Beer Review: Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch

Name: Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch
Brewing Company: Rogue Ales & Spirits
Location: Newport, OR
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 5.0%

An inviting golden ale

From the beer’s description on Rogue’s Web site:

We grow bees. Taste the difference.

10 Ingredients: Rogue Farms Dare™ and Risk™ Malts; Wheat, DextraPils & Aciduated Malts; Rogue Hopyard Honey & Wild Flower Honey; Alluvial Hops; Free Range Coastal Water and Kölsch #2 Yeast.

Situated just across from 40 acres of Rogue hops, 7,140,289 Rogue Farms bees are carefully kept and fed and the honey is uncapped, extracted, filtered and finally infused into a refreshing Honey Kölsch Ale.

Based in the western craft brew mecca of the Portland, Oregon Area, Rogue is one of the larger and more respected craft brewers in America, . Perhaps their most popular and well known beer is their Dead Guy Maibock, arguably one of the foundational craft beers of the last couple of decades. They brew tasty stouts, well-received IPAs and some peculiar experimental brews like a “Beard Beer” and “Srirachia beer.”

Their Honey Kölsch takes European style and infuses with American farming for something quite tasty. This brew looks to have been released for the first time in 2013 and from what I see on Beer Advocate, it looks like this was originally a 22oz release, but was released in 6 packs for the first time in 2016. This makes sense because it is a great summer time / warm weather beer to keep in your cooler, although it doesn’t explicitly state that in the name.

Kölsch is, like many beers, a German style whose name is derived from where it was originally brewed in Cologne (Köln), Germany. The beer is crisp in profile and often bright yellow in color. The color and flavor profile is typically similar to that of a German Pilsner, but often with a slightly lower hop/IBU profile.

As craft beers grow in popularity, more varied styles are gaining popularity and Kölsch seems to be one of those styles. I’ve had only about ten different Kölsch ales over the past couple of years, this one is probably my favorite. The crispness is such a refreshing hit and the honey perfectly balances out that crisp-profile before the crisp crosses the line to bitter. Those two flavor profiles make Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch a beer you want to crack open while grilling, after mowing the lawn, or sitting by the pool or yard as the warm summer day becomes a pleasant summer night.

Although I didn’t mention this brew in my Summer Beer Draught Diversion, two years now I’ve had a couple of these while sitting by my pool and I’m going to make sure this is in the regular rotation as long as Rogue puts it on shelves in the warm-weather/summer months throughout the long summer days.

Maybe the perfect spot to drink this beer: poolside.

The beer pairs well with just about any kind of meat you want to throw on the grill from burgers to hot dogs to chicken. The comforting taste makes it a good pair with pizza or any food, really. A very tasty beer that doesn’t overpower with any of its ingredient components, but simply gives a nice, balanced profile of taste.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Beer Review: Flying Fish Exit 3 Blueberry Braggot

Name: Exit 3: Blueberry Braggot
Brewing Company: Flying Fish Brewing Co.
Location: Somerdale, NJ
Style: Mead/Braggot
ABV: 15.0%

This is one of my favorite beer glasses, which is why it has made so many appearances here on the Tap Takeover.

From the beer’s description on Flying Fish’s Web site:

Exit 3 is the gateway to a lot of farmland, so we’re using one the state’s favorite crops– blueberries. Braggot is an ancient style– written about since the 12th century. This Braggot features local blueberries and honey, a very limited amount of hops and is fermented with Belgian-style yeast. The result is a straw colored beer with blueberry highlights. On the first sip you will note a light sweetness along with citrus notes followed by a well rounded malt character. The beer has a medium full body.

Flying Fish is one of New Jersey’s first breweries, founded in 1995. As a flagship NJ Craft brewery, they started something very much in the vernacular of New Jersey, the Exit Series. Many NJ people, upon first meeting each other, may ask, “What Exit are you from?” referencing either the NJ Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway. At least when I attended Rutgers (The State University of New Jersey) this was a frequent question. Admittedly, the question can wear thin. The Exit series from Flying Fish references the NJ Turnpike.

