Draught Diversions: September 2019 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…

The weather is supposed to begin getting cooler in September, but there were quite a few days in the 80s in New Jersey. Oktoberfest begins in Sepember and the darker beers become more prevalent in my fridge. This month features more NJ beers than the usual half split since New Jersey Craft Beer Week fell in the middle of the month. That, coupled with going for some “old reliable” Oktoberfest beers (plus a couple already highlighted in this year’s Oktoberfest feature and I didn’t want to double dip) made for a mostly NJ six pack this time around.

Oktoberfest – Bitburger Braugruppe (2019) (Sierra Nevada Brewing Company) | Märzen | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Sierra Nevada continues its annual Oktoberfest tradition of collaborating with a German Brewery. I’ve liked all the collaborations they’ve brewed, this one might be near the top of the list. A great malt flavor, nice crisp finish, and very refreshing. My only problem with the beer is that I wasn’t eating a bratwurst while drinking the beer.

Flood (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

I realize I mentioned this beer on my Brewery review of Jersey Cyclone, but even a couple of weeks later this beer stands out to me. An absolute delight of a brew, a perfectly balanced Imperial Stout whose flavors are drawn from the core four ingredients with no adjuncts. If I’m going for an Imperial Stout that isn’t aged in a barrel, Flood is exactly what I’d want.

XPA Citra Pale Ale (Flying Fish Brewing Brewery Co) | Pale Ale – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Over the last couple of years, the venerable Flying Fish has been updating their look and some of their beers. Their can art has come a long ways from where it was a couple of years ago and this beer is an update to their original Pale Ale I really liked how the Citra hops were featured in the beer. This could be a nice every-day pale ale.


The Lawman
(Czig Meister Brewing Brewery Co) | Hefeweizen | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Czig Meister’s Hefeweizen was really tasty, it leaned more on the clove/spicy spectrum of Hefeweizens than the banana-bubblegum flavors. Not a bad thing, in fact a very solid Hefeweizen. For all the attention their many IPAs get, their old school standards are really nice, too

The Hook (Carton Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Been a while since Carton featured here and this is a beer I’d been wanting to try for a while. Carton calls it a “Late Hopped Wheated Pale Ale” and I was super happy to see it on the menu Twenty/20 Taphouse. One of my favorite hops, Vic Secret, shines in this one with its citrusy profile. Great stuff and a fine example of a perfectly balanced hazy, hop forward ale. I didn’t want to snap a picture of the beer during dinner, but it had the look of a hazy pale, which is exactly what it is.

Velvet Fjord (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – Milkshake | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This might be the coolest can art I’ve seen in a long time.

This one just made it under the buzzer, so to speak. I was part of another beer/bottle share with some work friends (my contribution was La Trappe’s Quadrupel, which was well-received) and one of the other participants brought a four pack of this beer. He happens to live very close to Icarus which was fortunate for all of us. He was kind enough to let me have one of the cans he brought and what I tasted on the bottle share was even more evident in a full beer – this is a delicious, sweet IPA. Lots of hops, a bunch of lactose and vanilla on the finish made for a really good beer. Plus that magic Kviek Yeast many brewers have begun using as it is a hot commodity in the beer world.

Other odds and ends…
An old favorite, a new not favorite

I returned to an Oktoberfest beer I haven’t had in a few years, Victory’s Festbier which was just as good as I recall it being. I’ve got to stick to some of the classics and not be hesitate when I’ inclined to go for old favorites beers every now and again. Unfortunately, a beer I had high hopes for seriously disappointed me – Bomb! from Prairie Artisan Ales. This is an Imperial Stout with coffee, vanilla, cocoa, and peppers. I usually like those spicy stouts, but this one may have been a bad batch. I couldn’t even finish the beer..

Draught Diversions: Favorite New Beers of 2018

Welcome to the second annual best of the year here at the Tap Takeover! I drank a lot of beer in 2017, a lot of different beers. According to untappd, I had 373 unique beers in many styles (101 distinct styles), many breweries (155) and of varying quality.

