Beer Review: Jersey Cyclone’s Beach Blonde Lager

Name: Beach Blonde Lager
Brewing Company: Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company
Location: Somerset, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.3%

“Jersey Cyclone boldly storms out of the gate with a damned fine Helles Lager.”

From the Untappd page for Beach Blonde Lager:

An awesome beach day deserves an awesome beer! We used three types of classic German malts and Loral hops to craft this malt forward yet dry beer. With a bready flavor, subtle lager yeast character and cracker dry finish, this beer is a much needed addition to every beach day cooler!

As I pointed out in my NJ Beer/Brewery Check in on Tuesday and last month’s Six Pack, Jersey Cyclone is a new brewery out of Somerset, NJ. I’ve made three visits since they opened and have enjoyed just about everything I’ve had from them. When I learned they had a lager brewing during my second visit to Jersey Cyclone, I was very excited.

I knew the Helles Lager, Beach Blonde Lager, was a beer I really wanted to try since I’ve gravitated towards the lower ABV beers, especially Pilsners and Helles Lagers of late, as I pointed out in my 2nd anniversary post. My father -in-law loves his lagers, too, so I figured getting a growler for Father’s Day would be a great opportunity to try and share the beer.

The beer pours a somewhat darker goldenrod than I’d expect from a Helles Lager. In the end, that color was the only thing a little off about the beer. The aroma hits the notes of a lager and the first sip….the first sip is nice. So that first impression is a crisp flavorful beer. There’s a little bit of maltiness, with a very nice bready/crackery finish.

This beer has a roasty or baked finish that reminds me of some of my favorite lagers, like Carton’s This Town, Cape May’s Lager, Weihenstephaner Original. Drinkability is an obvious, probably overused word to describe a good beer, but Beach Blonde Lager has this in spades. The taste is so spot on and that finish lingers enough that you don’t want it to go away so you immediately have to take another sip.

To say that I was impressed with this beer is an understatement. For a brewery’s first release of a lager, it is damned good. Hell, any brewery would be well-served to have a lager of this quality available on a regular basis. Like I said in my untappd check-in, this beer is everything you want in a lager and a fantastic representation of the style. As it turned out, my father-in-law had more of the growler than I did, he loved the beer.

Not necessarily a comment on the beer, but the brewery itself. I’ve had my growler(s) filled at many breweries, especially over the last few years. Most places do give the growler a wipe down, but I’ve received my fair share of growlers that were a little sticky from beer that overflowed. I can’t recall seeing other breweries do what Jan (owner of Jersey Cyclone) did – he gave the growler a little squirt with a water bottle to ensure the growler nice and clean and not sticky.

While this beer currently has “Beach” in the name, I hope Jersey Cyclone keeps this available year round, or at least keep one of their taps dedicated to a lager of some kind, be it a Pilsner, Amber Lager, Bock or even a Pale Lager. Most breweries stick to the Ale half of the beer family initially, faster brew times for ales and the ales lend themselves to additives that can hide “mistakes” in the brew process. A bold choice to put out a lager less than a month into the brewery’s life and one that pays off.

With people gravitating towards lagers, it is smart for a new brewery to have a lager on tap, especially a lager this good.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Hella Delicious (Level 5)

Hell yea helles! This traditional German pale lager is typically full-bodied, mildly sweet, and light-colored, making it a perfect go to for any occasion. That’s 25 different beers with the style of Lager – Helles or Bock – Maibock / Heller (Helles) / Lentebock.

Beer Review: Karl Strauss Brewing Company Columbia Street Amber

Name: Columbia Street Amber
Brewing Company: Karl Straus Brewing Company
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Lager – American Amber / Red
ABV: 4.5%

“Every brewery should have a “workhorse” lager this good on continual rotation in their portfolio.”

From Karl Strauss’s landing page for Columbia Street Amber:

It was February 2nd 1989 when we opened our first brewery on Columbia Street in downtown San Diego. This easy drinking beer has been pouring since that very first day. Imported Munich malts give Columbia Street Amber its deep bronze color, smooth body, and crisp toasted flavor. Karl Strauss has grown, but the original brewery location remains. Raise a pint of Columbia Street Amber and join us in a cheers to San Diego’s vibrant craft beer scene.

