Draught Diversions: Fort Nonsense Brewing Company

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 really is difficult to keep track of all the breweries opening in New Jersey, the growth has been rapid with a nearly 50% growth over the course of about 15 months with breweries opening all over the state. Fort Nonsense Brewing Company in Denville, NJ is one of those newer breweries. Named after the actual Fort Nonsense in neighboring Morristown, NJ, the three Aslanian brothers opened the brewery and began selling beer to the public in January 2018. Fortunately, Denville isn’t too far from me and even closer to a friend who enjoys beer, too.

The three brothers who opened the brewery, James, Thomas, and Andrew, followed a path similar to many small breweries. They started as hobbyist homebrewers and decided to start their own brewery. After a few years of making beer on the homebrew kit they bought for their father, they found a space on Route 10 in Denville. When they came to this decision finally pull the trigger and actually open a brewery, the brothers took a route only a few start-up breweries have traveled. They crowd-funded via Kickstarter to generate the last bit of funding, which also raised public awareness. Route 10 often has quite a bit of automobile traffic and it can be easy to pass the building, but as you slow down if you’re following your GPS, you can see the brewing system in the window from the highway.

Tap list at Fort Nonsense Brewing Co (06-02-2018)

Fortunately, the Denville community was excited for a brewery, especially since the three brothers live in the area and are from neighboring Rockaway. The actual Fort Nonsense is a historic location, part of the Morristown National Historic Park and an area utilized by George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

Mural of George Washington’s Army and some interesting cargo

Although Fort Nonsense Brewing only started selling beer in January 2018, they’ve already received some positive notice. Their Farmhouse Ale, Saison Absurdite, received the 2nd place award at the 2018 Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival. Their beers are popping up on tap in local bars, too.

The brothers were working full-time jobs as well as preparing for the brewery opening in the lead-up to the opening. One of the brothers, Thomas, is a Civil Engineer and designed the interior. Brother Andrew is now the full-time brewer at Fort Nonsense. Many, if not all, the beers are an homage to the history surrounding Fort Nonsense and the region: the Amber Ale is Benedict Amber Traitor Ale; Great Falls IPA is named in honor of the Great Falls of Paterson; Mango Manunka Chunk IPA honors a locally famous tunnel, and so on.

On the night my friend John and I visited the brewery, it was the first Saturday in June, so initially not many people were there. As the evening darkened into night, more people arrived and filled the taproom to make for quite a lively atmosphere.

But what about the beer, Rob?

L->R Amber Ale, Porter, Hefeweizen, Saison

As I usually do when I visit a brewery for the first time, I ordered a flight. As I said in my review of Bell’s Amber Ale, every brewery seems to have an Amber in regular rotation and as I noted earlier, theirs is called Benedict Amber Traitor Ale. Not mind-blowing, but tasty nonetheless. A good beer to start the flight. Second up was Arnold’s Tavern Porter, which had good taste but the body was a tad thin. Third on the flight was their Hefeweizen, Three Tickle Pitchers, a very sold interpretation of the style. I finished off the flight with the aforementioned award winner, Saison Absurdite. Unfortunately this one didn’t quite work for me. It wasn’t bad, but there’s always one beer that isn’t as good as the others and this was it. I decided I was still thirsty and had a pint of what turned out to be my favorite beer of the day, The Teeth Were a Lie, a pale ale with tangerine whose name is a reference to George Washington. This beer went down really easily and along with the Amber, probably one I’d consider a go-to from Fort Nonsense.

The Teeth Were a Lie (Pale Ale w/Tangerine)

Six months in, there are two beers that stand out in the bunch (at least for my palate). I’d be interested in trying more in the future, such as the Gose they recently tapped. My only real negative is the price of a flight at $12. Most flights I’ve had at other breweries aren’t more than $10. I get the brewery is a business, so I’m not sure of the answer there, but that price tag does stand out to me for a flight of four tasters.

My bottom line: Having launched just six months ago with a few solid beers, Fort Nonsense is a new brewery with signs of promise.

Like many NJ Craft Breweries Fort Nonsense is a Trivia Revolution Partner/Host.

