Raise a Glass to Craft Beers this Holiday Season!

Craft beers are specialty beers produced by independently-owned craft breweries. They’re especially popular because of the wide variety of flavors — and health benefits they offer, such as being rich in anti-oxidants, protein and vitamin B; their ability to help prevent kidney stones and in moderate amounts, their association with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease; their ability to strengthen bones and reduce bad cholesterol; and their ability to help improve memory and help with cognitive functions. But there’s even more to the story of why you should choose a craft brew this time of year.

Creekside Beer, Sewickley, Wexford, Economy, and Beaver Valley’s local beer distributor, is your go-to destination for craft beers, including a wide range of domestics and imports, with a particular emphasis on locally-brewed craft beer, all showcased in the #DrinkPGH section of our store, .

Why Craft Beer this Holiday Season?

So, why raise a glass to craft beer this holiday season? There are a number of factors which make them more unique and worthy of a look. Some of the basic ones include:

  • Top quality ingredients: Core macro domestic products are typically made with rice, whereas Craft beer is made from malted barley, hops, and water, and a variety of non-traditional ingredients (“adjuncts”) to produce a very distinctive flavor profile. This is in contrast to rice, which is what big beer brands use.

  • The personal touch: Statistics released by the Brewers Association show that the majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewery. Chances are, there’s a craft brewery near you, so you can meet the producers, and tour the facility to get you a whole new appreciation for what you’re drinking, and sample some of the unique and stellar products that they brew.

  • Support a Local Business: Craft Beers are defined by the Brewers Association as small brewers that have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers, and tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism and sponsorship of events. Less than 3% of US annual sales are produced by craft brewers, and by buying craft beers, especially locally brewed ones, you help support local business!

  • Higher alcohol content: The average ABV. (alcohol by volume) for a craft beer is 5.9%. In comparison, the offers by the major breweries typically come in at an average ABV of 4.3%.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dig a little deeper into why we are so passionate about Craft Beer here at Creekside Beer:

  • Variety and Uniqueness: If you’re looking for variety for a beer exchange, for a unique gift, or for something really special and unique to share with someone for the holidays (or any time of the year in fact), look no further than craft beer. Craft beers are produced in a dizzying array of styles, like IPAs, Kolsches, Porters, Stouts, Sours, Lagers, Pilsners, Goses, and even Seltzers, with much more variety than you will find with nationally produced macro domestic products. These are designed using different varieties of hops, like Galaxy, Citra, Simcoe, Cashmere, Vic Secret, Sabro, and more, using different brewing styles, and with different additional ingredients, or “adjuncts” to produce different flavor profiles and nuances to the taste. Some of these adjuncts can be fairly common, like vanilla, cacao, or coconut, or can be more exotic – like jelly donuts or Oreos, for example. This combination of core ingredients and adjuncts can produce a one-of-a-kind taste that you can only get once a year, and which you or the recipient of such a thoughtful holiday gift will be longing for for months afterwards. Who could forget the Hitchhiker Oreo Speedwagon Chocolate Milkshake Imperial Stout, or the 11th Hour Burning Phoenix Pale Ale, made with jalapenos, or the Four Points DBL Blackberry Fruitition, made with over 70 pounds of blackberry puree per barrel? Or, some of the local breweries’ series that rotate through a variety of hops, like 11th Hour’s Hour Series, Cinderlands’ Test Piece series, four Points Fourth Street series, or Grist House’s Hazedelic Juice Grenade series?

  • Local Tastes: Locally produced craft brewers specialize in designing and brewing products that are both unique to the area, and which cater to local taste preferences and palates. Some of these products are relatively exotic and are highly sought-after locally, with an almost cult-like following, but can only be found locally, and nowhere else in the country. For example, 11th Hour’s Burn Your Suit, Dancing Gnome’s Black Clouds Double Vanilla Imperial Stout or Grist House’s Broken Souls Imperial Stout, which are periodically brewed in the area, not only sell out at the brewery and partners like Creekside Beer within minutes of being released, but also cannot be found anywhere outside of the Pittsburgh area. Products from craft breweries located outside of the Pittsburgh area, like 3 Floyds Brewing or Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, can only be found in that area of the country, and nowhere else (and we know, because of how many requests we have had for those at Creekside Beer). We can all probably think of one or more nationally produced beers that bring back fond memories, but which were discontinued by the brewery because the rest of the country didn’t share the same love of the product that we in Pittsburgh did, ranging from Schlitz Malt Liquor, Carling Black Label, Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata, and some of the Leinenkugel Shandy flavors. Local craft breweries don’t have that issue – they can unabashedly cater to local tastes; if a product is popular, they continue to brew it but if it doesn’t go over well, they quickly move on to the next.

