I have the unique privilege of knowing a lot of people. Fortunately for me, I've got some friends in high places. For whatever reason, most people seem to like me. I'm just one of those guys who likes to be liked, I guess (even though I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who'd love the opportunity to send me a bag of edible dicks in the mail some day). Of course, I’d likely reciprocate to those very same people, so no harm no foul, right?
The craft beer industry is a pretty tight knit group, and two of my favorite people happen to cohabitate at the same brewery.
Al Kominski, proprietor and face (God help them!) of both Al's of Hampden and its sister brewery, Pizza Boy, is one of the most generous people I know. He's also one of the most honest (to which anyone who follows him on social media can attest). To illustrate Al's generosity, let's go back to the very first time Brewslut and I set foot inside the original Al's location on Wertzville Road in Enola, PA.
We had first learned about Al's self-proclaimed "hole-in-the-wall" pizza joint by way of a billboard advertisement on Rt. 11/15, not too far from my place of employment at the time. None of my beer circle friends had heard of it, yet the billboard boasted "Mix-n-Match your own six-pack!" While this practice has become commonplace in PA over the last few years, it was virtually unheard of a decade ago. Brewslut and I decided to pay a visit to Al’s one day after work.
Al's of Hampden wasn't much to look at back then. As a matter of fact, it was about as "hole-in-the-wall" as you can get. But the thing that drew us in and kept us coming back (aside from the great beer selection) was the staff, namely Al himself.
Only we didn't know who Al was the first time we'd set foot inside his modest establishment. Here’s our first impression of Al:
We walked in and we’re greeted by this little guy with a big personality. He said to us, “You two look like you like good beer!” He then proceeded to hand us a bomber of Terrapin’s then-unreleased Depth Charge, an espresso milk stout. “I have a whole case of it but it’s not registered to sell in PA yet, so you can have it.”
Allow me to reiterate… this is my first interaction with Al.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to remain in Al’s good graces. Brewslut has held a part-time “beer wench” position at Al’s for the last 5+ years, and Al has been responsible for most of the beers I serve at my annual Ffej of July festival since then. Over the years, I’ve seen his business prosper, and I’m proud to say that I discovered this place for my group of beer friends.
|Al and I at the old shop. Photo taken with my old shitty flip phone.|
Then there’s Terry.
We first met Terry Hawbaker when he was brewing at Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA through our mutual friend, Deuane. Unless you’ve been living in a bomb shelter for ten years, you know Deuane. EVERYBODY knows Deuane. Even if you think you don’t know Deuane… trust me, you know him. Terry knew him well enough to brew a beer for him during his tenure at Bullfrog. The name of the beer? Yup, you guessed it: Deuane.
But enough about Deuane. Let’s talk about Terry.
|Another shitty flip phone pic. This one was taken at the release |
of Sunny Side Up at Little Amps Coffee in Harrisburg.
Most folks in my beer circle know that I’m quite partial to barrel-aged beers. Imperial stouts and barleywines soaked in bourbon or rum barrels give me plenty of wood (in more ways than one), and sitting stalwart at the top of my list of “favorite barleywines of all time” would certainly be Terry’s Barrel Aged Old Toad Barleywine. Brewslut and I liked Terry’s beers so much that we (OK…she) joined the Bullfrog mug club even though we live two hours away from the pub.
Over the years, we’ve followed Terry on his brewing adventures after he vacated Bullfrog, including a brief stint at the Farmer’s Cabinet in Philadelphia. Even though I don’t believe in that astrology nonsense, the stars were indeed aligned when Terry and Al met. Their Wonder Twin powers were activated! Terry became the head brewer of Pizza Boy shortly after Al got the brewery up and running at the original Al’s location. I was fortunate enough to help bottle a few of the very first releases, including Permasmile and Intangible (the latter would become the name of Terry’s sour side project brewery, iNTaNGiBLe aLeS).
As you can probably imagine, the practice of shit-talking among brewers runs rampant in the craft beer industry. While its intentions are good-natured and fun, it is also a feverishly competitive sport. I believe it could someday qualify as an Olympic event. As a result of considerable verbal bitch-slapping among our circle of friends, a few years back we decided to host the inaugural IPA Challenge at Ffej of July Goes to Eleven. I teamed up with Terry, while Al and my buddy Dan got together. The competition was simple: brew the better beer. Terry has proven himself to be the king of the competition, which eventually morphed into him brewing the official beer for FOJ.
And this leads me to the crux of this already long-winded blog. I’m pleased to announce that this year’s FOJ beer shall be dubbed:
Magic… Under Where?
I’ll bet you’re thinking to yourself, “Huh?!”
Let me provide a brief explanation. (Brief... heh heh.)
It took me a while to come up with the “theme” for FOJ14. After a quick Google search on the significance of the number 14, I was delighted to find that Joseph Smith, the person responsible for the creation of one of the dumbest religions on the market, had his “vision” that would ultimately lead to the creation of Mormonism at the ripe age of 14. Knowing more about Mormons than one who isn’t a practicing Mormon should know, Brewslut took to the task of enlightening me on some fun Mormon facts. For example, as children they are forbidden from slow dancing with a member of the opposite sex at school dances. They also are not allowed to drink caffeinated beverages. They love green gelatin. But perhaps my favorite on the list is a certain wardrobe custom, whereby they wear a type of unflattering underwear called “garments.” I’ve seen pictures, and these baggy white atrocities can make even the most unfuckable sea donkey that much more unattractive. These are sometimes referred to as… I kid you not… magic underwear. Hence the name of this year’s beer. (Editor’s Note: I really wanted to name it Hamster Style but got out-voted. If you don’t get the reference, Google it!)
So expect this crushable, low ABV Simcoe hop bomb to please the masses at this year’s festivities. I know I’ll be drinking the shit out of it!
|Terry concocting the recipe for Magic... Under Where?|