Beer Review: Brix City Brewing’s Fruitastic Voyage: Mango, Orange, Peach

Name: Fruitastic Voyage: Mango, Orange, Peach
Brewing Company: Brix City Brewing
Location: Little Ferry, NJ
Style: Sour – Fruited Gose
ABV: 6.5%

A tart ale bursting with stone fruit flavors, a delightful American interpretation of a German classic.

Draught pour at the brewery

From the untappd entry for beer:

Our heavily fruited, lightly salted, Gose returns! Fruitastic Voyage is brewed with Lactose and a touch of Fleur de Sel before being conditioned on double the amount of fruit as our Acid Blend series. For this newest batch, we conditioned this beer on an absurd amount of Mango Purée+Orange Purée+Peach Purée for a refreshing, over-the-top, fruit forward drinking experience. Come along and ride on a fruitastic voyage! // Lightly tart with notes of soft fleshy peaches, ripe mango, yellow Starbursts, and balancing salt.

Brix City in Little Ferry, NJ has gained a reputation over their last five years of being in business for brewing flavorful, fruited sour ales and Hazy IPAs. When I visited the brewery (on my Birthday in November) it was sunny and unseasonably warm in the 70s or 80s. When I saw this Gose on draft, I was very happy because the style is a great warm weather beer for enjoying outside with friends, which just so happened to describe the day exactly.

When the beer arrived, I wouldn’t have immediately pegged the beer as a Gose, it looked like an extremely hazy IPA or an unfiltered beer. When I passed the beer in front of my nose, I smelled some funk and fruit aromas from the beer, which disabused my initial notion that this is an IPA.

Image courtesy of Brix City’s facebook

The first sip tells me I made the correct decision to start the day with this beer. Huge fruit flavors assert themselves off the bat. Mango is one of my favorite fruits and Mango, in my taste buds, seems to be the most dominant of the three fruits. The peach is also prominent as well, but the two stone fruits complement each other very nicely any time they are paired together. The orange is subtle, but the acidic nature of that fruit, I think, brings a good balance to the sweet mango and peach.

In the description above, Fleur de Sel is called out as a brewing component, which sounds very fancy. I only just discovered that Fleur de Sel is salt and while I don’t get the level of salinity in this beer that I’ve tasted in other Gose/Gose-style ales, I think the salt is another additional balance on the fruit. Which makes Fruitastic Voyage almost a reverse Gose since salinity in the traditional Gose as brewed in Leipzig Germany is a natural component of the region’s water. Here the salt is added and I’m going to guess it was added so that the extremely copious levels of fruit in the beer are balanced and not cloying..

However the folks at Brix City achieved the end product that is this beer, it was successful. This version of Fruitastic Voyage with Mango, Orange, and Peach, is a knockout of a beer. I’d call it a Gose turned up to eleven and since this is a series of beers, I’ll definitely be seeking out the other fruited variants of this beer. The only other thing I’ll note about this beer is the ABV at 6.5% is a little higher than most Gose I’ve had which have largely been below 5% ABV. Not a negative point against the beer, just worth noting that it follows the theme of Brix hewing to their own path while also brewing an old world style.

I’ve only had 5 total beers from Brix over the years so based on this beer (and the Get Puft IPA I had during my visit), I really need to seek out their beers more often. Fortunately, their beers are often in the refrigerator at the liquor stores near me.

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle-cap Untappd check-in

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

What Gose Round (Level 6)

First brewed in the early 16th century, this peculiar flavored beer has made quite the come back. With a tart, salty combination, your taste buds are probably still tingling… and excited for more!

Draught Diversions: October 2020 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…

Shorter days, darker nights, and cooler temperatures arrive in October. Bigger beers begin to dominate the shelves in October although seasonal creep for Christmas Beers is also the norm now as favorites like Tröegs Mad Elf began appearing in the middle of the month. October 2020’s six pack includes beers from long time favorites, one new brewery, and a brewery I should be seeking out more often. A variety of styles this October; a couple of IPAs, a couple of dark beers, and a barleywine. Let’s dive in, shall we?

I Voted (Troon Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Troon brews some of the most sought-after beers in the State of New Jersey, with a reputation for big stouts, kettle sours, and hazy hoppy ales. (They rarely call their beers “IPA”) So when I took my wife on a wonderful socially-distanced tour of Sourland Mountain Spirits (on the same large farm complex), I had a pour of this beer at the Brick Farm Tavern (also on the big farm complex). This beer is a delicious, hazy IPA with a magnificent blend of hops. Now that I know how close Brick Farm Tavern is (which is a person’s best shot at getting a Troon beer), I’ll have to stop there in the future.

HopCyclone Hazy DIPA (Tröegs Independent Brewing) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4.25 bottle caps on untappd


It has been far too long since I had a new beer from Tröegs and I haven’t had a new IPA in my fridge for a while. HopCyclone ticked off both of those boxes and is an outstanding New England style IPA. There’s a blend of four hops in this beer, Citra, Sabro, Sultana, and Simcoe, which are a great combination. I like Simcoe quite a bit and that seems to shine through really nicely, overall the beer has pleasant hints of citrus, peach, and pineapple. Plain and simple, HopCyclone is a great beer.

