Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back from Pittsburgh

Many of you know that I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon last weekend. I won't inundate you with a runner's rundown of minutia and other such geekey detail. Suffice to say that I knew going in that I'd stand little chance of setting a new personal best time and that my primary goal would be to feel comfortable and enjoy the race from start to finish as much as possible. If you like the running geekerie, drop a private note to me or meet me on a barstool somewhere and we can discuss in more detail.

Success! It did turn out to be the third best time in the six marathon races that I've run. But, more importantly, I felt pretty damn good for much of the run. Of course, there were times of exhaustion and little pains here and there. Plus, the amount of electrolytes, carbs, whatever is in those Gu packets, Clif Shot Blocks, and Gatorade that was sloshing around my stomach made the post-race beer and food all the more welcome.

The week leading up to each marathon that I run is virtually beer-free, allowing a little room, of course, for some liquid carb-loading but not much. So getting back on the (beer) horse after the race is always memorable for me.

For example, I can tell you that after the NYC Marathon, the first beer I had was Brooklyn Pennant Ale.

After the Marine Corp Marathon in D.C.? Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

In Philly the first time, it was General Lafayette's Lafayette's Escape at The tiedhouse and the second time was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at Kite & Key.

After my first Pittsburgh Marathon, it was Church Brew Works Mad Brewer's Maibock and this year after the marathon, it was a short walk to the new (-ish) downtown location of Sharp Edge where I got things swinging again with a classic Duvel.

See? I said that my first post-marathon beer is always important and memorable.

What else can I tell you about Pittsburgh? Well, we stayed downtown at The Westin and didn't venture out of downtown during our stay, unless you count that my marathon went through 13 neighborhoods of Pittsburgh! Downtown has been, from my many visits over the years, one of the least-well-served neighborhoods for good-tasting, quality beer.

I found that judgement changed a bit this time around. For example...

- Lidia's on the edge of the Strip District, in all of its Italian goodness and accompanying (requisite?) wine selection, served up a perfect draft of Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale for me. Other beers on tap there included ones from Stoudt's, Penn, and Magic Hat to name a few that I could remember without the aid of photography.

- Sonoma Grille behind the convention center, to prove that better beer is being found in more places these days -- or shall I say, more places want a piece of the craft beer action?, can be found pouring Weyerbacher Merry Monks, Kasteel Cuvée Du Chateau, and East End Big Hop IPA. Another wine place that seems to get it.

- The restaurant in our hotel, Original Fish Market, gave me a small taste -- since that's all I really wanted or needed the night before the marathon -- of East End's pleasantly bitter Big Hop IPA. Not a huge selection of beer, but a right smart choice of the local East End product.

- I stopped in at the Pittsburgh Public Market to find that Scott Smith's East End Brewery has indeed begun giving out tasters and selling growlers of its beer to go as he has touted on his website and email newsletters. Amongst nearly 40 other stands of local food, beverage, and art, East End beers fit right in with locally-crafted goods. Seems to be quite popular as well. Also spotted Jeff Appletans' creativity on sale as well at the brewery's growler stand.

- And, finally, Sharp Edge has come downtown. Their fifth location, called Bistro 922 Penn, opened nearly a year ago between 9th and 10th Streets on Penn Avenue. They have a house beer called Over The Edge produced for them by Belgian brewer, Van Steenberge. It's a Belgian Triple IPA (Belgo-American, or something like that?) and went nicely with my Buffalo Burger. Prices are bit high at the Bistro and I chalked it up to both a higher cost of business downtown and capitalizing on (taking advantage of?) the business and tourist crowds in the Downtown District. But, I understand from locals that this is not unusual for the Sharp Edge family.

What else can I share with you? Oh yeah, I wrote an article over at The Washington Times looking at the Pittsburgh beer scene from a mile-by-mile perspective along the marathon course. Check it out and let me know what you think. I'll be updating it shortly with my newest findings.

Now tonight, I must get back to beer and cheese tastings :)

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