Ep. 16 Beer in Review

In Episode 16 of the Operation Shutdown, I welcome back friends of the show Easy Pretzel, and Ed Grohl and we are joined by special guest Jeff Kupko. We discussed our favorite beers from 2016, Troegs Independent Brewing Company’s transparency, obligations to their customers, and their abysmal parking lot, as well as our thoughts after a shared happy hour at Tattered Flag in Middletown, and Ed’s love for everyone and everything.

Update: Tattered Flag reached out to me via direct message after listening to the episode and had the following to say: ” I just wanted to let you know that after I heard a complaint, that night, I did check it, I’ve actually been constantly checking that beer since before we put it on tap, nervous that the sourness was a sign of infection. I’ve had weekly tasting panels, and today after listening to you guys I had another professional brewer try it. We are not getting infection taste but your review and others on Untappd have my attention. It’s a 50/50 love hate in the brewery with that beer.”

Tony (the brewer) offered for us to come back and visit along with a sit down to discuss the beers. I have taken him up on the offer and invited him to appear on a future episode of the Operation Shutdown. I want to offer my appreciation for Tony reaching out and writing to me directly and to reiterate that our time TF was really great and if you go (and you should go) be sure to check out the double IPA.

Easy Pretzel’s haul from an epic Smokey and the Bandit style run to the North East.

You can listen by clicking the bar immediately below or by subscribing on iTunes.

What We Were Drinking:

Resolute BBA – Brothers Craft Brewing
Rebel Raw – Boston Brewing
Pumpkinator Imperial Pumpkin Stout – Saint Arnold Brewing Company (Editor. Gross)
Java Cask – Victory Brewing Company
Kevin Kevin Sour IPA – The Veil Brewing Company
Recurrent – Wicked Weed Brewing Co.
Jai Alai IPA – Cigar City Brewing Co. 

Some of Our Favorite Beers From 2016:

It’s Complicated Being a Wizard DIPA – Burlington Beer Company
Helms Deep – Three Taverns Brewery
Juicy – Hill Farmstead
Even More Jesus – Evil Twin Brewing
Green – Tree House Brewing Company
Double Dry Hopped Galaxy Fort Point and Fort Point – Trillium
Gbop – New England Brewing
Coconut Porter – Broken Compass Brewing
Toof Toof Ache Ache – The Veil Brewing
Morning Wood – Funky Buddha Brewery
El Jefe – J. Wakefield Brewing
Liminal Moment – South County Brewing Company
Joose Juicy – Ever Grain Brewing Co.
Tickle Me Nelmo –  Mission Creek Brewing Co. (Editor: Extra points for 2nd coolest name ever.)
Excommunication – Max Lager’s
PNC – Firestone Walker
Oro Negro (BBA) – Jackie O’s
Barrel Aged Devil’s Abyss – Jagged Mountain Brewery
Nimble Giant and Barrel Aged Flying Mouflan – Troegs Independent Brewing
Tweak – Avery Brewing Co.
InTenSity BBA Barleywine – Hoppin Frog Brewery
Mexican Cake – Westbrook Brewing Co.
Simcoe Nerd – Sole Artisan Brewing
Lacto Calrissian Sour Double IPA – Pizza Boy Brewing Co. (Editor: Coolest Name Ever.)
Tropical Bitch – Flying Dog Brewery (Editor: Even thought its not good.)
Santé-16! – Brasserie Fantôme

Link Dump of Other Stuff We Discussed:

Frank Pepe’s Pizza
Sole’s Society
Bearcat’s Lacto Calrissian Post
Sour Murren River (Code Name Allison) Pizza Boy Brewing
LegenDairy IPA and Ep. 13 The LegenDairy Podcast
Michigan Maple Jesus – Evil Twin
Tattered Flag Brewery and Still Works
Beer Busters Podcast (Editor: It’s a very well done podcast.)
Steph and Richard Heffner from The Beer Busters Podcast
Tactical Nuclear Penguin – Brew Dog
Sink the Bismarck – Brew Dog
Tottenham Hotspur
Warwick Hotel (AKA – The Wick)

Be sure to stick around for the After Show where we discuss: Rogue One (No spoilers… I promise), The Pinstripe Bowl, Ed is drunk (again) and so am I.

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.


Post Script:

If the episode is a little choppy when you are listening I apologize. I had some technical difficulties during the recording but I think this episode turned out pretty well despite the issues. I am working on a solution to eliminate this in the future. (Podcasting is hard.)

