Post-Gazette Blogs

Finding balance with locally brewed little beers

First of all — pony bottles are adorable, but that’s not what I mean by little beers.

What I am talking about are what have come to be recognized as traditional English beer styles — bitters, milds and, in the case of Hart Johnson’s recommendation for this show, an OG porter that won’t remind you of the beefy American versions of the same style.

The idea for this show struck me while I had dinner at Piper’s Pub a few weeks back and ordered an English mild from Four Seasons in Latrobe … and in spite of the demure nature of the style, I was blown away. The beer is perfectly balanced, with rich, caramel malts restrained by a touch of hop bitterness. I wanted another, and at 4.4 percent ABV, that’s totally fine.

It’s not a stretch to find beers like this at Piper’s; but the thing to get excited about is that our local brewers are starting to make them as well. When I returned to do the show a few days later, Hart had added Blanks and Postage, a bitter by Brew Gentlemen, to the lineup; we also tasted Brawler, a mild that been a staple for Yards Brewing in Philly for years, and — at Hart’s insistence — a deliciously restrained London Porter from Fuller’s in, uh, London.

To me, the trend towards smaller, more restrained styles, nationally and locally, is a good thing; I’m as guilty as anyone of chasing bigger beers and hot styles, but it’s also great to see that brewers here are also interested in digging in to the nuance of smaller beers as well.

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Filling your last-minute gift list … with beer

Sure, Christmas is just a few days away. But if you’re shopping for beer people, you still have plenty of time.

Here — I’ll prove it:

I took a quick trip around town to talk to some of my favorite beer folks to get some suggestions for locally brewed beer that would make great last-minute — or last-second — gifts. The only stipulation: the subjects couldn’t pick a beer they made.

There are pales and IPAs. There are some holiday-season favorites. And there are styles from all over the globe, all brewed right here at home.

Whether you’re shopping for a friend or you’re looking for something special for your holiday weekend, we’re fortunate to have all of these options — and many, many more. Enjoy your holiday weekend, boys and girls … and enjoy it with some Pittsburgh-brewed craft beer.

Bigger means better for Erie’s Lavery Brewing

A quick glance at the Lavery Brewing brew house in downtown Erie doesn’t reveal any obvious problems.

You’ll have an easier time figuring out the issue if you take this approach: When was the last time you saw Lavery beers on the shelves or in your favorite bars here in Pittsburgh?

Chances are it’s been quite a while.

Lavery will start 2018 with a hefty expansion to its brewing capacity and if all goes well, it will have fixed a biggest challenge: it can’t make enough beer.

Jason Lavery, who founded the brewery about eight years ago with his wife Nikki, said the brewery initially had a hard time finding customers in its home market, so it immediately began shipping beer to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and a couple of out-of-state destinations. That worked well, until the locals caught on and demand for Lavery in Erie — especially in its brewpub, which opened a few years ago — began to spike.

Now, Lavery said, the brewery sells nearly every drop in makes in Erie County, which means there’s no Dulachan IPA, Ulster Breakfast Stout or Liopard Oir Farmhouse Ale for the rest of us.

Advice: Either take a road trip to Erie, where Lavery’s beer is readily available — and if you make a stop at the brewery’s pub, you’re going to find some stuff you won’t see anywhere else — or hold on for just a few more months. Lavery said he thinks his beer will start showing up in Pittsburgh again by the start of summer.

New brewery, old world styles at Cobblehaus

If you’re spending a lot of time in Dusseldorf, it’s probably a good idea to get to know the local beers.

We don’t necessarily have to travel to Dusseldorf to get to know the styles native to that German city; we can just go to Cobblehaus Brewing in Coraopolis instead.

Owner and brewer Scott Mills got to known the beers of Dusseldorf thanks to a good number of work-related trips there years ago. And that’s one of the reasons why Cobblehaus emphasizes European beer styles — that’s what he likes.

When you stop at Cobblehaus, start with a glass of the altbier, called Olde Towne. It’s a style native to Dusseldorf, it’s the recipe that Mills has been tinkering with the longest … and thanks to the clean, well-balanced flavors, it’s also been the brewery’s best seller. And if you go soon, you’ll be able to get another Dusseldorf treat: the seasonal sticke Altstadt, typically released in the late fall, with boosted flavors and ABV; it is a rich, warming treat, especially good for a chilly November day.

The other spot on the map Mills likes is Belgium. Give the Tin Man saison a try — it has a little more heft than many saisons, but you’ll also notice a little citrus melding with the style’s earthy base. And check back later this year; a Belgian quad will be released in time for the holidays.

And finally, you don’t have to stay in Europe — there are excellent beers on tap that will be more familiar. Five O’Clock porter has huge coffee flavors while maintaining a lighter body; Moon Hop IPA uses crystal malts for a unique twist on the style.

Ready to go halfway around the world and back? All you need to do is get to Coraopolis, and Cobblehaus Brewing.

Pittsburgh is more than craft beer

Yinz cannot live by craft beer alone.

Which is a pretty good reason to organize a Pittsburgh Libations Week.

You’ll have to wait for another year for an actual week with actual events, but chances are pretty good that you’ve already heard something about Pittsburgh Libations Week, as Jason Cercone works to get it going.

Mr. Cercone has been involved with the region’s craft beer scene since he founded his Breaking Brews news and marketing service several years back. As he became more involved with the scene, he began noticing connections between the area’s breweries and those involved in other facets of the adult beverage industry. Moreover, he started noticing the quality of what was available: ciders, meads, wine, distilleries and a thriving cocktail culture.

Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week was already several years into its successful run at that point; while Mr. Cercone was an enthusiastic supporter — he’s emceed several PCBW events and hosted others over the years — he thought the rest of the industry deserved some time in the spotlight as well.

If goes as planned, the first Pittsburgh Libations Week will be held a year from now. But Mr. Cercone is starting to fill his calendar with promotional events — some to raise money for his event, some to raise money for charity and all to raise awareness about PLW and the industry behind it — like the Uno tournament coming up at the Wigle Barrelhouse on the North Side Oct. 29.

And as a perfect distillation of Mr. Cercone’s vision, the Uno event will feature cocktails made with local beers and Wigle spirits … because, as he hopes to show, we’re all one big happy family.