Flagship February: River Horse Brewing’s Tripel Horse

The second of my Flagship February posts for 2020 features another NJ Beer, this one from the second oldest independent brewery in the State. The beer itself has received some national recognition, it has proven to be the brewery’s most consistent seller, and one of the brewery’s most acclaimed beers over the course of the brewery’s almost 25-year life (which saw an ownership switch in 2007). In some ways, this beer as the brewery’s flagship is not what would one would typically expect to be a flagship beer from a brewery in the United States: a Belgian style Tripel. The beer: Tripel Horse. The brewery: River Horse Brewing Company in Ewing, NJ.

A Belgian Tripel is not a beer style that immediately comes to mind as a top/flagship beer, especially from a US brewery. Granted, two other Northeast/Mid-Atlantic brewery’s Flagship beers are Tripels (Golden Monkey from Victory Brewing in Downington, PA and Merry Monks from Weyerbacher Brewing in Easton, PA), all three breweries have been brewing beer for close to the same amount of time. Either that’s a strange coincidence or speaks to the beer tastes of people living in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Be that as it may, one would likely think of an IPA, Pilsner, or even Stout as more of an expected Flagship beer.

River Horse initially opened up in 1996, but about a decade later (2007), the original owners sold to a couple of finance professionals with a passion for beer. A few years after that (2013), River Horse moved from Lambertville to Ewing, NJ into a larger space with far more capacity for growth and production, and the brewery certainly grew from that point in time. Through all of that, Tripel Horse has been the most prominent beer they’ve brewed, though it may have been tweaked over the years.

A Beer like Tripel Horse is, I suppose, an ideal candidate for Flagship February. Not that Kane’s Head High wasn’t, but as respected River Horse is and for as long as they’ve been in operation, River Horse isn’t a NJ brewery that is as top-of-mind as a brewery like Kane, Carton, Icarus, or Magnify. I say this as a person who enjoys much of River Horse’s portfolio. Again, from the Flagship February Web site:

What sometimes gets lost amid the constant stream of special releases are the beers that paved the way for today’s remarkable global beer market, or in other words, the flagship beers that got us here.

Tripel Horse is a beer that has been continually available in New Jersey for nearly 25 years (giving the beer true classic status) and it is NOT an IPA (the hottest style). However, that lengthy history for River Horse has allowed them to maintain their status as one of the top 2 or 3 breweries, by size, in the State of New Jersey. Hell, I haven’t had this specific beer in a couple of years, but I do seek out the newer beers River Horse brews because the quality has almost always been there for me.

Before I give my “current” experience of the beer, let’s take a look at what River Horse says about Tripel Horse:

Image courtesy of River Horse Brewing’s Web site

Our take on a Belgian Style Tripel Ale, brewed with spices and fermented with a Trappist yeast strain which lends hints of vanilla and creates a variety of complex flavors. ABV – 10.0%

Hops: Chinook, Hallertau, Saaz

Malt: Pilsen, White Wheat, Caramel

I can remember the first time I had the beer. In fact, it is one of the more vivid and clear memories I have of a specific beer. My wife and I had just bought and moved into our current home, so we are talking almost fifteen years ago. I’m not sure if it was around my birthday immediately after we moved into the house or the following fall, so we’re talking 2005 or 2006. Anyway, we went down to a restaurant (The Porterhouse Pub) in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA with my parents that was featuring only River Horse beers, including some beers usually only available at the brewery. But what I went for was Tripel Horse. (That restaurant has since ceased that exclusive partnership with River Horse). While we were waiting for a table, we sat at the bar and I downed two full pours of the beer. I was initially taken aback and wowed by the abundant flavors in the beer, which is why I had a second beer. At the time, I possessed far less knowledge of beer as a whole, with regard to beer styles or breweries and the closest thing to Belgian-style beer I had that wasn’t Blue Moon was the old Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic. Be that as it may, our table was ready and the two full pours of Tripel Horse at 10% ABV caught up to me as we left the bar to go to the table. Standing from the barstool initially proved to be a little difficult. From that point on; however, Tripel Horse has been a beer I would always associate with a great night and River Horse as a brewery that crafted flavorful beer. Over the years I’d get the beer in six packs, but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t always the first River Horse beer I’d gravitate towards but it has a been a beer I could always rely on for great taste. For everyday beers, I leaned more towards stouts, porters and some lagers.

Image courtesy of River Horse Brewing’s Web site

As I said, I haven’t had a bottle or pour of Tripel Horse in a few years, so I was very excited to reintroduce myself to the beer again. I’ll admit to some slight trepidation on revisiting the beer because, to borrow a term from my science fiction and fantasy online community, I did not want the “suck fairy” to strike. Basically, when your current experience of a thing you enjoyed in the past does not live up to the memory enjoying that thing in the past.

So…a pour of the beer into my Belgian-style tulip glass and the beer looks the part of a Tripel, unsurprisingly. It is of the cloudier variety, so I’m not sure if this is filtered. Comparatively speaking, it isn’t as clear or see-through as Tripel Karmeliet or Victory’s Golden Monkey but more like the cloudiness featured in Westmalle’s Tripel. By no means is this a flaw, simply a difference. Aroma is of the yeast with some fruitiness. Again, exactly as what I would expect from a Tripel.