Workingman’s Dublin Porter (Toms River Brewing) | Porter – Other | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Tom’s River Brewing keeps impressing me. This is an Irish-inspired Dublin porter, which isn’t a surprise considering the brewery’s roots. Madagascar Vanilla beans and local honey add another layer of flavor to the beer. What those adjuncts do in this beer is soften the bitterness of the coffee, for an overall tasty beer.

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

Sully photobombing this shot. Pilsners, especially great ones, are perfect for sitting on the porch relaxing while your dog keeps watch over the yard.

Carton has been brewing and canning a series of Pilsners over the past few months, this one they are calling an “American Pilsner.” I call it a delicious Lager/Pilsner. There’s a very clean flavor profile with the core four elements of beer working in harmony. This maybe the lightest yellow pilsner I can remember having, but damn if it isn’t a fine beer.

Chocolate Caramel Cookie Sharing Size (Free Will Brewing Co.) | Stout – Imperial / Double Oatmeal | 4.5 bottle caps on untappd

Free Will Brewing has a taproom in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA and during the month of October, there was a socially distanced haunted walking ghost tour called Murder Mystery: Homicide and Hauntings from Without a Cue, which was a blast. Of course I grabbed a beer from Free Will, this is their Hallowe’en beer, four different stouts inspired by popular Hallowe’en candy. This one is inspired by the famous “right cookie” and “left cookie” brand and was an outstandingly balanced sweet stout, brewed in collaboration with Breweries in PA. Cool label art, too

Helldorado (2017) | Firestone Walker Brewing Company | Barleywine – American | 4.5 bottle caps on untappd

Firestone Walker calls this a “Blonde Barleywine,” I call it an outstanding barrel-aged big beer. Firestone Walker has such skill with barrel aging so when I noticed a local shop had a 3-year old barrel aged barleywine from these masters of blending and barrel aging, there was no way I was NOT getting myself a bottle, especially at a $9 price tag. This is one of the best barleywines I’ve ever had. The beer has a strong bourbon aroma and the flavors that emerge include vanilla, chewy hops, toffee, and caramel. Simply an outstanding beer.

Another solid month overall for new beers, I could have easily highlighted 8 to 10 beers this month. Only one real drainpour, a Salted Caramel Pumpkin Ale, which was disgustingly oversweet.

Beer Review: Icarus Brewing’s Kalishnikoffee: PSL

Name: Kalishnikoffee: PSL
Brewing Company: Icarus Brewing
Location: Lakewood, NJ
Style: Stout – Russian Imperial
ABV: 14.5%

A big, tasty, flavorful stout from one of NJ’s top breweries that imparts flavors of the most ubiquitous of fall beverages.

From the untappd entry for beer:

Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Wildflower Honey, Brown Sugar, Cinamon and Nutmeg. Conditioned on a blend of Fresh Coffee and Vanilla Beans.

This is not the pumpkin beer you’re looking for…. Icarus Brewing (who I’ve made no bones about being one of my favorite, maybe my top favorite, NJ brewery) is able to produce a delicious variety of beers from few base recipes for a couple of series. One of those “multitasker” (to borrow an Alton Brown phrase) recipes or series is Kalishnikov, their Russian Imperial Stout, which has seen quite a few variants, some of which I’ve had, including a delicious barrel aged version.

This version looks to emulate that ever present fall drink, the pumpkin spice latte (i.e. the “PSL” of the beer name). While there are no pumpkins in this beer, the spices associated with Pumpkin Pie – cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, along with the beer having been conditioned on Coffee and Vanilla Beans – help this the beer evoke autumn, at least in name. The standard Kalishknov is brewed with honey…so yeah, a decent amount of additional flavor components in the beer.

Pouring the beer into the glass, it mostly looks the part of a big burly, Russian Imperial Stout. It isn’t pitch black, exactly, but rather a black that was mixed with a very deep brown. The aroma gives off hints of the malt and spices, so nothing out of the unexpected.

The first sip is of autumn. As I said, I’ve had and enjoyed a few different variants of this beer, in addition to a couple barrel-aged versions of Icarus’s Russian Imperial Stouts and this beer seems to match up to those expectations nicely. As I have more of the beer and it warms up, those autumnally associated spices begin to awaken, with the nutmeg asserting itself a tad more strongly than the cinnamon.

In past versions of this beer, the wildflower honey balances out the bitterness inherently associated with Russian Imperial Stout, from a style perspective. The autumnal spices mask the honey and accentuate the bitterness of the coffee adjunct, and combined with the vanilla, give the beer a very earthy overall flavors for me.

Although there is no Pumpkin in this beer, the additional spices normally associated with the gourd are and that’s where the additional flavor elements of this beer shine. Hell, pumpkin itself isn’t a all that flavorful, but it holds the spices quite nicely, as does this beer. The ever-present honey in the “Kalishnikoff” line of stouts from Icarus helps to enhance the overall potency of the spices.

