Beer Review: Weyerbacher Brewing’s TINY

Name: TINY
Brewing Company: Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Location: Easton, PA
Style: Stout – Imperial/Double | “Belgian-Style Imperial Stout”
ABV: 11.8%

A big, boozy stout that is unique in the style, blending Belgian and American influences very admirably.

Weyerbacher_Tiny_01

From the untapped page for the beer:

Tiny is a Belgian inspired Imperial Stout weighing in at 11.8% abv. You’ll find big chocolate and roasted notes, balanced with the Belgian flavors from the Abbey yeast strain. This beer is very smooth and lacks the astringency you sometimes find in these big Imperial Stouts.

It has been quite a while since I’ve had a beer from the landmark, independent Pennsylvania brewery. In the early 2000s, Weyerbacher was a consistent go-to for me, even beyond their iconic Imperial Pumpkin Ale. I’d been in the mood for a relatively straight-forward, new to me Imperial Stout, and TINY is one of the prominent, maybe almost-flagship beers from Weyerbacher.

Let’s get to the beer whose name is in cognitive dissonance with the liquid in the bottle/glass.

Expectedly, TINY pours black as night. There’s a thickness to the beer that hints at a substantial beer. The aroma is slightly different than the standard roasted malt, maybe a little sweeter? This beer being a “Belgian-inspired” stout, the yeast likely gives it that added layer of complexity.

My first taste is heavy on the roasted malt with a great deal of sweetness. Most of the beers I’ve had from Weyerbacher lean on the sweet side and this one is no different, and keeping that in mind, it is a good level of sweetness. It isn’t cloying, rather, it is pleasing. As with the aroma, the yeast brings something unique to the overall flavor profile. Can’t say what exactly that is, but there’s an element of fruitiness? Whatever it was, I liked it.

I had a second bottle a couple of nights later and the fruitiness I mentioned in the previous paragraph comes through slightly more on the initial taste of the beer. Again, I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but I suspect the yeast evokes some hints of maybe banana? Maybe hints of raisin? I don’t know exactly what to call it other than something I like.

As I said, the name of the beer is definitely a misnomer, because the booziness of the 11.8% ABV is definitely evident. It isn’t off-putting, but rather it is a presence that lets you know the beer should be sipped, appreciated, and enjoyed in its full-flavored glory.

Early in the timeline of the Tap Takeover, I reviewed Allagash’s Black which is similar to this beer in some ways. Both beers are have their roots in Belgian-style beers whose flavors come primarily from the yeast utilized in the brewing process. However, with Weyerbacher’s TINY there’s more of an American influence with the malt, and overall stout profile. Comparison to Allagash Black aside, TINY is a relatively unique, imperial stout.

It has been a while since I’ve said this of a big beer, but TINY most definitely benefits from warming a bit to room temperature. The complex flavors expand and come alive even more.

As it so happens, TINY topped me out for the Heavyweight Badge on untappd, essentially the dark beer badge. What does that mean? Well, as the description below badge indicates, I’ve had 500 beers categorized as either porter or stout.

Highly Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Heavyweight (Level 100)

Porters and Stouts are rich with both history and flavor. Roasty, dark, and delicious, these two styles helped start it all. That’s 500 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout. You have reached the top!!.

Weyerbacher_Tiny_02

Beer Review: Workhorse Brewing’s Golden Lager

Name: Golden Lager
Brewing Company: Workhorse Brewing Company
Location: King of Prussia, PA
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 5%
A delicious Flagship Lager that is a wonderful example of the classic style from the Keystone State Brewery.

Workhorse_GoldenLager.jpg

From Workhorse Brewing’s to go page for their beer

Our Helles has been rebranded for 2021! While the label is new, the liquid remains the same. Showcasing a blend of traditional German malts and hops, this well-balanced and crisp lager utilizes a cold fermentation process and extensive lagering. The result is a great “all day” beer with subtle notes of bread and honey.

