Beer Review: Icarus Brewing’s Kalishnikoffee: PSL

Name: Kalishnikoffee: PSL
Brewing Company: Icarus Brewing
Location: Lakewood, NJ
Style: Stout – Russian Imperial
ABV: 14.5%

A big, tasty, flavorful stout from one of NJ’s top breweries that imparts flavors of the most ubiquitous of fall beverages.

From the untappd entry for beer:

Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Wildflower Honey, Brown Sugar, Cinamon and Nutmeg. Conditioned on a blend of Fresh Coffee and Vanilla Beans.

This is not the pumpkin beer you’re looking for…. Icarus Brewing (who I’ve made no bones about being one of my favorite, maybe my top favorite, NJ brewery) is able to produce a delicious variety of beers from few base recipes for a couple of series. One of those “multitasker” (to borrow an Alton Brown phrase) recipes or series is Kalishnikov, their Russian Imperial Stout, which has seen quite a few variants, some of which I’ve had, including a delicious barrel aged version.

This version looks to emulate that ever present fall drink, the pumpkin spice latte (i.e. the “PSL” of the beer name). While there are no pumpkins in this beer, the spices associated with Pumpkin Pie – cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, along with the beer having been conditioned on Coffee and Vanilla Beans – help this the beer evoke autumn, at least in name. The standard Kalishknov is brewed with honey…so yeah, a decent amount of additional flavor components in the beer.

Pouring the beer into the glass, it mostly looks the part of a big burly, Russian Imperial Stout. It isn’t pitch black, exactly, but rather a black that was mixed with a very deep brown. The aroma gives off hints of the malt and spices, so nothing out of the unexpected.

The first sip is of autumn. As I said, I’ve had and enjoyed a few different variants of this beer, in addition to a couple barrel-aged versions of Icarus’s Russian Imperial Stouts and this beer seems to match up to those expectations nicely. As I have more of the beer and it warms up, those autumnally associated spices begin to awaken, with the nutmeg asserting itself a tad more strongly than the cinnamon.

In past versions of this beer, the wildflower honey balances out the bitterness inherently associated with Russian Imperial Stout, from a style perspective. The autumnal spices mask the honey and accentuate the bitterness of the coffee adjunct, and combined with the vanilla, give the beer a very earthy overall flavors for me.

Although there is no Pumpkin in this beer, the additional spices normally associated with the gourd are and that’s where the additional flavor elements of this beer shine. Hell, pumpkin itself isn’t a all that flavorful, but it holds the spices quite nicely, as does this beer. The ever-present honey in the “Kalishnikoff” line of stouts from Icarus helps to enhance the overall potency of the spices.

Playing with a proven fan favorite beer in their Kalishnikoff Russian Imperial Stout and mixing it up with the autumnal spices of the ubiquitous coffee beverage, Icarus has yet another winning beer in their portfolio.

Highly recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check-in

Beer Review: NOSFERATU from Great Lakes Brewing Company

Name: Nosferatu
Brewing Company: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Location: Cleveland, OH
Style: Red Ale – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8% | IBU: 70%

“A great balance of hops and malt help to define an American Craft classic and a seasonal Hallowe’en Classic.”

 

From Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Nosferatu page:

Don’t be afraid of things that go hop in the night! Rich roasted malt flavors haunt the shadows of our Imperial Red Ale’s bitter teeth.

FLAVOR
Ruby red in color with a toasty malt body lurking beneath a stunning hop bite.

Great Lakes Brewing is one of the most respected independent American brewing companies of the last few decades. One of their seasonal favorites (along with their outstanding Oktoberfest and Christmas Ale) is Nosferatu, a hoppy, malty Imperial Red Ale, the beer spotlighted today.

I’ve had quite a few beers from Great Lakes, I’ve enjoyed most of them to a fairly significant degree but Red Ales haven’t been much of a go to for me. A few things led me to finally grabbing a four pack of this beer:

  • Hallowe’en is approaching, one of my favorite holidays/times of the year
  • I’m long-time fan of horror fiction, and the Vampire/Nosferatu is one of the most iconic horror images
  • Seeing this beer favorably compared to an all-time favorite in Tröeg’s Nugget Nectar

In other words, this beer brings together my love of great beer and dark tales.

