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Two brothers who've transformed a Greenfield bar into a cozy craft-beer destination want to really put that corner on the map by opening next-door the only brew-on-premises operation in the state.
Matt and Greg Hough, who run Hough's with their family, have obtained the manufacturer/brewery (or G) license necessary to open a facility where customers can come to brew their own small batches of beer to take home.
The operation is going into the former Greenfield Hardware store adjacent to their bar, the former Pickles on Greenfield Avenue.
The brothers already have purchased a used system of six, copper-clad brewing kettles, that are fired by steam. The 50-liter batches will flow to fermenting vessels in the basement, where, when they're ready in two or three weeks, the brews can either be kegged or pumped back upstairs, where customers themselves can hand-bottle them.
The former hardware store space is also to include a "store" where customers can purchase malt and/or malt extracts (they're not yet sure if they're going to do all-grain brewing), hops and other ingredients, per any of the hundreds of recipes that will be provided.
The Hough brothers are waiting for city approval to open up one wall so people can pass through to their bar, where patrons watch the brewing process through two large windows.
"They get to do everything, from putting all the ingredients together to bottling it. It's basically their beer," says Matt Hough, 27, who about three years ago took over the bar with his brother, a Duquesne University football star three years his junior.
Both were born in this city neighborhood, but their family moved to the North Hills and they grew up in the Pine-Richland school district.
They were still young guys with simple and cheap beer tastes when they opened the bar, but their customers -- many of them students and graduate students at local universities -- steered them into better craft beers, and soon they were brewing themselves.
In fact, they still want to brew their own beer commercially, Matt says, but rather than just start with a microbrewery, "Why don't we do something unique before we figure out what do to?"
The state Liquor Control Board couldn't identify other brew-on-premises businesses in the state, and Matt Hough couldn't find any, but Philadelphia used to have some. Nationally, notes Paul Gatza, director of the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association, "We used to track brew-on-premises in the late 1990s, but they declined to only about four in the country by the middle of the last decade. ... We only maintain records on the five or so of them that sell beer directly to the public as well, since that beer is federally taxable and must have label approval from the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau." The ones he cited are in California, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Matt Hough notes that there is a brew-on-premises not far away in Strongsville, Ohio -- the owner of the Brew Kettle Taproom and Smokehouse (thebrewkettle.com) has been very helpful to them in their research -- and the concept is popular in Australia and Canada. In fact, he and his brother purchased their Canadian-made set-up last summer in Vancouver, B.C.
"We had the equipment before we had the building," which they purchased in December. They're planning to redo the facades of the buildings this summer, which is when they hope to open the brewery -- they haven't picked the name yet -- in time for fall when many of their customers come back to college.
"People have already asked us to book times," he said, standing in the still-bare hardware store. "We're not there yet."
The idea is to make the brewing process a social event -- for, say, a group such as a bachelor party or something. But there's also a practical side, in that this is a way for a person to try making his or her own beer without having to purchase all the necessary equipment -- and clean it all up between brews.
The Houghs say that the cost will be roughly $100 to $150 for about five cases of beer, depending on what kind one makes, so with prices being what they are, a brewer could save a little money, too.
They also plan to offer soda-making at this family-friendly facility. Much of their family helps them run the bar, for which they have other improvements planned, including adding, to their selection of more than 300 bottled brews, 50 taps as well as a specialty bourbon and Scotch bar (visit houghspgh.com).
Matt Hough has a day job as a sales supervisor for Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp., which makes all sorts of recycled steel products. As he says, what could be more Pittsburgh than a guy who works in steel and beer?
Hough's, at 563 Greenfield Ave., is open 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.- Sat. (412-586-5944, houghspgh.com).
Bob Batz Jr.: email@example.com or 412-263-1930.