Beer Review: Jersey Cyclone’s May Day Maibock Style Lager

Name: May Day (Maibock Style Lager)
Brewing Company: Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company
Location: Somerset, NJ
Style: Bock – Hell / Maibock / Lentebock
ABV: 7.3%

Happy Anniversary to Jersey Cyclone, this delicious Maibock is a great celebration of the quality beer they’ve been brewing for two years!

JerseyCyclone_Mayday

From the untappd page for the beers.

May Day was brewed to capture the crisp floral aromas of a beautiful spring day. The subtle golden hue of this traditional Maibock gives you flavors of freshly baked biscuits, slightly browned toast followed by a delicate floral aroma leave your tastebuds dreaming about another sip. Aroma/Taste: Floral, Biscuit, Toasty.

I’ve written about bocks and reviewed several bocks, but this is the first Maibock I’m reviewing here at the Tap Takeover. Maibocks are the traditional German spring beer (Mai translates from German as May, after all), and are slightly maltier, slightly hoppier, and usually more amber in color than most lagers. Not many American breweries are crafting Maibocks, if anything, the doppelbock is (I’m guessing here), the most popular of the bock styles. When Jersey Cyclone announced they were canning May Day as both a celebration of their second anniversary and spring, I had to give the beer a try. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to their Anniversary celebration, so let’s look at the beer.

Let the celebration begin as we dance around the maypole and I crack open Jersey Cyclone’s May Day!

The can pops nicely and pours a golden/amber into the Jersey Cyclone Willi Becher glass. It certainly looks the part of a traditional Maibock, at least compared to the baker’s dozen of Maibocks I’ve enjoyed including the one that started it all, Hofbräu’s Maibock. There’s a mild aroma of toasted malt, but nothing too pronounced.

How about the taste/first sip? I get what I expect from May Day, the beer exhibits sweet malt flavors (not unlike a Märzen), with some floral hints throughout the overall flavor of the beer. The mild hop presence associated with the style comes in at the finish for a very slight bitterness and a bit of spice. I also get something I can only call nuttiness? Maybe that’s toasted bread or crackers? It works and is mostly on point for the style. The ultimate finish I get is a smooth, very pleasant caramel-esque sweetness. On the whole, May Day resonates with other Maibocks/Helles Bocks I’ve had over the years. In other words, May Day is a very solid interpretation of the style.

I had a second can the following night. Something I’ve been learning and which I’ve mentioned here at the Tap Takeover is that I feel like I’m able to enjoy my “second experience” or pint/can/pour even more because I have a better idea of what to expect. That is very true with Mayday, I wasn’t trying to figure out the tasting notes, I was expecting them and they delivered quite nicely.

I also want to point out the can art of this beer. The label really captures the spirit of the beer. The image depicted is the traditional Maypole, a central motif in spring celebrations in Germanic nations. One of the first posts I wrote here at The Tap Takeover was about “Seasonally Appropriate” beers, between quality of the beer, style of the beer, release of the beer (May 1st, which is when Maypoles are generally erected), and the label, Jersey Cyclone completely nailed this Maibock.

JerseyCyclone_MayDayLabel

Happy Anniversary to Jersey Cyclone! Their quality started out strong and each beer continues to show their expertise at brewing and brewing/crafting some of the more unique and “advanced” styles of lagers. I’ve come to consider Jersey Cyclone one of my constant go-to breweries. When I stopped in a couple of months and chatted with owner Jan, he mentioned how impressed and happy he was with the lagers their brewer Charles was making and hinted that this Maibock would hopefully be ready for their anniversary party. Cheers also to Charles for crafting another excellent lager.

Prost and again, Happy Anniversary to Jersey Cyclone!

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

JerseyCyclone_Mayday

Beer Review: Bull ‘N Bear’s Liquid Asset

Name: Liquid Asset
Brewing Company: Bull ‘n Bear Brewing Company
Location: Summit, NJ
Style: Lager – Dortmunder / Export
ABV: 5.8%

The new North Jersey brewery is off to a strong start with this delicious, unique style of Lager.

