Ep. 17: Turf Wars and Vacuum Reviews

In Episode 17 of the Operation Shutdown, I welcome back friends of the show Easy Pretzel, and Ed Grohl. We discussed: waiting in the cold for a four-pack, some recent stories about the coming turf war in craft beer, a few breweries that are closing or are for sale, and Ed gives our listeners a vacuum recommendation.

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

What we were drinking:

Ed: Pork Chop Sandwiches by Voodoo Brewing
Dave: Fruit Infused Water by Capital Region Water Company and Costco
Bearcat: Kettleface by St. Boniface Brewing Co. and Columbia Kettle Works, Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA by New Belgium

Follow up: A quick update from Ep. 16 regarding Tattered Flag Brewing Middletown and Troegs Independent Brewing.

Link Dump:
Logging Camp (Maple IPA) by Columbia Kettle Works
Pork Chop Sandwiches!
The Coming Turf War in Craft Beer
Six Breweries for Sale or Closing in Oregon
Westvleteren XII (Westy XII)
Delirium
Delirium Cafe
Is the Pittsburgh craft beer market tapped out?
Dancing Gnome Brewery
Mindful Brewing Company
11th Hour Brewing Co.
Brew Gentlemen of Braddock and their “Year of No.”
Millworks, Harrisburg
Ever Grain Brewing Co.
Stone Double Bastard Bigger Longer Uncut (Scotch Barrel Aged Strong Ale)
Untappd Digital Boards in Bars
NTN Trivia
LegenDairy Episode of Operation Shutdown
Boneshire Brew Works
Goose Island Bourbon County Proprietors (2014)
Ed’s New Vacuum — Bissel ClearView Pet Vacuum
Garage Racer IPA by Rubber Soul Brewing Co.
DINKs
Wonderlic Test
Shower Beer
Sprint Football
Franklin Pierce (NOT Easy Pretzel’s favorite President)
Sapp/Clifton Hit Ed Note: For the record Sapp was a dirty player.

Be sure to stick around for the After 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!

Ep. 14: Bourbon Barrel Aged Splenda

In Episode 14 of the Operation Shutdown, I welcome back friends of the show Easy Pretzel,  and Ed Grohl to discuss bourbon barrel aged beers, Black Friday as a craft beer holiday, and Easy’s Splenda intake.

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Beers and Coffee We Drank:
A Night on Ponce by Three Taverns Brewery
#BOC Black Label by Voodoo Brewery
Starbucks with Nonfat Milk and Three Splenda

Link Dump:

Gentrification of Food
Chicken + Beer
Brew Gentlemen
Braddock, PA
Roundabout Brewery
Appalachian Brewing Company
Pittsburgh Toilet
Bourbon Barrel Aged Impending Descent by Troegs Independent Brewing
Shady McGrady’s
Shady’s Twitter Trolling
Hunger-n-Thirst
White Hill Cafe “Where Professionals Drink”
Don’t Drink Beer (The Internet’s Best Beer Blog)
Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon
Columbian Coffee Crystals
Hildy’s Tavern
Boneshire Brew Works (We will be getting Alan on in 2017… Right Alan?
The Wrecking Bar
The Porter Beer Bar
Max Lager’s

Be sure to stick around for the After Show: We discuss Easy and Ed’s recent trips to watch football games where Easy spends all is money on a 12 pack of beer and Ed drinks on the kindness of strangers and big corporate beer like a hobo.

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!

Post-Script:

After 14 Episodes I am really starting to feel like the show has taken on a certain form. I do think that by and large the later episodes are an improvement over the prior ones. But as I prepare for 2017 and a whole new run of podcasts I would love to hear from you, the listeners. I would love  to know what you think of the show.

What can we do better?  What kind of guests would you like to see? What topics should Easy, Ed, and I pretend to have an authoritative voice about in the future? Which world leader would you think is most likely to end up on the show accidentally and do you think they actually like Fruit IPAs?

Hit me up in the comments below, via email BearcatOnBeer@gmail.com or Twitter @BearcatOnBeer.

The Operation Shutdown: Episode 1 — Going Big

Last night I recorded Episode 1 with friend of the show JP. (He has nothing to plug.)

To be clear, this podcast is not my best work and not just because this is only the second recording. For the middle third of this podcast we have a bit of an echo in the recording. It comes on around the 15 minute mark and lasts until the final 20 minutes of the show. I worked to scrub it out but… well… I am just not able to fix it.

This episode is just under an hour… JP and I had a lot to talk about. We discussed Pizza Boy Brewing’s best beer, some very hot and very good chili pepper beers, the Pittsburgh Pirates season, the Cubs, some World Series predictions, and the Home Run Derby.

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This echo is making my ears hurt!

Show notes:

Bourbon Barrel Aged Sunny Side Up StoutPizza Boy Brewing

CrimeArrogant Brewing

Punishment — Arrogant Brewing

Josh Bell — The Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club

Special thanks to this week’s sponsors: Stouts & Stilettos and Mayflies & Big Flies
(The bill is in the mail guys.)

You can listen by clicking above or find it on iTunes. If you use iTunes please consider subscribing.

I am really sorry about the techical difficulties in the middle. If I didn’t think there was some good stuff in here I would have scrapped the recording and just moved on, but I think if you take the time to push through the echo, it is hopefully, worth it.

I can tell you that I have figured out the specific glitch and it should not happen again. Which probably means I will have to fight a new and different glitch the next time.

Cheers!

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.

Pittsburgh Brewing Company’s Craft Movement

In 1979 the “We are Family” Pirates won the World Series. A couple month later the Steel Curtain cemented its legacy and the franchise had its dynasty with its fourth Super Bowl. Pittsburgh having branded itself as the Steel City became “The City of Champions.”

But as the city raised banners in glory to their sports franchises, the bottom was falling out of the steel industry. By the end of the decade nearly the entire industry was decimated and all those middle class blue collar jobs it provided had gone.

It’s a story we all know.

What people are still coming to realize is that the sooty skyline has cleared, Pittsburgh is now “America’s Most Livable City” and the steel has been replaced with the silicon of robotics and Internet companies. “Mama Steel” has been replaced by Daddy Tech.

Yinzers still consider themselves as from a steel town and you would be hard pressed to find a people more loyal to their hometown. Yinzers are protective of Kennywood, Isaly Chipped Chopped Ham and Iron City Beer. These are not products and businesses but community trusts.

The latter, specifically Pittsburgh Brewing Company, has changed hands multiple times in my lifetime and has exited the city proper but still tastes like home.

First locally brewed adjunct lagers, once the prince of blue collar libations were pushed aside a homogenized industry decades ago.  Later, craft brewing returned the importance of regional beers of every variety.  This leaves local brewers like Pittsburgh Brewing Company in an strange place; local but no craft.  They are being squeezed by the conglomerates and by the upstart craft brewers.

Iron City will always be the perfect companion to a “cap and cheese” at Primanti’s but it’s not going to find its way into the discerning beer drinker’s fridge and its not big enough to compete with AB, Miller and Coors.

To address this shift, Pittsburgh Brewing Company established the Block House Brewing line of beers. To see what it has in store, I purchased their Summer Break and Double Chocolate Bock.

The Summer Break opens with a hazy orange yellow pour with a sweet and citrusy nose. The beer is well carbonated with a light mouthfeel. It is excessively sweet. The flavors of grapefruit are intense and only quenched by a sweet lemonade finish. The beer is very, very sweet and did not exactly agree with my taste. It comes in at 5.0% ABV and is as light as a summer beer should be. College students are summer break are going to love it.

The Double Chocolate Bock was much better. Chocolate in the nose with a slight hint of roasted malts. This medium bodied bock has good mouthfeel and is properly balanced. The chocolate runs through and through but only plays one note.  It tends towards the milk chocolate side and does not provide the bitter dark favor of cacao.  Its was a different take on a nice style of beer. While not as saccharine sweet as the Summer Break this beer too sits at the sweet side of the scale.

Both of these beers show Pittsburgh Brewing Company is trying to move beyond IC Light and Old German as they must.  Summer Break and Double Chocolate Bock are a good first effort. The trend of seasonal offerings will be a benefit to Block House as they roll out their IPL and Pumpkin Ale. This will allow for refinement and improvement.

While Pittsburgh as a city has redefined itself and emerged as a city with a brightly shining future, it’s most famous brewery still has work to do but appears to be well on their way.

Pittsburgh did not turn around its fortunes in a day. It took decades and it was not a straight path. It’s brewery is on the same course. It’s working hard. It’s making changes and its betting on new craft focused brands. If it can do half as well as the folks it serves it will be in great shape.  I’m quite hopeful. These beers are a huge step forward from Olde Frothingslosh and Augustiner and that is a great thing.