Some other links of interest:
TAP Into Morristown (January 2018)
Daily Record announcing opening of Fort Nonsense (January 2018)

Fort Nonsense Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Draught Diversions: Book Review: BARREL-AGED STOUT and SELLING OUT by Josh Noel

Title: Barrel Aged Stout and Selling: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business
Author: Josh Noel
Publication Date: June 2018
Publisher: Chicago Review Press

I’m digging back to my book reviewing roots for the latest Draught Diversion. Although the majority of my reading falls in the realms of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, as soon as I learned of this book, it was probably the book I was most anticipating reading this year. On to the review…

The Craft Beer movement has been alive and well for a few decades now. Flavorful brews created by smaller breweries mostly regional in nature created as a reaction to Big Beer. With any movement or segment of a market, there are pivotal moments. Moments that, on a time line, can be pointed to as a division between What Happened Before and What Happened After. In Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out, author Josh Noel examines that “moment” as well as the history of what led to that moment and the immediate fallout in which “craft beer enthusiasts” are still living. That proverbial moment? When Anheuser-Busch InBev bought “Chicago’s Brewery,” Goose Island in March 2011.

Publisher’s Landing Page: Chicago Review Press for the book:

Goose Island opened as a family-owned Chicago brewpub in the late 1980s, and it soon became one of the most inventive breweries in the world. In the golden age of light, bland and cheap beers, John Hall and his son Greg brought European flavors to America. With distribution in two dozen states, two brewpubs and status as one of the 20 biggest breweries in the United States, Goose Island became an American success story and was a champion of craft beer. Then, on March 28, 2011, the Halls sold the brewery to Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser, the least craft-like beer imaginable. The sale forced the industry to reckon with craft beer’s mainstream appeal and a popularity few envisioned. Josh Noel broke the news of the sale in the Chicago Tribune, and he covered the resulting backlash from Chicagoans and beer fanatics across the country as the discussion escalated into an intellectual craft beer war. Anheuser-Busch has since bought nine other craft breweries, and from among the outcry rises a question that Noel addresses through personal anecdotes from industry leaders: how should a brewery grow?

As the title suggests, the book is quite evenly divided between “Barrel-Aged Stout,” which chronicles the rise of Goose Island and “Selling Out,” which chronicles Anheuser-Busch InBev’s purchase of the brewery. Soon after that purchase, AB InBev itself launched into a spending spree gobbling up regional craft/independent breweries that in hindsight, seems like a very calculated move, but at the time was a very jarring few years.

From the thought that inspired John Hall to open a brewery/brewpub, to determining the name, to building/construction of Goose Island’s brewpub, through its growth and John’s son Greg becoming brewmaster, Josh Noel does a fantastic job telling the story of just why Goose Island grew so much and gained an initially local and loyal, then national reputation as an innovative brewer. It is a fascinating story, to be sure.

Noel wonderfully conveys the drama surrounding everything, from the initial planning, to the development of the beers, to the rise of Greg Hall as an icon of good taste in Chicago. In many ways, the Goose Island story pre-AB InBev is a story of the American Dream, or rather the second act of an American Dream. Ingenuity, intelligence, innovation, and hard work funneled into a market ready for the product the Halls were creating helped to make Goose Island into a standard bearer for well-crafted and sought-after beer.

In this story of Goose Island, John, the father and man who started it all, comes across as the sharp, business-minded head who loves his company and employees. Greg, the son, is the heart and innovator who loves the beer and brewing. John had the know how from a business perspective and Greg emerged as the one who gave the brewery its taste identity. It is easy to forget, or many to not even be aware of just how cutting edge Goose Island was back then now that we live in a world where Goose IPA is on tap next to Bud Light everywhere, a world where 312 Urban Wheat Ale is nearly as prevalent in  bottles and Bourbon County Brand Stout is now at the center of a national beer holiday far beyond the confines Chicago where, arguably, the most important American Stout was first brewed. Something many people grabbing a four pack of 16oz pints of IPA or sharing a bomb of the latest Barrel-Aged release either don’t know, or know of only as a mythical thing of Craft Beer past.

In the book, Noel succeeds at making the reader a fly on the wall as a witness to Goose Island’s growth. It is painted as a loving picture, homage, and history with a bit of that aforementioned myth-making.

Then in March 2011, Goose Island Brewery was purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

The second half of the book, “Selling Out,” takes a turn. Not in quality, by any means, but the tone of the story shifts from almost heartwarming tale of gumption, excitement, and growth to cold and calculating. Not that John Hall wasn’t a smart business man, but making beer is a business beast and Anheuser-Busch InBev can be compared to a great tamer. An idea that pervades the Halls and those on the Goose side of the sale: at AB InBev marketing drives the beer; at Goose, the beer always drove the marketing. The story here for the Halls goes from hope in the future with at least a minimal understanding to a unknown future in an unknown world.

