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.


tl said...

Hi Nate; loved your overview of the local bars and distributors. One thing, though. The Ironwood hasn't permitted smoking inside the bar in, probably, close to two years.


Nate said...

Thanks for that update! I haven't been there for a while and had no idea. I've made a note on the post.