Draught Diversions: A 6-Pack to Bring Back

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…

When I learned recently that my go-to Summer beer was being discontinued (Yeungling Summer Wheat, a solid mass produced Hefeweizen), it got me thinking, and thinking rather forlornly. Sometimes a brewery releases a beer you really enjoy, maybe it was a seasonal, maybe it was a beer in regular rotation. Then the season comes for the beer to hit the shelves and you find out the brewery ceased production on those beers or the beer just goes out of rotation. Or, even sadder, the brewery is no longer in business. I’ve come up with a 6 pack of beers I wish would return. One of these I’ve had since joining untappd so it hasn’t been too too long since a couple disappeared, while others have been absent from taps and liquor stores for many years.

Dogfish Head Raison D’Être

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head

I know Samuel Adams was the brewery that drew many people, including me, to craft beer 20-ish years ago, but Dogfish is one that showed all the interesting things that could be done in beer. This beer is a classic and at the time I first had it and continued to buy it, I didn’t know the difference between a stout and Belgian Strong Ale, which is what this beer is considered. I just knew that the peculiar ingredients for a beer (at the time) which include Beet sugar and raisons (coupled with the Belgian yeast) made for a rich beer that I thoroughly enjoyed. As the link above describes the beer: “A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beet sugars and green raisins.” This one appears on beermenus occasionally and may show up at Dogfish tap takeovers, but damn would I love to see a six pack of this in my local bottle shop. I think the last time I had it was probably at least five years ago.

Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat

Original label with iconic Long Trail bear mascot

For years for this slightly fruited wheat ale from Vermont was a perennial summer favorite; it was very refreshing, perfect for enjoying pool-side, or in the yard after a hard day’s yardwork. There was a big uproar as this great All About Beer article points out when the beer was pulled from production/circulation in 2014 after being the brewery’s #2 seller at one point in time. I know technically this beer returned in cans a year or two ago, but I don’t think the beer made it to NJ. At least no stores around me seemed to carry it.

Can redesign. Still haven’t seen this in NJ

There was a time I’d see Long Trails tasty beers all over the place (this along with Double Bag and Triple Bag are favorites) but not quite as much in recent years. I would always keep Blackberry Wheat and Sam’s Summer Ale in constant rotation from Memorial Day to Labor Day and found their Survival Pack (which included BBW) to be a great variety pack to pick up at a moment’s notice when people came over in the summer.

 

Pete’s Wicked Summer Brew

Ah, Pete’s Wicked, one of the sadder stories in American Craft Beer. They were 1 and 2 with Samuel Adams, as I recall, in the mid to late 90s craft beer movement. I even remember the radio commercial for “Pete’s Wicked Summer Breeewww” and thanks to YouTube, the humorous folksy TV ads featuring brewer/owner Pete Slosberg. The lineup of Pete’s Wicked included the flagship Brown Ale, a delicious Summer Wheat and a Strawberry Ale. As the link to All About Beer indicates, the name was sold to Gambrinus a number of years ago so it is doubtful the brand or the beers will return. For many people my age (and older) Pete’s Wicked Ale will conjure up pleasant memories of when the American Craft Beer scene when it was in its youth, maybe less confusing, and with an unknowable level of growth potential.

Samuel Adams Honey Porter

This was one of the first dark beers I remember enjoying and for the years it was available, my favorite year-round offering form the Boston Beer company. It was brought back a couple of times after it was discontinued in 2000, once and in six packs in 2007 and again as part of a “Brewmasters collection” in 2010. I know my tastes have slightly changed since I last had the beer (I wouldn’t go near an IPA back then) but Porters are still a preferred style, so I would hope the suck fairy wouldn’t strike if this beer were to be available again.

Basically, the suck fairy is what happens when you revisit an old favorite and it turns out not to live up to the high regard in which you hold it in your memory.

Tilburg’s Dutch Brown Ale

I’m not sure the last time I saw this one or had it, but it had to be about 10 years ago, at the most recent, but I recall that Weird eye-catching bottle art from Hieronymus Bosch drew me to the beer, initially. There was a very good bottle shop on my way home from work that allowed you to make mixed six packs, and this was before I was aware of Wegman’s. I remember grabbing one for the mix and after enjoying it getting it regularly on its own. Even before I realized how much I enjoyed Belgian beers, I was enjoying a brown Belgian ale. As it so happens, I now work within walking distance to that same liquor store.

