Draught Diversions: June 2020 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…

June has rolled in and out, the pandemic continues, as does my focus on local/New Jersey beers. One non-NJ beer in this six pack, but some of the usual suspects from NJ made an appearance in June. A pretty decent mix, style-wise, with two IPAs. Despite my recent Lager Leanings, most of the lagers I’ve been enjoying (outside of those I’ve recently reviewed) have been past favorites.

Here in NJ, restaurants and breweries have opened for outdoor consumption, which accounts for the last beer in this six pack. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to visit some breweries in July for outdoor communal consumption.

Fuego (Tonewood Brewing Company) | IPA – American | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

In the few beers I’ve had from Tonewood, I’ve yet to have a bad beer. This straight up IPA may be the best I’ve had from them yet. There’s an absolutely perfect hop blend giving the beer both a citrus/juicy component, but also the hallmark bittering and slightly piney components often associated with West Coast IPAs. I brought a six pack to a socially distanced poker game and wound up drinking three of them myself the beer was so damned good. I know Kane is considered the IPA King of NJ (and rightly so), but Tonewood’s Fuego is outstanding and probably one of the best IPAs brewed in The State of New Jersey, at least that I’ve had the pleasure of drinking.

Picture in Reverse (Kane Brewing Company) | Old Ale | 4.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Speaking of Kane, this is a beer I picked up at the brewery when I visited in September 2019. Old Ales are an interesting style in that they are often a blend of beers with strong malt and molasses character – those two elements are on prominent and delicious display in this beer. I’ve noted many times that Michael Kane and his crew are masters of the art of barrel-aging beer and that refined craftsmanship is the highlight of this beer. The bourbon-barrel notes are in elegant, perfect harmony with the big malt character of this potent ale. I think Picture in Reverse is an annual release for them so I’m hoping to get a bottle of it this year.

4th Anniversary (Czig Meister Brewing Company) | IPA – Imperial / Double New England | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented Czig Meister from having their 4th Anniversary party, but they still brewed a potent and delicious Imperial New England IPA to celebrate. This is a fantastic beer with wonderful tropical fruit notes all over the place and a nice hop bite to balance out the sweetness. What was most surprising is how easily it went down for a beer at 10% ABV.

Köastal Kölsch Style Ale (Tom’s River Brewing Company) | Kölsch | 3.75 Bottle Caps on untappd

Toms River Brewing (f/k/a Rinn Dunn) is a brewery whose beers I’ve been wanting to try more of, and a brewery I’m looking forward to visiting. My neighbor decided to have us over one evening for some beers and conversation. Much to my pleasure, he grabbed a four pack of this crusher. I liked it so much I had two cans that evening. This is a really nice beer for the summer lounging.

Light & Sweet (Carton Brewing Company) | Cream Ale | 4.25 Bottle Caps on untappd

To say that Regular Coffee is one of Carton’s most beloved beers is an understatement. It is a “franchise” or “brand” within the portfolio, or as Augie says of the variants, the “Regular Coffee” Game. This one is about half the ABV at 6% and there seems to be more sweetness than the standard “Regular Coffee.” This version is Nitro which gives the beer some good body and is simply delicious. Almost as good as the original Regular Coffee, except this one won’t sneak up on you and smack you on the back of the head with a baseball bat with a high ABV. In other words, you can have a couple and still be relatively OK.

Tanker Truck Sour Series: Persian Lime Gose (Two Roads Brewing Company) | Sour – Fruited Gose | 4.5 Bottle Caps on untappd

This was the first beer I had at a bar/restaurant since the pandemic. In NJ, outdoor dining was permitted and fortunately, one of our favorite places, The Stirling Hotel, has ample outdoor dining. As for the beer, this Persian Lime Gose might be one of the best Goses I’ve ever had and one of the best I’ve had from the consistently excellent folks at Two Roads Brewing. The lime was perfectly tart and sweet, the touch of salinity brought it all together. I could drink 50 o of these on a hot day as it is eminently refreshing.

Plenty of good beers, the only one that really didn’t work for me was Cowfee Break from Bolero Snort, a coffee porter. The taste was off and it was rather thin for the style. .

