Beer Review: Bradley Brew Project’s Summer Friend

Name: Summer Friend
Brewing Company: Bradley Brew Project
Location: Bradley Beach, NJ
Style: Kellerbier / Zwickelbier
ABV: 5.3%

A tasty, refreshing summer Lager from one of the fine breweries along the NJ shore.

BradleyBrewProject_SummerFriend

From the untappd page for the beer:

dry-hopped kellerbier

Bradley Brew Project has been crafting beer for about three years now, and over the past year or so, they’ve increased their output and distribution footprint. I’ve been seeing a few of their beers in local shops, so when I saw a Summer themed Lager, I figured it would be a logical follow-up to my 2021 Summer Six Pack from a couple of weeks ago and an opportunity for me to finally try one of their beers.

Bradley Brew Project categorizes this as a Dry Hopped “Kellerbier.” Most kellerbiers are essentially unfiltered Helles Lagers or pale lagers. So, with that starting point….

After opening the can, a golden hued beer with a bit of cloudiness fills my beer glass. Not the cloudiness level of a Hefeweizen, but the beer is clearly (pun intended) unfiltered. The aroma … there’s a little bit of the malt associated with lagers, but more pronounced is the smell of the hops.

I get some good lager vibes at the outset of the taste, a little bit of malt and a lot of thirst-quenching characteristics. I like it and that alone puts this in great “warm weather” beer. The finish brings the hops with a potent smack. Dry-hopping adds a significant punch of hop flavor and aroma. The flavors evoked from the hops are somewhat citrusy and a little piney. The hops used in the brew process aren’t listed, but I’d guess Citra is one of the hops utilized (it is probably the most popular hop at the moment) and maybe Mosaic? I only say Mosaic because of the mild aftertaste form the hops, because the can and description give minimal hints of what makes up this beer.

So what do we have here in Summer Friend? In one sense, it has the lager characteristics of the crackery/bready malt. In another sense, the hop finish gives of IPA vibes. Altogether, though, it works quite well for what it calls itself, a “Summer Friend,” which to me says a beer for warm weather and beach/poolside relaxation. What I found to be unexpectedly pleasant was that the beer was still quite tasty and refreshing when it warmed up to room temperature, not what I’d predict in a lager.

I’ll also give a little shout out to the can art, which is simple, whimsical, and quite effective. Light blue with beach balls, beach umbrellas, and beach chairs is a nice, eye-catching encapsulation of summer fun.

Summer Friend is a well-made beer that should appeal to both lager-leaning beer drinkers and hop-forward beer drinkers. I would really, really like to try a version of this beer without the dry-hopping element. For my palate, the hops are a little more pronounced than I typically enjoy in a lager, but I can recognize the beer is well made. That said, it seems the theme of the blog this year is that Rob enjoys beers the second time more than the first time, because the second can a couple of days after the first one worked better for me (thus the 2 ratings). Again, I think I had an idea of what to expect when I had the second can and appreciated it more, compared to trying to figure out what flavors were working together on my first can of the beer.

Recommended, link to 3.75 bottle-cap Untappd check in | 4 bottle-cap (second) Untappd check in.

Draught Diversions: May 2021 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…

SixPack_2021_05.jpg

May was a month for a plentiful amount of new beer. I was fortunate enough to enjoy so many good new beers that I had a tougher time choosing six than I have in quite a few months. A nice mix of styles, a brewery or two appearing in the Monthly Six Pack for the first time or first time in a while. This marks the third month in a row with a Barleywine, third month in a row without an IPA, and first time in a two months without a new Pilsner. Only one of these beers was purchased a liquor/beer store (the lone non-NJ beer), the other five were purchased directly at the brewery, with four of those enjoyed at the brewery. Is that too granular of an analyzation?

Saint Alphonsus (Bull ‘n Bear) | Belgian Dubbel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

BullnBear_StAlphonsus

Had a meet up in Summit, NJ on the first day of the month and we had time before our restaurant reservations so of course we stopped at the neighboring brewery. This is the 3rd beer I’ve had from Bull ‘n Bear and each style has been very tasty. This Dubbel is a very impressive interpretation of the style from Bull ‘n Bear.

Vanilla Maris (Timber Ales/Horus Aged Ales/Mindful Ales) | Barleywine – English | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

Timber_VanillaMaris

Here I am again with the third beer I’ve had from a brewery…what a fantastic Barleywine this beer is. The English Barleywines are more malty and sweet compared to their hoppy cousins from America and often exhibit hints of toffee in the flavor profile. This beer does indeed have that element to it, which plays wonderfully with the vanilla beans on which the beer was aged. Another standout from Timber Ales.

