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 Ides of March…have passed and I’ve assembled my March 2021 Six Pack. For the first time in a very long time (maybe ever), all the beers here are from NJ breweries. I didn’t necessarily plan that, but I’m not upset about it either, because there’s some really good beers here. Mostly from the usual suspects and frequent breweries, but one brewery I haven’t mentioned in a very long time (years).
Yet again, the folks at Icarus make a beer that I need to talk about. This beer makes two consecutive months with a Schwarzbier and damn if this isn’t an outstanding take on the style. Extremely flavorful with elements of sweet malt, hints of smoke, and the nice crisp lager finish. This could be an all-day drinker for me.
Another dark lager? Yes! Apparently, over the last few months I’ve really been taken with dark lagers, as the posts on this blog may attest. Ashton’s take on the Czech Dark Lager is fantastic, which isn’t surprising given the quality of the lagers I’ve had from them. This beer has a sweet breadiness, I’d almost say toasted, fluffy, buttered pumpernickel bread not unlike Kane’s Hollow Sea which made a Six Pack appearance in November 2020. As soon as I learned of this beer, I had to have it and I’m damned glad I picked up a six pack.
For St. Patrick’s Day, Kane releases Port Omna, their take on the Irish Dry Stout (which I’ve enjoyed in the past), they also release some variants. I grabbed two of the variants and this one was not just the better one (not that the other was bad), but it quickly climbed the list of my top barrel-aged beers. Granted this beer is a blend of milk stout and Barrel-Aged stout, but it is truly divine, with hints of maple syrup, coffee, and chocolate.
A trip to Jersey Cyclone led me to this beer, a really nice barleywine with hints of sweet toffee intermingled with the strong hop presence. This beer reminds me of Sierra Nevada’s iconinc Bigfoot Barelywine, but with a more mellow hop presence, which is fine by me. In talking with owner Jan, he hinted that there might be some of this beer sitting in bourbon barrels for a future release. Sign me up for a bottle now, please!
When Carton Brewing expanded their production facility, it coincided with more lagers, specifically Pilsners. Augie and his crew have been brewing regional takes on the style, with the Whip American Pilsner as the base, they’ve brewed and canned an Italian, Czech, and now this German Pilsner which is just great. There’s a slight slap of hops on the end that reminds me of Victory’s Prima Pilsner which is not a bad thing by any means.
It has been quite a long time since a beer from Cypress Brewing made an appearance (December 2018), but this one was worth mentioning. This beer, as the name implies, is Cypress’s take on what a French Toast inspired beer might taste like and this beer mostly succeeds. I like the maple and cinnamon, but I’ve come to realize I don’t care for nutmeg. Aside from how thin the beer was, it was quite good.
So there you have it, a really good selection of beers this month. There were a few clunkers, too, but they weren’t offensive enough to mention.
This elegant, dark brown beauty will glimmer with deep garnet hues and quickly form a long-lasting head of fine, khaki-colored foam.
We sourced local NJ Pine Barrens honey to boil along with a wort composed primarily of sugars from Pilsner, Munich, and rye malts, and gave it a touch of herbal and spicy hop character.
The nose is first greeted with spicy Belgian yeast character and an abundance of dark fruits, followed by sweet honey, toasty malt, and caramelized sugars. Despite its sweeter aroma and flavors this brew has a light body and finishes quite dry.
We get notes of black cherry, honey, prune, raisins, toasted bread, candied figs, scorched brown sugar, black pepper, clove, bananas foster, and cranberry chutney.
Source Brewing is one of the hottest, newer breweries in NJ. They release their canned beers through an online purchasing portal that tend to sell out in moments. The people behind the brewery have a great pedigree, owner Phil Petracca is the man behind Fizzics, head brewery Greg Taylor has multiple brewing degrees, and one of the brewers, Jeremy Watts, gained experience at Carton Brewing. Source typically releases only direct from the brewery, so I was very pleased to see a couple of their beers in a local bottle shop. That’s a very small snapshot of the brewery, what about the beer?
It makes sense that a brewery who labels themselves as a “Farmhouse Brewery” would make a few Farmhouse Ales, including this Dark Saison.
The beer pours dark brown/black with a slightly khaki head. Most saisons are a bright yellow, often slightly cloudy so right off the bat this beer is set apart from the crowd. Aroma…I get mostly the yeast which is often the strongest component of Saisons and most Belgian-inspired ales.