Enough about the series as a whole, let’s focus on this special brew.

One of the first things that to know before drinking this brew is that it is not exactly a beer. People expecting a “sweet” or “fruity” beer might be a little disappointed.  As the description above implies, this brew is more of a mead and the 15% ABV is a good first indication that this is a mead or honey wine and not an ordinary beer.

A thick golden liquid pours out of the glass, not nearly as thick as the honey which is so prominent in the brew, but the character is definitely similar. The brew is very sweet, the honey prominent. The blueberries are subtle,  I would have liked their presence to be a little more noticeable throughout than the hints at their presence. But that’s just a minor complaint because Exit 3 is a tasty brew.

I haven’t had too many meads, although I usually get either a cup of mead or a blend of mead and beer at the NY Renaissance Festival on my annual visit. This brew from Flying Fish is one of the more unique adult beverages I’ve had as it really blends qualities that both mead and beer possess. The maltiness is slight and barely noticeable, but it is there. The 15% ABV catches up towards the end.

My father gave me one of his 12oz bottles with the warning that I should have this with as clear a palate as possible. I heeded his advice and waited until well after dinner to pour this one and boy howdy was I pleased. This is a fantastic sipping brew that is perfect for after-dinner and one you should sip over the course of an hour or so. I’m going to have to pick up a four pack of this for myself in the near future.

Exit 3 was originally released in bomber size at about 25 ounces and in very limited quantities. I missed out during that first go round, so it was nice to see Flying Fish re-release this brew in 12oz bottles in 4-packs because it is a very, very tasty brew.

Exit 3 Blueberry Braggot is an exceptional, tasty brew that is definitely off the beaten path of what you’ll find on shelves in your liquor store or at your favorite beer bar. The “Braggot” greatly highlights the brewing ingenuity of one of NJ’s most respected and long-standing breweries. With Hammonton, NJ as the “Blueberry Capital of the World,” this brew does a fine job of playing to that moniker.

Highly recommended.

Original Label. Notice the Garden State is red here, whilst outlined in solid red on the 12oz

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Beer Review: Carton Brewing Sundae

Name: Sundae
Brewing Company: Carton Brewing
Location: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Style: “Neapolitan” Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on Carton Brewing’s Web site:

Neapolitan Russian Imperial Stout Aged in Cognac Barrels with Walnuts and Maraschino cherries

The first stride along this path was enough Super Galena in the middle of the boil leading a strawberry hop tone in vanilla and chocolate malt notes creating a Russian Imperial Stout with a different gait. The move to “let’s throw some Neapolitan ice cream in there and see what happens” isn’t a giant leap. Going from a big bold stout with chocolate vanilla and strawberry freeze dried ice cream to “brandied walnuts and a cherry on top right?” is actually a small step. Sundae is Cosmonaut put down in cognac barrels with maraschino cherries and walnuts for a year. Drink Sundae because this one’s for you, Mr. Gorsky.

Carton Brewing has been at the forefront of NJ Craft Brewing since they’ve been brewing and selling beer in 2011 for many reasons. Carton’s range of experimental styles (adding prickly pear cactus to one beer or white truffles to another, for two examples) are akin to an artisanal chef.  The wonderful taste of their beers drive people keep seeking out those beers and making the trip to the Atlantic Highlands to get cans of their beer. They brew one of the most sought-after limited-release beers in the region,  Regular Coffee. Long story short, they are doing things smart, artistically, and with a passion and chances are I’ll be writing about more about Carton here in the future.

One of their regularly brewed beers is Cosmonaut, a Russian Imperial Stout and Sundae is a variation on that beer. I haven’t tried Cosmonaut so I can’t compare this variation to the original. Pouring Sundae from the can, what I initially took to be a black beer was actually a deep burgundy/crimson. You know, that dark tone of red that can be indistinguishable from black until the light hits it the right way and then all you see is that deep red. The aroma is a sweet rich smell that lingers nicely before drinking the beer.

