World Beer Cup honors local brew

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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I had to scan the list of winners in this year's World Beer Cup competition, which was held this past week in Denver.

I was a bit surprised to see just one Western Pennsylvania brewery on the list: Export, Westmoreland County's, Rivertowne Brewing Co., which won a silver medal for its Maxwell's Scottish Ale (as in brewer Andrew Maxwell).

Just over the Ohio border, Fat Head's Brewery won a silver in the hotly contested American-Style India Pale Ale category with its Head Hunter and a silver for Imperial Red Ale with its Bonehead.

Here's the full list of winners.

Rivertowne photo

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A great day for Beers of the Burgh

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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Yellow-T-shirted volunteers -- including Emily O'Brien, left, and Amber Ohiokpehai -- helped attendees find their way. 

Organizers couldn't have picked a nicer day for the inaugural Beers of the Burgh festival.

In addition that yesterday was 4/12, as in Pittsburgh's area code, the weather was spectacular for event, which was ready for much worse in that it set up mostly inside a massive old warehouse just off 40th Street in Lawrenceville.

04132014halVIP attendees (such as the City Paper's and The Forks' hopped-up Hal B. Klein at left, amongst the Garfield Hop Project's plants), who could enter at 4:30 p.m., a half hour before everyone else, easily could have missed some of the 30-plus all-local breweries and other vendors set up inside. The space felt almost too big. 04132014crowd

But once the full crowd of 1,200 plus squeezed in after 5 p.m., it still was comfortable inside the relatively cool, relatively dark space, even as lines for samples in front of some brewers stretched to 30, 40 and 50 people long. 

People seemed chilled out, as live music played, and the food trucks lined up outside served food, and the brewers and their helpers kept filling the souvenir tasting glasses.

I was happy to get to try a couple of the seven brews brought by Broken Paddle Brewing Co., one of at least eight outfits that doesn't yet have its licenses or a location. Turns out I know the wife of one of the three partners behind it, Mike Barnes, who lives in Mt. Lebanon. He poured my sample of Ryle Ale from a tap handle that was an actual broken paddle and promised to sometime tell me the full story. "It was a bad day in Canada." 

Before their booth got too busy, he did tell me how he and Chad Garland of Zelienople and Greg Holt of McCandless have their financing lined up and are just looking around the area for a suitable building for their little production brewery and tap room, which is more difficult to find than they expected. 

04132014joneslistGetting to pour tastes for and get feedback from so many people, meanwhile, is priceless for them and other up-and-coming breweries that poured at the fest, such as Beaver County's Jones Craft Brewing. It was giving out snacks including pretzel rods and beef jerky, and selling T-shirts that were discounted to $5 due to "some small printing mistakes and misalignments. Looks perfect after a few beers."

Some booths weren't even pouring beer, but hard cider and, at the Kaliber Brewing booth, hard tea, in green tea, raspberry and ginger flavors, made in Connoquenessing.

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Nicole Spellman and Dan Johnson, who came from the North Hills, tried the Kaliber Raspberry Tea -- and liked it. 

Beerwise, the flavors covered a huge range, from the "sour" poured by Rock Bottom Brewery to the jalapeno of soon-to-open Eleventh Hour Brewing's Burning Phoenix Pale Ale. 04132012pop

For designated drivers and others, there were soft drinks, including jewel-colored bottles of Natrona Bottling Co. sodas, and other treats such as the cupcakes and other boozy confections of Eliza's Oven.  04132014cupcakes

The nonprofit that benefitted from a portion of the proceeds, NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania, had to be pleased, and was, reports Mark Turic, the Morningside guy who led a team over the course of about two years to pull this festival together

"The feedback was all very positive and we can't wait to do it again next year," he emailed me this morning. "Maybe we can get 50 local breweries?!?!"

In all, it was a super-nice day and a super event, as the guys below can vouch.

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Having a super time were, from left, Johnstown's Corey Roberts, Johnstown's James Barbarich, Jefferson Hills' Dylan Holdsworth, York's Alex Gibson and Chambersburg's Corey Rife.