I’ve said in the past that one of the benefits of traveling for work is the opportunity to visit breweries I wouldn’t otherwise visit. Case in point, this beer review. While there are many breweries in San Diego, only one brewery was the first and that happens to be Karl Strauss Brewing Company. They are something of a legacy brewery, as the two men who started the brewery, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner, asked their cousin Karl Strauss to help them start a brewery. Karl Strauss was an iconic brewer in America, working at Pabst where he helped reformulate Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, which helped the beer reach iconic status. That Wikipedia link is well worth a click, as is the history section on Karl Strauss Brewing’s web site. Karl eventually served at Pabst until 1983 and was president of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas for a few years. In short, he’d probably be on a Mount Rushmore of American Brewing. That legacy carries on in the brewery that bears his name, which is why I wanted to visit the brewery.

I ordered up a flight to get an idea of what I wanted with my meal. The flight included Red Trolley Ale (an Irish Red Ale), Follow the Sun (Pilsner), Aurora Hoppyalis (IPA), and this beer, Columbia Street Amber Lager.

Sometimes (hell, like last week’s beer), a well-made lager is what really hits the spot and Columbia Street Amber certainly hits the spot. The glass is full with amber beauty, a beer that glows with invitation. There isn’t too much of an aroma, maybe a little bit of maltiness? For the most part; however, it smells like you’d expect a beer to smell.

First sip is sweetness, but not a cloying sweetness. Sweetness from the malt, that good lager flavor on the finish laced with the carbonation. The sweetness is consistent throughout the beer, but as it sits in my mouth with each successive sip, I begin to taste the lovely toasted malts that make up the body of the flavor. There’s a really nice caramel, almost toffee flavor to the beer. The elements of the toasted malt and the sweetness come together very nicely as a whole in the beer. The beer is incredibly flavorful altogether, especially given that it is a sub-5 ABV. 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.

Every brewery should have a lager like this in their portfolio: a workhorse lager that can sit in the glass for every occasion and complement a meal or be enjoyed by itself. I enjoyed my pint of Columbia Street Amber while eating delicious fish tacos from Karl Strauss.

I could compare this another way. For years my go to lager and most dependable beer was Yuengling’s Lager. Some may look down upon that beer because in the Northeast, it is an inescapable mass produced beer. That said, it is a mostly well-made lager and considering the mass level on which the beer is produced, has some good flavor. It also happens to be an Amber Lager, much like Columbia Street Lager. The beer from Karl Strauss reminded me of Yuengling’s Lager, with the exception that I found Karl Strauss’s amber lager to be a more flavorful and complex beer.

While at the brewery/brewpub and enjoying my meal, I was speaking with the bartender. Apparently, Columbia Street Amber is the longest standing beer continuously being poured in San Diego, having been served since Karl Strauss opened their doors and tap handles back in 1989 when the beer was originally called Karl Strauss Lager. I could hear the pride in his voice as he told this to me.* I can understand why – it is a very well-balanced, flavorful lager that has a low enough ABV (4.5%) that it almost begs to be enjoyed in multiple pints.

*Yeah, I know it says that up in the description, but I didn’t have that in front of me when I was speaking with the bartender.

Bottom line, any brewery without a lager in their portfolio would be improved by having a lager of this quality in their regular rotation.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Badge Earned:

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Lager Jack (Level 15)

After a long day, what better way to kick back than with a crisp and refreshing lager? You’re already feeling more relaxed, aren’t you?.

Beer Review: Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers Post Shift Pilsner

Name: Post Shift Pilsner
Brewing Company: Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers
Location: Framingham, MA
Style: Pilsner – Other
ABV: 4.7%

“A finely crafted Pilsner is a beer of beauty, Post Shift Pilsner from Jack’s Abby is such a beer.”

