Draught Diversions: October 2021 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

2021_Oct_SixPack

Stout season is officially here! A couple of beers on this month’s edition of the Tap Takeover Six Pack are seasonally appropriate in that regard and one, a porter, fits the mold too. I made two visits to Kane Brewing this month and a visit to Icarus, so those breweries made up much of what I enjoyed in October 2021 even if only one from each appears. Four beers from New Jersey, on from New York and one from Germany. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

La Di Da Di: Banana, Peanut Butter & Vanilla (Twin Elephant Brewery) | Porter – Imperial / Double | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

TwinElephant_LaDiDaDi

Twin Elephant gets a lot of love for their IPAs (and rightfully so), but their dark beers have been my jam since they launched five years ago. This one is a perfectly balanced dessert beer. The peanut butter is great and blends with the vanilla and banana very nicely. Too may beers with peanut butter in them use powder or the peanut butter tastes like a stale Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. Not this beer, oh no. This is delicious.

Das Beste (Icarus Brewing Company) | Kölsch | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_DasBeste

This is the first Kölsch / Kölsch style ale from Icarus and boy howdy is it delicious. I enjoy a good Kölsch and this is one of the better ones I’ve ever had. Very glad to see a style like this come out of a brewery largely known for IPAs and boozy stouts. But I shouldn’t have been surprised in the least about the quality of the beer because for my tastes, Icarus simply doesn’t make bad beers. That may be relatively clear since they make more appearances here, in both the Monthly Six Packs, and the Tap Takeover in general, than any other brewery.

Premium Verum / German Pilsener (Warsteiner) | Pilsner – German | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Warsteiner_Pilsner

Sometimes a good, classic German Pilsner hits the spot. That’s exactly what this beer did for me. It is always nice to get the beer in not just Proper Glassware, but glassware with the brewery’s logo on it made specifically for the specific beer. Maybe that helped with the enjoyment a little bit, but the beer itself is tasty enough. Regardless, this was good, but nothing mind blowing.

Brux Royale Belgian Chocolate Stout (Ross Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Ross_BruxRoyale

Ross Brewing has come out pretty strongly this year, producing interesting looking beers. This decadent stout is just the second beer I’ve had from them and it is an impressively crafted, boozy stout. Roasted malt and bittersweet chocolate are the signature flavors here.

Cinnamon Babka (Grimm Artisanal Ales) | Stout – Imperial / Double Milk | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Grimm_Babka

I’ve enjoyed some of Grimm’s lighter offerings so I wanted to sample this big, boozy (12%) Dessert Stout. When added appropriately, cinnamon is a nice adjunct and that’s the case with this beer. Hints of cinnamon and cocoa make for a delicious evening sipper. I was a little worried when I had the first sip of the beer, but once it warmed up a little bit, I was able to thoroughly enjoy this beer.

Grisaille | Blend N°1 (Field & Oak) | Saison – Grisette | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

FieldOak_Grisaille

Under the Field & Oak brand, Kane Brewing has been in the process of making some Belgian inspired beers on the lighter side – Saisons, Grisettes, Lambics. Beers that have funk and some kind of fruit. This Grisette was the first one of those beers I sampled and I could have enjoyed an unending glass of this beer all day. The oak aging lends a hint of vanilla. Slightly funky, effervescent, and delicious.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Draught Diversions: September 2021 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

September means the onset of fall and Oktoberfest! I already posted an Oktoberfest Six pack for 2021, but I managed to get one this past month I didn’t mention there. Along with that beer, a true variety pack: Witbier, Pale Ale, New England Imperial IPA, the aforementioned Festbier, and Pilsner. It isn’t often that every beer in the six pack is a different style, but here we are with the September version of the Tap Takeover’s Mixed Sixer. Also, only one non-NJ beer this month makes the final cut.

Swash (Beach Haus Brewery) | Wheat Beer – Witbier | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Been a while since Beach Haus was featured here on the Tap Takeover, and here they are with a really nice interpretation of one of the more popular styles, Witbier. I was very happy with this beer and could envision myself enjoying the beer on a beach like the one depicted on the can art.

Local Summer (Icarus Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – New Enland | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Local Summer is a term in NJ (and probably most states with a shore destination population) for the days in September following labor day when the vacationers have returned home. This beer is a play off of Icarus’s “Invincible Summer.” This beer is perfect for relaxing poolside in the waning days of the Summer. Toasted coconut and dragonfruit are added to a delicious Pale Ale base.

Steam Hammer (Conclave Brewing) | IPA – Imperial / Double | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

I enjoyed quite a few beers from Conclave this past August after a visit to the brewery and then finding this beer on draught at a favorite local restaurant. Steam Hammer was the best of the three new Conclave beers I enjoyed (although I was super pleased to see they canned their delicious Czech Pilsner Clearly Pils). Carl and his brewers have a great hand at blending hops together and this one is no exception, there’s slight bitter pine elements of a West Coast IPA, with two of my favorite hops – Centennial and Simcoe along with Columbus.

Hop Dyed IPA (Wet Ticket Brewing) | IPA – New England | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Wet Ticket continues to brew solid IPAs, I haven’t had too many beers that feature Sabro hops so I can’t compare. However, Hop Dyed is a smooth and tasty IPA. Fits in that “every day beer” mold of IPAs. My only issue is that the beer lacked any carbonation, but my guess is that the can wasn’t super fresh.

