Flagship February/Beer Review: Ross Brewing’s Shrewsbury Lager

It is officially Flagship February in the beer world, a “movement” started by beer writers Stephen Beaumont and Jay Brooks a couple of years ago and it is wonderful idea. Basically, we as beer drinkers should remember the beers that helped to lay the foundation for craft beer. Beers like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale or, as I posted a couple of years ago, as part of my American Craft Beer Classic series of posts, Allagash White.

For the 2020 iteration of this “celebration,” I featured two of the NJ beers that helped to establish the craft beer landscape in New Jersey. The creators of Flagship February decided to shift slightly with their focus to highlighting breweries and what they see as their Flagships in 2021 given the drastic changes the COVID Pandemic has forced upon the world. As such, I thought I’d similarly shift with a newer brewery who is set to open their doors during these turbulent times: Ross Brewing and the beer they are announcing as their Flagship Lager, Shrewsbury Lager. So the beer sort of eschews the traditional historical component of the “foundational” idea of Flagship February, but it is the beer the brewery calls their Flagship.

Ross Brewing Company has been around for a couple of years, contract brewing small batches for distribution in New York, but late 2020/early 2021, they made a big push into the NJ Craft Beer scene, their home state. After a few setbacks prior to the COVID Pandemic, then the COVID Pandemic, Ross Brewing is looking for a mid-2021 opening in Middletown, NJ. Like every brewery, they’ve got an IPA as one of their top beers, at least by number of Check Ins in untappd. But I’m featuring one of the more “taken for granted” styles, the Amber Lager. Here are the stats for the beer, in the standard Tap Takeover format.

Name: Shrewsbury Lager
Brewing Company: Ross Brewing Company
Location: Port Monmouth,NJ
Style: Lager – American Amber / Red

From Ross Brewing’s landing page for Shrewsbury LagerOur flagship lager is inspired by the river that runs to the south of our hometown of Red Bank—the scenic Shrewsbury. Low in bitterness and high in malt character and complexity, the subtle use of hops makes a balanced, refreshing lager with a crisp, dry finish, perfect for drinking on a boat, a beach, a deck, or just about anywhere!

Let’s take a look at this beer, or rather, here is what I think of Shrewsbury Lager.

In the Northeast (and more of the US recently), one beer epitomizes the American Amber Lager and it is the beer that can simply be ordered at the bar as “Lager.” That beer, of course is Yuengling’s Lager. It is a beer everybody knows and everybody has had. Ross Brewing’s Shrewsbury Lager is of the same style.

The look test: a pour into the glass reveals a deep amber beer, which is exactly what it says on the can. I’d say this is a bit darker than Yuengling’s take on the style, which is a hint to me that this beer might be more flavorful.

The first sip test: this beer is flavorful, refreshing, and whispers: “there’s more, don’t stop there.” I listen to that whisper and continue, realizing Shrewsbury Lager has some pleasant and subtle sweetness from a nice malt profile. The beer has just enough substance that it has great flavor, but it isn’t overpowering, making for a beer that lends itself to enjoying a couple to few pints in a row. In other words, this beer is a crusher.

There’s also a slightly toasted element to the malt profile of the beer, with hints of caramel. Those elements come together very harmoniously making for a very altogether flavorful beer floating at 5% ABV level. The longer lagering process allows for flavors to develop and mature during the brewing process, which seems to be exactly what happened with this beer.

What does this all mean? The fact that Shrewsbury Lager is both a launch beer and the flagship Lager for Ross Brewing is very impressive.

This beer works as an everyday beer that could sit in the cooler, sit at the dinner table with just about any meal that asserts enough flavor on its own, but won’t overwhelm whatever meal with which you pair the beer. With each can I had over the course of a few days, I found myself enjoying the beer more each time, appreciate the elegance of the beer and finally, with the fourth can in that four pack, wishing I had more.

Back to the Yuengling Lager comparison…I think it is a very smart move for a brewery to brew / can / sell a beer that is comparable to the most ubiquitous non-Macro Lager because it works perfectly as a beer to introduce craft-wary consumers (admittedly, a shrinking group of people) to more flavorful, local options especially folks who may be averse to “hoppy beers.”

Bottom line, if Shrewsbury Lager is any indication of Ross Brewing’s abilities, then they are definitely on the right track to success. It most definitely is a beer worthy of “Flagship” status.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untappd badges earned with this beer:

Paint the Town Red (Level 10)

Get out there and raise a ruckus with your favorite Amber or Red Ale. That is 45 different beers with the style American Amber / Red Ale, American Amber / Red Lager, Irish Red Ale, Imperial / Double Red Ale, Red Ale – Other or IPA – Red.

