Draught Diversions: February 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…

Here I am with my monthly six pack, the beers (outside of the feature reviews), I enjoyed the most the previous month. For the first time in probably well over a year or two, this six pack does not include at least half of the beers from NJ breweries. Granted, much of what I enjoyed this month came from NJ breweries as I still had plenty from my Carton trip on New Year’s Day and I made a big Icarus Brewing purchase. Still, a pretty good selection of beers, at least I think.

Let’s crack open the cans and bottles, shall we?

Bristlecone Brown Ale (Uinta Brewing Company) | Brown Ale – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Brown Ales are one of the more overlooked styles, but like any style, when crafted well, can be just as enjoyable and flavorful as any style. Uinta’s take on the style ticks off all of those boxes in a nice way. A solid every-day beer.

Barrel & Bean (Allagash Brewing Company) | Belgian Tripel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I enjoy Tripels. I enjoy Barrel Aged beers. I enjoy beers brewed with Coffee. I don’t know that I would ever think to have one beer with those three elements, but here we are with Allagash’s Barrel & Bean. Most barrel-aged Tripels I’ve enjoyed have been aged in some kind of wine barrel, but the bourbon elements and coffee work well here. Frankly, Allagash can really do no wrong, so the quality of this beer wasn’t really too much of a surprise to me.

DDH Power Juice (Azacca) (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus makes their usual monthly appearance on the Six Pack. Like many breweries, Icarus crafts variants of popular IPAs, this is a variant on their Power Juicer New England IPA featuring Azacca hops. This one is very juicy with citrus elements and an overall great beer, but the original base Power Juicer works just a little better for me. Still, this beer is worth seeking out.

Blackbird (Tonewood Brewing Company) | Schwarzbier | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

The lagers coming out of Tonewood Brewing are some of the best in NJ, and Blackbird is no exception. This is a Schwarzbier, a very traditional style, dating back to the 1300s! Blackbird is a Dark German Lager with fantastic roasted and sweet elements that are similar to a porter. At 4%ABV, this beer won’t knock you out but is very flavorful. I found that I enjoyed the second can I had the night after the first can even more, maybe because I had a better idea of what to expect from the beer. As lagers have continued to gain popularity/momentum in craft brewing, I’ve been seeing more Schwarzbiers pop up, which is a very good thing.

Grand Cacao (Tröegs Independent Brewing) | Stout – Milk / Sweet | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

When the brothers behind Pennsylvania’s Tröegs Independent Brewing release a new year round beer, it is worthy of note. When the beer is as good as Grand Cacao is, it is even more noteworthy. This beer is an outstanding Milk Stout with heavy chocolate overtones making for a nearly perfect dessert beer. This is similar to the Chocolate Stout released in the Most Wonderful Beer of the Year variety pack in 2018, but maybe amped up more. This beer may have begun as one of Tröegs’s Scratch beers, but I’m very happy this is now a year-round offering. Grand Cacao has immediately become a top Milk Stout for me.

Morning Shakeout (Timber Ales in collaboration with Marlowe Artisanal Ales) | Stout – Coffee | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Timber Ales has been contract brewing small batches, I reviewed one their beers (Cosm of Darkness) a few months back and wanted to try another beer from them. To say I was pleased with this beer is an understatement… this is in the top tier of Coffee Stouts I’ve ever had, especially of the non-barrel-aged variety. What makes this beer so damned good is the simplicity – nothing fancy, just one adjunct in the form of the coffee, but it is outstanding. Even moreso as the beer warmed a little bit and the flavors had a chance to breathe. Worth seeking out.

No real clunkers like last month, but also not quite as many new to me beers this month either.

Beer Review: Maine Beer Company’s a tiny beautiful something

Name: a tiny beautiful something
Brewing Company: Maine Beer Company
Location: Freeport, Maine
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 5.5%

Subtle flavors make for a delicious clean, American Pale Ale.

From Main Beer Company’s page for the beer:

Our single hop pale ale brewed to highlight the flavors and aromas of El Dorado hops.

