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.

Iteration and Variation

Over the past few months I have been enjoying the light, crisp and easily quaffable styles of the summer beer drinking season. Session IPAs, Goses, Berlinger Weiss and Hefeweizens have been taking up plenty of space in my fridge.

But I love stouts. They were my first love when coming to craft beer and they always draw me back.  So a week ago when I saw a lonely bottle of the new Blackwater Series Choklat Oranj from Southern Tier I knew it was time to mix it up.

A little background…

As far as I can tell, and this is my educated guess, the Blackwater Series are Imperial Stouts brewed with the same four “mother” malts and two “father” hops. This provides for iteration. Using the same base for each brew allows for variation while also breeding familiarity. The Blackwater Series is made up of Choklat, Crème Brulee (the most impressive of the bunch), Warlock (a pumpkin beer) and Mokah.  Previously, this series also included Jahva and Oat.

Choklat Oranj is the newest edition to this series and is another great iteration. It takes the familiarity of the series and the big chocolate flavors of Choklat and adds a refined orange breeziness. Opening the 22 oz. bomber and pouring into a snifter you first get whiff of dark chocolate buddied up with orange oils. The beer sits dark as pitch in the glass with no head.  It drinks heavy but with a curvy body like a playboy centerfold. Chocolate and roasted malts dominate with a long sweet finish of orange peel.  This is like drinking a liquefied Terry’s Chocolate Orange. I would be stunned if that was not part of the inspiration. The beer is silky with a lingering orange and citrusy release.  While the beer is 10% ABV it never gives a hint of the booze even as it comes to room temperature.  Drinking this beer slightly warm really opens up the flavors as the orange acidity is boosted late in the drink.  Let this sipper rest in the glass and enjoy it slowly.

What Southern Tier have done here is create a dessert beer just like its brothers, that fits right between Choklat and Crème Brulee in sweetness.  Oranj is not as creamy as some others in the series and is more acidic; making it more versatile in potential pairings.

The “variation on a theme” works well with the Imperial Stout style.  Locally, Spring House Brewing Company does something similar with their stouts: Planet Bean Coffee Stout, Satan’s Bake Sale (Mint Chocolate Chip) Stout, Kerplunk! Imperial Chocolate Stout, and the very impressive combo of Big Gruesome (Chocolate Peanut Butter) and ‘lil Gruesome (Peanut Butter and Jelly) Stouts. They all have a familiar backbone. The iteration and slight variation provides for exploration of how flavors can be magnified, muted, or changed via slight alterations and bold flavor additions.

It may still be the heat of summer but a sweet, thick stout can be just the ticket to changing up your beer choices. Sweet stouts are undeniably a great way to finish a fine dinner.  You would be hard pressed to find one better suited to the task than Choklat Oranj or any of the other Blackwater Series beers.

Post Script: During Harrisburg Beer Week’s Little Big Beer Fest the ladies at Stouts and Stilettos were pouring their collaboration with Pizza Boy Brewing, Sun Kissed Stout.*** Sun Kissed was an imperial chocolate and orange stout; as such is easily comparable to Choklat Oranj.  Similar in style and intent these two had a number of differences according to my notes and recollection.

The Sun Kissed Stout was lighter in body and was deeper in the roasted malts. This impaired a slight smokiness to the nose and finish.  The flavors imparted by the fruit in Sun Kissed was closer to orange rind and pith as opposed to the Southern Tiers orange oils. While the Oranj skews towards sweetness, the Sun Kissed had a bit of spiciness and roasted flavors. Both were great beers… the good news is while it may be hard to find you can still pick up a bottle of Choklat Oranj.


***It really should have been called Orange In The New Black Stout