Draught Diversions: September 2020 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…

September brings the hints of cooler weather and the season of darker beers. September is also when Oktoberfest traditionally begins. Despite the celebration not happening, the Märzen and Festbiers have still been on the shelves since August of this year. One of each is featured in the September 2020 Six Pack. Those two beers happen to be the only non-New Jersey beers in this month’s six pack. One brewery in the six pack will not be the least bit surprising to regular readers of this here beer blog.


Your Lips are Juicy (Ashton Brewing Company) | IPA –Imperial / Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first hop-forward beer I’ve had from Ashton and I’m very impressed. Great hop blend to give the beer the qualities of a big Imperial IPA balanced out with noticeable, and balanced malt character for an overall flavor profile that is delicious. The can says “India Pale Ale,” untappd says “IPA – Imperial/Double,” I say this is a very flavorful, hop forward beer.


Shield Oath (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Belgian Tripel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is what I assume is the base beer for Paragon of Light, their wine-barrel aged Tripel and is a very solid interpretation of the Belgian style. It is hard for me not to compare any Tripel brewed in the North East, specifically New Jersey, to River Horse’s classic Tripel and this one stands up just fine. I wouldn’t necessarily say it needs to warm in the glass, but the beer should breathe a little before you dive in and drink it. Once it does, the beer is great with some hints of pear in the fruit evocations from the yeast and mild hops.


Rugged Snuggle (Twin Elephant Brewing) | Porter – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I believe Twin Elephant has expanded their production capacity over the last year because they are releasing cans of their beer on a more regular basis. Rugged Snuggle has been in their portfolio for a couple of years so it was nice to see this roasty coffee adjacent porter available in cans. In addition to that fantastic can art by Tom Schmitt, the beer inside is really tasty. Like always with dark beers, a little warmer than fridge temperature is the way I’d recommend enjoying this one to get the best coffee notes.


Oktoberfest (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) | Festbier | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

One of the side effects of the pandemic is that Sierra Nevada, for the first time since 2015, did not collaborate with a German brewery for their annual Oktoberfest release. However, the 2020 version is great. This one leans on the lighter side of the Fall German Lager style as a Festbier, but it is supremely balanced and perfectly delicious. This is no surprise to me because Sierra Nevada does everything very well.


Octoberfest (Bell’s Brewing) | Märzen | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

After a couple of years in the NJ market, I finally tried Bell’s take on the fall classic. My only regret is that I hadn’t tried it earlier. Bell’s takes a lighter approach with their Märzen than some of the others I’ve had, but the beer is extremely flavorful. A hint of sweetness and just a very smooth beer that goes down very, very easily. This beer was featured on the untappd podcast recently and was spoken of very highly, a few of my untappd friends had checked the beer in over the last couple of years and the consensus rating was 4 out of 5 bottle caps and I’m happy to say this beer completely lived up to those expectations.


Aw Raspberries aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels (Icarus Brewing) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Shocker of shockers, another beer from Icarus. I’ve been sitting on this one for a few months and I wanted to share it for a special occasion. My dad’s birthday fit the bill perfectly and we both thoroughly enjoyed the beer. The maple element in the beer is blended perfectly, as are the fresh raspberries. Those otherwise potent flavors don’t dominate the profile of the beer, which shows how well-made the beer is because raspberries can be very tart and maple can dominate everything.  Not to mention the fact that this beer was barrel aged, adding another complex flavor to the beer. Not here, the maple and raspberries are both in harmony with the malt from the base beer as well as the Heaven Hill barrels.

This was a month where it was difficult to trim the amount of good new beers I enjoyed down to only six and no stinkers at all.

Beer Review: Untied Brewing’s Long Days Short Year

Name: Long Days Short Years
Brewing Company: Untied Brewing Company
Location: New Providence, NJ
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 4.6%

“Untied Brewing’s take on the classic, bright German Lager is a flavorful interpretation sure to please”

 

From untappd’s page for Long Days Short Years:

A Bavarian Style Pale Lager that is a pure expression of malts. Easy drinking and full-bodied, with low bitterness, a touch of sweetness, and a clean and crisp finish.

When I visited Untied Brewing on a late summer afternoon in September, I was hoping a few of their Lagers would be on draught. Three happened to be available, so I figured I’d go with a Lager style I enjoy quite a bit, their Helles Lager. Long Days Short Years is the first beer I had from Untied Brewing, I figured starting out with a lighter beer was the way to go. I liked the beer so much I brought home a four-pack, so this review is based on both the taster I had poured on draught as well as the beer from the can as pictured above.

I’m glad this was the first beer I had in the flight because it quenched my thirst and is just a really tasty beer. I also decided to bring home a four-pack. Why is that?

The appearance of the beer is the typical “this is what beer looks like” appearance. Clear, bright, and golden yellow. A little bit of aroma that also fits the “beer” definition with some mild bready notes. Good things so far.

Very pleasant flavor hits my palate that tastes like a classic German Lager. A little more details: I get a very welcome flavor of sweet, lightly buttered toast and toasted crackers. One of my favorite food smells is toasted bread and I get that flavor. The beer finishes with a slight touch of hops and sweetness. That hint of fruitiness from the hops is welcome. However, that fruit hint is not to the drastic extent of a tropical hop bomb of a New England IPA, but present nonetheless.

