The HBW 717 Collab Review


The city of Harrisburg and the Central PA area is frequently talked about being “on the rise.” For 15 years I have lived in Central PA and for 15 years I have heard about Harrisburg city being “on the rise.” I am starting to feel like that is a bit dismissive.

Harrisburg city and the area surrounding it to a great extent has already arrived. Local politics has become stable. The city recently cut back on some draconian parking limits. The city’s previous constant state of financial exigency has eased. There is a well-established arts community. We have some excellent restaurants that have been operating for years and should continue to do so. Locally, businesses are growing and being founded all the time.

Things are good.

Craft beer gets the same type of talk: “The rise of craft beer.” This has made some people into craft beer evangelists. It has also made people treat craft beer like it is the little guy. In some places that might be true… but not in Central PA.

Craft beer in Central PA is the establishment now. It has arrived, grown and expanded. We have more brewers that I care to count. We have more breweries that I have yet to visit than I would care to admit. Hell… Troegs this summer will be drinking age.

Things are good here too.

Harrisburg Beer Week begins its fourth year as part of that establishment. It is part of both Central PA and its craft beer establishment.

Harrisburg Beer Week is a big tent with a lot of parts. The signature events are stakes in the ground and the 717 Collaboration Beer is the tent pole. 717 Collab is the first indication of the impending week-long celebration and generates for me the most interest.

This year’s 717 Collab came with a twist. The old guard of Central PA brewing (Troegs, ABC, and Pizza Boy) welcomed, comparatively a newcomer, ZerØday Brewing Company. Four years of 717 Collab and now four brewers. Also, new this year, Troegs stepped aside to let Appalachian Brewing Company’s brewhouse take over.

ZerØday’s Co-owner/Brewer Theo Armstrong named his brewery after the necessary day of rest during an Appalachian Trail through hike and this beer draws from the same well. 717 Collab references a break hikers take at Pine Grove Furnace State Park where tradition holds they eat a half gallon of ice cream to refuel for the second half of the hike. Theo ate Hershey’s vanilla with cherries.

The Harrisburg Beer Week page does a great job of telling the story of how the beer’s recipe was developed; you should check it out. As the beer came together I picked at the brewers for some insight. What I came away with was that the brewing process for a collaboration is as straight a path as the Appalachian Trail from which this one harkens. This year that winding path gave us a complex new beer.

2018’s 717 Collaboration – Extra Cream Ale with Cherries and Vanilla presents a bright pink in the glass with an ephemeral topping of pale cotton candy like foam. It looks light in body and it is. The nose is muted but clearly of cherries. It is sweet right up front at first sip and I would describe its flavor as being like a melted down cherry lollipop. The vanilla resides in a supporting role. The middle has a brief Robitussin hint but finishes clean and avoids being cloying. There is enough of a velvety mouthfeel as to hold true to the inspiring ice cream. The vanilla is where I bring a mild criticism. I would have liked more in the nose and if it came through as being more evident in the finish I would be really blown away. The Huell Melon hops seem like a brilliant choice here. The subtle honeydew and mild fruit flavors play well with the cherry. The hops in 717 are there in a supporting role and the Huell Melon plays the role well.

As it stands, this is a good beer. It is great to see the 717 brewers getting back to doing something weird that pushes the limits. The first (717) Collab from 2014 set the bar as being weird and crazy and wholly original. I believe in “fortes fortuna iuvat” and that holds true here. This beer was a bold idea, brought forth from a great story, and it is better for it.

In this fourth iteration of 717 Collab, we are no longer seeing a yearly event on the rise, it is established. It has traditions and standards to be met. This one meets them and starts a new one with the addition of a new brewery.

I think that is great.

Cheers to Craft Beer in Central PA and cheers to Harrisburg Beer Week.


It cannot be overstated that Harrisburg Beer Week is a nonprofit that raises a ton of money for Harrisburg River Rescue. This is good beer doing real good.

Tierney, Sara, Chelsea, Colleen, Jimi and all the other volunteers give of their time and do this for their love of the craft beer community and Central PA area. If you see them out, say thank you and buy them a beer.

I kind of like 717 as a name better when it has the parentheses around the numbers. It was a little more clear that it was in reference to the area code, IMO.

Each year the 717 Collab clocks in at 7.17% ABV. This one is the same. This year I wonder if sticking to that 7% target will be limiting on future choices. Personally, I think it would not mean much if, in some future year, they stepped outside of this characteristic.

This year’s logo is the second best 717 Collab logo. The 2017 version with the hands by Troegs was just so good. But this year’s is really great. It will be hard to develop a logo better than that 2017 one.

The speculation on who will be the fifth brewer for year five officially begins now. Early favorites in my mind are Ever Grain and Boneshire.

717 Collab this year has unique tap handles. They are sharp looking. They were done by Christopher R. Ditlow of Laser Leaf right here in Harrisburg. That is a nice touch.

Be sure to follow and @IFS_Podcast as we have two great shows that will be dropping this week related to everything happening in Harrisburg Beer Week.

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