Tag Archives: brewery

The Best of Summer 2016 Part II…Beer

I’ve done extensive scientific research into the subject of chillaxation, which is defined as “a state of total tranquility that comprises both the restfulness of body (chilling) and peacefulness of mind (relaxation)”. As it turns out, there’s no better activity to achieve this blissful state than enjoying a cold beer on a hot day.

I’ve enlisted my childhood friend Monica to help substantiate my hypothesis. Along with holding a PhD in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, she’s also conducted numerous field studies at the establishments that make up our region’s exploding craft beer and microbrewery scene. Monica is now going to report on her research by giving us some beverage suggestions that are guaranteed to maximize your chillaxation all summer long!

(First off, I have a short confession to the readers: I don’t like hoppy beer. My IBU scanning of selections usually have me choosing the lowest numbers by default. If you are a hop head, you’re likely not going to have fun with the following.)

In the regional area, there are approximately 70 breweries. The boyfriend and I have a list and a google map and are slowly visiting them all. Hell, we even made it to Milkman Brewing and they were open for approximately 20 minutes. There are many beers that we can consider both local and good for summer drinking. Not all of my suggestions are local, but many are. Support your local brewer.

This being said, I’m also a big qualifier of information. I have a thing for parenthetical comments. When I’m asked a question, I instantly go through the multitude of answers that could be correct, and qualify when each answer is appropriate. I thought that it would be most helpful to have a list of common summer situations in which beer is the appropriate answer and then qualify them. Here it goes:

The “I just spent a ridiculous time performing lawn maintenance in 90F weather for a lawn that I only go in to mow” beer.

The appropriate beer here is one that won’t be contaminated by the taste of the sweat running down your face or the smell of grass stuck in your nose. It won’t be super high in ABV, nor will it be super astringent. This beer will quench your thirst, but also give you a taste of something that will remind you of something other than lawn work. It’s not a savoring beer, it is a thirst quenching beer. (Yes, I do my own lawn work.)

I’m recommending a Doc G’s beer called “Orange Blossom Wheat”. It’s a 4.8% ABV with a hit of orange. It is all of the things that I think go well with a shitty lawn job. Now, you all can go over to yelp and look at the reviews of this place (it’s in DuBois), and well, they’re not good. What I can say is that I have insider information that the brewer has changed, and this will likely impact your beer enjoyment.

The “It’s Friday, my coworkers have the intelligence of horseshoe crabs, and I need to go in tomorrow anyway” beer.

Sometimes you need to sit at a patio and bitch about life while sipping a beer. This calls for a quality drink. You can have a couple of drinks, but then you realize that real life is going to set in early tomorrow, so you want to make them count. You want something that is a pleasant taste and buzz, and go well with that water you’re going to have after them.

I’m recommending the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling. It’s 8.19% ABV is going to have you pleasantly forgetting about the idiots you work with and have you moving to a discussion about what you’re going to do on vacation. (I’m calling this local because you can get it at Giant Eagle.)


The “I’m being forced to spend time with my family” beer.

If you are obligated to spend time with your family and need beer to get through it (and they’re of the Bud Light variety), you are going to need a beer that satisfies several criteria. One, it must be worth it to take to the location. Two, it’s going to have to be something that someone else is not going to want to steal. Three, it likely has to not be too heavy as to not compete with the potato salad. Four, it needs to be a session beer (We know what you think of your cousin’s new boyfriend, but we don’t need to do this now).

I’m recommending the Ellicottville Brewing Company’s Blueberry Wheat beer. It’s fruity, so all of the old white-beards in the family aren’t going to want any. It’s a lighter wheat beer, and it’s just a hint of blueberry, so it goes well with the standard cookout fare. Lastly, it only has a 4.8 ABV, so you can finish the 6-pack while the rest of the family is harping on you to get married.

The “F*@K this I’m out, night before vacation” beer.

Sometimes you can be one of those people that packed for vacation 2 days before you leave. Other times you need to walk out of work realizing that you have to get up at 6 AM for the flight and haven’t washed clothes for 2 weeks. When the latter happens, you can hole up at a local brewery (bonus points if there’s a food truck and the mayor is wearing shorts) and have a beer or two. Because, really, you’re going to sleep on the plane anyway.

