Draught Diversions: May 2018 Six Pack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draught Diversions: April 2018 Six Pack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proper Glassware from a proper Belgian bar

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

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

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

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

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

Belgian yeast = magic.

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

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

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

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

Draught Diversions: March 2018 Six Pack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draught Diversions: February 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…

Since today is March 1st, let’s take a look back at the February 6-pack. Again these are beers that stood out over the past month. Most are really good beers, but I’ll try to keep it somewhat balanced and include one beer that didn’t quite work for me.

As this six pack (and last month’s) are showing, I’m more strongly leaning into the whole IPA/hopped up beer side of the bottle shop. There might be another rant/post about that specifically, but I’ll go through this six pack chronologically.

Victory Mighty Things Imperial IPA – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

On the very first day of the month, I had a new Double/Imperial IPA from my favorite brewery, Victory Brewing. There’s a near perfect balance between the hops and malt in this beer with a nice citrusy undertone. I’ll admit, I was a little unsure if I should get a full six pack of the beer, but I am very glad I did. I’ve seen some chatter on beer boards that this is just a repackaged version of Hop Ranch. I can’t say, never had that one. Mighty Things, though? I’d have this again and again.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Pale Ale – American – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I had to travel in February for my job and at one of the cocktail hours/receptions, the beer choices were Stella Artois (which I don’t like at all), Bud Light, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I of course went with the famous green labeled bottle. I haven’t had one of these in many years (at least since before I was on untappd) and never really enjoyed the beer. In fact, it was the beer from Sierra I liked the least. But since it was free, I figured I’d revisit. I’m glad I did because with my shift to enjoying IPAs and my changing (evolving?) palate, I now enjoy this beer very much and grabbed a bottle at the following night’s cocktail hour.

Weyerbacher Sunday Molé Stout Stout – American Imperial / Double – 2.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Here, we reach the drain pour. I like stouts quite a bit, spiced up stouts very much, and I enjoy much of Weyerbacher’s output, so I was expecting to enjoy this one a great deal. Especially since it is a variant on their wonderful Sunday Morning Stout. This beer didn’t work for me at all. I’m not sure why, maybe the smokiness? I couldn’t put my finger on it and couldn’t finish the beer, it just wasn’t for me.

Flying Fish Jersey Juice IPA – New England – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Number four for the month (and the second IPA) is from New Jersey’s largest craft brewery, Flying Fish. I’ve enjoyed many of the beers I’ve had from Flying Fish’s portfolio so how could I not at least try a beer with the state’s name in it? Well, Jersey Juice is quite tasty with a good hop / malt / juicy balance. Further playing on the New England IPA craze, this beer is distributed in 16oz cans. The beer isn’t quite what it I thought it might be, in that the name, packaging, and untappd classification made me think it would be a New England IPA. The beer doesn’t have quite the level of juiciness or cloudiness most NEIPAs have, but the beer is still quite good and is one of those versatile brews that fits any occasion.

Tröeg’s First Cut IPA – American – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve always respected and liked the beers Tröegs produces, and now that I’m on-board with IPAs, I like them even more. First Cut is the first of Tröegs Hop Cycle series of seasonal IPAs. Not too highly hopped, the beer is extremely well balanced and sweet with honey and mangoes added to the brew process. This is a delicious, extremely refreshing IPA. I don’t know if I’d call it “crushable” because of the 6.2% ABV, but the beer goes down really nicely. As the first in the Hop Cycle, this is a spring seasonal, but damn would this be a perfect summer/poolside beer.

Now I’m looking forward to progressing through Tröegs Hop Cycle this year.

Samuel Adams Sam ‘76 Lager – American Light– 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

There’s been a lot of hype for this beer and how the fine folks of Samuel Adams went through 60 different recipes before settling on the beer that is known as Sam 76. I may have to up my rating when I have a second can of the beer because this is a solidly made beer. Billed as an ale/lager hybrid, the beer is bright, crisp, and has a nice hop-pop. With a  4.7% ABV, the beer is really crushable. This is a year-round beer and I can imagine it will do very well in warm months and in people’s coolers in the summer. The beer is maybe a session lager? A hoppy Helles Lager? The flavor profile actually reminds me of Carton’s Boat Beer, if not quite as hoppy. I may have more to say about this beer at a later date, but I hope this does well for Jim Koch’s great company.

