Strawberries and Beer: Together Again For the First Time

  Right now driving around Central PA the farm stands are all open and there is one piece of produce that is at peak: Strawberries.

Let us forget for a minute my last post about summer beer and their light and crisp flavor profile and instead focus on what pairs right with a fresh bowl of ripe red sweet and slightly tart strawberries.  In my opinion these tend to be malty, heavier beers that contrast the natural flavors of the berries.

My fist pick is ¿Impending Descent? by Troegs.  This gonzo Russian Imperial Stout gets released each November so I buy in bulk to enjoy it on occasion throughout the year and have been ageing a large number as a running vertical. If you have one tucked away, pairing it with some fresh local strawberries will work out perfectly.  The copious amount of malts (six varieties) provide for various flavors of dark chocolate, vanilla, and coffee.  The roasted malts work wonderfully with the sweet tart fruit. If this beer has been cellaring for a time the pine and resin hop notes will have muted and left a perfect pairing.  If you can’t get a hand on ¿Impending Descent? I suggest picking up the always available Javahead Stout or racing out to the Hershey brewer right quick and picking up a growler of Scratch #192 a velvety smooth and decadent chocolate stout.

Palo Santo Marron by Dogfish Head Brewing will pair nicely.  The caramel, vanilla, and wood flavors from this 12% ABV brown ale will marry wonderfully.  The roasted notes along with molasses and a round mouth feel just work.  This is a world class beer and would be right at home with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some strawberries.

Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Ale is a wonderfully crisp and tart fruit beer from the world famous English brewers.  Smooth malts with a soft mouth feel and subtle strawberry finish will be intensified by local fresh berries. This beer is easy drinking at 5% ABV. I would pair this with a strawberry and baby spinach salad with a light poppy dressing for dinner.

After dinner consider opening a bottle of Southern Tier’s Crème Brulee Imperial Milk Stout.  This beer is the pinnacle of Southern Tier’s very highly regarded Blackwater Series in my opinion.  Remarkably this beer tastes exactly like its name sake.  In fact, it is downright magical in likeness.  Cream, vanilla, and burnt sugar come straight through with a long sweet lasting finish.  This 9.6% ABV full bodied beer has an exceptional mouthfeel and would be a fine addition to a strawberry shortcake dessert.

Cheers.

Summer Is Made For Drinking Beer

Summer Beer 2

It is Memorial Day Weekend which means that even though the Northeast is under frost advisories it is the beginning of summer.  Summer time is a great season for craft beers.  The seasonal offerings get lighter, crisper and the ABV generally goes down a bit.  Perfect beer for sharing a few with friends.

As is typical for beer blogs, I am going highlight some great beers you should seek out for this summer season but I hope these are beers you don’t necessarily see on other lists.

DreamWeaver Wheat Ale by Troegs:  This South German-Style Hefeweizen is not a seasonal and is widely available year round.  Pepper and clove notes, a crisp short finish and low 4.5% ABV make this beer incredibly drinkable.  When my in-laws host a cook-out during the summer months more likely than not a case of this is my contribution.  DreamWeaver only comes in bottles and frankly summer calls for cans so be sure to also check out Sunshine Pils.  It is crisp and clean and hopped just right for hot days.  It might be my favorite Pilsner.

Shiner Ruby Redbird by Spoetzl Brewery:  This grapefruit infused summer beer clocks in at 4% ABV.  Grapefruit and a hint of ginger in the nose.  This is another easy drinking beer that would be a good introduction to fruit beers for the novice craft drinker.  Not super easy to find but priced right.  Buy a six pack of bottles or cans and share it with a friend on the back porch.

New Belgium Brewing’s Folly 12 Pack of Cans: Slow Ride Session IPA, Fat Tire Amber Ale, Ranger IPA and Snapshot Wheat.  New Belgium is only now getting its feet in the door of PA distribution but I have been seeking them out each time I leave the Commonwealth.  This 12 pack offers four great beers and all are in cans which makes for an excellent and easy way to tailgate, drink at the shore or just lay poolside without worry.  This is my favorite mix pack for summer.

Witte by Ommegang:  The perfect beer for a nice dinner on the back deck.  If you have grilled up some fresh fish or local vegetables and need to pair it with something impressive but still light and refreshing I suggest Witte.  Flavorful as it is hazy it will work well on those warm nights and be a refreshing ale to share with a friend.

Red Stripe Jamaican Lager:  I can almost hear the audible groan from some of my readers. But drinking this beer extra cold on a blazing hot day straight from the bottle gets me every time.  Yes, I know it’s an adjunct lager and falls into the yellow fizzy category but this beer tastes like relaxation.  I have been to St. Thomas USVI a bunch of times and buying one of these out of a vendor boy’s cooler just makes the day taste better.  Drink it straight from the bottle and relax.  Sometimes you just want a beer and not get all fussy about the complexity; even if it is likely brewed in Latrobe, PA.

