Draught Diversions: August2021 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…

2021_Aug_SixPack

The last full month of summer brings an interesting mix of beers I’ve chosen to highlight. A couple are here more for their uniqueness rather than how much I enjoyed them. Frankly, a big source of my summer beer consumption is pulled from the beer brought to the house on the Fourth of July as I’ve noted in previous round-up posts for July and August. Overall, 2 Barleywines (yeah, in the summer no less!), 1 Lager, 1 Pale Ale, 1 Pilsner, 1 Berliner Weisse, with 4 NJ beers.

Stacking Casks (Kane Brewing Company) | Barleywine – English | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

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They say summer is for lagers and summer crushers, but this is the 3rd new Barleywine I’ve had since memorial day and it is outstanding. The majority of barleywines I’ve consumed have been from Kane and they’ve all been great, this one might be the best. I like the subtle elements from the cognac/wine aging. There’s some hints of fruit and spice as well.

Watercolors Creamee – Raspberry, Blueberry, Cheesecake, Cream & Milk Sugar (Skygazer Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Berliner Weisse | no rating on untappd

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This beer is one of the rare beers I did not rate on untappd. I can’t say I enjoyed this beer, but it was interesting and worth mentioning. I like Berliner Weisses quite a bit, but this liquid…I’m not sure how it is considered beer. The only thing this seems to have in common with beer, in the Tap Takeover’s humble opinion, is that it is liquid with a percentage of alcohol content. I never thought I’d have a beer made with cheesecake, but this was a leftover from 4th of July so I figured I’d try it.

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The quote from Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park) comes to mind, but apply it to brewers: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” These “smoothie/smoovie/smoojie” beers are very popular and some of the most sought after styles, but not with the Tap Takeover.

Ray Catcher (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Lager – American | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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I think I found my favorite “new to me” beer for the summer because this is a superb lager. Jack’s Abby never fails to disappoint me and this beer was better than I expected it would be. Extremely refreshing and flavorful, the addition of lemongrass gives the beer a citrusy cooling finish that epitomizes what a warm-weather beer should be. I hope this one comes back in summer 2022 in a 12 pack.

Corned Beef Pale Ale (Spellbound Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 3.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Here’s another beer making an appearance more for the novelty than the quality. It isn’t a bad beer at all, but it sure is an interesting beer not quite like any beer I’ve had before. Unlike that red thing I highlighted at the top of this post, this actually tastes like a beer. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I could have more than one or two of the beers. The pickling spices definitely play well with the hops and really smack the taste buds.

Fraxinus Maple Syrup Barrel Aged (Ashton Brewing Company) | Barleywine – Other | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

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A fourth barleywine for the summer, courtesy of Ashton Brewing. I enjoyed the non-barrel-aged version last month and I picked up this bottle a couple of months back (along with a second bottle for Father’s Day for my dad). There’s a really nice balance between the hop bitterness and sweetness from the maple, with the maple emerging more as the beer warms. That said, I think I liked the non-barrel-aged version slightly more.

Lagerhythm (Brix City Brewing) | Pilsner – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Brix City is known primarily for their fruited sours and IPAs, so I was quite pleased to see this “Continental” Pilsner appear in one of my local beer shops. I was very impressed with this beer, which is extremely flavorful at such a low ABV. The beer doesn’t disappoint and shows that the of the brewers of Brix City are extremely talented across styles, especially a style whose (potential) mistakes can’t be hidden with adjuncts and more hops.

Like I said, the pickings were a bit slimmer with new beers this month. With the summer and pool open, I tend to refill the cooler with familiar beers and favorites.

Beer Review: Grimm Artisanal Ales’ Cross Stitch

Name: Cross Stitch
Brewing Company: Grimm Artisanal Ales
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Style: Lager – Vienna
ABV: 5%
An outstanding amber-hued Lager from one of NY’s premiere craft breweries.

