Draught Diversions: September 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…

September brings the hints of cooler weather and the season of darker beers. September is also when Oktoberfest traditionally begins. Despite the celebration not happening, the Märzen and Festbiers have still been on the shelves since August of this year. One of each is featured in the September 2020 Six Pack. Those two beers happen to be the only non-New Jersey beers in this month’s six pack. One brewery in the six pack will not be the least bit surprising to regular readers of this here beer blog.


Your Lips are Juicy (Ashton Brewing Company) | IPA –Imperial / Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first hop-forward beer I’ve had from Ashton and I’m very impressed. Great hop blend to give the beer the qualities of a big Imperial IPA balanced out with noticeable, and balanced malt character for an overall flavor profile that is delicious. The can says “India Pale Ale,” untappd says “IPA – Imperial/Double,” I say this is a very flavorful, hop forward beer.


Shield Oath (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Belgian Tripel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is what I assume is the base beer for Paragon of Light, their wine-barrel aged Tripel and is a very solid interpretation of the Belgian style. It is hard for me not to compare any Tripel brewed in the North East, specifically New Jersey, to River Horse’s classic Tripel and this one stands up just fine. I wouldn’t necessarily say it needs to warm in the glass, but the beer should breathe a little before you dive in and drink it. Once it does, the beer is great with some hints of pear in the fruit evocations from the yeast and mild hops.


Rugged Snuggle (Twin Elephant Brewing) | Porter – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I believe Twin Elephant has expanded their production capacity over the last year because they are releasing cans of their beer on a more regular basis. Rugged Snuggle has been in their portfolio for a couple of years so it was nice to see this roasty coffee adjacent porter available in cans. In addition to that fantastic can art by Tom Schmitt, the beer inside is really tasty. Like always with dark beers, a little warmer than fridge temperature is the way I’d recommend enjoying this one to get the best coffee notes.


Oktoberfest (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) | Festbier | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

One of the side effects of the pandemic is that Sierra Nevada, for the first time since 2015, did not collaborate with a German brewery for their annual Oktoberfest release. However, the 2020 version is great. This one leans on the lighter side of the Fall German Lager style as a Festbier, but it is supremely balanced and perfectly delicious. This is no surprise to me because Sierra Nevada does everything very well.


Octoberfest (Bell’s Brewing) | Märzen | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

After a couple of years in the NJ market, I finally tried Bell’s take on the fall classic. My only regret is that I hadn’t tried it earlier. Bell’s takes a lighter approach with their Märzen than some of the others I’ve had, but the beer is extremely flavorful. A hint of sweetness and just a very smooth beer that goes down very, very easily. This beer was featured on the untappd podcast recently and was spoken of very highly, a few of my untappd friends had checked the beer in over the last couple of years and the consensus rating was 4 out of 5 bottle caps and I’m happy to say this beer completely lived up to those expectations.


Aw Raspberries aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels (Icarus Brewing) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Shocker of shockers, another beer from Icarus. I’ve been sitting on this one for a few months and I wanted to share it for a special occasion. My dad’s birthday fit the bill perfectly and we both thoroughly enjoyed the beer. The maple element in the beer is blended perfectly, as are the fresh raspberries. Those otherwise potent flavors don’t dominate the profile of the beer, which shows how well-made the beer is because raspberries can be very tart and maple can dominate everything.  Not to mention the fact that this beer was barrel aged, adding another complex flavor to the beer. Not here, the maple and raspberries are both in harmony with the malt from the base beer as well as the Heaven Hill barrels.

This was a month where it was difficult to trim the amount of good new beers I enjoyed down to only six and no stinkers at all.

Beer Review: Black is Beautiful | Czig Meister Brewing

Name: Black is Beautiful
Brewing Company: Czig Meister Brewing
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 10.1%

“A delicious, potent, and flavorful stout brewed for a great, noble cause.”

Beer description:

Black is Beautiful is a beer initiative started by Weathered Souls Brewing in San Antonio to show our solidarity in the ongoing movement against the injustices people of color face daily. We will be donating proceeds to the ACLU NJ. This collaboration is a way for us to help not only our local community, but to use our voice and do a part in our ongoing goal toward liberty & justice for ALL.

Black is Beautiful -This 10% Imperial Stout is a variant brewed with chocolate & hazelnut

Earlier this year, Weathered Souls Brewing out of San Antonio launched a worldwide collaborative stout, Black is Beautiful, an imperial stout recipe to be shared with other brewers. Marcus Baskerville, founder and head brewer of Weathered Souls asked participating breweries to do the following:

  • Donate 100% of the beer’s proceeds to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged
  • Choose their own entity to donate to local organizations that support equality and inclusion
  • Commit to the long-term work of equality

I think those are pretty fair requests. I know if I had a brewery, I’d be making my own version of Black is Beautiful.

