Rock Bottom – Pittsburgh, PA


I’ve been to enough Rock Bottom breweries to know that this is not your typical chain brewery. I’ve never had the same sampler twice at RB like you get at places like Gordon Biersch or BJ’s Brewhouse. I visited the Rock Bottom in Pittsburgh in February which means that I had to drive through snow and traffic to get there. That was pretty terrifying but I figured with all those cars on the road I was probably just being a pussy so I sucked it up and white-knuckled my way there. In retrospect, I think the ice in the parking lot was the most dangerous part of the trip.

For my trouble, I was rewarded with a great bartender and friendly conversation with locals at the bar. It was one of those with an ice tray down the middle. Not as cool when it’s already 18 degrees and snowing outside but it’s still a neat gimmick I think. I also like picnic tables with ice troughs built into them. They didn’t have any of those.

Kolsch – I really like this style for a light beer. Great start to a 10-beer sampler.

Belgian White – this is also decent. A good rep of the style. Good palette builder. No complaints.

And this is where I continue to take issue with the whole concept of serving beers by color. I guess it’s just easier for the servers to remember it that way? Why in the hell would you serve an IPA next in the lineup when there are quite a few malts left to get through?

Here’s the order I did them in:

Red – Good caramel. What I want a red to be. I can appreciate how a chain brews consistent beers. No risks taken here but these are their 5 signature beers. Sits at 5.7%, and you could drink this all night.

High-level Brown – It’s got a nice sour aftertaste that comes from the taste of burnt or caramelized malts. This was a great follow up to the red.

Christmas Curmudgeon – not bad at all. In fact, better than most in the execution of cinnamon. Really easy to drink. Nice spice that stays on the nose.

As for food, I ordered the Bourbonzola burger. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like bleu cheese so I’ve never bothered to pay attention to other names it might go by. Gorgonzola is apparently a bleu cheese. This burger was surprisingly good. I’ve since been eating soups and dips even when people say there’s blue cheese in them. But I refuse to eat hot wings with bleu cheese. That’s just wrong.

At this point, I took the time to write down that I like that the beer styles presented at Rock Bottom are distinct enough that it leaves no question as to what you’re drinking – White, Red, IPA, etc. I appreciate truth in labeling. This fits in very well with my impression of the beer culture in Pittsburgh. They’re very malty up here and seem satisfied to drink a really good interpretation of a German beer (I’m remembering Penn Brewery). People like Church Brew Works are experimenting but I suspect their best sellers are still the classic malt styles. What I’m trying to say is that it was kind of poignant that a historical city would make a craft beer drinker appreciate going back to our roots as an American beer culture.

IPA – nothing special but ok for the style.

Double Down IPA – 10% – very smooth. Love this beer. The fact that my notes are so short at this point of the night is an indication that I was talking (and let’s face it, flirting) with some of the most friendly strangers I’d met in all the weeks I traveled and worked in Pittsburgh. Maybe it was just the part of town? It’s across the river from Heinz Field so maybe this part of town is just friendlier? The only group that beat the crowd here was The Pittsburgh Beer Ladies. I attended one of their socials at Carson Street Deli when I was in town. Great group of gals that I miss terribly now that I’m back in Houston.

Brakeman’s Breakfast Stout – lots of coffee. I didn’t catch the maple syrup they advertised in the description. Might have just been too cold from sitting on the ice bar. In fact, I’m sure of it. Should have pulled it off the bar but I drank it too fast. I have no regrets.

Neh Notta Nib Porter – No nitro head but it’s not an embarrassment of a beer. It has some depth. A bit thin on the mouthfeel for me. I think the brown could follow this so it’s not one to feel like you have to finish with just because it’s called a porter. And this is where I second guess myself on where I put porters and stouts in the line-up of samplers. I will usually do the IPA’s in the middle and leave the porters and stouts for last. I think it’s mostly because I get impatient and I REALLY want an IPA as soon as possible. Samplers that only give me one or two IPA’s test my patience. Maybe I just need to start building my own samplers and leave the malts out of my review.

Barley Wine – This is good too. Everything has been solid here. Not the high alcohol notes I expect from this style (no complaints here!), and it’s still at 10% ABV. This one would sneak up on you and fuck your virgin daughter.

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