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Brewin some brewskis with @CopperKettlePgh and @HoughsPgh

Brewin some brewskis with @CopperKettlePgh and @HoughsPgh

For Chankukah last year, I bought Mr. Beez a gift certificate to brew beer at Copper Kettle Brewing Company. It took nearly a year for us to actually schedule the appointment and make it in the door, because that’s how we do. We love the idea of brewing our own beer, but in no way have the time to invest in learning the science, buying all the equipment, and especially not for cleaning all that equipment. Copper Kettle was the perfect solution– you have the fun and ownership of picking out your beer recipe and putting things together, but without any real commitment.

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Step one in beer brewing is settling in at the bar at Hough’s Taproom (with which Copper Kettle shares space) and reviewing the recipes. They have a whole huge stack of options, running the gamut from the darkest stout to hearty lagers to crisp wheat beers. Being as this was a present for Mr. Beez, I for once was nice, and did not hijack the decision. He picked the Smithers Irish red ale, which I must say was an excellent choice.

Srs Bzness

Srs Bzness

After selecting your recipe, you get to “brewing.” I use quotation marks because in this setting, “brewing” really jeans that the Copper Kettle staff tells you about the science of brewing, and you measure out the ingredients and put them in the kettle. The tasks take minimal effort, but it is still fun. Plus there is a lot of waiting time which calls for more time sampling the selection at Houghs. No complainin here.

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The whole brewing experience is about 2 hours, most of which is hanging out, sipping beers, waiting and NACHOS. Houghs has great grub, so you shouldn’t miss out. Bottling takes place about 2 weeks after the brew session. If you have better calendar management skills than I, you can go in and bottle it yourself. Seeing as it took a year for us to get in the door in the first place, we opted to pay the bottling fee. Copper Kettle bottled the beer for us, and we just had to pick it up. I must say, the beer tasted comparable to Killian’s Irish Red, and was very delicious. Brewing at Copper Kettle is not a cost effective way to acquire your beers, but the extra cost is worth the fun experience. It’s an excellent setup if you are interested in homebrewing and want to learn a little more before committing all the cash for the equipment, or if you are like us, and have a fleeting interest in homebrewing and would like the fun of brewing your own beer, but there’s no chance you’ll make the time investment for really getting into that hobby.

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Last Day in Prague: And the Good Lord Invented Beer.

Last Day in Prague: And the Good Lord Invented Beer.

Seriously, I don’t understand how the Czechs are so tiny skinny.  You know what I’ve done during this trip: Ate ice cream. Ate pork. Ate potatoes. Drank beer.  Ate more pork and potatoes. Drank Sekt (champagne).  I walked around a lot, but it takes a LOT of walking to burn off pork & potatoes.  Our hotel doesn’t have a gym (few European hotels do) and forget running on Pragues narrow, cobblestoned pedestrian-hell streets.  So, no I am not looking forward to my next Weight Watchers weigh in.  But after a week of potatoes and pig, a juice cleanse is starting to actually sound appealing (actually just GREEN things are sounding appealing)…so maybe there’s a little spark of hope.

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I can’t say I’m a beer connoisseur, but I’m also not a total noob when it comes to these fine malted beverages.  The Brewery Tour we selected was just the right level of engagement for us old ladies.  We certainly are in no shape for an all-nighter pub crawl, but we wanted to try out the delicious beers that the Czechs are so famous for, and learning a little never hurts (because we are dorks).

This afternoon we were the only two who signed up, so it was just us and our guide, Tom.  Tom is from England and is a homebrewing hobbyist, so he knew plenty about the brewing process.  He gave a thoughtful overview, answered our questions well and was also good at guiding us through the qualities and flavors of the individual beers.  The nice thing about this tour was that he didn’t just take us to a bar and give us different beers.  We specifically went to microbreweries that do not distribute their beers, so the beers we were tasting were completely unique to those microbreweries and could not be bought anywhere else.  Not only was the beer unique, it was super fresh, not having to go through various methods of preservation for shipment.

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The biggest surprise of the day were the flavored beers at the first microbrewery we went to (the name was in Czech so it was something like U KZSKYUKZSKYCZ).  The nettle beer (green, in the back) was as awful as it sounds.  But there was a banana-wheat bear that was very light and lovely.  I do not usually like banana flavored things  because they usually taste like nasty banana flavored Runts candy, but this beer was very nice.

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Even my mom, who is not much of a beer drinker, enjoyed the tour and found she actually has a taste for dark beer.  After the tour, we finished our day in true Czech fashion: eating lots of potatoes.

Completely unrelated but totally necessary public service announcement: Go read Brilliance by Marcus Sarkey.  I read that whole thing start-to-finished in the last 24 hours and could NOT put it down.  It’s a lot like X-men, The Hunger Games, Divergent, that sort of people with special skills and the world is at war and dystopian future kind of stuff. It’s great.  Bonus– if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it for free through the Kindle Lending Library. Do it.

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Date Night: @BarMarcoPGH @AFLPittsburgh and @HoughsPgh

Date Night: @BarMarcoPGH @AFLPittsburgh and @HoughsPgh

Our Memorial Day weekend was full of work, more work, laundry and work.  It wasn’t the most of exciting of weekends, but at least we have clean clothes now.  Mr. Beez and I did manage to sneak out for a date on Saturday Night and had a lovely time.

