This weekend was the fourth annual Steel City Big Pour, an event Chris and I have always heard great things about, but had never actually been able to get to. In all honesty, we just never took enough note of it. But the more we read about the Pittsburgh food and beer scene, the more we realized this was something we had to take note of this year. We were determined to get there. And it took some teamwork and an all-day wait by the telephone to get tickets (the event was so highly anticipated and so many people were trying to buy tickets when they became available that the system crashed). But we got tickets to the first session (12-3 p.m.), and we were psyched.
We started our weekend off on Friday night, when a local bar near us, Blue Dust, was hosting an event. (Side note: the beer selection and food at Blue Dust looked really good. We’d never been there before, despite the fact it’s right across the Homestead-Gray’s Bridge–we’re going to have to start frequenting this place more often.) There were some brewers and distributors there from a variety of breweries, and they had some rare and one-off beers available. Chris and I each started with a pumpkin ale, a Weyerbacher for him and a Southern Tier for me. Both were served in chalices with the lip dipped in orange juice and brown sugar. They were crisp and heralded the spices of fall, though I found mine to be a little hoppy by the end. Then the fun started. There were 3 rare beers from two of our favorite breweries available, a set from Dogfish Head and a set from Victory. Both are close to our hearts, for their excellent craft brews and for the memories we have of going to their brew-pubs while on vacation in Ocean City or when I lived in West Chester, respectively. Beer wise, I tried the Dogfish sampler, with a Saison Du Buff (a specific kind of saison beer that was a feature that night–it was good, though a little lighter and hoppier than I would usually pick), a pumpkin ale (which was tasty, up to Dogfish Head’s usual standards), and a Bitches Brew (which was awesome–very roasted with undertones of coffee and chocolate, and smooth. Loved it.) Chris got the Victory sampler: another Saison Du Buff (theirs was a little smoother and Chris found it more enjoyable than the Dogfish Head), the Pursuit (which honestly doesn’t really stand out in my mind, so I guess it wasn’t that extraordinary), and a Village (a red-ale color, but a coffee-roasted-ness to it. Chris had more of the saisons; I enjoyed more of this one).
Even neater than the beer, though, was the chance we had to meet lots of cool people. We stuck up a conversation with an older fellow named Dave who worked for the distributor who sponsored this event, and we chatted with him for a while. He was going to be one of the pourers at the Big Pour the next day, and he even recognized us when we saw him on Saturday! We talked to Jesse, the lead brewer and founder of a new micro-brewery in Chambersburg called Roy Pitz. Really nice, interesting guy (he even went to West Chester!) and he also recognized us on Saturday when we went to his station. Roy Pitz makes a good beer–their ale and their hefeweisen were quite tasty. I’d keep an eye out for them in the future. I’m not saying we made permanent, life-changing connections or anything, but it was a really enjoyable way to spend a Friday evening.
And then Saturday. Pure awesomeness! I wish I had taken some pictures, but I refused to bring a purse and hence, I was camera-less. I just didn’t want to be more weighted down than I had to be (and a good thing, too, because we had a sample glass for the beer, and there was good food to be eaten, and 2 hands was frequently just not enough!) Too bad, though, because I rocked my Dogfish Head shirt and Chris was representing Market Cross.
I won’t wax poetic on all the beers we tried, because there were many. But here’s some highlights: The special Big Pour Brew for the year, by Scott at East End Brewing, was “Weisse Beer So Sour”, a Berlin-style weisse that was just the right balance of malt and sourness–Chris and I both named it our favorite of the day. I had an excellent Unibroue Ephemere, a light beer made with granny smith apples, and a wonderful Pomegranate Weiss by a local homebrewer’s organization. We tried some Voodoo brews, a Thirsty Dog double, a Shmaltz beer brewed with grapes, and of course we stopped by old favorites like Troegs and Dogfish Head. We got frites from Point Brugge (authentic Belgian style, the best), pulled pork, Belgian waffles from Sharp Edge, pumpkin bread and chickpea soup and assorted other goodies. We saw some of our friends from the previous night; we watched a glass-blowing demonstration; we heard some good music. It was crowded, but never uncomfortably so, and we never had to wait in too long of a line. Really, it was just a kind of heaven for someone who loves good beer and good food. I can easily see why it’s a pivotal event in the Pittsburgh beer scene. And I can’t wait for next year!
(Oh, did I forget to mention the awesome growler we each got, too? For use at about 13 local microbreweries/pubs, many of which are our frequent haunts? Another reason to love this event! 🙂 )
P.S. After typing this up, I went and looked up the Dogfish Head Bitches Brew, which apparently has much more backstory than I realized. I don’t know why I’m surprised. After Midas Touch and Chateau Jiahu (which was even recently featured on NPR), I should have known better than to take Dogfish Head at face value and shrug off the colorful name. Anyway, I’m definitely keeping an eye out for more of this interesting “fusion” between imperial stout and honey beer. I’ll just have to overcome my school-marmish aversion to cursing before I can think of ordering it…