Beer Review: Free Will Brewing’s Crisper

Name: Crisper
Brewing Company: Free Will Brewing Co.
Location: Perkasie, PA and Lahaska/Peddler’s Village, PA
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.4%

A flavorful take on the classic German Style. Every brewery should have a Kölsch like this in their lineup

A bright, clean beer looks even brighter with the sun shining on it.

From Free Will Brewing’s page for the beer:

A clean and crisp cold-fermented ale brewed in keeping with German tradition.

I think the Kölsch is one of the more overlooked and underrated styles of beer. Not exactly obscure, but not many people are out hunting for the latest Kölsch the way people hunt and gather new IPAs and Stouts. It is a style every brewery should have in their portfolio and every small brewery should have on tap – it is the beer style that “tastes like a beer” and a great style to draw people into craft beer. I’ve made the following comparison a couple of times when discussing the style in beer circles: a Kölsch is an ale that is similar to a pilsner. The comparison is apt (and I said this without initially knowing) that Kölsch ales are conditioned at colder temperatures the same way lagers are. In terms of being flavorful and enjoyable, Free Will nailed the style. Let’s start at the beginning, and answer the question, “Why did I enjoy this beer so much?”

Let’s look at the color, first. I was fortunate to get a perfect ray of sunlight to shine on this beautiful golden ale when I took my photo. Almost clear, bright golden-yellow with a nice head – you tell people to conjure up an image of “beer” and I’d bet 8 out of 10 people might have an image like the photo I snagged in their heads. I no longer have any cans of the beer in my fridge, but looking at that photo makes me wish I did.

So, like I said the beer looks inviting. Aroma is very clean and the first sip is extremely refreshing – I get a little bit of that pilsner/lager hint from the beer, but there’s some definite hints of fruitiness in the beer, too. I keep thinking to myself that this is a damned good beer with each successive sip or gulp of the beer. The most appropriate word I can think of to describe this beer is “clean.” There’s just a nice, well-rounded “beer flavor” to the beer that makes it work so well for me.

I like to have a lighter beer with my Friday pizza and this paired perfectly. Some beers pair specifically with certain types of foods, Crisper is a beer that has solid flavor of its own, but won’t intrude on any food you’re eating while enjoying the beer.

The ABV on this, like most Kölsch/ Kölsch style ales is pretty low at 4.4%. A beer for “session” drinking, a four pack you can enjoy over the course of a long afternoon or evening that will likely not dump you on your rear end. But unlike the big mass-produced beers at this ABV, this Kölsch is extremely flavorful. You’ll want to drink the beer for the flavor and not suffer through inferior taste. This beer has continued my personal trend of enjoying flavorful, low ABV beers.

If hasn’t become clear by now with many of my reviews and posts, then Pennsylvania – a neighbor state to New Jersey – has a great many breweries (the most beer produced per state) and I’ve been enjoying quite a few of those breweries. Peddler’s Village is a Buck’s County shopping destination and a couple of years ago, Free Will Brewing opened up a Tap Room in the center of the great outdoor village. A great spot that has been at maximum capacity the few times I’ve visited Peddler’s Village over the last couple of years. It doesn’t hurt that Peddler’s Village allows people to walk around with their cup of beer…and Crisper from Free Will is a damned fine beer to enjoy whilst walking around the lovely sights of Peddler’s Village. Again, flavorful with a low enough ABV that one pint won’t prevent you from driving home.

Peddler’s Village is about a half hour from my house, so when my wife had to go to one of the specialty shops while I was at work, she thoughtfully brought back a four pack of Crisper. She said she remembered me saying I like the style and figured it would be perfect for the summer. I married very well, to say the least because I couldn’t have been happier with this beer. If anything, it exceeded my expectations. Bottom Line: a Kölsch this good should be a staple in every brewery’s lineup.

