Strange Roots Experimental Ales Review – Wild Ales in Pittsburgh

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on December 14, 2022.

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Strange Roots (originally founded as Draai Laag) is one of the oldest breweries in Pittsburgh, and is certainly one of its most unique.

And to be completely honest, they're one of our favorite breweries in the region as they focus on wild fermentation that produces an array of stellar sour beers!

Beer Styles at Strange Roots (Formerly Draai Laag)

Strange Roots in Gibsonia

What is wild fermentation, you may ask?

Well, wild fermentation is an interesting process as the beer is put in contact with the air and uses naturally occurring yeast to kick start the fermentation process.

With most Strange Roots beer what you drink comes from local yeast found in the air right at the production facility- so southwest Pennsylvania yeast!

But going further, Strange Roots also extracts yeasts from some unusual sources, with one beer (The Relic) being made from yeast found in a couple centuries old chest found in a monastery in Europe. Strange indeed!

Strange roots (Formerly Draai Laag)

As a result of the fermentation process, many of the beers at Strange Roots are indeed sour and have quite the kick (be prepared for it if you haven't been), but they also have a strong barrel aging and blending program that also produces high ABV brews (8-11% are common) with some really complex flavors. (Be on the lookout for their experimental ultra-high ABV series with some brews being up to 20%!)

After changing their name Strange Roots in 2018, the brewery expanded with a second taproom at their production facility in Gibsonia (seasonal) and branched out into producing other non-sour beers as well to attract a wider audience including a push into the IPA scene (which, while good, is still getting there). As such, sometimes you'll visit now and find that the list can be half sour, half non-sour, or even be 25% sour with the remaining brews being more traditional creations.

While are still fans of this one primarily for their sours, we've got to say, we love it all.

Wild Fermentation in Pittsburgh

Be on the lookout for the following brews we love: Goedenacht (Farmhouse ale with apples, orange blossom honey, coriander, and Brettanomyces), Winter Goedenacht (rum cask aged variety- we hope it makes a return), Ragnarok (Strong and Scottish ale aged on elderberries, black currant, red raspberry, and black cherry juice), St. Angus (a Belgian quad reminiscent of a winter beer), and PB&J (yes, ale aged on peanuts and raspberries).

Note: A few of the above brews were staples when Strange Roots went by Draai Laag and have yet to make an appearance (Winter Goedenacht and St. Angus specifically). Finger's cross they return soon!

A Haven for Sour Beer Lovers

Draai Laag Beer is Delicious

One of the things we love about Strange Roots' beer is that they are sour. But they're not the typical kind of sour that you'd find at other breweries. These are often soured through wild fermentation, where the yeast that is used (or sometimes picked up from the air) causes the brew to turn into the tart product we know and love.

Dennis, the head brewer, got interested in this style after spending a lot of time in Europe, where farmhouse ales were fermented in open tanks and picked up yeast from the air. Strange Roots' approach follows a very similar model to this and results in its very distinct flavor profile.

Likewise, while there are many fruits, spices, and other ingredients added to the beers, you often do not get their flavors overtly. Due to their distinct brewing style, a lot of the flavor notes are subtle, making for a really complex beer that we cannot get enough of (one that oddly enough goes perfectly with Leona's ice cream sandwiches– served on-site).

Pittsburgh Sandwich Society Calls Millvale Home

Pittsburgh Sandwich Society at Strange Roots

For the longest time, Strange Roots operated on a unique kitchen setup. The Gibsonia location was a destination for Pittsburgh food trucks (and now serves Off the Rails BBQ), but Millvale, on the other hand, had an in-house kitchen that primarily focused on barbecue meat, tacos, and more. We have to admit, we were indifferent about the food and primarily visited for the great beers.

In 2021, things changed. Strange Roots Millvale overhauled their kitchen and gave the reigns over to local food truck Pittsburgh Sandwich Society- one of our very favorites. We honestly think this is the perfect match and could set the stage for more collaborations of this nature at other breweries in the city.

The food truck has brought some of their famous sandwiches to this location, including their In-n-Aht Burger and hot chicken, as well as special creations we've never seen on the food truck outright (including a pretty killer looking brunch menu, too).

Suffice it to say, the food element at Strange Roots Millvale now has a significant upgrade and will having us return for the food and the beer time and time again.

Strange Roots Experimental Ales has three locations. One at 501 E Ohio Street in Millvale (just off the Route 28 exit), one at 4399 Gibsonia Road in Gibsonia, and one at 977 5th Ave in New Kensington. Please note that each of the three locations has a different food concept and Pittsburgh Sandwich Society is only found at the Millvale location.

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