Beer Review: Wet Ticket Brewing’s Trolley Hopper

Name: Trolley Hopper
Brewing Company: Wet Ticket Brewing Company
Location: Rahway, NJ
Style: IPA – New England
ABV: 7.7%

“The flagship IPA from the Rahway brewery is a stellar interpretation of the popular Hazy/New England IPA.”

Wet Ticket Trolley Hopper Draught

Not the best picture, I admit but it provides a decent shot of that perfect pour and the Wet Ticket logo.

From Wet Ticket’s our beer page:

We’ve blended six hops to create an explosion of JUICY tropical fruit flavors and aromas in this New England style IPA. Vic Secret hops from Australia take the lead here, with Citra, Mosaic, Columbus, Amarillo and Simcoe all doing their part to create a maelstrom of hoppy refreshment. The chassis for this resinous hop bomb is mostly Pale 2-row malt, and just enough oats to contribute to the haze that is the signature of this style.

From the untappd description of the beer:

This beer is all about the hops, and is our interpretation of a New England IPA. With more than 3 pounds of hops per barrel, you will be engulfed in a resinous, juicy, tropical hop experience that lets you savor the hop flavors without being overcome by bitterness. Savor the aromatics of this beer as you will be hit by an intense wave of citrus, peach and tropical fruit aromas. The flavor will be ever so slightly dank and will match the expectations created by the aroma. Named after the long lost Rahway Trolley line, jump aboard the “Hopper,” and enjoy the ride.

Wet Ticket is about the same age as this beer blog, so it is about time I got around to reviewing one of their beers. On a recent visit (more on that later this week), I figured I’d go with their flagship IPA, Trolley Hopper. As the description above indicates, this beer is a Hazy/New England IPA. Most of the beers I’ve reviewed here have been consumed at my house out of the can or bottle. As you can see from the picture above, I had a pint of this at the brewery. A beer like this, with the kind of hops that evoke a citrus juiciness are best consumed fresh, and what’s more fresh than a beer straight from the keg at the brewery?

Visually, the beer exhibits the beautiful characteristics of a New England IPA perfectly. Hazy, orange-juice like appearance in the glass with a frothy white head. A quick pass of the beer under my schnozz gives off the pleasant hoppy aromas of the style I would expect. After a long day of work, and a frustrating drive during rush hour to the brewery, the first sip of the beer was a delicious remedy.

For a beer at 7.7% ABV it drinks a little lower in alcohol than I’d expect. A refreshing blast of hops catapults the flavors through the palate, hitting all the right buttons. Wet Ticket indicates Vic Secret and Centennial as two of the hops used in this beer, those happen to be two of my favorite hop varieties.

Wet Ticket first canned the beer a little over a year ago, in March 2018 and it has been available in cans in NJ since. While March 2018 was about the one year mark for Wet Ticket, Trolley Hopper is currently the most “checked in” beer on untappd. In other words, it is their most popular and most consumed beer. There’s really no surprise for that, in my humble opinion. Plain and simple, Trolley Hopper is a delicious, on-point interpretation of arguably the most popular style of IPA being made today.

You might say, sure the beer tasted good at the brewery, but how did it taste in cans? Well, I can answer that for you, I liked the beer so much I brought some home. I split a four pack with my dad, as it so happens. A couple of days after visiting the brewery, I poured the beer into my brand new Wet Ticket pint glass and the beer looked just as inviting as it did out of the tap handle in the brewery. There’s virtually no difference in taste. The same blast of juicy hops and clean flavor profile pervade. In other words, it was delicious.

There you have it, Trolley Hopper from Wet Ticket Brewing is what I’d hand somebody if they asked, “Give me a solid juicy IPA that does New Jersey craft brewing proud.”

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Boulder Beer Company’s Shake Porter

Name: Shake Chocolate Porter
Brewing Company: Boulder Beer Company
Location: Boulder, CO
Style: Porter – American
ABV: 5.9%

From Boulder Beer’s Web site:

Our twist on the traditional robust American Porter, Shake Chocolate Porter is dark black in color with rich, sweet aromatics and flavors of dark chocolate, coffee and caramel. This unique brew blends five different grains, including Chocolate Wheat, that along with cacao nibs create a devilishly delicious chocolate finish with a velvety mouthfeel.

