Draught Diversions: Wet Ticket Brewing

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…

 

The state of beer in the State of New Jersey is pretty good. As of this writing, we are near 100 breweries in the Garden State. I’ve got two solid breweries very close where I live now (Conclave Brewing and Lone Eagle Brewing), and as of 2 years ago, a really good brewery close to the city in which I grew up (Linden, NJ) – Wet Ticket Brewing in Rahway, NJ. Wet Ticket recently celebrated their second anniversary. I didn’t make it to their celebration, but I stopped in and met my parents before celebrating their anniversary a couple of weeks ago. I also visited Wet Ticket shortly after they opened in 2017. Let’s just say I don’t think I’ll let 2 years pass between visits, or at least having some of their beer.

Co-owners Tim Pewitt and Al Povalski met through a mutual friend, both fascinated by craft beer. Tim started as a homebrewer and brings about 25 years of home brewing experience with him, which is a familiar story for many independent breweries. Though I don’t know how many of those home brewers turned brewery owners had over two decades experience brewing. At this point, I’ll just say Tim’s years of experience show in the beer. Although Union County, Roselle Park specifically, is home to Climax Brewery, there wasn’t a true brewery/taproom experience in Union County. Rahway is and has been a city under revitalization, so when a former Woolworth’s location became available on Main Street, Tim and Al found their location. Not a bad location, either. When the brewery first opened, nobody seemed to be walking the streets on Fridays. Since then, Tim and Al say they see much more pedestrian traffic. There’s a parking garage across the street, Wet Ticket is a couple of doors down from local staple the Townhouse (home of the world’s greatest thin crust pizza), so the location within Rahway is fantastic.

Wet Ticket’s Taplist on April 12, 2019

Tim and Al were all set from a passion point of view, they just needed a name. A family member suggest Wet Ticket as the name. This is a reference to Prohibition in the United States. Politicians wishing to bring an end to Prohibition ran on what was called a Wet Ticket. Good ingredients for a successful brewery so far: good location, good name, and owners with knowledge and passion for the liquid that comes from water, hops, barley/malt, and yeast.

It is around this point in most of these Brewery spotlights that I say, well, what about the beer?

That’s part of the interesting here with Wet Ticket as I’ve visited the brewery twice. Both visits occurred in April before having dinner with my parents (who live in a neighboring town) to celebrate their anniversary. During the first visit to Wet Ticket, my parents and my wife and I brought some pizza from neighboring Townhouse Tavern into the brewery. Like many breweries in NJ, you can bring outside food into the brewery. The Townhouse is a Rahway and Union County institution, my family and I have been going there since before I was born. My mother ate there several times while she was pregnant with me (when it was called Paolini’s Townhouse) so I guess you could say I have been enjoying the world’s best thin crust pizza since before I was born. Whenever family who moved out of state come back to visit, pizza at the Townhouse is a requirement. But enough about the Townhouse…for now.

During that first visit to Wet Ticket, the folks at the brewery were really nice, and gave a mini tour of the facilities. I’m guessing Tim Pewitt was there, but I can’t say for certain. During that initial visit and on my most recent visit, I was very impressed with how open and clean the brewery is. From just about anywhere in the brewery, you can see into the brewing area. Part of the open ambiance is from the large window which affords pedestrians from Main Street a pleasing, inviting look into the brewery and for patrons inside the brewery, provides a great deal of natural light. The bar area is nice and clean, with posters of the beer labels adorning the wall as well as several other interesting art pieces from local artist John Ward, a friend of Tim’s.

I had five beers during that first visit, the two that stood out the most were their Kick the Bucket Brown, which was a tasty interpretation of the style. A brown ale is typically seen as the “workhorse” of a brewery’s lineup and this was nicely made. The other standout is arguably their first flagship ale, the Kölsch, an easy drinking German ale. Their Kölsch, simply called Kölsch is a fine interpretation of the style and a beer they call the “Swiss Army Knife of the Wet Ticket lineup.” The other beers I had on that initial visit didn’t stand out for me as much as the brown Kölsch and the Brown Ale – a saison, an oatmeal stout, and a Blonde. At the time, I wasn’t a fan of IPAs so I didn’t try any of their hop forward beers. That Kölsch, though? That was really nice.

The brewery recently invested in a canning machine, which really gives them the flexibility to can beers as they make them. Many breweries utilize mobile canning companies, which are great and afford breweries with limited space the opportunity to have their beer canned. However, with the growth of breweries like Wet Ticket, the breweries are a little more beholden to the canning company’s schedules. Having a canning machine allows Wet Ticket to have more control.

