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…

December 2018 was pretty heavy on the NJ Beers and Holiday/Christmas beers. Even if all the beers on today’s post aren’t NJ beers, much of what I bought and consumed in December was from a New Jersey brewery.  There were a couple of duds during the month, too but more good than bad. The good thing about bad beer? It helps you to appreciate the really good beers even more!

Christmas Ale (Bell’s Brewery) Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy – 4 bottle Caps on untappd

I nearly included this beer on one of my Christmas recommendation lists, but I liked it so much I wanted to highlight the beer here. Scotch Ales aren’t the most prevalent style, but damn if it doesn’t work well as a Christmas/Winter season. The big malts and sweetness are good accompaniments to what could be a sumptuous holiday meal or just an enjoyable beer on its own.

Big Cabin Coffee (2nd Act Beer) Bock – Maibock/Heller (Helles) 4 Bottle Caps on untappd

2nd Act is a relatively new brewery in NJ, I think they only got their start in 2017 or 2018. I haven’t seen anything from them in bottles or cans, but I’ve seen their beers popping up on taps (via untappd and beermenus), with this beer in particular being the most frequent. I like bocks quite a bit and coffee beers, too. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a bock with coffee as part of the flavor profile but damn does it work really nicely. You get the malty/sweet caramelly flavors of the bock with a really nice hit of coffee on the finish. This beer was a very nice surprise.

Grey Havens Porter – Imperial / Double (Conclave Brewing) – 4.50 bottle Caps on untappd

Conclave makes it impossible for me to use anything but superlatives when describing their beers. Every style they approach and brew is at worst, good and most often outstanding. This imperial porter is simply elegant. Vanilla is a flavor component I like, but I’ve come to realize some breweries employ far too often across their beers and for too much in each single beer. This porter has the perfect amount of vanilla and makes for a smooth, delightful beer consumption experience – porter roastiness at the start with a sweet, subtle vanilla finish. Also a really cool name that references The Lord of the Rings.

Naughty 2018 Stout – Imperial Milk / Sweet (Cypress Brewing Company) 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

A milk stout that has Krampus on the can? A milk stout that has a very similar profile to one of my favorite beers (Conclave’s Mexican Morning)? I knew I had to give this one a try and I am VERY glad I did. This is a (pardon my French) fucking huge beer: 13% ABV with a plethora of adjuncts so the $15/4pack price for a fairly limited production beer isn’t tough to swallow. Thankfully, the beer itself is easy to swallow, too. The chocolate, vanilla, coffee, cinnamon, and Jersey Chili peppers come together so well that the beer smoothly changes flavor profiles as you’re drinking it. I took an hour to drink the 16oz can and I can’t imagine taking any less time to consume it. This might be my favorite Christmas beer of 2018.

Rye Pale Ale (Vault Brewing Company) Pale Ale – American 4.25 bottle caps on untappd

I’ve been hearing good things about Vault, seeing friends check into beers from Vault recently, and the consensus is that the beers are good. Judging from the malty, rye pale ale, I agree. As I mentioned in my overview of Village Idiot, I’ve come to enjoy Rye Beers a great deal. Somebody brought this to the family’s Christmas Eve celebration and even though it wasn’t completely chilled down when I poured the beer, it was still very tasty. I loved the way the rye malt and hops intermingled for a clean tasting beer. This is a more traditional take on the pale ale, it is more amber in color and not hazy at all. More please.

11 Pipers Piping (The Bruery) Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy –4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

A bomber at 11% ABV is one to take your time drinking by yourself. Good thing I had an excellent novel I was reading (and finished) while enjoying the beer.

I’ve enjoyed every beer in The Bruery’s “12 Days of Christmas” and this one is no exception. This is big and boozy and is well worth enjoying over the course of an hour, if you’re enjoying by yourself, because the flavors really do come alive once the beer warms up a bit. There’s a very prominent lingering flavor of coriander, too. I expect that in a Belgian Wit, not as much in a Scotch Ale. But The Bruery seems to specialize in mashing up flavor profiles and from my experience, including this beer, they do it quite well. That makes two Christmas themed Scotch Ales on this month’s list.

