Beer Review #200!: Jersey Cyclone’s Eye of the Storm Category 3

Name: Eye of the Storm Category 3
Brewing Company: Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company
Location: Somerset, NJ
Style: IPA – Triple New England
ABV: 12% / 100 IBU

JerseyCyclone_EyeoftheStormCat3

from the untappd page for the beer:

As Jersey Cyclone Brewing’s intensity increases each year, a legendary storm surrounds our brew house allowing the eye to create the perfect conditions for this massive and epic IPA. Each sip is explosion of citrus and sweet fruit notes across your palate. Dry Hopped with Citra, Galaxy, Idaho 7 and Columbus.

As I was approaching Beer Review #200 here at the Tap Takeover, I wanted make it a special beer, like I did for Beer Review #100 (Saison Dupont). One of my favorite breweries just celebrated three years, so the confluence of events brings me to Eye of the Storm Category 3, a Triple New England IPA brewed by Jersey Cyclone to celebrate three years in business.

I was able to attend the celebration, despite the awful weather. Jan and his crew were planning on doing an outdoor party, but pouring rain forced festivities inside. Although I arrived early, the brewery filled up pretty quickly. With 16 taps in the main taproom, they were pouring variants, like their Hefeweizen, “Life in the Clouds” with Raspberry added. I stuck to some more of the main non-variant offerings like this new beer.

I’ve highlighted Jersey Cyclone fairly often here on the Triple T, in reviews, monthly six packs, as well as the brewery feature. I grab four packs frequently as regular rotation beers (Touchdown, the Munich Dunkel; Rewal, their Polish Pilsner; and Beach Blonde Helles Lager to name a few) So clearly, I enjoy their beer. It doesn’t hurt that they are literally around the block from where I work and not too far from home. I’m a big fan of their lagers because of their incredibly consistent flavors and quality, but their flagship beer is Eye of the Storm Citra, a classic American IPA. For the third anniversary, Jan and his crew added Galaxy, Idaho 7, and Columbus hops into the fold to complement the ever-popular Citra Hop.

The beer I’m given is super-hazy. It appears more orange in the picture, but that’s down to the lighting because it is more of a yellow-orange, not dissimilar to orange juice. The head looks like frothy orange juice, as if just shaken before poured into the glass.

Hops waft off the beer and into my nose, giving me a hint of things to come. The first sip is a blast of hops, but not palate-wrecking. I’ve had enough palate-wrecking IPAs in my life and this beer is incredibly smooth and balanced. The Citra stands out, but I get some additional tropical hints, possibly from the Galaxy. At least some elements of Eye of the Storm Category 3 resonates with the Galaxy Hopped beers I’ve had in the past. The Columbus hops are a classic hop that brings some piney elements, balancing out the tropical elements from the Citra and Galaxy.

The overall flavor is of juicy, tropical hops, and maybe a little peachiness? One of the most impressive characteristics of this beer is how well masked the high ABV of 12% is. Like the hop profile, the alcohol element isn’t overpowering and even barely noticeable. Like I said of Jersey Cyclone’s Black Forest Cake in last month’s six pack, I can definitely understand why this beer is not served in large/pint sized glasses (even though it is sold in pint cans!)

I also want to call out the new can label designs Jersey Cyclone has implemented with this beer and their renamed Maibock. It really stands out and there’s a very strong sense of branding on the beer, with an outline of a large cyclone and the beer logo top center.

JerseyCyclone_3rdAnniversaryCans

Congratulations to Jan, Brian, Charles, Taylor, and the whole crew at Jersey Cyclone on 3 years of brewing delicious beers! You all should be proud of the beers you’ve been making, including this flavorful, balanced, hoppy delight. I can only, highly recommend fellow craft beer enthusiasts like myself visit the brewery.

As for Eye of the Storm Category Three: Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

JerseyCyclone_EyeCat3

Draught Diversions: March 2022 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…

March did not go out like a mouse, the weather here in New Jersey the last couple of days of the month skirted all four seasons, in terms of temperature and precipitation. But I digress, you all visit for my “hot takes” (as the kids say) on beer, specifically, 6 beers I enjoyed or wanted to highlight from the previous month. For March 2022, the pack contains two IPAs and 4 lagers; 4 from New Jersey breweries, one New York brewery, and one brewery based in the Czech Republic.

Enough of my rambling, here’s the Six Pack for March 2022…

John (Bradley Brew Project) | Pilsner – German | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the third beer I’ve had from Bradley Brew Project and it might be the best one. A clean, crisp, extremely well-crafted interpretation of a German Pilsner. This beer does just about everything correct for the style. There’s a slightly lemon/lime presence on the finish, but overall, an excellent beer

Lake Shore Fog (Southern Tier Brewing Company) | IPA – New England/Hazy | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Over the last handful of years, Southern Tier seems to be focusing more on their IPAs than their stouts. I was a big fan of the stouts they had in regular rotation about 5 years ago or so and haven’t had too many of their beers in more recent years. This beer is their take on the New England IPA. It is a perfectly acceptable take on the beer, not the best I’ve ever had, but one I’d be happy to enjoy again.

Kozel Černý / Dark (Pivovar Velké Popovice) | Lager – Dark | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

While this is not the original Czech Dark Lager, it is a Dark Lager from a brewery in the Czech Republic. I’ve come to enjoy the style a great deal over the last year as I’ve discovered it. Kozel is a is different, unique, and quite tasty, especially at 3.8%ABV and a beer that shows how complex lager beer can be.

