Draught Diversions: Favorite New Beers of 2018

Welcome to the second annual best of the year here at the Tap Takeover! I drank a lot of beer in 2017, a lot of different beers. According to untappd, I had 373 unique beers in many styles (101 distinct styles), many breweries (155) and of varying quality.

Like last year, these beers are “new to me” beers, even if the beer was brewed in the past or a regular rotation offering for a given brewery. I’m not including special annual releases I’ve had in the past like Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Sierra Nevada Summerfest, or Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. First, I’ve had previous vintages of those beers so they really aren’t “new to me.”  Some of these beers have received full reviews at the Tap Takeover, some were mentioned in a monthly six pack, and some weren’t ever mentioned before.

Once again, a NJ bias shines through on this list as 6 of the beers are from NJ breweries (last year featured 7 NJ breweries), but considering about half of the beer I bought & consumed in 2018 was from NJ breweries, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Unlike last year, there are zero stouts on this list. Like last year, no brewery appears on this list, twice. Also like last year, some of the breweries on this list will not be a surprise,

Breakdown:

  • 6 from NJ breweries
  • 3 IPAs (all three are Double/Imperials)
  • 2 Porters (both Double/Imperials)
  • 2 Pilsners
  • 1 Belgian Strong Golden Ale
  • 1 Belgian Tripel
  • 1 Bock (Dopplebock)
  • 1 Lager
  • 1 Old Ale

On to the list…

12. Steam Whistle Plisner Unfiltered (Plus) – Steam Whistle Brewing – Pilsner – Other – 4.25 bottle caps

If you would have told me one of my favorite beers of the year was a Canadian pilsner I would have laughed in your face. But, like last year’s list, the #12 beer on my list is indeed a pilsner. I had this on a business trip to Toronto, which I wrote about at the end of the summer. I don’t recall having an unfiltered pilsner before this, but this beer was pure deliciousness. The atmosphere at the brewery was great, which may have helped me enjoy the beer a little bit more.

11. This Town – Carton Brewing Company – Lager – Helles 4.25 Bottle Caps

Of course a Carton Beer makes the list and this Helles Lager (a cousin to the Czech Pislner) is a perfect everyday beer. Everything that makes Lagers so great is embodied by this beer. Augie Carton has said this beer won’t be sold in cans outside of Monmouth County, following this beer’s credo (much like the ethos of German beer) that every town should have their own lager. But everytime I visit Carton, I know I’ll be walking out with at least a six pack of this beer.

10. Curmudgeon’s Better Half – Founders Brewing Co. – Old Ale 4.5 Bottle Caps

This one probably doesn’t come as a surprise, either given how much I’ve expressed my enjoyment of beers from Founders. I like the base beer – Curmudgeon, a malt bomb of a beer, but this beer, with the added sweetness from maple syrup barrels makes for yet another enjoyable entry in Founders’ Barrel Aged series. I had two bottles of this, I picked up the 4 pack in August had one then and let another bottle site for a few months. While the first bottle was quite good, aging it a little helped and I’m looking forward to seeing how that final bottle of the 4 pack sits in a year or so.

9. Fudge Machine – Demented Brewing Company – Porter – Imperial / Double 4.5 bottle caps

I hadn’t visited Demented quite as much over 2018 compared to the year before, but this beer really surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. I like porters and chocolate porters, but this is a potent beer that delivers everything you could want out of a chocolate porter. At the time, I think this was a relatively limited release available only at the brewery, but this is so good it really needs to be in regular rotation or an annual release for Demented

8. DDH Not A Schooner – Icarus Brewing – IPA – New England 4.5 bottle caps

Image courtesy of Icarus Brewing’s Facebok

I would typically not include a beer for which I only had a taster, but when I attended the 2018 Bridgewater Beerfest, I went back for multiple samples of this beer it was so delicious and amounted to probably a full pour of the beer. DDH Not a Schooner was one of the best IPAs out of New Jersey I had all year. This beer, plus many of their IPAs, have made Icarus a MAJOR player in the growing NJ Beer Scene.

