My team didn’t make it for a repeat performance at the Super Bowl this year. So that means I have more bandwidth to focus on some of the other great Super Bowl traditions off the gridiron, like the commercials, snack food — and beer!
Fellow Hop Press writer Mario Rubio has shown his true colors (green and yellow) with his review of Wisco beers, so, in the interest of being fair and balanced, I volunteered to present the opponents’ side and take a look at Pittsburgh beers.
While I am in no Steelers fan, I am fond of Pittsburg. I spent a couple of weeks there a few years ago on business, and found it to be an entirely charming city filled with friendly people, devoted fans and a passionate beer culture that has a rich history and a promising future. So I guess that makes me eligible enough to write this post.
The Pittsburgh area was home to about 25 breweries in the late 1800s until Prohibition and industry trends put brewers out of business. But Iron City beer, founded in 1861 stands today as a Pittsburgh icon. Iron City and its counterparts — Augustiner Premium Amber Lager and IC Light — are now brewed at City Brewery in LaTrobe (where Rolling Rock was once brewed) instead of the four-story brick building on the corner of Liberty Avenue and 34th Street in Pittsburgh, where Iron City was brewed from 1866 until 2009, but it’s impossible to think of Pittsburgh and not think of Iron City beer.
The Pennsylvania Brewing Company was the first craft brewhouse in the state, and, having been open since 1986, is a pioneer in the microbrewery movement. The brewery and its restaurant are located in the former Eberhardt and Ober Brewery in the historic Deutschtown section of Pittsburgh’s North Side, where beer has been made since 1848. The buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Penn Brewery makes about a dozen German-style beers, ranging from Penn Pilsner to the darkly rich seasonal St. Nikolas Bock.
Pittsburgh craft beer fans tend to list the tiny East End Brewing, a production brewery that might hit 2000 barrels in 2011, as a local favorite. Founder Scott Smith says he is serving only two kinds of beer at the brewery over Super Bowl weekend — black and gold. Black offerings will include Black Strap Stout, Eye Opener Coffee Porter and Chocolate Covered Cherry Stout. On the gold side, Big Hop IPA, Monkey Boy Hefeweizen and Gratitude Barleywine 2010. East End does most of its business in outside accounts around Pittsburgh, but does sell its beer by the bottle or growler at the brewery.
Another brewery that is taking the Super Bowl game personally is Rivertowne, where the menu items at the Monroeville brewpub on Sunday will be cheese-free in a challenge to Packers fans. Even the pizza, which is the brewpubs’ mainstay, will be served without cheese (although patrons in need of a cheese fix can get it if they really want it). Rivertowne has four beer-centric establishments around Pittsburgh, serving more than 20 different beers, but the Monroeville Pour House is the one with the brewery.
A newcomer to the scene, Full Pint Brewing has the capacity to produce 11,000 barrels a year. It is a production brewery with a growler room where patrons can pick up beer straight from the brewery. Brewer and co-owner Matt Kegg (yes, his real name) says Full Pint currently has three standard beers — Chinookie Imperial Pale Ale; White Lightning Belgian-style White Ale and All-In Amber Ale.
It’s a pretty good bet that a bunch of beer-lovin’ Steelers fans will be heading to Church for the game. Not to pray for their team, but to enjoy great beer. Church Brew Works, housed in the former St. John the Baptist Catholic church, is hands-down one of the most beautiful brewpubs in the country.
Meticulously and reverently restored after many years of unused, Church opened for business in 1996, and has been preaching the good-beer mantra and converting beer lovers ever since. The entire space, from the former pews now used as benches in the dining room to the bar, made from oak planks recovered from the same pews and from the stained glass windows to the gilted lanterns — are all salvaged from the church. Even the original confessional still remains, although now it holds Church Brew Works merchandise.
But the real focal point is the brewery itself. Poised on the altar, encircled in a Mediterranean-blue enclave, the steel and copper equipment gleams like a shining star, and makes the perfect backdrop for Steeler fans who will no doubt come in droves to either celebrate or cry in their beers after the game.
Good luck to both teams!
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