Morning Bean 2020 (Kane Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane_MorningBean

With the world slowly emerging from the Pandemic, a couple of friends and I decided to visit Kane’s Biergarten. Morning Bell is a superb Coffee Porter and they release variants every year. I missed out on the bottle release of this one, which takes the beer and conditions the liquid on Bourbon Vanilla Beans. This beer is an unbelievably delicious porter.

Paddy’s House Kölsch (Source Brewing) | Kölsch | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Source_PaddysKolsch

…and after Kane, we visited Source, which was a first for us. A beautiful setting, a warm day, and a cold beer with friends. Well, I saw good things about this beer on untappd and I was not disappointed. The is beer is the winner of a homebrew contest, and there’s no question of the quality. Of the 30 beers on untappd I’ve had categorized as “Kölsch,” this is at least the best American version and maybe the best period. This was zlow-poured to allow the flavors to express themselves even more potently, some malt/breadiness with a crisp finish that has some hops and a wonderful mouthfeel. This is everything I want in a beer.

Blackberry Frukt (Conclave Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

ConclaveBlackberryFrukt

I took a quick drive to Conclave to grab one of the very limited bottle releases (likely to be mentioned in next month’s six pack) and of course had to have some freshly poured beer. I was glad to see this beer still on tap because it was absolutely perfect for warm weather enjoyment. Conclave calls this a “Norwegian Farmhouse Ale” because of the Kviek yeast which brings fun flavors to the beer, but they went further and finished the beer on fresh blackberries for a really special beer.

Triple 5 Phat Crispy (Twin Elephant Brewing Company/Five Boroughs Brewing Company ) | Lager – American | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

TEB_TriplePhat5

Twin Elephant is celebrating their fifth year this year and they’ve canned a few beers, including this one, the first Lager they’ve packaged. Brewed in collaboration with Five Boroughs Brewing, this beer is just about everything a fan of flavorful Lagers could want in a beer. Refreshing, tasty, a delicious crusher. A contender for my favorite beer from the folks from Chatham, NJ.

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Draught Diversions: Summer Six Pack 2021

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

Summer is nearly upon us and the Summer Beers have been in stories for the better part of the last month, with upcoming Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial kick off of Summer. I mixed it up a little bit with NJ and PA beers compared to last year, and each beer is a different style, at least according to how they are categorized on untappd. As I preface this Summer Beer post every year, because a post about Summer Beers was the very first Draught Diversion I posted/published, I am continuing the “tradition.”

SixPack_2021-Summer

As in past Summer Six Packs, not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer and have been organized alphabetically by brewery.

The Keg Stand | Lager – American | 5.5% ABV | Four City Brewing | Orange, NJ

FourCityKegstand

This beer is the only one I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy and it is everything you’d want in an “American Lager.” Clean, refreshing, and crisp. The can art practically screams summer beer

What Four City Brewing says about the beer:

Our American Style Lager is brewed with the best Heidelberg malt, flaked rice & corn. This combination meshes nicely with New Zealand Hallertauer hops & our house lager yeast.


Trimmin’ | Pilsner – Other | 6% ABV | Last Wave Brewing Company | Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

LastWave_Trimmin

For me, Pilsner is one of the ideal styles of beer for summer. Then again, Pilsner is one of my favorite styles, so that shouldn’t be a surprise to long time readers of the Tap Takerover. I figured a brewery based in one of New Jersey’s most popular shore towns would be a good one to highlight for this style.

What Last Wave Brewing says about the beer:

When you’re cruising on your longboard and set your line, it’s all about the glide, which is also known as “Trimming.” Our dry-hopped pilsner takes this classic style to heart with a simple pilsner base that gets its flavor from a slow, lagering process that brings out crisp notes of grainy goodness and a pale yellow body. A light dry hopping provides a touch of citrus and floral notes in the aroma to create a highly crushable lager with a little extra flavor to get you locked in.


Beach Fuzz | Wheat Beer – Witbier | 5.5% ABV | Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company | Croydon, PA

NCBC_BeachFuzz

This beer looks like it would be great for the cooler in the summer, with refreshing sweetness from peach puree doesn’t it? Victory has a similar beer (Twisted Monkey), but I think Beach Fuzz may be slightly lower in ABV and the base beer is a little lighter, too.

What Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company says about the beer:

Brewed with: coriander, orange peel

We brewed up a classic, Belgian Style Wheat Ale with White Wheat & Flaked Oats, hopped in the kettle with Saaz hops, and then we conditioned it on peach puree. The result? A bright and zesty Belgian Wheat Ale, with a soft malt character, hints of spice, and loaded with stone fruit flavors. We taste juicy, ripe peach notes, a dry finish, and rays of sunshine on our faces.


Meet Me at the Snack Shack | IPA – Session / India Session Ale | 4.7% ABV | Ross Brewing Company | Port Monmouth, NJ

Ross_SnackShack

IPAs are still the most popular style, but with lower ABV beers becoming more popular, the Session IPA (sub 5% ABV) has grown in popularity. When you go to the beach, you either bring food or you go to the snack shack. Even if you bring food, you still likely go to the snack shack, so this beer is really appropriate for the Summer.

What Ross Brewing Company says about the beer:

Meet Me at the Snack Shack will be dropping at all your usual spots starting this week and rolling out throughout New Jersey and New York during the two weeks after that! Our 4.7% abv Session IPA somehow fits all the flavor and aroma of a full strength IPA into a crushable low-alcohol package. Citra, Motueka, Azacca, and El Dorado hops, flaked wheat, and a perfectly pleasing malt bill combine to give you 2021’s beer of the summer, even if its only March. Get in early, you’ll be thankful you did. Not to mention it’s the first-ever Ross can to feature the amazing original art of the one and only Tommy Lombardozzi!


16oz of Freedom | Pale Ale – American | 5.2% ABV | Twin Lights Brewing Company | Monmouth County, NJ

TLB_16oz

Twin Lights officially launched last year and in the summer, they canned up this celebratory Pale Ale. I hope they offer it up again this year.

What Twin Lights Brewing says about the beer:

In honor of Fourth of July, we introduce to you another limited release, 16oz To Freedom. Our first American Pale Ale! For the malt bill we incorporated a blend of Pale malt, Maris Otter, and a touch of light crystal. For our hop selection we chose to kick it a little old school. We added Chinook for some bittering and also in the whirlpool combined with Centennial. We dry hopped this beer with Cascade, Centennial and Simcoe for a crushable, medium-bodied, malty and hopped up American Pale Ale


Summer Hazy Love | IPA – American | 5.5 % ABV | Victory Brewing Company | Downington, PA

Victory_Summer-Hazy-Love_12oz-Can

One of Victory’s most popular beers is their Summer Love golden ale so this is something of a brand extension, if you will. Upping the hop level, making it an IPA and throwing Hazy in the title is a sure way to get some attention. I haven’t had this yet, but I’d be surprised if I get through the Summer without trying this beer

What Victory Brewing says about the beer:

Let’s keep sharing the love. Summer Love goes Hazy in this IPA that sparkles with juicy hop notes for those days that feel like the sun never sets. Time for another..

What new lagers or ales are you hoping to try this summer? What has been a trusty beer for you in past summers?

SixPack_2021-Summer

Draught Diversions: The Tap Takeover’s 4th Beerthday

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

Well, four years have passed since I decided to write about beer and launched the Tap Takeover. I skipped writing about my “Third Anniversary” because there were far more important things going on in the world of beer, and the world in general. The Pandemic was a colossal shift in life, but it seems the light at the end of the tunnel might be something resembling the normalcy of the Before Times rather than the oncoming train. I figured I could publish a self-reflective post, right?

TTT_4thAnnCollage
A collage of NJ Belgian Quadrupels for The Tap Takeover’s 4th Anniversary

The brewery landscape in New Jersey has evolved and grown, with more canned beer being made available as a result of the COVID restrictions affecting on-site consumption in brewery taprooms. However, some breweries did actually launch/open over the last couple of years and during the pandemic, bringing the number of breweries to 130 and 21 Brewpubs as of this writing, according to New Jersey Craft Beer, as of this posting in May 2021.  I’ve found myself gravitating even more to NJ beer over the last year during the Pandemic, as some of the breweries are more widely available via distribution as well. I would guess that close to 80% of the beer I purchase is from New Jersey breweries. In addition, I tend to also gravitate to Pennsylvania breweries since a couple of the breweries in the Keystone State are actually closer to me than some breweries here in the Great Garden State.

I published another 76 reviews since the May 2019 2nd anniversary post!

