Beer Review: Tonewood Brewing’s Woodland Lager

Name: Woodland Lager
Brewing Company: Tonewood Brewing Company
Location: Oaklyn, NJ
Style: Lager – American
ABV: 5%

“Tonewood brings an interesting brewing technique to a classic lager style for something unique and flavorful”

From Tonewood Brewing’s page for Woodland Lager:

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.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: September 2020 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…

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.


Your Lips are Juicy (Ashton Brewing Company) | IPA –Imperial / Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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.


Shield Oath (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Belgian Tripel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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.


Rugged Snuggle (Twin Elephant Brewing) | Porter – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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.


Oktoberfest (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) | Festbier | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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.


Octoberfest (Bell’s Brewing) | Märzen | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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.


Aw Raspberries aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels (Icarus Brewing) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

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.

Beer Review: Untied Brewing’s Long Days Short Year

Name: Long Days Short Years
Brewing Company: Untied Brewing Company
Location: New Providence, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.6%

“Untied Brewing’s take on the classic, bright German Lager is a flavorful interpretation sure to please”

 

From untappd’s page for Long Days Short Years:

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.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2020 Six Pack

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

Image courtesy of Asbury Park Brewing’s Facebook

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.

Festy | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | 5.5% ABV

Image courtesy of Carton Brewing’s Facebook

 

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.

My Favorite Märzen / Märzen Style Lager | Lone Eagle Brewing | Flemington, NJ | 5% ABV

Image courtesy of Lone Eagle Brewing’s Facebook

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!

Lederskirten Oktoberfest | Manskirt Brewing Company | Hackettstown, NJ | 6% ABV

Image courtesy of Man Skirt Brewing’s Facebook

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.

Creekfestbier Lager | Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company | Croydon, PA | ABV 5.2%

Image courtesy of Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s Facebook

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

Image courtesy of Yards Brewing Company’s Facebook

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!

Beer Review: Slack Tide Brewing Company’s Avalon Amber

Name: Avalon Amber
Brewing Company: Slack Tide Brewing Co
Location: Clermont, NJ
Style: Red Ale – American Amber / Red
ABV: 5.7%

“An on-point interpretation of the classic style, worthy of its Great American Beer Festival Bronze Medal.”

From Slack Tide Brewing’s “Rotating beers” list :

Winner of a Bronze medal at the 2018 GABF. This seasonal offering features 6 malts and is modestly hopped to create an easy drinking ale. It’s the perfect beer to unwind with after a long summer day.

Slack Tide Brewing Company is one of a handful of breweries near Cape May, NJ, one of the most popular beach vacation destinations in NJ and the North East. Over the past few years, several breweries have cropped up in that area. In 2015, Slack Tide became the second independent brewery to be established in Cape May County, joining Cape May Brewing Company in the region. My parents have been going to Cape May every year for vacation as long as I can recall and often when they do, they’ll bring me back beer from one of the local breweries. This year’s beer was Slack Tide’s Avalon Amber since I wanted to try a new-to-me Red Ale, a relatively ignored style nowadays.

Amber Ales/Red Ales were an early staple of independent/craft brewing. The style offers the relatively quick brew-to-serve timeframe of an ale, along with a malty and sweet flavor profile to truly be set apart from the fizzy, less flavorful American Adjunct Lagers, while offering a less bitter alternative to a IPA.  Red Ales are not quite as hoppy as a Pale Ale or IPA, nor quite as dark as a Brown Ale. The Red Ale straddles an interesting flavor profile line between those styles. So how does the Great American Beer Festival Medal winner from Slack Tide Brewing Company work for yours truly?

When I open the can and pour the beer, I was a little surprised by the low level of foam and pop. Fully in the glass, Avalon Amber looks pretty enticing and darker than what I’d expect. At least compared to its cousin the Red Ale, although Slack Tide categorizes this as a “Red Ale” on their website and an “Amber Ale” on the can.

Aroma is a little bready and a little malty. That first sip follows suit. Hints of caramel, malt, and maybe even a little toffee play together for a nice, drinkable beer. From the sweetness and the color, I wonder if there’s any molasses in this beer. The straight-forward nature of the style belies the complexity Slack Tide has crafted into this Ale. Like I said, caramel and malt are the most prominent flavor elements, which gives this relatively session-able ale a welcome sweetness. There are enough hops to be present and give the beer a slight hint of bitterness on the finish.

