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.