Recommended link to Untappd 4 Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Neshaminy Creek’s Cherry Berlinerweisse

Name: Cherry Berlinerweisse
Brewing Company: Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company
Location: Croydon, PA
Style: Sour – Berliner Weisse
ABV: 3.5%

Tart, yet refreshing. A flavorful beer that makes you pucker, but sweet enough to make you want more.

A warm day by the pool is a perfect way to enjoy this beer.

From Neshaminy Creek’s page for the beer:

German-Style Summer Ale Conditioned on Tart Cherry Juice from King Orchards of Michigan.

Refreshing and tart with a balanced Cherry and cracker-like malt backbone, simple yet well defined, we’ve never brewed a beer this perfect for the Summer before, and we hope you agree..

This past weekend, Neshaminy Creek Brewing was hosting the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market. My wife and I went, having had a good time when visited the Flea Market in the past when they set up in (shocker!) Trenton. With Trenton being just a short ride over a bridge to Pennsylvania, the Flea Market has set up shop at Neshaminy Creek Brewing in Croydon, PA in the past. So, considering how much I’ve enjoyed Neshaminy Creek’s beers and the Flea Market had a day set in August at Neshaminy Creek Brewing, we knew we were going. I also knew I was going to walk out of there with something to take home. Keeping with a theme of lower ABV beers I’ve been following, I grabbed a four pack of this beer upon my wife’s suggestion. She knows I like the style and figured it would be a good summer beer. She doesn’t drink beer, but she’s extremely observant of what I like and when I ramble on about beer.

Short story: my wife was right about the beer. Long story: let me expand upon that.

I’ve had my fair share of Berliner Weisses, about 20, not nearly as many as I’ve had of Pilsner, Stouts, or IPAs. But enough to have a good idea of what I like in the style, what to expect. That’s just a precursor for where I come from when it comes to the style.

There was a huge pop when I cracked open the can. The funk aroma coming of the beer was welcome and gave me an indication that this beer was crafted fairly well. The beer pours out a reddish pink, which is exactly as expected given the beer was made with cherries. So far, so good.

First sip is potent, tart cherry. Maybe the most tart of any beer I’ve had with cherries. The yeast and acidic bacteria at play in the beer likely enhanced the natural tartness of the cherries. This is all good.

The tartness lingers throughout the progression of the flavors, but becomes less pronounced once the sweetness takes over. This beer is supremely tart, but extremely flavorful aside from the tartness. Fortunately, the tart/sour components don’t overpower the other flavor elements even they if are the most prominent elements of the beer. Many Berliner Weisse beers have some kind of sweet fruit – or traditionally in Berlin, a sweet syrup is added as I pointed out in my feature on the style – to balance the tartness. Using a fruit that exhibits both components – very sweet and tart, is a fine way to hew along that tradition and plays well into the base elements of the beer.

I probably should have let the beer sit in the fridge or on ice a little longer than I did, I was too eager to try it. Although the beer came from a fridge at the brewery, that fridge was constantly being opened and closed as the brewery was VERY packed with people, customers who were buying cans of beer, so the beer wasn’t at optimal coldness to begin with AND I’m about an hour drive from the brewery. Long story short (too late), I may have enjoyed it more were it colder, and it may have taken a little longer to warm outside if the beer was colder when I poured it. Be that as it may, the beer was still quite good.

I wanted to give this beer the full chance to shine, so I had a second can the following day. Just like the first can, it popped big time, the sugars and yeast making for quite a bit of pressure and a big fluffy head. I tasted even more than what I expected from the interpretation of the style – the tartness of the cherries popped a little more and carbonation was more fizzy. Both pleasing elements of the beer. It isn’t a beer you can chug (and really, who wants to chug a beer with this much flavor!), but with the low ABV, it is a flavorful ale with a low enough ABV (3.5%) that having three in quick succession would likely not knock you on your rear end.

