Hitchhiker Brewing Co. opens in Sharpsburg

Hitchhiker Brewing Co.’s new brewery and tap room officially opens Saturday in the former machine shop and boiler room of the old Fort Pitt Brewing Co. in Sharpsburg.

“Now the work will begin,” said owner Gary Olden, who last week was elated but exhausted that the new space had passed all of its inspections. He and his crew have been working on the place since February. They have been having soft openings this week to prepare for the launch. 

The original location that started in Mt. Lebanon a little more than three years ago remains open, but all the beer is being brewed in Sharpsburg. The gleaming new 15-barrel brewhouse fills only a portion of the three-story power plant, which is still topped with a smokestack. 

The spacious tap room is in the adjacent machine shop, which Mr. Olden and his crew have transformed with a 35-foot-long, steel-topped, arch-shaped bar made by Sharpsburg neighbor Gilgamesh Forge. At the pleasantly busy private party at the place Thursday night, blacksmith Steve Shepherd joked about how he’ll never again make such a big steel bar because it was so much work to finish the acid-finished surface just right.

Incoming Mayor Matthew Rudzki, who lives four doors away and who proudly posted a slew of photos from Wednesday’s private party, was all smiles, as yet another positive development blossomed before his eyes (he’s also not far from Dancing Gnome brewery and taproom on his town’s main drag and is sitting on news of other hip new businesses coming in). 

“Hitchhiker represents another piece of the puzzle in the Sharpsburg renaissance, bringing investment and jobs but also a place for people to enjoy and explore our community,” he said. 

There’s seating for about 100 people in the new Hitchhiker taproom, but customers also are able to stand in the brewing space. Eventually, Mr. Olden says, they’d like to offer regular tours.

There are to be about a dozen brews on tap for the opening, but there are a whopping 25 taps that head brewer Andy Kwiatkowski can’t wait to fill. Customers will notice Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, which Mr. Kwiatkowski and his assistant Matt Gibb soon will fill with Woke coffee stout to start the new place’s barrel-aging program.

Customers will also notice two much bigger, 30-barrel wooden vessels, called foudres, that the brewers also will soon fill, part of a push to get their sour on (they’ve already been practicing on a smaller pilot system). 

Like the beer itself, the place is expected to get even better over forthcoming “iterations,” Mr. Olden says. For instance, they still plan to add outdoor seating. “The space is, in my opinion, an acceptable and exciting place. But as we continue to grow the business, it’s going to evolve.” 

Like the Mt. Lebanon pub, the new Hitchhiker does not serve much food, but a range of snacks are available, including a new nut mix, a charcuterie board, pretzels and local beef jerky and ice cream sandwiches. Of the menu, he says, “We may expand it pretty quickly.”

So in the meantime, mobile food vendors will feed customers on weekends. This Saturday, they have lined up the new Pub Chip Shop truck.

Hours are the same as in Mt. Lebanon: noon to 11 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m. Sundays, closed Mondays, and 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

The new brewery has a big footprint to partially fill. Started in this Allegheny River borough in 1906, Fort Pitt Brewing Co. grew into the biggest brewer in the state and one of the top 25 in the country by 1949 but stopped brewing in Sharpsburg by 1957. 

Learn more at hitchhikerbrewing.com.

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.

First Published September 8, 2017 7:49 AM


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