Draught Diversions: Hunterdon County Beer Trail

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…

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Beer Trails” or promotional efforts for breweries located in a county or region aren’t new. For one of my Birthday Beer Tours, my wife took me on the Bucks County Ale Trail in neighboring PA. With the maturation, growth, and evolution of the beer scene in New Jersey Beer over the past decade, and most importantly over the last 5 years or so. As of this writing (according to New Jersey Craft Beer), New Jersey can boast are over 100 breweries, and 150 including brewpubs. In other words, the time is ripe for some official “Beer Trails” in New Jersey to be promoted.  Laws and bills are being enacted to relax some of the stringent laws in New Jersey. Specifically relating to this post: Bill A-1091, which requires “the state Division of Travel and Tourism to advertise and promote tours of breweries in New Jersey.”

According to the language of the bill, the Division of Travel and Tourism is to identify a series of breweries to be a part of a brewery trail. The division would create no less than three brewery trails to be identified for the program and special consideration will be taken for those who are geographically close to other breweries or have a specific theme or are surrounded by the arts, cultural, historical, entertainment, or other tourism destinations.

Enter the Hunterdon County Beer Trail.

The NJ Tourism site, VisitNJ.org now has a dedicated page to the breweries, wineries, and distillers of New Jersey and proves that yes, Central Jersey does indeed exist even if the tourism website doesn’t exactly have their regions divided correctly! I live in Somerset County and Hunterdon County is one of our neighboring counties. In fact, one of the breweries on the Hunterdon County Beer Trail is less than two miles from my front door.

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Spearheaded by Bob King, one of Lone Eagle Brewing’s Co-owner’s, The Hunterdon County Beer Trail is a partnership between local brewers and the Hunterdon County Economic Development to highlight these small business and obviously drive patrons to visit. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Lone Eagle (and pointed out in one of early brewery spotlights here at the Tap Takeover) is their commitment to the community. Bob spread that commitment from the Flemington community out to his colleagues and peers across Hunterdon County.

I’d visited a few of these breweries over the last few years before the Beer Trail kicked off, but I was more than happy to visit them once again to complete the “Passport.” Although I’ve done full features on a few of these breweries, I’ll do a brief summary of each brewery in alphabetical order.

Conclave Brewing, established 2015 | Raritan Township, NJ | Facebook | Instagram | twitter | Conclave on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Profile

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Clockwise L to R: Clearly Pils, Blueberry Frukt (Farmhouse Ale), Hop Ritual with Vic Secret (Pale Ale), Moonwater IPA , Gravitational Pull (IPA) and Mexican Morning Stout

Conclave was the first brewery of this group to be established in Hunterdon County back in 2015, and for quite a while, they were the brewery closest to me so were effectively my local brewery. They’ve proven great expertise at all styles, particularly IPAs, which are highly acclaimed and sought after in the New Jersey beer community. Shortly before the pandemic struck, Conclave moved just down the road to a much larger location. This new location allowed an expansion of their tap list, and much more room for seating both indoors and out. Enough room, in fact, to host music acts fairly regularly. Favorite beers (of the 35+ I’ve had from Conclave): Clearly Pils (German Pilsner), Espresso Morning Stout (Coffee Milk Stout), Mexican Morning Stout (Spicy Milk Stout), Sable (Imperial Stout), Gravitational Pull IPA, Moonwater IPA, and Hop Ritual with Vic Secret (Pale Ale) .

Descendants Brewing at the Old Ship Inn, established 1995, 2021 | Milford, NJ | Facebook | Instagram | Descendants on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Descendant’s Best Better (Cask)

When Descendants opened in 1995 as The Ship Inn, it was the first brewing company to open in New Jersey since prohibition. The business renamed and launched as Descendants Brewing Company in May 2021. Located a short walk away from the Delaware River, the brewpub is housed in an old Victorian Home. I only had one beer that day, the ESB, but the beers brewed on site are a nice mix of American, German, British, and Belgian inspired styles in addition to an impressive list of several bottles, draughts, and cans from “guest breweries.” Descendants is the only brewpub in Hunterdon County and I intend to get a full meal during my next visit because the menu looks outstanding.

Highrail Brewing Company, established 2019 | High Bridge, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Highrail Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Clockwise L to R: Tart & Thankful, PITA Pumpkin Ale, Stayin ‘ Local (Wheat Ale), and Saewert’s Oatmeal Stout

Highrail Brewing opened in July 2019 in downtown High Bridge, NJ. The brewery is situated on a small, yet quaint and charming main street with a pizzeria and a coffee shop across the street among other local businesses. I visited in August 2019 for the first time shortly after the brewery opened and I was quite impressed with the two beers I had at the time, the first was Stayin’ Local, a wheat ale with peach that was perfect for summer. The other beer I had at that time was Saewert’s Oatmeal Stout, which was a smooth and tasty Oatmeal Stout. When the beer trail was announced, it was reason enough for a second visit, plus I wanted to try the NJ Craft Beer collaboration Tart & Thankful. This beer is a Cranberry Fruit/Fruited Sour Beer, which I reviewed late 2021 and a beer I thoroughly enjoyed. I also had their pumpkin ale, PITA Pumpkin ale, one of the more flavorful and balanced pumpkin beers I’ve had in a while. High Rail makes clean, tasty beers on the whole and are well worth visiting.

