Beer Review: Hackensack Brewing’s Parking Lot Pilz

Name: Parking Lot Pilz
Brewing Company: Hackensack Brewing Company
Location: Hackensack, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Other
ABV: 8%

“Not just an impressive Pilsner out the gate for a new brewery, but a damned good Pilsner all around.”

From the untappd description of the beer::

A crisp, refreshing, balanced pilsner

From Hackensack Brewing’s Facebook Post

An ode to the tailgating culture we grew up with in North Jersey/NYC. Parking Lot Pilz, a super well-balanced lager made to suit all your pre-gaming needs. Pairs well with burgers, chicken, shopping cart pretzels, and nosebleed seats.

When you host a fourth of July party every year, and most of your guests know you like good beer, you tend to get plenty of beer. My uncle, who knows how much I like Pilsners, brought a crowler of this beer (among others) to the party. It was early in the day and for me, a Pilsner is always a good start so I didn’t waste too much time before I decided to pop open the crowler and share it with some of my guests (including my dad and father-in-law).

For all the beer I’ve mentioned here and had over the years, this was the first beer I had from a crowler. Pouring the beer, I didn’t get too much of an aroma that made the beer stand out. Since we were all drinking from Red Solo Cups, it wasn’t exactly easy appreciate the color of the beer in its full glory, but yeah, it was yellow and looked how you’d expect a pilsner to look. The picture below snagged from Hackensack Brewing’s Facebook page shows the beer in its glory. Looks are only a small part of the game. We all know the flavor and taste is the main thing.

Ohhh yeah…this is a very tasty pilsner. Parking Lot Pilz leans more on the Czech side of the pilsner style so there isn’t as much hoppiness to the beer. A little softer than the German style pilsners, but there’s still a nice crispiness that is the hallmark of a good pilsner. The low IBU (20) proves out the milder hop presence (I only checked the IBU as I was writing this review). The lower hop presence is by no means a value judgment…I like the beer for what it is, and how it measures up to the specific style and not for what it isn’t. In other words, stylistically, Parking Lot Pilz is on point

Because there were many people (35+) at the party, a few people had some of the pilsner from the Crowler. My dad liked it quite a bit, and he leans more towards IPAs. My father-in-law, who leans more towards the lager side of the beer spectrum, was really impressed with Parking Lot Pilz, too. My brother-in-law was impressed with the beer, too. But no sooner did I finish my full pour did the crowler come up empty. Not a bad sign for the quality of the beer.

I like when my Pilsners and Lagers (especially the Helles Lagers) have that toasty, crackery finish and Parking Lot Pilz has that. There’s a really nice malt bill in the beer that gives the beer a flavorful body. I visited the brewery this past weekend and I wanted to make sure I tried the Pilsner fresh and boy is it even better fresh from the brewery. No surprise there, really. Again, not a knock on the quality of the beer out of the crowler, because it was damned good at my house.

All told, this a an extremely flavorful Pilsner. A beer any brewery would be proud to produce at any point in that brewery’s “lifespan.” Given that Hackensack Brewing only opened up January/February 2019 and they first made this available to the public in April, I’m even more impressed with the quality of the beer. I’ve yammered on about the skill and precision required to make lagers, especially pilsners, so brewmaster Mike Jones deserves big kudos for coming out strong with such a great lager game and a beer this flavorful that proves how good a Pilsner can be.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap (fresh at the brewery) / 4-bottle caps From the Crowler after an 1-hour car ride rating.

Beer Review: Tröegs Raspberry Tart Ale

Name: Raspberry Tart Ale
Brewing Company: Tröegs Independent Brewing
Location: Hershey, PA
Style: Sour – Gose
ABV: 4.5%

“The second beer in Tröegs’s Tart & Fruit Series is fantastic, a beer whose component ingredients are in nearly perfect harmony with each other.”

 

From Tröegs’s page for the beer:

Tart red raspberries are the star of this refreshing show. A first fermentation with lactobacillus gives this beer its pucker, while a second pass with our house ale yeast produces soft, fruity esters. A hint of Himalayan pink salt amplifies the flavor of tart raspberry jam, and coriander adds delicate notes of wildflowers.

We taste: tart raspberry jam, wildflowers, hint of salt

Tröegs gets quite a lot of love here on the Tap Takeover, a personal top 4 brewery in 2018 plus fairly frequent appearances in my monthly Six Packs. However, it has been almost two years since I reviewed one of their beers. This past year; however, Tröegs started a new beer series in the same way they have a Hop Cycle for their quarterly/seasonal IPA. This new series is their take on Goses and Gose-adjacent beers, the Tart & Fruit Series.

