Beer Review: Lumberjack Sap from Readington Brewery and Hop Farm

Name: Lumberjack Sap
Brewing Company: Readington Brewery and Hop Farm
Location: Neshanic Station, NJ
Style: Dark Ale
ABV: 7.1%

An interesting, fun beer from one of New Jersey’s newest breweries.

Readington_LumberjackSap

From Readington Brewery’s Instagram post for the beer:

Ale created entirely with sap tapped from the maple trees on our property.

When a brewery opens up less than 2 miles from your front door, that’s a good thing. What’s even better is that each time I’ve visited and sampled the beer at Readington Breweryand Hop Farm, I can taste improvement. They’ve had traditional styles like Pilsners, Dunkelweizens, and IPAs, but the brewery has also had some playfully crafty styles like this beer made with Maple Syrup.

The beer I’m given looks like maple syrup, which is not a shock. There’s a slight maple aroma, again, that’s expected.

First sip is a delight. There’s a nice malty element, but the maple is the most prominent flavor component. I’ve had issues with some beers that feature maple syrup, some have been far too overpowering and cloying or even an unpleasant sour taste. This beer, Lumberjack Sap, has a wonderful balance. The maple flavor is omnipresent, but not over dominant, if that makes sense. Through and through, this is a beer.

I really like how the sweetness from the maple sap plays with the carbonation. It is pleasant and makes you to keep drinking more, and that’s important. Of course the “wants to make you keep drinking it” is important. Also important is the fact that, carbonation is a main characteristic of beer and the carbonation here proves that yes, this is indeed a beer.

If I can level any criticism at the beer is that it felt a little thin on the body. For 7.1% ABV, I’d expect the beer to have a bit more thickness to it.

This beer is called a “Dark Ale,” which is a rather wide descriptor. It isn’t a stout by any means, nor is it a porter. It isn’t hoppy enough to be considered a Black IPA or Cascadian Ale. Regardless of what this beer style is, the flavors are delicious.

I’ve had Readington Brewery’s Pilsner, Dubbel and others and they’ve all been quite tasty. This beer is unique and interesting and the kind of one-off / small batch beer that makes visiting a brewery so much fun. You’ll likely always find something interesting like this beer and I hope to enjoy fun one-offs (as well as many other beers on their tap list) like this in future visits to Readington Brewery and Hop Farm.

Recommended, link to 4 bottle cap untappd rating check in.

Draught Diversions: February 2022 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…

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Another Six Pack that was somewhat difficult to construct. For one reason, I had multiple beers from a couple different breweries so deciding which beer from those breweries would be represented made the list of “new to me” beers I had this month somewhat long. I also had a vast range of styles this month, with multiple Belgian styles part of the overall group. I settled on a very tasty six pack with a pretty decent variety of styles even if at least one of the breweries in the pack will NOT be a shock.

Without further adieu, here is the February 2022 Six Pack…

Barrel Aged Bullhala (Bolero Snort Brewery) | Porter – Baltic | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Bolero_BA_Bullhalla

It has been quite a while since I had a new-to-me Bolero beer, but this one called out to me. I’ve been seeking out Baltic porters and this beer, aged in Bourbon barrels, hit the spot. Good flavor profile, the bourbon was more potent than I’d expect from a beer with a 9.5% ABV. On the other hand, it was a little thinner than I’d expect. Despite those two slights, the beer was still quite tasty.

Evermore (Readington Brewery & Hop Farm) | Wheat Beer – Dunkelweizen | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Readington_Evermore

Here’s a first for the lineage of the Six Pack posts at The Tap Takeover…back-to-back months featuring Dunkelweizens! I made a second visit to Readington Brewery and Hop Farm, the newest brewery in my area (less than 2 miles away) and was very pleased to see an improvement in the beers. Not that they were undrinkable that first visit, but needed some work. I was very impressed with this Dunkelweizen, Evermore, which was dialed in quite nicely to the style. I wouldn’t be surprised if Reading Brewery will be appearing in the six packs in the future.

Wolfe’s Neck (Maine Beer Company Brewery) | IPA – American | 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

MainBeerCo_WolfCreek

Maine Beer Company makes outstanding IPAs and Wolfe’s Neck is another delicious example. A fantastic blend of hops with a dialed-in hop flavor, great malt character, and overall, perfectly balanced. This is one of the cleanest IPAs I’ve ever had, completely dialed-in and elegant.

