Beer Review: Ramstein Blonde Hefe-Weizen

Name: Ramstein Blonde Hefe-Weizen
Brewing Company: High Point Brewing Company (Ramstein)
Location: Butler, NJ
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.5%

“If not just the best Hefeweizen brewed in New Jersey, one of the best Hefeweizens brewed in America.”

From Ramstein’s Flagships beer page:

Our fresh traditional German-style Weiss Beer. Malty wheat bouquet brimming with clove and banana aromas. Wheat and barley balance with imported German noble hops. Unfiltered for a natural flavor. The finish is malty, smooth and refreshing.

This is only the second Hefeweizen I’ve reviewed here at the Tap Takeover, with the first being arguably the best Hefeweizen in the world (Weihenstephaner). It is a style I love, a style for me that works perfectly for warmer weather, so with spring in full swing and summer on the horizon, what better time to highlight one of the best American-made Hefeweizens…or Hefe-weizens as the fine craftspeople of High Point Brewing Company call this beer.

The Ramstein brand/label is brewed out of High Point Brewing Company in Butler, NJ. Owner and brewmaster Greg Zaccardi brings amazing old-world (i.e. German) knowledge to his brewery, including this beer, arguably the most definable German style of beer. High Point is one of the 5 original craft breweries in New Jersey having opened in 1996, and one of the few dedicated solely to German Lagers and Ales.

A pop of the cap and the whiff of the clove evoked by the yeast hits my nose. The inviting aroma of a Hefeweizen that speaks to good times in warm weather. Out of the bottle and into the glass the beer goes. The golden liquid that fills the glass has a slight haze, as is apropos for a Hefeweizen, and when poured correctly, a frothy white head. The Hefeweizen is the original hazy beer, don’t let those folks standing on line for $25 4-pack can releases fool you.

Back to the deliciousness of Ramstein Blonde Hefe-weizen… That first sip is refreshing with the yeast providing much of the flavors – some clove, some banana-like fruit. Overall, the beer is just a beautifully clean, and wonderfully crafted beer. It isn’t over assertive with hops, the flavor evocations from the yeast are there, but not to the point where they’ll drown out anything else you may want to consume.

For that reason, this beer is a perfect accompaniment to almost any meal. In my mind a Pilsner is the perfect beer to enjoy with pizza, but this beer is a very close second. I enjoyed a glass of this with a pork tenderloin meal. I’ve had this at one of my favorite restaurants/beer bars with a delicious burger. I enjoyed a bottle, actually the one pictured above, just sitting in my yard on warm spring day relaxing with my dog.

I would recommend this beer without hesitation as a great, flavorful example of a beer brewed with German ingredients (most of the hops, malt, and yeast used by High Point Brewing( are imported from Germany), in German tradition and process (Greg honed his brewing technique in Germany), with some American flare.

In some of my reviews of beers from NJ breweries, I’ve alluded to a “Hall of Fame” or a shelf of “Essential NJ Beers” Ramstein Blonde Hefe-Weizen definitely gets a spot and maybe the first one, given High Point Brewing’s legacy as one of the Fab Five of New Jersey Craft Brewing and the outstanding quality of this World-Class Beer.

My only real knock on the beer (and most of the beer from Ramstein/High Point Brewing) is how limited the availability of their beer is. Bottles of their beer are rarely in stores in my daily driving radius which is surprising given the quality and longevity of the Ramstein brand. All their beers are superb, the brewery is nice to visit (as I did a couple years ago for the release of their world class Winter Wheat), but it isn’t exactly close at about 45 miles from my home. The quality of is great and I’d be more than happy to give these folks my money for that high quality beer on a regular basis.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier

Name: Hefeweissbier
Brewing Company: Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan
Location: Freising, Bavaria, Germany
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%

From the beer’s description on Weihenstephaner’s Web Site:

Our golden-yellow wheat beer, with its fine-poured white foam, smells of cloves and impresses consumers with its refreshing banana flavor. It is full bodied and with a smooth yeast taste. To be enjoyed at any time, goes excellently with fish and seafood, with spicy cheese and especially with the traditional Bavarian veal sausage. Brewed according to our centuries-old brewing tradition on the Weihenstephan hill.

If a brewery, the world’s oldest, has been in continuous operation for nearly 900 years and the beer has remained relatively unchanged, then clearly, this brewery is doing something right. I can’t think of anything that would codify the term “classic beer” and that ethos quite as powerfully as do the brewers at Weihenstephaner and their absolute classic Hefeweizen they call “Hefe Weissbier.”

While I’ve largely been focusing these beer reviews on “Craft Beer”, I wanted to take some time and space to give some love to a classic beer style, from a classic brewery. For what it’s worth, Weihenstaphan is labeled as a Micro Brewery on untappd, despite their global reach.

Few drinks or foods hit my tastebuds so well as does a Hefeweizen beer, and the wonderful brewers of Weihenstephaner have perfected the traditional Bavarian wheat beer like few others in the world. Hefeweizen is a fairly straightforward style, a classic style, but sometimes that simplicity is what makes it such an elegant, tasty beer. This is a beer I enjoy over and over and return to with regularity.

