Draught Diversions: November 2019 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…

A larger variety of new beers crossed my palate in November 2019 than usual, with the typical mix of NJ and non-NJ beers. The annual birthday beer tour took us through a portion of the Bucks County Ale Trail, with a beer from that day featured here. That proved to be a lot of fun, with a wide range of beers with an extremely wide range of quality. Outside of that day, I thought I was done with barrel-aged beers after having some earlier in the year that didn’t work for me, too much barrel flavor, adjuncts not blending well. That was a blip on the radar because three barrel-aged stouts appear on this month’s six pack. Enough with all that …here…we…GO!

So Happens It’s Tuesday (The Bruery ) | Stout – American Imperial/Double | 5 bottle Caps on untappd

The Bruery makes big beers, potent in ABV, robust flavor, and physically big for the size of their bottles. This is one of their more popular and highly rated barrel aged stouts, and a beer I’ve been wanting to try for a few years. I haven’t seen bottles of it very often and it is a pricey beer, so I was very happy to see the beer on draught when my wife and I went to dinner with my parents for my birthday at a Paragon Tap & Table. I’ll just cut to the chase and say this is the best barrel-aged stout I’ve ever had.

Pike Rd. Pils (Moss Mill Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Other | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Continuing with the birthday theme…the first stop of the aforementioned Bucks County Ale Trail was Moss Mill Brewing. All three beers I had there were very good, but the one that started the day stood out – a clean crisp and fresh Pilsner. Did exactly what a Pilsner should do and set the mood for what turned out to be a great day. If Moss Mill was more local to me, I’d definitely be hitting them up more frequently based on the three beers I had. Speaking of “more local to me…”

Touchdown (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Lager – Munich Dunkel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been really enjoying dark lagers of late, one made a six pack appearance last month and I gave von Trapp’s great Dunkel the full review this past October. Jersey Cyclone started strong with their Lagers, so naturally I wanted to try their Munich Dunkel. While they did not brew an Oktoberfest this year, this Dark Lager is perfect for fall – full flavored, great finish, and overall just a fantastic beer. Jersey Cyclone recently doubled their taplist and they have this one on Nitro now.


Bourbon Barrel Aged Concrete Ship (Cape May Brewing Company)
| Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the second of three barrel-aged stouts to make the November list. Cape May’s stout, named for a WWI naval folly, has a boozier feel than the Bruery stout mentioned at the start of this post. That said, the beer is very good, full of flavor from the Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels it sat in for a while. I keep saying whenever a beer of theirs appears here, but Cape May continues to brew outstanding beers and is strong contender for my top NJ brewery of at least 2019.

Java Latte (Victory Brewing Company) | Stout – Coffee | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Victory has been having a great year in my mind, as several of my posts here would prove. Their latest “limited release” (aka not core/year round beer) is a toned down version of their outstanding barrel aged Java Cask Stout. Java Latte is lower in alcohol, has some milk sugar added and is a delicious stout. The coffee is present but not overpowering, the lactose adds enough sweetness, and the alcohol at 8.2% is not exactly low, but a perfect stout for cool nights. My only minor complaint is the body is a little thin, but the flavor is all there. I like Victory’s trend with these limited release beers being released in 16oz 4-packs, too.

Convocation (Lone Eagle Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd


Lone Eagle brought a new head brewer aboard a few months ago and when I last mentioned them here, he was still relatively new so only a few of his beers were ready for consumption at that time. The monthly board game meetup in November gave me the chance to try 2 of his beers and both were really good, with this barrel-aged stout being a standout. What set this one apart are the heavy notes of chocolate and how well those notes played with the bourbon from the barrels. At 10%, patrons were only permitted two pours of the beer, which is understandable. This is a great beer.

Although most of what I consumed in November was good to outstanding (I could have easily added at least four more beers to this list), one big dud stands out. Not just a beer, but an entire brewery – Mad Princes Brewery, which was part of the birthday beer tour of the Bucks County Ale Trail. I got a flight and could only finish one of the beers, the other beers were just untrue to style, had very “off” flavor profiles and were simply bad beers. I didn’t like it and the group (6 people) consensus was equally negative. The brewery itself was probably the most unwelcoming brewery I’ve ever visited out of the nearly 100 breweries I’ve visited over the years.

Draught Diversions: Thanksgiving 6 Pack 2019

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 nearing so, since I’ve done a Thanksgiving recommendation post the last two years, I figured I’d keep the tradition alive. As is often the case, these are beers with varying availability, local to NJ, to the whole Mid-Atlantic region, some available nationally. Like previous years, I’ll be featuring beers that are rich, or beers that can work as dessert beers as well as a mix of beers I’ve had and beers I’ve yet to have.

Pivo Pils | Firestone Walker Brewing Co. | Pilsner | Paso Robles, CA | 5.2% ABV

Image Courtesy of Firestone Walker’s website

If I can find a way to fit a Pilsner into the discussion, I will. Few breweries in America are as widely praised as Firestone Walker. Their pilsner is a fantastic interpretation of the style, which takes some inspiration from both the German and Czech traditions of the style. It is a little more hoppy than most pilsners, but very delicious and a very approachable beer as starter for the day.

What Firestone Walker says about the beer:

Pivo Pils is a classically rendered pilsner with a West Coast dry-­‐hopping twist, showcasing stylistic influences from Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. Lighter beer styles like pilsner have been hijacked by industrial lager beer in the United States, and it’s time for craft brewers to take it back. Pivo Pils offers impeccable balance with floral aromatics, spicy herbal nuances, and bergamot zest and lemongrass notes from dry hopping with German Saphir hops.