Like last year, these beers are “new to me” beers, even if the beer was brewed in the past or a regular rotation offering for a given brewery. I’m not including special annual releases I’ve had in the past like Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Sierra Nevada Summerfest, or Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. First, I’ve had previous vintages of those beers so they really aren’t “new to me.”  Some of these beers have received full reviews at the Tap Takeover, some were mentioned in a monthly six pack, and some weren’t ever mentioned before.

Once again, a NJ bias shines through on this list as 6 of the beers are from NJ breweries (last year featured 7 NJ breweries), but considering about half of the beer I bought & consumed in 2018 was from NJ breweries, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Unlike last year, there are zero stouts on this list. Like last year, no brewery appears on this list, twice. Also like last year, some of the breweries on this list will not be a surprise,

Breakdown:

  • 6 from NJ breweries
  • 3 IPAs (all three are Double/Imperials)
  • 2 Porters (both Double/Imperials)
  • 2 Pilsners
  • 1 Belgian Strong Golden Ale
  • 1 Belgian Tripel
  • 1 Bock (Dopplebock)
  • 1 Lager
  • 1 Old Ale

On to the list…

12. Steam Whistle Plisner Unfiltered (Plus) – Steam Whistle Brewing – Pilsner – Other – 4.25 bottle caps

If you would have told me one of my favorite beers of the year was a Canadian pilsner I would have laughed in your face. But, like last year’s list, the #12 beer on my list is indeed a pilsner. I had this on a business trip to Toronto, which I wrote about at the end of the summer. I don’t recall having an unfiltered pilsner before this, but this beer was pure deliciousness. The atmosphere at the brewery was great, which may have helped me enjoy the beer a little bit more.

11. This Town – Carton Brewing Company – Lager – Helles 4.25 Bottle Caps

Of course a Carton Beer makes the list and this Helles Lager (a cousin to the Czech Pislner) is a perfect everyday beer. Everything that makes Lagers so great is embodied by this beer. Augie Carton has said this beer won’t be sold in cans outside of Monmouth County, following this beer’s credo (much like the ethos of German beer) that every town should have their own lager. But everytime I visit Carton, I know I’ll be walking out with at least a six pack of this beer.

10. Curmudgeon’s Better Half – Founders Brewing Co. – Old Ale 4.5 Bottle Caps

This one probably doesn’t come as a surprise, either given how much I’ve expressed my enjoyment of beers from Founders. I like the base beer – Curmudgeon, a malt bomb of a beer, but this beer, with the added sweetness from maple syrup barrels makes for yet another enjoyable entry in Founders’ Barrel Aged series. I had two bottles of this, I picked up the 4 pack in August had one then and let another bottle site for a few months. While the first bottle was quite good, aging it a little helped and I’m looking forward to seeing how that final bottle of the 4 pack sits in a year or so.

9. Fudge Machine – Demented Brewing Company – Porter – Imperial / Double 4.5 bottle caps

I hadn’t visited Demented quite as much over 2018 compared to the year before, but this beer really surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. I like porters and chocolate porters, but this is a potent beer that delivers everything you could want out of a chocolate porter. At the time, I think this was a relatively limited release available only at the brewery, but this is so good it really needs to be in regular rotation or an annual release for Demented

8. DDH Not A Schooner – Icarus Brewing – IPA – New England 4.5 bottle caps

Image courtesy of Icarus Brewing’s Facebok

I would typically not include a beer for which I only had a taster, but when I attended the 2018 Bridgewater Beerfest, I went back for multiple samples of this beer it was so delicious and amounted to probably a full pour of the beer. DDH Not a Schooner was one of the best IPAs out of New Jersey I had all year. This beer, plus many of their IPAs, have made Icarus a MAJOR player in the growing NJ Beer Scene.

7. Devil’s Reach – Cape May Brewing Company – Belgian Golden Strong Ale 4.5 bottle caps

One of the best beer things to happen in NJ this year was the expansion of Cape May Brewing Company’s distribution footprint. This is one of their flagship beers and is an outstanding, delicious, sweet explosion of flavor that is deceptively high in ABV (8.6%) but so easy drinking. In some of my reviews I mention “an iconic shelf of NJ Beers” and I would definitely make room for this one. Not many NJ breweries make a “Belgian Strong Golden Ale” (at least about which I’m aware) so there honestly isn’t too much competition in the State for this style. Regardless, this is an absolute stand-out ale.

