Draught Diversions: August 2018 Six Pack

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

I still had plenty of summer beers leftover from the Fourth of July party, but there was definitely room for some new beers, too. As always, the beers I feature here weren’t part of any other post. In other words, while I loved the Steam Whistle Pilsner, I featured the brewery and the beer in a post last week. As is often the case, half of the beers called out are NJ beers.

Luponic Distortion: Revolution No. 010 (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) IPA – American – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been enjoying Firestone’s beers over the past couple of months, this is the 10th in their series of IPAs featuring “flavors through hops” and the bottle is pretty accurate on the evocative flavors of peach and citrus. Oh, there’s still that bitter hop profile, but this is a solid IPA. In fact, when my wife makes chicken wings using the recipe from Cooking with Beer, the recipe calls for brining the chicken in a pale ale or IPA. For the most recent batch of those wings, we used this beer and the wings were delicious.

Wrath Aged In Bourbon Barrels With Coffee And Vanilla (2018) Stout – Russian Imperial (Demented Brewing Company) – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

When I mentioned NJ breweries celebrating anniversaries a few weeks ago, I neglected to call out Demented. Well, they had their 3rd anniversary party on August 19th and released 3 variants of their popular Russian Imperial Stout – Wrath. For me, the standout was the variant aged in bourbon narrels with coffee and vanilla. A delicious, full flavored stout.

Fruit-Full Fort (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) Strong Ale – Other 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Again, Dogfish shows up here on a monthly six-pack. I’ve been really digging the old-school craft breweries like Dogfish and Firestone as of late. This beer is bordering on wine territory or even a drinkable boozy fruit jam with the level of alcohol and fruit, but still has the qualities of a beer. Four berries (Blue-, Boysen-, Rasp-, and Elder-) provide the fruit profile. I really was able to discern the four berries and enjoyed this beer as a lovely dessert sipper. At 18% ABV, this isn’t something to chug. If anything, maybe it is something to split with a friend.

Process Pils Pilsner – German (Conclave Brewing) – 4.75 bottle Caps on untappd

 

I’ve made no bones about Conclave being my favorite local brewery. Like I said about Carton, I don’t think it is possible for Carl, Tim, and Bryan to make a bad beer. Much of their output has been Ales (IPAs, Pales, and Stouts) so it was nice to see the lager-loving Bryan produce a Pilsner/Lager. This beer is sublime, elegant, beautiful, and delicious. Easily one of my favorite NJ beers and a top pilsner for me. (I stopped in the following week and had their tasty Hefeweizen (Sommer) and Session Ale (Paper Castles).

Curmudgeon’s Better Half Old Ale (Founders Brewering Company) 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This is a beer I’ve heard about for years. Last brewed in 2012, Curmudgeon’s Better Half is one of Founders’ legendary barrel aged beers. Curmudgeon is a malty, molasses heavy Old Ale and this version takes the beer and ages in Maple Syrup Bourbon Barrels. I enjoyed Curmudgeon quite a bit. The esters from the beer are smoothed out a bit from the sweet Oak Aging. The flavor was outstanding, the body was a little thin. I’m going to let one of these sit for about a year, I think..

Smash the Golds (&telier – Carton Brewing Company/Barrier Brewing Company) Lager – Pale 4.25 bottle caps on untappd

Made an impromptu visit to Carton Brewing on the last day of the month, which is always a smart move. Over the past few months, Carton has been playing the collaboration game under the &telier name and this is their (second?) collaboration with Barrier Brewing out of Oceanside, NY. This lager is unlike most lagers I’ve had, there’s a fruity, almost buttery finish to the beer that makes this real pleasing. It drinks mostly a lager, but that finish threw me off in a good way.

So, not a terrible beer in this group like last month, but a couple of mediocre beers this past month. In past months, I’ve featured at least one beer that wasn’t great so for fairness sake, I’ll mention two disappointing beers: Samuel Adams’ Raspberry Gose (barely any sour/tartness from the beer) and Pabst’s new beer, American Pale Ale which is far less tasteful than their flagship PBR, which is a solid mass-produced Lager.

Draught Diversions: Happy Anniversary Conclave, Cypress, Czig, & Icarus

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…

Over the past couple of weeks, a few New Jersey breweries celebrated anniversaries. I’ve visited one of them (multiple times), and have had beer from all four. As it works out, of the four, the brewery I’ve visited the most often is also the first alphabetically, so I’ll go down that path and start off with Conclave Brewing.

Little Creature – Grisette (L) Intuitive Function – IPA – Imperial / Double (R)

I wrote about Conclave Brewing last fall and I’ve visited a few times since then. The trend of excellence continues – from fantastic IPAs, to robust, flavorful dark ales (stouts, porters, brown ales) to Belgian inspired ales, everything is excellent. A skim through the Mid Alantic states forums of Beer Advocate will often show the thread dedicated to Conclave one of the more active and praise for the brewery throughout that sub forum.

When I visited this past weekend, Conclave had just released their Third Anniversary Ale, a Double / Imperial IPA they called Intuitive Function. Like all of the IPAs I’ve had from them since becoming an IPA convert, this beer is filled with flavor. Brimming with wonderful hops that evoke citrus and melon, the finish gives a really nice hop bit that remains … without the bitterness.

What has been promising is that Conclave has been releasing cans more regularly over the past year. Let’s hope that frequency increases so more folks can enjoy their beers.

Gong down the alphabet, Cypress Brewing in Edison celebrated their third anniversary as well. I’ll go into more history about the brewery after I eventually visit them and do a full write-up, but at minimum, their beers have a fairly solid reputation in the state. Their capacity has been increasing over the three years they’ve been selling their beers – cans are getting into stores through distribution more regularly. They’ve collaborated with both Bolero Snort and Icarus Brewing.

The two beers I had from them were delicious, a Vanilla Porter that has since been re-worked and a Brown Ale. I recall having those beers at the 2016 Garden State Brewfest (the last one, sadly) and that porter being one of only two beers of which I wanted 2nd and 3rd pours.

Cypress is located in a fairly easy to find location in the big Raritan Center industrial park in Edison, NJ. Hopefully in the next couple of months I’ll be able to make my way to get down the “fun” highway of Route 287 to the brewery.

