Draught Diversions: The Tap Takeover’s 1st Beerthday

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

Today, the Tap Takeover is officially one year old. Or rather, only 20 more years since the beer blog I started can consume the products featured on it. From a beer perspective, it has of course been an interesting year. About a dozen or so new breweries opened in New Jersey alone since I started The Tap Takeover, bringing the total as of this post to 88 production breweries in New Jersey.

According to untappd, I had over 400 unique beers over the last year (May 22, 2017 to May 22, 2018). Of course, many of those (about 80) were tasters or part of a flight, so that’s a little over 300 different bottles/pints/cans of beer. A rough breakdown shows (again, via my untappd account) about 59 Stouts, 56 IPAs, 25 Porters, 20 Dubbels/Tripels/Quads, 19 Hefeweizens, 17 Pale Ales, and 17 Pilsners. If I were to tell the Rob Bedford who started this blog in 2017 that he would have (and mostly enjoy) more than 50 IPAs over the next 12 months, second only in style count to Stouts, he wouldn’t believe me.

That speaks to the biggest change in my beer consumption habits over the past year, I seek out IPAs and find myself buying IPAs more than any other style lately. Tangentially, I’ve also come to truly appreciate Dogfish Head Brewing more than I have since I first started enjoying craft/independently brewed beer.

In one year, I published over 100 posts, this is the 52nd Draught Diversion and Thursday’s beer review will be the 52nd Beer Review. As a little tease, I’m reviewing a beer from the brewery whose beer was the subject of the very first review here at the Tap Takeover. In terms of reviews of styles, the big three were Stout – 8; Porter – 6; and IPA – 5.

I visited a few more breweries over the past 12 months, too. The Hackettstown Trio of Czig Meister, Jersey Girl, and Man Skirt Brewing; Angry Erik Brewing in Lafayette, NJ; Ramstein in Butler, NJ; Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls, NJ; Free Will Brewing tap room in Peddler’s Village, NJ; Iron Hill Brewery (Brewpub chain) in Pennsylvania; Wet Ticket Brewing in Rahway, NJ (I plan on visiting them again); and Doylestown Brewing Company in Doylestown, PA. I also returned to favorite local breweries Conclave Brewing in Raritan/Flemington, NJ; Demented Brewing Company in Middlesex, NJ; Flounder Brewing Company in Hillsborough, NJ; Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands; and of course Lone Eagle Brewing in Flemington for the monthly board game night.

One other change about the blog that has probably been noticeable since the calendar changed to 2018. I went to a new format for my monthly tally/recap. Rather than going exhaustively over 95% of the unique beers I had per month I thought, why not whittle that down. So the Monthly Six Pack was born, an obvious framing device, I would think.

I would like to thank the readers of the blog and folks who have supported my little hobby by spreading the word and simply chatting up with me (virtually or in meatspace) about beer. I’d especially like to thank Mike K. of NJ Craft Beer, Al Gatullo, Mike Martinez (who homebrews a tasty saison!), John Anealio, Chuck of NJ Beer and Wine, of course my wife for supporting my enjoyment of this delicious liquid and my dad who has checked in here regularly. Both my wife and my father have given me beers that were the subject of a handful of these reviews, and my wife was the designated driver to many of the breweries featured.

I don’t know that there’s much else for me to say, I don’t want to sit here and stroke my own ego (any more than I already have). If nothing else, I hope I showed some folks good beer they should try and in some cases, some not-so-good brews to avoid.

Cheers to another great year!

Draught Diversions: Summer 2018 6 Pack

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…

Summer beer (especially Lienenkugel’s Summer Shandy and Sam’s Summer Ale) has been on the shelves and taps since April and I blame it all on Samuel Adams. But, since we’re a couple weeks away from Memorial Day, the unofficial kick-off of Summer so in anticipation of warmer weather, here are 6 summery brews I’m hoping to try when the warm weather settles in and I can enjoy a refreshing beer or three sitting in or by my pool.

