Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and non-review posts here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…
Another Six Pack that was somewhat difficult to construct. For one reason, I had multiple beers from a couple different breweries so deciding which beer from those breweries would be represented made the list of “new to me” beers I had this month somewhat long. I also had a vast range of styles this month, with multiple Belgian styles part of the overall group. I settled on a very tasty six pack with a pretty decent variety of styles even if at least one of the breweries in the pack will NOT be a shock.
Without further adieu, here is the February 2022 Six Pack…
It has been quite a while since I had a new-to-me Bolero beer, but this one called out to me. I’ve been seeking out Baltic porters and this beer, aged in Bourbon barrels, hit the spot. Good flavor profile, the bourbon was more potent than I’d expect from a beer with a 9.5% ABV. On the other hand, it was a little thinner than I’d expect. Despite those two slights, the beer was still quite tasty.
Here’s a first for the lineage of the Six Pack posts at The Tap Takeover…back-to-back months featuring Dunkelweizens! I made a second visit to Readington Brewery and Hop Farm, the newest brewery in my area (less than 2 miles away) and was very pleased to see an improvement in the beers. Not that they were undrinkable that first visit, but needed some work. I was very impressed with this Dunkelweizen, Evermore, which was dialed in quite nicely to the style. I wouldn’t be surprised if Reading Brewery will be appearing in the six packs in the future.
Maine Beer Company makes outstanding IPAs and Wolfe’s Neck is another delicious example. A fantastic blend of hops with a dialed-in hop flavor, great malt character, and overall, perfectly balanced. This is one of the cleanest IPAs I’ve ever had, completely dialed-in and elegant.
A visit to Icarus means I had a few new Icarus beers from which to choose for this six pack. I went with the new Lager they canned (although I thoroughly enjoyed their Altbier, Thee Points). Decimate is a Japanese Rice Lager, where the Rice makes up a significant portion of the grain bill. Into that, Jason and his crew of brewers added Lemongrass for a nice refreshing finish. Another example how awesome Icarus Brewing’s low ABV lagers are.
I’ve said it before (or at least hinted at it), but Tröegs might be my favorite Pennsylvania brewery. They brew across every style and do so with impressive quality. This Dubbel, originally brewed for co-owner Chris Trogner’s wedding, is a year-round release and a damned fine interpretation of the classic Belgian dark ale. Wonderful sweetness, hints of raisin and bananas makes this as good a Dubbel as you’ll find from even a brewery from Belgium.
One of my favorite meals (Pork Chops marinated/brined in Tripel) is from this cookbook, Cooking with Beer. Not a lot of the Tripel is required so I was delighted when I saw a 750ml bottle of this in one of my local bottle shops since I love La Trappe Quadrupel. Their Tripel, this beer, is almost as good which is to say that it is a world class, outstanding beer. Perfect elements from the yeast imparting sweetness and fruitiness, just a perfectly rounded beer.
The third annual roundup brings a slight change. The last two “best of the year” lists focused on the best beers – those I gave the highest ratings. For 2019, while I’ll still have beers with very high untappd ratings, I’m shifting a little bit to “Favorite” beers. What does that mean? Well, there were beers I consumed in 2019 which I awarded a high 4.75 rating, but I may be including a 4.25/5 beer that I enjoyed more. Put it another way, there were some highly rated (4.5) beers I enjoyed in 2019 that one beer was enough, while some beers I may have rated at a 4.25 I would have multiple times. Or still another way – some movies are incredibly well made masterpieces, but one viewing is enough whereas some movies you love and want to watch over and over or will leave on the TV no matter where in the running time you catch it.
So, let’s get on with shall we?
Another definition for the purposes of this post: New means “New to Me” because a few beers on this list have been around for many, many years, but I had the beer for the first time in 2019.
