Beer Review: Last Wave Brewing’s Surfer’s Blood

Name: Surfer’s Blood
Brewing Company: Last Wave Brewing Company & Heavy Reel Brewing Company
Location: Point Pleasant, NJ
Style: Sour – Berliner Weisse
ABV: 5.1%

An outstanding sour ale, whose name, flavor, and the breweries who made it scream summer.

LastWave_Surfer'sBlood

Last Wave says this about the beer:

Raspberry Lemonade Berliner Weisse

This kettle-soured weiss bier is tart, fruity, and red with the help of some raspberry and lemon puree (none of our actual blood), making this a refreshing adult beverage ripe for enjoyment at the Jersey Shore. Brewed in collaboration with our friends at Heavy Reel Brewing Co.

Last Wave recently celebrated their fifth anniversary and did a slight rebranding of their logo / can art aesthetic and released a couple of collaboration beers. Although I missed those beers, I’d been keeping an eye on Last Wave’s releases and saw an intriguing Instagram post announcing the re-release of this beer, Surfer’s Blood. With the summer in full swing, I wanted something sweet, tart, and with some fruit element to the beer; Surfer’s Blood fit that criteria perfectly.

The beer that pours into my glass from the can is pinkish in color and could easily pass as pink lemonade. That makes sense given the Last Wave labels this as a “Raspberry Lemonade Sour.” Aroma is a little bit of that raspberry lemonade, too.

I take a sip and I’m delighted. This is damned tasty beer. There’s a lot of tart and tanginess from the raspberries and lemons/lemonade, but enough carbonation and maltiness to keep this in the beer category. The tartness / sour elements also come from the yeast that gives a Berliner Weisse (even without adjuncts) its characteristic funky profile.

You’ve got two shore breweries collaborating on this beer, you’ve got “surfer” in the title, a surfing skeleton on the label, and delicious refreshing fruity flavor (specifically lemonade, maybe the most iconic summer beverage) in the beer. Yeah, this is a great summer beer. It has been a popular seasonal for Last Wave and I can taste why. I had a second can on a warm Sunday afternoon lounging in my pool after some yard work and the beer tasted even better and went down much more quickly in gulps, rather than sips. Maybe the only better place/way to enjoy this beer is on the beach.

I love the can art, it speaks to the horror junkie in me with the bloody skeleton, which is kind of the mascot of Heavy Reel brewing. the new “branding” Last Wave kicked off in May, which put a nice “frame” around the art topped off with Last Wave’s surf board logo brings the eye-popping design together. Surfer’s Blood is very appealing both from the taste and packaging,  if you saw this beer on the shelf and wanted a sweet summer crusher, you’d have to pick up at least a four-pack.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Ich Bin Ein Berliner (Level 6)

The classic Berliner Weisse is crisp, cloudy, and sour. Once the most popular beer style in Berlin, it’s gained notoriety and popularity around the globe making us all proud to be Berliners. That’s 30 different beers with the style of Berliner Weisse.

LW_SurfersBlood

Beer Review: Notch Brewing’s Tenner

Name: Tenner
Brewing Company: Notch Brewing
Location: Brighton, Boston, MA | Salem, MA
Style: Pilsner – Czech / Czech Pale Lager
ABV: 4%

The best Pilsner I’ve ever had, the best Lager I’ve ever had. Perfect.

Notch_TennerDraft

Notch Brewing says this about Tenner Pilsner:

Why Desítka (or “Tenner”)? It is the density of the beer previous to fermentation (10 degrees Plato), and that yields a 4% ABV beer. Too much info, I know. But it is session beer. A SESSION PILSNER. They really do exist, in spite of what the beer expert tells you.

Also, this humble beer challenges notions that a lower ABV lager is simple in character or easy to produce. It is quite the opposite. A triple decoction of Czech floor malted barley takes 11 hours in the brewhouse, and a long cold fermentation and lagering time takes another 7 weeks (while it also naturally carbonates). This yields a delicate beer with a depth of character that begs you for one more, but it never fatigues the palate and always excites it.

