Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2018 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…

The longest, largest, and lager-est beer holiday is nearly upon us. Of course, I am referencing Oktoberfest – the time of year when German beers and German inspired beers are celebrated. Well, when they should be celebrated since some Oktoberfest beers begin hitting shelves late July and August. There are many, many, interpretations of the style from which to choose as nearly every brewery seeks to capitalize on the season and take the chance to brew a lager. Since we’re about a week and a couple of days away from the official start of Oktobefest (September 22, 2018), what better time to highlight a few I may try this year.

The Kaiser Avery Brewing (Newport, OR)

Image courtesy of Avery Brewing’s Web site

How do I *not* at least mention an Oktoberfest named The Kaiser? Avery, like many Colorado breweries, has a tendency to lean into Ales, particularly hopped up ales. Much of what they brew can be considered over the top so of course they push the limit on the Oktoberfest beer by brewing an “Imperial” Oktoberfest with nearly double the ABV.

What Avery says about the beer:

Just in time for fall and its most notable Fest, this limited release Imperial Oktoberfest Lager is our emboldened Prost! to one of the world’s most recognized styles. The Kaiser weaves together rich, toasted Vienna and Munich malts with the floral spiciness of Hersbrucker and Bravo hops to create a bold and brazen dry Imperial Oktoberfest.

Octoberfest Beer – Bell’s Brewing Company (Comstock, MI)

Image courtesy of Bell’s Brewing’s Web site

With Bell’s hitting NJ earlier in the year coupled with how much I’ve enjoyed the half-dozen beers I’ve had from them, I do want to give their Märzen a try. Everything I’ve had from them has fallen into the Ale half of the brewing divide so I’d like to see what they can do with a Lager.

Bell’s says this about the beer:

Crafted as a flavorful session beer and perfect for autumn, Octoberfest spends a full six weeks fermenting.

With herbal hop aromas, this balanced amber lager focuses on lightly toasted malt that lends body without too much sweetness. Perfect for a week-long wedding celebration in Germany or the start of the Michigan autumn.

Oktoberfest – Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, FL)

Image courtesy of Cigar City Brewing’s Web site

Cigar City made a decent splash when they first started distributing in NJ a couple of years ago, especially with their highly acclaimed Jai Alai IPA. Skimming through untappd, this one seems to connect correctly with folks looking for a quality Oktoberfest. That said, there is a bit of a contradiction for a brewery based in a state with temperatures averaging 80 degrees brewing a beer primarily associated with cooler autumn weather.

What Cigar City Says about the beer:

In Florida the changing of seasons is decidedly more subtle than in most other places. Palm fronds rarely turn brilliant red and orange the way leaves do in the rest of the country, and for Floridians sweaters exist only as rumor. We at Cigar City rely heavily on our seasonal beers to mark the passing of each month and few beers are better at heralding the arrival of autumn than our Oktoberfest Lager.

Our Festbier nods firmly toward the style’s history with it’s amber color, bready malt complexity and restrained hop flavor and bitterness. At the heart of this beer is a malt bill of six different German malt varieties, including a generous helping of Munich malt. After adding Hallertauer Mittlefruh hops we ferment the beer with an authentic Bavarian lager yeast, resulting in a clean, dry and complex lager that’s at once intriguing and drinkable.

Oktoberfest (Marzen Style) – (Hackettstown, NJ )

Image courtesy of Jersey Girl’s Facebook page

I had to include at least one NJ brewery in this post since quite a few around me brew a version of the style. Of the half-dozen beers I’ve had from Jersey Girl, I’ve really enjoyed them all. I like that these are 16oz cans, as is all of Jersey Girl’s canned beer. Also, I’m not going to lie, I really like the label on this one.

What Jersey Girl says about the beer:

With an ABV of 5.9%, it’s a delicious Copper Hued Märzen. Oktoberfest started as a festival where the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal wedding of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese. In honor of this celebration we have brewed a medium bodied, Copper Hued lager.

Oktoberfest – Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI)

Image courtesy of Lakefront Brewery’s Web site

I’ve seen good things about Lakefront’s interpretation of the style (3.90 bottle caps on untappd) and I’ve had a handful of pretty good brews from the Milwaukee regional brewery. I don’t see their beers everywhere near me, but in enough of the liquor stores in my travel radius that snagging some shouldn’t be a problem. At the least, maybe I’ll throw a mix-six pack together at Wegmans and try to grab this one.