Avalon Amber is the kind of beer that you hand a person who is accustomed to the big American Adjunct Lagers, a beer that subtly and with great flavor shows that beer is more than just mass-produced fizzy yellow liquid. This beer pairs really nicely with any kind of meal, complements just about all kinds of food, and is flavorful enough to enjoy on its own.

My only slight issue with the beer is something I hinted at in the beginning of this review – the carbonation is relatively low. There’s no date on the can, so I don’t know how old it was before I opened it. The flavor was still there, but I would like to taste the beer with less age than I perceive there to be in the can pictured above to get the full body, look, and I would guess, fresher flavors.

Bottom line, a tasty ale that does what the style should do – sweet, malty, and a bit of hops.

Paint the Town Red (Level 9)

Get out there and raise a ruckus with your favorite Amber or Red Ale. That is 45 different beers with the style American Amber / Red Ale, American Amber / Red Lager, Irish Red Ale, Imperial / Double Red Ale, Red Ale – Other or IPA – Red.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: August 2020 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…

Summer was still in full swing in August, which turned out to be a very trying month. The pandemic continues to impact our lives and a hurricane swept through NJ causing loss of power to much of the State for multiple days, including yours truly. Through it all, there was still plenty of beer to enjoy, which is why you are all here anyway.

Half of this six pack could have very easily been beers from Icarus Brewing since I had 3 different (outstanding) beers from them, but I try not to feature multiple beers from one brewery in these posts.

This month brings mostly local (4 NJ, 1 NY, and 1 CT) beer.

Black Chocolate Stout [2013] (Brooklyn Brewery) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is an iconic beer if the independent/craft beer world, one of the earlier interpretations (first brewed in 1994!) of a Russian Imperial Stout and the first recipe Garrett Oliver wrote for The Brooklyn Brewery. I’ve had this beer in the distant past of the days before I was writing this blog and I remember liking it. A friend in town found this old bottle from 2013 in his basement and decided to let me have it. This is one of the oldest beers I’ve had (7 years of age) and it was delicious. The hops settled down a bit from what I remember but enjoying this version from 7 years ago has me eager to grab a six pack once the cold weather hits us.

French Torost (Bolero Snort Brewery) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd


Two months in a row for a Bolero Snort appearance in the monthly Six Pack. This beer speaks to what I consider their wheelhouse, or at least the beers I’ve enjoyed the most from Bolero – big stouts. When I saw the description, I was immediately reminded of French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout, a beer I thoroughly enjoyed last year. This beer, Torost, seems to be an un-barrel aged version with all those adjuncts: Maple, Cinnamon, and Madagascar Vanilla, so I would bet a considerable sum of money this beer is the base stout that was barrel-aged for BCBS. What a delicious beer this is, a pastry/dessert stout in the truest sense with a perfect blend of all those adjuncts.

Synopsis Dark Sour Cherry (Area Two Experimental Brewing) | Sour – Fruited | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Area Two Experimental Brewing is the sour, barrel-aging, experimental arm of Two Roads Brewing. They brew/blend/age in fairly limited quantities and I’ve been eager to sample one of their beers for a while. This sour ale is really nice; very funky upfront, but the cherry was milder than I expected or hoped it would be. Nonetheless, I liked this one and I will definitely be seeking out more beers with the Area Two label on it.

Lawn Boi (Tonewood Brewing) | Pilsner – German | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I continue to be impressed with Tonewood’s output. This Pilsner is an excellent interpretation of the style with German leanings. Cold, fresh, and delicious. The beer was canned two days before I picked up in the store. This is a perfect cooler beer and is very refreshing. Fits the “beer flavored beer” moniker, but at a very high level.

Tan Limes (Cape May Brewing Co.) | Lager – Pale | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Admittedly, I reluctantly made my way to this beer because I was quite upset when Cape May Brewing ceased production/distribution of the delicious Cape May Lager, a Pale Lager they launched last year only to be replaced this year with Tan Limes. I know one of the big trends in independent beer is to make a craft lager that fits the same profile as Corona/Modelo/Pacifico. I don’t like 2 of those 3 beers, so I would never try any brewery’s take on the style, but my curiosity won out. I’m glad I got over my bias for this beer because it is a nearly perfect summer lager. The lime isn’t too overpowering, the salt comes into play. I dropped a six pack in the cooler for a party at our house and drank 3 myself in one day, my wife even commented “You really like that one, don’t you!” Yes, yes I do.