Bob Batz Jr./Post-Gazette photos

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Firing up the "Furnace Bash" beer fest

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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A furnace bash could be what you want to do when you get your February heating bill.

But let's hope we can mostly forget all that by early May, when a new beer festival for good causes fires up at the Carrie Furnace, the former steel-mill-blast-furnace site in Rankin.

The fest is called Furnace Bash and "Vol. 1" -- from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on May 3 -- is being presented by PA Brew Tours, which says 100 percent of proceeds are going to local charities, including the Mario Lemieux Foundation and Side Project Inc.

Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale will be bringing wide range of beers, and there'll be wine and other options included, too; the food will roll in via a "food truck rally" that is to feature PGH Crepes, Oh My Grill and Tootie's Famous Italian Beef, which will serve attendees small plates.

In addition to listening to the tunes of Good Brother Earl, you can play games of chance and  peruse the art booths and, with a VIP ticket, explore the historic landmark itself, thanks to the national historic landmark's caretaker, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area02282012Carrie-Furnace-site

"Be warned," the website notes, "this event is OUTDOORS, so dress accordingly. No open toed shoes or high heels are allowed on site!" And the site is not wheelchair-accessible.

PA Brew Tours will shuttle people to and from the fest from Bakery Square in East Liberty.
 
Tickets are $66 VIP, $41 and $10 for designated drivers on the day they go on sale March 14 via ShowClix. Prices will go up after that -- $5 to 10 per ticket, says PA Brew Tours' Jake Voelker. But he says he's hoping for a one-day sellout, of no more than 500 or 750 tickets.

"We want to creat a new niche beer fest that is something that people want to do every year," he says.

He says he's loved the Carrie Furnace site since he first saw it, and has been pleased to work out the details for this event with Rivers of Steel and his friends at Side Project. Bringing in the Lemeiux Foundation just makes it that much better.

"Charity and good beer and bringing people together and celebrating our history and culture -- it's something I really love."

We'll look forward to writing more about it closer to the event.

Post-Gazette photo (from 2003)

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Free breakfast beer and bacon

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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We love this vintage photo of two railroad crew members in a caboose -- remember cabooses? -- sipping cups of joe. The one on the left is the brakeman, the guy responsible for helping to stop the train as well as other difficult duties, such as rousting hobos. I wouldn't mess with him.

The photo graces the Facebook page of a beer event we also love: The tapping of the Brakeman's Breakfast Stout at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in Homestead.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, brewer Brandon McCarthy and company celebrate this year's release of the brew, which he describes as "a lightly smoked imperial stout brewed with oats, coffee and Pennsylvania maple syrup."

Everyone who is there for his toast gets a 10-ounce glass on the house.

"We'll also be serving free bacon because it complements the beer so dang well, and free ice cream because it's a great beer to make a float with."

Mr. McCarthy explains that the photo is by Frank Delano, who documented slices of America while working for the Farm Security Administration in the 1940s. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. 

02192014baconA caption we found for the photo identifies the brakeman as Jack W. Torbet, and the other guy is conductor James M. Johnson, and they're riding the rails of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad between Waynoka, Okla., and Canadian, Texas.

But the meal they're sharing is lunch. 

If you like bacon with your beer, you might also want to check out this dinnertime event at The Supper Club in Greensburg next Thursday, Feb. 27, which I learned about from our Food Columnist, Rebecca Sodergren.

The Supper Club is located at the gorgeous old Greensburg Train Station, where Amtrak's Pennsylvanian passenger train still stops on its run between New York City and Pittsburgh.  























Frank Delano photo (top)

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Click here if you love women and beer

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

02042014GirlsPintOut
The local chapter of Girls Pint Out, a craft-beer group for women, is gathering for its "debut event" from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Carson Street Deli on the South Side.

They'll drink from the place's draft lineup as well as share a few bottles of special stuff from Jester King, Boulevard, Firestone Walker and Lost Abbey "to name a few," says Colleen Leary.

