Draught Diversions: Favorite New Beers of 2019

The third annual roundup brings a slight change. The last two “best of the year” lists focused on the best beers – those I gave the highest ratings. For 2019, while I’ll still have beers with very high untappd ratings, I’m shifting a little bit to “Favorite” beers. What does that mean? Well, there were beers I consumed in 2019 which I awarded a high 4.75 rating, but I may be including a 4.25/5 beer that I enjoyed more. Put it another way, there were some highly rated (4.5) beers I enjoyed in 2019 that one beer was enough, while some beers I may have rated at a 4.25 I would have multiple times. Or still another way – some movies are incredibly well made masterpieces, but one viewing is enough whereas some movies you love and want to watch over and over or will leave on the TV no matter where in the running time you catch it.

So, let’s get on with shall we?

Another definition for the purposes of this post: New means “New to Me” because a few beers on this list have been around for many, many years, but I had the beer for the first time in 2019.

It will come as no surprise that a NJ bias shines through on this list as 5 of the beers are from NJ breweries (last year featured 6 NJ breweries and 7 the first year). Considering more than half of the beer I bought & consumed in 2019 was from NJ breweries, this shouldn’t be a surprise.  I had multiple beers from many breweries and the quality was very consistent across the board for some breweries. However, I was only allowing each brewery to have one beer on the list so for some of the breweries below, the beer on this round up represents my favorite from the beers I had from them. For example, I had over a dozen beers from Icarus Brewing, so the beer on this list from them is what I enjoyed the most from them. As in years past, some of the breweries on this list will not be a surprise to readers of this blog or people who know me

Here’s a Breakdown of the Favorite Beers of 2019 12-pack:

  • 5 from NJ breweries
  • 2 from PA breweries
  • 2 from Belgian Breweries
  • 3 Stouts
    • 1 Pastry Stout
    • 1 Imperial Stout
    • 1 Russian Imperial Stout
  • 2 Belgian Quadrupels
  • 2 IPAs (both are of the New England variety, one is a Double NEIPA)
  • 1 Pilsner
  • 1 Saison
  • 1 Cream Ale
  • 1 Pale Ale
  • 1 Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Without further ado…

12. Post Shift Pilsner | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers (Framingham, MA) | Pilsner – Other | 4.25 bottle caps

Had to show off Sully! A perfect pint of Post Shift Plisner pleases the palate and is perfect for lounging in the yard with your puppers.

I reviewed this one back in May and havethe had a few times over the year. Simply an elegant and delicious beer. From my review: “The finish has a slightly toasted bready/crackery taste that I associate with Pilsners (and some Helles Lagers, too). I like it, I want more of it. Hell, I picked up a 6 pack on a Thursday and found it hard to not enjoy one of these delicious beers every day of that weekend. When it comes to a wonderfully flavorful beer perfect for any day, a beer that will please both discerning craft beer drinkers with that flavor, while not making non-craft drinkers wary, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better beer than Jack Abby’s Post Shift Pilsner.”

11. Saison DuPont | Brasserie Dupont (Tourpes, Hainaut Belgium) I Farmhouse Ale – Saison | 4.5 Bottle Caps

Sometimes it takes a little while for one to get to the classics. Such is the case with Saison DuPont for me. But when I did finally have a bottle of it, I was supremely impressed. From my review in August: “Saison Dupont is an absolutely delicious beer that is rightfully the measuring stick for every Saison being produced today. All the qualities I’ve had in other saisons are on bold display here – strong yeast character, clean delicious taste, and a transportative element that transcends most other beers.”

10. Swinging the Lamp | Cape May Brewing Company | IPA – Imperial / Double New England 4.25 Bottle caps

Cape May’s been knocking it out of the park all year so it should be no surprise one of their beers lands on my favorite beers of the year list. This beer is a standout for many reason, the wonderful use of hops (Moutere, Raku, and Motueka) which evoke a peachy-pineapple juice bomb. The Kviek yeast (one of the “hot” ingredients nowadays) adds another layer of flavor. Quite simply, this is an outstanding IPA from a brewery for whom “outstanding” is the norm.