BullNBear_LiquidAssets

From the untappd page for the beers.

German Lager that is crisp, earthy, herbal and refreshing. A unique water profile (high sulpahtes) to Dortmund Germany differs this beer from the traditional German Helles by interacting with the malt and hops (Hallertau & Saaz) which heightens the bitterness of the hops and the alkalinity leaving a slight haze. Prost!

Here we are with another brewery who had the misfortune to open their doors during the COVID Pandemic, but they started strong, at least based on the two beers I enjoyed. The one under review is (shock to regular readers) a Lager, but not a Pilsner or a Helles Lager (probably two of the most common craft Lagers), but a Dortumunder Lager.

What is a Dortmunder Lager? It falls within the family of Pale Lagers, like a Pilsner or Helles. The most common description I’ve seen is that it is has elements of Pilsner (some kind of hop presence) and a Helles (a more pronounced malt character) and is all about balance. Like many German Lagers, this beer derives its name from the region (Dortmund, German) as many styles originated as such. Not many breweries are making this specific style of Lager on a regular basis, Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Dortmund Gold out of Cleveland, Ohio is the only large regional brewery to come to mind, so I was quite pleased to see a new brewery make the style.

Let’s dive into some Liquid Asset

Look at that picture above? The beer is clear, golden, and very appealing in that glass. In other words, it looks exactly like I want a lager to look. As good as it looks, I didn’t really catch too much of the aroma on the beer.

Liquid Asset passes my first sip test with flying colors. This lager hits some great opening notes. A little sweetness from the malt in the beer, and that ever-important quality of making me want to drink more.

The most pronounced character of this beer is that wonderful bready, malt element. There’s a little bit of hop presence, essentially just there to be noticed, but there’s no bitterness from the hops. This is an extremely clean, delicious beer. Overall, the malt character brings a pleasant sweetness and the finish is extremely clean.

In speaking to the beertender, he said the recipe for this beer was one of the first or earliest beers the owner/head brewer was making in his home-brewing days. The refinement of making this beer over and over many years shines through and highlights how well-crafted this beer is from first sip to the last drops that remain in the glass. I hope this beer stays in constant rotation at Bull ‘N Bear because it is a showcase for the brewer’s quality. Liquid Asset is the a perfect beer to walk the line between appealing to “new” craft beer drinkers and those of us who consider ourselves something like aficionados.

Prost to Bull ‘N Bear for such finely crafted lager!

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Twin Lights Lager

Name: Twin Lights Lager
Brewing Company: Twin Lights Brewing Company
Location: Highlands, NJ
Style: Lager – Pale
ABV: 4.8%

A superb Lager boldly launched Twin Lights Brewing into the growing NJ Craft Beer Landscape.

From Twin Lights Brewing’s landing page for their beers:

Our first core beer to hit the market was our Twin Lights Lager. This beer will comes in with a crushable ABV of 4.8%. Brewed with pilsner & victory malt, and topped off with a touch of Saaz & Perle hops.

Twin Lights Brewing did something bold. They launched their brand amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. Their first beer, this beer, was a lager. While more breweries are including Lagers as part of their Portfolio and even a flagship beer, the Pale Ale and IPA are still the primary styles the majority of breweries have at their core and flagship.

Let’s look at what exactly a Pale Lager is, briefly. As I noted in an earlier review, Dark Lagers were prevalent and popular in Germany for many, many years before the lighter-in-color lagers came along, beers like Helles Lagers and Pilsners, which are part of the group of Pale Lagers. Essentially, a Pale Lager can be considered an “almost Pilsner.” Or another thought is All Pilsners are Pale Lagers but not all Pale Lagers are Pilsners.

This brings us to Twin Lights Lager, the launch beer for contract-brewer Twin Lights Brewing.

The look test: the beer looks like a pilsner, or a pale yellow beer. In other words, on point for the style. The aroma is what I expected: it smells like beer, maybe a little bready?

