I was pretty excited on Saturday, which was the day of the Maiden concert. I'm proud to say that I still get excited about going to concerts, even as a middle-aged 45-year-old. I had planned to hit a few breweries in close proximity to the venue, the PPG Paints Arena (where the Penguins play), prior to the show. We'd been trying to meet up with Ron and Jen (some beer friends who happen to be huge Maiden fans) to no avail. Seems as though our itineraries weren't in sync. Nevertheless, Pleeps was ready to get some drinking in because he didn't have a ticket to the show and would therefore be stowed away in Brewslut's backpack for most of the day.
|Pleeps is ready!|
We began the day at Cinderlands, a place I'd only just heard about a few weeks prior to our trip as a result of skating around the internet in search of new breweries in the Pittsburgh area. Cinderlands is relatively new (they opened in December 2017) but had already established a well-deserved buzz by the time we visited. I had worked in the original - and much smaller - Lawrenceville taproom as our first stop of the day.
When we entered, we found a pair of stools at the bar. The place itself is long and narrow, with some tables in the back and the bar up front. It immediately struck me as a cool neighborhood bar. The bartender was friendly and talkative, and was happy to answer all my questions. The beer menu was chock-full of diverse beer styles, and we were eager to dig in.
|Inside Cinderlands' original Lawrenceville taproom.|
Beer-wise, there was lots to be had, so we dove right in. I started with When Doves Cry, a Paloma Sour IPA (likely paying homage to the Prince song with which the beer shares its name). This deliciously complex concoction is Cinderlands' adaptation of the beloved Mexican warm-weather cocktail, the Paloma. Bright, citrusy, and tangy, this satisfying beer offers a hint of tequila spice thanks to the addition of agave nectar. Further dry-hopping lends a huge smack of grapefruit in the finish. This one was right up there with Hitchhiker's A Different Animal and was a joy to drink.
|Pleeps fit right in at Cinderlands.|
Full Squish - Big pineapple aroma followed by juicy tangerine and a dried mango. Pineapple bread on the palate with a big, fluffy mouthfeel and equal parts crisp and round. Hop-saturated finish. Light golden and hazy. This may have been my favorite IPA of the trip.
Meanwhile, Brewslut was off in tart land enjoying a pair of fruited ales from its "Whipper" series of Berliner Weisse beers. Cherry Lime Whipper blends the pucker of limes with sweet, jammy cherries. Think a refreshing cherry limeade and you get some idea of what this beer is about.
The other, Passionfruit Dragonfruit Whipper, boasts a super-bright tropical aroma with tangy passionfruit at the forefront. Bracingly tart on the palate, the beer eventually opened up to offer ripe tropical fruit flavors with a hint of grainy sweetness. Yum!
As we were trying to sync up with Ron, Jen & Co., they mentioned that they had to double-down on some "banana chocolate chip pancake beer" from Cinderlands. Unfortunately, the beer wasn't available at the taproom where we were sitting; it was only available at the "Warehouse" location. Pleeps somehow overheard "banana," and immediately began salivating at the mere mention of this beer. Ugh. I decided to ask the bartender, "How far away is your Warehouse location?" He immediately replied, "Seven blocks." Damn! That's doable, I thought. So after we settled up, we decided to skip on down to the Cinderlands Warehouse location to see what all the fuss was about. Looks like Pleeps would get his way again... as usual!
|Outside Cinderlands Warehouse.|
I must admit that I was pretty blown away by this place immediately, especially for a brewery that's only been around for less than two years. Situated in Pittsburgh's Strip District in the old Spaghetti Warehouse, the impressive Cinderlands facility is bright and beautiful with a modern yet minimalist ambiance. The expansive first floor features tons of seating options and a large bar with breathtaking views of the surroundings. The second floor boasted an overlook of the brewhouse and fermentation cellar as well as an additional bar, more seating, and an adjacent rooftop patio. I really wish we could have stayed here longer, because we'd just become fast fans of the beer and I was starting to fall for this place.
|Our view from the bar at Cinderlands Warehouse.|
Now, on to the beer. The beer they were raving about is called Pancake Galaxy: Banana Chocolate Chip. A blueberry version also exists but sadly was not available during our visit. I must admit I was a bit skeptical of a "banana" beer because bananas really don't ferment out, and most beers I've had in the past that were brewed with banana didn't really carry through with the flavor. Well folks, this beer is an exception to the rule. Pancake Galaxy boasts big banana and vanilla aromas with a hint of acidity on the palate, then follows through with maple, cocoa, and cinnamon flavors. For an IPA, this sucker is creamy, rich, tangy, and fruity. I must admit I'd never had a beer quite like this before. Not only is this beer creative, it tastes good too. Well played, Cinderlands!
