Draught Diversions: July 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…

Most of the beer I consume in July centers around my big Fourth of July party…between the beer I buy for it and the beer guests bring, my fridge and cooler are pretty much set for a the better part of the month and some of August. Some good beers were brought, some I had in my travels throughout the month. Despite being out of the State for a week, two New Jersey beers show up on this month’s six pack. Let’s get started, shall we?

American Kolsch (Boulevard Brewing) Kölsch – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I wrote about Boulevard a couple of weeks ago, inspired partly, by this and a few other beers. My brother-in-law brought a variety pack of Boulevard Cans (including this, the tasty Jam Band and Unfiltered Wheat Beer) on the Fourth of July and those beers went quickly. Of the four beers, I think this one was my favorite. Unfortunately, it isn’t that prevalent of a beer in this area, outside of the that variety pack. If you can find it, grab it because it is a clean, tasty perfect ale for summer sipping.

BETAparticle Blood Orange Wheat Ale (Oyster Creek Brewing) Pale Wheat Ale – American – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Didn’t get a photo of the beer, so here’s the logo!

Here’s another good beer I discovered on the Fourth of July. My cousin knows the brewer (or owner?) here and actually messaged me asking which beer from their beer list she should bring to my Fourth of July party. Well, I suggested this one and I was not disappointed. Blood orange is a good additive to beer, especially wheat-based ales and it works really well in this beer. This was a nice surprise from a new brewery (opened in May 2018). I’m looking forward to having more beer from Oyster Creek Brewing.

Double Trouble (Founders Brewing) IPA – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Shockingly, a Founders beer makes an appearance on my monthly six pack. Well, the last time this beer was on shelves (2016), I probably would not have even tried it since I avoided IPAs. Now; however, I like it very much. A very tasty, malty and citrusy Imperial IPA. This beer served as the base for Doom, the first IPA in Founders’ Barrel Aged Series and one of my favorite beers from last year.

Orval Pale Ale – Belgian (Brasserie d’Orval) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Orval, the beer from the Belgian Trappist brewery who makes just one beer, a beer that is beloved by many and rightfully so. This was the first time I had the beer and I really enjoyed it. The bottle I had was bottled in 2015 so it aged a bit, I think this one is good for up to 8 years with the bottle conditioning, but I certainly want to try a more recently packaged bottle. Hearing Augie Carton and John Holl talk so lovingly about this beer on their Steal This Beer podcast had me wanting to try the beer for a while. I’m glad I did.

Kalashnikov Buckwheat Whiskey Barrel Aged Stout – Russian Imperial (Icarus Brewing) – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Yeah, I know the last beer I reviewed was from Icarus, but this beer was absolutely outstanding and one of the best Russian Imperial Stouts I’ve ever had. One of Icarus’s regular offerings is their Kalishnikov Russian Imperial Stout, which I haven’t yet had, which serves as the base for this beer. The fine folks at Icarus age that beer for 7 months in Catskill Distilling Buckwheat Whiskey Barrels and is a potent sipper. The beer is listed as 100 IBU but I didn’t get any hop bitterness at all. This was brewed in celebration of the brewery’s first anniversary of tapping beer. Put simply: outstanding. I would love to give this beer a little more time to warm up.

Flesh & Blood (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) IPA 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Dogfish has been my jam lately and this is one just cements that status. When you are traveling and attending conferences, chances are the beer choices aren’t always the best. In a best case scenario there are one or two craft beers that happen to get wide distribution wherever the conference is being held. In this case, Dogfish’s juicy IPA with (there it is again) Blood Oranges in the mix was available at one of the bars of the hotel, which was a nice surprise. I may have to put this one in regular rotation.

So, not a terrible beer in this group like last month. That’s largely because July consisted of some above average beers and just a couple of mediocre beers not worth mentioning.

