Draught Diversions: November 2017 Beer Pours

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…

A great variety of beer passed across my palette in November 2017 due, in large part, to the North Jersey Brewery tour my wife took me on for my birthday in the middle of the month. I’ve already highlighted one of those breweries, Angry Erik, and I’ll briefly touch on the four other breweries later in the post as I may wind up doing a feature/full Draught Diversion on at least one of those breweries. That, combined with visiting a couple of my very local breweries and some other assorted beers throughout the month really shine the focus on New Jersey breweries for November. Since the last day of November was on a Thursday (when Draught Diversions normally posts), I figured I’d hold the post for an extra day to squeeze in that one last new beer.

Proper Glassware x2, snifters with the iconic Brooklyn brand

The first new beer I had in November was from craft beer stalwart Harpoon, specifically the new fall offering from their popular UFO Hefeweizen line, Cranbeery. I’ve enjoyed most of the UFO beers a great deal but this one didn’t quite do it for me, it was more tart and sour than I expect from a Hefeweizen. Next up and a couple of days later was an outstanding beer I shared with my father. Well, I gave him the bottle for his birthday in September, but we shared it for my birthday: Brooklyn Black Ops, a delicious Russian Imperial Stout which comes in at 11.6% ABV and tasted better as it settled into the glass. The bourbon barrel aging came through nicely in both the aroma and taste.

Sadly, I broke this glass after only using it twice.

The season of stouts continued with Sierra Nevada’s annual Imperial Stout release, Narwhal. I’ve had this in year’s past so was looking forward to having the beer and was not disappointed. Like most stouts, this got better as it warmed. For whatever reason, this was a tough beer to find in my area of New Jersey, with the closest liquor store to me listing it on beermenus about 25 miles away. Fortunately, the store is close to my parents so my dad picked up a six pack for me. Sierra’s been changing some of their labels, over the past year or so including this one. While the new label is nice, I loved the previous label. Keeping with the annual release theme, Founders released Backwoods Bastard and like last year’s vintage, this year’s vintage was outstanding. As I’ve said, I think I like this one more than I like KBS.

Hop Ritual w/ Vic Secret

As I’ve been doing with more regularity, I stopped into my local brewery, Conclave in November since they released a couple of new beers, both of which were very good. The first was a fall porter, Transcendent Leaf Peeping. The other new beer was a variation on their Hop Ritual Pale Ale. This one is called Hop Ritual with Vic Secret, so named for the strain of New Zealand hops used in the beer. I wasn’t expecting to be as blown away by this beer as I was, but it was so delicious I had to bring home at least a half-growler for myself.

Next was the big Birthday Brewery Tour, courtesy of my wife. Last year was a handful of Jersey Shore breweries, this year was North Jersey breweries. We started out at the venerable brewers of high-quality German style beers, Ramstein / High Point Brewing. As it so happened, that day was when Ramstein was releasing their famous Winter Wheat beer. I had the equivalent of a pint since my wife gave me her free samples. What a phenomenal beer, an absolutely outstanding dopplebock that has rightly earned a reputation that draws people from far and wide to fill their growlers with this delicious beer. The other new-to-me beer I had at Ramstein was the outstanding Imperial Pilsner. I just wish Ramstein’s distribution reached a little more into Somerset County because this is one of the beers they bottle and I’d have this in my house regularly.

The second brewery was Angry Erik, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, with the final leg of the journey being the triumvirate of breweries in Hackettstown, NJ. The first of those was Man Skirt Brewing, the highlight (and surprise beer there) was Better than Pants, a tasty excellent English Bitter that earned me the “You’re Extra Special” badge on untappd. All five beers I had were good. From there, we walked around the block to Czig Meister Brewery which was insanely packed, in part, because a portion of the brewery was cordoned off for a party. The standout here was Habonde a barrel-aged barely wine. I may have to pick up a bottle since Czig is now distributing cans and bottles throughout New Jersey. The last of the Hackettstown Trio was Jersey Girl Brewing. The beers in the flight were extremely consistent in quality with their King Gambrinus Belgian Tripel standing out to me the most. I’ll most likely be dedicating an entire Draught Diversions post to some (maybe all) of these breweries where I’ll give some more details on each beer I had.

A deep, dark, roust Imperial Stout from Lone Eagle

At the monthly Brews and Board Games at Lone Eagle, I tried their Imperial Breakfast Stout, a malty stout aged on coffee beans then aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels with some blood orange puree added on the finish. All the characteristics of an excellent stout along with hints of an Old Fashioned thanks to the Bourbon and Orange. The other beer I had was a juicy Pale Ale they call Local Pale Ale.

Possibly the best beer in Flying Fish’s Exit Series – Exit 17

Tröegs Mad Elf is a seasonal favorite and the 2017 batch might be the best yet. Then came Thanksgiving weekend. The first beer is one I’ve been holding onto for a couple of weeks, a beer I was fortunate enough to snag because only 750 were bottled, the final beer (for now?) in Flying Fish’s Exit SeriesExit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout, which might be the best beer of the month for me. This is probably the best beer in the Exit series, too. Not content with brewing a Russian Imperial Stout, Flying Fish aged this one in Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey bottles. Although I’ve come to love beers aged in bourbon barrels, allowing this beer to sit in Rye Whiskey bottles helps to set it apart from its barrel-aged brethren. Flying Fish’s description says this is a “one of a kind” beer and I’d be hard-pressed to dispute the claim. I also had the new version of Southern Tier’s Warlock, which they changed from previous years and unfortunately, not for the better. They dropped the ABV from 10% to 8.6% and the whole flavor is different, it doesn’t taste too much different than Pumking, which isn’t bad, just not what I was hoping to have. The last beer on Thanksgiving is the beer I reviewed earlier in the week, Stone’s Xocoveza Imperial Milk Stout.

