Editor’s Note: Day Bracey is a stand-up comedian and host of the Drinking Partners Podcast on the Epicast Network. He chronicles Pittsburgh’s craft-beer scene for the Pittsburgh Current.
Sept 21, 8pm: Dave “Brings The Party” Cerminara invited me to Oktoberfest at Penn Brewery. He used to brew here, and this is an annual sloshing for the Apis crew. We’re drinking German ales from Turner’s tea jugs and making new friends while bumping into familiar faces. I was here once before as a teen. My Big Brother brought me here, and I was in awe of the spectacle then. I’m in awe of it now. I’m also in drunk of it. Pretty sure I’m 1/16th German by volume right now.
Oct 3, 3.30p: I’m off to interview Jeff Bloom of Bloom Brew in West Newton, PA, next to the Youghiogheny River Trail. They’re only open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. I work weekends. Wednesday it is.
Oct 3, 4.15pm: Accident on 376. Hella traffic. Also, random construction for construction’s sake. What are they even building here?! Why are you letting everyone in front of you, dude? Just drive! MOTHERF—
Oct 3, 5pm: I pull up to the newly graveled parking lot. The Yough flooded a while back, and this should help soak up some of that water next time. I walk into the repurposed fire hall to see Jeff there with a couple of customers and brewer Danny Diethorn. Danny pours me up a Mango Z Tango barrel-aged Belgian sour. It hits you in all the places sours hit you and has a nice funk to it. That’s what I like most about these sours. That Bootsy Collins in your glass. If you don’t know, Jeff keeps 24 beers on tap, and there’s a lot of weird shit on that board. If you’re into flavor roller coasters, this is your Cedar Point. There’s no food truck today, so I order a pizza from around the corner. I’m going to need safety harnesses for this ride. I hit record.
Me: What is it about sours that drew you to the style?
Jeff: It’s the creative aspect of it. I’ve always been a fruit beer guy. I like the variety that you find in sours. I’m a big fan of going up to Oregon.
Me: Me too. I spent many a day playing Oregon Trail.
Jeff: Cascade Barrelhouse. The first time I was in Oregon, I visited Cascade. For me, they were the kings of sours. If I can produce something even somewhat close to that, then I think I’m hitting my mark. After I rolled out my barrel-aged program, I was at the Good Wood Fest over at East End and had no less than four people tell me my sours were as good or better than Cascade Brewing. It put a tear in my eye.
Me: Tell me about your barrel program.
Jeff: What we do is take a particular fruit and work through six different yeast strains. Every week that keg kicks, we fill it with another strain, and everybody that walks through that door gives me feedback. We then dial in a particular yeast strain with that fruit, and put it in our fermentation room for four or five months. Then, if it meets our expectations, we put it in our barrels. It’s very time consuming and expensive, and we don’t want to wait a year before knowing if we have an excellent product.
Me: Tell me about this For The Cookout beer you did with Cocoapreneur for Fresh Fest.
Jeff: When Khamil came down and said she wanted to do a BBQ beer, I was like, “Game on!” We’re known for doing some crazy stuff. I wasn’t real happy with the first batch and tanked it. We made a second batch of base beer with mesquite wood smoked malt, honey, molasses, and habaneros, with the goal of pairing it with homemade local BBQ sauces. A friend of mine, Casey, lost a father this year unexpectedly. I was holding the last two jars of his father’s famous sauce that he gave me last year and wanted to return them. He thanked me and said he was going to use one to try to replicate his dad’s recipe. The other jar he let me keep For The Cookout.
And then a man from PennDOT walked in the room…
Day Bracey is the Pittsburgh Current Craft Beer Writer. Contact Day at email@example.com.