Pittsburgh’s newest brewery may not seem that new.
Milkman Brewing Co. opens tonight, when from 6 to 9 p.m. it will sell its first growlers, or takeaway glass jugs, of beer from its second-floor digs at 2517 Penn Ave. in the Strip District.
But Milkman has been giving away samples at beer festivals and other events, serving beer at beer dinners, even winning beer competitions for several years now.
Jamie Rice, one of three co-owners and co-brewers behind this brewery (with some additional investors as well as “significant others”), believes that will serve the new nanobrewery well as it debuts on a scene that‘s a lot more crowded than it was four years ago when they started the journey from home brewing to commercial brewing.
“I think it was smart,” Mr. Rice says of all the promotional (and out-of-pocket) work that started shortly after the guys started with the idea of brewing in a former dairy in New Kensington and came up with the name.
They’re delighted that, after a long search for a space, they wound up in the Strip in part of an old brick building where, Mr. Rice says, horse-drawn fire apparatus once was made. It also happens to be surrounded by other small breweries, distilleries, wineries and a cidery that are forming the Allegheny River Libation Trail. The Milkman guys plan to milk that, and embrace joining all the other breweries that are opening here. “I definitely think there‘s room for more,” Mr. Rice says.
How does this brewery plan to distinguish itself?
With the creativity that got it this far, he says.
“We are definitely not going by the [beer] style guidelines,” he says. “I know every brewery says that ....”
One of the beers they’re opening with is their Peppercorn Rye, actually brewed with peppercorns. They‘ll also be pouring a single-hop -- nugget -- pale ale and a smoked brown ale called Dahntan Brahn.
They plan to specialize in unusual brews like that, including, as the holidays roll around, their people’s-choice-award-winning Peppermint Porter, which they created for the Pittsburgh Rugby Club‘s BruFest way back in 2010. “Doing some things that no one else is doing,” Mr. Rice says.
As they open today, they still have a long way to go. Their space on Penn Avenue is barely roughed in with woodwork that only adds to the true industrial charm of the building, which has big arched windows and twin arched doors. Milkman, the first of what is to be several tenants, doesn’t yet have a sign, but it will have a menu board on the sidewalk out front, chained, appropriately, to a heavy old milkcan.
Customers will come upstairs and get growlers filled from an old retro-fitted chest freezer, in full sight of the three-barrel brewhouse, which is, shall we say, a bit more haphazard-looking than some.
“This is bootstrapped to the gills,” said Mr. Rice with a grin this past Saturday as he watched co-owner Justin Waters brew another batch of pale ale.
Right now, they need to sell some beer, and wouldn‘t at all mind if they sell out at some point after reopening at noon on Friday.
Then, they’ll brew some more to reopen next weekend, and they plan to set regular weekend hours.
For now, they all have day jobs. Mr. Rice, who‘ll be 35 next month and lives in Brentwood, is an assistant bank administrator; Mr. Waters, who’s 30 and lives in Greenfield, is a computer engineer; and Kyle Branigan, who is 26 and lives in Lawrenceville, is a cook.
They hope to eventually add a pub component and serve pints of their beers themselves, but their next priority is to get their labels approved and get kegs of Milkman Brewing Co. beer into other area bars and restaurants.
Probably lots of customers already will have heard of them.
For more information, find Milkman Brewing on Facebook and on Twitter @MilkmanBrewing.
Some people like bottled beer. Some people like draft beer, which can be served for takeaway in 64- and 32-ounce glass jugs called growlers. Growing numbers of people like canned beer, too.
Somewhere on that continuum, put the “Crowler.”
That‘s a registered trademark of the Ball Corp., the can maker that is marketing a 32-ounce aluminum container as a cross between a can and a growler.
Craft brewers and bars can buy machines that allow them to fill the containers with beer and then “seam” -- attach -- the tops onto them, right at the taps, for customers to takeaway, pop the tabs on and enjoy elsewhere.
Ball spokesman Jared Brody touts not just the “entertainment value when it’s seamed in front of a customer at the bar,” but also the facts that the new containers are more sanitary, more lightweight and durable and block out light and oxygen “giving the beer longer life” in a “shareable 100-percent recyclable container.”
Hough’s in Greenfield recently got one of the can-sealing machines and a bunch of cans. They launched it this week, starting Tuesday, with a three-day bash themed to Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewery, a canned-beer pioneer that also helped launch the Crowler earlier this year.
Hough‘s (houghspgh.com) will fill the containers with any of its 71 drafts, seal the top and attach a label on which the name of the beer is written.
The cans are selling for the same price as two pints at the bar.
Manager Erin Ungvarsky says the beer should last at least as long as in an unopened glass growler -- about a week -- if customers can wait that long.
“They’re great to share,” she said.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.