Beer Review: Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Scrag Mountain Pils Salt & Lime

Name: Scrag Mountain Pils Salt & Lime
Brewing Company: Lawson’s Finest Liquids
Location: Waitsfield, VT
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 4.8%

“The Vermont brewery known for hoppy IPAs has crafted a slamming, refreshing Lager perfect for Summer.”

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From Lawson’s Finest Liquids’s landing page for Scrag Mountain Pils Salt & Lime:

This special version of our traditional Czech Pilsner, known affectionately as “Scragarita,” is infused with lime juice and sea salt for a well-balanced dance of crisp and tart.

For this review, I’m covering another beer that works perfectly in the Summer, and sure, I feature quite a few Lagers here at The Tap Takeover, but this is the first Pilsner I’m reviewing in almost a year. While Lawson’s Finest has become a Vermont brewing institution in recent years, the brewery has NJ roots. Owner and brewmaster Sean Lawson grew up in New Jersey before heading up to Vermont.

While Lawson’s Finest Liquids built its reputation hop-forward beers like the renowned Sip of Sunshine, all the styles they’ve brewed have essentially been “hits.” They took their popular Scrag Mountain Pils and added Salt and Lime, to both evoke a margarita (or “Scragarita” as it is called by Lawson’s) and a popular Mexican lager that is known for people adding a lime to the bottle.

Let’s get to the beer itself, shall we?

In the glass, it looks exactly like I’d expect a Czech Pilsner (or any classic Pilsner) to look – clear, yellow, with some bubbles, and a little bit of head. As I bring the glass to my nose, the lime aroma enters my senses. Not tart and overpowering lime, but definitely present.

That first sip is great, it hits the notes of refreshment I was hoping to get from the beer. The crackery/bready elements of the Pilsner are there, the lime comes in for some refreshing tartness, and the salt on the finish balances out the whole beer extremely well.

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This is the kind of beer I want cold and in my hands as soon as I’m finished yard work or sitting by the pool. In fact, the second time I had the beer I did exactly that, finished mowing the lawn and cooled off in the pool with this beer. As it turns out, the opening sentence of this paragraph was written shortly after my first experience tasting the beer. There’s something to be said for taste and timing in general. In specific for Scrag Mountain Pils Salt and Lime, this beer was *perfect* for that post lawnmower refreshment while relaxing in the pool (as in the picture at the top of this post).

Quite a few breweries over the last couple of years have been “Liming up their Lagers.” Yes, I just made that up! I had two beers last summer with the name “Tan Limes,” and even right now in the refrigerated aisles of beer shops in NJ you’ll see a couple of Pilsners and Lagers with Lime or Lime and Salt added. In other words, it is a smart move by Lawson’s Finest especially since what they produced with this beer is indeed a finely crafted Pilsner.

I’d say that Scrag Mountain Pils with Salt and Lime is a must have for the summer. The beer should be available throughout the Northeast where Lawson’s Finest is distributed and is well keeping in rotation for the short amount of time the beer is available in the months of May and June. I’m hoping to try the base version of the beer, but I’d be happy to keep this in constant rotation in the poolside cooler.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating | Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Crisp as Day (Level 20)

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Light and crisp, a Pilsner is all you need to make your day great. Though, perhaps another one would make it even better.

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Beer Review: Ashton Brewing’s Jersey Dreamin’

Name: Jersey Dreamin’
Brewing Company: Ashton Brewing Company
Location: Middlesex, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 5.7%

“Ashton’s second canned beer is a superb interpretation of the classic lager.”

From Ashton Breiwng’s page for beers:

Jersey Dreamin’ is our Czech style Pilsner. It pours with a rich creamy white head and a burst of floral/spicy Saaz hops. Honey, cracker and spice all pop in the flavor and it finishes clean and balanced and says let’s have another!

Ashton Brewing is one of the newest New Jersey breweries (as of the date of this post, June 9, 2020), but they had the unfortunate timing to have had their grand opening scheduled when the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down public gatherings. They took over the former Demented Brewing facility in Middlesex, NJ, redid the interior and launched their brews. Despite the challenge they faced in the current times Ashton pushed forward, sold crowlers and growlers of their beers to what I’ve seen to be positive response. Shortly after they opened, Ashton began canning their beer, including this delightful Pilsner which is the second beer they canned.

Pilsners are one of my favorite styles and I’m always excited when a smaller brewery decides to craft any kind of lager, especially when a new brewery does their second canning run as a Pilsner. As soon as it was available I placed on online order and picked up a six pack at the brewery. As a result, I was check in number three to this beer in untappd, so I was also very happy to be one of the first to try the beer. Good thing the beer was delicious!

