Beer Review: Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov’s Double Envelopment

Name: Marshal Zhukov’s Double Envelopment
Brewing Company: Cigar City Brewing
Location: Tampa, FL
Style: Stout – Double / Imperial
ABV: Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall in Atlantic City, NJ
ABV: 11.8%

An outstanding, unique barrel-aged stout that should be on every stout lovers “to find” list.

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From the Cigar City’s landing page for the beer:

This Russian Imperial Stout is dedicated to Georgy Zhukov, arguably one of the finest generals of World War II, and to the double envelopment maneuver he utilized to trap the German army at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942. This beer was divided between rum and sherry barrels, with the final blend being skewed just a bit heavier on the rum barrels. Rum barrels have added a pronounced spiciness and texture to the beer, while sherry barrel-aging has imparted flavors of dark cherry and blackberry. The base beer’s recipe has been tweaked a bit over the last few years, with some of the roastiness taking a back seat to dark chocolate flavors and sweetness. Other than that, it’s a straightforward barrel-aged version of Zhukov’s. .

Marshal Zhukov’s is Cigar City’s flagship Stout, a Russian Imperial Stout as it so happens. Like many breweries tend to do for special releases, they take this stout and age it some oak barrels. But not the typical Bourbon barrels, the folks at Cigar City decided blend two versions, the rum barrel-aged and sherry barrel-aged to create something unique. Or at least I suppose that is the aim of such a brewing and blended stout.

What are the results?

The beer is very dark, as is expected. The aroma is very pleasant and inviting, I smell a sweet booziness with the sherry a little more prominent than the rum. I’m not a sherry drinker by any means, but I really like the aroma of this beer.

The first taste blows me away. The roasted malt elements of the stout are potent and pleasing, but the barrel character emerges very pleasantly. The rum brings the added sweetness. With rum being fermented and distilled from sugar, that makes sense. Then the sherry element comes in, which brings maybe a hint of dryness, a little bit of a sweet almost sour tang? Not unpleasant by any means, quite the opposite!

Since this is an 11.8% stout, I take my time with the beer. Being in a cool bar with a good friend and good food on the way, I was real happy to just relax and enjoy this complex beer. As it warms, the barrel characteristics become more prominent, but they don’t drown out the base elements of the stout. The barrel elements blend into one, dynamic flavor adjunct that is extremely pleasing, the sweetness from the rum barrel is complemented by some of the dried fruit elements in the sherry character.

This beer is one of the more unique barrel-aged stouts I’ve ever had. If I can have any slight on the beer, and it is minor, it is that the body was slightly thin. Not what I’d expect from such a high ABV stout.

I haven’t had too many brews from Cigar City (I’ve liked what I’ve had), and only a beer or two aged in these kinds of barrels and definitely not a blend of beers aged in these kinds of barrels. In other words, I don’t have a beer to compare this against, in exacting terms, so I’ll just say this. Marshal Zhukov’s Double Envelopment is a dynamite stout, it possesses the great elements of a high ABV stout, but the two barrels used in the construction of the final beer bring something new and unique to the liquid. This is a beer well-worth seeking out.

Bottles of the beer are available only through Cigar City’s El Catador Club, which is their Members Only barrel-aged beer club. Somehow, a keg of the beer made its way to the Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall in Atlantic City, NJ, where I enjoyed the beer before enjoying a night of All Elite Wrestling Dynamite with a good friend over at Boardwalk Hall.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.5 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beyond a Shadow of a Stout (Level 81)

We all love Stouts, and now we have a dedicated badge to celebrate your dedication to these dark, top-fermented beer in multiple variations, like Oatmeal, Milk and more! Which one will you start with? That’s 405 different beers with the style of Stout.

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Beer Review: Ross Brewing’s Bockenator

Name: Bockenator
Brewing Company: Ross Brewing Company
Location: Port Monmouth, NJ
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 8%

A tasty, dark lager with a sweet, chocolate twist.