Overall, this is a extremely clean, well-balanced beer. What do I mean by that? This is a beer whose flavors express themselves very well without intruding on each other and true to style. Well, that bread/cracker presence in Long Days Short Years is very consistent Helles Lagers (and its cousin, the Pislner). The mild hop presence, enough at least to let you know it is a beer is also true to style.

When I visited the brewery, owner Matthew Green told me this beer is one of his best-sellers, especially over the summer months. I can understand way, it is a very tasty lager. Moreover, it is the kind of beer that will appeal to that member of the group who is often craft-adverse. Fortunately for consumers who visit Untied, Long Days Short Years is a very well-crafted lager.

Long Days Short Years is a superb Lager and one that shows Untied has a very strong and impressive Lager section in their beer portfolio.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2020 Six Pack

This is the third annual Oktoberfest Six Pack (and fourth Oktoberfest feature overall), but clearly, Oktoberfest 2020 is unlike any we’ve experienced. For starters, the annual celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese’s marriage was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, much like the majority of social gatherings have been since March 2020. However, breweries are still churning out Festbiers and Märzens since the styles are a popular staple of many a brewery’s portfolio. Three years into “constructing” these six-packs and I’m still able to find new malty, amber lagers to highlight every year. I’m going more local this year than I have in the past, with a focus on four NJ breweries and 2 PA breweries. I’ve had three of these (one of them just this past week).

A note on the difference between Festbiers and Märzens. Festbiers are generally lower in alcohol and more “sessionable” in the 5% to 6% ABV range. Märzens are typically slightly higher in ABV starting at 6% ABV. The story goes that the beers served at Oktoberfest in Bavaria were dropped in ABV slightly to sell more beer without making the attendees too inebriated. Festbiers are a less malty, less intense and lighter in body compared to the Märzen. For me, whatever style a particular brewery calls the amber lager they sell as “Oktoberfest” or some variant of the name, is a highlight of the beer year for yours truly. Most of the beers you’d find in Germany during the festival would actually be Festbiers, while those with the “Oktoberfest” moniker are mostly the American-ized versions or what the German breweries market and sell in the U.S. as their fall, amber Lager.

On to the Six Pack!

Fest | Asbury Park Brewing Company | Asbury Park, NJ | 5.9% ABV

Image courtesy of Asbury Park Brewing’s Facebook

Asbury Park Brewery is one of a few in the Asbury Park area (Kane is a only about a mile away and Dark City is squarely in Asbury Park). I’ve only had one beer from Asbury Park Brewery, but I enjoyed it. Asbury Park is also home to a huge German Biergarten, so there’s some German in the air down there. APB is sporadically distributed through the State and based on how much I enjoyed their stout, I’d give this one a try.

What Asbury Park Brewery says about the beer:

A Märzen Lager brewed in the Oktoberfest tradition. Deep caramel in color with a complex malt body.

Festy | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | 5.5% ABV

Image courtesy of Carton Brewing’s Facebook

 

Carton’s Festy is hitting cans for the first time in 2020 largely due to the Pandemic. In past years, this beer was served at local beer festivals, but with social gatherings severely limited, Augie and his crew made a great decision to can and distribute the beer. I’m really hoping cans make it near me because Carton has such a strong Lager game. My impression of the beer is that it is flavorful with a spicy hop slap at the finish of the beer.

What Carton says about the beer:

Under the festival tents there are the Oktoberfest Marzens made “in honor of the fest” and the Festbiers made “for drinking at the fest”. As more and more quality Marzens show up at Autumn-fests around NJ, we decided that the drift off the beaten craft opportunity here was to make the “drinking beer of the fest” as traditionally as possible. A floor-malted German-pils malt bill picks up a Festbier touch of autumnal richness through the addition of light Munich and Victory. Then hop spiciness comes in the form of Tettnanger and Strisselspalt for both the kettle and late-hop additions. Drink Festy because these days a commitment to tradition is as far off the path’s trend as can be.

My Favorite Märzen / Märzen Style Lager | Lone Eagle Brewing | Flemington, NJ | 5% ABV

Image courtesy of Lone Eagle Brewing’s Facebook

Lone Eagle has been releasing an Oktoberfest annually since (I think) 2017, I’ve had it most years and enjoyed it, regardless of what they call it. I remember being very pleasantly surprised with the beer when I had it on draught at one of the Board Game nights back when those were still a thing. With their new brewer joining late last year, I don’t know if he tweaked the recipe at all, but they did slap a new label on the beer that evokes the traditional German bierhall.

What Lone Eagle says about the beer:

Märzen is a German style of beer traditionally brewed in March and lagered until Oktoberfest. This beer has a nice rich malt character with a slightly dry finish. It’s full flavored and easy to drink. Prost!

Lederskirten Oktoberfest | Manskirt Brewing Company | Hackettstown, NJ | 6% ABV

Image courtesy of Man Skirt Brewing’s Facebook

I had Manskirt’s take on the classic Oktoberfest when I first visited a few years ago. If I recall, I think it was the beer I enjoyed the most during that visit. Last year was the first year they canned it so I’m hoping I’ll be able to grab some cans this year to enjoy at home.

What Manskirt says about the beer:

Our take on a traditional German Marzen, or Oktoberfest lager. Lots of Munich and Pilsner malts make a solid backdrop for the German hops used here. A long, cold lagering process makes this beer clean and crisp.