Beer Review: Conclave Brewing’s Sable

Name: Sable
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing Company
Location: Flemington, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 11.3%

“A big flavorful stout from one of the brewing gems of the Great Garden State.”

From the description of the beer on untappd:

Ever since we moved to the new brewery we wanted to brew a big stout – Sable is it! Formulated with a Maris Otter base, a lot of flaked oats and a bevy of roasted malts, we came pretty close to maxing out the system. On top of that we conditioned it on the most amazing vanilla beans from Vanuatu. It’s a rich intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish.

Just before the Pandemic took hold of the world in early 2020, Conclave Brewing moved one building over to a larger facility that allowed for ramped up production. They doubled their tap list and started more crowler and can releases. Many of those have been IPAs, but I was hoping they’d release a new stout and or dark beer. Sable is that beer, as they state in the description, this beer needed the larger capacity to brew and as such, Sable my first new beer review of 2021. Conclave has proven that their measured approach to brewing pays off in this big stout.

Conclave’s IPAs are popular and beloved and while I’ve enjoyed just about every IPA I’ve had from them, as readers of this blog are aware, I have always been more of a dark beer drinker. Conclave’s stouts and porters are outstanding; Mexican Morning, Mexican Evening, and Espresso Morning Stout are just superb and their Vanilla Porter, Grey Havens from a couple of years ago was delightful. In other words, I was very excited to get a growler fill of this beer

I opened the growler the day after I bought the beer but it still held up with some carbonation for a thin head. Overall, the blackness of the beer screams Imperial Stout. Aroma? Check…I get some of that vanilla overlaying the roasted malt.

My first thought about this beer is how it resonates with one of my favorite stouts, Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout. The big roasted malt element and the potent hops are similar in a lot of good ways. Then that vanilla slides into the flavor profile, and brings a welcome element to balance out the big dose of hops. I imagine if Sierra Nevada made a Vanilla variant of Narwhal (maybe they have), it might taste similar to Sable from Conclave.

Most of the beer I’ve been seeing and enjoying with Vanilla highlights the island of Madagascar as origin of the Vanilla . I’d never heard of Vanuatu before this beer, but it is an island in the South Pacific. That factoid doesn’t really have too much play on the taste of the beer, just more of an anecdote. Anyway, what I appreciate most about the Vanilla component is that it comes through just a shade more potent than subtle. What does that mean? The Vanilla doesn’t scream at you the way I’ve experienced in some beers, but rather a natural element of the beer.

I managed to enjoy the full 32oz half-growler over the course of the evening and would welcome more of this beer in the future.

Sable is a bold, potent announcement of a beer from Conclave that proclaims, “Yeah, we do great IPAs, but don’t forget our Stouts are as equally delicious!”

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Tröegs Independent Brewing’s Double Blizzard

Name: Double Blizzard
Brewing Company: Tröegs Independent Brewing
Location: Hershey, PA
Style: IPA – Imperial/Double
ABV: 8.3%

A superb Imperial IPA that is smartly blends the elements of East and West Coast IPA.

The beer’s description on Tröegs’s Landing Page for the beer:

This is Blizzard of Hops … turned up to 11. For Double Blizzard, we used a cooler temperature for the kettle hop additions, softening the character of the Centennial, Chinook and El Dorado. On the cold side, we dry-hopped with four pounds per barrel of Chinook and Galaxy. At 8.3% ABV, we’re into semi-hazy Double IPA territory, and we like it here.

It took 9 months for me to post another review of an Imperial IPA, but damn was this one worth it!

Like many of the “newer” beers to emerge into wider distribution and seasonal rotation from Tröegs Independent Brewing, Double Blizzard began as a “Scratch” beer, the brewery’s experimental, small-batch beer available in only at the Tröegs’s Brewery in Hershey, PA. Soon after, that “Scratch” beer (#233) was re-branded as an imperial version of Tröegs’s delicious, popular “Winter” IPA, Blizzard of Hops. Finally, this year in 2020, the good people at Tröegs decided to add Double Blizzard throughout their distribution footprint, and here we are.

Based on how much I enjoyed Blizzard of Hops, I knew I’d want to try Double Blizzard so when it showed up locally, I immediately grabbed a four pack.

After a pop of the top and a pour into the glass, I get a strong hop aroma of some citrus and a high level of pine. Into the glass the beer goes and it is a bright yellow golden beer (which doesn’t quite show in the lighting of my picture). A full quaff of the aroma, coupled with the look, sets this beer in the realm of a promising, quality Imperial IPA.

