Draught Diversions: Hunterdon County Beer Trail

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…

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Beer Trails” or promotional efforts for breweries located in a county or region aren’t new. For one of my Birthday Beer Tours, my wife took me on the Bucks County Ale Trail in neighboring PA. With the maturation, growth, and evolution of the beer scene in New Jersey Beer over the past decade, and most importantly over the last 5 years or so. As of this writing (according to New Jersey Craft Beer), New Jersey can boast are over 100 breweries, and 150 including brewpubs. In other words, the time is ripe for some official “Beer Trails” in New Jersey to be promoted.  Laws and bills are being enacted to relax some of the stringent laws in New Jersey. Specifically relating to this post: Bill A-1091, which requires “the state Division of Travel and Tourism to advertise and promote tours of breweries in New Jersey.”

According to the language of the bill, the Division of Travel and Tourism is to identify a series of breweries to be a part of a brewery trail. The division would create no less than three brewery trails to be identified for the program and special consideration will be taken for those who are geographically close to other breweries or have a specific theme or are surrounded by the arts, cultural, historical, entertainment, or other tourism destinations.

Enter the Hunterdon County Beer Trail.

The NJ Tourism site, VisitNJ.org now has a dedicated page to the breweries, wineries, and distillers of New Jersey and proves that yes, Central Jersey does indeed exist even if the tourism website doesn’t exactly have their regions divided correctly! I live in Somerset County and Hunterdon County is one of our neighboring counties. In fact, one of the breweries on the Hunterdon County Beer Trail is less than two miles from my front door.

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Spearheaded by Bob King, one of Lone Eagle Brewing’s Co-owner’s, The Hunterdon County Beer Trail is a partnership between local brewers and the Hunterdon County Economic Development to highlight these small business and obviously drive patrons to visit. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Lone Eagle (and pointed out in one of early brewery spotlights here at the Tap Takeover) is their commitment to the community. Bob spread that commitment from the Flemington community out to his colleagues and peers across Hunterdon County.

I’d visited a few of these breweries over the last few years before the Beer Trail kicked off, but I was more than happy to visit them once again to complete the “Passport.” Although I’ve done full features on a few of these breweries, I’ll do a brief summary of each brewery in alphabetical order.

Conclave Brewing, established 2015 | Raritan Township, NJ | Facebook | Instagram | twitter | Conclave on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Profile

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Clockwise L to R: Clearly Pils, Blueberry Frukt (Farmhouse Ale), Hop Ritual with Vic Secret (Pale Ale), Moonwater IPA , Gravitational Pull (IPA) and Mexican Morning Stout

Conclave was the first brewery of this group to be established in Hunterdon County back in 2015, and for quite a while, they were the brewery closest to me so were effectively my local brewery. They’ve proven great expertise at all styles, particularly IPAs, which are highly acclaimed and sought after in the New Jersey beer community. Shortly before the pandemic struck, Conclave moved just down the road to a much larger location. This new location allowed an expansion of their tap list, and much more room for seating both indoors and out. Enough room, in fact, to host music acts fairly regularly. Favorite beers (of the 35+ I’ve had from Conclave): Clearly Pils (German Pilsner), Espresso Morning Stout (Coffee Milk Stout), Mexican Morning Stout (Spicy Milk Stout), Sable (Imperial Stout), Gravitational Pull IPA, Moonwater IPA, and Hop Ritual with Vic Secret (Pale Ale) .

Descendants Brewing at the Old Ship Inn, established 1995, 2021 | Milford, NJ | Facebook | Instagram | Descendants on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Descendant’s Best Better (Cask)

When Descendants opened in 1995 as The Ship Inn, it was the first brewing company to open in New Jersey since prohibition. The business renamed and launched as Descendants Brewing Company in May 2021. Located a short walk away from the Delaware River, the brewpub is housed in an old Victorian Home. I only had one beer that day, the ESB, but the beers brewed on site are a nice mix of American, German, British, and Belgian inspired styles in addition to an impressive list of several bottles, draughts, and cans from “guest breweries.” Descendants is the only brewpub in Hunterdon County and I intend to get a full meal during my next visit because the menu looks outstanding.