This beer passes the first sip test with flying colors. While it may not look like a typical saison, the aforementioned yeast elements firmly establish this beer as a Saison.
But wait, there’s more!
On the finish, the presence of the honey is most welcome and balances out the beer so well. Saisons can lean towards the earthy side, with a slight aftertaste, but the honey eliminates that and enhances the spice and clove character that comes from the yeast. Fruity elements intermix as well, not sure about the cherries mentioned in the description, but perhaps some figginess and definitely hints of banana. In other words, there is such a magnificent complexity to this beer in the flavor, aroma, and look that I can only be impressed with the delicious dark liquid that sat in my glass. Source calls this a “Super Saison” and I can’t argue that moniker, it is delicious and it does not drink like the 10% ABV listed on the can.
To that point, saisons were typically brewed for warmer months as something of a reward for farm workers (thus the name, Farmhouse Ale), but typically did not have an alcohol content more than 7% ABV and used grains and ingredients grown on said farm. After all, the farmers didn’t want their workforce to get too inebriated and hungover for their next days of work. Or, as stated in a great Beer Connoisseur article:
They have a low ABV, and quite the correct bitterness. They are designed to refresh.
This beer is most definitely refreshing, but 10% ABV is not exactly low. In fact, the second can I enjoyed was after a 3 hour shoveling session thanks to nearly two feet of snow (see picture above) and I could think of almost no better beverage reward for that hard work. While I typically go for a big stout on cold winter nights, this beer definitely works in that regard – big bold flavor, slightly higher alcohol, and a dark hue to match the darkest nights.
Outside of Saison Dupont, Source’s Winter Saison is the best saison I’ve ever enjoyed. It may not look the part of a typical saison nor does it hew to the lower ABV of a typical saison, but the flavor elements are very traditional and the fact that a farmhouse brewery created this beer speak to this beer’s identity as a true Farmhouse Ale/Saison.
Imperial stout and fried ice cream flavors together….Why not indulge in two great things at once? This rich and complex stout provides ample aromas of roasted malt and vanilla, then gets paired with real vanilla ice cream, flavors of cinnamon, and dark chocolate to produce a truly unique treat.
It has been about two and a half years since I reviewed a beer from the venerable Flying Fish Brewing Company, one NJ’s first craft breweries and the largest in the State. Flying Fish is continuing to brew interesting beers in a wide range of styles and they’ve been updating their look over the last couple of years to be more modern. To that point, today’s beer, Fried Ice Cream Stout, was originally brewed and canned by Flying Fish about two years ago for the first time as a limited release but the popularity of the decadent dessert stout pushed it into an annual winter release.
Fried Ice Cream…a dessert I remember enjoying at the old Mexican chain restaurant, Chi Chi’s and dessert that is apparently popular in Philadelphia (Flying Fish is just over the bridge from the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area). A fascinating desert which is a ball of ice cream quick fried in a crusty topping that may include crushed cereal, cinnamon, sugar, cinnamon sugar, maybe some chocolate syrup and if you were a good kid and ate all your dinner, a cherry on top. The brewers at Flying Fish sought to emulate that decadent dessert in beer form. Spoiler alert: they succeeded. Read on for my thoughts on how I think they succeeded.
So what do we have in the glass? A very dark, black beer that pours with a substantial, spongy-looking head. I could be convinced that there’s a dark red/crimson tint around the glass where the fluffy head meets the glass. Maybe that’s from the cinnamon? Regardless, everything about this beer form a visual perspective is that of an appealing Imperial Stout.
The beer passes the first sip test, a blend of intriguing flavors that makes me want to have more. As I enjoy the beer over the course of about an hour or so, the flavors noted on the description emerge more prominently. There’s a creaminess to the beer that likely comes from the ice cream, obviously. Some vanilla, which is really nice and welcoming. A bit of cinnamon comes through, although I wouldn’t mind if the cinnamon was more prominent. On the finish, there’s that bittersweet chocolate along with the roasted malts, emulating the hot fudge topping.
As I pointed out, with this beer clocking in at 10.3% ABV, I took my time and was rewarded. The flavors were present when the beer was just out of the can, but they became more assertive as the beer warmed slightly with perhaps the chocolate standing out the most. The creamy feel of the beer is present the whole time, truly giving this beer the overall feel of “ice cream as beer” or “ice cream in beer form.” It just works for me.