9. Cloud Walker Hazy Juicy IPA | Victory Brewing Company | IPA – New England | 4.25 bottle caps

As the New England/Hazy IPA continues to be the hottest style, especially with local/independent brewers, the larger brewers have been making attempts at the style. Victory’s take on the style is probably the my favorite of the larger brewery’s attempts at the style and an overall superb beer. The Citra and Mosaic are *perfectly* blended and the beer is a wonderful, juicy, hoppy delight. I hoped and expected to enjoy the beer, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. Victory really came out strong in 2019 with some of their new beers to go along with their rebranding. More on that in another post.

8. Sneakbox | Kane Brewing Company | Pale Ale – American | 4.50 bottle caps


This past year, I really came to appreciate one of the icons of NJ Independent Brewing – Kane Brewing. I’ve had their beers here and there at bars, but they began self-distributing cans of their beer more widely in NJ, at least their three core beers, Head High, Overhead, and this beer, Sneakbox. This is a delicious, outstanding, juicy pale ale that highlights the full flavor of the ubiquitous Citra Hop…I’d say this could be in contention for best American Pale Ale.

7. La Trappe Quadrupel | La Trappe/Brouwerij de Koningshoeven (Berkel-Enshot, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands) | Belgian Quadrupel | 4.5 bottle caps

Another beer that is essentially the first of its style. The bottle I reviewed was, I think, from 2016 if my interpretation of the date code was correct. Based on that and having a more recently dated bottle, I’d suggest letting this beer sit before opening it. Here’s what I said in my review: “This is an outstanding, world-class beer that really is in a class its own. I’d say it would be a great interpretation of the style but as I recently discovered, La Trappe’s Quadrupel was the first beer with the Quadrupel name back in 1991. So it is the style-namer or “Ur-Quadrupel,” if you will. I know, considering the great brewing tradition in Belgium and of Belgian styles, I thought the style was a bit older than that.”

6. Kalishnikov | Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.25 Bottle Caps

I had quite a few beers from Icarus this year, but two visits to the brewery and a friend getting a job as their taproom manager will help helped to keep the number growing in 2019. I wanted to feature one of their beers on the best of list this year and the thing is – every beer I had from them was outstanding, so I’m going with their big, boozy Russian Imperial Stout. Kalishnikov is a delicious, super-boozy (14% ABV!) stout that doesn’t feel like it has that much alcohol in it. Russian Imperials can be very bitter on the finish, but the addition of honey in the brewing process gives the beer a nice hit of sweetness on the finish. I’ve had one of the barrel-aged variants of this beer, but I think I prefer the base stout more.

5. French Toast Bergen County Bull Stout | Bolero Snort Brewery (Carlstadt, NJ) | – Stout – Pastry | 4.5 Bottle Caps

Bolero Snort cranked out quite a few tasty beers by my standards in 2019 but for me, the top of that list is their delicious dessert variant annual Bergen County Bull Stout. This was a recent review, but managed to stand out very strongly over the 400+ different beers I had in 2019. From my review: “This is a complex beer…I need to put that up front. The eggy-bread aroma of French Toast is present in the taste with the bourbon hints from the barrel making their way through everything. … A beer that has the flavor components of that rich, dessert-like breakfast while still retaining the stout qualities that give the beer it’s primary character. … This beer is probably the best I’ve had from them. As their motto says, that is No BS, just ragin’ good beer.”