The first sip gives me many of the flavors from the yeast with some spice. Very, very pleasant and flavorful. I can tell it is a high-octane beer, but I’d only guess at the 10% ABV range because of how the beer asserts itself as a Tripel. There’s also a strong fruit flavor coming from the yeast, maybe peach or apricot? Maybe pear? I can’t quite pinpoint it, but it is a welcome element in the overall profile of the beer. As the beer warmed in the glass, that fruity element grew and I found myself enjoying the beer to a greater degree. The last few sips when the beer was closer to room temperature were fantastic. Again, I need to remind myself to let these bigger beers warm from the fridge, even a little bit and even if they aren’t barrel-aged stouts. I enjoyed that first bottle I used for the photograph so much that two nights after having the first of the six pack, I had two bottles because the beer just hit every button in my sense of flavor so well. Some of the enjoyment probably comes with the great memory associated with that first beer all those years ago, but more than anything, Tripel Horse is just a damned good beer.

Over the years, Tripel Horse has received largely positive reception from the beer writing community, including nice write-ups/reviews at All About Beer, Draft Mag, The Full Pint, and Porch Drinking to name a few. But perhaps the most prominent acknowledgment of the beer’s quality occurred in late 2017 at the Great American Beer Festival where Tripel Horse received the Bronze Medal (3rd best Tripel overall) for Belgian-Style Tripel.

Image Courtesy of River Horse Brewing’s Facebook

A beer that is a flagship will often have “Spin Off” beers and this is true of Tripel Horse. A few years ago, River Horse first released a version with Raspberry, Raspberry Tripel Horse, which I reviewed here at the Tap Takeover almost exactly a year ago. This version started out as a brewery-only release but proved popular enough that River Horse bottled it for distribution. Additionally, River Horse has also released a sour version of the beer, Sour Tripel Horse. and in even more limited quantities, River Horse produced a Bourbon Barrel-Aged version of Tripel Horse. When River Horse was invited to partner with Jameson Whiskey as part of their Caskmates program, one of the beers they featured was One Score and Two Years Ago, which is, you guessed it, Tripel Horse brewed with spices and orange peels, fermented cherries and aged in Jameson barrels. That is a beer I’d love to try because those ingredients look to mimic one of my favorite cocktails, the Old Fashioned.

For all the reasons I’ve outlined in this post, you might say that Tripel Horse can be seen as River Horse Brewing’s “Work Horse” beer. Come on, there was NO way I wasn’t going to make that pun at some point.

In the end, Tripel Horse is a great example of a somewhat non-standard Flagship beer and a beer that helps to show the quality and diversity of beer available in the State of New Jersey. Be warned; however. If you plan to have more than one don’t stand up too quickly after you’ve downed a couple and be sure to pass your car keys to your friend/significant other.

Draught Diversions: Thanksgiving 6 Pack 2019

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…

Thanksgiving is nearing so, since I’ve done a Thanksgiving recommendation post the last two years, I figured I’d keep the tradition alive. As is often the case, these are beers with varying availability, local to NJ, to the whole Mid-Atlantic region, some available nationally. Like previous years, I’ll be featuring beers that are rich, or beers that can work as dessert beers as well as a mix of beers I’ve had and beers I’ve yet to have.

Pivo Pils | Firestone Walker Brewing Co. | Pilsner | Paso Robles, CA | 5.2% ABV

Image Courtesy of Firestone Walker’s website

If I can find a way to fit a Pilsner into the discussion, I will. Few breweries in America are as widely praised as Firestone Walker. Their pilsner is a fantastic interpretation of the style, which takes some inspiration from both the German and Czech traditions of the style. It is a little more hoppy than most pilsners, but very delicious and a very approachable beer as starter for the day.

What Firestone Walker says about the beer:

Pivo Pils is a classically rendered pilsner with a West Coast dry-­‐hopping twist, showcasing stylistic influences from Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. Lighter beer styles like pilsner have been hijacked by industrial lager beer in the United States, and it’s time for craft brewers to take it back. Pivo Pils offers impeccable balance with floral aromatics, spicy herbal nuances, and bergamot zest and lemongrass notes from dry hopping with German Saphir hops.

Edmund Fitzgerald | Great Lakes Brewing Company | Porter – American | Cleveland, OH | 6% ABV

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing’s website

In my humble opinion, this is the best porter brewed in America and I will often have some of this in my refrigerator in the colder months of the year. Thanksgiving is a very American Holiday. Porters pair well with hearty meals, with their full flavor, especially a flavorful porter like this beer. Add that all up and I’d slot this in either right before dinner or at the dinner table to complement the many roasted flavors of the food.

What Great Lakes says about the beer:

Robust and complex, our Porter is a bittersweet tribute to the legendary freighter’s fallen crew—taken too soon when the gales of November came early.

FLAVOR
Brewed in memory of the sunken freighter, with rich roasted barley and bittersweet chocolate-coffee notes.

Da’ Nile | River Horse Brewing Company | Red Ale – American Amber / Red | Ewing, NJ | 5.9% ABV

Image courtesy of River Horse’s Facebook

Red/Amber Ales are often overlooked these days, but they can pack a lot of flavor. Especially when sweetened up with vanilla and molasses like this fine ale from River Horse. I had this on draft at the brewery after I finished the River Horse 6K earlier in the year and enjoyed it quite a bit. This beer I’d maybe set with the main course and would especially pair nicely with sweet potatoes/candied yams.