  • Speed of Innovation: Our local craft brewing partners are particularly adept at innovation, in risk taking, and in taking chances on new products, while quickly pivoting to meet changing market conditions and consumer tastes. Their lower production volume mean that they can turn out a new product within a week, and have it in their customers’ hands within two weeks. A number of local breweries, like Burgh’ers Brewing in Lawrenceville and Zelienople, have turned to new canning lines during the COVID-19 pandemic to take the products that had been being distributed in draft form in their taprooms, and instead get it into the hands of their customers in cans. Others, like 11th Hour Brewing, Cinderlands Beer Co., and Hitchhiker Brewing have quickly implemented on-line ordering, shipping and home delivery, and along with curbside pickup to meet the demands of their customers while still adhering to current health and safety standards. Compare that to some of the larger craft breweries which must ship their Octoberfest beers starting in July, and their Christmas Beers starting in September, and which are sold out within a month or two. Or, look at the national domestic brewers, which may take 12-18 months to change the size of a can or the product packaging and to swap out their production lines before they can get the new product in the consumers’ hands.

  • True Artisans: Local craft brewers are true artisans, whereas brewers at the national domestic breweries, and even the national craft breweries, have to be scientists. Local brewers can design a product based on whatever hops and adjuncts they want to include in the batch, who these ingredients are sourced from, and in some cases, tailor their products to what ingredients they are able to find in sufficient quantities, creating new labels as needed. They are exceptionally skilled at blending these ingredients together to produce delightful new products, week after week, and the same series on a periodic rotation. Contrast that with the brewers at the national domestic breweries like Coors, which is brewed in multiple locations around the country. Regardless of where the ingredients are sourced from, the source of the water itself, and the specific brewery, Coors Light will taste exactly the same from one batch to the next, year after year, and regardless of which location of the country in which it was brewed. With locally produced craft products, a fraction of a degree in the change in temperature in the tanks from one batch to the next, a difference in the relative humidity, and even the amount of rainfall in the area may alter the taste profile of a product enough to be noticeable. With large domestic brewers though, this must be taken into consideration in order to produce exactly the same product, week after week. In fact, the brewers at these national domestic breweries go through weeks of intense training and certification to be able to do exactly that, and achieve the Master Cicerone (Level 4) certification. Of the twenty-two Master Cicerones in the world, nineteen are located in the United States, and one of them, Brian Reed of Founders Brewing, is located in the Pittsburgh area. By comparison, there are only 115 Advanced Cicerones (Level 3) in the United States, and 82 Certified Cicerones (Level 2) in the state of Pennsylvania. We celebrate the local cicerones at our brewery partners, including Brandon Caps, Asa Foster, and Matt Katase of Brew Gentlemen; Garth Dellinger of Church Brew Works; Zach Shumaker and Richard Skalos of Shubrew; and Chris Solis of East End Brewing.

  • Innovative Design: Last but not least, let’s make sure to recognize the innovation in label design that the local craft breweries are known for. A local craft brewery may have one hundred or more products that they have produced, each with a different and unique label design and color palette. The colorful, distinctive, eye-catching designs, usually created by local artists, adorn the cans and are frequently a deciding factor in which products a new customer may try. In fact, browsing through this myriad of can designs is one of the things that make shopping Creekside Beer so much fun for our customers! Contrast that with the national domestics, where innovation in label design may mean that the Busch Light labeling and packaging changes from blue and white to orange camo for the season, or Coors Light changes the color of the mountains to blue and adding green to the trees(no offense to Anheuser Busch or Molson Coors). Local craft breweries also push the envelope in terms of can design as well. Brew Gentlemen, for example, spent many months designing and sourcing the slim 12 oz. satin-finish cans that their General Braddock is renowned in the area for. Even the largest craft breweries recognize the importance of this though. For example, the Sam Adams brewery invested over a million dollars and two years of research and development in the can design for their Boston Lager product. You may not have realized it, but the top of a Sam Adams can is slightly larger than an average 12 oz Coors Light or Miller Lite can, for example. The rationale for this design, based on that significant research, is that this allows the can opening to be located slightly further away from the edge of the lid, placing it closer to your nose to help accentuate hop aroma. That larger, wider lip helps place the beer at the front of your palate, allowing for more air flow with every sip, which in turn allows for maximum enjoyment of the sweetness from the malt. Regardless of the size of the brewery though, all craft brewers recognize the importance of continued innovation in design to delight their customers’ palates.

These are just a few of the reasons why Creekside Beer invests so much effort in the craft beer offerings for our customers. As we take time to celebrate the holidays and the special people in our lives, we toast our local craft brewery partners, and encourage you to give them a try. Find out more by giving us a call today.

Toasted and celebrated by one of the other Creekside guys (not Tyler)

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