Boulder Beer Company is one of the earliest independent craft breweries, having begun forty years ago back in 1979! This is a beer I first had nearly 5 years ago (in fact it was one of the first porters I checked into untappd), but in the intervening years, Boulder pulled NJ distribution so I haven’t had it since. As it so happens, I have some good friends who gifted me two installments of the Beer of the Month Club, which included this beer. When the package arrived, I had no idea what would be included so much to my delight, I saw a few bottles of this delicious Porter from Boulder Beer Company.

OK, what about the beer, you may ask. As expected, the beer pours a thick black with an appealing khaki/chocolate milk head. Appropriate given the name of the beer. A whiff of roasted chocolate sweetness comes off as I pass the beer under my nose.

Smooth sweetness is my first impression. Or rather, my second impression five years later.

In my review of River Horse’s delicious Chocolate Porter, I compared that beer to a liquid baked brownie. There’s a similar chocolate here of course, but with a profile that is slightly more bitter as Boulder may have added more hops. Not surprising since western breweries like those from Colorado and California tend to have a more assertive hop presence. Whatever hops were used; however, very much compliment the bountiful amounts of cocoa nibs and Chocolate Wheat Boulder uses in the brewing of the beer.

Shake is a wonderfully balanced beer that is as much beer as it is chocolate shake. The elements you’d expect from a non-chocolate porter are definitely present so this is more than just drinking carbonated chocolate syrup. This beer is much more complex, yet elegant than may of the “pastry stout” style beers that have come on the market since Shake was first brewed about five or so years ago. Not saying this is a pastry stout by any means, but adjacent in that it works great as a dessert beer.

Bottom line: Shake is a perfect dessert beer. If you like your porters a little on the sweet side, this is well-worth seeking out. Just don’t expect to find it in New Jersey at the moment.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Beer Review: Conclave Brewing’s Moonwater

Name: Moonwater
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing Company
Location: Flemington/Raritan Township, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 6%

“The Central Jersey brewery creates another delicious IPA.”

About the beer:

An IPA brewed to be simple, enjoyable and drinkable. We used a blend of base malts, Mosaic and Motueka hops and then a blend of ale yeasts to make this one. While it’s clearly a hoppy one, it’s crisp minerality and finish is what we’re really psyched about. Come on by and let us know what you feel. Notes of Sauvignon blanc, grape bubblegum, lemongrass and lime.

For all the mentions Conclave gets here on the Tap Takeover, this is the first full review I’m doing for one of their beers since fall 2017. For about the past year or so, Conclave has been doing somewhat monthly releases. Moonwater was was the first can release I was able to get I’m very glad I did.

This is a beer they first brewed in late 2018 but when I picked up the 4-pack, it was both the first time they canned the beer and the first time I had the beer.

Immediately noticeable from the pour of the beer is how yellow-orange the beer is, really nailing the “Pale” of the IPA. It looks almost like orange juice, like many of the popular Hazy IPAs. There’s a strong hop aroma that, for IPA lovers, really encourages you to take a sip.

A big hit of hops on the first sip. Per the description above, they’ve used two hops: Motueka and Mosaic.  The Motueka on the start which evokes a really delicious citrus flavor. I think Conclave has used Motueka in quite a few of their beers and it is a really flavorful hop, I’m a fan. The hop I tend not to enjoy; however, is the Mosaic hop. For whatever reason, the finish of beers which feature the Mosaic hop don’t typically jive with my taste sensibilities. I didn’t notice those issues in this beer.

While the Mosaic is present and has some hop qualities I enjoy, the Motueka hop brings enough of its own flavor to give the beer a more balanced hop profile. Motueka is one of the New Zealand hops that is growing in popularity and this beer is a nice showcase as to why. There’s an extremely pleasant tropical fruit element to the beer that inspires you to have more.

So the beer has a well-crafted balance between the two hops, which is nice. Also impressive is how flavorful the beer is with a relatively low ABV at 6%. For an IPA, that’s not exactly a chugger, but lower than the 7-7.5% you’d expect from an IPA with the robust flavor this beer gives.

Conclave Brewing is extremely consistent with every beer they produce and this beer is further proof. Moonwater is a great example of the care, precision, and artistry that can come together in an IPA. Plan and simple, Moonwater is a delicious IPA.

The cans sold out early on Saturday, the brewery is open for a couple of hours on Thursday and Friday evening and Saturday afternoons. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another batch of this beer become available though maybe just for growler fills. If you’re in the Central New Jersey area, it is a beer (and brewery) worth seeking out and visiting.

Can art by Natalie Rengan, @talliedesign. Natalie has been creating some really striking designs for Conclave’s can releases, giving a nice “branding” to the brewery.