I couldn’t tell you when I last enjoyed some Fried Ice Cream, it was probably 20-30 years ago so I can’t exactly compare what the beer is doing compared to my memories of that decadent dessert. What I can say is this: Flying Fish’s Fried Ice Cream Stout is a lovely stout that is a masterful blend of multiple flavors that complement each other rather than muddle each other.
Fried Ice Cream Stout is a delicious Imperial Stout that makes for a perfect dessert. It is also a beer that proves Flying Fish is still very much a brewery worth enjoying and brewing beer worth finding.
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…
Four City Brewing in Orange, NJ has been generating some positive buzz since opening their doors for business about a year ago (2019). Their average beer rating on untappd is about 3.75 / 5, with many beers landing above a 4-bottle cap rating and a few friends rating their beers quite higher than that. Four City Brewing is one of three black-owned breweries in New Jersey (the other two are Montclair Brewing Company and Hackensack Brewing Company), too.
Four City is in a pretty good location, close to the downtown area of Orange and across the street from the Orange NJ Transit train station. Orange also has a history of brewing; Rheingold Beer, once one of the most popular beers in the NY/NJ area, brewed beer in Orange, but shut its doors in 1980. The beautiful building, once a warehouse and coal facility, is now a mixed use space developed by L+M Partners with the brewery just one element in the revitalization of the Downtown Orange. The space is very simply, a beautiful brewery. A very inviting exterior, a welcoming interior, as well as the friendly staff, help to make this brewery look so good.
Before the brewery opened, a lot of passion, work, and effort went into its creation. Like the origin story for many breweries, owners Roger Apollon Jr., Jeff Gattens, and Anthony Minervino were homebrewers who unofficially (or really, I suppose officially) called themselves “The Brew Council.” For about fifteen years, Roger sought out different beers wherever he went, before meeting Anthony and Jeff. As the brewery ramped up, they hired a full time head brewer, Joe Vitale. That was all about a year ago. They all settled on Orange as the location because they are all from the area and in addition to Rheingold once calling Orange home, way back in 1901, the Winter Brothers’ Orange Brewery was in the Township. The name, “Four City” honors the four Oranges of NJ (West, East, South, and Orange). As will become evident, many of the beer names are homages/tributes to the local diversity and history of the area. The design of the brewery, the design of the logo, and most of the can labels are very consistent. In other words, Four City has established a very strong brand identity.
The taproom is fairly large at 4,700 square feet and the tanks are visible, but I don’t recall what brewery’s barrel capacity is. What Jeff Gattens told me during our conversation was that Four City has a canning line and they have enough capacity to allow them to brew and can beer for their friends at Hoboken Brewing. The day of my visit, 11 beers were available in cans and 21 beers available on draught. There is some overlap there, for example, their flagship Pale Ale Citrus City was available in both Cans and on draught. In other words, Four City has a great set up to be a production facility that also can house patrons on site.
The day was unseasonably warm for November (I was wearing shorts). When we arrived, we were seated at a table inside, with all the tables amply spaced out for social distancing. The door was open and the coolish breeze was blowing through the brewery. The extremely friendly beertender greeted us and took our orders. While Four City wasn’t doing flights, they were pouring “medium” pours, which I think were about 8oz.
I went with the flagship, Citrus City, the Belgian Dubbel, St. Cloud (reviewed Tuesday, 11/17) and Quad City, the Quadrupel. It isn’t often I see both a Dubbel and a Quadrupel (one of my favorite styles) on draught, so I felt very compelled to get Four City’s interpretation of these two styles that tend not to be uber-prevalent. I was very impressed with Citrus City, to the point I regret not bringing home a four pack of the beer especially since it has three of my favorite hops: Citra, Simcoe, and Centennial hops. It was everything I hope to enjoy a Pale Ale…hints of citrus, with hops and malt expertly balanced. The beer was very clean and would be a great beer for the cooler. I reviewed St. Cloud, so that leaves Quad City to discuss, albeit briefly. Wow. Simply, wow. There is so much flavor to this beer, hints of dates and figs from the potent yeast, a very sweet beer whose 10.2% ABV is dangerously masked. This is a fantastic Quadrupel.