Drinking Strawberries for Breakfast (Icarus Brewing) | Sour – Fruited Berliner Weisse | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Last and most certainly not least is another beer from Icarus, this is one of their many Berliner Weisse beers. With “copious amounts of strawberries, Acai, and Toasted Coconuts,” the beer is outstanding. The funk of the Berliner Weisse style is definitely present, but the sweetness from the fruit and coconut provide a perfect balance. This is easily one of my favorite of the 25+ Berliner Weisses I’ve had.

A great month overall for new beers, so let’s leave it at that.

Beer Review: Toms River Brewing’s Top O’ the Morning Coffee Stout

Name: Top O’ the Morning Coffee Stout
Brewing Company: Toms River Brewing
Location: Toms River, NJ
Style: Stout – Coffee
ABV: 5.1%

“A smooth, extremely drinkable and balanced Coffee Stout – one of the better I’ve had, especially of the non-barrel-aged variety.”

From Tom River Brewing’s beer list/untappd description:

Coffee before beer or sometimes (if it’s that kind of day) beer before coffee. In that spirit, we collaborated with Bubby’s Beanery right here in Toms River to create Top O’ The Morning. This beer was brewed with Bubby’s blend of Honduran roasts, lending flavors of sweet milk chocolate, cashew and caramel. We then added lactose to carry the acidity of the coffee and to provide heft and mouthfeel. The infusion of robust coffee flavors provides a jump start to your day…morning, noon or night.

Toms River Brewing is a NJ brewery I’ve touched upon briefly here at the Tap Takeover and will again in the future. (Hint: I’ll be posting one of my “brewery spotlight” posts later in the week.) I’ve been seeing cans of their beer in some of my local stores over the better part of the last year and I finally stopped at their brewery recently, during a rainy day on the way back from Chegg’s in Beach Haven. The second beer I had that day is what asserted itself in my taste buds with a pint of deliciousness and has me here writing about it.

On to the beer…

I knew I wanted something a little darker, I saw what Toms River had available via untappd before we even left our trip and the description above really had me intrigued.

The beer I was given in the very interesting glass is dark as dark can be. Only if you look very closely can you see the black Toms River Brewing logo on glass. In other words, the beer looked the part of coffee stout. The aroma of roasted malts that wafted from the glass to my nose was another good sign.

Sometimes you can tell from the first sip of beer everything you need to know about it. That’s exactly what happened with Top O’ the Morning, I got the full flavor of stout and coffee in that first sip and it was delightful. The lactose brings a very welcome sweetness to the beer, adding to the sweetness from the roasted malts and balancing the coffee’s natural bitter elements. There’s also a pleasant lacing of chocolate throughout each sip of beer.  All these flavors blend very well together.

Image courtesy of Toms River Brewing’s Facebook

I’ve had plenty of coffee stouts where the bitterness from the coffee, or overly roasted beans and malts are very off-putting. Toms River skirted that issue completely. The finish on this beer was so good, I found it a little difficult not to consume it in one quick gulp. If I can really level any criticism at the beer (and it is very minor at that), a smidge more bitterness would have been welcome. However, I tend to drink my coffee fairly sweet, so the sweetness in this beer from the lactose is a nice mirror to how I typically drink my coffee.

The beer has the perfect density and feel for the style, too. That element, coupled with the balanced taste, make this one of the more enjoyable coffee stouts I’ve had in quite a while. The craftsmanship and quality of this beer have me eager to try more beers from Toms River Brewing in the future

Beer and coffee are two of my favorite beverages, which is why I love a good coffee stout. With Top O’ the Morning, Toms River Brewing blended the flavors of these two beverages together in great harmony.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

 

Beer Review: 902 Brewing’s Kürtőskalács Milk Stout

Name: Kürtőskalács
Brewing Company: 902 Brewing Company
Location: Jersey City, NJ
Style: Stout – Milk/Sweet
ABV: 7.4%

“902 Brewing has crafted a very flavorful dessert stout and a great interpretation of the classic Hungarian cake/dessert treat.”

From 902 Brewing’s page for their beers:

Brewed to mimic a delicious Hungarian dessert we had in Budapest, this milk stout has just enough sweetness to round out the dark and roasty coffee presence with a cinnamon aftertaste.

Sometimes you get a taste of a beer at a Beerfest and you want more. That’s the case for this sweet dessert stout from 902 Brewing. Two years ago, at the Bridgewater Beerfest, I had a taste of this beer and liked it but wasn’t seeing in my local stores, I really wanted to get the “full pour experience” of this beer. I was finally able to snag a four pack of the beer and I’m very pleased I did. Subsequently, I thought to myself, “Self, what better time to review a beer from a brewery than around the time of the grand opening of their taproom?” You see, 902 Brewing has been contract brewing since they launched in 2014, but this month (June 2020) they officially opened their production facility and taproom in Jersey City. I’m looking forward to visiting the taproom and trying more of their beers.

