Beer Review: Muckraker Beermaker’s Maple Black & Blue

Name: Maple Black & Blue
Brewing Company: Muckraker Beermaker
Location: Franklin, NJ
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Other
ABV: 7%

A fruity, funky, tasty, and interesting beer that demonstrates flair and inventiveness.

Muckraker_MBBB

From Muckraker’s landing page for the beer:

Farmhouse ale with Pilsner and Wheat malts from our good friends at Rabbit Hill Farms and referemented it on 6lb per gallon of Atlantic County blueberries and blackberries from the amazing people at Pastore Orchards in Hammonton.

While the beer was undergoing an extended refermentation, we drove up to Brattleboro, Vermont, where by happenstance we ran into a just-emptied barrel from the spirit-masters at Saxtons River Distillery.

The American Oak barrel had been first used to age their Sapling maple bourbon, and then to finish a special reserve of their maple liquor of the same name.

We filled a single barrel with the beer and let it age for about nine months in the oak before we keg conditioned it.

Muckraker is one of the more interesting breweries in the State of New Jersey. Owner Tom Troncone (a former journalist, thus the name Muckraker) eschews the standard styles. Sure he has an IPA on draft, but just one of those. Most of his beers are Wild Ales / Spontaneously Fermented Ales. Some of the beers Tom brews blur the lines that typically divide and categorize beer, cider, seltzer, slushie and wine. I’ve been wanting to try some of these beers for a while, especially after hearing Tom on an episode of John Holl’s Drink Beer, Think Beer podcast. Well, I finally stopped in the brewery with some friends since we were in the area on the Sunday before Memorial Day. When I saw a beer made with blueberries and blackberries, I had to give it a try.

The beer I’m given is a blueish purple, which given the quantity of blueberries and blackberries in the beer, is not the least bit surprising. A fruity, funky aroma drifts into my nose and graces my sense of smell. I think I might like this beer.

First sip is all the fruit. Fortunately, I liked the fruits in this one a lot so I like what I’m tasting. I have probably pointed out in the past that blueberry might be my favorite fruit and the blueberries (and blackberries) in this beer are from Hammonton, NJ, the blueberry capital of the world. There’s a slight funk to the beer, more than I’d expect from most Farmhouse ales, but the sweetness and tartness from the blueberries and blackberries balances out the funk nicely. The yeast element is an underlying element that keeps this true to being a beer, particularly a farmhouse ale.

The finish of the beer, for me, is akin to an intriguing journey that began pleasantly and comes to a delightful conclusion. The maple and vanilla come into play in a most welcome fashion. That’s something really nice and unexpected given the fruits, but going back to the description is on point. Hints of maple increase the sweetness and the oak character comes through very nicely. There’s a little bit of vanilla from the barrel which plays extremely well with the copious amounts of berries in the beer. Blueberry and vanilla are a natural combination and while vanilla isn’t in the beer, the way in which oak can evoke hints of vanilla is present and pleasant.

My friend bought me a bottle and the beer from the bottle I drank about a week later seemed quite different. The funk/sour/tart level is amped up considerably and even the color is darker. I don’t get the maple and oak elements quite as much from the bottle, either. One could be forgiven for thinking the beer from the bottle and the beer served on draught are even different beers. The quality is still high, but the flavor profile is different.

Muckraker_MBB_Bottle

Maple Black & Blue is a fascinating, complex, experimental beer that eschews the norm when it comes to beer in general and farmhouse ales in particular. If you are interested in trying really well-made beer outside the normal/standard styles, this one fits the bill as do most of the beers from Muckraker Beermaker. If funky with some fruit is a beer style you like, give this one a try.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Ashton Brewing’s Shore de Garde

Name: Shore De Garde
Brewing Company: Ashton Brewing
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: Farmhouse – Bière de Garde
ABV: 7.8%

A fantastic take on a relatively obscure Farmhouse Ale demonstrates the high quality beer I’ve come to expect from Ashton Brewing.

Ashton__ShoreDeGarde

From Ashton Brewing’s landing page for beers:

The 2021 Motown MASH Best of Show winner, Erik Shore, created this delicious country ale. It is a Bière de Garde, which is a French Farmhouse Ale. This beer is malty, clean, dry and smooth. Truly a keeper.

I’ve been really enjoying the beers coming out of Ashton Brewing over the last couple of years, regardless of style. I happened to stop in recently and saw this beer on draught, a style I don’t see often – Bière de Garde, a French Farmhouse Saison-type of ale which translates as “beer for keeping.” Whereas a Farmhouse Ale of the Saison variety is lighter in color, like straw, a Bière de Garde is a little more malty and darker in color. As such, I don’t have too much to compare Shore de Garde against, with the exception of Two Roads’s tasty Holiday Ale.

Before getting the full pour, Donna (one of the owners) kindly allowed me a sip/small taste of this beer and the Saison/Farmhouse they had on draught that day. Both were good, but this one was different enough that I wanted the full pour.

The beer I’m given is a relatively clear golden-burnt umber color. It looks relatively unique, which is enticing. Aroma…I didn’t get anything out of the ordinary on the aroma portion of the show, so I dive in for my first sip.

First taste…is both unique and somewhat familiar. I think the yeast elements give the beer some familiarity, kind of what I’d expect from a Saison or Farmhouse Ale. But the malt character…that’s what is unique, at least what I expect in this style of beer. There’s a sweetness that is rather different from most Farmhouse Ales I’ve enjoyed. The fruitiness is more earthy, maybe figginess and dates? Whereas the Saison side of Farmhouse evokes more of a banana flavor.

This is a very surprising, pleasant beer. The more I drink, the more I enjoy it. It is a fun beer in many ways, in terms of trying to determine what flavors are coming from the yeast and malt combination, and quite delightful.

As the description calls out, this beer is a product of MASH. As I noted in my Brewery Spotlight for Ashton Brewing, Steve is a member of MASH (Morris Area Society of Homebrewers) and I think this is the second beer (at least) that is a product a MASH contest and it is a damned fine one at that. Donna mentioned to me that the batch on draught that day was essentially a test batch and that it did well enough that Ashton will be canning this beer with the next full batch. This is a unique style, a flavorful, well-crafted ale that is worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.