Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.
While in New Jersey recently, I elected to check out a local beer store. Not sure what I would find, I scoured the aisles for something a little different, from a brewery I’ve never tried. The end result was discovering Fuego India Pale Ale from Tonewood Brewing Company, a brewery a couple of friends had both recommended to me right before this whole COVID thing went down. Apparently, Tonewood has made waves in its somewhat hyper-local footprint, so I grabbed some to review.
Founded in 2016 in Oaklyn, New Jersey by brothers Eli and Taylor Facchinei, who converted a 3,000 square-foot warehouse, Tonewood pumped out almost 6,000 barrels last year. And, with business booming prior to the state’s pandemic shutdown back in March, the brothers had plans to open up a second facility in nearby Barrington. The potential second complex, which sits on an old lumber yard, is close to 14,000 square-feet and would allow Tonewood to brew up to 50,000 barrels a year. There’s no new word on Tonewood’s current strategic business strategy but there’s still plenty of beer.
As for the releases, it appears Tonewood has a couple of year-round favorites and a whole slew of limited releases that are dropped fairly regularly. Fuego is one of those yearly efforts. It’s a 6.2 percent ABV Hazy IPA, which the brewery describes as “an explosion of flavor and aromas” thanks to a combination of Mosaic and Citra hops, whichclaim to make it both juicy and dank. The label is half gold and half cream-colored, with the brewery’s name featured smack dab on the front – and Tonewood’s western, old-timey logo on the back. There’s also a massive flame on the front that spells out the name of the beer, along with “dank and juicy,” and the night sky in the background. From a wannabe beer nerd’s perspective, Tonewood does an exemplary job summarizing the beer, the underlying hops and their motto, all right there for drinkers to see.
When it’s a self-proclaimed juicy or dank beer, I have to give it a smell before pouring it and that’s exactly what I did here. I must say, the nose was the least impressive thing with this beer and, given the taste, I’m not too disappointed that it didn’t hit as hard as the label said it would. What I smelled was a slight hoppy juiciness, with underlying notes of grapefruit and grass. I couldn’t really dissect this feature much more, simply because it wasn’t a very potent attribute.
The pour on the other hand, well that was a thing of beauty. Fuego came out a bright, cloudy yellow with a wealth of straw-like head. It also proved to have good retention and lacing. I would’ve liked it to be a 16-ounce can rather than a 12-ounce to fill my tulip glass, but I’m splitting hairs. From the look of the can to the look of the beer, this one is Instagram-worthy.
I took a sip and I noticed a medium-bodied mouthfeel that was overall pretty smooth and crisp. The carbonation was good, not amazing, but helped serve the taste of this beer well. Speaking of taste, it’s an inside-the-park home run, combining a hop-forward taste that incorporates the juicy grapefruit, orange and stone fruit flavor with a well-articulated maltiness that makes way for a classic dry finish you’d want from your more standard IPA. It’s deliciously drinkable and, while I’m no expert, it feels like there’s some other hop in there. Since Galaxy hops are far and away my favorite and I get that same taste of a Galaxy-based brew here, it left me wondering.
After I finished, I threw out a Die Hard quote to some fellow beer nerds: “If this is their idea of Christmas, I gotta be here for New Year’s.” Basically, if this is Tonewood’s standard year-round effort, I’m excited to try more limited DIPA and Double Dry-Hopped efforts. Fuego proves Tonewood can make a complexly simple beer, taking the best of a more typical IPA and chocking it full of intensely-tasting flavor. Did it maybe have a flaw or two – absolutely. But if this small sample size is an indication, southern New Jersey might just have its next destination brewery, along the same lines a Cape May Brewing Company. I will definitely need more beer to confirm.
I was curious to see what BeerAdvocate gave Fuego because many of the brewery’s efforts have a high average score but are based off of just a handful of ratings. Not this one, it’s been rated 100 times, for an impressive average score of 4.11 – on top of the website’s 90 rating. I am almost on point with that though I will go a little higher, converting my score to an 8.5 out of 10. The nose sets it back at least half a point but the flavor and drinkability are, well, pretty much on fire.
Stay tuned next week, because I might try something from your favorite brewery.