Alley Brewing's Chris Leber, left, and Josh Hays.
Going back to August 2011, I've been trying to keep an eye on another of the region's many start-up and would-be-start-up breweries, Alley Brewing. The three 20-something homebrewers who aspire to be pros have since poured tastes at quite a few places, and recently did their first big event -- Rivertowne Brewing's Pro-Am Rendezvous during Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week (above).
Now the Alley Brewing guys have me smiling at a promotion they're calling "McKeesport's First Ever American Craft Beer Week Events."
I wrote about a few other local ACBW event's in this morning's Beer column, but didn't find out until after that went to the presses yesterday about these:
• From 7 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, at McKeesport's Cal's Cantina, there will be free samples of Alley Trolley 68 Belgian Tripel, ASL Blonde Ale and Brick Alley IPA, served with food specials.
• From 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, also at Cal's, is to be the "first ever American Craft Beer Week Tasting in McKeesport’s history," Alley Brewing announces on its Tumblr page. "Our goal is to gather up to 10 local breweries to come to Cal’s Cantina and pour their beer for this special event. The tasting will be $5 for your sampling glass and you can sample local brewery offerings and enjoy pizza and wing specials from the kitchen. Our focus is to feature established local craft breweries as well as up and coming breweries from the area."
As Alley Brewing explains, "Hand-crafted artisan beer used to be a staple of the Mon Valley in the early 1900s, but has yet to prosper since the old Tube City Brewery closed many years ago. We wanted to bring local craft beer back to the community ..."
They're also doing that with their highly localized names and labels. "Brick Alley," for instance, is McKeesport's legendary red-light district, and was originally the operation's name, until the brewers learned that a Connecticut tavern owns and protects it.
I had a great chat with one of Alley Brewing's principals, Chris Leber, last night. Chris, whose day job is at a chemical and environmental marketing firm, said they still haven't even started the state and federal licensing process, but they are brewing regularly at his home in Cranberry. He and his two partners, Eric Bedont and Josh Hays, grew up together out in the Mon Valley town of Port Vue, and they started brewing together after they graduated from college in 2009. A brewpub is their ultimate goal.
A Kickstarter.com campaign could be in the nearer future, along with the requisite Bob Batz Jr. story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But American Craft Beer Week 2013 seems like as good time as any for a bigger coming out. As of last night, they had a commitment for a keg from Jeff Guidos at All Saints Brewing near Greensburg, and the good guys at Butler Brew Works are in. Hopefully, some other local brewers, would-be and established, will come out, as well as enough craft-beer customers to show Cal's and McKeesport what this craft-beer thing is all about. People in McKeesport want craft beer, too (I mean you, Steve "Conan the PG Librarian" Karlinchak).
Chelsea Leber photo, top; Alley Brewing image, below
PA Brew Tours, which we wrote about when it launched in January, has added another tour to its offerings: One that goes to both Penn Brewery on the North Side and the Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville.
Jake Voelker's company will do the driving and guide you through both historic breweries.
This Pittsburgh Brewery Tour launches on Friday, June 21, at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District, where tour-goers will meet up at 1 p.m. and then head out at 1:30 p.m. You return just before 5 p.m. Tickets are $49.
Check out the company's website for its other offerings.
Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette photo of Penn Brewery's Steve Crist cleaning the kettle last month.
Have you ever been to a beer swap?
I know several people who organize beer-trading gatherings, including the nice guy who won the rare bottle of Utopias I raffled off during a guest-bartending gig during Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week: Tim Fakos of Scott. At the bottom of this post is a photo from his holiday-time swap.
If you'd like to try it, you could check out the free Open Mic and Craft Beer Swap, held every other Sunday through the spring and summer at, of all places, the Bridgeville Public Library. It invites, "Bring your favorite craft selections to share with other beer aficionados while listening to local musicians!"
The next one is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. this Sunday, May 5, with sign-up to trade or to perform starting at 6:15 p.m.
Library board of trustees secretary Mike Aquilina tells me that this is a new program that kicked off April 7 and has been a hit. "Jim Wisbon and Kim Losego, who head up our Arts Committee, came up with the idea," Mr. Aquilina explained in an email. "Both are musicians who had observed that there was a lack of venues in the Bridgeville area that welcome local amateur artists. The library's mission is to be a center of lifelong learning in the community, and we're very excited to expand this to the performing arts."
He says anyone is welcome to perform, and while it's been music so far, it could be spoken word, comedy, whatever.
"The craft beer swap is an opportunity for craft beer 'newbies' to get introduced to the choices beyond Bud/Miller/Coors, and for beer aficionados to share their favorites," he says. "We had a good mix of the two at our last event and everyone had a great time."
