Draught Diversions: July 2022 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…

SixPack_2022_July

As readers of this blog know, July is a big beer month thanks to the annual family party on the Fourth of July. That will often bring even more new beers to me and July 2022 was no different. I also happened to visit a few different breweries in NJ this past month, and one in Massachusetts as I documented a couple of weeks ago. Just one non-NJ beer this month, but it was a milestone beer for me, at least on untappd. No IPAs this time around, just one lager, but a fruitful assortment of beers, if you well.

Let’s have at it, shall we?

Mad Love (Twin Elephant Brewing) | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

TwinElephant_MadLove

I was in the area of Twin Elephant so I made a long overdue stop at the brewery in Chatham. I wasn’t sure what I wanted because the taplist had quite a few appealing beers. I settled on this hefty (7.2%) Saison which was very earthy with a nice fruity balance. Although the Herd is more known for hop-bombs and stouts, this beer shows their skill at the art of the Saison quite well.

Cranberry Wheat (Hidden Sands Brewing Company) | Wheat Beer – American Pale Wheat | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

HiddenSands_CranWheat

This is the first beer from Hidden Sands I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying and it was a dandy. Cranberries are a great fruit to add into beer, particularly a wheat beer. There’s a really nice balance to the tartness of the fruit from the “heaps of NJ honey” added to the beer. I could drink this beer all day in the summer.

Bay Daze (Cape May Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

CapeMay_BayDaze_Tbl

I sometimes overlook Cape May because they are so large and their beers are ubiquitous throughout the State of New Jersey, but then bam! They brew a beer like Bay Daze to raise the bar for a sour ale. This isn’t the sourest of beers I’ve ever had, but it might be one of the more refreshing sour ales I’ve had. The classic pairing of cherry and lime is perfectly balanced and the sea salt just brings everything together. On top of that, the can art has a puppers on it.

Delirium Black Barrel Aged (Delirium – Huyghe Brewery | Belgian Strong Dark Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Delirium_Black2500

I knew I was coming up on 2500 unique check-ins to untappd for a while and wanted to have a special beer for it, but didn’t know what it would be. When a co-worker gifted this to me, I knew and this is certainly a very interesting beer. The yeast of a Belgian ale is often the signature element and it plays some interesting notes with the barrel character. As it warms, the vanilla, oak, and bourbon elements emerge more potently.

The Juice is Worth the Squeeze: Blueberry, Raspberry, Lemon (Icarus Brewing) | Sour –- Fruited Berliner Weisse | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_JuiceSqueeze

Very shocking to see an Icarus beer here, I know. I did visit the brewery for their Canniversary in the middle of the month, so I had a few to choose from in July and went with this small batch Sour ale. Icarus does the Berliner Weisse style very well and this might be the best one I’ve had. I wonder if it will be a new “series” of the style. Either way, the blueberry is the star here, while the lemon is really nice on the finish. It was quite warm during the event at the brewery and this beer was a perfect cure for that heat.

Great Dane (Readington Brewery & Hop Farm) | Lager – Dortmunder/Export | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Readington_GreatDane

My dog Dusty is part Great Dane, so how do I not get a beer called “Great Dane” from my most local of local breweries? Fortunately, the beer was really tasty. Dortmunder Lagers are usually a little sweeter than say, a Helles Lager or Pilsner, but in the same family. Readington’s take on the style was very clean, dialed-in, and hit the spot. It is really nice to see this brewery making beer that continues to get better each time I visit.

All great beers and I could have made an additional 4-pack of new-to-me beers that were just about as equally excellent.

Beer Review: Tmavy Lezak by Icarus Brewing & Hackensack Brewing

Name: Tmavy Lezak
Brewing Companies: Icarus Brewing Company & Hackensack Brewing Company
Location: Lakewood, NJ & Hackensack, NJ
Style: Lager – Dark / Czech Dark Lager
ABV: 5.3%

Two NJ Breweries come together to brew an outstanding Czech Dark Lager.

Icaus-Hack_TmavyLezak

From Icarus Brewing’s facebook post for the beer:

We decided to brew a traditional Czech-style Dark Lager with our freinds from Hackensack Brewing in anticipation of Icarus Brewing Lagerfest 2022. Tmavy Lezak was brewed with floor malted German Pilsner Malt, debittered Black Malts, and German Crystal Munich Malts. It was then hopped with German Saaz and lagered for an extended period of time. Meaning “Dark Lager”, Tmavy Lezak swirls Dark Malt notes full of Caramel and Subtle Roast through its easy-drinking yet brooding body. This one is a wonderful Dark Lager to welcome the summer and enjoy with freinds!

My Lager Leanings (over Ales) have been well-documented here at the Triple T and one Lager in particular has caught my fancy over the last year or so – Czech Dark Lager. One of my favorite beers last year was the one-off “Czech Dark Lager” Weyerbacher and I’ve had a few since. When Icarus Brewing announced their annual Lagerfest (last year the Czech Pils with Conclave was great), I was hoping a Czech Dark Lager would be one of the beers. Fortunately, they canned Tmavy Lezak, a collaboration with Hackensack Brewing and put into distribution ahead of Lagerfest. Tmavy Lezak translates from Czech as “Dark Lager.”

From the can, the beer pours a deep/dark brown but not quite black. Nothing special on the aroma – it smells like beer. That’s not a bad thing.

First sip is a pleasing mouthful of malts. There’s a nice breadiness to the beer and maybe because of the color pumpernickel bread comes to mind. There’s a thickness to the beer I don’t typically associate with lagers but find a very welcome characteristic of Tmavy Levak nonetheless.