As of this post going live, 31 breweries in NJ are participating, about one third of all the breweries in the State. Many of these breweries are doing a limited run, making the beer available only at the brewery on draft, with limited canning runs, or like Czig Meister, in crowlers. I’ve been wanting to try one from NJ since I heard about it because (1) Beer for a good cause is a great idea and (2) I love stouts. Unfortunately, not many breweries in NJ (thus far) have canned and or put their version in distribution. Fortunately, a friend from work lives near Czig Meister, so when we decided to meet up at their awesome outdoor biergarten for some socially distanced beer consumption, I knew I was going to try this beer.

Czig Meister is offering their version in crowlers to go. Photo courtesy of Czig Meister’s Facebook.

Since the beer is an Imperial Stout clocking in at 10% ABV, I can understand why this beer was only offered in 8oz pours. That 8oz pour; however, is full of flavor.

As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, this is a very dark beer. Aromas of roasted malt and some chocolate are present. I didn’t initially realize hazelnut was used in this beer until I tasted the beer then read the description so I imagine that other aroma I caught was indeed the hazelnut.

First sip test…the beer passes with flying colors. Damn is this a delicious stout! There’s a ton of sweetness, but not cloying at all, at the start of the beer. The chocolate begins to assert itself as I continue to enjoy the beer. I really like the spin that Czig Meister put on the recipe with the hazelnut and chocolate. The blend of flavors from the roasted malts and chocolate make for a sumptuous beer. The hazelnut sneaks in and cuts the bitterness at the end in a nice way and brings a great level of balance to the beer.

This is a wonderful, delicious dessert stout but I wouldn’t say it is super sweet like a big pastry stout, which I appreciate. However, the chocolate and hazelnut bring a very welcome flavor boost and sweetness into a big, burly stout. Achieving a good balance between sweetness and bitterness, especially for an Imperial Stout is mark of a good brewer and Czig Meister has achieved that balance extremely well.

The Czig Meister version of Black is Beautiful is a superb stout. What’s more, it is a beer for a really good cause. I’ve long been a fan of Czig Meister so I had pretty high expectations for this beer and it delivered. I now want to see what other breweries are doing with what is a solid, base stout.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Black is Beautiful (2020)

Raise your glass and join us in supporting the many Black is Beautiful collaboration beers as we come together to recognize and bring awareness to the injustices that many people of color face daily.

Draught Diversions: June 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…

June has rolled in and out, the pandemic continues, as does my focus on local/New Jersey beers. One non-NJ beer in this six pack, but some of the usual suspects from NJ made an appearance in June. A pretty decent mix, style-wise, with two IPAs. Despite my recent Lager Leanings, most of the lagers I’ve been enjoying (outside of those I’ve recently reviewed) have been past favorites.

Here in NJ, restaurants and breweries have opened for outdoor consumption, which accounts for the last beer in this six pack. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to visit some breweries in July for outdoor communal consumption.

Fuego (Tonewood Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

In the few beers I’ve had from Tonewood, I’ve yet to have a bad beer. This straight up IPA may be the best I’ve had from them yet. There’s an absolutely perfect hop blend giving the beer both a citrus/juicy component, but also the hallmark bittering and slightly piney components often associated with West Coast IPAs. I brought a six pack to a socially distanced poker game and wound up drinking three of them myself the beer was so damned good. I know Kane is considered the IPA King of NJ (and rightly so), but Tonewood’s Fuego is outstanding and probably one of the best IPAs brewed in The State of New Jersey, at least that I’ve had the pleasure of drinking.

Picture in Reverse (Kane Brewing Company) | Old Ale | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Speaking of Kane, this is a beer I picked up at the brewery when I visited in September 2019. Old Ales are an interesting style in that they are often a blend of beers with strong malt and molasses character – those two elements are on prominent and delicious display in this beer. I’ve noted many times that Michael Kane and his crew are masters of the art of barrel-aging beer and that refined craftsmanship is the highlight of this beer. The bourbon-barrel notes are in elegant, perfect harmony with the big malt character of this potent ale. I think Picture in Reverse is an annual release for them so I’m hoping to get a bottle of it this year.

4th Anniversary (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented Czig Meister from having their 4th Anniversary party, but they still brewed a potent and delicious Imperial New England IPA to celebrate. This is a fantastic beer with wonderful tropical fruit notes all over the place and a nice hop bite to balance out the sweetness. What was most surprising is how easily it went down for a beer at 10% ABV.

