Beer Review: Lone Eagle Brewing’s Jubileum V (Bourbon-Barrel Aged Eisbock)

Name: Jubileum V
Brewing Company: Lone Eagle Brewing
Location: Lone Eagle Brewing
Style: Bock – Eisbock (Traditional)
ABV: 8.5%

“Lone Eagle Brewing has crafted and exceptional beer for their Fifth Anniversary, Congratulations!”

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What Lone Eagle says about the beer:

A strong, malty German-style bock with rich character, full of caramel, toffee, and toasted biscuit notes with almonds, further aged in a bourbon barrel for a warming effect full of vanilla and oak notes.

I’ve mentioned Lone Eagle Brewing often here at the Tap Takeover, afterall, they are one of the closest breweries to my house and prior to the Pandemic I was going there fairly regularly for the monthly board game night. Since they hit their Five-Year Anniversary this past weekend (July 24, 2021), I figured I’d visit again. For their previous anniversaries, Lone Eagle has brewed a different barrel-aged beer they’ve called Jubileum, which is a Dutch word for “Celebration” or “Anniversary.” This year’s anniversary beer is a style I like a lot, but is fairly rare: Eisbock. As it turns out (and something that’s a theme of sorts), this is the 50th beer I’ve had from Lone Eagle, so that, combined with their anniversary and the quality of the beer, compelled me to review it.

LoneEagleFifthAnniversary

Back in my Bock Beer post, I summarized what an Eisbock is: “The “Eis” in the name is from partially freezing a dopple and extracting the H2O ice, which allows the alcohol to have a much more noticeable presence and a deeper brownish/reddish hue and an overall thicker beer. You could also say a Belgian Quadrupel is similar to an Eisbock, in some ways.” In other words, the water is distilled, so an Eisbock is a strange beast. What about the beer Lone Eagle brewed for their fifth anniversary?

The beer is a dark, deep brown with hints of amber in the right light. The aroma is largely from the bourbon barrels, but there might be some additional sweetness from the malt of the beer. I found the aroma fairly restrained for a barrel-aged beer. Often enough, the barrel character can overtake the entirety of the aroma, but here it was more of an enticement.

The first sip is outstanding and complex. I’ve only had a couple of Eisbocks before this one and liked them a lot and this has some of those characteristics. The bready, caramel elements are on full display. There might be hints of marzipan as well, but the bourbon barrel is quite assertive, too. Not too assertive, thankfully but rather complementary to the heavy malt characterof the beer. Too much barrel character would ruin the flavor of the beer.

I found this beer to be slightly reminiscent of Tröegs’ “Bourbon Barrel-Aged Troegenator,” one of my favorite beers of all time. This one might be a bit thinner on the body and slightly stronger impression from the barrel, but this is definitely a beer Lone Eagle should be proud to call their Fifth Anniversary Beer

One of the better Lone Eagle Beers I’ve had when all is said and done. Congratulations to Lone Eagle Brewing on 5 years!.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I’ll Be Bock (Level 12)

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

LoneEagle_JubileumV

Beer Review: Alternate Ending’s Amity Beer

Name: Amity Beer
Brewing Company: Alternate Ending Beer Co.
Location: Aberdeen Township, NJ
Style: Lager – Pale
ABV: 4.1%

Quite simply, one of the better Craft Lagers I’ve had over the past couple of years.

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From Alternate Ending’s Instagram post for this beer:

You know those moments when you’re sitting on the beach under the hot sun and sweat is glistening off your forehead, so you start debating whether or not to cool off in the ocean, but then that JAWS music pops into your head…duunnn dunnn…duuuunnnn duun…duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun…well don’t worry, ‘cause we’ve got you covered. Sit back, crack our cold, crisp Premium Lager, and watch everyone else swim carelessly as countless very sharp teeth swim beneath their feet. Amity Beer…now in 12oz cans, sold as a 6-pack. Drink responsibly and have a Happy Fourth! To learn more about the inspiration behind this beer, be sure to read the box…

It is turning into a theme of the Tap Takeover with my beer reviews of late – breweries who had the unfortunate timing to open/launch during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Alternate Ending fits that bill, but they are a tad different – they are a brewpub as well. Their overall resume, the people behind the brewery/brewpub is quite impressive. They have  beer/brewing experience at breweries like Other Half and Jughandle. Alternate Ending took over an old BowTie Cinemas location and as such, goes with movie-themed names for their beers. Since Aberdeen Township is considered a Jersey Shore town and one of the most popular “shore” movies all time being Jaws, why not make a beer as an homage? They did and called it Amity Beer, Alternate Ending’s (and head brewer Brendan Arnold) take on the Pale Lager.

