Monday, August 05, 2013

Indiana (PA) Beer Scene - Summer 2013

Many years ago, I wrote a blurb about the beer scene here in Indiana (PA). A lot has changed since then (for the better, I might add), so here's a recap of what our little town has to offer. Below is a list of good beer places in town. Caveat: my definition of 'good' is in regard to selections other than macro-brewed pale lagers (e.g., Bud/Miller/Coors, Corona, Heineken, Labatt, etc.) and their lite/light counterparts.

Bars & Restaurants (in no particular order)
Local places that offer up some craft beers on tap or in bottle.
  • Ironwood Gril [1830 Oakland Ave.] Has quite a large tap system in place with a few regional micros (Troegs, Penn) and more national brands such as Sam Adams, Leinenkugel's, etc.  The downstairs has coolers with decent six-pack selections and bombers of Stone, Voodoo, and a few imports. One thing I don't care for is that smoking is permitted in the tap room. CORRECTION - Smoking is no longer permitted. And I've visited on a couple of different occasions where the tap lines needed a good cleaning (this hopefully is no longer an issue either).
  •  The Coney [642 Philadelphia St.] Offers a few good crafts on tap, which rotate with some frequency. You'll always find a Penn seasonal brew, too. Troegs, Dogfish Head, Leinie's, and Sam Adams are just about always present. For about a year, they carried Marzoni's Avalanche IPA, but that apparently fell out of favor. Monthly bottle selections are offered, ranging from Victory to Bell's to Stone. Recently, they've offered a few large bottles, such as Arrogant Bastard and the 0.5-L Franziskaner (a bit overpriced, however). The food is solid and they still offer my favorite Buffalo wings.
  • Benjamin's [458 Philadelphia St.] Terrific enclosed indoor/outdoor patio & bar, with about 18 beers on tap - many are one-offs and they rotate frequently. The current local hangout of the young professional to middle agers, usually always packed.  I've had a lot of good beer here recently, including Bell's Hopslam, Anderson Valley Hop Ottin', Troegs Nugget Nectar, East End Big Hop, Harpoon Chocolate Stout, Southern Tier Pumking, and many others. Chris does a great job of bringing in good stuff on a regular basis.
  • Coventry Inn [11 N 6th St.] One of the neater places in town. It opened in the mid-to-late 90's as an English pub, then closed for a while, then reopened in the mid-2000's.  It is only open for dinner (4:30-11:00p) on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  Great decor - really feel like you're not in Indiana! Small but very good menu offerings, live music on Fridays/Saturdays, and they often hold special events here. The most attractive point to the Coventry is their Happy Hour specials - from 4:30-6:00 on Thur/Fri, you get half-off select appetizers and mixed drinks/beer.  Now, their beer selection is very small and not very interesting, but the food and service is always good. Not a place for a quick in-and-out bite to eat, however.
  • Twisted Jimmy's [29 N 7th St.] This place is adjacent to Steel City Samiches, and is owned/operated by the same family.  For the time being, the menus are the same, though I've been told that Jimmy's plans to have a more sophisticated upscale menu (small plates, burgers, etc.) to get away from the traditional bar food that is so prevalent in this town.  They opened in Fall 2012, and once the N 7th Streetscape is finished, they'll be working more with their patio next to the pedestrian area outside. The recently installed a glycol-chilled 20-tap system, with more than half the offerings dedicated to good craft beer. And from 10-12pm, beers are half price ... about $3 for a glass of Dragon's Milk??? I'm in!  Also, I'm told to look for a sister location in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
  • H.B. Culpeppers [653 Philadelphia St.] Kind of a standard college town bar, catering to more young professionals and college students. I don't go here that often, save for the occasional happy hour gathering with some IUP colleagues on Friday evening.  Menu is OK and the beer selection has improved. The really good beers are actually upstairs in a renovated bar area (about 5-6 years ago) that's really attractive. Unfortunately, it is also very smoky. I'm not crazy about trying to enjoy a good beer through a cloud of second hand tobacco smoke.  The other annoying part to this is that sometimes they'll have something on tap that I want upstairs, but the wait staff downstairs won't go and get it - meaning I have to either a) settle for mediocre offerings downstairs, or b) go up and get it myself.
  • Grub's Sports Bar [566 Philadelphia St.]  With an al fresco dining area, tons of large-screen TVs, and the tagline "Cheap Drinks and Lousy Food" ... what's not to like?  Adjacent to Wolfie's, this place opened a few years back and is very popular.  Occasionally, they'll have a decent craft beer on tap, but mostly they cater to the college sports bar crowd with light beers and pale fizzy lagers. The food is straightforward, good, and cheap.
Distributors & Stores (in no particular order)
Local places that offer up some craft beer by case, six-pack, or singles.
  • Holiday Beverages [471 Water St.] Good selection of craft beer in cases with weekly craft beer tastings.
  • Duquesne Beer Distributor [1215 Maple St.] Large selection of craft beer in cases, decent prices.
  • Martins [1570 Oakland Ave.] Martins started selling beer about two years ago.  Their selection is decent and slightly cheaper for mix-your-own six packs. However, their selection is not as good (my opinion) as Giant Eagle.  They other annoying thing about buying beer here is that - unlike Giant Eagle - you cannot carry your purchase out of the cafe area while you complete your shopping.  So, you either have to buy your beer after you've shopped or you have to make a trip back to your car. Annoying!
  • Giant Eagle [475 Ben Franklin Rd. South] The 'new' Giant Eagle opened up a few years back, after the old one downtown was closed and demolished for the new Giant Eagle Express. Very nice beer selection of six-packs, bombers, and mix-your-own.  Prices are a little higher than Martins, but the selection is better.  For me, this store holds the distinction of carrying my absolute favorite beer: Orval (and a few other Trappist beers).  Seasonal offerings abound, and I can always find a beer or two that I've not had yet.  Also, despite having to purchase your beer separately, you can put it in your cart and continue shopping (unlike Martins). Or, you can have a few beers in the cafe with food from the hot bar or salad bar.
  • Giant Eagle Express [435 S 7th St.]  Opened last year at the site of the 'old' Giant Eagle, with beer at the cafe in six packs, mixed singles, and bombers.  Again, a better selection that Martins but more expensive. Handy for lunch, too, since you can get subs/sandwiches/salad bar/sushi to eat with your beer in the cafe - and there is outdoor seating and free wireless.
Homebrew Supplies
  • Montgomery Underground Winery [11032 US 422, Shelocta] The winery has a retail store on 422 near Elderton that also serves as a homebrew supply store.  They carry all of the basic (and some specialized) equipment, ingredients, and kits. And if they don't have it, they'll make every attempt to order it for you.  Many of the club members get their stuff here, and the owners (Tom & Della) are regular attendees (and great brewers!).
  • The Homebrew & Hobby Shop [540 Franklin St., Clymer] Just opened a few months ago. I've not yet been, nor do I know anything about it.