As I noted above, many of the beers pay tribute to the history/diversity of the region. Citrus City is a fairly obvious homage to the nickname of the brewery’s home town. A series of IPAs, Hedison’s Phonograph are named in honor of West Orange’s Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph. The Miseducation of Loral Hops pays tribute to megastar Lauryn Hill of South Orange, NJ, Sak Pasé (a fruited Berliner Weisse) is a Haitian Creole greeting for “What’s Up?” and there’s a sizeable Haitian contingent in the Oranges; Brewellyn Park is an IPA named for West Orange’s Llewellyn Park; Eagle Rocktoberfest (a Märzen) takes its name from the Eagle Rock landmark; Brick Church is a dark wheat ale takes its name from the eponymous landmark minutes from the brewery, and 55 Sour Essex Ave is a Berliner Weisse named for the brewery’s address, and so on.
Talking about the pandemic is unavoidable at this point, but Four City was in a decent position to pivot. The aforementioned canning line in the facility allowed them to package their beer for the home delivery now being allowed in the State of New Jersey. Also during the pandemic, Four City celebrated their 1st anniversary with four different beers: Hedison’s Medison with three different hops rather than the standard single hop; Darker than Blue, a pastry stout with cacao nibs, maple syrup, and raspberries; You Down Wit FCB, a witbier (the name is an homage to 90s rapgroup Naughty by Nature’s song “O.P.P.” and if you are humming that song as you read this then I suspect we’re about the same age); and It’s Better Than Yours, a Milkshake IPA who takes its name from the lyrics of the song “Milkshake.”
Although Four City is just over a year old, they’ve already garnered some national recognition. Being a Black-owned brewery is one way they’ve stood out, not just in New Jersey, but nationally. There’s been a beer festival in Pittsburgh the last few years called Fresh Fest, which features Black-owned breweries. In 2020, Four City collaborated with Shu Brew of Zelienople, PA on a Dark Ale with Oreos, cacao, vanilla, coffee, and lactose they’ve called Brewers Gonna Work it Out. That sounds like a beer I want yesterday. Some of their beer has become available on Tavour, as well.
Prior to the Pandemic, Four City hosted onsite events, including Halloween parties, a night for a meet and greet with local artists, a Holiday Beerzar, a “Brews and Culture” night of local music, a cornhole tournament, and the requisite yoga nights. These events, along with the owners’ deep roots in the region, deep respect they have for the community, and honor they show with their beer names adds up to one thing in my mind. Just over one year into their existence, Four City Brewing is something of a template, or ideal of what a community Craft Brewery should be.
Since Four City was part of a tour of a few breweries fairly close together (a tradition for my birthday over the last few years), there are obviously a handful in the area that could comprise a similar tour. Montclair Brewery is the closest at 4 miles away, and we tried to visit, but they were extremely packed and because of the social distancing rules of the Pandemic, we couldn’t stick around because we had reservations at other places during the day. Also very close is the Gaslight Brewpub, which is where we went after Four City for dinner, they’ve got really good food. Melovino Meadery is about 5 miles away, Ghost Hawk Brewing, Magnify Brewing, and Cricket Hill Brewing (the latter two of I’ve visited) are relatively close at about 11 miles away.
I’ve written quite a bit about Four City Brewing at this point. One thing should be very clear – I like the brewery a lot. Between supporting local independent businesses, supporting black-owned breweries, and supporting breweries that make super beer, Four City is a must visit for those reasons. Four City Brewing is comfortably near the top of the 50 or so “new to me” breweries I’ve visited over the last few years and I look forward to visiting again.
Some other links of interest and sources of information for this post:
Our heavily fruited, lightly salted, Gose returns! Fruitastic Voyage is brewed with Lactose and a touch of Fleur de Sel before being conditioned on double the amount of fruit as our Acid Blend series. For this newest batch, we conditioned this beer on an absurd amount of Mango Purée+Orange Purée+Peach Purée for a refreshing, over-the-top, fruit forward drinking experience. Come along and ride on a fruitastic voyage! // Lightly tart with notes of soft fleshy peaches, ripe mango, yellow Starbursts, and balancing salt.
