Draught Diversions: O’Fallon Pumpkin 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…

Now for a seasonally appropriate review of a variety pack of pumpkin beers less than a week before Hallowe’en, the O’Fallon Pumpkin Pack.

O’Fallon Brewery, based in Missouri, has been crafting ales and lagers since 2000 including their regionally popular Pumpkin Beer. Unfortunately, only select beers of their output are distributed here in NJ, although I recall seeing their pumpkin beers last year and I did pick up a bomb of their Imperial Stout earlier in the year. Two particular beers in  this “Pumpkin Patch” pushed me to get the variety pack, the Jack O’Latte Milk Stout and Pumpkin Bread Dunkelweizen. So, how did the whole variety pack fare? Like most variety packs some beers were, of course, better than others, but not in ways that I expected. I’ll give a mini-review of each below leading up to the one I enjoyed the most.

The beer I had first was the Pumpkin Bread, as I’ve said in some posts, I really like Dunkelweizens so I’m always on the lookout for a new Dunkel to try. In the case of O’Fallon’s Pumpkin Bread, there are definitely bready elements of the Dunkelweizen but a lot of the expected finishing notes (clove/banana) are masked or altogether not present due to the pumpkin / pumpkin spice elements. As I commented on untappd, it does exactly what the label suggests, evokes the flavor profile of pumpkin bread. That said, there’s something not quite there for me. Not a bad beer, just not quite what I’d hoped.

 

Next up (and the one I tried last) was the standard Pumpkin Beer, which was a perfectly acceptable pumpkin ale. It didn’t blow me away but it didn’t leave an aftertaste like some pumpkin ales can leave. Better than many pumpkin beers I’ve had, not quite as good as a few others, and one I’d rank in the top half of the many pumpkin beers I’ve had. In other words, a pumpkin ale I’d reach for again. I can understand why this is a local favorite in the State of Missouri, this is a very drinkable ale. This would be for relaxing by a fire pit whilst enjoying a few while the night begins to cool.

 

The one that surprised me the most was Saison De Citrouille. Citrouille is French for Pumpkin, and as the name implies, this is a Saison/Farmhouse brewed with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. While I enjoy Saison/Farmhouse Ales, they aren’t one of my “go to” styles. Sometimes, this style can have a bitter, earthy aftertaste that I find unpleasant. On the other hand, some of the lighter Saisons I’ve had are more crisp with a bit of a fruitiness to the flavor profile. O’Fallon’s take on the style is a nice variation and melding of styles, the pumpkin spices blend really well with esters in the beer, complementing each other for a balanced, tasty beer. A perfect beer for those early fall days that still have some warm winds and sun leftover from the summer.

Last is Jack O’Latte and the beer from this variety pack I enjoyed the most. There was a time I loved pumpkin flavored coffee and would have it every day once the leaves started changing. Since the Pumpkin Spice overkill began a few years ago (coupled with Dunkin Donuts drastically altering its flavorings), I slowed that roll and mostly drink dark roast coffee. Anyway, back to this beer… Jack O’Latte does everything right with those flavors: a stout sweetened with lactose, further enhanced with pumpkin / pumpkin pie spices for a beer that makes you want more. If this were available in 6-packs, I would make sure to pick up a pack every fall. In the end, isn’t that what a brewery tried to do with the beer it produces?

The final verdict: The O’Fallon Pumpkin Pack is worth trying if you enjoy pumpkin beers and are looking to sample a variety of styles with pumpkin/pumpkin spice flavors. Each beer is good with the Saison De Citrouille and Jack O’Latte very good. I it is impressive, on the whole, how well O’Fallon blends the pumpkin flavors into a variety of typically non-pumpkin styles.

Beer Review: Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s Dunks Ferry Dunkelweizen

Name: Dunks Ferry Dunkelweizen
Brewing Company: Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co.
Location: Croydon, PA
Style: Dunkelweizen
ABV: 5.2%

Proper weizen glass for a proper weizen beer

From the beer’s description on Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s Web site:

We stay with the German wheat beer theme for our Fall seasonal, and much like it’s Summertime sister, Dunks Ferry Dunkelweizen has a unique banana and spicy clove character but this time paired with a chewy, bready (dare we say banana bread) malt backbone. Again, we hop this German wheat beer with Hallertau and Tettnanger hops. 5.2% ABV.