The last Saturday of the month of new brews  were enjoyed at Revolutions a fine Craft Brew bar Morristown, NJ. I met up with a friend who lives in Morristown. We’d visited the bar before and were impressed with the beer list and menu, with its heavy focus on German brats. That night I had two very good beers: Malus from Kane Brewing, in Ocean. This is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but the flavor is sweetened by the addition of apple cider. The beer went down very easily for a 9.5% ABV. The other brew I had was one of the best Pilsners I’ve ever had, which was unsurprisingly, from a German Brewery. The beer is Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle from Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The crispness, freshness and underlying roastiness makes this, in my humble opinion, a world-class Pilsner.

Lastly, the final new beer of November 2017 was last night’s Moo Thunder Milk Stout from Butternuts brewery, which was a little thin and flat for a Milk Stout. I’d seen this on the shelf in area liquor stores for a few years now, it is hard to miss or forget with the big fat cow on the can. Unfortunately, that label is the most appealing element of the beer for me.

I’d have to say the two best beers of the month for me were Exit 17 – Russian Imperial Stout from Flying Fish and the Rothaus Pils / Tannen Zäpfle.

Draught Diversions: September 2017 Beer Pours

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…

In rolls September, what should be a month of slightly cooler weather and darker beers. But what we get is still warm weather, but the beer always flows. I started off the month by hitting up two breweries very close to me, Demented Brewing and Conclave Brewing on the first two days of the month, respectively.

At Demented, I picked up a growler of their Hefeweizen (Rumplestiltskin) and tried their New England IPA, Gallows Hill, which was delicious; Baccara, their second anniversary Imperial Stout, which has wonderful chocolate and cherry flavor additions; and a new Hefeweizen, The First Born which didn’t quite work for me. The next day, I headed to Conclave, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

L->R : Gallows HIll, Baccara, Rumplestiltskin, and The First Born

With Oktoberfest beginning in the middle of the month, Oktoberfest beers began appearing back in August. Every year I try to have at least a couple I haven’t had in the past. One of those was the Sierra Nevada / Miltenberger collaboration, which was excellent. I also really enjoyed Two Roads Ok2berfest, which I brought to a friend’s NFL Kick-off party. That same friend visited Ommegang and brought me back a bottle of Rosetta, a sour-ish Lambic that might be the best Cherry beer I’ve ever head.

 

I already mentioned what is probably my favorite Fall Beer of the year, The Bruery’s ® Autumn Maple. I enjoyed it so much I may need to try the darker take on the beer, Midnight Maple. That same weekend, I slowly enjoyed the indulgent, decadent Wrath from Demented Brewing. This is a delicious Russian Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. Some Russian Imperials can be too bitter for my taste buds, but as I say briefly on untappd, letting this one sit in Bourbon Barrels really helped soften that bitterness.

I’ve mentioned Weihenstephaner several times here as a favorite brewery, so when they brew something new, I’m going to want to try the beer. Their new Kristalweizenbock is delicious, interesting beer. Very clear, like a filtered Hefeweizen, but sweet, smooth, and malty like a bock. I tried my second Von Trapp beer at a tasting, the Vermont brewery’s take on the classic German style, Helles Lager. Even though the beer was warm, it still tasted quite good. I may have to get a full six pack of this one at some point in the future.

After missing it in August, I stopped at Lone Eagle for the September Brews and Board Games night. In the past, I’ve only had one or two, but I figured I’d go for a flight. First off was a beer I mentioned wanting to try in my Oktoberfest post, My Favorite Marzen, which was an excellent, malty, caramelly beer. I liked it so much I had a pint once I finished the flight. Rounding out the flight was the Pumpkin Amber Ale, a subtle Pumpkin Ale; Lone Eagle’s anniversary brew, Saison Jubileum, a Saison “aged in wine barrels and fermented on peaches” which made for a tasty sweet n’ sour beer; and finally, Black Out IPA, a roasty, yet bitter Black IPA.

Lone Eagle Flight L->R: My Favorite Marzen, Pumpkin Amber Ale, Saison Jubileum, and Black Out IPA

During the last full weekend in September, we all went up to Mountain Creek for their annual Oktoberfest celebration. The mountain feel gave a decent vibe, but that was completely negated by the near 90-degree temperature. Unfortunately, prices just about doubled since last year, according to the brother-in-law so the beer and food didn’t flow as copiously as it did in past years when he attended. Be that as it may, there were still some good brews to enjoy. One of which was a solid German Oktoberfest from Dinkelacker. The last beer I had there was from the venerable NJ Brewery Ramstein, their newest beer, INK, their take on the Schwarzbeir / Black Lager. This is a roasty, tasty dark brew with hints of coffee. I think this is something I’d like to have again without the beer warming so much from the hot weather.

Dinkelacker Oktoberfestbier

I’ve avoided mentioning of unenjoyable beers in these monthly posts, but I figured to show some balance, I’ll rattle off a few that were not-so-good over the last month. Abita’s gose, To-Gose was very bland, the Louisiana brewery has been hit or miss for me over the years. Bear Republic’s Big Bear Black Stout, was a stout I couldn’t even finish, not smooth enough and too bitter for a standard stout. Luckily I only had one bottle of each from a choose-your-own sixpack. My wife, brother-in-law, his girlfriend, and I (the same crew that went to the Mountain Creek Oktoberfest) went to a great Taco Festival in the middle of the month. They had a very slim offering of brews (despite the advertising leading people to believe there would be a wider selection) which consisted of Bud Light, Coors Light, and two from Lagunitas. I tried was 12th of Never Ale from Lagunitas, an undrinkable pale ale which I didn’t even finish. I’m coming to learn I don’t like much from this brewery. The last “unenjoyable” was a relatively new beer from New Belgium, Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin, which is a pumpkin ale with cinnamon and habanero chili peppers. For all the flavoring elements, I found it to be pretty bland, with a slight kick. I think it may also have been flat.