The pop of the bottle cap is a nice sound I don’t hear too often any more, most of the beers I’ve been drinking have been out of cans. As for the beer that pours into my glass – yep, that’s a red ale. A deep red that is somewhere between amber and crimson, in my eyes. There’s a nice foamy head initially, too. Aroma is a little bit of hoppiness, but to be honest, nothing else too noteworthy. It smells like a beer.

There’s a very prominent hop presence in that first sip. Given the relatively high IBU level of 70, that’s not a surprise. It is not off-putting the way some overly hopped beers are because Great Lakes brewed this beer with a significant level of malts, three kinds, that provide a caramel sweetness to balance the hops. Going by the fact sheet on Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site, the hops used here are Simcoe and Cascade, both extremely popular hops and hops that helped to drive the hop-forward beer movement of the 90s and early 2000s. Simcoe has emerged, for me, as a favorite in recent years so it was especially nice to see its pronounced flavor complemented by the great Cascade hop in Nosferatu. I had a second bottle about a week after the first bottle and the Simcoe hops help to make this beer work so well for me.

Insert standard suggestion for higher ABV beer to let the beer open up to room temperature a little for greater enjoyment.

The name of the beer and label are immediately recognizable, the silent film Nosferatu is a film that has left an indelible mark on horror genre and the vampire mythos. The beer is a worthy homage to that image and character – Nosferatu the beer is a wonderful, complementary marriage of hops and malt that gives a flavor worth savoring.

Nestled in with some classic Vampire novels, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin, They  Thirst by Robert R. McCammon, ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Dracula (Annotated) by Brahm Stoker, I Am Legend by iIchard Matheson, The Southern Vampire’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. Review links to a few at the end of the post

A beer like Nosferatu is a bold reminder that some beers with a little bit of history behind them are worth enjoying now and in the future. It is also a beer that helps to showcase the great diversity in the portfolio of Great Lakes Brewing Company. Given the name of the beer, the eye-catching imagery of the label, and most importantly, the bold, delicious flavor, I can understand why Nosferatu has been an annual favorite from Great Lakes Brewing Company. I know it will be in my refrigerator for Halloweens to come.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

*Those aforementioned book reviews:

Beer Review: Untied Brewing’s Long Days Short Year

Name: Long Days Short Years
Brewing Company: Untied Brewing Company
Location: New Providence, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.6%

“Untied Brewing’s take on the classic, bright German Lager is a flavorful interpretation sure to please”

 

From untappd’s page for Long Days Short Years:

A Bavarian Style Pale Lager that is a pure expression of malts. Easy drinking and full-bodied, with low bitterness, a touch of sweetness, and a clean and crisp finish.

When I visited Untied Brewing on a late summer afternoon in September, I was hoping a few of their Lagers would be on draught. Three happened to be available, so I figured I’d go with a Lager style I enjoy quite a bit, their Helles Lager. Long Days Short Years is the first beer I had from Untied Brewing, I figured starting out with a lighter beer was the way to go. I liked the beer so much I brought home a four-pack, so this review is based on both the taster I had poured on draught as well as the beer from the can as pictured above.

I’m glad this was the first beer I had in the flight because it quenched my thirst and is just a really tasty beer. I also decided to bring home a four-pack. Why is that?

The appearance of the beer is the typical “this is what beer looks like” appearance. Clear, bright, and golden yellow. A little bit of aroma that also fits the “beer” definition with some mild bready notes. Good things so far.

Very pleasant flavor hits my palate that tastes like a classic German Lager. A little more details: I get a very welcome flavor of sweet, lightly buttered toast and toasted crackers. One of my favorite food smells is toasted bread and I get that flavor. The beer finishes with a slight touch of hops and sweetness. That hint of fruitiness from the hops is welcome. However, that fruit hint is not to the drastic extent of a tropical hop bomb of a New England IPA, but present nonetheless.

