Beer Review: Cape May Brewing’s Coastal Evacuation

Name: Coastal Evacuation
Brewing Company: Cape May Brewing Company
Location: Cape May, NJ
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8.0%

I usually try to go with on of my Garden State Brewfest glasses for NJ beers, but went with my alma mater this time.

From Cape May Brewing’s Web site:

“Coastal Evacuation:” a phrase common at the Jersey Shore. Hurricane season hits hard, and we’re hitting back with a Double IPA with copious amounts of centennial hops, able to withstand the storm. It’s time to evacuate – are you prepared?

Cape May Brewing has been brewing and selling beer since the brewer officially opened 2011. Cape May Brewing is (I think) the second largest craft brewery in New Jersey (Flying Fish being the largest) and offers the largest varieties of beers in New Jersey in its tasting room. Their beers are highly respected in the State of New Jersey, some  sought after, and some have won awards – Topsail, (a barrel-aged sour) was named best beer of 2017 by Beer Connoisseur Magazine.

I had their Honey Porter last year, which was pretty good and I’d been eager to try more of their portfolio especially as I’ve come to appreciate hoppier beers/IPAs and the majority of what they brews lean heavily towards the IPA side of the shelf. One of their flagship / most well-received brews is Coastal Evacuation. Unfortunately, Cape May Brewing doesn’t distribute up to Somerset County, but fortunately, my dad and I recently did a bottle share and one Coastal Evacuation was one of the beers I received.

The first thing I noticed when pouring the beer was the color. It wasn’t as bright or golden as I expected from a Double IPA and the bubbles floating in the beer looked almost like particulates. I was a little nervous, but I shouldn’t have been.

My first impression/first sip of the beer was an assertive yet pleasing hop presence. Knowing the beer is a double IPA (80 IBU) set my expectations for a big hop bit and I got it, but I wasn’t bludgeoned with the hop bitterness. The second prominent flavor component is the citrus profile imparted by the generous centennial hops in the beer. The two flavor components blend quite nicely for a beer with a great taste.

Coastal Evacuation is a very drinkable IPA, the hop/sweet/citrus flavor profile is remarkably well-balanced given the  alcohol level and the high IBU. In other words, this beer is a fine example of a Double IPA and I can definitely understand why so many people enjoy the beer.

Overall, this was an enjoyable beer that went down with the complex hop/citrus flavors one should expect from a Double IPA. Coastal Evacuation is another beer helping to put the Garden State on the Craft Beer map of America.

The label looks great here, but it looks even better on the beer with some foil/shiny highlights

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 18)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 90 different IPAs.

 

Draught Diversions: I’m Now an IPA Believer

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…

Well, it finally happened. I never thought it would come to pass, but alas, I have succumbed to the masses of craft beer. I not only enjoy IPAs now, I seek them out.

For years I avoided IPAs like they were a communicable disease. I hated high-hopped beers and even disliked many Pale Ales (like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale). I’d get that bitter beer face when I did have IPAs and would drink water if an IPA was the only beer option.

When I first joined untappd about 4 years ago, I did so with a good friend and it turned into a little competition. For a while we were neck in neck with check-ins to unique beers, badges and the like. The primary difference, he was (and is) an IPA guy and I was (and still am) primarily a stouts & porters guy. The whole time we were switching places in the “race to most check ins” he would be at, for example, level 30 on his “I Believe in IPA” badge and level 8 on “Heavyweight” badge and I would be on level 30 on my “Heavyweight” Badge and level 8 of my “I Believe in IPA” badge.

Then, something happened. Something that supposedly happens to people every seven years or so. Just do a google search on “palate changes every 7 years” and a plethora of scientific, semi-scientific, and conjectural results are returned. My palate changed and evolved. I became more open to trying different styles, and part of it started with a beer I reviewed here last year: Two Roads Honeyspot IPA. The beer was from a brewery I trusted implicitly: Two Roads Brewing Company and it had wheat as a malt ingredient.