Best new brews of the month (not reviewed on their owne) are probably Ommegang’s Rosetta and Wehenstephaner’s Kristalweizenbock.

In October, I expect I’ll likely try a few new Pumpkin beers, some new stouts and offerings from local breweries.

Draught Diversions: 5 Breweries I Want to Visit

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…

There are thousands of breweries across the country and visiting them all would be challenge for anybody save the late great Michael Jackson or somebody like Jeff Allworth or John Holl whose jobs are all about beer. I’ve featured breweries I’ve visited from New Jersey so with today’s post, I’ll focus on 5 Non-New Jersey breweries I would love to visit and tour some day in the future. This may be a rotating, ongoing feature because there are definitely more than 5 breweries I would love to tour and visit.

Choosing which I’d like to visit first isn’t an easy decision, so I’ll use the arbitrary ranking of “From Which Brewery Does Rob Have the Most Unique Check ins”

Sierra Nevada Company in Chico, California (1979)
Total Sierra Nevada beers checked in on untappd: 35

Arguably, the most important American Craft Brewery, full stop. Although their iconic green label Pale Ale is not one of my favorites, it is considered by many to be the most important American craft beer produced. I think I may need to try it once again. I do; however, enjoy many of the beers from their portfolio, like Narwhal, the delicious Imperial Stout, the Summerfest Pilsner, the wonderful Porter that doesn’t seem to make it out to New Jersey any more and perhaps the best American Hefeweizen, Kellerweis. The annual Beer Camp collaboration is a highlight, as is what has now become an annual Oktoberfest collaboration brew. Their Barleywine, Bigfoot is iconic and so many people I know countdown the days until Sierra’s ultra-hopped Christmas brew, Celebration Ale is available.

Visiting the brewery that was at the forefront of the Craft Beer Revolution is a no-brainer for any craft-beer fan.

Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan (1997)
Total Founders’ beers checked in on untappd: 23

Walk into any store selling craft beer and chances are you’ll see at least one beer from the 20-year American Craft Beer institution. Seeing the brewery on television, for example when the dudes from Brew Dogs visited Michigan, makes it more appealing, as does a recent episode of Steal this Beer where Founders’ head Brewery Jeremy Kosmicki was a guest.

I’ve had nearly 2 dozen different beers from Founders and have enjoyed all of them. Just look at their portfolio of beloved brews: Breakfast Stout, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Backwoods Bastard, All Day IPA, Rübæus, PC Pils, Sumatra Mountain Brown, and the list goes on. Plus, like many breweries, there are quite a few brews that are brewery only releases, like one of the rarest of brews, an Eisbock.

This is high atop the must visit list for me.

Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland Ohio (1988)
Total Great Lakes beers checked in on untappd: 16

I’ve had about a dozen beers from Great Lakes impressive portfolio and haven’t been disappointed by any of them. My wife and I have a life goal of visiting every Major League Baseball stadium and when we eventually get to Cleveland, we are going to have to visit this great Mid-Western brewery. That may not be for a couple/few years, but it will happen.

Great Lakes Brewing’s porter, Edmund Fitzgerald, is possibly the best American porter I’ve had. I’ll probably be reviewing that beer in the nearish future so I’ll hold off on any more descriptive praise. Last week I proclaimed their Oktoberfest my favorite American Oktoberfest and every year, a six pack of Great Lakes Christmas Ale is always in my refrigerator. Cleveland is such a great city, from what I’ve heard, so between this fantastic brewery, the Cleveland Indians, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’m looking forward to eventually making our way out there.

A small sampling of their year-round brews

Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY (1997)
Total Ommegang beers checked in on untappd: 15

I’ve talked about their Game of Thrones beers here at the Tap Takeover, but they brew so much more than that. Ommegang brews traditional Belgian ales, in keeping with the ingredients and brewing methods to produce some of the finest, most well-regarded beers in America. The Abbey Dubbel is a world class, delicious beer. The Cherry Lambic they coproduce (Rosetta) is everything a fruit beer should be. About the only beer of theirs that didn’t work for me was their Nirvana IPA, which is a style outside their Belgian wheelhouse.

Also in keeping with a Baseball theme, it has been a few years (almost 20!) since I last visited the Baseball Hall of Fame so this trip would be at least a two-for with two fantastic spots in the same area.

A good friend whose son plays Little League baseball made the trip to Cooperstown and kept sending me pictures of the brewery and talked about how great the smaller batch beers were. Needless to say, I was a little jealous.

Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Bavaria, Germany (1040)
Total Weihenstephan beers checked in on untappd: 7*
*They don’t have quite as many styles in their portfolio, which is part of their success because all are superb

Is there any more classic German brewery? I don’t think so. Brewers of the world’s greatest Hefeweizen, a Weizenbock with nearly as good a reputation (Vitus), a great Dopplebock (Korbininan) to name just 3. If there’s a German style of beer, they brew it and it is a classic. Plus, with my German roots, I really want to visit this brewery and if I do, I’ll probably tour other German breweries. Just look up any of the beers from the picture below on Beer Advocate to check the ratings. Most if not all are World Class or Outstanding from the Alström Bros.

With Mom being born in Germany, there’s an added desire for me to visit Germany and why not start with the oldest and one of the most respected breweries in the world?