Lone Eagle Brewing Company, established 2016 | Flemington, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Lone Eagle Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Feature

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Clockwise L to R: Jubileum V Eisbock, Blueberry Gusher, Nitro Oatmeal Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, Flemington Fog (NEIPA), and King Kölsch

Lone Eagle was the second brewery to open up in Hunterdon County since the big law change of 2012 and they’ve seen some impressive growth. I outlined the beginnings of the brewery in my feature back in 2017, but since then, Lone Eagle has increased capacity with a new purpose-built brewing facility and some brewer changes. Of the breweries on the trail, I’ve had more beers (55 as of this writing) from Lone Eagle than the others (and more than most breweries in general). For a few years prior to the pandemic, the brewery hosted a Board Game night in their spacious loft. In addition to playing some fun games and making new friends, Board Game Night afforded me the opportunity to sample a vast array of beers, often a flight or two a night. It has turned out that every other year I’ve brought a growler of their beer to Christmas Eve (most recently, Grandma’s Cookie) and it was always a hit. I’ve reviewed three beers from them (Belgian Strong Dark, King Köslch, and their 5th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Eisbock), in addition to those beers, their Russian Imperial Stout is quite tasty, their Märzen is always good and their Hefeweizen is top notch. The brewery is in an excellent location, spacious, inviting, and the people pouring your beer are super friendly.

Odd Bird Brewing Co. established 2020 | Stockton, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Odd Bird Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Feature

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Clockwise L to R: Extra Stockton Bitter, Oddsbodikins Lager, Prallsville Pils, and Fields Saison

Odd Bird Brewing was the first brewery I visited after the launch of the Hunterdon County Beer Trail and I visited a second time when my wife took me on the annual Birthday Beer Tour. She didn’t realize I visited (she usually tries to go to breweries I haven’t visited), but I was more than happy to visit Adam and Karen once again because they make terrific beers. Since my feature on Odd Bird Brewing was posted only a few months ago, I’ll excerpt some of that here. The location is rather unique, especially compared to the other breweries I’ve visited in NJ. Risler Avenue/NJ State Route 29 parallels the Delaware River at the southwestern end of County Road 523 – a lovely drive to be had on a late summer/early fall day. Odd Bird is located in an old auto body shop, which is in the same building/location as the Stockton Eagle gas station, and that building is next to a restaurant, Cravings. That set up/location does sort of fit in with the name of the brewery. Odd Bird Brewing is, in my mind, what a quintessential local brewery should be. Great people who own it, who make delicious beer, with a unique taplist of beers that will attract more than just the immediate locals. The brewery has such a wonderful character and ambiance that is more than complimented by the classic styles brewed to near perfection. I had four beers from them, including one that made my favorites of 2021, their cask conditioned ESB, Extra Stockton Bitter, as well as a tasty Amber Lager, a Pilsner, and a Saison.

Readington Brewery and Hop Farm established 2022 | Readington, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Readington Brewery and Hop Farm on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Opening Weekend @Readington Brewery and Hop Farm

The newest brewery on this Beer Trail, and as of this writing in January 2022, one of the newest breweries in the State of New Jersey. I’ve been driving past this location regularly for a couple of years as they are very close to my house. I went opening weekend when they were still getting settled into their rhythm and had a few samples. At the time, only 2 were beers on untappd and they were probably the two I liked the most, The Churchill, an ESB, and Jack the Tripel a Belgian Tripel. I also had a brown ale that was fairly tasty. Given how close they are, I really should make another few visits in the near future because the facility is beautiful, the people were very nice, and they grow their own hops! How cool is that? I think the only other brewery who grows their own hops is Screamin’ Hill in Cream Ridge.

Sunken Silo Brew Works established 2019 | Lebanon, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Sunken Silo Brew Works on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Wystouti Nitro (L) and Deemed Essential Czech Pils (R)

Like other breweries on the HCBT, I’d visited Sunken Silo previously, shortly after they opened in February 2020. I like that they call themselves “Brew Works” as opposed to “Brewing Company” or “Brewery.” I recall the brewery being quite busy that chilly Friday evening during my first visit in 2020. The brewery was equally busy on my visit in January 2021. However, I was able to strike up a nice conversation with Christian, the Beertender working that day. I learned that Sunken Silo managed to weather the pandemic pretty well, thanks in large part to crowler and to-go sales. The brewery is next door to the popular Metropolitan Seafood Gourmet, a thing that sets the brewery apart and provides a great opportunity for patrons of one business to patronize the other business. The brewery’s name is an homage to the Round Valley Reservoir, a.k.a. NJ’s Bermuda Triangle:

The Round Valley Reservoir in Clinton Township, Hunterdon County, was formed in 1960 when the New Jersey Water Authority constructed two large dams and flooded a large valley, which had formerly been occupied by a farming community.”

