Beer Review: Jersey Cyclone’s All Together

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

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

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

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

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

Taste/Aroma: Tropical Fruit, Citrus, Passion Fruit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Haze for Days (Level 11)

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

All Together (2020)

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

 

Beer Review: Kane Brewing’s Cloud Cover

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

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

From the Untappd Page for the beer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

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

Beer Review: Spellbound Brewing’s Hefeweizen

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

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

From the for Untappd Page for the beer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ein Prosit!

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Badge Earned:

Heffenista (Level 14)

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

SpellboundCanGlass

Beer Review: Man Skirt Brewing’s Czechs and Balances

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

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

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

From Man Skirt’s page for beers:

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

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

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

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

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

Full Can Label art

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

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

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Badge Earned:

Crisp as Day (Level 16)

bdg_pilsner_lg

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

 

Beer Review: Cape May’s Crushin’ It

Name: Crushin’ It
Brewing Company: Cape May Brewing Company
Location: Cape May, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 8%

A delicious, fan favorite, taproom exclusive beer from one of the largest brewery in New Jersey hits full distribution.

From Cape May Brewing’s Web site:

Refreshing and great for the beach, Crushin’ It is soon to be your summer staple. With Citra, Mosaic, and Azacca hops blending together to accentuate the fresh flavors of orange juice, Crushin’ It is dry, approachable, and perfectly balanced. Relax in the sand. Enjoy a no shower happy hour. This beer is best paired with good friends, sunshine, and SPF 30.

Cape May Brewery needs little introduction to my New Jersey readers, Cape May Brewing Company is one of the largest breweries in the State of New Jersey. Over the past couple of years, their distribution footprint has grown to encompass the entire State (as well as portions of DE and PA), but they still do quite a few brewery-only releases, which frustrates people like me who live 3 hours away and can’t easily get to the brewery for something like, say, the barrel-aged Barleywine they just released. For a time, that was the case for the beer under review today, Orange Crushin’ It. But that has changed as of April 2020, when Cape May scaled up production of the beer.

Crushin It began life as part of a Homebrewing competition at Cape May Brewery, a competition to brew a beer that mimicked the popular shore mixed drink Orange Crush. The hops in the beer, Citra, Azacca, and Mosaic evoke citrus fruit and the beer is made with a great deal of orange juice. That sounds fun and refreshing, so I was very pleased when I did a beer run to find that my local liquor store had just received a shipment of the beer. So, how does it live up to that build up?

Out of the wonderfully designed can, the beer pours a bright, slightly translucent orange-yellow. Shocking, right? One could be forgiven for thinking the beer was orange juice, on quick glance.

Aroma from the beer is of orange juice with citrusy hops, which seems spot on for a beer called an “Orange India Pale Ale.” The first sip is bursting with orange juice so I didn’t waste time for a second sip. The hop profile of the three varieties utilized in the beer come into play really nicely after that first blast of orange juice. This beer is one to drink as cold as possible, as you would orange juice. As much as I’ve mentioned the big orange juice component of the beer, it is still a beer. The hops aren’t extremely potent or aggressive, but the hops are definitely present, especially on the finish. That might be my only minor criticism of the beer.  I realize that comes down to Mosaic not being my favorite hop, which usually has an aftertaste of bitterness I don’t like. Fortunately, although noticeable, it is rather muted because of the other two hops and the abundant orange juice.

So what you have here in Orange Crushin’ It, ultimately, is a perfect warm weather or tailgating cooler beer. Flavorful, sweet, drinkable and appealing: a superb beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I believe in IPA (Level 49)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 245 different IPAs. Try 5 more for Level 50!

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada’s Barrel-Aged Narwhal

Name: Barrel-Aged Narwhal
Brewing Company: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Location: Chico, CA
Style: Stout – American Imperial/Double
ABV: 11.9%

An outstanding base stout aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels makes for a perfect beer.

From Sierra Nevada’s page for the beer:

Deep in our barrel room, out of light’s reach, our legendary Narwhal Imperial Stout rests in bourbon barrels for nearly a year. After aging, it emerges anew: rich with notes of oak, vanilla and coconut layered onto the Stout’s malt flavors of dark chocolate and espresso. Enjoy this beast of a beer.

This is a beer I’ve been hunting down for quite some time, basically since I knew it existed, because the annual big stout from Sierra Nevada is one of my top 10 beers of all time. Sometimes, the timing of things lead to serendipitous posts like this one: 2020 is Sierra Nevada’s 40th Anniversary, Sierra Nevada recently made this beer a year-round offering, and this beer is my 50th unique Sierra Nevada beer checked into untappd, so how could I *not* review this beer?

As much as I was looking forward to this beer for years, I’ve also come to realize not all barrel-aged beers are blended/created equal. Additionally, I hadn’t had anything barrel-aged from Sierra Nevada. In short, I was worried that anticipation would lead to disappointment

It did not.

This beer pours motor-oil black, with a khaki/heavily creamed coffee head. As for the body of the beer, I’d even say there’s something about this beer that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this beer be? And the answer is none. None more black.

The aroma is largely from the bourbon barrels, but I do detect the hoppy/malty aromas I would typically associate with the non-Barrel Aged Narwhal. I thought to myself, “I’ve got a good feeling about this.”

That first sip is everything I hoped it would be. The barrel elements are very prominent and assertive, but far from everything this beer is. The base beer doesn’t typically have an overbearing carbonation and the carbonation is even less present on Barrel Aged Narwhal. In addition to the barrel character, the beer is largely the character I’d come to expect from the base Narwhal stout – big malt imparting sweetness, prominent hops imparting a bitter bite with subtle vanilla hints for a warm, balanced, grin-inducing finish that lingers wonderfully.

