Draught Diversions: July 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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July has come and gone and with it, the annual family Fourth of July party, which was a contributor to this month’s six pack. It is often hit or miss with the beers my family and friends bring, but this year, there were more hits than misses. This is the first six pack in months with no lager and outside of one beer, all are hop forward (Pale Ales or IPAs).

Forever Forward (Icarus Brewing) | IPA – Imperial/Double New England | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

As it so happens, this was the 50th beer I had from Icarus Brewing. As it also happens, it is the best IPA I’ve had from them and maybe one of my top IPAs of all time. I like the hop selection (Citra and Motueka) and what I appreciate is that they used wheat and oats to soften the body of the beer rather than lactose. Plus, how do you not like that Back to the Future inspired can art?

Your Lips are Bloody! (Ashton Brewing) | IPA – Sour | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

One of Ashton’s flagship beers is their IPA, “Your Lips are Juicy,” which I featured about a year ago. That was a very good beer. This is a version of the beer with Blood Oranges and is even better. This beer was originally produced for Halloween 2020, but proved so popular it was brewed and canned again. The blood oranges both accentuate the citrus element inherent in the hops and since blood oranges are even sweeter than regular oranges, that sweetness counters the hop bitterness. A delicious IPA

Blueberry Lemon Crushin’ It (Cape May Brewing Co.) | IPA – American| 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Cue the Whitesnake song because here we go with a variant of a beer I’ve previously featured at the Tap Takeover. Blueberry is one of my favorite fruits and when balanced with lemon makes for a very refreshing flavor profile. This beer is stronger on the blueberry element than the hops element, but is very tasty. Maybe not quite as good as the original “Orange Crushin’ It,” but still a beer I enjoyed thoroughly and would enjoy poolside all summer.

Patriot (Battle River Brewing) | IPA – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

When you have an annual Fourth of July party and your party-goers know you like beer, they tend to bring beer. Fortunately, there’s a gem of a beer I haven’t had like this IPA from Battle River Brewing. This is a very well-made, straight-forward, no-frills CLEAR IPA. Sometimes, the relatively simple beers are just what hits the spot, and this IPA delivers in spades. Good stuff

Subtle Symphony (Conclave Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd


I met up with a good friend to visit the two closest breweries to me, Conclave being one of them. This is a delicious, flavorful, low ABV (4.5%) pale ale that I could drink all day. Slightly hop-forward, fully refreshing. This would be a good beer for them to can.

Uncharted Waters Raspberry Gose (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Jersey Cyclone continues to impress me with everything the brew. They’ve been making great sour ales over the better part of the last year. Fruited sours in particular have been impressing me so I was very happy to see them finally put one of their sour ales in a four-pack of cans. Goses are maybe the sour beers I like most, the salinity on the finish works for me and it plays really nicely with the sweet and tart nature of the raspberries. A very well-crafted beer.

Beer Review: Lone Eagle Brewing’s Jubileum V (Bourbon-Barrel Aged Eisbock)

Name: Jubileum V
Brewing Company: Lone Eagle Brewing
Location: Lone Eagle Brewing
Style: Bock – Eisbock (Traditional)
ABV: 8.5%

“Lone Eagle Brewing has crafted and exceptional beer for their Fifth Anniversary, Congratulations!”

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What Lone Eagle says about the beer:

A strong, malty German-style bock with rich character, full of caramel, toffee, and toasted biscuit notes with almonds, further aged in a bourbon barrel for a warming effect full of vanilla and oak notes.

I’ve mentioned Lone Eagle Brewing often here at the Tap Takeover, afterall, they are one of the closest breweries to my house and prior to the Pandemic I was going there fairly regularly for the monthly board game night. Since they hit their Five-Year Anniversary this past weekend (July 24, 2021), I figured I’d visit again. For their previous anniversaries, Lone Eagle has brewed a different barrel-aged beer they’ve called Jubileum, which is a Dutch word for “Celebration” or “Anniversary.” This year’s anniversary beer is a style I like a lot, but is fairly rare: Eisbock. As it turns out (and something that’s a theme of sorts), this is the 50th beer I’ve had from Lone Eagle, so that, combined with their anniversary and the quality of the beer, compelled me to review it.

