Draught Diversions: December 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…

December 2018 was pretty heavy on the NJ Beers and Holiday/Christmas beers. Even if all the beers on today’s post aren’t NJ beers, much of what I bought and consumed in December was from a New Jersey brewery.  There were a couple of duds during the month, too but more good than bad. The good thing about bad beer? It helps you to appreciate the really good beers even more!

Christmas Ale (Bell’s Brewery) Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I nearly included this beer on one of my Christmas recommendation lists, but I liked it so much I wanted to highlight the beer here. Scotch Ales aren’t the most prevalent style, but damn if it doesn’t work well as a Christmas/Winter season. The big malts and sweetness are good accompaniments to what could be a sumptuous holiday meal or just an enjoyable beer on its own.

Big Cabin Coffee (2nd Act Beer) Bock – Maibock/Heller (Helles) 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

2nd Act is a relatively new brewery in NJ, I think they only got their start in 2017 or 2018. I haven’t seen anything from them in bottles or cans, but I’ve seen their beers popping up on taps (via untappd and beermenus), with this beer in particular being the most frequent. I like bocks quite a bit and coffee beers, too. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a bock with coffee as part of the flavor profile but damn does it work really nicely. You get the malty/sweet caramelly flavors of the bock with a really nice hit of coffee on the finish. This beer was a very nice surprise.

Grey Havens Porter – Imperial / Double (Conclave Brewing) – 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave makes it impossible for me to use anything but superlatives when describing their beers. Every style they approach and brew is at worst, good and most often outstanding. This imperial porter is simply elegant. Vanilla is a flavor component I like, but I’ve come to realize some breweries employ far too often across their beers and for too much in each single beer. This porter has the perfect amount of vanilla and makes for a smooth, delightful beer consumption experience – porter roastiness at the start with a sweet, subtle vanilla finish. Also a really cool name that references The Lord of the Rings.

Naughty 2018 Stout – Imperial Milk / Sweet (Cypress Brewing Company) 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

A milk stout that has Krampus on the can? A milk stout that has a very similar profile to one of my favorite beers (Conclave’s Mexican Morning)? I knew I had to give this one a try and I am VERY glad I did. This is a (pardon my French) fucking huge beer: 13% ABV with a plethora of adjuncts so the $15/4pack price for a fairly limited production beer isn’t tough to swallow. Thankfully, the beer itself is easy to swallow, too. The chocolate, vanilla, coffee, cinnamon, and Jersey Chili peppers come together so well that the beer smoothly changes flavor profiles as you’re drinking it. I took an hour to drink the 16oz can and I can’t imagine taking any less time to consume it. This might be my favorite Christmas beer of 2018.

Rye Pale Ale (Vault Brewing Company) Pale Ale – American 4.25 bottle caps on untappd

I’ve been hearing good things about Vault, seeing friends check into beers from Vault recently, and the consensus is that the beers are good. Judging from the malty, rye pale ale, I agree. As I mentioned in my overview of Village Idiot, I’ve come to enjoy Rye Beers a great deal. Somebody brought this to the family’s Christmas Eve celebration and even though it wasn’t completely chilled down when I poured the beer, it was still very tasty. I loved the way the rye malt and hops intermingled for a clean tasting beer. This is a more traditional take on the pale ale, it is more amber in color and not hazy at all. More please.

11 Pipers Piping (The Bruery) Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy –4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

A bomber at 11% ABV is one to take your time drinking by yourself. Good thing I had an excellent novel I was reading (and finished) while enjoying the beer.

I’ve enjoyed every beer in The Bruery’s “12 Days of Christmas” and this one is no exception. This is big and boozy and is well worth enjoying over the course of an hour, if you’re enjoying by yourself, because the flavors really do come alive once the beer warms up a bit. There’s a very prominent lingering flavor of coriander, too. I expect that in a Belgian Wit, not as much in a Scotch Ale. But The Bruery seems to specialize in mashing up flavor profiles and from my experience, including this beer, they do it quite well. That makes two Christmas themed Scotch Ales on this month’s list.

There were quite a lot of standouts this month, so there isn’t a real dud I want to call out above in great detail. I will say that I was very disappointed in Ommegang’s King of the North, the last of the four “Royal Reserve” Game of Thrones beers. This is a Russian Imperial Stout that is just short of a few things that I like in RISs, which made for an overall disappointment. I’ll just say that I think Ommegang’s strongest beers are those that hew much closer to their Belgian roots. I have to also admit major disappointment with Founders’ Canadian Breakfast Stout, I don’t know if it was the maple flavor taking over the beer, or the beer going bad, but something about it gave off an almost sour tang. The most disappointing beer of the year for me, as it turned out especially given the hype and price. Make mine Curmudgeon’s Better Half any day.