Image courtesy of Tröegs web site

Popping open the can, I get a whiff of raspberry and some of the tartness resulting from the lactobacillus. The picture above doesn’t do justice to the reddish hue coming off the beer. Since pictures can’t convey smell, either, you can’t smell sweet and tart aroma from the raspberries.

I taste raspberries immediately, but not an overpowering assault on the senses. Sometimes raspberries can do that and dominate whatever thing they are in, be it dessert, beer, or any food. While definitely a dominant flavor component, other elements of the beer do come to the fore.

The description calls out coriander and the flavor of wildflower, maybe that sweetness balances out the tartness of the raspberries and the lactobacillus but they weren’t distinct flavor components in and of themselves.

The finish of the beer has the characteristic salinity for which Goses are known, and probably the component I liked best. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the raspberries and they are the star of the show here, but the “Himalayan Pink Sea Salt” is the ingredient that brings the beer home and gives it that pleasant Gose characteristic.

Image courtesy of Tröegs website

This Raspberry Tart Ale was part of a seasonal mix pack for the summer, Greetings From Tröegs (15 beers comprised of 3 cans of 5 varieties), along with a Helles Lager I’ve been wanting to try for more than a year, but the beer is also available in six packs. I can see myself getting a sixer of this and trying to track down the first beer in this series, the Boysenberry Tart Ale.

I haven’t had as many Goses as other styles that I like this much (i.e. Bocks, Stouts, etc), but this one – Raspberry Tart Ale from Tröegs – definitely ranks near the top of not just the recent Goses I’ve had, but all of them. It is a reminder that I need to go for the style more often because the style is super refreshing and has several enjoyable flavor elements – sweet, tart, salty, and beer. Tröegs has shown expertise with several styles, IPAs, of course, as well as darker beers, barrel-aged wild beers and now Gose.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

What Gose Round (Level 5)

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!

Beer Review: Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers Post Shift Pilsner

Name: Post Shift Pilsner
Brewing Company: Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers
Location: Framingham, MA
Style: Pilsner – Other
ABV: 4.7%

“A finely crafted Pilsner is a beer of beauty, Post Shift Pilsner from Jack’s Abby is such a beer.”

From Jack’s Abby’s landing page for Post Shift Pilsner:

There will be no working during drinking hours! Brewed with Bavarian malt and hops, this everyday Pilsner is bright, crisp and refreshing. We think it’s the perfect way to end the work day. Clock out, post-up and enjoy!

It is always exciting when a well-respected regional brewery begins distributing in your area. Last year for me, it was Bell’s Brewery. This year for me that brewery is Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers. As their name would imply, Jack’s Abby specializes in lagers (i.e. German inspired beers), with the majority of their portfolio falling in that category. Pilsner is one of the most popular (and sometimes reviled) styles of beer in the world, but in the hands of expert craftspeople, a Pilsner is an elegant beer. When I learned Jack’s Abby was going to start distributing into New Jersey, I knew this was the first beer I wanted to try from the fine purveyors of German-style beers out of Framingham, MA.

So, Post Shift Pilsner. The name tells me this is the first thing you want to grab after a day’s work. Can’t argue with the ethos of a beer name like that. Out of the 16oz can, the beer pours a beautiful, mostly clear yellow. In other words, it looks exactly how you’d expect a Pilsner to look like. But, how does it taste compared to other Pilsners? That’s a big difference indeed.

A Pilsner is a precise beer, it uses few ingredients except those of the German Purity Law Reinheitsgebot: Water, Barley, and Hops. With a Pilsner, you can’t hide any mistakes with a fruit adjunct or sweeten up the beer with an addition of Lactose. An elegant beer whose prime, essential ingredients shine. Jack’s Abby captures that spirit and those ingredients wonderfully.

The first sip turns into a gulp, the beer is so tasty. Just about everything I want in a Pilsner is present in this beer – delicious and refreshing, slightly bitter, a little sweet. Let’s unpack that a little, shall we?