On to the beer…

Pop of the can, pour of the beer and what do we have? A dark stout whose thick fluffy head is reminiscent of coffee or malted milk. In other words, it looks like the kind of stout that would be right up my alley. I don’t get too much of an aroma, maybe some of the cinnamon? But the certainly looks the part of a rich dessert stout.

First sip is on point for a Milk Stout with the roasted malt elements and the sweetness from the lactose. The cinnamon comes in immediately and is a dominant flavor element in the beer. I like cinnamon quite a bit so this is just fine by me.  For about a year or so, I was adding cinnamon into my coffee grinds for some added flavor, I’m reminded of that with this beer in a good way. I’m not sure how much of the hazelnut I get but the coffee is most assuredly present.

I also like the (here’s that word I hate) mouthfeel of the beer. The beer has the appropriate thickness for a stout of this ABV and I like how the cinnamon pops around in the beer. You don’t want to gulp this one, let it settle in your mouth a little and get all those flavors.

Aside from simply enjoying Kürtőskalács, there’s a bit of a personal connection with this beer. My uncle and grandfather are both Hungarian (grandfather was born in Hungary). Additionally, a good friend is Hungarian, and before the pandemic, she would visit her family in Hungary quite regularly. That’s the personal, Hungarian connection. As for the name, Kürtő translates to stovepipe and the pastry/cake looks like a hot chimney. A google image search proves it. I’ve had the “chimney cakes” in the past a few times, once at a local Hungarian festival, and another time, at a Christmas Flea Market/Fair, and thoroughly enjoy them. When the cakes are fresh off the interesting contraption used to make the cylindrical cake, they are delicious and one of the most popular variants or styles is with cinnamon sugar.

As an interpretation of the chimney cake, Kürtőskalács is a very successful beer. It hits the flavor notes, especially the cinnamon aspect, extremely well. The coffee elements are a welcome addition that complement the cinnamon very nice.

The Bottom Line: 902 Brewing has crafted a tasty and interesting dessert stout.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating / 4-bottle cap rating because sometimes, a beer tastes better a few days later.

Beer Review: Ashton Brewing’s Jersey Dreamin’

Name: Jersey Dreamin’
Brewing Company: Ashton Brewing Company
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 5.7%

“Ashton’s second canned beer is a superb interpretation of the classic lager.”

From Ashton Breiwng’s forpage for beers:

Jersey Dreamin’ is our Czech style Pilsner. It pours with a rich creamy white head and a burst of floral/spicy Saaz hops. Honey, cracker and spice all pop in the flavor and it finishes clean and balanced and says let’s have another!

Ashton Brewing is one of the newest New Jersey breweries (as of the date of this post, June 9, 2020), but they had the unfortunate timing to have had their grand opening scheduled when the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down public gatherings. They took over the former Demented Brewing facility in Middlesex, NJ, redid the interior and launched their brews. Despite the challenge they faced in the current times Ashton pushed forward, sold crowlers and growlers of their beers to what I’ve seen to be positive response. Shortly after they opened, Ashton began canning their beer, including this delightful Pilsner which is the second beer they canned.

Pilsners are one of my favorite styles and I’m always excited when a smaller brewery decides to craft any kind of lager, especially when a new brewery does their second canning run as a Pilsner. As soon as it was available I placed on online order and picked up a six pack at the brewery. As a result, I was check in number three to this beer in untappd, so I was also very happy to be one of the first to try the beer. Good thing the beer was delicious!

Visually, if you were to put this beer side-by-side with the last Pilsner I reviewed (also a Czech Pilsner), you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same beer. That’s a good thing because this clear and clean, golden yellow beer is largely what I would expect a pilsner to look like. The aroma gives off some hops and maybe some crackery/breadiness from the malt. More good signs for Jersey Dreamin’.

That first sip immediately becomes a gulp. Simply put, Jersey Dreamin’ is a delicious Pilsner.

Some Pilsners lean towards a breadiness/cracker element from the malt, some have a floral/fruity finish and some strike a balance between the two. Jersey Dreamin strikes that balance really nicely. It isn’t as “crackery” as some pilsners I’ve had – which is by no means a slight – but it has a full flavor whose elements come together really cleanly.