Not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer. Naturally, the beers I highlight here will be those available in the NJ/Northeast so while a brewery like Ninkasi may have an interesting looking beer, since Ninkasi doesn’t distribute to NJ (making the beer unavailable to me), I won’t be mentioning the beer.

The Bog Cranberry Shandy Cape May Brewing Company (Cape May, NJ)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

Say what you will about the Shandy / Radler style of beer popularized in recent years by Leinenkugel, but the style is very refreshing. There’s a reason German cyclists (or Radlers in German) were given pints of this in the summer. Cranberries are one of my favorite fruits and fruit juices, and I’ve begun to see more beers made with cranberries in recent years. NJ also happens to be one of the major producers of cranberries in the US, so a cranberry infused beer from NJ’s second largest brewery seems natural. I really hope this one reaches distribution near me.

“What happens when you make a Cranberry Wheat and accidentally add too much cranberry? Embrace it and turn it into a Shandy! A tart cranberry wheat beer blended with lemonade, The Bog is light and refreshing while still packing tons of flavor.”

Holy Moses Raspberry White Ale® – Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, OH)

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s Web site

Great Lakes doesn’t make bad beer, at least for my palate. Holy Moses is Great Lakes’s take on the traditional Belgian Witbier and this new iteration adds Raspberry to the beer for what should be a nice sweet, tart refreshing ale. I’ve still yet to try the original Holy Moses, so I hope to give that one a try, too. I’ve seen quite a few of Great Lakes’s core brews as well as their always popular Christmas Ale in my area, but haven’t seen Holy Moses too often. Hopefully that changes.

“In the spirit of Moses Cleaveland’s thirst for discovery, our classic White Ale meets fresh, juicy raspberries to forge a pint worth planting a flag in (or an orange slice!)

FLAVOR
Refreshment or bust! Tart raspberry flavors mark our White Ale’s spicy, aromatic terrain.”

Limey Gose – Victory Brewing (Downington, PA)

Image courtesy of Victory Brewing’s Web site

I’ve professed my enjoyment of almost all things Victory Brewing here before, with their Kirsch Gose one of my favorites. I’m hoping this new-ish Gose they are releasing is of the same quality because a sweet-tart Gose is a perfect beer antidote for a sweltering day. This was originally a brewery only-beer a few years ago and looks to get wide distribution this summer. I’m guessing if you like Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale (also made with limes) or Westbrook’s Key Lime Gose, you’ll enjoy this one, too.

“This lively GOSE brings the TART FLAVOR of KEY LIME PIE sprinkled with SEA SALT into a zesty SOUR LIME BIER.”

Onshore Lager – Flying Fish Brewing Company (Somerdale, NJ)

Image courtesy of Flying Fish Brewing Co.’s Facebook page

Flying Fish is the stalwart of NJ Brewing and they have a pretty solid line up of brews, in addition to their fantastic Exit Series. Over the past couple of years as the Exit Series drew to a close, Flying Fish started adding new, more permanent brews to their lineup. One of them is called Onshore Lager which has a great can design and sounds almost like a Pilsner. I don’t often go for Lagers, but when the Lager is Pilsner or a Bock, then I’m more inclined to give the beer a try. I’m guessing the sub-5% ABV on this one might lend Pilsner-like quality to the beer, too. Sign me up for a six pack.

“Our home is surrounded by a breathtaking stretch of ocean and beautiful waterways, and ONSHORE LAGER is our tribute to that environment.

Brewed without adjuncts, this beer pours a pure, golden color, and German-style hops provide a crisp, clean finish.”