Brewed by Koningshoeven brewery (A.K.A. La Trappe, one of the great Trappest breweries) in the Netherlands, this beer was just a Belgian Brown. But it was so much more unique than the Brown Ales I knew of at the time (Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog and Newcastle) and made me feel fancy whenever I drank it.

Wolaver’s Organic Wildflower Wheat

I’ve made it pretty clear here at the Tap Takeover how much I enjoy wheat ales and for a few years, so multiple wheat ales on a post like this shouldn’t surprise anybody. I’ve only had a few from the venerable Vermont brewery and this was far and above my favorite. It was a great warm weather ale and had an extra hit of honey to balance out the whole flavor profile. Otter Creek discontinued the Wolaver’s Organic line of beers (including a very tasty Pumpkin Ale as well as a Coffee Porter called “Alta Gracia Coffee Porter”) a few years ago and seems to be focusing more on beers with strong hop profiles in recent years, so I doubt this beer will be coming back, but it was fantastic. I had it three times while on untappd, each time on draft, and it was perfect on those warm August nights.

The beer was described as: Wildflower wheat is a delicious unfiltered wheat ale brewed with organic chamomile flowers and a hint of pure organic Vermont honey.

So to close out with a final thought, here’s my ranking, from most likely to least likely, of the chances of these beers returning:

  1. Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat
  2. Dogfish Head Raison D’Être
  3. Samuel Adams Honey Porter
  4. Tilburg Dutch Brown Ale
  5. Wolaver Organic Wildflower Wheat
  6. Pete’s Wicked Summer Ale

So there you have it, 6 beers out of circulation/production I would drink right now. Any favorites you, my fine readers, wish would return?

Styles in Focus: Bock Beers

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…

Bock, it sounds cool. Also, “Bock” rhymes with the Rock and he’s cool. However, not many people gravitate to the style, in today’s IPA-centric beer world. Could it be the goat? You’ll often see a goat on the bottle, label, or associated with some bocks. The goat is associated with the style because the brewers who came up with the style in Einbeck, Bavaria had a thick accent. As such, citizens of Munich pronounced “Einbeck” as “ein Bock” (“a billy goat”), and thus the beer became known as “bock”. To this day, as a visual pun, a goat often appears on bock labels. (Wikipedia)  But what *is* a bock beer?

Image courtesy of wikimedia commons

The simple answer is: A lager, but more so. Like stouts or IPAs, styles of Ales which themselves have several varieties, a Bock is a style of Lager which has several varieties (general from lowest in alcohol to highest in alcohol): Bock, Helles Bock/Maibock, Dopplebock, Weizenbock, and Eisbock. I’ll give a little highlight/overview of each variation and some example beers, including some I’ve had as well as some I hope to have some day.

Bock (List Bocks on Beer Advocate)

Image courtesy of Shiner

Bocks are a lagered style of beer that are heavier on malt than a standard Lager. A straightforward Bock will generally be sweeter than the standard lager, too. That malt and sweet profile often present in a caramel-like flavor that can also evoke nutty flavors. Perhaps the most widely known straight-up Bock is Shiner Bock the flagship lager from Spoetzl Brewery, one of the largest Texas breweries [distributed to 49 states] and the Lone Star State’s oldest. I’ve had it a few times and thought it was OK. Of the beers considered a standard Bock the one I’ve enjoyed the most is Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, which for me is always a highlight beer in their Winter/Holiday pack. The sweetness level is increased by aging the beer on cocoa nibs to produce a sweet, tasty beer that makes for a nice dessert beer. They also brewed a Cherry Chocolate Bock in the past, which I hope returns. Typical ABV for Bocks is in the 5% range

Maibock / Helles Bock (List of Maibocks / Helles Bocks on Beer Advocate)

From my most recent untappd check in of Dead Guy

From the beers I’ve enjoyed, I don’t notice too much of a difference between a Bock and a Helles/Maibock, except for an increase in maltiness. Traditionally, a Maibock is a spring lager, but usually what differentiates the Helles or Maibock from the Bock is a slightly stronger hop presence. I called out the classic German Hofbräu Maibock in my Spring beer post, but perhaps the most widely know Maibock/Helles Bock from an American brewer is the iconic Dead Guy from Rogue Ales. Abita, Louisiana’s biggest craft brewery, celebrates Mardi Gras by producing Mardi Gras Bock every year. Summit Brewing, one of the larger breweries in Minnesota, produces a MaiBock, too. With a slightly stronger hop presence, the ABV can be a little higher. For example, Rogue’s Dead Guy ABV clocks in at 6.8%.

