Draught Diversions: 12 Beers of Christmas (2018 Part 2)

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…

Here’s part two of the 12 Beers of Christmas 2018 I promised on Tuesday. Like that post (and all similar posts this year), this follows the six pack format. There’s a mix of beers I haven’t had, haven’t had in a few years, and a recent favorite.

Old Jubilation Ale – Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO)

This beer is one of the modern American Christmas classics. Though not technically a winter warmer like many Christmas beers, this one is more along the lines of an Old Ale/English Strong Ale. A high ABV of 8.3% makes this a long sipper and without having had this one yet (by the time I was looking for it in early December, stores had already sold out of their annual allotment), I imagine it would be similar to Founders’ Curmudgeon. I’ll have to keep my eyes open a little earlier next year if I want to grab some of this one.

What Avery says about the beer:

Our winter strong ale has a gorgeous mahogany hue, a hint of hazelnuts, and a finish reminiscent of mocha and toffee. No spices, just a perfect blend of five specialty malts.

For 2018 we used light brown sugar, raisins and figs to bring out caramelized sugar and dried fruit flavors. Also added to the boil is star anise, clove, cardamom and cinnamon. The spices balance and play nice with the caramelized sugars!

Corsendonk Christmas Ale – Brouwerij Corsendonk – (Antwerpen, Belgium)

Here’s the Obligatory Belgian Christmas beer for this list. I had this one for the first time last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I may have to grab some again before the Christmas season ends. I received a gift pack of this beer last year for Christmas, which included the glass in the picture above. Again, like many of the Belgian Christmas Ales, this one is categorized as “Belgian Strong Dark Ale.” I remember being really surprised that the ABV on this was 8.5%, but on the other hand, that could be a reason why the bottles are a little smaller (I think 8 or 9 oz).

About the beer:

Brewed with Pale, Munich and Caramunich malts; Kent Goldings hops. This is a rich, dark, joyous brew with which to celebrate the holiday season. It’s aroma of chocolate malt and spiciness is reminiscent of the wonderfull smells of holiday baking in Mom’s kitchen. Silky smooth on the palate, it’s predominantly malty, with smoky, spicy and citrusy notes and a long, lingering finish that is lightly tart and malty. Bottle conditioned for a fresh, lively taste. Round and well balanced, it’s a welcome addition for holiday tables and beyond.

Santa!! I Know Him! – Evil Genius Beer Company (Philadelphia, PA)

Image courtesy of Evil Genius’s Facebook page

A Saison is not your typical style of beer for Christmas, but Evil Genius (at least going by the clever the names) aren’t your typical brewery. I’ve enjoyed some of Evil Genius’s tasty beers over the years, but haven’t had a chance to give this one a try. Yet. The name for this beer is in homage to the modern classic of Yuletide films, Elf. Some interesting components are utilized in the brew process for this beer.

What Evil Genius says about this beer:

Festive Saison -Santa!! I Know him! is our holiday saison brewed with rose hips, chamomile, black currants and dark Belgian candi syrup. Deep, complex and intriguing, this bone-dry Belgian-style ale is sure to seduce you, or the one you’re with. Roses, chamomile, and currants have long been considered powerful aphrodisiacs, so we decided to combine them with mysterious and beguiling Belgian saison yeast. The result is something very special and sure to help spice up nights spent at home during the cold winter months. Have you been Naughty or Nice this year – or both?

Chrismukkah – 902 Brewing (Hoboken, NJ)

Image courtesy of 902 Brewing’s Facebook page

This is probably the newest beer in this post as I think 902 is debuting the beer this holiday season (December 4, according to their Facebook page, where I snagged the photo above). That said, it looks like it fits the bill with all the holiday spices and brownish hue. I’ve had only 2 beers from 902 Brewing and both were very good so hopefully, this beer continues that trend should I come across it.

What 902 Brewing says about the beer:

It’s the holiday season! What better way to warm up than this 7.6% winter ale? Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, it’s hitting distro today. Well in time for your holiday needs! A nice treat for when the big man drops by on Christmas Eve, too!

2XMAS – Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, NY)

I haven’t had this one in a few years and the last time I had it, the beer was very spicy. Other times; however, I recall really enjoying it. I might have to locate some and give it a try this year, but the figs, cinnamon, and cloves in the brew process are flavor components I enjoy.

What Southern Tier says about the beer:

Spiced double ale with fig paste, orange peels, ginger root, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves

Swedish flags are a fairly common sight in our part of the country. Holiday parties often have warm concoctions of spices and booze at the ready to knock the ice off of toes while raising spirits. We were inspired by a “Glögg” party, deciding on the spot to brew a beer that pays tribute to this Nordic tradition.

2XMAS ale combines traditional brewing ingredients with figs, orange peels, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger root. It’s a holiday addition to the 2X line and another reason to toast to the season, but unlike Glögg, we recommend serving this one chilled.