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Back in my Bock Beer post, I summarized what an Eisbock is: “The “Eis” in the name is from partially freezing a dopple and extracting the H2O ice, which allows the alcohol to have a much more noticeable presence and a deeper brownish/reddish hue and an overall thicker beer. You could also say a Belgian Quadrupel is similar to an Eisbock, in some ways.” In other words, the water is distilled, so an Eisbock is a strange beast. What about the beer Lone Eagle brewed for their fifth anniversary?

The beer is a dark, deep brown with hints of amber in the right light. The aroma is largely from the bourbon barrels, but there might be some additional sweetness from the malt of the beer. I found the aroma fairly restrained for a barrel-aged beer. Often enough, the barrel character can overtake the entirety of the aroma, but here it was more of an enticement.

The first sip is outstanding and complex. I’ve only had a couple of Eisbocks before this one and liked them a lot and this has some of those characteristics. The bready, caramel elements are on full display. There might be hints of marzipan as well, but the bourbon barrel is quite assertive, too. Not too assertive, thankfully but rather complementary to the heavy malt characterof the beer. Too much barrel character would ruin the flavor of the beer.

I found this beer to be slightly reminiscent of Tröegs’ “Bourbon Barrel-Aged Troegenator,” one of my favorite beers of all time. This one might be a bit thinner on the body and slightly stronger impression from the barrel, but this is definitely a beer Lone Eagle should be proud to call their Fifth Anniversary Beer

One of the better Lone Eagle Beers I’ve had when all is said and done. Congratulations to Lone Eagle Brewing on 5 years!.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I’ll Be Bock (Level 12)

Once you’ve had just one, there’s no doubt you’ll be saying “I’ll be bock” for another.

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Draught Diversions: Alternate Ending Beer Co. (Aberdeen, NJ)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

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Breweries take a lot of time and money to plan before they are ready to open for business. There’s often a long tail from the time an idea forms to any site work begins until beer is poured at the opening. More often than not, there are delays for various reasons like permits or bad weather. Or “Acts of God” like a Pandemic. So here we are at the Tap Takeover featuring another brewery – brewpub – with the unfortunate timing to open during the COVD-19 Pandemic in 2020. Today’s featured brewery: Alternate Ending Beer Co. in Aberdeen, NJ.

Owner/Founder/CEO Scott Novick had built up his knowledge and experience in both the entertainment and brewing industries prior to planning out Alternate Ending Beer Co. He worked at VH1 (MTV’s sister channel) and then worked at Jughandle Brewing in nearby Tinton Falls then at Other Half in Brooklyn, one of the hottest breweries on the East Coast. Other Half’s beers, particularly their hop-forward beers and big stouts, have long been sought after in the beer trading community. Sustaining that job, driving from Monmouth County to Brooklyn was a challenge, so Scott figured he’d open a brewery much closer to home. When the BowTie cinemas on Route 34 in Aberdeen became available as a location, Scott has his spot. Going with the name of Alternate Ending plays on the movie theater theme as do many of the beer names.

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Image Courtesy of Alternate Ending’s Facebook

Scott also hired Brendon Arnold as his head brewery, a fellow New Jersey native who has a wealth of experience, largely in Kansas at Gella’s Diner + LB Brewing. I visited to Alternate Ending Beer Co. for their New Jersey Craft Beer night on July 13 and as part of the “event,” members of NJCB were offered a tour of the brew facility. (I should have taken pictures!) Brendan spent some time talking through his brew process and his more scientific/technical approach, given his education at the Siebel Institute of Technology, America’s premier brewing education institute. He mentioned that one of the beers on tap that day, a delicious Saison brewed in collaboration with Screamin’ Hill Brewery in Cream Ridge, NJ, was also being aged in wine barrels. That Saison, Decocted Saison (pictured below) was one of the beers I sampled during my time at the brewery and it was fantastic – earthy and true to style with the yeast elements, and even more pleasant thanks to the wildflower honey added during the brewing process.

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Brendan also mentioned the “partnership” Alternate Ending has with Asbury Park Distillery. Alternate Ending gets used barrels from Asbury Park to age their beers, they’ve got some stouts in oak barrels, and once those are emptied of the beer, Asbury Park takes the barrels back and ages their spirits in the double-used barrels. Another beer I sampled (before the tour) was Rye Imperial Stout – 1 Month Version (pictured below) which was aged for only a month in Penelope Rye barrels along with Tahitian Vanilla. The amount of barrel flavor imparted after just a month was quite impressive: a rich, decadent stout with hints of vanilla, the beer is simply delicious.

