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Monday, January 16, 2017

Team D(r)INK Does York County

We were due for a day trip to York County, as we hadn't visited since August 2014. During our last visit, we hit Liquid Hero, Gunpowder Falls, South County, and a fourth one (I thought, anyway) but for some reason the name escapes me. I was on blog hiatus back then, and didn't feel like digging that far back into my Untappd check-in history, so let's just leave it at three places.

This time, I had planned on hitting four new-to-us places with Collusion as the centerpiece. I'd heard good things from a few people about Collusion, so I felt it was time to head down there. I had a free Saturday, so Brewslut and I - accompanied by Team D(r)INK members Nate and Swingle - headed in the CRV for a few hours in and around York.

Our first stop was intended to be Black Cap in Red Lion, PA, just a few miles on the far side of York. I figured we'd start off at the furthest location from home and backtrack through York. However, Nate suggested we check out Golden Crust Pizza, which was a short three blocks away. Good thing he suggested it, because the tap selection was quite impressive.

We all started out with pours of Alesmith's Mokasida Coffee Speedway Stout. What a way to kick things off, right? I'd had a few of the Speedway variations over the years, and this one lived up to most of the others. I think the Vietnamese Coffee version (sampled numerous times over the years) and Hawaiian (especially on tap during Drinksgiving '15 at Chicago's excellent Local Option) were two stand-outs. But this variation was certainly no slouch. Mokasida coffee originates in Ethiopia and features a berry-like flavor and aroma.

Get in line, Pleeps!

Lizard of Koz, a new Imperial Stout from Founders, might have been my favorite of the bunch. Founders still always manages to amaze me with its offerings. I've seldom met a Founders beer I didn't like. This rich, chewy Imperial Stout is brewed with vanilla, chocolate and Michigan-grown blueberries, then aged in bourbon barrels, because, you know... why not?! The blueberry presence was quite subtle until the finish, which played nicely with the huge chocolate character. I'd love to revisit a larger pour of this fine beer in the very near future!

Brewslut got a pour of Cup a Joe Coffee Crème Stout from Short's, which surprisingly was collectively our least favorite of the beers we sampled at Golden Crust. It had a somewhat chalky finish that was a little off-putting, but it certainly wasn't undrinkable. I love Short's but after having the Alesmith and Founders offerings prior to trying this, I must say it fell short (no pun intended).

Copy Paste IPA from Evil Twin was quite tasty and juicy. This one features a few of my favorite hop varietals including Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy, Citra, Motueka, and Mosaic. Wow!

Swingle tried Sour Blackberry Ale from La Brasserie Du Pays Flamand. The consensus on this one was two words: damn sour!

For my second 5-ouncer, I went with Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist from Epic Brewing. I'd had the standard Big Bad Baptist in the past and was impressed, so it was a no-brainer to get a pour of this bigger, rarer version. It didn't disappoint!

Erase & Rewind IPA #3, another from Evil Twin, was also nice. This one features an assortment of (mostly) unusual hops including Ella, Hallertau, Mosaic, Equinox, and Wakatu.

Mackaper, an "Australian" Pale Ale from Omnipollo, a Swedish brewery we encountered at our last visit to Hawthorne's in Philly, was up next. This was surprisingly quite fresh and invigorating, with a big citrusy note.

Black Cap Brewing Company was a short three-block walk down the street from Golden Crust, though I must admit we couldn't get there quickly enough given the 20 degree thermometer reading. Still, we trudged on and thankfully didn't get a nasty case of frostbite on our way.

The brewery and adjoining tasting room are situated in a historic 1935 building that previously housed Red Lion's post office (hence the names of some of Black Cap's beers, such as the Postmaster's Series). Inside, it is a very clean, organized space with plenty of room to throw back some beers and food while enjoying the aesthetics of the architecture.

We decided to share a full sampler flight, then get a pour of our favorite beer following the flight. Here's a quick recap of what we had:
  • Cream Ale - an easy-drinking, pre-Prohibition style ale. 
  • Saison De Gui - meaning "season of mistletoe," this strong holiday ale is brewed with fresh ginger root, orange peel, whole cloves, and honey.
  • General Gates Porter - 18th century-style porter brewed with smoked malt and molasses.
  • Imperial General Gates Porter - Imperial version of the standard offering brewed for Black Cap's 2nd anniversary.
  • Cream Stout - dark, sweet stout brewed with lactose.
  • Hop Scramble - Straight-up IPA featuring Cascade, Chinook, Columbus, and Nugget hops. 
  • Postmaster's Series #6 - DIPA with healthy doses of Citra, Simcoe, and Cascade hops. This was easily my favorite of the bunch! 
  • Wildflower - Belgian Blond brewed with locally sourced honey.

The beers were all well done with a few standouts, including the Imperial Porter and DIPA. After polishing off our flight, I ordered a full pour of the DIPA (I think we all may have). I must give Greg props and say that this was undoubtedly one of the best DIPAs I've seen come out of a small PA brewery in the last few years. It was juicy, well-balanced, hoppy, and kept the higher ABV well concealed. Greg, one of the co-owners and brewers, was nice enough to give us a quick tour of the modest 3-barrel brewhouse. He made a joke that Anheuser-Busch spills more grain on the floor in one day than he uses all year. He was quite talkative, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his brewery, which has only been around for about two years.

Black Cap's modest brewhouse.

Swingle picked up the sampler flight and cheese plate tab, so I offered to make the epic 3-block UPHILL hike back to the car in 20-degree weather while they finished up their beers in the warm bosom of Black Cap's cozy tasting room. After my role-playing as an Uber driver, we were off to our next destination - Collusion Tap Works.

Inside Collusion Brew Works.

The word is out on Collusion, and I've had good reports from a few peeps who visited recently. I checked out the massive tap list on-line, and decided we had to visit that weekend. I mean, they had a smoked barleywine and imperial Berliner Weiss on tap. Sold!

When we arrived, I was surprised to find such a large, well-appointed tasting room surrounded by plenty of exposed brick and holiday decor. After getting our bearings, we perused the beer menu on the chalkboard. Within about a minute or two, we made an executive decision to bite the bullet and try EVERYTHING on the menu. And let me tell you, it was a big menu! See for yourself below...

What to try... how 'bout all of 'em?!

I'll spare you the complete list (if you want to check out everything we had, check out my Untappd or Twitter feed... it's all there). There was plenty of variety and really something for everyone. Even if you don't like beer, they had mead and cider available. While nothing really ripped my face off, there were a few standouts (and only two undrinkable messes, I'm afraid). Some standouts were the aforementioned imperial Berliner Weiss (a beer named Dole), Fuzzy Scrumpit (IPA brewed with fresh white peaches and pink guava), and What Gose Around (an apricot Gose). The latter was unanimously the favorite of the group and proved to be an exemplary interpretation with juicy apricot notes, tart under bite, and just a hint of salty goodness.

Just a portion of our extended sampler flight at Collusion.

Pleeps found his way into some of the samplers, and enjoyed a few too many, including some of the sours. He's more accustomed to porters and stouts. Luckily, my phone was handy so I could chronicle his descent into drunkenness.


Our final stop of the night (in York, anyway) was Holy Hound Taproom. Embarrassingly enough, I have never set foot in this place, which has been regarded as York's finest craft beer haven for quite some time. Oh well, there's a first time for everything, right?

Inside Holy Hound Taproom.

By this time, I was famished (no food at Collusion), so some fries and what not were in order. (The "what not" is... well, I don't remember; hence me referring to it as "what not." I do remember the food tasting mighty fine, so I suppose that's a good thing.) I was hoping to try something new since this was my first visit, and the tap selection didn't disappoint. I scanned the draft menu and came across a new-to-me brewery: Mispillion River. Based out of Milford, DE, the brewery opened in 2013 and produces five flagship beers, one of which is Reach Around IPA (great name!), the beer I enjoyed on this very night. I like a brewery that doesn't take itself too seriously, and by the names of some of their beers, it sounds like these guys have a good sense of humor. At only 6%, this was an easy drinker featuring a nice hop palate of Cascade, Columbus, and Nugget. Overall, a nice first impression. (Check out their web site, too. Their cans feature some pretty sweet artwork!)

That's all she wrote!
Up next was The Calling, a DIPA from the more familiar Boulevard Brewing Company, but I'll be damned if I can remember this sucker. I'm not sure if I bummed a few swigs from Brewslut or I actually ordered a pour of this. Good thing I was driving. Seriously though, I checked it in so there you go. Not much to say about that one, I guess. So, stick a fork in me... at least for now.

After leaving Holy Hound, we made our way up to Pizza Boy for a nightcap, where I enjoyed a pour of the newish Blackberry/Blueberry Sour Ale and The Stranger (another great name!), the latter a new American IPA weighing in at 7%. Both were solid as per usual. And that, my friends, wraps up our little Team D(r)INK excursion to the nether regions of York County. Ten years ago, this area was a veritable craft beer wasteland. However, now it seems to be rife with some quality places. We'll have to make sure our next visit is sooner than a year-and-a-half. Until next time...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

From the Ashes of Millbock

Back at the start of the '10s (that just doesn't have the same impact as the 70s or 80s, does it?), a small production brewery opened its doors in Linglestown, PA. That brewery was Millbock. (Their web site is no longer active, but you can check out their Untappd page. They were responsible for such local beers like Hop Slobber and Richard Cranium.) I had the pleasure of performing with my band herbie at their official launch party at O'Reilly's Taproom in Harrisburg. For about four years, dual owners/brewers Alan Miller and Albert de Bock brewed small-batch beers (about 50 barrels per year) with a European flair at their tiny 450-sq. ft. brewing facility. Like many other new start-up breweries, Millbock was born out of the pair's love of home-brewing. I always felt that the pair had a good yin & yang thing going on; Albert was rooted in traditional Euro brewing, while Alan contributed the eclectic American experimentalism. In the end, Millbock folded when they came to a crossroads that required them to quit their day jobs and continue brewing on a full-time basis, or simply bow out. Miller chose to keep brewing, but under a different name. So out of the ashes of Millbock comes Boneshire Brew Works.

Inside Boneshire's tap room.
We'd wanted to visit closer to the grand opening, but we just couldn't squeeze it into our schedule. After a few weeks, we finally had a free Saturday to head over and check out the new digs. Upon perusing the beer selection, I was stoked to see not one, not two, but THREE Imperial Stouts available. They rounded out the taps with a few others including a rye beer and a test batch IPA. We tried them all except for the Tried and True, a Belgian-style Witbier. We just weren't in the mood and also wanted to leave a bit of extra space to enjoy all three Imperial Stouts!

IPA Hop Test #1 - brewed with Citra, Centennial and Mosaic hops
LazaRIS - Russian Imperial Stout with coffee, cocoa nibs, cinnamon and habañero peppers
LazaRIS Unrobed - "naked" version of LazaRIS minus the spices and additional ingredients
Devil's Burden - Roggenbier (rye beer) with tons of Cascade hops
Dark of the Forest - Imperial Stout with coffee

IPA Hop Test #1
It seems like big, bold stouts are Alan's forte, and let me tell you, both Brewslut and I have no problem with that! I believe the LazaRIS is an updated version of Millbock's The End, a RIS brewed with the same ingredients listed above. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to try this beer, but it seems like Alan took an obvious cue from the many beer fans who sang its praises. While I admit that LazaRIS was pretty bangin', of the three variations available during our visit, both Brewslut and I enjoyed the "Unrobed" version most. The base beer is thick, chewy and viscous with lots of dark fruit, chocolate, leather, and tobacco notes and just a hint of smoke. Nice and complex with a great mouthfeel, which is how I like 'em!

Food-wise, they feature bar snacks like bologna, hot peppers and the like. However, on weekends they feature some pretty tasty BBQ from the local Nomad BBQ (operated by an awesome guy called Shawn Grant, who used to work as a Sous Chef in the Snack Bar at Tröegs). We were pretty hungry, and we were elated to see chicken skewers on the menu. We ordered six of them and they were finger lickin' good! They also had pulled pork that looked tasty, but we've been mammal-free for several years. Glad to see something a little different than the typical food truck offering at a small brewery.

Cool mural decorating the wall at Boneshire.

I'm glad to see another brewery so close to home doing good things, and I'm anxious to see where Alan & Co. take Boneshire. With Millworks, Evergrain, Pizza Boy, and now Boneshire all within close proximity of one another, it will allow beer travelers to make a whole day of it and experience everything the area offers. Then there's that place in Hershey, too. What are they called?

Until next time...