What Lakefront says about the beer:

The radiant copper-orange hue and rocky, off-white head of our traditional Märzen-style lager comes from generous amounts of Munich malt. Caramel malt aromas complement the German lager yeast’s slightly floral aroma. Mt. Hood hops balance the substantial malt body, while the lager yeast adds a subtlety to the flavor, making this a great rendition of a classic German lager. Prost!

Oktoberfest – von Trapp Brewing (Stowe, VT)

Image courtesy of von Trapp Brewing’s Web site

From one of the most Germanic of all breweries in America, von Trapp’s Oktoberfest one I’d like to try. I’ve enjoyed their Bock and their Helles Lager quite a bit, so I’m interested in tasting their take on the iconic style.

What von Trapp says about the beer:

The Bronze Medalist at the Great International Beer Festival and Attitash Oktoberfest “Best Brew Award” in both 2015 and 2016.

Oktoberfest is brewed with a blend of light and dark Munich Malts, which not only adds to its depth but delivers a residual sweetness. Carmel and toffee notes linger but are balanced by the subtle hops additions in this beer. We use hallertau and Tettnang hops which adds a floral yet peppery aroma to this beer. It’s our take on this traditional fest beer.

So there it is, my 2018 Oktoberfest Six Pack. I hope to try at least one or two of these over the next few weeks. Perhaps as you head into the coming weekend and prepare for next weekend’s (09/22/18) official start to Oktoberfest 2018, you’ll give one of these a try.

 

Beer Review: Cigar City Brewing’s Maduro Brown

Name: Maduro Brown Ale
Brewing Company: Cigar City Brewing
Location: Tampa, FL
Style: Brown Ale – English
ABV: 5.5%

From Cigar City Brewing’s Landing Page for the beer:

Maduro is a Northern English-style Brown Ale with some American affectations. Maduro is higher in alcohol than the common English Brown Ale and features flaked oats in the malt bill which imparts a silky body and works to mesh the roasted, toasted and chocolate components together in Maduro’s complex malt profile. The end result is a remarkably full-flavored yet approachable Brown Ale that pairs well with mild to medium cigars.

Cigar City Brewing is one of the largest and more respected breweries out of the Southern United States. Their Jai Lai IPA is well-regarded and their Imperial Stout – Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is such a big deal the brewery throws a huge party to celebrate its release, which happens to be the only place you can get the beer. While those two brews may get the flash, Maduro Brown is a tasty take on a classic style that deserves equal attention.

Brown ales are far from the sexiest style of beer on taps and shelves, but like Pilsners, the style – when done well like Maduro Brown – is the kind of “standard style” that many beer geeks and hop heads enjoy. I include myself.

In a shocking turn of events, the beer pours a deep brown out of the can. Almost a milk-chocolatey brown.

The smooth, easy drinking feel of the beer hit me first. Like the description suggests, there are very pleasing elements of chocolate and toffee sweetness. Chocolate is pretty common, especially in stouts, but what separates this brown ale is the lighter body and lowered roast components of the beer.

What makes this beer so good is just how elegant it is…it isn’t fancy, but it is quite delicious. Sure Cigar City makes some complex beers, but making a Brown Ale one of their flagship beers is a nice touch as the beer is very approachable, would likely pair well with many meals, or would be a great beer to enjoy on its own.

Like Happy Hour which I reviewed last week, Maduro Brown is a beer that is well balanced and deftly straddles the line between being a beer seasoned beer consumers can enjoy and a beer that is approachable for folks who don’t typically go for craft beer. This would be a great beer to bring to a party of a mixed crowd, in other words.

This beer proves that Brown Ales are good, far from boring, flavorful, and well worth trying.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Draught Diversions: January 2018 Six Pack

Time for another slight change in protocol here at The Tap Takeover. With my first Monthly recap post for 2018, I’m going to trim back from writing about the majority (90%) of the beer I had in the previous month and go with six beers. Ideally, I’ll try to keep mention at least one beer that didn’t quite work for me. Also, this list of beers excludes any that have been featured as a single beer review. For this post, at least, I’ll go chronological from what I had early in the month to what I had most recently.

I’ve found myself drawn to more NJ breweries over the recent past, rather than nationally distributed brands, so two of the beers in this post are from NJ Breweries.

