Beer Review: Two Evil Saigon Scooter Selfie

Name: Twin Evil Saigon Scooter Selfie
Brewing Company: Two Roads Brewing Company / Evil Twin Brewing Company
Location: Stratford, CT / Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: Stout – Coffee
ABV: 9.5%

From Two Roads Brewing’sWeb site:

For our latest Two Evil collaborative brew, Two Roads’ Phil and Evil Twin’s Jeppe sampled and became enamored with a popular Vietnamese coffee drink called “Ca Phe Sua Da” (cah-fe sah dah). Thick & decadent, like a coffee milkshake, it was the inspiration for this Vietnamese-style Coffee Stout. They then traveled to the chaotic, scooter packed streets of Saigon to meet up with good friends at Heart Of Darkness Brewery. It was there that the brewers created the first batch of this collaborative beer.

So raise a glass (or can), snap a selfie and enjoy a taste of Vietnam!

Two Roads is one of the most consistent breweries in the Northeast, maybe in the United States. Of the nearly 20 distinct beers I’ve had from them, the lowest untappd rating from me was 3.5 bottle caps and that was only one beer, while the vast majority are 4 bottle caps and above. Evil Twin is just as respectable in the beer world and the two companies (mainly Phil Markowski from Two Roads and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø from Evil Twin) have collaborated multiple times under the “Two Evil” banner to brew some great beers. This coffee stout; however, might be their best collaboration yet. At least it is my favorite.

Coffee stouts are a popular style and one of my favorites so knowing what I stated above, I had to get my hands on this one. On the other hand, sometimes a coffee stout can be far too bitter, largely from the over-roasted coffee. So what about this beer?

As you’d expect from a stout made with coffee, the beer pours very black and I appreciate the thick body from the beer as it filled up my Two Roads pint glass. The head is a little creamy looking, too. Or, to put it another way, on quick glance and in a different glass, one might think this is coffee. There’s a nice sweet coffee aroma coming off the beer and I settle into the couch and take a sip. This. Is. Good.

This beer is everything a stout, specifically a coffee stout, should be. For my palette, it hits all the pleasing notes a coffee stout ought to hit, while managing to strum a few new chords and notes. The coffee flavor doesn’t overtake the beer, it is a harmonious marriage. The presence of brown sugar could potentially make this cloyingly sweet, but nope. The sweetness is perfect. Add in the cream / condensed milk flavor from the Ca Phe Sua Da the beer is attempting to mimic or evoke in one’s palette and you have a stout that is the perfect marriage of familiar and new.

I had just worked a very long day (13 hours for a quarter end) and considering the time of year (cold weather January), I couldn’t think of a more perfect beer to enjoy for dessert.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Better Together (Level 8)

What happens when you take two or more amazing breweries, throw them into the tank and let them ferment together? An amazing collaboration beer, that’s what! Cheers to working together to create the perfect flavor. That’s 40 different beers that have been brewed as a collaboration.

Beer Review: Cape May Brewery’s King Porter Stomp

A break from the Belgians/Belgian Styles on this latest review here at the Tap Takeover…

Name: King Stomp Porter
Brewing Company: Cape May Brewing Company
Location: Cape May, NJ
Style: Porter – Baltic
ABV: 7.4%

 

From Cape May Brewing’s Web page for the beer:

The smooth notes of natural chocolate in King Porter Stomp are in perfect syncopation with the five different malts that provide the bass line of this robust beast. Medium-bodied with a chocolate aroma, King Porter Stomp is smooth as jazz.

I realize it has been less than a year since I last reviewed/highlighted a beer from Cape May Brewery here, but the calendar flipped over and this beer is considered a winter seasonal by the brewery. King Porter Stomp is one of the most important Jazz standards (per that Wikipedia link) and Cape May is home to the Exit Zero Jazz Festival. Jazz Festival, plus a jazz song with “Porter” in the title and you have this beer, which is the official beer of the Exit Zero Jazz Festival with Cape May Brewery as an official sponsor.

