Beer Review: Lone Eagle Brewing’s King Kölsch

Name: King Kölsch
Brewing Company: Lone Eagle Brewing Company
Location: Flemington, NJ
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 5%

This relatively underappreciated style is a standout of its kind and one of the best beers to come out of Flemington’s Lone Eagle Brewing.

From the untappd page for the beer and can label:

This classic German ale is much like a nice crisp lager. A personal passion of our brewer, it has a nice malty sweetness to it while finishing with a slight bitterness. This Kölsch is true royalty. Long live King Kölsch!

Lone Eagle is one of a small handful of breweries within a 10 mile or so radius of me. As such (and as I’ve noted previously here at the Tap Takeover), I had been visiting them on again and off again for the monthly Board Game Night, both for gaming with friends and the beer. Of course, since March 2020 that hasn’t happened. When I saw that Lone Eagle was canning their re-worked Kölsch, I figured it was finally time I grabbed some of their beer.

In the few Kölsch reviews I’ve posted, I’ve mentioned how the style is underappreciated, it isn’t an IPA, Stout, or even a Pilsner. However, if brewed well, a Kölsch can be very flavorful, refreshing, and satisfying. Those last three words encapsulate this beer, but read below for more…

The beer pours a clear, bright yellow into the Lone Eagle nonic tumbler which really catches my attention. An image just like the one at the top of this post is likely what many people will conjure in their minds if somebody asks them to picture “beer.”

I’m hit with a very clean tasting beer. What does that mean? Well, there’s a consistency to the flavor profile, good contribution from the water, yeast, barley, and hops. The core four ingredients are playing in harmony. There’s zero unpleasant taste on the finish or aftertaste, nothing lingers uninvited. Rather, the taste here with King Kölsch finishes in a way that makes me not want to put the glass down.

There’s great flavor from the malt, a little breadiness that reminds me of a Helles Lager. The beer also has a sweetness to it that makes you want to go for a second sip without having put the glass down from the first sip. Kölsch ales can have a bitterness on the finish, but this one doesn’t. While the hops are definitely present, but there’s no lingering unpleasantness.

I’ve had nearly 50 different beers from Lone Eagle over the last few years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect since I’d characterize them as “a very nice brewery.” While I’ve enjoyed the majority of their beer, only a few of their darker beers (Stouts and Dopplebocks) have stood above the crowd of their peers in an otherworldly sense. Again, not a knock necessarily because I’ve been more than pleased with what I’ve had – I wouldn’t have had almost 50 beers from Lone Eagle if they weren’t good.

However, this Kölsch is one of the best 3 or 4 best beers I’ve had from Lone Eagle Brewing. To put it simply, King Kölsch is a beer worthy of the title because it is a standout beer for a style that (unjustifiably) is not always a standout and a standout beer from a brewery who has been churning out good beer for about four years now.

Recommended, link to 4.25-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

My “Brewery Spotlight” on Lone Eagle Brewing from June 2017. (Three Years ago already!)

Beer Review: Gaffel Kölsch

Name: Gaffel Kölsch
Brewing Company: Privatbrauerei Gaffel Becker
Location: Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 5%

One of the first of its style is an outstanding beer, this ale masquerading is a lager is delicious.

From Gaffel Kölsch Page for the beer:

The classic Gaffel Kölsch is a particularly fresh speciality beer from Cologne, brewed according to a time-honoured family recipe and the German Purity Law of 1516 with water, malt, hops, and hops extract.

The delicately bitter, pleasant, slightly hopsy taste is characteristic for this traditional product and clearly distinguishes Gaffel Kölsch from all other Kölsch brands.

One of the more overlooked styles of beer is the Kölsch. This is a shame because it is a relatively straight-forward style, is a great introduction to the wider world of beer styles, and when done well – as one of the first of its kind from Gaffel – it can be a sublime and delicious beer.

So what is a Kölsch? I’ve fully reviewed two other Kölschs (Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch & Free Will Brewing’s Crisper) and those two beers likely took inspiration, if not directly, than indirectly from this beer. The style is one of those geographically protected style names, much in the same way that any sparkling wine produced outside Champagne cannot be called Champagne. One way to think of a Kölsch is that is an ale that is masquerading as a lager, Pilsner or Helles Lager specifically. The beer begins its fermentation process like an ale with top fermentation but finishes like a lager with colder, bottom fermentation. The result, when done well like this one, is a beer that has wide appeal for its refreshing flavor profile and lower ABV which is perfect for “crushing” or repeated enjoyment in a lengthy sitting. It is this beer writer’s personal and humble opinion that every small brewery should have a Kölsch available in regular rotation in their taproom.

