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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Pittsburgh, Penn ... again
Looks like I was just a few weeks early in my visit to Pittsburgh in order to taste the "new" Penn Pilsner being brewed once again back on Penn's home turf in the North Side/Troy Hill neighborhood. Check the Post-Gazette for more details. But while I was there in the middle of December, here is what I did find. I did find (finally) that Piper's Pub is just down the street from Fat Head's on Carson Street in the South Side. I'd, of course, always known this; it's just that I've always found it so difficult to get past Fat Head's. By the time the eating and drinking was done with at Fat Head's, a trip upstairs to the retail shop, oh and maybe just one more, trekking the extra half block down the street has always just seemed so unnecessary. And, I've been told by others wiser than I that this is a mistake that I should not be repeatedly making. While Fat Head's should always remain on any beer drinker's best Pittsburgh Itinerary, it may be time for me to reconsider my first stop in the South Side. Between the soccer (oh, my apologies, I should say football?!), the neighborhood insider ambiance, the friendly but unobtrusive staff, and the interesting but not overwhelming menu, Piper's Pub will be my first stop on Carson Street when I return for the annual Flyers/Penguins hockey trip that I'll be making at the end of March. I can already taste my next perfect Scotch Egg at Piper's. It was during this visit to Piper's that I found what was already reported to be true just a few short months ago---that Philadelphia Brewing had entered the Pittsburgh market. Harvest from the Hood was still on tap (as it was also at Fat Head's) and according to the Philadelphia-transplanted bartender has been well-received by patrons. Oh, and before I move on from Piper's, how remiss I would be if I didn't mention the oh-so-perfect East End Snow Melt coming off the cask engine. Simply,,,wow! This is a great beer to begin with, and it shines all the more (as many beers do when served this way) when served cask-conditioned without the invasive forced carbon dioxide. What else I did find was a pleasant neighborhood-y feeling tavern smack in the middle of downtown a stone's throw from the Convention Center. While there isn't an endless supply of decent beer bars in the heart of downtown, August Henry's just may be downtown's best nowadays. A co-worker and I stopped in long enough to find a tasteful decor of dark, heavy wood, comfortable barstools, and a long mural of the local landscape and skyline decorating the long wall opposite the bar. We had a couple of beers, East End's Snow Melt and Great Lakes' Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. I hadn't made a note of the entire draft list, but in addition to the two I've already mentioned, to know that Great Lakes Christmas and Tröegs Mad Elf had just kicked should give you an idea of why August Henry's should be on your short list of stops if you happen to be staying in a Downtown Pittsburgh hotel looking for decent grub and grog within a few blocks of your hotel. Since this three-night group business trip to Pittsburgh was largely dominated by, well, business, there wasn't much more to report, except.... What I did find when crossing the river and highway to the North Side/Troy Hill neighborhood was not a whole lot of apparent activity at the newly former and new again home of Penn Brewery. Someone had written somewhere online (my apologies for lack of proper credit here) that Tom Pastorius and crew had just mashed in days ahead of my visit. As you can see from the link all the way above (okay, here it is again so you don't have to go looking for it), the Penn Pilsner will be ready very soon and I might add not a day too soon. I had a Penn Dark during one of our dinners out in Pittsburgh. It was one that had been brewed in Wilkes-Barre (The Lion) as any Penn beer brand has been for the last however-many-months-it's-been since the brewery and restaurant were shuttered. Let's just say the beer tasted and smelled at least a notch or two below what I would call acceptable by Penn's standards. So, yes, I'm looking as forward to some fresh Penn Pilsner as much as I am to the Scotch Egg and Soccer at Piper's Pub in March. Since I arrived without warning, all I could do was to poke around to see whom I might find working around the brewery. An electrician was about it. A couple of open doors allowed me (well, 'allowed' may be a too generous of a way to describe them) to poke my head in, but really nothing else much to report sight- or smell-wise. So, I grabbed a few pictures for your enjoyment and teasing. If you haven't been to Penn in the past, I'd recommend keeping your eyes on the Beer Press so that you can schedule your own visit later this coming year. The walk to Penn from downtown is such an easy one. Of course, it depends partly upon where you are coming from downtown. If you're all the way down by The Point/Fort Pitt or over by Duquesne, you might be looking at a 2 mile walk...very doable, of course, on a nice day. If you're closer to the Strip District, you're talking about barely a mile's worth of walking. Walking or driving, you'll want to head across the 16th Street Bridge from downtown. A nice little road sign bearing the word 'Brewery' will point you in the right direction over to Vinial Street. Good thing they never took it down. But, if walking, you can shave a few minutes off your trek by walking through the Heinz Loft property (totally legal and open, not private property) and across a pedestrian walkway which takes you almost to the front door of Penn's Brewery and Restaurant. If you want to see this pedestrian bridge, it won't show up on any map only on satellite image...though, trust me, it makes for a better and faster walk (safer too, when crossing the highway 28 intersection) by taking this pedestrian bridge...and affords a nice view of the brewery and the Heinz property as well. That seems to bring me to a close of my most recent finds in Pittsburgh. I plan to have much, much more to share after the late March trip that I'll be making. 'Til then, why don't YOU take shot at sharing with the rest of us what you like most of Pittsburgh and its beer scene? Comment below!