Mike Aquilina photo, top; Tim Fako photo, bottom
Did someone say "draft pick"? Good luck with that today.
There's another BIG menu for this, the last day of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week.
There are several standout events, including the annual East End Brewing Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride to deliver that beer by bicycle to a "secret" bar and then share it with the riders (and proceeds go to two good causes).
But that took off this morning. My event of the day would have to be the first-ever Pittsburgh Cider & Mead Festival from 1 to 4 p.m. at the old Pittsburgh Brewing plant in Lawrenceville to benefit that neighborhood's historic Arsenal Park. I wrote about the fest here this week. Above is the menu. Bill Larkin of Allegheny Cider House & Wine Cellar, which organized the event, says you can still get tix at the door, and reminds everyone to bring their IDs.
You couldn't ask for a nicer day, so get out there and get to something today or tonight on the full PCBW events calendar. Your choices include a very cool sour-and-funky beer fest and some beer-and-cheese tastings (including one in Mars) and a beer dinner in Homestead. Happenings are spread out from a Butler County golf course to a Beaver County classic beer bar to a ski resort in Somerset County.
And as always, we love for you to share photos of your day's festivities, or from anytime from Craft Beer Week, here.
Arsenal Cider flier
When I found out Wild Purveyors in Lawrenceville would be pairing Pennsylvania cheeses and wild foods with beers from the East End Brewing Co., I knew that was the event for me: the promise of cheese, beer and ramps within walking distance of my house. (Like everyone else, I'm obsessed with ramps this time of year because they're one of the first true signs of spring -- we can all take a break from root vegetable soups and stews for a few months.)
Wild Purveyors and East End did not disappoint during the two tastings held Tuesday night. For $15 in advance or $20 at the door, tasters got two hours to try four beers, each with a food pairing.
East End's Big Hop cozied up with spring rolls that contained a mix of spring and winter vegetables -- wild nettles, ramps and garlic chives with pickled beets and radishes. The beets bled through the transparent wrappers and made the greens look even greener.
Up next, more ramps: East End's Monkey Girl Dunkelweizen was teamed with "ramp hammocks" -- wild ramps topped with egg salad, cured trout with wild aromatics and cracked pink pepper.
That wound up being my favorite pairing of the night -- I could've consumed an entree-sized ramp hammock, and though I normally shy away from German beers, the Monkey Girl was delicious.
The savory cheese pairings occupied two long tables in Wild Purveyors' second room.
Cavan Patterson, who owns Wild Purveyors with his brother Tom, said the trickiest thing was figuring out what to pair with East End's Pennsyl-tucky Uncommon, one of the five "Collaboration Beers" made for PCBW. He said he tried a variety of cheeses with the unusual beer, a mix of Pennsylvania swankey (spiced with star anise) and Kentucky common ale, but nothing seemed quite right. In the end, though, he nailed it with a dollop of sheep's milk ricotta on baguette topped with a bit of maple syrup.
The last pairing was a pile of Birchrun bleu cheese paired with East End's chocolate-covered cherry stout. The savory cheese and desserty beer were the perfect end to the tour (not that we didn't go back through to sample the other food and beers again.)
If this post has your thirsty for East End brews, Scott Smith will be pouring samples tonight at Whole Foods in East Liberty from 5 to 7 p.m. The brewery will also host growler hours at the Julius St. location from 4 to 8 p.m.
The big event is Saturday morning, when 650 riders celebrate the season's first kegs of Pedal Pale Ale. Sign in starts at 9:30 a.m. and the ride leaves at 11 a.m. Buy tickets before the event here.
Ih search of dinner plans? Wild Purveyors and Lancaster Brewing join Bigelow Grille Downtown for a pairing dinner tonight at 6 p.m. Click here for info.
Wild Purveyors photo
Today is another huge day for Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, but the event I have to pimp is one I'm going to be part of.
It's my own fault: Since the first week last year, I was yapping to several people about how I wish someone in my town, Mt. Lebanon, would have done some kind of event. "Look at Philly Beer Week and how widespread its events are."
This winter, while talking at Lebo's Uptown Coffee about the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference, I made my complaint to FTT's Erin Hart, and before I knew it, she had arranged for Farm to Table to organize a little string of events at several venues around town.
What could I say when she asked me to be part of one?
It helps that a portion of proceeds will benefit the Mt. Lebanon Uptown Farmers Market (it opens Saturday, May 11, from 9 a.m. to noon).
