Freshies – 5.0% ABV – American Pale Ale – A soft and crushable Pale Ale brewed with Wheat and hopped with Simcoe, Amarillo, and Cascade hops.
Tonewood Brewing opened up in 2015 and has been brewing well-received beer since then. Located in Oaklyn, NJ, they aren’t exactly close to me, so I was very pleased to see a few of their beers at one of the three liquor stores at a major intersection on my commute home. Keeping to my recent trend of mostly lower ABV beers towards which I’ve been gravitating, I grabbed a six pack of Freshies with its relatively low 5% ABV.
Cracking open the can and pouring the beer into the glass, a pleasant hop aroma wafts to my nose. The beer is golden yellow and with the hints of citrus in the air, Freshies is very inviting to the senses. It is almost cloudy/hazey along the lines of the Northeast/New England style of Pale Ales, but not quite. The nose doesn’t lie with this beer, big hop presence, almost as much as an IPA. More of a pleasantly aggressive hop presence than some of the IPAs I’ve had, in fact. Lots of hops on the first taste and all the way through.
The hops used in this beer – Simcoe, Amarillo, and Cascade – are some of the most popular hops used in Pale Ales and IPAs. For example, Cascade is used in arguably the most important American Pale Ale – Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. Tonewood’s take on the style is less malty than Sierra’s flagship ale, but that’s not a knock on the quality at all. The blend of hops gives the beer its own identity. That blend, coupled with the ample wheat used in the beer, gives the beer a softer feel and with the relatively low ABV of 5%, makes for a flavorful beer that falls into the currently overused term of “crusher” category. In other words, great flavor along with a not-bludgeoning-you ABV.
Freshies is a delicious beer that is a fine addition to the style of American Pale Ale. Perhaps the best way I can describe this beer is as follows: between the color, level of haze, and hop profile, Freshies perfectly straddles the line between a “traditional” American Pale Ale and the juicy Northeast/New England Pale Ale. It compares pretty favorably to some of the other pale ales I’ve enjoyed recently and mentioned here on the Tap Takeover including Kane’s Sneak Box and Industrial Arts’s Tools of the Trade. While it may not be as widely known as those two breweries and beers, Tonewood’s Freshies, for my drinking dollars, is no less a beer.
“Coastal Evacuation:” a phrase common at the Jersey Shore. Hurricane season hits hard, and we’re hitting back with a Double IPA with copious amounts of centennial hops, able to withstand the storm. It’s time to evacuate – are you prepared?
Cape May Brewing has been brewing and selling beer since the brewer officially opened 2011. Cape May Brewing is (I think) the second largest craft brewery in New Jersey (Flying Fish being the largest) and offers the largest varieties of beers in New Jersey in its tasting room. Their beers are highly respected in the State of New Jersey, some sought after, and some have won awards – Topsail, (a barrel-aged sour) was named best beer of 2017 by Beer Connoisseur Magazine.
I had their Honey Porter last year, which was pretty good and I’d been eager to try more of their portfolio especially as I’ve come to appreciate hoppier beers/IPAs and the majority of what they brews lean heavily towards the IPA side of the shelf. One of their flagship / most well-received brews is Coastal Evacuation. Unfortunately, Cape May Brewing doesn’t distribute up to Somerset County, but fortunately, my dad and I recently did a bottle share and one Coastal Evacuation was one of the beers I received.
The first thing I noticed when pouring the beer was the color. It wasn’t as bright or golden as I expected from a Double IPA and the bubbles floating in the beer looked almost like particulates. I was a little nervous, but I shouldn’t have been.
My first impression/first sip of the beer was an assertive yet pleasing hop presence. Knowing the beer is a double IPA (80 IBU) set my expectations for a big hop bit and I got it, but I wasn’t bludgeoned with the hop bitterness. The second prominent flavor component is the citrus profile imparted by the generous centennial hops in the beer. The two flavor components blend quite nicely for a beer with a great taste.
Coastal Evacuation is a very drinkable IPA, the hop/sweet/citrus flavor profile is remarkably well-balanced given the alcohol level and the high IBU. In other words, this beer is a fine example of a Double IPA and I can definitely understand why so many people enjoy the beer.
Overall, this was an enjoyable beer that went down with the complex hop/citrus flavors one should expect from a Double IPA. Coastal Evacuation is another beer helping to put the Garden State on the Craft Beer map of America.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Series – Exit 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.
