PittGirl Discovers Craft Beertopia

Our former Zima enthusiast is ready to get her drink on - for real this time.

By the time I admitted on my former blog (“The Burgh Blog”) that I was an enthusiastic imbiber of the clear malt beverage Zima, it was already long past the glory days of the oft-mocked illegitimate child of the trailer-park of beer-wannabes.

If craft beer were the Mercedes of alcoholic drinks, and Bud Light the Yugo, Zima would be the three-legged, geriatric mule with one good eye. Don’t flaunt it in the street; hide it in your garage, and pray no one ever sees you near it.

I was never ashamed of my love of Zima, but one person’s purchasing power cannot effectively keep an alcoholic beverage on the market. So when it was announced a few years ago that Zima would cease production, I threw a little funeral for my soon-to-be deceased three-legged mule.

I began the hunt for the new Zima in my life, hopefully one with at least four legs—if not an engine.

When I discovered Bud Light Lime, I thought I had taken a step up from the shame of being a Zima drinker, but I was quickly put in my place by craft beer enthusiasts who informed me that I graduated to what they considered to be, well (putting it nicely), the liquid evacuated from the equestrian bladder.

Lovely.

But beer, to me, was beer. I didn’t care what color it was, where it was brewed or what any of the words on the label meant (Stout? So, it’s a short, fat beer?). To me it was all the same. Just like there are really only two kinds of wine: red and white. (I can practically HEAR the local sommeliers falling over themselves to get the first hand on my cheek to slap some sense into me.)

Bud Light Lime, brewed inside of an icy mountain, the commercials would have me believe, was a nice citrus beer-flavored beer that often found a place in my fridge during hot summer months. Also, this beer would make me thinner, more attractive and blonde. Commercials don’t lie.

After years of local craft-beer enthusiasts begging me to allow them to educate me about brews made in smaller batches and how they differ from the mass-produced horse pee I’d been drinking, I finally gave in and met up with Douglas Derda from the popular local podcast “Should I Drink That?” We met one late afternoon at Bocktown Beer and Grill in Robinson Township. With 400 beers and a staff that knows the local and regional brews, it was the perfect place to learn.

Doug instructed our craft-smart server to bring us six samples of the regional beers they had on tap that day. Lined up on the table in front of me, I realized that beer might not just come in beer flavor. Each glass was a vastly different shade of brown. We started with Troeg’s Sunshine Pils (Harrisburg, Pa.). I sipped. I looked at Doug. He told me to let it breathe. I sipped again. Let it breathe. Looked at Doug. “Doug, this is beer-flavored beer.”

Doug agreed that this beer was the closest to the beers I had been drinking my whole life, as many pilsners tend to be indistinguishable. We agreed this is a good beer to drink after tennis. What? Don’t you drink beer after tennis? Try it.

Doug assured me that as we moved along, the beers would begin to differentiate from the Bud Lights and the Rolling Rocks. Bring on Marzoni’s Stone Mason Stout (Duncansville, Pa.). The short, fat beer. Not really. Stout beer, I could see, was very dark and ... Do I smell COFFEE IN THIS BEER, DOUG?

Doug, knowing what a coffee addict I am, was pleased to inform me that most stout beers taste like coffee. I grabbed the glass, sniffed, sipped, let it breathe and said, “Ohhhhhhh,” as the dawn of beer enlightenment entered and the shame of Bud Light Lime left.

This enlightenment was only short-lived because it would be followed by the euphoria of Bocktown’s Brewser’s Infusion of Rock Bottom Breakman’s Stout with Kahlua-Soaked Oak Chips and Vanilla Bean.  I did mental math. Coffee + Kahlua + Vanilla Bean = DIED AND GONE TO BEER HEAVEN.

I drank it down like I had just played a five-setter. Suddenly, I was a beer expert. I started tossing around words like smooth, bitter, weight and, at one point, “yowza.”

We breezed through Marzoni’s Belgian Style Pale Ale, which I declared my least favorite on account of the fact that I just drank a vanilla Kahlua coffee-flavored beer.

By the time I was sipping an East End Fat Gary (Pittsburgh, Pa.), I knew everything about beer and was wisely nodding my head at whatever Doug was teaching me about hops while letting my beer breathe, sensing the gravity of it in my mouth.

By the final beer, Penn Brewery Summer Berry Weizen (Pittsburgh, Pa.), I was sold on craft beers. Berry-flavored beer, Pittsburgh. Not the shameful, syrupy sweet berry-flavored wine coolers that I love so much and drink in shame lest the sommeliers find me, but a smooth, slightly sweet berry-flavored beer that I can drink proudly.

I left my time with Doug sobered up, educated and armed with the knowledge that craft beers are anything but beer-flavored. The very next evening at Pittsburgh magazine‘s Best Restaurants Party, I found myself at the bar choosing between a domestic beer and a craft beer. Also, wine—red and white. I chose a craft beer: Lancaster Strawberry Wheat Beer (Lancaster, Pa.).

I have found my new Zima, and this one is my Lamborghini. Hands off.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

Thanks to Rick Sebak, we have some rare pictures of the view from the top.
Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

The movie is the first non-documentary to focus solely on the pop artist’s life.
How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

The state-of-the-art playspace is expected to keep more than 100 children entertained.
Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Joe Manganiello's wife told Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” that she's learned to accept his Steelers' obsession but also admits “in the beginning it was kinda weird.”

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

The things that are best about us? They’re not things. They’re ways.
Chris Kunitz: The Penguins' Unassuming Hitmaker

Chris Kunitz: The Penguins' Unassuming Hitmaker

Chris Kunitz wants to dish out a couple hundred more hits, play a couple hundred more games and win a couple more Cups.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

Thanks to Rick Sebak, we have some rare pictures of the view from the top.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Finn and chef de cuisine Becca Hegarty to bring salads, sandwiches, house-baked bread, wine and more to the refurbished Café Carnegie.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

The historic (and purportedly haunted) Harmony Inn is a fine stop for drinks and food.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

The puck drops for the opening of training camp on Friday, and once that happens the Penguins must transition from “champions” into “defending champions.”

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Work It

Work It

A new handbag from Sandra Cadavid’s is perfect for work — or play.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

Reviews of the "Magnificent Seven" remake and "Storks," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

This Pittsburgh couple wanted their guests to be just as content as they were at their wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

Also: If you’re looking to redo a room to invite relaxation, PPG Paints promises a wide variety of soothing colors for 2017.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Ken Gormley began his new tenure by delivering good news to University employees.

Comments