7. Devil’s Reach – Cape May Brewing Company – Belgian Golden Strong Ale 4.5 bottle caps

One of the best beer things to happen in NJ this year was the expansion of Cape May Brewing Company’s distribution footprint. This is one of their flagship beers and is an outstanding, delicious, sweet explosion of flavor that is deceptively high in ABV (8.6%) but so easy drinking. In some of my reviews I mention “an iconic shelf of NJ Beers” and I would definitely make room for this one. Not many NJ breweries make a “Belgian Strong Golden Ale” (at least about which I’m aware) so there honestly isn’t too much competition in the State for this style. Regardless, this is an absolute stand-out ale.

6. 120 Minute Imperial IPA – Dogfish Head Craft Brewery – IPA – Imperial / Double 4.5 bottle caps

Few breweries are as iconic as Dogfish Head and this is one of the beers that helped them to earn that reputation. One of the biggest, booziest IPAs in wide distribution, this beer is a monster of hoppy deliciousness. This is a $8 per 12 oz bottle and I may get one or two to age for a couple of years. I’ve seen folks say this approaches barley wine levels as it ages so I may snag a bottle or two and let it/them sit for a couple of years.

5. Westmalle Trappist Tripel – Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle – Belgian Tripel 4.5 bottle caps

Talk about World Class Beers, this is one of the best Tripels I’ve ever had and is a stunning, beautiful beer. The magic from the Belgian Yeast does wonders, evoking a fruity/spice flavor profile that must be sampled. The more I think about this beer, the more I want to run out and grab one again.

4. Process Pils Conclave Brewing Pilsner – German 4.75 Bottle Caps

Yeah, another unsurprising brewery for the list, but like I said back in August when I first had the beer, I don’t think it is possible for Carl, Tim, and Bryan to make a bad beer. Much as I loved This Town as a great lager, this pilsner is the best pilsner I had all year and one of the best American pilsners I’ve ever had. Conclave has been canning more of their beers this year, I’d love to see this one in cans.

3. Crusher The Alchemist IPA – Imperial / Double 4.75 bottle caps

I went into a lot of detail in my review of the beer, but here’s the gist: Such a delicious hop profile that is one of the most perfect citrusy hopped profiles I’ve ever had in a beer. I couldn’t believe what a bouquet of flavors was in just a sip of the beer so, of course, I took another taste, though more than a sip. I let the beer sit in my mouth a bit to get the full flavor and my goodness does this beer do so many things perfectly well. I wanted to drink this one quickly because it was so delicious, but I didn’t want it to be gone quickly.

2. Sunday Brunch Kane Brewing Porter – Imperial / Double 4.75 bottle caps

Bottle Image in background courtesy of Kane’s Facebook. Glass pour mine.

This is, quite simply, one of the best porters I’ve ever had. Sunday Brunch is an Imperial Milk Porter made with coffee, maple syrup, and cinnamon. At 9.5% this is a potent beer, but so smooth and sweet. This is one of Kane’s once per year beers and seems to only be available at special events and in 750ml bottles at the brewery.

1. Bourbon Barrel-Aged Troegenator Tröegs Independent Brewing Bock – Dopplebock 4.75 Bottle caps

I’ll go into more detail about Tröegs in my next post, but this beer is one of the best bocks I’ve ever had, and one of my favorite beers of all time now. The base of this beer, Troegenator, is itself something of a craft classic and a delicious beer. Throw an already potent, complex beer into barrels and you have this delightful beer worthy of World Class Status. Everything that makes the base beer delicious – hints of chocolate and caramel are turned up to 11 for a sublime experience.

 

 

 

Draught Diversions: September 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…

September should be the start of cooler weather, with stouts on the horizon. September is most definitely the start of Oktoberfest and this month’s post features one prominently. For the September 2018 Six Pack, three New Jersey beers are featured.

I found myself going for more NJ beers this past month in general. For the first time in a couple of months, one beer really disappointed me.

Always Ready (Cape May Brewing Company) Pale Ale – American – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I continue to be impressed with the output from Cape May Brewing Company. I’d seen a few posts about this beer on untappd, Twitter, and Instagram and was intrigued especially when I learned Always Ready was brewed in honor of the United States Coast Guard as Cape May has been home to the USCG’s sole training center since 1982. CMBC offers a $1 discount off pints for active-duty and retired USCG members, year-round. As it so happens, Myke Cole is one of my favorite authors and one of the best human beings I have the privilege of knowing. Among the many things Myke has done was serving in the USCG. I toast this beer to Myke and recommend you all get and read his books. Click on his profile and that shall lead you to some great, powerful fiction to read while enjoying an Always Ready, or any time for that matter. (Gemini Cell might be his best, IMHO).