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. I will say that I was very disappointed in Ommegang’s King of the North, the last of the four “Royal Reserve” Game of Thrones beers. This is a Russian Imperial Stout that is just short of a few things that I like in RISs, which made for an overall disappointment. I’ll just say that I think Ommegang’s strongest beers are those that hew much closer to their Belgian roots. I have to also admit major disappointment with Founders’ Canadian Breakfast Stout, I don’t know if it was the maple flavor taking over the beer, or the beer going bad, but something about it gave off an almost sour tang. The most disappointing beer of the year for me, as it turned out especially given the hype and price. Make mine Curmudgeon’s Better Half any day.

Draught Diversions: A Pumpkin 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…

I realized I sort of railed against pumpkin beers in the past, but in all honesty, I do enjoy a well-crafted pumpkin ale. I have had about 50 since joining untappd, after all. Like any style, when fresh, well cultivated ingredients are used to make a well-made beer, good results are very likely. There was a time when fall would arrive and I’d try to consume as many pumpkin beers as possible, but the enormous glut of the style has had the opposite effect and caused me to take a step back. However, I’ve been in a pumpkin mood so, without further adieu, here’s a six-pack of Pumpkin beers I’d recommend or try. Some may be familiar to many, others maybe not so much. As with most of types of six-pack posts, I’ve had some on the post and want to try the others.

Midnight Autumn Maple – The Bruery (Orange County, CA)

Image courtesy of The Bruery’s twitter

Technically not quite a pumpkin beer as the beer is made with yams, but since untappd lumps pumpkin beers and yam beers into one category, who am I to argue. Anyway, I had the “sibling” beer, Autumn Maple, last year (as my 1,000th unique check into untapped) and really enjoyed it, so this one is high on my list to try. The Bruery’s beers are distributed here in NJ, so hopefully I’ll have no trouble finding it.

What The Bruery says about the beer:

The nights are getting darker and autumn is in its element. This variation of our fall seasonal brings both forces together for a limited time. Midnight Autumn Maple is a dark imperial ale brewed with midnight wheat, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, maple syrup and a whole lot of yams.

Punkin’ Ale Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, DE)

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head’s web site

Yeah, Dogfish again, I know. But Dogfish’s Punkin’ Ale is an annual tradition for many and one of the first pumpkin ales on the market in the mid-90s craft boon to still be available. I had a bottle last year and seem to have a few every other year.

What Dogfish says about the beer:

Every Beer Has A Story… here’s Punkin Ale

A full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar. We brew our Punkin Ale with pumpkin meat, brown sugar and spices. As the season cools, this is the perfect beer to warm up with.

Punkin Ale is named after the seriously off-centered southern Delaware extravaganza Punkin Chunkin (check out some of these Discovery Channel videos of Punkin Chunkin, you gotta see it to believe it!). In fact, Punkin Ale made its debut as it claimed first prize in the 1994 Punkin Chunkin Recipe Contest. Yes, that was a full 6 months before we even opened our doors for business! Punkin Chunkin has grown in size and scale, with pumpkins now being hurled more than 4,000 feet through the air! If you come down to see if for yourself, drop by and visit us.

Since its debut, we’ve brewed Punkin Ale each and every fall. It is released right around Sept. 1 each year. When you find it, grab some extra because it’s usually gone by Thanksgiving.

Fall Saints – Kane Brewing Company (Ocean, NJ)

I can’t confirm if Kane still brews this for the fall season every year. Photo courtesy of Kane’s Facebook page.