Visually, if you were to put this beer side-by-side with the last Pilsner I reviewed (also a Czech Pilsner), you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same beer. That’s a good thing because this clear and clean, golden yellow beer is largely what I would expect a pilsner to look like. The aroma gives off some hops and maybe some crackery/breadiness from the malt. More good signs for Jersey Dreamin’.

That first sip immediately becomes a gulp. Simply put, Jersey Dreamin’ is a delicious Pilsner.

Some Pilsners lean towards a breadiness/cracker element from the malt, some have a floral/fruity finish and some strike a balance between the two. Jersey Dreamin strikes that balance really nicely. It isn’t as “crackery” as some pilsners I’ve had – which is by no means a slight – but it has a full flavor whose elements come together really cleanly.

I spent a long Saturday afternoon in the sun doing yardwork the weekend after getting the six pack. My reward was this beer and it hit the spot perfectly, the beer was extremely flavorful, abundantly refreshing – an elevated “lawnmower” beer, if you will.

Many breweries who start up, at least in New Jersey, launch their canning program with multiple IPAs or some dark beers like porters & stouts. While Ashton’s first canned beer was their IPA, the fact that their second beer to be canned was a Pilsner – a style that has zero wiggle room for mistakes that can be hidden by adding more hops or adjuncts – is impressive. It shows confidence in the quality of the product they are sharing with consumers. Steve Ashton has a long history of brewing and working in the brewing industry in some capacity and that knowledge and confidence in his ability shows in this elegant and delicious Pilsner. This beer is good enough that it could be their flagship beer and a Pilsner that Lager-enthusiasts should definitely seek out. I for one can’t wait to have fresh draught of this Pilsner once the Pandemic concludes.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Ashton is accepting online orders for local delivery and pick up

Beer Review: Man Skirt Brewing’s Czechs and Balances

Name: Czechs and Balances
Brewing Company: Man Skirt Brewing Company
Location: Hackettstown, NJ
Style: Pilsner – Czech
ABV: 5%

A delicious interpretation of the classic Czech Lager. Worth seeking out if you’re in NJ.

First time I’ve seen an “Imperial Can” but I like it! The beer inside is even better!

From Man Skirt’s page for beers:

Man Skirt’s take on the original Pilsner. Classic grain flavors shine through, with just the right amount of Sterling hops. Clean, crisp, refreshing, and never boring.

Man Skirt Brewing is one of the first breweries I did a spotlight for here at the Tap Takeover (back in December 2017) and now I’ve finally come around to reviewing one of their beers. In part, I don’t see cans of their beers too often around me, and another part, Hackettstown is not super close to me. That said, I’m always happy to try a new Pilsner and after my wife got me in the car during the pandemic to go on an adventure to get out of the house, we wound up in the Hackettstown, NJ area. Naturally I grabbed some to go beers from Czig Meister and Man Skirt, two breweries in Hackettstown around the block from each other.

I’ve seen a few friends check this beer in untappd and they had good things to say about the beer, which had me looking forward to trying it myself. I was very pleased this was one of the “to go” options from Man Skirt available in an interesting “Imperial Can” which is a can with a cap, go figure. For a beer like a Pilsner, which is traditionally relatively low in ABV, this is a great size for the beer. But what about the beer already?.

What came out of that “imperial can” was clear and clean looking, though a slightly darker golden yellow than I would expect from a pilsner. The aroma is the “beer that smells like a beer” smell, I get the typical slight malt, slightly hoppy, and slightly sweet smell I’d expect from a Pilsner. In other words, based on looks and smell, I’ve got a good feeling about the beer .

As the beer passes my lips, I begin to smile. This pilsner is really what I wanted it to be. There’s the trademark enjoyable flavor of the Pilsner here – a good hint of breadiness/crackery goodness from the malt, one of the hallmarks of a great pilsner. Although the IBU is not too high at 37, it is higher than many pilsners and only slightly lower than Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale (a beer considered to be hop-forward). This is by no means a problem, I like the hop presence in Man Skirt’s take on the Pilsner – it helps to give the beer its full flavor.

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More than anything, this beer has a very clean profile – the flavor elements are playing together very harmoniously. The hops complement the malt in a classic one-two punch of flavor – like a pair of championship-level Tag Team wrestlers. They bring different elements to the beer, but complement each other in a superb, unified flavor.

Czechs and Balances is as good a Czech style pilsner as you’ll find in the State of New Jersey (and easily in *at least* the top third of the 75+ pilsners I’ve had). I could easily see this beer on regular rotation in my fridge (if I were just a bit closer to Man Skirt!). As it is, this is a beer I’ll be seeking out again and probably the best beer out of the 10 or so I’ve had from Man Skirt. Joe Fisher should be very proud of this beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Badge Earned:

Crisp as Day (Level 16)

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Light and crisp, a Pilsner is all you need to make your day great. Though, perhaps another one would make it even better.