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. 15, 11:45 a.m.: I’ve been invited to the Construction Junction Big Pour. It’s one of the oldest and biggest beer fests in Pittsburgh. It’s been going for 12 years now with proceeds supporting CJ’s mission “to promote conservation through the reuse of building material.” CJ is located in Point Breeze, or as some of you may call it, the Far East End. I park around the corner next to some ambiguous permit parking signs, see some out of state plates in the area, and roll the dice on whether or not I’ll get towed. They have sessions at noon and 5 p.m. I’ve been given tickets to the 12 o’clock session. Who drinks beer at noon?
Sept. 15, 12 p.m.: Apparently, everyone. I forgot Pittsburgh is full of drunks. So, I’m right at home. They hand me a large sample glass and this nifty necklace that holds it so you can use your hands without setting down your glass. They’ve clearly considered the mime community in today’s planning. This place is huge! I thought it was a little mom & pop shop that bike-hippies kept in business by buying old doorknobs and coffee just so they can use the free Wi-Fi. There looks to be enough building supplies stored in here to build a small village. There are nearly 2,000 people here. They have 55 brewers and more than 20 food vendors split up into four sections.
Sept. 15, 12:05 p.m.: As minorities are apt to do in high-European situations, I do a quick black scan of the crowd to assess the comfort level. Before I can finish, a young negro gentleman by the name of Rafiq approaches me and introduces himself and the beer he’s drinking, an imperial Russian stout by Hulton Liquid Works in Oakmont. I wasn’t aware Oakmont had a brewery. He mentions he attended Fresh Fest, that his wife is otherwise occupied somewhere in this building, and offers to join me on my fantastic voyage. Looks like I’ve found a new friend. Three hours. Four Chambers of Inebriation. 45 minutes each. Let’s go, bro!
Sept. 15, 1-something p.m.: We still haven’t made it past the first chamber. I’ve been trying to keep it light with low ABV goses and lagers, but it’s not working. It may be because brewers consider “just a splash, please,” to mean a 7 ounce pour plus a little squirt in your mouth for good measure. A highlight thus far has been the brut IPA from Leaning Cask in Springdale. It’s dry with a nice citrus flavor. The brewer describes it as his take on a New England hazy, and I believe he knocked it out the park.
Sept. 15, something-something p.m.: We’ve arrived at the second chamber. Abjuration is here. They’re pouring brown ale, which I’m not typically a fan of, but this one is pretty complex and a nice change of pace from the light beers I’ve been drinking heavily. They’re over in McKees Rocks, if you’re interested. And if you’re over there early enough, stop by Mary Anne’s Breakfast-N-Lunch, too. Best breakfast hoagie in Pittsburgh. The only breakfast hoagie in Pittsburgh?
Something something, something something: I failed. I was supposed to be over there, but instead I’m here in the third chamber, and it’s almost over. Spoke to Meg Evans about Brewtal Festival, a heavy metal beer festival featuring collaborations with metal bands and a pretty sweet championship belt for the best beer. This year it’s at Mr. Smalls on October 20. Yes, I’ll be there. No, I won’t be coherent. James Evans of Spoonwood wants me to shotgun a pounder of Freshie Crushie, and I’m usually ’bout that life, but today I’m trying to be an adult and keep it together. I’m hanging by a thread. I stuff a couple in my pocket for later though. Before they kick me out, I manage to try a barrel aged sour from the king of sours, Jeff Bloom, the new Kaboom Candy from Grist House and a remarkable black tea blonde ale from Three Rivers Association of Serious Homebrewers, or TRASH. They are a committed bunch, not like the casual brewers you might find on Craigslist. I probably should have eaten some food while I was here. That’s when Rafiq tells me he’s been eating food at this festival the whole time. “You didn’t know it was free?”
Friends. How many of us have them?
Day Bracey covers craft beer for the Pittsburgh Current. Contact him at email@example.com