Another brewery to recently (June) celebrate an anniversary is Czig Meister in Hackettstown. I wrote about them in January after visiting them as part of my birthday brewery tour. I visited the brewery again a couple of months later for the second annual Stout Fest and was even more impressed. In two years, Czig Meister has made a big name for themselves in terms of respect for their beers and how widely they’ve been distributing. I see more and more of their cans and bottles every week and see good things about the beer they are brewing. That’s a pretty good combination, I think – availability and repuation.

Few breweries in New Jersey over the last half decade have made as quick and big an impact as has Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ. Lakewood is a large NJ Shore community and Icarus is helping to make the NJ Shore (along with Carton Brewing and Kane Brewing) a destination for finely crafted beer. This past Saturday, Icarus celebrated one year with a One Year Canniversary

Like Cypress Brewing, I only had their beers at a beer festival, The Bridgewater Beerfest back in May, but boy howdy was I impressed. As I said in that post, I found myself getting 2nd and 3rd pours of their IPA, DDH Not a Schooner. In less than a year Icarus has been dropping their cans as far north as where I live (about 70 miles away). That said, the cans go extremely fast – my favorite beer store generally sells out of their Icarus stock within hours of getting it delivered. Their flagship (no pun intended) beer is Yacht Juice a New England IPA

I know a few other breweries likely hit milestones over the past couple of months, but honestly, keeping up with all of them is a pretty big task especially since this is more of a hobby for me and there are so many in South Jersey that I’ve yet to visit or sample. Bottom line…New Jersey really is growing a strong brewing reputation.

Draught Diversions: May 2018 Six Pack

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

May was a long 31 days, with business travel overtaking much of the month. However, that travel did expose me to some beers I otherwise would not have been able to enjoy as those breweries don’t distribute into NJ. Despite that, I managed to have a few good NJ brews, too. The trek through the IPA section of the beer landscape continues as the style dominates this month’s post once again.

Bock Bier (von Trapp Brewing) Bock – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I wrote about Bocks in April and have been on the hunt for this bock specifically since then as it I’ve seen good things about the Vermont brewery’s interpretation of the style. The beer is quite tasty, has a lot of the lager characteristics, but with an added caramelly flavor that was really pleasing.

Floridian Hefeweizen (Funky Buddha Brewery) Hefeweizen – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I was in the Miami area for business in early May and was really, really hoping I could actually get out to the Floridian brewing institution that is Funky Buddha. The schedule didn’t allow, but the hotel did have their flagship Hefeweizen on tap and I was extremely pleased (despite the overpriced $11 cost of pint!). That being said, Floridian Hefeweizen is a really delicious interpretation of the classic German wheat ale. I’d have this in my fridge in regular rotation if Funky Buddha distributed into New Jersey.

Punk in Drublic (Stone Brewing) India Pale Lager – 4.00 bottle Caps on untappd

Of the beers I had in May, this one might be the most surprising. Stone’s beers generally don’t align with my palate as I stray away from West Coast IPAs, but this was in a cooler at a friend’s party so I figured I’d try it. Boy was I pleased. I thought it tasted like a Pilsner with a pleasing malt roast so the beer went down really easily. I haven’t had too many IPLs outside of this one and the IPL Yuengling produced a few years back, but I’ll go for more now if I see them.

Fresh Squeezed IPA IPA – American – 3.50 bottle Caps on untappd

On draft at Holsteins Shakes and Buns Las Vegas in the Cosmopolitan Hotel

Sometimes a beer just isn’t right for you. With the name of this beer, I was expecting more of a citrusy/juicy profile, but the beer had more of a West Coast piney flavor. It wasn’t a bad beer, just not to my taste and probably the “new” beer of May I enjoyed the least. That said, a 3.50 rating on untappd is still a decent beer.

Moon Door (Conclave Brewing)– 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave’s logo for the beer on top, the beer freshly poured from a growler filled hours prior

Conclave has yet to disappoint me with any of the more than dozen beers I’ve had from them. This IPA features a more experimental hop (007Golden Hop) as well as Mosaic hops for a beautiful, citrusy IPA that is a perfect summer IPA. When I filled up the growler, I was chatting briefly with co-owner Carl and he said that’s one of the things they try to do with their IPAs, take a hop they haven’t used and brew it along with a familiar hop and Mosiac is a fairly prevalent, versatile hop. This is a beer I could drink all afternoon long. I brought a full growler to a small Memorial Day party at my parents’s house and the growler was finished in about 15 minutes. So. Damned. Good. Easily my favorite new beer of May.

Queen Genevieve. (Flounder Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Flounder is one of the smaller NJ breweries, one of the earliest microbreweries and one of the breweries closest to me, all of which I laid out in my post featuring the brewery. I also know a few of the folks who work and brew there. Since coming around on IPAs I’d been looking forward to trying this beer, the first the brewery canned and boy howdy is it a delicious, juicy IPA. All the great citrusy flavors and hop notes are present as the beer is a great example of an IPA in the “New England” style. Plus it has a great can design and is brewed in honor of brewer Brad’s grandmother. You’ll want this one if you see it on tap near you in New Jersey.

Draught Diversions: Bridgewater Beerfest 2018

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…

I’ve been to several Beer Festivals, including all five of the past Garden State Brewfests and a few in Philadelphia. Those beer festivals ranged from small with only a few hundred attendees to some with over a thousand attendees. There are benefits to both types of festivals, and the Bridgewater Beer Festival (April 28 at the Bridgewater Jewish Community Center) falls in the smaller more intimate end of festivals which helped to reinforce the sense of Community around New Jersey beer.

There were many things to like about the Bridgewater Beer Fest, or at least many things that *I* enjoyed about the Bridgewater Beer Fest. I’m not going to lie, the fact that this Beer Fest was only a few miles from my house was a big reason why I decided to attend.

Two other plusses? The price…as a member of New Jersey Craft Beer, a $25 discount was available. Related, the “Designated Driver” ticket was only $10, which is fair, I suppose. Well, significantly better than past Garden State Brewfests which was $25 for the designated driver plus parking fee. If you are charging somebody to be responsible and herd the cats that are drunk people, the $25 fee is enough, throw on the parking fee and it is almost like responsibility (having a sober driver) is being punished. It was also nice that there was no parking fee at the Bridgewater Beer Fest.

