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.

Draught Diversions: A Pumpkin Six Pack

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

I realized I sort of railed against pumpkin beers in the past, but in all honesty, I do enjoy a well-crafted pumpkin ale. I have had about 50 since joining untappd, after all. Like any style, when fresh, well cultivated ingredients are used to make a well-made beer, good results are very likely. There was a time when fall would arrive and I’d try to consume as many pumpkin beers as possible, but the enormous glut of the style has had the opposite effect and caused me to take a step back. However, I’ve been in a pumpkin mood so, without further adieu, here’s a six-pack of Pumpkin beers I’d recommend or try. Some may be familiar to many, others maybe not so much. As with most of types of six-pack posts, I’ve had some on the post and want to try the others.

Midnight Autumn Maple – The Bruery (Orange County, CA)

Image courtesy of The Bruery’s twitter

Technically not quite a pumpkin beer as the beer is made with yams, but since untappd lumps pumpkin beers and yam beers into one category, who am I to argue. Anyway, I had the “sibling” beer, Autumn Maple, last year (as my 1,000th unique check into untapped) and really enjoyed it, so this one is high on my list to try. The Bruery’s beers are distributed here in NJ, so hopefully I’ll have no trouble finding it.

What The Bruery says about the beer:

The nights are getting darker and autumn is in its element. This variation of our fall seasonal brings both forces together for a limited time. Midnight Autumn Maple is a dark imperial ale brewed with midnight wheat, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, maple syrup and a whole lot of yams.

Punkin’ Ale Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, DE)

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head’s web site

Yeah, Dogfish again, I know. But Dogfish’s Punkin’ Ale is an annual tradition for many and one of the first pumpkin ales on the market in the mid-90s craft boon to still be available. I had a bottle last year and seem to have a few every other year.

What Dogfish says about the beer:

Every Beer Has A Story… here’s Punkin Ale

A full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar. We brew our Punkin Ale with pumpkin meat, brown sugar and spices. As the season cools, this is the perfect beer to warm up with.

Punkin Ale is named after the seriously off-centered southern Delaware extravaganza Punkin Chunkin (check out some of these Discovery Channel videos of Punkin Chunkin, you gotta see it to believe it!). In fact, Punkin Ale made its debut as it claimed first prize in the 1994 Punkin Chunkin Recipe Contest. Yes, that was a full 6 months before we even opened our doors for business! Punkin Chunkin has grown in size and scale, with pumpkins now being hurled more than 4,000 feet through the air! If you come down to see if for yourself, drop by and visit us.

Since its debut, we’ve brewed Punkin Ale each and every fall. It is released right around Sept. 1 each year. When you find it, grab some extra because it’s usually gone by Thanksgiving.

Fall Saints – Kane Brewing Company (Ocean, NJ)

I can’t confirm if Kane still brews this for the fall season every year. Photo courtesy of Kane’s Facebook page.

Of the growing number of breweries in New Jersey over the past half dozen years or so, few (if any) have as stellar a reputation as does Kane Brewing. Their IPA (Head High) is iconic and their barrel-aged stouts and dark ales are some of the most sought after in the country. They got into the “pumpkin” game with this big bastard of a beer clocking in at 9.2%. While not exactly made with pumpkins, the harvest fruits of butternut squash and sweet potatoes make for an enticing ale. Hell, just read the description below, because it just has me drooling in anticipation. This may be the most difficult beer on this six pack for me to acquire, I hope I’m able to grab it. (I’m not even sure Kane still brews this one).

What Kane says about the beer (from untappd):

Fall Saints, our new 9.2% autumn seasonal on tap. Fall Saints began with a late summer day here on the coast roasting 200+ pounds of butternut squash and sweet potatoes in a wood fired brick oven in Asbury Park. Back at the brewery, we added caramel malts, the squash and potatoes, and maple syrup to our base of imported pilsner malt to create a unique imperial ale for the changing of the seasons. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans form the backbone of a carefully measured blend of spices – cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and allspice – that was added to create a bold and flavorful beer enjoyable throughout the autumn season and beyond.

