Over its five-year history, Harrisburg Beer Week has become known for its signature events.
The Little Big Beer Fest, a tribute to high-octane brews, sells out fast, and I know a married couple from Shipoke who actually delayed the start of their European vacation so they could attend their favorite event this month—the annual Battle of the Homebrewers.
Then there’s the 717 Collaboration.
Each year, several Harrisburg-area breweries band together to create a signature Beer Week beer, which is then served over the course of the 10-day suds spectacular.
The “Collab,” as it’s known, is meant to demonstrate the communal spirit and creative power of Harrisburg-area brewers. However, by the organizers’ own admission, the resulting product hasn’t always been a crowd-pleaser.
“It shouldn’t just be for the people brewing the beer,” said Chelsie Markel, Beer Week co-organizer and brewery liaison. “We want to appeal to the entire Beer Week community.”
So, last August, four breweries—Zeroday Brewing Co., Troëgs Independent Brewing, Appalachian Brewing Co. and Boneshire Brew Works—got together to begin noodling concepts for the 2019 Collab.
“They wanted to create an approachable beer,” Markel said. “Nothing crazy or zany.”
At the same time, the brewers wanted to make something unique, which would stand out from all the IPAs and sours on tap everywhere.
After many meetings and test batches, they decided on a final recipe for a helles bock, a crisp, malty lager that is a relatively uncommon offering among central PA craft breweries.
“When this got started last summer, we all went around and talked about styles, ingredients and techniques we were interested in,” said Troëgs brewmaster John Trogner. “Classic styles of beer started to pop up in the conversation, and eventually we settled on a subtly complex lager.”
Last month, area brewers gathered together at Troëgs in Hershey for “717 Collab Brew Day” to ceremonially push the button and let the brewing begin.
Zeroday’s Theo Armstrong said that he and his fellow brewers wanted a beer that average consumers would enjoy, but that would also would hold their interest as beer-makers.
“We asked, ‘What inspires us? What do we like to drink when we get off of work?’” he said. “We all agreed that we like to drink these clean, crisp lagers.”
John Straitiff, head brewer at ABC, described the beer as “light and refreshing with some nice floral notes.”
“It’s meant to be a beer for the general public that is also very distinctive,” he said.
Starting April 26, you’ll be able to find the 717 Collab at more than a dozen breweries and pubs from Carlisle to Elizabethtown to Dillsburg. For the first time, you can also purchase the beer in cans, as 300 cases will be distributed throughout greater Harrisburg.
So, after attending one of Beer Week’s many firkin evenings, tap takeovers, pint nights or special events, you can grab a four-pack to go.
Beer Week co-organizer Sara Bozich emphasized the charitable aspect, as $1 per draft sold will be donated to the event’s beneficiary, Harrisburg River Rescue. Last year, Harrisburg Beer Week donated $40,000 to the River Rescue, with hopes of exceeding that goal this year.
“We want to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy this beer during Harrisburg Beer Week and, by doing that, contribute to a great cause,” she said.
Harrisburg Beer Week takes place April 26 to May 5 at many locations throughout central Pennsylvania. For more information, including a list of where to buy the 717 Collaboration and a full schedule of events, visit www.harrisburgbeerweek.com.