Juicy and hoppy. An American IPA double dry hopped with large amounts of Galaxy, Motueka, and Azacca hops. Not bitter with notes of fresh crushed citrus.
Here we are back to New Jersey for a delicious beer from the fine brewers at Conclave. Not only that, an IPA? What? We thought you don’t like IPAs that much, Rob? Yet here is the second beer review of an IPA and you’ve yet to review one of your favorite styles like Porters or some other styles you enjoy more. Well, two things. First, Porters are more of a fall/cool weather beer for me and we are just in our first year here at the Tap Takeover. Second, the fact that I’m “reviewing” a second IPA should be an indication of just how wonderful this beer is.
The first, most noticeable characteristic of the beer is the thick, hazy, orange color. It pours almost like pulpy orange juice, the same consistency and thickness, but without the pulp. The aroma is a refreshing blend of citrus and hops, a nice balance that is very inviting.
The first taste gives you the hops, but not in a bludgeoning overpowering way that many IPAs deliver. The citrus/juice-bomb finish of that first sip encourages you to drink more. It is such an elegantly crafted beer that one pint can go too fast. Although the taste expands a little bit as it warms to room temperature, for me, this one tastes better colder.
The blend of the three hops in the beer, the Motueka in particular, is what lends the citrusy tropical fruit flavor to this beer. I think this is the second time Conclave has brewed this beer and if I recall correctly from briefly chatting with owner Carl when I had my growler filled on Friday, the Motueka hops aren’t the easiest to acquire, nor are the Galaxy hops, both of which lend a citrusy/tropical fruit flavor profile. A brief Google search points to New Zealand as the source for the Motueka hops and Australia for the Galaxy hops, so that challenge makes sense. The more common Azacca hops in the beer to blend extremely well with the Motueka and Galaxy hops, enhancing that juice-bomb aspect to the beer.
OK, that was a little bit of a science, geography, and business lesson, back to the beer.
I briefly mentioned Gravitational Pull in my August round up and my feature on Conclave, so again, the repeated mentions of this beer should only point to what a standout beer this is. The first time I had it was in a bar, so as soon as I saw a new batch was ready for growler fills at the brewery, I had to go. I was also hoping there would be some cans of it, but not just yet.
The first pour from the mini growler on Friday night was fantastic, so fresh and juicy. I wanted to save the remaining pint of the 32 oz. growler for the next night and it stayed just as juicy and delicious the following day. I don’t know that I’d want to get a full 64 oz. growler for myself over the course of multiple days because I just don’t know how long it would stay fresh. I’ve had growlers of stouts over the course of a few days and around day 3 or 4 the freshness and taste start to fade. For an IPA like this one, I think freshness is the key.
Right now on untappd Gravitational Pull is categorized as an “American IPA” though I suspect this might change to New England IPA since this beer seems to have all the characteristics I’ve read that are associated with NEIPAs. Irregardless, Gravitational Pull is a great, great beer and one that is helping to establish Conclave Brewing as one of the premier (out of 70~) NJ Breweries.
Iced black coffee has become sort of a staple during our morning brews. We figured, why not make a beer that tastes just like one? Perfect for desert, or a quick pick-me-up in the morning!
A 4.6% light bodied Stout conditioned on a custom cold brew roast coffee from our friends Fieldstone Coffee Roasters in Milford, NJ.
A stout? In Summer? A stout as a summer-time seasonal beer? Crazy, I know. But listen, I drink coffee every day and in the summer, like many people (and possibly a major reason Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks make so much money) I prefer Iced Coffee to the piping hot Joe in the morning. Same reason I typically won’t have soup on a hot summer day. Our friends at Flounder hit upon that idea with this beer and it was even better than I expected.
Flounder Brewing has been around for a few years now. I recall one of their beers winning the Fan Favorite beer at one of the first Brewfests I attended. I have to be up front, this brewery is the next town over from me, on the way from work (if I go one of the half dozen ways home) and I know one of the brewers from our day job together. On the other hand, I was enjoying their beers before I started working at the company where we both work so if anything, any partial “bias” here comes from the proximity and Garden State roots of the brewery but mostly from the quality of the beer they create. I will likely go into more detail about the great things Flounder has done and the accolades they’ve received in a future Draught Diversions post.