Café Con Leche Stout – Milk / Sweet – 3.25 bottle Caps on untappd

First up is the very first beer I had in 2018. Café Con Leche from Cigar City Brewing is a beer whose style is strongly in my wheelhouse, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Cigar City started distributing into NJ last year so I was looking forward to trying some of their beers. Especially their interpretation of a Milk Stout. While it wasn’t bad, and relatively true to style there was something unpleasant on the finish of the beer. An odd aftertaste made the beer, on the whole, not something I’d want to try again. This was one of the bombers I received for Christmas so I didn’t feel too guilty about not finishing the whole bottle.

Han Shot First IPA – Imperial / Double – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Next up is an IPA, or rather, Imperial/Double IPA from a fairly local brewery in Pennsylvania, Evil Genius Beer Company. I’ve had a few of their beers, the quality is good and the names are very clever, including this one, Han Shot First. This beer surprised me, it did not have nearly the level of hop bitterness I expected considering it is a Double. While the ABV is 8%, the IBU is 30, making this a very juicy, drinkable IPA. I’d definitely have this one again and not just for the name.

Collaboration No. 6 – Barrel-Aged Blend Other – 4.50 bottle Caps on untapped

The third beer in the January Six Pack is one of two beers I had at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Sol Mexican Cantina. Very good food combined with one of the best selections of beers in Somerset County, NJ are why I like this place so much. The first beer I had that night was Collaboration No. 6 – Barrel-Aged Blend, a collaboration between Boulevard Brewing Co. and Firestone Walker. I’ve only had a couple of Boulevard’s beers and liked them fine, I need to seek out more from them. This beer is listed on untappd as “Other” likely because it is a blend of four heavy styles, two from each brewery: Bourbon Barrel Quad (45%) & Imperial Stout X Tart Cherry (10%) from Boulevard and Stickee Monkee Belgian Quad (35%) & Velvet Merkin Oatmeal Stout (10%) from Firestone Walker. It probably will not come as a surprise that the Belgian Quad flavors come through the most, but the sweetness of the stouts is there, too. This quite simply an outstanding beer

It looks like this one was brewed in 2016 so I don’t know if it was a one-time beer or has been brewed again more recently. Either way, if you see this one, get it because it is a fine example of experimental, collaborative brewing.

IPA IPA – American – 4 bottle Caps on untapped

Number four is the first of two beers from New Jersey and the other beer I had at Sol Mexican Cantina: a straightforward IPA from Brotherton Brewing. This is the first beer I’ve had from the South Jersey brewery and boy was I impressed. This is a borderline juice-bomb; a hazy Citra-hopped unfiltered IPA. I could drink this all day and hope I can find some of this in cans near me. Like I said, this is just simply a tasty, well-made IPA. Sometimes a well-made standard style is just the beer you need.

Sunday Brunch Porter – Imperial / Double – 4.75 bottle Caps on untapped

The second New Jersey beer was probably the best beer I had in January and one of the best porters I’ve ever had. One of our (my wife and I) favorite restaurants is the Stirling Hotel – amazing food, great beer, and excellent beer events like the one I attended in the middle of the month. Essentially a Tap Takeover, Stirling Hotel hosted a “Kane Brewing Brewer’s Lunch,” which featured six beers from Kane and a unique menu. My meal was fantastic, waffles topped with a roasted duck leg and fig syrup. One of beers I had was Kane’s Sunday Brunch, 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 like this and in 750ml bottles at the brewery.

Some people may be wary of anything with cinnamon, but the spice is used perfectly in this beer and compliments the flavor profile rather than overpowering everything else that went into the beer. This is a must have beer, especially if you live in or near New Jersey.

Two Hearted Ale IPA – American – 4.25 bottle Caps on untapped

Finishing off the six pack for January is one of the iconic American craft beers: Two Hearted Ale from the great Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. I have lamented in the past that Bell’s doesn’t (yet?!?!) distribute to NJ. I happened to see this one on draught at the Houston Airport. Considering I had some time to kill before my flight departed, I ordered a pour and was satisfied. I now know why this beer has the reputation it does, this is one of the best, most drinkable IPAs I’ve ever had. As I plead when I reviewed Bell’s other iconic beer, Oberon Ale, if folks from Bell’s are reading this, please get your beer into NJ. You’d make an entire state of craft beer consumers extremely happy.

There you have it – six beers, five of which were excellent and one that just didn’t work for me.