Philly a better beer-drinking city than Pittsburgh?

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Philly a better beer-drinking city than Pittsburgh? Sez them.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
By Bob Batz Jr., Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Stacy Innerst, Post-Gazette illustration
Philadelphia says it's a better beer town than Pittsburgh.

Better than any other town.

So says the logo for "Philly Beer Week," an event debuting there
tomorrow that is humbly subtitled, "America's Best Beer-Drinking

I'm not big enough to pick a fight with hardly anyone from
Philadelphia, and certainly not with event co-chair Joe Sixpack.
That's the nom de plume of Don Russell, who certainly is one of
America's best and best-known beer journalists. He's gone from being a
longtime Philadelphia Daily News staffer to working from home
( and is just releasing his first book, "Joe
Sixpack's Philly Beer Guide: A Reporter's Notes on the Best Beer-
Drinking City in America" (Camino Books, $14.95).

It'd be fun to argue with him about the claim over a pint or three,
but I'd have to concede:

Philly has organized a beer week and Pittsburgh hasn't.

As you can see on the event's Web site, the coming week-plus is now
packed with nearly 200 fun and tasty events -- talks and brewer meets
and meals.

Some highlights I like:

* The Pennsylvania Breweries and Game Dinner at the Grey Lodge Pub
hosted Sunday by beer writer Lew Bryson (who's doing a beer brunch the
following Sunday).

* Next Friday's "A Tribute to Michael Jackson" at the University of
Pennsylvania Museum.

* The Ladies Beer Tea.

Mr. Russell kicks it off tomorrow night with "Joe Sixpack's Philly
Favorites," a tasting of brews from 22 area brewers at the Marketplace
at East Falls.

Mr. Russell, part of the nonprofit corporation running the 10-day
event, stresses, as does his book, his city's beer diversity, the fact
that nearly 400 taverns in it and its suburbs -- from corner joints to
fancy restaurants -- have impressive and varied beer lists. He says,
"Come to the city and find out yourself."

Philadelphia is a much bigger city and metro area than Pittsburgh, a
seaport, and older ("We've been crafting [beer] for more than 300
years, since the days of William Penn," brags the Philly site.) It is
blessed with several excellent breweries, albeit some are in the
outskirts -- Victory, Dogfish Head. The city itself has only four
brewpubs. That's why, reported the Philadelphia City Paper last week,
New Mexico beer guru Stan Hieronymous gives best beer city edge to
Portland, Ore. But he ranks Philly among the top, with San Francisco.

Though it wasn't and won't yet be mentioned in that tier, I think
Pittsburgh now can hold its own as a great beer city, too.

Maybe someone should organize 'Burgh Beer Week. All it would take is
grouping some of the many events that already happen here regularly --
from Venture Outdoors beer hikes and Cultural Trust "Beer School" to
fests and fundraisers -- then building on those with more and letting
businesses and groups jump on the beerwagon. Perhaps it could be
planned around our beer high holiday: the Pennsylvania Microbrewers
Fest, which will be held for the 13th time at the Penn Brewery on Troy
Hill on June 7 (

Penn Brewery's brick complex is one of the highest landmarks on the
local beer landscape, having been started 20-plus years ago at the
start of the craft beer revolution in the former Eberhardt & Ober
brewery, which is connected to our deep "Iron City" beer-making roots.
Penn beers are among the diverse styles made right here, from Munchner-
style helles to kvass, several of which have brought home medals from
beer competitions around the globe.

Heck, you could organize your own 'Burgh Beer Week, and hold it just
about anytime you wanted. Here are seven days of ideas to get you

Visit a local brewer. On a Thursday (or a Tuesday or a Saturday), a
good one to visit would be East End Brewing Co., a mostly one-man
(Scott Smith) outfit in a nondescript warehouse in Homewood. Three
times a week Mr. Smith props open the door for "growler" hours, during
which he'll fill his $3 glass jug "growlers" with a half-gallon of one
of his handmade draft beers for $10 to $12. Tonight, from 5 to 7 p.m.,
he'll be pouring seven. Get some on your shoes. Shake Scott's hand.

You can meet the brewer at several fine brewpubs: Penn, Rock Bottom in
Homestead, John Harvard's in Wilkins, Rivertowne Pour House (17 house-
made beers!) in Monroeville, Hereford & Hops in Cranberry, and Church
Brew Works in Lawrenceville (more on that one later).

