Beer Review: Steve Austin’s Broken Skull American Lager from El Segundo Brewing Co

Name: Steve Austin’s Broken Skull American Lager
Brewing Company: El Segundo Brewing Company | Broken Skull Beer
Location: El Segundo, CA
Style: Lager – American
ABV: 4.8%

A Lager with Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Name on it is…a Stunning Lager, that’s the Bottom Line because I Said So!

BrokenSkullAmericanLager

From the Broken Skull Website:

This beer is our take on the classic American Lager. Made for the working man and woman, this beer is brewed with the finest American-grown barley and hops and is the ultimate reward for a hard days work. Coming in at 4.8%, this beer goes down easier than a 3-day weekend. Cheers!

As loyal readers of the Tap Takeover may have surmised, I’m a fan of Professional Wrestling. I’ve also made it pretty clear that I’m a Lager-head. When one of the biggest professional wrestling draws of all time, most popular wrestlers of all time, and one of the best ever – Stone Cold Steve Austin – works with a craft brewery, I’m very inclined to give the beer a try. Their first collaboration was an IPA, which was very good, so I was even more excited when Steve Austin announced an American Lager would be next.

So what do we have in the Broken Skull American Lager? Like the best lagers, the beer pours a really nice translucent golden-yellow with about two-to-three finger-thickness of a foamy head – it looks great. The aroma…well, Hell, son, it smells like beer? And that is mighty fine. More specifically, there are hints of grains and hops, just what I’d expect from a well-crafted lager.

First sip…damn that’s a nice lager. That’s my first thought. I keep drinking and that’s the thought that pervades. There’s a bit of citrusy-lemon element in the flavor profile, which is quite nice. Steve Austin and El Segundo have crafted a well-balanced, flavorful Lager. This beer does everything a good beer should do, it is very refreshing, slightly malty and sweet like I’d expect from an American Lager.

Image courtesy of Rob Schamberger

A beer like this can be deceptive in its simplicity. There aren’t a ton of hops to hide flavors, there aren’t any adjuncts to enhance/add to the flavor of the beer. A straight-forward American Lager takes nuance and a lot of skill to get the limited ingredients to play nicely together, and especially as nicely as they do in this beer. Dare I say that a beer with Stone Cold Steve Austin’s name on it is elegant? Oh hell yeah!

I’ve been following Steve Austin on social media for years and this beer was announced maybe a year ago at this point in time. As such, I was given the impression that this beer was made with the utmost quality assurance (meaning Steve probably tried a few versions of this beer before the final product was released). Can’t say I’m surprised because being a fan of Steve Austin, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who will slap his name on anything. His wrestling career, his TV career, and his podcast and interview show on Peacock/WWE, “Broken Skull Sessions” shows he puts a lot of thought into his work and values his name greatly, as he should. The bottom line: Stone Cold Steve Austin is a name with a great deal of cache. This beer is a prime example of the quality I’d expect from something bearing the Stone Cold Steve Austin name.

Stomp mudhole on your way to the liquor store and grab a four-pack of this certified Whoop Ass! Steve Austin’s Broken Skull American Lager is a (WHAT?) awesome (WHAT?) beer, and that’s the bottom line, because Rob Bedford said so!

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

BrokenSkullAmericanLager

Beer Review: Fort Nonsense Brewing’s Jaffa the Cake

Name: Jaffa the Cake
Brewing Company: Fort Nonsense Brewing Company
Location: Randolph, NJ
Style: Sour – Fruited
ABV: 8.3%

A delightful, well-balanced sour ale that showcases ingenuity and whimsy.

FortNonsense_Jaffa

Fort Nonsense was the subject of one of my early Brewery Spotlights and at the time, I found some things to enjoy, but I was perhaps more critical of the brewery than any other brewery I’d featured before or since. Fast forward four years, the brewery moved to a much larger (and lovely) facility, and their reputation has grown considerably, their sours in particular. So, as has become tradition the past couple of years, my friend and I decided to visit a brewery before enjoying an AEW Pay Per View.

I wasn’t too sure what I was going to have when I arrived at the brewery, there’s no taplist on their website or untappd page, but this one stood out to me on the big board behind the bar. It was different enough and I enjoy the combination of chocolate and orange. The beer is named in one part for a Jaffa Cake (a chocolate and orange confection made with Jaffa oranges) and the other part for Jabba the Hut. The flavor combination as well as the  play on words helped to make the beer stand out.