BIČ (Carton Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Czech | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

While Carton Brewing may be known for Boat, the O-DUB series of IPAs and the Coffee Cream Ales, what I enjoy most is their Pilsner game. Their base American Pilsner (Whip) is modified to fit the profile of several region’s/country’s Pilsner. BIČ is the Czech-inspired Pilsner and is absolutely delicious.

DDH Power Juicer [Julius] (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – New England / Hazy | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

ommegang3phildoubchoc

Another month, another Icarus beer. Power Juice is one of the many “series” of beer Icarus brews in the IPA realm. I love the main/original version, but this one is very tasty too. As the name implies, this beer is double-dry hopped with Julius hops. Icarus really knows how to blend hops together harmoniously.

Black Orpheus (Sunken Silo Brew Works) | Schwarzbier | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

When I visited Sunken Silo in February, the friendly beertender informed me this beer would be ready in about a month. I knew I had to visit again for this beer (and to make may way through season 2 of the Hunterdon County Beer Trail). This beer is a collaboration with Ashton Brewing and is just as good as the version brewed and canned at Ashton’s facility in Middlesex, NJ. A slight roast, wonderful malty elements with a great lager finish.

Another month with a plethora of new beers, mostly good. There was one experience; however, I’d be remiss for not noting. I’m not one to throw a brewery under the bus, so I won’t mention by name the brewery I’m about to discuss. Said brewery recently moved into a beautiful new facility, only a couple of miles away from their small, original facility in an office park. I hadn’t had beers from this brewery in over four and half years for various reasons including the beer being just “OK.” After all, other breweries as close (or closer) to me were making much better beer. But I figured I’d give them a try because I’ve heard the beer has improved and the new facility is supposedly quite inviting. Well, the new facility is really nice, I’ll give them that.

Well, I stroll up to the bar on a Friday evening and ask if they are serving flights. After an uncomfortable pause and an inaudible exchange with the manager(?), the beertender said not tonight and removed a sign that I can only guess mentioned flights. While there were a good amount of people at the brewery, there were empty tables throughout, so Strike 1.

My next question, “Oh, are you filling growlers or crowlers?” Response, “Sorry, only members of our ‘Special Club’ can get growler fills.” Call me crazy if I find that to be a thoughtless policy. You don’t want patrons to bring your beer home to enjoy? Better yet, you don’t want people yo share the beer with friends who may potentially be new patrons? To not offer growler/crowler fills as a blanket policy is one thing. But to offer them only to a special club that has a limited membership is short-sighted and an ill-advised business move. I’ll just say I’m not too surprised. I’ve had my fair share of beers from NJ breweries (75 NJ breweries), so I might be a decent judge of good NJ beer. While some of the beers I’ve had from this brewery have been good, on the whole, the beer from this brewery is by no means anywhere near good enough to warrant an exclusive club with privileges. There are maybe 3 or 4 breweries in the State that *might* be able to pull of something like an exclusive members only club. This brewery isn’t nearly established enough with the quality of their beer to do so, in my humble opinion. It is a barrier of exclusivity that works more as a turn off. I had one beer that Friday night and it wasn’t great, thus I will not be visiting this brewery or sampling their beer again in the future.

This has been my TED Talk.

Beer Review: Four City Brewing’s La Baie Noir

Name: La Baie Noir
Brewing Company: Four City Brewing Company
Location: Orange, NJ
Style: Sour – Fruited
ABV: 6%

A superb fruited sour from a NJ brewery who has shown ample talent across nuanced styles.

4City_LaBaieNoire

From the untappd page for the beer:

Sour fans can rejoice! La Baie Noir (French for “the black berry”) is our dark sour brewed with blackberry puree. Tart with a sweet finish, this beer will be a springtime favorite!.

I’ve been eager to try more of Four City’s beers since I visited the brewery during my 2020 Birthday Brewery tour. The people were really chill and the beer impressed me. I was very pleased when a liquor store I frequent started carrying their beer (per my untappd notifications), so I visited and landed on this beer to try, I wanted something a little different. Since I like blackberries this one called out to me quite loudly.

A rather fancy looking can, the beer name in script with a vine of hops on one side of the name, with blackberries on the other. Yup. That tells you what you’ll get.

The beer I pour into the can is quite dark, slightly translucent. From a distance, it looks black, but under the light there’s a purple tint. As dark as this beer is, there’s no mistaking it for a stout or porter. Aroma is potent blackberries, but there’s an underlying funk I’d expect from a sour ale.

My first sip follows the nose. An initial funkiness, which is what I expect from a sour beer. The blackberries come in and take over as the primary flavor element. A balanced amount of blackberries, though. While a this beer probably has ample amounts of blackberry puree, there’s still the underlying sour/tart and funky elements to keep the “backbone” of this adult beverage in the beer category.

The few beers I’ve had from Four City include beers that aren’t the easiest to make and styles that illustrate a brewery’s/brewer’s skill: Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Quadrupel, and this one. Many breweries are making Sour Ales, but many of them are throwing lactose (or cream cheese!) into the beer and overloading the beer with extremely large amounts of fruit or other “non-traditional” adjuncts…smoothie sours that barely resemble beers when poured in the glass. This beer, La Baie Noir, is showcasing great flavors with fewer components and it shows – there’s not much room to hide mistakes and the sour elements and blackberries shine.

I haven’t had too many dark sour beers, especially recently since I’ve come to enjoy sour beers more. I recall one from Carton Brewing and one from New Belgium, but bothe beers were consumed a good handful of years ago so comparing La Baie Noir to those beers isn’t exactly apt. What I can say is that Four City’s Blackberry Sour is an outstanding beer that should please many craft beer drinkers. It isn’t face-puckering sour, but sour enough to establish itself as a sour beer. The blackberry flavor is wonderful. A nice dessert beer, for sure.

