Happy Anniversary to Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company and cheers to a fantastic Cream Ale!
From Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s landing page for the beer:
The classic American Cream Ale is dear to our hearts and quite frankly, we miss having one around but we’re moving forward! Better Maize Ahead fills that void as a crisp and refreshing relative of the American Light Lager. Brewed with flaked maize and gently hopped with Hallertau for a delicate floral finish. You’ll find this to have a soft mouthfeel with a subtle, sweet cereal character and notes of corn pops. You’ll be feeling equally optimistic when you pour yourself one of these.
This year (2022), Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company celebrated 10 years of brewing and selling tasty beer. To honor the milestone, the brewery did a minor rebranding, slightly modifying the name stamp and upping their can art game.
I knew I wanted to highlight one of their beers here at the Tap Takeover, but with such an interesting and diverse portfolio, I wasn’t sure which beer it would be. As of this post, I’ve had 20 of their beers and I’ve enjoyed just about all of them. I visited the main brewery in Croydon a couple of times, too. I’d been pondering which of their beers to feature for a while especially since they hit the 10-year mark, actually, so when my wife and I took a quick drive down to New Hope, PA, where Neshaminy Creek has a tap room, I figured I’d give Better Maize Ahead a try. I’d been wanting to drink and feature an unfettered* Cream Ale for a while now, and the two thoughts converged with this beer and I couldn’t have been more pleased.
*unfettered in that there are no adjuncts, additional flavor elements, or barrel aging like the other Cream Ales I’ve reviewed
Cream Ales are one the few truly American styles of beer. Originating in the 1840s, the Cream Ale is an Ale that is very similar to a lager, it has the same kind of crispness, refreshing nature, mild sweetness and look. Although some Cream Ales may have lager yeast for cold conditioning, most Cream Ales are just that, Ales. Where this makes a Cream Ale perhaps more appealing to a brewer is the reduced fermentation time for an Ale (two to four weeks compared to the 6-8 weeks for a Lager). As the beer is an American style, Corn (specifically flaked corn) is often used as the grain to lighten the beer, which is where Neshaminy Creek drew inspiration for the name of this beer.
Enough of the history lesson on Cream Ales, let’s get on to Better Maize Ahead.
The day we visited the NCBC New Hope taproom, it was quite warm (as it has been for most of August this past summer) and my wife and I had walked up and down Main Street in New Hope so we both worked up a bit of a sweat. I follow the brewery on social media and I was intrigued about this beer and I wanted something light, refreshing and beer flavored and was hoping this beer would be on tap. Also, John Holl (of all the beer podcasts and one of the people behind Defend Pilsner) always extolls the virtues of the Cream Ale. Hell, his likeness adorns a can cream ale from his co-conspirator’s brewery.
I ordered a full pint of this beer (only $5!) and took my first sip and dammit if this beer wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered, as the saying goes. Pure refreshment. It was all I could do not to chug the beer in two gulps, but I wanted to enjoy the beer in all its glory and get a sense of the full flavor profile.
There’s a sweet malt element that is extremely appealing with a very mild, barely noticeable hop element – that minimal, soft hoppiness is a feature, not a bug. There’s a hint of corn or sweet cereal on the finish that makes for a very well-rounded, balanced flavor profile on the beer.
Better Maize Ahead is elegant, simple, straight-forward and quite flavorful for a beer this low in ABV and under 5%. I was so impressed with the beer I looped back around to the brewery after a short jaunt through the indoor market and grabbed a six pack to put in my poolside cooler. Quite simply, this is a fun beer that will please most beer drinkers.
Don’t we all want to drink better beer? Beer these days, isn’t cheap (at least the good stuff). There are many choices and if you’re taking a potentially $20 risk on a beer you’ve never had, and if you only have a beer a day or don’t drink more than a few a weekend, you want to make sure you’re time and the space in your beer drinking calendar aren’t wasted. Joshua Bernstein’s Drink Better Beer is a great book to help make sure the beer you drink isn’t wasting your time or money.
With thousands of breweries creating a bewildering array of beers each year, learning from the experts is practically a necessity for the modern beer lover. Luckily, beer guru Joshua M. Bernstein is here to tap their wisdom for you, with sage advice about which brews to buy, how to taste your beers, and what to eat with them.