Dopplebock (List of Dopplebocks on Beer Advocate)

Image courtesy of Ayinger

As the sound of the name may lead you to believe, is an amped up, or doubled, version of a standard Bock. Even maltier and sweeter than a Bock, the beer evokes more of a bready taste and flavor with the ABV up to 12% range. Of the varieties of Bocks being brewed, Dopplebocks seem to be the most prevalent/popular.

Some of the darker Dopplebocks may have hints of fruit or chocolate in the flavor profile or even use chocolate and/or fruit in the brewing process.  Like the traditional association of goats with bocks, there is a tradition of adding the suffix “-ator” to Dopplebocks. This is because one of the first Dopplebocks was called “Salvator” (or Savior) and most breweries who brew a Dopplebock as part of their brewing portfolio use “-ator” in the name. One of the best in the world is Ayinger’s Celebrator, which I had once and need to have again. Unsurprisingly, Wehenstephaner’s Korbinian is an outstanding example of the style and New Jersey’s own Ramstein Winter Wheat is one of the most coveted American interpretations of the style (and probably one of the 10 best beers I ever had). I reviewed one of the more widely available (at least along the East Coast of America) Dopplebocks, Troegantor Doublebock.

Weizenbock (List of Weizenbocks on Beer Advocate)

Perhaps my favorite of the bock styles is the weizenbock, or as translated, “wheat bock.” The description, as untappd suggests, can be considered a “bigger and beefier version of a dunkelweizen.” When crafted well, a Weizenbock can evoke the best of two beers – the malt and stone fruits evoked by Dopplebocks coupled with the clove and banana evocations of a Dunkelweizen or Hefeweizen. Some say (actually, All About Beer, specifically) that a Weizenbock is a “perfect marriage of styles.”

It would probably be expected that German brewers excel in this style. The aforementioned Weihenstephaner brews a great one in Vitus (pictured above, borrowed from their website is probably my favorite) and Schneider Weisse (who brew mostly wheat beers) have a few excellent Weizenbocks in their portfolio, including Mein Aventinus (TAP 6), Marie’s Rendezvous (TAP X), and a collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery called Meine Hopfenweisse. Of the US breweries, Victory’s Moonglow Weizenbock is one of my annual fall favorites and Neshaminy Creek’s Neshaminator is also quite good.

Eisbock (List of Eisbocks on Beer Advocate)

From my untappd check-in, September 2015

Lastly, we have the mistake beer, if beer lore and legend are to be believed and perhaps the rarest style of beer. According to the legend, a young brewery work fell asleep during a brew and part of the water froze leaving a much stronger Bock than the young brewer or his boss could ever imagine. The resulting Eisbock is one of the richest, most sumptuous beers brewed.

Image courtesy of Founders

The “Eis” in the name is from partially freezing a dopple and extracting the H2O ice, which allows the alcohol to have a much more noticeable presence and a deeper brownish/reddish hue and an overall thicker beer. You could also say a Belgian Quadrupel is similar to an Eisbock, in some ways. Like a Quadrupel, an Eisbock possesses a much stronger stone fruit/plum and sugary taste. Some may potentially find it cloying if they aren’t expecting it, but the sole Eisbock I had from the great aforementioned Schneider Weisse, Aventinus, is also one of the 10 or so best beers I ever had. Ramstein brews one (as recently as January 2018 at 16.5%), they call Eis Storm Eisbock while Tank Bender is the occasional Eisbock (aged in bourbon barrels!) produced by Founders which I would absolutely love to try, but I think the most recent brewing of it was a brewery-only release. Another well regarded Eisbock from Germany is Kulmbacher Eisbock which I want yesterday. The style is also supposedly illegal in some ways…

freezing a beer and removing more than 0.5% of its volume is illegal without a license. There’s an email exchange between someone at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and a brewer, posted in a Reddit r/homebrewing discussion that makes this pretty clear.

So, making Eisbock by removing more than 0.5% water volume is basically illegal. But, it is also openly brewed by several craft breweries, and it seems the TTB knows about this craft beer level production, but has chosen not to act on said knowledge.