Draught Diversion: Styles in Focus – Berliner Weisse

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…

Since I reviewed a Berliner Weissbier earlier in the week (White Birch Raspberry Berliner Weisse), I figured I write about the style in more detail. As the name would imply, the style originated in Germany like many styles of beer, Berlin specifically. As it so happens, the previous two styles upon which I focused originated in Germany, too (Bock and Dunkelweizen). I didn’t quite plan that, but clearly my leanings towards German styles is more evident than ever. Be that as it may, the “Weisse” is a reference to the color of the beer, often a pale white, and not the wheat. When served at breweries in Germany, the Berliner Weissebier is traditionally served with sweet syrup; (and likely still is) Raspberry and Woodruff for Red or Green respectively. Woodruff is a flower extract whose syrup is also used for brandy, jelly and soft drinks. I had a couple at local breweries (Jughandle and Flounder) and both offered Raspberry, as well as Lemon and Elderflower syrups.

 

Although some breweries have the beer as part of the year-round portfolio, the beer is a great summer style as evidenced by the seasonal nature of probably the most well-known Berliner Weisses produced in the US, Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche. It is also one of the most long-standing beers in their line-up, appearing annually in the summer since 2007. It has been too long since I’ve had this one, but I could go on about Dogfish for quite a long time.

I like to think of the Berliner Weissbier as a cousin to the (currently) more popular and prevalent Gose style ale. As I said in my review this week, both are sour ales with German roots, both have some wheat component in their malt bill and most varieties of both have some kind of fruit additive to balance out the sour and tart nature of the beer. One of the primary differences is that most, if not all, Gose beers have salt added to the brewing process where the Berliner Weisse typically does not have the salt. I like both styles quite a bit, but if I were to hand a person unacquainted with sour beers, or even wary of sour style, one to try, it would definitely be a Berliner Weisse. It is more approachable and less face-puckering than a Gose.

Dear Victory Brewing: Please bring this beer back

For the Berliner Weissbiers I’ve had and seen in bottles/cans, many have had some kind of fruit syrup/puree flavoring component. A couple of years ago, one of my favorite breweries, Victory Brewing, brewed and bottled a Berliner Weisse as part of their experimental Blackboard series which was brewed with Elderflower. I would love for this to make some kind of return from Victory. One of NJ’s iconic breweries, River Horse, brews a tasty Cherry Berliner Weisse, too.

Some other Berliner Weissbiers I’d like to try:

Like the great majority of beer from The Bruery/Bruery Terreux®, this beer is available only in 750ml bottles and draft

 

Last year and a few weeks ago, I wrote about summer beers and I touched on a couple of Gose beers, but I now realize Berliner Weisse style should have received some attention and at least one slot in the 2018 Summer Sixpack. One of the best-selling and best rated beers over the last couple of years is Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale, a beer lauded for how thirst-quenching it is. Although categorized as a Gose on untappd, SeaQuench happens to be a blend of three German styles including Berliner Weisse.

For a quick reference here is a List Berliner Weissbiers on Beer Advocate and a more exhaustive overview of the style over at All About Beer.

I’ll end it with this – give a Berliner Weisse a try if you happen upon one in your local brewery, see one on draft at your favorite bar/taproom, or if you see one on the shelves of your bottle shop. It is a classic style with much appeal and with an ABV often below 5%, it shouldn’t set you off your rocker too much..

Draught Diversions: April 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…

April closes out, thank goodness. It was not a fun month with travel I had and awful weather. But, there were some good beers for sure. Deciding on a final six-pack for the month was tough because April started out strongly with a few classics I hadn’t previously enjoyed. In fact, a good portion of the highlight beers for me for April can be considered Craft Beer Classics.

There are some definite Belgian leanings in this month’s six pack, whether a brewery from Belgium, American breweries known for Belgian-inspired ales, or a great, modern interpretation of a Belgian classic.  Let’s start with the most Belgian of American breweries…

Saison (Allagash Brewing Company) Saison / Farmhouse Ale – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Allagash has built a great reputation on brewing American interpretations of classic Belgian ales and few are more classic than a Saison. As it has turned out, the last few years I’ve been enjoying a different Saison on Easter Sunday. This was the perfect beer for Easter Sunday and a nice prelude to brunch. Light, sweet and well-rounded, I’ll be returning to this one in the future, for sure.

