Beer Review: North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin

Name: Old Rasputin
Brewing Company: North Coast Brewing Co.
Location: Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9%

From North Coast Brewing’s page for Old Rasputin:

Produced in the tradition of 18th Century English brewers who supplied the court of Russia’s Catherine the Great, Old Rasputin seems to develop a cult following wherever it goes. It’s a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish.

The Old Rasputin brand image is a drawing of Rasputin with a phrase in Russian encircling it — A sincere friend is not born instantly.

The Russian Imperial Stout is perhaps the biggest, boldest of all stouts. In most cases, it is the stout with the most pronounced hop presence. As the name implies, this style received the name because they were first brewed for Emperor Peter the Great of Russia. (or Catherine the Great?) Regardless, North Coast’s take on the style aptly named Old Rasputin is probably the most iconic and widely known American interpretation of the style.

I’ve had a few Russian Imperial Stouts (I even reviewed one from Carton) but generally, the barrel-aged versions are the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. For the longest time, the hop assertiveness wasn’t for me. Since I started enjoying more hop-forward beers I wanted to give one a try, one that wasn’t barrel aged so why not go for the granddaddy or “ded” of the style?

The most noticeable element, initially, is how dark this beer is. I’ve had PLENTY of stouts, over 200, and Old Rasputin is one of the darkest stouts I’ve ever poured. This beer has presence, especially with that old Russian mystic staring at you from the bottle. The most pronounced element of the beer’s aroma was the roasted malts, I think. Atop the beer is a thick, fluffy head that looks like a frothy cappuccino head.

That aroma is a pretty good indicator of what to expect with the beer. There’s a lot of bittersweet in the beer, maybe some chocolate hints and maybe even some toffee. I’ve seen some comments / reviews of the beer that mention hints of cherry, but I didn’t get that at all. Most of these flavors come from the malts but the hops aren’t going to let you forget about them.

The hops have a big bite, but not unpleasant for me. The roasted malt brings most of the flavor in the beer and their potential sweetness is balanced out the hop presence. While this is a big, flavorful beer and the hops are assertive, I would have guessed the IBU lower than 75 IBU. In many ways, this almost a chewable beer for how thick and robust it is.

I had a bottle of Old Rasputin many years ago, long before being on untappd, so I can’t remember exactly how the beer worked for me. Now? Seems like it should be an annual acquisition as nights get cooler and the big bastard of a beer will help warm the soul.

Unsurprisingly, North Coast brews a barrel-aged version of the beer that I may have to try. As it stands, Old Rasputin is rightfully an iconic beer of the style. With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and tag this beer as an American Craft Beer Classic.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

For a great history of Old Rasputin, check out Jeff Alworth’s piece on All About Beer.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Imperial Czar (Level 5)

Originally created and brewed for Russian Emperor Peter the Great, the Russian Imperial Stout has a history as rich as it’s roasty, hoppy flavor. That’s 25 different beers with the style of Russian Imperial Stout!

2X (Level 31)

When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 155 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.

 

Draught Diversions: August 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…

I still had plenty of summer beers leftover from the Fourth of July party, but there was definitely room for some new beers, too. As always, the beers I feature here weren’t part of any other post. In other words, while I loved the Steam Whistle Pilsner, I featured the brewery and the beer in a post last week. As is often the case, half of the beers called out are NJ beers.

Luponic Distortion: Revolution No. 010 (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) IPA – American – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been enjoying Firestone’s beers over the past couple of months, this is the 10th in their series of IPAs featuring “flavors through hops” and the bottle is pretty accurate on the evocative flavors of peach and citrus. Oh, there’s still that bitter hop profile, but this is a solid IPA. In fact, when my wife makes chicken wings using the recipe from Cooking with Beer, the recipe calls for brining the chicken in a pale ale or IPA. For the most recent batch of those wings, we used this beer and the wings were delicious.

