Raise it! The new I.C. Light can

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer



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Pittsburgh Brewing Co. announced the release of a "Raise the Jolly Roger" I.C. Light can, at right, the third and last in "Collector Series." 

The package is sold alongside the gold "Vintage P" and pinstriped "Heritage 1887" I.C. Light cans in 12-, 24- and 30-packs during the baseball season.

As old beer-can collectors like myself know, Pittsburgh Brewing Co. has a rich history of releasing sports-themed and other collectible cans.

The new-school twist is that in each Pirates-branded 30-pack, there's a code that gives customers a chance to enter to win prizes over "95 Days of Summer" ending Aug. 31.

Pittsburgh Brewing Co. photo

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Hough's in Greenfield debuting the Crowler

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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For about a week now, customers at Hough's in Greenfield have been wondering what the weird new contraption is on the bar. 

Starting tonight, they can see it in action, as the beer bar starts firing it up to seal the tops on 32-ounce aluminum cans their manufacturer, Ball Corp., has trademarked as "Crowlers." Like the name, the containers are a cross between cans and growlers, the typically glass jugs that many brewers and bars will fill with draft beer. 

I took my family out to this most comfortable neighborhood bar for a nightcap last night and manager Bridget Smidga, above, kindly demonstrated how the machine works. 

I simply had to pick one of 71 draft brews that I wanted to take home with me. I had my eye on the Helltown Pale Ale on the "Tap Wall" in the adjacent room, but to make it easy, picked one from the "Top Tower" behind her: Southern Tier Live. 

She took one of the topless can blanks (literally, blank) and filled it to the top, set an aluminum top on it and -- voila, the electric machine "seamed" or sealed on the top. She handed me a chubby, cold can to take home, where she said the beer inside, as long as the can was unopened, should be fine for at least as long as it would be in an unopened glass growler -- about a week. 

I doubt if mine will last that long. I'll probably pop the tab top on it after work tonight. 

She said Hough's will be selling these takeaway containers (with hand-written labels for now) for the same price as two pints in the bar. The place fills regular 64-ounce growlers, too, but Crowlers are smaller -- better for one person, perfect for sharing with one person -- as well as lighter, better for protecting the beer from light, and completely recyclable. Plus novel and cute.

Hough's will launch Crowlers tonight through Thursday with the beers of the Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewery that helped pioneer the resurgence of canned craft beer as well as helped launch the Crowler early this year.  The celebration starts at 7:30 tonight with Buzz Worthy Pub Trivia. 

Bob Batz Jr. photo

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New Pittsburgh beer is REALLY local

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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The region is blessed with a lot of local beers, but there's a new one that's REALLY local.

It's being billed as locally grown as well as locally brewed, and it is going to be locally and pretty much totally drank this Monday, May 19.

From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. that night, at the Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville, the Local Beer Project will debut Eden.

The beer is part of the very cool master's thesis of Chatham University food studies student Elisa Loeser.

As she explained, "For the past year, my thesis work has focused on organic hops production and the role of craft-beer culture in a local food system. As part of my thesis project, I brought together a team of community members to brew a 100-percent local, indigenous beer, which we named Eden."

The photo below shows some of the team: From left, Church Brew Works brewer Matt Moninger, Ms. Loeser, Nigel Tudor of Weatherbury Farm (the Washington County source of organic red winter wheat) and Noah Petronic of The Pittsburgh Hop Project.

But there were many others involved in this effort, which was crazy local.

Chatham director of sustatinable agriculture Allen Matthews donated winter rye from his Matthews Family Farm. Led by Mr. Moninger and with the help of food-studies student Lori Diefenbacher, the team malted the wheat and the rye, and wound up also using some of the house-malted local barley from Sprague Farm & Brew Works in Venango, Crawford County, whose Minnie and Brian Sprague have been pioneering that here.

For hops, they had about 3 ounces of Chinook and Cascade hopes that Ms. Loeser harvested and dried from 11 hop plants (some donated by Mr. Petronic) that she planted last year at Chatham's Eden Hall campus farm.

For water, her team wanted to use rainwater from another Chatham project, but that wasn't ready, so, with help from food-studies students Tony Miga, they collected 100 gallons of snow at Eden Hall -- enough for 30 gallons of filtered (and boiled) water.

And for yeast? They wanted that to be local, too, so they collected some wild strains in Church Brew Works wort that they left out in the open of Eden Hall's student garden. The Church's Mr. Moninger harvested some of the wild yeast and propagated it in the brewery's lab.

The team worked on the recipe and brewed -- on equipment loaned by TRASH homebrewer extraordinaire Keith Kost -- in February, augmenting the yeast with a little of a local strain of commercial Chico yeast. The result?