Smooth Sail Summer Ale (Pale Wheat Ale) Heavy Seas Brewing Company (Halethorpe, MD)

Image courtesy of CraftBeer.com

The Pale Wheat Ale, popularized in the summer by Bell’s Oberon Ale and Samuel Adams Summer Ale. Not quite a Hefeweizen, not quite a pale ale, but very refreshing. This one from Heavy Seas seems to have a similar profile to the aforementioned two ales, with a hint of citrus which tells me I’d probably like this beer. From my very limited sampling of beers from heavy Seas, I think I’ll enjoy this one quite a bit. I’d seen it in stores the last year or two, but passed on it. I’ll be rectifying that this year.

“This is not your average summer ale. We’ve created the most refreshingly delicious American wheat ale. Brewed with lemon and orange peel, Smooth Sail finishes with a citrus kick. At 4.5% ABV you’ll have your new pool beer. Available on draft and cans only, it’s the perfect beer for trips to the park, hiking, or just sitting on the beach with your friends. A summer day. Kick back, relax, enjoy – a light breeze will take you to your happy place.”

When in Doubt Helles Lager – Tröegs Independent Brewing (Hershey, PA)

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

While Tröegs already has a summer seasonal beer in their tasty Sunshine Pils, When in Doubt could perhaps be considered a “cousin” beer in that Helles Lagers and Pilsners are similar in style. This beer was part of Tröegs popular “Scratch series” a couple of years ago, then draft exclusive and now (according to the fine MyBeerBuzz beer blog), available in 12oz bottles. I’m hoping to try this one as soon as it is available (maybe June?) since I’ve really come to enjoy the Helles Lager style. At 4.3% ABV, this is a very crushable lager.

When in Doubt is all harmony. It begins with a single note, a clean and delicate pilsner malt reminiscent of freshly baked bread. Tradition hops add hints of wildflower and subtle bitterness, and our crisp lager yeast pulls it all together. In the end, this refreshing Munich-style Helles is greater than the sum of its parts and – when in doubt – always a good call.”

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Special thanks to the great MyBeerBuzz blog for images in this post specifically, and for tireless efforts to keep the craft beer community abreast of new beers and beer news.

Draught Diversions: April 2018 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…

April closes out, thank goodness. It was not a fun month with travel I had and awful weather. But, there were some good beers for sure. Deciding on a final six-pack for the month was tough because April started out strongly with a few classics I hadn’t previously enjoyed. In fact, a good portion of the highlight beers for me for April can be considered Craft Beer Classics.

There are some definite Belgian leanings in this month’s six pack, whether a brewery from Belgium, American breweries known for Belgian-inspired ales, or a great, modern interpretation of a Belgian classic.  Let’s start with the most Belgian of American breweries…

Saison (Allagash Brewing Company) Saison / Farmhouse Ale – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Allagash has built a great reputation on brewing American interpretations of classic Belgian ales and few are more classic than a Saison. As it has turned out, the last few years I’ve been enjoying a different Saison on Easter Sunday. This was the perfect beer for Easter Sunday and a nice prelude to brunch. Light, sweet and well-rounded, I’ll be returning to this one in the future, for sure.

Candi Stout (Brewery Ommegang) Stout – Other – 3 bottle Caps on untappd

The other American brewery who built their reputation on Belgian inspired ales is Cooperstown, NY’s Brewery Ommegang. I enjoy much of their output, but when they stray too much from their wheelhouse – like this stout (or their Nirvana IPA) – then the results are mixed. I guess I get what they were aiming for with this beer, unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

Tripel Karmeliet (Brouwerij Bosteels) Belgian Tripel – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Proper Glassware from a proper Belgian bar

This ale is an absolute world-class, and classic, beer. I loved the sweetness and overall flavor profile with the magic produced by Belgian yeast. Although I would likely enjoy this beer *anywhere*, enjoying it on draught in a bar that serves only Belgian beer (25 on tap, 50 in bottles) didn’t hurt the experience. I had this on my business trip in the Austin, TX bar Mort Subite. I’ll likely need to go to Austin again for business and I’ll be hitting up Mort again.

90 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double – 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

Why did it take me so long to come around to IPAs!?!