Visit one of our great beer bars. Pittsburgh has dozens, in real
neighborhoods just like Philly's. Start with The Sharp Edge, which, in
addition to its original location in Friendship, has comfy pubs in
Crafton and Sewickley. The Edge is nationally and internationally
noted for one of the best selections of Belgian brews, draft and
bottled, in America.

I love bellying up to the bar at Fat Head's on the South Side because
it always has a remarkable and rotating 42 mostly American craft brews
on tap.

But hey, you find your own favorite watering hole.

Take a beer road trip. Hey, "Philly Beer Week" is including breweries
from the greater region, so Pittsburgh can claim some farther-out beer
destinations, too. Don't miss North Country Brewing Co. in Slippery
Rock, Butler County, and its gorgeous North Woodsy decor (in a 200-
year-old storefront that once sold caskets). A bit farther north in
Crawford County, fill a growler at Sprague Farm & Brew Works, where
friendly Brian and Minnie Sprague make beer in a former dairy barn
(and they'll put you up in the adjacent farmhouse lodge). A bit
farther north and you can visit The Brewerie in Erie's former Union

And speaking of train stations, it is possible to take an Amtrak train
from Pittsburgh to Greensburg, where you can disembark at the gorgeous
train station that also is Red Star Brewery & Grill. According to the
current schedule for the daily Pennsylvanian train, you'd leave
Pittsburgh at about 7 a.m. and get there at about 8 a.m., then head
home at about 7 p.m., but you could make a day of it. You could even
go to and from Johnstown, home of the Johnstown Brewing Co.

If you're able to, venture farther. No beer pilgrimage to this end of
the state would be complete without drinking from "the Eternal Tap,"
which flows freely from the Straub Brewery in St. Marys, Elk County,
one of the country's few independent production breweries (it was
started in 1872 by Peter Straub, who'd started at Pittsburgh's
Eberhardt & Ober). Enjoy a free draft, if you're 21 or older, from 9
a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.)

Go to church. The Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville is a beautiful
brewpub in a former Catholic church. As beer experiences go, it is

Go beer shopping. If you haven't been to one, hit one of the six-pack
and bottle shops that have been popping up. There you can buy one
bottle -- say, of a brew from Meadville's Voodoo Brewery -- to take
home and try. D's in Regent Square is home of the famous "Beer Cave."
Bocktown Beer & Grill in North Fayette has a "Beer Library." Most
offer vast selections and regular free tastings (Wednesdays at
Bocktown, Thursdays at Barley's & Hops in Bethel Park as well as at 3
Sons Dogs and Suds in Pine.)

Or make reservations for a beer dinner, something that more local
restaurants are holding. On March 19, the Bigelow Grill, Downtown,
hosts another of its sell-out vegetarian beer dinners featuring nine
courses each paired with a different East End brew ($50,

Tour a brewery. Pittsburgh Brewing Co. in Lawrenceville is a classic
brick brewery that, despite financial woes, continues to brew a lot of
beer. You still can tour it, too, if you set it up with Bierhaus-bar-
owner-turned-tour-guide Jerry Lorenz (e-mail
He promises a real view of the brewing process, not some sissy behind-
glass peek at computerized bottling lines, and afterward, he'll take
your group of two to 15 back for a free tasting at the Ober Haus
hospitality room (Pittsburgh Brewing was formed from Eberhardt & Ober,
Iron City and some 19 other breweries in 1899, making it the third
largest in the country).

With Alcoa, the brewer pioneered the pull-tab can back in 1962. Smell
the history. And the beer. And ask Jerry about his private beer

City Brewing Co., which operates the former Rolling Rock brewery in
Latrobe, does not offer tours. But you could drive past, and do a
scavenger hunt for the Duquesne, Fort Pitt, Jones and other closed
breweries that dot the region.

By December, we're to get a new one: one of just three German
Hofbrauhaus beer halls in this country.

Join a beer group. The 550-strong Pittsburgh Beer Society is one that
meets on the first Wednesday of each month and holds other fun events.
But there are others, including the similar Pittsburgh BrewMasters,
the bar-crawling Pitt Stops and the Three Rivers Alliance of Serious
Homebrewers (TRASH).

Pittsburgh has so much good beery goodness, I don't have room for all
that I know about, and I'm sure I missed some, too.