Playing with a proven fan favorite beer in their Kalishnikoff Russian Imperial Stout and mixing it up with the autumnal spices of the ubiquitous coffee beverage, Icarus has yet another winning beer in their portfolio.

Highly recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check-in

Beer Review: NOSFERATU from Great Lakes Brewing Company

Name: Nosferatu
Brewing Company: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Location: Cleveland, OH
Style: Red Ale – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8% | IBU: 70%

“A great balance of hops and malt help to define an American Craft classic and a seasonal Hallowe’en Classic.”

 

From Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Nosferatu page:

Don’t be afraid of things that go hop in the night! Rich roasted malt flavors haunt the shadows of our Imperial Red Ale’s bitter teeth.

FLAVOR
Ruby red in color with a toasty malt body lurking beneath a stunning hop bite.

Great Lakes Brewing is one of the most respected independent American brewing companies of the last few decades. One of their seasonal favorites (along with their outstanding Oktoberfest and Christmas Ale) is Nosferatu, a hoppy, malty Imperial Red Ale, the beer spotlighted today.

I’ve had quite a few beers from Great Lakes, I’ve enjoyed most of them to a fairly significant degree but Red Ales haven’t been much of a go to for me. A few things led me to finally grabbing a four pack of this beer:

  • Hallowe’en is approaching, one of my favorite holidays/times of the year
  • I’m long-time fan of horror fiction, and the Vampire/Nosferatu is one of the most iconic horror images
  • Seeing this beer favorably compared to an all-time favorite in Tröeg’s Nugget Nectar

In other words, this beer brings together my love of great beer and dark tales.

The pop of the bottle cap is a nice sound I don’t hear too often any more, most of the beers I’ve been drinking have been out of cans. As for the beer that pours into my glass – yep, that’s a red ale. A deep red that is somewhere between amber and crimson, in my eyes. There’s a nice foamy head initially, too. Aroma is a little bit of hoppiness, but to be honest, nothing else too noteworthy. It smells like a beer.

There’s a very prominent hop presence in that first sip. Given the relatively high IBU level of 70, that’s not a surprise. It is not off-putting the way some overly hopped beers are because Great Lakes brewed this beer with a significant level of malts, three kinds, that provide a caramel sweetness to balance the hops. Going by the fact sheet on Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site, the hops used here are Simcoe and Cascade, both extremely popular hops and hops that helped to drive the hop-forward beer movement of the 90s and early 2000s. Simcoe has emerged, for me, as a favorite in recent years so it was especially nice to see its pronounced flavor complemented by the great Cascade hop in Nosferatu. I had a second bottle about a week after the first bottle and the Simcoe hops help to make this beer work so well for me.

Insert standard suggestion for higher ABV beer to let the beer open up to room temperature a little for greater enjoyment.

The name of the beer and label are immediately recognizable, the silent film Nosferatu is a film that has left an indelible mark on horror genre and the vampire mythos. The beer is a worthy homage to that image and character – Nosferatu the beer is a wonderful, complementary marriage of hops and malt that gives a flavor worth savoring.

Nestled in with some classic Vampire novels, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin, They  Thirst by Robert R. McCammon, ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Dracula (Annotated) by Brahm Stoker, I Am Legend by iIchard Matheson, The Southern Vampire’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. Review links to a few at the end of the post

A beer like Nosferatu is a bold reminder that some beers with a little bit of history behind them are worth enjoying now and in the future. It is also a beer that helps to showcase the great diversity in the portfolio of Great Lakes Brewing Company. Given the name of the beer, the eye-catching imagery of the label, and most importantly, the bold, delicious flavor, I can understand why Nosferatu has been an annual favorite from Great Lakes Brewing Company. I know it will be in my refrigerator for Halloweens to come.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

*Those aforementioned book reviews:

Beer Review: Cosm of Darkness (Timber Ales/Eight State Brewing Collaboration)

Name: Cosm of Darkness
Brewing Company: Timber Ales in collaboration with The Eight State Brewing Company
Location: New York, NY / Greenville, SC
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 12%

“An outstanding Imperial Stout crafted with multiple adjuncts that is a bounty of flavor.”

From the untappd description of the beer:

Cosm of Darkness is an Imperial Stout brewed in collaboration with our friends from The Eighth State Brewing Company. This beer has been aged on Ugandan vanilla beans and cassia bark before being canned for your enjoyment.

Few beers are as welcome on a cool evening as a big, bold stout. Timber Ales is a relatively new brewing company, a contract brewer at that, but they have burst out of the gates with big stouts/barrel-aged stouts and barleywines/barrel-aged barleywines, as well as the requisite IPAs. One of my local shops had a single of this beer for sale and based on hearing Jason Stein on Al Gattullo’s Craft Beer Podcast, I had to give a beer from Timber Ales a try.

Pouring the beer into the glass, all I see is darkness and I like it. As the head forms, there’s a hint brownish red, which is a slightly different tone than a typical stout. Aroma from the beer hints at the vanilla the can indicates is in the beer. This looks to be, and has the aroma of, everything I want in a big Imperial Stout.

