The Friday Pint 2016 #6 – The Ever Expanding Pittsburgh Alcohol Scene.

Since moving over to the USA, most of my time has been spent in the apartment, catching up on TV series and podcasts, whilst thinking I should really be putting this time to more productive use. As much as I’d like to be visiting the many breweries and bars I’ve yet to go to, such things take money I don’t have coming in yet, and so such trips are limited. That being said, I can still read of openings, or soon to be openings, such as Wigle’s expansion into the world of cider (Threadbare Cider), and get somewhat excited.

Which leads me on to this week’s post, a list of places I’m most looking forward to visting (or visting again)…

  1. Wigle Whiskey (Distillery and Barrelhouse)

I have spent a few minutes in the Distillery shop just after Christmas last year. Members of my family have all been on the tour and told me it’s good. I’ve tried five different products from the distillery, including the award winning Organic Rye Whiskey. I’d like to spend more time there, to try more of the range, and some of the many cocktails they offer, which leads me nicely into…

2. Maggie’s Farm Rum

I’ve visited Maggie’s Farm once, way back in early 2014, whilst I was in the country on a visit. The bar was not yet finished when we popped in to buy a bottle of white rum (at that point the only product they had). The bar has long since been finished. The range has had a spiced rum (which is amongst the best I’ve tried) and queen’s share rum added to it, as well as a Pear Eau De Vie.

3. Insurrection Ale Works

Insurrection opened late last year, and following a number of positive reviews had to close to the public for a week so they could replenish their stock. They had literally been drunk dry.

Personally for me, the pale ales and IPAs didn’t excite me much. They were nice, but they’re not why I want to return to Insurrection. That would be the sour beers. A couple of which were on the menu when we visited earlier this year. From what I’ve seen posted on Facebook from them, there’s a number of beers sat in barrels, waiting for their moment to shine later this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to try some of them.

4. Rusty Gold Brewing

Situated in Canonsburg, with plans to open by July 4th. Given the rate at which new breweries seem to be opening in the area, I’ll be surprised if this is the only new place I get to this year.

5. Arsenal Cider House

Whilst Threadbare Cider is still some months off yet, Arsenal exists now, and is nicely situated not far from Maggie’s Farm and the Church Brew Works (a brewery and restaurant set in an old church, it looks nice, you should go). I’ve wanted to visit for a while, but have yet to find the time or means.

There are many more places I could add to this list. Every time I look I seem to find a new place to visit. Even as I write this, I’ve thought of Apis Meadery in Carnegie. It feels good to live in an area with such a vast amount of production around.

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The Friday Pint 2016 #5 – Wigle Hopped

So that, for what it was worth, was January. The month in which you either went dry or you just carried on as usual. I took a week off of alcohol myself at the start of the year, following the gluttony of Christmas and New Year. It actually seems to have done me good. Even in the weeks following, I haven’t been drinking as much as I may have done if I was still back in the UK. I have a small collection of beer to dip into, but until I have money coming in, it’s not going to grow much more.

As it is, sometimes I’ll have to reach for something other than beer to provide the inspiration for these posts. This week is one of those weeks, and the drink in question is a glass of Wigle Whiskey’s Hopped Whiskey.

Wigle are based in the Strip District of Pittsburgh (with a barrelhouse on the north shore). Since opening in 2012, Wigle have won a number of awards for their spirits. They have also supplied old barrels to local brewers to age beer in, some of which have returned and had whiskey aged in (Rounders Share was aged in barrels which previously stored barley wine).

As for the whiskey, you can tell it’s been hopped the moment you remove the cork. A floral aroma emerges from the bottle that is distinctly hop like. For those wondering, Cascade, Newport and Centennial were the hops used. Taste wise, it tastes how you’d probably expect a hopped whiskey to taste. There’s the warmth of the alcohol, quickly followed by the flavours imparted by the hops, which slowly fade in the aftertaste.

