a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Credit the spoiled kids for better beer

The beer library at the new Bocktown Beer and Grill in Monaca, Pa., is testimony to America's expanding taste buds.

By Scott Beveridge

Theoretically speaking I credit the refined taste buds of a new generation of spoiled consumers for the craft beer market boom in the United States.

This is a group of younger elites that grew up with potato chips in myriad flavors ranging from ketchup or dill pepper to sweet onion or cracked sea salt and ground pepper.

In my youth during the 1960s chip flavors were limited to plain, barbecue or sour cream and onion at grocery stores.

Meanwhile, America’s Industrial Age turned out steelworkers and other factory workers then who patronized the products of local breweries for no other reason than union workers produced their beer. Here in the Mon Valley, Pa., Iron City once enjoyed brisk sales in the bars outside the mill gates even though it tasted terrible.

Today’s young adults don’t seem to understand this fierce loyalty to brand. They prefer beer with flavor, whether it’s infused with pumpkin spice, chocolate and raspberry or coffee, over those sissy ultra lights or recognizable name-brand drafts typically poured at the smoky local joints where their grandparents once bellied up the bar. This I have been told in random polls of my younger colleagues in the newspaper business.

As for the older crowd, many of whom have been paying the college loans of these finicky beer snobs, it, too, has been gravitating toward this exciting new beer market.

Graying hipsters, like myself, are discovering unusual new beers brewed with cloves, flowers, hard cider or cucumbers.

Maybe this trend also is happening because of the "buy local" movement, which has been fueled by consumer concerns about where food is produced, and big corporations hurting small companies while draining the energy supply.

Or maybe it’s because the youngsters are onto something.

Friday, September 23, 2011

You can't always rely on spell-check

It would appear by this billboard that a Mon Valley, Pa., sign company has decided to clone someone named Bill Boards and then market them to its customer base :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pass me the Twitter pill

The Twitter feed typically trumps Facebook on my iMac on any given day. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

The other day I stumbled on the web upon five warning signs that someone might need intervention for a Facebook addiction and immediately thought of a certain female friend with a website to promote.

While she shall remain nameless here for a variety of reasons, she encouraged me to write this blog fodder about our conversation, thinking the babble was funny.

The warning signs went something like this: spamming your friends with too many posts per hour, posting so much about your personal life that you wouldn’t think twice to share a photo of your bloody finger after accidentally power-stapling it to a craft project, sharing big personal news there before telling the relatives  - in person, Facebooking on your smartphone over drinks or dinner with friends and updating your status while behind the wheel of your car.

My friend in point has suffered them all.

“Check, check,” she responded in a text message before turning the mirror on me by asking if I knew what the warning signs were for Twitter.

She was well aware of my self-confessed love of Twitter, yet was I hesitant about reaffirming that in a list of its addiction warning signs.

Regardless, I Googled the Twitter addiction warning signs, found a list of 29 of them and wondered if those social media users thought they were so damned arrogant and narcissistic they created such a long list to exclude any of them from needing therapy.

I ran through the list, only to be surprised to learn I only met four or five criteria.

Yes, it’s true I hate it when Twitter fails, have become excited over a new followers and did the same when someone retweeted one of my tweets and included a link to my feed in my emails. Yes those things made the list.

However, I don’t have my Twitter ID on business cards, even though that might not be such a bad idea. Twitter won’t show up as the homepage on my browser, and I don’t search my username in realtime or play much with the follow Friday game.

However, I have other Twitter dependencies not on the list that might make a psychologist wonder about my level of dependency on my stream.

I’ve confessed to checking my feed before getting out of bed each morning to make sure WPXI’s Dave Bondy hadn’t tweeted breaking news that I needed to know about.

I’ve also have turned to Twitter for other such breaking news as the Central Pennsylvania flooding from Tropical Storm Lee earlier this month because it was not immediately available on television. During that disaster, a Twitter search took me directly realtime uploads of flood photos and even a video of an historic covered bridge being washed away by high water.

Sorry Facebook. I kind of like you, but that stuff didn’t show up on my news feed that day between my friends' horoscopes and updates on the games they were playing on your site.

I'd take my dose of Twitter any day over the buzz my friend gets from her Facebook.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Blame Canada for this awful shot of booze

Pittsburgh podcampers raise their glasses to a toast with gross-tasting booze. Blame Canada. (Scott Beveridge photo)

PITTSBURGH – This drinking game came to Pittsburgh via Canada at one of the city's prior conferences for techies and social media geeks known as podcamp Pittsburgh.

And it has caught on, judging from the #pcpgh6 post-camp party Saturday after attendees left the conference at Point Park University and headed for a bar.

This way to a "good" drunk imported a few years ago by a camp attendee from beyond the northern border would be the 6-4-9 game, and it goes like this:

The host walks up to a bartender and orders everyone a shot made of equal parts of the sixth bottle from the left of the back bar, the fourth from the right and then the ninth from the left.

This year's offbeat mix at Bar Louie, Station Square, came in the form of a gross concoction of Southern Comfort, black cherry rum and raspberry vodka.

"It tastes like cough syrup," a few people exclaimed after downing that stuff.