Recommended, link to 4.25 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Fruits of Your Labor (Level 19)

It’s been a long day and now it’s time for a reward. Crisp, tasty and refreshing, enjoy that delicious fruit beer! That’s 5 different beers with the style of Fruit Beer, Sour – Smoothie / Pastry, or Sour – Fruited (Gose or Berliner Weisse).

FourCity_LaBaieNoire

Beer Review: Ashton Brewing’s Shore de Garde

Name: Shore De Garde
Brewing Company: Ashton Brewing
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: Farmhouse – Bière de Garde
ABV: 7.8%

A fantastic take on a relatively obscure Farmhouse Ale demonstrates the high quality beer I’ve come to expect from Ashton Brewing.

Ashton__ShoreDeGarde

From Ashton Brewing’s landing page for beers:

The 2021 Motown MASH Best of Show winner, Erik Shore, created this delicious country ale. It is a Bière de Garde, which is a French Farmhouse Ale. This beer is malty, clean, dry and smooth. Truly a keeper.

I’ve been really enjoying the beers coming out of Ashton Brewing over the last couple of years, regardless of style. I happened to stop in recently and saw this beer on draught, a style I don’t see often – Bière de Garde, a French Farmhouse Saison-type of ale which translates as “beer for keeping.” Whereas a Farmhouse Ale of the Saison variety is lighter in color, like straw, a Bière de Garde is a little more malty and darker in color. As such, I don’t have too much to compare Shore de Garde against, with the exception of Two Roads’s tasty Holiday Ale.

Before getting the full pour, Donna (one of the owners) kindly allowed me a sip/small taste of this beer and the Saison/Farmhouse they had on draught that day. Both were good, but this one was different enough that I wanted the full pour.

The beer I’m given is a relatively clear golden-burnt umber color. It looks relatively unique, which is enticing. Aroma…I didn’t get anything out of the ordinary on the aroma portion of the show, so I dive in for my first sip.

First taste…is both unique and somewhat familiar. I think the yeast elements give the beer some familiarity, kind of what I’d expect from a Saison or Farmhouse Ale. But the malt character…that’s what is unique, at least what I expect in this style of beer. There’s a sweetness that is rather different from most Farmhouse Ales I’ve enjoyed. The fruitiness is more earthy, maybe figginess and dates? Whereas the Saison side of Farmhouse evokes more of a banana flavor.

This is a very surprising, pleasant beer. The more I drink, the more I enjoy it. It is a fun beer in many ways, in terms of trying to determine what flavors are coming from the yeast and malt combination, and quite delightful.

As the description calls out, this beer is a product of MASH. As I noted in my Brewery Spotlight for Ashton Brewing, Steve is a member of MASH (Morris Area Society of Homebrewers) and I think this is the second beer (at least) that is a product a MASH contest and it is a damned fine one at that. Donna mentioned to me that the batch on draught that day was essentially a test batch and that it did well enough that Ashton will be canning this beer with the next full batch. This is a unique style, a flavorful, well-crafted ale that is worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Draught Diversions: January 2022 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…

A new year brings some new beers, but that happens every month here at the Tap Takeover. For the first Six Pack of 2022, there’s the usual half NJ half non-NJ mix with a few styles I don’t have often enough. It was a little tough to whittle down the list to just 6 because I was enjoying a tasty variety of new beers throughout the entire month.

SixPack_2022-Jan

Enough preamble, here is the first Six Pack of 2022…

Grimm Weisse Dunkel (Grimm Artisanal Ales) | Wheat Beer – Dunkelweizen | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Grimm_WeisseDunkel

Many people have praised Grimm for their hop-forward Ales and rightfully so. But I’m here praising one of the most under-appreciated styles, the Dunkelweizen. Grimm’s take on this classic German wheat ale is as good as I’ve had, and better than most. Probably the only Dunkelweizen I think I’ve had that tops this one is the Erdinger’s Dunkelweizen.

Kentucky Christmas Morning (Hardywood Park Craft Brewery) | Stout – Imperial / Double Milk | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Hardywood_KentuckyMorning

I reviewed the barrel-aged Gingerbread Stout and had the un-barrel-aged version of Christmas Morning in 2020 (an instant favorite Christmas beer), so of course I had to try the barrel aged Christmas Morning. This is a beautiful, flavorful, and balanced stout. All the flavors I loved about Christmas Morning (Coffee, Gingerbread, Cinnamon, and Maple Syrup) are enhanced and supported by the bourbon barrel aging.

Triple Sunshine (Lawson’s Finest Liquids) | IPA – Triple | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Lawsons_TripleSunshine

When I was offered a can of this, I couldn’t refuse. I’ve had the standard Sip of Sunshine and liked it and was equally impressed with the Triple-amped up version. Smooth, slightly boozy, and hoppy, this beer is dynamite. I get some of the hop oil texture and flavor, which is something I really like in these hop bombs. I need to explore more of Lawson’s beers.

Translucent Dusk (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Schwarzbier | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

JerseyCyclone_TranslucentDusk

Schwarzbier is one of the oldest styles of German lager, dating back to the 1500s! Jersey Cyclone Brewing, who has been brewing great lagers from the start, recently brewed “Translucent Dusk,” their Schwarzbier for a second time. I missed the first batch, so I had to get a crowler of the beer since I’m a lager leaning lad and I’ve been drawn to dark lagers over the last few years. As expected, the beer is delicious and a fantastic interpretation of the style, slightly sweetness in the roasted malt character with hints of chocolate from that malt, pleasant hints of roasty smoke, and a pleasant, lingering aftertaste..

