Beer: North of the city, two new brands are brewing


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This is the kind of people Zachary and Erika Shumaker are:

You arrange to meet them at a place that sells 800 different beers, and Erika asks, "Would you like Zach to bring some beer?"

He does, bringing a few big bottles, as well as his parents, and his dad orders a round of drafts, and Zach enthusiastically suggests the local pale ale that he should order, and before you take a sip, Erika shows up, wearing a T-shirt that matches her husband's, bearing a boot print and the words, "ShuBrew: If the shu fits, drink it."

Together, the Seven Fields couple want to bring the beer -- Mr. Shumaker's hand-crafted beer -- to their neighbors by opening a brewpub somewhere in the North Hills to serve ShuBrew with seasonal food.

Mr. Shumaker has been homebrewing for years -- since the Seneca Valley grad moved back from San Diego. There he served in the Marines and, in the mid-2000s, worked at Stone Brewing Co., one of the most respected craft brewers in America, much less the West Coast. Mr. Shumaker got hooked on craft brewing's aesthetic and Stone's no-compromise style.

He's still a beer geek, the kind of guy who lays on the floor musing on the magic of the yeast in his fermenters, which now are in the couple's living room, with the thermostat set at the optimum 69 degrees.

"It's been cold in the house," says his assistant brewer and "patient" wife, as he describes her. But she's into it as much as he is, and helped worked up, based on his nickname, the marketing theme based on shoes.

His brewing dream is one of the things she liked about him when they met at Verizon Wireless, where they still work. Meanwhile, they're continuing on the path to starting their own brewpub, scouting for locations, preparing for the licensing red tape, trying to raise $25,000 via Kickstarter (they're about halfway).

The 28-year-olds have had a couple of chances to give people tastes of their brews, including at a Shu-a-Pa-Looza this March where they paired foods with Galosha Raptor pale ale (brewed with tangerine peel and pink pepper), Black Beard's Booties black IPA and Tillie's Ghillies Scottish ale/wee heavy.

It's the wee heavy that Mr. Shumaker brought with him on this day, and it pours dark and smooth and weighs in at about 9 percent alcohol. Like Stone, he's not making beginner beers.

"I'm not ever planning on having a Shu Light," he says.

Though his dad says the name and label could riff on sandals.

You can try the stuff at two free tastings. The first is from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight at 1 for the Road Beer Emporium on Route 19 in Pine.

They'll also present a tasting at 6 p.m. June 20 at Bocktown Beer & Grill in Robinson.

They'll tell you, their plan is to open their own place at least by the fall of next year. Mr. Shumaker will bring the beer. He can't imagine anything better. "You make beer? How cool is that?"

Learn more at shubrewing.com.

Another operation brewing up north, in the city of Butler, is Butler Brew Works, a project of Greg Clear and Nicholas Fazzoni of Butler and Travis Tuttle of Bridgeville. They, too, all met while working at Verizon Wireless, where Mr. Clear and Mr. Fazzoni still work (Mr. Tuttle's day job is in Eastern Ohio in the oil and gas industry).

They, too, started brewing at home, and for now are headquartered in Mr. Fazzoni's basement. (His wife must be patient, too. "I'm about ready to tell her the washer and dryer have to go out to the garage," he says.) But they plan to be pouring from their own brewery tap room, which also will serve some food, by spring of next year.

They've already purchased a block of buildings in the heart of Butler's downtown, including the landmark Hot Dog Shop. With support from the city and the Downtown Butler group, they plan to tear down that and another building, and brew and serve beer in the former Eckerd Drug store at 101 Main St. They also plan to distribute draft and, later, canned beer in the region.

Their schtick: "Adventurous Ales." Says Mr. Fazzoni, "We're all about being outside the box" in terms of ingredients and processes. One of their signature brews is Amelia -- named for aviator Amelia Earhart, who trained at the Butler County Airport in 1930 -- a blonde ale flavored with strawberries.

They've started the licensing process and are courting more investors right now.

Meanwhile, they're generating some buzz by pouring at some tastings. There's one at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 16, at Bocktown Monaca, and one at 2 p.m. June 23 at Bocktown Robinson. They'll also be part of the first Butler Craft Beer Festival on Sept. 15 (butlercraftbeerfestival.com).

They don't see ShuBrew as competition; the more, the merrier, says Mr. Fazzoni. "Craft beer drinkers are promiscuous."

More at butlerbrewworks.com.

Several other craft breweries are starting to come together around the region. One new brewery is actually under construction -- this one in Murrysville. Rivertowne Pour House's Andrew Maxwell bought the former Universal Welding building at 5578 Old William Penn Highway and is turning it the Rivertowne Brewery. He expects it to be open by September.

libations

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930.


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