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s highest profile beers are their IPAs, particularly The Shape of Hops to Come, one of the most acclaimed Imperial IPAs from the East Coast. However, in Cherry Berlinerweisse, Neshaminy Creek has brewed a flavorful, sour & tart Germanic inspired ale that shows off a similar level of complexity and a beer well-suited to warm weather and poolside sipping (as my picture above shows).

Neshaminy Creek has always had very eye-catching artwork on their cans and when they did a “rebrand” earlier in the year, they reached out to their longtime artist JP Flexner to help out. The art on the can below is shows a battle between (I’m guessing) the yeast, lactic acid bacteria, and cherries that give the beer its complex flavor all tamed by a brave undersea diver who just might be a brewer.

Cool can, tasty beer. What more do you need?

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s beers are available in PA, NJ, MD, and DE.

Recommended link to Untappd 3.75-Bottle Cap rating.

Draught Diversions: July 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…

The first week of July is often one of the biggest month for beer sales, people want to fill their coolers for the summer or help fill their friends’ coolers for summer parties. As readers of this blog know, I’ve had a pool party/BBQ/family party for the last five years on the Fourth of July. People tend to bring beer for that, although I tend to get the cooler started with some beers I enjoy that I expect many other people will like. The “Cooler Foundation” pic is below, and the beer that proved the most popular was Sunshine Pils from Tröegs, only one from that 12 pack remained in the cooler by the end of the day. Of course, I had one or two myself.

OK, on to my Six Pack for July 2019…

SuperEIGHT (Dogfish Head Brewing Company) | Sour – Gose – Fruited | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

By now it is clear I can’t get through more than a month or two without having a really good “new to me” beer from Dogfish Head. This is something of a “sequel” beer to their smash hit SeaQuench and is equally refreshing. For all the fruit included in the making of this beer, the level of sweetness is perfect, not cloying, and balanced by a sourness/tartness. This was the first beer of the day for me and my only regret was putting just one six pack of the beer in my cooler, rather than 2 six packs because the six pack was gone early in the Fourth of July celebration..

Cloud Walker Hazy Juicy IPA (Victory Brewing Company) | IPA – New England | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

As the New England/Hazy IPA continues to be the hottest style, especially with local/independent brewers, the larger brewers have been making attempts at the keeping up. Victory’s take on the style is probably the best of the larger brewery’s attempts at the style that I’ve had and an overall superb beer. The Citra and Mosaic are *perfectly* blended and the beer is a wonderful, juicy, hoppy delight. I hoped and expected to enjoy the beer, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. Victory has really come out strong this year with some of their new beers to go along with their rebranding.

Half-Timbered (Kane Brewing Company) | Bock – Single / Traditional | 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been managing to have more Kane as of late, and this is certainly an interesting beer. Most barrel-aged beers are stouts, and if they are bocks aged in barrels, you tend to see higher ABV dopplebocks. But Kane doesn’t always hew along such lines. The bourbon barrel aging really enhances the sweet and caramel notes naturally inherit in the bock. This is a different, but very good beer that is a classic style (bock) with the added enhancement of a relatively modern technique of barrel aging.

Clearly Pils (Conclave Brewing) | Pilsner – Czech | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

When I realized Conclave brewed-up another Pilsner, I had to make a (very short) trip to the brewery. As it so happened, I visited on their 4th anniversary, but by the time I arrived, the 4th Anniversary IPA cans were sold out and the keg was tapped. Fortunately, the Pilsner was still available and it was a wonderful reward for a long day doing work in my yard. This beer does everything a pilsner should do and the Saaz hops so emblematic of a Pilsner are showcased beautifully.

Kristallwessbier (Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan)| Kristallweizen | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd


A Kristallweizen is a filtered Hefeweizen, so there’s no particulate or haziness to the beer. Much of the flavor remains and Weihenstephaner’s version is probably the gold standard. I haven’t had too many versions of the style, but I enjoy it. However, I prefer the standard, unfiltered Hefeweizen. I figured I needed to have a German beer in the boot glass one of my work team members got me as a souvenir on his honeymoon.