I’m all in on IPAs now and found one that can be a steady go-to, the beer Esquire Magazine once called “the best IPA in America.” Perfect, absolutely perfect balance of malt and hops, with a pleasant hop bite and great hit of citrus sweetness. The reputation is well-earned because this beer does EVERYTHING a perfectly crafted IPA should do: it is true to style, innovative, and just plain delicious.

Devil’s Reach (Cape May Brewing Co.) Belgian Strong Golden Ale – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Belgian yeast = magic.

Cape May Brewing Company, the 2nd Largest NJ Craft Brewery, has a great reputation, they brew across the board, with a somewhat greater focus on IPAs. But this beer? This beer is outstanding, a delicious, sweet explosion of flavor that is deceptively high in ABV (8.6%) but so easy drinking. In some of my reviews I mention “an iconic shelf of NJ Beers” and I would definitely make room for this one. Not many NJ breweries make a “Belgian Strong Golden Ale” (as far as I know) so there honestly isn’t too much competition in the State for this style. Regardless, this is an absolute stand-out ale.

G.O.R.P. (Carton Brewing Company) Porter – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve professed my enjoyment of Carton’s beers often on this blog. The fact that some of Carton’s long-time brews are now hitting distribution in cans pleases me immensely. Especially when I’ve been wanting to try Good Old Raisins and Peanuts for a couple of years now and the beer largely lived up to what I was hoping it would be. The quality I was expecting because the Carton logo is on the can, but the flavors were a little less expected. Some beers that have peanuts or peanut butter can be too cloying in the PB sweetness. Here with G.O.R.P.; however, the sweetness of the raisins and roasted peanuts come together deliciously on the finish, especially as the beer warms a bit.

Honorable mention to an annual April Favorite: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. This is a beer that absolutely lives up to its reputation and the 2018 vintage is outstanding.

Draught Diversions: Bridgewater Beerfest 2018

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…

I’ve been to several Beer Festivals, including all five of the past Garden State Brewfests and a few in Philadelphia. Those beer festivals ranged from small with only a few hundred attendees to some with over a thousand attendees. There are benefits to both types of festivals, and the Bridgewater Beer Festival (April 28 at the Bridgewater Jewish Community Center) falls in the smaller more intimate end of festivals which helped to reinforce the sense of Community around New Jersey beer.

There were many things to like about the Bridgewater Beer Fest, or at least many things that *I* enjoyed about the Bridgewater Beer Fest. I’m not going to lie, the fact that this Beer Fest was only a few miles from my house was a big reason why I decided to attend.

Two other plusses? The price…as a member of New Jersey Craft Beer, a $25 discount was available. Related, the “Designated Driver” ticket was only $10, which is fair, I suppose. Well, significantly better than past Garden State Brewfests which was $25 for the designated driver plus parking fee. If you are charging somebody to be responsible and herd the cats that are drunk people, the $25 fee is enough, throw on the parking fee and it is almost like responsibility (having a sober driver) is being punished. It was also nice that there was no parking fee at the Bridgewater Beer Fest.

Another reason that became stronger as the event drew closer was the list of breweries and beers that were to be poured including a focus on barrel-aged brews. Or that Dogfish Head was pouring a vintages of some of their classic brews. Or that Weyerbacher was pouring their 20th Anniversary Ale, a delicious Belgian Strong Dark Ale I missed when it was in stores a couple of years ago. Or that a not too-easy to find (and relatively pricey) barrel-aged weizenbock collaboration between Stone Brewing and the Bruery called Fahrt die Zeige was being poured. Not bad, right?

