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.
“This is right up there with jelly donuts and Count Chocula as the craziest thing we put in the mash,” says Hitchhiker Brewing head brewer Andy Kwiatkowski, as he watches hunks of cornbread being flung into his mash tun.
Fresh Fest Collaboration: Hitchhiker Brewing x Walter’s Southern Kitchen
Kwiatkowski and fellow brewer Matt Gibb are keeping an eye on their Fresh Fest collaborators, the guys from Walter’s Southern Kitchen, as they begin to condition a base ale with corn husks, cornbread and some 50 ears of corn. The beer, named “Hard Corn,” will be a riff on an easy-drinking cream ale.
Walter’s co-owner, Chris Morgan, says their cornbread, like all their Southern barbecue fare, is made from scratch, with roasted peppers and fresh blended corn.
“I’m hoping for some additional sweetness, definitely some herbaceousness, and some spice and char character,” says Kwiatkowski about the cornbread’s effect on the beer.
How the collaboration came together
Walter’s co-owner Joel Bolden says that Sharpsburg’s Hitchhiker Brewing was one of the first Pittsburgh craft breweries they visited after moving to town last year. That same night, they met Hitchhiker owner, Gary Olden, and Fresh Fest co-founder Day Bracey, who was on site for a live recording of his Drinking Partners podcast, setting the stage for this collaboration.
“We’re not going to get in their way,” says Bolden. “We’re just going to add our two cents for the process and trust what they do.”
Opened in September 2018 at 4501 Butler St. in Lawrenceville, Walter’s wasn’t around for last year’s Fresh Fest. Hitchhiker was, and partnered with BOOM Concepts on a BOOM Shandy. Kwiatkowski is stoked to be back for year two.
“The concept is great, because I think the issue Fresh Fest is trying to address is probably the most pressing issue within the industry,” he says.
“It’s a pretty exclusive community; [the craft beer community] needs to get out there to different people from different walks of life and show them that craft beer isn’t this pretentious hipster beverage.”
At Fresh Fest, Hitchhiker will pour the straightforward version of the beer as well as spicy and sweet variants. They’re planning to can some of it for retail sales, too.
“Barbecue, in general, pairs with most cold beers and smooth bourbons,” says Bolden. “So it works well.”
ABV, Volume XXVI
Hard Corn collaboration beer – available at Fresh Fest
Beer Name: Hard Corn
Style / ABV: American Pale Ale with corn, cornbread & spices // 5.8% ABV
Why we recommend it: Hitchhiker consistently pushes the envelope and comes up with unexpectedly impressive takes on what a beer can be. They’ve added everything from Oreos to Count Chocula cereal into their beers – and they’ve all been pretty great. We trust their judgment.
When is it available: This beer will make its debut at Fresh Fest.
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.