Hops and 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. Follow Angelica on Twitter @syntaxxerrorrr.
There aren’t many things better than brunch. What was once the word you used to make yourself feel better about sleeping through breakfast after a hard night is now what all the cool kids are doing. You have to look pretty hard to find somewhere that doesn’t offer a brunch menu in Pittsburgh. Sometimes it’s even combined with yoga. Since I prefer my eggs with a side of beer, not bridge pose, I found myself at Pig Iron Public House for Sunday Brunch, the brunchiest of all days to have brunch.
Yes, for the price of one post, we’re gonna talk about beer and brunch.
First things first. I tried a lineup of sour beers. Betcha thought I was going to say coffee stouts. The list included (but was in no way limited to) Hop Farm Brewing Company Wild Wild Weisse, Levity Brewing Company Ghost Trail Gose, North Country Brewing Company Lurnberry Sour, and North Country Brewing Company Margarita Sour (those crazy people up north really like their sours).
Hop Farm Wild Wild Weisse
Hop Farm Wild Wild Weisse is the perfect beer to start with. Why? It’s the baseline. The standard. The control group. It’s a fairly traditional weisse, in my (limited) opinion, that isn’t hiding any aces up its sleeve. The lemon color, farmy scent, and typical piquant taste are all accounted for. You have to know the rules before you can break them, right? So this one is fermented with brettanomyces, breaking the rules a little and making it more like an American Wild Ale than a traditional Berliner Weisse, according to my research at least. Oh, so that’s where they get the name! Moving on.
Levity Ghost Trail Gose
I had no idea what a gose would taste like let alone how to pronounce it until I had Big Boots Gose, a collaboration brewed across the country on Big Boots Brew Day at Rock Bottom (which you can read about here and here). Even though it was my first experience, I enjoyed the refreshing lime qualities in that brew, so I knew any beer that came after it had some big boots to fill. Enough about shoes.
Levity’s Ghost Trail Gose looks like cloudy orange juice. There’s an earthiness as well as a tanginess in the scent, but it’s almost entirely lost to me in the very sour flavor. It’s not like a punch of sour at first that tapers off; this is like you dove into a bag of sauerkraut. Okay, maybe I’m abusing hyperbole a bit here… But this is an extremely tart, puckering ale that the herbiness typical in goses has to fight through to be noticed. If you go to the brewery, they have a version mixed with strawberries on tap right now. Apparently it’s a popular practice to lace fruity syrups in these sour beers in Germany. Can someone say, “PCBN Field Trip to Verify the Validity of these Claims”?
North Country Lurnberry Sour
I almost thought something got mixed up because this beer is rosé! Amber rosé, but still rosé and a departure from the citrus-hued brews I had in front of me. I still have no idea what a lurnberry is (Google keeps asking if I mean “turnberry,”) but apparently it’s pink. At first, I smelled cranberries or cherries, but it’s actually pomegranate and raspberry giving it a blush color and wonderfully sweet scent and taste. There’s also a wild note to it, like clover honey. Definitely a sweeter option among the field of acid in front of me.
North Country Margarita Sour
I was warned that this is “The most sour beer of them all” by the manager and that she likes to mix in syrups or juices to make it easier to drink (#protip). Personally, I thought Levity’s gose was the tartest, but a spade is a spade – North Country’s Margarita Sour is still plenty tangy. There’s a hint of lime that begs for some tequila, though I wouldn’t play 20 Questions and guess this was a margarita on the first round. I find that it’s relatively mild and it seems slightly pithy at the end. Maybe it has to be because of the small glass it’s in (#wordplay). Really, I think it tastes a like biting into a citrus fruit with some of the pith still attached.
I’m not sure if I’m a convert yet, but after all the sour beer I drank, I have at least expanded my vocabulary when it comes to ways to say “sour.” And I did get to learn the differences between Berliner Weissbier, Gose, and American Wild Ale, minute though they may be. This is a category that takes a little time to get used to, but worth it for the appreciation of the style and traditional brewing roots.
Now for the food. It was hard to stick to the brunch menu because the regular menu is so good and available during brunch hours. The two rebels I was with had the audacity to have lunch. Don’t they know the best part of brunch is
the acceptable consumption of alcohol at 11am breakfast?
Speaking of drinking at 11am: Pig Iron Public House offers a DIY Mimosa and Bloody Mary bar if you prefer your hair of the dog in wine/liquor form. Pick your base, your flavors, and any other additions (Bacon! Pickles!) and you could practically have a meal in a glass. You can also DIY your food: omelettes, eggs, and pancakes are all up for customization. If you’re not in a particularly creative mood, though, there’s chorizo hash, Italian poached eggs, and egg & tomato grilled cheese to name a few.
The beer dictated my breakfast choice: lemon ricotta pancakes topped with blueberries and maple syrup. They are the perfect antidote to a slew of biting beers. Creamy ricotta, pop of blueberry, and refreshingly sweet hint of lemon played very nicely with crisp, tart flavors in the glass. Opposites attract, don’tcha know.
As far as lunch goes, their entire menu is mouthwatering. You cannot go wrong with a sandwich. Whether you want your fries on top or on the side, you’re gonna get an insane mound of food. Their pub plates are exactly what you want with a good beer: hearty yet flavorful that will stand up to whatever beer you have in front of you.
Even with a slight mix up with a few of the beers (to their credit, there were about 15 pintlet glasses littered about), the service and food is what I’ve come to expect from Pig Iron Public House: it’s a wonderful environment with a staff that knows their stuff, great food, and of course, 66 beers on tap.