You know you’re anticipating something when you keep looking at the clock and thinking, “OK, only THIS MANY hours to go.” I found these thoughts going through my head this past Saturday as I counted down the minutes to when I could go check out the opening of Hitchhiker Brewing in Mt. Lebanon.
And I’m just a fan of beer who blogs about it as much as I can. I can’t begin to fathom the anticipation level of those at the forefront of launching Pittsburgh’s newest craft brewery.
Over the past months, I’ve gotten to know Hitchhiker’s Head Brewer, Andy Kwiatkowski, through ritual Thursday sessions at Piper’s Pub. Andy has honed his craft through the trials and tribulations of home brewing, building an arsenal of knowledge that’s morphed into an exit from corporate American into the realization of a dream. Congratulations Andy, nothing but mad respect for what you are accomplishing!
Andy’s passion for brewing was on display as he and the entire crew from Hitchhiker lifted the curtain and opened their doors for the very first time on Saturday. Unfortunately, I missed the first Hitchhiker release during Craft Beer Week because I showed up too late. So this “soft” opening was my first chance to ‘Pick Up a Hitchhiker’ and I wasn’t going to miss out.
From the second I walked in the front door, I knew I was part of something big. Why? Because the place was BOOMING! The energy was high, the crowd was boisterous, and the debut line of Hitchhiker brews were flowing non-stop. Due to the demand, the crew had an assembly line going and had beers in queue for the many enthusiasts who came out to show support for the new brewery.
Those closest to me know I’m a hop head and seek out IPAs with unbridled enthusiasm. So naturally, this is where I started and ordered a Roadie IPA. Bitter and piney, just the way I like it! Definitely one I’ll be delving into once again down the road. I then shifted gears and dove into the Soles Farmhouse Saison and the Tumbleweed Oatmeal Brown, the English-style beer that eluded me during Beer Week. Both were being poured with much acclaim from those in attendance, and it was easy to see why. Both packed well-balanced flavor and satiated the palate soundly.
You can get a full list of the initial offerings by visiting Hitchhiker Brewing’s website.
Hitchhiker is the latest in the great lineup of breweries who’ve opened their doors for business in the Pittsburgh region over the last few years. Undoubtedly, this city is a hotbed for craft beer, with breweries from around the country making their offerings available in our market along side local breweries making their own footprint in the craft beer culture.
As a craft beer enthusiast, I’m a fan of options…and this boom of new breweries hitting the Steel City landscape gives us just that. But just as important, I’m a major fan of how these breweries connect with their supporters. We all know a new brewery doesn’t have the advertising budgets of the big brewers of the world. But they have a direct connection and, quite frankly, a better product to initiate buzz and excitement around their brand.
Knowing Andy and his passion for brewing, I know he’ll continue to tweak and experiment until the beer he creates is as close to what he views as perfection as it can get. But what’s great about Andy is he understands the connection with people is what truly makes a small brewery grow and prosper. When not busting his butt to pour beer at Saturday’s opening, Andy was out and about throughout the pub, thanking people for coming out and showing Hitchhiker support.
I stole this post from Andy’s Facebook page (sorry man, I hope you don’t mind):
I think this says it all. Thank you to the entire crew at Hitchhiker Brewing for a great blast-off this weekend! You all worked extremely hard and made it all come together. I think I speak for the majority when I say, ‘I can’t wait to see what happens next!’