Tap in to the Best Craft Breweries in Pittsburgh

By Liz Petoniak / Photography By Michael Fornataro | July 26, 2016
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Co-Author Sierra Smith

Beer-lovers, grab a growler and prepare to drink — and eat! — your way through 14 of the best local craft brewpubs in town.


The local craft beer scene in Pittsburgh is brewing and bubbling over with excitement as the roster of artisanal producers continues to climb and established breweries expand their reach, gaining accolades in all parts of the country in the process. But, its saturation point doesn’t look like it will be met anytime soon. Independently owned bars and restaurants are finally cutting off corporate ties in favor of featuring their neighborhood brew-makers, and as for beer aficionados, they can’t get enough. Perhaps the biggest problem faced by brewers is simply just meeting the demand. 

There’s no doubt about it, Pittsburgh is a beer city, and big names like Southern Tier Brewing Company have taken notice — the opening of the trailblazing, regional producer’s North Shore brewpub is expected to coincide with football season. “The explosion of breweries has just been phenomenal for the local beer scene,” says Scott Smith, founder of East End Brewing Company, one of the first microbrews to launch in Pittsburgh back in 2004. “Ten years ago, I was explaining what an IPA was. I was once asked if the ‘PA’ in ‘IPA’ stood for Pennsylvania and now, everyone knows that means. We’ve got more people excited about beer in general — they’re more educated, which is fantastic, and as a result, the quality of the beer keeps rising.” One sentiment shared by all of the owners and brewmasters we spoke with over the course of our “research,” was, “the more the merrier.” Cheers to that! 


The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company

Co-founded by then-Carnegie-Mellon-University-juniors Asa Foster and Matt Katase in 2010, The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company officially opened shop in Braddock in 2014. The Brew Gentlemen churns out an impressive lineup of beers throughout the year that vary in both flavor and style. According to Foster, they focus their energy on hop-forward beers that are more flavorful and less bitter than traditional IPAs.

Tours: No in-house tours, but the brewery participates in PA Brew Tours
Food: Food trucks on-site, Wednesday through Saturday
Known For: Farmhouse ales and soft, hazy, juicy beers like the flagship American IPA, General Braddock’s IPA
Editors’ Pick: White Sky, a chai-spiced wheat that’s offered year-round, and Mexican Coffee, a seasonal oatmeal stout spiced with coffee, cinnamon, and vanilla, brewed in the fall

512 Braddock Ave., Braddock. brewgentlemen.com
Pa Brew Tours, pghtoursandmore.net


 

The Church Brew Works

Built in 1902, the former St. John the Baptist Church has now housed The Church Brew Works for 20 years! Due to extreme age, the building underwent major renovations from 1993-1996, when the doors to the brewpub finally opened. The brewery now mainly produces American craft beers, “which means they are stylistically all over the place,” says Dan Yarnall, head brewer. And to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the brewery pushed the envelope even further with the Asteroid Ale, a hoppy, amber-hued American ale that’s the first beer to used real asteroids in production.

Tours: No
Food: A full menu that features standouts like “untraditional” pierogies, beer-steamed mussels, seven onion soup, and for dessert, malted ice cream
Known For: Pious Monk Dunkel, an award-winning traditional German dark lager
Editors’ Pick: Oktoberfest, malty in flavor, it’s the ever-popular fan-favorite seasonal brew. 

 3525 Liberty Ave., Lawrenceville. churchbrew.com.


 

Rivertowne Brewing Company

In 2002, Christian Fyke, founder and CEO of Rivertowne Brewing Company, bought the Rivertowne Inn, embarking on a journey that would eventually lead him to open his own state-of-the-art brewing facility. Production began in 2007, and after an initial release in 2009, market demand skyrocketed. Now, Rivertowne boasts a “destination bar” reputation, bringing locals and tourists alike out to sample its ever-changing spectrum of craft beers, managed by Alex Maxwell, head brewer. “We have a lot of different people come through,” says Fyke, “so we have lots of different flavors and beers.” At Rivertowne, they know beer is not one-size-fits-all.

