery that has been such a mainstay in New Jersey continue to push new beers regularly not even including the recently concluded Exit Series. Onshore Lager is about the sixth new beer Flying Fish has introduced in the last six months alone. What I think would be great is for them to offer a can mixed pack like many breweries are doing – throw a few of these, a few of their summer staple Farmhouse Summer Ale and Daylight Savings IPA together and you’d have a really solid mix of beers for a Summer variety pack.

As reported in a few online beer sites, including Brewbound: “a portion of the sales of Onshore Lager will go to New Jersey-based Clean Ocean Action, an organization that’s dedicated to the quality of the marine waters off the New Jersey coast.” So, two great combinations – a great beer and a great cause. If you see some Onshore Lager, pick up a six pack to share, or keep in the fridge for yourself.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Lager Jack (Level 12)

Lager Jack (Level 12)

After a long day, what better way to kick back than with a crisp and refreshing lager? You’re already feeling more relaxed, aren’t you?. That’s 60 different Lagers!.

 

Beer Review: White Birch Raspberry Berliner Weisse

Name: Raspberry Berliner Weisse
Brewing Company: White Birch Brewing
Location: Nashua, NH
Style: Sour – Berliner Weisse
Style: 5.5%

From the beer’s description on untappd:

Napoleon’s troops referred to Berliner Weisse as the “Champagne of the North” due to its lively and elegant character. Today this style is described by some as the most refreshing beer in the world. Our Raspberry Berliner Weisse is fermented with a great raspberry puree. This approach brings a refreshing raspberry flavor and aroma to a German classic. We feel our approach creates an authentic interpretation of the traditional “mit syrup” or with syrup method of serving this classic summer refresher. We hope you enjoy this unique year round beer.

Although similar to the Gose style of beer, Berliner Weisse is maybe slightly less popular at the moment than the Gose. Both are wheat sour ales originating in Germany and often have some kind of sweet/fruit to balance the sour/tartness of the beer. I’ve had a little more than a dozen Berliner Weissbiers including this one from White Birch Brewing.

I was in the mood for something a little different when visited one of my local beer stores. I wanted something more than a few steps removed from another IPA or even a pilsner. I craved a beer that had a sweet and tart balance with  maybe a hint of a fruit component. In other words I figured I’d go for a Gose or a Berliner Weisse and this beer was exactly what I was looking for – a near perfect balance between the sour/tart elements natural to the beer and the highly sweet components from the raspberry puree.

But let us back up to the start of the beer, which pours very pale/white. This isn’t too surprising, after all the “Weisse” of the name refers to the color of the beer (white) and not the wheat components. I thought the beer was going to have more of a red or pink tinge from the raspberry puree added, but alas, the beer is quite white. I was only slightly nervous.

It doesn’t smell too sour or tart, but I did get a hint of raspberry so that’s a plus. That first sip really hit the spot. The raspberry balance/flavor is just right for me. I’ve had plenty of beers with an element of fruit added and the fruit can be  too overpowering. Here, the brewers at White Birch Brewing seemed to have worked this recipe to perfection since the balance is really nice. The sweetness blends very well with the sour/tart nature of the beer. Raspberry can be a tart flavor and here that works quite well. Before I knew it, I’d finished ¾ of the beer and only a half-hour had passed since I cracked open the first beer.

Let’s put it this way – I enjoyed the beer so much I immediately cracked open a second can of the beer as I was watching Thor: Ragnarok. White Birch touts this as a year round brew but for me, it is a perfect pool-side, warm weather beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Ich Bin Ein Berliner (Level 3)

Ich Bin Ein Berliner (Level 3)

The classic Berliner Weisse is crisp, cloudy, and sour. Once the most popular beer style in Berlin, it’s gained notoriety and popularity around the globe making us all proud to be Berliners. That’s 15 different beers with the style of Berliner Weisse.

Beer Review: AleSmith’s Speedway Stout

Name: Speedway Stout

Brewing Company: Alesmith Brewing Company)
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Stout – American Imperial/Double
ABV: 12%

From AleSmith’s page for the beer:

Speedway Stout’s ominous, pitch-black appearance has become a hallmark of this modern-day classic. Chocolate and roasted malts dominate the flavor, supported by notes of dark fruit, toffee, and caramel. A healthy dose of locally-roasted coffee from Ryan Bros. Coffee, Inc. added to each batch brings out the beer’s dark chocolate flavors and enhances its drinkability. Despite its intensity, Speedway Stout’s fine carbonation and creamy mouthfeel make it very smooth and surprisingly easy to drink. This beer ages very well and will continue to mature for many years to come.

AleSmith is one of the great California craft breweries, having established itself as a presence in San Diego over twenty years ago in 1995. Their beers have won acclaim and loyal fans from their IPAs, their San Diego Pale Ale .394 (named in honor of Tony Gwynn) and this, perhaps their most popular beer with over 100,000 check-ins in untappd. I’ve wanted to try it (or one of its variants) for a while and I’m pleased I finally did.

I’ve seen the beer in large bottles and pint cans, with the pint cans sold singly for about $7, which may be pricey for a single pint in a liquor store but compared to a pint in a bar, it is a bargain. Be that as it may, I popped open the can and out came a thick black beer that was quite dark. As the head formed, there was a little bit of a deep brown at the top and in the foam – the color was reminiscent of a lightly creamed coffee. In other words, this looked like my kind of stout. With an aroma of coffee coming from the glass along with the roasted malts, I barely sat down before taking the first sip.

Whoa-Damn!

This beer is a flavor assault, in a good way. The the typical stout-like flavors are present: roasted malts, extra hops since this an imperial stout and an ample amount of coffee. Usually stouts this high in alcohol with this complex of a flavor profile are barrel-aged. The brewmaster(s) at AleSmith coaxes plenty of flavor without the addition of the stout having aged in barrels and that is quite impressive. While the hops are definitely present as I said, they were just one component of the flavor profile and not overly dominant like I’ve had in some other stouts from West Coast breweries.

As much as the flavor profile is potent and delicious, one thing that is deceiving is the ABV. While you do get some of the alcohol and slight booziness, I would never guess this beer is 12% ABV.

After some friends and coworkers talked up this beer, I had fairly high hopes for it. I was a little cautious because some the hops can be far too dominant on some of these stouts, but that was far from the case with Speedway Stout.

Highly recommended. Now I just need to try some of the variants.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Heavy Weight (Level 58)

Heavy Weight (Level 58)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 290 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

2X (Level 29)

When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 145 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.