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#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 brings bacon, burgers and comic book beer to Pig Iron

Craft beers paired with bacon and burgers? A new stout from Helltown, brewed for the city’s biggest comics store chain?

That’s more than enough to get me to brave afternoon rush-hour traffic and make the trip to Cranberry to Pig Iron Public House.

Let’s start with Beeredeemable, a bourbon barrel aged Russian imperial stout brewed by Helltown for New Dimension Comics owner Todd McDevitt. Todd’s commissioned these beers before — last year’s version was another imperial stout called Darkest Dawn — but this is the first time he’s released the beer in conjunction with Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, instead of waiting for his annual Three Rivers Comicon in May.

The beer is a beast — boozy and woody, with hints of bitter chocolate and a rich mouthfeel — and you still have several more chances to try it before Beer Week is done on Sunday. Beware, though — Todd said each location is getting just a sixtel, so it won’t last long.

Event No. 2 at Pig Iron had to do with a sloppy cheeseburger and one of my favorite Pittsburgh-brewed beers. The premise was to pair specific beers with either a specially prepared flight of bacon slices or with one of the substantial burgers on the Pig Iron menu. My choice was a smoky-and-sweet Foreman burger, paired with a smooth, malty Fat Gary from East End.

Did it work? Run the clip to find out.

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.

Working to restart the music at James Street

 

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Craft beer still flows at the 80-year-old mahogany bar. The kitchen still turns out meatloaf with sweet cream corn sauce. But can James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy still be James street without live music?

It’s hard to imagine, but that’s been the case since earlier this month, when Kevin Saftner, the pub’s general manager, was forced to shut down shows in the upstairs ballroom because of noise complaints. The pub, at 422 Foreland St. in the North Side, was warned, but a citation — it would be the second in less than a year — could mean a fine, a nuisance-bar designation or even closure, Mr. Saftner said.

Here’s the problem. The building, which is approaching 140 years old, has no air conditioning, so the only way to cool the upstairs ballroom is to turn on fans and open up the windows … and that has led to complaints about the noise, Mr. Saftner said. The solution? Electrical work, air conditioning, sound proofing, all with a price tag that has yet to be determined and a fairly tight schedule before the losses associated with keeping the ballroom closed become too great.

There are bright spots, however. A #SaveJamesStreet hashtag appeared not long after Mr. Saftner had to shut down shows in the middle of the Deutschtown Music Festival, one of the pub’s busiest days of the year. An Indiegogo campaign intended to raise $5,000 in the next month — enough to cover the costs of the initial electrical work — hit its mark in just over two days and is still rolling. And there are several promising fundraiser events coming up on the calendar.

Shows continue in the smaller basement speakeasy and, of course, the restaurant and main bar are still in business. But even with those, Mr. Saftner said renovations to the ballroom must be completed by the beginning of September to keep losses to a manageable level.

And in the meantime, he’s eyeing a more optimistic date: an Aug. 19 show, in the ballroom, with The Jauntee. If all goes well, he said. that’s when James Street will be complete again.

Post-Gazette coverage of James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy:

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B-ing (even more) local at Bocktown

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dilla bar

Since she opened the first Bocktown Beer and Grill in late 2006, Chris Dilla has emphasized local. Locally sources meats, veggies and breads were found up and down the food menu. And when it was possible, locally brewed beer showed up on the tap list and in the coolers that made up the Beer Library.

The trouble was that back then, there were just a handful of Pittsburgh-area breweries … and not many more on the other side of the state.

But now, as Ms. Dilla prepares to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her Beer and Grills, she’s having a much easier time filling those tap lists with beers brewed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania or neighboring states. When I visited this week, the 16 taps at B1, the original location in Robinson, all were pouring Pennsylvania-made beers; at B2, in the Beaver Valley Mall in Monaca, just three taps were occupied by handles from out of state.

And that suits Ms. Dilla just fine. She’s happy to serve beer made by people she knows in breweries that are a short drive away. She likes that the money she’s spending on beer is often staying in the region.

And, best of all, she says that stocking local beer hasn’t meant sacrificing in the name of variety … or quality.

“There’s a great range of styles being produced here, and that makes it easy for us to keep a good variety on tap … and they’re great beers as well,” she said. “The idea of local has always been a big thing for us, so I love that we’re able to do it with the beer we serve.”