There’s a wonderful balance at the start, I get a pleasant, slight bittering from hops with a sweetness, maybe a little fruity sweetness. The bitterness and sweetness are almost a single flavor thread throughout the beer, they work so well together. What makes this one great is similar to what makes the beer I reviewed last week great, the authentic German malts (as in from Germany) used in the beer. They impart that lovely sweetness that so perfectly balances the Noble hops. According to Jack Abby’s Web site:

The Jack’s Abby brewing team travels to Germany every year to procure German hops and malt from small family run operations in Bavaria. The brewers use old-world brewing techniques of decoction and spunding to recreate historical lagers.

The finish has a slightly toasted bready/crackery taste that I associate with Pilsners (and some Helles Lagers, too). I like it, I want more of it. Hell, I picked up a 6 pack on a Thursday and found it hard to not enjoy one of these delicious beers every day of that weekend. When it comes to a wonderfully flavorful beer perfect for any day, a beer that will please both discerning craft beer drinkers with that flavor, while not making non-craft drinkers wary, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better beer than Jack Abby’s Post Shift Pilsner.

Amazingly, this is the first beer I’ve reviewed from a Massachusetts brewery.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Badge Earned:

Crisp as Day (Level 12)

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: Ramstein Blonde Hefe-Weizen

Name: Ramstein Blonde Hefe-Weizen
Brewing Company: High Point Brewing Company (Ramstein)
Location: Butler, NJ
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.5%

“If not just the best Hefeweizen brewed in New Jersey, one of the best Hefeweizens brewed in America.”

From Ramstein’s Flagships beer page:

Our fresh traditional German-style Weiss Beer. Malty wheat bouquet brimming with clove and banana aromas. Wheat and barley balance with imported German noble hops. Unfiltered for a natural flavor. The finish is malty, smooth and refreshing.

This is only the second Hefeweizen I’ve reviewed here at the Tap Takeover, with the first being arguably the best Hefeweizen in the world (Weihenstephaner). It is a style I love, a style for me that works perfectly for warmer weather, so with spring in full swing and summer on the horizon, what better time to highlight one of the best American-made Hefeweizens…or Hefe-weizens as the fine craftspeople of High Point Brewing Company call this beer.

The Ramstein brand/label is brewed out of High Point Brewing Company in Butler, NJ. Owner and brewmaster Greg Zaccardi brings amazing old-world (i.e. German) knowledge to his brewery, including this beer, arguably the most definable German style of beer. High Point is one of the 5 original craft breweries in New Jersey having opened in 1996, and one of the few dedicated solely to German Lagers and Ales.

A pop of the cap and the whiff of the clove evoked by the yeast hits my nose. The inviting aroma of a Hefeweizen that speaks to good times in warm weather. Out of the bottle and into the glass the beer goes. The golden liquid that fills the glass has a slight haze, as is apropos for a Hefeweizen, and when poured correctly, a frothy white head. The Hefeweizen is the original hazy beer, don’t let those folks standing on line for $25 4-pack can releases fool you.

Back to the deliciousness of Ramstein Blonde Hefe-weizen… That first sip is refreshing with the yeast providing much of the flavors – some clove, some banana-like fruit. Overall, the beer is just a beautifully clean, and wonderfully crafted beer. It isn’t over assertive with hops, the flavor evocations from the yeast are there, but not to the point where they’ll drown out anything else you may want to consume.

For that reason, this beer is a perfect accompaniment to almost any meal. In my mind a Pilsner is the perfect beer to enjoy with pizza, but this beer is a very close second. I enjoyed a glass of this with a pork tenderloin meal. I’ve had this at one of my favorite restaurants/beer bars with a delicious burger. I enjoyed a bottle, actually the one pictured above, just sitting in my yard on warm spring day relaxing with my dog.

I would recommend this beer without hesitation as a great, flavorful example of a beer brewed with German ingredients (most of the hops, malt, and yeast used by High Point Brewing( are imported from Germany), in German tradition and process (Greg honed his brewing technique in Germany), with some American flare.

In some of my reviews of beers from NJ breweries, I’ve alluded to a “Hall of Fame” or a shelf of “Essential NJ Beers” Ramstein Blonde Hefe-Weizen definitely gets a spot and maybe the first one, given High Point Brewing’s legacy as one of the Fab Five of New Jersey Craft Brewing and the outstanding quality of this World-Class Beer.

My only real knock on the beer (and most of the beer from Ramstein/High Point Brewing) is how limited the availability of their beer is. Bottles of their beer are rarely in stores in my daily driving radius which is surprising given the quality and longevity of the Ramstein brand. All their beers are superb, the brewery is nice to visit (as I did a couple years ago for the release of their world class Winter Wheat), but it isn’t exactly close at about 45 miles from my home. The quality of is great and I’d be more than happy to give these folks my money for that high quality beer on a regular basis.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Conclave Brewing’s Moonwater

Name: Moonwater
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing Company
Location: Flemington/Raritan Township, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 6%

“The Central Jersey brewery creates another delicious IPA.”