Like many breweries, Wet Ticket is often trying new styles, new takes on established styles, and new beers in general. They call these beers “Test Ticket” beers. These are small batch beers that debut in the tap room, for example. If the beer proves “successful,” i.e. it sells well and people like it, the beer “graduates” to regular rotation. Trolley Hopper began this way, as did their anniversary porter, Rahway or the Highway. Trolley Hopper was one of those beers, Tim said, he felt good about from the start. Again, a couple of decades worth of home-brewing experience comes in handy. Beyond the experimentation, Wet Ticket has a solid line up of beers in regular rotation, the aforementioned Brown and Kölsch as well as a Hoppy Kölsch, a Double IPA called Dream Ticket, a series of single hop beers they call One Way Ticket, a single IPA named Spanktown IPA, and an Imperial Oatmeal Stout. Seasonal releases include a very popular summer ale “Tastes Like Summer” Watermelon Wheat, Blood Orange Pale Ale and fall beers like Scarecrow Juice Pumpkin Ale and a Pecan Porter. When they can a beer, they are the ones putting the beers in bars and stores as Wet Ticket self-distributes.

Image courtesy of Wet Ticket’s Facebook

In fact, the 2019 batch of Watermelon Wheat (as of this post in late April 2019) should be rolling out soon. When fresh watermelon is  in season, Tim, Al, and company buy as many watermelons as possible. For a 20 barrel batch, 80-90 watermelons are used and they add the watermelon when the beer is about ¾ fermented. Like last year, Wet Ticket will be putting cans of Tastes like Summer Watermelon Wheat into distribution. Also on the horizon is another batch of their highly acclaimed (avg rating on untappd of 4.16 of 5 bottle caps) Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. I won’t let a bottle of this pass me by again.

Image courtesy of Wet Ticket’s Facebook

Although their cans list Wet Ticket as established 2013, the brewery on Main opened in 2017. In those two years, the Wet Ticket name has grown, both in terms of the quantity of beers they produce and the reputation they’ve earned. Tim and Al’s baby also has established itself as a fixture in the growing resurgence/revitalization of downtown Rahway. 25 years ago when I lived near Rahway, it didn’t necessarily have the reputation as a destination. It was a place to pass through on the way to your destination. Except for the Townhouse, of course. Sure the Union County Performing Arts Center was in Rahway, but in recent times more restaurants have been popping up. At least three of those restaurants (CubaNu, Nancy’s Townhouse, Meatballs and Brews) seem to always have one Wet Ticket beer on draught.

Several of the beers pay homage to the community and City of Rahway, such as Spanktown IPA, Rahway had the infamous nickname of Spanktown around the time of the Revolutionary War. Another brew, the one I reviewed earlier this week, Trolley Hopper, pays homage to the lost Rahway Trolley. Starting back in 1928 and for about forty years, The Rahway Trolley line connected Westfield, Clark, Rahway, Woodbridge and Perth Amboy. Their latest beer, brewed for their second anniversary, is an Imperial Porter named Rahway or the Highway.

Wet Ticket has been establishing a name for themselves and personally speaking I went from an IPA hater to an IPA embracer. A couple of weeks ago, like two years ago, my wife and I met my parents for my parents’ anniversary dinner, both my dad and I had a glass of Trolley Hopper. I liked it and so did he. So much so that we walked out with a couple of cans of the beer. We headed over to CubaNu for dinner where they had Fully Juiced on tap, freshly tapped is it were. Another delicious beer. Fully Juiced was another beer Tim had a really good feeling about when he was brewing the first batch.

While I liked Wet Ticket’s beers during my first visit in 2017, I thought the quality improved by the time I visited two years later. Wet Ticket is the first brewery in Union County (the County of my birth and where I grew up) to have a fully functional tasting room and to be a destination taproom in the truest sense of the word. At the heart of Rahway’s Main Street, Wet Ticket should be a destination for people wishing to sample finely made beer. With plenty of restaurants within walking distance, patrons can sate their hunger, too. The brewery is conveniently located near Rahway’s NJ Transit station and a short drive off of Routes 1&9 (in this part of NJ, Route 1 and Route 9 are the same highway) and not too far from the Garden State Parkway.