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The first beer I had; though, was the beer that is their best seller – Royal Rug (pictured below) a German-style pilsner, meaning it is slightly hoppier than its Czech cousin. I ordered the beer in the “Slow Pour” method, which typically takes 5-7 minutes to pour the full beer. The slow pour method allows the carbonation to be softer, a much fluffier head with the ultimate result of a beer a bit more flavorful than a standard pour thanks to warming a bit to room temperature, allowing the flavors to breathe and the flavors become more stable in general.

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A beautiful slow pour with a nice peak.

In talking to Brendan about the beer, he mentioned he expected to go through a couple of “beta” versions of the beer since the equipment was different than he’d long been accustomed to using and Pilsners typically are a style that requires extreme precision. As it turned out, Brendan’s years of experience paid off because he told me the version of Royal Rug on draft was the very first version of the recipe he brewed for Alternate Ending, it was unchanged. I can’t see why anything should change about that beer, it was fantastic. Brendan also mentioned the Rauchbier he brewed and hoped it would be a feature on “This Week in Rauchbier: The world’s most important, long running, and most awarded show dedicated to smoked beer.”

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An assortment of Alternate Ending labels on the door of their cooling room

With the location having roots as a popular movie theater, there are quite a few nods to that history. Movie posters, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show adorn the wall and images form movies as well. As I said, the names often call out to specific movies, like their recent Helles Lager, Willy’s Gold as an homage to The Goonies or the beer I reviewed earlier this week, Amity Beer a call out to Jaws; Chuckle Heads is a call out to one of my favorite film makers and geeky celebrities – Kevin Smith’s popular Jay and Silent Bob duo; Bad Mother Force User is an homage to Samuel L. Jackson and two of his most famous roles, Mace Windu and Jules from Pulp Fiction, Sloane Knew a shout out to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and son.. Movies will be shown, too! There are even seats from the old movie theater.

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The great Kevin Smith holding “Chuckle Heads,” the beer made in homage to him! Image courtesy of Alternate Ending’s Facebook

Since opening in late 2020, Alternate Ending has been releasing cans of their beers and many of them have been selling out via BeerBroadcast.com. As brew-pub, they’ve partnered with Talula’s Pizza in Asbury Park and as America wearily emerges from the Pandemic, more patrons have been able to get the full experience of the brewpub. During my visit, the dining area was largely filled with many patrons eating what looked to be tasty food and what I know to be well-crafted beers. The partnership is a natural one that speaks to the local/independent ethos of craft beer. Scott Novick was a fan of Talula’s Pizza so it was a perfect fit.

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One of the pieces of movie memorabilia that adorns the walls, this from Kevin Smith’s “Mallrats.”

I’ve attended a few of these “NJCB Member Event” nights in the past at Jersey Cyclone (Somerset, NJ), Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ), and Wet Ticket (Rahway, NJ). Mike K., the man behind New Jersey Craft Beer does a fantastic job of rallying the NJ beer community and given this recent event was on a Monday night, the turnout was quite impressive. I also had the chance to chat with Al Gatullo and his friend (also named Rob), of the great Al Gatullo Craft Beer Cast for a bit since we have bumped into each other at these events in the past. The event at Alternate Ending was another awesome night, a good opportunity to connect face to face with people I’ve only seen on social media, and reconnect with a few people face to face I haven’t seen since the pandemic began.

Delicious beer, great atmosphere, awesome theme, and excellent people – that sounds like a great start for Alternate Ending to me! I know I’ll be visiting again and next time, I plan on enjoying some of that famous Talula’s Pizza and definitely another slow-pour of Royal Rug.

Some other links of interest and sources of information for this post:

Alternate Ending Beer Co. Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Alternate Ending Beer Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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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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Beer Review: Toms River Brewing’s Blueberry Blonde Summer Ale

Name: Blueberry Blonde Summer Ale
Brewing Company: Toms River Brewing
Location: Toms River, NJ
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.1%

“A delightfully refreshing ale highlighting NJ’s most well known fruit.”

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From Tom River Brewing’s instagram post promoting the beer:

New Jersey is the blueberry capital of the world. This light bodied blonde ale is packed with fresh home grown blueberries picked at the peak of the season. This crushable ale is brewed with Pilsen, Marris Otter, Vienna malts and hopped with Cascade and Citron hops giving a refreshing finish that is perfect for the hot summer days and warm summer nights to come. Cheers🍻.