Wrath Aged In Bourbon Barrels With Coffee And Vanilla (2018) Stout – Russian Imperial (Demented Brewing Company) – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

When I mentioned NJ breweries celebrating anniversaries a few weeks ago, I neglected to call out Demented. Well, they had their 3rd anniversary party on August 19th and released 3 variants of their popular Russian Imperial Stout – Wrath. For me, the standout was the variant aged in bourbon narrels with coffee and vanilla. A delicious, full flavored stout.

Fruit-Full Fort (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) Strong Ale – Other 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Again, Dogfish shows up here on a monthly six-pack. I’ve been really digging the old-school craft breweries like Dogfish and Firestone as of late. This beer is bordering on wine territory or even a drinkable boozy fruit jam with the level of alcohol and fruit, but still has the qualities of a beer. Four berries (Blue-, Boysen-, Rasp-, and Elder-) provide the fruit profile. I really was able to discern the four berries and enjoyed this beer as a lovely dessert sipper. At 18% ABV, this isn’t something to chug. If anything, maybe it is something to split with a friend.

Process Pils Pilsner – German (Conclave Brewing) – 4.75 bottle Caps on untappd

 

I’ve made no bones about Conclave being my favorite local brewery. Like I said about Carton, I don’t think it is possible for Carl, Tim, and Bryan to make a bad beer. Much of their output has been Ales (IPAs, Pales, and Stouts) so it was nice to see the lager-loving Bryan produce a Pilsner/Lager. This beer is sublime, elegant, beautiful, and delicious. Easily one of my favorite NJ beers and a top pilsner for me. (I stopped in the following week and had their tasty Hefeweizen (Sommer) and Session Ale (Paper Castles).

Curmudgeon’s Better Half Old Ale (Founders Brewering Company) 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This is a beer I’ve heard about for years. Last brewed in 2012, Curmudgeon’s Better Half is one of Founders’ legendary barrel aged beers. Curmudgeon is a malty, molasses heavy Old Ale and this version takes the beer and ages in Maple Syrup Bourbon Barrels. I enjoyed Curmudgeon quite a bit. The esters from the beer are smoothed out a bit from the sweet Oak Aging. The flavor was outstanding, the body was a little thin. I’m going to let one of these sit for about a year, I think..

Smash the Golds (&telier – Carton Brewing Company/Barrier Brewing Company) Lager – Pale 4.25 bottle caps on untappd

Made an impromptu visit to Carton Brewing on the last day of the month, which is always a smart move. Over the past few months, Carton has been playing the collaboration game under the &telier name and this is their (second?) collaboration with Barrier Brewing out of Oceanside, NY. This lager is unlike most lagers I’ve had, there’s a fruity, almost buttery finish to the beer that makes this real pleasing. It drinks mostly a lager, but that finish threw me off in a good way.

So, not a terrible beer in this group like last month, but a couple of mediocre beers this past month. In past months, I’ve featured at least one beer that wasn’t great so for fairness sake, I’ll mention two disappointing beers: Samuel Adams’ Raspberry Gose (barely any sour/tartness from the beer) and Pabst’s new beer, American Pale Ale which is far less tasteful than their flagship PBR, which is a solid mass-produced Lager.

Draught Diversions: Steam Whistle Brewing (Toronto, Canada)

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

Here’s a change of locale for a brewery post, North of the US border in fact. For my job, I’ve traveled fairly frequently this year to the tune of about one business trip per month. I don’t always have time or the opportunity to do much more than stick to the work/conference schedule for these business trips, but on one recent occasion, a brewery was literally across the street from where I was spending much of my time, so I of course had to visit. The location? Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The brewery? Steam Whistle Brewing.

The water tower is visible from blocks away, a beacon to follow for well-crafted beer.

Toronto is one of the Great North American cities and is Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s inspiration for the fictional DC Comics city of Metropolis, home to the Daily Star (now Planet) and of course Superman. Be that as it may, at the hub of downtown Toronto is the Metro Toronto Convention Center (where I was spending much of my time), Rogers Centre (home of the Toronto Blue Jays), and the world famous CN Tower. Near all those locations, directly across the street from the MTCC and adjacent to the CN Tower is Steam Whistle Brewing, which occupies an historic railway Roundhouse, thus the name Steam Whistle.