Tours: Held all day the third Saturday of every month
Food: A full menu features “bait” like scotch eggs and bacon cheddar ranch fries, “tackle” like stuffed pretzels, and “buckets” like classic fish and chips. 
Known For: Its balanced beer portfolio, which includes hop-heavy brews like Jah Mon and Old Wylie’s IPA, to the barrel-aged Wylie’s Wide Apple, a red sour beer fermented with over 100 gallons of fresh-pressed apple cider
Editors’ Pick: Hala Kahiki, a pineapple ale that’s perfectly sweet and refreshing for those hot summer days, and Pineapple Reserve, aged in rum barrels and infused with nitrogen

Rivertowne Brewery and Taproom, 5578 Old William Penn Hwy., Export. 724.519.2145. Rivertowne North Shore, 337 North Shore Drive, North Shore. 412.322.5000. Rivertowne Pour House, 312 Center Road, Monroeville. 412.372.8199. Rivertowne Pub & Grille, 14860 Route 30, North Huntingdon. 412.823.2239. Rivertowne Inn, 500 Jones St., Verona. 412.828.3707. myrivertowne.com.


 

Penn Brewery

The award-winning “EuroPittsburgh” brewery celebrates its
30-year anniversary in 2016. Started in 1986, Penn Brewery began with the classic Penn Pilsner, a Vienna-style lager, and continued to grow and produce more classic lagers and German-style beers, adhering to the Reinheitsgrebot, or “German Beer Purity Law,” which limits ingredients to produce the highest quality and purest beers. In 1989, the brewers moved to the current location in the E&O Building in the North Side’s Deutschtown neighborhood, where it reigns as the city’s oldest and largest craft brewery.

Tours: Tours are held one Saturday a month. Check the website for scheduled dates.
Food: In-house pub food and more traditional German fare, including a Pittsburgh staple: pierogies! 
Known For: Traditional German-based lagers, like its flagship Penn Pilsner, signified by malty, toasty, and nutty flavors
Editors’ Pick: Pumpkin Roll Ale, made with real pumpkin purée and autumnal spices, finished with lactose sugar for a sweet, creamy sip that’s perfect for when fall rolls around

 800 Vinial St., North Side. 412.237.9400. pennbrew.com.


 

Draai Laag Brewing Company

Fascinated by the science of beer, Draai Laag founder Dennis Hock began home brewing at the age of 17 after promising his mother he wouldn’t drink a drop. Today, his brewery is one of 12 U.S. breweries represented by the prestigious beer importers Shelton Brothers Inc. and is available bottled in 18 different states. What sets Hock’s beer apart? Process and ingenuity. “Draai Laag is a yeast-forward brewery inspired by Belgian, French, German, and local traditions,” he explains. “Many of our beers undergo multiple stages of fermentation. We utilize organisms from our local environment, and we’ve built up our own airborne micro flora for an Americanized way to make something different using old-school methods.” We advise sipping the unique, delicious results at the brewery’s cozy Millvale taproom, featuring a sun-drenched outdoor beer garden.

Tours: No, due to the brewery’s open-air fermentation process
Food: Local food trucks for now, in-house kitchen on the way
Known For: Relic, an earthy, musty, citrusy beer brewed with a yeast strain extracted from
a French monastery cabinet dating back to the 17th century
Editors’ Pick: Cru, a complex sour ale,
and Funky Peach, a sweet and tart “Brewer’s
Tap” selection created by head brewer and part-owner, Tony Zamperini

 501 E. Ohio St., Millvale. draailaag.com


 

