Beer

New Pittsburgh beer is REALLY local

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on

05142014eden

The region is blessed with a lot of local beers, but there's a new one that's REALLY local.

It's being billed as locally grown as well as locally brewed, and it is going to be locally and pretty much totally drank this Monday, May 19.

From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. that night, at the Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville, the Local Beer Project will debut Eden.

The beer is part of the very cool master's thesis of Chatham University food studies student Elisa Loeser.

As she explained, "For the past year, my thesis work has focused on organic hops production and the role of craft-beer culture in a local food system. As part of my thesis project, I brought together a team of community members to brew a 100-percent local, indigenous beer, which we named Eden."

The photo below shows some of the team: From left, Church Brew Works brewer Matt Moninger, Ms. Loeser, Nigel Tudor of Weatherbury Farm (the Washington County source of organic red winter wheat) and Noah Petronic of The Pittsburgh Hop Project.

But there were many others involved in this effort, which was crazy local.

Chatham director of sustatinable agriculture Allen Matthews donated winter rye from his Matthews Family Farm. Led by Mr. Moninger and with the help of food-studies student Lori Diefenbacher, the team malted the wheat and the rye, and wound up also using some of the house-malted local barley from Sprague Farm & Brew Works in Venango, Crawford County, whose Minnie and Brian Sprague have been pioneering that here.

For hops, they had about 3 ounces of Chinook and Cascade hopes that Ms. Loeser harvested and dried from 11 hop plants (some donated by Mr. Petronic) that she planted last year at Chatham's Eden Hall campus farm.

For water, her team wanted to use rainwater from another Chatham project, but that wasn't ready, so, with help from food-studies students Tony Miga, they collected 100 gallons of snow at Eden Hall -- enough for 30 gallons of filtered (and boiled) water.

And for yeast? They wanted that to be local, too, so they collected some wild strains in Church Brew Works wort that they left out in the open of Eden Hall's student garden. The Church's Mr. Moninger harvested some of the wild yeast and propagated it in the brewery's lab.

The team worked on the recipe and brewed -- on equipment loaned by TRASH homebrewer extraordinaire Keith Kost -- in February, augmenting the yeast with a little of a local strain of commercial Chico yeast. The result?

"It came out a lot better than we expected," says Ms. Loeser, who describes the wheat-rye brew as a little cloudy, balanced, with a nice mouthfeel. "It's a good summer beer."

They brewed just 13 gallons, enough to fill 119 12-ounce bottles, most of which they'll be pouring at Monday's party. It's open to the public, but you need to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get a free ticket to try one of the 200 samples. Of course, there also will be Church brew to drink, and some Sprague Farm, too. Ms. Loeser says "we will have displays and people are encouraged to mingle, network, etc., so certainly the more people the merrier! "

The Eden beer is more than just a thesis piece, as she says it will continued to be brewed through the sustainable fermentation course offered in the summer in Chatham's food-studies program. That means "we will hopefully be serving up this beer at other events (quite possibly the Big Pour) in the fall."

Meanwhile, she's graduating on Monday, so the Church Brew gathering is her graduation party.

She's accepted a job in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a international program specialist working on trade issues and initiatives.

But someday, she might hop back into hops, which more universities are studying as people try to resurrect the hop-growing industry that used to thrive in the East.

She says she'll always be committed to sustainability, which has a component to it that most people might not think of, but that her project demonstrates:

"This project for me embodies community and collaboration."

05152014beerteam

Elisa Loeser label, Ellen Ordons photo

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