Beer Review: NOSFERATU from Great Lakes Brewing Company

Name: Nosferatu
Brewing Company: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Location: Cleveland, OH
Style: Red Ale – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8% | IBU: 70%

“A great balance of hops and malt help to define an American Craft classic and a seasonal Hallowe’en Classic.”

 

From Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Nosferatu page:

Don’t be afraid of things that go hop in the night! Rich roasted malt flavors haunt the shadows of our Imperial Red Ale’s bitter teeth.

FLAVOR
Ruby red in color with a toasty malt body lurking beneath a stunning hop bite.

Great Lakes Brewing is one of the most respected independent American brewing companies of the last few decades. One of their seasonal favorites (along with their outstanding Oktoberfest and Christmas Ale) is Nosferatu, a hoppy, malty Imperial Red Ale, the beer spotlighted today.

I’ve had quite a few beers from Great Lakes, I’ve enjoyed most of them to a fairly significant degree but Red Ales haven’t been much of a go to for me. A few things led me to finally grabbing a four pack of this beer:

  • Hallowe’en is approaching, one of my favorite holidays/times of the year
  • I’m long-time fan of horror fiction, and the Vampire/Nosferatu is one of the most iconic horror images
  • Seeing this beer favorably compared to an all-time favorite in Tröeg’s Nugget Nectar

In other words, this beer brings together my love of great beer and dark tales.

The pop of the bottle cap is a nice sound I don’t hear too often any more, most of the beers I’ve been drinking have been out of cans. As for the beer that pours into my glass – yep, that’s a red ale. A deep red that is somewhere between amber and crimson, in my eyes. There’s a nice foamy head initially, too. Aroma is a little bit of hoppiness, but to be honest, nothing else too noteworthy. It smells like a beer.

There’s a very prominent hop presence in that first sip. Given the relatively high IBU level of 70, that’s not a surprise. It is not off-putting the way some overly hopped beers are because Great Lakes brewed this beer with a significant level of malts, three kinds, that provide a caramel sweetness to balance the hops. Going by the fact sheet on Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site, the hops used here are Simcoe and Cascade, both extremely popular hops and hops that helped to drive the hop-forward beer movement of the 90s and early 2000s. Simcoe has emerged, for me, as a favorite in recent years so it was especially nice to see its pronounced flavor complemented by the great Cascade hop in Nosferatu. I had a second bottle about a week after the first bottle and the Simcoe hops help to make this beer work so well for me.

Insert standard suggestion for higher ABV beer to let the beer open up to room temperature a little for greater enjoyment.

The name of the beer and label are immediately recognizable, the silent film Nosferatu is a film that has left an indelible mark on horror genre and the vampire mythos. The beer is a worthy homage to that image and character – Nosferatu the beer is a wonderful, complementary marriage of hops and malt that gives a flavor worth savoring.

Nestled in with some classic Vampire novels, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin, They  Thirst by Robert R. McCammon, ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Dracula (Annotated) by Brahm Stoker, I Am Legend by iIchard Matheson, The Southern Vampire’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. Review links to a few at the end of the post

A beer like Nosferatu is a bold reminder that some beers with a little bit of history behind them are worth enjoying now and in the future. It is also a beer that helps to showcase the great diversity in the portfolio of Great Lakes Brewing Company. Given the name of the beer, the eye-catching imagery of the label, and most importantly, the bold, delicious flavor, I can understand why Nosferatu has been an annual favorite from Great Lakes Brewing Company. I know it will be in my refrigerator for Halloweens to come.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

*Those aforementioned book reviews:

Draught Diversions: Thanksgiving 6 Pack 2019

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…

Thanksgiving is nearing so, since I’ve done a Thanksgiving recommendation post the last two years, I figured I’d keep the tradition alive. As is often the case, these are beers with varying availability, local to NJ, to the whole Mid-Atlantic region, some available nationally. Like previous years, I’ll be featuring beers that are rich, or beers that can work as dessert beers as well as a mix of beers I’ve had and beers I’ve yet to have.

Pivo Pils | Firestone Walker Brewing Co. | Pilsner | Paso Robles, CA | 5.2% ABV

Image Courtesy of Firestone Walker’s website

If I can find a way to fit a Pilsner into the discussion, I will. Few breweries in America are as widely praised as Firestone Walker. Their pilsner is a fantastic interpretation of the style, which takes some inspiration from both the German and Czech traditions of the style. It is a little more hoppy than most pilsners, but very delicious and a very approachable beer as starter for the day.

What Firestone Walker says about the beer:

Pivo Pils is a classically rendered pilsner with a West Coast dry-­‐hopping twist, showcasing stylistic influences from Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. Lighter beer styles like pilsner have been hijacked by industrial lager beer in the United States, and it’s time for craft brewers to take it back. Pivo Pils offers impeccable balance with floral aromatics, spicy herbal nuances, and bergamot zest and lemongrass notes from dry hopping with German Saphir hops.

Edmund Fitzgerald | Great Lakes Brewing Company | Porter – American | Cleveland, OH | 6% ABV

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s website

In my humble opinion, this is the best porter brewed in America and I will often have some of this in my refrigerator in the colder months of the year. Thanksgiving is a very American Holiday. Porters pair well with hearty meals, with their full flavor, especially a flavorful porter like this beer. Add that all up and I’d slot this in either right before dinner or at the dinner table to complement the many roasted flavors of the food.

What Great Lakes says about the beer:

Robust and complex, our Porter is a bittersweet tribute to the legendary freighter’s fallen crew—taken too soon when the gales of November came early.