I'll be giving all my tips, if I get any, to the cause when I guest bartend at Bado's on Beverly Road from 8 to 10 p.m. tonight. During that time, there'll be a Samuel Adams promotion, and owner Frank Badolato says I'll be pouring pints of beers o' summer Summer Ale, Porch Rocker and Blueberry Hill Lager as well as as limited-release Griffin's Bow barleywine.
I know I'm not that much of a draw, so in addition to myself, I'm bringing a bottle of beer to raffle off.
And not just any bottle of beer, but a bottle of Sam Adams Utopias.
The 24-ounce decanter of the 2012, 10th-anniversary vintage of this 29-percent-alcohol barleywine retailed for $190, and was selling for $250 or more. Only about 15,000 of them were made.
For your chance to win it, try some other Sam Adams and other craft brews, and enjoy some Craft Beer Week camaraderie, stop in at this cozy neighborhood restaurant bar and say hi.
You'll still have time to hit other great events, which you can find listed here.
And please share your photos here. I'll post one or more tonight.
Samuel Adams photo
I apologize for posting today's pick so late.
Truth is, I was out late again last night for Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, and there's so much happening again tonight, it's REALLY hard to pick. I'm not the only person to report feeling a bit paralyzed.
The MAJOR event tonight is the Beer Barge, which should be sailing the three rivers shortly. But that beer-and-music cruise sold-out hard a long time ago, so much so that they added a second one for later tonight (also full). If you're on a bridge and see the big loud boat passing by, give the revelers a wave.
I know it's Friday, but after this week, I'm looking for something relatively quiet, or at least not too raucous. If you really want some music, how about “Bagpipes & Beer -- An Irish evening with Lavery Brewing”? From 6 to 8 p.m. at cozy Carson Street Deli on the South Side, they'll serve up tunes by Irish folksters the Armadillos with the multi-hopped collaboration brew from Erie's Lavery and North Huntingdon's Full Pint from 6 to 8 p.m. This collab was outside the official five brews and you may not yet have had a chance to try it. It's an India pale ale, made with the following hops: Apollo, Bravo, Cascade, Chinook, Columbus and Delta. The name: Alphabet Stew. Different, eh?
As for me, I'd probably try to find a little place even farther off the beaten track, like The Pine in Kennedy (rural Coraopolis), which until 7 tonight is serving chili made with Fat Head's Headhunter and cheesecake made with Fat Head's Bumbleberry with those respective brews.
This is the penultimate night of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, so if you still want to go, you'd better get going.
Check out the full schedule here.
And please keep sharing your photos with us here.
Now I'm off to share some photos I took at the bar I was at last night ...
So many events.
I count 51 on today's list on the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week calendar.
Lots of cool stuff, from the first-come, first-served Founder's Brunch at Piper's Pub to the sold-out Beer vs. Cocktails dinner at East End Brewing Co. to a Long Island clam bake at Double Wide Grill to a beer and chocolate tasting at New Amsterdam to beer and cigars at Brews Bros. to beer and cheese at a couple of places to a punk rock night at Kelly's.
But if you were going to just one event, a good one would be the PCBW Pro-Am Rendezvous -- of 14 commercial brewers and five homebrewers -- at the new Rivertowne Brewing brewery in Murrysville.
It's from 6 to 10 p.m., and costs $15 -- $5 for designated drivers. Rivertowne will even do some of the driving for you as its providing a shuttle from nearby parking lots. You get a souvenir glass for sampling of both pro and amateur brews and some snacks.
"This event," according to the description, "was created to bring a lot of like-minded, beer enthusiasts together for an enjoyable, and potentially educational, experience for all who participate and attend. Our vision began with the idea of having a laid-back, mid-week, rendezvous focusing on creative, hand-crafted beers!"
But there's a competitive thread: Each commercial brewery gets one vote, as does each amateur, and at 9 p.m. “Best of Show” beers will be announced in each category. And then comes the coolest part: The winning homebrewer gets to brew his or her recipe at the Rivertowne Pourhouse in Monroeville, where it will be served. And he or she get a sixtel, or sixth barrel, to take home.
Also, ticket proceeds benefit the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, Murrysville Medic One and Murrysville Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1.
Get tickets here.
There are a lot of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week events to like, but there's an awful lot to like about this one.
There are plenty of events where you can drink beer, but few where you can learn how to brew it, get licensed, open a nanobrewery, and start opening a brewpub.
That's the glamorous lifestyle being enjoyed by Beaver Brewing Co.'s Dan Woodske, who's renovating the Beaver Falls storefront above. Oh wait, is that glamour on him or drywall dust?
So without further ado, we shine the light on tonight's Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week event pick: The free Home Brewing Demonstration put on by the wonderfully named TRASH, or Three Rivers Association of Serious Homebrewers.