Xocoveza – (Stout –Imperial Milk/Sweet) – Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA)

I had this beer for the first time last year and really enjoyed it, .I said at the time this beer is the closest beer I’ve had to one of my local favorites, Conclave’s Mexican Morning Stout. The beer emulates Mexican Hot Chocolate with peppers and cinnamon and if any beverage says Christmas morning then it would have to be Hot Chocolate. For 2018, Stone released the beer in cans.

What Stone says about the beer:

This is a beloved stout. When first introduced as a limited special collaboration release with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker (after his recipe won our annual homebrew competition) and Cerveceria Insurgente, it was an instant hit and fans began clamoring for its return. Seeing as how its amazing flavor profile is evocative of Mexican hot chocolate, featuring coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and a generous amount of our own in-house made chocolate, we concluded it was the perfect stout to re-release in celebration of the Holidays and the entire winter season. This is now a highly anticipated yearly tradition that we are pleased to present from us to you, and makes a perfect wintry gift from you to your friends, loved ones, or simply to yourself. Cheers!

So, 12 Christmas beers over the course of two posts this week here at The Tap Takeover. Any favorites out of these or any I missed?

Draught Diversions: 12 Beers of Christmas (2018 Part 1)

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 year, I did two broad Twelve Beers of Christmas posts, so why not do it again? There are certainly enough choices out there in the Christmas Beer realm to warrant an annual Twelve Beers of Christmas post. I’ll do one six pack today, and another six pack on Thursday.

Krampus – Beach Haus Brewing Company (Belmar, NJ)

How could I not go with a beer named in honor of the legendary Germanic “anti-Santa Claus?” Especially since, being half German, I’ve been hearing stories about Krampus since I was a little kid. I’ve visited Beach Haus a few times, they make good beer and have one of the best locations of any NJ brewery, in downtown Belmar not far from the beach. They’ve been making a Krampus beer for the majority of the time they’ve been brewing beer and I think they’ve tweaked it a bit every year. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to try it yet, but perhaps that will change this Chistmastime. . .

What Beach Haus says about the beer:

Beach Haus® Krampus is a welcome visitor to any holiday home with its blend of spices, fruitiness and malt.

Our most limited of limited releases that is brewed a li’l different each year.

For 2018 we used light brown sugar, raisins and figs to bring out caramelized sugar and dried fruit flavors. Also added to the boil is star anise, clove, cardamom and cinnamon. The spices balance and play nice with the caramelized sugars.

A 9.4% ABV gives this year’s Krampus an extra bite!

Scaldis Noël Brasserie Dubuisson – (Pipaix, Belgium)

If you’ve got a Christmas beer list, you’ve got to include one from Belgium and Scaldis Noël is one that is held in pretty high regard. I haven’t had this one yet, but I’ve been enjoying a different Belgian Christmas beer every year. Like many of the Belgian Christmas Ales, this one is categorized as “Belgian Strong Dark Ale.”

What Brasserie Dubuisson says about the beer:

The Scaldis Noël was introduced in 1991 to respond to consumer demands for the ideal beer to add lustre to their end-of-year celebrations.

The Scaldis Noël is brewed solely from malts, hops, candy sugar and water. It is a filtered, top-fermented beer with an alcohol volume of 12%. The use of caramel malts produces a copper-coloured beer with a full, rounded taste. The Scaldis Noël owes its fruity taste and subtle hop aromas to the well-thought out choice of hops in this brew.

The Scaldis Noël is brewed in limited volumes but has already achieved the status of a classic beer for the end-of-year celebrations.

Rude Elf’s Reserve – Fegley’s Brew Works (Bethlehem, PA)

For a few years, I was grabbing this beer every year at Christmas time. It was initially a bomber (I think 750ml) back about 8 years ago or so and I remember having it when the beer was called Rudolph’s Reserve, which changed for obvious reasons. In recent years, I haven’t seen the beer as regularly or as widely so I haven’t had it SJU (Since Joining Untappd) but I’ve been hoping to find it again. The beer is very similar to Tröegs’ iconic Mad Elf from a stylistic perspective of the beer (and the name).

What Fegley’s says about this beer:

A BELGIAN STYLE HOLIDAY ALE WITH ATTITUDE! –  After being harassed by elves in the toy workshop and the reindeer in the stables, Rudy found his true calling in Santa’s brew house. Keeping his edge and focusing his talents, this elf created a spicy holiday brew that became a Christmas legend of its own.

HISTORY OF THE RUDE ELF’S RESERVE –  This fabulous holiday ale was first developed and brewed in 1999 at the Bethlehem Brew Works under original head brewer (and co-owner) Jeff Fegley. The Fegley family thought it was appropriate to create a spiced beer to help us celebrate in the City.

