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.

Draught Diversions: February 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…

Since today is March 1st, let’s take a look back at the February 6-pack. Again these are beers that stood out over the past month. Most are really good beers, but I’ll try to keep it somewhat balanced and include one beer that didn’t quite work for me.

As this six pack (and last month’s) are showing, I’m more strongly leaning into the whole IPA/hopped up beer side of the bottle shop. There might be another rant/post about that specifically, but I’ll go through this six pack chronologically.

Victory Mighty Things Imperial IPA – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

On the very first day of the month, I had a new Double/Imperial IPA from my favorite brewery, Victory Brewing. There’s a near perfect balance between the hops and malt in this beer with a nice citrusy undertone. I’ll admit, I was a little unsure if I should get a full six pack of the beer, but I am very glad I did. I’ve seen some chatter on beer boards that this is just a repackaged version of Hop Ranch. I can’t say, never had that one. Mighty Things, though? I’d have this again and again.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Pale Ale – American – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I had to travel in February for my job and at one of the cocktail hours/receptions, the beer choices were Stella Artois (which I don’t like at all), Bud Light, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I of course went with the famous green labeled bottle. I haven’t had one of these in many years (at least since before I was on untappd) and never really enjoyed the beer. In fact, it was the beer from Sierra I liked the least. But since it was free, I figured I’d revisit. I’m glad I did because with my shift to enjoying IPAs and my changing (evolving?) palate, I now enjoy this beer very much and grabbed a bottle at the following night’s cocktail hour.

Weyerbacher Sunday Molé Stout Stout – American Imperial / Double – 2.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Here, we reach the drain pour. I like stouts quite a bit, spiced up stouts very much, and I enjoy much of Weyerbacher’s output, so I was expecting to enjoy this one a great deal. Especially since it is a variant on their wonderful Sunday Morning Stout. This beer didn’t work for me at all. I’m not sure why, maybe the smokiness? I couldn’t put my finger on it and couldn’t finish the beer, it just wasn’t for me.

Flying Fish Jersey Juice IPA – New England – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Number four for the month (and the second IPA) is from New Jersey’s largest craft brewery, Flying Fish. I’ve enjoyed many of the beers I’ve had from Flying Fish’s portfolio so how could I not at least try a beer with the state’s name in it? Well, Jersey Juice is quite tasty with a good hop / malt / juicy balance. Further playing on the New England IPA craze, this beer is distributed in 16oz cans. The beer isn’t quite what it I thought it might be, in that the name, packaging, and untappd classification made me think it would be a New England IPA. The beer doesn’t have quite the level of juiciness or cloudiness most NEIPAs have, but the beer is still quite good and is one of those versatile brews that fits any occasion.

Tröeg’s First Cut IPA – American – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve always respected and liked the beers Tröegs produces, and now that I’m on-board with IPAs, I like them even more. First Cut is the first of Tröegs Hop Cycle series of seasonal IPAs. Not too highly hopped, the beer is extremely well balanced and sweet with honey and mangoes added to the brew process. This is a delicious, extremely refreshing IPA. I don’t know if I’d call it “crushable” because of the 6.2% ABV, but the beer goes down really nicely. As the first in the Hop Cycle, this is a spring seasonal, but damn would this be a perfect summer/poolside beer.

Now I’m looking forward to progressing through Tröegs Hop Cycle this year.

Samuel Adams Sam ‘76 Lager – American Light– 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

There’s been a lot of hype for this beer and how the fine folks of Samuel Adams went through 60 different recipes before settling on the beer that is known as Sam 76. I may have to up my rating when I have a second can of the beer because this is a solidly made beer. Billed as an ale/lager hybrid, the beer is bright, crisp, and has a nice hop-pop. With a  4.7% ABV, the beer is really crushable. This is a year-round beer and I can imagine it will do very well in warm months and in people’s coolers in the summer. The beer is maybe a session lager? A hoppy Helles Lager? The flavor profile actually reminds me of Carton’s Boat Beer, if not quite as hoppy. I may have more to say about this beer at a later date, but I hope this does well for Jim Koch’s great company.