6. 120 Minute Imperial IPA – Dogfish Head Craft Brewery – IPA – Imperial / Double 4.5 bottle caps

Few breweries are as iconic as Dogfish Head and this is one of the beers that helped them to earn that reputation. One of the biggest, booziest IPAs in wide distribution, this beer is a monster of hoppy deliciousness. This is a $8 per 12 oz bottle and I may get one or two to age for a couple of years. I’ve seen folks say this approaches barley wine levels as it ages so I may snag a bottle or two and let it/them sit for a couple of years.

5. Westmalle Trappist Tripel – Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle – Belgian Tripel 4.5 bottle caps

Talk about World Class Beers, this is one of the best Tripels I’ve ever had and is a stunning, beautiful beer. The magic from the Belgian Yeast does wonders, evoking a fruity/spice flavor profile that must be sampled. The more I think about this beer, the more I want to run out and grab one again.

4. Process Pils Conclave Brewing Pilsner – German 4.75 Bottle Caps

Yeah, another unsurprising brewery for the list, but like I said back in August when I first had the beer, I don’t think it is possible for Carl, Tim, and Bryan to make a bad beer. Much as I loved This Town as a great lager, this pilsner is the best pilsner I had all year and one of the best American pilsners I’ve ever had. Conclave has been canning more of their beers this year, I’d love to see this one in cans.

3. Crusher The Alchemist IPA – Imperial / Double 4.75 bottle caps

I went into a lot of detail in my review of the beer, but here’s the gist: Such a delicious hop profile that is one of the most perfect citrusy hopped profiles I’ve ever had in a beer. I couldn’t believe what a bouquet of flavors was in just a sip of the beer so, of course, I took another taste, though more than a sip. I let the beer sit in my mouth a bit to get the full flavor and my goodness does this beer do so many things perfectly well. I wanted to drink this one quickly because it was so delicious, but I didn’t want it to be gone quickly.

2. Sunday Brunch Kane Brewing Porter – Imperial / Double 4.75 bottle caps

Bottle Image in background courtesy of Kane’s Facebook. Glass pour mine.

This is, quite simply, one of the best porters I’ve ever had. Sunday Brunch is an Imperial Milk Porter made with coffee, maple syrup, and cinnamon. At 9.5% this is a potent beer, but so smooth and sweet. This is one of Kane’s once per year beers and seems to only be available at special events and in 750ml bottles at the brewery.

1. Bourbon Barrel-Aged Troegenator Tröegs Independent Brewing Bock – Dopplebock 4.75 Bottle caps

I’ll go into more detail about Tröegs in my next post, but this beer is one of the best bocks I’ve ever had, and one of my favorite beers of all time now. The base of this beer, Troegenator, is itself something of a craft classic and a delicious beer. Throw an already potent, complex beer into barrels and you have this delightful beer worthy of World Class Status. Everything that makes the base beer delicious – hints of chocolate and caramel are turned up to 11 for a sublime experience.

 

 

 

Draught Diversions: October 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…

For whatever reason, I didn’t have quite as many new beers in October compared to previous months and I found myself going back to favorites from the past. As a result, there are more repeat breweries (who’ve appeared on past monthly six packs) than usual.

Hop Explosion (Fegley’s Brew Works) IPA – American – 2 bottle Caps on untappd

Fegley’s has been brewing beer for over 20 years and are distributed here in NJ fairly widely. I’ve had a few beers I liked from them, but unfortunately, this was not one of them. The beer was in my fridge since July (a guest to our Fourth of July party brought me a mixed six pack and the beer drifted to the back of the fridge) so the beer may have been dated well before that. Not sure if that led to the lack of taste in the beer, but the beer did almost nothing for my palate. The hops were mild and not assertive. This was just a really bland beer that wound up being a drain pour for me.

