Ep. 8 : The Central PA Six-Pack

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In this episode of the Operation Shutdown, I am joined again by special guest Tierney from StoutsandStilettos.com. This time we discuss former guest Bryan D. Roth’s The Six-Pack Project and offer our take on a Central PA version.

The point of The Six-Pack Project is to identify six local beers that best represent our area’s craft beer offerings. Bryan lays down a couple rules:

1. This isn’t simply a “best of” list. The goal is to pick a collection of six beers that represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
2. Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
3. Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
4. Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred. Specialty or one-off brews are not allowed.

Be sure to check out Bryan’s blog This Is Why I’m Drunk and the other lists on from his Six-Pack Project.

After you listen, if you want to flame Tierney or I for the our selections, be sure to yell at us on Twitter: @tyrannytierney and @BearcatOnBeer. We are ready to defend our hot takes!

What we were drinking:

Troegs Independent Brewing Scratch 256
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co. Shape of Hops to Come
WeyerbacherBrewing  Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2015)
Pizza Boy Brewing Co. Sunny Side Up Stout BBA

The Central PA Six-Pack:

Troegs Independant Brewing Dreamweaver
Victory Brewing Company Prima Pils
Yuengling Porter
Stoudts Scarlet Lady ESB
Troegs Perpetual IPA
PizzaBoy Brewing Co. Sunny Side Up Stout

Honorable Mentions:
Victory Brewing Company Dirtwolf
Selin’s Grove Brewing (Sasion De Peche)
ZerOday Brewing Company Mango Hab
Liquid Hero Brewery Juste Le Bout Saison

Other mentioned beers/links —
Victory’s Parkesburg location
The Shape of Jazz to Come
The Shape of Punk to Come
Troegs’ Open Top Fermentation (This is a cool video)
Elysian Brewing Pumpking Punkuccino
Southern Tier Brewing Co. Pumpking Cold Press
Stone Brewing Crime and Punishment
Tattered Flag in Middletown, PA
Millworks, Harrisburg PA

Be sure to stick around for the After Show. Special thanks to Tierney for coming on the show.

You can listen by clicking above or find The Operation Shutdown on iTunes. If you use iTunes, please consider subscribing. If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider leaving a review and sharing it with a friend.

Cheers!

Operation Shutdown Podcast Ep. 2: Wearing Uggs for Tom Brady

For episode two, I welcomed good friend of the show, Easy Pretzel, to The Operation Shutdown Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @EasyPretzel.

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We discussed:

You can listen by clicking above or find it on iTunes. If you use iTunes please consider subscribing. If you enjoyed this podcast please consider leaving a review or sharing it with a friend.

Cheers!

Lando, Crowlers, and Sour IPAs.

Lacto CalrissianTrust Lando Calrissian himself Mr. Billy Dee Williams:
“Pizza Boy Crowlers work every time!”

Before we begin… This post is about three things: The shelf life of Crowlers, Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), and Sour IPAs. I swear by the end this will all make sense and the three actually belong together.

The Crowler is wildly popular. It should be, they are great. I love picking up a new Crowler from either Al’s of Hampden or from ZerØday Brewing. I have purchased a Crowler from East End Brewing co. in  Pittsburgh and from St. Boniface Brewing in Ephrata. I generally keep a 32oz growler in my car. But with Crowlers, the need to keep a glass bottle rolling around the floor in the back of the car is somewhat abated.

Al’s of Hampden was the first in Central PA to get a Crowler, instantly it was a hit. The popularity of Crowlers became very apparent to me when Al’s Pizza Boy Brewing released Bourbon Barrel Aged Sunny Side Up Stout. It was a phenomenal beer. BBA Sunny Side Up was only sold on draft, which meant that you could have a glass at the bar or get a Crowler of it to take home. That was until Al sold out of all his cans. This led to some really pathetic bitching on social media by entitled beer drinkers.

Part of why the Crowlers sold out was a number of people buying 6, 8, 10, or 12 Crowlers to horde in stock or to trade. In December, I got into a bit of snit with some guys on Twitter that were talking about still having cans of BBA Sunny Side Up in their fridge. What are you holding on to beer in a Crowler for?

If you look today over at Beer Advocate you can see two people are still offering this beer for trade. In February it was four. FOUR. This beer was tapped nine months ago. These Crowlers have been sitting for nine months.

A quick check of Untappd shows that people are still regularly enjoying this beer at a bottle share or just pulling it out of the back of the fridge. This is nuts. These cans are sold as means by which to enjoy take home beer within a reasonable period of time (i.e. a couple days at most). Anyone that tells you they can go longer than a week or maybe two is just flat out lying. They are not for cellaring, storing long term, or used as a storage device to sustain a limited run beer for long periods of time until you can “win the trade” by getting some Bro’s “whalez.”  (THIS is my favorite link ever on the site.)

