Jan 5, 1 p.m.: My fianceé and my mother got together and planned a family outing on my “day off,” and were gracious enough to let me choose the location. Since my mother lives in Rankin, I chose Homestead. I heard that a new brewery had opened up, making that three in total—the minimum amount of watering holes needed to fashion a crawl.
First stop is Rock Bottom. I order a flight and my mother, first lady of her church and a teetotaler, looks at me and says, “You don’t drink like that all the time, do you?”
“Of course not,” I lie to her while explaining that this is a job, and my liver is a small sacrifice for the greater good. Christians love that sacrificial shit. I break down the various styles of beer, and how it is now more of an art form than a conduit for debauchery, like the Red & Blue Bulls of her day.
I introduce her to the head brewer, Meg Evans, and show her the tanks in the back. She seems intrigued, so much so that by the end of it she asks for a sip. I haven’t seen my mother take a sip of alcohol in more than 20 years. I hand her the Kolsch and by golly she likes it! Not enough to finish the glass, but enough for me to add, “getting mom hammered” to my 2019 goals. Great work, Meg!
Jan 5, 6:30 p.m.: I break from the fam and link up with Ed Bailey over at Voodoo. They’ve got new art on the walls, and Good Vibes is always a solid beer. I see they’re adding something to the building and I ask owner Jake Voelker about it.
JV: We plan on building a courtyard where you can enjoy beers outside and bring your dogs, like we used to before we had a kitchen. We’ll also use the space for benefit events that help the local community and humane animal rescue. We’re slating the grand opening for June 1.
Jan. 5, 8 p.m.: We walk into Enix.
Ed Bailey: This place looks like gentrification.
Jan. 12, 1 p.m.: Butler Brew Works has a can release. Bless The Rains is a solid double New England IPA clocking in at eight percent. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Butler County recently. They have a burgeoning scene, and with several breweries slated to open in the next year, the people here will soon see little need to venture into Allegheny. I’m drinking with brewers Travis Tuttle and Nathan Troyan.
Me: So why “Bless The Rains?”
Travis: The main hop in that beer is called African Queen. And “Africa” by Toto is one of the most popular songs of all time.
Nathan: The first time I had African Queen was at Fresh Fest. One of the black brewers made a lager or pale ale with it. AB InBev owns that hop, but before they did there was a stockpile that everyone’s been nipping off of, including us. But the brewer at Fresh Fest had this really cool story about someone hopping the fence and stealing the hops from InBev, and that’s how they got ahold of it.
Me: That is the blackest story I’ve ever heard in craft beer! Leave it to black people to bring bootleg hops to a festival. I’ve never been more proud. Where there is no way, we make one. Speaking of African Queens, you know “Africa” is about a white man’s obsession with Black meat mittens, right?
Travis: I saw your theory on that, watched the video, read the lyrics, compared it to Toto’s explanation and I’m inclined to believe your version.
Me: Tell me about the food and how you craft your menu.
Nathan: We owe a lot of that to a great local chef, Bill Atkinson, who runs The Chop Shop across the street.
Travis: We teamed up because he’s well respected. People aren’t always open to trying new stuff in this area, but coming from Bill they trust it. We talk about ways to incorporate the beer into the menu, whether it’s a pairing, or as an ingredient such as marinades or sauces. He understands our audience here.
Jan. 12, 4p.m.: I finish the trip with a brisket wrap, and a Kolsch that is made entirely from Butler County grown grains. It’s crisp, a little sweet and pairs well with the crack cocaine Bill sprinkled on this beef. I’m hooked!
Nathan: That’s actually coffee on the brisket.
Yeah, right. Just don’t let this get back to my mom.