Back to the Lagers with a brewery new to NJ – Workhorse Breiwng Company. While they aren’t exactly new, Workhorse has begun distributing into New Jersey thanks to Cape Beverage (an offshoot of Cape May Brewing Company). I’m always up to try new breweries especially when one of those beers is a Helles Lager, the beer that I like to call the Pilsner’s Munich Cousin. The Helles Lager is one of the more widely crafted styles of Lager …and it has been almost a year since the Tap Takeover shone the review spotlight on a Helles Lager so the timing is almost perfect for this review.

Crack of the can, pour into the Willi Becher glass and we’ve got a beautiful translucent golden beer with a perfectly frothy head about the width of my thumb. This beer is exactly what it says on the label – Golden Lager. “Helles” in German can be translated as “bright” so by the looks of this beer, Workhorse’s take on the Munich Lager is 100% on point. As for the aroma…nothing crazy, it tastes like a beer I want to drink.

On the taste here, there’s a sweet maltiness, that toasted bread cracker element associated with the style, to the beer that immediately pleases me. Refreshing and flavorful, I get a slightly bitter finish on that first sip, but the whole of the flavors coming together make for an extremely refreshing beer. A beer whose flavor profile says, “Yeah, this is really tasty. Don’t let it sit on the table too long. Maybe just hold the glass between sips because you want more.”

Overall, this is a extremely clean, well-balanced beer that is exactly what a Lager should be. What does that mean? The beer hits the cracker/bready notes a lager should hit, it has that overused, but ever important “drinkability” quality that lends itself to having a couple of beers without being knocked out, and is very flavorful.

Golden Lager is one of the four primary beers Workhorse has sent into NJ as an introduction, along with their New England IPA, West Coast IPA, and Prickly Pear Gose. Based on this beer, Workhorse has made a pretty nice first appearance in New Jersey.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Lager Jack (Level 25)

After a long day, what better way to kick back than with a crisp and refreshing lager? You’re already feeling more relaxed, aren’t you?

Brewery Pioneer (Level 95)

There’s beer in them thar hills! You’re setting off on your journey through the world of beer, but be sure to take a little time to get to know each brewery as you go. That’s a beer from 475 different breweries.

Workhorse_GoldenLager.jpg

Beer Review: Toms River Brewing’s Blueberry Blonde Summer Ale

Name: Blueberry Blonde Summer Ale
Brewing Company: Toms River Brewing
Location: Toms River, NJ
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.1%

“A delightfully refreshing ale highlighting NJ’s most well known fruit.”

TomsRiver_BlueberryBlonde

From Tom River Brewing’s instagram post promoting the beer:

New Jersey is the blueberry capital of the world. This light bodied blonde ale is packed with fresh home grown blueberries picked at the peak of the season. This crushable ale is brewed with Pilsen, Marris Otter, Vienna malts and hopped with Cascade and Citron hops giving a refreshing finish that is perfect for the hot summer days and warm summer nights to come. Cheers🍻.

It hasn’t been quite a year since I reviewed a beer from Tom’s River Brewing, but this beer is such a fantastic summer beer, I have to share my thoughts. The blueberry is one of my favorite fruits and New Jersey happens to be one of the largest producers of blueberries in the country and Hammonton, NJ is the “Blueberry Capital of the World.” So, adding blueberries to beer is a natural fit for a New Jersey brewery.

On to the beer…

Pop of the can, the beer pours a light purple/blue into the glass and I get the pleasant aroma of blueberries. Obviously, the blueberries prevent this beer from looking the true part of a “Blonde Ale,” but that is to be expected.

The first sip is very pleasant indeed. The blueberries are the most prominent flavor element, but they aren’t tart and overpowering in the way blueberries can be. The hop presence comes in on the finish of the beer. Per Toms River, this beer has Cascade and Citra hops, two of the classic hops in American Craft brewing. They both provide a slight bittering element that is a nice balance to the sweetness from the malt and blueberries.

