Draught Diversions: Christmas (in NJ) 2020 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…

As I’ve been doing since I started The Tap Takeover, I’m presenting an assortment of interesting looking Christmas beers in my six pack format. Since I’ve been focusing more attention on local/NJ breweries since the Pandemic than in previous years, the Christmas 2020 Six Pack is all NJ beers. I’ve only had one of these beers, but they all look really tasty to me. Also, I’ve had beer from all six of these breweries and enjoyed them all. As is most often the case, I’m putting these in alphabetical order by brewery.

Figgy Pudding | Barleywine – English | The Alementary | Ithaca, NY | ABV 5.7%

Image courtesy of The Alementary’s Facebook

Figgy Pudding is a traditional British Christmas dessert and that’s what the Alementary is looking to emulate with this beer. At 9.1%, this beer would seem to me to be a dessert sipper to enjoy while opening the Christmas gifts after dinner. I like figs and many barleywines already evoke fig flavors, so this beer seems a natural concoction for Christmas enjoyment. I think the beer changes slightly from year to year, ao here’s The Alementary’s write-up from 2019.

What Alementary says about the beer in 2020:

Big sweet bready malt, with a full range of supporting characters from light toffee to low chocolate. Fruit aromas of apricot, date, significant fig. Flavors of holiday fruitcake with massive malt structure. Figs for days, with supporting apricot. Date and Prune are secondary.

Cheer | Brown Ale – American | Bonesaw Brewing Co | Glassboro, NJ | ABV 7.4%

Image courtesy of Bonesaw Brewing’s Facebook

Bonesaw has been open a couple of years and I’ve seen only great things about the South Jersey brewery. Some of their cans have been popping up here in Somerset County so hopefully this joyful looking ale makes it to shelves near me. Looks like a classic American take on a dark/brown ale but with some added spices, the way I read the description.

What Bonesaw Brewing says about the beer:

Now that the leaves have turned and fallen and the days are getting shorter and colder, we see the holiday season is here again. We made for you this Christmas ale to wrap up all the warm, familiar flavors and aromas into your cup of Cheer: a brown ale stuffed with orange, cocoa and winter spices.

Boughs of Barley | Cape May Brewing Company | Barrel Aged Quadrpel | Cape May, NJ | ABV 12.6%

Image courtesy of Cape May Brewing Company’s Facebook

”Boughs of Barley” is an annual release from Cape May Brewing Company, but it changes every year. Last year was a Baltic Porter, the year before an Imperial Stout. For 2020, There are two releases, each a Quadrupel, but they are aged in different barrels. I’m a big fan of Quads so I may try to snag one of these if I see them, I’d probably lean towards the Grand Marnier barrel.

About the beer:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: it’s time to deck the halls with Boughs of Barley! Our annual holiday offering, this year we’ve taken our insanely delectable Belgian quad and laid it to rest in some gigantic Portuguese sherry puncheons and a few incredible Grand Marnier barrels, each lending its own character to the base beer, adding layers and layers of complexity.

For this year’s Boughs of Barley, we took our rich and robust Belgian-style quadrupel ale and laid it to rest for many moons in barrels previously aging a well-known orange liqueur. A carefully layered grain bill fermented with our favorite fruity Belgian yeast, we’ve created a robust brew for your holiday season. Ample conditioning time in the orange liqueur barrels yields a well-rounded body with strong notes of orange peel and toasted marshmallows, making this orange liqueur barrel-aged Boughs of Barley our holiday treat for you.

Ginger Snap Cookie | Cream Ale | Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing | Cherry Hill, NJ | ABV 5.5%

Image courtesy of Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing’s Facebook

Forgotten Boardwalk does a very smart thing…they’ve got their popular Funnel Cake Cream Ale and they use it for multiple variants. The Christmas version is this appealing beer, Ginger Snap Cookie with all the holiday spices in the mix. I may need to snag a 4 pack.

What Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing says about this beer:

Bright and zesty, smooth yet not too sweet. Ginger Snap Cookie is a simple vanilla cream ale brewed with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel and clove to evoke the spicy savory flavor of the classic holiday cookie.