Another great feature of this beer festival was the predominance of NJ breweries, I’d say well over 50% of the beer and breweries were NJ based. I was especially happy that breweries I haven’t yet had the chance to visit, like Backward Flag (Forked River, NJ), Brotherton Brewing (Shamong, NJ), Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ), Double Nickel (Pennsauken, NJ), 902 Brewing (Jersey City, NJ), Brix City Brewing (Little Ferry, NJ), and Three 3’s Brewing (Hammonton, NJ) were pouring beer since those breweries aren’t exactly close to me. Before the festival, I never had any of Backward Flag’s beers (Oak Armored Ale), and only one each from the some of other breweries so it was great to have new great beers from Backward Flag and three new, tasty beers, from Brotherton Brewing (Cedar Wudder Amber Ale), Double Nickel (DNA Batch #3, Cascara IPA), 902 Brewing (Kürtoskalács, a cinnamony coffee milk stout), Brix City Brewing, (Gloria [Belgian] Blonde Ale), and Three 3’s (Pulpitations IPA).

I was also looking forward to meeting and chatting with Mike Kivovitz, the head honcho of New Jersey Craft Beer and one of the most important folks in the New Jersey beer community. I was chuffed (as the Brits say) when Mike recognized me from my ramblings about beer here on the Tap Takeover, Twitter, and Facebook. Mike is a cool guy and helped bring into focus how connected the beer community is. Talking with make also made me realize what great connections exist between the Craft Beer community and the Geek community (aka, much of what I have been writing about for years at places like SFFWorld, SF Signal and my other blog). I hope to share some beers with Mike in the future at the various breweries and bars in New Jersey. It as also nice to chat with some of my friends from Flounder Brewing as well as Tim from Conclave Brewing and Matt from Czig Meister as well as making new acquaintances at all the breweries, which only added to the sense of community in NJ Beer.

On to the beers themselves, I checked into about two dozen on untappd, with about ¾ of those being NJ beers. Most were very good with a a few of them being outstanding. That said, I’ll stick to my 6-pack format and touch on the six beers that stood out the most for me. I generally try to have beers I’ve never had before at these festivals. For example, much as I enjoy beer from Demented Brewing, they were pouring a couple of beers I had prior to the fest so I didn’t go for them. Also, this six pack is primarily NJ brews with the exception of one major, phenomenal beer.

Brewer Choice Hefeweizen (Hefeweizen)
Backward Flag Brewing (Forked River, NJ)

As I said, Backward Flag is a brewery I’ve wanted to visit for a while now, since hearing about them around 2016. Unfortunately, they are about an hour and half one-way trip. Backward Flag is a veteran/woman owned brewery and I think the veteran portion of that is unique, at least in NJ. They were pouring two beers and for me the standout was their Brewer Choice Hefeweizen, a damned fine example of the classic Bavarian Wheat Ale. This is a delicious brew and better than a couple of German Hefeweizens I’ve had.

Deep Sea Series: Tropics (IPA – New England)
Czig Meister Brewing Company (Hackettstown, NJ)

In two visits to Czig Meister Brewing Company, I never had any of the many IPAs they brew. I always stuck to Stouts and non-IPAs. Well, I sure was missing out because their Deep Sea Series of IPAs, if this beer is any indication, is a solid, dependable line of IPAs. Hell, the Deep Sea Series – Galactic 7 was awarded Best IPA at the Atlantic City Beer Festival about a month ago (March 2018).

Wolves Among Sheep (Stout – American Imperial / Double)
Angry Erik Brewing (Lafayette, NJ)

Although I visited Angry Erik back in November, I missed out on Wolves Among Sheep at that time. I was *very* pleased to see this beer was being poured at the beer festival. Some barrel-aged stouts can take on too much of the oak/barrel characters and wipe out the taste of the base stout. The brewers at Angry Erik avoided this common pitfall and produced a very balanced beer with enough booziness, enough stoutiness, enough sweetness, and enough bitter-sweetness.

Mexican Evening (Stout – American Imperial / Double)
Conclave Brewing – Raritan Township, NJ

My favorite stout of the day was Mexican Evening from Conclave Brewing, which is an imperial/double variation on their popular Mexican Morning Milk Stout. Cinnamon hits first, followed by sweetness from chocolate and vanilla with a spiced hit from the chili de árbol peppers. Even though the ABV is higher in this beer than it is in Mexican Morning, I think that heightened ABV calms down the peppery finish making for a fantastic, complex, delicious dessert beer.