There’s an underlying crispness to the beer, too. That’s a more common lager trait, to be sure. That crispness is most noticeable on the finish, with a snap and even a slight spiciness from the Saaz hops. It is a nice contrast to the initial malty breadiness.

I want to call out the can art on this beer, too. Frankly, the can art on Icarus’s beers are some of the best in the State of New Jersey and this one is no exception. I find the font for the beer name very appealing and the colors and overall design evoke the flag of the Czech Republic with the historic center of Prague silhouetted in the background of the center of the can. Everything, design-wise, comes together quite nicely.

I’m a fan of Hackensack Brewing’s beers (particularly their outstanding pilsner, Parking Lot Pilz) so I thought the collaboration would be really good. I was right, these two breweries know how to make lagers separately and they’ve collaborated on a relatively obscure (at least here in the us) lager style with excellent result.

This beer was released ahead of Icarus Brewing’s annual Lagerfest, which happens June 18thLagerfest, which happens June 18th of this year. Many of the beers they are pouring will be collaboration brews like Propriety Pils brewed with Conclave Brewing, I LIFE (with Lime) brewed in collaboration with Destination Unknown Brewing. Icarus recently installed a slow pour tap, for their lagers. It is worth the trip any time for a visit to Icarus Brewing, but this weekend especially if you enjoy the Lager Life.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Draught Diversions: May 2022 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…

SixPack_2022-May

May is really when the warm weather begins to settle into New Jersey and the lighter beers are filling up shelves and store displays. That doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t room for a big, boozy stout on occasion, as t b is month’s six pack proves! This month’s six pack is predominantly NJ Beer with one out of state beer influenced by something NJ Beer related. Although there are two IPAs, they are very different takes on the style so you could say six different styles comprise this month’s six pack.

On with the show…

The Patriot (Readington Brewery and Hop Farm) | IPA – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Readington_ThePatriot

The first new beer of the month was at the new local brewery, Readington Brewery and Hop Farm. I figured I would try their flagship IPA, which is 100% Centennial Hops (much like Bell’s Two Hearted) and it was pretty good! Drinking a freshly made beer where the hops are grown is a great way to enjoy your beer. In the background are the hop bines where their hops are grown. Glad this place is so close to home

Battle Hymn (Twin Elephant Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

TwinElephant_BattleHymn

My wife and I enjoyed a nice dinner at a local spot (The Landing in Hillsborough) with some good friends. The food is always good at this place and there are always some good NJ beers available, like this superb hoppy pale ale from the good folks of Twin Elephant out of Chatham, NJ. The hop blend here is the ever popular Citra, along with one of my favorites, Galaxy, as well as Callista. A smooth, fruity/tropical beer.

We Sink Together (Icarus Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_WeSinkTogether

With the warmer weather upon us, I was really in the mode for a Gose and as fate would have it, cans of this tart beer from Icarus happened to be on the shelf at my local Wegman’s. We Sink Together has Mangoes, as well as vanilla and toasted coconut to give the beer a pleasant tropical flavor. Pink Himalayan sea salt is added to give the beer the salinity which is a prime characteristic of a gose. A very tasty and refreshing beer.

Urgency of Now (Kane Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial/Double | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane_UrgencyNow

Urgency Now is another outstanding barrel-aged stout from Kane Brewing, but what sets apart is that all proceeds from the beer go to The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. The organization seeks to drive reform for social and racial justice in New Jersey. As always from Kane, a great beer but this one is for a great cause.

Pils (Heater Allen Brewing) | Pilsner – Germany | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

HeaterAllen_Pils recall hearing owner Lisa Allen being interviewed on the Steal this Beer podcast and the praise being heaped upon their Pilsner. When it became available through tavour, I wanted to try and I was immensely pleased. This beer is just about everything you’d want from a German-style pilsner.

Fjord Crosser (Angry Erik Brewing) | IPA – Belgian | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

AngryErik_FjordCrosser

Another trip up to Angry Erik to retrieve the sweatshirts for the Skylands Ale Trail means another new beer for me to try. I was in the mood for an IPA and a different one at that and Fjord Crosser hit the spot. This is a “Belgian” IPA meaning the yeast plays more of a role in the flavor profile. A great balance of flavors with mildly pleasant tropical and citrus elements from the hops

May was another month with a great variety of beers, I could have easily added another 3 beers to the best of the month, but we like to stick to some kind of structure here at the Tap Takeover.

Draught Diversion: Summer Six Pack 2022

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 to weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

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

As in past Summer Six Packs, not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer and have been organized alphabetically by brewery.

Seconds to Summer | Lager – American| 4.5% ABV | Allagash Brewing Company | Portland, ME

Image courtesy of Allagash Brewing Company’s Facebook

Allagash is a traditionally Belgian-leaning brewery and the majority of Belgian brewing tradition leans to the Ales and Wild Ales. Typically, they don’t produce many lagers, but their reputation as one of the most accomplished breweries in the country is well-earned. I’ve no doubt this will be a good beer.

What Allagash Brewing says about the beer:

If the sun is out and your schedule is clear, this easy-drinking lager is for you. We brew Seconds to Summer with traditional hops from the Czech Republic and ferment it with Belgian yeast for a crisp, refreshingly hoppy flavor. With this can in hand, summer is just a sip away.


Longliner Lager | Lager – American| 5% ABV | Cape May Brewing Company | Cape May, NJ

Image courtesy of Cape May Brewing Company’s Facebook

Cape May Brewing leans more IPA than any other style, but the random lagers they’ve brewed have been very good. While I really like Tan Limes, I still miss the first lager they canned, “Cape May Lager.”

What Cape May Brewing says about the beer:

Soft, crisp, and balanced—Longliner Lager is a beer that will keep you going all year long. Whether you’re toiling away in the brewhouse, hitting land after a long two weeks at sea, or kicking back on your day off, Longliner will be there for you.