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From Grimm’s landing page for Cross Stitch:

This Vienna-style lager was brewed with a double decoction mash — our first time using this historical process for our lagers! With a base of German Vienna malt and a touch of CaraAroma, Cross Stitch is a warming, toasty lager with a smooth mouthfeel. Aromas of freshly baked bread and subtle caramel are complemented by flavors of sweet malt and toffee, ending with a crisp finish.

Vienna Lager…a conundrum of a lager style. In some ways it is a relatively obscure style (certainly not as popular as Pilsner, Helles, or Marzen), but also one of the Lager styles most predominant on shelves of beer shops and bars, thanks to Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Brooklyn’s flagship, Brooklyn Lager, most people grabbing those two beers probably wouldn’t realize they were drinking a Vienna Lager. For my tastes, (and probably because of my general malaise towards Boston Lager), Vienna is the Lager style I’d always gravitated to the least. With some of the smaller independent breweries crafting this style, I realized how damned good this kind of beer could be (I’m looking at you Icarus, Kane, and Untied). So imagine my surprise when a brewery with “Ales” in their name canned and distributed what might be the best (of the admittedly limited quantity, a baker’s dozen including this one) interpretation of the style I’ve had. 4 years in, this is the first time I’ve reviewed a Vienna Lager, as it turns out.

Thick aroma of malty breadiness greets my senses when I open the can – maybe warm bread even. The beer pours a deep amber that could easily be mistaken for an Oktoberfest/Märzen. First sip test – Cross Stitch passes with flying colors. That breadiness is maybe the strongest element. Immediately following, or even overlaying that breadiness is an extremely pleasant lacing of caramel, likely from the CaraAroma malt. The last thing I taste is a hint of toffee on top of the ever-present caramel lacing.

The flavors are great, but what maybe impresses me the most is how incredibly smooth this beer is. Especially since one of the issues I’ve had with Boston Lager is how unsmooth the beer seemed to me. Granted, it has been well over 4 years since I’ve had Boston Lager, and the recipe has supposedly been tweaked. There’s still that characteristic crisp finish a Lager should have, but it is a complement to the lovely, caramel smoothness of the beer.

Cross Stitch is an outstanding take on the Vienna style of Lager. As I stated at the outset of this beer review, Grimm’s take on the style is probably my favorite Vienna Lager and one of my favorite “new to me” Lagers of 2021. As such, this kind of makes me sad that I grabbed the last four pack of this beer in the store.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Workhorse Brewing’s Golden Lager

Name: Golden Lager
Brewing Company: Workhorse Brewing Company
Location: King of Prussia, PA
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 5%
A delicious Flagship Lager that is a wonderful example of the classic style from the Keystone State Brewery.

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From Workhorse Brewing’s to go page for their beer

Our Helles has been rebranded for 2021! While the label is new, the liquid remains the same. Showcasing a blend of traditional German malts and hops, this well-balanced and crisp lager utilizes a cold fermentation process and extensive lagering. The result is a great “all day” beer with subtle notes of bread and honey.

Back to the Lagers with a brewery new to NJ – Workhorse Breiwng Company. While they aren’t exactly new, Workhorse has begun distributing into New Jersey thanks to Cape Beverage (an offshoot of Cape May Brewing Company). I’m always up to try new breweries especially when one of those beers is a Helles Lager, the beer that I like to call the Pilsner’s Munich Cousin. The Helles Lager is one of the more widely crafted styles of Lager …and it has been almost a year since the Tap Takeover shone the review spotlight on a Helles Lager so the timing is almost perfect for this review.

Crack of the can, pour into the Willi Becher glass and we’ve got a beautiful translucent golden beer with a perfectly frothy head about the width of my thumb. This beer is exactly what it says on the label – Golden Lager. “Helles” in German can be translated as “bright” so by the looks of this beer, Workhorse’s take on the Munich Lager is 100% on point. As for the aroma…nothing crazy, it tastes like a beer I want to drink.

On the taste here, there’s a sweet maltiness, that toasted bread cracker element associated with the style, to the beer that immediately pleases me. Refreshing and flavorful, I get a slightly bitter finish on that first sip, but the whole of the flavors coming together make for an extremely refreshing beer. A beer whose flavor profile says, “Yeah, this is really tasty. Don’t let it sit on the table too long. Maybe just hold the glass between sips because you want more.”

