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The Breaking Brews Experience - YouTube

It’s time to get ready for The Breaking Brews Experience!

Several months back, I decided to put The Breaking Brews Podcast on hiatus and, instead, wanted to transition into a video series. I thought about how this could be executed in a variety of ways and, after lots of mulling, felt live video was the best way to make this happen. Why? Because live video lets you join in the fun!

That said, I am happy to announce the World Premiere of The Breaking Brews Experience is set to come your way Tuesday, June 26th at 8:00pm on the Breaking Brews Facebook Page. The show will be broadcast via Facebook Live and air on a bi-weekly basis. Additionally, shorter, random episodes of The Experience will hit Facebook Live, as well as other Breaking Brews social outlets, including Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, at various times. In other words, The Experience is going to be in your face a lot. You’ve been warned.

Here’s what you can expect on The Breaking Brews Experience:

  • Discussion and commentary about beer, wine, cider, spirits, mead, and just about every other adult beverage you can think of. We’ll be discussing the liquid, the industry, the people who make it come to life, and much more
  • Adult beverage consumption
  • Commentary about current events in the world today
  • Guests joining the show to share insight, knowledge, and rap about all forms of topics
  • Adult beverage appreciation
  • Fun for the whole family and the dogs, too

The best thing about The Experience is you’ll be able to join in the conversation by asking questions and contributing opinions and insight in the comments as the show airs. This will enable us to chat with each other, debate, learn, and interact on multiple levels. Instead of me just producing a video for you to watch, you’ll be able to play a hand in the production of the show!

Whatever you were watching on Tuesday nights before…DVR that shit. It’s time to get Experienced!

Like the Breaking Brews Facebook Page today and be ready for The Experience to premiere on Tuesday, June 26th at 8:00pm!

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Short Pour is a Breaking Brews feature that delivers libations news, information, and entertainment in 350 words or less. It’s all the info you need and none of the filler you don’t.

Levity Brewing Ready to Party Like the ABV is 19.99 Beer enthusiasts gather for live music and more at the 2017 Levity Summer Party. Photo courtesy of Levity Brewing Co.

Earlier this Spring, Indiana’s Levity Brewing Company was voted as the Best Brewery in Pennsylvania in the Breweries in PA March Madness pool. Levity outlasted 63 other breweries from across the state to capture the crown, voted on by beer drinkers like you and me.

If you haven’t made the trek to Indiana County to check these guys out, this Saturday is the day to do it. And, you can rest assured…many of the folks who voted them to the top of the mountain will be in attendance enjoying round two of what the Levity crew called “our biggest funnest day of 2017.”

The annual Levity Summer Party is back and set to come your way on Saturday, June 16th from 10am to 11pm. That’s over 12 hours of pure, unadulterated, kick-ass times from the team that brings us serious beer for the light at heart!

The day starts off with the Gingerbread Man Running Company 5k in the morning. Following the run, get yourself signed up for a cornhole tournament featuring a slew of cool prizes. The day will also feature brewery tours, burgers and dogs off the grill, Pulled Pork Nacho Boats, and a couple special releases from Levity’s diverse beer portfolio. There’s even a rumor Saturday could mark the debut of Levity beer in cans so you can stock your fridge…

The day will also feature hours of live music under the sun. Plan accordingly – sunscreen, lawn chairs, a groovy disposition. These are all necessities for long-lasting good times in the Indiana sun.

Admission is free. Bring the whole family, including the doggies. It’s going to be the ultimate kickoff to summer and you don’t want to miss out!

Follow upcoming event updates on Facebook

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As the Inaugural Pittsburgh Libations Week rapidly approaches with our Kickoff Bash scheduled for Friday, October 12th, Breaking Brews – The Official Blog of PLW – brings you up close and personal with the sponsors who have joined the cause and are making all this possible with a new feature: The PLW Sponsor Spotlight. Men and women operating businesses of all shapes, sizes, and missions have helped shape our culture and continue to push it forward as Pittsburgh strives to cement its legacy as a true adult beverage destination across the globe.

Bierport

Years ago, purchasing beer in Pennsylvania was tough. Laws required beer be purchased on draft, in six packs, 12-packs, or cases through a beer distributor. Some specialty stores carried six-packs, or you could grab one at a bar…and pay out the nose for it. Grocery stores were not permitted to carry beer and distributors were closed on Sunday. Craft beers were starting to play more of a role, but many consumers were apprehensive to pay double what they’d grown accustomed to spending on beer for a product they may not enjoy. A handful of beer drinkers made the transition over time, but it was slow going as more craft breweries began distributing throughout the Commonwealth.

