Beer Review: Neshaminy Creek’s Cherry Berlinerweisse

Name: Cherry Berlinerweisse
Brewing Company: Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company
Location: Croydon, PA
Style: Sour – Berliner Weisse
ABV: 3.5%

Tart, yet refreshing. A flavorful beer that makes you pucker, but sweet enough to make you want more.

A warm day by the pool is a perfect way to enjoy this beer.

From Neshaminy Creek’s page for the beer:

German-Style Summer Ale Conditioned on Tart Cherry Juice from King Orchards of Michigan.

Refreshing and tart with a balanced Cherry and cracker-like malt backbone, simple yet well defined, we’ve never brewed a beer this perfect for the Summer before, and we hope you agree..

This past weekend, Neshaminy Creek Brewing was hosting the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market. My wife and I went, having had a good time when visited the Flea Market in the past when they set up in (shocker!) Trenton. With Trenton being just a short ride over a bridge to Pennsylvania, the Flea Market has set up shop at Neshaminy Creek Brewing in Croydon, PA in the past. So, considering how much I’ve enjoyed Neshaminy Creek’s beers and the Flea Market had a day set in August at Neshaminy Creek Brewing, we knew we were going. I also knew I was going to walk out of there with something to take home. Keeping with a theme of lower ABV beers I’ve been following, I grabbed a four pack of this beer upon my wife’s suggestion. She knows I like the style and figured it would be a good summer beer. She doesn’t drink beer, but she’s extremely observant of what I like and when I ramble on about beer.

Short story: my wife was right about the beer. Long story: let me expand upon that.

I’ve had my fair share of Berliner Weisses, about 20, not nearly as many as I’ve had of Pilsner, Stouts, or IPAs. But enough to have a good idea of what I like in the style, what to expect. That’s just a precursor for where I come from when it comes to the style.

There was a huge pop when I cracked open the can. The funk aroma coming of the beer was welcome and gave me an indication that this beer was crafted fairly well. The beer pours out a reddish pink, which is exactly as expected given the beer was made with cherries. So far, so good.

First sip is potent, tart cherry. Maybe the most tart of any beer I’ve had with cherries. The yeast and acidic bacteria at play in the beer likely enhanced the natural tartness of the cherries. This is all good.

The tartness lingers throughout the progression of the flavors, but becomes less pronounced once the sweetness takes over. This beer is supremely tart, but extremely flavorful aside from the tartness. Fortunately, the tart/sour components don’t overpower the other flavor elements even they if are the most prominent elements of the beer. Many Berliner Weisse beers have some kind of sweet fruit – or traditionally in Berlin, a sweet syrup is added as I pointed out in my feature on the style – to balance the tartness. Using a fruit that exhibits both components – very sweet and tart, is a fine way to hew along that tradition and plays well into the base elements of the beer.

I probably should have let the beer sit in the fridge or on ice a little longer than I did, I was too eager to try it. Although the beer came from a fridge at the brewery, that fridge was constantly being opened and closed as the brewery was VERY packed with people, customers who were buying cans of beer, so the beer wasn’t at optimal coldness to begin with AND I’m about an hour drive from the brewery. Long story short (too late), I may have enjoyed it more were it colder, and it may have taken a little longer to warm outside if the beer was colder when I poured it. Be that as it may, the beer was still quite good.

I wanted to give this beer the full chance to shine, so I had a second can the following day. Just like the first can, it popped big time, the sugars and yeast making for quite a bit of pressure and a big fluffy head. I tasted even more than what I expected from the interpretation of the style – the tartness of the cherries popped a little more and carbonation was more fizzy. Both pleasing elements of the beer. It isn’t a beer you can chug (and really, who wants to chug a beer with this much flavor!), but with the low ABV, it is a flavorful ale with a low enough ABV (3.5%) that having three in quick succession would likely not knock you on your rear end.

