East End Brewing smokes out a beer with an unusual flavor

If a beer bar banned smoking, could it still serve the newest brew from Homewood's East End Brewing Co.?

It's a smoked porter, made in part with malt that's been smoked over a fire.

Its good Pittsburgh name?


There are stacks and a hard-hatted possible steel worker right on the label of Smokestack Heritage Porter, created by local artist Wayno with brewer Scott Smith.

Mr. Smith says he wanted to honor the city's blue-collar heritage. Plus. "I was looking to brew something to comfort the smokers out there suffering through the smoking ban -- if only playfully."

Of course, the countywide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants was lifted after a matter of hours and statewide anti-smoking legislation still is pending.

Mr. Smith notes that the only smoke is coming from the man's cigar, not the stacks behind him. The smoke flavor in the beer comes from not only rauch malt (the German wood-smoked stuff) but also powerful peat-smoked malt, which normally is used by spirits distillers.

Classic rauchbier still is made in its native land. But as the Beer Judge Certification Program notes, "Any style of beer can be smoked; the goal is to reach a pleasant balance between the smoke character and the base beer style." While rare, smoked beers of various styles are made by craft brewers such as Harrisburg's Appalachian Brewing Co.

At his mostly one-man Homewood beer manufacturing plant, Mr. Smith has brewed just 600 bottles of Smokestack, which he'll sell almost exclusively there during "growler hours" on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (though a tavern or two may get a few bottles).

For details: www.eastendbrewing.com.

Several local breweries as well as representatives from breweries far away are expected to be part of the first Millvale Brew Festival, being organized for Aug. 11 by the borough and the Millvale Borough Development Corp.

The event, set at Millvale Riverfront Park, will feature two sessions of beer, food and entertainment -- 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets for each cost $30 in advance (or $35 at the event); designated drivers can purchase a food ticket for $10 (or $12 there).

Tickets can be purchased at the Millvale Municipal Building during weekday business hours or by sending a check and a self- addressed stamped envelope to Millvale Brew Festival, 501 Lincoln Ave., Millvale, PA 15209.

The proceeds will help the development group revitalize a business district and residential neighborhoods still suffering from the devastating effects of the 2004 flood.

"Some of the buildings are still boarded up," says Tony Knipling of Vecenie Distributing, which is helping out along with nearby Atkinson Beer Distributor. "It would be good to get the boards off of some of the buildings and get someone in there."

Professor Vecenie reports that he once again will be teaching "Craft Beer School" for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust this fall. Watch for details at www.pgharts.org.

The educational portions of the July 28 State College BrewExpo are posted. One will be led by John Hansell, owner/publisher of Malt Advocate Magazine, who will "talk about one of the hottest new trends in the beer industry, beer blending." Expo co-founder Michael Goldfine will discuss "The Six Beers You Meet in Heaven" -- a half dozen brews that define excellence. The beer geeks from State College's Blue Weekly, Mark Dellinger and Jeff Metzler, will "journey beyond the pale" and explore unusual styles such as (East End Brewing's) kvass. There's a Unibroue gourmet beer dinner on the previous Thursday night, too. For more details, visit www.scbrewexpo.com.

It's July and you know what that means:

Christmas parties.

Several area beer bars are expected to be holding "Christmas in July" nights where they break out special holiday beers squirreled away for just that reason.

Bocktown Beer and Grill in North Fayette holds its party on July 25. "Being the little elf that I am," writes Chris Dilla in her place's newsletter, "I have saved some presents for you, including Delirium Noel, St. Nikolaus Bock, Seriously Bad Elf, Gouden Christmas, Corsendonk Christmas (two bottle sizes), East End Gratitude, and many others. We also have 'Christmas' beers on draft and Chef Scotty is preparing a few special dinners that will pair nicely."

Speaking of elves, Harrisburg's Troegs Brewing Co. is once again offering a summer version of its killer "Mad Elf Ale," called "Naked Elf," as it's being made without the addition of honey and cherries, which will bring down the alcohol to about 7.5 percent.

This past weekend, Fat Head's on the South Side put on a keg of one of my favorite Christmas beers: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. Owner Glenn Benigni, who always sets aside two barrels, describes this 6.8-percent-alcohol "holiday classic" as having "good strong hop flavor that is well balanced by a biscuity malt backbone. Aging mellows it out a bit."

Sprague Farm & Brew Works in Venango, Crawford County, is furnishing the brew for an Oktoberfest in July -- July 14. The blast will be held at the outdoor pavilion of the Venango Valley Inn and also will feature German food, of course, and live music. Tickets are $15 or $25 per couple; contact the brewery at 1-814-398-2885 or the inn at 1-814-398-4330.

(Oktoberfest in July isn't that far-fetched, actually: Cases of Penn Brewery's Oktoberfest are to start hitting distributors next week. Yes, already. It's not going to be bottled in the 22-ounce bottles as had been planned until filler improvements are made, reports founder and president Tom Pastorius; the next big bottle will be St. Nikolaus Bock -- in a champagne bottle, no less.)

You can taste the barn-brewed Sprague beers -- including its spring "heffe dunkel weizen" dubbed "Effin' " -- at Bocktown during the next regular 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday tasting (July 11).

And speaking of up north, the Voodoo Brewery in Meadville, Crawford County, finally is up and running. Watch for a story on the place in this space soon.

Correction/Clarification: (Published July 7, 2007) Contrary to what was reported in this Beer column as originally published on July 5, 2007, Mad Mex Oakland is not celebrating "Christmas in July" this year.

Send beer news, tips and ideas to Bob Batz Jr. at bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930.


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