Nicole’s Ten

I just discovered Nicole’s Ten in Randolph, NJ. I can’t believe I just found out about this place! It has more than 130 bottled beers and 12 beers on tap. I prefer to drink draft beer and Nicole’s Ten had beers on tap than I have never seen anywhere else before.  It is a restaurant and bar, but the restaurant area is definitely more formal than the bar. The beers are reasonably priced, starting at $6. However, dinner entrees are expensive-a burger is $20! They have plenty of appetizers for about $10 if you don’t want to spend that much or you can just grab a beer at the bar.

Nicole's 10

Beers I sampled:

1. Abita Brewing Mardi Gras Bock (6.5% alcohol): I love pilsner, so I was immediately drawn to this beer when I saw it on the menu. It is similar to a German Maibock. It has a brown color and a earthy malt aroma. The malt flavor is dominant in this beer while the hops flavor is minimal. Also, this beer has a higher alcohol content than traditional lagers, so this is represented in its taste. It paired perfectly with my steak.

2. River Horse Coffee Oatmeal Stout (6.7% alcohol): If stouts are your beer of choice, than this is probably not the beer for you. This Milk/Sweet Stout is sweeter than most stouts I am used to. It has an almost black, fresh-brewed coffee color. Coffee Oatmeal Stout has a roasted, chocolate and coffee aroma. The coffee flavor is dominant, but you can taste hints of chocolate as you drink this brew. It is surprisingly smooth and doesn’t have a strong aftertaste. I am a fan of River Horse and have never seen this beer on tap anywhere. Definitely worth trying! However, I think this is probably too sweet for people who regularly drink stouts.

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Magic Hat Circus Boy- THE Hefeweizen

Circus Boy

I just tried Magic Hat’s Circus Boy-THE Hefeweizen. This American-style hefeweizen has a hazy, golden color. It has a small head that dissipates quickly.  Circus Boy does not have a dominant smell, but it is a bit fruity with notes of citrus. You clearly taste citrus when you first sip this beer. However, it tastes kind of bland after that. Overall, I would say this beer was lighter and had less flavor than the other hefeweizens I’ve had in the past. It’s okay, but if I’m in the mood for a hefeweizen I will probably go with a different version.

Cloverleaf Tavern

Cloverleaf St. Pattys Day Wknd

I am obsessed with Cloverleaf Tavern in West Caldwell, NJ. I love everything about the place: the location, the atmosphere, the employees, the food and of course the beer! It is a restaurant and bar that always has unique beers to try. Cloverleaf has about 25 beers on draft and more than 50 bottled beers at any given time. I truly feel like I’m in beer heaven when I go here. The owners offer a MBA, or Master of Beer Appreciation, program for guests to encourage customers to sample a variety of Cloverleaf’s beer. They also offer a discount program. Plus, you can fill up a growler on the way out!

Cloverleaf Flight

In my opinion, Thursday nights are the best time to go to Cloverleaf. They offer beer flights, which is a sampling of four 5 oz. pours, for $2 off. They usually cost about $5 with the discount. The beers are served on trays shaped like a clover leaf! Cloverleaf is truly passionate about beer and the beer menu is constantly changing. They even offer gluten-free beers! On my last visit, I sampled the Early Spring Flight, which came with the following beers:

1. Victory Swing (4.5 % alcohol): Victory’s spring seasonal saison has a clear, golden color. It has a strong citrus aroma and a full-bodied spicy, citrus flavor. I think it is a great transition beer from the dark winter beers to the lighter spring beers. It is a bit lighter, but is still flavorful.

2. Newcastle Founders Ale (4.8% alcohol): I’ve had the traditional Newcastle Brown Ale, so I was expecting this beer to be similar. It has a chestnut color like an English Pale Ale should. However, it is lighter and smoother than the Brown Ale. It has a slight caramel malt smell. This beer is drinkable, but not necessarily memorable.

3. Troeg’s Nugget Nectar (7.5% alcohol): I’ve see this beer many times but have never had the opportunity to try it. It has a copper color and scents of floral, citrus and a hint of malt. Nugget Nectar has a bold, hoppy and refreshing flavor that is not over the top. This beer tastes like grapefruit along with some bitterness. Yet, it is still smooth. Not my favorite beer, but I can appreciate it.

4. Sam Adams Alpine Spring (5.5% alcohol): I think this was a nice beer to finish off the flight with. It is a lager and has different flavor notes than the previous beer. This beer is light, smooth and has high drinkability. You can taste the undertones of citrus in this beer, which make it quite refreshing. Out of the four beers in the flight, this was definitely the lightest and had the mildest flavor.

Cloverleaf flights

My boyfriend ordered the “Kane Last of Flight,”(On the right in photo) which included:

1. Kane Head High (6.5% alcohol): I would recommend this to people who love IPAs. This American IPA was the lightest beer of the four. It has a golden color. It smells sweet like hints of citrus. You taste this at first when you drink it, but it leaves bitter aftertaste with strong notes of hops.