It will come as no surprise that a NJ bias shines through on this list as 5 of the beers are from NJ breweries (last year featured 6 NJ breweries and 7 the first year). Considering more than half of the beer I bought & consumed in 2019 was from NJ breweries, this shouldn’t be a surprise. I had multiple beers from many breweries and the quality was very consistent across the board for some breweries. However, I was only allowing each brewery to have one beer on the list so for some of the breweries below, the beer on this round up represents my favorite from the beers I had from them. For example, I had over a dozen beers from Icarus Brewing, so the beer on this list from them is what I enjoyed the most from them. As in years past, some of the breweries on this list will not be a surprise to readers of this blog or people who know me
Here’s a Breakdown of the Favorite Beers of 2019 12-pack:
5 from NJ breweries
2 from PA breweries
2 from Belgian Breweries
1 Pastry Stout
1 Imperial Stout
1 Russian Imperial Stout
2 Belgian Quadrupels
2 IPAs (both are of the New England variety, one is a Double NEIPA)
1 Cream Ale
1 Pale Ale
1 Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Without further ado…
12. Post Shift Pilsner | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers (Framingham, MA) | Pilsner – Other | 4.25 bottle caps
I reviewed this one back in May and havethe had a few times over the year. Simply an elegant and delicious beer. From my review: “The finish has a slightly toasted bready/crackery taste that I associate with Pilsners (and some Helles Lagers, too). I like it, I want more of it. Hell, I picked up a 6 pack on a Thursday and found it hard to not enjoy one of these delicious beers every day of that weekend. When it comes to a wonderfully flavorful beer perfect for any day, a beer that will please both discerning craft beer drinkers with that flavor, while not making non-craft drinkers wary, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better beer than Jack Abby’s Post Shift Pilsner.”
11. Saison DuPont | Brasserie Dupont (Tourpes, Hainaut Belgium) I Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4.5 Bottle Caps
Sometimes it takes a little while for one to get to the classics. Such is the case with Saison DuPont for me. But when I did finally have a bottle of it, I was supremely impressed. From my review in August: “Saison Dupont is an absolutely delicious beer that is rightfully the measuring stick for every Saison being produced today. All the qualities I’ve had in other saisons are on bold display here – strong yeast character, clean delicious taste, and a transportative element that transcends most other beers.”
10. Swinging the Lamp | Cape May Brewing Company | IPA – Imperial / Double New England 4.25 Bottle caps
Cape May’s been knocking it out of the park all year so it should be no surprise one of their beers lands on my favorite beers of the year list. This beer is a standout for many reason, the wonderful use of hops (Moutere, Raku, and Motueka) which evoke a peachy-pineapple juice bomb. The Kviek yeast (one of the “hot” ingredients nowadays) adds another layer of flavor. Quite simply, this is an outstanding IPA from a brewery for whom “outstanding” is the norm.
As the New England/Hazy IPA continues to be the hottest style, especially with local/independent brewers, the larger brewers have been making attempts at the style. Victory’s take on the style is probably the my favorite of the larger brewery’s attempts at the style and an overall superb beer. The Citra and Mosaic are *perfectly* blended and the beer is a wonderful, juicy, hoppy delight. I hoped and expected to enjoy the beer, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. Victory really came out strong in 2019 with some of their new beers to go along with their rebranding. More on that in another post.
8. Sneakbox | Kane Brewing Company | Pale Ale – American | 4.50 bottle caps
This past year, I really came to appreciate one of the icons of NJ Independent Brewing – Kane Brewing. I’ve had their beers here and there at bars, but they began self-distributing cans of their beer more widely in NJ, at least their three core beers, Head High, Overhead, and this beer, Sneakbox. This is a delicious, outstanding, juicy pale ale that highlights the full flavor of the ubiquitous Citra Hop…I’d say this could be in contention for best American Pale Ale.
