Draught Diversions: 12 Beers of Christmas (2018 Part 2)

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…

Here’s part two of the 12 Beers of Christmas 2018 I promised on Tuesday. Like that post (and all similar posts this year), this follows the six pack format. There’s a mix of beers I haven’t had, haven’t had in a few years, and a recent favorite.

Old Jubilation Ale – Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO)

This beer is one of the modern American Christmas classics. Though not technically a winter warmer like many Christmas beers, this one is more along the lines of an Old Ale/English Strong Ale. A high ABV of 8.3% makes this a long sipper and without having had this one yet (by the time I was looking for it in early December, stores had already sold out of their annual allotment), I imagine it would be similar to Founders’ Curmudgeon. I’ll have to keep my eyes open a little earlier next year if I want to grab some of this one.

What Avery says about the beer:

Our winter strong ale has a gorgeous mahogany hue, a hint of hazelnuts, and a finish reminiscent of mocha and toffee. No spices, just a perfect blend of five specialty malts.

For 2018 we used light brown sugar, raisins and figs to bring out caramelized sugar and dried fruit flavors. Also added to the boil is star anise, clove, cardamom and cinnamon. The spices balance and play nice with the caramelized sugars!

Corsendonk Christmas Ale – Brouwerij Corsendonk – (Antwerpen, Belgium)

Here’s the Obligatory Belgian Christmas beer for this list. I had this one for the first time last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I may have to grab some again before the Christmas season ends. I received a gift pack of this beer last year for Christmas, which included the glass in the picture above. Again, like many of the Belgian Christmas Ales, this one is categorized as “Belgian Strong Dark Ale.” I remember being really surprised that the ABV on this was 8.5%, but on the other hand, that could be a reason why the bottles are a little smaller (I think 8 or 9 oz).

About the beer:

Brewed with Pale, Munich and Caramunich malts; Kent Goldings hops. This is a rich, dark, joyous brew with which to celebrate the holiday season. It’s aroma of chocolate malt and spiciness is reminiscent of the wonderfull smells of holiday baking in Mom’s kitchen. Silky smooth on the palate, it’s predominantly malty, with smoky, spicy and citrusy notes and a long, lingering finish that is lightly tart and malty. Bottle conditioned for a fresh, lively taste. Round and well balanced, it’s a welcome addition for holiday tables and beyond.

Santa!! I Know Him! – Evil Genius Beer Company (Philadelphia, PA)

Image courtesy of Evil Genius’s Facebook page

A Saison is not your typical style of beer for Christmas, but Evil Genius (at least going by the clever the names) aren’t your typical brewery. I’ve enjoyed some of Evil Genius’s tasty beers over the years, but haven’t had a chance to give this one a try. Yet. The name for this beer is in homage to the modern classic of Yuletide films, Elf. Some interesting components are utilized in the brew process for this beer.

What Evil Genius says about this beer:

Festive Saison -Santa!! I Know him! is our holiday saison brewed with rose hips, chamomile, black currants and dark Belgian candi syrup. Deep, complex and intriguing, this bone-dry Belgian-style ale is sure to seduce you, or the one you’re with. Roses, chamomile, and currants have long been considered powerful aphrodisiacs, so we decided to combine them with mysterious and beguiling Belgian saison yeast. The result is something very special and sure to help spice up nights spent at home during the cold winter months. Have you been Naughty or Nice this year – or both?

Chrismukkah – 902 Brewing (Hoboken, NJ)

Image courtesy of 902 Brewing’s Facebook page

This is probably the newest beer in this post as I think 902 is debuting the beer this holiday season (December 4, according to their Facebook page, where I snagged the photo above). That said, it looks like it fits the bill with all the holiday spices and brownish hue. I’ve had only 2 beers from 902 Brewing and both were very good so hopefully, this beer continues that trend should I come across it.

What 902 Brewing says about the beer:

It’s the holiday season! What better way to warm up than this 7.6% winter ale? Brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, it’s hitting distro today. Well in time for your holiday needs! A nice treat for when the big man drops by on Christmas Eve, too!

2XMAS – Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, NY)

I haven’t had this one in a few years and the last time I had it, the beer was very spicy. Other times; however, I recall really enjoying it. I might have to locate some and give it a try this year, but the figs, cinnamon, and cloves in the brew process are flavor components I enjoy.

What Southern Tier says about the beer:

Spiced double ale with fig paste, orange peels, ginger root, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves

Swedish flags are a fairly common sight in our part of the country. Holiday parties often have warm concoctions of spices and booze at the ready to knock the ice off of toes while raising spirits. We were inspired by a “Glögg” party, deciding on the spot to brew a beer that pays tribute to this Nordic tradition.