In addition to being available at local restaurants (as well as bars and stores across the northern part of NJ), Wet Ticket is active in the community. They do a regular Yoga night, Flow to Flights. They’ve led and participated in donation drives for the Rahway Food Bank as well as food and supply drives for stray cats. They are hosting a pre-party for an upcoming concert at the nearby Union County Performing Arts Center. In short, Tim, Al, and all the folks behind the scenes at Wet Ticket Brewing are helping to foster a strong sense of community along with making great beer. Their eye-catching logo was crowd sourced and later touched up by Wizdom Media, a local design firm in Rahway down the street from Wet Ticket. Wizdom Media also provided the label art for Trolley Hopper, Kolsch, Dream Ticket, and Watermelon Wheat. The great art for Fully Juiced came from a family member, while the can art for One Way Ticket and Rahway or the Highway came from a former Wet Ticket brewery worker, who now works for Boston Beer/Samuel Adams. If being “draughted” to work for Boston Beer isn’t a sign that Wet Ticket is recognized for doing good things with their beer, I don’t know what is.

Canned beer available for takeout!

Wet Ticket is a brewery definitely worth visiting and their beers are undoubtedly worth sampling should you come across them in a beer store, restaurant, or bar. The taproom is welcoming and inviting, especially with how open they are to allowing food to be brought in by their patrons. I know I’m very likely to visit again and enjoy more of their beer in the future. In fact, on Thursday May 9, Wet Ticket is hosting a NJ Craft Beer “Beer Up”/Meet up which I’m hoping to attend.

Wet Ticket Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | twitter | Wet Ticket Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com

Some other links of interest:

Brew Jersey December 2017 (Chris Castellani)

Al Gattullo Craft Beer Cast featuring Tim Pewitt (April 16, 2019) (Hell, if you are reading my ramblings on beer, you should be listening to Al every week. He features a good mix of local NJ and national independent breweries.)

Special thanks to Tim and Al for taking some time out of their busy schedule at the brewery to speak on the phone and provide details for some of what I’ve included in this post. All errors are mine alone.

Draught Diversions: Spellbound Brewing (Mount Holly, NJ)

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…

Today, another brewery from the vibrant Mount Holly area is featured here at the Tap Takeover. Since opening in 2014, Spellbound Brewing has been crafting tasty, award-winning beer and attracting loyal customers and fans to their brewery and beer. The story may be familiar: homebrewing friends, in this case Mike Oliver, John Companick, and Scott Reading, made beer their friends liked so they figured they’d start a brewery. With the law change in 2012, opening a brewery, and making a hangout destination, became a viable option. They settled on the name Spellbound after whittling down a list of fifty names with the aim of something that would have appeal beyond the borders of New Jersey. Personally, I love the name, but I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction and played Dungeons and Dragons so the name appeals to me. Plus that logo is absolutely fantastic.

Spellbound Lineup (Courtesy of Spellbound’s Facebook)

The brewery is nestled in an industrial area, but it is far from ordinary. There’s a fancy black gate that opens to a path which leads to the brewery doors. Entering the brewery you’ll see the hand-written tap list on the far wall, a beautiful bar along the right side, some tables along the middle, and a refrigerator for some packaged beer to bring home. The heart of the brewery, of course, is the beer.

The Taplist on the day of our visit , November 17, 2018

The brewery has a focus on some core styles and beers: IPA, Porter, Porter aged on Palo Santo Wood (GABF Silver and Gold!), Cherry Belgian Tripel, Peach IPA, Major Nelson, and Pale Ale.

It was a gray day in November and Spellbound was the second brewery I visited on the day and out of the six breweries visited that day, their beers stood out the most. We also visited shortly after their 4th anniversary party, so there were some special beers still available. I had a couple of their beers about a year ago and I’ve been aware of Spellbound for a few years.

I’ve seen people who have checked into their beers on untappd (especially Mike K of NJ Craft Beer) rate them fairly highly or have good things to say about their beers. One of the people I managed about a year ago brought me some of their beer, he lived near the brewery and knows some of the guys who either work at the brewery or started it. One of the beers was Spellbound’s most popular beer, their IPA. At the time I was still on the fence for IPAs, but this one from Spellbound helped me turn the corner and since then, I’ve really embrace IPAs as a style to seek out.

The other beer is even more impressive and is an indicator of the type of quality beer Spellbound Brewing was producing early in their “career.” The beer – Porter aged on Palo Santo Wood – received the Gold Medal Gold Medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in the “Wood Aged Category.” Not bad for a small brewery only about 3 years old. I liked the beer so much, it ranked #4 on my Favorite “New to Me” beers of 2017.