Malus | Belgian Strong Dark Ale | Kane Brewing Company | Ocean, NJ | ABV 9.5%

Malus is the only beer in this six pack I had and I thought it was very good. I had it a few years ago on draft and there’s enough of the beer elements to keep it a beer, but there’s a lovely apple cider flavor to the beer, too. Well worth seeking out.

What Kane says about the beer:

Malus, our 10% Belgian-style dark ale was the first beer we bottled back in 2012. We wanted to create an alternative to pumpkin beers, so we chose a warm spiced apple cider as inspiration. We source locally pressed cider from Delicious Orchards that we boil down and reduce into a syrup to replace the dark candi syrup we typically use. We then added orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and allspice to the kettle and fermented it with our house Belgian yeast. Malus is one of our more unique and interesting beers and is ideal for this time of year as it will warm you up with every sip.⠀

Winter Ale | Cider – Graff | Untied Brewing Company | New Providence, NJ | ABV 7.3%

Image courtesy of Untied Brewings’s Facebook

Untied has been brewing a “Winter Ale” each of the last three years since they’ve opened and this one seems the most interesting. Previously, they’ve brewed a straightforward Winter Ale and a Saison, but this one, as a cider ale blend, could hit the holiday spot perfectly.

What Untied says about the beer:

Wassail(Hot mulled Cider) inspired Graff (Cider/Ale Blend) brewed with Apple Juice, Nelson Sauvin hops, Chardonnay grape must, apple juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean, orange peel, molasses, and brown sugar.

It is an apple and cider forward Ale with notes of winter spices.

Not a bad, varied selection of beers, if I do say so myself.

Draught Diversion: Summer Six Pack 2020

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…

Memorial Day is the unofficial kick off of Summer (even though the season actually changes June 20/21), so what better time to highlight a six pack of beers geared towards warmer weather and beers that work perfectly in the Summer? This year, I’m focusing only on New Jersey breweries (which is only a slight shift from the norm) because since about March and the Pandemic, I’ve really wanted to focus more on local. As I said last year, because a post about Summer Beers was the very first Draught Diversion I posted/published, I want to continue the tradition especially since I just hit the three-year mark here at the Draught Diversion.

As in past Summer Six Packs, not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer..

Bull Pop | Sour – Berliner Weisse | 4.1% ABV | Bolero Snort Brewery | Carlstadt, NJ

A Berliner Weisse is a traditional German style of beer, lightly tart which is often counterbalanced by the addition of some kind of fruit. I’ve had a decent number in this style and even did an “Overlooked Style” post on the style. Bolero Snort’s take on the style emulates the Rainbow Ice pop that was in every body’s freezer in the summer.

What Bolero Snort says about the beer:

As a kid, it was fireworks on a hot summer night with a cold sticky treat to hold the heat at bay – so we decided to go all ‘Merica with this one and turn it into a beer! We started with a light, slightly tart base with added mouthfeel from a wheat heavy grist. Secondary fermentation on tart cherries, lime and raspberry gives this brew a red/pinkish hue with fruity aromatics and a dry finish. Grab one soon because just like the summer it will be gone before you know it.

Laid Back Lager | Lager – American Light | 5.3% ABV | Double Nickel Brewing Company | Pennsauken, NJ

Craft Light Lager…three words that are becoming somewhat more prevalent. There’s been a drive for lower calorie beers that maintain the same level of flavor as the standard craft fare and Double Nickel’s take seems to land pretty nicely in that spot. I haven’t had the opportunity to try this one yet, but based on the small sample size of beers I have had from Double Nickel, my guess is that this would be a tasty beer.

What Double Nickel says about the beer:

Everything you want in a Golden Summer Lager and more – drinkable, light, clean, and crisp – with notes of sweet summer melon from the Huell Melon hops–truly refreshing and crushable.

What the Butler Saw | Witbier | 5.0% ABV | Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing Company | Cherry Hill, MA

Shame on me for not including Forgotten BOARDWALK in any of my previous Summer six packs! Although What the Butler Saw is part of Forgotten Boardwalk’s year-round lineup (as Witbiers often are), the light, yet flavorful ale is perfect for a refreshing summer beer by the pool, after mowing the lawn, or on the porch.