Baked Pumpkin Ale – Lancaster Brewing Company (Lancaster, PA)

Image Courtesy of Lancaster Brewing’s web site

Lancaster was a go-to brewery for me for a couple of years, I really like their Milk Stout and Strawberry Wheat. I continue to see this one on shelves in my area, but have yet to try it despite the fairly decent rating on untappd. Hopefully I’ll see a loose bottle in a make-your-own sixpack spot.

What Lancaster Brewing says about the beer:

Have your pie and drink it too! Bold in flavor with a deep amber color, our big Baked Pumpkin Ale is sure to remind you of Grandma’s pumpkin pie. Its lasting vanilla finish will leave your taste buds craving another.

Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Weyerbacher Brewing Co (Easton, PA)

Image Courtesy of Weyerbacher’s web site.

If Dogfish made one of the earliest Pumpkin Ales, then Weyerbacher’s is probably the first pumpkin ale I can recall having on an annual basis. This could probably even be considered a “classic of the genre,” if you will. They’ve been brewing this one for over a dozen years and is probably my top pumpkin beer year-over-year. That said, I haven’t had an Imperial Pumpkin Ale in far too long so I may have to remedy that.

What Weyerbacher says about the beer:

We set out to make a bold monument for The King of the Pumpkins!

This 8.0% ABV pumpkin ale is the mother of all pumpkin ales. It is heartier, spicier and more “caramelly” and “pumpkiny” than its faint brethren! We have added lots of pumpkin along with cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of cardamom and clove, giving this beer a spicy, full-bodied flavor.

This truly is an Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Perfect finisher on a cool autumn night or match it up with a slice of pumpkin pie and fresh whipped cream.

Whole Hog Pumpkin Stevens Point Brewery – (Stevens Point, WI)

New label for the beer, image courtesy of Whole Hog’s web site.

This is one of the higher-rated pumpkin beers on untappd and one that seems to please people who typically don’t go in for the pumpkin beers. In fact, it received the silver medal for Pumpkin Beer at the most recent (2018) Great American Beer Festival. I’ve had a few beers from Stevens Point (mainly the “Whole Hog” beers) and liked them so I may have to seek this one from the Wisconsin brewery. In fact, I think I may have had this before I joined untappd so it may be a case of reacquainting myself with the beer. According to untappd, this is also the most popular or “checked in” beer from Stevens Point Brewery.

What Stevens Point says about the beer:

Of all the gold medal-winning pumpkin ales, one factor sets Whole Hog apart: spice. Savory pumpkin pie spices, natural cinnamon, nutmeg, and real pumpkin are perfectly balanced in this sweet, fully enveloping Pumpkin Ale.

I think this is a fairly decent group of pumpkin beers, are there any you like? There’s a pretty good chance I’ll have a pumpkin beer in my review next week, too.

Draught Diversions: September 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…

September should be the start of cooler weather, with stouts on the horizon. September is most definitely the start of Oktoberfest and this month’s post features one prominently. For the September 2018 Six Pack, three New Jersey beers are featured.

I found myself going for more NJ beers this past month in general. For the first time in a couple of months, one beer really disappointed me.

Always Ready (Cape May Brewing Company) Pale Ale – American – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I continue to be impressed with the output from Cape May Brewing Company. I’d seen a few posts about this beer on untappd, Twitter, and Instagram and was intrigued especially when I learned Always Ready was brewed in honor of the United States Coast Guard as Cape May has been home to the USCG’s sole training center since 1982. CMBC offers a $1 discount off pints for active-duty and retired USCG members, year-round. As it so happens, Myke Cole is one of my favorite authors and one of the best human beings I have the privilege of knowing. Among the many things Myke has done was serving in the USCG. I toast this beer to Myke and recommend you all get and read his books. Click on his profile and that shall lead you to some great, powerful fiction to read while enjoying an Always Ready, or any time for that matter. (Gemini Cell might be his best, IMHO).

Here There Be Monsters IPA – American (Demented Brewing Company) – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

It has been far too long since I had a beer from Twin Elephant and this juicy IPA just about made up for it. They’ve brewed this beer in the past, but decided to can it with some gorgeous can art. The beer inside, which evokes those juicy citrus and tropical notes that so many IPAs do nowadays, lives up to the dark and lovely can art. Bottom line: a great IPA from a relatively young brewery with a reputation for brewing great hop-forward ales.