Festbier (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Festbier | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone continues to climb my personal list of favorite local breweries, their Festbier is an outstanding German-inspired fall lager. I’d say this leans a little more on the Märzen (being a bit more malty) side than Festbier side, but regardless of that, it is quite simply a delicious, well-made lager. Their Festbier will be in my fridge every fall for the foreseeable future.

Green State Lager (Zero Gravity Craft Brewery) | Pilsner – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

ZG_GreenState.jpg

I’m always on the lookout for a new-to-me Pilsner and I’d seen really good chatter about this one since Zero Gravity entered the NJ market. That chatter wasn’t wrong because this beer is just about everything I want from a pilsner. Clean, crisp, and easy drinking, I can understand why this is such a popular beer from the Vermont brewery.

There you have it…a mix of styles and for me, it was tough to distill one beer from the group of beers I had from multiple breweries. Of course, I had some really good beer when I visited both Buttzville Brewing and Odd Bird Brewing for the first time.

On to the start of stout season!

Draught Diversions: Odd Bird Brewing (Stockton, NJ)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

OddBird_Sign_01

As the beer landscape in New Jersey has grown over the last decade or so, a natural element of this growth is how some of these breweries are located rather closely together. Case in point, Odd Bird Brewing in Stockton, New Jersey, which happens to be in Hunterdon County. Recently, the breweries in Hunterdon County have come together in a promotional effort as the Hunterdon Beer Trail. Patrons can get little “Passport” booklets at breweries located in Hunterdon County to be stamped and once all the breweries have been visited, patrons get a free pint glass. But on to Odd Bird Brewing…

OddBird_Sign_02

Adam Juncosa was a homebrewer, having as many as 13 beers on tap at his home for gatherings. He’s won awards at homebrewing competitions and spent some time brewing at Conclave Brewing. When he realized the town in which he lived, Stockton, didn’t have the best beer options, he and his wife Karen Malzone, a teacher in Hunterdon County, decided to open a brewery of their own. Thus Odd Bird Brewing was born.

One of the first things I asked Adam was how he came up with the name. His mom always called him an Odd Bird and it stuck. Running with that theme, Adam and Karen eventually enlisted local artist Catherine Lent to come up with the logo and branding for the brewery. This all fits in with Karen’s passion for conservation efforts.

Opening in January 2020, Adam and Karen had only a few months before the pandemic struck the world, but they were able to pivot after a brief shut down to crowler sales and eventually on-site consumption after the world adjusted to the pandemic and what social distancing meant as they were able to offer seating in an outdoor biergarten during warmer weather.

A peek inside the brewery revealed a welcoming taproom with a row of ornately designed, artistic custom blown glass taphandles created by Dan McStocker. Much of the furniture, chairs, tables, etc. were built by Karen and Adam, lending an even more personal touch to the brewery.

OddBird_Taps

I knew of Odd Bird Brewing when the brewery opened, but not too much beyond the fact that another NJ brewery opened. Over the past year, I saw a great deal of good chatter on the Beer Advocate forums about the quality of their beer and Adam’s focus on the lower-ABV classic styles like Pilsners (he won a homebrew competition for his pilsner), clean lagers, Kölsch, straight-forward English-style stout, and more traditional IPAs (as opposed to the hazy / New England / Milkshake varieties). That “chatter” had me even more inclined and interested in visiting the brewery.

The location is rather unique, especially compared to the other breweries I’ve visited in NJ. It isn’t on a main street, nor is Odd Bird Brewing located in an industrial park. Risler Avenue/NJ State Route 29 parallels the Delaware River at the southwestern end of County Road 523 – a lovely drive to be had on a late summer/early fall day. Odd Bird is located in an old auto body shop, which is in the same building/location as the Stockton Eagle gas station, and that building is next to a restaurant, Cravings. That set up/location does sort of fit in with the name of the brewery. Stockton is one of, if not the smallest, municipality in NJ with a population under 600 and just over a half-mile square in area, lending even more intimacy to the brewery.

OddBird_TapList_2021-09-11
Odd Bird Brewing’s Beer Menu, September 11, 2021

The day of my visit, the outdoor biergarten was at just about full capacity, which was no surprise because it was a gorgeous day. See my previous comment regarding what a lovely drive along NJ/Hunterdon County Road 523 the path to the brewery was. As I pointed out in my review on Tuesday, the beer that drew my immediate attention was the Extra Stockton Bitter. Prior to visiting the brewery, I’d seen that Adam brewed an Amber Lager and tapped that day, OddsBodkins. An “Amber” lager isn’t the hottest Lager style (that would be Pilsner in the craft world), which is part of what drew me to ordering the beer. Also, almost any time I see a Lager on draft in a smaller brewery, I’m going to order it. I was very pleased with this one; smooth, clean and flavorful (I realize “flavorful” is perhaps becoming the most overused word by the proprietor of The Tap Takeover).

OddBird_OddsBodkins
OddsBodkins Amber Lager, plus Crowler

When I was ordering the Lager, another patron, a young woman who seemed to be friends with Karen, was telling me how much she loves sour beers and how great Adam’s Berliner Weisse Sommer was. If I wasn’t making the drive to another brewery to continue my path towards completion of my Hunterdon Beer Trail passport, I likely would have ordered that beer. Given the quality of the two beers I enjoyed, I’ve no doubt this sour beer was on point. Another patron was strolling up to the ordering window and I recommended the ESB and the gentleman told me that was the purpose of his visit to Odd Bird, to enjoy a cask pint of the ESB. In the future, because chances are pretty good I’ll visit again, I’ll make my way through some of they other beers. In particular, I’d like to try their British-style stout Mumbletypeg Tavern Stout. Adam mentioned that he’ll be brewing a Schwarzbier, a style I came to thoroughly enjoy over the last year. Other beers typically on draft at Odd Bird would be a mix of IPAs, saisons, and other “classic” styles.

