By Day Bracey
Pittsburgh Current Craft Beer Writer
April 1, midnight: I’ve decided to do a dry/grounded month. No booze or weed all April. Why? Because, I’m a fool. Also, between the worlds of craft beer and entertainment, it’s easy to lose yourself in it all. As long as you’re making shit happen, no one questions your intake. But there’s a fine line between passive alcoholism and standing on the corner with a “Why lie? I need a beer,” sign. I also want to see the world with the clarity of a lens I haven’t had since high school. Last time I was sober for this long, Ja Rule was the #1 rapper in America, Blockbuster had a bright future, and Nazis weren’t welcome in the White House. I may have to pick up a coke habit to get through the month.
April 5, 10 a.m.: Brew day with Black Brew Culture and East End Brewing. They are working on their next collaboration for Fresh Fest, America’s 1st Black brew fest and 2nd best in the nation, according to USA Today. I’m not at liberty to divulge the name of this new and improved brut IPA, so let’s call it “For The Culture 2.0.” These guys have been at it since 6:30 a.m. and I’m just arriving because I don’t approve of their early lifestyle. Brewer Brendon Benson is waxing poetic about the art of the malt, while Mean Joe Green darts around the brewery like a mad alchemist.
Me: What kind of hops are you using in this collab?
BBB: We’re going to use the same varieties that we used last year, but we’re going to up those amounts, Nelson Sauvin, Hallertau Blanc and Idaho #7, for a champagne flavor with some fruitiness. Nelson Sauvin is an Australian variety that’s big on grape character, Idaho #7 has some other fruity notes, and Hallertau Blanc is a German variety that’s kind of a new thing that has some wine characteristics. We’re also going to do a twist with this year’s version and throw some citrus peel in it.
April 5, 11 a.m.: Someone asks if I want a beer and I look at the clock. 11 a.m.?! Of course I want a goddamn beer! But I choose a Commonplace cold brew coffee on nitro, and I’m not disappointed. It’s creamy, beany, and as close to cocaine as I can afford. Apparently, Commonplace Coffee was originally brewed in the same building as East End Brewing Company, before moving to their current facility. It’s the lifeblood of EEBC, a constant in their Eye Opener Coffee Porter, and always on tap for weary designated drivers and bean fiends.
April 5, noon: Scott Smith, owner of EEBC walks in.
Me: Gratitude just dropped. Tell me about it.
SS: It’s a barleywine, which is a very specific brewing process that uses concentrated wort to make a high ABV beer. With the leftover sugars in the grains, we can also make what’s called a second runnings beer, like the small beer on tap right now, Apollo. Gratitude is somewhere between an English and American style barleywine. The English style is a little more malt forward while the American version is hoppier. If you like less hops in your barleywine, sit on it for three to four years, and the hops will age out.
Me: What is it that you’re grateful for about Gratitude?
SS: My wife is our master taster for EEBC. She consumes more Gratitude than anyone else, which makes her sound like a complete drunk. But the reality is she’ll crack a bottle and have it over the course of an evening. So, when we have questions about quality, she can pick out the difference. We’re all too close to it.
Me: Every writer needs an editor. A fresh set of eyes. You guys need a fresh palate.
SS: For sure. One thing that I love about Gratitude looking back is that it’s still the exact same recipe as we did back then. I’ve kept a bottle from every year. There was a movie with Harvey Keitel, “Smoke,” where he had a bodega in NYC, and everyday at 2 p.m. he’d go out and take a picture of the street. People would invite him on trips and he’d refuse because he had to do this. After 30 years it was like a flipbook and you could see how the neighborhood evolved. Similarly, I think about what was going on in my life in 2005. My son was five and starting elementary school. We had just moved house. The brewery was just getting started. I look at it now, and he’s in college. A lot of time has passed. A lot about us has evolved, but the only thing that’s still the same is that liquid.
April 10, 6:30 p.m.: Sobriety is overrated. 2/5 stars. Would not recommend. I’d rather have windmill cancer.