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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.

Trying to mead the demand

dave me cranberry clove

Two years ago, David Cerminara was ready to take a leap.

After several years of working professionally as a brewer at Penn Brewing in Troy Hill, Mr. Cerminara had begun thinking of a way to pursue his private passion: brewing mead, the prehistoric style of wine made from fermented honey. The Carnegie native found a space in his hometown and, in the summer of 2014, opened up Apis Mead and Winery with a half-dozen varieties of his modern spin on the ancient drink.

Back then, Mr. Cerminara thought he had found a unique niche; nearly a year and a half later, that’s still the case. As it was when he opened, much of Mr. Cerminara’s professional time is spent educating the customers who walk through his doors; for example, while he makes what he calls a traditional mead — the sweeter, thicker, boozier liquid some of us expect when we hear the word — he concentrates on making a more drinkable beverage: lighter and featuring different flavors than the honey that is the backbone of each version.

As he expected when he surveyed Pittsburgh a couple of years ago and saw a hole in the market, the meads of Apis are in demand, both in his tap room in Carnegie and in bars and restaurants around the region. That’s put some strain on his brewing system, which has doubled in size since he opened and, with the arrival of several new tanks, will increase his capacity again.

That will allow Mr. Cerminara’s experimentation to continue unabated. Yes, as he says, there are meads on his tap list that are just honey, yeast and water, but the fun comes in trying some of the meadery’s more unusual combinations. Habanero peppers and mango? Delicious. Bourbon-barrel aged pumpkin and spice? A perfect warmer for weeks leading up to winter. Cranberry and clove? Thanksgiving is coming, and a bottle of that mead should be on your table. If you’re looking for something that might fall along the lines of a traditional wine, definitely try a bottle of Mr. Cerminara’s mead made with Sangiovese grapes.

It’s understandable if all of this sounds a bit intimidating, but don’t be afraid to stop by Apis at 212 E. Main St. in Carnegie. You’ll likely find Mr. Cerminara there, and he’ll be happy to help you get acquainted.

Post-Gazette coverage of Apis Mead and Winery:

Category: Allegheny County | Tags: , ,

After 5 years, Arsenal finds a second cider house


In their first year in business, Bill and Michelle Larkin occasionally found themselves with a problem — they were out of cider.

Arsenal Cider House, the cider and fruit wine tap room the couple started in their Lawrenceville home in 2010, proved to be popular enough that the Larkins occasionally had to shut down to allow the ciders in basement tanks to finish fermentation.

Demand for Fighting Elleck and Archibald’s Ado hasn’t flagged a bit, but the basementĀ of the Larkins’ home — which sits across 39th Street from Arsenal Park — is filled with enough tanks to keep cider flowing at not one but two taprooms.

And that brings us to Soergel’s Orchards, the farm and country store in Wexford that has supplied Arsenal with base fruit juices since they got started. A discussion a few months ago turned into Arsenal’s second tap room, back in McIntosh Hall. The space is appropriately rustic for a Civil War-themed cider house, and there is plenty of room for outdoor tasting in a large, shaded patio in front of the hall.

The new location isn’t the only way Arsenal is marking the fifth anniversary. If you like outdoor drinking in the North Hills, chances are pretty good that you’ll like it even more at the newly completed cider garden, behind the original location. And if you show up on a weekend, chances are pretty good that you’ll also find one of Pittsburgh’s food trucks and maybe even a band back there.

Finally, I was happy to hear that the Larkins have plans to handle the demand that will likely come with the new spot. Mr. Larkin said they just bought a building in Penn Hills that will serve as a production facility when it gets running sometime in the next year. Arsenal’s staples will move to that spot, leaving Lawrenceville and Wexford available for small-batch experiments.

To summarize five years of Arsenal Cider: a garden, a second tap room and a way to ensure there’s plenty of cider to go around. And that sounds like a great anniversary to me.

Post-Gazette coverage of Arsenal Cider House:

Category: Allegheny County | Tags: , ,