Beer Review: Bradley Brew Project’s Summer Friend

Name: Summer Friend
Brewing Company: Bradley Brew Project
Location: Bradley Beach, NJ
Style: Kellerbier / Zwickelbier
ABV: 5.3%

A tasty, refreshing summer Lager from one of the fine breweries along the NJ shore.

BradleyBrewProject_SummerFriend

From the untappd page for the beer:

dry-hopped kellerbier

Bradley Brew Project has been crafting beer for about three years now, and over the past year or so, they’ve increased their output and distribution footprint. I’ve been seeing a few of their beers in local shops, so when I saw a Summer themed Lager, I figured it would be a logical follow-up to my 2021 Summer Six Pack from a couple of weeks ago and an opportunity for me to finally try one of their beers.

Bradley Brew Project categorizes this as a Dry Hopped “Kellerbier.” Most kellerbiers are essentially unfiltered Helles Lagers or pale lagers. So, with that starting point….

After opening the can, a golden hued beer with a bit of cloudiness fills my beer glass. Not the cloudiness level of a Hefeweizen, but the beer is clearly (pun intended) unfiltered. The aroma … there’s a little bit of the malt associated with lagers, but more pronounced is the smell of the hops.

I get some good lager vibes at the outset of the taste, a little bit of malt and a lot of thirst-quenching characteristics. I like it and that alone puts this in great “warm weather” beer. The finish brings the hops with a potent smack. Dry-hopping adds a significant punch of hop flavor and aroma. The flavors evoked from the hops are somewhat citrusy and a little piney. The hops used in the brew process aren’t listed, but I’d guess Citra is one of the hops utilized (it is probably the most popular hop at the moment) and maybe Mosaic? I only say Mosaic because of the mild aftertaste form the hops, because the can and description give minimal hints of what makes up this beer.

So what do we have here in Summer Friend? In one sense, it has the lager characteristics of the crackery/bready malt. In another sense, the hop finish gives of IPA vibes. Altogether, though, it works quite well for what it calls itself, a “Summer Friend,” which to me says a beer for warm weather and beach/poolside relaxation. What I found to be unexpectedly pleasant was that the beer was still quite tasty and refreshing when it warmed up to room temperature, not what I’d predict in a lager.

I’ll also give a little shout out to the can art, which is simple, whimsical, and quite effective. Light blue with beach balls, beach umbrellas, and beach chairs is a nice, eye-catching encapsulation of summer fun.

Summer Friend is a well-made beer that should appeal to both lager-leaning beer drinkers and hop-forward beer drinkers. I would really, really like to try a version of this beer without the dry-hopping element. For my palate, the hops are a little more pronounced than I typically enjoy in a lager, but I can recognize the beer is well made. That said, it seems the theme of the blog this year is that Rob enjoys beers the second time more than the first time, because the second can a couple of days after the first one worked better for me (thus the 2 ratings). Again, I think I had an idea of what to expect when I had the second can and appreciated it more, compared to trying to figure out what flavors were working together on my first can of the beer.

Recommended, link to 3.75 bottle-cap Untappd check in | 4 bottle-cap (second) Untappd check in.

Beer Review: Ghost Hawk Lager

Name: Lager
Brewing Company: Ghost Hawk Brewing
Location: Clifton, NJ
Style: Kellerbier/Zwickelbier
ABV: 5%

 An impressive self-appointed Flagship Lager that is compatible with every kind of food or situation.

Great label, great logo for the brewery, and a fine beer.

From Ghost Hawk Brewing’s “What’s on Tap” Page:

Brewed according to the German Beer Purity Law of 1516 using imported malts and American noble hops, this golden export lager is balanced and satisfying. It’s the perfect beer to wash down a Ripper or enjoy with your favorite pizza.

Ghost Hawk Brewing Company is Passaic County NJ’s first independent/craft brewery and they’ve made a name for themselves in quick order after opening in April 2019. Not surprising when you launch a brewery whose brewmaster has nearly 30 years of experience. Less than a year later, cans of their beer have been popping up in beer shops in the state, which leads to their flagship lager, simply titled Lager. It was, perhaps, fortuitous that I was able to enjoy this beer in time to slot this review in February, specifically Flagship February, which is a movement in the craft beer world over the past couple of years:

Our thinking is that flagship beers have much to teach new drinkers and remind older drinkers, and if they fall off the radar so far that they disappear completely, we will all be that much poorer for it 

This one is classified as a “Kellerbier” which is not the most common beer style in the world (especially America) or even a word with which many people are familiar, but it is a style that has been around for many years. So while Ghost Hawk Brewing Company is a new brewery, the fact that they’ve positioned such an old-world style as their “Flagship Lager” is worth note. The word, shockingly, is German for “cellar” because of how they are stored, but most importantly because Kellerbiers are neither pasteurized nor are they filtered. Imagine that, an unfiltered, somewhat hazy beer? But I digress. Most kellerbiers are essentially unfiltered Helles Lagers or pale lagers. With that starting point….

From the 16oz can, this Lager pours a golden hue with a bit of cloudiness. There’s not the overwhelming haziness of say, a New England IPA, but the beer is by no means clear. The beer looks the part of an unfiltered lager.

I don’t get much off of the aroma outside of the cliched it is a beer that smells like a beer. Trite, I know, but also true. 😊 That said, I find the aroma and the look of the beer very inviting and pleasing.

The taste… oh boy was this a nice Lager. I found it a little reminiscent of Carton Brewing’s This Town (a Helles Lager), there’s a nice crackery/breadiness to the beer from the malts, but unlike This Town I’m tasting a little bit of fruitiness from the hops. Drinkability is another term that is thrown around quite bit, but this beer has it in spades. Very tasty and thirst quenching; each sip makes you want to have more. For a beer that is 5%, that’s a great quality to have.

For #FlagshipFebruary, this beer doesn’t exactly hew to the “beers that got us here” ethos, but it is a beer that can proudly stand up as a beer the exemplifies a brewery’s quality. Besides, shouldn’t a brewery nominate one of their beers as a Flagship? For a brewery to come out this strongly with such a good Lager as a core beer is impressive. Ghost Hawk boldly proclaims this as a “Flagship” on their label and Ghost Hawk Lager is a great beer to slap with such a status. Not sure how much it sells, but any brewery would be well-positioned with such a great beer in their portfolio and as their Flagship.

Ghost Hawk is only about a year old so their beers aren’t super widely available outside of NJ. They began canning late 2019, which is how I grabbed this beer. It was a nice surprise to see it in a relatively new liquor store so I immediately snagged a four pack, which did not last very long in my refrigerator.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check in.