Edmund Fitzgerald | Great Lakes Brewing Company | Porter – American | Cleveland, OH | 6% ABV

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s website

In my humble opinion, this is the best porter brewed in America and I will often have some of this in my refrigerator in the colder months of the year. Thanksgiving is a very American Holiday. Porters pair well with hearty meals, with their full flavor, especially a flavorful porter like this beer. Add that all up and I’d slot this in either right before dinner or at the dinner table to complement the many roasted flavors of the food.

What Great Lakes says about the beer:

Robust and complex, our Porter is a bittersweet tribute to the legendary freighter’s fallen crew—taken too soon when the gales of November came early.

FLAVOR
Brewed in memory of the sunken freighter, with rich roasted barley and bittersweet chocolate-coffee notes.

Da’ Nile | River Horse Brewing Company | Red Ale – American Amber / Red | Ewing, NJ | 5.9% ABV

Image courtesy of River Horse’s Facebook

Red/Amber Ales are often overlooked these days, but they can pack a lot of flavor. Especially when sweetened up with vanilla and molasses like this fine ale from River Horse. I had this on draft at the brewery after I finished the River Horse 6K earlier in the year and enjoyed it quite a bit. This beer I’d maybe set with the main course and would especially pair nicely with sweet potatoes/candied yams.

What River Horse says about the beer:

A deep amber ale brewed with vanilla, lactose, blackstrap molasses, and caramel malts. A delicious and drinkable malty option with depth and balanced sweetness.

Suddenly Comfy | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery | Cream Ale | Milton, DE | 8% ABV

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head’s website

Dogfish Head does so many flavorful things with their beers and they’re mostly all very good. This beer could bridge the courses from dinner to dessert, with ingredients of Apple Pie in the mix as noted below. This beer is a little higher in ABV (8%), so having some turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes in your stomach will help absorb some of the alcohol. I haven’t had this one yet, but I’m thinking that might change as the holidays get closer.

Dogfish Head says this about the beer:

Things are suddenly getting real comfy around these parts with our latest off-centered creation – Suddenly Comfy.

Brewed with fresh apple cider, Saigon cinnamon and Madagascar vanilla beans, this Imperial Cream Ale is made with all the fixings of a great apple pie … just like grandma used to make. .

Inhale and you’ll be greeted with aromas of pie crust and brûléed sugar. Sip and you’ll find notes of fruity sweetness. Savor and you’ll venture on a fragrant flashback that has you longing for the past.

Inspired by the classically decadent dessert, Suddenly Comfy is a result of our Beer Exploration Journal – a program designed to give our fans a peek into the world of R&DFH, while sampling, evaluating and rating new beers on tap exclusively at our Milton Tasting Room & Kitchen and Rehoboth brewpub.

Gingerbread Moochiato | Bolero Snort Brewing Company | Stout – Milk / Sweet | Carlstadt, NJ | 7 % ABV

Image courtesy of Bolero Snort’s Website

Bolero Snort is one of the great contract breweries in NJ, soon to open their brewery and Taproom at the end of 2019. Hell, not just great contract brewery, great brewery period. Known for their eye-catching a labels and bovinely inspired beer names, their beers are usually a lot of fun. People like coffee at the end of the dinner to enjoy with their dessert, so a sweetened spiced coffee milk stout would fit right in with the cheesecake as it did when I thoroughly enjoyed this beer during a Bolero Snort Dinner Beer pairing on my birthday. I had my 5oz pour as well as my wife’s 5oz pour, it was my favorite of the 5 beers I had that evening.

What Bolero Snort says about the beer:

A little nip in the air…so we’re keeping our uggs on a bit longer. Gingerbread Moochiato: same great coffee laden 7% milk stout base as Moochiato with loads of Ginger, cinnamon, clove, vanilla and just a hint of maple to round things out. Holiday shopping just got better.

Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Oatmeal Cookie | Stout – American Imperial / Double | Holland, MI | 11% ABV

Image Courtesy of New Holland’s website

Finishing the day with a “pastry stout” or “dessert stout” to complement (or supplement?) the previous beer is where this whole thing finishes off. I’ve had several bottles of New Holland’s iconic Dragon’s Milk Stout over the years and they’ve brewed quite a few variants (Coffee Chocolate, Cherry Chocolate, Salted Caramel), I may have had the S’More’s version, too. This year (2019), the variant New Holland released is most definitely a big ABV dessert sipper. Cookies, in my opinion, are just as enjoyable as a slice of cake for dessert so what better big beer to share?

What New Holland says about the beer:

Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Inspired by one of our favorite treats, Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Oatmeal Cookie is carefully aged with cinnamon, oats, brown sugar, raisins, and Madagascar vanilla extract. The familiar flavors of a freshly baked oatmeal cookie make an excellent pair with the rich, warm bourbon notes of our signature barrel-aged stout.

 

2018 untappd Thanksgiving Badge

Draught Diversions: October 2019 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…

While I had quite a few new to me beers in October, a significant portion of those beers were from Icarus Brewing, which I highlighted earlier in the month. There were still a god swath of new beers that crossed my palate in October 2019, with a less than typical mix of NJ and non-NJ beers. In other words, only 2 New Jersey beers made the six pack this month. On other hand, that visit to Icarus Brewing and meet up the next day with my friend who manages the taproom, resulted in some delicious beers.

On to the top 6 “new-to-me” beers I had in October 2019…

Julius (Tree House Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

The IPA that put Tree House on the beer map. I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends who happen to have some extra Tree House beers, like my neighbor across the street. He was kind enough to give me a can and I am super pleased he did. This beer is quintessential IPA in the New England vein – juicy, tropical, but it still retains a significant traditional hop flavor.

The Carriagemaker (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Pilsner – German | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Another month, another Czig Meister beer. I was pleased to see them release a Pilsner in cans, more pleased to grab some, and even more pleased with how the beer tasted. It hit all the notes I want a pilsner to hit – clean, crisp, refreshing with just enough of a hop presence to give the beer a full flavor.

