Friday, December 31, 2010

Bikes and Beer

A Pittsburgh mountain biker took a ride from the Over The Bar Bicycle Café on the South Side in order to sample beers at the East End Brewery. I applaud him for drinking at two fine beer places. It is a good ride out to EEB and I am sure he built up a thirst. But he is way too serious in his ride for beer. His trip is on the web and the Garmin he used tracked his miles, speed, elevation differences and plots it out on a map along with graphs that one would see in a NASA press release. Check it out here. The wonders of the modern age!

I am a bit slow in moving towards high tech having only recently moved on from my quill pen to a new No. 2 pencil. And yes, I still rely on paper maps, which are fine as they still work after spilling a Guinness over one.

East End has a bike ride involving beer and you can read about on ride on this EEB page. This looks to be a lot of fun. Should you use your bike for a beer ride do use some caution in your drinking as you can be cited for DUI on a bike.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Beer Festivals

Over the years we have seen a swell in the number of beer festivals in the US. The Great American Beer Festival in Denver was thee place to be but for those of us who cannot get a mile high we have a plethora of fests in most major and not so major cities. Here in Pittsburgh we have the Penn Fest, European Beer Fest and the Big Pour, one put on by the Pittsburgh Rugby Club and a smidgen of smaller ones. Beer festivals in America are operated the American way. That is, each person entering pays an admission price of anywhere between 30 to 70 dollars. But you get a free glass to keep and take home. The glass is small, not more than six ounces so it’s easy to carry out. As you know, we get two ounces at a time but we get all we want. The exception is the European fest where you get one shot at all the beers but you can’t get to try one more than once. This is controlled by a punch card. The other exception is when you only get a set number of tickets, which can be used for one ore a variety of brands. I don’t like that method myself, as it seems the most overpriced.

The Brits have a different take on doing a fest. Hey, they don’t drive on the same side of the road as us so why should they drink like us? The English way is to get you in the door for free or at least a quid or two. But before you ask for a cask you need a glass. You buy a glass but it is a full size pint (or half pint) that you use at the fest and if you do not want to take it home on the tube you can return it for your cash back. Now with pint in hand you head for the beer. The Brits operate a fest like a big pub in which you buy a pint (or half) of any beer you want at standard pub prices. Then you turn to the chap next to you and talk football. Now, when you are paying full price for a 20-ounce pint of beer you aren’t going to be sampling one from each brewery. But all in all it makes a great day in finding on that is not typically in your area. In a way the Brits go to a beer festival much like they go to the pub. It is about the beer but for them it is more of a social get together. But in many ways that is universal. Beer brings people together. For more on beer festivals in England see CAMRA.

New York City has beer festivals pretty much the same way most fests are put on in the US but thanks to Alex Hall one can experience a beer festival the British way. Several bars in NYC have cask-ale festivals in which 15 to 20 firkins are lined up on stillage dispensing real ale on gravity and without a cask breather. Some casks are hooked to a beer engine to get the beer to your glass, which is a full pint I have to say. These cask ale fests operate the English way so you buy a full pint of each beer. It’s not about sampling 20 beers in one afternoon, it’s about enjoying a beer you never had with friends. Unlike Pittsburgh, the price of a pint in the Big Apple is $7 or $8. On the good side I can get Sierra Nevada Porter and Stout on cask (just a mention in case Glenn is reading this).

I am off to a cask fest in Brooklyn this January 7 so if you don’t know what a beer engine is or what stillage does, come on up and drink like the English. Of course you will have to hold the glass in your left hand.

To find a cask ale bar in New York City, see this page, with a thank you going out to Mr. Hall and the Malted Barley Appreciation Society.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Prison Pubs

Over the years that I have been going to London, I have been invited to a pub lock-in only twice. When the pub closes for the day, usually at 11 pm, all drinkers are asked to leave after the drinking up time. On two occasions I was invited by the owners to stay and chat with a few other gents. This is a high honor indeed. Usually the lock-in time is an hour or so, at least for me as I need to find my bus back to the hotel. When I saw this headline on the BBC I took note. A group of two customers and five staff were locked in a pub due to snow for eight days. A DREAM COME TRUE.

To be expected they took to the drink but that did not last long and they tended to do some work. Still, they had benefits. The bosses were away and were snowed OUT. They had wireless Internet and television. The Lion Inn is a B & B so they had rooms and food, including the chef. They also made improvised sledges made from beer trays. I wonder how far they tried to go before they realized they would be found?

The chef was a real downer of a dude. Mr. Butterworth (his mum is Mrs. Butterworth) said the snow got to him and he started to get a little crazy. At times he started talking to himself. Hey, who hasn’t? I have had the nicest conversations with myself in my South Side local. Le Chef was hoping more customers would come in when the road reopened so he would have more company. Dude! What do you think the other six people were? Maybe if you stepped away from the pancake batter and talked to them you wouldn’t be so lonely. Oh yes, let’s do the math. One couple gets one room. The 5 staff split three rooms. Let’s see: 2+2+1 = one very private room for Mr. Butterworth. If there is one thing we could learn form this boys and girls is to get to the pub BRFORE it snows.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chiodo's Tavern & the Bra

Anyone who has ever gone to the now closed Chiodo’s Tavern in Homestead should remember a few things. One of the first, and most striking features of the bar was all the artifacts and bras hanging on the walls and ceiling. I can’t remember the year but I was there for first bra. Well, kind of. I was at the end of the bar one night when a young woman came between me and my buddy. Neither of us complained. She was trying to get the attention of Sam Chiodo who was at the other end. We just assumed that she was trying to get him to get a brew. What she really wanted was the bra hanging over us. It was her girlfriend’s bra. A friend of hers was so agape by all the items people donated to the owner, Joe Chiodo, that she wanted to leave something too. So, she went into the lady’s room and took it off. They came back a week latter and the girl tried to get it down so her friend could sign it. We asked the young lady if she was going to leave hers behind. No, she said. I am too small; my friend is a C-cup. And that was the start of the bra hanging at Chiodo’s.

