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.