From the Ross Brewing’s Facebook post announcing the beer:

𝗕𝗢𝗖𝗞𝗘𝗡𝗔𝗧𝗢𝗥 is our 𝟴% 𝗚𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗮𝗻-𝘀𝘁𝘆𝗹𝗲 𝗖𝗵𝗼𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗗𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗹𝗯𝗼𝗰𝗸! The beer style that inspired us to start brewing way back when finally sees a release under the Ross pennant!

Our tribute to all of the amazing German Doppelbocks we’ve had over the years, Bockenator has the 𝘀𝘄𝗲𝗲𝘁 𝗳𝗹𝗮𝘃𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗼𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗺𝗮𝗹𝘁𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗲𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗼𝗰𝗸 𝘀𝘁𝘆𝗹𝗲, which in turn are only accentuated by the 𝗮𝗱𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝘀𝗵 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿. Maintaining balance without being too sweet, with the 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝗳𝗹𝗮𝘃𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗔𝗕𝗩% 𝘁𝘆𝗽𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗗𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗹, this is the beer 𝘄𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗿𝗲𝘄𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘄𝗲 𝗹𝗮𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗱 𝗥𝗼𝘀𝘀! Enjoy at your next feast or special occasion, or any other time you’d like an amazing beer. Prost!

I’ve been happy to see Ross Brewing’s growth over the past year despite launching their brand without a taproom and during a pandemic. When I learned they had a doppelbock in the works I knew I’d have to grab some. This beer is brewed with chocolate, so I was even more intrigued.

The beer is adorned with cool label consistent with the clean branding of Ross Brewing along with the iconic goats symbolizing the bock style of beer on the can. But the contents of the can are always more important, aren’t they? Let’s dive in, shall we?

Yep, that looks like a doppelbock. Dark brown, slightly translucent, and a thin khaki head. I don’t get too much of an aroma outside of what I’d expect. It smells like a malty beer.

First sip…I get some sweet malt and a crispy/snappy lager finish. I like this first impression of Bockenator. The chocolate comes through more each time I go back to my glass. Not coincidentally, the beer is warmer with each sip I take which, as we all know, allows the flavors to breathe and express themselves more.

That chocolate wakes up more the closer the beer gets to room temperature and consequently, I’m finding myself enjoying the beer that much more. The chocolate also helps to smooth out the starkly crisp finish.

The folks behind Ross Brewing have continued to show their mettle, especially on a style like Dopplebock. Given one of their launch beers was a somewhat dark lager, I shouldn’t be surprised they brewed a tasty Dopplebock, another dark lager.

Recommended, link to 3.75 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Wystouti from Sunken Silo Brew Works

Name: Wystouti
Brewing Company: Sunken Silo Brew Works
Location: Lebanon, NJ
Style: Stout – American
ABV: 6.8%

A well-made American stout that doesn’t rely on adjuncts for its tasty flavor profile.

SunkenSilo_Wystouti

From the Sunken Silo’s Our Beers page:

We honor Joe senior with a riff on his name. A whiff of coffee and chocolate with a silky-smooth mouthfeel. ON NITRO

Sunken Silo Brew Works has been open for about 2 years, I visited just before the pandemic and given how close they are to me, I figured it was about time I made another visit. They are also part of the Hunterdon Beer Trail, which might be a feature post later this week. As for this beer, they only had it on a nitro tap, which I often feel drowns out the flavor of the beer, but I was in the mood for a stout. So how did Wystouti work for me?

After a slightly slow pour, the beer placed in front of me looks very inviting. The creamy looking khaki head topping off the dark stout is a picture-perfect beer.

Diving in, I get the mouthfeel of the Nitro immediately. The fluffiness is pleasant. Then the taste follows, which is what I expect from a Stout, mostly. Roasted malts. But wait, there’s more!

I’m getting some other flavors, unexpected flavors, but good nonetheless. There’s the expected evocation of coffee and hints of chocolate from the roasted malts. But there’s a berry-like sweetness on the backend of the beer. More of a hint of berries, I’d say, a nice surprise and pleasant overall.

Maybe the thing I most appreciate about this beer is how straight-forward it is. It seems there are far more stouts with some kind of adjunct (chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallow, lactose, coffee, etc), so a stout that gains its flavor from the core four ingredients? Seems like a novel concept these days, but you can count me in. Especially if the beer is as well-made and tasty as Wystouti is.