I too left behind something at Chiodo’s. But not to worry, it wasn’t an undergarment. When Sam started to bring in the import beers in the early 1980’s he had no place to showcase them on the back bar. He built a set of shelving from beer cans and thin plywood just stacked on top of one another. The beer bottles weighted more than the shelving and the whole thing rocks as good a Joan Jett (who supposedly live in Homestead at one time). Partons would ask to see a bottle or two and the bartenders shook at the thought of getting one down for fear that the entire stack would come falling down on them. As much as I enjoyed watching all of this I felt bad for them. As I was taking wood shop at South Vo-Tech, I got a supply of cheery wood and made the bar a sturdy wood shelf unit that could take a largest beer bottles Europe sent over. I took good measurements but somehow the unit had to be lightly tapped (pounded with a hammer) into place. I don’t know how they got that out when the goods were auctioned off? I may never see that shelf again and I may never know who bought it but let be known that I made it for the bartenders of Chiodo’s.

Monday, November 29, 2010

School Zones

Ok, I was driving past a school on my way the local market and remembered how is was when I was a kid going to that school. Back then we had a bar on one corner and things were fine. That bar is long gone and under current LCB law you can't have a new bar within a given radius of a school. I ask why? Will the little tykes get a buss on if they smell the beer. Will they try and come in when they hear the baseball game on the TV? How are they being protected from evil bar if they can walk past hundreds of them when they are out of school? I wish I knew. But, if bars can't be near schools should kids be allowed to be near bars? What would dad's do? How can you take little Eddie to the playground if you can't stop off for one first? These are serious questions of the day.

This is similar to universities. One local U does not allow adverts in the school rag from beer distributors. The students are probably their biggest customer base. Yet for the ban on the ads they permit beer and wine appreciation classes. So how do they advertise the class? Clearly I have nothing to do today but at least you guys have something to talk about!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Smoking Bars

As some of you may already know, I publish a directory of bars for Pittsburgh’s South Side. I do it for fun but I try and do it right. What I try and avoid is listing information about a bar that could change often or that you can get from them via their website. One tidbit of information that I list is whether or not the bar allows smoking. Actually, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allows this now. You can find all the bars in Pa. that are exempt from the smoking ban on this website.

A lot of other websites put out similar information and typically do a review. They often list details about a bar such as hours, cover charge for bands, etc. But I can’t say that I have ever read a review or story about a bar allowing smoking or not. A recent story in a local paper was about perogis in many Pittsburgh bar. One was in particular was noted for this but reading the comments from readers caused me to think about the ban. The bar in question allows smoking but serves food. This is allowed. In order to be exempt from the smoking ban a bar must not have more that 20% of sales in food. That means they CAN serve food but would you want to take a date there? A lot of people will not go to a bar that allows smoking and they may wish to know this ahead of time. So, this is not one of my ordinary rants but just a comment for you writers that get paid for this. Please note the smoking allowance when you do your review. To my readers, am I blowing smoke or is this an issue? (Hey, you had to see that line coming)

I do know of some bars that do a great deal in food but permits smoking. I an others are not sure how they pull this off. If anyone knows the deal on this let me know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rock Bottom

On November 15, 2010, Rock Bottom Brewery merged with Gordon Biersch Brewery to form Craft Works. The principal of the combined business is Centerbridge, a private equity firm with about 12 billion dollars in capital. Included in this new venture is Old Chicago restaurants.

Rock Bottom was founded 20 years ago and has 35 restaurants in 16 states. Gordon Biersch has 29 restaurants in 18 states and in the nation’s capitol. Old Chicago has 101 restaurants giving Craftworks a presence just about everywhere. Craftworks is maintaining offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Louisville, Colorado. Craftworks is headed by Rock Bottom foundr Frank Day, who will be chairman and Allen Corey, an original investor of Gordon Biersch.

What does this mean for Pittsburgh? Craft beer will continue in Homestead with Rock Bottom. Mr. Day and Mr. Corey plan to continue to offer promotions, tours and tapping parties. In addition to the three named companies above, other companies in the Cragtworks family include: Big River Grill Brewery Works, Ragtime Tavern, Seven Bridges, A1A Ale Works, Bluewater Grille, Chop House & Brewery, Walnut Brewery, Sing Sing and Rhythm & Brews. Hey, lift goes on. I am glad we have two lads (yes, they are young looking) helping to make it go better with beer.

Penn Brewery

This is going to be short and to the point. Tom Pastorius is no longer with the Penn Brewery. Apparently he and the other three partners has a difference of opinion as to the direction the operations and Tom lost. Please remember one thing all you boys and girls who have an MBA; when you sell your business you no longer have a business. Everything that could be said about the opening and closing and then the new opening has been said. I can’t add too much more. What I would like to say is: Thank you Tom.

At some time in our history we would have gotten a brewpub in Pittsburgh. But we did when we did because of Tom. Tom will go down in history as being the driving force is opening the first brewpub in Pittsburgh as well as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Tank you Tom for doing this. Thank you Tom for giving me the pleasure of drinking some of the finest beers in the world: Kaiser Pils. Thank you Tom for bringing together in one place many people that have become dear friends of mine. Thank you Tom for being so kind to me.

The Penn will always be Tom’s. I have never met the other owners nor do I think they care to meet me. They are in business to be in business. Tom was in business too, but he was foremost a beer man. He wanted to see his customers enjoy what he worked so hard to make. He came out and drank with us. He was not just the owner, he was one of us. The Penn Brewery has given me an untold trove of memories. Have I ever said thank you, Tom?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


For those who do not frequent Piper’s Pub on the South Side, you are missing an interesting drink and it is not a beer. Irn-bru is an orange flavored, non-alcoholic soft drink made in Scotland. First I have to say that I never tasted this as it has way too much sugar for me and would cost me another co-pay to my doctor. But for those healthy lads and lassies I want to make it known to you.