Overall, this is a extremely clean, well-balanced beer. What do I mean by that? This is a beer whose flavors express themselves very well without intruding on each other and true to style. Well, that bread/cracker presence in Long Days Short Years is very consistent Helles Lagers (and its cousin, the Pislner). The mild hop presence, enough at least to let you know it is a beer is also true to style.

When I visited the brewery, owner Matthew Green told me this beer is one of his best-sellers, especially over the summer months. I can understand way, it is a very tasty lager. Moreover, it is the kind of beer that will appeal to that member of the group who is often craft-adverse. Fortunately for consumers who visit Untied, Long Days Short Years is a very well-crafted lager.

Long Days Short Years is a superb Lager and one that shows Untied has a very strong and impressive Lager section in their beer portfolio.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: 902 Brewing’s Kürtőskalács Milk Stout

Name: Kürtőskalács
Brewing Company: 902 Brewing Company
Location: Jersey City, NJ
Style: Stout – Milk/Sweet
ABV: 7.4%

“902 Brewing has crafted a very flavorful dessert stout and a great interpretation of the classic Hungarian cake/dessert treat.”

From 902 Brewing’s page for their beers:

Brewed to mimic a delicious Hungarian dessert we had in Budapest, this milk stout has just enough sweetness to round out the dark and roasty coffee presence with a cinnamon aftertaste.

Sometimes you get a taste of a beer at a Beerfest and you want more. That’s the case for this sweet dessert stout from 902 Brewing. Two years ago, at the Bridgewater Beerfest, I had a taste of this beer and liked it but wasn’t seeing in my local stores, I really wanted to get the “full pour experience” of this beer. I was finally able to snag a four pack of the beer and I’m very pleased I did. Subsequently, I thought to myself, “Self, what better time to review a beer from a brewery than around the time of the grand opening of their taproom?” You see, 902 Brewing has been contract brewing since they launched in 2014, but this month (June 2020) they officially opened their production facility and taproom in Jersey City. I’m looking forward to visiting the taproom and trying more of their beers.

On to the beer…

Pop of the can, pour of the beer and what do we have? A dark stout whose thick fluffy head is reminiscent of coffee or malted milk. In other words, it looks like the kind of stout that would be right up my alley. I don’t get too much of an aroma, maybe some of the cinnamon? But the certainly looks the part of a rich dessert stout.

First sip is on point for a Milk Stout with the roasted malt elements and the sweetness from the lactose. The cinnamon comes in immediately and is a dominant flavor element in the beer. I like cinnamon quite a bit so this is just fine by me.  For about a year or so, I was adding cinnamon into my coffee grinds for some added flavor, I’m reminded of that with this beer in a good way. I’m not sure how much of the hazelnut I get but the coffee is most assuredly present.

I also like the (here’s that word I hate) mouthfeel of the beer. The beer has the appropriate thickness for a stout of this ABV and I like how the cinnamon pops around in the beer. You don’t want to gulp this one, let it settle in your mouth a little and get all those flavors.

Aside from simply enjoying Kürtőskalács, there’s a bit of a personal connection with this beer. My uncle and grandfather are both Hungarian (grandfather was born in Hungary). Additionally, a good friend is Hungarian, and before the pandemic, she would visit her family in Hungary quite regularly. That’s the personal, Hungarian connection. As for the name, Kürtő translates to stovepipe and the pastry/cake looks like a hot chimney. A google image search proves it. I’ve had the “chimney cakes” in the past a few times, once at a local Hungarian festival, and another time, at a Christmas Flea Market/Fair, and thoroughly enjoy them. When the cakes are fresh off the interesting contraption used to make the cylindrical cake, they are delicious and one of the most popular variants or styles is with cinnamon sugar.

As an interpretation of the chimney cake, Kürtőskalács is a very successful beer. It hits the flavor notes, especially the cinnamon aspect, extremely well. The coffee elements are a welcome addition that complement the cinnamon very nice.