The first sip test: I like this. The flavor hits all the notes I hope a good lager will hit, hints of malt and breadiness, and a slightly sweet finish from the hops. That sweetness is maybe a little floral? Saaz hops are one of the most traditional of European lager hops, a Czech Noble Hop in fact and the Perle hop is a traditional German hop. The two hops are very predominant in lagers and here they balance each other quite nicely.

The malt and hops come together for an extremely flavorful beer, especially considering the sub 5% ABV. The sentiment that characterized my post about Ross Brewing’s Shrewsbury Lager is true for Twin Lights Lager: this launch beer is proof that Twin Lights has some impressive skill at the craft of brewing. This “Pilsner-adjacent” lager is a perfect introduction to what Twin Lights may be capable of brewing and a fine example of an everyday, always-in-the-cooler, approachable beer.

Hats off to Twin Lights on a fantastic beer. Although Twin Lights Brewing does not yet have a taproom to call home, they have been making a very nice push into liquor stores and bottle shops with about 18 beers having been released over the last year or so across all styles so I’d recommend trying one of their beers that aligns with your favorite style.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Flagship February/Beer Review: Ross Brewing’s Shrewsbury Lager

It is officially Flagship February in the beer world, a “movement” started by beer writers Stephen Beaumont and Jay Brooks a couple of years ago and it is wonderful idea. Basically, we as beer drinkers should remember the beers that helped to lay the foundation for craft beer. Beers like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale or, as I posted a couple of years ago, as part of my American Craft Beer Classic series of posts, Allagash White.

For the 2020 iteration of this “celebration,” I featured two of the NJ beers that helped to establish the craft beer landscape in New Jersey. The creators of Flagship February decided to shift slightly with their focus to highlighting breweries and what they see as their Flagships in 2021 given the drastic changes the COVID Pandemic has forced upon the world. As such, I thought I’d similarly shift with a newer brewery who is set to open their doors during these turbulent times: Ross Brewing and the beer they are announcing as their Flagship Lager, Shrewsbury Lager. So the beer sort of eschews the traditional historical component of the “foundational” idea of Flagship February, but it is the beer the brewery calls their Flagship.

Ross Brewing Company has been around for a couple of years, contract brewing small batches for distribution in New York, but late 2020/early 2021, they made a big push into the NJ Craft Beer scene, their home state. After a few setbacks prior to the COVID Pandemic, then the COVID Pandemic, Ross Brewing is looking for a mid-2021 opening in Middletown, NJ. Like every brewery, they’ve got an IPA as one of their top beers, at least by number of Check Ins in untappd. But I’m featuring one of the more “taken for granted” styles, the Amber Lager. Here are the stats for the beer, in the standard Tap Takeover format.

Name: Shrewsbury Lager
Brewing Company: Ross Brewing Company
Location: Port Monmouth,NJ
Style: Lager – American Amber / Red

From Ross Brewing’s landing page for Shrewsbury LagerOur flagship lager is inspired by the river that runs to the south of our hometown of Red Bank—the scenic Shrewsbury. Low in bitterness and high in malt character and complexity, the subtle use of hops makes a balanced, refreshing lager with a crisp, dry finish, perfect for drinking on a boat, a beach, a deck, or just about anywhere!

Let’s take a look at this beer, or rather, here is what I think of Shrewsbury Lager.

In the Northeast (and more of the US recently), one beer epitomizes the American Amber Lager and it is the beer that can simply be ordered at the bar as “Lager.” That beer, of course is Yuengling’s Lager. It is a beer everybody knows and everybody has had. Ross Brewing’s Shrewsbury Lager is of the same style.

The look test: a pour into the glass reveals a deep amber beer, which is exactly what it says on the can. I’d say this is a bit darker than Yuengling’s take on the style, which is a hint to me that this beer might be more flavorful.

The first sip test: this beer is flavorful, refreshing, and whispers: “there’s more, don’t stop there.” I listen to that whisper and continue, realizing Shrewsbury Lager has some pleasant and subtle sweetness from a nice malt profile. The beer has just enough substance that it has great flavor, but it isn’t overpowering, making for a beer that lends itself to enjoying a couple to few pints in a row. In other words, this beer is a crusher.