Brix City in Little Ferry, NJ has gained a reputation over their last five years of being in business for brewing flavorful, fruited sour ales and Hazy IPAs. When I visited the brewery (on my Birthday in November) it was sunny and unseasonably warm in the 70s or 80s. When I saw this Gose on draft, I was very happy because the style is a great warm weather beer for enjoying outside with friends, which just so happened to describe the day exactly.
When the beer arrived, I wouldn’t have immediately pegged the beer as a Gose, it looked like an extremely hazy IPA or an unfiltered beer. When I passed the beer in front of my nose, I smelled some funk and fruit aromas from the beer, which disabused my initial notion that this is an IPA.
The first sip tells me I made the correct decision to start the day with this beer. Huge fruit flavors assert themselves off the bat. Mango is one of my favorite fruits and Mango, in my taste buds, seems to be the most dominant of the three fruits. The peach is also prominent as well, but the two stone fruits complement each other very nicely any time they are paired together. The orange is subtle, but the acidic nature of that fruit, I think, brings a good balance to the sweet mango and peach.
In the description above, Fleur de Sel is called out as a brewing component, which sounds very fancy. I only just discovered that Fleur de Sel is salt and while I don’t get the level of salinity in this beer that I’ve tasted in other Gose/Gose-style ales, I think the salt is another additional balance on the fruit. Which makes Fruitastic Voyage almost a reverse Gose since salinity in the traditional Gose as brewed in Leipzig Germany is a natural component of the region’s water. Here the salt is added and I’m going to guess it was added so that the extremely copious levels of fruit in the beer are balanced and not cloying..
However the folks at Brix City achieved the end product that is this beer, it was successful. This version of Fruitastic Voyage with Mango, Orange, and Peach, is a knockout of a beer. I’d call it a Gose turned up to eleven and since this is a series of beers, I’ll definitely be seeking out the other fruited variants of this beer. The only other thing I’ll note about this beer is the ABV at 6.5% is a little higher than most Gose I’ve had which have largely been below 5% ABV. Not a negative point against the beer, just worth noting that it follows the theme of Brix hewing to their own path while also brewing an old world style.
I’ve only had 5 total beers from Brix over the years so based on this beer (and the Get Puft IPA I had during my visit), I really need to seek out their beers more often. Fortunately, their beers are often in the refrigerator at the liquor stores near me.
Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Wildflower Honey, Brown Sugar, Cinamon and Nutmeg. Conditioned on a blend of Fresh Coffee and Vanilla Beans.
This is not the pumpkin beer you’re looking for…. Icarus Brewing (who I’ve made no bones about being one of my favorite, maybe my top favorite, NJ brewery) is able to produce a delicious variety of beers from few base recipes for a couple of series. One of those “multitasker” (to borrow an Alton Brown phrase) recipes or series is Kalishnikov, their Russian Imperial Stout, which has seen quite a few variants, some of which I’ve had, including a delicious barrel aged version.
This version looks to emulate that ever present fall drink, the pumpkin spice latte (i.e. the “PSL” of the beer name). While there are no pumpkins in this beer, the spices associated with Pumpkin Pie – cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, along with the beer having been conditioned on Coffee and Vanilla Beans – help this the beer evoke autumn, at least in name. The standard Kalishknov is brewed with honey…so yeah, a decent amount of additional flavor components in the beer.
Pouring the beer into the glass, it mostly looks the part of a big burly, Russian Imperial Stout. It isn’t pitch black, exactly, but rather a black that was mixed with a very deep brown. The aroma gives off hints of the malt and spices, so nothing out of the unexpected.
The first sip is of autumn. As I said, I’ve had and enjoyed a few different variants of this beer, in addition to a couple barrel-aged versions of Icarus’s Russian Imperial Stouts and this beer seems to match up to those expectations nicely. As I have more of the beer and it warms up, those autumnally associated spices begin to awaken, with the nutmeg asserting itself a tad more strongly than the cinnamon.
In past versions of this beer, the wildflower honey balances out the bitterness inherently associated with Russian Imperial Stout, from a style perspective. The autumnal spices mask the honey and accentuate the bitterness of the coffee adjunct, and combined with the vanilla, give the beer a very earthy overall flavors for me.
Although there is no Pumpkin in this beer, the additional spices normally associated with the gourd are and that’s where the additional flavor elements of this beer shine. Hell, pumpkin itself isn’t a all that flavorful, but it holds the spices quite nicely, as does this beer. The ever-present honey in the “Kalishnikoff” line of stouts from Icarus helps to enhance the overall potency of the spices.
