Tastes of Big Pour 2012
*** We at eatPGH.com see the value in providing the fine folks of Pittsburgh plenty of voices when it comes to reviewing the foodie fare around town. We graciously allow those with equally temperamental taste buds such as ours to post their enthusiastic comments and yes, sometimes-enthusiastic critiques, using eatPGH as their megaphone. We know, we know… how kind of us! This post was brought to you by Lucky Guest Blogger, Chris Daley. He’s a cereal enthusiast and the lead singer of local band Mace Ballard. When he isn’t writing songs or swooning crowds, he enjoys eating snacks, making snacks, and talking about snacks. Follow him on Twitter @thatchrisdaley for hilarious insight on music, hockey, extremely amateur gardening, and longwinded nonsensical hashtags.
We’ve heard a lot about the Steel City Big Pour the last couple of years, but mostly it involved the phrase “sold out.” So, when my wife and I had a chance to attend the 2012 installment, it was game on.
Construction Junction, a mecca for reclaimed building materials and inspiring reuse and sustainability may seem like an unlikely venue for an event like the Big Pour, which boasts 43 craft brewers, 24 food vendors, live music, raffles, crafts, and art. But it makes sense that Big Pour would be their annual fundraiser. Nothing makes a home improvement project easier than a cold beer and a warm snack.
From vegan specialties to meaty adventures, pale ales to pumpkin beers (more on this later), Big Pour requires an open mind, empty stomach, and designated driver.
We walked in to aromas battling for our attention, as the staff bestowed necessary supplies upon us. Lanyards are a popular giveaway at community events, which makes sense because when someone hands me a lanyard I feel the instant urge to give it away. But at the Big Pour, these magical promotional mementos hold the key to happiness: Your tasting glass.
While sampling delicious treats, becoming familiar with craft beers and useful crafts, and running into old friends at every turn, the ability to have “hands-free” beer sampling is a necessary revolution in lanyard technology.
T.R.A.S.H. Home Brewers
Faced with an overwhelming amount of options, we started with a friend’s suggestion to begin at a brew station run by the Three Rivers Alliance for Homebrewing. Four beers were on tap along with a sign that says “we change beers every hour.” In a panic to not miss out on their take on fall flavors, I requested an autumn-spiced ale. With visible spices floating atop the day’s first taste, it was quickly evident that the earthy flavored and even bodied beverage was created with care and precision.
We frequent Piper’s Pub once a week since it has some of the best fare in the South Side, yet have never tried their Scottish staple: bangers and mash. It’s the ultimate comfort food, creamy mashed red potatoes with a garlic hint that are as good as any grandma has ever made. The bangers are more substantial than most sausages with a hearty flavor and firm casing, all brought together by a house-made gravy full on flavor but doesn’t feel heavy.
Tana Ethiopian Cuisine
Tana, an Ethiopian restaurant in East Liberty, has been one of those restaurants we’ve been meaning to get to. Two generous strips of injera, the crepe-like backdrop that soaks up flavors to maximum capacity, were topped with two types of lentils. The spicy lentil was my favorite, mainly because the heat seemed to be time released, allowing the savory flavors a chance to make themselves known.
All of the eating and drinking began to make us feel creative, this is great news at Big Pour because art and crafting stations are situated throughout. We stopped at an outdoor tent to make coasters out of plaster tiles and old library books, magazines and comics. How perfect! Where else will put these souvenir-tasting glasses? Sponsored and operated by the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, we got a crash course in DIY decorating, perfect for us newcomers to home décor.
Pumpkin is an essential fall flavor, and the one style of beer I wanted to be sure to find. Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale evoked piles of fallen leaves, hoodies, and early sunsets with their version of pumpkin ale. By far my favorite beer of the day, the pumpkin is prominent without being too sweet, and to top it off, its 8% alcohol.
We chose the Fire-in-the-Hole burger, layered with jalapenos and the world’s greatest condiment: Sricha. Although served as a half, this juicy burger is a two-hands situation, that lanyard glass caddy was earning its keep.
Strategically located close to the BRGR station was Point Brugge, serving its signature Brugge Frites. I’ve always thought that Point Brugge has accidentally committed a Pittsburgh faux pas – serving a fry that did not require ketchup. But these delicious twice baked potato creations with a refined salt and the perfect amount of crisp required no such distraction.
I picked up an unsuspecting crostini, before hearing the description from the Cure attendants, who eloquently described the crispy starch topped with a tangy mustard and a pate made of liver and heart. I cued my inner Andrew Zimmern and gave it a go for my first taste of heart, trying to suppress thoughts of how this story played out in Season 2 of True Blood. The organ meat had a distinct taste of iron, something that is probably an acquired taste, but fits with the day’s theme of using all available parts.
Copper Kettle Brewing Company
If the other brews we tasted throughout the day were punctuation points, the Cucumber Wheat was an exclamation. Copper Kettle’s cuc-creation tied for the winner of “Best of the Fest” for day 1 and I can see why. Cucumber isn’t a flavor typically involved in craft beer, but maybe it should be, the cucumber taste was a refreshing accent to its light hoppy-ness.
Big Pour is a Zero Waste event, with teams of responsible recyclers at the ready, and I have to say it felt like zero of our time was wasted either. Most of the tastes were spot on, and there were tons of opportunities to broaden your food, brew, or even artistic horizons.
So if you appreciate what Construction Junction does, and want to enjoy 3 hours of having the city’s best restaurants and regional breweries within walking distance of one another, then don’t miss next year’s Big Pour, it will sell out.