It has carbonated water, sugar, caffeine and quinine. It also has a trace of ammonium ferric citrate and who doesn’t go for that? But rest assured that this is not one of those dreaded energy drinks people are getting their kilt twisted over. Despite the fact that I am unable to drink this I enjoy their website and especially their ads. They think out of the can and run some funny ones. Unfortunately some of them are not suitable for public broadcast (they are not illicit, sorry to say). These are my favorite and can be found on their Ads that Never Ran section of the site. So pop on down to Piper’s and pop one open. Enjoy the ads on your smart phone and then call your friends. Once they find out you are not drinking beer they will not come down the you can drink in peace and enjoy the match.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Duquesne Pilsener Beer

The other day I went to the Pittsburgh Bottle Shop to meet my mates. Mark Davis, former brewer at Pittsburgh Brewing is the owner. They sport a lot of drafts and a huge take out selection. The beers are always good and the bottles are really round. Pittsburgh Brewing, the makers of Iron City Beer is (was) in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. A competing brewery was located on the South Side; the Duquesne Brewery, home f the really big clock face. It went out of business in 1972 after a labor strike. But thanks to Mr. Mark Dudash, Duquesne beer is back. This year saw the resurgence of Duquesne Pilsener and the bottle shop had it in stock. They had it on draft, my preference but this time only in bottles. So I ordered one from one of the nice round bartenders. My reaction?

I liked it. The beer was very nice, too. Now remember that this is not Sierra Nevada or Dodfish Head. But all in all I liked it. It was clean and clear. It did have a nice head once poured, albeit not in a pilsner glass. The taste was refreshing and mild bodied but I picked up a nice but faint malt aftertaste. I had a second. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is an almost local beer made in the former Rolling Rock Brewery in Latrobe. Now called City Brewing it is making beer in and for western Pennsylvania. I think we should give the beer and brewery a go. Duke will never (maybe?) take on the national brands but it’s a hometown boy. Let’s give him our support. The brew is distributed by another South Side lad; the Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale Co.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sam Smith in Pittsburgh

It was a very pleasant day on 8 October and that afternoon I (right) had the pleasure of leaving work early to meet the future owner of the Samuel Smith Brewery in Yorkshire, England. Mr. Sam Smith (on the left) was in the Market District in Robinson with Merchant DeVin and Frank Fuhrer Distributors. It was a meet and greet promotion and mini beer tasting. On the cask (no not on cask but sitting on the cask) was the brewery’s Cider, Oatmeal Stout and Nut Brown. Also on display was the limited version of Stingo. An oak aged special beer. My bottle was listed at 9% and brewed in 2009. A description on the beer is on this PDF.
Mr. Smith was a delight to speak to and drew a good crown of men and women. The women were most interested in the beers. They were pleasantly surprised to fine how good the Brown and Oatmeal was. Women tend to shy away from dark beers. Even the cider won over a few converts. It was also nice to see people coming in to she Mr. Smith and learn about his beers. Despite the free samples this was not a drink fest but people wanting to learn about good beer. Sam Smith beers are available but only in bottles so if your pub carries bottles take a look for them.
This was Mr. Smith’s first venture in the United States and if this visit is typical during his tour then he should be please to see his beers doing well in the states. Actually, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are the largest markets for Sam Smiths with Pittsburgh being the largest. Thanks to Sam Smith, Merchant DeVin and Frank Fuhrer for making this happen.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Well, if it’s September then it must be Oktorberfest time and that means beer, dancing, pretzels and more beer. And it all began when a young lad’s eye caught the smile of a pretty girl’s face. But the question that is always asked: “Why do we call it Oktorberfest if it’s in September?” The answer to that question and why we drink Oktoberfest beer is right here but we first need to fill our steins with Märzenbier. Did I say Märzenbier? Yes, we first need to drink this beer brewed in March since Oktoberfest beer had not yet been developed. I will explain all of this and although this is not a long story but you may want to have a pretzel handy, and stay close to the beer.

The Germans have a well-established reputation for their beer drinking. Although they drink responsibly they drink often. Many workers have beer breaks similar to our coffee break. Wouldn’t that cut back on absenteeism? The young drink, but are taught how to do so responsibly. To the Germans beer is a part of life and it follows one simple rule; good beer in moderation. The temperance movement may have been discussed in Germany but I don’t know if anyone lived to tell about it? All in all, they enjoy a good brew. But what happens when good beer goes bad?

Brewing in the hot summer months in southern Germany was problematic until refrigeration was developed in the late 1800’s. The top fermenting lager yeast was prone to attack from wild yeast strains and temperature control ranged from very warm to hot. Not a good environment for brewing a cold German beer. The quality of beer was always foremost in the hearts and minds of officials and this led to the Reinheitsgebot, or more commonly known as the Bavarian Purity law. The Reinheitsgebot was a decree that only permitted barley, hops and water can be used to make beer. It said nothing about yeasts since nobody knew what that was then. Nor did it permit wheat. In as much as romantics would like to think this was to preserve Bavaria beer it was, in fact, to preserve Bavarian bread. Long before Wilhelm IV imposed the purity law, the Munich council enacted a law in 1447 that permitted only water, malt and hops. That law was to preserve the integrity of beer. But neither of these laws prevented spoilage.

To keep the beer from going bad and wasting grain, a summer brewing prohibition was introduced in Bavaria by the Wittelsbachers (the ruling house of Dukes) in 1553. Brewing was restricted from September 29 (St. Michael’s Day) to April 23 (St. George’s Day). The beer would have been called March beer, or Märzenbier, as that is the first full month it would have been stored. The beer would have been brown in color because of the way the barley was kilned. Barley is left to sprout but very quickly it is heated in a kiln where it becomes malt. Barley was killed (kilned?) at the time in kilns using wood or coal. This gave the malt off flavors as well as charring if the temperature was too high. It is the malt that gives beer its color. The yeast used to make the beer, and the alcohol, did its job by lying on the top of the liquid. This is known as top fermenting yeast and the beer would have been considered an ale. It would not be until some years latter that bottom fermenting lager yeast would be developed; making the German lager we know today. Full bodied with a well rounded malt taste.

