Tuesday, May 31, 2005


I'm not a drinker. Never have been. That is, until I went to Paris back in 2004. Even though I had never had a drink up until that point, I decided that when I was in France, I would try to learn to like wine. Red wine, in particular. I figured that white stuff was for wussies, and I had to go whole hog.

So, nearly every day of my 11 day trip, I bought a glass of wine with dinner. Every day, I forced it down. It wasn't until the very last day or two, that I started to think "Hey, this stuff isn't the worst ingestible substance known to man." I began to suspect, even, that wine had some redeeming tasty qualities.

So, every once in a while, I try a wine or two, to try to learn and understand the tastes. My mind has also started entertaining the notion of trying to like beer.

About 9 months ago, at a school party (A "TG"), I tried a fancy clear German wheat beer, which was mostly tasteless, but extraordinarily fizzy. I had a few sips, and never looked back. About 6 months ago, I was in Frederick, MD, and I had half of a glass of Blue Moon beer, which is also a clear wheat beer. It was also fairly tasteless, and extremely fizzy. The Blue Moon, however, provided an extremely pleasant aftertaste whenever I burped. I would try it again.

I went beerless, and mostly wineless, for the next 6 months, until last week, when I went to Pittsburgh's Church Brew Works for dinner. We decided that both of us need to expand our beer-horizons, so we ordered their beer sampler tray, which gives you about one glass's worth total of 5 different beers.

I've always loved the Church Brew Works' food and ambiance, and in Pittsburgh, it's the place I end up taking people who I want to impress. The food is some sort of fusion of Asian, Greek, Pizzaria, and Polish Pierogie cuisine, which ends up being pretty tasty, and moderately priced. The atmosphere is mind-boggling. The restaurant is an old Catholic church, which has had its altar gutted and replaced with beer brewing equipment, and has had tables put between its pews. The men's bathroom is located up near the front of the restaurant, forcing you to walk in front of the altar. Every time that I pass it, the Good Catholic in me tells me I have to genuflect to the beer brewing equipment. It's a wonderful feeling.

I love the place so much, I tried to convince the owner to rent the place to run the PittStop Lindy Exchange last year, although they declined.

This was the first time I've ever had their beer. What I've learned is this:

Celebration de Mayo: A "special" this week. It had this lovely peanutty/creamy atertaste, which was to die for. After much discussion with the floor manager and the waiter, we came to believe that this was due to the presence of "Caramel Malt" in the beer.

Celestial Gold: A lightly-colored beer. It finishes with the same peanutty/creamy aftertaste of the Celebration de Mayo. It is also regularly on the menu. As a result, I highly recommend it.

Pipe Organ Pale Ale: This beer wasn't bad, but it did not sing to me, so I'd recommend passing it for the other offerings.

Pious Monk Dunkel: This beer seems to appear in a sauce used to garnish many of their desserts. It was better than the Pipe Organ Pale Ale, but it also did not sing to me.

Blast Furnace Stout: My friend tasted this beer, and she immediately declared it unfit for human consumption. References to "mud" and "sludge" came falling from her mouth. It was very impressive. My reaction, however, was quite different. I found this extremely dark beer, apparently made with oats, to have quite a complex set of flavors, remeniscent of coffee. I would order this beer by itself, as its strength completely overpowered and clashed with the food. Eventually, I convinced my friend to retaste this one after tasting all the others, and she found it much less offensive the second time around, but I suspect that she still did not like it very much. This Blast Furnace Stout won a Gold Medal in the Oatmeal Stout Category of the 1999 Great American Beer Festival, and although I do not have enough understanding to judge by, I think I can fathom why.

I ended up drinking probably 3/4 a glass of beer in total, and my friend 1/4. At the end of the meal, both my friend and I had a bit of a headache, and I wonder if it was related to the alcohol consumption (especially since it was a low dosage), or if it was just a random occurance. I'll have to go back and experiment again sometime in the future. Perhaps I'll build up a tolerance.

By the way, if you find yourself near Pittsburgh, do yourself a favor and visit Church Brew Works: http://www.churchbrew.com/

Well, this is interesting. I did a blog search for barista training and found your site. When I get some time I'll come back and find out where barista training appears and how it relates - if it even does. Take care - nice work.
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