Beer Review: Kane Brewing’s Pumpkin Spice Morning Bell

Name: Pumpkin Spice Morning Bell
Brewing Company: Kane Brewing Company
Location: Ocean, NJ
Style: Porter – Imperial/Double | “Imperial Milk Porter”
ABV: 9.2%

Kane’s fall spice addition to their popular Milk Porter is a delicious treat.

Kane_PSMB

From Kane’s Instagram post for the beer:

Pumpkin Spice Morning Bell, brewed in collaboration with Rook Coffee, is our 9.2% Imperial Milk Porter conditioned on Rook’s dark roast coffee and their aromatic blend of fall spices. Last year was the first year releasing Pumpkin Spice Morning Bell, and we’re excited to have it back since it was such a crowd favorite.

Kane has made many appearances here at the Tap Takeover, but this is only the second full-out review I’ve posted of one of their beers.

Morning Bell is one of Kane’s most popular beers – a top 5 beer on untappd for them, and their top dark beer. The base beer is a “Milk Porter” meaning a porter made with lactose and as this is a coffee-infused beer, coffee is also part of the ingredient list. In this case, Kane uses coffee beans from Rook Coffee, one of the more respected independent coffee roasters in New Jersey. Over the years, Kane has brewed and released several variants (the Morning Mocha variant was one of my top beers last year). With the overwhelming popularity of the PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) and pumpkin flavor, Kane all but had to do this variant.

The beer pours a little thicker than I would expect a porter to pour, which is not a bad thing. I get some of those pumpkin spice aromas, particularly cinnamon.

The first sip…wow. Impressive and gives me the autumnal vibes. As I said, I’ve had the base version of this beer (Morning Bell) in the past and one of the elements that carries over to this variant is the smooth creaminess of the beer. Michael Kane and his brewing magicians have such a great hand with many things and with the Morning Bell family of beers that deft hand comes through in adding the perfect amount of lactose. That creaminess also balances out the coffee portion of the beer, too.

The more I drink this beer, the more I enjoy it. The “pumpkin spice” flavors come through even more deliciously. I’ve come to realize I’m not a big fan of nutmeg and even that spice works in the beer for me. This all points to the balance on the overall flavor profile of Pumpkin Spice Morning Bell. By the time I’ve finished the last drop of the beer, I’ve come to realize this might be the best “Pumpkin Spice” or Pumpkin adjacent beer I’ve ever had.

Like many of Kane’s beers, this one is available only at the brewery.

Kane_PumpkinSpiceMB

Highly Recommended, link to 4.5 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Odd Bird Brewing’s ESB (Extra Stockton Bitter)

Name: Extra Stockton Bitter
Brewing Company: Odd Bird Brewing
Location: Stockton, NJ
Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter
ABV: 4.3%

One of NJ’s smallest breweries has crafted an outstanding take on a classic, English pub ale.

OddBird_ESB

From the ordering page for the beer:

A malt forward amber English Ale.

Hops: Whole Leaf East Kent Goldings and Fuggles

Malt: Floor Malted Maris Otter, English Crystal Malt

ESB is perhaps the most classic of British Pub style ales. Here in America it isn’t exactly the most high profile style, so not many breweries feature the style in their rotation or on draft. But those that do brew in this style, seem to have a passion for it. Enter Odd Bird Brewing’s Extra Stockton Bitter an homage to the style with the name of the town in which the brewery resides.

I’ve only had a very small handful of ESBs and only one served in the traditional manner, via cask. Odd Bird’s take on the style is only the second I’ve enjoyed served via Cask…so when I saw this style available in this delivery method, I had to try it.

The mug I’m given is a beautiful sight. It looks exactly like I’d expect such a beer to be served were I to order it in a pub in London.