Wystouti is a terrific stout, although ’d like to try the non-Nitro version. Sunken Silo let a batch sit in bourbon barrels for 9 months to celebrate their 2nd birthday. Next time I visit the brewery, I may have to grab a bottle of it.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Smooth as Silk (Level 2)

That extra smooth mouth-feel you just experienced is all thanks to the thousands of tiny bubbles created by infused nitrogen. Yum! Check-in 10 times with the serving style of Nitro.

SunkenSilo_Wystouti

Beer Review: Victory Brewing’s Hop’Hazer

Name: Hop’Hazer
Brewing Company: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downington, PA
Style: IPA – New England/Hazy
ABV: 6%
Location Consumed: The Alchemist & Barrister

Victory’s latest (as of Winter 2021/2022) Hazy IPA is a well-crafted and flavorful take on the immensely popular style.

Victory_Hop'Hazr

From Victory Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

With cooler weather on the horizon, the HOP’HAZER transports you straight to an enchanting fantasy land with its juicy, citrus, and hop-forward characteristics. The use of innovative hops amplifies the flavor and brings light to the longest, darkest days of the year

HOPS: Mosaic, Citra, Citra Cryo, Citra Incognito®, HBC 586

It has been quite a while since Victory made an appearance here at the Tap Takeover, at least in the form of new beers I’ve had from them. That doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t been enjoying their beer. Prima Pils is a regular rotation beer for me. Victory has been on board the Hazy IPA bandwagon, having released quite a few in this style over the past couple of years. Hop’Hazer is a beer they are considering a winter seasonal. Not sure why or how this evokes winter, but more importantly, is it a good beer?

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Image courtesy of Victory Brewing’s Facebook.

The beer I’m given 100% looks the part of the style. Aroma is juicy hoppiness. So far, Victory has the style keyed in.

First sip…thirst quenching. Juicy hops abound in this beer, is my first thought. My second thought is just how drinkable this beer is. For me, sometimes some IPAs can have a bitter, off-putting finish, but not Hop’Hazer. I find myself wanting to drink this one relatively quickly because it is so tasty and refreshing.

I had a burger with this beer for my lunch and it was a perfect pairing. Most beers pair well with burgers, but this beer enhanced everything about the burger.

Victory_Hop'HazerLabel

I wasn’t sure what hops were in the beer, I had it on draught. When I looked up the description to include in this review, I was very surprised to see Mosaic hops as one of the hops in the mix. I typically don’t like Mosaic to the point that it taints everything else it touches, at least for my palate. But the Citra is definitely present, and I’m guessing the other hops listed above help to mute what I typically don’t like about beers with Mosaic hops.

Hop’Hazer is an extremely tasty beer and a nice take on the Hazy/New England style of IPA. I think I like their Cloud Walker Hazy IPA just a little bit more, but this beer is still very good.

Plus, I’m a sucker for a beer with a wizard on the label.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Haze for Days (Level 17)

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 85 different beers with the style of IPA – New England (Imperial or Single), Pale Ale – New England or IPA – Milkshake.

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Beer Review: Carton Brewing’s Cafe Revolver

Name: Cafe Revolver
Brewing Company: Carton Brewing Company
Location: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Style: Cream Ale | Imperial Cream Ale
ABV: 12%

Another outstanding entry in Carton Brewing’s “Regular Coffee Game” – A Must Try

Carton_CafeRevolver

From Carton Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Imperial Cream Ale Aged In Bourbon Barrels w/ Orange Bitters: 12% | IBU: 20 | SRM: 5

Café Revolver is a continuation of the Regular Coffee game. Our golden imperial coffee cream ale has been finished on Bourbon barrels with orange bitters. Much like Regular Coffee looks to evoke an amusing version of the acidic bitter coffee curbed by milk and sugar that starts a day in a paper cup, Cafe Revolver addresses it on the other end of the day. A beer rendition of a modern Revolver cocktail, sweet coffee and bourbon’s richness defined by a dash of aromatic orange bitters, lending a subtle brightness to the darker tones. Drink Cafe Revolver and take your best shot.