Overall, this is a extremely clean, well-balanced beer that is exactly what a Lager should be. What does that mean? The beer hits the cracker/bready notes a lager should hit, it has that overused, but ever important “drinkability” quality that lends itself to having a couple of beers without being knocked out, and is very flavorful.

Golden Lager is one of the four primary beers Workhorse has sent into NJ as an introduction, along with their New England IPA, West Coast IPA, and Prickly Pear Gose. Based on this beer, Workhorse has made a pretty nice first appearance in New Jersey.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Lager Jack (Level 25)

After a long day, what better way to kick back than with a crisp and refreshing lager? You’re already feeling more relaxed, aren’t you?

Brewery Pioneer (Level 95)

There’s beer in them thar hills! You’re setting off on your journey through the world of beer, but be sure to take a little time to get to know each brewery as you go. That’s a beer from 475 different breweries.

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Beer Review: Two Ton’s Wrought Gold W/ Blood Orange

Name: Wrought Gold w/ Blood Orange
Brewing Company: Two Ton Brewing
Location: Kenilworth, NJ
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.5%

“A flavorful, low ABV beer perfect for summer and poolside beer from the Union County brewery.”

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The commemorative/souvenir beer glass is from the 2015 Garden State Brewfest, where I first sampled beer from Two Ton Brewing.

From Two Ton’s facebook post promoting the beer:

We took Wrought Gold, our American blonde ale brewed with fresh blood orange purée to deliver the ultimate refreshment. This summer sipper is sure to satisfy with smooth sensations of sweetness. The base beer boasts smooth, round flavors of malt and slightly juicy Liberty hops, fermented with an English ale yeast.

A relatively short amount of time for another Blonde Ale considering I don’t drink many of them. But the frequency of these two Blonde Ale reviews should speak to their quality. That said, this definitely different than the previous Blonde Ale featured here at the Tap Takeover. Two Ton has been around the NJ Craft Beer scene for a few years, I first sampled their fine brews during the 2015 Garden State Brewfest. I remember their beer being tasty and the owners, brothers Matt and Jim Barbiere and their father Mario, being extremely nice guys.  At the time, Two Ton was contract brewing with their HQ based out of Linden, NJ, my hometown. More recently (in 2018), they opened in Kenilworth, NJ. This past year, they began distributing cans of their beer which leads to this beer specifically.

Blonde Ales are typically easy drinking, approachable beers. I’ve had the original Wrought Gold and remembered enjoying the beer so I was pleased to see this variant appear in the refrigerated shelves of my local Wegmans. I had a feeling it might be a good poolside / summer beer and I had a few people coming over that day, one of whom loves Blood Orange.

Pop of the can and the strong, pleasant, inviting aroma of the Blood Orange asserts itself. The beer pours a reddish gold and the potent aroma of citrus/oranges is even more noticeable. Although the fruit is “Blood Orange,” the look of the beer, is more of a “strawberry blonde.” Regardless, the beer looks as I would expect it to look.

The pronounced Blood Orange flavor dominates. That is a feature, not a bug, by the way. Blonde Ales are often not too assertive, they are beer flavored beer for the most part. The American versions at least, tend to not lean too much on the malt, not too much on the hops so the beer style is good for its approachability and its ability to take on a flavor adjunct. I mentioned the citrus element from the Blood Orange…that is quite different than the citrus element some hops impart. There’s a very distinct citrus sweetness that I can only compare to the most potent orange juice I’ve had blended with beer. It makes for a good combination, at least for my taste buds.

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Wrought Gold w/Blood Orange is an excellent ale that works perfectly as a fun, summer refresher and well worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4 bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: July 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…

2021_July_SixPack

July has come and gone and with it, the annual family Fourth of July party, which was a contributor to this month’s six pack. It is often hit or miss with the beers my family and friends bring, but this year, there were more hits than misses. This is the first six pack in months with no lager and outside of one beer, all are hop forward (Pale Ales or IPAs).

