The local beer scene is harder than ever to follow, and not just because there are so many new brewpubs and breweries opening and working toward opening.
Many of these brewers are active and professional-looking on the Web and social media — and give away home-brewed beer at festivals, fundraisers and other events — months and even years before they have a building and are licensed to actually sell beer. At the Beers of the Burgh Winter Warmer fest earlier this month, for instance, you could get way-advance tastes of Conny Creek Brewing and Dancing Gnome Brewery, which you may never have heard of, as well as Eleventh Hour Brewing, Levity Brewing and Noble Stein Brewing, all of which have poured at previous fests, but none of which is yet open.
Earlier this fall, the Oakmont Carnegie Library offered a tasting that included brews from Allegheny River Brewing, which turns out is just a collection of homebrewing friends who don’t plan to go pro (but who are always talking about it).
For nearly a year, Insurrection AleWorks has been selling its brews at 3 Rivers 6 Pack out east in Delmont, while the partners behind it worked on their brewpub in Heidelberg in the southwest of Pittsburgh. Their opening date kept getting pushed back, as openings do, but the place finally is opening Friday, one of the biggest bar nights of the year.
A key point:
Heidelberg has a brewpub?
That might have seemed unbelievable a few years ago, but not now. And this place looks well worth a visit.
Insurrection — the name comes from this area’s Whiskey Rebellion history — is in a small storefront on the main drag of Railroad Street/Route 50, beside the Heidelberg public works building and community room. The 3.5-barrel brewhouse is in the back, separated from the main part of the pub by just a half wall. The bar (it has a railroad rail foot rail) and table tops are made from thick black walnut from a tree from the yard of the parents of one of the two 36-year-old partners, Matt Messer.
The other partner brewer is Brad Primozic, who brewed professionally in the Northeast. He got to know Mr. Messer, who through his real-estate business had become a partner in the six-pack shop, and thought he was kidding when he said, “Let’s start a brewery.” That was 2-1/2 years ago, and here they are.
Mr. Primozic describes their brews as a little different. “Our beers are very soft,” frequently hoppy but not bitter, and more softly carbonated because he hand-primes each keg for natural fermentation. The beers all are unfiltered, which means you’ll have some yeast in your glass. As the beer menu puts it, “The chunks are good for you.”
They make a full range of brews, including a series of India pale ales and single-hopped pale ales that vary by the batch. They also are big into sours, which they are making in a 1,000-liter oak vat called a foudre, and then aging on in various types of wine and spirits barrels. They have a saison made with wild yeast and bacteria (harvested from Mr. Messer’s parents’ yard), some of which will age for a couple of months in chardonnay barrels.
That eventually will go into big bottles, but otherwise, they plan to start out selling draft only in their pub and in growlers for takeout.
The food, too, is going to be sophisticated and variable, with charcuterie and cheeses sold a la cart a la sushi, plus a range of appetizers, sandwiches, mac-and-cheese and more, on a menu that will change per the availability of ingredients. They’ll also sell Pennsylvania wines.
The cozy brewpub has room to seat about 40 patrons, and the partners can’t wait to see how much beer it will take to keep them happy.
Although they’d hoped to open before now, they agree that the longer time frame has given them a chance to practice on the brewing side. “In the long run,” says Mr. Messer, “it proved beneficial to us.”
Insurrection AleWorks, at 1635 E. Railroad St., will start out being open 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday, noon to midnight Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. (insurrectionaleworks.com).
A different kind of brewing operation just today was going to brew its first commercial batch, which should start showing up in some bars early next month. Quinn Brewing Co. is not a brewpub but a small production brewery, with an 8-barrel all-electric brewhouse in a former talcum lab in the Banco Business Park off Route 30 in North Huntingdon.
You may not have heard about brothers Alan and Art Quinn, because they purposefully didn’t work the fest and tastings circuit as homebrewers. As Alan Quinn puts it, “We’re going to do this for real and we want it to be perceived as such.”
They’re starting out with two very traditional recipes — Drowsy Emperor British Brown Ale and Elwood Island Irish Red Ale — plus a Dead Bob American Ale, which they will self-distribute in kegs to bars in a 25-mile radius, and they plan to eventually hand-bottle a Grand Reserve Tripel “Elite” Belgian Ale.
Their niche? “We’re really on the other side of the hops scale,” says Alan Quinn, who’s 46. “We’re malty.” And they’re going more for consistency than craziness, he adds. “There’s no jalapeno. No cherry. ... Our commitment at this point, not to sound overly cheesy, is just to make a really good beer.”
“I think our method is a little different,” adds his 51-year-old brother, who will oversee the brewing on a system they built with pieces that once were used in the Philadelphia area to make the astringent witch hazel. He says he takes “an extra step here and there” in the brewing as well as in the fermenting.
They and partner Paul Stinelli, 39, who will handle marketing, are keeping their day jobs for now. Eventually they may turn part of their sprawling industrial space into a tasting room, and they may even throw a party or two here, but otherwise, the public won’t come to the brewery.
Alan Quinn used to own Eons Grill in Homestead and didn’t want to do that again, but he did make friends who own bars. “We know some people, luckily, who will let us in, which is really nice.”
Learn more at quinnbrewing.com.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.