Candi Stout (Brewery Ommegang) Stout – Other – 3 bottle Caps on untappd

The other American brewery who built their reputation on Belgian inspired ales is Cooperstown, NY’s Brewery Ommegang. I enjoy much of their output, but when they stray too much from their wheelhouse – like this stout (or their Nirvana IPA) – then the results are mixed. I guess I get what they were aiming for with this beer, unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

Tripel Karmeliet (Brouwerij Bosteels) Belgian Tripel – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Proper Glassware from a proper Belgian bar

This ale is an absolute world-class, and classic, beer. I loved the sweetness and overall flavor profile with the magic produced by Belgian yeast. Although I would likely enjoy this beer *anywhere*, enjoying it on draught in a bar that serves only Belgian beer (25 on tap, 50 in bottles) didn’t hurt the experience. I had this on my business trip in the Austin, TX bar Mort Subite. I’ll likely need to go to Austin again for business and I’ll be hitting up Mort again.

90 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double – 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

Why did it take me so long to come around to IPAs!?!

I’m all in on IPAs now and found one that can be a steady go-to, the beer Esquire Magazine once called “the best IPA in America.” Perfect, absolutely perfect balance of malt and hops, with a pleasant hop bite and great hit of citrus sweetness. The reputation is well-earned because this beer does EVERYTHING a perfectly crafted IPA should do: it is true to style, innovative, and just plain delicious.

Devil’s Reach (Cape May Brewing Co.) Belgian Strong Golden Ale – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Belgian yeast = magic.

Cape May Brewing Company, the 2nd Largest NJ Craft Brewery, has a great reputation, they brew across the board, with a somewhat greater focus on IPAs. But this beer? This beer is outstanding, a delicious, sweet explosion of flavor that is deceptively high in ABV (8.6%) but so easy drinking. In some of my reviews I mention “an iconic shelf of NJ Beers” and I would definitely make room for this one. Not many NJ breweries make a “Belgian Strong Golden Ale” (as far as I know) so there honestly isn’t too much competition in the State for this style. Regardless, this is an absolute stand-out ale.

G.O.R.P. (Carton Brewing Company) Porter – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve professed my enjoyment of Carton’s beers often on this blog. The fact that some of Carton’s long-time brews are now hitting distribution in cans pleases me immensely. Especially when I’ve been wanting to try Good Old Raisins and Peanuts for a couple of years now and the beer largely lived up to what I was hoping it would be. The quality I was expecting because the Carton logo is on the can, but the flavors were a little less expected. Some beers that have peanuts or peanut butter can be too cloying in the PB sweetness. Here with G.O.R.P.; however, the sweetness of the raisins and roasted peanuts come together deliciously on the finish, especially as the beer warms a bit.

Honorable mention to an annual April Favorite: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. This is a beer that absolutely lives up to its reputation and the 2018 vintage is outstanding.

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: A 6-Pack to Bring Back

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…

When I learned recently that my go-to Summer beer was being discontinued (Yeungling Summer Wheat, a solid mass produced Hefeweizen), it got me thinking, and thinking rather forlornly. Sometimes a brewery releases a beer you really enjoy, maybe it was a seasonal, maybe it was a beer in regular rotation. Then the season comes for the beer to hit the shelves and you find out the brewery ceased production on those beers or the beer just goes out of rotation. Or, even sadder, the brewery is no longer in business. I’ve come up with a 6 pack of beers I wish would return. One of these I’ve had since joining untappd so it hasn’t been too too long since a couple disappeared, while others have been absent from taps and liquor stores for many years.