India Ale (Samuel Smith Brewing Co.) | IPA – English | 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd


One of the oldest breweries in the world, I’ve got to think Samuel Smith’s IPA, or India Ale, is one of the earliest or longest continuously available India Pale Ales in the world. Some friends came over and brought me a four pack, he said he wanted to get me something I many not have had. He succeeded and I was pleasantly surprised with this beer. Very flavorful and once you realize it isn’t quite like the New England hazies or the West Coast IPAs, then you can appreciate what a good beer this is.

Of course, there were some clunkers in the month. As I said earlier, people tend to bring beer to the party on the Fourth of July and one dud happened to be from Pinelands Brewing Company, 08087 their most popular IPA. My company’s annual sales conference was in Orlando and I had a dud or two down there, particularly Bleach Blonde Ale from 3 Daughters Brewing. On the other hand, while not exactly new, I finally had the new, tweaked Prima Pils from Victory and it was fantastic. I always loved the beer and the tweaked version has a slightly lower IBU but still a wonderful, flavorful Pilsner.

Beer Review: Tröegs Raspberry Tart Ale

Name: Raspberry Tart Ale
Brewing Company: Tröegs Independent Brewing
Location: Hershey, PA
Style: Sour – Gose
ABV: 4.5%

“The second beer in Tröegs’s Tart & Fruit Series is fantastic, a beer whose component ingredients are in nearly perfect harmony with each other.”

 

From Tröegs’s page for the beer:

Tart red raspberries are the star of this refreshing show. A first fermentation with lactobacillus gives this beer its pucker, while a second pass with our house ale yeast produces soft, fruity esters. A hint of Himalayan pink salt amplifies the flavor of tart raspberry jam, and coriander adds delicate notes of wildflowers.

We taste: tart raspberry jam, wildflowers, hint of salt

Tröegs gets quite a lot of love here on the Tap Takeover, a personal top 4 brewery in 2018 plus fairly frequent appearances in my monthly Six Packs. However, it has been almost two years since I reviewed one of their beers. This past year; however, Tröegs started a new beer series in the same way they have a Hop Cycle for their quarterly/seasonal IPA. This new series is their take on Goses and Gose-adjacent beers, the Tart & Fruit Series.

Image courtesy of Tröegs web site

Popping open the can, I get a whiff of raspberry and some of the tartness resulting from the lactobacillus. The picture above doesn’t do justice to the reddish hue coming off the beer. Since pictures can’t convey smell, either, you can’t smell sweet and tart aroma from the raspberries.

I taste raspberries immediately, but not an overpowering assault on the senses. Sometimes raspberries can do that and dominate whatever thing they are in, be it dessert, beer, or any food. While definitely a dominant flavor component, other elements of the beer do come to the fore.

The description calls out coriander and the flavor of wildflower, maybe that sweetness balances out the tartness of the raspberries and the lactobacillus but they weren’t distinct flavor components in and of themselves.

The finish of the beer has the characteristic salinity for which Goses are known, and probably the component I liked best. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the raspberries and they are the star of the show here, but the “Himalayan Pink Sea Salt” is the ingredient that brings the beer home and gives it that pleasant Gose characteristic.

Image courtesy of Tröegs website

This Raspberry Tart Ale was part of a seasonal mix pack for the summer, Greetings From Tröegs (15 beers comprised of 3 cans of 5 varieties), along with a Helles Lager I’ve been wanting to try for more than a year, but the beer is also available in six packs. I can see myself getting a sixer of this and trying to track down the first beer in this series, the Boysenberry Tart Ale.