Grist House. We'd first visited Grist House back in 2017 during our Easter weekend trip (as recalled in Jammin' in the 'Burgh: Part 1). It was quite a chaotic affair to say the least. This time wasn't much different. One of the newer, trendier breweries in the 'Burgh, Grist House suffers from being located in a small neighborhood area with, shall we say, "challenging" parking. Factor in the brewery's popularity and things can get messy. Nevertheless, I was up for hanging with our friends and talkin' metal for a while. The only thing I like talking about more than beer is music, so when I can combine these two pastimes, it's a win-win for me!
When we arrived, we had to get creative with our parking spot. Being the talented parallel parking champion that I am, I was able to secure an extremely tight spot right around the corner where other parking novices would surely fail. Seriously, I'm the fuckin' man when it comes to parallel parking. As predicted, things were in full swing when we rounded the corner and approached the brewery. The outside courtyard area was booming with food trucks, an outside beer truck, and tons of customers. Grist House is very dog-friendly, too, so there were several furry, four-legged friends mingling with us lesser humans.
We decided to grab our beers at the outside beer trailer since there was virtually no line and we weren't sure if it would be a shit show inside. I think we made the right decision. We found an empty high-top table outside near the entrance, but no sooner did we set our drinks down that I heard, "Ffej!" I looked over to see our friends occupying a table inside near the bar.
After I'd ordered my beer, I quickly realized it's the same beer I had last time we visited. Hazedelic Juice Grenade is a super-hazy NEIPA with creamy notes of orange and mango. I enjoyed this one a bit more than some of the others we'd sampled during this particular trip to the 'Burgh, and I may have even enjoyed this more than the first time. Perhaps it was because of the company and my anticipation for the concert. Either way, it served its purpose.
Outrun Cowboy - Light bodied and crisp unfiltered pilsner with subtle grassy and citrusy hop flavors. For a brewery that prides itself on hazy IPAs, this was a refreshing change of pace and was definitely above average... certainly better than I was anticipating. Lagers are definitely much more tricky to brew (or at least brew WELL) than ales. At least that's what I've been told. I'm no brewer. I just help market the stuff. But I've been on a lager kick lately so this one went down quickly and effortlessly.
|Up the Irons! \m/|
We had time to hit up one final new place before heading to the arena for the concert. Spring Hill looked like a pretty interesting place when I discovered it using BreweryDB. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and foliage, the small brewery is located inside of the WBU Event Venue building, which sits on top of Spring Hill with the city skyline as an amazing backdrop. The owner happened to be tending bar during our visit, and it was nice to chat with him about brewing, his beers and what influenced him to start a brewery.
Spring Hill seems to have carved out a niche in creating lower ABV "table" beers in the vein of rustic farmhouse saisons, balanced pale ales, and delicate sours. I must admit that it's a nice change of pace from seeing eight beers on the board and five of them are hazy IPAs.
|Table beers abound at Spring Hill.|
After a quick perusal, I settled on a beer called Afternoon. Touted as the brewery's flagship hoppy saison and described as an "all day crusher," this flavorful ale weighs in at only 4.5% ABV and boasts notes of grapefruit and peach with a crisp malt backbone. This one was quite enjoyable. Brewslut opted for Chimney Swift, a "Red Sumerian" sour ale spiced with orange peel and coriander. This was equally as refreshing.
|I'm a waxing gibbous kind of guy.|
This place also gets bonus points for playing "Starbreaker," a deep cut from Judas Priest's 1977 album, Sin After Sin. That definitely got me riled up right before leaving for the Maiden concert!
So, it was off to the concert...
What's there to say about the Maiden show? Of course it was awesome! That goes without saying. We had pit tickets (yes there are still a few bands out there that I still get so excited to see in concert and I'll stand in line for 4 hours to get a good spot on the floor) and ended up dead center about 6 or 7 rows back. Sadly, I didn't have any beer once inside the venue because I didn't want to lose my spot. That meant no bathroom breaks, trips to the merch table, etc. We were on our feet from about 4:30 p.m. to close to midnight, when we finally returned to our car parked a few blocks from the arena. Sounds like a lot for an old man, right? Yeah, maybe. But Maiden is worth it.