Thankfully, over the past several years, new laws have been implemented to help propel the craft beer scene forward. Grocery stores now carry beer to purchase, fill growlers, and even let you consume on-site. Distributors carry six and 12-packs. And all of the aforementioned entities are able to sell beer in singles, meaning you, the consumer, can mix-and-match various beer styles and familiarize yourself with the diverse choices at your disposal without committing to a case of one particular brand. No more fear of purchasing a whole case and hoping for the best.

These law changes led to the rise of the bottle shop. Bottle shops are carry hundreds of brands from local, regional, and national breweries and give you tons of flexibility in your purchase. The beauty of a bottle shop is you could purchase a case or a six-pack’s worth of beer OR just one single bottle at any given time. The best shops always have variety and customer experience front of mind and understand their role in the beer community. They’re not there just to sell you beer; they’re there to help you appreciate the product and gain a better understanding of craft beer in general.

Bierport in Lawrenceville is the epitome of this philosophy. In today’s beer-centric world, you can get a bottle of beer just about anywhere. But at Bierport, you’re getting the opportunity to converse with smart-minded beer professionals who will help you build the perfect six-pack. Maybe you’re looking for similar options to a specific style or brand you recently consumed; their team can point you to something new you’re sure to enjoy. Maybe you just want to get in, get your beer, and get out; that’s OK, too. The point is – building your education and delivering an experience is what Bierport is all about.

Nestled in the heart of Lawrenceville on Butler Street and connected with Row House Cinema, Bierport has been at the forefront of the uprising of the neighborhood. They believe in helping everyone who comes through their door become a better beer drinker, taking the extra time needed to help you create the perfect stock of beer for at-home or at-party consumption. Each member of the Bierport crew are Cicerone Certified Beer Servers, meaning, quite frankly, they know their beer.

In their own words, Bierport is more than just a beer store, it’s a destination. If outstanding variety and service is what you crave in a beer store, then you’ve landed upon the right place. It’s a place to enjoy beer with other enthusiasts, to discover new brews with the help of our knowledgeable staff, and to embrace the ever-growing beer scene from both around the world and right at our doorstep.

Bierport’s inventory boasts a stock of over 950 bottles and cans ranging from local, American, seasonal, rare, import, gluten free, mead, and cider offerings from a wide portfolio of breweries AND over 120 non-alcoholic sodas. All purchases can be made individually and mixed six-packs receive a 10% discount when rung up. They’re open seven days a week to ensure your thirst is always quenched and will curate variety packs for your convenience should you desire.

And that’s just the bottle shop! We haven’t even ventured down the steps to the Bierport taproom. 19 beers flow from the taps at all times and can be purchased in flights, 5oz tasters, and full pours. Growlers are also available if you’re on the go – 16oz, 32oz, and 64oz. The taproom is a great spot to chill with a refreshing beer or flash back to your younger years with Bierport’s old school video game setup. The taproom offers daily specials, happy hour, and weekly events. It is family and dog friendly and available for private parties upon request. They put major emphasis on education and host various events with breweries, as well as food pairings and beer flight classes to help you achieve a well-rounded beer experience.

As we move closer to the inaugural Pittsburgh Libations Week, we are proud to have Bierport sponsoring our plight and are eager to partner with them for some very cool events in October. We love their focus on community and education and feel their business philosophies run side-by-side with ours. It’s going to be a great partnership! Stay close to our social media as we announce events with Bierport in the near future.

We want to partner with you, too! Visit the Pittsburgh Libations Week website today and learn more about how you can join us as we strive to push the Steel City’s adult beverage culture forward.

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Short Pour is a Breaking Brews feature that delivers libations news, information, and entertainment in 350 words or less. It’s all the info you need and none of the filler you don’t.

Legendary Tag Team ‘Rock & Roll Express’ to Appear at Brawl Under The Bridge IV

LLLLLLLLLLET’S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLE!!!

It’s back! Brawl Under the Bridge IV, a yearly tradition hosted by Blue Dust and the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance, is set to go down Saturday, July 21st with first bell at 7:00pm. Tickets are only $5 for the event and can be purchased at Blue Dust or at the gate.