The book is more than just about the sale of Goose Island to AB InBev. Noel meticulously builds and artfully renders a swath of history that may be unknown to many into a fully gripping story. Or of some of the more “inside baseball” elements of the beer industry like the importance of distributors.

The story of the sale of Goose Island is prophetic of what would come after, tragic for what is left behind in its wake, and through the Halls, their confidants, and friends, an ultimately human story. Breweries like Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer/Samuel Adams, Bell’s, Firestone Walker, Lagunitas, Boulevard Brewing (among others) get name checked throughout, showing just how far of a rippling effect March 2011 had on breweries and the people who work at them and started breweries since. Some of those breweries were courted by Big Beer (SABMiller and AB InBev are just two courtiers), some of the brewers at Goose Island went on to success at some of those other breweries.

As I said, I’d been anticipating this book for quite a while as I began following Josh (@hopnotes) on twitter late last year as I became more entrenched in the Craft Beer section of social media. On January 1st, Josh began tweeting what would be the first chapter of the book and I was hooked. This is an immensely well-researched book containing information pulled from over 100 interviews including no less than John Hall himself, the man who started Goose Island Brewing Company.

In the end, two takeaways stand out for me, at least on first reading:

  1. For years, especially since March 2011, discerning beer drinkers have cast AB InBev as the Evil Empire. That is a fair and largely just assessment. But at this point, they are almost beyond Evil (and Good, for that matter). AB InBev, especially in the years between 2011 and 2017 when it bought 10 regional craft breweries, is more akin to a force of nature. A hurricane cannot be stopped, an earthquake can only be survived. That becomes especially clear in the second half of the book.
  2. Early in the book, Noel points out (more than once) that John Hall thought he would sell the brewery at some point, but “probably to Heineken.” It almost makes you wonder if John Hall ended the “story” of Goose Island just where he intended it to end.

Either way, the American Beer landscape is far richer for John and Greg Hall’s contributions, both at Goose Island and the ripple effects they created in the industry. In the Hot! New! Landscape of American Craft Beer it is very easy to haze over just how different the world of beer and going into a bottle shop was a decade (or even 7) years ago, in terms of choices of breweries and styles and exactly who those breweries are.

Candid, factual, gripping, emotional, educational, eye-opening, fascinating – all these things and more. Anybody who appreciates well-crafted beer will enjoy this book. Readers looking for a unique peek into how a multi-billion dollar conglomerate operates (regardless of your beer preferences) will be fascinated to see how an economic landscape can change in just a few short years.

Barrel Aged Stout and Selling Out is an un-put-downable book that tells a gripping story of perhaps the most important post-Prohibition handful years of Beer History in America. This is definitely a book that will remain within easy reach for reference and for re-reads.

Highly, highly recommended.

Draught Diversions: May 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…

May was a long 31 days, with business travel overtaking much of the month. However, that travel did expose me to some beers I otherwise would not have been able to enjoy as those breweries don’t distribute into NJ. Despite that, I managed to have a few good NJ brews, too. The trek through the IPA section of the beer landscape continues as the style dominates this month’s post once again.

Bock Bier (von Trapp Brewing) Bock – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I wrote about Bocks in April and have been on the hunt for this bock specifically since then as it I’ve seen good things about the Vermont brewery’s interpretation of the style. The beer is quite tasty, has a lot of the lager characteristics, but with an added caramelly flavor that was really pleasing.

Floridian Hefeweizen (Funky Buddha Brewery) Hefeweizen – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I was in the Miami area for business in early May and was really, really hoping I could actually get out to the Floridian brewing institution that is Funky Buddha. The schedule didn’t allow, but the hotel did have their flagship Hefeweizen on tap and I was extremely pleased (despite the overpriced $11 cost of pint!). That being said, Floridian Hefeweizen is a really delicious interpretation of the classic German wheat ale. I’d have this in my fridge in regular rotation if Funky Buddha distributed into New Jersey.

Punk in Drublic (Stone Brewing) India Pale Lager – 4.00 bottle Caps on untappd

Of the beers I had in May, this one might be the most surprising. Stone’s beers generally don’t align with my palate as I stray away from West Coast IPAs, but this was in a cooler at a friend’s party so I figured I’d try it. Boy was I pleased. I thought it tasted like a Pilsner with a pleasing malt roast so the beer went down really easily. I haven’t had too many IPLs outside of this one and the IPL Yuengling produced a few years back, but I’ll go for more now if I see them.