Draught Diversions: Summer 2019 6 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…

With the official kick off of summer, Memorial Day, behind us, I may be a little tardy in putting up a Summer Six pack, but life’s been a little busy this time of year for me. Be that as it may, since a post about Summer Beers was the very first Draught Diversion I posted/published, I want to continue the tradition. There are so many light and flavorful options for Summer, I could probably do a case’s worth of Summer Six packs. Like last year, not all of these are official “summer” beers, but they are styles for me that seem to fit right into the summer. For example, I think  a crisp Pilsner or Helles Lager can make for wonderful summer brews.

Summer Catch | Witbier | 5.5% ABV | Cape May Brewing Company | Cape May, NJ

Two years in a row for Cape May Brewing in my summer, six pack. I’ve since had and enjoyed the Cape May beer in my Summer Six Pack from 2018/last year. However, this one says “Summer” in the name. Witbiers, for me, are always a good option for summer/warm weather months. Light yet flavorful, works great at a barbecue or by the pool. When done well, it can be an elegant and classic style. I haven’t had this one yet, but that will likely change as I expect to have this in my cooler in the summer.

What Cape May says about the beer:

Citrusy and refreshing, notes of orange peel and tropical fruits dominate this Belgian-style Wheat Ale. Lightly dry-hopped with Citra and Amarillo hops to give it a noticeably American twist, this crushable wheat ale is complex, yet approachable, just like the Jersey Shore.

Salt and Sea | Sour – Gose | 4.3% ABV | Flying Fish Brewing Company | Somerdale, NJ

Image courtesy of Flying Fish’s Facebook

Like Cape May Brewing Company, I featured a brew from the venerable NJ brewery last year for this post, so I figured why not again? Especially since Flying Fish has continued to smartly evolve their portfolio and this beer screams summer on its label, description, and name. Salt & Sea evokes beach and a Ferris Wheel screams boardwalk, both scream summer as does the low ABV. I picked up a six pack of this and really enjoy the beer, not too tart and not as sour as a typical Gose, but quite flavorful.

What Flying Fish says about the beer:

Memories are made by the sea, and this Session Sour is inspired by evenings on the boardwalk. Enticing aromas of strawberry and lime evoke hints of salt water taffy, providing a souvenir twist to this unique style.

Blood Orange Wheat | Shandy/Radler | 4.0% ABV | Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers | Framingham, MA

Image courtesy of Jack Abby’s blog

This is part of Jack Abby’s year-round line-up, but really works for summer. Shandy/Radlers are great for summer consumption, the lemonade/fruit addition to the beer is a natural mix to refresh and cool down after yard work or relaxing by the book. Enough flavor to satisfy, but low enough in ABV to allow for a long session of thirst quenching. This beer is a big seller for Jack’s Abby and is strongly positioned for the summer, especially those big pool and barbeque gatherings with the availability in 15 packs. Jack’s Abby has an interesting story on their blog about this beer, where they say Blood Orange Wheat combines blood orange seltzer with a wheat lagerJack’s Abby is one of the most respected breweries focusing on German styles in New England and a Radler (the German word for bicycler or cyclist) is always a great warm weather style.

What Jack’s Abby says about the beer:

Blood Orange Wheat debuted in our Beer Hall and it quickly became a fan favorite. This German-style radler is fruit forward, juicy and bloody refreshing. Lean back and enjoy!

Cruise Control Helles Lager | Lager – Helles | 4.8% ABV | Two Roads Brewing Company | Stratford, CT

Image courtesy of Two Roads’s facebook

This is the newest year-round beer from Two Roads and one of the few lagers in their portfolio. I’ve come to trust just about everything out of the great Connecticut brewery and this beer is something of a cousin to their Ol’ Factory Pils. I haven’t had this beer yet, but I definitely see it on the road of my future.

What Two Roads says about the beer:

An effortlessly refreshing golder lager built for kicking back and taking it easy down the Road Less Traveled.

