At this N.J. brewery, Black culture is always on tap -


Embracing their Afro-Caribbean heritage in a whimsically uplifting tan-bricked neighborhood joint, MONTCLAIR BREWERY resembles a beachy shanty town shack with its oceanic aquamarine aluminum topped exterior, reclaimed wood interior furnishings, onsite sugar candy machine, interestingly offbeat tropical elixirs and lemonade-flavored shandys.

Spiritedly celebrating their cultures, husband and wife entrepreneurs, Leo and Denise Sawadogo, opened Montclair Brewery October ’18. A beautiful right side mural portrait features the beer-lovin’ couple. A snazzy milk stout, root beery brown ale and the pair of candied shandys honor Denise’s Jamaican origin while a baobab fruited golden ale and several herbaceous concoctions salute Leo’s ancestry.

Mash tun wafts from the brewtanks in the back as my wife and I grab chairs on a sunshiny Wednesday afternoon, August ’21. The elongated, aluminum-sided, wood top, L-shape bar featured 20-plus tap lines and several community tables dotted the surrounding area. Exposed pipes and a TV hang from the barren ceiling and two electronic boards list today’s offerings.

Perfumed herbage seeped into limey lemon peel bittering for light-bodied Claremont Pilsner, a style-defying Czech pils hybrid with rosemary seasoning (and basil-sage wisps) guarding its earthen grain spine.

Another unconventional stylish departure, Bellevue Blueberry let wildflower-honeyed blueberry jam pick up lime-soured floral herbage in a unique lacquered manner.

A clover-honeyed Creamsickle knockoff, Frog Hollow Orange Wheat brought candied orange, tangerine and clementine to its lacquered wood retreat, leaving bittersweet orange peel zest upon its citric vanilla finish. In the can, rustic raw-grained hop musk wandered alongside navel orange tartness.

Tame baobob-fruited Baobiere Golden Ale, a tropical vitaminized antioxidant, relegated its Africanized citrus zesting for creamy vanilla buttering and serene floral daubs. In the can, mild lemon-pitted mandarin orange and passionfruit tartness gained light peppery snip and fungi yeast funk to propel spiced-up baobob briskness.

Bold for its style, passionfruit pureed Golden Buddha Golden Ale left subtle lemon meringue tartness, zippy orange zest, salted pineapple whims and tidy white peach snips on its latent chamomile herbage.

Sweet orange peel seduction and distant grapefruit misting tingled the mild rosemary springs placating City Green Farmhouse Ale, an off-dry saison with leathery barnyard acridity.

Laidback Raspberry Framboise retained subtle lemony raspberry souring over mildly creamed wheat malts but seemed tame next to the more ambitious fare.

Approachable raspberry pureed Belgian Red Devil Lambic gained cherry soda pop sweetness for its ancillary bubblegum sugaring contrasting tart lemon candied raspberry souring over a Graham Cracker honeyed wheat base.

Herbal-spiced dried fruiting received candi-sugared sweetness for Peoples Republic Of Montclair, a busy Belgian dubbel.

Mellow guava puree souring mollified loosely West Coat-styled Hava Guava IPA, prodding lemony orange powdered candy tartness above sweet wheated oats.

Lemony pineapple, grapefruit and orange amplified spiced-up Waga Dipa, a zestful Imperial IPA with mild piney hop bittering contrasting a heady pale malt sugaring.

Tangy navel orange spritz led Poor Richard’s India Pale Ale, an herb-daubed piney hopped moderation with celery watered pale malt crisping.

Way beyond stylish definition, Tropical Brown Ale let sour-creamed soy milking curdle sarsaparilla sass, cherry baby aspirin tartness and candied orange whims.

Nearly as idiosyncratic, brown-sugared Jamaican Me Crazy Milk Stout allowed black licorice, black cherry and molasses to sway its soothing milk chocolate resonance.

During Halloween ’21, enjoyed sunny Sunday at noon with wife and dog, talking to brewer Leo Sawadogo while downing eight previously untried brews.

Nearing sour IPA territory, tart peculiarity Baobiscus Milkshake promoted yogurt-milked Mandarina hops above Citra-Simcoe variants as hibiscus-flowered passionfruit, apricot and guava tropicalia plus limey Margarita salting gained musty strawberry, watermelon and gooseberry snips.

Oaken cherry enlivened kettle-soured Cherry Fresh, leaving tannic green grape esters upon the salty acidulated malt spine.

Smoked peat drifted past brown-sugared balrey malting of Fume, a beechwood-aged rauchbier with subtle pastrami-licked cured meating.

Candi-sugared banana sweetness contrasted orange-dried phenols for Tuxedo Strong Belgian Golden.

Homemade raspberry syrup profoundly sugared-up Raspberry Holiday Jam, bringing candied cherry tartness to its treacly sweet-toothed raspberry gulch.