30th Anniversary Imperial Oyster Stout (Great Lakes Brewing Company) Stout – Oyster 3 bottle Caps on untappd

This one is disheartening because nearly every other beer I’ve had from Great Lakes Brewing has been very good. More to the point, I liked them all and consider a few of their beers classics, so I was happy to see a nice big stout as their anniversary beer. You might think oysters in a stout would be bad, but they can be an interesting adjunct (as in Flying Fish’s Exit 1 Bayshore Stout). Unfortunately, this one didn’t work too well for me and I could barely finish it, there was a very strange aftertaste I found displeasing.

Marzen German Style Lager Märzen (Lone Eagle Brewing) – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I had the beer on draught, but Lone Eagle was selling it in 4packs of 16oz cans.

I has been a few months since I last visited Lone Eagle for board game night, but as it so happened, the night I went was shortly after their Oktoberfest debuted. I enjoyed last year’s batch a great deal and this year’s was almost as good. A really tasty, straightforward lager that does exactly what an Oktoberfest lager should.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Troegenator Dopplebock (Tröegs Independent Brewing) 4.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been wanting to try this bee for a few years now and I was never able to find it near me, but this year I saw it my local bottle shop. I figured this was a great beer to share with my dad for his birthday and he liked it just about as much as I did. The base beer, Troegenator is a classic and probably the most readily available doppelbock on the East Coast of the US. The Trogner brothers took a great beer and leveled it up considerably. What makes this beer so special is how the barrel aging doesn’t sacrifice any of the bock character of the beer. Some of the characteristics are enhanced – the sweetness (but not too much), the caramel hints, and the maltiness. The aroma is inviting and the beer is nearly perfect. This is one of the five or ten best beers I’ve ever had, probably.

Special Double Cream Stout (Bell’s Brewery) Stout – American 4.25 bottle caps on untappd

I continue to be extremely pleased Bell’s is now distributing their delicious beers into New Jersey. There isn’t anything flashy about this stout – no adjuncts, no flavor additives like coffee or barrel aging. Nope, just 10 malts that beautifully evoke notes of coffee and chocolate, for a sweet stout that is pure delicousness.

So, September is in the book and October is here. Will I dive into some pumpkin beers in October? Only time will tell.

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2018 Six Pack

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

The longest, largest, and lager-est beer holiday is nearly upon us. Of course, I am referencing Oktoberfest – the time of year when German beers and German inspired beers are celebrated. Well, when they should be celebrated since some Oktoberfest beers begin hitting shelves late July and August. There are many, many, interpretations of the style from which to choose as nearly every brewery seeks to capitalize on the season and take the chance to brew a lager. Since we’re about a week and a couple of days away from the official start of Oktobefest (September 22, 2018), what better time to highlight a few I may try this year.

The Kaiser Avery Brewing (Newport, OR)

Image courtesy of Avery Brewing’s Web site

How do I *not* at least mention an Oktoberfest named The Kaiser? Avery, like many Colorado breweries, has a tendency to lean into Ales, particularly hopped up ales. Much of what they brew can be considered over the top so of course they push the limit on the Oktoberfest beer by brewing an “Imperial” Oktoberfest with nearly double the ABV.

What Avery says about the beer:

Just in time for fall and its most notable Fest, this limited release Imperial Oktoberfest Lager is our emboldened Prost! to one of the world’s most recognized styles. The Kaiser weaves together rich, toasted Vienna and Munich malts with the floral spiciness of Hersbrucker and Bravo hops to create a bold and brazen dry Imperial Oktoberfest.

Octoberfest Beer – Bell’s Brewing Company (Comstock, MI)

Image courtesy of Bell’s Brewing’s Web site

With Bell’s hitting NJ earlier in the year coupled with how much I’ve enjoyed the half-dozen beers I’ve had from them, I do want to give their Märzen a try. Everything I’ve had from them has fallen into the Ale half of the brewing divide so I’d like to see what they can do with a Lager.