So there you have it, 5 varieties of one style – the Bock Beer. More popular (I assume) in Europe, especially Germany and its neighbors, but a style with a wealth of flavor profiles that illustrates how much can be done even with a less popular (not-quite-obscure) brewing style.

Draught Diversions: Jersey Girl Brewing Co.

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…

The final brewery of “Hackettstown Trio” of NJ Craft breweries gets the Draught Diversion treatment today. Of course, I am referring to Jersey Gril Brewing Company who just celebrated two years of being in business and selling beer in their taproom this past weekend (April 7). Unfortunately, I was not able to attend their anniversary party, but I did visit Jersey Girl back in November 2017 when I visited Manskirt and Czig Meister.

Like many breweries, owners and friends Chuck Aaron and Mike Bigger started were homebrewers, after they met in the community of Mount Olive and found they shared a passion for good-tasting beer. They wanted to provide a beer destination locals could enjoy and their involvement in the community can be seen on their Facebook page.

Jersey Girl began brewing beer and distributing in 2014, but the build-out of the tap-room took another two years. When Jersey Girl opened its doors to the public in April 2016, the brewery started fairly strongly, I think I recall seeing their great, eye-catching logo at least one (probably more) Garden State Brewfests, maybe in 2015 and definitely in 2016 when I had their well-made Amber Ale. Their brewing capabilities have expanded since the initial opening, with overall volume increasing, as well as can production, which jumped from about 2,000 for a run/month to 20,000 cans per month. Additionally, the number of employees has more than doubled, from 5 to 12.

Sun Kissed Citra and Rake Breaker (Photo courtesy of Jersey Girl Facebook)

The brewery started out fairly aggressively with canning their beers, I recall seeing cans of their two flagship IPAs, Rake Breaker and Sun Kissed Citra in stores. Those two beers are also available in cans and on tap at the Prudential Center, home of my hockey team, The New Jersey Devils. In fact, Jersey Girl is currently the top-selling craft beer at the Prudential Center, according to the Brew Jersey article linked below. Let’s face it, Jersey Girl really should be available there, considering the name of he brewery. Even before the brewery officially opened, it was being recognized as the beer was highlighted online at NJ Monthly.

This awesome diagram/map of beer styles adorned one of the taproom walls.

The view from outside is very deceiving, especially from the road where the brewery is located. Whereas Czig Meister and Manskirt are quite visible, Jersey Girl is an office park environment. Like Kane and Conclave, you have to know to look for the brewery. That outer view of the brewery is in complete contrast to the taproom inside, which is inviting and very well-constructed. It feels almost like a neighborhood bar. There’s plenty of seating at the bar, at tables, and side tables where you can view the brewing equipment.

The evening of my visit, the brewery was quite busy. Admittedly, Jersey Girl was the last of five breweries I visited that day, so my perception may be slightly skewed. But the impression that sticks in my memory is of a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere where many people were chatting and getting along quite nicely.

The tap list for the night of my visit

The most important element of any brewery; as always, is the product/liquid/beer itself. As Chuck Araron says in the Daily Record article below, “It’s all about the beer. We’re in the beer business.” During my visit I had a flight of four beers on the lovely paddle in the shape of New Jersey pictured below. The first beer of the flight was King Gambrinus, an extremely well-made Belgian Tripel. Second was a big Coffee Stout, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee which was tasty bit slightly bitter and packed quite a punch at 10% ABV. The third beer in my flight was another Belgian offering, Abbey Dubbel Trouble, also well-made. Last was a very well-rounded porter, Madagascar. As the name implies, this beer is brewed with Madagascar Vanilla and the balance is spot-on. I’ve lamented vanilla beers that have way too much vanilla and this one doesn’t commit that sin.

Flight addles come in various shapes, this one in the shape of the State of NJ is one the cleverer paddles I’ve seen.

The brewery has been receiving accolades and awards over the past two years:

Photo courtesy of Jersey Girl Brewing’s Facebook page

Having just celebrated two years in business and open to the public, Jersey Girl is proving to be a strong presence in the growing New Jersey Craft Beer landscape. Beers that seem to be well received, averaging about 3.7 on untappd for their flagship IPAs Sun Kissed Citra and Rake Breaker, 3.99 for their Coffee Stout, and 3.87 for King Gambrinus. They brew two Hefeweizens in the summer, a standard Hef and one with Elderberry and Lemon, both of  which I can’t wait to try, a Pilsner (MO Pils, the MO for Mount Olive), and many more. Overall, I hope to see this brewery grow and expand their footprint in and outside of the State.

