Draught Diversions: Christmas 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…

Christmas2021Sixpack

All of a sudden, Christmastime is upon us. The weather in NJ hasn’t consistently indicated the Christmas season in 2021, with some days knocking on 60 degrees (normally, temps are in the 40s). However, the songs are in the air, the lights are on the houses, and the holiday accoutrements are in the stores to be bought. Since about October or so, the Christmas/Holiday/Winter beers have been on shelves. For me, I like to get through the celebration of one holiday before gearing up for the next. That’s not just beer, but I don’t want to see Christmas commercials before Halloween. I may have hinted at that a few years back in a post about seasonal creep of Pumpkin Beers.

TroegsMadElf2021Christmastime for me has always been signaled by Santa Claus bringing up the rear of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The following week (first Saturday in December), truly launches the season – the Christmas Tree farm near my house opens for patrons to tag and/or cut their Christmas Tree and that day is usually when I crack open my first Tröegs Mad Elf of the season (probably my favorite Christmas beer). But you all visited to get some information on new/different Christmas / Holiday beers, I assume. Let’s dive into the 2021 Tap Takeover Six Pack of Christmas Beers. I’ve had none of these, although I’ve had beers from all the breweries, as well as variations on two beers I’ve highlighted.

Christmas Was Tomorrow | Stout – Imperial/Double | Bradley Brew Project | Bradley Beach, NJ | ABV 8.5%

Image courtesy of Bradley Brew Project

I’ve had two beers from Bradley Brew Project, both of which have been lagers. I was extremely impressed with their Czech Dark Lager, and I’ve been wanting to try some of their stouts and darker beers. A few years back, the department in which I worked had a neat Christmas Party, participants were asked to bring a food that is emblematic of their culture or something traditional for their Christmas experience. One person brought the ingredients for and mad Horchata, and I enjoyed it. This stout looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Here’s what Bradley Brew Project says about the beer:

Horchata inspired stout with milk sugar, rice, almonds, cinnamon and vanilla

Jubelale | Winter Ale | Deschutes Brewery | Bend, OR | ABV 6.7%

Image courtesy of Deschutes’s Facebook

Deschutes is one of the great Western American breweries. When I was in Vegas a couple of years ago, I was very happy to be able to get their legendary Black Butte Porter on draft (unavailable in NJ at the time), but they’ve recently begun distributing in New Jersey. I haven’t had a good, new-to-me traditional “Winter Ale” in a few years so I’m hoping this beer makes it to NJ shelves. Winter Ales were once a big staple of the Craft Beer scene, but they’ve seemed to fade to the back of the shelves, specifically “Winter Warmers.”

What Deschutes says about the beer:

Cozy up fireside with this festive winter ale full of spice notes and a robust malt character of toffee and dusted cocoa.

Special Cookie | Brown Ale – Imperial / Double| Free Will Brewing | Perkasie & Lahaska, PA | ABV 10.8%

Image courtesy of Free Will Brewing’s Facebook

Free Will has made a few appearances here at the Tap Takeover, they’ve got a “satellite” tap room not far from me in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA. I’ve had some extremely good brews from them over the years and this beer is one of their long-time favorites which I’ve yet to enjoy. I like the updated can art for the beer and the mix of spices looks quite tasty especially for a Brown Ale.

About the beer:

Imperial Spiced Brown Ale with Vanilla, Cinnamon, Brown Sugar, Cardamom, Ginger, and Milk Sugar

Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale | Winter Ale | Great Lakes Brewing Company | Cleveland, OH | ABV 8.2%

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s Twitter

Great Lakes Christmas Ale is one of the most iconic Christmas beers on shelves today. Like Mad Elf, it was a beer I’d get every Christmas Season. It doesn’t hurt that their distribution gets them in nearly every State, which I suppose is why this seasonal Ale is their most checked-in beer on untappd. For a few years now, Great Lakes has been offering a barrel aged version of this beer, but only at the brewery. This year (and maybe last year, I don’t recall), they bottled this in the old 22-oz bombers and sent a bunch out to distribution, so I may have to snag one to sample.

Flavor: A holiday ale brewed with cinnamon, ginger, and honey, aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels.

Candy Cane Mind Over Matter | Stout – Imperial/Double Milk | Magnify Brewing Company | Fairfield, NJ | ABV 8%

Image courtesy of Magnify Brewing’s Facebook

“Mind of Matter” is a series of Imperial Milk Stouts Magnify brews with various adjuncts, like this one with Candy Canes and chocolate. I’m guessing the intention here is to evoke that wonderful flavor of peppermint bark. I haven’t had peppermint bark in years (not sure I quite like mint the way I once did), but I imagine if Magnify gets the flavor profile on this beer as dialed in as they did for the Banana Bread version I reviewed this year, then the Candy Cane version will be outstanding.

