Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Brewery & Distillery Venture in Pittsburgh

It was time for another Nationals road trip, once again, Pittsburgh's PNC Park was our destination in hopes of quality baseball and beer. While driving towards the city, theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App informed me of several brewery options in the suburbs with Full Pint Brewing Company the closest. This is a hop head's paradise, plenty of strong IPAs - even a session version. But give me the White Lightening, a Belgium Wit, that's spicy and refreshing.

Our group had a rendezvous setup at the Rivertowne Pour House for a late lunch and beer. Rivertowne has an expansive beer selection and you can find their cans (brewed at Rivertowne Brewing Export, PA) throughout the region. I stuck with samples of their low abv beers - knowing it was going to be a long day and night. A few favorites were the Babbling Blonde, Czech-Mate Pilsner, and the Home Game West Coast Common Lager. The one exception to the low abv rule was the Bourbon Barrel Aged Baltic Porter, a high gravity porter aged in used bourbon barrels. Hot, but also creamy with soft vanilla notes.

Pittsburgh is a tailgating town, and even for a night game it starts early; cars started rolling in at 11:00 am - the same time some of the bars opened. My favorite Pittsburgh beers were from Draai Laag Brewing Company, where a couple are available at the The Beer Market. This brewery specializes in unique Belgian inspired ales, many of these sours - which nails my current flavor profile. One of these is the R2 Koelschip, an American Wild Ale style beer, perhaps not as wild as the name suggests but still some funk, brett, and mildly tart. But my go to beer was the Geestelijke Farmhouse Ale, on draft, and first fermented using open spontaneous fermentation. The wild yeast strain was later determined to be the Wild Angels strain. This beer is yeasty, tart, with a lemon profile. Next visit to Pittsburgh, I'm hitting this brewery first.

Uber is a great transportation medium for visiting city breweries and it served as well on this day. Four trips cost about $25 total, with the first leg taking us to Roundabout Brewery. A bartender at the Beer Market had recommended this brewery since they don't sell outside of their tap room and have a New Zealand flair - particularly the meat pies. I tried to remain in the low ABV range and choose the Berliner Weisse and Kolsh. The later was quite unique with the use of Lemon Drop hops adding a more citrusy component to the otherwise very clean beer. Their Berliner Weisse nailed the style: tart, light and refreshing with more lemon citrus. My companions went with the IPAs with the Pacific Ring IPA their favorite - brewed with Cascade and new Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops.

Out next destination was Church Brew Works, and this is a destination, in addition to be a brewery and restaurant. It is located in a 100+ year old former St. John the Baptist Church, a historical building where they kept most of the original interior and exterior intact. It is quite impressive, particularly the stained glass windows, spirals, and altar. And since our group consisted entirely of Catholics, a must visit. The brewery's Celestial Gold Pilsner and Pious Monk Dunkel are available throughout the city and at PNC Park, and showcase the German styled leaning of this operation. The hop head in our group went with the Thunder Hop IPA, brewed with nearly 3lbs of Australian Galaxy and American Chinook per barrel of beer. For me, it was another Berliner Weisse, this one still citrus but more of a grapefruit flavor than lemon.

Our final stop was the highly recommenced Wigle Whiskey. It seems that everyone we talked to praised this distillery, so off to the Strip District for us. The distillery is named after Phillip Wigle, who "defended his right to distill in a tussle with a tax collector. He unwittingly helped spark the Whiskey Rebellion, which pitted Pennsylvania distillers against George Washington's troops". As the story suggests, they specialize in whiskey, in particular, rye whiskey using Pennsylvania grown Monongahela Rye. There is also plenty of experimenting occurring at Wigle with the whiskey aged in different oak barrels such as Apple Wood, Cherry, and Maple. Tastings are conducted through various flights of 1 ounce pours of four spirits; and we went with the Aged and Experimental flights. The Aged Spirits flight consisted of the Organic Allegheny Wheat Whiskey, Organic Monongahela Rye Whiskey, Organic Barrel-Rested Ginever, and Barleywine Barrel-Rested Ginever. We definitely preferred the whiskey over the gin, with the rye slightly ahead of the wheat. For the Experimental flight, we sampled the Organic Wheat Whiskey Finished with Maple Wood, Wry Rebellion Whiskey, Four Grain Whiskey, and another version of the Barleywine Barrel-Rested Ginever. The Wry Rebellion was a favorite with the spirit based on a lower rye mash and finishing in a once-used Wild Turkey Bourbon barrel. This is a very smooth whiskey, full of honey and vanilla notes. The Maple Wood was also quite nice - with a slightly sweeter profile. The recommendations were correct, Wigle is a must visit.

Cheers to Pittsburgh breweries and distilleries.

1 comment:

iDog said...

It was a fantastic visit to the Wigle Distillery during a recent trip from Boston. A Maryland style Rye was the reason I had to sidestep a number of other plans in order to get my hands on this elixir. Great spirit, great people, great job! If you are a bourbon and/or rye fan, do not miss the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful time and education at the Wigle Distillery.