Those beers are available in New Jersey in stores and in a growing number of bars. But on to the beers I had during my visit to the brewery…

There were many beers to choose form on that day I visited, From the taplist (pictured at the top of this post) I selected the Peach IPA, Major Nelson Pale Ale, Cherry Belgian Tripel, and Living the Dream?! Bourbon Barrel Stout.

I drank the beers out of order.

The Peach IPA was good, but I was expecting the peach to sweeten the finish more than it did. There was a nice hop profile, but the sweetness was less pronounced than I hoped it would be. This was the beer I liked the least of the flight. By no means a bad beer, but one always has to settle to the bottom.

Courtesy of Spellbound’s Facebook

I broke up the hop forward beers with the Cherry Belgian Tripel, which stood out as my favorite beer from Spellbound during the visit. The cherry compliments the Belgian-style yeast perfectly. I would be interested in trying Spellbound’s take on a straightforward Tripel without the cherry. I liked it so much I brought home a 4-pack.

I know it isn’t the proper glassware for a Tripel, but I usually default to the brewery;s glassware

The next beer, the Major Nelson Pale Ale was the most surprising beer from them that day and was really popping with wonderful citrusy hop flavor. Listed on untappd as a “Pale Ale – New Zealand,” I’ve come to really like the hops from New Zealand. This is a beer I’d have as a regular rotation beer. I finished off the flight with the biggest beer Living the Dream?! Bourbon Barrel Stout. This is a really nice barrel aged stout aged on Coffee and Maple.

Couldn’t pass up this beer since my father-in-law’s name is Nelson. Glad I didn’t because the beer is damned tasty.

Those were the beers I had while at the brewery on that day, but I suspect I’ll be enjoying more of their beer. Why? Over the past six months or so, I’ve been seeing Spellbound cans appearing on the shelves in stores around me. Mainly their three core beers, IPA, Pale Ale, and Porter. This is a good thing for NJ consumers because Spellbound’s beers are on point for the style they are trying to represent and above average compared to styles made by other breweries. That Palo Santo Porter, as I said, is an outstanding beer. Spellbound Brewing may not have the reputation that the heavy hitters of NJ brewing have (Kane, Carton, for example), but I haven’t really seen anybody in the online community say anything negative about the quality of the beer.

I’ve written about the community element relative to independent/local/craft breweries and that sense of community is evident with Spellbound Brewing. Most recently, as a result of Spellbound’s 4th Annual Century Bicycle Ride, the brewery was able to raise $33,000 (bringing the four year total raised by the Bicycle ride to $70K) to donate to Mounty Holly Township. They’ve partnered with fellow Mount Holly brewery Village Idiot for an annual holiday Toy Drive, too. They often have Food Trucks in the parking lot and have had book signings for local authors.

Would I recommend visiting Spellbound Brewing? Without hesitation. A comfortable taproom, beers that are well above average, and beers you can enjoy on premises or take home make for an ideal brewery visit…especially if there are some food trucks in the parking lot. Whether you want to spend a couple of hours at the brewery or make Spellbound part of a brewery tour (as I did) given the quantity of breweries in the immediate region, Mount Holly and Spellbound Brewing should be a destination for folks looking for quality beer in NJ.

One of the coolest logos / art pieces / backdrops I’ve seen at a NJ brewery

Spellbound Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | twitter

Some other links of interest:

 

Draught Diversions: Cypress Brewing Company

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…

One of the breweries to emerge in the early wave of the NJ Brewery renaissance (if you will) after the laws changed in 2012 was Cypress Brewing in Edison. Charlie Backmann, Jason Kijowski, and Bill Lutz opened the doors to Cypress in 2015, but they were involved in NJ beer and brewing before that.

Before the laws changed in 2012, there was a fairly thriving community of brewpubs in New Jersey (and there still are quite a few successful brew pubs, to be frank). One of the more long-standing brewpubs is J.J. Bittings in Woodbridge, NJ which is not too far from where I grew up. Bittings opened in 1997 and I’d visited fairly often with my parents. Not sure if Charlie Backmann and Jason Kijowski were there when I visited (I honestly can’t recall the last time I was at J.J. Bittings), but Charlie and Jason spent some time there and homebrewing with Bill Lutz before the three friends decided to share their beers with New Jersey and open Cypress.