TASTING NOTES –  Pours a deep chestnut ruby with a creamy tan head. The aroma is sweet with harmonic spices led by clove, then cinnamon and nutmeg. The rich body has a fine carbonation that smooths and hides the high ABV, wrapping up oh, so much holiday spice. Finishes very dry, leaving a lingering gingerbread cookie note.

Gnoel de Abbey – The Lost Abbey (San Marcos, CA)

The Lost Abbey is one of the California breweries whose beers I’ve not had the opportunity to try yet. Their beers are well-regarded and often of the big variety – Imperial Stouts, Quads, etc. This is their take on a Winter Warmer and with hints of coffee and spice (a “Holiday Brown Ale,” as The Lost Abbey’s web site references it ) I’d really like to get my hands on a bottle.

What The Lost Abbey says about the beer:

The Lost Abbey’s newest seasonal, Gnoel de Abbey is a winter warmer brewed to be lighter in body while maintaining nuanced notes of oak.

TASTE Beginning with aromas of freshly brewed espresso, Gnoel has hints of cocoa, vanilla and holiday spice, finishing with a crisp coffee bitterness.

Christmas BOMB! – Prairie Artisan Ales (Tulsa, OK)

Image courtesy of Prairie Artisan Ales’s Facebook page

Prairie’s beer have only recently begun appearing here in NJ (as far as I know), and their beers are of the big stout variety, including the Bomb! Beers. I like most of the spices in this one, especially when beers have chocolate and chili in them. This could be an interesting beer to share, although it seems they are only sold in single 12oz bottles about $9 per bottle.

What Prairie says about the beer:


The Bomb! that we all know and love, with the addition of Christmas spices – cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Here’s the standard Bomb! Bomb! is an imperial stout aged on coffee, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chili peppers. The peppers add just the right amount of heat to complement the intense coffee and chocolate flavors.

Winter Cheers Victory Brewing Company (Downington, PA)

Victory decided to do some counter-programming with their Christmas beer. Typically, and as the other beers on this list will support, Christmas beers are a bit darker and weighty. With Winter Cheers, Victory has been producing a tasty, spicier Hefeweizen every year at Christmas time as a tasty alternative to those darker beers. It has been a couple of years since I had one, but I remember enjoying it quite a bit.

What Victory says about the beer:

Winter weather may drive us indoors but cannot dampen our spirits when hearth, home and hops meet in jubilation. Hoisted high in its golden glory, Winter Cheers lives up to its name, fueling festive times and chasing winter’s chill. Glowing and glimmering, frothy and shimmering, our celebratory wheat ale features luscious fruity and spicy notes, making it a perfect brew to brighten spirits even on the deepest of nights.

Check back here for another dozen beers to seek out this Christmas!

Draught Diversions: December 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…

November was a bounce-back month, at least in terms of new beers. Even outside of the 6 brewery tour, the main highlight of the month, I managed to have quite a variety of brews. Additionally, one of my favorite Pennsylvania breweries, Tröegs Independent Brewing, released a fantastic variety pack this year – Most Wonderful Beer of the Year. This 12 pack features 6 varieties, two cans of each of the following beers: Troegenator, Blizzard of Hops, Perpetual IPA, Dreamweaver, Mad Elf (A Christmas Classic, now in cans!), and the beer I’ve highlighted towards the end of the post. Now, to the beers which comprise the December 2018 Six Pack…

Fudge Machine – Porter – Imperial / Double (Demented Brewing Company) – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

This beer was a helluva way to start the month. I’ve written multiple times how much I enjoy Demented’s beers and this is near the top of the list of what they’ve brewed over the last few years. One of my favorite NJ beers is River Horse’s Chocolate Porter and Fudge Machine is pretty damned close. I’m not sure how long this will be available from Demented or if it was a one-shot beer, but it should be in their regular rotation. As it stands, the beer is available on draft and in cans from the brewery.

Boomsauce (Lord Hobo Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double New England – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Beers from Lord Hobo started appearing on NJ shelves maybe a year ago? Something like that. At the time, I was still a little averse to IPAs and that’s all Lord Hobo seems to brew. Be that as it may, I gave this one a try and really liked it – good hoppy juiciness. Basically, a perfect example of the New England IPA.

Falconer – Pale Ale – American (Czig Meister Brewing Company) – 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve had quite a few specialty beers from Czig Meister, but not too many of their core beers. I’d wanted to try Falconer for a while now and I’m glad I finally did. This is a clean, sweet, and refreshing take on the American Pale Ale. A great everyday beer and one that would be a great introduction to folks wary of craft beer.

Delirium Tremens – Belgian Strong Golden Ale (Huyghe Brewery [Belgium]) – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

When it comes to iconic Belgian ales, Delirium Tremens is quite high on the list. The pink elephant is a beacon to a quality ale and with Tremens, they set the bar for a yeasty, potent golden ale. I had this on draft years and years ago (well, before untappd at least). This bottle was birthday gift from a couple of folks I manage, which was nice. This beer is very similar to Cape May’s Devil’s Reach so if you like that, you’ll like this.