Creekfestbier Lager | Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company | Croydon, PA | ABV 5.2%

Image courtesy of Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s Facebook

Neshaminy Creek is one of the closer PA breweries to me, I’ve visited a couple of times and I’ve enjoyed most of their output especially their beers with Germanic leanings. However, I haven’t sampled their annual Märzen yet. They’ve gone through something of a label rebranding over the last year or so and this beer is now available in 4-packs of 16oz cans. I think it was originally a 22oz bomber offering, but that particular beer vessel has all but gone the way of the dinosaur

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company says this about the beer:

Our seasonal traditional German-style Märzen Lager brewed with German Pilsner and Munich malts, and hopped with German Hallertau and Tettnanger hops. Fermented with a traditional Bavarian monastery Lager yeast.

Unter Dog | Yards Brewing Company | Philadelphia, PA | 5.6% ABV

Image courtesy of Yards Brewing Company’s Facebook

Yards, traditionally known as an Ale-house, introduced their first year-round lager to their lineup last year. With the success of that beer, it makes sense for them to finally put a Märzen into packaging and distribution. I think this is available in both cans and bottles, so hopefully I’ll be able to grab some in the next month or so because I did enjoy Loyal Lager.

What Yards says about the beer:

This Oktoberfest, we’re celebrating the city that never gives up with our new Märzen-style beer. Fetch a 6-pack today, sit back, and roll over with joy. Good boy!

Beer Review: Beach Haus Brewery’s Oktoberfest

Name: Oktoberfest
Brewing Company: Beach Haus Brewery
Location: Belmar, NJ
Style: Märzen
ABV: 5.5%

A flavorful, top-notch take on the classic German Lager from one of NJ’s steadfast independent breweries.

From Beach Haus Brewery’s page for beers:

This Märzen was slowly brewed through the summer months to allow rich malt flavors to develop. The beer is lagered (stored) in our horizontal lager tank where it conditions. This allows the beer to clarify naturally, create some natural carbonation, and clean up over weeks to create a crisp and clean biscuity caramel lager

Oans, zwoa, drei, g’suffa! (one, two, three, down the hatch!)

Our Oktoberfest features generous amounts of Munich malt and employ traditional old-world lagering techniques.

Get ready to tackle Oktoberfest season with our old-world-styled Märzen which has been a fan favorite since its release..

Beach Haus has been making an Oktoberfest for quite a while now, largely since they opened in 2015. When I visited a few years back, I had their “Pumptoberfest” which is a marriage of a pumpkin beer and Märzen, and I remember enjoying it. Since then, I’ve been hoping to try their straight up Oktoberfest especially since they have been distributing to a couple of the stores in my area. I was very pleasantly surprised to see cans on the shelf in a store near me and snagged a six pack immediately

When I open the can, there’s a nice big “pop” signifying freshly canned beer. Pouring the beer in the mug, the thick head supports my thought process. I’ll be damned if how that beer looks in the classic, dimpled German mug doesn’t scream Oktoberfest with the lovely copper color and the perfect fluffy head.

An aroma of bready malts leads to the same flavor. There’s a wonderful caramel-like sweetness from the malts that shines through the entirety of the beer. There is sometimes a slight tang of an unpleasant aftertaste in Märzens I’ve had. There is absolutely no hint of that in Beach Haus’s take on the style. There’s such a pleasant flow of flavors from aroma to the beer passing through my taste buds that I find it difficult not to drink this one too fast.

Some beers (regardless of style) can look the part, but they don’t taste the part. Again, Beach Haus’s Oktoberfest is a beer that 100% looks the part and 100% tastes the part. Of the dozen or so beers I’ve had from Beach Haus Brewery, this Oktoberfest is hands down their best beer. It is a style that many breweries attempt and Beach Haus dialed in their style/recipe very, very well to deliver a beer worthy of the monikers “Märzen” and “Oktoberfest.”

I’ve visited Beach Haus a few times and their brewery easily has one of the best set ups of any I’ve visited in the state, and I’ve visited between one third and one half of the breweries in the state. With their outdoor seating, ample indoor seating, and location in the popular NJ beach town of Belmar, NJ it is a great place to meet friends and enjoy some tasty beer. Their outdoor seating also allowed Beach Haus to pivot to outdoor consumption during the COVID Pandemic.

I have to say it, Beach Haus’s Oktoberfest is one of the better American interpretations of the style I’ve had and I’ve had close to 50 different Märzens over the last half dozen years. From a NJ perspective, I’d easily stack this up against Cape May’s outstanding Oktoberfest and Ramstein’s world-renowned  Oktoberfest.  Suffice it to say, I’ll be seeking this one out every year during the Oktoberfest season because it delivers on what I expect an Oktoberfest / Märzen to be.

If you are in NJ, seek out Beach Haus Brewery’s Oktoberfest and visit the brewery, too. As I said, they offer up a terrific setting and tasty beers to enjoy in that welcoming setting.

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

Beer Review: Slack Tide Brewing Company’s Avalon Amber

Name: Avalon Amber
Brewing Company: Slack Tide Brewing Co
Location: Clermont, NJ
Style: Red Ale – American Amber / Red
ABV: 5.7%

“An on-point interpretation of the classic style, worthy of its Great American Beer Festival Bronze Medal.”