NOKtoberfest (Rusty Rail Brewing Brewery Co) | Rye Beer | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Rusty Rail is one of many Pennsylvania breweries with distribution reach into NJ which has allowed me to enjoy a few of their beers over the years. NOKtoberfest is an interesting “anti-Oktoberfest” that has a little more spice and bit than an Oktoberfest. For starters, the beer is an ale, a Rye Ale, at that, so the style is different. Oktoberfests are typically lagers. Frankly, the only thing “Oktoberfesty” about the beer is the name. Still a good beer, which happens to feature some cool art on the label.


Dreadnought Dunkel (Tonewood Brewing)
| Lager – Munich Dunkel | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is only the second beer I’ve had from Tonewood (I reviewed their Freshies Pale Ale earlier in the year) and I’m impressed with this lager. I’ve been seeing more of their beers in the last couple of months so it is nice to see their distribution expanding. This beer is a really nice dark lager, reminiscent of the Dunkel I reviewed from von Trapp earlier in October. Dreadnought has a nice bready, almost pretzel-like, undercurrent. Another beer with cool art on the label.

Image courtesy of Yuengling’s web site. Where I had the beer (Hub City Brew House) was too dark for a good photo.

Hershey’s Chocolate Porter (Yuengling Brewing Company) | Porter – American | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first time I’ve really featured a Yuengling beer here in a monthly six-pack. After all, the largest craft brewery and oldest brewery in America doesn’t often brew new beers. This is a natural match; however – two of the biggest food names in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania coming together for a delicious beer. As of this writing, the beer is only available on draft, but it is worth seeking. I think Yuengling’s porter is a very under-rated interpretation on the style and this beer builds on that base beer. There’s a delicious chocolate flavor in the beer, but not overpowering by any means. Great stuff.

Cold Press Coffee Pumking (Southern Tier Brewing Company) | Pumpkin / Yam Beer | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd


To say that Southern Tier has a significant presence in the landscape of pumpkin beers is a great understatement. Their main Pumking is iconic take on the style and they’ve got a line of Pumking-adjacent beers. Last year, I reviewed the Rum Barrel version (delicious) so this year, I wanted to give this version a try. I’m glad I did because it puts a natural spin on the pumpkin ale by adding coffee. I’d say the only pumpkin-flavored beverage more popular (or derided) than pumpkin beer in the fall is pumpkin coffee. Be that as it may, I found the blend of coffee and pumpkin spices to be a very pleasant combination.

A couple of beers weren’t that great, including Scarecrow from Free Will Brewing, which is a wheat ale with pumpkin spices. Normally, this is a style I’d enjoy during this time of year, but Scarecrow had a very unpleasant aftertaste. For the first time in a while, a Dogfish Head beer was disappointing, American Beauty, their Grateful Dead pale ale. The bottle was a few months old so that could be why.

…and that puts a bow on my October 2019 Six Pack.

Draught Diversions: Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, 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…

Few breweries have made as big of an impact in as short a time as Icarus Brewing has since they opened in early 2017. Their beers seemed receive acclaim as soon as they appeared in bars and taprooms, and of course their brewery. But that’s now, late 2019. I’ve had a few of their beers over the years and most recently (late August 2019 and mid October 2019) I made two visits to the brewery. But let’s go back in time a little bit, to the brewery’s opening before returning to the present. Whereas many of the breweries featured here at the Tap Takeover had roots in home brewing, Icarus Brewing has a more “formal” path to brewing. Jason Goldstein, head brewer and owner, built up a very impressive resume before opening Icarus Brewing. Gaining the necessary knowledge studying food science, Jason spent some time at an Ohio brewery before heading to the prestigious Brewlab in England. Jason settled back into NJ where was brewing at Rinn Dunn (now Toms River Brewing) where his skills earned him some great recognition from one of the leading beer zines of note, Beer Advocate.

When he was trying to land on a name, (according to this reddit AMA), Jason wanted something that evoked Greek mythology, but could also have multiple meanings. In a very real life Icarus situation, the world famous Hindenburg disaster occurred in Lakewood, too. But Icarus, the figure from mythology, was also daring and tried something adventurous and new. Jason wants to try doing new and different things at Icarus whether or not they work. That’s admirable, but I think (and I’d guess many beer aficionados in NJ would agree) that Jason and the crew of Icarus have not flown too close to the sun yet and have managed to fly at the perfect height considering how well their beers are received and sell. The name also offers up plenty of potential beer names to play off the imagery and myth of Icarus.

Taster of Smooshing Chocolate Parts

Like many breweries of this size in NJ, Icarus is located in an industrial park/warehouse. These spaces often make for a great deal of flexibility in how the brewery builds out their taproom and brewhouse. They are not too far from the Garden State Parkway so getting there isn’t too much of a problem. Parking during my first visit didn’t prove problematic despite the taproom being fairly filled with several people coming and going while I was there. However, the second time I visited was for a special release, “Build Me Up Butternut” a collaboration with NJ Craft Beer/Mike Kivovitz, which was a Friday night and the lot was quickly filled and the street on which the brewery is located was tightly packed.

So what is in the tap room? Barrels function as the table base with round tops and a painting of the Icarus logo in the center. Hanging on the wall are some of the artistic renderings of some of their packaged labels. But the most noticeable element is the huge menu at the back of the taproom above the 24 taps. The bar is very nice with some of the Icarus branded products for sale on display (shirts, hats, glasses). There’s also a fridge where the canned beers and crowlers are sold.