Highrail Brewing Company, established 2019 | High Bridge, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Highrail Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Clockwise L to R: Tart & Thankful, PITA Pumpkin Ale, Stayin ‘ Local (Wheat Ale), and Saewert’s Oatmeal Stout

Highrail Brewing opened in July 2019 in downtown High Bridge, NJ. The brewery is situated on a small, yet quaint and charming main street with a pizzeria and a coffee shop across the street among other local businesses. I visited in August 2019 for the first time shortly after the brewery opened and I was quite impressed with the two beers I had at the time, the first was Stayin’ Local, a wheat ale with peach that was perfect for summer. The other beer I had at that time was Saewert’s Oatmeal Stout, which was a smooth and tasty Oatmeal Stout. When the beer trail was announced, it was reason enough for a second visit, plus I wanted to try the NJ Craft Beer collaboration Tart & Thankful. This beer is a Cranberry Fruit/Fruited Sour Beer, which I reviewed late 2021 and a beer I thoroughly enjoyed. I also had their pumpkin ale, PITA Pumpkin ale, one of the more flavorful and balanced pumpkin beers I’ve had in a while. High Rail makes clean, tasty beers on the whole and are well worth visiting.

Lone Eagle Brewing Company, established 2016 | Flemington, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Lone Eagle Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Feature

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Clockwise L to R: Jubileum V Eisbock, Blueberry Gusher, Nitro Oatmeal Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, Flemington Fog (NEIPA), and King Kölsch

Lone Eagle was the second brewery to open up in Hunterdon County since the big law change of 2012 and they’ve seen some impressive growth. I outlined the beginnings of the brewery in my feature back in 2017, but since then, Lone Eagle has increased capacity with a new purpose-built brewing facility and some brewer changes. Of the breweries on the trail, I’ve had more beers (55 as of this writing) from Lone Eagle than the others (and more than most breweries in general). For a few years prior to the pandemic, the brewery hosted a Board Game night in their spacious loft. In addition to playing some fun games and making new friends, Board Game Night afforded me the opportunity to sample a vast array of beers, often a flight or two a night. It has turned out that every other year I’ve brought a growler of their beer to Christmas Eve (most recently, Grandma’s Cookie) and it was always a hit. I’ve reviewed three beers from them (Belgian Strong Dark, King Köslch, and their 5th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Eisbock), in addition to those beers, their Russian Imperial Stout is quite tasty, their Märzen is always good and their Hefeweizen is top notch. The brewery is in an excellent location, spacious, inviting, and the people pouring your beer are super friendly.

Odd Bird Brewing Co. established 2020 | Stockton, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Odd Bird Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Feature

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Clockwise L to R: Extra Stockton Bitter, Oddsbodikins Lager, Prallsville Pils, and Fields Saison

Odd Bird Brewing was the first brewery I visited after the launch of the Hunterdon County Beer Trail and I visited a second time when my wife took me on the annual Birthday Beer Tour. She didn’t realize I visited (she usually tries to go to breweries I haven’t visited), but I was more than happy to visit Adam and Karen once again because they make terrific beers. Since my feature on Odd Bird Brewing was posted only a few months ago, I’ll excerpt some of that here. The location is rather unique, especially compared to the other breweries I’ve visited in NJ. Risler Avenue/NJ State Route 29 parallels the Delaware River at the southwestern end of County Road 523 – a lovely drive to be had on a late summer/early fall day. Odd Bird is located in an old auto body shop, which is in the same building/location as the Stockton Eagle gas station, and that building is next to a restaurant, Cravings. That set up/location does sort of fit in with the name of the brewery. Odd Bird Brewing is, in my mind, what a quintessential local brewery should be. Great people who own it, who make delicious beer, with a unique taplist of beers that will attract more than just the immediate locals. The brewery has such a wonderful character and ambiance that is more than complimented by the classic styles brewed to near perfection. I had four beers from them, including one that made my favorites of 2021, their cask conditioned ESB, Extra Stockton Bitter, as well as a tasty Amber Lager, a Pilsner, and a Saison.

Readington Brewery and Hop Farm established 2022 | Readington, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Readington Brewery and Hop Farm on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Opening Weekend @Readington Brewery and Hop Farm

The newest brewery on this Beer Trail, and as of this writing in January 2022, one of the newest breweries in the State of New Jersey. I’ve been driving past this location regularly for a couple of years as they are very close to my house. I went opening weekend when they were still getting settled into their rhythm and had a few samples. At the time, only 2 were beers on untappd and they were probably the two I liked the most, The Churchill, an ESB, and Jack the Tripel a Belgian Tripel. I also had a brown ale that was fairly tasty. Given how close they are, I really should make another few visits in the near future because the facility is beautiful, the people were very nice, and they grow their own hops! How cool is that? I think the only other brewery who grows their own hops is Screamin’ Hill in Cream Ridge.

