Draught Diversions: September 2019 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…

The weather is supposed to begin getting cooler in September, but there were quite a few days in the 80s in New Jersey. Oktoberfest begins in Sepember and the darker beers become more prevalent in my fridge. This month features more NJ beers than the usual half split since New Jersey Craft Beer Week fell in the middle of the month. That, coupled with going for some “old reliable” Oktoberfest beers (plus a couple already highlighted in this year’s Oktoberfest feature and I didn’t want to double dip) made for a mostly NJ six pack this time around.

Oktoberfest – Bitburger Braugruppe (2019) (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company) | Märzen | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Sierra Nevada continues its annual Oktoberfest tradition of collaborating with a German Brewery. I’ve liked all the collaborations they’ve brewed, this one might be near the top of the list. A great malt flavor, nice crisp finish, and very refreshing. My only problem with the beer is that I wasn’t eating a bratwurst while drinking the beer.

Flood (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

I realize I mentioned this beer on my Brewery review of Jersey Cyclone, but even a couple of weeks later this beer stands out to me. An absolute delight of a brew, a perfectly balanced Imperial Stout whose flavors are drawn from the core four ingredients with no adjuncts. If I’m going for an Imperial Stout that isn’t aged in a barrel, Flood is exactly what I’d want.

XPA Citra Pale Ale (Flying Fish Brewing Brewery Co) | Pale Ale – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Over the last couple of years, the venerable Flying Fish has been updating their look and some of their beers. Their can art has come a long ways from where it was a couple of years ago and this beer is an update to their original Pale Ale I really liked how the Citra hops were featured in the beer. This could be a nice every-day pale ale.


The Lawman
(Czig Meister Brewing Brewery Co) | Hefeweizen | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Czig Meister’s Hefeweizen was really tasty, it leaned more on the clove/spicy spectrum of Hefeweizens than the banana-bubblegum flavors. Not a bad thing, in fact a very solid Hefeweizen. For all the attention their many IPAs get, their old school standards are really nice, too

The Hook (Carton Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Been a while since Carton featured here and this is a beer I’d been wanting to try for a while. Carton calls it a “Late Hopped Wheated Pale Ale” and I was super happy to see it on the menu Twenty/20 Taphouse. One of my favorite hops, Vic Secret, shines in this one with its citrusy profile. Great stuff and a fine example of a perfectly balanced hazy, hop forward ale. I didn’t want to snap a picture of the beer during dinner, but it had the look of a hazy pale, which is exactly what it is.

Velvet Fjord (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – Milkshake | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This might be the coolest can art I’ve seen in a long time.

This one just made it under the buzzer, so to speak. I was part of another beer/bottle share with some work friends (my contribution was La Trappe’s Quadrupel, which was well-received) and one of the other participants brought a four pack of this beer. He happens to live very close to Icarus which was fortunate for all of us. He was kind enough to let me have one of the cans he brought and what I tasted on the bottle share was even more evident in a full beer – this is a delicious, sweet IPA. Lots of hops, a bunch of lactose and vanilla on the finish made for a really good beer. Plus that magic Kviek Yeast many brewers have begun using as it is a hot commodity in the beer world.

Other odds and ends…
An old favorite, a new not favorite

I returned to an Oktoberfest beer I haven’t had in a few years, Victory’s Festbier which was just as good as I recall it being. I’ve got to stick to some of the classics and not be hesitate when I’ inclined to go for old favorites beers every now and again. Unfortunately, a beer I had high hopes for seriously disappointed me – Bomb! from Prairie Artisan Ales. This is an Imperial Stout with coffee, vanilla, cocoa, and peppers. I usually like those spicy stouts, but this one may have been a bad batch. I couldn’t even finish the beer..

Draught Diversions: NJ Shelf of Honor Six Pack #1 (Draught Diversion #100!)

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…

Here we are at the end of my “celebration” of New Jersey Craft Beer Week with the 100th Draught Diversion post. I was planning on doing this specific post – the first of my personal Shelf of Honor for NJ beers as my 100th Draught Diversion so it was very serendipitous that the numbers aligned so I could present this post during New Jersey Craft Beer Week. In some of my reviews of NJ beers, I’ve mentioned a Shelf of Essential NJ Beers or that the beer under review would be in my personal NJ Hall of Fame beer. Now that I’m actually starting a six pack of those beers, I’m officially labeling it the “NJ Shelf of Honor” for beers that are essential or deserve a shelf in everybody’s fridge at some point. I will probably be putting together Shelf of Honor six packs in the future, maybe even a “Shelf of Honor” specific to a style or a brewery so consider this first of a series. Some of the beers in these posts will have been featured in a monthly Six Pack or a full review.