What River Horse says about the beer:

A deep amber ale brewed with vanilla, lactose, blackstrap molasses, and caramel malts. A delicious and drinkable malty option with depth and balanced sweetness.

Suddenly Comfy | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery | Cream Ale | Milton, DE | 8% ABV

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head’s website

Dogfish Head does so many flavorful things with their beers and they’re mostly all very good. This beer could bridge the courses from dinner to dessert, with ingredients of Apple Pie in the mix as noted below. This beer is a little higher in ABV (8%), so having some turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes in your stomach will help absorb some of the alcohol. I haven’t had this one yet, but I’m thinking that might change as the holidays get closer.

Dogfish Head says this about the beer:

Things are suddenly getting real comfy around these parts with our latest off-centered creation – Suddenly Comfy.

Brewed with fresh apple cider, Saigon cinnamon and Madagascar vanilla beans, this Imperial Cream Ale is made with all the fixings of a great apple pie … just like grandma used to make. .

Inhale and you’ll be greeted with aromas of pie crust and brûléed sugar. Sip and you’ll find notes of fruity sweetness. Savor and you’ll venture on a fragrant flashback that has you longing for the past.

Inspired by the classically decadent dessert, Suddenly Comfy is a result of our Beer Exploration Journal – a program designed to give our fans a peek into the world of R&DFH, while sampling, evaluating and rating new beers on tap exclusively at our Milton Tasting Room & Kitchen and Rehoboth brewpub.

Gingerbread Moochiato | Bolero Snort Brewing Company | Stout – Milk / Sweet | Carlstadt, NJ | 7 % ABV

Image courtesy of Bolero Snort’s Website

Bolero Snort is one of the great contract breweries in NJ, soon to open their brewery and Taproom at the end of 2019. Hell, not just great contract brewery, great brewery period. Known for their eye-catching a labels and bovinely inspired beer names, their beers are usually a lot of fun. People like coffee at the end of the dinner to enjoy with their dessert, so a sweetened spiced coffee milk stout would fit right in with the cheesecake as it did when I thoroughly enjoyed this beer during a Bolero Snort Dinner Beer pairing on my birthday. I had my 5oz pour as well as my wife’s 5oz pour, it was my favorite of the 5 beers I had that evening.

What Bolero Snort says about the beer:

A little nip in the air…so we’re keeping our uggs on a bit longer. Gingerbread Moochiato: same great coffee laden 7% milk stout base as Moochiato with loads of Ginger, cinnamon, clove, vanilla and just a hint of maple to round things out. Holiday shopping just got better.

Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Oatmeal Cookie | Stout – American Imperial / Double | Holland, MI | 11% ABV

Image Courtesy of New Holland’s website

Finishing the day with a “pastry stout” or “dessert stout” to complement (or supplement?) the previous beer is where this whole thing finishes off. I’ve had several bottles of New Holland’s iconic Dragon’s Milk Stout over the years and they’ve brewed quite a few variants (Coffee Chocolate, Cherry Chocolate, Salted Caramel), I may have had the S’More’s version, too. This year (2019), the variant New Holland released is most definitely a big ABV dessert sipper. Cookies, in my opinion, are just as enjoyable as a slice of cake for dessert so what better big beer to share?

What New Holland says about the beer:

Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Inspired by one of our favorite treats, Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Oatmeal Cookie is carefully aged with cinnamon, oats, brown sugar, raisins, and Madagascar vanilla extract. The familiar flavors of a freshly baked oatmeal cookie make an excellent pair with the rich, warm bourbon notes of our signature barrel-aged stout.

 

2018 untappd Thanksgiving Badge

Draught Diversions: NJ Shelf of Honor Six Pack #1 (Draught Diversion #100!)

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…

Here we are at the end of my “celebration” of New Jersey Craft Beer Week with the 100th Draught Diversion post. I was planning on doing this specific post – the first of my personal Shelf of Honor for NJ beers as my 100th Draught Diversion so it was very serendipitous that the numbers aligned so I could present this post during New Jersey Craft Beer Week. In some of my reviews of NJ beers, I’ve mentioned a Shelf of Essential NJ Beers or that the beer under review would be in my personal NJ Hall of Fame beer. Now that I’m actually starting a six pack of those beers, I’m officially labeling it the “NJ Shelf of Honor” for beers that are essential or deserve a shelf in everybody’s fridge at some point. I will probably be putting together Shelf of Honor six packs in the future, maybe even a “Shelf of Honor” specific to a style or a brewery so consider this first of a series. Some of the beers in these posts will have been featured in a monthly Six Pack or a full review.

In the event I need to state the obvious – this is all my opinion about the beers I enjoy. I’m sure if you ask a dozen people in NJ what they’d consider a “first ballot for their NJ Shelf of Honor” there would be plenty of different beers in those six packs with only a little bit of overlap and maybe only at the brewery level and not at the specific beer level. As per usual, beers are listed alphabetically by brewery

Devil’s Reach | Belgian Strong Golden Ale | Cape May Brewing Company | Cape May, NJ | 8.6% ABV | Featured in the April 2016 Six Pack on the Tap Takeover

Over the last couple of years of drinking their beers, I’ve come to realize Cape May Brewing Company can do almost no wrong in my book. I’m sure regular readers of my blog are weary of reading my words expounding the virtues of the second largest brewery in NJ. The majority of what they brew is on the hoppier Pale Ale/IPA side of the beer spectrum, but this beer is, in my opinion, a world class ale. Like the best of Belgian inspired beers, the delicious magic of Devil’s Reach comes from the Belgian-style yeast so critical to the beer’s flavor. According to this blog post from CMBC, the beer is virtually unchanged since it was first brewed. I find it extremely impressive that they were able to brew this good of a beer on their first batch. This beer is most similar to the world-renowned Delirium Tremens. I’ll say I like Devil’s Reach more.