From Jack’s Abby’s landing page for Post Shift Pilsner:

There will be no working during drinking hours! Brewed with Bavarian malt and hops, this everyday Pilsner is bright, crisp and refreshing. We think it’s the perfect way to end the work day. Clock out, post-up and enjoy!

It is always exciting when a well-respected regional brewery begins distributing in your area. Last year for me, it was Bell’s Brewery. This year for me that brewery is Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers. As their name would imply, Jack’s Abby specializes in lagers (i.e. German inspired beers), with the majority of their portfolio falling in that category. Pilsner is one of the most popular (and sometimes reviled) styles of beer in the world, but in the hands of expert craftspeople, a Pilsner is an elegant beer. When I learned Jack’s Abby was going to start distributing into New Jersey, I knew this was the first beer I wanted to try from the fine purveyors of German-style beers out of Framingham, MA.

So, Post Shift Pilsner. The name tells me this is the first thing you want to grab after a day’s work. Can’t argue with the ethos of a beer name like that. Out of the 16oz can, the beer pours a beautiful, mostly clear yellow. In other words, it looks exactly how you’d expect a Pilsner to look like. But, how does it taste compared to other Pilsners? That’s a big difference indeed.

A Pilsner is a precise beer, it uses few ingredients except those of the German Purity Law Reinheitsgebot: Water, Barley, and Hops. With a Pilsner, you can’t hide any mistakes with a fruit adjunct or sweeten up the beer with an addition of Lactose. An elegant beer whose prime, essential ingredients shine. Jack’s Abby captures that spirit and those ingredients wonderfully.

The first sip turns into a gulp, the beer is so tasty. Just about everything I want in a Pilsner is present in this beer – delicious and refreshing, slightly bitter, a little sweet. Let’s unpack that a little, shall we?

There’s a wonderful balance at the start, I get a pleasant, slight bittering from hops with a sweetness, maybe a little fruity sweetness. The bitterness and sweetness are almost a single flavor thread throughout the beer, they work so well together. What makes this one great is similar to what makes the beer I reviewed last week great, the authentic German malts (as in from Germany) used in the beer. They impart that lovely sweetness that so perfectly balances the Noble hops. According to Jack Abby’s Web site:

The Jack’s Abby brewing team travels to Germany every year to procure German hops and malt from small family run operations in Bavaria. The brewers use old-world brewing techniques of decoction and spunding to recreate historical lagers.

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.

Amazingly, this is the first beer I’ve reviewed from a Massachusetts brewery.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Badge Earned:

Crisp as Day (Level 12)

bdg_pilsner_lg

Light and crisp, a Pilsner is all you need to make your day great. Though, perhaps another one would make it even better.

Beer Review: The Alementary’s Hackensack Lager

Name: Hackensack Lager
Brewing Company: The Alementary Brewing Company
Location: Hackensack, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 5.4%

As it so happens, that glass is from the final Garden State Brewfest (2016), where I first tried beer brewed by The Alementary.

From The Alementary’s landing page for the beer:

Rooted in pride and thirst, a local lager is never far. Whether you’re in Germany, Belize, or Jersey, there’s sure to be a favorite brew for wherever you’ve found yourself. Our Hackensack Lager, with its crisp golden malty goodness, reflects the diversity of our community and our love for the people who have made this place our home. Thank you, Hackensack!

Lagers are the most popular style of beer in America, specifically the Lagers in the blue, silver, and red beers cans. But there can be nuance and great taste in a lager. As there was a shift away from lagers brewed by smaller, independent breweries in the early years of the American Craft/Independent beer movement, in the recent past, the Lager has been making a comeback (Firestone’s Lager, Founders’ Solid Gold) because when done well, it can be a great style. With Hackensack Lager, the brewers at The Alementary have a flagship Lager for their brewery that is very tasty.

As the German word Helles translates into “bright” this beer is spot on for the style from a visual standpoint. A golden hued beer fills my glass, nearly matching the color of the label on the beer can. The aroma didn’t stand out to me, but that’s fine. I’m not looking for anything out of the ordinary with this beer.