Of the growing number of breweries in New Jersey over the past half dozen years or so, few (if any) have as stellar a reputation as does Kane Brewing. Their IPA (Head High) is iconic and their barrel-aged stouts and dark ales are some of the most sought after in the country. They got into the “pumpkin” game with this big bastard of a beer clocking in at 9.2%. While not exactly made with pumpkins, the harvest fruits of butternut squash and sweet potatoes make for an enticing ale. Hell, just read the description below, because it just has me drooling in anticipation. This may be the most difficult beer on this six pack for me to acquire, I hope I’m able to grab it. (I’m not even sure Kane still brews this one).

What Kane says about the beer (from untappd):

Fall Saints, our new 9.2% autumn seasonal on tap. Fall Saints began with a late summer day here on the coast roasting 200+ pounds of butternut squash and sweet potatoes in a wood fired brick oven in Asbury Park. Back at the brewery, we added caramel malts, the squash and potatoes, and maple syrup to our base of imported pilsner malt to create a unique imperial ale for the changing of the seasons. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans form the backbone of a carefully measured blend of spices – cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and allspice – that was added to create a bold and flavorful beer enjoyable throughout the autumn season and beyond.

Baked Pumpkin Ale – Lancaster Brewing Company (Lancaster, PA)

Image Courtesy of Lancaster Brewing’s web site

Lancaster was a go-to brewery for me for a couple of years, I really like their Milk Stout and Strawberry Wheat. I continue to see this one on shelves in my area, but have yet to try it despite the fairly decent rating on untappd. Hopefully I’ll see a loose bottle in a make-your-own sixpack spot.

What Lancaster Brewing says about the beer:

Have your pie and drink it too! Bold in flavor with a deep amber color, our big Baked Pumpkin Ale is sure to remind you of Grandma’s pumpkin pie. Its lasting vanilla finish will leave your taste buds craving another.

Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Weyerbacher Brewing Co (Easton, PA)

Image Courtesy of Weyerbacher’s web site.

If Dogfish made one of the earliest Pumpkin Ales, then Weyerbacher’s is probably the first pumpkin ale I can recall having on an annual basis. This could probably even be considered a “classic of the genre,” if you will. They’ve been brewing this one for over a dozen years and is probably my top pumpkin beer year-over-year. That said, I haven’t had an Imperial Pumpkin Ale in far too long so I may have to remedy that.

What Weyerbacher says about the beer:

We set out to make a bold monument for The King of the Pumpkins!

This 8.0% ABV pumpkin ale is the mother of all pumpkin ales. It is heartier, spicier and more “caramelly” and “pumpkiny” than its faint brethren! We have added lots of pumpkin along with cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of cardamom and clove, giving this beer a spicy, full-bodied flavor.

This truly is an Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Perfect finisher on a cool autumn night or match it up with a slice of pumpkin pie and fresh whipped cream.

Whole Hog Pumpkin Stevens Point Brewery – (Stevens Point, WI)

New label for the beer, image courtesy of Whole Hog’s web site.

This is one of the higher-rated pumpkin beers on untappd and one that seems to please people who typically don’t go in for the pumpkin beers. In fact, it received the silver medal for Pumpkin Beer at the most recent (2018) Great American Beer Festival. I’ve had a few beers from Stevens Point (mainly the “Whole Hog” beers) and liked them so I may have to seek this one from the Wisconsin brewery. In fact, I think I may have had this before I joined untappd so it may be a case of reacquainting myself with the beer. According to untappd, this is also the most popular or “checked in” beer from Stevens Point Brewery.

What Stevens Point says about the beer:

Of all the gold medal-winning pumpkin ales, one factor sets Whole Hog apart: spice. Savory pumpkin pie spices, natural cinnamon, nutmeg, and real pumpkin are perfectly balanced in this sweet, fully enveloping Pumpkin Ale.

I think this is a fairly decent group of pumpkin beers, are there any you like? There’s a pretty good chance I’ll have a pumpkin beer in my review next week, too.

