Crystal Schip - embracing the whoops!

Crystal Schip - embracing the whoops!

When you brew BigHop a couple times every week for nearly 10 years, eventually there will be the occasional mis-step.  We had one a couple weeks ago when we accidentally substituted the large percentage of a character malt (Munich) in the grain bill with Crystal 60L Malt.  For those that don't know what that is, Crystal Malt is a specialty malt used to create body and sweetness in a finished beer, as the sugars it brings are largely unfermentable.  In smaller amounts, this sweetness is what provides the balance to the hops in a beer like BigHop or Pedal Pale Ale.

In LARGE amounts like we got with this error, you end up with a thick, malt-bomb of a beer that's pretty out of whack, and kind of useless... that is, unless you step back and consider what you just brewed, and what you might be able to do with it.

2014 is the year we're launching our "Sour Beer" program in earnest.  We've already got 4 wine barrels full of Illustration Ale working with Brettanomyces in our tasting room, and there's plans for a batch of 100% Brettanomyces-fermented BigHop and a Lactobacillis-fermented Berliner Weisse this summer.  This year will also see the long anticipated revisiting our our "Sourdough Kvass".  (Anticipated by ME anyway!)  This is all made possible by the addition of an old dairy tank that we recently added to our fleet.  Having a devoted equipment to handle these funky beers is the best way to avoid cross contamination of these persistent fermenting agents into our "regular" lineup of beers.

So, back to our malt-bomb: The fermenting agents in a funky beer not only love regular fermentable sugars, they also eat the sugars that regular ale yeasts like ours hardly touch... sugars that come from grains like Crystal Malts.  But some of them also hate hops. But luckily we saw the problem early and saw what we could do with this beer while running off the mash.  So we were able to stop and change course to skip the large hop additions that BigHop usually gets.  Our sour beer program just got a swift kick start!

Our seat-of-the-pants-plan was this: Ferment this batch as usual with our house ale yeast, see how it tastes, and if it's the malt-bomb we expect it to be, move it into another tank and start the funky fermentation.  As it turns out, the finished beer is on the sweet side, but not nearly as crazy sweet as we expected it would be.  (Think Scottish/Scotch Ale)   So we're splitting this 20bbl batch in half and taking it down two paths to see where it leads us...

  • Crystal Ship went on tap yesterday at the brewery, and has turned out to be a nice little beer!  Especially for those liking something on the malty side, and almost completely hop-free.
  • Crystal Schip will sit for another 3-6 months on lacto and brett, and we'll see what we get from it.

For the record, that odd spelling of the name is intentional.  Crystal Ship is of course a reference to the accidental ingredient substitution, as well a musical reference.  Crystal Schip is a nod to a "Koolschip", the shallow, open-topped vessel that the Belgians use to cast their fresh wort into, inoculating it with the airborne flora of their region.

There was a third version of this name... and in fact it was the first version we used during the brew day.  We'll keep it at the ready in case things go horribly wrong and we have to dump some of this batch.  But so far, it looks like there will NOT be a beer that we have to refer to as Crystal Shit. (A more obscure musical reference.) So we've got that going for us.

Enjoy the happy accidents!



#PCBW2014 Collaboration Beers: "Steel Valley Saison" and "Rojo Ahumado"

Making beer with another brewery is one of the coolest parts of what we get to do.  It's an opportunity to step back from the day-to-day demands of brewing, share tips, techniques, equipment favorites, war stories, and of course a few beers with our local industry brethren.  It's also a great chance to learn.  And because you've got twice the number of people in the room "helping", it also works out to be a pretty light work day.

For this year's Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, we participated in 2 Collaboration Brews with Jason and Jason from Lavery Brewing in Erie, PA.  We brewed a batch on their system a few weeks ago (3/11/14), and then the next week (3/21), they came to Pittsburgh to brew one here.  I don't think we have settled on the names for either of these beers yet, but I can tell you a little bit about them.

The Lavery Brew is a Hoppy Saison - a farmhouse ale.  It went into a 7bbl single-walled tank on wheels.  This tank has no temperature control, which means that a high-temperature tolerant Belgian yeast strain is probably about the only thing that can be used, if we want the beer to be tasty.  The fact that it's dry-hopped with 1.8# of Styrian Golding PER BARREL pretty much confirms that this will be the case.