2XMAS ale combines traditional brewing ingredients with figs, orange peels, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger root. It’s a holiday addition to the 2X line and another reason to toast to the season, but unlike Glögg, we recommend serving this one chilled.

Xocoveza – (Stout –Imperial Milk/Sweet) – Stone Brewing (Escondido, CA)

I had this beer for the first time last year and really enjoyed it, .I said at the time this beer is the closest beer I’ve had to one of my local favorites, Conclave’s Mexican Morning Stout. The beer emulates Mexican Hot Chocolate with peppers and cinnamon and if any beverage says Christmas morning then it would have to be Hot Chocolate. For 2018, Stone released the beer in cans.

What Stone says about the beer:

This is a beloved stout. When first introduced as a limited special collaboration release with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker (after his recipe won our annual homebrew competition) and Cerveceria Insurgente, it was an instant hit and fans began clamoring for its return. Seeing as how its amazing flavor profile is evocative of Mexican hot chocolate, featuring coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and a generous amount of our own in-house made chocolate, we concluded it was the perfect stout to re-release in celebration of the Holidays and the entire winter season. This is now a highly anticipated yearly tradition that we are pleased to present from us to you, and makes a perfect wintry gift from you to your friends, loved ones, or simply to yourself. Cheers!

So, 12 Christmas beers over the course of two posts this week here at The Tap Takeover. Any favorites out of these or any I missed?

Beer Review: Brooklyn Brewery’s Defender IPA

Name: Defender IPA
Brewing Company: Brooklyn Brewery
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Style: IPA – American
ABV: 5.5%

From Brooklyn Brewery’s landing page for the beer:

DEFEND BEER with Brooklyn Defender IPA, our heroically hopped golden IPA featuring strong notes of tropical fruit, well-muscled hop bitterness, and an incredibly dry finish. Cape not required.

Brooklyn Defender IPA is forged in collaboration with our sidekicks at New York Comic Con as the official beer of the convention. 

Brooklyn Brewery is one of the early leaders of the American Craft Beer scene having begun back in 1988. Their flagship beer, Brooklyn Lager is an iconic and very well-made Vienna Lager (think Sam Adams Boston Lager but more flavorful). When New York Comic Con was looking for an “official beer” about seven years ago, they probably thought what better brewery than Brooklyn? One can’t really argue that logic considering the quality of the brewery’s output under legendary Brewmaster Garrett Oliver and the brewery’s iconic status in New York (and the country for that matter).

I’ve been going to New York Comic Con every year for about the last five or six years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and in all that time, I’ve never had the beer. Chalk that up to an aversion to IPAs, but since I came round to IPAs over the last year, I knew I had to give this beer a try. Every year, Brooklyn changes up the label, but I don’t know if they change up the recipe. For the 2018 release, they crafted a very tasty beer.

2018 bottle and six pack art for Defender IPA. Courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery’s web site

The label calls this a “Golden IPA” and sure enough, the beer pours a bright gold/yellow. From the look, one could maybe mistake the beer for a Helles Lager. Well, until the aroma of the hops wafts off the glass.

First sip is a nice inviting burst of hops which matches up with what the aroma led me to expect. The hops aren’t overpowering, but they are definitely present. They let you know they are there and the major flavor component of the beer, but those hops aren’t shouting at you with aggressive assertiveness. There’s a dry finish to the beer, too. I found that to be a little unexpected, but not unwelcome.

I think the word I can use that best describes the beer is approachable. IPAs are the most popular style of “craft beer.” On the other hand, the style is what many folks who stick with the macro-produced lagers say keeps them away from craft beer. What Brooklyn has done with this beer is brew an extremely balanced beer that highlights the most prominent aspect of the IPA without it being too overpowering. Given the large attendance at New York Comic Con and the Geek Community in general, it is hard to argue with the formula Brooklyn used to brew this tasty beer.

All told, Defender IPA is a flavorful, approachable beer that works almost like a Session IPA. At 5.5% ABV, a couple of these would go well while you read or reread your favorite run of The Flash, Saga, WatchmenWonder WomanLocke & Key, or Monstress. I think this will be in regular rotation every October for me as a celebration of New York Comic Con.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75 Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Southern Tier’s Rum Barrel Aged Pumking

Name: Rum Barrel Aged Pumking
Brewing Company: Southern Tier Brewing Company
Location: Lakewood, NY
Style: Pumpkin / Yam Beer
ABV: 13.4%

From Southern Tier Brewing’s landing page for the beer:

Back in 2014 we had the good fortune of finding a cache of rum barrels which we quickly filled with Pumking making what was affectionately called “Rumking.” We were lucky to have found more barrels, and in 2018, found some of the best we’ve ever used. This batch is at least as delicious as versions past.