Lumberyard Lager (Tonewood Brewing Company) | Lager – Helles | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Tonewood_LumberyardLager

Tonewood recently opened their new facility in Barrington, NJ and this beer is a shout-out to their original location, which was formerly a lumberyard. The fine brewers of Tonewood used all German ingredients – specifically the malt an hops, to brew this tasty, crushable lager. Tonewood impresses me with each lager I have from them and this continues that trend.

Good King VIII (Icarus Brewing & Source Brewing) | Pilsner – Czech | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

IcarusSource_GoodKingVIII

Clean, crisp, and perfectly balanced, this collaboration between two of the higher profile NJ breweries is totally on point for the style. I’ve had excellent Pilsners from Icarus, an outstanding Kölsch and Maibock from Source, so I’m not surprised this collaboration is as good as it is. What surprises me the most is how immensely flavorful the beer is with a super-low ABV of 3.8%

No real stinkers this time around, just a couple of mediocre beers not worth mentioning.

Draught Diversions: Favorite Beers of 2021

Somehow, I’ve rolled into a fifth annual roundup of my favorite beers. Like my previous Favorite of the Year 12-pack posts, while I’ll still have beers with very high untappd ratings, this post features “Favorite” beers of the 336 unique beers I checked into untappd in 2021, from 104 different breweries. What does that mean? Well, there were beers I consumed in 2021 which I awarded a high 4.75 rating, but I may be including a 4.25 beer that I enjoyed more in this twelve-pack (or half case). Put it another way, there were some highly rated (4.5) beers I enjoyed in 2021 that one beer was enough was enough, while some beers I may have rated at a 4.25 I would have multiple times. Or still another way – some movies are incredibly well-made masterpieces, but one viewing is enough whereas some movies you love and want to watch over and over or will leave on the TV no matter where in the running time you catch it.

As always, for the purposes of this post New means “New to Me” because a some beers on this list have been around for a few years, but I had the beer for the first time in 2021.

TTT_2021_Favorites

Before we go further down the beer road, a little plug for my old blog, which is where I write, rant, and rave about Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction books. Well, I can’t say “write” because I haven’t posted there too much over the last few years, but was posting multiple times per week for quite a few years. Over there, I mostly write about the books I’ve read, some of the movies and TV shows I’ve watched, and other assorted random stuff. That blog has largely been collecting virtual dust, but I decided to post about the books I enjoyed reading the most in 2021. So have a look and maybe you’ll find a good book or four to read. 

RobsFavoriteReads2021

Back to our regularly scheduled beer programming…

The standard NJ bias shines through on this list as 8 of the beers are from NJ breweries. I’d say 75% of the beer I bought & consumed in 2021 was made in a from NJ breweries, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. This list could have easily been comprised of 3 or 4 breweries, but the one rule I’ll stick to from past years is allowing only one beer per brewery to appear. That rule made it difficult to whittle down some breweries from whom I’ve had upwards of 10 beers in 2021.

Here’s a Breakdown:

  • 8 from NJ breweries
  • 2 from PA breweries
  • 4 Lagers
    • 2 Pilsners
    • 1 Dark Lager
    • 1 Helles Lager
  • 2 Stouts
    • 1 Milk / Sweet
    • 1 Imperial / Double
  • 1 Porter
  • 1 Sour
  • 1 Barleywine
  • 1 Extra Special Bitter
  • 1 Kölsch
  • 1 English Dark Mild

On to my 12 Favorite “New to Me” Beers of 2021

12. Grand Cacao | Tröegs Independent Brewing | Stout – Milk / Sweet | 4.25 bottle caps


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When the brothers behind Pennsylvania’s Tröegs Independent Brewing release a new year round beer, it is worthy of note. When the beer is as good as Grand Cacao is, it is even more noteworthy. This beer is an outstanding Milk Stout with heavy chocolate overtones making for a nearly perfect dessert beer. This is similar to the Chocolate Stout I thoroughly enjoyed which was released in the Most Wonderful Beer of the Year variety pack in 2018, but maybe amped up more. I even commented on when I enjoyed that beer here and on Instagram/twitter that the Chocolate Stout should be in regular rotation, it is almost as if the Trogner Brothers listed to me. :D. Grand Cacao has immediately become a top Milk Stout for me.

11. La Di Da Di: Banana, Peanut Butter & Vanilla | Twin Elephant Brewing Company I Porter – Imperial / Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps

This is a perfectly balanced dessert beer. The peanut butter is great and blends with the vanilla and banana very nicely. Too may beers with peanut butter in them use powder or the peanut butter tastes like a stale Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. Not this beer, oh no. This is delicious and worth savoring. I’m not sure if this beer is still available on tap at Twin Elephant, but I’d love to try other variants on the beer.

 

10. Extra Stockton Bitter | Odd Bird Brewing | Extra Special / Strong Bitter | 4.5 bottle Caps

OddBird_ESB

This is beer in a quintessential British style as it is meant to be. Top notch flavors from fresh ingredients crafted with care and attention. I get mild bitterness on the initial sips of Extra Stockton Bitter, which is on point. The cask delivery gives the beer an added quaff and body that enhances the flavors of the maltiness. There’s an extremely balanced and welcome sweetness on the finish of the beer. This beer, for me, exemplifies why I like craft/independent beer so much. It isn’t a style you’ll find everywhere, but it is a passion project of a beer (one might say) that delivers something really special, no pun intended. This beer alone makes it worth the trip to the brewery, in my humble opinion.

