Three labels produced at a small Pittsburgh brewery will take on their European forefathers in a tasting war at a McMurray pub next week as part of the 2nd annual Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, a event design to celebrate small businesses that produce flavorful, trendy brews in limited supply.
Penn Brewery will enter two of its wheat beers and a lager against similarly produced suds in Europe in what it is billed as the World War of Beers from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Sharp Edge Brasserie on Route 19 as the craft beer market continues to grow at record levels, cutting further into big U.S. brewery profits.
Import beers are feeling the pinch, too, but “they are the roots of what is going on now,” said Brett McMahan, cellarman for Sharp Edge restaurants.
Craft breweries are small, independent businesses whose owners honor tradition while also experimenting on some varieties by adding such innovative ingredients as beets, cucumbers, flowers, chocolate or honey. A brewer also qualifies in the craft trade by brewing less that 6 million barrels a year.
The first Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week pumped $3 million into the local economy last year, according to the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Alliance. This year’s event is scheduled for April 19-27.
Pittsburghers are particularly fond of craft beer as 10 percent of the region’s beer sales in 2011 involved craft beer purchases, two percent higher than the nation average that year. For the first time, craft beer sales made up 10.2 percent of all beer sales in the United States last year, according to figures released by the Brewers Association.
The total barrels produced by these breweries also rose from 11.5 million in 2011 to 13.2 million last year. Meanwhile, there now are more microbreweries in the country than there were before the Prohibition.
A lot of people are to going to craft beers because of the growing “buy local, buy fresh” movement, McMahan said.
“It tends to appeal to the younger crowd,” he said.
The purpose of the beer war, he said, is to demonstrate to customers how craft beers draw their inspiration from much older brews from Europe.
One of the beers taking the challenge in Spaten Lager.
It’s light and refreshing, tasting like a better version of Stoney’s for those drinkers familiar with the beer once made in Smithton by a brewer who also produced actress Shirley Jones.
“It’s drinkable, that’s for sure,” said a bartender at Sharp Edge.
Check with your local Giant Eagle store because some of them have begun to schedule tastings as part of the 10-day celebration of craft beer.
Meanwhile, Main Street Brew House at 250 S. Main St., Washington, will hold samplings of Brooklyn Monster Ale barrels produced in 2011 and 2012 from 7 to 10 p.m. April 25, hosted by a beer representative.
Brewer: Spaten Munchen, Munich, Germany
Color: Light gold
Flavor: Soft hoppy
Alcohol by volume: 5.2%
Original gravity: 11.7%
Bitterness (IBU’s): 21
Scott Beveridge is a staff writer, columnist and blogger for the Observer-Reporter. Find him on Twitter and on Facebook.