Given the beer is 8.3% ABV, Fort Nonsense only offers the beer in 10oz pours, which is what the beertender handed me. It doesn’t look out of the ordinary, there’s an aroma of orange in the beer. That’s to be expected, but still inviting nonetheless.

That first sip is extremely pleasant. The orange and chocolate are perfectly blended and in harmony with each other. The orange is the initial flavor that comes to the fore, it is pleasant and refreshing. Then comes the chocolate, like a nicely frosted cake or cookie it doesn’t dominate, but accentuates the other flavors. What I appreciate the most is that the beer element is still present, slight hops, some malts.

You may think chocolate is a peculiar ingredient for any beer outside of a stout, but it works so well in Jaffa the Cake. After this second visit to Fort Nonsense and first at their new facility, I’d have to recommend visiting for a nice variety of beer styles. I plan on visiting again in the future.

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

Beer Review: Tröegs’s Oktoberfest Lager

Name: Oktoberfest Lager
Brewing Company: Tröegs Independent Brewing
Location: Hershey, PA
Style: Festbier
ABV: 6.1%

The iconic Pennsylvania brewery adds their fantastic interpretation of the iconic Autumnal German Lager to its seasonal rotation.

Troegs_Oktoberfest_01

From Tröegs Brewing’s blog post for the beer:

New from Tröegs! Introducing Oktoberfest Lager, a toasty, crisp, and festive beer for the fall season.

Our recipe for this beer dates all the way back to the fourth beer ever brewed – Bavarian Lager. “It’s one of our simplest recipes and only uses two types of malt,” says our brewmaster and co-founding brother, John Trogner. “It starts with a base of pilsner malt, then we add a touch of Munich to impart a bready flavor.”

I’ve proclaimed my loyalty and love of Tröegs Independent Brewing quite often on the Triple T, and even beyond the beers I’ve mentioned here, their Sunshine Pils and Mad Elf are regular go-to beers for me. They have a great core of beers, an iconic seasonal beer, and a fantastic “development” program with their Scratch Series of beers. Today’s beer, their Oktoberfest worked its way through the Scratch Series (the “developmental” brewery-only release program at Tröegs), moved into exclusive availability as Fest Lager in their fall mix pack in 2020 and now makes its entry to the seasonal portfolio.

In terms of the German-inspired fall lager spectrum, Tröegs’s Oktoberfest Lager is a Festbier so the beer is a little lighter in body, with a slightly crisp profile, and lightly colored. I was very excited to try this beer and if anything, rather surprised that in their 25 years of business, a fall seasonal Oktoberfest was not part of their portfolio. That changes now.

So, with the Oktoberfest celebration officially starting this coming Saturday (October 17, 2022) for the first time in Germany since the COVID-19 Pandemic began, let’s dive into this beer.

Into the mug the beer pours and it is spot on for what I’d expect a Festbier to be: copper translucency with a slight fluffy head. The aroma is sweet bread, malty with a hint of caramel. So far, so good.

I get a very clean initial taste with the aforementioned notes caramel. The breadiness at the outset morphs a bit into a crackery malt as I drink more of the beer. The sweet profile isn’t cloying at all, it is quite pleasant. There’s a slight note on the finish of spice and sweet herbs likely from the hops. The impression I get is very pleasant and very drinkable. Right, all good beer is drinkable, but the flavors make you not want to put the beer down.

I love the Bavarian inspired label of the beer, too!

Image courtesy of Tröegs’s Facebook

The beer should be available throughout Tröegs’s distribution footprint in the Northeast and is available in 12-packs of cans and 6-packs of bottles.

All told, this is a damned fine example of a German Festbier, although the ABV of 6.1% is a tad higher than what I’ve come to expect from the Festbier side of the German-inspired Autumnal Lager. That just means I’ll take my time and savor the elegant flavors of this traditional lager. In taste and every facet of appearance, Oktoberfest Lager from Tröegs sits comfortably alongside the traditional German Lagers which serve as the beer’s inspiration. A most welcome addition to Tröegs’s seasonal lineup.

Zum wohl! Ein Prosit!

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

Troegs_Oktoberfest_02

Beer Review: Better Maize Ahead by Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company

Name: Better Maize Ahead
Brewing Company: Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company
Location: Croydon & New Hope, PA
Style: Cream Ale
ABV: 4.4%

Happy Anniversary to Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company and cheers to a fantastic Cream Ale!

