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?

Beer Review: Southern Tier Brewing Company 3 Citrus Peel Out

Name: 3 Citrus Peel Out
Brewing Company: Southern Tier Brewing Company
Location: Lakewood, NY
Style: Fruit Beer (per untappd) / Pale Wheat Ale (per STBC)
ABV: 8.5.%

Pulled from an ice-filled cooler. That says summer.

From the beer’s description on Southern Tier’s Web site:

We’re proud to present this high-gravity Wheat Ale brewed with blood orange juice, grapefruit & tangerine peels. This special ale is brewed with 35% Wheat, 3 types of hops & coriander.

We’re making this one obviously refreshing with tropical citrus and grapefruit aromas from the Mosaic hops along with the addition of over 4 & a half pounds per barrel of grapefruit & tangerine peels. And to get extra juicy, we ferment with blood orange juice concentrate.

Not overly bitter, this brew sits around 30 IBU and its nice citrus pith rounds out the bitterness. Residual sweetness helps accentuate the fruity character and masks the 8.5% ABV well. Enjoy straight up or served on the rocks with soda & wedge of fresh fruit.

Sometimes a beer will hit your tastebuds in an unexpected way and surprise you by how much you enjoy it. That surprise for Southern Tier’s 3 Citrus Peel Out comes from one of the prominent ingredients, grapefruit. I may have mentioned in previous posts that I typically loathe grapefruit and find it to be somewhat disgusting. Imagine my surprise when this beer hit my palate and the right buttons were pushed despite the presence of grapefruit. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed the majority of the two dozen or so beers I’ve had from Southern Tier, especially their stouts, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised.

Southern Tier has been making fantastic beers out of Northern New York for a decade and a half, with this beer initially releasing in Spring 2016. This is a pale wheat ale enhanced by the addition of fruit, which is fairly common for this style of beer. I enjoy Pale Wheat Ales quite a bit including Bell’s Oberon Ale, Schlafly’s Yakima Wheat Ale, the sadly out-of-production Wolaver’s Wildflower Wheat from Otter Creek, and of course the old stand-by Samuel Adams Summer Ale.

What sets this beer apart for me, and why it is a beer I’d drink again in a heartbeat is how well-balanced it is. The hint of bitterness from the grapefruit is present only slightly and stabilized extremely well by the addition of the blood orange which provides an excellent sweetness. The tangerine is pleasant and noticeable, too, but that blood orange sweetness and slight grapefruit bitterness on top of the wheat base make this (like a lot of the beers I’ve recently reviewed) an excellent summer beer.

Southern Tier is calling this an “Imperial” Wheat Ale, largely because of the substantial ABV of 8.5%. The 8.5% wasn’t too noticeable on the warm day I was drinking the beer, but I imagine throwing back a few of these in quick succession might catch up with you. Despite the lovely sweetness and “drinkability” factor of the beer, you may want to ease yourself through a couple over the course of a slightly extended timeframe. If I hadn’t been driving the day I had this beer at a friend’s house, I probably would have thrown back at least one more of these delicious beers.

Since I drank this one straight from the bottle, I can’t comment on the look of the beer. Quite honestly, that’s usually the least important element of a beer for me, though I do appreciate a nice looking beer. Again, the surprise of how much I liked this beer factored into me writing about it and I only had the one beer pulled from a cooler at my friend’s house.

I’m going to get a little pedantic here…untappd is usually spot on with what they call each style of beer, but I’m not so sure they were quite as accurate on this beer. They call this a “Fruit Beer,” and granted, the presence of three fruits in this beer is unmistakable. But when the brewer has Wheat prominently on the label and description, I’d think this would fall under “Pale Wheat Ale” category.

Finally, reviewing beers from Victory and Southern Tier in back-to-back weeks was by no means planned, the beers in my cycle happened to work out this way. I say that because, as some of you may know, in early 2016, the two breweries came together to form a partnership Artinsinal Brewing Ventures, which some may say takes them both out of the independent category of brewing. Regardless, both breweries make excellent beers and 3 Citrus Peel Out is another fine example from the brewery in Northern New York.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Beer Review: Bell’s Brewery Oberon Ale

Name: Oberon Ale
Brewing Company: Bell’s Brewery
Location: Galesburg, MI
Style: Pale Wheat Ale
ABV: 5.8%

Glass Logo: Tor.com

From the beer’s description on Bell’s Brewery’s Web site:

Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with our signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer. Made with only 4 ingredients, and without the use of any spices or fruit, Oberon is the color and scent of sunny afternoon.

 

There are Summer Beers and there are beers best suited to summer or associated with Summer. Bell’s Oberon Ale is one of the latter and one of the iconic craft beers in the industry. Oberon is the medieval Faerie King and is Consort of Queen Titania in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is (I’m assuming) where the fine folks of Bell’s Brewery drew the name for this light, delicious beer.

Some of my friends on untappd check this in throughout the summer months and I’ve been trying to get myself a bottle/can/pour of the beer for quite a while. Unfortunately for the New Jersey Craft Beer community, Bell’s isn’t yet distributed in New Jersey. Fortunately for me, a co-worker/friend who lives in Pennsylvania, where Bell’s is distributed, did a bottle-share with me and gave me two bottles.

The first thing that stands out to me is the color of the beer. Where the summer beers I’m accustomed to drinking pour a hazy yellow, Oberon pours more of an orange-yellow, a very inviting beer on looks alone but there’s not too much different in the aroma compared to other pale wheat ales like Sam’s Summer.

What is most striking in the flavor profile of the beer is the kick of spice towards the end of the beer. Not quite clove like a Hefeweizen, not quite the characteristic finish other Pale Wheat Ales, but something of its own almost-citrusy design. The bright color and bold spice set this one apart from most other summer beers.  I can now see why this is such a landmark beer in the craft beer community. While not flashy like a high ABV bourbon barrel aged stout, or super hoppy like a New England IPA, Oberon Ale is a straight-forward, thirst-quenching beer that is very welcoming in color, balanced in taste, and low-enough in ABV that a couple of these won’t get you too silly.

My only complaint about this beer is one I will re-iterate: Bell’s doesn’t distribute into NJ. Over the past year or two, we’ve seen some of the larger craft breweries enter the NJ market like New Belgium, so hopefully Bell’s is on the way to the Garden State.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

(The book in the background is Staked by Kevin Hearne, the eighth book in his Iron Druid Chronicles series, which features a 2,000-year old Druid named Atticus who comes into conflict with all sorts of supernatural creatures. As fate would have it, my coworker gave me the bottles of Oberon while I was reading this book. The series features an Irish Wolfhound named Oberon as Atticuss’s best friend and companion. Obviously if I’ve made it to book 8 in the series I enjoy the books a great deal, so check out the first one, Hounded if you so choose.)