Sunken Silo Brew Works established 2019 | Lebanon, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Sunken Silo Brew Works on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Wystouti Nitro (L) and Deemed Essential Czech Pils (R)

Like other breweries on the HCBT, I’d visited Sunken Silo previously, shortly after they opened in February 2020. I like that they call themselves “Brew Works” as opposed to “Brewing Company” or “Brewery.” I recall the brewery being quite busy that chilly Friday evening during my first visit in 2020. The brewery was equally busy on my visit in January 2021. However, I was able to strike up a nice conversation with Christian, the Beertender working that day. I learned that Sunken Silo managed to weather the pandemic pretty well, thanks in large part to crowler and to-go sales. The brewery is next door to the popular Metropolitan Seafood Gourmet, a thing that sets the brewery apart and provides a great opportunity for patrons of one business to patronize the other business. The brewery’s name is an homage to the Round Valley Reservoir, a.k.a. NJ’s Bermuda Triangle:

The Round Valley Reservoir in Clinton Township, Hunterdon County, was formed in 1960 when the New Jersey Water Authority constructed two large dams and flooded a large valley, which had formerly been occupied by a farming community.”

Quirky name and history are neat, but fortunately, the folks at Sunken Silo (owner Jeff Donlon, Brewer Production Manager/Brewer Fred Mattrey, and head brewer Matt Harrison) make tasty beer, including their Wystouti American Stout I enjoyed and reviewed earlier this week. I know I’ll be visiting the brewery again.

This was a fun campaign and the folks behind the Hunterdon County Beer Trail have promoted it quite well. They’ve mentioned a “second season” and future seasons, which I’m eagerly anticipating. The first “prize” for completing season one of the trail passport is the glass pictured above, I wonder what will be next. If it is a shirt, I’ll just make a small suggestion to the organizers: please make them in XXXL! I’ll be looking to finish the next season either way because there are a lot of new and different beers for me to try, right?

Hunterdon County Beer Trail

Beer Review: Wystouti from Sunken Silo Brew Works

Name: Wystouti
Brewing Company: Sunken Silo Brew Works
Location: Lebanon, NJ
Style: Stout – American
ABV: 6.8%

A well-made American stout that doesn’t rely on adjuncts for its tasty flavor profile.

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From the Sunken Silo’s Our Beers page:

We honor Joe senior with a riff on his name. A whiff of coffee and chocolate with a silky-smooth mouthfeel. ON NITRO

Sunken Silo Brew Works has been open for about 2 years, I visited just before the pandemic and given how close they are to me, I figured it was about time I made another visit. They are also part of the Hunterdon Beer Trail, which might be a feature post later this week. As for this beer, they only had it on a nitro tap, which I often feel drowns out the flavor of the beer, but I was in the mood for a stout. So how did Wystouti work for me?

After a slightly slow pour, the beer placed in front of me looks very inviting. The creamy looking khaki head topping off the dark stout is a picture-perfect beer.

Diving in, I get the mouthfeel of the Nitro immediately. The fluffiness is pleasant. Then the taste follows, which is what I expect from a Stout, mostly. Roasted malts. But wait, there’s more!

I’m getting some other flavors, unexpected flavors, but good nonetheless. There’s the expected evocation of coffee and hints of chocolate from the roasted malts. But there’s a berry-like sweetness on the backend of the beer. More of a hint of berries, I’d say, a nice surprise and pleasant overall.

Maybe the thing I most appreciate about this beer is how straight-forward it is. It seems there are far more stouts with some kind of adjunct (chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallow, lactose, coffee, etc), so a stout that gains its flavor from the core four ingredients? Seems like a novel concept these days, but you can count me in. Especially if the beer is as well-made and tasty as Wystouti is.

Wystouti is a terrific stout, although ’d like to try the non-Nitro version. Sunken Silo let a batch sit in bourbon barrels for 9 months to celebrate their 2nd birthday. Next time I visit the brewery, I may have to grab a bottle of it.

