A great craft beer can only gain traction if it gets into the public’s eye. Due to questionable tactics by the ‘big guys,’ that’s sometimes easier said than done. Those deep pockets go a long way towards casting a wave of influence that keeps shelves stocked and taps pouring the bland, mass-produced lagers in overbearing abundance.
Fortunately, there are locations all over the free world who’ve listened to their clientele and increased their offerings of local, regional, and national craft beers, thus opening up the potential for a brand new base of customers that let taste, originality, and freedom of choice drive the bus when it comes adult beverage consumption.
The craft beer scene in the Pittsburgh region continues to skyrocket thanks to more establishments championing Pale Ales, IPAs, Stouts, Porters, and other creative offerings that help perpetuate a segment of the beer market that saw 18% volume growth in 2013. Pittsburgh features a bevy of craft beer destinations that bring a smile to the face of anyone with hops on the brain.
Like the following list of destinations do to better serve their customers, I went public with the question “What’s your favorite Craft Beer destination in Pittsburgh?” to find out what my readers like and got some great responses. Below is a collaboration of what we’ll deem ‘The First 9’ (Will Sons of Anarchy want a royalty?) as these locales are nine of MANY spearheading the craft beer movement in Pittsburgh.
1) Bocktown Beer and Grill | Robinson and Monaca – Those of you who’ve been following Breaking Brews throughout March have seen A LOT of press about Bocktown. Not only were they my March “Craft Beer Spotlight,” they also were featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. For good reason…they’ve truly got their stuff together. Bocktown has two locations and features a rotating tap list of 16 craft beer options at all times. They also sport a Beer Library with over 400 craft beer options to go or enjoy in-house. With a tremendous food menu, paired with a friendly, beer-knowledgeable staff, Bocktown is one you have to check out.
2) House of 1,000 Beers | New Kensington – How much is in a name? In this case, A LOT! House of 1,000 Beers in New Ken has over 1,000 beers in stock, with 40 on tap and the largest selection of Belgian beer in Western PA. They offer mix-and-match six-packs starting at $9.95 and have great Happy Hour specials. Owners Dave and Maureen Sagrati recognized a very important element to craft beer growth when starting their business: that customers are reluctant to buy a full case of a beer they’ve never tried. This led to the opening of a six-pack shop, which evolved into their full-blown craft beer operation we know and love today.
3) Piper’s Pub | South Side Pittsburgh – When you talk to someone at Piper’s, whether it’s a member of the staff or a regular at the bar, the common theme you’ll find is that everyone feels like part of a family within these four walls. Add that element to a tremendous craft beer selection and you’ve got the perfect recipe for beer nirvana. A great feature of Piper’s extensive beer list are their cask offerings, which is beer in its natural state, a live product full of flavor! Pair a fresh pour on cask or draught with anything on the menu (yours truly prefers the Scotch Egg) and you’re in for a great time.
4) McGrogan’s Taproom | Canonsburg – McGrogan’s doesn’t sport the pomp of some other locales in the Pittsburgh region, but they know their beer (and that’s what’s important, right?!). McGrogan’s has 32 rotating taps of craft beer goodness and a great bottle selection as well. Their prices are very reasonable, especially for pours of 16 or 20oz. Those south of Pittsburgh should give McGrogan’s a look the next time the hop jones kicks in.
5) Mad Mex | All Over Pittsburgh – I’ve found myself in several Mad Mex’s over the years and I can always expect three consistent things: friendly staff, nachos, and a list of craft beer options to keep me busy the entire session. Few chain restaurants are tuned in to the world of craft beer, but Mad Mex shatters that stereotype and features several craft offerings to enjoy with or without something off the food menu. This speaks volumes and puts Mad Mex ahead of other chains in Pittsburgh who are slowly turning the corner in their realization that craft beer brings people in the door.
6) Hough’s | Greenfield Ave, Pittsburgh – If the 71 rotating taps (including the glorious tap wall) don’t excite you, perhaps the 200+ bottles Hough’s offers will. Regardless of how you prefer your craft beer, Hough’s has got you covered. I’ve been hard-pressed to find a better locale for sampling a wide variety of craft beers while taking in a Penguins or Pirates game surrounded by a great group of beer/sports enthusiasts. Plus, there’s an appetizer of bacon…just bacon…served with warm chocolate sauce. That alone should make any red-blooded ‘murican smile ear-to-ear.
7) Caliente Pizza & Draft House | Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh – Does anything go together better than beer and pizza? How about GOURMET pizza and CRAFT beer?! If you agree with me on that pairing, stop what you’re doing right now and get to Caliente. Frequenters of this destination have told me the Buffalo Chicken pizza may be best in the world. Yes, the world! Combine that with an amazing tap list, including some offerings normally rare to our region, and several of your cravings will be met under one roof. Don’t just walk to Caliente…RUN there.
8) Smokin’ Joes | South Side Pittsburgh – This is where it all started for me. Everyone gains craft beer affection somewhere, and Smokin’ Joes was the first place I really started to delve into the unique offerings the smaller breweries were creating. Joe’s has 60 beers on tap, including the ability to try samples in case the options overwhelm you. In addition, you can find a worldwide selection of over 350 different bottles in the house as well, plus a great menu featuring one of the best wing sauces in town…Hot Honey French! But don’t take my word for it…go pull up a stool at Joe’s today.
9) The Beer Market | North Shore, Pittsburgh – It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t include The Beer Market in this list. After all, it was sitting at this bar that put me within earshot of the comment that led to the birth of Breaking Brews. So many options, and none of them mass-produced! I have a high level of respect for the establishments who refuse to compromise their mission of delivering good beer and good beer only, and The Beer Market is one of those establishments. Events on the North Shore are far more enjoyable if your night begins and/or ends with a stop by The Beer Market.