As I noted in my review of Twin Lights Lager, essentially, a Pale Lager can be considered an “almost Pilsner.” Or another thought is All Pilsners are Pale Lagers but not all Pale Lagers are Pilsners.

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As for Amity Beer, I enjoyed the beer freshly poured into a dimple mug from the draft. This beer looks wonderful. Perfect foamy head, slightly translucent pale yellow liquid. In other words, you look up Lager in the dictionary, this beer is absolutely what you want to see.

A beer can look the part, as does Amity Beer, but it has to taste the part, too.

Malt/breadiness and maybe a little hint of sweet fruit waft from the mug. The first sip is a slap of deliciousness to my tastebuds. Those aforementioned aromas transfer even more potently to the taste in so many ways. There’s a bit of a cracker element, but what stands out most is the finish, there’s a slight sweet fruitiness I mentioned that compels me to keep drinking the beer. It is such a fun, delightful beer, I wish they had six packs of the beer, but it sold out very quickly when it was released at the end of June 2021.

Maybe the most impressive element of the beer is that it is only 4.1% ABV and it is bursting with flavor. It takes a well-honed brewer to coax that much flavor in a beer with that low of an ABV. In talking with head brewer Brendan during the NJCB Night at Alternate Ending on July 12, he mentioned that this was the most “difficult” beer he’s made at Alternate Ending. Even though the delicious Pilsner they brew, Royal Rug is a difficult style, there’s even less wiggle room for mistakes or opportunities to hide those mistakes with, say, the potential hops you’d add to a pilsner. Well…to say that Brandon absolutely nailed the style is an understatement.

To play on one of the most famous lines of dialogue from the movie to which this beer honors, “They’re going to need a bigger boat.” In other words, a beer this good, this flavorful, and this fun, should be on tap from Memorial Day to Labor Day, at the least.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

AE_Amity

Beer Review: Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Scrag Mountain Pils Salt & Lime

Name: Scrag Mountain Pils Salt & Lime
Brewing Company: Lawson’s Finest Liquids
Location: Waitsfield, VT
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 4.8%

“The Vermont brewery known for hoppy IPAs has crafted a slamming, refreshing Lager perfect for Summer.”

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From Lawson’s Finest Liquids’s landing page for Scrag Mountain Pils Salt & Lime:

This special version of our traditional Czech Pilsner, known affectionately as “Scragarita,” is infused with lime juice and sea salt for a well-balanced dance of crisp and tart.

For this review, I’m covering another beer that works perfectly in the Summer, and sure, I feature quite a few Lagers here at The Tap Takeover, but this is the first Pilsner I’m reviewing in almost a year. While Lawson’s Finest has become a Vermont brewing institution in recent years, the brewery has NJ roots. Owner and brewmaster Sean Lawson grew up in New Jersey before heading up to Vermont.

While Lawson’s Finest Liquids built its reputation hop-forward beers like the renowned Sip of Sunshine, all the styles they’ve brewed have essentially been “hits.” They took their popular Scrag Mountain Pils and added Salt and Lime, to both evoke a margarita (or “Scragarita” as it is called by Lawson’s) and a popular Mexican lager that is known for people adding a lime to the bottle.

Let’s get to the beer itself, shall we?

In the glass, it looks exactly like I’d expect a Czech Pilsner (or any classic Pilsner) to look – clear, yellow, with some bubbles, and a little bit of head. As I bring the glass to my nose, the lime aroma enters my senses. Not tart and overpowering lime, but definitely present.

That first sip is great, it hits the notes of refreshment I was hoping to get from the beer. The crackery/bready elements of the Pilsner are there, the lime comes in for some refreshing tartness, and the salt on the finish balances out the whole beer extremely well.