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

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Smooth as Silk (Level 2)

That extra smooth mouth-feel you just experienced is all thanks to the thousands of tiny bubbles created by infused nitrogen. Yum! Check-in 10 times with the serving style of Nitro.

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Beer Review: Carton Brewing’s Cafe Revolver

Name: Cafe Revolver
Brewing Company: Carton Brewing Company
Location: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Style: Cream Ale | Imperial Cream Ale
ABV: 12%

Another outstanding entry in Carton Brewing’s “Regular Coffee Game” – A Must Try

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From Carton Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Imperial Cream Ale Aged In Bourbon Barrels w/ Orange Bitters: 12% | IBU: 20 | SRM: 5

Café Revolver is a continuation of the Regular Coffee game. Our golden imperial coffee cream ale has been finished on Bourbon barrels with orange bitters. Much like Regular Coffee looks to evoke an amusing version of the acidic bitter coffee curbed by milk and sugar that starts a day in a paper cup, Cafe Revolver addresses it on the other end of the day. A beer rendition of a modern Revolver cocktail, sweet coffee and bourbon’s richness defined by a dash of aromatic orange bitters, lending a subtle brightness to the darker tones. Drink Cafe Revolver and take your best shot.

Carton Brewing becomes the first brewery with a 4th feature review here at the Tap Takeover with a version of one of their more highly sought after offerings. Every New Year’s Day (or thereabouts) Augie Carton and his crew release cans of an “Irregular Coffee,” a variant of their flagship cream ale, Regular Coffee. Regular Coffee is their interpretation of morning coffee in the form of a Cream Ale – milk sugar and coffee are added to the base beer of a cream ale. One of the 2021 versions of Irregular Coffee is Café Revolver, the beer interpretation of the Revolver cocktail, which is Bourbon, orange bitters, and coffee liqueur. For this beer, Carton aged Regular coffee in bourbon barrels along with orange bitters with the goal of evoking that evening, sipping cocktail. Or a “coffee on the other end of the day.”

I like bourbon quite a lot (my favorite spirit), I like the flavor of coffee, and I’ve enjoyed 7 versions of “Regular Coffee” including the original prior to Café Revolver, but this one is the first I’ve had that has a barrel aging element.

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The only variant not pictured is Irish Coffee, I had a few tasters of it years ago at the 2015 Garden State Brewfest, but haven’t been fortunate enough to have it since then.

Pouring the beer into my Carton glass, I get some aromas of bourbon. The beer is a little murkier looking than other Irregular Coffee variants I’ve enjoyed, which is neither negative or positive. Just the way I see it. There are more flavor elements so the beer’s murkiness makes sense.

The first sip gives me the sweetness from the lactose, but the bourbon soon envelopes everything. The orange bitters are an assertive flavor component, but that element plays extremely well with the bourbon. As it should considering bitters are part of many, many bourbon-based cocktails. The coffee elements are the underlying flavor holding all the elements together. Halfway through the 12oz can, I’m thoroughly enjoying this fun and tasty beer, all those elements come together in a very cohesive, elegant fashion.

I’ve always been impressed by how many of Carton’s beers are inspired by food or other non-beer things like cocktails. What’s even more impressive is how despite this beer emulating a bourbon cocktail (or a doppelbock brewed with coffee beans substituting the hops, for another example) yet the beer remains undeniably, well, a beer.

Café Revolver does just that. It is undeniably a beer, but the elements of the cocktail play the base beer extremely well. Specifically, the elements of Regular Coffee are distinct and give the beer its dominant character. The cocktail elements are damned fine complement to what fans of Regular Coffee like myself, have come to expect. I can’t rank this one against the original, but my favorite variant is Café Y’ Churro. In speaking to Augie during our visit, he said a lot of people consider that their favorite, because people love cinnamon. He isn’t wrong. I’d say Cafe Revolver is in the top half of the Irregular Coffee beers I’ve had, but again, they are all spectacular beers.

To paraphrase the Carton motto that closes out the beer description on the cans of most of their beers, drink Cafe Revolver because it is a delicious, fun, and playful beer.

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

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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:

Untappd_TopBreweries_2021_RB

 

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

ashtonparenttrap

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

bonesawouten

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

ommegang3phildoubchoc

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.

Drink Review: Cranberry Sauced from Sourland Mountains Spirits

Name: Cranberry Sauced
Brewing Company: Sourland Mountain Spirits
Location: Hopewell, NJ
Style: Craft Cocktail (Gin & Cranberries)
ABV: 8%

A delicious, refreshing, cocktail that is a perfect balance of flavors.