Beach | IPA – Session | 6 % ABV | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ

Image courtesy of Carton Brewing Company’s Facebook

This is one of two beers in this six-pack I’ve already had. I remember enjoying this beer quite a bit, the zesty orange is a nice complement to the hoppy profile of the beer. Plus, with a name like “Beach,” the beer is an ideal summer beer. For the first time in their history, Carton is offering beer packaged in a 12-pack, lending even more of a summer-cooler vibe to the beer. Their flagship beer, Boat is also getting the 12-pack treatment. Previously, it was only available on draft and 16oz four-packs.

What Carton Brewing says about the beer:

Like the tension and relief of a day spent flitting between laying on sand under the beating sun and bobbing on the ocean’s cool surf, summer session drinking needs leisurely contrast. With Beach we find that midpoint where Kolsch yeast’s fruity character matches its lean dryness and where an amber’s roundness gets pulled taut by cracker notes. The hops’ fruity aromatics flow, and the bitterness ebbs, with a swash of orange zest to be clean and lean, bitter and bright. Drink Beach and be chill.


Private Beach | Blonde Ale | 4.1% ABV | Icarus Brewing Company | Lakewod, NJ

Image courtesy of Icarus Brewing Company’s Facebook

When former Governor of New Jersey was photographed on a NJ beach despite beaches being closed, the brew-ha-ha inspired Icarus to brew this beer, a very easy-drinking refreshing beer you might want on a beach. I haven’t had it yet, but I’m hoping to change that in the near future.

What Icarus Brewing Company says about the beer:

4.1% American Blonde Ale brewed with American 2 Row Barley, lightly hopped with Citra then delicately Dry Hopped with New Zealand Motueka.


Ray Catcher | Lager – American | ack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Framingham, MA

JacksAbby_RayCatcher-Pool

I know I featured this beer in my August Six Pack last year and that’s even the same picture, but dammit doesn’t that just scream summer? The beer is so damned good I wanted to mention it again. Here’s what I said last summer: This beer was better than I expected it would be. Extremely refreshing and flavorful, the addition of lemongrass gives the beer a citrusy cooling finish that epitomizes what a warm-weather beer should be.

What Jack’s Abby says about the beer:

Soak up the summer with Ray Catcher, a light and breezy golden lager brewed with lemongrass. Pilsner malts and citrusy hops join to create refreshing flavors of lemon and tea.


Summer Break | IPA –Session | 4.6% ABV | Sierra Nevada Brewing Company | Chico, CA

Image courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Facebook

The ubiquitous ever-present IPA remains the most popular style on shelves and few breweries whose beer is made available nationwide brew hop-forward beers as good as Sierra Nevada. This session IPA is brewed with Amarillo, Chinook, Comet, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Strisselspalt hops. With the low ABV (4.6%), this beer looks to define the term “Hoppy Summer Crusher.”

What Sierra Nevada Brewing Company says about the beer:

Drop into summertime, stocked with a Session Hazy IPA brewed for long days of play. Go anywhere with hoppy notes of mango and passion fruit, backed by smooth malt flavor.

That’s my Summer Six Pack (and sixth Summer Six Pack overall!) for 2022. I know I’ll have some of these beers over the next couple of months, hope you all have some good cooler/poolside/beachside/post-lawnmowing beers over the next few warm months!

SixPack_Summer2022

Draught Diversions: March 2022 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…

March did not go out like a mouse, the weather here in New Jersey the last couple of days of the month skirted all four seasons, in terms of temperature and precipitation. But I digress, you all visit for my “hot takes” (as the kids say) on beer, specifically, 6 beers I enjoyed or wanted to highlight from the previous month. For March 2022, the pack contains two IPAs and 4 lagers; 4 from New Jersey breweries, one New York brewery, and one brewery based in the Czech Republic.

Enough of my rambling, here’s the Six Pack for March 2022…

John (Bradley Brew Project) | Pilsner – German | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the third beer I’ve had from Bradley Brew Project and it might be the best one. A clean, crisp, extremely well-crafted interpretation of a German Pilsner. This beer does just about everything correct for the style. There’s a slightly lemon/lime presence on the finish, but overall, an excellent beer

Lake Shore Fog (Southern Tier Brewing Company) | IPA – New England/Hazy | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Over the last handful of years, Southern Tier seems to be focusing more on their IPAs than their stouts. I was a big fan of the stouts they had in regular rotation about 5 years ago or so and haven’t had too many of their beers in more recent years. This beer is their take on the New England IPA. It is a perfectly acceptable take on the beer, not the best I’ve ever had, but one I’d be happy to enjoy again.

Kozel Černý / Dark (Pivovar Velké Popovice) | Lager – Dark | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

While this is not the original Czech Dark Lager, it is a Dark Lager from a brewery in the Czech Republic. I’ve come to enjoy the style a great deal over the last year as I’ve discovered it. Kozel is a is different, unique, and quite tasty, especially at 3.8%ABV and a beer that shows how complex lager beer can be.

BIČ (Carton Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Czech | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

While Carton Brewing may be known for Boat, the O-DUB series of IPAs and the Coffee Cream Ales, what I enjoy most is their Pilsner game. Their base American Pilsner (Whip) is modified to fit the profile of several region’s/country’s Pilsner. BIČ is the Czech-inspired Pilsner and is absolutely delicious.

DDH Power Juicer [Julius] (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – New England / Hazy | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

ommegang3phildoubchoc

Another month, another Icarus beer. Power Juice is one of the many “series” of beer Icarus brews in the IPA realm. I love the main/original version, but this one is very tasty too. As the name implies, this beer is double-dry hopped with Julius hops. Icarus really knows how to blend hops together harmoniously.