Dogfish Head Raison D’Être

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head

I know Samuel Adams was the brewery that drew many people, including me, to craft beer 20-ish years ago, but Dogfish is one that showed all the interesting things that could be done in beer. This beer is a classic and at the time I first had it and continued to buy it, I didn’t know the difference between a stout and Belgian Strong Ale, which is what this beer is considered. I just knew that the peculiar ingredients for a beer (at the time) which include Beet sugar and raisons (coupled with the Belgian yeast) made for a rich beer that I thoroughly enjoyed. As the link above describes the beer: “A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beet sugars and green raisins.” This one appears on beermenus occasionally and may show up at Dogfish tap takeovers, but damn would I love to see a six pack of this in my local bottle shop. I think the last time I had it was probably at least five years ago.

Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat

Original label with iconic Long Trail bear mascot

For years for this slightly fruited wheat ale from Vermont was a perennial summer favorite; it was very refreshing, perfect for enjoying pool-side, or in the yard after a hard day’s yardwork. There was a big uproar as this great All About Beer article points out when the beer was pulled from production/circulation in 2014 after being the brewery’s #2 seller at one point in time. I know technically this beer returned in cans a year or two ago, but I don’t think the beer made it to NJ. At least no stores around me seemed to carry it.

Can redesign. Still haven’t seen this in NJ

There was a time I’d see Long Trails tasty beers all over the place (this along with Double Bag and Triple Bag are favorites) but not quite as much in recent years. I would always keep Blackberry Wheat and Sam’s Summer Ale in constant rotation from Memorial Day to Labor Day and found their Survival Pack (which included BBW) to be a great variety pack to pick up at a moment’s notice when people came over in the summer.

 

Pete’s Wicked Summer Brew

Ah, Pete’s Wicked, one of the sadder stories in American Craft Beer. They were 1 and 2 with Samuel Adams, as I recall, in the mid to late 90s craft beer movement. I even remember the radio commercial for “Pete’s Wicked Summer Breeewww” and thanks to YouTube, the humorous folksy TV ads featuring brewer/owner Pete Slosberg. The lineup of Pete’s Wicked included the flagship Brown Ale, a delicious Summer Wheat and a Strawberry Ale. As the link to All About Beer indicates, the name was sold to Gambrinus a number of years ago so it is doubtful the brand or the beers will return. For many people my age (and older) Pete’s Wicked Ale will conjure up pleasant memories of when the American Craft Beer scene when it was in its youth, maybe less confusing, and with an unknowable level of growth potential.

Samuel Adams Honey Porter

This was one of the first dark beers I remember enjoying and for the years it was available, my favorite year-round offering form the Boston Beer company. It was brought back a couple of times after it was discontinued in 2000, once and in six packs in 2007 and again as part of a “Brewmasters collection” in 2010. I know my tastes have slightly changed since I last had the beer (I wouldn’t go near an IPA back then) but Porters are still a preferred style, so I would hope the suck fairy wouldn’t strike if this beer were to be available again.

Basically, the suck fairy is what happens when you revisit an old favorite and it turns out not to live up to the high regard in which you hold it in your memory.

Tilburg’s Dutch Brown Ale

I’m not sure the last time I saw this one or had it, but it had to be about 10 years ago, at the most recent, but I recall that Weird eye-catching bottle art from Hieronymus Bosch drew me to the beer, initially. There was a very good bottle shop on my way home from work that allowed you to make mixed six packs, and this was before I was aware of Wegman’s. I remember grabbing one for the mix and after enjoying it getting it regularly on its own. Even before I realized how much I enjoyed Belgian beers, I was enjoying a brown Belgian ale. As it so happens, I now work within walking distance to that same liquor store.

Brewed by Koningshoeven brewery (A.K.A. La Trappe, one of the great Trappest breweries) in the Netherlands, this beer was just a Belgian Brown. But it was so much more unique than the Brown Ales I knew of at the time (Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog and Newcastle) and made me feel fancy whenever I drank it.