Steam Whistle is a relatively small brewery, especially in terms of what they produce. That focus; however, on ingredients, process, and care has allowed the founders of the brewery to create a delicious Pilsner.

Image courtesy of Steam Whistle Brewing’s Website

Walking in, the first thing I noticed was how bright and inviting the brewery was. There were some tables in the back near the brew tanks and a nice bar with friendly bartenders. Also noticeable – only two taps. That’s right, Steam Whistle only pours two beers – a Pilsner and an unfiltered version of the Pilsner. In essence, just one beer. And one beer using the tried and true four simple ingredients of a classic beer (from the “our beer” page on Steam Whistle’s Web site):

Steam Whistle is one of the only remaining Pilsners in the world that still adheres to the strict standards of the Bavarian Purity Act of 1516. We brew using only pure spring water, malted barley, hops and yeast. No corn syrup, no foam enhancers, no artificial preservatives.

The brewery has received several awards, including Toronto’s best microbrewery as well as other awards for the beer, for the brewery, as a workplace, and for how green/environmentally conscientious the brewery is. But to win those awards on essentially one beer is pretty fascinating. Sure, untappd will show other beers the brewery has made as one offs, but by and large Steam Whistle staked its reputation on a finely crafted Pilsner.

The delicious, fresh Pilsner I enjoyed at Steam Whistle Brewing.

…and what a delicious Pilsner it is (my untappd check in). The convention center had cans of the beer for one of the evening events, but I wanted to wait to try the beer fresh at the brewery and I’m glad I did. I haven’t had too many Canadian beers so I wasn’t sure how they’d compare to beers from America or Germany. But this beer, in its fresh from tap pour is absolutely fantastic and one of the better Pilsners I’ve had recently. This is a treat of a beer that shows just how simple basic ingredients can create an elegantly crafted beer at the hands of a master. Of course, I’ve been on a Pilsner kick for the past couple of months so that may have factored into how receptive my taste buds were to the beer, if I’m being totally fair.

The variety of ways you can take home some Steam Whistle Pilsner, including their award winning Suitcase pack.

The first day I visited I had the large pour of the Pilsner. The brewery is, as I said, a great space and with the international nature of Toronto, naturally going to attract people from all over the world by virtue of its location. I had the chance to chat with a chap from Scotland about the beer and other worldly things. I was about halfway through my beer when the brewery filled up very quickly. A Toronto Blue Jays game had just concluded and as I was exiting, there was a line to get into the brewery since it was at maximum capacity. I suspect they have this problem very often.

The second day, just before jumping on the train to the airport, I had the unfiltered version of the Pilsner (my untappd check in) which I enjoyed even more than the standard Pilsner.

The Unfiltered Pilsner, only an 8oz pour, may have been a tad better than the standard Pilsner.

I remarked to the bartender how delicious the beer was and lamented the fact that Steam Whistle is only available in Canada and not in the States. He said that may be changing. If the brewers are able to maintain the flavor and a hint of the freshness in the beer as it journeys across the border, that will be good thing for fans of well-crafted Pilsner in the US.

Full view of the front of the Roundhouse

I don’t know how many folks reading this will be visiting Toronto, but I can without hesitation heartily recommend a visit to Steam Whistle Brewing.

Beer Review: Jersey Girl Brewing’s Rake Breaker

Name: Rake Breaker
Brewing Company: Jersey Girl Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: New England Style IPA (Jersey Girl) / India Pale Ale – American (untappd)
ABV: 6.5%

From Jersey Girl Brewing’s beers page:

Tropical IPA with Mosaic and Amarillo. Fresh, and incredibly drinkable. A tornado of tropical hops will be sure to break your perception of traditional bitter IPAs.

Jersey Girl has been around the NJ beer scene for a few years now and I was lucky enough to visit the brewery last November. Supposedly, the name came about because the mash rake used in the brewing process broke because there was so much grain in the brew. At the time, I was relatively averse to IPAs so I didn’t try any of their hop-forward ales. What I had I enjoyed, but as they were tasters/part of a flight and the last brewery of five I visited that day, I didn’t feel a review of any of those beers would be appropriate or truly reflective of my true experience with the beer. Then I had their flagship IPA Rake Breaker and I knew I had to write about the beer.