In the event I need to state the obvious – this is all my opinion about the beers I enjoy. I’m sure if you ask a dozen people in NJ what they’d consider a “first ballot for their NJ Shelf of Honor” there would be plenty of different beers in those six packs with only a little bit of overlap and maybe only at the brewery level and not at the specific beer level. As per usual, beers are listed alphabetically by brewery

Devil’s Reach | Belgian Strong Golden Ale | Cape May Brewing Company | Cape May, NJ | 8.6% ABV | Featured in the April 2016 Six Pack on the Tap Takeover

Over the last couple of years of drinking their beers, I’ve come to realize Cape May Brewing Company can do almost no wrong in my book. I’m sure regular readers of my blog are weary of reading my words expounding the virtues of the second largest brewery in NJ. The majority of what they brew is on the hoppier Pale Ale/IPA side of the beer spectrum, but this beer is, in my opinion, a world class ale. Like the best of Belgian inspired beers, the delicious magic of Devil’s Reach comes from the Belgian-style yeast so critical to the beer’s flavor. According to this blog post from CMBC, the beer is virtually unchanged since it was first brewed. I find it extremely impressive that they were able to brew this good of a beer on their first batch. This beer is most similar to the world-renowned Delirium Tremens. I’ll say I like Devil’s Reach more.

Regular Coffee | Imperial Cream Ale | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | 12% ABV

Two of the “Irregular” Coffee family members in the back

I’ve probably mentioned Carton on this blog as much as any other brewery (and more than most) and when mulling over what beer from the brewery to include I wavered between a few. Of course Boat was one (a nearly style defining beer), their fantastic Helles Lager This Town was another, and this one, Regular Coffee. I settled on Regular Coffee for a few reasons. One, it is the first Carton beer I had. Second, it is a beer that has become nearly synonymous with the brewery. Not as readily available as some of the other beers on this list (or even their own flagship Boat), but is a beer that has become a brand family within the brewery and something of an iconic beer of NJ Craft/Independent Brewing. Around New Year’s Day every year, Carton releases this beer and/or a variant with some flavors added, one year was Irish Coffee, meant to emulate the whiskey and/or mint infused coffee with maybe the best being Café Y. Churro which emulates Mexican Coffee. But Regular Coffee is the beer that started it all for the brand within a brand and my experience and dedication to the beers made by Augie Carton and crew.

Mexican Morning | Stout – Milk / Sweet | Conclave Brewing Company | Raritan/Flemington Township, NJ | 5.5% ABV

Conclave having a beer on this list is probably not a surprise to readers of the Tap Takeover and this beer is one that has attained some national recognition for its uniqueness. Conclave is the smallest brewery on this six pack and this beer is associated with the brewery the same way Regular Coffee is with Carton. Mexican Morning starts as Milk Stout but during the brewing process cinnamon, vanilla, cacao, coffee, and chili peppers are added. This beer deliciously evokes spicy Mexican coffee and is a beer I will have every single time it is available at Conclave when I visit. It isn’t brewed often enough to be on draft year round, largely because of the price of the ingredients and complexity of the brewing process, but it is absolutely delicious. When it is brewed, it is usually only available for pours at the brewery and not for growler fills. Once or twice Conclave has barrel aged the beer and that version is even more rare, but just maybe the best barrel-aged beer I can recall enjoying.

Overhead | India Pale Ale – Imperial / Double | Kane Brewing Company | Ocean, NJ | ABV 8.2% | Featured in the June 2019 Six Pack on the Tap Takeover

Kane has consistently been ranked as the best brewery in New Jersey for the past half-decade or so. This is a brewery that does EVERY style it attempts with a level of quality unparalleled by few other breweries. I knew I’d have to include one of their beers on this list, but I wasn’t sure which one, initially. Despite their amazing Quadrupels, I wanted to include a beer that is a little more accessible and this beer is probably the most accessible and easiest to find of all their beers – Kane started self-distributing 4-pack cans of this beer over the last year or so. The quality of the beer, oh boy oh boy.

As has been documented, only in the last year and half have I come to appreciate, enjoy, and seek out IPAs so I sort of avoided this beer for a long time. Now that I enjoy the hop heavy beers, I truly appreciate the outstanding nature of this beer. I’d say this is not just the best Imperial IPA out of NJ, but you maybe a top Imperial IPA in the country (Disclaimer, I haven’t had Pliny the Elder, for example). But this beer reminds me very much of Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute IPA, the nationally available standard bearer for Imperial/Double IPAs. Kane’s take is at least as good and an outstanding beer.

Blonde Hefe-Weizen | Hefeweizen | Ramstein/High Point Brewing Company | Butler, NJ | 5.5% ABV | Review on the Tap Takeover (May 2019)

I’d be hard pressed not to include a beer from Ramstein on a list like this one – I love German style beers and Ramstein is one of the originals of NJ Beer and Brewing. Good thing they make an absolute World-Class Hefeweizen – one of my favorite styles – in their line up. This beer is arguably one of the best American Hefeweizens and undoubtedly the best Hefeweizen brewed in New Jersey. Although I reviewed it very recently, this was a beer I’ve had quite a few times even before I joined untappd.