Wolaver’s Organic Wildflower Wheat

I’ve made it pretty clear here at the Tap Takeover how much I enjoy wheat ales and for a few years, so multiple wheat ales on a post like this shouldn’t surprise anybody. I’ve only had a few from the venerable Vermont brewery and this was far and above my favorite. It was a great warm weather ale and had an extra hit of honey to balance out the whole flavor profile. Otter Creek discontinued the Wolaver’s Organic line of beers (including a very tasty Pumpkin Ale as well as a Coffee Porter called “Alta Gracia Coffee Porter”) a few years ago and seems to be focusing more on beers with strong hop profiles in recent years, so I doubt this beer will be coming back, but it was fantastic. I had it three times while on untappd, each time on draft, and it was perfect on those warm August nights.

The beer was described as: Wildflower wheat is a delicious unfiltered wheat ale brewed with organic chamomile flowers and a hint of pure organic Vermont honey.

So to close out with a final thought, here’s my ranking, from most likely to least likely, of the chances of these beers returning:

  1. Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat
  2. Dogfish Head Raison D’Être
  3. Samuel Adams Honey Porter
  4. Tilburg Dutch Brown Ale
  5. Wolaver Organic Wildflower Wheat
  6. Pete’s Wicked Summer Ale

So there you have it, 6 beers out of circulation/production I would drink right now. Any favorites you, my fine readers, wish would return?

Draught Diversions: Breweries to Visit, Part 2

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…

Here’s the second on my potentially ongoing series featuring breweries I would like to visit. The first five were easy, the next five are also relatively easy, too. A combination of historical importance to beer and the products I’ve enjoyed from them pushed these breweries to my “wish list.” The breweries in today’s post are largely in the Northeastern US. As I’ve intimated, distribution for some of the smaller breweries that seem to offer products I like (Schell’s in Minnesota, for example) doesn’t make it easy or convenient for me to even taste beers from breweries who don’t distribute into NJ, thus the geographical bias.

Like the first installment of this “series,” I’ll use the arbitrary ranking of “From Which Brewery Does Rob Have the Most Unique Untappd Check ins”

Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, NY (2002)
Total Southern Tier beers checked into untappd: 25

I’ve been enjoying Southern Tier’s brews for as long as I can remember enjoying craft beer. Being only one state over from their home base, their tasty brews have almost always been readily available. They’ve been a trusted brewer of delicious beer well before I was on untappd, their range of styles is impressive from their wonderful “Blackwater Series” of stouts (Choklat, Crème Brulee, and Choklat Oranj Stout) to their ales Citra Hopped Live Pale Ale, Tangier, 3 Citrus Peel Out to their legendary Pumpkin beers: Pumking and perhaps my favorite Pumpkin beer Warlock, Southern Tier brews beer in styles that please just about every palate.

Additionally, Southern Tier became partners with perhaps my favorite brewery, Victory Brewing, last year as

Artisanal Brewing Ventures. Since I’ve visited Victory a few times, it only makes sense that I visit their sibling brewery.

Samuel Adams / The Boston Beer Company Boston, MA (1984)
Total Samuel Adams beers checked into untappd: 24

Let’s face it fellow “craft beer enthusiasts,” if not for Jim Koch and the Boston Beer Company, many of us may still be drinking Michelob, Miller Lite, or Coors. For me, Samuel Adams was my big introduction to good tasting beer. When their beers hit the scene, my father converted from Anheuser-Busch, primarily the Michelob product line, to the Church of Koch. I really didn’t enjoy beer until college and getting the Samuel Adams Holiday Sampler back in the mid 1990s was a taste-bud opener. I recall the packaging to this day and getting bottles of Cranberry Lambic and really enjoying it despite not knowing what the hell a Lambic was. I also really liked the Cream Stout, too, but the highlight was always the Old Fezziwig Ale.

My preference for their brews has waned over the years (I still say that Boston Lager is the weakest of all their beers), but I do appreciate their experimentation with styles and variations, like the latest Harvest Hefe (I’ve yet to try). Where they’ve not quite hit the mark is falling a little behind on the IPA craze as Jim Koch has admitted to not being a fan of the style.

Their seasonal offerings are quite good, the Summer Ale is always a favorite. In fact, the most refreshing beer I ever had was a Samuel Adams Summer Ale after spending over 12 hours putting up a fence around my pool. The Old Fezziwig ale is still sought after and a beer EVERYBODY wishes would be distributed in six packs. One of the beers I enjoyed most from them, and I wish would return is the Honey Porter, that’s the beer that really introduced me to what a Porter was.