The Bottom Line: 902 Brewing has crafted a tasty and interesting dessert stout.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating / 4-bottle cap rating because sometimes, a beer tastes better a few days later.

Beer Review: Victory Classic

Name: Victory Classic’: Easy Drinkin’ Lager
Brewing Company: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downingtown, PA
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.8%

“Victory’s newest Lager, Classic is a flavorful cooler-filler for summer, tailgating, or any time you want a tasty beer.”

From Victory Brewing’s page for Classic:

Perfectly balanced and exceptionally drinkable, this lager is expertly crafted with specialty hops, malt and yeast to be the standard of refreshment.

Classic is the definition of drinkable with pilsner malt and Hallertau hops bringing perfect balance to this 4.8% refresher for game day, happy hour, mowing the lawn and everything in between.

In what will likely not come as a surprise to anybody who has read this blog over the last couple of years, the first non-NJ beer to be reviewed here in two months is relatively* local and from one of my favorite breweries, Victory Brewing. A few months ago, the venerable MyBeerBuzz blog posted that Victory Brewing was releasing a new‡ lager. I was very excited since Victory crafts lagers so well (Prima Pils, Festbier, Home Grown, Hip Czech Pilsner, Schwarz Pils, etc).

*I’m about 15 minutes from Pennsylvania border and Victory is close enough driving distance that I’ve visited a couple of times.

‡ For the most part, Classic seems to be a slightly reworked recipe (a slightly lower IBU) of their longtime mainstay Helles Lager which was a very good beer (which itself was rebranded from V Lager.

So, how does Classic stack up against other Helles Lagers and some of those aforementioned lagers from Victory?

The beer pours a perfect see-through yellow, much like many of the beers I’ve been reviewing lately. I don’t get too much of an aroma other than a fairly standard beer aroma. First sip is inviting, a beer that is refreshing. There’s that “beer that tastes like beer” thing going on all over the place with Classic on first impression. Victory; however, has crafted a more layered beer than that.

For Helles Lagers and Pilsners, I like the bready element to be present, which is the case with Classic, while the hop presence is quite mild and not bitter, which again, is what I like in a Helles Lager. I’ll take some mild hop bite in a Pilsner, but a Helles Lager, especially one labeled as an “Easy Drinkin’ Lager” should lean towards mild floral and fruit evocations in the hops, and not the bitterness. That mild hint of floral and fruity was something I noticed more when I had the beer the second time a day later (since I had two beers prior to Classic the first time I had the beer). In other words, the hops do what they are supposed to do in a beer like this and play very nicely with the bready elements from the malt.

A beer like this is deceptively simple in taste and presentation, but to achieve an elegance like this requires the kind of expertise that Ron Barchett and Bill Covaleski, the two masterminds behind Victory Brewing, have honed and shown over the years. I’m not sure how long the process took to refine the recipe for Classic or how long they worked on the previous Helles Lager recipe to get to this beer, but they’ve found success.

Classic is an especially welcome beer because it is a tasty new lager addition to a line-up that has strongly leaned towards IPAs and Monkeys the last couple of years. (Not that I don’t like their monkeys and IPAs!) Victory has been releasing some really interesting new beers over the last couple of years (Twisted Monkey, Cloud Walker, Easy Ringer), but this is their first new Lager in a few years and one I will definitely have in regular rotation.

Bottom line: Victory Classic is a welcome addition to Victory’s year-round lineup and of the quality I’ve come to expect from Victory Brewing’s lagers. I’d also slot Victory Classic in the top half of the Helles Lagers I’ve had over the last few years.

There’s an old advertising slogan, “Does exactly what it says on the tin” and considering the bottom of the can states “Easy Drinkin’ Lager that slogan is most apropos for Classic – the beer is flavorful, easy drinking at 4.8% ABV, and a beer you can enjoy without over-analyzation (says the guy with a 3-year old beer blog).

I want to also point out the can art, too. Eye-popping, great red-white-blue color scheme, which comes across a reflection of the beer inside.

