Beer Review: Eis Maker from Jack’s Abby Craft Lager

Name: Eis Maker
Brewing Company: Jacks Abby Craft Lagers
Location: Framingham, MA
Style: Barleywine – Other (untappd) / Lager Wine (label) / Eisbock (Web site)
ABV: 13%

“A delicious, inventive interpretation of a beloved style through a new lens. A beer that truly defines Craft Brewing.”

From Jack’s Abby’s page for beers:

Eis is the German word for Ice. A former distillation process in making Eis Beer would be to freeze it, remove the ice, and collect what remained.

While today’s beer, like Eis Maker, is no longer produced this way, it is used as a connotation that the beer is very strong.

You will find this Eis Bock to be sweet, malty and boozy with notes of raisin, dark fruit and similar profile of a barley wine.

This beer is not part of the 20 Years 20 Beers series, nor it is a NJ beer. However, Jack’s Abby entered the NJ market last year and as much as I love my local breweries, I want to support the “new to the area breweries,” especially when they are independent and are known primarily for Lagers. This all brings me to a style I’ve never seen, at least as Jack’s Abby names it: Lager Wine. Because of that, and the echoes of the rarest of lagers, the Eisbock, I was very drawn to this boozy concoction.

From the bottle into the glass, this beer looks the part of a Barleywine (leaning more on the English side rather than the hoppier American variety) with the toffee-like color. The aroma is of figs and other dark fruits. So far so, good.

The first sip is….wow. Just wow. The aroma of the aforementioned fruits is strong in the profile at the outset. While this is 13%, I took a couple of big sips because it was so tasty. Once I get beyond the initial sip, the complexity of this beer unfolds. The barrel notes are not overpowering to the overall flavor, but I’m sure they add to the overall booziness. On the other hand, as noted above and in my Bock overview, traditional Eisbocks are partially distilled – the frozen water is removed from the process, leaving more alcohol in the final liquid. Thus we have a beer at 13%…but it isn’t overpowering. The beer isn’t too hot or strong with alcohol or the barrel element, but both the barrel and high alcohol are noticeable elements in the overall taste profile. In other words, pleasant components of the overall taste of the beer.

The barrel notes blend fabulously with the raisin/date/fig elements in Eis Maker. I’ve had only two Eisbocks (at least since joining untappd 6 years ago) and a handful of traditional Barleywines over the years. This beer marries the best elements of both styles (and frankly, both styles are wonderful on their own), into a delightful and unique beer. What makes this beer so special is how even in sticking to a Lager yeast/Lager style, Jack’s Abby managed to craft a beer so evocative of a style not typically brewed as a Lager. Jacks’ Abby has a series of Barrel-Aged beers, many of which are their “Framinghammer” Baltic Porters (yes, Baltic Porters are traditionally Lagers) and other beers that are Lager interpretations of beers that are traditionally in the dark range of the Ale family of beers. Eis Maker is the second in this barrel-aged series I’ve had, but it only has me eager to try more. This beer is the definition of delicious, inventive, out-of-the-box thinking that once defined Craft Brewing and from what I’ve had from the fine folks at Jack’s Abby, defines them.

Highly recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Name: Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler
Brewing Company: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Location: Richmond, VA
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 8.2%

“A Belgian Tripel perfectly complemented with some added elements make for a deliciously crafted dessert beer.”

From untappd’s page for beers:

Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler is a delightful variation of our Peach Tripel with vanilla, cinnamon, coconut, and milk sugar additions delivering the classic flavors of a southern-style peach cobbler baked fresh in grandma’s kitchen.

Another great beer from “The 20 Years 20 Beers” gift provides for an introduction to another new brewery! Hardywood is a brewery I’m well aware of and a brewery I featured here for their whale beer, Gingerbread Stout. This installment of 20 Years 20 Beers also gives me a new Tripel to try, a style I thoroughly enjoy, but isn’t quite as common in the American Craft Beer scene.

The initial small pour my wife gave me so I could try guess the style of beer gave off the fruity vibes. I tasted banana and thought perhaps peach might be involved. The yeast was very prevalent, I knew I had some kind of Belgian-style.

This beer, fully poured in my goblet, looks extremely inviting – some Tripels are filtered, some are a little cloudy like this one. Looks great, and the aroma is equally pleasing.