About the beer:

An IPA brewed to be simple, enjoyable and drinkable. We used a blend of base malts, Mosaic and Motueka hops and then a blend of ale yeasts to make this one. While it’s clearly a hoppy one, it’s crisp minerality and finish is what we’re really psyched about. Come on by and let us know what you feel. Notes of Sauvignon blanc, grape bubblegum, lemongrass and lime.

For all the mentions Conclave gets here on the Tap Takeover, this is the first full review I’m doing for one of their beers since fall 2017. For about the past year or so, Conclave has been doing somewhat monthly releases. Moonwater was was the first can release I was able to get I’m very glad I did.

This is a beer they first brewed in late 2018 but when I picked up the 4-pack, it was both the first time they canned the beer and the first time I had the beer.

Immediately noticeable from the pour of the beer is how yellow-orange the beer is, really nailing the “Pale” of the IPA. It looks almost like orange juice, like many of the popular Hazy IPAs. There’s a strong hop aroma that, for IPA lovers, really encourages you to take a sip.

A big hit of hops on the first sip. Per the description above, they’ve used two hops: Motueka and Mosaic.  The Motueka on the start which evokes a really delicious citrus flavor. I think Conclave has used Motueka in quite a few of their beers and it is a really flavorful hop, I’m a fan. The hop I tend not to enjoy; however, is the Mosaic hop. For whatever reason, the finish of beers which feature the Mosaic hop don’t typically jive with my taste sensibilities. I didn’t notice those issues in this beer.

While the Mosaic is present and has some hop qualities I enjoy, the Motueka hop brings enough of its own flavor to give the beer a more balanced hop profile. Motueka is one of the New Zealand hops that is growing in popularity and this beer is a nice showcase as to why. There’s an extremely pleasant tropical fruit element to the beer that inspires you to have more.

So the beer has a well-crafted balance between the two hops, which is nice. Also impressive is how flavorful the beer is with a relatively low ABV at 6%. For an IPA, that’s not exactly a chugger, but lower than the 7-7.5% you’d expect from an IPA with the robust flavor this beer gives.

Conclave Brewing is extremely consistent with every beer they produce and this beer is further proof. Moonwater is a great example of the care, precision, and artistry that can come together in an IPA. Plan and simple, Moonwater is a delicious IPA.

The cans sold out early on Saturday, the brewery is open for a couple of hours on Thursday and Friday evening and Saturday afternoons. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another batch of this beer become available though maybe just for growler fills. If you’re in the Central New Jersey area, it is a beer (and brewery) worth seeking out and visiting.

Can art by Natalie Rengan, @talliedesign. Natalie has been creating some really striking designs for Conclave’s can releases, giving a nice “branding” to the brewery.

Art/Design by Natalie Rengan

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Modern Times’s Black House

Name: Black House
Brewing Company: Modern Times Brewing
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Stout – Coffee
ABV: 5.8%

One of the best coffee stouts you’ll have. Period.

One of the most perfect of pours I’ve ever poured.

From Modern Times’s page for the beer:

It’s so great that you like coffee. I just love that about you. Speaking of which, you’re holding an oatmeal coffee stout positively redolent with coffee aroma and flavor. It kind of tastes like a chocolate-covered espresso bean, only drier and more like beer. Nifty fact: we’re one of the only breweries in the world to roast our own coffee, which allows us to be extremely persnickety about which beans we buy and how we roast them. Taste the persnicketiness!

Coffee and beer, a liquid amalgamation that brings together two of the most popular beverages in the world. Modern Times is one of the more well-regarded San Diego area breweries and they’ve recently begun distributing their beer into NJ. This entry into New Jersey features their core line up: a Pale Wheat Ale (Fortunate Islands) a New England IPA (Orderville), a Gose (Fruitlands Passion Fruit), a straight-forward/West Coast IPA (City of the Sun), and this wonderful Coffee Stout, Black House. In other words, a good sampling of styles. I’d been in the mood for a stout that wasn’t too high in ABV, so I grabbed a four pack as soon as I saw the liquor store on my way home from work had it in stock.