I would recommend this beer without hesitation as a great, flavorful example of a beer brewed with German ingredients (most of the hops, malt, and yeast used by High Point Brewing( are imported from Germany), in German tradition and process (Greg honed his brewing technique in Germany), with some American flare.

Chocolate Porter | Porter – Other | River Horse Brewing Company | Ewing, NJ | 6.5% ABV | Review on the Tap Takeover (February 2018)

River Horse is another one of the Originals of NJ Craft Brewing, having brewed beer for over 20 years. Some changes about a decade ago and a greater push in recent years to brew more beers and more eye-catching labels have kept the brewery a constant. Their Chocolate Porter isn’t the oldest beer in their lineup, nor is it one of the new ones, and it isn’t their flagship, (that would be their award winning Tripel Horse) but it is one of the more well-received beers and has been around for about five years. It is my favorite beer they brew and one I will always grab when I see on shelves. Stylistically, the beer sits right on the edge of the “Pastry Stout” craze: it is sweet, but it is still most definitely a beer. I reviewed it back in February 2018.

From my review: some porters are a little on the smoky side, this one is not. The “one pound of chocolate per barrel” sweetens the beer and eliminates some of that bitter smoke/roast flavor. If anything, the roast/smoke is akin to the edges of a freshly baked brownie, but the overall flavor, if we’re continuing with the brownie analogy, is like the gooey, slightly underbaked deliciousness of the center of the brownie but still retaining all the elements of a beer.

So, there you have it, six beers I feel Honorably represent the State of New Jersey and what the Garden State has to offer in beer. There are over 100 breweries in the state now so six beers is just the start of what could be a long and filled shelf of delicious beer.

 

Draught Diversions: April 2019 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 2019 started off with a bang, I did a bottle share with some friends/co-workers then had a big blast of different beers in the middle with the second annual (and somewhat disappointing) Bridgewater Beerfest. Quite a few very good beers at the bottle share, but since I only had a 2oz pour of each, I hesitate to include them in full detail aside from pointing out the highlights right here: a 2016 batch of Russian River’s Consecration (an American Wild Ale) and Grimm Artisanal’s Chocolate Cherry Icing on the Cake. One of the participants (a former boss of mine), brought vintages of Kane’s Sunday Brunch and Mexican Brunch. My contribution, Conclave’s Moonwater, seemed to be well-received.

From the April 4th Bottle Share

On to the main six pack, which is a little different this month…

Balinator (Carton Brewing Co) Bock – Dopplebock – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

As soon as I saw that one of my favorite breweries was brewing one of my favorite, least made styles (Dopplebock), I was going to buy the beer. So this beer is made with a great deal of coffee, specifically, per the video Carton put out explaining the beer, coffee beans are added during the brewing process where hops would normally be added. Carton plays a nice coffee beer game and this beer is a really interesting example of the skill they have in blending elements of the two most popular beverages on the planet. This beer is what you’d have if you made a perfect blend of iced coffee and a malty, sweet dopplebock.

Sneakbox (Kane Brewing Company) Pale Ale – American – 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

The other NJ Independent brewing giant/legend, Kane makes it two months in a row here at the Tap Takeover. This is a beer I’ve been wanting to try for quite a while, especially since coming to enjoy hop forward beers over the last year. However, like most of Kane’s beers, this one was available only on draft only outside of the brewery, while cans could always be purchased at the brewery. As of this month (April 2019), Kane started to softly distribute this to Wegman’s stores throughout New Jersey. As soon as I saw it available at my local Wegman’s I picked up 4 pack. This has a damned near perfect hop profile from the Citra hop and is probably my favorite American Pale Ale. A beer that is perfect for any occasion or any time.

Sucaba 2019 (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) Barleywine – English – 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

Few breweries in the United States have as respected a barrel-aging program as does Firestone Walker. This beer is their annually released barrel aged Barleywine and is an outstanding beer. At 11.3% this is a complex, hot beer to sip over the course of an hour or so. Like most big beers, the flavors come alive as the beer settles to room temperature. I enjoyed this rich, sumptuous beer while watching the first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones, a perfect pairing. The beer has hints of vanilla, cherry, and a little toffee with a pleasant hop bite at the end.

Da’ Nile (River Horse Brewing Co.) Red Ale – American Amber / Red – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Each runner received a beer and a “medal” in the shape of River Horse’s mascot Brewtus, which doubles as a bottle opener.

Although I haven’t been running much lately due to back issues, when a brewery run comes up, I’ll make the sacrifice. In 2016 when I was running 3 or 4 times per week, my wife and I ran the first River Horse 6K. Three years later, the great NJ brewery finally did their second 6K and as part of the race fees, each runner gets a pint of beer at the finish. Since my wife does not drink beer, I had two pints and this was the best of the two. I wouldn’t typically think a Red Ale would work as well with Vanilla and Molasses as this beer does, but here we are. This is about a notch away from being a porter and is quite tasty. A very sweet beer that seems a little better suited to cooler months, but a nice post-race beer nonetheless.