9. Polyphonic | Ashton Brewing Company | Pilsner – German | 4.5 bottle caps

Ashton_Poly

Ashton Brewing is growing into one of the best Lager brewers in the State of New Jersey. Their first Pilsner, Jersey Dreamin’ was great, so early on Ashton showed a deft hand at brewing. Polyphonic is just as good, maybe even a little bit better. Such a clean, crisp pilsner is an example of why Pilsner became such a beloved style and another winner from Ashton Brewing.

 

8. Scrag Mountain Pils Salt & Lime | Lawson’s Finest Liquids | Pilsner – Czech | 4.50 bottle caps

This the kind of beer I want cold and in my hands as soon as I’m finished yard work or sitting by the pool. In fact, the second time I had the beer I did exactly that, finished mowing the lawn and cooled off in the pool with this beer. As it turns out, the opening sentence of this paragraph was written shortly after my first experience tasting the beer. There’s something to be said for taste and timing in general. In specific for Scrag Mountain Pils Salt and Lime, this beer was *perfect* for that post lawnmower refreshment while relaxing in the pool (as in the picture above). I’d say that Scrag Mountain Pils with Salt and Lime is a must have for the summer 

7. Vanilla Maris | Barleywine – English | 4.5 Bottle Caps

What a fantastic Barleywine this beer is. The English Barleywines are more malty and sweet compared to their hoppy cousins from America and often exhibit hints of toffee in the flavor profile. This beer does indeed have that element to it, which plays wonderfully with the vanilla beans on which the beer was aged. Another standout from Timber Ales.

 

6. Boat Ramp Champ | Cape May Brewing Company | Lager – Helles | 4.5 Bottle Caps

Being on Social Media can be a good thing. You get to see beers months ahead of their release to the public, like this Helles Lager from Cape May Brewing Company. They don’t brew/can/distribute many lagers, but when they do, they do them well (Cape May Lager from a couple of years ago; my new summer go-to, Tan Limes; and their annual Oktoberfest), so I was really looking forward to trying this one and I was absolutely not disappointed. This is one of the best Helles Lagers I’ve ever had, a fantastic American interpretation of the classic German style, and it might be my favorite beer from Cape May Brewing Company.

 

5. Uncharted Waters Blueberry and Cinnamon | Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company | Sour – Fruited | 4.5 bottle caps


I’ve been a fan of Jersey Cyclone Brewing since they opened a couple of years ago, their lagers and stouts are superb and they make tasty IPAs. However, this Blueberry/Cinnamon sour ale, Uncharted Waters, might be the best I’ve had from them. Lactose is added to balance out the tartness and sour elements for an outstanding beer. The beer reminds me of a blueberry crumble or blueberry cinnamon pie in beer form. Simply a delicious beer. I’ve since had a few of the Uncharted Waters variants from Jersey Cyclone and while they’ve all been very good, this one stands a half-head taller.

 

4. Yonder | Icarus Brewing Company | Mild – Dark | 4.25 bottle caps

IcarusYonder

Icarus again was a top brewery for 2021, which made the process of determining which beer would make it to this list even more difficult. I may have had other beers over the year that were technically better than this beer, but Yonder was quite simply my favorite. The style – English Dark Mild – isn’t what I’d consider a go-to style for me. Or it wasn’t before this beer. I tried the beer and fell in love with it, and it is a beer that has become one of the few beers upon which my dad, my brother-in-law, and I agree upon since we typically lean to different styles. But this beer…there is so much flavor in a beer that has such a low ABV (4%). I buy it whenever it has become available this year and is just a damned fine beer.

 

3. Paddy’s House Kölsch | Source Brewing | Kölsch | 4.75 bottle caps

The is beer is the winner of a homebrew contest, and there’s no question of the quality. Of the 30 beers on untappd I’ve had categorized as “Kölsch,” this is at least the best American version and maybe the best period. This was slow-poured to allow the flavors to express themselves even more potently, some malt/breadiness with a crisp finish that has some hops and a wonderful mouthfeel. This is everything I want in a beer.

 

2. Czech Dark Lager | Weyerbacher Brewing Company| Lager – Dark | 4.75 bottle caps

Weyerbacher_CzechDark

Weyerbacher is one of the great Northeast breweries so I was very happy to visit on my birthday as I’d never made it across the Route 78 bridge to Easton to visit them. I saw a Czech Dark Lager on draft and knew I had to have it, despite the fact that Weyerbacher typically isn’t known for low ABV lagers. This beer was outstanding, maybe my favorite of the style and likely will be my favorite new-to-me beer of the year and maybe even the beer I’ve enjoyed the most from Weyerbacher. Yes, I’ve had Sunday Morning Stout a few times. I brought a crowler home and when I cracked it open 10 days after the canning date, it held up very nicely. Simply put, a superb beer I wish they’d bring into more of a regular rotation than a test batch. Over the last year or two, the Czech Dark Lager has emerged as a top “new to me” style and this one is simply an outstanding take on the style.

 

1. Tenth | Kane Brewing Company | Stout – Imperial / Double | 5 bottle caps

Kane_Tenth

It really shouldn’t be a surprise at this point, every year my top beer is a barrel-aged beer, and only one year was that beer not a barrel-aged stout (it was Bourbon Barrel Aged Troegenator, a doppolebock). I’ve had more beers from Kane this year than any previous year and second only to Icarus in terms of quantity of new beers in 20201. Tenth is the best beer I’ve yet to enjoy from the great NJ brewery. I’ve said it the last three years about my favorite beer of the year, but Kane Tenth has risen to be my favorite barrel-aged beer. It is absolutely perfect and with out flaw. The bourbon elements are present, but don’t overpower the malt elements from the stout. I wish I bought more than one bottle, now.