2. BA Port Omna (6% alcohol): This stout has a strong coffee and chocolate smell. The coffee flavor slightly overpowers the chocolate. I was a bit intimidated by this beer’s thick, black color. It was much milder than I anticipated and not overbearing. If you enjoy coffee than you will love this beer or at least be able to enjoy one!

3. Malus (9.5% alcohol): This Belgian strong dark ale had the most interesting flavor profile of the flight. It has a dark, almost velvety black color. It smells like chocolate, coffee, malt and caramel like the others. However, it has a slightly sour, malty aftertaste. The fruit flavors taste “sour” when paired with the robust coffee flavor. This flavor combination took away from the bitterness and gives Malus an interesting flavor.

4. Quad (10.2% alcohol): This quadruple style beer is very dark. I didn’t taste this one at all, but It has a dark brown, almost black color and a coffee aroma.

Cloverleaf was running a special for Boulder Honey Saison (11.5% alcohol); a pint was only $3! I had to test it out. I thought it would be similar to the other honey beers I tried in Denver, but this was completely different. It is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale and has an amber color. Honey and caramel flavors stand out with this brew, but a bitter taste comes out in the end. It was okay, but not a stand out beer in my mind. I am glad to have tried the limited edition brew, though!Cloverleaf

Half and Half

When I think of St. Patrick’s Day I immediately think of Guinness. I’m not Irish, but on March 17, I feel like I should join in on the celebration with an iconic Irish beer. Now, don’t get me wrong Ireland is known for a plethora of other great-tasting beers, but based on my experience I think Guinness is the most well-known, widely available Irish beer in the U.S. So, what about us beer lovers out there who want to celebrate in the Irish tradition, but don’t usually drink stout beer? I have the perfect solution- blended beers! I don’t personally mind Guinness, but I can only drink a little bit. I wanted to find a way to enjoy stouts like Guinness throughout an evening. To begin my blended beer adventure, I ordered a Black & Tan, which is Guinness Draught and Bass Pale Ale. There are many versions of blended beers including:

Half & Half: Guinness + Harp Lager

Black & Blue: Guinness + Blue Moon

Black & Red: Guinness + Cherry Beer (Sam Adams Cherry Wheat)

Black Velvet: Guinness + Champagne

Blacksmith: Guinness + Smithwicks

Snakebite: Guinness + Hard Cider

Half & Half

One of the best half & half beers I ever had was suggested to me by my waitress at Cloverleaf Tavern, which I will talk about more in my next post.

Chocolate Banana: Guinness + Wells Banana Bread Beer

This beer was perfectly balanced and smooth. The beers didn’t overpower one another but combined to create a unique flavor. You have to try this!

Blended beers can be a great way to enjoy stouts while toning down the strong malt, barley and hops flavors. Even if you love stouts, half & half beers create a whole new complex of flavors that is a nice change of pace. Also, blended beers make stouts more drinkable in the warmer summer months. Don’t be afraid to ask the bartender at your local brewpub to create some unique combinations for you. I tried some unique half & half beers at Yardhouse on my trip to Denver that you can read about in my Colorado post. You can also try to make your own half & half at home. Read this tutorial or watch this video to learn how to pour the perfect half & half.

Try a half & half beer this St. Patrick’s Day and let me know what you think!

Curious Traveler

Just tried Curious Traveler Shandy (4.4% alcohol). It is a fruit beer. It has a cloudy golden color and a strong citrus aroma. It is a malt, wheat ale that is combined with fresh puréed lemons and limes. The best way to describe the taste is to imagine beer mixed with lemonade. This definitely tasted like a summer beer to me and I could definitely see myself drinking this outdoors by the pool or just relaxing in the sun. If you want a sweet citrus beer than this is perfect for you!

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Cricket Hill Brewery Tour

Cricket Hill Brewery (Fairfeild, NJ)

I have been wanting to visit the Cricket Hill brewery for a couple years now. I know spring brews will be in season soon, so I wanted to stop by for the last of the winter beers. Cricket Hill brewery tours are open to the public every Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. I paid $3 for four samples of beer, but I had option of trading in my “beer card” for a single pint of a beer of my choice. I also paid $1 for the live band that was playing right in the brewery! Many patrons bring their own growlers to fill up for home as well. Prices vary depending on which beer you get.

