Beer Review: Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Name: Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler
Brewing Company: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Location: Richmond, VA
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 8.2%

“A Belgian Tripel perfectly complemented with some added elements make for a deliciously crafted dessert beer.”

From untappd’s page for beers:

Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler is a delightful variation of our Peach Tripel with vanilla, cinnamon, coconut, and milk sugar additions delivering the classic flavors of a southern-style peach cobbler baked fresh in grandma’s kitchen.

Another great beer from “The 20 Years 20 Beers” gift provides for an introduction to another new brewery! Hardywood is a brewery I’m well aware of and a brewery I featured here for their whale beer, Gingerbread Stout. This installment of 20 Years 20 Beers also gives me a new Tripel to try, a style I thoroughly enjoy, but isn’t quite as common in the American Craft Beer scene.

The initial small pour my wife gave me so I could try guess the style of beer gave off the fruity vibes. I tasted banana and thought perhaps peach might be involved. The yeast was very prevalent, I knew I had some kind of Belgian-style.

This beer, fully poured in my goblet, looks extremely inviting – some Tripels are filtered, some are a little cloudy like this one. Looks great, and the aroma is equally pleasing.

I’m getting massive peach aroma from this beer, fortunately peach is a fruit I enjoy a great deal. The nose leads to the taste, but with more than just a small pour, more than just peach emerges. The Belgian-style yeast is very prominent, but other elements come through, primarily the cinnamon. It is subtle, but present enough and a welcome complement to the peach and yeast. The lactose and coconut are even more subtle, lactose usually adds more texture and sweetness than a distinct flavor which is the case here. I didn’t get too much coconut as a standout, it was more in the background.

I was utterly entranced by this beer. The peach is a perfect complement to the strong, yeast element in the beer and the cinnamon is just a lovely component that ties the two elements together. I’ve had peach cobbler and this beer is a perfect interpretation of the dessert into a beer. Dessert beers are often associated with sweet, “pastry” stouts, but this beer right here? Give me this as a summer dessert beer and I’ll be a very, very happy guy. The peach is sweet, the lactose/milk sugar is an added sweetness, and the yeast helps to generate sweetness, so there’ quite a few sweet elements working together. However, the sweetness is not cloying and those three sweet elements are in balance with each other.

Mamaw’s Mean Cobbler is a beer with a funny name, but a great taste. My wife is continuing to knock it out of the park with the 20 Beers 20 Years theme so far.

Highly recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Flagship February: River Horse Brewing’s Tripel Horse

The second of my Flagship February posts for 2020 features another NJ Beer, this one from the second oldest independent brewery in the State. The beer itself has received some national recognition, it has proven to be the brewery’s most consistent seller, and one of the brewery’s most acclaimed beers over the course of the brewery’s almost 25-year life (which saw an ownership switch in 2007). In some ways, this beer as the brewery’s flagship is not what would one would typically expect to be a flagship beer from a brewery in the United States: a Belgian style Tripel. The beer: Tripel Horse. The brewery: River Horse Brewing Company in Ewing, NJ.

A Belgian Tripel is not a beer style that immediately comes to mind as a top/flagship beer, especially from a US brewery. Granted, two other Northeast/Mid-Atlantic brewery’s Flagship beers are Tripels (Golden Monkey from Victory Brewing in Downington, PA and Merry Monks from Weyerbacher Brewing in Easton, PA), all three breweries have been brewing beer for close to the same amount of time. Either that’s a strange coincidence or speaks to the beer tastes of people living in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Be that as it may, one would likely think of an IPA, Pilsner, or even Stout as more of an expected Flagship beer.

River Horse initially opened up in 1996, but about a decade later (2007), the original owners sold to a couple of finance professionals with a passion for beer. A few years after that (2013), River Horse moved from Lambertville to Ewing, NJ into a larger space with far more capacity for growth and production, and the brewery certainly grew from that point in time. Through all of that, Tripel Horse has been the most prominent beer they’ve brewed, though it may have been tweaked over the years.

A Beer like Tripel Horse is, I suppose, an ideal candidate for Flagship February. Not that Kane’s Head High wasn’t, but as respected River Horse is and for as long as they’ve been in operation, River Horse isn’t a NJ brewery that is as top-of-mind as a brewery like Kane, Carton, Icarus, or Magnify. I say this as a person who enjoys much of River Horse’s portfolio. Again, from the Flagship February Web site:

What sometimes gets lost amid the constant stream of special releases are the beers that paved the way for today’s remarkable global beer market, or in other words, the flagship beers that got us here.