The last anecdotal point is similar to a point I made in the the last non-NJ beer I reviewed (Sierra Nevada’s Barrel-Aged Narwhal): Victory Classic, is the 40th unique beer from Victory I’ve logged in untappd.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Kane Brewing’s Cloud Cover

Name: Cloud Cover
Brewing Company: Kane Brewing Company
Location: Ocean Township, NJ
Style: Wheat Beer – Witbier / Belgian-Style Wheat Ale
ABV: 4.8%

A light, flavorful ale from Kane Brewing, the premier NJ brewery, primarily known for hop bombs and big beers. A perfect summer beer!

From the Untappd Page for the beer:

Cloud Cover was brewed with continental pilsner, malted red wheat, unmalted wheat and oats. It was hopped with German Hallertau Mittelfruh with Indian coriander and Curaço orange peel added to the whirlpool. Light in body, dry and refreshing, Cloud Cover is the perfect match for outdoor dining or any activity as the days get longer and warmer.

This week marks the Third Anniversary* of the Tap Takeover so I figured why not take a more in-depth look at the style of beer that launched the blog – a Witbier. Specifically, a Witbier from NJ. I realize Kane has been showing up here quite a bit over the last six months or so, but this is the first standard beer review.

Kane is known primarily for two kinds of beers: (1) IPAs and (2) Boozy, often barrel-aged, dark beers like Imperial Stouts, Quadrupels, and Barleywines. That’s a little bit of why I focused on a “smaller” beer in a style that is relatively taken for granted – a sub-5% Wheat Ale which is stylistically on the opposite end of the beer spectrum. Witbiers have always been a warm-weather/summer favorite, too. Plus, Memorial Day is this coming weekend, so a lot of pieces fell together. Given that preamble, what is the “forecast” for Cloud Cover?

Like most Belgian and Belgian-style beers, the yeast is a very prominent factor in aroma and flavor. A whiff of the cloudy, full-headed beer gives me the earthy yeast aroma I’ve come to expect from Witbiers.

Clean and flavorful…those are the two words that come to mind with the first sip of the beer. Cloud Cover is spot-on for the style and delicious. Witbiers were one of my early introductions to the the craft beer world and maybe because of that, especially over the last handful of years, I haven’t been gravitating towards them. Not out of a dislike, per say, just out of a gravitation to other styles. One thing Cloud Cover has reminded me is that how flavorful and great a well-made Witbier can be. When the yeast, grain, orange peel, coriander, and minimal hopping work together in a harmony of flavor in the way Kane brewed this beer, then you have a beer perfect beer for spring and summer months.

Some Witbiers have a pronounced spice characteristic from the Yeast, or some brewers will add spice to the brew process. Here in Cloud Cover, the spice element is subtle, which for me makes the beer even more of an easier drinking ale. I didn’t get too much of the orange peel in the first can of beer I drank, but there is a complexity to the overall flavor profile that is very pleasing.

The first can I had of the beer was on a warm day on my porch. The fence in the distance surrounds my (at the time, unopened) pool. About the only place better than my porch for this beer is poolside. This beer goes down easy, it gives you great flavor, and is very true to style. It compares extremely favorable to the American Gold Standard for the style, Allagash White.

Kane also brews a raspberry variant of the beer which I imagine would be just as perfect for the coming summer months.

Bottom Line: Cloud Cover shows that Kane Brewing can master many styles, even those “smaller” beers with subtle flavors.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

*For the last two years around this time (end of May) I published an “Anniversary” post. Given the pandemic situation, I’m shying away from a personal “celebration” like that, as meager as it would be.