Brawl Under the Bridge IV will feature an action-packed night of professional wrestling, family fun, several craft beers on tap, food trucks, craft spirits, and more. The party unfolds underneath the Homestead Grays Bridge between 6th and 7th Avenues. NOTE: Drinks and food are not included in the $5 ticket price.

This year, WWE Hall of Fame and NWA legendary tag team The Rock & Roll Express, comprised of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, will be on the card. The Rock & Roll were major players in the former powerhouse National Wrestling Alliance and had epic feuds with teams including The Midnight Express and The Four Horsemen in wrestling territories throughout the country. After all these years, Morton and Gibson are still going strong. They were inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2017 by Jim Cornette, former manager of the aforementioned Midnight Express, Vader, the late Yokozuna, and others.

Brawl Under the Bridge also marks the KSWA debut of The Most Hated Man in Mexico – Sam Adonis. Adonis was working for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) as a pro-Donald Trump heel. He had short stints in Florida Championship Wrestling (WWE’s former developmental territory) and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. He’s spent most of his career working various promotions throughout England.

More information about the card will be shared on Facebook. Follow the event here.

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Short Pour is a Breaking Brews feature that delivers libations news, information, and entertainment in 350 450 words or less. It’s all the info you need and none of the filler you don’t.

GBGCBW Has Two Bookend Events You Don’t Want to Miss

Greensburg Craft Beer Week is scheduled to come your way Friday, September 21st thru Saturday, September 29th and will look to build on the success of last year’s inaugural festivities. 2017 saw the debut of craft beer celebration to the east of Pittsburgh, with several bars, breweries, restaurants, and businesses throughout the region joining forces to showcase the strength craft beer has played on their corner of the world. Events including firkin bashes, beer + yoga, samplings, beer dinners, and more comprised a calendar of over 30 events and 2018 promises to take on a similar complexion.

Two big happenings have hit the schedule and will serve as GBGCBW’s signature events. The first is Home Brew & Chill – an event featuring a home brew competition and beer tasting at All Saints Brewing Company that will give you an opportunity to sample beers from home brewers and professional brewers alike. All of the Greensburg Craft Beer Week collaboration beers will be flowing as well and you’ll have a say in the choosing of the best home brew in the house! All this paired with food trucks, live music, a photo booth, and GBGCBW swag for you to grab.

This is a ticketed event and sales will begin in the near future. Follow the event on Facebook for all the details.

To close out GBGCBW, the brewers are going to get sloppy. Even more so than usual…

It’s the first-ever Brewers Double Dare! This callback to the popular 90s TV game show will feature participating breweries going head-to-head answering beer-centric questions, competing in messy physical challenges, and tackling a difficult obstacle course to determine the champion.

More information about this event will be coming soon. Follow on Facebook so you don’t miss a thing.

Photo courtesy of Greensburg Craft Beer Week

“We’re really excited to host two signature events this year,” said Jessica Hickey, Founder and Event Director for Greensburg Craft Beer Week. “One of our goals was to add at least one more after the success we had for the week last year. We had a lot of inquiries about having an event highlighting home brewers and we are also working with our friends from Moxie Events for Brewers Double Dare. There are a lot of great events in the works during the week and we’ve been reaching out to more breweries, bars, restaurants, and businesses in the area to encourage them to participate in some way.”

Greensburg Craft Beer Week is a Downtown Greensburg Project production. To learn more about these events, how you can become a part of GBGCBW, or connect with Jessica with general inquiries, click here.

 

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As the Inaugural Pittsburgh Libations Week rapidly approaches with our Kickoff Bash scheduled for Friday, October 12th, Breaking Brews – The Official Blog of PLW – brings you up close and personal with the sponsors who have joined the cause and are making all this possible with a new feature: The PLW Sponsor Spotlight. Men and women operating businesses of all shapes, sizes, and missions have helped shape our culture and continue to push it forward as Pittsburgh strives to cement its legacy as a true adult beverage destination across the globe.

The Modern Cafe

Pittsburgh’s North Side and North Shore neighborhood is one rich with history, sports, culture, and beauty. Located right along the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers, it offers fantastic views of the Pittsburgh skyline, as well as The Point: that epic spot where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers merge to form the Ohio. It’s the home of PNC Park, considered by many to be the most beautiful ballpark in Major League Baseball. It boasts historical relevance while remaining community-minded, dynamic, and diverse.

