Draught Diversions: September 2017 Beer Pours

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…

In rolls September, what should be a month of slightly cooler weather and darker beers. But what we get is still warm weather, but the beer always flows. I started off the month by hitting up two breweries very close to me, Demented Brewing and Conclave Brewing on the first two days of the month, respectively.

At Demented, I picked up a growler of their Hefeweizen (Rumplestiltskin) and tried their New England IPA, Gallows Hill, which was delicious; Baccara, their second anniversary Imperial Stout, which has wonderful chocolate and cherry flavor additions; and a new Hefeweizen, The First Born which didn’t quite work for me. The next day, I headed to Conclave, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

L->R : Gallows HIll, Baccara, Rumplestiltskin, and The First Born

With Oktoberfest beginning in the middle of the month, Oktoberfest beers began appearing back in August. Every year I try to have at least a couple I haven’t had in the past. One of those was the Sierra Nevada / Miltenberger collaboration, which was excellent. I also really enjoyed Two Roads Ok2berfest, which I brought to a friend’s NFL Kick-off party. That same friend visited Ommegang and brought me back a bottle of Rosetta, a sour-ish Lambic that might be the best Cherry beer I’ve ever head.

 

I already mentioned what is probably my favorite Fall Beer of the year, The Bruery’s ® Autumn Maple. I enjoyed it so much I may need to try the darker take on the beer, Midnight Maple. That same weekend, I slowly enjoyed the indulgent, decadent Wrath from Demented Brewing. This is a delicious Russian Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. Some Russian Imperials can be too bitter for my taste buds, but as I say briefly on untappd, letting this one sit in Bourbon Barrels really helped soften that bitterness.

I’ve mentioned Weihenstephaner several times here as a favorite brewery, so when they brew something new, I’m going to want to try the beer. Their new Kristalweizenbock is delicious, interesting beer. Very clear, like a filtered Hefeweizen, but sweet, smooth, and malty like a bock. I tried my second Von Trapp beer at a tasting, the Vermont brewery’s take on the classic German style, Helles Lager. Even though the beer was warm, it still tasted quite good. I may have to get a full six pack of this one at some point in the future.

After missing it in August, I stopped at Lone Eagle for the September Brews and Board Games night. In the past, I’ve only had one or two, but I figured I’d go for a flight. First off was a beer I mentioned wanting to try in my Oktoberfest post, My Favorite Marzen, which was an excellent, malty, caramelly beer. I liked it so much I had a pint once I finished the flight. Rounding out the flight was the Pumpkin Amber Ale, a subtle Pumpkin Ale; Lone Eagle’s anniversary brew, Saison Jubileum, a Saison “aged in wine barrels and fermented on peaches” which made for a tasty sweet n’ sour beer; and finally, Black Out IPA, a roasty, yet bitter Black IPA.

Lone Eagle Flight L->R: My Favorite Marzen, Pumpkin Amber Ale, Saison Jubileum, and Black Out IPA

During the last full weekend in September, we all went up to Mountain Creek for their annual Oktoberfest celebration. The mountain feel gave a decent vibe, but that was completely negated by the near 90-degree temperature. Unfortunately, prices just about doubled since last year, according to the brother-in-law so the beer and food didn’t flow as copiously as it did in past years when he attended. Be that as it may, there were still some good brews to enjoy. One of which was a solid German Oktoberfest from Dinkelacker. The last beer I had there was from the venerable NJ Brewery Ramstein, their newest beer, INK, their take on the Schwarzbeir / Black Lager. This is a roasty, tasty dark brew with hints of coffee. I think this is something I’d like to have again without the beer warming so much from the hot weather.