Forever Forward (Icarus Brewing) | IPA – Imperial/Double New England | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

As it so happens, this was the 50th beer I had from Icarus Brewing. As it also happens, it is the best IPA I’ve had from them and maybe one of my top IPAs of all time. I like the hop selection (Citra and Motueka) and what I appreciate is that they used wheat and oats to soften the body of the beer rather than lactose. Plus, how do you not like that Back to the Future inspired can art?

Your Lips are Bloody! (Ashton Brewing) | IPA – Sour | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

One of Ashton’s flagship beers is their IPA, “Your Lips are Juicy,” which I featured about a year ago. That was a very good beer. This is a version of the beer with Blood Oranges and is even better. This beer was originally produced for Halloween 2020, but proved so popular it was brewed and canned again. The blood oranges both accentuate the citrus element inherent in the hops and since blood oranges are even sweeter than regular oranges, that sweetness counters the hop bitterness. A delicious IPA

Blueberry Lemon Crushin’ It (Cape May Brewing Co.) | IPA – American| 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Cue the Whitesnake song because here we go with a variant of a beer I’ve previously featured at the Tap Takeover. Blueberry is one of my favorite fruits and when balanced with lemon makes for a very refreshing flavor profile. This beer is stronger on the blueberry element than the hops element, but is very tasty. Maybe not quite as good as the original “Orange Crushin’ It,” but still a beer I enjoyed thoroughly and would enjoy poolside all summer.

Patriot (Battle River Brewing) | IPA – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

When you have an annual Fourth of July party and your party-goers know you like beer, they tend to bring beer. Fortunately, there’s a gem of a beer I haven’t had like this IPA from Battle River Brewing. This is a very well-made, straight-forward, no-frills CLEAR IPA. Sometimes, the relatively simple beers are just what hits the spot, and this IPA delivers in spades. Good stuff

Subtle Symphony (Conclave Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd


I met up with a good friend to visit the two closest breweries to me, Conclave being one of them. This is a delicious, flavorful, low ABV (4.5%) pale ale that I could drink all day. Slightly hop-forward, fully refreshing. This would be a good beer for them to can.

Uncharted Waters Raspberry Gose (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone continues to impress me with everything the brew. They’ve been making great sour ales over the better part of the last year. Fruited sours in particular have been impressing me so I was very happy to see them finally put one of their sour ales in a four-pack of cans. Goses are maybe the sour beers I like most, the salinity on the finish works for me and it plays really nicely with the sweet and tart nature of the raspberries. A very well-crafted beer.

Beer Review: Lone Eagle Brewing’s Jubileum V (Bourbon-Barrel Aged Eisbock)

Name: Jubileum V
Brewing Company: Lone Eagle Brewing
Location: Lone Eagle Brewing
Style: Bock – Eisbock (Traditional)
ABV: 8.5%

“Lone Eagle Brewing has crafted and exceptional beer for their Fifth Anniversary, Congratulations!”

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What Lone Eagle says about the beer:

A strong, malty German-style bock with rich character, full of caramel, toffee, and toasted biscuit notes with almonds, further aged in a bourbon barrel for a warming effect full of vanilla and oak notes.

I’ve mentioned Lone Eagle Brewing often here at the Tap Takeover, afterall, they are one of the closest breweries to my house and prior to the Pandemic I was going there fairly regularly for the monthly board game night. Since they hit their Five-Year Anniversary this past weekend (July 24, 2021), I figured I’d visit again. For their previous anniversaries, Lone Eagle has brewed a different barrel-aged beer they’ve called Jubileum, which is a Dutch word for “Celebration” or “Anniversary.” This year’s anniversary beer is a style I like a lot, but is fairly rare: Eisbock. As it turns out (and something that’s a theme of sorts), this is the 50th beer I’ve had from Lone Eagle, so that, combined with their anniversary and the quality of the beer, compelled me to review it.