Art/Design by Natalie Rengan

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Modern Times’s Black House

Name: Black House
Brewing Company: Modern Times Brewing
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Stout – Coffee
ABV: 5.8%

One of the best coffee stouts you’ll have. Period.

One of the most perfect of pours I’ve ever poured.

From Modern Times’s page for the beer:

It’s so great that you like coffee. I just love that about you. Speaking of which, you’re holding an oatmeal coffee stout positively redolent with coffee aroma and flavor. It kind of tastes like a chocolate-covered espresso bean, only drier and more like beer. Nifty fact: we’re one of the only breweries in the world to roast our own coffee, which allows us to be extremely persnickety about which beans we buy and how we roast them. Taste the persnicketiness!

Coffee and beer, a liquid amalgamation that brings together two of the most popular beverages in the world. Modern Times is one of the more well-regarded San Diego area breweries and they’ve recently begun distributing their beer into NJ. This entry into New Jersey features their core line up: a Pale Wheat Ale (Fortunate Islands) a New England IPA (Orderville), a Gose (Fruitlands Passion Fruit), a straight-forward/West Coast IPA (City of the Sun), and this wonderful Coffee Stout, Black House. In other words, a good sampling of styles. I’d been in the mood for a stout that wasn’t too high in ABV, so I grabbed a four pack as soon as I saw the liquor store on my way home from work had it in stock.

As a person could likely infer from a coffee stout named Black House, the beer pours a very dark black. Given the relatively sessionable ABV of 5.8%, the beer pours from the can into the glass thicker than I’d expect. I don’t always manage to pull off a good head on my pours, but the head on this one is damned near perfect. Fluffy, almost like a whipped batch of malted chocolate milk. The beer was canned late January and I had it almost exactly two months after the canning date so the beer was relatively fresh, at least by stout standards.

The beer smells delicious. Hints of coffee, with a bit of sweetness, and some roast. I think to myself, “I’m going to like this beer.”

That internal thought was correct….

That first sip is just what I’d hope – a near perfect blending of coffee and stout flavors. Like the best beers, the first sip just encourages you to drink more.

As I continue to enjoy the beer, I notice the wonderful sweet coffee flavors on the backend of the beer. I generally drink my morning coffee a little on the sweet side, so the level of sweetness in the coffee portion of the show perfectly evokes my ideal cup of coffee. The coffee flavor is omnipresent, pleasant, and not overpowering.

Another great element of the beer is the lack of bitterness on the finish. Some coffee stouts I’ve had, and the ones I tend not to like, have a bitter, almost burnt coffee taste on the finish. That burnt bitterness is like a badly written ending to a novel or television finale you may have otherwise enjoyed, it makes what came before almost irrelevant. Thankfully for my tastes, that burnt bitterness is not present in Black House. In fact, the opposite is true. The delicious taste makes me want to have more.

Black House is one of the best coffee stouts I’ve ever had. I think I’ll have to give some of Modern Times’s other offerings a try.

Recommended link to Untappd 4.25-Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Victory Brewing’s Twisted Monkey

Name: Twisted Monkey
Brewing Company: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downingtown, PA
Style: Blonde Ale – Belgian Blonde / Golden
ABV: 5.8%

Though still cool in early spring, Twisted Monkey is the type of beer that has you yearning for warmer days

From Victory Brewing’s page for the beer:

Belgian-Style Blonde Ale with Mango

Born into a family of mystical monkeys, this light-hearted sibling brings a twisted spin to the bunch. Hearing about the flavorful excitement that the overgrown jungle had to offer, he set out to explore. It was a sensory overload, and he had to try it all. His favorite – the mango. Introducing hints of his favorite fruit to the same imported malts and Belgian yeast favored by the family, this magical ale results in big flavor refreshment that only the Monkey can deliver.

The great Victory Brewing company (a member of Artisanal Brewing Ventures) is beginning their 23rd year with a re-branding of their whole line of beers. Part of that unified branding is, of course, the launch of some new beers. Building on the success and quality of what is arguably their flagship or bestselling beer, Golden Monkey, Ron and Bill have brewed Twisted Monkey. Twisted Monkey is the latest in the Monkey family, following Sour Monkey, Sour Monkey Remix, and White Monkey. A smart move, if you ask me – build on something successful but with a twist, if you will.

A disclaimer of sorts: Aside from maybe 2 or 3 out of the three dozen or so beers I’ve had from Victory, I’ve enjoyed them all. I don’t know if that’s a bias going into trying this beer, but I figured I’d put it out there to be transparent. I’ve also come to realize beers that are simply “Golden Ales” rarely work for me, “Blonde Ales” usually do work, but if the beer is a “Belgian Golden” or “Belgian Blonde,” chances are I will enjoy it.