Draught Diversions: Oktoberfest 2017

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…

Oktoberfest…is there any time of year that is more of a beer holiday? I don’t think so. Sure there are beers for every season and every occasion, but few times throughout the year does beer, across the world, have such a spotlight shone upon it. As with many great beer-related traditions, this one goes back to Munich, Bavaria, Germany in 1810. What began as a celebration of the marriage of then Prince and soon King Ludwig to Princess Therese expanded to something that is a global celebration of German culture and Gemütlichkeit two hundred years later. With Okoberfest 2017 beginning this weekend, September 16 [ends October 3], what better time for a little post about the great German celebration?

From Wikipedia:

Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. Beers meeting these criteria are designated Oktoberfest Beer. The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest Beer under the aforementioned criteria are:
Augustiner-Bräu
Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu
Löwenbräu
Paulaner
Spatenbräu
Staatliches Hofbräu-München

Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers, which consists of the above six breweries.

From those breweries, the only Oktoberfest beer I haven’t had is the one brewed by Augustiner-Bräu.

I suppose one way you could view this is similar to sparkling wine and Champagne in that only the sparkling wine from Champagne, France can truly be considered Champagne. Only those six brewers make “True Oktoberfest” beer.

There are many, many more Märzen/Oktoberfest/Festbiers available, brewed by German breweries and American breweries alike. Last year (in 2016) the Oktoberfest that I enjoyed the most was Ayinger’s so I’m probably going to get some of that this year. I almost always get at least a six pack of the Hacker-Pschorr and really want to pick up some of Weihenstephaner’s Festbier since I haven’t had theirs in a couple of years.

Then we get to the American Oktoberfest beers and boy is there a variety as it seems most mid level craft brewers have a fall Oktoberfest offering and even some of the local nano-breweries in New Jersey are brewing up the traditional Lager style of the beer.

As of this writing, I’ve only had two Oktoberfest beers so far in 2017 and I usually try to push off having any until after Labor Day. I may have ranted about that in the past.

The first I had was Sierra Nevada’s collaboration with Brauhaus Miltenburger, which was quite good. I like this annual tradition, you get a new version of the Oktoberfest every year, but with the Sierra Nevada brand, chances are it will be a good Oktoberfest.  This was the third year Sierra Nevada collaborated with a German brewery on an Oktobefest, rthe first was in 2015 with Brauhaus Riegele and last year’s (2016) was Mahrs Bräu.

The other was Two Roads’ offering, Ok2berfest which was a great interpretation of the style. I was not surprised considering I’ve enjoy just about everything from Two Roads, but I’d never had theirs in the past.

Annual American Favorites

The best Oktoberfest from an American brewery, for my drinking dollar every year, is Great Lakes Oktoberfest. The great Cleveland brewery doesn’t make a bad beer and their portfolio of beers is one of the most consistent in the American craft brew landscape Their Oktoberfest is an annual must for me, as it perfectly captures the malty, caramelly essence of a Märzen lager. Despite their size and distribution reach, Yuengling is still considered a micro brewery and their Oktoberfest is usually a very dependable, solid offering. It is ubiquitous this time of year in the Northeast and family and friends usually have this one in their fridge.

Victory Brewing’s Festbier is worth getting every year, too. That shouldn’t be a surprise coming from me at this point, if you’ve been reading The Tap Takeover every week. Local NJ Craft Brewer Ramstein / High Point Brewing makes a very good Oktoberfest, considering the strong German roots and basis for their approach to brewing, this is a natural beer for them to make.

Oktoberfest Beers to Try in 2017 for the First Time

From NJ breweries there are three I’d like to try. My friends at Flounder are brewing up an Oktobefest I’m hoping to sample in the next couple of weeks. Czig Meister in Hackettstown released an Oktoberfest this year and they’ve really been making a big push with cans into distribution so hopefully that’ll show up locally. Lone Eagle has one they’ve named “My Favorite Marzen” which on the name alone seems worth trying.

Outside of breweries in NJ, I really want to try Firestone Walker’s Oaktoberfest. I’ve only had excellent beers from the popular California craft brewery so I’ve got high hopes for this beer. Unfortunately this will only be a limited draft offering in 2017. With von Trapp’s beers entering the NJ Market, I would like to try theirs as well, considering the German brewing tradition behind the brewery.  For all the beers I’ve enjoyed over the years from Harpoon, I’ve never had their Oktoberfest.  I haven’t seen their beers as widely available in NJ as I did a few years ago.

I usually try to get to at least one Oktoberfest celebration every year.  A local restaurant has a big outdoor celebration every year, but it seems to get earlier and earlier every year. This year, I’m likely going to a mountain retreat for a big outdoor Oktoberfest celebration.

So, with that, a safe and enjoyable Oktoberfest to you all. Or as my ancestors say (mom was born in Germany!),

Ein prosit und Gemütlichkeit!

Draught Diversions: Underappreciated Styles – Dunkelweizen

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’s a potential recurring theme … Overlooked & underappreciated styles. This time around, I’ll focus on a traditional German/Bavarian Style – Dunkelweizen.

I can only guess at the reasons why this rich, classic style gets overlooked. One of those is the prevalence of Hop-forward beers in the US craft beer market place, you know, the ever present IPA and all the derivations of the style. Similarly, the popularity and abundance of stouts and their various styles may draw drinkers who prefer darker beers away from Dunkelweizens.

But back to the Dunkelweizen…a wonderful, yeasty, bready, clovey beer which is a dark cousin of the classic Hefeweizen. If Hefeweizen is a beer that can be associated with summer, then Dunkelweizen may be an early fall beer or late spring beer. Days when the warmth is comfortable enough to don shorts or cool enough to go long pantsed, evenings cool enough to throw a hooded sweatshirt on while still wearing your shorts from the day.

