Draught Diversions: Hunterdon County Beer Trail

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…

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Beer Trails” or promotional efforts for breweries located in a county or region aren’t new. For one of my Birthday Beer Tours, my wife took me on the Bucks County Ale Trail in neighboring PA. With the maturation, growth, and evolution of the beer scene in New Jersey Beer over the past decade, and most importantly over the last 5 years or so. As of this writing (according to New Jersey Craft Beer), New Jersey can boast are over 100 breweries, and 150 including brewpubs. In other words, the time is ripe for some official “Beer Trails” in New Jersey to be promoted.  Laws and bills are being enacted to relax some of the stringent laws in New Jersey. Specifically relating to this post: Bill A-1091, which requires “the state Division of Travel and Tourism to advertise and promote tours of breweries in New Jersey.”

According to the language of the bill, the Division of Travel and Tourism is to identify a series of breweries to be a part of a brewery trail. The division would create no less than three brewery trails to be identified for the program and special consideration will be taken for those who are geographically close to other breweries or have a specific theme or are surrounded by the arts, cultural, historical, entertainment, or other tourism destinations.

Enter the Hunterdon County Beer Trail.

The NJ Tourism site, VisitNJ.org now has a dedicated page to the breweries, wineries, and distillers of New Jersey and proves that yes, Central Jersey does indeed exist even if the tourism website doesn’t exactly have their regions divided correctly! I live in Somerset County and Hunterdon County is one of our neighboring counties. In fact, one of the breweries on the Hunterdon County Beer Trail is less than two miles from my front door.

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Spearheaded by Bob King, one of Lone Eagle Brewing’s Co-owner’s, The Hunterdon County Beer Trail is a partnership between local brewers and the Hunterdon County Economic Development to highlight these small business and obviously drive patrons to visit. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Lone Eagle (and pointed out in one of early brewery spotlights here at the Tap Takeover) is their commitment to the community. Bob spread that commitment from the Flemington community out to his colleagues and peers across Hunterdon County.

I’d visited a few of these breweries over the last few years before the Beer Trail kicked off, but I was more than happy to visit them once again to complete the “Passport.” Although I’ve done full features on a few of these breweries, I’ll do a brief summary of each brewery in alphabetical order.

Conclave Brewing, established 2015 | Raritan Township, NJ | Facebook | Instagram | twitter | Conclave on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Profile

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Clockwise L to R: Clearly Pils, Blueberry Frukt (Farmhouse Ale), Hop Ritual with Vic Secret (Pale Ale), Moonwater IPA , Gravitational Pull (IPA) and Mexican Morning Stout

Conclave was the first brewery of this group to be established in Hunterdon County back in 2015, and for quite a while, they were the brewery closest to me so were effectively my local brewery. They’ve proven great expertise at all styles, particularly IPAs, which are highly acclaimed and sought after in the New Jersey beer community. Shortly before the pandemic struck, Conclave moved just down the road to a much larger location. This new location allowed an expansion of their tap list, and much more room for seating both indoors and out. Enough room, in fact, to host music acts fairly regularly. Favorite beers (of the 35+ I’ve had from Conclave): Clearly Pils (German Pilsner), Espresso Morning Stout (Coffee Milk Stout), Mexican Morning Stout (Spicy Milk Stout), Sable (Imperial Stout), Gravitational Pull IPA, Moonwater IPA, and Hop Ritual with Vic Secret (Pale Ale) .

Descendants Brewing at the Old Ship Inn, established 1995, 2021 | Milford, NJ | Facebook | Instagram | Descendants on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Descendant’s Best Better (Cask)

When Descendants opened in 1995 as The Ship Inn, it was the first brewing company to open in New Jersey since prohibition. The business renamed and launched as Descendants Brewing Company in May 2021. Located a short walk away from the Delaware River, the brewpub is housed in an old Victorian Home. I only had one beer that day, the ESB, but the beers brewed on site are a nice mix of American, German, British, and Belgian inspired styles in addition to an impressive list of several bottles, draughts, and cans from “guest breweries.” Descendants is the only brewpub in Hunterdon County and I intend to get a full meal during my next visit because the menu looks outstanding.

Highrail Brewing Company, established 2019 | High Bridge, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Highrail Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Clockwise L to R: Tart & Thankful, PITA Pumpkin Ale, Stayin ‘ Local (Wheat Ale), and Saewert’s Oatmeal Stout

Highrail Brewing opened in July 2019 in downtown High Bridge, NJ. The brewery is situated on a small, yet quaint and charming main street with a pizzeria and a coffee shop across the street among other local businesses. I visited in August 2019 for the first time shortly after the brewery opened and I was quite impressed with the two beers I had at the time, the first was Stayin’ Local, a wheat ale with peach that was perfect for summer. The other beer I had at that time was Saewert’s Oatmeal Stout, which was a smooth and tasty Oatmeal Stout. When the beer trail was announced, it was reason enough for a second visit, plus I wanted to try the NJ Craft Beer collaboration Tart & Thankful. This beer is a Cranberry Fruit/Fruited Sour Beer, which I reviewed late 2021 and a beer I thoroughly enjoyed. I also had their pumpkin ale, PITA Pumpkin ale, one of the more flavorful and balanced pumpkin beers I’ve had in a while. High Rail makes clean, tasty beers on the whole and are well worth visiting.

Lone Eagle Brewing Company, established 2016 | Flemington, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Lone Eagle Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Feature

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Clockwise L to R: Jubileum V Eisbock, Blueberry Gusher, Nitro Oatmeal Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, Flemington Fog (NEIPA), and King Kölsch

Lone Eagle was the second brewery to open up in Hunterdon County since the big law change of 2012 and they’ve seen some impressive growth. I outlined the beginnings of the brewery in my feature back in 2017, but since then, Lone Eagle has increased capacity with a new purpose-built brewing facility and some brewer changes. Of the breweries on the trail, I’ve had more beers (55 as of this writing) from Lone Eagle than the others (and more than most breweries in general). For a few years prior to the pandemic, the brewery hosted a Board Game night in their spacious loft. In addition to playing some fun games and making new friends, Board Game Night afforded me the opportunity to sample a vast array of beers, often a flight or two a night. It has turned out that every other year I’ve brought a growler of their beer to Christmas Eve (most recently, Grandma’s Cookie) and it was always a hit. I’ve reviewed three beers from them (Belgian Strong Dark, King Köslch, and their 5th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Eisbock), in addition to those beers, their Russian Imperial Stout is quite tasty, their Märzen is always good and their Hefeweizen is top notch. The brewery is in an excellent location, spacious, inviting, and the people pouring your beer are super friendly.