Kölsch | Kölsch | 5.0% ABV | von Trapp Brewing | Stowe, VT

Image courtesy of von Trapp’s Facebook

A Kölsch is a really underrepresented and underappreciated style of beer. The umlaut should tell you this is a beer with German origins and von Trapp is the other pnomiment breweries in the New England brewing German style beers. One comparison I made to a local brewer is Kölsch is  an ale that drinks almost like a pilsner, he nodded in agreement. Light/easy drinking, flavorful and refreshing, this is another one I’ll be seeking out. That plus the fact that von Trapp slaps “Summer Session Ale” on the label proclaims this as von Trapp’s Summer seasonal.

What von Trapp says about the beer:

Kölsch is a style of ale that famously originated in Cologne, Germany. A true summer session ale, this Kölsch utilizes German Tettnanger and Hallertau Hops, that combine to provide a hoppy explosion packed in every can

Summer Crush | Pale Wheat Ale – American | 5.0% ABV | Yards Brewing Company | Philadelphia, PA

Image courtesy of Yard’s Facebok

It isn’t too often when the venerable Philadelphia brewery releases a new beer, but Yards has done just that with Summer Crush this year. In general, the style of the Pale Wheat Ale is kind-of-sort-of an Americanized Hefeweizen. The description Yards puts out for this reminds me a bit of Samuel Adams Summer Ale or even Bell’s Oberon Ale, both classic Summer Ales. A good thing, if you ask me. Since you’re here, I suppose you are sort of asking me.

What Yards says about the beer:

JUICY, MELLOW, REFRESHING

NEW IN 2019!

The moment it hits your lips, there you are. Summer Crush is an easy drinking, flavorful Wheat Beer with a juicy citrus finish that transports you to bright summer days and hot summer nights. Brewed with orange and lime zest, this crushable delight brings the refreshment to the shore, the front stoop, the rooftop, and everywhere else you celebrate summer.

What new brews are you hoping to try this summer?

Beer Review: Two Evil Saigon Scooter Selfie

Name: Twin Evil Saigon Scooter Selfie
Brewing Company: Two Roads Brewing Company / Evil Twin Brewing Company
Location: Stratford, CT / Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: Stout – Coffee
ABV: 9.5%

From Two Roads Brewing’sWeb site:

For our latest Two Evil collaborative brew, Two Roads’ Phil and Evil Twin’s Jeppe sampled and became enamored with a popular Vietnamese coffee drink called “Ca Phe Sua Da” (cah-fe sah dah). Thick & decadent, like a coffee milkshake, it was the inspiration for this Vietnamese-style Coffee Stout. They then traveled to the chaotic, scooter packed streets of Saigon to meet up with good friends at Heart Of Darkness Brewery. It was there that the brewers created the first batch of this collaborative beer.

So raise a glass (or can), snap a selfie and enjoy a taste of Vietnam!

Two Roads is one of the most consistent breweries in the Northeast, maybe in the United States. Of the nearly 20 distinct beers I’ve had from them, the lowest untappd rating from me was 3.5 bottle caps and that was only one beer, while the vast majority are 4 bottle caps and above. Evil Twin is just as respectable in the beer world and the two companies (mainly Phil Markowski from Two Roads and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø from Evil Twin) have collaborated multiple times under the “Two Evil” banner to brew some great beers. This coffee stout; however, might be their best collaboration yet. At least it is my favorite.

Coffee stouts are a popular style and one of my favorites so knowing what I stated above, I had to get my hands on this one. On the other hand, sometimes a coffee stout can be far too bitter, largely from the over-roasted coffee. So what about this beer?

As you’d expect from a stout made with coffee, the beer pours very black and I appreciate the thick body from the beer as it filled up my Two Roads pint glass. The head is a little creamy looking, too. Or, to put it another way, on quick glance and in a different glass, one might think this is coffee. There’s a nice sweet coffee aroma coming off the beer and I settle into the couch and take a sip. This. Is. Good.

This beer is everything a stout, specifically a coffee stout, should be. For my palette, it hits all the pleasing notes a coffee stout ought to hit, while managing to strum a few new chords and notes. The coffee flavor doesn’t overtake the beer, it is a harmonious marriage. The presence of brown sugar could potentially make this cloyingly sweet, but nope. The sweetness is perfect. Add in the cream / condensed milk flavor from the Ca Phe Sua Da the beer is attempting to mimic or evoke in one’s palette and you have a stout that is the perfect marriage of familiar and new.