Over the past year, Cape May Brewery’s beers have been popping up with consistency in my area which is a very welcome addition to the beer shelves. When I learned about this beer over a year or two ago, I knew I wanted to have it since I enjoy porters so much.  This beer isn’t just a standard porter, it is one of the more unique styles of beer, the Baltic Porter. The Baltic Porter usually has a higher alcohol content than a standard porter and often have an acidic, bittersweet finish that can have hints of licorice.

The beer pours a rich black that gives off a bittersweet aroma. The chocolate is very upfront in this beer, a sweetness that is really nice. The finish, at least cold out of the can, is a little more bitter than I typically like but it balances out the early sweetness present in the beer.

This is a beer I should let warm up a little bit, is what I think after the first couple of sips. Once it settles from the cold from the fridge, the bittersweet finish softens a bit. There was always a hint of licorice, which I typically don’t like, but the sweetness from the start grows as it warms and makes the licorice and bitterness at the end very pleasing. Although the beer is 7.4% ABV, I can see myself having two cans of this over the course of a cold evening. I’d take that second can out of the fridge and let it warm just a bit before cracking open the can.

King Porter Stomp is a fantastic winter seasonal beer. A delicious desert beer, a beer to enjoy over a long night of gaming or watching an epic movie. A beer that shows helps to show the skill that the brewers at Cape May Brewery have over their range of styles.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

To The Port (Level 17)

Dating back to the 18th century, porters remain an extremely popular style to this day. That is 85 different beers with the style of Porter.

Beer Review: Barrel of Monks’s Quadraphonic

Name: Quadraphonic
Brewing Company: Barrel of Monks Brewing Company
Location: Boca Raton, FL
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 10.5%

I had to buy one of these glasses. Too bad I couldn’t take any of the beer home in my carry-on.

Beer Review: Barrel of Monks’ Quadraphonic

From Barrel of Monks’s beers page (which changes regularly):

The Quadrupel is the granddaddy of the abbey-style ales. Typically, they are dark, strong ales bursting with flavors such as dark fruit, chocolate and raisins. Our Quadraphonic is no exception to this. This dense beer hides its 10.5% well with a deep brown color and a long rich finish. The Quadrupel is a beer designed for celebration and decadence.

Although traveling for work can be a bit wearying, it can also be rewarding. You can build great new business relationships and strengthen existing business relationships. Sometimes, you’re fortunate enough to be traveling with some like-minded people who enjoy well-crafted beer, and sometimes, you’ll find a great brewery when you’re traveling. Such is the case with today’s beer from Barrel of Monks brewery out of Boca Raton, Florida. This is standout brewery because it brews exclusively Belgian style ales and an outstanding brewery because their beers (at least the two I had, including today’s beer being reviewed) are superb examples of their style.

The Belgian Quadrupel, one of the biggest of all beers and the biggest of the Belgian Abbey styles. A world renowned style that derives much of its flavor from the magic of the yeast, it is a style not many breweries attempt and a style you’ll also find aged in some kind of oak barrel. Sometimes; however, you want the beer in its pure form un-enhanced by the barrel. Quadraphonic from Barrel of Monks in Boca Raton, Florida more than amply fits that bill.

Aside from the “Belgian Strong Dark Ale” the Quadrupel is the darkest of the Belgian ales that shows in the picture above. The bartender at Barrel of Monks poured the beer perfectly, allowing for a big fluffy head that gave off a beautiful earthy scent that was extremely inviting.

The first sip is a delightful “wow” and does what a good beer should – encourages to you drink more. I found the typical stone fruit flavors to be present, hints of plum and raisin with some figginess. Those first sips tell you this is a complex beer. As it settled to room temperature, I caught a hint of cherry too. By the time the glass was empty, I was both satisfied and sad. The beer was delicious, multifaceted enough that the flavor profile evolved in subtle, pleasing ways over the course of finishing it. The sadness should be obvious – the glass was empty.