Regular Coffee | Imperial Cream Ale | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | 12% ABV

Two of the “Irregular” Coffee family members in the back

I’ve probably mentioned Carton on this blog as much as any other brewery (and more than most) and when mulling over what beer from the brewery to include I wavered between a few. Of course Boat was one (a nearly style defining beer), their fantastic Helles Lager This Town was another, and this one, Regular Coffee. I settled on Regular Coffee for a few reasons. One, it is the first Carton beer I had. Second, it is a beer that has become nearly synonymous with the brewery. Not as readily available as some of the other beers on this list (or even their own flagship Boat), but is a beer that has become a brand family within the brewery and something of an iconic beer of NJ Craft/Independent Brewing. Around New Year’s Day every year, Carton releases this beer and/or a variant with some flavors added, one year was Irish Coffee, meant to emulate the whiskey and/or mint infused coffee with maybe the best being Café Y. Churro which emulates Mexican Coffee. But Regular Coffee is the beer that started it all for the brand within a brand and my experience and dedication to the beers made by Augie Carton and crew.

Mexican Morning | Stout – Milk / Sweet | Conclave Brewing Company | Raritan/Flemington Township, NJ | 5.5% ABV

Conclave having a beer on this list is probably not a surprise to readers of the Tap Takeover and this beer is one that has attained some national recognition for its uniqueness. Conclave is the smallest brewery on this six pack and this beer is associated with the brewery the same way Regular Coffee is with Carton. Mexican Morning starts as Milk Stout but during the brewing process cinnamon, vanilla, cacao, coffee, and chili peppers are added. This beer deliciously evokes spicy Mexican coffee and is a beer I will have every single time it is available at Conclave when I visit. It isn’t brewed often enough to be on draft year round, largely because of the price of the ingredients and complexity of the brewing process, but it is absolutely delicious. When it is brewed, it is usually only available for pours at the brewery and not for growler fills. Once or twice Conclave has barrel aged the beer and that version is even more rare, but just maybe the best barrel-aged beer I can recall enjoying.

Overhead | India Pale Ale – Imperial / Double | Kane Brewing Company | Ocean, NJ | ABV 8.2% | Featured in the June 2019 Six Pack on the Tap Takeover

Kane has consistently been ranked as the best brewery in New Jersey for the past half-decade or so. This is a brewery that does EVERY style it attempts with a level of quality unparalleled by few other breweries. I knew I’d have to include one of their beers on this list, but I wasn’t sure which one, initially. Despite their amazing Quadrupels, I wanted to include a beer that is a little more accessible and this beer is probably the most accessible and easiest to find of all their beers – Kane started self-distributing 4-pack cans of this beer over the last year or so. The quality of the beer, oh boy oh boy.

As has been documented, only in the last year and half have I come to appreciate, enjoy, and seek out IPAs so I sort of avoided this beer for a long time. Now that I enjoy the hop heavy beers, I truly appreciate the outstanding nature of this beer. I’d say this is not just the best Imperial IPA out of NJ, but you maybe a top Imperial IPA in the country (Disclaimer, I haven’t had Pliny the Elder, for example). But this beer reminds me very much of Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute IPA, the nationally available standard bearer for Imperial/Double IPAs. Kane’s take is at least as good and an outstanding beer.

Blonde Hefe-Weizen | Hefeweizen | Ramstein/High Point Brewing Company | Butler, NJ | 5.5% ABV | Review on the Tap Takeover (May 2019)

I’d be hard pressed not to include a beer from Ramstein on a list like this one – I love German style beers and Ramstein is one of the originals of NJ Beer and Brewing. Good thing they make an absolute World-Class Hefeweizen – one of my favorite styles – in their line up. This beer is arguably one of the best American Hefeweizens and undoubtedly the best Hefeweizen brewed in New Jersey. Although I reviewed it very recently, this was a beer I’ve had quite a few times even before I joined untappd.

I would recommend this beer without hesitation as a great, flavorful example of a beer brewed with German ingredients (most of the hops, malt, and yeast used by High Point Brewing( are imported from Germany), in German tradition and process (Greg honed his brewing technique in Germany), with some American flare.

Chocolate Porter | Porter – Other | River Horse Brewing Company | Ewing, NJ | 6.5% ABV | Review on the Tap Takeover (February 2018)

River Horse is another one of the Originals of NJ Craft Brewing, having brewed beer for over 20 years. Some changes about a decade ago and a greater push in recent years to brew more beers and more eye-catching labels have kept the brewery a constant. Their Chocolate Porter isn’t the oldest beer in their lineup, nor is it one of the new ones, and it isn’t their flagship, (that would be their award winning Tripel Horse) but it is one of the more well-received beers and has been around for about five years. It is my favorite beer they brew and one I will always grab when I see on shelves. Stylistically, the beer sits right on the edge of the “Pastry Stout” craze: it is sweet, but it is still most definitely a beer. I reviewed it back in February 2018.