Beers #123-135: Pints for Pets

So this has turned out to be the "summer that wasn't", in terms of feeling like it's actually summer. Yeah, we've had some warm weather and all, but between home projects and research at work, I don't feel like I've had much downtime (including updating this blog!).  But I shall attempt to get caught up in the coming few weeks before the Fall semester starts in 3 weeks.

#123/365: Sixpoint 3Beans:
From can. Chocolate malted nose, sweet with brown sugar and molasses. Tootsie Roll. Dark black opaque with foamy-rocky light tan lacing head. Medium chewy body with medium-light carbonation. Carbonic tang and light alcoholic warming. Starts sweet and malty with lots of chocolate, some coffee, and a barley wine-like sweet malt flavor. Coffee and light vanilla. Finish is sweet with a good hit of astringent bitterness. Fairly smooth after with lingering bitter.  Imperial/Strong Porter  80/100

#124/365: Leinenkugel's Canoe Paddler:
On tap at Twisted Jimmy’s. Very mild aroma - a bit of beany hops and mild pale malt sweetness. Light golden blond clear with thin white head. Light body with medium-high carbonation. Starts with light carbonic acidity, mild pale malt sweetness ,and light beany hop flavor. Mild flavors overall, with some carbonic bite to it. Some honey and dusky grain. Watery finish, clean after. Nothing really wrong with it, but not a good kölsch example.  Kolsch  42/100
On May 18, several fellow homebrew club members & beer lovers rented the Coney van to travel to the Altoona Curve ballpark for the annual Pints for Pets beer festival.  I have gone every year since this started - except for last year because IUP's graduation conflicted.  Well, this year, graduation also conflicted, but I decided to go drink beer instead (sorry grads, but no regrets here!).  We attended the 1-4pm session, followed by dinner (and more beer) at the Knickerbocker.

