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Category Archives: Allegheny County

#PCBW breakfast and some big beers at Piper’s

Want to find me on the Wednesday of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week? Don’t bother looking in the office.

It’s not difficult to track me down, though. If you’re looking first thing in the morning, you’ll definitely find me at Piper’s Pub, for the South Side bar’s annual Beer Week breakfast. It started as a Kentucky-themed event, with three-year flights of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout and an amazing Kentucky hot brown boxty. It then morphed into a breakfast cereal and beer pairing (Hint: Pour some chocolate stout over a bowl of peanut butter Cap’n Crunch. No, really.)

But since then, the day has featured a dual purpose: to highlight the beer acquisition skills of Hart Johnson, the cellarman at Piper’s, and the talents of Mindy Heisler, the executive chef there and at the Pub Chip Shop next door. Each year, Hart lines up some tough-to-find kegs and casks, generally of the beefy beer variety; for example, I had pours of three huge stouts with my breakfast this week, along with a glass of the ultimate breakfast beer, Roundabout’s Mimosa Gose.

And then there is the food, which is excessive in all of the best ways. My breakfast: Piper’s crispy chicken tenders served over a house-made Belgian waffle, with Mindy’s jalapeno maple bacon syrup drizzled over the plate. That’s one of the lightweight dishes, too; I chose it over the Drunken Irishman, a Belgian waffle covered with warm bourbon-roasted banana slices and Nutella.

And then there was the sandwich: a chicken-fried sausage patty and a dippy egg, served in a Just Good Donuts glazed doughnut bun. I am pleased to be able to tell my doctor that I didn’t even consider that one.

#PCBW collab Beard of Bees creates a buzz

Beard of Bees, a collaboration between Spoonwood and Apis, debuted on Saturday at Spoonwood … and the buzz was noticeable.

This imperial honey porter spent a few months stewing in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. By the time we got our first tastes on Saturday, the beer had become a beast with sweet finish: boozy and woody, with huge roasted notes smoothed out by the honey.

Hitching a ride to Sharpsburg

One thing is for certain — Andy Kwiatkowski won’t be bumping his head on the ceiling at work any longer.

For almost three years, knots on his head have been a occupational hazard for Mr. Kwiatkowski, the head brewer at Mt. Lebanon’s Hitchhiker Brewing Co.; that’s understandable when your brewhouse is stuffed into a basement with a low clearance.

But when Mr. Kwiatkowski and Gary Olden, Hitchhiker’s owner, move into new digs in Sharpsburg later this spring, ceiling clearance won’t be an issue; the new brewhouse will be assembled in what had been the power plant of the old Fort Pitt Brewery complex between South Canal Street and Marys Avenue, and as you can see in the photo of Mr. Olden and Mr. Kwiatkowski, there is plenty of room.

That additional space will be helpful in another way: increased capacity. The Mt. Lebanon location is home to a three-barrel brewing system; in the Sharpsburg space, that gets bumped up to 15 barrels, which will allow Mr. Kwiatkowski to brew enough beer to serve two taprooms and still have plenty left over to sell to other accounts. And once the brewing actually begins, some of the new space will be filled with barrels … and they’ll be filled with sours or other barrel-aged projects that are Mr. Kwiatkowski’s real passion.

And that’s just the behind-the-scenes part of the expansive property. One the taproom is ready you’ll be welcomed by a 35-foot bar and an array of tables. It should be summertime when the space is ready, so Hitchhiker should be able to make good use of the large outdoor space behind the building. And as it does in Mt. Lebanon, there will be a limited food menu, supplemented by occasional food trucks.

The new brewery is a bonus for Sharpsburg, which welcomed Dancing Gnome just last year. Mr. Olden said the borough was welcoming and easy to work with — a nice contrast to previous expansion efforts that ended in frustration with Pittsburgh’s city government.

Sharpsburg knows brewing, of course. And while Hitchhiker won’t be as large as Fort Pitt was in its glory days — it was the largest brewery in the state at its peak in the 1940s — but both Mr. Olden and Mr. Kwiatkowski relish their connection to the borough’s brewing history. “When we set out to look for a space, I didn’t think there were a lot of spaces that still stood from back when brewing was here,” Mr. Kwiatkowski said. “It’s amazing.”

Post-Gazette coverage of Hitchhiker Brewing Company:

Category: Allegheny County | Tags: ,

Hazy days — and IPAs — at Dancing Gnome

 

Andrew Witchey went to school in Boston for a couple of years. And he learned the basics of brewing from the American Brewers Guild in Vermont.

But neither of those things really explain how Mr. Witchey, the owner and head brewer at Dancing Gnome in Sharpsburg, developed such a talent for brewing the hazy, juicy pale ales we’ve come to know as New England pales.

Mr. Witchey’s love of hops — “We unapologetically brew hop-pronounced styles” is right there on the DG home page — is evident from the moment you first look at the tap list. But understand that you’re not just looking at six or seven Trillium or Alchemist clones; the DG pales all seems to offer a twist after the initial tropical juice-bomb goes off.

An example: the Mister G Australian Pale Ale looks like it fits the New England pale profile: cloudy gold with a soft, white head. It tastes it too, until you notice a crisp shot of bitterness at the finish, thanks to an Australian hop variety called Vic Secret. That’s the kind of thing that makes Mr. Witchey’s beers interesting … and it’s the kind of thing that means his taproom is packed when it’s open.

There is one important thing to keep in mind as we ride the pale ale hype: do not skip whatever darker beer Dancing Gnome has on. I had a glass of Caligo oatmeal stout when I visited last week and it was stunning: a beautiful balance of dark-roasted coffee and sweet chocolate flavors and a perfect, silky mouthfeel. It’s fine to head to Sharpsburg for a taste of something tropical; just don’t miss a glass of Caligo for dessert.

Bonus Beer Me: Saying goodbye to Bocktown

Bocktown Beer and Grill wasn’t the first craft beer bar in Pittsburgh. It was never the biggest, nor did it have the most taps.

But there aren’t many other places in town that have done as much for local craft brewers, especially the guys who are just starting out. There would’t be many places that have done more to make craft beer accessible for those giving them a try for the first time.

And I don’t think there is anyone who has done as much to help me get to know craft beer and the people who have built our incredible community here.

Difficulties with her lease led Chris Dilla to announce the closure of the original Bocktown. But my hope is that it won’t be long before she’s back in the business in one way or another.

It looks like you have through the end of the month to grab one last beer at Bocktown and give Chris your best wishes. Make sure you don’t miss that chance.