Moment of Clarity (Tree House Brewing Company) Stout – Milk / Sweet – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first beer I had 100% brewed by Treehouse. I say 100% because I had the outstanding IPA they collaborated with Sierra Nevada to brew in Sierra’s 2017 Beer Camp pack. Back to this beer and all I can say is holy sweet breakfast Batman! Take the flavors that comprise the wonderful breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes doused with maple syrup and topped with a shake of cinnamon and blend it with a delicious milk stout. That’s my guess as to what the alchemists at Tree House Brewing did when they made this beer. Although the ABV isn’t a bomber in double digits, the potent sweetness of the beer makes it best suited as a slow sipper.

A Selection of Tasters from the 2019 Bridgewater Beerfest

Top Left: Worker Drone (Twin Elephant)
Top Right: Triple Power Bomb (Brix City/Barrier)
Bottom Left: Wrench (Industrial Arts)
Bottom Right: Ex Cathedra (The Lost Abbey)

I was excited to attend the Bridgewater Beerfest this year since I enjoyed it so much in 2018 (as that link indicates). While there was a good selection of beer, the fest was a disappointment. There are two reasons, the first is is that 6 breweries listed as appearing (with 5 of them being NJ breweries) did not appear or have any of their beer available. If it was just one brewery who did not appear, I could lay the blame at the brewery’s proverbial feet. However, when at least a half dozen breweries listed end up not attending, I have to think the event organizers posted the list of breweries without getting final confirmation from those breweries. The other frustration was that for the beers that were there, most of the people pouring the beer knew very little about the beer they were pouring for us. I will not be attending this beerfest again, I think.

So, kudos to the breweries who did appear and provide their beer, which is worth highlighting, with the four below as the standouts:

Sure this was a bit of a cheat for the six pack by adding a four pack to the six pack, but given the size of the tasters, these four beers equal – in volume – one full beer. There was another beer that stood out head and shoulders above all the others, but I’ll be reviewing that all by itself in the near-ish future.

So there it is, another monthly six pack in the proverbial books.

Draught Diversions: St. Patrick’s Day 2019 Six 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…

Last year for my St. Patrick’s Day post, I wasn’t yet doing the six pack feature and was a little all over the place with beer recommendations/suggestions. As such, I stuck with some of the more traditional options – Guinness, Murphy’s, etc. with some brief mentions of other, local (mostly NJ) options. So for 2019, some not so traditional options or twists on those traditions. I did have and enjoy one of those beers I highlighted in last year’s St. Patrick’s Day post – the Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout and recommend it. As usual, I’ll put my list together alphabetically by beer name.

Black Magic Stout | Empire Brewing Company | Syracuse, NY | Stout – Irish Dry | 5.8% ABV

Image courtesy of Empire Brewing’s Twitter

For all the NJ beers I review and feature, I don’t feature many NY beers here at the Tap Takeover. That said, this Irish Dry Stout from Empire Brewing is one well worth featuring. I had it a few years ago and really enjoyed it and found it to be similar to Guinness but maybe a little sweeter. I imagine this one could be found on Nitro Draft in NY, especially closer to the Syracuse area where the brewery is located.

What Empire Brewing says about the beer:

A traditional dry Irish stout, carbonated with nitrogen (it pours very much like a Guinness). Dry roasted flavors are prominent, with hints of chocolate and coffee on the finish. World Beer Cup Gold Medal winner for best Dry-Irish Style Stout in the world!

Craic | River Horse Brewing Company | Ewing, NJ | Stout – Irish Dry | 9.1% ABV

Image Courtesy of River Horse’s Facebook

One of the great NJ Breweries, River Horse partnered with Jameson Irish Whiskey a couple of years ago for their Caskmates series of beers. This was the first of those beers which was first brewed in 2017. If you’re going with a whiskey or a stout involving some kind of whiskey barrel aging, there’s no better whiskey than Jameson especially around St. Patrick’s Day. This beer was produced in fairly limited quantities and I’ve not had the chance to try it yet. (Though if the fine folks at River Horse are reading and happen to have an extra bottle…)

What River Horse and Jameson say about the beer:

An imperial, dry Irish-style stout aged with vanilla and coffee beans. We love doing takes on classic cocktails. This is our take on an Irish coffee. Aptly named Craic*, because beer is meant to be fun.

*Craic is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.

Irish Coffee | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | “Imperial” Cream Ale | ABV: 12%

This was the first variant of Carton’s legendary “Regular Coffee” game I had and it still ranks as one of the best beers I ever had. As the name implies, Carton adds some Irish cream and crème de menthe in the brewing process. This would be a perfect dessert sipping beer after you’ve enjoyed your Corned Beef or Shepherd’s Pie. I’m hoping this beer gets released again since I haven’t had it nearly four years..