Beer Review: Spellbound Brewing’s Hefeweizen

Name: Hefeweizen
Brewing Company: Spellbound Brewing Company
Location: Mount Holly, NJ
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 4.8%

A delicious interpretation of the classic German/Bavarian Wheat Ale – The Original Hazy Beer from a superb NJ Brewery

From the for Untappd Page for the beer:

Light and effervescent. Traditional German style beer with notes of banana, clove, and wheat malt sweetness

Spellbound is a brewery I visited back in 2018, I enjoyed what I had at the time, and have found their IPA to be one of the most consistent/reliable beers in their lineup. Like many breweries, Spellbound has brewed a Hefeweizen in the past, but in Spring 2020, Spellbound canned the beer for the first time. I knew it was a beer I wanted to try based on liking the 10 or so beers I’ve had from Spellbound.

At its heart, a Hefeweizen is a classic style, which pairs well with many foods. I’ve always associated Hefeweizens with warm weather, so a May can release for Spellbound’s take is perfect timing from my perspective (aside from the fact that a little bit of snow fell on the day I picked up the cans). How does it stack up against the many other Hefeweizens I’ve enjoyed?

The aroma of clove and fruity/banana flavors hit my nose once the can opens and I begin pouring the beer. We’re off to a great start. Once the beer fills the glass, the look brings it all together. The cloudiness and head are spot on for a Hefeweizen, the original Hazy Beer. The aroma continues to hint at what the beer might taste like.

Diving into for the taste, I get what the aroma and look promised – a delightful interpretation of a Hefeweizen. The beer is extremely clean with great flavors from the yeast at the forefront. Most Hefeweizens go one of two ways, in terms of the flavor profile the yeast evokes. Some will have a banana like flavor, with maybe even hints of bubble-gum. Other Hefeweizens will evoke clove and spice as the yeast expresses itself in the beer. I like both flavor profiles, but prefer Hefeweizens that lean a little bit more on the banana side. Spellbound’s Hefeweizen leans slightly more towards an expression of clove and spice flavors from the yeast, which despite the preference I just mentioned, was still extremely tasty.

I judge most Hefeweizens by two metrics: (1) How does the beer compare to Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (the best in the world) and (2) what would my Father-in-Law (who loves German styles) say about the beer? Well, on point one, Spellbound’s take is a very good interpretation of the wheat ale from the 900+year old brewery. Maybe a notch below the best in the world, but Spellbound’s Hefeweizen is still an excellent take on the classic beer style I would be happy to have in my cooler throughout the summer. On point two, I think my father-in-law would really like the beer, especially since it is a New Jersey beer.

Also, I thought it worth mentioning that Spellbound’s logo is one of my favorite brewery logos in the State of New Jersey and it provides a nice, consistent branding along their whole portfolio. The label for Hefeweizen incorporates the branding really well, while also nodding to the German heritage of the style in the color and font.

To bring balance to this review, if there is anything about the beer that I can raise even the most minor of complaints about is that there’s a slight aftertaste in the beer. It is only very slight and doesn’t really detract from the overall pleasant and refreshing flavor of the beer as a whole. But the bottom line, as I said above, Spellbound’s Hefeweizen is a spot-on interpretation of the style which stands very comfortably in the top of portion the 70 or so Hefeweizens I’ve had, especially when you drill down to just those Hefeweizens brewed by American breweries.

Ein Prosit!

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Badge Earned:

Heffenista (Level 14)

It may not be cloudy outside, but your brew definitely is! That’s at least 70 different hefeweizens. Try 5 more to unlock Level 15

SpellboundCanGlass

Beer Review: Lone Pine Brewing’s Portland Pale Ale

Name: Portland Pale Ale
Brewing Company: Lone Pine Brewing Company
Location: Portland, Maine
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 5.2%

A clean, crisp, and flavorful American Pale Ale that should please almost all beer drinkers.

From Lone Pine Brewery’s beer page:

Our flagship pale ale carries a bright, clean body, with stone fruit and ripe citrus flavors from heavy late addition hopping.

When a new, out-of-state brewery begins distributing to your state, you want to give them a try. I’d been seeing beers from Lone Pine Brewing pop up on my untappd feed from in state friends, particularly Lone Pine’s double IPA Oh-J. However, I wanted something a little lighter and not quite as hop-aggressive. Of the Lone Pine beers available, Portland Pale Ale seemed to fit that bill.

