Total Mango Bomb Recall

FullSizeRender

Total Recall is a fantastic movie. I love the original. It is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best movies. It is a fantastically crafted original story by Philip K. Dick, brought to life on the screen and has aged pretty well for a sci-fi flick from 1990.

The 2012 remake was an absolute mess and it bombed at the box office.

Pizza Boy recently attempted their own remake of a classic.

Al Kominski had a hand in brewing at least two Tröegs Scratch beers by my recollection: Scratch 58 and 98. Those Scratch Triple Mango IPAs, were high gravity beers with mango and hops in massive quantities. They were great. Classics of the Central PA craft brewing revolution.

Fast forward to 2016 and Mango Bomb was touted as an “extreme beer,” this time by Pizza Boy. It too was brewed with an insane amount of mango and hops to go along with its 14% ABV.

This beer is bombed out in every sense.

I was excited to try it. I recalled the first two Mango Triple IPAs. I even pulled a cellared Scratch 98 out for #DrinkItNow in February. These were great beers. I was hoping for a great remake but I got something else.

The beer is totally opaque and sits thick in the glass. Mouth feel is akin to a thin, lightly carbonated tomato juice. The smell is mangos, dank hops, and booze. This beer is boozy from start to finish; and not pleasantly.

The flavors are of mango puree and mango rind. The hops are aggressive and punishing. The alpha acid bitterness, off the charts and lacking a balance of sweetness or malts to make it tolerable. The finish is that of Everclear and rubbing alcohol. This beer is bombed out so the name is appropriate. As a study for what is possible when pushing flavors to the extreme this beer achieves, but little else as it is nearly undrinkable.

Mango Bomb is like the three breasted mutant hooker from Total Recall. That sounds awesome. I wanted to see that.

But three tits are just weird and I only have two hands. So why was I so excited in the first place? More can sometimes just be more; not better.

Also the remakes rarely live up to the original. This remake was a bomb in name and result.

Post Script:

I have praised Al and Terry many times here on this blog and elsewhere. Unquestionably, they make great beers. Hell, they brewed a phenomenal beer with Boo-Berry cereal. But this one was a mess and just awful. That was a first for these guys. If they go another five years without putting out a bad beer, who could find much fault in that?

I was slow to post this, so now the beer is off the tap list at Al’s. I hope it gets toned down before making another appearance.

I hate ripping a beer. I don’t particularly like doing it.

 

My 2016 (717) Collaboration Ale Review

717_color-180x180

For the 2nd annual Harrisburg Beer Week, the guys at Appalachian Brewing Company, Tröegs Independent Brewing and Pizza Boy Brewing came together to brew a special collaborative beer. Last year’s (717) beer was a crazy brew that inspired a full review and deep musings on my part about my journey to craft beer.

This year’s collaboration beer has me thinking less about my journey to enjoying and now writing about craft beer. Instead I am thinking about the position of craft beer in Central PA and what it tells us about brewing decisions.

Before I even had my first sip of (717) on opening night, I was gathering thoughts about the brew as word slowly leaked out. I heard some rumors early on that this year’s collab brew would be draft only. Two theories swirled around this rumor: 1. Last year’s (717) did not sell well. It wasn’t well received and some cases languished on shelves. 2. It’s hard to get cans.

The later reasoning came from a more reliable source and it is the one I believe. I can understand not getting pounders, everyone but for the very biggest of contracts is getting squeezed by that issue. Even getting 12oz cans printed and ready on short notice can be nearly impossible.

The former was speculation with a halo of truthiness and at least had anecdotal support. While I enjoyed last year’s HBG Beer Week ale it was not widely loved and many people openly derided it as being a “hot mess.”

So maybe the brewers played it a little safe this year. They made a big, tasty ale but one that is more approachable and in line with a current and rising trend (e.g. citrus IPAs).

The 2016 version of (717) is an American IPA brewed with Citra, Nugget, and Azacca hops and the zest of 400 oranges. The opening aroma is nothing but orange. You pick up the oranges as the beer is pouring from the tap in front of you. They are abundant and wonderful. The hops fill out the middle with citrus, mango, and other tropical fruits. This is an IPA but it is not a bombed out bitter west coaster. The finish is long and leaves you with orange oils. This is an easy drinking IPA that belies the 7.17% ABV. The red hue of the medium bodied ale is really great and kind of mystifies the style and taste.

2016’s (717) is a beer that will not be challenged in finding happy imbibers. This is a double edged sword for me. I like this beer and I like it a lot. Yet I personally enjoyed last year’s “hot mess” more. It was pushing boundaries and challenged the craft beer drinker. It was a bold beer that played with clashing styles. It’s various and competing flavors borrowed heavily from the three brew houses. 2015’s (717) made for a more dynamic beer with multiple layers of stratified flavors.

I like to think that those that did not favor the 2015 version were saying “There are simply too many notes.” But that would be dismissive of them.

I believe in “fortes fortuna iuvat.” 2016’s (717) is bold in flavor but lacks the daring of 2015.

This year’s (717) is riding at the crest of a wave of tropical and citrus IPAs that are washing over the craft beer market and should make for a very popular beer during Harrisburg Beer Week and beyond… until it sells out. Go grab one and tell me what you think.

Cheers.

Post Script:

At the opening of Harrisburg Beer Week, Tierney and I shared a can of the 2015 (717). I can tell you that it hasn’t aged well. After spending a year in the Bearcat cellar it acquired an impressively strong “nail polish remover” note. Just because it was daring does not mean it had staying power. 2015 (717) crashed harder than a ’72 Ford Pinto. 

“The 16oz Can Crunch of 2016” is a real problem. I get it. There is a shortage of cans, specifically the 16oz cans, but that does not mean I have to just quietly accept this disappointment.

I am overly proud of myself for coming up with “The 16oz Can Crunch of 2016.” #NotSorry

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.

wallpaper-2966129

“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.

Happy Birthday

  Dogfish Head’s Birthday Beer to Help Celebrate BoB’s 1st Birthday

It was a year ago, a couple weeks after first purchasing the domain above, that I got my first post up on the site. The guiding principle I gave myself was “Beer does exist in a vacuum; don’t just write about what is in the glass.” That idea really came to life when I attended the Harrisburg Beer Week kick-off party and sipped on the (717) Collaboration Ale by Troegs, Pizza Boy and Appalachian Brewing Company. I wrote for that post what is still one of my favorites.

Too many beer reviews on the Interwebs talk about the beer in a way that focuses exclusively on what’s in the glass. That ignores a big part of what craft beer is to me.

Drinking beer should and can be more than an alcohol delivery device.  The expectation is that craft beer brings more to the imbiber than just booze. It has a back story, is an artistic endeavor, and has cultural or personal relevance that should be discussed. Some posts I wrote did this well; others maybe not so much. In the end I think most worked.

Looking back as some of the more popular and/or interesting posts:

There was the time I tried to define craft beer.

The time I compared Peter Seller’s Dr. Strangelove to funky beer.

The above referenced story about (717) Collaboration Ale and my love of craft beer.

My most widely read post this year, by a wide margin, was about Costly Beer vs. Expensive Beer.

Most importantly as I look back I need to thank some people:

  • First, my friend Bobby C. who encouraged me to start the blog. He is a good dude and I have yet to find a more positive and supportive friend.
  • To Theo and Brandalynn Armstrong (Zeroday Brewing Co.) could never be more open to discussing brewing, starting and now growing their business, and what makes it takes to make great beer. Happy Birthday to you guys too.
  • Rod Smith of Columbia Kettle Works and Mike and Kristen from Moo-Duck Brewery, Al from Pizza Boy, who each spent occasions discussing with me the process of brewing.
  • The Beer Busters Podcast for having me on the show. That was fun and crazy nice of these guys. Love the show.
  • Tierney, Chelsie and Sara from Stouts and Stilettos and SaraBozich.com. They have all been supportive and engaging over the past year.  Extra thanks to Tierney for letting me bounce ideas off her and for offering inspiration.
  • Most importantly thank you to my readers. This vanity project has been a lot of fun and I hope it continues to be fun the future.

Looking forward to year two… I have some plans and additions:

  • Podcasting: Looking to lauch maybe by June, if I am lucky. The next thing that goes up on time for this blog with the first thing. Hell… this post is two days late. I am planning for the podcasts to be a short (think ~25 minutes) conversation with some of my beer friends. These are interesting people and I think you will like to hear from them.
  • Other Writers: I have discussed with a couple people about posting on this blog from time-to-time. It would be a rarity but it should happen. Really hoping to have one guy join… He is a total lunatic but he really knows his beers. He would be completely insane, gonzo, and it could be so much fun.
  • Lagers and Pilsners: In 2016 I am going to planning to drink more Lagers and Pilsner beers. Hoping this will broaden my taste and hopefully you will find some good beers too.
  • More Regular Posts (LOL J/K I can’t promise that…)

Again… thanks for reading and I hope year two is even better than the first.

Cheers!

Bread, Milk, and Eggs

No Fry… What you really need is beer.

An impending snow storm is descending upon the Northeast and in my area we are looking to get at least a foot of snow.  That means everyone is running out to get the three necessary food items before huddling inside:  Bread. Milk. Eggs.

But beer drinkers have their own unique needs and I have three for you.

Bread: Toaster Pastry by 21st Amendment is an India Style Red Ale brewed to celebrate their big expansion into a former bakery that made toaster pastries (read: Pop Tarts).  I had this beer about a month ago.  It is hard to find and it was a little on the pricey side but worth every penny. 21st Amendment uses biscuit malts that gave the beer a great bready flavor. Balanced between malty and sweet juicy hops left me in love with this beer.  The mouth feel was thick with a great long finish.  Toaster Pastry is an absolute killer.

Milk:  Lancaster Milk Stout by Lancaster Brewing Company.  I feel like in the Central PA beer scene the folks at LBC sometimes gets forgotten.  LBC has been around making great local craft beer for so long now that they easily get forgotten among a culture that puts a high price on “new.”  This beer, LBC Milk Stout, has been standout for a great Lanacster brewery for years and I every time I have one I wonder why I don’t order these more often.  Hints of chocolate and coffee, but it is really all about the thick and creamy mouthfeel.  A slight sweetness comes in the finish to compliment the pleasantly bitter notes from the front.  It’s a great example of how to properly brew a milk stout and properly represents the brewery’s namesake, Lancaster County.

Eggs:  The Martians Kidnapped Santa Egg Nog Stout by Spring House Brewing Company is a sweet stout and one of my favorite beers in Lancaster County. Spring House has a knack for making great stouts. I think they have a great stout base and that they play off this with an impressive number of variations, each one better than the last. Kerplunk! Coffee Stout, Satan’s Bake Sale Mint Chocolate Chip Stout, the transcendent Blood Lust RIS, and the twin killers Big and Lil’ Gruesome Stout.  Martians Kidnapped Santa is still available at Spring House and in the Central PA area.  If you have yet to enjoy some this year, get on it as it is a fantastic winter stout.  The flavors of heavy cream, vanilla, nutmeg with a whiff of cinnamon come through from nose to finish.

If you can’t find any of the above or want the easy choice, grab a case of my absolute favorite Central PA beer, Nugget Nectar (in the cans).  Nothing will beat tilting a couple of these back with a bowl of chili after shoveling the drive way.

Now, have a beer and enjoy the snow…

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.

Dr. StrangeBrew or How I Learned to Quit Worrying and Love Funky Beer

Dr. Stranglove

I have always been a Stout drinker.  I like my beers to be thick and hardy; to stick with you.  The deeper and the darker the better.  I love a nice hoppy beer but the malts always seemed to carry more depth of flavor.  The roundness of a proper malt character just works with my taste.

When I go into a bar with a decent tap list I would immediately scan the list for Stouts and Imperial Stouts but as of late I find myself looking for Saison and Farmhouse Ales.  I am drawn to the funkiness.  To the layer after layer of various favors.  To the subtle turns between sips.  They are weird and twisted and kind of strange.  I get the impression that these beers don’t always do what they are supposed to do.  The yeast operating like Peter Seller’s Dr. Strangelove.  They are fascinating to me right now.  Luckily there are a number of breweries that are providing excellent examples of the style right now that you can try in and around Central PA.

First up is ZerØday Brewing’s Saison 28.  I have mentioned this beer at least a couple times on the blog and frankly it deserves all the praise.  The beer was poured into a snifter and presented with a dried grass colored haziness. The aroma is slightly yeasty with a hint of lemongrass. It’s hoppy upfront with a proper floral bitterness that is welcoming.  The carbonation was as fine as to draw comparison to Champagne. The slight Farmhouse funk and earthy tones in the finish grow more pronounced as the beer warmed and disappeared from the short stubby glass.  This Saison is big and weighted in at 9.9% ABV but it drinks like some sub-4.0 near beers; careful with this one. This beer is as effervescent and deep as the girl that brewed it.  This beer is fantastic.  I loved it.

Shut Up, Meg by Evil Genius is the most approachable of the Farmhouse Ales I’ve had as of late.  It was mildly sour with a bright nose that lacked the deep earthy funkiness that can be off putting to some drinkers.  A cloudy straw colored ale that was forward tasting of citrus hops and a light spice finish this beer is easy drinking and is not loaded with booze at only 6%.  This is perfect for introducing someone to Saisons/Farmhouse ales.  It’s very well done and plays well with the subtle end of the Farmhouse ale spectrum.

Moo-Duck Brewery’s Just for Fun Ginger Saison was a special brew made just for Harrisburg Beer Week.  It is still around and available currently at the Elizabethtown brewery.  The aroma is citrusy with a strong but pleasant ginger spiciness in the nose.  Smooth drinking with slight farmhouse funk in the front and a long crisp and slightly sweet finish that brings the ginger flavor full circle. The funky flavors here are a little muted and make for a very easy drinking beer clocking in at 6% ABV.  The ginger puts a nice twist on the style and worked well.

Last was my favorite of the four, Dean Rustic Farmhouse Saison by Spring House Brewing Company.  I had this on draft at the Sturges Speakeasy and it was a great beer. In the nose I picked up cloves and a little spiciness from the yeast along with pears.  The taste opens up with a farmhouse funk and again some pears and apple; making it crisp in flavor.  The beer was not overly carbonated and provided for a nice dry mouthfeel.  As the beer warmed the big 9% ABV became evident but was not off putting.  The medium bodied beer is deep amber in color.  The finish is funky as hell with focus on earth tones and a long slightly sour dry finish that I loved.  This is a big beer that drinks lighter than it should; though not quite to the degree of Saison 28 above which masks the alcohol with what I assume is magic.

All four beers are very good and recommended.  Dean Rustic Saison and Saison 28 get the Bearcat Seal of Approval.