Sourland_CranberrySauced

From the Sourland Mountain Spirits’slanding page for the droml:

Just in time for the holidays, our debut canned cocktail features a refreshing blend of our 12 botanical flagship gin, farm-fresh New Jersey cranberries, rosemary, honey, and lemon. Just chill, shake, and pour over ice. Each pack includes 4x 12 oz cans.

Tasting Notes: fresh cranberries, rosemary, honey, lemon

Let’s try something a little bit different, shall we? As much as I enjoy beer, I do enjoy spirits, too. Last year for my wife’s birthday, I took her on a tour and tasting at Sourland Mountain Spirits in Hopewell, NJ*. We had a fantastic time, our tour was lead by owner Ray Disch who also happens to be a co-founder of Triumph Brewing. We had a fantastic time, due in large part to Ray himself, who was entertaining, knowledgeable, and gregarious. Essentially, everything a small business owner should be as the public face. Sourland also makes some tasty spirits and cocktails.

*The distillery happens to be on the same farm Troon Brewing, which I didn’t initially realize.

Cranberry happens to be one of, if not, my favorite fruit (as I noted in recent beer review). NJ happens to be one of the largest producers of the fruit in the State of New Jersey. When my wife and I learned they released their first canned cocktail, which highlights the tart fruit, we wanted to give it a try in the spirit (pun somewhat intended) of supporting small business and a business we like a lot (despite Gin not being a spirit I typically seek out). Also, this is a perfect holiday drink!

One thing I learned on that tour about a year ago is that gin is the base, or starting spirit, for many other spirits, so it makes sense that Ray and his cocktail sorcerers would utilize gin in their first canned cocktail. Gin is also quite popular.

I don’t typically go for craft/canned cocktails, but “Cranberry Sauced” from Sourland Spirits might change that. Along with delicious and copious cranberries, this drink has honey, lemon, and rosemary mixed with their tasty gin. Per the directions on the can, I gave it a shake and filled up my glass with the cocktail.

That was a nice little kick! Again, gin isn’t a go to for me, but I do get that as a prominent element of the drink. My wife caught more of the cranberry, but she’s not into cranberry quite as much as I am. I gave the drink a splash of Cran-Mango juice and boy-howdy does that bring some nice balance to an already tasty adult beverage. If gin is your thing, then maybe a shot of gin could be added for an extra kick. Regardless, Sourland has crafted something really special with this drink.

Cranberry Sauced is a delicious, FUN, and refreshing drink and a nice change up from what I normally enjoy. This is a perfect holiday drink, given that cranberries are often associated with fall/winter holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I can’t recommend this tasty treat enough.

Highly Recommended. If this beverage were on untappd, I’d probably rate it at 4.25/4.5 out 5 bottle caps

Draught Diversions: Christmas Six Pack 2021

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…

Christmas2021Sixpack

All of a sudden, Christmastime is upon us. The weather in NJ hasn’t consistently indicated the Christmas season in 2021, with some days knocking on 60 degrees (normally, temps are in the 40s). However, the songs are in the air, the lights are on the houses, and the holiday accoutrements are in the stores to be bought. Since about October or so, the Christmas/Holiday/Winter beers have been on shelves. For me, I like to get through the celebration of one holiday before gearing up for the next. That’s not just beer, but I don’t want to see Christmas commercials before Halloween. I may have hinted at that a few years back in a post about seasonal creep of Pumpkin Beers.

TroegsMadElf2021Christmastime for me has always been signaled by Santa Claus bringing up the rear of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The following week (first Saturday in December), truly launches the season – the Christmas Tree farm near my house opens for patrons to tag and/or cut their Christmas Tree and that day is usually when I crack open my first Tröegs Mad Elf of the season (probably my favorite Christmas beer). But you all visited to get some information on new/different Christmas / Holiday beers, I assume. Let’s dive into the 2021 Tap Takeover Six Pack of Christmas Beers. I’ve had none of these, although I’ve had beers from all the breweries, as well as variations on two beers I’ve highlighted.