Quirky name and history are neat, but fortunately, the folks at Sunken Silo (owner Jeff Donlon, Brewer Production Manager/Brewer Fred Mattrey, and head brewer Matt Harrison) make tasty beer, including their Wystouti American Stout I enjoyed and reviewed earlier this week. I know I’ll be visiting the brewery again.

This was a fun campaign and the folks behind the Hunterdon County Beer Trail have promoted it quite well. They’ve mentioned a “second season” and future seasons, which I’m eagerly anticipating. The first “prize” for completing season one of the trail passport is the glass pictured above, I wonder what will be next. If it is a shirt, I’ll just make a small suggestion to the organizers: please make them in XXXL! I’ll be looking to finish the next season either way because there are a lot of new and different beers for me to try, right?

Hunterdon County Beer Trail

Draught Diversions: September 2021 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 means the onset of fall and Oktoberfest! I already posted an Oktoberfest Six pack for 2021, but I managed to get one this past month I didn’t mention there. Along with that beer, a true variety pack: Witbier, Pale Ale, New England Imperial IPA, the aforementioned Festbier, and Pilsner. It isn’t often that every beer in the six pack is a different style, but here we are with the September version of the Tap Takeover’s Mixed Sixer. Also, only one non-NJ beer this month makes the final cut.

Swash (Beach Haus Brewery) | Wheat Beer – Witbier | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Been a while since Beach Haus was featured here on the Tap Takeover, and here they are with a really nice interpretation of one of the more popular styles, Witbier. I was very happy with this beer and could envision myself enjoying the beer on a beach like the one depicted on the can art.

Local Summer (Icarus Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – New Enland | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Local Summer is a term in NJ (and probably most states with a shore destination population) for the days in September following labor day when the vacationers have returned home. This beer is a play off of Icarus’s “Invincible Summer.” This beer is perfect for relaxing poolside in the waning days of the Summer. Toasted coconut and dragonfruit are added to a delicious Pale Ale base.

Steam Hammer (Conclave Brewing) | IPA – Imperial / Double | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

I enjoyed quite a few beers from Conclave this past August after a visit to the brewery and then finding this beer on draught at a favorite local restaurant. Steam Hammer was the best of the three new Conclave beers I enjoyed (although I was super pleased to see they canned their delicious Czech Pilsner Clearly Pils). Carl and his brewers have a great hand at blending hops together and this one is no exception, there’s slight bitter pine elements of a West Coast IPA, with two of my favorite hops – Centennial and Simcoe along with Columbus.

Hop Dyed IPA (Wet Ticket Brewing) | IPA – New England | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Wet Ticket continues to brew solid IPAs, I haven’t had too many beers that feature Sabro hops so I can’t compare. However, Hop Dyed is a smooth and tasty IPA. Fits in that “every day beer” mold of IPAs. My only issue is that the beer lacked any carbonation, but my guess is that the can wasn’t super fresh.

Festbier (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Festbier | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone continues to climb my personal list of favorite local breweries, their Festbier is an outstanding German-inspired fall lager. I’d say this leans a little more on the Märzen (being a bit more malty) side than Festbier side, but regardless of that, it is quite simply a delicious, well-made lager. Their Festbier will be in my fridge every fall for the foreseeable future.

Green State Lager (Zero Gravity Craft Brewery) | Pilsner – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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I’m always on the lookout for a new-to-me Pilsner and I’d seen really good chatter about this one since Zero Gravity entered the NJ market. That chatter wasn’t wrong because this beer is just about everything I want from a pilsner. Clean, crisp, and easy drinking, I can understand why this is such a popular beer from the Vermont brewery.

There you have it…a mix of styles and for me, it was tough to distill one beer from the group of beers I had from multiple breweries. Of course, I had some really good beer when I visited both Buttzville Brewing and Odd Bird Brewing for the first time.

On to the start of stout season!

Beer Review: Two Ton’s Wrought Gold W/ Blood Orange

Name: Wrought Gold w/ Blood Orange
Brewing Company: Two Ton Brewing
Location: Kenilworth, NJ
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.5%

“A flavorful, low ABV beer perfect for summer and poolside beer from the Union County brewery.”

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The commemorative/souvenir beer glass is from the 2015 Garden State Brewfest, where I first sampled beer from Two Ton Brewing.

From Two Ton’s facebook post promoting the beer:

We took Wrought Gold, our American blonde ale brewed with fresh blood orange purée to deliver the ultimate refreshment. This summer sipper is sure to satisfy with smooth sensations of sweetness. The base beer boasts smooth, round flavors of malt and slightly juicy Liberty hops, fermented with an English ale yeast.