Tap List at Cypress Brewing – August 2, 2018

The name “Cypress” is the street where Kijowski lived, though the brewery has played off the 90s Hip Hop group Cypress Hill for at least one of their beers – “Insane in the Grain” pays homage to the great Cypress Hill song “Insane in the Brain.” That song was in constant rotation in my Fraternity’s basement at Rutgers University in the mid 1990s. As the brewery is in Edison, named for inventor Thomas Alva Edison, Cypress pays homage with some of their beer names, including Alva, an Imperial Porter. This link to their full beer list: http://cypressbrewing.com/beer_type/all-beers/, provides the names, description, and some of the interesting can art of many of the beers in their portfolio.

I’ve listened to a few podcasts featuring Charlie and one thing he pointed out was how open and welcoming the community of Edison was to the brewery. That’s such an important element to craft beer in New Jersey and makes for a better brewery and experience on the whole. In listening to those podcasts, it is pretty clear Charlie enjoys what he does.

The brewery is located in a small industrial park on Nixon Lane, which runs behind the campus of Middlesex County College. If you didn’t know to look for the brewery, you may not know where to search. Fun fact: I once had a summer college job at a moving company less than a mile away from Cypress. That moving company is no longer in the same location. Back to Cypress…The tap room is relatively small, but not tiny. I’d say the room was cozy. There were almost a dozen people there on my visit and there was still some room. The theme of the green Cypress tree is prevalent and very much an extrapolation of the logo.

The folks at Cypress are respected in the brewing community and have developed close ties with some of the growing number of breweries in New Jersey. This has lead to well-received collaborations with Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ (Necessity & Invention), Bolero Snort (soon to be) in Carlstadt, NJ (Cypress Love), Melovino Meadery in Vauxhall, NJ (Devil’s Tree), and Dark City in Asbury Park, NJ (Sacc’d Lunch).

The next question, of course: How is the beer?

Unfortunately, one of their beers I was extremely eager to try – Weize Guy – a Hefeweizen, was not on tap that day. I also would have liked to get a glass with Cypress’ logo, but they were all sold out. I suppose that just means I’ll have to head down to the brewery again in the future.

On to the beers I actually did try, including the flight pictured below during my visit to the brewery on the first Thursday in August. One thing I really appreciated about the flight was the price – just $6 for the flight of four beers.  Some breweries charge double that for a flight.

Back to the beers… It happened to be IPA Day when I visited so of course at least one of the beers in my flight, the first, was 17-Mile Cypress’s flagship IPA. The beer falls more on the West Coast style with a decent level of bitterness and piney flavor and just a hint of citrus. The beer (I assume) gets its name from the Lone Cypress on 17-Mile Drive in Montery, CA. For the second beer, I continued with the IPA Day theme and had Cypress’ interpretation of a New England/Hazy IPA, Ceclia. This was a spot-on interpretation of the style, which I enjoyed more than 17-Mile, but I tend to prefer the hazier IPAs.

Left to right: “17 Mile” IPA; “Cecilia” IPA – Double New England; “Peach Pit” Fruit Beer; “Alva” Porter – Imperial / Double

For a change of pace, I went with The Peach Pit as the third beer in my flight. This is a high-ABV fruit beer Cypress released for their Third Anniversary in July. I’m guessing the name comes from the popular hangout on Beverly Hills 90210. This beer is brewed with lactose and aged on peaches and Madagascar Vanilla beans. and makes for a sweet summer dessert brew. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it was very sweet. I closed out the flight with the aforementioned Alva, a potent Imperial Porter. The taste was OK, but the body was a little thin and had a slight aftertaste. Not a bad beer, but I definitely enjoyed the other three beers in the flight more.

I ended my visit to the brewery with a taster of the delicious English Nut Brown, about which I went into detail earlier in the week. About two and a half years ago, at the fifth and final Garden State Brewfest I had Lighthouse, which a very tasty brown ale with coconut and the first widely available version of their Vanilla Imperial Porter, The V.I.P. I think I even went back for a second pour of V.I.P. As it turns out, Cypress has reworked both of those beers a bit and have released both in cans.

Cypress has been canning their beers for a year (or maybe two) with the beers making their way to NJ beer stores. On the day I visited, they had just canned a few of their beers and one of the folks (Tom) from Iron Heart Canning was there enjoying some tasty Cypress beer. Some good conversation about NJ beer and canned beer ensued. I hadn’t realized just how widely across the Eastern US Iron Heart is canning beer these days.

After all was said, done and consumed, I was left with some really good thoughts about the brewery, Cypress Brewing has a lot going for itself. First and foremost they make good beer. Of the seven I tried between my recent visit and two years ago at the Garden State Brewfest, all were above average in quality. They also seem to have really good relationships with other breweries in the state. The Edison Community has embraced the brewery to the point that in 2015, the Edison Chamber of Commerce named Charles Backmann their Entrepeneur of the Year! In short, a great start for Cypress Brewing. a solid and respectable first three years of business, and a bright future. I know I’ll be grabbing more of their beers off of shelves and ordering them on tap in the future.