Jersey Girl regulary hosts events at their brewery, like the current trend of yoga and beer and of course, trivia nights.

Some other links of interest follow:

Draught Diversions: March 2018 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…

March has concluded, so it is time here at The Tap Takeover for me to post my March Six Pack. As always, I’ll assemble the six pack chronologically starting with the beer I had earliest in the month up to (in this case) a beer I had on the last day of the month. March was a bit darker, with a dip into some stouts/porters that are typically in my sweet spot breaking the IPA dominant trend from the previous two months.

Yeti (Great Divide Brewing Company) Stout – American Imperial / Double – 3.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I like stouts and imperial stouts, but not all are created equal and not all palates are created equal as this beer demonstrates. I realize the higher ABV stouts, like Yeti which clocks in at 9.5%, will have a high hop component (75 IBU) but for me, the hop presence was far too dominant. There’s also a strong licorice taste and I don’t like licorice. At all.

200th Anniversary Export Stout (Guinness) Stout – Foreign / Export– 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I mentioned this one in my St. Patrick’s Day post and I was very pleased with the beer. This is sweeter than the standard Guinness with a really nice chocolate and toffee thread of flavor in the beer. Like the majority of stouts, this beer became more flavorful as it warmed and the toffee/chocolate sweetness became really balanced. My wife also made outstanding Stout Chocolate cupcakes with this beer.

Wobbly Cow Coffee Milk Stout (Flying Fish Brewing Company) Stout – Milk / Sweet – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Flying Fish seems to be a regular on these posts. I follow Flying Fish on all their social media platforms and read about this beer which I initially thought was a brewery-only release, but I am very happy that I was proven wrong. This is perhaps the most subtle of any barrel-aged stout I’ve had, but it is wonderfully balanced. None of the many flavor components (coffee, chocolate, sweetness and rye whiskey) over power another and at 8% the beer won’t totally knock you out. The finish on this one is very clean.

Ship Wreck Porter (Carton Brewing Company) Porter – Imperial/Double – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

 

Carton just might be my favorite NJ brewery and porters just might be one of my favorite styles, so I’m basically programmed to like this beer. I haven’t had many beers aged in rum barrel so this was a bit of a twist on the barrel aging theme for me. Of course it was delicious because those are the only kinds of beers Carton knows how to make. The porter likely would have been good on its own, but the sweetness from the rum cut any of the smokiness that some porters can exhibit.

Centennial IPA (Founders Brewing Co.) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Founders is one of my favorite breweries, I’ve written about them quite often here and I’d avoided the IPA section of their portfolio for a while. That won’t be happening any longer. I’ve come to realize Centennial Hops are some of my favorite hops and that’s the hop that gives this one it’s flavor. I can see many of these in my future.

Westmalle Trappist Tripel (Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle) Belgian Tripel – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

This beer is quite simply, a world class ale. There are only 12 officially designated Trappist Breweries in the world and I’ve had two of the three ales from Westmalle. The Dubbel is really tasty, but this one is obviously more recent in my memory so it really stands out as something complex, delicious, and perhaps the epitome of what a Belgian Tripel should be. Most Trappist ales are sold in single bottles, but the approximate $4 to $6 price tag is oh so worth it. The Belgian yeast works wonders, the beer has some fruity elements as well as some spice elements that altogether make a fantastic, must-try beer.

Six beers, two from outside of the US, two from New Jersey, three stouts, one porter, one IPA, and one Belgian Tripel. Not a bad variety if I do say so myself.

Draught Diversions: Spring Fling 6 Pack

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…

Spring doesn’t exactly align with beer in the same way that Fall/Oktoberfest does, but there are two styles that signify spring in the beer world: Maibock (lager) and Saison/Farmhouse Ale. Spring officially began about a week or so ago, but with Easter this coming Sunday, I figured now would be a good time to assemble a Six Pack of Spring Beers. Seeing how this is one of my Six Pack posts, I’ll feature three beers of each style. I’ve only had half of the beers from today’s post so for the other three beers, I’m highlighting beers based on a combination of reputation and what appeals to me.