From Slack Tide Brewing’s “Rotating beers” list :

Winner of a Bronze medal at the 2018 GABF. This seasonal offering features 6 malts and is modestly hopped to create an easy drinking ale. It’s the perfect beer to unwind with after a long summer day.

Slack Tide Brewing Company is one of a handful of breweries near Cape May, NJ, one of the most popular beach vacation destinations in NJ and the North East. Over the past few years, several breweries have cropped up in that area. In 2015, Slack Tide became the second independent brewery to be established in Cape May County, joining Cape May Brewing Company in the region. My parents have been going to Cape May every year for vacation as long as I can recall and often when they do, they’ll bring me back beer from one of the local breweries. This year’s beer was Slack Tide’s Avalon Amber since I wanted to try a new-to-me Red Ale, a relatively ignored style nowadays.

Amber Ales/Red Ales were an early staple of independent/craft brewing. The style offers the relatively quick brew-to-serve timeframe of an ale, along with a malty and sweet flavor profile to truly be set apart from the fizzy, less flavorful American Adjunct Lagers, while offering a less bitter alternative to a IPA.  Red Ales are not quite as hoppy as a Pale Ale or IPA, nor quite as dark as a Brown Ale. The Red Ale straddles an interesting flavor profile line between those styles. So how does the Great American Beer Festival Medal winner from Slack Tide Brewing Company work for yours truly?

When I open the can and pour the beer, I was a little surprised by the low level of foam and pop. Fully in the glass, Avalon Amber looks pretty enticing and darker than what I’d expect. At least compared to its cousin the Red Ale, although Slack Tide categorizes this as a “Red Ale” on their website and an “Amber Ale” on the can.

Aroma is a little bready and a little malty. That first sip follows suit. Hints of caramel, malt, and maybe even a little toffee play together for a nice, drinkable beer. From the sweetness and the color, I wonder if there’s any molasses in this beer. The straight-forward nature of the style belies the complexity Slack Tide has crafted into this Ale. Like I said, caramel and malt are the most prominent flavor elements, which gives this relatively session-able ale a welcome sweetness. There are enough hops to be present and give the beer a slight hint of bitterness on the finish.

Avalon Amber is the kind of beer that you hand a person who is accustomed to the big American Adjunct Lagers, a beer that subtly and with great flavor shows that beer is more than just mass-produced fizzy yellow liquid. This beer pairs really nicely with any kind of meal, complements just about all kinds of food, and is flavorful enough to enjoy on its own.

My only slight issue with the beer is something I hinted at in the beginning of this review – the carbonation is relatively low. There’s no date on the can, so I don’t know how old it was before I opened it. The flavor was still there, but I would like to taste the beer with less age than I perceive there to be in the can pictured above to get the full body, look, and I would guess, fresher flavors.

Bottom line, a tasty ale that does what the style should do – sweet, malty, and a bit of hops.

Paint the Town Red (Level 9)

Get out there and raise a ruckus with your favorite Amber or Red Ale. That is 45 different beers with the style American Amber / Red Ale, American Amber / Red Lager, Irish Red Ale, Imperial / Double Red Ale, Red Ale – Other or IPA – Red.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: August 2020 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…

Summer was still in full swing in August, which turned out to be a very trying month. The pandemic continues to impact our lives and a hurricane swept through NJ causing loss of power to much of the State for multiple days, including yours truly. Through it all, there was still plenty of beer to enjoy, which is why you are all here anyway.

Half of this six pack could have very easily been beers from Icarus Brewing since I had 3 different (outstanding) beers from them, but I try not to feature multiple beers from one brewery in these posts.

This month brings mostly local (4 NJ, 1 NY, and 1 CT) beer.

Black Chocolate Stout [2013] (Brooklyn Brewery) | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is an iconic beer if the independent/craft beer world, one of the earlier interpretations (first brewed in 1994!) of a Russian Imperial Stout and the first recipe Garrett Oliver wrote for The Brooklyn Brewery. I’ve had this beer in the distant past of the days before I was writing this blog and I remember liking it. A friend in town found this old bottle from 2013 in his basement and decided to let me have it. This is one of the oldest beers I’ve had (7 years of age) and it was delicious. The hops settled down a bit from what I remember but enjoying this version from 7 years ago has me eager to grab a six pack once the cold weather hits us.

French Torost (Bolero Snort Brewery) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd


Two months in a row for a Bolero Snort appearance in the monthly Six Pack. This beer speaks to what I consider their wheelhouse, or at least the beers I’ve enjoyed the most from Bolero – big stouts. When I saw the description, I was immediately reminded of French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout, a beer I thoroughly enjoyed last year. This beer, Torost, seems to be an un-barrel aged version with all those adjuncts: Maple, Cinnamon, and Madagascar Vanilla, so I would bet a considerable sum of money this beer is the base stout that was barrel-aged for BCBS. What a delicious beer this is, a pastry/dessert stout in the truest sense with a perfect blend of all those adjuncts.

Synopsis Dark Sour Cherry (Area Two Experimental Brewing) | Sour – Fruited | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Area Two Experimental Brewing is the sour, barrel-aging, experimental arm of Two Roads Brewing. They brew/blend/age in fairly limited quantities and I’ve been eager to sample one of their beers for a while. This sour ale is really nice; very funky upfront, but the cherry was milder than I expected or hoped it would be. Nonetheless, I liked this one and I will definitely be seeking out more beers with the Area Two label on it.