When the waiter at 22 Tap and Grill delivered the beer to me, I was very pleased at the look. There’s a hazy, bright, inviting look to the beer that looks like the juicier IPAs I’ve come to enjoy. A whiff of the beer brought the hoped-for citrus/hoppy aroma I was hoping to get, which proved to be a nice hint of what the beer would deliver.

The first sip matched the aroma really well. A great combination of citrusy hops with a really nice grasping hop bite on the finish. Second sip was much of the same, proving Rake Breaker to be a really balanced India Pale Ale. Although untappd calls this an “American IPA,” I’ve seen Jersey Girl refer to this as a New England or Northeast Style IPA.

Whether this is a true New England IPA (I lean towards yes, based on the citrusy hops and the look of the beer) or an American IPA, Rake Breaker is an extremely pleasing IPA. The Mosiac hop is a really nice hop that has become more prevalent over the past couple of years because of the way it brings the bitterness, aroma, and citrus/sweet flavors together. The Amarillo also has a nice citrus profile, too. The two hops combined bring the citrusy hops together for that pleasing flavor I mentioned earlier.

As I said, I overlooked this beer (despite it being something of a flagship for Jersey Girl) when I visited the brewery for my birthday tour last year. I won’t make the mistake again. With all the buzz that breweries like Carton, Kane, Twin Elephant, Cape May, and Three 3’s gets for their IPAs, Rake Breaker shouldn’t be lost in that shuffle and overlooked. In other words, a quality IPA that proudly represents the quality of brewing one can and should expect from a New Jersey brewery.

My only minor complaint isn’t necessarily about the beer itself, but about the availability. I see plenty of NJ brews in the stores in my immediate travel radius (i.e. the liquor stores on my way home from work), including beers from fellow Hackettstown brewery Czig Meister. For whatever reason, I haven’t seen Jersey Girl’s beers in those same shops since the brewery first started canning and distributing. On the other hand, I have been looking for an excuse to make the drive up to Hackettstown again.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 26)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 130 different IPAs.

American Craft Beer Classic: Victory Brewing’s Prima Pils

Trying something new here at the Tap Takeover. For all the new beers I’ve been reviewing, I figured it would be worth featuring the occasional classic…an American Craft Beer Classic. These are beers many folks have probably had, beers that are fairly widely available, and beers that have been in the market for upwards of ten to fifteen years. In other words, beers that have had a significant impact on the American Craft Beer landscape. I’ve seen a handful of other beer websites do something similar and I’ve been thinking of doing the same for the past few months. These posts will be less of a review of the beer and more of an homage to the beer. Since Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania is one of my 3 or 4 favorite breweries, based on the whole of their portfolio, I’ll start with what is arguably their flagship beer.

Victory Brewing Company in Downington, PA is one of the “old guard” of American Craft brewing, launching in 1996, just after I became of legal age to drink. Prima Pils is one of probably 3 beers that helped to establish Victory as a premier craft brewery in the Northeast. The other two being Golden Monkey and Hop Devil. When Bill and Ron started Victory, they wanted to bring some old world styles to beer drinkers, but with the flavor that mass-produced beer seemed to be lacking. At the time, Pilsners were popular, but not exactly flavorful. When Prima Pils came out of the tanks, things were about to change for beer drinkers seeking a more flavorful easy drinking beer and Victory Brewing.

Let’s get the stats out of the way: the beer clocks in with an ABV of 5.3% and an IBU of 44. These are both maybe just slightly above average for an American Pilsner, but still makes for a fairly crushable beer. Here’s what Victory has to “officially” say about Prima Pils on their page dedicated to the beer:

Prima! It’s a German exclamation of joy. It’s a recognition of accomplishment. It’s what escaped from our lips the first time we sampled this mighty pilsner recipe. With heaps of whole flower European hops and fine German malts, we achieved the bracing herbal bite and smooth malt flavor that we sought. Prima… an exclamation of Victory! Prost!

