Draught Diversions: Man Skirt Brewing (Hackettstown, NJ)

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…

No pants, just great beer!

 

This week’s brewery focused post features Manskirt Brewing in Hackettstown, NJ, one of three fine breweries in the Northwestern town in New Jersey. This brewery was part of the 2017 Birthday Brewery Tour and the first one we visited in Hackettstown.  I’d heard/read good things about the brewery over the last couple of years and enjoyed the beers I had from them, so Man Skirt was fairly high on the list of breweries I wanted to visit.

Although Joe Fisher had the name “Manskirt” in 2008 when he was homebrewing, the doors opened in 2015 in what is an old bank (United Jersey and People’s Bank of New Jersey), which actually makes for a great gathering space. Joe launched a kickstarter to help open the brewery and in the two years since opening, they’ve built a nice reputation for tasty beer. Hackettstown has a pretty active Main Street and the former bank, which Manskirt calls home, is a prominent, hard-to-miss building along the strip. As a former bank, that would make sense (and cents to torture you all with a horrible pun).

But, converting an old bank to a production brewery took a significant amount of work. Joe kept the flavor of the bank since it is such an iconic building in Hackettstown having been in existence for nearly one-hundred years including the vault’s survival during a major fire in Downtown in the 1940s.

All that history is fine and dandy, but when it comes to a brewery, the most important element is the liquid. With a couple of core beers, including the fantastic Great Porter, Joe Fisher has something good going. I’d had that tasty porter prior to visiting the brewery (I think at Garden State Brewfest 2016), so I went for a few different beers in my flight. The first of those beers was another of Manskirt’s launch/flagship beers, Better than Pants, a tasty English Bitter. I haven’t had too many English Bitters so I can’t speak to how it represents the style, but I liked it very much and could think of far worse beers to have sitting in my refrigerator on a regular basis.

The bar top continues the “bank” theme with pennies under a glass top.

Rounding out the flight choices from the eight beers on tap was a tart Berliner Weisse dubbed Once, Twice, Weisse that hit the style notes well but could have maybe benefited from a fruit/sweet syrup addition. Since it was the beginning of November, their Oktoberfest was still on tap, which is nice representation of the classic German lager. Rounding out the flight was a very interesting and potent Saison, Cracked the Code. At 8.2% the ABV is a little higher than most Saisons. The addition of cracked peppercorns complement the yeast and other components quite nicely for a good early fall beer.

At the aforementioned Garden State Brewfest, I had two other beers from then brand new Manskirt: pleaTed wheaT a tasty hefeweizen brewed in collaboration with Linden, NJ’s Two Ton Brewing and Luftweizen Weizenbock. I think they still brew the pleaTed wheaT in the summer, I’m not too sure about the Weizenbock.

As I said, the brewery space is really good for gatherings, there’s ample room at the bar and some long tables setup allowing for quite a few people to enjoy their beer together. In fact, on the day I visited, I happened to run into a couple of friends from a past job who also part of the Brews and Board Games group that meets monthly at Lone Eagle Brewing. Truth be told, Brandon helped me to join the group at Lone Eagle. Man Skirt has plenty of events at their brewery, including a monthly trivia night and regular Yoga and Beer nights, which seems to be a thing many breweries are doing now.

From what I’ve gathered on social media (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), owner/brewer Joe Fisher is exactly the type of guy who should own a micro/craft/independent brewery in NJ. I’ve remarked previously how great the NJ Craft Beer community is, in terms of helping each other grow, looking out for the community as a whole, and the great collaborations. Joe seems to have as much passion for the community as he does for making his delicious beer. He’s brewed a couple of collaboration beers with other NJ Brewers and enthusiastically posts about beer from other NJ Breweries like Ramstein and Lone Eagle Brewing.

Man Skirt has been canning some of their beers, primarily two of the flagship beers (The Great Porter and Better than Pants) which are stored in the old bank vault. The brewery is well worth visiting as the staff are affable and welcoming and at least on the day I was there, the patrons were genial and friendly, giving the brewery a wonderful atmosphere. Of the five breweries we visited that day, I think I enjoyed the atmosphere at Man Skirt the most. I’d visit more regularly if it was just a bit closer and will probably head up to Hackettstown to check out what new brews Joe has on tap at some point in the future.

Sources and additional reading:

Best of NJ: Brew Jersey (August 2017)
I DRINK GOOD BEER blog (June 2016)
New Jersey Isn’t Boring (June 2016)
The Daily Record (October 2015)

Draught Diversions: November 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…

A great variety of beer passed across my palette in November 2017 due, in large part, to the North Jersey Brewery tour my wife took me on for my birthday in the middle of the month. I’ve already highlighted one of those breweries, Angry Erik, and I’ll briefly touch on the four other breweries later in the post as I may wind up doing a feature/full Draught Diversion on at least one of those breweries. That, combined with visiting a couple of my very local breweries and some other assorted beers throughout the month really shine the focus on New Jersey breweries for November. Since the last day of November was on a Thursday (when Draught Diversions normally posts), I figured I’d hold the post for an extra day to squeeze in that one last new beer.

Proper Glassware x2, snifters with the iconic Brooklyn brand

The first new beer I had in November was from craft beer stalwart Harpoon, specifically the new fall offering from their popular UFO Hefeweizen line, Cranbeery. I’ve enjoyed most of the UFO beers a great deal but this one didn’t quite do it for me, it was more tart and sour than I expect from a Hefeweizen. Next up and a couple of days later was an outstanding beer I shared with my father. Well, I gave him the bottle for his birthday in September, but we shared it for my birthday: Brooklyn Black Ops, a delicious Russian Imperial Stout which comes in at 11.6% ABV and tasted better as it settled into the glass. The bourbon barrel aging came through nicely in both the aroma and taste.

