You know you have your list. The bars you hate for whatever reason. The bars that are OK and you’ll go because your friends are there. The bars you love because the food is good and the beer selection is great. The bars you enjoy so much, you’ll recommend them to others.
And then, amongst that list are the select few that make you feel like family every time you visit. The places you want to come to over and over and over again because the faces are familiar, the atmosphere is welcoming, and the experiences stick with you for a long time.
Piper’s Pub is one of those places.
The first time I stepped through the wooden front door of Piper’s was during Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week 2013. I knew very few people my first visit, but even though I was the new face in the crowd, I could tell I was amongst friends. The bartenders were cordial and the people I interacted with were tremendous. Some of them I’ve forged friendships with and see on a regular basis, and that’s not something that happens at just any old bar. It takes effort from those steering the ship to create an environment that produces that sort of experience, and the people who make Piper’s Pub what it is do this each and every day.
As you can tell, guys like me like to chase my craft beer with a dose of sentiment. But if you’re just looking for a place with great food and great beer, Piper’s should be your next stop. Piper’s built its core business with an Irish vibe, featuring soccer (football) and spotlighting beers such as Guinness and Smithwick’s. However, after branching out and offering a wide variety of craft beer selections, the folks at Piper’s realized they opened the flood gates to a bigger crowd coming through their door.
“We always want to get better,” said Hart Johnson, Vice President of Firkins at Piper’s. “We are always trying to find ways to improve. We constantly look at the beer menu and look for additions that can improve our draught list.”
The attention poured into their beer selection is well evident, as Piper’s consistently has great options on draught. Also, one of my favorite features at Piper’s are the cask beers. It would be wrong of me to continue right now if I didn’t point out that I wasn’t a fan of cask beer when I first started frequenting Piper’s. But just like everyone, my education, palate, and preferences changed. And instead of being judged, I was redirected by my friends and eventually realized how much more flavor you get from a beer on cask than any other fashion. Again, this isn’t something that happens everywhere.
Have you ever wondered how a firkin is tapped and that delicious cask beer is brought to us to enjoy? Well wonder no more! Hart explains…
Naturally, great beer is better when paired with great food. And I’ll warn you ahead of time…bring your appetite! I could go into great detail about the food I’ve consumed at Piper’s, but I’ll let you discover the goodness for yourself. I will say it’s hard to find something you won’t like. Take a look at the menu here and judge for yourself. And always start off with a Scotch Egg. Just sayin’…
As I mentioned before, Piper’s proudly embraces the family feel amongst its staff and its patrons. Evidence of this is found in the fact that Hart has been a bartender here for 3 1/2 years and is still looked at as one of the new guys.
“We don’t have much employee turnover,” Hart explained. “Our goal is to train people and keep them here to be part of the machine.”
“I’ve worked here for six years and I love my co-workers,” said Sheela, a waitress at Piper’s. “They are like my Pittsburgh family, and Drew (owner Andrew Topping) is my Pittsburgh father! We have the best customers. A lot of them have been coming in longer than I’ve been working here.”
When the staff is a family, that dynamic naturally spills over to the customers. These days, so many people are quick on the trigger when it comes to posting a bad review about a restaurant. Seeing these comments fill the web waves daily can be disheartening, so it was comforting to here patrons of Piper’s Pub share warm words about their hangout.
“When you walk in, even before you order, the bartender says, ‘You NEED to try this beer,'” said Brooke Franus. “Then he puts a fresh cask beer in front of you that he knows you’ll love. That’s when you know you’re among your true beer family.”
Lee Schmidt described Piper’s Pub as “the epitome of how Pittsburgh is a ‘big little city.’ This place is the hub of Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene.”
Establishments that spotlight craft beer all have a common bond: they want to please their customers and they always want to get better. This absolutely mirrors what craft breweries strive to do with every beer they produce. It’s not about maximizing profits and making the board of directors happy. It’s about making US, the consumer, happy. There’s a level of passion that goes into every barrel that leaves their production line. And places like Piper’s Pub recognize that passion and weave it into their everyday operations.
The places you love are abundant, but the places where you’re family are few and far between. Next time you’re feeling homesick, head to Piper’s and pull up a stool next to your brothers and sisters in beer.
Oh, and P.S. — Meat. Potatoes. Whiskey. Beer. Sports. High Five. Woo. = Piper’s Pub Mission Statement. I’m sorry, but that’s just cool.