Decimate (Icarus Brewing Company) | Lager – Japanese Rice | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Icarus_Decimate

A visit to Icarus means I had a few new Icarus beers from which to choose for this six pack. I went with the new Lager they canned (although I thoroughly enjoyed their Altbier, Thee Points). Decimate is a Japanese Rice Lager, where the Rice makes up a significant portion of the grain bill. Into that, Jason and his crew of brewers added Lemongrass for a nice refreshing finish. Another example how awesome Icarus Brewing’s low ABV lagers are.

Jovial (Tröegs Independent Brewing) | Belgian Dubbel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Troegs_Jovial

I’ve said it before (or at least hinted at it), but Tröegs might be my favorite Pennsylvania brewery. They brew across every style and do so with impressive quality. This Dubbel, originally brewed for co-owner Chris Trogner’s wedding, is a year-round release and a damned fine interpretation of the classic Belgian dark ale. Wonderful sweetness, hints of raisin and bananas makes this as good a Dubbel as you’ll find from even a brewery from Belgium.

La Trappe Tripel (Bierbrouwerij De Konigshoeven) | Belgian Tripel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

LaTrappe_Tripel

One of my favorite meals (Pork Chops marinated/brined in Tripel) is from this cookbook, Cooking with Beer. Not a lot of the Tripel is required so I was delighted when I saw a 750ml bottle of this in one of my local bottle shops since I love La Trappe Quadrupel. Their Tripel, this beer, is almost as good which is to say that it is a world class, outstanding beer. Perfect elements from the yeast imparting sweetness and fruitiness, just a perfectly rounded beer.

There you have it, the February 2022 Six Pack.

Draught Diversions: Hunterdon County Beer Trail

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…

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Beer Trails” or promotional efforts for breweries located in a county or region aren’t new. For one of my Birthday Beer Tours, my wife took me on the Bucks County Ale Trail in neighboring PA. With the maturation, growth, and evolution of the beer scene in New Jersey Beer over the past decade, and most importantly over the last 5 years or so. As of this writing (according to New Jersey Craft Beer), New Jersey can boast are over 100 breweries, and 150 including brewpubs. In other words, the time is ripe for some official “Beer Trails” in New Jersey to be promoted.  Laws and bills are being enacted to relax some of the stringent laws in New Jersey. Specifically relating to this post: Bill A-1091, which requires “the state Division of Travel and Tourism to advertise and promote tours of breweries in New Jersey.”

According to the language of the bill, the Division of Travel and Tourism is to identify a series of breweries to be a part of a brewery trail. The division would create no less than three brewery trails to be identified for the program and special consideration will be taken for those who are geographically close to other breweries or have a specific theme or are surrounded by the arts, cultural, historical, entertainment, or other tourism destinations.

Enter the Hunterdon County Beer Trail.

The NJ Tourism site, VisitNJ.org now has a dedicated page to the breweries, wineries, and distillers of New Jersey and proves that yes, Central Jersey does indeed exist even if the tourism website doesn’t exactly have their regions divided correctly! I live in Somerset County and Hunterdon County is one of our neighboring counties. In fact, one of the breweries on the Hunterdon County Beer Trail is less than two miles from my front door.

VistNJ_Breweries

Spearheaded by Bob King, one of Lone Eagle Brewing’s Co-owner’s, The Hunterdon County Beer Trail is a partnership between local brewers and the Hunterdon County Economic Development to highlight these small business and obviously drive patrons to visit. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Lone Eagle (and pointed out in one of early brewery spotlights here at the Tap Takeover) is their commitment to the community. Bob spread that commitment from the Flemington community out to his colleagues and peers across Hunterdon County.

I’d visited a few of these breweries over the last few years before the Beer Trail kicked off, but I was more than happy to visit them once again to complete the “Passport.” Although I’ve done full features on a few of these breweries, I’ll do a brief summary of each brewery in alphabetical order.