It hasn’t been quite a year since I reviewed a beer from Tom’s River Brewing, but this beer is such a fantastic summer beer, I have to share my thoughts. The blueberry is one of my favorite fruits and New Jersey happens to be one of the largest producers of blueberries in the country and Hammonton, NJ is the “Blueberry Capital of the World.” So, adding blueberries to beer is a natural fit for a New Jersey brewery.

On to the beer…

Pop of the can, the beer pours a light purple/blue into the glass and I get the pleasant aroma of blueberries. Obviously, the blueberries prevent this beer from looking the true part of a “Blonde Ale,” but that is to be expected.

The first sip is very pleasant indeed. The blueberries are the most prominent flavor element, but they aren’t tart and overpowering in the way blueberries can be. The hop presence comes in on the finish of the beer. Per Toms River, this beer has Cascade and Citra hops, two of the classic hops in American Craft brewing. They both provide a slight bittering element that is a nice balance to the sweetness from the malt and blueberries.

This beer is a good example of a fun beer – flavorful, approachable, and featuring relatively local elements. Blueberry Blonde Summer Ale is a fantastic seasonal ale and perfect for summer. Although I’ve only had about a half-dozen beers from Toms River Brewing, this one is a definite standout for my tastes.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4 bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: June 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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With June completed, we are officially half-way through 2021, which is a great thing because 2021 hasn’t been the best of years for various personal reasons. Minor surgery in January, broken appliance in January, health issues with our dog Sully throughout the year who passed away after 11 wonderful years with us in May. June is already looking better since my wife and welcomed a new dog into our home to close out the month as summer is upon us. One of the constants has been good beer, so let’s have a look at my top 6 picks for the month of June 2021.

Hearthland (Conclave Brewing) | Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Two consecutive months with a beer from Conclave…and in the same style! One of the great things about Conclave’s physical expansion is that they’ve been afforded the ability to play with styles, like oak-aged ales. This Farmhouse beer is a delight. Extremely refreshing with notes of lemongrass and honey, with the barrel character coming through in hints of oak and vanilla. This is a fun, tasty beer, and hopefully a sign of things to come from Conclave.

5th Anniversary Sundial – Chronosaur (Czig Meister Brewing) | IPA – Sour | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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It was great to visit Czig Meister for the Fifth Anniversary party since I made it to the 3rd Anniversary. Obviously, there was no 4th Anniversary celebration due to the pandemic. I visited this time around with a great friend, which always makes these things a little better. Four anniversary beers were released and this was my favorite, it has the hoppiness of an IPA, but some fruited elements, a bit of sour pucker, and some sweetness from a hit of lactose. A “Sour IPA” is far from my chosen style, but this beer was delicious. Czig Meister brews quite a few beers in the “Sour IPA” style in their Sundial series so I may sample more in the futre

Uncharted Waters: Mango Lassi (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Another Jersey Cyclone beer! One style they’ve shown exceptionally adept at crafting is fruited sours. This particular beer is a perfect example. It doesn’t hurt that I love Mango, so this beer hit many great notes for me. The mango is potent, there’s definitely a sourness, and that is all balanced with an addition of lactose. This beer is just more proof of how great Jersey Cyclone is in a variety of style.

Smoke & Dagger (Jack’s Abbey Craft Lagers) | Lager – Dark | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Here’s the lone non-NJ beer and it sure is an interesting one. I’m not so much into Smoked beers, but everything I’ve had from Jack’s Abby has been superb and I really enjoy dark lagers. The smoked malt element is definitely present, but it isn’t like your breathing in a campfire. Rather, the smokiness gives off a very nice sweetness that is quite pleasant. Maybe sweet like smoked bacon? I don’t know, but I enjoy this beer the more I have it.

What About Us (Untied Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

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I met up with my parents at Untied for an early Father’s Day since Untied is relatively midway for us and my dad and I both thoroughly enjoy the beers from the New Providence brewery. I figured I’d go with an IPA since their IPAs have a good reputation and I’ve only had one of their hop-forward beers. Since this beer has the Vic Secret hop (a favorite hop of mine), the decision was easy and well-rewarded. This is a dynamite beer with strong hop elements on the front end and none of the unpleasant bitterness on the finish. That lack of bitterness could be due to the beer being finished on honey, but the tropical elements of the New England style IPA are on full, delicious display in this beer.