FLAVOR
Brewed in memory of the sunken freighter, with rich roasted barley and bittersweet chocolate-coffee notes.

Da’ Nile | River Horse Brewing Company | Red Ale – American Amber / Red | Ewing, NJ | 5.9% ABV

Image courtesy of River Horse’s Facebook

Red/Amber Ales are often overlooked these days, but they can pack a lot of flavor. Especially when sweetened up with vanilla and molasses like this fine ale from River Horse. I had this on draft at the brewery after I finished the River Horse 6K earlier in the year and enjoyed it quite a bit. This beer I’d maybe set with the main course and would especially pair nicely with sweet potatoes/candied yams.

What River Horse says about the beer:

A deep amber ale brewed with vanilla, lactose, blackstrap molasses, and caramel malts. A delicious and drinkable malty option with depth and balanced sweetness.

Suddenly Comfy | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery | Cream Ale | Milton, DE | 8% ABV

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head’s website

Dogfish Head does so many flavorful things with their beers and they’re mostly all very good. This beer could bridge the courses from dinner to dessert, with ingredients of Apple Pie in the mix as noted below. This beer is a little higher in ABV (8%), so having some turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes in your stomach will help absorb some of the alcohol. I haven’t had this one yet, but I’m thinking that might change as the holidays get closer.

Dogfish Head says this about the beer:

Things are suddenly getting real comfy around these parts with our latest off-centered creation – Suddenly Comfy.

Brewed with fresh apple cider, Saigon cinnamon and Madagascar vanilla beans, this Imperial Cream Ale is made with all the fixings of a great apple pie … just like grandma used to make. .

Inhale and you’ll be greeted with aromas of pie crust and brûléed sugar. Sip and you’ll find notes of fruity sweetness. Savor and you’ll venture on a fragrant flashback that has you longing for the past.

Inspired by the classically decadent dessert, Suddenly Comfy is a result of our Beer Exploration Journal – a program designed to give our fans a peek into the world of R&DFH, while sampling, evaluating and rating new beers on tap exclusively at our Milton Tasting Room & Kitchen and Rehoboth brewpub.

Gingerbread Moochiato | Bolero Snort Brewing Company | Stout – Milk / Sweet | Carlstadt, NJ | 7 % ABV

Image courtesy of Bolero Snort’s Website

Bolero Snort is one of the great contract breweries in NJ, soon to open their brewery and Taproom at the end of 2019. Hell, not just great contract brewery, great brewery period. Known for their eye-catching a labels and bovinely inspired beer names, their beers are usually a lot of fun. People like coffee at the end of the dinner to enjoy with their dessert, so a sweetened spiced coffee milk stout would fit right in with the cheesecake as it did when I thoroughly enjoyed this beer during a Bolero Snort Dinner Beer pairing on my birthday. I had my 5oz pour as well as my wife’s 5oz pour, it was my favorite of the 5 beers I had that evening.

What Bolero Snort says about the beer:

A little nip in the air…so we’re keeping our uggs on a bit longer. Gingerbread Moochiato: same great coffee laden 7% milk stout base as Moochiato with loads of Ginger, cinnamon, clove, vanilla and just a hint of maple to round things out. Holiday shopping just got better.

Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Oatmeal Cookie | Stout – American Imperial / Double | Holland, MI | 11% ABV

Image Courtesy of New Holland’s website

Finishing the day with a “pastry stout” or “dessert stout” to complement (or supplement?) the previous beer is where this whole thing finishes off. I’ve had several bottles of New Holland’s iconic Dragon’s Milk Stout over the years and they’ve brewed quite a few variants (Coffee Chocolate, Cherry Chocolate, Salted Caramel), I may have had the S’More’s version, too. This year (2019), the variant New Holland released is most definitely a big ABV dessert sipper. Cookies, in my opinion, are just as enjoyable as a slice of cake for dessert so what better big beer to share?

What New Holland says about the beer:

Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Inspired by one of our favorite treats, Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Oatmeal Cookie is carefully aged with cinnamon, oats, brown sugar, raisins, and Madagascar vanilla extract. The familiar flavors of a freshly baked oatmeal cookie make an excellent pair with the rich, warm bourbon notes of our signature barrel-aged stout.

 

2018 untappd Thanksgiving Badge

Beer Review: Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest

Name: Oktoberfest
Brewing Company: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Location: Cleveland, OH
Style: Märzen
ABV: 6.5%

An annual favorite from Great Lakes Brewing is a beer many consider the best American made Oktoberfest/Märzen. I would be hard pressed to argue with that notion.

The mug is the proper glassware for an Oktoberfest. Just look at the label.

From Great Lakes Brewing Company’s page for Oktoberfest:

One of our most celebrated and critically lauded brews has returned! Oktoberfest, our 3-time Gold Medal winner at the World Beer Championships, is back for another season of tailgates, cookouts, and bonfires.

Regarded as a world-class example of a timeless German style, the easy-drinking flavor of Oktoberfest is as hearty as it is approachable. With earthy hops keeping a gentle beat, rich notes of caramel and baked bread waltz together joyously, making Oktoberfest a celebration of all things malt! O’zapft is! Oktoberfest is here!

Oktoberfest will ship to all GLBC distribution markets in 6-pack, 12-pack, and draft beginning Monday, July 29. Oktoberfest is available now in the GLBC gift shop and will be on tap at the brewpub soon. Learn more about Oktoberfest below…

Über smooth with vibrant malt flavors and a festive flourish of noble hops (lederhosen not included).

