Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sky High Hops - Flemington, NJ

With the insane growth of the number of breweries in New Jersey, it's not surprising to see businesses related to the beer industry sprouting up throughout the state.  Breweries need supplies and ingredients, and businesses are stepping up to fill this need.  From labs maintaining yeast strains, farms building hop yards, and mobile canning lines that jump from brewery to brewery, businesses from all over the state are embracing the explosion of the local beer community.

Anthony Verdi and his family created Sky High Hops to supply breweries with a quality product that can make their beers stand out.  Situated at Sage Hill Farm in Flemington, NJ, Sky High Hops is in their second growing season with no plans of slowing down.

Sage Hill Farm, Sky High Hops, Flemington, NJ
The entrance to the Hop Yard at Sage Hill Farm

Three types of hops are currently grown in the Sky High Hops yard..  The Centennial and Cascade vines are in their second year, while the Chinook vines are first year.  Owner Anthony Verdi says their yield and quality has been great on such young plants.

Sage Hill Farm, Sky High Hops, Flemington, NJ
Beautiful handmade signs to guide you in the hop yard
Sage Hill Farm, Sky High Hops, Flemington, NJ
The Centennial vines are almost ready!

The diligent farmers at Sage Hill were able to yield enough hops from their first growing season to use in a few different local beers.  Flemington, NJ's Lone Eagle Brewing used wet (freshly picked, not dried) Cascade and Centennial hops in a brown ale aptly named "Hunterdon Wet Hopped Brown Ale." More of Sky High Hops' Cascades were later used in a pale ale from Lone Eagle Brewing.

Sage Hill Farm, Sky High Hops, Flemington, NJ
Cascades to the left!

Sage Hill Farm, Sky High Hops, Flemington, NJ
Cascades are shooting "Sky High," but still need time to mature

"Drinking a beer brewed using hops that we grew here on the farm is something special.  Not much can compare to that, " says owner Anthony Verdi.

Sage Hill Farm, Sky High Hops, Flemington, NJ
Flowering Cascade

Sage Hill Farm, Sky High Hops, Flemington, NJ
Single row of Chinook vines

Sky High Hops is currently taking orders for their 2017 growing season.  If you want wet hops, let them know soon!  Sales are also open to homebrewers, so feel free to contact Anthony at Sky High Hops.

Make sure to check out their website!  They have lots of great information on their methods of growing, harvesting, and drying their hops.

Sky High Hops links:


Sage Hill Farm, Sky High Hops, Flemington, NJ
Looking over the yard at Sky High Hops

Monday, July 10, 2017


Hey folks!  It's been quite awhile, right?  Even though this blog has been silent, I've kept up my exploration of local beers as well as taking the time to enjoy some older favorites.  While my Facebook and Twitter pages have been dormant for the most part, my Instagram account has been relatively active.  I could just send you over to Instagram, but I will post some of the highlights from the past few months here for (hopefully) your enjoyment!

First off, I'm tending to buy six packs (and sometimes four packs) more often these days.  For years, as a general rule, I would only buy single bomber bottles or "mix-a-six" pack at a liquor store that allows it.  A lot of these were special release beers, destined to never be brewed again.  Now, I've grown somewhat tired of the fleeting experience of having a single bottle of beer.  When I have a beer I enjoy, I want to enjoy it over several rounds or several days.

Of course, I don't only buy six-packs these days.  I just buy a whole lot more of them.  Single beer releases are sprinkled in occasionally, like when local brewer Flounder Brewing released a bourbon barrel aged version of their Genevieve's IPA, I knew I had to pick up a bottle (FOMO, right?).  Or when a beer on draft piques my interest, I will still get a growler (usually 32 oz.) of it.

I mentioned drinking some older favorites.  I find myself returning to these old favorites, and distancing myself somewhat from beers that are new and trendy.  Trillium, Treehouse, Veil?  I'm sure they're great, but I've never had them and don't feel like I'm missing out.

So here's a snapshot of what I've been drinking:

Pilsner Urquell:  the quintessential Czech-style pilsner.  In college, I would occasionally drink a skunky and (what I thought was) unremarkable Pilsner Urquell.  Little did I know the skunk flavor and smell was from the sunlight getting through the clear, green bottle .  Now, Pilsner Urquell is sold in amber bottles that blocks a lot of the bad sunlight, and shipped cold to keep it tasting as fresh as possible (#NotSponsored).
  • Even though I've been drinking Pilster Urquell, I've also been thoroughly enjoying Neshaminy Creek Trauger Pilsner (German style) and Sierra Nevada Summerfest (Czech style).  