I may have mentioned I like Dunkelweizens so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’ve come around to reviewing one. As I said in the post about Dunkelweizens, there just aren’t enough of this traditional European style widely available. Thankfully, the fine folks at Neshaminy Creek brew Dunks Ferry as a fall offering. Originally available on draft and in 22oz bomber bottles, last year Neshaminy Creek Brewing began distributing the beer in 4 packs of pint cans.  But what about the beer itself?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had only 9 beers from Neshaminy Creek, but I have really enjoyed each of them. Their stout offerings in particular are repeats for me and this one is probably my favorite that isn’t a stout. But this one is a darker, somewhat maltier beer, so there is that common strand…

A nice pop when opening the can hints at the freshness before pouring unleashes some of the aroma, but it doesn’t fully breathe (obviously) until the beer is in the class. Like many Dunkelweizens, Dunks Ferry’s aroma is similar to that of a Hefeweizen, but this one in particular might be a little sweeter, with slightly more banana in the flavor profile.

The hazy brown color is maybe slightly lighter than some other Dunkelweizens I’ve enjoyed (well, Erdinger’s I recall being quite dark), but the taste from the first sip really nails the expected notes of the flavor profile. Most Bavarian wheat beers lean towards a strong clove notes or more fruity notes. I like both flavor leanings, Dunks Ferry is nicely balanced with both in almost equal measure with maybe, just maybe the fruit/banana presence being slightly more prominent. The yeast, as it does in these more bready beers, gives Dunks Ferry a nice, balanced flavor profile that is subtle and welcoming. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is like drinking banana bread (Well’s Brewery has you covered for that), but the beer evokes some of the same hits in the taste buds that a tasty bread does.

I gave a brief shout out to this beer when I suggested more breweries should be brewing Dunkelweizens on a regular basis. At least in the Northeastern US, Neshaminy Creek’s Autumnal Wheat beer is one of the only ones available in distribution near me in NJ. Fortunately, it is a high quality Dunkelweizen so it is far from the worst-case scenario of beggars not being choosers. In other words, if other Dunkelweizens were readily available, I would likely still go for this one repeatedly.

This late summer/fall, I unfortunately did not see Dunks Ferry as much as I recall seeing it in previous years. Breweries tend to tweak their annual beer portfolio from year to year and I hope this one doesn’t go away or become just a draft-only release.

If you are curious to try a solid American Craft take on a classic German/Bavarian dark wheat ale, Dunks Ferry is well with giving a try (and picking up a four-pack).

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Draught Diversions: Underappreciated Styles – Dunkelweizen

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 a potential recurring theme … Overlooked & underappreciated styles. This time around, I’ll focus on a traditional German/Bavarian Style – Dunkelweizen.

I can only guess at the reasons why this rich, classic style gets overlooked. One of those is the prevalence of Hop-forward beers in the US craft beer market place, you know, the ever present IPA and all the derivations of the style. Similarly, the popularity and abundance of stouts and their various styles may draw drinkers who prefer darker beers away from Dunkelweizens.

But back to the Dunkelweizen…a wonderful, yeasty, bready, clovey beer which is a dark cousin of the classic Hefeweizen. If Hefeweizen is a beer that can be associated with summer, then Dunkelweizen may be an early fall beer or late spring beer. Days when the warmth is comfortable enough to don shorts or cool enough to go long pantsed, evenings cool enough to throw a hooded sweatshirt on while still wearing your shorts from the day.

While the low hop bitterness of the style is likely one reason, another is that not that many American breweries make Dunkelweizens. Neshaminy Creek in Pennsylvania brews one annually (Dunks Ferry Dunkelweizen) as a fall seasonal, Samuel Adams occasionally releases a dunkelweizen, and Shiner brews one around Christmas. I’d suspect the smaller breweries that lean more towards traditional German brewing styles would be brewing a Dunk on occasion.

Three microbreweries I’ve visited in New Jersey brew Dunkelweizens regularly: Demented in Middlesex brews a Dunkelweizen (Der Wolf) as a fall seasonal. I had it in a flight not long after Demented opened its doors so I’d like to revisit it again. Jughandle brewed one in their first year, which was pretty good. Ramstein / High Point Brewing, one of the stalwarts, or “five O.G. New Jersey craft breweries,” has a Dunkelweizen (or Dunkel Hefe-weizen as they call it) as part of its regular line up of beers. This makes sense considering the Germanic foundation of the brewery. I really need to get up to that brewery and sample all of their beers, I’ve only had the Hefeweizen and liked it a lot.

One anecdotal indication of the lack of Dunkelweizens in the beer market is doing a quick Google search of “Dunkelweizen.” The search returns more results that pertain to home-brewing Dunkelweizens than breweries who brew Dunkelweizen.