I haven’t had as many Goses as other styles that I like this much (i.e. Bocks, Stouts, etc), but this one – Raspberry Tart Ale from Tröegs – definitely ranks near the top of not just the recent Goses I’ve had, but all of them. It is a reminder that I need to go for the style more often because the style is super refreshing and has several enjoyable flavor elements – sweet, tart, salty, and beer. Tröegs has shown expertise with several styles, IPAs, of course, as well as darker beers, barrel-aged wild beers and now Gose.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

What Gose Round (Level 5)

First brewed in the early 16th century, this peculiar flavored beer has made quite the come back. With a tart, salty combination, your taste buds are probably still tingling… and excited for more!

Draught Diversions: Summer 2019 6 Pack

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…

With the official kick off of summer, Memorial Day, behind us, I may be a little tardy in putting up a Summer Six pack, but life’s been a little busy this time of year for me. Be that as it may, since a post about Summer Beers was the very first Draught Diversion I posted/published, I want to continue the tradition. There are so many light and flavorful options for Summer, I could probably do a case’s worth of Summer Six packs. Like last year, not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer. For example, I think  a crisp Pilsner or Helles Lager can make for wonderful summer brews.

Summer Catch | Witbier | 5.5% ABV | Cape May Brewing Company | Cape May, NJ

Two years in a row for Cape May Brewing in my summer, six pack. I’ve since had and enjoyed the Cape May beer in my Summer Six Pack from 2018/last year. However, this one says “Summer” in the name. Witbiers, for me, are always a good option for summer/warm weather months. Light yet flavorful, works great at a barbecue or by the pool. When done well, it can be an elegant and classic style. I haven’t had this one yet, but that will likely change as I expect to have this in my cooler in the summer.

What Cape May says about the beer:

Citrusy and refreshing, notes of orange peel and tropical fruits dominate this Belgian-style Wheat Ale. Lightly dry-hopped with Citra and Amarillo hops to give it a noticeably American twist, this crushable wheat ale is complex, yet approachable, just like the Jersey Shore.

Salt and Sea | Sour – Gose | 4.3% ABV | Flying Fish Brewing Company | Somerdale, NJ

Image courtesy of Flying Fish’s Facebook

Like Cape May Brewing Company, I featured a brew from the venerable NJ brewery last year for this post, so I figured why not again? Especially since Flying Fish has continued to smartly evolve their portfolio and this beer screams summer on its label, description, and name. Salt & Sea evokes beach and a Ferris Wheel screams boardwalk, both scream summer as does the low ABV. I picked up a six pack of this and really enjoy the beer, not too tart and not as sour as a typical Gose, but quite flavorful.

What Flying Fish says about the beer:

Memories are made by the sea, and this Session Sour is inspired by evenings on the boardwalk. Enticing aromas of strawberry and lime evoke hints of salt water taffy, providing a souvenir twist to this unique style.

Blood Orange Wheat | Shandy/Radler | 4.0% ABV | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Framingham, MA

Image courtesy of Jack Abby’s blog

This is part of Jack Abby’s year-round line-up, but really works for summer. Shandy/Radlers are great for summer consumption, the lemonade/fruit addition to the beer is a natural mix to refresh and cool down after yard work or relaxing by the book. Enough flavor to satisfy, but low enough in ABV to allow for a long session of thirst quenching. This beer is a big seller for Jack’s Abby and is strongly positioned for the summer, especially those big pool and barbeque gatherings with the availability in 15 packs. Jack’s Abby has an interesting story on their blog about this beer, where they say Blood Orange Wheat combines blood orange seltzer with a wheat lagerJack’s Abby is one of the most respected breweries focusing on German styles in New England and a Radler (the German word for bicycler or cyclist) is always a great warm weather style.

What Jack’s Abby says about the beer:

Blood Orange Wheat debuted in our Beer Hall and it quickly became a fan favorite. This German-style radler is fruit forward, juicy and bloody refreshing. Lean back and enjoy!

