Beer Review: Untied Brewing’s Raspberry Decadent Darkness

Name: Decadent Darkness (2021 Raspberry)
Brewing Company: Untied Brewing Company
Location: New Providence, NJ
Style: Stout – Pastry
ABV: 12.2%

An outstanding pastry/dessert stout that elegantly balances adjuncts with the beer elements.

Untied-DD-Rasp-F

From the untapped page for the beer:

Imperial Pastry Stout conditioned with raspberries, vanilla, and cacao nibs.

I’ve been visiting Untied Brewing every couple of months, and most recently, I decided to pick up one of their pastry stouts. A few months prior, I met my dad there for Father’s Day and he got a small pour of this beer. I tasted and I enjoyed it so I wanted to have a full sampling/bottle for myself. I was impressed with their Russian Imperial Stout both times I had it, so between the sip I had previously and my experience with, hell, most of their beers, I thought I’d enjoy this one in its full glory. Those speculations were well-founded.

The beer pours thick black, or so it would seem. When I gave the beer a closer examination under the light, there was a deep red tint to the dark liquid, obviously from the raspberries.

Those raspberries take center stage in this beer, they are strong in the aroma and a first sip gives me more of that raspberry flavor. With the 12.2% ABV, sipping this beer is the way to go, so you can allow the flavors to wake up as the beer warms up. Anyway, why would you want to chug a beer with that big of an ABV.

I get chocolate hints as I enjoy more of the beer, almost like chocolate covered raspberries. Owner Matt and company really got the name correct with this beer, it is enormously decadent. What impresses me the most about this beer is that the beer elements, particularly the roasted malt that gives stouts their flavor, are not overtaken (too much) by the potent raspberry and chocolate elements.

The only flavor that doesn’t come through, to me, is the vanilla. I suppose the vanilla is more of a balancing element for the strong raspberry and chocolate flavors making this beee an ideal dessert stout.

Untied has brewed/bottled other variants of this “Decadent Darkness” line of pastry stouts – Chocolate & Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Coconut, Vanilla), Mocha, and Raspberry & Coconut, which all seem as if they are as decadent as their name would imply. Bottom line, I’ve been enjoying every beer I had from Untied Brewing and this one is no exception.

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

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

 

Dessert Time! (Level 2)

Marshmallow, chocolate, apple pie! Cakes and cookies catch my eye. Churn that butter, twist and shout. Put it in a pastry stout! That’s 10 different beers with the style of Stout – Pastry, Stout – Imperial / Double Pastry. Check-in to 5 more to get to Level 3.

Untied_DD-Raspb-Backl

Beer Review: Buttzville Brewing’s Mountain View Saison

Name: Mountain View
Brewing Company: Buttzville Brewing Company
Location: Washington/Buttzville, NJ
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Saison
ABV: 6.2%

A brand new brewery knocks it out of the park with their first Saison.

Buttzville_MountainViewSaison

From the untappd page for the beer:

This light, crisp Belgian saison is dedicated to the street Dave grew up on – Mountain View Rd., just outside of Washington, NJ. The classic, easy-drinking flavors of pepper, fruits, and floral notes are the perfect homage to the farming community in Warren County. The dry finish makes this a refreshing brew to enjoy on an evening spent in the outdoors.

Buttzville Brewing Company is one of the newer breweries in New Jersey. (Get the laughs out), having on July 31, 2021 amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic as the fourth brewery in Warren County, NJ. A good friend and I have made a tradition of visiting a brewery before watching a wrestling Pay-Per-View (in this case AEW All Out 2021), so when I realized how close he was to Buttzville Brewing, we decided to visit them.

He went with the Saison first, I decided on it last and I’m glad I did because it was the best of the three beers I enjoyed. The beer comes to me with a fairly thick, fluffy head that is exactly what I expect from a saison. A little fruitiness in the aroma, lots of earthiness. Aroma and look are spot on for the style.

A big, smack of flavors hits my palate in the best possible way. I am very impressed, but how does it work beyond that first sip? Very well indeed.