I had just worked a very long day (13 hours for a quarter end) and considering the time of year (cold weather January), I couldn’t think of a more perfect beer to enjoy for dessert.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Better Together (Level 8)

What happens when you take two or more amazing breweries, throw them into the tank and let them ferment together? An amazing collaboration beer, that’s what! Cheers to working together to create the perfect flavor. That’s 40 different beers that have been brewed as a collaboration.

Draught Diversions: Spring Fling 6 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…

Spring doesn’t exactly align with beer in the same way that Fall/Oktoberfest does, but there are two styles that signify spring in the beer world: Maibock (lager) and Saison/Farmhouse Ale. Spring officially began about a week or so ago, but with Easter this coming Sunday, I figured now would be a good time to assemble a Six Pack of Spring Beers. Seeing how this is one of my Six Pack posts, I’ll feature three beers of each style. I’ve only had half of the beers from today’s post so for the other three beers, I’m highlighting beers based on a combination of reputation and what appeals to me.

I’ll start with Saisons, one of the classic Belgian ales. I’ve only had a limited amount of saisons and that includes samples at breweries or beer festivals, so I am far from an expert on the style. However, one of my summer go-to beers is Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale. Basically, I’d like to sample more of this traditional style which  was made for farmworkers to enjoy as a refreshment during their days toiling out in the farmlands. Only one of the three I’m listing have I had more than once (and I really enjoyed it), so I’ll start there.

Worker’s Comp Saison – Two Roads Brewing Company (Stratford, CT)

How could I not include this beer from Two Roads? Especially considering head-brewer/owner Phil Markowski (as I may have mentioned in the past) literally wrote the book on Farmhouse Ales – Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition. I’ve had this offering from Two Roads a few times and it is always a dependable Ale. Workers Comp is a year-round beer and should be available through Two Roads’ (growing) distribution footprint but it is especially timely right now. At 4.8% ABV this beer is a sessionable ale, which is what a Farmhouse Ale/Saison should be considering the roots of the style.

Saison Dupont – Brasserie Dupont (Leuze-en-Hainaut, Belgium)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a Belgian Saison considering the style was invented in Belgium. If I’m going to go with a Belgain Farmhouse Ale, then I have to include Saison Dupont, from Brasserie Dupont. This is essentially the Farmhouse Ale that started it all and touted in a few places as the best beer in the world. I think this one is available in both 750ml bottles and 4-packs.

I haven’t had this one yet, but with how much I’ve been enjoying not just Belgian-style ales, but beers from Belgium lately, I may have to try it this spring.

Saison – Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Trying to whittle down the enumerable saisons available in the market down to one last interpretation of the beer is a difficult task, to be sure. There are two breweries in the Northeast whose brewing portfolio is in a distinctly Belgian tradition, so I’ll go with one of those, specifically Allagash. I’ve had a couple beers from the Maine brewery so I’d really like to try this most Belgian of beers.

Allagash describes the beer quite nicely: Citrus and peppery spice are balanced by a pleasant malt character. Saison is full bodied with a rustic, dry finish. Made for enjoying, no matter which type of work you’re returning from. That description makes me want to grab a bottle right now.

Like Two Roads’ Saison, this beer is available year-round and with Allagash’s relatively large distribution footprint, this ale should be easy to find.

On to the Maibocks…

Bocks, specifically Maibocks, are one of the less common lager styles. I see more dopplebocks and weizenbocks than the lighter, spring variety so selecting three for this post proved more challenging than the saison half of my 2018 Spring Fling 6 pack. Granted, we are still in March as of the date of this post, but I’ve been seeing Maibocks (especially the first one) on shelves already.

Hofbräuhaus Hofbräu Maibock (München, Germany)

Of course I would go with at least one German brewery, right? This is a beer style and brand filled to the mug with tradition: “By tradition, the first barrel of Maibock is tapped at the Hofbräuhaus in the last week of April, in time for the merry month of May. The success story of Munich’s oldest bock beer goes back as far as 1614.”