So, what about their Iced Coffee Stout?
Although I’ve said Hefeweizen is my favorite style, I’d be lying if I said Stouts weren’t a close second or even tied for that top spot. Since joining untappd in February 2014, I’ve had over 150 different stouts compared to the 50 or so different Hefeweizens. Then again, there is a far wider variety of stouts and many more flavor enhancements that can be added to stouts or variations on the style than a Hefeweizen. For example, brewing a stout to evoke the same flavor profile as one would get from Iced Coffee.
Sometimes coffee stouts can carry over the bitterness of coffee, which doesn’t always make for either a pleasing overall flavor profile, or may impart an aftertaste that could offset the initial taste of the beer. I didn’t find that to be the case with Flounder’s take on what has become a staple of the stout variety. I’ll notch that up to the beans and what seems to be more sweetness. At least when I have iced coffee, I tend to have it with more sugar than hot coffee. Whatever secrets the brewers at Flounder have put into this recipe, it works very well.
Stout, as a style, is one that sometimes tastes better as the beer warms to room temperature. This one, as the Iced Coffee name implies, doesn’t benefit quite as much as do the higher ABV barrel-aged stouts. This beer, you want fresh from the tap or just as it is poured from the growler you had in your fridge. Speaking of the ABV, this one is nice and low at 4.6% making for a nice sessionable beer, one where a couple in an hour wouldn’t unsettle you too much. Again, if you have more than that, make sure you aren’t driving anywhere and so forth.
Flounder has played with beer expectations and given craft beer drinkers lucky enough to live near the brewery the chance to enjoy a summertime stout, something that is outside of conventional beer brewing and drinking.
Flounder hasn’t yet bottled or canned their beer for store availability, so you’ll either have to go to a bar where their beer is on tap or stop in the brewery located in Hillsborough and fill up your growler. I filled up a growler on a Friday in May and it didn’t last the weekend. They tapped another keg this past weekend and the beer is just fantastic.
Exit 3 is the gateway to a lot of farmland, so we’re using one the state’s favorite crops– blueberries. Braggot is an ancient style– written about since the 12th century. This Braggot features local blueberries and honey, a very limited amount of hops and is fermented with Belgian-style yeast. The result is a straw colored beer with blueberry highlights. On the first sip you will note a light sweetness along with citrus notes followed by a well rounded malt character. The beer has a medium full body.
Flying Fish is one of New Jersey’s first breweries, founded in 1995. As a flagship NJ Craft brewery, they started something very much in the vernacular of New Jersey, the Exit Series. Many NJ people, upon first meeting each other, may ask, “What Exit are you from?” referencing either the NJ Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway. At least when I attended Rutgers (The State University of New Jersey) this was a frequent question. Admittedly, the question can wear thin. The Exit series from Flying Fish references the NJ Turnpike.
Enough about the series as a whole, let’s focus on this special brew.
One of the first things that to know before drinking this brew is that it is not exactly a beer. People expecting a “sweet” or “fruity” beer might be a little disappointed. As the description above implies, this brew is more of a mead and the 15% ABV is a good first indication that this is a mead or honey wine and not an ordinary beer.
A thick golden liquid pours out of the glass, not nearly as thick as the honey which is so prominent in the brew, but the character is definitely similar. The brew is very sweet, the honey prominent. The blueberries are subtle, I would have liked their presence to be a little more noticeable throughout than the hints at their presence. But that’s just a minor complaint because Exit 3 is a tasty brew.
I haven’t had too many meads, although I usually get either a cup of mead or a blend of mead and beer at the NY Renaissance Festival on my annual visit. This brew from Flying Fish is one of the more unique adult beverages I’ve had as it really blends qualities that both mead and beer possess. The maltiness is slight and barely noticeable, but it is there. The 15% ABV catches up towards the end.
My father gave me one of his 12oz bottles with the warning that I should have this with as clear a palate as possible. I heeded his advice and waited until well after dinner to pour this one and boy howdy was I pleased. This is a fantastic sipping brew that is perfect for after-dinner and one you should sip over the course of an hour or so. I’m going to have to pick up a four pack of this for myself in the near future.
Exit 3 was originally released in bomber size at about 25 ounces and in very limited quantities. I missed out during that first go round, so it was nice to see Flying Fish re-release this brew in 12oz bottles in 4-packs because it is a very, very tasty brew.
