Beer Review: Wet Ticket Brewing’s Trolley Hopper

Name: Trolley Hopper
Brewing Company: Wet Ticket Brewing Company
Location: Rahway, NJ
Style: IPA – New England
ABV: 7.7%

“The flagship IPA from the Rahway brewery is a stellar interpretation of the popular Hazy/New England IPA.”

Wet Ticket Trolley Hopper Draught

Not the best picture, I admit but it provides a decent shot of that perfect pour and the Wet Ticket logo.

From Wet Ticket’s our beer page:

We’ve blended six hops to create an explosion of JUICY tropical fruit flavors and aromas in this New England style IPA. Vic Secret hops from Australia take the lead here, with Citra, Mosaic, Columbus, Amarillo and Simcoe all doing their part to create a maelstrom of hoppy refreshment. The chassis for this resinous hop bomb is mostly Pale 2-row malt, and just enough oats to contribute to the haze that is the signature of this style.

From the untappd description of the beer:

This beer is all about the hops, and is our interpretation of a New England IPA. With more than 3 pounds of hops per barrel, you will be engulfed in a resinous, juicy, tropical hop experience that lets you savor the hop flavors without being overcome by bitterness. Savor the aromatics of this beer as you will be hit by an intense wave of citrus, peach and tropical fruit aromas. The flavor will be ever so slightly dank and will match the expectations created by the aroma. Named after the long lost Rahway Trolley line, jump aboard the “Hopper,” and enjoy the ride.

Wet Ticket is about the same age as this beer blog, so it is about time I got around to reviewing one of their beers. On a recent visit (more on that later this week), I figured I’d go with their flagship IPA, Trolley Hopper. As the description above indicates, this beer is a Hazy/New England IPA. Most of the beers I’ve reviewed here have been consumed at my house out of the can or bottle. As you can see from the picture above, I had a pint of this at the brewery. A beer like this, with the kind of hops that evoke a citrus juiciness are best consumed fresh, and what’s more fresh than a beer straight from the keg at the brewery?

Visually, the beer exhibits the beautiful characteristics of a New England IPA perfectly. Hazy, orange-juice like appearance in the glass with a frothy white head. A quick pass of the beer under my schnozz gives off the pleasant hoppy aromas of the style I would expect. After a long day of work, and a frustrating drive during rush hour to the brewery, the first sip of the beer was a delicious remedy.

For a beer at 7.7% ABV it drinks a little lower in alcohol than I’d expect. A refreshing blast of hops catapults the flavors through the palate, hitting all the right buttons. Wet Ticket indicates Vic Secret and Centennial as two of the hops used in this beer, those happen to be two of my favorite hop varieties.

Wet Ticket first canned the beer a little over a year ago, in March 2018 and it has been available in cans in NJ since. While March 2018 was about the one year mark for Wet Ticket, Trolley Hopper is currently the most “checked in” beer on untappd. In other words, it is their most popular and most consumed beer. There’s really no surprise for that, in my humble opinion. Plain and simple, Trolley Hopper is a delicious, on-point interpretation of arguably the most popular style of IPA being made today.

You might say, sure the beer tasted good at the brewery, but how did it taste in cans? Well, I can answer that for you, I liked the beer so much I brought some home. I split a four pack with my dad, as it so happens. A couple of days after visiting the brewery, I poured the beer into my brand new Wet Ticket pint glass and the beer looked just as inviting as it did out of the tap handle in the brewery. There’s virtually no difference in taste. The same blast of juicy hops and clean flavor profile pervade. In other words, it was delicious.

There you have it, Trolley Hopper from Wet Ticket Brewing is what I’d hand somebody if they asked, “Give me a solid juicy IPA that does New Jersey craft brewing proud.”

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Conclave Brewing’s Moonwater

Name: Moonwater
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing Company
Location: Flemington/Raritan Township, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 6%

“The Central Jersey brewery creates another delicious IPA.”

About the beer:

An IPA brewed to be simple, enjoyable and drinkable. We used a blend of base malts, Mosaic and Motueka hops and then a blend of ale yeasts to make this one. While it’s clearly a hoppy one, it’s crisp minerality and finish is what we’re really psyched about. Come on by and let us know what you feel. Notes of Sauvignon blanc, grape bubblegum, lemongrass and lime.

For all the mentions Conclave gets here on the Tap Takeover, this is the first full review I’m doing for one of their beers since fall 2017. For about the past year or so, Conclave has been doing somewhat monthly releases. Moonwater was was the first can release I was able to get I’m very glad I did.

This is a beer they first brewed in late 2018 but when I picked up the 4-pack, it was both the first time they canned the beer and the first time I had the beer.