Ms. Leary, who last year was spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, is working with Vecenie Distributing's Amanda Bowen to organize the group, which Ms. Leary says aims to hold monthly events. "While educational events are planned with women in mind, our social events are co-ed to encourage craft beer drinkers both male and female."

You can visit the new chapter's Facebook page.

Too bad Meg Seastedt's new collaborative chocolate rye stout won't be ready yet.

The Rivertowne brewer today, on Valentine's Day, is brewing this special beer with two female homebrewers: Dana Staudt and Jessica Smith. They cooked this up in part to celebrate Women's History Month.

Rivertowne, in Murraysville, is to tap the beer at a party starting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4. But it looks to show up at other places and at watering holes around town.

They're calling it Ninkasi's Nectar, in honor of the Sumerian goddess of beer.

A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this brew will benefit a local women's shelter, Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center.

And Girls Pint Out Pittsburgh will be at that event, too, auctioning off beer items (donated by many local breweries and companies) to fund scholarships for the women's brewing group, Pink Boots Society.

Read more about the event on its Facebook page.

That's the trio below -- from left, Ms. Smith, Ms. Seastedt and Ms. Staudt -- during a "pilot" brew of the stuff back in January that was chronicled by the When Yeast Attack! blog.

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When Yeast Attack! photo

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What level Beerfester are you?

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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The Pittsburgh Beerfest is doing a big winter version inside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, on Feb. 28 and March 1. The organizers, who do Beerfests in other cities and did one this past summer at Stage AE, say they'll be pouring more than 300 craft beers, so I'm sure a good time will be had by all.

I just get a little wistful when I see the stratification of the admission levels.

I remember going to beer festivals when we all peed in the same troughs. (The women attendees wanted to, because the line to their lone porta-potty was so long.)

Now, most beer festivals offer at least a VIP ticket, giving those willing to spend a little more access to special beers, roped-off areas and other privileges.

For example, the Beers of the Burgh festival on April 4 has a "standard" admission ($45), an early-bird one ($35), plus a VIP one ($79) that gets you in a half hour earlier and "access to VIP area with catered grub from a local restaurant." (Non-drinking designated drivers pay $15.)

Beerfest takes it up a notch by offering two plus packages on top of the suddenly mundane-sounding "regular admission," as well as not one but two levels for designated drivers. Below is how it's laid out on the Beerfest site, in italics, and in descending order of drinking-vessel size:

Connoisseur Level Admission:

$75 Advance/$100 Day Of

Includes:

VIP Early Admission benefits

Special Souvenir Glass

Access into the Connoisseur Reception Area (appetizer bites from 10 local restaurants each paired with a rare/super premium beer, private restrooms)

Special Connoisseurs only "no wait" Entrance area

Food pairings will run from 6:30 to 8:30pm and beer service will run until 10pm

You can come and go as you please!


VIP EARLY ENTRY Admission:

$50 Advance/$60 Day Of

6:30 p.m. Early Entry Doors Open

Unlimited samples in an 8oz. Souvenir Acrylic Mug

10:40pm Last Call

10:45pm Last Pour

11:00pm Band & Event Ends

11:15pm Police Clear The Hall


Regular Admission Tickets:

$40 Advance/$50 Day Of


7:30 p.m. Entry Doors Open

Unlimited samples in a 5 oz. Souvenir Acrylic Mug

10:40pm Last Call

10:45pm Last Pour

11:00pm Band & Event Ends

11:15pm Police Clear The Hall


For non-drinkers, Beerfest offers:


Connoisseur Session Non-Drinking Tickets $30

Because of the food component of the exclusive Connoisseur Sessions each night, and because our space/food quantity is limited, the Connoisseur Session Designated Driver tickets are $30 each and include the above [Connoisseur] benefits as well during the main event.

Vip & Regular Ticket Non-drinking Tickets $20

Designated Driver Ticket gets your Designated Driver in the event, a $5.00 voucher for food at any food booth, and water/soft drinks at the event.


It got me to thinking. (One thought: The police have to clear the hall?)

Also: Why not add some other admission levels?