NCBC_BetterMaize_Can

From Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s landing page for the beer:

The classic American Cream Ale is dear to our hearts and quite frankly, we miss having one around but we’re moving forward! Better Maize Ahead fills that void as a crisp and refreshing relative of the American Light Lager. Brewed with flaked maize and gently hopped with Hallertau for a delicate floral finish. You’ll find this to have a soft mouthfeel with a subtle, sweet cereal character and notes of corn pops. You’ll be feeling equally optimistic when you pour yourself one of these.

This year (2022), Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company celebrated 10 years of brewing and selling tasty beer. To honor the milestone, the brewery did a minor rebranding, slightly modifying the name stamp and upping their can art game.

NCBC_BMA

I knew I wanted to highlight one of their beers here at the Tap Takeover, but with such an interesting and diverse portfolio, I wasn’t sure which beer it would be. As of this post, I’ve had 20 of their beers and I’ve enjoyed just about all of them. I visited the main brewery in Croydon a couple of times, too. I’d been pondering which of their beers to feature for a while especially since they hit the 10-year mark, actually, so when my wife and I took a quick drive down to New Hope, PA, where Neshaminy Creek has a tap room, I figured I’d give Better Maize Ahead a try. I’d been wanting to drink and feature an unfettered* Cream Ale for a while now, and the two thoughts converged with this beer and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

*unfettered in that there are no adjuncts, additional flavor elements, or barrel aging like the other Cream Ales I’ve reviewed

Cream Ales are one the few truly American styles of beer. Originating in the 1840s, the Cream Ale is an Ale that is very similar to a lager, it has the same kind of crispness, refreshing nature, mild sweetness and look. Although some Cream Ales may have lager yeast for cold conditioning, most Cream Ales are just that, Ales. Where this makes a Cream Ale perhaps more appealing to a brewer is the reduced fermentation time for an Ale (two to four weeks compared to the 6-8 weeks for a Lager). As the beer is an American style, Corn (specifically flaked corn) is often used as the grain to lighten the beer, which is where Neshaminy Creek drew inspiration for the name of this beer.

Enough of the history lesson on Cream Ales, let’s get on to Better Maize Ahead.

The day we visited the NCBC New Hope taproom, it was quite warm (as it has been for most of August this past summer) and my wife and I had walked up and down Main Street in New Hope so we both worked up a bit of a sweat. I follow the brewery on social media and I was intrigued about this beer and I wanted something light, refreshing and beer flavored and was hoping this beer would be on tap. Also, John Holl (of all the beer podcasts and one of the people behind Defend Pilsner) always extolls the virtues of the Cream Ale. Hell, his likeness adorns a can cream ale from his co-conspirator’s brewery.

I ordered a full pint of this beer (only $5!) and took my first sip and dammit if this beer wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered, as the saying goes. Pure refreshment. It was all I could do not to chug the beer in two gulps, but I wanted to enjoy the beer in all its glory and get a sense of the full flavor profile.

There’s a sweet malt element that is extremely appealing with a very mild, barely noticeable hop element – that minimal, soft hoppiness is a feature, not a bug. There’s a hint of corn or sweet cereal on the finish that makes for a very well-rounded, balanced flavor profile on the beer.

NCBC_BetterMaize_Draught

Better Maize Ahead is elegant, simple, straight-forward and quite flavorful for a beer this low in ABV and under 5%. I was so impressed with the beer I looped back around to the brewery after a short jaunt through the indoor market and grabbed a six pack to put in my poolside cooler. Quite simply, this is a fun beer that will please most beer drinkers.

Recommended, link to 4/4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Cream of the Crop (Level 7)

A relative of the American light lager style, cream ales are crisp, golden brews, often finished with the addition of lager yeast for a lighter body. That’s 35 different beers with the style of Cream Ale.

NCBC_BetterMaize_Can

Beer Review: Heavy Reel Brewing’s SKELLINATOR

Name: SKELLINATOR
Brewing Company: Heavy Reel Brewing Company
Location: Seaside Heights, NJ
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 7.2%

The Jersey Shore brewery known for sours churns out a tasty classic German Lager.

HeavyReel_Skellinator

I’ve reviewed a couple of beers that were a collaboration between Heavy Reel Brewing and another brewery, but this is the first all Heavy Reel beer getting the review feature here at the Tap Takeover. My wife, myself and a few others made our annual trip down to Chegg’s in Long Beach Island, NJ and as has been custom, we stopped at a brewery on the way home. This year, we stopped at Heavy Reel Brewing in Seaside Heights since it was just off the Garden State Parkway about 20 miles north of the LBI exit.