Another guess is that perhaps one of the issues with a lack of Dunkelweizens is the delicate brewing process? I recall picking up a six pack almost two years ago and the beer was skunked, it tasted more like a sour beer than a Dunkelweizen. A little googling at the time returned some results that the process can allow for souring if not monitored properly. That having been said, I would think any brewery making a Hefeweizen would (or maybe even should?) brew up a Dunkelweizen for their line-up.

As for some of the better Dunkelweizens I’ve had, unfortunately, I’ve only had a small handful of Dunkelweizens although I would most definitely welcome more on the market and in my refrigerator. As I sad last week, the wheat base and clovey/banana-y flavor profile hits my taste-buds so well. One of the best Dunkelweizens I had was from the venerable German brewer who brews only wheat beers, Erdinger. About a year ago, my wife and I went to one of our favorite restaurants going back to our Rutgers University days, Stuff Yer Face. To my pleasant surprise they had Erdinger Dunkel on tap and it was delicious. It had been a few years since I went there and I was was pleased with impressive beer menu. Since going there with my wife, and I returned recently again in part because of that beer menu. But I digress. Erdinger’s take on the style was probably the best Dunkelweizen I’ve had in years, or at least since joining Untappd. Of course, the classic German brewery Weihenstephaner makes a great Dunkelweizen, which was just about as good as Erdinger’s. I think the main difference is how fresh the Erdinger was since I had it on draught.

Photo courtesy of Erdinger’s web site. The dark color of the beer just says fall beer.

Another great and more recent Dunkelweizen I enjoyed was the “Dunkle Weisse” from Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across the World variety pack this year.  This was a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and the great German Brewery, Ayinger.

 

Who knows. Only a few years ago even some of the more vocal and “experienced” craft beer drinkers didn’t know what a Gose (another German wheat-based beer) was and that style is extremely popular now, with many breweries creating at least one Gose beer for continual rotation in their lineup. Although the Dunkelweizen isn’t quite as obscure as a Gose once was, I’d like to see Dunkeweizen come back to even half the popularity that Gose now enjoys.

Draught Diversions: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2017 The Overseas Six

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

This is the second of two posts focusing on Sierra Nevada’s annual collaboration beer project, Beer Camp. Today, I’m going to finish off my thoughts on the 2017 Beer Camp variety pack with the collaborations between Sierra Nevada and breweries from Overseas. Like last week’s post featuring collaborations with US breweries, I’ll go from the one I enjoyed the least and finish it off with the one I enjoyed the most.

White IPA with Yuzu – A collaboration with Kiuchi Brewery (Ibaraki, Japan)

I think my stance on IPAs is clear at this point… so I was pleasantly surprised by this White IPA. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t wow me like any of the other brews in this entire 12 pack. The White IPA was tasty and really low in bitterness  for an IPA (only 20 IBU) while the hop profile definitely imparted what it should for an IPA. The Japanese brewer, Kiuchi, brews a fairly well recognized Witbier (Hitachino Nest White Ale) which seems to be their contribution to this brew and provides a nice balance to the IPA profile complemented by the addition of the citrusy yuzu fruit. This was an interesting beer, but unfortunately, not as good as the other brews from overseas.

Campout Porter – A collaboration with Garage Project (Wellington, New Zealand)

Porter is one of my go-to styles of beer, especially in cooler weather, so I was looking forward to this one. I liked it, but as with some porters, there was a bit too much roastiness or smokiness in this beer. I expect that strong presence of smoke/roast in porters, but it is the quality in porters I like the least. The vanilla and honey were subtle, but I think their sweetness calmed the smokiness.

With Campout as the name of the porter, the smoke and roast elements were not a surprise. This was not a bad porter in any way, a very good one in fact. Just a little more smokey/roasty than I typically like in my porters but by no means is this a dud. I’d drink it again were it made available outside the 12-pack.

Hoppy Belgian Style Golden Ale (Brewed with Lemon Peel) – A ollaboration with Duvel Moortgat (Puurs, Belgium)

I’ve come to enjoy Belgian beers and beers brewed in the Belgian style/with Belgian yeast quite a bit as of late. Duvel is one of the more respected and well-known Belgian breweries in the world, so this one was right up my alley. A really nice balance of hops and Belgian yeast make this a beer I could have in constant rotation in my refrigerator. Don’t let that statement or the golden color fool you, this is no lightweight beer. At 8% it does have a kick that will catch up with you but is right in the sweet spot for hop profile.