I’m getting massive peach aroma from this beer, fortunately peach is a fruit I enjoy a great deal. The nose leads to the taste, but with more than just a small pour, more than just peach emerges. The Belgian-style yeast is very prominent, but other elements come through, primarily the cinnamon. It is subtle, but present enough and a welcome complement to the peach and yeast. The lactose and coconut are even more subtle, lactose usually adds more texture and sweetness than a distinct flavor which is the case here. I didn’t get too much coconut as a standout, it was more in the background.

I was utterly entranced by this beer. The peach is a perfect complement to the strong, yeast element in the beer and the cinnamon is just a lovely component that ties the two elements together. I’ve had peach cobbler and this beer is a perfect interpretation of the dessert into a beer. Dessert beers are often associated with sweet, “pastry” stouts, but this beer right here? Give me this as a summer dessert beer and I’ll be a very, very happy guy. The peach is sweet, the lactose/milk sugar is an added sweetness, and the yeast helps to generate sweetness, so there’ quite a few sweet elements working together. However, the sweetness is not cloying and those three sweet elements are in balance with each other.

Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler is a beer with a funny name, but a great taste. My wife is continuing to knock it out of the park with the 20 Beers 20 Years theme so far.

Highly recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Ashton Brewing’s Jersey Dreamin’

Name: Jersey Dreamin’
Brewing Company: Ashton Brewing Company
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 5.7%

“Ashton’s second canned beer is a superb interpretation of the classic lager.”

From Ashton Breiwng’s forpage for beers:

Jersey Dreamin’ is our Czech style Pilsner. It pours with a rich creamy white head and a burst of floral/spicy Saaz hops. Honey, cracker and spice all pop in the flavor and it finishes clean and balanced and says let’s have another!

Ashton Brewing is one of the newest New Jersey breweries (as of the date of this post, June 9, 2020), but they had the unfortunate timing to have had their grand opening scheduled when the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down public gatherings. They took over the former Demented Brewing facility in Middlesex, NJ, redid the interior and launched their brews. Despite the challenge they faced in the current times Ashton pushed forward, sold crowlers and growlers of their beers to what I’ve seen to be positive response. Shortly after they opened, Ashton began canning their beer, including this delightful Pilsner which is the second beer they canned.

Pilsners are one of my favorite styles and I’m always excited when a smaller brewery decides to craft any kind of lager, especially when a new brewery does their second canning run as a Pilsner. As soon as it was available I placed on online order and picked up a six pack at the brewery. As a result, I was check in number three to this beer in untappd, so I was also very happy to be one of the first to try the beer. Good thing the beer was delicious!

Visually, if you were to put this beer side-by-side with the last Pilsner I reviewed (also a Czech Pilsner), you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same beer. That’s a good thing because this clear and clean, golden yellow beer is largely what I would expect a pilsner to look like. The aroma gives off some hops and maybe some crackery/breadiness from the malt. More good signs for Jersey Dreamin’.

That first sip immediately becomes a gulp. Simply put, Jersey Dreamin’ is a delicious Pilsner.

Some Pilsners lean towards a breadiness/cracker element from the malt, some have a floral/fruity finish and some strike a balance between the two. Jersey Dreamin strikes that balance really nicely. It isn’t as “crackery” as some pilsners I’ve had – which is by no means a slight – but it has a full flavor whose elements come together really cleanly.

I spent a long Saturday afternoon in the sun doing yardwork the weekend after getting the six pack. My reward was this beer and it hit the spot perfectly, the beer was extremely flavorful, abundantly refreshing – an elevated “lawnmower” beer, if you will.

Many breweries who start up, at least in New Jersey, launch their canning program with multiple IPAs or some dark beers like porters & stouts. While Ashton’s first canned beer was their IPA, the fact that their second beer to be canned was a Pilsner – a style that has zero wiggle room for mistakes that can be hidden by adding more hops or adjuncts – is impressive. It shows confidence in the quality of the product they are sharing with consumers. Steve Ashton has a long history of brewing and working in the brewing industry in some capacity and that knowledge and confidence in his ability shows in this elegant and delicious Pilsner. This beer is good enough that it could be their flagship beer and a Pilsner that Lager-enthusiasts should definitely seek out. I for one can’t wait to have fresh draught of this Pilsner once the Pandemic concludes.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Ashton is accepting online orders for local delivery and pick up

Beer Review: Man Skirt Brewing’s Czechs and Balances

Name: Czechs and Balances
Brewing Company: Man Skirt Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 5%

A delicious interpretation of the classic Czech Lager. Worth seeking out if you’re in NJ.