I’ll start with Saisons, one of the classic Belgian ales. I’ve only had a limited amount of saisons and that includes samples at breweries or beer festivals, so I am far from an expert on the style. However, one of my summer go-to beers is Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale. Basically, I’d like to sample more of this traditional style which  was made for farmworkers to enjoy as a refreshment during their days toiling out in the farmlands. Only one of the three I’m listing have I had more than once (and I really enjoyed it), so I’ll start there.

Worker’s Comp Saison – Two Roads Brewing Company (Stratford, CT)

How could I not include this beer from Two Roads? Especially considering head-brewer/owner Phil Markowski (as I may have mentioned in the past) literally wrote the book on Farmhouse Ales – Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition. I’ve had this offering from Two Roads a few times and it is always a dependable Ale. Workers Comp is a year-round beer and should be available through Two Roads’ (growing) distribution footprint but it is especially timely right now. At 4.8% ABV this beer is a sessionable ale, which is what a Farmhouse Ale/Saison should be considering the roots of the style.

Saison Dupont – Brasserie Dupont (Leuze-en-Hainaut, Belgium)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a Belgian Saison considering the style was invented in Belgium. If I’m going to go with a Belgain Farmhouse Ale, then I have to include Saison Dupont, from Brasserie Dupont. This is essentially the Farmhouse Ale that started it all and touted in a few places as the best beer in the world. I think this one is available in both 750ml bottles and 4-packs.

I haven’t had this one yet, but with how much I’ve been enjoying not just Belgian-style ales, but beers from Belgium lately, I may have to try it this spring.

Saison – Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Trying to whittle down the enumerable saisons available in the market down to one last interpretation of the beer is a difficult task, to be sure. There are two breweries in the Northeast whose brewing portfolio is in a distinctly Belgian tradition, so I’ll go with one of those, specifically Allagash. I’ve had a couple beers from the Maine brewery so I’d really like to try this most Belgian of beers.

Allagash describes the beer quite nicely: Citrus and peppery spice are balanced by a pleasant malt character. Saison is full bodied with a rustic, dry finish. Made for enjoying, no matter which type of work you’re returning from. That description makes me want to grab a bottle right now.

Like Two Roads’ Saison, this beer is available year-round and with Allagash’s relatively large distribution footprint, this ale should be easy to find.

On to the Maibocks…

Bocks, specifically Maibocks, are one of the less common lager styles. I see more dopplebocks and weizenbocks than the lighter, spring variety so selecting three for this post proved more challenging than the saison half of my 2018 Spring Fling 6 pack. Granted, we are still in March as of the date of this post, but I’ve been seeing Maibocks (especially the first one) on shelves already.

Hofbräuhaus Hofbräu Maibock (München, Germany)

Of course I would go with at least one German brewery, right? This is a beer style and brand filled to the mug with tradition: “By tradition, the first barrel of Maibock is tapped at the Hofbräuhaus in the last week of April, in time for the merry month of May. The success story of Munich’s oldest bock beer goes back as far as 1614.”

I had a six pack of this last spring and enjoyed it. There’s a really nice malty, caramel feel to the beer overlaying the crispness of the lager. This beer is a prime example of German brewing tradition.

Dead ‘N’ Dead Rogue (Newport, OR)

Dead ‘N’ Dead is whiskey barrel-aged version of Rogue’s year-round flagship beer, Dead Guy Ale. I really like Dead Guy and if it is on a beer menu, I’ll usually order it to get the night going. I like most barrel-aged beers so if you take a beer I already like and throw it in a whiskey barrel for a while, chances are high that I’ll really like it.

I’ve seen this one in stores and shelves but haven’t yet tried it. Like many of Rogue’s special brews, this beer is available in 22oz bombers so I imagine you’d want to take your time with this beer given the potential complex tastes and the 8.2% ABV.

Cultivator Helles Bock – (Hershey, PA)

It has been quite a while since I had a bottle of this beer because unfortunately, I think it might be a brewery-only release now. Once part of Tröeg’s Hop Cycle, it was replaced last year in that cycle by First Cut. Cultivator, however, was a very good example of the style. Malty and bready, it was quite a bit like Hofbräuhaus Hofbräu Maibock.

This was a solid offering from the always dependable brewers at Tröegs so I’d love to see it again, maybe in one of their seasonal variety packs.

Six beers worth trying this spring if you can find them. What are some saisons, maibocks, or other spring seasonal beers that are worth checking out?