Odd Bird Brewing is, in my mind, what a quintessential local brewery should be. Great people who own it, who make delicious beer, with a unique taplist of beers that will attract more than just the immediate locals. The brewery has such a wonderful character and ambiance that is more than complimented by the classic styles brewed to near perfection.

Go visit and enjoy their delicious beer.

Some other links of interest and sources of information for this post:

Odd Bird Brewing Co. Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Odd Bird Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

oddbird

Draught Diversions: Buttzville Brewing (Washington Township, NJ)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

It is becoming a familiar story here on a couple of levels at the Tap Takeover with my brewery spotlight features… (1) home brewer turned brewery owner and (2) COVID-19 impacting a brewery’s opening. Take those elements (among others) and here I am spotlighting Buttzville Brewing Company in Washington Township (Warren County), NJ. Although owner/brewer Dave Anderson and his wife were homebrewing since 2014 (when Erin bought Dave a Homebrew kit), the name was established in 2020, and the Andersons finally opened the doors to the brewery for the public to enjoy the beers of Buttzville Brewing on July 31, 2021.

Buttzville_Door (2)
Image courtesy of Buttzville Brewing’s Web site

It is very rare for a brewery, or any business to open on their scheduled opening date. Permits, loans, construction schedules all bring wild cards into the equation that can impede any schedule. Add to that a global pandemic and Buttzville Brewing opened a little over a year after their initially scheduled opening date. Dave and Erin didn’t give up on their dream and the result: an inviting, eye-pleasing taproom where patrons can find good conversation, good people behind the business, and excellent beer.

Dave dove into homebrewing headfirst after receiving that homebrew kit and The Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian as gifts from Erin. Papazian is looked upon as something like the godfather of homebrewing and is the founder of the American Homebrewers Association. Dave joined the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers club, which has spawned a couple of breweries from its members: Lost Tavern Brewing and Taylor House to name two. Dave’s passion, and Erin’s belief in Dave, helped them weather the storm of delays and a Pandemic to open the fourth brewery in Warren County, NJ (Czig Meister, Man Skirt, and Invertase being the other three), forming a nice group of breweries to visit on a day trip.

ButtzvilleTaplist_2021-09-05
Buttzville Brewing’s Taplist 09-05-2021

I’m not going to get through a piece about this brewery without remarking on the name of the brewery. Buttzville…it just makes you giggle when you say it, at least the part of me that is still an eleven-year old boy. Dave and Erin are clever enough to run with the joke as the brewery’s motto is “The Great Beer with the Cheeky Name.” They’ve carried that theme through to some of their beers, too. Frankly, if they didn’t what would have been the point of the whole endeavor? They’ve got a Milkshake IPA called “Turn the Other Cheek,” a Brown Ale (pause for laughter) called “Buttz Not to Like” so far. Dave and Erin have only registered 13 beers on untappd (having been open only over a month), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more cheekily named brews in their future. Currently, Buttzville Brewing has 9 beers on tap, plus a seltzer.

As has become tradition (the second time something happens, I suppose allows a thing to become “tradition”), my good friend and I decided before enjoying an All Elite Wrestling Pay-Per-View event (All Out 2021, one of the best wrestling PPVs I’ve ever watched), we’d partake in some local brews. With Buttzville Brewing having opened in July 2021, we figured we’d hit up one of the newest breweries in the State, which is fairly close to where he lives.

I happened to be wearing my New Jersey Craft Beer hat (which I almost always wear when I visit breweries) and Dave commented on it, and we shared some words about how great the organization is, what a great guy Mike Kivowitz is, and the general camaraderie of the New Jersey craft beer scene.

On to the beers…..

I started the day with the Norwegian Sprinter, a blonde ale with the magical Norwegian Kviek yeast. The beer reminded me a bit of a Belgian Golden Ale, but that Kviek yeast added a nice citrusy dimension to the beer beyond what I’ve had before. At 4.7%, this is the kind of beer I could enjoy all day.

Buttzville_NorweiganSprinter

The second beer I enjoyed was the Milk Stout with the ingenious name, Just Butt I Needed. I was impressed with this beer, too. Roast elements with hints of coffee and a sweet finish.

Buttzville_JustButtINeeded

My friend had the Pale Ale and the Saison. As I posted this past Tuesday, I also had the Saison and was extremely impressed with the beer. As I said in my review of the beer, we enjoyed the Saison so much, we brought back a growler of it to enjoy while watching All Out 2021.

Buttzville Brewing is located in what is a “Main Street” downtown on E. Washington Avenue in Washington Township and like NJ breweries before it (Wet Ticket in Rahway, Czig Meister and Man Skirt in Hackettstown), could be a key player in the growing downtown area. Dave is an extremely welcoming and knowledgeable guy and he makes excellent beer. Whether visiting and spending time at the brewery, or taking in the other breweries in the area, Buttzville Brewing is worth visiting. I have a feeling I will visit again.