If I can really say anything negative is that the constant label changes for their beers are a tad….frustrating. I miss the old ones with Samuel Adams hoisting a tankard of ale on every label like the one to the left from a couple of years ago.

I visited the Samuel Adams Taproom in Boston on my last business trip up there about 15 years ago but didn’t do a full tour of the brewery. However, a full tour of the facility is a must for anybody who enjoys craft beer, it would seem especially after hearing what the folks at Flounder Brewing had to say about their experience at the brewery.

Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford, CT (2002)
Total Two Roads beers checked into untappd: 15

I’ve had only about 10 beers from Two Roads, but their consistency for those beers is extremely impressive. One of their best beers is their Workers Comp Farmhouse Saison. This shouldn’t be too surprising since Two Roads’s Master Brewer Phil Markowski literally wrote the book on Farmhouse Ales. Lest you think this is all Two Roads brews, their portfolio runs the gamut of styles and influences, from their wonderful Ol’ Factory Pils Pilsner, the delicious No Limits Hefeweizen to the outstanding Honeyspot Road IPA and one of the best pumpkin beers produced annually, Roadsmary’s Baby (Pumpkin beer aged in Rum Barrels!). Like the breweries already mentioned, Two Roads brews styles to match most beer-drinker’s palates.

Over the past couple of years, Two Roads has begun an impressive program of Sour Beers. Last winter, I had Bog Wild a cranberry-sour and I thought it fantastic. As part of the push for Sour Beers, Two Roads uses an old milk truck to allow the beer to sour for what they’ve dubbed the “Tanker Truck Sour Series.” They recently broke ground on a new brewing facility, Area Two Experimental Brewing on their property for sours and spirit-based barrel-aged beers. Given that, I may want to hold off on visiting until that facility is up and running.

Tröegs Independent Brewing, Hershey, PA (1996)
Total Tröegs beers checked into untappd: 10

I know, I know, Tröegs is only one state away in Pennsylvania. But Pennsylvania is a big state and for my beer purchasing dollar, one of the best beer states.Hershey is just outside of a day trip, so this one would likely be an over-night trip so a trip to Hersey Park could be part of the journey. Logistics aside, as I pointed out in my review of their wonderful dopplebock Trogenator, Tröegs is one of the foundational breweries of not just the Northeastern US, but of the American craft beer scene. In the midst of several mergers, acquisitions, and ownership splits for other brewers, Tröegs has remained fiercely independent, family owned, and community committed.

Like Southern Tier, I can’t recall a time where I haven’t seen Tröegs beers available on shelves in my area. I’ve extolled the virtues, at length, of Trogenator but that is just the tip of the iceberg for these brewing brothers. Their Dreamweaver is a fine, widely available Hefeweizen, Sunshine Pils is a terrific pilsner, and Mad Elf…Mad Elf is legendary American Christmas Ale and an annual holiday beer tradition for me.

Tröegs also has an experimental series of beers they’ve dubbed the “Scratch Series,” and I need to try some of those.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE (1995)
Total Dogfish Head beers checked into untappd: 8

I know I’ve lauded many of the breweries I’ve highlighted here and the earlier post for ingenuity, but when it comes to experimental, “off-centered” beers, few can compare to the output of Sam Caligione’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Sam’s got the personality to keep his beer in the spotlight, he even had a television show a few years ago, Brew Masters.

For whatever reason, I haven’t had nearly as many Dogfish Head beers since joining untappd, but the brews I’ve had have been great to outstanding, just look at what I said about Oak-Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout a few months ago. Their Namaste White is a nearly perfect Witbier, Indian Brown Ale is a tasty brown ale (a very underrated style), and Festina Peche is a great take on the classic Berline Weisse. For years I would try to get a six pack of Raison D’Etre when I could but it seems much harder to find now. I can’t think of any other beer off the top of my head that features beets and raisins, but damn was this a good beer. I recall sharing a bottle of the rare Fort years ago and loving it.

