Beer Review: Yards’ Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale

Name: Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale
Brewing Company: Yards Brewing Company
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Style: Strong Ale – English
ABV: 8.0%

The beer’s description on Yard’s Landing Page for the beer:

This powerful and complex golden ale pays homage to Founding Father and fellow brewer, Thomas Jefferson. Yards Brewmaster, Tom Kehoe, worked closely with Philadelphia’s historic City Tavern to recreate this recipe, employing honey, rye, and wheat, just like the beer Jefferson made at Monticello.

Yards Brewing is one of the most recognizable and long-standing American Craft Breweries, an East Coast institution since 1994. Much of their portfolio leans heavily on British brewing traditions and early American brewing traditions, like the “Beers of the Revolution” subset, including this Tavern Ale, an interpretation of Thomas Jefferson’s recipe. With the President’s Day holiday yesterday and the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl two weeks ago, what better time to highlight a presidential beer from a Philadelphia brewery?

What exactly is a tavern ale? I’m not too sure, but what *this* tavern ale is is a Strong English Ale. That may not be may not the hottest or most popular style of beer, but that doesn’t mean the beer can’t be well-crafted and pleasing.

The beer pours a deep gold, almost amber, with a decent head atop the glass. There’s a lot of malt in this beer, the wheat and rye combine really nicely to give this beer a solid, appreciable backbone. There’s also a sweetness up front in the beer from the honey that makes Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale a really balanced ale.

This is more of a slow-sipping beer than a guzzler or a crusher. Whereas much of the American craft beer on the market falls into the IPA and Stout categories, it is nice to see a steadfast traditional style in continuous production.

The maltiness and overall way the beer felt as I was drinking it reminded me of an Oktoberfest or Märzen beer. This beer; however, is stronger, available year-round, and sweetened by the honey. That’s where you have to be a little cautious, the beer is very drinkable with the sweet malt, but the 8% makes it a beer you don’t want to crush. This is the type of beer you would enjoy in a pub amongst friends after a long day of work, while waiting for your barmaid or bartender to serve you that order of French Fries you’ve been craving.

Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale, like many beers from Yards, is very widely available, in bottles and on draft. It is also part of the Ales of the Revolution branding (as the label states) and available in an Ales of the Revolution variety pack along with General Washington Tavern Porter and Poor Richard Tavern Spruce. I haven’t had the other two “Ales of the Revolution,” at least since being on untappd, so I may have to give them a try.

I’ve only had small sips of this one at brewfests and beer tastings, but liked it enough to give a fully try. I’m glad I did and could find myself reaching for this beer again in the future.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s Dunks Ferry Dunkelweizen

Name: Dunks Ferry Dunkelweizen
Brewing Company: Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co.
Location: Croydon, PA
Style: Dunkelweizen
ABV: 5.2%

Proper weizen glass for a proper weizen beer

From the beer’s description on Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company’s Web site:

We stay with the German wheat beer theme for our Fall seasonal, and much like it’s Summertime sister, Dunks Ferry Dunkelweizen has a unique banana and spicy clove character but this time paired with a chewy, bready (dare we say banana bread) malt backbone. Again, we hop this German wheat beer with Hallertau and Tettnanger hops. 5.2% ABV.

I may have mentioned I like Dunkelweizens so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’ve come around to reviewing one. As I said in the post about Dunkelweizens, there just aren’t enough of this traditional European style widely available. Thankfully, the fine folks at Neshaminy Creek brew Dunks Ferry as a fall offering. Originally available on draft and in 22oz bomber bottles, last year Neshaminy Creek Brewing began distributing the beer in 4 packs of pint cans.  But what about the beer itself?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had only 9 beers from Neshaminy Creek, but I have really enjoyed each of them. Their stout offerings in particular are repeats for me and this one is probably my favorite that isn’t a stout. But this one is a darker, somewhat maltier beer, so there is that common strand…

A nice pop when opening the can hints at the freshness before pouring unleashes some of the aroma, but it doesn’t fully breathe (obviously) until the beer is in the class. Like many Dunkelweizens, Dunks Ferry’s aroma is similar to that of a Hefeweizen, but this one in particular might be a little sweeter, with slightly more banana in the flavor profile.