I dive right into the beer after I snap the above photo and take a seat at Odd Bird’s outdoor Biergarten. This is beer. Simple statement, but that’s what first comes to mind. Let’s unpack that…this is beer in a quintessential British style as it is meant to be. Top notch flavors from fresh ingredients crafted with care and attention. I get mild bitterness on the initial sips of Extra Stockton Bitter, which is on point. The cask delivery gives the beer an added quaff and body that enhances the flavors of the maltiness. There’s an extremely balanced and welcome sweetness on the finish of the beer.

I spent some time speaking to owner/brewer Adam about this beer and he told me the cask they have in the brewery is the same one that was in his living room prior to opening the brewery. He wasn’t able to get this style on cask so he started making it himself and wanted it in the traditional fashion so he procured a cask, specifically the Hand Pulled Beer Engine was originally from a 1970s John Smith Pub in the UK and reconditioned for use over the last few years.

This beer, for me, exemplifies why I like craft/independent beer so much. It isn’t a style you’ll find everywhere, but it is a passion project of a beer (one might say) that delivers something really special, no pun intended. If I wanted a West Coast IPA, I could walk to my local liquor store. If I wanted an American Lager, I’d head to the local bar. Nothing wrong with either style! My point is this – Odd Bird may be one of the smallest breweries in New Jersey, but the quality is outstanding, at least judging by this ESB. This beer alone makes it worth the trip to the brewery, in my humble opinion.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.5 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: The Drowned Land’s River Birch

Name: River Birch
Brewing Company: The Drowned Lands
Location: Warwick, NY
Style: Pilsner – Other | Foeder Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

“The Drowned Lands has crafted an outstanding, world class Pilsner that transcends the style.”

DL_RiverBirch

From Drowned Lands page for the beer:

Foeder-fermented Pilsner brewed with Weyermann Pilsner Malt and a touch of Weyermann Vienna, hopped with German hops for a floral and spicy balance. As is tradition, this was fermented low and slow in one of our American Oak Foeders, then transferred to stainless where it was lagered to maturity.

We’re tasting grassy lemon pitch, a particularly oaky pile of straw, a mellifluous bouquet of summer flowers, and that little burst of citrus oil you get when peeling an orange.

Another pilsner already? I suppose I’m making up for lost time, but when one visits a brewery on a warm summer day, a Pilsner might be the best test of their quality.

The Drowned Lands had the unfortunate timing to open the same year as the COVID-19 Pandemic, but despite that hinderance, they’ve already received several accolades, including being listed as one of the 10 Best New Breweries of 2020 by USA Today (along with NJ’s own, The Seed in Atlantic City). Before I knew that; however, I’d heard good things about them and one of the former brewers of Conclave Brewing had recently joined Drowned Lands. How could I not visit on the ride down from Cooperstown, NY to home?

Of the beers on tap, I knew I wanted to try their pilsner. It is one of my favorite styles after all and the pilsner is where a brewer’s skill shines. I fondly remember the two pilsners Conclave brewed when Bryan was working there, too.

Look at that beer! Perfect golden approachability, it looks just the way a pilsner should look. Aroma…I think I get some of the earthiness from the oak foeder in which the beer was fermented.

What does the beer taste like? Like nectar from the gods. I’m completely blown away by this beer, it is a perfectly crafted lager. The traditional elements of the German malt and hops are present, but the oak fermenting brings some fresh, new perspective to the old world style.

I enjoyed the beer so much I had to bring home a four pack because it was delicious and my fridge was a little low on pilsners. The next day, I had a pour from the can and it was just as good. Extremely refreshing, potently flavorful, elegantly crafted.

The Drowned Lands is a gorgeous brewery, especially on the day of my visit which was lovely weather. If I lived closer (I’m about an hour and a half away), I’d be visiting them a couple times per month.

To put it in simple terms, River Birch is one of the best Pilsners I’ve ever had. To quote Mat from Massive Beers, this Pilsner is “Mount Rushmore Status.”