Over the past two years (since I published the self-aggrandizing 2nd anniversary post), I visited 24 breweries (some of these were mentioned in my year end posts for 2019 & 2020):

As in past years, I would like to thank the readers of the blog and folks who have supported my little hobby by spreading the word over the years via social media and simply chatting up with me (virtually or in meatspace) about beer. I’d especially like to thank Mike K. of NJ Craft Beer who I’ve run into a few times at breweries and who was kind enough to invite me to a livestream chat; in March with other NJCB Members. Mike is always one of the first to spread the word/retweet my beer posts. Additionally, I’d also like to thank some of the other people who’ve spread the word on social media about my beer ramblings: the folks behind Breweries in PA ; John Couchoud and the the Crew of South Jersey Beer Scene; Al Gatullo of Al Gatullo’s Craft Beer Cast, my old college pal Chuck of NJ Beer and Wine; the great beer writer John Holl; Rob Callaghan and everybody in the great Brewery Strong organization; Matt Ross/MattyBlayze and the crew over at reddit/njbeer; the folks at the Beer Advocate Northeast subforum, among many others.

I’m still over at Instagram as @robhbed where I’ve gotten into the habit of posting one beer photo (very amateurishly taken) per week.

Cheers to another great year!

TTT_4thAnnCollage

Beer Review: Ramstein’s Maibock Lager

Name: Ramstein Maibock Lager
Brewing Company: Ramstein / High Point Brewing Company
Location: Butler, NJ
Style: Bock – Hell / Maibock / Lentebock
ABV: 7.5%

The legendary NJ Brewery’s world-class take on the classic Spring Lager is one of the best Maibocks I’ve ever had!

Ramstein_Maibock

From the Ramstein’s Seasonal Beers page:

Rich Amber bock beer brewed with imported Munich and Pilsner Malts and fermented with a rare lager yeast.

This beer has a deep malt character and body with a hint of toffee in the aroma. The noble hops balance the richness of the malts and provide a complex profile that hides the 7% ABV.

Two weeks in a row with Maibocks! What do I think this is, May? Well, yes, it is May and I figured I’ll make up for not having reviewed a Maibock prior to last week with back to back Maibock reviews. As it so happens, they are both delicious beers. This time around, I’m reviewing one of the more highly sought after Maibocks in the country (at least by beer drinkers who enjoy the style), a beer that ranks very highly on Beer Advocate’s overall Maibock list (#7 out of 100). I’m referring, of course, to Ramstein’s Maibock Lager, from High Point Brewing, arguably one of the best German-inspired breweries in the country. This beer, for years, has been a brewery only release available for growler fills and on-site consumption. However, Ramstein/High Point started canning some of these releases over the last year, rather than having them be growler-fill only. My parents visited the brewery a few weeks ago and my dad saved a can of the beer for me, so I figured I’d give it a review since I haven’t had any Ramstein beer in a while.

With that preface out of the way, let’s get into Ramstein’s Maibock Lager, shall we?

ramstein-maibock

The beer pours a beautiful slightly translucent amber with maybe a pinky finger thick white/tannish head. Mild aroma of malt, but mostly this Maibock smells like beer. That’s not a knock by any means. Essentially, this beer looks and smells the part of what I expect from a Maibock.

Ramstein’s Maibock Lager passes the taste/first sip with flying colors. The beer delivers everything I expect and hope from the beer. This beer is extremely malt forward and the hops are minimal. I would say the overall flavor of the beer just about makes this beer a chugger. Knowing the beer has an 7.5% ABV; however, is what prevents this beer from that achieving chugger status.

What I like best; however, is the clean, sweet finish. I intimated in my review of last week’s Maibock, May Day that some Maibocks can exhibit a slightly bitter, almost earthy finish that is off-putting. Like May Day, Ramstein’s Maibock Lager crescendos with a sweet caramel finish that brings everything about the beer together harmoniously. The beer has such a full, balanced flavor that quenches the thirst but also makes you want to go back for more.

I visited Ramstein/High Point once, a few years ago around my birthday for one of their other world class releases. This Maibock Lager is a beer worth seeking, especially if your tastes lean towards Lagers and Bocks

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Ramstein_Maibock

Beer Review: Jersey Cyclone’s May Day Maibock Style Lager

Name: May Day (Maibock Style Lager)
Brewing Company: Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company
Location: Somerset, NJ
Style: Bock – Hell / Maibock / Lentebock
ABV: 7.3%

Happy Anniversary to Jersey Cyclone, this delicious Maibock is a great celebration of the quality beer they’ve been brewing for two years!

JerseyCyclone_Mayday

From the untappd page for the beers.

May Day was brewed to capture the crisp floral aromas of a beautiful spring day. The subtle golden hue of this traditional Maibock gives you flavors of freshly baked biscuits, slightly browned toast followed by a delicate floral aroma leave your tastebuds dreaming about another sip. Aroma/Taste: Floral, Biscuit, Toasty.