This beer is on par with the Quadrupels I’ve had in the past. Only one of those was from an actual Belgian brewery (St. Bernardus), but I’ve also had renowned Quadrupels from Brewery Ommegang (Three Philosophers) as well as Weyerbacher (Quad) and Victory (V12). I’d easily rank Quadraophonic near or at the top of the Quadrupels I’ve had since joining untappd. I expect when I do my best of 2019 beers, this will be making an appearance.

Quadraophonic is quite simply, a delicious beer. What I wasn’t expecting was for how well the big ABV of this beer (10.5%) isn’t overpowering. On the whole, that’s what makes Quadraphonic such a great beer – it has all the elements you’d expect from a Quadrupel, without any element overpowering the other.

Recommended link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.

Untapped badge earned with this beer

Find the Source (Level 2)

Everyone loves fresh beer, but obviously not as much as you do. You went straight to the source. That’s a beer at 40 different venues categorized as a Brewery.

 

Beer Review: Lone Eagle Brewing’s Belgian Dark Strong

Name: Belgian Dark Strong
Brewing Company: Lone Eagle Brewing Company
Location: Flemington, NJ
Style: Belgian Dark Strong
ABV: 8.2%

The beer came out of the tap at the brewery, but the four packs of cans are sold there, too. And most liquor stores in NJ.

From Lone Eagle’s beers page (which changes regularly):

This Belgian Ale has notes of dark fruits such as figs and plums as well as some slight oak aroma and flavors. It has a nice malty taste with a slightly dry finish. After this beer was done fermenting we aged if on rum soaked oak chips from our friends at Skunktown Distillery.

Lone Eagle was one of the first breweries I featured in a brewery spotlight here at the Tap Takeover, so it is about time I got around to reviewing one of their beers. Especially since I’ve been there quite frequently. Be that as it may, here’s a relatively new beer from them, first brewed in Late October, I think.

One thing I’ve appreciated about Lone Eagle is the variety of styles they have on tap. You’re not going to be drowned in 10 out of the 14 taps being IPAs. This is a very classic style, and one that is really suited for cold weather / Winter months. The beer isn’t exactly black like a stout, but you could say it is almost a Belgian approximation of a stout (as they typically don’t brew stouts). Rather the beer is almost black with hints of deep crimson. I couldn’t get the best picture of the beer since the brewery was very crowded, the upstairs loft had a band playing Christmas Songs and Santa was in attendance, too.

I couldn’t get much of a nose on the beer, but could smell a bit of sweetness and some of the hints of the typical flavors evoked by Belgian yeast.

First sip gave me a little bit of a wow – more flavorful than I would have expected. Sweetness and some spice mix up nicely in the glass and in the mouth. The 8.2%ABV is fairly typical of the style, so the little bit of booziness shouldn’t be a surprise. I suspect that may also come from the rum chips that were soaking in the beer because there is a little sweetness on the finish atypical from other Belgian Darks I’ve had in the past.

As I continue to make my way through the beer, the full flavor profile really comes together. You’ve got the characteristic spice & esters from the yeast adding stone fruity flavors to the mix. You’ve got a hint of booziness from the inherit presence of the alcohol and enhancement of the rum-soaked oak chips. All told for me, a pleasing beer.

Like many of Lone Eagle’s beers, this one is out in distribution throughout much of New Jersey and maybe Pennsylvania and New York…or wherever their footprint reaches. As I said, I’m impressed with the variety of styles Lone Eagle attempts and while not all are out of the park hits, just about all of them have been enjoyable interpretations of the style. Which is the case for this beer.

I also appreciate the local/community collaboration with Skunktown Distillery, which is also in Flemington. I haven’t visited the distillery yet myself. But that collaborative and community spirit is a great strength of Lone Eagle and has been since day one.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75-Bottle Cap rating.

American Craft Beer Classic: Anchor Brewing’s Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

For all the new beers it is fun to try, going back to the classics, American “Craft Beer” Classics if you will, can also be fun. These are beers many folks have probably had, beers that are fairly widely available, and beers that have been in the market for upwards of ten to fifteen years. In other words, beers that have had a significant impact on the American Craft Beer landscape.