Back to Gaffel’s classic take on the style after I briefly set the stage. I was in San Francisco for a few days on business and to my delight, an authentic German Restaurant (Schroeder’s, established in 1893) was two blocks from my hotel. Sure they had some local beers on tap, but selecting an authentically German style from an authentic 100+ year old German brewery was *exactly* the correct decision.

The first, most noticeable element of the beer is how transparent the beer is. In every visual way possible, this beer could easily be the beer next to the entry on “Beer” in an encyclopedia. There’s something to be said for a freshly poured draft beer. There’s also something to be said for the setting in which a beer is consumed. Outside of being in Germany, an authentic German restaurant is just about the perfect setting for enjoying this beer, which admittedly, may have added to how much I enjoyed the beer.

First taste is very good, it is even better than I expected it to be. There’s great flavor from the malt and a little breadiness that reminds me of a Helles Lager. The beer also has a mild sweetness that makes you want to go for a second sip while still holding the glass after the first sip. Some Kölschs can have a hop bitterness, but this one doesn’t, and although hops are definitely present, but there’s no lingering unpleasantness.

I get a little bit of fruitiness from the hops, just enough to remind me of some pilsners I’ve had. The thing that makes this beer work so well is the simplicity. It isn’t flashy with abundant, tropical hops, it isn’t double dry hopped.

Gaffel Kölsch is one of those must-try beers of the world, it is relatively older style, defined by the region, is a superb example of a beer created using old world ingredients – and only old world ingredients – that has quite flavorful, especially considering the lower alcohol level.

Ein Prosit!

Recommended, link to 4.5-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Respect the Kölsch (Level 5)

The kölsch style has a rich heritage, originating in Cologne, Germany. It’s clear, crisp, medium hopped flavors are always refreshing.

 

Beer Review: Free Will Brewing’s Crisper

Name: Crisper
Brewing Company: Free Will Brewing Co.
Location: Perkasie, PA and Lahaska/Peddler’s Village, PA
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.4%

A flavorful take on the classic German Style. Every brewery should have a Kölsch like this in their lineup

A bright, clean beer looks even brighter with the sun shining on it.

From Free Will Brewing’s page for the beer:

A clean and crisp cold-fermented ale brewed in keeping with German tradition.

I think the Kölsch is one of the more overlooked and underrated styles of beer. Not exactly obscure, but not many people are out hunting for the latest Kölsch the way people hunt and gather new IPAs and Stouts. It is a style every brewery should have in their portfolio and every small brewery should have on tap – it is the beer style that “tastes like a beer” and a great style to draw people into craft beer. I’ve made the following comparison a couple of times when discussing the style in beer circles: a Kölsch is an ale that is similar to a pilsner. The comparison is apt (and I said this without initially knowing) that Kölsch ales are conditioned at colder temperatures the same way lagers are. In terms of being flavorful and enjoyable, Free Will nailed the style. Let’s start at the beginning, and answer the question, “Why did I enjoy this beer so much?”

Let’s look at the color, first. I was fortunate to get a perfect ray of sunlight to shine on this beautiful golden ale when I took my photo. Almost clear, bright golden-yellow with a nice head – you tell people to conjure up an image of “beer” and I’d bet 8 out of 10 people might have an image like the photo I snagged in their heads. I no longer have any cans of the beer in my fridge, but looking at that photo makes me wish I did.

So, like I said the beer looks inviting. Aroma is very clean and the first sip is extremely refreshing – I get a little bit of that pilsner/lager hint from the beer, but there’s some definite hints of fruitiness in the beer, too. I keep thinking to myself that this is a damned good beer with each successive sip or gulp of the beer. The most appropriate word I can think of to describe this beer is “clean.” There’s just a nice, well-rounded “beer flavor” to the beer that makes it work so well for me.

I like to have a lighter beer with my Friday pizza and this paired perfectly. Some beers pair specifically with certain types of foods, Crisper is a beer that has solid flavor of its own, but won’t intrude on any food you’re eating while enjoying the beer.

The ABV on this, like most Kölsch/ Kölsch style ales is pretty low at 4.4%. A beer for “session” drinking, a four pack you can enjoy over the course of a long afternoon or evening that will likely not dump you on your rear end. But unlike the big mass-produced beers at this ABV, this Kölsch is extremely flavorful. You’ll want to drink the beer for the flavor and not suffer through inferior taste. This beer has continued my personal trend of enjoying flavorful, low ABV beers.