This beer is a good example of a fun beer – flavorful, approachable, and featuring relatively local elements. Blueberry Blonde Summer Ale is a fantastic seasonal ale and perfect for summer. Although I’ve only had about a half-dozen beers from Toms River Brewing, this one is a definite standout for my tastes.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4 bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Last Wave Brewing’s Dawn Patrol

Name: Dawn Patrol
Brewing Company: Last Wave Brewing Co.
Location: Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
Style: Sour – Fruited Gose
ABV: 5.2%

“A brewery in one of NJ’s great Shore Town has a take on a classic German style that is sure to please.”

LastWave_DawnPatrol2

From Last Wave’s “Our beers” page:

Sunsets are kind of a West Coast thing. We look for the Sunrise on the East Coast, signaling another day. This beer honors those that forgo a little extra sleep to chase their passion and rise with the sun. Dawn Patrol is a light, tart beer that gets its flavor from a simple grain bill, a light souring, pureed pink guava, and like most great things from the Jersey Shore—a touch of salt. It’s a refreshing brew that’s fruity, a little funky, and ready to go for your next summer get-together—no matter the time of day.

I’ve been wanting to try one of Last Wave’s beers for a while now, especially since I’ve been seeing their beer in distribution in my area. Well, let me revise that statement. I’ve had a beer which was a collaboration with Icarus Brewing, so I wanted to sample their “solo” brewing efforts. Warm weather is a good time for fruited Goses so here we are with Dawn Patrol. Last Wave is based on one of NJ’s great Shore Towns, Point Pleasant Beach, so many of their beers (like this one) have a beach/ocean themed name.

”But what about the beer, Rob?” readers typically ask at this point. Let’s dive into it, then.

The beer pours quite cloudy, which is largely on par for the course with Gose beers. Not much color from the guava, maybe a very slight tint of pink? The aroma is a little funky, which is to be expected from the style. So far, so good.

My first impression of the taste is a little tart, a little sweetness, a slight hit from the salt on the finish. Again, pretty much in line for the style. The sweetness, of course, comes from the Guava and is a nice balance to the inherent tartness of the style. The guava isn’t too overpowering, it brings a welcome element of refreshment to the beer. I’ve got fond memories of freshly squeezed guava juice from when my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Hawaii and the guava elements in this beer definitely stoke the flames of those memories.

One of the characteristics of a Gose, compared to many other sours and fruited sours in particular, is the salinity. The Gose style of beer originated in Leipzig, Germany, a region noted for water high in salinity. As such, brewers have tried to evoke that salty/balanced finish when crafting beer in the Gose-style. That saltines is present here in Dawn Patrol and of course evokes the saltiness one might feel and taste in the air on the beach, so on many levels, Last Wave has done something quite nice with this beer.

While I thoroughly enjoy this beer and can imagine it being perfect on a warm day, I think I would like Dawn Patrol even more if the hallmark elements of the beer and style would be a little more assertive. A slight increase of the tartness and salty finish would elevate a very good beer to a great beer. Like I said, I’m nit-picking because I like the beer quite a lot. This beer is be perfect for drinkers who may be averse to sour styles because of the approachability and overall flavor profile of Dawn Patrol has the elements of the style, but not to amped up monstrous levels. In other words, I’d say this is a “successful” beer for Last Wave Brewing Co.

I’m not sure how widely Last Wave is distributing within New Jersey, but I suspect one would only have success finding this beer within the Garden State. What Dawn Patrol has done for me is this: I’m intrigued to try more beer from Last Wave Brewing.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Pucker Up (Level 21)

bdg_sourbrew_lg.jpg
A Sour beer on Untappd is any beer with a style of the following: American Wild Ale, Lambic, or Sour.

Right about now you’re feeling your face tighten and your taste buds explode. The full pucker is quickly setting in and you can’t get enough. This is the wonder of the sour.

LastWave_DawnPatrol

Beer Review: Bradley Brew Project’s Summer Friend

Name: Summer Friend
Brewing Company: Bradley Brew Project
Location: Bradley Beach, NJ
Style: Kellerbier / Zwickelbier
ABV: 5.3%

A tasty, refreshing summer Lager from one of the fine breweries along the NJ shore.