Drink Better Beer features the must-know insights of more than 100 professionals, including competition judges, beer consultants, and master brewers. Find out how to shop clever by heeding two simple rules. Learn the art of selecting the right glass, cleaning it, and executing the perfect pour. Make sense of all those aromas with just a couple of sniffing tricks. Unlock the taste secrets of different styles, learn when to drink, and how to know if your favorite beer store is treating their beer the way they should. Beer is getting complicated—Drink Better Beer will give you the confidence to buy smart and enjoy your pour even more.
In Drink Better Beer, Bernstein delivers his message in a wonderful, welcoming, conversational tone. He clearly has a passion and expertise for that wonderful liquid made from water, grain, yeast, and hops. It isn’t difficult to gain an expertise in something you thoroughly study and constant entrenchment in the subject will eventually gain a person a decent level of knowledge. The ability to convey and deliver that knowledge? That’s a combination of Skill and Talent not everybody has, but Joshua Bernstein is just such a person. He is able to extol the virtues of the granular elements that eventually lead to a person consuming better beer and Bernstein does so through the voice a celebratory, friendly enthusiast. There’s no holier-than-thou overtones nor is there the dusty voice professorial voice. The tone in Drink Better Beer is much more like “Beer is great, this is why Beer is great, have fun with it! Let’s have a beer together!”
The organization, formatting, feel, and structure of the book from a physical perspective is glorious. It isn’t quite a coffee table, it is almost like a textbook: enough to convey a sense of authority, but not too much to be off-putting. The book also has lovely pictures and has a fairly substantial size and heft to it. Bernstein covers elements about beer that many people take for granted – the water, the vessel in which the beer is consumed, the dating on the beer, etc. Other writers have done so, writers I’ve mentioned here at the Tap Takeover. Joshua Bernstein’s particular brand of enthusiasm; however, helps to bring these elements together in a freshly engaging manner. Think of a Pilsner – a delicious beer style that can be interpreted differently and can be of equal quality by numerous brewers.
(At this point, I’m switching from “Bernstein” to “Josh” for the author because of the convivial and gregarious tone of his words.)
Josh has broken down how to drink better beer into the following categories/chapters:
“What’s in Store: Buying Beer”
“The Pour Move: Glassware and the New Rules of Serving Beer”
“Scents and Sensibility: Cracking the Code on Flavors and Aromas”
“Eat These Words: The New World of Food and Beer Pairings”
“Toasting the Future: A Road Map of Delicious New Directions”
Peppered throughout the book are interesting and engaging sidebars featuring the things like the top five beers Josh consumed while writing the book (in fact, I picked up a six pack of one of those beers – a favorite – while I was reading the book), or a page on highlighting what some of the less-known data points on a label mean, or “Six IPAs to Buy to Understand the Style’s Evolution,” and recurring features on “Drinking Destinations.” Noted beer people like Lindsay Barr from New Belgium and founder of DraughtLab; Jeff Alworth, author of The Beer Bible, and Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, the Diversity Ambassador of the Brewers Association are featured, among others.
This whole book, especially, the first one third or so of the tome, made me want to hang out with Josh and other like-minded people at a bar or brewery to muse over the quality of the beer in our glasses. In all the books I’ve read, fiction (mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy) and non-fiction, I have found the best books to essentially represent a conversation between reader and writer, forging a connection between the two. Joshua Bernstein’s Drink Better Beer captures that conversational ideal about as good as any book I’ve read. As a result, I yearned for that “meatspace”/in-person social interaction that beer facilitates so wonderfully thanks to Josh’s delightfully spun words. Unfortunately, that has become somewhat difficult in the current COVID pandemic.
Over the past few years my library of beer books has been growing. Drink Better Beer is a highlight and a book I expect I’ll be revisiting casually for some time to come. In other words, I’d call this an essential book for anybody building out a shelf of books dedicated to beer.
It’s a great time for America’s beer drinkers. Craft beer is more popular than ever, and more breweries are cropping up every day. But you can’t tell a pilsner from a bock? An IPA from a witte? Confused by whiskey-like barrel aged beers and crisp, fruity saisons? Are you thirsty, but not sure where to start? Start Here. This book will take you through the main elements that make beer what it is, from malt to hops to water, and introduce you to fantastic brews around the country that highlight the diverse styles and ingredients of the beer world. From where to find it to what glass to put it in, you’ll learn everything you need to know (and then some!). Time to get drinking, and remember—Beer is for Everyone!