There’s something else to the beer at the outset lending additional layers to the look and aroma. I assume it is the cassia bark. Before having this beer, I never heard of cassia bark. A quick google search educated me – it is essentially a form of cinnamon. In theory, cinnamon and vanilla pair very nicely together. In practice, in the form of this beer…oh hell yeah.

First sip is of roasted malts with hints of vanilla with the cassia bark shining through. Those three elements are the basis of the flavor of the beer and they all play together perfectly, with the cassia bark perhaps being the star of the trio. It is definitely cinnamon, but unlike cinnamon I’ve had in the past. Especially cinnamon in beer.

Like all big beers (and this is a gigantic beer at 12%), the flavors emerge to a greater, and more delicious degree, as the beer settles from the cold of the fridge to room temperature. Again, as the beer warms, the cassia bark is what is most prominent to me as a lovely compliment to the roasted malts and vanilla.

Jason, I believe, began as a homebrewer and has since partnered with Twelve Percent Beer Project in Connecticut where all of Timber Ales are brewed. Seems like a great partnership, at least based on this beer.

Cosm of Darkness is an outstanding Imperial Stout that is a great beer to enjoy over the course of an hour or so. Based on this beer, I’ll be seeking out more beer from Timber Ales.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Beyond a Shadow of a Stout (Level 65)

We all love Stouts, and now we have a dedicated badge to celebrate your dedication to these dark, top-fermented beer in multiple variations, like Oatmeal, Milk and more! Which one will you start with? That’s 325 different beers with the style of Stout. Try 5 more for Level 66!

 

 

Beer Review: Tonewood Brewing’s Woodland Lager

Name: Woodland Lager
Brewing Company: Tonewood Brewing Company
Location: Oaklyn, NJ
Style: Lager – American
ABV: 5%

“Tonewood brings an interesting brewing technique to a classic lager style for something unique and flavorful”

From Tonewood Brewing’s page for Woodland Lager:

A traditionally brewed lager aged in an all American Oak foeder. This beer has notes of oak, soft vanilla, and pillowy marshmallow, finished out with crisp notes of fresh baked biscuit and floral lilac.

Tonewood is a brewery that has been impressing me with each new beer I’ve had and the latest to do so is this beer, Woodland Lager. I follow Tonewood on Instagram and when this beer popped up as a pending release, I was very intrigued by the description of the beer and was hoping this Woodland Lager would make it into their distribution footprint. It did, thus this review. 😊

I’ve had several higher alcohol beers aged in some form of wood (stouts, porters, dopplebocks) and wild/sour ales aged in wood, but very few low ABV lagers aged in wood, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. How much would the wood/oak foeder change or modify the taste of the lager?

When the beer fills up the glass, it looks more like a witbier than a lager to my eyes. The color and even the head give me that impression. I’m already a little perplexed, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The aroma is more lager than the appearance would lead me to believe; however.

There’s a subtle sweetness that is noticeable on first sip. But this is definitely a lager with the malt elements lending hints of soft bread or crackers. Something else is underlying the traditional lager flavors, which likely comes from the beer having been aged in that Oak foeder. That “something else” is very pleasant and complements the classic lager flavor nicely.

What are those flavors? Well, there’s some hints of vanilla, undoubtedly which likely comes from the oak. I mentioned the malt elements lending soft bread, but more specifically, this beer is like vanilla sweet bread, w/slightly burnt edges, baked in an oak pan. It is utterly sublime, not like many other beers, specifically not like any lagers I can recall drinking.

The ultimate proof of how much I enjoyed the beer is this:  I barely finished the first 16oz can before I cracked open the second can. Woodland Lager is one of the more fascinating lagers I’ve ever had. This beer is a great example of the interesting kinds of beers Tonewood seems to be crafting on a regular basis.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: September 2020 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…

September brings the hints of cooler weather and the season of darker beers. September is also when Oktoberfest traditionally begins. Despite the celebration not happening, the Märzen and Festbiers have still been on the shelves since August of this year. One of each is featured in the September 2020 Six Pack. Those two beers happen to be the only non-New Jersey beers in this month’s six pack. One brewery in the six pack will not be the least bit surprising to regular readers of this here beer blog.


Your Lips are Juicy (Ashton Brewing Company) | IPA –Imperial / Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first hop-forward beer I’ve had from Ashton and I’m very impressed. Great hop blend to give the beer the qualities of a big Imperial IPA balanced out with noticeable, and balanced malt character for an overall flavor profile that is delicious. The can says “India Pale Ale,” untappd says “IPA – Imperial/Double,” I say this is a very flavorful, hop forward beer.


Shield Oath (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Belgian Tripel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is what I assume is the base beer for Paragon of Light, their wine-barrel aged Tripel and is a very solid interpretation of the Belgian style. It is hard for me not to compare any Tripel brewed in the North East, specifically New Jersey, to River Horse’s classic Tripel and this one stands up just fine. I wouldn’t necessarily say it needs to warm in the glass, but the beer should breathe a little before you dive in and drink it. Once it does, the beer is great with some hints of pear in the fruit evocations from the yeast and mild hops.


