Draught Diversions: Summer Six Pack 2021

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…

Summer is nearly upon us and the Summer Beers have been in stories for the better part of the last month, with upcoming Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial kick off of Summer. I mixed it up a little bit with NJ and PA beers compared to last year, and each beer is a different style, at least according to how they are categorized on untappd. As I preface this Summer Beer post every year, because a post about Summer Beers was the very first Draught Diversion I posted/published, I am continuing the “tradition.”

SixPack_2021-Summer

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 and have been organized alphabetically by brewery.

The Keg Stand | Lager – American | 5.5% ABV | Four City Brewing | Orange, NJ

FourCityKegstand

This beer is the only one I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy and it is everything you’d want in an “American Lager.” Clean, refreshing, and crisp. The can art practically screams summer beer

What Four City Brewing says about the beer:

Our American Style Lager is brewed with the best Heidelberg malt, flaked rice & corn. This combination meshes nicely with New Zealand Hallertauer hops & our house lager yeast.


Trimmin’ | Pilsner – Other | 6% ABV | Last Wave Brewing Company | Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

LastWave_Trimmin

For me, Pilsner is one of the ideal styles of beer for summer. Then again, Pilsner is one of my favorite styles, so that shouldn’t be a surprise to long time readers of the Tap Takerover. I figured a brewery based in one of New Jersey’s most popular shore towns would be a good one to highlight for this style.

What Last Wave Brewing says about the beer:

When you’re cruising on your longboard and set your line, it’s all about the glide, which is also known as “Trimming.” Our dry-hopped pilsner takes this classic style to heart with a simple pilsner base that gets its flavor from a slow, lagering process that brings out crisp notes of grainy goodness and a pale yellow body. A light dry hopping provides a touch of citrus and floral notes in the aroma to create a highly crushable lager with a little extra flavor to get you locked in.


Beach Fuzz | Wheat Beer – Witbier | 5.5% ABV | Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company | Croydon, PA

NCBC_BeachFuzz

This beer looks like it would be great for the cooler in the summer, with refreshing sweetness from peach puree doesn’t it? Victory has a similar beer (Twisted Monkey), but I think Beach Fuzz may be slightly lower in ABV and the base beer is a little lighter, too.

What Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company says about the beer:

Brewed with: coriander, orange peel

We brewed up a classic, Belgian Style Wheat Ale with White Wheat & Flaked Oats, hopped in the kettle with Saaz hops, and then we conditioned it on peach puree. The result? A bright and zesty Belgian Wheat Ale, with a soft malt character, hints of spice, and loaded with stone fruit flavors. We taste juicy, ripe peach notes, a dry finish, and rays of sunshine on our faces.


Meet Me at the Snack Shack | IPA – Session / India Session Ale | 4.7% ABV | Ross Brewing Company | Port Monmouth, NJ

Ross_SnackShack

IPAs are still the most popular style, but with lower ABV beers becoming more popular, the Session IPA (sub 5% ABV) has grown in popularity. When you go to the beach, you either bring food or you go to the snack shack. Even if you bring food, you still likely go to the snack shack, so this beer is really appropriate for the Summer.

What Ross Brewing Company says about the beer:

Meet Me at the Snack Shack will be dropping at all your usual spots starting this week and rolling out throughout New Jersey and New York during the two weeks after that! Our 4.7% abv Session IPA somehow fits all the flavor and aroma of a full strength IPA into a crushable low-alcohol package. Citra, Motueka, Azacca, and El Dorado hops, flaked wheat, and a perfectly pleasing malt bill combine to give you 2021’s beer of the summer, even if its only March. Get in early, you’ll be thankful you did. Not to mention it’s the first-ever Ross can to feature the amazing original art of the one and only Tommy Lombardozzi!


16oz of Freedom | Pale Ale – American | 5.2% ABV | Twin Lights Brewing Company | Monmouth County, NJ

TLB_16oz

Twin Lights officially launched last year and in the summer, they canned up this celebratory Pale Ale. I hope they offer it up again this year.