Immediately noticeable from the pour of the beer is how yellow-orange the beer is, really nailing the “Pale” of the IPA. It looks almost like orange juice, like many of the popular Hazy IPAs. There’s a strong hop aroma that, for IPA lovers, really encourages you to take a sip.

A big hit of hops on the first sip. Per the description above, they’ve used two hops: Motueka and Mosaic.  The Motueka on the start which evokes a really delicious citrus flavor. I think Conclave has used Motueka in quite a few of their beers and it is a really flavorful hop, I’m a fan. The hop I tend not to enjoy; however, is the Mosaic hop. For whatever reason, the finish of beers which feature the Mosaic hop don’t typically jive with my taste sensibilities. I didn’t notice those issues in this beer.

While the Mosaic is present and has some hop qualities I enjoy, the Motueka hop brings enough of its own flavor to give the beer a more balanced hop profile. Motueka is one of the New Zealand hops that is growing in popularity and this beer is a nice showcase as to why. There’s an extremely pleasant tropical fruit element to the beer that inspires you to have more.

So the beer has a well-crafted balance between the two hops, which is nice. Also impressive is how flavorful the beer is with a relatively low ABV at 6%. For an IPA, that’s not exactly a chugger, but lower than the 7-7.5% you’d expect from an IPA with the robust flavor this beer gives.

Conclave Brewing is extremely consistent with every beer they produce and this beer is further proof. Moonwater is a great example of the care, precision, and artistry that can come together in an IPA. Plan and simple, Moonwater is a delicious IPA.

The cans sold out early on Saturday, the brewery is open for a couple of hours on Thursday and Friday evening and Saturday afternoons. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another batch of this beer become available though maybe just for growler fills. If you’re in the Central New Jersey area, it is a beer (and brewery) worth seeking out and visiting.

Can art by Natalie Rengan, @talliedesign. Natalie has been creating some really striking designs for Conclave’s can releases, giving a nice “branding” to the brewery.

Art/Design by Natalie Rengan

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Weyerbacher Brewing’s Last Chance IPA

Name: Last Chance IPA
Brewing Company: Weyerbacher Brewing Company
Location: Easton, PA
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 5.9%

From Weyerbacher Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Last Chance IPA, 5.9% ABV, is a full-flavored IPA with pleasant citrus flavors of tangerine and grapefruit. Last Chance is a well-balanced, very refreshing beer that we’re sure you’ll enjoy! In addition to the blend of Cascade, Centennial, Citra and Mosaic hops, we’ve also dry-hopped this brew with Citra and Mosaic.

Weyerbacher donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every drop of Last Chance IPA to small animal rescue organizations throughout our distribution area. These shelters offer dogs, cats and other pets their last chance to find a new home.

Have a glass and make a difference! Cheers!

Weyerbacher Brewing is one of the great independent Pennsylvania breweries, they’ve been brewing and selling their beer for over twenty years and brew a range of delicious styles. I’ve been wanting to review one of their beers for a while, so when I came across a beer whose proceeds go to animal rescue, the dog lover in me figured this would be a good one to highlight. As such, Weyerbacher donates a portion of the proceeds from this beer to regional (to Easton, PA) animal rescue operations, with over $230K donated since the beer was first made in 2012. Not surprisingly, Weyerbacher has a site dedicated to the fund here: https://lastchancefund.com/

It is usually at this point that I’ll say something along the lines of that’s all well and good, but the beer still needs to be well crafted and appealing. So there. I said…or wrote it. Be that as it may, this beer is a very good IPA.

Weyerbacher describes this one as a West Coast style IPA and I get that from the overall hop profile. There’s a really inviting hop aroma coming off of the beer as soon as I opened the can. The beer poured a rich golden, with slight hints of orange once the glass was completely full.  The head is nice and fluffy, too. In other words, this beer looks just about exactly as you’d expect an IPA to look fully poured into a pint glass. So far, I like what my senses are telling me about this beer.

After taking a sip from the glass, I was pleased with how the aroma matched up to the actual taste. Lots of citrus and pine in the hop profile – just what to expect from a West-Coast style IPA. The more of the beer I drank, the more I enjoyed the beer. This isn’t going to blow you away with hop-punches to the face the way some over-the-top IPAs will, but you’ll definitely be aware of their presence.

Although the hop profile is different, and I’d guess different hops were used in Last Chance IPA, what the beer seems to be trying to be is similar to the Brooklyn Defender IPA I highlighted a few weeks ago. Maybe this beer has a little more hop kick. In other words, I’d guess Weyerbacher wanted to make an accessible for most beer drinkers while still working for “seasoned” beer drinkers like myself.