Köastal Kölsch Style Ale (Tom’s River Brewing Company) | Kölsch | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Toms River Brewing (f/k/a Rinn Dunn) is a brewery whose beers I’ve been wanting to try more of, and a brewery I’m looking forward to visiting. My neighbor decided to have us over one evening for some beers and conversation. Much to my pleasure, he grabbed a four pack of this crusher. I liked it so much I had two cans that evening. This is a really nice beer for the summer lounging.

Light & Sweet (Carton Brewing Company) | Cream Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

To say that Regular Coffee is one of Carton’s most beloved beers is an understatement. It is a “franchise” or “brand” within the portfolio, or as Augie says of the variants, the “Regular Coffee” Game. This one is about half the ABV at 6% and there seems to be more sweetness than the standard “Regular Coffee.” This version is Nitro which gives the beer some good body and is simply delicious. Almost as good as the original Regular Coffee, except this one won’t sneak up on you and smack you on the back of the head with a baseball bat with a high ABV. In other words, you can have a couple and still be relatively OK.

Tanker Truck Sour Series: Persian Lime Gose (Two Roads Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

This was the first beer I had at a bar/restaurant since the pandemic. In NJ, outdoor dining was permitted and fortunately, one of our favorite places, The Stirling Hotel, has ample outdoor dining. As for the beer, this Persian Lime Gose might be one of the best Goses I’ve ever had and one of the best I’ve had from the consistently excellent folks at Two Roads Brewing. The lime was perfectly tart and sweet, the touch of salinity brought it all together. I could drink 50 o of these on a hot day as it is eminently refreshing.

Plenty of good beers, the only one that really didn’t work for me was Cowfee Break from Bolero Snort, a coffee porter. The taste was off and it was rather thin for the style. .

Draught Diversions: BREWERY STRONG

Trying not to be COVID-19 all the time here, but it is a reality impacting every aspect of everybody’s every day life. Fortunately, the NJ Beer community is an incredibly strong community of breweries, beer sellers, and beer drinkers. I’ve praised the community in the past and how, in large part, through New Jersey Craft Beer, all the constituents – the people making the beer to the people buying the beer – realize that working together truly does make the participants stronger themselves and the community stronger as a whole.

Along those lines, about a week ago, the fine folks at South Jersey Beer Scene announced Brewery Strong:

Brewery Strong is a non-profit organization that supports people in the brewing, bar, and restaurant industries through programs offering financial assistance, continuing education, and other professional development opportunities.

Excerpted from their Brewery Strong’s opening blog post:

Brewery Strong is the result of Rob Callaghan’s vision to do something to help people in the brewery, bar, and restaurant professions during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Rob, the Sales Manager of Tuckahoe Brewing Company, was a guest on the South Jersey Beer Scene Live! show on March 24th, 2020 and ended the show by saying “Brewery Strong”, and it stuck. “I just wanted to do something to help where I could. We have an amazing community and a lot of people are struggling during this unprecedented time. I knew that we could do something to bring a little big of light to our brothers and sisters in the hospitality industry”.

Rob asked a few of his friends how to make this happen, and within two weeks a Non-profit was formed, board members and trustees were asked to join, and a live announcement was made on the South Jersey Beer Scene Live! show on April 20th, 2020. The response was overwhelming and immediate with over 1000 Facebook followers in the first 24 hours. The message grew quickly and the organization received support from Craft Beer fans and many businesses, pledging donations and buying merchandise from the Brewery Strong Store (100% of the profit goes directly to Brewery Strong), and asking how they could help.

They are accepting straight up donations or, what I assume will interest many people, merchandise with the great logo on it, with 100% of the profit going directly to Brewery Strong.  Currently that merchandise includes T-shirts, mugs, and stickers with Pint Glasses (hopefully!) on the way.

In terms of the people behind the organization, they’ve got a virtual Who’s Who in NJ Beer/Brewing backing the organization:

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

TRUSTEES

Bottom line, this is a good organization with well-known people in NJ behind it, so it is worth donating to or supporting if it is within your means.

As a reminder, I’ve been updating the COVID-19 page here fairly frequently, including today.

