You know how it feels when a medium-rare buffalo burger with bacon and cheddar just materializes on your desk? Okay, that more or less doesn’t happen. But mention that you write about beer sometimes people will hand you a cold one to try for yourownself. Today’s beer blog acknowledges two guys who have done right by me and the brews by which right they did.
A few weeks ago I mentioned picking up a bike at Pittsburgh Pro Bicycles in Squirrel Hill. This is my favorite kind of shop, with a hardwood floor scuffed from cleat traffic, two or three shop dogs and as often as not you end up dealing with the owner himself. Around when I was closing on the bike purchase I noticed cases of Dogfish Head hidden (poorly) behind various staff counters, and after about a minute of beer talk Dave the bike guru fetched a brew for me, the 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head, and threw it in my bag gratis. Four-figure purchase or not, the 120 Minute is a precious beer and Dave definitely didn’t have to do that.
If Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute is a superlative IPA, the 120 Minute is on a whole other plane of existence. You will notice the 20% ABV right away because, seriously, how could you possibly not notice that, but the brewers have hopped the beer so mercilessly that the ridiculous alcohol content comes across as balanced between sweet and bitter, like two great Scottish wee heavy ales squeezed into one bottle. This limited edition won’t be easy to find, so if you do find it buy twice as much as you need and cellar the spare. Rest assured that it will keep.
Also in Squirrel Hill and across from the exalted Mineo’s pizza house on Murray, Kazansky’s may well have the most impressive beer selection of any Jewish deli serving matzo ball soup and latkes made right. Brian left the wine business to buy the deli years ago and has expanded an entire wall into a shrine to local brews. You’ll find Church Brew Works and East End brewing from Pittsburgh proper, Erie and Great Lakes, practically everything made by Stoudt’s plus Weyerbacher, Flying Dog, a generous Dogfish Head collection, Victory, Rogue and notable imports like Czechvar and Hoegaarten. When it comes to my first commandment of drinking (Act globally, drink locally) the store is a shrine. On the downside Brian doesn’t share my enthusiasm for darker beers so Yuengling Porter and Dogfish Head’s Chicory Stout didn’t make the list.
I mentioned to Brian that I had never seen the Small Craft Warning uber pils, from Heavy Seas in Baltimore, so naturally he passed on a bottle to check out. My inner microbrwesnob urged me to try anything other than a lager but what the heck, the price was good. Lucky me: Budweiser and Coors didn’t kill the lager style after all, they just gave it a bad name. Small Craft pours a medium straw gold with a lingering head and delivers a nose of fresh hay and honey, with a pleasant aftertaste that invites more consumption. A consenting opinion from BA:
Pours gold to peach in color and very clear. Sweet grass, hay aromas. Sweet light malt taste is well balanced with a crisp bitterness. Nothing overpowering here, just a simple well balanced pilsner. I cannot discern any alcohol in the taste and have a hard time believing this is 7.5% for how balanced and how light the maltiness is. I could definitely enjoy a few of these back to back.
It is a pleasure to see American brewers doing the lager style with elan, but bittersweet knowing that before prohibition the large fraction of brews made in America not only held up to that standard but won international awards. Has the time come to demand better?
Around the beerosphere, A Good Beer Blog reviews the Wagner Valley IPA:
This beer was dark amber, foamy and thick as a milkshake and really fragrant. My usual not very helpful statement is to say here “I really like this beer,” but in this case I have to add it made me feel like a fire-breatheing dragon. That’s pretty strong.
I have to try that beer.