#125/365: Old Forge Hopsmith India Pale Ale:
Nice beany hop aroma, crisp noble hop note. Pale golden clear with white lacing head. Medium body with medium-high carbonation. Starts dry with crisp hop profile and mild pale malt sweetness. Finishes bitter but nice smooth after. Crisp and refreshing.  Premium Lager  72/100

#126/365: Rock Bottom (Pittsburgh) Surely You Zest:
Nice spicy nose with lime, lemongrass, and herbal notes. Spicy hops and aromatic. Pale golden clear with thin white head. Medium body with medium carbonation. Starts zesty and citric with lime and lemongrass. Nice sweetness to it. Finish is herbal and bitter with a tang of citrus.  Wheat Ale  66/100

#127/365: Victory Swing Session Saison:
Light hoppy aroma, spicy with notes of citrus, sulfur, and fruity esters. Yeasty. Nice saison aroma profile. Pale straw clear with thin head. Medium body with vigorous carbonation. Starts with wheat and pilsener malt notes, light sulfur, citrus and herbs. Tasty saison that’s not too overwhelming. Not quite crisp but enjoyable. Done well for the style, with mild chalky bitter after.  Saison  74/100

#128/365: Riepstine's Timbertown Scotch:
Buckwheat honey and sweet tang, light oak. Sweet and musky, very nice aroma. Medium brown amber clear with light haze. Thin white head. medium body and carbonation. Starts sweet with molasses and buckwheat honey, rich malt. nice oak flavor on this one. Finish sweet and smooth - a nice Scottish ale.  Scottish Ale  80/100

#129/365: Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA:
Rich roast, rubbery, light chocolate and coffee, lots of hops. Dark brown clear with thin tan head. Medium body with medium carbonation. Roasted notes, chocolate and coffee. Big hop flavor with molasses. Finish is medium bitter but not harsh.  Black IPA  78/100

#130/365: Voodoo Delicate Like A Flower:
Light hop nose, subtle. Hazy amber with thin white lacing head. Medium body with heavy carbonation. Starts medium sweet with light pale malt and wheat character. Subtle but delicious hop flavors and an underlying herbal quality. Smooth finish with light floral orange blossom.  Belgian Ale  74/100

#131/365: Blue Canoe Cream of Hop Soup:
Wonderful hop nose, floral and aromatic, grassy. Pale golden amber hazy with thin white head. Medium body and medium carbonation. Starts medium sweet with tons of hop character. Beany, rubbery, grassy, and resinous. Delicious stuff. A nice IPA with smooth bitter finish and after.  India Pale Ale  84/100

#132/365: Straub Maibock:
Double decoction German bock aroma. Sweet and malty with light herbal hops. Medium amber golden clear with thin white head. Medium body with light carbonation. Starts and stays sweet with rich malt flavor. Nice hop finish, and sweet lingering after. Very nice!  Heller Bock  74/100

#133/365: Thirsty Dog Citra Dog:
Really nice hoppy aroma on this. Grassy and resinous. Light golden clear with white lacing head. Medium body with medium carbonation. Nice hop flavor throughout, medium sweetness and light carbonic tang. Nice IPA, finishes smooth and well balanced with lingering hop bitterness.  India Pale Ale  78/100

#134/365: Elysian Idiot Sauvin IPA:
Hoppy nose with notes of pear and apricot. Sweet notes. Medium amber, hazy with thin white lacing head. Medium body with medium-light carbonation. Starts sweet with fruity esters. Fairly bitter finish with sweet eatery after. Very nice IPA with big hop profile but not a harsh bitterness in the finish or after.  India Pale Ale  76/100
All in all, a good festival (as usual) and they once again raised a lot of money for the Central PA Humane Society.  I can't remember the rest of May, really, other than getting ready for our vacation.  I did have one new beer before that ...

#135/365: Maine Beer Mean Old Tom:
Nice rich malty aroma, smoke, charred coffee, light vanilla. A bit of tang and earth, lactose. Dark black opaque with thin cocoa-brown lacing head. Medium bodied with medium carbonation. Starts dry with lots of roasted character, mild coffee and char. Some light carbonic acidity with medium bitterness. Finish is light sweet with medium bitterness. Can just taste the vanilla here but it’s subtle. Charred bittersweet after.  Stout  80/100
Coming up ... a beach trip.