Black Orpheus (Sunken Silo Brew Works) | Schwarzbier | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

When I visited Sunken Silo in February, the friendly beertender informed me this beer would be ready in about a month. I knew I had to visit again for this beer (and to make may way through season 2 of the Hunterdon County Beer Trail). This beer is a collaboration with Ashton Brewing and is just as good as the version brewed and canned at Ashton’s facility in Middlesex, NJ. A slight roast, wonderful malty elements with a great lager finish.

Another month with a plethora of new beers, mostly good. There was one experience; however, I’d be remiss for not noting. I’m not one to throw a brewery under the bus, so I won’t mention by name the brewery I’m about to discuss. Said brewery recently moved into a beautiful new facility, only a couple of miles away from their small, original facility in an office park. I hadn’t had beers from this brewery in over four and half years for various reasons including the beer being just “OK.” After all, other breweries as close (or closer) to me were making much better beer. But I figured I’d give them a try because I’ve heard the beer has improved and the new facility is supposedly quite inviting. Well, the new facility is really nice, I’ll give them that.

Well, I stroll up to the bar on a Friday evening and ask if they are serving flights. After an uncomfortable pause and an inaudible exchange with the manager(?), the beertender said not tonight and removed a sign that I can only guess mentioned flights. While there were a good amount of people at the brewery, there were empty tables throughout, so Strike 1.

My next question, “Oh, are you filling growlers or crowlers?” Response, “Sorry, only members of our ‘Special Club’ can get growler fills.” Call me crazy if I find that to be a thoughtless policy. You don’t want patrons to bring your beer home to enjoy? Better yet, you don’t want people yo share the beer with friends who may potentially be new patrons? To not offer growler/crowler fills as a blanket policy is one thing. But to offer them only to a special club that has a limited membership is short-sighted and an ill-advised business move. I’ll just say I’m not too surprised. I’ve had my fair share of beers from NJ breweries (75 NJ breweries), so I might be a decent judge of good NJ beer. While some of the beers I’ve had from this brewery have been good, on the whole, the beer from this brewery is by no means anywhere near good enough to warrant an exclusive club with privileges. There are maybe 3 or 4 breweries in the State that *might* be able to pull of something like an exclusive members only club. This brewery isn’t nearly established enough with the quality of their beer to do so, in my humble opinion. It is a barrier of exclusivity that works more as a turn off. I had one beer that Friday night and it wasn’t great, thus I will not be visiting this brewery or sampling their beer again in the future.

This has been my TED Talk.

Draught Diversions: February 2022 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…

Sixpack_2022_Feb

Another Six Pack that was somewhat difficult to construct. For one reason, I had multiple beers from a couple different breweries so deciding which beer from those breweries would be represented made the list of “new to me” beers I had this month somewhat long. I also had a vast range of styles this month, with multiple Belgian styles part of the overall group. I settled on a very tasty six pack with a pretty decent variety of styles even if at least one of the breweries in the pack will NOT be a shock.

Without further adieu, here is the February 2022 Six Pack…

Barrel Aged Bullhala (Bolero Snort Brewery) | Porter – Baltic | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Bolero_BA_Bullhalla

It has been quite a while since I had a new-to-me Bolero beer, but this one called out to me. I’ve been seeking out Baltic porters and this beer, aged in Bourbon barrels, hit the spot. Good flavor profile, the bourbon was more potent than I’d expect from a beer with a 9.5% ABV. On the other hand, it was a little thinner than I’d expect. Despite those two slights, the beer was still quite tasty.

Evermore (Readington Brewery & Hop Farm) | Wheat Beer – Dunkelweizen | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Readington_Evermore

Here’s a first for the lineage of the Six Pack posts at The Tap Takeover…back-to-back months featuring Dunkelweizens! I made a second visit to Readington Brewery and Hop Farm, the newest brewery in my area (less than 2 miles away) and was very pleased to see an improvement in the beers. Not that they were undrinkable that first visit, but needed some work. I was very impressed with this Dunkelweizen, Evermore, which was dialed in quite nicely to the style. I wouldn’t be surprised if Reading Brewery will be appearing in the six packs in the future.

Wolfe’s Neck (Maine Beer Company Brewery) | IPA – American | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

MainBeerCo_WolfCreek

Maine Beer Company makes outstanding IPAs and Wolfe’s Neck is another delicious example. A fantastic blend of hops with a dialed-in hop flavor, great malt character, and overall, perfectly balanced. This is one of the cleanest IPAs I’ve ever had, completely dialed-in and elegant.

Decimate (Icarus Brewing Company) | Lager – Japanese Rice | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_Decimate

A visit to Icarus means I had a few new Icarus beers from which to choose for this six pack. I went with the new Lager they canned (although I thoroughly enjoyed their Altbier, Thee Points). Decimate is a Japanese Rice Lager, where the Rice makes up a significant portion of the grain bill. Into that, Jason and his crew of brewers added Lemongrass for a nice refreshing finish. Another example how awesome Icarus Brewing’s low ABV lagers are.

Jovial (Tröegs Independent Brewing) | Belgian Dubbel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Troegs_Jovial

I’ve said it before (or at least hinted at it), but Tröegs might be my favorite Pennsylvania brewery. They brew across every style and do so with impressive quality. This Dubbel, originally brewed for co-owner Chris Trogner’s wedding, is a year-round release and a damned fine interpretation of the classic Belgian dark ale. Wonderful sweetness, hints of raisin and bananas makes this as good a Dubbel as you’ll find from even a brewery from Belgium.