Chocolate Stout Stout – Milk / Sweet (Tröegs Independent Brewing) 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

If it hasn’t become clear lately (especially the last couple of months), I’ve been on a Tröegs kick. They do a great job with their variety packs and this winter/Christmas, they produced a great one – Most Wonderful Beer of the Year. For me, the star of this variety pack is this outstanding Chocolate Stout. It does just about everything you’d want a chocolate stout to do. This beer may have begun as one of Tröegs’s Scratch beers, but it really should be a style that gets its own six pack.

Belgian Freeze – Winter Ale/Belgian Dark Ale (River Horse Brewing Company) 3.75 bottle caps on untappd

Untappd lists this as a Winter Ale, Beer Advocate calls it a “Belgian Dark Ale.” Sure it is a winter beer, but the Belgian yeast and sweet and spicy flavor it evokes sets it firmly as a Belgian Dark. Regardless of what style this beer falls under, it is a tasty beer that can warm you up on a cold winter night. This is one of the beers River Horse has been brewing the longest and I can understand why. This is in rotation from River Horse from October to December.  With an ABV of 8% it won’t completely knock you out, but it isn’t a beer you want to throw back too quickly.

There were quite a lot of standouts this month, so there isn’t a real dud I want to call out above in great detail. But to be fair, and to show I don’t like every NJ beer I try, there was one beer that was a bit of a letdown – Bolero Snort’s Snickermoodle. This is a sweet porter brewed with cinnamon and Madagascar vanilla beans. I think I just don’t like vanilla as a component in my beers because in this beer, the vanilla finish completely destroys all the other flavors. Well, at least it did in this beer. I had two of the four from the four pack the second can was better, but that Madagascar vanilla is still overpowering.

Draught Diversions: Village Idiot Brewing Company (Mount Holly, 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…

The Mount Holly area is home a decent number of independent breweries that have gained a solid reputation over the past half decade or so. Forgotten Boardwalk is near Mount Holly, the great Pennsylvania brewery Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company is just across the river, Spellbound Brewing is in Mount Holly as is today’s featured brewery, Village Idiot Brewing Company.

Located in downtown Mount Holly, NJ, the brewery has been around since 2013. Sadly, in 2015 one of the owners, Rich Palmay, passed away. But the brewery forged ahead. In 2018, Village Idiot received a Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival for their Belgian-Style Tripel. In other words, some ups and downs over the course of the brewery’s lifetime.

Village Idiot may seem like a random name to give a brewery (and a pretty good one that conjures up the great “mascot” for the brewery), but there is a meaning to the name. When Vincent Masciandaro and Rich Palmay went to the bank for the loan required to start the brewery, they had the date wrong and were a week late. Vince said they were village idiots and the name stuck. As I said, a good name that pops on the sign hanging outside the brewery. That alone draws the casual customer to the door.

The story may be familiar: two home-brewing friends made well-received beer and when the NJ laws changed in 2012, they thought to open a brewery. So with that, Village Idiot was among the first wave of breweries to open once those laws changed. Located in a former pub, you really couldn’t ask for a better location: the Historic Downtown of Mount Holly, NJ.

Before going on a six-brewery tour on a grey Saturday in November, I didn’t know too much about Village Idiot Brewing other than the name and where they were vaguely located. I also recalled that NJ food writer Pete Genovese had good things to say about them. Beyond that, just that they were in a region with a growing number of independent breweries. As I said, Village Idiot Brewing has a great location, but the former pub also provides a great atmosphere. It feels like a neighborhood bar and an added level of that comfort and welcoming sense is a a pair of couches near the back of the pub.

The bartenders were very personable and there was a decent sized crowd for the middle of the day. Unfortunately, I made things a little difficult for the guys behind the bar when I forgot about a step and spilled my flight. Vince was behind the bar and helped to get my flight refilled (at no charge!) despite the relatively crowded bar.

So, how did the beer taste?

At Village Idiot, you can get a flight of six beers in a small baking tray. Knowing very little about their output, I think, made for a better flight for me and gave me reason to try styles I might not have otherwise tried.

Yes, I realize this is a blurry photo. But if nothing else, it shows off the fact that Village Idiot typically has 14 beers available.

The first beer was a style I don’t see often and haven’t had very much, a Rye beer. Specifically, “Rich’s Revolutionary Rye.” I only realized as I was learning more about the brewery in preparation for this post that this beer is made in honor/homage of the late Rich Palmay. This was a great start to the flight and I really liked the flavor of the Rye grain in the beer. I’d consider this a good “every day beer” even though the ABV of 6.1% is slightly higher than a typical “every day beer.”

Not exactly the most stable way to carry a flight of beers, but six is a great number.