Master of Pumpkins (2018) Pumpkin / Yam Beer (Tröegs Independent Brewing) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I didn’t snap a photo of the beer, this is Tröegs’s stock photo of the beer. Courtesy of Tröegs’s Web site

Two months in a row for Tröegs appearing on a monthly six pack. I nearly mentioned this in my Pumpkin 6 Pack earlier in the month, but figured I’d save it for here. Lots of pumpkin in this one with a really nice spice balance. The beer description says honey is added and I guess that accounts for the sweetness. I had the beer on draft, but I think it is available as one of Tröegs cork & cage four packs. This is definitely worth trying when in season.

ChewBocka the Masticator Bock – Dopplebock (Icarus Brewing Company) 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I enjoy the hell out of a well-made Dopplebock and that’s what I had with this wonderfully named malty, dark lager from Icarus. Everything I expect and want from a dopplebock was in the glass of this beer – sweet maltiness and a slightly higher ABV (7.7%). I’d love to have this one a little more readily available. I’ve only had a few beers from Icarus, but those few have been impressive and shows their ability to play in both the ale and lager styles of beer.

Sour Raspberry Blackberry Sour – Ale (Edmund’s Ost Brewing Company) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Purple Beer is cool…and this one was very tasty

I think this brewery just got a distribution deal for NJ because I had dinner at The Plank Pizza Co. Beer Parlor and it was a launch night for the brewery. My wife and I received a gift card for this place last Christmas and finally made our way up to the restaurant after watching our godson play hockey. A really good pizza beer bar and this beer was a great start to the night. Not too overly sour, the raspberry and blackberry imparts enough sweetness and tartness to give the beer an well-balanced profile. I wouldn’t have minded if the beer were a little more sour. My uncle got a flight of IPAs and those tasted pretty good too, so welcome to New Jersey Edmund’s Ost!

Curieux Belgian Tripel (Allagash Brewing Company) 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Since we had the gift card to Plank Pizza to play with, I figured I’d level up a little bit on my second beer. I haven’t had nearly enough of Allagash’s offerings, but few breweries in the US can match what they do in terms of Belgian style beers. Couple that with their extensive barrel-aging program and here you have a barrel-aged tripel. This was delicious beer; the barrel hints were just that: hints and enhancements of the great base beer of a Belgian Tripel.

Best Brown Ale Brown Ale – American (Bell’s Brewery) 3.75 bottle caps on untappd

Two months in a row for Bell’s is partially due to the relatively low number of new-to-me beers, partially because Bell’s simply makes good beer. Sometimes you just want a straight-forward ale that hits the style perfectly, doesn’t overpower with fancy adjuncts or barrel aging. During the cooler months, a Best Brown Ale from Bell’s is perfect for that. Simply a well-made enjoyable ale.

Despite starting the month with an extremely subpar beer, the last weekend of October really made up for it with three standouts.

Draught Diversions: July 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…

Most of the beer I consume in July centers around my big Fourth of July party…between the beer I buy for it and the beer guests bring, my fridge and cooler are pretty much set for a the better part of the month and some of August. Some good beers were brought, some I had in my travels throughout the month. Despite being out of the State for a week, two New Jersey beers show up on this month’s six pack. Let’s get started, shall we?

American Kolsch (Boulevard Brewing) Kölsch – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I wrote about Boulevard a couple of weeks ago, inspired partly, by this and a few other beers. My brother-in-law brought a variety pack of Boulevard Cans (including this, the tasty Jam Band and Unfiltered Wheat Beer) on the Fourth of July and those beers went quickly. Of the four beers, I think this one was my favorite. Unfortunately, it isn’t that prevalent of a beer in this area, outside of the that variety pack. If you can find it, grab it because it is a clean, tasty perfect ale for summer sipping.

BETAparticle Blood Orange Wheat Ale (Oyster Creek Brewing) Pale Wheat Ale – American – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Didn’t get a photo of the beer, so here’s the logo!

Here’s another good beer I discovered on the Fourth of July. My cousin knows the brewer (or owner?) here and actually messaged me asking which beer from their beer list she should bring to my Fourth of July party. Well, I suggested this one and I was not disappointed. Blood orange is a good additive to beer, especially wheat-based ales and it works really well in this beer. This was a nice surprise from a new brewery (opened in May 2018). I’m looking forward to having more beer from Oyster Creek Brewing.