Here There Be Monsters IPA – American (Demented Brewing Company) – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

It has been far too long since I had a beer from Twin Elephant and this juicy IPA just about made up for it. They’ve brewed this beer in the past, but decided to can it with some gorgeous can art. The beer inside, which evokes those juicy citrus and tropical notes that so many IPAs do nowadays, lives up to the dark and lovely can art. Bottom line: a great IPA from a relatively young brewery with a reputation for brewing great hop-forward ales.

30th Anniversary Imperial Oyster Stout (Great Lakes Brewing Company) Stout – Oyster 3 bottle Caps on untappd

This one is disheartening because nearly every other beer I’ve had from Great Lakes Brewing has been very good. More to the point, I liked them all and consider a few of their beers classics, so I was happy to see a nice big stout as their anniversary beer. You might think oysters in a stout would be bad, but they can be an interesting adjunct (as in Flying Fish’s Exit 1 Bayshore Stout). Unfortunately, this one didn’t work too well for me and I could barely finish it, there was a very strange aftertaste I found displeasing.

Marzen German Style Lager Märzen (Lone Eagle Brewing) – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I had the beer on draught, but Lone Eagle was selling it in 4packs of 16oz cans.

I has been a few months since I last visited Lone Eagle for board game night, but as it so happened, the night I went was shortly after their Oktoberfest debuted. I enjoyed last year’s batch a great deal and this year’s was almost as good. A really tasty, straightforward lager that does exactly what an Oktoberfest lager should.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Troegenator Dopplebock (Tröegs Independent Brewing) 4.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been wanting to try this bee for a few years now and I was never able to find it near me, but this year I saw it my local bottle shop. I figured this was a great beer to share with my dad for his birthday and he liked it just about as much as I did. The base beer, Troegenator is a classic and probably the most readily available doppelbock on the East Coast of the US. The Trogner brothers took a great beer and leveled it up considerably. What makes this beer so special is how the barrel aging doesn’t sacrifice any of the bock character of the beer. Some of the characteristics are enhanced – the sweetness (but not too much), the caramel hints, and the maltiness. The aroma is inviting and the beer is nearly perfect. This is one of the five or ten best beers I’ve ever had, probably.

Special Double Cream Stout (Bell’s Brewery) Stout – American 4.25 bottle caps on untappd

I continue to be extremely pleased Bell’s is now distributing their delicious beers into New Jersey. There isn’t anything flashy about this stout – no adjuncts, no flavor additives like coffee or barrel aging. Nope, just 10 malts that beautifully evoke notes of coffee and chocolate, for a sweet stout that is pure delicousness.

So, September is in the book and October is here. Will I dive into some pumpkin beers in October? Only time will tell.

Draught Diversions: 5 More Breweries to Visit, Part 3 of a Series

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

It has been a while (October of 2017) since I did one of these “Breweries I’d like to visit” posts and since then, I think my taste in beer has evolved. I’m seeking out IPAs, enjoying sours and really starting to appreciate beers from some of the more established Craft Breweries/Craft Beer Brands. The first couple of these posts were fairly easy, as I had dozens of beers from many of those breweries. So this time around, I’m ordering these alphabetically.

Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, MI (1983)
Total Bell’s beers checked in on untappd: 4
Bell’s Beers reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Oberon Ale and Amber Ale.

Seems like I find new reasons to talk about Bell’s Brewery every month, doesn’t it? Well, that alone should be an indicator of what a big deal this brewery is and how happy many folks in New Jersey are that their beers are available to us. Just about everybody I know who had Two Hearted for the first time within the last couple of months loves the beer and folks are pleased Oberon was here in time for the summer.

Image courtesy of Bell’s Brewing’s Web site

In addition to those beers, I’ve had and enjoyed the Amber Ale and Pooltime Ale. Their Eccentric Café looks extremely inviting, doesn’t it?

With 20+ draught options, a full-service restaurant, a luscious Beer Garden, comfortable patio and a state-of-the-art music venue, Bell’s Eccentric Café is the premiere craft beer destination in Michigan.