Imagine our inimitable Imperial Pumking Ale as the captain on the high seas, flying the Jolly Roger. The ‘King sails for ports unknown in this limited release. Rum Barrel Aged Pumking has been kept like secret treasure in the hollows of the brewery, patiently awaiting discovery. Yo ho ho!

Enjoy Rum Barrel Aged Pumking now, or keep it hidden standing upright in a dark and cool place until you can say ‘anchors aweigh!’

Drinkers who enjoy pumpkin beer, especially those in the Northeast, may have asked themselves when reading my post about pumpkin last week, “What not even one of Southern Tier’s Pumking offerings?” After all Southern Tier is one of the leading brewers of the “dessert beer / pastry stout” style of beers and Pumking has been making the rounds for over 10 years now (2007). Well, I’d wanted to try one of the variants for the past couple of years and decided to go with the biggest one of them all, the Rum Barrel Aged variant (represented by the Pirate Pumking on the far right in the image below).

The Pumking family of icons.

I’ve had the regular version, Pumking seemingly every other year and for a while Warlock was actually my favorite pumpkin beer (until they changed the recipe last year). It is still a good beer (or was last year), but enough about the other members of Pumking’s family. The remainder of this post focuses on Rum Barrel Aged Pumking, which is now part of the “Barrel House Series” at Southern Tier.

The beer pours a perfect golden orange, hinting at the pumpkin and rum flavor. As I brought the glass to my nose, I was punched in the face with the strong, sweet aroma of rum. When I gave another whiff, I was punched again by that sweet rum aroma. Did I mention the beer has a strong aroma of rum? Because there’s a lot of rum on the nose of this beer.

The nose doesn’t lie…my first sip was a big hit of rum, sweetness (maybe a little big of brown sugar?) and some pumpkin spice. Most of the barrel aged beers I’ve had are in the whiskey family – bourbon, rye, or whiskey. I typically don’t gravitate to rum, not that I don’t like it, just not my thing. But here, the rum is a welcoming warmth.

The pumpkin spices come in after the beer sits for a bit, and the full pumpkin character shines or glows. There’s a line of sweetness that the rum enhances in the typical pumpkin spice character, which makes for a really unique take on a pumpkin beer. Or at least for my palette and 50+ pumpkin beers I’ve consumed over the years.

Another thing I found impressive about the beer is that the character of the base beer – Pumking – is still very strong despite the big punch of rum. Pumking has always stood out from other pumpkin beers for me – something about the spice and nuttiness (I’d almost say pecan-like) sets it apart. This really is like Pumking turned up to 11, so if you like Pumking, chances are very good you’ll enjoy this beer.

I feel like the statement I’ve most often made on this blog is to let the beer warm and get closer to room temperature. Well, the statement applies here to the Rum Barrel Aged Pumking. To the point that I’d recommend letting the beer sit for five or ten minutes before fully enjoying it.

At 13.4% ABV, this is either one to share or enjoy over the course of an evening. I took almost the entirety of watching a really good horror movie (The Witch, a little over 90 minutes) to enjoy the beer. Given that letting the beer sit in the glass allows the beer to breathe and the flavors to come alive, you’ll want to take your time with it, too.

I’ve recounted how much I enjoy Southern Tier’s beer in the past, but this is the first “new to me” beer from them I’ve had in almost a year (last year’s new take on Warlock and 3 Citrus Peel Out) but overall, I’ve had nearly 30 beers from the venerable NY brewery and this is a standout from them and worth hunting down.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Gourd to the Last Drop (Level 11)

Fall is in the air and the holidays are just around the corner, but pies and jack-o-lanterns aren’t the only things pumpkins are good for. Pumpkin beers have grown in popularity, bringing with them a delicate balance of malt and spices. That’s 55 different beers with the style of Pumpkin / Yam!

 

Draught Diversions: May 2018 Six Pack

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

May was a long 31 days, with business travel overtaking much of the month. However, that travel did expose me to some beers I otherwise would not have been able to enjoy as those breweries don’t distribute into NJ. Despite that, I managed to have a few good NJ brews, too. The trek through the IPA section of the beer landscape continues as the style dominates this month’s post once again.