"It came out a lot better than we expected," says Ms. Loeser, who describes the wheat-rye brew as a little cloudy, balanced, with a nice mouthfeel. "It's a good summer beer."

They brewed just 13 gallons, enough to fill 119 12-ounce bottles, most of which they'll be pouring at Monday's party. It's open to the public, but you need to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get a free ticket to try one of the 200 samples. Of course, there also will be Church brew to drink, and some Sprague Farm, too. Ms. Loeser says "we will have displays and people are encouraged to mingle, network, etc., so certainly the more people the merrier! "

The Eden beer is more than just a thesis piece, as she says it will continued to be brewed through the sustainable fermentation course offered in the summer in Chatham's food-studies program. That means "we will hopefully be serving up this beer at other events (quite possibly the Big Pour) in the fall."

Meanwhile, she's graduating on Monday, so the Church Brew gathering is her graduation party.

She's accepted a job in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a international program specialist working on trade issues and initiatives.

But someday, she might hop back into hops, which more universities are studying as people try to resurrect the hop-growing industry that used to thrive in the East.

She says she'll always be committed to sustainability, which has a component to it that most people might not think of, but that her project demonstrates:

"This project for me embodies community and collaboration."

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Elisa Loeser label, Ellen Ordons photo

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Do it for the kids: Drink a beer

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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Drink beer, help kids at the Obama Academy of International Studies.

To support the East Liberty school's German Club’s upcoming visit to Germany -- 11 Obama students will visit a German school and stay with German families -- the Independent Brewing Co. in Squirrel Hill is sponsoring a fundraiser on May 15 that the bar is calling "Weizenfest."

From 5 to 11 p.m. that night, $1 from the sale of each German-style wheat beer will go directly to the Obama Academy’s German American Partnership Exchange.

"International travel is one of the best educational opportunities available," says a note from the school. "Help our students experience it for themselves."

Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette photo

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Try a new bar with your new beer

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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We're deep into Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, the calendar of which is packed for the next four days with events.

Tonight I'm planning to pop into the Helltown Cask Takeover at Piper's Pub for some local real ale with two ol' mates. If I can get in the door.

I've heard from some people who are a bit intimidated by Craft Beer Week events, especially ones that involve buying an advance ticket or having to squeeze into crowded venues.

If that's you, or the planned events don't fit your schedule, think of this: You can plan your own Pittsburgh craft beer event. Here's how you do it:

1. Pick a bar or a restaurant or a brewpub that serves craft beer -- preferably a place that you've never been to before and want to try.

2. Go there. Invite a friend or two if you like.

3. Order a craft beer.

I pulled one these this past Sunday, when I made an hour for myself in the early evening after another day packed with family and work activities. I drove to Mt. Lebanon's Korner Pub, whose new young owners have transformed it into a cozy craft-beer corner -- at the corner of Bower Hill and Washington roads. Several of my friends and neighbors have told me how much they liked the place. I just hadn't had time to get in there.

I pushed in through the open screen door -- like -- and perused the coolers before eyeing the 10 taps and the chalkboard draft list. It was a great lineup, but most of the crafts were really high-alcohol. I ordered a pint of an IPA from a brewery I'd never heard of: Free Will.

That in itself was fun. And the beer was very good. I settled into a table in the glow of the pub's great neon signs and savored it, while getting a kick out of the conversations of what seemed like a bunch of regulars around me. One group of young guys wanted to leave but couldn't, because a couple they hadn't known bought everyone at the bar a round.

I bought myself another Free Will. It was like my own personal tap-takeover, at least until I had to take off and go home for dinner.

I later found out that Free Will is an Eastern Pennsylvania brewery that's new to this market. I look forward to trying more of its brews.

And I look forward to going back to the Korner Pub, which from 5 to 8 p.m. tonight, in fact, is having its official #PCBW2014 event: A "Weyerbacher Tap Takeover and Tarte Nouveau Release," at which attendees can get first tastes of that Eastern Pennsylvania brewery's newest sour ale, as well as Heresy, Double Simcoe, 2012 Insanity and Merry Monks.

Bob Batz Jr. photo

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Real Ale Festival is postponed to fall

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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The Pittsburgh Real Ale Festival, one of the signature events of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, is being postponed.

Mindy Heisler of sponsor Piper's Pub says they just did not sell enough tickets to cover the cost of an event, which had been set for Highmark Stadium this Saturday, May 3.

She says that organizers got feedback that the ticket price of $65 was too high, but that was partly because of the venue. Fest organizers have decided to reschedule the event at a different venue sometime this fall.

In the meantime, she says, they've contacted ticket-holders and told them they will get refunds and first dibs on tickets to the fest when it is rescheduled.