Honorable mention: Czig Meister brewery in Hackettstown had a 2-day Stoutfest (their second annual) and there were some fantastic stouts, 50 different stouts over two days! The best I had were the Caramel Macchiato Stout, Imperial Milk Stout and the Bananas Foster Stout. I’d love to see the Caramel Macchiato make it to season/full time status and put into distribution.

Draught Diversions: January 2018 Six Pack

Time for another slight change in protocol here at The Tap Takeover. With my first Monthly recap post for 2018, I’m going to trim back from writing about the majority (90%) of the beer I had in the previous month and go with six beers. Ideally, I’ll try to keep mention at least one beer that didn’t quite work for me. Also, this list of beers excludes any that have been featured as a single beer review. For this post, at least, I’ll go chronological from what I had early in the month to what I had most recently.

I’ve found myself drawn to more NJ breweries over the recent past, rather than nationally distributed brands, so two of the beers in this post are from NJ Breweries.

Café Con Leche Stout – Milk / Sweet – 3.25 bottle Caps on untappd

First up is the very first beer I had in 2018. Café Con Leche from Cigar City Brewing is a beer whose style is strongly in my wheelhouse, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Cigar City started distributing into NJ last year so I was looking forward to trying some of their beers. Especially their interpretation of a Milk Stout. While it wasn’t bad, and relatively true to style there was something unpleasant on the finish of the beer. An odd aftertaste made the beer, on the whole, not something I’d want to try again. This was one of the bombers I received for Christmas so I didn’t feel too guilty about not finishing the whole bottle.

Han Shot First IPA – Imperial / Double – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Next up is an IPA, or rather, Imperial/Double IPA from a fairly local brewery in Pennsylvania, Evil Genius Beer Company. I’ve had a few of their beers, the quality is good and the names are very clever, including this one, Han Shot First. This beer surprised me, it did not have nearly the level of hop bitterness I expected considering it is a Double. While the ABV is 8%, the IBU is 30, making this a very juicy, drinkable IPA. I’d definitely have this one again and not just for the name.

Collaboration No. 6 – Barrel-Aged Blend Other – 4.50 bottle Caps on untapped

The third beer in the January Six Pack is one of two beers I had at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Sol Mexican Cantina. Very good food combined with one of the best selections of beers in Somerset County, NJ are why I like this place so much. The first beer I had that night was Collaboration No. 6 – Barrel-Aged Blend, a collaboration between Boulevard Brewing Co. and Firestone Walker. I’ve only had a couple of Boulevard’s beers and liked them fine, I need to seek out more from them. This beer is listed on untappd as “Other” likely because it is a blend of four heavy styles, two from each brewery: Bourbon Barrel Quad (45%) & Imperial Stout X Tart Cherry (10%) from Boulevard and Stickee Monkee Belgian Quad (35%) & Velvet Merkin Oatmeal Stout (10%) from Firestone Walker. It probably will not come as a surprise that the Belgian Quad flavors come through the most, but the sweetness of the stouts is there, too. This quite simply an outstanding beer

It looks like this one was brewed in 2016 so I don’t know if it was a one-time beer or has been brewed again more recently. Either way, if you see this one, get it because it is a fine example of experimental, collaborative brewing.

IPA IPA – American – 4 bottle Caps on untapped

Number four is the first of two beers from New Jersey and the other beer I had at Sol Mexican Cantina: a straightforward IPA from Brotherton Brewing. This is the first beer I’ve had from the South Jersey brewery and boy was I impressed. This is a borderline juice-bomb; a hazy Citra-hopped unfiltered IPA. I could drink this all day and hope I can find some of this in cans near me. Like I said, this is just simply a tasty, well-made IPA. Sometimes a well-made standard style is just the beer you need.

Sunday Brunch Porter – Imperial / Double – 4.75 bottle Caps on untapped

The second New Jersey beer was probably the best beer I had in January and one of the best porters I’ve ever had. One of our (my wife and I) favorite restaurants is the Stirling Hotel – amazing food, great beer, and excellent beer events like the one I attended in the middle of the month. Essentially a Tap Takeover, Stirling Hotel hosted a “Kane Brewing Brewer’s Lunch,” which featured six beers from Kane and a unique menu. My meal was fantastic, waffles topped with a roasted duck leg and fig syrup. One of beers I had was Kane’s Sunday Brunch, an Imperial Milk Porter made with coffee, maple syrup, and cinnamon. At 9.5% this is a potent beer, but so smooth and sweet. This is one of Kane’s once per year beers and seems to only be available at special events like this and in 750ml bottles at the brewery.