From that initial pour and inhale, I kept thinking, “What a surprise this beer is.” It looks like a stout, has some of the dark rich flavor profiles of a stout, but feels a slight bit thinner than most stouts I’ve had. The combination of these characteristics makes Sundae one of the more unique beers I’ve ever consumed.

I was concerned about the addition of walnuts. I don’t mind nuts of any kind on their own so much, but I am not a fan of when they are added to brownies or ice cream. I shouldn’t have worried, the presence of the walnuts is subtle and really complemented by the beer being aged in the cognac barrels with the cherries.

Russian Imperial Stouts tend to have more of a bitter aftertaste and are sometimes slightly higher in hop presence than most stouts. Again, the cognac and cherry presence buried that bitterness and the aftertaste of the beer is more akin to a sweet aftertaste than bitter aftertaste, which makes this a perfect dessert beer, as if the name of the beer didn’t already imply that. What was also impressive is how well-hidden the relatively high ABV of 10% is. Perhaps because I sipped the beer over the course of an hour it didn’t hit me as much as I expected it would have.

What this beer reminded me of most was when you are at the end of your ice cream sundae or bowl of ice cream. You’ve got your favorite toppings, the ice cream is melted enough that when you swirl all the ingredients together you’ve got what amounts to ice cream soup. That was always the most fun part of ice cream to me and that’s what this beer evokes – sweet, tasty fun.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.75-star rating.

Beer Review: Two Roads Brewing Honeyspot IPA

Name:Honeyspot IPA
Brewing Company: Two Roads Brewing Company
Location: Stratford, CT
Style: IPA
ABV: 6.0% / IBU: 55

From the beer’s description on Two Roads’ Web site:

The Two Roads version of this traditional beer style takes a road less traveled. It’s unfiltered and uses wheat as the dominant malt backbone. The result is a slightly cloudy, pale IPA with a softer mouthfeel that accentuates the citrusy Pacific Northwest hop character.

IPA (India Pale Ale) is the most popular style in craft beer to the point people who aren’t beer drinkers sometimes think they are one and the same. There are quite a few breweries (at least here in NJ and many outside of NJ, I’m sure) that seem to brew -only- IPAs. That said, IPA is one of my least favorite styles, I usually won’t go out of my way for one and will usually avoid them if other styles are available. The hoppiness just doesn’t work for me nor does the grapefruit taste the hops evoke as I find grapefruits vile.

Sure I’ve had quite a few IPAs if you go by my untapped IPA badge count (of about 50 different IPAs over the past few years), but like I said, IPAs are unavoidable. I’ll drink a few IPAs voluntarily, like Founders All Day IPA, Demented’s Dementia or a couple of the popular IPAs with a fruit infusion, but that’s about it. I do enjoy Black IPAs, but that’s a beer of a different kettle, so to speak.

Then I tried Two Roads’ Honeyspot IPA; I was very impressed.

I thought I might like this one for two reasons.

  1. I haven’t had a beer from Two Roads I’ve disliked. Most of their beers, for my palate, are at worst very good while others are great.
  2. Honeyspot Road uses Wheat as the malt. As I have pointed out previously, I love me a wheat-based beer.

The beer pours a bright yellow from the 12oz bottle and of the maybe because of wheat base, it looks almost like a Witbier. The hop hits the nose, but not in an overpowering way and it continues through drinking the beer. But the unfiltered wheat is a perfect balance against the bitterness of the hops, it softens the character of the hop flower. The IBU on this is low to the middle of the road at 55 IBU. Put it this way, I’ve had IPAs with lower IBU that left more of a bitter, hop aftertaste. Maybe it is the wheat base that cuts the bitterness or makes it more palatable.