Ein Prosit!

Cypress Brewing Company Web site | Instagram | Facebook | twitter

Some other links of interest:

Beer Review: Cypress Brewings’s Northern English Nut Brown Ale

Name: Northern English Nut Brown Ale
Brewing Company: Cypress Brewing
Location: Edison, NJ
Style: Brown Ale – English
ABV: 4.6%

From Cypress Brewing’s beers page:

Dark and malty with roasted barley and chocolate malt. Earthy hops and a sweet, nutty finish. Full flavored but very sessionable with a low ABV.

Cypress Brewing has been brewing and selling beer in New Jersey for about three years and this Brown Ale is one of their earliest brews. As it so happens, this beer was one of the first available when the brewery opened its doors to the public for the first time. I said back when I reviewed Bell’s Amber Ale that, in addition to the ever-popular IPAs and seasonals, many breweries have staple classic styles they keep on draft like Ambers Ales, straightforward Pale Ales, or in Cypress’s case this well-crafted Brown Ale.

I had this during a visit to the brewery about which I’ll go into more detail in a couple of days. Relative to this beer, I had a flight before getting a glass of this one and I was largely inspired to give it a try because one of the brewer’s assistants was hanging out in the tap room (whose name escapes me, sorry!). He said this beer was one of his favorites, even before he started working at Cypress. If I didn’t already have one flight, I would have ordered a full pour of this beer.

In look and aroma, the beer comes across just as you’d expect from the name – brown, opaque, and with a pleasingly sweet aroma. First sip is very tasty with the type of sweetness and feel that encourages you to take another, larger sip of the beer.

It has been a very, very long time since I had Newcastle’s Nut Brown Ale, but I imagine brewer/owner Charlie Backmann was trying to evoke that flavor profile (or at least in name) or maybe even Cigar City’s Maduro Brown. Whatever he and his fellow brewers at Cypress were *trying* to do with this beer, they created a really enjoyable all-day kind of beer. With the low ABV of 4.6%, this is a seissionable beer you could enjoy throughout the day without getting too verschnicken while still enjoying a flavorful beer.

Cypress has been canning many of their IPAs for distribution and selling a few of their beers from the brewery in cans, like their long-standing Hefeweizen (which I *just* missed having) or some of their smaller batch sours. Let’s face it, IPAs sell hand over fist what brown ales sell, I assume, but this beer seems like it is tailor made for a six-pack of 12oz cans.

A well-flavored classic style ale that hits the right buttons for wary craft drinkers and craft enthusiasts alike. The IPAs may draw folks to Cypress’s tap room in Edison, NJ, but I would caution people against leaving without giving this tasty ale try whether as part of a flight or a full pour.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Draught Diversions: Happy Anniversary Conclave, Cypress, Czig, & Icarus

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…

Over the past couple of weeks, a few New Jersey breweries celebrated anniversaries. I’ve visited one of them (multiple times), and have had beer from all four. As it works out, of the four, the brewery I’ve visited the most often is also the first alphabetically, so I’ll go down that path and start off with Conclave Brewing.

Little Creature – Grisette (L) Intuitive Function – IPA – Imperial / Double (R)

I wrote about Conclave Brewing last fall and I’ve visited a few times since then. The trend of excellence continues – from fantastic IPAs, to robust, flavorful dark ales (stouts, porters, brown ales) to Belgian inspired ales, everything is excellent. A skim through the Mid Alantic states forums of Beer Advocate will often show the thread dedicated to Conclave one of the more active and praise for the brewery throughout that sub forum.

When I visited this past weekend, Conclave had just released their Third Anniversary Ale, a Double / Imperial IPA they called Intuitive Function. Like all of the IPAs I’ve had from them since becoming an IPA convert, this beer is filled with flavor. Brimming with wonderful hops that evoke citrus and melon, the finish gives a really nice hop bit that remains … without the bitterness.

What has been promising is that Conclave has been releasing cans more regularly over the past year. Let’s hope that frequency increases so more folks can enjoy their beers.

Gong down the alphabet, Cypress Brewing in Edison celebrated their third anniversary as well. I’ll go into more history about the brewery after I eventually visit them and do a full write-up, but at minimum, their beers have a fairly solid reputation in the state. Their capacity has been increasing over the three years they’ve been selling their beers – cans are getting into stores through distribution more regularly. They’ve collaborated with both Bolero Snort and Icarus Brewing.

