Hops & 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
Summer: skin gets tanner, dresses get shorter, beer gets lighter. One of my favorite things about summer is sitting on the porch enjoying a breezy day and a cold beer. Since I couldn’t write about my favorite summer beer (21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon), I went in search for a few local alternatives.
A browse in Hal’s Bottle Shop turned up Full Pint Brewing Company White Lightning, Draai Laag Brewing Co. Gouden Brugge, Rivertowne Brewing Hala Kahiki, and Fat Head’s Brewery Bumble Berry thanks to the keen eye of Heather. If you’re in the area, stop in and say hello to her. Now before the geography police slap me with a ticket, I know Fat Head’s is from Cleveland. And Cleveland isn’t Pittsburgh. But it’s getting an honorable mention.
Full Pint White Lightning
I’ve had this beer on many occasions, but I never had to think very hard about it. This time, I tried to do it justice for you all. And damn did it change when I had to think. The things I do for you.
Full Pint’s Belgian style wheat ale is light and cloudy and smells like a hint of yeast and orange. There is a sweetness to it from the orange, but also something slightly spicy. They say coriander but I’m not sure I was picking up what they were laying down in regards to that.
I’m sure you’re making the obvious connection to a colorfully named planetary beer, which I’m hesitant to admit was my first legal beverage thanks to the rules in State College. This has similar qualities but in a much more interesting package. The slight tang with the yeast calms down what might be an overwhelming sweetness and makes it much nicer to enjoy.
Draai Laag Gouden Brugge
Next up, a cloudy, golden Belgian pale. There’s a hint of lemon in this one and I really liked it. I have no idea how two Belgian styles landed on my table, but the no-Belgian girl likes this Belgian. Let me explain.
I don’t like a lot of yeastiness, especially when it tastes like it’s almost confused with a weird science experiment. The yeast in this is balanced by lemon in both the smell and the taste. There’s a nice tartness to it from the lemon, which gives it a nice dimension. And it changes at the end. There is just a little kick of alcohol and it’s gone in a flash to a mellow ending.
This is probably my favorite of the bunch. It was complex while still being light enough to enjoy on a mindless porch-drinking summer evening.
Rivertowne Hala Kahiki
Sweet baby pineapple, where’s the pig roast? This pale yellow pour is the fruitiest beer I have ever tasted. Like Full Pint’s White Lightning, now that I’m considering the composition, it changed the beer for me.
I’d compare this to a Liz Phair song. It starts and you’re like, “Oh, I haven’t heard this song in a while!” and then it just sticks in there. It dances around in your head until you’re just sick of it. Not that it’s a bad beer, it’s just a little one note.
There’s plenty of sweetness from the pineapple. You can smell that pineapple even as you’re pouring it. It’s almost like drinking a glass of pineapple juice with an after taste of beer.
But overall, I can’t come down too hard on Rivertowne for this beer. Their offerings are always solid and their brewery tour was one of the best I’ve been on. I like Hala Kahiki, but it’s not one that has a lot of levels of complexity.
Fat Head’s Bumble Berry
One of my first memories of the South Side was going to this magical place with the biggest burgers I have ever seen. I must have been about 9, so it was glorious to me. I split one with my mom and it was amazing. I’m always and forever a fat kid at heart and ever since then, in my mind, Fat Head’s is Pittsburgh.
So that’s why Bumble Berry made its way here. It really reminds me of a quintessential summer beer. It’s slightly hazy, like the dog days of summer and a light amber-mixed-with purple shade. You definitely smell berries, but not as much when you taste it. There is a blueberry hint but also a nice malty flavor. The finish is a little wheat-y. Not yeast-y like bread per se, but more like a cracker.
Bring these to a summer gathering and everyone would have something to drink from the person who likes sweet to the person who likes a little more tart. I’ll be in the corner drinking the Draai Laag with my uncle, because this might just be his choice out of the bunch, too. Sorry, Liz Phair.
What’s your favorite beer for summer? Let me know in the comments so I can do a part two!