If hasn’t become clear by now with many of my reviews and posts, then Pennsylvania – a neighbor state to New Jersey – has a great many breweries (the most beer produced per state) and I’ve been enjoying quite a few of those breweries. Peddler’s Village is a Buck’s County shopping destination and a couple of years ago, Free Will Brewing opened up a Tap Room in the center of the great outdoor village. A great spot that has been at maximum capacity the few times I’ve visited Peddler’s Village over the last couple of years. It doesn’t hurt that Peddler’s Village allows people to walk around with their cup of beer…and Crisper from Free Will is a damned fine beer to enjoy whilst walking around the lovely sights of Peddler’s Village. Again, flavorful with a low enough ABV that one pint won’t prevent you from driving home.

Peddler’s Village is about a half hour from my house, so when my wife had to go to one of the specialty shops while I was at work, she thoughtfully brought back a four pack of Crisper. She said she remembered me saying I like the style and figured it would be perfect for the summer. I married very well, to say the least because I couldn’t have been happier with this beer. If anything, it exceeded my expectations. Bottom Line: a Kölsch this good should be a staple in every brewery’s lineup.

Recommended link to Untappd 4 Bottle Cap rating.

Draught Diversions: Summer 2019 6 Pack

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…

With the official kick off of summer, Memorial Day, behind us, I may be a little tardy in putting up a Summer Six pack, but life’s been a little busy this time of year for me. Be that as it may, since a post about Summer Beers was the very first Draught Diversion I posted/published, I want to continue the tradition. There are so many light and flavorful options for Summer, I could probably do a case’s worth of Summer Six packs. Like last year, not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer. For example, I think  a crisp Pilsner or Helles Lager can make for wonderful summer brews.

Summer Catch | Witbier | 5.5% ABV | Cape May Brewing Company | Cape May, NJ

Two years in a row for Cape May Brewing in my summer, six pack. I’ve since had and enjoyed the Cape May beer in my Summer Six Pack from 2018/last year. However, this one says “Summer” in the name. Witbiers, for me, are always a good option for summer/warm weather months. Light yet flavorful, works great at a barbecue or by the pool. When done well, it can be an elegant and classic style. I haven’t had this one yet, but that will likely change as I expect to have this in my cooler in the summer.

What Cape May says about the beer:

Citrusy and refreshing, notes of orange peel and tropical fruits dominate this Belgian-style Wheat Ale. Lightly dry-hopped with Citra and Amarillo hops to give it a noticeably American twist, this crushable wheat ale is complex, yet approachable, just like the Jersey Shore.

Salt and Sea | Sour – Gose | 4.3% ABV | Flying Fish Brewing Company | Somerdale, NJ

Image courtesy of Flying Fish’s Facebook

Like Cape May Brewing Company, I featured a brew from the venerable NJ brewery last year for this post, so I figured why not again? Especially since Flying Fish has continued to smartly evolve their portfolio and this beer screams summer on its label, description, and name. Salt & Sea evokes beach and a Ferris Wheel screams boardwalk, both scream summer as does the low ABV. I picked up a six pack of this and really enjoy the beer, not too tart and not as sour as a typical Gose, but quite flavorful.

What Flying Fish says about the beer:

Memories are made by the sea, and this Session Sour is inspired by evenings on the boardwalk. Enticing aromas of strawberry and lime evoke hints of salt water taffy, providing a souvenir twist to this unique style.

Blood Orange Wheat | Shandy/Radler | 4.0% ABV | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Framingham, MA

Image courtesy of Jack Abby’s blog

This is part of Jack Abby’s year-round line-up, but really works for summer. Shandy/Radlers are great for summer consumption, the lemonade/fruit addition to the beer is a natural mix to refresh and cool down after yard work or relaxing by the book. Enough flavor to satisfy, but low enough in ABV to allow for a long session of thirst quenching. This beer is a big seller for Jack’s Abby and is strongly positioned for the summer, especially those big pool and barbeque gatherings with the availability in 15 packs. Jack’s Abby has an interesting story on their blog about this beer, where they say Blood Orange Wheat combines blood orange seltzer with a wheat lagerJack’s Abby is one of the most respected breweries focusing on German styles in New England and a Radler (the German word for bicycler or cyclist) is always a great warm weather style.

What Jack’s Abby says about the beer:

Blood Orange Wheat debuted in our Beer Hall and it quickly became a fan favorite. This German-style radler is fruit forward, juicy and bloody refreshing. Lean back and enjoy!

Cruise Control Helles Lager | Lager – Helles | 4.8% ABV | Two Roads Brewing Company | Stratford, CT

Image courtesy of Two Roads’s facebook

This is the newest year-round beer from Two Roads and one of the few lagers in their portfolio. I’ve come to trust just about everything out of the great Connecticut brewery and this beer is something of a cousin to their Ol’ Factory Pils. I haven’t had this beer yet, but I definitely see it on the road of my future.

What Two Roads says about the beer:

An effortlessly refreshing golder lager built for kicking back and taking it easy down the Road Less Traveled.