Draught Diversions: March 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…

Very heavy on the NJ beers this month, I visited Kane Brewing. in Ocean to start the month and wound up enjoying a few different beers from them throughout March. I usually try to drink as much local as I can, compared to other breweries, but even more so once COVID-19 forced social distancing upon us and I wanted to support local even more. I usually get some mixed six packs from my local Wegman’s, but this month, the six pack proved to be one of the best I’d picked up in quite a while, three of the beers form the six pack stood out to a large degree and show up in this month’s Six Pack

Morning Mocha (Kane Brewing Company) | Porter – Coffee | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Morning Bell is Kane’s highly acclaimed year-round coffee porter and is outstanding. Once a year, they do a few special releases of Bell variants, Morning Mocha is one of those. In addition to rich coffee flavors from their local coffee roastery Rook Coffee, this beer was conditioned on Ugandan and Haitian caco nibs. I thought I died and went to heaven when I drank this beer. There is an absolutely perfect blend of coffee and chocolate in the flavor profile, which complements and doesn’t overtake the base porter. Next year when this is released, I’m going to make sure to get at least one bottle.

Kalishnikoffe (Icarus Brewing) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd


I called out Kalishnikov last year as a standout beer from Icarus so I was very much looking forward to that beer with coffee added. What a perfectly balanced beer this is, great coffee flavor with some bitterness from the coffee. Like the base beer, there’s a good amount of honey to offset the inherit bitterness of a Russian Imperial Stout, but the aggressive bite at the end is still present, if softened. Another outstanding beer from Jason and crew at Icarus Brewing.

Easy Ringer (Victory Brewing Company) | IPA – Session / India Session Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This one surprised me. Ever since Founders All Day IPA became such a mega hit basically helping to invent a style, coupled with the drive for low calorie (less than 100 calories) breweries have been looking to brew a beer to fit those two elements. Victory’s Easy Ringer is the latest to hit that sweet spot and it sure is tasty. Much more flavorful than I would have expected, sweet, slightly bitter hops with a complexity that belies the sub 100 calories and low ABV (4.3%). I can see this beer filling coolers this summer and then football season (if those things actually happen).

Craic (River Horse Brewing Company) | Stout – Irish Dry | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is a beer I’ve been wanting to try for a few years. River Horse has been part of the Jameson Caskmates program since it started a couple of years back and this has been the primary mainstay. It wasn’t until late 2019 that I saw it stores and I’m damned glad I picked up a bottle. The whiskey elements accentuate the roasted stout elements as well as the coffee and vanilla flavors, each component complimenting the other very harmoniously. I enjoyed this on St. Patrick’s Day, if you’re going with a whiskey element in your beer, you can’t really get more traditional than Jameson.

The Miner (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Lager – Dark | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Czig Meister’s lager game continues to prove its strength. Dark Lagers aren’t the most prevalent style in the US, but Schwarzbiers, Munich Dunkels, and Czech Darks are popular in Europe. Czig’s take is extremely full flavored, good roast, slightly creamy, a decent amount of sweetness especially given the lower ABV of 4.8%. I’m not sure if this is closer to a Schwarzbier or a Czech Dark Lager in style, but I do know that it was a beer I thoroughly enjoyed.

Moonjumper (Destihl Brewing Company) | Stout – Milk/Sweet | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

 

Another fortuitous pick from a Wegman’s mixed six pack. I’m always up for a good milk stout and trying a new brewery to me. Well, this beer fit the bill on both counts. Destihl has only been distributing in NJ for less than a year, so this was the first I had from them. I was extremely impressed with this beer, despite being initially worried about the canned-on date of September 2019 when I opened the beer in March. The beer was a wonderfully, full flavored beer that gave off flavors of chocolate and sweetness.

Draught Diversions: October 2019 Six Pack

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

While I had quite a few new to me beers in October, a significant portion of those beers were from Icarus Brewing, which I highlighted earlier in the month. There were still a god swath of new beers that crossed my palate in October 2019, with a less than typical mix of NJ and non-NJ beers. In other words, only 2 New Jersey beers made the six pack this month. On other hand, that visit to Icarus Brewing and meet up the next day with my friend who manages the taproom, resulted in some delicious beers.

On to the top 6 “new-to-me” beers I had in October 2019…

Julius (Tree House Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

The IPA that put Tree House on the beer map. I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends who happen to have some extra Tree House beers, like my neighbor across the street. He was kind enough to give me a can and I am super pleased he did. This beer is quintessential IPA in the New England vein – juicy, tropical, but it still retains a significant traditional hop flavor.

The Carriagemaker (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Pilsner – German | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Another month, another Czig Meister beer. I was pleased to see them release a Pilsner in cans, more pleased to grab some, and even more pleased with how the beer tasted. It hit all the notes I want a pilsner to hit – clean, crisp, refreshing with just enough of a hop presence to give the beer a full flavor.