Double Trouble (Founders Brewing) IPA – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Shockingly, a Founders beer makes an appearance on my monthly six pack. Well, the last time this beer was on shelves (2016), I probably would not have even tried it since I avoided IPAs. Now; however, I like it very much. A very tasty, malty and citrusy Imperial IPA. This beer served as the base for Doom, the first IPA in Founders’ Barrel Aged Series and one of my favorite beers from last year.

Orval Pale Ale – Belgian (Brasserie d’Orval) – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Orval, the beer from the Belgian Trappist brewery who makes just one beer, a beer that is beloved by many and rightfully so. This was the first time I had the beer and I really enjoyed it. The bottle I had was bottled in 2015 so it aged a bit, I think this one is good for up to 8 years with the bottle conditioning, but I certainly want to try a more recently packaged bottle. Hearing Augie Carton and John Holl talk so lovingly about this beer on their Steal This Beer podcast had me wanting to try the beer for a while. I’m glad I did.

Kalashnikov Buckwheat Whiskey Barrel Aged Stout – Russian Imperial (Icarus Brewing) – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Yeah, I know the last beer I reviewed was from Icarus, but this beer was absolutely outstanding and one of the best Russian Imperial Stouts I’ve ever had. One of Icarus’s regular offerings is their Kalishnikov Russian Imperial Stout, which I haven’t yet had, which serves as the base for this beer. The fine folks at Icarus age that beer for 7 months in Catskill Distilling Buckwheat Whiskey Barrels and is a potent sipper. The beer is listed as 100 IBU but I didn’t get any hop bitterness at all. This was brewed in celebration of the brewery’s first anniversary of tapping beer. Put simply: outstanding. I would love to give this beer a little more time to warm up.

Flesh & Blood (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) IPA 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Dogfish has been my jam lately and this is one just cements that status. When you are traveling and attending conferences, chances are the beer choices aren’t always the best. In a best case scenario there are one or two craft beers that happen to get wide distribution wherever the conference is being held. In this case, Dogfish’s juicy IPA with (there it is again) Blood Oranges in the mix was available at one of the bars of the hotel, which was a nice surprise. I may have to put this one in regular rotation.

So, not a terrible beer in this group like last month. That’s largely because July consisted of some above average beers and just a couple of mediocre beers not worth mentioning.

Beer Review: Icarus Brewing’s Yacht Juice

Name: Yacht Juice
Brewing Company: Icarus Brewing
Location: Lakewood, NJ
Style: IPA – New England (untappd) / IPA – Imperial (Label)
ABV: 8%
Purchased/Consumed: Project P.U.B.

This picture doesn’t do justice to the bright beautiful beer. Didn’t want to be THAT guy snapping a photo in the crowded bar.

From untappd:

North East style IPA filled with Citra, Mosaic, and Columbus leaving it with a combination of citrus and dank aroma and flavor. We may not own a Yacht, but at least we can enjoy the Juice.

As I said last week, few breweries have made as powerful and quick an impact on the New Jersey Craft Beer scene as has Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ. One of the beers that helped to engender that positive vibe over the past year is what amounts to their Flagship beer, a New England / Northeast IPA they call Yacht Juice, continuing the trend of Jersey Shore breweries (started by Carton) of giving at least one beer a nautically-themed name. Enough about the name, more about the liquid in the glass.

The beer is poured into a slim 10oz flute-style glass (which seemed an odd choice of glass-style for the style of beer, I would have gone tulip), likely because of the relatively high ABV of 8%. Aroma is sweet, hoppy, and juicy. The lighting was not the greatest in Project P.U.B. at the time I had the beer, the bar area was very crowded. That said, the beer was a pleasant yellow-orange is not done justice by my photograph. Between the color and aroma, the beer is very inviting; in other words, this seemed to be the profile I’ve come to enjoy the most in IPAs.

First sip is a nice pop of flavors – pleasant hoppiness that hits the sweet and juicy which profile. The description attributes three hop varieties in this beer, but for me the Citra is the dominant of the three. The level of juice in this one has a pleasant bitterness, I’d guess from the Mosaic hops. The Columbus hops are the hops with which I’m most unfamiliar, so I’m not sure how that factors into the beer, but I’m guessing it helps to bring a really nice balance between the Citra and Mosaic.