Beer is a complex beverage, it can be brewed to many styles, it can have many flavors, its ingredients can be combined to evoke many flavors. It is a true blend of science and art. But you know what else beer is? Beer is fun, be can be for everyone and that’s the ethos cartoonist, and Advanced Cicerone® Em Sauter espouses in her book, Beer is for Everyone (of drinking age). For a beverage that brings people together and can be a conversation piece, there’s sometimes a little too much analyzing of the beer (says the guy with a beer blog). Em takes a fun, straightforward approach and while she does highlight the beer geeky side of the beer in her cartoons, it is from a joyous perspective. Not an easy line to tow, but Em does so with elegance.
As one does when one first acquires a book, I thumbed through the pages to find some beers I enjoy or have had. I wanted to know if Em enjoyed some of the same beers I enjoyed. I soon stopped the quick scan and restarted the book to take my time and really absorb each comic/page.
The cartoons for each beer are pure enthusiasm, the joy of Victory Prima Pils, the comforting elements of a beer like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the discovery of a beer with unique elements like Short’s Melt My Brain. If Beer is for Everyone! was just a collection of Em’s review strips, it would be a worthy addition to a beer geek’s bookshelf. But where it transcends what could have been a pretty simple book are the illustrations/strips highlighting the styles, brew processes, and ingredients that separate one beer from another. For example, how the various kinds of malts influence the color of the beer, the flavor evocations from hops, and so forth. Depending on the beer featured, Em provides fun anecdotal bits of information about the style or from where the brewery drew inspiration for the name.
The book is organized smartly, too. Beers where malt is the driving factor behind flavor are grouped together, as are those where the yeast has the most influence, as well as a chapter/grouping for “Whale Beers” – those beers that have attained an almost mythical status due to the difficulty in procuring them like 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord.
Em is an extremely qualified, creative person, and supremely enthusiastic. She is an advanced Cicerone and spent time working at Two Roads Brewing Company (one of my favorites) when the book was published. Those qualities come together elegantly in this book and the work she does on a regular basis on her website and social media. What makes the book so effective, entertaining, and joyful is the enthusiastic way she presents her knowledge.
Beer is for Everyone(of drinking age) is an essential beer book for any fan of beer or comics/cartoons. It is a joyous reminder that beer is fun, can and should bring people together, and a beverage with a great, storied history.
Em is absolutely a must-follow on twitter, Instagram, or her website Pints and Panels, where she posts new artwork regularly and always offers a fantastic perspective on beer.
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…
It has been a little over a year since I cobbled together one of these posts highlighting breweries I’d like to visit so I figured it was time to add to the growing list of breweries on my bucket list of breweries to visit. A lot can happen in a year, like a brewery gaining entry into NJ giving me (and many lucky consumers) exposure to their beer for the first time. Last year, Bell’s Brewery entry into NJ was one of those breweries and as such, they made the list of breweries I’d like to visit last year. Same case for one of the breweries on today’s list. All that said, like the last few times I’ve made one of these posts, I’m going alphabetically with this list.
If one were to carve out a Mount Rushmore of American Breweries, then Allagash would be an immediate and unanimous choice. Only one other brewery in the US has embraced the Belgian art and science of brewing near to the extent that Allagash has and I mentioned that brewery in a previous “breweries to visit” post. One of the differences: Allagash is largely the outgrowth of one man’s vision and still a fiercely independent brewery.
Rob Tod started Allagash in 1995 at a time when few breweries were producing Belgian style beers. Belgian beers weren’t nearly as present as they are today outside of maybe Chimay and Saison du Pont. Allagash’s Belgian Witbier, simply White is a nearly perfect beer and one of the Independent/Craft Beers you’ll see on tap nearly everywhere. It is a beer that tows the fine line of mass appeal and beer geek appeal. Their Saison is one of the best, widely available American interpretations of the style, and their Tripel is a clean, delicious interpretation of the style.