Atlantic Style Vintage Ale – A collaboration with Fuller’s Brewery (London, UK)

Fullers is one of the big boys of British brewing, their ESB is the equivalent of an institution. The ESB stands for “Extra Special Bitter” so with that in mind, I was a bit cautious about this beer. I was expecting something bitter, but I was pleasantly surprised by the beer that poured out of the bottle. Barely any bitterness, but I expect that’s due to the plums added to the brewing mix.

This was a very complex beer that worked really well for my tastebuds. I’d love to have another bottle or three of it. A beer that exemplifies what one should expect in a mix pack of collaboration beers.

Thai-Style Iced Tea Ale – A collaboration with Mikkeler Brewery (Copenhagen, Denmark)

I had no idea what to expect with this beer. An American and Danish brewery collaborating on an Asian inspired beer? I was completely taken aback by this brew, there’s such a wonderful sweetness throughout that isn’t cloying nor does the sweetness overpower the profile. Rather, is still noticeable and pleasing. Additional tasty flavor components are citrus as well as the dark tea infused throughout.

This would make for a fantastic annual summer seasonal beer. Such a unique and different beer that really exemplifies experimental beer at its best – smart flavor enhancements without throwing in different flavor additives just to be crazy or experimental. I’m writing about it a couple of weeks after drinking the beer and I really would like to have another one.

Dunkle Weisse – A collaboration with Ayinger Brewery (Bavaria, Germany)

Of all the beers in this variety pack, the Dunkelweizen was the beer I was most anticipating and the beer I drank first. I love the German beers and German-inspired styles, but unfortunately for me, there just aren’t that many Dunkelweizens on beer shelves or on tap in bars. A shame because the style is quite complex and works in both summer, due to its similarity to Hefeweizens, and fall because of the darker color. This collaboration between Germany’s Ayinger and Sierra Nevada is a wonderful, perfect interpretation of the style. The yeast Ayinger uses is on full display in this beer that, coupled with the clovey and banana-y/bready hints, gave me everything I hoped it would give me when I popped the cap and poured it into my glass.

If you like Dunkelweizen, or haven’t tried the style and enjoy Hefeweizens, chances are you’d really enjoy this beer. I would buy this one by the caseload were it to become available by itself. This was one of the best Dunkelweizens I’ve ever had. I think the one I had that was better came from Erdinger, a German brewery known primarily for their wheat beers.

To sum up the Sierra Nevada 2017 Beer Camp Across the World variety pack, a very good mix of brews. I have to give the Overseas half the edge in terms of overall quality and consistency largely because I poured out one of the Stateside collaborations. There was a better balanced mix on the Overseas collaborations, even the one I liked the least from Overseas was drinkable.

On the whole, the Stateside Six had a more noticeable hop profile, while the Overseas Six seemed to have a greater range of flavor profiles.

My favorite from the Overseas (as the list above indicates) is the Dunkle Weisse collaboration with Ayinger, but the best beer overall was the New England IPA collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Treehouse.

If you have the opportunity and the 12-pack is still available in your local beer merchant, it is well worth your beer buying dollar to pick up this pack.

Draught Diversions: June 2017 Beer Pours

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

In addition to the beers I highlighted and enjoyed in my regular Tuesday reviews, I drank and enjoyed quite a few other beers. Some of the beers I’ll be featuring in the Tuesday reviews were enjoyed weeks and months ago, but here I’ll touch on a few of the best beers I had over the past month. In most, if not all cases, these are beers I had for the first time.  Yes, I know one day still remains in June as of this writing.

I started off the month really well with Dogfish Head’s Namaste White, which is the Delaware craft beer stalwart’s take on the classic Belgian Witbier. I haven’t had too many beers from Dogfish in the recent past, although I’ve always enjoyed their offerings, including Raison d’Etre to their Beer for Breakfast to the Festina Peche. This might be my favorite, at least as I compare it to those beers in my memory. I may have to pick up a six pack of this in the near future.

This was a delicious beer that has all the characterstics a Belgian wheat should, a nice hit of citrus and coriander that says warm weather beer.  Incredibly refreshing.

Another beer I had for the first time was from another Northeastern beer stalwart,  Golden Monkey from the great Victory Brewing Company of Pennsylvania, one of my favorite breweries in the country. I will be writing about them more extensively in the future as I’ve visited them a few times. Out of the two dozen beers I’ve had from Victory, only one really disappointed. But back to Golden Monkey. This is Victory’s take on a the classic Belgian Tripel and it is a very good one, a nice banana, spicy, clovey profile that masks the 9.5% ABV.