A perfectly poured Prima Pils in a Pilsner Glass

I’ve had Prima Pils in cans and bottles, but not on draft yet. Most recently, I had the beer from a can. Out of the can, the beer pours a lovely light, clear yellow and when poured properly into a Pilsner glass, emits a perfect, frothy head. A slight hop aroma wafted towards me as I poured the beer. Once the glass is full, very little appears to hint at the elegant flavors. But elegant this beer is. The hops and malt play together so well, they are both fairly complex flavors that can take nuance for brewers to master, but straightforward in what the hops and malt do for the profile of the beer. Throughout the whole 12 oz, there’s a floral sweetness playing against a pleasing hop bitterness, all held together by that potent pilsner malt backbone. Elegance. Or as Victory would say, Pilsner Perfection.

From one of my untappd check ins in April 2016, the old pre-2016 label on the bottle.

There’s a wonderful balance between the classic European hops and Pilsner malt in this beer, a bright beer with a nice crisp hop bite that is extremely pleasing to the palate. At least *my* palate. American palates tend to go for more hop forward beers than most pilsners and this fine pilsner is indeed a slightly more hop-heavy than most pilsners. Not surprising considering that Hop Devil – an extremely hop forward beer – is one of the other tripods of Victory’s foundational beers.

Prima Pils underwent a logo/label change in 2016, and at the time, Victory did something even smarter with the beer. They started canning Prima Pils, which makes for easier fit in coolers and just all around an easier beer to bring places in 12packs. Let’s face it, cans don’t have the negative connotations associated with them like they once did and this beer just belongs in a can.

From what I’ve read and gathered, the recipe has largely remained the same for the 20+ years Victory has been brewing and selling the beer. Why should they change it? The beer sells extremely well for them and is an iconic beer in the American Craft Beer landscape.

I’m not the only person who heaps praise on the beer.

Since this is one of their flagship beers, Prima Pils is one of the easier beers to find from Victory. Most stores near me have Prima Pils bottles and Victory puts the beer in most of the variety packs it sells, including the the Variety 12 Pack and the massive Kick Back Can Pack – 5 beers, 3 of each. The other beers in the Kick Back Can Pack are Sour Monkey, Home Grown Lager, and unsurprisingly, Golden Monkey and Hop Devil. The Variety 12 pack contains 3 each of Prima Pils, Golden Monkey, Hop Devil, and Vital IPA.

Few beers are as perfect for convincing folks who drink primarily the macro produced lagers/pilsner and who are wary of craft beer to try something better, more complex. In the glass, Prima Pils may look similar to the beers out of Milwaukee and St. Louis, but the taste and complexity is far superior. With Victory Beer distributed fairly widely in 37 states, Prima Pils is one of the more widely available Craft Pilsners in the market.

So, when you want a beer that flavorful, easy-going, fairly readily available, and that will compliment most meals, you could do much worse than to reach for the Pilsner Perfection of Prima Pils.

Beer Review: Lagunitas Born Again Yesterday (2018)

Name: Born Again Yesterday
Brewing Company: Lagunitas Brewing Company
Location: Petaluna, CA
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 7.2%

From Lagunitas’s Brewing’s beers page:

We’ve discovered that the Lagunitas brewers are part time alchemists… they’ve figured out how to keep wet hops wet all freakin’ year long! Born Again Yesterday Pale Ale, which features a delicious concoction of wet hops, reborn and unfiltered into our Born Yesterday Pale Ale. Congrats… It’s a beer again!

It’s the Holy Grail pursuit of brewing in hoppy beer making: year-round wet-hop flavor. Hops are good, fresh hops are better, wet hops are the best. We say ‘wet hops’ because they have not been dried after harvest. We say ‘better’ because they possess the fullest expression of hop flavor; vine-fresh. But as with another herbaceous favorite of ours, they must be quickly dried to prevent mold and spoilage. That drying process is done delicately but something is always lost in translation. Other good brewers have taken up the quest. The results have varied. Ours is a homegrown process of time dilation for the delicate hop cone that the flower doesn’t even perceive and so delivers its still newborn self to our kettle months and months after its birth. Questing has no end and we are still tweaking our process but we hope you find this mid-summer anachronism to be as satisfying as we do.