Carton Brewing becomes the first brewery with a 4th feature review here at the Tap Takeover with a version of one of their more highly sought after offerings. Every New Year’s Day (or thereabouts) Augie Carton and his crew release cans of an “Irregular Coffee,” a variant of their flagship cream ale, Regular Coffee. Regular Coffee is their interpretation of morning coffee in the form of a Cream Ale – milk sugar and coffee are added to the base beer of a cream ale. One of the 2021 versions of Irregular Coffee is Café Revolver, the beer interpretation of the Revolver cocktail, which is Bourbon, orange bitters, and coffee liqueur. For this beer, Carton aged Regular coffee in bourbon barrels along with orange bitters with the goal of evoking that evening, sipping cocktail. Or a “coffee on the other end of the day.”

I like bourbon quite a lot (my favorite spirit), I like the flavor of coffee, and I’ve enjoyed 7 versions of “Regular Coffee” including the original prior to Café Revolver, but this one is the first I’ve had that has a barrel aging element.

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The only variant not pictured is Irish Coffee, I had a few tasters of it years ago at the 2015 Garden State Brewfest, but haven’t been fortunate enough to have it since then.

Pouring the beer into my Carton glass, I get some aromas of bourbon. The beer is a little murkier looking than other Irregular Coffee variants I’ve enjoyed, which is neither negative or positive. Just the way I see it. There are more flavor elements so the beer’s murkiness makes sense.

The first sip gives me the sweetness from the lactose, but the bourbon soon envelopes everything. The orange bitters are an assertive flavor component, but that element plays extremely well with the bourbon. As it should considering bitters are part of many, many bourbon-based cocktails. The coffee elements are the underlying flavor holding all the elements together. Halfway through the 12oz can, I’m thoroughly enjoying this fun and tasty beer, all those elements come together in a very cohesive, elegant fashion.

I’ve always been impressed by how many of Carton’s beers are inspired by food or other non-beer things like cocktails. What’s even more impressive is how despite this beer emulating a bourbon cocktail (or a doppelbock brewed with coffee beans substituting the hops, for another example) yet the beer remains undeniably, well, a beer.

Café Revolver does just that. It is undeniably a beer, but the elements of the cocktail play the base beer extremely well. Specifically, the elements of Regular Coffee are distinct and give the beer its dominant character. The cocktail elements are damned fine complement to what fans of Regular Coffee like myself, have come to expect. I can’t rank this one against the original, but my favorite variant is Café Y’ Churro. In speaking to Augie during our visit, he said a lot of people consider that their favorite, because people love cinnamon. He isn’t wrong. I’d say Cafe Revolver is in the top half of the Irregular Coffee beers I’ve had, but again, they are all spectacular beers.

To paraphrase the Carton motto that closes out the beer description on the cans of most of their beers, drink Cafe Revolver because it is a delicious, fun, and playful beer.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Carton_CafeRevolver

Drink Review: Cranberry Sauced from Sourland Mountains Spirits

Name: Cranberry Sauced
Brewing Company: Sourland Mountain Spirits
Location: Hopewell, NJ
Style: Craft Cocktail (Gin & Cranberries)
ABV: 8%

A delicious, refreshing, cocktail that is a perfect balance of flavors.

Sourland_CranberrySauced

From the Sourland Mountain Spirits’slanding page for the droml:

Just in time for the holidays, our debut canned cocktail features a refreshing blend of our 12 botanical flagship gin, farm-fresh New Jersey cranberries, rosemary, honey, and lemon. Just chill, shake, and pour over ice. Each pack includes 4x 12 oz cans.

Tasting Notes: fresh cranberries, rosemary, honey, lemon

Let’s try something a little bit different, shall we? As much as I enjoy beer, I do enjoy spirits, too. Last year for my wife’s birthday, I took her on a tour and tasting at Sourland Mountain Spirits in Hopewell, NJ*. We had a fantastic time, our tour was lead by owner Ray Disch who also happens to be a co-founder of Triumph Brewing. We had a fantastic time, due in large part to Ray himself, who was entertaining, knowledgeable, and gregarious. Essentially, everything a small business owner should be as the public face. Sourland also makes some tasty spirits and cocktails.

*The distillery happens to be on the same farm Troon Brewing, which I didn’t initially realize.

Cranberry happens to be one of, if not, my favorite fruit (as I noted in recent beer review). NJ happens to be one of the largest producers of the fruit in the State of New Jersey. When my wife and I learned they released their first canned cocktail, which highlights the tart fruit, we wanted to give it a try in the spirit (pun somewhat intended) of supporting small business and a business we like a lot (despite Gin not being a spirit I typically seek out). Also, this is a perfect holiday drink!

One thing I learned on that tour about a year ago is that gin is the base, or starting spirit, for many other spirits, so it makes sense that Ray and his cocktail sorcerers would utilize gin in their first canned cocktail. Gin is also quite popular.

I don’t typically go for craft/canned cocktails, but “Cranberry Sauced” from Sourland Spirits might change that. Along with delicious and copious cranberries, this drink has honey, lemon, and rosemary mixed with their tasty gin. Per the directions on the can, I gave it a shake and filled up my glass with the cocktail.

That was a nice little kick! Again, gin isn’t a go to for me, but I do get that as a prominent element of the drink. My wife caught more of the cranberry, but she’s not into cranberry quite as much as I am. I gave the drink a splash of Cran-Mango juice and boy-howdy does that bring some nice balance to an already tasty adult beverage. If gin is your thing, then maybe a shot of gin could be added for an extra kick. Regardless, Sourland has crafted something really special with this drink.

Cranberry Sauced is a delicious, FUN, and refreshing drink and a nice change up from what I normally enjoy. This is a perfect holiday drink, given that cranberries are often associated with fall/winter holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I can’t recommend this tasty treat enough.

Highly Recommended. If this beverage were on untappd, I’d probably rate it at 4.25/4.5 out 5 bottle caps

Beer Review: Threes Brewing’s Vliet Pilsner

Name: Vliet
Brewing Company: Threes Brewing Company
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Style: Pilsner – German
ABV: 5.2%

A very tasty and refreshing Pilsner that displays all the elements of the style very nicely.

Threes_Vliet

From the Three’s landing page for the beer:

Vliet (pronounced “vl-ee-t”) is our signature, award-winning Pilsner. From the Dutch for ‘minor stream’, the name is a nod to our flagship brewery in Brooklyn near the Gowanus Canal. Clean and aromatic, complex yet crisp, it defies expectations of what one might expect from a lager.

Who says Pilsners are only for summer? Fools, that’s what I say! So here I am with one of my last reviews of the year, during Christmas, and I’m reviewing a Pilsner. Why not? A Pilsner would be a perfect beer to accompany your meal on Christmas.

Threes Brewing is one of the many well-regarded breweries in Brooklyn and this beer in particular is one that is highly acclaimed and maybe the one I’ve wanted the most from this fine brewery.

Does Vliet live up to that anticipation?

In a word, yes.

But I’m not one to be brief, which is why I write reviews about many different things., including beer obviously

Just look at that beer. Seriously, look at it. That’s exactly what a pilsner should look like. Light gold-yellow with a fluffy head. I poured it almost completely vertically to somewhat emulate a slow pour. It isn’t as clear as I would expect, but it isn’t hazy. That’s not a problem either way, just what I’m seeing in the beer. I’m wondering if it was filtered because it looks a little cloudy. I’m fine with that, unfiltered Pilsners are underrated.

First sip…yeah, this is a pilsner and I’m happy. I get some hints of the bready elements from the malt. Maybe a little bit crackery, too. Clean and crisp, Vliet is exactly what I want from a pilsner, refreshing and tasty, with an overall flavor profile that lends itself to pairing with any food.

What I also notice on Vliet is a spicy, almost tangy, herbal and spicy finish. Maybe a hint of pepper? I’m not sure if those elements are from the hops (I suspect yes), but it is an interesting twist that sets the beer apart from some of the other recent pilsners I’ve had – in a good way.