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Back in my Bock Beer post, I summarized what an Eisbock is: “The “Eis” in the name is from partially freezing a dopple and extracting the H2O ice, which allows the alcohol to have a much more noticeable presence and a deeper brownish/reddish hue and an overall thicker beer. You could also say a Belgian Quadrupel is similar to an Eisbock, in some ways.” In other words, the water is distilled, so an Eisbock is a strange beast. What about the beer Lone Eagle brewed for their fifth anniversary?

The beer is a dark, deep brown with hints of amber in the right light. The aroma is largely from the bourbon barrels, but there might be some additional sweetness from the malt of the beer. I found the aroma fairly restrained for a barrel-aged beer. Often enough, the barrel character can overtake the entirety of the aroma, but here it was more of an enticement.

The first sip is outstanding and complex. I’ve only had a couple of Eisbocks before this one and liked them a lot and this has some of those characteristics. The bready, caramel elements are on full display. There might be hints of marzipan as well, but the bourbon barrel is quite assertive, too. Not too assertive, thankfully but rather complementary to the heavy malt characterof the beer. Too much barrel character would ruin the flavor of the beer.

I found this beer to be slightly reminiscent of Tröegs’ “Bourbon Barrel-Aged Troegenator,” one of my favorite beers of all time. This one might be a bit thinner on the body and slightly stronger impression from the barrel, but this is definitely a beer Lone Eagle should be proud to call their Fifth Anniversary Beer

One of the better Lone Eagle Beers I’ve had when all is said and done. Congratulations to Lone Eagle Brewing on 5 years!.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I’ll Be Bock (Level 12)

Once you’ve had just one, there’s no doubt you’ll be saying “I’ll be bock” for another.

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Draught Diversions: Alternate Ending Beer Co. (Aberdeen, NJ)

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

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Breweries take a lot of time and money to plan before they are ready to open for business. There’s often a long tail from the time an idea forms to any site work begins until beer is poured at the opening. More often than not, there are delays for various reasons like permits or bad weather. Or “Acts of God” like a Pandemic. So here we are at the Tap Takeover featuring another brewery – brewpub – with the unfortunate timing to open during the COVD-19 Pandemic in 2020. Today’s featured brewery: Alternate Ending Beer Co. in Aberdeen, NJ.

Owner/Founder/CEO Scott Novick had built up his knowledge and experience in both the entertainment and brewing industries prior to planning out Alternate Ending Beer Co. He worked at VH1 (MTV’s sister channel) and then worked at Jughandle Brewing in nearby Tinton Falls then at Other Half in Brooklyn, one of the hottest breweries on the East Coast. Other Half’s beers, particularly their hop-forward beers and big stouts, have long been sought after in the beer trading community. Sustaining that job, driving from Monmouth County to Brooklyn was a challenge, so Scott figured he’d open a brewery much closer to home. When the BowTie cinemas on Route 34 in Aberdeen became available as a location, Scott has his spot. Going with the name of Alternate Ending plays on the movie theater theme as do many of the beer names.

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Image Courtesy of Alternate Ending’s Facebook

Scott also hired Brendon Arnold as his head brewery, a fellow New Jersey native who has a wealth of experience, largely in Kansas at Gella’s Diner + LB Brewing. I visited to Alternate Ending Beer Co. for their New Jersey Craft Beer night on July 13 and as part of the “event,” members of NJCB were offered a tour of the brew facility. (I should have taken pictures!) Brendan spent some time talking through his brew process and his more scientific/technical approach, given his education at the Siebel Institute of Technology, America’s premier brewing education institute. He mentioned that one of the beers on tap that day, a delicious Saison brewed in collaboration with Screamin’ Hill Brewery in Cream Ridge, NJ, was also being aged in wine barrels. That Saison, Decocted Saison (pictured below) was one of the beers I sampled during my time at the brewery and it was fantastic – earthy and true to style with the yeast elements, and even more pleasant thanks to the wildflower honey added during the brewing process.