Icarus Brewing Beer Menu/Tap List August 29, 2019

In addition to the main taproom, just on the other side of a door is more space with another full length bar, some barrel tables, and some more seating. That special Butternut night, a band was playing in the secondary area where barrels are stored. What was nice is that the sound from that area barely impacted the main taproom. We knew a band was playing, but the only reason I needed to raise my voice a little bit was because the main taproom was pretty packed.

In that facility, Icarus currently has the capacity to have 24 beers on available on draught in their Tap Room, with styles rangiing from lagers to saisons to IPAs/Pale Ales to porters to Stouts. When they first opened, Icarus had 5 beers taps…so yeah, they’ve come a long way. I have to say (and my wife said it when we visited in August on our way back from our annual trip to the Chicken or the Egg in LBI) their menu looks great from an overall presentation perspective, and specifically, the care that seems to go into how the beer names are written. Really eye-catching stuff.

Images courtesy of Icarus’s Facebook

During that first visit in August, Mike Kivovitz from NJCB happened to be at Icarus and we chatted for a while in the comfort of the taproom. Many people were coming and going with multiple 4 packs of beer.  As for the beers I had, I was extremely happy with my flight selection. The first beer was part of their Berliner Weisse series, Fruited and Flying and this version featured Pineapple, Mango, and Blackberry. This was a great beer, perfect for a summer day. Next was their pilsner, Extinguish which was very tasty. Third up was a super delicious pastry stout, Smooshing Chocolate Parts, a variant of the Smooshing Sweet Parts stout. Fourth was the hazy, juicy Drinking Crayons, so named after as a nod to one of the employee’s daughters who was in the brewery coloring the day the beer was first brewed. Turned out the name made for really terrific logo. I wound up getting an additional taster, their second collaboration with Brix City, Yacht Jams Vol. 2 Hurricane, a Hazy/New England IPA conditioned on tropical fruits.

I’ve mentioned a few of their beers in the past (the DDH Not a Schooner as the best beer at the 2018 Bridgewater Beerfest, my review of Yacht Juice, the flagship beer, and Velvet Fjord in last month’s six pack. In addition, the beer I’ll be reviewing this week is from Icarus, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

The aforementioned Yacht Juice is the beer that put them on the proverbial map and Icarus has brewed several variants of the beer: an imperial double dry hopped versions featuring Citra, an imperial double dry hopped versions featuring Mosiac, a session version (“Lil Yacht Juice”), a milkshake version with lactose (“Yacht Shake”), as well as collaboration with Brix City (Yacht Jams) which is conditioned on passionfruit, pomegranate, tangerine, and lime zest.

Images courtesy of Icarus’s Facebook

Other highly rated IPAs include Milking It (an Imperial Milkshake IPA), Power Juicer (a New England/Hazy IPA), Spelt Check (An Imperial New England/Hazy IPA), Touching the Sun (a Triple IPA), and Drinking Crayons (An Imperial New England/Hazy IPA).

Icarus brews a nice stable of dark beers, too. Maybe the most popular and well known is their Russian Imperial Stout Kalishnikov, a 14% Stout that has several variants, Kalishnikoffe (with coffee), My Little Friend (a smaller ABV version of Kalishnikov) as well as a few barrel-aged versions. Their first two dark beers were ChewBocka the Masticator Dopplebock (named after Jason’s dog), and Yukon Cornelius Coffee Porter. There’s a nice range of Dessert/Pastry dark beers, too: Smooshing Sweet Parts (and its variants), Making Whoopie, and King Arthur’s Steed (Porter with toasted coconut).

Images courtesy of Icarus’s Facebook

Jason and crew have collaborated with several breweries in their short life: Cypress Brewing Company (Edison, NJ); Levante Brewing (West Chester, PA), Brix City Brewing Company (Little Ferry, NJ), Gun Hill Brewing Company (Bronx, NY), Dark City Brewing Company (Asbury Park, NJ), Imprint Brewing Co (Hatfield, PA), Lost Tavern Brewing (Hellertown, PA), Heavy Reel Brewing Co (Seaside Heights, NJ), and Last Wave Brewing Co. (Point Pleasant, NJ).

So yeah, that’s a small fraction of the beers Icarus has brewed over the last couple of years. They have just over 300 beers cataloged on untappd.

Build Me Up Butternut World Tour, October 11, 2019

Speaking again of collaborations, in what has become an annual tradition, Jason brews an “anti pumpkin” beer with Mike Kivovitz of New Jersey Craft Beer. The beer is Build Me Up Butternut which is a porter brewed with Mike’s butternut squash soup made with some chipotle and guajillo peppers. The release of this beer in the taproom is what prompted my second visit to Icarus Brewing. The taproom was pretty tightly packed as was the secondary taproom where the band was playing. I also had a delicious, perfect every day beer when I first arrived, Life in Helles a beautiful Helles Lager. I spent most of the night talking with Mike and his friends and my friend Matt, the new taproom manager at Icarus. It was a great night, with bands playing and quite a lot of people hanging out. In other words, just about everything you’d want in a brewery visit – good beer, good friends, and good conversation.

Life in Helles is a damned fine lager. a perfect everyday beer. Low ABV + Flavorful = Winner

Back to the beers from Icarus… Over the last year or two, cans of Icarus have been appearing on shelves in many stores in NJ as Icarus Brewing self-distributes. That is a good thing because not everybody can head to Lakewood for the latest can release from Icarus. The only downside is that cans of Icarus beer don’t last in stores for very long, especially their popular and highly regarded Hazy IPAs. More of their beers can be found on draught through a decent portion of New Jersey

Like many of the smaller breweries in NJ, Icarus is a fixture in their community. That sense of community began even before the brewery opened, as Lakewood wanted a brewery to open in their town. Another example of Icarus supporting local is that they use hops grown at a local farm in neighboring Colts Neck. Icarus has also helped to raise funds for several fire departments and Jason is a volunteer fireman himself. Icarus has brewed beer to benefit charitable organizations, including an Imperial IPA they call For the Story, the proceeds of which went towards City Stair Climb fund which honors 9/11 First Responders. Icarus also sponsors an annual Unity Tour fundraiser, which honors officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Furthermore, Icarus hosts an annual McKenzie Blair Foundation event to raise funds and awareness for Sudden Unexpected Death in Childhood.