Some people may be wary of anything with cinnamon, but the spice is used perfectly in this beer and compliments the flavor profile rather than overpowering everything else that went into the beer. This is a must have beer, especially if you live in or near New Jersey.

Two Hearted Ale IPA – American – 4.25 bottle Caps on untapped

Finishing off the six pack for January is one of the iconic American craft beers: Two Hearted Ale from the great Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. I have lamented in the past that Bell’s doesn’t (yet?!?!) distribute to NJ. I happened to see this one on draught at the Houston Airport. Considering I had some time to kill before my flight departed, I ordered a pour and was satisfied. I now know why this beer has the reputation it does, this is one of the best, most drinkable IPAs I’ve ever had. As I plead when I reviewed Bell’s other iconic beer, Oberon Ale, if folks from Bell’s are reading this, please get your beer into NJ. You’d make an entire state of craft beer consumers extremely happy.

There you have it – six beers, five of which were excellent and one that just didn’t work for me.

Draught Diversions: December 2017 Beer Pours

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…

With December, the Winter Ales and Stouts are filling the shelves. Many filled my glasses and comprise a majority of the new beers I enjoyed this December.

As has been tradition with my wife and I the last decade or so, on the first Saturday of December, we tag our Christmas Tree at a local farm with our friends and celebrate with brunch and adult beverages. This year, my friend had a Six Point variety pack, including Resin, their Double IPA and Sweet Action their blonde. I’ve come to realize I’m just not a fan of much of Six Point’s output. Later in the week, at a work dinner, I had a fine New Jersey brew: Philoso-Rapper, a Belgian Strong Golden Ale from Departed Soles out of Jersey City, NJ.

I stopped at Flounder and picked up a growler of Delta House Stout, their tasty interpretation of a Milk Stout, to bring to a gaming session. At that same session I had some Viking Blood mead, also quite good. I need to explore the world of mead more thoroughly. One of the pleasant surprises of the month was a solid Pilsner from Industrial Arts Brewing, Metric, which was part of a recent Wegman’s Craft Your Own 6 Pack.

I dove fully into the Christmas/Winter Ales having this year’s version of Anchor’s Anchor’s Christmas Ale beer and Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve. Anchor’s was good, but I enjoyed previous recipes/iterations more, the 2017 batch was stronger on some spices that didn’t quite work for me. Rogue’s revamped Santa beer, on the other hand, I found to be excellent. A sweet cherry Dark Strong Ale, the beer was perfect as a dessert beer and reminded me of Ommegang’s Rosetta, but without the sourness. Also from my 6 Beers of Christmas Future (2017) was  Two Roads’ Holiday Ale one of the more unique holiday / Christmas beers I’ve had. There’s an interesting malt/sweetness to the beer that really sets it apart.

The Thursday before Christmas was the monthly Brews and Board Games at Lone Eagle. This brewery continues to impress me with how the beer has been getting better and more consistent over the past year. First up was their Abbey Road Dubbel, a fantastic interpretation of the classic Belgian style. The second beer I had was one of their staple brews, 007 Golden Rye Pale Ale, the first Rye beer I’ve had in a while and the first one I can remember enjoying this much. I think I need to reassess this style, particularly the German interpretation known as Roggenbier.

Abbey Road Dubbel on the left, 007 Golden Rye on the right

Finally, Christmas arrived. Well, Christmas Eve, which is when we get together with my side of the family. Christmas Day is spent with the In-laws. Fortunately, I’m not the only person who enjoys craft beer either day, so for years I’ve been bringing special beers to share on both days. I started off sharing possibly the best beer I’ve had all year with my dad, Goose Island’s 2017 Bourbon County Brand Stout. As I have the past few years, I brought a local growler to share with everybody, in this case it was Demented Brewing’s Gluttony and incredible coffee stout that is perfectly balanced. Just as good (if not better) than Firestone Walker’s Mocha Merlin. Unsurprisingly, the growler did not survive the night. My dad also brought out a bomb of Founders Doom the IPA entry in their Barrel Aged series. This is one of the best, smoothest, most balanced IPAs I’ve ever had.

On Christmas Day, I had the Corsendonk Christmas Ale my folks gave to me as a gift the night before. I can taste why this is such popular, traditional beer around Christmas Time. This is a very solid interpretation of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. The other Christmas beers I brought was 10 Lords a Leaping from the Bruery. This beer tasted like the best parts of a Witbier and a stout amalgamated into one beer with lots of spice complexities.