The two beers I had from them were delicious, a Vanilla Porter that has since been re-worked and a Brown Ale. I recall having those beers at the 2016 Garden State Brewfest (the last one, sadly) and that porter being one of only two beers of which I wanted 2nd and 3rd pours.

Cypress is located in a fairly easy to find location in the big Raritan Center industrial park in Edison, NJ. Hopefully in the next couple of months I’ll be able to make my way to get down the “fun” highway of Route 287 to the brewery.

Another brewery to recently (June) celebrate an anniversary is Czig Meister in Hackettstown. I wrote about them in January after visiting them as part of my birthday brewery tour. I visited the brewery again a couple of months later for the second annual Stout Fest and was even more impressed. In two years, Czig Meister has made a big name for themselves in terms of respect for their beers and how widely they’ve been distributing. I see more and more of their cans and bottles every week and see good things about the beer they are brewing. That’s a pretty good combination, I think – availability and repuation.

Few breweries in New Jersey over the last half decade have made as quick and big an impact as has Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, NJ. Lakewood is a large NJ Shore community and Icarus is helping to make the NJ Shore (along with Carton Brewing and Kane Brewing) a destination for finely crafted beer. This past Saturday, Icarus celebrated one year with a One Year Canniversary

Like Cypress Brewing, I only had their beers at a beer festival, The Bridgewater Beerfest back in May, but boy howdy was I impressed. As I said in that post, I found myself getting 2nd and 3rd pours of their IPA, DDH Not a Schooner. In less than a year Icarus has been dropping their cans as far north as where I live (about 70 miles away). That said, the cans go extremely fast – my favorite beer store generally sells out of their Icarus stock within hours of getting it delivered. Their flagship (no pun intended) beer is Yacht Juice a New England IPA

I know a few other breweries likely hit milestones over the past couple of months, but honestly, keeping up with all of them is a pretty big task especially since this is more of a hobby for me and there are so many in South Jersey that I’ve yet to visit or sample. Bottom line…New Jersey really is growing a strong brewing reputation.

Draught Diversions: Fort Nonsense Brewing Company

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…

It really is difficult to keep track of all the breweries opening in New Jersey, the growth has been rapid with a nearly 50% growth over the course of about 15 months with breweries opening all over the state. Fort Nonsense Brewing Company in Denville, NJ is one of those newer breweries. Named after the actual Fort Nonsense in neighboring Morristown, NJ, the three Aslanian brothers opened the brewery and began selling beer to the public in January 2018. Fortunately, Denville isn’t too far from me and even closer to a friend who enjoys beer, too.

The three brothers who opened the brewery, James, Thomas, and Andrew, followed a path similar to many small breweries. They started as hobbyist homebrewers and decided to start their own brewery. After a few years of making beer on the homebrew kit they bought for their father, they found a space on Route 10 in Denville. When they came to this decision finally pull the trigger and actually open a brewery, the brothers took a route only a few start-up breweries have traveled. They crowd-funded via Kickstarter to generate the last bit of funding, which also raised public awareness. Route 10 often has quite a bit of automobile traffic and it can be easy to pass the building, but as you slow down if you’re following your GPS, you can see the brewing system in the window from the highway.

Tap list at Fort Nonsense Brewing Co (06-02-2018)

Fortunately, the Denville community was excited for a brewery, especially since the three brothers live in the area and are from neighboring Rockaway. The actual Fort Nonsense is a historic location, part of the Morristown National Historic Park and an area utilized by George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

Mural of George Washington’s Army and some interesting cargo

Although Fort Nonsense Brewing only started selling beer in January 2018, they’ve already received some positive notice. Their Farmhouse Ale, Saison Absurdite, received the 2nd place award at the 2018 Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival. Their beers are popping up on tap in local bars, too.

The brothers were working full-time jobs as well as preparing for the brewery opening in the lead-up to the opening. One of the brothers, Thomas, is a Civil Engineer and designed the interior. Brother Andrew is now the full-time brewer at Fort Nonsense. Many, if not all, the beers are an homage to the history surrounding Fort Nonsense and the region: the Amber Ale is Benedict Amber Traitor Ale; Great Falls IPA is named in honor of the Great Falls of Paterson; Mango Manunka Chunk IPA honors a locally famous tunnel, and so on.