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

DL_RB_Can

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.

scrag-mountain-pils-slt-lime-lockup.jpg

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)

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

Lawsons_ScragSaltLime

Beer Review: Source Farmhouse Brewery’s Winter Saison

Name: Winter Saison
Brewing Company: Source Farmhouse Brewery /
Location: Colts Neck, NJ
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Saison / “Super Farmhouse Saison”
ABV: 10%

An outstanding Farmhouse Ale from the Garden State’s premier Farmhouse Brewery.

From the untapped page for the beer:

This elegant, dark brown beauty will glimmer with deep garnet hues and quickly form a long-lasting head of fine, khaki-colored foam.

We sourced local NJ Pine Barrens honey to boil along with a wort composed primarily of sugars from Pilsner, Munich, and rye malts, and gave it a touch of herbal and spicy hop character.

The nose is first greeted with spicy Belgian yeast character and an abundance of dark fruits, followed by sweet honey, toasty malt, and caramelized sugars. Despite its sweeter aroma and flavors this brew has a light body and finishes quite dry.

We get notes of black cherry, honey, prune, raisins, toasted bread, candied figs, scorched brown sugar, black pepper, clove, bananas foster, and cranberry chutney.

Source Brewing is one of the hottest, newer breweries in NJ. They release their canned beers through an online purchasing portal that tend to sell out in moments. The people behind the brewery have a great pedigree, owner Phil Petracca is the man behind Fizzics, head brewery Greg Taylor has multiple brewing degrees, and one of the brewers, Jeremy Watts, gained experience at Carton Brewing. Source typically releases only direct from the brewery, so I was very pleased to see a couple of their beers in a local bottle shop. That’s a very small snapshot of the brewery, what about the beer?

It makes sense that a brewery who labels themselves as a “Farmhouse Brewery” would make a few Farmhouse Ales, including this Dark Saison.

The beer pours dark brown/black with a slightly khaki head. Most saisons are a bright yellow, often slightly cloudy so right off the bat this beer is set apart from the crowd. Aroma…I get mostly the yeast which is often the strongest component of Saisons and most Belgian-inspired ales.

This beer passes the first sip test with flying colors. While it may not look like a typical saison, the aforementioned yeast elements firmly establish this beer as a Saison.

But wait, there’s more!

On the finish, the presence of the honey is most welcome and balances out the beer so well. Saisons can lean towards the earthy side, with a slight aftertaste, but the honey eliminates that and enhances the spice and clove character that comes from the yeast. Fruity elements intermix as well, not sure about the cherries mentioned in the description, but perhaps some figginess and definitely hints of banana. In other words, there is such a magnificent complexity to this beer in the flavor, aroma, and look that I can only be impressed with the delicious dark liquid that sat in my glass. Source calls this a “Super Saison” and I can’t argue that moniker, it is delicious and it does not drink like the 10% ABV listed on the can.

To that point, saisons were typically brewed for warmer months as something of a reward for farm workers (thus the name, Farmhouse Ale), but typically did not have an alcohol content more than 7% ABV and used grains and ingredients grown on said farm. After all, the farmers didn’t want their workforce to get too inebriated and hungover for their next days of work. Or, as stated in a great Beer Connoisseur article:

They have a low ABV, and quite the correct bitterness. They are designed to refresh.

This beer is most definitely refreshing, but 10% ABV is not exactly low. In fact, the second can I enjoyed was after a 3 hour shoveling session thanks to nearly two feet of snow (see picture above) and I could think of almost no better beverage reward for that hard work. While I typically go for a big stout on cold winter nights, this beer definitely works in that regard – big bold flavor, slightly higher alcohol, and a dark hue to match the darkest nights.

Outside of Saison Dupont, Source’s Winter Saison is the best saison I’ve ever enjoyed. It may not look the part of a typical saison nor does it hew to the lower ABV of a typical saison, but the flavor elements are very traditional and the fact that a farmhouse brewery created this beer speak to this beer’s identity as a true Farmhouse Ale/Saison.

Highly Recommended, link to 4.5 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Trip to the Farm (Level 11)

 

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.

