Saturday, 27 February 2016

DRINKING NOTES FROM A BIG COUNTRY (PART 4) - PITTSBURGH DECEMBER 2015




DRINKING NOTES FROM A BIG COUNTRY (PART 4)

 

The Steel City

It's taken me a while to post this I know, but a return to Pittsburgh this week has propmpted me to pick up where I left off last year with the tale of my first trip, just before Christmas break and the interuption to my blogging routine...

Following on from the weekend in New York I headed alone to Pittsburgh to continue the business trip business. As ever I spent what little free time I had hunting down some craft beer.

Prior to travelling I was chatting with my dad about the plans and the blog and he was adimant that there was nothing to look forward to in Pittsburgh. Having travelled here about a decade ago he seemed still bitter at the lack of availability of beer, let alone good beer, and with various repeated quotes of "Buy beer? But it's a Sunday" or "Sorry, it's after 10pm" I decided it was my mission to prove him wrong. If I can hunt out a pint in the middle east then I was confident I could find a vibrant craft beer vibe in Pittsburgh even if I was only planning to be there for two days.


Kindred Spirits

On the first morning in Williamsburg, outside of Pittsburgh, I had similar issues to the other small town I'd been to in the states (Beaumont) in finding a cab driver to pick me up from the hotel and take me to what passed as a workplace for the day. Eventually one arrived, a most friendly chap by the name of Keith. Given the seemingly overwhelming shortage of adequate transportation options to hand, I was keen to keep hold of Keith as a primary means of getting about as I had quite a bit of distance to cover and wasn't keen on hiring a car (all that driving on the wrong side of the road business...). So over the various trips and the course of two days and nights I spent many an hour chatting to him. This semi-professional musician-come-taxi-driver had fallen on hard times and was trying to break back into a once successful music career. He was forever keen to share his story and his music with me on the ride, which was extreemly technical and he was clearly gifted, although his jazzy-techno-pop style productions weren't quite to my taste.

Over the two days I knew him, Keith shared stories of the various highs and lows that had befallen him and I enjoyed the conversations we shared with many a roaring laugh. A road warrior with a nomadic soul much like myself, I admired him for his incredible up beat attitude in the face of the hard times he was facing. "You gotta work hard" he'd say, "because nothing comes to dreamers but a dream" and "If it's not working, you gotta try something new", "Ya know, most people don't evolve they revolve, just trying the same thing over and over". Keith earned enourmous respect from me and an generous tip for his efforts over the two days which hopefully helped him have a good Christmas.

On the second night in Pittsburgh I had the night free and headed to town. Naturally, Keith was giving me a ride in but suggested, since we had time, that we take a minor detour to Mount Washington for a view of the city. How could I refuse?



 

The Rust City

It's unusual for the various factories I visit to be sited in particularly picturesque parts of the world but the factory I visited outside Pittsburgh took the biscuit for being in one of the most depressing looking locations. Leaving Pittsburgh and driving through the suburbs I appeared to pass from 'Shining City' through 'Quaint Americana' then past 'Run Down Suburbia' and finally into 'Post Apocalyptic Hollywood Set'!

The city itself is famous for the incredible number of bridges it sports (apparently 446!), unfortunately, like the steel industry which once bolstered this city and the population of it's outskirts, most of these bridges are falling into decline.

Difficult to get a good shot of the bridges from a moving car...
 

Fatheads

Thankfully I did have one night free to explore Pittsburgh's craft beer scene and, as ever, a little research on the internet beforehand gave my a fighting chance of discovering a decent beer scene on my journey and I even stumbled across a blog dedicated specifically to craft beer in Pittsburgh. Run by Jason Cercone, Breakingbrews.com covers all sorts of beer news from around Pittsburgh. There's even a podcast which I found very enjoyable to listen to in those days in Saudi Arabia prior to the trip, dreaming of beer to come.

I arranged to meet Jason in Fatheads bar in Pittsburgh. I was pretty excited about the prospect of their home made beer (although brewed off site) and to try one of the 'headwiches' (a sandwich as big as your head, ofcourse!). I'm not sure whether it was having recently come from Texas or just the anticipation I'd built up salivating whilst perusing the incredible selection of options, but I was a touch dissapointed when the sandwich arrived. I went for a pulled pork effort and whilst I by no means could have fit it in my mouth or even hold it single handed, I was expecting it to be a touch bigger.

The beer, however, more than made up for it and I spent the night chatting to Jason and Angelica from breakingbrews.com. The couple were extreemly friendly and it was nice to see how the beer scene in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area was bringing in an income for them.

Jason was kind enough to take me for a pint after in Piper's Pub. This self styled 'English Pub' even had beer on cask. It also had a great selection of interesting tap handles on display.

A most American tap handle.
 

Bridges and Headwiches

Overall I found Pittsburgh a great stop on my tour, full of friendly people and some great beer! Sat here again now finishing off this post I can honestly say I'm glad to be back and am looking forward to another Headwich and a pint of Fathead's Headhunter IPA with it's hints of stone fruits and heavy lingering bitterness.

A Headwhich and a Headhunter for me!