Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

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Day-to-day with a hip issue over the weekend, Yoenis Cespedes should be in the starling lineup on Monday.

Headlines

The walking wounded: Somehow, the Mets managed to take two out of three in Miami despite not having their starting first baseman, third baseman, catcher, center fielder, along with their backup center fielder being removed (Lagares with a bruised thumb). Better news is on the way, with D’Arnaud starting his rehab assignment, and Cespedes likely ready for Monday’s action.

20/20 hindsight looks good so far: Pittsburgh native, Neil Walker goes up against his trade return, Jonathan Niese on Monday. Thus far, the trade looks pretty spectacular for the Mets, with Walker’s WAR of 1.7 easily outpacing Niese’s -0.2 total on the year.

Flo Rida: Amidst rampant speculation that the Mets will be in the market for an upgrade at third base with David Wright out for an extended period, Wilmer Flores’ bat finally woke up this past weekend. Flores went 5-12 for the series with a pair of walks and three runs scored. A bit of sustained success at the plate would certainly help to quiet rumors of the need for reinforcements.

Know Your Foe

We had the pleasure of spending some time talking with Jason of Breaking Brews, dare I say, the best place you can go for your beer news, reviews, and happenings in Pittsburgh.

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Curiously, Pittsburgh breweries don’t get much distribution along the East Coast, so I’m fairly unfamiliar with the city’s offerings. Where would I need to head first as a thirsty tourist in the Steel City?

While we only have a few breweries packaging in bottles and cans for distribution outside of Pittsburgh, there is an incredible presence of solid beer being produced in the Steel City. We are rapidly approaching nearly 50 operating breweries across the region of varying sizes, all committed to pouring quality liquid into your glass. If you’re in town and want to go straight to the source, just a few of the great spots to hit include Spoonwood Brewing, The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company, Grist House Craft Brewery, Roundabout Brewery, Voodoo’s Pub in Homestead, Full Pint Brewing, the taproom at Rivertowne Brewing or any of their restaurants across town, Insurrection AleWorks, and East End Brewing. Honestly, it’s hard to name them all and hard to go wrong hitting any of the craft breweries in our region. To get a true taste of what the Pittsburgh scene has to offer all under one roof, stop into places like The Independent Brewing Company, Carson Street Deli and Craft Beer Bar, and Pig Iron Public House…all three have a strong dedication to pouring beers born in Pittsburgh.

The distribution laws in Pennsylvania are kind of crazy (12 packs just became legal to sell last year, for goodness sake). Does this end up helping or hurting craft beer in your neck of the woods?

I remember stocking up on Saturday for football Sundays when the law said you couldn’t purchase beer on Sunday unless you were willing to drop insane amounts of money on a six-pack directly from a bar. However, that was nearly 15 years ago and things have thankfully progressed. As I mentioned before, we’ve got close to 50 local breweries, spots like Hal’s Bottle Shop and 99 Bottles that are committed to carrying a large variety AND getting their hands on rare beer, and even the grocery stores are able to sell beer now. The laws really don’t hurt us as craft beer enthusiasts. If we want beer, we’ll get our hands on it.

Your June 3 post featuring a Pittsburgh beer and donut pairing release party is right up my alley, as I’ve been reviewing beer and ice cream pairings. Any other quintessential Pittsburgh beer pairings that you enjoy?

I owe the nod for that post to a contributor to Breaking Brews, Ashley Pike. She attended that event and had some great things to say. Personally, I love the creativity behind beer pairings and, with Pittsburgh’s culinary scene spiking in lockstep with craft beer, it’s only natural to combine the two. Beer Dinners featuring a variety of beers paired with masterpieces created by chefs across town can seemingly be found on a weekly basis these days. Just a couple weeks ago, Full Pint Brewing and Pan Asian Restaurant hosted a Beer and Sushi pairing dinner. I’ve attended a beer and pierogi pairing with the Brew Gentlemen, an elegant 5-course dinner hosted by Roundabout Brewery and Breakneck Tavern, I teamed up with our local Yards Brewing representative, Alan Wildy, and The Modern Cafe to host a Beer and Soup Pairing event during Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week that was a huge success, and just this past Friday I reached an agreement with Bill’s Bar and Burger to produce a monthly feature spotlighting one of their burgers paired with a local craft beer. I think as long as creativity remains a constant, we’ll continue to see new pairing options presented to us.