As the style would imply, the beer pours a deep golden from bottle to glass. The beer looks really pleasing. I get the strong hints of the Belgian-style yeast from the beer, maybe a little sweetness, but not mango specifically.

I get a hit of sweetness to start and through most of the beer. The finish has a slight sour edge and then a very similar spicy finish to the great Golden Monkey. The mango is definitely present, no doubt. More mango than the aroma would lead you to believe, but fortunately, I really like mango (I have a glass of mango juice every day). For me, the mango wasn’t overpowering.

Belgians have been utilizing various fruits in the brewing process as long as they’ve been brewing beer, the Lambic style of beer almost always features some kind of fruit component, for example. Not sure how many beers made in Belgium used mangoes, but this Belgian style golden from Victory uses the fruit generously; the sweetness from the mango complements the yeast very nicely. I had two more bottles of the beer in the days after first having the beer and I liked it better each time I had it.

The first Victory beer I featured here was Blackboard Series #6 Peach Belgian Blonde with Coriander, a beer I enjoyed a great deal and miss now that it is gone. I would argue that Twisted Monkey can be seen as a cousin to that beer while also sitting firmly in the growing Monkey family Victory is establishing. This is a great beer to hand to somebody who is put off by the aggressive hoppiness of many of the IPAs being brewed today. This is also a beer that I think would please people who enjoy  Belgian Golden/Belgian Blondes, especially if they enjoy that style on the sweeter side.

Where would I drink this? Rather, where wouldn’t I drink this beer? I can see this beer working really well in the summer – refreshing, sweet, and relatively low in alcohol (5.8% ABV) so having a couple won’t go to your head too quickly. You may want to give this one an initial try/taste not alongside a dinner, but on its own. Sweetness can be subjective, so for some palates, this beer could potentially overpower any other tastes in your mouth or just be too sweet in general. If, like me, you enjoy mango this beer should work nicely for you.

Some of the comments I saw on untappd and on other sites like Beer Advocate had me a bit worried, that the beer might be just a full on mango-bomb. The beer tastes as good as I hoped it would and not as sweet and cloying as I worried it might so those fears and that hesitancy was largely unfounded. Like I said initially, I’ve enjoyed the majority of the three dozen beers I’ve had from Victory Brewing so I shouldn’t have been too surprised this one worked for me as well as it did.

Bottom line: I like this one a lot and can foresee this being in my refrigerator regularly and my cooler by the pool in the summer.

Untappd badges earned with this beer:

Fields of Gold (Level 9)

Sometimes you need a break from all the hops, fruits, and spices. What better way than with a crisp, smooth Blonde Ale or Golden Ale? Basic but delicious.

Recommended link to Untappd 4 Bottle Cap rating.

Image courtesy of victorybeer.com

 

Beer Review: La Trappe Quadrupel

Name: La Trappe Quadrupel
Brewing Company: La Trappe/Brouwerij de Koningshoeven
Location: Berkel-Enshot, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 10%

A world class beer, a beer that gave birth to a style. 

From La Trappe’s page for the beer page:

In 1991, The Koningshoeven brewery baptized her beloved Quadrupel under the approving glance of the monks. A closely guarded recipe became reality, and the first Quadrupel beer in the world was born.

Colour: Warm amber-coloured with a crème-coloured head.

Aroma: Hints of cloves and nuts, balanced by the sweet aromas of vanilla, raisins and banana.

Taste: La Trappe Quadrupel is the heaviest ale of La Trappe Trappist ales and is eponymous of this ale style. A full, warming and intensive taste. Malty with the sweet tones of date and caramel.

Aftertaste: Smooth and light bitter aftertaste.

Trappist Ales…perhaps the rarest of breweries in the world. To wit, Brouwerij de Koningshoeven is one of 14 Abbeys officially designated as Trappist breweries in the world and one of two in the Netherlands. I’ve had a handful of ales from Trappist breweries and I think this is the best of the handful I’ve had. Granted, I haven’t had the legendary and highly sought after Westvleteren 12. That said, I realize it has only been about a month since I last reviewed a Belgian Quadrupel, so that alone should be an indicator of just what an amazing beer La Trappe Quadrupel is.