ButtzvilleLogo

Some other links of interest and sources of information for this post:

Buttzville Brewing Co. Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Buttzvile Brewing Co. on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

Draught Diversions: Octoberfest 2021 Six Pack

This is the fourth annual Oktoberfest Six Pack (and fifth Oktoberfest feature overall), but clearly, Oktoberfest 2020 is unlike any we’ve experienced. For starters, the second year in a row, the annual celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese’s marriage was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Like last year, that hasn’t stopped the Festbiers and Märzens from being brewed and packaged. Four years into “constructing” these six-packs and I’m still able to find new malty, amber lagers to highlight every year. Of the beers featured here, I’ve had two, but only a taster of one and small portion from a crowler from another.

From last year: A note on the difference between Festbiers and Märzens. Festbiers are generally lower in alcohol and more close to a light copper color as opposed the the amber coloring of a Märzens. The story goes that the beers served at Oktoberfest in Bavaria were dropped in ABV slightly to sell more beer without making the attendees too inebriated. For me, whatever style a particular brewery calls their amber/brown lager they sell as “Oktoberfest” or some variant of the name, is a highlight of the beer year for yours truly. Most of the beers you’d find in Germany during the festival would actually be Festbiers, while those with the “Oktoberfest” moniker are mostly the American-ized versions.

On to the Six Pack!

Festbier (Festbier) | Bitburger Brauerei | Bitburg, Germany | 6.2% ABV

Bitburger is one of the larger German breweries and back in 2019, they collaborated with Sierra Nevada on a Märzen and I thoroughly enjoyed that version. I figured since I’ve been enjoying Sierra Nevada’s solo Oktoberfest beers the last couple of years, I should give Bitburger’s a try.

What Bitburger says about the beer:

A seasonal edition, available from August each year for a limited time: our Bitburger Festbier – tasty, full-bodied and delicately malty-mild. Created by our brewmasters to enjoy the traditional German beer festival atmosphere. A very special malt composition, including Pilsner Malt, Münchner Malt and light Caramel Malt, accounts for its fine color and smooth body. Additionally, the beer is refined with Bitburger’s proprietary and unique hop blend called ‘Siegelhopfen’ (seal hops), which is sourced from a farm just a few minutes from the brewery. This drinkable 6.2% ABV full-bodied beer is the perfect marriage of hops and malt with a slightly sweet backbone, while finishing dry.

OxtoberFest (Märzen) | Bolero Snort Brewery | Carlstadt, NJ | 5.3% ABV

Bolero_Oxtoberfest

It has been a while since Bolero Snort was featured here at the Tap Takeover, but with their increased production thanks to their awesome facility they are finally brewing and canning an Oktoberfest. Their Raging Bull Amber Lager is quite tasty so I’m hoping this one will be of equal quality.

What Bolero Snort says about the beer:

Who’s ready for OxtoberFest🍺!!!! We are happy to announce our latest release, right in time for the end of summer. This Marzen style lager was made as a Pro-Am Collab with our long time friend C3 Brewing😎. So grab your alpine hat and lederhosen’s and get on down to your local store to try out OxtoberFest👍!!!

Festooning (Märzen) | Grimm Artisanal Ales | Brooklyn, NY | 5.7% ABV

I’ve had a couple of Grimm’s lagers over the past few months (including a fantastic Vienna Lager), so I’m hoping their take on this most traditional of German lagers reaches NJ.

What Grimm says about the beer:

We are so excited to release Festooning, our first Oktoberfest Märzen-style lager. Like our pilsners, this amber lager was brewed with a traditional step mash process. The grist is a rich combination of German Vienna and Munich II malts that give warm notes of honey, caramel, and a fresh-baked loaf of seeded bread. Malty-sweet flavor with a crisp body and a subtle balancing bitterness make this an über satisfying Oktoberfest.

Mr. Oktoberfest (Märzen) | Icarus Brewing Company | Lakewood, NJ | 5.4% ABV

I shared a crowler of this one a couple of years ago, so I’m hoping cans of this one make it out to distribution again. As a NY Yankees fan, how do I not like a beer with this name and great can art?

What Icarus says about the beer:

Our 5.4% traditional German Lager was brewed with German Vienna and Dark Munich malts, then delicately hopped with Hallertauer Mittlefrueh. After Lagering for over a month in our tanks this enticingly malty yet easy drinking beer brings notes of Freshly Baked Bread, Caramel and just enough noble hops to mellow out the experience. Just in time to enjoy in your Beer Tent, this amber medium bodied beauty demands we say Prost and enjoy!

Drachenstadt – Festbier (Märzen) | Levante Brewing Company | West Chester, PA | 4.8% ABV

Levante gets some distribution here into New Jersey so I’m hoping I’ll see this beer. With a dragon theme in the beer and the label, I feel extremely compelled to try it.

Levante says this about the beer:

To go toe-to-claw with a dragon it helps to possess courage, even if it’s in liquid form. With a selection of five specialty malts, cold fermented and lagered to perfection, our Marzen style beer brings forth a depth and drinkable character not usually found in today’s festbiers. You’ll have courage to spare!

Ramstein Oktoberfest Lager (Märzen) | Ramstein/High Point Brewing Company | Hackettstown, NJ | 6% ABV

ramstein_Oktoberfest2021

Perhaps the most traditional and iconic Oktoberfest brewed in NJ. Like many of the beers brewed out of High Point Brewing in Butler, NJ, this was only available at the brewery. Last year, Ramstein canned the beer for the first time and sent the cans out to some stores in the State. I’m hoping that happens again this year, because I only had this beer once, many years ago at a beer festival but it left a strong impression.

What Ramstein says about the beer:

Inspired by the authentic German Oktoberfest beer from the early 1900s. This amber lager has a rich malty aroma, a smooth toasty palate, and subtle noble hop finish.