Another reason that became stronger as the event drew closer was the list of breweries and beers that were to be poured including a focus on barrel-aged brews. Or that Dogfish Head was pouring a vintages of some of their classic brews. Or that Weyerbacher was pouring their 20th Anniversary Ale, a delicious Belgian Strong Dark Ale I missed when it was in stores a couple of years ago. Or that a not too-easy to find (and relatively pricey) barrel-aged weizenbock collaboration between Stone Brewing and the Bruery called Fahrt die Zeige was being poured. Not bad, right?

Another great feature of this beer festival was the predominance of NJ breweries, I’d say well over 50% of the beer and breweries were NJ based. I was especially happy that breweries I haven’t yet had the chance to visit, like Backward Flag (Forked River, NJ), Brotherton Brewing (Shamong, NJ), Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ), Double Nickel (Pennsauken, NJ), 902 Brewing (Jersey City, NJ), Brix City Brewing (Little Ferry, NJ), and Three 3’s Brewing (Hammonton, NJ) were pouring beer since those breweries aren’t exactly close to me. Before the festival, I never had any of Backward Flag’s beers (Oak Armored Ale), and only one each from the some of other breweries so it was great to have new great beers from Backward Flag and three new, tasty beers, from Brotherton Brewing (Cedar Wudder Amber Ale), Double Nickel (DNA Batch #3, Cascara IPA), 902 Brewing (Kürtoskalács, a cinnamony coffee milk stout), Brix City Brewing, (Gloria [Belgian] Blonde Ale), and Three 3’s (Pulpitations IPA).

I was also looking forward to meeting and chatting with Mike Kivovitz, the head honcho of New Jersey Craft Beer and one of the most important folks in the New Jersey beer community. I was chuffed (as the Brits say) when Mike recognized me from my ramblings about beer here on the Tap Takeover, Twitter, and Facebook. Mike is a cool guy and helped bring into focus how connected the beer community is. Talking with Mike also made me realize what great connections exist between the Craft Beer community and the Geek community (aka, much of what I have been writing about for years at places like SFFWorld, SF Signal and my other blog). I hope to share some beers with Mike in the future at the various breweries and bars in New Jersey. It as also nice to chat with some of my friends from Flounder Brewing as well as Tim from Conclave Brewing and Matt from Czig Meister as well as making new acquaintances at all the breweries, which only added to the sense of community in NJ Beer.

On to the beers themselves, I checked into about two dozen on untappd, with about ¾ of those being NJ beers. Most were very good with a a few of them being outstanding. That said, I’ll stick to my 6-pack format and touch on the six beers that stood out the most for me. I generally try to have beers I’ve never had before at these festivals. For example, much as I enjoy beer from Demented Brewing, they were pouring a couple of beers I had prior to the fest so I didn’t go for them. Also, this six pack is primarily NJ brews with the exception of one major, phenomenal beer.

Brewer Choice Hefeweizen (Hefeweizen)
Backward Flag Brewing (Forked River, NJ)

As I said, Backward Flag is a brewery I’ve wanted to visit for a while now, since hearing about them around 2016. Unfortunately, they are about an hour and half one-way trip. Backward Flag is a veteran/woman owned brewery and I think the veteran portion of that is unique, at least in NJ. They were pouring two beers and for me the standout was their Brewer Choice Hefeweizen, a damned fine example of the classic Bavarian Wheat Ale. This is a delicious brew and better than a couple of German Hefeweizens I’ve had.

Deep Sea Series: Tropics (IPA – New England)
Czig Meister Brewing Company (Hackettstown, NJ)

In two visits to Czig Meister Brewing Company, I never had any of the many IPAs they brew. I always stuck to Stouts and non-IPAs. Well, I sure was missing out because their Deep Sea Series of IPAs, if this beer is any indication, is a solid, dependable line of IPAs. Hell, the Deep Sea Series – Galactic 7 was awarded Best IPA at the Atlantic City Beer Festival about a month ago (March 2018).

Wolves Among Sheep (Stout – American Imperial / Double)
Angry Erik Brewing (Lafayette, NJ)

Although I visited Angry Erik back in November, I missed out on Wolves Among Sheep at that time. I was *very* pleased to see this beer was being poured at the beer festival. Some barrel-aged stouts can take on too much of the oak/barrel characters and wipe out the taste of the base stout. The brewers at Angry Erik avoided this common pitfall and produced a very balanced beer with enough booziness, enough stoutiness, enough sweetness, and enough bitter-sweetness.

Mexican Evening (Stout – American Imperial / Double)
Conclave Brewing – Raritan Township, NJ

My favorite stout of the day was Mexican Evening from Conclave Brewing, which is an imperial/double variation on their popular Mexican Morning Milk Stout. Cinnamon hits first, followed by sweetness from chocolate and vanilla with a spiced hit from the chili de árbol peppers. Even though the ABV is higher in this beer than it is in Mexican Morning, I think that heightened ABV calms down the peppery finish making for a fantastic, complex, delicious dessert beer.

DDH Not a Schooner (IPA – New England)
Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ)

“There is NO Easter Bunny!”

DDH Not a Schooner from Icarus Brewing was my favorite IPA of the day. Icarus is out of Lakewood, NJ and for their relative youth in the NJ Beer landscape, their reputation of a purveyor of tasty beers started pretty strong and has grown from there. This beer is a Double Dry Hopped version of their popular Not a Schooner New England IPA. This beer just exploded with juiciness and I enjoyed it so much it was the only beer I of which I had two samples.

Olde School 2014 vintage (Barleywine – American)
Dogfish Head Brewery (Milton, DE)

It is almost not fair to compare a four-year old Barleywine to anything else, but here we are. Dogfish Head’s Olde School Barleywine from 2014 was the standout pour of the day for me. This was one of the brews I had high on my list to get and it exceeded what I hoped it would be. For me, the hops can come across too assertively in some Barleywines, but maybe because this Barleywine aged for four years, everything smoothed out. At 15% ABV, even a 12 oz bottle of this beer is something you should share…or sip extremely slowly while watching a long movie. What I know is this – I’ll be getting some more of this in the future.

All told, I couldn’t have been happier with the Bridgewater Beer Fest. I hope the festival returns next Spring because I hope to attend again.

Draught Diversions: I’m Now an IPA Believer

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…

Well, it finally happened. I never thought it would come to pass, but alas, I have succumbed to the masses of craft beer. I not only enjoy IPAs now, I seek them out.