We've brewed into a single-walled tank here in the past, usually just with low gravity second runnings beers like "Black Something" and "Bitter End", since the fermentations are brief and not so vigorous.  It's kinda like riding a bike with no hands.

Rojo Ahumado or "Red Smoke" (the beer we brewed at East End Brewing) is a Chili Smoked Amber Ale, with cherry wood smoked malt in the mash, guajillo/chipotle/pasilla/ancho peppers in the mash and the kettle.  And probably a bit more peppers to come in the fermenter or bright tank, if I had to guess.  The smoked malt smells and tastes amazing, and is very different from the german rauch malt we've handled here in the past.  It's a great fit with the peppers... which aside from bringing a little heat, will contribute some incredibly rich smokey, woody flavors.  We brewed a 20bbl batch of this one.

Our plan is to swap some kegs so that we'll be able to have BOTH beers on tap, side by side in our brewery taprooms during #PCBW.  A little of the Lavery brew will make it outside their building too, though not a huge amount, given the smaller batch size.  The East End Batch will be available through our regular distribution channels as Pgh Craft Beer Week approaches, in halves and sixtels with pricing similar to BigHop, maybe a little more.  Hopefully there will be enough for everyone who wants to run this beer,  given the batch size.  Contact the folks at Vecenie Distributing if you'd like to pre-order some of the "EastEnd/Lavery Collaboration Beer", and they'll set some aside for you when it comes in.

Meanwhile, enjoy these photos of us "working" to brew these beers for you...

#FOD: The After-MATH...

#FOD: The After-MATH...

From our social media posts Saturday night...

"Well THAT was nuts! My apologies to everyone who we had to turn away for#FOD tasting... Had no idea we'd see this turnout."

"And THANK YOU ALL for your patience today! We're still picking up the pieces, from what was clearly our busiest day EVER. #FOD "

"So yeah, even with 50 people tasting 12 beers each, that's 600 pours. And we never had less than 100 people in the room ALL DAY. #mathfail"

...and then the tour bus arrived."

You can probably connect the dots and understand that we were completely overwhelmed on Saturday.  Within 15 minutes of opening the door, we realized that we had SIGNIFICANTLY underestimated the crowd we were going to get.  100-150 people in the room for 5+ hours, each expecting 12 poured tasters... that's not really possible in the time and space we had to work with.

We did what we could to push on through, but it was NOT the experience we wanted to give you at the brewery.  I know a lot of you left frustrated, empty handed, empty Growlered.  And I am so VERY SORRY about that.

If we had known it was going to be this busy, we certainly would have set things up differently... spread the tasting stations around, used a set tasting sequence to move the line better, opened up the rest of the building.  But that will have to happen next time.

But it was not all downside.  Thanks to you, we raised $608 for Light of Life, which we will match with another $608 to help people in need, right here in Pittsburgh. (Some of you were kind enough to kick in a couple extra bucks to the cause in the midst of all the craziness, which is awesome!)

So if Saturday was your first time coming to see us, please know that it has NEVER been like that in here before.  And quite frankly, I hope it never will be again.  So do stop in and give us another try.   In fact, we still have all 12 of these #FOD beers here - just not 100% of them on draft... Making this week the perfect time to circle back.  I can guarantee a significantly better beer-to-mayhem ratio for all concerned.

Cheers - Scott


It's time we caught up with you.

It's time we caught up with you.

We're switching our 64oz Growlers over to AMBER glass from CLEAR, and the price of the container is going up a buck.  Want to learn why we're doing this?  Why we didn't do it sooner?  Read on.


At first it was clear...  About 9 years ago, back when we were first getting started, I made the decision to go with CLEAR glass Growlers.  This seemingly simple decision was the result of a long, drawn out series of debates and conversations between myself and anyone around me who cared to listen (so yeah, pretty much just me) ...about the merits of clear versus amber glass Growlers.