The richness and spiciness of this beer makes it the perfect accompaniment to robust meats and grilled fare. Ramstein Oktoberfest is a great beer for any festive occasion.

Draught Diversions: August2021 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

2021_Aug_SixPack

The last full month of summer brings an interesting mix of beers I’ve chosen to highlight. A couple are here more for their uniqueness rather than how much I enjoyed them. Frankly, a big source of my summer beer consumption is pulled from the beer brought to the house on the Fourth of July as I’ve noted in previous round-up posts for July and August. Overall, 2 Barleywines (yeah, in the summer no less!), 1 Lager, 1 Pale Ale, 1 Pilsner, 1 Berliner Weisse, with 4 NJ beers.

Stacking Casks (Kane Brewing Company) | Barleywine – English | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane_Stacking05

They say summer is for lagers and summer crushers, but this is the 3rd new Barleywine I’ve had since memorial day and it is outstanding. The majority of barleywines I’ve consumed have been from Kane and they’ve all been great, this one might be the best. I like the subtle elements from the cognac/wine aging. There’s some hints of fruit and spice as well.

Watercolors Creamee – Raspberry, Blueberry, Cheesecake, Cream & Milk Sugar (Skygazer Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Berliner Weisse | no rating on untappd

20210808_193549

This beer is one of the rare beers I did not rate on untappd. I can’t say I enjoyed this beer, but it was interesting and worth mentioning. I like Berliner Weisses quite a bit, but this liquid…I’m not sure how it is considered beer. The only thing this seems to have in common with beer, in the Tap Takeover’s humble opinion, is that it is liquid with a percentage of alcohol content. I never thought I’d have a beer made with cheesecake, but this was a leftover from 4th of July so I figured I’d try it.

200_d

The quote from Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park) comes to mind, but apply it to brewers: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” These “smoothie/smoovie/smoojie” beers are very popular and some of the most sought after styles, but not with the Tap Takeover.

Ray Catcher (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Lager – American | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

JacksAbby_RayCatcher-Pool

I think I found my favorite “new to me” beer for the summer because this is a superb lager. Jack’s Abby never fails to disappoint me and this beer was better than I expected it would be. Extremely refreshing and flavorful, the addition of lemongrass gives the beer a citrusy cooling finish that epitomizes what a warm-weather beer should be. I hope this one comes back in summer 2022 in a 12 pack.

Corned Beef Pale Ale (Spellbound Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 3.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Spellbound_CornedBeef

Here’s another beer making an appearance more for the novelty than the quality. It isn’t a bad beer at all, but it sure is an interesting beer not quite like any beer I’ve had before. Unlike that red thing I highlighted at the top of this post, this actually tastes like a beer. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I could have more than one or two of the beers. The pickling spices definitely play well with the hops and really smack the taste buds.

Fraxinus Maple Syrup Barrel Aged (Ashton Brewing Company) | Barleywine – Other | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Ashton_FraxinumsMaple

A fourth barleywine for the summer, courtesy of Ashton Brewing. I enjoyed the non-barrel-aged version last month and I picked up this bottle a couple of months back (along with a second bottle for Father’s Day for my dad). There’s a really nice balance between the hop bitterness and sweetness from the maple, with the maple emerging more as the beer warms. That said, I think I liked the non-barrel-aged version slightly more.

Lagerhythm (Brix City Brewing) | Pilsner – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

BrixCity_Lagerhythm

Brix City is known primarily for their fruited sours and IPAs, so I was quite pleased to see this “Continental” Pilsner appear in one of my local beer shops. I was very impressed with this beer, which is extremely flavorful at such a low ABV. The beer doesn’t disappoint and shows that the of the brewers of Brix City are extremely talented across styles, especially a style whose (potential) mistakes can’t be hidden with adjuncts and more hops.

Like I said, the pickings were a bit slimmer with new beers this month. With the summer and pool open, I tend to refill the cooler with familiar beers and favorites.

Draught Diversions: July 2021 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

2021_July_SixPack

July has come and gone and with it, the annual family Fourth of July party, which was a contributor to this month’s six pack. It is often hit or miss with the beers my family and friends bring, but this year, there were more hits than misses. This is the first six pack in months with no lager and outside of one beer, all are hop forward (Pale Ales or IPAs).

Forever Forward (Icarus Brewing) | IPA – Imperial/Double New England | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

As it so happens, this was the 50th beer I had from Icarus Brewing. As it also happens, it is the best IPA I’ve had from them and maybe one of my top IPAs of all time. I like the hop selection (Citra and Motueka) and what I appreciate is that they used wheat and oats to soften the body of the beer rather than lactose. Plus, how do you not like that Back to the Future inspired can art?

Your Lips are Bloody! (Ashton Brewing) | IPA – Sour | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

One of Ashton’s flagship beers is their IPA, “Your Lips are Juicy,” which I featured about a year ago. That was a very good beer. This is a version of the beer with Blood Oranges and is even better. This beer was originally produced for Halloween 2020, but proved so popular it was brewed and canned again. The blood oranges both accentuate the citrus element inherent in the hops and since blood oranges are even sweeter than regular oranges, that sweetness counters the hop bitterness. A delicious IPA

Blueberry Lemon Crushin’ It (Cape May Brewing Co.) | IPA – American| 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Cue the Whitesnake song because here we go with a variant of a beer I’ve previously featured at the Tap Takeover. Blueberry is one of my favorite fruits and when balanced with lemon makes for a very refreshing flavor profile. This beer is stronger on the blueberry element than the hops element, but is very tasty. Maybe not quite as good as the original “Orange Crushin’ It,” but still a beer I enjoyed thoroughly and would enjoy poolside all summer.

