Nov. 30, 6:30 p.m.: Chili is by far my favorite dish and I’ve been invited to judge 18 different recipes at Shubrew’s inaugural chili cook-off. The judges’ panel includes Lauren Baker of North Country Brewing, Jack Smith of Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Homebrewers, and Brian Reed of Milwaukee’s Alliance of Evil Mass Brewers. Dave Ieong brewed an altbier, which Zach Shumaker describes as a dark kolsch. It clocks in at around 4% and pairs well with seasonal depression and chili. I can pound these all night long. All night!
Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m.: Somebody killed a bear and made it into a stew. There is no hyperbole in my statement. I’m eating pure testosterone right now.
Nov. 30, 8 p.m.: It was a tough competition, except for the chili that tasted like Sambuca. Only a European would think to add anise to an otherwise perfectly good chili. Homeland Security should look into these people. Somehow, bear chili only came in second place. Pittsburgh’s couple around town, The Conways, defeated it with a brownie chili. Yes. A brownie-topped chili. I’m just as surprised as you are.
Kathleen Conway: My thing is baked goods. I’ve tried to pair them with different brewery releases in the past. When I was thinking about the heat in the chili, I thought chocolate would go great with that. So, I went with a brownie instead of cornbread.
Me: What was in the brownie?
KC: I used a Kenyan hot sauce, which was the secret ingredient.
Me: Where’d you get a Kenyan hot sauce?
KC: You can find it in the Strip District. The sauce gives it a little heat, but there’s also molasses, brown sugar, dark chocolate, cayenne, chili powder, and cinnamon.
Nov. 30, 8:30 p.m.: Mrs. Shumaker’s delicious taco chili didn’t win, but she has a winning charity she’d like to share with you all, Izzie’s Gifts of Hope Foundation (IzziesGifts.org). Their mission is to enrich the lives of children with chronic illness. I suggest everyone use the money they saved reading this free article to make a donation.
Nov. 30, 9 p.m.: Everyone who didn’t win hates me. I hope they didn’t see which car I pulled up in.
Nov. 30, 10 p.m.: I’m at Abjuration Brewing located in the Parkway Theater & Film Lounge in McKees Rocks, which also houses two theaters and a kitchen. It’s comedy night, hosted by Zach Cieply. The place is beautiful and packed with people. Comics are getting shithoused and telling jokes in front of a silent movie. I’m chatting with brewer Tom Glover.
Me: What is an abjuration?
TG: The word breaks down in Latin to mean to go against the laws of tradition, to break oath. We don’t care about styles as much as we try to make tasty beers. It’s important to make beers people recognize. You don’t want to be too weird. But if I think the beer needs to be something for a particular artistic endeavor, I’m going to do that rather than worry about a style guide or critique.
Me: So, Fuck the German purity laws?
TG: 100% correct.
Me: How did you hook up with the theater?
TG: Aaron ran into us at a festival and told us he wanted to put us in his theater. When we came by, we saw that we could fit in the space. And now we are sort of an anchor for Mckees Rocks, because we see a lot of businesses moving in, and it really reaffirms that we made a good decision jumping onto his passion project.
Me: How do you revitalize a community without gentrifying it?
TG: You have to be a part of it. A lot of our beers are $2. The idea is that if you work here and you have a struggle in life [and] you got $5 you can come in and have a beer in your own backyard. It’s your brewery then. It’s not strangers coming in and taking your parking spot. We’re here for the people who live here.
Dec. 1,, Midnight: Abjuration is no longer allowed to serve alcohol, but lucky for my alcoholism Parkway serves till 2am, and has a bar full of local spirits. Aaron Stubna, owner of Parkway, makes me a Long Island iced tea, and it tastes like a hangover. I should eat something before I go to bed, but their kitchen is closed.
Dec. 1, 2 a.m.: That Sambuca chili doesn’t sound so bad right about now…