I’ve mentioned Great Lakes Brewing a few times here on the Tap Takeover, but I figured what better beer from them than their World Class Oktoberfest to feature in a review. Brief disclaimer: I mentioned this beer back in my Oktoberfest 2017 post (before I had the six pack format down), but feel it deserves a full focus since it is often my favorite Oktoberfest/ Märzen every year.

On to the review…

As the beer pours from the bottle to the mug, I see perfection: a golden amber just as I’d want an Oktobefest to look like. The head is a little thinner than I’d expected or remembered, but that’s fine. I get malty sweetness from the aroma. In short, between the aroma and look, this beer is 100% on the right track.

A remembrance of quality, that’s what I feel when the first sip passes through my palate. This is one of the few beers I’ve reviewed here at the Tap Takeover that aren’t new to me for this blog. I’ve been enjoying this beer every year for the past four or five years and the 2019 version lives up to those memories. As good as previous years, but maybe the changes in my palate catch on to the sweetness from the malt more than I can remember. There’s a pleasant evocation of sweet caramel from the malts in the beer. As I have more of the beer and it progresses through my palate, I get some hints of toffee, and maybe, just maybe a little bit of breadiness.

I found this beer to be extremely consistent in its flavor from that first sip to the last at the bottom of the glass. Wonderful malt that makes up the strongest element of the beer and I was surprised at how well it tasted even at the end of the beer. I usually don’t think of lagers as styles whose flavors hold up once the beer isn’t cold out of the tap or refrigerator, but Great Lakes’s Oktoberfest bucked that trend for me – a slight bitterness I caught when I first sipped the beer was gone and the malty sweetness was more deliciously pronounced.

Given the history of German people in the Cleveland area, it should come as no surprise that Great Lakes Brewing produces one of the best Oktoberfest beers in the United States. Great Lakes also has annual Oktobefest Celebration at their brewpub. Further proof of beer’s quality is the fact that it is the #3 ranked German Märzen / Oktoberfest in the world on Beer Advocate.

If you want to try one of the best American interpretation of a classic German style, Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest is a must have. I think one thing above all else should speak to my feelings about the quality of this beer: I make sure to get some of it every Oktoberfest season.

Although this is a standard review here at the Tap Takeover, I would consider this American Craft Beer Classic.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Web site

Draught Diversions: September 2018 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…

September should be the start of cooler weather, with stouts on the horizon. September is most definitely the start of Oktoberfest and this month’s post features one prominently. For the September 2018 Six Pack, three New Jersey beers are featured.

I found myself going for more NJ beers this past month in general. For the first time in a couple of months, one beer really disappointed me.

Always Ready (Cape May Brewing Company) Pale Ale – American – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I continue to be impressed with the output from Cape May Brewing Company. I’d seen a few posts about this beer on untappd, Twitter, and Instagram and was intrigued especially when I learned Always Ready was brewed in honor of the United States Coast Guard as Cape May has been home to the USCG’s sole training center since 1982. CMBC offers a $1 discount off pints for active-duty and retired USCG members, year-round. As it so happens, Myke Cole is one of my favorite authors and one of the best human beings I have the privilege of knowing. Among the many things Myke has done was serving in the USCG. I toast this beer to Myke and recommend you all get and read his books. Click on his profile and that shall lead you to some great, powerful fiction to read while enjoying an Always Ready, or any time for that matter. (Gemini Cell might be his best, IMHO).

Here There Be Monsters IPA – American (Demented Brewing Company) – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

It has been far too long since I had a beer from Twin Elephant and this juicy IPA just about made up for it. They’ve brewed this beer in the past, but decided to can it with some gorgeous can art. The beer inside, which evokes those juicy citrus and tropical notes that so many IPAs do nowadays, lives up to the dark and lovely can art. Bottom line: a great IPA from a relatively young brewery with a reputation for brewing great hop-forward ales.

30th Anniversary Imperial Oyster Stout (Great Lakes Brewing Company) Stout – Oyster 3 bottle Caps on untappd

This one is disheartening because nearly every other beer I’ve had from Great Lakes Brewing has been very good. More to the point, I liked them all and consider a few of their beers classics, so I was happy to see a nice big stout as their anniversary beer. You might think oysters in a stout would be bad, but they can be an interesting adjunct (as in Flying Fish’s Exit 1 Bayshore Stout). Unfortunately, this one didn’t work too well for me and I could barely finish it, there was a very strange aftertaste I found displeasing.

Marzen German Style Lager Märzen (Lone Eagle Brewing) – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I had the beer on draught, but Lone Eagle was selling it in 4packs of 16oz cans.

I has been a few months since I last visited Lone Eagle for board game night, but as it so happened, the night I went was shortly after their Oktoberfest debuted. I enjoyed last year’s batch a great deal and this year’s was almost as good. A really tasty, straightforward lager that does exactly what an Oktoberfest lager should.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Troegenator Dopplebock (Tröegs Independent Brewing) 4.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been wanting to try this bee for a few years now and I was never able to find it near me, but this year I saw it my local bottle shop. I figured this was a great beer to share with my dad for his birthday and he liked it just about as much as I did. The base beer, Troegenator is a classic and probably the most readily available doppelbock on the East Coast of the US. The Trogner brothers took a great beer and leveled it up considerably. What makes this beer so special is how the barrel aging doesn’t sacrifice any of the bock character of the beer. Some of the characteristics are enhanced – the sweetness (but not too much), the caramel hints, and the maltiness. The aroma is inviting and the beer is nearly perfect. This is one of the five or ten best beers I’ve ever had, probably.