La Trappe Tripel (Bierbrouwerij De Konigshoeven) | Belgian Tripel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

LaTrappe_Tripel

One of my favorite meals (Pork Chops marinated/brined in Tripel) is from this cookbook, Cooking with Beer. Not a lot of the Tripel is required so I was delighted when I saw a 750ml bottle of this in one of my local bottle shops since I love La Trappe Quadrupel. Their Tripel, this beer, is almost as good which is to say that it is a world class, outstanding beer. Perfect elements from the yeast imparting sweetness and fruitiness, just a perfectly rounded beer.

There you have it, the February 2022 Six Pack.

Draught Diversions: January 2022 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…

A new year brings some new beers, but that happens every month here at the Tap Takeover. For the first Six Pack of 2022, there’s the usual half NJ half non-NJ mix with a few styles I don’t have often enough. It was a little tough to whittle down the list to just 6 because I was enjoying a tasty variety of new beers throughout the entire month.

SixPack_2022-Jan

Enough preamble, here is the first Six Pack of 2022…

Grimm Weisse Dunkel (Grimm Artisanal Ales) | Wheat Beer – Dunkelweizen | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Grimm_WeisseDunkel

Many people have praised Grimm for their hop-forward Ales and rightfully so. But I’m here praising one of the most under-appreciated styles, the Dunkelweizen. Grimm’s take on this classic German wheat ale is as good as I’ve had, and better than most. Probably the only Dunkelweizen I think I’ve had that tops this one is the Erdinger’s Dunkelweizen.

Kentucky Christmas Morning (Hardywood Park Craft Brewery) | Stout – Imperial / Double Milk | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Hardywood_KentuckyMorning

I reviewed the barrel-aged Gingerbread Stout and had the un-barrel-aged version of Christmas Morning in 2020 (an instant favorite Christmas beer), so of course I had to try the barrel aged Christmas Morning. This is a beautiful, flavorful, and balanced stout. All the flavors I loved about Christmas Morning (Coffee, Gingerbread, Cinnamon, and Maple Syrup) are enhanced and supported by the bourbon barrel aging.

Triple Sunshine (Lawson’s Finest Liquids) | IPA – Triple | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Lawsons_TripleSunshine

When I was offered a can of this, I couldn’t refuse. I’ve had the standard Sip of Sunshine and liked it and was equally impressed with the Triple-amped up version. Smooth, slightly boozy, and hoppy, this beer is dynamite. I get some of the hop oil texture and flavor, which is something I really like in these hop bombs. I need to explore more of Lawson’s beers.

Translucent Dusk (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Schwarzbier | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

JerseyCyclone_TranslucentDusk

Schwarzbier is one of the oldest styles of German lager, dating back to the 1500s! Jersey Cyclone Brewing, who has been brewing great lagers from the start, recently brewed “Translucent Dusk,” their Schwarzbier for a second time. I missed the first batch, so I had to get a crowler of the beer since I’m a lager leaning lad and I’ve been drawn to dark lagers over the last few years. As expected, the beer is delicious and a fantastic interpretation of the style, slightly sweetness in the roasted malt character with hints of chocolate from that malt, pleasant hints of roasty smoke, and a pleasant, lingering aftertaste..

Lumberyard Lager (Tonewood Brewing Company) | Lager – Helles | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Tonewood_LumberyardLager

Tonewood recently opened their new facility in Barrington, NJ and this beer is a shout-out to their original location, which was formerly a lumberyard. The fine brewers of Tonewood used all German ingredients – specifically the malt an hops, to brew this tasty, crushable lager. Tonewood impresses me with each lager I have from them and this continues that trend.

Good King VIII (Icarus Brewing & Source Brewing) | Pilsner – Czech | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

IcarusSource_GoodKingVIII

Clean, crisp, and perfectly balanced, this collaboration between two of the higher profile NJ breweries is totally on point for the style. I’ve had excellent Pilsners from Icarus, an outstanding Kölsch and Maibock from Source, so I’m not surprised this collaboration is as good as it is. What surprises me the most is how immensely flavorful the beer is with a super-low ABV of 3.8%

No real stinkers this time around, just a couple of mediocre beers not worth mentioning.

Draught Diversions: Favorite Beers of 2021

Somehow, I’ve rolled into a fifth annual roundup of my favorite beers. Like my previous Favorite of the Year 12-pack posts, while I’ll still have beers with very high untappd ratings, this post features “Favorite” beers of the 336 unique beers I checked into untappd in 2021, from 104 different breweries. What does that mean? Well, there were beers I consumed in 2021 which I awarded a high 4.75 rating, but I may be including a 4.25 beer that I enjoyed more in this twelve-pack (or half case). Put it another way, there were some highly rated (4.5) beers I enjoyed in 2021 that one beer was enough was enough, while some beers I may have rated at a 4.25 I would have multiple times. Or still another way – some movies are incredibly well-made masterpieces, but one viewing is enough whereas some movies you love and want to watch over and over or will leave on the TV no matter where in the running time you catch it.

As always, for the purposes of this post New means “New to Me” because a some beers on this list have been around for a few years, but I had the beer for the first time in 2021.

TTT_2021_Favorites

Before we go further down the beer road, a little plug for my old blog, which is where I write, rant, and rave about Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction books. Well, I can’t say “write” because I haven’t posted there too much over the last few years, but was posting multiple times per week for quite a few years. Over there, I mostly write about the books I’ve read, some of the movies and TV shows I’ve watched, and other assorted random stuff. That blog has largely been collecting virtual dust, but I decided to post about the books I enjoyed reading the most in 2021. So have a look and maybe you’ll find a good book or four to read. 