There’s also a slightly toasted element to the malt profile of the beer, with hints of caramel. Those elements come together very harmoniously making for a very altogether flavorful beer floating at 5% ABV level. The longer lagering process allows for flavors to develop and mature during the brewing process, which seems to be exactly what happened with this beer.

What does this all mean? The fact that Shrewsbury Lager is both a launch beer and the flagship Lager for Ross Brewing is very impressive.

This beer works as an everyday beer that could sit in the cooler, sit at the dinner table with just about any meal that asserts enough flavor on its own, but won’t overwhelm whatever meal with which you pair the beer. With each can I had over the course of a few days, I found myself enjoying the beer more each time, appreciate the elegance of the beer and finally, with the fourth can in that four pack, wishing I had more.

Back to the Yuengling Lager comparison…I think it is a very smart move for a brewery to brew / can / sell a beer that is comparable to the most ubiquitous non-Macro Lager because it works perfectly as a beer to introduce craft-wary consumers (admittedly, a shrinking group of people) to more flavorful, local options especially folks who may be averse to “hoppy beers.”

Bottom line, if Shrewsbury Lager is any indication of Ross Brewing’s abilities, then they are definitely on the right track to success. It most definitely is a beer worthy of “Flagship” status.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untappd badges earned with this beer:

Paint the Town Red (Level 10)

Get out there and raise a ruckus with your favorite Amber or Red Ale. That is 45 different beers with the style American Amber / Red Ale, American Amber / Red Lager, Irish Red Ale, Imperial / Double Red Ale, Red Ale – Other or IPA – Red.

Beer Review: Lakefront Brewery’s Eastside Dark Lager

Name: Eastside Dark
Brewing Company: Lakefront Brewery
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Style: Lager – Dark / Bavarian Dark Lager
ABV: 5.6%

“A flavorful, every-day, easy drinking lager. What’s not to like?”

From Lakefront Brewery’s landing page for the beer:

Honoring the eclectic East Side of the city, this Bavarian dark lager is a blend of three specialty grains, creating a rich, smooth, dark beer that anyone can enjoy. Our most award-wining beer of all time!

ABOUT THE BREW

Pours a clear, dark color with an off-white head. Hints of roasted malts find their way into the aroma, and form a pleasant background to the dark, rich flavor. The German lager yeast rounds out this brew with a smooth, complex finish. Winner of the 2014 and 2016 European Beer Star Gold Medal for Bohemian-Style Schwarzbier.

What is the most common image conjured for the word “lager?” I would guess in America, that image would be fizzy, yellow liquid. While understandable, that idea undermines the fact that long before Pilsners came to dominate the world, dark lagers were far more prevalent. In their Eastside Lager, legacy Wisconsin Craft brewer Lakefront Brewery looks to evoke that classic, old-world style. This beer would seem to land somewhere between a Schwarzbier and a Munich Dunkel, both of which are styles I like. How does the final result match up?

The beer pours a translucent brown, looking more the part of a Munich Dunkel than a Schwarzbier. Aroma doesn’t stand out too much, it smells like a bready lager.

There’s a very pleasant malt element in this beer that gives me bready hints. The malt gives a very balanced sweetness, it is far from cloying, but is definitely present. I don’t know if it is the color of the beer that has me down this path, but pumpernickel bread comes to mind as what the bready malts evoke in my palate.

While this beer does indeed remind me of a Munich Dunkel, I’m also finding similarities to an English Brown Ale. If you put this beer next to an English Brown, it might not be easy to correctly pinpoint the style of the beers from a visual standpoint. Some of the flavor elements are similar, but the lager yeast in this beer would be where the differences would be noticeable. This is not to knock Eastside Lager but what I’m saying, more or less, is if you enjoy English Brown Ales, you’d likely enjoy this beer.