I’ve written about bocks and reviewed several bocks, but this is the first Maibock I’m reviewing here at the Tap Takeover. Maibocks are the traditional German spring beer (Mai translates from German as May, after all), and are slightly maltier, slightly hoppier, and usually more amber in color than most lagers. Not many American breweries are crafting Maibocks, if anything, the doppelbock is (I’m guessing here), the most popular of the bock styles. When Jersey Cyclone announced they were canning May Day as both a celebration of their second anniversary and spring, I had to give the beer a try. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to their Anniversary celebration, so let’s look at the beer.

Let the celebration begin as we dance around the maypole and I crack open Jersey Cyclone’s May Day!

The can pops nicely and pours a golden/amber into the Jersey Cyclone Willi Becher glass. It certainly looks the part of a traditional Maibock, at least compared to the baker’s dozen of Maibocks I’ve enjoyed including the one that started it all, Hofbräu’s Maibock. There’s a mild aroma of toasted malt, but nothing too pronounced.

How about the taste/first sip? I get what I expect from May Day, the beer exhibits sweet malt flavors (not unlike a Märzen), with some floral hints throughout the overall flavor of the beer. The mild hop presence associated with the style comes in at the finish for a very slight bitterness and a bit of spice. I also get something I can only call nuttiness? Maybe that’s toasted bread or crackers? It works and is mostly on point for the style. The ultimate finish I get is a smooth, very pleasant caramel-esque sweetness. On the whole, May Day resonates with other Maibocks/Helles Bocks I’ve had over the years. In other words, May Day is a very solid interpretation of the style.

I had a second can the following night. Something I’ve been learning and which I’ve mentioned here at the Tap Takeover is that I feel like I’m able to enjoy my “second experience” or pint/can/pour even more because I have a better idea of what to expect. That is very true with Mayday, I wasn’t trying to figure out the tasting notes, I was expecting them and they delivered quite nicely.

I also want to point out the can art of this beer. The label really captures the spirit of the beer. The image depicted is the traditional Maypole, a central motif in spring celebrations in Germanic nations. One of the first posts I wrote here at The Tap Takeover was about “Seasonally Appropriate” beers, between quality of the beer, style of the beer, release of the beer (May 1st, which is when Maypoles are generally erected), and the label, Jersey Cyclone completely nailed this Maibock.

JerseyCyclone_MayDayLabel

Happy Anniversary to Jersey Cyclone! Their quality started out strong and each beer continues to show their expertise at brewing and brewing/crafting some of the more unique and “advanced” styles of lagers. I’ve come to consider Jersey Cyclone one of my constant go-to breweries. When I stopped in a couple of months and chatted with owner Jan, he mentioned how impressed and happy he was with the lagers their brewer Charles was making and hinted that this Maibock would hopefully be ready for their anniversary party. Cheers also to Charles for crafting another excellent lager.

Prost and again, Happy Anniversary to Jersey Cyclone!

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

JerseyCyclone_Mayday

Draught Diversions: April 2021 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…

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April means Easter (most years) and hints of warmer weather. The darker beers (traditionally) start to fade and the lighter fare begins to emerge; Golden Ales, Pale Lagers/Pilsners, etc. Well, Pilsners are always at the forefront here at the Tap Takeover (two this month), and 5 out of 6 beers this month were crafted at New Jersey breweries. A couple of the usual suspects, a returning guest, and two breweries making their first appearances in a monthly six pack (even if they’ve both been mentioned a few times over the years).

Santa Lucia (Angry Erik Brewing) | Belgian Strong Golden Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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It has been a very long time since I’ve enjoyed a beer from Angry Erik Brewing. Since my visit to them back in 2017, they moved into a facility they built and increased their production. When I was in the area, I figured I’d grab some beer to share on Easter and this delicious Belgian-Style Golden Ale was perfect for the spring day. This beer is extremely flavorful, the sweetness from the honey works very nicely with the Belgian-style yeast. The 9.7% ABV is very well hidden.

Rewal (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Other / Polish Pilsner | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd
JC_Rewal.jpg

Since they opened, Jersey Cyclone has been brewing fantastic lagers and this “Polish Pilsner” is hands down my favorite Pilsner from the Somerset brewery. What makes it a “Polish” Pilsner? The hops – Lubelski – are from Poland. This beer is light but very tasty and hits all the notes a Pilsner should hit (a little crackery/bready, a bit of hops, and refreshing) and is worth the wait for a slow pour at the tap or out of your can.