This time, however, there appeared to be a glimmer of hope as a bit of gentrification was starting to rear its head. Some people frown on this phenomenon, saying it ruins a town's character. In this case, Braddock is in dire need of some cosmetic surgery. It was nice to see rows of brand new townhouses being constructed just across the street from Brew Gentlemen when we arrived. This is certainly a step in the right direction for this dying town. And there were actual stores on the main street. That were open for business. With customers inside! What a novel idea.
After our visit to Spring Hill, I was still kind of in the mood for a "table beer." Turns out Brew Gentlemen has one available amid their roster of delicate hoppy ales. Named simply Table Beer, this light-bodied yet complex ale is an interpretation of a Belgian tafelbier. Traditionally served to accompany meals, this delicate saison is aged for several months in oak foeders with a house yeast culture and then naturally conditioned in the bottle. A little fruity and a tad sour, this light, refreshing beer also had just a touch of funk for complexity. All around, it's a nicely done beer.
Of course, I eventually needed to quench my thirst for hops. Enter Interstellar, a pale ale hopped with Moteuka and Galaxy. This one certainly did the trick and I was pleased with the blend of citrusy and tropical notes of lemon zest and passionfruit.
|Pleeps fits right in!|
On the way home, we jumped off the turnpike for a quick visit to Olde Bedford Brewing. I must admit, I didn't have very high expectations for this place. I'm not sure why, but for some reason I was just planning to cross this place off the list and move along. The web site seemed outdated and nothing on the beer list screamed "must-go." After a few sips of our beers, we were pleasantly surprised!
|Pleeps is always monkeying around!|
Nestled in the rolling hill country of central PA, lies the town of Bedford. Its beauty is only matched by its historical significance to our country. Among the trout streams, wildlife and farmland lies the Hideaway Ranch, the home of Olde Bedford Brewing. Our beers are crafted with spring water and often hops grown on our own Hideaway Ranch, in the mountains of Bedford County. As we create new brews, we will surprise your taste buds with unique and delicious flavors along with traditional brews we are sure you will love. We are currently building our new brewery in Downtown Bedford, where we can embrace the History of “Olde Bedford” while making it close and convenient to the public.
|Off the beaten path: Olde Bedford Brewing|
I decided to stray off the usual path and order a beer called Arancia Rosa [sic]. Arancia Rossa (actually has a double "s") translates from Italian to "red orange," hence the name of this saison brewed with blood oranges. Dry and peppery with a prevalent orange rind tartness and juicy pulp character, this one was pretty enjoyable overall.
Although I enjoyed my beer just fine, Brewslut was the winner with her pour of Jungle Love Espresso Porter. Essentially a variation of its Olde World Porter, this beer is infused with lactose and "Jungle Love" espresso from HeBrews Coffee Company. Creamy, slightly roasty, and certainly coffee-forward with a balanced sweet cream component, this beer was definitely a hit and much better than I was anticipating from this small brewery. Nicely done, Olde Bedford!
|Barstool or unicycle?|
We arrived around dinner time, and it was pretty packed. We managed to secure two seats at the bar, which is always our preferred seating arrangements. Turns out some time away can be a good thing, because Molly Pitcher had its A-game out in full force.
|Tap handles at Molly Pitcher.|
The two beers we ordered - Turncoat Golden Stout and Zero Cool Brut IPA - were fantastic. The former, a twist on a traditional American Stout, is aged on cocoa nibs and whole coffee beans to add an abundance of chocolate and coffee flavors. And did I mention this is a golden stout? It's definitely a style that has been picking up steam, and I'm really digging these lately. This one was very well-done and enjoyable to drink.
Brewslut's Zero Cool Brut IPA was even better. Dubbed a "zero IBU" beer, this Brut IPA wasn't super dry but had a hefty yet smooth mouthfeel and tons of citrusy hop flavor akin to pineapple and peach. I haven't come across too many Brut IPAs that have wowed me, but this one is probably at the top of the list. I tried to sneak in a few more sips here and there, but the wife was on to me.