Christmas Was Tomorrow | Stout – Imperial/Double | Bradley Brew Project | Bradley Beach, NJ | ABV 8.5%

Image courtesy of Bradley Brew Project

I’ve had two beers from Bradley Brew Project, both of which have been lagers. I was extremely impressed with their Czech Dark Lager, and I’ve been wanting to try some of their stouts and darker beers. A few years back, the department in which I worked had a neat Christmas Party, participants were asked to bring a food that is emblematic of their culture or something traditional for their Christmas experience. One person brought the ingredients for and mad Horchata, and I enjoyed it. This stout looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Here’s what Bradley Brew Project says about the beer:

Horchata inspired stout with milk sugar, rice, almonds, cinnamon and vanilla

Jubelale | Winter Ale | Deschutes Brewery | Bend, OR | ABV 6.7%

Image courtesy of Deschutes’s Facebook

Deschutes is one of the great Western American breweries. When I was in Vegas a couple of years ago, I was very happy to be able to get their legendary Black Butte Porter on draft (unavailable in NJ at the time), but they’ve recently begun distributing in New Jersey. I haven’t had a good, new-to-me traditional “Winter Ale” in a few years so I’m hoping this beer makes it to NJ shelves. Winter Ales were once a big staple of the Craft Beer scene, but they’ve seemed to fade to the back of the shelves, specifically “Winter Warmers.”

What Deschutes says about the beer:

Cozy up fireside with this festive winter ale full of spice notes and a robust malt character of toffee and dusted cocoa.

Special Cookie | Brown Ale – Imperial / Double| Free Will Brewing | Perkasie & Lahaska, PA | ABV 10.8%

Image courtesy of Free Will Brewing’s Facebook

Free Will has made a few appearances here at the Tap Takeover, they’ve got a “satellite” tap room not far from me in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA. I’ve had some extremely good brews from them over the years and this beer is one of their long-time favorites which I’ve yet to enjoy. I like the updated can art for the beer and the mix of spices looks quite tasty especially for a Brown Ale.

About the beer:

Imperial Spiced Brown Ale with Vanilla, Cinnamon, Brown Sugar, Cardamom, Ginger, and Milk Sugar

Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale | Winter Ale | Great Lakes Brewing Company | Cleveland, OH | ABV 8.2%

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s Twitter

Great Lakes Christmas Ale is one of the most iconic Christmas beers on shelves today. Like Mad Elf, it was a beer I’d get every Christmas Season. It doesn’t hurt that their distribution gets them in nearly every State, which I suppose is why this seasonal Ale is their most checked-in beer on untappd. For a few years now, Great Lakes has been offering a barrel aged version of this beer, but only at the brewery. This year (and maybe last year, I don’t recall), they bottled this in the old 22-oz bombers and sent a bunch out to distribution, so I may have to snag one to sample.

Flavor: A holiday ale brewed with cinnamon, ginger, and honey, aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels.

Candy Cane Mind Over Matter | Stout – Imperial/Double Milk | Magnify Brewing Company | Fairfield, NJ | ABV 8%

Image courtesy of Magnify Brewing’s Facebook

“Mind of Matter” is a series of Imperial Milk Stouts Magnify brews with various adjuncts, like this one with Candy Canes and chocolate. I’m guessing the intention here is to evoke that wonderful flavor of peppermint bark. I haven’t had peppermint bark in years (not sure I quite like mint the way I once did), but I imagine if Magnify gets the flavor profile on this beer as dialed in as they did for the Banana Bread version I reviewed this year, then the Candy Cane version will be outstanding.

What Magnify Brewing says about the beer:

Double chocolate milk stout with lactose, cocoa nibs and peppermint. Perfect beer for decorating the tree.

Ginger Bread Man (Imperial Stout) | Stout – Imperial / Double| NJ Beer Company | North Bergen, NJ | 9%

Image courtesy of NJ Beer Company’s Facebook

Lots of breweries are making Gingerbread inspired stouts, I may have recently enjoyed one and years ago, I remember enjoying Samuel Adams take on the holiday stout. I’ve been seeing NJ Beer Company’s beer on shelves for years, but for whatever reason, only had one years ago. This beer looks really appealing and seems pretty well received on untappd.

What NJ Beer Company says about the beer:

Rich, doughy, and simply unique. This stout is the perfect companion for the holiday season and beyond! A heavy dosing of molasses adds a sticky yet delicious chewiness, which is then rounded out by conditioning on ginger, and cinnamon. It’s 100% pure gingerbread cookie in a glass

Man…writing these posts about beers I haven’t had makes me want to remedy that situation and grab bottles/cans of all of them! Drop a note in the comments about a Christmas beer you want to try this year or maybe a past favorite.

