By Day Bracey
Pittsburgh Current Craft Beer Writer
Nov 9, 6 p.m.: I’m at Noble Creature to wrap up my Youngstown brew tour that includes Birdfish and Modern Methods, all within about 40 minutes of each other. It’s housed in an old church and has pictures and paintings of animals across the walls. A band plays in the background. I’m joined by my cohost of the Drinking Partners podcast, Ed Bailey, an Ohio native who recently headlined the Pittsburgh Improv. Neither of us knows much about beer, but we drink enough to fake it.
Ed: The To Be Fair is a nice way to start off a flight. It’s a sessionable 5.8% ABV Belgian single, crisp and flavorful. It’s like a Blue Moon but with heavier wheat. I’d definitely happy hour the shit out of this.
Me: I like this Architeuthis. It’s so low on the pumpkin. It doesn’t jump out at you like, “Pumpkin, bitch!” It’s more like, “Hey. Pumpkin?”
Ed: I’ve never had pumpkin before. All of the pumpkins I’ve ever had has been in beer. Do you eat it raw? Sounds like something you’ve got to put heat to. All I know is pumpkin goes with my [orange] flannel shirt.
Me: What’s that?
Ed: Fickle Mistress Farmhouse IPA. It’s yeasty. I wonder if all of the backend is the yeast, and all the shit the hits your tongue is the hops?
Me: I think that’s how it works.
Ed: It’s an IPA but it has some elicit flavors on the end of it. I guess that’s the mistress. They got the mistress in the barnyard, hiding behind the hay.
Me: What’s the next one?
Ed: Have you ever had something that was very sour initially, but then muted afterward? When I first drank it, I was like, “This shit strong.” But now it’s not so much. I didn’t realize it was a raspberry sour. I think it’s called Thin Lips.
Me: It’s very self-aware.
Ed: It’s the color of white people’s lips when it’s cold outside.
Nov. 9, 7 p.m.: A gingerly bearded fellow walks in and adjusts the lights behind the bar. We assume he may be of some importance. I make my way over and introduce myself. Turns out he’s Ira Gerhart, owner, and brewer, and he has time to give us a quick tour of the brewery!
Ira: What are you guys drinking?
Ed: This is a rauchbier. Fire to Face. I don’t know what that is.
Ira: It’s a traditional German smoked lager, an amber lager with some smoke to it.
Ed: I can taste the garden on that beet beer [Blast Beets]. The beets were dug out of really nice soil. I can drink that and sing the Doug theme song.
Me: How long have you been open?
Ira: It’ll be two years in December. My wife started going to school at YSU. We’re from PA originally. I was living in Erie at the time. I knew I wanted to start a brewery and the property was cheap. So we bought a house, a fixer-upper, and started a brewery.
Me: So, did you name it Noble Creature after you moved into a church?
Ira: The whole idea came from my wife, Marcy. She called all of our pets noble creatures.
Me: You have a lot of sour barrels here. Do you find there is a bigger market here for these types of beer?
Ira: I got hooked on this style of beer when I worked at Sprague Farms. They do all kinds of open fermentation and everything is cask-conditioned. When I worked there I started playing around with harvesting local yeast cultures.
Me: Where do you go to get your local yeast?
Me: How do you yeast hunt? Do they leave a footprint?
Ira: A good way to start is take a wort and stick it under a flower that’s pollinating.
Me: So, how do you pick your spots? What’s a yeasty area?
Ira: We’ve done stuff around orchards. A quicker way to do it is to make a wort and throw some flowers in it to jumpstart it.
Me: So, you’re like yeast trapping?
Ira: Basically. We capture the yeast and try to grow it up a couple of times before I try it. If you set some wort out there overnight, I wouldn’t bring that back and drink it. Let it go for a little bit, make sure the PH drops and there’s some fermentation. Step that up again and again and if it keeps going then I try it. If it tastes ok we keep it going. Most of the time it’s going to taste like shit, just dump it out and try again. It’s a weird experiment. That’s what fun about it.