Lawn Boi (Tonewood Brewing) | Pilsner – German | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I continue to be impressed with Tonewood’s output. This Pilsner is an excellent interpretation of the style with German leanings. Cold, fresh, and delicious. The beer was canned two days before I picked up in the store. This is a perfect cooler beer and is very refreshing. Fits the “beer flavored beer” moniker, but at a very high level.

Tan Limes (Cape May Brewing Co.) | Lager – Pale | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Admittedly, I reluctantly made my way to this beer because I was quite upset when Cape May Brewing ceased production/distribution of the delicious Cape May Lager, a Pale Lager they launched last year only to be replaced this year with Tan Limes. I know one of the big trends in independent beer is to make a craft lager that fits the same profile as Corona/Modelo/Pacifico. I don’t like 2 of those 3 beers, so I would never try any brewery’s take on the style, but my curiosity won out. I’m glad I got over my bias for this beer because it is a nearly perfect summer lager. The lime isn’t too overpowering, the salt comes into play. I dropped a six pack in the cooler for a party at our house and drank 3 myself in one day, my wife even commented “You really like that one, don’t you!” Yes, yes I do.

Drinking Strawberries for Breakfast (Icarus Brewing) | Sour – Fruited Berliner Weisse | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Last and most certainly not least is another beer from Icarus, this is one of their many Berliner Weisse beers. With “copious amounts of strawberries, Acai, and Toasted Coconuts,” the beer is outstanding. The funk of the Berliner Weisse style is definitely present, but the sweetness from the fruit and coconut provide a perfect balance. This is easily one of my favorite of the 25+ Berliner Weisses I’ve had.

A great month overall for new beers, so let’s leave it at that.

Beer Review: Black is Beautiful | Czig Meister Brewing

Name: Black is Beautiful
Brewing Company: Czig Meister Brewing
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 10.1%

“A delicious, potent, and flavorful stout brewed for a great, noble cause.”

Beer description:

Black is Beautiful is a beer initiative started by Weathered Souls Brewing in San Antonio to show our solidarity in the ongoing movement against the injustices people of color face daily. We will be donating proceeds to the ACLU NJ. This collaboration is a way for us to help not only our local community, but to use our voice and do a part in our ongoing goal toward liberty & justice for ALL.

Black is Beautiful -This 10% Imperial Stout is a variant brewed with chocolate & hazelnut

Earlier this year, Weathered Souls Brewing out of San Antonio launched a worldwide collaborative stout, Black is Beautiful, an imperial stout recipe to be shared with other brewers. Marcus Baskerville, founder and head brewer of Weathered Souls asked participating breweries to do the following:

  • Donate 100% of the beer’s proceeds to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged
  • Choose their own entity to donate to local organizations that support equality and inclusion
  • Commit to the long-term work of equality

I think those are pretty fair requests. I know if I had a brewery, I’d be making my own version of Black is Beautiful.

As of this post going live, 31 breweries in NJ are participating, about one third of all the breweries in the State. Many of these breweries are doing a limited run, making the beer available only at the brewery on draft, with limited canning runs, or like Czig Meister, in crowlers. I’ve been wanting to try one from NJ since I heard about it because (1) Beer for a good cause is a great idea and (2) I love stouts. Unfortunately, not many breweries in NJ (thus far) have canned and or put their version in distribution. Fortunately, a friend from work lives near Czig Meister, so when we decided to meet up at their awesome outdoor biergarten for some socially distanced beer consumption, I knew I was going to try this beer.

Czig Meister is offering their version in crowlers to go. Photo courtesy of Czig Meister’s Facebook.

Since the beer is an Imperial Stout clocking in at 10% ABV, I can understand why this beer was only offered in 8oz pours. That 8oz pour; however, is full of flavor.

As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, this is a very dark beer. Aromas of roasted malt and some chocolate are present. I didn’t initially realize hazelnut was used in this beer until I tasted the beer then read the description so I imagine that other aroma I caught was indeed the hazelnut.

First sip test…the beer passes with flying colors. Damn is this a delicious stout! There’s a ton of sweetness, but not cloying at all, at the start of the beer. The chocolate begins to assert itself as I continue to enjoy the beer. I really like the spin that Czig Meister put on the recipe with the hazelnut and chocolate. The blend of flavors from the roasted malts and chocolate make for a sumptuous beer. The hazelnut sneaks in and cuts the bitterness at the end in a nice way and brings a great level of balance to the beer.

This is a wonderful, delicious dessert stout but I wouldn’t say it is super sweet like a big pastry stout, which I appreciate. However, the chocolate and hazelnut bring a very welcome flavor boost and sweetness into a big, burly stout. Achieving a good balance between sweetness and bitterness, especially for an Imperial Stout is mark of a good brewer and Czig Meister has achieved that balance extremely well.

The Czig Meister version of Black is Beautiful is a superb stout. What’s more, it is a beer for a really good cause. I’ve long been a fan of Czig Meister so I had pretty high expectations for this beer and it delivered. I now want to see what other breweries are doing with what is a solid, base stout.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Black is Beautiful (2020)

Raise your glass and join us in supporting the many Black is Beautiful collaboration beers as we come together to recognize and bring awareness to the injustices that many people of color face daily.

Draught Diversions: Toms River Brewing (Toms River, 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…

It has been a very long time since I posted one of these Brewery Spotlights mainly because the Pandemic has severely impacted on-site consumption. Some breweries; however, have been able to pivot in the current landscape and grown. Some breweries have very successfully shifted to canning more beer and home delivery, some breweries have been able to increase their distribution reach, while other breweriess have been able to allow for on-site consumption thanks to outdoor biergartens. Toms River Brewing has been able to lean on all of those options thanks to their successful rebirth in 2019.

I touched upon Toms River Brewing about a year ago when a handful of NJ breweries closed and/or re-branded. In that post, Toms River Brewing was one of those “re-launched” breweries, the proverbial Phoenix to rise from the former Rinn Dúin Brewery. When a company named Advanced Biotech announced they were taking over the brewery in 2018, and renaming it, some eyebrows were raised. It seemed very corporate and a little peculiar for a “Biotech” company to purchase a brewery. The name change was completely understandable and works better in the current beer landscape in NJ. Toms River is one of the largest and most prominent Jersey Shore towns, the 8th most populated municipality in NJ, and gives the brewery a more clear and local identity. Unlike Rinn Dúin, there’s no question of where the brewery is located.

A couple of things to unpack there…Toms River Brewing is largely a new brewery compared to Rinn Dúin. While they’ve retained the same head brewer and couple of the beers (primarily their core beers, St. John’s Irish Red Ale and Sweet Nothin’ Honey Cream Ale), nearly everything else about the brewery is essentially a new brewery. The taproom was completely renovated and now has 16 draught lines, the brewing system was upgraded/expanded, an outdoor biergarten was constructed, the beer lineup was considerably updated (previous flagships of an English Brown and Scotch Ale, while styles I enjoy, not exactly two styles upon which to lay the foundation of a brewery) are no longer present. More IPAs are part of the lineup, of course, plus a few stouts and a fairly wide range of styles. While I’ve been seeing cans of their beer since the middle of last year thanks to their increased dedication to distribution, the grand reopening of the taproom was November 2, 2019.

The Core Lineup – courtesy of Toms River Brewing’s website

The branding has leveled up quite a few notches, as design firm Bezerdesign was hired to re-brand the brewery. All the cans are now sport the big “Toms River Brewing” circle prominently in the center, a claddagh at the top of that circle. Most of the beer cans with are wrapped with a different color of banded Celtic knots/braid. Their cans are immediately recognizable. In the current landscape with over 100 breweries in NJ (with quite a few popular breweries not too far from Toms River Brewing at the Jersey Shore), thought and planning is required to go into launching a business. That thought and planning also includes the beer portfolio, the most important element. But the branding does stand out on the shelves, at least to my eyes.

Not everything about Rinn Dúin is gone; however. Bob the Brewer Warzecha, who was the head brewer under the previous banner and George, the assistant brewer, are still around making the beer. Well, George Lissenden was more of a “volunteer” than actual employee, but since the relaunch, George is an actual assistant brewer. Both gentlemen have experience in home brewing (Bob about 25 years!), passion for beer, knowledge of beer, and have roots in Toms River. So some of the good things (and there were quite a few) about Rinn Dúin were smartly retained.

As I said in my post last year, I didn’t know much about Rinn Dúin except that it existed and was one of the breweries to open shortly after the 2012 Executive Order. I learned last year as I was preparing my feature on Icarus Brewing that Jason Goldstein, owner of Icarus Brewing, spent part of his career there. Since Toms River Brewing came into existence last year (May 2019), I’ve been seeing cans of their beer in stores near me with frequency. That logo and branding, while not exactly the most unique, does stand out very well on the shelf and gives the brewery a visual identity. In my mind, that’s a success.

From here on out, there will be no more mention of the words “Rinn Dúin,” because of what Lacey Striker, VP Marketing, Tap Room and Office Operations of Toms River Brewing states below. Lacey essentially runs the day-to-day operations of the brewery, which makes her one of the few, but growing number of, women not just working in beer in NJ, but leading a brewery in NJ. Lacey is no stranger to the adult beverage industry, having experience in the wine and spirits industry. That knowledge she gained and her market savvy helped to relaunch Toms River Brewing as a new entity.

It’s a completely different brewery.” – Lacey Striker

Every year, my wife and few of our friends take a road trip down to the Chicken or the Egg in Beach Haven and we stop at a brewery on the way home. Because of everything I noted above, Toms River Brewing has been on my radar and they were a short drive off the Garden State Parkway exit 82A on NJ Route 37, they are one of the few breweries along our journey to open at noon and have outdoor seating. In other words, it was a pretty easy decision to make.

Image courtesy of Toms River Brewing’s Facebook

Unfortunately, it was raining the day of our trip and visit. Fortunately, Toms River Brewing (as noted above) has a lovely outdoor biergarten and the tables have big umbrellas. Another plus, like many breweries in NJ who are legally not permitted to serve food, Toms River Brewing allows their patrons to bring food, which was another plus. The food was kept warm on the 40 minute drive from LBI to Toms River in some coolers, for those worrying about the food.

We situated ourselves at the table and I ordered a Pilsner…many people will go for the IPA as their first beer at a brewery visit (because they are so ubiquitous), but as many of my readers know, I’m a Lager for Life kind of guy. I was very pleased with my choice. Just look at how that bright beer pops on an otherwise grey day in that picture atop this post! Just Pils was very flavorful and hit the spot pairing perfectly with my Burrito Gordito. The second beer I had was the highlight and one of the better coffee stouts I’ve had in quite a while, the outstanding Top O’ the Morning Coffee stout, which I reviewed earlier this week.

Image courtesy of Toms River Brewing’s Facebook

I usually have more photos I’ve taken in these posts, but between the rain and the limitations on indoor gathering, I only snapped photos of the two beers I drank and enjoyed. This time around, I’ve “borrowed” a few photos from Toms River Brewing’s facebook page. I did have to go inside to use the restroom and the taproom is really, really nice. It is very inviting, with plenty of room and a gorgeous bar. I saw some of the employees chatting and wearing masks and let them know how much I enjoyed the beer. In particular, the owner (I’m guessing Jim Mulligan), addressed me because I resemble one of the brewers. We had a chuckle, but he made sure to walk through the biergarten as patrons started sitting at tables to see how everybody is doing. He further told me the brewer I resemble built out the biergarten since he has a background in construction. Between the outdoor biergarten and the indoor taproom, the brewery has a great air professionalism and being well-thought out. In short, our group of people felt quite welcome at the brewery.

Interior of Toms River Brewing’s Taproom, image courtesy of Toms River Brewing’s Facebook

I’ve only had five beers from Toms River Brewing at this point…but as can likely be surmised, what I’ve had has been quite good. I’m happy to know they are keeping the Sweet Nothin’ Honey Cream Ale in the lineup. I had it last year at the Meadowlands Great Beer Expo when they were still using the previous name of the brewery. Last month, I had their Koastal Kölsch for the first time, I think they brewed it for the first time this year. Last year, I had the St. John’s Irish Ale, which is spot on for the style. Their lineup of beers I’ve seen on social media and in the stores around me is intriguing, maybe beer I’d like to try the most is Black Rabbit Black Lager. Other beers in the line up include the Sweet Chai ‘O Mine Cream Ale; Celtic Sunrise Blood Orange Pale Ale, a Belgian Pale Ale; Out on the Razzle Cranberry Winter Blonde Ale, which I hope returns in the Winter; and Irish Goodbye Imperial Stout looks delicious. Actually, three of the people with me during the visit (my brother-in-law, and two of our friends) had and enjoyed the Irish Goodbye.

Images in collage courtesy of Toms River Brewing’s Facebook. Clockwise: “Out on the Razzle Cranberry Winter” Blonde Ale, “Irish Goodbye Imperial Stout, Celtic Sunrise Blood Orange Pale Ale,” “Black Rabbit Black Lager,” and “Sweet Chai ‘O Mine” Cream Ale

Since their grand opening, Toms River Brewing has hosted local musicians, they’ve partaken/hosted Community Fund Drives, hosted Trivia Nights, hosted local PBA Fund Raisers, and of course hosted St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Like I said, the space (both inside/taproom and outdoor biergarten) is inviting and made to be social spaces. The honey in their Cream Ale is from Zenjas Honey Farm, in Toms River. One of their beers, Boots on the Ground is an IPA in honor of US troops, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Gary Sinise Foundation. So you could say that Toms River Brewing is both a place for communal growth and a company that gives back to the community.

Image courtesy of Toms River Brewing’s Facebook

In other words, from limited experience, Toms River Brewing is a brewery to take seriously as a player in New Jersey’s evolving craft beer scene. They may not be in the Elite, rarified air of Kane, Carton, Icarus, or Cape May Brewing yet. That is by no means a knock, because they’ve only been producing, canning, and distributing beer as Toms River Brewing for a little over a year. I think even the good folks at Toms River Brewing would admit they aren’t quite in that Elite Group yet. What I can say is that they produce quality beers, in a nice range of styles, you’ll be able to find and depend upon for good flavors. The taproom and biergarten should be a must visit for independent beer enthusiasts making the rounds of the Jersey Shore breweries. I for one, will be seeking out their beer again in the near future. The Celtic Sunrise Blood Orange Pale Ale should be in stores as this post goes live!

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

Toms River Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Toms River Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

Beer Review: Toms River Brewing’s Top O’ the Morning Coffee Stout

Name: Top O’ the Morning Coffee Stout
Brewing Company: Toms River Brewing
Location: Toms River, NJ
Style: Stout – Coffee
ABV: 5.1%

“A smooth, extremely drinkable and balanced Coffee Stout – one of the better I’ve had, especially of the non-barrel-aged variety.”

From Tom River Brewing’s beer list/untappd description:

Coffee before beer or sometimes (if it’s that kind of day) beer before coffee. In that spirit, we collaborated with Bubby’s Beanery right here in Toms River to create Top O’ The Morning. This beer was brewed with Bubby’s blend of Honduran roasts, lending flavors of sweet milk chocolate, cashew and caramel. We then added lactose to carry the acidity of the coffee and to provide heft and mouthfeel. The infusion of robust coffee flavors provides a jump start to your day…morning, noon or night.

Toms River Brewing is a NJ brewery I’ve touched upon briefly here at the Tap Takeover and will again in the future. (Hint: I’ll be posting one of my “brewery spotlight” posts later in the week.) I’ve been seeing cans of their beer in some of my local stores over the better part of the last year and I finally stopped at their brewery recently, during a rainy day on the way back from Chegg’s in Beach Haven. The second beer I had that day is what asserted itself in my taste buds with a pint of deliciousness and has me here writing about it.

On to the beer…

I knew I wanted something a little darker, I saw what Toms River had available via untappd before we even left our trip and the description above really had me intrigued.

The beer I was given in the very interesting glass is dark as dark can be. Only if you look very closely can you see the black Toms River Brewing logo on glass. In other words, the beer looked the part of coffee stout. The aroma of roasted malts that wafted from the glass to my nose was another good sign.

Sometimes you can tell from the first sip of beer everything you need to know about it. That’s exactly what happened with Top O’ the Morning, I got the full flavor of stout and coffee in that first sip and it was delightful. The lactose brings a very welcome sweetness to the beer, adding to the sweetness from the roasted malts and balancing the coffee’s natural bitter elements. There’s also a pleasant lacing of chocolate throughout each sip of beer.  All these flavors blend very well together.

Image courtesy of Toms River Brewing’s Facebook

I’ve had plenty of coffee stouts where the bitterness from the coffee, or overly roasted beans and malts are very off-putting. Toms River skirted that issue completely. The finish on this beer was so good, I found it a little difficult not to consume it in one quick gulp. If I can really level any criticism at the beer (and it is very minor at that), a smidge more bitterness would have been welcome. However, I tend to drink my coffee fairly sweet, so the sweetness in this beer from the lactose is a nice mirror to how I typically drink my coffee.

The beer has the perfect density and feel for the style, too. That element, coupled with the balanced taste, make this one of the more enjoyable coffee stouts I’ve had in quite a while. The craftsmanship and quality of this beer have me eager to try more beers from Toms River Brewing in the future

Beer and coffee are two of my favorite beverages, which is why I love a good coffee stout. With Top O’ the Morning, Toms River Brewing blended the flavors of these two beverages together in great harmony.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

 

Draught Diversions: July 2020 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…

July, of course, features one of the most beer-centric holidays, Independence Day. Celebrating our country in this day and age is not exactly and easy thing, but for about 35 years, my family has had a Fourth of July party. It has always more of a family gathering, and even though COVID has drastically changed things, we were still able to have a handful of family at our house. As such, there is an abundance of beer.

This month brings mostly local (5 NJ and 1 PA) beer.

Lil Yacht Juice (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – Session / India Session Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

It has been a bit since I featured an Icarus beer here at the Tap Takeover. “Lil Yacht Juice” is the scaled down version of Icarus’s flagship IPA, “Yacht Juice.” Whereas Yacht Juice is 8%, “Lil” is 4.9%. Despite the lower ABV, “Lil” doesn’t sacrifice any of the flavor with its blend of Mosiac, Citra, and Columbus hops. The beer is cloudy like most New England IPAs and is probably the best “Session IPA” I’ve ever had (not that I’ve had all that many of the style) and a beer that was a perfect start to our annual Fourth of July party.

Bulliner Vice – Passionfruit, Papaya, and Peach (Bolero Snort Brewery) | Sour – Fruited Berliner Weisse | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Bolero Snort has a series of fruited Berliner Weisse beers under this obvious bull-punned name, this is the only one I’ve had and I like it quite a bit. A good beer to finish off the night with the various fruit adjuncts and the overall tartness of the beer. However, this is the second “sour” beer I’ve had with passionfruit and the initial aroma is extremely potent – it is stanky. But thankfully that aroma transfers more pleasantly in the beer with the help of the peach and papaya.

Haze Charmer (Tröegs Independent Brewing Company) | Pale Ale – New England | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This a new year-round addition to the Tröegs portfolio and it is indeed a very welcome beer. It is light but flavorful with a burst of lovely tropical, fruity hops. Tröegs has long been one of my favorite breweries and this beer captures a hot style very well, low ABV and very flavorful. This is a great anytime, pairs with anything kind of beer that should appeal to everyone.

Lilting Grace (Conclave Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I took a ride down to Conclave to check out their outdoor biergarten in their new space (which they moved into shortly before the pandemic) and the outdoor area is really nice. As always, the beer was really tasty, too. This one has one of my favorite hops, Vic Secret, which seems to be a favorite of Conclave’s too. Good tropical fruity elements in the beer with a slightly bitter hop finish. Good stuff.

Raspberry Radler (Beach Haus Brewery) | Shandy / Radler | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Radlers/Shandys are the refreshing German style that blends fruit juice and beer (often lemonade and beer). Beach Haus’s take on the style with Raspberry is really nice and a perfect post-yardwork summer beer. This is the exactly the kind of a beer I’d expect from a brewery walking distance from the beach with great outdoor seating…and it is quite good, too!

Eye of the Storm w/Citra (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Although Jersey Cyclone has been open for more than a year, this is my first time trying their flagship IPA. This is a flavorful almost Hazy/New England IPA. It is a little more bit grassy than most IPAs I’ve had, but very tasty nonetheless. The Citra hops shine in this beer, evoking the citrus profile which lends the hop the name.

A great month overall for new beers, so let’s leave it at that.