Beer & Sear is a special feature brought to you monthly by Bill’s Bar & Burger in Downtown Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Network. Each month, we take a burger appearing on Bill’s menu and pair it with a local Pittsburgh beer to discover how well they work together. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and you damn well should): Get to Bill’s pronto and test out the pairing for yourself!
We are neck deep in the throngs of the Summer’s glorious heat and, even though the 4th of July has passed us by, we still have plenty of prime grilling days left. If you’re like me, summers on the deck, porch, or patio are spent trying to replicate some of the amazing burger creations I’ve experienced from many of the culinary Rembrandts across Pittsburgh and those crazy videos that pop up in my Facebook feed every other scroll. And as short as I may fall in those attempts, it’s definitely rad to experiment to see how all the ingredients come together.
If you checked out the premiere installment of Beer & Sear, you may remember my reference to two buns and a beef patty serving as the blank canvas for some amazing, mouth-watering culinary creations. So many destinations have elevated this menu item once viewed as “basic” to heights that now give it the leading role. And as a lifelong burger lover, let me just say those establishments: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Bill’s Bar & Burger, located on the first floor of the Westin Hotel & Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh, is one of these destinations. Their burger menu shines like the brightest star in the sky and gives any fan of the patty something wonderful to experience. Not only is their burger game on point, they’ve also woven themselves into the Pittsburgh craft beer fabric by featuring a wide variety of brews born right here in the Steel City.
Handcrafted, artisanal burgers next to handcrafted, artisanal beers. I believe Charlie Sheen has a word for that…
This month, our featured pairing lands us smack dab in the middle of a burger feud. OK, that’s probably overstating things, but there’s definitely some stiff competition unfolding at Bill’s this month and it’s up to YOU to decide who wins.
Throughout July, Robert Mangino and Shelley Duffy, hosts of KDKA’s Afternoon News found on Newsradio 1020 on your AM dial Monday thru Friday from 3:00pm-7:00pm, are going head-to-head to see whose burger brainchild can fill the most mouths. Both worked with the chefs at Bill’s to create their masterpieces, from the bun to the ingredients. Robert’s burger is available now and will remain on the menu until the 15th of the month. From there, Shelley’s burger takes the stage until July concludes and whichever burger sells the most wins!
Now, I’m all about fairness. And, if I ever get to share a burger and a beer with Robert and Shelley, I don’t want it to be awkward. So even though I couldn’t eat both Robert’s burger while getting the opportunity to experience Shelley’s in the same sitting because the button on my shorts never would’ve withstood the challenge, here’s the tale of the tape for Robert’s burger:
BURGER NAME: Man Genius Burger
BURGER CONTENTS: 8oz. Bill’s Beef Patty, Smoked Gouda, Pepper Jack Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper, Bacon, Roasted Mushrooms, Arugula, and Jalapeno Ketchup – served on a Pretzel Bun
Anything with roasted mushrooms gets my stamp of approval, so I encourage you to snag this beauty before it disappears and gets replaced by Shelley’s creation: The Triple Onion, that of which we are about to dive into head first, eyes shut, mouths wide open!
THE BURGER: The Shelley Duffy Burger – “The Triple Onion”
THE BEER: Cloud Trip White IPA by Spoonwood Brewing
Bill’s Bar & Burger in Pittsburgh is one of five locations in the Bill’s family and has been part of our community for just over a year. They also have destinations in Downtown New York, New York’s Meatpacking District, Rockefeller Center, and Atlantic City, as well as a high-end steakhouse in Las Vegas. The theme behind Bill’s is to present approachable, yet elevated food items with burgers leading the charge combined with a laid-back, “every-man’s” approach to adult libations. With over 1.9 million burgers sold, Bill’s is dedicated to consistently creating memorable experiences for their guests while offering the best our local beer scene has to offer. They source locally as much as possible and feature an extensive lineup of local beers and spirits for your enjoyment.
About Spoonwood Brewing
Spoonwood Brewing has been part of the Pittsburgh craft beer community since January 2015 when their 15-barrel brewpub opened in Bethel Park on Baptist Road on the spot where Duke’s Station once stood. Spoonwood has taken the scene by storm with its spacious dining room, relaxing patio and outdoor area, and, of course, always-rotating lineup of incredible beer paired with a full menu of exceptional cuisine prepared by talented artisans in the kitchen. They also feature a wood-fire oven that cranks out pizzas Wednesday-Sunday. Spoonwood’s Head Brewer and Co-Owner Steve Ilnicki is the man responsible for Cold Drip City, a coffee ale that’s gained an incredible cult following throughout the region, as well as dozens of other popular brews certain to illuminate your palate.
An Imperial version of Cold Drip, dubbed Cold Drip Doppio, is the next beer ready to hit the Spoonwood taps and will be pouring Wednesday, July 13th at their taproom. You can find Spoonwood beer proudly pouring in nearly 70 craft beer destinations across the Pittsburgh region.
Shelley Duffy’s Triple Onion consists of an 8oz. Bill’s Beef Patty, Swiss Cheese, American Cheese, Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Crispy Shallots inside of an Onion Ring, and Secret Sauce – served on a Pretzel Bun.
About the Beer
A newer offering in the Spoonwood lineup, Cloud Trip is a delicious White IPA brewed with orange, coriander, Amarillo & Mandarina Bavaria hops. What’s that give you? A beer pushing 7% ABV that drinks like a session and cuts the heat provided by our always-present Summer drinking partner, Ma Nature. The orange comes through strong and despite a mild bitterness, hop heads and malt-forward enthusiasts alike will love to take a good Cloud Trip.
Why You Need This In Your Mouth
Good gawd, was there a lot going on with this guy! When The Triple Onion hit my table, it stood tall. Very tall. Unofficially, at least six inches off the plate. Certified bad ass. At first glance, I was concerned how well it was going to stay together as I helped find its way home. But I was pleasantly surprised as only a few stray onions and escaped my now “smushed” treat. The pretzel bun was the perfect bread for this creation as it held up to the moisture absorbed from the beef patty and caramelized onions.
With three different takes on the onion making up this bad boy, you may think onion would overwhelm and rob you of the rest of the flavors. Not the case. The shallots added a welcome crispiness to each bite, as did the bacon. Bacon makes everything better and the day you find me writing about bacon NOT complementing a burger is the day I put my pen down for good.
The sweetness of the caramelized onions mixed beautifully with the saltiness from the beef patty. The shallots were housed inside the onion ring (accomplishing the hat trick of oniony goodness), making it nearly impossible for them to fall from the burger. All three variations worked in unison with the beef and two thick cuts of melty American and Swiss cheese smothered in Bill’s Secret Sauce. Overall, the balance was spot-on and all three onion variations stood out, but didn’t hog the spotlight.
The bitterness of an IPA can serve as a wonderful palate cleanser for burgers built with any myriad of flavors and Cloud Trip is no exception. The citrusy notes were still identifiable between bites and the crisp, bitter finish wiped the slate clean after each sip, telling my taste buds I was clear to dive in for another taste.
Remember, Shelley Duffy’s Triple Onion Burger will hit the menu July 16th at Bill’s Bar & Burger and Cloud Trip will be on tap as well. Don’t miss this pouring lest ye be trying to punish yourself.