For years I avoided IPAs like they were a communicable disease. I hated high-hopped beers and even disliked many Pale Ales (like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale). I’d get that bitter beer face when I did have IPAs and would drink water if an IPA was the only beer option.

When I first joined untappd about 4 years ago, I did so with a good friend and it turned into a little competition. For a while we were neck in neck with check-ins to unique beers, badges and the like. The primary difference, he was (and is) an IPA guy and I was (and still am) primarily a stouts & porters guy. The whole time we were switching places in the “race to most check ins” he would be at, for example, level 30 on his “I Believe in IPA” badge and level 8 on “Heavyweight” badge and I would be on level 30 on my “Heavyweight” Badge and level 8 of my “I Believe in IPA” badge.

Then, something happened. Something that supposedly happens to people every seven years or so. Just do a google search on “palate changes every 7 years” and a plethora of scientific, semi-scientific, and conjectural results are returned. My palate changed and evolved. I became more open to trying different styles, and part of it started with a beer I reviewed here last year: Two Roads Honeyspot IPA. The beer was from a brewery I trusted implicitly: Two Roads Brewing Company and it had wheat as a malt ingredient.

From there I became more open and curious to trying the occasional IPA. Another IPA that really wowed me and had me eager to try juice bomb and New England IPAs came from the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp pack last year: the Sierra Nevada/Treehouse collaboration East Meets West IPA which was one of the best beers I ever had. I knew I might be willing to try more IPAs at this point.

I also began to doubt myself. Was I just folding under the pressure of the overwhelming imbalance of IPAs vs other styles in the beer market? I hoped that wasn’t the case, but the more IPAs I had, the more I enjoyed them. I am also not the only person to have an aversion to IPAs. Just like the wide variety of stouts available on the market, I’ve learned IPAs are just as diverse. In learning that, I realize I prefer the East Coast IPAs and a lot of what makes me enjoy a specific IPA comes down to the specific Hop used in the brew. For example, Conclave’s “Hop Ritual with Vic Secret” is a delicious beer because of the strand of hop in the beer. Yeah, I know it is technically a Pale ale, but it is one of those Pale Ales that blurs the line and well, Hop is in the name.

Another Hop that works well for my palate is Citra, which imparts a citrusy flavor to the beer. Another that worked wonders for my palate is the Centennial Hop. I learned this when I had Two Hearted Ale for the first time, which is hopped 100% with Centennial Hops. Centennial also imparts a citrus flavor profile. I’ll again make the obligatory plea that Bell’s begin distributing in New Jersey.

Just take a look at my first two monthly six packs for 2018 and how prominently IPAs are featured in the six highlight beers of each month. The beer that really sealed my fate with regard to IPAs and hopped up beers, though not an IPA, is Sierra’s Nevada Pale Ale, arguably the most important hop-forward beer in American Craft beer over the last thirty plus years.

I could probably go to great lengths about the varieties of hops. In fact there are several books on the subject with For The Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops by Stan Hieronymus considered by many to be the standard book on the subject. I haven’t personally read it, but I threw out a question on twitter about the best book on Hops and multiple trusted beer folks tweeted back with this book.

So what does this all mean? Well, I’m excited to explore more IPAs and Pale Ales. Beers that are hop-forward and maybe feature a single hop. There’s now a shelf or fridge section of beers I don’t need to skip over any longer.

Or, to put it another way, just like the untappd badge, I Believe in IPA!

Draught Diversions: November 2017 Beer Pours

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…

A great variety of beer passed across my palette in November 2017 due, in large part, to the North Jersey Brewery tour my wife took me on for my birthday in the middle of the month. I’ve already highlighted one of those breweries, Angry Erik, and I’ll briefly touch on the four other breweries later in the post as I may wind up doing a feature/full Draught Diversion on at least one of those breweries. That, combined with visiting a couple of my very local breweries and some other assorted beers throughout the month really shine the focus on New Jersey breweries for November. Since the last day of November was on a Thursday (when Draught Diversions normally posts), I figured I’d hold the post for an extra day to squeeze in that one last new beer.

Proper Glassware x2, snifters with the iconic Brooklyn brand

The first new beer I had in November was from craft beer stalwart Harpoon, specifically the new fall offering from their popular UFO Hefeweizen line, Cranbeery. I’ve enjoyed most of the UFO beers a great deal but this one didn’t quite do it for me, it was more tart and sour than I expect from a Hefeweizen. Next up and a couple of days later was an outstanding beer I shared with my father. Well, I gave him the bottle for his birthday in September, but we shared it for my birthday: Brooklyn Black Ops, a delicious Russian Imperial Stout which comes in at 11.6% ABV and tasted better as it settled into the glass. The bourbon barrel aging came through nicely in both the aroma and taste.

Sadly, I broke this glass after only using it twice.

The season of stouts continued with Sierra Nevada’s annual Imperial Stout release, Narwhal. I’ve had this in year’s past so was looking forward to having the beer and was not disappointed. Like most stouts, this got better as it warmed. For whatever reason, this was a tough beer to find in my area of New Jersey, with the closest liquor store to me listing it on beermenus about 25 miles away. Fortunately, the store is close to my parents so my dad picked up a six pack for me. Sierra’s been changing some of their labels, over the past year or so including this one. While the new label is nice, I loved the previous label. Keeping with the annual release theme, Founders released Backwoods Bastard and like last year’s vintage, this year’s vintage was outstanding. As I’ve said, I think I like this one more than I like KBS.

Hop Ritual w/ Vic Secret

As I’ve been doing with more regularity, I stopped into my local brewery, Conclave in November since they released a couple of new beers, both of which were very good. The first was a fall porter, Transcendent Leaf Peeping. The other new beer was a variation on their Hop Ritual Pale Ale. This one is called Hop Ritual with Vic Secret, so named for the strain of New Zealand hops used in the beer. I wasn’t expecting to be as blown away by this beer as I was, but it was so delicious I had to bring home at least a half-growler for myself.

