Oh what a day! What a lovely day! If you like local craft beer and local bands, you would have thought you died and went to Valhalla this past Saturday at the Monroeville Community Park. If you haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road, you are probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about! What I’m talking about is Rhythm and Brews, a craft beer festival featuring local bands and local breweries hosted by Rivertowne Brewing.
A $50 general admission ticket included a souvenir tumbler, unlimited Rivertowne samples, and two full-sized Rivertowne pours in the Beer Garden. VIP admission was $80 and included general admission privileges, as well as VIP tent access between 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM, unlimited samples from VIP craft brewers, and light refreshments. The VIP craft brewers in attendance were: All Saints Brewing Company, Fat Head’s Brewery, Four Seasons Brewing Company, Helltown Brewing, Spoonwood Brewing Company, and of course Rivertowne.
Gates opened at 2:00 PM, with the music set to begin at 4:00 PM. I rolled in around 3, and headed straight to the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Network tent (of course), to check in with our fearless leader, Jason Cercone. Jason was already joined by fellow Breaking Brews blogger extraordinaire, Angelica “Hops & The City“ Ross. Jason and Angelica were offering festival goers a chance to win a free brewery tour, courtesy of PA Brew Tours, if they could sink 3 out of 6 balls in a round of beer pong. I soon decided that it was quite foolish to be walking around with an empty tumbler during a craft beer festival, so I headed to the beer garden to peruse my options.
The beer garden was home to 6 offerings from Rivertowne as well as 2 brews from other local craft breweries. The Rivertowne options included: Hala Kahiki (pineapple ale), Jah Mon (session IPA), Sassamanash (cranberry ale), Oktoberfest (do I really need to explain this one?), Headless Wylie (pumpkin ale) and Always A Home Game (lager). The non-Rivertowne selections were, Joe Melt from East End Brewing and Heavenly Hefe Weizen from All Saints. Being that I am currently on a session IPA kick, I decided on a sample of Jah Mon. Thick white head, citrusy aroma, hoppy, but not overpowering. This is a beer that I definitely could drink all day, but that would be silly with all of the other choices available. Instead, I decided on a full pour of the Headless Wylie as this was a beer that I had been told was excellent last year, but I did not have the chance to try….. until now.
As I was partaking of my Headless Wylie, I decided to take a stroll around the park to check out all of the other tents, vendors, food trucks, etc. There was a Cannondale tent, where you could take a “test ride” and purchase a bike if you had an extra $2,000 to spare. Nearby, I saw a tent full of P.E.R.Vs. Settle down…… it stands for Pittsburgh East Roller Villains, an adult, co-ed flat track roller derby league.
Next, I came across a tent for DJ’s Brew Crafts, where I spoke with owner Denise Johns about her cool crafts. Denise works at All Saints brewery and she turns the empty bags that once contained grain, into growler totes, beach bags, log carriers, and more. All of this walking was making me hungry, so my next move was to check out the food options.
There were 5 different food vendors in attendance at the festival, providing patrons with a number of dining options. They included: Franktuary Food Truck, Yinzburg BBQ, Earth Wheel & Fire Mobile Wood Fired Pizza, Dad’s Pub and Grub, and Happy Camper Cakes. What would pair well with my Headless Wylie (mmmmmm pumpkin)? A cupcake of course! I headed over to the Happy Camper Cakes truck and saw that it was not a truck at all. It was in fact a camper!
I spoke with owner Gwyn Zollinger who told me that the camper was a 1974 Serro Scotty that was built in Irwin, PA (how cool is that?). She bought the camper on Craigslist and her husband and brother remodeled the inside. She was offering 4 full size and 4 mini size cupcakes. The full size cupcakes were all made with a different Rivertowne craft beer! I decided to go with the “Pickled Pirate”, which was made with Hala Kahiki pineapple ale filling in coconut cake, with vanilla frosting, Hala pineapple drizzle, tasted coconut and macadamia nut. ERMAHGERD, was this ever a fantastic cupcake! Brief aside…. later in the evening my colleagues Jason and Angelica split an order of the 4 mini cupcakes and said they were all incredible. If you see the Happy Camper Cakes camper at an event, do yourself a favor and get one!
After finishing my cupcake, it was time for a refill, so Angelica, Jason and I headed into the VIP area to see what beers were on tap.
As mentioned above, the non-Rivertowne breweries in attendance were: All Saints Brewing Company, Fat Head’s Brewery, Four Seasons Brewing Company, Helltown Brewing, and Spoonwood Brewing. All Saints Brewing was pouring its Heavenly Hefe Weizen and IPA, while Fat Heads had Sunshine Daydream session IPA and Bumbleberry Ale. Four Seasons Brewing was offering their Dark Side of the Pint oatmeal stout and Kickin It Kolsch. Helltown Brewing brought their Hefeweizen and The Rapture IPA, while Spoonwood Brewing had their Killer Diller IPA and Cold Drip City coffee ale. As you can see, there was a veritable plethora of excellent local craft beer available. Because I love all their other beers, and I have yet had the chance to try this latest offering, I decided to go with the Helltown Hefeweizen. It was a good choice, everything you would want in a hefeweizen.
By this time, the music had already started. I’m sorry to say that I did not pay as much attention to the music as I should have. The three local bands that performed were the Jenkins Brothers, Nacho Blues and Fungus Pittsburgh, with Pittsburgh’s own Rusted Root headlining. The venue was the Tall Trees Amphitheater in the Monroeville Community Park.
Again, I did not listen as much as I would have liked but the music I did hear provided a pleasant environment for drinking, eating and talking with other festival goers/vendors. I did hear a couple excellent cover songs, such as “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and “Comfortably Numb.” I wish I knew which bands played these songs so I could give credit, but again, I missed out.
The rest of my day was pretty much spent in the VIP area sampling beers, eating, and enjoying the beautiful weather and surroundings. I had a pulled pork sandwich from Dad’s Pub and Grub (excellent) and Angelica, Jason and I split a chicken pesto pizza from Earth, Wheel and Fire (superb).
In my opinion, the very first Rhythm and Brews festival was a success. The Monroeville Community Park was a beautiful setting to showcase local breweries, local bands, local vendors, and local food trucks. This event was another example of how unique the craft beer industry really is. The camaraderie shown between everyone working this event is something that is not found in many other industries. It really is a joy to be around, so if you missed this year keep your eyes open for next year, or better yet, find a similar event this fall and GO! And if you need help finding an event, just download the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Network mobile app and check the events calendar! (Shameless plug mandated by Jason Cercone…. just kidding!!)