Beer: City preps for second Craft Brew Week

The second Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week will be April 19 to 27, and organizers are seeking ideas for creative events and venues, plus sponsors and members, as well as volunteers for committees and more.

At a planning meeting Monday night in the cozy speakeasy at James Street Gastropub on the North Side, the board of the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Alliance invited participation in the festivities, meant to "highlight the Pittsburgh region's craft beer culture, expanding the reach of craft beer through education, collaboration, cooperation and responsible libation."

Once again, the long week will tie together scores of events big and small, lubricated with special collaborative brews. New this year may be a real ale festival of firkins as a fundraiser for the nonprofit alliance. Meanwhile, the group seeks annual dues from businesses ($100) and individuals ($20), and has set up a new ladder of sponsorship packages.

"It benefits the whole economy, plus some good charities, and the general industry as well," said board chairman and Penn Brewery brewer Andrew Rich. "So it's all good."

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I never had tasted America's first craft beer.

That designation goes to New Albion Ale, made by the New Albion Brewing Co., which was founded in 1976 in Sonoma, Calif., by a guy named Jack McAuliffe. I was still collecting beer cans, not emptying them.

Mr. McAuliffe tasted good beer in Scotland while serving in the Navy, so when he came home, he wanted to start making it, and did so, in his garage, before building and opening his brewery. He gave it the name that English explorer Sir Francis Drake gave the San Francisco Bay area.

Mr. McAuliffe was ahead of his time. He had cash woes and had to close in 1982.

But he was at the start of something, as microbreweries like his have gone on to become the next almost-big thing. Three decades later, the beer has been revived by the Boston Beer Co./Samuel Adams, another pioneering craft brewer that made it big. Its founder Jim Koch says they worked with Mr. McAuliffe this past summer to brew his recipe "and recognize him for his contribution to brewing." They even used his original strain of yeast, some of which had been preserved at the University of California at Davis.

The sweetish, golden, 6-percent-alcohol-by-volume pale ale -- served at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this past fall -- is being sold nationwide now, in the same packaging design as 1976, with profits going to Mr. McAuliffe.

Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale Co.'s Brian Masters says only about 1,000 cases will be distributed in this region and then it'll be, once again, gone.

The Fat Tuesday Beer Dinner at Hartwood Restaurant in Indiana Township starts at 7 p.m. on Feb. 12 and pairs various brews from Lousiana's Abita Brewing Co. with dishes such as Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Etouffee with Southern Cheddar Biscuits, Roasted Duck Jambalaya, Bacon-Wrapped Catfish and Crawfish Roulade, and Bourbon Pecan Torte with Whiskey Caramel and Housemade Cinnamon Gelato. It's $45 per person; reserve by calling 412-767-3500.

Bob Batz Jr.: or 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.


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