Next was the big Birthday Brewery Tour, courtesy of my wife. Last year was a handful of Jersey Shore breweries, this year was North Jersey breweries. We started out at the venerable brewers of high-quality German style beers, Ramstein / High Point Brewing. As it so happened, that day was when Ramstein was releasing their famous Winter Wheat beer. I had the equivalent of a pint since my wife gave me her free samples. What a phenomenal beer, an absolutely outstanding dopplebock that has rightly earned a reputation that draws people from far and wide to fill their growlers with this delicious beer. The other new-to-me beer I had at Ramstein was the outstanding Imperial Pilsner. I just wish Ramstein’s distribution reached a little more into Somerset County because this is one of the beers they bottle and I’d have this in my house regularly.

The second brewery was Angry Erik, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, with the final leg of the journey being the triumvirate of breweries in Hackettstown, NJ. The first of those was Man Skirt Brewing, the highlight (and surprise beer there) was Better than Pants, a tasty excellent English Bitter that earned me the “You’re Extra Special” badge on untappd. All five beers I had were good. From there, we walked around the block to Czig Meister Brewery which was insanely packed, in part, because a portion of the brewery was cordoned off for a party. The standout here was Habonde a barrel-aged barely wine. I may have to pick up a bottle since Czig is now distributing cans and bottles throughout New Jersey. The last of the Hackettstown Trio was Jersey Girl Brewing. The beers in the flight were extremely consistent in quality with their King Gambrinus Belgian Tripel standing out to me the most. I’ll most likely be dedicating an entire Draught Diversions post to some (maybe all) of these breweries where I’ll give some more details on each beer I had.

A deep, dark, roust Imperial Stout from Lone Eagle

At the monthly Brews and Board Games at Lone Eagle, I tried their Imperial Breakfast Stout, a malty stout aged on coffee beans then aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels with some blood orange puree added on the finish. All the characteristics of an excellent stout along with hints of an Old Fashioned thanks to the Bourbon and Orange. The other beer I had was a juicy Pale Ale they call Local Pale Ale.

Possibly the best beer in Flying Fish’s Exit Series – Exit 17

Tröegs Mad Elf is a seasonal favorite and the 2017 batch might be the best yet. Then came Thanksgiving weekend. The first beer is one I’ve been holding onto for a couple of weeks, a beer I was fortunate enough to snag because only 750 were bottled, the final beer (for now?) in Flying Fish’s Exit SeriesExit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout, which might be the best beer of the month for me. This is probably the best beer in the Exit series, too. Not content with brewing a Russian Imperial Stout, Flying Fish aged this one in Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey bottles. Although I’ve come to love beers aged in bourbon barrels, allowing this beer to sit in Rye Whiskey bottles helps to set it apart from its barrel-aged brethren. Flying Fish’s description says this is a “one of a kind” beer and I’d be hard-pressed to dispute the claim. I also had the new version of Southern Tier’s Warlock, which they changed from previous years and unfortunately, not for the better. They dropped the ABV from 10% to 8.6% and the whole flavor is different, it doesn’t taste too much different than Pumking, which isn’t bad, just not what I was hoping to have. The last beer on Thanksgiving is the beer I reviewed earlier in the week, Stone’s Xocoveza Imperial Milk Stout.

The last Saturday of the month of new brews  were enjoyed at Revolutions a fine Craft Brew bar Morristown, NJ. I met up with a friend who lives in Morristown. We’d visited the bar before and were impressed with the beer list and menu, with its heavy focus on German brats. That night I had two very good beers: Malus from Kane Brewing, in Ocean. This is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but the flavor is sweetened by the addition of apple cider. The beer went down very easily for a 9.5% ABV. The other brew I had was one of the best Pilsners I’ve ever had, which was unsurprisingly, from a German Brewery. The beer is Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle from Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The crispness, freshness and underlying roastiness makes this, in my humble opinion, a world-class Pilsner.

Lastly, the final new beer of November 2017 was last night’s Moo Thunder Milk Stout from Butternuts brewery, which was a little thin and flat for a Milk Stout. I’d seen this on the shelf in area liquor stores for a few years now, it is hard to miss or forget with the big fat cow on the can. Unfortunately, that label is the most appealing element of the beer for me.

I’d have to say the two best beers of the month for me were Exit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout from Flying Fish and the Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle.

Draught Diversion: NJ Brewery Tour November 2016

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 Draught Diversion is something of a #ThrowbackThursday post. A little over a year ago, my wife got me in the car with my brother-in-law and his girlfriend and visited a bunch of NJ Breweries on a mini tour. In the weeks leading up to my birthday, my wife asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I said I’d like to visit a some of the many breweries which have sprung up in New Jersey over the past few years, in particular Carton and Kane since they are both so well-regarded and relatively close. Keep in mind that this was months before I began the Tap Takeover and the bulk of this post is written from memory, aside from telling a friend at work (who hits up local breweries on his birthday) what I had at each brewery.

Because things with us tend to go out of order, we went North before coming back down and landed at Twin Elephant Brewing in Chatham, NJ. At the time, Twin Elephant was only open a few months, we’d even attended their “launch” at the Stirling Hotel (one of the best beer bars in NJ, great tap selection and wonderful food) in Gillette in July 2016. There were a great variety of styles on tap in the beautiful newly opened tap-room. A really nice wood interior made for a great gathering place for local patrons. Unfortunately, the Diamonds and Pearls Milk Stout I had in July was not on tap but there were some tasty beers to be had.

The Flight from Twin Elephant

The beer that stood out the most for me was Chingas, a Black IPA which had the best elements of a stout and IPA in one beer. Rounding out the flight was the New Found Friends IPA, Faja Bod, a fruity, Abbey ale; Pucker Cup, an odd but interesting sour Coffee ale; and a citrusy ale called Dux. I’d definitely like to return to this brewery, hopefully to get in on their limited can releases of either Diamonds and Pearls.

The second visit had us come back down basically to my house to go to – Conclave Brewing in Raritan Township/Flemington. My wife hadn’t realized I stopped there a few times over the past couple of years. Fortunately, their wonderful Mexican Morning stout was on tap. I’ve written extensively about this fine brewery in the past (click the link to see what I have to say about them), this was the shortest stop since I’d been there previously and their tap list was the smallest, so on to Brewery #3.