4. Nitro Regular Coffee | Carton Brewing Company | Cream Ale | 4.75 bottle caps

Over the past couple of years, it has become a New Year’s / Early January NJ tradition to head down to Carton Brewing in the Atlantic Highlands to get whatever variant Augie and company release of their highly coveted Regular Coffee cream ale. This year, I met up with some friends to grab some of this beer. Carton has the best deal of any brewery in NJ in terms of tasters, and I knew I had to bring this one home. Regular Coffee is an “Imperial” Cream Ale made with coffee from local roasters. Put simply, Regular Coffee is the best Coffee beer I’ve ever had. I’ve realized I don’t care for Nitro beers over the past year, but this one bucks that recent trend. I can’t think of a beer that more perfectly utilizes Nitro.

3. Quadraphonic | Barrel of Monks Brewing Company (Boca Raton, FL) | Belgian Quadrupel | 4.5 bottle caps

Quadraphonic was the first beer review I posted in 2019 and even then I had a feeling it would standout as one of my favorites of the year. From my review: “The first sip is delightful wow and does what a good beer should – encourages to you drink more. I found the typical stone fruit flavors to be present, hints of plum and raisin with some figginess, and maybe a hint of cherry too. This is a complex, extremely well-made beer. … Quadraophonic is quite simply, a delicious beer.”

2. Mad Elf Grand Cru | Tröegs Independent Brewing | Belgian Strong Dark Ale | 4.5 bottle caps

Mad Elf from Tröegs is an iconic Christmas beer and an annual tradition for me. This “Director’s Cut” version with the addition of “loads” more tart Balaton cherries was a bit daunting. I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy a more tart version of the beer, but goddamn is this a delicious cherry-forward beer that still retains ample flavor from the yeast and base ale. Tröegs continues to prove why they are one of my favorite breweries, last year my favorite new-to-me beer was from them and this year, this one is pretty damned close.

1. So Happens It’s Tuesday | The Bruery | Stout – Imperial / Double | 5 bottle caps

Image courtesy of The Bruery’s Facebook. I wasn’t able to snap a photo of the beer in the restaurant

The Bruery is one of the premier California breweries, they specialize in complex beers, often of the barrel-aged variety. That nuance and skill with beer is showcased in this beer, the best barrel aged beer I’ve ever had. Subtle, yet potent notes of the barrel character can be enjoyed throughout finely balanced with the stout character of the base beer. The Bruery recently began releasing cans of some of their beers and I’ve seen single cans of this beer sold in my area, I may need to snag one.

Honorable Mentions – Touchdown (Lager – Munich Dunkel) and Flood (Stout – Imperial/Double) from Jersey Cyclone; 2190 Anniversary Ale (Belgian Quadrupel) and Overhead (IPA – Imperial/Double) from Kane Brewing; Haze (IPA – Imperial/Double) from Tree House Brewing; MooDoo Doll (Stout – Pastry) from Bolero Snort Brewery; Sucaba 2019 (Barleywine – English) from Firestone Walker Brewing Company; Pick Your Own (American Wild Ale) from Allagash Brewing Company; Gunner’s Daughter (Stout – Milk/Sweet) from Mast Landing Brewing Company; Java Latte (Stout – Milk/Sweet) and Twisted Monkey (Blonde Ale – Belgian Blonde / Golden) from Victory Brewing Company; Worker Drone (Cream Ale) from Twin Elephant Brewing Company; and Dunkel Lager (Lager – Munich Dunkel) from Von Trapp Brewing.

I’ll be doing a complementary post – as I did last year – that takes a look at the breweries to impress me the most in 2019, along with some more stats courtesy of untappd.

Draught Diversions: November 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…

A larger variety of new beers crossed my palate in November 2019 than usual, with the typical mix of NJ and non-NJ beers. The annual birthday beer tour took us through a portion of the Bucks County Ale Trail, with a beer from that day featured here. That proved to be a lot of fun, with a wide range of beers with an extremely wide range of quality. Outside of that day, I thought I was done with barrel-aged beers after having some earlier in the year that didn’t work for me, too much barrel flavor, adjuncts not blending well. That was a blip on the radar because three barrel-aged stouts appear on this month’s six pack. Enough with all that …here…we…GO!

