As we turn the calendar to December and prepare to close the curtain on 2015, we can look back on a very prosperous year for the Pittsburgh craft beer scene. Many established destinations have either upped their game to ensure they’re catering effectively to a burgeoning group of beer enthusiasts or have transitioned their offerings to include, or solely feature, high-quality beers that satiate our desires to drink a well-constructed adult beverage. New bars have joined the circle and have hit the ground running, instantly establishing a long line of loyal advocates frequenting their locales and shouting their praises from the rooftops. Renowned breweries such as SweetWater, New Belgium, and Alpine have made their wares available in our region. New breweries and distilleries and wineries have joined the fold as well, giving us plenty of options for libation and celebration seemingly at every turn.
Even the way beer is promoted has evolved in 2015. As we speak, my TimeHop is reminding me that December 8th is rapidly approaching. That date, of course, marks the day I first launched the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Network in an effort to educate you, the craft beer enthusiast, as well as provide a unified platform for all of our region’s craft beer purveyors to promote their businesses and events. 2015 would lead to a mobile app called PCBN Connect, a transition in blog services that made Breaking Brews the official blog of PCBN, and the beginning phases of a platform designed with one purpose in mind: to make us all better.
As I reflect on this past year, I can’t thank you enough for reading and sharing posts from this blog, using PCBN Connect to keep track of the events here in town, and supporting my efforts to help improve the Pittsburgh craft beer landscape, even if it’s in the smallest of ways. As I’ve said a hundred times, this “outer fringe” stuff (the apps, the blogs, etc.) are necessary for the perpetuation of a great product, but wouldn’t exist if not for the efforts of all those making these extraordinary adult beverages available to us. We owe a debt to each and every one of these hard-working individuals, for it’s their dedication to going against the grain that allows us to live in a wild, wild world of abundance.
As you get ready for the holidays and the inevitable arrival of 2016, take a few minutes to pour yourself a pint of your favorite brew and relive the destinations that landed in this year’s Craft Beer Spotlight!
Smokin’ Joe’s Saloon – January 2015
When I first moved to Pittsburgh in 2003, craft beer was not on my radar. Not in the least. My best friend and podcast partner Jason Collins and I would hit the beer distributor on Saturday night and load up on swill for football on Sunday. There’s photographic evidence of us crushing a great deal of that macro nonsense with NFL Sunday Ticket on the tube, basically demonstrating we had yet to realize we graduated college.
As time went on, I began to meet new people and those people loved to frequent the South Side. Anxious to learn about my new home, I graciously accepted their invitations to tag along. And it was in these adventures that I discovered Smokin’ Joe’s Saloon. That’s when a whole new world of beer options I never knew existed opened up before my eyes. Fast-forward 13 years and craft beer has become my profession. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Joe’s for opening my eyes to a world of limitless possibilities.
Click here to read more about Smokin’ Joe’s Saloon.
The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company – February 2015
At this point, The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company is approaching its two-year anniversary and has solidified itself as one of Pittsburgh’s most unique and incredible breweries. If you’ve consumed any of their offerings at beer festivals like Beers of the Burgh, you most likely stood in a line 30+ deep to make it happen. These guys have gained a powerful reputation and have done so by never deviating from their mantra of celebrating everything beer has to offer. I firmly believe the reason I hit it off with Matt Katase and Asa Foster so well is we all enjoy the social element and overall experience the liquid in the glass brings us. It’s not just about the beer, it’s about beer serving as the ultimate catalyst for the experiences we have with the people we love.
Click here to discover more about Matt, Asa, and The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company.
Hal’s Bar & Grill and Hal’s Bottle Shop – March 2015
In my most recent stint in the North Hills, I found myself mere minutes away from Hal’s. I felt like I had found the ultimate hidden gem when I first happened upon this destination. The bar is great, the food is tremendous, and the Bottle Shop is by far the best one I’ve encountered since relocating to Pittsburgh. Manager Danny Castriota takes great pride in educating new customers and helping them construct a six-pack that will open them up to new options and aid in their discovery of tremendous beer. He’s even created a Rare Beer Club that allows you to earn points when you purchase limited releases of beers in bottles and on tap and receive advanced notification of new releases the more points you tally.
Click here to get the lowdown on Hal’s.