Draught Diversions: Cypress Brewing Company

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…

One of the breweries to emerge in the early wave of the NJ Brewery renaissance (if you will) after the laws changed in 2012 was Cypress Brewing in Edison. Charlie Backmann, Jason Kijowski, and Bill Lutz opened the doors to Cypress in 2015, but they were involved in NJ beer and brewing before that.

Before the laws changed in 2012, there was a fairly thriving community of brewpubs in New Jersey (and there still are quite a few successful brew pubs, to be frank). One of the more long-standing brewpubs is J.J. Bittings in Woodbridge, NJ which is not too far from where I grew up. Bittings opened in 1997 and I’d visited fairly often with my parents. Not sure if Charlie Backmann and Jason Kijowski were there when I visited (I honestly can’t recall the last time I was at J.J. Bittings), but Charlie and Jason spent some time there and homebrewing with Bill Lutz before the three friends decided to share their beers with New Jersey and open Cypress.

Tap List at Cypress Brewing – August 2, 2018

The name “Cypress” is the street where Kijowski lived, though the brewery has played off the 90s Hip Hop group Cypress Hill for at least one of their beers – “Insane in the Grain” pays homage to the great Cypress Hill song “Insane in the Brain.” That song was in constant rotation in my Fraternity’s basement at Rutgers University in the mid 1990s. As the brewery is in Edison, named for inventor Thomas Alva Edison, Cypress pays homage with some of their beer names, including Alva, an Imperial Porter. This link to their full beer list: http://cypressbrewing.com/beer_type/all-beers/, provides the names, description, and some of the interesting can art of many of the beers in their portfolio.

I’ve listened to a few podcasts featuring Charlie and one thing he pointed out was how open and welcoming the community of Edison was to the brewery. That’s such an important element to craft beer in New Jersey and makes for a better brewery and experience on the whole. In listening to those podcasts, it is pretty clear Charlie enjoys what he does.

The brewery is located in a small industrial park on Nixon Lane, which runs behind the campus of Middlesex County College. If you didn’t know to look for the brewery, you may not know where to search. Fun fact: I once had a summer college job at a moving company less than a mile away from Cypress. That moving company is no longer in the same location. Back to Cypress…The tap room is relatively small, but not tiny. I’d say the room was cozy. There were almost a dozen people there on my visit and there was still some room. The theme of the green Cypress tree is prevalent and very much an extrapolation of the logo.

The folks at Cypress are respected in the brewing community and have developed close ties with some of the growing number of breweries in New Jersey. This has lead to well-received collaborations with Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ (Necessity & Invention), Bolero Snort (soon to be) in Carlstadt, NJ (Cypress Love), Melovino Meadery in Vauxhall, NJ (Devil’s Tree), and Dark City in Asbury Park, NJ (Sacc’d Lunch).

The next question, of course: How is the beer?

Unfortunately, one of their beers I was extremely eager to try – Weize Guy – a Hefeweizen, was not on tap that day. I also would have liked to get a glass with Cypress’ logo, but they were all sold out. I suppose that just means I’ll have to head down to the brewery again in the future.

On to the beers I actually did try, including the flight pictured below during my visit to the brewery on the first Thursday in August. One thing I really appreciated about the flight was the price – just $6 for the flight of four beers.  Some breweries charge double that for a flight.

Back to the beers… It happened to be IPA Day when I visited so of course at least one of the beers in my flight, the first, was 17-Mile Cypress’s flagship IPA. The beer falls more on the West Coast style with a decent level of bitterness and piney flavor and just a hint of citrus. The beer (I assume) gets its name from the Lone Cypress on 17-Mile Drive in Montery, CA. For the second beer, I continued with the IPA Day theme and had Cypress’ interpretation of a New England/Hazy IPA, Ceclia. This was a spot-on interpretation of the style, which I enjoyed more than 17-Mile, but I tend to prefer the hazier IPAs.