Hops…lots of them. That’s my first impression of the beer. But I knew that going in given the name and the style. But the blend of hops in this one? It works really well for me: Centennial, Chinook, El Dorado, and Galaxy hops. Centennial is one of the classic C-Hops and is perhaps the most potent hops lending the citrusy pine notes that dominate the beer. The Galaxy hops bring a softening presence of some tropical fruit evocations for an extremely balanced IPA.

Double Blizzard is a true coming together of IPA styles – the tropical elements associated with New England/Northeast IPAs along with the bitter, piney, resinous character of classic West Coast IPAs. First is that color, the traditional West Coast IPA and Imperial IPA is more translucent than its East Coast brethren. Double Blizzard is indeed brighter and is more clear, like the West Coast IPAs, but there’s a slight haziness that sets the balance. As I said of the hop blend, it leans ever so slightly more in the West Coast direction, but the Galaxy hops in particular tug at the flavor strings towards the East Coast variety.

For my preferences, there’s a slightly stronger aftertaste from the hops than I typically care to experience. However, that slightly bitter/piney aftertaste is true to the style of the West Coast IPA to which the beer is hewing, so I can’t really say this is a mark against the beer’s quality. Because one thing is true of nearly every beer crafted by the Trogner Brothers and their brewery, quality is of the highest order.

In the end, Double Blizzard is an excellent Imperial IPA that plays very well with the two primary American variations of the tried and true style.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Bolero Snort’s Mele Kalikimakow

Name: Mele Kalikimakow
Brewing Company: Bolero Snort Brewery
Location: Carlstadt, NJ
Style: Sour – Fruited
ABV: 6.1%

Bolero Snort’s growing sour beer program produces a tasty and delightful non-standard Holiday beer.

From Bolero Snort’s blog entry for the beer:

Here’s the island greeting that we send to you, from the land where palm trees sway. This lava flow cocktail inspired sour is loaded with fruit! Sweep the winter blues under the Holiday table and drift away to warmer, poolside days with this blend of Strawberry, Pineapple, Banana and Coconut! Mele Kalikimakow is ideally sipped out of some bull shaped glassware to toast the holiday season right!

This is the third beer I’ve reviewed from Bolero Snort and the third style. Since Scott and Bob opened their gorgeous, enormous facility in the shadow of the Meadowlands Sports Complex late 2019/early 2020, they’ve increased their production output significantly. One area in particular that has seen growth (quantity/variety. sales, and in what people are saying) is their sour beer “program” and this beer is a great example of that.

When thinking of Christmas beers, Belgians and Stouts come to my mind. But with the name of this beer a bovinely inspired play on the Hawai’ian Christmas Song (and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), the style and elements of the beer – a fruited sour evoking a Lava Flow cocktail – make a little more sense.

The beer pours very thick with a pinkish hue. It sure looks like a beer playing with the idea of a Lava Flow* cocktail! I get those fruity tropical aromas mixed with the funk of the yeast from the beer, too. So far, seems on point for what the beer is trying to do.

My wife and I went to Hawai’i for our honeymoon and when we landed in Hawai’i after a 10 hour flight plus a 2 hour layover, I had a delicious Lava Flow. Because I was so tired from the 10+ hours travel, it took just one drink to get me a little tipsy!

I’ll admit, the thickness and look of the beer had me questioning my decision. But a sip eroded those doubts.

The beer feels almost as thick as it looks, but fruited sours like this often do. What do I get from the copious flavors outlined above and on the can? While the strawberries lend much of the color and I assume the bananas help with the texture, the pineapple is the front-most flavor out of the cocktail fruits. Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoy pineapple so that works just fine by me.

This isn’t a beer you can our should chug, but it you don’t want to let it warm too much either. As I was continuing to drink through the pint of the beer, the coconut in particular emerged a little more with the strawberries dancing in the background. Carbonation was minimal, but present reminding me that this was indeed a beer.

It seems Bolero Snort accomplished what they set out to do with this beer – it put me in the mindset of enjoying a Pina Colada in beer form. I’ve also been singing Mele Kalikimaka for the past few days.

I will also point out the great can art that captures a scene from the holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The Bolero Bull is dressed up like Clark Griswold (with added Mariner Moose Egg Nog Glass) during the scene when he’s daydreaming about the pool he’s going have installed thanks to his expected Christmas Bonus.

I suppose the best way for me to describe this beer is that is a fun, playful Christmas inspired beer that is a nice alternative to the traditional Christmas Stouts and Belgian Holiday ales.

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

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.