Now we get to the wedding. In 1810, a young lad, Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria proposed to a princess, Therese Charlotte Luise, princess von Saxonia Sachsen-Hildburghausen. She said yes (I can just see the invitations) and in doing so set the stage for an event that would eventually rock Munich. Obviously the prince was happy, and so were the townspeople as it gave them an excuse to have a party. They held a community fair, not unlike any other of the day, other than that they renamed the meadow in honor of the bride, Therese’s meadow (wiese), or Theresienwiese. The following anniversary, October 12th, the townspeople decided to have another fair. Starting on the wedding anniversary and finishing as it did the previous year on the 17th; the Oktoberfest was born. Some years latter the start of the fair was moved to late September to take advantage of the warmer evenings. This is what led to the confusion of the name for the October festival. Today, the Oktoberfest begins on a Saturday in late September and finishes 16 day later on the first Sunday on October. The 2005 Munich fest goes from September 17 to October 2 where they expect nearly 6 million visitors.

But Bavarians continued to drink the brown Märzenbier until an Austrian brewer named Anton Dreher produced an amber colored beer in 1841 using pale-colored malt. It was so different from the brown colored beers of Europe that it was given the name Vienna beer. The malt was given the name of Vienna malt and beer made using this malt was said to be made using the Viennese method. The first hot air kiln was invented in 1818 allowing malt to dry without charring. This gave Vienna beer a translucent copper-red color and a cleaner taste. Josef Sedlmayr of the Spaten brewery of Munich introduced an amber beer at the Oktoberfest for the first time in 1871. It was so well received by the people that it took the name of the festival and the rest is history. When we swing our steins at an Oktoberfest this year and say Prost remember the happy couple, kiss your sweetie then go for the pretzel.

Fat Head's GABF 2010

The results are in from the Great American Beer Festival and they are not good for Western Pennsylvania. Printable PDF here. I have been told that Penn Brewery was in attendance but did not win any metals. I don’t know I they took any Kaiser Pils this year, but that is always a gold metal winner in my book. I don’t know if any other breweries from these parts went out. If so, after looking over the results, they came back empty handed. That is a shame as they all produce good brews.

One local lad who dun good has his brewery in Cleveland. Yes, that’s right; Fat Heads won a silver-metal for Head Hunter IPA. Congratulations to Head Brewer Matt Cole and Brewers Mike Zoscak, and Rick Skains. Congratulations are in order too for Glenn Benigni for having the balls in opening a brewery in Cleveland. Maybe he just wanted to show what a Steeler fan could do. All in all, well done lads.

Pittsburgh lads love t make light of Cleveland but it really is a good beer drinking town. I found this gem, Der Braumeister on my last visit and who cant get down at the Polka Hal of Fame?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

License to Drink

Stopping in a bar for a cold one is something we don’t think twice about until we get home and face the wife. It is a simple pleasure that we just do after our workday. What never enters our minds is the fact that we need a license to drink. Merchants need one to sell and yes, we need one to consume. Prior to the introduction of the photo ID, the LCB issued cards that showed that you were of legal age. If you did not have one you did not drink. The state dropped them like an empty wine bottle after the DOT rolled out the new driver’s licenses with your mug shot on the front. That, along with a passport, non-driver ID or military ID is what allows you to sip, slurp or slide shots down the old pipe. Under the law, a bartender can deny you service, no matter your age, if you can’t produce an ID. So far it is not a problem but I see trouble coming to River City.

With advances to technology I see the day coming when you will have your ID swiped and information stored on it as to what you bought AND paid for. Should you get pulled over at a checkpoint your card can be read and you questioned about your bar bill. Years ago the State of Utah required all spirit bottles be hard-wired to a computer. When a shot is poured a signal goes out to the LCB and they know what their take is from a bar or restaurant. No freebies there. More on this here.

Other systems are in place that monitors the volume of booze coming out of bottles as shown by Ali Baba.

A story in the news illustrates just how microchips are being forced into our daily lives. Local governments are placing chips in recycle bins and read by local authorities. Should you not recycle the chip will squeal on you and you will be sent a fine. Along with this utilities are installing smart meters that read your power consumption by the minute and soon by the appliance.

I am no conspiracy theorist, but all of this is disconcerting. Back in my father’s day my mum monitored his drinking. Now I am looking for the day when government is going count my shots for me. We may not be able to stop it but at least they can buy a round, now and then.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

US Airways to Oz

One thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is to see what I can do to get to London next. On this day I was poking around the US Airways website looking to see what they were offering for this coming November. I have no money to go right now but that is a secondary issue. I have always wanted to be in London for Thanksgiving and pretended to make reservations for Monday, the 22nd to Monday the 29th. US Airways as well as most others are coming in between $500 and $600 for an economy round-trip flight. As you cannot get a direct flight from Pittsburgh anymore at least one stop is required. Airlines usually give you a number of flights out and back to choose from but one outgoing flight caught my eye.

They actually recommended a flight to hell. First let me set the stage as to what should be expected. A flight from Pittsburgh to Charlotte or Philadelphia is short. The flight to London takes off that evening and eight hours latter you are in Piccadilly. A combination of flights for 22 November exceeded two days. Here is how it was scheduled.






Pittsburgh to Philly

8:45pm – 9:56pm

1 h 11 m

Same Day Layover

0 h 54 m


Philly to LaGuardia

10:50pm – 11:40pm

0 h 50 m

Overnight Layover

7 h 20 m


LaGuardia to Boston

7:00am – 8:05am

1 h 05 m

Same Day Layover

1 h 25 m


Boston to Charlotte

9:30am – 11:58am

2 h 28 m

Same Day Layover

6 h 22 m


Charlotte to Gatwick

6:20pm – 7:20am

8 h 00 m

29 h 35 m

Total transit time: 2 days, 5 hours, 35 minutes.

7:20 am in London would be 2:20 am on the east coast.

Good-God. Four layovers and one of which is overnight for over 7 hours. You actually leave Pittsburgh on Monday but don’t leave Charlotte until Tuesday and when you land in London is it on a Wednesday morning. You would think that with all of this free time one of the planes would fly past Oz and pick up Dorothy and her little dog, too.