Notch Brewing is widely regarded as one of the best brewers of Czech and German Lagers in the country. In fact, Notch Brewing was just awarded Best Brewery Award (2022) by Boston Magazine. When I had a little bit of time after a long conference and day from NJ to Boston, I thought to myself, “Hey, why not visit Notch?” So I did.

Strolling into the bierhall, I had some tough choices to make because I wanted to try just about every beer on their taplist. I settled on this beer, Tenner as my first beer. I later had Tmavy (Czech Dark Lager) and Notch’s Altbier, both of which were superb. But this review post is about Tenner.

The pour….is perfection in a mug. Look at that picture above, just a beautiful beer with a thick head atop a bright yellow-gold beer. Tenner was poured just as you’d expect in Plzeň (Pilsen to us Americans) in the Czech Republic, the country that consumes the most beer per capita and where Pilsner was born. Tenner more than looks the part

The aroma is inviting, but honestly, it smells like beer. Perhaps the most fresh and vibrant beer that passed under my nose…as if every other Pilsner or Pale Lager seeks to evoke this aroma.

First sip is pure heaven. I get a little bit of foam in that first sip, but the beer itself is everything I could hope to have in a Pilsner beer. The beer is quite soft and pillowy, pure delight. The malts of the beer are evoking sweet bread and sweet grains. There’s a slight fruity sweetness from the malt, too, which is very welcome. Many Pilsners have a sweet element, but here in Tenner that sweetness is perfectly dialed in and balances with the slight bitterness from the hops. The finish on this beer is maybe the best finish of any lager I’ve ever had.

Notch_TennerCan

I decided to bring a four pack of Tenner home with me. There was no real noticeable difference in quality between the beer poured on draft and the beer out of my can into my Defend Pilsner mug. Well, the feel of the beer might have been slightly different because of the Czech faucet Notch employs at the brewery for their pours, but the flavor and taste – are of the same exemplary quality.

While this beer style is considered a Pilsner by many, the Czechs call it simply a “Pale Lager.” Frankly, whatever the label, the quality is delicious perfection. As of this post, I’ve had a meager 128 different pilsners since joining untappd in 2014. Not as many as some, but quite a lot more Pilsners than the most of my friends in my “beer circles.” In other words, I’ve had my fair share of Pilsners and feel comfortable to judge the quality of the style. Which all leads to my final statement on Tenner: without hesitation, I can say this is the best Pilsner (or Pale Lager as our friends in the Czech Republic and Notch might say), I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking.

Recommended, link to 5 bottle cap untappd rating check in. | Can at home.

Notch_TennerDraft

Beer Review: Wet Ticket’s Tastes Like the Tropics Mango Wheat Ale

Name: Tastes Like the Tropics Mango Wheat Ale
Brewing Company: Wet Ticket Brewing
Location: Rahway, NJ
Style: Wheat Beer – American Pale Wheat
ABV: 4.7%

Wet Ticket Brewing releases another delicious summer/warm weather wheat ale, with the perfect amount of mango.

WetTicket_TastesLIkeTropics

From the untappd page for the beer:

The name, “Tastes Like The Tropics,” really says it all. An enticing upfront Mango aroma leads to a very pleasantly balanced and refreshing beer. Kudos to all the people who provided their input as we went through three “Test Ticket,” versions in order to help us finalize the recipe. We think you nailed it.

Playing off their popular Tastes Like Summer – Watermelon Wheat beer, Wet Ticket introduced this beer, Tastes Like The Tropics – Mango Wheat Ale in the Spring of 2022. Well, more properly, Tim Pewitt and his crew released the final version to the public at that time. Wet Ticket does several test batches in their brewery known as Test Tickets, where they ask for feedback from their patrons. One of the final products of those “Test Tickets” is this sweet and well-balanced beer perfect for warm weather. Let’s unpack that a bit.

The base beer is a “Pale Wheat Ale” in other words, an Americanized Hefeweizen. I’ve had, and thoroughly enjoyed, Wet Ticket’s Hefweizen so the beer is off to a good start, at least in theory. For me, a Hefeweizen is an ideal summer beer, with the balance of clove and banana flavors from the yeast. The addition of Mangoes only amps up the summer feel of this brew.