Bock Bier (von Trapp Brewing) Bock – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

I wrote about Bocks in April and have been on the hunt for this bock specifically since then as it I’ve seen good things about the Vermont brewery’s interpretation of the style. The beer is quite tasty, has a lot of the lager characteristics, but with an added caramelly flavor that was really pleasing.

Floridian Hefeweizen (Funky Buddha Brewery) Hefeweizen – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I was in the Miami area for business in early May and was really, really hoping I could actually get out to the Floridian brewing institution that is Funky Buddha. The schedule didn’t allow, but the hotel did have their flagship Hefeweizen on tap and I was extremely pleased (despite the overpriced $11 cost of pint!). That being said, Floridian Hefeweizen is a really delicious interpretation of the classic German wheat ale. I’d have this in my fridge in regular rotation if Funky Buddha distributed into New Jersey.

Punk in Drublic (Stone Brewing) India Pale Lager – 4.00 bottle Caps on untappd

Of the beers I had in May, this one might be the most surprising. Stone’s beers generally don’t align with my palate as I stray away from West Coast IPAs, but this was in a cooler at a friend’s party so I figured I’d try it. Boy was I pleased. I thought it tasted like a Pilsner with a pleasing malt roast so the beer went down really easily. I haven’t had too many IPLs outside of this one and the IPL Yuengling produced a few years back, but I’ll go for more now if I see them.

Fresh Squeezed IPA IPA – American – 3.50 bottle Caps on untappd

On draft at Holsteins Shakes and Buns Las Vegas in the Cosmopolitan Hotel

Sometimes a beer just isn’t right for you. With the name of this beer, I was expecting more of a citrusy/juicy profile, but the beer had more of a West Coast piney flavor. It wasn’t a bad beer, just not to my taste and probably the “new” beer of May I enjoyed the least. That said, a 3.50 rating on untappd is still a decent beer.

Moon Door (Conclave Brewing)– 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave’s logo for the beer on top, the beer freshly poured from a growler filled hours prior

Conclave has yet to disappoint me with any of the more than dozen beers I’ve had from them. This IPA features a more experimental hop (007Golden Hop) as well as Mosaic hops for a beautiful, citrusy IPA that is a perfect summer IPA. When I filled up the growler, I was chatting briefly with co-owner Carl and he said that’s one of the things they try to do with their IPAs, take a hop they haven’t used and brew it along with a familiar hop and Mosiac is a fairly prevalent, versatile hop. This is a beer I could drink all afternoon long. I brought a full growler to a small Memorial Day party at my parents’s house and the growler was finished in about 15 minutes. So. Damned. Good. Easily my favorite new beer of May.

Queen Genevieve. (Flounder Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Flounder is one of the smaller NJ breweries, one of the earliest microbreweries and one of the breweries closest to me, all of which I laid out in my post featuring the brewery. I also know a few of the folks who work and brew there. Since coming around on IPAs I’d been looking forward to trying this beer, the first the brewery canned and boy howdy is it a delicious, juicy IPA. All the great citrusy flavors and hop notes are present as the beer is a great example of an IPA in the “New England” style. Plus it has a great can design and is brewed in honor of brewer Brad’s grandmother. You’ll want this one if you see it on tap near you in New Jersey.

Beer Review: Evil Twin Brewing’s B is for BLUEBERRY

Name: B is for Blueberry
Brewing Company: Evil Twin Brewing
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Style: Sour – Gose
ABV: 4.5%

From the beer can’s label:

Let’s face it, we all like to put labels on things. It just makes us feel more comfortable. What assumptions have people made about you based on your race, gender, the way you dress, or even the beer you drink. We did in fact label this beer for your convenience. It has a fresh tartness, a twist of salt and balanced blueberry fruitiness – apparently a complete reflection of your personality. We hope you like what this label says about you?

Evil Twin Brewing has made a name for itself without having a brewery. Odd, right? Well, like Bolero Snort, whose BOVB I reviewed recently, Evil Twin is a gypsy brewery. In other words, they contract brew at brewing facilities around the nation. Although Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø’s brewery is based out of Denmark, since 2010 Jeppe has earned a great reputation for sought-after beers. This one is fairly new and part of a series of Gose ales featuring a fruit infusion. The first was “A is for Apricot.”

On to B is for Blueberry

I didn’t know what beer this was at first. Meaning, my wife occasionally gets me a mixed six pack from Wegman’s, pours the beer for me and has me guess what the beer is. The first, most noticeable element of the beer is that purplish-blueish color. Admittedly, the picture above is not the best beer picture I’ve taken.

