Wild Beers by Design, What About Tacos?
Over the past few months, Nate and I have made frequent visits to Draai Laag Brewing located at 501 East Ohio Street in Millvale, PA. This brewery has a pub-style taproom that offers a rotating selection of sour or farmhouse ale beers. These beers may start as regular Belgian beers, but in French and Belgian styles they’re introduced to native and/or unique floras (aka yeasts) that greatly change the beers. In ‘normal’ brewing brewers strive to keep any outside yeasts out of the process, however in making sours, outside yeasts are ok! Nate loves sours and I am starting to warm up to some sours but I mainly go to Draai Laag to support Nate’s love of the beer, the great ambiance from both the indoor and outdoor seating areas and now to follow their new taco menu.
Nate follows many bottle/new beer releases specifically from Draai Laag and Hitchhiker Brewery. When there was word that Draai Laag was releasing Lemador, an indigenous wild ale aged in tequila barrels with lemons, and the new taco menu for Cinco de Mayo, we had our plans set for a Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Now just out of pure luck I had Friday off on Cinco de Mayo since I worked the previous Sunday, so I made a complete taco day out of it. I went to La Palapa with my buddy Rick for lunch, tossed some frisbee for a few hours after lunch and then made my way to Draai Laag with Nate for more tacos for dinner and drinks.
We arrived at Draai Laag at around 7pm where we were able to grab two seats at the end of the bar. Nate pulled out the beer menu first and I immediately went for the food menu. There were three tacos added to their menu: smoked brisket, smoked pork and bbq pork or brisket. Now since two tacos come per order, this was a prime opportunity for a classic taco swap. Nate ordered the smoked brisket and I ordered the smoked pork.
While anxiously waiting for the tacos, Nate and I both ordered a flight of beers since there were a lot of new releases that we wanted to sample. I ended up trying the Red Briar (an American wild ale made with raspberries), Blue Briar (an American wild ale made with blueberries) and the Lemador. Honestly, a 5oz sample of each was the perfect variety to start. I think I ended up with a glass of the Red Briar after the flight. Nate tried something pretty wild. It was another new release from a week prior called Vlad. To influence the aging of the beer, they aged it underground in a salt mine in Butler County!
During our flight tastings, our tacos arrived. After the swap, Nate and I both tried the smoked brisket first. Along with the brisket the taco is topped with cotija cheese, pickled red onions, chipotle crema and cilantro, along with a fresh lime slice on the side. I can’t think of how to put this any other way, but biting into this taco reminded me of a meaty cloud. Giant rolls of soft, chewy, tender meat wrapped up in a soft flour tortilla. However, the meaty cloud was heavy like it was full of rain and storms. I think the amount of meat, crema, cheese and onions weighed it down but it was worth it. It would be worth getting stuck in a rainstorm with that taco.
I cannot describe the next taco as a meat cloud because the smoked pork tacos had some more crunch due to the toasted flour tortilla and crisp red cabbage. The smoked pork tacos were drizzled with sour cream and topped with pineapple salsa (looked like chili powder sprinkled on top of the pineapple), serrano peppers, cilantro and presented with a fresh lime slice as well. The smoked pork taco definitely felt lighter than the brisket. With this taco there were many different distinct flavor moments. From the smokiness of the pork, to sweet sugaryness from the pineapple and finally slight bursts of lip numbing sensation from the Serrano peppers, this taco was a trip! However, I think the difference between the sweetness and the smokiness were a little too extreme. Personally, I think I would like a barbecue pork and pineapple combination better than smoked with the extreme sweetness. Both the pork and the pineapple by themselves were of great quality, I just don’t know how I felt with them together. That said, Nate seemed to really enjoy the taco as it was presented. He also ranked the spice level as a 1 out of 10 where baby me thought it was more of a 4 or 5 out of 10.
We were both happy to have one of each as we both agreed that it was a nice variety to have a heavier and lighter taco. Next time we venture back this summer, we will try the third taco on the menu, the bbq pork or brisket covered in coleslaw, sweet pickles and bbq sauce.
Hours: Mon & Tues Closed, Wed-Fri 5pm-10:30pm, Sat 3pm-1030pm, Sun 12-6pm
Price: two tacos for $9