Polyphonic (Ashton Brewing Company) | Pilsner – German | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

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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.

Only one dud for the whole month, but I’ll keep that under wraps and close the post with positivity and a picture of Dusty, our new puppy! Our previous dog, Sully, was named after Sully Erna, the lead singer of one of our favorite bands, Godsmack. Dusty, is an abbreviation of one of our other favorite bands, Sevendust.

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Beer Review: Last Wave Brewing’s Dawn Patrol

Name: Dawn Patrol
Brewing Company: Last Wave Brewing Co.
Location: Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
Style: Sour – Fruited Gose
ABV: 5.2%

“A brewery in one of NJ’s great Shore Town has a take on a classic German style that is sure to please.”

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From Last Wave’s “Our beers” page:

Sunsets are kind of a West Coast thing. We look for the Sunrise on the East Coast, signaling another day. This beer honors those that forgo a little extra sleep to chase their passion and rise with the sun. Dawn Patrol is a light, tart beer that gets its flavor from a simple grain bill, a light souring, pureed pink guava, and like most great things from the Jersey Shore—a touch of salt. It’s a refreshing brew that’s fruity, a little funky, and ready to go for your next summer get-together—no matter the time of day.

I’ve been wanting to try one of Last Wave’s beers for a while now, especially since I’ve been seeing their beer in distribution in my area. Well, let me revise that statement. I’ve had a beer which was a collaboration with Icarus Brewing, so I wanted to sample their “solo” brewing efforts. Warm weather is a good time for fruited Goses so here we are with Dawn Patrol. Last Wave is based on one of NJ’s great Shore Towns, Point Pleasant Beach, so many of their beers (like this one) have a beach/ocean themed name.

”But what about the beer, Rob?” readers typically ask at this point. Let’s dive into it, then.

The beer pours quite cloudy, which is largely on par for the course with Gose beers. Not much color from the guava, maybe a very slight tint of pink? The aroma is a little funky, which is to be expected from the style. So far, so good.

My first impression of the taste is a little tart, a little sweetness, a slight hit from the salt on the finish. Again, pretty much in line for the style. The sweetness, of course, comes from the Guava and is a nice balance to the inherent tartness of the style. The guava isn’t too overpowering, it brings a welcome element of refreshment to the beer. I’ve got fond memories of freshly squeezed guava juice from when my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Hawaii and the guava elements in this beer definitely stoke the flames of those memories.

One of the characteristics of a Gose, compared to many other sours and fruited sours in particular, is the salinity. The Gose style of beer originated in Leipzig, Germany, a region noted for water high in salinity. As such, brewers have tried to evoke that salty/balanced finish when crafting beer in the Gose-style. That saltines is present here in Dawn Patrol and of course evokes the saltiness one might feel and taste in the air on the beach, so on many levels, Last Wave has done something quite nice with this beer.

While I thoroughly enjoy this beer and can imagine it being perfect on a warm day, I think I would like Dawn Patrol even more if the hallmark elements of the beer and style would be a little more assertive. A slight increase of the tartness and salty finish would elevate a very good beer to a great beer. Like I said, I’m nit-picking because I like the beer quite a lot. This beer is be perfect for drinkers who may be averse to sour styles because of the approachability and overall flavor profile of Dawn Patrol has the elements of the style, but not to amped up monstrous levels. In other words, I’d say this is a “successful” beer for Last Wave Brewing Co.

I’m not sure how widely Last Wave is distributing within New Jersey, but I suspect one would only have success finding this beer within the Garden State. What Dawn Patrol has done for me is this: I’m intrigued to try more beer from Last Wave Brewing.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Pucker Up (Level 21)

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A Sour beer on Untappd is any beer with a style of the following: American Wild Ale, Lambic, or Sour.

Right about now you’re feeling your face tighten and your taste buds explode. The full pucker is quickly setting in and you can’t get enough. This is the wonder of the sour.

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Beer Review: Bradley Brew Project’s Summer Friend

Name: Summer Friend
Brewing Company: Bradley Brew Project
Location: Bradley Beach, NJ
Style: Kellerbier / Zwickelbier
ABV: 5.3%

A tasty, refreshing summer Lager from one of the fine breweries along the NJ shore.