Special Double Cream Stout (Bell’s Brewery) Stout – American 4.25 bottle caps on untappd

I continue to be extremely pleased Bell’s is now distributing their delicious beers into New Jersey. There isn’t anything flashy about this stout – no adjuncts, no flavor additives like coffee or barrel aging. Nope, just 10 malts that beautifully evoke notes of coffee and chocolate, for a sweet stout that is pure delicousness.

So, September is in the book and October is here. Will I dive into some pumpkin beers in October? Only time will tell.

Draught Diversions: Summer 2018 6 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…

Summer beer (especially Lienenkugel’s Summer Shandy and Sam’s Summer Ale) has been on the shelves and taps since April and I blame it all on Samuel Adams. But, since we’re a couple weeks away from Memorial Day, the unofficial kick-off of Summer so in anticipation of warmer weather, here are 6 summery brews I’m hoping to try when the warm weather settles in and I can enjoy a refreshing beer or three sitting in or by my pool.

Not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer. Naturally, the beers I highlight here will be those available in the NJ/Northeast so while a brewery like Ninkasi may have an interesting looking beer, since Ninkasi doesn’t distribute to NJ (making the beer unavailable to me), I won’t be mentioning the beer.

The Bog Cranberry Shandy Cape May Brewing Company (Cape May, NJ)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

Say what you will about the Shandy / Radler style of beer popularized in recent years by Leinenkugel, but the style is very refreshing. There’s a reason German cyclists (or Radlers in German) were given pints of this in the summer. Cranberries are one of my favorite fruits and fruit juices, and I’ve begun to see more beers made with cranberries in recent years. NJ also happens to be one of the major producers of cranberries in the US, so a cranberry infused beer from NJ’s second largest brewery seems natural. I really hope this one reaches distribution near me.

“What happens when you make a Cranberry Wheat and accidentally add too much cranberry? Embrace it and turn it into a Shandy! A tart cranberry wheat beer blended with lemonade, The Bog is light and refreshing while still packing tons of flavor.”

Holy Moses Raspberry White Ale® – Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, OH)

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site

Great Lakes doesn’t make bad beer, at least for my palate. Holy Moses is Great Lakes’s take on the traditional Belgian Witbier and this new iteration adds Raspberry to the beer for what should be a nice sweet, tart refreshing ale. I’ve still yet to try the original Holy Moses, so I hope to give that one a try, too. I’ve seen quite a few of Great Lakes’s core brews as well as their always popular Christmas Ale in my area, but haven’t seen Holy Moses too often. Hopefully that changes.

“In the spirit of Moses Cleaveland’s thirst for discovery, our classic White Ale meets fresh, juicy raspberries to forge a pint worth planting a flag in (or an orange slice!)

FLAVOR
Refreshment or bust! Tart raspberry flavors mark our White Ale’s spicy, aromatic terrain.”

Limey Gose – Victory Brewing (Downington, PA)

Image courtesy of Victory Brewing’s Web site

I’ve professed my enjoyment of almost all things Victory Brewing here before, with their Kirsch Gose one of my favorites. I’m hoping this new-ish Gose they are releasing is of the same quality because a sweet-tart Gose is a perfect beer antidote for a sweltering day. This was originally a brewery only-beer a few years ago and looks to get wide distribution this summer. I’m guessing if you like Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale (also made with limes) or Westbrook’s Key Lime Gose, you’ll enjoy this one, too.

“This lively GOSE brings the TART FLAVOR of KEY LIME PIE sprinkled with SEA SALT into a zesty SOUR LIME BIER.”

Onshore Lager – Flying Fish Brewing Company (Somerdale, NJ)

Image courtesy of Flying Fish Brewing Co.’s Facebook page

Flying Fish is the stalwart of NJ Brewing and they have a pretty solid line up of brews, in addition to their fantastic Exit Series. Over the past couple of years as the Exit Series drew to a close, Flying Fish started adding new, more permanent brews to their lineup. One of them is called Onshore Lager which has a great can design and sounds almost like a Pilsner. I don’t often go for Lagers, but when the Lager is Pilsner or a Bock, then I’m more inclined to give the beer a try. I’m guessing the sub-5% ABV on this one might lend Pilsner-like quality to the beer, too. Sign me up for a six pack.

“Our home is surrounded by a breathtaking stretch of ocean and beautiful waterways, and ONSHORE LAGER is our tribute to that environment.

Brewed without adjuncts, this beer pours a pure, golden color, and German-style hops provide a crisp, clean finish.”

Smooth Sail Summer Ale (Pale Wheat Ale) Heavy Seas Brewing Company (Halethorpe, MD)

Image courtesy of CraftBeer.com

The Pale Wheat Ale, popularized in the summer by Bell’s Oberon Ale and Samuel Adams Summer Ale. Not quite a Hefeweizen, not quite a pale ale, but very refreshing. This one from Heavy Seas seems to have a similar profile to the aforementioned two ales, with a hint of citrus which tells me I’d probably like this beer. From my very limited sampling of beers from heavy Seas, I think I’ll enjoy this one quite a bit. I’d seen it in stores the last year or two, but passed on it. I’ll be rectifying that this year.

“This is not your average summer ale. We’ve created the most refreshingly delicious American wheat ale. Brewed with lemon and orange peel, Smooth Sail finishes with a citrus kick. At 4.5% ABV you’ll have your new pool beer. Available on draft and cans only, it’s the perfect beer for trips to the park, hiking, or just sitting on the beach with your friends. A summer day. Kick back, relax, enjoy – a light breeze will take you to your happy place.”