FLAVOR PROFILE: ORANGE MARMALADE AND APRICOT WITH FLORAL PERFUME NOTES, SPICY AND EARTHY

Maine Beer Company is one of the more respected New England breweries despite having a relatively small portfolio of about only 20 beers (as listed on untappd). The majority of what they brew are pale ales and IPAs, the styles they make are close to perfect interpretations of the styles, from the few I’ve had and from the reputation they’ve gained since they opened in 2009. All of their beer comes in 500ml bottles, which is convenient and something that sets them apart from a branding perspective. a tiny beautiful something is one of their Pale Ales, maybe the style that comprises the majority of their portfolio.

The bottle opens and pouring the beer into the glass produces a bright orange-yellow beer with a nice fluffy head. The hop aroma wafting into my nose is quite pleasant and combined with the look, makes for a very welcoming beer.

First sip is extremely refreshing and is gives off the “will always hit the spot” kind of beer. After a few more sips of the beer the hop presence emerges.  a tiny beautiful something is exclusively hopped with El Dorado hops. I don’t know that I’ve explored the El Dorado hop as much as some other hops, it is more often than not one of the hops in a hop blend rather than the “feature” hop of the beers I’ve had and enjoyed. It is a fairly new hop, having been released in 2010, but because of the hops’ tropical elements, El Dorado has gained a great deal of popularity with the emergence and growing popularity of Hazy/Juice IPAs and Pale Ales. Based on El Dorado being the only hop in this beer, I’m a fan.

The descriptor above from the brewery is spot on. I found the beer to have a subtle, yet pleasant and noticeable citrus/orange presence, which isn’t uncommon for most hops. There’s also a hint of spice on the finish and some other fruity elements. I don’t know that I can pinpoint it as apricot like the brewery describes, but the flavor is very tasty. The evocation of the fruit elements persists in a very positive way, it made me want to keep drinking to get more of that flavor.

Of the 125+ different Pale Ales I’ve had, a tiny beautiful something might have the cleanest finish of any of those Pale Ales. What I mean by that is there’s no real negative after taste, the beer ends on a very pleasant note.

a tiny beautiful something is s superb Pale Ale. I’ve had three other beers from Maine Beer Company and they’ve all been excellent. This all just makes me want to explore more of their beer.

Recommended, link to 4.25-bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Draught Diversions: December 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…

The month of December began with another bottle share, but even outside of that great day, I was able to enjoy quite a few very good beers. Some Christmas/Winter-adjacent, stouts, and the usual mix of NJ, regional, and nationally available beers. .

Kalishnikov (Icarus Brewing Company) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Shockingly, a beer from Icarus Brewing appears on this list. Kalishnikov is one of their annual favorites and I know why, a delicious, super-boozy (14% ABV!) Stout that doesn’t feel like it has that much alcohol in it. Russian Imperials can be very bitter on the finish, but the addition of honey in the brewing process gives the beer a nice hit of sweetness on the finish. I’ve had one of the barrel-aged variants, but I think I prefer the base stout more. .

Christmas Ale (Brouwerij St. Bernardus) | Winter Ale | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been trying to sample at least one of the more popular and widely available Belgian Christmas beers every year and this year I landed on bottle sporting the happy monk. This beer turned out to be a really nice ale. The classic from St. Bernardus is basically a Quadrupel (10%ABV), but with more fruit character (some cherry notes, maybe?) than their standard Quadrupel. This is definitely a slow sipper and a beer you should let warm a little bit to room temperature to fully enjoy the aroma and full flavor of the beer.

Winter Cru (Flying Fish Brewing Company) | Belgian Strong Golden Ale | 3.75 / 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Over the last year, Flying Fish continued to evolve, brew new beers, and tweak their classic beers. Winter Cru is a reboot of their Winter seasonal (Grand Cru Winter Reserve) with a great label and tweaked recipe. The original wasn’t one I cared for too much, so this change in recipe is very much welcome and the beer is more full-flavored My tagline: “A Belgian style ale w/hints of cinnamon and nutmeg will settle you in for a comforting Christmas and Winter Holiday.”

