Beer Review: Heavy Reel Brewing’s SKELLINATOR

Name: SKELLINATOR
Brewing Company: Heavy Reel Brewing Company
Location: Seaside Heights, NJ
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 7.2%

The Jersey Shore brewery known for sours churns out a tasty classic German Lager.

HeavyReel_Skellinator

I’ve reviewed a couple of beers that were a collaboration between Heavy Reel Brewing and another brewery, but this is the first all Heavy Reel beer getting the review feature here at the Tap Takeover. My wife, myself and a few others made our annual trip down to Chegg’s in Long Beach Island, NJ and as has been custom, we stopped at a brewery on the way home. This year, we stopped at Heavy Reel Brewing in Seaside Heights since it was just off the Garden State Parkway about 20 miles north of the LBI exit.

Heavy Real has been around for a few years (since 2018), they are best known for their hop-forward beers and sour beers. That said, I will often spotlight a beer slightly askew from a brewery’s core or flagship beer. Thus, I’m reviewing Heavy Reel’s take on the classic, malty, German lager.

The beer I’m given is murky brown in the classic Germanic, dimpled mug. A thick light khaki head sat atop the brownish-caramel colored beer. Although it isn’t as translucent as I’d expect from a doppelbock, it looks the part. Maybe this is an unfiltered beer?

The beer has a very sweet, almost chocolatey taste at the outset. A very appealing first impression that makes me glad I ordered a full pour of the beer. Skellinator also has a very pleasant caramel element, also from the malt. There’s a slight bite on the end that reminds of perhaps the most well-known American doppelbock, Tröegs Troegenator.

Most doppelbocks have the -ator as a “calling card” to the style and an homage to the first Dopplebock brewed, Paulaner’s Salvator. With a skeleton being Heavy Reel’s mascot, thus we have the name “SKELLINATOR.”

I had a couple of other beers while I was at the brewery, two sours which were tasty, but the Dopplebock stood out to me. It is an extremely well-made lager and when I complemented the beertender on the beer, he noted that it was his favorite beer, or at least one of his favorites from the brewery.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Ross Brewing’s Bockenator

Name: Bockenator
Brewing Company: Ross Brewing Company
Location: Port Monmouth, NJ
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 8%

A tasty, dark lager with a sweet, chocolate twist.

From the Ross Brewing’s Facebook post announcing the beer:

𝗕𝗢𝗖𝗞𝗘𝗡𝗔𝗧𝗢𝗥 is our 𝟴% 𝗚𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗮𝗻-𝘀𝘁𝘆𝗹𝗲 𝗖𝗵𝗼𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗗𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗹𝗯𝗼𝗰𝗸! The beer style that inspired us to start brewing way back when finally sees a release under the Ross pennant!

Our tribute to all of the amazing German Doppelbocks we’ve had over the years, Bockenator has the 𝘀𝘄𝗲𝗲𝘁 𝗳𝗹𝗮𝘃𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗼𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗺𝗮𝗹𝘁𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗲𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗼𝗰𝗸 𝘀𝘁𝘆𝗹𝗲, which in turn are only accentuated by the 𝗮𝗱𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝘀𝗵 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿. Maintaining balance without being too sweet, with the 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝗳𝗹𝗮𝘃𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗔𝗕𝗩% 𝘁𝘆𝗽𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗗𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗹, this is the beer 𝘄𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗿𝗲𝘄𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘄𝗲 𝗹𝗮𝘂𝗻𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗱 𝗥𝗼𝘀𝘀! Enjoy at your next feast or special occasion, or any other time you’d like an amazing beer. Prost!

I’ve been happy to see Ross Brewing’s growth over the past year despite launching their brand without a taproom and during a pandemic. When I learned they had a doppelbock in the works I knew I’d have to grab some. This beer is brewed with chocolate, so I was even more intrigued.

The beer is adorned with cool label consistent with the clean branding of Ross Brewing along with the iconic goats symbolizing the bock style of beer on the can. But the contents of the can are always more important, aren’t they? Let’s dive in, shall we?

Yep, that looks like a doppelbock. Dark brown, slightly translucent, and a thin khaki head. I don’t get too much of an aroma outside of what I’d expect. It smells like a malty beer.

First sip…I get some sweet malt and a crispy/snappy lager finish. I like this first impression of Bockenator. The chocolate comes through more each time I go back to my glass. Not coincidentally, the beer is warmer with each sip I take which, as we all know, allows the flavors to breathe and express themselves more.

That chocolate wakes up more the closer the beer gets to room temperature and consequently, I’m finding myself enjoying the beer that much more. The chocolate also helps to smooth out the starkly crisp finish.

The folks behind Ross Brewing have continued to show their mettle, especially on a style like Dopplebock. Given one of their launch beers was a somewhat dark lager, I shouldn’t be surprised they brewed a tasty Dopplebock, another dark lager.

Recommended, link to 3.75 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Cricket Hill Brewery’s Barrel-Aged Dopplebock

Name: Barrel Aged Doppelbock
Brewing Company: Cricket Hill Brewing Company
Location: Cricket Hill Brewery
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 8.5%

“This beer proves that one of the veterans of the NJ Craft Beer scene continues to craft superb beer.”