Playing with a proven fan favorite beer in their Kalishnikoff Russian Imperial Stout and mixing it up with the autumnal spices of the ubiquitous coffee beverage, Icarus has yet another winning beer in their portfolio.
A traditionally brewed lager aged in an all American Oak foeder. This beer has notes of oak, soft vanilla, and pillowy marshmallow, finished out with crisp notes of fresh baked biscuit and floral lilac.
Tonewood is a brewery that has been impressing me with each new beer I’ve had and the latest to do so is this beer, Woodland Lager. I follow Tonewood on Instagram and when this beer popped up as a pending release, I was very intrigued by the description of the beer and was hoping this Woodland Lager would make it into their distribution footprint. It did, thus this review. 😊
I’ve had several higher alcohol beers aged in some form of wood (stouts, porters, dopplebocks) and wild/sour ales aged in wood, but very few low ABV lagers aged in wood, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. How much would the wood/oak foeder change or modify the taste of the lager?
When the beer fills up the glass, it looks more like a witbier than a lager to my eyes. The color and even the head give me that impression. I’m already a little perplexed, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The aroma is more lager than the appearance would lead me to believe; however.
There’s a subtle sweetness that is noticeable on first sip. But this is definitely a lager with the malt elements lending hints of soft bread or crackers. Something else is underlying the traditional lager flavors, which likely comes from the beer having been aged in that Oak foeder. That “something else” is very pleasant and complements the classic lager flavor nicely.
What are those flavors? Well, there’s some hints of vanilla, undoubtedly which likely comes from the oak. I mentioned the malt elements lending soft bread, but more specifically, this beer is like vanilla sweet bread, w/slightly burnt edges, baked in an oak pan. It is utterly sublime, not like many other beers, specifically not like any lagers I can recall drinking.
The ultimate proof of how much I enjoyed the beer is this: I barely finished the first 16oz can before I cracked open the second can. Woodland Lager is one of the more fascinating lagers I’ve ever had. This beer is a great example of the interesting kinds of beers Tonewood seems to be crafting on a regular basis.
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…
September brings the hints of cooler weather and the season of darker beers. September is also when Oktoberfest traditionally begins. Despite the celebration not happening, the Märzen and Festbiers have still been on the shelves since August of this year. One of each is featured in the September 2020 Six Pack. Those two beers happen to be the only non-New Jersey beers in this month’s six pack. One brewery in the six pack will not be the least bit surprising to regular readers of this here beer blog.
This is the first hop-forward beer I’ve had from Ashton and I’m very impressed. Great hop blend to give the beer the qualities of a big Imperial IPA balanced out with noticeable, and balanced malt character for an overall flavor profile that is delicious. The can says “India Pale Ale,” untappd says “IPA – Imperial/Double,” I say this is a very flavorful, hop forward beer.
This is what I assume is the base beer for Paragon of Light, their wine-barrel aged Tripel and is a very solid interpretation of the Belgian style. It is hard for me not to compare any Tripel brewed in the North East, specifically New Jersey, to River Horse’s classic Tripel and this one stands up just fine. I wouldn’t necessarily say it needs to warm in the glass, but the beer should breathe a little before you dive in and drink it. Once it does, the beer is great with some hints of pear in the fruit evocations from the yeast and mild hops.
I believe Twin Elephant has expanded their production capacity over the last year because they are releasing cans of their beer on a more regular basis. Rugged Snuggle has been in their portfolio for a couple of years so it was nice to see this roasty coffee adjacent porter available in cans. In addition to that fantastic can art by Tom Schmitt, the beer inside is really tasty. Like always with dark beers, a little warmer than fridge temperature is the way I’d recommend enjoying this one to get the best coffee notes.
One of the side effects of the pandemic is that Sierra Nevada, for the first time since 2015, did not collaborate with a German brewery for their annual Oktoberfest release. However, the 2020 version is great. This one leans on the lighter side of the Fall German Lager style as a Festbier, but it is supremely balanced and perfectly delicious. This is no surprise to me because Sierra Nevada does everything very well.