While I said that I’m no fan of hops, for some reason the hops I do like are the Nelson hops. These New Zealand based hops aren’t nearly as piney to me, and provide a nice astringent taste and a floral aroma that’s refreshing.

For pre-gaming vacation, I suggest Brew Gentlemen’s Nelson Saison (ABV 6.0%). This beer says “I’m only packing what I need for the beach”.

The “Sitting around the bonfire watching the stars” beer.

Sometimes you need a relaxing evening with friends, sitting around a summer bonfire, picking out the constellations in the sky. It’s way after dinner at this point, you don’t have any plans in the morning, and sitting and chatting are the only thing you want to do. Not high level work discussion, not philosophical discussions about what the world looks like to you, just telling stories and shit-talking your friends.

To save the best for last, I’m imploring you to get some of Helltown’s Hefeweizen (5% ABV). It’s the sitting around beer. It’s the ‘hold my beer so I can tell this story with hand movements’ beer. It’s the beer of friendship and remembering who has the embarrassing pictures of you as a child.

Best of Summer

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Spoonwood – Bethel Park Suburb

Restaurant: Spoonwood Brewing Company

Location: On Baptist Road right past where Hills used to be.

Atmosphere: Hipster warehouse-chic with exposed HVAC, industrial lighting, gray walls and big ol’ metal vats of beer.


Menu: Salads, sandwiches, soups and, ummm, let me see if I can remember, what was that again…um…oh yeah…WOOD-FIRED PIZZAS!!!!!

Food (and Beer): Let’s start with the beer since that’s Spoonwood’s core competency. I sampled an assortment of their rotating selections and below are my actor-inspired assessments:

Stunt Double Kölsch – refreshingly solid and straightforward with an abundance of malty musk. Basically the Bill Paxton of beers.

O’vermillion Irish Red Ale – an easy-to-drink beer with some light herbal/grassy notes. Basically the Bill Pullman of beers.

In The Black Stout – its subtle flavoring of roasted coffee and chocolate reminded me of the late 90s work of Larenz Tate.

Marmalade Wheat – analogous to how I’ve felt about Katherine Heigl since she left Grey’s Anatomy. I was expecting so much more but its lack of depth and bitter orange aftertaste really wasn’t to my liking.

Elise Saison – dry and peppery with some upfront floral hops. Pretty much a cross between Simon Pegg and Zooey Deschanel.


Now for the food! I’m not one for overzealous hyperbole, but my first bite of Spoonwood’s pizza was the greatest thing to ever happen to me. On second thought maybe that isn’t completely true*, but it definitely was some of the finest pizza that I’ve ever had in the “wood-fired” style.

The crust was inexplicably both fluffy and crispy and it had the perfect amount of flavorful char on the underside from the “hot as f” oven. A sparse scattering of house-made mozzarella and fresh basil topped my Margherita and defined the concept of quality over quantity.


The pizza’s size was relatively modest so I was very happy that my wife and I ordered our own instead of planning to split just one. Let that be a lesson to you – the key to a happy marriage is never running out of pizza.

* “Greatest things to ever happen to me” rankings – 1) marrying my wife, 2) my son being born, 3) getting LASIK surgery, 4) eating Spoonwood’s pizza and 5) going to Lollapalooza ’94.

Final Call: Spoonwood’s beer selection was very solid but I can’t say that there were any breakout superstars a la Jennifer Lawrence or Channing Tatum in the bunch. However, I would marry their pizza if it was legal. Highly recommended!

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everybody loves…Germany…Part IV

Waking up Wednesday morning, I finally felt completely adjusted to the time change and free of jet lag. With the hectic voyage to the hotel behind us, my wife and I started our first full day in Munich by heading downstairs for breakfast. Unsurprisingly, the hotel’s buffet offered up a varied assortment of cheese and oddly-colored sausages. I passed on the unappealing wieners and scooped myself a heaping helping of a cereal selection that looked to be the German translation of Fruity Pebbles. It had the same crisp rice flakes, albeit in a less-appealing grayish brown hue, and came with the addition of huge yogurt balls. Though the color change was quite off-putting, the chewy yogurt embellishments actually made the cereal much tastier than our prehistoric version. After breakfast we bundled up and ventured out to start our journey exploring the best of Munich by bus.