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Brendan also mentioned the “partnership” Alternate Ending has with Asbury Park Distillery. Alternate Ending gets used barrels from Asbury Park to age their beers, they’ve got some stouts in oak barrels, and once those are emptied of the beer, Asbury Park takes the barrels back and ages their spirits in the double-used barrels. Another beer I sampled (before the tour) was Rye Imperial Stout – 1 Month Version (pictured below) which was aged for only a month in Penelope Rye barrels along with Tahitian Vanilla. The amount of barrel flavor imparted after just a month was quite impressive: a rich, decadent stout with hints of vanilla, the beer is simply delicious.

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The first beer I had; though, was the beer that is their best seller – Royal Rug (pictured below) a German-style pilsner, meaning it is slightly hoppier than its Czech cousin. I ordered the beer in the “Slow Pour” method, which typically takes 5-7 minutes to pour the full beer. The slow pour method allows the carbonation to be softer, a much fluffier head with the ultimate result of a beer a bit more flavorful than a standard pour thanks to warming a bit to room temperature, allowing the flavors to breathe and the flavors become more stable in general.

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A beautiful slow pour with a nice peak.

In talking to Brendan about the beer, he mentioned he expected to go through a couple of “beta” versions of the beer since the equipment was different than he’d long been accustomed to using and Pilsners typically are a style that requires extreme precision. As it turned out, Brendan’s years of experience paid off because he told me the version of Royal Rug on draft was the very first version of the recipe he brewed for Alternate Ending, it was unchanged. I can’t see why anything should change about that beer, it was fantastic. Brendan also mentioned the Rauchbier he brewed and hoped it would be a feature on “This Week in Rauchbier: The world’s most important, long running, and most awarded show dedicated to smoked beer.”

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An assortment of Alternate Ending labels on the door of their cooling room

With the location having roots as a popular movie theater, there are quite a few nods to that history. Movie posters, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show adorn the wall and images form movies as well. As I said, the names often call out to specific movies, like their recent Helles Lager, Willy’s Gold as an homage to The Goonies or the beer I reviewed earlier this week, Amity Beer a call out to Jaws; Chuckle Heads is a call out to one of my favorite film makers and geeky celebrities – Kevin Smith’s popular Jay and Silent Bob duo; Bad Mother Force User is an homage to Samuel L. Jackson and two of his most famous roles, Mace Windu and Jules from Pulp Fiction, Sloane Knew a shout out to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and son.. Movies will be shown, too! There are even seats from the old movie theater.

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The great Kevin Smith holding “Chuckle Heads,” the beer made in homage to him! Image courtesy of Alternate Ending’s Facebook

Since opening in late 2020, Alternate Ending has been releasing cans of their beers and many of them have been selling out via BeerBroadcast.com. As brew-pub, they’ve partnered with Talula’s Pizza in Asbury Park and as America wearily emerges from the Pandemic, more patrons have been able to get the full experience of the brewpub. During my visit, the dining area was largely filled with many patrons eating what looked to be tasty food and what I know to be well-crafted beers. The partnership is a natural one that speaks to the local/independent ethos of craft beer. Scott Novick was a fan of Talula’s Pizza so it was a perfect fit.

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One of the pieces of movie memorabilia that adorns the walls, this from Kevin Smith’s “Mallrats.”

I’ve attended a few of these “NJCB Member Event” nights in the past at Jersey Cyclone (Somerset, NJ), Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ), and Wet Ticket (Rahway, NJ). Mike K., the man behind New Jersey Craft Beer does a fantastic job of rallying the NJ beer community and given this recent event was on a Monday night, the turnout was quite impressive. I also had the chance to chat with Al Gatullo and his friend (also named Rob), of the great Al Gatullo Craft Beer Cast for a bit since we have bumped into each other at these events in the past. The event at Alternate Ending was another awesome night, a good opportunity to connect face to face with people I’ve only seen on social media, and reconnect with a few people face to face I haven’t seen since the pandemic began.

Delicious beer, great atmosphere, awesome theme, and excellent people – that sounds like a great start for Alternate Ending to me! I know I’ll be visiting again and next time, I plan on enjoying some of that famous Talula’s Pizza and definitely another slow-pour of Royal Rug.