At 6:30 tonight at Soergel Orchards in Franklin Park, you can "learn the art and craft of brewing your own beer from some of Pittsburgh’s best homebrewers and celebrate Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week! ... Brewers from the club will walk you through the process of making beer from an extract kit, explaining the how and why of each step in the process, and even serving samples of the final product. We’ll be happy to answer questions, direct you at homebrew resources online and around town."
It's free but you do need to register to attend here.
Starting a nanobrewery, opening a brewpub, and becoming the next Sierra Nevada must come up in more advanced classes.
It is fascinating how many homebrewers are going or trying to go pro in this region (such as Reclamation Brewing, doing a meet-and-greet at 7 tonight at Bocktown), and how many homebrewers are making beer as good as the pros (Mike Beattie will be helping lead the class at Soergel's, where they'll make and taste a brown ale).
PCBW has been good about involving and celebrating both pros and amateurs. For instance, at 7 tonight, Chef Tyler Stakutis of Coach's Bottleshop and Grille in Banksville Plaza on the city/Dormont border will be sampling his homebrews and "giving a little education behind the homebrew process."
Lots of little places like Coach's are doing tastings and other PCBW events. Try to patronize a little place in or near your neighborhood, or in a neighborhood you've always wanted to check out. See the full event schedule here.
And wherever you go, please share your Craft Beer Week photos here.
Or we'll just steal them, like we did the one above.
Actually, Dan Woodske gives his permission for us to use that shot and reports: "Should be open by the first week in June if everything goes as planned. Just pretty much installing all of the fixtures and cleaning it up."
Beaver Brewing Co. photo
For some in the industry, just surviving Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week can be a test.
We're on Day 4 of the nine-day celebration of good brew, and the number of events each day is just going to keep on growing from here on out.
What events are you going to hit?
For some, it will be hard to resist the urge to go back in time and hit "Gobblerito Pumking Day" at Mad Mex Shadyside, where they'll be serving some popular Pumking pumpkin beer that they saved from the fall, and serving it with Thanksgiving-in-a-tortilla, the Gobblerito. At Mad Mex Cranberry, they're going even farther back, to 1988, for a tasting of tacos and pioneer brews from North Coast Brewing Co. (some of the first craft brews any of us in Pittsburgh got to taste, and that was thanks to the original Mad Mex in Oakland).
More Earth Day-ish and outdoorsy is the run and ride Heels and Wheels, in which beer helps benefit Bike Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Trail Advocacy Group, at 5 p.m. at Boyce Park.
But our pick today is a test: the Name that 'Burgh IPA test with local craft beer podcast Should I Drink That.
Douglas Derda, above, known on the show as Father Spoon, will set up at the Robinson Bocktown Beer and Grill (in North Fayette). From 7 to 9 p.m., participants can take a crack at tasting a flight of four different local India pale ales to see what ones their taste buds can identify.
Mr. Derda says he'll be awarding Bocktown swag based on how many brews contestants can match to the provided descriptions. "I'll change up the order of the beers every few minutes so it's not too easy."
Bocktown says it'll have on tap a "one of a kind extra-dry-hopped IPA by Jeff Guidos from All Saints Brewing" near Greensburg. Plus a ton of other regional crafts, including, as part of Bocktown's week-long, both-locations 17th Tap promotion of local homebrewers, one by a local homebrewer -- “Award Winning Pale Ale” by Trevor Garside.
Doesn't that sound like a winner?
Check out the full PCBW calendar here.
And wherever you, if you take photos, please share one/some with us so we can share them with everyone else here.
Should I Drink That photo
In case you missed it, here are three scenes from Saturday's Release the Firkins Real Ale Fest at the new Highmark Stadium on the Monongahela River across from Downtown, one of the signature events of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, shot by the Post-Gazette's Julia Rendleman. As you can see, she's really good.
Above, volunteer Jenny Fuga of Westview absolutely nailes it with her beer-inspired manicure at the event, where brewers and their helpers poured tastes of more than 30 "real ales" -- brews that were allowed to condition in their "firkins" and were poured not with the help of C02, but rather by gravity. Old school.
Above, volunteer Tracey Ryan of Bellevue enjoys pouring beer from Fat Head's Brewery in Middleburg Heights, Ohio.
Above, Robinson's Lisa Bartel takes in a real ale ... and the spectacular view.
You can see why organizers already are looking to do this fest again next year.
We'd love to see and share your photos from Release the Firkins and other events of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, which runs through Saturday, April 27. Please upload your .jpgs here.
And thanks, Julia!
Julia Rendleman/Post-Gazette photos