Vliet is an extremely well-made beer. Threes Brewing has taken the core four ingredients of beer and crafted a delicious, on-point interpretation of the classic German Pilsner.

Highly Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Hardywood’s Bourbon Barrel GBS (Gingerbread Stout)

Name: Bourbon Barrel GBS
Brewing Company: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Location: Richmond, VA
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double Milk
ABV: 11.5%

An outstanding Stout that practically sings Christmas songs when you drink it.

From the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s landing page for the beer:

Hardywood Gingerbread Stout, described by BeerAdvocate as “freagin’ Christmas in a bottle,” is an imperial milk stout brewed with vanilla beans, cinnamon, fresh Casselmonte Farm baby ginger and Bearer Farms wildflower honey. Gingerbread Stout is then matured in Virginia bourbon barrels, where it adapts an incredibly mellow character with oak, caramel and bourbon undertones, and emerges 12 weeks later as Bourbon GBS. A festive blend of spice character laces this rich, chocolatey stout, which warms the palate and the soul.

For years, Hardywood’s Gingerbread Stout had been one of the most sought after Christmas beers and one of the most acclaimed for holiday enjoyment. Recently, the brewery began distributing some of their beers to New Jersey, including this amped up version of the renowned Gingerbread Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. It also seems like this year, 2021, they shifted from bomber bottles for this beer to 4 packs of the beer, a much more consumable portioning of the beer.

What about the beer itself?

The beer pours a dark black into the glass, as one would expect a stout to pour. There’s a sliver of a khaki head on the beer, which is fairly typical for barrel-aged stouts. I typically don’t see big fluffy heads on barrel-aged stouts. The aroma is strong on the gingerbread and bourbon. Again that’s to be expected given the name of the beer, but it is still quite pleasing.

”Sweet Christmas!” That’s what I think when I have the first sip of the beer. This beer has a lot going on in its flavor profile, but the description can tell you that, too. Tasting it all is really enjoyable but let me unpack that.

I initially get hints of vanilla and the bourbon with the lactose providing a very creamy feel to the beer. The cinnamon and ginger come in at the end like the grand finale of flavor orchestra playing Christmas Eve/Sarajevo by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (A band I’ve seen live a couple of times, I highly recommend the experience).

I’ll be honest, initially, the ginger was a little overwhelming. I know, “gingerbread” is in the name, so that should be the most prominent flavor.  But as the beer settled down, breathed, and warmed to room temperature the other flavors balanced out that pop of ginger. I can’t compare this (yet) to the non-barrel aged version, but I can say this is a deliciously crafted beer. The only reason I don’t put this at the top of my list of Christmas Stouts is because I’ve had Hardywood’s Christmas Morning (another variation on the popular Gingerbread Stout, with coffee as an another adjunct),  which blew me away last year.

When it is all said and done, Hardywood Bourbon Barrel GBS is a beer well-worth seeking out. It has all the holiday flavors blended expertly with the bourbon barrel seeping in like a thick, comfy coat to warm the soul. Santa might prefer a glass of this to the standard milk and cookies. I’m pretty sure I would.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Invertase Brewing’s 3X (Belgian Tripel)

Name: 3X
Brewing Company: Invertase Brewing Company
Location: Phillipsburg, NJ
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 8.6%

A very well made Tripel highlights a “young” brewery’s skill in a complex style.

Invertase_3X

From the “our beers” section of Invertase Brewing’s Web site:

Classic Belgian Tripel. The very expressive yeast gives off notes of coriander and pepper with a hint of orange and banana. Moderate bitterness and a dry finish. Soft, pillow-like head with a light-golden color.

In three words or less: Strong, Complex, Spice

The annual birthday brewery tour hit the northwestern portion of New Jersey/Pennsylvania border along the Delaware River. On the New Jersey side, our second visit of the day was Invertase Brewing Company and this beer was the first I had during that visit, and the one I enjoyed the most.