Tripel Horse is a beer that has been continually available in New Jersey for nearly 25 years (giving the beer true classic status) and it is NOT an IPA (the hottest style). However, that lengthy history for River Horse has allowed them to maintain their status as one of the top 2 or 3 breweries, by size, in the State of New Jersey. Hell, I haven’t had this specific beer in a couple of years, but I do seek out the newer beers River Horse brews because the quality has almost always been there for me.

Before I give my “current” experience of the beer, let’s take a look at what River Horse says about Tripel Horse:

Image courtesy of River Horse Brewing’s Web site

Our take on a Belgian Style Tripel Ale, brewed with spices and fermented with a Trappist yeast strain which lends hints of vanilla and creates a variety of complex flavors. ABV – 10.0%

Hops: Chinook, Hallertau, Saaz

Malt: Pilsen, White Wheat, Caramel

I can remember the first time I had the beer. In fact, it is one of the more vivid and clear memories I have of a specific beer. My wife and I had just bought and moved into our current home, so we are talking almost fifteen years ago. I’m not sure if it was around my birthday immediately after we moved into the house or the following fall, so we’re talking 2005 or 2006. Anyway, we went down to a restaurant (The Porterhouse Pub) in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA with my parents that was featuring only River Horse beers, including some beers usually only available at the brewery. But what I went for was Tripel Horse. (That restaurant has since ceased that exclusive partnership with River Horse). While we were waiting for a table, we sat at the bar and I downed two full pours of the beer. I was initially taken aback and wowed by the abundant flavors in the beer, which is why I had a second beer. At the time, I possessed far less knowledge of beer as a whole, with regard to beer styles or breweries and the closest thing to Belgian-style beer I had that wasn’t Blue Moon was the old Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic. Be that as it may, our table was ready and the two full pours of Tripel Horse at 10% ABV caught up to me as we left the bar to go to the table. Standing from the barstool initially proved to be a little difficult. From that point on; however, Tripel Horse has been a beer I would always associate with a great night and River Horse as a brewery that crafted flavorful beer. Over the years I’d get the beer in six packs, but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t always the first River Horse beer I’d gravitate towards but it has a been a beer I could always rely on for great taste. For everyday beers, I leaned more towards stouts, porters and some lagers.

Image courtesy of River Horse Brewing’s Web site

As I said, I haven’t had a bottle or pour of Tripel Horse in a few years, so I was very excited to reintroduce myself to the beer again. I’ll admit to some slight trepidation on revisiting the beer because, to borrow a term from my science fiction and fantasy online community, I did not want the “suck fairy” to strike. Basically, when your current experience of a thing you enjoyed in the past does not live up to the memory enjoying that thing in the past.

So…a pour of the beer into my Belgian-style tulip glass and the beer looks the part of a Tripel, unsurprisingly. It is of the cloudier variety, so I’m not sure if this is filtered. Comparatively speaking, it isn’t as clear or see-through as Tripel Karmeliet or Victory’s Golden Monkey but more like the cloudiness featured in Westmalle’s Tripel. By no means is this a flaw, simply a difference. Aroma is of the yeast with some fruitiness. Again, exactly as what I would expect from a Tripel.

The first sip gives me many of the flavors from the yeast with some spice. Very, very pleasant and flavorful. I can tell it is a high-octane beer, but I’d only guess at the 10% ABV range because of how the beer asserts itself as a Tripel. There’s also a strong fruit flavor coming from the yeast, maybe peach or apricot? Maybe pear? I can’t quite pinpoint it, but it is a welcome element in the overall profile of the beer. As the beer warmed in the glass, that fruity element grew and I found myself enjoying the beer to a greater degree. The last few sips when the beer was closer to room temperature were fantastic. Again, I need to remind myself to let these bigger beers warm from the fridge, even a little bit and even if they aren’t barrel-aged stouts. I enjoyed that first bottle I used for the photograph so much that two nights after having the first of the six pack, I had two bottles because the beer just hit every button in my sense of flavor so well. Some of the enjoyment probably comes with the great memory associated with that first beer all those years ago, but more than anything, Tripel Horse is just a damned good beer.

Over the years, Tripel Horse has received largely positive reception from the beer writing community, including nice write-ups/reviews at All About Beer, Draft Mag, The Full Pint, and Porch Drinking to name a few. But perhaps the most prominent acknowledgment of the beer’s quality occurred in late 2017 at the Great American Beer Festival where Tripel Horse received the Bronze Medal (3rd best Tripel overall) for Belgian-Style Tripel.