As I said at the opening of this post, high on the list of breweries I wanted to visit was what turned out to be our third stop – Kane Brewing in Ocean, NJ. Unfortunately, there always has to be one of any kind of list that is the bottom and that day it was Kane. I know, I know, I’ll catch a lot of flack from hop heads, especially the folks who hang out in the Beer Advocate Forums. Despite about 10 or 12 beers on tap, the variety was quite limited, a lager and a blonde were on the list, but the great majority of what was on tap was either an IPA or a Pale Ale of some sort. I was very disappointed that no stouts or porters were on tap considering it was November, prime season for dark, roasty, malty ales. Put it this way, if I enjoyed IPAs half as much as I enjoy stouts, then chances are Kane would have been my favorite stop of the day. At the time we visited Kane, I still had a strong aversion to IPAs. Despite that, I couldn’t deny what a good beer their flagship beer, Head High is.

The tap room; however, was really impressive. With barrels stacked high, the room felt very busy (in a good way) and I got a sense that a lot of people knew each other. Very much a feel of a lot of “regulars” sharing some good time over highly-hopped Ales. I’d like to visit them again, although this time I’ll take a peek at beermenus to make sure the list isn’t just high-hopped ales. Then again, since I’ve come appreciate IPAs a little more over the past few months, I might find more to enjoy from their tap list on any given visit.

Beach Haus Flight: Herb’s Rye, Station 2 Station, Toast (Black IPA), Pumptoberfest

Next up was Beach Haus Brewery in Belmar, NJ which is only about 4 miles away from Kane. What I liked best about Beach Haus was the overall variety of styles available for sampling and consumption. Beach Haus has been bottling their beers and distributing them in New Jersey for quite a few years and I recall trying a couple of their beers at Garden State Brewfests in the past, but what I had last year was all new to me. I really enjoyed Herb’s Rye which is a Pale Wheat Ale that reminded me a bit of Samuel Adam’s Summer Ale. The Black IPA they call Toast was interesting, Pumptoberfest, an Oktoberfest with Pumpkin spices, was a tasty fall beer and the Station 2 Station Porter was a roasty porter. The tap-room was wide open and felt like a great place to hang out. A similar set up to the second floor of Lone Eagle. You could say the brewing approach seem similar, too. A good bunch of styles with a focus on pleasing a wade variety of palettes rather than focusing the majority of their brewing on only one style.

The final brewery was the best of the day and the brewery I had on the top of my to-visit list: Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands. Everything about Carton put it at the top of the list that day. The tour, the gregarious tour guide, and the wonderful ambiance of the welcoming tap room which felt like the attic of a friend’s house, set the foundation for a great experience. What about the beers? They were, of course, delicious and interesting.

As part of the tour, you pay six bucks for a few tokens, which you exchange for a 4 oz taster. This works out to about $0.83 per taste and every tour includes a taste of their flagship beer, Boat, essentially a session IPA that is often ranked as one of the best beers in NJ. In addition to Boat, I had Unjunct, a wonderful stout which was so good I walked out with a 4-pack of pint cans. Although I’ve had the beer previously, I couldn’t pass up Carton of Milk, a superb Milk Stout. Next up was To Wong Brew, Thanks for Everything! Julie Brewmar! an “American Wild Ale” that was a damned interesting stout/sour hybrid. I also had The Wit Whale, a Witbier with more hops than most Witbiers. I rounded out the samples with one of the famous “O-Dub” variants, 077-7006 Sorachi Ace. I really need to get down to Carton again.

So, a couple of breweries I’d gladly visit again one and one I go to with some regularity since it is so close.

Draught Diversions: September 2017 Beer Pours

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…

In rolls September, what should be a month of slightly cooler weather and darker beers. But what we get is still warm weather, but the beer always flows. I started off the month by hitting up two breweries very close to me, Demented Brewing and Conclave Brewing on the first two days of the month, respectively.

At Demented, I picked up a growler of their Hefeweizen (Rumplestiltskin) and tried their New England IPA, Gallows Hill, which was delicious; Baccara, their second anniversary Imperial Stout, which has wonderful chocolate and cherry flavor additions; and a new Hefeweizen, The First Born which didn’t quite work for me. The next day, I headed to Conclave, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

L->R : Gallows HIll, Baccara, Rumplestiltskin, and The First Born

With Oktoberfest beginning in the middle of the month, Oktoberfest beers began appearing back in August. Every year I try to have at least a couple I haven’t had in the past. One of those was the Sierra Nevada / Miltenberger collaboration, which was excellent. I also really enjoyed Two Roads Ok2berfest, which I brought to a friend’s NFL Kick-off party. That same friend visited Ommegang and brought me back a bottle of Rosetta, a sour-ish Lambic that might be the best Cherry beer I’ve ever head.

 

I already mentioned what is probably my favorite Fall Beer of the year, The Bruery’s ® Autumn Maple. I enjoyed it so much I may need to try the darker take on the beer, Midnight Maple. That same weekend, I slowly enjoyed the indulgent, decadent Wrath from Demented Brewing. This is a delicious Russian Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. Some Russian Imperials can be too bitter for my taste buds, but as I say briefly on untappd, letting this one sit in Bourbon Barrels really helped soften that bitterness.

I’ve mentioned Weihenstephaner several times here as a favorite brewery, so when they brew something new, I’m going to want to try the beer. Their new Kristalweizenbock is delicious, interesting beer. Very clear, like a filtered Hefeweizen, but sweet, smooth, and malty like a bock. I tried my second Von Trapp beer at a tasting, the Vermont brewery’s take on the classic German style, Helles Lager. Even though the beer was warm, it still tasted quite good. I may have to get a full six pack of this one at some point in the future.

After missing it in August, I stopped at Lone Eagle for the September Brews and Board Games night. In the past, I’ve only had one or two, but I figured I’d go for a flight. First off was a beer I mentioned wanting to try in my Oktoberfest post, My Favorite Marzen, which was an excellent, malty, caramelly beer. I liked it so much I had a pint once I finished the flight. Rounding out the flight was the Pumpkin Amber Ale, a subtle Pumpkin Ale; Lone Eagle’s anniversary brew, Saison Jubileum, a Saison “aged in wine barrels and fermented on peaches” which made for a tasty sweet n’ sour beer; and finally, Black Out IPA, a roasty, yet bitter Black IPA.