Victory HopDevil:  While not quite as historical as Pilsner Urquell, I was glad to be picking up some Victory HopDevil again .  According to Victory's website, HopDevil IPA does date back to 1996, and was part of their initial lineup along with Festbier and Brandywine Valley Lager.  Victory's beer, along with beers from Troegs, were the breweries that introduced me to the world of hoppy, bitter beers. Tasting this one again surely hit the spot.
  • Some other beers I've been revisiting are Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, and Hoegaarden Blanche.

Troon Brewing, A More Perfect Union:  I've also made time to try some new beers.  For Father's Day, I took a short trip down to Troon Brewing in Hopewell, NJ.  Troon is located on the grounds of Double Brook Farm very close to Main Street.  The small brewery currently only offers growlers to go, but you can order pints of their beer at the restaurant that is also on site, the Brick Farm Tavern.  On this visit, Troon only had a single beer available, A More Perfect Union.  This IPA was brewed with lactose, Huell Melon hops, and conditioned on Palo Santo wood.  Pineapple and coconut were the predominant flavors for me, and was only slightly bitter.  Pretty tasty, for sure.

  • Some other local beers I've been enjoying:  Flounder Hefeweizen and Xperimental Saison 03 and the Referend Bier Blendery's Berliner Messe - Gloria (Sommer).

    Troon Brewing, Hopewell, IPA
    Troon Brewing:  A More Perfect Union
Pilsner Urquell
Pilsner Urquell

Victory, IPA, HopDevil
Victory HopDevil IPA

That's all for now!  I look forward to diving into this blog more in the near future!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kids at Breweries - 09/29/16

Well, my goal to write something here every day didn't work.  With all honesty, that is a pretty lofty goal.  But I am going to update this space with posts multiple times a week.  It will mainly be posts written about what beers I've been drinking, places I've been going and just random thoughts about beer.

To recap, last weekend I visited Flounder and Lone Eagle breweries.  It was good fun because I hadn't been out to a brewery in a good while.  Our son is now old enough where we have an easier time packing him and all his things up and bringing him along.  I went to Flounder by myself, but Kerry and our son came along to Lone Eagle where we had a great time.

Which brings me to my main topic tonight.  Do you think it's ok for people to bring their kids (infants, toddlers, teens) to a brewery? With laws changing the way they are in NJ, there is no denying that breweries are becoming more and more like bars.  Its true, not all are headed this way.  But a lot of brewery owners are designing their taprooms in ways that promote patrons to stay longer and drink more.  Brewers are doing this by making it more comfortable for their patrons by 1) adding more tables and seats, 2) having flat screen TVs, 3) being open for extended hours, and 4) allowing them to bring in outside food.

Now, I wouldn't think of bringing my son to most bars in NJ.  It's just not an atmosphere I would want him to be in.  But for some reason, I have no problem bringing him to a brewery's taproom.  It is generally a more inviting environment than a bar, even though I do feel the stares and eye-rolls from some of the other (usually younger) patrons.  However, the taproom workers have generally been more than accommodating.

What do you think?  Are kids welcome at a brewery, or should their presence be discouraged?  Or should it be a case by case basis?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Lone Eagle Visit - 09/26/16

(I'm in an effort to write something, anything every single day.  It's been awhile since I've been writing blog posts, so I'm hoping this will get me back in the groove.  Hope you enjoy my rambling.)

Tonight I am sipping on a glass (or three) from my growler of Flounder Brewing's Genevieve IPA that I picked up on Saturday.  It is tasting mighty fine, and I highly recommend it.  If you want to know what kind of flavor notes it has, go ahead and pick up a pint and try it yourself.

A few months ago, Lone Eagle Brewing opened up near the outlet mall in Flemington, NJ.  A unique aspect about this new brewery is that it is in a completely newly constructed building instead of being in the local industrial park.  Its not really a positive or a negative for me, its the beer that counts and speaks for himself.