I enjoyed Ommegang’s latest Game of Thrones inspired beer “Bend the Knee,” a Golden Ale with honey that was very, very tasty. The 9% ABV was barely noticeable and the honey infusion countered the bitterness/tinge that some golden ales can exhibit. I’ve had all of the Game of Thrones releases from Brewery Ommegang and this offering is on the top half of what they’ve produced so far. To be perfectly fair, all of the Game of Thrones beers have been good,  I’ll likely do a post about all of them.

I picked up Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across the World Variety pack. The last few years, Sierra Nevada has paired up with other brewers to make unique, one-time only beers under the Beer Camp banner. For this year’s installment, half of the beers were made with international brewers and I’ve so far sampled two, the Raspberry Sundae (collaboration with the Bruery) and the Dunkle Weisse (my untappd check in), a collaboration with the great German Brewery Ayinger. I would love for this to become a regular release in bottles as it is one of the best Dunkelweizens I’ve ever had. I may do a post on the whole 12-pack once I make my way through all of them.

One of the highlights of the month, the most recent “new to me beer,” and soon to be reviewed on the blog, was one of Flying Fish’s Exit Series brews: Exit 3: Blueberry Braggot. What a unique brew, more of a mead than a beer, but I’ll go into more detail in the full review.

I’m not sure what I’ll be drinking later today for my “New Brew Thursday,” but maybe I’ll talk about it in my potential July round-up or even dedicate a review to it.

I may be skipping the standard Thursday post next week with the July 4th holiday on Tuesday and post my beer review either Wednesday or Thursday. Frankly, who is going to be reading about beer on Independence Day? People will be drinking the beer – responsibly, I hope.

Ein Prosit!

Draught Diversions: Jughandle Brewing Company (Tinton Falls, NJ)

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

This is the first of what will be several posts featuring a single brewery I’ve visited. There are currently 73 production breweries in NJ and with state’s small size from a geographical perspective, it is quite easy to find a brewery either intentionally (by visiting the great and indispensable NJ Craft Beer website) or by accident. In my case, there are 4 or 5 micro/nanobreweries/brewpubs within about 15 miles of my house as of this writing. (More are on the way in some phase of start-up.)

Which brings me to Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls, NJ, soon to be celebrating their first year of brewing and selling beer. They have a great location, just off of the Garden State Parkway (Exit 102) and barely a mile from the Jersey Shore Outlets, which makes it very convenient to stop there after a day of shopping at the outlets or on the way home from the beach. In my case, my wife and I decided to enjoy the lovely weather and try to get some things at the outlets. We stopped in the brewery on our way home. After all, we had to pass it the brewery on our way to the Garden State Parkway after we left the outlets.

The brewery is located in a strip mall, which might seem somewhat odd initially. At least to folks not from NJ and unfamiliar with the peculiar laws surrounding breweries and microbreweries in particular. There are specific laws that preclude breweries from selling food. On the other hand, breweries in NJ like Jughandle and others (for example Ship Bottom in Beach Haven, Twin Elephant in Chatham, and Wet Ticket in Rahway) allow patrons to bring food inside the brewery. There’s a pizzeria and I think a Mexican take out place in the same strip mall as Jughandle.

What about the beer? What impressed me the most about the beer was the variety of styles on tap, with quality across the board for the four beers I sampled. There are too many breweries, I can think of a couple in NJ, that seem to only brew IPAs or focus on one primary style…or when you visit one of the smaller breweries and of the 12 taps, 9 are variations of one style. Not so with Jughandle, in addition to the styles I had, they were also pouring a Scotch Ale, a Brown Ale, a Irish-style Stout as well as a couple of IPAs

A cleverly designed flight paddle

I had four tasters, which is how many these fine folks include in their flight. I love the flight paddle they use for delivering their flight of tasters. I started off with Berliner Weisse with Raspberry – a very refreshing beer perfect for summer. Second was the Belgian Dubbel, a style I don’t see very often from smaller breweries, also quite good. Third was another style, steeped in tradition, but sort of drowned out by IPAs and other popular styles: Dunkelweizen. Jughandle’s Dunkelweizen really matched well against the style profile. Last was the classic German Hefeweizen and a very good rendition of it from the fine folks at Jughandle.  I’d likely fill my growler with their Berliner Weisse or Hefeweizen were I to visit them again.

I’d highly recommend stopping in if your travels take you near their location. If you are in NJ and enjoy quality beer, making Jughandle a part of your trip would be worth it.

As I mentioned at the top of my post, Jughandle is celebrating the first year on June 15 with a Pig Roast. Were I a little bit closer, I’d probably attend.

Ein Prosit!