What Carton says about the beer:

Irish Coffee is a continuation of the Regular Coffee game. Our golden imperial coffee cream ale has been finished on Irish wood and peppermint. Much like Regular Coffee looks to evoke an amusing version of the acidic bitter coffee curbed by milk and sugar that starts a day in a paper cup, Irish Coffee addresses it on the other end of the day. A beer rendition of a mug of coffee touched by Irish and whipped cream with a drizzle of green crème de menthe to tie up a big meal. Drink Irish Coffee to take it all home.

Irish Stout | O’Hara’s Brewery (Carlow Brewing Company) | Leinster, Ireland | Stout – Irish Dry 4.3% ABV

This was my St. Patrick’s Day beer last year in an Irish tavern (or a bar decorated to appear so) whilst men in kilts were playing bagpipes. I enjoyed the beer very much while I had my traditional shepherd’s pie. I think this is better than Guinness’s standard stout even if not quite as widely distributed. O’Hara’s also has an Irish Red and an IPA to round out their top 3 beers (of about 70+ beers in total).

What O’Hara’s says about the beer:

The flagship of the O’Hara’s brand, this uniquely Irish stout brings one back to how Irish stouts used to taste. First brewed in 1999, it has since been awarded prestigious honours for its quality and authenticity. .

O’Hara’s Irish Stout has a robust roast flavour complemented by a full-bodied and smooth mouth feel. The generous addition of Fuggle hops lends a tart bitterness to the dry espresso-like finish. This sessionable stout beer is filled with rich complex coffee aromas mingled with light licorice notes. The combination of traditional stout hops with an extra pinch of roast barley allows us to stay true to Irish tradition, recreating a taste so often yearned for by stout drinkers..

Kindred Spirits | Innis & Gunn | Edinburgh, Scotland | Stout – Other 6.1% ABV

Pic Alan Richardson Dundee, Pix-AR.co.uk
Innis and Gunn Kindred Spirits

I’ve had a few beers from Innis & Gunn and enjoyed them, and this one looks like it would help that trend continue, should I have the opportunity to try it. If Jameson is the most recognizable Irish Whiskey, then Tullamore D.E.W. is probably a close second. With barrel staves from Tullamore part of the aging/brewing process, this would be an appropriate stout to enjoy on March 17.

What Innis & Gunn says about the beer:

We’ve collaborated for the first time with Tullamore D.E.W., bringing together the very best of Scots and Irish craftsmanship to launch our newest Limited Edition: Kindred Spirits.

Using our unique barrel ageing process, this Scottish Stout has been matured using Tullamore’s legendary triple distilled whiskey barrels creating a rich and delicious Irish Whiskey barrel-aged stout. A perfect pairing of the character of Innis & Gunn’s rich flavour packed beer, and the sweet, spicy, smooth taste of Tullamore D.E.W. with notes of dark chocolate and coffee alongside hints of vanilla.

Stout Aged in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels | Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House | Baltimore, MD | Stout – Foreign / Export | 10% ABV

Image courtesy of Brewbound.com

I wasn’t going to get away without mentioning one of the many beers from Guinness. This one is slightly different for a few reasons. It is one of the first beers – and first barrel-aged beer – to come out of the new Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House Guinness opened in Baltimore. This beer may also be the first widely available barrel aged beer from Guinness. As it so happens, both Guinness and Bulleit are owned by Diageo, the world’s second largest distiller. A nice bit of corporate synergy allowing for what could be a really good beer in a hot popular style. Supposedly, only 15 cases were made available to the entire state of New Jersey so I’ll probably have a tough time finding this one. (Unless somebody from Guinness Open Gate is reading this and wants to send me a bottle!)

What Guinness says about the beer:

Guinness Antwerpen Stout aged in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels. Rich and endlessly complex. The stout we first brewed just for Belgium aged in charred oak bourbon barrels. Coconut and oaky vanilla aroma with a rich and full bodied, dark caramel and coconut flavor.

So there you have it. Whether you enjoy one of these beers or something along your own preference, something you have as a St. Patrick’s Day tradition like a Guinness Draught or a Conway’s Irish Ale from Great Lakes, do so safely and responsibly. Sláinte!!!

Draught Diversions: Chocolate/Valentine’s Day Six Pack 2019

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…

This seemed to work well last year, so why not again? There are quite a few “dessert / pastry” stouts out there and many of these beers have some flavor element that would lend themselves to Valentine’s day. Only one brewery from last year’s Valentine’s Day/Chocolate Beer post reappears here.