Right, for the quality of their beers, what Dogfish means to the American Craft Beer Landscape and some of the fantastic brewery only releases (like Carobock, a chocolate-banana Weizenbock!) make this another must-visit.

Ein Prosit!

Beer Review: Dogfish Head Oak Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout

Name:Oak Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout
Brewing Company: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton Delaware
Style: Stout / Imperial Stout / American Double
ABV: 16% IBU: 70

If hasn’t become clear by now by how often it appears in beer reviews, this is one of my favorite beer glasses.

From the beer’s description on Dogfish Head’s site:

Rare and often rumored about in the darkest corners of the beer community, World Wide Stout is dark, rich, roasty and complex, and lingers somewhere beyond the limits of the average beer.

Brewed with a ridiculous amount of barley, we’ve now taken this Dogfish Head classic and aged it on oak with real vanilla beans! With a little tender love and care we foster this beer from smooth, sweet wort into the big, bad blackend stout it always longed to be. Its bold, port-like complexity goes great with (or as) dessert.

With its high ABV, this is an excellent candidtate for cellaring, so grab a few bottles to enjoy now and lay the others down for a few years.

I seem to be making my way through some of the foundationial Northeastern Craft Breweries on these beer reviews without even planning it, having reviewed great beers from Tröegs and Victory in Pennsylvania and Flying Fish right here in New Jersey. Few breweries and brewers have as much respect in the world of craft beer as Dogfish Head and Sam Calagione. From experimental brews to beers that are icons in the American Craft Beer landscape, Dogfish Head has been brewing it all since 1995 and Sam even had a TV Show (Brew Masters).

One of their semi-regular releases is World Wide Stout, big 18% Stout that catches a hefty price tag. One bottle can be pricier than a six-pack of a quality beer. I was foolish when the beer was released last year, I didn’t pick up a bottle. However, I was not going to let this Oak-Aged Vanilla variant go off the shelves without picking up a bottle.

My, oh my am I glad I picked up a bottle.

The first thing I did after pouring the beer in the glass pictured above was nothing. Just look at how pitch black and beautiful that beer looks. I wanted to let it sit for a bit, come up to room temperature and breath to let the flavors come alive. Strike that, I took a big whiff of the beer and there was a great punch of vanilla.

I was slightly nervous, I have to admit. I’ve had a couple of beers with vanilla beans or some kind of vanilla component and I was a little disappointed, the vanilla was too over powering in those beers. I won’t name names, I try to focus on the positive when talking about specific beers here at the Tap Takeover. Knowing the quality of Dogfish Head’s beers, I really should not have worried. If the aroma was a hint of things to come (and it was), the vanilla here was quite present but not dominant.

The first sip was just sublime, the roasty flavor of a stout comes through, there’s a little bit of the oak, but that vanilla shines through so well. Like I said, it doesn’t hit you in the face and overpower you, but it is a noticeable, perfect blend with the stout flavors you’d expect along with a hint of the oak.

The beer is a whopping 16% ABV and isn’t too noticeable on the first sip, but the more you have of the beer, the more the potency comes through. Again, not in an overpowering way, but as a perfect element of the gestalt of this beer.

One other element of the beer that surprised me was the high IBU at 70 IBUs, when I saw that I earned another level on “Hopped Up” badge (for beers with an IBU over 65). A lot of these higher ABV stouts have a large hop presence, but there was no real bitterness to the beer, the hops were just slightly noticeable to me at least. Again, a perfectly applied component of a delicious beer.

A sipping beer to enjoy over the course of 45 minutes or so, or “slow, easy drinking” as I said on my untappd comment. This one helped me through the finale of Game of Thrones. While the show delivered some of what I expected, the beer went above and beyond to the point I was sad when there was no more.

This is an outstanding beer that I cannot recommend enough, if you are able to track down a bottle. I know I will because I want to see how this beer tastes a couple of years from now.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.75-star rating.