Draught Diversions: A Wishlist 6-pack for New Jersey

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…

Last week, the Brewer’s Association released two lists:
Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies
Top 50 Overall Brewing Companies

There is, of course, some overlap on the two lists as the Association’s definition of Craft Beer/Craft Brewery allows for such overlap. For example, much as I enjoy a Yuengling Summer Wheat, I don’t know that I (or many hop-heads like myself) would consider Yuengling a craft brewery in the same way (for example) Allagash or Treehouse are craft breweries. Be that as it may, it got me thinking. There are quite a few breweries on the Top 50 Craft list who brew a significant amount of beer and who don’t (yet) distribute into NJ. As a result, I’ve come up with a brief, relatively plausible, “wish list” of breweries whose beers I’d love to see on shelves in NJ bottle shops and liquor stores. Also, just to clarify, not all of my wish list breweries are on this list.

Like some of my past features, I’ll do this as a 6-pack. I could probably make a “case” (or 24) breweries I’d like to see distribute their beers into NJ, but for now, I’ll go with 6. These are breweries with some combination of iconic beers, beers I see friends from outside NJ checking into untappd, a brewery whose beers I had by chance, plus one brewery I visited many, many years ago. I’m not including smaller breweries like the Alchemist and Treehouse who largely sell their beers only at the brewery or within the state where they are located.

As with most of these types of posts, I’ll go alphabetical.

August Schell Brewing Co in New Ulm, MN

Images courtesy of Schell’s Web site

When the opening statement on the main website is “We are German Craft Beer” how could I not want their beers available to me? From what I’ve gathered (Hi Joe!), their Hefeweizen is extremely well-regarded. My favorite style, especially in summer months, isn’t the most popular of craft beer styles, so it would be nice to have a solid go-to of the style available consistently. Much as I love the German brewers traditional Hefeweizens I do enjoy a well-constructed homage to the style, too.

Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, MI

Images courtesy of Bell’s Web site

I’ve had two beers from the great, renowned Michigan craft brewery and loved them both. If they were both available here in NJ, I’d have them in my refrigerator regularly, especially Oberon Ale in the summer. I was lucky enough to get a couple bottles of Oberon’s Ale last year in a bottle trade with a former co-worker.

When I had Two Hearted Ale for the first time, it blew me away. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed the IPA. The other brews from Bells can be found here, those in the image above I cobbled from the beer images on Bell’s Web site look especially appealing to me.

I’m fairly close to the Pennsylvania border (about 30 minutes away) do I can probably grab some of their beer if I cross the Delaware river, but it sure would be nice to be able to go to my local Gary’s and grab a 12 pack of Oberon’s Ale in the summer.

Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)

Images courtesy of Deschutes’ Web site

Deschutes is one of the early American Craft Beer pioneers, founded in 1998 in Oregon, a state renowned for craft beer. Their flagship beer is one that is squarely in my wheelhouse: Black Butte Porter. Deschutes is also near the top of American Craft Breweries (#10 on the list of 50) so they are quite large and the possibility for their appealing brews appearing on NJ shelves is quite plausible. Especially since they are building an East Coast production facility in Virginia with beers set to roll out in 2021. I think I just need to be patient for these beers.

Peak Organic Brewing (Portland, ME)

Photo courtesy Peak Organic Brewing’s Facebook page

I’ve written about this brewery twice already and both times I lamented the fact that they don’t distribute into New Jersey. I’m not sure how a can of their Happy Hour snuck into Wegmans, though I suspect that may have something to do with Wegman’s being based in New York.

Having enjoyed three of their beers a great deal, I’d really love to try more of their lineup, including a Ginger Saison, Sweet Tart Blueberry Sour Ale, Super Fresh Pilsner, and a Maple Porter.

Pike Brewing (Seattle, WA)

Image courtesy of Pike Brewing’s Web Site

Pike is probably the most westerly of any brewery in today’s post. About 20 years ago or so, I went on a business trip to Seattle and I really adored the city. I liked the wharf area, the great seafood and I spent a happy hour or two at Pike Brewing and I remember really enjoying the stout I had, which was probably the Extra XXXXX Stout. I still have the pint glass from my visit. I suspect this brewery hitting New Jersey shelves might be the biggest longshot.