Christmastime…although there are more than enough Christmas and Winter specific beers available you could likely go a few years with trying something new every Christmas, the classics are great options too. No beer is more classic with regard to Christmas in America than Anchor’s Our Special Ale / Merry Christmas & Happy New Year beer. This really shouldn’t be a surprise considering Anchor Brewing helped to ignite the “craft beer” and/or “microbrewing” movement over 50 years ago.

Even Santa Claus stands at attention for an iconic beer.

2018 marks the 44th year Anchor has brewed their Christmas beer, having first brewed a version of this beer in 1975. I say “A” version because every year the recipe is slightly different as is the label. Each year a different tree adorns the label and the beer has different tasting notes. I’ve had each vintage for four years in a row according to my untappd check-ins and I know I had a few versions of the beer before joining untappd. In other words, I’ve been having a version of this beer for many years.

Image courtesy of Anchor’s Facebook page

Here’s what Anchor has to say about the 2018 version of Merry Christmas & Happy New Year:

Our annual Christmas Ale is a subtly spiced and sumptuously smooth winter warmer. This year’s brew marks the 44th annual release of this Anchor holiday tradition.

Back in 1975, Anchor released the first holiday beer in America since Prohibition. Year after year, Anchor creates a new, secret recipe with a unique hand drawn label for their Christmas Ale, but the intent with each brew remains the same: joy for the changing seasons and celebration of the newness of life. With a heavily guarded, confidential recipe, Christmas Ale is sold only from early November to mid-January. This highly anticipated seasonal delight is complex and full in flavor, packed with toasty cocoa notes, roasted malts and strong aromas of resinous pine.

Our 2018 Christmas Ale has varying specialty malts, lending rich flavors of brûléed sugars, holiday spices and freshly baked banana bread with a velvety finish. The aromatics are quintessential for the holiday season: nutty candied yams and resinous pine. It pours a nice mahogany brown color with a fluffy, tan head.

As each Christmas Ale recipe evolves, so does its hand drawn packaging, created by long-time Anchor Illustrator Jim Stitt, who has been creating Anchor’s Christmas Ale labels since 1975. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. For the 2018 release, Stitt created a brimming Korean Pine Tree for the label. Native to both North and South Korea, the Korean Pine Tree is a symbol of peace and a reminder of the spirit of the season. It flourishes in the picturesque botanical gardens just north of San Francisco, Anchor’s home base.

A few years back, Anchor Brewing put together this video about their iconic Christmas Beer:

I found this year’s version to be good, but a little thinner than previous years. There was a nice amount of spice throughout the beer, and sweeter finish than I’ve come to expect. For me, the biggest difference was in the color – the beer poured closer to an amber ale whereas I recall the beer in the past being darker, bordering on stout territory. I think the version I enjoyed the most was the 2016 version, the malt, spice, and sweet elements I thought came together almost perfectly and the beer was darker than this year’s. I think when the recipe leans more on the darker roasted malts that produce a beer that is almost knocking on the door of a stout, it works better for me. Not that a beer like this *should* have full stout characteristics at all, but it is almost stout-adjacent in looks.

One thing some people do with this beer is set one or two aside to age and have 3 or 4 years in a row for a gathering or vertical tasting. That’s more common with barrel-aged stouts, but since the recipe for this one changes annually, it would be interesting to see how the beer ages.

The darker 2016 version of the beer, my favorite from the past few years.

My opinions aside, take a look at the beer landscape, especially this time of year. I mean, aside from the continual glut of various sub-styles of IPA, the many stouts, and leftover pumpkin beers on shelves from mid-November through the remainder of the calendar year. Winter Warmers and Christmas Beers are displayed prominently in bottle shops. Bars and breweries have Christmas/Holiday focused pourings/events. The Winter Warmer and Christmas Beer are slightly different if you ask some people, such as the great beer writer Jeff Alworth who examines the styles over at his must-read Beervana blog. The differences can be negligible and subtle in some cases, in others like Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale a highly hopped IPA, the difference can be obvious between “Christmas beer” and Winter Warmer.