First time I’ve seen an “Imperial Can” but I like it! The beer inside is even better!

From Man Skirt’s page for beers:

Man Skirt’s take on the original Pilsner. Classic grain flavors shine through, with just the right amount of Sterling hops. Clean, crisp, refreshing, and never boring.

Man Skirt Brewing is one of the first breweries I did a spotlight for here at the Tap Takeover (back in December 2017) and now I’ve finally come around to reviewing one of their beers. In part, I don’t see cans of their beers too often around me, and another part, Hackettstown is not super close to me. That said, I’m always happy to try a new Pilsner and after my wife got me in the car during the pandemic to go on an adventure to get out of the house, we wound up in the Hackettstown, NJ area. Naturally I grabbed some to go beers from Czig Meister and Man Skirt, two breweries in Hackettstown around the block from each other.

I’ve seen a few friends check this beer in untappd and they had good things to say about the beer, which had me looking forward to trying it myself. I was very pleased this was one of the “to go” options from Man Skirt available in an interesting “Imperial Can” which is a can with a cap, go figure. For a beer like a Pilsner, which is traditionally relatively low in ABV, this is a great size for the beer. But what about the beer already?.

What came out of that “imperial can” was clear and clean looking, though a slightly darker golden yellow than I would expect from a pilsner. The aroma is the “beer that smells like a beer” smell, I get the typical slight malt, slightly hoppy, and slightly sweet smell I’d expect from a Pilsner. In other words, based on looks and smell, I’ve got a good feeling about the beer .

As the beer passes my lips, I begin to smile. This pilsner is really what I wanted it to be. There’s the trademark enjoyable flavor of the Pilsner here – a good hint of breadiness/crackery goodness from the malt, one of the hallmarks of a great pilsner. Although the IBU is not too high at 37, it is higher than many pilsners and only slightly lower than Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale (a beer considered to be hop-forward). This is by no means a problem, I like the hop presence in Man Skirt’s take on the Pilsner – it helps to give the beer its full flavor.

Full Can Label art

More than anything, this beer has a very clean profile – the flavor elements are playing together very harmoniously. The hops complement the malt in a classic one-two punch of flavor – like a pair of championship-level Tag Team wrestlers. They bring different elements to the beer, but complement each other in a superb, unified flavor.

Czechs and Balances is as good a Czech style pilsner as you’ll find in the State of New Jersey (and easily in *at least* the top third of the 75+ pilsners I’ve had). I could easily see this beer on regular rotation in my fridge (if I were just a bit closer to Man Skirt!). As it is, this is a beer I’ll be seeking out again and probably the best beer out of the 10 or so I’ve had from Man Skirt. Joe Fisher should be very proud of this beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Badge Earned:

Crisp as Day (Level 16)

bdg_pilsner_lg

Light and crisp, a Pilsner is all you need to make your day great. Though, perhaps another one would make it even better.

 

Beer Review: Cape May’s Crushin’ It

Name: Crushin’ It
Brewing Company: Cape May Brewing Company
Location: Cape May, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 8%

A delicious, fan favorite, taproom exclusive beer from one of the largest brewery in New Jersey hits full distribution.

From Cape May Brewing’s Web site:

Refreshing and great for the beach, Crushin’ It is soon to be your summer staple. With Citra, Mosaic, and Azacca hops blending together to accentuate the fresh flavors of orange juice, Crushin’ It is dry, approachable, and perfectly balanced. Relax in the sand. Enjoy a no shower happy hour. This beer is best paired with good friends, sunshine, and SPF 30.

Cape May Brewery needs little introduction to my New Jersey readers, Cape May Brewing Company is one of the largest breweries in the State of New Jersey. Over the past couple of years, their distribution footprint has grown to encompass the entire State (as well as portions of DE and PA), but they still do quite a few brewery-only releases, which frustrates people like me who live 3 hours away and can’t easily get to the brewery for something like, say, the barrel-aged Barleywine they just released. For a time, that was the case for the beer under review today, Orange Crushin’ It. But that has changed as of April 2020, when Cape May scaled up production of the beer.

Crushin It began life as part of a Homebrewing competition at Cape May Brewery, a competition to brew a beer that mimicked the popular shore mixed drink Orange Crush. The hops in the beer, Citra, Azacca, and Mosaic evoke citrus fruit and the beer is made with a great deal of orange juice. That sounds fun and refreshing, so I was very pleased when I did a beer run to find that my local liquor store had just received a shipment of the beer. So, how does it live up to that build up?

