Surround – to enclose on all sides; to form an enclosure around; to enclose so as to cut off
The dictionary’s definition of ‘surround’ seems downright inconvenient. Often times, being surrounded leads to feelings of discomfort, uncertainty, and nervousness. You feel trapped. You rely on primal instincts to fight for your survival.
Unless you’re surrounded by beer. Lots of beer. Beer of every style, every strength, and every popularity. Then you just smile ear to ear.
So as I sit inside House of 1000 Beers in New Kensington, a feeling of calm and comfort washes over me. As I sit perched at this pub table next to the bar, kicking back a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale at 12:16 in the afternoon (hey, it’s the first day of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week…no judging), I look to my left and see two big screens overhanging the bar with 24 draught beer options. I turn my head to the right and see an entire wall of bottle options for consumption either in-house or to go.
There’s no question…your palate can exist on any conceivable level and you’ll find a beer that will satiate at House of 1000 Beers.
A little off the beaten path, “Ho1KB” is a place that requires a special trip. But just like any other prestigious destination in the world, it’s a trip totally worth your while.
“We know where we are, but we know what we have,” said John Lakari, General Manager of House of 1000 Beers. “We have fair prices on our beers and we make sure to give people a reason to come see us.”
As I watch John interact with patrons at the bar, it’s clearly evident he pours a wealth of knowledge and care into helping people understand the value behind the beer they’re consuming. And when it comes to craft beer, the story behind the beer is often times just as good as the spirit in the glass.
John has a very straight-forward philosophy when it comes to the beers people love.
“I liken beer flavors to a person’s taste in music,” John explained. “You don’t have to like a certain band to appreciate their contributions to the music industry and know it’s good. It’s the same with craft beer. You don’t have to like every beer out there to know it’s something good that others will enjoy and appreciate.”
The initial idea for House of 1000 Beers was born in 1974 when Dave and Maureen Sagrati opened a beer distributor. There were very few microbrews available at that time, but imports were available on the East Coast. Dave started seeking out new brands of beer and quickly had over 300 different selections available to his customers. Only problem was, distributors in Pennsylvania could only sell cases and customers were hesitant to buy a full case of beer that they’d never tried or heard of.
This led to the opening of Six N Save in 1994, a six-pack shop that offered imports and craft beers by the bottle. This gave customers the opportunity to expand their horizons without going all-out on a full case, and things took off from there. 2006 saw the business move into a larger facility, equipped with an 18-door visa cooler that allowed customers to mix and match six-packs at a moderate price. By 2009, the name House of 1000 Beers was bestowed upon Dave and Maureen’s family business, a name that better reflects the true image of their operation.
House of 1000 Beers has a cask beer delivery system in the works and touts a Draft Beer Club and Bottle Club with over 3000 members and growing. They have the largest selection of premium craft and import beers in Western PA, with several rare beers not found in other corners of the region.
It was very early in my conversation with John that I discovered he and I are on the same page when it comes to craft beer. Like me, John agrees you simply can’t drink a bland, light lager for years, then try a hoppy IPA and fully appreciate it. There’s a slow evolution that takes place that allows the palate to take in, absorb, transition, and eventually crave a beer of full body, good balance, and challenging flavor.
At House of 1000 Beers, this belief is fully embraced by John and the rest of the crew. They have a build-your-own six-pack section designed specifically for those at the beginning stages of transitioning into craft beer and rebuilding their palate.
“When a new customer build a six-pack with us, I ask them to take pictures of the beers they drink and, when they return, let me know what they liked and what they didn’t so I can direct them towards more options,” John said. “As they tell me what excited them, I give them options for their next six-pack creation. Eventually, I’ll ‘graduate’ them from the starter section to the back of the House where the stronger, hoppier options are.”
As palates continue to evolve, so does the overall approach at House of 1000 Beers. According to John, they have the capability to tap 46 beers at any given time, but they keep it limited to 24. This is a pretty well-balanced number, as draught options abound but don’t overwhelm. But the capability for more options has given John the idea of implementing a special tap selection for local brewers only, something he plans on rolling out in the very near future. In addition, the menu will be undergoing an overhaul in the upcoming months as well.
House of 1000 Beers is the true definition of “craft beer destination.” You may have to go a little farther, but the extra miles are worth it when you come face-to-face with this many beer options. Wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another locale this in-tune with the wide variety of beer for all us craft beer enthusiasts to tap into.