As a person could likely infer from a coffee stout named Black House, the beer pours a very dark black. Given the relatively sessionable ABV of 5.8%, the beer pours from the can into the glass thicker than I’d expect. I don’t always manage to pull off a good head on my pours, but the head on this one is damned near perfect. Fluffy, almost like a whipped batch of malted chocolate milk. The beer was canned late January and I had it almost exactly two months after the canning date so the beer was relatively fresh, at least by stout standards.

The beer smells delicious. Hints of coffee, with a bit of sweetness, and some roast. I think to myself, “I’m going to like this beer.”

That internal thought was correct….

That first sip is just what I’d hope – a near perfect blending of coffee and stout flavors. Like the best beers, the first sip just encourages you to drink more.

As I continue to enjoy the beer, I notice the wonderful sweet coffee flavors on the backend of the beer. I generally drink my morning coffee a little on the sweet side, so the level of sweetness in the coffee portion of the show perfectly evokes my ideal cup of coffee. The coffee flavor is omnipresent, pleasant, and not overpowering.

Another great element of the beer is the lack of bitterness on the finish. Some coffee stouts I’ve had, and the ones I tend not to like, have a bitter, almost burnt coffee taste on the finish. That burnt bitterness is like a badly written ending to a novel or television finale you may have otherwise enjoyed, it makes what came before almost irrelevant. Thankfully for my tastes, that burnt bitterness is not present in Black House. In fact, the opposite is true. The delicious taste makes me want to have more.

Black House is one of the best coffee stouts I’ve ever had. I think I’ll have to give some of Modern Times’s other offerings a try.

Recommended link to Untappd 4.25-Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Dogfish Head’s The Perfect Disguise

Name: The Perfect Disguise
Brewing Company: Dogfish Head Brewing Company
Location: Milton, DE
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8%

Another outstanding IPA from the Delaware Brewing Legend!

From Dogfish Head’s page for the beer:

On the surface, The Perfect Disguise looks like a straightforward Kölsch with a crisp Kölsch yeast and traditional German malts and hops … but things aren’t always what they seem. With a quick sniff and a slight sip, you’re greeted by a creamy mouthfeel and full body thanks to the addition of a unique German chit malt – the first hint that this beer may be somewhat different.

Hiding deeper behind that German disguise is the double dry-hopping of an American Double IPA, with nearly 4 lbs. of German and American hops per barrel. It brings tropical flavors of citrus, tangerine, mango, gooseberries and peach.

The artwork for The Perfect Disguise was brought to life and designed by 2019 Off-Centered Art Series artist Michael Hacker. The name ‘The Perfect Disguise’ was the inspiration for the illustration design as it’s a play on words with whether or not the beer is actually a Kölsch or an American IPA.

I realize I’ve mentioned Dogfish Head quite a bit here on the Tap Takeover in my monthly six packs and other assorted posts. However, has been quite a while (mid-2017) since I gave one of their beers the full review treatment. This beer came along and really tickled my palate so here’s a review of The Perfect Disguise.

Sam Calagione and Dogfish have a great way with words and the description of The Perfect Disguise is really on-point. But in my own words, the beer is a really bright golden yellow as I poured into the glass. There’s an even head that dissipates pretty quickly. On the whole, The Perfect Disguise pours much brighter than most IPAs I’ve had, at the very least.

The hop aroma is very potent and welcoming and has the hints of citrus I really like. The taste is not quite that hoppy, at least initially. It is pretty clean, a little sweet and then WHAM the hops hit you. In a good way, at least for me. The hop flavor is potent, but finishes off with the citrus and somewhat tropical flavor that makes it difficult to stop drinking the beer. There’s a bit of a hop-oily finish to the beer, too. I’ve noticed this with some of the Imperial IPAs I’ve had from Dogfish Head (90 Minute, Burton Baton). It is a welcome finish by all means because those other Imperial IPAs are excellent.

How does this rank against other Imperial IPAs I’ve had? Quite highly, probably one of the better Imperials I’ve had over the past few months. Aside from that initially mild taste, the beer hits all the notes of an excellent Imperial IPA and specifically, an Imperial IPA from Dogfish Head. This beer should be easily available across the country since Dogfish distributes to most of the US. It is well worth getting the full six pack because quite simply – this is a complex, delicious beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Cheers to Independent U.S. Craft Breweries (Level 33)

Cheers, beer patriot! You are supporting the small and independent American craft brewer. When you see the seal — shaped like an upside-down beer bottle — that’s independence you’re tasting.

 

Art by Michael Hacker