The final week of 2017 brought still more beers. I had a bottle of Chimay Blue, the Belgian Trappist brewery’s Strong Dark Ale which is a wonderful World Class ale. As I said in my Tuesday review, one of my team members at work got me a 4-pack of Spellbound’s Porter aged on Palo Santo Wood as well as their fantastic IPA. Spellbound’s IPA had the perfect balance of hops and malt. I continued my trek through Flying Fish’s Exit Series with Exit 7 Pork Roll Porter at Hub City Brewhouse, a local tap house in New Brunswick, NJ. Unlike another pork infused beer from a NJ brewery I had earlier in the week, Flying Fish’s beer was really well balanced with the right amount of spice and flavor from the pork roll. The other beer was a fantastic Belgian Brown ale from Leffe.

Lastly, New Year’s Eve for the last beers of 2017. The last few years, my wife and have been going to our friend’s house and just about everybody brings their own beer, but everybody winds up sharing. In addition to a six-pack of Victory’s Prima Pils, I’d been holding a Chocolate Bock from Samuel Adams for a couple of weeks and figured New Year’s Eve the right time to have it. I’ve had the beer in the past, but not in a very long time, long before joining untappd. It was as good as I remembered it. I also had a Wet Dream from Evil Twin Brewing, a brown ale with coffee and Flower Child IPA, a well balanced brew from Cambridge Brewing Company.

So there you have it. The “new to me” December 2017 beers. If I’m calling out the best, the top would definitely be Spellbound’s Porter aged on Palo Santo Wood, Founders’ Barrel-Aged IPA Doom and Demented Brewing’s Coffee Stout Gluttony. I’m excluding Bourbon County Brand Stout since I’ve had a previous year’s version.

Coming next week, my top 12 new to me beers of 2017.

 

Draught Diversions: November 2017 Beer Pours

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…

A great variety of beer passed across my palette in November 2017 due, in large part, to the North Jersey Brewery tour my wife took me on for my birthday in the middle of the month. I’ve already highlighted one of those breweries, Angry Erik, and I’ll briefly touch on the four other breweries later in the post as I may wind up doing a feature/full Draught Diversion on at least one of those breweries. That, combined with visiting a couple of my very local breweries and some other assorted beers throughout the month really shine the focus on New Jersey breweries for November. Since the last day of November was on a Thursday (when Draught Diversions normally posts), I figured I’d hold the post for an extra day to squeeze in that one last new beer.

Proper Glassware x2, snifters with the iconic Brooklyn brand

The first new beer I had in November was from craft beer stalwart Harpoon, specifically the new fall offering from their popular UFO Hefeweizen line, Cranbeery. I’ve enjoyed most of the UFO beers a great deal but this one didn’t quite do it for me, it was more tart and sour than I expect from a Hefeweizen. Next up and a couple of days later was an outstanding beer I shared with my father. Well, I gave him the bottle for his birthday in September, but we shared it for my birthday: Brooklyn Black Ops, a delicious Russian Imperial Stout which comes in at 11.6% ABV and tasted better as it settled into the glass. The bourbon barrel aging came through nicely in both the aroma and taste.

Sadly, I broke this glass after only using it twice.

The season of stouts continued with Sierra Nevada’s annual Imperial Stout release, Narwhal. I’ve had this in year’s past so was looking forward to having the beer and was not disappointed. Like most stouts, this got better as it warmed. For whatever reason, this was a tough beer to find in my area of New Jersey, with the closest liquor store to me listing it on beermenus about 25 miles away. Fortunately, the store is close to my parents so my dad picked up a six pack for me. Sierra’s been changing some of their labels, over the past year or so including this one. While the new label is nice, I loved the previous label. Keeping with the annual release theme, Founders released Backwoods Bastard and like last year’s vintage, this year’s vintage was outstanding. As I’ve said, I think I like this one more than I like KBS.

Hop Ritual w/ Vic Secret

As I’ve been doing with more regularity, I stopped into my local brewery, Conclave in November since they released a couple of new beers, both of which were very good. The first was a fall porter, Transcendent Leaf Peeping. The other new beer was a variation on their Hop Ritual Pale Ale. This one is called Hop Ritual with Vic Secret, so named for the strain of New Zealand hops used in the beer. I wasn’t expecting to be as blown away by this beer as I was, but it was so delicious I had to bring home at least a half-growler for myself.