Lime-soured Jamaican rum drove Weh Deh Yah Stout, routing its Bakers chocolate bittering, oaken cherry tannins, Pinot Noir dryness, desiccated fig-orange tartness and light charcoal singe.

Dry Irish Stout, Connor Hill, draped Blackstrap molasses upon anise-spiced fig, pecan and sassafras peculiarities.

Enhanced by date syrup, molasses and honey, lactose oatmeal cream stout, Blind Date, let its black licorice entry saturate treacly caramelized chocolate sweetness.

Nearly two months hence, December ’21, traveled to Montclair again, trying five varied stouts alongside a juicy IPA, roasted porter and pumpkin ale.

Powdered sugar coated vanilla-creamed pumpkin spicing for Hallow’s Eve Pumpkin Ale II, leaving nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and coriander seasoning upon hop-prickled phenols.

Vibrant orange-peeled grapefruit rind, pineapple and peach juicing and sharp piney hops lifted sunny IPA, Brewer’s Beer, a smooth Citra-Mosaic-hopped moderation.

Robust Kingston Porter let dark roast chocolate engage smoky Jamaican coffee bittering and mild hop-charred nuttiness.

Creamily milk-sugared coffee overtones guided MB Espresso Stout, gaining espresso-dried chocolate syruping by the finish.

Succinct coffee-dried black chocolate picked up earthen peat and charred nuttiness for lactose-aided Highmont Stout, a bittersweet full body.

Garish vanilla creaming and syrupy dark chocolate soaked into Vanilla Aged Highmont Stout, a marshmallow-sweetened dessert treat with delicate bourbon whims.

Toasted coconut jolted the caramelized chocolate sweetness of molasses-sapped Barton’s Bush Coconut Stout, leaving tertiary bourbon vanilla, peppermint and anise illusions upon the mocha-creamed coconut pureed finish.

Peanut buttered dark cocoa spread across Nutty Dread Peanut Butter Stout, contrasting tertiary black licorice sweetness with finishing dark-roast hop bitterness.

During mid-September ’22 Saturday afternoon jaunt, discovered seven more Montclair goodies.

Husked grain musk placated the lemon-soured orange rot of MB Lager, an unevenly Vienna malted Munich dunkel.

An abstruse Hawaiian Punch soft drink, Bellaire Summer Ale brought lacquered blueberry-sugared passionfruit adjunct to mild lemony woodruff syruping and unanticipated pomegranate-jammed rhubarb tartness.

Candi-sugared banana and white-peppered lemon brining secured Jazz Fest Belgian Blonde, dropping herbal fungi into the lightly sweet pilsner malt base.

Mildly bittersweet strawberry adjunct edged out by lemon-candied orange desiccation for The Last Straw Lambic, picking up wispy dried fig and sour apricot snips.

Fruited rauchbier variant, Frais Fume, let smoky beechwood outdo its bittersweet strawberry adjunct and mild raspberry-boysenberry swipe.

Tarry dark chocolate roast and dry nuttiness contrasted brown-sugared caramelization for Blue Mountain Dragon Stout, retaining a bitter hop char.

Velvety smooth updated Blind Date Imperial Stout (a.k.a. I Didn’t See That Coming) utilized molasses-honeyed pureed date to sweeten its spicy toffee midst and black licorice-daubed chocolate malt finish.

During March ’23 noon time journey, discovered another rangy variety of brewer Leo Sawadogo’s Afro-Carib-inspired concoctions. Effectively combining disparate ingredients in an original manner, he’s unafraid to stretch stylish boundaries.

Take, for example, MX Black & Tan, a mild traditional Irish ale-stout blend with expectant dry walnut-charred coffee/espresso tones given unanticipated evergreen-daubed anise spicing, desiccated orange spoilage and weedy earthen soiling.

Attempting to make a worthy gluten free brew from sorghum ain’t easy, but Motherland Sorghum betters most as its rice cake flouring and raw-honeyed wheat grist picks up delicately spiced lemon-dropped orange oiling.

Olive green-hazed St. Patrick’s Day leftover, St. Patty’s Green Munich Dunkle Lager, despite its sea-like hue, was a simple, basic pilsner-malted amber lager with spritzy lemon zesting and light herbal respite.

Another amber-grained lager, Blue Stripe Oktoberfest, plied raw-honeyed dried maize to lightly toasted white breading.  

A unique floral summer ale dedicated to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Fragile Like A Bomb, contrasted lavender-honeyed wheat breading with lemony yuzu baobab fruiting and lightly embittered juniper tips.

Dryer, less hazy and more yeasty than typecast New England IPA, National Emergency draped streamlined yellow grapefruit-peeled orange rind bittering, sedate guava salting and mild plantain starching over gentle oated wheat bed.

Mild coffee beaning seduced Tantrum Sour Ale, leaving tart lemon rind bittering upon the dry mocha finish.


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