What Forgotten Boardwalk says about the beer:

Brewed with: coriander, orange peel

Taste profile: light, refreshing, gentle spice

Shore Break | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 6.5% ABV | Slack Tide Brewing Company | Clermont, NJ

Slack Tide is a brewery whose beers I’ve yet to sample, but I’ve seen good things about their output. A Saison is a great beer for summer, considering the style was originally made as a reward/refreshment for Belgian farmers toiling in the fields. As such, the style is inherently refreshing and Slack Tide’s take looks really flavorful with the additional of orange peel. Prior to this year, I think this was only a taproom/draught only beer, making a debut in cans in Spring/Summer 2020.

What Slack Tide says about the beer:

Shore Break is our spin on a classic Saison. We use sweet orange peel and a Belgian yeast to develop a crisp yet sweet flavor profile. Then we dry hop the beer to give it a bit more aroma and citrus flavor. The result is summertime in a glass. Enjoy!

Poolside Lager | Lager – Pale | 5.2% ABV | Tonewood Brewing Company | Oaklyn, NJ

Tonewood has yet to disappoint me, but this is one of their many well-received beers I’ve yet to enjoy. How many times have I referred to a beer as a perfect “poolside” beer? Well, this has been part of Tonewood’s portfolio since they opened. Really, though, the name and label say everything you need to know for a perfect summer beer.

What Tonewood says about the beer:

Mexican Lager – Brewed with Saaz and Tettnanger hops, our Mexican lager yeast drives the flavor of this beer. Crisp and refreshing, the name says it all.

“Tastes Like Summer” Watermelon Wheat | Fruit Beer | 5.8 % ABV | Wet Ticket Brewing Company | Rahway, NJ

In some ways, I’m a weirdo. I’m about the only person I know who does not like Watermelon. I’ve always found the aroma and taste to be off-putting and overpowering so I’ve always strongly avoided beers with Watermelon. When I visited Wet Ticket about a year ago for a New Jersey Craft Beer night, my mind was changed. I had a glass of this beer and found it to be delicious and a perfect summer beer and wonderfully refreshing. That could be why Wet Ticket also calls this beer “Tastes Like Summer.” This is well worth seeking out

What Wet Ticket says about the beer:

Dominated by the fresh taste and aroma of watermelon, this beer is the perfect summer refresher. We started with a classic American Wheat recipe, then added the juice of 52 watermelons when the primary fermentation was almost complete. The resulting beer is crisp, dry, and will take you back to your favorite summer memories of finishing a backyard barbeque with a slice of watermelon.

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Draught Diversions: Bacon and Beer Classic Philadelphia

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…

With the growing popularity of Craft Beer by drinkers and the proliferation of smaller/micro/craft breweries across the country, beer festivals seem to happen every weekend. At least throughout the New Jersey/Pennsylvania/New York area, I think it averages out to one beer festival per weekend through October. (While some weekends don’t have any beer festivals, there are multiple weekends where multiple festivals are held).

This past weekend, I (along with my wife, brother-in-law, and his girlfriend) attended the Bacon and Beer Classic in Philadelphia. This was held at the end of Philly Beer week (June 1 to 11). The B and B Classic is nationwide festival held in various cities, one is being held at Citifield in New York, Soldier Field in Chicago last October,  and Safeco Field in Seattle a few months ago, among others. I’ve attended quite a few beer festivals (The Garden State Brew Festival for the past five years, a couple of others in Philadelphia), but this was the first that was more than beer. In the end, that uniqueness compared to the other festivals I attended was what set this one apart. I also really like the taster “glass” we were given, it looks like a red Solo Cup but is made of I’m guessing ceramic.

The festival was held at Schmidt’s Commons, sit of the old Schmidt Brewery. Urban Village Brewing Company, a brewpub that had opened it’s doors a week prior to the festival, is conveniently located at the commons. Dan Goldman, founder of the brewery, was pouring beer: Beach Day Belgian Blonde, which set the bar for the festival and a fantastic Oatmeal Stout. Dan also happened to be on Al Gatullo’s Craft Beer cast a couple of weeks ago.