Some Hefeweizens can lean towards more of a fruity, banana flavor evocation, while clove flavor dominates other Hefeweizens. A lot of this comes down to the yeast and the brewing process. The Weihenstephaner take is more on the banana side of things, giving the beer a profile that evokes sweetness and happiness.

One may be inclined to add a citrus slice to the beer, be it orange or lemon thanks to the brewers of Blue Moon who have made it seem a standard thing to do for European wheat beers. Do not do that with any German Hefeweizen, especially, the Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier.

Pouring a bright golden yellow from the bottle (or tap), the beer head foams up quite nicely. One thing to do with many of the unfiltered beers like the classic hefeweizen is to pour only about ¾ of the beer into the glass. Let it settle and let the foamy head grow to its potential. Swirl the last of what is in the bottle to gather all the yeast particulates and top off the beer to allow those taste bursts to float through the beer and give it the flavor profile most associated with it.

The glass in the photos here is, admittedly, not the intended glass for any Hefeweizen, but I figured I’d rather use a glass with the Weihenstephaner logo on it than the logo of another brewer (even if it is another German brewery). To the right you’ll see the classic Hefeweizen/Wheat Beer glass. I do have a few of them with various logos, but opted for the large mug with the Weihenstephaner logo, which is a good second option.

These days, brewers put so many ingredients into beer or age the beer in some type of barrel which does result in a wonderful, complex flavor profile. On the other hand, there’s definitely something to be said for the elegance of using simple, straightforward ingredients (just two grains), which results in something so incredibly tasty. All you need to do is taste the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier and look no further than their logo with the year 1090 to know you’re drinking a great, classic beer.

Ein prosit und gemütlichkeit!

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 5-star rating.

Draught Diversions: Lone Eagle Brewing Company (Flemington, NJ)

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 or the third person referencing…

Last Thursday, June 15, I spent a couple of hours at Lone Eagle Brewing in Flemington, NJ. Located in the Liberty Village Outlets, Lone Eagle has been open about a year and after starting with eight beers, they now feature a dozen taps. Their head brewer Alex Franko, formerly of Dogfish Head, joined the brewery shortly before launch and he has helped owners Todd and Bob brew some tasty beers and the brewery become a welcoming presence in the community and area.

I visited Lone Eagle a couple of times over the past year for a flight and for a couple of growler fills. During those visits, I was very pleased with what they were brewing, particularly the Oatmeal Stout which impressed my family when I brought a growler to Christmas Eve. I also liked the Cranberry Saison and as well as their Dopplebock which was a nice surprise as not too many breweries, let alone smaller breweries, are brewing Dopplebocks. I know I said that about Jughandle a couple of weeks ago, but of the small craft breweries I go to fairly regularly, I don’t recall seeing a Dopplebock on tap outside of here at Lone Eagle or at Jughandle. In addition to their rotating 12 beers on tap, Lone Eagle sometimes puts one of their beers on Nitro. In the case of my most recent visit, it was their Baltic Porter.  The nitro addition cushioned the bitterness usually associated with Baltic Porters and made for a really pleasant beer.

Tap list @ Lone Eagle on 06-15-16. A nice mix of styles highlighted by the DILLIGAF Hefeweizen, in my opinion, as well as the Award Winning West Coast IPA.

Lone Eagle is currently canning four beers, their West Coast IPA (which won best IPA in April 2017’s Atlantic City Beer Fest), their Turkey Trot Porter (named in honor of the 20+ year old Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Flemington), their American Pale Ale, and their Craison, a saison with cranberries. More on the Turkey Trot Porter in a bit.

The beer that impressed me the most; however, was their Hefeweizen, which also goes by the name of Dillagaf Hefeweizen so named for one of the regular customers. I’ve been wanting to try this beer for a while since it was one of the “launch beers” and finally did on Thursday. Other times I visited, they didn’t have any of the beer tap ready as the previous visits were during cooler months.

As I’ve said in the past, wheat based beers – especially Hefeweizens – are at the top of my list of favorite styles and this one did not disappoint. In fact, I was surprised with how great it tasted. I would compare Lone Eagle’s Hefeweizing very favorably with some of the better German Hefeweizens. I would even say Lone Eagle’s was better than some of the German Hefeweizens I’ve had. With how well Hefeweizens pair with warm weather, I’d love to see this beer as the brewery’s next canned release for convenience in a poolside cooler, for easy transport to summer BBQs, or just to stock up and have a can always on the ready.

Just what a Hefeweizen should look like

With regard to the facility itself, Lone Eagle has a nice first floor bar and seating area, with an even larger seating area on a second floor. They rent it out and have a second tap upstairs, too. For my most recent visit, I was going for the monthly Brews and Board Games meeting, this was the group’s third such meeting and my first. I know a couple of people in the group, one a former coworker who I recently discovered is a craft beer geek like me, and another friend I knew from the online Science Fiction Community/twitterverse.