Beer Review: Bruery Terreux’s Beret

Name: Beret
Brewing Company: Breuery Terreux
Location: Orange County, CA
Style: Sour – Ale
ABV: 9%

From Breury Terreux’s landing page for the beer:

Beret is as artistic as those who wear its namesake cap. Our brewers developed a silky, full-bodied wheat ale which we began fermenting with a Belgian-style witbier yeast strain. To finish the fermentation, we added our collection of barnyard bacteria, intended to slowly sour the ale, bringing out a slight funk and refreshing piquancy. Finally, a small dose of pureed raspberries were added for just a hint of fruity tannins, putting the berry in Beret.

I’ve had a few of the big beers from The Bruery, but before enjoying Beret, I think I only had a taste of Bruery Terreux beer at a beer festival. As their twitter profile inidicates, Bruery Terreux is “The sour & wild side of Famille Rue. Crafting wildly traditional bière alongside The Bruery.” After enjoying Beret, I will be having more of their beers. As I’ve come to enjoy sour beers more and more, I wanted to try one of these big sour beers from California. The range of styles within Sour beers is quite wide and Bruery Terreux seem to brew them all. In the end, I was drawn to Beret were the approachable price of about $15 (some of their 750ml beers range well above $20) and the fruited flavor of raspberry.

The beer pours a cloudy/hazy yellowish-pink. It looks a bit like a fruited hefeweizen/witbier to me, which I suppose makes sense since the beer began as a wheat ale. It has that spongy aroma most Goses do for me. I’m not sure why I use the word spongy, but that imagery pops up in my head. I like Goses so on the whole, and Berliner Weisses as well, so I like where this beer is going on looks and aroma alone.

That first taste is slightly sweet with lots of that spongy sour-tartness. There’s a lot of funkiness, too, the flavor moves around a bit from sweet to tart, but settles down once the raspberry joins in the flavor party. I had this beer on ice to get it cold, which turned out to be too cold. The complexities of the flavor from the chemistry that happens with the ingredients from the wheat to the yeast to the raspberry become more prominent as the beer warmed up.

For my palette’s sensibilities, I would have enjoyed the beer a little bit more if the raspberry was a more assertive and pronounced. A little more sweetness would have been welcome. I wonder how the same beer would taste with a slightly sweeter fruit like peach.

On the whole, Beret is a fairly approachable sour ale – it would be a good beer for people unsure of whether they enjoy sours to try. That, coupled with the lower price point compared to many offerings from The Breury or Bruery Terreaux, makes Beret one to potentially share with a friend who is curious about sour beers.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Pucker Up (Level 11)

Right about now you’re feeling your face tighten and your taste buds explode. The full pucker is quickly setting in and you can’t get enough. This is the wonder of the sour. That’s 55 different Sour Beers.

Hopped Down (Level 67)

One cannot live on dank hops alone. Tone down the bitterness and enjoy some smooth flavor. That’s 335 different beers with an IBU of 20 or below.

 

Draught Diversion: Styles in Focus – Berliner Weisse

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…

Since I reviewed a Berliner Weissbier earlier in the week (White Birch Raspberry Berliner Weisse), I figured I write about the style in more detail. As the name would imply, the style originated in Germany like many styles of beer, Berlin specifically. As it so happens, the previous two styles upon which I focused originated in Germany, too (Bock and Dunkelweizen). I didn’t quite plan that, but clearly my leanings towards German styles is more evident than ever. Be that as it may, the “Weisse” is a reference to the color of the beer, often a pale white, and not the wheat. When served at breweries in Germany, the Berliner Weissebier is traditionally served with sweet syrup; (and likely still is) Raspberry and Woodruff for Red or Green respectively. Woodruff is a flower extract whose syrup is also used for brandy, jelly and soft drinks. I had a couple at local breweries (Jughandle and Flounder) and both offered Raspberry, as well as Lemon and Elderflower syrups.

 

Although some breweries have the beer as part of the year-round portfolio, the beer is a great summer style as evidenced by the seasonal nature of probably the most well-known Berliner Weisses produced in the US, Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche. It is also one of the most long-standing beers in their line-up, appearing annually in the summer since 2007. It has been too long since I’ve had this one, but I could go on about Dogfish for quite a long time.

