This column will be sort of like ‘Fear & Loathing in Pittsburgh,’ minus the Rolling Stone budget.
When the Pittsburgh Current hit me up about writing a beer column, my first thought was, “I don’t really know shit about beer.” They told me I can write about the culture. I think they mean chronicle my path to cirrhosis. Sort of like “Fear & Loathing in Pittsburgh,” minus the Rolling Stone budget.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, I’m a paid drunk. I tell jokes for beer money, record inebriated conversations with brewers and artists in an Allentown basement, and co-founded Fresh Fest — America’s first Black Beer Fest — for the sole purpose of someday running into a negro at a brewery that I myself didn’t bring. So, I figure the worst that can happen is I get fired from a job I never applied for.
“I’m in,” I said.
July 22, 3p.m.: The lovely ladies of Leona’s Ice Cream are in the Work Hard Pittsburgh studio with coolers full of local beer to pair with their wares. I don’t typically drink and desert and I certainly don’t mix dairy and alcohol. Ever see Irish cream curdle in a car bomb? But, I’ll try anything once. They start with a tangerine- blackberry ice cream on bergamot shortbread cookies, paired with Hitchhiker’s Tangerine Whole Punch: a fruity, vanilla milkshake New England IPA (NEIPA).
July 22, 5p.m.: Shannon Harris, aka Brew Brotha, & Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture surprise us with a visit. Shannon is in town to brew a collaboration with Dancing Gnome for Fresh Fest. He has a seat on the couch as we record our second, much sloppier, episode of Drinking Partners. We were gifted a bevy of rare beers from across the country at our show last night, and Shannon is the perfect person to provide some education to go along with this entertainment, none of which we will be sober enough to retain. Good thing it’s being recorded.
July 23, 12 p.m.: Sarah Huny Young, director of Supreme Clientele Design Agency, asked Mike and me to come try her collaboration with Rock Bottom for Fresh Fest. Mike and I are happy to oblige. We sit with her and Meg Evans, Rock Bottom’s head brewer, for [redacted] ale with [redacted]. “Don’t tell anyone what we’re brewing. It’s a secret,” they tell me. They aren’t women I want to cross. This beer is something I want five of though. It’s only noon, so I cap it at two.
“We wanted to go bold.” Meg says. “Being a female brewer, people always want to talk to me about being a female brewer, they never want to talk about the product that I’m brewing. So, coming into this, I wanted to brew something that is going to make no one think of anything else but that beer.” Huny is more focused on bringing like-minded individuals to the craft. “It’s a true collaboration. I wanted to make something that beer people would respect Meg for, but also for women like me. Women, who may not really like beer, but are willing to try it. And that’s how we’re approaching the name and the branding of the beer.”
July 24, 9 a.m.: Shannon invited us down to Dancing Gnome for their brew day. He’s wearing a shirt that says “Earn Your Booze,” and looks like he’s been living those words. He, Ryan Janusko, and Scott Mitchell have been brewing a Double IPA (DIPA) for the fest since 7a.m. Shannon cracks open a Spindle Tap Candy Green DIPA pounder from Houston, TX, and shares it with the group. We then try the DG Loud Sounder a day before its release, and I remember why I commuted from Beaver during rush hour traffic to be here. “Is Big Shot Bob’s open yet?”
July 24, 11 a.m.: The last stop on my Booze-a-Palooza tour is Hitchhiker. They’ve paired with BOOM Concepts to brew BOOM Shandy, a blackberry shandy, and the first of its style that I’ve seen locally. Andy, the head brewer, finds time to pour me a Tangerine Whole Punch on nitro. If my mom let me try this on New Year’s Eve as a kid, instead of that cheap champagne, I may not have made it to adulthood with both kidneys. Gary Olden, the owner, walks in with pizza and dry wit. We talk about beer culture and the harsh criticisms that come with the industry. “I try not to read the comments.” He is smart. He is kind. He is important.
I share all of this to reiterate my earlier statement; I really don’t know shit about beer. But I know a lot of interesting people who do, and for some reason they share their knowledge and experiences with me. My goal with this is column is to pay it forward to you, highlight some of the lesser-heard voices in the industry, and add my own copper coins to the discussions. If you see me out and about, feel free to tell me how much you love beer and hate Trump. I can think of no better way to spend a day drinking.
Day Bracey Covers Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene for the Pittsburgh Current. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org