Dinkelacker Oktoberfestbier

I’ve avoided mentioning of unenjoyable beers in these monthly posts, but I figured to show some balance, I’ll rattle off a few that were not-so-good over the last month. Abita’s gose, To-Gose was very bland, the Louisiana brewery has been hit or miss for me over the years. Bear Republic’s Big Bear Black Stout, was a stout I couldn’t even finish, not smooth enough and too bitter for a standard stout. Luckily I only had one bottle of each from a choose-your-own sixpack. My wife, brother-in-law, his girlfriend, and I (the same crew that went to the Mountain Creek Oktoberfest) went to a great Taco Festival in the middle of the month. They had a very slim offering of brews (despite the advertising leading people to believe there would be a wider selection) which consisted of Bud Light, Coors Light, and two from Lagunitas. I tried was 12th of Never Ale from Lagunitas, an undrinkable pale ale which I didn’t even finish. I’m coming to learn I don’t like much from this brewery. The last “unenjoyable” was a relatively new beer from New Belgium, Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin, which is a pumpkin ale with cinnamon and habanero chili peppers. For all the flavoring elements, I found it to be pretty bland, with a slight kick. I think it may also have been flat.

Best new brews of the month (not reviewed on their owne) are probably Ommegang’s Rosetta and Wehenstephaner’s Kristalweizenbock.

In October, I expect I’ll likely try a few new Pumpkin beers, some new stouts and offerings from local breweries.

Draught Diversions: July 2017 Beer Pours

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…

I had quite a few different beers during the month of July, to say the least. Some of those I highlighted in great detail in my weekly single beer reviews, a few more were featured in my last two Draught Diversions focusing on Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp 2017 Variety Pack (Stateside, Overseas)

July began just as June ended, with selections from the aforementioned Beer Camp variety pack, both of which were excellent, especially the Thai-Style Iced Tea. Outside of that variety pack, the beers of July began with a 22oz bomb from one of NJ’s “gypsy” breweries, Bolero Snort Brewery. I’ve had a few of their beers, most have been good, including the one I had early in July – Strawbully Fields a Saison style Farmhouse ale with a nice hint of Strawberry. I had it on a warm Sunday evening and it hit the spot really nicely after dinner.

Then came July 4th/Independence Day. As I mentioned in my post about Summer beers, my wife and I have been hosting my family’s annual 4th of July BBQ/Pool party for the past few years and there’s always a lot of beer to be had. Even though I bought plenty of beers in my coolers (River Horse Summer Blonde, Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer, and Yuengling Summer Wheat), friends/family always bring beer. Boy did they bring beer. Somebody brought a Leinenkugel Variety pack and the biggest surprise for me out of that pack was Canoe Paddler, their take on the Kölsch, which hit the spot perfectly for the hour or so while I was grilling.

Double cup for insulation

A good friend and fellow craft beer enthusiast (who occasionally brews his own beer) brought a few beers, including Carton Brewing’s fantastic summer brew Beach, which is reminiscent of their flagship beer Boat but with a nice addition of orange zest that sweetens up the beer. This also helped me at the grill. You know, drinking beer while grilling is good for you because the beer helps to combat the carcinogens in the smoke from the grill. Every time I have a Carton beer, I’m reminded that I need to head down to the brewery.

This same friend, Scott, recently returned from a trip up to New England and was kind enough to bring back some great New England beers to share. A few of us split the famous Heady Topper from The Alchemist, an Imperial/Double IPA that was wonderful. With a whopping IBU of 100, the bitterness of the hops was balanced so well with a strong malt presence which made the beer a welcoming taste to this typically non-IPA drinker. The same can be said for the other two Vermont beers Scott brought,  the Sip of Sunshine and Second Fiddle from Fiddlehead Brewery the few of us shared.

Another highlight from early July was a classic Belgian Pale Ale, Palm, which for a pale ale has a nice and low IBU of 18, which made for a perfect dinner beer. I can see myself returning to this beer in the future, especially since it seems to always be on draught at a local, popular eatery.