"Dimetapp," others replied, referring to an elixir used to fight the common cold.

Pittsburgh, indeed, isn't a shot-and-beer town anymore.

However, I'm glad I passed on that free drink.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The large Hawaiian with attitude

Reader Lori Wheatley passes along this clever advertising sign outside a Charleroi, Pa., restaurant, one she snapped in the days before the Pittsburgh Steelers lost in a big way to the Baltimore Ravens in their first regular season game.

Paolo's Pizza & Pastaria combined its name with that of Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu and then topped it with ingredients associated with the Pacific state where many people mistakenly think the football star was born. 

"After seeing this I realized how much this rather creative sign embodies the Pittsburgh spirit and true love for our team," Wheatley stated in an email.

Regardless of whether Paolo's staff knows how to spell Hawaiian, this restaurant at 411 Fallowfield Ave. makes some of the best pizza in the Mon Valley.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Liberty on my mind

Aboard the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, February 2008. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Thank you so much"

An interesting tribute left behind at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County by a girl named Corrine.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Big bar adventures have become old, for me

Melissa Arnold of Rockwood, Pa., appeared ready to take down Pittsburgh radio personality Mikey Dougherty, shown beside his cohost Big Bob Mason at an off-campus Karaoke party last month at California University of Pennsylvania. The opposite was true. She credited his online social networking skills for alerting her to the casting call for the upcoming Batman movie, in which she landed a bit part. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

CALIFORNIA, Pa. – It was a hot, late-August Saturday night and I was taking a staycation with nowhere to go in the Mon Valley.

So I decided to head to an off-campus bar at California University of Pennsylvania for what was about to become one of the biggest parties to hit the southwestern Pennsylvania college town in decades. (Well, maybe)

Pittsburgh radio personalities Mikey and Big Bob of 96.1 KISS-FM's The Morning Freak Show were on their Big Bar Adventure and about to host a two-hour Karaoke party there at J. Cole's Inn. It was information I had gleaned from Mikey's Twitter feed, which was ranked No. 1 this year in the region by Pittsburgh magazine.

His tweets can be hilarious.

You should read them, especially if you laugh at raunchy middle-school jokes about flatulence, hangovers or melting-down celebrities. Seriously, though, he's armed with enough connections to break sports and entertainment news in Pittsburgh on Twitter before it's noticed by reporters at the Burgh's big-city dailies or other media outlets.

These guys even got former President Bill Clinton on the telephone in November 2010, and then made national news after he joked with them about the McDonald's McRib sandwich's return to its menu and rapper Lil Wayne's release from prison.

But there in little California, Pa., their attention was fully on the college students and their singing to compete for a Coors Light Karaoke trophy. It featured a shiny aluminum can of the beer adorned with a fake silver microphone, surely a prize worthy of display and admiration in a college kid's dorm room or apartment.

Mikey, otherwise known as Michael Dougherty, appeared to dominate the show and microphone between extremely bad Karaoke performances.

"By eight o'clock it's going to be a disaster in here," he screamed into the mic before the overflowing, cheerful crowd.

Earlier I had taken a seat at a table, while Cee-Lo's catchy tune "F*#@k You," played over the speakers at a decibel seeminly louder than a fire house siren.

Tablefuls of students had gathered around me, gobbling pizza in a room where none of them could possible have engaged in stimulating, intellectual conversation over dinner.

On my table sat the large book of songs available for the singing.

Big Bob, AKA Bob Mason, walked over to say hello, as the more polite part of the act. He shook my hand and asked if I was planning to sing.

"No," I responded, and then realized I was the oldest person in the room, without revealing my role to him as a blogger.

Meanwhile, a young guy named Steve was taking the stage. He came with a group of guys celebrating his bachelor party and wearing a fake Mike Tyson tribal tattoo on the side of his face identical to the one also worn by actor Ed Helms in this summer's disappointing "The Hangover 2" movie.

I wanted to cover my ears when Steve oddly and sourly belted out "It's Raining Men," the 1983 hit song by the Weather Girls.

"It started good, but ended bad for Steve," said either Big Bob or Mikey. It was hard to identify the voice over all that noise.

A half hour of that "fun" was all I could take. I headed to the front door of the bar at 334 Third St. and to my sedan to return to the peace and quiet of my house.

It was four days before my 55th birthday, when I was about to become eligible for the senior citizen discount price admission to Kennywood amusement park in Pittsburgh.

It was long past the time for me to bring on the soft folk or jazz music, I decided on the leisurely drive home.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Donora; there is nobody here

This slideshow accompanies a story in the Observer-Reporter. The link will only last about a month.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hanging a steamboat mural

Artists David Lesako, wearing the suspenders, and Jim Winegar, both of Greene County, Pa., hang a mural of the historic steamboat Enterprise, a project Winegar created for Brownsville, Pa., with Mon Valley high school students attending summer art school at Douglas Education Center in Monessen. The boat launched at Brownsville in 1814 became the first such vessel to successfully navigate the Monongahela, Oho and Mississippi rivers from the upper to Mon to New Orleans and back. (Photo montage produced by Scott Beveridge, Observer-Reporter)