RobsFavoriteReads2021

Back to our regularly scheduled beer programming…

The standard NJ bias shines through on this list as 8 of the beers are from NJ breweries. I’d say 75% of the beer I bought & consumed in 2021 was made in a from NJ breweries, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. This list could have easily been comprised of 3 or 4 breweries, but the one rule I’ll stick to from past years is allowing only one beer per brewery to appear. That rule made it difficult to whittle down some breweries from whom I’ve had upwards of 10 beers in 2021.

Here’s a Breakdown:

  • 8 from NJ breweries
  • 2 from PA breweries
  • 4 Lagers
    • 2 Pilsners
    • 1 Dark Lager
    • 1 Helles Lager
  • 2 Stouts
    • 1 Milk / Sweet
    • 1 Imperial / Double
  • 1 Porter
  • 1 Sour
  • 1 Barleywine
  • 1 Extra Special Bitter
  • 1 Kölsch
  • 1 English Dark Mild

On to my 12 Favorite “New to Me” Beers of 2021

12. Grand Cacao | Tröegs Independent Brewing | Stout – Milk / Sweet | 4.25 bottle caps


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When the brothers behind Pennsylvania’s Tröegs Independent Brewing release a new year round beer, it is worthy of note. When the beer is as good as Grand Cacao is, it is even more noteworthy. This beer is an outstanding Milk Stout with heavy chocolate overtones making for a nearly perfect dessert beer. This is similar to the Chocolate Stout I thoroughly enjoyed which was released in the Most Wonderful Beer of the Year variety pack in 2018, but maybe amped up more. I even commented on when I enjoyed that beer here and on Instagram/twitter that the Chocolate Stout should be in regular rotation, it is almost as if the Trogner Brothers listed to me. :D. Grand Cacao has immediately become a top Milk Stout for me.

11. La Di Da Di: Banana, Peanut Butter & Vanilla | Twin Elephant Brewing Company I Porter – Imperial / Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps

This is a perfectly balanced dessert beer. The peanut butter is great and blends with the vanilla and banana very nicely. Too may beers with peanut butter in them use powder or the peanut butter tastes like a stale Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. Not this beer, oh no. This is delicious and worth savoring. I’m not sure if this beer is still available on tap at Twin Elephant, but I’d love to try other variants on the beer.

 

10. Extra Stockton Bitter | Odd Bird Brewing | Extra Special / Strong Bitter | 4.5 bottle Caps

OddBird_ESB

This is beer in a quintessential British style as it is meant to be. Top notch flavors from fresh ingredients crafted with care and attention. I get mild bitterness on the initial sips of Extra Stockton Bitter, which is on point. The cask delivery gives the beer an added quaff and body that enhances the flavors of the maltiness. There’s an extremely balanced and welcome sweetness on the finish of the beer. This beer, for me, exemplifies why I like craft/independent beer so much. It isn’t a style you’ll find everywhere, but it is a passion project of a beer (one might say) that delivers something really special, no pun intended. This beer alone makes it worth the trip to the brewery, in my humble opinion.

9. Polyphonic | Ashton Brewing Company | Pilsner – German | 4.5 bottle caps

Ashton_Poly

Ashton Brewing is growing into one of the best Lager brewers in the State of New Jersey. Their first Pilsner, Jersey Dreamin’ was great, so early on Ashton showed a deft hand at brewing. Polyphonic is just as good, maybe even a little bit better. Such a clean, crisp pilsner is an example of why Pilsner became such a beloved style and another winner from Ashton Brewing.

 

8. Scrag Mountain Pils Salt & Lime | Lawson’s Finest Liquids | Pilsner – Czech | 4.50 bottle caps

This the kind of beer I want cold and in my hands as soon as I’m finished yard work or sitting by the pool. In fact, the second time I had the beer I did exactly that, finished mowing the lawn and cooled off in the pool with this beer. As it turns out, the opening sentence of this paragraph was written shortly after my first experience tasting the beer. There’s something to be said for taste and timing in general. In specific for Scrag Mountain Pils Salt and Lime, this beer was *perfect* for that post lawnmower refreshment while relaxing in the pool (as in the picture above). I’d say that Scrag Mountain Pils with Salt and Lime is a must have for the summer 

7. Vanilla Maris | Barleywine – English | 4.5 Bottle Caps

What a fantastic Barleywine this beer is. The English Barleywines are more malty and sweet compared to their hoppy cousins from America and often exhibit hints of toffee in the flavor profile. This beer does indeed have that element to it, which plays wonderfully with the vanilla beans on which the beer was aged. Another standout from Timber Ales.

 

6. Boat Ramp Champ | Cape May Brewing Company | Lager – Helles | 4.5 Bottle Caps

Being on Social Media can be a good thing. You get to see beers months ahead of their release to the public, like this Helles Lager from Cape May Brewing Company. They don’t brew/can/distribute many lagers, but when they do, they do them well (Cape May Lager from a couple of years ago; my new summer go-to, Tan Limes; and their annual Oktoberfest), so I was really looking forward to trying this one and I was absolutely not disappointed. This is one of the best Helles Lagers I’ve ever had, a fantastic American interpretation of the classic German style, and it might be my favorite beer from Cape May Brewing Company.

 

5. Uncharted Waters Blueberry and Cinnamon | Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company | Sour – Fruited | 4.5 bottle caps


I’ve been a fan of Jersey Cyclone Brewing since they opened a couple of years ago, their lagers and stouts are superb and they make tasty IPAs. However, this Blueberry/Cinnamon sour ale, Uncharted Waters, might be the best I’ve had from them. Lactose is added to balance out the tartness and sour elements for an outstanding beer. The beer reminds me of a blueberry crumble or blueberry cinnamon pie in beer form. Simply a delicious beer. I’ve since had a few of the Uncharted Waters variants from Jersey Cyclone and while they’ve all been very good, this one stands a half-head taller.