Rosetta | Brewery Ommegang | Cooperstown, NY | Sour – Flanders Oud Bruin | 5.4% ABV

Image courtesy of Ommegang’s Facebook

A departure from most of the other beers on this post since it isn’t a chocolate stout or stout of any kind. What flowers are most associated with Valentine’s Day? Roses. Well, this beer has “Rose” as part of its name (I know it is a stretch), but it doesn’t quite have roses in it. Rather, the color of the beer is a beautiful deep red evocative of a rose and is one of the very best beers with cherry I’ve ever had. A blend of two beers in one bottle, it is truly an artistically inspired beer. When Ommegang creates beers in its Belgian wheelhouse, wonderful things like this are produced. This is one of two beers in this post I’ve had (and thoroughly enjoyed).

What Ommegang says about the beer:

Rosetta kriek is a little sweet and a little tart, and now pops in cherry red with a bold, black logo. An homage to Rosa Merckx, the first female brewmaster in Belgium, Rosetta is blended for us at our sister brewery Leifmans, where Rosa worked for 46 years.

Ommegang Rosetta pays homage to time-honored Belgian methods of aging and blending fruit beers. Ommegang brewmaster Phil Leinhart partnered with Belgian sister brewery, Liefmans – legendary brewers in the world of sour fruit beers – to create a truly unique blend for Ommegang and U.S. craft beer lovers. Pouring a mahogany-brown with a hint of red, Rosetta offers elegance, depth, complexity, and an intriguing interplay of tartness and sweetness. This is derived from Phil’s perfectly balanced blend of Oud Bruin (a tart Flemish brown ale) with Cuvee Brut (a fruity and lively Kriek Beer)

Cupid | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | Stout – Other | ABV: 6.6%

Image courtesy of Carton’s Facebook

Perhaps the most on-point beer for Valentine’s Day comes from my NJ favorite, Carton Brewing. Augie and his band of brewers go beyond the confines of standard brewing ingredients for many of their beers, especially one-offs or seasonal beers like this one. How many other beers are made with roses? I’ll let Augie give you the lowdown..

What Carton says about the beer:

Simple truth is we wanted to make something taste like roses, and a stout reminiscent of the simple flavors of boxed chocolates seemed to make sense. The path became clear once we embraced honesty, no need for chocolate additions, just a malt bill built around chocolaty roasts. After that it was just some roses on the way home. Drink Cupid because that’s all there was to it, really, we swear, a straightforward inkling for boxed chocolates and some roses. Nothing else was going on.

Velvet Merkin | Firestone Walker Brewing Company | Paso Robles, CA | Stout – Imperial Oatmeal | 8.5% ABV

Image courtesy of Firestone Walker’s Web site

I’ve had the regular Velvet Merlin, which is a delicious Oatmeal Stout and Mocha Merlin, one of the best coffee stouts I’ve ever had. I’ve yet to have this elusive beer, which is part of their “Proprietor’s Vintage Series” of barrel-aged beers. I’ve not had the opportunity to sample any of their barrel-aged beers, but this is the one I think I’d want to try the most.

What Firestone Walker says about the beer:

Velvet Merkin is the beer that almost wasn’t…Indeed, this vintage oatmeal stout’s comical (or is it scandalous?) name went off the grid for several years, but now it’s back due to popular demand. Velvet Merkin is aged for a full year in retired spirits barrels from Heaven Hill, Woodford Reserve and others, yet manages to offer mind-­boggling balance and restraint. You will wig out when you taste Velvet Merkin’s rich milk chocolate, bourbon and espresso flavors, preceded by aromas of vanilla, coconut, toasted oak and mocha.

Chocolate Cherry Yeti | Great Divide Brewing Company | Denver, CO | Stout – American Imperial / Double 9.5% ABV

Image courtesy of Great Divide’s Facebook

The Yeti from Great Divide is one of the great Colorado stouts and has become a brand within Great Divide. I’ve had the Yeti and it is a big, flavorful beer. This variant, with Cherry added, seems like a delightfully delicious dessert beer perfect for Valentine’s Day. So of course it is logical that Great Divide releases it in February.

What Great Divide says about the beer:

CHOCOLATE CHERRY YETI is the newest version in our revered Yeti Series. We’ve tweaked the hop bitterness for this special release and then added sweet and sour cherries and cacao. The roasty malt backbone of Yeti melds perfectly with the cherries and cacao to make this one smooth sipper. A Yeti in a cherry orchard can be a great thing.

Double Chocolate Milk Stout | Lancaster Brewing Company | Lancaster, PA | Stout – Milk / Sweet 6.8% ABV

Image courtesy of Lancaster’s Web site

Lancaster’s Milk Stout was maybe the first Milk Stout I recall seeing called out specifically as a Milk Stout many moons ago. I liked it quite a bit and it was a regular winter beer for me. Then I tried this version of the beer which is a level up in taste, flavor, and all around quality as a beer.

Hell, Lancaster suggests pouring a can of this with their Strawberry Wheat Ale (a solid summer beer) for a chocolate covered strawberry.