The Pale Ale…not quite as popular as the IPA, but a defining style of American Craft Beer nonetheless. Noticeable hop presence, some malt body, maybe some sweetness from those two elements. What does Portland Pale Ale offer the beer drinker relative to those elements? Let’s take a look…or a drink.

The pop of the can hints at a nicely carbonatied beer, which turns out to be true when I poured the beer into the glass: a pale yellow, not quite clear, beer fills my glass. Topped with a thick white head, Portland Pale Ale is an eye-pleasing beer. A very nice and welcoming citrusy, hoppy aroma wafts from the can and glass.

A beer can look great, but does that positivity flow through to the taste? First sip brings a smile to my face. There’s a crispness to the beer I don’t typically associate with Pale Ales, more so with Pilsners. It isn’t unwelcome, or out of line with full profile of the beer, but a pleasant surprise.

After that first sip, a very nice hop flavor follows, accompanied by a balanced sweetness and a decent amount of body given the relatively low ABV. Lone Pine doesn’t list the hops in the beer, but I suspect there’s a blend of maybe Citra, Nugget, and Azacca? Or at least one of those? The hops give off a fruitiness that I can’t quite pinpoint to one specific fruit, maybe some citrus, or maybe some peach/apricot? That’s part of the fun of this beer is that the profile from the hops ring off some familiar notes, but maybe in a different key than I’ve had before or often.

Portland Pale Ale is quite simply a solid Pale Ale. You get hops, but they don’t bludgeon you. There’s enough sweetness to balance the inherit bitterness from hops, but it isn’t a cloying sweetness. The beer is very clean and balanced. In other words, a very well-made beer. This beer falls into the category of “pleasing to the more discerning/experienced beer, but not too aggressive for the macro-beer drinkers.”

Recommended, link to 4-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Ghost Hawk Lager

Name: Lager
Brewing Company: Ghost Hawk Brewing
Location: Clifton, NJ
Style: Kellerbier/Zwickelbier
ABV: 5%

 An impressive self-appointed Flagship Lager that is compatible with every kind of food or situation.

Great label, great logo for the brewery, and a fine beer.

From Ghost Hawk Brewing’s “What’s on Tap” Page:

Brewed according to the German Beer Purity Law of 1516 using imported malts and American noble hops, this golden export lager is balanced and satisfying. It’s the perfect beer to wash down a Ripper or enjoy with your favorite pizza.

Ghost Hawk Brewing Company is Passaic County NJ’s first independent/craft brewery and they’ve made a name for themselves in quick order after opening in April 2019. Not surprising when you launch a brewery whose brewmaster has nearly 30 years of experience. Less than a year later, cans of their beer have been popping up in beer shops in the state, which leads to their flagship lager, simply titled Lager. It was, perhaps, fortuitous that I was able to enjoy this beer in time to slot this review in February, specifically Flagship February, which is a movement in the craft beer world over the past couple of years:

Our thinking is that flagship beers have much to teach new drinkers and remind older drinkers, and if they fall off the radar so far that they disappear completely, we will all be that much poorer for it 

This one is classified as a “Kellerbier” which is not the most common beer style in the world (especially America) or even a word with which many people are familiar, but it is a style that has been around for many years. So while Ghost Hawk Brewing Company is a new brewery, the fact that they’ve positioned such an old-world style as their “Flagship Lager” is worth note. The word, shockingly, is German for “cellar” because of how they are stored, but most importantly because Kellerbiers are neither pasteurized nor are they filtered. Imagine that, an unfiltered, somewhat hazy beer? But I digress. Most kellerbiers are essentially unfiltered Helles Lagers or pale lagers. With that starting point….

From the 16oz can, this Lager pours a golden hue with a bit of cloudiness. There’s not the overwhelming haziness of say, a New England IPA, but the beer is by no means clear. The beer looks the part of an unfiltered lager.

I don’t get much off of the aroma outside of the cliched it is a beer that smells like a beer. Trite, I know, but also true. 😊 That said, I find the aroma and the look of the beer very inviting and pleasing.

