Talk to any craft beer brewer here in Pittsburgh and they will undoubtedly speak of the camaraderie that’s shared amongst the great men and women who produce our favorite craft beverage. It’s a special mission that brings together so many people with the common goal of carving their own piece out of the craft beer framework, working tirelessly to amplify the local scene and make Pittsburgh a craft beer destination, and, most importantly, brew kick ass beer.
Another point just about any Pittsburgh brewer will be happy to discuss are the local bars, restaurants, bottle shops and other establishments who’ve made it a point to keep their beers in steady rotation. This is critical to their growth and gives craft beer enthusiasts an opportunity to discover what’s born locally and rivaling beer from across the country. And direct from every horse’s mouth will come props for The Independent Brewing Company in Squirrel Hill.
Why? Because the IBC gang is doing something pretty special over there.
If you haven’t checked out The Independent, you’re missing one of the few establishments in town featuring local and regionally-born craft beer…and nothing but. They also feature locally-made spirits, and items off the food menu are created via area farms and purveyors, too. IBC’s commitment to local fare is designed to help the growth of all the breweries and businesses on a local level and create a winning environment for everyone. It’s an honor to feature The Independent Brewing Company in April’s Craft Beer Spotlight.
“We really believe in what the local brewers are doing and love keeping them on tap,” Pete Kurzweg, co-owner of The Independent, stated. “There is so much good beer made right here in Pittsburgh, it always gives us an opportunity to focus on those beers while keeping our lineup fresh all the time.”
The overall rise of craft beer over the past decade has opened up the floodgates in our fair city. Many new breweries have burst onto the scene, all offering bold, flavorful craft beers that often rival products from renowned breweries across the country. To say Pittsburgh has established a passionate, loyal craft beer fan base would be an understatement, and the product that has surfaced to satiate these fans has been one of quality and ingenuity, and well-deserving of an exclusive tap rotation.
The Independent first opened its doors in 2014 with that exact mission in mind. Their philosophy is that “local beer is fresh beer. Fresh beer is good beer.” This belief has allowed them to create the local-centric vibe throughout their cozy, laid-back establishment, all while helping emphasize the great things our local brewers are bringing to the marketplace.
“We want our customers to feel welcome and discover great local beers when they come to see us,” Pete said. “At the same time, we want to be able to educate them on what they can find in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, too. This all leads to helping our craft breweries grow.”
The Independent Brewing Company’s name was derived from a cartel of local brewers that made their home in Pittsburgh in the years prior to Prohibition. This group was created to represent the interests of small, local brewers in the Pittsburgh region. Much like the beer wars still being fought today, the first inception of The Independent Brewing Company’s idea was to band the small breweries together to compete against the national brewing companies. And also much like the original Independent Brewing Company, today’s IBC’s concept is to show the world that Pittsburgh is and forever will be a city known for good beer, good food, and good people.
The Independent’s hope is to be a tavern where you can drink beer on a bar stool next to the person who made it. And there’s no question this could happen on any given evening. But should you find yourself bellied up to the bar sans brewer to your left or right, the experience you leave with won’t be lessened. The craft beer menu is well thought-out and, as mentioned, local-centric. The cocktail menu is comprised of creative drinks featuring locally-distilled whiskey, rums, and other alcoholic beverages. All the music cascading through the air inside The Independent is played on vinyl records. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, able to provide background on the beers and make suggestions to help you get started. And the food that leaves the kitchen will make your mouth water…especially if you’re into bacon. And…be real. You know you’re into bacon.
One of my info-gathering trips to The Independent brought me in on a snowy Monday evening that featured mac and cheese on special. It only took the knowledge of knowing I could add bacon that sealed the deal for me. And as you can see by the picture to the right, the instinctive choice to eat like a 7-year old can pay off in droves as this dish was worth the price of admission. Mac and cheese was great and the bacon was out of this world.
“We don’t mess around with bacon here,” Brett Sullivan, IBC’s bartender extraordinaire, informed me.
I think I said something earlier about an understatement…right there’s another one.
Executive Chef Monique Ruvolo has put together a menu defined as refined comfort food that blends her Mediterranean background with fresh, local ingredients. Monique began honing her craft in her mother’s New Jersey kitchen by preparing traditional Middle-Eastern dishes fused with local Italian cuisine. From there, Monique has worked her way up the ladder and diversified her skill set, now implementing the IBC philosophy of utilizing local ingredients into her culinary creations.
My thirst to learn more about The Independent next led me to the cocktail menu, where I found a drink named after Pittsburgh legend Rick Sebak. Having tipped a couple pints back with Mr. Sebak in the past, it was only fitting I partook. And, much to my excitement, I discovered…more bacon! CANDIED bacon. It wasn’t like I doubted Brett’s bacon claim the first time around…but this little drink topper drove the point home. This was a solid bourbon creation, also containing Wigle Whiskey chocolate mole bitters, that I could sip all evening. It warmed my insides, which was fitting for a cold winter’s evening. A special thanks to Mr. Sebak for inspiring a solid drink.
Pittsburgh is truly a city that gravitates towards local support. And that gravitation becomes even easier when the local product being supported kicks total ass. We are seeing a great deal of this when it comes to the craft beer and adult beverage creations in Pittsburgh, and The Independent is the perfect place to discover what it’s all about.
“We want to make sure we do everything we can to help our local scene grow,” Pete concluded. “Putting such great emphasis on our local brewers allows us to do that and lets all of Pittsburgh realize what’s being made in their own backyard. It really is an exciting time to be part of the craft beer scene.”
As our city continues to solidify itself as a craft beer hotbed, you can guarantee The Independent Brewing Company will be there to keep these beers center stage. It’s always a pleasure to find an establishment committed to helping the craft beer scene and its community flourish. The Independent is a place you need to move high up your priority list of craft beer destinations to check out immediately.
Yep…there’s another understatement.