Pouring the beer from the can into my Wet Ticket glass, I like what I see. I get some aroma of mango, a fruit I enjoy quite a lot. I drink a lot of juice and one I like is called “Mongo Mango” and this beer bears a strong resemblance to that juice with the bright, inviting orange-yellow color. The big difference is the beer is slightly translucent.

First sip is sweetness, a pleasant tropical sweetness from the mango maybe a little bit from the yeast. Mango is a little thicker than most fruits, or rather the juice from a mango has a thicker consistency, if my aforementioned “Mongo Mango” is an indication. That comes through slightly in the beer, but the flavor of the mango shines very nicely. I appreciate that it is strong and present, but not overpowering. That shows great care in crafting the beer and why Tim and his crew go through iterations of their “Test Tickets” before making the beer a more wide release.

Tastes Like The Tropics – Mango Wheat Ale is a quintessential summer beer and a nice companion to Wet Ticket’s hugely popular Watermelon Wheat. Tastes Like The Tropics – Mango Wheat Ale was one of the beers I had in my cooler for the annual summer family party and it didn’t last long, I had to squirrel away a can for myself so to ensure I tried it and I’m very glad I did.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Draught Diversions: Reverse the “Special Ruling” by NJABC

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’ve written very often about the Beer Scene here in New Jersey, about what a great community it is, how the breweries are almost like an extended family. Well, legislation put forth on July 1 initiated sweeping changes for the craft beer community in New Jersey.

A special ruling by the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control dictates that brewery licensees will be limited in the number of events they can host and attend every year.

Under the ruling, microbreweries are allowed to hold 25 on-site activities, like music, trivia, yoga, etc. annual in addition to 52 private parties. Breweries can also attend only 12 off-premises events, such as town and holiday celebrations. Before the unjust ruling, breweries could weren’t limited to the number of events they could hold. The definition of “Events” is fairly broad, and includes anytime they have television on, host a DJ regardless of the brewery advertising it.

Further, breweries cannot have food trucks on premise. For example, I’d guess Readington Brewery near me which is a purpose built brewery on a plot of land can’t have a food truck, but say, Jersey Cyclone whose brewery is in an industrial park and where Cyclone doesn’t own the property can have a food truck.

The restaurant lobbyists are the ones helping to push through this legislation, and have been seen as one roadblock to the growth of breweries in NJ for years, partially because liquor licenses in NJ are so expensive.

There’s a great article on tje Breweries in PA site, something of a “cousin” site to NJ Craft Beer: New Jersey Continues To Be The Armpit of America; Strips Breweries Down To Bare Bones.

More details can be found in this NorthJersey.com article.

StealThisBeerSqure

Steal this Beer from this past Monday (07/04/22) featured Scott Wells of Bolero Snort (Carlstadt, NJ) as their guest. Hosts Augie Carton (of Carton Brewing) and John Holl spoke with Scott about this ridiculous legislature.

xNhhrXTrCecKbIC-800x450-noPadOne way YOU can potentiall affect change is to sign the petition on Change.org, Reverse the “Special Ruling” by the NJABC. As of this post going live, the petition is nearing 2500 signatures.

The form letter below was posted on thr NJ Craft Beer site, please feel free to use when you write to your elected officials (Assemblypersons and Senators), who you can find here: NJ Legislature: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/district-map.

Dear ELECTED OFFICIAL

I am a resident and voter in (YOUR TOWN NAME), NJ. I spend a lot of my free time and hard-earned money patronizing the state’s local breweries with my friends and family because I am a big fan of locally-produced craft beer and the small businesses that brew it.

On Friday, July 1st, all of my local breweries were arbitrarily hit with a long list of anticompetitive restrictions on their license by the NJ Division of Alcohol Beverage Control (NJABC) which has drastically changed my ability to enjoy the atmosphere and offerings of my local breweries. These restrictions are anti-consumer and artificially tip the scales against brewers and the small businesses they’ve created.

Did you know: A brewery can get fined or lose their license if an international soccer tournament happens to come on the TV and nobody changes the channel immediately. Breweries have to choose between hosting my birthday party or someone’s wedding because they have a cap on private parties. Breweries can’t support the local Independence Day celebration or the Memorial Day parade because it counts as an extra “off-site event” that they might not have planned for. A brewery advertising the fact that their local coal fired pizza truck is slinging pies in the street can get the brewery shut down.