Heavy Real has been around for a few years (since 2018), they are best known for their hop-forward beers and sour beers. That said, I will often spotlight a beer slightly askew from a brewery’s core or flagship beer. Thus, I’m reviewing Heavy Reel’s take on the classic, malty, German lager.

The beer I’m given is murky brown in the classic Germanic, dimpled mug. A thick light khaki head sat atop the brownish-caramel colored beer. Although it isn’t as translucent as I’d expect from a doppelbock, it looks the part. Maybe this is an unfiltered beer?

The beer has a very sweet, almost chocolatey taste at the outset. A very appealing first impression that makes me glad I ordered a full pour of the beer. Skellinator also has a very pleasant caramel element, also from the malt. There’s a slight bite on the end that reminds of perhaps the most well-known American doppelbock, Tröegs Troegenator.

Most doppelbocks have the -ator as a “calling card” to the style and an homage to the first Dopplebock brewed, Paulaner’s Salvator. With a skeleton being Heavy Reel’s mascot, thus we have the name “SKELLINATOR.”

I had a couple of other beers while I was at the brewery, two sours which were tasty, but the Dopplebock stood out to me. It is an extremely well-made lager and when I complemented the beertender on the beer, he noted that it was his favorite beer, or at least one of his favorites from the brewery.

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

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

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

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

LastWave_Surfer'sBlood

Last Wave says this about the beer:

Raspberry Lemonade Berliner Weisse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Ich Bin Ein Berliner (Level 6)

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

LW_SurfersBlood

Beer Review: Bradley Brew Project’s Jersey

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

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

BradleyBP_Jersey

Beer description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beer Review: Tmavy Lezak by Icarus Brewing & Hackensack Brewing

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

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

Icaus-Hack_TmavyLezak

From Icarus Brewing’s facebook post for the beer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beer Review: Muckraker Beermaker’s Maple Black & Blue

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

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

Muckraker_MBBB

From Muckraker’s landing page for the beer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muckraker_MBB_Bottle

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

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

Beer Review: Man Skirt Brewing’s Quadrupel Take

Name: Quadrupel Take
Brewing Company: Man Skirt Brewing
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 13%

An extremely tasty and impressive interpretation of the monstrous Belgian Ale.

ManSkirt_QuadrupelTake

From the untappd entry for the beer:

Clocking in a whopping 13% ABV, our Belgian Quad is deceptively easy drinking. Golden in color, it’s rich and malty but without the cloying sweetness that can overpower a beer this strong.

Man Skirt Brewing is one of the “Hackettstown Trio” of breweries and a central brewery along the Skylands Ale Trail. Like Angry Erik Brewing, I visited Man Skirt for the first time during the 2017 Birthday Brewery tour. On the first leg of the journey through the Ale Trail with my friends, Man Skirt was the second brewery we visited. I’d visited a few times in the past and, by and large, I’ve enjoyed their beer and always found the folks at the brewery to be very friendly and welcoming. I don’t see too many Belgian Quadrupels on draft at the smaller/local breweries so I knew I had to try this one. Plus a friend on untappd gave the beer a very high rating.

The beer I’m handed is slightly more translucent and not quite a dark brown as I’d expect from a Quadrupel. The aroma is there, though.

That first sip…is quite impressive and flavorful. The beer delivers what I hope an expect from a Belgian Quadrupel. My impression is that this is a flavor-filled beer and quite sweet. The yeast evokes tastiness like stone fruits, like plum? and caramelized banana. Like the best Quadrupels, this beer is quite complex. What I find most surprising is that, despite a 13% ABV, it wasn’t as boozy as I’d expect. Don’t get me wrong, I noticed the alcohol presence especially as less and less of the beer was in my glass, but it wasn’t an overpowering hit of alcohol.

This is the biggest beer I’ve had from Man Skirt, out of the dozen or so I’ve had and it was maybe the best I’ve had, too. While I liked their pilsner, Czechs and Balances for its clean, straight-forward flavor profile, I like the complexity here in Quadrupel Take. My point here is that Joe Fisher and his crew at Man Skirt can make quality beer across a range of styles, and high quality in two of the more complex styles to brew.

I don’t know how often Man Skirt brews this beer, but it is worth seeking out when they do brew it.

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.