Three Floyds Brewing Company in Munster, IN

Bottle images courtesy of 3 Floyds Facebook page

Three Floyds is one of the most renowned craft brewers in the Midwest. Their Dark Lord Imperial Stout is a brewery only release and is one of the most well-received beers in the country. Of course, that specific beer would likely NOT be in distribution, but their Zombie Dust Pale Ale probably would be, as would Robert the Bruce, a wonderfully appealing Scotch Ale. I’d love to try Alpha Klaus, which is their winter porter.

Their beer labels are really cool, too. They appeal to the lifelong comic book/science fiction/fantasy/horror geek that I am. Not only that, a comic book series from Image comics was even published in honor of the brewery!

A quick look through their beers on untappd, has their full line-up of beers at a 4.03 bottle cap average and of the beers some of my unappd friends have had, I don’t think anything was below a 4.25.

Between these six breweries, I would have many beers to explore and enjoy. Take a moment and let me know in the comments (or email or twitter) what breweries I mention from NJ or the area you’d like to see and try.

Draught Diversions: St. Patrick’s Day 2018

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…

If Oktoberfest is the Fall holiday for beer, then St. Patrick’s Day, the day when everybody is Irish, is certainly the Late Winter/Spring Holiday day for beer. Not just a holiday for a specific style of beer, but a brand, some would say. Guinness, of course. Guinness is far from the only beer option (or even Irish Stout) to enjoy on and around St. Patrick’s Day, so I’ll touch on a few of those. But I’ll start with Guinness itself.

Guinness, the most popular and best selling stout in the world is still quite well regarded by many craft beer folks despite being such a global brand. When it comes to stouts, especially Irish Stouts, few compare to Guinness especially when the line from the keg to the tap is short. A nice touch is when the bartender adds a four-leaf clover to the head.

Guinness has been expanding their portfolio here in the U.S. over the past handful of years, including a Blonde Ale (the less said the better), an “Irish Wheat” that was surprisingly tasty, and several stouts. They offer up a Milk Stout as well as a Belgian-inspired Antwerpen Stout. The Guinness I’m really looking forward to trying, though, is the 200th Anniversary Export Stout, brewed in late 2017 in honor of the 200th anniversary since Guinness was first shipped to America.

The “other” Irish Stout, Murphy’s is also an excellent example of the style. It has been many, many years since I enjoyed a Murphy’s. I may have to change that soon.

Many American brewers try to evoke the style as well. This may not come as a shock to folks who read this blog regularly, but my favorite is probably Victory Brewing’s offering: Donnybrook Stout. I believe this is a draft only beer as I’ve never seen it in bottles or cans, but I recall the beer hitting the same notes as Guinness does, and to a fairly successful degree. Breckenridge Brewery has a “Nitro Dry Irish Stout” that is very much playing into the whole Guinness beer profile, too. Of course, Breckenridge is one of a growing number of American Craft Breweries purchased by Anheuser-Busch and part of its “High End” brand initiative.

It isn’t all about the Stouts on St. Patrick’s Day, though. Smithwick’s is the brand name for the Red Ale the fine folks at Guinness brew and distribute. For years this was a go-to beer for me. I even prefer a “Black and Red” or “BlackSmith” to the traditional “Black and Tan.” Smithwick’s may be the quintessential Irish Red Ale and again, many American brewers try to evoke the style.

I miss this logo from the beer. The new red logo looks like Bud and doesn’t stand out at all.

For my beer drinking dollar, the best of the American interpretations of an Irish Red Ale is – hands down, no discussion – Great Lakes Brewing’s Conway’s Irish Ale. I seem to alternate going with this or something from Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day.  Great Lakes (rightfully so) makes a big deal out of this one on St. Patrick’s Day.

I’ve only touched upon some a few of the seasonal/holiday appropriate brews to enjoy (responsibly!) during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, I know.* Of course, some Jameson would also be perfectly appropriate or one of the caskmates brews they’ve brewed in collaboration with a few American Craft brewers, like the Craic they partnered with River Horse here in New Jersey to brew last year. This beer is really tough to find and I haven’t had much luck yet.

Some other NJ breweries are getting in on the fun, too.*

*Gotta save some for next year’s St. Patrick’s Day post, right? 

For some Irish brews to enjoy for St. Patrick’s Day, take a look at this great article by Jason Notte.

There you have it. A quick rundown of some of the more widely available and widely known seasonally appropriate brews for St. Patrick’s Day as well as a handful of beers from some NJ Breweries. I know there are many more, so drop a note in the comments to let me know of a good one I may have overlooked.