Winter Warmers: Fire Fest and Winter Popup North

The winter weather may be slowing down the traffic in Pittsburgh, but it sure isn’t keeping the city’s breweries from marching full steam ahead with their seasonal events. On December 8th, I ventured away from my toasty apartment and Seinfeld rerun binging to check out two events, Grist House’s Fire Fest and the Brew Gentleman x Blue Sparrow Winter Popup North.

The name “Grist House” is becoming more and more synonymous with “a real good time”, and I don’t hear nobody complaining. Every opportunity I get, I pull up to the big gates outside of the brewery and I’m ready to be wowed with something exciting and refreshing. On Saturday, I was incredibly curious to see how the turnout for Fire Fest would be. Sure Grist House consistently hits homer after homer like Babe Ruth in ‘27, but it was cold enough outside to make even the most veteran of yinzers shudder. As I parked at the closest spot I could find (about 3 blocks away), I knew the masses of parked cars meant one thing: Pittsburgher’s were in need of and ready for of some real good times.

The whole yard was packed shoulder to shoulder with guests bundled up from head-to-toe, laughing and drinking in packs around four strategically placed roaring fires. There were food trucks slinging hot plates to eager customers, long lines of folks waiting for a six pack from the triple can release that day, and several welcomed guest appearances from man’s furry  best friend. As I made my way inside, the crowd didn’t let up. The bar was about five rows deep with beer lovers like myself, all of us itching for a cold beer to warm us up. As I headed back into the cold that I was slowly realizing I was not entirely prepared for, I mosied over to one of the fire pits. I began talking with one of the creators of the event, Bailey Allegretti. She explained to me that the folks at Grist House were tired of how winter always drives people inside and away from fun activities; they said a change was needed.

 

 “We’ve been packed all day, it’s just so good to see people coming out and having a good time in the cold,” she told me, and a good time it was. The fires kept the energy high into the evening, you could mill about in the yard until you got to that point in being cold where you have to really focus on curling and uncurling your fingers, then head back to the fire, reheat, and repeat. When I asked Bailey what she thought about for the future she said the next Fire Fest was going to be “even bigger and better.”

After my time at Grist House, I ventured out to Avalon, the home of Blue Sparrow’s first brick and mortar building. Blue Sparrow has been a staple in the Brew Gentleman food truck family for years, and after several collaborations between the two, it seemed only fitting that they come together again with the Winter Popup, a night of food and drink to help warm up some spirits in this cold weather. On tap for the night, in addition to the well known General Braddock’s IPA, Brew Gentleman debuted three new beers, the Kaizen IPA, the Mammoth Double IPA, and the Deep Breakfast Stout.

Walking into the building, I immediately noticed the mouth watering aromas coming from the kitchen. The seating area was limited, but I managed to grab a table and chair for myself, a beer, and one of everything on the food menu. If you stop in to Blue Sparrow, let me tell you right now, do yourself a favor and get the kimchi ramen, it’s something from another planet. Everyone working the event was in great spirits, taking the time to talk with customers about the food and beers, even in the midst of the almost uncontainable crowd that was growing inside the restaurant. It was awesome to see such a turnout and support for the local scene, especially in the coldest months of the year. The atmosphere for the evening was quite similar to the one at Grist House; lots of excited conversations about the beers and the food, friends catching up with each other, and the beautiful family-like bond that is continually growing in the Pittsburgh craft beer scene.

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