 

Beer Review: Cosm of Darkness (Timber Ales/Eight State Brewing Collaboration)

Name: Cosm of Darkness
Brewing Company: Timber Ales in collaboration with The Eight State Brewing Company
Location: New York, NY / Greenville, SC
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 12%

“An outstanding Imperial Stout crafted with multiple adjuncts that is a bounty of flavor.”

From the untappd description of the beer:

Cosm of Darkness is an Imperial Stout brewed in collaboration with our friends from The Eighth State Brewing Company. This beer has been aged on Ugandan vanilla beans and cassia bark before being canned for your enjoyment.

Few beers are as welcome on a cool evening as a big, bold stout. Timber Ales is a relatively new brewing company, a contract brewer at that, but they have burst out of the gates with big stouts/barrel-aged stouts and barleywines/barrel-aged barleywines, as well as the requisite IPAs. One of my local shops had a single of this beer for sale and based on hearing Jason Stein on Al Gattullo’s Craft Beer Podcast, I had to give a beer from Timber Ales a try.

Pouring the beer into the glass, all I see is darkness and I like it. As the head forms, there’s a hint brownish red, which is a slightly different tone than a typical stout. Aroma from the beer hints at the vanilla the can indicates is in the beer. This looks to be, and has the aroma of, everything I want in a big Imperial Stout.

There’s something else to the beer at the outset lending additional layers to the look and aroma. I assume it is the cassia bark. Before having this beer, I never heard of cassia bark. A quick google search educated me – it is essentially a form of cinnamon. In theory, cinnamon and vanilla pair very nicely together. In practice, in the form of this beer…oh hell yeah.

First sip is of roasted malts with hints of vanilla with the cassia bark shining through. Those three elements are the basis of the flavor of the beer and they all play together perfectly, with the cassia bark perhaps being the star of the trio. It is definitely cinnamon, but unlike cinnamon I’ve had in the past. Especially cinnamon in beer.

Like all big beers (and this is a gigantic beer at 12%), the flavors emerge to a greater, and more delicious degree, as the beer settles from the cold of the fridge to room temperature. Again, as the beer warms, the cassia bark is what is most prominent to me as a lovely compliment to the roasted malts and vanilla.

Jason, I believe, began as a homebrewer and has since partnered with Twelve Percent Beer Project in Connecticut where all of Timber Ales are brewed. Seems like a great partnership, at least based on this beer.

Cosm of Darkness is an outstanding Imperial Stout that is a great beer to enjoy over the course of an hour or so. Based on this beer, I’ll be seeking out more beer from Timber Ales.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Beyond a Shadow of a Stout (Level 65)

We all love Stouts, and now we have a dedicated badge to celebrate your dedication to these dark, top-fermented beer in multiple variations, like Oatmeal, Milk and more! Which one will you start with? That’s 325 different beers with the style of Stout. Try 5 more for Level 66!

 

 

Beer Review: Fort George’s Cathedral Tree

Name: Cathedral Tree
Brewing Company: Fort George Brewing Company
Location: Astoria, OR
Style: Pilsner – Other
ABV: 4.8%

Cathedral Tree is a delicious, classically crafted full-flavored Pilsner and a beer worth seeking out should you find yourself in the Astoria, OR area.”

From Fort George Brewing’s page for Cathedral Tree:

Cathedral Tree is a beer that pays reverence to the timeless lager style – Pilsners. Fermented entirely in 500 Liter oak puncheons, to incorporate Old World methodology and provide a mellow tannic structure that lends a full mouthfeel and support for classic German noble and modern hops. Finishes crisp, clean, and refreshing as any Pilsner should. Look for Cathedral Tree in 16-ounce cans. And just like the actual Cathedral Tree, this one is staying firmly planted at the coast.

BREWER’S NOTES

Brewed in the Lovell Brewery and fermented in the Lovell basement in great big oak barrels, this beer is oak fermented and lagered, but not “barrel-aged.”

Pale straw in color, this pilsner offers floras, white grape, and rustic raw grain aromas in addition to doughy, bready, herbal & floral hops and white nectarine flavors.