We took a seat upstairs on the double-decker bus to enhance our view as we cruised through a bunch of the cities historic platz’s (Odeonsplatz, Max-Joseph-Platz, Karlsplatz). Before too long we had our first stop at the Palace of Nymphenburg. Being winter, the palatial estate grounds were rather haggard looking, but the photograph on the postcard we bought portrayed a beautiful visage when the flowers are in bloom. We debated the idea of partaking in the palace’s museum tour, but what little information we gleamed from the souvenir shop failed to greatly interest us to learn more. After taking another round of snapshots, we high-tailed it back to the bus so we didn’t have to wait an hour for the next scheduled pick-up.

The subsequent rest stop was at the BMW Welt and Olympic Park. The sky was overcast gray and imposingly foggy so unfortunately we weren’t able to take a good photograph of any of the Olympic architecture or park surroundings. And since we already chaotically drove around this area the day before, the only real highlight of this stop was the opportunity to use the restroom. We jumped back on the bus to continue the tour and I soon struck up a conversation with the girl seated in front of us. She had spoken English to me earlier on the ride when I couldn’t quite figure out how to use the narration headphones, and it turned out that she was a fellow American named Tamar from Los Angeles. She had already been traveling across Europe for a few weeks and was chock-full* of interesting stories.

Tamar, my wife and I decided to hop off at the Bahnhofplatz for some lunch and continued chatting on the trip back to the Marienplatz. Tamar was planning to partake in a guided tour of the famous beer halls of Munich later that evening and with her help, I was able to convince my wife** to let us tag along. We had a couple hours before the outing started so we passed the time exploring the various shops and Christmas markets in and around the Marienplatz. We eventually met our tour guide underneath the Glockenspiel and started following him around along the streets with another very nice American couple from Seattle. Our guide Eric was a native German, but much to my surprise, it turned out that he had actually gone to high school at Allderdice in the city of Pittsburgh. His father was a professor of some sort and got a job at the University of Pittsburgh while he was a teenager and his family moved to Oakland. Small world….

Eric began by lecturing us on the history of Bavarian brewing and after what seemed like an hour of historical facts we finally entered the G. Schneider & Sohn Bräuhaus to drink some beer. I was thrilled to visit this location since I absolutely love their Aventinus Weizen Bock, and count it as my favorite wheat beer. Not only did I get to enjoy my own gigantic Aventinus draft, but I also guzzled the lion’s share of my wife’s Schneider Weisse original hefeweizen. Already feeling gently wrapped in the arms of a warm buzz, we headed to the Paulaner Bräuhaus for a tour of their brewery. After learning about the importance of wort and observing the process first-hand, we sat down for some pub grub and freshly brewed lagers. My memory is a bit muddled due to the two liters of beer I ingested on an empty stomach but I think everything tasted good.

Our final stop was at the world famous Hofbräuhaus München. The beer hall was dark, dank and drab, which makes sense since it was built way back in 1589. I ate a pretzel about twice the size of my head, washed that down with another liter of beer, and then stumbled my way across the street to my nearby hotel for bedtime. Munich brought us a wonderful day filled with German history, beer, food and fun with new friends.

* I originally thought the expression was “chalk-full” but upon googling it to investigate the etymology I found that it’s in fact chock-full. And just when I thought I knew everything…

** My wife doesn’t drink beer and I’m not terribly interested in the brewing process so I did not foresee this tour being part of our agenda. However, once Tamar slapped the pamphlet in my hands and I started to read about the historic breweries, I felt like it would have been a shame for us not to learn more about the beer capital of the world. To pay my wife back, I promise to one day tour the Sailor Jerry distillery in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Past Links

Travel Prologue

Germany Pt. I


Germany Pt. II

Germany Pt. III

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