The second beer is another “homage” beer – “Wentzstefaner” a portmanteau of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and the great Weihenstaphaner brewery. The beer is a Hefeweizen (or Hefe Weissbier as Weihenstephan calls their wheat ale) and is pretty good.

Third up was another Rye Beer. I don’t think many breweries have multiple Rye beers on tap simultaneously, but Village Idiot did on the day I visited. That was a good thing because “Da Nick” is another tasty beer. As I said in my untappd comment, I think I’m starting to like Rye beers and this Rye IPA (as the brewery calls it) was a welcome taster.

Then the second half of the flight started, and these were sweet beers including the “Peanut Butter Cup – Chocolate Porter.” I tasted copious amounts of peanut better in this beer with some chocolate. A little too sweet for me, but I imagine for those who like the style, it would work really well. In fact, my brother-in-law, who was part of our group on that day, loved it and his favorite beer is probably the most famous peanut butter chocolate beer, DuClaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus.

Next up is the beer that was the best I had at Village Idiot and one of the best of the day for me (I had about 2 dozen tasters that day visiting 6 breweries) – “Monkey’s Breath – Banana Bread Ale.” If you told me before that day that one of the best beers I’d be drinking that day would be a banana bread beer, I don’t think I would have believed you. But goddamn this beer is delicious. What elevates the beer experience is how Village Idiot rims the glass with cinnamon sugar. The beer is delicious on its own, don’t get me wrong. But that little extra (literal) spice really makes this beer a full experience. I could definitely see myself filling a growler with this beer or having it again.

The final beer of the flight of six was another dessert beer: “Elvis is in the Building.” This beer was like combining the other two “dessert” beers with elements of chocolate covered bananas and peanut butter. This was on nitro, so the fluffiness from the nitro added to the dessert feel of the beer. After having this beer, I’ve come to the realization that I nitro beers aren’t my thing. I don’t think the beer was bad, but the fluffiness, high level of sweetness, and the fact that I had two sweet beers just before this one contributed to this one not working for me.  Again, I don’t think it was necessarily a bad beer, it just didn’t work for me. The crew I was with that day; however, really liked “Elvis is in the Building.”

Village Idiot was in the middle of the brewery tour that day, I only knew a little bit about them before arriving at their door, but I found myself really liking the experience of the brewery and the beers. The atmosphere is super relaxed, has a bar area as well as a couple of couches where a group of people can relax and play board games. Like many breweries in New Jersey, food cannot be made and served, but can be brought into the brewery from elsewhere; like the pizzeria across the street.

Village Idiot is definitely worth the visit: well-above average beer, great atmosphere, solid location, and good people. Not too many breweries can boast a Fruit Beer as their best beer (from our group and what I’ve seen elsewhere about the brewery) which also makes this a standout brewery. Well, that’s not the only reason to visit because all their beers are quite good. About the only real criticism is that their beer labels could use a little work. I think the best thing I can say about them is that were Village Idiot a little closer, I would find myself visiting more often and filling growlers as regularly as I do for the breweries in my immediate area.

Village Idiot Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | twitter

Some other links of interest:

Draught Diversions Book Review: Drink Beer, Think Beer by John Holl

Title: Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint
Author: John Holl
Publication Date: September 2018
Publisher: Basic Books

Beer is in a golden age, and that doesn’t just refer to the color of the beer itself. It is a liquid that many can and do take for granted. But considering it is the #2 beverage in the world, coffee understandably being #1, beer is something worth pondering. Something worth considering, something that should be more than simply a drink. Beer can be a delicious experience where a full glass can be the intersection of art and science. Preeminent beer writer John Holl argues cogently, eloquently, and passionately that beer is something worthy of deep consideration in his book, Drink Beer, Think Beer.

Publisher’s Landing Page: Basic Books for the book:

From an award-winning journalist and beer expert, a thoughtful and witty guide to understanding and enjoying beer.

America now has more breweries than at any time since prohibition, and globally, beer culture is thriving and constantly innovating. Drinkers can order beer brewed with local yeast or infused with moondust. However, beer drinkers are also faced with uneven quality and misinformation about flavors. And the industry itself is suffering from growing pains, beset by problems such as unequal access to taps, skewed pricing, and sexism.

Full of entertaining anecdotes and surprising opinions, Drink Beer, Think Beer is a must-read for beer lovers, from casual enthusiasts to die-hard hop heads.

John Holl’s name may be familiar to regular readers of The Tap Takeover, I’ve mentioned his podcasts (Steal This Beer and Craft Beer and Brewing) and chances are if you are reading my blog, you’ve got *some* passing knowledge of beer journalism and social media. In short, John Holl is one of the authoritative voices in the Beer Community having authored a few other books about beer, in addition to this new one.

John gives a broad history of beer in America before focusing more squarely on the California boom of brewing. Here, John spotlights Jack McAuliffe’s New Albion (of which I was only barely aware) and Sierra Nevada, and specifically Sierra Nevada’s iconic Pale Ale. John also touches upon the current craze of brewery only beers releases of 16oz canned 4 packs.

