I feel an awkward, judgmental silence coming from you right now. It’s taking a lot to not immediately burst into a nervous sweat while I frantically and incoherently babble on and on about how long it’s been since content, real content, has graced this blog and how the holidays are hard and hectic, and how I promise to do better next time, I swear. I’m not sure if saying any of that will help though. I don’t know if that’s how I can win back your affection. I know I said a lot of things last time we were together. Things about hope. And faith. And optimism for the new year. Disappointing you was never my goal, I hope you know that, right? I hope that you understand that things get crazy sometimes. Life runs away from us. The weekends are full, the nights are cold and long, and sometimes it’s hard to muster the strength and energy to drink beer somewhere other than the shower. But I promise, we will try harder in the coming weeks.
But here I am, writing from Pittsburgh’s beautiful North Shore, hot off a trip to a, do I dare say it? A… oh my God. An actual, real life, honest to God brewery. Stop fainting. I am just as shocked as you, but guys. It happened. I. Went. To. A. Brewery. Now, I recognize to the casual reader who may not see the time stamps on all these posts, they might be like “of course. that’s the premise of this blog.” But to the die hard fans (stop laughing), you know that I have not gone to a brewery since NOVEMBER and even then, it was a repeat of a past brewery. My God. Who have I become?
But fret not, for now, I am fresh off a flight from a local Pittsburgh delight called Hop Farm Brewing Co. I wandered into the taproom just around noon to find a couple sitting at the bar and a jolly crowd at the table. I ordered four 5oz pours, as I was alone and needed to try as much of the menu as possible in order to properly assess the situation I was working with. This was especially risky because I did no research before heading into Pittsburgh. I had no idea what kind craft beer scene they had and this brewery just happened to be the first one that popped up on GoogleMaps when I left the Warhol Museum* in search of beer. It could have been total garbage for all I knew, but it was where I decided to check out.
Before I get into the beers that I ordered, let me start by saying that this brewery was very much in it’s element. When I was driving there, having just come from beautiful downtown Pittsburgh that was clean and shiny, visiting a museum just a block from PNC Park, I was rather greeted with rundown and dilapidated houses and abandoned business. At first, I was put off. Oh? This neighborhood? Really? But then within half a block, I was greeted by the familiar face of gentrification, the kind of places craft breweries are thriving. While the neighborhood looked worn and forgotten, looking more closely, you could see the spin studios and artisanal bread shoppes. It was foolish for me to question the neighborhood of this brewery, because so many breweries thrive in neighborhoods that are just starting to turn away from the grime and into the… intentional grime?
So, back to the inside and my flight. I got their Sugar Plum Fairie French Saison which was a delightful beer. It was crisp and sparkly, with a refreshingly sweet finish. I really enjoyed it and had I had friends with me, I would have probably gladly gotten a full pour of it. But as I was alone, I couldn’t be bogged down by just one beer (especially one at 9.5% ABV). It felt seasonally appropriate without being too heavy. The next beer on the flight was Purple 21 which was a classic English bitters style beer. I was hesitant to order it at first, because I wasn’t super familiar with that style of beer, but it was a pleasant surprise. It had lavender flavors, which as we all know, I love. I love lavender flavored coffees and cupcakes and pastries. I love lavender scents. I love it. But, I did not love this beer. I did like this beer. I think I like the style of beer and will definitely order it again, but it’s the lavender that was the drawback in my opinion. It was very flowery, which is to be expected, but at the same time, it had a hint of soap. Like you were at your grandmother’s sister’s house, using the guest bathroom that hasn’t been used this decade with a bar of soap that hasn’t been changed this century. And again, I liked it. I just couldn’t shake that emotional connection. The next beer on the flight was their nitro IPA. It was dark. But I like nitros. But it was dark. That’s all I’ve got to say about it. And then the last beer was a classic Natalie mistake. I ordered the Hippie Heffer which was a hefenweizen style beer. Guys. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you (and myself) that I do not like hefenweizen style beers. Why do I keep doing this? Why am I so broken? I have a strong sense that this beer is actually really good to people who are normal and well-rounded, but to me it had a good start and a hefenweizen finish. And it’s that finish, that makes a hefenweizen a hefenweizen, that ruins the whole experience for me.
But while I was there, the taproom filled in quite nicely. And the couple that were there when I came in and another gentleman who came in to get a growler filled were chatting about other breweries in the area, so of course I jumped in and asked for recommendation for other locals that they enjoyed. They then spouted off about 10 different places for me to check out, plus a couple along my route back to Wisconsin. Unfortunately, I do not believe I will make it to another brewery. The weather is rainy and taking a turn for the cold, and I wish to be back in Wisconsin before the winter weather returns, but I do like the list I have amassed for my next visit to Pittsburgh.
In whole, the brewery was delightful. It gave me a chance to interact directly with the locals of Pittsburgh, who turn out to be some of the nicest people I’ve bumped into recently. The city is so beautiful. The streets are easy to navigate. There are bridges everywhere that add to the aesthetic of the skyline rather than just functioning purely out of necessity to traverse the Allegheny River. Other than the one barista who needed to confirm another barista “felt like” making me a drink before she would allow me to order a coffee at this coffee shop I am currently sitting at, everyone here has been painfully, insultingly kind. Even the hipsters at the Warhol museum. Everyone just wanted to welcome you to their great city that I feel is often overshadowed by their big brother to the East. And while I have also never been to Philadelphia, I doubt anyone there could provide such a warm and welcoming feeling as the people of Pittsburgh gave to me. Thanks Pittsburgh. I genuinely cannot wait to return.
*Amazing museum if you ever went through that Andy Warhol phase in high school like myself (and many other faux interesting people) did. Also, just amazing in general. If you’re in Pittsburgh, would recommend highly.