Christmas2021Sixpack

Draught Diversions: November 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…

2021_Nov_sixpack

November often brings darker beers and beers sampled and enjoyed during the annual birthday brewery tour on which my wife takes me. Of course, not all the beers in this month’s Six Pack were enjoyed on the day of that tour (I reviewed one of them recently, actually). There were plenty of new beers throughout the month outside of that birthday weekend. In fact, November 2021 proved to be one of the more difficult six packs to construct in recent memory, 38 different new to me beers. I could have maybe made it a 10 pack. A mix of styles for four of the beers and 2 Czech Dark Lagers.

Fields (Odd Bird Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

OddBird_FieldsSason

Little did my wife know I’d visited Odd Bird Brewing when she made this the first stop on the tour, but I was very pleased because they make really tasty beer. Especially after enjoying this fluffy and spicy saison. The aroma and flavors from the yeast shined through in a delicious way. Brewer/owner Adam is so dialed in with classic styles and few Belgian styles are as classic as the Saison. A superb beer.

Czech Dark Lager (Weyerbacher Brewing Company) | Lager – Dark | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

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

Utopias Barrel-Aged World Wide Stout (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery) | Stout – Imperial/Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

DFH_UtopiasWWS

This beer is the love child of two of the most extreme beers from the Samuel Adams-Dogfish Head partnership. World Wide Stout is a boozy enough stout on its own, throw it in barrels from Samuel Adams Utopias (a 28% ABV beer), then you have something almost otherworldly. I’ve had Utopias a couple of times and that flavor is definitely prominent on the nose and all over the beer in a delicious way. This is definitely a beer worth experiencing.

Czech Mate (Bradley Brew Project) | Lager – Dark | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

BradleyBrew_CzechMate

Another Czech Dark Lager? Hell yeah! This is only the 2nd beer I’ve had from Bradley Brew, but damn am I impressed. This beer, cleverly named “Czech Mate” hits all the style notes really well, bready/toffee and a slightly crisp finish. Extremely flavorful at 5%, I could drink this all day in the warmer months. As much as I enjoyed the Weyerbacher Czech Dark, this one is nearly aas good so I’m very pleased to see that it was available in 4 packs at one of my local spots.

Pound of Idaho Feathers (Icarus Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Imperial / Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_PoundIdaho

A visit to Icarus means at least one of their beers makes an appearance. I had a few different beers, but this is the one I enjoyed the most and of the “Feathers” Pilsner variants, this one is probably my favorite. The dry hopping doesn’t over power here the way it does in some of the other dry hopped pilsners I’ve had

Cranito (Last Wave Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

LastWaveCranito

I had three beers from Last Wave this past month, one at the start when I was out for dinner and two at the brewery the same day I visited Icarus. This is the standout for me, but as I pointed out in a recent review, I love cranberries and this beer is clean, tart, and very refreshing. My only regret is that there were no cans of this available for purchase at the brewery.

Birthday Brewery Tour: Clockwise: Weyerbacher, Odd Bird, Invertase, Böser Geist, Two Rivers

Good beers, indeed. A few stinkers throughout the month, but since I want to be positive, I won’t mention those beers. Although I will say on the birthday beer tour, we visited Odd Bird Brewing (Stockton, NJ); Invertase Brewing (Phillipsburg, NJ), Weyerbacher Brewing (Easton, PA); Böser Geist (Easton, PA), and finished with a delicious dinner at Two Rivers Brew Pub (Easton, PA).

November 2021 Six Pack

Beer Review: Invertase Brewing’s 3X (Belgian Tripel)

Name: 3X
Brewing Company: Invertase Brewing Company
Location: Phillipsburg, NJ
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 8.6%

A very well made Tripel highlights a “young” brewery’s skill in a complex style.

Invertase_3X

From the “our beers” section of Invertase Brewing’s Web site:

Classic Belgian Tripel. The very expressive yeast gives off notes of coriander and pepper with a hint of orange and banana. Moderate bitterness and a dry finish. Soft, pillow-like head with a light-golden color.

In three words or less: Strong, Complex, Spice

The annual birthday brewery tour hit the northwestern portion of New Jersey/Pennsylvania border along the Delaware River. On the New Jersey side, our second visit of the day was Invertase Brewing Company and this beer was the first I had during that visit, and the one I enjoyed the most.