East End Brewing Company 

One of the most senior and prolific craft breweries in Pittsburgh, East End Brewing Company got its start in a Homewood warehouse in 2004. Founder Scott Smith, a Pittsburgh native and home brewer for many years, began by cold-calling the area’s bars and restaurants, signing with a distributor, and adding growler sales as the East End name picked up steam. Once the brewery moved into its current location, East End grew into a pub. Now, it’s safe to say that Pittsburgh embraces East End whole-heartedly. Smith produces up to 35 different beers each year, the brewery boasts the biggest barrel-aged beer programs in the city, and at any given time, 150-250 different local establishments offer East End on tap. And the brewery continues to evolve. East End just recently expanded to its second location, a taproom located in the Strip District’s new Pennsylvania Building, where an outdoor beer garden area will soon be complete. On his brew philosophy, Smith says, “We try to pack as much flavor as we can into a small package and that’s reflected in our choice of English Malt and American hops in many of our beers. We’re always experimenting and we want to give people something new to try every time they walk in.” We’re looking out for Big Hop Harvest Ale, a wet-hop version of Big Hop IPA brewed with fresh, local hops; Black Strap Stout; Along Came a Cider; and Brett Hop, a wild fermented, hoppy brew.

Tours: Sign up online for a brewery tour, which includes a sampling of four beers and $15 credit in the pub to spend however your heart desires.
Food: BYOF-friendly; Food trucks on Fridays, Saturdays, and Trivia Nights
Known For: Hoppy beers like its flagship Big Hop IPA
Editors’ Pick: StrawberRye Ale, for its subtle, fruit flavor

Brewpub, 147 Julius St., East End. 412.537.2337. Taproom, 102 9th St., Strip District. 412.537.2337. eastendbrewing.com.


 

Full Pint Brewing Company

According to brewer Sean Hallisey, style is a second thought when it comes to bringing a new beer to life at Full Pint. “A lot of times, we come up with a cool marketing idea first, a cool beer name, or we find an interesting ingredient and decide to make something with it,” he says, giving reference to a few of the good-humored and great-tasting beers Full Pint has brought us since opening in 2010, like Ale Satan, Tastes Pretty Good, and Night of the Living Stout. Adding to that list, Mint Berry Crunch, a Hefeweizen brewed with mint, raspberries, and Cap’n Crunch cereal, will arrive at the pub for eager beer adventurers.  

Tours: Call for tours at the North Versaille Brewery, a program for consistent tours is in the works
Food: The kitchen inside the Wild Side Pub just opened in April and the menu aims to incorporate beer wherever possible, such as nachos covered in house-made cheese sauce infused with Little Brown, a cheesesteak packed with onions caramelized in All In Amber, pork belly sausage made with White Lightning, and specially made beer bread buns from Enrico Biscotti Company.
Known For: Chinookie IPA; White Lightning Belgian white beer; and Night of the Living Stout, an “average everyday zombie stout beer”
Editors’ Pick: T-Funk, a Berliner Weisse sour and sweet brew, highlighted by notes of blackberry and black tea

Wild Side Pub, 5310 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412.408.3083. Brewpub, 1963 Lincoln Hwy., North Versailles. 412.467.6414. fullpintbrewing.com.


 

Roundabout Brewery 

Founders Dyana and Steve Sloan infuse the beer at Roundabout Brewery with a combination of local flavor and their diverse background, which includes Dyana’s New Zealand roots and the couple’s time spent working at breweries all across the country. Finding themselves continually drawn to Pittsburgh, they opened up shop in Lawrenceville three years ago. Since then, they’ve continued to build a following around town and release flavorful brews, like the upcoming Chili Pepper Pilsner, made with fresh local peppers; Poor Man’s Brewhouse Milk Stout, an ode to their humble beginnings brewing with dairy equipment; and Tangerine Orbit Pale Ale, brewed with New Zealand Hops. “We try to focus on fresh, clean, and drinkable beers,” says Steve. “We’re just trying to be a little neighborhood brewery — we’re not trying to set the world on fire.”