The flight to London is only scheduled for 8 hours but the total flight time is 13 hours and 34 minutes. All this for only one easy payment of $275. The flight back to Charlotte and Pittsburgh is only $276. (Only one dollar more?) And let us not loose focus on that 7-hour layover in Boston. What does one do at that time of the night? One question that will never get an answer to is how do they know they know when they are losing money? When? Any day they operate a flight! I know that the above schedule was computer generated. I am just glad they still have pilots on board and not computer driven craft. As I have always said (if you ever listen to me) is that just because they can get you there does not mean you should take the flight. Fifty-four minute layover in Philly to get to New York; I would rather take my chances in Vegas.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chestnut Ale from Mississippi

I was in Fat Head’s South Shore Saloon (Pittsburgh) on Friday, 6 August. My intention was stay home and finish painting my hallway baseboards but I quickly came to my senses and scurried down to the bar. It turned out to be a smart move. First I was sitting next to a pretty girl and was served good beer by more pretty girls. Then I met a dude. In this case it was ok as he is a beer salesman for Frank Fuhrer Beer Distributors on the South Side. As they sell Sierra Nevada Pale Ale they are tops in my book. Anyway I started taking to the dude; Simmons was his name, and he told me about a new beer he brought in from Mississippi: Lady Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale.

This was an excellent beer. It had a pleasant aroma with a hint of pecans and as it was in the English style, it was not sweet. Some beers can be too sweet making drinking a pint a struggle. Some of us regulars were able to sample a bottle from the upstairs take-a-way shop. If I had to compare it with another beer I would say that it is similar to Newcastle Brown but the pecans give it a distinct quality. Coming in just under 6% and being lightly hopped, it gives me inspiration to make this a session beer. Beer Advocate gives the alcohol at 4.25%ABV and I think that is right. It is believed that this is the only beer made with pecans. I am just thinking out loud, but I wonder how this will go with pecan ice cream? I don’t know if and when this will come in on draft but I will be in line when it does. Look for me sitting nest to a pretty girl.

Here is the link to the brewery in Kiln, Mississippi. I don’t know about you guys but I just love typing Mississippi. The Magnolia website shows a nice range of brews and I am hoping they all make it to Pennsylvania. Here is a nice Wiki article about the brewery as well: This story gives some incite how they started the business and the problems they encountered: That’s it. I am done. Just let me type Mississippi one more time: Mississippi. Sorry, that was twice. Oh well, let’s go for three Mississippi’s.

Piper's Pub Good Hot Food

I stopped in Piper’s Pub the other day (Wednesday 4 August) for a beer and a bite to eat. I spotted an interesting item on the menu that I just had to have: Lamb and Chestnut Sheppard’s Pie. As Piper’s does food right I never expected a bad meal but when the server brought my plate she said what servers say across the country; the plate is hot. That was the understatement of the year. Not only was the plate hot, my food was hot for hours. That was ok because I could not eat it anyways. My fork was also hot. How hot was it? Too hot to handle, it was. Fortunately I had a beer at the ready and that saved my mouth. If you remember Matthew Modine in the movie, Full Metal Jacket, he thought the south was so hot it was Africa hot. I say that it would have been arctic cold compared to my plate that evening. Yes, they do food right and hot food is hot. Little did I know tat this would be the week of nuts, as I would be drinking a Pecan beer from Mississippi. That is in my next post above.

A buddy of mine from work finally made it down to Piper’s. He is from Kentucky and is of Scottish-Irish decent. I don’t remember exactly, but I know he loves Scotch Eggs. Piper’s has the best and he couldn’t wait to try some. His verdict was two thumbs up. Alas, he had them sans Colman’s Mustard, but there is always another visit.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Accused of Drinking - Don't do it

This story came out a few days ago and I can’t believe what I read. Some of the statements are so unbelievable that I have to comment. A woman, Cynthia Angel, on a Delta flight thought she smelled alcohol on the pilot when he talked to her and three other passengers. This concerned their delay in departure. After the pilot walked away the four passengers all thought he had an alcoholic odor. The woman told a flight attendant about this and as none of the other passengers spoke up or defended this woman all that she said was hearsay evidence. But the pilot was checked and found to be safe. Staff talked to the woman but not to the others. Why they were not approached is not surprising, as you can’t ask someone what they may have said to others. But none of then ever offered testimony. The woman was eventually asked to leave the plane and take another flight. Apparently the pilot, who was also the captain order her off the plane. She claims that she was told that Delta takes these accusations seriously.

Attorney Mark Silverman was interviewed by NBC for their report and he said: "She was just trying to be a good citizen. You'd think Delta would thank her for her concern," What he said seems like a common sense reply to what occurred.

What Mr. Ross Aimer, CEO of Aviation Experts said was bull-crap. "Making drinking accusations against pilots is a serious matter," Yes it is. "If you think someone is drunk, you owe it to yourself, your loved ones and other passengers to report it," (Yes you do) said Aimer, who is also a retired United Airlines captain. "However, in this case, because the captain had not been drinking, Delta made the right decision by asking her to leave the plane." Bull-Crap. Mr. Angel had good intentions. It is not like she pretended to have a bomb in her purse.

Let’s look at it this way. Who in his or her right mind would ever accuse anyone in an airline uniform of being drunk? If Ms. Angel did the right thing why was she reprimanded? The pilot being proven not to be drunk is not the issue. The issue is that someone saw something that could have led to a bad event and did something about it. I don’t think she out and out accused the pilot of being drunk. She thought something was suspicious. I know that I am mincing words here but the flight attendant could have said talked to the pilot and determined if there was an alcohol smell. I would like to say that if he made it on the plane he was ok. But I have seen in the news how drunken pilots have been taken off of planes. You don’t retaliate against someone based on the outcome of an investigation like this occurrence.

Let me just say this; if I ever see a drunk speeding through a school zone at 3 pm, don’t expect me to call the police. I wouldn’t want to get myself in trouble. After all, drinking and driving is a serious matter. I may have my license suspended if I am wrong.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

South Side Drinking Problems

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette ran this story in the Sunday edition concerning the drinking problem on Pittsburgh’s South Side. This August 1, 2010 article looked at how some bar owners are trying to “solve” the problem. Owners are aware that patrons and non patrons alike are causing problems for residents who are at their whit’s end. Mr. Adam DeSimone, owner of Diesel Club Lounge was interviewed by Joe Smydo of the Post and was quoted several times for the story. I would like to add me 2 shots to the discussion.