As I'm sure you know, clear glass is not exactly an ideal container for beer as it offers zero protection from damaging sunlight.  Maybe you've even heard me say at the brewery that a nice hoppy beer can skunk in a clear Growler in as little as 60 seconds of direct sun.  While it might be hard to imagine direct sunlight in Pittsburgh in late January, it's for real.  (And if you'd like to ruin some beer on a bright sunny day, give it a try.  Pour two pints of BigHop, keep one in the shade, put one in direct sun for a minute. It's really quite remarkable.)

A few years later, we introduced our Growler Koozies to help with problem.  They keep the light off the beer, while keeping it nicely chilled too!  (Again... it's January. Use your imagination.)  But that still doesn't explain the original decision: Why on Earth would I decide that clear glass is the way to go, when everyone knows amber is better for the beer?

Well, there's a few other reasons.  And actually, most of them are all about you...


Fill, drink, rinse, repeat... When we started filling Growlers back in 2005, these containers were still pretty new to the fresh crop of GOOD BEER Fans finding their way to our little spot in Homewood.  People didn't really know how to handle them, and some asked me why I called them Growlers, like I invented them or something.

So we did what we could to educate: I put a big paragraph on the back of the jug offering some handling tips, and we did LOTS of coaching at Growler Hours every week.  And we were thankful for that clear glass, since it's pretty easy to tell if the container we're about to fill... fill with that beer we've spent the last 2-3 weeks making sure is in absolutely tip-top shape...  It's easy to tell if that jug is clean. 

But in spite of our best efforts, we'd still see jugs come in after spending summer in the back seat of a car with 2 tablespoons of leftover beer in the bottom.  Or we'd see "clean" Growlers come back in with black fur growing inside the cap - containers that were never allowed to thoroughly dry after rinsing.  "Go ahead and fill it up.  The beer will kill that."  Umm... not really.  It's kind of the other way around.

But thankfully, it seems those days are gone for good.  While we still see dirty Growlers come in from time to time, these instances are really quite rare.  I'd like to think this as just another sign of how much the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Scene has grown over the years - and we couldn't be more thrilled about the progress!!!


Keeping up with you... Fast forward to today, 9 years after that decision, and 45,000 NEW East End Brewing Growlers later (Aside: mind blown here!), I figured it was time to make the switch to AMBER.  Heck, you've probably been ready for a long time, but we also had a new logo to work in there too.

Sure, it's not as easy to check if the jug is clean before filling (though a good sniff speaks volumes).  It's also a little trickier to tell what's in the jug if it's not marked, or see when it's nearly full when we're putting beer into it for you.  And there is the bigger downside of amber glass costing more than clear.  (Even when you buy 8 pallets at a time and sell them at cost like we do.  These go for $4 a piece, up a buck from the clear jug price.)

 But I keep coming back to this: It's better for the beer.  Every single time, its better for the beer.  Who can argue with that?

Of course, we'll continue to fill, refill, sell, buy-back, and resell our old "vintage" clear glass jugs (at $3 each) while our old stock lasts.  But thanks to you and your downright CULTURED taste in GOOD BEER by the Growler, they won't last very long.  In fact, we're pretty much sold out at the brewery already.

So here's to progress!  As usual, we couldn't have done it without you.  I mean really... 45,000 Growlers filled?  I can't even get my head around that number.  And that's not even counting refills.  Just think of all the packaging we've kept out of the waste and recycling streams!!!  But maybe I'll save that as a separate post for another day.

Thanks everyone!  As usual, you rock.

Cheers - Scott


12 Beers of Christmas... from last month.


 "Vintage" 64oz and Newfangled 32oz.


 "Vintage" and newfangled 64oz.



ALL of your refillable EEBC container options... For now. That 2nd one will soon be scarce.


Festival of Darkness: February 1, 2014

Festival of Darkness: February 1, 2014

As the days get shorter and the darkness starts to take over, we turn thoughts to a similar takeover here at the brewery.  Because nothing goes better with a chilly evening than a bunch of spectacular dark beer.

Not an actual Festival... No funnel cake, games of chance, or carny folk (though, if you are carny folk and like beer, you're certainly welcome).  We're just calling it our Festival of Darkness(TM) when we get convergence of all these black beauties we've been brewing for you, all in the same room, at the same time. 

