As we welcome 2015 into our lives, we unquestionably have a lot to look forward to in Pittsburgh. We’ve successfully navigated our way through another holiday season, the weather has been warmer than normal, which should help make the upcoming months a little more bearable, and the Steelers are back in the playoffs and hoping to make that push for Super Bowl glory seven times over.
Depending on your particular fancy, you’ve probably got a bevy of happenings tacked to your calendar that are sure to get you primed for the clean slate only a new year can deliver.
2014 was a monumental year for Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene. Our city saw sizable growth as many breweries from around the country entered the mix and expanded our portfolio of options. Just as important, if not more so, were the debuts of several local craft breweries, meaderies, and distilleries, all hell-bent on delivering the best Pittsburgh-born adult beverages the world’s ever tasted.
A big part of the Class of 2014’s success is owed to The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company, whose brewery opened in May and rests in the little town of Braddock. We are about to tap into a small piece of what these guys have accomplished up to this point in this month’s Craft Beer Spotlight, but I promise you, this short feature that’s about to unfold truly can’t and won’t do the full body of their evolution justice. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit their taproom or experience one of their beers first-hand, drop what you’re doing and go! Wait…read this feature first, then go.
I have to admit, despite the fact that I’ve written about these guys on Breaking Brews and promoted some of their events, I feel a tad tardy to the party for not having featured them in the Spotlight sooner. Since Asa Foster, Matt Katase, and Brandon Capps first cut the ribbon on The Brew Gentlemen several months back, they’ve seen a tremendous amount of press. For good reason. This trio of brewing entrepreneurs have a lot going for them. Consider this feature long overdue, guys. 🙂
The idea for The Brew Gentlemen started in at Carnegie-Mellon as Asa and Matt, fraternity brothers in an entrepreneur class, took on the project of developing a microbrewery. With craft beer gaining positive momentum over the past several years, as well as Pittsburgh resting on the verge of a major influx in craft beer demand, the timing for their project couldn’t have been plotted any better. Their ideas snowballed into a successful Kickstarter campaign that allowed them to earn the funding to invest in stainless steel brewing equipment and renovate a building that once served as an electrical supply store. After welcoming Brandon, a creative, ambitious brewer who interned with Anheuser-Busch, into the business as Head Brewer, The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company served its first craft brew publicly on May 21, 2014.
“After a year and a half of renovation, we finally opened and our lives changed completely,” Asa stated. “We went from starting a brewery to running a brewery overnight, and that’s just crazy to comprehend!”
Keep in mind, these three forward-thinking business owners accomplished this feat at the age of 23. In a world where many people that age are still searching for their true direction, these guys opened a brewery. At any age, that’s no easy task. But in their short time of operation, they’ve been able to mold and craft a unique image that makes them stand out in the Pittsburgh craft beer scene thanks to a solid lineup of brews, as well as a classy taproom ambiance.
I made my first trip into The Brew Gentlemen’s establishment shortly after they opened their doors. As I took in my surroundings, I felt a vibe I’d never experienced at a microbrewery before. The atmosphere was warm, relaxing, and inviting. The walls were constructed of treated wood and brick, and the bar and surrounding tables had candles and vases with fresh flowers. I felt as if I’d been invited into someone’s home…except when I got there, they served me killer beers.
After introducing myself to Matt and striking up a conversation, I learned the reason behind the taproom’s homey feel.
“When I was growing up in Hawaii, my parents always had parties,” Matt explained. “They put me in charge of gathering fresh flowers to put in the bathrooms and areas where guests would be. Creating that same environment in our taproom seemed very natural.”
The next thing I discovered, as I ordered my first Brew Gentlemen offering, their flagship General Braddock IPA, is that these guys are incredibly humble and eager to discuss their beers with the customers. Matt and Brandon told me about each beer I sampled as my session moved forward, and I listened intently as they answered questions and shared anecdotes about the creations that were filling the glasses on that Saturday afternoon with other patrons. One of the biggest elements I look for in a craft beer destination is the ability to gain knowledge from the purveyors about the beers at hand. This happens ten-fold at The Brew Gentlemen.
