Updated: Apr 2, 2021
'm an old romantic when it comes to drinking & dining, it's reflected in my approach to what & how I consume. I'm just as comfortable in one of the many cocktail cathedrals that have sprung up around the country as I am in a Hood bar. But now I am vexed, many of my favorite places are leaving me, chased back to the underground from which they came to make way for the braggadocio of “Dude Bars”. Where the hard seltzers & Bad IPA’s flow like milk & honey, A promised land for people who don't require chilled cocktail glasses.
Justin you fucking snob! They'll say & they are right, I've learned from people more dignified than me to never settle on my passions. I miss the days of the fierce competition between bartender, breweries & all the spaces in between them. How the different iterations of a simple old-fashioned could keep you satiated because they were all being constructed well. The taste of a Russian Imperial barely leaving you in between sips while you admired the intense lacing on the glass. But now it’s s all hey give me *insert trend here*, so I can fit in, & let's clarify I'm happy for this in a vacuum. A chance to share space & grow palates inspiration for what comes next.
In the Grand Ole Days of the Burgh we chased Beer & the next great glass all over the city creating the dopest environments with just our presence while self educating ourselves on the newest styles & ingredients. Time & Responsibility weren't our master, we moved about like Huns conquering Establishments & Beer festivals becoming the bones on which Pittsburgh's world competing Beer scene is building, a sudsy St. Peter if you will. But it comes to a crashing halt when you go to reach for your favorite seasonal only to find it's out of production because it's fighting for shelf space against what I deem to be inferiority. Now don’t get this twisted I’m ok with everyone finding their depth when it comes to imbibing. But when trends start to destroy the very fabric of the institutions that allowed us to arrive at this point I find it extremely problematic.
The fact that many of my favs are disappearing from shelves gives me a sense of dread, what is compromise in the age of craftsmanship? What happens when the masses loathe what you love and your local neighborhood brewer has to prioritize that hydra, chasing palates of folk who just want to get drunk and not enjoy the odyssey of drink. If I had the answer, I’d damn sure man the turret and keep those zombies at bay, but alas I’m out gunned here.
Winter beer fest 2015 while kicking around the booths sipping on the winters bounty the Weyerbacher rep let it slip that he would be pouring Sunday Morning Stout at one of the city’s best locales for craft beer. The Harris Grill, one of those beauts that you meander into on a lazy weekend morning and drink delicious beer from impeccable maintained taps until the small hand is in the wrong side of the big hand. Our party sat there and bullshat our way through what seemed like forever, but today I’m sorry to say everything that made that day special burned down and is just another bottle on the shelf.
But I tell you what, I could end this article telling you a sad story about how you missed out but there’s hope. I believe this pandemic is the big reset the industry needed. Imagine a wonderland where local craft can coexist with the regional bigs and the locales that I cut my teeth in, reaching back to reclaim the magic lost. Venturing out and wasting days in the bottom of my cups. One can only hope, or I can’t fuckin wait.