As I noted early in this post, Icarus has grown into one of the most respected breweries in the State (and even surrounding states) with many highly sought out beers. On untappd, for all the beers they’ve brewed, they have an overall 4.04 bottle cap rating and their average rating for all their beers on Beer Advocate is 4.06. NJ Monthly named them on of the 16 best breweries in NJ (out of 100 at the time of the articles writing). At the Beer BBQ Bacon Showdown, Kalashnikovcoffee was named best overall beer and Icarus received the “Best NJ Beer Award” at the 2019 Asbury Park Beerfest.

Another standout element of Icarus Brewing is the fantastic can art as many of the pictures throughout this post illustrates. The person responsible for the eye-catching can art is British based artist Ben Paul.

Icarus is in their third year of existence and it is clear they are one of the leaders of the New Jersey beer scene. Their taproom/brewery is a must visit, their great core beers are well known, but many of the tap room only beers are easily as good (like Build Me Up Butternut, Life in Helles). The taproom makes for a great hangout spot and chances are there might be a food truck parked outside. Icarus would be a great destination by itself and is near enough to some other breweries (Heavy Reel Brewing in Seaside Heights, Last Wave Brewing Company in Point Pleasant Beach, Kane Brewing Company in Ocean, Jughandle Brewing Company in Tinton Falls) that a multi-brewery tour of sorts could be worth a full day’s trip.

In short, try some Icarus beers or head to the brewery.

Special thanks to Matt Barnish, the new Taproom Manager of Icarus for helping out with some of the information in this post.

Some other links of interest:

Where to find Icarus Brewing on the Internet:

Icarus Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Icarus Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

Draught Diversions: September 2019 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…

The weather is supposed to begin getting cooler in September, but there were quite a few days in the 80s in New Jersey. Oktoberfest begins in Sepember and the darker beers become more prevalent in my fridge. This month features more NJ beers than the usual half split since New Jersey Craft Beer Week fell in the middle of the month. That, coupled with going for some “old reliable” Oktoberfest beers (plus a couple already highlighted in this year’s Oktoberfest feature and I didn’t want to double dip) made for a mostly NJ six pack this time around.

Oktoberfest – Bitburger Braugruppe (2019) (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company) | Märzen | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Sierra Nevada continues its annual Oktoberfest tradition of collaborating with a German Brewery. I’ve liked all the collaborations they’ve brewed, this one might be near the top of the list. A great malt flavor, nice crisp finish, and very refreshing. My only problem with the beer is that I wasn’t eating a bratwurst while drinking the beer.

Flood (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

I realize I mentioned this beer on my Brewery review of Jersey Cyclone, but even a couple of weeks later this beer stands out to me. An absolute delight of a brew, a perfectly balanced Imperial Stout whose flavors are drawn from the core four ingredients with no adjuncts. If I’m going for an Imperial Stout that isn’t aged in a barrel, Flood is exactly what I’d want.

XPA Citra Pale Ale (Flying Fish Brewing Brewery Co) | Pale Ale – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Over the last couple of years, the venerable Flying Fish has been updating their look and some of their beers. Their can art has come a long ways from where it was a couple of years ago and this beer is an update to their original Pale Ale I really liked how the Citra hops were featured in the beer. This could be a nice every-day pale ale.


The Lawman
(Czig Meister Brewing Brewery Co) | Hefeweizen | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Czig Meister’s Hefeweizen was really tasty, it leaned more on the clove/spicy spectrum of Hefeweizens than the banana-bubblegum flavors. Not a bad thing, in fact a very solid Hefeweizen. For all the attention their many IPAs get, their old school standards are really nice, too

The Hook (Carton Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Been a while since Carton featured here and this is a beer I’d been wanting to try for a while. Carton calls it a “Late Hopped Wheated Pale Ale” and I was super happy to see it on the menu Twenty/20 Taphouse. One of my favorite hops, Vic Secret, shines in this one with its citrusy profile. Great stuff and a fine example of a perfectly balanced hazy, hop forward ale. I didn’t want to snap a picture of the beer during dinner, but it had the look of a hazy pale, which is exactly what it is.

Velvet Fjord (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – Milkshake | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This might be the coolest can art I’ve seen in a long time.

This one just made it under the buzzer, so to speak. I was part of another beer/bottle share with some work friends (my contribution was La Trappe’s Quadrupel, which was well-received) and one of the other participants brought a four pack of this beer. He happens to live very close to Icarus which was fortunate for all of us. He was kind enough to let me have one of the cans he brought and what I tasted on the bottle share was even more evident in a full beer – this is a delicious, sweet IPA. Lots of hops, a bunch of lactose and vanilla on the finish made for a really good beer. Plus that magic Kviek Yeast many brewers have begun using as it is a hot commodity in the beer world.

Other odds and ends…
An old favorite, a new not favorite

I returned to an Oktoberfest beer I haven’t had in a few years, Victory’s Festbier which was just as good as I recall it being. I’ve got to stick to some of the classics and not be hesitate when I’ inclined to go for old favorites beers every now and again. Unfortunately, a beer I had high hopes for seriously disappointed me – Bomb! from Prairie Artisan Ales. This is an Imperial Stout with coffee, vanilla, cocoa, and peppers. I usually like those spicy stouts, but this one may have been a bad batch. I couldn’t even finish the beer..