CricketHill_BBADopplebock

From the untappd entry for the beer:

This beer celebrates the centuries old recipes of German bock beers. It has a very rich, malty flavor with aromas of toffee, dates and raisins. It’s deep amber / mahogany color is like eye-candy, and the hints of oak and vanilla from the 4-plus months of barrel aging is an added bonus. 28 IBU’s and 8.5% ABV.

Cricket Hill Brewing Company is one of the most tenured of NJ Craft Breweries, having opened their doors back in 2001 in Fairfield, NJ. They’ve got a nice sizeable taproom, their beer has been in shops throughout portions of North and Central New Jersey, at least in my area, for most of that time. I visited the brewery recently and when I realized they had not just a doppelbock (an underappreciated style), but a barrel-aged version, I knew what I was getting.

From the draught pour, the beer looks a little murkier than I’d expect a doppelbock to be, but that is likely from the barrel aging. The aroma is wonderful, the bourbon is potent, but not overpowering. It isn’t the only element I smell, which is nice. I’ve had my fair share of poorly crafted barrel-aged beers where the only smell was heavy bourbon.

The first sip test: smoothness and sweetness are what initially strike me. Dopplebocks tend to have a toffee element to their flavory profile and I get that in spades from this beer. Not sure I get raisins, but maybe dates as well? The barrel character rounds out the beer very well.

The finish of the beer is great. Again, some poorly crafted dopplebocks can have a sharp, unpleasant character to the finish. Not with this fine lager from Cricket Hill Brewing. The finish is pleasant and clean, making me want to go back immediately for another sip and taste. What I also appreciated about this beer was the ABV. Often barrel-aging a beer will leapfrog the alcohol level into the 10% range. Here, keeping the beer under 10% makes for a balanced beer that won’t knock off your barstool after one serving.

At 20 years in the NJ Craft Beer scene, this Barrel-Aged Dopplebock is proof that Cricket Hill is still offering some finely, elegantly crafted beers. I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this beer based on a handful of other beers I’ve had from Cricket Hill Brewery, but I didn’t expect the beer to be quite this stellar.

This beer seems to be an annual offering from Cricket Hill and it is a beer worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Gordon Biersch’s WinterBock

Name: WinterBock
Brewing Company: Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
Location: (National Brewpub Chain), Beer consumed at Gordon Biersch New Orleans
Style: Bock – Dopplebock
ABV: 7.5%

“The well-established brewery/brewpub chain has crafted an immensely flavorful and pleasing doppelbock, a classic German style interpreted deliciously.”

Gordon Biersch says this about Winter Bock:

Our winter seasonal is a traditional doppelbock. A mohagony hued, full bodied lager with warming rich caramel and toffee maltiness.

Gordon Biersch has been brewing beer and selling well-crafted food to patrons for over 30 years. When the independent/craft beer movement was gaining momentum in the late 1980s and early 1990s, “brewpubs” were many people’s first exposure to flavorful, craft beer. Gordon Biersch began in 1988 and I know I’ve been to a couple over the past twenty years. A recent business trip to New Orleans afforded me the opportunity to visit a Gordon Biersch brewpub once again.

I was in New Orleans for a cybersecurity convention and hanging out with an old friend when we stumbled into Gordon Biersch, which I hadn’t realized was even there. A quick look at the beer list and my eyes immediately fell on this beer. I’ve remarked before how much I enjoy bocks, so there was no way I was going to pass on a freshly made doppelbock from a brewery this well-known.

The beer arrived in iconic Germanic dimpled beer mug, with the beer name and brewery emblazoned on the front. #ProperGlassware indeed. A thick light khaki head sat atop the brownish-caramel colored beer. Ultimately, I don’t think I could have imagined a more perfect visual example of a Dopplebock.

I didn’t really let the aroma sit in my nose for too long before taking a drink, so I suppose that indicates the aroma was pleasant and inviting. Delightful. That’s the immediate thought I have after my first taste of this beer. It is extremely smooth, with all the elements of the brewing process playing together seamlessly achieving a gestalt of flavor.

This beer tastes as if an abundance of flavor comes from the malts, which evoke caramel-like flavor along with some hints of toffee, too. What I appreciate even more, and this goes down to how well made the beer is, is the finish of the beer. Some dopplebocks (and bocks in general) can have a slight tang of bitterness or even spice on the end. That is nowhere near Gordon Biersch’s WinterBock. The finish is sweet, not cloyingly so, and very smooth. Again, I have to make the comparison to caramel flavors from the malts. It was a delicious beer that I enjoyed slowly, allowing the flavors to breath as the beer warmed to room temperature.

This was the first of a few beers I had during my long evening at the brewpub and it was the best. In fact, I’d easily rank as one of the better Dopplebocks I’ve had over the years. Of course, beer is an experience and the great food and friendly company may have potentially added to my enjoyment of the beer.

For Gordon Biersch as a whole, as one of the foundational brewpubs in the country, I’d definitely recommend visiting one should be near you or where you’re visiting. This is a beer to seek out (at one of Gordon Biersch’s 17 locations) if you want to get an idea of what a good German inspired doppelbock should taste like.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I’ll Be Bock (Level 11)

Once you’ve had just one, there’s no doubt you’ll be saying “I’ll be bock” for another.