Rugged Snuggle (Twin Elephant Brewing) | Porter – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I believe Twin Elephant has expanded their production capacity over the last year because they are releasing cans of their beer on a more regular basis. Rugged Snuggle has been in their portfolio for a couple of years so it was nice to see this roasty coffee adjacent porter available in cans. In addition to that fantastic can art by Tom Schmitt, the beer inside is really tasty. Like always with dark beers, a little warmer than fridge temperature is the way I’d recommend enjoying this one to get the best coffee notes.


Oktoberfest (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) | Festbier | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

One of the side effects of the pandemic is that Sierra Nevada, for the first time since 2015, did not collaborate with a German brewery for their annual Oktoberfest release. However, the 2020 version is great. This one leans on the lighter side of the Fall German Lager style as a Festbier, but it is supremely balanced and perfectly delicious. This is no surprise to me because Sierra Nevada does everything very well.


Octoberfest (Bell’s Brewing) | Märzen | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

After a couple of years in the NJ market, I finally tried Bell’s take on the fall classic. My only regret is that I hadn’t tried it earlier. Bell’s takes a lighter approach with their Märzen than some of the others I’ve had, but the beer is extremely flavorful. A hint of sweetness and just a very smooth beer that goes down very, very easily. This beer was featured on the untappd podcast recently and was spoken of very highly, a few of my untappd friends had checked the beer in over the last couple of years and the consensus rating was 4 out of 5 bottle caps and I’m happy to say this beer completely lived up to those expectations.


Aw Raspberries aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels (Icarus Brewing) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Shocker of shockers, another beer from Icarus. I’ve been sitting on this one for a few months and I wanted to share it for a special occasion. My dad’s birthday fit the bill perfectly and we both thoroughly enjoyed the beer. The maple element in the beer is blended perfectly, as are the fresh raspberries. Those otherwise potent flavors don’t dominate the profile of the beer, which shows how well-made the beer is because raspberries can be very tart and maple can dominate everything.  Not to mention the fact that this beer was barrel aged, adding another complex flavor to the beer. Not here, the maple and raspberries are both in harmony with the malt from the base beer as well as the Heaven Hill barrels.

This was a month where it was difficult to trim the amount of good new beers I enjoyed down to only six and no stinkers at all.

Draught Diversions: Untied Brewing (New Providence, 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…

What’s this? Another brewery feature just over a month since the last brewery feature? It sure is, and this time I’m highlighting a brewery that is 1) slightly closer to home, 2) close to my parents, and 3) the next town over from my in-laws. With that, I finally visited Untied Brewing Company in New Providence, NJ, which opened in early 2019. Untied joins breweries Wet Ticket in Rahway, Two Ton Brewing in Kenilworth, and Climax Brewing in Roselle Park, NJ as breweries who call Union County, NJ their home as well as long-standing brewpub Trap Rock in neighboring Berkeley Heights.

I’ve seen and heard varying opinions about Untied Brewing when they opened in January 2019 (My father,, friends, and commenters in the Beer Advocate 2019 Thread). However, any new business needs a little bit of time to settle into who they are to work out the kinks and whatnot. Over the past six months, since about Untied’s first anniversary, the things I’ve been hearing (from friends on untappd and in those Beer Advocate forums (Beer Advocate 2020 Thread) are that Untied is making good beer, so I had mixed expectations. That’s just a peek into where my headspace was about the brewery before visiting on a warm, late summer afternoon in September 2020.

Partial Taplist, 09-11-2020

New Providence, for many years, was a semi-dry town with no liquor stores until 2015, so why did Matthew and Kim Green settle on New Providence? Matthew and Kim had a vision to open a brewery in the town they had been calling home for the 6 years prior to Untied’s opening and they really like the community. Although they explored other locations in towns neighboring Untied, the location, space, rent, and support of New Providence convinced Matt and family company to launch the brewery in New Providence.

Matt and co-owner Mark were home brewing as a hobby and like may breweries I’ve highlighted here, had the notion of pivoting this passion into a business. In speaking to Matt during my visit, he said he also wanted to have a full time, experienced brewer on board, which led to Untied hiring Tim Stumpf before the brewery opened. More on Tim later.

The brewery is located on a dead end street in an industrial park setting, which isn’t too far from a strip mall with some food options. Many of the independent breweries in NJ are in very similar locations. The facility has ample room for a production brewery as well as seating for onsite consumption. Matt also opted this location which allowed for a little more freedom in the build-out compared to a main-street type of setting. While that main street type of setting allows for potential walk up patrons, the higher rent and stricter rules around build out can prove to be difficult.

Matt attributes canning their beer early on as something that set Untied apart. They built a relationship with a local mobile canning company, Tripod Canning in nearby Mountainside, NJ, which helped, too. The pandemic brought challenges, but Untied was able pivot fairly easily and perhaps more easily than some of their brewing peers in NJ. The majority of their beer labels were approved by the TTB and their set up with serving tanks rather than kegs made transitioning to canning their beer a fairly seamless transition. Home delivery was fairly consistent during the stay at home and the outdoor space afforded Untied the opportunity to serve on premises once NJ opened up outdoor dining/consumption. Untied was also able to take advantage of the PPP relief program.