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s highest profile beers are their IPAs, particularly The Shape of Hops to Come, one of the most acclaimed Imperial IPAs from the East Coast. However, in Cherry Berlinerweisse, Neshaminy Creek has brewed a flavorful, sour & tart Germanic inspired ale that shows off a similar level of complexity and a beer well-suited to warm weather and poolside sipping (as my picture above shows).

Neshaminy Creek has always had very eye-catching artwork on their cans and when they did a “rebrand” earlier in the year, they reached out to their longtime artist JP Flexner to help out. The art on the can below is shows a battle between (I’m guessing) the yeast, lactic acid bacteria, and cherries that give the beer its complex flavor all tamed by a brave undersea diver who just might be a brewer.

Cool can, tasty beer. What more do you need?

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s beers are available in PA, NJ, MD, and DE.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75-Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: River Horse’s Raspberry Tripel Horse

Name: Raspberry Tripel Horse
Brewing Company: River Horse Brewing Company
Location: Ewing, NJ
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 10%

“A sweet-tart twist on the venerable’ NJ brewery’s most respected and widely known beer is a welcome variant on a tried and true style.”

Wanted to collage the picture to show Brewtus with his Raspberry beret. I’ve also been wanting to use my Barrel of Monks glass.

From River Horse Brewing’s page for the beer:

Year after year, the fan favorite at our cask festival is always our Tripel Horse Belgian Style Ale with raspberries. So we figured why not run with it! We’ve added 14 pounds of raspberries per barrel to our original Tripel Horse recipe and bottled it for you to enjoy at home. The raspberry is perfectly balanced in this smooth Belgian style beer. The label may be loud – but the raspberry is perfectly balanced in this smooth Belgian style beer

Almost exactly a year since my first review of a River Horse beer, here comes another from the venerable New Jersey brewery. Oddly enough, for all the love I throw to the Belgian style ales, this is the first Belgian Tripel I’m reviewing. River Horse’s Tripel Horse arguably the most well known and most acclaimed beer they brew – it received a bronze medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival – but I figured that beer was well known enough that I wanted to try something slightly adjacent to that beer. This beer also happens to mark my 5th anniversary on untappd, so it is a great candidate for review.

This beer, like many beers, began as a brewery exclusive variant on a popular beer. I’ve had the original Tripel Horse a few times and have wanted to try this sweetened variant since it was released in bottles a few years ago. In fact, one of the first times I had Tripel Horse I had two sitting at the bar waiting for a table. I thought the beer was delicious, but the ABV was subtle. To the point that when I stood up when our table was called, a nearly fell back down.

Enough reminiscing and preamble, let’s dive into this beer, shall we?

The beer pours like a standard Tripel, but a little hazier and with a reddish-pinkish hue. Not surprising given the amount of raspberries added per barrel. I get the yeasty aroma I’d expect from a Tripel with maybe a hint of the raspberries. It makes for a unique aroma and not unpleasant.

First sip gives more of the raspberry than the nose did, the tartness of the raspberry seems most prevalent. The beer turns out to be quite well-rounded, with the raspberry and yeast playing nicely together. This is a very flavorful beer so I don’t know that I’d pair it with say, a steak, pizza, or your main meal.

The magic of the yeast along with the sweet tartness brought by the raspberry make for a really nice dessert beer. I think the sweetness also masks the 10% ABV of the beer. The booziness / alcohol level aren’t immediately present, but noticeable at the end. Granted, I didn’t chug the beer but rather consumed it in smaller sips because it is such a potently flavor-filled beer.

If you are looking for a sweet take on an already excellent interpretation of a world class style, River Horse’s Raspberry Tripel Horse is well worth trying.

I’ll beat the same drum I do for most higher ABV beers: the flavors come more alive as the beer settles from fridge temperature to room temperature. The sweetness takes over the tartness just a little bit, too.

Side note on the label, it seems over the past year or two, River Horse has made their mascot – Brewtus the Hippo – a more prominent component of their label designs. For this one, they put a beret on him so I found myself playing Prince’s Raspberry Beret in my head when I was enjoying the beer. According to this facebook post, from River Horse the beer was indeed brewed in homage to his Purprleness, Prince:

…Our Raspberry Tripel was created around the time the Artist-Formerly-Known-As (and known again as) Prince died. In honor of his badassness, we thought Brewtus should don a Raspberry Beret.