And nestled in the heart of this community is The Modern Cafe, a self-defined “mom & pop” bar owned by the Zotis family. This craft beer destination has been around since 1933 and stands as one of the first bars to open once Prohibition was abolished. Modern has captured the hearts of locals with its stellar craft beer selection and award-winning sandwiches, serving as the perfect venue to grab lunch, enjoy a beer after work, pre-game before any sporting event or concert taking place in the North Shore, or all of the above.

Prohibition…you think about everything that word entails and, in the age of craft libations we live today, you can’t help but conclude: those times had to suck. But once the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition on December 5th, 1933, The Modern Cafe poured its first drink shortly after, kicking off what’s been an 85-year run serving Pittsburghers the libations they crave.

Dean and Irene Zotis, along side their daughter Constance, serve as The Modern Cafe’s owners today. They purchased the bar off Irene’s father in 1993, nearly 20 years after he purchased it from the original owners in 1974. The idea was to create an approachable, family-friendly establishment while still providing a joint where white and blue-collar workers alike could relax with their favorite drink after a long day.

“We are a family bar and want everyone to feel at home when they’re here,” Constance explained. “We want to hear their likes and dislikes and like to cater to our customer’s demands.”

The Modern Cafe currently boasts 150 different beers for you to consume, with 12 of them on tap. The Zotis family has talked about expanding their tap system, but feel their selection is in a good place because it allows them to consistently offer a fresh product to their guests. When you enjoy a pint at The Modern, you can thank the person next to you. It was customer demand that led to the expansion to craft beer options.

“We always try to stick to our foundation, but we’ve gotten big into craft beer because of our patrons,” Irene said. “We didn’t know this many beers existed until they told us! Our selection is purely driven by our clientele.”

Despite putting together a sound craft beer, cocktail, and food menu, The Modern Cafe almost ceased to exist. On New Year’s Day in 2009, a tragic fire ripped through the building and caused extensive damage. Due to the fire’s effects, they were forced to close their doors for 16 months to get things back on track. Fortunately, they were able to do just that and then some…re-launching the new Modern Cafe in April 2010 for the Pirates home opener, always a monumental occasion in Pittsburgh’s North Shore area.

If you fancy a tasty adult beverage, which I’m assuming you do, then The Modern Cafe will undoubtedly hook you up with something you love, no matter what you love. But taking things a step further, their food menu is everything you need and features a great variety of appetizers, salads, and sides. But, simply put: Modern wins at sandwiches. Anyone who says their wedding was the greatest moment of their life clearly has never had the Greek Cheese Steak (pictured right) from Modern Cafe.

Trust me, I’m not the only one enamored by these beautiful creations. The menu features three sandwiches that captured North Side Sandwich Week Winners three consecutive years and Modern was recognized as the North Side’s Favorite Sandwich Joint in 2015. They captured 2nd Place for The Spartan, 1st for their Spicy Sicilian and Gyro Melt, and People’s Choice for the aforementioned Greek Cheese Steak.

It’s incredible what kind of awesomeness comes together between two pieces of bread and these guys are finding ways to take it to another level each and every day.

At the core of it all, The Modern Cafe is all about home sweet home. Not just for the Zotis family, but for you, too.

“This is our second home,” Constance said. “We want it to be fun with a great atmosphere. If it’s not fun for us, it won’t be fun for anyone else.”

There’s plenty of reasons to hit up the North Side. Now, I’ve just given you one more. Pull up a stool at the Modern today!

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Short Pour is a Breaking Brews feature that delivers libations news, information, and entertainment in 350 words or less. It’s all the info you need and none of the filler you don’t.

The Party Returns to Butler June 30th!

Last summer, the crew from Reclamation Brewing Company hosted a beer festival on the roof of a parking garage and it was a damn good time. Vendors from Butler, as well as all over Pittsburgh, turned out to pour quality beverages on a gorgeous June afternoon, much to the delight of all those in attendance.

Since things went so well the first time ’round, Reclamation Brewing is once again bringing you The Downtown Butler Beerfest on Saturday, June 30th from 3pm to 7pm at the Butler Center City parking garage. The event is set to unfold on the roof of the garage, weather permitting. If rain clouds rear their ugly heads, the fest will move to the 3rd floor so you may consume your beverages sans raindrops.