So we paid a visit to Lone Eagle yesterday to relax after a little bit of shopping at the outlets.  I will give a more in depth write-up when I go and tour the brewery in the future.  During this stop, I had pints of two of their beers.  First, their Dry Irish Stout brewed with Homestead Coffee.  Second, their Ordinary Bitter.  Both were around 4% ABV, and both were delicious and bursting with flavor

The taps and bar at Lone Eagle
A pretty neat feature of the taproom is that it consists of an upstairs and a downstairs.  Downstairs, there is a large bar with a few high top tables with bar stool, while upstairs there is a small bar and several picnic tables.  The upstairs was appealing to me as I prefer the picnic tables, and also it overlooks the brewery and downstairs taproom.

View of the brewery from upstairs

Some other beers that Lone Eagle had on tap were:
  • Extra Special Bitter
  • Black IPA
  • Downton Abbey Dubbel
  • American Pale Ale
  • Marzen
  • Red Farmhouse Saison
  • Rye Pale Ale
  • Porter
  • West Coast IPA
  • S.M.A.S.H Mouth Ale
Oh yeah.....they'll be canning really, really soon via Iron Heart Canning!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Flounder Visit - 09/25/16

(I'm in an effort to write something, anything every single day.  It's been awhile since I've been writing blog posts, so I'm hoping this will get me back in the groove.  Hope you enjoy my rambling.)

Yesterday, Flounder Brewing opened up for a few hours of growler sales.  It had been at least six months since I paid Flounder a visit, so I decided to stop in.  My wife and our son weren't up to the trip, so I ventured out for a quick jaunt to Hillsborough on my own.  

Their layout changed a bit since my last visit.  In Flounder's new configuration, you enter through the open garage door, try some samples at a small table they set up, then head to the bar to order a pint of beer or a growler.  I'm not too sure if they were selling pints or not yesterday, due to it being a growler sales day.  They were selling 5 oz. samples of their collaboration beer with Sam Adams, a cranberry-helles called Devil's Nectah.  I was worried it would be a cranberry bomb, but the cranberry was actually quite subtle.  It turned out to be a crisp and tasty beer.  Some other beers they had on tap were their Hill St. Honey Blonde Ale, Genevieve's IPA, Sorachi Ace Saison and Blanc on Blanc.  I picked up 32 oz. growlers of Blanc and Blanc and Genevieve's IPA.  Blanc on Blanc was a beer I had read about and wanted to try.  It is a saison brewed exclusively with Hallertau Blanc hops, aged in a Sauvignon Blanc barrel, and then blended with a fresh batch of saison prior to being packaged up.  It was mighty tasty.  Not groundbreaking, but tasty.  Definitely worth a try if you're into wine barrel aged beers.  I'll be drinking the IPA later today, so I'll report back on that one later.  

All in all, it was a good, quick trip to Flounder.  I was pleasantly surprised that there wasn't a line or a big crowd, and I could just walk right up to their taps and try their beer without having to wait.  They have some pumpkin beer fermenting, but I haven't been too into these in the last few years.  Hopefully Flounder has something else up their sleeves for us non-pumpkin beer fans!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Typology Tuesday #2: Bock

This post is a contribution to Typology Tuesday, a monthly project started by the Brookston Beer Bulletin.  On the last Tuesday of every month, beer bloggers are invited to explore a different style of beer and write a post about it.  For the month of February, we are writing about bocks.

To be perfectly honest, I don't have a ton of experience with bocks.  That is part of the reason why I wanted to participate in this month's Typology Tuesday.  Jay Brooks from the Brookston Beer Bulletin compiled a good amount of history, style guidelines from various sources and further reading suggestions for bocks, located here.

Bocks are lagers that generally fall into the 6.3-7.6% ABV range.  They are dark brown or very dark in color and have a high malt complexity.  You won't find much hop bitterness in these beers; just what's enough to cut the sweetness from the malt.  Bready, biscuity, nutty...all those bread descriptors could likely describe bocks.

Bock is one of those styles where I always seemed to be drinking a variation of the original style, but hardly ever the traditional style itself.  Doppelbock?  Check.  Weizenbock?  Check.  Maibock?  Rogue's Dead Guy Ale was probably one of the first non-BMC beers I tried (or at least in the first 10!).

