The “It” Factor
Outside of your home, few places offer that indescribable feeling of comfort and coziness more than your friendly, neighborhood bar. For hundreds of years, all across the world, people have bellied up to bars where libations were lively, conversations candid, and memories multiple. There’s something soothing about your favorite watering hole being a stone’s throw from your front porch. And when the stars align, that watering hole becomes a place you’re proud to call a second home.
Throughout the years, what we’ve known as “neighborhood bar” has been redefined. Our favorite locales don’t have to rest minutes or seconds from the house, but rather offer a comfort level and an approach to service that transforms said locale into a destination in which people travel far and wide to experience.
It’s the “It” Factor we always look for, and few places exemplify that better than Hough’s Taproom & Brewpub. They have solidified their position in the upper echelon of craft beer hierarchy in Pittsburgh, which, among many other accolades, has thrust them into this month’s Craft Beer Spotlight on Breaking Brews.
Hough’s has been family-owned since opening its doors in 2008. Greg, Matt, and Cassie Hough all share responsibilities in the every day operations of their establishment, a tremendous facility located on Greenfield Avenue in the heart of Greenfield. Their parents are “semi-retired,” but offer guidance and assistance when needed. With the overwhelming popularity Hough’s has achieved, there’s no question their tutelage has paid off for the brother-sister trio.
“Our family has always been into craft beer, so we knew were going to go that route eventually,” said Matt Hough. “But we never thought it would get this big. We opened in 2008 as a local neighborhood bar. But the neighborhood has evolved and more college students came into the area. They asked us to bring in more beers, and we delivered.”
Since discovering Hough’s, I’ve always felt it contained a great vibe for craft beer and sports, a suitable pairing most people don’t dare argue with. I’ll never forget rushing to Hough’s to catch overtime of Game 6 of the Penguins-Islanders opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series in 2013 after a comedy show forced me to miss regulation. I had a prime seat and a hoppy beverage in my grasps just in time to watch Brooks Orpik clinch the series for the Pens with a slapshot from the blue line. The atmosphere inside Hough’s was electric, and that feeling of a raucous sports crowd made me feel like I was 10 feet from the ice.
Hough’s touts 71 rotating taps, most of which you can find beautifully arranged on their infamous Tap Wall. Combined with the 200+ bottles in the cooler, you’ll undoubtedly have enough to keep your taste buds occupied. But don’t forget to bring your appetite as Hough’s sports a top-shelf menu to crush that growl from within. They recently installed a smoker and offer smoked chicken wings, as well as an extensive bounty of appetizers, wraps, salads, hoagies, and burgers.
“We are in the process of launching a new food menu and are looking to branch off and do some crazy things with it,” Matt explained. “One item of note will be the Fat Albert, which is a 1 lb. burger patty, 4 pieces of bacon, 2 eggs, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar cheese…all between two cinnamon rolls.”
WARNING: Be sure to delete My Fitness Pal before crossing Albert’s path.
Craft beer has spiked in popularity and acceptance over the past 5-10 years due to events designed to educate consumers on different beer styles and exploit the many craft options available. Hough’s has embraced this trend with many unique events of their own. Arguably the most acclaimed of those events have been their Sunday Brunch sessions. They feature a full brunch menu and, once a month, partner with a different brewery to offer various food and beer pairings, as well as beer-infused cocktails and a coffee mug with the brewery’s logo to take home.
I attended the Great Lakes Beer Brunch during Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week and the experience was stellar. The Red River, which contained Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale, ruby red grapefruit juice, and ginger syrup was the perfect complement to my breakfast bowl. And, of course…who doesn’t enjoy an Elliot Ness before noon?
If there’s one thing that makes a craft beer destination stand out, it’s the ability to deliver uniqueness. And Hough’s is doing that at every juncture. For starters, they became a full-fledged brewpub in 2012 when they started the Copper Kettle Brewing Company. This one-of-a-kind experience lets you brew your own beer on-premises. Copper Kettle provides a unique perspective on the brewing process, without the purchase of brewing equipment and the messy cleanup. In addition, it’s introduced many people to the popular hobby of home brewing. With so many brewers getting their start within the comforts of home, this education is a cornerstone in the sustainability of craft beer.
“We are always busy at the Copper Kettle,” Matt said. “We can have six different groups brewing at a time, which could lead to as many as six different styles of beer being brewed at the same time. We sometimes have up to 20 appointments per day and do a lot of corporate events for businesses across Pittsburgh.”
What else can be done differently? How about beer yoga?
“We are going to be starting up brewery yoga,” Cassie Hough revealed. “We’ve partnered with two professional yoga instructors from Stray Dog Yoga in Wexford. Tickets will include a yoga session at Copper Kettle and a free pint of brew on Monday nights. We think it’s something that can really take off.”
Hough’s has also launched the first-available growler can in Pittsburgh. This unique machine allows you to purchase your favorite beer from one of Hough’s taps and take it to-go in a 32.oz, one-time-use recyclable can. It’s perfect for tailgating, picnics, campfires, and parties!
In this video, Cassie demonstrates how the growler can machine works:
“We always try to do things differently,” said Matt. “From beers to events to food, we want to stand out and separate ourselves. Our goal is to be on the Draft Magazine Top 100 Craft Beer Bars list in the near future.”
Starting this September, Hough’s will be extending their Sunday hours to 8pm and doing more beer pairings with the brunch menu. Matt and Cassie are also planning a Restaurant Industry Brunch that will feature half-off beer specials as a well-deserved thank you to those who serve to ensure we all have the ultimate experience each time we venture out.
With a full calendar of events, craft beer offerings as plentiful as the day is long, and a constantly evolving mindset that keeps raising the bar higher and higher, there’s no denying Hough’s is on the fast track to success. The “It” Factor shines through every time you visit, and there’s no evidence of the light going dim anytime soon.
“We want to be THE stop for craft beer in Pittsburgh,” Matt concluded. “Whether it be bottle, draft, on or off-premises consumption, we want to be THAT destination.”