Strange Roots Experimental Ales Review – Wild Ales in Pittsburgh

Last Updated on December 2, 2019 by Jeremy

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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 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 interest 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).

Food Options at Strange Roots

Wild Fermentation Beer in Pittsburgh

Currently Strange Roots has two food options for visitors.

Those who visit their Millvale location are able to purchase food from the on-site kitchen which features an array of smoked meat products including sandwiches, tacos, and meat-topped nachos. While decent for barbecue, we often eat elsewhere and visit this one for drinks. But if you are in the mood for a meal when visiting, the Orchard sandwich (with smoked turkey, melted brie, green apple, and apple butter) is a delicious sandwich that pairs quite well with their sour beer.

Those who visit their Gibsonia location can plan around periodic food trucks that visit the site; however, Strange Roots is planning on opening a full kitchen here as well so this could change shortly.

Strange Roots Experimental Ales has two locations. One at 501 E Ohio Street in Millvale (just off the Route 28 exit) and one at 4399 Gibsonia Road in Gibsonia. 

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