What Twin Lights Brewing says about the beer:

In honor of Fourth of July, we introduce to you another limited release, 16oz To Freedom. Our first American Pale Ale! For the malt bill we incorporated a blend of Pale malt, Maris Otter, and a touch of light crystal. For our hop selection we chose to kick it a little old school. We added Chinook for some bittering and also in the whirlpool combined with Centennial. We dry hopped this beer with Cascade, Centennial and Simcoe for a crushable, medium-bodied, malty and hopped up American Pale Ale


Summer Hazy Love | IPA – American | 5.5 % ABV | Victory Brewing Company | Downington, PA

Victory_Summer-Hazy-Love_12oz-Can

One of Victory’s most popular beers is their Summer Love golden ale so this is something of a brand extension, if you will. Upping the hop level, making it an IPA and throwing Hazy in the title is a sure way to get some attention. I haven’t had this yet, but I’d be surprised if I get through the Summer without trying this beer

What Victory Brewing says about the beer:

Let’s keep sharing the love. Summer Love goes Hazy in this IPA that sparkles with juicy hop notes for those days that feel like the sun never sets. Time for another..

What new lagers or ales are you hoping to try this summer? What has been a trusty beer for you in past summers?

SixPack_2021-Summer

Draught Diversions: Four City Brewing (Orange, NJ)

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…

Four City Brewing in Orange, NJ has been generating some positive buzz since opening their doors for business about a year ago (2019). Their average beer rating on untappd is about 3.75 / 5, with many beers landing above a 4-bottle cap rating and a few friends rating their beers quite higher than that. Four City Brewing is one of three black-owned breweries in New Jersey (the other two are Montclair Brewing Company and Hackensack Brewing Company), too.

Four City Badge from Untappd

Four City is in a pretty good location, close to the downtown area of Orange and across the street from the Orange NJ Transit train station. Orange also has a history of brewing; Rheingold Beer, once one of the most popular beers in the NY/NJ area, brewed beer in Orange, but shut its doors in 1980. The beautiful building, once a warehouse and coal facility, is now a mixed use space developed by L+M Partners with the brewery just one element in the revitalization of the Downtown Orange. The space is very simply, a beautiful brewery. A very inviting exterior, a welcoming interior, as well as the friendly staff, help to make this brewery look so good.

Before the brewery opened, a lot of passion, work, and effort went into its creation. Like the origin story for many breweries, owners Roger Apollon Jr., Jeff Gattens, and Anthony Minervino were homebrewers who unofficially (or really, I suppose officially) called themselves “The Brew Council.” For about fifteen years, Roger sought out different beers wherever he went, before meeting Anthony and Jeff. As the brewery ramped up, they hired a full time head brewer, Joe Vitale. That was all about a year ago. They all settled on Orange as the location because they are all from the area and in addition to Rheingold once calling Orange home, way back in 1901, the Winter Brothers’ Orange Brewery was in the Township. The name, “Four City” honors the four Oranges of NJ (West, East, South, and Orange). As will become evident, many of the beer names are homages/tributes to the local diversity and history of the area. The design of the brewery, the design of the logo, and most of the can labels are very consistent. In other words, Four City has established a very strong brand identity.

The taproom is fairly large at 4,700 square feet and the tanks are visible, but I don’t recall what brewery’s barrel capacity is. What Jeff Gattens told me during our conversation was that Four City has a canning line and they have enough capacity to allow them to brew and can beer for their friends at Hoboken Brewing. The day of my visit, 11 beers were available in cans and 21 beers available on draught. There is some overlap there, for example, their flagship Pale Ale Citrus City was available in both Cans and on draught. In other words, Four City has a great set up to be a production facility that also can house patrons on site.

Four City’s Beer Menu, November 7, 2020

The day was unseasonably warm for November (I was wearing shorts). When we arrived, we were seated at a table inside, with all the tables amply spaced out for social distancing. The door was open and the coolish breeze was blowing through the brewery. The extremely friendly beertender greeted us and took our orders. While Four City wasn’t doing flights, they were pouring “medium” pours, which I think were about 8oz.