Out of the wonderfully designed can, the beer pours a bright, slightly translucent orange-yellow. Shocking, right? One could be forgiven for thinking the beer was orange juice, on quick glance.

Aroma from the beer is of orange juice with citrusy hops, which seems spot on for a beer called an “Orange India Pale Ale.” The first sip is bursting with orange juice so I didn’t waste time for a second sip. The hop profile of the three varieties utilized in the beer come into play really nicely after that first blast of orange juice. This beer is one to drink as cold as possible, as you would orange juice. As much as I’ve mentioned the big orange juice component of the beer, it is still a beer. The hops aren’t extremely potent or aggressive, but the hops are definitely present, especially on the finish. That might be my only minor criticism of the beer.  I realize that comes down to Mosaic not being my favorite hop, which usually has an aftertaste of bitterness I don’t like. Fortunately, although noticeable, it is rather muted because of the other two hops and the abundant orange juice.

So what you have here in Orange Crushin’ It, ultimately, is a perfect warm weather or tailgating cooler beer. Flavorful, sweet, drinkable and appealing: a superb beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I believe in IPA (Level 49)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 245 different IPAs. Try 5 more for Level 50!

Beer Review: Gordon Biersch’s WinterBock

Name: WinterBock
Brewing Company: Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
Location: (National Brewpub Chain), Beer consumed at Gordon Biersch New Orleans
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 7.5%

“The well-established brewery/brewpub chain has crafted an immensely flavorful and pleasing doppelbock, a classic German style interpreted deliciously.”

Gordon Biersch says this about Winter Bock:

Our winter seasonal is a traditional doppelbock. A mohagony hued, full bodied lager with warming rich caramel and toffee maltiness.

Gordon Biersch has been brewing beer and selling well-crafted food to patrons for over 30 years. When the independent/craft beer movement was gaining momentum in the late 1980s and early 1990s, “brewpubs” were many people’s first exposure to flavorful, craft beer. Gordon Biersch began in 1988 and I know I’ve been to a couple over the past twenty years. A recent business trip to New Orleans afforded me the opportunity to visit a Gordon Biersch brewpub once again.

I was in New Orleans for a cybersecurity convention and hanging out with an old friend when we stumbled into Gordon Biersch, which I hadn’t realized was even there. A quick look at the beer list and my eyes immediately fell on this beer. I’ve remarked before how much I enjoy bocks, so there was no way I was going to pass on a freshly made doppelbock from a brewery this well-known.

The beer arrived in iconic Germanic dimpled beer mug, with the beer name and brewery emblazoned on the front. #ProperGlassware indeed. A thick light khaki head sat atop the brownish-caramel colored beer. Ultimately, I don’t think I could have imagined a more perfect visual example of a Dopplebock.

I didn’t really let the aroma sit in my nose for too long before taking a drink, so I suppose that indicates the aroma was pleasant and inviting. Delightful. That’s the immediate thought I have after my first taste of this beer. It is extremely smooth, with all the elements of the brewing process playing together seamlessly achieving a gestalt of flavor.

This beer tastes as if an abundance of flavor comes from the malts, which evoke caramel-like flavor along with some hints of toffee, too. What I appreciate even more, and this goes down to how well made the beer is, is the finish of the beer. Some dopplebocks (and bocks in general) can have a slight tang of bitterness or even spice on the end. That is nowhere near Gordon Biersch’s WinterBock. The finish is sweet, not cloyingly so, and very smooth. Again, I have to make the comparison to caramel flavors from the malts. It was a delicious beer that I enjoyed slowly, allowing the flavors to breath as the beer warmed to room temperature.

This was the first of a few beers I had during my long evening at the brewpub and it was the best. In fact, I’d easily rank as one of the better Dopplebocks I’ve had over the years. Of course, beer is an experience and the great food and friendly company may have potentially added to my enjoyment of the beer.

For Gordon Biersch as a whole, as one of the foundational brewpubs in the country, I’d definitely recommend visiting one should be near you or where you’re visiting. This is a beer to seek out (at one of Gordon Biersch’s 17 locations) if you want to get an idea of what a good German inspired doppelbock should taste like.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I’ll Be Bock (Level 11)

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

 

Beer Review: Great Divide’s Mexican Chocolate Yeti

Name: Mexican Chocolate Yet
Brewing Company: Great Divide Brewing Brewing
Location: Denver, CO
Style: Stout – American Imperial / Double
ABV: 9.5%

A huge stout that is a near perfect blend of sweet and spicy. An ideal dessert stout to enjoy on a cold night.