Breweries can’t donate a keg to a fundraiser in support of a children’s charity any more, or offer discounts to military veterans or volunteer firefighters who serve their community. Breweries can’t help arrange an outside caterer for a local high school reunion to have food to help their customers consume responsibly and dance the night away. Breweries can’t sell (or even give for free!) the designated driver a cup of coffee to enjoy while their friends responsibly partake in handcrafted ales and lagers. Isn’t that ridiculous?

In many towns, the local brewery as an anchor business is now limited in the events it can host that draw not only local consumers, but also out of town customers who spend their money in a myriad of ways that help the town. Towns that were dying have seen a revitalization driven by these local economic engines creating space, patronizing local artists, advertising not just their product but the experience of being in that town.

This creates fewer spaces for young artists looking to start or build their musical career. It not only disincentivizes local business collaboration, it actually penalizes it. One tenet of the regulations requires each employee to be Safe Serve certified, then strictly prohibits the two most critical components to ensuring the safe consumption of alcohol: food availability.

My local brewery brings people to my town, gives me a comfortable place to spend time with my family and friends, supports my community, and has increased our town’s ratables. It’s important to me that they are able to survive, and have the opportunity to thrive.

Big money interests from outside our community have their thumb on the scale but it’s important that you understand that the voters in your district like me, my family, and my neighbors value these brewers. These interests’ motives to protect their liquor license value should not stand in the way of your constituents like me from being able to enjoy my local brewery without these current restrictions.

I am asking that you support legislation codifying breweries’ ability to host events, donate beer, provide discounts to those who give back to their communities, and show whatever live television programming they (and their customers) wish. Permanent legislation will prevent attempts in the future to take away these valuable consumer-first protections and imposing unfair, anticompetitive edicts on small businesses.

I appreciate your consideration and support of our grassroots, consumer-first campaign to roll back these unfair rules and enact permanent legislative remedies.

Thank you

(FULL NAME)
(TOWNSHIP), NJ
YOUR PHONE/EMAIL

Draught Diversions: June 2022 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_2022-June

June is in the books, which means 2022 is halfway over. How did that happen? Time waits for no person, as the saying goes, but sometimes we’ll wait for good beer. Fortunately, there’s plenty of good beer waiting for us to drink or specifically me to drink! June also marks one full year since Dusty joined our household/family and she is just a delight and joy to have in our lives. June also means summer and reliable summer crushers, but there’s always room for some big beers here and there. The six pack for June 2022 was 5 New Jersey beers and one New York beer, each of the six a different style

Unleashing the Six Pack for June 2022…

Blackpool (Conclave Brewing) | Mild – Other| 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

ConlaveBlackpool

I had some time on my hands so I stopped at Conclave to kick off the month. I’ve only had a few Mild Ales so I wanted to give this one a try and I was not disappointed in the least. While I haven’t had any “proper” British-made Mild Ales, this one has hints of coffee and caramel and made for an outstanding, simple, yet delicious beer

Quad Rainbow (Destination Unknown Brewing Company) | Belgian Quadrupel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

DUBCO_QuadRainbow

This big beer comes courtesy of Tavour. While I haven’t had any beers made just by Destination Unknown, I’ve had a collaboration they brewed with Icarus. This beer; however, hits the quad elements of stone fruit like dates, but the whisky overpowers other yeast elements just a bit. Still, a very tasty beer.

Bourbon Barrel Driftwood – 2022 (Kane Brewing Company) | Brown Ale – Imperial / Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane_Driftwood

A visit to Kane in May means I was able to stock up on a few brewery-only barrel aged beers like this outstanding Brown Ale aged in Bourbon Barrels. In addition, this beer was aged with Maple Syrup and Molasses lending a little more body to a style that is typically not a thick beer as well as some nice sweetness. To say this is one of the best Brown Ales I’ve ever had would probably be obvious, if you’ve been reading the Triple T for a while and know how I feel about Kane’s beers.