This beer is quite flavorful and the type of beer that comes to mind when people think about beer. There’s a pleasant sweetness to the beer, from first impression to finish. I also enjoyed the roasted bready/biscuit elements from the malt. A sweetness from the malt is also present that balances out the potent Saaz hops that help to define the styles hopping characteristic.

With the approachable flavor profile that doesn’t lean too heavily in a hop or malt direction, the beer is quite refreshing. The relatively low ABV (though a bit higher than many Helles Lagers) makes for a very crushable beer indeed. Hackensack Lager is the epitome of an every day beer; the utility player in your beer fridge that can sit in a glass with any meal. I’ve said this before about similar beers, but it is also true of Hackensack Lager – flavorful enough for folks who are well-versed in the craft beer world and inviting enough for folks who don’t stray away from the macro-produced lagers. The perfect beer to bring to a party if you aren’t sure what other guests will like in their beer.

I’ll comment on the label, too.* All of the Alementary beers have the same atomic logo on the front which is a cool branding icon. Most of their beer labels are white on the top half with a distinct color on the bottom half, in this case the bright gold that would be associated with lager. I dig it, it stands out on its own and is identifiable very easily as a beer from The Alementary.

*Maybe I should do this more often.

The Alementary has a great post on their Web site with more details about this delicious beer:

Clean and crisp, Hackensack Lager is a beer that is simultaneously familiar and innovative in the modern craft beer scene. It’s a “gateway beer” for new craft fans, and it’s also like going back home for experience craft drinkers. It’s truly a beer for everyone, for everything. Making a great lager in a small brewery is no easy feat! We pride ourselves in the consistency and technical skill with which this beer is brewed. Making this beer is all in the details.

Recommended link to Untappd 4 Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Flying Fish Brewing’s Onshore Lager

Name: Onshore Lager
Brewing Company: Flying Fish Brewing Company
Location: Somerdale, NJ
Style: Lager – American Light
Style: 4.9%

From the beer’s description on Flying Fish Brewing’s Special Page dedicated to the beer:

Our home is surrounded by a breathtaking stretch of ocean and beautiful waterways, and ONSHORE LAGER is our tribute to that environment. Brewed without adjuncts, this beer pours a pure, golden color, and German-style hops provide a crisp, clean finish. The employees of Flying Fish are just like you. They enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends, and they want to ensure the beauty endures for generations to come. That’s why Flying Fish is not only committed to brewing high quality beers, but we also practice sustainability and care for the environment throughout the process. 463 solar panels help with our electricity needs, 19 solar tubes in our warehouse reduce the need for artificial lighting, recaptured steam in the brewing process minimizes water waste, and rain gardens on site prevent erosion. And spent grains? They go to local farms with happy cows.

Light Lager is perhaps the most popular style of beer in America. Conversely, it is probably the most maligned style in the craft beer world. The brewery once out of Saint Louis and the brewery out of Colorado whose Light Lagers are the two most popular beers in the world. Though popular, those two beers are absent of flavor, or at least *good* flavor. But like almost any style of beer, when done well, the beer can taste very good.

This brings me to Onshore Lager from one of New Jersey’s oldest independent breweries and the largest in the state, Flying Fish Brewing Company. This beer is a new (first available in June 2018) year-round offering from Flying Fish.

After popping the can, the beer pours a bright golden yellow into the glass with a nice fluffy head. This is a much brighter beer than some of the macro-produced light beers people are accustomed to seeing, it is quite inviting. The first sip was more than I expected, the malts and crispness of the lager come through really nicely. Even though this is a light lager with an ABV of 4.9%, the beer still as ample flavor and a decent body. Light Lagers are a style I almost never get, go out of my way to try, and I’ll even avoid them if possible. This beer, on the other hand, this is a good beer to always keep in the cooler, whether poolside, to enjoy after yardwork, or tailgating. I’ll be honest two days after I had the first one from the six pack, I had another and enjoyed it even more.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a movement in the craft beer world back to low ABV lagers: pilsners, light lagers, Helles Lagers. Firestone Walker’s simply named Lager is a great example, as a I mentioned recently and Founders Solid Gold seems to be doing well. Far be it from NJ’s elder states-brewer to stray from this trend, as this beer was first announced back in February and I was thinking back in May it might be a good crushable summer beer. I was more than pleasantly surprised with the full flavor of this beer. I’ll admit that I hoped it might lean more towards a Helles Lager style, and there’s a bit of that bready/grainy/toasty element to the beer, but much more subtle than a straight-up Helles Lager like Firestone’s Lager or Carton’s This Town. Suffice it to say, Onshore Lager is an excellent beer and like Bell’s Amber Ale, which I featured a few weeks back, is a perfect beer to ease folks wary of craft beer over to the craft beer/Independent Beer world.

