Love (and Beer) in the Time of Coronavirus

How To Support Craft Beer while Social Distancing

David Waruszewski of Shaler stocks up from Grist House bartender Jami Spatta.

David Waruszewski of Shaler stocks up from Grist House bartender Jami Spatta.

Wine and liquor stores are closed across Pennsylvania, but Governor Tom Wolf included beer distributors as “life-sustaining.” Craft breweries are no exception. In my neighborhood, Millvale, people can purchase four-packs to go or fills of new growlers at Grist House’s outdoor trailer, and Strange Roots Experimental Ales has curbside pick-up for bottles, cans, new growlers, and food. My girlfriend and I recreated much of our typical Friday bar-hop, all while staying safe and sanitary.

Two Cans, Two Bottles, and a Pup

We began at Grist House, where people and a brewer’s dog, Gracie, were lined up at the trailer. All stayed six feet from one another. Canines are normally ubiquitous at Grist House, so Gracie, a golden retriever, was a welcome sight.

Bartender Jami Spatta wore latex gloves and a smile. One could pay with cash or card, and two giant bottles of hand sanitizer were available for patrons after purchase. We bought two $5 cans.

It may look closed, but the Strange Roots' staff is inside, ready to carry beer to your car.

It may look closed, but the Strange Roots’ staff is inside, ready to carry beer to your car.

Next was Strange Roots, where patrons order online. I called when I arrived and Santana, who also wore gloves and a smile, brought my two bottles, each $9.75, in a brown bag and placed them on an outdoor table. I walked, but had I come by car, she would have placed them in my trunk.

Dinner and a Concert

Homemade shrimp alfredo and craft beer make for a lovely dinner.

Homemade shrimp alfredo and craft beer make for a lovely dinner.

At our apartment, we made shrimp alfredo pasta with mushrooms and foraged wild garlic. (Foraging is just for fun; I pray it stays that way.) Grist House rotates cans, and that week, it released Mad House Volume 1 (7.4% ABV) and Alien Champagne (4.5% ABV). 

The former was a collaborative New England IPA with Mad Mex restaurants. It was our favorite of the two, perhaps because its light citrus flavor paired well with the creamy alfredo sauce. The Southern Star, Moutere, Southern Passion, and Rakau hops gave it an initial mild citrus taste with a bitter finish. Its hue was an opaque gold. The Alien Champagne was an amber-bodied sour that tasted pleasantly of grapefruit.

Grist House plus Mad Mex equals Mad House: one tasty beer.

Grist House plus Mad Mex equals Mad House: one tasty beer.

We migrated to the living room, where the accommodations—a couch from Levin Furniture and some throw pillows—were most comfortable. Our Strange Roots bottles were Infinite Hibernation 2020 (13.4% ABV) and Ragnarok (8.8% ABV), which is the Norse word for “end of the world.”

Infinite Hibernation 2020, an ale brewed with crystal malts and Belgian candy sugar, was fermented in maple syrup bourbon barrels with Pennsylvania yeast. Smooth, boozy, and just sweet enough. Ragnarok, an ale fermented with elderberries, black currants, red raspberries, and black cherry juice, was a dark sour with some smokey elements.

Via the Roku, we watched Ben Gibbard, who canceled his upcoming solo tour, stream a concert from his home onto YouTube. These daily concerts are partly to raise awareness of organizations helping those in need in Gibbard’s native Seattle. He debuted a new song (“Life in Quarantine”) and ended with “Brand New Colony,” a Postal Service cut, which my lady friend knew every word to. It was all equally memorable, if not more so, than when we saw Death Cab for Cutie last summer. A lovely end to a difficult week.

How (and Why) To Pursue Your Brew

A friend bought me a Strange Roots tulip glass this year. Perfect for recreating a night at the actual brewery.

A friend bought me a Strange Roots tulip glass this year. Perfect for recreating a night at the actual brewery.

Grist House offers can and keg delivery within five miles of its Millvale location and to-go sales from its future production facility in Collier. As of this writing, it’s working on online ordering options. Patrons can pick-up beer and grub at Strange Roots’ Gibsonia location too.

“Response from customers has been great,” Brian Eaton, co-founder of Grist House, said. “Being able to do sales and people coming out to support that, either purchasing to go or through delivery now, is going to help a lot of businesses like ours to stay afloat during these times.”

Strange Roots’ founder Dennis Hock also appreciated customers’ support. “I can’t thank them enough for being so considerate to include us in their purchases, especially while money is pretty much tight for everybody with this going on,” he said. “I am so thankful that I have customers like that.”

Like all craft breweries during non-pandemic times, brews go in and out of stock, so if your favorite brewery is open, always check what’s available and what can-releases are upcoming. (And please stay home if you’re sick.) Finally, watch for adjusted hours and specific instructions, so you’ll have no hang-ups in pursuit of your life-sustaining libations.

Ben Gibbard serenades us over drinks.

Ben Gibbard serenades us over drinks.

Grist House
10 E. Sherman St.
Millvale
(412) 212-3179

301 Sgt. Messerschmidt Rd.
Oakdale

Sunday thru Saturday: noon-8 p.m.

Strange Roots Experimental Ales
501 E. Ohio St.
Millvale
(915) 209-5105

Thursday thru Friday: 3-7 p.m.
Saturday: noon-4 p.m.

4399 Gibsonia Rd.
Gibsonia
(412) 453-6255

Thursday thru Friday: noon-4 p.m.