Fresh Squeezed IPA IPA – American – 3.50 bottle Caps on untappd

On draft at Holsteins Shakes and Buns Las Vegas in the Cosmopolitan Hotel

Sometimes a beer just isn’t right for you. With the name of this beer, I was expecting more of a citrusy/juicy profile, but the beer had more of a West Coast piney flavor. It wasn’t a bad beer, just not to my taste and probably the “new” beer of May I enjoyed the least. That said, a 3.50 rating on untappd is still a decent beer.

Moon Door (Conclave Brewing)– 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave’s logo for the beer on top, the beer freshly poured from a growler filled hours prior

Conclave has yet to disappoint me with any of the more than dozen beers I’ve had from them. This IPA features a more experimental hop (007Golden Hop) as well as Mosaic hops for a beautiful, citrusy IPA that is a perfect summer IPA. When I filled up the growler, I was chatting briefly with co-owner Carl and he said that’s one of the things they try to do with their IPAs, take a hop they haven’t used and brew it along with a familiar hop and Mosiac is a fairly prevalent, versatile hop. This is a beer I could drink all afternoon long. I brought a full growler to a small Memorial Day party at my parents’s house and the growler was finished in about 15 minutes. So. Damned. Good. Easily my favorite new beer of May.

Queen Genevieve. (Flounder Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Flounder is one of the smaller NJ breweries, one of the earliest microbreweries and one of the breweries closest to me, all of which I laid out in my post featuring the brewery. I also know a few of the folks who work and brew there. Since coming around on IPAs I’d been looking forward to trying this beer, the first the brewery canned and boy howdy is it a delicious, juicy IPA. All the great citrusy flavors and hop notes are present as the beer is a great example of an IPA in the “New England” style. Plus it has a great can design and is brewed in honor of brewer Brad’s grandmother. You’ll want this one if you see it on tap near you in New Jersey.

Draught Diversions: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror 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…

As I have mentioned many times, I’m a big science fiction, fantasy, and horror fan. After all, writing about those genres led me to writing about beer. There’s a pretty big overlap between craft beer fans and SF, Fantasy, and Horror geeks, especially in my untappd friends list. In today’s “Six Pack,” I’m looking at six beers with a science fiction, fantasy, or horror theme. Some may be familiar, some may not. I’m highlighting three beers I’ve had/enjoyed and three beers I haven’t yet and hope to try some day.

Brief preface: Don’t expect any of the Game of Thrones beers in this post, I wrote up a post completely dedicated to those fine brews from Brewery Ommegang last year as well as a review of the last 2017 release in the series, Winter is Here. There are enough beers out there to make more than a six pack, but I’ll start with the following six beers. As I usually do, I’ll order them alphabetically by brewery.

Oberon Ale Pale Wheat Ale Bell’s Brewery (Comstock, MI)

Oberon is the King of the Fairies, so of course there’s a fantastical element to this beer. The beer is also a damned fine brew, as I extolled its delicious virtues in one of my early reviews here on the Tap Takeover. In a Google search for “Oberon,” the Wikipedia entry is the first result and this beer is the second result, which shows how popular/well known the beer is. I am extremely excited that Bell’s beer will finally be distributed into NJ in the near future as this will be my new summer go-to beer (especially since Yuengling ceased production on their Summer Wheat). I just hope distribution hits NJ in time for me to fill up my cooler with a case of this for my big Fourth of July party.

Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with our signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer. Made with only 4 ingredients, and without the use of any spices or fruit, Oberon is the color and scent of sunny afternoon.”

Blaecorn Unidragon Russian Imperial Stout – Clown Shoes Brewing Company (Ipswich, MA)

Clown Shoes has some of the more interesting label art, including this beer, a delicious Russian Imperial Stout I had on tap over three years ago. What I recall most strongly about the beer is how smooth the beer was, especially for a Russian Imperial with 75 IBU. I haven’t seen it since, but would pick up the beer if I saw a bottle of it. When one fantastical creature isn’t enough, Clown Shoes mashed up two of the most well-known for this big beast of a beer.

“Brewed with a monstrous amount of malt and combined with aggressive American hops, this beer is powerful and complex and designed to age. Smokiness is subtle but present and blends nicely with the rich, dark flavors.”

Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout – Flying Dog Brewing Company (Frederick, MD)

The spelling on this one may be tricky, substituting a “K” for the “C” but most folks know the big rabid Saint Bernard from Stephen King’s early novel and the movie. I’m assuming the letter change is so the brewery doesn’t get sued, but you’d have to figure a brewery with “dog” in its name might eventually call a beer they brew Cujo… or Kujo. Like the dog, this is a fairly big beer clocking in at 8.9%ABV pushing it to “Imperial” Stout status.

I had this one on draft a couple of years ago at what was then a World of Beer bar in New Brunswick, NJ. I recall enjoying the beer thoroughly and that the coffee was present, but not overpowering and balanced by a hit of sweetness.

“Kujo is the savage spawn of two brewing worlds – coffee and beer – colliding. But in that collision, there’s a balance between rich and roasted stout characteristics and the deep, dark coffee notes. The result is an 8.9% ABV brew made with locally-roasted coffee from Black Dog Coffee out of Summit Point, West Virginia.”

Innsmouth Old Ale – Narragansett Brewing Company (Pawtucket, RI)

Based out of Rhode Island, Narragansett is one of the historical northeast brewing companies, founded in 1890. H.P. Lovecraft is arguably the most famous writer from Rhode Island, born in 1890. Naturally, Narragansett has a whole line of H.P. Lovecraft inspired brews, including the Lovecraft Honey Ale which I had a few years ago and enjoyed. I really enjoyed Founders’ Old Curmudgeon and the Innsmouth Old Ale is the same style so I’m hoping I can find this one near me. Hell, I’d love to try all the Lovecraft Ales.

“Chapter 2 in the Lovecraft Series draws its inspiration from “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” one of our favorite Lovecraft stories which chronicles one man’s ominous visit to the fictional sea town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts. The dark, malty Innsmouth Olde Ale represents the shadow that hangs over the blighted town of Innsmouth and its strange inhabitants that spawn from the “Deep Ones.”

The Innsmouth Olde Ale draws its balanced, robust, and slightly toasted features from a complex blend of Two-Row Pale, Crystal, Cara, Dark Munich, and Chocolate malts, Chocolate rye and finishes with just a touch of Summer and East Kent Goldings hops.

Quality Supreme: Brewed in collaboration with Sean Larkin, Head Brewmaster for Narragansett and owner of Revival Brewing, Innsmouth Olde Ale is made with a complex blend of malts and rye followed by just a touch of hops, producing a bold yet balanced English-style Olde Ale. The Innsmouth Olde Ale won both the Gold Medal at the Tastings World Beer Championships and a Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival!”

Imperial Stout Trooper – New England Brewing Company (Woodbridge, CT)

What would a list like this be without some kind of Star Wars beer? Local NJ/Gypsy brewer Bolero Snort has some homages to Star Wars (or their Steer Wars line of brews including Bullennium Falcon which I recently enjoyed), but those are of limited availability. This stout from the New England Brewing Company has been around for a few years. Lucasfilm actually forced the brewery to change the label a bit to include the jokey sunglasses on the helmet. I enjoy Imperial Stouts so I’ll be on the hunt for this beer.

“Nearly a dozen types of malts and grains go into this FORCE-full, American Imperial Stout. Hints of coffee, tastes of dark fruit, and a subtle chocolate background make this Stout the perfect brew to welcome the Winter months. Brewed solely during the onset of the colder months, this one-time-a-year release will make you come over to the dark side… of beer.”

Klingon Imperial Porter – Shmaltz Brewing Company (Clifton Park, NY)

I knew when I was thinking of this post I would definitely include one of the Star Trek beers from iconic NY craft brewery Shmaltz Brewing. There are about a six-pack’s worth of Star Trek beers already from Shmaltz, but this one stood out for two reasons. (1) Porters are one of my favorite styles and (2) most of the other Trek beers leaned on the Golden Ale/Pale Ale end of the spectrum. I saw this beer in a few places over the past few years and now I’m kicking myself for not grabbing a 4-pack.

“Raise a goblet of Klingon Imperial Porter to the strongest warriors in the Galaxy. Discover the ruby undertones that pay homage to Klingon Bloodwine and fallen warriors who hold honor above life. “There is no honor in attacking the weak,” so take pleasure in besieging this 7.3% ABV Imperial Porter. But like this mighty elixir, Klingons also have a sweet side: Witness the wedding ritual where the gods forge two hearts so strong that once joined together cannot be opposed. (Just ignore the part of the ceremony where the groom swings his bat’leth at the bride!) A Klingon proverb states: “Death is an experience best shared,” and so is the first Star Trek limited release of 2017. Qapla’!”

