I hardly consider myself a beer connoisseur, but I do enjoy a good brew from time to time. I wish I could be all hops crazy like the cool kids, but hops are too bitter for me. I lean towards wheat and fruity beers. And, again, to prove how uncool I am, I don’t like dark beers either. I probably sound picky, but I do like a wide enough range of beers that I can reliably find something pretty much anywhere I go that I really enjoy.
Due to some uninentional timing, I ended up having a lot of beers in the first two months of this year. Mr. Beez and I went on the Yinz Going Up North? Tour with PA Brew Tours in January, and then I again toured with PA Brew Tours on their East Pittsburgh Brew Tour N’At with my friends in the Allegheny County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. I threw a visit to Pipers Pub in this post because we had good beer there too, so why not?
Item of Interest Number 1: The Yinz Going Up North? Tour
All of PA Brew Tours’ outings begin at a restaurant/six pack shop, so you can pick up provisions for the road. Yes, you can drink beer on the bus. It’s even encouraged. The tour involves visiting multiple breweries, with samples and behind the scenes tours at each, and a dynamic tour guide who leads trivia and generally coordinates fun.
I’ve been on brewery tours before that just involve a little sample at the end. This is not that kind of tour. PA Brew Tours is a day drinking party. Having alternate transportation home afterward is a wise idea. Maybe this is just because I’m old, but once we got back to the ‘burgh from our tour, I was exhausted. A post-beer-tour-bar-crawl was not going to happen. But on to the tour!
The tour kicked off at Carson Street Deli, which I only had some vague idea existed. I was really impressed by the nice selection of sandwiches and extremely impressive beer selection, both on tap and for mix-and-match six packs. They also deliver! Mr. Beez and I bought some brews and made a mental note to visit again later.
Our first stop was at North Country Brewing in Slippery Rock. Mr. Beez and I have visited there before, and really like the place. During our first visit, we were camping near Moraine State Park. Our friendly server was chatting with us about our visit, and as we dined the weather got terrible. A TORNADO even touched down in the park as we ate. We finished our meal and were getting ready to pay, and the server told us to please stay as long as we could possibly want, because it just wasn’t safe to go back out right yet. It wasn’t a ply to get us to buy more beer, the North Country staff was genuinely concerned about our safety. It was so genuinely sweet. Also, the food was genuinely goo, and the beer was great.
They put out sampler platters for the tour and we all had the opportunity to try whatever beers we wanted. All of the beers are brewed right there. The Firehouse Red was our favorite, and the beer is unbelievably cheap, like $3 a pint.
North Country is about an hour’s drive north of Pittsburgh. It’s a destination definitely worth the time in the car, maybe not all the time, but at least once or twice to check the place out.
Our next stop was Voodoo Brewery in Meadville, PA. I didn’t know much about this brewery before our visit there, but it is for sure a gem.
Voodoo’s selection is broad. Mr. Beez and I agreed that our favorite was the Gran Met. They offer it as a cocktail mixed with juice. I had it mixed with grapefruit juice, and it was fantastic. The Voodoo Love Child and White Magick also sound awesome, but we got distracted by how much we loved Gran Met and never made it around to trying them.
Most breweries on PA Brew Tours’ itineraries offer food, and in particular spent grain pizza (gotta do something with all that grain!) We had a pizza and salad, and they were just great. The salad was so fresh, and the pizza was rustic and tasty.
We (obviously) toured the brewery. The coolest thing about Voodoo is that these folks are true believers in their craft. They have a philosophy that the beer needs love and encouragement to properly develop, so they play music for their beer 24 hours a day!
Their menu also includes something a little different– beer milkshakes. I tried the pistachio beer milkshake. It tasted exactly how it sounds…which basically means that no thank you, I won’t order that again, but it was a good learning experience.
Item of Interest No. 2: Piper’s Pub
The Beez family has gotten into the habit of going out to dinner every Friday night, mostly because by the time it’s Friday, I don’t have the energy to think about dinner, much less cook it. One of our absolute favorites is Piper’s Pub. Why? Check out those pics. Love it. My brew picks for the night: An Arsenal Cider House Fighting Elleck and a Full Pint White Lightning.
Item of Interest No. 3: East Pittsburgh Breweries
This tour kicked off at D’s Dogs and Six Packs, which is great. If you haven’t been there yet– GO THERE. Our first stop on the tour was Rivertowne Brewing. I had been to their restaurant over by the stadiums, but actually did not realize that they are a real brewery. Rivertowne is actually a large brewery, and they are unique beause they have a canning line.
We were only at Rivertowne for a short bit, and then we move on to Full Pint. I didn’t realize it when I first got there, but I can now confidently say that Full Pint’s White Lightning is my favorite local beer of the moment.
For whatever ridiculous reason, I did not manage to take a snap of my food there. We ordered a spent grain mashed potato pizza that was fantastic, and I also got a growler to take home. It was only $5 for the growler bottle and $10 to fill it, which was a deal I could NOT pass up.
I like beer, but I would never otherwise go out of my way to seek out local breweries to visit. PA Brew Tours fills that gap and makes it incredibly easy for the casual beer fan to check out our local beer hotspots. As I sat here writing this post, Mr. Beez kept looking over my shoulder, remarking “I want to do another beer tour!”
So that is the recap of my beer exploits in Western PA, and I can now cross this item off my 32 before 32 list!