Honorable mention: Czig Meister brewery in Hackettstown had a 2-day Stoutfest (their second annual) and there were some fantastic stouts, 50 different stouts over two days! The best I had were the Caramel Macchiato Stout, Imperial Milk Stout and the Bananas Foster Stout. I’d love to see the Caramel Macchiato make it to season/full time status and put into distribution.

Beer Review: River Horse Chocolate Porter

Name: Chocolate Porter
Brewing Company: River Horse Brewing Company
Location: Ewing, NJ
Style: Porter
ABV: 6.5%

The yellow “Coaster” is from the River Horse 6K I ran with my wife in brother-in-law in April 2016. At the end of the race, everybody got a pint of Summer Blonde. Logo on the glass is the old-school, pre-2007 logo.

The beer’s description on River Horse’s Landing Page for the beer:

We start with a brown porter brewed with dark roasted malts, and add one pound of chocolate per barrel. We then throw in some Madagascar Vanilla beans to accentuate the chocolate flavors, resulting in a decadent porter. Available February – March.

As one of the oldest micro-breweries in the state, River Horse Brewing Company is a New Jersey Brewing institution. Originally started back in 1995/6 in Lambertville, NJ, new ownership took over in 2007, and they moved to a larger facility in 2013 in Ewing, NJ. Their mascot Brewtus (a stylized cartoon hippo) appears in various guises appropriate for each beer of the line-up (with cow markings for the Milk Stout, googly eyes for the Hippotizing IPA, etc).

Although I’ve mentioned their beers and the brewery in a few posts here at the Tap Takeover, I’ve had intentions of giving one of their beers a full review for a while. Initially determining which beer from their portfolio to highlight  first was a minor challenge since River Horse brews quite a few beers I like including the excellent Oatmeal Milk Stout and Tripel Horse, which was awarded a Bronze Medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival. In the end, I figured I’d highlight one of the special beers they consider a seasonal and available throughout their distribution footprint.

On to the delicious Chocolate Porter…

Popping open the cap, the beer pours into the glass a silky dark brown that smooths into black when the light hits it the right way. Poured properly, there’s a small light brown or tan head. Once fully poured into the glass the beer practically screams: Drink Me!

Some porters can have a powerful (or overpowering) smoky element, which is not the case for this beer. The “one pound of chocolate per barrel” sweetens the beer and eliminates some of that bitter smoke/roast flavor. If anything, the roast/smoke is akin to the edges of a freshly baked brownie, but the overall flavor, if we’re continuing with the brownie analogy, is like the gooey, slightly under-baked deliciousness at the center of the brownie.

The texture of the beer is really smooth with only minimal carbonation; just enough that it still feels like a beer.  For me, this is a beer that works better when it is colder rather than warming to room temperature like many darker beers.  At 6.5% ABV, it isn’t too heavy, so you don’t have to take your time with drinking it for those reasons, but the decadent, sumptuous flavor makes you want to take your time with the beer you just poured. Even if you have another four or five in the refrigerator from your six pack.

River Horse’s Chocolate Porter is most definitely a dessert beer, if that hasn’t become evident at this point. In other words, if you could take the best brownie you’ve ever had and transformed what makes it so good into beer form, chances are you’d have yourself a bottle of River Horse’s Chocolate Porter. First brewed and bottled in 2015 (I think), the beer has become a highlight of River Horse’s annual lineup in February, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

If I were to build a shelf of Essential NJ Beers, River Horse’s Chocolate Porter would definitely have a spot. From River Horse’s long history in the state to the pure wonderful taste of this beer, I’ve had this in my rotation of beers since I first had and enjoyed the beer. I know I raved about Kane’s Sunday Brunch Porter a couple of weeks ago and don’t get me wrong that is a fine, fantastic porter. However, the simple elegance of chocolate makes this beer stand on its own and make it a sought after beer in the region.