While this specific beer has been available in bottles for about two years, it is nice to see that River Horse, one of earliest independent/craft breweries in NJ continues to release new styles and beers. This is one that should be an annual favorite.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Dubbel, Tripel and Quad Oh My! (Level 9)

Dubbel, Tripel, or Quad, you can’t go wrong with these amazing feats of Belgian style brewing. Whether you’re looking for something light and golden or dark and boozy, one of these will do the trick!

Sky’s the Limit! (Level 29)

You don’t always intend to go for beers with a double digit ABV, but when you do, you make it count! Cheers to you, but be careful, 10% and up can really pack a punch.

Cheers to You (Level 5)

Happy Untappd anniversary to you! Thanks for sticking around and drinking socially with us. Cheers! That’s 5 years on Untappd!

 

Beer Review: Weyerbacher Brewing’s Last Chance IPA

Name: Last Chance IPA
Brewing Company: Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Location: Easton, PA
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 5.9%

From Weyerbacher Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Last Chance IPA, 5.9% ABV, is a full-flavored IPA with pleasant citrus flavors of tangerine and grapefruit. Last Chance is a well-balanced, very refreshing beer that we’re sure you’ll enjoy! In addition to the blend of Cascade, Centennial, Citra and Mosaic hops, we’ve also dry-hopped this brew with Citra and Mosaic.

Weyerbacher donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every drop of Last Chance IPA to small animal rescue organizations throughout our distribution area. These shelters offer dogs, cats and other pets their last chance to find a new home.

Have a glass and make a difference! Cheers!

Weyerbacher Brewing is one of the great independent Pennsylvania breweries, they’ve been brewing and selling their beer for over twenty years and brew a range of delicious styles. I’ve been wanting to review one of their beers for a while, so when I came across a beer whose proceeds go to animal rescue, the dog lover in me figured this would be a good one to highlight. As such, Weyerbacher donates a portion of the proceeds from this beer to regional (to Easton, PA) animal rescue operations, with over $230K donated since the beer was first made in 2012. Not surprisingly, Weyerbacher has a site dedicated to the fund here: https://lastchancefund.com/

It is usually at this point that I’ll say something along the lines of that’s all well and good, but the beer still needs to be well crafted and appealing. So there. I said…or wrote it. Be that as it may, this beer is a very good IPA.

Weyerbacher describes this one as a West Coast style IPA and I get that from the overall hop profile. There’s a really inviting hop aroma coming off of the beer as soon as I opened the can. The beer poured a rich golden, with slight hints of orange once the glass was completely full.  The head is nice and fluffy, too. In other words, this beer looks just about exactly as you’d expect an IPA to look fully poured into a pint glass. So far, I like what my senses are telling me about this beer.

After taking a sip from the glass, I was pleased with how the aroma matched up to the actual taste. Lots of citrus and pine in the hop profile – just what to expect from a West-Coast style IPA. The more of the beer I drank, the more I enjoyed the beer. This isn’t going to blow you away with hop-punches to the face the way some over-the-top IPAs will, but you’ll definitely be aware of their presence.

Although the hop profile is different, and I’d guess different hops were used in Last Chance IPA, what the beer seems to be trying to be is similar to the Brooklyn Defender IPA I highlighted a few weeks ago. Maybe this beer has a little more hop kick. In other words, I’d guess Weyerbacher wanted to make an accessible for most beer drinkers while still working for “seasoned” beer drinkers like myself.