On the night my friend John and I visited the brewery, it was the first Saturday in June, so initially not many people were there. As the evening darkened into night, more people arrived and filled the taproom to make for quite a lively atmosphere.

But what about the beer, Rob?

L->R Amber Ale, Porter, Hefeweizen, Saison

As I usually do when I visit a brewery for the first time, I ordered a flight. As I said in my review of Bell’s Amber Ale, every brewery seems to have an Amber in regular rotation and as I noted earlier, theirs is called Benedict Amber Traitor Ale. Not mind-blowing, but tasty nonetheless. A good beer to start the flight. Second up was Arnold’s Tavern Porter, which had good taste but the body was a tad thin. Third on the flight was their Hefeweizen, Three Tickle Pitchers, a very sold interpretation of the style. I finished off the flight with the aforementioned award winner, Saison Absurdite. Unfortunately this one didn’t quite work for me. It wasn’t bad, but there’s always one beer that isn’t as good as the others and this was it. I decided I was still thirsty and had a pint of what turned out to be my favorite beer of the day, The Teeth Were a Lie, a pale ale with tangerine whose name is a reference to George Washington. This beer went down really easily and along with the Amber, probably one I’d consider a go-to from Fort Nonsense.

The Teeth Were a Lie (Pale Ale w/Tangerine)

Six months in, there are two beers that stand out in the bunch (at least for my palate). I’d be interested in trying more in the future, such as the Gose they recently tapped. My only real negative is the price of a flight at $12. Most flights I’ve had at other breweries aren’t more than $10. I get the brewery is a business, so I’m not sure of the answer there, but that price tag does stand out to me for a flight of four tasters.

My bottom line: Having launched just six months ago with a few solid beers, Fort Nonsense is a new brewery with signs of promise.

Like many NJ Craft Breweries Fort Nonsense is a Trivia Revolution Partner/Host.

Some other links of interest:
TAP Into Morristown (January 2018)
Daily Record announcing opening of Fort Nonsense (January 2018)

Fort Nonsense Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Beer Review: Demented Brewing’s Silent IPA

Name: Silent
Brewing Company: Demented Brewing Company
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 6.3%

From Demented Brewing’s beer page:

Named after a volcano in New Zealand, this beer packs an eruption of flavors without melting your palate. Expect fresh crushed citrus and tropical fruit in the nose, with no bitterness on the finish.

Here we are a year later with coming full circle back to Demented Brewing for a beer review a year after the first “pour” from The Tap Takeover. Now that I’ve come to enjoy IPAs, I wanted to dive into more brews from Demented Brewing, since some of their more highly regarded brews are their IPAs. My wife and I were having dinner with friends and family at a BYOB place before a concert, so I stopped in at Demented which is very close to my brother-in-law’s house. Their flagship IPA, Dementia is an IPA I liked before I really started to enjoy IPAs and Gallows Hill is a nice New England style IPA. But what about Silent? Well, read on.

I gave this a quick sampling before having the growler filled up and I knew it would be right up my alley from that little sip. Once I poured the beer out of the growler into the cup a couple of hours later, I could tell this was a juicy beer despite the dim light of the noodle house where I consumed the beer. It poured thick and hazy and I was excited to take that first sip.

A quick whiff of the aroma of the beer is hoppy and a little citrusy, but altogether inviting especially coupled with the look of the beer. Hops are strong, and citrusy hops at that. I wasn’t sure which hops were used in this beer when I was drinking the beer, but I guessed by the fact that the beer’s name is a nod to a volcano in New Zealand, a hop from New Zealand was used. After checking Demented Brewing’s Instagram just before posting this review, I learned that Silent is a single hop beer and yup, it is Motueka, one of the more citrusy hops from New Zealand.

Although I do appreciate beers with blend of hops, single-hopped IPAs (like Bell’s delicious Two Hearted Ale which is hopped only with Centennial Hops) really allows the single hop to shine. Here with Silent, the single hop of Motueka shines in all its citrusy glory. The short of all that is this: Silent is a juicy IPA that should please folks who like their IPAs on the hazy/juicy side of life.

Here’s a testament to how good this beer is, between three people the growler was finished in less than a half hour; and one of those consuming the beer isn’t even a fan of IPAs. Granted, I probably downed half of the growler myself, but still, the other two people sharing the growler were eager to have their cups refilled. The beer was delicious and wonderfully complemented the gigantic bowl of pork ramen I enjoyed for dinner.

Sorry demon cyclops, that’s MY growler of Silent. You can’t have any of it.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 21)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 105 different IPAs.