Back in 2016, River Horse bottled an Imperial version of this Porter, I hope they do again and I hope I get to sample it.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: January 2018 Six Pack

Time for another slight change in protocol here at The Tap Takeover. With my first Monthly recap post for 2018, I’m going to trim back from writing about the majority (90%) of the beer I had in the previous month and go with six beers. Ideally, I’ll try to keep mention at least one beer that didn’t quite work for me. Also, this list of beers excludes any that have been featured as a single beer review. For this post, at least, I’ll go chronological from what I had early in the month to what I had most recently.

I’ve found myself drawn to more NJ breweries over the recent past, rather than nationally distributed brands, so two of the beers in this post are from NJ Breweries.

Café Con Leche Stout – Milk / Sweet – 3.25 bottle Caps on untappd

First up is the very first beer I had in 2018. Café Con Leche from Cigar City Brewing is a beer whose style is strongly in my wheelhouse, but the execution left a lot to be desired. Cigar City started distributing into NJ last year so I was looking forward to trying some of their beers. Especially their interpretation of a Milk Stout. While it wasn’t bad, and relatively true to style there was something unpleasant on the finish of the beer. An odd aftertaste made the beer, on the whole, not something I’d want to try again. This was one of the bombers I received for Christmas so I didn’t feel too guilty about not finishing the whole bottle.

Han Shot First IPA – Imperial / Double – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Next up is an IPA, or rather, Imperial/Double IPA from a fairly local brewery in Pennsylvania, Evil Genius Beer Company. I’ve had a few of their beers, the quality is good and the names are very clever, including this one, Han Shot First. This beer surprised me, it did not have nearly the level of hop bitterness I expected considering it is a Double. While the ABV is 8%, the IBU is 30, making this a very juicy, drinkable IPA. I’d definitely have this one again and not just for the name.

Collaboration No. 6 – Barrel-Aged Blend Other – 4.50 bottle Caps on untapped

The third beer in the January Six Pack is one of two beers I had at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, Sol Mexican Cantina. Very good food combined with one of the best selections of beers in Somerset County, NJ are why I like this place so much. The first beer I had that night was Collaboration No. 6 – Barrel-Aged Blend, a collaboration between Boulevard Brewing Co. and Firestone Walker. I’ve only had a couple of Boulevard’s beers and liked them fine, I need to seek out more from them. This beer is listed on untappd as “Other” likely because it is a blend of four heavy styles, two from each brewery: Bourbon Barrel Quad (45%) & Imperial Stout X Tart Cherry (10%) from Boulevard and Stickee Monkee Belgian Quad (35%) & Velvet Merkin Oatmeal Stout (10%) from Firestone Walker. It probably will not come as a surprise that the Belgian Quad flavors come through the most, but the sweetness of the stouts is there, too. This quite simply an outstanding beer

It looks like this one was brewed in 2016 so I don’t know if it was a one-time beer or has been brewed again more recently. Either way, if you see this one, get it because it is a fine example of experimental, collaborative brewing.

IPA IPA – American – 4 bottle Caps on untapped

Number four is the first of two beers from New Jersey and the other beer I had at Sol Mexican Cantina: a straightforward IPA from Brotherton Brewing. This is the first beer I’ve had from the South Jersey brewery and boy was I impressed. This is a borderline juice-bomb; a hazy Citra-hopped unfiltered IPA. I could drink this all day and hope I can find some of this in cans near me. Like I said, this is just simply a tasty, well-made IPA. Sometimes a well-made standard style is just the beer you need.