Tours: Upon request
Food: Cheese boards from Wheel and Wedge and New Zealand-style little round pies from The Pub Chip Shop; Berlin Street Food cart on Thursdays; and Driftwood Oven pizza on Sundays
Known For: Ginga Wheat, an American-style wheat beer with ginger, lemon, and local honey
Editors’ Pick: Berliner Weisse, a sour wheat beer with notes of lemon and green apple

 4901 Butler St., Lawrenceville. roundaboutbeer.com.


 

Spoonwood Brewing Company

Brewer Steve Ilnicki explains that at Spoonwood, they craft beer to their own interests. “We brew what we like to drink,” he says. “The IPA craze is fine with me — I love hops. I also love big dark beers. Belgians are my favorite. We always try to have a few on tap.” Stop in for a pint (or two) from Spoonwood’s exciting rotating selection of drafts, and enjoy the killer happy hour, spacious outdoor patio, and kid-friendly environment. Plus, look forward to a tasty lineup of beers coming soon, including Marmalade Wheat, a fruity wheat beer; Cold Drip Doppio, boasting a strong coffee flavor; Working Class Hiro, a cream ale brewed with rice, ginger, and matcha; and a variety of lagers. Be sure to fill up a growler while you’re there — Spoonwood also features a high-tech filling machine. 

Tours: Upon request
Food: Bites at Spoonwood are just as good as the brews. We recommend the Rolls Royce pizza from the restaurant’s wood-fired oven, with prosciutto, arugula, cherry tomatoes, smoked provolone, parmesan, and house made mozzarella; the Local Burger; and the chef’s creative daily specials.
Known For: Killer Diller IPA, a crisp, clean, bright beer made with up to seven hop varieties
Editors’ Pick: Lorna, a rich Belgian dark beer with hops to balance the caramelized sweetness 

 5981 Baptist Road, Bethel Park. 412.833.0333. spoonwoodbrewing.com


 

Voodoo Brewery 

Chalkboard mural ceilings, painted garage doors, good vibes, and of course, a long wood bartop equipped with 13 taps, outfit Voodoo Brewery’s Homestead location, opened in 2014. “We’re creative people that obsess on the details of both our beer and our environment,” says managing member Jake Voelker. “We take time thinking about beer, food, art, and music, and all of our spots have a quirkiness to them.” That flair for the original and attention to detail certainly shines through in each pour of Voodoo’s “artisanal, handcrafted, challenging, and different” beers. H2P, carefully crafted with a good, old fashioned tailgate in mind, could easily convert IPA-haters with its relaxed taste, and we would gladly swap our morning coffee for the refreshing Breakfast of Champions sweet stout. And more than that, each staffer is invested in its success, quite literally, as Voodoo became an Employee Stock Ownership Plan company this year. Says Voelker, “It’s a selflessness and it’s a way of saying that we’re not going anywhere. We care about who we are and we want to stay true to us.”

Tours: No
Food: The full in-house kitchen opens at the Homestead location soon, with a “voodoo-ized” menu that’s a step up from its food truck’s offerings. The Foodoo Truck will now be available for onsite events.
Known For: Six, year-round selections, including Hoodoo, a West Coast-style IPA; Love Child, a fruity Belgian Tripel; and Killapilz, a European-style hoppy lager, plus its creative selection of rotating seasonals 
Editors’ Pick: Beach Gear, a seasonal blonde, golden ale that epitomizes the joy of spending a full day by the water

Pittsburgh Pub, 205 E. 9th Ave., Homestead. 412.368.8973. Brewpub, 215 Arch St., Meadville. 814.337.3676. Erie Pub,101 Boston Store Place, Erie. voodoobrewery.com


 

Grist House Craft Brewing 

If the sun’s shining, you can bet that the biergarten at Grist House is hopping. The ever-changing draft selections, like Camp Slap Red, boasting a rich amber color, and an complex, though drinkable hoppy, grapefruit flavor; Little Kahuna pineapple sour ale; and Gristly Bear, a nutty, malty American brown ale, keeps beer lovers coming back for more, while a rotating schedule of local food trucks, like Driftwood Oven wood-fired pizza ensures that no soul goes hungry. And, bring your pup along — Grist House is dog-friendly! 10 E. Sherman St., Millvale. 412.447.1442. gristhouse.com.