Beers like Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale (a slightly heavier beer and iconic in its own right), Abita’s Christmas Ale, Breckenridge’s Christmas Ale, Souther Tier’s 2XMAS, Schalfly’s Christmas Ale, and Samuel Adams’s Old Fezziwig (which unfortunately is STILL only available in a variety pack), are just a few of the more well-known Christmas-themed beers. I’m not necessarily saying there wouldn’t be Christmas Beers (specifically those leaning on the Winter Warmer variety) without Anchor’s first “Our Special Ale” back in 1975, but the Christmas beer landscape might look a little differently than it looks today.

The 2017 vintage. Though poorly lit, the beer poured darker last year, too.

The recipe isn’t the only thing that changes every year. As I noted above, for each new iteration of the beer, a new label is commissioned featuring a different tree, different font, and a slightly different look. The label always looks like an Anchor Christmas beer on the whole, but the specifics do change. On their Web store (steamgear.com), Anchor sells a poster every year which features all the different labels they’ve produced for the beers over the years.

Although Anchor Brewing has been in some form of operation under that name since 1896, it suffered some difficulties from Prohibition until about 1965 when Fritz Maytag III (yes, he’s part of THAT family) purchased a 51% stake in the company and reinvigorated the brand. That re invigoration is what helped to start the craft beer movement in California, specifically. Given their history, and the iconic beers they’ve produced over the years (Porter and Steam, for example), it seems only logical that Anchor brews arguably the most iconic Christmas/Holiday beer and that “Our Special Ale” has achieved, classic iconic beer status. For me, this beer is always a must have during the holidays. It should be a tradition for you, too.

Beer Review: The Alementary’s Hackensack Lager

Name: Hackensack Lager
Brewing Company: The Alementary Brewing Company
Location: Hackensack, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 5.4%

As it so happens, that glass is from the final Garden State Brewfest (2016), where I first tried beer brewed by The Alementary.

From The Alementary’s landing page for the beer:

Rooted in pride and thirst, a local lager is never far. Whether you’re in Germany, Belize, or Jersey, there’s sure to be a favorite brew for wherever you’ve found yourself. Our Hackensack Lager, with its crisp golden malty goodness, reflects the diversity of our community and our love for the people who have made this place our home. Thank you, Hackensack!

Lagers are the most popular style of beer in America, specifically the Lagers in the blue, silver, and red beers cans. But there can be nuance and great taste in a lager. As there was a shift away from lagers brewed by smaller, independent breweries in the early years of the American Craft/Independent beer movement, in the recent past, the Lager has been making a comeback (Firestone’s Lager, Founders’ Solid Gold) because when done well, it can be a great style. With Hackensack Lager, the brewers at The Alementary have a flagship Lager for their brewery that is very tasty.

As the German word Helles translates into “bright” this beer is spot on for the style from a visual standpoint. A golden hued beer fills my glass, nearly matching the color of the label on the beer can. The aroma didn’t stand out to me, but that’s fine. I’m not looking for anything out of the ordinary with this beer.

This beer is quite flavorful and the type of beer that comes to mind when people think about beer. There’s a pleasant sweetness to the beer, from first impression to finish. I also enjoyed the roasted bready/biscuit elements from the malt. A sweetness from the malt is also present that balances out the potent Saaz hops that help to define the styles hopping characteristic.

With the approachable flavor profile that doesn’t lean too heavily in a hop or malt direction, the beer is quite refreshing. The relatively low ABV (though a bit higher than many Helles Lagers) makes for a very crushable beer indeed. Hackensack Lager is the epitome of an every day beer; the utility player in your beer fridge that can sit in a glass with any meal. I’ve said this before about similar beers, but it is also true of Hackensack Lager – flavorful enough for folks who are well-versed in the craft beer world and inviting enough for folks who don’t stray away from the macro-produced lagers. The perfect beer to bring to a party if you aren’t sure what other guests will like in their beer.