When in Doubt Helles Lager – Tröegs Independent Brewing (Hershey, PA)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

While Tröegs already has a summer seasonal beer in their tasty Sunshine Pils, When in Doubt could perhaps be considered a “cousin” beer in that Helles Lagers and Pilsners are similar in style. This beer was part of Tröegs popular “Scratch series” a couple of years ago, then draft exclusive and now (according to the fine MyBeerBuzz beer blog), available in 12oz bottles. I’m hoping to try this one as soon as it is available (maybe June?) since I’ve really come to enjoy the Helles Lager style. At 4.3% ABV, this is a very crushable lager.

When in Doubt is all harmony. It begins with a single note, a clean and delicate pilsner malt reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Tradition hops add hints of wildflower and subtle bitterness, and our crisp lager yeast pulls it all together. In the end, this refreshing Munich-style Helles is greater than the sum of its parts and – when in doubt – always a good call.”

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Special thanks to the great MyBeerBuzz blog for images in this post specifically, and for tireless efforts to keep the craft beer community abreast of new beers and beer news.

Draught Diversions: St. Patrick’s Day 2018

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…

If Oktoberfest is the Fall holiday for beer, then St. Patrick’s Day, the day when everybody is Irish, is certainly the Late Winter/Spring Holiday day for beer. Not just a holiday for a specific style of beer, but a brand, some would say. Guinness, of course. Guinness is far from the only beer option (or even Irish Stout) to enjoy on and around St. Patrick’s Day, so I’ll touch on a few of those. But I’ll start with Guinness itself.

Guinness, the most popular and best selling stout in the world is still quite well regarded by many craft beer folks despite being such a global brand. When it comes to stouts, especially Irish Stouts, few compare to Guinness especially when the line from the keg to the tap is short. A nice touch is when the bartender adds a four-leaf clover to the head.

Guinness has been expanding their portfolio here in the U.S. over the past handful of years, including a Blonde Ale (the less said the better), an “Irish Wheat” that was surprisingly tasty, and several stouts. They offer up a Milk Stout as well as a Belgian-inspired Antwerpen Stout. The Guinness I’m really looking forward to trying, though, is the 200th Anniversary Export Stout, brewed in late 2017 in honor of the 200th anniversary since Guinness was first shipped to America.

The “other” Irish Stout, Murphy’s is also an excellent example of the style. It has been many, many years since I enjoyed a Murphy’s. I may have to change that soon.

Many American brewers try to evoke the style as well. This may not come as a shock to folks who read this blog regularly, but my favorite is probably Victory Brewing’s offering: Donnybrook Stout. I believe this is a draft only beer as I’ve never seen it in bottles or cans, but I recall the beer hitting the same notes as Guinness does, and to a fairly successful degree. Breckenridge Brewery has a “Nitro Dry Irish Stout” that is very much playing into the whole Guinness beer profile, too. Of course, Breckenridge is one of a growing number of American Craft Breweries purchased by Anheuser-Busch and part of its “High End” brand initiative.

It isn’t all about the Stouts on St. Patrick’s Day, though. Smithwick’s is the brand name for the Red Ale the fine folks at Guinness brew and distribute. For years this was a go-to beer for me. I even prefer a “Black and Red” or “BlackSmith” to the traditional “Black and Tan.” Smithwick’s may be the quintessential Irish Red Ale and again, many American brewers try to evoke the style.

I miss this logo from the beer. The new red logo looks like Bud and doesn’t stand out at all.

For my beer drinking dollar, the best of the American interpretations of an Irish Red Ale is – hands down, no discussion – Great Lakes Brewing’s Conway’s Irish Ale. I seem to alternate going with this or something from Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day.  Great Lakes (rightfully so) makes a big deal out of this one on St. Patrick’s Day.

I’ve only touched upon some a few of the seasonal/holiday appropriate brews to enjoy (responsibly!) during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, I know.* Of course, some Jameson would also be perfectly appropriate or one of the caskmates brews they’ve brewed in collaboration with a few American Craft brewers, like the Craic they partnered with River Horse here in New Jersey to brew last year. This beer is really tough to find and I haven’t had much luck yet.

Some other NJ breweries are getting in on the fun, too.*

*Gotta save some for next year’s St. Patrick’s Day post, right? 

For some Irish brews to enjoy for St. Patrick’s Day, take a look at this great article by Jason Notte.

There you have it. A quick rundown of some of the more widely available and widely known seasonally appropriate brews for St. Patrick’s Day as well as a handful of beers from some NJ Breweries. I know there are many more, so drop a note in the comments to let me know of a good one I may have overlooked.

Draught Diversions: 6 Beers of Christmas Past & Present (2017)

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…

Just like Thanksgiving, Christmas is a time for gathering with family and enjoying a hearty meal. I’ve written about Christmas beers on my other blog in the past, so I’ll touch on some over here at The Tap Takeover. Many breweries brew Winter Ales (darker, maltier beers that often have some kind of cinnamon/nutmeg spic component) while still others brew Christmas Ales, specifically. Today’s post of half-dozen beers, I’ll touch on six I try to have every Christmas/Winter along listing a few I’ve enjoyed. I’ll do another post focusing on Christmas/Winter beers I’m hoping to try this year.

I’ve mentioned Great Lakes Brewing company in past Draught Diversions in the past for their variety of beers. One of their big seasonal brews (maybe their most prominent) is the Christmas Ale which I’ve been enjoying every Christmas for the past few years. I felt like I hit jackpot a couple of years back when a local growler filling station had a keg of this. Where many winter ales have cinnamon as a prominent spice, Great Lakes adds honey to balance the spice for a beer that is great to enjoy while trimming the Christmas Tree, wrapping presents, or gathering with friends on cold winter nights.