I can count on one hand the number of beers I've had where the style was simply bock.  There's Shiner Bock, which doesn't quite meet style guidelines at 4.4%, and was always an underwhelming beer unless I was being offered no other option.  Yuengling Bock was brought back in 2010 as a late winter seasonal, but has since been discontinued.  I don't have any notes on the beer, but I remember it being alright.  It was also outside style guidelines at 5.1%.  Anchor Brewing used to have a bock in their portfolio, and it was ALSO outside style guidelines at 5.5%.  Sadly, I never tried Anchor's version before it was discontinued several years ago.

I wanted to try a traditional bock for this post, and had a hard time finding one!  I went to 3 different liquor stores that I rely on for their superb selections, but only found doppelbock and weizenbock until I made it to the 3rd store.  There, sitting on the shelf, I found Zywiec Bock.  I was familiar with Zywiec Porter, which I wrote about here, but wasn't aware they brewed a bock.  I decided to give it a try for this post.  Let's see how it is!

Zywiec Brewery, Bock, Typology Tuesday
Zywiec Bock
Zywiec Bock (6.5% ABV) poured a dark amber with a frothy head.  A very attractive beer!  It has a nutty, pumpernickel-like flavor and it goes down incredibly easy.  I'm glad this came in a 16 oz. bottle and not a 12 oz. size.  Zywiec's Bock would go perfectly in a liter mug at a beer hall or barbecue.  The aftertaste just leaves me wanting more.

I know the Dutch Heineken Group has a controlling share in the Zywiec brewery, but at $1.99 for a 16 oz. bottle, this was a steal.  I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more traditional bocks.  It's a style that lends to drinking.  Not a challenge to put one back, and a beer you could probably pair with just about any food (if you're into that sort of thing!)


Saturday, October 31, 2015

902 Brewing Black Dynomite Black IPA

I love when a new brewery starts up and is able to get their beer in bottles.  It also makes me nervous though, because in the past I've been burned from getting bad bottles from new breweries.  My only assumptions are that there must be a higher chance for variation/contamination when filling bottles.  When bottling, you need consistency of fill volume and carbonation, and you need to make sure those bottles are clean and sanitized or else off flavors may develop in the beer.  These are all problems I've seen from bottles in the past.

Let's hope that we don't have any bottle problems today!

902 Brewing entered the New Jersey beer scene a little less than 1 year ago.  Instead of starting out with their own brewery, they contract out the brewing and tank space at Climax Brewing in Roselle Park, NJ. This had me a little worried, because Climax is one of the brewers that I've had bad bottles from.

Most of the business 902 Brewing does is in and around the Hoboken area in NJ, but they are on tap at a few bars out near me in western NJ.  Some of their 22 oz. bottles have also trickled into my area.  I picked up a bottle of Black Dynomite Black IPA from Bottlecraft in Franklin.  There was no date on the bottle of the label, so I could only hope that it was somewhat fresh!  Since Bottlecraft is a newly opened liquor store, I had a good feeling that the beer wouldn't be too old.

I couldn't find the alcohol content on the bottle anywhere, so I had to look it up on 902 Brewing's website. It was listed there at 7.3% ABV.  Hopefully they'll find a way to include this on the label in the future!

Check out my Halloween inspired beertography.....Happy Halloween!

902 Brewing, IPA, Black IPA, Craft Beer, New Jersey
902 Brewing Black Dynomite - Pardon my shoddy beertography!

I hope that Black Dynomite is a sign of good things to come for 902 Brewing.  The Black IPA was quite good.  Bitter, but not too bitter.  Lots of roasted flavors from the dark malts.  This is what I want from a Black IPA.  Too often in a Black IPA, the bitterness overwhelms any chance of tasting the dark malts.  And sometimes it just tastes like a stout, and you wonder why they added "IPA" to the name of the beer in the first place.

Great stuff here.  I'll be sure to pick up 902 Brewing's other beers (Heaven, Hell or Hoboken American IPA, PATH pale ale) when I see them offered.

You can find 902 Brewing and their beers at these upcoming events:
11/7 Beer, BBQ and Bacon Showdown in Stanhope
11/10 New Jersey Craft Beer event at Hops in Morristown
12/19 902 Brewing One Year Anniversary event at Finnegans Pub in Hoboken