What Magnify Brewing says about the beer:

Double chocolate milk stout with lactose, cocoa nibs and peppermint. Perfect beer for decorating the tree.

Ginger Bread Man (Imperial Stout) | Stout – Imperial / Double| NJ Beer Company | North Bergen, NJ | 9%

Image courtesy of NJ Beer Company’s Facebook

Lots of breweries are making Gingerbread inspired stouts, I may have recently enjoyed one and years ago, I remember enjoying Samuel Adams take on the holiday stout. I’ve been seeing NJ Beer Company’s beer on shelves for years, but for whatever reason, only had one years ago. This beer looks really appealing and seems pretty well received on untappd.

What NJ Beer Company says about the beer:

Rich, doughy, and simply unique. This stout is the perfect companion for the holiday season and beyond! A heavy dosing of molasses adds a sticky yet delicious chewiness, which is then rounded out by conditioning on ginger, and cinnamon. It’s 100% pure gingerbread cookie in a glass

Man…writing these posts about beers I haven’t had makes me want to remedy that situation and grab bottles/cans of all of them! Drop a note in the comments about a Christmas beer you want to try this year or maybe a past favorite.

Christmas2021Sixpack

Draught Diversions: October 2020 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…

Shorter days, darker nights, and cooler temperatures arrive in October. Bigger beers begin to dominate the shelves in October although seasonal creep for Christmas Beers is also the norm now as favorites like Tröegs Mad Elf began appearing in the middle of the month. October 2020’s six pack includes beers from long time favorites, one new brewery, and a brewery I should be seeking out more often. A variety of styles this October; a couple of IPAs, a couple of dark beers, and a barleywine. Let’s dive in, shall we?

I Voted (Troon Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Troon brews some of the most sought-after beers in the State of New Jersey, with a reputation for big stouts, kettle sours, and hazy hoppy ales. (They rarely call their beers “IPA”) So when I took my wife on a wonderful socially-distanced tour of Sourland Mountain Spirits (on the same large farm complex), I had a pour of this beer at the Brick Farm Tavern (also on the big farm complex). This beer is a delicious, hazy IPA with a magnificent blend of hops. Now that I know how close Brick Farm Tavern is (which is a person’s best shot at getting a Troon beer), I’ll have to stop there in the future.

HopCyclone Hazy DIPA (Tröegs Independent Brewing) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4.25 bottle caps on untappd


It has been far too long since I had a new beer from Tröegs and I haven’t had a new IPA in my fridge for a while. HopCyclone ticked off both of those boxes and is an outstanding New England style IPA. There’s a blend of four hops in this beer, Citra, Sabro, Sultana, and Simcoe, which are a great combination. I like Simcoe quite a bit and that seems to shine through really nicely, overall the beer has pleasant hints of citrus, peach, and pineapple. Plain and simple, HopCyclone is a great beer.

Workingman’s Dublin Porter (Toms River Brewing) | Porter – Other | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Tom’s River Brewing keeps impressing me. This is an Irish-inspired Dublin porter, which isn’t a surprise considering the brewery’s roots. Madagascar Vanilla beans and local honey add another layer of flavor to the beer. What those adjuncts do in this beer is soften the bitterness of the coffee, for an overall tasty beer.

Whip (Carton Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Sully photobombing this shot. Pilsners, especially great ones, are perfect for sitting on the porch relaxing while your dog keeps watch over the yard.

Carton has been brewing and canning a series of Pilsners over the past few months, this one they are calling an “American Pilsner.” I call it a delicious Lager/Pilsner. There’s a very clean flavor profile with the core four elements of beer working in harmony. This maybe the lightest yellow pilsner I can remember having, but damn if it isn’t a fine beer.

Chocolate Caramel Cookie Sharing Size (Free Will Brewing Co.) | Stout – Imperial / Double Oatmeal | 4.5 bottle caps on untappd

Free Will Brewing has a taproom in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA and during the month of October, there was a socially distanced haunted walking ghost tour called Murder Mystery: Homicide and Hauntings from Without a Cue, which was a blast. Of course I grabbed a beer from Free Will, this is their Hallowe’en beer, four different stouts inspired by popular Hallowe’en candy. This one is inspired by the famous “right cookie” and “left cookie” brand and was an outstandingly balanced sweet stout, brewed in collaboration with Breweries in PA. Cool label art, too

Helldorado (2017) | Firestone Walker Brewing Company | Barleywine – American | 4.5 bottle caps on untappd

Firestone Walker calls this a “Blonde Barleywine,” I call it an outstanding barrel-aged big beer. Firestone Walker has such skill with barrel aging so when I noticed a local shop had a 3-year old barrel aged barleywine from these masters of blending and barrel aging, there was no way I was NOT getting myself a bottle, especially at a $9 price tag. This is one of the best barleywines I’ve ever had. The beer has a strong bourbon aroma and the flavors that emerge include vanilla, chewy hops, toffee, and caramel. Simply an outstanding beer.