BradleyBrewProject_SummerFriend

From the untappd page for the beer:

dry-hopped kellerbier

Bradley Brew Project has been crafting beer for about three years now, and over the past year or so, they’ve increased their output and distribution footprint. I’ve been seeing a few of their beers in local shops, so when I saw a Summer themed Lager, I figured it would be a logical follow-up to my 2021 Summer Six Pack from a couple of weeks ago and an opportunity for me to finally try one of their beers.

Bradley Brew Project categorizes this as a Dry Hopped “Kellerbier.” Most kellerbiers are essentially unfiltered Helles Lagers or pale lagers. So, with that starting point….

After opening the can, a golden hued beer with a bit of cloudiness fills my beer glass. Not the cloudiness level of a Hefeweizen, but the beer is clearly (pun intended) unfiltered. The aroma … there’s a little bit of the malt associated with lagers, but more pronounced is the smell of the hops.

I get some good lager vibes at the outset of the taste, a little bit of malt and a lot of thirst-quenching characteristics. I like it and that alone puts this in great “warm weather” beer. The finish brings the hops with a potent smack. Dry-hopping adds a significant punch of hop flavor and aroma. The flavors evoked from the hops are somewhat citrusy and a little piney. The hops used in the brew process aren’t listed, but I’d guess Citra is one of the hops utilized (it is probably the most popular hop at the moment) and maybe Mosaic? I only say Mosaic because of the mild aftertaste form the hops, because the can and description give minimal hints of what makes up this beer.

So what do we have here in Summer Friend? In one sense, it has the lager characteristics of the crackery/bready malt. In another sense, the hop finish gives of IPA vibes. Altogether, though, it works quite well for what it calls itself, a “Summer Friend,” which to me says a beer for warm weather and beach/poolside relaxation. What I found to be unexpectedly pleasant was that the beer was still quite tasty and refreshing when it warmed up to room temperature, not what I’d predict in a lager.

I’ll also give a little shout out to the can art, which is simple, whimsical, and quite effective. Light blue with beach balls, beach umbrellas, and beach chairs is a nice, eye-catching encapsulation of summer fun.

Summer Friend is a well-made beer that should appeal to both lager-leaning beer drinkers and hop-forward beer drinkers. I would really, really like to try a version of this beer without the dry-hopping element. For my palate, the hops are a little more pronounced than I typically enjoy in a lager, but I can recognize the beer is well made. That said, it seems the theme of the blog this year is that Rob enjoys beers the second time more than the first time, because the second can a couple of days after the first one worked better for me (thus the 2 ratings). Again, I think I had an idea of what to expect when I had the second can and appreciated it more, compared to trying to figure out what flavors were working together on my first can of the beer.

Recommended, link to 3.75 bottle-cap Untappd check in | 4 bottle-cap (second) Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Jersey Cyclone’s May Day Maibock Style Lager

Name: May Day (Maibock Style Lager)
Brewing Company: Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company
Location: Somerset, NJ
Style: Bock – Hell / Maibock / Lentebock
ABV: 7.3%

Happy Anniversary to Jersey Cyclone, this delicious Maibock is a great celebration of the quality beer they’ve been brewing for two years!

JerseyCyclone_Mayday

From the untappd page for the beers.

May Day was brewed to capture the crisp floral aromas of a beautiful spring day. The subtle golden hue of this traditional Maibock gives you flavors of freshly baked biscuits, slightly browned toast followed by a delicate floral aroma leave your tastebuds dreaming about another sip. Aroma/Taste: Floral, Biscuit, Toasty.

I’ve written about bocks and reviewed several bocks, but this is the first Maibock I’m reviewing here at the Tap Takeover. Maibocks are the traditional German spring beer (Mai translates from German as May, after all), and are slightly maltier, slightly hoppier, and usually more amber in color than most lagers. Not many American breweries are crafting Maibocks, if anything, the doppelbock is (I’m guessing here), the most popular of the bock styles. When Jersey Cyclone announced they were canning May Day as both a celebration of their second anniversary and spring, I had to give the beer a try. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to their Anniversary celebration, so let’s look at the beer.