Slugger (Sly Fox Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

SlyFoxSlugger.jpg

Sly Fox is one of the great Pennsylvania breweries, unfortunately not much of their output makes it to my area/region of NJ. So when I saw this Pilsner (a maroon/baby blue/white can for Phillies), brewed largely for on site consumption at Citizen’s Bank Park (and a black/gold can for the Pittsburgh Pirates), I immediately ordered it. I was very pleased with the balance of hops and malt and overall finely crafted flavor of the beer.

Object Permanence (Aramagnac Barrel-Aged 2020) (Kane Brewing Company) | Barleywine – English | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Barleywines aren’t on the shelves very often, so when I placed an order with Kane, I had to add this and another variant of the same beer. I’ve never heard of Aramagnac before getting this bottle, but essentially it is a brandy-like liquor which is a byproduct of wine. The beer is smooth and sweet, the barrel imparts some fruitiness which works really nicely with the toffee character of an English Barleywine. Do I really need to state again how great Kane’s barrel program is?

Boat Ramp Champ (Cape May Brewing Company) | Lager – Helles | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

CMBC_Boatramp.jpg

Being on Social Media can be a good thing. You get to see beers months ahead of their release to the public, like this Helles Lager from Cape May Brewing Company. They don’t brew/can/distribute many lagers, but when they do, they do them well (Cape May Lager from a couple of years ago; my new summer go-to, Tan Limes; and their annual Oktoberfest), so I was really looking forward to trying this one and I was absolutely not disappointed. This is one of the best Helles Lagers I’ve ever had, a fantastic American interpretation of the classic German style, and it might be my favorite beer from Cape May Brewing Company.

Morning Meeting (Untied Brewing Company) | Porter– Imperial / Double | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

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This is one of the beers from Untied Brewing I’ve wanted to try since they opened and I learned about it. Essentially, with the maple syrup, coffee, and cinnamon, this is a breakfast beer. Very flavorful, the vanilla brings all of the elements together quite nicely. My only real issue is that the body of this beer is somewhat thin. The second can of the 4-pack I had a week later sat with me a little better. I may have noted that I tend to enjoy beers even more the second time I have them since I kind of know what to expect and that theory proved true with Morning Meeting.

Another month in the books! Nothing really lousy like past months so I’ll end it here.

Beer Review: Bull ‘N Bear’s Liquid Asset

Name: Liquid Asset
Brewing Company: Bull ‘n Bear Brewing Company
Location: Summit, NJ
Style: Lager – Dortmunder / Export
ABV: 5.8%

The new North Jersey brewery is off to a strong start with this delicious, unique style of Lager.

BullNBear_LiquidAssets

From the untappd page for the beers.

German Lager that is crisp, earthy, herbal and refreshing. A unique water profile (high sulpahtes) to Dortmund Germany differs this beer from the traditional German Helles by interacting with the malt and hops (Hallertau & Saaz) which heightens the bitterness of the hops and the alkalinity leaving a slight haze. Prost!

Here we are with another brewery who had the misfortune to open their doors during the COVID Pandemic, but they started strong, at least based on the two beers I enjoyed. The one under review is (shock to regular readers) a Lager, but not a Pilsner or a Helles Lager (probably two of the most common craft Lagers), but a Dortumunder Lager.

What is a Dortmunder Lager? It falls within the family of Pale Lagers, like a Pilsner or Helles. The most common description I’ve seen is that it is has elements of Pilsner (some kind of hop presence) and a Helles (a more pronounced malt character) and is all about balance. Like many German Lagers, this beer derives its name from the region (Dortmund, German) as many styles originated as such. Not many breweries are making this specific style of Lager on a regular basis, Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Dortmund Gold out of Cleveland, Ohio is the only large regional brewery to come to mind, so I was quite pleased to see a new brewery make the style.

Let’s dive into some Liquid Asset

Look at that picture above? The beer is clear, golden, and very appealing in that glass. In other words, it looks exactly like I want a lager to look. As good as it looks, I didn’t really catch too much of the aroma on the beer.

Liquid Asset passes my first sip test with flying colors. This lager hits some great opening notes. A little sweetness from the malt in the beer, and that ever-important quality of making me want to drink more.

The most pronounced character of this beer is that wonderful bready, malt element. There’s a little bit of hop presence, essentially just there to be noticed, but there’s no bitterness from the hops. This is an extremely clean, delicious beer. Overall, the malt character brings a pleasant sweetness and the finish is extremely clean.

