ABV is our weekly series that highlights a different beer from a local Pittsburgh brewery every week. Check out our past picks here.
Leading up to Fresh Fest we will preview some of the collaboration beers attendees can expect to try on Aug. 10 at Nova Place.
Deep in the heart of Texas, the prairie sky is wide and high, and craft beer flows so free.
Or at least more than previously, as of late.
“No matter how bad your laws are, Texas laws are worse,” said Kuumba Smith, the man behind Smittox Brewing.
“We were the last state to do beer-to-go,” he said, referencing a new state law that allows manufacturing breweries to sell up to a case of beer for off-site consumption.
Fresh Fest Collaboration: Grist House x Smittox Brewing (Texas)
Smith, who lives in Allen, north of Dallas, is in Pittsburgh to brew his Fresh Fest collaboration beer with Grist House Craft Brewery. It’s called Work Optional Lifestyle and is a kettle sour brewed with raspberry, blackberry and lime.
“Coming from the world of macro lagers, as I started getting into more craft beer, I started getting curious about the different flavors,” Smith said. “How does somebody do this imperial stout with chocolate? How did you make this one beer with fruit in it? So that kind of piqued my interest. I’m drinking it; I started wondering if I can make it.”
Turns out, he can. Last year, Smith won the Riverside Shootout homebrew competition at Fort Worth’s Martin House Brewing Company with his Short Order Porter, an 8.8% imperial breakfast porter made with hazelnut, cacao nibs, maple syrup and coffee, which was then canned for distribution.
His path to craft beer is no different from that of most other craft brewers. He started with “Brew in a Bag,” some five years ago, before moving to all-grain and slowly expanded his equipment and recipes. Today, he brews out of his garage a once a month, twice if he’s lucky, in addition to a full-time job at a financial services company.
Smith is in the process of determining whether or not to take the plunge and open Smittox Brewing as a proper brewery.
“I’m tired of working for people,” he said. “I want to be my own boss.”
He believes Fresh Fest, with its abundance of black brewers, will be an opportunity to learn how others secured the financing and partnerships needed to be a successful craft brewery owner.
Back-to-Back Years of Texas Collaborations for Grist House
Grist House head brewer Sean Biby said that what makes this beer unique for his brewery is the addition of a German Hefeweizen yeast, something they’ve never added to a sour before. He hopes the strain will impart some banana esters to compliment the fruit, creating something refreshing for the late-summer festival.
This marks two straight years of a Texas collaboration for Grist House. Last year, the Millvale craft brewery partnered with Barrett Tillman, of Dallas’s BlackMan Brewing. Known for his wild fermented sours, Tillman brought along his own yeast strains for the collaboration, and the two breweries spent the Fourth of July together talking shop and sharing beers.
Fresh Fest, Biby said, “brings together a lot of people from a lot of different places, culturally and geographically, that would never get a chance at this exposure. It’s a more fun collaboration than your normal two breweries getting together.”
ABV, Volume XXVII
Work Optional Lifestyle collaboration beer – available at Fresh Fest
Beer Name: Work Optional Lifestyle
Style / ABV: Kettle Sour with raspberry, blackberry and lime // 6% ABV
Why we recommend it: We’re not sure if anyone has coined the term ‘summer sour’ but that is exactly what this beer sounds like. Refreshing, crisp and not overpowering at 6% ABV. If you are a fan of Grist House’s “Shaman” series of lemonade sours, that ought to be a good indicator that Wprk Optional Lifestyle as a berry-infused kettle sour will turn out stellar. We’re super excited for this one.
When is it available: This beer will make its debut at Fresh Fest AND will be available at Grist House in their Millvale taproom (while supplies last).
How is it served: All Fresh Fest attendees get unlimited 4-oz taster pours from their commemorative (take home) glassware. This beer is no different. Try it in your taster glass. Like it? Come back for another pour. Love it? Enjoy it as much as you want throughout the evening. Fresh Fest’s general admission session lasts from 5 pm to 9 pm.
Editor’s Note: Aadam Soorma contributed to this story.