What Lancaster says about the beer:

Don’t miss out on the intense roasted malts, silky smooth mouth feel, subtle sweetness and velvety chocolate goodness of our 2X Chocolate Milk Stout. We went over the top, with more malt, the infusion of cacao nibs and pure chocolate for a truly otherworldly chocolate stout experience.

Cherry Cordial | Southern Tier Brewing Company | Lakewood, NY | Stout – Imperial / Double | 10% ABV

Image courtesy of Southern Tier’s Facebook

Southern Tier is one of the leaders (at least in my region/distribution footprint) of the dessert / pastry stout, which is why they are appearing two years a row for this post. Frankly, I could probably include a beer in this themed post from Southern Tier for a few years. Like most of their big stouts, this is part of the “Blackwater” Series. Anyway, this one is a beer that evokes that most iconic of chocolate candies, the chocolate candy with cherry and cherry syrup filling. I think this is available in both 12oz 4 packs and 500ml bottles.

What Southern Tier says about the beer:

Big, juicy cherries covered in rich chocolate? Yes! Not overly sweet, with just enough contrast between the fruit and chocolate, Cherry Cordial is every bit as tempting as it sounds.

<We’re well known for our affection for decadent, flavorful, dessert-like beers which has put us on an endless quest to brew the ultimate indulgence. Our dessert beers are a fusion of flavors, making each of them a perfect pairing when one craves an exceptional stout all of personality.

Draught Diversions: January 2019 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…

New year, new beers! January 2019 turned out to be a big month for new beers here at the Tap Takeover. Multiple brewery visits and two business trips made or a great variety. So much that whittling down the new beers, about 30 altogether, I had in January to a six pack was more challenging than it has been in quite some time.

Nitro Regular Coffee (Carton Breweing Company) Cream Ale – 4.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Over the past couple of years, it has become a New Year’s / Early January NJ tradition (and one for me personally) to head down to visit Carton Brewing in the Atlantic Highlands to get whatever variant Augie and company release of their highly coveted Regular Coffee cream ale. This year, I met up with some friends to grab some of this beer. Carton has the best deal of any brewery in NJ in terms of tasters, and I knew I had to bring this one home. Regular Coffee is an “Imperial” Cream Ale made with coffee from local roasters. Put simply, Regular Coffee is the best Coffee beer I’ve ever had. I’ve realized I don’t care for Nitro beers over the past year, but this one bucks that recent trend. I can’t think of a beer that more perfectly utilizes Nitro and enhances all the flavor components, raising the bar on an already great beer to something sublime. This may end up being the best beer I have all year.

Sin-Tax Imperial Peanut Butter Stout (Mother Earth Brewing Company) Stout – American Imperial / Double – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Mother Earth beers recently started appearing on NJ shelves…maybe within the last year? This is the first offering I’ve had from them, thanks to my wife getting me a Mix Six pack from Wegman’s. She’ll pour me the beer and I have to try to figure out what the beer is. I got the sweetness initially, but I thought it was a porter so I wasn’t too far off. Be that as it may, I was very pleasantly surprised by the beer. The amount of peanut butter in the beer was just right and not overpowering. This is a really nice dessert beer that doesn’t come across too boozy and spot on for a stout.

I’m a Pickle Gose!!! (Robot Brewing Company) Sour – Gose 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Again, traveling for work allows for sampling different local beers. Case in point, this really tasty beer from Robot Brewing in Boca Raton, FL. Sometimes you take a chance on a beer that seems like it shouldn’t be good at all and you’re surprised. I like pickles and I like beer and this beer is the best of both worlds. The pickle flavor melds so good with the salty and sour aspects of the Gose. Like I say on untappd, I would *love* this one in the summer because it is such a surprisingly refreshing beer.

Hop Wallop IPA – Imperial / Double (Victory Brewing) – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Been a while since a beer from Victory showed up here on the Tap Takeover and it took the re-release of an old favorite to make the cut. A little rebranding/relabeling and my growing enjoyment of IPAs leads to this beer showing up. This is a beer with a lot of Citra hops (one I like quite a bit) for a citrusy, yet bitter hop/flavor profile. I enjoyed the second beer from the six pack more than the first. This isn’t a blow-you-away IPA, but it is on-point for the style and represents the style of DIPA quite nicely.

Resilience Butte County IPA IPA – American (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company) 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Sierra Nevada is really the standard bearer for the full definition of what it means to be an American Craft Brewery. They make superb beers and are a fixture in their community. Those two ideals come together perfectly in this beer, 100% proceeds of which go to the Camp Fire Relief Fund for the disastrous Camp Fires in California late last year. It doesn’t hurt that this is a delicious IPA, an IPA the embodies everything a modern West Coast IPA should be. I can see myself grabbing multiple six packs of this beer.