Cruise Control Helles Lager | Lager – Helles | 4.8% ABV | Two Roads Brewing Company | Stratford, CT

Image courtesy of Two Roads’s facebook

This is the newest year-round beer from Two Roads and one of the few lagers in their portfolio. I’ve come to trust just about everything out of the great Connecticut brewery and this beer is something of a cousin to their Ol’ Factory Pils. I haven’t had this beer yet, but I definitely see it on the road of my future.

What Two Roads says about the beer:

An effortlessly refreshing golder lager built for kicking back and taking it easy down the Road Less Traveled.

Kölsch | Kölsch | 5.0% ABV | von Trapp Brewing | Stowe, VT

Image courtesy of von Trapp’s Facebook

A Kölsch is a really underrepresented and underappreciated style of beer. The umlaut should tell you this is a beer with German origins and von Trapp is the other pnomiment breweries in the New England brewing German style beers. One comparison I made to a local brewer is Kölsch is  an ale that drinks almost like a pilsner, he nodded in agreement. Light/easy drinking, flavorful and refreshing, this is another one I’ll be seeking out. That plus the fact that von Trapp slaps “Summer Session Ale” on the label proclaims this as von Trapp’s Summer seasonal.

What von Trapp says about the beer:

Kölsch is a style of ale that famously originated in Cologne, Germany. A true summer session ale, this Kölsch utilizes German Tettnanger and Hallertau Hops, that combine to provide a hoppy explosion packed in every can

Summer Crush | Pale Wheat Ale – American | 5.0% ABV | Yards Brewing Company | Philadelphia, PA

Image courtesy of Yard’s Facebok

It isn’t too often when the venerable Philadelphia brewery releases a new beer, but Yards has done just that with Summer Crush this year. In general, the style of the Pale Wheat Ale is kind-of-sort-of an Americanized Hefeweizen. The description Yards puts out for this reminds me a bit of Samuel Adams Summer Ale or even Bell’s Oberon Ale, both classic Summer Ales. A good thing, if you ask me. Since you’re here, I suppose you are sort of asking me.

What Yards says about the beer:

JUICY, MELLOW, REFRESHING

NEW IN 2019!

The moment it hits your lips, there you are. Summer Crush is an easy drinking, flavorful Wheat Beer with a juicy citrus finish that transports you to bright summer days and hot summer nights. Brewed with orange and lime zest, this crushable delight brings the refreshment to the shore, the front stoop, the rooftop, and everywhere else you celebrate summer.

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Draught Diversions: March 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…

March rolls in and maybe because February is always shorter, March seemed like an extremely long month this year. The upside is that I managed to enjoy a lot of good beer during the third month of the year. It wasn’t quite as easy to trim the new beers down to six for the monthly recap as a result. Four of these beers are from New Jersey breweries. Two beers are Belgian Quadrupels, with two stouts, too. March will make it two months in a row that I haven’t included an IPA in the monthly six pack. Onward we go…

Whiskey Barrel Stout (Boulevard Brewing Co) Stout – American Imperial / Double – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

I don’t think I’ve had a bad beer from Boulevard. In fact, most beers I’ve had from the great Kansas City brewery have been excellent. This big boozy stout is near the top of that list. Boulevard brews a handful of barrel aged beers including their Bourbon Barrel Quad which I reviewed last year. This Whiskey Barrel Stout is sweet, complex, with a good hit of booziness. The beer has all of that going on without forsaking any of the base stout flavors of the beer. As good a barrel-aged stout as you’ll find

Blasphemy (Weyerbacher Brewing Company) Belgian Quadrupel – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Weyerbacher is known for brewing big, strong beers. Their standard Quad is delicious, but to kick up another notch, they let it age in bourbon barrels. This is a super boozy beer, but really complex with vanilla laced throughout the flavor profile and quite sweet overall. This 750mL is one to share, I had a tough time finishing it myself. In fact, I’d like to see this in a 500mL bottle or four packs.

Paragon of Light (Czig Meister) Belgian Tripel 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Anytime I can sneak Sully into these photos, I will.