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This is the kind of beer I want cold and in my hands as soon as I’m finished yard work or sitting by the pool. In fact, the second time I had the beer I did exactly that, finished mowing the lawn and cooled off in the pool with this beer. As it turns out, the opening sentence of this paragraph was written shortly after my first experience tasting the beer. There’s something to be said for taste and timing in general. In specific for Scrag Mountain Pils Salt and Lime, this beer was *perfect* for that post lawnmower refreshment while relaxing in the pool (as in the picture at the top of this post).

Quite a few breweries over the last couple of years have been “Liming up their Lagers.” Yes, I just made that up! I had two beers last summer with the name “Tan Limes,” and even right now in the refrigerated aisles of beer shops in NJ you’ll see a couple of Pilsners and Lagers with Lime or Lime and Salt added. In other words, it is a smart move by Lawson’s Finest especially since what they produced with this beer is indeed a finely crafted Pilsner.

I’d say that Scrag Mountain Pils with Salt and Lime is a must have for the summer. The beer should be available throughout the Northeast where Lawson’s Finest is distributed and is well keeping in rotation for the short amount of time the beer is available in the months of May and June. I’m hoping to try the base version of the beer, but I’d be happy to keep this in constant rotation in the poolside cooler.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating | Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Crisp as Day (Level 20)

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

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Beer Review: Bull ‘N Bear’s Liquid Asset

Name: Liquid Asset
Brewing Company: Bull ‘n Bear Brewing Company
Location: Summit, NJ
Style: Lager – Dortmunder / Export
ABV: 5.8%

The new North Jersey brewery is off to a strong start with this delicious, unique style of Lager.

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From the untappd page for the beers.

German Lager that is crisp, earthy, herbal and refreshing. A unique water profile (high sulpahtes) to Dortmund Germany differs this beer from the traditional German Helles by interacting with the malt and hops (Hallertau & Saaz) which heightens the bitterness of the hops and the alkalinity leaving a slight haze. Prost!

Here we are with another brewery who had the misfortune to open their doors during the COVID Pandemic, but they started strong, at least based on the two beers I enjoyed. The one under review is (shock to regular readers) a Lager, but not a Pilsner or a Helles Lager (probably two of the most common craft Lagers), but a Dortumunder Lager.

What is a Dortmunder Lager? It falls within the family of Pale Lagers, like a Pilsner or Helles. The most common description I’ve seen is that it is has elements of Pilsner (some kind of hop presence) and a Helles (a more pronounced malt character) and is all about balance. Like many German Lagers, this beer derives its name from the region (Dortmund, German) as many styles originated as such. Not many breweries are making this specific style of Lager on a regular basis, Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Dortmund Gold out of Cleveland, Ohio is the only large regional brewery to come to mind, so I was quite pleased to see a new brewery make the style.

Let’s dive into some Liquid Asset

Look at that picture above? The beer is clear, golden, and very appealing in that glass. In other words, it looks exactly like I want a lager to look. As good as it looks, I didn’t really catch too much of the aroma on the beer.

Liquid Asset passes my first sip test with flying colors. This lager hits some great opening notes. A little sweetness from the malt in the beer, and that ever-important quality of making me want to drink more.

The most pronounced character of this beer is that wonderful bready, malt element. There’s a little bit of hop presence, essentially just there to be noticed, but there’s no bitterness from the hops. This is an extremely clean, delicious beer. Overall, the malt character brings a pleasant sweetness and the finish is extremely clean.

In speaking to the beertender, he said the recipe for this beer was one of the first or earliest beers the owner/head brewer was making in his home-brewing days. The refinement of making this beer over and over many years shines through and highlights how well-crafted this beer is from first sip to the last drops that remain in the glass. I hope this beer stays in constant rotation at Bull ‘N Bear because it is a showcase for the brewer’s quality. Liquid Asset is the a perfect beer to walk the line between appealing to “new” craft beer drinkers and those of us who consider ourselves something like aficionados.

Prost to Bull ‘N Bear for such finely crafted lager!

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

Beer Review: Magnify Brewing’s Banana Bread Mind over Matter

Name: Banana Bread Mind over Matter
Brewing Company: Magnify Brewing Company
Location: Fairfield, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double Milk
ABV: 8%

“A balanced and flavorful dessert stout from popular North Jersey brewery.”

