The date was January 31st, 2015. The sun was shining, the air was chilly, and Pittsburgh was buzzing as two new breweries cut their respective ribbons and opened their doors for the first time. One of those locations was Voodoo’s new pub in Homestead, an extension of their brewery in Meadville that made their product more easily accessible to their rabid fans in the Pittsburgh area.
The other was brand new, but came to the field fully equipped to make a big impact on Pittsburgh’s booming craft beer scene.
Spoonwood Brewing Company hit the ground running with a tremendous food menu paired with a wide variety of beer styles, all housed in a spacious, comfortable, and welcoming taproom in Bethel Park. The brand-new state-of-the-art facility houses a 15-barrel brewing system and has become one of the South Hills’ biggest craft beer destinations in less than a year’s time.
As per the norm whenever I visit a new brewery, a flight was in order to get the full experience of everything on tap. Being one that typically bows down to the hop-forward beers, I made the mistake of pre-judging the lineup and assuming the Killer Diller IPA would be my favorite of the bunch. But I was pleasantly surprised by January’s Pittsburgh Beer of the Month and found myself a sexy new love.
She’s affectionately known as Bruna. She’s a unique Belgian Porter that tips the scales at a big 8.2%, but offers serious drinkability for her size. She features a very rich, velvety texture that works perfectly with the fruity, chocolatey undertones brought to us by the malt and yeast. Like the perfect Friday night companion, she’s low-maintenance and incredibly balanced, containing just enough of a hop presence to ensure sweetness is not too overwhelming.
We’re still talking about beer, right?
Without question, Bruna was an impressive first date and one I came back to time and time again as the winter months wore on. But sadly, like that girl who decided to study abroad and “find herself,” Bruna disappeared for a while…and life got a little sad. Food tasted different. And for whatever reason, I couldn’t get Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” out of my head.
Yep, still talking about beer.
But now, as Spoonwood gets ready to celebrate their first anniversary at the end of this month, she’s back! And to get you better acquainted with this unique gir…er, beer, I touched base with Spoonwood Head Brewer Steve Ilnicki to get the lowdown. Steve’s affection for Belgian beers has led to a spectacular lineup of sweet but balanced Belgian offerings in Spoonwood’s portfolio. But yours truly will never stray from his original dark, smooth, vivacious temptress in a glass.
Wow. Before I propose, I’m going to turn it over to Steve. Steve, talk about beer, would ya?!
In your own words, tell us what we need to know about Bruna.
This beer is Kathleen Turner in Body Heat and Chrissie Hynde and Lou Reed and perhaps Steven Tyler. But certainly not Prince. He’s untouchable.
Where did the inspiration for Bruna come from?
I wanted to do a dark Belgian-style beer that wasn’t a Dubbel or even a stout. So I started with Porter-type recipe, which to me is more about chocolate than roast, and I added some dark sugar. In the latest version, I included the classic Belgian Malt Special B to play up the fruitiness of the yeast.
What characteristics should we know about Bruna?
It’s rich but not heavy. I like to say velvety (but who doesn’t?). You get a creamy texture, along with chocolate and fig from the malt. And the yeast intensifies that dark fruity character.
What particular flavor notes should people expect to discover as Bruna hits their palate?
Again, it’s chocolate and dark fruits. Fig, prune, raisin. The mouthfeel is full, but the finish verges on dry from higher alcohols.
What foods pair well with Bruna?
Triple cream cheeses or whatever Kathleen Turner is having.
Any fun, interesting, or crazy stories come from brewing Bruna?
There’s nothing fun about brewing. It’s all safety goggles and pH meters. And no music or joyful bantar amongst co-workers. Nobody – and I mean NOBODY – should ever consider ditching a desk job for this dreadful vocation.
Can we find Bruna at any craft beer destinations in Pittsburgh or specifically in your taproom?
Bruna is currently available in our taproom for a little bit longer. It’s also one of the four featured local drafts at the new uber-hip Ace Hotel in East Liberty this winter. You can find Bruna at some of our draft accounts across the city as well.