The South Side

The South Side is a residential area that has a large business and commercial district that has co-existed for decades. In the 1980’s after the mills shut down the stores on Carson Street closed and we became a dust bowl community. Efforts were made to revitalize the area and it was successful, depending on your point of view. The old furniture stores, grocers and butchers never came back but bars and restaurants did. With them came people from outside the community who brought their cars. Parking became a problem and although there were some other problems this was the major concern in the 1980’s.

This has manifested into epic proportions as the older residents moved or died and their home sold to developers. As property values were inexpensive at the time homes became apartments. This attracted students who now make a major component of residents. With them came their cars and what was a big problem became even bigger. Still, the South Side has long-term families with children and an assortment of multi-legged pets.

The List of Problems

Mr. DeSimone acknowledged that there are problems, BUT (are you reading this Jim Quinn?) "I think there are fewer problems than what has been reported." Retort from Ed: Bull Shit. There are many problems that never make it to the papers. Parking not withstanding, there is the breaking of car windows and mirrors, Keying of cars, breaking of house windows, electric meters pulled from walls, trees and plants being up-rooted, blocking driveways, fire hydrants and stop signs crosswalks. Men and women doing No. 1 and No. 2 in the streets is probably equal the purging of stomach contents. I can see this in the gutter but why would you do this on somebody’s front steps? Steps are a favorite spot to place empty bottles and broken glass, by-the-way. The list can go one and I have not even touched the noise made at three in the morning. But my favorite social activity is watching girls change tampons in the street. Yes Mr. DeSimone, this is not reported because it is not supposed to be. Note to Post Gazette; why not publish the name and offence of those arrested in your “police blotter” that you have done in the past?

Many people, including some police officers have said it residents who obey the law (we) do not like what those who disobey the law (them) do in their (we = our) community then we should move. That is morally and intellectually empty. If a meth lab opens for business next to an elementary school, should (a) the neighbors move, (b) try and get rid of the lab or (c) not report it in the news and pretend it is not a big problem? Do I really need to give you the correct answer?

Bar Owners

I can’t say that I hold bar owners responsible for our problems. They don’t want problems in their bars and they can’t control people outside on public ways. I also think it is unfair to blame others for the actions of people actually doing something wrong. Who is responsible when people get drunk at sports events and do damage on their way home? Who is responsible when a fleeing bank robber crashes into parked cars? Actually the police did tell me it was my responsibility. People should be held accountable for their own actions. But getting back to bar owners. Despite the fact that they no longer live here they do have to contend with us and it is better to work on friendly terms. The story in the paper said that eleven bars and clubs are putting in $60,000 for added police presence and weekend clean-up duty. This is good. There are other bars currently cleaning beyond their front door and many other shop owners clean their property as well. The problem is that there is just too much litter and not all of it from the night crowd. I see people at all hours of the day simply toss trash on the street like yesterday’s news. Sorry about that Post; figure of speech. So no, not all of the problems are bar-generated. This brings us to the students.

The Students

Many of the people causing problems here are not students. Many of the students living here are respectful people and are trying to fit in to the community in which they live. As renters they do not have pride of ownership and that could be a problem but by and large I think students may be taking a bigger hit than they should. They have added to the population of the South Side and they brought a lot more cars than we had in the past BUT (forgive me Mr. Quinn) they have that right. Some young people do indeed cause problems but just like everyone they need to be held accountable.


Mr. DeSimone said in the Post article that if the neighborhood isn't safe, no one's going to come. What does this have to do with the story about cleanup? It is still perceived that the South Side is safe. To some degree it is but late at night the crime rate has changed since I was a young lad. It was the low crime rate and the ease of walking Carson Street that made bar hopping popular in the first place. People could park and walk for blocks with little to fear. It is still this way for small groups of people but single people do make an easy target. As the popularity of the nightlife brings in more people with spending money so follows the rouges with raccoon masks.


For whatever reason it is a known fact that you cannot get a ticket for parking next to fire hydrants, stop signs, crosswalks, fire breaks or on sidewalks on a weekend or Monday thru Thursday night. One solution that may be illegal in Arizona is to just ticket cars until the city runs out of them. Then maybe people will begin to play nice and actually respect the law and others. They may also stay away, but I know that is heresy to a bar owner. I am glad that DeSimone and others like him are try to help. The problems are many and solutions are not easy to come by. Aggressively going after the problem people and the illegal activity is a good step to take. When people know that they can get away with funny business they lose fear of authority. The overall solution may require small steps but we need to enforce the rules more. They cleaned-up Times Square we should be able to do the same to Carson Street and the South Side.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fat Head's Alt Beer

Tuesday, 20 July was an exciting day for me as Fat Heads South Shore Saloon tapped its German Alt bier. The beer was made at the Fat Heads Brewery in Cleveland and I wasn’t expecting to see it poured on the South Side until Friday. Knowing how fast a keg can kick at Fat Heads I took no chances and headed down that afternoon. I was drinking Alt after being served by the lovely Colecia and sitting in my favorite seat watching the girls go by. Life was good that afternoon.

Alt beer is a Dusseldorf style and unlike bottom fermenting lagers it is actually a top-fermented ale. But in the traditional German style it is lagered at a colder temperature. Originally all beers were top fermented until bottom fermenting yeast was developed. But, that was the “old way”. Having spent four wonderful days in the Alstat district of Dusseldorf this past March I did some quality control at the Zum Uerigei brewery that was walking distance to my hotel, which was called the Alt Dusseldorf. The BJCP, or Beer Judge Certification Program says that Alt should be orange-bronze to deep copper in color, but not brown. The taste should be in the malt and clean tasting. As this is a session beer the mouthfeel should be smooth with little to no astringency. The Uerige has an alcohol content of 4.7% V. The Fat Heads Alt was listed at 5.5% V and for me that was enough to pick up a difference in the overall mouthfeel. This is not a negative quality as the beer was a VERY CLOSE match to the German. It was to be somewhat expected as the amount of malt used was a bit higher in the American. Yes Steeler fans, Cleveland is in America.