From my review: some porters are a little on the smoky side, this one is not. The “one pound of chocolate per barrel” sweetens the beer and eliminates some of that bitter smoke/roast flavor. If anything, the roast/smoke is akin to the edges of a freshly baked brownie, but the overall flavor, if we’re continuing with the brownie analogy, is like the gooey, slightly underbaked deliciousness of the center of the brownie but still retaining all the elements of a beer.

So, there you have it, six beers I feel Honorably represent the State of New Jersey and what the Garden State has to offer in beer. There are over 100 breweries in the state now so six beers is just the start of what could be a long and filled shelf of delicious beer.

 

Draught Diversions: April 2019 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…

April 2019 started off with a bang, I did a bottle share with some friends/co-workers then had a big blast of different beers in the middle with the second annual (and somewhat disappointing) Bridgewater Beerfest. Quite a few very good beers at the bottle share, but since I only had a 2oz pour of each, I hesitate to include them in full detail aside from pointing out the highlights right here: a 2016 batch of Russian River’s Consecration (an American Wild Ale) and Grimm Artisanal’s Chocolate Cherry Icing on the Cake. One of the participants (a former boss of mine), brought vintages of Kane’s Sunday Brunch and Mexican Brunch. My contribution, Conclave’s Moonwater, seemed to be well-received.

From the April 4th Bottle Share

On to the main six pack, which is a little different this month…

Balinator (Carton Brewing Co) Bock – Dopplebock – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

As soon as I saw that one of my favorite breweries was brewing one of my favorite, least made styles (Dopplebock), I was going to buy the beer. So this beer is made with a great deal of coffee, specifically, per the video Carton put out explaining the beer, coffee beans are added during the brewing process where hops would normally be added. Carton plays a nice coffee beer game and this beer is a really interesting example of the skill they have in blending elements of the two most popular beverages on the planet. This beer is what you’d have if you made a perfect blend of iced coffee and a malty, sweet dopplebock.

Sneakbox (Kane Brewing Company) Pale Ale – American – 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

The other NJ Independent brewing giant/legend, Kane makes it two months in a row here at the Tap Takeover. This is a beer I’ve been wanting to try for quite a while, especially since coming to enjoy hop forward beers over the last year. However, like most of Kane’s beers, this one was available only on draft only outside of the brewery, while cans could always be purchased at the brewery. As of this month (April 2019), Kane started to softly distribute this to Wegman’s stores throughout New Jersey. As soon as I saw it available at my local Wegman’s I picked up 4 pack. This has a damned near perfect hop profile from the Citra hop and is probably my favorite American Pale Ale. A beer that is perfect for any occasion or any time.

Sucaba 2019 (Firestone Walker Brewing Company) Barleywine – English – 4.50 Bottle Caps on untappd

Few breweries in the United States have as respected a barrel-aging program as does Firestone Walker. This beer is their annually released barrel aged Barleywine and is an outstanding beer. At 11.3% this is a complex, hot beer to sip over the course of an hour or so. Like most big beers, the flavors come alive as the beer settles to room temperature. I enjoyed this rich, sumptuous beer while watching the first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones, a perfect pairing. The beer has hints of vanilla, cherry, and a little toffee with a pleasant hop bite at the end.

Da’ Nile (River Horse Brewing Co.) Red Ale – American Amber / Red – 3.75 bottle Caps on untappd

Each runner received a beer and a “medal” in the shape of River Horse’s mascot Brewtus, which doubles as a bottle opener.

Although I haven’t been running much lately due to back issues, when a brewery run comes up, I’ll make the sacrifice. In 2016 when I was running 3 or 4 times per week, my wife and I ran the first River Horse 6K. Three years later, the great NJ brewery finally did their second 6K and as part of the race fees, each runner gets a pint of beer at the finish. Since my wife does not drink beer, I had two pints and this was the best of the two. I wouldn’t typically think a Red Ale would work as well with Vanilla and Molasses as this beer does, but here we are. This is about a notch away from being a porter and is quite tasty. A very sweet beer that seems a little better suited to cooler months, but a nice post-race beer nonetheless.

Moment of Clarity (Tree House Brewing Company) Stout – Milk / Sweet – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

This is the first beer I had 100% brewed by Treehouse. I say 100% because I had the outstanding IPA they collaborated with Sierra Nevada to brew in Sierra’s 2017 Beer Camp pack. Back to this beer and all I can say is holy sweet breakfast Batman! Take the flavors that comprise the wonderful breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes doused with maple syrup and topped with a shake of cinnamon and blend it with a delicious milk stout. That’s my guess as to what the alchemists at Tree House Brewing did when they made this beer. Although the ABV isn’t a bomber in double digits, the potent sweetness of the beer makes it best suited as a slow sipper.

A Selection of Tasters from the 2019 Bridgewater Beerfest

Top Left: Worker Drone (Twin Elephant)
Top Right: Triple Power Bomb (Brix City/Barrier)
Bottom Left: Wrench (Industrial Arts)
Bottom Right: Ex Cathedra (The Lost Abbey)

I was excited to attend the Bridgewater Beerfest this year since I enjoyed it so much in 2018 (as that link indicates). While there was a good selection of beer, the fest was a disappointment. There are two reasons, the first is is that 6 breweries listed as appearing (with 5 of them being NJ breweries) did not appear or have any of their beer available. If it was just one brewery who did not appear, I could lay the blame at the brewery’s proverbial feet. However, when at least a half dozen breweries listed end up not attending, I have to think the event organizers posted the list of breweries without getting final confirmation from those breweries. The other frustration was that for the beers that were there, most of the people pouring the beer knew very little about the beer they were pouring for us. I will not be attending this beerfest again, I think.