It is really great to see a brewery that has been such a mainstay in New Jersey continue to push new beers regularly not even including the recently concluded Exit Series. Onshore Lager is about the sixth new beer Flying Fish has introduced in the last six months alone. What I think would be great is for them to offer a can mixed pack like many breweries are doing – throw a few of these, a few of their summer staple Farmhouse Summer Ale and Daylight Savings IPA together and you’d have a really solid mix of beers for a Summer variety pack.

As reported in a few online beer sites, including Brewbound: “a portion of the sales of Onshore Lager will go to New Jersey-based Clean Ocean Action, an organization that’s dedicated to the quality of the marine waters off the New Jersey coast.” So, two great combinations – a great beer and a great cause. If you see some Onshore Lager, pick up a six pack to share, or keep in the fridge for yourself.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer: Lager Jack (Level 12)

Lager Jack (Level 12)

After a long day, what better way to kick back than with a crisp and refreshing lager? You’re already feeling more relaxed, aren’t you?. That’s 60 different Lagers!.

 

Beer Review: Carton Brewing’s This Town

Name: This Town
Brewing Company: Carton Brewing Company
Location: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.9%

The beer’s description on Carton’s Landing Page for the beer:

In a perfect world each town would have access to a fresh, straightforward lager beer. For our neighbors we built around a typically bready helles malt bill fermented with classic yeasts. Made unique by focusing on the defining bitterness and pleasant citric spice of Opal hops. Drink This Town because you’re almost home and deserve a beer from here.

It took a while before I repeated a brewery on one of my reviews, but I at least waited until the calendar flipped to a new year. I also figured if I was going to repeat breweries, it might as well be from (arguably) the best NJ brewery, Carton Brewing Company.

Carton Brewing is known for experimental brews, a series of IPAs (the 0-dub and Dubviant series of IPAs), and of course, Boat Beer. With This Town, Augie Carton and his cadre brewing wizards crafted something more straightforward with this Helles Lager. What is a Helles Lager, one might ask?

Essentially, a Helles Lager is the younger, jealous cousin to the Pilsner. A Helles Lager has a similar malt and hop profile as a Pilsner. This isn’t surprising since the Helles Lager was first brewed in Munich Germany as a reaction to the Czech/Bohemian Pilsner. The popularity of the Pilsner style (so named for the Plzeň (Pilsen) region of Bohemia in Czechoslovakia where it was first brewed) pushed brewers in Munich to come up with a comparable style so Germans would be more inclined to drink a beer from their own country and region. The designation of “Helles” means bright and once you look at the beer in the glass, the name makes sense.

For this beer, Carton went simple and elegant and it really, really paid off. The beer pours a bright inviting yellow and when poured correctly, with a fluffy white head. When most people think beer, an image of what comes out of a can of This Town is likely similar to what is in most people’s heads.

The aroma is pleasant and nearly as inviting as the look. A crisp refreshing taste of some breadiness, a nice bit of hops followed by a little bit of roasty malt/hops. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering the beer style’s roots, but I was very, very much reminded of Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle from Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus, one of the best German Pilsners I ever had.

I think the best compliment I can pay this beer is that I’d want it in regular rotation in my refrigerator as an everyday beer. If Boat is Carton Brewing’s flagship year-round beer, then This Town would make an excellent #2 beer.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.