Matt Cole is the brewer at Fat Heads Cleveland and has won numerous awards. Headhunter and Bumbleberry have been mentioned nationally and his Up-In Smoke Porter should be (is) one of America’s finest. It did win a Silver at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival. Matt has been to Germany and knows the style and how to replicate them here. The sad news is that he is not in Pittsburgh so visits to North Olmstead (the real location) are required from time to time to get more of his brews. Should you venture into the brewery please do not ask to speak to Mr. Cole as he needs time to brew more beer for Pittsburgh.

The German Beer Guide to Alt: has some information, but a number of good links to other sites on Alt.

Uerige Brewery:

Fat Heads South Side:

Fat Heads Cleveland:


Alt Dusseldorf Hotel:


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are in practice and that should get the fans ready for the upcoming season. We need to get our vocal chords ready and the best way to do that is to sing the Steelers fight song. The original from the 1970’s is the best and I posted a link to it here. Get all your buddies gathered around the bar and just start. Didn't that feel good? Polkas make everyone happy. Did you know that the Pittsburgh Steelers is the only team with a polka fight-song?

Old 1970’s fight song.

Myron Cope talks about the terrible towel.

A bit of history on how the Steelers got the logo on their Helmut can be found on this site. She’s a Russian schoolteacher (no one misses her class) and she is now living in the US. Her name is Marina Orlova and she goes by the moniker Hot for Words. Here is a link to her main site. She has a lot to teach us so listen carefully.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Frank - A Regular Guy

Sunday, 20 June was Father’s Day and across the country fathers were being celebrated. Pittsburgh was no exception other than a small ceremony that took place at the Rock Bottom Brewery in Homestead, Pa. But first let me say what led to this. Rock Bottom is a national chain restaurant and brewery. Many people enjoy the food and beer but some pass it off for merely being a chain. Perception may have it that chains are cold and too structured. They are not perceived to be warm and friendly like the mom and pop restaurants. This may be true for some placed but the regulars at Pittsburgh’s Rock Bottom would argue otherwise. Since its opening the Pittsburgh location has attracted a loyal base of regulars. This is due to the staff’s warm welcome to all who enter the door. Some customers have contributed in making others welcomed as well. Two regulars, Frank and Betty, have made friends with all who have met them.

Sadly, Frank passed away over the New Year’s Holiday and news of his passing was devastating to all. Frank was in his retirement years but way too young. All who knew him was glad to see him when they came in as they saw a buddy at the bar. The staff saw him as such and I don’t think anyone working at Rock Bottom did not know him. He was close to the heart of several staff. Frank was mild mannered and easy going who brought comfort to the bar. A father should bring comfort to a home and Frank made a so-called chain restaurant comforting for many of us. On Father’s Day 2010 Rock Bottom installed a brass name plate to his bar stool with his family present. Kind words were spoken by bartender Paul and a toast was given with a round of Lumpy Dog. His stool was placed off-limits for the evening. This was not done to mark the passing of a patron but to celebrate a dear friend and good man.

Sorry that this was posted so late.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tax 'em Dano

Now that the primary election is over we wait for the big one in November. We will elect a new governor that could bring profound change to the commonwealth. One of the two tweeted his chances away by being stupid. The other is none other than Mr. Tax, Dan Onorato. He is the Allegheny County Executive who went to Harrisburg and received permission to add a Drink Tax to all poured alcoholic drinks in Allegheny County. How long is it going to be after he takes office that this tax is state wide?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sharp Edge Beer Festival

Well, summer is upon us and that means beer festivals. Pittsburgh is blessed to have the return of the Pennsylvania Micro Brewer’s Fest and towards the end (September) we can look forward to the Big Pour. Even East End Brewery will have an event. One well established festival is the European Beer Festival at the Sharp Edge Beer Emporium. I think they need mentioned because they are doing something nobody else is doing.

Back in the day, we were lucky to have a smidgen of brews. Even Guinness was hard to find here. Then the imports started to come in and people went for them like mad.

A lot of bars were slow to catch the wave but eventually all the good bars had a line of imports. Social networking sites were activated so people could spread the word when a new beer came to town. Back then it was called using the landline telephone to call your friends. It was fun to seek out bars that had something new. Every Friday was like Christmas morning with beer. But who drinks on Christmas morning? Then something happened to change drinking in bas forever; micro-brewed draft beer made in the United States. Just as we desired the imports we found new pleasure in drinking beers made in American, and on draft. Bottled beers from Europe could not compete and lost ground, sorry to say. But one tavern owner held his ground and put his bars on the map.

Jeff Walewski of the Sharp Edge is noted worldwide for his selection of Belgian and European beers. I separated Belgian beers because I don’t think you can find more on tap or in bottles that he has anywhere in the country. Most bars today focus on US craft beers but the Edge is all about the old world. Jeff’s festival, started in 1997, at the end of June is the only festival in the country that serves only European beers. This event gives a splendid opportunity for people to try beers they may never knew existed. There is a world of beers out there and you can find them at the Edge.

From my old notes I remember that the Sharp Edge was the second tavern in Pittsburgh to sell Cask Conditioned Ale. Kangaroo's was first but they did not know how to handle it and the product was removed. The third tavern to sell cask ale was the Fuel & Fuddle in Oakland in June 1997. First cask was Pretzel City IPA. They could not keep the keg at the proper temperature as the cask sat on the top of the bar and there was no room under the bar for a cooler. They purchased the one hand pump from Kangaroo's. I can’t say that I remember Kangaroo's but I think they were on McKnight Road.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

World Beer Cup

The World Beer Cup of 2010 was recently held in Chicago and something caught my eye when they posted the results. There were 90 categories in the competition, which indicates the number of different beer styles. The word Imperial was used in a great many beers entered, which also caught my eye. Three categories stick out that warrant a comment. Category 53: English style India Pale Ale, Category 83: Imperial India Pale Ale and Category 90: International Pale Ale.