Exterior of Lone Eagle @ 44 Stangl Rd in Flemington, NJ. The photo doesn’t do justice the building footprint and spacious interior

One of the games was actually beer based, Brewcrafters Travel Card Game, and is slightly reminiscent of the game Munchkin. The point of the game is to get 21 points by brewing beer based on the cards you draw. I enjoyed it so much I’m going to have to get this game for myself . There were a lot of games, a lot of people engaged in those games and it seemed like everyone was having a great time. Considering most were enjoying some delicious beer, this should be no surprise. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to the next gathering of the Brews and Board Games group on July 20.

One of the great things about craft beer and these smaller breweries is the sense of community they inspire or at which they are are often the center. Demented in Middlesex has a great taproom and will often have food trucks in the parking lot. Lone Eagle has this sense of community at its heart, too. The brewery was founded by two friends and home brewers from neighboring Raritan Township. Lone Eagle hold regular events that bring people in the community together with local restaurants or food trucks selling food, local musicians and bands playing music for patrons to enjoy, or folks looking to play some interesting games while sharing some beer.

That sense of community was strong even before the brewery had a name. In November 2015 Owners Todd Becker and Bob King, asked people to submit names for the brewery. After some back and forth to ensure a winning name wasn’t already taken by an existing brewery, Lone Eagle became the name in honor of Charles Lindbergh as it was the nickname he received after successfully completing a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. Lindbergh spent a great deal of time in Flemington during the Trial of the Century, which at its center was the kidnapping and murder of Lindbergh’s son.  Flemington is also where an annual Thanksgiving 5K race is held, the 2017 version of the Turkey Trot will be the 25th Annual race. My wife and I have run in it for the past 7 or 8 years. The race is the name Lone Eagle uses for their tasty porter, Turkey Trot Porter. I said earlier I’d come back to that beer and so I did.

Lone Eagle is coming up on their one year anniversary so Todd and Bob are having a two-day celebration. I’m hoping I can make it to one of those days, but I know for sure I’ll be returning to the Brews and Board Games meet up and stopping in for a flight or growler fill in the future. (And hopefully for some canned Hefeweizen!)

Draught Diversions: Jughandle Brewing Company (Tinton Falls, NJ)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and basically non-review posts here at the Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

This is the first of what will be several posts featuring a single brewery I’ve visited. There are currently 73 production breweries in NJ and with state’s small size from a geographical perspective, it is quite easy to find a brewery either intentionally (by visiting the great and indispensable NJ Craft Beer website) or by accident. In my case, there are 4 or 5 micro/nanobreweries/brewpubs within about 15 miles of my house as of this writing. (More are on the way in some phase of start-up.)

Which brings me to Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls, NJ, soon to be celebrating their first year of brewing and selling beer. They have a great location, just off of the Garden State Parkway (Exit 102) and barely a mile from the Jersey Shore Outlets, which makes it very convenient to stop there after a day of shopping at the outlets or on the way home from the beach. In my case, my wife and I decided to enjoy the lovely weather and try to get some things at the outlets. We stopped in the brewery on our way home. After all, we had to pass it the brewery on our way to the Garden State Parkway after we left the outlets.

The brewery is located in a strip mall, which might seem somewhat odd initially. At least to folks not from NJ and unfamiliar with the peculiar laws surrounding breweries and microbreweries in particular. There are specific laws that preclude breweries from selling food. On the other hand, breweries in NJ like Jughandle and others (for example Ship Bottom in Beach Haven, Twin Elephant in Chatham, and Wet Ticket in Rahway) allow patrons to bring food inside the brewery. There’s a pizzeria and I think a Mexican take out place in the same strip mall as Jughandle.

What about the beer? What impressed me the most about the beer was the variety of styles on tap, with quality across the board for the four beers I sampled. There are too many breweries, I can think of a couple in NJ, that seem to only brew IPAs or focus on one primary style…or when you visit one of the smaller breweries and of the 12 taps, 9 are variations of one style. Not so with Jughandle, in addition to the styles I had, they were also pouring a Scotch Ale, a Brown Ale, a Irish-style Stout as well as a couple of IPAs

A cleverly designed flight paddle

I had four tasters, which is how many these fine folks include in their flight. I love the flight paddle they use for delivering their flight of tasters. I started off with Berliner Weisse with Raspberry – a very refreshing beer perfect for summer. Second was the Belgian Dubbel, a style I don’t see very often from smaller breweries, also quite good. Third was another style, steeped in tradition, but sort of drowned out by IPAs and other popular styles: Dunkelweizen. Jughandle’s Dunkelweizen really matched well against the style profile. Last was the classic German Hefeweizen and a very good rendition of it from the fine folks at Jughandle.  I’d likely fill my growler with their Berliner Weisse or Hefeweizen were I to visit them again.

I’d highly recommend stopping in if your travels take you near their location. If you are in NJ and enjoy quality beer, making Jughandle a part of your trip would be worth it.

As I mentioned at the top of my post, Jughandle is celebrating the first year on June 15 with a Pig Roast. Were I a little bit closer, I’d probably attend.

Ein Prosit!