Thresh (Untied Brewing Company) | Belgian Tripel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Untied_Thresh

Every time I stop in at Untied, I’m impressed with the beer I have and this Belgian Tripel is no different. Thresh is a nice interpretation of the style and it was nice to share an early Father’s Day beer or two with my dad at the brewery. Untied is flying under the radar in the NJ beer scene and they really shouldn’t, their beers are well made across all styles.

Soft Focus (Tonewood Brewing) | Wheat Beer – Hefewizen | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Tonewood_SoftFocus

Tonewood recently expanded with a second location and increased production, this is one of the new beers they’ve recently brewed and canned. A fantastic interpretation of the original Hazy beer, this Hefeweizen leans more towards clove than banana. Something about a Hefeweizen in summer feels right to me and this beer hits that note really well.

Hoippu (Carton Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

CartonHoippu

Carton Brewing’s Global Pilsner game lands in Japan, with a Rice Pilsner and the Japanese Hops, Sorachi Ace. I had a pint of this while enjoying a dinner with my parents celebrating my wife and my anniversary on a perfect Summer evening. The beer is great, flavorful, and goes down the gullet very easily. Slight tang and spice from the hops make for a tasty and unique beer that exhibits the qualities of a pilsner.

Yet again, it wasn’t easy narrowing down the new beers to just six for the month of June 2022.

Here’s a snapshot of the last year with Dusty.

Beer Review: Bradley Brew Project’s Jersey

Name: Jersey
Brewing Company: Bradley Brew Project
Location: Bradley Beach, NJ
Style: Lager – American
ABV: 5%

Bradley Brew Project’s fantastic Lager program produced a tasty beer named for the great Garden State – Jersey.

BradleyBP_Jersey

Beer description:

Session Lager brewed with Saaz and Motueka hops. Bright | Crispy | Easy Drinking

Since having my first beer from Bradley Brew Project about a year ago, I’ve been sampling more of their beer and each one has impressed me equally. When I saw their American Lager named simply “Jersey,” I figured I’d give it the full-feature treatment here at the Triple T. Because how could I say no to a beer that proudly proclaims the name of the state right on the label?

From the can, the beer pours into the glass a translucent golden yellow. Essentially, when you say “beer” to most people, something like this beer is the image that would likely come to mind for them.

The aroma…nothing crazy, it smells like beer. First sip and I think, “That’s a nice Lager.” Upon subsequent sips and gulps, Jersey delivers a thirst quenching, beer-flavored-beer to my palate.

Saaz hops are a very traditional hop, a Noble Hop, if you will, utilized largely in lagers and a primary hop utilized for many pilsners and pale lagers. Motueka, on the other hand, is a more tropically leaning hop that is often used in IPAs and I’ve really enjoyed IPAs that feature Motueka. What the Motueka hop brings to this beer is that aforementioned slightly citrusy element and an overall sweetness that balances out the classic, earthy and spicy element the Saaz hops imbues into the beer. They complement each other quite nicely and I’d be interested in sampling more lagers, and specifically Pilsners, that feature Motueka hops.

Sometimes you just want a straight-forward, no-nonsense, yet flavorful beer to quench your palate. A beer that hits the senses the way a beer should, with the malt and hop elements in harmony. Jersey does that for me. The label is simple, straight-forward, like the beer itself, which I appreciate all the more. It is an excellent lager and more evidence that Bradley Brew Project brews some of the best Lagers in New Jersey. The four beers I’ve had from them have all been lagers, all four have been of high quality, including this latest one in my fridge, the wonderfully named Jersey.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Czig Meister’s 6th Anniversary Imperial Stout

Name: 6th Anniversary Imperial Stout
Brewing Company: Czig Meister Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Stout – Double / Imperial Oatmeal
ABV: 11%

The best beer Czig Meister has brewed, the best Oatmeal Stout I’ve ever had, and a damned fine beer to represent their 6th Anniversary in business.

CzigMeister_6thAnniv

From the untappd page for the beer:

This year’s blend comprises of 5 Elijah Craig barrels ranging from 8-12 years in age. Each barrel held imperial stout for anywhere from 9-18 months. After barrel aging, the blend was furthered conditioned on nearly 1lb per bbl of Vanuatu Vanilla. Expect marshmallow, coconut, intense vanilla ice cream, bourbon, and brownie batter. Enjoyed best at 50°F.

