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Eliza Jane Bowman volunteered at a bottling event at East End Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood several years ago.
She noticed cases of barleywine sitting in the warehouse.
Owner Scott Smith said it had gone flat and wasn’t worth anything.
She saw a value to it.
“I told him that I would take a bottle of the barleywine,” said Bowman of Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood. “I made barleywine pretzel rolls.”
East End had 1,600 bottles. It didn’t carbonate, Smith said.
”We tried everything, even selling it at a discounted price,” he said. “Flat beer doesn’t sell, but it tastes great in Eliza’s barleywine pretzel rolls topped with her beer cheese.”
Courtesy of Eliza Jane Bowman
Pretzel rolls made with Barley Wine from East End Brewing Co. at Prohibition Pastries in East Liberty.
The alcohol-infused bread helped with the rise of Bowman’s business, Prohibition Pastries. She bakes with spirits from local distilleries and breweries.
The bakery opened four years ago in Point Breeze. The location is temporarily closed because its size doesn’t allow for safe distancing between shoppers because of the pandemic.
Bowman now has a second store in East Liberty, which is three times larger at 1,100-square feet.
“Yes, I opened during a pandemic and yes, I opened on a Friday the 13th,” she said. “But things are going well. The business has been well-received.”
Everything is takeout only.
Known for savory hand pies and sweet, “booze-centricbakes” such as gin and ginger peach, apple whiskey, winter ale pecan, and rum coconut cream pies, Bowman’s bakery collaborates with spirits, wine and other craft beverages.
Pennsylvania connections include Wigle Whiskey, Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Maggie’s Farm Rum, and Commonplace Coffee. She incorporates Wigle Whiskey into the apple pie and makes a key lime pie with Maggie’s Farm Rum. Bowman also uses seasonal ingredients such as berries and citrus from local farms. She uses 100% butter.
A deep-dish, 10-inch pie is $15-$20.
Bowman transitioned to an online pre-order system and created subscription-based programs such as the Pie Club. Every first Friday of the month there are options from one 9-inch sweet pie for $15 to one 9-inch sweet pie, two pot pies, four hand-pies and six turnovers for $100.
Bowman said incorporating spirits into baked goods doesn’t give them an alcohol taste.
“Using alcohol is a great way to transfer flavor,” she said. “Most of these products aren’t super boozy. We do make some truffles that taste a little bit like alcohol.”
Bowman’s English and Irish style baking is all from scratch. Her love of the craft started in her grandma’s kitchen, cooking sticky buns. She still makes her late grandmother Ada Lou Ross’ recipe of cinnamon rolls, pecans and maple glaze — no alcohol, though.
Bowman said you don’t have to be a scientist to be a baker. A lot of it comes from experience and you get to know the feel of the dough.
“Eliza makes a wonderful product,” said Jean Lange, of Brookline who is a member of the Pie Club. “She cares about the customer and knows me by name. These pies are better than any others I have ever tasted. Everything is so good here.”
She also collaborated on the “East End Survival Kits.” For a $225 three-week subscription, you can pick up a box of 12 oz. whole been coffee from Commonplace Coffee, bread and pastries from Prohibition Pastries, a four-pack of all-natural sodas from Barmy Soda Co., delicious eats from chef Kate Romane of Black Radish Kitchen and a four-pack of various beers from East End Brewing Co., at the brewery in Larimer.
“In this ever-changing environment, we as small businesses must do what we can to help each other,” said Brendan Benson, founder of Barmy Soda Co. in Larimer in a statement. “This survival kit idea was born out of that sentiment.”
Smith said the survival kits are a way to reach customers in a new way. That is needed more than ever with some people opting for a dry January.
“That really affects our revenue stream,” Smith said. “We have some low alcohol beers and other drinks we can offer. There will be some lean days ahead, but being able to collaborate with other businesses like Eliza’s can help keep us all going.”
Even with flat beer.
Prohibition Pastries is located at 6168 Centre Ave., East Liberty.
Hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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