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From the untappd page for the beer:

dry-hopped kellerbier

Bradley Brew Project has been crafting beer for about three years now, and over the past year or so, they’ve increased their output and distribution footprint. I’ve been seeing a few of their beers in local shops, so when I saw a Summer themed Lager, I figured it would be a logical follow-up to my 2021 Summer Six Pack from a couple of weeks ago and an opportunity for me to finally try one of their beers.

Bradley Brew Project categorizes this as a Dry Hopped “Kellerbier.” Most kellerbiers are essentially unfiltered Helles Lagers or pale lagers. So, with that starting point….

After opening the can, a golden hued beer with a bit of cloudiness fills my beer glass. Not the cloudiness level of a Hefeweizen, but the beer is clearly (pun intended) unfiltered. The aroma … there’s a little bit of the malt associated with lagers, but more pronounced is the smell of the hops.

I get some good lager vibes at the outset of the taste, a little bit of malt and a lot of thirst-quenching characteristics. I like it and that alone puts this in great “warm weather” beer. The finish brings the hops with a potent smack. Dry-hopping adds a significant punch of hop flavor and aroma. The flavors evoked from the hops are somewhat citrusy and a little piney. The hops used in the brew process aren’t listed, but I’d guess Citra is one of the hops utilized (it is probably the most popular hop at the moment) and maybe Mosaic? I only say Mosaic because of the mild aftertaste form the hops, because the can and description give minimal hints of what makes up this beer.

So what do we have here in Summer Friend? In one sense, it has the lager characteristics of the crackery/bready malt. In another sense, the hop finish gives of IPA vibes. Altogether, though, it works quite well for what it calls itself, a “Summer Friend,” which to me says a beer for warm weather and beach/poolside relaxation. What I found to be unexpectedly pleasant was that the beer was still quite tasty and refreshing when it warmed up to room temperature, not what I’d predict in a lager.

I’ll also give a little shout out to the can art, which is simple, whimsical, and quite effective. Light blue with beach balls, beach umbrellas, and beach chairs is a nice, eye-catching encapsulation of summer fun.

Summer Friend is a well-made beer that should appeal to both lager-leaning beer drinkers and hop-forward beer drinkers. I would really, really like to try a version of this beer without the dry-hopping element. For my palate, the hops are a little more pronounced than I typically enjoy in a lager, but I can recognize the beer is well made. That said, it seems the theme of the blog this year is that Rob enjoys beers the second time more than the first time, because the second can a couple of days after the first one worked better for me (thus the 2 ratings). Again, I think I had an idea of what to expect when I had the second can and appreciated it more, compared to trying to figure out what flavors were working together on my first can of the beer.

Recommended, link to 3.75 bottle-cap Untappd check in | 4 bottle-cap (second) Untappd check in.

Draught Diversions: Ashton Brewing (Middlesex,NJ)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

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“Let’s launch our brewery when our State shuts down thanks to a pandemic,” said nobody ever. Well, that’s the situation Steve and Donna Ashton found themselves in March 2020 when they wanted to open Ashton Brewing Company. Considering the planning for the brewery was going back as early as summer 2019, Steve and Donna could not foresee what they’d be up against in March 2020. But persist, they did.

Steve and Donna have been making beer for over 25 years, Steve is a BJCP Master Judge and a member of the highly respected MASH (Morris Area Society of Homebrewers), and Steve has won awards for his homebrewing skills. In other words, when it comes to making beer, they really know what they are doing. When Steve retired from his finance career, it made sense for him to look to beer, which helped bring him and Donna together nearly 30 years ago.

Steve and Donna initially set their sights on an old roller rink in Roxbury, NJ, but that didn’t pan out. However, one door closing isn’t the end especially when another door opens. The location they settled on turned out to be a great spot, since it once housed a brewery, Demented Brewing Company in Middlesex, NJ. The demise of Demented is fairly well document in NJ beer circles, including my post from April 2019. The location is already a known brewery destination and was set up as a brewery, which made the build out a little bit easier. That doesn’t necessarily mean there was no work to be done, because the new tenants understandably wanted to ensure the location is completely branded with Ashton Brewing and remnants of the former tenants no longer present. Personally speaking, that location is about a mile from where I work and not too far from home, so I was very happy to learn of a new brewery taking over the location.

