Sunday, February 05, 2006
Pittsburgh: A Super Bowl Homage to its Beer & Steelers
I live in the Philadelphia area, so what am I doing posting this "homage" about the beer scene and the Super Bowl Steelers of Pittsburgh (approx. 300 miles or 180 kilometers from home)? Well, there are two motivating factors. The first is the extremely lackluster writing that I read recently from a San Diego beer writer and the second is that the Steelers are the favorite football team of at least a few of my friends (and a couple of family members as well). Additionally, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers really do not share all that much of a rivalry, largely because of the separate conferences to which they belong. Interestingly enough, for one year during the second World War, the teams combined to form the Steagles. Enough background information, onto the beer scene of Pittsburgh. Unlike the article which I referenced earlier, I will write nothing of Rolling Rock (kind of close to Pittsburgh) or Stoudt's (very far from Pittsburgh, actually a little more than 50 miles from Philadelphia). I'm surprised he didn't write about Yuengling from Pottsville, PA. Here's my guess: he walked into the local beverage store in San Diego and bought the only two beers made in Pennsylvania that he could find. Instead of writing about the very interesting beer scene of Pittsburgh, he wrote about average Rolling Rock and a very good, but irrelevant from Pittsburgh's perspective, Stoudt's. It's like writing about the San Diego beer scene and mentioning Anchor and Russian River, but not Stone or Pizza Port. In this day and age of information (i.e. the Internet), I'm surprised at this subpar writing. Ok, didn't I say I was moving on to the Pittsburgh beer scene? Ha, enough complaining. So, if you're coming into the city from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you'll want to stop at D's Sixpax and Dogz at Regent Square in Swissvale. This is just outside the city limit on the other side of the Squirrel Hill tunnel. Nothing fancy here but a variety of hot dogs and hundreds of bottled beer selections. A good stop for a stash of beer for your hotel room or as a gift for your house host. Now that you're in the city, here are some good options for finding great beer. I've decided to only speak of what I know from first-hand experience. It would be disingenuous of me trying to represent something that I can not speak of personally. Let me start by saying that no matter where you go for beer in the city that you should find a good brew by Penn Brewing and East End Brewing. These are the two most representative local brews of Pittburgh currently on the scene. Penn Brewing has a much more rich and award-winning tradition than does East End, which is only a couple of years old. According to its website, East End's brewing equipment is from the Foundry Ale Works (Strip District), which sadly is no more. While you will not be able to visit East End Brewing as a brewpub (but you can go and fill a growler), Penn's location in the city's North Side district is nicely built out with plenty of room for dining and drinking, including a ratskeller room. Their beers, most especially the Pilsner, are very finely crafted brews and have garnered their fair share of awards. They certainly strive hard to be an authentic German brewery in every sense of it. Also important on the local brewing scene is the Church Brew Works brewpub not far from the city's Strip District. They've won a few awards in the past and their presence continues to grow in the Pittsburgh area. I've had great experiences in the past with both the dark lager and the maibock from CBW. And, the scene here is worth checking out. This brewpub really is in a converted former church. Pews have been rearranged, the alter has been....um, altered...into brewing operations, and the structure as a whole as been mostly left in tact otherwise. This is both a decent dining place as well as beer drinking place, if not a bit sacrilegious depending upon the strictness of your religious beliefs :) Also, when in Pittsburgh, you might find be able to find Erie Brewing products on tap. Their Railbender Ale, especially, is worth checking out. I only mention it because, in Pittsburgh, these beers are easier to find then in the Philadelphia area. From the perspective of good beer bars in Pittsburgh, I'd say that you can start and stop at Fathead's (South Side District). It's on most beer lover's lists of stops to make on a beer pilgrimage through the Midwest which begins in Pittsburgh. They have approximately 40 draft lines and hundreds of bottles from which to select. It's a classic beer bar/pub that has recently expanded and carries a better-than-average food menu replete with typical burgers, sandwiches, buffalo wings, salads, and ribs. This is an absolute must stop in Pittsburgh for a rollicking atmosphere, friendly staff, and some of the best beers you'll find on draft. Mad Mex adjacent to the University of Pittsburgh campus in the Oakland section also boasts a quite respectable lineup of beers along with some very decent margaritas. It also has a fun, trendy, and young college scene, especially on the weekend nights. The places that I have not been to, but have a good reputation and are on my list for the next trip, include: Gooski's; Market Street Ale House; Point Brugge Cafe; Sharp Edge Beer Emporium; and Smokin' Joes. So, there you have it. Our first, I believe, tribute posting. Somewhat of a tourist's guide, perhaps. In any case, I said that this was an homage to both the beer and Steelers of Pittsburgh. Since this is a site primarily about beer, I'll end this posting with three simple words: LET'S GO STEELERS!!!