The VIP session will start at 3:00pm and General Admission will start at 4:00pm. ONLY VIPs AND DESIGNATED DRIVERS WILL BE GRANTED ENTRY BEFORE 4:00pm. Live music will be on tap throughout the day and food can be purchased from multiple vendors on-site. All attendees must be 21 years of age. No exceptions.

VIP Tickets are $50 and limited to 100. Your VIP ticket gets you:

  • One hour early entry
  • VIP exclusive beers
  • Souvenir tasting glass w/ beer can handle
  • Neck lanyard
  • Access to samples of all breweries present
  • Live music and entertainment

General Admission tickets are $35 and include:

  • Admission to the Beerfest
  • Souvenir tasting glass
  • Samples from all breweries
  • Live Music & Entertainment

Designated Driver tickets are available for $10 and include:

  • Admission
  • Live music and entertainment
  • $5 gift card to Reclamation Brewing Company

The following vendors are confirmed for the 2nd Annual Downtown Butler Beerfest:

  • Reclamation Brewing
  • Butler Brew Works
  • Recon Brewing
  • Missing Links Brewing
  • Cellar Works Brewing
  • North Country Brewing
  • Koehler Brewing
  • ShuBrew
  • Spoonwood Brewing
  • Clarion River Brewing
  • Apis Mead & Winery

More to be announced in the very near future! Follow event updates and discussion on Facebook.

GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

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Short Pour is a Breaking Brews feature that delivers libations news, information, and entertainment in 350 words or less. It’s all the info you need and none of the filler you don’t.

East End Fat Gary and Monkey Boy Join Big Hop in Year-Round Can Availability; Pedal Pale Ale to be Released Seasonally

It’s only fitting as we roll into summer and seek fresh, canned beers to enjoy at picnics, tailgating before baseball games, and kicking back on our porches and patios that our friends at East End Brewing Company have added new year-round availability to their canned beer portfolio.

Available now, they’ve expanded its commitment to Fresh, Local Beer by canning Fat Gary Nut Brown Ale and Monkey Boy Hefeweisen and making them available 365 days a year. In addition, Pedal Pale Ale will also be released in cans on a seasonal basis, hitting the streets in the Spring of each year. These three beers join Big Hop American Ale, East End’s flagship offering, as year-round staples you can add to your fridge stock whenever you’re thirsty. These beers will be available at East End’s brewpub in Larimer, taproom in the Strip District, and throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area at bars, restaurants, beer distributors, and grocery stores thanks to Vecenie Distributing.

These four offerings stand alongside several limited can releases that East End rolls out on a monthly basis, including longstanding crowd favorite Gratitude Barleywine, Bigger Hop Double IPA, recent collaborations done with Troegs and Pizza Boy, and several others. As canning continues to dominate the craft beer landscape, East End will be at your service…bringing you the freshest product conceivable, all packaged in portable, easy-to-transport aluminum.

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Short Pour is a Breaking Brews feature that delivers libations news, information, and entertainment in 350 words or less. It’s all the info you need and none of the filler you don’t.

Eight Philly Breweries Coming to Pittsburgh June 23rd

There’s no denying when it comes to hockey, we simply don’t get along with our cross-state brethren in Philadelphia. Thankfully, there’s more to life than sports rivalries. And if there’s one thing that makes us join hands across the Commonwealth, it’s beer. Tasty, delicious beer.

Back in January, our friends at Breweries in PA gathered a handful of Pittsburgh breweries together and had them invade Philly. Now, the turnpike has flipped and eight tremendous breweries from the Philadelphia region are headed to ‘the Burgh for the Philadelphia Invades Pittsburgh Beer Fest on Saturday, June 23rd from 12:00pm to 3:00pm at Spoonwood Brewing in Bethel Park. Sponsored by IceMule Coolers, tickets for this one-of-a-kind showcase include unlimited samples in an 8oz. souvenir glass. Spoonwood will also be offering a special Philly-themed food menu during the event (food not included in ticket cost).

The eight breweries making the trek from Philly to Pittsburgh are:

A special can release of Tired Hands will be up for grabs via raffle at the event. Unless you’re strategizing a 5-hour road trip to Ardmore to get these cans, being in the house for unlimited samples and instant entry into the drawing is your best bet to claim Tired Hands’ latest canned treasure.

Tickets are limited to 200 and over 1/2 have already been claimed. Don’t wait to get yours…this event will most definitely sell out!

GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY

Follow event updates and conversation on Facebook

 

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An Industry and Culture Driven By Education and Experience

When you get down to the most binary of levels, beer is liquid. Period. But what makes this liquid magical are people. Brewers innovate daily to produce a quality product. Sales representatives for breweries and wholesalers work tirelessly to get their brand on tap at beer destinations throughout their territories. Bar managers, owners, and purchasers meticulously cultivate a rotation of offerings geared towards satiating the tastes of a diverse clientele. While many people may dig the same style, no two beer palates are identical.

And then, there are the enthusiasts. From the ones who wait in line for hours for the latest release to the ones who analyze each beer they encounter to the laid-back happy hour imbiber, the beer drinking public spoke up and said their beverages choices would no longer be dictated by bikini-clad supermodels and mundane humor. They wanted quality. They wanted flavor. They wanted options. And they were not afraid to pay a little extra for it.

So, boom. Here we are. A beer landscape that looks nothing like it did just a few years back. Breweries and brewpubs popping up day after day. Over 6,000 breweries operating in the United States with plenty more in planning. Each with a different model, approach, and portfolio – but unified by one common denominator: the desire to push this culture forward by delivering excellence in every pint.

And excellence is a must. The market is crowded. Those options people sought? They’ve got ’em. You have to come out of the gates strong lest ye be cast aside for beers from the brewery down the street.

Today’s beer drinker is opinionated. But, at the same time, she is savvy, educated, and into beer on a highly-invested level. Beer enthusiasts have gone beyond just enjoying a drink or two after a long week’s work. Beer is a hobby now. It’s a lifestyle. Some people homebrew. Some trade beers with others to experience new offerings. Some read books by industry professionals to increase their knowledge of their favorite beverage while others engage their bartenders and servers when visiting tasting rooms to learn more about how that brewery brings this magical liquid to life.

Everyone wants to know more. Everyone wants to understand their favorite beverage on a deeper level.

“We look at our consumers a few different ways,” said Meg Evans, Head Brewer at Rock Bottom in Pittsburgh’s Waterfront. “We have our novice consumers who don’t know exactly what they want, but with some guidance from our servers they can find the right fit. We have our aficionados who know what flavors they like and probably some specific brands, but will still need some assistance from our servers. Lastly, we have our experts. These guests ask the big questions. They want to know ingredients, some process details and definitely know what beer they want. With our brand being so recognized, we typically have a wide variety of all types of consumers, but all-in-all we always have guests that ask questions of our staff.”

How Knowledgeable Servers & Bartenders Enhance Your Experience

Today, beer is all about the experience. That goes beyond what’s in the glass. When you visit a taproom, brewpub, or bar, you have an expectation. If you have questions, big or small, the hope is your server is able to answer them accordingly. This raises your comfort level, your appreciation for the venue you’re frequenting, and overall enhances your experience to the point you’ll return in the future.

For servers, you don’t have to know everything about the beer you’re serving. But you have to know something. Presenting your brand’s product in a knowledgeable fashion shows a) you care about your brand, and b) you care about your industry. This benefits everyone and, on a personal level, will lead to increased tips. People buy more + enjoy your candor = higher final bill and more for your hard work!

On the other hand, trying to rush and give an answer just for the sake of giving it so you can move on helps no one and will diminish a guest’s experience and opinion of your brand.

Photo courtesy of Cinderlands Beer Co.

“If you try to BS your way through things when you’re not sure, that can end bad and put you in a worse situation,” explains Emily Schneider, former Bar Manager at Lawrenceville’s Cinderlands Beer Company. “The more you know will make your job that much easier and make your interactions much more natural.”

Emily learned her craft from the ground up, starting at Rock Bottom in Chicago at the age of 21. She later moved on to Solemn Oath Brewery where she learned even more, built quality relationships with consumers, and, as she happily pointed out, “talked about beer for hours.” She became a Certified Server through the Cicerone Certification Program and continued to hone her skill set before heading to Pittsburgh to get the new crew at Cinderlands off to a great start.

“The knowledge people seek has grown a ton,” Emily pointed out. “I always have to be sure to be on my game and know my stuff. This helps people discover new things and steer people toward things they didn’t know they’d like.”