Kölsch | Kölsch | 5.0% ABV | von Trapp Brewing | Stowe, VT

Image courtesy of von Trapp’s Facebook

A Kölsch is a really underrepresented and underappreciated style of beer. The umlaut should tell you this is a beer with German origins and von Trapp is the other pnomiment breweries in the New England brewing German style beers. One comparison I made to a local brewer is Kölsch is  an ale that drinks almost like a pilsner, he nodded in agreement. Light/easy drinking, flavorful and refreshing, this is another one I’ll be seeking out. That plus the fact that von Trapp slaps “Summer Session Ale” on the label proclaims this as von Trapp’s Summer seasonal.

What von Trapp says about the beer:

Kölsch is a style of ale that famously originated in Cologne, Germany. A true summer session ale, this Kölsch utilizes German Tettnanger and Hallertau Hops, that combine to provide a hoppy explosion packed in every can

Summer Crush | Pale Wheat Ale – American | 5.0% ABV | Yards Brewing Company | Philadelphia, PA

Image courtesy of Yard’s Facebok

It isn’t too often when the venerable Philadelphia brewery releases a new beer, but Yards has done just that with Summer Crush this year. In general, the style of the Pale Wheat Ale is kind-of-sort-of an Americanized Hefeweizen. The description Yards puts out for this reminds me a bit of Samuel Adams Summer Ale or even Bell’s Oberon Ale, both classic Summer Ales. A good thing, if you ask me. Since you’re here, I suppose you are sort of asking me.

What Yards says about the beer:

JUICY, MELLOW, REFRESHING

NEW IN 2019!

The moment it hits your lips, there you are. Summer Crush is an easy drinking, flavorful Wheat Beer with a juicy citrus finish that transports you to bright summer days and hot summer nights. Brewed with orange and lime zest, this crushable delight brings the refreshment to the shore, the front stoop, the rooftop, and everywhere else you celebrate summer.

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Beer Review: Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch

Name: Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch
Brewing Company: Rogue Ales & Spirits
Location: Newport, OR
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 5.0%

An inviting golden ale

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

We grow bees. Taste the difference.

10 Ingredients: Rogue Farms Dare™ and Risk™ Malts; Wheat, DextraPils & Aciduated Malts; Rogue Hopyard Honey & Wild Flower Honey; Alluvial Hops; Free Range Coastal Water and Kölsch #2 Yeast.

Situated just across from 40 acres of Rogue hops, 7,140,289 Rogue Farms bees are carefully kept and fed and the honey is uncapped, extracted, filtered and finally infused into a refreshing Honey Kölsch Ale.

Based in the western craft brew mecca of the Portland, Oregon Area, Rogue is one of the larger and more respected craft brewers in America, . Perhaps their most popular and well known beer is their Dead Guy Maibock, arguably one of the foundational craft beers of the last couple of decades. They brew tasty stouts, well-received IPAs and some peculiar experimental brews like a “Beard Beer” and “Srirachia beer.”

Their Honey Kölsch takes European style and infuses with American farming for something quite tasty. This brew looks to have been released for the first time in 2013 and from what I see on Beer Advocate, it looks like this was originally a 22oz release, but was released in 6 packs for the first time in 2016. This makes sense because it is a great summer time / warm weather beer to keep in your cooler, although it doesn’t explicitly state that in the name.

Kölsch is, like many beers, a German style whose name is derived from where it was originally brewed in Cologne (Köln), Germany. The beer is crisp in profile and often bright yellow in color. The color and flavor profile is typically similar to that of a German Pilsner, but often with a slightly lower hop/IBU profile.

As craft beers grow in popularity, more varied styles are gaining popularity and Kölsch seems to be one of those styles. I’ve had only about ten different Kölsch ales over the past couple of years, this one is probably my favorite. The crispness is such a refreshing hit and the honey perfectly balances out that crisp-profile before the crisp crosses the line to bitter. Those two flavor profiles make Rogue Farms Honey Kölsch a beer you want to crack open while grilling, after mowing the lawn, or sitting by the pool or yard as the warm summer day becomes a pleasant summer night.

Although I didn’t mention this brew in my Summer Beer Draught Diversion, two years now I’ve had a couple of these while sitting by my pool and I’m going to make sure this is in the regular rotation as long as Rogue puts it on shelves in the warm-weather/summer months throughout the long summer days.

Maybe the perfect spot to drink this beer: poolside.

The beer pairs well with just about any kind of meat you want to throw on the grill from burgers to hot dogs to chicken. The comforting taste makes it a good pair with pizza or any food, really. A very tasty beer that doesn’t overpower with any of its ingredient components, but simply gives a nice, balanced profile of taste.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.