“Medium” Pour of Citrus City Pale Ale

I went with the flagship, Citrus City, the Belgian Dubbel, St. Cloud (reviewed Tuesday, 11/17) and Quad City, the Quadrupel. It isn’t often I see both a Dubbel and a Quadrupel (one of my favorite styles) on draught, so I felt very compelled to get Four City’s interpretation of these two styles that tend not to be uber-prevalent. I was very impressed with Citrus City, to the point I regret not bringing home a four pack of the beer especially since it has three of my favorite hops: Citra, Simcoe, and Centennial hops. It was everything I hope to enjoy a Pale Ale…hints of citrus, with hops and malt expertly balanced. The beer was very clean and would be a great beer for the cooler. I reviewed St. Cloud, so that leaves Quad City to discuss, albeit briefly. Wow. Simply, wow. There is so much flavor to this beer, hints of dates and figs from the potent yeast, a very sweet beer whose 10.2% ABV is dangerously masked. This is a fantastic Quadrupel.

“Medium” Pour of the delicious Quad City Quadrupel

As I noted above, many of the beers pay tribute to the history/diversity of the region. Citrus City is a fairly obvious homage to the nickname of the brewery’s home town. A series of IPAs, Hedison’s Phonograph are named in honor of West Orange’s Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph. The Miseducation of Loral Hops pays tribute to megastar Lauryn Hill of South Orange, NJ, Sak Pasé (a fruited Berliner Weisse) is a Haitian Creole greeting for “What’s Up?” and there’s a sizeable Haitian contingent in the Oranges; Brewellyn Park is an IPA named for West Orange’s Llewellyn Park; Eagle Rocktoberfest (a Märzen) takes its name from the Eagle Rock landmark; Brick Church is a dark wheat ale takes its name from the eponymous landmark minutes from the brewery, and 55 Sour Essex Ave is a Berliner Weisse named for the brewery’s address, and so on.

Four City Can Collage, images courtesy of Four City’s Facebook

Talking about the pandemic is unavoidable at this point, but Four City was in a decent position to pivot. The aforementioned canning line in the facility allowed them to package their beer for the home delivery now being allowed in the State of New Jersey. Also during the pandemic, Four City celebrated their 1st anniversary with four different beers: Hedison’s Medison with three different hops rather than the standard single hop; Darker than Blue, a pastry stout with cacao nibs, maple syrup, and raspberries; You Down Wit FCB, a witbier (the name is an homage to 90s rapgroup Naughty by Nature’s song “O.P.P.” and if you are humming that song as you read this then I suspect we’re about the same age); and It’s Better Than Yours, a Milkshake IPA who takes its name from the lyrics of the song “Milkshake.”

Four City Anniversary Beers, courtesy of Four City’s Facebook

Although Four City is just over a year old, they’ve already garnered some national recognition. Being a Black-owned brewery is one way they’ve stood out, not just in New Jersey, but nationally. There’s been a beer festival in Pittsburgh the last few years called Fresh Fest, which features Black-owned breweries. In 2020, Four City collaborated with Shu Brew of Zelienople, PA on a Dark Ale with Oreos, cacao, vanilla, coffee, and lactose they’ve called Brewers Gonna Work it Out. That sounds like a beer I want yesterday. Some of their beer has become available on Tavour, as well.

Four City/ShuBru Brewers Gonna Work it Out courtesy of hopculturemag via Four City’s Facebook

Prior to the Pandemic, Four City hosted onsite events, including Halloween parties, a night for a meet and greet with local artists, a Holiday Beerzar, a “Brews and Culture” night of local music, a cornhole tournament, and the requisite yoga nights. These events, along with the owners’ deep roots in the region, deep respect they have for the community, and honor they show with their beer names adds up to one thing in my mind. Just over one year into their existence, Four City Brewing is something of a template, or ideal of what a community Craft Brewery should be.

