Opening Cellar Works Brewing has been a long tiring journey, but it’s about to arrive at some tasty beers.
When the homebrewers behind it did their first public tasting nearly four years ago, they called themselves Cellar Door Brewing. But someone else was using that name, so John Lasher and his wife, Laura Lasher, and their friend Tim Bauer changed theirs slightly.
The first hard part was finding a suitable building near where the Lashers live in New Kensington. After much searching north of the city, they found one to rent along busy state Route 356 near Sarver in Buffalo Township, Butler County. Interestingly, the former beer distributorship, which was a grocery store before that, started out housing a farm family’s private indoor pool.
The second hard part has been working on the space for about two years, while still working their day jobs in the nuclear power industry -— the guys as engineers and Mrs. Lasher as a project engineer.
“The problem is, the exhaustion is so real,” Mr. Bauer said with a grin this past Saturday as they toiled late into another night so they finally can share their vision with actual customers on Saturday. Their opening starts with a private preview for investors, friends and family, and people who’ve paid to join the brewery’s Cellarman Society, a fancy sort of mug club that gives members a glass to drink out of when they visit and other benefits.
Annual membership with a party ticket costs $100 or $130 with a ticket for a guest. Otherwise, annual membership costs $70. One of the promised perks is a 750-milliliter bottle of Sour Blond Nouveau Depart and first rights to purchase additional bottles of it and any other bottle release. And they’re promising that those will bloom as they get beer into the wine and rye and bourbon barrels that are prominently displayed in a windowed barrel-aging room and around the main seating area.
There’s also a lot of wood on the walls, repurposed from packing pallets. The 35-feet-long, corrugated metal-sided bar is concrete, with part of the original diving board anchored in it.
Since the guys first talked about opening a brewery on a long hike, one thing that hasn’t wavered is their interest in offering a wide range of styles, from American to Belgian, including traditional farmhouse ales that fit the landscape of their semi-rural setting.
“By the end of 2017, there will be some foudres in here, too,” says Mr. Lasher, talking about traditional wooden vats, as the head brewer leads a tour through the 5-barrel brewhouse that has room to expand as business grows. Pointing out a tiny room at one end, he says, “We’re actually probably the smallest brewery with our own lab” for cultivating yeasts for a range of sours, saisons and other brews.
For this advance peek, from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, guests will get tickets good for eight 8-ounce pours of three of their first ready beers: Aurea Belgian Blonde (the base that will be going into many of the barrels), Flat Fender West Coast IPA and Cocoa Bean Chocolate Stout, a “crowd favorite” going way back to their beginnings. There also will be an “all-your-can-eat taco and mac ’n’ cheese bar” provided by Cellar Works’ neighbor, Smokin’ Toads BBQ.
The grand opening will follow on March 17 (6 p.m. to midnight) and 18 (noon to midnight), when they plan to have six beers on tap and food for purchase from Smokin’ Toad’s.
That sort of attached restaurant will provide the food for the brewery’s seating area, which has room for 94 people. There’s a vape shop between the two businesses now; on the other side of Cellar Works is a racing products shop; after all, not far away is Lernerville Speedway.
There are a handful of establishments nearby that already serve craft beer, and there are two and soon will be three breweries in Butler, about 12 miles to the northwest. But the Lashers and Mr. Bauer, who lives in Downtown Pittsburgh a half-hour drive away on state Route 28, see opportunity in being outside of the big city. “We can really introduce people to styles,” says Mr. Lasher. “We don’t want to be a one-trick pony.”
Cellar Works Brewing is at 110 S. Pike Road (state Route 356) No. 205 in Sarver, PA, 16055. For starters, it’s only going to be open on Fridays and Saturdays, but hours and days open will expand. For more information, visit cellarworksbrewing.com or call 724-524-2120.
Local Suds benefit museum
Local Suds is just that, a blend of brews made by 16 local homebrewers at the Harmony Inn, in Harmony, Butler County on its “homebrewers day” back on Jan. 21. This week, the American pale ale with orange peel and coriander — finished by Big Rail Brewing at the Butler County restaurant — went on tap there, and a very limited amount will go on tap soon in Slippery Rock at North Country Brewing Co. that owns the inn. Proceeds from sales of the three barrels of brew will benefit the Harmony Museum. Says Big Rail’s Bill Smith, “We expect to do this collaboration again soon.”
As part of its free March Demo Series from 5 to 8 p.m. each Wednesday this month, Wigle Whiskey in the Strip District will be pairing whiskeys with beers from Dancing Gnome in Sharpsburg on Wednesday. The following two weeks will match whiskeys with La Prima coffee and Millie’s Homemade ice cream. RSVP at wiglewhiskey.com/event-tickets.
Mt. Lebanon’s Block 292 and Hitchhiker Brewing Co. are doing a Butcher and Brewer Dinner at the Beverly Road restaurant at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The pairings: Lamb Carpaccio with Shape of Things IPA; Pork Belly and Prawns with Conversation American blonde ale; Beef Salisbury Steak with Worker and Queen honey saison; and Ice Cream Sandwich with Woke breakfast stout. Get the full menu and tickets — $55 per person — at Block292.com.
City Works debuts
City Works, a beer-centric restaurant with 90-plus brews in Downtown’s PPG Place, opens next weekend. After an invite-only soft opening on March 9, the place holds a ticketed party to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on March 10, and then on March 11, it opens to the public at 8 a.m. for St. Patrick’s Day partying. More at cityworksrestaurant.com/pittsburgh.
The Brewers of Pennsylvania’s big annual gathering, the Meeting of the Malts IV, is set for March 30 at Artsquest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, Northampton County. There’s a panel discussion with Dick Yuengling of D.G. Yuengling & Son, Jim Koch of Samuel Adams, Eric Wallace of Left Hand Brewing and David Walker of Firestone Walker. The dinner pairs each of four courses with one of their beers. There’s also a silent auction for beer goodies and a Pennsylvania Brewpub Festival featuring breweries including North Country Brewing. Tickets are $85 per person or $750 for a table of 10. More at brewersofpa.org/event/meeting-of-the-malts-vi.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.