Roundabout Brewery opening Friday in Lawrenceville

Black possum is a critter you might see -- or more likely, hear in the middle of the night -- in New Zealand.

Black Possum also is the name of one of the beers that will be on tap when Roundabout Brewery opens Friday, July 12, at 4901 Butler St. in Lawrenceville.

The opening of their own brewery, which is starting out selling growlers to go, comes in more than one roundabout way for co-owners Steve and Dyana Sloan, who'll bring to the operation other touches of New Zealand.

That's the country where she's from. She moved back there after Steve Sloan met her, at the Schafly brewery in St. Louis where he was working, too.

"I chased her down," he mused with a grin earlier this week. "Proposed." And they lived in New Zealand for a while before coming back to the States, where he could keep working in the craft beer industry.

That included a stint at John Harvard's Brewhouse in Wilkins starting in 2007.

While he was there, the Michigan native continued to think about starting his own brewery/brewpub, and even bought some brewing equipment. Alas, when John Harvard's closed in 2009, he sold that four-barrel brewhouse and moved out to California, where he brewed at Firestone Walker Brewing and was quality manager for Lost Coast Brewery.

The couple moved back to Pittsburgh in 2011 and he started working at Lawrenceville's Church Brew Works, which was counting on his chemistry master's degree and experience to improve quality and consistency.

He did: In October of 2012, at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, the Church won four medals and was named Large Brewpub of the Year. Mr. Sloan was named Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year.

By January, for reasons no one was talking about, he no longer was working at the Church.

However, by February, he'd signed a lease on a former metals-treatment factory turned ironwork studio turned granite-and-marble countertops maker.

The skinny corner building, fronted with concrete block and repurposed corrugated metal, still bears an arty iron tree at the door that will open Friday evening.

Customers will walk in to an unfinished space to order growlers filled with, for starters, five kinds of beer, for $12 per amber glass growler, some of them with New Zealand names and some made with New Zealand hops.

Black Possum Mr. Sloan describes as a schwarz bier or German-style black beer but made with a California common yeast.

The Commoner is a single-malt, single-hop session beer, made with New Zealand Wakatu hops.

There'll be Ginga Wheat, a ginger beer as is popular in New Zealand, but made here as not a light lager but as a wheat beer with Aliquippa honey. ("Ginga" is Kiwi slang for "redhead," says Mr. Sloan, who was inspired by a refreshing brew the couple enjoyed in Christchurch.)

"Hy-PA," a hybrid of a pale ale and an India pale ale -- "a kind of session IPA," he says -- is made with a mix of New Zealand (Motueka) and American (Centennial) hops.

And there's Ferdl Weiss, an amber wheat beer named for a friend who turned Mr. Sloan onto it when he was living in Germany in his post-college, American-football-playing and -coaching days.

"We're going to do beers from around the world," he said while leading a tour through the open brewery space. His brewhouse includes an open fermenter, with which he plans to do some interesting Belgian-style and other brews; he's also looking forward to making sour brews and aging beer in bourbon barrels.

While they will sell some draft to select bars, they hope to sell most of their current 300-barrel capacity right here. Eventually, once the front is renovated and the Sloans get their brewpub license, people will be able to sip glasses of beer at tables there, or even at picnic tables on the 49th Street side, where an overhead door opens to a great view of Allegheny Cemetery.

"Everyone's been so incredibly supportive," notes Dyana Sloan, whose day job is working at UPMC Presbyterian. She foresees including on the menu a traditional New Zealand-style meat pie.

But for now, they want to get the beer flowing out and some money flowing in, a la the brewery's roundabout logo.

They came back 'round from New Zealand, and back 'round to Pittsburgh (they now live across the river in Etna). But that's just part of the inspiration for the name.

She laughs as she says, "I think it kind of goes to a number of evenings out on the patio going 'round and 'round, 'Are we ever going to open our own brewery, ever?' "

Roundabout Brewery starting hours are 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more, visit

The big Pittsburgh Summer Beerfest -- set for Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27 at Stage AE on the North Side -- is being put on by a group called Animal Rescue Partners.

They've done big fundraising fests in Columbus and Cincinnati, and as for those, they're promising more than 250 brews and lots of live music.

Admission is $35 in advance and $45 that day and gets you a souvenir tasting mug for samples. VIP admission ($45 or $55) gets you in an hour early, at 6:30 p.m. (the event runs until 11 p.m.), and designated drivers pay $20, which includes soft drinks and $5 to spend at food trucks set up at the event.

The group also will produce a Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest in late February at Downtown's David C. Lawrence Convention Center.

Tickets also are on sale for the Mt. Lebanon Public Library's fourth annual Beer Garden Bash, set for 6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. Tickets are available at the library in advance for $30, which gets you a gourmet picnic meal, more than a dozen craft beers to sample and music from steel drum artist Dan Meunier ( and 412-531-1912).

Bob Batz Jr.: and 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr. First Published July 11, 2013 4:00 AM


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