The goodies I brought home from my visit to Four City

Since Four City was part of a tour of a few breweries fairly close together (a tradition for my birthday over the last few years), there are obviously a handful in the area that could comprise a similar tour. Montclair Brewery is the closest at 4 miles away, and we tried to visit, but they were extremely packed and because of the social distancing rules of the Pandemic, we couldn’t stick around because we had reservations at other places during the day. Also very close is the Gaslight Brewpub, which is where we went after Four City for dinner, they’ve got really good food. Melovino Meadery is about 5 miles away, Ghost Hawk Brewing, Magnify Brewing, and Cricket Hill Brewing (the latter two of I’ve visited) are relatively close at about 11 miles away.

The Kegstand, a delicious American Lager

I’ve written quite a bit about Four City Brewing at this point. One thing should be very clear – I like the brewery a lot. Between supporting local independent businesses, supporting black-owned breweries, and supporting breweries that make super beer, Four City is a must visit for those reasons. Four City Brewing is comfortably near the top of the 50 or so “new to me” breweries I’ve visited over the last few years and I look forward to visiting again.

Some other links of interest and sources of information for this post:

Four City Brewing’s Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Four City Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Four City Brewing on Beer Advocate | Four City Brewing on Untappd

Beer Review: Four City Brewing’s St. Cloud Dubbel

Name: St. Cloud
Brewing Company: Four City Brewing Company
Location: Orange, NJ
Style: Belgian Dubbel
ABV: 7.6%

A well made interpretation of the Belgian classic Ale.

Draught pour at the brewery

 

From the untappd entry for beer:

Our Belgian ale made with pilsner, pale and Munich malt with a generous amount of dark Belgian candi syrup

I’d been seeing good things about Four City Brewing over the last year or so of their existence, mainly from friends on untappd who have had a few of their beers. As such, I was very pleased to visit during my annual birthday beer tour. What I found even more pleasantly surprising was a Belgian Dubbel on draught (and available in cans). I like the style, but to say it isn’t in the upper tier of popular craft styles is an understatement, so when I see one available, I’m going to try it.

In the Belgian Tulip glass, the beer looks exactly the part, slightly brown and rusty with a creamy head. Aroma is strongly of the Belgian yeast. From a visual perspective, as well as an aromatic perspective, this Belgian Dubbel is true to style.

But what about the taste?

St. Cloud passes what I am now dubbing my “first sip test.” I get a lot of flavors and the texture/mouthfeel I associate with Belgian Dubbels; I’m impressed. The yeast is almost always the driving flavor factor in Belgian Dubbels (and most Belgian inspired styles for that matter) and that seems to be the case with St. Cloud. I get a very rich evocation of flavors, some stone fruit elements and maybe banana hints as well, which many yeast strains evoke. When I had the beer at the brewery, it was a potent blend of flavors and a beer to sip. Out of the can, the same elements help to lend a more measured approach to consuming. There’s a lot of flavor and enjoying the beer slowly allows one to appreciate the full profile of the beer.

Four City St. Cloud, an impressively delicious Belgian Dubbel

Perhaps what rings true strongest between Four City’s St. Cloud and the world class Dubbels I’ve had (Ommegang’s Abbey Ale and the Dubbel from Westmalle) is the mouthfeel (again, I hate that word). The carbonation and yeast give the beer a hefty weight, a chewiness that proves St. Cloud as a significant and rich beer. Fortunately, St. Cloud also hits the flavor notes of the style quite successfully, too.

I expected to have some good beers from Four City, but those expectations were for quality in their American styles (big stouts, hop-forward beers) like their American Pale Ale Citrus City which is a great beer. What I didn’t expect upon arrival at Four City was being so impressed with the nuance required for the classic Belgian styles like a Dubbel, which some say is a tough style to brew with high quality. Well, Four City Brewing has shown their true measure of quality with this beer.

Later in the week (Thursday), expect to see a full spotlight on Four City Brewing.

Highly recommended, link to 4.25 bottle-cap Untappd check-in