Tripels are a classic Belgian style whose flavor largely comes from the yeast used in the beer. It is a style I like quite a bit but not a style you’ll see every brewery make, it isn’t the easiest style because you can’t typically hide mistakes with adjuncts. I think 3X was one of the first beers the fine folks of Invertase brewed shortly after they opened in late 2019. So how does it hold up?

The keg must have been tapped out because I was given a can, which is perfectly fine. The day was nice so our crew headed out to the biergarten where I popped open the can and poured a golden beer into the glass. Some Tripels I’ve enjoyed show slightly cloudy and unfiltered in the glass, this one is clear. The beer smells like a Tripel, hints of fruit from the yeast and an overall rather earthy aroma.

First sip gives a hint of the quality of the beer. I’ve got a smile on my face because this is very close to what I expect a Tripel to be. The esters / yeast give a hint of banana that is extremely pleasing to my palate.

With each sip I take from the glass, I enjoy the even beer. That fruit element comes through more potently, though not like I’m biting into a fruit that would be an amalgamation of a pear and banana. Rather, the hints of those fruits are extremely pleasant, not to sweet and offset the relatively high ABV of this beer. I say relatively because 8.6% is a right around the average ABV for a Tripel, at least the Tripels I’ve had and logged into untappd.

3X is an impressive Belgian Tripel for the balance and nuance in the beer from a brewery that has only been existence for slightly more than two years.

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

Beer Review: Tart & Thankful – A Collaboration between Highrail Brewing & NJ Craft Beer

Name: Tart & Thankful
Brewing Company: Highrail Brewing in collaboration with New Jersey Craft Beer
Location: High Bridge, NJ
Style: Fruit Beer | Fruited Sour
ABV: 4.9%

A delicious, balanced fruited sour perfect for the autumn/winter seasonal holidays.

Highrail_TartThankful

From the Facebook post announcing the beer:

Tart & Thankful (4.9%), a bright and cheerful seasonal sour brewed with cranberry. Now available for taproom pours and crowler and growler fills. *A limited supply of 4-packs are also available.*

We collaborated with the team at New Jersey Craft Beer (@NJCraftBeer) to create this Thanksgiving-inspired sour ale. Dosed with Cranberry puree and lightly hopped with Vic Secret, this sour ale hits every mark for a sour and is perfect for sharing at the Thanksgiving feast. Contains lactose. 8 IBU.

I visited High Rail Brewing about two years ago, which was not long after they first opened and enjoyed the beers I had during that visit. When the Hunterdon Beer Trail came to be, I knew I’d be visiting again and that visit was pushed up when the good folks at High Rail collaborated with Mike and the fine people behind New Jersey Craft Beer on this cranberry (one of my favorite fruits) fruited sour.

The beer I’m handed from the draught pour is slightly pinkish. I don’t get too much of an aroma outside of maybe a slight funk as well as the cranberries.

The first sip is really nice, with a noticeably pleasant hit of cranberry.

Halfway through the beer, I’m struck by how well balanced and approachable this beer is. Let me unpack that statement. Some sour beers are very potent, which can potentially be off-putting. Tart & Thankful is far from off-putting, sure it is sour, but damn is it inviting. The sour is a slight tap to the cheek to assert itself. The cranberry element is fairly abundant and the addition of milk sugar/lactose balances out how highly tart cranberry can be. My only issue here is that I wish there was more cranberry. But as I noted above, cranberry is one of my favorite fruits (I drink cranberry juice everyday and love a cranberry smoothie for breakfast) so I may be an outlier.

HighRailNJCB_TartThankful

Tart & Thankful is an outstanding beer, probably the best beer I’ve had categorized as “Fruit Beer” on untappd. As a fruited sour, I love it. It is refreshing, light, clean and overall just about everything I’d want in a beer that has sour elements and cranberries in it. Well done Highrail and New Jersey Craft Beer.

This beer is available only (I think) at the brewery on draft and in cans. Perfect for Thanksgiving, or anytime. It is a beer that is well worth visiting the brewery to enjoy. And while you’re there, enjoy more from Highrail because they make tasty, approachable brews.

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

A delicious, balanced fruited sour perfect for the autumn/winter season.

Highrail_TartThankful