Sunday Brunch Porter – Imperial / Double – 4.75 bottle Caps on untapped

The second New Jersey beer was probably the best beer I had in January and one of the best porters I’ve ever had. One of our (my wife and I) favorite restaurants is the Stirling Hotel – amazing food, great beer, and excellent beer events like the one I attended in the middle of the month. Essentially a Tap Takeover, Stirling Hotel hosted a “Kane Brewing Brewer’s Lunch,” which featured six beers from Kane and a unique menu. My meal was fantastic, waffles topped with a roasted duck leg and fig syrup. One of beers I had was Kane’s Sunday Brunch, an Imperial Milk Porter made with coffee, maple syrup, and cinnamon. At 9.5% this is a potent beer, but so smooth and sweet. This is one of Kane’s once per year beers and seems to only be available at special events like this and in 750ml bottles at the brewery.

Some people may be wary of anything with cinnamon, but the spice is used perfectly in this beer and compliments the flavor profile rather than overpowering everything else that went into the beer. This is a must have beer, especially if you live in or near New Jersey.

Two Hearted Ale IPA – American – 4.25 bottle Caps on untapped

Finishing off the six pack for January is one of the iconic American craft beers: Two Hearted Ale from the great Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. I have lamented in the past that Bell’s doesn’t (yet?!?!) distribute to NJ. I happened to see this one on draught at the Houston Airport. Considering I had some time to kill before my flight departed, I ordered a pour and was satisfied. I now know why this beer has the reputation it does, this is one of the best, most drinkable IPAs I’ve ever had. As I plead when I reviewed Bell’s other iconic beer, Oberon Ale, if folks from Bell’s are reading this, please get your beer into NJ. You’d make an entire state of craft beer consumers extremely happy.

There you have it – six beers, five of which were excellent and one that just didn’t work for me.

Beer Review: Carton Brewing’s This Town

Name: This Town
Brewing Company: Carton Brewing Company
Location: Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.9%

The beer’s description on Carton’s Landing Page for the beer:

In a perfect world each town would have access to a fresh, straightforward lager beer. For our neighbors we built around a typically bready helles malt bill fermented with classic yeasts. Made unique by focusing on the defining bitterness and pleasant citric spice of Opal hops. Drink This Town because you’re almost home and deserve a beer from here.

It took a while before I repeated a brewery on one of my reviews, but I at least waited until the calendar flipped to a new year. I also figured if I was going to repeat breweries, it might as well be from (arguably) the best NJ brewery, Carton Brewing Company.

Carton Brewing is known for experimental brews, a series of IPAs (the 0-dub and Dubviant series of IPAs), and of course, Boat Beer. With This Town, Augie Carton and his cadre brewing wizards crafted something more straightforward with this Helles Lager. What is a Helles Lager, one might ask?

Essentially, a Helles Lager is the younger, jealous cousin to the Pilsner. A Helles Lager has a similar malt and hop profile as a Pilsner. This isn’t surprising since the Helles Lager was first brewed in Munich Germany as a reaction to the Czech/Bohemian Pilsner. The popularity of the Pilsner style (so named for the Plzeň (Pilsen) region of Bohemia in Czechoslovakia where it was first brewed) pushed brewers in Munich to come up with a comparable style so Germans would be more inclined to drink a beer from their own country and region. The designation of “Helles” means bright and once you look at the beer in the glass, the name makes sense.

For this beer, Carton went simple and elegant and it really, really paid off. The beer pours a bright inviting yellow and when poured correctly, with a fluffy white head. When most people think beer, an image of what comes out of a can of This Town is likely similar to what is in most people’s heads.

The aroma is pleasant and nearly as inviting as the look. A crisp refreshing taste of some breadiness, a nice bit of hops followed by a little bit of roasty malt/hops. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering the beer style’s roots, but I was very, very much reminded of Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle from Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus, one of the best German Pilsners I ever had.