NOKtoberfest (Rusty Rail Brewing Brewery Co) | Rye Beer | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Rusty Rail is one of many Pennsylvania breweries with distribution reach into NJ which has allowed me to enjoy a few of their beers over the years. NOKtoberfest is an interesting “anti-Oktoberfest” that has a little more spice and bit than an Oktoberfest. For starters, the beer is an ale, a Rye Ale, at that, so the style is different. Oktoberfests are typically lagers. Frankly, the only thing “Oktoberfesty” about the beer is the name. Still a good beer, which happens to feature some cool art on the label.


Dreadnought Dunkel (Tonewood Brewing)
| Lager – Munich Dunkel | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is only the second beer I’ve had from Tonewood (I reviewed their Freshies Pale Ale earlier in the year) and I’m impressed with this lager. I’ve been seeing more of their beers in the last couple of months so it is nice to see their distribution expanding. This beer is a really nice dark lager, reminiscent of the Dunkel I reviewed from von Trapp earlier in October. Dreadnought has a nice bready, almost pretzel-like, undercurrent. Another beer with cool art on the label.

Image courtesy of Yuengling’s web site. Where I had the beer (Hub City Brew House) was too dark for a good photo.

Hershey’s Chocolate Porter (Yuengling Brewing Company) | Porter – American | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first time I’ve really featured a Yuengling beer here in a monthly six-pack. After all, the largest craft brewery and oldest brewery in America doesn’t often brew new beers. This is a natural match; however – two of the biggest food names in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania coming together for a delicious beer. As of this writing, the beer is only available on draft, but it is worth seeking. I think Yuengling’s porter is a very under-rated interpretation on the style and this beer builds on that base beer. There’s a delicious chocolate flavor in the beer, but not overpowering by any means. Great stuff.

Cold Press Coffee Pumking (Southern Tier Brewing Company) | Pumpkin / Yam Beer | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd


To say that Southern Tier has a significant presence in the landscape of pumpkin beers is a great understatement. Their main Pumking is iconic take on the style and they’ve got a line of Pumking-adjacent beers. Last year, I reviewed the Rum Barrel version (delicious) so this year, I wanted to give this version a try. I’m glad I did because it puts a natural spin on the pumpkin ale by adding coffee. I’d say the only pumpkin-flavored beverage more popular (or derided) than pumpkin beer in the fall is pumpkin coffee. Be that as it may, I found the blend of coffee and pumpkin spices to be a very pleasant combination.

A couple of beers weren’t that great, including Scarecrow from Free Will Brewing, which is a wheat ale with pumpkin spices. Normally, this is a style I’d enjoy during this time of year, but Scarecrow had a very unpleasant aftertaste. For the first time in a while, a Dogfish Head beer was disappointing, American Beauty, their Grateful Dead pale ale. The bottle was a few months old so that could be why.

…and that puts a bow on my October 2019 Six Pack.

Draught Diversions: September 2019 Six Pack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draught Diversions: Interview with Mike Kivowitz of NJ Craft Beer

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…

Welcome to Jersey Beer Week at the Tap Takeover! A week long celebration of all things Beer in New Jersey. This is the second (or third?) year New Jersey Craft Beer is spear-heading the initiative, a week of events at NJ Breweries, bars featuring NJ Beer nights, and a week to #DrinkLocal and enjoy New Jersey beer rather beer from out of state.

To help kick off the week here at the Tap Takeover I figured I’d interview Mike Kivowitz, the main man in the New Jersey beer community who created New Jersey Craft Beer almost 10 years ago. I’ve met and chatted with Mike at a few events and breweries over the years and you won’t meet a nicer guy who has great taste in beer. Talking to him,  you get a sense of just how much he enjoys the community…and how much he enjoys seeing others take part in the New Jersey Beer Community.

Mike is one of the major reasons why the New Jersey beer community is the great place it has become over the last decade. New Jersey Craft Beer is a great resource for all things NJ Beer, whether it is information about Breweries in the state, stores that feature NJ beer, or a calendar of beer events in NJ.

The best part, for me and many members, is the Loyalty Program in the form of the NJCB Discount Card. For just $25 per year, you get an New Jersey Craft Beer card (all of mine are pictured below) which gets you discounts at liquor stores (the majority of the stores in my area offer 10% off all craft beer purchases), a range of discounts at breweries (money off flights or merchandise, for example), discounts at restaurants (anywhere between $1 off each beer you purchase to 10% off the entire bill!), and discounts at various beer events (Beer Festivals, Beer/Brewery Sponsored 5K races, etc). In short, it is the absolute best $25 I spend every year and often pays for itself by March. If you are visiting a brewery in New Jersey, there’s a decent chance you’ll run into Mike or one of his many co-conspirators.

Without further adieu, here’s a 12 pack worth of questions for our interview.

1. I’m sure most of the visitors to this blog have a passing knowledge of NJCB, but what is your TV Guide description of NJCB?