Matt spoke very highly about Tim Stumpf’s ability and experience, especially with Lagers, which is why Untied will always have at least one Lager available. Tim has a resume of awards from his time at the renowned Northeast Brewpub chain, Iron Hill. (I’ve visited a couple of their brewpubs and found the beer quite tasty). Untied opened with 24 Taps proving out Matt and Tim’s philosophy of having styles and varieties for everybody – multiple IPAs, stouts and porters, a range of Lagers (from their flagship Vienna Lager People Pleaser to Jurmala, a Baltic Porter) as well as a variety of Sour Ales.

Quite a bit of thought went into the name and branding of the brewery. Untied, as Matt said (and I’m paraphrasing), is a mindset; relax, untie yourself from being at work, stress. The name is branded extremely well, the flight paddle (pictured below) is a slightly crooked necktie, as if it is loosened around one’s neck. Beer names like File This (a New England IPA); Behind Schedule (a Sour Ale); First Point of Contact (German Pilsner); Content is King (New England IPA); Milking the Clock (Milkshake IPA); Take it Offline (Saison); Climbing the Corporate Ladder (Belgian Tripel); and Morning Meeting (Imperial Porter) are all names that evoke that business theme or even that corny corporate speak. Those are just some of the beer names, too. The cans are immediately recognizable – with the businesslike courier font emblazoned on a large “U,” Untied Brewing’s cans stand out on the shelves.

 

Images in collage courtesy of Untied Brewing’s Facebook. Clockwise: “Milking the Clock” Milkshake IPA, “Morning Meeting” Milk Porter, “Behind Schedule” Sour Ale; “First PoINT of Contact” Pilsner, and “File This” IPA

I knew I wanted to try a couple of their lagers, so the Helles Lager, Long Days Short Years was first on the paddle, you can read more about that in my review. Next up was Turkey Town Lager, Untied’s interpretation of Märzen/Oktoberfest. Good stuff, nice malt with a low-level of sweetness. Beer number three was one of the beers that brought some positive attention to Untied, Knucklehead Hall of Fame, a double New England IPA. The beer has a great hop balance between tropical sweetness and hop bitterness, I think I liked it so much because there was no Mosaic hops in it. Last on the paddle was Pioneer Ale, an Extra Special Bitter, which was OK. Not my favorite of the bunch (one of a group always has to fit that role), but I’m not the best judge of that particular style.

Flight Left to Right: Long Days Short Years Helles Lager, Turkey Town Märzen, Knucklehead Hall of Fame NE IPA, Pioneer Ale ESB

Matt spent some time speaking with me about the brewer Tim Stumpf, as I noted above and specifically saying how their best-selling lager is People Pleaser. This beer is a Vienna Lager – the two best known beers in this style are Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Brooklyn Lager so it is a style of lager rather ubiquitous even if many people may not know those beers by their style as Vienna Lagers. It is typically my least favorite Lager style. However, Matt talked up the beer enough, and Brewer Tim’s abilities and recognition for brewing the style in his previous brewing roles, I had to give the beer a try. I’ll be damned if People Pleaser isn’t my favorite Vienna Lager. I can understand why the beer is their top lager, patrons visiting who only  know “Craft Beer” because of Sam Adams Boston Lager will gravitate to this beer out of familiarity and I’d say the name fits because Untied’s Vienna Lager is a very tasty, pleasing Lager.

Image courtesy of Untied Brewing’s Facebok

I also had a small pour of their Russian Imperial Stout, Left in the Dark. I’ll preface this with another conversation point from Matt. When we were discussing Tim Stumpf’s brewing skills, in addition to brewing great lagers, Tim has a proclivity when it comes to brewing Russian Imperial Stouts, not an easy style. His skill shows beautifully in this sweet, potent, dark ale. Untied is bottling the beer in the near future so I’m going to have to grab a bottle.

Label Art, courtesy of Untied Brewing’s Facebook

Like many small, independent breweries, Untied Brewing has sought to foster ties to the community. That can be done through beer names; Pioneer Ale, their fall ale is a reference to the mascot of New Providence High School; Turkey Town Lager gets its name from the city which Untied calls home, New Providence, which was originally called “Turkey” or “Turkey Town,” due to the presence of wild turkeys in the area but was changed around 1750.

Image courtesy of Untied Brewing’s Facebook

One of their beers, Untied Cares is an IPA brewed to honor the struggle COVID-19 and was offered at $9 a 4-pack, an extremely low price for 4-pack of 16oz cans. Untied wanted to give back somehow and they were initially going to raise funds for a good cause. In the end, they wanted to give back to the people who had been supporting Untied through all the tough times. Selling the beer at cost is a way to thank their supporters who have been buying Untied’s beers during the Pandemic, with the profits normally going towards donation simply taken out of the price to customers. With the large space Untied has hosted several gatherings for a wide range of audiences. They’ve hosted multiple meetings of B.I.G. Girls Night Out, several Yoga nights as well as a few comedy nights.