Where Allagash manages to elevate their game is in how they embrace barrel aging and wildly fermented beers. Barrel Aging is a storied process, some would say art, of beer brewing, and Allagash’s Curieux, their barrel-aged Tripel, is a sublime beer. Allagash’s Coolship is the largest open fermentation facilitation devices in the country. A coolship allows the ingredients of the beer to play with the environment and produce some very unique beers. I’ve only had one of those complex, delicious beers, but I need to get my hands on some more.
One of the craftier and “artisanal” of breweries, the Bruery focuses on Barrel Aged and high end beers. Only recently did they sell beer in anything other than 750ml bottles, for example. Big stouts with flavorful adjuncts on the one side of the Breury, with the Terreaux side focusing on sours and more Belgian inspired open fermentation wild ales on the other side. Both sides of Patrick Rue’s brainchild offer complexly flavored and extremely potent beers.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the 12 Beers of Christmas series of beers they’ve released every year, with each annual release inspired by one of the days of Christmas, my favorite being the 8 Maids-A-Milking Imperial Milk Stout, which is also the first beer I had from The Bruery.
Like many breweries, The Bruery has some beers available only on site. Additionally, they have a bottle program Society that is available to folks who live close enough to pick up their bottles at the brewery.
I’ve been really drawn to my Germanic roots when it comes to beer as of late, really appreciating the elegance of a well-crafted pilsner and how good a low ABV (“crusher”) of a tasty lager can be. Take their Hoponius Union, an India Pale Lager. A hop-forward lager that is one of the best lagers I’ve ever had and was recently named the best Lager by Beer Advocate. The beer has the lovely floral/fruity hop finish you’d expect from a classic IPA, but it is most definitely a lager. Jack’s Abby has a few variants on this one I need to try.
For quite a few years in the early 2000s, my wife and I would follow my cousin’s travel hockey team. Specifically, his team played annual tournaments in Massachusetts and we always stayed in Framingham, which is where Jack’s Abby is located. Unfortunately, our “hockey groupie” days were both before Jacks Abby existed and before I had this deep an understanding and enjoyment of Craft Beer. Jack’s Abby may be the Massachusetts brewery, in a state rich with iconic breweries, I want to visit most.
I took a look at the German breweries whose beers I’ve enjoyed and every one of the six beers I had from Schneider Wesse have been absolutely outstanding. Wheat beers (Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen, Dopplebock, Eisbock, and Weizenbock primarily) are a German specialty and quite a few of the more well known German breweries (and likely double the amount of lesser known German breweries) brew wheat-only beers. From what I’ve consumed and enjoyed, it is hard to argue few, if any, do it better than Schneider & Sohns.
Schneider & Sohns uses a numbering system for most of their beers, TAP 7, for example is their classic Hefeweizen, while TAP 3 is their designation for the alcohol-free beer.
It wasn’t too long ago when I first had their “Original” Hefeweizen, but it still stands out as one of the best Hefeweizens I’ve ever had. I wasn’t too familiar with the brewery at the time, but I saw an authentic German Hefeweizen on draught and I was extremely eager to get a pour. Their Weizenbock (TAP6) is maybe the best Weizenbock I can remember having. They also collaborated on a more hopped up Weizenbock with Brooklyn Brewery – Meine Hopfenweisse which is also delightful. Schneider & Sohns will brew a once a year specialty, barrel-aged Weizenbock beer they designate TAP X. I only had one of those, the one called “Marie’s Rendezvous” but I’m keeping an eye out for the next iteration.
Perhaps their crown jewel, in my opinion, is Aventinus Eisbock, one of the most unique styles of beer, the accidental beer. I touched up on the Eisbock style in my overview of Bocks, highlighting this beer specifically.
Here’s what G. Schneider & Sohns says about the beer:
Magic and a black soul – the mahogany coloured, almost black “Eisbock” for sensuous indulgence, best served in a balloon glas. Matured in a special freezing process following a special recipe, with a soft, elegant body, but still intensive. Spicy flavours of plum, banana and clove reveal themselves along with a hint of bitter almond and marzipan. Tempting as digestif, to crepes, dark chocolate, Tiramisu and fully ripe parmesan cheese.