After a whiff, I thought it might be a fruit beer, a Gose, or a Berliner Weisse as the aroma gave off hints of fruit and tart. First sip is the tartness of blueberry and a bit of saltiness. My wife picked a good one, I thought. I liked what was in the glass quite a bit.

“Is this a Gose?” I asked my wife. “Gozer the Gozerian?” she joked. She then showed me the can and confirmed my guess. As I continued enjoying the beer, the tartness of the blueberries coupled with their underlying sweetness and the salt all Gose beers have made for quite a drinkable beer. Drinkable, right? Well, by that I mean everything in the flavor profile made me want to keep drinking because of how thirst quenching the beer is.

The evening I was enjoying the beer was one of the rare warm spring days we’ve had this year. As such, the beer hit the spot perfectly. I think Goses make for great warm weather brews (a favorite is Victory’s Kirsch Gose) and B is for Blueberry most amply fits that bill. I can see enjoying this on a warm summer day; after mowing the lawn, doing some yard work, just relaxing in the hammock reading a good book, or poolside (my favorite spot to enjoy beer).

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Jeppe is the “Evil Twin” of Mikkel, who started Mikkeller Brewing in 2016, this feature at NY Times on the brothers in March 2018 is quite fascinating.

Image courtesy of MyBeerBuzz

Beer Review: Industrial Arts Brewing’s TOOLS of the TRADE

Name: Tools of the Trade
Brewing Company: Industrial Arts Brewing Company
Location: Garnerville, NY
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 4.9%

From the beers page of Industrial Arts Web site:

Snappy pink grapefruit, fresh and bright. Very highly drinkable.

While Industrial Arts Brewing may be fairly new, they opened about two years ago, brewmaster / owner Jeff O’Neill is far from new to the craft beer / brewing industry. The Flower Power IPA he created for Ithaca Brewing Company is renowned (listed  on VinePair as one of the 25 most important beers in American Craft beer history) and stints at Peekskill Brewing have given Industrial Arts an immediate cache within the craft beer community. After having two of their beers, it seems those expectations are well-founded. I enjoyed Metric, Industrial Art’s interpretation of a Pilsner last year, but this review focuses on Industrial Art’s delicious American Pale Ale – Tools of the Trade, also their flagship beer.

Crack of the can, pour of the beer and my glass is filled with a yellow-orange beer that looks slightly lighter (or even clearer) than I’d expect a Pale Ale to look, especially one labeled as an XPA. Inhaling the beer, I sensed hops with a piney and slightly bitter citrus profile. I was reminded a bit of the Sierra Nevada’s iconic Pale Ale (the #1 beer on that list I linked in the previous paragraph).

First sip is a really nice blast of hops and a good balance of citrus notes that match the aroma with a enough of malt  backbone to hold it all together. Again, similar to Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. That’s a compliment for those keeping track at home of the tasting notes. What makes this beer stand above Sierra; however, is the more prominent citrus characteristics. Some sweetness of grapefruit, maybe? A little bit of lemon, too, maybe. Whatever citrus fruits were evoked by the hops, they were very pleasing to my palate.

As I continued to enjoy the beer, that citrus/hop profile grew stronger and more pronounced. The (there’s the dreaded word again) mouthfeel was a little creamy at first. Tools of the Trade is a beer that you want to enjoy quickly, from the first sip to the sadness that the bottom of a beer glass / can / bottle once filled with delicious liquid always symbolizes.

Tools of the Trade is an immensely refreshing beer, a pleasant, yet subtle bite from the hops, a citrus flavor that encourages you to not let the beer sit undrunk for too long. I’ve mentioned my dislike for grapefruit in the past, so I’m slightly surprised at how pleasing the citrusy/hop profile of this beer is for my palate given that grapefruit is called out in the brewery’s description of the beer.

If I’m being even more honest, a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this beer. Only over say, the last six months, have I come to enjoy and appreciate hop-forward beers like Pale Ales and IPAs. What makes Tools of the Trade stand out so strongly is the pure elegance of the beer – standard ingredients with a focus on a honed, high-quality process to produce a remarkably well-balanced and delicious beer you’d like to have in your refrigerator in constant rotation.

Last week, I wasn’t sure what beer I would be picking up at the store, there wasn’t a new major release that was grabbing my attention. Then I listened to the third anniversary episode of the great Steal This Beer podcast and Jeff O’Neil (dubbed Chief by hosts Augie Carton and John Holl) was a guest. Luckily, my local beer stop had some of this beer in their fridge and here we are.

Strong Recommendation, link to Untappd 4-star rating.