One of the important characteristics of a beer is how it finishes in one’s palate. For me, Eastside Dark has a strong finish – the pleasant flavor makes me want more. The sweetness and refreshing elements often associated with lagers is on point here, I want to enjoy more of the beer..

Eastside Dark is a flavorful, easy drinking lager that would work well alongside any meal or anytime you’re in the mood for a no-nonsense tasty beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer (one of the cooler looking badges, in my opinion):

Schwarz-buckler (Level 3)

Ahoy schwarz-buckler! Beware of the evil Black Beerd, as you sail the dark sea of suds matey. That’s 15 different beers with style of Schwarzbier, Lager – Dark, or Lager – Euro Dark.

 

Beer Review: Tonewood Brewing’s Woodland Lager

Name: Woodland Lager
Brewing Company: Tonewood Brewing Company
Location: Oaklyn, NJ
Style: Lager – American
ABV: 5%

“Tonewood brings an interesting brewing technique to a classic lager style for something unique and flavorful”

From Tonewood Brewing’s page for Woodland Lager:

A traditionally brewed lager aged in an all American Oak foeder. This beer has notes of oak, soft vanilla, and pillowy marshmallow, finished out with crisp notes of fresh baked biscuit and floral lilac.

Tonewood is a brewery that has been impressing me with each new beer I’ve had and the latest to do so is this beer, Woodland Lager. I follow Tonewood on Instagram and when this beer popped up as a pending release, I was very intrigued by the description of the beer and was hoping this Woodland Lager would make it into their distribution footprint. It did, thus this review. 😊

I’ve had several higher alcohol beers aged in some form of wood (stouts, porters, dopplebocks) and wild/sour ales aged in wood, but very few low ABV lagers aged in wood, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. How much would the wood/oak foeder change or modify the taste of the lager?

When the beer fills up the glass, it looks more like a witbier than a lager to my eyes. The color and even the head give me that impression. I’m already a little perplexed, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The aroma is more lager than the appearance would lead me to believe; however.

There’s a subtle sweetness that is noticeable on first sip. But this is definitely a lager with the malt elements lending hints of soft bread or crackers. Something else is underlying the traditional lager flavors, which likely comes from the beer having been aged in that Oak foeder. That “something else” is very pleasant and complements the classic lager flavor nicely.

What are those flavors? Well, there’s some hints of vanilla, undoubtedly which likely comes from the oak. I mentioned the malt elements lending soft bread, but more specifically, this beer is like vanilla sweet bread, w/slightly burnt edges, baked in an oak pan. It is utterly sublime, not like many other beers, specifically not like any lagers I can recall drinking.

The ultimate proof of how much I enjoyed the beer is this:  I barely finished the first 16oz can before I cracked open the second can. Woodland Lager is one of the more fascinating lagers I’ve ever had. This beer is a great example of the interesting kinds of beers Tonewood seems to be crafting on a regular basis.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Untied Brewing’s Long Days Short Year

Name: Long Days Short Years
Brewing Company: Untied Brewing Company
Location: New Providence, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.6%

“Untied Brewing’s take on the classic, bright German Lager is a flavorful interpretation sure to please”

 

From untappd’s page for Long Days Short Years:

A Bavarian Style Pale Lager that is a pure expression of malts. Easy drinking and full-bodied, with low bitterness, a touch of sweetness, and a clean and crisp finish.

When I visited Untied Brewing on a late summer afternoon in September, I was hoping a few of their Lagers would be on draught. Three happened to be available, so I figured I’d go with a Lager style I enjoy quite a bit, their Helles Lager. Long Days Short Years is the first beer I had from Untied Brewing, I figured starting out with a lighter beer was the way to go. I liked the beer so much I brought home a four-pack, so this review is based on both the taster I had poured on draught as well as the beer from the can as pictured above.

I’m glad this was the first beer I had in the flight because it quenched my thirst and is just a really tasty beer. I also decided to bring home a four-pack. Why is that?