I kept thinking how balanced this beer is and how easily I could throw back a few of these over a warm afternoon or a long Sunday. Most IPAs have an ABV over 6, the Session IPAs are lower than 5%, like All Day IPA which is 4.7%. Honeyspot is exactly 6% so it isn’t quite a Session beer, but it won’t knock you out like a lot of other IPAs will,  many of which are 7% and above.

Honeyspot IPA is a delicious beer and one that seems to be perfectly geared for beer drinkers like me who don’t typically gravitate to IPAs while also please IPA drinkers.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.00-star rating.

Beer Review: Bell’s Brewery Oberon Ale

Name: Oberon Ale
Brewing Company: Bell’s Brewery
Location: Galesburg, MI
Style: Pale Wheat Ale
ABV: 5.8%

Glass Logo: Tor.com

From the beer’s description on Bell’s Brewery’s Web site:

Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with our signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer. Made with only 4 ingredients, and without the use of any spices or fruit, Oberon is the color and scent of sunny afternoon.

 

There are Summer Beers and there are beers best suited to summer or associated with Summer. Bell’s Oberon Ale is one of the latter and one of the iconic craft beers in the industry. Oberon is the medieval Faerie King and is Consort of Queen Titania in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is (I’m assuming) where the fine folks of Bell’s Brewery drew the name for this light, delicious beer.

Some of my friends on untappd check this in throughout the summer months and I’ve been trying to get myself a bottle/can/pour of the beer for quite a while. Unfortunately for the New Jersey Craft Beer community, Bell’s isn’t yet distributed in New Jersey. Fortunately for me, a co-worker/friend who lives in Pennsylvania, where Bell’s is distributed, did a bottle-share with me and gave me two bottles.

The first thing that stands out to me is the color of the beer. Where the summer beers I’m accustomed to drinking pour a hazy yellow, Oberon pours more of an orange-yellow, a very inviting beer on looks alone but there’s not too much different in the aroma compared to other pale wheat ales like Sam’s Summer.

What is most striking in the flavor profile of the beer is the kick of spice towards the end of the beer. Not quite clove like a Hefeweizen, not quite the characteristic finish other Pale Wheat Ales, but something of its own almost-citrusy design. The bright color and bold spice set this one apart from most other summer beers.  I can now see why this is such a landmark beer in the craft beer community. While not flashy like a high ABV bourbon barrel aged stout, or super hoppy like a New England IPA, Oberon Ale is a straight-forward, thirst-quenching beer that is very welcoming in color, balanced in taste, and low-enough in ABV that a couple of these won’t get you too silly.

My only complaint about this beer is one I will re-iterate: Bell’s doesn’t distribute into NJ. Over the past year or two, we’ve seen some of the larger craft breweries enter the NJ market like New Belgium, so hopefully Bell’s is on the way to the Garden State.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

(The book in the background is Staked by Kevin Hearne, the eighth book in his Iron Druid Chronicles series, which features a 2,000-year old Druid named Atticus who comes into conflict with all sorts of supernatural creatures. As fate would have it, my coworker gave me the bottles of Oberon while I was reading this book. The series features an Irish Wolfhound named Oberon as Atticuss’s best friend and companion. Obviously if I’ve made it to book 8 in the series I enjoy the books a great deal, so check out the first one, Hounded if you so choose.)

Beer Review: Westbrook Brewing Key Lime Gose

Name: Key Lime Pie Gose
Brewing Company: Westbrook Brewing Company
Location: Mt Pleasant, SC
Style: Gose
ABV: 4%

From the beer’s description on Westbrook Brewing Company’s Web site:

Our classic Gose infused with the delicious flavors of key lime pie.

Westbrook makes very well regarded beers and if you like the sour Gose style, then you are probably aware of their Key Lime Pie Gose. They make an outstanding Gose, but adding the Key Lime Pie notes brings the beer to an even higher level.