The title of the book is really simple, but that belies the layers of complexity involved in the final product we hold in our hand. Perhaps the most enlightening elements of the book are the features on the four main ingredients: Water, Hops, Yeast, and Grain (usually barley). What is the water source of the beer? We all take water for granted, but without the water – and more importantly quality water – beer wouldn’t exist. Where were the hops grown? Hops, are of course, covered in detail, but aren’t elevated above the three other components which include the grain and the magical, living yeast. What kind of malt is used? How was the yeast propagated? Through these details about the ingredients, and the importance of their quality, John touches upon some breweries and their beers. These are things we can think about when we order, purchase, and drink our beer. Personally, my thoughts about malt and how I convey those thoughts in my reviews here are thrown into a new light. I’ll be thinking about it in more detail.

Beyond the ingredients, we can ponder the vessel/glass in which we drink the beer as well as the draft lines through which the beer travels before arriving in our glasses. Drink Beer, Think Beer exemplifies a good philosophy for life, don’t take everything for granted. Think about the things we consume, either with our guts or our brains. Whether it is a nuanced barleywine, a thick, barrel-aged stout, or a straight-forward pilsner in a clean, appropriately styled glass (as Holl eloquently points out). We should also put down our phones, be present and in the moment; enjoy the liquid we are drinking. I know I’m often guilty of rushing to check my beer into untappd. As John says in the book, from page 192:

”When we slow down—and I include myself in this category—and allow an experience to happen naturally, organically, without worrying about the next social media moment, amazing things can happen. A deeper appreciate can blossom, happy memories can be aroused, new thoughts can develop.”

Some space in the book is devoted to marketing and some points he raises regarding beer names, I agree with wholeheartedly. Beer names that denigrate women or a particularly offensively named brown ale are the kinds of beers that, he suggests, can be mere attention grabbers. I’ve avoided an unfortunate swath of beers based on their offensive names alone myself. Holl’s overreaching point here, as it is throughout the book, is that the quality of the beer should be paramount. A catchy name shouldn’t be the sole reason for buying and drinking a beer.

One of the most striking elements of the book is that authoritative voice John brings to the book. He manages to come across as welcoming the reader, where some “authoritative” voices can come across too full of themselves and unapproachable. His writing style is inviting, clear, precise, and smart. A great combination to talk about a beverage that can be quite complex.

The current beer landscape is very diverse, with local breweries being a viable option for many. Holl cogently argues that the same quality standards should be in place regardless of brewery size and that a subpar liquid should never be served to a customer. He also wisely argues that we, the beer drinker, need to hold brewers, breweries, bartenders – basically every person who is involved in the process of getting the beer to us as the drinker – accountable for their quality. After all, if we don’t tell breweries the truth about their product, they may continue to make a subpar product and that would be a loss for brewer and drinker alike.

I went into this book thinking I possessed a decent amount of knowledge about beer. To wit, by no means do I consider myself an expert, but I wouldn’t have started a blog devoted to beer last year if I couldn’t write with some level of knowledge on the subject and felt comfortable with my ability to convey that knowledge and passion. Some of what I read in Drink Beer, Think Beer was known to me, but there was ample information that was new, as well. Even the stuff that I already knew proved enjoyable and enlightening reading because of Holl’s enthusiastic and clear voice and the way he makes me look at many things about beer I took for granted. I also was drawn to the book because John Holl is a voice I’ve come to trust regarding beer and the beer community, I follow the guy on social media and listen to the two podcasts on which he is featured.  Despite that, Holl’s enthusiasm and intelligence for beer, and how he conveyed it in Drink Beer, Think Beer my expectations for the book were exceeded.

To restate my opening sentiments, but in John’s words (Page 217):

“…this is an amazing time to be a beer drinker, and with our support, smart criticism, and enthusiasm for a proud tradition, better days will prevail.”

Bottom line: as a “seasoned” beer drinker with more than passing knowledge of beer history/culture, I found much to enjoy. Drink Beer, Think Beer is also a great book for folks who are curious about beer and have only passing knowledge about the subject. Holl gets a great deal of information across with precision and in a relatively short amount of space. The book is just over 200 pages of the primary text, not including Epilogue, Acknowledgements, Bibliography/Recommended Reading, and Index. With Christmas just a month away, Holl’s indispensable tome would be a perfect gift to wrap and place in a stocking or under the tree.