Czig Meister is one of the breweries who makes fairly frequent appearances here at the Tap Takeover. With their 6th Anniversary a couple of weeks ago (June 11), I made the trip to the brewery since I’ve attended most of their Anniversary bashes or at least had their anniversary beer (like their 4th Anniversary when COVID cancelled the party). As it so happened, beer also put me beyond the “50 beers from the brewery” territory, which has been happening fairly frequently with my favorite breweries as of late. I’ve enjoyed just about all the beers I’ve had from the great Hackettstown brewery, but even the nearly 50 beers before this one didn’t prepare me for the beer I had that day.

The beer I’m handed is fairly thick and black as night, just what I want from a barrel-aged, blended Imperial stout. The aroma wafting into my nose is a mix of bourbon and roasted malts. Maybe there’s vanilla hiding in the aroma, too. Or maybe I was thinking that because I knew it was in the beer.

The first sip from the cup…is simply divine. A little heat, but a strong stout with barrel notes. There’s quite a bit in that sip and I’m very much looking forward to having more to explore the nuances of barrel character and addition of vanilla .

As I take further sips, that silky smooth character envelopes my palate like a luxurious blanket. The barrel character emerges more prominently, but *perfectly* accentuates the roasted malts of the beer rather than overpowers the flavor profile. Those elements by themselves would make this a world-class Imperial Stout, but then the Vanuatu Vanilla emerges. The only other beer I’ve had with Vanilla from that particular part of the world is Conclave’s Sable, I liked it in that beer and it is deployed flawlessly in this beer, too. It isn’t overpowering and like the barrel and blending portion of the show, is outstanding. What Matt Czigler has done with the gestalt of the base beer, barrel aging, blending, and Vanilla is surreal and sublime. I shouldn’t be surprised since Matt (as I noted in my spotlight on Czig Meister way back in 2018) spent time at Kane helping to develop a couple of their most highly regarded dark beers – A Night to End All Dawns and Morning Bell.

I was totally blown away by this beer, it was more than I expected to be and everything I hope to taste in a barrel-aged, blended stout. The beer is available in limited distribution in New Jersey in cans.

Congratulations to Matt Czigler, his family, and his crew on 6 years of brewing delicious beer. I haven’t had a bad beer from the brewery and this beer is a wonderful statement of their quality. If you’re within driving distance of Hackettstown, the brewery is more than worth the visit.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.75 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Tmavy Lezak by Icarus Brewing & Hackensack Brewing

Name: Tmavy Lezak
Brewing Companies: Icarus Brewing Company & Hackensack Brewing Company
Location: Lakewood, NJ & Hackensack, NJ
Style: Lager – Dark / Czech Dark Lager
ABV: 5.3%

Two NJ Breweries come together to brew an outstanding Czech Dark Lager.

Icaus-Hack_TmavyLezak

From Icarus Brewing’s facebook post for the beer:

We decided to brew a traditional Czech-style Dark Lager with our freinds from Hackensack Brewing in anticipation of Icarus Brewing Lagerfest 2022. Tmavy Lezak was brewed with floor malted German Pilsner Malt, debittered Black Malts, and German Crystal Munich Malts. It was then hopped with German Saaz and lagered for an extended period of time. Meaning “Dark Lager”, Tmavy Lezak swirls Dark Malt notes full of Caramel and Subtle Roast through its easy-drinking yet brooding body. This one is a wonderful Dark Lager to welcome the summer and enjoy with freinds!

My Lager Leanings (over Ales) have been well-documented here at the Triple T and one Lager in particular has caught my fancy over the last year or so – Czech Dark Lager. One of my favorite beers last year was the one-off “Czech Dark Lager” Weyerbacher and I’ve had a few since. When Icarus Brewing announced their annual Lagerfest (last year the Czech Pils with Conclave was great), I was hoping a Czech Dark Lager would be one of the beers. Fortunately, they canned Tmavy Lezak, a collaboration with Hackensack Brewing and put into distribution ahead of Lagerfest. Tmavy Lezak translates from Czech as “Dark Lager.”

From the can, the beer pours a deep/dark brown but not quite black. Nothing special on the aroma – it smells like beer. That’s not a bad thing.