Some other notes:

Although the pandemic made visiting breweries a little more challenging for much of 2020, I was able to visit the following breweries for the first time in 2020:

Alternate Ending Beer Co (Aberdeen, NJ)
Böser Geist Brewing Co (Easton, PA)
Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)
Bull N Bear Brewery (Summit, NJ)
Buttzville Brewing Company (Washington Township, NJ)
The Drowned Lands (Warwick, NY)
Invertase Brewing Company (Phillipsburg, NJ)
Log Tavern Brewing (Milford, PA)
Last Wave Brewing Company (Point Pleasant Beach, NJ)
Odd Bird Brewing (Stockton, NJ)
Source Breiwng (Colts Neck, NJ)
Two Rivers Brewing (Easton, PA)
Weyerbacher Brewing Company (Easton, PA)

Breweries whose beer I checked in/enjoyed the most according to untappd, which should be a shock to nobody reading this blog:

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Thanks to my readers for reading and to the breweries here (and everywhere) for continuing to make delicious beer! Here’s to another good year of beer in 2022!

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Draught Diversions: December 2021 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…

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The final Six Pack of 2021 is upon us. Well, I use “us” since it is actually incumbent upon me for sharing this six pack with my millions (insert Rock voice) and millions of readers. No IPA this month and fir the first time in a while, this six pack does not feature a beer from Icarus. What this six pack does feature: two Barleywines, a Porter, a Brown Ale, Belgian Quadrupel, and an Imperial Stout. Some familiar breweries, and a couple of breweries make a return appearance after a rather lengthy absence. I’ll likely be posting my favorite beers of the year later in the week

Without further adieu, here is the December 2021 Six Pack…

Parent Trap (Ashton Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Ashton keeps churning out good beers and this one surprised me the most. I’ve become very cautious/hesitant when it comes to beers with Peanut Butter/PB flavoring, it can often come across like bad/stale peanut butter. Not this one, a great blend of chocolate and peanut butter which makes for nice post-dinner beer. I understand now why cans of this beer sold out so quickly at the brewery.

Third Coast Ale (Bell’s Brewery) | Barleywine – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

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It’s been a while since Bell’s made an appearance here at the Tap Takeover, but I’ve been enjoying some of their core beers the last year or two. I hadn’t had their Barleywine prior to this, but that may change. I liked it quite a bit. It isn’t as hop forward, as say the iconic Bigfoot from Sierra Nevada, but the toffee element is more prominent. I’d love to try a barrel-aged version of this beer.

Outen the Light (Bonesaw Brewing Co) | Barleywine – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

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I’ve had a few beers from Bonesaw and enjoyed them so I figured I’d try this big Barleywine. This might be the booziest barleywine I’ve ever had. Hell, at 15.3%, it is one of the highest ABV beers I’ve had period. There’s a ton of barrel on the beer, almost too much for me, in fact. Almost. I enjoyed it, there’s a nice hit of sweet caramel as well as dried figgy/cherry/stone fruits. Even though it was only a 500ml bottle and I was drinking it rather slowly, I still felt a little woozy about halfway through finishing the beer. Again, 15.3%.

Tenth (Kane Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial/Double | 5 Bottle Caps on untappd

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I’ve had just over 50 beers from Kane. I’ve had over 150 Imperial Stouts (including “Coffee,” “Milk,” “Russian,” and “Oatmeal” varieties) and I’d guess at least half to two thirds of those were barrel aged. Tenth is both the best beer I’ve had from Kane and my favorite Barrel-Aged Stout I’ve ever had. This is an absolutely flawless beer.

Three Philosophers Double Chocolate (Brewery Ommegang) | Belgian Quadrupel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Brewery Ommegang has all but made their “Three Philosophers” Belgian Quadrupel-Kriek blend a brand with multiple variants over the years. I’ve had the original and thoroughly enjoyed it and now I’ve had this version of the beer. While it is indeed heavy on the chocolate (the “Double” in the name gives it away), for me, it wasn’t overpowering. I let the beer warm up a bit and the potent chocolate elements took a slight step-back to the main flavors of the beer.

Grandma Cookie (Lone Eagle Brewing) | Brown Ale – Belgian | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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When Lone Eagle makes a good beer, it turns out to be a great beer. This is the third time I’ve brought a growler of their beer to Christmas Eve and it was a hit as it was in past years. This beer is one of the better “new to me” Christmas themed beers I’ve had. Brewed with raisins, oatmeal, and cinnamon, the beer (as the name implies) evokes a delicious baked cookie you’d leave for Santa Claus. I had a feeling I’d like it, but I was surprised at just how much I did like it. I’ve had over 50 beers from Lone Eagle over the years and this one is one of their best, I hope they brew it again for the Christmas 2022 season or even can it, because I will be sure to grab some of it.

Good beers, indeed. Only one real dud this past month, Frosted Sugar Cookie from Southern Tier Brewing Company. I’ve enjoyed many of their beers over the years, but not this one. It tasted full of artificial sweetener.

Draught Diversions: Octoberfest 2021 Six Pack

This is the fourth annual Oktoberfest Six Pack (and fifth Oktoberfest feature overall), but clearly, Oktoberfest 2020 is unlike any we’ve experienced. For starters, the second year in a row, the annual celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese’s marriage was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Like last year, that hasn’t stopped the Festbiers and Märzens from being brewed and packaged. Four years into “constructing” these six-packs and I’m still able to find new malty, amber lagers to highlight every year. Of the beers featured here, I’ve had two, but only a taster of one and small portion from a crowler from another.

