Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Fill ‘Er Up: Classic cars, tasty brews on tap at annual Autos & Ales.

It’s probably not often that a brewer is asked to match the color of an automobile, but that’s exactly what Mad Chef Craft Brewing did when creating the featured brew of the AACA Museum’s 2019 Autos & Ales event.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the classic auto museum’s popular fundraiser, with participation by some 35 of the state’s best breweries.

“We’ve been doing this for 10 years, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Jeffrey Bliemeister, the museum’s executive director. “It’s our staff’s favorite event.”

This year’s featured brew by Mad Chef matches the 1969 Big Bad Orange AMX two-seat muscle car that’s in the museum’s permanent collection. The eight-cylinder sports coupe, of which only 284 were made, runs on 102-octane fuel, so Mad Chef’s custom brew is made with 102 bittering units to match.

Each year, Autos & Ales is held entirely inside the three floors of the 70,000-square-foot museum just outside Hershey, which doesn’t make it “weather dependent” like many other local events, said Nancy Gates, the museum’s director of marketing and communications. While there, attendees are welcome to explore the Smithsonian-affiliated museum, which includes a wide range of cars, buses, motorcycles and other automobiles from the 1890s through the 1980s.

“When we first started this event 10 years ago, we only had a couple of hundred people,” Gates said. “For the last few years, we’ve sold out. We find that 800 to 900 people is a good number because we don’t want long lines.”

The Nov. 1 event kicks off at 6 p.m. with a VIP happy hour, with guests receiving an exclusive tasting of Big Bad Orange, the limited edition, double IPA customized for the event by Mad Chef. Regular admission begins an hour later.

“We are honored and very happy to be invited to get to be a part of this event,” said Francisco Ramirez, who co-owns the East Petersburg, Pa.-based brewery along with Greg Kendig.

Although Big Bad Orange was created as a “high octane” brew with an alcohol content of around 8 percent, Ramirez described it as “very smooth,” saying that it tastes like an IPA with a lower alcohol content.

Gates views Autos & Ales as an “interesting marriage” between the museum and craft breweries. Ticket proceeds help the museum, while an onsite auction benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. All Autos & Ale brewers are required to donate a sale item for the auction.

In the mood for food? Autos & Ales is rolling out expanded food offerings this year, included in the price of admission, Gates said. The menu includes ham and sirloin sliders, a pasta station, meatballs, walking tacos and veggies/fruits with dips, all by C&J Catering of Lower Swatara Township.

A best-tasting wings competition featuring local restaurants also is on tap for the evening. Although the Penn Hotel has taken the prize for the past two years, around a half-dozen area eateries are expected to compete for this year’s title.

Live entertainment will be courtesy of Smooth Like Clyde, a five-piece band from Harrisburg, and Mixed-Up Productions, a local DJ company.

Tröegs Independent Brewing of Hershey is the largest participating brewery this year, while Howling Henry’s of Palmyra is the smallest. Participants include a who’s who of central PA breweries, including such popular local names as the Millworks (Harrisburg), Tattered Flag (Middletown) and Newfangled (Lower Paxton Township), as well as more distant breweries like Free Will Brewing (Perkasie), Boom City (Williamsport) and Pilger Ruh (Pottsville).

For guests not favoring beer, J&P Winery of Grantville will be on hand with wine slushies. In all, around 35 brewers are expected to participate in this year’s event, and designated driver tickets are also available at a lower price.

“People like variety and like to see something new every year,” Bliemeister noted. “So, we keep that in mind when planning this popular event.”

 Autos & Ales takes place Nov. 1 at the AACA Museum, 161 Museum Dr., Hershey. For more information and to buy tickets, visit

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