I spent a long Saturday afternoon in the sun doing yardwork the weekend after getting the six pack. My reward was this beer and it hit the spot perfectly, the beer was extremely flavorful, abundantly refreshing – an elevated “lawnmower” beer, if you will.

Many breweries who start up, at least in New Jersey, launch their canning program with multiple IPAs or some dark beers like porters & stouts. While Ashton’s first canned beer was their IPA, the fact that their second beer to be canned was a Pilsner – a style that has zero wiggle room for mistakes that can be hidden by adding more hops or adjuncts – is impressive. It shows confidence in the quality of the product they are sharing with consumers. Steve Ashton has a long history of brewing and working in the brewing industry in some capacity and that knowledge and confidence in his ability shows in this elegant and delicious Pilsner. This beer is good enough that it could be their flagship beer and a Pilsner that Lager-enthusiasts should definitely seek out. I for one can’t wait to have fresh draught of this Pilsner once the Pandemic concludes.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Ashton is accepting online orders for local delivery and pick up

Draught Diversions: May 2020 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…

Social Distancing continues through May and so does the focus on NJ / Local Breweries. Two of the beers in this post are from a brewery who had a beer as a featured review over the past month, which is something I’ve tried avoid. I have mostly been able be a little more robust in my selections for two reasons: (1) I didn’t usually limit my purchases to just New Jersey and (2) I’ve also returned to some old favorites over the past month, so there weren’t as many new beers this past month compared to previous months. Enough with the reasons, here are the beers

Porter (Spellbound Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This was the other beer I picked up on my visit to Spellbound during the first weekend of the month. This is a straight-forward, malty, and roasty porter. I liked the chocolate hints and especially the coffee finish; the beer does exactly what a porter should do. This beer serves as the base porter for Spellbound’s outstanding, award winning Porter Aged on Palo Santo Wood.

Malachor (Conclave Brewing Company) | IPA – Black / Cascadian Dark Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave has been doing curbside crowler releases (and quickly selling out) for much of the pandemic, this one is the first opportunity I’ve had to enjoy one of those releases. I haven’t had a Cascadian Dark Ale in a very long time but this one really took me by surprise. It doesn’t look like an IPA, but the hops evoke a tropical flavor that works really nicely with the roasted malt. This is a standout beer for sure.

White (Cape May Brewing Company) | Wheat Ale – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Cape May had a summer witbier in their lineup for a few years which was OK. This year they removed that beer and added White as a year-round beer, but it works so well for the summer. This is basically Cape May’s take on a Witbier, and per CMBC, White has more wheat and less hops and that combination for me works a lot better than Summer Catch did. White compares favorably to Kane’s Cloud Cover (reviewed earlier in the month) and the standard, Allagash White. In other words, it is an excellent Belgian Style Witbier.

Snowtober (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Porter – Imperial/Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Yeah, yeah I know I have two beers in this six pack from breweries already in a feature review this month. Snowtober is one of the launch beers from Jersey Cyclone and is a superb milk porter, with additions of coffee and vanilla to embolden the flavor even more. I found the beer to be incredibly smooth with a very nice roasty and sweet finish. For their first anniversary, Jersey Cyclone let some Snowtober sit in barrels. I thought that was good, too, even if it was a little too bourbony.

Monkey Chased the Weasel (Carton Brewing Company) | Sour – Berliner Weisse | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Monkey Chased the Weasel has long been a part of Carton’s portfolio, I see untapped checkins going back to 2014, but this is the first time I had it. This is a mildly sour/tart ale, but the flavor is really nice making for a perfect, refreshing beer for the summer. I can’t say I’ve had a mulberry and only know of it from the song to which this beer pays homage, but I assume the pleasant sweetness comes from that berry. Bottom line: this is a great take on the Berliner Weisse.

Hazy Bones (Flying Fish Brewing Company) | IPA – New England | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the third major take on a New England IPA from Flying Fish and it is a spot on interpretation. I’ve only had Jersey Juice but I found this one to be closer to style and more flavorful. The beer has all the juicy/tropical elements typically associated with the style along with a noticeable bite of hops on the finish.

Some good stuff, but not much more variety of breweries for May 2020. I will call out one beer I had that wasn’t so great – Brewberry which is a blueberry coffee stout collaboration between Cape May Brewing and Night Shift Brewing in MA. I got almost no coffee notes and all tart blueberry notes. Brewberry was the only beer from Cape May that I flat out didn’t like.