From last year: A note on the difference between Festbiers and Märzens. Festbiers are generally lower in alcohol and more close to a light copper color as opposed the the amber coloring of a Märzens. 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. For me, whatever style a particular brewery calls their amber/brown 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.

On to the Six Pack!

Festbier (Festbier) | Bitburger Brauerei | Bitburg, Germany | 6.2% ABV

Bitburger is one of the larger German breweries and back in 2019, they collaborated with Sierra Nevada on a Märzen and I thoroughly enjoyed that version. I figured since I’ve been enjoying Sierra Nevada’s solo Oktoberfest beers the last couple of years, I should give Bitburger’s a try.

What Bitburger says about the beer:

A seasonal edition, available from August each year for a limited time: our Bitburger Festbier – tasty, full-bodied and delicately malty-mild. Created by our brewmasters to enjoy the traditional German beer festival atmosphere. A very special malt composition, including Pilsner Malt, Münchner Malt and light Caramel Malt, accounts for its fine color and smooth body. Additionally, the beer is refined with Bitburger’s proprietary and unique hop blend called ‘Siegelhopfen’ (seal hops), which is sourced from a farm just a few minutes from the brewery. This drinkable 6.2% ABV full-bodied beer is the perfect marriage of hops and malt with a slightly sweet backbone, while finishing dry.

OxtoberFest (Märzen) | Bolero Snort Brewery | Carlstadt, NJ | 5.3% ABV

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It has been a while since Bolero Snort was featured here at the Tap Takeover, but with their increased production thanks to their awesome facility they are finally brewing and canning an Oktoberfest. Their Raging Bull Amber Lager is quite tasty so I’m hoping this one will be of equal quality.

What Bolero Snort says about the beer:

Who’s ready for OxtoberFest🍺!!!! We are happy to announce our latest release, right in time for the end of summer. This Marzen style lager was made as a Pro-Am Collab with our long time friend C3 Brewing😎. So grab your alpine hat and lederhosen’s and get on down to your local store to try out OxtoberFest👍!!!

Festooning (Märzen) | Grimm Artisanal Ales | Brooklyn, NY | 5.7% ABV

I’ve had a couple of Grimm’s lagers over the past few months (including a fantastic Vienna Lager), so I’m hoping their take on this most traditional of German lagers reaches NJ.

What Grimm says about the beer:

We are so excited to release Festooning, our first Oktoberfest Märzen-style lager. Like our pilsners, this amber lager was brewed with a traditional step mash process. The grist is a rich combination of German Vienna and Munich II malts that give warm notes of honey, caramel, and a fresh-baked loaf of seeded bread. Malty-sweet flavor with a crisp body and a subtle balancing bitterness make this an über satisfying Oktoberfest.

Mr. Oktoberfest (Märzen) | Icarus Brewing Company | Lakewood, NJ | 5.4% ABV

I shared a crowler of this one a couple of years ago, so I’m hoping cans of this one make it out to distribution again. As a NY Yankees fan, how do I not like a beer with this name and great can art?

What Icarus says about the beer:

Our 5.4% traditional German Lager was brewed with German Vienna and Dark Munich malts, then delicately hopped with Hallertauer Mittlefrueh. After Lagering for over a month in our tanks this enticingly malty yet easy drinking beer brings notes of Freshly Baked Bread, Caramel and just enough noble hops to mellow out the experience. Just in time to enjoy in your Beer Tent, this amber medium bodied beauty demands we say Prost and enjoy!

Drachenstadt – Festbier (Märzen) | Levante Brewing Company | West Chester, PA | 4.8% ABV

Levante gets some distribution here into New Jersey so I’m hoping I’ll see this beer. With a dragon theme in the beer and the label, I feel extremely compelled to try it.

Levante says this about the beer:

To go toe-to-claw with a dragon it helps to possess courage, even if it’s in liquid form. With a selection of five specialty malts, cold fermented and lagered to perfection, our Marzen style beer brings forth a depth and drinkable character not usually found in today’s festbiers. You’ll have courage to spare!

Ramstein Oktoberfest Lager (Märzen) | Ramstein/High Point Brewing Company | Hackettstown, NJ | 6% ABV

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Perhaps the most traditional and iconic Oktoberfest brewed in NJ. Like many of the beers brewed out of High Point Brewing in Butler, NJ, this was only available at the brewery. Last year, Ramstein canned the beer for the first time and sent the cans out to some stores in the State. I’m hoping that happens again this year, because I only had this beer once, many years ago at a beer festival but it left a strong impression.

What Ramstein says about the beer:

Inspired by the authentic German Oktoberfest beer from the early 1900s. This amber lager has a rich malty aroma, a smooth toasty palate, and subtle noble hop finish.

The richness and spiciness of this beer makes it the perfect accompaniment to robust meats and grilled fare. Ramstein Oktoberfest is a great beer for any festive occasion.

Beer Review: Two Ton’s Wrought Gold W/ Blood Orange

Name: Wrought Gold w/ Blood Orange
Brewing Company: Two Ton Brewing
Location: Kenilworth, NJ
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.5%

“A flavorful, low ABV beer perfect for summer and poolside beer from the Union County brewery.”

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The commemorative/souvenir beer glass is from the 2015 Garden State Brewfest, where I first sampled beer from Two Ton Brewing.