Some ideas:

Head-of-Former-Communist-State Package

$5,000 Advance/$7,500 Day Of

Be in control of what you "Putin" your mouth:

Choose from an array of live animals to be cooked in a maximum-security Mongolian barbecue

You get your own food tasters!

Arrive the night before it starts and stay for both days

14-carat-gold-plated, Swarovski-crystal-encrusted and wheeled 1-gallon tankard (with human holder)

All-access with your own team of bodyguards

Special head-of-state "throne room" facilities

You can determine what others may come to the fest or not!

Rock Star Package

 
$3,000 Advance/$4,000 Day Of

Arrive in a PA Brew Tours bus with your name on the front.

Custom laminates for your and your crew (up to two; additional roadies/groupies $500 per)

Pre-sorted M&Ms and other food, per your "rider," in a special "backstage" area

Drink what you want, directly from the taps

Bathrooms are wherever you want them to be

Stand on stage with one of the real bands and sing Semisonic's "Closing Time" when session ends! Then rock on, after hours!


A festival could offer levels below "regular," too. 

Two ideas:

American Light Lager Drinker Package

$3 Advance/$5 Day Of (we know that's what you're used to paying)

Unlimited small sips from a recycled 12-oz. beer can BUT:

You only can sample non-craft brews AND:

We don't offer any non-craft brews, loser!


Restroom Attendant Package

Free/Advance Free/Day Of

Soak up the fest buzz from whatever restroom you're assigned to stay in (until you're cleared by the police)!

Note: We'll pay women willing to work the women's restrooms and keep those lines moving.

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Hell with the Lid Off hits 10

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

01312014hell
Tickets go on sale at 11 a.m., Sat. Feb. 1, for what is the 10th Hell with the Lid Off Barleywine Festival at Kelly's Bar & Lounge in East Liberty on Saturday, March 8.

Only 30 tickets for each of two sessions (1 to 4 and 5 to 8 p.m.) will be available to buy this way, advises general manager Dierdre Durant. She's describing a bigger-than-usual fest, spilling out onto the tented patio, to make more room for offerings including a very rare barrel of "The K13" from Meadville's Voodoo Brewery; this 13-percent-alcohol brew was aged for 18 months in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels. You get to taste a lot of it, plus a lot of food, for $75.

So get 'em fast at ShowClix.

Or get them at Kelly's, which is at 6012 Penn Circle South.

Wayno poster

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Go for the gold -- the Celestial Gold

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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Above is the menu for one of the more quirkily creative beer dinners I've heard about:

The Olympic Brewers Dinner at the Church Brew Works.

As you can see, for each of five courses, the Lawrenceville brewpub-in-a-church is spotlighting another country's cuisine, paired with one of its beers, including, appropriately, Celestial Gold.

The dinner starts at 7 p.m. on that Thursday, Feb. 6, which is just as NBC's coverage begins and just before the opening ceremony for these 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Cost for the beer dinner is $60 plus tax and tip; reserve by calling 412-688-8200 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The brewpub also will feature dishes from various Winter Olympics competitors on the way to its annual Winterfest:

Feb. 7 to 9: Canada

Feb 10 to 12: Sweden

Feb. 13 to 16: Valentines Day aphrodisiac menu

Feb. 17 to 20: Austria

Feb. 21 to 23: France

Feb. 24 to March 9: Winterfest

Church Chef Du Cuisine Joe Kiefer says that the Olympic Brewers Dinner idea started with Executive Chef Jason Marrone and events planner/marketing manager Patti Goyke, who noticed that the regular beer dinner fell just as the Olympics were starting.

They decided to do dishes from the top medal-winning countries besides the U.S., and that's when Chef Kiefer found himself scouring Russian restaurant Websites for ideas, since he knew he wanted to work in caviar. The Swiss chocolate was a no-brainer, and Germany was easy, but Canada took a little more pondering. The hardest country to work in was Norway, until a friend who's also a cook mentioned dandelion salad.

Now Chef Kiefer is working on the menus for the other Olympic competitors they'll be featuring. "I want to go out and learn as much as I can about other countries," he says. "It's a blast."