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From the description of the beer onuntappd:

Banana Bread Mind Over Matter is a new variant in our series of double chocolate milk stouts featuring a new, refreshed label design. We set out to brew a double chocolate Milk Stout with as much flavor as our 10+% stouts a more manageable ABV. Banana Bread Mind Over Matter is brewed with lactose and conditioned on cocoa nibs, walnuts, wild Thai banana, cinnamon and vanilla.

Magnify has been one of the hottest New Jersey / Northeast breweries over the past few years, with about three new beer releases per week, their IPAs and other flavorful ales are highly sought by craft beer drinkers in the area. I personally haven’t had very many beers from them, so I was looking forward to giving something from them a try for the blog.

”Mind over Matter” is a series of Imperial Milk Stouts Magnify brews with various adjuncts, there’s a “S’Mores” version, a Pancake version (which I’ve had) made with maple syrup, a “Candy Cane” version, and so forth. This version looks to emulate banana bread, obviously, and is brewed with walnuts, “wild Thai banana,” cinnamon, and vanilla. I really enjoy banana bread and beer with most of these adjuncts, but I was admittedly a little wary of what the walnuts would bring.

The pop of the can is nice and the beer that pours into my glass is dark and thick. It definitely has the appearance I’d expect at the outset. The strongest element in the aroma for me was the cinnamon, which is quite welcome. I give the glass a little swirl and there’s a nice reddish/burgundy tint to the edges from the foam from the cinnamon.

First sip test….the beer easily passes that test. There’s a lot going on with this beer, just look at all those adjuncts I mentioned! I enjoy the taste quite a bit and I want to drink more to really figure out if the flavors I’ve tasted match up with the description

As I enjoy the pint over the course of about an hour, I begin to get a nice feel for this beer and what works for me. The sweetness is incredibly potent, but it isn’t overpowering and cloying. The cinnamon is the most prevalent additive I taste, which works for me, it is ever present. There’s a soft creaminess to the beer, too. I’m not sure how much of the banana is coming through, but on the finish, the walnuts assert themselves and I’m pleased. I suppose I like the flavor of walnuts, but I loathe having any kind of nut in my baked goods probably because of the texture. I just hate the way the hard crunchiness ruins the softness of say, a brownie or banana bread.

Banana Bread Mind over Matter is a damned good “beer interpretation” of banana bread. The cinnamon is wonderful, the hints of walnut give the beer a nice finish. If I can knock the beer for anything it is that the bananas themselves aren’t quite as present in the overall flavor profile of the beer compared to the other elements. However, of the 10 beers I’ve had from Magnify Brewing over the years, this beer is hands down the best beer I’ve had from them.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Twin Elephant Brewing’s Shimmy Ye’

Name: Shimmy Ye’
Brewing Company: Twin Elephant Brewing Company
Tap Takeover Feature Article: Twin Elephant Brewing Company (July 2019)
Location: Chatham Borough, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 7.6%

“A superb IPA from one of Northern New Jersey’s premier IPA breweries.”

From Twin Elephant’s landing page for the beer:

All in together now. Shoot, bloaw! The boom bap’s back so let’s begin, then. Lil’ Shimmy’s big bro, brah…This is salad days IPA with some new hoppy paw prints, Idaho 7 and Simcoe. Different flavors of the same ruthless wow raw juice. Dank En Garde, underlined twice, to satiate your primal hoppy biochemical urges. A ruffian track with slapshots and jackpots of trodden spring grass in the shadow of a pine forest. Gold plates and old truth, notes of funky Pu-erh tea, pungent pine, old trees, apricot jam, citrus marmalade & tropical gummy bears.

It has been far too long since I enjoyed a beer from Twin Elephant Brewing, so when a can release coincided with me being in the area of the brewery, I had to grab a four pack of Shimmy Ye’, one of their top IPAs. Over the course of the last couple of years, Twin Elephant reputation as a premier IPA brewer in NJ has grown in stature; in many of the NJ focused beer discussion forums, Twin Elephant is often named in informal polls as one of the best makers of IPAs in the State As such, I was excited to dive into this IPA. I’ve had this beer’s “little sibling,” Lil’ Shimmy Ye’ which is an outstanding American Pale Ale, so I was looking to this beer even more so.

As I’m wont to write, enough preamble, let’s get to the beer.