From there I became more open and curious to trying the occasional IPA. Another IPA that really wowed me and had me eager to try juice bomb and New England IPAs came from the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp pack last year: the Sierra Nevada/Treehouse collaboration East Meets West IPA which was one of the best beers I ever had. I knew I might be willing to try more IPAs at this point.

I also began to doubt myself. Was I just folding under the pressure of the overwhelming imbalance of IPAs vs other styles in the beer market? I hoped that wasn’t the case, but the more IPAs I had, the more I enjoyed them. I am also not the only person to have an aversion to IPAs. Just like the wide variety of stouts available on the market, I’ve learned IPAs are just as diverse. In learning that, I realize I prefer the East Coast IPAs and a lot of what makes me enjoy a specific IPA comes down to the specific Hop used in the brew. For example, Conclave’s “Hop Ritual with Vic Secret” is a delicious beer because of the strand of hop in the beer. Yeah, I know it is technically a Pale ale, but it is one of those Pale Ales that blurs the line and well, Hop is in the name.

Another Hop that works well for my palate is Citra, which imparts a citrusy flavor to the beer. Another that worked wonders for my palate is the Centennial Hop. I learned this when I had Two Hearted Ale for the first time, which is hopped 100% with Centennial Hops. Centennial also imparts a citrus flavor profile. I’ll again make the obligatory plea that Bell’s begin distributing in New Jersey.

Just take a look at my first two monthly six packs for 2018 and how prominently IPAs are featured in the six highlight beers of each month. The beer that really sealed my fate with regard to IPAs and hopped up beers, though not an IPA, is Sierra’s Nevada Pale Ale, arguably the most important hop-forward beer in American Craft beer over the last thirty plus years.

I could probably go to great lengths about the varieties of hops. In fact there are several books on the subject with For The Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops by Stan Hieronymus considered by many to be the standard book on the subject. I haven’t personally read it, but I threw out a question on twitter about the best book on Hops and multiple trusted beer folks tweeted back with this book.

So what does this all mean? Well, I’m excited to explore more IPAs and Pale Ales. Beers that are hop-forward and maybe feature a single hop. There’s now a shelf or fridge section of beers I don’t need to skip over any longer.

Or, to put it another way, just like the untappd badge, I Believe in IPA!

Beer Review: BOVB (Blood Orange Cream Pop IPA)

Name: BOVB (Blood Orange Cream Pop IPA)
Brewing Company: Bolero Snort Brewery
Location: Ridgefield Park, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 6.3%

Glass from Garden State Brewfest 2015, where I first encountered Bolero Snort’s brews.

Description of the beer from Bolero’s blog post announcing the beer

BOVB offers a metal escape to warmer weather in these brisk months. This 6.3% IPA is brewed with white wheat and hopped with some of our favorite old school citrusy C hops then conditioned atop blood orange puree, milk sugar and Madagascar Vanilla before being dry hopped with some sleek new Experimental Hops and more Centennial and Cascade. Fluffy and crisp, bright citrus with a creamy finish.

Bolero Snort is one of the more well-regard breweries in the New Jersey craft beer community, and all without having a “home base” tap room where patrons can taste and purchase the beer. They are a gypsy brewery, and brew their recipes at various larger breweries in the State. They’ve gained this reputation through distribution of kegs, cans, and bottles in a mix of traditional brews and innovative twists on those traditions, like this twist on a citrusy IPA. Aside from the beer, owner Bob Olson is considered one of the really good guys in the New Jersey brewing community and has brewed collaborations with several NJ breweries.

It has been a while since I gave the full review attention to an IPA and this one is really terrific. Upon cracking open the 16oz can, the aroma is citrus and hops with an underlying sweetness. The beer pours a bright, inviting yellow-orange that looks in all respects like your standard IPA

Looks are deceiving because this is far from a standard IPA.