It was at Solemn Oath that Emily not only built her appreciating and understanding of the service industry, but also met her husband Paul. Paul is the owner and head brewer at Cinderlands and his thirst for beer knowledge began with homebrewing in 2010. He went on to become a Certified Server in 2011 and finally a Certified Cicerone in 2014. When his journey began, he was a high school teacher – a background that helped him launch the Business of Craft Beer Program at the College of Dupage outside of Chicago. This program provides education for professionals so they can enter the beer industry with their best foot forward. He’s also taught classes to prepare students for the Cicerone exams and a dozen of his pupils have received their certification.

Paul’s philosophy speaks strongly to education, knowledge, and experience, keeping him intensely connected with the beer drinker of today and instantly building a fantastic reputation for Cinderlands.

“The brewing process is not complete until the customer finishes their beer,” Paul stated. “It starts with raw ingredients in the field and ends with an empty glass.”

Breweries leading the charge in today’s craft beer renaissance are equipped with quality beer, a welcoming atmosphere, and a clear understanding that guests frequent their establishment because they want to walk way with something other than a buzz. With social mediums at everyone’s disposal, a beer drinker’s experience can make or break the reputation of said establishment. Approaching operations with this thought in mind, brewers and management are taking the time to properly educate their staff so their interactions represent the brand and the beer appropriately.

“When I was preparing to do an updated server training class, I went through the entire beer training that is given to our servers,” Meg Evans explained. “I was honestly impressed. It built a lot of confidence in that our servers are given a great foundation of beer knowledge before they hit the floor. I utilized some of the course material in my training class to really round out their skill. I focused primarily on understanding our brewhouse, the process and ingredients, proper glassware, and food pairing. I plan to expand upon these classes with detailed ingredient classes, as well as offer the two original classes again to any newbies or anyone interested in a refresher.”

Paul has taken a similar approach at Cinderlands.

“Our staff is always invited to work in the brewery to learn more,” Paul said. “Our people working here, this is their livelihood. So it should matter to them that they’re knowledgeable. Customers take beer very seriously. They put a lot of time, effort, and money into enjoying beer. So the more they (the customer) know, the better. If our staff can’t keep up, that creates a big problem.”

The great thing about education is that it never ends. I’ve been working in this industry in numerous capacities for over four years and can confidently express that I learn something new every day. You, as a beer drinker, can most likely relate. Meg informed me that every Monday, she posts a sheet at Rock Bottom that delivers information to servers on what beers are coming out for the week, beers that are about to kick, and beers that are available on the current menu – all with descriptions so servers can deliver a knowledgeable experience for their guests.

“We focus heavily on ‘beer stories’ at Rock Bottom,” Meg stated. “We want our servers to find a connection with every guest. That might be through offering background on a beer, suggesting a beer that will pair with their meal, or really just talking about what the server loves about a particular beer. I also make sure to include any details that might help the servers present the beer better. That might include verbiage or history of that particular beer or style.”

“If customers are enjoying beer, I want to be a resource for them,” Paul said. “We have a positive atmosphere at Cinderlands. Our staff likes working here and learning about new beers.”

Another Way to Elevate Your Beer Dogma

Many professional brewers working on state-of-the-art equipment that cost thousands of dollars to acquire got their start in a garage or a kitchen brewing with oversized kettles and fermenting in carboys. Everyone starts somewhere and thousands of men and women have proven you can go pro if you devote yourself and continue to learn as you go. You, too, can go the homebrew route should you choose. There are plenty of homebrew clubs in the Pittsburgh region overflowing with talented brewers, some of whom have been awarded for their efforts at numerous competitions. Check out T.R.A.S.H., T.R.U.B., and B.A.S.H. if you want to learn more about taking this path.

If you just want to know more about the liquid you love, there are ways to make that happen, too. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP if you’re into brevity) is a program that got its start in 1985 and is designed to ‘certify and rank beer judges through an examination and monitoring process, sanction competitions, and provide educational resources for current and future judges.’ Per their website, the purpose of BJCP is to:

  • Encourage knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the world’s diverse beer, mead, and cider styles
  • Promote, recognize, and advance beer, mead, and cider tasting, evaluation, and communication skills
  • Develop standardized tools, methods, and processes for the structured evaluation, ranking and feedback of beer, mead, and cider

Here in Pittsburgh, Chris Staub, a veteran homebrewer and member of both the aforementioned T.R.A.S.H. and T.R.U.B. homebrew clubs, started a study group that convenes every 2-3 weeks to experience different beers and off-flavors, gain insight from each group member’s perspective, and, ultimately, get prepared for the BJCP Tasting Exam that Chris is hosting in July of 2018. In order to become a Certified BJCP Judge, you must first pass an online entrance exam that covers beer styles and off-flavors. Once passed, you have one year to take and pass a Tasting Exam that consists of the adequate evaluation of six unknown beer styles.