Patriot (Battle River Brewing) | IPA – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

When you have an annual Fourth of July party and your party-goers know you like beer, they tend to bring beer. Fortunately, there’s a gem of a beer I haven’t had like this IPA from Battle River Brewing. This is a very well-made, straight-forward, no-frills CLEAR IPA. Sometimes, the relatively simple beers are just what hits the spot, and this IPA delivers in spades. Good stuff

Subtle Symphony (Conclave Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd


I met up with a good friend to visit the two closest breweries to me, Conclave being one of them. This is a delicious, flavorful, low ABV (4.5%) pale ale that I could drink all day. Slightly hop-forward, fully refreshing. This would be a good beer for them to can.

Uncharted Waters Raspberry Gose (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone continues to impress me with everything the brew. They’ve been making great sour ales over the better part of the last year. Fruited sours in particular have been impressing me so I was very happy to see them finally put one of their sour ales in a four-pack of cans. Goses are maybe the sour beers I like most, the salinity on the finish works for me and it plays really nicely with the sweet and tart nature of the raspberries. A very well-crafted beer.

Draught Diversions: Alternate Ending Beer Co. (Aberdeen, NJ)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

AE_FBLogo

Breweries take a lot of time and money to plan before they are ready to open for business. There’s often a long tail from the time an idea forms to any site work begins until beer is poured at the opening. More often than not, there are delays for various reasons like permits or bad weather. Or “Acts of God” like a Pandemic. So here we are at the Tap Takeover featuring another brewery – brewpub – with the unfortunate timing to open during the COVD-19 Pandemic in 2020. Today’s featured brewery: Alternate Ending Beer Co. in Aberdeen, NJ.

Owner/Founder/CEO Scott Novick had built up his knowledge and experience in both the entertainment and brewing industries prior to planning out Alternate Ending Beer Co. He worked at VH1 (MTV’s sister channel) and then worked at Jughandle Brewing in nearby Tinton Falls then at Other Half in Brooklyn, one of the hottest breweries on the East Coast. Other Half’s beers, particularly their hop-forward beers and big stouts, have long been sought after in the beer trading community. Sustaining that job, driving from Monmouth County to Brooklyn was a challenge, so Scott figured he’d open a brewery much closer to home. When the BowTie cinemas on Route 34 in Aberdeen became available as a location, Scott has his spot. Going with the name of Alternate Ending plays on the movie theater theme as do many of the beer names.

AE_Front
Image Courtesy of Alternate Ending’s Facebook

Scott also hired Brendon Arnold as his head brewery, a fellow New Jersey native who has a wealth of experience, largely in Kansas at Gella’s Diner + LB Brewing. I visited to Alternate Ending Beer Co. for their New Jersey Craft Beer night on July 13 and as part of the “event,” members of NJCB were offered a tour of the brew facility. (I should have taken pictures!) Brendan spent some time talking through his brew process and his more scientific/technical approach, given his education at the Siebel Institute of Technology, America’s premier brewing education institute. He mentioned that one of the beers on tap that day, a delicious Saison brewed in collaboration with Screamin’ Hill Brewery in Cream Ridge, NJ, was also being aged in wine barrels. That Saison, Decocted Saison (pictured below) was one of the beers I sampled during my time at the brewery and it was fantastic – earthy and true to style with the yeast elements, and even more pleasant thanks to the wildflower honey added during the brewing process.

AE_Decocted

Brendan also mentioned the “partnership” Alternate Ending has with Asbury Park Distillery. Alternate Ending gets used barrels from Asbury Park to age their beers, they’ve got some stouts in oak barrels, and once those are emptied of the beer, Asbury Park takes the barrels back and ages their spirits in the double-used barrels. Another beer I sampled (before the tour) was Rye Imperial Stout – 1 Month Version (pictured below) which was aged for only a month in Penelope Rye barrels along with Tahitian Vanilla. The amount of barrel flavor imparted after just a month was quite impressive: a rich, decadent stout with hints of vanilla, the beer is simply delicious.

AE_RyeImp

The first beer I had; though, was the beer that is their best seller – Royal Rug (pictured below) a German-style pilsner, meaning it is slightly hoppier than its Czech cousin. I ordered the beer in the “Slow Pour” method, which typically takes 5-7 minutes to pour the full beer. The slow pour method allows the carbonation to be softer, a much fluffier head with the ultimate result of a beer a bit more flavorful than a standard pour thanks to warming a bit to room temperature, allowing the flavors to breathe and the flavors become more stable in general.

AE_RoyalRug_Slow
A beautiful slow pour with a nice peak.

In talking to Brendan about the beer, he mentioned he expected to go through a couple of “beta” versions of the beer since the equipment was different than he’d long been accustomed to using and Pilsners typically are a style that requires extreme precision. As it turned out, Brendan’s years of experience paid off because he told me the version of Royal Rug on draft was the very first version of the recipe he brewed for Alternate Ending, it was unchanged. I can’t see why anything should change about that beer, it was fantastic. Brendan also mentioned the Rauchbier he brewed and hoped it would be a feature on “This Week in Rauchbier: The world’s most important, long running, and most awarded show dedicated to smoked beer.”