Draught Diversions: NJ Shelf of Honor Six Pack #1 (Draught Diversion #100!)

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 we are at the end of my “celebration” of New Jersey Craft Beer Week with the 100th Draught Diversion post. I was planning on doing this specific post – the first of my personal Shelf of Honor for NJ beers as my 100th Draught Diversion so it was very serendipitous that the numbers aligned so I could present this post during New Jersey Craft Beer Week. In some of my reviews of NJ beers, I’ve mentioned a Shelf of Essential NJ Beers or that the beer under review would be in my personal NJ Hall of Fame beer. Now that I’m actually starting a six pack of those beers, I’m officially labeling it the “NJ Shelf of Honor” for beers that are essential or deserve a shelf in everybody’s fridge at some point. I will probably be putting together Shelf of Honor six packs in the future, maybe even a “Shelf of Honor” specific to a style or a brewery so consider this first of a series. Some of the beers in these posts will have been featured in a monthly Six Pack or a full review.

In the event I need to state the obvious – this is all my opinion about the beers I enjoy. I’m sure if you ask a dozen people in NJ what they’d consider a “first ballot for their NJ Shelf of Honor” there would be plenty of different beers in those six packs with only a little bit of overlap and maybe only at the brewery level and not at the specific beer level. As per usual, beers are listed alphabetically by brewery

Devil’s Reach | Belgian Strong Golden Ale | Cape May Brewing Company | Cape May, NJ | 8.6% ABV | Featured in the April 2016 Six Pack on the Tap Takeover

Over the last couple of years of drinking their beers, I’ve come to realize Cape May Brewing Company can do almost no wrong in my book. I’m sure regular readers of my blog are weary of reading my words expounding the virtues of the second largest brewery in NJ. The majority of what they brew is on the hoppier Pale Ale/IPA side of the beer spectrum, but this beer is, in my opinion, a world class ale. Like the best of Belgian inspired beers, the delicious magic of Devil’s Reach comes from the Belgian-style yeast so critical to the beer’s flavor. According to this blog post from CMBC, the beer is virtually unchanged since it was first brewed. I find it extremely impressive that they were able to brew this good of a beer on their first batch. This beer is most similar to the world-renowned Delirium Tremens. I’ll say I like Devil’s Reach more.

Regular Coffee | Imperial Cream Ale | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | 12% ABV

Two of the “Irregular” Coffee family members in the back

I’ve probably mentioned Carton on this blog as much as any other brewery (and more than most) and when mulling over what beer from the brewery to include I wavered between a few. Of course Boat was one (a nearly style defining beer), their fantastic Helles Lager This Town was another, and this one, Regular Coffee. I settled on Regular Coffee for a few reasons. One, it is the first Carton beer I had. Second, it is a beer that has become nearly synonymous with the brewery. Not as readily available as some of the other beers on this list (or even their own flagship Boat), but is a beer that has become a brand family within the brewery and something of an iconic beer of NJ Craft/Independent Brewing. Around New Year’s Day every year, Carton releases this beer and/or a variant with some flavors added, one year was Irish Coffee, meant to emulate the whiskey and/or mint infused coffee with maybe the best being Café Y. Churro which emulates Mexican Coffee. But Regular Coffee is the beer that started it all for the brand within a brand and my experience and dedication to the beers made by Augie Carton and crew.

Mexican Morning | Stout – Milk / Sweet | Conclave Brewing Company | Raritan/Flemington Township, NJ | 5.5% ABV

Conclave having a beer on this list is probably not a surprise to readers of the Tap Takeover and this beer is one that has attained some national recognition for its uniqueness. Conclave is the smallest brewery on this six pack and this beer is associated with the brewery the same way Regular Coffee is with Carton. Mexican Morning starts as Milk Stout but during the brewing process cinnamon, vanilla, cacao, coffee, and chili peppers are added. This beer deliciously evokes spicy Mexican coffee and is a beer I will have every single time it is available at Conclave when I visit. It isn’t brewed often enough to be on draft year round, largely because of the price of the ingredients and complexity of the brewing process, but it is absolutely delicious. When it is brewed, it is usually only available for pours at the brewery and not for growler fills. Once or twice Conclave has barrel aged the beer and that version is even more rare, but just maybe the best barrel-aged beer I can recall enjoying.

Overhead | India Pale Ale – Imperial / Double | Kane Brewing Company | Ocean, NJ | ABV 8.2% | Featured in the June 2019 Six Pack on the Tap Takeover

Kane has consistently been ranked as the best brewery in New Jersey for the past half-decade or so. This is a brewery that does EVERY style it attempts with a level of quality unparalleled by few other breweries. I knew I’d have to include one of their beers on this list, but I wasn’t sure which one, initially. Despite their amazing Quadrupels, I wanted to include a beer that is a little more accessible and this beer is probably the most accessible and easiest to find of all their beers – Kane started self-distributing 4-pack cans of this beer over the last year or so. The quality of the beer, oh boy oh boy.

As has been documented, only in the last year and half have I come to appreciate, enjoy, and seek out IPAs so I sort of avoided this beer for a long time. Now that I enjoy the hop heavy beers, I truly appreciate the outstanding nature of this beer. I’d say this is not just the best Imperial IPA out of NJ, but you maybe a top Imperial IPA in the country (Disclaimer, I haven’t had Pliny the Elder, for example). But this beer reminds me very much of Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute IPA, the nationally available standard bearer for Imperial/Double IPAs. Kane’s take is at least as good and an outstanding beer.