Mountain View is a bounty of flavors one should expect from a saison – a little peppery, a little fruity, a slightly dry finish. Each successive sip of the beer impresses me even more with the flavors…all fully derived from the yeast. No pepper added, no fruit elements added. That’s what wows me so much here, is that owner/brewer Dave was able coax so much wonderful flavor from the yeast in his brew process. In talking to Dave, he said he wanted to brew a saison because he wasn’t seeing enough of them and Mountain View saison is a beer he should proud to call his own.

Perhaps the thing that speaks the most to how much I (and my friend) enjoyed the beer. I had a growler filled for us to enjoy while watching the pay per view. Later that evening, we both remarked on how impressed we were with the beer. Quite simply, a clean, well-made beer in a classic style that required no crazy adjuncts.

A beer like this proves out the quality of the brewer who made the beer. Extremely refreshing and flavorful, Mountain View is a fantastic interpretation of Farmhouse Ale/Saison.

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

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Trip to the Farm (Level 13)

You have a keen taste for this Belgian masterpiece. Did you know the Saison style beer was invented by Belgian farms, brewed in the Winter and served the Spring/Summer to all their workers? Well now you do! That’s 55 different Saisons.

Buttzville_MountainViewSaison

Beer Review: Grimm Artisanal Ales’ Cross Stitch

Name: Cross Stitch
Brewing Company: Grimm Artisanal Ales
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Style: Lager – Vienna
ABV: 5%
An outstanding amber-hued Lager from one of NY’s premiere craft breweries.

Grimm_CrossStitch

From Grimm’s landing page for Cross Stitch:

This Vienna-style lager was brewed with a double decoction mash — our first time using this historical process for our lagers! With a base of German Vienna malt and a touch of CaraAroma, Cross Stitch is a warming, toasty lager with a smooth mouthfeel. Aromas of freshly baked bread and subtle caramel are complemented by flavors of sweet malt and toffee, ending with a crisp finish.

Vienna Lager…a conundrum of a lager style. In some ways it is a relatively obscure style (certainly not as popular as Pilsner, Helles, or Marzen), but also one of the Lager styles most predominant on shelves of beer shops and bars, thanks to Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Brooklyn’s flagship, Brooklyn Lager, most people grabbing those two beers probably wouldn’t realize they were drinking a Vienna Lager. For my tastes, (and probably because of my general malaise towards Boston Lager), Vienna is the Lager style I’d always gravitated to the least. With some of the smaller independent breweries crafting this style, I realized how damned good this kind of beer could be (I’m looking at you Icarus, Kane, and Untied). So imagine my surprise when a brewery with “Ales” in their name canned and distributed what might be the best (of the admittedly limited quantity, a baker’s dozen including this one) interpretation of the style I’ve had. 4 years in, this is the first time I’ve reviewed a Vienna Lager, as it turns out.

Thick aroma of malty breadiness greets my senses when I open the can – maybe warm bread even. The beer pours a deep amber that could easily be mistaken for an Oktoberfest/Märzen. First sip test – Cross Stitch passes with flying colors. That breadiness is maybe the strongest element. Immediately following, or even overlaying that breadiness is an extremely pleasant lacing of caramel, likely from the CaraAroma malt. The last thing I taste is a hint of toffee on top of the ever-present caramel lacing.

The flavors are great, but what maybe impresses me the most is how incredibly smooth this beer is. Especially since one of the issues I’ve had with Boston Lager is how unsmooth the beer seemed to me. Granted, it has been well over 4 years since I’ve had Boston Lager, and the recipe has supposedly been tweaked. There’s still that characteristic crisp finish a Lager should have, but it is a complement to the lovely, caramel smoothness of the beer.

Cross Stitch is an outstanding take on the Vienna style of Lager. As I stated at the outset of this beer review, Grimm’s take on the style is probably my favorite Vienna Lager and one of my favorite “new to me” Lagers of 2021. As such, this kind of makes me sad that I grabbed the last four pack of this beer in the store.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

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!”

LoneEagle_JubileumV

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.

AE_Amity

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.

AE_AmityCanart

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.”

LawsonsFinest_ScragMtnPilsSaltLime.jpg

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.

BullNBear_LiquidAssets

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.