Lone Eagle Flight L->R: My Favorite Marzen, Pumpkin Amber Ale, Saison Jubileum, and Black Out IPA

During the last full weekend in September, we all went up to Mountain Creek for their annual Oktoberfest celebration. The mountain feel gave a decent vibe, but that was completely negated by the near 90-degree temperature. Unfortunately, prices just about doubled since last year, according to the brother-in-law so the beer and food didn’t flow as copiously as it did in past years when he attended. Be that as it may, there were still some good brews to enjoy. One of which was a solid German Oktoberfest from Dinkelacker. The last beer I had there was from the venerable NJ Brewery Ramstein, their newest beer, INK, their take on the Schwarzbeir / Black Lager. This is a roasty, tasty dark brew with hints of coffee. I think this is something I’d like to have again without the beer warming so much from the hot weather.

Dinkelacker Oktoberfestbier

I’ve avoided mentioning of unenjoyable beers in these monthly posts, but I figured to show some balance, I’ll rattle off a few that were not-so-good over the last month. Abita’s gose, To-Gose was very bland, the Louisiana brewery has been hit or miss for me over the years. Bear Republic’s Big Bear Black Stout, was a stout I couldn’t even finish, not smooth enough and too bitter for a standard stout. Luckily I only had one bottle of each from a choose-your-own sixpack. My wife, brother-in-law, his girlfriend, and I (the same crew that went to the Mountain Creek Oktoberfest) went to a great Taco Festival in the middle of the month. They had a very slim offering of brews (despite the advertising leading people to believe there would be a wider selection) which consisted of Bud Light, Coors Light, and two from Lagunitas. I tried was 12th of Never Ale from Lagunitas, an undrinkable pale ale which I didn’t even finish. I’m coming to learn I don’t like much from this brewery. The last “unenjoyable” was a relatively new beer from New Belgium, Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin, which is a pumpkin ale with cinnamon and habanero chili peppers. For all the flavoring elements, I found it to be pretty bland, with a slight kick. I think it may also have been flat.

Best new brews of the month (not reviewed on their owne) are probably Ommegang’s Rosetta and Wehenstephaner’s Kristalweizenbock.

In October, I expect I’ll likely try a few new Pumpkin beers, some new stouts and offerings from local breweries.

Beer Review: Conclave’s Gravitational Pull

Name: Gravitational Pull
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing
Location: Raritan Township, NJ
Style: India Pale Ale / New England IPA
ABV: 6.6%

From the beer’s description on Conclave’s Web site:

Juicy and hoppy. An American IPA double dry hopped with large amounts of Galaxy, Motueka, and Azacca hops. Not bitter with notes of fresh crushed citrus.

Here we are back to New Jersey for a delicious beer from the fine brewers at Conclave. Not only that, an IPA? What? We thought you don’t like IPAs that much, Rob? Yet here is the second beer review of an IPA and you’ve yet to review one of your favorite styles like Porters or some other styles you enjoy more. Well, two things. First, Porters are more of a fall/cool weather beer for me and we are just in our first year here at the Tap Takeover. Second, the fact that I’m “reviewing” a second IPA should be an indication of just how wonderful this beer is.

The first, most noticeable characteristic of the beer is the thick, hazy, orange color. It pours almost like pulpy orange juice, the same consistency and thickness, but without the pulp. The aroma is a refreshing blend of citrus and hops, a nice balance that is very inviting.

The first taste gives you the hops, but not in a bludgeoning overpowering way that many IPAs deliver. The citrus/juice-bomb finish of that first sip encourages you to drink more. It is such an elegantly crafted beer that one pint can go too fast. Although the taste expands a little bit as it warms to room temperature, for me, this one tastes better colder.

The blend of the three hops in the beer, the Motueka in particular, is what lends the citrusy tropical fruit flavor to this beer. I think this is the second time Conclave has brewed this beer and if I recall correctly from briefly chatting with owner Carl when I had my growler filled on Friday, the Motueka hops aren’t the easiest to acquire, nor are the Galaxy hops, both of which lend a citrusy/tropical fruit flavor profile. A brief Google search points to New Zealand as the source for the Motueka hops and Australia for the Galaxy hops, so that challenge makes sense. The more common Azacca hops in the beer to blend extremely well with the Motueka and Galaxy hops, enhancing that juice-bomb aspect to the beer.

Equation for Newton Universal Gravitation, used as icon for the beer on untappd

OK, that was a little bit of a science, geography, and business lesson, back to the beer.

I briefly mentioned Gravitational Pull in my August round up and my feature on Conclave, so again, the repeated mentions of this beer should only point to what a standout beer this is. The first time I had it was in a bar, so as soon as I saw a new batch was ready for growler fills at the brewery, I had to go. I was also hoping there would be some cans of it, but not just yet.

The first pour from the mini growler on Friday night was fantastic, so fresh and juicy. I wanted to save the remaining pint of the 32 oz. growler for the next night and it stayed just as juicy and delicious the following day. I don’t know that I’d want to get a full 64 oz. growler for myself over the course of multiple days because I just don’t know how long it would stay fresh. I’ve had growlers of stouts over the course of a few days and around day 3 or 4 the freshness and taste start to fade. For an IPA like this one, I think freshness is the key.

Image/Logo used by Conclave in advertising beer’s availability at the brewery

Right now on untappd Gravitational Pull is categorized as an “American IPA” though I suspect this might change to New England IPA since this beer seems to have all the characteristics I’ve read that are associated with NEIPAs. Irregardless, Gravitational Pull is a great, great beer and one that is helping to establish Conclave Brewing as one of the premier (out of 70~) NJ Breweries.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Draught Diversions: Conclave Brewing (Flemington, NJ)

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 brewery visit posts I’ve published here at the Tap Takeover have all been New Jersey breweries. When I first started the Tap Takeover, my goal was to feature more brewery visits and brewery focus posts than just the breweries of the 70 currently in New Jersey, but that’s easier said than done. There’s also a nice selection of breweries very close to my house, so featuring those first seems quite logical. None of those breweries are as close to my house as the brewery featured today, Conclave Brewing in Raritan Township, NJ, which is only about five miles from me. The brewery has another added appeal, my fraternity’s annual meeting is called Conclave. While I’ve enjoyed the majority of the beers I’ve had from those other breweries I’ve featured, from the top to the bottom of their list, Conclave makes the best beers. Last year for my Birthday, my incredible wife got me in the car and took me to a handful of breweries within driving distance (Twin Elephant, Kane, Beach Haus, Carton, and Conclave). Conclave’s beers were at the top of those I visited that day.