Cricket HillCricket Hill Live Band

 

5 beers I sampled:

1. Jersey Devil Red Ale (8.2% alcohol): This is one of Cricket Hill’s seasonal beers, so I had to try this before they ran out! This was a little heavy on the first sip, but I developed a taste for it. It has a dark amber color, caramel flavor, very hoppy and a slightly sweet aftertaste.
2. Hopnotic India Pale Ale (5.2% alcohol): I wish I would have had this beer before the Red Ale-my taste buds felt tainted. I’m not a huge fan of IPA’s but I enjoyed this English style pale ale. It has a golden color and tasted much smoother than the Red Ale. It has a fruity aroma and hoppy taste-hence the name.
3. East Coast Lager (4.0% alcohol): I was really excited to try this American pale lager because it is one of my favorite styles of beer. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed when it tasted like Yuengling on my first sip. It has a golden color and is flavorful, but was so much lighter than the previous two beers I tried I could not give it a fair critique. It is a good beer, but it didn’t match up well with Cricket Hill’s darker varieties. I would recommend this beer in the warmer months.
4. American Ale (5% alcohol): I have a love-hate relationship with ales. I loves some of them and hate others. I was surprised with Cricket Hill’s American Ale, though. I actually really enjoyed it because it was smooth yet refreshing. It has a light amber color and a slightly bitter aftertaste, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Cricket Hill Reserve and Lager?
Visitors to Cricket Hill can purchase additional pints of beer for $3. They also sell 22oz. bottles of special seasonal brews. The “bartender” convinced me to buy a bottle for $12.
5. Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Porter (9.0% alcohol): There were only 200 cases of this special brew made. It is aged for three months in oak barrels! It has a very dark, almost black color. When you drink it there are undertones of bourbon, coffee, vanilla and chocolate. Despite the high alcoholic content, this beer is surprisingly smooth. Don’t let this beer’s dark color scare you off-well worth the 12 bucks!
Cricket Hill Reserve

Colorado

Yard House Denver

A trip to Denver, Colorado last August inspired me to try as many new beers as possible. Exposure to such a wide selection of specialty, hand-crafted brews is what interested me in the craft beer selection in northern New Jersey.

Here is a list of the Top Five Beer Establishments I Visited:

1. Yard House Restaurant: Located in the 16th Street Mall,I was pleasantly surprised with my choice-a large bar with nearly 100 taps. The beer menu was extensive, but I tried two blended beers. First, I tried the “Belgian Shandy,” which is pear cider with Leffe Blond. I though I was really going to like this beer, but it was too sweet for me. If you enjoy the cider taste, than I would recommend this to you. I wanted something a little darker for my second beer, so I went with the “Bitter Monk” – Leffe Blond and Stone IPA. This was a much better combination. It was darker and had a hoppy flavor, but was still light enough to drink on a summer day.

2. Rock Bottom Brewery: Also located in the 16th Street Mall. The bar was a smaller than Yard House, but the beer made up for it. I tried the Summer Honey Ale. It was light and crisp but there were honey undertones. The bartender was really helpful. He helped me choose the best beer according to my taste. Summer Honey Ale

3. Wynkoop Brewery: Wynkoop is Colorado’s first brewpub. Locals told me that Wynkoop was a must-visit in Denver. Luckily, I was able to stop by for a drink on my last day! The bar was packed midday on a weekday. I was immediately greeted by a bartender who gave me a beer menu and offered to let me sample any beer before I made my final decision. Twelve of Wynkoop’s own brews were on tap. I sampled the Rail Yard Ale, St. Charles ESB, Two Guns Pilsner, Orchard Wheat and the Silverback Pale Ale. I really enjoyed the St. Charles and Two Guns. I ended up ordering a pint of each. The bartender convinced me to try Patty’s Chile Beer before I left. He said it was  a Denver must. I beg to differ. I think Chile beer is worst beer I’ve ever tasted. I struggled to finish it. The worst part is I still tasted a chile aftertaste several hours later! Unique, but definitely a one-time thing.

Wnykoop BreweryInside Wynkoop

4. Meadow Muffins: This bar and grill is located in Colorado Springs. It was like going to two bars in one. The front of the bar is decorated with a western theme and had a live band, while the back was more of a dance club and played hip-hop music. I hung out in each section for a period of time and had a blast in both. The live band really go everyone moving! Meadow Muffins had some great beers on tap. To be honest, we stopped here on out first night in Colorado and I couldn’t tell you what beers I drank. I do know they were delicious and I would definitely visit this establishment again!

5. Glenwood Canyon Brewpub:On my trip, I ventured to Glenwood Springs to experience Colorado’s famous hot springs. After a relaxing day at the natural pools, I needed a beer. I walked several blocks from the hot springs and found this place.  I ordered a beer and had to stand near the entrance to drink it! This place was packed and I had a three hour ride back to Denver ahead of me. My boyfriend and I only had time for one beer each. I enjoyed the decor- vintage beer brewing accessories and a projector playing a silent film documenting the brewing process.  I immediately ordered the Hanging Lake Honey Ale after my wonderful experience with Rock Bottom’s Summer Honey Ale and my boyfriend went with St. James Irish Red. Both of these beers were flavorful, but still light enough for an August evening. Glenwood Canyon Brewpub