 

Hitchhiker Brewing Co.

The handcrafted, distinctive beers at Hitchhiker check off a lot of boxes for craft enthusiasts: a large variety of progressive and traditional styles of beer, frequent releases, and a fun, laid-back brewpub to take it all in. Hitchhiker focuses on the evolution of its craft, exploring the unknown and continually offering new styles of beer with its three-barrel brewing system. Right now, we’re eager to try Hitchhiker’s summer seasonals like the Agrio, a Margarita Gose marked by hints of agave, lime peel, sea salt, and organic strawberry; and the Petal & Brine hibiscus saison, with notes of hibiscus flowers, clover honey, and sea salt. 190 Castle Shannon Blvd., Mt. Lebanon. 412.343.1950. hitchhikerbrewing.com


 

Hop Farm Brewing Company

Like the name implies, Hop Farm grows its own hops, furthering its mission of crafting innovative, interesting, sustainable, and of course, tasty, brews. In addition to hot-tickets like its signature Hop Farm IPA, One Nut Brown American brown ale, Sugar Plum Fairy Belgian tripel, and a line of Berliner Weisse, you’ll also find good locally sourced pub food like sweet chili (a family recipe), innovative burgers, and flatbreads, plus sweets including an artisan chocolate board and a creamy beer float. 5601 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412.408.3248. hopfarmbrewingco.com


 

Insurrection AleWorks 

This hidden gem offers delicious bites — like meaty sandwiches, lobster mac n’ cheese, and build-your-own cheese and charcuterie boards complete with accruements like house-made pickled veggies — to accompany the unique, high-quality brews in its cozy taproom. Some of our top picks include the Dark Star Rises American porter brewed with Peruvian La Florida coffee beans roasted at Allegheny Coffee & Tea Exchange in the Strip; the Aufstand house Berliner Weisse conditioned with blueberries; and Yoga Pants, a Gose style beer and our all-time favorite for its sour, lemony and savory, salty taste. 1735 E. Railroad St., Heidelberg. 412.276.2030. insurrectionaleworks.com.

 

All Summer

Beer + Yoga 
@ The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company 
Yoga and beer combine for a one-hour class and a complimentary 5-ounce beer. Check The Brew Gentlemen Facebook page for dates.

August 1-7 
20th Anniversary Celebration
@ Church Brew Works

August 5
International Beer Day

August 13
Turtle Eclipse Beer Release Party
@ Spoonwood Brewing Company 
Support the Turtle Survival Alliance by purchasing Spoonwood’s newest bottle release.

August 13 
R.A.N.T. Rock All Night Tour
@ Full Pint Wild Side Pub
Stop into Full Pint for a brew during the fifth year of Lawrenceville’s indoor and outdoor multi-genre music festival, spanning 20 blocks. 

August 27
Rhythm and Brews 
@ Tall Trees Amphitheater, Monroeville
Celebrate Rivertowne’s summer and fall seasonal beers with a lively music festival.

September 3 
Record-Hop Harvest 
@ East End Brewing Company Brewery and Pub
Big Hop Harvest Ale returns as a myriad of vendors selling vinyl records fill the pub.

September 16
Oktoberfest Kickoff
@ Church Brew Works 

September 23
Food Truck Rally 
@ Voodoo Brewery Homestead
The streets shut down for thousands to pair Voodoo beer with fare from 18 food trucks and jam out to live music from Nameless in August and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing. A portion of the proceeds benefits Homestead charities. 

September 23-25, September 30-October 2
Oktoberfest Celebration
@ Penn Brewery

Fridays and Saturdays in October
Haunted Brewery Tours
@ Rivertowne Brewery 

October 9
Smoketoberfest 
@ Roundabout Brewery 
Brews infused with smoked chili peppers and smoked wood chips pair with BBQ and live music for an event so hot, 49th Street will be shut down!

 

Article from Edible Allegheny at http://edibleallegheny.ediblecommunities.com/drink/tap-best-craft-breweries-pittsburgh
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