Personally, as a man who enjoys highly hopped IPAs, the idea of a hopped whiskey intrigued me, and the actual thing didn’t disappoint. I can easily see Wigle Hopped being a drink that people don’t like, either put off by the hops, or by the whiskey element.

At the time of writing, bottles are still available from the distillery, and for customers in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania online.

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The Friday Pint 2016 #4 – SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale

As Storm Jonas makes its way up and across the east coast of the USA, I once again find myself with a glass full of beer. This week, it’s a beer I’ve had no prior experience of at all, SweetWater’s 420 Extra Pale Ale.

First conceived on April 20th, 1997, 420 Extra Pale Ale is 5.7% Centennial and Cascade hopped beer brewed with 2 row, munich and 40L malt.

It’s about six months beyond the date at which they say it’s best if enjoyed by. Given the style, I can easily believe that it would be better fresh. That being said, it still tastes fine, and I’m quite enjoying it.

I wouldn’t say 420 is a special beer. It doesn’t astound or amaze me in the way that some pales have or do. That being said, it is rather drinkable, and I wouldn’t complain if this was amongst my choices of beers in a bar or restaurant. Would I buy a bottle of it again? Possibly, if I found myself in Atlanta, GA. for enough time.

 

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The Friday Pint 2016 #3 – Erie Brewing Skipper Stout

I don’t like coffee.

As such, for the most part, I don’t like coffee based beers.

Skipper Stout, for me, is a beer that seems to change with each sip I have of it. With one sip, the coffee flavour will be prominent and strong, and I will find the beer horrible. With the next, I can hardy taste the coffee at all, and for me Skippers Stout becomes much more drinkable.

Last week, my fiancee bought a case of Skipper Stout. Unlike me, she likes coffee, and so enjoys Skipper Stout much more than I do. From what I’m told, it’s actually a very nice coffee stout.

Temperature does seem to have a strong effect on what Skipper Stout tastes like. The coffee flavours seem to get weaker as the beer warms up. For me, this is obviously a good thing, but for the coffee and beer lovers, it’s probably not.

I’m not sure if the fact that I, a person who doesn’t like coffee, finds himself warming to a coffee stout says anything or not. If you do like coffee, I’d say it’s probably worth checking out.

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Skipper Stout is a seasonal beer made available from November each year, until supplies run out. More information can be found here

Erie Brewing Company can be found on Twitter @eriebrewingco

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The Friday Pint 2016 #2 – The Ever Growing Bubble

Every so often, over the past few years, and the increasing growth of the beer industry, people wonder how much bigger the beer bubble can get before it bursts. In recent weeks, and in coming months, a number of new breweries, brewpubs and micropubs are opening that suggest the burst is some way off yet.

Here, in the Pittsburgh area, there are a number of brewpubs in the planning stages, to go along with the significant number that have opened in the last few years. When I first came over to visit my fiancee, almost 4 years ago now, choice was limited. Now, there’s so much choice locally I have no need to seek out the beers from further afield.

It’s locality that I think is one of the key driving forces in the success of these new venues opening up here, and also back home in Southampton.

Soon it will be two years since The Butchers Hook in Bitterne Triangle opened, and a year since The Dancing Man first opened its doors. Both of these have quickly become embraced by the local community, and both support the community around them. Whether it be by providing a space for groups to gather, or by obtaining the beer and food from local producers, the area in which they are situated, and the people are important to the success of The Butchers Hook and The Dancing Man.

This success has only led to further expansion of the beer scene in Southampton. Bitter Virtue continue to expand their already impressive beer range, Sadlers now have a presence in Southampton (much to my delight), Brewdog will soon have a presence, and a number of micropubs are or very soon will be following in the footsteps of The Butchers Hook.

In a world in which we have become much more connected globally, people have seemingly become more attracted by local produce and services. Hopefully, the current trends can be sustained. A world in which I can stock a drinks cabinet mostly with liquor made in the local area seems like a good one to me.