The appearance of the beer is the typical “this is what beer looks like” appearance. Clear, bright, and golden yellow. A little bit of aroma that also fits the “beer” definition with some mild bready notes. Good things so far.

Very pleasant flavor hits my palate that tastes like a classic German Lager. A little more details: I get a very welcome flavor of sweet, lightly buttered toast and toasted crackers. One of my favorite food smells is toasted bread and I get that flavor. The beer finishes with a slight touch of hops and sweetness. That hint of fruitiness from the hops is welcome. However, that fruit hint is not to the drastic extent of a tropical hop bomb of a New England IPA, but present nonetheless.

Overall, this is a extremely clean, well-balanced beer. What do I mean by that? This is a beer whose flavors express themselves very well without intruding on each other and true to style. Well, that bread/cracker presence in Long Days Short Years is very consistent Helles Lagers (and its cousin, the Pislner). The mild hop presence, enough at least to let you know it is a beer is also true to style.

When I visited the brewery, owner Matthew Green told me this beer is one of his best-sellers, especially over the summer months. I can understand way, it is a very tasty lager. Moreover, it is the kind of beer that will appeal to that member of the group who is often craft-adverse. Fortunately for consumers who visit Untied, Long Days Short Years is a very well-crafted lager.

Long Days Short Years is a superb Lager and one that shows Untied has a very strong and impressive Lager section in their beer portfolio.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Beach Haus Brewery’s Oktoberfest

Name: Oktoberfest
Brewing Company: Beach Haus Brewery
Location: Belmar, NJ
Style: Märzen
ABV: 5.5%

A flavorful, top-notch take on the classic German Lager from one of NJ’s steadfast independent breweries.

From Beach Haus Brewery’s page for beers:

This Märzen was slowly brewed through the summer months to allow rich malt flavors to develop. The beer is lagered (stored) in our horizontal lager tank where it conditions. This allows the beer to clarify naturally, create some natural carbonation, and clean up over weeks to create a crisp and clean biscuity caramel lager

Oans, zwoa, drei, g’suffa! (one, two, three, down the hatch!)

Our Oktoberfest features generous amounts of Munich malt and employ traditional old-world lagering techniques.

Get ready to tackle Oktoberfest season with our old-world-styled Märzen which has been a fan favorite since its release..

Beach Haus has been making an Oktoberfest for quite a while now, largely since they opened in 2015. When I visited a few years back, I had their “Pumptoberfest” which is a marriage of a pumpkin beer and Märzen, and I remember enjoying it. Since then, I’ve been hoping to try their straight up Oktoberfest especially since they have been distributing to a couple of the stores in my area. I was very pleasantly surprised to see cans on the shelf in a store near me and snagged a six pack immediately

When I open the can, there’s a nice big “pop” signifying freshly canned beer. Pouring the beer in the mug, the thick head supports my thought process. I’ll be damned if how that beer looks in the classic, dimpled German mug doesn’t scream Oktoberfest with the lovely copper color and the perfect fluffy head.

An aroma of bready malts leads to the same flavor. There’s a wonderful caramel-like sweetness from the malts that shines through the entirety of the beer. There is sometimes a slight tang of an unpleasant aftertaste in Märzens I’ve had. There is absolutely no hint of that in Beach Haus’s take on the style. There’s such a pleasant flow of flavors from aroma to the beer passing through my taste buds that I find it difficult not to drink this one too fast.

Some beers (regardless of style) can look the part, but they don’t taste the part. Again, Beach Haus’s Oktoberfest is a beer that 100% looks the part and 100% tastes the part. Of the dozen or so beers I’ve had from Beach Haus Brewery, this Oktoberfest is hands down their best beer. It is a style that many breweries attempt and Beach Haus dialed in their style/recipe very, very well to deliver a beer worthy of the monikers “Märzen” and “Oktoberfest.”

I’ve visited Beach Haus a few times and their brewery easily has one of the best set ups of any I’ve visited in the state, and I’ve visited between one third and one half of the breweries in the state. With their outdoor seating, ample indoor seating, and location in the popular NJ beach town of Belmar, NJ it is a great place to meet friends and enjoy some tasty beer. Their outdoor seating also allowed Beach Haus to pivot to outdoor consumption during the COVID Pandemic.