Next up was the Iron Hart Brewing tent and boy was I surprised with Industrial Lager, the lager they were pouring. I can’t recall tasting a lager with such a pleasant malt/caramel profile. It still maintained the characteristics of the lager, but the higher malt was a nice balance. Also in that immediate area of the Commons was Shiner, pouring their Homespun Cream Ale which was very pedestrian. Root Down was pouring a style not many brewers are making – an Altbier they call 3 Legged Rabbit, which was a nice surprise. Their Pale Wheat, Slag was on the hoppy end for Pale Wheats.

Harpoon was one of the non-Pennsylvania breweries in attendance and they were pouring their UFO Witbier and Camp Wannamango, their Pale Wheat Ale with Mango. I’d had UFO plenty of times previously so passed on it to save room for other beers, but I did go for the Camp Wannamango only once before, so I wanted to give a try on draft. What a wonderful summer beer, the mango is a perfect addition for flavor and sweetness, but not too much sweetness. I need to stock my cooler with this over the summer.

Next to them was venerable PA brewery Weyerbacher, pouring the blonde Mellow Monks (which I’ve had before and enjoyed) and Line Street Pilsner which is a nice crisp pilsner well-suited to summer. Next to them was Green Flash Brewing, pouring an IPA (I passed) and Passion Fruit Kicker, a wheat ale with Passion Fruit. Sweet and tart, the beer borders on sour, but seems well-suited to warm weather.

I made my way to another non-PA brewery after that, Peak Organic Brewing Company from Maine. They were pouring two beers, Summer Session Ale and Fresh Cut. Summer Session Ale is similar to Founders’ All Day IPA but the wheat base cuts the bite of the hops, which is quite welcome. Fresh Cut is the brewery’s flagship beer, a wonderful Pilsner that I wish was available in NJ. It is everything a Pilsner should be for my beer drinking sensibilities, but with slightly less hop bitterness

Out in the center of the commons, Twin Lakes poured an IPA (I passed) and Caesar Rodney Golden Ale a slightly hopped Blonde. One of my favorite breweries, also a non-PA brewery, Great Lakes Brewing was pouring two beers, their Commodore Perry IPA and Turntable Pils, a tasty Pilsner.

Guinness was there pouring some of their staples, including a new Irish Wheat, which  was a surprisingly tasty Witbier. I say surprising because their American Blonde is not very drinkable. The only NJ brewery at the festival was Forgotten Boardwalk, I had another try of their Funnel Cake a tasty, but almost too sweet cream ale. Lagunitas, from Californa, was pouring their Pils which is a passable Pilser, but like many of their beers, the hop profile is strong and doesn’t quite sync up with my taste buds.

There’s usually at least one cidery at most of these beer festivals and this was no different – Jack’s Hard Cider  was pouring an Apple Hard Cider and Peach Cider. I can’t recall ever seeing Peach cider, but this was really tasty. The Peach was a nice sweet addition to the apple base.

I closed out my beer tastings with two from venerable Philadelphia brewery Saint Benjamin’s Brewing Company. I’ve had their Wit or Witout in the past, but during that session, they were pouring Franklin’s Abbey Dubbel, a Belgian Dubbel and quite good and Inca a cream ale. I think I’ll need to visit this brew pub on a future visit to Philadelphia.

One food guy was grilling up sliders which were great. Hormel, one of the main sponsors, was giving out what seemed to be all varieties of their bacon (about 6 or 8 in total) and some delicious pork belly. Some other bacon samplings included bacon wrapped hush puppies, bacon/fish tasters, fried bacon mac and cheese, and bacon topped waffles.

While I didn’t have quite as many different beers at this festival as I have at other festivals (over 35 at this past year’s Garden State Brewfest), the quality was very good across the 18 I did have. Also, plenty of bacon samples and bacon infused/dishes. I’d definitely give this one another try, maybe even in New York next year as the event is held in many locations.