7. La Trappe Quadrupel | La Trappe/Brouwerij de Koningshoeven (Berkel-Enshot, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands) | Belgian Quadrupel | 4.5 bottle caps
Another beer that is essentially the first of its style. The bottle I reviewed was, I think, from 2016 if my interpretation of the date code was correct. Based on that and having a more recently dated bottle, I’d suggest letting this beer sit before opening it. Here’s what I said in my review: “This is an outstanding, world-class beer that really is in a class its own. I’d say it would be a great interpretation of the style but as I recently discovered, La Trappe’s Quadrupel was the first beer with the Quadrupel name back in 1991. So it is the style-namer or “Ur-Quadrupel,” if you will. I know, considering the great brewing tradition in Belgium and of Belgian styles, I thought the style was a bit older than that.”
I had quite a few beers from Icarus this year, but two visits to the brewery and a friend getting a job as their taproom manager will help helped to keep the number growing in 2019. I wanted to feature one of their beers on the best of list this year and the thing is – every beer I had from them was outstanding, so I’m going with their big, boozy Russian Imperial Stout. Kalishnikov is a delicious, super-boozy (14% ABV!) stout that doesn’t feel like it has that much alcohol in it. Russian Imperials can be very bitter on the finish, but the addition of honey in the brewing process gives the beer a nice hit of sweetness on the finish. I’ve had one of the barrel-aged variants of this beer, but I think I prefer the base stout more.
Bolero Snort cranked out quite a few tasty beers by my standards in 2019 but for me, the top of that list is their delicious dessert variant annual Bergen County Bull Stout. This was a recent review, but managed to stand out very strongly over the 400+ different beers I had in 2019. From my review: “This is a complex beer…I need to put that up front. The eggy-bread aroma of French Toast is present in the taste with the bourbon hints from the barrel making their way through everything. … A beer that has the flavor components of that rich, dessert-like breakfast while still retaining the stout qualities that give the beer it’s primary character. … This beer is probably the best I’ve had from them. As their motto says, that is No BS, just ragin’ good beer.”
Over the past couple of years, it has become a New Year’s / Early January NJ tradition to head down to Carton Brewing in the Atlantic Highlands to get whatever variant Augie and company release of their highly coveted Regular Coffee cream ale. This year, I met up with some friends to grab some of this beer. Carton has the best deal of any brewery in NJ in terms of tasters, and I knew I had to bring this one home. Regular Coffee is an “Imperial” Cream Ale made with coffee from local roasters. Put simply, Regular Coffee is the best Coffee beer I’ve ever had. I’ve realized I don’t care for Nitro beers over the past year, but this one bucks that recent trend. I can’t think of a beer that more perfectly utilizes Nitro.
3. Quadraphonic | Barrel of Monks Brewing Company (Boca Raton, FL) | Belgian Quadrupel | 4.5 bottle caps
Quadraphonic was the first beer review I posted in 2019 and even then I had a feeling it would standout as one of my favorites of the year. From my review: “The first sip is delightful wow and does what a good beer should – encourages to you drink more. I found the typical stone fruit flavors to be present, hints of plum and raisin with some figginess, and maybe a hint of cherry too. This is a complex, extremely well-made beer. … Quadraophonic is quite simply, a delicious beer.”
2. Mad Elf Grand Cru | Tröegs Independent Brewing | Belgian Strong Dark Ale | 4.5 bottle caps
Mad Elf from Tröegs is an iconic Christmas beer and an annual tradition for me. This “Director’s Cut” version with the addition of “loads” more tart Balaton cherries was a bit daunting. I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy a more tart version of the beer, but goddamn is this a delicious cherry-forward beer that still retains ample flavor from the yeast and base ale. Tröegs continues to prove why they are one of my favorite breweries, last year my favorite new-to-me beer was from them and this year, this one is pretty damned close.
The Bruery is one of the premier California breweries, they specialize in complex beers, often of the barrel-aged variety. That nuance and skill with beer is showcased in this beer, the best barrel aged beer I’ve ever had. Subtle, yet potent notes of the barrel character can be enjoyed throughout finely balanced with the stout character of the base beer. The Bruery recently began releasing cans of some of their beers and I’ve seen single cans of this beer sold in my area, I may need to snag one.