Draught Diversions: The Tap Takeover’s 1st Beerthday

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…

Today, the Tap Takeover is officially one year old. Or rather, only 20 more years since the beer blog I started can consume the products featured on it. From a beer perspective, it has of course been an interesting year. About a dozen or so new breweries opened in New Jersey alone since I started The Tap Takeover, bringing the total as of this post to 88 production breweries in New Jersey.

According to untappd, I had over 400 unique beers over the last year (May 22, 2017 to May 22, 2018). Of course, many of those (about 80) were tasters or part of a flight, so that’s a little over 300 different bottles/pints/cans of beer. A rough breakdown shows (again, via my untappd account) about 59 Stouts, 56 IPAs, 25 Porters, 20 Dubbels/Tripels/Quads, 19 Hefeweizens, 17 Pale Ales, and 17 Pilsners. If I were to tell the Rob Bedford who started this blog in 2017 that he would have (and mostly enjoy) more than 50 IPAs over the next 12 months, second only in style count to Stouts, he wouldn’t believe me.

That speaks to the biggest change in my beer consumption habits over the past year, I seek out IPAs and find myself buying IPAs more than any other style lately. Tangentially, I’ve also come to truly appreciate Dogfish Head Brewing more than I have since I first started enjoying craft/independently brewed beer.

In one year, I published over 100 posts, this is the 52nd Draught Diversion and Thursday’s beer review will be the 52nd Beer Review. As a little tease, I’m reviewing a beer from the brewery whose beer was the subject of the very first review here at the Tap Takeover. In terms of reviews of styles, the big three were Stout – 8; Porter – 6; and IPA – 5.

I visited a few more breweries over the past 12 months, too. The Hackettstown Trio of Czig Meister, Jersey Girl, and Man Skirt Brewing; Angry Erik Brewing in Lafayette, NJ; Ramstein in Butler, NJ; Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls, NJ; Free Will Brewing tap room in Peddler’s Village, NJ; Iron Hill Brewery (Brewpub chain) in Pennsylvania; Wet Ticket Brewing in Rahway, NJ (I plan on visiting them again); and Doylestown Brewing Company in Doylestown, PA. I also returned to favorite local breweries Conclave Brewing in Raritan/Flemington, NJ; Demented Brewing Company in Middlesex, NJ; Flounder Brewing Company in Hillsborough, NJ; Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands; and of course Lone Eagle Brewing in Flemington for the monthly board game night.

One other change about the blog that has probably been noticeable since the calendar changed to 2018. I went to a new format for my monthly tally/recap. Rather than going exhaustively over 95% of the unique beers I had per month I thought, why not whittle that down. So the Monthly Six Pack was born, an obvious framing device, I would think.

I would like to thank the readers of the blog and folks who have supported my little hobby by spreading the word and simply chatting up with me (virtually or in meatspace) about beer. I’d especially like to thank Mike K. of NJ Craft Beer, Al Gatullo, Mike Martinez (who homebrews a tasty saison!), John Anealio, Chuck of NJ Beer and Wine, of course my wife for supporting my enjoyment of this delicious liquid and my dad who has checked in here regularly. Both my wife and my father have given me beers that were the subject of a handful of these reviews, and my wife was the designated driver to many of the breweries featured.

I don’t know that there’s much else for me to say, I don’t want to sit here and stroke my own ego (any more than I already have). If nothing else, I hope I showed some folks good beer they should try and in some cases, some not-so-good brews to avoid.

Cheers to another great year!

Draught Diversions: Summer 2018 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…

Summer beer (especially Lienenkugel’s Summer Shandy and Sam’s Summer Ale) has been on the shelves and taps since April and I blame it all on Samuel Adams. But, since we’re a couple weeks away from Memorial Day, the unofficial kick-off of Summer so in anticipation of warmer weather, here are 6 summery brews I’m hoping to try when the warm weather settles in and I can enjoy a refreshing beer or three sitting in or by my pool.

Not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer. Naturally, the beers I highlight here will be those available in the NJ/Northeast so while a brewery like Ninkasi may have an interesting looking beer, since Ninkasi doesn’t distribute to NJ (making the beer unavailable to me), I won’t be mentioning the beer.

The Bog Cranberry Shandy Cape May Brewing Company (Cape May, NJ)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

Say what you will about the Shandy / Radler style of beer popularized in recent years by Leinenkugel, but the style is very refreshing. There’s a reason German cyclists (or Radlers in German) were given pints of this in the summer. Cranberries are one of my favorite fruits and fruit juices, and I’ve begun to see more beers made with cranberries in recent years. NJ also happens to be one of the major producers of cranberries in the US, so a cranberry infused beer from NJ’s second largest brewery seems natural. I really hope this one reaches distribution near me.