I’ll comment on the label, too.* All of the Alementary beers have the same atomic logo on the front which is a cool branding icon. Most of their beer labels are white on the top half with a distinct color on the bottom half, in this case the bright gold that would be associated with lager. I dig it, it stands out on its own and is identifiable very easily as a beer from The Alementary.

*Maybe I should do this more often.

The Alementary has a great post on their Web site with more details about this delicious beer:

Clean and crisp, Hackensack Lager is a beer that is simultaneously familiar and innovative in the modern craft beer scene. It’s a “gateway beer” for new craft fans, and it’s also like going back home for experience craft drinkers. It’s truly a beer for everyone, for everything. Making a great lager in a small brewery is no easy feat! We pride ourselves in the consistency and technical skill with which this beer is brewed. Making this beer is all in the details.

Recommended link to Untappd 4 Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Weyerbacher Brewing’s Last Chance IPA

Name: Last Chance IPA
Brewing Company: Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Location: Easton, PA
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 5.9%

From Weyerbacher Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Last Chance IPA, 5.9% ABV, is a full-flavored IPA with pleasant citrus flavors of tangerine and grapefruit. Last Chance is a well-balanced, very refreshing beer that we’re sure you’ll enjoy! In addition to the blend of Cascade, Centennial, Citra and Mosaic hops, we’ve also dry-hopped this brew with Citra and Mosaic.

Weyerbacher donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every drop of Last Chance IPA to small animal rescue organizations throughout our distribution area. These shelters offer dogs, cats and other pets their last chance to find a new home.

Have a glass and make a difference! Cheers!

Weyerbacher Brewing is one of the great independent Pennsylvania breweries, they’ve been brewing and selling their beer for over twenty years and brew a range of delicious styles. I’ve been wanting to review one of their beers for a while, so when I came across a beer whose proceeds go to animal rescue, the dog lover in me figured this would be a good one to highlight. As such, Weyerbacher donates a portion of the proceeds from this beer to regional (to Easton, PA) animal rescue operations, with over $230K donated since the beer was first made in 2012. Not surprisingly, Weyerbacher has a site dedicated to the fund here: https://lastchancefund.com/

It is usually at this point that I’ll say something along the lines of that’s all well and good, but the beer still needs to be well crafted and appealing. So there. I said…or wrote it. Be that as it may, this beer is a very good IPA.

Weyerbacher describes this one as a West Coast style IPA and I get that from the overall hop profile. There’s a really inviting hop aroma coming off of the beer as soon as I opened the can. The beer poured a rich golden, with slight hints of orange once the glass was completely full.  The head is nice and fluffy, too. In other words, this beer looks just about exactly as you’d expect an IPA to look fully poured into a pint glass. So far, I like what my senses are telling me about this beer.

After taking a sip from the glass, I was pleased with how the aroma matched up to the actual taste. Lots of citrus and pine in the hop profile – just what to expect from a West-Coast style IPA. The more of the beer I drank, the more I enjoyed the beer. This isn’t going to blow you away with hop-punches to the face the way some over-the-top IPAs will, but you’ll definitely be aware of their presence.

Although the hop profile is different, and I’d guess different hops were used in Last Chance IPA, what the beer seems to be trying to be is similar to the Brooklyn Defender IPA I highlighted a few weeks ago. Maybe this beer has a little more hop kick. In other words, I’d guess Weyerbacher wanted to make an accessible for most beer drinkers while still working for “seasoned” beer drinkers like myself.

While Weyerbacher seems to specialize in higher ABV beers like big Stouts, Barleywines, or Belgian-style ales, going with an approachable IPA for a beer to raise funds for animal rescue is a smart brewing choice. As I initially said, above all else, the beer has to taste good and Last Chance IPA tastes really good. In fact, my local Wegman’s was doing a Weyerbacher tasting and I liked the small sip/taste of the beer enough that I knew I wanted more.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75 Bottle Cap rating.

https://lastchancefund.com/