Let the celebration begin as we dance around the maypole and I crack open Jersey Cyclone’s May Day!

The can pops nicely and pours a golden/amber into the Jersey Cyclone Willi Becher glass. It certainly looks the part of a traditional Maibock, at least compared to the baker’s dozen of Maibocks I’ve enjoyed including the one that started it all, Hofbräu’s Maibock. There’s a mild aroma of toasted malt, but nothing too pronounced.

How about the taste/first sip? I get what I expect from May Day, the beer exhibits sweet malt flavors (not unlike a Märzen), with some floral hints throughout the overall flavor of the beer. The mild hop presence associated with the style comes in at the finish for a very slight bitterness and a bit of spice. I also get something I can only call nuttiness? Maybe that’s toasted bread or crackers? It works and is mostly on point for the style. The ultimate finish I get is a smooth, very pleasant caramel-esque sweetness. On the whole, May Day resonates with other Maibocks/Helles Bocks I’ve had over the years. In other words, May Day is a very solid interpretation of the style.

I had a second can the following night. Something I’ve been learning and which I’ve mentioned here at the Tap Takeover is that I feel like I’m able to enjoy my “second experience” or pint/can/pour even more because I have a better idea of what to expect. That is very true with Mayday, I wasn’t trying to figure out the tasting notes, I was expecting them and they delivered quite nicely.

I also want to point out the can art of this beer. The label really captures the spirit of the beer. The image depicted is the traditional Maypole, a central motif in spring celebrations in Germanic nations. One of the first posts I wrote here at The Tap Takeover was about “Seasonally Appropriate” beers, between quality of the beer, style of the beer, release of the beer (May 1st, which is when Maypoles are generally erected), and the label, Jersey Cyclone completely nailed this Maibock.

JerseyCyclone_MayDayLabel

Happy Anniversary to Jersey Cyclone! Their quality started out strong and each beer continues to show their expertise at brewing and brewing/crafting some of the more unique and “advanced” styles of lagers. I’ve come to consider Jersey Cyclone one of my constant go-to breweries. When I stopped in a couple of months and chatted with owner Jan, he mentioned how impressed and happy he was with the lagers their brewer Charles was making and hinted that this Maibock would hopefully be ready for their anniversary party. Cheers also to Charles for crafting another excellent lager.

Prost and again, Happy Anniversary to Jersey Cyclone!

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

JerseyCyclone_Mayday

Beer Review: Wet Ticket Brewing Company’s Pineapple Hopper

Name: Pineapple Hopper
Brewing Company: Wet Ticket Brewing Company
Location: Rahway, NJ
Style: IPA – Milkshake
ABV: 7%

“A balanced, sweet twist on the New Jersey brewery’s Flagship IPA.”

WetTicket_PineappleHopper

From Wet Ticket’s our beer page:

A Milkshake IPA featuring a subtle addition of vanilla and just enough pineapple to accentuate the tropical fruit hop flavor: Lush and creamy featuring layers of Pineapple, Vanilla and Citrus notes with just enough lactose to tie it all together.

From the untappd entry for the beer:

We’ve taken the Trolley Hopper off the tracks! Amping up the pineapple notes in the original with fresh pineapple juice from our friends at Rahway’s own Juice Hub, then conditioning it on milk sugar and Madagascar vanilla beans. To complete the package, the “Pineapple Hopper” was dry hopped with 06297 which very subtly complements the vanilla and adds just the right amount of hop flavor.

Milkshake IPAs…one of the more popular styles to emerge recently, some might say a cousin to or adjacent to New England IPAs, since both beers are hazy and often feature lactose as one of their adjunct ingredients. Technically this is the second Milkshake IPA to be reviewed, I say technically because the term “IPA – Milkshake” was barely a fully recognized style for that review back in 2018 (Bolero Snort’s BOVB (Blood Orange Cream Pop IPA)). Here we have Wet Ticket’s hazier take on their flagship Trolley Hopper NEIPA (which I reviewed about two years ago). Wet Ticket does a smart thing with this beer, something quite a few breweries have done: take a successful “brand” and spin off a variant. Does the theory work out in practice?