I had a six pack of this last spring and enjoyed it. There’s a really nice malty, caramel feel to the beer overlaying the crispness of the lager. This beer is a prime example of German brewing tradition.

Dead ‘N’ Dead Rogue (Newport, OR)

Dead ‘N’ Dead is whiskey barrel-aged version of Rogue’s year-round flagship beer, Dead Guy Ale. I really like Dead Guy and if it is on a beer menu, I’ll usually order it to get the night going. I like most barrel-aged beers so if you take a beer I already like and throw it in a whiskey barrel for a while, chances are high that I’ll really like it.

I’ve seen this one in stores and shelves but haven’t yet tried it. Like many of Rogue’s special brews, this beer is available in 22oz bombers so I imagine you’d want to take your time with this beer given the potential complex tastes and the 8.2% ABV.

Cultivator Helles Bock – (Hershey, PA)

It has been quite a while since I had a bottle of this beer because unfortunately, I think it might be a brewery-only release now. Once part of Tröeg’s Hop Cycle, it was replaced last year in that cycle by First Cut. Cultivator, however, was a very good example of the style. Malty and bready, it was quite a bit like Hofbräuhaus Hofbräu Maibock.

This was a solid offering from the always dependable brewers at Tröegs so I’d love to see it again, maybe in one of their seasonal variety packs.

Six beers worth trying this spring if you can find them. What are some saisons, maibocks, or other spring seasonal beers that are worth checking out?

Draught Diversions: I’m Now an IPA Believer

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…

Well, it finally happened. I never thought it would come to pass, but alas, I have succumbed to the masses of craft beer. I not only enjoy IPAs now, I seek them out.

For years I avoided IPAs like they were a communicable disease. I hated high-hopped beers and even disliked many Pale Ales (like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale). I’d get that bitter beer face when I did have IPAs and would drink water if an IPA was the only beer option.

When I first joined untappd about 4 years ago, I did so with a good friend and it turned into a little competition. For a while we were neck in neck with check-ins to unique beers, badges and the like. The primary difference, he was (and is) an IPA guy and I was (and still am) primarily a stouts & porters guy. The whole time we were switching places in the “race to most check ins” he would be at, for example, level 30 on his “I Believe in IPA” badge and level 8 on “Heavyweight” badge and I would be on level 30 on my “Heavyweight” Badge and level 8 of my “I Believe in IPA” badge.

Then, something happened. Something that supposedly happens to people every seven years or so. Just do a google search on “palate changes every 7 years” and a plethora of scientific, semi-scientific, and conjectural results are returned. My palate changed and evolved. I became more open to trying different styles, and part of it started with a beer I reviewed here last year: Two Roads Honeyspot IPA. The beer was from a brewery I trusted implicitly: Two Roads Brewing Company and it had wheat as a malt ingredient.

From there I became more open and curious to trying the occasional IPA. Another IPA that really wowed me and had me eager to try juice bomb and New England IPAs came from the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp pack last year: the Sierra Nevada/Treehouse collaboration East Meets West IPA which was one of the best beers I ever had. I knew I might be willing to try more IPAs at this point.

I also began to doubt myself. Was I just folding under the pressure of the overwhelming imbalance of IPAs vs other styles in the beer market? I hoped that wasn’t the case, but the more IPAs I had, the more I enjoyed them. I am also not the only person to have an aversion to IPAs. Just like the wide variety of stouts available on the market, I’ve learned IPAs are just as diverse. In learning that, I realize I prefer the East Coast IPAs and a lot of what makes me enjoy a specific IPA comes down to the specific Hop used in the brew. For example, Conclave’s “Hop Ritual with Vic Secret” is a delicious beer because of the strand of hop in the beer. Yeah, I know it is technically a Pale ale, but it is one of those Pale Ales that blurs the line and well, Hop is in the name.

Another Hop that works well for my palate is Citra, which imparts a citrusy flavor to the beer. Another that worked wonders for my palate is the Centennial Hop. I learned this when I had Two Hearted Ale for the first time, which is hopped 100% with Centennial Hops. Centennial also imparts a citrus flavor profile. I’ll again make the obligatory plea that Bell’s begin distributing in New Jersey.