AlternateEnding_Labels
An assortment of Alternate Ending labels on the door of their cooling room

With the location having roots as a popular movie theater, there are quite a few nods to that history. Movie posters, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show adorn the wall and images form movies as well. As I said, the names often call out to specific movies, like their recent Helles Lager, Willy’s Gold as an homage to The Goonies or the beer I reviewed earlier this week, Amity Beer a call out to Jaws; Chuckle Heads is a call out to one of my favorite film makers and geeky celebrities – Kevin Smith’s popular Jay and Silent Bob duo; Bad Mother Force User is an homage to Samuel L. Jackson and two of his most famous roles, Mace Windu and Jules from Pulp Fiction, Sloane Knew a shout out to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and son.. Movies will be shown, too! There are even seats from the old movie theater.

KevinSmith_ChuckleHeads
The great Kevin Smith holding “Chuckle Heads,” the beer made in homage to him! Image courtesy of Alternate Ending’s Facebook

Since opening in late 2020, Alternate Ending has been releasing cans of their beers and many of them have been selling out via BeerBroadcast.com. As brew-pub, they’ve partnered with Talula’s Pizza in Asbury Park and as America wearily emerges from the Pandemic, more patrons have been able to get the full experience of the brewpub. During my visit, the dining area was largely filled with many patrons eating what looked to be tasty food and what I know to be well-crafted beers. The partnership is a natural one that speaks to the local/independent ethos of craft beer. Scott Novick was a fan of Talula’s Pizza so it was a perfect fit.

AE_JayBob
One of the pieces of movie memorabilia that adorns the walls, this from Kevin Smith’s “Mallrats.”

I’ve attended a few of these “NJCB Member Event” nights in the past at Jersey Cyclone (Somerset, NJ), Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ), and Wet Ticket (Rahway, NJ). Mike K., the man behind New Jersey Craft Beer does a fantastic job of rallying the NJ beer community and given this recent event was on a Monday night, the turnout was quite impressive. I also had the chance to chat with Al Gatullo and his friend (also named Rob), of the great Al Gatullo Craft Beer Cast for a bit since we have bumped into each other at these events in the past. The event at Alternate Ending was another awesome night, a good opportunity to connect face to face with people I’ve only seen on social media, and reconnect with a few people face to face I haven’t seen since the pandemic began.

Delicious beer, great atmosphere, awesome theme, and excellent people – that sounds like a great start for Alternate Ending to me! I know I’ll be visiting again and next time, I plan on enjoying some of that famous Talula’s Pizza and definitely another slow-pour of Royal Rug.

Some other links of interest and sources of information for this post:

Alternate Ending Beer Co. Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Alternate Ending Beer Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

AE_InstagramPost

Draught Diversions: June 2021 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

SixPack_2021_06.jpg

With June completed, we are officially half-way through 2021, which is a great thing because 2021 hasn’t been the best of years for various personal reasons. Minor surgery in January, broken appliance in January, health issues with our dog Sully throughout the year who passed away after 11 wonderful years with us in May. June is already looking better since my wife and welcomed a new dog into our home to close out the month as summer is upon us. One of the constants has been good beer, so let’s have a look at my top 6 picks for the month of June 2021.

Hearthland (Conclave Brewing) | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave_Hearthland

Two consecutive months with a beer from Conclave…and in the same style! One of the great things about Conclave’s physical expansion is that they’ve been afforded the ability to play with styles, like oak-aged ales. This Farmhouse beer is a delight. Extremely refreshing with notes of lemongrass and honey, with the barrel character coming through in hints of oak and vanilla. This is a fun, tasty beer, and hopefully a sign of things to come from Conclave.

5th Anniversary Sundial – Chronosaur (Czig Meister Brewing) | IPA – Sour | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Czig_Chronosaur

It was great to visit Czig Meister for the Fifth Anniversary party since I made it to the 3rd Anniversary. Obviously, there was no 4th Anniversary celebration due to the pandemic. I visited this time around with a great friend, which always makes these things a little better. Four anniversary beers were released and this was my favorite, it has the hoppiness of an IPA, but some fruited elements, a bit of sour pucker, and some sweetness from a hit of lactose. A “Sour IPA” is far from my chosen style, but this beer was delicious. Czig Meister brews quite a few beers in the “Sour IPA” style in their Sundial series so I may sample more in the futre

Uncharted Waters: Mango Lassi (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

JerseyCyclone_MangoLassi

Another Jersey Cyclone beer! One style they’ve shown exceptionally adept at crafting is fruited sours. This particular beer is a perfect example. It doesn’t hurt that I love Mango, so this beer hit many great notes for me. The mango is potent, there’s definitely a sourness, and that is all balanced with an addition of lactose. This beer is just more proof of how great Jersey Cyclone is in a variety of style.

Smoke & Dagger (Jack’s Abbey Craft Lagers) | Lager – Dark | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

JacksAbby_Smoke

Here’s the lone non-NJ beer and it sure is an interesting one. I’m not so much into Smoked beers, but everything I’ve had from Jack’s Abby has been superb and I really enjoy dark lagers. The smoked malt element is definitely present, but it isn’t like your breathing in a campfire. Rather, the smokiness gives off a very nice sweetness that is quite pleasant. Maybe sweet like smoked bacon? I don’t know, but I enjoy this beer the more I have it.