The source for beer in NJ with a loyalty program designed to explore beer all over the state.

2. What is this whole New Jersey Craft Beer Week all about, then?

Drinking in Jersey. Drinking Jersey beer.

3. New Jersey Craft Beer was founded in 2010, almost a decade later and the beer landscape has evolved. What is the biggest change to Craft Beer in NJ since you started NJCB?

The growth of local offerings. I launched NJCB with like 14 breweries on the list, now it’s 115+. Local breweries lead to bars and stores carrying more local.

Editor’s Note: The About page on New Jersey Craft Beer shows the large growth of the organization since its inception in 2010.

4. What is the most challenging and frustrating element of running NJCB?

Getting people to go to events. Everyone has events all the time. Getting support for some of them is hard. Especially when I spend like 70 hours of work on a 3 hour event and 10 people come. It’s souring but I learn and try harder next time.

5. What is the most rewarding element of being the go to guy for all things beer in New Jersey?

Meeting people and seeing how NJCB has changed their lives.

6. It might show some bias if I asked you your favorite NJ beer and brewery so I’ll ask you what your favorite style is and favorite non-NJ brewery.

West Coast IPAs will always be my favorite style. Firestone Walker is a good example of a non-NJ brewery I love.

7. What would you say is the one thing you would like people in NJ to get out of New Jersey Craft Beer?

Have fun. It’s beer. Just get moving and see what’s going on outside the keyboard you are reading this on. Ohhh, be nice too.

8. What 2 or 3 breweries in NJ deserve more attention? Everybody knows Kane, Carton, Magnify, etc. But with over 100 breweries, some are likely to fall through the cracks or not be as widely known.

Kelly Green Brewing, Vinyl Brewing, Bonesaw Brewing, Czig Meister Brewing, Hackensack Brewing and I can go on.

Editor’s Note: I wholeheartedly agree with Mike’s suggestions of Czig Meister Brewing and Hackensack Brewing Company.

9. What beer do you want to have again for the first time?

Spellbound’s Vices Porter on nitro I want everyday.

10. Do you have any correspondences or work in conjunction with similar organizations in neighboring states? Like Breweries in PA or NY Craft Beer?

I mean, yes and no. Most of the people I know that run other sites, I knew back in in and before I launched NJCB. Like Brew York New York for example. Some of the new guys like Breweries in PA started because of NJCB and reached out for input. I’ll talk to anyone, just don’t try to rip me off and steal my baby like that Instagram guy that’s now out of business. I don’t want to mention their name though.

11. Despite some of the obstacles, the number of breweries in New Jersey has grown consistently since 2012. Aside from the quality of the beer itself, what do you think are the key factors that will help a brewery succeed in New Jersey?

Quality is #1. Everything else is sort of hard to explain. See, some breweries just want to remain downtown/main street and not promote their beer on shelves but then they don’t want to do events, then when they do events, it’s like ohhh, I can only get this at one or two places around the brewery and not anywhere else. Then there’s the opposite where places only package the standard stuff and no one can get it anywhere else but the brewery but they sell kegs at every bar. Those people don’t want to leave their house. Sooo distro, labels/artwork, sales people, educated retailers. I can probably lump more into #2.

12. This question will likely generate a lengthy response, but here goes. With the evolving laws around beer in NJ, specifically the limits being placed on small, independent breweries, what can individuals do to prevent the rules from halting the great progressive growth of breweries and goodwill in the NJ Beer Community?

Editor’s Note: Visit SaveNJBeer.com for more information on the laws that could significantly impact many of the independent breweries in NJ.

Speak up. Write to your local officials and explain how you spend money and where and why. Also, get informed on the actual laws and wording. There’s 1 thing we need to do and that’s work together.

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2019 Six Pack

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

Oktoberfest is sort of like the Easter of beer holidays. It isn’t always on the same exact date, but it is generally the same time of year. Mid-September is when the great German celebration of the marriage of then Prince and soon King Ludwig to Princess Therese begins. In 2019, Oktoberfest spans from September 21 through October 6, but seasonal creep gets these beers on our shelves in August. We* here at the Tap Takeover try to keep things seasonally appropriate, so here about a week or so is my annual Oktoberfest 6 pack of Oktoberfest beers. (*By “we” I mean me) A mix of national and New Jersey breweries, a mix of Oktoberfest beers I’ve had and have yet to try. You know, the typical.