I have to say it, Beach Haus’s Oktoberfest is one of the better American interpretations of the style I’ve had and I’ve had close to 50 different Märzens over the last half dozen years. From a NJ perspective, I’d easily stack this up against Cape May’s outstanding Oktoberfest and Ramstein’s world-renowned  Oktoberfest.  Suffice it to say, I’ll be seeking this one out every year during the Oktoberfest season because it delivers on what I expect an Oktoberfest / Märzen to be.

If you are in NJ, seek out Beach Haus Brewery’s Oktoberfest and visit the brewery, too. As I said, they offer up a terrific setting and tasty beers to enjoy in that welcoming setting.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Victory Classic

Name: Victory Classic’: Easy Drinkin’ Lager
Brewing Company: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downingtown, PA
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.8%

“Victory’s newest Lager, Classic is a flavorful cooler-filler for summer, tailgating, or any time you want a tasty beer.”

From Victory Brewing’s page for Classic:

Perfectly balanced and exceptionally drinkable, this lager is expertly crafted with specialty hops, malt and yeast to be the standard of refreshment.

Classic is the definition of drinkable with pilsner malt and Hallertau hops bringing perfect balance to this 4.8% refresher for game day, happy hour, mowing the lawn and everything in between.

In what will likely not come as a surprise to anybody who has read this blog over the last couple of years, the first non-NJ beer to be reviewed here in two months is relatively* local and from one of my favorite breweries, Victory Brewing. A few months ago, the venerable MyBeerBuzz blog posted that Victory Brewing was releasing a new‡ lager. I was very excited since Victory crafts lagers so well (Prima Pils, Festbier, Home Grown, Hip Czech Pilsner, Schwarz Pils, etc).

*I’m about 15 minutes from Pennsylvania border and Victory is close enough driving distance that I’ve visited a couple of times.

‡ For the most part, Classic seems to be a slightly reworked recipe (a slightly lower IBU) of their longtime mainstay Helles Lager which was a very good beer (which itself was rebranded from V Lager.

So, how does Classic stack up against other Helles Lagers and some of those aforementioned lagers from Victory?

The beer pours a perfect see-through yellow, much like many of the beers I’ve been reviewing lately. I don’t get too much of an aroma other than a fairly standard beer aroma. First sip is inviting, a beer that is refreshing. There’s that “beer that tastes like beer” thing going on all over the place with Classic on first impression. Victory; however, has crafted a more layered beer than that.

For Helles Lagers and Pilsners, I like the bready element to be present, which is the case with Classic, while the hop presence is quite mild and not bitter, which again, is what I like in a Helles Lager. I’ll take some mild hop bite in a Pilsner, but a Helles Lager, especially one labeled as an “Easy Drinkin’ Lager” should lean towards mild floral and fruit evocations in the hops, and not the bitterness. That mild hint of floral and fruity was something I noticed more when I had the beer the second time a day later (since I had two beers prior to Classic the first time I had the beer). In other words, the hops do what they are supposed to do in a beer like this and play very nicely with the bready elements from the malt.

A beer like this is deceptively simple in taste and presentation, but to achieve an elegance like this requires the kind of expertise that Ron Barchett and Bill Covaleski, the two masterminds behind Victory Brewing, have honed and shown over the years. I’m not sure how long the process took to refine the recipe for Classic or how long they worked on the previous Helles Lager recipe to get to this beer, but they’ve found success.

Classic is an especially welcome beer because it is a tasty new lager addition to a line-up that has strongly leaned towards IPAs and Monkeys the last couple of years. (Not that I don’t like their monkeys and IPAs!) Victory has been releasing some really interesting new beers over the last couple of years (Twisted Monkey, Cloud Walker, Easy Ringer), but this is their first new Lager in a few years and one I will definitely have in regular rotation.