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Speaking of that branding, Donna Ashton was and is a freelance graphic designer. Those skills come in quite handy when it comes to giving a business a visual identity, and she’s done a really nice job with the branding. The company’s logo incorporates an Ash tree and many of the beers have an Ash tree in the background or worked into the label in some fashion. For example, their Barleywine, Fraxinus takes its name from the genus name of the Ash family of trees. Throughout the post, I’ve included some of the cans Ashton has produced over the last year, which shows the potent brand identity Donna helped to establish for Ashton Brewing Company.

Shortly after Ashton officially opened for business, I was hoping to try their beer. That first weekend in April 2020, my wife and I were doing some errands (i.e. food shopping) and she got me in the car and surprised me when we arrived Ashton to pick up a couple of crowlers, their English Mild (Billy Two Hats) and their stout (Velvet Elvis). I was pretty impressed with the beers and had a good feeling that Ashton Brewing was off to as good a start as possible, given the state of the world. Steve and Donna had to pivot to a model that did not rely on taproom and on-site consumption sales even before they opened, and the crowlers proved to be a pretty good start for them.

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Another way Ashton Brewing was able to pivot successfully was in their canned beers. The majority of canned beer for the past couple of years has been in the pint/16oz cans popularized by the growth of Hazy/New England IPAs. When Steve and Donna brought in a canning line, they went with 12oz cans. That alone sort of sets them apart from the crowd of NJ canned beer. I’d guess Carton, Bolero Snort, and Spellbound are part of the minority of the post 2012 breweries regularly canning their beer at the 12oz size. What they couldn’t have foreseen was that a can shortage was going to hit. A combination of tariffs and resources was making it difficult for breweries to keep crowlers and 16oz cans in stock, but in speaking with Steve when I visited the brewery for their First Anniversary recently (more on that later), he said because Ashton decided to go with 12oz cans as their can of choice, they were not as affected by that shortage.

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Images courtesy of Ashton Brewing’s Facebook

Because of the pandemic and social distancing requirements, getting a peek proved a challenge. During the annual birthday brewery tour my wife takes me on, we were able to partake in outdoor seating. Although it was the first weekend in November, it was unseasonably warm and made for a lovely outdoor, socially distanced experience. However, my most recent trip to Ashton was during their 1 year anniversary and with social distancing somewhat relaxed, a limited number of occupants were permitted indoors for consumption. And what struck me most, compared to how the previous tenants had the interior laid out, is that Steve and Donna opted for a much brighter look. More well-lit, not as much dark imagery (not that I’m against dark imagery, I’m a horror junkie after all), but the overall feel and tone of the taproom is very, very welcoming. Of course during my visit for that First Anniversary, we felt very welcomed because we were sitting on one of the most comfortable leather couches upon which I’ve ever sat…which was wiped down with disinfectant before we took our seats.

Another element that sets Ashton Brewing apart from many of their peers is the breadth of styles which they brew and make available. Of course IPAs and Pale Ales are part of their portfolio, but the second beer the canned was the fantastic Pilsner, Jersey Dreamin (a top new beer to me in 2020). Two of the first styles Ashton brewed were an English Mild (Billy Two Hats) and an Altbier (Red Baron), both very traditional styles, but styles you don’t see very often. I’ve had both and enjoyed both. Other early brews included a Dutch, a Patersbier (the Belgian Trappist style with lowest ABV); ’Aina, a Farmouse/Saison; and Aura a Witbier, among other beers/styles. Ashton set out to brew beers of a drinkable ABV (around the 6% mark) and with a draught capacity of 18 beers, they certainly have a wide variety of styles available most of the time, maybe one of the more diverse tap lists in the State.

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March 2021 Taplist, courtesy of Ashton Brewing’s Facebook page

What I especially appreciate is how well-crafted Ashton Brewing’s lagers are. I mentioned Jersey Dreamin’ and I will again because it is that damned good. Recently, I had their Czech Dark Lager (Beach Badges), which was a wonderful beer. Their Schwarzbier, Black Orpheus is a delicious collaboration with Sunken Silo Brew Works in nearby Lebanon, NJ; during my November visit, I thoroughly enjoyed their Festbier (Festus Haggen) and their Maibock/Helles Bock, Cellar Hellar.