So, kudos to the breweries who did appear and provide their beer, which is worth highlighting, with the four below as the standouts:

Sure this was a bit of a cheat for the six pack by adding a four pack to the six pack, but given the size of the tasters, these four beers equal – in volume – one full beer. There was another beer that stood out head and shoulders above all the others, but I’ll be reviewing that all by itself in the near-ish future.

So there it is, another monthly six pack in the proverbial books.

Draught Diversions: St. Patrick’s Day 2019 Six 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…

Last year for my St. Patrick’s Day post, I wasn’t yet doing the six pack feature and was a little all over the place with beer recommendations/suggestions. As such, I stuck with some of the more traditional options – Guinness, Murphy’s, etc. with some brief mentions of other, local (mostly NJ) options. So for 2019, some not so traditional options or twists on those traditions. I did have and enjoy one of those beers I highlighted in last year’s St. Patrick’s Day post – the Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout and recommend it. As usual, I’ll put my list together alphabetically by beer name.

Black Magic Stout | Empire Brewing Company | Syracuse, NY | Stout – Irish Dry | 5.8% ABV

Image courtesy of Empire Brewing’s Twitter

For all the NJ beers I review and feature, I don’t feature many NY beers here at the Tap Takeover. That said, this Irish Dry Stout from Empire Brewing is one well worth featuring. I had it a few years ago and really enjoyed it and found it to be similar to Guinness but maybe a little sweeter. I imagine this one could be found on Nitro Draft in NY, especially closer to the Syracuse area where the brewery is located.

What Empire Brewing says about the beer:

A traditional dry Irish stout, carbonated with nitrogen (it pours very much like a Guinness). Dry roasted flavors are prominent, with hints of chocolate and coffee on the finish. World Beer Cup Gold Medal winner for best Dry-Irish Style Stout in the world!

Craic | River Horse Brewing Company | Ewing, NJ | Stout – Irish Dry | 9.1% ABV

Image Courtesy of River Horse’s Facebook

One of the great NJ Breweries, River Horse partnered with Jameson Irish Whiskey a couple of years ago for their Caskmates series of beers. This was the first of those beers which was first brewed in 2017. If you’re going with a whiskey or a stout involving some kind of whiskey barrel aging, there’s no better whiskey than Jameson especially around St. Patrick’s Day. This beer was produced in fairly limited quantities and I’ve not had the chance to try it yet. (Though if the fine folks at River Horse are reading and happen to have an extra bottle…)

What River Horse and Jameson say about the beer:

An imperial, dry Irish-style stout aged with vanilla and coffee beans. We love doing takes on classic cocktails. This is our take on an Irish coffee. Aptly named Craic*, because beer is meant to be fun.

*Craic is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.

Irish Coffee | Carton Brewing Company | Atlantic Highlands, NJ | “Imperial” Cream Ale | ABV: 12%

This was the first variant of Carton’s legendary “Regular Coffee” game I had and it still ranks as one of the best beers I ever had. As the name implies, Carton adds some Irish cream and crème de menthe in the brewing process. This would be a perfect dessert sipping beer after you’ve enjoyed your Corned Beef or Shepherd’s Pie. I’m hoping this beer gets released again since I haven’t had it nearly four years..

What Carton says about the beer:

Irish Coffee is a continuation of the Regular Coffee game. Our golden imperial coffee cream ale has been finished on Irish wood and peppermint. Much like Regular Coffee looks to evoke an amusing version of the acidic bitter coffee curbed by milk and sugar that starts a day in a paper cup, Irish Coffee addresses it on the other end of the day. A beer rendition of a mug of coffee touched by Irish and whipped cream with a drizzle of green crème de menthe to tie up a big meal. Drink Irish Coffee to take it all home.

Irish Stout | O’Hara’s Brewery (Carlow Brewing Company) | Leinster, Ireland | Stout – Irish Dry 4.3% ABV

This was my St. Patrick’s Day beer last year in an Irish tavern (or a bar decorated to appear so) whilst men in kilts were playing bagpipes. I enjoyed the beer very much while I had my traditional shepherd’s pie. I think this is better than Guinness’s standard stout even if not quite as widely distributed. O’Hara’s also has an Irish Red and an IPA to round out their top 3 beers (of about 70+ beers in total).

What O’Hara’s says about the beer:

The flagship of the O’Hara’s brand, this uniquely Irish stout brings one back to how Irish stouts used to taste. First brewed in 1999, it has since been awarded prestigious honours for its quality and authenticity. .

O’Hara’s Irish Stout has a robust roast flavour complemented by a full-bodied and smooth mouth feel. The generous addition of Fuggle hops lends a tart bitterness to the dry espresso-like finish. This sessionable stout beer is filled with rich complex coffee aromas mingled with light licorice notes. The combination of traditional stout hops with an extra pinch of roast barley allows us to stay true to Irish tradition, recreating a taste so often yearned for by stout drinkers..