One of the best beers in Samuel Adams/Boston Beer’s annual line up is the classic Christmas / Winter Ale, Old Fezziwig Ale. With cinnamon and ginger playing together in the rich malt, Fezziwig is a beer people have been begging Jim Koch to release in six packs for years. Alas, the beer is available annually in the Winter Classics variety pack along with stalwarts Boston Lager and Winter Lager and usually some kind of bock, most often a Chocolate Bock. More than any beer in the Samuel Adams lineup, I really wish they hadn’t changed the label for this beer and kept our top-hatted friend (pictured above) on the label rather than just the “icon” of a top hat.

I’ve found myself writing about Tröegs in a lot of these posts, for good reason. The independent brewing brothers craft wonderful beers and a highlight every year is the Belgian Strong Dark Ale brewed with Honey and Cherries known the world ‘round as Mad Elf. This is one of the beers that helped to put Tröegs on the map years ago. Every year around Christmas, somebody at one of the many parties I’m at (family and friends alike) has at least a six pack of this one to share. One year, one of my uncles brought the giant 101 ml bottle to Christmas Eve and we all had to finish it. That isn’t a complaint, but I think I appreciate the beer now more than I have in the past.

As long as I can remember drinking and enjoying beer, Harpoon Winter Warmer has been around and I’ve been enjoying at least a six pack every holiday season. This one is similar to Old Fezziwig, though not quite as malty. One year, around Christmas time, we had a anniversary party for my in-laws. When stocking up on the liquor for the party, the liquor store mischarged me for Winter Warmer, I paid the six-pack price for the whole case. In any event, there’s a lot of nostalgia for me around this beer. This is one case of a label change I do like.

A classic Belgian Christmas beer I had for the first time on Christmas Day 2016, but one that I’ll be sure to have this year and in the future is Delirium Noël / Christmas.  Huyghe Brewery in Belgium, which brews most of the beers under the Delirium brand is immediately recognizable from its pink elephant mascot. The Christmas beer is a Strong Dark Belgian Ale  brewed for the first time in 2000 from what I can tell on their Web site. This is beer is filled with spices and hints of stone fruits like plums and cherries, which mixes so wonderfully with the Belgian yeasts. This was one of the most flavorful Christmas beers I had when I first tried it Christmas 2016. Either that or I was so accustomed to the American beers and Delirium Noël / Christmas with its stark Belgian character gave me something different that I immediately considered a favorite.

Last, and certainly not least, is the granddaddy of all American Christmas beers, Anchor’s Merry Christmas & Happy New Year beer. The first holiday beer in Craft Brewing, Anchor first brewed a version of this beer in 1975, a year after I was born, so this one is almost as old as me. I think I’ve had about 6 or 7 versions of the beer, either in six packs or grabbing a bottle at the Wegman’s near me in their “Craft Your Own Six Pack.” I enjoyed last year’s so much, I’ll have to get a six pack this year.

On my next post (this Thursday) I’ll ponder six Christmas / Winter beers I hope to try this year or early next year.

Draught Diversions: Thanksgiving 2017 Suggestions

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…

Perhaps no American holiday is more centered around food, feasting, and gathering together for a sit-down meal as is Thanksgiving. Sure, Christmas Dinner is a focal point for many families around the world, but food is the primary icon of what many Americans call “Turkey Day.”

You can probably justify any style pairing for the day since there are so many potential dishes as part of the overall day, so I’ll just run off a few styles that I’ve had over the past few years I’ve found to be really nice. First and foremost; however, I’d suggest grabbing a growler or two from your favorite local brewery to bring to the family gathering if at all possible. This is by no means an exhaustive set of beer suggestions and a lot of people (myself included), split the day and do dinner at one location and desert at another location so you may have a special beer you’d rather share at one place than another.. There are plenty of lists like that floating around the internets (Craft Beer and Brewing, GQNY Times, Food and Wine, among many others).

When first arriving and chatting with your family and friends, something light and sessionable might a good option. Maybe a Session IPA (like Founders’ All Day IPA or Southern Tier’s Tangier) or a Hefeweizen (Any of Harpoon’s UFOs including the Winter Blonde would be nice as would Tröegs Dreamweaver Wheat), both are low in alcohol (floating around 5%) and provide a distinct flavor. Or something really good as starter is a good ol’ American Lager and it doesn’t get much more American than the Lager from America’s Oldest Brewery, Yuengling.

The dinner beer is even more open for debate and consideration. Some might lean towards a solid IPA or Pale Ale, but not me. I think the hoppiness might clash too much with the earthy flavors of the main course.  Here’s where you want a brew that is a little more hearty, something with weight to it. Last year, I enjoyed a Moonglow Weizenbock from Victory Brewing and it paired wonderfully with the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and especially the sweet potatoes. At 8.7% with a tasty malty base, you’ve definitely got a hearty brew. Along those lines, a Dubbel like Ommegang’s world class Dubbel Ale or a Dopplebock (like the Troegenator I reviewed a few weeks ago) would be both make for nice pairing.

A brown ale could go really well, here, too, Newburgh Brewing Company makes an excellent Brown as does Smuttynose, with their classic of American Craft Beer, Old Brown Dog Ale. About as close as I’d come to thinking IPA for dinner would be say a black IPA like Two Roads Brewing’s Route of All Evil could be good here with a nice hop and malt balance. A porter; however, would be perfect, some have roast and the style is just complementary enough for most meals that something like Great Lakes’s Edmund Fitzgerald or the American craft beer standard for porters, Anchor Porter could work well for many palettes.

