Draught Diversions: February 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…

Like January, I tried a solid batch of new to me beers in February and some I’d been wanting to try for years. Three New Jersey beers, three non-NJ beers this month for a fairly balanced selection of styles. One of these beers happened to be perfectly timed for #FlagshipFebruary, a nice initiative meant to shift focus from Hot! Special! releases to those iconic beers that helped lay the foundation for the American Craft/Independent beer market.

Arabicadabra (Bell’s Brewery)  Stout – Milk / Sweet – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

The very first new beer of February makes the list, setting a good tone for the month. Since Bell’s hit NJ last year, I’ve been making my way through their portfolio and this was part of a mixed six pack my wife picked up for me. I guessed correctly that it was a stout when she presented it to me just in the glass. There’s a nice sweet hit to the coffee in this milk stout that hits all the right notes for a coffee milk stout.

Black Butte Porter (Deschutes Brewery Company) Porter – American – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

A dark restaurant at a table with 7 people is not conducive to good beer photography.

Visiting Vegas on a work trip makes for good possibilities, including the opportunity to finally try one of the flagship beers (timely enough for #FlagshipFebruary) from one of the largest independent/craft breweries of the American West. This is an excellent porter. Even though the beer was about a year old according to the date stamping, the flavor held up quite nicely. I’d really like to have this closer to the “best by” date for comparison sake and to try the beer in its best possible sitiuation. As it stands, I can taste why this porter is held in such high regard.

Bluffing Isn’t Weisse (Bad Beat Brewing) Hefeweizen 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’m always on the lookout for a good Hefeweizen so I was pleased to see one of the bars near the hotel carrying this beer. Maybe because of the glut of IPAs and darker beers I’ve been having, this Hefeweizen hit the spot really nicely as I was reminiscing with a former colleague. It was a clean, tasty beer that had a nice clove/banana profile. Plus, this was a local beer from Nevada.

Milk Chocolate Stout (Lone Eagle Brewing) Stout – Imperial Milk / Sweet – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Good ol’ Lone Eagle, one of the two closest breweries to my house. For the first time in a few months (travel and weather cancellations) I was able to attend Board Game night at Lone Eagle. I had this beer at the Great Beer Expo at the Meadowlands earlier in the month and liked it enough that I was hoping Lone Eagle would have some cans for sale at the brewery. Sure enough, the fridge had some relatively fresh four packs canned at the end of January. The beer has a really nice chocolate flavor, but doesn’t lose any of the traditional stout flavors. It represents nicely in both cans and draft.

Social Mosaic (Dark City Brewing Company) Sour – Berliner Weisse 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

This might be the most surprising beer of the month for me, for two main reasons. I’ve had a small handful of beers from Dark City and they’ve honestly been hit (their 1st anniversary brown ale is outstanding) or miss. Mosaic is a hop I usually don’t like. Part of another mixed six my wife got me, she poured a bit into the glass and I was thrown off. I smelled the hops foremost, but tasting the beer, the sour elements prevail. The mosaic and lactose mix really nicely in this beer for a extremely well balanced sour that doesn’t overpower form any of the elements in the beer.

Exit 9 – Hoppy Scarlet Ale (Flying Fish Brewing Company) Red Ale – Imperial / Double 4 bottle caps on untappd

Outside of a Flying Fish glass, what’s more appropriate than a Rutgers pint glass for this beer?

One of my favorite brewing projects in New Jersey is Flying Fish’s Exit Series of beers. There were 18 beers in total in this series, each signifying a NJ Turnpike Exit. This beer is for Exit 9, New Brunswick, NJ and home of my alma mater Rutgers University whose mascot is the Scarlet Knight. Red Ales typically aren’t in my sweet spot, but the blend of hops in this one makes for a very tasty beer. Centennial is one of the hops and it really stands out. The beer is a nice sweet maltiness to the beer and a tasty hop finish. This beer is like an amped up version Flying Fish’s year-round red ale Red Fish. However, Exit 9 should still be available in Flying Fish’s current Exit Variety Pack but probably not after that.

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: A Wishlist 6-pack for New Jersey

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…

Last week, the Brewer’s Association released two lists:
Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies
Top 50 Overall Brewing Companies

There is, of course, some overlap on the two lists as the Association’s definition of Craft Beer/Craft Brewery allows for such overlap. For example, much as I enjoy a Yuengling Summer Wheat, I don’t know that I (or many hop-heads like myself) would consider Yuengling a craft brewery in the same way (for example) Allagash or Treehouse are craft breweries. Be that as it may, it got me thinking. There are quite a few breweries on the Top 50 Craft list who brew a significant amount of beer and who don’t (yet) distribute into NJ. As a result, I’ve come up with a brief, relatively plausible, “wish list” of breweries whose beers I’d love to see on shelves in NJ bottle shops and liquor stores. Also, just to clarify, not all of my wish list breweries are on this list.