Some of the hops that emulate fruit flavors give you a really distinct fruit profile, some orangey, but this one is almost like a tropical punch with a heavy dose of orange juice. That said, don’t think ths a carbonated glass of orange juice. Oh no no no. This is a beer through and through and the hop finish on this one latches on to your taste buds and makes it really tough to drink this slowly.

When this beer started making waves (no pun intended) in the NJ Beer community about a year ago, I didn’t give it much consideration since I thought it was “just another hazy IPA.” I was certainly wrong about that, this is a beer that really lives up to the hype. I’m going to have to make sure I head down to Icarus and/or make sure I snag a four-pack when the next delivery drops at my local beer store.

As I suggested in the opening paragraph, a growing number of nautically-named beers are being brewed by NJ Craft Brewers, the first (and some would say the best) being Carton’s Boat Beer. Although Icarus is playing in similar waters with Yacht Juice, the style is a few steps removed from the sessionable Boat and stands on its own as a delicious New England or “Northeast Style” IPA. Aside from bearing nautical names and being somewhat hop-forward, the two beers are quite different and excellent.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating. To be honest, I continue to vacillate between leaving this at a 4.25 or upping it to 4.5. I guess I’ll have to make the sacrifice and seek out the beer again.

Draught Diversions: Happy Anniversary Conclave, Cypress, Czig, & Icarus

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…

Over the past couple of weeks, a few New Jersey breweries celebrated anniversaries. I’ve visited one of them (multiple times), and have had beer from all four. As it works out, of the four, the brewery I’ve visited the most often is also the first alphabetically, so I’ll go down that path and start off with Conclave Brewing.

Little Creature – Grisette (L) Intuitive Function – IPA – Imperial / Double (R)

I wrote about Conclave Brewing last fall and I’ve visited a few times since then. The trend of excellence continues – from fantastic IPAs, to robust, flavorful dark ales (stouts, porters, brown ales) to Belgian inspired ales, everything is excellent. A skim through the Mid Alantic states forums of Beer Advocate will often show the thread dedicated to Conclave one of the more active and praise for the brewery throughout that sub forum.

When I visited this past weekend, Conclave had just released their Third Anniversary Ale, a Double / Imperial IPA they called Intuitive Function. Like all of the IPAs I’ve had from them since becoming an IPA convert, this beer is filled with flavor. Brimming with wonderful hops that evoke citrus and melon, the finish gives a really nice hop bit that remains … without the bitterness.

What has been promising is that Conclave has been releasing cans more regularly over the past year. Let’s hope that frequency increases so more folks can enjoy their beers.

Gong down the alphabet, Cypress Brewing in Edison celebrated their third anniversary as well. I’ll go into more history about the brewery after I eventually visit them and do a full write-up, but at minimum, their beers have a fairly solid reputation in the state. Their capacity has been increasing over the three years they’ve been selling their beers – cans are getting into stores through distribution more regularly. They’ve collaborated with both Bolero Snort and Icarus Brewing.

The two beers I had from them were delicious, a Vanilla Porter that has since been re-worked and a Brown Ale. I recall having those beers at the 2016 Garden State Brewfest (the last one, sadly) and that porter being one of only two beers of which I wanted 2nd and 3rd pours.

Cypress is located in a fairly easy to find location in the big Raritan Center industrial park in Edison, NJ. Hopefully in the next couple of months I’ll be able to make my way to get down the “fun” highway of Route 287 to the brewery.

Another brewery to recently (June) celebrate an anniversary is Czig Meister in Hackettstown. I wrote about them in January after visiting them as part of my birthday brewery tour. I visited the brewery again a couple of months later for the second annual Stout Fest and was even more impressed. In two years, Czig Meister has made a big name for themselves in terms of respect for their beers and how widely they’ve been distributing. I see more and more of their cans and bottles every week and see good things about the beer they are brewing. That’s a pretty good combination, I think – availability and repuation.