Images courtesy of Untied Brewing’s Facebook

Two beer names brought a great deal of attention to Untied, both of which drew inspiration for their names from NJ Governor Phil Murphy. The first one, Data Determines Dates was something Murphy said about when things in NJ would open up, in terms of social gatherings. The second beer, Knucklehead Hall of Fame is what Murphy said people should avoid becoming a part of in his warning that we should all be wearing masks and practice social distancing. Matt told me Governor Murphy called the brewery when word started making the rounds about Data Determines Dates. Untied also happened to be one of the breweries who attended and poured beer The Governor’s Craft Beer Event at Drumthwacket in October 2019.

From left, Tammy Murphy, Untied Brewing Company part owner Mark Russo, Untied Brewing president Matthew Green and Gov. Phil Murphy pose at The Governor’s Craft Beer Event this past October 2019. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Green & NJ.com)

Untied Brewing, in my opinion, is doing some really good things in New Providence. They are brewing good beer, which is first an foremost what any brewery needs to do. Matthew and Kim Green, Mark Russo, and Tim Stumpf are adjusting quite well to the changing beer landscape and adjusting to customer desires. Getting the governor of the State is a pretty good way to garner some attention, too.  I know I’ll be seeking out more of their beer in the future.

New Providence is fairly centrally located in Northern New Jersey, the brewery is a short drive off of Route 78, which is a major highway bisecting the State and connecting to other major highways – The Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Turnpike, and Route 287. One could easily do a tour of a half-dozen breweries with Untied as part of that tour. Although in Morris County, Twin Elephant is only a few miles away, Four City in Orange (Essex County) is a short drive, the aforementioned Union County breweries Wet Ticket in Rahway and Two Ton in Kenilworth could round out the tour.

If you find yourself in thr New Providence area, Untied Brewing is well worth the visit.

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

Untied Brewing’s Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Untied Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

Beer Review: Untied Brewing’s Long Days Short Year

Name: Long Days Short Years
Brewing Company: Untied Brewing Company
Location: New Providence, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.6%

“Untied Brewing’s take on the classic, bright German Lager is a flavorful interpretation sure to please”

 

From untappd’s page for Long Days Short Years:

A Bavarian Style Pale Lager that is a pure expression of malts. Easy drinking and full-bodied, with low bitterness, a touch of sweetness, and a clean and crisp finish.

When I visited Untied Brewing on a late summer afternoon in September, I was hoping a few of their Lagers would be on draught. Three happened to be available, so I figured I’d go with a Lager style I enjoy quite a bit, their Helles Lager. Long Days Short Years is the first beer I had from Untied Brewing, I figured starting out with a lighter beer was the way to go. I liked the beer so much I brought home a four-pack, so this review is based on both the taster I had poured on draught as well as the beer from the can as pictured above.

I’m glad this was the first beer I had in the flight because it quenched my thirst and is just a really tasty beer. I also decided to bring home a four-pack. Why is that?

The appearance of the beer is the typical “this is what beer looks like” appearance. Clear, bright, and golden yellow. A little bit of aroma that also fits the “beer” definition with some mild bready notes. Good things so far.

Very pleasant flavor hits my palate that tastes like a classic German Lager. A little more details: I get a very welcome flavor of sweet, lightly buttered toast and toasted crackers. One of my favorite food smells is toasted bread and I get that flavor. The beer finishes with a slight touch of hops and sweetness. That hint of fruitiness from the hops is welcome. However, that fruit hint is not to the drastic extent of a tropical hop bomb of a New England IPA, but present nonetheless.

Overall, this is a extremely clean, well-balanced beer. What do I mean by that? This is a beer whose flavors express themselves very well without intruding on each other and true to style. Well, that bread/cracker presence in Long Days Short Years is very consistent Helles Lagers (and its cousin, the Pislner). The mild hop presence, enough at least to let you know it is a beer is also true to style.

When I visited the brewery, owner Matthew Green told me this beer is one of his best-sellers, especially over the summer months. I can understand way, it is a very tasty lager. Moreover, it is the kind of beer that will appeal to that member of the group who is often craft-adverse. Fortunately for consumers who visit Untied, Long Days Short Years is a very well-crafted lager.

Long Days Short Years is a superb Lager and one that shows Untied has a very strong and impressive Lager section in their beer portfolio.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2020 Six Pack

This is the third annual Oktoberfest Six Pack (and fourth Oktoberfest feature overall), but clearly, Oktoberfest 2020 is unlike any we’ve experienced. For starters, the annual celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese’s marriage was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, much like the majority of social gatherings have been since March 2020. However, breweries are still churning out Festbiers and Märzens since the styles are a popular staple of many a brewery’s portfolio. Three years into “constructing” these six-packs and I’m still able to find new malty, amber lagers to highlight every year. I’m going more local this year than I have in the past, with a focus on four NJ breweries and 2 PA breweries. I’ve had three of these (one of them just this past week).