DDH Not a Schooner (IPA – New England)
Icarus Brewing (Lakewood, NJ)

“There is NO Easter Bunny!”

DDH Not a Schooner from Icarus Brewing was my favorite IPA of the day. Icarus is out of Lakewood, NJ and for their relative youth in the NJ Beer landscape, their reputation of a purveyor of tasty beers started pretty strong and has grown from there. This beer is a Double Dry Hopped version of their popular Not a Schooner New England IPA. This beer just exploded with juiciness and I enjoyed it so much it was the only beer I of which I had two samples.

Olde School 2014 vintage (Barleywine – American)
Dogfish Head Brewery (Milton, DE)

It is almost not fair to compare a four-year old Barleywine to anything else, but here we are. Dogfish Head’s Olde School Barleywine from 2014 was the standout pour of the day for me. This was one of the brews I had high on my list to get and it exceeded what I hoped it would be. For me, the hops can come across too assertively in some Barleywines, but maybe because this Barleywine aged for four years, everything smoothed out. At 15% ABV, even a 12 oz bottle of this beer is something you should share…or sip extremely slowly while watching a long movie. What I know is this – I’ll be getting some more of this in the future.

All told, I couldn’t have been happier with the Bridgewater Beer Fest. I hope the festival returns next Spring because I hope to attend again.

Draught Diversions: Jersey Girl Brewing Co.

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

The final brewery of “Hackettstown Trio” of NJ Craft breweries gets the Draught Diversion treatment today. Of course, I am referring to Jersey Gril Brewing Company who just celebrated two years of being in business and selling beer in their taproom this past weekend (April 7). Unfortunately, I was not able to attend their anniversary party, but I did visit Jersey Girl back in November 2017 when I visited Manskirt and Czig Meister.

Like many breweries, owners and friends Chuck Aaron and Mike Bigger started were homebrewers, after they met in the community of Mount Olive and found they shared a passion for good-tasting beer. They wanted to provide a beer destination locals could enjoy and their involvement in the community can be seen on their Facebook page.

Jersey Girl began brewing beer and distributing in 2014, but the build-out of the tap-room took another two years. When Jersey Girl opened its doors to the public in April 2016, the brewery started fairly strongly, I think I recall seeing their great, eye-catching logo at least one (probably more) Garden State Brewfests, maybe in 2015 and definitely in 2016 when I had their well-made Amber Ale. Their brewing capabilities have expanded since the initial opening, with overall volume increasing, as well as can production, which jumped from about 2,000 for a run/month to 20,000 cans per month. Additionally, the number of employees has more than doubled, from 5 to 12.

Sun Kissed Citra and Rake Breaker (Photo courtesy of Jersey Girl Facebook)

The brewery started out fairly aggressively with canning their beers, I recall seeing cans of their two flagship IPAs, Rake Breaker and Sun Kissed Citra in stores. Those two beers are also available in cans and on tap at the Prudential Center, home of my hockey team, The New Jersey Devils. In fact, Jersey Girl is currently the top-selling craft beer at the Prudential Center, according to the Brew Jersey article linked below. Let’s face it, Jersey Girl really should be available there, considering the name of he brewery. Even before the brewery officially opened, it was being recognized as the beer was highlighted online at NJ Monthly.

This awesome diagram/map of beer styles adorned one of the taproom walls.

The view from outside is very deceiving, especially from the road where the brewery is located. Whereas Czig Meister and Manskirt are quite visible, Jersey Girl is an office park environment. Like Kane and Conclave, you have to know to look for the brewery. That outer view of the brewery is in complete contrast to the taproom inside, which is inviting and very well-constructed. It feels almost like a neighborhood bar. There’s plenty of seating at the bar, at tables, and side tables where you can view the brewing equipment.