The flavor elements imparted by the Kentucky Bourbon Barrels **perfectly** enhance and complement the flavor elements of the base beer – the hops which can be relatively aggressive on a fresh in-year* bottle, are tamed and smoothed by the beer having been aged in the barrel. The hops are definitely present, but the lingering bitterness is softened. The barrel aging also complements the sweetness from the malt with hints of vanilla, oak, and maybe coconut.

* By “in-year” bottle I mean drinking a 2019 vintage of the beer in 2019, as opposed to a bottle that has sat for months to a year. I’ve had a couple bottles of Narwhal that were aged 2 and 3 years.

Something that makes this beer such a fun beer to enjoy is that the base beer Narwhal is fairly readily available for comparison. I’ve had Bourbon County Stout from AB InBev Chicago (A.K.A. Goos Island) but there’s no base beer available, same goes for So Happens Its Tuesday from the Bruery or even Parabola from Firestone Walker. In other words, you have a pretty good idea that you’re starting with in this beer.

I’ve always loved the label and font Sierra Nevada used for the beer for Narwhal, I was unhappy with the change they made in 2017 so I was pleased to see the same font treatment from the old label of the non-barrel aged version reappear on this canned version (and box of the 4-pack). I was especially pleased to see this beer go from the 22oz bomber to 16oz cans, a much easier single-sitting consumption.

Barrel-Aged Narwhal is an outstanding, world-class barrel-aged stout that I’d stand up against any other barrel-aged stout I’ve had or that is available. Given that price point, you will not find a better beer of this style (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, or even Imperial Stout) for this price point.

For further reading, there’s a great post on Sierra Nevada’s Blog about their barrel-aging program.

Highly, highly recommended, link to 5 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Carton Brewing’s 077XX

Name: 077XX
Brewing Company: Carton Brewing Company
Location: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Style: IPA – Imperial/Double
ABV:7.8%

One of the Classic NJ beers and a fantastic Double IPA – a must-have beer.

The beer’s description on Carton’s Landing Page for the beer:

Like all things truly Jersey, 077XX makes the most in balancing through its accentuation of extremes. Inspired by the west coast IPAs we love, we added a thump of hops to a dynamic malt profile and chose a yeast to drive these two further than they wanted to go. Throw our water into this mix and you will find dank green resinous hops popping over orange, mango and papaya aromas, with just enough sweetness of body to make the long finish a pleasure to have around. Drink O’Dub when your night matters.

With the state of the world as it is under the COVID-19 Pandemic, beer connoisseurs are unable to visit their favorite local breweries, but many breweries, like Carton Brewing here in New Jersey, continue to make beer. Some of these breweries are delivering beer within a small radius and their beer is already available in many NJ stores (some of which are also making home deliveries). These events lead to Carton being the first brewery to get a third beer the full review treatment at the Tap Takeover and what better beer than one of their most iconic of ales?

077XX is the second most popular beer Carton brews according to untappd (Boat is #1), and is probably as beloved by independent/craft beer “enthusiasts” in New Jersey. It is a double IPA so that means super hoppy, maybe dank, and fairly high in ABV. I’ve had a few of the “Dubviants” (variants on this beer, usually with a different hop, designated with two different numbers replacing “XX”), but the main beer never made it to my glass…until now.

Popping open the can, the beer pours a clear yellow orange, almost amber. In other words, “O-Dub” looks the part of a double IPA. Good start. The aroma is hoppy dankness, so two senses down, and this seems to be what I’m hoping it will be. How does it taste?

Like the description above suggests, the opening tasting notes of this beer are flavors that evoke tropical and citrus fruits. Maybe mango? Definitely a hint of orange. While those elements are very prominent, I wouldn’t quite say the tropical nature of this beer leans too hard towards a Hazy/New England IPA. The second act of the show is the hop bite of bitterness, a little piney resin, and some dankness, bringing a well-rounded balance.

The first thought I had when I was halfway through this hop-bomb of a beer is that I should not have put off trying this beer for so long. Well, my pre-IPA days make sense. But the last two years or so? This was a beer that was always there, maybe I took it for granted. That won’t be happing any longer because this is a reliable, very tasty beer that should be fairly widely available in New Jersey (and maybe New York).

What often happens with big stouts happened with this beer for me. It warmed up just a little bit and I found the hop bitterness to be softened and I enjoyed the beer after it “aired out.” The fruity elements at the start were still present, but the beer was even more balanced than those first few cold sips

077XX is a must-have New Jersey beer and a double IPA that deliciously straddles the line between the classic, malty piney IPAs and the more recent tropical Hazy/New England IPAs. In addition to delicious beer, Carton Brewing has always been true to its roots and been about the community where they are located, Atlantic Highlands, a shore town of New Jersey. Many of their beers pay homage to the region and this is maybe the biggest tribute as it set the standard for a subset of the IPAs they brew, the “Dubviants”, beers with the zip code. As such, this beer is a great homage to where Carton Brewing is situated in Monmouth County as 077 is the prefix of the Zip Code for many towns in Monmouth County.

I realize few people outside of New Jersey have access to Carton Brewing, but for folks in New Jersey, you know Carton and you likely know “O-Dub.” Drink Local during these dark times, keep these smaller, independent business thriving, especially breweries like Carton who make very high quality beer.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.