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Beer Reviews

Heini’s Hooch

Church Brew Works
Pittsburgh, PA

Style: Old Ale
ABV: 10.0%

Rings’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Much has changed in the brewhouse over the past year or so at Pittsburgh’s legendary Church Brew Works. One of the world’s most beautiful brewpubs, to be sure, it served beer that was sometimes less consistent and remarkable than others, despite its stellar setting.

About a year ago, they welcomed a new head brewer in Steve Sloan, who, in full disclosure, is a long-time friend of this Beer Dork. An industry veteran, Sloan has brewed throughout the world over the course of his career, including stops in Germany, New Zealand, Hawaii, California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, and Pennsylvania … I’m forgetting some, I’m sure . He’s also a rarity in the craft brewing world in that he possesses a Masters Degree in Chemistry, so the man can run a lab.

We’ve made a couple visits to Church over the summer, and can wholeheartedly testify that the beer has improved dramatically. In fact, they’ve been rewarded for their efforts with a stack of medals at this year’s 2012 Great American Beer Festival, including “Large Brewpub of the Year” and “Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year.”

I was fortunate enough on my last visit to have a few snifters of Heini’s Hooch. This old ale has been barrel aged and its moniker is an homage to an old Bavarian friend with whom we were fortunate enough to have consumed more than our share of half liters over the years. Heini was also known to enjoy his Asbach, a German brandy.

The draft pours a deep copper in color, with a thin lacing of foam that clings to the glass throughout the pour. The nose is creamy and sweet, with notes of caramel, molasses, toffee and brown sugar. As in a snifter of Asbach, there is some heat from the alcohol, but the burn is mellow and trails off into a faint hoppy bite.

While this is certainly not a session beer in any way, shape, or form, this is one of the more enjoyable high alcohol brews I’ve had recently and it would most likely only improve with age. I’ll hope they manage to bottle a few for cellaring as I’d be interested to try it again in another year or so.

UPDATE: Please note that since this review was written, Steve Sloan is no longer working at Church Brewing.

Reviewed by Rings on January 24, 2013.
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