This year, you can get a taster ALL TWELVE FOD BEERS at once on this day, if you kick $5 in cash towards the collection we're making for the Light of Life Ministries - directly helping local people in need.  (The whole Light-from-Darkness thing was accidental, I swear.)

Here's the full FOD Lineup - Some are standards, some are seasonals, and some are once in a while brews we make when we can or when the mood strikes us.  And at least one is from our deep catalog that haven't seen the light of day (or perhaps, the dark of night) for nearly five years.

Of course, we've got our standard and seasonal dark brews at the ready...

  • Fat Gary Nut Brown Ale
  • Black Strap Stout
  • Snow Melt Winter Ale

Plus, over the last few weeks, we've added...

  • Lord Nordsberry Belgian Ale
  • Illustration Ale (Big Bottles and Draft. More about this beer here.)
  • Homewood Reserve 2013 (Our BlackStrap Stout aged 9 months in Makers Mark Bourbon barrels. Big Bottles only)
  • Toaster Imperial Stout (Our BIG 4th anniversary beer... since its the 5th anniversary of our 4th anniversary. Big Bottles only)
  • Steelcut Oatmeal Stout

Then finally, these very last pieces of this black, black puzzle will all be in place for FOD on the 1st:

  • Eye Opener Coffee Porter (Big Bottles. Draft is already out)
  • Smokestack Heritage Porter (Our Smoked Porter in Big Bottles and Draft)
  • Honey Heather Ale (Draft only. Brewed with honey from the rooftop hives atop our GOOD FRIENDS at The Porch. Draft only... Just kinda black-ish, as it turns out.)
  • Chocolate Covered Cherry Stout  (Draft Only. Belgian Chocolate, American Cocoa Powder, and Michigan Sour Cherries)

We hope to see you here on the First!

Holiday Growler Hours for Christmas and New Years weeks

Holiday Growler Hours for Christmas and New Years weeks

I believe Christmas lands on the 25th this year, and I'm almost positive New Year's Day is January 1st.  So our crew will be briefly stepping away from the kettle and the taps to spend some time with their families.  And their Growlers.

At the Brewery:

  • Dec 22 (Sun) 10-2pm
  • Dec 23 (Mon) CLOSED
  • Dec 24 (Tue) 11-3pm
  • Dec 25 (Wed) CLOSED
  • Dec 26 (Thu) 4-8pm
  • Dec 27 (Fri) 4-8pm
  • Dec 28 (Sat) 12-5pm
  • Dec 29 (Sun) 10-2pm
  • Dec 30 (Mon) CLOSED
  • Dec 31 (Tue) 11-3pm
  • Jan 1 (Wed) CLOSED
  • Jan 2 (Thu) 4-8pm ...regular Growler Hours from here on out.

At the Growler Shop in The Strip District:

  • Dec 23 (Mon) 10-4pm
  • Dec 24 (Tue) 10-2pm
  • Dec 25 (Wed) CLOSED
  • Dec 26 (Thu) 10-4pm
  • Dec 27 (Fri) 10-6pm
  • Dec 28 (Sat) 9-5pm
  • Dec 29 (Sun) 10-4pm
  • Dec 30 (Mon) CLOSED
  • Dec 31 (Tue) 10-4pm
  • Jan 1 (Wed) CLOSED
  • Jan 2 (Thu) 10-4pm ...regular Growler Hours from here on out.

From our house to yours, thank you for making us a part of your holidays, all year long.  Here's to a happy and healthy new year, filled with lots of wonderful surprises!

Cheers - from Scott and the rest of the East End Crew




2013 Illustration Ale has been released!

2013 Illustration Ale has been released!

Last night, we had a fun gathering of about 50 of our GOOD FRIENDS and talented artists down at the Toonseum.  We were releasing the 2013 edition of our Illustration Ale, the beer we brew in collaboration with them, and a six-pack of local illustrators, each contributing a unique label to adorn bottles of this beer.

Wayno, our long-time label co-conspirator and artist about town, did the curation for us once again.  And what a pack of diverse artists he brought to bear on this project!  Here's a bit more about this year's artists from the Toonseum's website.