Excerpt: https://www.basicbooks.com/titles/john-holl/drink-beer-think-beer/9780465095513/#module-whats-inside

Draught Diversions: Thanksgiving 6 Pack 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…

Thanksgiving is a week away, so why not some recommendations for beers? Beers I think would work well on the day of the year dedicated to a big, multi-course meal. Last year, I did a broad “recommendation” for beers to enjoy with the family on Thanksgiving. Since doing these types of posts over the past year have been in the “Six Pack” format, I’ll continue that format for Thanksgiving 2018 and as usual, I’ll go alphabetical by brewery

Dubbel – Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Image Courtesy of Allagash’s Web site

A well-made dubbel can be a rich, sumptuous beer that is exploding with flavor. It is a style I really enjoy and one of the premiere breweries of Belgian styles in America is Allagash. I haven’t had their take on the classic style yet, but based on how incredible their Saison and Tripel is as well as their iconic White, I think I need to track it down. This one should be fairly easy to find. I could work during the meal and after the meal as well.

What Allagash says about the beer:

Allagash Dubbel hews close to the Abbey ale tradition. Its combination of 2-row malted barley, Victory, Carapils, malted red wheat, Munich, and black malt imbue it with a rich, copper color and complex, malty taste. Despite its full flavor, it finishes dry with subtle hints of chocolate and toffee. Not to be outmatched, our house yeast asserts itself by lending the beer undertones of classic Belgian fruitiness..

Snow & Tell (Scotch Ale) – Boulevard Brewing Company (Kansas City, MO)

Image Courtesy of Boulevard’s Facebook page

Boulevard has been making frequent appearances here on the Tap Takeover, whether I’ve had or have been seeking their beers. Snow & Tell is a beer I’ve been intending to try for a couple of years. The sweet, malty goodness of a Scotch Ale is a perfect accompaniment to the cornucopia of flavors present at the Thanksgiving Day table. I’m not sure how available this one is or will be (at least by me), but I know if I see it, I’ll be snagging a six pack. If you’ve had it, let me know what you think.

What Boulevard says about the beer:

A perfect winter beer for curling up by the fireplace, this malt blanket features prominent toffee and caramel notes with just a hint of smoked malt. A subtle spiciness is provided by hopping with Magnum, Chinook and Styrian Goldings.

Devil’s Harvest – Ironbound Hard Cider/Jersey Cider Works (Asbury, NJ)

Image Courtesy of Ironbound’s Facebook page

Ciders are an adult beverage that shouldn’t be overlooked and quite a few people enjoy them in the fall. I’ve had my fair share of ciders and an Apple/Cranberry Cider would be a great start for Thanksgiving. This one is (I think) available only in New Jersey, but beer drinkers shouldn’t rule out cider as a good option. Outside of a few big nationals like Angry Orchard, Woodchuck, and Strongbow, cideries seem even more local than nano/craft breweries so chances are, a smaller, local/independent cidery may have their ciders available where you live.

What Ironbound says about the cider:

Devil’s Harvest marries the fresh apple taste of Ironbound Hard Cider with the tart bite of blood-red cherries, bright acidity of wild cranberries, and soothing warmth of white pepper. The result is a deep-rose tinted cider that is fragrant with the sublime aroma of fresh-pressed cherries. Dry harvested cranberries from the New Jersey Pine Barrens lend an herbaceous note to this complex cider. Finishing with a flash of tart cherry and a lingering warmth, Devil’s Harvest is the ultimate food friendly, cool-season cider.

Cranberry Gose – Long Trail Brewing Company (Bridgewater Corners, VT)

Image courtesy of Long Trail’s twitter

A gose may not be the thick, dark style that comes to mind for Thanksgiving, typically. But if you really want to capture one of the fruits most associated with the holiday, one of the more American fruits, then this tasty, light tart ale could be a great start to the Thanksgiving gathering. The low ABV makes it perfect for that predinner drink as opposed bock or stout you may have with the meal. I had this gose when Long Trail first launched the beer a couple of years ago and recall really enjoying it. This is a year round beer for Long Trail so should be fairly easy to locate.

What Long Trail says about the beer:

Brewed with freshly pressed cranberries, coriander and a splash of salt. The result is a refreshingly tart and effervescent cranberry concoction built to fuel your warm weather-inspired wanderlust.

Transport your senses from bog to barrel with just one sip!

Neshaminator (Weizenbock) – Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company (Croydon, PA)

Image courtesy of Neshaminy Creek’s twitter

I briefly mentioned this beer back in my Bock post, but it really is worth a second mention, at the least. I’d suggest well-made bocks as a beer to have any time, but the big often sweet and malty flavor is great for Thanksgiving. The added sweetness from the honey, for me, would be a great accompaniment to the traditional sweet potatoes most folks have as a side dish on Thanksgiving. When I first had the beer a couple of years ago, it was in a 22oz bomber. Breweries seem to be phasing out those bottles and the beer is now available, I think, in 16oz canned four-packs. This should be available throughout the Northeast, or at least the NJ/NY/PA/DE region.

