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

Beer Review: Demented Brewing’s Silent IPA

Name: Silent
Brewing Company: Demented Brewing Company
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 6.3%

From Demented Brewing’s beer page:

Named after a volcano in New Zealand, this beer packs an eruption of flavors without melting your palate. Expect fresh crushed citrus and tropical fruit in the nose, with no bitterness on the finish.

Here we are a year later with coming full circle back to Demented Brewing for a beer review a year after the first “pour” from The Tap Takeover. Now that I’ve come to enjoy IPAs, I wanted to dive into more brews from Demented Brewing, since some of their more highly regarded brews are their IPAs. My wife and I were having dinner with friends and family at a BYOB place before a concert, so I stopped in at Demented which is very close to my brother-in-law’s house. Their flagship IPA, Dementia is an IPA I liked before I really started to enjoy IPAs and Gallows Hill is a nice New England style IPA. But what about Silent? Well, read on.

I gave this a quick sampling before having the growler filled up and I knew it would be right up my alley from that little sip. Once I poured the beer out of the growler into the cup a couple of hours later, I could tell this was a juicy beer despite the dim light of the noodle house where I consumed the beer. It poured thick and hazy and I was excited to take that first sip.

A quick whiff of the aroma of the beer is hoppy and a little citrusy, but altogether inviting especially coupled with the look of the beer. Hops are strong, and citrusy hops at that. I wasn’t sure which hops were used in this beer when I was drinking the beer, but I guessed by the fact that the beer’s name is a nod to a volcano in New Zealand, a hop from New Zealand was used. After checking Demented Brewing’s Instagram just before posting this review, I learned that Silent is a single hop beer and yup, it is Motueka, one of the more citrusy hops from New Zealand.

Although I do appreciate beers with blend of hops, single-hopped IPAs (like Bell’s delicious Two Hearted Ale which is hopped only with Centennial Hops) really allows the single hop to shine. Here with Silent, the single hop of Motueka shines in all its citrusy glory. The short of all that is this: Silent is a juicy IPA that should please folks who like their IPAs on the hazy/juicy side of life.

Here’s a testament to how good this beer is, between three people the growler was finished in less than a half hour; and one of those consuming the beer isn’t even a fan of IPAs. Granted, I probably downed half of the growler myself, but still, the other two people sharing the growler were eager to have their cups refilled. The beer was delicious and wonderfully complemented the gigantic bowl of pork ramen I enjoyed for dinner.

Sorry demon cyclops, that’s MY growler of Silent. You can’t have any of it.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 21)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 105 different IPAs.

 

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.