A nice pop of the can and a pour into the glass is a super hazy beer, like an orange milkshake. That haziness is from the addition of oats. I’m surprised this beer is designated not as a New England IPA, but as an American IPA because the haze is extremely thick and opaque with this beer.

The aroma is a pleasant burst of hops. Between the look and the smell, this IPA seems like it will be in my (albeit smaller) wheelhouse for IPAs.

The first sip is something unexpected. There’s a very sharp bite from the hops, almost like they are sinking their pointy fangs into my tongue and palate. From the look of the beer, I wasn’t expecting such an aggressive hop announcement on my taste buds. What follows, from the tasting perspective, is a softness likely brought on by the oats.

The hops in this beer are Idaho 7 and a personal favorite, Simcoe. Both hops have tropical fruit and pine elements to their flavor, with Simcoe one of the “classic” hops from the turn of the 21st century, while Idaho 7 is a little more recent first released in 2015. The similar flavors complement each other quite nicely. Overall flavors of apricots and citrus elements play well with the potent piney elements of the beer, making for a very flavorful IPA.

Despite the aggressiveness on the front end of the beer, Shimmy Ye’ is a very approachable IPA. The full flavor the beer delivers the tropical and pine elements that are hallmarks of the style in a very impressive fashion.

I had to include the full wrap of can art because it is so eye-catchy. The gold and black combination pops very strongly and is another great piece of art from Tom Schmitt whose art has graced (I think?) all of the canned beer Twin Elephant has produced. His instagram page highlights much of his work for Twin Elephant.

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Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

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Beer Review: Cricket Hill Brewery’s Barrel-Aged Dopplebock

Name: Barrel Aged Doppelbock
Brewing Company: Cricket Hill Brewing Company
Location: Cricket Hill Brewery
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 8.5%

“This beer proves that one of the veterans of the NJ Craft Beer scene continues to craft superb beer.”

CricketHill_BBADopplebock

From the untappd entry for the beer:

This beer celebrates the centuries old recipes of German bock beers. It has a very rich, malty flavor with aromas of toffee, dates and raisins. It’s deep amber / mahogany color is like eye-candy, and the hints of oak and vanilla from the 4-plus months of barrel aging is an added bonus. 28 IBU’s and 8.5% ABV.

Cricket Hill Brewing Company is one of the most tenured of NJ Craft Breweries, having opened their doors back in 2001 in Fairfield, NJ. They’ve got a nice sizeable taproom, their beer has been in shops throughout portions of North and Central New Jersey, at least in my area, for most of that time. I visited the brewery recently and when I realized they had not just a doppelbock (an underappreciated style), but a barrel-aged version, I knew what I was getting.

From the draught pour, the beer looks a little murkier than I’d expect a doppelbock to be, but that is likely from the barrel aging. The aroma is wonderful, the bourbon is potent, but not overpowering. It isn’t the only element I smell, which is nice. I’ve had my fair share of poorly crafted barrel-aged beers where the only smell was heavy bourbon.

The first sip test: smoothness and sweetness are what initially strike me. Dopplebocks tend to have a toffee element to their flavory profile and I get that in spades from this beer. Not sure I get raisins, but maybe dates as well? The barrel character rounds out the beer very well.

The finish of the beer is great. Again, some poorly crafted dopplebocks can have a sharp, unpleasant character to the finish. Not with this fine lager from Cricket Hill Brewing. The finish is pleasant and clean, making me want to go back immediately for another sip and taste. What I also appreciated about this beer was the ABV. Often barrel-aging a beer will leapfrog the alcohol level into the 10% range. Here, keeping the beer under 10% makes for a balanced beer that won’t knock off your barstool after one serving.

At 20 years in the NJ Craft Beer scene, this Barrel-Aged Dopplebock is proof that Cricket Hill is still offering some finely, elegantly crafted beers. I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this beer based on a handful of other beers I’ve had from Cricket Hill Brewery, but I didn’t expect the beer to be quite this stellar.

This beer seems to be an annual offering from Cricket Hill and it is a beer worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Maine Beer Company’s a tiny beautiful something

Name: a tiny beautiful something
Brewing Company: Maine Beer Company
Location: Freeport, Maine
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 5.5%

Subtle flavors make for a delicious clean, American Pale Ale.