In speaking to the beertender, he said the recipe for this beer was one of the first or earliest beers the owner/head brewer was making in his home-brewing days. The refinement of making this beer over and over many years shines through and highlights how well-crafted this beer is from first sip to the last drops that remain in the glass. I hope this beer stays in constant rotation at Bull ‘N Bear because it is a showcase for the brewer’s quality. Liquid Asset is the a perfect beer to walk the line between appealing to “new” craft beer drinkers and those of us who consider ourselves something like aficionados.

Prost to Bull ‘N Bear for such finely crafted lager!

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: Book Review – Pilsner by Tom Acitelli

Name: Pilsner: How the Beer of Kings Changed the World
Author: Tom Acitelli | Twitter
Publication Date: August 2020
Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Acitelli_Pilsner

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

A book for both the beer geek and the foodie seeking a better understanding of modern food and drink.

On the night of April 17, 1945, Allied planes dropped more than a hundred bombs on the Burghers’ Brewery in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, destroying much of the birthplace of pilsner, the world’s most popular beer style and the bestselling alcoholic beverage of all time. Still, workers at the brewery would rally so they could have beer to toast their American, Canadian, and British liberators the following month. It was another twist in pilsner’s remarkable story, one that started in a supernova of technological, political, and demographic shifts in the mid-1800s and that continues to unfold today anywhere alcohol is sold. Tom Acitelli’s Pilsner: How the Beer of Kings Changed the World tells that story, shattering myths about pilsner’s very birth and about its immediate parentage. A character-driven narrative that shows how pilsner influenced everything from modern-day advertising and marketing to immigration to today’s craft beer movement.

Pilsner, the most ubiquitous beer style in the world and perhaps the most maligned style in the world. For me, when a Pilsner is made well with the right ingredients…I don’t know that there’s any beer I like more than a cold, freshly made, freshly poured pilsner. In this fine book from Tom Acitelli, the style is given a historical perspective through a fascinating narrative weaving a story of the beer style, its place in the world, and America specifically, rather than a regurgitation of facts.

The “story” begins with beer before Pilsner was born, because in many ways, the beer was a reaction to much of the beer in Germany and the Bohemian region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Acitelli charts some of the German breweries and styles like brewery Spaten brewery, the Vienna Lager, as well as the dark lagers that all predate Pilsner and eventually led to the style’s creation. I’m a big reader of Fantasy and the way in which Acitelli writes of the “pre-history” of Pilsner felt near mythic in nature, not unlike some of the mythic backstory of some of the Fantasy novels I’ve read. In other words, his mythologizing approach to telling the beer’s story clicked very strongly with my personal reading sensibilities.

The burghers (high profile citizens) of Pilsen wanted to have their own beer, they didn’t want to have to go to more Germanic regions for lager. As a result, they came together to build a brewery and hired a brewer to create a lager that was unheard of at the time: a clear, yellow, clean lager. That beer, of course, came to be known as Pilsner and would have a ripple affect like a boulder being dropped in a small pond

From there, the beer (or an interpretation of the style) was adopted as the flagship by breweries that would become the largest breweries in the world: Anheuser-Busch, Heineken, Pabst, and Miller. Acitelli weaves the history of these breweries into a fascinating narrative, how Anheuser Busch came to call their beer Budweiser, the familial history behind the Heinekin brewery, the legacy of Pabst’s early prominence as an American Lager brewery. While many of the beers from those breweries now are distinct from what Pilser actually is, there’s no doubt Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the Champagne of Beers would not exist if it weren’t for Pilsner beer and the large contingent of German immigrants in the United States.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about the book (I originally wrote “novel” because the book reads like a story), is how Acitelli demythologizes some elements of the history. For example, since Pilsner was created in the region of Bohemia that is now the Czech Republic the beer has often been considered a Czech invention. As such, many breweries would refer to their interpretation of Pilsner as “Bohemian Lager.” Well, that Pilsner is a Czech invention is only partially true. Sure, regionally that may be the case, but at the time, that region was largely populated by people of Germanic heritage and the man who created the beer, Bavarian Josef Groll, himself was German.

From the early days of those “American Adjunct Lager” breweries, through the days of Prohibition, Acitelli tells a fascinating story of the Beer of Kings. He then shifts his pen slightly to focus on Pilsner’s affect on advertising, especially Television advertising, through to the development of Light (or Lite) beer and its saturation of the market in the 1970s and 1980s. Much like Pilsner was a reaction to the earlier lagers from Germany, the author notes how the American Craft Beer movement of the 1980s and 1990s and IPAs were most definitely a reaction to how flavorless the Americanized Pilsner had become. He further charts the more recent embracement of the Pilsner and Lager style in general by the smaller, Independent American Craft breweries.