From the side of the Great Divde’s Landing page for the beer:

A very special, and very limited, entry in our venerable Yeti Series, Mexican Chocolate Yeti is a sensory delight. We’ve added a variety of spices, vanilla and coffee to Yeti Imperial Stout to create our version of a traditional champurrado drink. Spiced chocolate drinks have been part of Aztec and Mayan cuisine and culture for centuries, but they have yet to be paired with a Yeti! 9.5% ABV.

Great Divide is one of the big, reputable breweries based in Colorado. Founded in 1994, the brewery Brian Dunn started has won several awards for their beer, including their iconic Imperial Stout, Yeti. Over the years, Great Divide has brewed several variants of the Yeti, including this spicy, sweet Mexican Chocolate version.

Great Divide distributes mainly in cans, so for this specialty stout, they packaged it in a “Stovepipe” can of 19.2 oz.  I like this size and prefer it to the once ubiquitous 22oz bombers that seem to have slipped out brewer’s fancy, the 19.2oz is just enough of a beer to enjoy by oneself. As for the liquid in this particular can, I’ve had the flagship Yeti a couple of times, the first time I thought it was just OK, but when I was on a business trip in Denver, Colorado and attending a networking event at Great Divide’s Barrel Bar and I had Yeti again, I liked it much more. So, when this specific variant was announced, combined with the fact that I like the spicy/chocolatey stouts, I knew I had to get it.

After the pop of the can, I pour the beer into the glass and it is a very deep black, just like an Imperial Stout should pour. Some pleasant aromas arise from the glass, a little bit of maybe cinnamon, definitely some chocolate and vanilla. Smells to me like this will make a fine dessert beer.

I’m hit with delicious stout flavors, but then the adjuncts take over. This is a feature, not a bug. The aroma, unsurprisingly, pointed the way to a degree. I get strong flavors of chocolate, more than the vanilla nose led me to believe. Again, not a bad thing, but the vanilla is there and in just the appropriate dose for me. Vanilla can often be overused in beers, particularly big stouts, but not here.

Mexican Chocolate Yeti finishes with a little bit of coffee and some of that spice I caught on the aroma. I’m guessing some cinnamon, definitely. Not sure what else, but probably some kind of pepper. What surprises me is a few flavor bursts of something fruity. Not sure what, maybe a slight hit of cherry? Maybe citrus? Whatever that fruit is, it blends extremely well with all the other flavors. …and of course the beer tastes better as it warms in the glass, allowing the flavors to really breathe, but that should be taken for granted by now for dark beers of a high ABV.

Great Divide’s Mexican Chocolate Yeti is more than full flavored stout, it is a beer to savor and experience. If you like Stone’s Xocoveza stout as much as I do, you’ll likely enjoy this one. It also reminded me a little of a local favorite, Conclave Brewing’s Mexican Morning Stout. Believe in the Yeti, especially this incarnation

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle-cap Untappd check

Beer Review: Just Wing It from Icarus Brewing and Heavy Reel Brewing

Name: Just Wing It
Brewing Company: Icarus Brewing / Heavy Reel Brewing
Location: Lakewood, NJ / Seaside Heights, NJ
Style: Stout – Milk / Sweet
ABV: 6.6%

A perfectly rendered stout that exhibits delicious qualities of both a Milk Stout and a Coffee Stout.

From the side of the can:

Just Wing It is brewed in collaboration with Heavy Reel Brewing. Jam packed with four different roasting malts and a huge addition of lactose and oats. Post fermentation aged on Chocolate and Coffee. The Coffee is from Happy Mug Roasters and Vanilla Bean.

It has been nearly 8 months since I reviewed a stout and with the weather getting cooler, now is a perfect time to take a look at a great NJ Stout. Some folks even call the colder months “Stout Season” since stouts just feel like cold weather beer with more roasted flavors and the darkness of the beer. This preamble leads to Just Wing It, which is a collaboration between two Jersey Shore breweries, Icarus Brewing out of Lakewood and Heavy Reel out of Seaside, NJ.

Let’s get the ball rolling…or the can opening, so to speak.