I'm glad to see that Molly Picther has really stepped it up since our last visit, which I'm sad to say was in August 2015... almost four years ago to the day! The beers were top-notch and we'll definitely be back sooner than another four years. Plus the new space is warm and inviting. Cheers, Molly Pitcher!
|Pleeps and his new buddy, Burple.|
I'll admit that one of the other reasons I wanted to swing through Carlisle on the way home was because - in addition to checking out Molly Pitcher's new digs - I'd heard of a new brewery called Burd's Nest that had been open for a year or so. So to paraphrase Ricky, "It's like getting two birds stoned at once."
Since this place was new to us, we decided to test the waters and share a flight of four beers. Here's the skinny:
- River Burd Bender - collaboration with River Bend. Blonde ale incorporating cashmere hops and finished with key lime.
- Citra Pale Ale - hazy, citrus-forward American Pale Ale.
- Golden Tail - golden IPA with pine and citrus notes.
- Sapsucker IPA - super sweet IPA that had just gone on tap.
Hmmmm. I'm sorry to report that all of these were a chore to drink. Even sharing 5-ounce pours of each with Brewslut was difficult to swallow.
|Inside Burd's Nest.|
Look. I get that you want to open your own brewery. It's the dream of any serious homebrewer stuck in a shitty office job that makes you want to stab yourself in the forehead with an icepick. I get it. But PLEASE... do everyone a favor and learn how to brew beer before you open for business. I equate it to playing a gig as a guitarist before learning a single chord. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt if I have one of four beers in a flight that are infected or possess undesirable off-flavors. But all of them?! Seriously, if you can't taste a beer and know it isn't suitable for human consumption, then you probably shouldn't be brewing. I know it isn't easy. But every beer in this sampler flight was flawed and undrinkable. I get that ingredients are expensive and dumping a batch of beer can be a huge loss to a small nanobrewery. But your reputation is on the line. There are so many breweries right now, you can literally walk down the street to the next place. I hate to throw breweries under the bus - I mean, I want to like all of them... who wouldn't? - but sometimes someone has to step up and offer some constructive criticism. It isn't going to be the guy sitting at the bar with his toddler who's chatting to the bartender about the trials and tribulations of life as a Millennial. He's just out to enjoy an evening away from his monotonous life and maybe fill his bloodstream with some alcohol so he can forget about how hard it is to be a parent for a while. In my eyes, breweries have a one-shot deal to win over customers. These days, when I get burned I may never return to a brewery simply because there are limitless options available. It's probably one of the reasons why I drive 75 minutes to Selin's Grove on a regular basis. You know why? Because they know what they're doing. Even worse is when you return to a brewery after a year or two only to find that they still haven't figured it out. Ugh. Unfortunately, this is something we grapple with on a regular basis since we visit so many breweries. Bottom line: Work out all the kinks before you open your doors. Banking on the "drink local" slogan will carry you only so far. Eventually, people will figure it out. Please allow me to offer some constructive criticism. Read this article about common off-flavors found in beer and familiarize yourself with all of them. Enjoying a particular beer style may be subjective to a drinker's tastes or palate, but there's simply no excuse for an entire roster of flawed beers. *steps off soapbox*
|Babies at bars. Pumped breast milk, anyone?|
Sometimes it has to be done. I don't like doing it, but people need to learn there is so much more to opening a legitimate brewery aside from, "I homebrewed for two years... how hard can it be?" Please do us all a favor and don't open a brewery just because it's "the cool thing to do." Learn your craft first, not as you go. With that said, I wish the very best for Burd's Nest and hope they can figure everything out. Perhaps someday we'll stop back in to see if things have improved.
|Pleeps still had a good time... as always!|
I couldn't end such a great trip on a down note, so we headed over to Pizza Boy to meet up with a few friends and enjoy one last beer before heading home. Turns out they now have an end-of-night "pizza clearance" where you can pick any slice out of the display for only $1.50 during the final hour they're open. Score!
There's always a ton of new beer on at Pizza Boy every time we visit. I got the scoop from a few of the workers, so I opted for Hunny Money, an IPA brewed with lots of wheat and Canadian honey malt. Heavily dry-hopped with Citra, Amarillo and Falconer's Flight, this beer elicits flavors of orange blossom honey, apricot, and citrus fruit. I was happy with my decision. We stayed until close to closing time and stuck a fork in another well-executed Pour Travelers adventure.
It was great to get back out to Pittsburgh after almost two-and-a-half years to check out some new breweries and revisit some old familiar favorites. I'm glad we made an extra-long weekend out of it. All-in-all, it was a great beer-drenched weekend with a healthy dose of metal for good measure. Until next time... scream for me, Pittsburgh!!!