“What happens when you make a Cranberry Wheat and accidentally add too much cranberry? Embrace it and turn it into a Shandy! A tart cranberry wheat beer blended with lemonade, The Bog is light and refreshing while still packing tons of flavor.”

Holy Moses Raspberry White Ale® – Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, OH)

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site

Great Lakes doesn’t make bad beer, at least for my palate. Holy Moses is Great Lakes’s take on the traditional Belgian Witbier and this new iteration adds Raspberry to the beer for what should be a nice sweet, tart refreshing ale. I’ve still yet to try the original Holy Moses, so I hope to give that one a try, too. I’ve seen quite a few of Great Lakes’s core brews as well as their always popular Christmas Ale in my area, but haven’t seen Holy Moses too often. Hopefully that changes.

“In the spirit of Moses Cleaveland’s thirst for discovery, our classic White Ale meets fresh, juicy raspberries to forge a pint worth planting a flag in (or an orange slice!)

FLAVOR
Refreshment or bust! Tart raspberry flavors mark our White Ale’s spicy, aromatic terrain.”

Limey Gose – Victory Brewing (Downington, PA)

Image courtesy of Victory Brewing’s Web site

I’ve professed my enjoyment of almost all things Victory Brewing here before, with their Kirsch Gose one of my favorites. I’m hoping this new-ish Gose they are releasing is of the same quality because a sweet-tart Gose is a perfect beer antidote for a sweltering day. This was originally a brewery only-beer a few years ago and looks to get wide distribution this summer. I’m guessing if you like Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale (also made with limes) or Westbrook’s Key Lime Gose, you’ll enjoy this one, too.

“This lively GOSE brings the TART FLAVOR of KEY LIME PIE sprinkled with SEA SALT into a zesty SOUR LIME BIER.”

Onshore Lager – Flying Fish Brewing Company (Somerdale, NJ)

Image courtesy of Flying Fish Brewing Co.’s Facebook page

Flying Fish is the stalwart of NJ Brewing and they have a pretty solid line up of brews, in addition to their fantastic Exit Series. Over the past couple of years as the Exit Series drew to a close, Flying Fish started adding new, more permanent brews to their lineup. One of them is called Onshore Lager which has a great can design and sounds almost like a Pilsner. I don’t often go for Lagers, but when the Lager is Pilsner or a Bock, then I’m more inclined to give the beer a try. I’m guessing the sub-5% ABV on this one might lend Pilsner-like quality to the beer, too. Sign me up for a six pack.

“Our home is surrounded by a breathtaking stretch of ocean and beautiful waterways, and ONSHORE LAGER is our tribute to that environment.

Brewed without adjuncts, this beer pours a pure, golden color, and German-style hops provide a crisp, clean finish.”

Smooth Sail Summer Ale (Pale Wheat Ale) Heavy Seas Brewing Company (Halethorpe, MD)

Image courtesy of CraftBeer.com

The Pale Wheat Ale, popularized in the summer by Bell’s Oberon Ale and Samuel Adams Summer Ale. Not quite a Hefeweizen, not quite a pale ale, but very refreshing. This one from Heavy Seas seems to have a similar profile to the aforementioned two ales, with a hint of citrus which tells me I’d probably like this beer. From my very limited sampling of beers from heavy Seas, I think I’ll enjoy this one quite a bit. I’d seen it in stores the last year or two, but passed on it. I’ll be rectifying that this year.

“This is not your average summer ale. We’ve created the most refreshingly delicious American wheat ale. Brewed with lemon and orange peel, Smooth Sail finishes with a citrus kick. At 4.5% ABV you’ll have your new pool beer. Available on draft and cans only, it’s the perfect beer for trips to the park, hiking, or just sitting on the beach with your friends. A summer day. Kick back, relax, enjoy – a light breeze will take you to your happy place.”

When in Doubt Helles Lager – Tröegs Independent Brewing (Hershey, PA)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

While Tröegs already has a summer seasonal beer in their tasty Sunshine Pils, When in Doubt could perhaps be considered a “cousin” beer in that Helles Lagers and Pilsners are similar in style. This beer was part of Tröegs popular “Scratch series” a couple of years ago, then draft exclusive and now (according to the fine MyBeerBuzz beer blog), available in 12oz bottles. I’m hoping to try this one as soon as it is available (maybe June?) since I’ve really come to enjoy the Helles Lager style. At 4.3% ABV, this is a very crushable lager.