Just take a look at my first two monthly six packs for 2018 and how prominently IPAs are featured in the six highlight beers of each month. The beer that really sealed my fate with regard to IPAs and hopped up beers, though not an IPA, is Sierra’s Nevada Pale Ale, arguably the most important hop-forward beer in American Craft beer over the last thirty plus years.

I could probably go to great lengths about the varieties of hops. In fact there are several books on the subject with For The Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops by Stan Hieronymus considered by many to be the standard book on the subject. I haven’t personally read it, but I threw out a question on twitter about the best book on Hops and multiple trusted beer folks tweeted back with this book.

So what does this all mean? Well, I’m excited to explore more IPAs and Pale Ales. Beers that are hop-forward and maybe feature a single hop. There’s now a shelf or fridge section of beers I don’t need to skip over any longer.

Or, to put it another way, just like the untappd badge, I Believe in IPA!

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.

Draught Diversions: Thanksgiving 2017 Suggestions

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…

Perhaps no American holiday is more centered around food, feasting, and gathering together for a sit-down meal as is Thanksgiving. Sure, Christmas Dinner is a focal point for many families around the world, but food is the primary icon of what many Americans call “Turkey Day.”

You can probably justify any style pairing for the day since there are so many potential dishes as part of the overall day, so I’ll just run off a few styles that I’ve had over the past few years I’ve found to be really nice. First and foremost; however, I’d suggest grabbing a growler or two from your favorite local brewery to bring to the family gathering if at all possible. This is by no means an exhaustive set of beer suggestions and a lot of people (myself included), split the day and do dinner at one location and desert at another location so you may have a special beer you’d rather share at one place than another.. There are plenty of lists like that floating around the internets (Craft Beer and Brewing, GQNY Times, Food and Wine, among many others).

When first arriving and chatting with your family and friends, something light and sessionable might a good option. Maybe a Session IPA (like Founders’ All Day IPA or Southern Tier’s Tangier) or a Hefeweizen (Any of Harpoon’s UFOs including the Winter Blonde would be nice as would Tröegs Dreamweaver Wheat), both are low in alcohol (floating around 5%) and provide a distinct flavor. Or something really good as starter is a good ol’ American Lager and it doesn’t get much more American than the Lager from America’s Oldest Brewery, Yuengling.

The dinner beer is even more open for debate and consideration. Some might lean towards a solid IPA or Pale Ale, but not me. I think the hoppiness might clash too much with the earthy flavors of the main course.  Here’s where you want a brew that is a little more hearty, something with weight to it. Last year, I enjoyed a Moonglow Weizenbock from Victory Brewing and it paired wonderfully with the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and especially the sweet potatoes. At 8.7% with a tasty malty base, you’ve definitely got a hearty brew. Along those lines, a Dubbel like Ommegang’s world class Dubbel Ale or a Dopplebock (like the Troegenator I reviewed a few weeks ago) would be both make for nice pairing.

A brown ale could go really well, here, too, Newburgh Brewing Company makes an excellent Brown as does Smuttynose, with their classic of American Craft Beer, Old Brown Dog Ale. About as close as I’d come to thinking IPA for dinner would be say a black IPA like Two Roads Brewing’s Route of All Evil could be good here with a nice hop and malt balance. A porter; however, would be perfect, some have roast and the style is just complementary enough for most meals that something like Great Lakes’s Edmund Fitzgerald or the American craft beer standard for porters, Anchor Porter could work well for many palettes.

Here we come to dessert. Some folks will go for a beer with their dessert, I usually don’t. In this case, maybe a sweeter brew like Southern Tier’s Choklat, which is a rich, sweet stout. Same goes for Terrapin’s fabulous Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout. Since Pumpkin Pie is a staple dessert at Thanksgiving, why not go for a pumpkin beer at this time? One of the classics of the style is Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale, a beer I haven’t had in a couple of years. Perhaps I’ll remedy that this year.