Honorable Mentions –Touchdown (Lager – Munich Dunkel) and Flood (Stout – Imperial/Double) from Jersey Cyclone; 2190 Anniversary Ale (Belgian Quadrupel) and Overhead (IPA – Imperial/Double) from Kane Brewing; Haze (IPA – Imperial/Double) from Tree House Brewing; MooDoo Doll (Stout – Pastry) from Bolero Snort Brewery; Sucaba 2019 (Barleywine – English) from Firestone Walker Brewing Company; Pick Your Own (American Wild Ale) from Allagash Brewing Company; Gunner’s Daughter (Stout – Milk/Sweet) from Mast Landing Brewing Company; Java Latte (Stout – Milk/Sweet) and Twisted Monkey (Blonde Ale – Belgian Blonde / Golden) from Victory Brewing Company; Worker Drone (Cream Ale) from Twin Elephant Brewing Company; and Dunkel Lager (Lager – Munich Dunkel) from Von Trapp Brewing.
I’ll be doing a complementary post – as I did last year – that takes a look at the breweries to impress me the most in 2019, along with some more stats courtesy of untappd.
As always, the look and aroma is where we begin. The beer pours a deep brownish-amber-copper. The aroma is typical of a Belgian Quadrupel – some earthiness, some vanilla, maybe even some almond/amaretto. I can smell the sweetness in the beer. Outside of some barrel aged beers, I usually don’t smell the sweetness quite as potently.
That first sip is filled with flavor, lots of sugary goodness like caramelized banana, maybe some stone fruits like figs or even warmed cherries. The finish isn’t quite as yeasty as some other Quadrupels I’ve had (I’m thinking the classic Abt 12 from Saint Bernardus) which sets this beer slightly apart from other Quadrupels but not in an unwelcome fashion.
I also get a smoother finish on the whole with La Trappe’s Quadrupel, compared to most other Quadrupels I’ve enjoyed. There’s a bit more booziness, I taste the alcohol just a bit more in this one than other Quads, from what I can recall. It has the smooth finish of what I’d expect from a barrel-aged beer, but without the barrel-aged flavor. Again, (to borrow a tech term), this is a feature and not a bug for me. This is a boozy, sweet, potent, flavor-filled beer that is big in every good way.
This is an outstanding, world-class beer that really is in a class its own. I’d say it would be a great interpretation of the style but as I recently discovered, La Trappe’s Quadrupel was the first beer with the Quadrupel name when it was first brewed back in 1991. So it is the style-namer or “Ur-Quadrupel,” if you will. I know, considering the great brewing tradition in of Belgian styles, I thought the style was a bit older than that.
I may say this with frequency, but it is perhaps truer for this beer than any other beer I’ve mentioned or reviewed – La Trappe’s Quadrupel is an absolute must try.
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…
When I learned recently that my go-to Summer beer was being discontinued (Yeungling Summer Wheat, a solid mass produced Hefeweizen), it got me thinking, and thinking rather forlornly. Sometimes a brewery releases a beer you really enjoy, maybe it was a seasonal, maybe it was a beer in regular rotation. Then the season comes for the beer to hit the shelves and you find out the brewery ceased production on those beers or the beer just goes out of rotation. Or, even sadder, the brewery is no longer in business. I’ve come up with a 6 pack of beers I wish would return. One of these I’ve had since joining untappd so it hasn’t been too too long since a couple disappeared, while others have been absent from taps and liquor stores for many years.
I know Samuel Adams was the brewery that drew many people, including me, to craft beer 20-ish years ago, but Dogfish is one that showed all the interesting things that could be done in beer. This beer is a classic and at the time I first had it and continued to buy it, I didn’t know the difference between a stout and Belgian Strong Ale, which is what this beer is considered. I just knew that the peculiar ingredients for a beer (at the time) which include Beet sugar and raisons (coupled with the Belgian yeast) made for a rich beer that I thoroughly enjoyed. As the link above describes the beer: “A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beet sugars and green raisins.” This one appears on beermenus occasionally and may show up at Dogfish tap takeovers, but damn would I love to see a six pack of this in my local bottle shop. I think the last time I had it was probably at least five years ago.
