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Southern Tier, brewed here

Brewmaster David Harries works in his new brewhouse at Southern Tier’s brewhouse on the North Shore.

We know the products of Southern Tier Brewing Company pretty well. After all, with the exception of Buffalo, Pittsburgh is Southern Tier’s best market.

But if you think you know Southern Tier inside and out — and you haven’t been to the brewery’s satellite brewpub on the North Shore — you don’t know as much as you think. Among those 30 taps are three that are exclusive to our Southern Tier … and there are more on the way.

For me, the prospect of Pittsburgh-exclusive has been the draw since Southern Tier announced its plans for the North Shore spot a year ago. For a long time, I’ve been envious of the folks in Portland, Ore., and the access they have to Fat Head’s beer at the satellite pub there that we don’t see here, and I was hoping for the same kind of fun at our Southern Tier.

And with the first three locally produced beers flowing, I think the outlook for that is promising. Brewmaster David Harries — who spent time in the Lakewood brewery as well as working as a distiller at Wigle Whiskey — began with a few that could become staples: a clean golden ale, a silky oatmeal porter and an unfiltered IPA that A) definitely looks like it’s been filtered, a product of Southern Tier’s house yeast strain, and B) is a piney, resin-soaked West Coast old school IPA — a great counterpart to Southern Tier’s citrusy Nu Skool IPA.

Mr. Harries said that in addition to setting up a consistent lineup here — his goal is to have four locals on at all times — he’ll work with the brewers at the mothership in Western New York to experiment with styles or variations that might get big-brewery treatment later on. That kind of freedom is the byproduct of working on a smaller system — 8.5 barrels versus 110 — and we should be beneficiaries.

What else should you expect from the brewpub? A warm appearance, excellent pub food, a selection of STBC swag — including black and gold branded items — and plenty of cold beer to go, in growlers, bombers and six packs.

And as anyone who has visited the pub since it opened in late January, you should also expect a crowd — it’s popular, and for good reason.

 

Post-Gazette coverage of Southern Tier’s North Shore pub:

Giving thanks

Brian Eaton at Grist House: Thankful for session beers.

Brian Eaton at Grist House: Thankful for session beers.

If you’re here, it’s probably safe for me to assume that you’re thankful for craft beer.

It’s also safe to assume that the folks who work in the business — from distributors to brewers to bar managers — are pretty thankful for craft beer as well.

I asked a handful of our friends in the business to explain what they’re thankful for this Thanksgiving week … and I got anything but a bunch of canned, boring responses. And I added my own two cents at the end; spoiler alert: I’m mostly thankful for you guys, because you’re why we continue to do the show.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend, everyone.

Telling the story of beer

Joe McAllister and Matt Sherwin, two of the people behind the effort to bring Brew: The Museum of Beer to Pittsburgh.

Joe McAllister and Matt Sherwin, two of the people behind the effort to bring Brew: The Museum of Beer to Pittsburgh.

If you want a complete history of beer, you’ll need to go back 10,000 years.

If you want a complete history of beer in the United States, Pittsburgh is as good a place as anywhere to start — after all, Fort Pitt was the home of the first brewery west of the Alleghenies, serving up beer to the troops stationed here.

That’s part of the thinking behind Brew: The Museum of Beer, a national beer museum that a group hopes to bring to Pittsburgh in the next two years.The team, known as The National Beer Museum Development Group, has been busy in recent weeks, unveiling its plans in the Post-Gazette in August and holding a kickoff party and fundraiser last month.

Joe McAllister and Matt Sherwin — along with third partner Denis Meinert — envision a 50,000-square-foot space close to Downtown. About 20,000 square feet of that would be reserved for exhibit space, but that won’t be the only attraction; the museum will also be home to a brewery and a 300-seat restaurant, serving beer made there but also emphasizing taps from other breweries in the region. There would also be an event space on the property, and a healthy retail operation.

Add it up, and you have what the team members hope will be on par with Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which attracts more than 400,000 visitors annually. Could what works in Cleveland work here as well?

“That’s just one of the models we’ve been examining, but it’s a good comparison,” Mr. McAllister. “And Pittsburgh certainly has a legitimate history with brewing, one that goes back 250 years.”

Want to get involved with the museum well before the anticipated 2018 opening? The team is running an Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000 to be used to complete studies and help with other, more substantial fundraising efforts. And if you’re wondering whether this museum has a shot: the crowdsourcing campaign has already raised nearly $20,000.

Bringing new beer to the Steel City

pound lohman

Shane Lohman understood Pittsburgh Craft Beer Envy — the knowledge that there are dozens of labels we can’t get readily available just over the state line in Ohio — better than most.

As a craft beer lover, Mr. Lohman knew firsthand the beers and breweries he couldn’t get here. And as the owner of a retail distributor — Lohman’s Beer in Wexford — he suspected that some of those breweries would do very well once they got started.

So Mr. Lohman did something about it. He sold his retail business to his father — Pennsylvania’s wholesale licensees cannot also hold retail distribution licenses — tracked down an importation license — one that would allow him to bring new labels into the state — found a warehouse in Lawrenceville and opened Steel City Beer Wholesalers.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Lohman to score his biggest coup to date, either — and he didn’t even have to leave the state. An evening email to the owners of Pizza Boy Brewing in suburban Harrisburg was followed by a trip to the brewery the next day — led to an agreement to distribute Pizza Boy’s excellent beers in Pittsburgh for the first time. Steel City’s flagship brand had been secured.

He had others set in his sights as well. California’s Knee Deep Brewing. Gypsy brewers Stillwater Artisanal and Evil Twin. Against the Grain from Louisville, Ky. Chicago’s Off Color Brewing.

What’s next? Mr. Lohman said he’d love to serve as the wholesale distributor for any local breweries that are looking for that kind of help. And he’s assembled a list of out-of-state targets, starting with some of the breweries in neighboring Ohio or those to Pennsylvania’s northeast.

“It’s just convincing those guys that Pittsburgh is a great craft beer market, and a growing craft beer market,” he says. “If they can see what we see here every day, Pittsburgh sells itself.”

IPA needs more than one day

Believe it or not, it’s coincidence that the Beer Me episode that focuses specifically on India Pale Ales is being released on National IPA Day.

And what makes the timing even more interesting is the point of this week’s show — these days, it’s nearly impossible to think of IPA as a single style.

Is it a crisply bitter, citrus-and-pine West Coast IPA? Is it built to accentuate the citrus characteristics of the hops, maybe with grapefruit added to the mix? Is it designed to be hazy, juicy and resinous, without a hint of bitterness? Is it black, white, red or orange? The answer to all of these questions: Yep, that’s an IPA.

I visited Piper’s Pub on East Carson Street to talk with cellarman Hart Johnson about the style and its history, and to get a taste of some local examples. The history of the style is as hazy as a glass of Heady Topper, but one thing is certain: brewers in the U.S. took a more balanced, mildly bitter British version and ran with it, boosting flavors, experimenting with hop and generally forgetting all the rules along the way.

The best part, of course, is the tasting, and we’re lucky to have the full range of IPA versions available to us here in Pittsburgh. You’ll see us sample beers from Pizza Boy Brewing, Roundabout Brewery and Brew Gentlemen Beer Co. in the show; you’ll also note that we really enjoyed the three widely divergent variations of the style.

National IPA Day? C’mon. To do it right, we’re going to need a National IPA Week instead.

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