Grinding Out Greatness
To say Pittsburgh has experienced a surge in craft beer progression in recent months would be an incredible understatement. Our beer culture has seen the doors blow wide open with plethora of options at our disposal, from nationwide and local breweries alike. The abundance of offerings from both have made Pittsburgh a force to be reckoned with in regards to craft beer growth and sustainability, and have put Pittsburgh on the map as a big player in craft beer appreciation.
The importance of local-born beer can never be overlooked as craft breweries with roots in our city have woven themselves into the fabric of the craft beer scene. These breweries and, ultimately, the brewers who create the product we know and love, are on a steadfast mission to produce beers that rival the likes of anything you’ll find across our great region, state, and country.
And boy, are they doing it well.
In May of 2014, Pittsburgh witnessed three new craft breweries cut the ribbon and let the world know they had arrived, great beer in tow. These breweries add to an already-impressive group of local brewers who collectively are making the ‘Burgh a craft beer hotbed. These three new players in the game are known as Hitchhiker Brewing in Mt. Lebanon, The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company in Braddock, and this month’s Craft Beer Spotlight feature, Grist House Brewing in Millvale.
Grist House Brewing was started by Brian Eaton and Kyle Mientkiewicz, two down-to-earth guys with an optimistic expectation of where craft beer is headed in our fair city, as well as an innate ability to produce insanely good craft beers. These brothers-in-law got their start where so many great brewers do…in the comfort of their home. As they honed their craft, opening an official brewery was the next logical step.
“We started home brewing six years ago and eventually decided we wanted to start up a brewery,” Brian explained. “We wanted to escape the corporate grind and this was a great way for that to happen.”
After a few years of searching for the proper locale, reviving the property that’s become their home, and crafting quality beers to offer the public, Grist House opened on Memorial Day Weekend to great acclaim from Pittsburgh’s craft beer brethren. Comments and reviews on Twitter and Untappd quickly helped word of Brian and Kyle’s beers spread like wildfire and, in a short period of time, has helped them lay a solid foundation on which to build the brewery’s future.
When one thinks of Millvale, the mind typically doesn’t wander to ‘craft beer hotspot.’ However, that mindset is dissolving rapidly. Grist House joins Draai Laag, a brewery known for their Belgian-inspired offerings, as Millvale’s second craft brewery. In an area at the forefront of revival, craft beer is spearheading the rejuvenation and Grist House is on board with making Millvale a destination once again.
“We didn’t so much pick Millvale as much as Millvale picked us,” Kyle said. “We looked in many different places and when we found this location, we checked it out and discovered it was much bigger than the pictures we saw. So we bought it, started knocking down walls, rebuilding, and here we are. This area helped us out a lot as we worked to get started.”
Grist House Brewing’s facility once served as a slaughterhouse, evidenced by the meat hook that still hangs from the ceiling as a symbolic tie to the historic roots of their newly-remodeled 15-barrel brewhouse. The bar sits just above the brewing area, giving patrons the opportunity to see where the magic happens close-up. Brian and Kyle were able to use the structural layout of the building as the framework for the actual bar, a neat feature that adds to the overall landscape of this stellar new Pittsburgh brewery. Add in tall barrels serving as tables and you’ve got all the makings of a one-of-a-kind, comfortable atmosphere in which to enjoy a locally-born craft beverage.
Just outside the bar sits a beautiful new deck, perfect for kicking back and soaking in some Pittsburgh summer rays with good beers in hand. When I paid a visit to them last week, Cornhole was in full swing and craft beer enthusiasts filled both the deck and indoor areas to near-capacity. One thing I noticed was Brian, Kyle, and the rest of the Grist House crew talking up not just their beer, but craft beer in general, with their patrons. This characteristic is incredibly important for new and experienced craft beer fans alike, as gaining knowledge of the beer can be just as exciting as tasting it.
“We are already starting to get regulars,” Brian happily proclaimed. “But we are still getting a nice mix of new faces on a daily basis. It’s really great to see this many people checking us out from all around the city.”
Outside of meeting with Brian and Kyle, my top priority in my visit to Grist House was to get myself a flight and sample the beers I’d heard nothing but great things about. I spun the wheel and procured Grist House’s Trappist Belgium, Crouching Porter Hidden Chocolate, Session Pale Ale, Black Rye IPA, and Camp Slap Red Ale. Each had their own unique elements, and I can easily say you can put these offerings up against some of the more renown offerings available on a national level and end your session equally as satisfied. I was particularly impressed with the chocolate porter, which served up a lighter mouth feel than most porters, but contained the roasty elements of chocolate and coffee you want from this style of beer.
Overall, my personal tastes always favor the hoppiness of a craft brew, and the Camp Slap Red was the one that stood out for me. I’ve always enjoyed reds, but Grist House’s offering hit me with a hop punch I hadn’t experienced in this style before. The bitterness was balanced and not overwhelming, but potent enough to hit me in my hop feels. I grabbed a growler to go and paired it with grilled chicken breasts covered in Old Bay seasoning. Twas a wise, tasty decision.
After only two months of full-scale operation, Grist House beers are now being featured in six craft beer bars across the city. This is a true testament of not only the passion, enthusiasm, and attention to detail Kyle and Brian have poured into beer, but the drive and desire so many Pittsburgh locales have for supporting a local-born product.
“There is so much room for craft beer growth in Pittsburgh,” Brian said. “The next 10 years are going to be phenomenal for craft beer and craft beer lovers in this town.”
You can now get your hands on Grist House beers in the following establishments in Pittsburgh:
- Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Bloomfield
- Bocktown Beer & Grill in Robinson and Monaca
- Piper’s Pub in the South Side
- Independent Brewing Company in Squirrel Hill
- The Beerhive in the Strip District
- The Korner Pub in Mt. Lebanon
As fans of great beer, it’s a wonderful thing to be blessed with so many options. But there’s something special about seeing someone’s labor of love come to life and evolve into something extraordinary. Brian and Kyle have opened up the game by scoring a touchdown. All that remains is to see how much they run up the score. If great beer brewed by great people served in a fun, welcoming environment are the driving forces, I’m predicting an absolute blowout of craft beer greatness.