The taste… oh boy was this a nice Lager. I found it a little reminiscent of Carton Brewing’s This Town (a Helles Lager), there’s a nice crackery/breadiness to the beer from the malts, but unlike This Town I’m tasting a little bit of fruitiness from the hops. Drinkability is another term that is thrown around quite bit, but this beer has it in spades. Very tasty and thirst quenching; each sip makes you want to have more. For a beer that is 5%, that’s a great quality to have.

For #FlagshipFebruary, this beer doesn’t exactly hew to the “beers that got us here” ethos, but it is a beer that can proudly stand up as a beer the exemplifies a brewery’s quality. Besides, shouldn’t a brewery nominate one of their beers as a Flagship? For a brewery to come out this strongly with such a good Lager as a core beer is impressive. Ghost Hawk boldly proclaims this as a “Flagship” on their label and Ghost Hawk Lager is a great beer to slap with such a status. Not sure how much it sells, but any brewery would be well-positioned with such a great beer in their portfolio and as their Flagship.

Ghost Hawk is only about a year old so their beers aren’t super widely available outside of NJ. They began canning late 2019, which is how I grabbed this beer. It was a nice surprise to see it in a relatively new liquor store so I immediately snagged a four pack, which did not last very long in my refrigerator.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Forgotten Boardwalk’s Last Brunch

Name: Last Brunch
Brewing Company: Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ
Style: Porter – Coffee
ABV: 6.7%

A fine porter that hits the notes of the style well, while incorporating adjuncts in a fun way.

From Forgotten Boardwalk’s page: for the beer:

Coffee Porter with cinnamon & vanilla. Made with @maidencoffee – this beer is 6.7% and has a Smooth chocolate and coffee presence up front with an overall warming vanilla finish with a touch of cinnamon.

Forgotten Boardwalk has been a mainstay of the NJ Independent Brewing scene since 2014 and is one of the small, but growing number of women owned breweries in the state. Jamie Queli’s passion for NJ shines through in the beers and name, which is an homage to the always popular New Jersey shore. This beer is a call out to a specific event:

The SS Morro Castle mysteriously caught fire in 1934, consuming the ship, its contents, and 137 passengers and crew. The wreck burned for days off the shores of Asbury Park. Curiously, the captain was found dead in his quarters the previous night, never making his final brunch aboard ship.

I visited Forgotten Boardwalk in November 2018 as part of my birthday brewery tour, they were the first stop, and I really liked the taproom, atmosphere and most importantly, the beers. Last Brunch was a standout on draught and I’ve been seeking out cans of it since, and finally found some.

I get a little bit of coffee aroma from the can, a little more when it fills the glass. It looks like a porter, definitely – it might be a little of an extremely dark brown than black, but that’s just nitpicking.

The can & description indicates the beer is made with vanilla and cinnamon, but I get more cinnamon than vanilla. The cinnamon really pops on the flavor, the vanilla seems to be more in the background. I’d guess the vanilla may be balancing the bitter elements from the coffee and base liquid of the beer itself. The taste follows the beer description – roasted malts (porter) and coffee. I’ve taken to adding a few dashes of cinnamon in my coffee grinds when I brew my morning coffee so this beer is hitting a lot of positive notes for me. If there’s any comment on the negative side I can make is that the body of the beer is a little thin. But the flavor more than makes up for it.

Last Brunch is a very tasty beer, it does what a coffee porter should do and then some. The additions are logical additions (Coffee, Cinnamon, Vanilla) to the beer style (porter) and like many of the beers in Forgotten Boardwalk’s portfolio, Last Brunch playfully references an element of NJ history.

This one is worth picking up in cans or ordering on draft. I’ve had a handful of beers from Forgotten Boardwalks, but this one is probably my favorite.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Wake Up and Smell The Coffee! (Level 4)

Coffee has long been a flavor counterpart for stouts and porters, which means Coffee’s not just for breakfast anymore. That’s 5 different beers with the style of Porter – Coffee or Stout – Coffee.