From Main Beer Company’s page for the beer:

Our single hop pale ale brewed to highlight the flavors and aromas of El Dorado hops.

FLAVOR PROFILE: ORANGE MARMALADE AND APRICOT WITH FLORAL PERFUME NOTES, SPICY AND EARTHY

Maine Beer Company is one of the more respected New England breweries despite having a relatively small portfolio of about only 20 beers (as listed on untappd). The majority of what they brew are pale ales and IPAs, the styles they make are close to perfect interpretations of the styles, from the few I’ve had and from the reputation they’ve gained since they opened in 2009. All of their beer comes in 500ml bottles, which is convenient and something that sets them apart from a branding perspective. a tiny beautiful something is one of their Pale Ales, maybe the style that comprises the majority of their portfolio.

The bottle opens and pouring the beer into the glass produces a bright orange-yellow beer with a nice fluffy head. The hop aroma wafting into my nose is quite pleasant and combined with the look, makes for a very welcoming beer.

First sip is extremely refreshing and is gives off the “will always hit the spot” kind of beer. After a few more sips of the beer the hop presence emerges.  a tiny beautiful something is exclusively hopped with El Dorado hops. I don’t know that I’ve explored the El Dorado hop as much as some other hops, it is more often than not one of the hops in a hop blend rather than the “feature” hop of the beers I’ve had and enjoyed. It is a fairly new hop, having been released in 2010, but because of the hops’ tropical elements, El Dorado has gained a great deal of popularity with the emergence and growing popularity of Hazy/Juice IPAs and Pale Ales. Based on El Dorado being the only hop in this beer, I’m a fan.

The descriptor above from the brewery is spot on. I found the beer to have a subtle, yet pleasant and noticeable citrus/orange presence, which isn’t uncommon for most hops. There’s also a hint of spice on the finish and some other fruity elements. I don’t know that I can pinpoint it as apricot like the brewery describes, but the flavor is very tasty. The evocation of the fruit elements persists in a very positive way, it made me want to keep drinking to get more of that flavor.

Of the 125+ different Pale Ales I’ve had, a tiny beautiful something might have the cleanest finish of any of those Pale Ales. What I mean by that is there’s no real negative after taste, the beer ends on a very pleasant note.

a tiny beautiful something is s superb Pale Ale. I’ve had three other beers from Maine Beer Company and they’ve all been excellent. This all just makes me want to explore more of their beer.

Recommended, link to 4.25-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Flying Fish Brewing’s Fried Ice Cream Stout

Name: Fried Ice Cream Stout
Brewing Company: Flying Fish Brewing Company
Location: Somerdale, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 10.3%

“A delicious, decadent dessert stout from one of NJ’s classic craft breweries.”

From the description Flying Fish’s page for the beer:

Imperial stout and fried ice cream flavors together….Why not indulge in two great things at once? This rich and complex stout provides ample aromas of roasted malt and vanilla, then gets paired with real vanilla ice cream, flavors of cinnamon, and dark chocolate to produce a truly unique treat.

It has been about two and a half years since I reviewed a beer from the venerable Flying Fish Brewing Company, one NJ’s first craft breweries and the largest in the State.  Flying Fish is continuing to brew interesting beers in a wide range of styles and they’ve been updating their look over the last couple of years to be more modern. To that point, today’s beer, Fried Ice Cream Stout, was originally brewed and canned by Flying Fish about two years ago for the first time as a limited release but  the popularity of the decadent dessert stout pushed it into an annual winter release.

Fried Ice Cream…a dessert I remember enjoying at the old Mexican chain restaurant, Chi Chi’s and dessert that is apparently popular in Philadelphia (Flying Fish is just over the bridge from the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area). A fascinating desert which is a ball of ice cream quick fried in a crusty topping that may include crushed cereal, cinnamon, sugar, cinnamon sugar, maybe some chocolate syrup and if you were a good kid and ate all your dinner, a cherry on top. The brewers at Flying Fish sought to emulate that decadent dessert in beer form. Spoiler alert: they succeeded. Read on for my thoughts on how I think they succeeded.