Czig Meister has such a diverse portfolio of beers, crafting beer in nearly every style. They have a nice and interesting barrel-aging program, which produced this beer. I typically don’t go for wine barrel aged beers, but the fruitiness of the wine barrel works really nicely with the yeast and other elements of the Belgian Tripel. I can’t say I’ve had many Tripels, or many beers overall to match the flavor profile exhibited by Paragon of Light, but I can say I liked what was going on in this beer quite a bit.

2190 Anniversary Ale (Kane Brewing Company) Belgian Quadrupel – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Bottle image half courtesy of Kane’s Facebook, Right half my photo

I haven’t enough beer from Kane in my life. They aren’t exactly super far, but they aren’t exactly close either at about 50 miles away from my house. So when Project P.U.B. in Somerville (less than 10 miles away vs 50+ miles away) featured Kane as their monthly brewery in March, I had to stop in at least once. Project P.U.B. is a fascinating concept, they are a bar that is essentially a month-long tap takeover. March 2019 was ALL Kane beers, in the past, they’ve featured Bell’s for a month, Founders, and Oskar Blues, among others. I was especially eager to visit when I saw one of the “rare pourings” was this Anniversary Quadrupel and oh my is this a delicious beer. Lots of booziness from the barrel-aging up front, but as the backend of the beer finishes off, none of the Quadrupel elements are lost. A nearly perfectly barrel aged quadruple if I’ve ever had one.

MooDoo Doll (Bolero Snort Brewery Company) Stout – Imperial / Double 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

Top half my photo, bottom half courtesy of Bolero Snort

I saw Bolero posting about this beer on their social media pages and was intrigued but I was also a little hesitant to give it a try. I’ve liked a lot of their beer, but for whatever reason, when they add Madagascar Vanilla to their big stouts, I find that the Madagascar Vanilla overtakes all the other flavor components and leaves an unwelcome aftertaste. This beer…this beer is just pure delicious. Maybe the lemon zest they add to evoke the Mardi Gras King Cake flavor was the key to cutting the vanilla. Regardless, this beer was the highlight of the month for me and it just might be my favorite beer from Bolero Snort.

Cape May Lager (Cape May Brewing Company) Lager – Pale 4 bottle caps on untappd

The first widely available lager from Cape May Brewing Company and it is damned good. Good malt balance, with a great amount of Saaz hops, the classic, Noble hops. “Craft Lagers” are becoming more prevalent, especially from some of the larger regional breweries and Cape May is the second largest in New Jersey. Cape May Brewing has a great post that details this beer from conception to what you find on shelves, and it highlights how delicate it can be to make what is considered a “simple” beer. I’d slot this on the same shelf as Carton’s This Town as the two best Lagers brewed in New Jersey. I’ll likely have a couple of six packs of this one in my cooler throughout the summer.

While it may seem I loved every beer I had in March, I had a couple that weren’t so good. I had Boulder Beer Company’s Mojo IPA which was undrinkable. The date was fine, the beer is highly rated, so maybe I had a bad batch. Either way, it was just plain bad. I’ll also add that this year’s Nugget Nectar from Tröegs was absolutely delicious. I liked it the first time I had it a few years ago, but this year’s vintage was the first I had since began appreciating hop-forward beers. On draught, it was outstanding.

Beer Review: Victory Brewing’s Twisted Monkey

Name: Twisted Monkey
Brewing Company: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downingtown, PA
Style: Blonde Ale – Belgian Blonde / Golden
ABV: 5.8%

Though still cool in early spring, Twisted Monkey is the type of beer that has you yearning for warmer days

From Victory Brewing’s page for the beer:

Belgian-Style Blonde Ale with Mango

Born into a family of mystical monkeys, this light-hearted sibling brings a twisted spin to the bunch. Hearing about the flavorful excitement that the overgrown jungle had to offer, he set out to explore. It was a sensory overload, and he had to try it all. His favorite – the mango. Introducing hints of his favorite fruit to the same imported malts and Belgian yeast favored by the family, this magical ale results in big flavor refreshment that only the Monkey can deliver.