So Happens It’s Tuesday (The Bruery ) | Stout – American Imperial/Double | 5 bottle Caps on untappd

The Bruery makes big beers, potent in ABV, robust flavor, and physically big for the size of their bottles. This is one of their more popular and highly rated barrel aged stouts, and a beer I’ve been wanting to try for a few years. I haven’t seen bottles of it very often and it is a pricey beer, so I was very happy to see the beer on draught when my wife and I went to dinner with my parents for my birthday at a Paragon Tap & Table. I’ll just cut to the chase and say this is the best barrel-aged stout I’ve ever had.

Pike Rd. Pils (Moss Mill Brewing Company) | Pilsner – Other | 4 bottle Caps on untappd

Continuing with the birthday theme…the first stop of the aforementioned Bucks County Ale Trail was Moss Mill Brewing. All three beers I had there were very good, but the one that started the day stood out – a clean crisp and fresh Pilsner. Did exactly what a Pilsner should do and set the mood for what turned out to be a great day. If Moss Mill was more local to me, I’d definitely be hitting them up more frequently based on the three beers I had. Speaking of “more local to me…”

Touchdown (Jersey Cyclone Brewing Company) | Lager – Munich Dunkel | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

I’ve been really enjoying dark lagers of late, one made a six pack appearance last month and I gave von Trapp’s great Dunkel the full review this past October. Jersey Cyclone started strong with their Lagers, so naturally I wanted to try their Munich Dunkel. While they did not brew an Oktoberfest this year, this Dark Lager is perfect for fall – full flavored, great finish, and overall just a fantastic beer. Jersey Cyclone recently doubled their taplist and they have this one on Nitro now.


Bourbon Barrel Aged Concrete Ship (Cape May Brewing Company)
| Stout – Russian Imperial | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

This is the second of three barrel-aged stouts to make the November list. Cape May’s stout, named for a WWI naval folly, has a boozier feel than the Bruery stout mentioned at the start of this post. That said, the beer is very good, full of flavor from the Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels it sat in for a while. I keep saying whenever a beer of theirs appears here, but Cape May continues to brew outstanding beers and is strong contender for my top NJ brewery of at least 2019.

Java Latte (Victory Brewing Company) | Stout – Coffee | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd

Victory has been having a great year in my mind, as several of my posts here would prove. Their latest “limited release” (aka not core/year round beer) is a toned down version of their outstanding barrel aged Java Cask Stout. Java Latte is lower in alcohol, has some milk sugar added and is a delicious stout. The coffee is present but not overpowering, the lactose adds enough sweetness, and the alcohol at 8.2% is not exactly low, but a perfect stout for cool nights. My only minor complaint is the body is a little thin, but the flavor is all there. I like Victory’s trend with these limited release beers being released in 16oz 4-packs, too.

Convocation (Lone Eagle Brewing Company) | Stout – Imperial / Double | 4.25 bottle Caps on untappd


Lone Eagle brought a new head brewer aboard a few months ago and when I last mentioned them here, he was still relatively new so only a few of his beers were ready for consumption at that time. The monthly board game meetup in November gave me the chance to try 2 of his beers and both were really good, with this barrel-aged stout being a standout. What set this one apart are the heavy notes of chocolate and how well those notes played with the bourbon from the barrels. At 10%, patrons were only permitted two pours of the beer, which is understandable. This is a great beer.

Although most of what I consumed in November was good to outstanding (I could have easily added at least four more beers to this list), one big dud stands out. Not just a beer, but an entire brewery – Mad Princes Brewery, which was part of the birthday beer tour of the Bucks County Ale Trail. I got a flight and could only finish one of the beers, the other beers were just untrue to style, had very “off” flavor profiles and were simply bad beers. I didn’t like it and the group (6 people) consensus was equally negative. The brewery itself was probably the most unwelcoming brewery I’ve ever visited out of the nearly 100 breweries I’ve visited over the years.