I like to think of the Berliner Weissbier as a cousin to the (currently) more popular and prevalent Gose style ale. As I said in my review this week, both are sour ales with German roots, both have some wheat component in their malt bill and most varieties of both have some kind of fruit additive to balance out the sour and tart nature of the beer. One of the primary differences is that most, if not all, Gose beers have salt added to the brewing process where the Berliner Weisse typically does not have the salt. I like both styles quite a bit, but if I were to hand a person unacquainted with sour beers, or even wary of sour style, one to try, it would definitely be a Berliner Weisse. It is more approachable and less face-puckering than a Gose.

Dear Victory Brewing: Please bring this beer back

For the Berliner Weissbiers I’ve had and seen in bottles/cans, many have had some kind of fruit syrup/puree flavoring component. A couple of years ago, one of my favorite breweries, Victory Brewing, brewed and bottled a Berliner Weisse as part of their experimental Blackboard series which was brewed with Elderflower. I would love for this to make some kind of return from Victory. One of NJ’s iconic breweries, River Horse, brews a tasty Cherry Berliner Weisse, too.

Some other Berliner Weissbiers I’d like to try:

Like the great majority of beer from The Bruery/Bruery Terreux®, this beer is available only in 750ml bottles and draft

 

Last year and a few weeks ago, I wrote about summer beers and I touched on a couple of Gose beers, but I now realize Berliner Weisse style should have received some attention and at least one slot in the 2018 Summer Sixpack. One of the best-selling and best rated beers over the last couple of years is Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale, a beer lauded for how thirst-quenching it is. Although categorized as a Gose on untappd, SeaQuench happens to be a blend of three German styles including Berliner Weisse.

For a quick reference here is a List Berliner Weissbiers on Beer Advocate and a more exhaustive overview of the style over at All About Beer.

I’ll end it with this – give a Berliner Weisse a try if you happen upon one in your local brewery, see one on draft at your favorite bar/taproom, or if you see one on the shelves of your bottle shop. It is a classic style with much appeal and with an ABV often below 5%, it shouldn’t set you off your rocker too much..

Draught Diversions: December 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…

With December, the Winter Ales and Stouts are filling the shelves. Many filled my glasses and comprise a majority of the new beers I enjoyed this December.

As has been tradition with my wife and I the last decade or so, on the first Saturday of December, we tag our Christmas Tree at a local farm with our friends and celebrate with brunch and adult beverages. This year, my friend had a Six Point variety pack, including Resin, their Double IPA and Sweet Action their blonde. I’ve come to realize I’m just not a fan of much of Six Point’s output. Later in the week, at a work dinner, I had a fine New Jersey brew: Philoso-Rapper, a Belgian Strong Golden Ale from Departed Soles out of Jersey City, NJ.

I stopped at Flounder and picked up a growler of Delta House Stout, their tasty interpretation of a Milk Stout, to bring to a gaming session. At that same session I had some Viking Blood mead, also quite good. I need to explore the world of mead more thoroughly. One of the pleasant surprises of the month was a solid Pilsner from Industrial Arts Brewing, Metric, which was part of a recent Wegman’s Craft Your Own 6 Pack.

I dove fully into the Christmas/Winter Ales having this year’s version of Anchor’s Anchor’s Christmas Ale beer and Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve. Anchor’s was good, but I enjoyed previous recipes/iterations more, the 2017 batch was stronger on some spices that didn’t quite work for me. Rogue’s revamped Santa beer, on the other hand, I found to be excellent. A sweet cherry Dark Strong Ale, the beer was perfect as a dessert beer and reminded me of Ommegang’s Rosetta, but without the sourness. Also from my 6 Beers of Christmas Future (2017) was  Two Roads’ Holiday Ale one of the more unique holiday / Christmas beers I’ve had. There’s an interesting malt/sweetness to the beer that really sets it apart.