The crack of the can pops and I get a little bit of coffee aroma mixed in with the smell I’d typically expect a sweet stout to produce. This is a pleasantly dark beer, with a malted milk/khaki colored head. In other words, exactly how a stout should look. Having sampled a decent amount of beer from Icarus over the last couple of years, I’m even more hopeful this will be a good one.

That first sip…it hits just about every button I want a Milk Stout to hit. The milk sugar sweetness is very present, but not to an overpowering degree. That sweetness form the lactose enhances the already sweet malts of the beer. As the beer finishes its journey through my palate, I get a very welcome burst of coffee flavor. I also taste more sweetness, likely from the chocolate which raises its proverbial hand in class to let me know it is present in the overall taste profile of the beer.

The beer has mild carbonation, and that khaki head dissipates fairly quickly. It is a smooth, delicious, flavorful stout that exhibits all the optimal qualities of both a coffee and a milk stout. A beer worth seeking out and a stout that illustrates the great quality of beer loyal customers of Icarus Brewing have come to expect.

Locally, I’d compare this beer very favorably to three NJ Milk Stouts: River Horse Oatmeal Milk Stout, Conclave’s Espresso Milk Stout, and Twin Elephant’s Diamonds & Pearls. For a national comparison, I’d stack Icarus & Heavy Reel’s take on the style next to Left Hand’s well known Milk Stout and Firestone Walker’s outstanding Mocha Merlin. Long story short, Just Wing It could sit comfortably on any shelf with any of those beers.

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

Another point of recommendation – the four pack barely lasted a week in my fridge before all the empties made it to the recycling bin.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

So Udderly Sweet (Level 8)

Wouldn’t it be nice if milk stouts came directly from beer producing cows? While this unfortunately isn’t the case (yet) they do have a full body and sweetness due to a larger amount of lactose and sugars.

 

Beer Review: Von Trapp’s Dunkel

Name: Dunkel
Brewing Company: von Trapp Brewing
Location: Stowe, VT
Style: Lager – Munich Dunkel
ABV: 5.7%

A classic style of German Lager interpreted deliciously by the Vermont brewery with Old World traditions.

From Von Trapp’s beers page:

Creamy, toffee aromas balance the bitterness of Munich malts in our roasted brown lager. Although dark in color, Dunkel is medium in body and finishes dry and clean, resulting in a rich lager that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

With my trend towards Lagers over the past few months, I’ve been wanting to highlight one of the lagers from Von Trapp Brewing (yes, that Von Trapp Family) who brew traditional Austrian/German Lagers. I’d had a few of their beers over the past couple of years, but this Dark Lager is one that eluded and intrigued me. I haven’t had too many beers of this style – Munich Dark Lager – usually preferring a Dopplebock or a Dunkelweizen for my dark German-style beers. I wanted to feature this beer specifically because I wanted to try something different, I like Lagers, and I like featuring styles that deserve more attention when I can. Of course, I didn’t know if I would enjoy the beer, but having enjoyed Von Trapp’s Helles and Pilsner in the past, I knew I was getting 2 beers I’d enjoy in their Variety Pack, and since the Dunkel was in it and I wanted to try the beer, I grabbed said Variety Pack.

So, let’s dive into the beer simply called Dunkel

The Munich Dark/Dunkel Lager is far from a popular style here in the states, although I’ve been seeing a few from local breweries as of late. As the name would imply, it is popular in Munich, Germany and a style with deep history. The Von Trapp is a family with history and their lodge in Vermont began brewing in 2010 with this Dunkel as one of their year-round beers.

Crack of the can, pour of the beer. Not black, but a nice dark brown. In the glass, Dunkel looks really appealing for this dark beer lover. Aroma … I did not get too much off the aroma, maybe a little sweetness? First taste … it tastes like a lager, but then more of the malt characteristics come through.

The malt utilized by Von Trapp in this beer imparts a tasty sweetness that evokes notes of caramel/toffee and chocolate. Not a chocolate bomb like River Horse’s Chocolate Porter, but rather subtle hints of the chocolate. Chocolate isn’t used in the brewing of the beer so all those sweet flavors come from the malts themselves which even further highlights the quality of the beer and brewers at Von Trapp. The beer finishes with a very important element – enough great flavor that made me want more. It finishes with a slight roast and a very pleasant sweetness. Unlike most lagers, but like darker beers, letting the beer get just a little closer to room temperature benefits the overall flavor.