Buy the beer, take it home and then drink it. Enjoy it.

Crowlers are not like the beer version of freezing Han in Carbonite.

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“Yes. He is alive and in perfect hibernation. 

He will stay very fresh.”

Speaking of Lando… I wonder what it would cost for Billy Dee Williams to cut a Colt 45 like promo for Lacto Calrissian. It is a sour double IPA, also by Pizza Boy, and one of the best damn beers I have had so far in 2016. This lactobacillus bacteria “infected” ale has a depth of flavor few beers can match. There is citrus peel in the front end then a subtle alpha acid hoppiness along with some unique lime in the middle. The finish is both creamy and slightly sour as the lactic acid is more than evident in the beautifully bodied brew. The finish is strong and long lastingly pleasant, which is good because this 8.2 ABV ale has no alcohol burn and could sneak up on you like Greedo.

If you have a chance to swing by Al’s and get a draft of Lacto Calrissian I doubt you will be disappointed. And if you choose to take a Crowler of it home… Don’t sit on it.

Post Script Thoughts: Sour IPAs, like Tropical or Citrus IPAs, are hot right now; like Tatooine and her two suns hot. These twists on the the craft beer lover’s old stand by are showing that we are a long way from brewers running out of innovative ways to give us new and exciting styles. It is also a way to introduce sour beer to the skeptic. Both are good things.

In regards to the above mentioned people buying 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 Crowlers of BBA Sunny Side Up: Do what ever you want with your money. I have no complaint with you purchasing all that beer. I just find it ridiculous to horde a Crowler. That stuff has a serious risk of going bad. It has to be at risk of going flat. Please… don’t horde Crowlers.

Han shot first. There is no debate.

MS Paint FTW! I mean, just take in the work at the top of this page. Just look at it!

I am bit of a Star War’s geek… so this post was more fun than you can possibly imagine.

Harrisburg Beer Week 2.0

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April 22-30, 2016

This Friday represents the start of Harrisburg Beer Week. There are 200+ events in Harrisburg and the surrounding Central PA area. Every day there are multiple events. Nearly all of which are offering either a special on craft beers or tapping sought after rarities. Here is a quick rundown of what I think are the some of the events worth your time. These are both some of the signature events and a couple “deep tracks.”

April 22: Day 1

Sturges Speakeasy Firkin Kick-Off: Every devoted beer drinker knows that before the party starts you have to pre-game. Before the VIP Kick-Off Party swing by Sturges for a Victory Brewing Company firkin.  Victory rarely sends firkins out of their brewery so getting one is kind of a big deal.  Tapping is at 4.

HBG Beer Week VIP Kick-Off Party: The official start of Harrisburg Beer Week actually starts with the VIP Kick-Off at Appalachian Brewing Company. Tickets are limited and this is your first chance to get a sip of the 2016 (717) Collaboration Ale.  I will be at this event even though that seriously damages the VIP cred. I am more of a VMP (Very Mediocre Person). Expect a write up about the (717) Collaboration Ale the next day. I am really looking forward to this beer.

Goose Island BCS & Sushi Pairing: Rich, greasy stouts pair beautifully with oysters; this is true. Bourbon County Stout by Goose Island is a world class beer and finding it can sometimes feel like looking for a snowflake in hell; this is true.  Does Wegman’s pairing BCS with Sushi taste good? Find out if that is true at this event.

April 23: Day 2

Al’s of Hampden Founders Breakfast Stout Tapping: Look, you can’t drink all day unless you start first thing and there are few beers that taste better while you still have bed head than Founders Breakfast Stout. Tapping is at 9 am.

HBG Beer Week Maybe 5K:  This is a race, sort of.  You see you run as far as you want over 60 minutes which is plenty for a very, light stroll to 5K or a respectable 10K pace.  Either way it’s a great way to “Earn your Beer.” Plus you get to support the PA Beer Alliance and Zeroday is hosting. It’s cool… I promise.

April 24, Day 3:

Pizza Boy Brewing Permasmile Bottle Release:  This beer needs little introduction. Permasmile is world class and highly sought after.  This new release is going to be big.

Scotzin Bros Battle of the Homebrew Clubs: Big event last year going to be even bigger at this time I moves to the baseball stadium on City Island. These are serious brewers and they will all be bringing their best work to win the crown.

April 25, Day 4:

Beer vs. Wine Chocolate Tasting: The Black Gryphon in Elizabethtown is a secretly good beer bar that also has great food. In the home of Dove Chocolate, watch beer and wine go head-to-head in pairings with artisan chocolates.

April 26, Day 5:

Battle of the Brewers at Grain + Verse: Local welterweight Zeroday goes toe-to-toe with Mid-Atlantic heavyweight DuClaw Brewing to see who the crowd favorite is.

