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No liquor store, no problem: Beer recommendations offer alternatives

By Ben Butler
Website Lead

Editor’s Note: Ben Butler is an accredited public relations professional, entrepreneur, and Certified Cicerone®. A Cicerone is the beer industry’s equivalent of a Sommelier. With the designation, he’s one of 4,000 beer “experts” worldwide.


I get messages daily about what I’m drinking and what people should be drinking. But I’ve never gotten more than during COVID-19, especially here in Pennsylvania where the state-run liquor stores closed March 17. On April 20, select stores were re-opened to take phone orders for curbside pickup, met with mixed success by customers.

Out of stock, can’t replenish your wine and liquor supply, and don’t know what to pick up? Well, the breweries, beer distributors, and bottle shops are still open. And I can guarantee you, there’s a beer for all of us out there. 

Here’s my guide to help you stock up enjoyably for the remainder of quarantine, and maybe find a new favorite in the process.

A Fan of Red Wine?

In the beer world, there are so many varieties that can compete with red wine. 

Finding yourself craving that Argentine Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon? Search for a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, or a Flemish Sour Ale.

If the hop profile of a pale ale sends you running for the hills, these beers might surprise you. Hops are vacant from the first impression. Instead, you get a complex depth of flavor that feels more like a fine wine than what you may normally associate with a beer. 

I’d recommend Monks Cafe Flemish Sour Ale, which is available at most larger-scale distributors here in Pennsylvania and places like Whole Foods.

Looking for the Champagne of Beers?

And no, I’m not talking about Miller High Life. 

There’s a beer that doesn’t just look like champagne so much you can put it in a flute, but will give you all the feels in the process. Best of all, this rare style is available in Pittsburgh. It’s called Grizzled Canary by Cinderlands, a Grisette, which is a mysterious French-Belgian style of old.

Beyond that, I’d recommend leaning into the sour category of beers. Look to Strange Roots, and look out for Berliner Weisse, Gose, and Wild Ales.

Got a Sweet Tooth?

Beer has a solution. Beyond “pastry stouts,” there are a variety of fruited beers that can scratch that itch.

Look for Lindemans Kriek, or Framboise. Both are fruited Belgian sour styles. 

Or look to fruited interpretations to classic styles like my favorite, I.C. Light Mango.

Whiskey on your mind? 

Easy enough, just go for a beer aged in whiskey barrels. Boom, roasted. 

Try venturing beyond the “fire” into Stouts and Porters. Eastern Hemlock by Dancing Gnome is an American Stout with depth to rival most whiskeys, especially as it warms.

Tequila more your thing?

I’d point again to the funky profile of Saisons, and sours. 

Boulevard even has a Tequila Barrel Lime Gose that’s widely distributed here in Pennsylvania. 

Finally, a Light Beer or Macro Lager Drinker?

Been depleting your vast supply of macro-style lagers and looking for something fresh?

Here are some beers to help you begin venturing outwards: 

Hang in there Pittsburgh. We’ll get through this!

I’ll look forward to seeing you at one of PRSA Pittsburgh’s Off the Clock happy hours in the near future. We can chat more about beer, communications, or whatever you’d like.

Ben Butler, APR is the founder of Top Hat — an award-winning design and marketing communications agency in Pittsburgh.

Top Hat is widely known for its nationally acclaimed work for breweries in Alaska, Seattle, Boston, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina including Iron City, Lord Hobo Brewing, and Reuben’s Brews.

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