Image Courtesy of River Horse Brewing’s Facebook

A beer that is a flagship will often have “Spin Off” beers and this is true of Tripel Horse. A few years ago, River Horse first released a version with Raspberry, Raspberry Tripel Horse, which I reviewed here at the Tap Takeover almost exactly a year ago. This version started out as a brewery-only release but proved popular enough that River Horse bottled it for distribution. Additionally, River Horse has also released a sour version of the beer, Sour Tripel Horse. and in even more limited quantities, River Horse produced a Bourbon Barrel-Aged version of Tripel Horse. When River Horse was invited to partner with Jameson Whiskey as part of their Caskmates program, one of the beers they featured was One Score and Two Years Ago, which is, you guessed it, Tripel Horse brewed with spices and orange peels, fermented cherries and aged in Jameson barrels. That is a beer I’d love to try because those ingredients look to mimic one of my favorite cocktails, the Old Fashioned.

For all the reasons I’ve outlined in this post, you might say that Tripel Horse can be seen as River Horse Brewing’s “Work Horse” beer. Come on, there was NO way I wasn’t going to make that pun at some point.

In the end, Tripel Horse is a great example of a somewhat non-standard Flagship beer and a beer that helps to show the quality and diversity of beer available in the State of New Jersey. Be warned; however. If you plan to have more than one don’t stand up too quickly after you’ve downed a couple and be sure to pass your car keys to your friend/significant other.

Beer Review: River Horse’s Raspberry Tripel Horse

Name: Raspberry Tripel Horse
Brewing Company: River Horse Brewing Company
Location: Ewing, NJ
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 10%

“A sweet-tart twist on the venerable’ NJ brewery’s most respected and widely known beer is a welcome variant on a tried and true style.”

Wanted to collage the picture to show Brewtus with his Raspberry beret. I’ve also been wanting to use my Barrel of Monks glass.

From River Horse Brewing’s page for the beer:

Year after year, the fan favorite at our cask festival is always our Tripel Horse Belgian Style Ale with raspberries. So we figured why not run with it! We’ve added 14 pounds of raspberries per barrel to our original Tripel Horse recipe and bottled it for you to enjoy at home. The raspberry is perfectly balanced in this smooth Belgian style beer. The label may be loud – but the raspberry is perfectly balanced in this smooth Belgian style beer

Almost exactly a year since my first review of a River Horse beer, here comes another from the venerable New Jersey brewery. Oddly enough, for all the love I throw to the Belgian style ales, this is the first Belgian Tripel I’m reviewing. River Horse’s Tripel Horse arguably the most well known and most acclaimed beer they brew – it received a bronze medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival – but I figured that beer was well known enough that I wanted to try something slightly adjacent to that beer. This beer also happens to mark my 5th anniversary on untappd, so it is a great candidate for review.

This beer, like many beers, began as a brewery exclusive variant on a popular beer. I’ve had the original Tripel Horse a few times and have wanted to try this sweetened variant since it was released in bottles a few years ago. In fact, one of the first times I had Tripel Horse I had two sitting at the bar waiting for a table. I thought the beer was delicious, but the ABV was subtle. To the point that when I stood up when our table was called, a nearly fell back down.

Enough reminiscing and preamble, let’s dive into this beer, shall we?

The beer pours like a standard Tripel, but a little hazier and with a reddish-pinkish hue. Not surprising given the amount of raspberries added per barrel. I get the yeasty aroma I’d expect from a Tripel with maybe a hint of the raspberries. It makes for a unique aroma and not unpleasant.

First sip gives more of the raspberry than the nose did, the tartness of the raspberry seems most prevalent. The beer turns out to be quite well-rounded, with the raspberry and yeast playing nicely together. This is a very flavorful beer so I don’t know that I’d pair it with say, a steak, pizza, or your main meal.

The magic of the yeast along with the sweet tartness brought by the raspberry make for a really nice dessert beer. I think the sweetness also masks the 10% ABV of the beer. The booziness / alcohol level aren’t immediately present, but noticeable at the end. Granted, I didn’t chug the beer but rather consumed it in smaller sips because it is such a potently flavor-filled beer.

If you are looking for a sweet take on an already excellent interpretation of a world class style, River Horse’s Raspberry Tripel Horse is well worth trying.

I’ll beat the same drum I do for most higher ABV beers: the flavors come more alive as the beer settles from fridge temperature to room temperature. The sweetness takes over the tartness just a little bit, too.