Exit 3 Blueberry Braggot is an exceptional, tasty brew that is definitely off the beaten path of what you’ll find on shelves in your liquor store or at your favorite beer bar. The “Braggot” greatly highlights the brewing ingenuity of one of NJ’s most respected and long-standing breweries. With Hammonton, NJ as the “Blueberry Capital of the World,” this brew does a fine job of playing to that moniker.
Neapolitan Russian Imperial Stout Aged in Cognac Barrels with Walnuts and Maraschino cherries
The first stride along this path was enough Super Galena in the middle of the boil leading a strawberry hop tone in vanilla and chocolate malt notes creating a Russian Imperial Stout with a different gait. The move to “let’s throw some Neapolitan ice cream in there and see what happens” isn’t a giant leap. Going from a big bold stout with chocolate vanilla and strawberry freeze dried ice cream to “brandied walnuts and a cherry on top right?” is actually a small step. Sundae is Cosmonaut put down in cognac barrels with maraschino cherries and walnuts for a year. Drink Sundae because this one’s for you, Mr. Gorsky.
Carton Brewing has been at the forefront of NJ Craft Brewing since they’ve been brewing and selling beer in 2011 for many reasons. Carton’s range of experimental styles (adding prickly pear cactus to one beer or white truffles to another, for two examples) are akin to an artisanal chef. The wonderful taste of their beers drive people keep seeking out those beers and making the trip to the Atlantic Highlands to get cans of their beer. They brew one of the most sought-after limited-release beers in the region, Regular Coffee. Long story short, they are doing things smart, artistically, and with a passion and chances are I’ll be writing about more about Carton here in the future.
One of their regularly brewed beers is Cosmonaut, a Russian Imperial Stout and Sundae is a variation on that beer. I haven’t tried Cosmonaut so I can’t compare this variation to the original. Pouring Sundae from the can, what I initially took to be a black beer was actually a deep burgundy/crimson. You know, that dark tone of red that can be indistinguishable from black until the light hits it the right way and then all you see is that deep red. The aroma is a sweet rich smell that lingers nicely before drinking the beer.
From that initial pour and inhale, I kept thinking, “What a surprise this beer is.” It looks like a stout, has some of the dark rich flavor profiles of a stout, but feels a slight bit thinner than most stouts I’ve had. The combination of these characteristics makes Sundae one of the more unique beers I’ve ever consumed.
I was concerned about the addition of walnuts. I don’t mind nuts of any kind on their own so much, but I am not a fan of when they are added to brownies or ice cream. I shouldn’t have worried, the presence of the walnuts is subtle and really complemented by the beer being aged in the cognac barrels with the cherries.
Russian Imperial Stouts tend to have more of a bitter aftertaste and are sometimes slightly higher in hop presence than most stouts. Again, the cognac and cherry presence buried that bitterness and the aftertaste of the beer is more akin to a sweet aftertaste than bitter aftertaste, which makes this a perfect dessert beer, as if the name of the beer didn’t already imply that. What was also impressive is how well-hidden the relatively high ABV of 10% is. Perhaps because I sipped the beer over the course of an hour it didn’t hit me as much as I expected it would have.
What this beer reminded me of most was when you are at the end of your ice cream sundae or bowl of ice cream. You’ve got your favorite toppings, the ice cream is melted enough that when you swirl all the ingredients together you’ve got what amounts to ice cream soup. That was always the most fun part of ice cream to me and that’s what this beer evokes – sweet, tasty fun.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and basically non-review posts here at the Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…
This is the first of what will be several posts featuring a single brewery I’ve visited. There are currently 73 production breweries in NJ and with state’s small size from a geographical perspective, it is quite easy to find a brewery either intentionally (by visiting the great and indispensable NJ Craft Beer website) or by accident. In my case, there are 4 or 5 micro/nanobreweries/brewpubs within about 15 miles of my house as of this writing. (More are on the way in some phase of start-up.)
Which brings me to Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls, NJ, soon to be celebrating their first year of brewing and selling beer. They have a great location, just off of the Garden State Parkway (Exit 102) and barely a mile from the Jersey Shore Outlets, which makes it very convenient to stop there after a day of shopping at the outlets or on the way home from the beach. In my case, my wife and I decided to enjoy the lovely weather and try to get some things at the outlets. We stopped in the brewery on our way home. After all, we had to pass it the brewery on our way to the Garden State Parkway after we left the outlets.