Odd Bird Brewing Co. established 2020 | Stockton, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Odd Bird Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Feature

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Clockwise L to R: Extra Stockton Bitter, Oddsbodikins Lager, Prallsville Pils, and Fields Saison

Odd Bird Brewing was the first brewery I visited after the launch of the Hunterdon County Beer Trail and I visited a second time when my wife took me on the annual Birthday Beer Tour. She didn’t realize I visited (she usually tries to go to breweries I haven’t visited), but I was more than happy to visit Adam and Karen once again because they make terrific beers. Since my feature on Odd Bird Brewing was posted only a few months ago, I’ll excerpt some of that here. The location is rather unique, especially compared to the other breweries I’ve visited in NJ. Risler Avenue/NJ State Route 29 parallels the Delaware River at the southwestern end of County Road 523 – a lovely drive to be had on a late summer/early fall day. Odd Bird is located in an old auto body shop, which is in the same building/location as the Stockton Eagle gas station, and that building is next to a restaurant, Cravings. That set up/location does sort of fit in with the name of the brewery. Odd Bird Brewing is, in my mind, what a quintessential local brewery should be. Great people who own it, who make delicious beer, with a unique taplist of beers that will attract more than just the immediate locals. The brewery has such a wonderful character and ambiance that is more than complimented by the classic styles brewed to near perfection. I had four beers from them, including one that made my favorites of 2021, their cask conditioned ESB, Extra Stockton Bitter, as well as a tasty Amber Lager, a Pilsner, and a Saison.

Readington Brewery and Hop Farm established 2022 | Readington, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Readington Brewery and Hop Farm on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Opening Weekend @Readington Brewery and Hop Farm

The newest brewery on this Beer Trail, and as of this writing in January 2022, one of the newest breweries in the State of New Jersey. I’ve been driving past this location regularly for a couple of years as they are very close to my house. I went opening weekend when they were still getting settled into their rhythm and had a few samples. At the time, only 2 were beers on untappd and they were probably the two I liked the most, The Churchill, an ESB, and Jack the Tripel a Belgian Tripel. I also had a brown ale that was fairly tasty. Given how close they are, I really should make another few visits in the near future because the facility is beautiful, the people were very nice, and they grow their own hops! How cool is that? I think the only other brewery who grows their own hops is Screamin’ Hill in Cream Ridge.

Sunken Silo Brew Works established 2019 | Lebanon, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Sunken Silo Brew Works on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Wystouti Nitro (L) and Deemed Essential Czech Pils (R)

Like other breweries on the HCBT, I’d visited Sunken Silo previously, shortly after they opened in February 2020. I like that they call themselves “Brew Works” as opposed to “Brewing Company” or “Brewery.” I recall the brewery being quite busy that chilly Friday evening during my first visit in 2020. The brewery was equally busy on my visit in January 2021. However, I was able to strike up a nice conversation with Christian, the Beertender working that day. I learned that Sunken Silo managed to weather the pandemic pretty well, thanks in large part to crowler and to-go sales. The brewery is next door to the popular Metropolitan Seafood Gourmet, a thing that sets the brewery apart and provides a great opportunity for patrons of one business to patronize the other business. The brewery’s name is an homage to the Round Valley Reservoir, a.k.a. NJ’s Bermuda Triangle:

The Round Valley Reservoir in Clinton Township, Hunterdon County, was formed in 1960 when the New Jersey Water Authority constructed two large dams and flooded a large valley, which had formerly been occupied by a farming community.”

Quirky name and history are neat, but fortunately, the folks at Sunken Silo (owner Jeff Donlon, Brewer Production Manager/Brewer Fred Mattrey, and head brewer Matt Harrison) make tasty beer, including their Wystouti American Stout I enjoyed and reviewed earlier this week. I know I’ll be visiting the brewery again.

This was a fun campaign and the folks behind the Hunterdon County Beer Trail have promoted it quite well. They’ve mentioned a “second season” and future seasons, which I’m eagerly anticipating. The first “prize” for completing season one of the trail passport is the glass pictured above, I wonder what will be next. If it is a shirt, I’ll just make a small suggestion to the organizers: please make them in XXXL! I’ll be looking to finish the next season either way because there are a lot of new and different beers for me to try, right?

Hunterdon County Beer Trail

Draught Diversions: December 2021 Six Pack

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…

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The final Six Pack of 2021 is upon us. Well, I use “us” since it is actually incumbent upon me for sharing this six pack with my millions (insert Rock voice) and millions of readers. No IPA this month and fir the first time in a while, this six pack does not feature a beer from Icarus. What this six pack does feature: two Barleywines, a Porter, a Brown Ale, Belgian Quadrupel, and an Imperial Stout. Some familiar breweries, and a couple of breweries make a return appearance after a rather lengthy absence. I’ll likely be posting my favorite beers of the year later in the week

Without further adieu, here is the December 2021 Six Pack…

Parent Trap (Ashton Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Ashton keeps churning out good beers and this one surprised me the most. I’ve become very cautious/hesitant when it comes to beers with Peanut Butter/PB flavoring, it can often come across like bad/stale peanut butter. Not this one, a great blend of chocolate and peanut butter which makes for nice post-dinner beer. I understand now why cans of this beer sold out so quickly at the brewery.

Third Coast Ale (Bell’s Brewery) | Barleywine – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

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It’s been a while since Bell’s made an appearance here at the Tap Takeover, but I’ve been enjoying some of their core beers the last year or two. I hadn’t had their Barleywine prior to this, but that may change. I liked it quite a bit. It isn’t as hop forward, as say the iconic Bigfoot from Sierra Nevada, but the toffee element is more prominent. I’d love to try a barrel-aged version of this beer.

Outen the Light (Bonesaw Brewing Co) | Barleywine – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

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I’ve had a few beers from Bonesaw and enjoyed them so I figured I’d try this big Barleywine. This might be the booziest barleywine I’ve ever had. Hell, at 15.3%, it is one of the highest ABV beers I’ve had period. There’s a ton of barrel on the beer, almost too much for me, in fact. Almost. I enjoyed it, there’s a nice hit of sweet caramel as well as dried figgy/cherry/stone fruits. Even though it was only a 500ml bottle and I was drinking it rather slowly, I still felt a little woozy about halfway through finishing the beer. Again, 15.3%.