Bottom line: Victory Classic is a welcome addition to Victory’s year-round lineup and of the quality I’ve come to expect from Victory Brewing’s lagers. I’d also slot Victory Classic in the top half of the Helles Lagers I’ve had over the last few years.

There’s an old advertising slogan, “Does exactly what it says on the tin” and considering the bottom of the can states “Easy Drinkin’ Lager that slogan is most apropos for Classic – the beer is flavorful, easy drinking at 4.8% ABV, and a beer you can enjoy without over-analyzation (says the guy with a 3-year old beer blog).

I want to also point out the can art, too. Eye-popping, great red-white-blue color scheme, which comes across a reflection of the beer inside.

The last anecdotal point is similar to a point I made in the the last non-NJ beer I reviewed (Sierra Nevada’s Barrel-Aged Narwhal): Victory Classic, is the 40th unique beer from Victory I’ve logged in untappd.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Ashton Brewing’s Jersey Dreamin’

Name: Jersey Dreamin’
Brewing Company: Ashton Brewing Company
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 5.7%

“Ashton’s second canned beer is a superb interpretation of the classic lager.”

From Ashton Breiwng’s forpage for beers:

Jersey Dreamin’ is our Czech style Pilsner. It pours with a rich creamy white head and a burst of floral/spicy Saaz hops. Honey, cracker and spice all pop in the flavor and it finishes clean and balanced and says let’s have another!

Ashton Brewing is one of the newest New Jersey breweries (as of the date of this post, June 9, 2020), but they had the unfortunate timing to have had their grand opening scheduled when the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down public gatherings. They took over the former Demented Brewing facility in Middlesex, NJ, redid the interior and launched their brews. Despite the challenge they faced in the current times Ashton pushed forward, sold crowlers and growlers of their beers to what I’ve seen to be positive response. Shortly after they opened, Ashton began canning their beer, including this delightful Pilsner which is the second beer they canned.

Pilsners are one of my favorite styles and I’m always excited when a smaller brewery decides to craft any kind of lager, especially when a new brewery does their second canning run as a Pilsner. As soon as it was available I placed on online order and picked up a six pack at the brewery. As a result, I was check in number three to this beer in untappd, so I was also very happy to be one of the first to try the beer. Good thing the beer was delicious!

Visually, if you were to put this beer side-by-side with the last Pilsner I reviewed (also a Czech Pilsner), you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same beer. That’s a good thing because this clear and clean, golden yellow beer is largely what I would expect a pilsner to look like. The aroma gives off some hops and maybe some crackery/breadiness from the malt. More good signs for Jersey Dreamin’.

That first sip immediately becomes a gulp. Simply put, Jersey Dreamin’ is a delicious Pilsner.

Some Pilsners lean towards a breadiness/cracker element from the malt, some have a floral/fruity finish and some strike a balance between the two. Jersey Dreamin strikes that balance really nicely. It isn’t as “crackery” as some pilsners I’ve had – which is by no means a slight – but it has a full flavor whose elements come together really cleanly.

I spent a long Saturday afternoon in the sun doing yardwork the weekend after getting the six pack. My reward was this beer and it hit the spot perfectly, the beer was extremely flavorful, abundantly refreshing – an elevated “lawnmower” beer, if you will.

Many breweries who start up, at least in New Jersey, launch their canning program with multiple IPAs or some dark beers like porters & stouts. While Ashton’s first canned beer was their IPA, the fact that their second beer to be canned was a Pilsner – a style that has zero wiggle room for mistakes that can be hidden by adding more hops or adjuncts – is impressive. It shows confidence in the quality of the product they are sharing with consumers. Steve Ashton has a long history of brewing and working in the brewing industry in some capacity and that knowledge and confidence in his ability shows in this elegant and delicious Pilsner. This beer is good enough that it could be their flagship beer and a Pilsner that Lager-enthusiasts should definitely seek out. I for one can’t wait to have fresh draught of this Pilsner once the Pandemic concludes.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Ashton is accepting online orders for local delivery and pick up