 

4. Yonder | Icarus Brewing Company | Mild – Dark | 4.25 bottle caps

IcarusYonder

Icarus again was a top brewery for 2021, which made the process of determining which beer would make it to this list even more difficult. I may have had other beers over the year that were technically better than this beer, but Yonder was quite simply my favorite. The style – English Dark Mild – isn’t what I’d consider a go-to style for me. Or it wasn’t before this beer. I tried the beer and fell in love with it, and it is a beer that has become one of the few beers upon which my dad, my brother-in-law, and I agree upon since we typically lean to different styles. But this beer…there is so much flavor in a beer that has such a low ABV (4%). I buy it whenever it has become available this year and is just a damned fine beer.

 

3. Paddy’s House Kölsch | Source Brewing | Kölsch | 4.75 bottle caps

The is beer is the winner of a homebrew contest, and there’s no question of the quality. Of the 30 beers on untappd I’ve had categorized as “Kölsch,” this is at least the best American version and maybe the best period. This was slow-poured to allow the flavors to express themselves even more potently, some malt/breadiness with a crisp finish that has some hops and a wonderful mouthfeel. This is everything I want in a beer.

 

2. Czech Dark Lager | Weyerbacher Brewing Company| Lager – Dark | 4.75 bottle caps

Weyerbacher_CzechDark

Weyerbacher is one of the great Northeast breweries so I was very happy to visit on my birthday as I’d never made it across the Route 78 bridge to Easton to visit them. I saw a Czech Dark Lager on draft and knew I had to have it, despite the fact that Weyerbacher typically isn’t known for low ABV lagers. This beer was outstanding, maybe my favorite of the style and likely will be my favorite new-to-me beer of the year and maybe even the beer I’ve enjoyed the most from Weyerbacher. Yes, I’ve had Sunday Morning Stout a few times. I brought a crowler home and when I cracked it open 10 days after the canning date, it held up very nicely. Simply put, a superb beer I wish they’d bring into more of a regular rotation than a test batch. Over the last year or two, the Czech Dark Lager has emerged as a top “new to me” style and this one is simply an outstanding take on the style.

 

1. Tenth | Kane Brewing Company | Stout – Imperial / Double | 5 bottle caps

Kane_Tenth

It really shouldn’t be a surprise at this point, every year my top beer is a barrel-aged beer, and only one year was that beer not a barrel-aged stout (it was Bourbon Barrel Aged Troegenator, a doppolebock). I’ve had more beers from Kane this year than any previous year and second only to Icarus in terms of quantity of new beers in 20201. Tenth is the best beer I’ve yet to enjoy from the great NJ brewery. I’ve said it the last three years about my favorite beer of the year, but Kane Tenth has risen to be my favorite barrel-aged beer. It is absolutely perfect and with out flaw. The bourbon elements are present, but don’t overpower the malt elements from the stout. I wish I bought more than one bottle, now.

Some other notes:

Although the pandemic made visiting breweries a little more challenging for much of 2020, I was able to visit the following breweries for the first time in 2020:

Alternate Ending Beer Co (Aberdeen, NJ)
Böser Geist Brewing Co (Easton, PA)
Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)
Bull N Bear Brewery (Summit, NJ)
Buttzville Brewing Company (Washington Township, NJ)
The Drowned Lands (Warwick, NY)
Invertase Brewing Company (Phillipsburg, NJ)
Log Tavern Brewing (Milford, PA)
Last Wave Brewing Company (Point Pleasant Beach, NJ)
Odd Bird Brewing (Stockton, NJ)
Source Breiwng (Colts Neck, NJ)
Two Rivers Brewing (Easton, PA)
Weyerbacher Brewing Company (Easton, PA)

Breweries whose beer I checked in/enjoyed the most according to untappd, which should be a shock to nobody reading this blog:

Untappd_TopBreweries_2021_RB

 

Thanks to my readers for reading and to the breweries here (and everywhere) for continuing to make delicious beer! Here’s to another good year of beer in 2022!

TTT_2021_Favorites

Draught Diversions: November 2021 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…

2021_Nov_sixpack

November often brings darker beers and beers sampled and enjoyed during the annual birthday brewery tour on which my wife takes me. Of course, not all the beers in this month’s Six Pack were enjoyed on the day of that tour (I reviewed one of them recently, actually). There were plenty of new beers throughout the month outside of that birthday weekend. In fact, November 2021 proved to be one of the more difficult six packs to construct in recent memory, 38 different new to me beers. I could have maybe made it a 10 pack. A mix of styles for four of the beers and 2 Czech Dark Lagers.

Fields (Odd Bird Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

OddBird_FieldsSason

Little did my wife know I’d visited Odd Bird Brewing when she made this the first stop on the tour, but I was very pleased because they make really tasty beer. Especially after enjoying this fluffy and spicy saison. The aroma and flavors from the yeast shined through in a delicious way. Brewer/owner Adam is so dialed in with classic styles and few Belgian styles are as classic as the Saison. A superb beer.

Czech Dark Lager (Weyerbacher Brewing Company) | Lager – Dark | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Weyerbacher_CzechDark

Weyerbacher is one of the great Northeast breweries so I was very happy to visit on my birthday as I’d never made it across the Route 78 bridge to Easton to visit them. I saw a Czech Dark Lager on draft and knew I had to have it, despite the fact that Weyerbacher typically isn’t known for low ABV lagers. This beer was outstanding, maybe my favorite of the style and likely will be my favorite new-to-me beer of the year and maybe even the beer I’ve enjoyed the most from Weyerbacher. Yes, I’ve had Sunday Morning Stout a few times. I brought a crowler home and when I cracked it open 10 days after the canning date, it held up very nicely. Simply put, a superb beer I wish they’d bring into more of a regular rotation than a test batch

Utopias Barrel-Aged World Wide Stout (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) | Stout – Imperial/Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

DFH_UtopiasWWS

This beer is the love child of two of the most extreme beers from the Samuel Adams-Dogfish Head partnership. World Wide Stout is a boozy enough stout on its own, throw it in barrels from Samuel Adams Utopias (a 28% ABV beer), then you have something almost otherworldly. I’ve had Utopias a couple of times and that flavor is definitely prominent on the nose and all over the beer in a delicious way. This is definitely a beer worth experiencing.