First sip is a pleasing mouthful of malts. There’s a nice breadiness to the beer and maybe because of the color pumpernickel bread comes to mind. There’s a thickness to the beer I don’t typically associate with lagers but find a very welcome characteristic of Tmavy Levak nonetheless.

There’s an underlying crispness to the beer, too. That’s a more common lager trait, to be sure. That crispness is most noticeable on the finish, with a snap and even a slight spiciness from the Saaz hops. It is a nice contrast to the initial malty breadiness.

I want to call out the can art on this beer, too. Frankly, the can art on Icarus’s beers are some of the best in the State of New Jersey and this one is no exception. I find the font for the beer name very appealing and the colors and overall design evoke the flag of the Czech Republic with the historic center of Prague silhouetted in the background of the center of the can. Everything, design-wise, comes together quite nicely.

I’m a fan of Hackensack Brewing’s beers (particularly their outstanding pilsner, Parking Lot Pilz) so I thought the collaboration would be really good. I was right, these two breweries know how to make lagers separately and they’ve collaborated on a relatively obscure (at least here in the us) lager style with excellent result.

This beer was released ahead of Icarus Brewing’s annual Lagerfest, which happens June 18thLagerfest, which happens June 18th of this year. Many of the beers they are pouring will be collaboration brews like Propriety Pils brewed with Conclave Brewing, I LIFE (with Lime) brewed in collaboration with Destination Unknown Brewing. Icarus recently installed a slow pour tap, for their lagers. It is worth the trip any time for a visit to Icarus Brewing, but this weekend especially if you enjoy the Lager Life.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Muckraker Beermaker’s Maple Black & Blue

Name: Maple Black & Blue
Brewing Company: Muckraker Beermaker
Location: Franklin, NJ
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Other
ABV: 7%

A fruity, funky, tasty, and interesting beer that demonstrates flair and inventiveness.

Muckraker_MBBB

From Muckraker’s landing page for the beer:

Farmhouse ale with Pilsner and Wheat malts from our good friends at Rabbit Hill Farms and referemented it on 6lb per gallon of Atlantic County blueberries and blackberries from the amazing people at Pastore Orchards in Hammonton.

While the beer was undergoing an extended refermentation, we drove up to Brattleboro, Vermont, where by happenstance we ran into a just-emptied barrel from the spirit-masters at Saxtons River Distillery.

The American Oak barrel had been first used to age their Sapling maple bourbon, and then to finish a special reserve of their maple liquor of the same name.

We filled a single barrel with the beer and let it age for about nine months in the oak before we keg conditioned it.

Muckraker is one of the more interesting breweries in the State of New Jersey. Owner Tom Troncone (a former journalist, thus the name Muckraker) eschews the standard styles. Sure he has an IPA on draft, but just one of those. Most of his beers are Wild Ales / Spontaneously Fermented Ales. Some of the beers Tom brews blur the lines that typically divide and categorize beer, cider, seltzer, slushie and wine. I’ve been wanting to try some of these beers for a while, especially after hearing Tom on an episode of John Holl’s Drink Beer, Think Beer podcast. Well, I finally stopped in the brewery with some friends since we were in the area on the Sunday before Memorial Day. When I saw a beer made with blueberries and blackberries, I had to give it a try.

The beer I’m given is a blueish purple, which given the quantity of blueberries and blackberries in the beer, is not the least bit surprising. A fruity, funky aroma drifts into my nose and graces my sense of smell. I think I might like this beer.

First sip is all the fruit. Fortunately, I liked the fruits in this one a lot so I like what I’m tasting. I have probably pointed out in the past that blueberry might be my favorite fruit and the blueberries (and blackberries) in this beer are from Hammonton, NJ, the blueberry capital of the world. There’s a slight funk to the beer, more than I’d expect from most Farmhouse ales, but the sweetness and tartness from the blueberries and blackberries balances out the funk nicely. The yeast element is an underlying element that keeps this true to being a beer, particularly a farmhouse ale.

