The Best Craft Beer This Side of the Tracks
Undoubtedly, there are many unique elements to the City of Pittsburgh that make it stand out from the crowd. French fries on salads and sandwiches, passionate sports fans, three rivers intersecting, 446 bridges, and one of the nicest skyline views anyone could ever find. These and so many other intricacies have been covered ad nauseam in various lists scattered across the World Wide Web.
From a historical standpoint, Pittsburgh is most recognized for its contributions to the steel industry. In 1911, Pittsburgh was responsible for approximately one-half of the United States steel output. However, as decades wore on, that output waned and a massive implosion in the industry in the 1980s led to several Pittsburgh-based steel mills ceasing operations and left thousands of workers without jobs. As Pittsburgh has evolved and reinvented itself since this occurrence, great efforts have been made to encompass the city’s former staple and weave its roots into the tapestry of our current day-to-day “Steel City.”
One fun and important part of Pittsburgh’s evolution has been its overwhelming acceptance of craft beer. A town with brewing roots as far back as 1765, Pittsburgh is packed pillar to post with beer enthusiasts always looking to tap into new libations.
And thanks to places like Blue Dust in Homestead, we have the opportunity to experience Pittsburgh’s roots and Pittsburgh’s love affair with craft beer…all under one roof. This pleasurable combination has put Blue Dust center-stage for this month’s Craft Beer Spotlight.
Blue Dust is located right next to the train tracks at the entrance to the current Waterfront Shopping Center, a plaza bustling with theaters, restaurants, shopping, and more. This same spot was formerly known in Pittsburgh as the entrance to the Homestead Steel Works. Those familiar with the area will recall seeing the brick smoke stacks located on the outskirts of the complex, capturing the essence of what this historical section of town once represented.
For those unfamiliar with steel mill lore, “blue dust” is a term used when iron ore is dominated by very fine, soft hematite. Since hematite grains often have a bluish-gray color, the powdery ore was nicknamed “blue dust.” In today’s Steel City craft beer lore, Blue Dust is the term tied to a remarkable gastropub that features 26 rotating craft beer taps, a vegan-friendly menu, outdoor dining, and in-house infused specialty drinks. Blue Dust is the perfect pairing of craft beer destination and neighborhood bar.
Opened in 2009, owner Jerry Miller makes no bones about his mission of delivering the best craft beer options available by strongly abiding by his #1 Rule: No Crap On Tap.
“I brought craft beers to Pittsburgh,” Jerry boasted. “No matter what, I’ve always had a taste for good, quality beer…even when it wasn’t available as readily in our area. For 30 years, I’ve either sold it or served it.”
Jerry’s affection for featuring craft beer has helped him establish strong relationships with local and national breweries alike. He has a great relationship with Rogue Farms located in Oregon, as well as local breweries like Helltown, Full Pint, and others. His three decades-plus of experience in the beer industry and a strong affection for craft beers himself has helped Jerry establish a diverse selection of drafts and bottled beer to be enjoyed in-house or to-go.
Of course, Jerry can’t do it alone. Assisting him on keeping Blue Dust on the cutting edge of craft beer evolution and development is Stephanie Dickson. If you’ve communicated with Blue Dust via Twitter, Facebook, or any other online medium, you’ve been talking to Stephanie. She handles Blue Dust’s social media and is heavily involved with organizing the various events that have helped establish Blue Dust as a major player in Pittsburgh’s craft beer circle. She’s also responsible for the flavor-packed infused drinks, including the peach-infused tequila I had to regrettably decline seconds of upon my last visit since I was responsible for operating a vehicle.
“We like to make sure everyone that comes to Blue Dust has a great time,” Stephanie said. “Even if you don’t drink beer, there’s something for you here. From beer to food to wine to whiskey, there’s something for everyone. We’ve covered all the bases.”
The definition of gastropub is an establishment that serves good food and high-quality alcoholic beverages. I was shocked there wasn’t a picture of Blue Dust next to that description. The Blue Dust menu is off the beaten path from what you’ll find in many bars and restaurants. They don’t serve fries or wings. There is no flesh in the fryers.
“We fry everything with canola oil,” Jerry said. “We try to make our menu as unique as possible. Our food is vegan-friendly, carnivore-friendly, and vegetarian-friendly. We’ve got great eats for any appetite.”
Blue Dust’s staple dish is their brisket. Or, as Jerry informed me, anything that comes out of the smoker. They smoke a wide variety of meats for your dining pleasure, including but not limited to turkey and pastrami, all of which pair fantastically with a pint of your favorite craft brew.
If you were out and about during 2014’s edition of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, you probably heard noise coming from Blue Dust, as several events took place to celebrate the greatness of craft beer during the 10-day city-wide festival. Most notable of said events was the Oyster Festival that took place the last Saturday of Beer Week underneath the Homestead Greys Bridge. Live music, food trucks, a variety of craft beers, and, of course, oysters flown across the country from Oregon were laid out for all to enjoy. This is one of Blue Dust’s biggest events of the year and they are looking to bring it back in 2015.
Love pumpkin beer? Who doesn’t, right? It’s crept onto the scene earlier and earlier each year, but there’s something about a pumpkin beer that goes perfectly with the cool, brisk winds of Fall. On Saturday, October 11th, Blue Dust gives you the opportunity to do just that and more by celebrating all things pumpkin with its 3rd Annual Pumpkin Fest! Live music, over 20 pumpkin beers served in gourds, and…well, I could go on and on, but I’ll let the poster do the talking…
Blue Dust has built itself into one of Pittsburgh’s top craft beer locales thanks to extensive beer knowledge, unique food, friendly staff, and a spirit that embodies the essence of what the area once represented. Just like the steel workers of past generations, the Blue Dust team works incredibly hard to ensure you get exactly what you’re looking for. No matter what that may be.
“Everything that you put in your mouth from Blue Dust is going to taste good,” Jerry concluded.
I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Go pull up a stool and enjoy!