Tenth (Kane Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial/Double | 5 Bottle Caps on untappd

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I’ve had just over 50 beers from Kane. I’ve had over 150 Imperial Stouts (including “Coffee,” “Milk,” “Russian,” and “Oatmeal” varieties) and I’d guess at least half to two thirds of those were barrel aged. Tenth is both the best beer I’ve had from Kane and my favorite Barrel-Aged Stout I’ve ever had. This is an absolutely flawless beer.

Three Philosophers Double Chocolate (Brewery Ommegang) | Belgian Quadrupel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Brewery Ommegang has all but made their “Three Philosophers” Belgian Quadrupel-Kriek blend a brand with multiple variants over the years. I’ve had the original and thoroughly enjoyed it and now I’ve had this version of the beer. While it is indeed heavy on the chocolate (the “Double” in the name gives it away), for me, it wasn’t overpowering. I let the beer warm up a bit and the potent chocolate elements took a slight step-back to the main flavors of the beer.

Grandma Cookie (Lone Eagle Brewing) | Brown Ale – Belgian | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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When Lone Eagle makes a good beer, it turns out to be a great beer. This is the third time I’ve brought a growler of their beer to Christmas Eve and it was a hit as it was in past years. This beer is one of the better “new to me” Christmas themed beers I’ve had. Brewed with raisins, oatmeal, and cinnamon, the beer (as the name implies) evokes a delicious baked cookie you’d leave for Santa Claus. I had a feeling I’d like it, but I was surprised at just how much I did like it. I’ve had over 50 beers from Lone Eagle over the years and this one is one of their best, I hope they brew it again for the Christmas 2022 season or even can it, because I will be sure to grab some of it.

Good beers, indeed. Only one real dud this past month, Frosted Sugar Cookie from Southern Tier Brewing Company. I’ve enjoyed many of their beers over the years, but not this one. It tasted full of artificial sweetener.

Beer Review: Lone Eagle Brewing’s Jubileum V (Bourbon-Barrel Aged Eisbock)

Name: Jubileum V
Brewing Company: Lone Eagle Brewing
Location: Lone Eagle Brewing
Style: Bock – Eisbock (Traditional)
ABV: 8.5%

“Lone Eagle Brewing has crafted and exceptional beer for their Fifth Anniversary, Congratulations!”

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What Lone Eagle says about the beer:

A strong, malty German-style bock with rich character, full of caramel, toffee, and toasted biscuit notes with almonds, further aged in a bourbon barrel for a warming effect full of vanilla and oak notes.

I’ve mentioned Lone Eagle Brewing often here at the Tap Takeover, afterall, they are one of the closest breweries to my house and prior to the Pandemic I was going there fairly regularly for the monthly board game night. Since they hit their Five-Year Anniversary this past weekend (July 24, 2021), I figured I’d visit again. For their previous anniversaries, Lone Eagle has brewed a different barrel-aged beer they’ve called Jubileum, which is a Dutch word for “Celebration” or “Anniversary.” This year’s anniversary beer is a style I like a lot, but is fairly rare: Eisbock. As it turns out (and something that’s a theme of sorts), this is the 50th beer I’ve had from Lone Eagle, so that, combined with their anniversary and the quality of the beer, compelled me to review it.

LoneEagleFifthAnniversary

Back in my Bock Beer post, I summarized what an Eisbock is: “The “Eis” in the name is from partially freezing a dopple and extracting the H2O ice, which allows the alcohol to have a much more noticeable presence and a deeper brownish/reddish hue and an overall thicker beer. You could also say a Belgian Quadrupel is similar to an Eisbock, in some ways.” In other words, the water is distilled, so an Eisbock is a strange beast. What about the beer Lone Eagle brewed for their fifth anniversary?

The beer is a dark, deep brown with hints of amber in the right light. The aroma is largely from the bourbon barrels, but there might be some additional sweetness from the malt of the beer. I found the aroma fairly restrained for a barrel-aged beer. Often enough, the barrel character can overtake the entirety of the aroma, but here it was more of an enticement.

The first sip is outstanding and complex. I’ve only had a couple of Eisbocks before this one and liked them a lot and this has some of those characteristics. The bready, caramel elements are on full display. There might be hints of marzipan as well, but the bourbon barrel is quite assertive, too. Not too assertive, thankfully but rather complementary to the heavy malt characterof the beer. Too much barrel character would ruin the flavor of the beer.

I found this beer to be slightly reminiscent of Tröegs’ “Bourbon Barrel-Aged Troegenator,” one of my favorite beers of all time. This one might be a bit thinner on the body and slightly stronger impression from the barrel, but this is definitely a beer Lone Eagle should be proud to call their Fifth Anniversary Beer

One of the better Lone Eagle Beers I’ve had when all is said and done. Congratulations to Lone Eagle Brewing on 5 years!.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I’ll Be Bock (Level 12)

Once you’ve had just one, there’s no doubt you’ll be saying “I’ll be bock” for another.

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Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2020 Six Pack

This is the third annual Oktoberfest Six Pack (and fourth Oktoberfest feature overall), but clearly, Oktoberfest 2020 is unlike any we’ve experienced. For starters, the annual celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese’s marriage was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, much like the majority of social gatherings have been since March 2020. However, breweries are still churning out Festbiers and Märzens since the styles are a popular staple of many a brewery’s portfolio. Three years into “constructing” these six-packs and I’m still able to find new malty, amber lagers to highlight every year. I’m going more local this year than I have in the past, with a focus on four NJ breweries and 2 PA breweries. I’ve had three of these (one of them just this past week).

A note on the difference between Festbiers and Märzens. Festbiers are generally lower in alcohol and more “sessionable” in the 5% to 6% ABV range. Märzens are typically slightly higher in ABV starting at 6% ABV. The story goes that the beers served at Oktoberfest in Bavaria were dropped in ABV slightly to sell more beer without making the attendees too inebriated. Festbiers are a less malty, less intense and lighter in body compared to the Märzen. For me, whatever style a particular brewery calls the amber lager they sell as “Oktoberfest” or some variant of the name, is a highlight of the beer year for yours truly. Most of the beers you’d find in Germany during the festival would actually be Festbiers, while those with the “Oktoberfest” moniker are mostly the American-ized versions or what the German breweries market and sell in the U.S. as their fall, amber Lager.