It is still one of the best beers I’ve ever had. A Top 10 all time for me. I’ve seen different vintages of this beer in stores, too, so I’m going to have to pick up some more soon.
That said, a trip to Germany would most likely include a trip to these fine purveyors of wheat beer
Beer is in a golden age, and that doesn’t just refer to the color of the beer itself. It is a liquid that many can and do take for granted. But considering it is the #2 beverage in the world, coffee understandably being #1, beer is something worth pondering. Something worth considering, something that should be more than simply a drink. Beer can be a delicious experience where a full glass can be the intersection of art and science. Preeminent beer writer John Holl argues cogently, eloquently, and passionately that beer is something worthy of deep consideration in his book, Drink Beer, Think Beer.
From an award-winning journalist and beer expert, a thoughtful and witty guide to understanding and enjoying beer.
America now has more breweries than at any time since prohibition, and globally, beer culture is thriving and constantly innovating. Drinkers can order beer brewed with local yeast or infused with moondust. However, beer drinkers are also faced with uneven quality and misinformation about flavors. And the industry itself is suffering from growing pains, beset by problems such as unequal access to taps, skewed pricing, and sexism.
Full of entertaining anecdotes and surprising opinions, Drink Beer, Think Beer is a must-read for beer lovers, from casual enthusiasts to die-hard hop heads.
John Holl’s name may be familiar to regular readers of The Tap Takeover, I’ve mentioned his podcasts (Steal This Beer and Craft Beer and Brewing) and chances are if you are reading my blog, you’ve got *some* passing knowledge of beer journalism and social media. In short, John Holl is one of the authoritative voices in the Beer Community having authored a few other books about beer, in addition to this new one.
John gives a broad history of beer in America before focusing more squarely on the California boom of brewing. Here, John spotlights Jack McAuliffe’s New Albion (of which I was only barely aware) and Sierra Nevada, and specifically Sierra Nevada’s iconic Pale Ale. John also touches upon the current craze of brewery only beers releases of 16oz canned 4 packs.
The title of the book is really simple, but that belies the layers of complexity involved in the final product we hold in our hand. Perhaps the most enlightening elements of the book are the features on the four main ingredients: Water, Hops, Yeast, and Grain (usually barley). What is the water source of the beer? We all take water for granted, but without the water – and more importantly quality water – beer wouldn’t exist. Where were the hops grown? Hops, are of course, covered in detail, but aren’t elevated above the three other components which include the grain and the magical, living yeast. What kind of malt is used? How was the yeast propagated? Through these details about the ingredients, and the importance of their quality, John touches upon some breweries and their beers. These are things we can think about when we order, purchase, and drink our beer. Personally, my thoughts about malt and how I convey those thoughts in my reviews here are thrown into a new light. I’ll be thinking about it in more detail.
Beyond the ingredients, we can ponder the vessel/glass in which we drink the beer as well as the draft lines through which the beer travels before arriving in our glasses. Drink Beer, Think Beer exemplifies a good philosophy for life, don’t take everything for granted. Think about the things we consume, either with our guts or our brains. Whether it is a nuanced barleywine, a thick, barrel-aged stout, or a straight-forward pilsner in a clean, appropriately styled glass (as Holl eloquently points out). We should also put down our phones, be present and in the moment; enjoy the liquid we are drinking. I know I’m often guilty of rushing to check my beer into untappd. As John says in the book, from page 192:
”When we slow down—and I include myself in this category—and allow an experience to happen naturally, organically, without worrying about the next social media moment, amazing things can happen. A deeper appreciate can blossom, happy memories can be aroused, new thoughts can develop.”
Some space in the book is devoted to marketing and some points he raises regarding beer names, I agree with wholeheartedly. Beer names that denigrate women or a particularly offensively named brown ale are the kinds of beers that, he suggests, can be mere attention grabbers. I’ve avoided an unfortunate swath of beers based on their offensive names alone myself. Holl’s overreaching point here, as it is throughout the book, is that the quality of the beer should be paramount. A catchy name shouldn’t be the sole reason for buying and drinking a beer.
One of the most striking elements of the book is that authoritative voice John brings to the book. He manages to come across as welcoming the reader, where some “authoritative” voices can come across too full of themselves and unapproachable. His writing style is inviting, clear, precise, and smart. A great combination to talk about a beverage that can be quite complex.