While Weyerbacher seems to specialize in higher ABV beers like big Stouts, Barleywines, or Belgian-style ales, going with an approachable IPA for a beer to raise funds for animal rescue is a smart brewing choice. As I initially said, above all else, the beer has to taste good and Last Chance IPA tastes really good. In fact, my local Wegman’s was doing a Weyerbacher tasting and I liked the small sip/taste of the beer enough that I knew I wanted more.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75 Bottle Cap rating.

https://lastchancefund.com/

Beer Review: Brooklyn Brewery’s Defender IPA

Name: Defender IPA
Brewing Company: Brooklyn Brewery
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 5.5%

From Brooklyn Brewery’s landing page for the beer:

DEFEND BEER with Brooklyn Defender IPA, our heroically hopped golden IPA featuring strong notes of tropical fruit, well-muscled hop bitterness, and an incredibly dry finish. Cape not required.

Brooklyn Defender IPA is forged in collaboration with our sidekicks at New York Comic Con as the official beer of the convention. 

Brooklyn Brewery is one of the early leaders of the American Craft Beer scene having begun back in 1988. Their flagship beer, Brooklyn Lager is an iconic and very well-made Vienna Lager (think Sam Adams Boston Lager but more flavorful). When New York Comic Con was looking for an “official beer” about seven years ago, they probably thought what better brewery than Brooklyn? One can’t really argue that logic considering the quality of the brewery’s output under legendary Brewmaster Garrett Oliver and the brewery’s iconic status in New York (and the country for that matter).

I’ve been going to New York Comic Con every year for about the last five or six years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and in all that time, I’ve never had the beer. Chalk that up to an aversion to IPAs, but since I came round to IPAs over the last year, I knew I had to give this beer a try. Every year, Brooklyn changes up the label, but I don’t know if they change up the recipe. For the 2018 release, they crafted a very tasty beer.

2018 bottle and six pack art for Defender IPA. Courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery’s web site

The label calls this a “Golden IPA” and sure enough, the beer pours a bright gold/yellow. From the look, one could maybe mistake the beer for a Helles Lager. Well, until the aroma of the hops wafts off the glass.

First sip is a nice inviting burst of hops which matches up with what the aroma led me to expect. The hops aren’t overpowering, but they are definitely present. They let you know they are there and the major flavor component of the beer, but those hops aren’t shouting at you with aggressive assertiveness. There’s a dry finish to the beer, too. I found that to be a little unexpected, but not unwelcome.

I think the word I can use that best describes the beer is approachable. IPAs are the most popular style of “craft beer.” On the other hand, the style is what many folks who stick with the macro-produced lagers say keeps them away from craft beer. What Brooklyn has done with this beer is brew an extremely balanced beer that highlights the most prominent aspect of the IPA without it being too overpowering. Given the large attendance at New York Comic Con and the Geek Community in general, it is hard to argue with the formula Brooklyn used to brew this tasty beer.

All told, Defender IPA is a flavorful, approachable beer that works almost like a Session IPA. At 5.5% ABV, a couple of these would go well while you read or reread your favorite run of The Flash, Saga, WatchmenWonder WomanLocke & Key, or Monstress. I think this will be in regular rotation every October for me as a celebration of New York Comic Con.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75 Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Jersey Girl Brewing’s Rake Breaker

Name: Rake Breaker
Brewing Company: Jersey Girl Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: New England Style IPA (Jersey Girl) / India Pale Ale – American (untappd)
ABV: 6.5%

From Jersey Girl Brewing’s beers page:

Tropical IPA with Mosaic and Amarillo. Fresh, and incredibly drinkable. A tornado of tropical hops will be sure to break your perception of traditional bitter IPAs.

Jersey Girl has been around the NJ beer scene for a few years now and I was lucky enough to visit the brewery last November. Supposedly, the name came about because the mash rake used in the brewing process broke because there was so much grain in the brew. At the time, I was relatively averse to IPAs so I didn’t try any of their hop-forward ales. What I had I enjoyed, but as they were tasters/part of a flight and the last brewery of five I visited that day, I didn’t feel a review of any of those beers would be appropriate or truly reflective of my true experience with the beer. Then I had their flagship IPA Rake Breaker and I knew I had to write about the beer.

When the waiter at 22 Tap and Grill delivered the beer to me, I was very pleased at the look. There’s a hazy, bright, inviting look to the beer that looks like the juicier IPAs I’ve come to enjoy. A whiff of the beer brought the hoped-for citrus/hoppy aroma I was hoping to get, which proved to be a nice hint of what the beer would deliver.