Willettized Coffe Stout (Lagunitas Brewing Company) | Stout – Coffee | 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

This is an annual release Lagunitas that is often highly-sought after. That’s because it is a delicious, very balanced barrel-aged stout. The barrels are Willett Rye and what an excellent blend of flavors – coffee, roasted malt, rye whiskey. This is quite simply a fantastic barrel-aged stout.

Psycho Simcoe (Three 3’s Brewing Company) | IPA – New England | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

I wasn’t able to snap a photo of my beer in the very crowded bar, so here’s the can art, courtesy of Three 3’s Facebook

You never know what you’ll find in a dive bar and there’s a pretty great dive bar in my town – The Royal Bar. They have a pretty standard selection of beers, but every time I’ve gone to the Royal, I’ve always found at least one gem. This most recent visit the gem would be Psycho Simcoe, a fantastic IPA from the South Jersey brewery. This is a wonderful blend of dank and juicy hops (Simcoe, obviously, but also Mandarina Bavaria for the juiciness) that make for a delicious beer – juiciness at the start with a nice dank finish.

Haunted House (Allagash Brewing Company) | Belgian Strong Dark Ale | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I say this every time I mention beers from Allagash, but I need to get more of their beers because this one a, “Halloween seasonal” is excellent. There’s a wonderful start to the beer with flavorful roast, then it moves to a fantastic blend of hops and then finishes with a sweet hint of coffee. Allagash brews primarily Belgian styles and there really isn’t a stout in the catalogue of Belgian styles, so this one is considered the closest to it a “Belgian Strong Dark Ale.” .Whatever you call it, the beer is really, really tasty.

My work pals and I had a Christmas “Gathering of the Fellowship of the Beer” in the beginning of December, which was fun as it is everytime we get together to share new beers with each other. The standout at that gathering was a bottle of Samuel Adams Utopias (which takes center stage below in the photo of the beers we shared), which one of our friends generously shared. The bottle was from 2017 and was unlike any other beer I’ve had. The only slight negative is that it smelled like slightly of nail polish, but the flavor … heavenly.

The Treehouse and Hill Farmstead bottles contained some delicious homebrews (a wonderful milk stout and tasty New England IPA) from our friend Brad

Beer Review: Mast Landing’s Gunner’s Daughter

Name: Gunner’s Daughter
Brewing Company: Mast Landing Brewing Company
Location: Westbrook, ME
Style: Stout – Milk / Sweet | Peanut Butter Milk Stout
ABV: 5.5%

An impressive beer that is immensely flavorful yet sessionable at the same time. An upper echelon Milk Stout.

From Mast Landing’s Beer List:

Our beautifully aromatic and balanced milk stout with delicious notes of peanut butter, coffee, and dark chocolate.

Stout Day is one of those “holidays” to arise in recent years as the internet has looked to celebrate everything. Well, for many beer drinkers, it is just another excuse to have a beer, in this case a stout. For me, I try to have a different stout every first Thursday in November (a.k.a. Stout Day), like this fantastic Milk Stout from Maine’s Mast Landing.

This beer is Mast Landing’s most popular beer and something of a flagship beer and once I tasted it, I could completely understand why the beer is their top beer on untappd and Beer Advocate.

As one would expect, the beer pours out of the 16oz can very dark. It has a perfect khaki, heavily creamed coffee head. This looks like a perfect stout to me. What is unexpected is the aroma. There’s a roasted peanut / peanut butter aroma that encourages that first sip. I asked my wife, who does not like beer, to give it a whiff and she remarked that it smelled less like beer than she would have expected.

The aroma is about 60% of what makes up the taste for a person and that is very true with this beer. It has the main malt/sweet flavors a Milk Stout typically shows, but then hints of peanut butter/roasted peanut show up to the flavor party. Rounding the full profile of the beer are more subtle hints of chocolate. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this beer tastes like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but more importantly, the beer evokes that flavor. In my humble opinion, that flavor evocation is a more subtle and nuanced approach to crafting a beer and the skill of the people creating the beer. That nuanced craft skill are on full display in Gunner’s Daughter.