While Weyerbacher seems to specialize in higher ABV beers like big Stouts, Barleywines, or Belgian-style ales, going with an approachable IPA for a beer to raise funds for animal rescue is a smart brewing choice. As I initially said, above all else, the beer has to taste good and Last Chance IPA tastes really good. In fact, my local Wegman’s was doing a Weyerbacher tasting and I liked the small sip/taste of the beer enough that I knew I wanted more.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75 Bottle Cap rating.

https://lastchancefund.com/

Beer Review: Cameron’s Brewing Early Bird Breakfast Barley Wine

Name: Early Bird Breakfast Barley Wine
Brewing Company: Cameron’s Brewiing Company
Location: Oakville, ON Canada
Style: Barleywine – Other
ABV: 11.8%

From Cameron’s beer landing page:

This barley wine style ale has been aged in a foeder with two classic Canadian ingredients – Ontario maple syrup and cold steeped coffee. The result is an amalgamation of flavours that include molasses, caramelized sugar, toffee, white chocolate and dark fruits that give our barley wine a long finish that is a perfect addition to your favourite breakfast.

It is always fun to try a new style or revisit a beer style you don’t often have. Case in point: one of the “biggest” of all beer styles, the Barleywine. So named because of the typically high alcohol content, often above the 10% range, an ABV typically associated with actual wine. Initially called Barleywine because of that high ABV, the liquid is most definitely a beer since it is fermented from grain and not fruit. Anyway, I’ve only had a few distinct barley wines (and a couple those were vintages of Bigfoot and Bourbon County) over the years and mostly enjoyed them but wanted to delve into the style again.

Finding different barleywines isn’t all that easy, outside of a couple of the larger breweries who distribute to my area (Weyerbacher and Sierra Nevada) brewing well-known varieties. But then I saw this can on the shelf, I knew this would be the one to try, especially given the description above which adorned the can.

After popping open the can and pouring the contents, my glass was filled with an aromatic brownish amber liquid which was very inviting. Of the flavor components called out in the description above, the toffee stands out the most on the nose. A very pleasing smelling beer indeed.

The toffee is there on the first sip, but a welcome wave of coffee accompanies the toffee, too. The subsequent sips and hits of flavor are really pleasing, sweet coffee and more of an after-dinner/dessert feel than breakfast. The beer finishes with a really aggressive hop bite. Considering the IBU on this is 80, that isn’t too surprising. This is a barleywine more aligned with the American style, given the extremely potent hop flavor component.

This is a long-sipper. A flavorful, high-ABV big beer that you should enjoy over the course of an hour or so. Let the beer sit in the glass a bit, let those flavors expand. Hell, this was a 16oz can so if you find one at your local shop (I haven’t seen too many brews from Cameron in my area), it might be worth splitting with a friend.

I liked the beer, would have liked a little more if the hop bite at the end was slightly less potent/aggressive, but that’s not a knock on the style. For the most part, the beer does just what it should for the style. I simply think I’ve come to enjoy the English/less hop forward barleywines, but would absolutely have this one again.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75 Bottle Cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Wine of Beers (Level 2)

Wine of Beers (Level 2)

Strong, bold flavors really suit you. The barleywine brings with it a long history dating all the way back to ancient Greece. That’s 10 different Barleywine, Wheat Wine Beers or Rye Wine!

 

Beer Review: Brooklyn Brewery’s Defender IPA

Name: Defender IPA
Brewing Company: Brooklyn Brewery
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 5.5%

From Brooklyn Brewery’s landing page for the beer:

DEFEND BEER with Brooklyn Defender IPA, our heroically hopped golden IPA featuring strong notes of tropical fruit, well-muscled hop bitterness, and an incredibly dry finish. Cape not required.

Brooklyn Defender IPA is forged in collaboration with our sidekicks at New York Comic Con as the official beer of the convention. 

Brooklyn Brewery is one of the early leaders of the American Craft Beer scene having begun back in 1988. Their flagship beer, Brooklyn Lager is an iconic and very well-made Vienna Lager (think Sam Adams Boston Lager but more flavorful). When New York Comic Con was looking for an “official beer” about seven years ago, they probably thought what better brewery than Brooklyn? One can’t really argue that logic considering the quality of the brewery’s output under legendary Brewmaster Garrett Oliver and the brewery’s iconic status in New York (and the country for that matter).