Side note on the label, it seems over the past year or two, River Horse has made their mascot – Brewtus the Hippo – a more prominent component of their label designs. For this one, they put a beret on him so I found myself playing Prince’s Raspberry Beret in my head when I was enjoying the beer. According to this facebook post, from River Horse the beer was indeed brewed in homage to his Purprleness, Prince:

…Our Raspberry Tripel was created around the time the Artist-Formerly-Known-As (and known again as) Prince died. In honor of his badassness, we thought Brewtus should don a Raspberry Beret.

While this specific beer has been available in bottles for about two years, it is nice to see that River Horse, one of earliest independent/craft breweries in NJ continues to release new styles and beers. This is one that should be an annual favorite.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Dubbel, Tripel and Quad Oh My! (Level 9)

Dubbel, Tripel, or Quad, you can’t go wrong with these amazing feats of Belgian style brewing. Whether you’re looking for something light and golden or dark and boozy, one of these will do the trick!

Sky’s the Limit! (Level 29)

You don’t always intend to go for beers with a double digit ABV, but when you do, you make it count! Cheers to you, but be careful, 10% and up can really pack a punch.

Cheers to You (Level 5)

Happy Untappd anniversary to you! Thanks for sticking around and drinking socially with us. Cheers! That’s 5 years on Untappd!

 

Draught Diversions: March 2018 Six Pack

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

March has concluded, so it is time here at The Tap Takeover for me to post my March Six Pack. As always, I’ll assemble the six pack chronologically starting with the beer I had earliest in the month up to (in this case) a beer I had on the last day of the month. March was a bit darker, with a dip into some stouts/porters that are typically in my sweet spot breaking the IPA dominant trend from the previous two months.

Yeti (Great Divide Brewing Company) Stout – American Imperial / Double – 3.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I like stouts and imperial stouts, but not all are created equal and not all palates are created equal as this beer demonstrates. I realize the higher ABV stouts, like Yeti which clocks in at 9.5%, will have a high hop component (75 IBU) but for me, the hop presence was far too dominant. There’s also a strong licorice taste and I don’t like licorice. At all.

200th Anniversary Export Stout (Guinness) Stout – Foreign / Export– 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I mentioned this one in my St. Patrick’s Day post and I was very pleased with the beer. This is sweeter than the standard Guinness with a really nice chocolate and toffee thread of flavor in the beer. Like the majority of stouts, this beer became more flavorful as it warmed and the toffee/chocolate sweetness became really balanced. My wife also made outstanding Stout Chocolate cupcakes with this beer.

Wobbly Cow Coffee Milk Stout (Flying Fish Brewing Company) Stout – Milk / Sweet – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Flying Fish seems to be a regular on these posts. I follow Flying Fish on all their social media platforms and read about this beer which I initially thought was a brewery-only release, but I am very happy that I was proven wrong. This is perhaps the most subtle of any barrel-aged stout I’ve had, but it is wonderfully balanced. None of the many flavor components (coffee, chocolate, sweetness and rye whiskey) over power another and at 8% the beer won’t totally knock you out. The finish on this one is very clean.

Ship Wreck Porter (Carton Brewing Company) Porter – Imperial/Double – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

 

Carton just might be my favorite NJ brewery and porters just might be one of my favorite styles, so I’m basically programmed to like this beer. I haven’t had many beers aged in rum barrel so this was a bit of a twist on the barrel aging theme for me. Of course it was delicious because those are the only kinds of beers Carton knows how to make. The porter likely would have been good on its own, but the sweetness from the rum cut any of the smokiness that some porters can exhibit.

Centennial IPA (Founders Brewing Co.) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Founders is one of my favorite breweries, I’ve written about them quite often here and I’d avoided the IPA section of their portfolio for a while. That won’t be happening any longer. I’ve come to realize Centennial Hops are some of my favorite hops and that’s the hop that gives this one it’s flavor. I can see many of these in my future.

Westmalle Trappist Tripel (Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle) Belgian Tripel – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

This beer is quite simply, a world class ale. There are only 12 officially designated Trappist Breweries in the world and I’ve had two of the three ales from Westmalle. The Dubbel is really tasty, but this one is obviously more recent in my memory so it really stands out as something complex, delicious, and perhaps the epitome of what a Belgian Tripel should be. Most Trappist ales are sold in single bottles, but the approximate $4 to $6 price tag is oh so worth it. The Belgian yeast works wonders, the beer has some fruity elements as well as some spice elements that altogether make a fantastic, must-try beer.

Six beers, two from outside of the US, two from New Jersey, three stouts, one porter, one IPA, and one Belgian Tripel. Not a bad variety if I do say so myself.