Lagunitas is one of the more prominent and widely distributed American Craft breweries. Despite being owned by Heineken for a few years, the brewery has maintained a significant level of loyal beer drinkers and continues to churn out well-received and top selling beers, most prominently their best-selling IPA. Much of their portfolio is aggressively hop-forward so my palate didn’t match up with their output for the longest time. With my shifting palate and this beer appearing in a mix pack from one of my guests on the Fourth of July, I was looking forward to giving the beer a try.

Though not specifically a Summer beer, this Pale Ale is a seasonal Ale available in the summer months between May and August. Lagunitas considers this one a “Limited Release” and because of the varying hops and process utilized the ABV and IBU vary from year to year. The 2018 version is at 7.2% ABV and 55 IBU, while in the past it has ranged from 7.0 to 7.5 ABV.

I was a little hesitant about whether I would enjoy this beer, to be honest since I haven’t had much luck with any beers from Lagunitas. But when that yellow-orange hazy opaque beer poured from the bottle to the glass, I was locked in. The beer looked really appealing and gave off a pungent, inviting hop aroma.

A hops assault hits the taste buds on the first sip. There’s a lot of juicy goodness evoked by the hops, definitely citrus fruit like orange and some tropical notes like mango. It just sits really nicely in the palate…at least my palate.

The potent hops are balanced by a fairly strong malt backbone, but the juicy wet hops are the star of this beer. I think what seals the deal for me is the unfiltered nature of the beer. As a fan of Hefeweizens and Belgian style brews, I generally lean towards unfiltered beers. Given that, Born Again Yesterday hits all the notes I’ve come to appreciate in a hop-forward ale.

As a whole, this is a refreshing, juicy and delicious hop-forward pale ale. Nothing overly fancy, just a really tasty Pale Ale. Sometimes, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. I’m happy that I gave this one a shot and can see myself going out and purchasing a pack of this one when it hits shelves next summer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Pale as the Moon(Level 17)

Ahh, the trusty pale ale; crisp, refreshing, and always a good choice in a bind. That’s 85 different Pale Ales.

 

Draught Diversions: Cypress Brewing Company

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…

One of the breweries to emerge in the early wave of the NJ Brewery renaissance (if you will) after the laws changed in 2012 was Cypress Brewing in Edison. Charlie Backmann, Jason Kijowski, and Bill Lutz opened the doors to Cypress in 2015, but they were involved in NJ beer and brewing before that.

Before the laws changed in 2012, there was a fairly thriving community of brewpubs in New Jersey (and there still are quite a few successful brew pubs, to be frank). One of the more long-standing brewpubs is J.J. Bittings in Woodbridge, NJ which is not too far from where I grew up. Bittings opened in 1997 and I’d visited fairly often with my parents. Not sure if Charlie Backmann and Jason Kijowski were there when I visited (I honestly can’t recall the last time I was at J.J. Bittings), but Charlie and Jason spent some time there and homebrewing with Bill Lutz before the three friends decided to share their beers with New Jersey and open Cypress.

Tap List at Cypress Brewing – August 2, 2018

The name “Cypress” is the street where Kijowski lived, though the brewery has played off the 90s Hip Hop group Cypress Hill for at least one of their beers – “Insane in the Grain” pays homage to the great Cypress Hill song “Insane in the Brain.” That song was in constant rotation in my Fraternity’s basement at Rutgers University in the mid 1990s. As the brewery is in Edison, named for inventor Thomas Alva Edison, Cypress pays homage with some of their beer names, including Alva, an Imperial Porter. This link to their full beer list: http://cypressbrewing.com/beer_type/all-beers/, provides the names, description, and some of the interesting can art of many of the beers in their portfolio.

I’ve listened to a few podcasts featuring Charlie and one thing he pointed out was how open and welcoming the community of Edison was to the brewery. That’s such an important element to craft beer in New Jersey and makes for a better brewery and experience on the whole. In listening to those podcasts, it is pretty clear Charlie enjoys what he does.