While the low hop bitterness of the style is likely one reason, another is that not that many American breweries make Dunkelweizens. Neshaminy Creek in Pennsylvania brews one annually (Dunks Ferry Dunkelweizen) as a fall seasonal, Samuel Adams occasionally releases a dunkelweizen, and Shiner brews one around Christmas. I’d suspect the smaller breweries that lean more towards traditional German brewing styles would be brewing a Dunk on occasion.

Three microbreweries I’ve visited in New Jersey brew Dunkelweizens regularly: Demented in Middlesex brews a Dunkelweizen (Der Wolf) as a fall seasonal. I had it in a flight not long after Demented opened its doors so I’d like to revisit it again. Jughandle brewed one in their first year, which was pretty good. Ramstein / High Point Brewing, one of the stalwarts, or “five O.G. New Jersey craft breweries,” has a Dunkelweizen (or Dunkel Hefe-weizen as they call it) as part of its regular line up of beers. This makes sense considering the Germanic foundation of the brewery. I really need to get up to that brewery and sample all of their beers, I’ve only had the Hefeweizen and liked it a lot.

One anecdotal indication of the lack of Dunkelweizens in the beer market is doing a quick Google search of “Dunkelweizen.” The search returns more results that pertain to home-brewing Dunkelweizens than breweries who brew Dunkelweizen.

Another guess is that perhaps one of the issues with a lack of Dunkelweizens is the delicate brewing process? I recall picking up a six pack almost two years ago and the beer was skunked, it tasted more like a sour beer than a Dunkelweizen. A little googling at the time returned some results that the process can allow for souring if not monitored properly. That having been said, I would think any brewery making a Hefeweizen would (or maybe even should?) brew up a Dunkelweizen for their line-up.

As for some of the better Dunkelweizens I’ve had, unfortunately, I’ve only had a small handful of Dunkelweizens although I would most definitely welcome more on the market and in my refrigerator. As I sad last week, the wheat base and clovey/banana-y flavor profile hits my taste-buds so well. One of the best Dunkelweizens I had was from the venerable German brewer who brews only wheat beers, Erdinger. About a year ago, my wife and I went to one of our favorite restaurants going back to our Rutgers University days, Stuff Yer Face. To my pleasant surprise they had Erdinger Dunkel on tap and it was delicious. It had been a few years since I went there and I was was pleased with impressive beer menu. Since going there with my wife, and I returned recently again in part because of that beer menu. But I digress. Erdinger’s take on the style was probably the best Dunkelweizen I’ve had in years, or at least since joining Untappd. Of course, the classic German brewery Weihenstephaner makes a great Dunkelweizen, which was just about as good as Erdinger’s. I think the main difference is how fresh the Erdinger was since I had it on draught.

Photo courtesy of Erdinger’s web site. The dark color of the beer just says fall beer.

Another great and more recent Dunkelweizen I enjoyed was the “Dunkle Weisse” from Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across the World variety pack this year.  This was a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and the great German Brewery, Ayinger.

 

Who knows. Only a few years ago even some of the more vocal and “experienced” craft beer drinkers didn’t know what a Gose (another German wheat-based beer) was and that style is extremely popular now, with many breweries creating at least one Gose beer for continual rotation in their lineup. Although the Dunkelweizen isn’t quite as obscure as a Gose once was, I’d like to see Dunkeweizen come back to even half the popularity that Gose now enjoys.

Draught Diversions: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2017 The Overseas Six

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…

This is the second of two posts focusing on Sierra Nevada’s annual collaboration beer project, Beer Camp. Today, I’m going to finish off my thoughts on the 2017 Beer Camp variety pack with the collaborations between Sierra Nevada and breweries from Overseas. Like last week’s post featuring collaborations with US breweries, I’ll go from the one I enjoyed the least and finish it off with the one I enjoyed the most.

White IPA with Yuzu – A collaboration with Kiuchi Brewery (Ibaraki, Japan)

I think my stance on IPAs is clear at this point… so I was pleasantly surprised by this White IPA. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t wow me like any of the other brews in this entire 12 pack. The White IPA was tasty and really low in bitterness  for an IPA (only 20 IBU) while the hop profile definitely imparted what it should for an IPA. The Japanese brewer, Kiuchi, brews a fairly well recognized Witbier (Hitachino Nest White Ale) which seems to be their contribution to this brew and provides a nice balance to the IPA profile complemented by the addition of the citrusy yuzu fruit. This was an interesting beer, but unfortunately, not as good as the other brews from overseas.

Campout Porter – A collaboration with Garage Project (Wellington, New Zealand)

Porter is one of my go-to styles of beer, especially in cooler weather, so I was looking forward to this one. I liked it, but as with some porters, there was a bit too much roastiness or smokiness in this beer. I expect that strong presence of smoke/roast in porters, but it is the quality in porters I like the least. The vanilla and honey were subtle, but I think their sweetness calmed the smokiness.

With Campout as the name of the porter, the smoke and roast elements were not a surprise. This was not a bad porter in any way, a very good one in fact. Just a little more smokey/roasty than I typically like in my porters but by no means is this a dud. I’d drink it again were it made available outside the 12-pack.

Hoppy Belgian Style Golden Ale (Brewed with Lemon Peel) – A ollaboration with Duvel Moortgat (Puurs, Belgium)

I’ve come to enjoy Belgian beers and beers brewed in the Belgian style/with Belgian yeast quite a bit as of late. Duvel is one of the more respected and well-known Belgian breweries in the world, so this one was right up my alley. A really nice balance of hops and Belgian yeast make this a beer I could have in constant rotation in my refrigerator. Don’t let that statement or the golden color fool you, this is no lightweight beer. At 8% it does have a kick that will catch up with you but is right in the sweet spot for hop profile.