Once the food is done and you want to relax and maybe take that nap, splitting a sipping beer to top off the day might be nice. Perhaps something barrel-aged and/or higher in ABV.

I was able to snag a bottle of Flying Fish’s Exit 17, which is a Russian Imperial Stout aged in Dad’s Hat Whiskey bottles. This was a fairly limited release, with only 750 bottles put into distribution. Really, though, one of the dessert beers could be good here, too. If you were lucky enough to snag multiple bottles of KBS, it might not be a bad idea to share one of those after the food is done. Something like one of these higher ABV stouts are Barleywines might be good to sip throughout the day, too.

 

Obviously these are all only suggestions. Mostly based on what I’ve enjoyed in year’s past at Thanksgiving. The only additional thing I’ll say is more than a suggestion, a request. Drink responsibly. If you have more than two or three (hell more than one of some of the beers I mentioned in this post), don’t get behind the wheel.

Draught Diversions: Breweries to Visit, Part 2

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 the second on my potentially ongoing series featuring breweries I would like to visit. The first five were easy, the next five are also relatively easy, too. A combination of historical importance to beer and the products I’ve enjoyed from them pushed these breweries to my “wish list.” The breweries in today’s post are largely in the Northeastern US. As I’ve intimated, distribution for some of the smaller breweries that seem to offer products I like (Schell’s in Minnesota, for example) doesn’t make it easy or convenient for me to even taste beers from breweries who don’t distribute into NJ, thus the geographical bias.

Like the first installment of this “series,” I’ll use the arbitrary ranking of “From Which Brewery Does Rob Have the Most Unique Untappd Check ins”

Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, NY (2002)
Total Southern Tier beers checked into untappd: 25

I’ve been enjoying Southern Tier’s brews for as long as I can remember enjoying craft beer. Being only one state over from their home base, their tasty brews have almost always been readily available. They’ve been a trusted brewer of delicious beer well before I was on untappd, their range of styles is impressive from their wonderful “Blackwater Series” of stouts (Choklat, Crème Brulee, and Choklat Oranj Stout) to their ales Citra Hopped Live Pale Ale, Tangier, 3 Citrus Peel Out to their legendary Pumpkin beers: Pumking and perhaps my favorite Pumpkin beer Warlock, Southern Tier brews beer in styles that please just about every palate.

Additionally, Southern Tier became partners with perhaps my favorite brewery, Victory Brewing, last year as

Artisanal Brewing Ventures. Since I’ve visited Victory a few times, it only makes sense that I visit their sibling brewery.

Samuel Adams / The Boston Beer Company Boston, MA (1984)
Total Samuel Adams beers checked into untappd: 24

Let’s face it fellow “craft beer enthusiasts,” if not for Jim Koch and the Boston Beer Company, many of us may still be drinking Michelob, Miller Lite, or Coors. For me, Samuel Adams was my big introduction to good tasting beer. When their beers hit the scene, my father converted from Anheuser-Busch, primarily the Michelob product line, to the Church of Koch. I really didn’t enjoy beer until college and getting the Samuel Adams Holiday Sampler back in the mid 1990s was a taste-bud opener. I recall the packaging to this day and getting bottles of Cranberry Lambic and really enjoying it despite not knowing what the hell a Lambic was. I also really liked the Cream Stout, too, but the highlight was always the Old Fezziwig Ale.

My preference for their brews has waned over the years (I still say that Boston Lager is the weakest of all their beers), but I do appreciate their experimentation with styles and variations, like the latest Harvest Hefe (I’ve yet to try). Where they’ve not quite hit the mark is falling a little behind on the IPA craze as Jim Koch has admitted to not being a fan of the style.

Their seasonal offerings are quite good, the Summer Ale is always a favorite. In fact, the most refreshing beer I ever had was a Samuel Adams Summer Ale after spending over 12 hours putting up a fence around my pool. The Old Fezziwig ale is still sought after and a beer EVERYBODY wishes would be distributed in six packs. One of the beers I enjoyed most from them, and I wish would return is the Honey Porter, that’s the beer that really introduced me to what a Porter was.