English style India Pale is a historic style as it was the English who created this, unintentionally by the way. The word India was used to some degree to identify a style but also as a shipping label of sorts. The story behind this is rather long and for another forum. But it gets my point across that India Pale Ale is a historic beer style. India Pale was sent to several places around the world but primarily to India for the British clerks and officials. The “troops” that so many others write about would not normally drink IPA due to the cost. The word India in the original sense was used to identify the entity that purchased the beer and NOT the destination. October beer was bought by the East India Company for resale in India, Bengal and other areas under their control.

I do have problems with the word Imperial. It seems that any beer over 7.0952% is called Imperial. Although it originally identified a strong porter it too was somewhat of a shipping label. The word Imperial should never be used be used with reference to Pale Ale. But that’s just my opinion. Imperial is synonymous with the word Russia. London Porter was sent to many Baltic countries but its biggest buyer was the Imperial Court of Catherine the Great. Is it coming together for you?

The oddity of the World Beer Cup was the category of International Pale Ale. What the hops is that and when did we start using it? I can see American Pale Ale as it has more (and different) hop character than the UK versions. But what makes International Pale? Does it have water from the seven seas? Was it brewed in the International Space Station? Is it even sanctioned by the UN? What characteristics make International Pale Ale? In doing a quick Google search I see that the WBC are the only ones using this identification. I don’t know, maybe it’s me (it usually is) but I think we are running rampant with beer names now a days. I may quick drinking when somebody comes out with an Imperial Chocolate Wit.

Now that I have finished with my rant I shall offer a fun fact. No brewer in the UK is permitted to make an ESB except Fullers. The English drink only ordinary bitter and special bitter. Extra Special Bitter is a registered trademark of Fullers. Oddly this beer started as a winter-ale and was re-named as a bitter.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wine Stores

Let me say right off that I do not drink wine, nor do I buy wine from a stat store. A lot of people think that eliminating the state store system in Pennsylvania may be good for the consumer. I don’t know. Let’s take a look at a few things. It is my understanding that to avoid being a monopoly Pennsylvania must sell you any wine that is sold in the United States that is available on the open market. Beer distributors have no such requirement. If you special order a wine from a particular store you may have to buy a minimum order. Duh! Most businesses do this. The fact is that you should be able to buy any wine you want in Pennsylvania. As a business seeking profit, a beer distributor is free to tell me no. If I can buy any wine in Pa., why can’t I buy any beer? I know that beers need to be registered here, but do wine need registration? Why the discrimination?

If wine is sold on the free Market in private shops, those shops will not sell you what you want but rather what makes profit. They may also decide not to handle a brand just because they don’t want to. Demand could influence a manager but he is under no mandate to cater to customers. This is how merchants grow or fail. So the way I see it the state of Pennsylvania must sell me a wine that I want but a bar owner can tell me to get lost. Why the discrimination? So here is my question. If state stores were to be privatized, what guarantee do we have that one could go to ANY store and buy ONE bottle of ANY wine sold in the US cheaper than it cost right now? Is this happening in other states? I haven’t decided if I am pro or con on privatization of the state store system but should this occur do we really know what will come of it?

At The Bar

What’s on the bar next to your drink? I was sitting at an upscale Strip District bar when a man came in and placed his hat on the bar. The bartender politely asked to remove it from the bar. The bartender had experience with men’s hats and the creatures found living it them. Since then I always noticed if somebody puts a hat on a bar. I keep quiet about that but I see what the bar staff does: typically nothing, sad to say. One thing we do leave on the bar is cash. In the states one can leave money out on the bar, take two weeks vacation and return to fine it untouched. It is assumed that if you touch somebody’s money on a bar you risk broken bones. On an early trip to London I bought a round of drinks and left my money out on the bar for the world to see. My friend quickly updated me on English pub edict which one is to remove his money when change is returned. I never forgot that one. On a recent visit to a well-run London pub I saw a lad place a bag on the bar. When the bartender spotted the contents of the bag he asked the owner to remove the bag. It contained a pair of new, off the shelf shoes. I was ok with that but it was not proper. Nobody, including the bartender knew why, but it just wasn’t done. Speculation had it that shoes on a bar in a pub were bad luck.

So here is my question. What have you seen on a bar that you thought should be best left off? Remember, we not only drink on the bar but eat as well. Woman’s purses should be ok but what about shopping bags? Some men’s only bars have women (I though it was men’s only?) who dance to pay for the cloths they don’t have. I wouldn’t want to eat a meal in a place like that but I doubt that they have a kitchen anyway. The most bazaar happened decades ago. Friends of mine were drinking in a South Side tavern when a local gent approached them. He needed to use the gent’s room and asked them to keep an eye on something he had. When they agreed he promptly removed his false teeth, placed them on the bar and walked off. I would have put a hat over it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Penn Brewery Reborn

I went to the Penn Brewery yesterday. They are not opened full time but they do a Friday happy hour from 4 to 7. I was happy to see Tom. He built this brewery from the ground up and it has always been, and always will be, his brewery. He was working hanging new flags, cleaning and sweeping and just running around greeting people. I haven't seen him this happy since his first day in 1989. I was happy too. The Kaiser was back on tap and it has to me my all time favorite beer. Sorry to all you English ale brewers, but Kaiser is just that good. The brewery's American Pale Ale is as good. I wasn't sure what to expect from it but my first pint at Fat Heads last week made my eyes pop. It was equal to Kaiser in crispness and character. I for one can't wait until the brewery is open full time. This should be in late April, ut keep an eye out in the Pittsburgh Post in Bob Batz's column on Thursdays. More good news from the brewery is the return of the Penn Fest this June 5th. Only two sessions but two is better than none. For all you newbies in the beer drinking community, Tom and Mary Beth worked to allow brew-pubs to exist in Pennsylvania. Without them we may never have been allowed to have them. That in itself is another commentary. The Penn opened in 1989 as the Allegheny Brewery & Pub, Pennsylvania's first brewery-pub. Thanks Tom and Mary Beth.