SW PA Beer Run and Mini Tour

I don’t know that I ever blogged about our Pliny the Elder home bottling party.  In short, we used a Blichmann beer gun to bottle this favorite beer of mine…  I use the terms “our” and “we” loosely, as it was a party/project that D and I got in on late – the brainchild of some other crazies on Beer Advocate, and we were just lucky to get in on the tail end.

Well, now we are looking to bottle something different, and the first step is getting the beer. The short version of this story is that we worked out a favor and agreed to pick up a total of 7 sixtels and two cases of beer in Pittsburgh so that we now have two sixths of East End Brewing products to bottle in a few weeks – Black Strap Stout and Cherry Grisette.

A trip to Pittsburgh meant an opportunity to hang out with friends exploring breweries, brewpubs and beer bars in southwestern PA. We left Saturday morning (missing out on the release of Nugget Nectar), and arrived in Monroeville in time for lunch at Rivertowne Pour House in Monroeville.

The Rivertowne Pour House had 18 taps to choose from, making it difficult to make a choice (but they do free samples.) The food menu looked lovely, and included one of D’s favorites – Scotch Eggs – which we had with our sandwiches and salads. The guys did sample platters to try 14 of the brews, while the girls had pints (mine was a Wit made with coriander and grains of paradise, and Kim’s Blackberry Blast was made with 42 pounds of blackberries!) The beers poured from a giant “keg” set up with taps for each brew, and there was a cask ale available. Most beers had a “twin” on the menu (for instance, there was a blackberry beer and a pomegranate beer), so there were more like 9 types of beer on the menu.

Next, we headed over the East End Brewing Company for the sixtels, and stayed around for the tasting. This place in located in Wilkensburg, and it is both amusing and amazing. In a small space on a side street in an extremely non-descript building, Scott Smith is running a no-frills operation and making some fantastic products. I really enjoyed reading his website – especially the focus on environmental sustainability. We saw it in action on our visit (I think there IS a huge underground sack-race network in Pittsburgh!) and it made me feel even better about supporting his product. Richard was our host for the day, as Scott was taking some family time away, and he took really great care of us. We tasted from pint glasses, and had the following: Grisette, Cherry Grisette, Witte, Bitter End, Big Hop, Snow Melt and Black Strap Stout. We picked up bottles of Three and Gratitude. After some chatting and exploration, we headed off to the next spot.

D’s Six Pax and Dogz is always a great stop, but one of the greatest things about this trip was that we ran into East End brewer Scott Smith! After trading emails with him over this bottling project, it was nice to meet him in person. Inside D’s, we enjoyed a few pints (Ithaca Gorges Smoked Porter and Arcadia Brewing Cocoa Loco triple chocolate stout)  with dogs, and the 1919 Root Beer (even got a 1/2 gallon to go!)

We checked into our hotel, then headed of to Bocktown Beer & Grill in North Fayette, where they claim to have over 400 types of bottled of beer for sale, and they have 16 taps which rotate with specialty beers. The cooler is in nine sections, and the bar seats twelve. There are booths and table seating – a really nice place, especially considering it is in a strip mall. We tried Lagunitas Olde Gnarly Wine and Cherish Kriek Lambic, and I tried a special glass of the kriek combine with Anchor Christmas Ale (a little like a tasty cold medicine.)

From Bocktown, we headed to Sharp Edge Creek House. I’ve been to the other two locations, and this is by far my favorite (although I’d like to revisit the Beer Emporium location now that they’ve completed remodeling!) We sat upstairs and had soup, salad and sweet potato fries with our beers. D tried the Sharp Edge “Over the Edge” (a 9% Belgian IPA), and I had the East End Brewing Co. Snow Melt on cask, which is not as hoppy in the taste as the draft version.

Sunday brunch was at Red Star, which I’ve already discussed because of the awesome experience, and following that, we visited Johnstown Brewing Company. It’s been a few years since I visited JBC, and under brewer Sean Hallisey, there are some exciting things happening. I remembered bland beers that all tasted pretty much the same. I found eight different taps, and we tried three of them in pints (two additional tasters.) Everything had nice flavor and aroma. We talked to the brewer for a bit, and things are really looking up for JBC as Sean continues to create. We had the Jinglebell Wiezenbock, Imperial Stout, and Pale Ale in pints, and little tastes of Cherry Wheat (made with sweet cherries) and Ole Tripel Reserve (which had a distinctive green apple flavor.)

Our final trip of the weekend was the Jean Bonnet Tavernnear Bedford. This was a water stop for me – the tap list is always filled with a nice selection of PA beers, but nothing new for me, and I had plenty of great beer this weekend. I tasted the Yards Thomas Jefferson Ale and the Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA; I admired the lacing on Storm King Imperial Stout. This is just such a cozy and charming space to be – especially on a chilly January day.

So now it is time for sleeping – no time to post photos today, but maybe very soon. What a fun weekend of travel and tasting with friends and a few great finds!


2 responses

  1. On your travels in this neck of the woods, try to stop by the newly opened Windber Hotel (about 10 minutes east of Johnstown)15 taps (11 feature crafts) plus another 90+ crafts in bottles. The Hotel was originally constructed in 1897 and has been extensively renovated by the new owners. It is a very unique establishment.

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