I don’t know if the fine folks at Mast Landing added peanut butter, coffee, and chocolate to the beer for those flavors or if the complex flavors arose from the nuanced blend of malts. I’ve had a decent share of beers with peanut butter used in the brewing process or even peanut butter powder, some of those beers range from an overpowering unpleasant peanut butter bomb to artificial, powdery false flavor. Gunner’s Daughter is nowhere on that unpleasant spectrum, the beer is delicious worth a slow sip of enjoyment. Despite the sessionable, low ABV of 5.5% this beer is exploding with delicious flavors.

I also really like the can label/art on this beer. Gold and black play off of each other really nicely and are even similar to the colors of the beer itself.

Gunner’s Daughter is one of the best Milk Stouts I’ve ever had and will likely land a slot on my “favorite new-to-me” beers of 2019.

Highly recommended, link to 4.5 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Stout Day 2019

This day is all about the Stout. First brewed in the 1700’s, this style of beer brings us bold and malty flavors, and is well worth the celebration! Thanks for raising a pint of your favorite stout on International Stout Day!

 

Beer Review: Allagash Brewing’s Pick Your Own

Name: Pick Your Own
Brewing Company: Allagash Brewing Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: American Wild Ale (Beer Advocate’s description American Wild Ale is at the end of the review)
ABV: 6%

“A complex, flavorful fruit forward beer that is artfully delicious.”

From Allagash’spage for the beer:

Pick Your Own begins as a sour red ale that’s aged in an oak foudre with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus for two years. After adding fresh, local raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries, we age it for an additional three months. The finished beer is a vibrant, ruby red with an aroma of ripe berries and vanilla. As you might expect, berries fill the flavor. Pick Your Own finishes dry with notes of bread crust and a lingering, tart juiciness.

Allagash has done more to push the Belgian art/science of brewing in America than just about any brewery that doesn’t rhyme with dome-nang. But seriously, from their White, Triple, and Saison, to their more “high-end” barrel-aged beers, Allagash is synonymous with quality and Belgian-inspired brewing, which brings me to Pick Your Own, one of their many wood-aged, funky beers I’ve been intending to try for a while.

The first, most noticeable element of the beer is the color. It is a red bordering on purple, or a blue with hints of red, or a deep red edging over into purple. No matter what you call the color, a beer this color is pretty damned intriguing to me. The second, and more overpowering element is the aroma. This beer has a funky aroma to it. As I’ve come to appreciate sour beers over the past couple of years, this aroma, with hints of berry underlying the funk, is very, very appealing. (An anecdotal point – I did *not* like Victory’s Sour Monkey when I first had it a few years ago. I revisited it last year and enjoyed it quite a bit.)

Back to Pick Your Own

The nose leads the taste and I get some funkiness initially that is immediately overtaken by the abundant berry flavors from blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. For me, the raspberry and blueberry stand out initially with a wallop of sweet tartness – just a lovely blend of those fruits. I don’t get much strawberry in the fruit flavors, but I’m guessing the strawberry brings it all together since the natural sweetness of the strawberry probably balances out the tartness of both the blueberries and raspberries. I get maybe a hint of cherries on the finish because there’s a welcome smoothing/rounding of the beer on the backend that is absolutely divine.

I don’t know if I get much “bread-crust” on the finish (per the description above), but it is a fantastic smoothness that might be the vanilla hinted at in the description. While the complex beer has such a movement of flavors – all delicious – there’s something about that finish I found my palate chasing each time I drank from my glass. A finish I enjoyed, but was gone too quickly. Stouts are typically thought to taste better as they warm, but the last few sips of this beer were sitting in my glass for a while and were closer to room temperature and the complex flavors came more alive at that point.

