My original intention was to visit smaller breweries in South Jersey that I don’t get in North Jersey. I discovered a problem: I was trying to do this on a Wednesday and most small breweries aren’t open on Wednesday, then typically they are open something like 4-8 Thursday and 4-8 Friday. Meanwhile I was planning to come home Friday afternoon. That sort of cut me down to visiting one small brewery Thursday evening as it seemed difficult to cram two into 4 hours. Also, by then I was getting a bit tired! Based on several recommendations, the choice was Spellbound. This started at Kid Rip’s the night before, where I also had the Palo Santo.
IPA (Infused with Basil and Sorachi Ace Hops)
Pours pale amber from a Randall with a generous lemon cream head. Starts with a bright Sorachi nose with an herbal hint over cracker malt. On the palate that hint resolves into basil on a solid malt backbone. Long hoppy finish, nice stuff, I really like this. It’s a pity that a Randall is such a PITA for a bartender, the infusions can be great. 6.5% ABV
Peach Citra Pale Ale
Clear pale gold in the glass with a brief white head, then a luscious peach nose with citrus notes. The flavor shows less intense peach with a slight chalkiness and lots of biscuit malt. The peach fades slowly on the finish as the hops build briefly. 5.5% ABV I don’t like it as much as I want to. There’s something in the flavor–not the nose–that seems artificial.
Cherry Belgian Tripel
This is chestnut-tinged pale amber with a medium off white head. The sour cherry aroma is followed by light malt. Yeastiness comes in on the palate with a lightly viscous mouthfeel, bread-biscuit malt and lots of cherry, then malt and cherry slide into a medium length finish. 8.5% ABV The cherry really carries this. Don’t serve it too cold. I brought home a growler of this!
Porter Aged on Palo Santo Wood
This poured opaque brown with generous creamy tan head and a roasty, woody, coffee nose over nice malt, followed by hops. The flavor matches the aroma, and the woodiness is distinctly different from oak (no vanilla, for example). The finish starts woody with a sweet hint, seems to fade quickly, then rallies and persists. 6.9% ABV [It's interesting to compare my notes to the night before.]
A slightly hazy gold glass with a generous fluffy white head. Hops hit as the can opens, nice and floral-citrusy. The flavor starts with momentary bakery malt immediately overrun by citrus hops with an earthy quality. The finish is quiet with citrus peel bitterness, fading. 6.5% ABV, 75 IBU
So what *is* a Randall?
The original was Randall the Enamel Animal (Version 3.0, below,) created at Dogfish Head. “Randall is an organoleptic hop transducer module…” Now that’s clear as mud, right? It’s an infuser, where beer from the tap passes through a chamber containing the ingredients to be be infused, in this case basil and hops. Then the beer passes through a second chamber, for “de-foaming,” and finally through a tap to the glass. It’s rather fiddly to operate. There are just as many things that can go wrong as you might guess from that description!