Oktoberfest | Cape May Brewing Co. | Cape May, NJ | 5.8% ABV

Image courtesy of Cape May Brewing’s Facebook

Cape May Brewing is slowly climbing up my list of favorite NJ Breweries. They nail IPAs, debuted a superb Pale Lager earlier this year, and seem to excel at all styles. It is a no-brainer for me to want to try their take on the classic German Lager and with their increased distribution footprint, I was easily able to find six pack. Cape May knocks it out of the park with their take on the classic Märzen. I found it to be a little sweeter than I’ve had, but that is a feature and not a bug for me. This has immediately become an annual must have for me. This beer should be available throughout NJ and some of Southeastern PA.

What Cape May says about the beer:

Rich and complex, this amber-colored lager is smooth and clean due to a cool fifty-degree fermentation, mellowing as it lagers. Well-balanced with a hint of hops presence, Oktoberfest is focused on the grain bill of Vienna, Munich, Caramunich, Pilsen, and Melanoidin malts.

Oktoberfest – Czig Meister Brewing Company | Hackettstown, NJ | 5.3% ABV

Image courtesy of Czig Meister’s Facebook

Czig Meister has been putting this beer in cans for a couple of years, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet. I’ve liked most of the beer I’ve had from them, so I don’t expect that trend to cease once I try their Oktoberfest. This beer should be available throughout NJ and some of NY.

What Czig Meister says about the beer:

Medium bodied light orange color. Flavors of toasty graham crackers and light honey notes.

OktoberFish | Flying Fish Brewing Company | Somerdale, NJ | 6% ABV

First brewed waaay back in 2002, Flying Fish’s take on the classic German Lager is one of the oldest versions continuously brewed in NJ. Many of the beers from their early years incorporate “Fish” into the beer name, just like this one. For me, this has been something of a staple for nearly twenty years. It has always been a very consistent beer for the season. Over the past couple of years, Flying Fish has gone through a facelift, updating the packaging for many of their beers, including this one which plays with the traditional iconic blue diamond pattern for Oktoberfest. This one should be available throughout the NJ/PA/NY region

What Flying Fish says about the beer:

We present this German style lager in celebration of the season. To be enjoyed with the fest fare and especially when paired with lederhosen.

Copper Legend | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Framingham, MA | ABV 5.7%

Image courtesy of Jack’s Abby’s Facebook

Jack’s Abby has been on the shelves in NJ for only a few months, but as my posts have indicated here at the Tap Takeover, I’m VERY impressed with their beer. With that German Brewing tradition at their heart, an Oktoberfest (in this case the slightly lighter version, Festbier) is to be expected. I’m going to make sure to grab some of this beer before Oktoberfest ends during the first week of October. This beer should be available throughout much of the Northeastern US.

What Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers says this about the beer:

Celebrate Octoberfest with this malty, smooth and exceedingly drinkable lager. Copper Legend is the perfect beer for creating legendary times with legendary people. Raise a can to Honor Today’s Legends. Brewed with noble hops. Prost!

Oktoberfest | Revolution Brewing Company | Chicago, IL | 5.7% ABV

Image courtesy of Revolution Brewing’s Facebook

I’ve seen Revolution’s beer sporadically throughout NJ over the past couple of years. I don’t know that I can think of a more appropriate image to adorn a beer meant to ring in Oktoberfest than a big burly German man wearing lederhosen and an Oktoberfest hat playing a tuba on the label. If I’m able to grab a can or two this season, I’ll certainly be happy to try it.

What Revolution Brewing says about the beer:

Our Oktoberfest Bier is a German-style lager that was brewed in the summer and “cold stored” until late August to celebrate the coming of fall! Traditional German malts such as Pilsner, Vienna, Carared and Munich lend a beautiful burnt orange color and a pleasant toasty malt flavor and aroma to this lager. Initial Magnum hopping along with multiple additions of German Saphir and Select hops throughout the boil provide a crisp balanced bitterness and spicy/earthy aroma to round out this robust beer! For fermentation we use a Bavarian Lager yeast and then lower the temperature to 32 °F and store the beer cold for 4 weeks. This cold maturation time helps provide a smooth round mouthfeel and clean crisp finish.

Oktoberfest | Sly Fox Brewing Company | Pottstown, PA | 6.1% ABV

Image courtesy of Sly Fox Brewing’s Facebook

Sly Fox is one of the many great breweries out of Pennsylvania. I haven’t had too much of their beer in recent years as it seems they’ve scaled back distribution into NJ a bit, or at least in my immediate area. I remember having this one on draught a couple of years ago and being very pleased with the overall taste and profile. If I see a sixer of it in one of the shops in my regular driving radius, I’ll likely grab some. Available in PA, NJ, DE, NY, MD, VA and Washington D.C.