Kindred Spirits | Innis & Gunn | Edinburgh, Scotland | Stout – Other 6.1% ABV

Pic Alan Richardson Dundee, Pix-AR.co.uk
Innis and Gunn Kindred Spirits

I’ve had a few beers from Innis & Gunn and enjoyed them, and this one looks like it would help that trend continue, should I have the opportunity to try it. If Jameson is the most recognizable Irish Whiskey, then Tullamore D.E.W. is probably a close second. With barrel staves from Tullamore part of the aging/brewing process, this would be an appropriate stout to enjoy on March 17.

What Innis & Gunn says about the beer:

We’ve collaborated for the first time with Tullamore D.E.W., bringing together the very best of Scots and Irish craftsmanship to launch our newest Limited Edition: Kindred Spirits.

Using our unique barrel ageing process, this Scottish Stout has been matured using Tullamore’s legendary triple distilled whiskey barrels creating a rich and delicious Irish Whiskey barrel-aged stout. A perfect pairing of the character of Innis & Gunn’s rich flavour packed beer, and the sweet, spicy, smooth taste of Tullamore D.E.W. with notes of dark chocolate and coffee alongside hints of vanilla.

Stout Aged in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels | Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House | Baltimore, MD | Stout – Foreign / Export | 10% ABV

Image courtesy of Brewbound.com

I wasn’t going to get away without mentioning one of the many beers from Guinness. This one is slightly different for a few reasons. It is one of the first beers – and first barrel-aged beer – to come out of the new Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House Guinness opened in Baltimore. This beer may also be the first widely available barrel aged beer from Guinness. As it so happens, both Guinness and Bulleit are owned by Diageo, the world’s second largest distiller. A nice bit of corporate synergy allowing for what could be a really good beer in a hot popular style. Supposedly, only 15 cases were made available to the entire state of New Jersey so I’ll probably have a tough time finding this one. (Unless somebody from Guinness Open Gate is reading this and wants to send me a bottle!)

What Guinness says about the beer:

Guinness Antwerpen Stout aged in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels. Rich and endlessly complex. The stout we first brewed just for Belgium aged in charred oak bourbon barrels. Coconut and oaky vanilla aroma with a rich and full bodied, dark caramel and coconut flavor.

So there you have it. Whether you enjoy one of these beers or something along your own preference, something you have as a St. Patrick’s Day tradition like a Guinness Draught or a Conway’s Irish Ale from Great Lakes, do so safely and responsibly. Sláinte!!!

Beer Review: River Horse’s Raspberry Tripel Horse

Name: Raspberry Tripel Horse
Brewing Company: River Horse Brewing Company
Location: Ewing, NJ
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 10%

“A sweet-tart twist on the venerable’ NJ brewery’s most respected and widely known beer is a welcome variant on a tried and true style.”

Wanted to collage the picture to show Brewtus with his Raspberry beret. I’ve also been wanting to use my Barrel of Monks glass.

From River Horse Brewing’s page for the beer:

Year after year, the fan favorite at our cask festival is always our Tripel Horse Belgian Style Ale with raspberries. So we figured why not run with it! We’ve added 14 pounds of raspberries per barrel to our original Tripel Horse recipe and bottled it for you to enjoy at home. The raspberry is perfectly balanced in this smooth Belgian style beer. The label may be loud – but the raspberry is perfectly balanced in this smooth Belgian style beer

Almost exactly a year since my first review of a River Horse beer, here comes another from the venerable New Jersey brewery. Oddly enough, for all the love I throw to the Belgian style ales, this is the first Belgian Tripel I’m reviewing. River Horse’s Tripel Horse arguably the most well known and most acclaimed beer they brew – it received a bronze medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival – but I figured that beer was well known enough that I wanted to try something slightly adjacent to that beer. This beer also happens to mark my 5th anniversary on untappd, so it is a great candidate for review.

This beer, like many beers, began as a brewery exclusive variant on a popular beer. I’ve had the original Tripel Horse a few times and have wanted to try this sweetened variant since it was released in bottles a few years ago. In fact, one of the first times I had Tripel Horse I had two sitting at the bar waiting for a table. I thought the beer was delicious, but the ABV was subtle. To the point that when I stood up when our table was called, a nearly fell back down.

Enough reminiscing and preamble, let’s dive into this beer, shall we?

The beer pours like a standard Tripel, but a little hazier and with a reddish-pinkish hue. Not surprising given the amount of raspberries added per barrel. I get the yeasty aroma I’d expect from a Tripel with maybe a hint of the raspberries. It makes for a unique aroma and not unpleasant.

First sip gives more of the raspberry than the nose did, the tartness of the raspberry seems most prevalent. The beer turns out to be quite well-rounded, with the raspberry and yeast playing nicely together. This is a very flavorful beer so I don’t know that I’d pair it with say, a steak, pizza, or your main meal.

The magic of the yeast along with the sweet tartness brought by the raspberry make for a really nice dessert beer. I think the sweetness also masks the 10% ABV of the beer. The booziness / alcohol level aren’t immediately present, but noticeable at the end. Granted, I didn’t chug the beer but rather consumed it in smaller sips because it is such a potently flavor-filled beer.

If you are looking for a sweet take on an already excellent interpretation of a world class style, River Horse’s Raspberry Tripel Horse is well worth trying.

I’ll beat the same drum I do for most higher ABV beers: the flavors come more alive as the beer settles from fridge temperature to room temperature. The sweetness takes over the tartness just a little bit, too.