 

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The Friday Pint 2016 #1 – Drinking In America

Those of you who know me well will probably know that last year I was in the process of moving to America to live with my fiance and get married. As a result, a lot of things, including this, got somewhat abandoned. As it is, I am now in America, and have already started trying some of the new beers and breweries that have emerged since I was last here in February. I’ll be writing about those in the weeks and months to come, but first, some words on a beer I have left behind (with the exception of six cans I managed to fit in my case).

Regular readers of this blog (or of my twitter stream) will be aware of the Dancing Man Brewery. Originally set up in The Platform Tavern, last year saw them expand into the old Wool House a few hundred yards down the road. The improved capacity has led to improved quality in the beers, and the increased number of taps has led to some good guests featuring on the bar. Combined with The Butchers Hook, and the opening of Sadler’s first location outside of the Midlands, Southampton has become a good place to drink in the last year.

Going back to Dancing Man, and in particular, bottled and canned Dancing Man. A few Dancing Man beers were bottled a couple of years ago, around the release of the 200th brew, Smokin’ Banjos. Unfortunately, those bottles didn’t quite live up to how the beers tasted on draft.

Moving forward to today, and Dancing Man beer is once again available to drink at home. This time however, it comes in cans. Currently, it is just Big Casino, Dancing Man’s IPA (Available from Bitter Virtue for £2.40 a can) that has been canned.  The can I had on launch night tasted wonderful. By far the best I have tasted Big Casino in the time it’s existed.

As alluded to early, I took a six pack of Big Casino over to America with me. It was the first beer I had after a few dry days to give my body a chance to recover from all the farewell drinks. Compared to the can I had in The Dancing Man, this can (which had travelled over 3000 miles) didn’t taste as good. I’m going to put this down to the age old problem many beers have of “it doesn’t travel well”.

That being said though, it’s still a fine tasty beer. The problem comes when you have an example as good as that first can I had to compare it to, and you find yourself prone to nitpicking. As it is, the only problem I have is that it doesn’t taste as good as it did in Southampton, and really, I’m the only person I can blame for that. I probably should have opened a can at home before I left.

That seems like enough for this week. As I write it’s still New Year’s Eve, I have a can of Big Casino, and a bottle of Lagunitas Maximus in the fridge, and a selection of locally distilled spirits in the drinks cabinet. I’m sorted for the night.

However your 2015 was, have a great 2016.

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Unemployment, Marriage and the Great Migration.

So, it’s been a while hasn’t it.

I’ve actually started writing many new posts since I last actually posted something. I’ve been rather busy in that time, and hence haven’t really had time, or the desire to write anything.

Rather than dwelling over the minutiae of what I’ve been doing, lets focus on the now, and the soon to be.

I am now unemployed, albeit intentionally. I left work at the end of last month in order to move over to America. Of course, you’re now wondering why I’m moving to America, unless of course you already know. The answer is I’m getting married, providing of course they actually let me in. That won’t be for another month or so yet, depending on how long it takes for my visa to arrive after my interview.

As for the immediate future, tonight I shall be opening a selection of Fuller’s Vintage ales at The Platform Tavern in Southampton (where naturally, I am writing this post. I’ve tried writing in The Dancing Man, it’s not the same). I have 13 different bottles from 1999 through to 2014. I doubt we’ll be opening all of them.

Chances are it will be some time before I write here again, possibly not until I’m settled in America. I’m still active on Twitter though, should you want to know what thoughts are spilling out of my mind onto the interwebs.

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The Friday Pint 2015 #21 – Busy

Those few of you who actually await these posts each Friday may have noticed that I’ve missed a few weeks recently. Partly due to laziness on my part, but also because I’m currently busy doing a lot of other stuff.

As for stuff you should be concerned with, the Beer Bash is just a month away. I’ll be sending e-mails out to volunteers very soon, and tickets are selling well, with some sessions sold out, or close to selling out.