The Thursday before Christmas was the monthly Brews and Board Games at Lone Eagle. This brewery continues to impress me with how the beer has been getting better and more consistent over the past year. First up was their Abbey Road Dubbel, a fantastic interpretation of the classic Belgian style. The second beer I had was one of their staple brews, 007 Golden Rye Pale Ale, the first Rye beer I’ve had in a while and the first one I can remember enjoying this much. I think I need to reassess this style, particularly the German interpretation known as Roggenbier.

Abbey Road Dubbel on the left, 007 Golden Rye on the right

Finally, Christmas arrived. Well, Christmas Eve, which is when we get together with my side of the family. Christmas Day is spent with the In-laws. Fortunately, I’m not the only person who enjoys craft beer either day, so for years I’ve been bringing special beers to share on both days. I started off sharing possibly the best beer I’ve had all year with my dad, Goose Island’s 2017 Bourbon County Brand Stout. As I have the past few years, I brought a local growler to share with everybody, in this case it was Demented Brewing’s Gluttony and incredible coffee stout that is perfectly balanced. Just as good (if not better) than Firestone Walker’s Mocha Merlin. Unsurprisingly, the growler did not survive the night. My dad also brought out a bomb of Founders Doom the IPA entry in their Barrel Aged series. This is one of the best, smoothest, most balanced IPAs I’ve ever had.

On Christmas Day, I had the Corsendonk Christmas Ale my folks gave to me as a gift the night before. I can taste why this is such popular, traditional beer around Christmas Time. This is a very solid interpretation of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. The other Christmas beers I brought was 10 Lords a Leaping from the Bruery. This beer tasted like the best parts of a Witbier and a stout amalgamated into one beer with lots of spice complexities.

The final week of 2017 brought still more beers. I had a bottle of Chimay Blue, the Belgian Trappist brewery’s Strong Dark Ale which is a wonderful World Class ale. As I said in my Tuesday review, one of my team members at work got me a 4-pack of Spellbound’s Porter aged on Palo Santo Wood as well as their fantastic IPA. Spellbound’s IPA had the perfect balance of hops and malt. I continued my trek through Flying Fish’s Exit Series with Exit 7 Pork Roll Porter at Hub City Brewhouse, a local tap house in New Brunswick, NJ. Unlike another pork infused beer from a NJ brewery I had earlier in the week, Flying Fish’s beer was really well balanced with the right amount of spice and flavor from the pork roll. The other beer was a fantastic Belgian Brown ale from Leffe.

Lastly, New Year’s Eve for the last beers of 2017. The last few years, my wife and have been going to our friend’s house and just about everybody brings their own beer, but everybody winds up sharing. In addition to a six-pack of Victory’s Prima Pils, I’d been holding a Chocolate Bock from Samuel Adams for a couple of weeks and figured New Year’s Eve the right time to have it. I’ve had the beer in the past, but not in a very long time, long before joining untappd. It was as good as I remembered it. I also had a Wet Dream from Evil Twin Brewing, a brown ale with coffee and Flower Child IPA, a well balanced brew from Cambridge Brewing Company.

So there you have it. The “new to me” December 2017 beers. If I’m calling out the best, the top would definitely be Spellbound’s Porter aged on Palo Santo Wood, Founders’ Barrel-Aged IPA Doom and Demented Brewing’s Coffee Stout Gluttony. I’m excluding Bourbon County Brand Stout since I’ve had a previous year’s version.

Coming next week, my top 12 new to me beers of 2017.