That just proves my point.

Certainly we have enough good brew to raise a toast to our big
brotherly city: Best of luck with the first Philly Beer Week!

For a full schedule and more on Philadelphia's event, visit

Re: Philly a better beer-drinking city than Pittsburgh?

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I looked at my "Most Bars" posting. I did
another City Search. City Search has extended the range to 30 miles.

Philadelphia bars = 1257   population 1.5 M

Pittsburgh bars    = 869    population 423 K

Not even close per capita

The old results........

There is one concentration here in Pittsburgh, South Side, with 84
bar/bar-restuarants.within a mile.

OK I did some search on City Search.
City                  bars                         pop

Pittsburgh          200                          423K

Milwaukee          198                          583K

Atlanta               267                         425K

St. Louis            169                        453K

Dallas                248                       904K

NY                    1347                     8M

This is gona look crappy on Google

I'm not going to compute the ratio, but clearly, Milwaukee and St.
Louis are
out of the running. Atlanta looks like the champ amo


Re: Philly a better beer-drinking city than Pittsburgh?

GregS (who obviouly never heard of trimming quoted text):
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   A simple number of bars or bars per capita is completely
insufficient to assess quality of beer-drinking in any city.
You could have a bar per capita someplace like (purely for
the sake of argument) Pittsburgh, but if all they were
pouring was Iron City it'd be a crap place for beer.

Joel Plutchak                   "They're not people, they're HIPPIES!"
$LASTNAME at            - Eric Cartman

Re: Philly a better beer-drinking city than Pittsburgh?

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Depends on your definition of better beer-drinking.
Some just want to get drunk.
Today, when I go out, I get the least alcohol containing
beer they got, and count beers. That would eliminate specialty beers.

I do like Iron City draft. I wish more places had it.


Re: Philly a better beer-drinking city than Pittsburgh?

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   So you can define "better" in any way you want, which
makes the whole issue completely irrelevant.  One could
also define any word any way one desires, which would
make communication completely random or irrelevant.
   Here in the newsgroup I like to
think we start from a point somewhat beyond complete
arbitrariness. So we take the word "better" and assume
it has a quality implications. And since taste is
largely (not completely) a personal matter, I submit
the bottom line for deciding whether any given location
is a "better" beer destination rests upon broadness of
   Or you can be a Beer Barney.

Joel Plutchak                "Beer doesn't stain, if it's a light pilsner."
$LASTNAME at      - Sheldon Miller (This Is Me Smiling)

Re: Philly a better beer-drinking city than Pittsburgh?

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Closeness of the taverns might be considered better.

Here on the South Side, each block has about 4 -5 taverns, bars, or clubs.
A walk around the block having stopped at each one will make you
walk kinda funny. There are 84 in walking distance all in a small area on the
South Side.


Re: Philly a better beer-drinking city than Pittsburgh?

Joel wrote:

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You're new here, aren't you?

Quoted text here. Click to load it

And to some us of, a good part of the equation of the quality of a city
for beer drinking has nothing to do with beer. It has to do just as much
with things like the atmosphere of the bars, the ability to move from
bar-to-bar quickly and efficiently, the ability to find decent beer even
when not heading out specifically to good-beer bars, etc.

For example, LA has a couple places that I'd put up against any of the
most well-known beer bars in the country. But I would not consider it a
good beer-drinking city, because each of them is anywhere from a
half-hour to two-hour drive apart from each other. That hardly makes for
a good evening, even if you discount the factor of driving after drinking.

Whereas New York has a paltry selection of good beer relative to its
size (although it definitely has some very good places). But it's easy,
inexpensive and quick to hit more than one place in a given evening, as
well as find your way home without running the risk of wrapping your car
around a tree. I consider New York a better drinking city than LA.

In both cases, my personal "better" has little to do with the beer.

Labels such as these are good for sparking conversation. And that's
about it.


Re: Philly a better beer-drinking city than Pittsburgh?

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   Bullcrap.  I've been to Philly.  It's OK (assuming by
"Philly" you mean "Philadelphia and the whole surrounding
region), but it isn't a patch on Portland OR for being
a good beer-drinking city.  IMnsHO.

   (Where's Bruels when you need him?)

Joel Plutchak                   "They're not people, they're HIPPIES!"
$LASTNAME at            - Eric Cartman

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