From Two Ton’s facebook post promoting the beer:

We took Wrought Gold, our American blonde ale brewed with fresh blood orange purée to deliver the ultimate refreshment. This summer sipper is sure to satisfy with smooth sensations of sweetness. The base beer boasts smooth, round flavors of malt and slightly juicy Liberty hops, fermented with an English ale yeast.

A relatively short amount of time for another Blonde Ale considering I don’t drink many of them. But the frequency of these two Blonde Ale reviews should speak to their quality. That said, this definitely different than the previous Blonde Ale featured here at the Tap Takeover. Two Ton has been around the NJ Craft Beer scene for a few years, I first sampled their fine brews during the 2015 Garden State Brewfest. I remember their beer being tasty and the owners, brothers Matt and Jim Barbiere and their father Mario, being extremely nice guys.  At the time, Two Ton was contract brewing with their HQ based out of Linden, NJ, my hometown. More recently (in 2018), they opened in Kenilworth, NJ. This past year, they began distributing cans of their beer which leads to this beer specifically.

Blonde Ales are typically easy drinking, approachable beers. I’ve had the original Wrought Gold and remembered enjoying the beer so I was pleased to see this variant appear in the refrigerated shelves of my local Wegmans. I had a feeling it might be a good poolside / summer beer and I had a few people coming over that day, one of whom loves Blood Orange.

Pop of the can and the strong, pleasant, inviting aroma of the Blood Orange asserts itself. The beer pours a reddish gold and the potent aroma of citrus/oranges is even more noticeable. Although the fruit is “Blood Orange,” the look of the beer, is more of a “strawberry blonde.” Regardless, the beer looks as I would expect it to look.

The pronounced Blood Orange flavor dominates. That is a feature, not a bug, by the way. Blonde Ales are often not too assertive, they are beer flavored beer for the most part. The American versions at least, tend to not lean too much on the malt, not too much on the hops so the beer style is good for its approachability and its ability to take on a flavor adjunct. I mentioned the citrus element from the Blood Orange…that is quite different than the citrus element some hops impart. There’s a very distinct citrus sweetness that I can only compare to the most potent orange juice I’ve had blended with beer. It makes for a good combination, at least for my taste buds.

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Wrought Gold w/Blood Orange is an excellent ale that works perfectly as a fun, summer refresher and well worth seeking out.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4 bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Alternate Ending’s Amity Beer

Name: Amity Beer
Brewing Company: Alternate Ending Beer Co.
Location: Aberdeen Township, NJ
Style: Lager – Pale
ABV: 4.1%

Quite simply, one of the better Craft Lagers I’ve had over the past couple of years.

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From Alternate Ending’s Instagram post for this beer:

You know those moments when you’re sitting on the beach under the hot sun and sweat is glistening off your forehead, so you start debating whether or not to cool off in the ocean, but then that JAWS music pops into your head…duunnn dunnn…duuuunnnn duun…duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun…well don’t worry, ‘cause we’ve got you covered. Sit back, crack our cold, crisp Premium Lager, and watch everyone else swim carelessly as countless very sharp teeth swim beneath their feet. Amity Beer…now in 12oz cans, sold as a 6-pack. Drink responsibly and have a Happy Fourth! To learn more about the inspiration behind this beer, be sure to read the box…

It is turning into a theme of the Tap Takeover with my beer reviews of late – breweries who had the unfortunate timing to open/launch during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Alternate Ending fits that bill, but they are a tad different – they are a brewpub as well. Their overall resume, the people behind the brewery/brewpub is quite impressive. They have  beer/brewing experience at breweries like Other Half and Jughandle. Alternate Ending took over an old BowTie Cinemas location and as such, goes with movie-themed names for their beers. Since Aberdeen Township is considered a Jersey Shore town and one of the most popular “shore” movies all time being Jaws, why not make a beer as an homage? They did and called it Amity Beer, Alternate Ending’s (and head brewer Brendan Arnold) take on the Pale Lager.

As I noted in my review of Twin Lights Lager, essentially, a Pale Lager can be considered an “almost Pilsner.” Or another thought is All Pilsners are Pale Lagers but not all Pale Lagers are Pilsners.

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As for Amity Beer, I enjoyed the beer freshly poured into a dimple mug from the draft. This beer looks wonderful. Perfect foamy head, slightly translucent pale yellow liquid. In other words, you look up Lager in the dictionary, this beer is absolutely what you want to see.

A beer can look the part, as does Amity Beer, but it has to taste the part, too.

Malt/breadiness and maybe a little hint of sweet fruit waft from the mug. The first sip is a slap of deliciousness to my tastebuds. Those aforementioned aromas transfer even more potently to the taste in so many ways. There’s a bit of a cracker element, but what stands out most is the finish, there’s a slight sweet fruitiness I mentioned that compels me to keep drinking the beer. It is such a fun, delightful beer, I wish they had six packs of the beer, but it sold out very quickly when it was released at the end of June 2021.

Maybe the most impressive element of the beer is that it is only 4.1% ABV and it is bursting with flavor. It takes a well-honed brewer to coax that much flavor in a beer with that low of an ABV. In talking with head brewer Brendan during the NJCB Night at Alternate Ending on July 12, he mentioned that this was the most “difficult” beer he’s made at Alternate Ending. Even though the delicious Pilsner they brew, Royal Rug is a difficult style, there’s even less wiggle room for mistakes or opportunities to hide those mistakes with, say, the potential hops you’d add to a pilsner. Well…to say that Brandon absolutely nailed the style is an understatement.

To play on one of the most famous lines of dialogue from the movie to which this beer honors, “They’re going to need a bigger boat.” In other words, a beer this good, this flavorful, and this fun, should be on tap from Memorial Day to Labor Day, at the least.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

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