I’ve been crowing over Bar Marco nonstop since I first visited there last summer.  Finally we had a chance for a visit, a cocktail and a charcuterie plate.
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Mr. Beez said this was one of the best Old Fashioneds he’s had, hands down.  I had the Louisiana and a Georgia Julep and they were both light, summery and awesome (of the two, the Louisiana is my favorite).
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We ordered the delicious small charcuterie plate. We really should have gone for the large.  Amazing.

Empanadas? Yes PLEASE.

Empanadas? Yes PLEASE.

Next up we went to a Pittsburgh Power game.  Honestly, never would I ever have picked a Power game for a date nite outing.  We were invited to the game by a work contact of mine, and I thought “what the heck?”  We had a CRAZY FUN time.  Even with the help of the internets on our phone, we couldn’t really figure out what the rules of the game were, but it was fast paced and fun.  Pittsburgh was up for most of the game, then in the third quarter we fell behind, OH NO!

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But we put it all back together, and then some, in a crazy exciting fourth quarter and ended the game with a V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.  The Pittsburgh Power is an awesome family event.  It has all the usual sports excitement, but is not nearly as crowded as a Steelers or Pens game. The tickets are far less expensive to boot, and at every game they offer $1 hot dogs and $1 7-ups. I perfect, reasonably priced family outing.  We can’t wait to go again and bring Baby Beez with us!

After the game, like usual, we were in need of late night munchies.  Despite having lived in Greenfield for SIX YEARS, we had yet to make it to the local neighborhood bar, Houghs.  Houghs is laid back, friendly and neither too hipsterish nor too much of a townie bar.  They have an amazing beer selection, both on tap and by the bottle.  Their menu is classic bar food, perfectly salty, meaty and hearty to round out those brews.

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Hough's on Urbanspoon

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Bites and Brews at South Street Brewery (Charlottesville, VA)

Tomorrow it’s back to real life. Trial college certainly wasn’t a vacation, but since I didn’t have the extra responsibilities of feeding the parrots, packing lunches and getting a small person dressed and out the door, I at least got to sleep in til 7am. Tomorrow, the alarm goes off at 6 again. So on this last evening before I’m back to business, I’m taking a couple moments to think back on the good eats we had on our last night in Charlottesville. South Street Brewery came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. It’s a standard microbrewery/pub, but the food is tasty, the ambiance welcoming, and the brews carefully crafted.

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South street is known for its giant soft pretzels.  They are salty and fresh, and come with a trio of dipping sauces.  I’m a mustard fan, and was happy they offered 2 varieties.  The dijon mustard had a lot of kick, but not too much for this wimpy eater.  I especially loved the honey mustard (but I pretty much always love honey mustard).

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I was in the mood for pub food (they also have pasta, steaks and other such entrees) and picked the pulled pork.  Great choice, great choice!  The pulled pork was tender, flavorful and not oversauced. The house salad was huge, and high quality.  This wasn’t some sad wilty iceberg thing.  It was piled high and full of veggies.  It was awesome.

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I really loved the feel of the restaurant.  There was a big bar area where you could sit and sample the brews.  There was also ample table seating for families and groups.  On top of that, there was also even a lounge-type area with coffee shop type chairs.  Even though I hesitate to go to bars or restaurants solo, I would not be shy of wandering in here myself, cozying up in a chair and having myself a drink.  It’s relaxed and the staff was friendly.  It’s too bad that it’s so darn far away.  But I’m sure that the next time I find myself in Charlottesville, I’ll find my way to South Street Brewery.

South Street Brewery on Urbanspoon

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Industry Public House

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself with A FEW COMPLETELY UNSCHEDULED HOURS.  I had a ton of work to do that weekend, but I got it all finished.  I had a haircut appointment, but the haircut was all finished.  Mr. Beez and Baby Beez were visiting with his parents.  I had nothing to do, and I decided to do the most uncharacteristic thing for me ever…I went to  a bar by myself!

It was an awkward time in the afternoon, about 4pm on a Sunday, and although I had a list of places I’ve been meaning to try, a lot of them weren’t open.  One, however, was– Industry Public House in Lawrenceville.

I kicked things off with a Rhuby Rhuby Rhuby (blackberries muddled with simple syrup, Rhuby liquer, bitters, lemon zest and basil).  You can’t go wrong with blackberries, ever.  The cocktail was sweet but not sickeningly sweet.  And it ha a nice punch from the liqueur.

Industry has a huge number of beers and hard ciders on tap, and I was thrilled to also enjoy a draught of hard cider from Arsenal Cider House.

For my meal, I enjoyed an amazing farmhouse burger with truffle fries.  This fresh, tasty burger was topped with cheddar, BBQ sauce and a fried egg.  This was my first truffle fry experience, and I don’t think any other kind of fry can make me happy again.

My big plan for my free time was to chow down, have a couple drinks and read some magazines. Despite my usual antisocial attitude, I ended up chatting the whole time with other people.  I didn’t get any magazine reading done, but had an equally nice time.

Even though Larryville was already the bastion of all things trendy and cool, Industry is a fantastic addition.  The service was great and quick, the food and drinks were delicious and obviously prepared with care.  I don’t get to Lawrenceville as often as I’d like, but Industry is worth a special trip.

Industry Public House on Urbanspoon