Tripels are a classic Belgian style whose flavor largely comes from the yeast used in the beer. It is a style I like quite a bit but not a style you’ll see every brewery make, it isn’t the easiest style because you can’t typically hide mistakes with adjuncts. I think 3X was one of the first beers the fine folks of Invertase brewed shortly after they opened in late 2019. So how does it hold up?

The keg must have been tapped out because I was given a can, which is perfectly fine. The day was nice so our crew headed out to the biergarten where I popped open the can and poured a golden beer into the glass. Some Tripels I’ve enjoyed show slightly cloudy and unfiltered in the glass, this one is clear. The beer smells like a Tripel, hints of fruit from the yeast and an overall rather earthy aroma.

First sip gives a hint of the quality of the beer. I’ve got a smile on my face because this is very close to what I expect a Tripel to be. The esters / yeast give a hint of banana that is extremely pleasing to my palate.

With each sip I take from the glass, I enjoy the even beer. That fruit element comes through more potently, though not like I’m biting into a fruit that would be an amalgamation of a pear and banana. Rather, the hints of those fruits are extremely pleasant, not to sweet and offset the relatively high ABV of this beer. I say relatively because 8.6% is a right around the average ABV for a Tripel, at least the Tripels I’ve had and logged into untappd.

3X is an impressive Belgian Tripel for the balance and nuance in the beer from a brewery that has only been existence for slightly more than two years.

Recommended, link to 4-bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Tart & Thankful – A Collaboration between Highrail Brewing & NJ Craft Beer

Name: Tart & Thankful
Brewing Company: Highrail Brewing in collaboration with New Jersey Craft Beer
Location: High Bridge, NJ
Style: Fruit Beer | Fruited Sour
ABV: 4.9%

A delicious, balanced fruited sour perfect for the autumn/winter seasonal holidays.

Highrail_TartThankful

From the Facebook post announcing the beer:

Tart & Thankful (4.9%), a bright and cheerful seasonal sour brewed with cranberry. Now available for taproom pours and crowler and growler fills. *A limited supply of 4-packs are also available.*

We collaborated with the team at New Jersey Craft Beer (@NJCraftBeer) to create this Thanksgiving-inspired sour ale. Dosed with Cranberry puree and lightly hopped with Vic Secret, this sour ale hits every mark for a sour and is perfect for sharing at the Thanksgiving feast. Contains lactose. 8 IBU.

I visited High Rail Brewing about two years ago, which was not long after they first opened and enjoyed the beers I had during that visit. When the Hunterdon Beer Trail came to be, I knew I’d be visiting again and that visit was pushed up when the good folks at High Rail collaborated with Mike and the fine people behind New Jersey Craft Beer on this cranberry (one of my favorite fruits) fruited sour.

The beer I’m handed from the draught pour is slightly pinkish. I don’t get too much of an aroma outside of maybe a slight funk as well as the cranberries.

The first sip is really nice, with a noticeably pleasant hit of cranberry.

Halfway through the beer, I’m struck by how well balanced and approachable this beer is. Let me unpack that statement. Some sour beers are very potent, which can potentially be off-putting. Tart & Thankful is far from off-putting, sure it is sour, but damn is it inviting. The sour is a slight tap to the cheek to assert itself. The cranberry element is fairly abundant and the addition of milk sugar/lactose balances out how highly tart cranberry can be. My only issue here is that I wish there was more cranberry. But as I noted above, cranberry is one of my favorite fruits (I drink cranberry juice everyday and love a cranberry smoothie for breakfast) so I may be an outlier.

HighRailNJCB_TartThankful

Tart & Thankful is an outstanding beer, probably the best beer I’ve had categorized as “Fruit Beer” on untappd. As a fruited sour, I love it. It is refreshing, light, clean and overall just about everything I’d want in a beer that has sour elements and cranberries in it. Well done Highrail and New Jersey Craft Beer.

This beer is available only (I think) at the brewery on draft and in cans. Perfect for Thanksgiving, or anytime. It is a beer that is well worth visiting the brewery to enjoy. And while you’re there, enjoy more from Highrail because they make tasty, approachable brews.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

A delicious, balanced fruited sour perfect for the autumn/winter season.

Highrail_TartThankful