On to the Six Pack!

Fest | Asbury Park Brewing Company | Asbury Park, NJ | 5.9% ABV

Image courtesy of Asbury Park Brewing’s Facebook

Asbury Park Brewery is one of a few in the Asbury Park area (Kane is a only about a mile away and Dark City is squarely in Asbury Park). I’ve only had one beer from Asbury Park Brewery, but I enjoyed it. Asbury Park is also home to a huge German Biergarten, so there’s some German in the air down there. APB is sporadically distributed through the State and based on how much I enjoyed their stout, I’d give this one a try.

What Asbury Park Brewery says about the beer:

A Märzen Lager brewed in the Oktoberfest tradition. Deep caramel in color with a complex malt body.

Festy | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | 5.5% ABV

Image courtesy of Carton Brewing’s Facebook

 

Carton’s Festy is hitting cans for the first time in 2020 largely due to the Pandemic. In past years, this beer was served at local beer festivals, but with social gatherings severely limited, Augie and his crew made a great decision to can and distribute the beer. I’m really hoping cans make it near me because Carton has such a strong Lager game. My impression of the beer is that it is flavorful with a spicy hop slap at the finish of the beer.

What Carton says about the beer:

Under the festival tents there are the Oktoberfest Marzens made “in honor of the fest” and the Festbiers made “for drinking at the fest”. As more and more quality Marzens show up at Autumn-fests around NJ, we decided that the drift off the beaten craft opportunity here was to make the “drinking beer of the fest” as traditionally as possible. A floor-malted German-pils malt bill picks up a Festbier touch of autumnal richness through the addition of light Munich and Victory. Then hop spiciness comes in the form of Tettnanger and Strisselspalt for both the kettle and late-hop additions. Drink Festy because these days a commitment to tradition is as far off the path’s trend as can be.

My Favorite Märzen / Märzen Style Lager | Lone Eagle Brewing | Flemington, NJ | 5% ABV

Image courtesy of Lone Eagle Brewing’s Facebook

Lone Eagle has been releasing an Oktoberfest annually since (I think) 2017, I’ve had it most years and enjoyed it, regardless of what they call it. I remember being very pleasantly surprised with the beer when I had it on draught at one of the Board Game nights back when those were still a thing. With their new brewer joining late last year, I don’t know if he tweaked the recipe at all, but they did slap a new label on the beer that evokes the traditional German bierhall.

What Lone Eagle says about the beer:

Märzen is a German style of beer traditionally brewed in March and lagered until Oktoberfest. This beer has a nice rich malt character with a slightly dry finish. It’s full flavored and easy to drink. Prost!

Lederskirten Oktoberfest | Manskirt Brewing Company | Hackettstown, NJ | 6% ABV

Image courtesy of Man Skirt Brewing’s Facebook

I had Manskirt’s take on the classic Oktoberfest when I first visited a few years ago. If I recall, I think it was the beer I enjoyed the most during that visit. Last year was the first year they canned it so I’m hoping I’ll be able to grab some cans this year to enjoy at home.

What Manskirt says about the beer:

Our take on a traditional German Marzen, or Oktoberfest lager. Lots of Munich and Pilsner malts make a solid backdrop for the German hops used here. A long, cold lagering process makes this beer clean and crisp.

Creekfestbier Lager | Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company | Croydon, PA | ABV 5.2%

Image courtesy of Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s Facebook

Neshaminy Creek is one of the closer PA breweries to me, I’ve visited a couple of times and I’ve enjoyed most of their output especially their beers with Germanic leanings. However, I haven’t sampled their annual Märzen yet. They’ve gone through something of a label rebranding over the last year or so and this beer is now available in 4-packs of 16oz cans. I think it was originally a 22oz bomber offering, but that particular beer vessel has all but gone the way of the dinosaur

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company says this about the beer:

Our seasonal traditional German-style Märzen Lager brewed with German Pilsner and Munich malts, and hopped with German Hallertau and Tettnanger hops. Fermented with a traditional Bavarian monastery Lager yeast.

Unter Dog | Yards Brewing Company | Philadelphia, PA | 5.6% ABV

Image courtesy of Yards Brewing Company’s Facebook

Yards, traditionally known as an Ale-house, introduced their first year-round lager to their lineup last year. With the success of that beer, it makes sense for them to finally put a Märzen into packaging and distribution. I think this is available in both cans and bottles, so hopefully I’ll be able to grab some in the next month or so because I did enjoy Loyal Lager.

What Yards says about the beer:

This Oktoberfest, we’re celebrating the city that never gives up with our new Märzen-style beer. Fetch a 6-pack today, sit back, and roll over with joy. Good boy!

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!)

Draught Diversions: February 2020 Six Pack

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…

Considering February is the shortest month of the year, even in a leap year like this year, I was able to sample a good amount of new beers. In fact, it was a very tough challenge to trim the new beers I had in February down to just six beers. We’re at the usual 50%-50% split with NJ and non-NJ beers this month around. One business trip provided me with the opportunity to try a few beers I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to in NJ, one of which makes this month’s six pack post. So, enough of the chit chat, here’s my February 2020 six pack.

Back for S’More (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Stout – Milk / Sweet | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone keeps impressing me with their output. Every new beer from them is excellent, regardless of style. They had a NJ Craft Beer Night on the first Thursday of the month, which I of course attended. During that night, Jersey Cyclone debuted this delicious Milk Stout brewed with Cinnamon and conditioned on Cacao Nibs and Vanilla. The cinnamon was utilized perfectly to balance some of the sweetness from the other elements. They canned this one, too. Well worth grabbing a four pack.

Bourbon Barrel-Aged Framinghammer (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Porter – Baltic | 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first “big” beer I’ve had from the great Lager brewery in Massachusetts. Yes, a Baltic porter is brewed using a cold/Lager process. I haven’t had the base non-barrel-aged beer, but this version is delectable. The bourbon is present, but not overpowering. Notes of vanilla and sweetness balance out the slightly high bitterness level associated with the style. A wonderful slow-sipper. Jack’s Abby brews several variants of this beer (S’Mores, Vanilla, Mole, etc) which I will most definitely be trying.

