Hops & The City: Fly Away with Penn Brewery

Angelica RossHops & The City is an exploration of beer in Pittsburgh by our resident craft beer enthusiast, Angelica Ross. Angelica is pitting beers against each other and honing her taste skills simultaneously while providing you with her unique opinions on the brews in front of her. It’s like Carrie dishing about men and learning about which guy suits her best…except for Angelica, it’s beer. Lots and lots of beer. Follow Angelica on Twitter @syntaxxerrorrr


Fly Away with Penn Brewery


I have never been to Penn Brewery. I know, it’s a total shocker, especially since they’re relatively close to where I live and they’re one of the more well-recognized breweries in the city. Since I’ve never been there, I didn’t know that their flight is the entire menu. Typically, I’m pumped when I get five tasters instead of four. At Penn Brewery, you get 10. So yeah, my notes got a little fuzzy towards the end…

What’s on tap: Penn Brewery St. Nik, Nut Roll, Oktoberfest, Dopple Sticke, Penn Pils, Penn Gold, Penn Dark, Harvest Rye IPA, Kaiser Pils, Penn Weizen

St. Nikolaus Bock

As I discovered last time, this wasn’t (and still isn’t) one of my favorites. It has a decent head and nice lacing, which is different than when I had it last time at the Beer Market. I wish I could say I tasted a difference, but I really didn’t. It was still a little too..filling..for me.

Man type: the odd guy who won’t get the message you aren’t a fan of him.

Nut Roll Ale

It’s like a Pittsburgh dessert in a glass. This is nice and sweet and it hides the alcohol really well. If you made a cold Irish coffee, I imagine this is what it would taste like. Since it is sweet, I can only handle one of these in a night (like the St Nik). I have had it at another location and it didn’t taste as syrupy here, which I enjoyed much better.

I’d rather eat my nut roll anyway, but this would be killer to dunk nut roll in.

Man type: the guy who is a little too nice and you can’t figure out why.

Oktoberfest Bier

Maybe I’m used to American Oktoberfest beers (I have no idea if that’s a thing) and this is a Munich style? It looks “normal” enough for what you’d expect from an Oktoberfest, but the taste was just not what I was hoping for. I think that Oktoberfest is going to start to fortify you for winter. It has a little crispness to it but also a little warmth. I was missing the cloves and spices in this one.

This uses perle hops and I just learned that they are slightly minty and bitter. I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I wasn’t getting hints of mint. It’ll be interesting to see if I can detect it in the future, though.

Man type: the guy who seems really cool to talk to on the phone but is a total let down when you meet him.


Dopple Sticke

I had a really hard time getting this one down. It was amber in color with a thick, sticky head. It was on the sweeter side and felt much fuller in the mouth than some of the others. I’d say it was on par with St. Nik (sliding down the chimney of your throat – how many innuendos can I get in one paragraph?) And then it tasted bitter after you swallowed (and one more).

Okay, I’m done.

My tasting partner said it was the opposite – he said he tasted bitter but finished sweet. Who knows what’s right.

All I can say is that this particular German style is not for me. Maybe the fruit-cake-like quality? I need more experimenting with this style.

Man type: dude bro.

Penn Pilsner

Gorgeous deep gold. It was a mildly bitter taste and finish. It’s a beer you can’t find fault with. I’m really struggling with what else to write about this one.

It’s a beer that won’t let you down.

Man type: old faithful; the friend who’s always there for you.

Penn Gold

This is the “Your Uncle’s Beer” of the flight. Your uncle will probably like it because it reminds him of that chemically enhanced triple hops brewed junk from a can he drinks while watching the Pens.

Kinda like the Pils, it’s a good, solid beer. It was light and very clear. It was mildly bitter again and nothing really stood out to me.

After looking at the hops used, this just has perle listed while the Pils had some others included. Malts are also very similar. Explains a lot.

Man type: ‘Murica through and through. Possibly has tattoos or wears a lot of plaid.

Penn Dark

This was one of my favorites of the night. It’s a dark, slightly cloudy lager. The roasty smell is really inviting, especially in the winter. It feels full and rich in the mouth – dark and rich..how I like my men – and it wasn’t exceptionally bitter.

I would probably only need one of these because of that malty richness, but I’d want more.

Again, with the perle hops and two-row malts. I’m going to have to go back and compare these beers armed with this knowledge.

Man type: the man of mystery.  There is some intrigue and he keeps you coming back for more.

Harvest Rye IPA

I love me some IPA. I’m not one of those people that thinks if a beer is really hoppy, that must mean it’s really good and totally unique and I’m so cutting edge, man. But I do enjoy hops.

This beer was cloudy and deep gold with a thick head (impressive since it was one of the last beers we got around to trying). I liked the bitterness this had – it seemed clean and relatively light to me.

Man type: clean cut guy who possibly works at a bank or insurance agency, but may have something edgy lying just below the surface.

Kaiser Pils

Super super light. It’s really clean and tasted refreshing. This is another beer that could appeal to your uncle. And that’s all the notes that I can read on this one.

I remember it was good but again, just was a beer; it didn’t stand out as anything special.

Man type: ultra dude bro.

Penn Weizen

Another light beer.  It was super cloudy, banana-y and bubble gum-y. I was tasting cloves on this one, especially in the aftertaste. It finishes sweet, but then I got that zip of spice.

I’ve never been a fan of Hoegaarden, so I wasn’t a fan of this one. I can pound down wheat beers really quickly because they’re lighter, but sometimes they can be too sweet. This would fall into the too sweet category.

Man type: too fruity for me.


The lesson from this trip: don’t try to taste a 10-beer flight and be able to do justice to a write-up. It’s like double-booking a date: no matter what, it will end up really awkward and you’re mixing memories of who said what.

Overall, I liked Penn Dark dunkel, Harvest Rye IPA, and Nut Roll. I’d love to do a little more specialized tastes between the Pils, Gold, and Dark to isolate the hops and malts that I’m tasting so I can get those tastes down.


What style do you order at Penn Brewery? I need to go back and do this place justice!




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