'Hell with Lid Off' festival will celebrate burly barleywine

A beer event next weekend features vertical tastings, but you'll need to be careful that you don't end up horizontal.

Pam Panchak, Post-Gazette
Dan Cross, manager of Kelly's Bar and Lounge in East Liberty, shows off an array of the barleywine to be featured in the Third Hell with the Lid Off Barleywine Festival.
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That's because brews with alcohol content into the double digits are featured in the Hell with the Lid Off Barleywine Festival.

The third annual bash -- named for a famous description of Pittsburgh during its steelmaking heyday -- has been expanded from one to two days at Kelly's Bar and Lounge in East Liberty.

Sessions will run from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are $30 per session in advance, or $40 at the door; you can attend both sessions by buying a $50 advance ticket.

The prize includes a big buffet.

You'll get to taste up to 35 different barleywines and barleywine-style ales.

Many will be served in a half-dozen vertical flights -- that is, three or four different vintages from the same brewery -- so you can compare them. For instance, there will be 2004, 2005 and 2006 versions of Victory's Old Horizontal.

Barleywines "cellar" -- that is, keep and age -- well because of their high alcohol levels, which are reflected in some of the names of the other brews you'll find at this fest, such as Brooklyn Brewery's Monster Ale and Weyerbacher's Blithering Idiot and Insanity.

"I like a lot of the big beers," says Kelly's manager Dan Cross, who conceived of this potent party. He describes barleywine as "a stronger, malty beer."

He'll have fun with creative pairings for other flights, including one he may call "Critters" -- with Boulder Killer Penguin, Flying Dog Horn Dog and Stoudt's Old Abominable -- and one he may call "Old Boy" -- with Anchor Old Foghorn, Rogue Old Crustacean, Great Divide Old Ruffian and Young's Old Nick.

That last, from England, is only about 7 percent alcohol. "It's the American brewers who like to pump them up to 10 and 11 percent."

He'll also serve up assorted others, including local East End Brewing Co.'s new Gratitude, which by then should be available in limited-edition bottles.

Attendees can sip all dozen or so flights, or pick and choose among the roughly two-ounce tastes, and can order a bigger serving "if they're holding their own."

But at Kelly's, this is a sit-down, not lie down, event.

"I'm not trying to encourage people to get drunk," Mr. Cross says.

"That's why I have little tastes of things."

And then there's the buffet, which he describes as "heavy food," with some stick-to-the-ribs meat and "strong, stinky cheeses," plus salads and other vegetarian-friendly fare.

As always, he'll have some full-flavored chocolates as well.

He sold 80 tickets last year, but most attendees bought them at the door, which caused some chaos.

Mr. Cross hopes that more advance sales, and breaking the event into two sessions, will smooth things out.

He'll be there for both sessions, talking with customers and helping out, even tasting as necessary. As he puts it, "I have a quality control regimen."

Kelly's is located at 6012 Penn Circle South. The phone is 412-363-6012.

You can taste barleywines at area brewpubs such as John Harvard's Brew House in Wilkins, where brewer Andrew Maxwell recently put on -- and alas, ran through -- a year-old one named "3 Sheets."

At Hereford & Hops in Cranberry, brewer Jim Lieb made a 9.4 percent-alcohol one last month.

He says, "I have called it Old Ogle Barleywine, Ogle being the original settlement in Cranberry."

Farther north in Butler County, at Slippery Rock's North Country Brewing Co., they just brewed a 2007 barleywine, which should go on tap today or so, but they also have one to release in time for their two-year anniversary (Feb. 21) that's been aging since 2005.

Its name: The Embalmer.

Taste a chocolate brew

Here's a tasting to which you could take your sweetheart, or at least your sweet tooth: From 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Save-More Beer and Pop Warehouse, 4516 Browns Hill Road, Squirrel Hill, there will be a free sampling of mostly chocolate brews. They are:

Rogue Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Atwater Vanilla Java Porter and Young's Double Chocolate Stout (412-421-8550).

Bob Batz Jr. can be reached at bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930.


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