Czech Mate (Bradley Brew Project) | Lager – Dark | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

BradleyBrew_CzechMate

Another Czech Dark Lager? Hell yeah! This is only the 2nd beer I’ve had from Bradley Brew, but damn am I impressed. This beer, cleverly named “Czech Mate” hits all the style notes really well, bready/toffee and a slightly crisp finish. Extremely flavorful at 5%, I could drink this all day in the warmer months. As much as I enjoyed the Weyerbacher Czech Dark, this one is nearly aas good so I’m very pleased to see that it was available in 4 packs at one of my local spots.

Pound of Idaho Feathers (Icarus Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Imperial / Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_PoundIdaho

A visit to Icarus means at least one of their beers makes an appearance. I had a few different beers, but this is the one I enjoyed the most and of the “Feathers” Pilsner variants, this one is probably my favorite. The dry hopping doesn’t over power here the way it does in some of the other dry hopped pilsners I’ve had

Cranito (Last Wave Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

LastWaveCranito

I had three beers from Last Wave this past month, one at the start when I was out for dinner and two at the brewery the same day I visited Icarus. This is the standout for me, but as I pointed out in a recent review, I love cranberries and this beer is clean, tart, and very refreshing. My only regret is that there were no cans of this available for purchase at the brewery.

Birthday Brewery Tour: Clockwise: Weyerbacher, Odd Bird, Invertase, Böser Geist, Two Rivers

Good beers, indeed. A few stinkers throughout the month, but since I want to be positive, I won’t mention those beers. Although I will say on the birthday beer tour, we visited Odd Bird Brewing (Stockton, NJ); Invertase Brewing (Phillipsburg, NJ), Weyerbacher Brewing (Easton, PA); Böser Geist (Easton, PA), and finished with a delicious dinner at Two Rivers Brew Pub (Easton, PA).

November 2021 Six Pack

Draught Diversions: October 2021 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…

2021_Oct_SixPack

Stout season is officially here! A couple of beers on this month’s edition of the Tap Takeover Six Pack are seasonally appropriate in that regard and one, a porter, fits the mold too. I made two visits to Kane Brewing this month and a visit to Icarus, so those breweries made up much of what I enjoyed in October 2021 even if only one from each appears. Four beers from New Jersey, on from New York and one from Germany. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

La Di Da Di: Banana, Peanut Butter & Vanilla (Twin Elephant Brewery) | Porter – Imperial / Double | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

TwinElephant_LaDiDaDi

Twin Elephant gets a lot of love for their IPAs (and rightfully so), but their dark beers have been my jam since they launched five years ago. This one is a perfectly balanced dessert beer. The peanut butter is great and blends with the vanilla and banana very nicely. Too may beers with peanut butter in them use powder or the peanut butter tastes like a stale Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. Not this beer, oh no. This is delicious.

Das Beste (Icarus Brewing Company) | Kölsch | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_DasBeste

This is the first Kölsch / Kölsch style ale from Icarus and boy howdy is it delicious. I enjoy a good Kölsch and this is one of the better ones I’ve ever had. Very glad to see a style like this come out of a brewery largely known for IPAs and boozy stouts. But I shouldn’t have been surprised in the least about the quality of the beer because for my tastes, Icarus simply doesn’t make bad beers. That may be relatively clear since they make more appearances here, in both the Monthly Six Packs, and the Tap Takeover in general, than any other brewery.

Premium Verum / German Pilsener (Warsteiner) | Pilsner – German | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Warsteiner_Pilsner

Sometimes a good, classic German Pilsner hits the spot. That’s exactly what this beer did for me. It is always nice to get the beer in not just Proper Glassware, but glassware with the brewery’s logo on it made specifically for the specific beer. Maybe that helped with the enjoyment a little bit, but the beer itself is tasty enough. Regardless, this was good, but nothing mind blowing.

Brux Royale Belgian Chocolate Stout (Ross Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Ross_BruxRoyale

Ross Brewing has come out pretty strongly this year, producing interesting looking beers. This decadent stout is just the second beer I’ve had from them and it is an impressively crafted, boozy stout. Roasted malt and bittersweet chocolate are the signature flavors here.

Cinnamon Babka (Grimm Artisanal Ales) | Stout – Imperial / Double Milk | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Grimm_Babka

I’ve enjoyed some of Grimm’s lighter offerings so I wanted to sample this big, boozy (12%) Dessert Stout. When added appropriately, cinnamon is a nice adjunct and that’s the case with this beer. Hints of cinnamon and cocoa make for a delicious evening sipper. I was a little worried when I had the first sip of the beer, but once it warmed up a little bit, I was able to thoroughly enjoy this beer.

Grisaille | Blend N°1 (Field & Oak) | Saison – Grisette | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

FieldOak_Grisaille

Under the Field & Oak brand, Kane Brewing has been in the process of making some Belgian inspired beers on the lighter side – Saisons, Grisettes, Lambics. Beers that have funk and some kind of fruit. This Grisette was the first one of those beers I sampled and I could have enjoyed an unending glass of this beer all day. The oak aging lends a hint of vanilla. Slightly funky, effervescent, and delicious.

That’s all I have to say about that.