Here we come to dessert. Some folks will go for a beer with their dessert, I usually don’t. In this case, maybe a sweeter brew like Southern Tier’s Choklat, which is a rich, sweet stout. Same goes for Terrapin’s fabulous Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout. Since Pumpkin Pie is a staple dessert at Thanksgiving, why not go for a pumpkin beer at this time? One of the classics of the style is Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale, a beer I haven’t had in a couple of years. Perhaps I’ll remedy that this year.

Once the food is done and you want to relax and maybe take that nap, splitting a sipping beer to top off the day might be nice. Perhaps something barrel-aged and/or higher in ABV.

I was able to snag a bottle of Flying Fish’s Exit 17, which is a Russian Imperial Stout aged in Dad’s Hat Whiskey bottles. This was a fairly limited release, with only 750 bottles put into distribution. Really, though, one of the dessert beers could be good here, too. If you were lucky enough to snag multiple bottles of KBS, it might not be a bad idea to share one of those after the food is done. Something like one of these higher ABV stouts are Barleywines might be good to sip throughout the day, too.

 

Obviously these are all only suggestions. Mostly based on what I’ve enjoyed in year’s past at Thanksgiving. The only additional thing I’ll say is more than a suggestion, a request. Drink responsibly. If you have more than two or three (hell more than one of some of the beers I mentioned in this post), don’t get behind the wheel.

Draught Diversions: 5 Breweries I Want to Visit

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…

There are thousands of breweries across the country and visiting them all would be challenge for anybody save the late great Michael Jackson or somebody like Jeff Allworth or John Holl whose jobs are all about beer. I’ve featured breweries I’ve visited from New Jersey so with today’s post, I’ll focus on 5 Non-New Jersey breweries I would love to visit and tour some day in the future. This may be a rotating, ongoing feature because there are definitely more than 5 breweries I would love to tour and visit.

Choosing which I’d like to visit first isn’t an easy decision, so I’ll use the arbitrary ranking of “From Which Brewery Does Rob Have the Most Unique Check ins”

Sierra Nevada Company in Chico, California (1979)
Total Sierra Nevada beers checked in on untappd: 35

Arguably, the most important American Craft Brewery, full stop. Although their iconic green label Pale Ale is not one of my favorites, it is considered by many to be the most important American craft beer produced. I think I may need to try it once again. I do; however, enjoy many of the beers from their portfolio, like Narwhal, the delicious Imperial Stout, the Summerfest Pilsner, the wonderful Porter that doesn’t seem to make it out to New Jersey any more and perhaps the best American Hefeweizen, Kellerweis. The annual Beer Camp collaboration is a highlight, as is what has now become an annual Oktoberfest collaboration brew. Their Barleywine, Bigfoot is iconic and so many people I know countdown the days until Sierra’s ultra-hopped Christmas brew, Celebration Ale is available.

Visiting the brewery that was at the forefront of the Craft Beer Revolution is a no-brainer for any craft-beer fan.

Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan (1997)
Total Founders’ beers checked in on untappd: 23

Walk into any store selling craft beer and chances are you’ll see at least one beer from the 20-year American Craft Beer institution. Seeing the brewery on television, for example when the dudes from Brew Dogs visited Michigan, makes it more appealing, as does a recent episode of Steal this Beer where Founders’ head Brewery Jeremy Kosmicki was a guest.

I’ve had nearly 2 dozen different beers from Founders and have enjoyed all of them. Just look at their portfolio of beloved brews: Breakfast Stout, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Backwoods Bastard, All Day IPA, Rübæus, PC Pils, Sumatra Mountain Brown, and the list goes on. Plus, like many breweries, there are quite a few brews that are brewery only releases, like one of the rarest of brews, an Eisbock.

This is high atop the must visit list for me.

Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland Ohio (1988)
Total Great Lakes beers checked in on untappd: 16

I’ve had about a dozen beers from Great Lakes impressive portfolio and haven’t been disappointed by any of them. My wife and I have a life goal of visiting every Major League Baseball stadium and when we eventually get to Cleveland, we are going to have to visit this great Mid-Western brewery. That may not be for a couple/few years, but it will happen.

Great Lakes Brewing’s porter, Edmund Fitzgerald, is possibly the best American porter I’ve had. I’ll probably be reviewing that beer in the nearish future so I’ll hold off on any more descriptive praise. Last week I proclaimed their Oktoberfest my favorite American Oktoberfest and every year, a six pack of Great Lakes Christmas Ale is always in my refrigerator. Cleveland is such a great city, from what I’ve heard, so between this fantastic brewery, the Cleveland Indians, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’m looking forward to eventually making our way out there.

A small sampling of their year-round brews

Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY (1997)
Total Ommegang beers checked in on untappd: 15

I’ve talked about their Game of Thrones beers here at the Tap Takeover, but they brew so much more than that. Ommegang brews traditional Belgian ales, in keeping with the ingredients and brewing methods to produce some of the finest, most well-regarded beers in America. The Abbey Dubbel is a world class, delicious beer. The Cherry Lambic they coproduce (Rosetta) is everything a fruit beer should be. About the only beer of theirs that didn’t work for me was their Nirvana IPA, which is a style outside their Belgian wheelhouse.

Also in keeping with a Baseball theme, it has been a few years (almost 20!) since I last visited the Baseball Hall of Fame so this trip would be at least a two-for with two fantastic spots in the same area.

A good friend whose son plays Little League baseball made the trip to Cooperstown and kept sending me pictures of the brewery and talked about how great the smaller batch beers were. Needless to say, I was a little jealous.

Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Bavaria, Germany (1040)
Total Weihenstephan beers checked in on untappd: 7*
*They don’t have quite as many styles in their portfolio, which is part of their success because all are superb

Is there any more classic German brewery? I don’t think so. Brewers of the world’s greatest Hefeweizen, a Weizenbock with nearly as good a reputation (Vitus), a great Dopplebock (Korbininan) to name just 3. If there’s a German style of beer, they brew it and it is a classic. Plus, with my German roots, I really want to visit this brewery and if I do, I’ll probably tour other German breweries. Just look up any of the beers from the picture below on Beer Advocate to check the ratings. Most if not all are World Class or Outstanding from the Alström Bros.

With Mom being born in Germany, there’s an added desire for me to visit Germany and why not start with the oldest and one of the most respected breweries in the world?

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2017

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…

Oktoberfest…is there any time of year that is more of a beer holiday? I don’t think so. Sure there are beers for every season and every occasion, but few times throughout the year does beer, across the world, have such a spotlight shone upon it. As with many great beer-related traditions, this one goes back to Munich, Bavaria, Germany in 1810. What began as a celebration of the marriage of then Prince and soon King Ludwig to Princess Therese expanded to something that is a global celebration of German culture and Gemütlichkeit two hundred years later. With Okoberfest 2017 beginning this weekend, September 16 [ends October 3], what better time for a little post about the great German celebration?

From Wikipedia:

Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. Beers meeting these criteria are designated Oktoberfest Beer. The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest Beer under the aforementioned criteria are:
Augustiner-Bräu
Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu
Löwenbräu
Paulaner
Spatenbräu
Staatliches Hofbräu-München

Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers, which consists of the above six breweries.

From those breweries, the only Oktoberfest beer I haven’t had is the one brewed by Augustiner-Bräu.

I suppose one way you could view this is similar to sparkling wine and Champagne in that only the sparkling wine from Champagne, France can truly be considered Champagne. Only those six brewers make “True Oktoberfest” beer.

There are many, many more Märzen/Oktoberfest/Festbiers available, brewed by German breweries and American breweries alike. Last year (in 2016) the Oktoberfest that I enjoyed the most was Ayinger’s so I’m probably going to get some of that this year. I almost always get at least a six pack of the Hacker-Pschorr and really want to pick up some of Weihenstephaner’s Festbier since I haven’t had theirs in a couple of years.

Then we get to the American Oktoberfest beers and boy is there a variety as it seems most mid level craft brewers have a fall Oktoberfest offering and even some of the local nano-breweries in New Jersey are brewing up the traditional Lager style of the beer.

As of this writing, I’ve only had two Oktoberfest beers so far in 2017 and I usually try to push off having any until after Labor Day. I may have ranted about that in the past.

The first I had was Sierra Nevada’s collaboration with Brauhaus Miltenburger, which was quite good. I like this annual tradition, you get a new version of the Oktoberfest every year, but with the Sierra Nevada brand, chances are it will be a good Oktoberfest.  This was the third year Sierra Nevada collaborated with a German brewery on an Oktobefest, rthe first was in 2015 with Brauhaus Riegele and last year’s (2016) was Mahrs Bräu.

The other was Two Roads’ offering, Ok2berfest which was a great interpretation of the style. I was not surprised considering I’ve enjoy just about everything from Two Roads, but I’d never had theirs in the past.

Annual American Favorites

The best Oktoberfest from an American brewery, for my drinking dollar every year, is Great Lakes Oktoberfest. The great Cleveland brewery doesn’t make a bad beer and their portfolio of beers is one of the most consistent in the American craft brew landscape Their Oktoberfest is an annual must for me, as it perfectly captures the malty, caramelly essence of a Märzen lager. Despite their size and distribution reach, Yuengling is still considered a micro brewery and their Oktoberfest is usually a very dependable, solid offering. It is ubiquitous this time of year in the Northeast and family and friends usually have this one in their fridge.

Victory Brewing’s Festbier is worth getting every year, too. That shouldn’t be a surprise coming from me at this point, if you’ve been reading The Tap Takeover every week. Local NJ Craft Brewer Ramstein / High Point Brewing makes a very good Oktoberfest, considering the strong German roots and basis for their approach to brewing, this is a natural beer for them to make.

Oktoberfest Beers to Try in 2017 for the First Time

From NJ breweries there are three I’d like to try. My friends at Flounder are brewing up an Oktobefest I’m hoping to sample in the next couple of weeks. Czig Meister in Hackettstown released an Oktoberfest this year and they’ve really been making a big push with cans into distribution so hopefully that’ll show up locally. Lone Eagle has one they’ve named “My Favorite Marzen” which on the name alone seems worth trying.

Outside of breweries in NJ, I really want to try Firestone Walker’s Oaktoberfest. I’ve only had excellent beers from the popular California craft brewery so I’ve got high hopes for this beer. Unfortunately this will only be a limited draft offering in 2017. With von Trapp’s beers entering the NJ Market, I would like to try theirs as well, considering the German brewing tradition behind the brewery.  For all the beers I’ve enjoyed over the years from Harpoon, I’ve never had their Oktoberfest.  I haven’t seen their beers as widely available in NJ as I did a few years ago.

I usually try to get to at least one Oktoberfest celebration every year.  A local restaurant has a big outdoor celebration every year, but it seems to get earlier and earlier every year. This year, I’m likely going to a mountain retreat for a big outdoor Oktoberfest celebration.

So, with that, a safe and enjoyable Oktoberfest to you all. Or as my ancestors say (mom was born in Germany!),

Ein prosit und Gemütlichkeit!