Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.
In close to two years of writing this feature, one thing I’ve continued to do was spotlight a beer from a new brewery each week, without any repeats. As time goes on, there’s a growing challenge to focus on new beer producers, despite being in an area with an overwhelmingly high amount of craft beer, both locally and from surrounding states. At some point there will be a repeat but, for now, I’m reviewing stuff still readily accessible – and this week’s beer, Pizza Boy Brewing Company’s You’ve Got A Friend In IPA, just recently appeared on my store’s shelves.
While Pizza Boy has roots planted firmly in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area, more specifically in a town called Enola, the company’s beer has only been available in my beer store in small amounts in the past, with an effort here or an effort there – that is, until recently. Given the current landscape thanks to COVID-19, many breweries are expanding their footprint and perhaps Pizza Boy is one of them, since I saw close to half a dozen of their efforts when picking out beer for last weekend. It’s a brewery I had heard about before, given it’s relatively close proximity, but just never tried.
Pizza Boy was created by Al Kominski back in 2012, when he decided to start brewing beer inside his restaurant, Al’s of Hampden – a family-friendly pizza shop that offers a ton of draught and bottled beer. Over the span of almost a decade, Kominski and his crew have created well over 100 different efforts, from the widely popular Sunny Side Up Stout variants to Imperial IPAs like Frontside Lipside, with the hope that there’s something available for every kind of drinker. And, from the looks of it on their website, Pizza Boy sticks with an ever-rotating limited release schedule.
You’ve Got A Friend In IPA is a 7.0 percent American-style IPA, brewed specifically for the summer months, that the brewery defines as “simple, elegant and thirst-quenching.” It features dry-hopped Cascade and Simcoe hops to highlight both their aromatic and tropical qualities. Besides hearing about Pizza Boy, I was drawn to it because of my appreciation for all things Pennsylvania, more specifically the eastern part of the state but it all falls under that umbrella. I’m proud of where I live and love to support it. When I was younger, Pennsylvania’s license plates used to say “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania” and that’s where this beer got its name.
The look of this 16-ounce can is extremely simple, with a white theme and a big old keystone logo – Pennsylvania is nicknamed “The Keystone State” – with the state’s colors of yellow and blue and a hop flower in the background. It looks like something you’d see on the Pennsylvania Turnpike while making your way towards Pittsburgh. It’s abundantly simple, yet eye-catching, and while Pizza Boy does a great job sharing it’s social media outlets and the alcohol content, it doesn’t give any explanation of what’s inside the can, with either a description or what hops were used.
I gave one of these to a friend to sample, because that’s what wannabe beer snobs do, and I was excited to crack it open and share exactly what I thought. When I opened it, I wasted little time and went straight for the aroma, as per usual. What I got was a lighter smell, noting a little lemon and a hint of both tropical flavor and bread – it was solid but nothing too drool-worthy. The pour, on the other hand, was a beaut. It came out and into my tulip glass with a golden, straw-like and very clear color, bridging the gap between the looks of a Pilsner and a very drinkable IPA. The head was about three fingers and was semi-fluffy with a slight golden hue to it.
For such a clear, golden IPA, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the taste. A lot of bitterness, perhaps? What I got was an effort that offered a medium mouthfeel – surprising, given the look – and carbonation I thought was well done. The taste, like the aroma, was on the lighter side as well, offering some tropical fruit, some lemon, a little maltyness and a slightly bitter back-end that might linger a little but certainly isn’t unwelcomed en route to the next sip. Speaking of next sip, this beer is really drinkable, which makes sense why it’s a summer beer. I might’ve had a couple in one sitting.
Overall, I think it’s a well-designed beer. I liked the pour but was a little underwhelmed by the nose and could’ve used maybe a little more oomph in the flavor. But I get it, tinkering and making it slightly more robust might make this something to highlight in a different season. I could drink several of these in one sitting and it would make a good tailgating beer but, having said that, I probably wouldn’t necessarily seek this one out since my palate goes to more juicier stuff.
BeerAdvocate has You’ve Got A Friend In IPA scoring an 86 on the site’s overall rating, with an average score of 3.85 based on 22 ratings. I would go a little higher than that, based on conversion, for my 10-point system, giving this Pizza Boy effort a 7.9. It goes down really easy – and isn’t that what you want in a beer? I just wish there was more flavor incorporated into it. It proved to me that this brewery certainly has the ability to make well-crafted, potentially next-level, beer. I guess that means I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for a NEIPA or DIPA from Pizza Boy with Galaxy hops.
Stay tuned next week, because I might try something from your favorite brewery.