Few breweries in New Jersey over the last half decade have made as quick and big an impact as has Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ. Lakewood is a large NJ Shore community and Icarus is helping to make the NJ Shore (along with Carton Brewing and Kane Brewing) a destination for finely crafted beer. This past Saturday, Icarus celebrated one year with a One Year Canniversary

Like Cypress Brewing, I only had their beers at a beer festival, The Bridgewater Beerfest back in May, but boy howdy was I impressed. As I said in that post, I found myself getting 2nd and 3rd pours of their IPA, DDH Not a Schooner. In less than a year Icarus has been dropping their cans as far north as where I live (about 70 miles away). That said, the cans go extremely fast – my favorite beer store generally sells out of their Icarus stock within hours of getting it delivered. Their flagship (no pun intended) beer is Yacht Juice a New England IPA

I know a few other breweries likely hit milestones over the past couple of months, but honestly, keeping up with all of them is a pretty big task especially since this is more of a hobby for me and there are so many in South Jersey that I’ve yet to visit or sample. Bottom line…New Jersey really is growing a strong brewing reputation.

Draught Diversions: Bridgewater Beerfest 2018

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…

I’ve been to several Beer Festivals, including all five of the past Garden State Brewfests and a few in Philadelphia. Those beer festivals ranged from small with only a few hundred attendees to some with over a thousand attendees. There are benefits to both types of festivals, and the Bridgewater Beer Festival (April 28 at the Bridgewater Jewish Community Center) falls in the smaller more intimate end of festivals which helped to reinforce the sense of Community around New Jersey beer.

There were many things to like about the Bridgewater Beer Fest, or at least many things that *I* enjoyed about the Bridgewater Beer Fest. I’m not going to lie, the fact that this Beer Fest was only a few miles from my house was a big reason why I decided to attend.

Two other plusses? The price…as a member of New Jersey Craft Beer, a $25 discount was available. Related, the “Designated Driver” ticket was only $10, which is fair, I suppose. Well, significantly better than past Garden State Brewfests which was $25 for the designated driver plus parking fee. If you are charging somebody to be responsible and herd the cats that are drunk people, the $25 fee is enough, throw on the parking fee and it is almost like responsibility (having a sober driver) is being punished. It was also nice that there was no parking fee at the Bridgewater Beer Fest.

Another reason that became stronger as the event drew closer was the list of breweries and beers that were to be poured including a focus on barrel-aged brews. Or that Dogfish Head was pouring a vintages of some of their classic brews. Or that Weyerbacher was pouring their 20th Anniversary Ale, a delicious Belgian Strong Dark Ale I missed when it was in stores a couple of years ago. Or that a not too-easy to find (and relatively pricey) barrel-aged weizenbock collaboration between Stone Brewing and the Bruery called Fahrt die Zeige was being poured. Not bad, right?

Another great feature of this beer festival was the predominance of NJ breweries, I’d say well over 50% of the beer and breweries were NJ based. I was especially happy that breweries I haven’t yet had the chance to visit, like Backward Flag (Forked River, NJ), Brotherton Brewing (Shamong, NJ), Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ), Double Nickel (Pennsauken, NJ), 902 Brewing (Jersey City, NJ), Brix City Brewing (Little Ferry, NJ), and Three 3’s Brewing (Hammonton, NJ) were pouring beer since those breweries aren’t exactly close to me. Before the festival, I never had any of Backward Flag’s beers (Oak Armored Ale), and only one each from the some of other breweries so it was great to have new great beers from Backward Flag and three new, tasty beers, from Brotherton Brewing (Cedar Wudder Amber Ale), Double Nickel (DNA Batch #3, Cascara IPA), 902 Brewing (Kürtoskalács, a cinnamony coffee milk stout), Brix City Brewing, (Gloria [Belgian] Blonde Ale), and Three 3’s (Pulpitations IPA).

I was also looking forward to meeting and chatting with Mike Kivovitz, the head honcho of New Jersey Craft Beer and one of the most important folks in the New Jersey beer community. I was chuffed (as the Brits say) when Mike recognized me from my ramblings about beer here on the Tap Takeover, Twitter, and Facebook. Mike is a cool guy and helped bring into focus how connected the beer community is. Talking with Mike also made me realize what great connections exist between the Craft Beer community and the Geek community (aka, much of what I have been writing about for years at places like SFFWorld, SF Signal and my other blog). I hope to share some beers with Mike in the future at the various breweries and bars in New Jersey. It as also nice to chat with some of my friends from Flounder Brewing as well as Tim from Conclave Brewing and Matt from Czig Meister as well as making new acquaintances at all the breweries, which only added to the sense of community in NJ Beer.