An equivalent beer on the Ale side of the brewing spectrum would probably be a Brown Ale, as both it and Munich Dunkel are very similar in color and flavor profile. A pretty popular/easily available Brown Ale that compares favorably is Bell’s Best Brown so if you like Bell’s Best Brown, you’d likely enjoy Von Trapp’s Dunkel.

I appreciate that Von Trapp simply went with “Dunkel” as the name rather than a quirky “clever” name for the beer. The can art/label is equally straightforward, with the horned goat for the Von Trapp logo and the beer title in an attractive font does making for eye-catching can. You know what you’re getting. A straight-forward name for a beer that is also straightforward delicious. I haven’t had enough Munich Dunkels (only a taster of Spaten’s at a beer festival) so I don’t have a good comparison. As a flavorful Lager, I really liked it and hope I can find some six packs of this one near me because it works perfectly in cooler fall months, but is balanced enough to be an every-day/year round lager.

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

 

Beer Review: Firestone Walker’s Old Man Hattan

Name: Old Man Hattan
Brewing Company: Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Location: Paso Robles, CA
Style: Strong Ale – American
ABV: 9.6%

A potent beer evoking two popular potent bourbon-based cocktails makes for a complex and tasty slow-sipping dark ale.

From Firestone Walker’s landing page for this beer:

A barrel-aged mashup of two classic cocktails: the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan.

This inaugural Proprietor’s Vintage release features a blend of five notable Firestone Walker beers, including select lots of Parabola and Helldorado aged in cherry, orange and aromatic bitters barrels.

The result is a barnstorming beer that exhibits pronounced whiskey notes while artfully expressing essences of both the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan cocktails.

Originally conceived as a brewery-only Black Friday release, Old Man Hattan now makes its Proprietor’s Vintage debut due to popular demand.

I’ve been wanting to feature a beer from Firestone Walker on here for a while. Granted, one of their beers (Nitro Merlin Milk Stout) was the second beer I ever reviewed here at the Tap Takeover, but their barrel aging program and blending programs are arguably the best/most respected in the country, whether those beers are on the sour side or on the big stout/dark ale side.

The beers in this “Proprietor’s Vintage” aren’t always the most widely distributed or easiest to find, and when they do appear on shelves they don’t last for long. I’d been hoping to get a bottle of this one specifically given that part of the aim of Firestone Walker in brewing this beer is to evoke the classic “Old Fashioned” drink, my favorite cocktail. So, let’s get into it, shall we?

The beer pours dark, maybe a very deep brown, maybe black, maybe even dark burnt sienna. In one of the lights in my house, I can almost see a deep reddish brown. The aroma is strongly of beer, strongly of the bourbon, and of the bitters. At least from the aroma perspective, I’m getting the evocation of the Old Fashioned and Manhattan Firestone was aiming to evoke. So far, so good.

That first sip sure is interesting, I don’t quite think I’ve had a beer like this before. That’s good, by the way, because I like what I’m tasting. More of the beer proves the same. The beer elements remind me of a stout, but not quite as heavy on the roasted malts as a stout. I’d expect some roasted malts from a Russian Imperial Stout (Parabola) and maybe hops from a Barleywine (Helldorado), the two styles of beer which comprise this blend. Again, the absence of the strong roasted malts isn’t bad. The hop presence is mild, too. I get a little bit of hops, but not overpowering. The beer elements are there, bottom line.

What does come through are the whiskey/bourbon elements from the aging of the two base beers. I also strongly get fruit elements from the bitters barrels, cherry and orange most strongly. The beer finishes its journey through my palate with the same little pep that an Old Fashioned does. A great flavor finish that encourages careful and thoughtful consumption, rather than quickly throwing back the beer.

This beer is a great example of how complex flavors can be coaxed into beer through innovative brewing, blending, and barreling methods. I’ve had two of these boxed barrel aged beers from Firestone Walker and now I want to give more of them a try, particularly the beers blended to make this beer. Ten bucks for a 12oz beer, but you’re getting a beer bottled in very limited quantities (3,000, I think) and a beer that has undergone an extensive aging/blending process to get to what is in the bottle. It is also clocking in at just under 10% ABV, so the price is more than justified and well worth trying.

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

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Iron Man(Level 8)

You don’t have to be a superhero to enjoy a strong beer. Boasting a higher than average ABV, these styles really do pack a punch, so be ready for it. That’s 40 different beers with style of Strong Ale – American, Strong Ale – English, Strong Ale – Other, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Lager – Euro Strong.