Left to right: “17 Mile” IPA; “Cecilia” IPA – Double New England; “Peach Pit” Fruit Beer; “Alva” Porter – Imperial / Double

For a change of pace, I went with The Peach Pit as the third beer in my flight. This is a high-ABV fruit beer Cypress released for their Third Anniversary in July. I’m guessing the name comes from the popular hangout on Beverly Hills 90210. This beer is brewed with lactose and aged on peaches and Madagascar Vanilla beans. and makes for a sweet summer dessert brew. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it was very sweet. I closed out the flight with the aforementioned Alva, a potent Imperial Porter. The taste was OK, but the body was a little thin and had a slight aftertaste. Not a bad beer, but I definitely enjoyed the other three beers in the flight more.

I ended my visit to the brewery with a taster of the delicious English Nut Brown, about which I went into detail earlier in the week. About two and a half years ago, at the fifth and final Garden State Brewfest I had Lighthouse, which a very tasty brown ale with coconut and the first widely available version of their Vanilla Imperial Porter, The V.I.P. I think I even went back for a second pour of V.I.P. As it turns out, Cypress has reworked both of those beers a bit and have released both in cans.

Cypress has been canning their beers for a year (or maybe two) with the beers making their way to NJ beer stores. On the day I visited, they had just canned a few of their beers and one of the folks (Tom) from Iron Heart Canning was there enjoying some tasty Cypress beer. Some good conversation about NJ beer and canned beer ensued. I hadn’t realized just how widely across the Eastern US Iron Heart is canning beer these days.

After all was said, done and consumed, I was left with some really good thoughts about the brewery, Cypress Brewing has a lot going for itself. First and foremost they make good beer. Of the seven I tried between my recent visit and two years ago at the Garden State Brewfest, all were above average in quality. They also seem to have really good relationships with other breweries in the state. The Edison Community has embraced the brewery to the point that in 2015, the Edison Chamber of Commerce named Charles Backmann their Entrepeneur of the Year! In short, a great start for Cypress Brewing. a solid and respectable first three years of business, and a bright future. I know I’ll be grabbing more of their beers off of shelves and ordering them on tap in the future.

Ein Prosit!

Cypress Brewing Company Web site | Instagram | Facebook | twitter

Some other links of interest:

Beer Review: Cypress Brewings’s Northern English Nut Brown Ale

Name: Northern English Nut Brown Ale
Brewing Company: Cypress Brewing
Location: Edison, NJ
Style: Brown Ale – English
ABV: 4.6%

From Cypress Brewing’s beers page:

Dark and malty with roasted barley and chocolate malt. Earthy hops and a sweet, nutty finish. Full flavored but very sessionable with a low ABV.

Cypress Brewing has been brewing and selling beer in New Jersey for about three years and this Brown Ale is one of their earliest brews. As it so happens, this beer was one of the first available when the brewery opened its doors to the public for the first time. I said back when I reviewed Bell’s Amber Ale that, in addition to the ever-popular IPAs and seasonals, many breweries have staple classic styles they keep on draft like Ambers Ales, straightforward Pale Ales, or in Cypress’s case this well-crafted Brown Ale.

I had this during a visit to the brewery about which I’ll go into more detail in a couple of days. Relative to this beer, I had a flight before getting a glass of this one and I was largely inspired to give it a try because one of the brewer’s assistants was hanging out in the tap room (whose name escapes me, sorry!). He said this beer was one of his favorites, even before he started working at Cypress. If I didn’t already have one flight, I would have ordered a full pour of this beer.

In look and aroma, the beer comes across just as you’d expect from the name – brown, opaque, and with a pleasingly sweet aroma. First sip is very tasty with the type of sweetness and feel that encourages you to take another, larger sip of the beer.

It has been a very, very long time since I had Newcastle’s Nut Brown Ale, but I imagine brewer/owner Charlie Backmann was trying to evoke that flavor profile (or at least in name) or maybe even Cigar City’s Maduro Brown. Whatever he and his fellow brewers at Cypress were *trying* to do with this beer, they created a really enjoyable all-day kind of beer. With the low ABV of 4.6%, this is a seissionable beer you could enjoy throughout the day without getting too verschnicken while still enjoying a flavorful beer.

Cypress has been canning many of their IPAs for distribution and selling a few of their beers from the brewery in cans, like their long-standing Hefeweizen (which I *just* missed having) or some of their smaller batch sours. Let’s face it, IPAs sell hand over fist what brown ales sell, I assume, but this beer seems like it is tailor made for a six-pack of 12oz cans.

A well-flavored classic style ale that hits the right buttons for wary craft drinkers and craft enthusiasts alike. The IPAs may draw folks to Cypress’s tap room in Edison, NJ, but I would caution people against leaving without giving this tasty ale try whether as part of a flight or a full pour.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

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.