The upfront flavors of the hops and bold blood orange citrus meld quite harmoniously. A very pleasing mouthfeel leads to a creamy sweet vanilla finish. I’ve said before that vanilla is very tricky flavor component for my palate, as it can be overpowering in some cases and prevent a beer from elevating to that next level. The judicious and balanced application of the Madagascar Vanilla in this beer is absolutely perfect. The sweetness and vanilla essence finishes and complements the citrus hop up front that compels you to drink more.

Similar to how I suggested that River Horse’s Chocolate Porter was the delicious essence of a brownie distilled into beer form, this is the sweet, tasty essence of an orange creamsicle (or even the orange vanilla twist famous on the NJ boardwalk) into beer form. In other words, a great dessert beer.

I did make one mistake on the first can of this beer – I poured without the swirl. Because this beer has the lactose sugar and other sweetening elements, as well as not being 100% filtered, sediment will settle to the bottle of the can. Kind of like an unfiltered Hefeweizen. The glass from which I was drinking the beer didn’t hold the full 16oz of the can so a lot of slurry poured out when I topped off the glass. Swirling all that sediment kicks up the lovely flavors even more which was definitely the case when I had my second can a couple of days later. This is quite simply a delicious beer.

Bolero Snort produces a few different versions of this beer: the original OVB (Orange Cream Pop); TVB (Tropical); and SVB (Strawberry). I need to try these soon and more than the dozen or so of Bolero’s beers I’ve already had.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd Check-in 1 and Check-in 2

4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Conclave’s Gravitational Pull

Name: Gravitational Pull
Brewing Company: Conclave Brewing
Location: Raritan Township, NJ
Style: India Pale Ale / New England IPA
ABV: 6.6%

From the beer’s description on Conclave’s Web site:

Juicy and hoppy. An American IPA double dry hopped with large amounts of Galaxy, Motueka, and Azacca hops. Not bitter with notes of fresh crushed citrus.

Here we are back to New Jersey for a delicious beer from the fine brewers at Conclave. Not only that, an IPA? What? We thought you don’t like IPAs that much, Rob? Yet here is the second beer review of an IPA and you’ve yet to review one of your favorite styles like Porters or some other styles you enjoy more. Well, two things. First, Porters are more of a fall/cool weather beer for me and we are just in our first year here at the Tap Takeover. Second, the fact that I’m “reviewing” a second IPA should be an indication of just how wonderful this beer is.

The first, most noticeable characteristic of the beer is the thick, hazy, orange color. It pours almost like pulpy orange juice, the same consistency and thickness, but without the pulp. The aroma is a refreshing blend of citrus and hops, a nice balance that is very inviting.

The first taste gives you the hops, but not in a bludgeoning overpowering way that many IPAs deliver. The citrus/juice-bomb finish of that first sip encourages you to drink more. It is such an elegantly crafted beer that one pint can go too fast. Although the taste expands a little bit as it warms to room temperature, for me, this one tastes better colder.

The blend of the three hops in the beer, the Motueka in particular, is what lends the citrusy tropical fruit flavor to this beer. I think this is the second time Conclave has brewed this beer and if I recall correctly from briefly chatting with owner Carl when I had my growler filled on Friday, the Motueka hops aren’t the easiest to acquire, nor are the Galaxy hops, both of which lend a citrusy/tropical fruit flavor profile. A brief Google search points to New Zealand as the source for the Motueka hops and Australia for the Galaxy hops, so that challenge makes sense. The more common Azacca hops in the beer to blend extremely well with the Motueka and Galaxy hops, enhancing that juice-bomb aspect to the beer.

Equation for Newton Universal Gravitation, used as icon for the beer on untappd

OK, that was a little bit of a science, geography, and business lesson, back to the beer.

