Monday, November 10, 2014

Outskirts of Pittsburgh, PA

Previously I wrote about the cool breweries we visited in Pittsburgh, PA.  Those entries are HERE and HERE.  While writing those I realized I wasn't quite done with my beer travelogue...and had some cool non-beer pics I wanted to post!  So here is the wrap up for our recent trip:

Let us talk of Ligonier, Pennsylvania.  This is a really cool, sleepy little colonial looking town that grew up on the site of a historic British fort from the era of the French and Indian war.  It just drips with classic Norman Rockwell mid-America from times long past.  This is a good thing.  For fall several of the local groups and stores made fun scarecrows that were situated around the picturesque town diamond.  Our B&B at Thistledown was a fine old medical building converted to a new and relaxed place to stay the night and have a made-to-order breakfast.  Several art galleries, antique stores, ice cream parlors, etc. all abound around the diamond and the nearby roads. 

Many stores have limited hours, especially Monday and Tuesday, so the place felt a little abandoned and ghost-towny during our initial stay there.  This was accentuated by the town being made up for Halloween.  Occasionally we would pass a local resident, often garnering a squinty-eyed and suspicious baleful glare rather than a welcoming smile.  We had some good leisure time over our trip to walk around the town, check out the reconstructed fort just down the road, and finally explore some shops once they opened up.  There is no nightlife in this town.  Five PM hits and the streets roll up and empty like some weird episode of the Twilight Zone, where all the folks shutter their windows and bar the doors to hide out until daybreak! 

Once the shops have closed up there are only two games in town for a drink that are walkable. 

1) The first is the old fashioned Joe's Bar, featuring 1950's décor and over 220 taxidermied creatures.  Sj and I opened the door to look in, but instantly knew that this was not our place and these were not our people.  This is the local drinking-man's establishment that hasn't changed much in 50 years.  I didn't look close but I doubt they have heard of craft beer yet.

2) The best option for us was the Ligonier Lanes Bowling Alley, and the attached bar with the improbable name of The Wicked Googly.  Yup, you read that correctly!  We ended up here on the first night we arrived (after our brewery hopping in Pittsburgh earlier that afternoon) since it was a block from our B&B, and was actually open.  We ended up here pretty much every night we were in Ligonier.  They actually had a pretty good selection of 10 craft beers on tap and more in bottles, making this an ideal stop for me.  However, the servers (all of them) knew next to nothing about the beers, and one had to walk over to the bar to look at the hand written list of beers.  The place has a restaurant with pretty amazing chicken wings in several different dry rubs and sauces.  Our first night we took advantage of the lanes and did some bowling while sipping on Imperial Stout and Pumpking. 

Four Seasons!

Sj next to the cute little brew system at Four Seasons
Not far from Ligonier we discovered a cute little brewery in Latrobe called Four Seasons Brewing Company.  We went by during the limited growler sale times, but at that point they were still working on getting clearance to finish the tap room and serve pints.  A large bar was under construction in one half of the warehouse getting ready for taproom hours.  They were very friendly to us there and let us sample all the beers.  They actually just won a silver medal at GABF for their oatmeal stout...but they didn't have any on tap for us to try.  I cried a little inside.  They had a very good Kolsch and a bright and clovey Belgian Single that I really liked. 

Thinking we were going to a BYOB restaurant for dinner, we had grabbed a growler of the Single and headed out.  And of course the restaurant had an open sign in the window, but was closed.  We ended up eating at Carol & Dave's Roadhouse for dinner and they actually had a nice local IPA on tap from Rivertowne.  Not nearly enough Swayze, nor bare knuckle fist fights to be a proper Roadhouse though!

Outside areas of the Phipps Conservatory.

The next day we were back in Pittsburgh again to see the Phipps Conservatory and I had a chance to snap some pictures of cool plants within the sheltering confines of tons of glass.  No time for breweries, this time, but our local guide Andrew directed us to The Headkeeper Tapas Bar in Greensburg about half way back to Ligonier.  This place had 600 varieties of beer to choose from, including a large local selection.  Interestingly most of these were bottles in a huge wall of beautiful coolers.  Only 10 beers on tap, but still too many to choose from!  One can buy bottles to drink there or to take home with you.  I wanted to go back, but we only made the one stop.  Not local, but Sj and I split the fantastic Elysian Dark of the Moon pumpkin stout.  Outside they had a large comfortable patio area heated by propane lamps.

We had a great and relaxing trip, and I was happily surprised that we found as much to do in the area as we did.  The craft beer scene is growing rapidly, but most of the places we found were only about a year or so old.  I'd put this area at where Minneapolis was about 3-4 years ago, but coming on fast. Thanks to Andrew Thornton for hosting us while we were there, to Chip Walton for suggesting some of the places we went to, and to everyone who we met on this fun side-trip! 

Historic Ligonier welcomes all strangers with open spiky walls and cannons?

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