The hazy brown color is maybe slightly lighter than some other Dunkelweizens I’ve enjoyed (well, Erdinger’s I recall being quite dark), but the taste from the first sip really nails the expected notes of the flavor profile. Most Bavarian wheat beers lean towards a strong clove notes or more fruity notes. I like both flavor leanings, Dunks Ferry is nicely balanced with both in almost equal measure with maybe, just maybe the fruit/banana presence being slightly more prominent. The yeast, as it does in these more bready beers, gives Dunks Ferry a nice, balanced flavor profile that is subtle and welcoming. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is like drinking banana bread (Well’s Brewery has you covered for that), but the beer evokes some of the same hits in the taste buds that a tasty bread does.

I gave a brief shout out to this beer when I suggested more breweries should be brewing Dunkelweizens on a regular basis. At least in the Northeastern US, Neshaminy Creek’s Autumnal Wheat beer is one of the only ones available in distribution near me in NJ. Fortunately, it is a high quality Dunkelweizen so it is far from the worst-case scenario of beggars not being choosers. In other words, if other Dunkelweizens were readily available, I would likely still go for this one repeatedly.

This late summer/fall, I unfortunately did not see Dunks Ferry as much as I recall seeing it in previous years. Breweries tend to tweak their annual beer portfolio from year to year and I hope this one doesn’t go away or become just a draft-only release.

If you are curious to try a solid American Craft take on a classic German/Bavarian dark wheat ale, Dunks Ferry is well with giving a try (and picking up a four-pack).

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Beer Review: Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock

Name: Troegenator Double Bock
Brewing Company: Tröegs Independent Brewing
Location: Hershey, PA
Style: Dopplebock
ABV: 8.2%

From the beer’s description on Tröeg’s Web site:

Monks had fasting figured out. No food? No problem. Just drink a Double Bock. Thick and chewy with intense notes of caramel, chocolate and dried stone fruit, ‘Nator (as we call him) serves as a tribute to this liquid bread style.

Tröegs is a foundational Independent American Craft brewer, not just in the Northeast (Pennsylvania specifically), but very likely in the United States. The Trogner brothers founded the brewery in 1996 and have been crafting delicious beers over the last twenty years. One of the highlights of their line-up is their famous Troegenator, a double-bock brewed in the Germanic tradition of malty, sweet beers. The naming convention also follows German tradition, which includes the suffix of –nator to denote a dopplebock (or double bock).

Bock is in the family of lagers, and therefore involves a longer brewing process compared to Ales, which may be one reason few breweries included bocks of any kind in their regular rotation of brews. The Troegenator has been part of Tröegs line up nearly since the brewery’s inception and has proven to be one of their most respected offerings, winning medals at beer festivals, garnering fans, and helping to put Tröegs on the Craft Beer map. Why is that?

Let’s start with opening the beer… When the beer pours from the 12 oz bottle into my fluted glass, the deep amber or brown color is the most noticeable element. Finishing off the pour leaves a thin foamy head that presents a very inviting beer. Aromas of caramel waft from the glass across to the palate.

The first sip for me this time ‘round (I’ve had this one a few times, my Dad tends to keep at least one six pack of Tröegs in his fridge and this is usually the one) was maltiness and sweetness. That’s exactly what a Dopplebock should deliver. The beer is relatively thick, the malt and sweet give rise to a caramel taste. Again, essential flavor components one should expect with a dopplebock. What gives this one a little more complexity are the spices that follow, giving the beer a more robust flavor profile than the standard Dopplebock. There may be some hints of chocolate in the beer, but that sweetness was given further complexity with a fruitiness as well.

The heaviness of the beer, complex sweetness and thick maltiness make this a beer you might want after dinner. I suspect it would also pair nicely with a rich hearty meat, too. Like many beers with higher ABV, Troegenator’s flavors release even more potently as the beer warms from fridge temperature to room temperature. I finished the beer off on a late August evening with cool air blowing in through the windows, which seemed perfect. This is a beer you’d probably enjoy more when the weather is slightly cooler, like late summer, early fall, or early spring. But, this really is an anytime beer because it is so damned good.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy a Troegantor, this is a must-try beer of the American Craft Beer landscape. If you have tried it, then chances are you’ve had it more than once.

