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Category Archives: Region

Answering the call for wild fire victims

California is thousands of miles away, but to a group of Pittsburgh-area brewers, it might as well be next door.

The group that met at East End in Larimer earlier this week all were ready to help the victims of the Camp Fire, the wild fire that swept through a chunk of Northern California this fall.

The brewers were answering the call of Sierra Nevada Brewing, which has called Chico, Calif., home since it opened in 1979; the brewery was untouched by the fire, but nearby communities, where many Sierra Nevada employees live, were destroyed.

And that’s where Sierra comes in. It asked breweries across the country to make a beer called Resilience IPA, following a recipe Sierra provided, and send all of the proceeds back to fire victims.

Well over 1,000 breweries across the country have answered the call from what some of our local guys called the “Mothership,” which speaks to the respect Sierra has garnered in the community over the years.

In many places, the beer is being made by individual breweries; in Pittsburgh, though, it was a collaborative effort, and we’ll be able to enjoy a pint or two sometime around Dec. 28, when it will be tapped at each of the breweries that helped brew the two 15-barrel batches this week.

Look for Resilience IPA in a couple weeks, and make sure you get a taste. You’ll enjoy a Sierra Nevada beer brewed by our local folks, and you’ll be helping out people who  need it.

A fresh approach for the country’s first black beer festival

 

Mike Potter and Day Bracey. (Jessie Wardarski/Post-Gazette)

Rhythm Brewing. Black Frog. Sankofa Brewing. Patuxent Brewing.

Simmer down — those aren’t new Pittsburgh breweries you’ve missed. They’ll all be in town on Saturday, though, among the dozen or so black-owned or -operated breweries from around the country that will be highlighted at Fresh Fest Beer Fest, billed as the first black beer festival ever. The locals will be there too, featuring around 25 collaborations made with black brewers, artists and others — all exclusive to the festival.

And let’s get one thing clear — the beer isn’t the best part.

As one of the hosts of the Drinking Partners podcast, Day Bracey has become well known in Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene. And through the past few years, he’s become painfully aware that when he heads to an event or a festival, he is one of a very few — if not the lone — person of color in the room. And Bracey says the problems are obvious: barriers having to do with comfort, access and education.

It’s hard, he says, to know you stand out in any group setting, and that’s what black beer fans face when they show up at a tap room or a fest — a sea of white faces. That’s what Bracey had in mind when he started talking about Fresh Fest with podcast partner Ed Bailey and Mike Potter, founder of the forthcoming Black Brew Culture magazine — a festival to give black craft beer fans a chance meet black brewers, black collaborators and other beer drinkers.

“We can relax a little bit in a space where you’re people who look like you and understand you,” he said this week. “And that’s how you open doors to the industry and the opportunities that are there for everyone.”

And if you have any doubts about enthusiasm for the concept, check this out: since late spring, the number of participating breweries and collaboration beers has more than doubled, forcing the fest to move from its original location — Wigle’s Theadbare Cider House in Spring Garden — to the massive plaza at Nova Place in the North Side.

As of Wednesday, there are still tickets available to this game-changer. And by all means, go for the beer … because it’s going to be spectacular. But once you’re there keep in mind the big thing that Bracey told me — it’s going to be good for everyone to just have a beer together.

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.