Munch goes to the Rivertowne Pour House

'Twas no less an authority than one of the founding fathers of this nation, a man of science and letters, an inventor, statesman and philosopher on the rights of man, Benjamin Franklin, who said "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

To which Munch, no slouch in the study of ... uh ... beer, and one who has always steadfastly believed that it's All About the Benjamins, couldn't agree more with ol' Poor Richard. Except that Munch might make a slight alteration to the original proclamation: Craft beer and good pub grub is living proof that God has created a paradise on Earth, or at least an oasis of such in ... Monroeville?

Munch, traveling with the helpful and talented Buxom Blonde Beer Babe Buddy of Munch (she is the BBBBBOM, of course) traversed the highways and byways of the county's eastern edge to the Rivertowne Pour House, a stone's throw off Parkway East Exit 14B near Boyce Park.

The place opened in June and is a partnership between Christian Fyke and Joe Boros, who own two Rivertowne taverns (in Verona and North Huntingdon), and Andrew Maxwell, who previously was head brewer at John Harvard's Brew House in Wilkins. Joining Mr. Maxwell in brewing at this new spot is Barrett Goddard, former head brewer at the Johnstown Brewing Co., who trained with him.

Diners sit on multiple levels and spaces, which are decorated in warm gold paint and light woods, around the high-capacity brewing and fermenting tanks. The 15-barrel, gas-fired lager system was customized, with help from others in the region's brewing fraternity, to brew lagers and ales.

Seventeen -- 17! -- house-made craft brews were on tap on Munch's visit with the BBBBBOM, which caused in us a Pavlovian drool that would've made Homer Simpson proud ... mmmmmmm beeeeeeeer. While it was more than a little tempting to order 17 pints and a spatula to peel ourselves off the floor later on, Ben Franklin, our spiritual guide, would expect more temperate behavior. The solution was to order the Master Sampler -- 4-ounce servings of eight of the offerings ($8.95).

Rivertowne makes a nice array of hoppy and malty beers -- the Scottish Ale, IPA and Bock among them -- but Munch and the BBBBBOM found the fruit-infused brews to be among the best.

Munch was particularly taken with the Blackberry Blast -- a cloudy wheat ale with a perfect note of berry taste -- as well as "The Sea Captain" -- a blend of orange, coriander, grains of paradise and an unspecified secret ingredient that made it taste like a Blue Moon, except way better.

The BBBBBOM was pleasantly surprised by the Pineapple Under the Sea. She reports: "While Pineapple beer sounds like something made for SpongeBob Square Pants and should only be enjoyed with a Krabby Patty, it was actually an interesting and refreshing malternative beverage."

Her overall winner, however (and perhaps not surprisingly), was the Baja Blonde Beer -- a Mexican blond ale -- which the BBBBBOM termed as "magically delicious."

To soak up the beer, the menu features numerous seafood items such as Blackened Tuna Steak ($14.95), Clay-pot Cajun Catfish ($12.95), Steamed Mussels ($10.95), Fire Roasted Chicken Salad ($9.95), as well as more than half a dozen wraps and hoagies, burgers and specialty pizzas.

Munch gorged on the large Jambalaya sub ($9.95), a Cajun grilled chicken breast, ham, sausage, onions, red and banana peppers topped with lettuce and tomato, served with a Creole mayonnaise. The sandwich was literally the size of Munch's lower leg, and plenty delicious.

The BBBBBOM got her grub on with the Steak and Drunken Mushrooms ($15.95), a 10-ounce center cut sirloin pub steak smothered in mushrooms sauteed in a butter and ale sauce with a side of grilled asparagus cheddar smashed potatoes. The BBBBBOM reported her "Steak and Drunken Mushrooms was done appropriately and seasoned deliciously, yet included not one mushroom, neither drunk nor sober."

And that was how we felt after trying the Rivertowne's best: neither drunk, nor sober, but rather enjoying Ben Franklin's living proof that God wants us to be happy.

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