I think the best compliment I can pay this beer is that I’d want it in regular rotation in my refrigerator as an everyday beer. If Boat is Carton Brewing’s flagship year-round beer, then This Town would make an excellent #2 beer.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: Czig Meister Brewing Company

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

This week’s brewery focused post features another of the “Hackettstown Trio” of NJ Craft breweries which was part of my fall 2017 New Jersey Brewery Tour: Czig Meister Brewing Company which is literally around the block from Man Skirt Brewing (featured here:

Image of brewery front courtesy of Czig Meister Web site

Czig Meister opened its doors and taps to the public in June 2016, but  President/CEO Matt Czigler’s beerstory began long before that. Like many brewery owners, Matt began homebrewing, but then unlike many homebrewers, formally educated himself at Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago. Once the formal education concluded, Matt eventually found himself in about as great a gig as one could hope for in NJ Craft Beer – head brewer at NJ’s iconic Kane Brewing. As it turns out, Matt had a big impact on Kane. His recipe for A Night to End All Dawns, an Imperial Stout aged in Four Roses Bourbon Barrels, won gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014. He eventually left to start what is now Czig Meister Brewing. All of this happened before he was even 30 years old. Very impressive indeed. (This is a very truncated version of what appears on Czig Meister’s About Us Page.

Image courtesy of Czig Meister’s Web site

But what about the brewery, where it is, and the beers produced by Czig Meister?

The location: Czigler managed to secure himself a really great space, a big, eye-catching brick building that was once a Ford maintenance garage. The ceiling is high, with barrels stacked in some spots. Perhaps what is best about the space is how open and welcoming it is. There’s an outdoor seating area / Biergarten and I think the big old garage doors open up to allow great airflow. Of the five breweries I visited on that cool November afternoon/evening, none were as packed and hopping as Czig Meister. Granted, some space was cordoned off and rented for a party, but there were enough people milling about enjoying fine beer that I suspect it still would have been the busiest brewery that day. Because it was so packed and the schedule for the day was pretty tight, I didn’t have the opportunity to snap any photos from inside the brewery.

The beers: I did manage to get a flight during my visit and all four beers were good, with one bordering on great. One of the beers I had was one of Czig Meister’s “Forge Batch” beers, which are the single-keg, experimental, brewery only releases. In this case, it was a “Blueberry Imperial Saison” (Forge Batch 9.8) and boy did it hit the spot. A lovely beer, the tart/sweet of the blueberry balanced out the yeast and earthiness of the Saison. I’d drink this all through the spring, if I could.

Flight at Czig Clockwise from Left: Forge Batch 9.8 Imperial Blueberry Saison, Blacksmith (Oatmeal Stout), Chaos (Belgian Dubbel), and Habonde (Barrel-aged Barley Wine)

The second beer in the flight was Chaos, Czig Meister’s interpretation of a Belgian Dubbel, which was spot on from a stylistic / flavor profile standpoint. The third beer in the flight was one of their flagship brews, Blacksmith, an Oatmeal Stout that was more roasty and smokey than I’d expect from a stout, especially an oatmeal stout. Almost more like a porter than a stout to me. The final beer was Habonde, and outstanding Barley Wine aged in Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrels. I’ve seen this one in local bottle shops, too. I’d highly recommend it to folks who enjoy Barley Wines. I think this is also the Barley Wine that cemented the fact that I enjoy Barley Wines in the English, rather than American style.

Speaking of bottle shops, sometime last year, I started seeing Czig Meister beers in shops near me in Somerset, Middlesex, and Hunterdon Counties, NJ. Again, this is really impressive – having a growing production brewery (compared to some of the smaller breweries in NJ) able to crank out beers consistently enough to gain continual distribution is no small feat. It seems Czig Meister’s core beers are the aforementioned Oatmeal Stout Blacksmith, as well as The Huntsman (Kölsch), Falconer (American Pale Ale, which I suspect would be similar to Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale especially with the green can), Prospector (Amber/Red Ale and Matt’s favorite, according to the Website and my links below), and The Shipwright (American IPA).

Of course Czig Meister has some regular seasonal brews and Special Releases, too. The next one I plan to try from them will have to be either Upon the Shattered Cliffs an Imperial Milk Porter (a collaboration brew with Bolero Snort) or the Dopplebock they call Chieftans Covenant.

Between the variety of beers they produce (over 200 distinct beers as of this writing), the busy atmosphere, great location, and portfolio of beers in distribution, Czig Meister has made a great mark on the NJ Craft Beer scene in less than two years. I know I would like to visit the brewery again and at the very least, continue making my way through the variety of their beers I see at my local bottle shops.

Like many breweries are doing, such as the Brews and Board Games club that meets monthly at Lone Eagle Brewing Czig Meister has regular events at their brewery, including a regular trivia nights. Bottom line, Czig Meister is worth making the drive up to Hackettstown on its own. Add the other two breweries in the town (Man Skirt and Jersey Girl), and the trip is almost a must for people interested in sampling fine New Jersey beer.

Additional reading and resources

Wine and Craft Beverage News (July 2017)
Brew Jersey (January 2017)
The Daily Record (June 2016)
I Drink Good Beer (June 2016)

A final aside: As it turns out, the younger brother of one of my fraternity brothers works at Czig Meister and has been there since the brewery opened.

Beer Review: Czig Meister’s Uholy Ritual

Name: Unholy Ritual
Brewing Company: Czig Meister Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 9.4%

There isn’t much of a description on this beer, either on the brewery’s Website or on untapped and I don’t recall seeing much on the label, so in this spot, I’ll drop in the Beer Advocate description of the Quadrupel (Quad) style

Inspired by the Trappist brewers of Belgium, a Quadrupel is a Belgian style ale of great strength with bolder flavor compared to its Dubbel and Tripel sister styles. Typically a dark creation that ranges within the deep red, brown and garnet hues. Full bodied with a rich malty palate. Phenols are usually at a moderate level. Sweet with a low bitterness yet a well perceived alcohol.

Czig Meister is one of the Hackettstown trio of breweries, which also includes Jersey Girl Brewing and a recent feature here, Manskirt Brewing. I’ll go into more detail in a couple of days about Czig Meister, but suffice it to say, they are aggressively brewing and hitting NJ distribution, both good things.

Unholy Ritual is a big, dark beer that hits a lot of the expected notes for a Belgian Quad/Quadrupel Ale. The style is one of the older varieties of Belgian ales being brewed and one of the strongest – most clock in between 9% and 13% ABV. Usually dark brown to deep amber, Czig Meister’s take on the beer pours a deep mahogany/amber and has a strong, earthy aroma. I found it very inviting indeed, with a sweet aroma that started hitting the right flavor buttons.

The first sip is sweet and malty with hints of stone fruit/plums as well as figs and raisins. There’s enough complexity with the yeast and other flavors that I found it a little difficult to take my time with the beer. I wanted to give this beer the opportunity to shine on its own after my meal, so it was effectively a dessert beer. With those earthy, stony fruits being emulated, I couldn’t have planned this beer any better. I also did take my time with it, enjoying the full 500ml bottle over the course of about an hour and as usual, the flavors became more delicious over that time.

Since being on untappd, I’ve had only three other Belgian Quads before this one but they were there of the more prominent American Craft Breweries (Ommegang, Weyerbacher, and Victory). As such, I’ll admit to perhaps not being the best to judge this one exactly against the style and its peers in the style, especially a Quadrupel from a Belgian brewery. Against the three “classic” American Quadrupels; however, Unholy Ritual compared very, very favorably and worked very well for me. It hit the notes the flavor notes in the style description quite well, too.

Czig Meister’s beers are available in Central and Northern NJ and maybe, NY and Pennsylvania. If you happen upon this in a bar or find a 500ml bottle with that awesome label, grab it and savor the complexities of a classic Belgian style interpreted by a newish, growing NJ brewery.

A final note: I realize the standard pint glass isn’t the “proper glassware” for a Belgian Quadrupel, but I always lean towards using the glass of the brewery’s beer I’m drinking rather than appropriate glass style. I do have a couple of snifters. I’ll also admit the label and name of the beer drew me to it, so that’s successful marketing at work!

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.