For our 20th Wedding Anniversary, my wife bought me a box of special beers, 20 beers specifically. Each beer is meant commemorate a special moment, event, or shared memories from the 20 years of our marriage. Not just any beers, mind you. She bought 20 different styles of beer from breweries from around the country, 18 of the beers through Tavour, which is a beer crating service that allows consumers to get beers from small, independent breweries from around the country. Beers from, say, a small brewery in Oregon a person (like me) from New Jersey would never otherwise be able to procure. Tavour also is a great way to support small and independent business which aren’t exactly local.

My wife also put together 20 index cards with a printed image and a textual hint as to what the beer might be or where the beer was made. This game consists of me picking a card and then she presents a few ounces of the beer in a taster glass, so I can guess what the beer is. The index card clue for this beer hinted at a German store near our house we frequent, so I was hoping for some kind of Lager. I immediately knew it was a Lager of some sort from the aroma, but the small taste also had me feeling pretty good about the beer being a Pilsner. As it so happened, this beer was second I had from the Tavour box and it is one of my favorite styles, a Pilsner.

The beer pours a perfect golden-yellow with a fluffy white head into my Pilsner glass. As it turns out, the glass from which I enjoyed the beer was a wedding gift from my coworkers of 20 years ago, they gave me a box of Pilsner glasses, so another little reminder of 20 great years of marriage.

Getting more of the aroma from the full glass with the fluffy head, it smells like a Pilsner, with some bready elements plus some slightly fruity elements, too.

The first full taste of the beer was extremely pleasing. Cathedral Tree has the classic German Pilsner elements – bready/crackery malt and a pleasant hop finish. Many Pilsners have some kind of hint of fruit element from the hops and while the description above calls out grape as a flavor, I can’t say I was getting any of that. Maybe a hint of nectarine, but more of a pear hint. Not that I was drinking pear juice from a Pilsner glass, but pear is that subtly noticeable fruit that is found in a lot of juice blends to bring other fruit elements together. That’s what the fruity elements here did for my taste buds – brought the wonderful crackery malt together along with the hints of oak from the fermenting barrel.

Cathedral Tree is a superb Pilsner and one I’d happily have again and seek out should I ever have the opportunity to visit Oregon.

Can art by Will Elias, image courtesy of Fort George Brewery’s Website

Also worth pointing out is the gorgeous art wrapping the entire can of beer from Will Elias. Although Fort George’s description of the beer calls out German styles, the Cathedral-like structure looks like it would fit in really well in Czechoslovakia, the birthplace of Pilsner beer.

Highly recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating, the gorgeous can art nudged the rating just a bit.

Beer Review: Gaffel Kölsch

Name: Gaffel Kölsch
Brewing Company: Privatbrauerei Gaffel Becker
Location: Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 5%

One of the first of its style is an outstanding beer, this ale masquerading is a lager is delicious.

From Gaffel Kölsch Page for the beer:

The classic Gaffel Kölsch is a particularly fresh speciality beer from Cologne, brewed according to a time-honoured family recipe and the German Purity Law of 1516 with water, malt, hops, and hops extract.

The delicately bitter, pleasant, slightly hopsy taste is characteristic for this traditional product and clearly distinguishes Gaffel Kölsch from all other Kölsch brands.

One of the more overlooked styles of beer is the Kölsch. This is a shame because it is a relatively straight-forward style, is a great introduction to the wider world of beer styles, and when done well – as one of the first of its kind from Gaffel – it can be a sublime and delicious beer.

So what is a Kölsch? I’ve fully reviewed two other Kölschs (Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch & Free Will Brewing’s Crisper) and those two beers likely took inspiration, if not directly, than indirectly from this beer. The style is one of those geographically protected style names, much in the same way that any sparkling wine produced outside Champagne cannot be called Champagne. One way to think of a Kölsch is that is an ale that is masquerading as a lager, Pilsner or Helles Lager specifically. The beer begins its fermentation process like an ale with top fermentation but finishes like a lager with colder, bottom fermentation. The result, when done well like this one, is a beer that has wide appeal for its refreshing flavor profile and lower ABV which is perfect for “crushing” or repeated enjoyment in a lengthy sitting. It is this beer writer’s personal and humble opinion that every small brewery should have a Kölsch available in regular rotation in their taproom.