The brewery is located in a small industrial park on Nixon Lane, which runs behind the campus of Middlesex County College. If you didn’t know to look for the brewery, you may not know where to search. Fun fact: I once had a summer college job at a moving company less than a mile away from Cypress. That moving company is no longer in the same location. Back to Cypress…The tap room is relatively small, but not tiny. I’d say the room was cozy. There were almost a dozen people there on my visit and there was still some room. The theme of the green Cypress tree is prevalent and very much an extrapolation of the logo.

The folks at Cypress are respected in the brewing community and have developed close ties with some of the growing number of breweries in New Jersey. This has lead to well-received collaborations with Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ (Necessity & Invention), Bolero Snort (soon to be) in Carlstadt, NJ (Cypress Love), Melovino Meadery in Vauxhall, NJ (Devil’s Tree), and Dark City in Asbury Park, NJ (Sacc’d Lunch).

The next question, of course: How is the beer?

Unfortunately, one of their beers I was extremely eager to try – Weize Guy – a Hefeweizen, was not on tap that day. I also would have liked to get a glass with Cypress’ logo, but they were all sold out. I suppose that just means I’ll have to head down to the brewery again in the future.

On to the beers I actually did try, including the flight pictured below during my visit to the brewery on the first Thursday in August. One thing I really appreciated about the flight was the price – just $6 for the flight of four beers.  Some breweries charge double that for a flight.

Back to the beers… It happened to be IPA Day when I visited so of course at least one of the beers in my flight, the first, was 17-Mile Cypress’s flagship IPA. The beer falls more on the West Coast style with a decent level of bitterness and piney flavor and just a hint of citrus. The beer (I assume) gets its name from the Lone Cypress on 17-Mile Drive in Montery, CA. For the second beer, I continued with the IPA Day theme and had Cypress’ interpretation of a New England/Hazy IPA, Ceclia. This was a spot-on interpretation of the style, which I enjoyed more than 17-Mile, but I tend to prefer the hazier IPAs.

Left to right: “17 Mile” IPA; “Cecilia” IPA – Double New England; “Peach Pit” Fruit Beer; “Alva” Porter – Imperial / Double

For a change of pace, I went with The Peach Pit as the third beer in my flight. This is a high-ABV fruit beer Cypress released for their Third Anniversary in July. I’m guessing the name comes from the popular hangout on Beverly Hills 90210. This beer is brewed with lactose and aged on peaches and Madagascar Vanilla beans. and makes for a sweet summer dessert brew. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it was very sweet. I closed out the flight with the aforementioned Alva, a potent Imperial Porter. The taste was OK, but the body was a little thin and had a slight aftertaste. Not a bad beer, but I definitely enjoyed the other three beers in the flight more.

I ended my visit to the brewery with a taster of the delicious English Nut Brown, about which I went into detail earlier in the week. About two and a half years ago, at the fifth and final Garden State Brewfest I had Lighthouse, which a very tasty brown ale with coconut and the first widely available version of their Vanilla Imperial Porter, The V.I.P. I think I even went back for a second pour of V.I.P. As it turns out, Cypress has reworked both of those beers a bit and have released both in cans.

Cypress has been canning their beers for a year (or maybe two) with the beers making their way to NJ beer stores. On the day I visited, they had just canned a few of their beers and one of the folks (Tom) from Iron Heart Canning was there enjoying some tasty Cypress beer. Some good conversation about NJ beer and canned beer ensued. I hadn’t realized just how widely across the Eastern US Iron Heart is canning beer these days.

After all was said, done and consumed, I was left with some really good thoughts about the brewery, Cypress Brewing has a lot going for itself. First and foremost they make good beer. Of the seven I tried between my recent visit and two years ago at the Garden State Brewfest, all were above average in quality. They also seem to have really good relationships with other breweries in the state. The Edison Community has embraced the brewery to the point that in 2015, the Edison Chamber of Commerce named Charles Backmann their Entrepeneur of the Year! In short, a great start for Cypress Brewing. a solid and respectable first three years of business, and a bright future. I know I’ll be grabbing more of their beers off of shelves and ordering them on tap in the future.

Ein Prosit!

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