Flemington Fog (Lone Eagle Brewing) | IPA – New England | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

After missing a few sessions, I was able to get to Board Game night at Lone Eagle in February and I had one of their new beers, from their newish brewer and it is a dandy. Lone Eagle has brewed a few Hazy/New England IPAs (as has just about every brewery) but this one is the clear (pun half-intended) stand out in the crowd. This is a juicy beer with a pleasant bitterness on the finish. Just an overall good beer and I like the name as an homage to the city where the brewery is located.

Parabola (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Firestone Walker is, as I’ve noted here in the past, one of the leaders in barrel-aging and blending of beers. A beer many consider the apex of that program is Parabola, their big (13.6% ABV) Russian Imperial Stout. Like the BBA Framinghammer, the bourbon elements complement the flavors present in the beer, especially that aggressive hop finish strongly associated with Russian Imperial Stouts. This beer is simply outstanding.

Pliny the Elder (Russian River Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double | 5 bottle Caps on untappd

The very first Imperial IPA ever made and one of the best beers I’ve ever had. I was in San Francisco for business for a couple of days and I heard about this wonderful dive bar, the Toronado with 40 beers on tap, and Pliny a fixture. There was a great write-up by Jay Brooks recently for Flagship February which featured Pliny at the Toronado. Of course I had to go and have the beer, which lived up to the hype. An outstanding beer, never have hops tasted so wonderful. Quite simply, a perfect beer..

Good Morals (Conclave Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

I made my first visit to Conclave’s new facility and I was extremely impressed with the taproom. So much more space for customers, with tables and the typical old whisky/bourbon barrels. Very inviting, very spacious, and simply very nice. The beers have always been great, Carl (owner/brewer) uses hops from New Zealand so well and this Farmhouse ale has a couple of those, as well as that popular Norwegian Kviek yeast. At only 4.7% ABV, this beer is refreshing with a great amount of flavor. Just a great, great beer.

Honorable mention to a beer I haven’t had in about 4 or 5 years – Java Cask from Victory Brewing. This beer is the great Pennsylvania brewery’s take on the bourbon-barrel aged stout…not just a stout, a coffee stout. It is as good as I recall it being. To balance it out, I stopped in a few breweries in NJ at the end of the month and one really disappointed me – Magnify Brewing. Maybe I just caught some bad beers, or not the best they made (I had an English Mild, an IPA, and a Stout) but for the reputation they seem to have, I was expecting much, much more.

Draught Diversions: November 2019 Six Pack

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…

A larger variety of new beers crossed my palate in November 2019 than usual, with the typical mix of NJ and non-NJ beers. The annual birthday beer tour took us through a portion of the Bucks County Ale Trail, with a beer from that day featured here. That proved to be a lot of fun, with a wide range of beers with an extremely wide range of quality. Outside of that day, I thought I was done with barrel-aged beers after having some earlier in the year that didn’t work for me, too much barrel flavor, adjuncts not blending well. That was a blip on the radar because three barrel-aged stouts appear on this month’s six pack. Enough with all that …here…we…GO!

So Happens It’s Tuesday (The Bruery ) | Stout – American Imperial/Double | 5 bottle Caps on untappd

The Bruery makes big beers, potent in ABV, robust flavor, and physically big for the size of their bottles. This is one of their more popular and highly rated barrel aged stouts, and a beer I’ve been wanting to try for a few years. I haven’t seen bottles of it very often and it is a pricey beer, so I was very happy to see the beer on draught when my wife and I went to dinner with my parents for my birthday at a Paragon Tap & Table. I’ll just cut to the chase and say this is the best barrel-aged stout I’ve ever had.

Pike Rd. Pils (Moss Mill Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Other | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Continuing with the birthday theme…the first stop of the aforementioned Bucks County Ale Trail was Moss Mill Brewing. All three beers I had there were very good, but the one that started the day stood out – a clean crisp and fresh Pilsner. Did exactly what a Pilsner should do and set the mood for what turned out to be a great day. If Moss Mill was more local to me, I’d definitely be hitting them up more frequently based on the three beers I had. Speaking of “more local to me…”

Touchdown (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Lager – Munich Dunkel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been really enjoying dark lagers of late, one made a six pack appearance last month and I gave von Trapp’s great Dunkel the full review this past October. Jersey Cyclone started strong with their Lagers, so naturally I wanted to try their Munich Dunkel. While they did not brew an Oktoberfest this year, this Dark Lager is perfect for fall – full flavored, great finish, and overall just a fantastic beer. Jersey Cyclone recently doubled their taplist and they have this one on Nitro now.


Bourbon Barrel Aged Concrete Ship (Cape May Brewing Company)
| Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the second of three barrel-aged stouts to make the November list. Cape May’s stout, named for a WWI naval folly, has a boozier feel than the Bruery stout mentioned at the start of this post. That said, the beer is very good, full of flavor from the Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels it sat in for a while. I keep saying whenever a beer of theirs appears here, but Cape May continues to brew outstanding beers and is strong contender for my top NJ brewery of at least 2019.

Java Latte (Victory Brewing Company) | Stout – Coffee | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Victory has been having a great year in my mind, as several of my posts here would prove. Their latest “limited release” (aka not core/year round beer) is a toned down version of their outstanding barrel aged Java Cask Stout. Java Latte is lower in alcohol, has some milk sugar added and is a delicious stout. The coffee is present but not overpowering, the lactose adds enough sweetness, and the alcohol at 8.2% is not exactly low, but a perfect stout for cool nights. My only minor complaint is the body is a little thin, but the flavor is all there. I like Victory’s trend with these limited release beers being released in 16oz 4-packs, too.

Convocation (Lone Eagle Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd


Lone Eagle brought a new head brewer aboard a few months ago and when I last mentioned them here, he was still relatively new so only a few of his beers were ready for consumption at that time. The monthly board game meetup in November gave me the chance to try 2 of his beers and both were really good, with this barrel-aged stout being a standout. What set this one apart are the heavy notes of chocolate and how well those notes played with the bourbon from the barrels. At 10%, patrons were only permitted two pours of the beer, which is understandable. This is a great beer.

Although most of what I consumed in November was good to outstanding (I could have easily added at least four more beers to this list), one big dud stands out. Not just a beer, but an entire brewery – Mad Princes Brewery, which was part of the birthday beer tour of the Bucks County Ale Trail. I got a flight and could only finish one of the beers, the other beers were just untrue to style, had very “off” flavor profiles and were simply bad beers. I didn’t like it and the group (6 people) consensus was equally negative. The brewery itself was probably the most unwelcoming brewery I’ve ever visited out of the nearly 100 breweries I’ve visited over the years.

