For 30 years, I lived in Southern California. For 9 of those 30 years, I could legally consume alcohol.
The West Coast is well known for its craft breweries. Cities such as Portland, Denver, SF, Seattle and San Diego all have a fair share of the West Coast craft brew scene. Google best beer towns and San Diego will be in the top 10 of every list (at least all the lists I read).
Todd and I became craft beer lovers ever since I worked as a bartender at Oggis Brewing Company.
My beer palette evolved from drinking Oggis Scottish Ale which is a malty, smooth beer to falling head over heels for crisp, strong West Coast IPAs.
West Coast IPAs are very hop forward while East Coast IPAs have more of a malt presence to balance the hops. I love a light, crisp very hoppy IPA. The malt can be almost non-existent in my opinion.
In August, Todd and I moved across the country to Pittsburgh where we will stay for the next 1.5 years.
One of the first things we learned was that not every state is as relaxed as California about selling alcohol. I can’t say speak for any state besides California and Pennsylvania right now, but man are they different. In San Diego we could walk to a liquor store or 7-11 and buy beer, wine and/or liquor. And, we could buy as much as we want. We could also go to the grocery store and buy all the beer, wine and liquor we wanted along with our groceries for the week.
Now, in PA, that’s not the case. To buy wine or liquor, one would go to one of the Wine and Spirits stores. They are state owned and in various locations but for some reason they don’t sell beer. To buy beer, that’s more difficult. Beer is sold at restaurants, bars, distributors or licensed beer stores. You can’t buy less than a 24 pack at a distributor, bars can sell 6-packs to-go and the licensed beer stores sell 6-packs/22oz bottles. These licensed beer stores are harder to find though we’re lucky to have one close by.
A typical grocery store does not sell alcohol. No $3 buck chuck or cheap alcohol at Trader Joes and not even Costco sells alcohol. We seriously considered not renewing our membership.. well we still haven’t renewed yet. Select grocery stores can sell beer provided they have a cafe. Besides buying from a distributor, the maximum beer purchase at one time is 192 ounces. I tried to buy beer for a couple parties and ended up having to make two trips to the car in order to only buy 192 ounces at one time. Silly laws!
Confused yet? I’m still trying to figure it out and learn new things every day.
What next, oh yes.. coming from California there’s always talk about taxes being high in California. Yes, that’s true California has high taxes and housing is more expensive BUT alcohol costs more in Pennsylvania.
I have been used to a six pack of say Stone IPA which is a easily accessible good IPA in San Diego for $9.99. You can find pretty good deals on 12 packs too. In Pittsburgh, I haven’t seen an IPA 6 pack for less than probably $14.49, and that’s the lowest. And, I have yet to see a 12 pack. It’s tough to buy a 24 pack when I’m not sure I like the beer.
I did some research to figure out why alcohol costs more in PA and I first found this article saying their beer tax of $0.08 per gallon is lower than most states including California.
Then I found out about the Johnstown Flood Tax. There was a large disastrous flood 70+ years ago in Johnstown. The state implemented an 18% tax on alcohol to help pay for the damage. Then.. the flood was paid off and the tax was never lifted. It’s built into the price of alcohol so you really don’t see it and it seems everyone is used to it. 18% is a large amount and Pennsylvania must be loving that extra income they are receiving every year.
That explains why alcohol is more expensive.
Can we go back to beer? When we first arrived in Pittsburgh, Todd and made it a point to try all the local IPAs to try and find what we liked. Unfortunately, most of the East Coast Style IPAs didn’t do much for us. After awhile I just wanted a beer I knew I liked!
Some of the good West Coast Breweries we can find out here are Stone, Lagunitas, Green Flash and some Ballast Point but all of them are very expensive.
There are two breweries that I think need to work their way on this side of the country. I miss you dearly..
Russian River Brewing Company – I would love a Pliny or Blind Pig right about now!
Bear Republic – Another staple of ours is their Racer 5. Good price and a good standard.
As our search continued for a West Coast Style IPA on the East Coast, we did find two we like so far but are very open to more!
Fat Head Head Hunter IPA – Brewery in Ohio that is soon to open another location in Portland, OR
Ithica Flower Power IPA – NY based brewery with a crisp IPA.
East Coast is all about the Malts it seems. And oh my gosh, PUMPKIN! I have never seen so many pumpkin beers. With seasons comes Pumpkin apparently.
I did love the Southern Tier Pumpking and Warlock. But I can’t call myself a Pumpkin beer connoisseur as there are too many and I haven’t tried enough. Pumpkin beers are not really a thing in San Diego. Maybe next Fall I’ll get more into them.
Are you bored yet?
Next week we are heading to New York so we’ll see how the beer selection compares there. It is my first trip to the big city so any recommendations you have would be greatly appreciated!
Hope the second half of your week goes smoothly!