What Neshaminy Creek says about the beer:

This is our take on a German wheat bock, but with a small twist. We brew this 8.5% ABV holiday offering with orange blossom honey, malted wheat and dark Munich malt, a hint of Chocolate malt, and German Hallertau and Tettnanger hops. While most German bock beers named with the ‘-or’ ending are traditional double bock lagers, we decided to break from tradition a bit with not only the name of this beer, but the use of orange blossom honey as well. Prost!

Hazelnut Brown Nectar – Rogue Ales – (Newport, OR)

Image courtesy of Rogue’s web site

Brown Ales are great, fairly easy drinking brews. Not as heavy or potent as stouts, they can have a good flavor profile and this hazelnut sweetened brown ale from Rogue is a great one to bring to Thanksgiving. At 5.6% ABV, it won’t knock you on your ass and with Rogue’s fairly large distribution footprint in the US, should be fairly easy to locate.

What Rogue says about the beer:

From the hazelnut capital of the United States, this nutty twist on a European brown ale was originally crafted by Rogue Brewmaster John Maier’s good friend and avid home-brewer, Chris Studach. Hazelnut Brown Nectar offers a hazelnut aroma with rich nutty flavor and a smooth malty finish.

Another suggestion that always works: pick up a growler or half growler at your local brewery. I may wind up getting something filled up at Conclave (hopefully, their outstanding Espresso Milk Stout is available for growlers.

 

Draught Diversions: October 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…

For whatever reason, I didn’t have quite as many new beers in October compared to previous months and I found myself going back to favorites from the past. As a result, there are more repeat breweries (who’ve appeared on past monthly six packs) than usual.

Hop Explosion (Fegley’s Brew Works) IPA – American – 2 bottle Caps on untappd

Fegley’s has been brewing beer for over 20 years and are distributed here in NJ fairly widely. I’ve had a few beers I liked from them, but unfortunately, this was not one of them. The beer was in my fridge since July (a guest to our Fourth of July party brought me a mixed six pack and the beer drifted to the back of the fridge) so the beer may have been dated well before that. Not sure if that led to the lack of taste in the beer, but the beer did almost nothing for my palate. The hops were mild and not assertive. This was just a really bland beer that wound up being a drain pour for me.

Master of Pumpkins (2018) Pumpkin / Yam Beer (Tröegs Independent Brewing) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I didn’t snap a photo of the beer, this is Tröegs’s stock photo of the beer. Courtesy of Tröegs’s Web site

Two months in a row for Tröegs appearing on a monthly six pack. I nearly mentioned this in my Pumpkin 6 Pack earlier in the month, but figured I’d save it for here. Lots of pumpkin in this one with a really nice spice balance. The beer description says honey is added and I guess that accounts for the sweetness. I had the beer on draft, but I think it is available as one of Tröegs cork & cage four packs. This is definitely worth trying when in season.

ChewBocka the Masticator Bock – Dopplebock (Icarus Brewing Company) 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I enjoy the hell out of a well-made Dopplebock and that’s what I had with this wonderfully named malty, dark lager from Icarus. Everything I expect and want from a dopplebock was in the glass of this beer – sweet maltiness and a slightly higher ABV (7.7%). I’d love to have this one a little more readily available. I’ve only had a few beers from Icarus, but those few have been impressive and shows their ability to play in both the ale and lager styles of beer.

Sour Raspberry Blackberry Sour – Ale (Edmund’s Ost Brewing Company) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Purple Beer is cool…and this one was very tasty

I think this brewery just got a distribution deal for NJ because I had dinner at The Plank Pizza Co. Beer Parlor and it was a launch night for the brewery. My wife and I received a gift card for this place last Christmas and finally made our way up to the restaurant after watching our godson play hockey. A really good pizza beer bar and this beer was a great start to the night. Not too overly sour, the raspberry and blackberry imparts enough sweetness and tartness to give the beer an well-balanced profile. I wouldn’t have minded if the beer were a little more sour. My uncle got a flight of IPAs and those tasted pretty good too, so welcome to New Jersey Edmund’s Ost!

Curieux Belgian Tripel (Allagash Brewing Company) 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Since we had the gift card to Plank Pizza to play with, I figured I’d level up a little bit on my second beer. I haven’t had nearly enough of Allagash’s offerings, but few breweries in the US can match what they do in terms of Belgian style beers. Couple that with their extensive barrel-aging program and here you have a barrel-aged tripel. This was delicious beer; the barrel hints were just that: hints and enhancements of the great base beer of a Belgian Tripel.

Best Brown Ale Brown Ale – American (Bell’s Brewery) 3.75 bottle caps on untappd

Two months in a row for Bell’s is partially due to the relatively low number of new-to-me beers, partially because Bell’s simply makes good beer. Sometimes you just want a straight-forward ale that hits the style perfectly, doesn’t overpower with fancy adjuncts or barrel aging. During the cooler months, a Best Brown Ale from Bell’s is perfect for that. Simply a well-made enjoyable ale.

Despite starting the month with an extremely subpar beer, the last weekend of October really made up for it with three standouts.