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Category Archives: Region

Talking beer and bourbon with Lew Bryson

Lew Bryson knows Pittsburgh liquids.

He may be a native of the Philly area, but Bryson, who splits his professional time writing about whiskey and beer, has spent a significant amount of time here, attending school at Carnegie Mellon and haunting some of our great old beer bars, like Chiodo’s Tavern in Homestead.

And even though his roots remain in the eastern side of the state, Bryson is here a lot, often enough that he knows what our breweries have to offer and how they stack up against the rest of the country. And he pretty much wrote the book on tasting whiskey (no, really — he wrote the book on tasting whiskey), so he knows what our craft distillers are up to as well.

Bryson was in town recently to share pours of a treat from Marker’s Mark: a Private Select blend he worked on with a few other spirits writers who, collectively, were known as the curmudgeons (seriously — it says so right on the bottle). And while we discussed the process of picking out differently prepared barrel staves that were used to give their bourbon some heft, we also took a little time to discuss the scene in Pittsburgh and how we’re buying and consuming our beer these days.

As promised in the show: find Bryson on Twitter. He’s got a few more bottles of that special Maker’s to share, so pay attention, and you might get a taste for yourself.

Category: Pittsburgh, Region | Tags: , ,

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.

Category: Region | Tags: , ,

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.

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.

A sweet start for Greensburg Craft Beer Week

The first-ever Greensburg Craft Beer Week got off to a good start on Monday … especially for those of us with a sweet tooth.

I started in downtown Greensburg, where Hugo’s Taproom — a cozy neighborhood pub with good-looking food and a great-looking tap list — hosted a beer and chocolate pairing. The beer was provided by Quinn Brewing, which brought along four rich, malt forward selections to compliment the chocolates. And the chocolates gave us a preview of McFeely’s Gourmet Chocolate, a shop that’s set to open a Greensburg location soon.

The pairings all worked well; my favorite was definitely Braddock’s Golden Ale — a soft, approachable beer that Alan Quinn said was the brewery’s “regular beer” — and a dark chocolate-jalapeno bark.

From there, I stopped at Tapped Brick Oven and Pour House, to get a little dinner and to get a taste of Foster Pumpkin Project, a pumpkin beer made by the folks at Tapped and Delmont’s Yellow Bridge Brewing. I also followed up my delicious thin-crust pizza with a #gbgcbw dessert pairing: beers from Fat Head’s and desserts from Sweet Tarte’s Bakerie; my choice was the Goggle Fogger hefeweizen and a slice of bananas Foster cheesecake.

And then I waddled out to my car and drove home.

The dessert pairing and the pumpkin collab will be available at Tapped all week, and there are plenty more events to entice a drive to Greensburg. Take a look at the schedule, and then head east this week … it’s worth the trip.