Blonde Hefe-Weizen | Hefeweizen | Ramstein/High Point Brewing Company | Butler, NJ | 5.5% ABV | Review on the Tap Takeover (May 2019)

I’d be hard pressed not to include a beer from Ramstein on a list like this one – I love German style beers and Ramstein is one of the originals of NJ Beer and Brewing. Good thing they make an absolute World-Class Hefeweizen – one of my favorite styles – in their line up. This beer is arguably one of the best American Hefeweizens and undoubtedly the best Hefeweizen brewed in New Jersey. Although I reviewed it very recently, this was a beer I’ve had quite a few times even before I joined untappd.

I would recommend this beer without hesitation as a great, flavorful example of a beer brewed with German ingredients (most of the hops, malt, and yeast used by High Point Brewing( are imported from Germany), in German tradition and process (Greg honed his brewing technique in Germany), with some American flare.

Chocolate Porter | Porter – Other | River Horse Brewing Company | Ewing, NJ | 6.5% ABV | Review on the Tap Takeover (February 2018)

River Horse is another one of the Originals of NJ Craft Brewing, having brewed beer for over 20 years. Some changes about a decade ago and a greater push in recent years to brew more beers and more eye-catching labels have kept the brewery a constant. Their Chocolate Porter isn’t the oldest beer in their lineup, nor is it one of the new ones, and it isn’t their flagship, (that would be their award winning Tripel Horse) but it is one of the more well-received beers and has been around for about five years. It is my favorite beer they brew and one I will always grab when I see on shelves. Stylistically, the beer sits right on the edge of the “Pastry Stout” craze: it is sweet, but it is still most definitely a beer. I reviewed it back in February 2018.

From my review: some porters are a little on the smoky side, this one is not. The “one pound of chocolate per barrel” sweetens the beer and eliminates some of that bitter smoke/roast flavor. If anything, the roast/smoke is akin to the edges of a freshly baked brownie, but the overall flavor, if we’re continuing with the brownie analogy, is like the gooey, slightly underbaked deliciousness of the center of the brownie but still retaining all the elements of a beer.

So, there you have it, six beers I feel Honorably represent the State of New Jersey and what the Garden State has to offer in beer. There are over 100 breweries in the state now so six beers is just the start of what could be a long and filled shelf of delicious beer.

 

Draught Diversions: Jersey Cyclone Brewing (Somerset, 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…

Continuing the celebration of Jersey Beer Week at the Tap Takeover, I wanted to feature a new brewery that opened up very close to me. I know the majority of these brewery visits/posts feature New Jersey breweries, so what better week to feature a new New Jersey Brewery than this week?

A pint of one of their first beers, Quarter Off Kölsch in front of the brewery’s cool logo

With the growing number of breweries in New Jersey, location can be everything. Timing helps, too. Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company opened in Franklin Township/Somerset, New Jersey on May 4, 2019 marking the third brewery to open in Somerset County, NJ. I’ve visited four times since they opened, once was a brief stop in for a growler fill of their delicious Helles Lager, Beach Blonde Lager, which I reviewed back in June. So I figured after my most recent visit, and this week being New Jersey Craft Beer Week, I should do a feature on the brewery here at The Tap Takeover.

A sign from the streets points you to a storm, a Cyclone, you’ll definitely want to visit

A familiar origin story for Jersey Cyclone, friends and owners Jan Chwiedosiuk and Brian Teel were home brewers. Their road to opening Jersey Cyclone, like many new small business, hit some bumps. The idea for opening a brewery began around the time Super Storm Sandy hit New Jersey back in 2011. After a few years and a few potential spots not working out for Brian and Jan, they settled into their current location on World’s Fair Drive in Somerset, NJ. The location is very centrally located off of route 287, a few of miles from the main campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Even better for me is that I work around the block from the brewery. I found it very interesting to watch the progression of the brewery’s build out through social media, so I was very happy to be able to visit the brewery on their grand opening on May 4, 2019, which was also Star Wars Day (May The Fourth Be With You).

Tap list at Jersey Cyclone during their grand opening

During that visit, the brewery was extremely busy and filled with patrons glad to have a new brewery in their area especially with Demented Brewing (formerly located about a mile or two away) having closed a couple of weeks prior. Additionally, the NJ Brewing/Beer Community is, of course, always happy to check out a new brewery especially at the grand opening. While the region (Somerset/Middlesex County NJ) isn’t absent of breweries, it isn’t quite the destination spot at the moment that Hammonton or Hacketstown are with a few breweries within walking distance of each other. The closest breweries to Jersey Cyclone are the Harvest Moon brewpub in downtown New Brunswick, Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough and Cypress Brewing in Edison. All four can easily be done in one day, but some driving will definitely be required.

I was very impressed during that Grand Opening – the brewery/tap room was pretty packed when I arrived in the early afternoon. The owners and brewers took their time with everybody who approached them, never gave off a sense that they were rushed or overly nervous. They did everything correctly in other words. I briefly spoke to Jan and Mike that day and spent a little more time speaking with Charles, the brewer. All three gentlemen were friendly and excited, as they should be. Charles mentioned that he wanted to feature a lager in the near future. With the longer brew time for a lager, a lager wasn’t quite ready for opening day, but what I had was very impressive. I started with the Kölsch, which I found to be nearly perfect. It was a warm day and the crisp, flavorful ale that’s almost a lager hit the spot. Everything I like about a Kölsch was present in their take, which they call Quarter off Kölsch. I had a full pour/pint of it. The other beer I had was a variant of their Snowtober Porter, with Vanilla and Coconut. Some beers with Coconut are overpowered with Coconut drowning out all other flavors. Not this one, the flavor was there, but dialed in and in harmony with everything else.