A quick aside: The LegenDairy Milk Shake IPA by Pizza Boy Brewing discussed at length in Ep. 13 of the Podcast made a Top Ten list for 2016. Thank you to BreweriesInPA.com.

Thank you to everyone that appeared on the show over 2017: Fetish Brewing, Sara Bozich, Tierney Pomone, Ffej Herb, Chelsie Markel, Al Kominski, Bryan D. Roth, and Jeff Kupko.

But the biggest of appreciation is for you, the listeners. I can’t say how proud I am of the fact that the show grew from single digits to 200+ listeners in just 15 episodes. I am very thankful for each and everyone of you. I hope that you continue to listen through 2017 and beyond.

Also Easy, Ed, and I have some big plans in the works for the near and not so near future involving the podcast. I am very excited for what the future will bring and we can’t wait to share it all… when the time is right.

From Easy, Ed, and I we wish you health, happiness and good beers in the new year. Cheers!

Ep. 10: I Want To Spray Paint Your Bottle

In Episode 10 of the Operation Shutdown, I welcome special guest Chelsie Markel from Stouts & Stilettos and It’s a Brew Life to discuss design in craft beer, fingerless gloves, a little about Harrisburg Beer Week, and her new blog.


A quick aside about this post… It has a ton of links about the breweries we discuss and I tried to keep them in the order we discussed.

A big thank you to Chelsie for coming on the show. You can follow Chelsie on Twitter @dzyngrl. Also be sure to check out her new blog It’s a Brew Life and read her stuff at Stouts & Stilettos.

What We Were Drinking:

Crooked Stave Wild Sage
Almanac Beer Co. Tropical Platypus
The Alchemist: Focal Banger and The Crusher (Thanks to listener @Brookaveli and Dave for hooking me up with this beer.)

Breweries We Discussed:

Troegs Independant Brewing
Dogfish Head
Flying Dog Brewery (Ralph Steadman)
Highway Manor Brewing (Camp Hill, PA)
Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
Sole Artisan Ales
Roundabout Brewery
Fetish Brewing Company
Maine Beer Company
Russian River Brewing Company
Deschutes Brewing
Stone Brewing Company
Free Will Brewing Co.
Tired Hands
Green Flash Brewing Co.
Otter Creek Brewing Co.
Clown Shoes
3 Floyds Brewing Co.
New Belgium Brewing Co. (Fat Tire)
Appalachian Brewing Company
Golden Avalanche Brewery (Kutztown)

Other Links:

Oh Beautiful Beer
Brewed in the Burg by GK Visual
Harrisburg Beer Week
The Eternal Tap in St. Mary’s, PA
Death of Flagships: But Why?
A Tribute to a Mentor and a Friend
Market Cross; Carlisle, PA

House of 1000 Beers; New Kensington, PA

Beer Busters Podcast

Be sure to stick around for the After Show in which we discuss writing a beer blog, the design ideas behind Bearcat On Beer and The Operation Shutdown.

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.


Ep. 9 What’s a Ffej?

In Episode 9 of the Operation Shutdown, friend of the show Ed Grohl and I welcome special guest and beer bon vivant Ffej Herb from Troegs Independent Brewing.

Ffej and his best friend Pleepleus

In this episode we discuss: Ffej’s travels far and wide for good beers, his love of goats and his stuff animal collection, the epic party that is Ffej of July, #PairsWellWithNow, Ffej’s band Solar Federation, and we take a look behind the curtain at Troegs; specifically the making of Nimble Giant and maybe some news of an upcoming release.

Many Thanks to Ffej for coming on the show. Be sure to read his very nice blog The Pour Travelers, follow him on Twitter (@FfejHerb) and check out upcoming shows from his plethora of bands.

Beers we Drank:

Wild Elf – Troegs Independent Brewing Co.
Murren River – Pizza Boy Brewing Co.
Single Hop Series: Azacca – Flying Dog Brewing Co.
Fort Street – Trillium Brewing Co.
Tears of the Entitled – Pizza Boy Brewing Co.
Impending Descent (2015) – Independent Brewing Co.

Show Notes/Links:
The Beer Mapping Project (A little spammy, consider using a content blocker.)
Goat races Slyfox
Goat Races in Middletown, PA
Goat screaming videos
Slayer’s Angel of Death with a Goat
Pleepleus and Drinking Made Easy
Three Sheets (TV Show)
Tears of the Entitled blog post
Barrel Aged Impending Descent
Solar Federation (Ffej’s Rush Tribute Band)

Other beers and breweries mentioned (not a complete list):

Selin’s Grove Brewing
St. Boniface – Maple Porter, Padeia
Saucony Creek – Maple Mistress, Hop Suplex, Baloney Beer
Hidden River Brewing Company
Stickman Brews
Oakbrook Brewing Company

Be sure to stick around for the after show where Ffej gives us his thoughts on the Operation Shutdown’s Central PA Six-Pack and Ed is far too drunk for podcasting.

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.


Mint Julep Ale Falters Out the Starting Gate

My Uncle Gary made a living of writing about sports. He gathered more quotes over a very long and wildly successful career as the human Swiss Army knife of sports reporters than I can possibly imagine. He is also a man with a quip for every event in life; more of them are his own than he would admit.

I recall his theory about how to make a great Mint Julep going something like this:

Crushed Ice
A Few Sprigs of Mint
Fine Bourbon

Step 1: Muddle the sugar and some mint in the glass
Step 2: Add a generous amount of crushed ice.
Step 3: Throw that all in the trash.
Step 4: Pour 4 oz of Bourbon in a new clean glass.
Step 5: Enjoy

The beginning of May gives us the Kentucky Derby. This annual event brings out women in garish hats, a sudden and fleeting interest in horse racing, and mint juleps. Flying Dog Brewery released a timely beer meant to celebrate this as part of their Brewhouse Rarities series: Mint Julep Ale. Just like Uncle Gary’s theory above, this brew should have left the mint and “bourbon natural flavors” out of the ale.

Mint Julep Ale

Notice bottom right: “Bourbon Natural Flavors.”

This golden ale entered the glass without any fuss while pouring a rich golden hue with little head. But right out the gate I knew this beer was in trouble. It stumbled badly at first sip with a mild mint flavor that coupled with the blonde ale like sex between drunk prom date virgins that were going “just as friends.” Is this how you wanted your first time to be? Not really, but you got to do it sometime… I guess and well, it happened.

The label says “honeysuckle” but I will be damned if the flowers showed up anywhere in the flavor profile.

Which leaves me, naturally, with the finish. The ale was meant to convey the bourbon with what is called “Bourbon natural flavors.” “What are those?” you may be asking. Hell-if-I-know.

I do know that one way to make beer taste like bourbon has been to age it in some bourbon barrels. That didn’t happen. Did they just add bourbon to the product? Nope. Otherwise it would just say “with Bourbon.”

So instead we got a facsimile of what bourbon kind of tastes like. It’s is as if Flying Dog took the basic concept and elements of bourbon and threw it into the bottle as a remix with a golden ale and some mint. Like Puff Daddy or P. Diddy or whatever, destroying classic rock songs as repackaged Godzilla movie soundtrack filler or a tribute to his dead coattails. (Yeah, I said it. Fight me!)

Did I hate this beer? No. While normally a broken down race horse would get one behind the ear and shipped to the glue factor, this one should be spared because I know some people really liked it. (I am looking in your direction Stouts & Stilettos.) But it shouldn’t be sent out to stud either.

This also-ran could be called a gimmick but that is way too harsh. Therefore, I am left with considering this a smart idea in principle that just never quite lived up to the potential. In the end, potential is just wasted energy until execution. This one faltered out the gate.


Mint Julep Ale was handed to me by a friend with a wink as I walked out of his home. I suspected at the time he was looking to unload it.

There are several Flying Dog beers that I do strongly recommend:

Tropical Bitch
Gonzo Imperial Porter & the barrel aged variant
The Truth Imperial IPA

P. Diddy’s “work” has not aged well.

In full disclosure, I have yet to find a beer with mint that has really worked for me. So consider the source.

Reference Springhouse Brewing Co., which absolutely nails stouts, makes a Satan’s Bake Sale Mint Chocolate Chip Stout and well… I think it’s a wreck. But that beer is well regarded by others.

While we are on the subject of mint flavored things: Mint Oreos are okay but you shoud feel free to skip them.

Another point about Oreos…

The Canonical List of Oreo Cookies:

1. Oreos
2. Double Stuff Oreos

That’s it. That is the list.

The other permutations of Oreos are not officially recognized and many variations are downright heretical.

If you are about to disagree with the above list of canonical Oreos, let me stop you right now. I suggest that you think about your life choices. Maybe you need to find the reason why you are on a wayward path.

Doing a Beer Exchange the Right Way

Recently, I was invited by my friend Dave to attend his beer exchange/blind tasting.  I eagerly accepted the invite without necessarily understanding what I was getting myself into.  What I was participating in was the sixteenth iteration of what is easily the most impressive beer exchange I have ever joined.

Couple things about Dave: 1. He knows his beer and has an impressive nose for quality. 2. He is a huge Tom Brady fan and is hysterically obnoxious about it. 3. As obnoxious as he is about Tom Brady, he is even more committed to throwing a great beer exchange.

I have done a number of beer exchanges over the years.  All were pretty basic: a number of guys easily divisible into 24 each buy a case of beer and everyone swaps.  It’s a fun and easy way to get a bunch of different beers. Only a few years ago before the ubiquity of mix-a-six and high end bottle shops, it was the only way to get a bunch of different craft beers in what was then case only beer distribution in backwards Pennsylvania.

This specific beer exchange was different. Guys were bringing big beers, and there was incentive to impress.  Everyone starts with bringing a case of beer, expectation is that you are bringing a beer of acceptable pedigree and quality and it can’t be something that has been brought to the party before (there is a running list on Google docs). So no Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, great beers but… Been there. Drank that.

The way it works is each of the twelve participant brings one case and deposits ten bucks into the pool. Each case has two beers brought to the collective and each is part of a blind tasting. The beers are listed on a scoring sheet and as you taste each you make notes and after you all beers are done you attempt to match them up, giving you best guess as to which beers you tried from the provided list. You also do a ranking, listing your top three beers from the twelve.

The $120 gathered by the group provides two “awards” one is for the most beers correctly identified (harder than you might think even with some obvious ones) wins a $60 bottle of beer. The other $60 was for some general gambling purposes.

The lineup for this year’s Blind Tasting Beer Exchange was as follows:

Daisy Cutter by Half Acre

Fruitbasket by Champion Brewing Company (The Highest Rated Beer)

Hotbox Coffee Porter by Oskar Blues Brewery

Manor Hill IPA by Manor Hill Brewing

CLINK! by SØLE Artisan Ales

Allie’s Donuts Double Chocolate Porter by Narragansett Brewing Company (My contribution)

Watermelon Dorado by Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

Pineapple Sculpin by Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

Tropical Bitch by Flying Dog Brewery

Big Daddy IPA by Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

Oak Barrel Stout by Dominion Brewing Company

Duet by Alpine Beer Company

All the beers were well received but for the Big Daddy IPA. The Big Daddy was a year old and the time sitting on the beer distributor’s shelf imparted a wet cardboard, Saint Bernard breath finish that was widely mocked. Always check the dates on your beers people… especially those hoppy beers.

The quality of the beer selection was top notch. The beers were all very good (well except for Big Daddy) and everyone appeared equally impressed. The one part of the night that might be most critical to control, and this is totally to Dave’s credit, is the quality of the company. We had a dozen guys each with an impressive knowledge of craft beers and none of them were dicks about it. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find craft beer people that appreciate the craft and the beer. More than once that night I heard “It’s just beer.”  That is right… it is “just beer” and this was an incredibly fun way to enjoy and celebrate “just beer.”

The lasting privilege was each participant left the exchange with two of every beer sipped that night; even the year old Big Daddy.

Post Script: My favorite beer from the evening was Tropical Bitch by Flying Dog.  It’s an impressive brew.

Some guys brought a couple whales to share before starting the blind tasting.  I had Trickery by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, and Xibalba by Wicked Weed; both great beers. 

Lacto Calrissian Sour Double IPA by Pizza Boy Brewing was the best thing I had all night and might be my favorite beer in a long, long time; yeah it was that good. The taste is even better than the name.

I brought a growler of OH Mad Hops, an unfiltered Imperial IPA by Mad Chef in East Petersburg; it was well received. I was very impressed with the quality of their beer after only six months of brewing.  Mad Chef is a brewery to watch.

Tom Brady and the Patriots are dirty rotten cheats and everyone knows it.  F those guys.

Special Thanks to Dave for inviting me to this Beer Exchange. He was a phenomenal host and did a great job.  Its just goes to show that you can root for Tom Brady and still be a decent person… Who knew?