The brewery is located in a strip mall, which might seem somewhat odd initially. At least to folks not from NJ and unfamiliar with the peculiar laws surrounding breweries and microbreweries in particular. There are specific laws that preclude breweries from selling food. On the other hand, breweries in NJ like Jughandle and others (for example Ship Bottom in Beach Haven, Twin Elephant in Chatham, and Wet Ticket in Rahway) allow patrons to bring food inside the brewery. There’s a pizzeria and I think a Mexican take out place in the same strip mall as Jughandle.
What about the beer? What impressed me the most about the beer was the variety of styles on tap, with quality across the board for the four beers I sampled. There are too many breweries, I can think of a couple in NJ, that seem to only brew IPAs or focus on one primary style…or when you visit one of the smaller breweries and of the 12 taps, 9 are variations of one style. Not so with Jughandle, in addition to the styles I had, they were also pouring a Scotch Ale, a Brown Ale, a Irish-style Stout as well as a couple of IPAs
I had four tasters, which is how many these fine folks include in their flight. I love the flight paddle they use for delivering their flight of tasters. I started off with Berliner Weisse with Raspberry – a very refreshing beer perfect for summer. Second was the Belgian Dubbel, a style I don’t see very often from smaller breweries, also quite good. Third was another style, steeped in tradition, but sort of drowned out by IPAs and other popular styles: Dunkelweizen. Jughandle’s Dunkelweizen really matched well against the style profile. Last was the classic German Hefeweizen and a very good rendition of it from the fine folks at Jughandle. I’d likely fill my growler with their Berliner Weisse or Hefeweizen were I to visit them again.
I’d highly recommend stopping in if your travels take you near their location. If you are in NJ and enjoy quality beer, making Jughandle a part of your trip would be worth it.
As I mentioned at the top of my post, Jughandle is celebrating the first year on June 15 with a Pig Roast. Were I a little bit closer, I’d probably attend.
I was trying to decide which beer would be the first I review here on The Tap Takeover, but given the time of year, I decided to go somewhat seasonally appropriate with a local beer I had about a month ago and enjoyed a great deal.
As the warm weather starts to arrive, our palates start craving a light refreshing drink. Our Belgian Wit blossoms classic esters & lemony flavors rounding out a unique experience. Enjoy this beer with poultry, fish, and when you need to reward yourself.
Witbiers, a Belgian style wheat beer with a long history and cousin to the German Hefeweizen. Where the German style is often unfiltered and leans towards banana and yeast hints, the Belgian style is a bit more crisp and leans towards citrus and coriander hints. Let’s face it, if you like beer at all, love it or hate it, you know Blue Moon’s Belgian White. If Blue Moon’s is the best-known Witbier, then Allagash White is easily the epitome of American Craft Beer take on the classic Belgian style and one of the landmark beers of American Craft Beer.
Demented has been brewing beer in NJ since late 2015 and they’ve grown very impressively in that time. Their range of styles on their chalkboard menu any given day is impressive and each beer I’ve had from them has been quite good.
Vila…Vila is something different. I stopped in for a flight and a growler fill one day on my lunch break thinking I might get the Vila since the refreshing, light profile of a Witbier is perfect for warm/spring weather. I didn’t expect this beer to be so perfectly matched for what I sought. I was expecting a tasty refreshing beer, but Vila exceeded the already high expectations I had for something brewed by Demented. The sample was enough to convince me to fill up my growler. The next day I had some friends over and it was a tad warmer and Vila went down perfectly and very quickly.
The beer pours a bright yellow with a lovely white head that epitomizes the style so well, and screams Drink Me Now. With the crisp, citrusy flavor profile, finishing one beer only makes you want to pour yourself another. With a relatively low ABV of 4.8%, you can throw back a few pints on a warm spring or summer day and still have your (pun lightly intended) wits about you to lounge in the pool. (Of course, if you are driving, still be sure to hand over those keys)
With Demented canning more of their beers (three at this point), Vila seems a logical choice to can and distribute. If for no other reason than I can grab several packs to keep in my cooler when my pool is open in the summer.
I’ll close out this review with a request to the fine folks at Demented Brewing: please add Vila to your canning program!