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.

Operation Shutdown cover art 3

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!

Who Am I To Write About Beer?

Beacat on Beer

So the question has been posed: How do you tackle praising or disliking a beer? Everyone’s palate is different, who are you to be the arbiter of taste?

Or in short… Who the hell are you to call BS on a beer?

Let me begin by saying, Bearcat on Beer is a vanity project. It is a hobby. This is not my job. I am about as qualified as anyone else is for their hobby. When I say this is a “vanity project” it is as clear a description as I can give it. Anyone that writes with the intent of others to read it naturally has enough of an ego to think that their opinion matters.

So what makes me worthy of posting about beers here on this website?

First, my nickname since college is Bearcat. So that checks the first box; I got the name.

Secondly, I bought the domain so that takes care of the the rest.

Seriously and to the point, I have consumed a lot of beer over the years. (Ed. Yeah, me too.) I have been searching high and low for quality craft beers for more than a decade. Yet I don’t have any professional training. My taste is developed via drinking and talking about beers with my fellow craft beer drinkers. That’s it.

Do I have the best, most refined palate? Nope. Never claimed to.

What I hope to have, is an entertaining beer blog. This blog is about finding a different perspective when discussing beer, the craft beer industry, and its culture. I don’t do straight “beer reviews.” You can get those elsewhere. I work to find a pop culture, sports, low brow humor or a juxtaposition to weave within the post.

I hope that more often than not these posts entertain and in some some way inform.

Generally, I don’t trash or rip a beer or brewery. It is not in my nature to hammer another man or woman’s hard work on this blog.

But I did that with the last post. I thought the beer was not good. But the post started in my head with a joke about Mango Bomb being like a three breasted mutant hooker. That is how many of these posts start. A stupid joke about a 1990 sci-fi movie or wanting to do a whole posting about beer and Star Wars.

A couple people reached out on Twitter to let me know they agreed that Mango Bomb sucked. A couple spoke up and said it was good. One went further and stated their non-craft beer drinking friends liked it. That’s cool.

In the end… WTF do I know? I know what I like and why I like it. If I can communicate that and at least be entertaining enough for you to come back and read the next post then my ego gets the stroke that this vanity project was designed to deliver.

But I promise to never just rip a beer or a brewery just because my ego likes clicks on a website.

Finally, Al reached out to me on Twitter and acknowledged and complemented the post. For all the clicks and comments the post generated, none… none were more appreciated than that one. I have been a loyal customer for years, that is more true today.

Post Script:

In high school I took four years of art class from a nun who hammered me year-after-year with brutal projects and assignments. My GPA could have been bolstered by taking Choir, but Sister Dorothy left you with more than just the easy A. The most important lesson: “It is not enough to have an opinion about a work of art. You need to be able to properly express why you do or do not like something.” Matters of taste are subjective but quality work is not. You choose to not like a work of art but you need to explain why it is either well-made or not. This is fundamental to my idea of properly reviewing a beer.

Some art is designed to be offensive, difficult to witness, or even loathsome.  That does not make it poor work. It is reasonable to not like something but consider it great work, a master stroke even. You can also have a taste for crap and love it.

Craft beer may be treated as art. 

Maybe it should be treated as art. I think so.

My Dad always says and reminds me: “De gustibus non est disputandum.” I will never forget it.

 

Total Mango Bomb Recall

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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

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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.

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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.

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!