When in Doubt is all harmony. It begins with a single note, a clean and delicate pilsner malt reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Tradition hops add hints of wildflower and subtle bitterness, and our crisp lager yeast pulls it all together. In the end, this refreshing Munich-style Helles is greater than the sum of its parts and – when in doubt – always a good call.”

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Special thanks to the great MyBeerBuzz blog for images in this post specifically, and for tireless efforts to keep the craft beer community abreast of new beers and beer news.

Draught Diversions: April 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…

April closes out, thank goodness. It was not a fun month with travel I had and awful weather. But, there were some good beers for sure. Deciding on a final six-pack for the month was tough because April started out strongly with a few classics I hadn’t previously enjoyed. In fact, a good portion of the highlight beers for me for April can be considered Craft Beer Classics.

There are some definite Belgian leanings in this month’s six pack, whether a brewery from Belgium, American breweries known for Belgian-inspired ales, or a great, modern interpretation of a Belgian classic.  Let’s start with the most Belgian of American breweries…

Saison (Allagash Brewing Company) Saison / Farmhouse Ale – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Allagash has built a great reputation on brewing American interpretations of classic Belgian ales and few are more classic than a Saison. As it has turned out, the last few years I’ve been enjoying a different Saison on Easter Sunday. This was the perfect beer for Easter Sunday and a nice prelude to brunch. Light, sweet and well-rounded, I’ll be returning to this one in the future, for sure.

Candi Stout (Brewery Ommegang) Stout – Other – 3 bottle Caps on untappd

The other American brewery who built their reputation on Belgian inspired ales is Cooperstown, NY’s Brewery Ommegang. I enjoy much of their output, but when they stray too much from their wheelhouse – like this stout (or their Nirvana IPA) – then the results are mixed. I guess I get what they were aiming for with this beer, unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

Tripel Karmeliet (Brouwerij Bosteels) Belgian Tripel – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Proper Glassware from a proper Belgian bar

This ale is an absolute world-class, and classic, beer. I loved the sweetness and overall flavor profile with the magic produced by Belgian yeast. Although I would likely enjoy this beer *anywhere*, enjoying it on draught in a bar that serves only Belgian beer (25 on tap, 50 in bottles) didn’t hurt the experience. I had this on my business trip in the Austin, TX bar Mort Subite. I’ll likely need to go to Austin again for business and I’ll be hitting up Mort again.

90 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double – 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

Why did it take me so long to come around to IPAs!?!

I’m all in on IPAs now and found one that can be a steady go-to, the beer Esquire Magazine once called “the best IPA in America.” Perfect, absolutely perfect balance of malt and hops, with a pleasant hop bite and great hit of citrus sweetness. The reputation is well-earned because this beer does EVERYTHING a perfectly crafted IPA should do: it is true to style, innovative, and just plain delicious.

Devil’s Reach (Cape May Brewing Co.) Belgian Strong Golden Ale – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Belgian yeast = magic.

Cape May Brewing Company, the 2nd Largest NJ Craft Brewery, has a great reputation, they brew across the board, with a somewhat greater focus on IPAs. But this beer? This beer is outstanding, a delicious, sweet explosion of flavor that is deceptively high in ABV (8.6%) but so easy drinking. In some of my reviews I mention “an iconic shelf of NJ Beers” and I would definitely make room for this one. Not many NJ breweries make a “Belgian Strong Golden Ale” (as far as I know) so there honestly isn’t too much competition in the State for this style. Regardless, this is an absolute stand-out ale.

G.O.R.P. (Carton Brewing Company) Porter – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve professed my enjoyment of Carton’s beers often on this blog. The fact that some of Carton’s long-time brews are now hitting distribution in cans pleases me immensely. Especially when I’ve been wanting to try Good Old Raisins and Peanuts for a couple of years now and the beer largely lived up to what I was hoping it would be. The quality I was expecting because the Carton logo is on the can, but the flavors were a little less expected. Some beers that have peanuts or peanut butter can be too cloying in the PB sweetness. Here with G.O.R.P.; however, the sweetness of the raisins and roasted peanuts come together deliciously on the finish, especially as the beer warms a bit.

Honorable mention to an annual April Favorite: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. This is a beer that absolutely lives up to its reputation and the 2018 vintage is outstanding.