I briefly mentioned Gravitational Pull in my August round up and my feature on Conclave, so again, the repeated mentions of this beer should only point to what a standout beer this is. The first time I had it was in a bar, so as soon as I saw a new batch was ready for growler fills at the brewery, I had to go. I was also hoping there would be some cans of it, but not just yet.

The first pour from the mini growler on Friday night was fantastic, so fresh and juicy. I wanted to save the remaining pint of the 32 oz. growler for the next night and it stayed just as juicy and delicious the following day. I don’t know that I’d want to get a full 64 oz. growler for myself over the course of multiple days because I just don’t know how long it would stay fresh. I’ve had growlers of stouts over the course of a few days and around day 3 or 4 the freshness and taste start to fade. For an IPA like this one, I think freshness is the key.

Image/Logo used by Conclave in advertising beer’s availability at the brewery

Right now on untappd Gravitational Pull is categorized as an “American IPA” though I suspect this might change to New England IPA since this beer seems to have all the characteristics I’ve read that are associated with NEIPAs. Irregardless, Gravitational Pull is a great, great beer and one that is helping to establish Conclave Brewing as one of the premier (out of 70~) NJ Breweries.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Beer Review: Two Roads Brewing Honeyspot IPA

Name:Honeyspot IPA
Brewing Company: Two Roads Brewing Company
Location: Stratford, CT
Style: IPA
ABV: 6.0% / IBU: 55

From the beer’s description on Two Roads’ Web site:

The Two Roads version of this traditional beer style takes a road less traveled. It’s unfiltered and uses wheat as the dominant malt backbone. The result is a slightly cloudy, pale IPA with a softer mouthfeel that accentuates the citrusy Pacific Northwest hop character.

IPA (India Pale Ale) is the most popular style in craft beer to the point people who aren’t beer drinkers sometimes think they are one and the same. There are quite a few breweries (at least here in NJ and many outside of NJ, I’m sure) that seem to brew -only- IPAs. That said, IPA is one of my least favorite styles, I usually won’t go out of my way for one and will usually avoid them if other styles are available. The hoppiness just doesn’t work for me nor does the grapefruit taste the hops evoke as I find grapefruits vile.

Sure I’ve had quite a few IPAs if you go by my untapped IPA badge count (of about 50 different IPAs over the past few years), but like I said, IPAs are unavoidable. I’ll drink a few IPAs voluntarily, like Founders All Day IPA, Demented’s Dementia or a couple of the popular IPAs with a fruit infusion, but that’s about it. I do enjoy Black IPAs, but that’s a beer of a different kettle, so to speak.

Then I tried Two Roads’ Honeyspot IPA; I was very impressed.

I thought I might like this one for two reasons.

  1. I haven’t had a beer from Two Roads I’ve disliked. Most of their beers, for my palate, are at worst very good while others are great.
  2. Honeyspot Road uses Wheat as the malt. As I have pointed out previously, I love me a wheat-based beer.

The beer pours a bright yellow from the 12oz bottle and maybe because of wheat base, it looks almost like a Witbier. The hop hits the nose, but not in an overpowering way and it continues through drinking the beer. But the unfiltered wheat is a perfect balance against the bitterness of the hops, it softens the character of the hop flower. The IBU on this is low to the middle of the road at 55 IBU. Put it this way, I’ve had IPAs with lower IBU that left more of a bitter, hop aftertaste. Maybe it is the wheat base that cuts the bitterness or makes it more palatable.

I kept thinking how balanced this beer is and how easily I could throw back a few of these over a warm afternoon or a long Sunday. Most IPAs have an ABV over 6, the Session IPAs are lower than 5%, like All Day IPA which is 4.7%. Honeyspot is exactly 6% so it isn’t quite a Session beer, but it won’t knock you out like a lot of other IPAs will,  many of which are 7% and above.

Honeyspot IPA is a delicious beer and one that seems to be perfectly geared for beer drinkers like me who don’t typically gravitate to IPAs while also please IPA drinkers.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.00-star rating.