“In order to pass the Tasting Exam, it is common for the person hosting the exam to form a study group where people can sit down with classic examples listed in the guidelines or other examples, including homebrewed versions, in order to gain a good understanding of what the style should entail as well as common flaws that can and will occur,” Chris explained. “The group will also get an Off-Flavor Kit that has liquid spikes that are put into beer to learn about different flavor components such as diacetyl, acetaldehyde, etc.

“The group is commonly filled out with people who are going to be taking the upcoming exam, people looking to take the exam in the future, and people who just want to increase their knowledge of beer in general. There are always people that are looking to participate. This current group has 51 members on the Facebook site. As for the actual meetings, we generally have between 7-12 people.”

Chris loves beer and has become an accomplished homebrewer. Full-time, he’s an independent physical therapist who treats patients in their homes. He studied for his profession at Duquesne University and his time on The Bluff was spent drinking, like many college kids, mass-produced lagers and the occasional Yuengling. It was after college Chris stumbled upon Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and his taste for beer changed forever. Homebrewing was not too far behind.

“About 10 years ago, a friend was talking about brewing beer at home,” Chris recalled. “I had never really known much about brewing or even that you could make drinkable beer at home. So we bought a couple kits and made what, at the time, we thought was good beer (looking back I shudder just a little). The beer was actually just drinkable enough that I started reading and learning more on my own. I had no idea there was such a thing as a homebrew club so I was really self-taught using books, BYO magazine and Brewing Network podcasts. Eventually, I moved to brewing all grain and began to entering, stewarding and eventually judging in competitions.”

According to Chris, the primary goal for the group is for its members to pass the upcoming Tasting Exam and become Certified Judges. Next, they hope to begin preparing the next group of potential judges for their certifications. As beer competitions continue to increase, a need for judges does as well. As Chris puts it, “there will always be a constant need to replenish the ranks.” In other words, there’s plenty of room for everyone to learn, grow, and experience beer on a higher level.

“If we can help increase the knowledge of beer among the public, then everyone involved, homebrewers and commercial breweries alike, will benefit,” Chris stated. “I think the response has been very good. Several people have passed the online Entrance Exam, including myself since the start of the group. The feedback the participants are able to provide on practice score sheets has improved as well. We take the practice score sheets and provide them to the homebrewer who provided the beer for the session. We also have the score sheets evaluated by some certified judges for their feedback on how we all can improve.”

To learn more about BJCP, click here. To learn more about Chris’ study group and attend a class, click here to join the Facebook group today!

In Conclusion…

So what have we learned today? We’ve learned that beer is not just a liquid. It’s transcended what happens inside the glass and has impacted enthusiasts in numerous ways. We are living in a brave new world where information is available at the tap of an app or, even better, by asking a question of the person representing the brand. We have the ability and freedom to experience beer on multiple levels, all of which can lead for a deeper appreciation and enjoyment of this delicious nectar.

“We are so lucky to be in this time and place,” Chris said. “The entire world has been changed by the rise of craft beer. Traditional brewing regions like England and Germany are now starting to experiment with using American hops and brewing techniques. At the same time, American brewers continue to refine the techniques that served other parts of the world for centuries. I love being in Pittsburgh and experiencing the growth and maturation of our own beer culture. In the past few years, we have seen so many new breweries open, the quality skyrocket, and even been on the forefront of some breaking trends. I absolutely can’t wait to see where this goes!”

“I fell in love with beer because of the culture, Meg concluded. “It’s social, passionate and always engaging. As our servers have learned more, I’ve seen them open their eyes to what I saw 10+ years ago. I feel this creates more engaged consumers.”

The beer world is constantly changing, constantly evolving, and constantly delivering innovation in its purest form. Beer can be found pretty much anywhere. But the appreciation and attention to detail destinations put into their approach to beer is something that’s becoming equally, if not more, important as this industry continues to move into the future. You have the ability to experience a liquid that has shaped an entire culture. Get out there and have a beer!

 

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