Sadly, I broke this glass after only using it twice.

The season of stouts continued with Sierra Nevada’s annual Imperial Stout release, Narwhal. I’ve had this in year’s past so was looking forward to having the beer and was not disappointed. Like most stouts, this got better as it warmed. For whatever reason, this was a tough beer to find in my area of New Jersey, with the closest liquor store to me listing it on beermenus about 25 miles away. Fortunately, the store is close to my parents so my dad picked up a six pack for me. Sierra’s been changing some of their labels, over the past year or so including this one. While the new label is nice, I loved the previous label. Keeping with the annual release theme, Founders released Backwoods Bastard and like last year’s vintage, this year’s vintage was outstanding. As I’ve said, I think I like this one more than I like KBS.

Hop Ritual w/ Vic Secret

As I’ve been doing with more regularity, I stopped into my local brewery, Conclave in November since they released a couple of new beers, both of which were very good. The first was a fall porter, Transcendent Leaf Peeping. The other new beer was a variation on their Hop Ritual Pale Ale. This one is called Hop Ritual with Vic Secret, so named for the strain of New Zealand hops used in the beer. I wasn’t expecting to be as blown away by this beer as I was, but it was so delicious I had to bring home at least a half-growler for myself.

Next was the big Birthday Brewery Tour, courtesy of my wife. Last year was a handful of Jersey Shore breweries, this year was North Jersey breweries. We started out at the venerable brewers of high-quality German style beers, Ramstein / High Point Brewing. As it so happened, that day was when Ramstein was releasing their famous Winter Wheat beer. I had the equivalent of a pint since my wife gave me her free samples. What a phenomenal beer, an absolutely outstanding dopplebock that has rightly earned a reputation that draws people from far and wide to fill their growlers with this delicious beer. The other new-to-me beer I had at Ramstein was the outstanding Imperial Pilsner. I just wish Ramstein’s distribution reached a little more into Somerset County because this is one of the beers they bottle and I’d have this in my house regularly.

The second brewery was Angry Erik, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, with the final leg of the journey being the triumvirate of breweries in Hackettstown, NJ. The first of those was Man Skirt Brewing, the highlight (and surprise beer there) was Better than Pants, a tasty excellent English Bitter that earned me the “You’re Extra Special” badge on untappd. All five beers I had were good. From there, we walked around the block to Czig Meister Brewery which was insanely packed, in part, because a portion of the brewery was cordoned off for a party. The standout here was Habonde a barrel-aged barely wine. I may have to pick up a bottle since Czig is now distributing cans and bottles throughout New Jersey. The last of the Hackettstown Trio was Jersey Girl Brewing. The beers in the flight were extremely consistent in quality with their King Gambrinus Belgian Tripel standing out to me the most. I’ll most likely be dedicating an entire Draught Diversions post to some (maybe all) of these breweries where I’ll give some more details on each beer I had.

A deep, dark, roust Imperial Stout from Lone Eagle

At the monthly Brews and Board Games at Lone Eagle, I tried their Imperial Breakfast Stout, a malty stout aged on coffee beans then aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels with some blood orange puree added on the finish. All the characteristics of an excellent stout along with hints of an Old Fashioned thanks to the Bourbon and Orange. The other beer I had was a juicy Pale Ale they call Local Pale Ale.

Possibly the best beer in Flying Fish’s Exit Series – Exit 17

Tröegs Mad Elf is a seasonal favorite and the 2017 batch might be the best yet. Then came Thanksgiving weekend. The first beer is one I’ve been holding onto for a couple of weeks, a beer I was fortunate enough to snag because only 750 were bottled, the final beer (for now?) in Flying Fish’s Exit SeriesExit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout, which might be the best beer of the month for me. This is probably the best beer in the Exit series, too. Not content with brewing a Russian Imperial Stout, Flying Fish aged this one in Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey bottles. Although I’ve come to love beers aged in bourbon barrels, allowing this beer to sit in Rye Whiskey bottles helps to set it apart from its barrel-aged brethren. Flying Fish’s description says this is a “one of a kind” beer and I’d be hard-pressed to dispute the claim. I also had the new version of Southern Tier’s Warlock, which they changed from previous years and unfortunately, not for the better. They dropped the ABV from 10% to 8.6% and the whole flavor is different, it doesn’t taste too much different than Pumking, which isn’t bad, just not what I was hoping to have. The last beer on Thanksgiving is the beer I reviewed earlier in the week, Stone’s Xocoveza Imperial Milk Stout.

The last Saturday of the month of new brews  were enjoyed at Revolutions a fine Craft Brew bar Morristown, NJ. I met up with a friend who lives in Morristown. We’d visited the bar before and were impressed with the beer list and menu, with its heavy focus on German brats. That night I had two very good beers: Malus from Kane Brewing, in Ocean. This is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but the flavor is sweetened by the addition of apple cider. The beer went down very easily for a 9.5% ABV. The other brew I had was one of the best Pilsners I’ve ever had, which was unsurprisingly, from a German Brewery. The beer is Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle from Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The crispness, freshness and underlying roastiness makes this, in my humble opinion, a world-class Pilsner.

Lastly, the final new beer of November 2017 was last night’s Moo Thunder Milk Stout from Butternuts brewery, which was a little thin and flat for a Milk Stout. I’d seen this on the shelf in area liquor stores for a few years now, it is hard to miss or forget with the big fat cow on the can. Unfortunately, that label is the most appealing element of the beer for me.

I’d have to say the two best beers of the month for me were Exit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout from Flying Fish and the Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle.