How We Made It: Prison City’s Puff Puff Shiv ale with Cocoa Puffs
We stared at the body below, wondering aloud what we were to do with it.
But, we were way ahead of ourselves. First, we’d have to extract the carcass from the bottom of the vessel it was dumped in. That son of a bee sting was way heavier than we anticipated. It took two of us, every ounce of muscle we had and a three-pronged rake to hack into it to help pull it up. We were determined. We were desperate, and time was of urgent matter.
Eventually, the large body stuffed into the white cloth exited the tank and flopped onto the floor. Now what? Do we burn it? Toss it in the dumpster? Tie a cement block to it and sink it in Owasco Lake? Then we started to giggle as we recalled a “Goodfellas” scene: “We’re gonna need some nice suits, a whole lot of lime and someone to cook us a huge pasta dinner after we dispose of the body. And a painting. A painting of a man and a dog in a canoe. And Joe Pesci.” We were pretty convinced Joe Pesci wouldn’t have had the same hesitations we were having.
This was the second time our polarizing brown ale, Puff Puff Shiv, was brewed. Puff is made using 50 boxes of Cocoa Puffs cereal. The first time happened by accident. And every time it’s been made since, Ben Maeso, our head brewer, swears it’s the last time.
The first time Puff came to be, it was intended to be an amber ale. However, Ben noticed that the malts he was using were producing a much darker wort (the sweet liquid created when you add barley malts to boiling hot water) than anticipated. “Well, it’s not going to be an amber ale. And it’s not going to be a brown ale” he said. After a bit of conversation about what we could do to save or alter the batch, we recalled a brewery that had brought some “cereal” beers to a brew fest we had done. Eyebrows raised, and it was off to Wegmans. Ben purchased several different cereals to play with, eventually deciding he liked the way the chocolate notes of the cereal complemented, even enhanced, the liquid sitting in the fermentation tank. So, he dumped 50 boxes of cereal into the fermenter. You can imagine the looks you get going to every grocery store in a 20-square-mile radius asking, “How much Cocoa Puffs cereal do you have?”
Doing anything new for the first time comes with two possible results: disaster or success. Well, we stumbled upon a third: successful disaster. The beer was a huge success with drinkers. It is, quite literally, like sipping on the milk left at the bottom of the bowl after you’ve eaten all the cereal. It’s transcendent. One sip, and the brain fires off memories of a much younger self, planted in front of Saturday morning cartoons. Yes, in “footy pajamas.” Sounds glorious, right? Well, while the beer tastes great, it is also a tremendous pain in the older self’s back side to brew. The aftermath of brewing centers around the simple fact that there are 50 boxes of Cocoa Puffs left over that need to be dealt with — disaster.
For the first brew, all 50 boxes were dumped into the fermenter. Well, getting 50 boxes of cereal out of a tank after soaking for four or five days was a colossal mess. Enter the large carcass. Ben figured that dumping all 50 boxes into a large sieve would eliminate clogging and the headache of shoveling said 50 boxes. It did indeed. However, it also gave birth to another problem: “How in the H-E-L-L-O do we get that sack out of the tank?” It wasn’t easy, but we did it. And we had a damned good laugh doing so. However, we blew the chance at a great YouTube video of us pulling the “body” out of the tank, throwing it in the trunk of a car and “burying” it. Hindsight is always 20-20. Since then, we’ve learned: Smaller bags.
Ah, the origins of the name? Well, we like to use a mix of jam band, prison, prison-themed and popular comedy movies, rap music, local ties and our own twisted sense of humor as inspiration. We’ll leave it up to you to figure out the combination to unlocking the meanings of Puff Puff Shiv. In the meantime, enjoy it while you can. Because, according to Ben, “This is the last time I’m making this (censored) beer.” For the record, it’s the third time he’s said that.