Beer and pierogis sounds delicious! Everyone gushes about the PNC Park experience. Given your druthers, do you grab a pint at a nearby haunt ahead of first pitch, or enjoy the 6th cheapest beer in the majors in the park?

People gush for good reason. PNC Park is a beautiful facility and is located in an area of town that’s blowing up big time. I’m a guy who loves tradition, and I feel I’d be breaking tradition if I didn’t stop by Beerhead Bar, formerly known as The Beer Market, for at least one pint before any Pirates game. They’re located right next to the stadium and it was there that the idea for Breaking Brews was born. The North Shore of Pittsburgh has no shortage of pre-game hot spots, including the new Local Brewhouse that I hit for the first time last Friday night, SoHo, Rivertowne North Shore, Burgatory, and, in the next few months, a brand new Southern Tier Brewing brewpub with a 15-barrel brewhouse. Once inside, there are a couple stands who sell craft beer, some of it cheaper than your typical domestic light lager found throughout PNC, and The Terrace Bar and Rivertowne Hall of Fame Club offer craft beer, too. No need drink the cheaper stuff unless the mood strikes you.

I’m with you there; I always spend the extra couple bucks for the local craft at the park. Frustratingly for Pirates fans, (though it’s still early) its looking like the Cubs are going to run away with the NL Central and force the Pirates into the Wild Card game again. Do McCutchen, Cervelli, Polanco and co. have enough to get their way into the Division Series? Beyond?

That Wild Card game has been an evil bastard the past couple of years. I’m not a fan of that system. At no point during the season is a one-game series a thing, outside of the rare play-in game situation. Teams play a 3-4 game series all year long, but when they reach the postseason, it’s one-and-done? I’m not speaking as a bitter fan; I don’t think it’s fair to any team to be put in that situation. My feelings aside, the Bucs have the bats to get it done, but they’re going to need the pitching, too. We’ve got some solid arms in the starting rotation, but I don’t think any of them have reached the threat level someone like Chicago’s Jake Arrieta poses. He was in the Pirates’ head before the first Wild Card Game pitch last year and it reflected in the outcome big time. If they get over the Wild Card hurdle, I think they can hang offensively in any series, but the pitching will be key. A lot can still happen with plenty of baseball left to play, but the Cubs aren’t making it easy for the Pirates to avoid the Wild Card, that’s for sure.

Many thanks to Jason for the scoop on all things Pittsburgh!

Standings & Probables

Nationals 34-23 .596
Mets 31-24 .564
Marlins 30-27 .526
Phillies 28-29 .491
Braves 16-40 .286

Monday, June 6 Steven Matz (7-1 2.60 ERA) vs. Jonathon Niese (5-2 4.36 ERA)

Tuesday, June 7 Jacob deGrom (3-1 2.62 ERA) vs. Juan Nicasio (4-4 4.75 ERA)

Wednesday, June 8 Noah Syndergaard (6-2 1.91 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (4-5 5.25 ERA)

Beer From the Bad Guys

Victory Brewing Co. – Old Horizontal Barleywine-Style Ale

Pours an appealing reddish-umber, boozy substantial nose with dark fruit and some hoppy pine.

Darker in tone than expected. Thick molasses, bordering on treacle, with some alcohol heat and a touch of burnt caramel. Pleased with the level of heat without being brash about its 11% ABV. Reminds me a lot of the complexity of an English Chrismas Ale – you can really work to pull out a lot of different elements like gingerbread, dark brown sugar, bourbon, light fruit (peach, orange, strawberry), dark fruit (fig, raisin, plum), and some buried resinous hops. Anyone who’s read any of my beer reviews knows this is the kind of thing I thoroughly enjoy. A sticky bitter finish on the back of the tongue lingers.

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Scouting Report (20-80 scale)

See: 65

Smell: 70

Taste: 70

Feel: 70

Overall: 70

For me, Old Horizontal is definitely a fine “curl up to a fireplace and read Chaucer” kind of beer. But really, any quiet evening of contemplation and a slow burn of complexity is more than enough to enjoy this beer. Grab one, let it mellow in the basement for a while, and crack it open for a calm, relaxing experience. Another winner, Victory. LGM!

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