Back to Gaffel’s classic take on the style after I briefly set the stage. I was in San Francisco for a few days on business and to my delight, an authentic German Restaurant (Schroeder’s, established in 1893) was two blocks from my hotel. Sure they had some local beers on tap, but selecting an authentically German style from an authentic 100+ year old German brewery was *exactly* the correct decision.

The first, most noticeable element of the beer is how transparent the beer is. In every visual way possible, this beer could easily be the beer next to the entry on “Beer” in an encyclopedia. There’s something to be said for a freshly poured draft beer. There’s also something to be said for the setting in which a beer is consumed. Outside of being in Germany, an authentic German restaurant is just about the perfect setting for enjoying this beer, which admittedly, may have added to how much I enjoyed the beer.

First taste is very good, it is even better than I expected it to be. There’s great flavor from the malt and a little breadiness that reminds me of a Helles Lager. The beer also has a mild sweetness that makes you want to go for a second sip while still holding the glass after the first sip. Some Kölschs can have a hop bitterness, but this one doesn’t, and although hops are definitely present, but there’s no lingering unpleasantness.

I get a little bit of fruitiness from the hops, just enough to remind me of some pilsners I’ve had. The thing that makes this beer work so well is the simplicity. It isn’t flashy with abundant, tropical hops, it isn’t double dry hopped.

Gaffel Kölsch is one of those must-try beers of the world, it is relatively older style, defined by the region, is a superb example of a beer created using old world ingredients – and only old world ingredients – that has quite flavorful, especially considering the lower alcohol level.

Ein Prosit!

Recommended, link to 4.5-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Respect the Kölsch (Level 5)

The kölsch style has a rich heritage, originating in Cologne, Germany. It’s clear, crisp, medium hopped flavors are always refreshing.

 

Beer Review: Avery Brewing’s Samael’s Oak Aged Ale

Name: Samael’s Oak Aged Ale
Brewing Company: Avery Brewing Company
Location: Boulder, CO
Style: Strong Ale – English
ABV: 15.47% (2012 vintage under review)

A beer that showcases how aging can impart flavors before the beer is put in the bottle, and age on the shelf can enhance that flavor to an even greater degree. 

From the Avery Brewing’s page for the beer:

Samael is the prince of demons, the angel of death, accuser and destroyer. Filled with enmity towards man, he planted the vine, the forbidden tree of paradise. Behold his venom and vengeance, both sweet and tempting, enticing you, his spellbound victim, within his wings.

Avery is one of the great, respected Colorado breweries who helped to kick start the Western US Craft Beer movement. Avery began brewing/selling beer to the public in 1993 and although they are now part of the same group Founders Brewing is part of – Mahou-San Miguel – their reputation for quality beer is still quite high. Like many breweries, they have core offerings, but the beer under review today is part of the now defunct Demons of Ale series, which ceased bottling/production in 2016. So yes, this beer is very old. In fact, it is the oldest beer I’ve ever consumed at about 7 and a half years of age since it was bottled in April 2012 according to the label.

The bottle itself has some cool artwork, but because it was seven (7) years old, the foil and label was a little faded worn out. There wasn’t an overly noticeable pop and hiss when the bottle opened, but there was a bit of noise. Being that the beer was 15479%* I split it with my father on Christmas Even in two snifter glasses. Once the beer was in the glass, one could be forgiven for thinking the liquid wasn’t beer but rather apple cider. One would realize as the beer drew closer to one’s nose and mouth; however, that what they held was most certainly not apple cider.