Pick Your Own is a delightful beer – one of the most complex beers I’ve had in a while. Readers of this blog know I love a straight-forward pilsner and how deceptively complex a great pilsner can be. There’s nothing deceptive about a beer like Pick Your Own – it is aged for two years in a foudre (barrel), it has multiple potent fruits added, it has beneficial/good bacteria working magic for two years in that foudre before those fruits are added. And you know what? You can taste all of those elements in a progression as it seeps into your palate. In short, it is a wonderful beer to experience.

I know sour beers can be an acquired taste or even a turn-off to some. Hell, I’m living proof. But this is a beer that proves just how complex a consumable liquid classified as beer can be, how so many flavors can amalgamate into a singular goblet of deliciousness. Pick Your Own is a wonderful beer to enjoy as the night winds down, a fantastic summer desert beer. Flat out, it is a sublime and wonderful beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.50-bottle cap rating.

An American Wild Ale, is something like an Americanized version of the Belgian Lambic. According to Beer Advocate: Sometimes Belgian influenced, American Wild Ales are beers that are introduced to “wild” yeast or bacteria, such as Brettanomyces (Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus or Brettanomyces Anomolus), Pediococcus, or Lactobacillus. This introduction may occur from oak barrels that have been previously inoculated, pitching into the beer, or gained from various “sour mash” techniques. Regardless of the method, these yeast and/or bacteria leave a mark that should be noticeable to strong, and often contribute a sour and/or funky, wild note. Mixed-fermentation examples will display a range of aromatics, rather than a single dominant character.

 

Beer Review: Peak Organic Happy Hour Pilsner

Name: Happy Hour
Brewing Company: Peak Organic Brewing Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: Pilsner – German
ABV: 4.7%

#ProperGlassware

From the Peak Organic’s Landing Page for the beer:

Happy Hour is a masterfully designed pilsner. Built to be crisp, clean and crushable. This beer is easygoing and pairs well with everything, including another beer! With this new pilsner, it’s always Happy Hour.

Over the last year or so, I’ve come to  appreciate the elegance of a well-crafted Pilsner. The style has drawn some bad rap because of mass-produced tasteless light/Lite beers. If you hear from brewers or some folks deeply entrenched in the beer community; however, great Pilsners are held in very high regard.

Peak Organic is based out of Maine and they don’t yet distribute into NJ. I had a couple of their beers (including a fantastic Pilsner) at the Philadelphia Bacon and Beer Festival last year, so when I saw a can of their beer in Wegman’s for a Mixed Six Pack, I knew I had to grab it.

I am glad I did. On the other hand, I’m a little frustrated, because (as I just said) Peak isn’t yet distributed into NJ.

Out of the can, the beer pours a bright golden yellow. If I’m going to be honest, then the aroma doesn’t stand out too much. I mean, it smells like a beer should smell and that just makes me want to drink it.

This is one of the lighter Pilsners I’ve had, but that doesn’t detract from the taste at all. If anything, this beer is full of flavor and wonderfully refreshing. Like the best Pilsners, the malt and hop blend nicely to give the beer a really consistent taste. The first sip is a pop of flavor that, when cold, is extremely refreshing. As the can says, this is a crushable beer, one you can throw back to refresh your thirst with a really straightforward taste with superb, clean finish. This is a beer you’re going to want to finish while cold.

If you want to think of it one way, Happy Hour from Peak Organic is almost an entry-level craft beer. Folks who are usually wary of craft beer because they associate “craft beer” with hopped up IPAs or boozy stouts should give this one a try. Especially given the name, this is a beer that is one you’d bring to a party to share with anybody and everybody. Full of enough taste to please craft beer drinkers, and approachable enough not to deter non-craft drinkers, Peak Organic’s Happy Hour is a winner regardless of how you cut it. As the old adage goes, this beer does exactly what it says on the can!

Peak Organic, as the name implies, uses organic ingredients in the beer and based on Happy Hour and the tastings I had of their other two beers, that freshness really shows. I just hope these fine folks are able to fully distribute into New Jersey.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.