Our kitchen offers inspired fare, made with locally sourced, primarily non-GMO and sustainable ingredients, made from scratch to complement our beer.

All of that adds to Bell’s reputation as not just one of the Great Midwestern Breweries, but one of the Great American Breweries.

Boulevard Brewing Beer Company Kansas City, MO (1989)
Total Boulevard beers checked in on untappd: 11
Boulevard Beer reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Bourbon Barrel Quad

Boulevard is another Midwest/Southwest brewing institution. With nearly 30 years of brewing history based out of Kansas City, Boulevard has been pleasing fans in the Missouri and Kansas region for years. One of the beers that helped to build the Boulevard name is their renowned Saison, Tank 7. I had the beer years ago and liked it, but over the past year or so, I’ve come to really enjoy saisons even more so I think I need to revisit this beer. This past Fourth of July, I had the chance to sample two of their most popular beers thanks to the variety back my brother-in-law brought: Unfiltered Wheat (touted as the best-selling beer in the Midwest) and American Kolsch. These two beers were perfect for a warm fourth of July.

Image courtesy of Boulevard’s Facebook page

Probably the best beer I had from Boulevard was the one I reviewed earlier in the year: Bourbon Barrel Quad. This beer part is of their Smokestack Series, “A collection of bigger, bolder, more complex beers, these delicious, higher alcohol offerings are perfect for sipping or sharing.” Other beers in the series include a Double IPA, an Imperial Stout, a Whiskey Barrel-Aged Stout and the aforementioned Tank 7.

Image courtesy of Boulevard’s Web site

While the story of Boulevard’s growth is a great American story, the brewery was purchased by Duvel Moortgat in 2014. This is not like the other craft beer purchases in recent years. Boulevard seems to remain true to its original roots and continues to produce beer as an independent brewer would – pushing the definition of beer.

For some really great insight into Boulevard, I highly recommend listening to the Craft Beer and Brewing podcast featuring Boulevard’s brewmaster Steven Pauwels.

My wife and I took a trip out to Kansas City and Saint Louis about 8 years ago. At the time, I didn’t know nearly as much about Craft Beer as I did now, though I did manage to visit Schalfly. Unfortunately, we did not visit Boulevard but we were barely in Kansas City for 24 hours. Next time.

Cape May Brewing Company, Cape May, NJ (2011)
Total Cape May beers checked in on untappd: 3
Cape May Beer reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Coastal Evacuation Double IPA

A New Jersey brewery? Really? Well, Cape May is at the southern tip of the state and not exactly a day trip for me. Cape May is one of the great Jersey Shore vacation destinations, my parents spend a weekend or two there every year. Every year, they visit the brewery and this past year, they brought me back what is now one of my favorite NJ beers: Devil’s Reach, a delicious, nearly perfect Belgian Strong Golden Ale. That beer is far from the only beer they brew; many of their IPAs are highly regarded including their Double IPA Coastal Evacuation.

About a year or so ago (May 2017), they redid their label art and “brand design” and for my eyes, their cans and overall design aesthetic is some of the strongest of any brewery in the State.

Cape May’s 3 flagship beers, DEVIL’S REACH is one of my favorite NJ beers

Currently, Cape May Brewing Company is the second largest brewery in NJ (by capacity, I think) which combined with the beer community’s high regard for many of their beers, are reasons enough to visit and sample some of their beers. Additionally, where I live (Somerset County) is just outside of Cape May’s current distribution footprint. I’m really hoping as their capacity ramps up, I’ll begin seeing their beers (especially Devil’s Reach) on shelves at my local Gary’s, Wegman’s, or Petrock’s.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, CA (1996)
Total Firestone Walker Beers checked into untappd: 8
Firestone Walker Beer reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Nitro Merlin Milk Stout

California has many, many breweries. I mentioned one I’d like to visit in the first installment of this “series,” in fact. I haven’t had many of their beers largely because much of their core line up is hop-forward (IPAs and the like). I’ve come to appreciate IPAs recently and in my greater appreciation of some of the more storied American Craft Breweries, just how great an impact Firestone Walker had on the craft beer scene.

The first beer I remember having from them was Pivo Pils, a great Pilsner. Every beer I’ve had since that Pivo Pils has been of very high quality. In fact, two of the best beers I had last year came from Firestone Walker: Nitro Merlin Milk Stout and Mocha Merlin, one of the best coffee stouts I ever had.

Image courtesy of Firestone Walker’s Twitter feed

Like Boulevard, Firestone Walker was purchased by Duvel Moortgat in 2016. I can’t speak to the quality of the beer too much prior to the sale (except for maybe Pivo Pils), but it seems the purchase has afforded Firestone the ability to grow even more – in addition to the core lineup (Lion & Bear series), they’ve initiated two different IPA “series:” Leo v. Ursus and the Luponic Distortion series of IPAs that rotates about every 120 days. Their barrel aging program is some of the most robust of any brewery: The Proprietors Vintage series focuses on darker brews like Stouts, Browns, and Barleywines. The Barrelworks Wild Ales are barrel-aged sours.

Image courtesy of Firestone Walker

I had Union Jack their flagship IPA for the first time recently and really enjoyed it. This has me wanting to explore the bulk of their IPA line-up. What is really surprising to me is that their flagship beer, the beer upon which their name was initially built – Double Barrel Ale – is tough to find here in New Jersey. As for visiting? Well, their production facility, from what I’ve seen on line, seems to be a marvel.

Harpoon Brewery, Boston, MA (1986)
Total Harpoon beers checked in on untappd: 17

Samuel Adams isn’t the only craft brewery to emerge in Boston, the other brewery, often referred to as “Boston’s Brewery” is the great Harpoon Berwery.

Image courtesy of Harpoon

Harpoon began in a very grass roots manner, distributing their own beer and being the first brewery to obtain a permit to brew and sell alcohol in Massachusetts in more than 25 years. Their IPA, a beer upon which the brewery’s foundation was built, is still their most popular beer according to untappd. While Anchor may have been the first American Craft Brewery to brew an annual Christmas beer, Harpoon’s Winter Warmer is one of the more longstanding Winter beers available every season, and one of the brewery’s more popular offerings.

Other early offerings, included UFO Hefeweizen and UFO White, two wheat beers (Hefeweizen and Belgian Witbier respectively). The UFO brand is now its own entity with a continuing schedule of releases with various fruits added or seasonals, like the Pumpkin/Fall UFO, the Winter/Coffee UFO, or Pineapple UFO. I’ve enjoyed some more than others, to be completely honest. I still think the original UFO Hefeweizen is one of the better American Hefeweizens on the market.

Image courtesy of Harpoon’s twitter

One of their more popular seasonal beers in recent years is Camp Wannamango, a Pale Wheat Ale with (as the name implies) notes of mango. On a hot day, this is one of the more refreshing beers on the market.

As good as the beer is from Harpoon, The Harpoon Beer Hall itself has long been a Boston destination for hop heads. Fresh beer, pretzels, and limited release beers are available in addition to the many festivals held at the brewery/beer hall including an annual Octoberfest that I’d love to attend.

Not a bad group of breweries this time around, I think.

Draught Diversions: Summer 2018 6 Pack

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

Summer beer (especially Lienenkugel’s Summer Shandy and Sam’s Summer Ale) has been on the shelves and taps since April and I blame it all on Samuel Adams. But, since we’re a couple weeks away from Memorial Day, the unofficial kick-off of Summer so in anticipation of warmer weather, here are 6 summery brews I’m hoping to try when the warm weather settles in and I can enjoy a refreshing beer or three sitting in or by my pool.

Not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer. Naturally, the beers I highlight here will be those available in the NJ/Northeast so while a brewery like Ninkasi may have an interesting looking beer, since Ninkasi doesn’t distribute to NJ (making the beer unavailable to me), I won’t be mentioning the beer.

The Bog Cranberry Shandy Cape May Brewing Company (Cape May, NJ)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

Say what you will about the Shandy / Radler style of beer popularized in recent years by Leinenkugel, but the style is very refreshing. There’s a reason German cyclists (or Radlers in German) were given pints of this in the summer. Cranberries are one of my favorite fruits and fruit juices, and I’ve begun to see more beers made with cranberries in recent years. NJ also happens to be one of the major producers of cranberries in the US, so a cranberry infused beer from NJ’s second largest brewery seems natural. I really hope this one reaches distribution near me.

“What happens when you make a Cranberry Wheat and accidentally add too much cranberry? Embrace it and turn it into a Shandy! A tart cranberry wheat beer blended with lemonade, The Bog is light and refreshing while still packing tons of flavor.”

Holy Moses Raspberry White Ale® – Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, OH)

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site

Great Lakes doesn’t make bad beer, at least for my palate. Holy Moses is Great Lakes’s take on the traditional Belgian Witbier and this new iteration adds Raspberry to the beer for what should be a nice sweet, tart refreshing ale. I’ve still yet to try the original Holy Moses, so I hope to give that one a try, too. I’ve seen quite a few of Great Lakes’s core brews as well as their always popular Christmas Ale in my area, but haven’t seen Holy Moses too often. Hopefully that changes.

“In the spirit of Moses Cleaveland’s thirst for discovery, our classic White Ale meets fresh, juicy raspberries to forge a pint worth planting a flag in (or an orange slice!)

FLAVOR
Refreshment or bust! Tart raspberry flavors mark our White Ale’s spicy, aromatic terrain.”

Limey Gose – Victory Brewing (Downington, PA)

Image courtesy of Victory Brewing’s Web site

I’ve professed my enjoyment of almost all things Victory Brewing here before, with their Kirsch Gose one of my favorites. I’m hoping this new-ish Gose they are releasing is of the same quality because a sweet-tart Gose is a perfect beer antidote for a sweltering day. This was originally a brewery only-beer a few years ago and looks to get wide distribution this summer. I’m guessing if you like Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale (also made with limes) or Westbrook’s Key Lime Gose, you’ll enjoy this one, too.

“This lively GOSE brings the TART FLAVOR of KEY LIME PIE sprinkled with SEA SALT into a zesty SOUR LIME BIER.”

Onshore Lager – Flying Fish Brewing Company (Somerdale, NJ)

Image courtesy of Flying Fish Brewing Co.’s Facebook page

Flying Fish is the stalwart of NJ Brewing and they have a pretty solid line up of brews, in addition to their fantastic Exit Series. Over the past couple of years as the Exit Series drew to a close, Flying Fish started adding new, more permanent brews to their lineup. One of them is called Onshore Lager which has a great can design and sounds almost like a Pilsner. I don’t often go for Lagers, but when the Lager is Pilsner or a Bock, then I’m more inclined to give the beer a try. I’m guessing the sub-5% ABV on this one might lend Pilsner-like quality to the beer, too. Sign me up for a six pack.

“Our home is surrounded by a breathtaking stretch of ocean and beautiful waterways, and ONSHORE LAGER is our tribute to that environment.

Brewed without adjuncts, this beer pours a pure, golden color, and German-style hops provide a crisp, clean finish.”

Smooth Sail Summer Ale (Pale Wheat Ale) Heavy Seas Brewing Company (Halethorpe, MD)

Image courtesy of CraftBeer.com

The Pale Wheat Ale, popularized in the summer by Bell’s Oberon Ale and Samuel Adams Summer Ale. Not quite a Hefeweizen, not quite a pale ale, but very refreshing. This one from Heavy Seas seems to have a similar profile to the aforementioned two ales, with a hint of citrus which tells me I’d probably like this beer. From my very limited sampling of beers from heavy Seas, I think I’ll enjoy this one quite a bit. I’d seen it in stores the last year or two, but passed on it. I’ll be rectifying that this year.

“This is not your average summer ale. We’ve created the most refreshingly delicious American wheat ale. Brewed with lemon and orange peel, Smooth Sail finishes with a citrus kick. At 4.5% ABV you’ll have your new pool beer. Available on draft and cans only, it’s the perfect beer for trips to the park, hiking, or just sitting on the beach with your friends. A summer day. Kick back, relax, enjoy – a light breeze will take you to your happy place.”

When in Doubt Helles Lager – Tröegs Independent Brewing (Hershey, PA)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

While Tröegs already has a summer seasonal beer in their tasty Sunshine Pils, When in Doubt could perhaps be considered a “cousin” beer in that Helles Lagers and Pilsners are similar in style. This beer was part of Tröegs popular “Scratch series” a couple of years ago, then draft exclusive and now (according to the fine MyBeerBuzz beer blog), available in 12oz bottles. I’m hoping to try this one as soon as it is available (maybe June?) since I’ve really come to enjoy the Helles Lager style. At 4.3% ABV, this is a very crushable lager.