Some other links of interest and sources of information for this post:

Alternate Ending Beer Co. Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Alternate Ending Beer Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Beer Review: Alternate Ending’s Amity Beer

Name: Amity Beer
Brewing Company: Alternate Ending Beer Co.
Location: Aberdeen Township, NJ
Style: Lager – Pale
ABV: 4.1%

Quite simply, one of the better Craft Lagers I’ve had over the past couple of years.

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From Alternate Ending’s Instagram post for this beer:

You know those moments when you’re sitting on the beach under the hot sun and sweat is glistening off your forehead, so you start debating whether or not to cool off in the ocean, but then that JAWS music pops into your head…duunnn dunnn…duuuunnnn duun…duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun…well don’t worry, ‘cause we’ve got you covered. Sit back, crack our cold, crisp Premium Lager, and watch everyone else swim carelessly as countless very sharp teeth swim beneath their feet. Amity Beer…now in 12oz cans, sold as a 6-pack. Drink responsibly and have a Happy Fourth! To learn more about the inspiration behind this beer, be sure to read the box…

It is turning into a theme of the Tap Takeover with my beer reviews of late – breweries who had the unfortunate timing to open/launch during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Alternate Ending fits that bill, but they are a tad different – they are a brewpub as well. Their overall resume, the people behind the brewery/brewpub is quite impressive. They have  beer/brewing experience at breweries like Other Half and Jughandle. Alternate Ending took over an old BowTie Cinemas location and as such, goes with movie-themed names for their beers. Since Aberdeen Township is considered a Jersey Shore town and one of the most popular “shore” movies all time being Jaws, why not make a beer as an homage? They did and called it Amity Beer, Alternate Ending’s (and head brewer Brendan Arnold) take on the Pale Lager.

As I noted in my review of Twin Lights Lager, essentially, a Pale Lager can be considered an “almost Pilsner.” Or another thought is All Pilsners are Pale Lagers but not all Pale Lagers are Pilsners.

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As for Amity Beer, I enjoyed the beer freshly poured into a dimple mug from the draft. This beer looks wonderful. Perfect foamy head, slightly translucent pale yellow liquid. In other words, you look up Lager in the dictionary, this beer is absolutely what you want to see.

A beer can look the part, as does Amity Beer, but it has to taste the part, too.

Malt/breadiness and maybe a little hint of sweet fruit waft from the mug. The first sip is a slap of deliciousness to my tastebuds. Those aforementioned aromas transfer even more potently to the taste in so many ways. There’s a bit of a cracker element, but what stands out most is the finish, there’s a slight sweet fruitiness I mentioned that compels me to keep drinking the beer. It is such a fun, delightful beer, I wish they had six packs of the beer, but it sold out very quickly when it was released at the end of June 2021.

Maybe the most impressive element of the beer is that it is only 4.1% ABV and it is bursting with flavor. It takes a well-honed brewer to coax that much flavor in a beer with that low of an ABV. In talking with head brewer Brendan during the NJCB Night at Alternate Ending on July 12, he mentioned that this was the most “difficult” beer he’s made at Alternate Ending. Even though the delicious Pilsner they brew, Royal Rug is a difficult style, there’s even less wiggle room for mistakes or opportunities to hide those mistakes with, say, the potential hops you’d add to a pilsner. Well…to say that Brandon absolutely nailed the style is an understatement.

To play on one of the most famous lines of dialogue from the movie to which this beer honors, “They’re going to need a bigger boat.” In other words, a beer this good, this flavorful, and this fun, should be on tap from Memorial Day to Labor Day, at the least.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

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Beer Review: Toms River Brewing’s Blueberry Blonde Summer Ale

Name: Blueberry Blonde Summer Ale
Brewing Company: Toms River Brewing
Location: Toms River, NJ
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.1%

“A delightfully refreshing ale highlighting NJ’s most well known fruit.”