What About Us (Untied Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Untied_WhatAboutUs

I met up with my parents at Untied for an early Father’s Day since Untied is relatively midway for us and my dad and I both thoroughly enjoy the beers from the New Providence brewery. I figured I’d go with an IPA since their IPAs have a good reputation and I’ve only had one of their hop-forward beers. Since this beer has the Vic Secret hop (a favorite hop of mine), the decision was easy and well-rewarded. This is a dynamite beer with strong hop elements on the front end and none of the unpleasant bitterness on the finish. That lack of bitterness could be due to the beer being finished on honey, but the tropical elements of the New England style IPA are on full, delicious display in this beer.

Polyphonic (Ashton Brewing Company) | Pilsner – German | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

Ashton_Poly

Ashton Brewing is growing into one of the best Lager brewers in the State of New Jersey. Their first Pilsner, Jersey Dreamin’ was great, so early on Ashton showed a deft hand at brewing. Polyphonic is just as good, maybe even a little bit better. Such a clean, crisp pilsner is an example of why Pilsner became such a beloved style and another winner from Ashton Brewing.

Only one dud for the whole month, but I’ll keep that under wraps and close the post with positivity and a picture of Dusty, our new puppy! Our previous dog, Sully, was named after Sully Erna, the lead singer of one of our favorite bands, Godsmack. Dusty, is an abbreviation of one of our other favorite bands, Sevendust.

20210627_102114.jpg

SixPack_2021_06.jpg

Draught Diversions: Brewery Ommegang Visit

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

I’m going to change up the formula just a little bit for this Draught Diversions installment. Often, when I write about breweries, the breweries are somewhat smaller, not nationally distributed, and “hyper-local.” Brewery Ommegang isn’t exactly small, they are one of the iconic American breweries, and I’ve written about them quite extensively in the past. For this installment; however, I’ll be writing about the visit and experience, while spotlighting the delicious beers, and skip the history of the brewery which typically comprises a significant portion of these posts. Chances are, if you are reading this beer blog, you have an inkling of Brewery Ommegang’s history, or you can check out my write up on the American Craft Beer Classic Abbey Dubbel, which goes into a bit of the brewery’s history.

Ommegang_TapHouseMy wife and I decided to take a trip for our 21st anniversary. We hadn’t gone on an overnight trip in years because of our beloved dog Sully, but sweet Sully passed away on May 4 at 11 years old after a long fight with various health issues. We miss her every day. But enough sadness…

We figured we had the opportunity to travel since the pandemic is slowing, and we are both vaccinated so it made sense. We are both huge baseball fans and Leslie wanted to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame for many years and I hadn’t visited in about 20 years. The Baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, NY, which is also the home of Brewery Ommegang. No brainer, right? Right.

The first noticeable thing about the brewery is that its location could be described as “just West of the middle of nowhere.” That is not a knock by any means because the setting and location is absolutely gorgeous, one of the most comforting and beautiful brewing facilities I’ve had the opportunity to visit. Leslie and I took to the outdoor café to soak in the relaxing atmosphere and were greeted by Samantha, our charming and lovely server/waitress. I knew a couple of the beers I wanted to sample (Idyll Days Pilsner; Double Barrel Dubbel, and Super Kriek), but I needed some guidance on filling out the flight. Samantha suggested the Rose Cider, and on the whole, it was a fantastic flight. Idyll Days was a delicious pilsner with some of the Belgian yeast character. Second sample was that Cider and it was a great taste for the beautiful day. Third up was the barrel aged Abbey Dubbel, a complex, rich take on their classic Abbey Dubbel with the barrel hints and for some reason, hints of coconut; all welcome in an already delicious base beer. I finished off the flight with Super Kriek (2021), which is cherry Lambic-Style ale, sweet, tart, and delicious.

OmmegangFlight

The food we ordered was savory and deliciously crafted. My wife had the pork belly sandwich and I had one of the best Chicken and Waffles meals I ever had. I know Leslie’s pork belly sandwich was out of this word because I tried a few bites! My flight was over, and Samantha came back to check on us. She had earlier recommended Apripeche, a fruited sour with Peach and Apricot as a great summer beer. Well, it was summer, so I took her advice and boy howdy was I pleased. Apripeche is one of the most refreshing fruited beers I’ve had. Sometimes the atmosphere and timing of having a beer helps the enjoyment, and sitting in this gorgeous brewery, with my beautiful wife, and perfect day only increased how great the beer was.

Ommegang_Apripeche
Apripiche is the perfect summer beer, I’m hoping to get some for my poolside cooler this year.

We were winding down out time at the café (we did drive about 3½ hours to get to Cooperstown, after all), and as we moseyed on out, I decided to have a full pour of Idyll Days Pilsner, because it was such a fantastic and different pilsner than I’d had before.

Ommegang_IdyllDays
A full pour of delicious Idyll Days Pilsner.

We strolled through the gift shop and I decided to grab my favorite Game of Thrones beer to go, Valar Doheris, which is a Belgian-style Tripel. I enjoyed splitting the bottle the following day with a good friend. I was reminded, upon pouring and enjoying the beer, that Valar Doheris is one of the best Tripels I’ve ever had, hands down. Rich, potent Belgian style yeast with esters evoking hints of clove and banana make for a world-class take on the renowned Belgian style. Simply an out of this world beer.

Ommegang_ValarDoheris

As I mentioned in one of my early blog posts, Brewery Ommegang had been near the top of my bucket list breweries to visit. To say that the visit – on every single level – far exceeded my expectations is an understatement. Gorgeous location, world-class beers, some of the most welcoming people I’ve met working at a brewery, and sumptuous food, make Brewery Ommegang, and their Tap House and absolute must visit.

Ommegang_InstagramCollage