Carl and Tim are the two guys behind the brewery, high-school friends who had a passion for great beer. Although they are originally from Northern New Jersey, life coincidentally brought their careers and lives to proximity once again to Hunterdon County. They eventually decided to open Conclave, which according to them got its name thusly:

The name comes from a secret society of brewers. The myth we created is that they merged old world techniques with new world craft beer styles.”

Conclave is also the smallest of the breweries I’ve highlighted here, but every single beer I’ve had from them has been top shelf and excellent representations of the style. I’ve only had 9 of their beers and the lowest rating I’ve given one of their beers on untappd was 3.75 bottle caps, everything else was 4 or higher. Conclave Brewing is also relatively new, they opened up in 2015, but their reputation has grown very nicely in that time with those honed and focused brewing efforts. The picture below illustrates just how small the brewery is, they typically offer only 6 beers on tap. But that small quantity means that the focus on quality is spread across 6 magnificent beers. Not on the list, technically, are the cans of Gravitational Waves (Conclave’s highly rated and much-loved IPA) being sold that day.

The tap list at Conclave on September 2, 2017

In their two years brewing beer, Conclave has gained a well-earned reputation as smart artisans of craft brewing. Last summer, NJ.com posted an article which touted Conclave as the highest rated NJ brewery on untappd (with one of the highest rated beers, Gravitational Waves). The current average on untappd by all users for all Conclave beers is 4 bottle caps. A majority of their beers on Beer Advocate have average ratings above 4 (out of 5) and all of their beers with over 15 community reviews are cumulatively rated above 4.25 (out of 5) and have a lively discussion thread in the Beer Advocate forums which illustrates their local, dedicated fan base. Just couple of weeks ago, Conclave was ranked highest in the “Philadelphia Metro Area.” So yeah, well-earned recognition which drives people make to make out-of-state trips just to sample their beer and fill their growlers.

What those two paragraphs above prove is that perfecting a smaller number styles is a smart way to build a brewery, dedicated customers, and a reputation that spreads beyond the borders of the state. The only reason I gave one of the beers a lower than 4 rating is that it is typically not my go-to-style of beer. It was still a very good beer.

The first time I visited the brewery in November 2015, I sampled and filled one of my growlers with Espresso Milk Stout. To this day, it is one of my favorite Milk Stouts and one of my favorite beers brewed in New Jersey. The beer is brewed with lactose and coffee beans from local roaster Benfatto Roasters. With Conclave starting to occasionally can beers, this seems like a perfect candidate for 16oz four-packs.

From a growler fill last November. Such a lovely, dark stout. If you squint enough, you can see the black Conclave logo on the glass.

As if the Espresso Milk Stout weren’t good enough, this beer has a delicious spicier cousin Mexican Morning. Few beers I’ve ever consumed produced such a cacophony of wonderful flavors that came together in a symphony of delicousness. Carl, Tim, and Bryan take their wonderful Espresso Milk Stout and: “kick it up with dried red chile de arbol peppers, vanilla bean, cinnamon and cocoa nibs. Sweet and complex, it brings just enough heat to invite one sip after another.” The process for making this beer is timely and more complex due to the peppers (among other things), so only once that I know of did Concalve offer this in growlers, and only 320z growlers. When it is on tap at the brewery, they usually only offer 4oz pours. For me, it is a mandatory pour every visit to Conclave when on the menu. Sadly, as my picture of the tap list above indicates, Mexican Morning was not available during my most recent visit.

Photo of Mexican Morning from Conclave’s Website

As much as I love Mexican Morning (and most people who have had it seem to love it, too (a cumulative review of 1,244 untappd users rates it at 4.27 as of this writing), Tim and Carl upped a beer which is already an amped up beer. At the Garden State Brewfest in September 2016, Conclave was pouring a Barrel aged version of this beer. They used bourbon barrels from Four Roses (one of the premier bourbon distillers). I feel lucky to have had a sample of the beer, it was sublime and elegant. They’ve done a couple of brewery pourings of this one, too. Hopefully this one will be available again, as B.A.M.M was easily the best beer I had at that Brewfest and probably one of the best beers I ever head.

From Garden State Brewfest 2016

Like a lot of breweries in NJ (and across the country) have been doing lately, Conclave began canning some of their beers. I think the first was Hop Ritual Pale Ale and the release was smashing successes. When they released the cans, they did a special release and the brewery was very, very crowded with all the cans going quickly. The next release in cans was (and is) Gravitational Waves. Again, when they announced it, the beers flew off the shelves. What they’ve done more recently in these can releases is not announce it, and simply have it available at the brewery in a “soft release,” but the 4-packs still sell. As I said, I think Espresso Milk Stout would be a great beer to go in cans, but something tells me either Gravitational Pull or Tyrion might be next. Regardless I’ll be buying if they are for sale. Conclave’s plan may be to go with the “soft release” of the cans which ensures the regular visitors will have first shot at the 4-packs.

I had the chance to chat briefly with Bryan and Matt this past weekend, who were working the growlers and taps in the back room where the brewing equipment and seating was located. Bryan is one of the brewers and when I asked what Conclave has on the horizon, I was happy to hear three of my favorites from would soon be returning: Gravitational Pull (A New England IPA), Equinox Brown (the best brown I’ve ever had), and the main Espresso Milk Stout. Bryan mentioned more than one of their customers who always returns for fills of Equinox Brown when I told him how delicious I think the beer is. I got a growler fill of that one New Year’s Eve two years ago and couldn’t have been happier with the beer. It was a smooth, tasty beer that was much cleaner than many browns I’ve had, the beer had a sweet almost caramel finish.

Despite what was probably a frozen glass and not the best pour from the bartender, Gravitational Pull was fantastic.

My only regret with regard to Conclave is that it has been so long since my last visit. With the brewery so close, I’m going to make a point of returning more often, for small growler fills, sampling, and to check to see what cans are available. Two years into their existence, Conclave has proven to be a great brewery and I look forward to seeing what they brew next. I certainly feel lucky to live so close to the brewery where these fine folks make and pour their beer.

Resources for this post and additional reading about Conclave Brewing:
Best brewery in Philly region (August 2017)
Brew Jersey (May/July 2017)
NJ.com June 2016
Hops and Horns beer blog (April 2016)
Courier News (Hunterdon County, December 2015)
NJ Monthly July 2015
Hunterdon Happenings (no date, probably July 2015)