Another reason I knew I’d get along with these guys from the start was the fact we share a similar philosophy in regards to beer and other libations. If you peruse The Brew Gentlemen’s website, you’ll discover the quote “We believe in beer as a medium of flavors, stories, celebrations and things that go beyond what is in the glass.”
Since launching Breaking Brews nearly a year ago, one point I’ve stressed is beer, wine, whiskey, etc. are all tremendous adult beverages, but they’re simply the product that brings friends and families together to share experiences and build lasting memories. We always want the highest-quality beer possible, but if we can live a moment that stands the test of time while drinking it, that beer goes to a new level of appreciation. Understanding this shows the care that’s put into each beer that’s produced at this Braddock brewery.
A major factor that stands out in the story of The Brew Gentlemen’s evolution is the fact they opened up in Braddock, an area of Pittsburgh most citizens haven’t ventured in years. A historic town once booming when steel was at its height, it has fallen on difficult times and had been, for lack of a better term, left for dead. However, standing at the forefront of a community revival is a craft brewery, perpetuating change and bringing the people back.
If you want to talk about the power a brewery can have, look no further than the impact The Brew Gentlemen have had on Braddock.
“Redeveloping an area that’s been hit so hard is a slow process,” Asa declared. “You can’t open up one business and expecting everything to turn around instantly. But we are happy to be playing a small part in the revival of the area.”
The Brew Gentlemen have been putting their name on the map since day one. They ended the summer of 2014 with a Garden Party that saw over 1300 guests. Their Halloween party, “Hitchcock,” held in partnership with The Independent Brewing Company at the legendary Carrie Furnace, was a tremendous success. They’ve worked their way into nearly a dozen craft beer bars across Pittsburgh. On the first Friday of every month, an exclusive firkin of their innovative brews is featured at Caliente Pizza & Draft House’s Local First Friday Firkin event.
So, this trio of creative entrepreneurs has run a successful Kickstarter campaign, opened a brewery, produced some top-caliber beers, thrown killer parties, and gotten their product into local bars…by the age of 23. What else could they do?
How about a documentary?!
When Chip Hiden & Alexis Irvin approached me this summer to help them promote their Kickstarter for “Blood, Sweat, & Beer,” a documentary they created about the rise of craft beer that ALSO features The Brew Gentlemen, I couldn’t respond to Chip’s email fast enough. This project spoke to me in ways I knew it would speak to other craft beer enthusiasts, as well as those on the verge of starting their own breweries, worldwide. I’m happy to announce that, thanks to the generosity of so many of YOU, Blood, Sweat, & Beer reached its Kickstarter goal and the story of The Brew Gentlemen and Shorebilly Brewing will be coming to a theater near you! Blood, Sweat, & Beer has the potential to impact the craft beer world in an epic way, and the fact we have a local tie to it makes the anticipation for its release date even stronger.
“The Brew Gentlemen’s story is the perfect example of the dramatic and revitalizing impact a craft brewery can have on a neighborhood,” Chip said. “When we first visited the brewery, we were instantly intrigued by the town of Braddock – its rich history, its downfall in the wake of the collapse of the steel industry, and its recent resurgence. We knew we had to share the story of these young entrepreneurs and their drive to brew delicious beer and bring a manufacturing business back to the town.”
The start of a brand new year naturally carries with it the urge to change something. The urge to do something. The desire to make a resolution and stick to it. Too often, we get lost in the minutia of every day life to truly make these resolutions become reality. However, this feature should stand as a testament to what hard work, dedication, and belief in a vision can lead to. Ask Asa, Matt, and Brandon and they’ll tell you…getting to where they are today wasn’t simple, and they’re still nowhere near the finish line. But the fun is the journey of trying to get there! The fact that “complacency” and “The Brew Gentlemen” will never collide in the same sentence is a good thing, because this blogger will tell you…I can’t wait to see what these guys create for us next!
Forward thinking and great beer can open the door to a world of possibilities. It’s time for you to see that for yourself. Get down to Braddock today and discover what’s on tap!