The addition of milk sugar (lactose), Madagascar Vanilla, and the Pineapple, which gives the beer its name, are three ingredients that have within them the potential to be overpowering on their own, so nuance and skill are required to blend those elements together. Fortunately, Tim Pewitt and his crew have that skill, nuance, and craft brewing experience to make this beer work very nicely.

The look test: Unsurprisingly, the beer pours very hazy and opaque in the glass. One could be forgiven for thinking the beer was actually a pineapple juice. The aroma is of hops and some pineapple. 

The first sip: a very pleasant surprise. The surprises is just how well balanced the flavors are. There’s hit of pineapple, some vanilla, and hops; all as advertised. What becomes more evident is just how well made this beer is. Any one of the adjunct elements could be overpowering, but there’s great balance between the pineapple, vanilla, and milk sugar, and none of them outshine the hops.

I usually think of stouts as dessert beers, but Pineapple Hopper is a beer that work for that post dinner treat. That said, the sweetness is balanced enough and won’t overpower your palate for most meals. All told, Pineapple Hopper is a beer that shows Wet Ticket’s continued skill and excellence at craft brewing.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Twin Lights Lager

Name: Twin Lights Lager
Brewing Company: Twin Lights Brewing Company
Location: Highlands, NJ
Style: Lager – Pale
ABV: 4.8%

A superb Lager boldly launched Twin Lights Brewing into the growing NJ Craft Beer Landscape.

From Twin Lights Brewing’s landing page for their beers:

Our first core beer to hit the market was our Twin Lights Lager. This beer will comes in with a crushable ABV of 4.8%. Brewed with pilsner & victory malt, and topped off with a touch of Saaz & Perle hops.

Twin Lights Brewing did something bold. They launched their brand amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. Their first beer, this beer, was a lager. While more breweries are including Lagers as part of their Portfolio and even a flagship beer, the Pale Ale and IPA are still the primary styles the majority of breweries have at their core and flagship.

Let’s look at what exactly a Pale Lager is, briefly. As I noted in an earlier review, Dark Lagers were prevalent and popular in Germany for many, many years before the lighter-in-color lagers came along, beers like Helles Lagers and Pilsners, which are part of the group of Pale Lagers. Essentially, a Pale Lager can be considered an “almost Pilsner.” Or another thought is All Pilsners are Pale Lagers but not all Pale Lagers are Pilsners.

This brings us to Twin Lights Lager, the launch beer for contract-brewer Twin Lights Brewing.

The look test: the beer looks like a pilsner, or a pale yellow beer. In other words, on point for the style. The aroma is what I expected: it smells like beer, maybe a little bready?

The first sip test: I like this. The flavor hits all the notes I hope a good lager will hit, hints of malt and breadiness, and a slightly sweet finish from the hops. That sweetness is maybe a little floral? Saaz hops are one of the most traditional of European lager hops, a Czech Noble Hop in fact and the Perle hop is a traditional German hop. The two hops are very predominant in lagers and here they balance each other quite nicely.

The malt and hops come together for an extremely flavorful beer, especially considering the sub 5% ABV. The sentiment that characterized my post about Ross Brewing’s Shrewsbury Lager is true for Twin Lights Lager: this launch beer is proof that Twin Lights has some impressive skill at the craft of brewing. This “Pilsner-adjacent” lager is a perfect introduction to what Twin Lights may be capable of brewing and a fine example of an everyday, always-in-the-cooler, approachable beer.

Hats off to Twin Lights on a fantastic beer. Although Twin Lights Brewing does not yet have a taproom to call home, they have been making a very nice push into liquor stores and bottle shops with about 18 beers having been released over the last year or so across all styles so I’d recommend trying one of their beers that aligns with your favorite style.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

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.