Sweet oak and vanilla are most prominent elements of the aroma, but it is such a wonderful smell that sniffing the beer is nearly as enjoyable as drinking the beer. The same elements of oak and vanilla make their presence known immediately upon tasting the beer. Intermingled elegantly with those flavors as the beer sits in your palate are elements from the abundant malts; flavors of caramel and toffee most prominently as well as burnt/brown sugar. I also got some hints of fruitiness, but not enough to really pinpoint what exactly those fruit elements are. A very sweet, pleasant beer.

The beer is fairly thick and the while the booziness is extremely present, there’s little to no burn from the alcohol in the same way I’ve experienced burn of some level with other barrel-aged ales. The level of booze – a very specific 15.47% – is well enmeshed in the whole flavor profile of the beer and not a kick at the end.

As the beer finishes off the oak and vanilla elements reassert themselves. There’s some sediment at the bottom of the glass, which for me is a feature and not a bug. This beer also skirts the line between what a beer is and can be and when beer can be something else, not unlike Samuel Adams Utopias. Samael is still about half the ABV of Utopias, but the transcendence of the form is still a hallmark of this Oak Aged Ale from Avery.

I noted early in the review this is the oldest beer I’ve ever had. I’ve let some barrel-aged stouts and higher ABV stouts sit for a year or two before enjoying them. This beer was a revelation, I’d seen many comments online about people drinking beers they’ve aged for 5 to 10 years and what a great experience it was. With this beer, I don’t have a comparison as to what it tastes like the year it was bottled or even a couple of years later like I do for with other aged beers. What I can say is that 7(+) years on this beer gave me a beer experience unlike few beers I’ve ever enjoyed before. Sharing it with my Dad helped to make it that much more enjoyable.

So why review a beer that is so old and difficult to find? Two reasons…if you can find this beer, grab a bottle regardless of vintage. Second, I wanted to to illustrate why aging a beer can be such fun part of enjoying the plethora of possibilities in beer.

I can see why people would want to let beers like this sit before opening. If possible, I’d probably buy multiple bottles of something like this (if the price-tag wasn’t cost-prohibitive) to enjoy immediately and “cellar” or age for multiple years.

Many beers have a story of how they were procured, but I figured I’d leave this part until the end …. At the Bridgewater Beer Fest in the spring of 2019, there were only a small handful of beers to make a good impression on me, but this beer was the clear standout to the point where I had multiple tasters of the beer. Probably enough tasters to equal a half bottle throughout the evening. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t give a little shout out to Mat of Massive Beers since he recommended this beer to me. He and I live in NJ and we happened to both attend the Bridgewater Beer Fest in 2019. One of the first things he said to me was that this beer was being poured at the festival, and that it was a fantastic beer and one of his favorites. I was only familiar with Avery’s core lineup, but the way Mat spoke of this beer was as if it was something legendary and a beer I wanted to at least try. I can’t say I disagree with how Mat spoke of the beer since it is first and foremost a wonderful beer and secondarily, because it is no longer being brewed and distributed as of the writing of this post. Much to my delight, I was able to procure a bottle* of the same vintage and I wanted to save it for a special occasion, which turned out to be Christmas Eve 2019.

* By procure, I mean the gentleman who was pouring samples at the beer festival saw how many return trips I made to the table and was kind enough to slip me an unopened bottle, since he had a couple of additional bottles and the festival was winding down.

Highly recommended, link to 4.5 bottle-cap Untappd check in. This is a whale of a beer that is worth keeping at the front of your mind or mental list when you visit bottle shops with a deep shelf.

Untapped badge earned with this beer:

Iron Man (Level 9)

You don’t have to be a superhero to enjoy a strong beer. Boasting a higher than average ABV, these styles really do pack a punch, so be ready for it. That’s 45 different beers with style of Strong Ale – American, Strong Ale – English, Strong Ale – Other, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Lager – Euro Strong.