Gose is an older style of beer that has been growing in popularity over the last few years since it was “rediscovered.” The most striking characteristic of a Gose (pronounced GO-ZUH) is the tartness/sourness, and many breweries will add a fruit to either enhance or balance the zing. The grain used in Gose is wheat, but the other ingredients that help give it the character are coriander and salt. Into that mixture, Westbrook added Key Lime to enhance the tartness, but to also sweeten the base.

The beer pours a yellow that is slightly hazy/cloudy, but also bright yellow from the 12oz can. The aroma does give off hints of Lime, not a go-to flavor for me, but a fruit flavor I do enjoy. The lime hits initially, but the salinity is a pleasant undercurrent, too. The first can I had I was sitting in my yard on a warm late afternoon/evening while my dog lounged under a tree and barked at people walking across the street. Seems a great way to enjoy this one as the fruit flavors are really nice on a warm day. The second one I had was also a warm evening and I enjoyed it is much as I enjoyed the first can.

This beer has great character and I understand why it such a sought after variation on Westbrook’s popular Gose. I  visited the liquor store where I initially purchased the beer about two weeks later and no 4-packs of the beer remain.  From my understanding, this beer doesn’t stay on shelves very long.

It isn’t as sour or tart as many sour beers, so it would be worth trying almost as an “entry-level” beer if you want to get an idea of what a really well crafted Gose can taste like. Westbrook’s standard Gose is also excellent, so check that out, too.

I haven’t had very many Gose beers (only about a dozen or so unique Gose beers compared to the 200+ unique stouts) because stouts are more popular and there are more variations on the stout style.  That having been said, I am growing to like the style a great deal, and this is one of the best I’ve had.

Westbrook distributes this sour, tasty beer on draught in 4-packs of 12oz cans.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Beer Review: Firestone Walker Nitro Merlin

Name: Nitro Merlin
Brewing Company: Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Location: Paso Robles, CA
Style: Milk Stout
ABV: 5.5%
Drank at: Revolution: A Social Brew House in Morristown, NJ

FW_NitroMerlin
From the beer’s description on Firestone Walker’s Web site:

 

Our Velvet Merlin oatmeal stout has been transformed into a mindblowing mouthful known as Nitro Merlin Milk Stout.

The new ingredient is lactose, a.k.a. milk sugar. When Velvet Merlin is brewed with milk sugar to create Nitro Merlin Milk Stout, the effect is similar to adding cream to your dark roasted coffee. The wizardry comes via “nitro,” the brewing nickname for nitrogen gas.

Exclusively on draft.

You take the sweetness of a Milk Stout, add Nitrogen to it and you have a smooth, sweet, velvety delectable beer drinking experience. Stouts are one of my favorite styles and milk stouts possibly my favorite variety of the style. I’d been wanting to try this one for a while, but with it being a draft-only beer, finding it was a bit of a challenge but find it I did. In every way imaginable, the beer exceeded my expectations.

Prior to enjoying this beer, I had and enjoyed many bottles of Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout. The fine folks at Firestone Walker took an already wonderful base and embellished it to create one of the best Milk Stouts I’ve ever had. Some Milk Stouts have an underlying bitterness that takes over at the finish of the beer, not this one.

From the first sip of the freshly poured beer with its thick white head to the final sip, Nitro Merlin is a nearly perfect Milk Stout. A comforting mouthfeel is complemented with the sweet underlying roasty taste of coffee and hints of chocolate throughout.

As the description implies, the nitro injection adds a wonderful creamy, fluffiness to the beer that makes for a sumptuous beer drinking experience. Some Nitro beers are too airy or fluffy with that nitro injection drowning out the taste. Perhaps it is because those beers are bottled and not on draught, which always makes a difference. No matter how you pour it, Nitro Merlin is perfectly balanced in texture.

As both a Nitro Stout amd Milk Stout, many, if not all, others will be judged. If you see this one become available at a bar you haunt, do yourself a favor and head over to that bar and have a pint…or two.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-star rating.