For years for this slightly fruited wheat ale from Vermont was a perennial summer favorite; it was very refreshing, perfect for enjoying pool-side, or in the yard after a hard day’s yardwork. There was a big uproar as this great All About Beer article points out when the beer was pulled from production/circulation in 2014 after being the brewery’s #2 seller at one point in time. I know technically this beer returned in cans a year or two ago, but I don’t think the beer made it to NJ. At least no stores around me seemed to carry it.
There was a time I’d see Long Trails tasty beers all over the place (this along with Double Bag and Triple Bag are favorites) but not quite as much in recent years. I would always keep Blackberry Wheat and Sam’s Summer Ale in constant rotation from Memorial Day to Labor Day and found their Survival Pack (which included BBW) to be a great variety pack to pick up at a moment’s notice when people came over in the summer.
Ah, Pete’s Wicked, one of the sadder stories in American Craft Beer. They were 1 and 2 with Samuel Adams, as I recall, in the mid to late 90s craft beer movement. I even remember the radio commercial for “Pete’s Wicked Summer Breeewww” and thanks to YouTube, the humorous folksy TV ads featuring brewer/owner Pete Slosberg. The lineup of Pete’s Wicked included the flagship Brown Ale, a delicious Summer Wheat and a Strawberry Ale. As the link to All About Beer indicates, the name was sold to Gambrinus a number of years ago so it is doubtful the brand or the beers will return. For many people my age (and older) Pete’s Wicked Ale will conjure up pleasant memories of when the American Craft Beer scene when it was in its youth, maybe less confusing, and with an unknowable level of growth potential.
This was one of the first dark beers I remember enjoying and for the years it was available, my favorite year-round offering form the Boston Beer company. It was brought back a couple of times after it was discontinued in 2000, once and in six packs in 2007 and again as part of a “Brewmasters collection” in 2010. I know my tastes have slightly changed since I last had the beer (I wouldn’t go near an IPA back then) but Porters are still a preferred style, so I would hope the suck fairy wouldn’t strike if this beer were to be available again.
Basically, the suck fairy is what happens when you revisit an old favorite and it turns out not to live up to the high regard in which you hold it in your memory.
I’m not sure the last time I saw this one or had it, but it had to be about 10 years ago, at the most recent, but I recall that Weird eye-catching bottle art from Hieronymus Bosch drew me to the beer, initially. There was a very good bottle shop on my way home from work that allowed you to make mixed six packs, and this was before I was aware of Wegman’s. I remember grabbing one for the mix and after enjoying it getting it regularly on its own. Even before I realized how much I enjoyed Belgian beers, I was enjoying a brown Belgian ale. As it so happens, I now work within walking distance to that same liquor store.
I’ve made it pretty clear here at the Tap Takeover how much I enjoy wheat ales and for a few years, so multiple wheat ales on a post like this shouldn’t surprise anybody. I’ve only had a few from the venerable Vermont brewery and this was far and above my favorite. It was a great warm weather ale and had an extra hit of honey to balance out the whole flavor profile. Otter Creek discontinued the Wolaver’s Organic line of beers (including a very tasty Pumpkin Ale as well as a Coffee Porter called “Alta Gracia Coffee Porter”) a few years ago and seems to be focusing more on beers with strong hop profiles in recent years, so I doubt this beer will be coming back, but it was fantastic. I had it three times while on untappd, each time on draft, and it was perfect on those warm August nights.
The beer was described as: Wildflower wheat is a delicious unfiltered wheat ale brewed with organic chamomile flowers and a hint of pure organic Vermont honey.
So to close out with a final thought, here’s my ranking, from most likely to least likely, of the chances of these beers returning:
Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat
Dogfish Head Raison D’Être
Samuel Adams Honey Porter
Tilburg Dutch Brown Ale
Wolaver Organic Wildflower Wheat
Pete’s Wicked Summer Ale
So there you have it, 6 beers out of circulation/production I would drink right now. Any favorites you, my fine readers, wish would return?