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L to R: Cellar Hellar (Maibock/Helles Bock); Stella Blue (Saison); Mashed Up (Porter); Festus Haggen (Festbier)

Back to their Anniversary celebration on March 27. Ashton was pouring quite a few barrel-aged beers, in addition to their standard taplist. In briefly speaking with owner Steve, he said he was able to procure used barrels from Jersey Spirits in Fairfield, NJ (which is in the same complex as Magnify Brewing Company). I started my day out with the aforementioned Schwarzbier before diving into the bigger beers. My second beer was the Rye Barrel Aged Barleywine, Fraxinus. Fraxinus is an English style Barleywine, which leans more on malt than hops, compared to the American version. With the Rye Barrel aging, the beer is extremely balanced. There was a nice spice from the rye, but the toffee-caramel-malt elements from the base Barleywine were still present. The third beer that day, and perhaps one of the most interesting barrel-aged beers I ever had was the Grappa-barrel aged Farmhouse ale Aina. I remarked to Steve that I’d never think to age anything in Grappa, but he said when he was getting the barrels from Jersey Spirits, a small Grappa barrel was available, so he figured he’d give it a shot. I had Grappa once many years ago, and found it to be very unpleasant and what I expected kerosene to taste like. However, the elements of the Grappa played nicely with the Farmhouse Ale, for a somewhat crisp, but pleasant and effervescent beer. The last barrel-aged beer was perhaps the most straight-forward in its premise, a Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, Midnight Moonlight. Although this was probably the barrel aged beer I liked the least of the three, it was still a good beer with huge chocolate notes.

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Clockwise from top left: Black Orpheus Schwarzbier; Fraxinus Barleywine (Rye Barrel); Aina Farmhouse (Grappa Barrel); Midnight Moonlight (Bourbon Barrel)

Between the straight-forward styles (IPA, Pilsner), somewhat less prevalent styles (Altbier, Schwarzbier, Czech Dark Lager), and barrel-aged beers, Ashton Brewing has demonstrated a very high level of expertise in craft brewing. They started strongly with a delicious IPA and what is turning out to be one of my favorite Pilsners. Over the past year, the beers they’ve been churning out have each been extremely flavorful and very well-crafted. The majority of the beers are the recipes Steve has been refining over the past couple of decades as a homebrewer, that refinement and elegance is really easy to taste.

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Images courtesy of Ashton Brewing’s Facebook

Ashton Brewing has already established themselves as a significant presence in the NJ Craft Beer community. Steve has been a member of MASH (Morris Area Society of Homebrewers) and because of that, Ashton collaborated on a beer with brewers who have connections to MASH. All Mashed Up is a collaboration between Ashton, Seven Tribesmen (Wayne, NJ), and Untied Brewing in New Providence. Each brewery tweaked the base recipe slightly, Ashton added marshmallows and Cacao Nibs to their version. Ashton was a fairly early contributor to the Brewery Strong Philanthropy as well.

Given their ability to successfully pivot during the most challenging of times, and the quality of the liquid they produce, I expect that Ashton Brewing will be a staple of the NJ Craft Brewery scene for a very long time. I know I’ll be keeping their beer in my regular rotation

Some other links of interest and sources of information for this post:

Ashton Brewing Company’s Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Ashton Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Ashton Brewing entry @ Beer Advocate | untappd

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Draught Diversions: A Video Conversation with NJ Craft Beer Members

On Monday Night (03/29/21), the great Mike Kivowitz founder/owner/patriarch of New Jersey Craft Beer invited me, along with Leah Griffin-Bibby (owner of Craft Brew Candle Company) and Eric Dengelegi (from Source Brewing) to spend some time talking NJ Beer. Mike’s been hosting a series of video conversations (video podcasts? video blogs?) on Monday nights over the past few months. Most of those conversations have involved brewery owners or their head brewers (Carton Brewing, Ross Brewing, Beach Haus Brewery, Melovino Meadery to name a few).

However, for this past Monday’s conversation, Mike wanted to speak members of the NJ Craft Beer community who have a similar passion for craft beer, were involved in the beer community some way, but not necessarily making the beer. Leah owns a business (the aforementioned Craft Brew Candle Company) that makes candles from the empty beer bottles and beer cans, with a focus on NJ breweries (i.e. lots of Kane, Source, and Three 3s candles for sale at her site); Eric is a beertender at Source Brewing in Colts Neck, NJ, and is certified Cicerone® beer server; while I’m the guy behind this here blog. That’s how it all came together.

We had a very good time so if you want to get a peek at and hear the guy behind The Tap Takeover (along with the cool people who are Leah and Eric), check out the YouTube video below.