Atlantic Style Vintage Ale – A collaboration with Fuller’s Brewery (London, UK)

Fullers is one of the big boys of British brewing, their ESB is the equivalent of an institution. The ESB stands for “Extra Special Bitter” so with that in mind, I was a bit cautious about this beer. I was expecting something bitter, but I was pleasantly surprised by the beer that poured out of the bottle. Barely any bitterness, but I expect that’s due to the plums added to the brewing mix.

This was a very complex beer that worked really well for my tastebuds. I’d love to have another bottle or three of it. A beer that exemplifies what one should expect in a mix pack of collaboration beers.

Thai-Style Iced Tea Ale – A collaboration with Mikkeler Brewery (Copenhagen, Denmark)

I had no idea what to expect with this beer. An American and Danish brewery collaborating on an Asian inspired beer? I was completely taken aback by this brew, there’s such a wonderful sweetness throughout that isn’t cloying nor does the sweetness overpower the profile. Rather, is still noticeable and pleasing. Additional tasty flavor components are citrus as well as the dark tea infused throughout.

This would make for a fantastic annual summer seasonal beer. Such a unique and different beer that really exemplifies experimental beer at its best – smart flavor enhancements without throwing in different flavor additives just to be crazy or experimental. I’m writing about it a couple of weeks after drinking the beer and I really would like to have another one.

Dunkle Weisse – A collaboration with Ayinger Brewery (Bavaria, Germany)

Of all the beers in this variety pack, the Dunkelweizen was the beer I was most anticipating and the beer I drank first. I love the German beers and German-inspired styles, but unfortunately for me, there just aren’t that many Dunkelweizens on beer shelves or on tap in bars. A shame because the style is quite complex and works in both summer, due to its similarity to Hefeweizens, and fall because of the darker color. This collaboration between Germany’s Ayinger and Sierra Nevada is a wonderful, perfect interpretation of the style. The yeast Ayinger uses is on full display in this beer that, coupled with the clovey and banana-y/bready hints, gave me everything I hoped it would give me when I popped the cap and poured it into my glass.

If you like Dunkelweizen, or haven’t tried the style and enjoy Hefeweizens, chances are you’d really enjoy this beer. I would buy this one by the caseload were it to become available by itself. This was one of the best Dunkelweizens I’ve ever had. I think the one I had that was better came from Erdinger, a German brewery known primarily for their wheat beers.

To sum up the Sierra Nevada 2017 Beer Camp Across the World variety pack, a very good mix of brews. I have to give the Overseas half the edge in terms of overall quality and consistency largely because I poured out one of the Stateside collaborations. There was a better balanced mix on the Overseas collaborations, even the one I liked the least from Overseas was drinkable.

On the whole, the Stateside Six had a more noticeable hop profile, while the Overseas Six seemed to have a greater range of flavor profiles.

My favorite from the Overseas (as the list above indicates) is the Dunkle Weisse collaboration with Ayinger, but the best beer overall was the New England IPA collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Treehouse.

If you have the opportunity and the 12-pack is still available in your local beer merchant, it is well worth your beer buying dollar to pick up this pack.

Draught Diversions: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2017 Six from the States

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…

This is the first of two posts focusing on Sierra Nevada’s annual collaboration beer project, Beer Camp. I had couple from last year’s mix pack, but this is the first year I picked up the whole 12 pack. For 2017, the fine brewers at Sierra Nevada invited breweries from around the world to collaborate and as such, this year’s variety pack features 12 different brews, six collaborations with US breweries, 6 collaborations with oversees breweries, three of which (all from the US) are 16oz cans.

Today, I’m going to give my thoughts about the six collaboration beers between Sierra Nevada and breweries from the United States. I’ll go from the one I enjoyed the least and finish it off with the one I enjoyed the most.

West Coast DIPA – A collaboration with Boneyard Beer (Bend, OR)

As I’ve said a few times, IPAs are not my preferred style of beer. On occasion, I will find one that is to my liking but as a style IPAs are unavoidable since they are so popular. If I don’t enjoy a “single” IPA, chances are I won’t enjoy a Double IPA and that is the case with this beer. Everything I don’t like about IPAs, especially Double IPAs are highlighted in this beer. The hop presences is funky, piney and extremely overpowering. The bitterness exemplified by IPA/DIPA is on full display in this pint. I like there to be a little more of a malt profile, but this one had none of that, or at best, was overpowered out by the drowning hop presence. This was a rare case of me actually pouring out a beer I paid for, I couldn’t finish this one as it hit every wrong button in my palate. That said, if you love DIPA as a style, chances are you’ll love this one. This one was in a 16 oz can.

Barleywine style Ale – A collaboration with Avery Brewing (Boulder, CO)

I haven’t had too many Barleywines, not out of dislike, more out of just not gravitating towards them. If I’m going to be honest, they are often at a price tag of $15 for a four pack and I’m hesitant to spend that much on four beers I may not like, which is why I’ll order them if I’m at a bar with a good beer menu. This one was pretty good.

Most Barleywines have a big hop hit and this one was no exception at 90 IBU. The IBU was a bit much for my palate. I think I prefer the “English” style of Barleywines, which tend to have a lower hop presence and are usually a bit sweeter with the malt overtaking the hop presence. This one tasted like a variant on Sierra’s popular Bigfoot Barleywine, which is essentially what this brew is. In other words, if you like Bigfoot, you’ll probably like this one.

Ginger Lager – A collaboration with Surly Brewing (Minneapolis, MN)

This was an interesting beer and not like many I’ve had before. This one, as I said on untappd, has “all the ginger,” which given the title, is no surprise. The description indicates there’s cayenne pepper added, too, but all I tasted was ginger. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one since ginger is a flavor I only really enjoy in Asian food. This is the kind of beer one would expect in a variety of experimental beers, not exactly to my taste, but an interesting beer altogether. This was one of the other 16 oz cans.

