SPOTLIGHT REVISITED: Bocktown Beer and Grill

Spotlight Revisited is a new feature that takes us back to destinations previously showcased in the Craft Beer Spotlight series on Breaking Brews. Since the original posts first hit the blogosphere, time has moved forward and plenty has changed with these businesses. Revisited gives us a chance to catch up and see how things are going. It’s only fitting the premiere of Spotlight Revisited takes place where it all began for the Craft Beer Spotlight: Bocktown Beer and Grill.

Spotlight Revisited | Bocktown | December 2016

Timing is everything.

Now, granted, I haven’t always had the best of it in regards to that subject. But sometimes, the stars align and everything comes together nicely.

Last year, as we rolled into December, I decided to do a “mashup” of all the 2015 Craft Beer Spotlights. As I evaluated my efforts and brainstormed what to do to wrap up 2016, a mashup just seemed lazy…both to do last year and especially to do again. I knew I could do something more.

I had been kicking around the idea going back to destinations that I’ve featured in Craft Beer Spotlights in months past. As December approached, I was committed to this idea and, it just so happened, the destination that launched the CBS series was in my crosshairs AND turning 10 years old the same month. See…hashtag ‘timing.’

Bocktown RobinsonBocktown Beer and Grill poured its first beer to the thirsty Pittsburgh beer community in December 2006 and has been a trendsetter ever since. To say Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene was in its infancy a decade ago would be a gross understatement, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t room for an establishment serving nothing but artisanal offerings in addition to mix-and-match six-packs to go. The craft beer product had legs and beer drinkers needed a warm, convivial, non-intimidating environment to discover new beers, new styles, and new favorites. Enter Bocktown.

What beers had your attention in 2006? What beers helped guide you into the craft beer world? It’s hard to remember that far back for anything, let alone our beers of choice. You would’ve needed less than two hands to count the number of craft breweries operating in this neck of the woods in ’06, so chances are excellent you were consuming beers from across the state, country, and globe along side offerings from East End, Penn, and Church. Today, the Pittsburgh region is home to 40+ breweries and counting. And as each of them has staked their claim to a piece of real estate in this up-and-coming craft beer mecca, there has been Bocktown – supporting every one of them along the way.

Chris Dilla is one of the pioneers of Pittsburgh’s craft beer movement. Before most of us even knew how to pronounce hefeweizen, she was bringing craft beer to patrons at Amel’s Restaurant on McNeilly Road in Baldwin. She had an eye for quality beer. But, equally as important, she had an eye for quality experiences and understood people like you, her, and I would always appreciate a restaurant that puts fresh beer in your glass and delicious cuisine on your plate…even at the later hours of the evening.

Beer has led the charge at Bocktown since day one. Employees are encouraged to try each tap offering so they can discuss it with you. Drinking on the job? What a drag. As a customer, you never have to feel overwhelmed, intimidated, or under-educated when it comes to beer. Palates novice and refined can feel comfortable at Bocktown and, with an open mind, will always experience something new and your server is proud to escort you on your journey. This philosophy is etched in Bocktown’s practices and carried out every time a new day begins.

Ironically, it wasn’t beer that made Chris and I’s paths cross. Bocktown was closing in on their third successful year of business and I was in the process of building a small social media marketing company. I saw Bocktown and, ultimately, Chris, using the Bocktown Facebook and Twitter accounts the way I felt most companies would one day be leveraging these networks. Chris and I met and shared a few beers with neither of us realizing we’d be colleagues in the beer world six years later. Beer has a powerful way of forging tremendous relationships, does it not?

As time has drawn on, Chris has helped me in numerable ways she’s probably since forgotten. She threw some serious truths my way about opening a bar/restaurant when I was considering the idea. She gave me first-hand experiences of being a beer rep. Hell, this blog you’re reading right now might be called ‘Craft Beer Savant’ had Chris not looked at me like I had a hop plant growing out of my head when I told her my original plans for what thankfully became Breaking Brews. She’s lent an ear for venting and has been a resource for learning more about this vast world of beer. She’s been a great friend and mentor.

And that’s just me. No one can discount what Chris has done to help the local beer scene grow. As I mentioned before, countless new breweries have showcased their offerings at Bocktown and still do to this day. Every Monday, Bocktown taps something unique from a different brewery known as “Beeried Treasures.” Typically, these consist of something not on tap at too many other establishments. Wednesdays throughout the month feature sampling sessions starring new and established breweries alike, helping shine a spotlight on what they bring to the table. Chris helped get Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week off the ground in 2012 and Bocktown will be a destination to frequent throughout 2017’s version, set to unfold April 21-30. All 16 taps go local for 10 days and unique events will rule the realm once again. She hustles. And that hustle continues to pay off.

As it is with any business, life’s not all unicorns and rainbows. In 2011, Chris opened her second Bocktown location in Monaca, capturing the true soul and spirit of Robinson’s location and bringing craft beer to an area absolutely thirsting for variety. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Chris was forced to close that location this past summer. Instead of going into great detail about what went down, I’ll summarize: Shit happens. But what you need to know is Chris helped place each and every member of her staff that wasn’t retained to work at the Robinson location into new jobs. She didn’t have to. She chose to. Because her staff is family.

Bocktown’s tagline is “The Place to Beer.” And while four words have never been more true, the phrase’s origin of ‘the place to be’ is equally cogent. When you visit Bocktown, you get a true sense of Pittsburgh’s thriving beer scene as well as its second-to-none culinary scene. Whether your appetite calls for a basket of fries or a juicy steak, Bocktown’s got your back. And when it comes to beer, all 16 taps are expertly plotted to feature different styles from various breweries at all times.

December 2006 to December 2016. 10 years. A lot has gone up and a lot has gone down in that timeline. And through it all, Bocktown has been a pillar of Pittsburgh’s craft beer community. For 10 years of beers, 10 years of meals, many years of friendship, and a lifetime of memories and experiences, I say ‘Cheers and Thank You, Bocktown.’

I’ll be revisiting again and again for years to come. Hopefully you’ll join me there for a pint, too.

 

To check out the first Craft Beer Spotlight featuring Bocktown Beer and Grill, click here.

Check out this special two-part edition of Over a Couple of Beers celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Bocktown Beer and Grill! Part 1 available below. Part 2 will be posted on iTunes and Stitcher on Thursday, December 8th.

 

 

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Good Times and Good Blog Features Are Better When They're Shared!

Jason Cercone

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