On to the beers themselves, I checked into about two dozen on untappd, with about ¾ of those being NJ beers. Most were very good with a a few of them being outstanding. That said, I’ll stick to my 6-pack format and touch on the six beers that stood out the most for me. I generally try to have beers I’ve never had before at these festivals. For example, much as I enjoy beer from Demented Brewing, they were pouring a couple of beers I had prior to the fest so I didn’t go for them. Also, this six pack is primarily NJ brews with the exception of one major, phenomenal beer.

Brewer Choice Hefeweizen (Hefeweizen)
Backward Flag Brewing (Forked River, NJ)

As I said, Backward Flag is a brewery I’ve wanted to visit for a while now, since hearing about them around 2016. Unfortunately, they are about an hour and half one-way trip. Backward Flag is a veteran/woman owned brewery and I think the veteran portion of that is unique, at least in NJ. They were pouring two beers and for me the standout was their Brewer Choice Hefeweizen, a damned fine example of the classic Bavarian Wheat Ale. This is a delicious brew and better than a couple of German Hefeweizens I’ve had.

Deep Sea Series: Tropics (IPA – New England)
Czig Meister Brewing Company (Hackettstown, NJ)

In two visits to Czig Meister Brewing Company, I never had any of the many IPAs they brew. I always stuck to Stouts and non-IPAs. Well, I sure was missing out because their Deep Sea Series of IPAs, if this beer is any indication, is a solid, dependable line of IPAs. Hell, the Deep Sea Series – Galactic 7 was awarded Best IPA at the Atlantic City Beer Festival about a month ago (March 2018).

Wolves Among Sheep (Stout – American Imperial / Double)
Angry Erik Brewing (Lafayette, NJ)

Although I visited Angry Erik back in November, I missed out on Wolves Among Sheep at that time. I was *very* pleased to see this beer was being poured at the beer festival. Some barrel-aged stouts can take on too much of the oak/barrel characters and wipe out the taste of the base stout. The brewers at Angry Erik avoided this common pitfall and produced a very balanced beer with enough booziness, enough stoutiness, enough sweetness, and enough bitter-sweetness.

Mexican Evening (Stout – American Imperial / Double)
Conclave Brewing – Raritan Township, NJ

My favorite stout of the day was Mexican Evening from Conclave Brewing, which is an imperial/double variation on their popular Mexican Morning Milk Stout. Cinnamon hits first, followed by sweetness from chocolate and vanilla with a spiced hit from the chili de árbol peppers. Even though the ABV is higher in this beer than it is in Mexican Morning, I think that heightened ABV calms down the peppery finish making for a fantastic, complex, delicious dessert beer.

DDH Not a Schooner (IPA – New England)
Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ)

“There is NO Easter Bunny!”

DDH Not a Schooner from Icarus Brewing was my favorite IPA of the day. Icarus is out of Lakewood, NJ and for their relative youth in the NJ Beer landscape, their reputation of a purveyor of tasty beers started pretty strong and has grown from there. This beer is a Double Dry Hopped version of their popular Not a Schooner New England IPA. This beer just exploded with juiciness and I enjoyed it so much it was the only beer I of which I had two samples.

Olde School 2014 vintage (Barleywine – American)
Dogfish Head Brewery (Milton, DE)

It is almost not fair to compare a four-year old Barleywine to anything else, but here we are. Dogfish Head’s Olde School Barleywine from 2014 was the standout pour of the day for me. This was one of the brews I had high on my list to get and it exceeded what I hoped it would be. For me, the hops can come across too assertively in some Barleywines, but maybe because this Barleywine aged for four years, everything smoothed out. At 15% ABV, even a 12 oz bottle of this beer is something you should share…or sip extremely slowly while watching a long movie. What I know is this – I’ll be getting some more of this in the future.

All told, I couldn’t have been happier with the Bridgewater Beer Fest. I hope the festival returns next Spring because I hope to attend again.