Conclave Brewing, established 2015 | Raritan Township, NJ | Facebook | Instagram | twitter | Conclave on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Profile

HCBT_Conclave
Clockwise L to R: Clearly Pils, Blueberry Frukt (Farmhouse Ale), Hop Ritual with Vic Secret (Pale Ale), Moonwater IPA , Gravitational Pull (IPA) and Mexican Morning Stout

Conclave was the first brewery of this group to be established in Hunterdon County back in 2015, and for quite a while, they were the brewery closest to me so were effectively my local brewery. They’ve proven great expertise at all styles, particularly IPAs, which are highly acclaimed and sought after in the New Jersey beer community. Shortly before the pandemic struck, Conclave moved just down the road to a much larger location. This new location allowed an expansion of their tap list, and much more room for seating both indoors and out. Enough room, in fact, to host music acts fairly regularly. Favorite beers (of the 35+ I’ve had from Conclave): Clearly Pils (German Pilsner), Espresso Morning Stout (Coffee Milk Stout), Mexican Morning Stout (Spicy Milk Stout), Sable (Imperial Stout), Gravitational Pull IPA, Moonwater IPA, and Hop Ritual with Vic Secret (Pale Ale) .

Descendants Brewing at the Old Ship Inn, established 1995, 2021 | Milford, NJ | Facebook | Instagram | Descendants on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Descendant’s Best Better (Cask)

When Descendants opened in 1995 as The Ship Inn, it was the first brewing company to open in New Jersey since prohibition. The business renamed and launched as Descendants Brewing Company in May 2021. Located a short walk away from the Delaware River, the brewpub is housed in an old Victorian Home. I only had one beer that day, the ESB, but the beers brewed on site are a nice mix of American, German, British, and Belgian inspired styles in addition to an impressive list of several bottles, draughts, and cans from “guest breweries.” Descendants is the only brewpub in Hunterdon County and I intend to get a full meal during my next visit because the menu looks outstanding.

Highrail Brewing Company, established 2019 | High Bridge, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Highrail Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

HCBT_Highrail
Clockwise L to R: Tart & Thankful, PITA Pumpkin Ale, Stayin ‘ Local (Wheat Ale), and Saewert’s Oatmeal Stout

Highrail Brewing opened in July 2019 in downtown High Bridge, NJ. The brewery is situated on a small, yet quaint and charming main street with a pizzeria and a coffee shop across the street among other local businesses. I visited in August 2019 for the first time shortly after the brewery opened and I was quite impressed with the two beers I had at the time, the first was Stayin’ Local, a wheat ale with peach that was perfect for summer. The other beer I had at that time was Saewert’s Oatmeal Stout, which was a smooth and tasty Oatmeal Stout. When the beer trail was announced, it was reason enough for a second visit, plus I wanted to try the NJ Craft Beer collaboration Tart & Thankful. This beer is a Cranberry Fruit/Fruited Sour Beer, which I reviewed late 2021 and a beer I thoroughly enjoyed. I also had their pumpkin ale, PITA Pumpkin ale, one of the more flavorful and balanced pumpkin beers I’ve had in a while. High Rail makes clean, tasty beers on the whole and are well worth visiting.

Lone Eagle Brewing Company, established 2016 | Flemington, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Lone Eagle Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Feature

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Clockwise L to R: Jubileum V Eisbock, Blueberry Gusher, Nitro Oatmeal Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, Flemington Fog (NEIPA), and King Kölsch

Lone Eagle was the second brewery to open up in Hunterdon County since the big law change of 2012 and they’ve seen some impressive growth. I outlined the beginnings of the brewery in my feature back in 2017, but since then, Lone Eagle has increased capacity with a new purpose-built brewing facility and some brewer changes. Of the breweries on the trail, I’ve had more beers (55 as of this writing) from Lone Eagle than the others (and more than most breweries in general). For a few years prior to the pandemic, the brewery hosted a Board Game night in their spacious loft. In addition to playing some fun games and making new friends, Board Game Night afforded me the opportunity to sample a vast array of beers, often a flight or two a night. It has turned out that every other year I’ve brought a growler of their beer to Christmas Eve (most recently, Grandma’s Cookie) and it was always a hit. I’ve reviewed three beers from them (Belgian Strong Dark, King Köslch, and their 5th Anniversary Barrel-Aged Eisbock), in addition to those beers, their Russian Imperial Stout is quite tasty, their Märzen is always good and their Hefeweizen is top notch. The brewery is in an excellent location, spacious, inviting, and the people pouring your beer are super friendly.

