2019’s 717 Collaboration Beer has finally arrived. This year the four area brewers and the Harrisburg Beer Week (HBW) team give us a Helles Bock; a proper spring lager that will last as long as the blossoms we see outside. Tröegs, ABC, ZerØday and newcomer Boneshire joined together to bring forth a new beer that captures the moment and ties together all the efforts around HBW.
For just the second time in five years, we get a lager; a Helles Bock that has the twist of technique by being brewed using krausening, a traditional German brewing method. In the instant case, the beer is brewed with the first two-thirds fermenting and then as John Trogner explained: “just as the yeast starts to peter out we add in the final third” of fresh wort and yeast. This causes the yeast to ferment in a stressed-out environment and under pressure; the process naturally carbonating the lager in a closed environment. Krausening accentuates the unique volatile ester notes within the creamy head. The bready/crackery malts are ever present as you down this quaffable lager; the 7.17% ABV only apparent on the marketing material. The Hersbrucker hops add a slight spicy bitterness (emphasis on slight) and the Hull Mellon hops bring a mild fruity finish that is decidedly old school. It is a beer that tastes like beer.
This is a great choice and style for year five of HBW. A beer week that has outlived or downright outclassed other PA beer weeks. Pittsburgh Beer Week turned into a dumpster fire and collapsed after it rejected those paying the bills. Philly Beer Week while still operating has gone for-profit and ceased to properly promote Philadelphia and PA brewers in favor of chasing out of market interlopers. Both are lamentable results that fail to further the interests of local brewers and consumers.
Just like 2019’s 717 Collab Beer, beer week events only come to fruition under a great deal of pressure. The pressure to put on events that bring consumers to breweries or bars to engage with the product. The pressure to help further the local industry in a real way. The pressure to raise money for a worthwhile cause. For HBW, this pressure rests upon a small group of volunteers that work nearly year-round to make Harrisburg’s beer week the best it can be. The “volatile esters” of which we get to enjoy for a fleeting 10 days of spring each year.
If pressure is part of the tale of 2019’s 717 Collab Beer the other part is fleeting. This is a short run. 2019’s version will disappear as quickly as it came. Only about 250 cases of pounders were packaged for sale. A limited number of kegs were filled and dispersed. Unlike last year’s ale, and rightfully, 2019’s 717 will likely last only as long as the extended week for which it was brewed. So, do not sleep on this one. It is worth your time and hard earned money to seek it out, either at a specific event or as a four pack of pounders to enjoy in the evening. In either case and as always with 717 Collab, this good beer tastes even better for it is supporting a good cause.
Cheers! For it is once again Harrisburg Beer Week.
Special thanks to all the brewers and the HBW organizers that put this together. If you want to know more about the making of 2019’s 717 Collab Beer, listen to Episode 26 of It’s Friday Somewhere. It was a great deep dive into the making of this beer.
I will be at a couple events over this week. If you are out and about and either follow this blog or listen to the show, please say hello. I will certainly be at Little Big Beer Fest and a couple E-town events.
The timing of HBW for me this year is especially poignant. Sixteen years ago, I moved to Harrisburg from Pittsburgh. I wrote about my love of craft beer and Harrisburg in my first 717 Collab Ale review from 2015. I lived downtown for four years and have worked in the capital city even after moving to Maytown in Lancaster County. Right after HBW ends, so will my time working in this city. I took a new job… one that is decidedly further east. It is an amazing opportunity and I am really excited about it. I will miss coming to Harrisburg every day for work. But I know there are two things that will keep me coming to this area even after this change, it will be the beer and the friends I have made drinking it in the breweries in and around Harrisburg. Thanks for the memories Harrisburg, I promise I will still swing by when I can for a round or two.
Disclosure: I had a couple pints of 717 for free after showing up late to try it at the media kick off event at Boneshire. I also got to shotgun a can of it; video to come. I will be buying plenty of it with my own money later today and throughout the week.