What Sly Fox says about the beer:

Ein Prosit! This seasonal gem is best enjoyed under a humongous tent while you and thousands of your closest friends sing enthusiastically. Or anywhere, really. It’s all about the gemütlichkeit, baby!

Draught Diversions: August 2019 Six Pack

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

August is like the Sunday of summers. You know the cooler weather is coming, but there are still some warm days and good time to lounge by the pool with some good beers. A variety of styles, but back to a split of 3 NJ beers and 3 non-NJ beers this month.

The Tiller – Blackberry Saison (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Czig Meister continues to rise in my personal ranks of New Jersey Breweries. Great straightforward styles, and really interesting out of the box takes on traditional styles. Saison is one of the most traditional of styles, but as the color of the beer above suggests, purple is not exactly a traditional beer color. The flavor; however, is traditional in that it hits the palate with bold flavors. The sweetness from the blackberry works extremely well with the earthy base of the saison. Great for summer, great for an anytime refreshment.

Hoponius Union (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Lager – IPL (India Pale Lager) | 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

India Pale Lagers are far from a standard, available-everywhere style and I’ve only had a couple before trying this delicious, hoppy beer. It is the top checked in beer of Jack’s Abby, a brewery that has not disappointed in their entry to New Jersey. The hops are *perfect* in this beer, you get a burst of flavor from the hops, without overtaking everything else about the beer or knocking you over the head with hops. There’s a reason this beer is the top rated (as of this writing) Lager on Beer Advocate – it is simply outstanding.

Irish Queen (Bonesaw Brewing Co) | Cream Ale | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Bonesaw is one of the NJ breweries I’ve been hearing and seeing great things about since they opened. Unfortunately, they are on the far end of the state from me, so I was happy to see one of their beers available when my wife and I went to a Trenton Thunder (AA Affiliate of the New York Yankees) for Pork Roll Fridays. On those days, they team becomes the Trenton Pork Rolls. Anyway, the beer – a Cream Ale infused with Coffee – was a perfect way to start the night, clean, extremely flavorful, and light. The best parts of an iced coffee and beer in one. Think Carton’s Regular Coffee but about a third of the ABV.

Kalon (Trustworthy Brewing Co) | Schwarzbier | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Las Vegas…not exactly a great beer city, but the hotel I was staying at for a work conference just opened an onsite brewbpub – Trustworthy Brewing. I knew I had to visit for at least a beer and when I saw this Schwarzbier, I latched onto it. A Schwarzbier is one of the more obscure, yet traditional German lagers. Smoky and roasty the same way a porter is, but it has a nice lager-y finish. The roast is just shy of being burnt so Trustworthy crafted this beer really well. This is basically a porter by way of a lager and really nice.

Saewart’s Oatmeal Stout (Highrail Brewing Company) | Stout – Oatmeal | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I’m always happy to see a new brewery open in New Jersey, it seems to happen on a monthly basis. Highrail is less than a half hour from me, which is really nice so a few weeks after their opening I stopped in and had two beers, both of which were quite good, but this edged out the other just a little bit. Like the Schwarzbier on this post, this oatmeal stout is perfectly balanced with all the flavors dialed in for harmony. A little creaminess from the oatmeal, good malted roast that evoke some coffee. Head Brewer Brian said this beer was a surprisingly great seller considering the summer release but considering the quality of the beer, I’m *not* surprised at how well it is doing for Highrail.

Underground Mountain Brown (Founders Brewing Co.) | Brown Ale – Imperial / Double | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

It has been a while since I featured a beer from Founders in a six pack and this is a really good beer. I like the base beer even before it sits in barrels – Sumatra Brown – quite a bit, so letting it sit in bourbon barrels for a year adds even more complexity to the beer. There’s a ton of coffee in this beer and aside from the flavor profile of a brown being present, the coffee is the star of the beer for me. I’m glad the bourbon was rather subtle because I think my palate has changed to the point that most barrel aged beers just aren’t doing it for me. This beer; however, is delicious and one of the better Barrel Aged Series offerings from Founders over the last couple of years.

Not necessarily new to me, but for the first time in nearly four years I had a pint of Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweis, probably my favorite American Hefeweizen. It was on draught at Gordon Ramsay’s Burger in Las Vegas. For reasons beyond my understanding, I haven’t seen this beer anywhere near me in New Jersey in about four years.

I was able to visit three new-to-me breweries in August:

  • Trustworthy Brewing Company in the Venetian in Las Vegas
  • Highrail Brewing in High Bridge, NJ (Opened late July 2019)
  • Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ – I’ve had a few of their beers, but finally visited the brewery. A great brewery for sure. Also was lucky enough to run into Mike K. of NJ Craft Beer during my visit.