Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bottling with Gratitude at East End Brewing in Pittsburgh, PA

FINALLY! A chance to take Scott Smith up on one of his e-mail requests for volunteers at his East End Brewing in Pittsburgh, PA. We were already in town for the meetup of Craft Beer Radio and The Brew Lounge to complete the surrender of goods from the hockey playoff wager. This occurred later on Saturday the 28th and Scott was looking for volunteers in the early morning hours.

Seeing the market release of the '07 Gratitude scheduled for 8/9 (important details here) reminded me of the need to get this posted for your consumption. Volunteering at this community-based brewery (not that the community actually owns it, or anything but...you see?) was too good of an experience not to share. Scott's late getting this '07 barleywine out; I'm late getting this message out...at least we're in the same boat. At least in his case, the barleywine ages well...my commentary, not so much so.

We headed over to East End on that particular Saturday morning for a 9am kickoff of the bottle wrapping project. If you've never seen the finished Gratitude product, this marks the 3rd year running (no, this isn't about beer and fitness, for a change ;-) that Scott has wrapped each bottle completely in recycled paper and wax-topped them to boot. It's a long, time-consuming process that is better performed as a group.

It's a messy process, too. From wetting the paper with flour-based glue to wrapping the bottle (ensuring all air bubbles are carefully squeezed out) the process takes an average of a couple of minutes per bottle. With 1500 bottles (125 cases, if I divide correctly) to wrap, it took each and every volunteer pitching in on this warm and muggy morning to get the entire inventory wrapped and stacked by mid-afternoon.

We cut out around noon, giving us enough time to grab some lunch and relax before heading over to Bocktown for our meetup with Jeff, Greg, and the Craft Beer Radio crew.

Not, though, before sampling some of Scott's gose. For those not familiar with this revived style (okay, maybe it's not completely revived quite yet), it reminded me a bit of a kinder, gentler berliner weisse. As you likely know, the berliner weisse can be quite a tart wakeup for the palate. The gose is too but in a, how shall we say (oh wait, I already said), kinder and gentler way. His first attempt at the gose was unsuccessful, but after a 3 day sour mash Scott was happy enough with this second batch to keep it and keg it. It's appropriately named 'Here It Gose Again' and by now may very likely be a distant memory. It had me thinking that this would make a great citrus-y poolside refresher during hot summer months.

After some conversation about his conservation efforts, I grabbed a new lid (sported after a beer run, astutely spotted by Scott), a couple of more pictures, and took off. But, not before Scott slipped a couple of unmarked '07 barleywines under my arms for a preview taste.

During a recent trip to The Shore (to be ready for your reading pleasure very, very soon, I promise...pins and needles, I'm sure), Mark Haynie, his wife Mary Lu, and I enjoyed a bottle. So much so, I'm doubting that I'll be able to resist for much longer opening the second bottle. A little extra time in the bottle has done all that it needs to do to make this ready to drink immediately.

From some of the chatter in the forums, it looks as if the stash won't last for long as fans are due to sweep in on the brewery this coming Saturday, August 9 for the debut of the '07 Gratitude.

As to my "community" comment earlier on, I don't think Scott would mind my reprinting of his thank-you note to the volunteers who showed up to help wrap the bottles on 6/28.

Hey there FOTB,
I usually don't send a message out after these volunteer projects, but I'm making an exception this time around... and I may have said this before, but it bears repeating: I HAVE THE BEST BREWERY VOLUNTEERS EVER!

I was thinking we'd get through labeling maybe 300 bottles, but thanks to your generous help and support (and tolerance for heat), we did all 1500 - and I still can't believe it. The labels are drying nicely now, and I'll start the waxing later this week. Look for this beer and some other goodies to be released in our special "late-winter" event, which is slated for JULY - as in next month.

I'm so happy to have this part done, and I clearly couldn't have done it without you. Thanks again to everyone who came out. You guys rock!



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