The current beer landscape is very diverse, with local breweries being a viable option for many. Holl cogently argues that the same quality standards should be in place regardless of brewery size and that a subpar liquid should never be served to a customer. He also wisely argues that we, the beer drinker, need to hold brewers, breweries, bartenders – basically every person who is involved in the process of getting the beer to us as the drinker – accountable for their quality. After all, if we don’t tell breweries the truth about their product, they may continue to make a subpar product and that would be a loss for brewer and drinker alike.
I went into this book thinking I possessed a decent amount of knowledge about beer. To wit, by no means do I consider myself an expert, but I wouldn’t have started a blog devoted to beer last year if I couldn’t write with some level of knowledge on the subject and felt comfortable with my ability to convey that knowledge and passion. Some of what I read in Drink Beer, Think Beer was known to me, but there was ample information that was new, as well. Even the stuff that I already knew proved enjoyable and enlightening reading because of Holl’s enthusiastic and clear voice and the way he makes me look at many things about beer I took for granted. I also was drawn to the book because John Holl is a voice I’ve come to trust regarding beer and the beer community, I follow the guy on social media and listen to the two podcasts on which he is featured. Despite that, Holl’s enthusiasm and intelligence for beer, and how he conveyed it in Drink Beer, Think Beer my expectations for the book were exceeded.
To restate my opening sentiments, but in John’s words (Page 217):
“…this is an amazing time to be a beer drinker, and with our support, smart criticism, and enthusiasm for a proud tradition, better days will prevail.”
Bottom line: as a “seasoned” beer drinker with more than passing knowledge of beer history/culture, I found much to enjoy. Drink Beer, Think Beer is also a great book for folks who are curious about beer and have only passing knowledge about the subject. Holl gets a great deal of information across with precision and in a relatively short amount of space. The book is just over 200 pages of the primary text, not including Epilogue, Acknowledgements, Bibliography/Recommended Reading, and Index. With Christmas just a month away, Holl’s indispensable tome would be a perfect gift to wrap and place in a stocking or under the tree.
Snappy pink grapefruit, fresh and bright. Very highly drinkable.
While Industrial Arts Brewing may be fairly new, they opened about two years ago, brewmaster / owner Jeff O’Neill is far from new to the craft beer / brewing industry. The Flower Power IPA he created for Ithaca Brewing Company is renowned (listed on VinePair as one of the 25 most important beers in American Craft beer history) and stints at Peekskill Brewing have given Industrial Arts an immediate cache within the craft beer community. After having two of their beers, it seems those expectations are well-founded. I enjoyed Metric, Industrial Art’s interpretation of a Pilsner last year, but this review focuses on Industrial Art’s delicious American Pale Ale – Tools of the Trade, also their flagship beer.
Crack of the can, pour of the beer and my glass is filled with a yellow-orange beer that looks slightly lighter (or even clearer) than I’d expect a Pale Ale to look, especially one labeled as an XPA. Inhaling the beer, I sensed hops with a piney and slightly bitter citrus profile. I was reminded a bit of the Sierra Nevada’s iconic Pale Ale (the #1 beer on that list I linked in the previous paragraph).
First sip is a really nice blast of hops and a good balance of citrus notes that match the aroma with a enough of malt backbone to hold it all together. Again, similar to Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. That’s a compliment for those keeping track at home of the tasting notes. What makes this beer stand above Sierra; however, is the more prominent citrus characteristics. Some sweetness of grapefruit, maybe? A little bit of lemon, too, maybe. Whatever citrus fruits were evoked by the hops, they were very pleasing to my palate.
As I continued to enjoy the beer, that citrus/hop profile grew stronger and more pronounced. The (there’s the dreaded word again) mouthfeel was a little creamy at first. Tools of the Trade is a beer that you want to enjoy quickly, from the first sip to the sadness that the bottom of a beer glass / can / bottle once filled with delicious liquid always symbolizes.
Tools of the Trade is an immensely refreshing beer, a pleasant, yet subtle bite from the hops, a citrus flavor that encourages you to not let the beer sit undrunk for too long. I’ve mentioned my dislike for grapefruit in the past, so I’m slightly surprised at how pleasing the citrusy/hop profile of this beer is for my palate given that grapefruit is called out in the brewery’s description of the beer.
