This brewery was hard for me to find. It’s about a 30-minute drive East of Pittsburgh on a twisty road that the locals go very fast on. It was dark and I was already stressed out from the drive and the GPS kept telling me I’d arrived but all I could see was a used car lot. I finally saw this tiny sign high up on a light pole that pointed me down a driveway where I saw a warehouse with a great big sign that said Full Pint on it.
The bright lights on the car lot kept what was behind the lot dark and the Full Pint sign wasn’t lighted plus the road is crazy busy with traffic and there was no good way to keep turning around to look for the place. Here’s a tip if this is your first time out to the brewery – if you’re heading East and you see Rivertowne on the right, then you’ve gone too far. Pull into the restaurant and turn around, look for the liquor store across the street and turn into the driveway next to it and go up the ramp to the brewery.
At any rate, I found it and I was one of about five people who came in that night (a Tuesday) which made it worth the trip since I basically had one of the owners (they invest money in exchange for shares) all to myself talking about the place all night. He even gave me a private tour! If one-on-one geeking out isn’t your style, they fire up the pizza oven on weekends (and Thursday nights if you email ahead) and get a pretty good crowd in the place. They take yeast out of the fermenter to make the pizza crust. I like the way the place is set up. They have tables and a bar with taps behind it and a little spot to the side where they have merchandise for sale. They build six packs for you to go as well.
They brewed 5,000 barrels in 2012 which is the most after Penn Brewery in Pittsburgh. They distribute to west Florida (lots of Steelers bars there) and they are going into Ohio this year. Their Rye is doing well in Philly. Here are the beers I tried in the order the bartender suggested.
All in amber – very approachable and the first beer they ever brewed. They’ve been brewing three years at this location and four of the five original brewers are still here. That came up as the story behind the name of the beer – all the brewers contributed to and agreed on this recipe.
Festivus – I visited in January of 2013 so this brown Christmas ale with vanilla, cinnamon, and mace (nutmeg shell) was still available. It’s their third best seller (a very close third) and they only sell it two months out of the year. I brought one back home with me and am aging it to try at Christmas this year.
White Lightning – unfiltered, Belgian white ale. I don’t know how many of you remember Celis White which is now owned by Miller and brewed in Michigan, but this beer tastes like what I remember Celis White tasting like. Peter Celis chose Austin, Texas, as the place to brew because the water in Austin is apparently similar to the water in Hoegaarden. Celis White is the domestic counterpart of Hoegaarden White. Hoegaarden is the original recipe that Peter Celis learned how to make at the Hoegaarden Brewery in Belgium. The story goes that Peter was a young apprentice at the brewery when it was closed down. With the recipe in hand, Peter began brewing the beer and distributing it to the neighbors. As his business grew, the brewery was able to open once again.
They are used to this beer being compared to Blue Moon though. Look close at the White Lightning label. That’s one of the brewers throwing a lightning bolt through a Blue Moon. They design all their labels and have different things hidden in each one. If there’s a person on the label, they’ve been modeled after someone affiliated with the brewery.
Rumpelpilsen – I taste a lot of pepper in this though they don’t claim it as an ingredient. This is their lowest seller but it is amazing and a favorite of visiting brewers. That’s one of the brewer’s on this label and his dad is on the Hobnobber label.
Hobnobber – This beer was a marketing disaster. The idea was to release it as a series using the same malt and a different hop. So, a session (low ABV) and a smash beer (one malt, one hop) both. So what happened? Well, the Simcoe hop version was VERY popular and people got upset when the beer didn’t taste the same once it used a different hop. People just didn’t understand what the brewery was trying to do with the brew. After the disaster, Full Pint realized they needed to be able to duplicate it for the market. I got to try the first attempt at this new approach out of the tap and then he brought me a taste of the new batch out of the tank to compare (I told you, star treatment!). This is a well-balanced beer and I think people will be happy with it.
Read on to see that this concept of brewing the same beer the same way every time is something the brewers are just now getting on board with. They have such a good time tweaking the recipes and quite frankly disagreeing with one another on what the beer should taste like that they struggle with consistency. I’m not sure that loses a fan like me so long as I know that’s what’s happening but again, it’s proving tough to ‘market’ that approach.
Tri PA – Don’t let the name fool you, it’s a double IPA. One that opted to balance the hops with sweet coming over from the malts and I’m not a huge fan of that approach. But it does the job and hides the alcohol (10%) well. It didn’t take long to feel it sneak up on me. I was either drunk by now or the sweet faded as it warmed up in the glass and sat on my palate. It’s over 200 IBUs! By the way, the name came about because they blended three batches together. How in the hell do you duplicate that over time?! Seems like a lot of effort, but there’s no doubt these brewers are working very hard to make the best beer possible and I’ll drink to that every single time.
Night of the Living Stout – called a West coast stout and it sits at 110 IBUs! This one, they say, they hit exactly on the first try. In fact, they haven’t changed the recipe since the first batch (first time that’s happened). And this one is awesome! Definitely my favorite. Not the pandering stout that most people do – there’s not a chocolate or a coffee flavor in the glass.
Chinookie – 25% of their total sales – and you guessed it, they redid the recipe. This batch smells amazing! Other ladies like roses, but give me a 12-pack of this instead. If you didn’t like Chinookie in 2012, then you need to try it again. This is not a double but I’d put it up against one in terms of flavor.
Nerd’s Reserve – I didn’t get to try any but this is what they call it when one of the 4 brewers gets to make their own beer.