Beer Review: Tonewood Brewing’s Freshies

Name: Freshies
Brewing Company: Tonewood Brewing
Location: Oaklyn, NJ
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 5%

“The growing NJ brewery’s flavorful, hoppy take on the classic American Pale Ale is well-worth a spot in your cooler/refrigerator..”

From the Untapped page for Freshies:

Freshies – 5.0% ABV – American Pale Ale – A soft and crushable Pale Ale brewed with Wheat and hopped with Simcoe, Amarillo, and Cascade hops.

Tonewood Brewing opened up in 2015 and has been brewing well-received beer since then. Located in Oaklyn, NJ,  they aren’t exactly close to me, so I was very pleased to see a few of their beers at one of the three liquor stores at a major intersection on my commute home. Keeping to my recent trend of mostly lower ABV beers towards which I’ve been gravitating, I grabbed a six pack of Freshies with its relatively low 5% ABV.

Cracking open the can and pouring the beer into the glass, a pleasant hop aroma wafts to my nose. The beer is golden yellow and with the hints of citrus in the air, Freshies is very inviting to the senses. It is almost cloudy/hazey along the lines of the Northeast/New England style of Pale Ales, but not quite. The nose doesn’t lie with this beer, big hop presence, almost as much as an IPA. More of a pleasantly aggressive hop presence than some of the IPAs I’ve had, in fact. Lots of hops on the first taste and all the way through.

The hops used in this beer – Simcoe, Amarillo, and Cascade – are some of the most popular hops used in Pale Ales and IPAs. For example, Cascade is used in arguably the most important American Pale Ale – Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. Tonewood’s take on the style is less malty than Sierra’s flagship ale, but that’s not a knock on the quality at all. The blend of hops gives the beer its own identity. That blend, coupled with the ample wheat used in the beer, gives the beer a softer feel and with the relatively low ABV of 5%, makes for a flavorful beer that falls into the currently overused term of “crusher” category. In other words, great flavor along with a not-bludgeoning-you ABV.

Freshies is a delicious beer that is a fine addition to the style of American Pale Ale. Perhaps the best way I can describe this beer is as follows: between the color, level of haze, and hop profile, Freshies perfectly straddles the line between a “traditional” American Pale Ale and the juicy Northeast/New England Pale Ale. It compares pretty favorably to some of the other pale ales I’ve enjoyed recently and mentioned here on the Tap Takeover including Kane’s Sneak Box and Industrial Arts’s Tools of the Trade. While it may not be as widely known as those two breweries and beers, Tonewood’s Freshies, for my drinking dollars, is no less a beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Pale as the Moon (Level 21)

Ahh, the trusty pale ale; crisp, refreshing, and always a good choice in a bind.

 

Beer Review: Lagunitas Born Again Yesterday (2018)

Name: Born Again Yesterday
Brewing Company: Lagunitas Brewing Company
Location: Petaluna, CA
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 7.2%

From Lagunitas’s Brewing’s beers page:

We’ve discovered that the Lagunitas brewers are part time alchemists… they’ve figured out how to keep wet hops wet all freakin’ year long! Born Again Yesterday Pale Ale, which features a delicious concoction of wet hops, reborn and unfiltered into our Born Yesterday Pale Ale. Congrats… It’s a beer again!

It’s the Holy Grail pursuit of brewing in hoppy beer making: year-round wet-hop flavor. Hops are good, fresh hops are better, wet hops are the best. We say ‘wet hops’ because they have not been dried after harvest. We say ‘better’ because they possess the fullest expression of hop flavor; vine-fresh. But as with another herbaceous favorite of ours, they must be quickly dried to prevent mold and spoilage. That drying process is done delicately but something is always lost in translation. Other good brewers have taken up the quest. The results have varied. Ours is a homegrown process of time dilation for the delicate hop cone that the flower doesn’t even perceive and so delivers its still newborn self to our kettle months and months after its birth. Questing has no end and we are still tweaking our process but we hope you find this mid-summer anachronism to be as satisfying as we do.

Lagunitas is one of the more prominent and widely distributed American Craft breweries. Despite being owned by Heineken for a few years, the brewery has maintained a significant level of loyal beer drinkers and continues to churn out well-received and top selling beers, most prominently their best-selling IPA. Much of their portfolio is aggressively hop-forward so my palate didn’t match up with their output for the longest time. With my shifting palate and this beer appearing in a mix pack from one of my guests on the Fourth of July, I was looking forward to giving the beer a try.

Though not specifically a Summer beer, this Pale Ale is a seasonal Ale available in the summer months between May and August. Lagunitas considers this one a “Limited Release” and because of the varying hops and process utilized the ABV and IBU vary from year to year. The 2018 version is at 7.2% ABV and 55 IBU, while in the past it has ranged from 7.0 to 7.5 ABV.

I was a little hesitant about whether I would enjoy this beer, to be honest since I haven’t had much luck with any beers from Lagunitas. But when that yellow-orange hazy opaque beer poured from the bottle to the glass, I was locked in. The beer looked really appealing and gave off a pungent, inviting hop aroma.

A hops assault hits the taste buds on the first sip. There’s a lot of juicy goodness evoked by the hops, definitely citrus fruit like orange and some tropical notes like mango. It just sits really nicely in the palate…at least my palate.

The potent hops are balanced by a fairly strong malt backbone, but the juicy wet hops are the star of this beer. I think what seals the deal for me is the unfiltered nature of the beer. As a fan of Hefeweizens and Belgian style brews, I generally lean towards unfiltered beers. Given that, Born Again Yesterday hits all the notes I’ve come to appreciate in a hop-forward ale.

As a whole, this is a refreshing, juicy and delicious hop-forward pale ale. Nothing overly fancy, just a really tasty Pale Ale. Sometimes, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. I’m happy that I gave this one a shot and can see myself going out and purchasing a pack of this one when it hits shelves next summer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Pale as the Moon(Level 17)

Ahh, the trusty pale ale; crisp, refreshing, and always a good choice in a bind. That’s 85 different Pale Ales.

 

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.