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

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.
8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

When you compare what it cost to build the coaster in 1920 to what it would cost today, it's obvious Kennywood's owners got their money's worth.
Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

The upscale seafood eatery is expected to open in late 2016 or early 2017.
Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Artist David Bernabo creates a series of films that track various aspects of Pittsburgh's food culture.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, 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

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Nearby Canonsburg is a rare find for antiques collectors.
U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

The U.S. Open is returning to Oakmont — and unlike previous tournaments, this one could make the community a vital part of the action.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.

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
Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

DeShantz owns three other Pittsburgh restaurants and is about to open a fourth.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

The in-house tavern at the Riverhounds' home stadium is now welcoming guests during weekdays. But is it worth a dedicated stop?

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

These Penguins have been downright unrecognizable, individually and collectively, on the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

An electrician by trade, designer Thomas Verscharen creates custom lighting out of repurposed pieces.

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.
The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

Reviews of "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Alice Through the Looking Glass," "A Bigger Splash" and "Love and Friendship."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Get with the (Wedding) Program

Get with the (Wedding) Program

Have you ever considered making programs for your wedding guests? If not, think again and get creative.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

Spread out across the city for these upcoming events, including a “Tiny House” exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center displayed by the FIY Network.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

The event will connect hundreds of small business managers and owners and provide useful information to help them take their enterprises to the next level.

Comments