 

Draught Diversions: 6 Beers of Christmas Future (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…

So here we are with part two of my Twelve Beers of Christmas duology. Why twelve beers? Well, that’s fairly obvious since beer comes in six-packs and many, many breweries will distribute 12-pack variety packs featuring multiple seasonal brews like Samuel Adams, Dogfish Head, Saranac,  and Sierra Nevada to name the most prominent ones. Whereas the previous Christmas 2017 Beer post shone the light on beers I’ve had and enjoyed during past Winters and Christmases, today’s post features a half dozen Christmas/Holiday/Winter beers I’d like to try in the future, as in this year for at least a few of those beers. I suppose the fairest way to highlight these beers is alphabetical by beer name, so here goes…

Belgian Freeze (River Horse Brewing, Ewing Township, NJ)
A brewery I haven’t written about very often, especially considering how much I enjoy the majority of the brewery’s portfolio coupled with having visited the brewery is New Jersey’s own River Horse Brewing. River Horse is one of the original New Jersey Craft breweries (they started in 1995 and were reinvigorated in 2007). The one beer from the Ewing Township brewery I’ve highlighted on the Tap Takeover is their Summer Blonde (my favorite summer ale). The “sister” or complementary seasonal offering to that is, Belgian Freeze which is considered a Belgian Dark Ale. This is a beer that’s always around bottle shops, but for whatever reason I never picked up a six pack or even a single in the mixed six packs at Wegman’s. I’ve liked nearly every beer from River Horse, so a beer that plays to the Belgian styles I’ve been drawn to more recently should be a beer I enjoy.

Holiday Ale (Two Roads Brewing, Stratford, Connecticut)
As readers of this blog may be aware, Two Roads is one of my favorite breweries. As all the posts at the link to the left where I at least mention Two Roads demonstrates. They are a relatively new brewery, only about 5 years old (starting in 2012), and I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve had from them. I’ve yet to try their Holiday Ale, the style Two Roads went with for their holiday offering is a very obscure style and I can only recall trying one in the style previously: Biere de Garde. This beer, according to Two Roads, is a Biere de Noel, a holiday take on the French style of beer. France is not a country that comes to mind when I think of beer and brewing traditions, but the fine folks at Two Roads are experts on all styles so I expect this will be a tasty, malty brew.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep (Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY)
Ommegang brews mostly in Belgian styles, but seeing something slightly askew from their typical line of brews can be welcome. Such is the case with Lovely, Dark, and Deep, an Oatmeal Stout listed on their Web site as a “Winter Ale.” Outside of the Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout, I don’t recall Ommegang making many (or any) stouts. Makes sense since there is no true Belgian Stout style, just a “Dark Ale.” That said, I remember seeing this last year and passing on it, but I think I’ll go for a six at some point this year. I really like oatmeal stouts (in fact, River Horse’s Oatmeal Milk Stout is one of my favorite stouts) so this one seems like a no-brainer for me.

Santa’s Private Reserve (Rogue Brewery, Newport, Oregon)
This seminal Christmas beer from Rogue seems to have changed up the recipe in 2017. In past years, I recall this being an Imperial Read, which makes sense considering Santa’s attire. I don’t typically gravitate to Red Ales, their hop profile isn’t to my usual liking. I may have even had an earlier version of Santas’s Private Reserve years ago, but I can’t recall. This year; however, Rogue lists the beer Belgian Strong Ale with Cherries & Raspberries which sounds wonderful. This beer is available only in 22oz bombs and probably on draft.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (Brewery St Bernard, Watou, Belgium)
Having tried Delirium Noël / Christmas for the first time last year, I think I need to try one of the other Belgian Christmas classics. Going through my untappd account feed, people seem to hold St. Bernardus Christmas Ale in just as high regard, in terms of Belgian Christmas beers. I even saw some comments to the effect that if folks like Delirium Noël, then they should try St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. This one is even darker than Delirium and is listed on Beer Advocate as a Quad at 10% ABV. I had and really enjoyed St. Bernardus Prior 8 earlier in the year, which is a classic Belgian Dubbel so I expect the Christmas Ale would sit well with me, too.