If I can really say anything negative is that the constant label changes for their beers are a tad….frustrating. I miss the old ones with Samuel Adams hoisting a tankard of ale on every label like the one to the left from a couple of years ago.

I visited the Samuel Adams Taproom in Boston on my last business trip up there about 15 years ago but didn’t do a full tour of the brewery. However, a full tour of the facility is a must for anybody who enjoys craft beer, it would seem especially after hearing what the folks at Flounder Brewing had to say about their experience at the brewery.

Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford, CT (2002)
Total Two Roads beers checked into untappd: 15

I’ve had only about 10 beers from Two Roads, but their consistency for those beers is extremely impressive. One of their best beers is their Workers Comp Farmhouse Saison. This shouldn’t be too surprising since Two Roads’s Master Brewer Phil Markowski literally wrote the book on Farmhouse Ales. Lest you think this is all Two Roads brews, their portfolio runs the gamut of styles and influences, from their wonderful Ol’ Factory Pils Pilsner, the delicious No Limits Hefeweizen to the outstanding Honeyspot Road IPA and one of the best pumpkin beers produced annually, Roadsmary’s Baby (Pumpkin beer aged in Rum Barrels!). Like the breweries already mentioned, Two Roads brews styles to match most beer-drinker’s palates.

Over the past couple of years, Two Roads has begun an impressive program of Sour Beers. Last winter, I had Bog Wild a cranberry-sour and I thought it fantastic. As part of the push for Sour Beers, Two Roads uses an old milk truck to allow the beer to sour for what they’ve dubbed the “Tanker Truck Sour Series.” They recently broke ground on a new brewing facility, Area Two Experimental Brewing on their property for sours and spirit-based barrel-aged beers. Given that, I may want to hold off on visiting until that facility is up and running.

Tröegs Independent Brewing, Hershey, PA (1996)
Total Tröegs beers checked into untappd: 10

I know, I know, Tröegs is only one state away in Pennsylvania. But Pennsylvania is a big state and for my beer purchasing dollar, one of the best beer states.Hershey is just outside of a day trip, so this one would likely be an over-night trip so a trip to Hersey Park could be part of the journey. Logistics aside, as I pointed out in my review of their wonderful dopplebock Trogenator, Tröegs is one of the foundational breweries of not just the Northeastern US, but of the American craft beer scene. In the midst of several mergers, acquisitions, and ownership splits for other brewers, Tröegs has remained fiercely independent, family owned, and community committed.

Like Southern Tier, I can’t recall a time where I haven’t seen Tröegs beers available on shelves in my area. I’ve extolled the virtues, at length, of Trogenator but that is just the tip of the iceberg for these brewing brothers. Their Dreamweaver is a fine, widely available Hefeweizen, Sunshine Pils is a terrific pilsner, and Mad Elf…Mad Elf is legendary American Christmas Ale and an annual holiday beer tradition for me.

Tröegs also has an experimental series of beers they’ve dubbed the “Scratch Series,” and I need to try some of those.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE (1995)
Total Dogfish Head beers checked into untappd: 8

I know I’ve lauded many of the breweries I’ve highlighted here and the earlier post for ingenuity, but when it comes to experimental, “off-centered” beers, few can compare to the output of Sam Caligione’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Sam’s got the personality to keep his beer in the spotlight, he even had a television show a few years ago, Brew Masters.

For whatever reason, I haven’t had nearly as many Dogfish Head beers since joining untappd, but the brews I’ve had have been great to outstanding, just look at what I said about Oak-Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout a few months ago. Their Namaste White is a nearly perfect Witbier, Indian Brown Ale is a tasty brown ale (a very underrated style), and Festina Peche is a great take on the classic Berline Weisse. For years I would try to get a six pack of Raison D’Etre when I could but it seems much harder to find now. I can’t think of any other beer off the top of my head that features beets and raisins, but damn was this a good beer. I recall sharing a bottle of the rare Fort years ago and loving it.

Right, for the quality of their beers, what Dogfish means to the American Craft Beer Landscape and some of the fantastic brewery only releases (like Carobock, a chocolate-banana Weizenbock!) make this another must-visit.

Ein Prosit!