Like some of my past features, I’ll do this as a 6-pack. I could probably make a “case” (or 24) breweries I’d like to see distribute their beers into NJ, but for now, I’ll go with 6. These are breweries with some combination of iconic beers, beers I see friends from outside NJ checking into untappd, a brewery whose beers I had by chance, plus one brewery I visited many, many years ago. I’m not including smaller breweries like the Alchemist and Treehouse who largely sell their beers only at the brewery or within the state where they are located.

As with most of these types of posts, I’ll go alphabetical.

August Schell Brewing Co in New Ulm, MN

Images courtesy of Schell’s Web site

When the opening statement on the main website is “We are German Craft Beer” how could I not want their beers available to me? From what I’ve gathered (Hi Joe!), their Hefeweizen is extremely well-regarded. My favorite style, especially in summer months, isn’t the most popular of craft beer styles, so it would be nice to have a solid go-to of the style available consistently. Much as I love the German brewers traditional Hefeweizens I do enjoy a well-constructed homage to the style, too.

Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, MI

Images courtesy of Bell’s Web site

I’ve had two beers from the great, renowned Michigan craft brewery and loved them both. If they were both available here in NJ, I’d have them in my refrigerator regularly, especially Oberon Ale in the summer. I was lucky enough to get a couple bottles of Oberon’s Ale last year in a bottle trade with a former co-worker.

When I had Two Hearted Ale for the first time, it blew me away. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed the IPA. The other brews from Bells can be found here, those in the image above I cobbled from the beer images on Bell’s Web site look especially appealing to me.

I’m fairly close to the Pennsylvania border (about 30 minutes away) do I can probably grab some of their beer if I cross the Delaware river, but it sure would be nice to be able to go to my local Gary’s and grab a 12 pack of Oberon’s Ale in the summer.

Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)

Images courtesy of Deschutes’ Web site

Deschutes is one of the early American Craft Beer pioneers, founded in 1998 in Oregon, a state renowned for craft beer. Their flagship beer is one that is squarely in my wheelhouse: Black Butte Porter. Deschutes is also near the top of American Craft Breweries (#10 on the list of 50) so they are quite large and the possibility for their appealing brews appearing on NJ shelves is quite plausible. Especially since they are building an East Coast production facility in Virginia with beers set to roll out in 2021. I think I just need to be patient for these beers.

Peak Organic Brewing (Portland, ME)

Photo courtesy Peak Organic Brewing’s Facebook page

I’ve written about this brewery twice already and both times I lamented the fact that they don’t distribute into New Jersey. I’m not sure how a can of their Happy Hour snuck into Wegmans, though I suspect that may have something to do with Wegman’s being based in New York.

Having enjoyed three of their beers a great deal, I’d really love to try more of their lineup, including a Ginger Saison, Sweet Tart Blueberry Sour Ale, Super Fresh Pilsner, and a Maple Porter.

Pike Brewing (Seattle, WA)

Image courtesy of Pike Brewing’s Web Site

Pike is probably the most westerly of any brewery in today’s post. About 20 years ago or so, I went on a business trip to Seattle and I really adored the city. I liked the wharf area, the great seafood and I spent a happy hour or two at Pike Brewing and I remember really enjoying the stout I had, which was probably the Extra XXXXX Stout. I still have the pint glass from my visit. I suspect this brewery hitting New Jersey shelves might be the biggest longshot.

Three Floyds Brewing Company in Munster, IN

Bottle images courtesy of 3 Floyds Facebook page

Three Floyds is one of the most renowned craft brewers in the Midwest. Their Dark Lord Imperial Stout is a brewery only release and is one of the most well-received beers in the country. Of course, that specific beer would likely NOT be in distribution, but their Zombie Dust Pale Ale probably would be, as would Robert the Bruce, a wonderfully appealing Scotch Ale. I’d love to try Alpha Klaus, which is their winter porter.

Their beer labels are really cool, too. They appeal to the lifelong comic book/science fiction/fantasy/horror geek that I am. Not only that, a comic book series from Image comics was even published in honor of the brewery!

A quick look through their beers on untappd, has their full line-up of beers at a 4.03 bottle cap average and of the beers some of my unappd friends have had, I don’t think anything was below a 4.25.

Between these six breweries, I would have many beers to explore and enjoy. Take a moment and let me know in the comments (or email or twitter) what breweries I mention from NJ or the area you’d like to see and try.