I’ve been going to New York Comic Con every year for about the last five or six years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and in all that time, I’ve never had the beer. Chalk that up to an aversion to IPAs, but since I came round to IPAs over the last year, I knew I had to give this beer a try. Every year, Brooklyn changes up the label, but I don’t know if they change up the recipe. For the 2018 release, they crafted a very tasty beer.

2018 bottle and six pack art for Defender IPA. Courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery’s web site

The label calls this a “Golden IPA” and sure enough, the beer pours a bright gold/yellow. From the look, one could maybe mistake the beer for a Helles Lager. Well, until the aroma of the hops wafts off the glass.

First sip is a nice inviting burst of hops which matches up with what the aroma led me to expect. The hops aren’t overpowering, but they are definitely present. They let you know they are there and the major flavor component of the beer, but those hops aren’t shouting at you with aggressive assertiveness. There’s a dry finish to the beer, too. I found that to be a little unexpected, but not unwelcome.

I think the word I can use that best describes the beer is approachable. IPAs are the most popular style of “craft beer.” On the other hand, the style is what many folks who stick with the macro-produced lagers say keeps them away from craft beer. What Brooklyn has done with this beer is brew an extremely balanced beer that highlights the most prominent aspect of the IPA without it being too overpowering. Given the large attendance at New York Comic Con and the Geek Community in general, it is hard to argue with the formula Brooklyn used to brew this tasty beer.

All told, Defender IPA is a flavorful, approachable beer that works almost like a Session IPA. At 5.5% ABV, a couple of these would go well while you read or reread your favorite run of The Flash, Saga, WatchmenWonder WomanLocke & Key, or Monstress. I think this will be in regular rotation every October for me as a celebration of New York Comic Con.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75 Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Left Hand 25th Anniversary

Name: 25th Anniversary
Brewing Company: Left Hand Brewing Company
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: Stout –Imperial / Double
ABV: 12.1%

From Left Hand’s page for the beer

Assertive notes of dark chocolate, cherries and roasted coffee beans with a smooth warming finish.

In 1993 we set out to change the world one pint at a time. For 25 years we have forged an independent path, building a stronger community and creating an employee-owned company founded on brewing the best beer we can make. Cheers for supporting us at Left hand and independent craft beer.

25 years is quite a long time to be in the brewing business, outside of the multinational macro brewers. Left Hand Brewing is one of the old guard of Colorado breweries, having been at the forefront of the Western American Craft beer movement since 1993. They’ve brewed some iconic beers like Sawtooth Ale and Milk Stout and the innovative Nitro brand that began with Milk Stout Nitro, the beer for which they are likely best known. So, for an anniversary ale, they decided to go with an Imperial Stout.

This one pours dark with a khaki head. Closer examination reveals colors that hint at crimson and deep red. The aroma, to be honest, doesn’t stand out too much. I mean, it smells like a well-made stout with some roasted coffee notes, but I don’t get the cherries. In other words, it smells like other stouts I’ve enjoyed in the past.

First sip is fairly complex – roasted malts, some cocoa with a hint of cherry sweetness. It immediately put a smile on my face. A few more sips and I get the full taste; dark/bittersweet chocolate dominates the palate. The coffee is still hinted, but the cherry flavor is a nice undercurrent providing a sweetness that offsets the bittersweet chocolate. It doesn’t feel too much like a 12.1% beer in the body, but there’s definitely some heat/booziness from that high ABV.

This stout drinks a little better as it approaches room temperature, with the cherry notes becoming more pronounced giving the beer a nice overall flavor profile. I found the bittersweet notes to be a little more dominant than I typically enjoy in these types of big stouts. On the whole; however, this is a complex and tasty Imperial Stout.

As an anniversary or special occasion stout, it definitely works. The addition of the cherries gives the beer just enough of a unique taste to make it stand out from typical Imperial Stouts. Not sure if it is available on draft, but the beer is in 4-packs of bottles for distribution. This a beer you’ll want to pour when you have no plans on a cool night aside from relaxing and reading a good book or watching a movie.