A note on the difference between Festbiers and Märzens. Festbiers are generally lower in alcohol and more “sessionable” in the 5% to 6% ABV range. Märzens are typically slightly higher in ABV starting at 6% ABV. The story goes that the beers served at Oktoberfest in Bavaria were dropped in ABV slightly to sell more beer without making the attendees too inebriated. Festbiers are a less malty, less intense and lighter in body compared to the Märzen. For me, whatever style a particular brewery calls the amber lager they sell as “Oktoberfest” or some variant of the name, is a highlight of the beer year for yours truly. Most of the beers you’d find in Germany during the festival would actually be Festbiers, while those with the “Oktoberfest” moniker are mostly the American-ized versions or what the German breweries market and sell in the U.S. as their fall, amber Lager.

On to the Six Pack!

Fest | Asbury Park Brewing Company | Asbury Park, NJ | 5.9% ABV

Image courtesy of Asbury Park Brewing’s Facebook

Asbury Park Brewery is one of a few in the Asbury Park area (Kane is a only about a mile away and Dark City is squarely in Asbury Park). I’ve only had one beer from Asbury Park Brewery, but I enjoyed it. Asbury Park is also home to a huge German Biergarten, so there’s some German in the air down there. APB is sporadically distributed through the State and based on how much I enjoyed their stout, I’d give this one a try.

What Asbury Park Brewery says about the beer:

A Märzen Lager brewed in the Oktoberfest tradition. Deep caramel in color with a complex malt body.

Festy | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | 5.5% ABV

Image courtesy of Carton Brewing’s Facebook

 

Carton’s Festy is hitting cans for the first time in 2020 largely due to the Pandemic. In past years, this beer was served at local beer festivals, but with social gatherings severely limited, Augie and his crew made a great decision to can and distribute the beer. I’m really hoping cans make it near me because Carton has such a strong Lager game. My impression of the beer is that it is flavorful with a spicy hop slap at the finish of the beer.

What Carton says about the beer:

Under the festival tents there are the Oktoberfest Marzens made “in honor of the fest” and the Festbiers made “for drinking at the fest”. As more and more quality Marzens show up at Autumn-fests around NJ, we decided that the drift off the beaten craft opportunity here was to make the “drinking beer of the fest” as traditionally as possible. A floor-malted German-pils malt bill picks up a Festbier touch of autumnal richness through the addition of light Munich and Victory. Then hop spiciness comes in the form of Tettnanger and Strisselspalt for both the kettle and late-hop additions. Drink Festy because these days a commitment to tradition is as far off the path’s trend as can be.

My Favorite Märzen / Märzen Style Lager | Lone Eagle Brewing | Flemington, NJ | 5% ABV

Image courtesy of Lone Eagle Brewing’s Facebook

Lone Eagle has been releasing an Oktoberfest annually since (I think) 2017, I’ve had it most years and enjoyed it, regardless of what they call it. I remember being very pleasantly surprised with the beer when I had it on draught at one of the Board Game nights back when those were still a thing. With their new brewer joining late last year, I don’t know if he tweaked the recipe at all, but they did slap a new label on the beer that evokes the traditional German bierhall.

What Lone Eagle says about the beer:

Märzen is a German style of beer traditionally brewed in March and lagered until Oktoberfest. This beer has a nice rich malt character with a slightly dry finish. It’s full flavored and easy to drink. Prost!

Lederskirten Oktoberfest | Manskirt Brewing Company | Hackettstown, NJ | 6% ABV

Image courtesy of Man Skirt Brewing’s Facebook

I had Manskirt’s take on the classic Oktoberfest when I first visited a few years ago. If I recall, I think it was the beer I enjoyed the most during that visit. Last year was the first year they canned it so I’m hoping I’ll be able to grab some cans this year to enjoy at home.

What Manskirt says about the beer:

Our take on a traditional German Marzen, or Oktoberfest lager. Lots of Munich and Pilsner malts make a solid backdrop for the German hops used here. A long, cold lagering process makes this beer clean and crisp.

Creekfestbier Lager | Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company | Croydon, PA | ABV 5.2%

Image courtesy of Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s Facebook

Neshaminy Creek is one of the closer PA breweries to me, I’ve visited a couple of times and I’ve enjoyed most of their output especially their beers with Germanic leanings. However, I haven’t sampled their annual Märzen yet. They’ve gone through something of a label rebranding over the last year or so and this beer is now available in 4-packs of 16oz cans. I think it was originally a 22oz bomber offering, but that particular beer vessel has all but gone the way of the dinosaur

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company says this about the beer:

Our seasonal traditional German-style Märzen Lager brewed with German Pilsner and Munich malts, and hopped with German Hallertau and Tettnanger hops. Fermented with a traditional Bavarian monastery Lager yeast.

Unter Dog | Yards Brewing Company | Philadelphia, PA | 5.6% ABV

Image courtesy of Yards Brewing Company’s Facebook

Yards, traditionally known as an Ale-house, introduced their first year-round lager to their lineup last year. With the success of that beer, it makes sense for them to finally put a Märzen into packaging and distribution. I think this is available in both cans and bottles, so hopefully I’ll be able to grab some in the next month or so because I did enjoy Loyal Lager.

What Yards says about the beer:

This Oktoberfest, we’re celebrating the city that never gives up with our new Märzen-style beer. Fetch a 6-pack today, sit back, and roll over with joy. Good boy!