Claymore Scotch Ale (Great Divid Brewing Company) Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy 4.25 bottle caps on untappd

Another beer from the business travels. In a great turn of events, the “networking event” for my second business trip was held at the Great Divide Barrel Bar in Denver. You’d think the marketing and event folks asked me where it should be held. Be that as it may, I had four different beers during the event and this beer was the standout. I like Scotch Ales and this is a damned good interpretation of the style. Everything – the sweetness from the malt was absolutely perfect. It was a perfect beer to start out the night after walking across a cold parking lot.

All in all, a really good month for new beers. Some months there aren’t enough good ones and I need to add a dud to this post. Not the case for January: More than enough good beers to whittle down to six.

Draught Diversions: Four Pack Favorite Breweries 2018

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…

As a companion piece to my 12-pack of favorite beers of 2018, here’s a four pack of favorite breweries for 2018. Some of these I visited, others I’ve had many beers from over the year, and a couple are relative “rediscoveries.” Going alphabetical this time around.

Bell’s Brewery
Total “new to me” Bells’ beers checked in on untappd in 2018: 9

I’ve written quite a bit about Bells over the last year and shortly after I featured Bells on my wishlist of breweries for NJ, it was announced that Bells struck a deal to begin distributing into NJ. I suspect that was a deal years in the making, but I’ll just say it didn’t actually happen until after I published that wishlist post. Just sayin’. I reviewed one of their beers as a welcome to NJ and had 9 beers altogether from Bell’s in 2019. Granted, I had Oberon Ale in 2017  which is a standout summer/warm weather beer. The most well known and beloved beer in their portfolio is probably Two Hearted which I had at an airport in Houston in January. Other standouts being Double Cream Stout and Poolside. Each beer has been quite good and I expect I’ll be buying more of their beer in the future. I’m really looking forward to Hopslam, which should be hitting NJ shelves a week or two after this post publishes.

 

Conclave Brewing
Total “new to me” Conclave beers checked in on untappd in 2018: 9

Probably the least surprising thing to a appear on this blog is me stating that Conclave is a favorite brewery, they are indeed my favorite New Jersey brewery. Everything I have from this brewery is outstanding, with nothing less than 3.75 rating, and most over 4.25. Their best beer, Process Pils made my best of 2018 list earlier in the week, while Grey Havens was probably the best use of Vanilla I’ve had in a beer outside of Dogfish Head’s Oak Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout. Conclave continues to brew what many in NJ rank among the best IPAs in the state. Other 2018 standouts for me include Intuitive Function IPA, Moon Door IPA and new twist on their spicy stout, Mexican Evening.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Total “new to me” Dogfish Head beers checked in on untappd in 2018: 13

One of the classic American Craft breweries I wrote about last year and one that would probably be on the Mount Rushmore of American Independent/Craft Breweries. Considering much of their output aligns on the IPA side of the beer style chart and I’ve come to not just drink but seek out and enjoy IPAs over the past year, my appreciation for the wizardry of Sam Calagione has only grown. Everything I had from Dogfish Head in 2018 was excellent, including a new summer go-to SeaQuench which I had for the first time this year. Other standouts are Burton Baton, Fruit-Full Fort, and 75 Minute IPA. I’m really looking forward to what they’ll be brewing and selling in 2019 especially Raison D’Extra.

Tröegs Independent Brewing
Total “new to me” Tröegs beers checked in to untappd in 2018: 10

Continuing to appreciate the classics of American Craft brewing with the brewery I’d probably consider my favorite of 2018, in terms of the quality of the beers I had over the range of styles I had. I’d say a beer from Tröegs made it to one of my monthly six packs more frequently than any other brewery. Earlier in the week, I anointed Bourbon Barrel-Aged Troegenator my favorite new to me beer of 2018, but outside of that beer, many of those “new to me beers” all were superb like the Chocolate Stout which (as of now) is an exclusive to their Most Wonderful Beer Of The Year Sampler. Other standouts are First Cut IPA, Nimble Giant, and Blizzard of Hops.

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

Some additional stats, via untappd’s Year in Beer if you feel inclined…

373 Unique Beers
155 different breweries
101 distinct styles

Top 5 Most Checked in beers (I usually don’t check in the same beer multiple times unless I’m having it at multiple locations or I really really like it):

  • Two Hearted Ale (Bell’s Brewery) – 5
  • This Town (Carton Brewing) – 4
  • Centennial IPA (Founders Brewing) – 3
  • Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) – 3
  • Wobbly Cow Coffee Milk Stout (Flying Fish Brewing Co) – 3

Top 5 Most Checked in beer styles:

  • IPA – American – 52
  • Pale Ale – American – 24
  • IPA – Imperial / Double– 19
  • Stout – Milk / Sweet – 12
  • Saison / Farmhouse Ale – 11 (This surprised me the most)

Top 5 Most Checked in breweries:

  • Carton Brewing – 23
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery – 27
  • Lone Eagle Brewing– 16
  • Bell’s Brewery – 14
  • Tröegs Independent Brewing – 12

459 Badges Earned