Side note on the label, it seems over the past year or two, River Horse has made their mascot – Brewtus the Hippo – a more prominent component of their label designs. For this one, they put a beret on him so I found myself playing Prince’s Raspberry Beret in my head when I was enjoying the beer. According to this facebook post, from River Horse the beer was indeed brewed in homage to his Purprleness, Prince:

…Our Raspberry Tripel was created around the time the Artist-Formerly-Known-As (and known again as) Prince died. In honor of his badassness, we thought Brewtus should don a Raspberry Beret.

While this specific beer has been available in bottles for about two years, it is nice to see that River Horse, one of earliest independent/craft breweries in NJ continues to release new styles and beers. This is one that should be an annual favorite.

Recommended, link to Untappd 3.75-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Dubbel, Tripel and Quad Oh My! (Level 9)

Dubbel, Tripel, or Quad, you can’t go wrong with these amazing feats of Belgian style brewing. Whether you’re looking for something light and golden or dark and boozy, one of these will do the trick!

Sky’s the Limit! (Level 29)

You don’t always intend to go for beers with a double digit ABV, but when you do, you make it count! Cheers to you, but be careful, 10% and up can really pack a punch.

Cheers to You (Level 5)

Happy Untappd anniversary to you! Thanks for sticking around and drinking socially with us. Cheers! That’s 5 years on Untappd!

 

Draught Diversions: December 2018 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…

November was a bounce-back month, at least in terms of new beers. Even outside of the 6 brewery tour, the main highlight of the month, I managed to have quite a variety of brews. Additionally, one of my favorite Pennsylvania breweries, Tröegs Independent Brewing, released a fantastic variety pack this year – Most Wonderful Beer of the Year. This 12 pack features 6 varieties, two cans of each of the following beers: Troegenator, Blizzard of Hops, Perpetual IPA, Dreamweaver, Mad Elf (A Christmas Classic, now in cans!), and the beer I’ve highlighted towards the end of the post. Now, to the beers which comprise the December 2018 Six Pack…

Fudge Machine – Porter – Imperial / Double (Demented Brewing Company) – 4.5 bottle Caps on untappd

This beer was a helluva way to start the month. I’ve written multiple times how much I enjoy Demented’s beers and this is near the top of the list of what they’ve brewed over the last few years. One of my favorite NJ beers is River Horse’s Chocolate Porter and Fudge Machine is pretty damned close. I’m not sure how long this will be available from Demented or if it was a one-shot beer, but it should be in their regular rotation. As it stands, the beer is available on draft and in cans from the brewery.

Boomsauce (Lord Hobo Brewing Company) IPA – Imperial / Double New England – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Beers from Lord Hobo started appearing on NJ shelves maybe a year ago? Something like that. At the time, I was still a little averse to IPAs and that’s all Lord Hobo seems to brew. Be that as it may, I gave this one a try and really liked it – good hoppy juiciness. Basically, a perfect example of the New England IPA.

Falconer – Pale Ale – American (Czig Meister Brewing Company) – 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve had quite a few specialty beers from Czig Meister, but not too many of their core beers. I’d wanted to try Falconer for a while now and I’m glad I finally did. This is a clean, sweet, and refreshing take on the American Pale Ale. A great everyday beer and one that would be a great introduction to folks wary of craft beer.

Delirium Tremens – Belgian Strong Golden Ale (Huyghe Brewery [Belgium]) – 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

When it comes to iconic Belgian ales, Delirium Tremens is quite high on the list. The pink elephant is a beacon to a quality ale and with Tremens, they set the bar for a yeasty, potent golden ale. I had this on draft years and years ago (well, before untappd at least). This bottle was birthday gift from a couple of folks I manage, which was nice. This beer is very similar to Cape May’s Devil’s Reach so if you like that, you’ll like this.

Chocolate Stout Stout – Milk / Sweet (Tröegs Independent Brewing) 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

If it hasn’t become clear lately (especially the last couple of months), I’ve been on a Tröegs kick. They do a great job with their variety packs and this winter/Christmas, they produced a great one – Most Wonderful Beer of the Year. For me, the star of this variety pack is this outstanding Chocolate Stout. It does just about everything you’d want a chocolate stout to do. This beer may have begun as one of Tröegs’s Scratch beers, but it really should be a style that gets its own six pack.

Belgian Freeze – Winter Ale/Belgian Dark Ale (River Horse Brewing Company) 3.75 bottle caps on untappd

Untappd lists this as a Winter Ale, Beer Advocate calls it a “Belgian Dark Ale.” Sure it is a winter beer, but the Belgian yeast and sweet and spicy flavor it evokes sets it firmly as a Belgian Dark. Regardless of what style this beer falls under, it is a tasty beer that can warm you up on a cold winter night. This is one of the beers River Horse has been brewing the longest and I can understand why. This is in rotation from River Horse from October to December.  With an ABV of 8% it won’t completely knock you out, but it isn’t a beer you want to throw back too quickly.

There were quite a lot of standouts this month, so there isn’t a real dud I want to call out above in great detail. But to be fair, and to show I don’t like every NJ beer I try, there was one beer that was a bit of a letdown – Bolero Snort’s Snickermoodle. This is a sweet porter brewed with cinnamon and Madagascar vanilla beans. I think I just don’t like vanilla as a component in my beers because in this beer, the vanilla finish completely destroys all the other flavors. Well, at least it did in this beer. I had two of the four from the four pack the second can was better, but that Madagascar vanilla is still overpowering.