He'll be preparing the food and bringing it out at the beer dinner, after which he's sure to come back out from the kitchen, sit down and have a beer with everyone.

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Get hammered at Crafts & Drafts

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

01292014CreativeValentines

You gotta love the Society for Contemporary Craft's new monthly Crafts & Drafts series, which pairs making art with drinking beer.

This next installment, on Valentine's Day, looks lovely:

Titled "Secret Messages," the workshop is led by instructor and metalsmith Samantha Skelton, who will teach students, even beginners, how to cut, stamp, drill and finish copper "to create their own, one-of-a-kind, personal declarations of love in the form of wallet inserts, key chains, or pendants."

I don't even know what a wallet insert is, but I love hand-worked copper and copper-brewed beer.

You not only can make your sweetie a present, but also make a present of bringing your sweetie to the workshop -- from 6 to 9 p.m. that Friday, Feb. 14 at the SCC's Strip District HQ -- at which you both can sip on brews from nearby Church Brew Works.

The beer and all materials are included in the "tuition" of $35 per person (ages 21 and older).

Register online or by calling 412-261-7003.

Society for Contemporary Craft photo

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'Three Rivers United by Beer'

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

01152014BeersoftheBurgh
Tickets just went on sale for a new beer festival called Beers of the Burgh, to be held in Larimer on April 12 -- that is, 4/12. As in area code 412.

Subtitled "Three Rivers United by Beer," the fest promises more than 60 brews poured by more than 25 area breweries, as well as live music, "low-impact games" and food for purchase from local vendors.

Only breweries from this region are invited to pour their wares. 

So says Mark Turic of Morningside, who's organizing the event with his girlfriend, Grace Miller. 

Mr. Turic, who works in Internet marketing, says they've been working on the event for about two years now. Having gone up and down the East Coast attending beer festivals, they decided to hold their own, with the best elements of other fests.

Even though tickets went on sale yesterday, a lot about the event is still coming together. The event's website says it will be held at 6400 Hamilton Ave. in Larimer, inside the former Salvation Army warehouse. But Mr. Turic hasn't inked that yet. "Everything looks good so far. We do have a plan B."

He says that he also hasn't yet made official the partnership with the group that he wants to give some of the proceeds: NeighborWorks, a nonprofit that helps people buy homes and works with community groups to help stabilize and improve neighborhoods.

He's working on all the details, including who the participating brewers and food vendors will be, and says he plans to announce the list of breweries in early February.

Meanwhile, a 250 tickets are available for early birds for $35. Tickets will be $45 for what he hopes to be a one-three-hour-session event. There also is a $79 VIP ticket, which will get attendees early admission and other perks, and a $10 ticket for designated drivers, all available through ShowClix

The event happens just before Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, which is being planned for April 25 through May 4. That's raised the question, Why not make this fest part of that bigger regional beer showcase?

Mr. Turic says he considered that, but in the end, wanted to be sure that local brewers would be able to attend his event. "We really want to engage people that are coming to our festival with the breweries."

We'll update the event as more details are announced. 



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A new Pittsburgh beer with some buzz

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

01102014beesinoakland

From 5 to 8 p.m. this Wednesday, Jan. 15, The Porch at Schenley and East End Brewing are throwing a little release party at the Oakland restaurant to debut Honey Heather Ale, which East End made with 25 pounds of the honey from the hives on the restaurant's roof. They've dubbed the gathering "Bee to Beer."

The new, 5-percent-alcohol brew will be available to sample, and you can meet both the brewer and the beekeeper. Then you can buy a pint (for happy-hour prices until 6:30) at the bar at the Porch, which is the only place this draft is to be available, besides sister restaurant Six Penn Kitchen, Downtown.

Though you are also to be able to get a taste at the brewery's Festival of Darkness showcase of a dozen dark beers on Feb. 1 in Larimer. Taste all 12 for a $5 donation that will be given to Light of Life. The brewery has previously brewed other Honey Heathers, using honey from other sources.

Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette photo of Stephen Repasky, a master beekeeper with Burgh Bees, examining hives The Porch at Schenley's roof.

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