Pilsner+Peitsche
A delicious Pilsner and a great book about the style

I initially heard about this book on the Steal This Beer Podcast hosted by Augie Carton and John Holl, both of whom have championed the style on episodes of their podcast. Augie’s Carton Brewing cans a few really tasty pilsners, as have many of the smaller breweries in my home State of New Jersey. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least give them a shout out because reading this book about Pilsner made me want to enjoy a few pours. An inexhaustive list of great New Jersey pilsners, according to the Tasting Faculty of the Rob Bedford Institute of Beer at The Tap Takeover University follows: Whip and Peitsche from Carton Brewing (Atlantic Highlands), Rewal from Jersey Cyclone Brewing (Somerset), Parking Lot Pilz from Hackensack Brewing (Hackensack), Morning Breeze from Untied Brewing (New Providence), Pound of Feathers from Icarus Brewing (Lakewood), Lawn Boi from Tonewood Brewing (Oaklyn), Jersey Dreamin’ from Ashton Brewing (Middlesex), Czechs and Balances from Man Skirt Brewing (Hackettstown), Pilsner from Double Nickel Brewing (Pennsauken), Ramstein Imperial Pilsner from Ramstein/High Point Brewing Company (Butler), plus from neighboring Pennsylvania, I have to mention Victory’s Prima Pils and Tröegs’s Sunshine Pilsner.

In the end, Tom Acitelli has told an extremely fascinating story about the most popular style of beer in the world and reveals things about the style that add even more to the beer’s allure. This book is a must read and should reside on the shelf of any beer drinker.

Beer Review: Magnify Brewing’s Banana Bread Mind over Matter

Name: Banana Bread Mind over Matter
Brewing Company: Magnify Brewing Company
Location: Fairfield, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double Milk
ABV: 8%

“A balanced and flavorful dessert stout from popular North Jersey brewery.”

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From the description of the beer onuntappd:

Banana Bread Mind Over Matter is a new variant in our series of double chocolate milk stouts featuring a new, refreshed label design. We set out to brew a double chocolate Milk Stout with as much flavor as our 10+% stouts a more manageable ABV. Banana Bread Mind Over Matter is brewed with lactose and conditioned on cocoa nibs, walnuts, wild Thai banana, cinnamon and vanilla.

Magnify has been one of the hottest New Jersey / Northeast breweries over the past few years, with about three new beer releases per week, their IPAs and other flavorful ales are highly sought by craft beer drinkers in the area. I personally haven’t had very many beers from them, so I was looking forward to giving something from them a try for the blog.

”Mind over Matter” is a series of Imperial Milk Stouts Magnify brews with various adjuncts, there’s a “S’Mores” version, a Pancake version (which I’ve had) made with maple syrup, a “Candy Cane” version, and so forth. This version looks to emulate banana bread, obviously, and is brewed with walnuts, “wild Thai banana,” cinnamon, and vanilla. I really enjoy banana bread and beer with most of these adjuncts, but I was admittedly a little wary of what the walnuts would bring.

The pop of the can is nice and the beer that pours into my glass is dark and thick. It definitely has the appearance I’d expect at the outset. The strongest element in the aroma for me was the cinnamon, which is quite welcome. I give the glass a little swirl and there’s a nice reddish/burgundy tint to the edges from the foam from the cinnamon.

First sip test….the beer easily passes that test. There’s a lot going on with this beer, just look at all those adjuncts I mentioned! I enjoy the taste quite a bit and I want to drink more to really figure out if the flavors I’ve tasted match up with the description

As I enjoy the pint over the course of about an hour, I begin to get a nice feel for this beer and what works for me. The sweetness is incredibly potent, but it isn’t overpowering and cloying. The cinnamon is the most prevalent additive I taste, which works for me, it is ever present. There’s a soft creaminess to the beer, too. I’m not sure how much of the banana is coming through, but on the finish, the walnuts assert themselves and I’m pleased. I suppose I like the flavor of walnuts, but I loathe having any kind of nut in my baked goods probably because of the texture. I just hate the way the hard crunchiness ruins the softness of say, a brownie or banana bread.

Banana Bread Mind over Matter is a damned good “beer interpretation” of banana bread. The cinnamon is wonderful, the hints of walnut give the beer a nice finish. If I can knock the beer for anything it is that the bananas themselves aren’t quite as present in the overall flavor profile of the beer compared to the other elements. However, of the 10 beers I’ve had from Magnify Brewing over the years, this beer is hands down the best beer I’ve had from them.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.