The finish of the beer, for me, is akin to an intriguing journey that began pleasantly and comes to a delightful conclusion. The maple and vanilla come into play in a most welcome fashion. That’s something really nice and unexpected given the fruits, but going back to the description is on point. Hints of maple increase the sweetness and the oak character comes through very nicely. There’s a little bit of vanilla from the barrel which plays extremely well with the copious amounts of berries in the beer. Blueberry and vanilla are a natural combination and while vanilla isn’t in the beer, the way in which oak can evoke hints of vanilla is present and pleasant.

My friend bought me a bottle and the beer from the bottle I drank about a week later seemed quite different. The funk/sour/tart level is amped up considerably and even the color is darker. I don’t get the maple and oak elements quite as much from the bottle, either. One could be forgiven for thinking the beer from the bottle and the beer served on draught are even different beers. The quality is still high, but the flavor profile is different.

Muckraker_MBB_Bottle

Maple Black & Blue is a fascinating, complex, experimental beer that eschews the norm when it comes to beer in general and farmhouse ales in particular. If you are interested in trying really well-made beer outside the normal/standard styles, this one fits the bill as do most of the beers from Muckraker Beermaker. If funky with some fruit is a beer style you like, give this one a try.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Draught Diversions: May 2022 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_2022-May

May is really when the warm weather begins to settle into New Jersey and the lighter beers are filling up shelves and store displays. That doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t room for a big, boozy stout on occasion, as t b is month’s six pack proves! This month’s six pack is predominantly NJ Beer with one out of state beer influenced by something NJ Beer related. Although there are two IPAs, they are very different takes on the style so you could say six different styles comprise this month’s six pack.

On with the show…

The Patriot (Readington Brewery and Hop Farm) | IPA – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Readington_ThePatriot

The first new beer of the month was at the new local brewery, Readington Brewery and Hop Farm. I figured I would try their flagship IPA, which is 100% Centennial Hops (much like Bell’s Two Hearted) and it was pretty good! Drinking a freshly made beer where the hops are grown is a great way to enjoy your beer. In the background are the hop bines where their hops are grown. Glad this place is so close to home

Battle Hymn (Twin Elephant Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

TwinElephant_BattleHymn

My wife and I enjoyed a nice dinner at a local spot (The Landing in Hillsborough) with some good friends. The food is always good at this place and there are always some good NJ beers available, like this superb hoppy pale ale from the good folks of Twin Elephant out of Chatham, NJ. The hop blend here is the ever popular Citra, along with one of my favorites, Galaxy, as well as Callista. A smooth, fruity/tropical beer.

We Sink Together (Icarus Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_WeSinkTogether

With the warmer weather upon us, I was really in the mode for a Gose and as fate would have it, cans of this tart beer from Icarus happened to be on the shelf at my local Wegman’s. We Sink Together has Mangoes, as well as vanilla and toasted coconut to give the beer a pleasant tropical flavor. Pink Himalayan sea salt is added to give the beer the salinity which is a prime characteristic of a gose. A very tasty and refreshing beer.

Urgency of Now (Kane Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial/Double | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane_UrgencyNow

Urgency Now is another outstanding barrel-aged stout from Kane Brewing, but what sets apart is that all proceeds from the beer go to The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. The organization seeks to drive reform for social and racial justice in New Jersey. As always from Kane, a great beer but this one is for a great cause.

Pils (Heater Allen Brewing) | Pilsner – Germany | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

HeaterAllen_Pils recall hearing owner Lisa Allen being interviewed on the Steal this Beer podcast and the praise being heaped upon their Pilsner. When it became available through tavour, I wanted to try and I was immensely pleased. This beer is just about everything you’d want from a German-style pilsner.

Fjord Crosser (Angry Erik Brewing) | IPA – Belgian | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

AngryErik_FjordCrosser

Another trip up to Angry Erik to retrieve the sweatshirts for the Skylands Ale Trail means another new beer for me to try. I was in the mood for an IPA and a different one at that and Fjord Crosser hit the spot. This is a “Belgian” IPA meaning the yeast plays more of a role in the flavor profile. A great balance of flavors with mildly pleasant tropical and citrus elements from the hops

May was another month with a great variety of beers, I could have easily added another 3 beers to the best of the month, but we like to stick to some kind of structure here at the Tap Takeover.