Draught Diversions: June 2019 Six Pack

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…

June brought some good beers to me, but what else is new? There’s an abundance of good beer to be had, the toughest part is figuring out which new beers to try. As for this month, it was a return to the usual mix of IPAs and other styles with half of the beers from NJ breweries. What can I say, I’m drinking from local breweries more and more as of late. I wouldn’t be surprised if two of the beers this month make an appearance in my Year End round-up/Favorite beers of 2019.

Weissbier (von Trapp Brewing Company) | Hefeweizen | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

von Trapp is one of the premier brewers of German-style beers. While most of their output is on the Lager side of the beer family, a brewery focusing on the German styles has to brew a Hefeweizen, that most German of ales. This is a pretty good interpretation of the style and worth a try.

Beer Geek Breakfast (Mikkeller Brewing San Diego) | Stout – American Imperial / Double | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I think this was the first beer I had from one of the Mikkeller Brewing companies (there’s a few around the world) and it is just about everything you’d want form an oatmeal stout. Following the now accepted rules of breakfast stouts, this one also has some coffee in the mix, making for a very pleasant bittersweet hit that balances well with the smooth oatmeal elements.

Maibock Hurts Like Helles (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Bock – Hell / Maibock / Lentenbock | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

A couple of reviews back I featured a tasty bock and I am very pleased I was able to snag this somewhat seasonal bock from Jack’s Abby because it might just be the best Maibock/Helles Bock I can recall having. There’s a beautiful caramel feel to the beer with a slight touch of hops that provides for that ever-overused phrase of balance but damn does this beer provide great balance.

More Cowbell Saison with Pear (Lone Eagle Brewing) | Saison / Farmhouse Ale | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

June was the first time in a few months I was able to make it to Lone Eagle for the Monthly Board Game night and I’m glad I did. Always a good time with the group of games. Lone Eagle recently hired a new brewer, Brad Adelson who has experience at two of my favorites, Founders and Victory. This Saison was one of his new beers featured that night. The Saison base beer is good, but I really liked what the addition of the pear to the show brought – a pleasant, sweet, rounded finish. I’m looking forward to trying more of Brad’s beers.

Follow the Gull (Cape May Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4 bottle Caps on untappd


Cape May Brewing Company consistently impresses me with every beer I have from them. Their IPA game is super strong and the style they are best known for producing. Follow the Gull was initially a one-off for Cape May County’s 325th anniversary but it proved so popular it is now in regular rotation. The Citra and Azacca hops shine most strongly in this one. Not quite a New England style IPA, but definitely more East Coast juiciness than West Coast piney-ness. Delicious.

Overhead (Kane Brewing Co.) | IPA – Imperial / Double | 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd


I’ve said quite a bit about Kane in some of these six pack posts but in all the years I’ve been enjoying NJ beer, I hadn’t had Overhead before this past Sunday. It, along with Head High are the two IPAs that helped but them on the map. This is probably the best Imperial IPA from a NJ brewery I’ve had and I think quite a few people agree. In all the best ways, it reminds me of Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute, but there’s something different enough in the hops used or maybe the malt that sets Overhead apart. It is simply put, an outstanding beer.

Like last month, there were a couple of clunkers, a couple not worth mentioning. However, one really bad beer was Sprecher’s take on a Scotch Ale, a style I normally like quite a bit. This one; however, is the epitome of a drain pour for me and one of the worst beers from a brewery of this size and longevity (founded in 1985) I ever head. There was a very unpleasant smokiness to the beer that was flat out gross.

Draught Diversions: NJ Brewery & Beer Check In

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…

Is the bubble bursting or is the NJ Craft Beer landscape simply maturing? Read on for my take on the subject…

That’s been a “hot topic” of discussion in beer circles, and NJ Beer circles specifically. The third NJ brewery over the last 12 months has closed its doors, in one definition of the phrase. More specifically, these are the first three breweries to open after the 2012 laws passed to have closed. Earlier in the year (April 2019), Rinn Duin brewing became Toms River Brewing. Demented Brewing in Middlesex closed at the end of April 2019 after about a month of very public drama on social media. This past week/early June 2019, Common Sense Brewing in Bordentown closed and is in the process of being purchased/taken over by Tindall Road Brewery out of Robbinsville. Tindall Road didn’t have a location but their website claims the brewery to be active “since 2017” which is probably when they established the name.

Three brewery changes in a few short months is worth noting. One is a blip, two is a little more thought provoking, but could three be a pattern? Or could it just be a coincidence. I’ll provide my perspective of these three brewery changes below.

Demented Brewing Publicly Implodes, Closes

Demented’s closure was the most visible closure in NJ Beer (Beer Advocate forum discussion), it was also one of the first to open and close since the 2012 law passed that enabled breweries to have taprooms and serve beer on premise.  Demented Brewing established themselves in 2015 in Middlesex, NJ where the closest brewery was Harvest Moon Brewpub in New Brunswick. In other words, an area without a nearby brewery. They made some good beer, with some beers that were well-above average (by my ratings, over a 4-bottle cap rating on untappd). Cypress Brewing in Edison, NJ opened around the same time and were the closest brewery, but not exactly convenient for folks looking to make a visit to both breweries. Put it this way, you’d have to get on a congested highway and drive over 10 miles to get between breweries, they weren’t close to each other like the three breweries in Hackettstown, some of the NJ Shore breweries, the breweries in Hammonton, or even the Mount Holly breweries. In short, Demented was largely successful because they were relatively uniquely located and produced better than average product. Kegs were in bars in Central New Jersey and cans and 22oz bottles could be found in bottle shops since they had a distribution deal. In other words, it seemed like they were growing naturally at a nice rate.

Personally, I liked Demented quite a bit and had a quite a few of their beers, visited Demented probably as much or more than any of the NJ breweries since they were a mile or two from where I worked, close to where a few friends live, and close to my brother-in-law’s house. My first review here on the Tap Takeover also happened to be of one of their beers. In participating a few NJ beer online circles (NJ Craft Beer, reddit/njbeer, and Beer Advocate’s “Mid-Atlantic” forums), the consensus about the beer seems to be that it was good enough that Demented could have had a relatively lengthy lifespan. NJ Food writer Pete Genovese anointed Demented the best brewery in NJ when he did his Best Brewery tour in NJ. While that selection was rather controversial, at the very least, the “win” gave Demented some attention.

