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Craft Beer Aficionados Want to Show You How Good Beer Can Taste. Trust Them.

"There are the people who enjoy craft beer, and the people who don't know about it." Today kicks off Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, which features tastings and other special events at bars, restaurants and distributors throughout the North Hills and city.

I still remember the meal that hooked me on wine. 

In California between my junior and senior year of college ("a long, long time ago"), I was crashing with an uncle when a visiting friend of his stared into his bare cupboards and creatively came up with a most divine steak and pasta dinner. 

The steak was prepared simply with salt and pepper and cooked with wine. The pasta was a homemade sauce, also created using the wine—which we drank later with the meal.

The pairing of it all made me realize just how good a simple meal and carefully chosen drink could be. Before then, food was something hastily put together from a box or a can and eaten too quickly to think about. Wine was just grape juice. With that glimpse into a new world, I began to teach myself to cook—and I began exploring wine, growing to appreciate not just how it could change the flavor of the food in front of me but how much it could be enjoyed all on its own.  

With the world of wine in front of me, I often snubbed beer. A few college experiences with Natty Light and the kegerator of Busch beer in my dad's basement may have contributed to my reluctance to give beer much attention. 

But then I moved back to Pittsburgh. And found the beer options changed and far more numerous than I knew beer could be. And I met friends who are as passionate about beer as I can be about wine. I began exploring, selecting and tasting beers on their recommendations—not the Bud Lights or the Miller Lights or even the Yuenglings (which I have sentimental fondness for), but what are known as craft beers. These are beers created by small, independent brewers who play with recipes and produce limited batches of their creations. 

I found that like wine, beer can range widely in flavor—and pair very nicely with food. I'm hooked. 

Those friends who sold me on craft beers are now trying to sell the entire Pittsburgh population on them. 

Today marks the start of Craft Beer Week, organized by the nonprofit Pittsburgh Craft Beer Alliance. Local breweries, distributors, bars and restaurants throughout the North Hills and the metro area are featuring tastings and special events to spread, as they say, "the gospel of all things craft beer."

"There are the people who enjoy craft beer, and the people who don't know about it," said Andy Rich, chairman of the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Alliance and head brewmaster at Penn Brewery on the North Side

More than 360 events are planned between today and Sunday, April 28

One of the events kicking it off is a craft beer tasting to be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. tonight at the which will feature beers from the Great Lakes Brewing Company, Magic Hat Brewing and Sierra Nevada

on McKnight is also getting into it, as is the , and with events planned throughout the week. Nearby in Pine and Richland Townships, the e is an option and in Moon Township, I highly recommend .

But you're not limited. Events are taking place throughout the North Side and the rest of the city, at all different times. A calendar can be found here

Not only is the week full of fun events, it should also be of benefit to the local business community, bringing an expected $1.82 million into the regional area, said Chris Momberger, a member of the executive council for the Alliance and an economic systems engineer. 

Are you a craft beer fan? How did it happen? Tell us in the comments!

dawn patton April 20, 2012 at 05:17 PM
I traveled to the Pacific Northwest in the mid-90s, and that's where i discovered microbreweries. Much like that coffee place, the trend swept the nation. I'm so glad craft beer is in Pittsburgh and i've discovered good places to drink it in and good friends to drink it with. Fantastic story!
Gwendolyn R. Schmidt April 20, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Because when every person is unique, with a unique set of tastes and perspectives, why are we all supposed to like the same homogenous style of beer (no matter which brand it is, all the big brands are the same American Pilsner, really)? Craft beer allows us to revel in our uniqueness by being their own unique styles! Some of us may love the fruity stylings of Blue Point Blueberry, others the dark sweetness of Southern Tier Choklat, or perhaps a less sweet Great Lakes Blackout Stout, and yet others are big fans of the hop heaviness of East End Big Hop. Or perhaps you love the Belgians or Sours... there are so many varieties, and we can choose which we like and don't like to suit our own unique palettes. How can you not love at least one craft beer?
Gwendolyn R. Schmidt April 20, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Oh, I was supposed to tell you my story, wasn't I? I actually didn't like beer until very recently, being much more of a wine and scotch fan. Then one day someone said, "You really should try this one at least," and handed me Atwater's Vanilla Java Porter (before they even had labels for the bottles!) I was hooked, and started exploring the dark beers. From there, I was able to move into some of the lighter beers. I still don't like the big name beers at all, and I really am not a fan of hoppy beer, but I now attend beer fests with excited anticipation to see what people have thought up for Craft Beer this time! Peanut butter cup beer from Willoughby Brewing? Yes, please!
AmyJo Brown April 20, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Peanut butter cup beer?! I can't imagine. But now I must try it! Thanks for sharing, Gwen! And Dawn, the northwest is one of my favorite places. Not the least because it's where I met my husband. ;)
JAB April 20, 2012 at 11:19 PM
I was embarrased at my rehersal dinner , when i looked at the wine list and it looked like it was written in latin.... I decided to educate myself in the world of wine and soon discovered a keen interest... After many tastings ,, a few wine classes and an online degree,, i consider myself a more then a novice.... Yes a trip to Ca wine country,,, about half doz trips to finger lakes area (also good for micro brews) i was beyond hooked!!!! Naturally beer followed suit.... I dont consider myself as versed in the beer world as much, but enjoy it just the same... Yes the right beverage can add an xxxtra demension to any meal.... Drink well and dont be afraid to expand your horizons.,.. You will be glad you did!!! CHEERS!!!

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