Draught Diversions: Favorite Beers of 2022

As has been tradition in January here at the Tap Takeover for the previous five years, I present the annual roundup of my favorite new to me beers of the previous calendar year. Why a “12-pack?” Well, everybody does a top 10 list and beer is generally sold in quantities of 6 and 12 packs. This Favorite of the Year 12-pack will feature the highest rated beers I’ve had the previous year. Of the twelve beers, there was only one beer I rated below 4.5 bottle caps on untappd, which is to say that I had some high-quality beers in 2022. This 12-pack is what I deemed  as “Best” beers of the 349 unique beers I checked into untappd in 2022, from 126 different breweries.  I think in previous years, a few beers I rated at 4.25 bottle caps made the list. According to untappd, I tried 105 different styles of beer, but what probably shouldn’t be a surprise at this point is the style I checked in the most: Pilsner – Czech.

2022_ Favorites

As always, for the purposes of this post New means “New to Me” because a some beers on this list have been around for many, many years, but I had the beer for the first time in 2023.

Before diving into the list, here’s another plug for my old Blog o’ Stuff, which is where I write, rant, and rave about Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction books. I brought it back to life this year with a few reviews and a monthly reading wrap up, not too dissimilar to the monthly six packs here at the Triple T.

Back to our regularly scheduled beer programming…

While I had more beers from NJ breweries this year than probably any other year, only 5 of them make the top 12, which still comprises the dominant State. Again, as in past years, the annual 12-pack could have easily been comprised of 3 or 4 breweries, but the one rule I’ll stick to from past years is allowing only one beer per brewery to appear. That rule made it difficult to whittle down some breweries from whom I’ve had upwards of 10 beers in 2022.

If I’ve done a full review of the beer here at The Tap Takeover, the beer name links to that review, otherwise the beer name links to my untappd check-in for the beer. For the beers that I’ve reviewed, I’ve provided a truncated blurb of my beer review.

Here’s the style breakdown for the 12 beers below:

  • 4 Lagers
    • 2 Pilsners
    • 1 Baltic Porter
    • 1 Dark Lager / Schwarzbier
  • 2 Stouts
    • 1 Imperial / Double Oatmeal
    • 1 Imperial / Double
  • 2 Barleywines
  • 1 Old Ale
  • 1 IPA
  • 1 Pumpkin Beer
  • 1 Farmhouse Ale (Grisette)

Without further adieu, here are the 12 best beers I drank in 2022:

12. John | Bradley Brew Project | Pilsner – German | 4.25 bottle caps

BradleyBeach_John

This is the third beer (at the time) I had from Bradley Brew Project and it might be the best one. A clean, crisp, extremely well-crafted interpretation of a German Pilsner. This beer does just about everything correct for the style. There’s a slight lemon/lime presence on the finish, but overall, an excellent beer.

11. Wolfe’s Neck | Maine Beer Company | IPA –American | 4.5 bottle caps

MainBeerCo_WolfCreek

Maine Beer Company makes outstanding IPAs and Wolfe’s Neck is another delicious example. A fantastic blend of hops with a dialed-in hop flavor, great malt character, and and overall, perfectly balanced and elegant profile. This is one of the cleanest IPAs I’ve ever had. Despite Mosaic being one of the main hops in this beer, I still enjoyed this beer quite a lot. The El Dorado and Sabro hops balance out what is normally an unpleasant aftertaste in beers with Mosaic hops for me.

10. Scythe | The Drowned Lands Brewery I Pumpkin / Yam Beer | 4.50 Bottle Caps

DrownedLands_ScythePump

Pumpkin beers dominate the shelves from August through October/November to a very overwhelming level. This has; unfortunately, set something of a mark against the style… With Scythe, The Drowned Lands may have crafted an ideal Pumpkin Beer. It has near perfect balance of all the elements, lives up to the “pumpkin pie in a glass” moniker, but is still most certainly a beer. If I’m making a Mount Rushmore of Pumpkin Beers, Scythe would very likely find itself on that mount.

9. Cigar City’s Marshal Zhukov’s Double Envelopment | Cigar City Brewing | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.5 bottle caps

CigarCity_ MarshalZ_DoubleE

Marshal Zhukov’s is Cigar City’s flagship Stout …and blend two versions, the rum barrel-aged and sherry barrel-aged to create something unique… Since this is an 11.8% stout, I take my time with the beer. Being in a cool bar with a good friend and good food on the way, I was real happy to just relax and enjoy this complex beer…The barrel elements blend into one, dynamic flavor adjunct that is extremely pleasing, the sweetness from the rum barrel is complemented by some of the dried fruit elements in the sherry character. This beer is one of the more unique barrel-aged stouts I’ve ever had…well-worth seeking out.

8. Dew Drop | Oakflower Brewing Company | Farmhouse Ale – Grisette | 4.50 bottle caps

Oakflower_DewDrop

Not many breweries are making Grisettes, let alone making it as one of their first beers available to the public…For a beer to have so much flavor at such a low ABV is very impressive. Even more impressive is that Oakflower was open for just a week when I visited and this beer was on draught. Head brewer/owner Colin McDonough was brewing in small batches for a few years under the Lamington River Brewing banner so he’s got some experience. That said, it often can take time for a brewer to adjust to newer, larger scale equipment and the learning curve here seems non-existent. Dew Drop is the kind of beer I’d expect from a brewery that’s been open a few years, not a couple of weeks.

7. Scotch Double Barrel-Aged Picture in Reverse | Kane Brewing Company | Old Ale | 4.5 Bottle Caps

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Old Ales aren’t the most common style   of beers, they sit somewhere between Barleywine and an aged Imperial Stout. Beers in this style typically undergo an aging process, sometimes for years, lending a very rich character similar to wine. This particular version from Kane is a blend of Barleywines aged in Willett Bourbon barrels then aged again in Scotch barrels. This is the second release of “Picture in Reverse” I’ve had and it was stunning. There’s a sweetness and boozy element with some heat in the back with the scotch presence pleasantly noticeable on the finish. A complex and delicious ale, one of many beers that proves to me nobody does barrel aging better than Kane.

6. Life Unravaled | Icarus Brewing Company | Barleywine – American | 4.5 Bottle Caps

Icarus_Unraveled

One of the kinds of beer Icarus is best known for are dark beers/stouts, particularly their barrel-aged beers. This is their first bottled Barleywine and it was fantastic. Aged in bourbon barrels, the sweetness from the barrel plays wonderfully with the Maris Otter Barley and balances out the hops very nicely. I would love to see more Barleywines from Icarus in the future if this is any indication of what they can do with the style.

5. Schwarzbier Black Lager | Chilton Mill Brewing Company | Lager – Dark / Schwarzbier | 4.5 bottle caps

ChiltonMill_Schwarzbier

I am very pleased with my first taste of this beer. There’s a very nice roast character, which is a hallmark of the style. It isn’t overpowering to the point that it is a smoked beer, but just enough to make that element of flavor’s presence known. On my second quaff of the beer, I get something unexpected, yet pleasant – some kind of sweet fruit element. Not sure what specifically, but that element likely comes from the Noble hops. But that sweetness is a great level of complexity in this beer… What I like about the beer is how elegant, well-crafted, and balanced the beer is. I have a very strong appreciation for the level of complexity especially considering the beer is only 5.6% ABV.

4. Lagerness Monster | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Porter – Imperial Double Baltic | 4.75 bottle caps

JacksAbby_LagernessMonster
A sleeping Dusty makes a cameo in the background

I like the beer quite a bit from that first taste and I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy this 500ml bottle over the next hour or so. Moments later, I have a second sip and it is stellar. I start to get a pleasant tingly feeling in my belly when the beer hits, a familiar feeling I associate with good beer… What impresses me the most is the balance in this beer… the more I thought about it, the more I realized the beer had almost no flaws.

3.Straight Jacket | Revolution Brewing Company | Barleywine – English | 4.75 bottle caps

Revolution_StraightJacket

The first word that comes to mind for this beer is smooth…everything about it is delightfully, sinfully, sumptuous, and smooth… The bourbon elements could easily overpower the entire beer and drown out the malt and hops, but here in Straight Jacket the name of the game is accentuation. Each flavor element (hops, malt, barrel) enhances the other elements to a wonderful and delightful degree. I only wish that Revolution distributed this beer (and their other barrel-aged beers) into New Jersey.

2. 6th Anniversary Imperial Stout | Czig Meister | Stout – Imperial / Double Oatmeal | 4.75 bottle caps

CzigMeister_6thAnniv

As I take further sips, that silky smooth character envelopes my palate like a luxurious blanket. The barrel character emerges more prominently, but *perfectly* accentuates the roasted malts of the beer rather than overpowers the flavor profile. Those elements by themselves would make this a world-class Imperial Stout, but then the Vanuatu Vanilla emerges…. I was totally blown away by this beer.

1. Tenner | Notch Brewing Company | Pilsner – Czech | 5 bottle caps

Notch_TennerDraft

The pour….is perfection in a mug. Look at that picture above, just a beautiful beer with a thick head atop a bright yellow-gold beer. Tenner was poured just as you’d expect in Plzeň (Pilsen to us Americans) in the Czech Republic… First sip is pure heaven. I get a little bit of foam in that first sip, but the beer itself is everything I could hope to have in a Pilsner beer… without hesitation, I can say this is the best Pilsner (or Pale Lager as our friends in the Czech Republic and Notch might say), I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking.

Some other notes:

While I visited several breweries in 2022, the list of new-to-me breweries I visited wasn’t quite as lengthy as past years. While many new breweries opened in NJ in 2022, some aren’t exactly close. Additionally, for example, I visited the localest brewery a half dozen times (Readington Brewery), I made 5 trips to Icarus Brewing, I visited the seven breweries on the Hunterdon County Beer Trail and the six breweries on the Skylands Ale Trail. For both of those Beer Trails, I’d visited most of the breweries for the first time in years past and multiple times at that. My favorite brewery that I visited for the first time in 2022 was Notch Brewing’s Brighton, MA taproom. A complete focus on German and Czech Lagers and Ales…right up my alley. That said, here are the breweries I visited for the first time in 2022:

Breweries whose beer I checked in/enjoyed the most according to untappd, which should be a shock to nobody reading this blog. This is not new beers exclusively, but overall:

  • Icarus Brewing: 34 different
  • Kane Brewing Company: 14 different beers
  • Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company: 13 different beers
  • Readington Brewery & Hop Farm: 12 different beers
  • Czig Meister: 12 different beers

So there it is, the 12 “New to Me” beers I enjoyed the most in 2022.

2022_ Favorites

Draught Diversions: December 2022 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…

SixPack_2022_Dec

December means Christmas and some annual seasonal returns (I’m looking at you Mad Elf), big stouts, darker lagers, and barrel-aged beauties to warm the cold nights. Speaking of cold nights, New Jersey saw the coldest Christmas in twenty years, with temperatures below freezing after the wind chill was factored. I made two trips to Icarus this month, once for their Yuleapolooza and the second (two days later) for a beer and doughnuts pairing with Purple Glaze Donuts out of Asbury Park. This month’s six pack, will again, feature some expected favorite breweries, plus a few new ones.

Let’s dive into the November 2022 Six Pack …

Red Tape (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Lager – Amber | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

JacksAbby_RedTape

Red Tape is another crispy, malty lager from the Framingham brewery. This is Jack’s Abby’s early winter seasonal, meaning it hits shelves in November and is a perfect everyday lager with great flavor at the sweet spot of 5% ABV. This was one of Jack’s Abby’s launch beers and I can understand why it has been in rotation since. I grabbed a four pack for $8.99 and for my money, that’s a damned bargain.

Double Barrel Evening Bell Old Rip Van Winkle (Kane Brewing Company) | Porter – Imperial / Double | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane_RVWEvening

Another month, another Kane beer appears. Considering I picked up 5 different bottles when I visited the brewery on Black Friday, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Evening Bell is Kane’s base Milk Porter and this version underwent an extensive aging process through three different barrels including the holy grail of bourbon, Rip Van Winkle barrels. Smooth, sexy, with hints of vanilla and a strong barrel element, this beer is sublime and delicious.

Samichlaus Classic 2020 (Schloss Eggenberg) | Bock – Dopplebock | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Samichlaus

Samichlaus is a special beer from Austria. Brewed only on St. Nicholas Day December 6 (which lends the beer its Austrian name), the beer is aged for 10 months before being put into bottles for sale. At one point in time, this was the strongest beer in the world at 14.1% ABV. The beer was sweet, very boozy, a little syrupy with stone fruit elements. Very reminiscent of a barleywine in all the right ways.

Visions of Snickerdoodles (Buttzville Brewing Company) | Cream Ale | 3.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Buttzville_Snickerdoodle

A colleague was kind enough to give me a four-pack of this as a thank you Christmas gift. There’s a lot of cinnamon in this beer which is one of the things I (and many people) like about the Snickerdoodle Cookie. The lactose brings a nice sweetness to the beer and makes for a tasty Christmas beer

Life Unraveled (Icarus Brewing) | Barleywine – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_Unraveled

I picked up Icarus’s first bottled barleywine during my July visit to the brewery and I knew I wanted to save it for a special occasion. Tradition in recent years has my father and I sharing a special beer, so here it is. The Marris Otter Barley, a hallmark of the style, shines with a great malt bill. Icarus says there’s a “touch of rye” in the beer and that spiciness comes through slightly on the end with the barrel character balancing out the strong hop profile. A great barleywine that just has me hoping Icarus will brew/bottle more of the style.

Downdraft (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Rauchbier | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

JerseyCyclone_Downdraft

Rauchbier is probably one of my least checked-in styles on untapped, it is generally a style towards which I don’t gravitate. But the friend I was with at Jersey Cyclone spoke highly of the beer, so I tired it and liked it! There’s of course a smoky element, but I also get a bit of sweetness, maybe from the malt, maybe from the smoked beechwood? Either way, this was a very tasty beer.

A couple of beers were stinkers this past month, (I was not a fan of this year’s Anchor Christmas Ale, seemed to be brewed with juniper) but mostly really good stuff. I mentioned Mad Elf at the top of the post, but it is worth mentioning again because I had a can I let age for four years and it was absolutely delightful. The cherry element was even more enjoyable.

SixPack_2022_Dec

Draught Diversions: Mini Brewery Overviews: Chilton Mill, Oakflower, Wild Air

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…

Over the last few months, I’ve visited two new breweries that opened in 2022 and a newer one that opened in 2019. By the time this goes live, I’ll have posted a review from each brewery (Oakflower’s Dew Drop, Wild Air Beerworks’s Outer Dark, and Chilton Mill’s Schwarzbier – Black Lager). I wanted to give a brief overview of these three breweries. I’ll go alphabetically starting with Chilton Mill Brewing in Long Valley, NJ; then Oakflower Brewing Company in Millington / Long Hill, NJ, and  close it out with Wild Air Beerworks in Asbury Park, NJ.

Chilton Mill Brewing

Image Courtesy of Chilton Mill Brewing’s Facebook

Mike Peachy is the owner and head brewer at Chilton Mill Brewing with a similar story to many breweries – he liked beer, got into home brewing, and decided to open up a brewery. Mike is from New Jersey, spent time in New Hampshire where the New England craft beer scene provided Mike with more knowledge and push to open a brewery. In May 2019, Mike opened Chilton Mill in one of the two most popular kinds of locations for independent breweries in New Jersey – a Strip Mall. (The other being an industrial park).

Papa Don Brown Ale

As soon as I entered the brewery each time I visited, I felt welcome in the cozy little brewery. The first visit was during the spring and all the outdoor chairs/tables were occupied, so I enjoyed the Fruited Sour ale inside. The second visit was a cold evening in November and I felt almost like I was walking into Cheers. Not that I was Norm, but plenty of friendly conversation amongst patrons and staff.

What I appreciate the most about Chilton Mill is that despite being one of the smaller breweries with just eight taps, they have a very nice variety. In that way, I’m reminded of Odd Bird Brewing in Stockton. Mike always seems to have an IPA, a fruited/sour beer, a lager, a brown ale. He proudly doesn’t add lactose to any of his beers, which this lactose-intolerant beer enthusiast appreciates! Most of the beers are on the lower-ABV side of things, allowing Mike to showcase his skills in coaxing such robust flavors out of the ingredients he uses.

I’ve only visited twice, but that will be changing.

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

Chilton Mill Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Chilton Mill Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

Oakflower Brewing

Oakflower Brewing is the newest of these three breweries having opened late November 2022, but as often as breweries are opening in New Jersey a couple more breweries opened since then. Anyway, Oakflower Brewing Company in Millington, NJ joins a growing group of breweries in Morris County, NJ (Twin Elephant, Highpoint/Ramstein, Fort Nonsense, Glenbrook, Double Tap and the aforementioned Chilton Mill).

Oakflower Taproom, photo courtesy of Oakflower Brewing’s Facebook

Owned by Colin McDonough and his wife Leann, Oakflower opened with 8 beers on draught. Colin brought his brewing experience to the table, he spent quite a few years doing small batches under the Lamington River Brewing banner. They were sort of a “If you know, you know” kind of brewery, more of a home-brewer with a Instagram page if I’m not mistaken.

Oakflower Ember Oatmeal Stout

Be that as it may, the brewery itself has a bright and inviting interior, beertenders AJ and Dani are super friendly. In addition to their Grisette, Dew Drop the review of which I posted earlier in the week, I had their smooth, roasty, and delicious Oatmeal Stout called Ember

Located next to the Millington Post Office and across the street from the Millington Train Station, the brewery is in a great spot and fairly easy to find. That also makes for prime potential customer location with NJ Transit commuters on a Thursday or Friday night. The taproom is bright, inviting, and very clean in appearance. If those first two beers I had from Oakflower are any indication of the quality that will be pouring out of their draught lines, then I suspect the taproom will be quite busy.

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

Oakflower Brewing Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Oakflower Brewing on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

Wild Air Beerworks

Logo courtesy of Wild Air Beerworks’s Facebook

Wild Air Beerworks is a fairly unique brewery for a couple of reasons. For starters, they are in a building previously occupied by another brewery, Dark City Brewing which went out of business. The people behind the scenes, owners, etc, of Wild Air Beerworks are owners of Last Wave Brewing in Point Pleasant (Nick Jiorle, Bert Roling and his wife Dani Roling.) as well as a former brewer from Carton (Doug Phillips).

One of the cool things about Wild Air, at least to this English major and reader of many books, is that names of most beers are some kind of literary reference. Their delicious American Lager, Inherent Vice is a book by Thomas Pynchon, the Baltic Porter I reviewed recently, Outer Dark is a book by Cormac McCarthy, their Cold IPA Unhallowed Rites is a reference to H.P. Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook.”

Image courtesy of Wild Air Beerworks’s Facebook

That naming convention and theme carries over to the brewery itself. The aesthetic is somewhere at the intersection of speakeasy, library, and lounge and the vibe is really chill and relaxed. I don’t recall what the look was exactly when it was Dark City, only that the look is an improvement. Quite frankly, everything about Wild Air is an improvement over its predecessor from the quality of the beer to the people working at the brewery giving off a welcoming vibe.

Wild Air Beerworks Inherent Vice

Something that drew me to Wild Air is their focus on Lagers and Wild Ales, especially the Lagers. They have one or two IPAs on draught, but most of the 16 beers they have available are either Lagers or Wild Ales. When I visited, I had the aforementioned Baltic Porter as well as the Italian Pilsner, Fortuna, which was delicious. There were nice bready elements to it and like all Italian Pilsners, this one was dry-hopped, but that element wasn’t overpowering.

Almost as soon as they opened their doors, their beers were distributed out in stores, which is not something all breweries can say. Granted, the fact that they are an offshoot of an established brewery who has been distributing cans of their beers for a couple of years might help.

The brewery is worth visiting and the beer is well-worth getting into your fridge.

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

Wild Air Beerworks Web site | Instagram | Facebook | Wild Air Beerworks on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

Beer Review: Outer Dark from Wild Air Beerworks

Name: Outer Dark
Brewing Company: Wild Air Beerworks
Location: Asbury Park, NJ
Style: Porter – Baltic
ABV: 7.8%

A complex, delicious ark lager whose deceptively smooth taste belies its ABV.

WildAir_OuterDark

From the untappd page for the beer:

A dark brown hue and notes of rich cacao and fresh roasted coffee makes this cold-fermented porter the perfect option for the cold nights ahead.

When I learned that the old Dark City Brewery location was going to be taken over by people from Last Wave Brewing, I was excited. I’ve enjoyed all the beers I’ve had from Last Wave and frankly, I had a less than great experience in my one visit to Dark City. What had me even more thrilled when I learned Wild Air Beerworks would be focusing (not exclusively) on Lagers and Saison/Open Fermented beers. Of the three beers I’ve thus far had from Wild Air, part of me landed on reviewing this one because I was the very first person to check in the beer on untappd.

So…here we are again with a Germanic Dark Lager. Yes, a Baltic Porter is indeed a Lager because it uses cold-fermented lager yeast. Named for the region in which the style was originally produced (countries like Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and especially Poland, among others), the beer is essentially the lager answer to Imperial Stout. I’ve reviewed a couple and had a few over the years here at the Triple T and as with some of the other Dark Lager styles I’ve featured, I’ve found myself particularly drawn to this dark lager.

But what about this beer, Outer Dark? How does a relatively complex style from a new brewery rank? I’ll try to tell you below..

I’m a little surprised, initially, at the look of the beer. Most Baltic Porters I’ve had have been quite dark, leaning more towards black than brown. This beer is a very murky looking brown. Quick whiff…smells fine

First sip is roasted elements, with cocoa and hints of chocolate being most prominent. There’s a thickness in the body of this beer that I appreciate, but aside from that, my initial impression doesn’t lead me to think this has as high an ABV as it does at 7.8%. One thing I appreciate is an element that isn’t present. Licorice is sometimes a prominent flavor in Baltic Porters. I DO NOT like licorice so I was very pleased that there was no licorice element in this beer.

The more I drink from the glass, the more impressed I am with this beer and the more robust the flavor profile reveals itself to be. The cocoa becomes more prominent / present and hints of coffee emerge, which is nice. I try to avoid coffee because it wrecks my system (even in the small amounts that are in coffee beer), but I love the flavor and a beer like this – where hints of coffee are present thanks to the malts – is very pleasing. As it warms a little bit, the flavors become robust and it feels like it is a touch sweeter.

Wild Air Beer Works is off to a fantastic start with their beer and if this Baltic Porter is a sign of the fun things to come, more of their beer will find its way into my fridge.

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

Draught Diversions: November 2022 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…

November still has some lingering Oktoberfest beers on shelves and in refrigerators, pumpkin beers are still acceptable, but Stout season is in full effect. November 2022 happened to be another month of beers that proved challenging to bring down to just six. Of course the fact that my wife brought me to the “Pittsburgh invades Philly” beerfest as a birthday complicated matters in the best of ways. Lots of good beers from that beerfest, one of which makes this month’s six pack, but beers from Dancing Gnome, Stick City, and Gristhouse all stood out. I happened to visit a couple of breweries this past month, too. Mostly locals and usual haunts like Conclave Brewing, Jersey Cyclone, Readington Brewery, as well as Chilton Mill, Kane Brewing, Bar Hygge, and Wild Air Beerworks. More on Wild Air in a post in the future, though.

SixPack_2022-Nov

Let’s dive into the November 2022 Six Pack …

Boos (Untied Brewing Company) | Pumpkin / Yam Beer | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Untied_Boos

I don’t go for the Pumpkin beers as much as I once did, although I still enjoy them. I was interested in Untied’s take on the style because I’ve enjoyed most of their beers. This was a pretty good take, good spice blend even if I found the nutmeg to be overpowering. Untied also makes an “Imperial” version of this beer as well as a Barrel-Aged version. I may have to try the Barrel-Aged version in the future.

Oktoberfest (Birdsmouth Beer) | Märzen | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Birdsmouth_Oktoberfest

Birdsmouth Beer is one of the newest breweries in New Jersey, started by a former brewer from Kane. That’s a pretty good pedigree. What I like is that they only brew lagers so I’m going to have to make my way down there at some point. My dad visited and brought back some of this excellent Oktoberfest, which considering it is one of the first beers brewed by Birdsmouth is impressive. Hell, it is impressive regardless of the “age” of the brewery.

Cherry Bomb (Bar Hygge/Brewery Techne) | Sour – Fruited | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

TechneCherryBomb

Brewery Techne is the latest brewery venture from vaunted NJ Brewing legend Tom Baker. The brewery is inside Bar Hygge, in Philadelphia. My wife took me there for my birthday, the food was excellent, the space had a great vibe, and this cherry sour was quite tasty. There was a good balance between sweet and tart and it was a nice beer to accompany my meal.

Deep Island (Brew Gentlemen) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

BG_DeepIsland

This beer was part of a birthday celebration, too. As part of my gift, my wife took me to Broken Goblet Brewing who was hosting the aforementioned “Pittsburgh invades Philly” beer fest. I had quite a few good beers that day, but this was the standout and the only beer I wound up getting two pours. Not small pours, the fine folks of Brew Gentlemen filled up the taster glass both times. This imperial stout was very decadent and had the perfect amount of coconut in the mix. I was told they bottle a barrel-aged version for their anniversary beer. I wish I could get some of that.

Stingo Ate My Baby – Barrel Aged (Conclave Brewing Company) | Strong Ale – English | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

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Since Conclave expanded a couple of years ago, I’ve enjoyed their experimental styles and beers off the hop-forward path. This one is a perfect example. A “Stingo” beer is a English Strong Ale aged in Oak of some kind, originated by Samuel Smith’s Stingo. For a local twist, this beer was aged in Applejack Brandy Barrels from Laird’s (out of NJ and the first distillery in the US). This was a very unique beer, I can’t say I’ve had many that tasted quite like it – strong malt giving off toffee and caramel vibs, decent hop presence, and a nice finish from the Applejack brandy.

4018 (Kane Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane4018

I say it a lot here at the Triple T, but for my money, Kane makes the best barrel-aged beers in NJ and I’d put their mastery at this art/skill alongside national leaders like Firestone Walker. I had a few Kane Beers in November since I visited the brewery, but this one stood out. Their anniversary beers are always a treat, I’ve probably had about half of the anniversary beers they’ve brewed over the years. This one emulates an ice cream dessert, since it was conditioned on Madagascar Vanilla, Maple Syrup, Cacao Nibs and Waffle cones. Before that, the blend as aged in multiple bourbon bottles. This was a thiccc stout that was delicious and decadent. At 13.1% ABV, I wound up sipping this over the course of about an hour.

A couple of beers were stinkers this past month, but mostly really good stuff.

Beer Review: Chilton Mill Brewing’s Schwarzbier – Black Lager

Name: Schwarzbier – Dark Lager
Brewing Company: Chilton Mill Brewing Company
Location: Long Valley, NJ
Style: Lager – Dark | Schwarzbier
ABV: 5.6%

A delicious, elegant, dynamite Dark Lager from one of NJ’s smaller, yet more robust breweries.

ChiltonMill_Schwarzbier

From the untappd page for the beer:

This German style dark lager exudes smooth roasty characteristics, balanced by traditional Noble hops. Dark in color, while remaining exceptionally drinkable!

Chilton Mill Brewing is a “Pandemic” Brewery, having the unfortunate timing to open during the early days of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Their ability to pivot to crowlers for offsite consumption, coupled with the great beer they brew, allowed them to survive the pandemic and grow as the world recovered (and still is recovering) from the Pandemic. I visited once earlier in the year and made my way back because I wanted to try this beer in particular.

So…this beer, a Germanic Dark Lager. Three words describing a beer I very much enjoy. German Dark Lagers come in a few varieties, Munich Dunkel, Dopplebock, and this, the Schwarzbier which literally translates to “Black Beer” from the German language. The style has more roast/smokiness than most lagers and in some ways, could be considered the lager-cousin to the Porter of the ale family. There are also similarities between the German Schwarzbier and Czech Dark Lager, or Tmavé Pivo.

Mini-style lesson over, on to Chilton Mill Brewing’s Schwarzbier.

The beer I’m given is black, as black as any beer I’ve had. A nice, light khaki head about the thickness of my pinky sits atop the beer. Picture perfect, I would say.

I skip breathing in the aroma of the beer and take a sip. I am very pleased with my first taste of this beer. There’s a very nice roast character, which is a hallmark of the style. It isn’t overpowering to the point that it is a smoked beer, but just enough to make that element of flavor’s presence known. On my second quaff of the beer, I get something unexpected, yet pleasant – some kind of sweet fruit element. Not sure what specifically, but that element likely comes from the Noble hops. But that sweetness is a great level of complexity in this beer.

This beer, Schwarzbier – Dark Lager is one of Chilton Mill’s most popular beers, it has more check-ins on untappd than any other they have brewed. I was speaking to owner/head-brewer Mike about the beer and he said it was the first (or one of their first) beer he made available and it proved extremely popular. What I like about the beer is how elegant, well-crafted, and balanced the beer is. I have a very strong appreciation for the level of complexity especially considering the beer is only 5.6% ABV. This isn’t a very common/popular style and what I also appreciate about Chilton Mill is the dedication to these kinds of classic, flavorful styles, keeping them in rotation (the other beer I had on my visit was an excellent English Brown Ale).

This is one of the best Dark Lagers I’ve had all year and maybe even since I’ve been on untappd..

Recommended, link to 4.50 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Beer Review: Tonewood Brewing’s Double Dry-Hopped Fuego

Name: Double Dry-Hopped Fuego
Brewing Company: Tonewood Brewing Company
Location: Barrington & Oaklyn, NJ
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 6.2%

A hoppy, dank, double dry-hopped IPA from one of New Jersey’s best breweries – a top notch IPA

Tonewood_DDHFuego

From the untappd page for the beer:

Double Dry-Hopped Fuego – This variant of Fuego uses twice the amount of hops during the dry-hop portion of the brewing cycle. DDH Fuego is full of juicy citrus aromas that softens an already crushable IPA into an exceptionally special drinking experience.

Tonewood has become one of my favorite NJ breweries over the last couple of years, their lagers are some of the best in the State and their IPAs are solid. Early in 2022, they opened a second location, their output increased, and they went through a rebranding with their labels/logo. With the second location, their output has increased and it seems they are distributing more of their beer throughout NJ and PA. A very exciting time for the Camden County brewery. Fuego is their flagship IPA and perfectly balances the East Coast/New England style with the West Coast style. For this variant on Fuego, the hops have increased, so let’s take a look.

Tonwood_DDHF_Info

Since Tonewood Brewing went through their rebranding/label update, they’ve included information on the label that EVERY SINGLE BREWER should include, especially as beer drinkers are becoming more knowledgeable about the beer they are drinking. Style, Hops, Malt, and ABV clearly indicated.

That first look…hazy, orange juice appearance with a substantial, white head. Very opaque, so I’m surprised this one isn’t considered a New England IPA. Aroma is dank and hoppy with pleasant tropical hints like pineapple and orange juice, just like I’d expect from a beer with this amount of hopping.

The abundant hops from the nose transfer to that first sip. There’s quite a bit of that tropical taste that carries over from the aroma. Potent hops follow, giving a slightly carbonated feel in the body of the beer. I keep thinking tropical fruit for much of the flavor, maybe some peachiness or apricot, with some hints that remind me of mango.

The increase of hops, especially the double-dry hopping method, gives this beer a more dank flavor profile than the standard Fuego, or most IPAs in general. I’m sure most of my readers know this, but Double Dry hopping means that the beer is hopped twice during fermentation, which accentuates the hop flavor and aromatics with more fresh hop elements. You’re getting the hop flavor in a more pure form. As such, the dankness (or citrusy and pine elements which are the hallmark flavors of modern IPAs) factor is quite high.

Back to Double Dry-Hopped Fuego specifically…this beer is a juicy, potent, very hop-forward IPA that thanks to the dry-hopping is a fairly smooth beer. Despite my oft-mentioned dislike of the Mosaic hop, the issues I typically have with the hop presence in IPAs I don’t have that issue with this beer. The three other hops (Chinook, Citra, and Simcoe) blend will together. This is a great example of a Dry-Hopped IPA and an IPA worth seeking.

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

Draught Diversions: October 2022 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…

Oktoberfest takes up a good portion of the month and cooler temperatures are more prevalent. Dark beer season is beginning to settle in, though there is still plenty of room for the lighter ales and lagers. This month’s six pack is a mix of different styles, three of which are in the stout family. Three NJ breweries, 2 NY breweries, and 1 VT brewery. One new to me brewery and returns from a couple of breweries who haven’t appeared at the Triple T in years.

SixPack_2022_Oct

Let’s crack open the October 2022 Six Pack …

Scrag Mountain Pils (Lawson’s Finest Liquids) | Pilsner – Czech | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Lawsons_Scrag

I had the Salt & Lime variant last year and finally got around to trying the original Scrag Mountain Pils recently. I thoroughly enjoyed this beer. Crisp, clean, flavorful, this beer boasts everything you could want in a pilsner. Delicious and world-class.

IPA (Finback Brewery) | IPA – American | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

FinbackIPA

My wife and I happened to be in Brooklyn to catch a live recording of our favorite podcast, Hello from the Magic Tavern and as was pleased to see a pretty decent offering from local/Brooklyn breweries. I landed on this IPA from Finback because it was the only one that didn’t have Mosaic hops in it. Although it has a hazy west coast look, it’s got Chinook and Columbus that gives more of a West Coast hop profile, but there was a nice balance to the beer.

BA Coconut & Desist 2022 Weller Bourbon (Icarus Brewing Company) | Stout – Pastry | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_CeaseBBAWeller

I visited Icarus for their annual “Build me Up Butternut” celebration for the third time and had a few beers including this is barrel-aged version of an Icarus beer that almost never was. You see, there’s a certain candy company that makes a candy bar with coconut and chocolate and Icarus wanted to evoke those flavors in a stout, many breweries make beers with this idea. However, the candy company “suggested” Icarus change the beer name, so they did. This beer is luxurious and everything a pastry stout should be, the coconut, bourbon, and chocolate are in sweet harmony.

Night Night (Bradley Brew Project) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

BBP_NightNight

Night Night is the first non-lager beer I’ve had from Bradley Brew Project and it sure is a thicc beer, as I’d expect an 11% stout to be. If you like bittersweet chocolate, then you’ll like this beer. I do, but what I like even more is how the vanilla cuts the bitterness just a little bit. The more beer I have from Bradley Brew Project, the more impressed I am with their output.

Ravendark (Ghost Hawk Brewing Company) | Stout – Foreign/Export | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

GhostHawk_RavenDark

A night at a Barcade makes for some good beers, including this Stout from Ghost Hawk Brewing, my second beer from the North Jersey brewery. One way to think of this style of stout is a “Guinness, but more.” This beer is very prominent on roasted malts, which imparts a very flavorful amalgamation of coffee and dark chocolate. I was very impressed with this beer and it doesn’t really feel like 7.3% ABV.

Kim Hibiscus Sour Lager (SingleCut Beer Smiths) | Sour – Berliner Weisse | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

SingleCut_KimHibiscus

A sour Lager, sure, why not. Berliner Weisses can often be lagers and this one is quite unique. The beer has the slight funk I’d expect, and a bit of fruitiness, too. What really stands out to me is right there in the name, Hibiscus. A flower that imparts a great element of sweetness that may have balance with the currants in the beer. A really nice beer to finish off the night.

All told, a great October for beers.

Beer Review: Bonesaw Brewing Company’s Crimson Skull

Name: Crimson Skull
Brewing Company: Bonesaw Brewing Company
Location: Glassboro, NJ
Style: Lager – Vienna
ABV: 5.8%

A well-crafted, clean, Lager that hits all the right notes.

Bonesaw_CrimsonSkull

From the untappd page for the beer:

Crimson Skull is a Vienna lager, a red-amber lager style focusing on toasty, biscuity malt notes without being sweet. Aromas of baking brown bread, toffee and barley fields.

Bonesaw opened up in 2018 with some sizeable fanfare, the brewery is very large and they managed to recruit a well-respected brewer to be their brewmaster. I’ve had a few beers from Bonesaw Brewing and I’ve enjoyed them to varying degrees and with their beer showing on shelves in my area with more frequency, I decided to finally give one of their beers a full review treatment here at the Triple T. Yeah, of course it is a Lager.

This is the second Vienna Lager I’ve reviewed and as I pointed out in that review, it is a misunderstood style, Sam Adams Boston Lager is a Vienna Lager so it is rather ubiquitous without many likely realizing that Boston Lager is a Vienna Lager. Maybe the closest better-known cousins to a Vienna Lager would either be an Amber Lager or a Märzen. The Vienna Lager is typically a bit lighter than a Märzen, but has a nice amount of bready malt to the beer.

Enough of the style primer, on to the beer under review. .

Pop of the can top, the beer pours into the glass a translucent amber with a nice thick head. Crimson Skull certainly looks the part. Nothing too distinct on the aroma, although I do get some of the breadiness. As I’ve come to say, it smells like beer.

First sip…is quite tasty! Big malt flavor, as I would expect. Despite the beer looking a little on the thin side, from a body perspective, it has a full flavor and feel to it. As I have more of the beer, I get some of the caramel essence, more than the toffee called out in the beer description. The two flavors are fairly similar, so maybe I’m just splitting hairs but that sweet element isn’t overpowering The hop presence is mild but noticeable, which is just how I’d want it to be in a lager such as this.

Bonesaw has crafted a very balanced, clean lager in Crimson Skull. It hits all the notes one would expect from the style, and it does so with a nice level of clarity. The beer went down very easily for me and was very enjoyable

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

Draught Diversions: September 2022 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…

SixPack_2022_Sep

Summer still tries to cling in September, but fall beers have been appearing on shelves for a couple of months. For me, September is when I start enjoying those amber, German-inspired lagers. I like to try a few new Oktoberfest-style beers every year, but will return to annual favorites. Dark beers are also on the horizon, too. Only two NJ beers this time around, three Märzens, two Barleywines and a Stout.

Let’s crack open the September 2022 Six Pack …

Oktoberfest (Conclave Brewing Company) | Märzen | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave_Oktober

The few lagers Conclave has brewed have been very good, so I wanted to give their Märzen a try. I missed Conclave’s Oktoberfest-bier last year and I wasn’t going to let that happen again in 2022. I stopped in for a growler fill and was very pleased with the beer. A really spot on Märzen, there’s a very nice malty element to the beer with the related sweetness. The beer had an unfiltered look to it, which isn’t a problem.

DragonsMilk_Stroop

Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Stroopwafel (New Holland Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Dragon’s Milk is one of the most popular, well-made, and recognizable bourbon barrel-aged stouts on the market. It has become a brand within New Holland Brewing and has produced several variants over the years, this one evokes the delicious caramel/waffle/cinnamon cookie. For some reason, those cookies are always offered on United Airlines, but they are very tasty nonetheless. This beer is delicious with the caramel and cinnamon flavors perfectly blended together.

Sibling Maker (Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers) | Barleywine – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

JacksAbby_Sibling

This is a “Lager wine” and not the first I’ve had from Jack’s Abby. Although made with Lager yeast unlike most barleywines which are made with Ale yeast, the flavor profile is relatively similar, and that’s a good thing. This one was aged in brandy and bourbon barrels and was probably bottled in early 2020. I get the date/fig flavors I enjoy from most barleywines, plus the hints of vanilla and oak from the barrels. As good as this beer was, I think it may have aged a little too long.

October with a K (Sunken Silo Brew Works) | Märzen | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

SunkenSilo_OctK

When I saw Sunken Silo had their Märzen on draft, I figured I’d take a quick drive to the brewery and I’m glad I did. The atmosphere is pretty chill there and this was a very nice take on the Autumnal German-inspired lager. There was more of a crisp element to this than I’m accustomed to from most Märzens, but still good flavor profile nonentheless..

Creekfestbier Lager (Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company) | Märzen | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

NCBC_Creekfest

I called out this Märzen as one to try back in my Oktoberfest 2020 Six Pack and I finally got around to trying the beer. Neshaminy Creek brews a nice lager and this is no exception. The first can I poured had some carbonation issues, which didn’t change the flavor, but something just felt off. The subsequent cans didn’t have the carbonation problems and was improved because of it. This is an Oktoberfest you can’t go wrong with as an option for your Fall Fridge.

Wooden Cleat (Kane Brewing Company) | Barleywine – Other | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane_BBAWoodenCleat

I’ve probably had more barleywines from Kane than any other brewery, they brew the style very well and almost always age the beer is some kind of barrel. In this case, the 2022 version of this beer was aged in Weller bourbon barrels. A “wooden cleat” is a piece of wood that strengthens the surface to which it attaches, which I suppose the barrel can be seen as the strengthening element of this barleywine. This is one of the boozier barleywines I’ve had from Kane, I’m surprised it is “only” 10.7% ABV. A very good barleywine, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve had some better from Kane

Another good month of beers in the book. I’ll also add that I had my first “Smoothie Sour Seltzer” and that combination of words is only slightly more off-putting than the beverage itself. I don’t particularly gravitate towards seltzer, especially seltzer with alcohol. This one had banana, marshmallow, and coconut and had pieces of those things floating in the liquid. People seem to like these things, I’m certainly not one of them.

SixPack_2022_Sep