When in Doubt is all harmony. It begins with a single note, a clean and delicate pilsner malt reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Tradition hops add hints of wildflower and subtle bitterness, and our crisp lager yeast pulls it all together. In the end, this refreshing Munich-style Helles is greater than the sum of its parts and – when in doubt – always a good call.”

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Special thanks to the great MyBeerBuzz blog for images in this post specifically, and for tireless efforts to keep the craft beer community abreast of new beers and beer news.

Draught Diversions: April 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…

April closes out, thank goodness. It was not a fun month with travel I had and awful weather. But, there were some good beers for sure. Deciding on a final six-pack for the month was tough because April started out strongly with a few classics I hadn’t previously enjoyed. In fact, a good portion of the highlight beers for me for April can be considered Craft Beer Classics.

There are some definite Belgian leanings in this month’s six pack, whether a brewery from Belgium, American breweries known for Belgian-inspired ales, or a great, modern interpretation of a Belgian classic.  Let’s start with the most Belgian of American breweries…

Saison (Allagash Brewing Company) Saison / Farmhouse Ale – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Allagash has built a great reputation on brewing American interpretations of classic Belgian ales and few are more classic than a Saison. As it has turned out, the last few years I’ve been enjoying a different Saison on Easter Sunday. This was the perfect beer for Easter Sunday and a nice prelude to brunch. Light, sweet and well-rounded, I’ll be returning to this one in the future, for sure.

Candi Stout (Brewery Ommegang) Stout – Other – 3 bottle Caps on untappd

The other American brewery who built their reputation on Belgian inspired ales is Cooperstown, NY’s Brewery Ommegang. I enjoy much of their output, but when they stray too much from their wheelhouse – like this stout (or their Nirvana IPA) – then the results are mixed. I guess I get what they were aiming for with this beer, unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

Tripel Karmeliet (Brouwerij Bosteels) Belgian Tripel – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Proper Glassware from a proper Belgian bar

This ale is an absolute world-class, and classic, beer. I loved the sweetness and overall flavor profile with the magic produced by Belgian yeast. Although I would likely enjoy this beer *anywhere*, enjoying it on draught in a bar that serves only Belgian beer (25 on tap, 50 in bottles) didn’t hurt the experience. I had this on my business trip in the Austin, TX bar Mort Subite. I’ll likely need to go to Austin again for business and I’ll be hitting up Mort again.

90 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double – 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

Why did it take me so long to come around to IPAs!?!

I’m all in on IPAs now and found one that can be a steady go-to, the beer Esquire Magazine once called “the best IPA in America.” Perfect, absolutely perfect balance of malt and hops, with a pleasant hop bite and great hit of citrus sweetness. The reputation is well-earned because this beer does EVERYTHING a perfectly crafted IPA should do: it is true to style, innovative, and just plain delicious.

Devil’s Reach (Cape May Brewing Co.) Belgian Strong Golden Ale – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Belgian yeast = magic.

Cape May Brewing Company, the 2nd Largest NJ Craft Brewery, has a great reputation, they brew across the board, with a somewhat greater focus on IPAs. But this beer? This beer is outstanding, a delicious, sweet explosion of flavor that is deceptively high in ABV (8.6%) but so easy drinking. In some of my reviews I mention “an iconic shelf of NJ Beers” and I would definitely make room for this one. Not many NJ breweries make a “Belgian Strong Golden Ale” (as far as I know) so there honestly isn’t too much competition in the State for this style. Regardless, this is an absolute stand-out ale.

G.O.R.P. (Carton Brewing Company) Porter – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve professed my enjoyment of Carton’s beers often on this blog. The fact that some of Carton’s long-time brews are now hitting distribution in cans pleases me immensely. Especially when I’ve been wanting to try Good Old Raisins and Peanuts for a couple of years now and the beer largely lived up to what I was hoping it would be. The quality I was expecting because the Carton logo is on the can, but the flavors were a little less expected. Some beers that have peanuts or peanut butter can be too cloying in the PB sweetness. Here with G.O.R.P.; however, the sweetness of the raisins and roasted peanuts come together deliciously on the finish, especially as the beer warms a bit.

Honorable mention to an annual April Favorite: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. This is a beer that absolutely lives up to its reputation and the 2018 vintage is outstanding.