Another solid month overall for new beers, I could have easily highlighted 8 to 10 beers this month. Only one real drainpour, a Salted Caramel Pumpkin Ale, which was disgustingly oversweet.

Beer Review: Free Will Brewing’s Crisper

Name: Crisper
Brewing Company: Free Will Brewing Co.
Location: Perkasie, PA and Lahaska/Peddler’s Village, PA
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.4%

A flavorful take on the classic German Style. Every brewery should have a Kölsch like this in their lineup

A bright, clean beer looks even brighter with the sun shining on it.

From Free Will Brewing’s page for the beer:

A clean and crisp cold-fermented ale brewed in keeping with German tradition.

I think the Kölsch is one of the more overlooked and underrated styles of beer. Not exactly obscure, but not many people are out hunting for the latest Kölsch the way people hunt and gather new IPAs and Stouts. It is a style every brewery should have in their portfolio and every small brewery should have on tap – it is the beer style that “tastes like a beer” and a great style to draw people into craft beer. I’ve made the following comparison a couple of times when discussing the style in beer circles: a Kölsch is an ale that is similar to a pilsner. The comparison is apt (and I said this without initially knowing) that Kölsch ales are conditioned at colder temperatures the same way lagers are. In terms of being flavorful and enjoyable, Free Will nailed the style. Let’s start at the beginning, and answer the question, “Why did I enjoy this beer so much?”

Let’s look at the color, first. I was fortunate to get a perfect ray of sunlight to shine on this beautiful golden ale when I took my photo. Almost clear, bright golden-yellow with a nice head – you tell people to conjure up an image of “beer” and I’d bet 8 out of 10 people might have an image like the photo I snagged in their heads. I no longer have any cans of the beer in my fridge, but looking at that photo makes me wish I did.

So, like I said the beer looks inviting. Aroma is very clean and the first sip is extremely refreshing – I get a little bit of that pilsner/lager hint from the beer, but there’s some definite hints of fruitiness in the beer, too. I keep thinking to myself that this is a damned good beer with each successive sip or gulp of the beer. The most appropriate word I can think of to describe this beer is “clean.” There’s just a nice, well-rounded “beer flavor” to the beer that makes it work so well for me.

I like to have a lighter beer with my Friday pizza and this paired perfectly. Some beers pair specifically with certain types of foods, Crisper is a beer that has solid flavor of its own, but won’t intrude on any food you’re eating while enjoying the beer.

The ABV on this, like most Kölsch/ Kölsch style ales is pretty low at 4.4%. A beer for “session” drinking, a four pack you can enjoy over the course of a long afternoon or evening that will likely not dump you on your rear end. But unlike the big mass-produced beers at this ABV, this Kölsch is extremely flavorful. You’ll want to drink the beer for the flavor and not suffer through inferior taste. This beer has continued my personal trend of enjoying flavorful, low ABV beers.

If hasn’t become clear by now with many of my reviews and posts, then Pennsylvania – a neighbor state to New Jersey – has a great many breweries (the most beer produced per state) and I’ve been enjoying quite a few of those breweries. Peddler’s Village is a Buck’s County shopping destination and a couple of years ago, Free Will Brewing opened up a Tap Room in the center of the great outdoor village. A great spot that has been at maximum capacity the few times I’ve visited Peddler’s Village over the last couple of years. It doesn’t hurt that Peddler’s Village allows people to walk around with their cup of beer…and Crisper from Free Will is a damned fine beer to enjoy whilst walking around the lovely sights of Peddler’s Village. Again, flavorful with a low enough ABV that one pint won’t prevent you from driving home.

Peddler’s Village is about a half hour from my house, so when my wife had to go to one of the specialty shops while I was at work, she thoughtfully brought back a four pack of Crisper. She said she remembered me saying I like the style and figured it would be perfect for the summer. I married very well, to say the least because I couldn’t have been happier with this beer. If anything, it exceeded my expectations. Bottom Line: a Kölsch this good should be a staple in every brewery’s lineup.

Recommended link to Untappd 4 Bottle Cap rating.