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From Tom River Brewing’s instagram post promoting the beer:

New Jersey is the blueberry capital of the world. This light bodied blonde ale is packed with fresh home grown blueberries picked at the peak of the season. This crushable ale is brewed with Pilsen, Marris Otter, Vienna malts and hopped with Cascade and Citron hops giving a refreshing finish that is perfect for the hot summer days and warm summer nights to come. Cheers🍻.

It hasn’t been quite a year since I reviewed a beer from Tom’s River Brewing, but this beer is such a fantastic summer beer, I have to share my thoughts. The blueberry is one of my favorite fruits and New Jersey happens to be one of the largest producers of blueberries in the country and Hammonton, NJ is the “Blueberry Capital of the World.” So, adding blueberries to beer is a natural fit for a New Jersey brewery.

On to the beer…

Pop of the can, the beer pours a light purple/blue into the glass and I get the pleasant aroma of blueberries. Obviously, the blueberries prevent this beer from looking the true part of a “Blonde Ale,” but that is to be expected.

The first sip is very pleasant indeed. The blueberries are the most prominent flavor element, but they aren’t tart and overpowering in the way blueberries can be. The hop presence comes in on the finish of the beer. Per Toms River, this beer has Cascade and Citra hops, two of the classic hops in American Craft brewing. They both provide a slight bittering element that is a nice balance to the sweetness from the malt and blueberries.

This beer is a good example of a fun beer – flavorful, approachable, and featuring relatively local elements. Blueberry Blonde Summer Ale is a fantastic seasonal ale and perfect for summer. Although I’ve only had about a half-dozen beers from Toms River Brewing, this one is a definite standout for my tastes.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4 bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: The Drowned Land’s River Birch

Name: River Birch
Brewing Company: The Drowned Lands
Location: Warwick, NY
Style: Pilsner – Other | Foeder Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

“The Drowned Lands has crafted an outstanding, world class Pilsner that transcends the style.”

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From Drowned Lands page for the beer:

Foeder-fermented Pilsner brewed with Weyermann Pilsner Malt and a touch of Weyermann Vienna, hopped with German hops for a floral and spicy balance. As is tradition, this was fermented low and slow in one of our American Oak Foeders, then transferred to stainless where it was lagered to maturity.

We’re tasting grassy lemon pitch, a particularly oaky pile of straw, a mellifluous bouquet of summer flowers, and that little burst of citrus oil you get when peeling an orange.

Another pilsner already? I suppose I’m making up for lost time, but when one visits a brewery on a warm summer day, a Pilsner might be the best test of their quality.

The Drowned Lands had the unfortunate timing to open the same year as the COVID-19 Pandemic, but despite that hinderance, they’ve already received several accolades, including being listed as one of the 10 Best New Breweries of 2020 by USA Today (along with NJ’s own, The Seed in Atlantic City). Before I knew that; however, I’d heard good things about them and one of the former brewers of Conclave Brewing had recently joined Drowned Lands. How could I not visit on the ride down from Cooperstown, NY to home?

Of the beers on tap, I knew I wanted to try their pilsner. It is one of my favorite styles after all and the pilsner is where a brewer’s skill shines. I fondly remember the two pilsners Conclave brewed when Bryan was working there, too.

Look at that beer! Perfect golden approachability, it looks just the way a pilsner should look. Aroma…I think I get some of the earthiness from the oak foeder in which the beer was fermented.

What does the beer taste like? Like nectar from the gods. I’m completely blown away by this beer, it is a perfectly crafted lager. The traditional elements of the German malt and hops are present, but the oak fermenting brings some fresh, new perspective to the old world style.

I enjoyed the beer so much I had to bring home a four pack because it was delicious and my fridge was a little low on pilsners. The next day, I had a pour from the can and it was just as good. Extremely refreshing, potently flavorful, elegantly crafted.

The Drowned Lands is a gorgeous brewery, especially on the day of my visit which was lovely weather. If I lived closer (I’m about an hour and a half away), I’d be visiting them a couple times per month.

To put it in simple terms, River Birch is one of the best Pilsners I’ve ever had. To quote Mat from Massive Beers, this Pilsner is “Mount Rushmore Status.”

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

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