A relatively short amount of time for another Blonde Ale considering I don’t drink many of them. But the frequency of these two Blonde Ale reviews should speak to their quality. That said, this definitely different than the previous Blonde Ale featured here at the Tap Takeover. Two Ton has been around the NJ Craft Beer scene for a few years, I first sampled their fine brews during the 2015 Garden State Brewfest. I remember their beer being tasty and the owners, brothers Matt and Jim Barbiere and their father Mario, being extremely nice guys.  At the time, Two Ton was contract brewing with their HQ based out of Linden, NJ, my hometown. More recently (in 2018), they opened in Kenilworth, NJ. This past year, they began distributing cans of their beer which leads to this beer specifically.

Blonde Ales are typically easy drinking, approachable beers. I’ve had the original Wrought Gold and remembered enjoying the beer so I was pleased to see this variant appear in the refrigerated shelves of my local Wegmans. I had a feeling it might be a good poolside / summer beer and I had a few people coming over that day, one of whom loves Blood Orange.

Pop of the can and the strong, pleasant, inviting aroma of the Blood Orange asserts itself. The beer pours a reddish gold and the potent aroma of citrus/oranges is even more noticeable. Although the fruit is “Blood Orange,” the look of the beer, is more of a “strawberry blonde.” Regardless, the beer looks as I would expect it to look.

The pronounced Blood Orange flavor dominates. That is a feature, not a bug, by the way. Blonde Ales are often not too assertive, they are beer flavored beer for the most part. The American versions at least, tend to not lean too much on the malt, not too much on the hops so the beer style is good for its approachability and its ability to take on a flavor adjunct. I mentioned the citrus element from the Blood Orange…that is quite different than the citrus element some hops impart. There’s a very distinct citrus sweetness that I can only compare to the most potent orange juice I’ve had blended with beer. It makes for a good combination, at least for my taste buds.

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Wrought Gold w/Blood Orange is an excellent ale that works perfectly as a fun, summer refresher and well worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4 bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: July 2021 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…

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July has come and gone and with it, the annual family Fourth of July party, which was a contributor to this month’s six pack. It is often hit or miss with the beers my family and friends bring, but this year, there were more hits than misses. This is the first six pack in months with no lager and outside of one beer, all are hop forward (Pale Ales or IPAs).

Forever Forward (Icarus Brewing) | IPA – Imperial/Double New England | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

As it so happens, this was the 50th beer I had from Icarus Brewing. As it also happens, it is the best IPA I’ve had from them and maybe one of my top IPAs of all time. I like the hop selection (Citra and Motueka) and what I appreciate is that they used wheat and oats to soften the body of the beer rather than lactose. Plus, how do you not like that Back to the Future inspired can art?

Your Lips are Bloody! (Ashton Brewing) | IPA – Sour | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

One of Ashton’s flagship beers is their IPA, “Your Lips are Juicy,” which I featured about a year ago. That was a very good beer. This is a version of the beer with Blood Oranges and is even better. This beer was originally produced for Halloween 2020, but proved so popular it was brewed and canned again. The blood oranges both accentuate the citrus element inherent in the hops and since blood oranges are even sweeter than regular oranges, that sweetness counters the hop bitterness. A delicious IPA

Blueberry Lemon Crushin’ It (Cape May Brewing Co.) | IPA – American| 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Cue the Whitesnake song because here we go with a variant of a beer I’ve previously featured at the Tap Takeover. Blueberry is one of my favorite fruits and when balanced with lemon makes for a very refreshing flavor profile. This beer is stronger on the blueberry element than the hops element, but is very tasty. Maybe not quite as good as the original “Orange Crushin’ It,” but still a beer I enjoyed thoroughly and would enjoy poolside all summer.

Patriot (Battle River Brewing) | IPA – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

When you have an annual Fourth of July party and your party-goers know you like beer, they tend to bring beer. Fortunately, there’s a gem of a beer I haven’t had like this IPA from Battle River Brewing. This is a very well-made, straight-forward, no-frills CLEAR IPA. Sometimes, the relatively simple beers are just what hits the spot, and this IPA delivers in spades. Good stuff

Subtle Symphony (Conclave Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd


I met up with a good friend to visit the two closest breweries to me, Conclave being one of them. This is a delicious, flavorful, low ABV (4.5%) pale ale that I could drink all day. Slightly hop-forward, fully refreshing. This would be a good beer for them to can.

Uncharted Waters Raspberry Gose (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone continues to impress me with everything the brew. They’ve been making great sour ales over the better part of the last year. Fruited sours in particular have been impressing me so I was very happy to see them finally put one of their sour ales in a four-pack of cans. Goses are maybe the sour beers I like most, the salinity on the finish works for me and it plays really nicely with the sweet and tart nature of the raspberries. A very well-crafted beer.

Draught Diversions: June 2021 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…

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With June completed, we are officially half-way through 2021, which is a great thing because 2021 hasn’t been the best of years for various personal reasons. Minor surgery in January, broken appliance in January, health issues with our dog Sully throughout the year who passed away after 11 wonderful years with us in May. June is already looking better since my wife and welcomed a new dog into our home to close out the month as summer is upon us. One of the constants has been good beer, so let’s have a look at my top 6 picks for the month of June 2021.