Beer Review: Bolero Snort French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout

Name: French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout
Brewing Company: Bolero Snort Brewery
Location: Ridgefield Park, NJ
Style: Stout – Pastry
ABV: 10.3%

A delicious “pastry” stout with several adjuncts that strikes a perfect balance between those various elements.

From Bolero Snort’s Bergen County Bull Stout 2019 page:

🍁 🥞 French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout 🥞🍁 a brand new variant for 2019 Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Maple, Cinnamon, Cocoa and Madagascar Vanilla 🤤.

Bolero Snort has been a NJ mainstay for a about a half-dozen years now, they’ve garnered a following and reputation without having a home base, they’ve been a contract brewery since their inception. That all should be changing by the end of 2019 as their brewery/taproom (which will be the 12th largest in the State) finally opens. Over the years, they’ve been releasing a big stout around Thanksgiving, which they call Bergen County Bull Stout. Anytime a bovinely inspired pun can be inserted, it will happen. Furthering the pun, so to speak, the initials of that beer are BCBS, four letters which should ring a bell for beer people.  As for the beer itself, the base of Bergen County Bull Stout is a barrel-aged imperial stout and each year, the Bolero boys brew a couple of different varieties. This year’s new variant is French Toast, which contains maple syrup and cinnamon as the prominent adjuncts with additional flavors of cocoa, Madagascar Vanilla, and lactose.

This was a very limited release as is the full complement of Bergen County Bull Stout variants, so I was happy to get a bottle since most stores were permitting only one bottle per customer. The bottle sports a nice label, cool font for the beer name, with the newly fashioned and stylized “BS” logo (as seen to the right) front and center. One last note on the packaging, I really appreciate that this is a 500ml bottle as opposed to what was once a standard, the 750ml bottle. 500ml is slightly more than a pint and is just enough for one person to consume on their own.

The beer pours almost obsidian and the aroma coming from the beer has my mouth watering. I get the full flavor-smell of French Toast – cinnamon, maple, and even that pleasant eggy-bread aroma. My only concern before taking the first sip is that it might be too sweet.

This is a complex beer…I need to put that up front as if that wasn’t obvious. The eggy-bread aroma of French Toast is present in the taste with the bourbon hints from the barrel making their way through everything. I also tasted ample amounts of cinnamon and maple syrup, too. The beer is most definitely a stout, the adjuncts don’t diminish the stout elements of the beer at all. The vanilla is a little toned down, which is welcome because especially Madagascar Vanilla can overpower other flavors to a negative degree. Here in the French Toast variant of Bergen County Bull Stout, the Madagascar Vanilla complements the cinnamon and maple and sits very nicely with the overall “French Toast” profile on the finish of the beer.

This beer is full-flavored, full bodied and boozy. As I said, the character of the bourbon barrel seeps through the whole of the beer, it isn’t intrusive but rather complements all the other additives Bob Olson and crew have thrown in the mix for this beer. Earlier I said I was concerned that the beer might be too sweet. Well, the beer is most definitely sweet but not to a cloying degree.

Pastry Stout (or dessert stout) has emerged as a distinct style over the past few years and this beer definitely falls into that category. I’ve had a few other beers that emulate breakfast meals like pancakes and bacon, but the French Toast variant of Bergen County Bull Stout is probably my favorite and most balanced I’ve had along these lines. A beer that has the flavor components of that rich, dessert-like breakfast while still retaining the stout qualities that give the beer it’s primary character.

The full “range” of Bergen County Stouts released in 2019. Image courtesy of Bolero Snort’s Web site

I’ve been really enjoying Bolero Snort’s output over the past year or two. For my birthday my wife took me to a beer pairing dinner at a local restaurant which was great experience – delicious food and tasty beer with an excellent host/ambassador in Adrian from Bolero Snort. Say one thing about Bolero Snort, they’ve never shied away from the flavor adjuncts and this beer is proof that their skills are well up to their ambition. This beer is probably the best I’ve had from them. As their motto says, that is No BS, just ragin’ good beer.

Highly recommended, link to 4.5 bottle-cap Untappd check in.