After a couple of years in the NJ market, I finally tried Bell’s take on the fall classic. My only regret is that I hadn’t tried it earlier. Bell’s takes a lighter approach with their Märzen than some of the others I’ve had, but the beer is extremely flavorful. A hint of sweetness and just a very smooth beer that goes down very, very easily. This beer was featured on the untappd podcast recently and was spoken of very highly, a few of my untappd friends had checked the beer in over the last couple of years and the consensus rating was 4 out of 5 bottle caps and I’m happy to say this beer completely lived up to those expectations.
Shocker of shockers, another beer from Icarus. I’ve been sitting on this one for a few months and I wanted to share it for a special occasion. My dad’s birthday fit the bill perfectly and we both thoroughly enjoyed the beer. The maple element in the beer is blended perfectly, as are the fresh raspberries. Those otherwise potent flavors don’t dominate the profile of the beer, which shows how well-made the beer is because raspberries can be very tart and maple can dominate everything. Not to mention the fact that this beer was barrel aged, adding another complex flavor to the beer. Not here, the maple and raspberries are both in harmony with the malt from the base beer as well as the Heaven Hill barrels.
This was a month where it was difficult to trim the amount of good new beers I enjoyed down to only six and no stinkers at all.
A Bavarian Style Pale Lager that is a pure expression of malts. Easy drinking and full-bodied, with low bitterness, a touch of sweetness, and a clean and crisp finish.
When I visited Untied Brewing on a late summer afternoon in September, I was hoping a few of their Lagers would be on draught. Three happened to be available, so I figured I’d go with a Lager style I enjoy quite a bit, their Helles Lager. Long Days Short Years is the first beer I had from Untied Brewing, I figured starting out with a lighter beer was the way to go. I liked the beer so much I brought home a four-pack, so this review is based on both the taster I had poured on draught as well as the beer from the can as pictured above.
I’m glad this was the first beer I had in the flight because it quenched my thirst and is just a really tasty beer. I also decided to bring home a four-pack. Why is that?
The appearance of the beer is the typical “this is what beer looks like” appearance. Clear, bright, and golden yellow. A little bit of aroma that also fits the “beer” definition with some mild bready notes. Good things so far.
Very pleasant flavor hits my palate that tastes like a classic German Lager. A little more details: I get a very welcome flavor of sweet, lightly buttered toast and toasted crackers. One of my favorite food smells is toasted bread and I get that flavor. The beer finishes with a slight touch of hops and sweetness. That hint of fruitiness from the hops is welcome. However, that fruit hint is not to the drastic extent of a tropical hop bomb of a New England IPA, but present nonetheless.
Overall, this is a extremely clean, well-balanced beer. What do I mean by that? This is a beer whose flavors express themselves very well without intruding on each other and true to style. Well, that bread/cracker presence in Long Days Short Years is very consistent Helles Lagers (and its cousin, the Pislner). The mild hop presence, enough at least to let you know it is a beer is also true to style.
When I visited the brewery, owner Matthew Green told me this beer is one of his best-sellers, especially over the summer months. I can understand way, it is a very tasty lager. Moreover, it is the kind of beer that will appeal to that member of the group who is often craft-adverse. Fortunately for consumers who visit Untied, Long Days Short Years is a very well-crafted lager.
Long Days Short Years is a superb Lager and one that shows Untied has a very strong and impressive Lager section in their beer portfolio.
This is the third annual Oktoberfest Six Pack (and fourth Oktoberfest feature overall), but clearly, Oktoberfest 2020 is unlike any we’ve experienced. For starters, the annual celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese’s marriage was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, much like the majority of social gatherings have been since March 2020. However, breweries are still churning out Festbiers and Märzens since the styles are a popular staple of many a brewery’s portfolio. Three years into “constructing” these six-packs and I’m still able to find new malty, amber lagers to highlight every year. I’m going more local this year than I have in the past, with a focus on four NJ breweries and 2 PA breweries. I’ve had three of these (one of them just this past week).
A note on the difference between Festbiers and Märzens. Festbiers are generally lower in alcohol and more “sessionable” in the 5% to 6% ABV range. Märzens are typically slightly higher in ABV starting at 6% ABV. The story goes that the beers served at Oktoberfest in Bavaria were dropped in ABV slightly to sell more beer without making the attendees too inebriated. Festbiers are a less malty, less intense and lighter in body compared to the Märzen. For me, whatever style a particular brewery calls the amber lager they sell as “Oktoberfest” or some variant of the name, is a highlight of the beer year for yours truly. Most of the beers you’d find in Germany during the festival would actually be Festbiers, while those with the “Oktoberfest” moniker are mostly the American-ized versions or what the German breweries market and sell in the U.S. as their fall, amber Lager.