Draught Diversions: 4 Breweries to Visit, Part 4 of a Series

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…

It has been a little over a year since I cobbled together one of these posts highlighting breweries I’d like to visit so I figured it was time to add to the growing list of breweries on my bucket list of breweries to visit.  A lot can happen in a year, like a brewery gaining entry into NJ giving me (and many lucky consumers) exposure to their beer for the first time. Last year, Bell’s Brewery entry into NJ was one of those breweries and as such, they made the list of breweries I’d like to visit last year. Same case for one of the breweries on today’s list. All that said, like the last few times I’ve made one of these posts, I’m going alphabetically with this list.

Allagash Brewing Company | Portland, ME | Established 1995 | Total # of Allagash beers checked in on untappd: 7
Allagash Beers reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Black and Pick Your Own

Images courtesy of Allagash’s Web site

If one were to carve out a Mount Rushmore of American Breweries, then Allagash would be an immediate and unanimous choice. Only one other brewery in the US has embraced the Belgian art and science of brewing near to the extent that Allagash has and I mentioned that brewery in a previous “breweries to visit” post. One of the differences: Allagash is largely the outgrowth of one man’s vision and still a fiercely independent brewery.

Rob Tod started Allagash in 1995 at a time when few breweries were producing Belgian style beers. Belgian beers weren’t nearly as present as they are today outside of maybe Chimay and Saison du Pont. Allagash’s Belgian Witbier, simply White is a nearly perfect beer and one of the Independent/Craft Beers you’ll see on tap nearly everywhere. It is a beer that tows the fine line of mass appeal and beer geek appeal. Their Saison is one of the best, widely available American interpretations of the style, and their Tripel is a clean, delicious interpretation of the style.

Where Allagash manages to elevate their game is in how they embrace barrel aging and wildly fermented beers. Barrel Aging is a storied process, some would say art, of beer brewing, and Allagash’s Curieux, their barrel-aged Tripel, is a sublime beer. Allagash’s Coolship is the largest open fermentation facilitation devices in the country. A coolship allows the ingredients of the beer to play with the environment and produce some very unique beers. I’ve only had one of those complex, delicious beers, but I need to get my hands on some more.

Image courtesy of Allagash Brewing’s Web Site

Rob Tod was recently awarded the prestigious James Beard Award, specifically, the 2019 Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer. He’s only the 4th beer person to receive the award. That and the brewery’s legendary status are reason enough to encourage a visit to the brewery in Portland, Maine.

The Bruery | Placentia, CA, | Established 2008 | Total Bruery / Bruery Terreaux beers checked in on untappd: 12
Bruery Beers reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Autumn Maple (The Bruery) and Beret (Bruery Terreaux)

Images courtesy of The Bruery’s Web site

One of the craftier and “artisanal” of breweries, the Bruery focuses on Barrel Aged and high end beers. Only recently did they sell beer in anything other than 750ml bottles, for example. Big stouts with flavorful adjuncts on the one side of the Breury, with the Terreaux side focusing on sours and more Belgian inspired open fermentation wild ales on the other side. Both sides of Patrick Rue’s brainchild offer complexly flavored and extremely potent beers.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the 12 Beers of Christmas series of beers they’ve released every year, with each annual release inspired by one of the days of Christmas, my favorite being the 8 Maids-A-Milking Imperial Milk Stout, which is also the first beer I had from The Bruery.

Like many breweries, The Bruery has some beers available only on site. Additionally, they have a bottle program Society that is available to folks who live close enough to pick up their bottles at the brewery.

For some really great insight into The brewery, John Holl interviews owner and founder Patrick Rue on the Craft Beer and Brewing podcast .

Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Framingham, MA | Established 2011 | Total Jack’s Abby beers checked in on untappd: 4
Jack’s Abby Beer reviewed at The Tap Takeover: Post Shift Pilsner

Images courtesy of Jack’s Abby’s Web site

A brewery focused largely on Lagers? Count me in. I didn’t know too much about this brewery before 2019 began seeing as they are in Massachusetts. I’d heard and seen talk about them around Beer Web and Social Media ©, but that’s about it until I saw them with a tent at the Meadowlands Beerfest in February announcing they’d be entering NJ Distribution.

I’ve been really drawn to my Germanic roots when it comes to beer as of late, really appreciating the elegance of a well-crafted pilsner and how good a low ABV (“crusher”) of a tasty lager can be. Take their Hoponius Union, an India Pale Lager. A hop-forward lager that is one of the best lagers I’ve ever had and was recently named the best Lager by Beer Advocate. The beer has the lovely floral/fruity hop finish you’d expect from a classic IPA, but it is most definitely a lager. Jack’s Abby has a few variants on this one I need to try.

For quite a few years in the early 2000s, my wife and I would follow my cousin’s travel hockey team. Specifically, his team played annual tournaments in Massachusetts and we always stayed in Framingham, which is where Jack’s Abby is located. Unfortunately, our “hockey groupie” days were both before Jacks Abby existed and before I had this deep an understanding and enjoyment of Craft Beer. Jack’s Abby may be the Massachusetts brewery, in a state rich with iconic breweries, I want to visit most.

Owner Jack Hendler chatted with Jamie Bogner on episode 59 of the Craft Beer and Brewing podcast .

Schneider and Weisse/G. Schneider & Sohns | Kelheim, Bayern German | Established 1872 | Total Schneider & Sohns beers checked in to untappd: 6

Schneider’s lineup with new labels. Image courtesy of G. Schneider & Sohns

I took a look at the German breweries whose beers I’ve enjoyed and every one of the six beers I had from Schneider Wesse have been absolutely outstanding. Wheat beers (Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen, Dopplebock, Eisbock, and Weizenbock primarily) are a German specialty and quite a few of the more well known German breweries (and likely double the amount of lesser known German breweries) brew wheat-only beers. From what I’ve consumed and  enjoyed, it is hard to argue few, if any, do it better than Schneider & Sohns.

Schneider & Sohns uses a numbering system for most of their beers, TAP 7, for example is their classic Hefeweizen, while TAP 3 is their designation for the alcohol-free beer.

It wasn’t too long ago when I first had their “Original” Hefeweizen, but it still stands out as one of the best Hefeweizens I’ve ever had. I wasn’t too familiar with the brewery at the time, but I saw an authentic German Hefeweizen on draught and I was extremely eager to get a pour. Their Weizenbock (TAP6) is maybe the best Weizenbock I can remember having. They also collaborated on a more hopped up Weizenbock with Brooklyn Brewery – Meine Hopfenweisse which is also delightful. Schneider & Sohns will brew a once a year specialty, barrel-aged Weizenbock beer they designate TAP X. I only had one of those, the one called “Marie’s Rendezvous” but I’m keeping an eye out for the next iteration.

Perhaps their crown jewel, in my opinion, is Aventinus Eisbock, one of the most unique styles of beer, the accidental beer. I touched up on the Eisbock style in my overview of Bocks, highlighting this beer specifically.

Image courtesy of Schneider & Sohns’s Web site

Here’s what G. Schneider & Sohns says about the beer:

Unfathomably sensuous

Magic and a black soul – the mahogany coloured, almost black “Eisbock” for sensuous indulgence, best served in a balloon glas. Matured in a special freezing process following a special recipe, with a soft, elegant body, but still intensive. Spicy flavours of plum, banana and clove reveal themselves along with a hint of bitter almond and marzipan. Tempting as digestif, to crepes, dark chocolate, Tiramisu and fully ripe parmesan cheese.

It is still one of the best beers I’ve ever had. A Top 10 all time for me. I’ve seen different vintages of this beer in stores, too, so I’m going to have to pick up some more soon.

That said, a trip to Germany would most likely include a trip to these fine purveyors of wheat beer

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..