Dry-Hopped Berliner-Style Weisse – A collaboration with Saint Arnold Brewing Company (Houston, TX)

Berliner Weisse is a style I’ve really come to enjoy over the past couple of years and this sour-wheat beer is a really good example of the style. It isn’t too overpowering on the sour end of things and is a little more tart than sour. This beer hit all the right notes associated with the style, though I would have like to taste a bit more fruit in the beer. I could see myself going back to this one again.

Now, for my two favorites of the Stateside Collaborations

Raspberry Sundae – A collaboration with The Bruery (Placentia, CA)

Again, the name implies it all – Raspberry Sundae. This is a perfect dessert beer or one for the middle of a warm day. The raspberry flavor isn’t overpowering, for me at least, and blends well with the chocolate for an extremely pleasant and tasty beer. Per the description linked above, lactose is also added which enhances the flavor even more. I think I enjoy sweeter beers more than most, so this beer worked really well for my palate.

The beer pours golden-red and the aroma, coupled with the taste, give a nice evocation of what you get at your ice cream parlor when you order a raspberry sundae while still retaining the flavor profile of a delicious beer. I’ve had a couple of the Christmas offerings in The Bruery’s ongoing/annual 12 Beers of Christmas and they were both delicious. I was looking forward to this beer because of that and I was not disappointed in the least. I’d definitely buy this one if it became available in 4 packs, 22oz bombs, or somehow on its own.

East Meets West IPA – A collaboration with Treehouse Brewing Company (Charlton & Monson, MA)

This beer surprised me the most. First and foremost I never thought I’d enjoy an IPA more than four other styles, especially when one of those styles is a wheat-based beer. Second, I was so disappointed by the other Stateside IPA I was even more hesitant to give this beer from a 16oz can a full pour.

After thoroughly enjoying this beer, I think I came to the conclusion that I prefer East Coast / New England style IPAs over their West Coast cousins. The hop profile of many West Coast beers, especially the IPAs, just don’t register positively in my palate.

But this beer, with its citrusy and sweet profile complementing the hops was delightful. It poured a bright and inviting orange-yellow almost like orange juice, as I’ve seen quite a few of the New England IPAs on untappd. The aroma is fairly hop-forward, but that first sip just sets the taste buds crazy begging for another sip. And another.

This is, what I believe many craft beer, especially those who favor IPAs. would call a juice bomb. I’m glad this one came in a 16oz can and would buy this one over and over again, it was a delicious surprise that stands out as my favorite of the Stateside Beer Camp collaborations.

I’m going to have to hunt down some IPAs from the fine folks at Treehouse.

Draught Diversions: June 2017 Beer Pours

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and other non-review posts here at the Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

In addition to the beers I highlighted and enjoyed in my regular Tuesday reviews, I drank and enjoyed quite a few other beers. Some of the beers I’ll be featuring in the Tuesday reviews were enjoyed weeks and months ago, but here I’ll touch on a few of the best beers I had over the past month. In most, if not all cases, these are beers I had for the first time.  Yes, I know one day still remains in June as of this writing.

I started off the month really well with Dogfish Head’s Namaste White, which is the Delaware craft beer stalwart’s take on the classic Belgian Witbier. I haven’t had too many beers from Dogfish in the recent past, although I’ve always enjoyed their offerings, including Raison d’Etre to their Beer for Breakfast to the Festina Peche. This might be my favorite, at least as I compare it to those beers in my memory. I may have to pick up a six pack of this in the near future.

This was a delicious beer that has all the characterstics a Belgian wheat should, a nice hit of citrus and coriander that says warm weather beer.  Incredibly refreshing.

Another beer I had for the first time was from another Northeastern beer stalwart,  Golden Monkey from the great Victory Brewing Company of Pennsylvania, one of my favorite breweries in the country. I will be writing about them more extensively in the future as I’ve visited them a few times. Out of the two dozen beers I’ve had from Victory, only one really disappointed. But back to Golden Monkey. This is Victory’s take on a the classic Belgian Tripel and it is a very good one, a nice banana, spicy, clovey profile that masks the 9.5% ABV.

I enjoyed Ommegang’s latest Game of Thrones inspired beer “Bend the Knee,” a Golden Ale with honey that was very, very tasty. The 9% ABV was barely noticeable and the honey infusion countered the bitterness/tinge that some golden ales can exhibit. I’ve had all of the Game of Thrones releases from Brewery Ommegang and this offering is on the top half of what they’ve produced so far. To be perfectly fair, all of the Game of Thrones beers have been good,  I’ll likely do a post about all of them.

I picked up Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across the World Variety pack. The last few years, Sierra Nevada has paired up with other brewers to make unique, one-time only beers under the Beer Camp banner. For this year’s installment, half of the beers were made with international brewers and I’ve so far sampled two, the Raspberry Sundae (collaboration with the Bruery) and the Dunkle Weisse (my untappd check in), a collaboration with the great German Brewery Ayinger. I would love for this to become a regular release in bottles as it is one of the best Dunkelweizens I’ve ever had. I may do a post on the whole 12-pack once I make my way through all of them.

One of the highlights of the month, the most recent “new to me beer,” and soon to be reviewed on the blog, was one of Flying Fish’s Exit Series brews: Exit 3: Blueberry Braggot. What a unique brew, more of a mead than a beer, but I’ll go into more detail in the full review.

I’m not sure what I’ll be drinking later today for my “New Brew Thursday,” but maybe I’ll talk about it in my potential July round-up or even dedicate a review to it.

