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As an antique dealer and house flipper and contractor, E.J. Kleckner is all about, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
“But,” he says with a grin, “that sounds too long for a brewery name.”
And so when it came time for the young businessman to dub the brewpub he’s opening Thursday on the main drag in downtown Canonsburg in Washington County, he came up with a shorter way to say it: “Rusty Gold.”
The Rusty Gold Brewing Co. — in an old brick storefront on West Pike Street — is decorated, outside and in, with old barn wood and corrugated metal. The early 1800s barnwood-topped bar is made from doors from a tear-down farmhouse. Tables and seating, too, are made from everything from barrels to church pews.
“All this was built on site — custom,” says Mr. Kleckner, who himself used a 1-inch stippling brush to hand paint the rust on the bulkhead over the bar that was built to look like an old train trestle.
The original white-and-black tile floor and bronze-painted tin ceiling (from the building’s 1920s roots as a bakery, before it was a market, pool hall and then 1950s-themed Toy’s My Way Cafe) are perfect fits for the theme. There are steam-punk touches such as a hard hat-and-pump lamp and a rescued-from-a-fire clock. Otherwise, the walls are adorned with metal signs, fire extinguishers and other artifacts. The front opens up via a newfangled garage-door-style window above a bar. Mr. Kleckner had to do some big-time modernizing of plumbing and electric. But much of the rest of the reno he says was done with repurposed materials, including dropped ceiling from a bowling alley. “I tell you, I Frankensteined all sorts of businesses.”
Welcome to the region’s newest brewpub, which opens from 4 to 10 p.m., with seating for about 75 people.
Mr. Kleckner, 28, is not the brewer but a businessman, who carefully scoped out the region’s burgeoning brewing scene starting several years ago. It made sense to open in Canonsburg, where he saw a need for a food and drinks destination — one that could draw on adjacent Southpointe businesses and the other booming parts of Washington County (he lives in Peters) as well as be a quick trip for beer to tourists and others via Interstate 79.
For a brewer, he hired Justin Viale, who worked for about five years at Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville. They agree that while the trends right now seem to be exotic sours and hazy India pale ales, their lineup is going to start out more classic.
“I think, honestly, our niche might be going back to basics — making a good beer,” says Mr. Kleckner.
For this weekend’s opening, they plan to have five of their own brews: An IPA, a pale ale, an oatmeal stout, an amber and, probably the most approachable, a cream ale. “That’s a workin’ man’s beer,” says Mr. Kleckner, who is quick to note he also wants to do more experimental stuff.
So does Mr. Viale, who notes, while cleaning out one of the tanks in the 7-barrel brewhouse visible at one end of the bar, “I like Rauchbier,” a German-style made with smoked malt. “I know that’ll be a smaller batch.”
The adjacent kitchen is led by chef J-Qua Barker, who will be making pub fare — burgers, grilled chicken, wings, you know the drill -— but with some elevated twists. The cheese sticks won’t come from a freezer bag and canned red sauce but will be made as four-cheese grilled cheese sandwiches that will be sliced, breaded and deep-fried and served with a bloody mary dipping sauce. The menu will include vegetarian and vegan, lactose- and gluten-free choices.
In addition to its own brews, Rusty Gold will serve one gluten-free draft from Emsworth’s Aurochs Brewing Co., as well as some wines on tap, Pennsylvania spirits and local mead and hard cider.
They may distribute some of their draft soon and may eventually do some limited bottling. They plan to remodel the second floor into rooms for private functions. But in the meantime, they have to see how it goes to be Canonsburg brewpub and how they fit into the bigger local craft beer scene.
Says Mr. Kleckner, “I’m sorta watching it from a cultural standpoint and a business standpoint, how it’s taken hold in our region and where it’s going next.”
Rusty Gold Brewing — 43 W. Pike St., Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, PA 15317 — will, for starters, be open 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight Friday; 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. A website is on the way, but in the meantime, you can find out more about the place via its Facebook page.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.