The evening of my visit, the brewery was quite busy. Admittedly, Jersey Girl was the last of five breweries I visited that day, so my perception may be slightly skewed. But the impression that sticks in my memory is of a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere where many people were chatting and getting along quite nicely.

The tap list for the night of my visit

The most important element of any brewery; as always, is the product/liquid/beer itself. As Chuck Araron says in the Daily Record article below, “It’s all about the beer. We’re in the beer business.” During my visit I had a flight of four beers on the lovely paddle in the shape of New Jersey pictured below. The first beer of the flight was King Gambrinus, an extremely well-made Belgian Tripel. Second was a big Coffee Stout, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee which was tasty bit slightly bitter and packed quite a punch at 10% ABV. The third beer in my flight was another Belgian offering, Abbey Dubbel Trouble, also well-made. Last was a very well-rounded porter, Madagascar. As the name implies, this beer is brewed with Madagascar Vanilla and the balance is spot-on. I’ve lamented vanilla beers that have way too much vanilla and this one doesn’t commit that sin.

Flight addles come in various shapes, this one in the shape of the State of NJ is one the cleverer paddles I’ve seen.

The brewery has been receiving accolades and awards over the past two years:

Photo courtesy of Jersey Girl Brewing’s Facebook page

Having just celebrated two years in business and open to the public, Jersey Girl is proving to be a strong presence in the growing New Jersey Craft Beer landscape. Beers that seem to be well received, averaging about 3.7 on untappd for their flagship IPAs Sun Kissed Citra and Rake Breaker, 3.99 for their Coffee Stout, and 3.87 for King Gambrinus. They brew two Hefeweizens in the summer, a standard Hef and one with Elderberry and Lemon, both of  which I can’t wait to try, a Pilsner (MO Pils, the MO for Mount Olive), and many more. Overall, I hope to see this brewery grow and expand their footprint in and outside of the State.

Jersey Girl regulary hosts events at their brewery, like the current trend of yoga and beer and of course, trivia nights.

Some other links of interest follow:

Beer Review: Cape May Brewing’s Coastal Evacuation

Name: Coastal Evacuation
Brewing Company: Cape May Brewing Company
Location: Cape May, NJ
Style: IPA – Imperial / Double
ABV: 8.0%

I usually try to go with on of my Garden State Brewfest glasses for NJ beers, but went with my alma mater this time.

From Cape May Brewing’s Web site:

“Coastal Evacuation:” a phrase common at the Jersey Shore. Hurricane season hits hard, and we’re hitting back with a Double IPA with copious amounts of centennial hops, able to withstand the storm. It’s time to evacuate – are you prepared?

Cape May Brewing has been brewing and selling beer since the brewer officially opened 2011. Cape May Brewing is (I think) the second largest craft brewery in New Jersey (Flying Fish being the largest) and offers the largest varieties of beers in New Jersey in its tasting room. Their beers are highly respected in the State of New Jersey, some  sought after, and some have won awards – Topsail, (a barrel-aged sour) was named best beer of 2017 by Beer Connoisseur Magazine.

I had their Honey Porter last year, which was pretty good and I’d been eager to try more of their portfolio especially as I’ve come to appreciate hoppier beers/IPAs and the majority of what they brews lean heavily towards the IPA side of the shelf. One of their flagship / most well-received brews is Coastal Evacuation. Unfortunately, Cape May Brewing doesn’t distribute up to Somerset County, but fortunately, my dad and I recently did a bottle share and one Coastal Evacuation was one of the beers I received.

The first thing I noticed when pouring the beer was the color. It wasn’t as bright or golden as I expected from a Double IPA and the bubbles floating in the beer looked almost like particulates. I was a little nervous, but I shouldn’t have been.

My first impression/first sip of the beer was an assertive yet pleasing hop presence. Knowing the beer is a double IPA (80 IBU) set my expectations for a big hop bit and I got it, but I wasn’t bludgeoned with the hop bitterness. The second prominent flavor component is the citrus profile imparted by the generous centennial hops in the beer. The two flavor components blend quite nicely for a beer with a great taste.