Hearthland (Conclave Brewing) | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Two consecutive months with a beer from Conclave…and in the same style! One of the great things about Conclave’s physical expansion is that they’ve been afforded the ability to play with styles, like oak-aged ales. This Farmhouse beer is a delight. Extremely refreshing with notes of lemongrass and honey, with the barrel character coming through in hints of oak and vanilla. This is a fun, tasty beer, and hopefully a sign of things to come from Conclave.

5th Anniversary Sundial – Chronosaur (Czig Meister Brewing) | IPA – Sour | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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It was great to visit Czig Meister for the Fifth Anniversary party since I made it to the 3rd Anniversary. Obviously, there was no 4th Anniversary celebration due to the pandemic. I visited this time around with a great friend, which always makes these things a little better. Four anniversary beers were released and this was my favorite, it has the hoppiness of an IPA, but some fruited elements, a bit of sour pucker, and some sweetness from a hit of lactose. A “Sour IPA” is far from my chosen style, but this beer was delicious. Czig Meister brews quite a few beers in the “Sour IPA” style in their Sundial series so I may sample more in the futre

Uncharted Waters: Mango Lassi (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Another Jersey Cyclone beer! One style they’ve shown exceptionally adept at crafting is fruited sours. This particular beer is a perfect example. It doesn’t hurt that I love Mango, so this beer hit many great notes for me. The mango is potent, there’s definitely a sourness, and that is all balanced with an addition of lactose. This beer is just more proof of how great Jersey Cyclone is in a variety of style.

Smoke & Dagger (Jack’s Abbey Craft Lagers) | Lager – Dark | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Here’s the lone non-NJ beer and it sure is an interesting one. I’m not so much into Smoked beers, but everything I’ve had from Jack’s Abby has been superb and I really enjoy dark lagers. The smoked malt element is definitely present, but it isn’t like your breathing in a campfire. Rather, the smokiness gives off a very nice sweetness that is quite pleasant. Maybe sweet like smoked bacon? I don’t know, but I enjoy this beer the more I have it.

What About Us (Untied Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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I met up with my parents at Untied for an early Father’s Day since Untied is relatively midway for us and my dad and I both thoroughly enjoy the beers from the New Providence brewery. I figured I’d go with an IPA since their IPAs have a good reputation and I’ve only had one of their hop-forward beers. Since this beer has the Vic Secret hop (a favorite hop of mine), the decision was easy and well-rewarded. This is a dynamite beer with strong hop elements on the front end and none of the unpleasant bitterness on the finish. That lack of bitterness could be due to the beer being finished on honey, but the tropical elements of the New England style IPA are on full, delicious display in this beer.

Polyphonic (Ashton Brewing Company) | Pilsner – German | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Ashton Brewing is growing into one of the best Lager brewers in the State of New Jersey. Their first Pilsner, Jersey Dreamin’ was great, so early on Ashton showed a deft hand at brewing. Polyphonic is just as good, maybe even a little bit better. Such a clean, crisp pilsner is an example of why Pilsner became such a beloved style and another winner from Ashton Brewing.

Only one dud for the whole month, but I’ll keep that under wraps and close the post with positivity and a picture of Dusty, our new puppy! Our previous dog, Sully, was named after Sully Erna, the lead singer of one of our favorite bands, Godsmack. Dusty, is an abbreviation of one of our other favorite bands, Sevendust.

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Draught Diversions: May 2021 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…

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May was a month for a plentiful amount of new beer. I was fortunate enough to enjoy so many good new beers that I had a tougher time choosing six than I have in quite a few months. A nice mix of styles, a brewery or two appearing in the Monthly Six Pack for the first time or first time in a while. This marks the third month in a row with a Barleywine, third month in a row without an IPA, and first time in a two months without a new Pilsner. Only one of these beers was purchased a liquor/beer store (the lone non-NJ beer), the other five were purchased directly at the brewery, with four of those enjoyed at the brewery. Is that too granular of an analyzation?

Saint Alphonsus (Bull ‘n Bear) | Belgian Dubbel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Had a meet up in Summit, NJ on the first day of the month and we had time before our restaurant reservations so of course we stopped at the neighboring brewery. This is the 3rd beer I’ve had from Bull ‘n Bear and each style has been very tasty. This Dubbel is a very impressive interpretation of the style from Bull ‘n Bear.

Vanilla Maris (Timber Ales/Horus Aged Ales/Mindful Ales) | Barleywine – English | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Here I am again with the third beer I’ve had from a brewery…what a fantastic Barleywine this beer is. The English Barleywines are more malty and sweet compared to their hoppy cousins from America and often exhibit hints of toffee in the flavor profile. This beer does indeed have that element to it, which plays wonderfully with the vanilla beans on which the beer was aged. Another standout from Timber Ales.

Morning Bean 2020 (Kane Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

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With the world slowly emerging from the Pandemic, a couple of friends and I decided to visit Kane’s Biergarten. Morning Bell is a superb Coffee Porter and they release variants every year. I missed out on the bottle release of this one, which takes the beer and conditions the liquid on Bourbon Vanilla Beans. This beer is an unbelievably delicious porter.

