Robert Chambers Jr. first opened the joint in Homewood in the late 1980s and moved it to this roadside spot a decade ago.
It was another big week in a big month on the Pittsburgh craft-brewing scene, as two more breweries — each with a taproom for serving glasses and growlers of beer to the public — opened last week.
The Brew Gentlemen in Braddock opened May 21 and Grist House Brewing in Millvale opened this past weekend.
While I haven’t made it out to Braddock yet (but plan to soon), I did squeeze in to Grist House on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. All the barrel tables on the small wood deck outside were full, and there were some people out in the fenced-in “yard,” too, where barbecued brisket and pulled-pork sandwiches were being provided by Pittsburgh Smokehouse and other people were playing cornhole.
Inside the open garage door, a super-nice server grilled a hotdog for my son, and dished us up a serving of Popo’s Peppers, an intriguing family recipe of pickled peppers with cauliflower and garlic, served with bread, which we ate with a sandwich sitting on stools at a small counter overlooking the 15-barrel brewing system. Above us hung the electric hook that used to move meat around this former slaughterhouse, the industrial bones of which has been nicely preserved.
There were four brews on tap — American Red Ale, Session Pale Ale, Brown Ale and American Wheat with Apricots — for $6 a pint. Two (the red and the brown) were available on “nitro” — that is, dispensed with nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide for more fine carbonation. They were all described as part of the “Scaled Up Series.”
That’s because they are home recipes that co-owners and co-brewers Brian Eaton and Kyle Mientkiewicz were used to brewing in 10-gallon batches and are learning to do in nearly-500-gallon batches.
”It was a little bit of a scale up,” Mr. Eaton said in a phone interview as he recuperated on Tuesday after he and Mr. Mientkiewicz sold about 10 barrels of beer. “We’re pretty ecstatic today.”
And not just because for the first time in a year they didn’t have to work on the building they purchased.
The two men (Mr. Eaton is 30, Mr. Mientkiewicz is 27) are not only childhood friends who grew up together in Waterford, just south of Erie, but also brothers-in-law, in that Mr. Eaton is married to Mr. Mientkiewicz’s sister, Krystle. They two were in the same fraternity at Penn State. They reconnected over homebrewing, then mused about opening a brewery, the way lots of homebrewers do. Then, “It kinda blew up.”
They wound up in Millvale mostly based on the charm and price of this building, but they love the welcome they’ve gotten from the borough and their neighbors there, and it is easy to get to from Downtown, other breweries (including Draai Laag just blocks away) and distilleries on the Allegheny River Libation Trail, as well as from the house in O’Hara that the Eatons are sharing with Mr. Mientkiewicz and his girlfriend, Colleen Vecellio.
They’re all working day jobs still — Mr. Eaton doing fundraising for a non-profit and Mr. Mientkiewicz doing IT for an insurance company.
So they are still experimenting with their hours, too.
Beerwise, they plan to establish three or four flagship beers to have available year ’round, and on the other six taps offer seasonals and one-offs.
This week, for instance, they are brewing a robust porter, a black rye IPA and a Belgian-style trippel; that last one they plan to split between two fermenters and use two yeasts, so they can serve two versions of it to customers to compare.
“We really like the educational side of things,” Mr. Eaton says — hence having the brewhouse open to the taproom.
They wanted to focus on the beer, so they’re keeping the food as simple as possible. In addition to regular appearances by food trucks and other mobile vendors, they plan to create a “menu” of local eateries that will deliver food right to the taproom for customers. (They plan to add some local wines, too.)
Another interesting twist will be their “Buy A Beer a Friend” program, which will allow a customer to pre-pay for a pint or two or a growler for a friend, whose name will be chalked onto a board at one end of the bar. Meanwhile, they plan to start distributing beer to other bars and restaurants, too.
This week, Grist House is to be open 5 to 10 p.m. tonight and Friday and 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday. The brewery is at 10 Sherman St., just off Grant Avenue; the phone is 412-447-1442 and the website is gristhousebrewing.com.
Speaking of taprooms, Lawrenceville’s Roundabout Brewery has begun serving glasses of beer in its tasting room — in 12- and 16-ounce pours (roundaboutbeer.com).
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.