Pennsylvania produced more craft beer than any other state last year, coming in with over 4.07 million gallons, according to the Brewers Association — and Pittsburgh was likely a large contributor. Although the Steel City’s reputation may be based largely around Primanti’s sandwiches, football and, well, steel, the city has a beer scene that’s only getting bigger and better. It now includes everything from well-established and award-winning breweries to newcomers set to make their debut next year, such as War Streets Brewery on the North Side and Allegheny City Brewing in Deustchtown. As winter creeps in, the city’s breweries are once again putting out their winter seasonals for a perfect pick-me-up on a cold night. Here are five of the best.
Penn Brewery’s St. Nikolaus Bock
800 Vinial St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Penn Brewery has been around since 1986 and has emerged as one of the city’s best, having won 19 Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup medals. Their award-winning winter seasonal is the St. Nikolaus Bock and St. Nikolaus Bock Brewers’ Reserve, a European-style rich, dark, malty lager with notes of chocolate which won a silver medal in 2011 from the Great American Beer Festival. The regular Bock is available from November until January, while the Brewers’ Reserve is available in November and December. If you’re looking for more of a spiced flavor in your beer, Penn Brewery also offers Nut Roll Ale with cinnamon and vanilla, also available November through January.
The Church Brew Works’ Christmas Ale
3525 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Brewing since 1999, Church Brew Works is housed in the restored St. John’s church in Lawrenceville, with a decor that remains faithful to the brewery’s pious roots featuring pew-like seating and the brew house taking the place of the church’s altar, plus their slogan, “and on the eighth day, man created beer.” Its various beers have won nearly 30 awards over the years. Their winter offering is the Belgian-style Christmas ale, featuring a mixture of flavors from ginger, cloves, and orange peel to toffee, chocolate, caramel and raisin. Church Brew Works’ Christmas Ale is available to enjoy now.
Full Pint Brewing’s Festivus
1963 Lincoln Highway
North Versailles, PA 15137
One of the relatively new breweries in town, Full Pint has been at it for about five years and has been gaining popularity since — and some awards, too. And although it was “Seinfeld” who first gave us Festivus, the winter holiday “for the rest of us,” it’s Full Pint that’s given us a beer to go along with it. Described by the brewery itself as “a holiday ale for the non-conformist” and “the perfect beer to ‘air your grievances’ over,” Festivus is a mildly spiced brown ale. It’s available now, just in time to stock up for your own Festivus celebrations.
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East End Brewing Co.’s Snow Melt
147 Julius St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
East End Brewing Co. has been offering their own beer to Pittsburgh since 2004, with about 35 different beers every year distributed to bars and restaurants around the city. Their winter seasonal, Snow Melt, is available about as long as Pittsburgh winters can really last — from November until April. And in their owns words, the malty, deep-red ale is “best used for frost removal, holiday toasting, and guaranteed to clear the fog off your glasses.” And if you visit their brewery, you can take Snow Melt one step further by getting it nitrogenated.
Voodoo Brewery’s Big Black Voodoo Daddy
205 E. 9th Ave.
Homestead, PA 15120
Voodoo’s pub and distribution center just opened in Homestead earlier this year, along with the brewery’s Foodoo food truck which makes its way around the city. Voodoo’s beers have become local favorites as well as award-winners, and they feature two winter seasonals. The first is Big Black Voodoo Daddy, a Russian Imperial Stout with notes of chocolate, vanilla, roasted coffee and dark fruits. For something creamier, plus with more chocolate flavors, go for the Cowbell, a double-chocolate oatmeal milk imperial stout served on nitro to not only enhance its flavors but also to give it a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.
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Janelle Sheetz is a 20-something closed-captioner by day, writer by night, just outside of Pittsburgh. She also regularly contributes to AXS.com and Examiner.com, and her writing has also been featured on The Billfold and Neutrons Protons.