I may be skipping the standard Thursday post next week with the July 4th holiday on Tuesday and post my beer review either Wednesday or Thursday. Frankly, who is going to be reading about beer on Independence Day? People will be drinking the beer – responsibly, I hope.

Ein Prosit!

Draught Diversions: Summer Beers (2017)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and basically non-review posts here at the Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Bring back the old label!

Memorial Day is upon us, and with it, the unofficial launch of summer. However, by the reckoning of the brewery releases, summer has been going on since late March / early April as the yellow labeled beers were appearing on shelves. That’s a Diversion for another time, but summer brings to mind lighter beers and for me, wheat-based beers. I’ll feature the big four that seem to be the most prominent summer beers (at least distributed in my area of Central New Jersey) then touch on some others. Once you’ve made it through the post, feel free to call out your favorites in the comments.

The elephant in the room is Boston Beer’s Sam Adams Summer Ale, as it should be since 2017 marks the 21st year Jim Koch’s Boston Beer has released the seasonal favorite. Summer ale is brewed with wheat, lemon zest and “grains of paradise.” For my palate, a is very refreshing beer that all other summer beers were compared against. For years, that was my go-to summer beer and my favorite of their regularly released beers. It is still an enjoyable beer, but over the past few years, other breweries have latched on to the trend by the market leader.

The other elephant in the room, especially if you tune into the Major League Baseball channel for more than five minutes, is Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy.  Quite a few people will look down their nose at this beer and style, but it is certainly refreshing. The style is a call-back (like many styles, natch), to the Germans and their Radler style of beer. So named after the German word for cyclist, the beer is traditionally a 50/50 mix of beer and lemonade given to bicycle messengers/delivery people to refresh and rehydrate in the heat. Leinenkugel started the trend in the US and quite a few breweries are selling this refreshing style of brew during spring/summer, many tweaking the flavor profile with blueberry, watermelon, ginger, pumpkin (in the fall), and grapefruit (the most disgusting fruit).

Sierra Nevada brews a special pilsner for distribution in the summer season, Summerfest. Pilsner is a very popular style, but is especially suited to summer-time consumption.  The style is very crisp and on a hot day extremely refreshing. I think it was first released in 2001. At least that is when the venerable Beer Advocate added it to their beer reviews.

The pilsner style is great for summer and the craft brew innovator smartly capitalized on that years ago. I try to get at least a sixpack of this every year and with my growing predilection for Pilsners, I think I may have more of this one over the summer months.  This one is available in both cans and bottles.

My favorite place to enjoy a beer, my pool

Last but not least, the fourth of the big Summer Beers (at least in the Northeast), would be Yuengling Summer Wheat.  For years, Yuengling stuck by a relatively consistent portfolio of beers, but in 2014 they launched Summer Wheat, which is their interpretation of a German Hefeweizen. Frankly, for a brewery as old as Yuengling is, it took them a surprisingly long time to release such a traditional style. In my opinion, the wait was worth it. Hefeweizen is one of my top 2 or 3 favorite styles of beer and the fine folks at Yuengling have crafted a fantastic interpretation of the style.

When my wife and I visited the brewery in late April in 2015, they had tapped the first keg of the season that day, so that was quite fortunate timing. The only thing Yuengling needs to do with this beer is distribute in cans.

A trio of summer beers in my cooler for our annual 4th of July party last year

Two other local NJ favorites are River Horse’s Summer Blonde, a crisp, blonde ale and Flying Fish’s Farmhouse Summer Ale, the Jersey craft-stalwart’s take on a Saison. One state over, Victory brews Summer Love for the summer months, a golden ale.

Breaking away from those specific beers branded as “Summer,” pilsners make for solid summer beers, some great ones include Two Roads Ol’ Factory Pils, Founder’s recently re-released PC Pils, and what many consider the flagship pilsner of American Craft Beer – Victory’s Prima Pils. All of these beers are available in cans, which makes them easier to transport, keep in coolers, and trash. There’s something about enjoying a crushable beer in a can that just feels right when sitting by a pool.

Get accustomed to Sully, my dog will likely be featured in some of these pictures

Wheat beers also work well in the summer, a very popular Pale Wheat Ale is Bell’s Oberon Ale. The style is similar to Sam Adams Summer Wheat, but the beer has a more orange hue and more of a kick of spice at the end of the beer. Unfortunately, Oberon Ale has limited availability in New Jersey. I’m lucky enough to be friends with a co-worker who lives in Pennsylvania who gave me a couple of bottles. I’ll be posting a review of it in the near future.

I could also easily pass a summer afternoon throwing back a classic German Hefeweizen like Weihenstephaner’s Hefeweissbier or one of Schneider & Sohn’s many variations on the Hefeweizen. For American interpretations of the classic German Style, the pillar of American Craft’s take on it is Widmer’s Hefeweizen.  Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweis is a fantastic interpretation of a Hefeweizen, once a seasonal release but now year-round.

Victory is smartly releasing Kirsch Gose in 6-packs as of 2017

The last style I’ll touch on is Gose. A recently “rediscoverd” style, Gose (pronounced Go-zuh) is unsurprisingly an old German style, with a sour/salty flavor profile. The pop of flavor on a warm summer day is really nice, and especially when a brewery like Victory throws cherries into the mix for their Kirsch Gose, or Long Trail throws cranberries into their Gose.  Westbrook makes two wonderful Gose beers, their standard Gose and their more seasonal and more difficult to find Key Lime Pie Gose, too. The balance of sweet, tart, and sour, plus the typically low ABV, fits well with warm weather beer drinking.

Ciders are also great for summertime consumption, but that could be an entire Draught Diversion itself and this Diversion has probably reached its limit of keeping your attention.

So, what do prefer to throw back during the warm summer months?