The great Victory Brewing company (a member of Artisanal Brewing Ventures) is beginning their 23rd year with a re-branding of their whole line of beers. Part of that unified branding is, of course, the launch of some new beers. Building on the success and quality of what is arguably their flagship or bestselling beer, Golden Monkey, Ron and Bill have brewed Twisted Monkey. Twisted Monkey is the latest in the Monkey family, following Sour Monkey, Sour Monkey Remix, and White Monkey. A smart move, if you ask me – build on something successful but with a twist, if you will.

A disclaimer of sorts: Aside from maybe 2 or 3 out of the three dozen or so beers I’ve had from Victory, I’ve enjoyed them all. I don’t know if that’s a bias going into trying this beer, but I figured I’d put it out there to be transparent. I’ve also come to realize beers that are simply “Golden Ales” rarely work for me, “Blonde Ales” usually do work, but if the beer is a “Belgian Golden” or “Belgian Blonde,” chances are I will enjoy it.

As the style would imply, the beer pours a deep golden from bottle to glass. The beer looks really pleasing. I get the strong hints of the Belgian-style yeast from the beer, maybe a little sweetness, but not mango specifically.

I get a hit of sweetness to start and through most of the beer. The finish has a slight sour edge and then a very similar spicy finish to the great Golden Monkey. The mango is definitely present, no doubt. More mango than the aroma would lead you to believe, but fortunately, I really like mango (I have a glass of mango juice every day). For me, the mango wasn’t overpowering.

Belgians have been utilizing various fruits in the brewing process as long as they’ve been brewing beer, the Lambic style of beer almost always features some kind of fruit component, for example. Not sure how many beers made in Belgium used mangoes, but this Belgian style golden from Victory uses the fruit generously; the sweetness from the mango complements the yeast very nicely. I had two more bottles of the beer in the days after first having the beer and I liked it better each time I had it.

The first Victory beer I featured here was Blackboard Series #6 Peach Belgian Blonde with Coriander, a beer I enjoyed a great deal and miss now that it is gone. I would argue that Twisted Monkey can be seen as a cousin to that beer while also sitting firmly in the growing Monkey family Victory is establishing. This is a great beer to hand to somebody who is put off by the aggressive hoppiness of many of the IPAs being brewed today. This is also a beer that I think would please people who enjoy  Belgian Golden/Belgian Blondes, especially if they enjoy that style on the sweeter side.

Where would I drink this? Rather, where wouldn’t I drink this beer? I can see this beer working really well in the summer – refreshing, sweet, and relatively low in alcohol (5.8% ABV) so having a couple won’t go to your head too quickly. You may want to give this one an initial try/taste not alongside a dinner, but on its own. Sweetness can be subjective, so for some palates, this beer could potentially overpower any other tastes in your mouth or just be too sweet in general. If, like me, you enjoy mango this beer should work nicely for you.

Some of the comments I saw on untappd and on other sites like Beer Advocate had me a bit worried, that the beer might be just a full on mango-bomb. The beer tastes as good as I hoped it would and not as sweet and cloying as I worried it might so those fears and that hesitancy was largely unfounded. Like I said initially, I’ve enjoyed the majority of the three dozen beers I’ve had from Victory Brewing so I shouldn’t have been too surprised this one worked for me as well as it did.

Bottom line: I like this one a lot and can foresee this being in my refrigerator regularly and my cooler by the pool in the summer.

Untappd badges earned with this beer:

Fields of Gold (Level 9)

Sometimes you need a break from all the hops, fruits, and spices. What better way than with a crisp, smooth Blonde Ale or Golden Ale? Basic but delicious.

Recommended link to Untappd 4 Bottle Cap rating.

Image courtesy of victorybeer.com