Paddy’s House Kölsch (Source Brewing) | Kölsch | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

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…and after Kane, we visited Source, which was a first for us. A beautiful setting, a warm day, and a cold beer with friends. Well, I saw good things about this beer on untappd and I was not disappointed. The is beer is the winner of a homebrew contest, and there’s no question of the quality. Of the 30 beers on untappd I’ve had categorized as “Kölsch,” this is at least the best American version and maybe the best period. This was zlow-poured to allow the flavors to express themselves even more potently, some malt/breadiness with a crisp finish that has some hops and a wonderful mouthfeel. This is everything I want in a beer.

Blackberry Frukt (Conclave Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

ConclaveBlackberryFrukt

I took a quick drive to Conclave to grab one of the very limited bottle releases (likely to be mentioned in next month’s six pack) and of course had to have some freshly poured beer. I was glad to see this beer still on tap because it was absolutely perfect for warm weather enjoyment. Conclave calls this a “Norwegian Farmhouse Ale” because of the Kviek yeast which brings fun flavors to the beer, but they went further and finished the beer on fresh blackberries for a really special beer.

Triple 5 Phat Crispy (Twin Elephant Brewing Company/Five Boroughs Brewing Company ) | Lager – American | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

TEB_TriplePhat5

Twin Elephant is celebrating their fifth year this year and they’ve canned a few beers, including this one, the first Lager they’ve packaged. Brewed in collaboration with Five Boroughs Brewing, this beer is just about everything a fan of flavorful Lagers could want in a beer. Refreshing, tasty, a delicious crusher. A contender for my favorite beer from the folks from Chatham, NJ.

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Beer Review: Conclave Brewing’s Sable

Name: Sable
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing Company
Location: Flemington, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 11.3%

“A big flavorful stout from one of the brewing gems of the Great Garden State.”

From the description of the beer on untappd:

Ever since we moved to the new brewery we wanted to brew a big stout – Sable is it! Formulated with a Maris Otter base, a lot of flaked oats and a bevy of roasted malts, we came pretty close to maxing out the system. On top of that we conditioned it on the most amazing vanilla beans from Vanuatu. It’s a rich intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish.

Just before the Pandemic took hold of the world in early 2020, Conclave Brewing moved one building over to a larger facility that allowed for ramped up production. They doubled their tap list and started more crowler and can releases. Many of those have been IPAs, but I was hoping they’d release a new stout and or dark beer. Sable is that beer, as they state in the description, this beer needed the larger capacity to brew and as such, Sable my first new beer review of 2021. Conclave has proven that their measured approach to brewing pays off in this big stout.

Conclave’s IPAs are popular and beloved and while I’ve enjoyed just about every IPA I’ve had from them, as readers of this blog are aware, I have always been more of a dark beer drinker. Conclave’s stouts and porters are outstanding; Mexican Morning, Mexican Evening, and Espresso Morning Stout are just superb and their Vanilla Porter, Grey Havens from a couple of years ago was delightful. In other words, I was very excited to get a growler fill of this beer

I opened the growler the day after I bought the beer but it still held up with some carbonation for a thin head. Overall, the blackness of the beer screams Imperial Stout. Aroma? Check…I get some of that vanilla overlaying the roasted malt.

My first thought about this beer is how it resonates with one of my favorite stouts, Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout. The big roasted malt element and the potent hops are similar in a lot of good ways. Then that vanilla slides into the flavor profile, and brings a welcome element to balance out the big dose of hops. I imagine if Sierra Nevada made a Vanilla variant of Narwhal (maybe they have), it might taste similar to Sable from Conclave.

Most of the beer I’ve been seeing and enjoying with Vanilla highlights the island of Madagascar as origin of the Vanilla . I’d never heard of Vanuatu before this beer, but it is an island in the South Pacific. That factoid doesn’t really have too much play on the taste of the beer, just more of an anecdote. Anyway, what I appreciate most about the Vanilla component is that it comes through just a shade more potent than subtle. What does that mean? The Vanilla doesn’t scream at you the way I’ve experienced in some beers, but rather a natural element of the beer.

I managed to enjoy the full 32oz half-growler over the course of the evening and would welcome more of this beer in the future.

Sable is a bold, potent announcement of a beer from Conclave that proclaims, “Yeah, we do great IPAs, but don’t forget our Stouts are as equally delicious!”

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: July 2020 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…

July, of course, features one of the most beer-centric holidays, Independence Day. Celebrating our country in this day and age is not exactly and easy thing, but for about 35 years, my family has had a Fourth of July party. It has always more of a family gathering, and even though COVID has drastically changed things, we were still able to have a handful of family at our house. As such, there is an abundance of beer.

This month brings mostly local (5 NJ and 1 PA) beer.