One of the other variety packs leftover from the big Fourth of July bash was the Samuel Adams Summer Variety Pack. This year’s summer variety included (of course) their popular Summer Ale, a Helles Lager they are now calling Golden Hour, a tasty Hefeweizen (the best of the pack and a solid interpretation of the style), A Pale Wheat Ale with Yuzu fruit, Tropic of Yuzu which was very bland, a Berliner Weisse which I haven’t yet had and the beer nobody ever wants in the variety pack, their Boston Lager. Golden Hour was somewhat bland, but that Hefeweizen was pretty good.

I stopped over at Lone Eagle Brewing for the July monthly Brews and Board Games meet up. I was hoping to have their wonderful Hefeweizen again, but that was all tapped out so I tried their Witbier which was excellent and perfect for the warm day it was. I followed that up with their Nitro Oatmeal Stout. I’d had the non-nitro version of the Stout and it was delicious. While the Nitro version was good, but I think I prefer the standard version.

That perfect looking pint is Lone Eagle’s Nitro Oatmeal Stout

Sunday Nights when I watch Game of Thrones, I have a ritual. I like to try a new beer, usually a “big” beer, something with a higher ABV or a beer that only comes in larger bottles (like Neshaminy Creek’s Mudbank Milk Stout). I wanted to try another mead, so I saw B. Nektar’s Zombie Killer on the shelf which appealed to me for the ingredients and the name. Technically this one is considered a “Cyser” according to untappd, which is essentially a blend of Mead (A.K.A. honey wine) and cider. This particular version was sweetened with cherries, which made for a pleasant Sunday evening drink. This one, coupled with the wonderful Exit 3 Blueberry Braggot from Flying Fish I had in the middle of the month, makes me want to try more meads. There’s a meadery here in NJ – Melovino Meadery so I don’t have too much of an excuse not to try more.

Couldn’t quite hide the logo of that other beer on the glass. That would be Sully flopped out in the background

The beer that probably surprised me the most, was Schöfferhofer Grapefruit. Well, second most since the East Coast IPA from the Beer Camp pack surprised me the most and was probably the “new to me beer” I enjoyed the most in July. As I have said, even in my most recent beer review, grapefruit and I just don’t get along. But, this beer was another leftover from the 4th of July so I figured, it was in the fridge, I’ll give it a try. I’m glad I did because this popular German Radler / Shandy was extremely thirst quenching and it seemed only the sweetness of the grapefruit came through in the beer with very little of the bitterness. Between this and the 3 Citrus Peel Out I reviewed a couple of days ago, I may have to re-examine my thoughts on grapefruit and beer.

So, there you have it, a plethora of “new to me” beers in July, which are edging me closer to 1,000 unique beer check-ins on untappd. There were definitely a few beers I’ll be consuming again, and a couple I hope will become more widely available.

Ein Prosit!

Draught Diversions: Lone Eagle Brewing Company

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 or the third person referencing…

Last Thursday, June 15, I spent a couple of hours at Lone Eagle Brewing in Flemington, NJ. Located in the Liberty Village Outlets, Lone Eagle has been open about a year and after starting with eight beers, they now feature a dozen taps. Their head brewer Alex Franko, formerly of Dogfish Head, joined the brewery shortly before launch and he has helped owners Todd and Bob brew some tasty beers and the brewery become a welcoming presence in the community and area.

I visited Lone Eagle a couple of times over the past year for a flight and for a couple of growler fills. During those visits, I was very pleased with what they were brewing, particularly the Oatmeal Stout which impressed my family when I brought a growler to Christmas Eve. I also liked the Cranberry Saison and as well as their Dopplebock which was a nice surprise as not too many breweries, let alone smaller breweries, are brewing Dopplebocks. I know I said that about Jughandle a couple of weeks ago, but of the small craft breweries I go to fairly regularly, I don’t recall seeing a Dopplebock on tap outside of here at Lone Eagle or at Jughandle. In addition to their rotating 12 beers on tap, Lone Eagle sometimes puts one of their beers on Nitro. In the case of my most recent visit, it was their Baltic Porter.  The nitro addition cushioned the bitterness usually associated with Baltic Porters and made for a really pleasant beer.