Dale’s Pale Ale by Oskar Blues Brewing:  This classic pale ale has some grapefruit notes and piney floral hops.  If you are banging and picking steamed Chesapeake blue crabs this is the perfect can of beer to hold down the newspaper.  I suggest springing for the big 19.2 oz cans.  It marries perfectly with the Old Bay and mild crab meat in my opinion.  I can hardly think of a better way to enjoy a summer day.  Pro-tip: Never use a hammer when eating blue crabs.

Cheers!

A Beer as Prologue For My Love of Craft Beer

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About dozen years ago, when I first moved to Harrisburg from Pittsburgh I lived in downtown on North 2nd Street. I visited the bar scene along my street three to four nights a week. I worked at a beer distributor as a second job a couple weeknights and on weekends. Back then I considered myself above the average beer drinker because I preferred Guinness and spoke well of Yuengling Porter. Drinking dark beer alone a differentiator and sign of my good taste.

Then one cold afternoon more than a decade ago I wandered into Troegs Brewing Company’s tasting room; the one that used to be in Harrisburg. I had a Hopback, a Pale Ale or maybe even a Troeganator… it blew my mind. Here was beer of a completely different nature. It was flavorful in a way I did not know it could be. It was a revelation in every sense of the word.

Shortly there after, seeking out other beers of high regard I stepped into Appalachian Brewing Company (ABC) on Cameron Street. Their beers were sweeter and more approachable but no less interesting to my plebe beer tasting palate. Here again was beer brewed with care and respect. ABC’s then brewer, now owner/brewmaster of Roundabout Brewing in Pittsburgh, was my neighbor. This along with drinking regularly at Troegs helped expand my interest in craft beers.

Years later after I had given up on corporate beer and became fully committed to craft brews, a couple friends and I discovered Al’s of Hampden. This was back when he had six tables and maybe twenty or so taps. Here my world opened to styles of beer that I couldn’t have found elsewhere… Saisons, Black IPAs (remember when they were the new hotness), West Coast and triple IPAs and “What the hell is Brettanomyces?”

So last night at the Harrisburg Beer Week kickoff party, I had a beer that in many ways celebrated not just the region but my own journey to craft beer. (717) Collaboration Ale by ABC, Pizza Boy Brewing (Al’s of Hampden), and Troegs Brewing Company is my history with beer in a can. While Sara Bozich and the ladies at Stouts and Stilettos kicked off what took a ton of work to birth, I was thinking about my decade long journey with beer and the Harrisburg area; the two are woven together.

(717) Collaboration Ale is a strange beer that is brewed for a wonderfully strange area code. The area code where it gets its name holds a company town where government is the company. It is also home to some of the most fertile farmland in the country. The area has city life and Amish carriages all at once. Just as the area code is a hybrid, so is this beer. It has the character of noble hops like an IPA with the range of flavors of a Farmhouse Ale/Saison. This beer is hoppy in the front with a pronounced sweetness while providing the long dry finish and Chardonnay tang of a farmhouse brew.

Hybrid beers by their very nature are complex but this one is just uncanny in its depth. It starts with a billowy and long lasting head from a vigorous pour that provides a welcome yeast and peppery aroma along with some sweet and sour flavors in the nose. The slightly amber and completely clear and clean appearance are inviting and representative of the exacting standards these brewers demand.

The flavor profile provides for a bit of the honey sweetness up front as is typical for ABC beers in my opinion. The middle is all hops with a generous Nugget hop profile that is all Troegs. The finish is long and dry with a proper white wine and slightly sour notes clearly attributed to Pizza Boy Brewing’s history of sublime sours. The ability to definitively pick out the distinct characteristics of the three brew houses is truly unique for this collaboration. This beer is incredibly impressive on multiple levels.

The 7.17% ABV ale is easy drinking and sits comfortably in either a standard pint glass to be casually imbibed or savored in a snifter quietly with reflection. 

It is available on draft during Harrisburg Beer Week at Al’s of Hampden, ABC, and Troegs and will be released in 16 oz cans on Monday, April 27th at distributors in the area. If you get the chance, I highly recommend picking some up.

(717) Collaboration Ale gets the Bearcat Seal of Approval.

Friday Beer News Link Dump

Today officially launches the first Harrisburg Beer Week (HBW).  After a ton of work by Sara Bozich, Colleen, and Chelsie we can finally see Tierney’s initial dream come to fruition.  Best of luck to all the organizers and I hope that Harrisburg River Rescue brings in a boatload of donations.  I am doing my part, you should too.

I will be attending the HBW VIP Kickoff Event tonight at Appalachian Brewing Company thanks to the generosity of Merlot Mike from Hershey Vineyards and Brewery. I am very much looking forward to having a glass of (717) the collaboration beer between tonight’s host (ABC), Pizza Boy Brewing, and Troegs. I am sure it is going to be a great event to start a great week for the city.  Expect a beer review of (717) tomorrow right here at BearcatOnBeer.com.

Speaking of (717), it will be available for purchase in 16 oz cans throughout the Harrisburg Area beginning on Monday, April 27, 2015.  Be sure to pick this one up early as I am sure it will sell out very quickly.

Really quickly, here are some of what I think are HBW’s can’t miss events:

April 25th — Victory Firkin at Brewhouse Grill (Victory rarely does firkins so this is great)

April 26th – Battle of the Homebrew Clubs at Federal Taphouse Harrisburg (ticketed event)

April 28th – Tired Hands Brewing Company on Tap at Al’s of Hampden (Tired Hands Beer!)

April 28th – Tapping of Saison 28 by ZerØday Brewing and Brewed in the Burg Screening at Midtown Cinema

April 30th – Moo-Duck Brewery Tour and Meet the Brewer Event at Moo-Duck in Elizabethtown

May 1st    – Pennsylvania Women in Craft Beer Conference (Ticketed Event)

May 2nd   – The Little Big Beer Fest at ABC (Ticketed Event)

In other PA Craft Beer News, this week New Belgium officially announced it was entering the PA market and has signed on a dozen distributors including locals, Ace Beer Distributors and W&L Sales; both are HBW sponsors too.

Yesterday, the Trib in Pittsburgh has a great story on women in craft beer, its a great write up.

Finally, Jason Notte on the brilliant Stan Hieronymus’ argument that craft beer loyalist are fighting the wrong battle.  Always remember what Steve Jobs said you should be “skating to where the puck is going not where it has been.”

Have a happy Harrisburg Beer Week everyone.  Be sure to follow along on Twitter @BearcatOnBeer and on Facebook if you are still into that thing.

Cheers!

CSA Beer > CSA Arugula

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Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a big deal these days.  It does things like providing direct support to local and community farms and giving families season long access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  That is a good thing.  It also lets you lord over your friends with things like how you KNOW where your food comes from, “I only eat seasonally available food”, and “my home is now only farm to table.”

It’s the first step towards being an anti-GMO, anti-vaxxer truther but as long as you keep just to the CSA, we your friends, promise to not hate you too much.

The guys at Fetish Brewing Company (simply known as Aaron, Brandon, and Mike) have taken the CSA farming idea and applied it to brewing.

I did not sign up back in January when the chance appeared.  Now after finding two of their brews at The Fridge and finally giving them a try I am starting to regret it.

You see, my initial thought when I first heard about the CSA approach to brewing was: “I am aggressively promiscuous with my beers.  I have few loyalties and I don’t want to be tied down to any one brewer.”  Also there is a high level of trust here… I am buying all my beer from these guys up front; I have to hope they will still be there through the end of twelve months.

That might have been shortsighted on my part.  For two years these guy have delivered; so things appear to be working out.  In fact so much so that they are now selling commercially, although in very, very limited quantities around Lancaster.

As such, I was able to procure a bottle of Submissive (American IPA) and Spelt (Farmhouse-Style Ale); each were reasonably priced for what were 1 pint 0.9 oz bottles.

First Submissive, it pours out an amber and cloudy ale with a stark white bubbly head the provided beautiful lacing throughout the drink.  An aroma of resin from the hops is mild but pleasant.  This IPA is not bombed out in piney and citrusy hops.  This was at first strange.  I figured prior to opening that I would be calling out a safe-word while the beer levied a heavy dose of punishing bitter hops, but I was wrong. I was expecting something along the lines of Palate Wrecker, Chinookie or Hopsickle.  This was different. It was subtle and relaxed.  It was not trying to get me to bend to its will, but was instead inviting and easy sipping.  This was a submissive beer.  It was not abrasive or astringent and at 6.5% ABV was about the subtle flavors.  Hints of pine, lemongrass and a long but not overly dry finish make this beer very easy drinking. This was a good beer.

Next came Spelt; a brew presumably made with the old world grain by the same name.  A few years ago Troegs brewed Scratch Beer #118 with spelt.  Scratch #118 was a Saison but was much more inviting and easy drinking.  What Fetish has done here is make a Farmhouse ale for people that like funky ales.  The beer poured bright golden hue with a furious bubbling head that quickly dissipated.  The nose is of yeast and some bread dough along with a slight farmhouse funk as is to be expected.  The spelt grain provides a wheat like flavor and adds a level of complexity to the ever so slightly sour, crisp lemon and faint pepperiness.  The finish is long and dry with earthy tones making this 7.22% ABV a real sipper. As the beer warms to room temperature it opens up and all the flavors embolden. Spelt gets the Bearcat Seal of Approval

So would I, a proclaimed bachelor when it comes to beers be willing to be tied down to Fetish Brewing for a year?  Yeah… I could submit to that idea.

Harrisburg Beer Week

HBW Harrisburg gets a bad rap around here by the people that live in the area. “West Shore” white people refuse to cross water and would rather fight snarling traffic nightmares within a commercialized suburb. Harrisburg downtown can’t get out of its own way sometimes to succeed as it should. No better example of that than the hostile government boondoggle that is parking. It’s easy for those outside of Harrisburg to think of it as second rate when the most visible tenants (politicians) in this city are at best second rate and have a surprising number of outright criminals… but that is another post for another failed blog. There is one thing this area has that is first rate… Beer. From the established heavy hitter (Troegs), to the sublime upstart (Intangible Ales), to the spunky local (Columbia Kettle Works), we have an abundance of quality craft beer options here in the center of the Commonwealth. This is a long way of saying, its about time Harrisburg got its own Beer Week. In a couple weeks, Harrisburg will be holding its inaugural Beer Week and the timing and the planning appear to be perfect. Harrisburg and the Central PA area should be proud of its working man libations. I personally will be attending as many of the 120 currently scheduled events as possible. If you are reading this post I would expect the same from you. Celebrating and supporting local beer is critical to ensuring that the brewers continue to thrive in this area. It’s about time we celebrate our diverse and excellent craft brewers in the area. The girls at Stouts and Stilettos and Sara Bozich are putting in a ton of work to get this off the ground. ABC, Pizza Boy and Troegs are throwing their collective weight behind this endeavor right now by brewing a fascinating hybrid beer, (717). This crazy brew will debut one month from now at the kick off event. It will also be sold in 16 oz cans throughout the namesake area code. I can’t wait to get my hands on some. But this is not just about getting together to share our favorite social lubricant. Harrisburg Beer Week has a beneficiary in the Harrisburg River Rescue and Emergency Services. This means that your dedication to social drinking also supports a social good. I reached out to Tierney Pomone of StoutsandStilettos.com and she was, as always, kind enough to give me her thoughts:

“I’m really excited about the PA Women in Beer Conference on 5/1. 4 women who work with/for/own PA breweries are on the panel with a lead q&a, beer from Gift Horse in York, food from LBC. I really love supporting women in beer and think it’s important to have this open panel.
Each woman has a different role at their respective brewery so it’s going to be a unique opportunity to really engage.”

There are lots of events and they can all be found at HarrisburgBeerWeek.com. The week will close with The Little Big Beers Fest at ABC where local brewers will be offering small batch beers (little) that are heavy hitters (big). I already have my ticket. If you are going, I look forward to seeing you there and discussing all the great things about our local brews. Harrisburg Beer Week emphatically gets the Bearcat Seal of Approval

/Updated 3/10/15 to reflect the hard work of Ms. Sara Bozich who I regretfully left out when discussing the efforts to create the Harrisburg Beer Week.  Apologies Sara.  I owe you a beer.

Troegs Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Flying Mouflan

Flying Mouflan

 

Troegs Bourbon Barrel Aged Flying Mouflan is the latest in the Troegs Splinter Series and is another fantastic release.

The beer pours an opaque dark brown with hints of red tones as direct light shines through. A tan head appeared as the beer was pours into a stemmed tulip glass and the very tiny bubbles dissipated quickly.

The aroma was of dried fruit covered in sweet caramelized sugars, bourbon and vanilla. As the beer warmed the nose became more prominent but never revealed the high 13.40% ABV.

Mild bourbon up front with a woody sweetness. Subtle flavors of nuttiness and caramel are not over powering but easily picked up. Dried fruit as is true to style is evident. Smooth from start to finish and never drinks as big as its booziness would suggest; it’s dangerous in that way.

The finish is long and invites a slow sipping experience. The thick body of this barley wine coats the palate and rewards those that take their time to fully enjoy all the complexity of this fine libation. The bourbon while pronounced never overpowers the base and is simply there to make all the best things about Flying Mouflan more pronounced. This is barrel aged beer done right.

The Splinter Series continues to be my most sought after beers and this one did not disappoint in the least. I laid three of the cork & cage bottled down in the cellar and hope to see what five, ten and fifteen years does to what is without a doubt a fine beer for cellaring. I seriously wavered about buying a four pack of these but they really are exceptional.

It gets the Bearcat Seal of Approval.