Bell’s says this about the beer:

Crafted as a flavorful session beer and perfect for autumn, Octoberfest spends a full six weeks fermenting.

With herbal hop aromas, this balanced amber lager focuses on lightly toasted malt that lends body without too much sweetness. Perfect for a week-long wedding celebration in Germany or the start of the Michigan autumn.

Oktoberfest – Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, FL)

Image courtesy of Cigar City Brewing’s Web site

Cigar City made a decent splash when they first started distributing in NJ a couple of years ago, especially with their highly acclaimed Jai Alai IPA. Skimming through untappd, this one seems to connect correctly with folks looking for a quality Oktoberfest. That said, there is a bit of a contradiction for a brewery based in a state with temperatures averaging 80 degrees brewing a beer primarily associated with cooler autumn weather.

What Cigar City Says about the beer:

In Florida the changing of seasons is decidedly more subtle than in most other places. Palm fronds rarely turn brilliant red and orange the way leaves do in the rest of the country, and for Floridians sweaters exist only as rumor. We at Cigar City rely heavily on our seasonal beers to mark the passing of each month and few beers are better at heralding the arrival of autumn than our Oktoberfest Lager.

Our Festbier nods firmly toward the style’s history with it’s amber color, bready malt complexity and restrained hop flavor and bitterness. At the heart of this beer is a malt bill of six different German malt varieties, including a generous helping of Munich malt. After adding Hallertauer Mittlefruh hops we ferment the beer with an authentic Bavarian lager yeast, resulting in a clean, dry and complex lager that’s at once intriguing and drinkable.

Oktoberfest (Marzen Style) – (Hackettstown, NJ )

Image courtesy of Jersey Girl’s Facebook page

I had to include at least one NJ brewery in this post since quite a few around me brew a version of the style. Of the half-dozen beers I’ve had from Jersey Girl, I’ve really enjoyed them all. I like that these are 16oz cans, as is all of Jersey Girl’s canned beer. Also, I’m not going to lie, I really like the label on this one.

What Jersey Girl says about the beer:

With an ABV of 5.9%, it’s a delicious Copper Hued Märzen. Oktoberfest started as a festival where the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal wedding of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese. In honor of this celebration we have brewed a medium bodied, Copper Hued lager.

Oktoberfest – Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI)

Image courtesy of Lakefront Brewery’s Web site

I’ve seen good things about Lakefront’s interpretation of the style (3.90 bottle caps on untappd) and I’ve had a handful of pretty good brews from the Milwaukee regional brewery. I don’t see their beers everywhere near me, but in enough of the liquor stores in my travel radius that snagging some shouldn’t be a problem. At the least, maybe I’ll throw a mix-six pack together at Wegmans and try to grab this one.

What Lakefront says about the beer:

The radiant copper-orange hue and rocky, off-white head of our traditional Märzen-style lager comes from generous amounts of Munich malt. Caramel malt aromas complement the German lager yeast’s slightly floral aroma. Mt. Hood hops balance the substantial malt body, while the lager yeast adds a subtlety to the flavor, making this a great rendition of a classic German lager. Prost!

Oktoberfest – von Trapp Brewing (Stowe, VT)

Image courtesy of von Trapp Brewing’s Web site

From one of the most Germanic of all breweries in America, von Trapp’s Oktoberfest one I’d like to try. I’ve enjoyed their Bock and their Helles Lager quite a bit, so I’m interested in tasting their take on the iconic style.

What von Trapp says about the beer:

The Bronze Medalist at the Great International Beer Festival and Attitash Oktoberfest “Best Brew Award” in both 2015 and 2016.

Oktoberfest is brewed with a blend of light and dark Munich Malts, which not only adds to its depth but delivers a residual sweetness. Carmel and toffee notes linger but are balanced by the subtle hops additions in this beer. We use hallertau and Tettnang hops which adds a floral yet peppery aroma to this beer. It’s our take on this traditional fest beer.

So there it is, my 2018 Oktoberfest Six Pack. I hope to try at least one or two of these over the next few weeks. Perhaps as you head into the coming weekend and prepare for next weekend’s (09/22/18) official start to Oktoberfest 2018, you’ll give one of these a try.