Spoonwood Brewing Company – April 2015
I walked into Spoonwood Brewing Company on January 31st, 2015 and my heart never left. This day represented Spoonwood’s first day of business and arrival on the craft beer scene and they did it in epic fashion. Being that Spoonwood was a short 5-mile drive from my house, I knew I had found a new destination in my neighborhood. From nearly the start, I’ve been working through PCBN with the great people who make Spoonwood tick and can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to serve as their Brand Manager today.
If you haven’t been to Spoonwood yet, you’re missing out. Click here to learn why.
The Independent Brewing Company – May 2015
When you talk to several people in beer circles and consistently hear every one of them reference the same destination, you go check it out for yourself. That’s how The Independent Brewing Company entered my life. Their concept of serving culinary masterpieces next to signature cocktails and craft beer options born locally is truly one of the most unique experiences in Pittsburgh. The Independent is the kind of place where the odds of pulling up a stool next to the brewer who made your beer are highly in your favor.
Click here and see why you need to make The Independent your next stop.
Apis, Grist House, Brew Gentlemen, and Hitchhiker Turn One – June 2015
I mentioned in the open of this mashup that our scene has experienced tremendous growth. And a significant piece of that growth happened in the Spring and Summer of 2014 as four new powerhouses joined the family and helped reshape the craft beer landscape for the better.
Earlier this year, Grist House Brewing, The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company, Hitchhiker Brewing, and Apis Mead all turned one. Take a look back at the first-ever collaboration Craft Beer Spotlight and discover how these four locations made a name for themselves right off the bat.
Wexford Ale House – August 2015
The North Hills is starting to see more craft beer establishments come to order, but Wexford Ale House was doing craft beer before craft beer was cool. In a way, these guys were the trendsetters, bringing a wide variety of beer offerings to the North of Pittsburgh and giving citizens of Wexford and beyond a great watering hole with great food and stellar ambiance. Their location on Perry Highway puts them in eye shot of thousands of vehicles on a daily basis and their attention to pouring good beer makes them a prime destination for lunch, dinner, and drinks with friends.
Click here to take a closer look at Wexford Ale House.
Indiana, PA: Your Newest Craft Beer Destination – September 2015
The reach of craft beer has seen breweries come into existence in all corners of Pittsburgh. Now, Indiana County is set to become the latest in the list of areas prepared to house artisanal beers and spirits. We are rapidly approaching the grand openings of Noble Stein Brewing Company and Levity Brewing Company in Indiana. Both breweries are about three minutes away from one another and, with Disobedient Spirits already operating in neighboring Homer City, Indiana is about to become the latest hotbed of adult beverage enjoyment!
I was fortunate enough to visit these three locations in the late summertime and get a true feel for what’s on the horizon. Click here to read all about it.
Rivertowne Brewing Company – October 2015
Talk about a brewery who started small and made it big! From their days brewing on a small pilot system to a full production brewery in Export today, Rivertowne Brewing has been a name synonymous with craft beer in Pittsburgh for over a decade. Their restaurants all over town feature beers straight from their portfolio, as well as other local and regional options for your consumption. The brewery itself sports a relaxing taproom and patio for kicking back in the summer time and, without question, their brewery tour is one of the most thorough and enjoyable in town.
I visited my friends at Rivertowne as Fall came to pass and got know them a little better. You can click here to do the same.
The Modern Cafe – November 2015
Rounding out 2015 (other than this mashup, obviously) is a little place in the North Side that the world should know about. The Modern Cafe has been serving drinks to the city of Pittsburgh since Prohibition ended. Through the years, they’ve seen many changes and even survived a fire that nearly cost them their business to become a great craft beer destination, perfect for frequenting before, during, and after Steelers game…and all the other days in between. And their sandwiches…well, words just don’t do them justice, try as I might have in November’s Spotlight.
Click here to get the skinny on The Modern Cafe.
Not a Spotlight, But Still Awesome
Pig Iron Public House opened their doors in early October in Cranberry and brought with them 66 taps of craft beer. In addition, they feature locally-sourced food and craft cocktails constructed of local and regional spirits. These guys are new to the game, but they’ve placed tremendous emphasis on local craft beer and have quickly established themselves as all-star players.
Check out this feature on Pig Iron Public House, then go visit them immediately.
For the full list of Craft Beer Spotlights dating back to 2014, check out the Craft Beer Spotlight Archives.