Demented Brewing’s problems were financial in nature in that they had difficulty paying taxes and didn’t always pay their employees. No matter how good the product is, the government won’t let you continue if you don’t pay your taxes. The employees won’t want to keep working if they don’t get paid. Just watch Bar Rescue. Sadly, some good people were working at Demented. Demented also had two annual Bottle Clubs – one for sours, one for stouts – almost like a subscription. Many who paid up front will not see the beer they paid for and will likely not see that money again.  All told, a sad end to what was a pretty good thing.

Rinn Dúin becomes Toms River Brewing

I knew very little about Rinn Dúin brewing aside from knowing they opened in 2014 at the early stages of the NJ Craft Beer boon. This was just 2 years after the big 2012 law passed. Their focus was on English and Irish styles as the name Rinn Dúin might imply and the brewery even temporarily closed in mid-2018 at one point. Having started in 2014, their reach in the State didn’t quite expand the way some other breweries who started at the time did, or even to the extent that Demented did who started a year later. In other words, much of what I say here relative to Rinn Dúin is from a bit of a remove.

From what I was able to surmise from some online posts, it seems they went bankrupt, but made good beer, just not styles that were lighting the world on fire.

I don’t know how embedded in the local bar scene Rinn Dúin was, whether they were able to get the kegs into bars in Toms River and neighboring locals. I assume they were since they’d been in business for nearly 5 years before changing over to Toms River Brewing. They may have done some brewery-only or super-local bottle/can releases, but they didn’t seem to expand beyond Ocean County, NJ from what I was able to observe. Rinn Dúin did seem to have a nice partnership/business relationship with local minor league baseball team Lakewood Blue Claws, which is the kind of thing you’d hope to see between “small” businesses.

Scrolling through Rinn Dúin’s facebook page, it appears they were fairly active in the community, had yoga nights and musicians; many things a lot of successful breweries do. On the other hand,, not many people were talking about the brewery outside of an occasional mention in a thread like “Unspoken NJ Breweries” in the Beer Advocate discussion forums (and the updated/2019 thread). As recently as February (two months prior to the name change/takeover), this brewery was still making and pouring beer as Rinn Dúin, whichh is when I had their tasty cream ale Sweet Nothing at the Meadowlands Beer Expo.

I think the name change is good and gives the brewery more of a local flavor. There was a press release earlier in the year about the buyout that reads a bit on the corporate/business side with talk of a “vertical integration plan.” The original name, Rinn Dúin, while not bad might work in a more mature beer landscape or even a beer landscape from the early 90s. Much as I enjoy a Guinness and a good Irish Red Ale like Great Lakes’ Conway’s Irish Ale, Irish/English styles aren’t the most popular/sought after styles. I realize Rinn Dúin had a more diverse output than that. Again, my observations are from quite a distance and relatively superficial.

What I can say about the name change / re-branding / relaunch is from a similar remove, but the observations are positive. Toms River Brewing is already canning their beer with canning giant Iron Heart Canning. They’ve been relatively active on social media and it looks like there’s potential for this brewery. With Icarus Brewing in somewhat nearby Lakewood (14 miles away), visiting one of these breweries might compel people to visit both breweries.

Common Sense Brewery Closes, Purchased by Tindall Road Brewery

This is the most recent brewery closure and marks the third over the last four months. I do have some more knowledge of Commons Sense Brewing than Rinn Dúin, at least. I visited Common Sense in November 2018 as part of my birthday brewery tour. In fact, Common Sense was the last of six breweries our group visited that day. The brewery looks great from the outside, is extremely well-placed in downtown Bordentown, NJ (a very underrated downtown), and has a very nice and inviting taproom.

But then you get the beer.

I had a flight and what I had was subpar, at best. A very thin Porter that tasted on the edge of being skunked, a decent Pumpkin Ale (helped by the spice rimmed glass) and what, in hindsight, seems strange – two brown ales. Brown ales are fine, in general, but not a style that you’ll typically see more than once on a daily taplist from a brewery. One of the brown ales I had was OK, but the other was outright undrinkable. Easily the worst beers I had that day out of the six breweries, but to be fair, three of the other breweries are relatively established award-winning breweries (Spellbound, Neshaminy Creek, and Village Idiot) and one a well-respected “elder statesman” of NJ brewery (Forgotten Boardwalk) so the comparison may be a little unfair. On the other hand, bad beer is just bad beer no matter how you cut it.

Common Sense was open for less than two years. If some of the comments on social media from locals and people who claim to have relatively intimate knowledge of the brewery are to be believed, than it seems like there was almost a Bar Rescue situation going on with at the brewery. People giving beer away, monetary issues, and a lack of knowledge about making good beer and running a business.

I only learned about Tindall Road Brewery a day after I learned of Common Sense’s closure, so hopefully there’s a positive outcome for whatever this brewery ends up being called. Third State Brewing who celebrated their fourth anniversary this month (June 2019), less than 10 miles away in nearby Burlington, helps to make this area a soft destination for beer fans. Tindall Road has been posting some of the progress of their takeover on their facebook page.

Side note – interesting naming for the two closed breweries – Demented and Common Sense. Almost a harbinger of things to come.

All is Not Dire, Quite the Opposite!

Despite these three brewery closures, I would argue that the bubble is not bursting at all as some might argue. I would even suggest that the “bubble” metaphor isn’t appropriate at this point and rather landscape is appropriate. A landscape implies a longer life span while a bubble implies something not very long-lasting. Quite simply, the New Jersey Craft Beer landscape is maturing. While there have been small independent breweries and brewpubs in the state for twenty or more years like High Point/Ramstein, Cricket Hill, Harvest Moon Brewery (where I had my wedding rehearsal dinner) and so forth – the landscape was really reborn, or reseeded to continue with a landscaping metaphor, with the aforementioned 2012 law change.

What happens when things mature? Things fall off, things change, things evolve – people lose their baby teeth, caterpillars weave a cocoon around themselves and emerge as a butterfly. The independent/craft beer scene is doing just that, I’d posit. Breweries not strong enough to survive and going by the wayside could even be seen as a healthy feature of something that is maturing and evolving. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if, before the year ends, another brewery or two goes through a closure/buyout/takeover like the three I highlighted in this post did..