So what do we have in the glass? A very dark, black beer that pours with a substantial, spongy-looking head. I could be convinced that there’s a dark red/crimson tint around the glass where the fluffy head meets the glass. Maybe that’s from the cinnamon? Regardless, everything about this beer form a visual perspective is that of an appealing Imperial Stout.

The beer passes the first sip test, a blend of intriguing flavors that makes me want to have more. As I enjoy the beer over the course of about an hour or so, the flavors noted on the description emerge more prominently. There’s a creaminess to the beer that likely comes from the ice cream, obviously. Some vanilla, which is really nice and welcoming. A bit of cinnamon comes through, although I wouldn’t mind if the cinnamon was more prominent. On the finish, there’s that bittersweet chocolate along with the roasted malts, emulating the hot fudge topping.

As I pointed out, with this beer clocking in at 10.3% ABV, I took my time and was rewarded. The flavors were present when the beer was just out of the can, but they became more assertive as the beer warmed slightly with perhaps the chocolate standing out the most. The creamy feel of the beer is present the whole time, truly giving this beer the overall feel of “ice cream as beer” or “ice cream in beer form.” It just works for me.

I couldn’t tell you when I last enjoyed some Fried Ice Cream, it was probably 20-30 years ago so I can’t exactly compare what the beer is doing compared to my memories of that decadent dessert. What I can say is this: Flying Fish’s Fried Ice Cream Stout is a lovely stout that is a masterful blend of multiple flavors that complement each other rather than muddle each other.

Fried Ice Cream Stout is a delicious Imperial Stout that makes for a perfect dessert. It is also a beer that proves Flying Fish is still very much a brewery worth enjoying and brewing beer worth finding.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Four City Brewing’s St. Cloud Dubbel

Name: St. Cloud
Brewing Company: Four City Brewing Company
Location: Orange, NJ
Style: Belgian Dubbel
ABV: 7.6%

A well made interpretation of the Belgian classic Ale.

Draught pour at the brewery

 

From the untappd entry for beer:

Our Belgian ale made with pilsner, pale and Munich malt with a generous amount of dark Belgian candi syrup

I’d been seeing good things about Four City Brewing over the last year or so of their existence, mainly from friends on untappd who have had a few of their beers. As such, I was very pleased to visit during my annual birthday beer tour. What I found even more pleasantly surprising was a Belgian Dubbel on draught (and available in cans). I like the style, but to say it isn’t in the upper tier of popular craft styles is an understatement, so when I see one available, I’m going to try it.

In the Belgian Tulip glass, the beer looks exactly the part, slightly brown and rusty with a creamy head. Aroma is strongly of the Belgian yeast. From a visual perspective, as well as an aromatic perspective, this Belgian Dubbel is true to style.

But what about the taste?

St. Cloud passes what I am now dubbing my “first sip test.” I get a lot of flavors and the texture/mouthfeel I associate with Belgian Dubbels; I’m impressed. The yeast is almost always the driving flavor factor in Belgian Dubbels (and most Belgian inspired styles for that matter) and that seems to be the case with St. Cloud. I get a very rich evocation of flavors, some stone fruit elements and maybe banana hints as well, which many yeast strains evoke. When I had the beer at the brewery, it was a potent blend of flavors and a beer to sip. Out of the can, the same elements help to lend a more measured approach to consuming. There’s a lot of flavor and enjoying the beer slowly allows one to appreciate the full profile of the beer.

Four City St. Cloud, an impressively delicious Belgian Dubbel

Perhaps what rings true strongest between Four City’s St. Cloud and the world class Dubbels I’ve had (Ommegang’s Abbey Ale and the Dubbel from Westmalle) is the mouthfeel (again, I hate that word). The carbonation and yeast give the beer a hefty weight, a chewiness that proves St. Cloud as a significant and rich beer. Fortunately, St. Cloud also hits the flavor notes of the style quite successfully, too.

I expected to have some good beers from Four City, but those expectations were for quality in their American styles (big stouts, hop-forward beers) like their American Pale Ale Citrus City which is a great beer. What I didn’t expect upon arrival at Four City was being so impressed with the nuance required for the classic Belgian styles like a Dubbel, which some say is a tough style to brew with high quality. Well, Four City Brewing has shown their true measure of quality with this beer.

Later in the week (Thursday), expect to see a full spotlight on Four City Brewing.

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