Coastal Evacuation is a very drinkable IPA, the hop/sweet/citrus flavor profile is remarkably well-balanced given the  alcohol level and the high IBU. In other words, this beer is a fine example of a Double IPA and I can definitely understand why so many people enjoy the beer.

Overall, this was an enjoyable beer that went down with the complex hop/citrus flavors one should expect from a Double IPA. Coastal Evacuation is another beer helping to put the Garden State on the Craft Beer map of America.

The label looks great here, but it looks even better on the beer with some foil/shiny highlights

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

I Believe in IPA (Level 18)

We believe in IPA and you should too. You certainly have a taste for the hops! That’s 90 different IPAs.

 

Beer Review: BOVB (Blood Orange Cream Pop IPA)

Name: BOVB (Blood Orange Cream Pop IPA)
Brewing Company: Bolero Snort Brewery
Location: Ridgefield Park, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 6.3%

Glass from Garden State Brewfest 2015, where I first encountered Bolero Snort’s brews.

Description of the beer from Bolero’s blog post announcing the beer

BOVB offers a metal escape to warmer weather in these brisk months. This 6.3% IPA is brewed with white wheat and hopped with some of our favorite old school citrusy C hops then conditioned atop blood orange puree, milk sugar and Madagascar Vanilla before being dry hopped with some sleek new Experimental Hops and more Centennial and Cascade. Fluffy and crisp, bright citrus with a creamy finish.

Bolero Snort is one of the more well-regard breweries in the New Jersey craft beer community, and all without having a “home base” tap room where patrons can taste and purchase the beer. They are a gypsy brewery, and brew their recipes at various larger breweries in the State. They’ve gained this reputation through distribution of kegs, cans, and bottles in a mix of traditional brews and innovative twists on those traditions, like this twist on a citrusy IPA. Aside from the beer, owner Bob Olson is considered one of the really good guys in the New Jersey brewing community and has brewed collaborations with several NJ breweries.

It has been a while since I gave the full review attention to an IPA and this one is really terrific. Upon cracking open the 16oz can, the aroma is citrus and hops with an underlying sweetness. The beer pours a bright, inviting yellow-orange that looks in all respects like your standard IPA

Looks are deceiving because this is far from a standard IPA.

The upfront flavors of the hops and bold blood orange citrus meld quite harmoniously. A very pleasing mouthfeel leads to a creamy sweet vanilla finish. I’ve said before that vanilla is very tricky flavor component for my palate, as it can be overpowering in some cases and prevent a beer from elevating to that next level. The judicious and balanced application of the Madagascar Vanilla in this beer is absolutely perfect. The sweetness and vanilla essence finishes and complements the citrus hop up front that compels you to drink more.

Similar to how I suggested that River Horse’s Chocolate Porter was the delicious essence of a brownie distilled into beer form, this is the sweet, tasty essence of an orange creamsicle (or even the orange vanilla twist famous on the NJ boardwalk) into beer form. In other words, a great dessert beer.

I did make one mistake on the first can of this beer – I poured without the swirl. Because this beer has the lactose sugar and other sweetening elements, as well as not being 100% filtered, sediment will settle to the bottle of the can. Kind of like an unfiltered Hefeweizen. The glass from which I was drinking the beer didn’t hold the full 16oz of the can so a lot of slurry poured out when I topped off the glass. Swirling all that sediment kicks up the lovely flavors even more which was definitely the case when I had my second can a couple of days later. This is quite simply a delicious beer.

Bolero Snort produces a few different versions of this beer: the original OVB (Orange Cream Pop); TVB (Tropical); and SVB (Strawberry). I need to try these soon and more than the dozen or so of Bolero’s beers I’ve already had.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd Check-in 1 and Check-in 2

4.25-bottle cap rating.