You could also call this a “Brewing Darwinism” of sorts – the strong breweries are surviving, breweries like Kane Brewing, Carton Brewing, Icarus Brewing, Cape May Brewery, River Horse, and Flying Fish of the NJ beer scene. Hell, Cape May split into two companies, a brewery and a distributor. What further shows the strength of the NJ Beer Landscape is how some of the breweries that have opened are from people with experience at breweries like Kane, JJ Bittings (one of the oldest brewpubs in NJ), and Flying Fish. Additionally, breweries like Lone Eagle (Flemington), Bonesaw Brewing (Glassboro), and Mudhen Brewing (Wildwood) are attracting brewers with experience at leading, respected breweries like Dogfish Head, Founders Brewing, Victory Brewing, Funky Buddha, and New England Brewing Company to brew beer in New Jersey, brewers who have received awards. With just over 100 breweries in New Jersey, that is still a relatively small number of breweries compared to the population of the State.

Just two weeks after Demented closed in Middlesex, Jersey Cyclone opened about a mile or two away in Franklin Township/Somerset, NJ. Having visited Jersey Cyclone three times since they opened on May 4, 2019, I can say that I’m pretty impressed with their output, but more about one of their beers later in the week.

It isn’t just Jersey Cyclone having recently opened. Breweries continue to open in New Jersey on an almost weekly basis. Equally as important to a maturing landscape is that existing/established breweries are expanding – Flounder Brewing in Hillsborough is moving to a barn (or group of barns) not far from the current location that will provide them far more space. Angry Erik in northwestern New Jersey just moved into a facility they built after about five years in an office park. Lone Eagle in Flemington is expanding, by constructing and another building for manufacturing on their lot. There’s been word for at least a year that Conclave Brewing in Raritan/Flemington increasing capacity. Perhaps the most exciting thing for many NJ beer fans, longtime mainstay Bolero Snort is in the middle of building their facility in Carlstadt, NJ after years of gypsy brewing.

So yeah, the New Jersey Beer landscape is maturing, evolving, and still growing and healthy DESPITE the most recent legislative roadblock thrown in front of the breweries. But that problematic legislature is another topic.

At this point in the NJ Beer/Brewery landscape’s maturation; however, breweries more than ever need to produce better than average beer, not just passable beer. They need to brew beer that makes people come back for more. This is, of course, in addition to being smart about owning a business. Because the NJ Beer Consumers palates are maturing alongside the brewery and beer landscape.

 

Draught Diversions: February 2019 Six Pack

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…

Like January, I tried a solid batch of new to me beers in February and some I’d been wanting to try for years. Three New Jersey beers, three non-NJ beers this month for a fairly balanced selection of styles. One of these beers happened to be perfectly timed for #FlagshipFebruary, a nice initiative meant to shift focus from Hot! Special! releases to those iconic beers that helped lay the foundation for the American Craft/Independent beer market.

Arabicadabra (Bell’s Brewery)  Stout – Milk / Sweet – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

The very first new beer of February makes the list, setting a good tone for the month. Since Bell’s hit NJ last year, I’ve been making my way through their portfolio and this was part of a mixed six pack my wife picked up for me. I guessed correctly that it was a stout when she presented it to me just in the glass. There’s a nice sweet hit to the coffee in this milk stout that hits all the right notes for a coffee milk stout.

Black Butte Porter (Deschutes Brewery Company) Porter – American – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

A dark restaurant at a table with 7 people is not conducive to good beer photography.

Visiting Vegas on a work trip makes for good possibilities, including the opportunity to finally try one of the flagship beers (timely enough for #FlagshipFebruary) from one of the largest independent/craft breweries of the American West. This is an excellent porter. Even though the beer was about a year old according to the date stamping, the flavor held up quite nicely. I’d really like to have this closer to the “best by” date for comparison sake and to try the beer in its best possible sitiuation. As it stands, I can taste why this porter is held in such high regard.

Bluffing Isn’t Weisse (Bad Beat Brewing) Hefeweizen 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’m always on the lookout for a good Hefeweizen so I was pleased to see one of the bars near the hotel carrying this beer. Maybe because of the glut of IPAs and darker beers I’ve been having, this Hefeweizen hit the spot really nicely as I was reminiscing with a former colleague. It was a clean, tasty beer that had a nice clove/banana profile. Plus, this was a local beer from Nevada.

Milk Chocolate Stout (Lone Eagle Brewing) Stout – Imperial Milk / Sweet – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Good ol’ Lone Eagle, one of the two closest breweries to my house. For the first time in a few months (travel and weather cancellations) I was able to attend Board Game night at Lone Eagle. I had this beer at the Great Beer Expo at the Meadowlands earlier in the month and liked it enough that I was hoping Lone Eagle would have some cans for sale at the brewery. Sure enough, the fridge had some relatively fresh four packs canned at the end of January. The beer has a really nice chocolate flavor, but doesn’t lose any of the traditional stout flavors. It represents nicely in both cans and draft.

Social Mosaic (Dark City Brewing Company) Sour – Berliner Weisse 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

This might be the most surprising beer of the month for me, for two main reasons. I’ve had a small handful of beers from Dark City and they’ve honestly been hit (their 1st anniversary brown ale is outstanding) or miss. Mosaic is a hop I usually don’t like. Part of another mixed six my wife got me, she poured a bit into the glass and I was thrown off. I smelled the hops foremost, but tasting the beer, the sour elements prevail. The mosaic and lactose mix really nicely in this beer for a extremely well balanced sour that doesn’t overpower form any of the elements in the beer.

Exit 9 – Hoppy Scarlet Ale (Flying Fish Brewing Company) Red Ale – Imperial / Double 4 bottle caps on untappd

Outside of a Flying Fish glass, what’s more appropriate than a Rutgers pint glass for this beer?

One of my favorite brewing projects in New Jersey is Flying Fish’s Exit Series of beers. There were 18 beers in total in this series, each signifying a NJ Turnpike Exit. This beer is for Exit 9, New Brunswick, NJ and home of my alma mater Rutgers University whose mascot is the Scarlet Knight. Red Ales typically aren’t in my sweet spot, but the blend of hops in this one makes for a very tasty beer. Centennial is one of the hops and it really stands out. The beer is a nice sweet maltiness to the beer and a tasty hop finish. This beer is like an amped up version Flying Fish’s year-round red ale Red Fish. However, Exit 9 should still be available in Flying Fish’s current Exit Variety Pack but probably not after that.