Tröegs brews a barrel-aged variety of this Big Beer which I need to find and enjoy. I’m not sure how limited a release the beer is or if it is a brewery-only release, but somehow, some way I will be getting my hands on a bottle of it.

Lastly, Tröegs recently (2015, just ahead of their 20th Anniversary) revamped their label designs to go for more of a hand-drawn arty style, created by a local artist, rather than labels with a thicker line art.

Previous, iconic label of the beer.

Fortunately, for long-time fans of the beer and brewery, the horned head of the original Troegenator logo is still on the beer.

New Logo, which still sports the horned character, who I assume is god Pan

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.

Beer Review: Victory Brewing Peach Belgian Blonde with Coriander

Name: Blackboard Series #6 Peach Belgian Blonde with Coriander
Brewing Company: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downingtown, PA
Style: Belgian Blonde Ale
ABV: 7.5.%

From the beer’s description on Victory Brewing’s Web site:

We’re excited to bring you the series in adventurous and unique beers –the Blackboard Series. Combining our award winning brewing techniques along side the deliciously fresh ingredients we are known for, we bring you four new rotating “special” brews available on draft, with two of them also available in bottles throughout our distribution footprint. We invite you to taste what our brewers are cooking up!

Blackboard Series Release No. 06 is Peach Belgian Blonde with Coriander. Bursting with fresh peach and spice aromas, this Belgian-Style Blonde Ale features stone fruit notes with a touch of sweetness and a refreshingly dry finish.

Victory Brewing is one of the giants of American Craft Beer, with a few of their brews considered classic or landmark beers that helped to establish the American Craft Brewing movement/ I’m looking at you Prima Pils and Hop Devil. One of those styles is classic European, the other a beer more associated with American brewing (at least as of late). Their motto is, after all, “European Tradition, American Ingenuity.” That convergence of styles and motto is quite evident in this beer (and much of the Blackboard series).

I’ll be upfront and say that Victory Brewing is also one of my favorite American Craft breweries, I’ve had well over two dozen different beers from them, visited the Downingtown, PA Brewery a few times, and have enjoyed just about everything I’ve had that has the big red V on the bottle. I’ll probably write up a Draught Diversions about them in the future. But on to this beer…

Last year (2016), Victory started the Blackboard series of beers. Special, one-off beers that are more experimental in nature than you’d expect from a Pilsner or an IPA. The first beer in this series was an Agave IPA with Grapefruit. I’ve had two of the Blackboard beers, the Coffee Cream Ale and the extremely well-rounded and refreshing Berliner Weisse with Elderflower. Problem with this series of beers is their limited run, so I knew I had to snag a six pack of the latest (as of this writing) beer in the series – the Belgian Blonde with Peach and Coriander. I’m very pleased I did.

Blondes and golden ales may be considered a very ordinary style, unless the style is more Belgian in nature, like this beer. The Belgian yeast adds something to the flavor profile that sets it apart from most other yeasts, and subsequently, adds a dimension of complexity to the beer. The beer pours a deep gold with a slight tint of orange or amber that may come from the addition of peaches to the brewing mix. It almost looks like peach juice, or at least the peach syrup from the can of peaches. (Cue the song “Peaches” from the Presidents of the United States of America). The aroma gives off the peach and yeast blend which is a nice hint of what’s to come once you drink the beer.

The peach is very strong in this beer, but is complemented really nicely by the Belgian Yeast and the flavors of clove and banana that yeast typically imparts. That drawing of the peach on the label tells it all, the peach is the dominant flavor in this one. It hit the right notes for me and evoked the same taste happiness as does peach cobbler. This is a fine dessert beer, but a beer you’d only want one sampling of per session because of the strong sweetness from the peach. But make no mistake, I am more than happy that I have 5 more of these in my refrigerator waiting for me.

If you don’t like peaches, you probably won’t like this one. But if you don’t like peaches, you probably wouldn’t try this one anyway. This is a really nice experimental beer from the fine folks at Victory that is timed perfectly as a summer release. I can see myself enjoying one of these on a late summer evening or early fall evening after the dessert has settled into my belly and I want to relax with a beer that will give me the hit of sweetness we all crave following a tasty meal.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.