Let me talk about their approach and roll out of beers. Some breweries come out of the gate very aggressively with 12 taps and 12 different beers. Jan, Mike, and Charles went with a more measured approach, and one that in the long run, I think will pay off nicely for them and their customers. 8 beers were served opening weekend: Four variants of Snowtober (i.e. a Coconut, a coffee, etc), three variants of their flagship IPA Eye of the Storm, each highlighting a different hop, and the aforementioned Kölsch. For me, that says they are focusing their efforts in an attempt to be as precise as possible. Sure there are 8 beers on that taplist, but it is really three beers at their base.

An interesting water fountain.

The interior of the brewery is beautifully designed and very roomy with plenty of space where the brewing happens with room to expand. From the exterior, you’d be surprised how much space is inside the brewery and taproom. The tables are constructed from locally sourced white oak built by Jan and Brian. A water fountain is made from a re-purposed fire hydrant from the Middlesex Water Company from the early 1950s. Jan spent much of his career as the director of distribution for the Middlesex Water Company and this is a very cool homage and a great functional, conversation piece. How many breweries dispense their drinking water through a fire hydrant? Not many, I’d venture to guess. About the only criticism I can level is that the taproom could use some more lighting and/or brighter lighting.

Since getting that glass, it has become a favorite

There were couple of other nice elements in the experience of the tap room. I mentioned in my review of Beach Blonde Lager that Jan meticulously wiped down my growler with a water bottle. The servers/bartenders did the same for each pour in the taproom. I had the chance to speak with bartender Keith for a bit about the brewery, some of their plans, their approach and beer in NJ in general. From my conversation, it sounded very much like Keith was quite happy to be part of Jersey Cyclone. What all of this amounts to is that Jersey Cyclone is a welcoming, inviting place to enjoy good beer and conversation.

A 10.5 oz pour of Franklin Double, a very tasty Imperial IPA

On my second visit I only had a full pour of Franklin Double, their flagship Imperial/Double IPA. This is a classic Imperial IPA with a lot of hop bite, but with enough malt to balance out the beer so that it is approachable. Third visit entailed the copiously linked and noted growler fill of Beach Blonde Lager.

Compare this tap list to day one. It looks much better and features 8 unique beers.

The fourth visit was the most recent, and a few things stood out. While the taplist still consists of 8 beers, the taplist is more diverse. The 8 total beers includes two saisons/farmhouse ales, a pilsner, an imperial stout, an imperial porter, an Imperial IPA, an Imperial NEIPA, and a Pale Ale. Not a bad representation of different styles. The menu, from a font/physical standpoint, looks better, too. Thought and a bit of whimsy went into how they represent each beer on their taplist. The taproom looked just as clean and nice (but still a little too dark). On that Saturday evening, there were quite a few people and some patrons had pizza delivered.

New World Pilsner. Blurry, clearly not my best photo.

On to the two beers I had most recently. I’ve come to love Pilsners and I was very happy to see a new Pilsner on draught. New World Pilsner is a dry-hopped Pilsner that reminded me quite a bit of Victory’s Home Grown Lager, also a dry-hopped lager. It was refreshing, tasty, but a little more hoppy than I expect from a Pilsner. The next beer…oooh the next beer was Flood, an Imperial Stout that was brewed a couple of weeks prior to my visit. My picture below doesn’t quite capture the colors as well as I’d like, but the khaki head and deep blackness of the beer itself is *exactly* what I want to see in my Imperial Stout. The beer had a very pleasant aroma of chocolate malt and some hops. The beer tastes delicious, a nearly perfect take on an Imperial Stout. What I learned after speaking to Keith and what I really like is that there are no adjuncts, no coffee, no chocolate, just the core four ingredients of beer. To continue the comparisons, my taste memory for this beer kept returning to Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal – great roasted malt with a potent, yet unobtrusive hop bite at the end. For me, this is the best beer I’ve had from them so far. In my conversation with Keith, we both thought this would be a good beer for barrel aging.

10.5 oz pour of Flood

As has become a little evident, there’s a stormy/weather theme to many of the beers, as is appropriate with the impact Superstorm Sandy had on the region and the brewery itself. Flood is pretty obvious, the Cloudy/Hazy New England IPA is aptly named Storm Cloud, the standard IPA is called Eye of the Storm, the Pale Ale goes by Pier Pressure, the Imperial Porter goes by Snowtober, and the Saison with Hibiscus goes by Red Skies at Night.

In three and a half (I didn’t stay long for the Growler fill) visits over the course of 5 months, it seems to me that Jersey Cyclone is doing all the right things a new brewery should do. They opened with quality beer on May 4, they’ve been largely well-received by the community, and their quality and output improves. Jersey Cyclone has also recently expanded the hours of operation, opening earlier (3PM as opposed to 5PM on Friday), with the brewery adding Wednesday and Thursday hours. That tells me their beer is selling and people want to visit Jersey Cyclone. One thing that I was very pleased with is something I alluded to at the beginning of this post – Jersey Cyclone will always have a lager available. They didn’t immediately have their lager ready, but since Beach Blonde Lager has been on tap, the plan is to always have a lager of some kind. Right now the New World Pilsner fits that bill and soon a Dopplebock (a style I love) will be tapped.

It has been only about four months since Jersey Cyclone has opened but they are laying down a nice trajectory for the growth and maturity. Local places have been featuring some of their beer on draught including a favorite NJ Spot which I’ve mentioned previously – the Stirling Hotel. Jersey Cyclone has been making the round local beer festivals, too. Hopefully their growth continues and we can maybe see some bottles or cans from these folks. I know I feel very fortunate to have a brewery of this quality this close to my house and where I work. I’ve said this often about the breweries I’ve highlighted but repeating it makes it no less true – Jersey Cyclone is well worth the visit.

Jersey Cyclone Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Jersey Cyclone Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | untappd

Some other links of interest:

My Central Jersey on the opening of Jersey Cyclone (May 2019)
NJ Monthly Previews Jersey Cyclone (March 2019)