On to the Six Pack!
Fest | Asbury Park Brewing Company | Asbury Park, NJ | 5.9% ABV
Asbury Park Brewery is one of a few in the Asbury Park area (Kane is a only about a mile away and Dark City is squarely in Asbury Park). I’ve only had one beer from Asbury Park Brewery, but I enjoyed it. Asbury Park is also home to a huge German Biergarten, so there’s some German in the air down there. APB is sporadically distributed through the State and based on how much I enjoyed their stout, I’d give this one a try.
What Asbury Park Brewery says about the beer:
A Märzen Lager brewed in the Oktoberfest tradition. Deep caramel in color with a complex malt body.
Carton’s Festy is hitting cans for the first time in 2020 largely due to the Pandemic. In past years, this beer was served at local beer festivals, but with social gatherings severely limited, Augie and his crew made a great decision to can and distribute the beer. I’m really hoping cans make it near me because Carton has such a strong Lager game. My impression of the beer is that it is flavorful with a spicy hop slap at the finish of the beer.
What Carton says about the beer:
Under the festival tents there are the Oktoberfest Marzens made “in honor of the fest” and the Festbiers made “for drinking at the fest”. As more and more quality Marzens show up at Autumn-fests around NJ, we decided that the drift off the beaten craft opportunity here was to make the “drinking beer of the fest” as traditionally as possible. A floor-malted German-pils malt bill picks up a Festbier touch of autumnal richness through the addition of light Munich and Victory. Then hop spiciness comes in the form of Tettnanger and Strisselspalt for both the kettle and late-hop additions. Drink Festy because these days a commitment to tradition is as far off the path’s trend as can be.
Lone Eagle has been releasing an Oktoberfest annually since (I think) 2017, I’ve had it most years and enjoyed it, regardless of what they call it. I remember being very pleasantly surprised with the beer when I had it on draught at one of the Board Game nights back when those were still a thing. With their new brewer joining late last year, I don’t know if he tweaked the recipe at all, but they did slap a new label on the beer that evokes the traditional German bierhall.
What Lone Eagle says about the beer:
Märzen is a German style of beer traditionally brewed in March and lagered until Oktoberfest. This beer has a nice rich malt character with a slightly dry finish. It’s full flavored and easy to drink. Prost!
I had Manskirt’s take on the classic Oktoberfest when I first visited a few years ago. If I recall, I think it was the beer I enjoyed the most during that visit. Last year was the first year they canned it so I’m hoping I’ll be able to grab some cans this year to enjoy at home.
What Manskirt says about the beer:
Our take on a traditional German Marzen, or Oktoberfest lager. Lots of Munich and Pilsner malts make a solid backdrop for the German hops used here. A long, cold lagering process makes this beer clean and crisp.
Neshaminy Creek is one of the closer PA breweries to me, I’ve visited a couple of times and I’ve enjoyed most of their output especially their beers with Germanic leanings. However, I haven’t sampled their annual Märzen yet. They’ve gone through something of a label rebranding over the last year or so and this beer is now available in 4-packs of 16oz cans. I think it was originally a 22oz bomber offering, but that particular beer vessel has all but gone the way of the dinosaur
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company says this about the beer:
Our seasonal traditional German-style Märzen Lager brewed with German Pilsner and Munich malts, and hopped with German Hallertau and Tettnanger hops. Fermented with a traditional Bavarian monastery Lager yeast.
Unter Dog | Yards Brewing Company | Philadelphia, PA | 5.6% ABV
Yards, traditionally known as an Ale-house, introduced their first year-round lager to their lineup last year. With the success of that beer, it makes sense for them to finally put a Märzen into packaging and distribution. I think this is available in both cans and bottles, so hopefully I’ll be able to grab some in the next month or so because I did enjoy Loyal Lager.
What Yards says about the beer:
This Oktoberfest, we’re celebrating the city that never gives up with our new Märzen-style beer. Fetch a 6-pack today, sit back, and roll over with joy. Good boy!