Meet the Owner Beer Dinner at Funk Brewing Co.: Elizabethtown’s Funk Brewing opened less than a year ago and has already gathered quite the following in my neck of the woods. This event is a chance to sample their beers and enjoy a four course meal while meeting the owner, Jon “Norm” Norman.

April 27, Day 6:

ZerØday Brewing Co. Firkin Event: Many firkin sometimes just taste involve tasting the beer with some crazy shit put into the “can.” ZerØday firkins tend to have a little more thought behind them. Expect something great when Theo & Brandalynn Armstrong are tapping one. This will also be a “Keep the Glass Event.” Should be great.

HBG River Rescue Open House: While celebrating and drinking beer are the method, the purpose of HBG Beer Week is to support the Harrisburg River Rescue. Do a little more of the later by visiting the Rescue and enjoying a glass of Bent Propeller IPA, some BBQ and some home brew version of Bent Propeller.

April 28, Day 7:

Moo-Duck Brewery’s Jack Daniels Cherry Wine Imperial Porter Release:  Moo-Duck Brewery in Elizabethtown took their Imperial Pops Porter and aged in a Jack Daniels barrel that previously held a cherry wine by The Vineyard at Grandview.  It will be on tap along with Fifty (50) bottle available to take home. Mike Brubaker is really gunning for a unique beer on this one, should be great.

April 29, Day 8:

Aroogas 2nd Street Session IPA Release: Aroogas, Hop Hedz and St. Boniface brewed up this special session IPA just for this week and this is your chance to get it as God intended all beer to be, fresh and on firkin. Tapping is 6 pm.

April 30, Day 9:

Little Big Beer Fest:  This is the signature event of the HBG Beer Week in my opinion If you can go to only one event all week, this is the one you want to be attending. Little runs of some absolutely devastatingly good beers with massive ABVs.  I went last year and it was by far the best event of the week. Tickets will sell out… get yours soon.

Post Script: I mention this above but it demands further attention. While celebrating the wealth of great beers we have access to and are producing in Central PA, it can’t be forgotten that HBG Beer Week supports the Harrisburg River Rescue. Many of these events directly and the through the purchase of HBW merchandise support the River Rescue.

In advance a big thank you should be made to the girls from Stouts and Stilettos (ChelseaSweet Colleen and specifically, Tierney… This is her baby.) Sara Bozich, and Jimi the Intern; along with all their volunteers. Big local events like this take a ton of work and heavy lifting.  If you see them out, thank them and buy’em a beer.

Support the River Rescue.

Support your local Brewer. Drink Local.

All Right Stop, Collaborate and… Brew Really Good Beer

East End Brewing Company and Pizza Boy Brewing represent the two areas of Pennsylvania that matter to me personally.  Over the past decade plus I have spent more time on the PA Turnpike than I would like to admit traveling between my old home (Pittsburgh) and my new home (Harrisburg and later Lancaster).

East End has been making phenomenal beers in Pittsburgh since 2004 and are at the center, geographically and metaphorically, of the region’s craft beer surge.

Al’s of Hampden was where I discovered the funk and the sour of craft brewing; either through Al’s wonderfully curated offerings, Pizza Boy Brewing or Intangible Ales. It has been where I know I will find great beer here in the Harrisburg area every time.  It’s bullet proof.

So when Al teamed up with East End to make a Berliner Weiss I knew I would have to check it out.  Moonstomp (named after a Reggae song) is a cloudy straw colored beer.  The brew was crisp and refreshing.  The nose was similar to that of Big Hop, an exceptional pale ale by East End and was fragrant of apples. The light bodied and effervescing brew had an easy drinking character. The flavors of apple and slight bits of lemon along with a pleasing mouth feel made this beer inviting; while the long slightly sour finish made it slow going. A palate-cleansing tartness of lactic acidity sold this beer to me as perfectly executed.  A fine collaboration and bringing characteristics of both brewers to the final product, it is highly recommended.

Moonstomp is currently available at Al’s both on tap and in 22 oz. bombers. It will see a limited release on Saturday at East End.  You will want to arrive early for this one if you are in Pittsburgh.

Al also released a bourbon barrel aged version of his beloved Sunny Side Up Stout. This coffee stout was aged for about four months in Woodford Reserve barrels Reserve barrels and yesterday ten and a half kegs of it were tapped starting at 11 am.  Glasses and Crowler fills sold out the allotment before the dinner rush ended. The numbers on how much was sold as figured by my friend Jeff… were in a word, amazing. Al was apologetic on social media about selling out half the stock so quickly. He need not be. The beer was fantastic.

Served in a wine glass, the pitch black stout shortly held a mocha brown head and smelled lightly of bourbon, vanilla and cold coffee. In the front, it tasted of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts.  The bourbon flavors of vanilla, caramel and oak come along to finish and linger pleasingly.  The full bodied beer never gives up a burn or astringency despite the 10% ABV or the long rest with the spiritus frumenti.

This is barrel aged beer done right.  The aging process expanded the character and flavors of an already exceptional beer.  It added depth and complexity and never diminishes the base.

Al will be tapping this beer again today (7-30-15) at 4pm.  It will be available by the glass and in 32oz Crowlers to go. (Special thanks be given to Zeroday for helping out in this regard.) Get to Al’s early. This will sell out.

In order to bring this posting full circle I also decided to crack open one of my two bottles of Homewood Reserve (2014) that I have been sitting on.  This bourbon barrel aged version of Blackstrap Stout by East End was a fine compliment to the Sunny Side Up.

It too played with the subtle end of the barrel aging spectrum. The nose is thick of roasted coffee and hints of bourbon. Medium bodied and lighter than the Sunny Side Up.  Homewood Reserve was lightly carbonated but with microscopically small bubbles.  Easy drinking for an aged stout it had a long and very dry finish of coffee, vanilla and slightly of wood.  As the beer warmed up, just a faint burnt smokiness entered with an almost peaty character. The most interesting flavor was a mineral like taste that would be akin to a full bodied deep red wine.  This was both surprising and pleasing.  A great beer.

The thread that weaves all three beers together beyond the collaboration between the two breweries and the similar styles is the understated approach to flavors. These beers work at the edges. Never being over powering with any one taste. Instead they gently suggest various impressions of the ingredients and processes used to make the final product.  This is brewing at a high level.

Post Script: Beer geeks frequently talk of chasing “whales” the seemingly unobtainable beers that many covet. Usually these beers are from far off states sold in incredibly low volumes. I am generally dismissive of these snow flake in hell type beers. I stopped chasing “whales” a long time ago. 

But there are “whales” to be had in our own backyard. I just had three of them. We need to recognize the quality we have locally and cheer this as a grand success for the craft beer community here in Central PA.

Costly Beer vs. Expensive Beer

Hater Tears

Recently the cost of beer has been an interesting subject.  First, Thrillist.com had a long story about the impending craft beer war. The point here being that price will be where the various craft brewers compete in the near future.  This would inherently drive the cost down on many beers.  Some brewers are already producing on the razors edge economically and others are pushing for rapid expansion to achieve the very real economies of scale.  There is a coming bloodbath.  Anyone that follows the industry closely knows it.  There is a bubble.  It will burst someday.

Earlier this week Drunkspin’s Will Gordon pondered the price of beer at length and never really came to an answer other than “Is all beer overpriced?”

The next day, Albert Kominski took to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to defend selling 750mL bottles of barrel aged sours for $33 apiece.  His response was lengthy by social media standards but cogent at the same time.

Over the years I have spoken with Al far more than any other brewer I know.  He is always quick to greet me when he sees me in his establishment and gives me a few minutes of his clearly busy schedule to discuss what I am having and what else on the big board is worth picking up for my next draft.  I say this to mean that as far as I can tell, Al gives a damn about his customers and always has.

In my opinion, Al has exceptional taste when it comes to curating his offerings, brewing beer, and together with Terry Hawbaker has been delivering very high quality beer.  Al has been doing this well enough and for long enough to have an exceptional resume and a trusted responsibility to his customers.

So when Al sells a beer for $33 bucks a pop it’s because in his mind it’s worth it and/or he needs to charge that amount.  Is it costly?  Yes it is.  Is it expensive?  Not necessarily.  Keep in mind that those two things, costly and expensive, are not the same. (Please check out that link… I can’t say it better.) These beers, as Al pointed out in the above and here provided links, are costly to develop.  That does not necessarily make them expensive.

Do I wince at $33 a bottle?  Sure… but I also don’t tell other people how to spend their money.  Which as far as I can tell is where the debate started.  Al took exception to a patron telling others that the beer was overpriced.  He was right to do so.

The Internet flame war that ensued was typical.  It was also mostly BS being thrown around.

Making beer is hard work.  Making exceptional beer is both hard work and costly.  Making exceptional, barrel aged, small batch, sour beers with hundreds of pounds of fruit and literally years of work is a serious and costly endeavor that can go belly up for reasons that are not completely under the control of the brewer.  There is risk.  The risk can be great.  The investment in money and time is real.

So when I see a $33 bottle of beer do I wince?  Yes, I wince at the thought of how much work and money must have gone into just 750mL of beer.

Post Script: I think what Al is doing by going up market, dramatically so, is skating to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.  Down market is a losing proposition and is already owned by huge corporate interest.  The economies of scales of SABMiller and InBev cannot be matched.  So why go there?  The only place it go it up.  Way up. This is the fundamental concept behind disruption from above and is a guiding principle of the craft brewing industry. There is a market at the top and selling artfully crafted rare and costly beer is the way to develop a hopefully safe space when the impending bloodbath ensues.