As always, the look and aroma is where we begin. The beer pours a deep brownish-amber-copper. The aroma is typical of a Belgian Quadrupel – some earthiness, some vanilla, maybe even some almond/amaretto. I can smell the sweetness in the beer. Outside of some barrel aged beers, I usually don’t smell the sweetness quite as potently.

That first sip is filled with flavor, lots of sugary goodness like caramelized banana, maybe some stone fruits like figs or even warmed cherries. The finish isn’t quite as yeasty as some other Quadrupels I’ve had (I’m thinking the classic Abt 12 from Saint Bernardus) which sets this beer slightly apart from other Quadrupels but not in an unwelcome fashion.

I also get a smoother finish on the whole with La Trappe’s Quadrupel, compared to most other Quadrupels I’ve enjoyed. There’s a bit more booziness, I taste the alcohol just a bit more in this one than other Quads, from what I can recall. It has the smooth finish of what I’d expect from a barrel-aged beer, but without the barrel-aged flavor. Again, (to borrow a tech term), this is a feature and not a bug for me. This is a boozy, sweet, potent, flavor-filled beer that is big in every good way.

This is an outstanding, world-class beer that really is in a class its own. I’d say it would be a great interpretation of the style but as I recently discovered, La Trappe’s Quadrupel was the first beer with the Quadrupel name when it was first brewed back in 1991. So it is the style-namer or “Ur-Quadrupel,” if you will. I know, considering the great brewing tradition in  of Belgian styles, I thought the style was a bit older than that.

I may say this with frequency, but it is perhaps truer for this beer than any other beer I’ve mentioned or reviewed – La Trappe’s Quadrupel is an absolute must try.

Recommended link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.

Additional reading on this beer and Quadrupels:

Beer Review: Dogfish Head’s The Perfect Disguise

Name: The Perfect Disguise
Brewing Company: Dogfish Head Brewing Company
Location: Milton, DE
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8%

Another outstanding IPA from the Delaware Brewing Legend!

From Dogfish Head’s page for the beer:

On the surface, The Perfect Disguise looks like a straightforward Kölsch with a crisp Kölsch yeast and traditional German malts and hops … but things aren’t always what they seem. With a quick sniff and a slight sip, you’re greeted by a creamy mouthfeel and full body thanks to the addition of a unique German chit malt – the first hint that this beer may be somewhat different.

Hiding deeper behind that German disguise is the double dry-hopping of an American Double IPA, with nearly 4 lbs. of German and American hops per barrel. It brings tropical flavors of citrus, tangerine, mango, gooseberries and peach.

The artwork for The Perfect Disguise was brought to life and designed by 2019 Off-Centered Art Series artist Michael Hacker. The name ‘The Perfect Disguise’ was the inspiration for the illustration design as it’s a play on words with whether or not the beer is actually a Kölsch or an American IPA.

I realize I’ve mentioned Dogfish Head quite a bit here on the Tap Takeover in my monthly six packs and other assorted posts. However, has been quite a while (mid-2017) since I gave one of their beers the full review treatment. This beer came along and really tickled my palate so here’s a review of The Perfect Disguise.

Sam Calagione and Dogfish have a great way with words and the description of The Perfect Disguise is really on-point. But in my own words, the beer is a really bright golden yellow as I poured into the glass. There’s an even head that dissipates pretty quickly. On the whole, The Perfect Disguise pours much brighter than most IPAs I’ve had, at the very least.

The hop aroma is very potent and welcoming and has the hints of citrus I really like. The taste is not quite that hoppy, at least initially. It is pretty clean, a little sweet and then WHAM the hops hit you. In a good way, at least for me. The hop flavor is potent, but finishes off with the citrus and somewhat tropical flavor that makes it difficult to stop drinking the beer. There’s a bit of a hop-oily finish to the beer, too. I’ve noticed this with some of the Imperial IPAs I’ve had from Dogfish Head (90 Minute, Burton Baton). It is a welcome finish by all means because those other Imperial IPAs are excellent.

How does this rank against other Imperial IPAs I’ve had? Quite highly, probably one of the better Imperials I’ve had over the past few months. Aside from that initially mild taste, the beer hits all the notes of an excellent Imperial IPA and specifically, an Imperial IPA from Dogfish Head. This beer should be easily available across the country since Dogfish distributes to most of the US. It is well worth getting the full six pack because quite simply – this is a complex, delicious beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Cheers to Independent U.S. Craft Breweries (Level 33)

Cheers, beer patriot! You are supporting the small and independent American craft brewer. When you see the seal — shaped like an upside-down beer bottle — that’s independence you’re tasting.

 

Art by Michael Hacker