As I've said before, I find the process of turning complete control of our labels over to a group of total strangers strangely liberating.  And thankfully, the results always blow me away.  When the artwork starts coming in, I feel like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning... but before anyone else is awake yet.


But now you're all awake, and the beer has been released.  So I hope you'll enjoy both the beer and the wonderful label art they carry as much as I do.  If you missed the release festivities last night, fear not.  Bottles with each of the six label designs are in good supply at BOTH our locations.  And like they say, please feel free to collect all six!




The Illustration Ale Class of 2013... Most likely to succeed in being awesome.


The 12 Beers of Christmas

The 12 Beers of Christmas

Woo-hoo!  Our new 32oz Growlers came in earlier than we expected.  That kind of thing NEVER happens around here.  And while we will certainly offer them individually (starting NOW at the Brewery, next weekend at The Shop), I can't help but put something together to celebrate the happy coincidence that they come 12 to a box and we happen to have 12 beers on tap at the brewery.

So from now until Christmas, we'll be offering a 12 Beers of Christmas pack of these awesome little jugs, each filled with one beer from our current lineup.  Pricing it out with the $3 deposit for each jug, the total comes to $122.  But hey, it's the holiday season.  So how about we call it an even $100?

No substitutions please, and this is just for the draft beers at the Brewery location where we have 12 taps.  Here's  the lineup... which may change in the weeks ahead, as some winter brews come on line.  But we'll hold the same price to keep things simple.

Hark on. 


GOOD BEER Shopping Guide

Thanks for thinking of us for your Holiday Shopping needs!  (You WERE thinking of us, right?)  Luckily, we've got some sweet new stuff coming around this year that will be sure to thrill the GOOD BEER Fan in your life.  Check these out:

Spring Keg Ride Tickets are on sale! What's more fun than blindly following a bunch of kegs around on your bike with 600 of your closest friends, waiting for them to be tapped? We put tickets on sale early this year, just for you.  Yes, YOU.

The PERFECT Growler? We're really upping our game here with this one: Stainless steel, double-walled, vacuum insulated, and sporting our brand new brewery logo. In hot weather, this thing keeps beer cold forever.(Shipping just after Christmas.)

The Growlette Okay, I admit it. There are times when I can't power through a 64oz Growler in one sitting, and I'm left with a collection of 1/4 full jugs of mostly flat but otherwise delicious beer in my fridge.  Other times, a 32oz single-serving container is EXACTLY what I'm looking for.  So here you have it - the solution to both problems in one shot!  A 32oz "Growlette", a "mini-Growler", a "Half Growler", or maybe even a "Bark".  We haven't completely decided on the name just yet. (Shipping just after Christmas.)

Other non-beer goodies: We've got a whole new shiny new webstore, packed to the rafters with plenty of new T-shirt designs, GOOD BEER Gear, and East End Brewing GiftCards... so you can even buy somebody some BEER from here on your screen.

And hey, if you're more about coming to see us to shop and taste IN-PERSON, we've got some Extended GrowlerHours Thanksgiving week at the Brewery to help with that too. 

Thanks again for making us a part of your holidays.  Hope to see you soon!

Hey lookit... new website!

Hey lookit... new website!

It's been a long time coming, with probably half a dozen runs at it, but now we've finally got it up and running.  Better look and feel, simple and well thought out design, organized to meet our needs (YOUR needs actually), a bunch of of fresh new content, integration with social media, and a killer new webstore with a bunch of new stuff.  Heck, we even tucked our new brewery logo in there!

Who helped do all this?  Jeff Bearer, half of CraftBeerRadio... He did the website.  And the logo, that's the excellent work of the folks at the awesome Commonwealth Press.  I can't praise either of them enough for having the patience to work with a scatterbrain like me, easily distracted by any shiny object tha..... Oh! Would you look at that!!!

So where was I?  Oh, so anyway, have a look around.  There's still a little redding up to do here and there, and a little thin on blog content at the moment.  But fear not.  That won't last long with a blabbermouth like me.

And yes, that's a picture of our new used box truck.




Not our typical week....

Not our typical week....

Last week was a bit of a whirlwind here, and certainly eventful.  And quite photogenic as it turns out.  So I thought I'd share some highlights.