If I’m being even more honest, a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this beer. Only over say, the last six months, have I come to enjoy and appreciate hop-forward beers like Pale Ales and IPAs. What makes Tools of the Trade stand out so strongly is the pure elegance of the beer – standard ingredients with a focus on a honed, high-quality process to produce a remarkably well-balanced and delicious beer you’d like to have in your refrigerator in constant rotation.
Last week, I wasn’t sure what beer I would be picking up at the store, there wasn’t a new major release that was grabbing my attention. Then I listened to the third anniversary episode of the great Steal This Beer podcast and Jeff O’Neil (dubbed Chief by hosts Augie Carton and John Holl) was a guest. Luckily, my local beer stop had some of this beer in their fridge and here we are.
Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and basically non-review posts here at the Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…
Podcasts. They are ubiquitous. Since dropping SiriusXM Radio a few years ago, much of the time in my car is passed (along with a couple of hours at work) with either audio books or podcasts playing as my soundtrack. I’ve even appeared on a fewpodcasts and have considered starting a beer-related podcast with a good friend.
Be that as it may, the variety of podcasts in my listening queue ranges from a radio show that drops their daily show into iTunes, several geeky/science fiction and fantasy podcasts, and the subject of today’s Draught Diversion – Beer Podcasts. There are many, many beer podcasts available through the various providers like iTunes, but three have made their way into my constant rotation. After I go over them here, please let me know in the comments any beer-related podcasts you think I should be trying.
These podcasts will have some New Jersey/Northeast Leanings…
In 100+ episodes over the past couple of years with about one new episode per week, the crew have had a range of guests on the show including David Walker of Firestone Walker brewery, Jason Perkins of Allagash Brewing, and Jeremy Lees of NJ’s Flounder Brewing, among others. With the hosts living in NJ/Northeast, there’s a natural focus on breweries and beer people in the region, but those guests account for maybe about half of the episodes.
There is always lively discussion about various beer topics ranging from new breweries, the intricacies of beer styles, mini-rants about untapped, or whatever craft brewer AB InBev recently purchased. Most importantly, the heart of every show is the beer in the black glass. Why a black glass? So no characteristics of the beer can give clues as to what the beer is. Guests bring on a beer and try to stump our fine hosts. Or rather, the hosts tend to stump themselves when trying to guess what beer is in the black glass, like when they thought a stout was a pilsner.
All told, a fun way to pass an hour of listening time and a great way to enhance your knowledge and enjoyment of beer with a few folks who are just hanging and shooting the shit.
The episodes here are less frequent, but the focus is slightly different. John Holl hosts this one with the podcast functioning more as a one-on-one interview than a roundtable that Steal This Beer is. This podcast launched in 2016 and new episodes drop about once per month.
Al is a local NJ guy and this is the most local of the three podcasts I’ve mentioned. Al’s Craft Beer Cast is also the beer podcast I most recently “discovered.” Al is a producer on Joe Piscopo’s radio show on AM970 the answer and on Saturday nights, Al broadcasts his beer show where he’s been talking beer since early 2016. Luckily for those of us who either don’t get reception of the radio station or aren’t otherwise able to listen on Saturday Nights, the radio show is available on Sundays in iTunes.
Many of Al’s guests have been local NJ brewers like the folks behind Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls, NJ and Departed Soles in Jersey City, NJ. Al also had non-NJ guests like Jim Koch of Samuel Adams/Boston Beer, Marcus Englet of Weihenstephaner, Germany and Greg Koch of Stone Brewing. Al does a great job with these interviews, and will often take his show on the road to NJ locations like Paragon Tap & Table in Clark, NJ which has a great beer selection. I’ve had dinner a few times with my folks who live in the next town over/my hometown.
Similar to how Augie and crew of Steal this Beer do their black glass thing, Al does a Suds and Duds segment where he talks about recent beers he had and enjoyed, or didn’t enjoy.
All three of these shows give a slightly different perspective, but what binds them all together is the love of good beer and sharing that passion for the pint with others.
If you haven’t listened to any of these, go to iTunes or their respective websites and give a listen.