Lil Yacht Juice (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – Session / India Session Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

It has been a bit since I featured an Icarus beer here at the Tap Takeover. “Lil Yacht Juice” is the scaled down version of Icarus’s flagship IPA, “Yacht Juice.” Whereas Yacht Juice is 8%, “Lil” is 4.9%. Despite the lower ABV, “Lil” doesn’t sacrifice any of the flavor with its blend of Mosiac, Citra, and Columbus hops. The beer is cloudy like most New England IPAs and is probably the best “Session IPA” I’ve ever had (not that I’ve had all that many of the style) and a beer that was a perfect start to our annual Fourth of July party.

Bulliner Vice – Passionfruit, Papaya, and Peach (Bolero Snort Brewery) | Sour – Fruited Berliner Weisse | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Bolero Snort has a series of fruited Berliner Weisse beers under this obvious bull-punned name, this is the only one I’ve had and I like it quite a bit. A good beer to finish off the night with the various fruit adjuncts and the overall tartness of the beer. However, this is the second “sour” beer I’ve had with passionfruit and the initial aroma is extremely potent – it is stanky. But thankfully that aroma transfers more pleasantly in the beer with the help of the peach and papaya.

Haze Charmer (Tröegs Independent Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – New England | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This a new year-round addition to the Tröegs portfolio and it is indeed a very welcome beer. It is light but flavorful with a burst of lovely tropical, fruity hops. Tröegs has long been one of my favorite breweries and this beer captures a hot style very well, low ABV and very flavorful. This is a great anytime, pairs with anything kind of beer that should appeal to everyone.

Lilting Grace (Conclave Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I took a ride down to Conclave to check out their outdoor biergarten in their new space (which they moved into shortly before the pandemic) and the outdoor area is really nice. As always, the beer was really tasty, too. This one has one of my favorite hops, Vic Secret, which seems to be a favorite of Conclave’s too. Good tropical fruity elements in the beer with a slightly bitter hop finish. Good stuff.

Raspberry Radler (Beach Haus Brewery) | Shandy / Radler | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Radlers/Shandys are the refreshing German style that blends fruit juice and beer (often lemonade and beer). Beach Haus’s take on the style with Raspberry is really nice and a perfect post-yardwork summer beer. This is the exactly the kind of a beer I’d expect from a brewery walking distance from the beach with great outdoor seating…and it is quite good, too!

Eye of the Storm w/Citra (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Although Jersey Cyclone has been open for more than a year, this is my first time trying their flagship IPA. This is a flavorful almost Hazy/New England IPA. It is a little more bit grassy than most IPAs I’ve had, but very tasty nonetheless. The Citra hops shine in this beer, evoking the citrus profile which lends the hop the name.

A great month overall for new beers, so let’s leave it at that.

Draught Diversions: May 2020 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…

Social Distancing continues through May and so does the focus on NJ / Local Breweries. Two of the beers in this post are from a brewery who had a beer as a featured review over the past month, which is something I’ve tried avoid. I have mostly been able be a little more robust in my selections for two reasons: (1) I didn’t usually limit my purchases to just New Jersey and (2) I’ve also returned to some old favorites over the past month, so there weren’t as many new beers this past month compared to previous months. Enough with the reasons, here are the beers

Porter (Spellbound Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This was the other beer I picked up on my visit to Spellbound during the first weekend of the month. This is a straight-forward, malty, and roasty porter. I liked the chocolate hints and especially the coffee finish; the beer does exactly what a porter should do. This beer serves as the base porter for Spellbound’s outstanding, award winning Porter Aged on Palo Santo Wood.

Malachor (Conclave Brewing Company) | IPA – Black / Cascadian Dark Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave has been doing curbside crowler releases (and quickly selling out) for much of the pandemic, this one is the first opportunity I’ve had to enjoy one of those releases. I haven’t had a Cascadian Dark Ale in a very long time but this one really took me by surprise. It doesn’t look like an IPA, but the hops evoke a tropical flavor that works really nicely with the roasted malt. This is a standout beer for sure.

White (Cape May Brewing Company) | Wheat Ale – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Cape May had a summer witbier in their lineup for a few years which was OK. This year they removed that beer and added White as a year-round beer, but it works so well for the summer. This is basically Cape May’s take on a Witbier, and per CMBC, White has more wheat and less hops and that combination for me works a lot better than Summer Catch did. White compares favorably to Kane’s Cloud Cover (reviewed earlier in the month) and the standard, Allagash White. In other words, it is an excellent Belgian Style Witbier.

Snowtober (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Porter – Imperial/Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Yeah, yeah I know I have two beers in this six pack from breweries already in a feature review this month. Snowtober is one of the launch beers from Jersey Cyclone and is a superb milk porter, with additions of coffee and vanilla to embolden the flavor even more. I found the beer to be incredibly smooth with a very nice roasty and sweet finish. For their first anniversary, Jersey Cyclone let some Snowtober sit in barrels. I thought that was good, too, even if it was a little too bourbony.