Left Hand had a big celebration for this beer. That would have been a nice time to visit the legendary brewery!

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Flying Fish Brewing’s Onshore Lager

Name: Onshore Lager
Brewing Company: Flying Fish Brewing Company
Location: Somerdale, NJ
Style: Lager – American Light
Style: 4.9%

From the beer’s description on Flying Fish Brewing’s Special Page dedicated to the beer:

Our home is surrounded by a breathtaking stretch of ocean and beautiful waterways, and ONSHORE LAGER is our tribute to that environment. Brewed without adjuncts, this beer pours a pure, golden color, and German-style hops provide a crisp, clean finish. The employees of Flying Fish are just like you. They enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends, and they want to ensure the beauty endures for generations to come. That’s why Flying Fish is not only committed to brewing high quality beers, but we also practice sustainability and care for the environment throughout the process. 463 solar panels help with our electricity needs, 19 solar tubes in our warehouse reduce the need for artificial lighting, recaptured steam in the brewing process minimizes water waste, and rain gardens on site prevent erosion. And spent grains? They go to local farms with happy cows.

Light Lager is perhaps the most popular style of beer in America. Conversely, it is probably the most maligned style in the craft beer world. The brewery once out of Saint Louis and the brewery out of Colorado whose Light Lagers are the two most popular beers in the world. Though popular, those two beers are absent of flavor, or at least *good* flavor. But like almost any style of beer, when done well, the beer can taste very good.

This brings me to Onshore Lager from one of New Jersey’s oldest independent breweries and the largest in the state, Flying Fish Brewing Company. This beer is a new (first available in June 2018) year-round offering from Flying Fish.

After popping the can, the beer pours a bright golden yellow into the glass with a nice fluffy head. This is a much brighter beer than some of the macro-produced light beers people are accustomed to seeing, it is quite inviting. The first sip was more than I expected, the malts and crispness of the lager come through really nicely. Even though this is a light lager with an ABV of 4.9%, the beer still as ample flavor and a decent body. Light Lagers are a style I almost never get, go out of my way to try, and I’ll even avoid them if possible. This beer, on the other hand, this is a good beer to always keep in the cooler, whether poolside, to enjoy after yardwork, or tailgating. I’ll be honest two days after I had the first one from the six pack, I had another and enjoyed it even more.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a movement in the craft beer world back to low ABV lagers: pilsners, light lagers, Helles Lagers. Firestone Walker’s simply named Lager is a great example, as a I mentioned recently and Founders Solid Gold seems to be doing well. Far be it from NJ’s elder states-brewer to stray from this trend, as this beer was first announced back in February and I was thinking back in May it might be a good crushable summer beer. I was more than pleasantly surprised with the full flavor of this beer. I’ll admit that I hoped it might lean more towards a Helles Lager style, and there’s a bit of that bready/grainy/toasty element to the beer, but much more subtle than a straight-up Helles Lager like Firestone’s Lager or Carton’s This Town. Suffice it to say, Onshore Lager is an excellent beer and like Bell’s Amber Ale, which I featured a few weeks back, is a perfect beer to ease folks wary of craft beer over to the craft beer/Independent Beer world.

It is really great to see a brewery that has been such a mainstay in New Jersey continue to push new beers regularly not even including the recently concluded Exit Series. Onshore Lager is about the sixth new beer Flying Fish has introduced in the last six months alone. What I think would be great is for them to offer a can mixed pack like many breweries are doing – throw a few of these, a few of their summer staple Farmhouse Summer Ale and Daylight Savings IPA together and you’d have a really solid mix of beers for a Summer variety pack.

As reported in a few online beer sites, including Brewbound: “a portion of the sales of Onshore Lager will go to New Jersey-based Clean Ocean Action, an organization that’s dedicated to the quality of the marine waters off the New Jersey coast.” So, two great combinations – a great beer and a great cause. If you see some Onshore Lager, pick up a six pack to share, or keep in the fridge for yourself.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Lager Jack (Level 12)

Lager Jack (Level 12)

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?. That’s 60 different Lagers!.