Next was the big Birthday Brewery Tour, courtesy of my wife. Last year was a handful of Jersey Shore breweries, this year was North Jersey breweries. We started out at the venerable brewers of high-quality German style beers, Ramstein / High Point Brewing. As it so happened, that day was when Ramstein was releasing their famous Winter Wheat beer. I had the equivalent of a pint since my wife gave me her free samples. What a phenomenal beer, an absolutely outstanding dopplebock that has rightly earned a reputation that draws people from far and wide to fill their growlers with this delicious beer. The other new-to-me beer I had at Ramstein was the outstanding Imperial Pilsner. I just wish Ramstein’s distribution reached a little more into Somerset County because this is one of the beers they bottle and I’d have this in my house regularly.

The second brewery was Angry Erik, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, with the final leg of the journey being the triumvirate of breweries in Hackettstown, NJ. The first of those was Man Skirt Brewing, the highlight (and surprise beer there) was Better than Pants, a tasty excellent English Bitter that earned me the “You’re Extra Special” badge on untappd. All five beers I had were good. From there, we walked around the block to Czig Meister Brewery which was insanely packed, in part, because a portion of the brewery was cordoned off for a party. The standout here was Habonde a barrel-aged barely wine. I may have to pick up a bottle since Czig is now distributing cans and bottles throughout New Jersey. The last of the Hackettstown Trio was Jersey Girl Brewing. The beers in the flight were extremely consistent in quality with their King Gambrinus Belgian Tripel standing out to me the most. I’ll most likely be dedicating an entire Draught Diversions post to some (maybe all) of these breweries where I’ll give some more details on each beer I had.

A deep, dark, roust Imperial Stout from Lone Eagle

At the monthly Brews and Board Games at Lone Eagle, I tried their Imperial Breakfast Stout, a malty stout aged on coffee beans then aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels with some blood orange puree added on the finish. All the characteristics of an excellent stout along with hints of an Old Fashioned thanks to the Bourbon and Orange. The other beer I had was a juicy Pale Ale they call Local Pale Ale.

Possibly the best beer in Flying Fish’s Exit Series – Exit 17

Tröegs Mad Elf is a seasonal favorite and the 2017 batch might be the best yet. Then came Thanksgiving weekend. The first beer is one I’ve been holding onto for a couple of weeks, a beer I was fortunate enough to snag because only 750 were bottled, the final beer (for now?) in Flying Fish’s Exit SeriesExit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout, which might be the best beer of the month for me. This is probably the best beer in the Exit series, too. Not content with brewing a Russian Imperial Stout, Flying Fish aged this one in Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey bottles. Although I’ve come to love beers aged in bourbon barrels, allowing this beer to sit in Rye Whiskey bottles helps to set it apart from its barrel-aged brethren. Flying Fish’s description says this is a “one of a kind” beer and I’d be hard-pressed to dispute the claim. I also had the new version of Southern Tier’s Warlock, which they changed from previous years and unfortunately, not for the better. They dropped the ABV from 10% to 8.6% and the whole flavor is different, it doesn’t taste too much different than Pumking, which isn’t bad, just not what I was hoping to have. The last beer on Thanksgiving is the beer I reviewed earlier in the week, Stone’s Xocoveza Imperial Milk Stout.

The last Saturday of the month of new brews  were enjoyed at Revolutions a fine Craft Brew bar Morristown, NJ. I met up with a friend who lives in Morristown. We’d visited the bar before and were impressed with the beer list and menu, with its heavy focus on German brats. That night I had two very good beers: Malus from Kane Brewing, in Ocean. This is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but the flavor is sweetened by the addition of apple cider. The beer went down very easily for a 9.5% ABV. The other brew I had was one of the best Pilsners I’ve ever had, which was unsurprisingly, from a German Brewery. The beer is Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle from Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The crispness, freshness and underlying roastiness makes this, in my humble opinion, a world-class Pilsner.

Lastly, the final new beer of November 2017 was last night’s Moo Thunder Milk Stout from Butternuts brewery, which was a little thin and flat for a Milk Stout. I’d seen this on the shelf in area liquor stores for a few years now, it is hard to miss or forget with the big fat cow on the can. Unfortunately, that label is the most appealing element of the beer for me.

I’d have to say the two best beers of the month for me were Exit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout from Flying Fish and the Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle.