Draught Diversions: Octoberfest 2021 Six Pack

This is the fourth annual Oktoberfest Six Pack (and fifth Oktoberfest feature overall), but clearly, Oktoberfest 2020 is unlike any we’ve experienced. For starters, the second year in a row, the annual celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese’s marriage was cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Like last year, that hasn’t stopped the Festbiers and Märzens from being brewed and packaged. Four years into “constructing” these six-packs and I’m still able to find new malty, amber lagers to highlight every year. Of the beers featured here, I’ve had two, but only a taster of one and small portion from a crowler from another.

From last year: A note on the difference between Festbiers and Märzens. Festbiers are generally lower in alcohol and more close to a light copper color as opposed the the amber coloring of a Märzens. 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. For me, whatever style a particular brewery calls their amber/brown 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.

On to the Six Pack!

Festbier (Festbier) | Bitburger Brauerei | Bitburg, Germany | 6.2% ABV

Bitburger is one of the larger German breweries and back in 2019, they collaborated with Sierra Nevada on a Märzen and I thoroughly enjoyed that version. I figured since I’ve been enjoying Sierra Nevada’s solo Oktoberfest beers the last couple of years, I should give Bitburger’s a try.

What Bitburger says about the beer:

A seasonal edition, available from August each year for a limited time: our Bitburger Festbier – tasty, full-bodied and delicately malty-mild. Created by our brewmasters to enjoy the traditional German beer festival atmosphere. A very special malt composition, including Pilsner Malt, Münchner Malt and light Caramel Malt, accounts for its fine color and smooth body. Additionally, the beer is refined with Bitburger’s proprietary and unique hop blend called ‘Siegelhopfen’ (seal hops), which is sourced from a farm just a few minutes from the brewery. This drinkable 6.2% ABV full-bodied beer is the perfect marriage of hops and malt with a slightly sweet backbone, while finishing dry.

OxtoberFest (Märzen) | Bolero Snort Brewery | Carlstadt, NJ | 5.3% ABV

Bolero_Oxtoberfest

It has been a while since Bolero Snort was featured here at the Tap Takeover, but with their increased production thanks to their awesome facility they are finally brewing and canning an Oktoberfest. Their Raging Bull Amber Lager is quite tasty so I’m hoping this one will be of equal quality.

What Bolero Snort says about the beer:

Who’s ready for OxtoberFest🍺!!!! We are happy to announce our latest release, right in time for the end of summer. This Marzen style lager was made as a Pro-Am Collab with our long time friend C3 Brewing😎. So grab your alpine hat and lederhosen’s and get on down to your local store to try out OxtoberFest👍!!!

Festooning (Märzen) | Grimm Artisanal Ales | Brooklyn, NY | 5.7% ABV

I’ve had a couple of Grimm’s lagers over the past few months (including a fantastic Vienna Lager), so I’m hoping their take on this most traditional of German lagers reaches NJ.

What Grimm says about the beer:

We are so excited to release Festooning, our first Oktoberfest Märzen-style lager. Like our pilsners, this amber lager was brewed with a traditional step mash process. The grist is a rich combination of German Vienna and Munich II malts that give warm notes of honey, caramel, and a fresh-baked loaf of seeded bread. Malty-sweet flavor with a crisp body and a subtle balancing bitterness make this an über satisfying Oktoberfest.

Mr. Oktoberfest (Märzen) | Icarus Brewing Company | Lakewood, NJ | 5.4% ABV

I shared a crowler of this one a couple of years ago, so I’m hoping cans of this one make it out to distribution again. As a NY Yankees fan, how do I not like a beer with this name and great can art?

What Icarus says about the beer:

Our 5.4% traditional German Lager was brewed with German Vienna and Dark Munich malts, then delicately hopped with Hallertauer Mittlefrueh. After Lagering for over a month in our tanks this enticingly malty yet easy drinking beer brings notes of Freshly Baked Bread, Caramel and just enough noble hops to mellow out the experience. Just in time to enjoy in your Beer Tent, this amber medium bodied beauty demands we say Prost and enjoy!

Drachenstadt – Festbier (Märzen) | Levante Brewing Company | West Chester, PA | 4.8% ABV

Levante gets some distribution here into New Jersey so I’m hoping I’ll see this beer. With a dragon theme in the beer and the label, I feel extremely compelled to try it.

Levante says this about the beer:

To go toe-to-claw with a dragon it helps to possess courage, even if it’s in liquid form. With a selection of five specialty malts, cold fermented and lagered to perfection, our Marzen style beer brings forth a depth and drinkable character not usually found in today’s festbiers. You’ll have courage to spare!

Ramstein Oktoberfest Lager (Märzen) | Ramstein/High Point Brewing Company | Hackettstown, NJ | 6% ABV

ramstein_Oktoberfest2021

Perhaps the most traditional and iconic Oktoberfest brewed in NJ. Like many of the beers brewed out of High Point Brewing in Butler, NJ, this was only available at the brewery. Last year, Ramstein canned the beer for the first time and sent the cans out to some stores in the State. I’m hoping that happens again this year, because I only had this beer once, many years ago at a beer festival but it left a strong impression.

What Ramstein says about the beer:

Inspired by the authentic German Oktoberfest beer from the early 1900s. This amber lager has a rich malty aroma, a smooth toasty palate, and subtle noble hop finish.

The richness and spiciness of this beer makes it the perfect accompaniment to robust meats and grilled fare. Ramstein Oktoberfest is a great beer for any festive occasion.

Beer Review: Grimm Artisanal Ales’ Cross Stitch

Name: Cross Stitch
Brewing Company: Grimm Artisanal Ales
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Style: Lager – Vienna
ABV: 5%
An outstanding amber-hued Lager from one of NY’s premiere craft breweries.

Grimm_CrossStitch

From Grimm’s landing page for Cross Stitch:

This Vienna-style lager was brewed with a double decoction mash — our first time using this historical process for our lagers! With a base of German Vienna malt and a touch of CaraAroma, Cross Stitch is a warming, toasty lager with a smooth mouthfeel. Aromas of freshly baked bread and subtle caramel are complemented by flavors of sweet malt and toffee, ending with a crisp finish.

Vienna Lager…a conundrum of a lager style. In some ways it is a relatively obscure style (certainly not as popular as Pilsner, Helles, or Marzen), but also one of the Lager styles most predominant on shelves of beer shops and bars, thanks to Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Brooklyn’s flagship, Brooklyn Lager, most people grabbing those two beers probably wouldn’t realize they were drinking a Vienna Lager. For my tastes, (and probably because of my general malaise towards Boston Lager), Vienna is the Lager style I’d always gravitated to the least. With some of the smaller independent breweries crafting this style, I realized how damned good this kind of beer could be (I’m looking at you Icarus, Kane, and Untied). So imagine my surprise when a brewery with “Ales” in their name canned and distributed what might be the best (of the admittedly limited quantity, a baker’s dozen including this one) interpretation of the style I’ve had. 4 years in, this is the first time I’ve reviewed a Vienna Lager, as it turns out.

Thick aroma of malty breadiness greets my senses when I open the can – maybe warm bread even. The beer pours a deep amber that could easily be mistaken for an Oktoberfest/Märzen. First sip test – Cross Stitch passes with flying colors. That breadiness is maybe the strongest element. Immediately following, or even overlaying that breadiness is an extremely pleasant lacing of caramel, likely from the CaraAroma malt. The last thing I taste is a hint of toffee on top of the ever-present caramel lacing.

The flavors are great, but what maybe impresses me the most is how incredibly smooth this beer is. Especially since one of the issues I’ve had with Boston Lager is how unsmooth the beer seemed to me. Granted, it has been well over 4 years since I’ve had Boston Lager, and the recipe has supposedly been tweaked. There’s still that characteristic crisp finish a Lager should have, but it is a complement to the lovely, caramel smoothness of the beer.

Cross Stitch is an outstanding take on the Vienna style of Lager. As I stated at the outset of this beer review, Grimm’s take on the style is probably my favorite Vienna Lager and one of my favorite “new to me” Lagers of 2021. As such, this kind of makes me sad that I grabbed the last four pack of this beer in the store.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: The Drowned Land’s River Birch

Name: River Birch
Brewing Company: The Drowned Lands
Location: Warwick, NY
Style: Pilsner – Other | Foeder Pilsner
ABV: 4.8%

“The Drowned Lands has crafted an outstanding, world class Pilsner that transcends the style.”

DL_RiverBirch

From Drowned Lands page for the beer:

Foeder-fermented Pilsner brewed with Weyermann Pilsner Malt and a touch of Weyermann Vienna, hopped with German hops for a floral and spicy balance. As is tradition, this was fermented low and slow in one of our American Oak Foeders, then transferred to stainless where it was lagered to maturity.

We’re tasting grassy lemon pitch, a particularly oaky pile of straw, a mellifluous bouquet of summer flowers, and that little burst of citrus oil you get when peeling an orange.

Another pilsner already? I suppose I’m making up for lost time, but when one visits a brewery on a warm summer day, a Pilsner might be the best test of their quality.

The Drowned Lands had the unfortunate timing to open the same year as the COVID-19 Pandemic, but despite that hinderance, they’ve already received several accolades, including being listed as one of the 10 Best New Breweries of 2020 by USA Today (along with NJ’s own, The Seed in Atlantic City). Before I knew that; however, I’d heard good things about them and one of the former brewers of Conclave Brewing had recently joined Drowned Lands. How could I not visit on the ride down from Cooperstown, NY to home?

Of the beers on tap, I knew I wanted to try their pilsner. It is one of my favorite styles after all and the pilsner is where a brewer’s skill shines. I fondly remember the two pilsners Conclave brewed when Bryan was working there, too.

Look at that beer! Perfect golden approachability, it looks just the way a pilsner should look. Aroma…I think I get some of the earthiness from the oak foeder in which the beer was fermented.

What does the beer taste like? Like nectar from the gods. I’m completely blown away by this beer, it is a perfectly crafted lager. The traditional elements of the German malt and hops are present, but the oak fermenting brings some fresh, new perspective to the old world style.

I enjoyed the beer so much I had to bring home a four pack because it was delicious and my fridge was a little low on pilsners. The next day, I had a pour from the can and it was just as good. Extremely refreshing, potently flavorful, elegantly crafted.

The Drowned Lands is a gorgeous brewery, especially on the day of my visit which was lovely weather. If I lived closer (I’m about an hour and a half away), I’d be visiting them a couple times per month.

To put it in simple terms, River Birch is one of the best Pilsners I’ve ever had. To quote Mat from Massive Beers, this Pilsner is “Mount Rushmore Status.”

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

DL_RB_Can

Draught Diversions: Brewery Ommegang Visit

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…

I’m going to change up the formula just a little bit for this Draught Diversions installment. Often, when I write about breweries, the breweries are somewhat smaller, not nationally distributed, and “hyper-local.” Brewery Ommegang isn’t exactly small, they are one of the iconic American breweries, and I’ve written about them quite extensively in the past. For this installment; however, I’ll be writing about the visit and experience, while spotlighting the delicious beers, and skip the history of the brewery which typically comprises a significant portion of these posts. Chances are, if you are reading this beer blog, you have an inkling of Brewery Ommegang’s history, or you can check out my write up on the American Craft Beer Classic Abbey Dubbel, which goes into a bit of the brewery’s history.

Ommegang_TapHouseMy wife and I decided to take a trip for our 21st anniversary. We hadn’t gone on an overnight trip in years because of our beloved dog Sully, but sweet Sully passed away on May 4 at 11 years old after a long fight with various health issues. We miss her every day. But enough sadness…

We figured we had the opportunity to travel since the pandemic is slowing, and we are both vaccinated so it made sense. We are both huge baseball fans and Leslie wanted to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame for many years and I hadn’t visited in about 20 years. The Baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, NY, which is also the home of Brewery Ommegang. No brainer, right? Right.

The first noticeable thing about the brewery is that its location could be described as “just West of the middle of nowhere.” That is not a knock by any means because the setting and location is absolutely gorgeous, one of the most comforting and beautiful brewing facilities I’ve had the opportunity to visit. Leslie and I took to the outdoor café to soak in the relaxing atmosphere and were greeted by Samantha, our charming and lovely server/waitress. I knew a couple of the beers I wanted to sample (Idyll Days Pilsner; Double Barrel Dubbel, and Super Kriek), but I needed some guidance on filling out the flight. Samantha suggested the Rose Cider, and on the whole, it was a fantastic flight. Idyll Days was a delicious pilsner with some of the Belgian yeast character. Second sample was that Cider and it was a great taste for the beautiful day. Third up was the barrel aged Abbey Dubbel, a complex, rich take on their classic Abbey Dubbel with the barrel hints and for some reason, hints of coconut; all welcome in an already delicious base beer. I finished off the flight with Super Kriek (2021), which is cherry Lambic-Style ale, sweet, tart, and delicious.

OmmegangFlight

The food we ordered was savory and deliciously crafted. My wife had the pork belly sandwich and I had one of the best Chicken and Waffles meals I ever had. I know Leslie’s pork belly sandwich was out of this word because I tried a few bites! My flight was over, and Samantha came back to check on us. She had earlier recommended Apripeche, a fruited sour with Peach and Apricot as a great summer beer. Well, it was summer, so I took her advice and boy howdy was I pleased. Apripeche is one of the most refreshing fruited beers I’ve had. Sometimes the atmosphere and timing of having a beer helps the enjoyment, and sitting in this gorgeous brewery, with my beautiful wife, and perfect day only increased how great the beer was.

Ommegang_Apripeche
Apripiche is the perfect summer beer, I’m hoping to get some for my poolside cooler this year.

We were winding down out time at the café (we did drive about 3½ hours to get to Cooperstown, after all), and as we moseyed on out, I decided to have a full pour of Idyll Days Pilsner, because it was such a fantastic and different pilsner than I’d had before.

Ommegang_IdyllDays
A full pour of delicious Idyll Days Pilsner.

We strolled through the gift shop and I decided to grab my favorite Game of Thrones beer to go, Valar Doheris, which is a Belgian-style Tripel. I enjoyed splitting the bottle the following day with a good friend. I was reminded, upon pouring and enjoying the beer, that Valar Doheris is one of the best Tripels I’ve ever had, hands down. Rich, potent Belgian style yeast with esters evoking hints of clove and banana make for a world-class take on the renowned Belgian style. Simply an out of this world beer.

Ommegang_ValarDoheris

As I mentioned in one of my early blog posts, Brewery Ommegang had been near the top of my bucket list breweries to visit. To say that the visit – on every single level – far exceeded my expectations is an understatement. Gorgeous location, world-class beers, some of the most welcoming people I’ve met working at a brewery, and sumptuous food, make Brewery Ommegang, and their Tap House and absolute must visit.

Ommegang_InstagramCollage

Draught Diversions: May 2021 Six Pack

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

SixPack_2021_05.jpg

May was a month for a plentiful amount of new beer. I was fortunate enough to enjoy so many good new beers that I had a tougher time choosing six than I have in quite a few months. A nice mix of styles, a brewery or two appearing in the Monthly Six Pack for the first time or first time in a while. This marks the third month in a row with a Barleywine, third month in a row without an IPA, and first time in a two months without a new Pilsner. Only one of these beers was purchased a liquor/beer store (the lone non-NJ beer), the other five were purchased directly at the brewery, with four of those enjoyed at the brewery. Is that too granular of an analyzation?

Saint Alphonsus (Bull ‘n Bear) | Belgian Dubbel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

BullnBear_StAlphonsus

Had a meet up in Summit, NJ on the first day of the month and we had time before our restaurant reservations so of course we stopped at the neighboring brewery. This is the 3rd beer I’ve had from Bull ‘n Bear and each style has been very tasty. This Dubbel is a very impressive interpretation of the style from Bull ‘n Bear.

Vanilla Maris (Timber Ales/Horus Aged Ales/Mindful Ales) | Barleywine – English | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

Timber_VanillaMaris

Here I am again with the third beer I’ve had from a brewery…what a fantastic Barleywine this beer is. The English Barleywines are more malty and sweet compared to their hoppy cousins from America and often exhibit hints of toffee in the flavor profile. This beer does indeed have that element to it, which plays wonderfully with the vanilla beans on which the beer was aged. Another standout from Timber Ales.

Morning Bean 2020 (Kane Brewing Company) | Porter – Other | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Kane_MorningBean

With the world slowly emerging from the Pandemic, a couple of friends and I decided to visit Kane’s Biergarten. Morning Bell is a superb Coffee Porter and they release variants every year. I missed out on the bottle release of this one, which takes the beer and conditions the liquid on Bourbon Vanilla Beans. This beer is an unbelievably delicious porter.

Paddy’s House Kölsch (Source Brewing) | Kölsch | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Source_PaddysKolsch

…and after Kane, we visited Source, which was a first for us. A beautiful setting, a warm day, and a cold beer with friends. Well, I saw good things about this beer on untappd and I was not disappointed. The is beer is the winner of a homebrew contest, and there’s no question of the quality. Of the 30 beers on untappd I’ve had categorized as “Kölsch,” this is at least the best American version and maybe the best period. This was zlow-poured to allow the flavors to express themselves even more potently, some malt/breadiness with a crisp finish that has some hops and a wonderful mouthfeel. This is everything I want in a beer.

Blackberry Frukt (Conclave Brewing Company) | Farmhouse Ale – Other | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

ConclaveBlackberryFrukt

I took a quick drive to Conclave to grab one of the very limited bottle releases (likely to be mentioned in next month’s six pack) and of course had to have some freshly poured beer. I was glad to see this beer still on tap because it was absolutely perfect for warm weather enjoyment. Conclave calls this a “Norwegian Farmhouse Ale” because of the Kviek yeast which brings fun flavors to the beer, but they went further and finished the beer on fresh blackberries for a really special beer.

Triple 5 Phat Crispy (Twin Elephant Brewing Company/Five Boroughs Brewing Company ) | Lager – American | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

TEB_TriplePhat5

Twin Elephant is celebrating their fifth year this year and they’ve canned a few beers, including this one, the first Lager they’ve packaged. Brewed in collaboration with Five Boroughs Brewing, this beer is just about everything a fan of flavorful Lagers could want in a beer. Refreshing, tasty, a delicious crusher. A contender for my favorite beer from the folks from Chatham, NJ.

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Draught Diversions: February 2021 Six Pack

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

Here I am with my monthly six pack, the beers (outside of the feature reviews), I enjoyed the most the previous month. For the first time in probably well over a year or two, this six pack does not include at least half of the beers from NJ breweries. Granted, much of what I enjoyed this month came from NJ breweries as I still had plenty from my Carton trip on New Year’s Day and I made a big Icarus Brewing purchase. Still, a pretty good selection of beers, at least I think.

Let’s crack open the cans and bottles, shall we?

Bristlecone Brown Ale (Uinta Brewing Company) | Brown Ale – American | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Brown Ales are one of the more overlooked styles, but like any style, when crafted well, can be just as enjoyable and flavorful as any style. Uinta’s take on the style ticks off all of those boxes in a nice way. A solid every-day beer.

Barrel & Bean (Allagash Brewing Company) | Belgian Tripel | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I enjoy Tripels. I enjoy Barrel Aged beers. I enjoy beers brewed with Coffee. I don’t know that I would ever think to have one beer with those three elements, but here we are with Allagash’s Barrel & Bean. Most barrel-aged Tripels I’ve enjoyed have been aged in some kind of wine barrel, but the bourbon elements and coffee work well here. Frankly, Allagash can really do no wrong, so the quality of this beer wasn’t really too much of a surprise to me.

DDH Power Juice (Azacca) (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus makes their usual monthly appearance on the Six Pack. Like many breweries, Icarus crafts variants of popular IPAs, this is a variant on their Power Juicer New England IPA featuring Azacca hops. This one is very juicy with citrus elements and an overall great beer, but the original base Power Juicer works just a little better for me. Still, this beer is worth seeking out.

Blackbird (Tonewood Brewing Company) | Schwarzbier | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

The lagers coming out of Tonewood Brewing are some of the best in NJ, and Blackbird is no exception. This is a Schwarzbier, a very traditional style, dating back to the 1300s! Blackbird is a Dark German Lager with fantastic roasted and sweet elements that are similar to a porter. At 4%ABV, this beer won’t knock you out but is very flavorful. I found that I enjoyed the second can I had the night after the first can even more, maybe because I had a better idea of what to expect from the beer. As lagers have continued to gain popularity/momentum in craft brewing, I’ve been seeing more Schwarzbiers pop up, which is a very good thing.

Grand Cacao (Tröegs Independent Brewing) | Stout – Milk / Sweet | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

When the brothers behind Pennsylvania’s Tröegs Independent Brewing release a new year round beer, it is worthy of note. When the beer is as good as Grand Cacao is, it is even more noteworthy. This beer is an outstanding Milk Stout with heavy chocolate overtones making for a nearly perfect dessert beer. This is similar to the Chocolate Stout released in the Most Wonderful Beer of the Year variety pack in 2018, but maybe amped up more. This beer may have begun as one of Tröegs’s Scratch beers, but I’m very happy this is now a year-round offering. Grand Cacao has immediately become a top Milk Stout for me.

Morning Shakeout (Timber Ales in collaboration with Marlowe Artisanal Ales) | Stout – Coffee | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

Timber Ales has been contract brewing small batches, I reviewed one their beers (Cosm of Darkness) a few months back and wanted to try another beer from them. To say I was pleased with this beer is an understatement… this is in the top tier of Coffee Stouts I’ve ever had, especially of the non-barrel-aged variety. What makes this beer so damned good is the simplicity – nothing fancy, just one adjunct in the form of the coffee, but it is outstanding. Even moreso as the beer warmed a little bit and the flavors had a chance to breathe. Worth seeking out.

No real clunkers like last month, but also not quite as many new to me beers this month either.

Beer Review: Cosm of Darkness (Timber Ales/Eight State Brewing Collaboration)

Name: Cosm of Darkness
Brewing Company: Timber Ales in collaboration with The Eight State Brewing Company
Location: New York, NY / Greenville, SC
Style: Stout – Imperial / Double
ABV: 12%

“An outstanding Imperial Stout crafted with multiple adjuncts that is a bounty of flavor.”

From the untappd description of the beer:

Cosm of Darkness is an Imperial Stout brewed in collaboration with our friends from The Eighth State Brewing Company. This beer has been aged on Ugandan vanilla beans and cassia bark before being canned for your enjoyment.

Few beers are as welcome on a cool evening as a big, bold stout. Timber Ales is a relatively new brewing company, a contract brewer at that, but they have burst out of the gates with big stouts/barrel-aged stouts and barleywines/barrel-aged barleywines, as well as the requisite IPAs. One of my local shops had a single of this beer for sale and based on hearing Jason Stein on Al Gattullo’s Craft Beer Podcast, I had to give a beer from Timber Ales a try.

Pouring the beer into the glass, all I see is darkness and I like it. As the head forms, there’s a hint brownish red, which is a slightly different tone than a typical stout. Aroma from the beer hints at the vanilla the can indicates is in the beer. This looks to be, and has the aroma of, everything I want in a big Imperial Stout.

There’s something else to the beer at the outset lending additional layers to the look and aroma. I assume it is the cassia bark. Before having this beer, I never heard of cassia bark. A quick google search educated me – it is essentially a form of cinnamon. In theory, cinnamon and vanilla pair very nicely together. In practice, in the form of this beer…oh hell yeah.

First sip is of roasted malts with hints of vanilla with the cassia bark shining through. Those three elements are the basis of the flavor of the beer and they all play together perfectly, with the cassia bark perhaps being the star of the trio. It is definitely cinnamon, but unlike cinnamon I’ve had in the past. Especially cinnamon in beer.

Like all big beers (and this is a gigantic beer at 12%), the flavors emerge to a greater, and more delicious degree, as the beer settles from the cold of the fridge to room temperature. Again, as the beer warms, the cassia bark is what is most prominent to me as a lovely compliment to the roasted malts and vanilla.

Jason, I believe, began as a homebrewer and has since partnered with Twelve Percent Beer Project in Connecticut where all of Timber Ales are brewed. Seems like a great partnership, at least based on this beer.

Cosm of Darkness is an outstanding Imperial Stout that is a great beer to enjoy over the course of an hour or so. Based on this beer, I’ll be seeking out more beer from Timber Ales.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Beyond a Shadow of a Stout (Level 65)

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Draught Diversions: January 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…

January, for the past couple of years, has had me traveling for work, which provides opportunities to try beers not available in my market/region. Although only one of those “out-of-market” beers made this month’s six pack, I’ll note that beers from Yazoo Bewing (TN), Gordon Biersch (New Orleans),  Little Harpeth Brewing (TN) and Yee Haw (TN) brewing impressed me. A good balance this month of NJ and non-NJ, plus three brewery visits (2 favorites, and 1 newly opened). Another odd note: this six pack makes it 2 months running without a Lager in the mix. So, without further adieu here’s my January 2020 six pack.

Chekov’s Gun (Carton Brewing Company) | Belgian Quadrupel | 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

The tradition of a Carton Brewery visit on New Year’s Day continued in 2020, same crew, different beers including this outstanding Quadrupel. It is a style I love, a style that isn’t brewed often, but when done well as this beer was brewed – and aged in Peach Brandy Barrels – the final product is heavenly. I would have purchased a bottle, but unfortunately, Carton was only selling a 3 pack of bombers and the price tag was just out of my range that day. Still, this is a beer I’d love to share with a friend, enjoy over the course of a long movie, or while reading an immersive novel by the fireplace.

Cinnamon Roll Imperial Ale (Southern Tier Brewing Company) | Spiced / Herbed Beer | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

It has been a while (October 2019) since a Southern Tier beer made an appearance here on the Monthly Six Pack… This is a beer I’ve seen on the shelves but was always hesitant to try. I should not have doubted since one of Souther Tier’s strengths has always been in “dessert beers” and pastry stouts. This fantastic dessert beer features a perfect (and ample) hit of cinnamon throughout with a texture (moutfheel, I hate that word) that is reminiscent of the cinnamon roll. I think that comes from the lactose. I was very pleased with this beer and at 8.6% it might be the perfect beer to finish off the night.

Touching the Sun (Icarus Brewing Company) | IPA – Triple | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Shocker! Icarus makes an appearance in a monthly six pack. Considering I attended their 3rd Anniversary Party at the top of the month, chances were pretty good an Icarus beer would be showing up. This is only the third Triple IPA I’ve had, but it might be the best. I was a little under the weather the day of this event, but even with that, Touching the Sun was a standout beer, super hoppy, super smooth with a nice hoppy bite at the end.

Somewhere, Something Incredible is Waiting to Be Known (Tree House Brewing Company) | Stout – Milk / Sweet | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

It is nice to have friends who visit far-away breweries like Tree House, especially when they ask if you if you’d like them to get you anything. Case in point: this delicious Milk Stout. Lots of chocolate in the taste, with elements of coffee and just a hint of vanilla. At 7.9% ABV, it wasn’t super heavy on the booziness, but it is a beer I’d recommend enjoying slowly as the flavors breathe and assert themselves. Superb stout.

Funfetti About Bucking Time (Bolero Snort Brewery) | IPA – Imperial / Double | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

Bolero Snort finally opened their own brewery, and some would say it was about Bucking Time. This beer is brewed to celebrate the big facility’s grand opening. Sort of since this is a brewery-only variant of the IPA they brewed, with Funfetti cake mix used in the brewing process. This beer took me by surprise. I would almost never think of an IPA as a dessert beer, but the cake mix perfectly complemented the beer itself (I split a four pack of the base beer, “About Bucking Time” with my dad). The grand opening itself was great, my dad and my uncle attended with me.  Bolero Snort has a huge, awesome facility and I expect great things from them in 2020. A photo collage at the end of this post serves as a visual highlight of the visit.

Hefeweizen (Yazoo Brewing Company) | Hefeweizen | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Image courtesy of Yazoo Brewing’s Website. I wasn’t able to get a good picture of my beer in the crowded bar.

Work travel landed me in Nashville for a few days and our “Networking Event” was at the FGL House, which had a nice selection of local brews. I knew of Yazoo Brewing, so I figured I try their Hefeweizen and boy was I happy I did. This is a very well made beer, reminiscent of some of my favorite takes on the classic German/Bavarian Ale. It was perfect for the night of hanging out with work friends and enjoying some live music – fairly low in alcohol (5% ABV) and very flavorful. I enjoyed the beer so much I had three pints of it.

As noted above, I made two brewery visits in January, one of which was a long time coming – the official Grand Opening of Bolero Snort Brewery in Carlstadt, NJ. It was fairly easy to get there even if the brewery is a bit of a drive from me. You can see MetLife stadium from Bolero Snort’s enormous facility (one of the largest in the state). Great beers, awesome people, and a great atmosphere. Very much worth the visit.

Beer Review: BEE-R from Five Boroughs Brewing Co & All-Wise Meadery

Name: BEE-R
Brewing Company: Five Boroughs Brewing Co. / All-Wise Meadery
Location: Brooklyn, NY / Brooklyn, NY
Style: Lager – Helles
ABV: 5%

A complex and flavorful beer that showcases local innovation from two fine Brooklyn purveyors of adult beverages. 

From the untappd page for the beer:

This Honey Lager is our third collab with the cool cats over at All-Wise Meadery in Brooklyn. Brewed with delectable orange blossom honey, BEE-R is sessionable, smooth, and slightly sweet, powered by New York State malts and hops.

As close as I live to NYC, I haven’t had very many beers from the growing number of breweries in New York City’s five boroughs. I’ve been participating in a semi-monthly bottle share with some colleagues/friends from work and friends who once worked with all of us. On a recent bottle share, we did a Secret Santa and this was one of a handful of beers I received. To say this beer, a collaboration between a NYC brewery (Five Boroughs Brewing) and a NYC meadery (All-Wise Meadery) was a pleasant surprise is an understatement.

That’s how I received the beer. On to the beer itself…

The beer pours a beautiful golden-yellow from the 16oz can into the glass. It isn’t very clear but it isn’t also very hazy so I’m not sure how filtered the beer is. Regardless, it looks great. Aroma has a little bit of the honey, but nothing out of the ordinary….it smells like beer.

The first sip brings a smile to my lips…in a time of year when darker, heavier beers, are the norm, it is very refreshing to have such a full-flavored less-heavy* lager in my glass. I’ve only had a few different meads, not that this is mead…but I’ve had plenty of lagers and stylistically, this fits the bill very nicely. I get the crispiness of the lager, plus some bready characteristics typically associated with Lagers, Helles Lagers specifically. Underneath it all and completing the pleasant finish of the beer is sweetness from the honey.

*Blatantly avoiding the word “light” since that word brings so many negative connotations to Lager.

BEE-R has one of the most important qualities any beer needs to have – drinkability. An overused term, but a term that most definitely applies to this beer. There’s such an easy-going flavor profile to the beer, it is elegant and refreshing at the same time. Every time I put the glass down, I didn’t want to wait too long to pick it up and consume more because BEE-R is, to put it simply – a very tasty beer.

As a beer on its own merits – BEE-R is a standout. As a collaboration between a NY brewery and a NY Meadery that showcases NY ingredients, it is a home run.

I like the relatively simplistic label and the clever name, too. One of those obvious names that seems like somebody should have used it already for a beer that features honey as a prominent adjunct.

Highly recommended, link to 4 bottle-cap Untappd check in.

Draught Diversions: October 2019 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…

While I had quite a few new to me beers in October, a significant portion of those beers were from Icarus Brewing, which I highlighted earlier in the month. There were still a god swath of new beers that crossed my palate in October 2019, with a less than typical mix of NJ and non-NJ beers. In other words, only 2 New Jersey beers made the six pack this month. On other hand, that visit to Icarus Brewing and meet up the next day with my friend who manages the taproom, resulted in some delicious beers.

On to the top 6 “new-to-me” beers I had in October 2019…

Julius (Tree House Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

The IPA that put Tree House on the beer map. I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends who happen to have some extra Tree House beers, like my neighbor across the street. He was kind enough to give me a can and I am super pleased he did. This beer is quintessential IPA in the New England vein – juicy, tropical, but it still retains a significant traditional hop flavor.

The Carriagemaker (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | Pilsner – German | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Another month, another Czig Meister beer. I was pleased to see them release a Pilsner in cans, more pleased to grab some, and even more pleased with how the beer tasted. It hit all the notes I want a pilsner to hit – clean, crisp, refreshing with just enough of a hop presence to give the beer a full flavor.

NOKtoberfest (Rusty Rail Brewing Brewery Co) | Rye Beer | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Rusty Rail is one of many Pennsylvania breweries with distribution reach into NJ which has allowed me to enjoy a few of their beers over the years. NOKtoberfest is an interesting “anti-Oktoberfest” that has a little more spice and bit than an Oktoberfest. For starters, the beer is an ale, a Rye Ale, at that, so the style is different. Oktoberfests are typically lagers. Frankly, the only thing “Oktoberfesty” about the beer is the name. Still a good beer, which happens to feature some cool art on the label.


Dreadnought Dunkel (Tonewood Brewing)
| Lager – Munich Dunkel | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is only the second beer I’ve had from Tonewood (I reviewed their Freshies Pale Ale earlier in the year) and I’m impressed with this lager. I’ve been seeing more of their beers in the last couple of months so it is nice to see their distribution expanding. This beer is a really nice dark lager, reminiscent of the Dunkel I reviewed from von Trapp earlier in October. Dreadnought has a nice bready, almost pretzel-like, undercurrent. Another beer with cool art on the label.

Image courtesy of Yuengling’s web site. Where I had the beer (Hub City Brew House) was too dark for a good photo.

Hershey’s Chocolate Porter (Yuengling Brewing Company) | Porter – American | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first time I’ve really featured a Yuengling beer here in a monthly six-pack. After all, the largest craft brewery and oldest brewery in America doesn’t often brew new beers. This is a natural match; however – two of the biggest food names in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania coming together for a delicious beer. As of this writing, the beer is only available on draft, but it is worth seeking. I think Yuengling’s porter is a very under-rated interpretation on the style and this beer builds on that base beer. There’s a delicious chocolate flavor in the beer, but not overpowering by any means. Great stuff.

Cold Press Coffee Pumking (Southern Tier Brewing Company) | Pumpkin / Yam Beer | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd


To say that Southern Tier has a significant presence in the landscape of pumpkin beers is a great understatement. Their main Pumking is iconic take on the style and they’ve got a line of Pumking-adjacent beers. Last year, I reviewed the Rum Barrel version (delicious) so this year, I wanted to give this version a try. I’m glad I did because it puts a natural spin on the pumpkin ale by adding coffee. I’d say the only pumpkin-flavored beverage more popular (or derided) than pumpkin beer in the fall is pumpkin coffee. Be that as it may, I found the blend of coffee and pumpkin spices to be a very pleasant combination.

A couple of beers weren’t that great, including Scarecrow from Free Will Brewing, which is a wheat ale with pumpkin spices. Normally, this is a style I’d enjoy during this time of year, but Scarecrow had a very unpleasant aftertaste. For the first time in a while, a Dogfish Head beer was disappointing, American Beauty, their Grateful Dead pale ale. The bottle was a few months old so that could be why.

…and that puts a bow on my October 2019 Six Pack.