10 Lords a Leaping (The Bruery, Placentia, California)
The Bruery
is a very high-end Craft Brewer out of California who only seems to distribute their beer in 750ml bottles and on draft. They’ve been working a long game, in terms of brewing projects – The Twelve Beers of Christmas. When I got deeper into the Craft Beer world a couple of years ago, I discovered this line of beers with the eighth installment, 8 Maids-a-Milking which I loved. I may have enjoyed the 2016 installment 9 Ladies Dancing even more. I’m really, really looking forward to the 2017 installment and tenth beer 10 Lords a Leaping which they call a dark wit and includes, appropriately enough, 10 different spices. I can’t say I’ve had any dark witbiers, but this sounds delicious. FWIW, untappd lists it as a “Belgian Strong Dark Ale.”

So there you have it. 6 beers I hope to try this Christmas and Winter Season. Don’t know if I’ll get to all of them (hopefully a couple of the 12 oz bottles are available at my local Wegmans so I can “craft my own six pack“), but I expect to have at least a few of them.

Beer Review: The Bruery Autumn Maple

Name: Autumn Maple
Brewing Company: The Bruery
Location: Placentia, CA
Style: Belgian Brown / Pumpkin/Yam Beer
ABV: 10%

From the beer’s description on The Bruery’s site:

Brewed with 15 lbs. of yams per barrel (in other words, a lot of yams!), this autumn seasonal is a different take on the “pumpkin” beer style. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, maple syrup, and fermentation with our traditional Belgian yeast strain, make this bold and spicy beer perfect for a cold autumn evening.

We have also created bourbon barrel-aged, barrel-fermented, and darker variations of Autumn Maple.

A shift to a California brewery this time around, The Bruery. A brewery known for big, bold, flavorful brews distributed in what seems to only be 750mL bottles and draft. I’ve never seen any of their beers in 12 oz bottles here in New Jersey. I’ve seen many of their bomber bottles and have had two of their “Days of Christmas” series and loved both. I recently received a promotion at work and my wife, knowing what kinds of beers I enjoy, picked me up a bottle of this in congratulations. The timing was also perfect as I was approaching unique check-in #1,000 on untappd. I figured this beer would be a perfect celebration of both of those things and I was correct in that assumption. As you can see by the screen-grab to the right, Autumn Maple was my 1,000th unique beer on untappd.

As the name of this beer indicates, Autumn Maple is an annual Fall / Autumn release. It pours very brown and a little bit cloudy, not the brownish-orange-amber of many fall beers like Oktoberfests or Pumpkin beers. The first thing that struck me with this beer was the Belgian yeast, it came through in the aroma along with the spices associated with pumpkin beers (cinnamon and nutmeg in particular) even if this isn’t really a pumpkin beer. The longer I breathed in the aroma, the more I could smell the spices and knew this could be a really tasty beer.  That aroma did not lead me astray.

The presence of the Belgian yeast is up front in the taste, too. A quite potent presence at that. But then the spices come through and there’s a nice intermingling of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla with that yeast strain that is quite interesting. I don’t quite get the taste of the yams (despite 15 pounds of them) as much as the spices, but they give the beer an added earthiness and weight. Even when I have candied yams or sweet potatoes they act more as a delivery mechanism for the other flavors.

The beer is a big one, not just in the size of the bottle, but ABV at 10%. I wound up enjoying this one gradually and I slowed down even more once I realized how much more flavorful the beer was once it had the chance to air out, warm up, and have more open space for the flavor components to play together. Those spices played even more with the yeasts to make this a very, very tasty beer. For an unfiltered beer, there wasn’t really much sediment at the bottom of the glass, good or bad.

The label says this is a “Belgian Brown Ale” but the beer sites consider it a Pumpkin/Yam/Vegetable beer. I don’t care how Autumn Maple is categorized, because quite frankly, I found it to be a unique, delicious beer. Definitely an out-of-the-box take on the traditional fall Pumpkin beer, I can see myself returning to this beer every Autumn.

It was an early September evening when I enjoyed this beer, a cool evening that felt more like Autumn than late summer. This is a beer to drink alone while you are engrossed in a great, enjoyable book for a couple of hours (as I was) or one to share with a friend or family member over a hearty, Autumn meal or as a desert beer following that same hearty meal.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-star rating.