Tap list @ Lone Eagle on 06-15-16. A nice mix of styles highlighted by the DILLIGAF Hefeweizen, in my opinion, as well as the Award Winning West Coast IPA.

Lone Eagle is currently canning four beers, their West Coast IPA (which won best IPA in April 2017’s Atlantic City Beer Fest), their Turkey Trot Porter (named in honor of the 20+ year old Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Flemington), their American Pale Ale, and their Craison, a saison with cranberries. More on the Turkey Trot Porter in a bit.

The beer that impressed me the most; however, was their Hefeweizen, which also goes by the name of Dillagaf Hefeweizen so named for one of the regular customers. I’ve been wanting to try this beer for a while since it was one of the “launch beers” and finally did on Thursday. Other times I visited, they didn’t have any of the beer tap ready as the previous visits were during cooler months.

As I’ve said in the past, wheat based beers – especially Hefeweizens – are at the top of my list of favorite styles and this one did not disappoint. In fact, I was surprised with how great it tasted. I would compare Lone Eagle’s Hefeweizing very favorably with some of the better German Hefeweizens. I would even say Lone Eagle’s was better than some of the German Hefeweizens I’ve had. With how well Hefeweizens pair with warm weather, I’d love to see this beer as the brewery’s next canned release for convenience in a poolside cooler, for easy transport to summer BBQs, or just to stock up and have a can always on the ready.

Just what a Hefeweizen should look like

With regard to the facility itself, Lone Eagle has a nice first floor bar and seating area, with an even larger seating area on a second floor. They rent it out and have a second tap upstairs, too. For my most recent visit, I was going for the monthly Brews and Board Games meeting, this was the group’s third such meeting and my first. I know a couple of people in the group, one a former coworker who I recently discovered is a craft beer geek like me, and another friend I knew from the online Science Fiction Community/twitterverse.

Exterior of Lone Eagle @ 44 Stangl Rd in Flemington, NJ. The photo doesn’t do justice the building footprint and spacious interior

One of the games was actually beer based, Brewcrafters Travel Card Game, and is slightly reminiscent of the game Munchkin. The point of the game is to get 21 points by brewing beer based on the cards you draw. I enjoyed it so much I’m going to have to get this game for myself . There were a lot of games, a lot of people engaged in those games and it seemed like everyone was having a great time. Considering most were enjoying some delicious beer, this should be no surprise. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to the next gathering of the Brews and Board Games group on July 20.

One of the great things about craft beer and these smaller breweries is the sense of community they inspire or at which they are are often the center. Demented in Middlesex has a great taproom and will often have food trucks in the parking lot. Lone Eagle has this sense of community at its heart, too. The brewery was founded by two friends and home brewers from neighboring Raritan Township. Lone Eagle hold regular events that bring people in the community together with local restaurants or food trucks selling food, local musicians and bands playing music for patrons to enjoy, or folks looking to play some interesting games while sharing some beer.

That sense of community was strong even before the brewery had a name. In November 2015 Owners Todd Becker and Bob King, asked people to submit names for the brewery. After some back and forth to ensure a winning name wasn’t already taken by an existing brewery, Lone Eagle became the name in honor of Charles Lindbergh as it was the nickname he received after successfully completing a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. Lindbergh spent a great deal of time in Flemington during the Trial of the Century, which at its center was the kidnapping and murder of Lindbergh’s son.  Flemington is also where an annual Thanksgiving 5K race is held, the 2017 version of the Turkey Trot will be the 25th Annual race. My wife and I have run in it for the past 7 or 8 years. The race is the name Lone Eagle uses for their tasty porter, Turkey Trot Porter. I said earlier I’d come back to that beer and so I did.

Lone Eagle is coming up on their one year anniversary so Todd and Bob are having a two-day celebration. I’m hoping I can make it to one of those days, but I know for sure I’ll be returning to the Brews and Board Games meet up and stopping in for a flight or growler fill in the future. (And hopefully for some canned Hefeweizen!)