Odd Bird Brewing Co. established 2020 | Stockton, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Odd Bird Brewing Co on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd | Tap Takeover Feature

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Clockwise L to R: Extra Stockton Bitter, Oddsbodikins Lager, Prallsville Pils, and Fields Saison

Odd Bird Brewing was the first brewery I visited after the launch of the Hunterdon County Beer Trail and I visited a second time when my wife took me on the annual Birthday Beer Tour. She didn’t realize I visited (she usually tries to go to breweries I haven’t visited), but I was more than happy to visit Adam and Karen once again because they make terrific beers. Since my feature on Odd Bird Brewing was posted only a few months ago, I’ll excerpt some of that here. The location is rather unique, especially compared to the other breweries I’ve visited in NJ. Risler Avenue/NJ State Route 29 parallels the Delaware River at the southwestern end of County Road 523 – a lovely drive to be had on a late summer/early fall day. Odd Bird is located in an old auto body shop, which is in the same building/location as the Stockton Eagle gas station, and that building is next to a restaurant, Cravings. That set up/location does sort of fit in with the name of the brewery. Odd Bird Brewing is, in my mind, what a quintessential local brewery should be. Great people who own it, who make delicious beer, with a unique taplist of beers that will attract more than just the immediate locals. The brewery has such a wonderful character and ambiance that is more than complimented by the classic styles brewed to near perfection. I had four beers from them, including one that made my favorites of 2021, their cask conditioned ESB, Extra Stockton Bitter, as well as a tasty Amber Lager, a Pilsner, and a Saison.

Readington Brewery and Hop Farm established 2022 | Readington, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Readington Brewery and Hop Farm on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Opening Weekend @Readington Brewery and Hop Farm

The newest brewery on this Beer Trail, and as of this writing in January 2022, one of the newest breweries in the State of New Jersey. I’ve been driving past this location regularly for a couple of years as they are very close to my house. I went opening weekend when they were still getting settled into their rhythm and had a few samples. At the time, only 2 were beers on untappd and they were probably the two I liked the most, The Churchill, an ESB, and Jack the Tripel a Belgian Tripel. I also had a brown ale that was fairly tasty. Given how close they are, I really should make another few visits in the near future because the facility is beautiful, the people were very nice, and they grow their own hops! How cool is that? I think the only other brewery who grows their own hops is Screamin’ Hill in Cream Ridge.

Sunken Silo Brew Works established 2019 | Lebanon, NJ | Instagram | Facebook | Sunken Silo Brew Works on NewJerseyCraftBeer.com | Beer Advocate | untappd

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Wystouti Nitro (L) and Deemed Essential Czech Pils (R)

Like other breweries on the HCBT, I’d visited Sunken Silo previously, shortly after they opened in February 2020. I like that they call themselves “Brew Works” as opposed to “Brewing Company” or “Brewery.” I recall the brewery being quite busy that chilly Friday evening during my first visit in 2020. The brewery was equally busy on my visit in January 2021. However, I was able to strike up a nice conversation with Christian, the Beertender working that day. I learned that Sunken Silo managed to weather the pandemic pretty well, thanks in large part to crowler and to-go sales. The brewery is next door to the popular Metropolitan Seafood Gourmet, a thing that sets the brewery apart and provides a great opportunity for patrons of one business to patronize the other business. The brewery’s name is an homage to the Round Valley Reservoir, a.k.a. NJ’s Bermuda Triangle:

The Round Valley Reservoir in Clinton Township, Hunterdon County, was formed in 1960 when the New Jersey Water Authority constructed two large dams and flooded a large valley, which had formerly been occupied by a farming community.”

Quirky name and history are neat, but fortunately, the folks at Sunken Silo (owner Jeff Donlon, Brewer Production Manager/Brewer Fred Mattrey, and head brewer Matt Harrison) make tasty beer, including their Wystouti American Stout I enjoyed and reviewed earlier this week. I know I’ll be visiting the brewery again.

This was a fun campaign and the folks behind the Hunterdon County Beer Trail have promoted it quite well. They’ve mentioned a “second season” and future seasons, which I’m eagerly anticipating. The first “prize” for completing season one of the trail passport is the glass pictured above, I wonder what will be next. If it is a shirt, I’ll just make a small suggestion to the organizers: please make them in XXXL! I’ll be looking to finish the next season either way because there are a lot of new and different beers for me to try, right?

Hunterdon County Beer Trail