The first sip matched the aroma really well. A great combination of citrusy hops with a really nice grasping hop bite on the finish. Second sip was much of the same, proving Rake Breaker to be a really balanced India Pale Ale. Although untappd calls this an “American IPA,” I’ve seen Jersey Girl refer to this as a New England or Northeast Style IPA.

Whether this is a true New England IPA (I lean towards yes, based on the citrusy hops and the look of the beer) or an American IPA, Rake Breaker is an extremely pleasing IPA. The Mosiac hop is a really nice hop that has become more prevalent over the past couple of years because of the way it brings the bitterness, aroma, and citrus/sweet flavors together. The Amarillo also has a nice citrus profile, too. The two hops combined bring the citrusy hops together for that pleasing flavor I mentioned earlier.

As I said, I overlooked this beer (despite it being something of a flagship for Jersey Girl) when I visited the brewery for my birthday tour last year. I won’t make the mistake again. With all the buzz that breweries like Carton, Kane, Twin Elephant, Cape May, and Three 3’s gets for their IPAs, Rake Breaker shouldn’t be lost in that shuffle and overlooked. In other words, a quality IPA that proudly represents the quality of brewing one can and should expect from a New Jersey brewery.

My only minor complaint isn’t necessarily about the beer itself, but about the availability. I see plenty of NJ brews in the stores in my immediate travel radius (i.e. the liquor stores on my way home from work), including beers from fellow Hackettstown brewery Czig Meister. For whatever reason, I haven’t seen Jersey Girl’s beers in those same shops since the brewery first started canning and distributing. On the other hand, I have been looking for an excuse to make the drive up to Hackettstown again.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 26)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 130 different IPAs.

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.

Beer Review: The Alchemist’s Crusher

Name: Crusher
Brewing Company: The Alchemist
Location: Stowe, VT
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8%
IBU: 110

From the back of the can:

Crusher is an American Double India Pale Ale that I started making years ago at the old pub. Hop heads were constantly asking for more hops. So in the words of Frank Zappa, “Did you say want some more? Well, here’s some more.”

While I enjoy Hops with the rest of them, I still try to maintain some semblance of balance and drinkability. This beer is oozing with hop flavor and aroma with a very dry finish. Enjoy responsibly, this one can sneak up on you.

Fans of small, independent breweries have known of the legendary Alchemist for years. It is basically the brewery that helped to give birth to the popular New England IPA style of beer. Brewer/owner John Kimmich’s most famous creation, Heady Topper, is one of those whale beers that every beer geek wants to try at least once and I was fortunate enough to share a can last Fourth of July with a friend. Fast forward a year and another friend happened to have just visited Vermont and he brought back some goodies from the Alchemist, including this Double IPA – Crusher.

You’ll notice there’s no glass of beer in the photo – the Alchemist recommends drinking most of their beers directly from the can, which I did with this beer. The 16oz can opens and out drifts an aroma of hops that is both different than other IPAs I’ve experienced, yet similar, but just more of it, if that makes sense.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect, but that first sip is a bombastic assault of hops flavor. Crusher’s hop profile is a banging bouquet of deliciousness, one of the most perfectly citrusy hopped profiles I’ve ever had in a beer. I couldn’t believe what a cornucopia 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 so I didn’t guzzle it.

Like a lot of DIPAs, this beer has a maltiness that balances out the hops very well. Fortunately, the bitterness of the hops is not the least bit cloying. Rather, the bitterness for me was absolutely perfect. To that point, I find it almost impossible to believe the IBU of this beer is 110, the highest IBU of any beer I’ve ever consumed and enjoyed. Perhaps the most standout element of this beer is how sweet it is compared to many other IPAs and DIPAs I’ve had. That is a virtue/feature and not a problem/bug.

What makes this such a wonderful beer is how elegant it is – sure there’s a lot going on in the hop profile, but beyond that, it is a fairly straight-forward DIPA but one crafted in an almost magical mix of water, hops, yeast, and malt.

Like the description above points out, while the name may be “Crusher” and the lovely taste may encourage you to drink a few pints of this beer in quick succession, the ABV of 8% will make you realize quite quickly that taking your time is more prudent. Especially because the beer is so damned delicious, you don’t want it to be gone too fast.

Although Heady Topper (which I had and loved) and Focal Banger (which I had and didn’t like as much) are the two beers the Alchemist is better known for producing, I thought Crusher was better than both and a nearly perfect beer in its own right. This is a beer that lives up to the hype surrounding the brewery and brewer who created the beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.75-star rating

Can Art courtesy of MyBeerBuzz and The Alchemist