Hopefully I’ll find time for a longer post, or find some other format to update you all. Until then though, have a great weekend.

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Mud City Stout – A few words for Craft Beer Hour

This Tuesday, at around 8pm, the Birmingham Beer Bash will be taking over Craft Beer Hour. As there’s a lot to get in (ten of us selecting a beer each) the hour has become two hours. All 10 beers should be on at The Craven Arms. As much as I would have liked to have gone up, I am unfortunately working Tuesday night, and so I have travelled up today to drink a few pints of my beer, and write some words about it.

I first came to Sadler’s back in somewhere between 2008 and 2009. I once had a girlfriend who lived in the Birmingham area, and so I travelled up from Southampton every so often. During that time, I got to know some of the areas pubs, and grew to like them. I also found that if you travel a short train ride out of the city, you can find yourself amongst some beautiful scenery.

It was my second trip to The Windsor Castle that I fell in love with Mud City Stout. It is the only beer for which I have made multiple two hour train journeys to drink. Having been thinking about things I’ll miss whilst in America, it is Mud City Stout that comes top of the beer list.

When we were asked for beer suggestions for Craft Beer Hour, Mud City Stout came to mind rather quickly for me. If I started to think a bit longer, I possibly could have come up with another beer, one that people might associate more with the word “craft”. As it is though, I have chosen the beer that if I could only drink one for the rest of my life, it would be this.

I have had a few bad pints of Mud City Stout, and I apologise if when you get to try it, it isn’t quite as good as it should be. To me, Mud City Stout is liquid satisfaction. If Sadler’s can find a way of exporting some to wherever I end up in America, I will be very happy indeed.

I hope all of you participating in Craft Beer Hour have a good night. Have a few for me won’t you.

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The Friday Pint 2015 #20 – The Dancing Man

Around the time this gets posted on Friday evening, I shall be within the grounds of Cardiff Castle, most likely enjoying a pint of Tiny Rebel’s Fubar whilst waiting to see the Manic Street Preachers perform The Holy Bible for what will be the fourth time. As it is, I am writing this post on Monday, from within The Dancing Man.

It’s been a few months since I have written anything about the Dancing Man Brewery and the Wool House. I could have written a review of the new venue on open weekend but chose not to for one simple reason; I wanted to give them a chance to settle down and iron out any flaws first.

From my first-hand experience, there have been a few flaws. The first noticeable one for me was an off flavour in the beers, presumably caused by the new lines. Thankfully, I haven’t noticed it the last few times I’ve been in, which implies that this problem may have been fixed.

The only other problem that I personally have encountered whilst visiting The Dancing Man, is a lack of beer. This was on a Saturday afternoon not long after the new brewpub had opened. I can only assume that this was because people drank the bar dry on the Friday night. In many ways, I am perfectly okay with this.

Aside from those two glitches, my experience of The Dancing Man has been a rather good one so far. The expansion has enabled Aidan to start running some of his beers on keg, and also to have around four to five Dancing Man beers on alongside guests.

I have so far only eaten at The Dancing Man once. It was though, a very enjoyable experience. Whilst the menu felt slightly limited in choice, the choice that I made, was delicious. Beef brisket with cheese and roast potatoes in gravy. Almost as satisfying as the cheesy garlic bread from The Platform.

As for the décor, the additions to the building fit in well. There is a focus on the maritime history of the area, with many pieces relating to the Titanic. There are also features, such as The Dancing Man metal sculpture and the lighting, which highlights the industrial history of the building.

Overall, I like The Dancing Man as a place to visit and drink with company. For the purposes of a quiet drink whilst writing, I prefer the Platform Tavern. Despite having strong ties between the two venues, there is definitely a distinct identity in each one.

If you’re ever in Southampton, or passing through on the way to the Isle of Wight, or headed on a cruise, you should pay The Dancing Man a visit. Whether you like beer or not, the building itself is worth having a look around.

The fact that the food and drink happens to be rather good is a bonus.

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