Monkey Chased the Weasel (Carton Brewing Company) | Sour – Berliner Weisse | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Monkey Chased the Weasel has long been a part of Carton’s portfolio, I see untapped checkins going back to 2014, but this is the first time I had it. This is a mildly sour/tart ale, but the flavor is really nice making for a perfect, refreshing beer for the summer. I can’t say I’ve had a mulberry and only know of it from the song to which this beer pays homage, but I assume the pleasant sweetness comes from that berry. Bottom line: this is a great take on the Berliner Weisse.

Hazy Bones (Flying Fish Brewing Company) | IPA – New England | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the third major take on a New England IPA from Flying Fish and it is a spot on interpretation. I’ve only had Jersey Juice but I found this one to be closer to style and more flavorful. The beer has all the juicy/tropical elements typically associated with the style along with a noticeable bite of hops on the finish.

Some good stuff, but not much more variety of breweries for May 2020. I will call out one beer I had that wasn’t so great – Brewberry which is a blueberry coffee stout collaboration between Cape May Brewing and Night Shift Brewing in MA. I got almost no coffee notes and all tart blueberry notes. Brewberry was the only beer from Cape May that I flat out didn’t like.

Draught Diversions: February 2020 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…

Considering February is the shortest month of the year, even in a leap year like this year, I was able to sample a good amount of new beers. In fact, it was a very tough challenge to trim the new beers I had in February down to just six beers. We’re at the usual 50%-50% split with NJ and non-NJ beers this month around. One business trip provided me with the opportunity to try a few beers I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to in NJ, one of which makes this month’s six pack post. So, enough of the chit chat, here’s my February 2020 six pack.

Back for S’More (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Stout – Milk / Sweet | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone keeps impressing me with their output. Every new beer from them is excellent, regardless of style. They had a NJ Craft Beer Night on the first Thursday of the month, which I of course attended. During that night, Jersey Cyclone debuted this delicious Milk Stout brewed with Cinnamon and conditioned on Cacao Nibs and Vanilla. The cinnamon was utilized perfectly to balance some of the sweetness from the other elements. They canned this one, too. Well worth grabbing a four pack.

Bourbon Barrel-Aged Framinghammer (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Porter – Baltic | 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first “big” beer I’ve had from the great Lager brewery in Massachusetts. Yes, a Baltic porter is brewed using a cold/Lager process. I haven’t had the base non-barrel-aged beer, but this version is delectable. The bourbon is present, but not overpowering. Notes of vanilla and sweetness balance out the slightly high bitterness level associated with the style. A wonderful slow-sipper. Jack’s Abby brews several variants of this beer (S’Mores, Vanilla, Mole, etc) which I will most definitely be trying.

Flemington Fog (Lone Eagle Brewing) | IPA – New England | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

After missing a few sessions, I was able to get to Board Game night at Lone Eagle in February and I had one of their new beers, from their newish brewer and it is a dandy. Lone Eagle has brewed a few Hazy/New England IPAs (as has just about every brewery) but this one is the clear (pun half-intended) stand out in the crowd. This is a juicy beer with a pleasant bitterness on the finish. Just an overall good beer and I like the name as an homage to the city where the brewery is located.

Parabola (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Firestone Walker is, as I’ve noted here in the past, one of the leaders in barrel-aging and blending of beers. A beer many consider the apex of that program is Parabola, their big (13.6% ABV) Russian Imperial Stout. Like the BBA Framinghammer, the bourbon elements complement the flavors present in the beer, especially that aggressive hop finish strongly associated with Russian Imperial Stouts. This beer is simply outstanding.

Pliny the Elder (Russian River Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double | 5 bottle Caps on untappd

The very first Imperial IPA ever made and one of the best beers I’ve ever had. I was in San Francisco for business for a couple of days and I heard about this wonderful dive bar, the Toronado with 40 beers on tap, and Pliny a fixture. There was a great write-up by Jay Brooks recently for Flagship February which featured Pliny at the Toronado. Of course I had to go and have the beer, which lived up to the hype. An outstanding beer, never have hops tasted so wonderful. Quite simply, a perfect beer..

Good Morals (Conclave Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

I made my first visit to Conclave’s new facility and I was extremely impressed with the taproom. So much more space for customers, with tables and the typical old whisky/bourbon barrels. Very inviting, very spacious, and simply very nice. The beers have always been great, Carl (owner/brewer) uses hops from New Zealand so well and this Farmhouse ale has a couple of those, as well as that popular Norwegian Kviek yeast. At only 4.7% ABV, this beer is refreshing with a great amount of flavor. Just a great, great beer.

Honorable mention to a beer I haven’t had in about 4 or 5 years – Java Cask from Victory Brewing. This beer is the great Pennsylvania brewery’s take on the bourbon-barrel aged stout…not just a stout, a coffee stout. It is as good as I recall it being. To balance it out, I stopped in a few breweries in NJ at the end of the month and one really disappointed me – Magnify Brewing. Maybe I just caught some bad beers, or not the best they made (I had an English Mild, an IPA, and a Stout) but for the reputation they seem to have, I was expecting much, much more.