Spotlight Revisited is a quarterly Breaking Brews feature that takes us back to destinations previously showcased in the Craft Beer Spotlight. Since the original post 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 what’s been happening. This time, it’s back to one of Pittsburgh’s premier craft beer destinations and your official Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week Headquarters: Caliente Pizza & Draft House!
Spotlight Revisited | Caliente | April 2017
Caliente Pizza & Draft House hit my radar in early 2014 and, using beer and pizza as its soothing sonnet of affection, quickly captured my heart. These guys had it all. A cool little spot in the Bloomfield neighborhood with a brand new speakeasy on the downstairs floor. Enough unique craft beer options on tap to keep any beer drinker satisfied. And, hands down, some of the best pizza I’ve ever consumed in my life. And this, ladies and gentlemen, has been a life dictated by the consumption of beer and pizza. The scale at the gym pounds that point home weekly.
As April 2014 rolled around, I learned two more truths about one of my new favorite Pittsburgh haunts: 1) Owners Nick and Angie Bogacz were dead set on creating one of the greatest craft beer environments in town and 2) when it came to Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, these guys weren’t effing around. We’ll get back to that in a moment.
When Caliente initially appeared in the Craft Beer Spotlight in June 2014, I wrapped up their feature by boldly saying: “…combine all that with passionate ownership that truly understands what it takes to be successful, and there’s no telling how many more Caliente locations are going to open across the Steel City.”
Here we are, three years later and just three weeks away from PCBW 2017 and to say Nick and Angie have kept their nose to the grindstone growing their beer and pizza empire would be a fantastic understatement. They’ve opened two new locations in Hampton Township and Mount Lebanon, been recognized as Pittsburgh’s first Rogue Nation Embassy, and captured the honor of Best Pan Pizza in the World at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas in 2016. All in a day’s work when fresh ingredients and quality beer offerings are at the forefront of your business model.
With 54 events scheduled across all three Caliente locations for Craft Beer Week April 21-30, I felt the timing was perfect for catching up with my friends at Caliente in this month’s Spotlight Revisited.
“All I wanted to do was make great pizza” was Nick’s confession to me three years ago. Now, with three locations all cranking out award-winning pies served with dynamic beer day in and day out, Nick has been able to expand on that vision and then some.
“We love what we do and we strive for excellence everyday,” Nick proclaimed. “At the end of the day, we just love being us.”
As the Caliente brand has grown across Pittsburgh, one element that hasn’t changed is the consistency. Across all three locations, you can expect the same quality of cuisine combined with draft lineups curated and executed with exceptional diversity. While all taps won’t be pouring the same exact beers across the three stores, you can bet the rarity of your choices will hold constant no matter which location you choose to frequent.
As I mentioned before, Caliente captured the honor of “Best Pan Pizza in the World” at the 2016 International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. This opus (pictured right), inspired and prepared by Caliente Pizza Chef Eric Von Hansen, was proudly put on display as part of Caliente’s 2016 Craft Beer Week event lineup. Von Hansen’s creation, appropriately named The Quack Attack, featured pan seared duck breast, roasted garlic butter, wild mushroom ragu, and was topped with a mix of fontinella and parmesan reggiano cheese, baby arugula, tear drop tomatoes and a truffle garlic oil.
The Caliente crew spent the last week of March 2017 back at the Expo competing once again. And, just as they did in 2016, they brought some hardware back to Pittsburgh. Matt Hickey, General Manager of the Mount Lebanon location, won a gold medal and the world championship for the Largest Dough Stretch. Nicholas Fink won 1st Place in the Northeast Division for Traditional Pizza with his Sausage and Peppers Classico creation. And last year’s World Champion Eric Von Hansen returned to the scene of 2016’s coronation and captured 1st Place in the Northeast Division for Non-Traditional Pizza with a brand new creation, Hangar 18.
Caliente has established an incredibly high standard with every pizza that leaves the kitchen. Their traditional and gourmet pies are prepared with fresh ingredients daily and have brought smiles to the mouths of thousands of people all over Pittsburgh. For my money, life doesn’t get much sweeter than that moment when you’re staring a fresh beer and a mouth-watering slice of pizza dead in the eye.
Since their coming out party during Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week 2013, Caliente has expanded their reach into the beer community by joining forces with several breweries to participate in collaboration beers. Thanks to Caliente Bar Manager Matt Moniger’s experience at the brew kettle at Church Brew Works, Caliente has been able to partake in the creation and tapping of several collaborative projects, all designed to emphasize their passion for delivering impeccable craft beer to the masses. So far, they’ve worked with Church, East End, Draai Laag, Spoonwood, Yard’s, and Hoppin’ Frog to produce one-off batches served exclusively at each brewery and all Caliente locations. For PCBW 2017, they’ve teamed up with Helltown Brewing to bring you an Imperial Hoppy Ale known as Won’t You Be My Neighbor IPA.
“We were really happy to partner with Helltown for this year’s collaboration beer,” Nick said. “We do a firkin with them on the first Friday of each month at our Bloomfield location and they’ll soon be opening a location close to us. We are looking forward to seeing where our partnership goes in the future.”
As Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week enters its sixth year, there’s no denying how much the landscape has changed since its inception in 2012. Over 30 local breweries and counting have entered the picture, elevating our city into the upper echelon of nationwide beer destinations. At the same time, hundreds of renowned breweries from east to west have planted their flags in the Pittsburgh soil. Caliente has been at the forefront of this boom, utilizing the Craft Beer Week platform to showcase the fun they have year-round by raising the bar year after year. They’ve dubbed themselves ‘PCBW Headquarters’ and, with the sheer volume of exceptional events planned across all three locations throughout Beer Week, who are we to argue?
“Every year I say I’m going to tone it down a tad with events, but I know I’m lying to myself,” Nick admitted. “Craft Beer Week is one of the most exciting times of the year not just for Caliente, but for Pittsburgh as a whole. We like to go big and intend on doing so every year.”
If you’re curious to see what Caliente has in store for PCBW 2017, you can check out their full lineup of events here. Trust me, you’re sure to find something you love…no matter what you love.
The last few years have been full of growth, evolution, and success for Caliente Pizza & Draft House. The more I get to know Nick and Angie, the more I know the opening of new Caliente locations is no longer a bold prediction. It’s a distinct inevitability. Caliente will be partying throughout April and beyond with no signs of slowing down anywhere in the game plan. How soon until we are talking about the grand opening of Caliente #4? Take this ride with me and stay tuned…
Want to learn more about the growth and success of Caliente? Check out Nick on the Smart Pizza Marketing Podcast from the end of March:
SMART PIZZA MARKETING PODCAST: Building a Business with Pizza and Craft Beer featuring Nick Bogacz