The homebrewer part of the fest, which was part of my Post-Gazette story on the fest and on real ale, will go on. Five area homebrewers won the chance to pour firkins of their brews for the public, with the most popular one getting a chance to brew a batch at Helltown Brewing in Mount Pleasant. 

"We still want that to be a thing and these folks want you to sample their beers and vote on your favorite," owner Drew Topping explains in a note on Piper's Facebook page, "so we talked to Dan at Commonwealth Press and he has kindly given us permission to throw a free BBQ at his warehouse" at 2315 Wharton St. on the South Side. That'll happen in the same time slot, from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

"We are going to have the five homebrew firkins, plenty of other beer, Piper's Pub & The Pub Chip Shop are going to hook up some treats, we have a grill…," he writes. "We know that it isn’t on the same scale as the Festival, but we would really love it if you came down to the Warehouse, tried and voted on the beers, grabbed some food and some high fives. No cover, no tickets, no strings attached -- just a fun time, great beers and good food."

Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette photo

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Penn Brewery goes "Complete Wheat," Rivertowne goes completely local

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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There are so many events going on for Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week -- and so much noise about them -- that it can be hard to figure out which ones to go to. Sometimes you might need a little direction. For tonight, I'd say that direction is north -- as in, the North Shore and the North Side.

Starting at 6 p.m. tonight, Penn Brewery is holding a recently planned tapping it's calling "Complete Wheat," as it will be showcasing a range of wheat beers. Probably the most interesting is its brand-new one, a Berliner weiss. It's a traditional low-alcohol (about 4 percent) wheat beer that is brewed with lactobacillus so it is sour -- so much so that it often is served with sweet flavored syrups. The beer is draft only.

Guests also will have a chance to sip Penn's other wheat beers -- Weizen, Dunkelweiss and Weizenbock -- as well as try another new brew, Ginger Beer. The brewpub also will be pouring from some firkins tastes of the Craft Beer Week collaboration brew that Penn did with Ohio's Fat Head's Brewery: Alpha Mandarin, a strong pale ale brewed with mandarin oranges.

Meanwhile, over near PNC Park from 7 to 10 p.m., Rivertowne North Shore is holding a "Local Tap Takeover and Meet the Brewer" event, where they'll have brews and people from a bunch of local breweries, including the soon-to-open Hitchhiker Brewing Co. in Mt. Lebanon and its brewer, Andy Kwiatkowski. As he tweeted Sunday night, "The first Hitchhiker keg is headed out into the wild" -- he and owner Gary Olden's Tumbleweed Oatmeal Brown Ale. The little brewpub has been serving and selling some beer already, but a soft opening wasn't planned until May 10.

You also can try brews and meet people from Rivertowne Brewing, Penn, Church Brew Works, East End, Full Pint, Roundabout, All Saints, Four Seasons, Helltown, North Country, Hop Farm, Draai Laag and Blue Canoe, as well as Arsenal Cider.

Speaking of Hop Farm: It will be releasing a Berliner weiss of its own this Thursday, May 1. As last week's collaboration beer story noted, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. that evening ,the Lawrenceville brewery will release, on draft and in a limited number of bottles, an imperial (much stronger) Berliner weiss named Margot, which was inspired by Gyneth Paltrow's sour character in "The Royal Tenenbaums" that will be screened at the brewery. The beer and the event is a collaboration with the beer-and-movie-pairing Box Office Brew Review. Great idea and great label, no?

Find more #pcbw2014 events in every direction on the promotion's calendar.

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Penn Brewery photo

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Great Lakes Brewing helps clean up South Side

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Beer

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Earth Day is perfect for sharing the news about a Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week event that is cleaning up a little slice of the Earth.

The company behind it, Cleveland's Great Lakes Brewing Co., is well-known for its environmental friendliness. This year, it's ramped up its commitment with its first "Earth Day Tour," whereby it's giving back to cities that drink its beer.

Here in Pittsburgh, local brewery rep Connie Tucci says Great Lakes has partnered with Friends of the Riverfront and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for a clean-up and tree-planting along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in South Side Riverfront Park. 

Volunteers, and they already have as many as they need, will be treated to an after-party at nearby OTB (Over the Bar) Bicycle Cafe, where they'll refresh themselves with Great Lakes beer, food and prizes.

Plus, Great Lakes and its local distributor, Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale, will be giving about $3,000 to Friends.

Says Ms. Tucci, "It's meant to be a 'Thank you, Pittsburgh' and to promote sustainability."

Adds Great Lakes' Matt Roth, "We try to take care of our natural surroundings and reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible at Great Lakes Brewing Co. so teaming up with friends of the Riverfront only seemed natural, seeing as how beer is made from water, and we need good clean water to make great beer!"

We'll be wrilting more about Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, which runs from Friday, April 25, through Sunday, May 4. You can check out the full schedule of events here.

Great Lakes Brewing graphic

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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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