One of the coolest things about the explosive growth of craft beer (other than the beer itself, obviously) is the fact that it has no boundaries. From a creative perspective, new breweries are rewriting the playbook seemingly every day and throwing idea after idea against the wall to see what sticks and produces a quality beer. And from a location perspective, craft breweries are turning spaces practically left for dead into renowned destinations at all corners of the world. A piece of real estate simply takes on a different feel when its new owners approach it with a vision for success and what it will become.
That vision is turning new parts of the Pittsburgh region into destinations all on their own. Each little neighborhood of our city has a brewery, winery, distillery, meadery, or cider house on its map, either right in the heart of town or within stone’s throw proximity, thus making it very easy to find new places to visit and great destinations to visit repeatedly.
This very same ideal is currently unfolding in Indiana, PA as we speak.
By the end of 2015, our neighbors to the east will be home to two new craft beer breweries as well as a distillery that’s already open for business. Levity Brewing Company, Noble Stein Brewing Company, and Disobedient Spirits are the pioneers of craft in Indiana County and could potentially bust open the floodgates to more businesses of similar nature opening in the area. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to these three soon-to-be huge destinations in this month’s Breaking Brews Craft Beer Spotlight.
To me, Indiana, PA has always been a college town. And naturally, when one plays word association with “college town,” the immediate response is “party!” In my younger years, this rang very true as my sister and several of my hometown Bradford friends attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and partook in the activities that college kids partake in. It was only fitting that I drove the hour stretch from the ‘Burgh to join the festivities.
But Indiana is much more than just a big party. Yes, IUP is a major institution that ultimately puts it on the map, but it’s a highly reputable university…one of the tops in Pennsylvania. But did you know legendary actor Jimmy Stewart, star of many classic cinematic masterpieces such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, was born in Indiana County? In fact, the city has put together a wonderful museum in tribute to the actor’s life. You can learn more about the Jimmy Stewart Museum here.
Today, I’m all grown up (well, physically, maybe). And so is the drinking scene in Indiana…at least the one I’m interested in. And this change in mindset is spearheaded by three entities zeroed in on proving that solid craft beer and craft cocktails can be consumed responsibly and enjoyed by those not looking to get hammered. Levity, Noble Stein, and Disobedient will be adding a brand new layer to a town overflowing with potential, and the future is very bright for all three businesses, as well as Indiana County as a whole.
Levity Brewing Company
To walk into Levity’s soon-to-be opened space at this very moment means you have to have an active imagination of what things can be. It’s torn apart, stripped down, and in the very early stages of initial renovation. However, my active imagination went nuts when I started envisioning where the bar would rest, where the fermentation tanks would house that precious liquid we all clamor for, and where craft beer enthusiasts could kick back and enjoy a refreshing artisanal beer with their family and friends.
Turns out, co-owners Jared Herman and Luke McKelvy have a solid plan in place for their taproom layout that reinforced the thoughts in my head, one that will offer comfort, fun, and, most importantly, killer craft beers! The Levity name was born from the fact that Jared and Luke, as well as third partner Erich Wells, all come from different professional backgrounds and brewing beer together brought “levity” to their worlds, much like drinking a heady craft brew brings levity to mine.
My visit to Levity’s new space also carried with it an opportunity to sample some of their beers. If you visit their website, you’ll discover a full lineup of what they’ll be releasing to the wild upon their expected launch time (tentatively set for September 1st, 2015. Stay tuned…). And from my perspective, it looks like the lineup has some winners. The Saison Kick was my favorite of the beers currently tapped; a light, crisp farmhouse saison with a strong kick (hence the name, derived from the 80s band Saigon Kick) of ginger. Also, their Back to Basics Galaxy IPA is a unique offering brewed with only Galaxy hops. Very fruity on both the nose and mouth.
Levity’s 20-barrel brewing system is still wrapped in protective plastic, but you can rest assured the scaled-up versions of their initial offerings will ensure a solid grand opening in a couple short months. Get excited to have some Levity in your life, folks…this place is going to light up the map!
Noble Stein Brewing Company
The back story of my history with Noble Stein Brewing, in brevity, goes like so: Boy likes beer. Boy writes beer blog. Boy gets asked to judge beer competition as part of Pittsburgh Brewfest. Boy says yes. Boy drinks Hop Hired Hand, a kicked-up 9.5% saison courtesy of Noble Stein. Boy votes it best beer at the event. Boy finds new love for saisons. End scene.
Since discovering these guys in March of this year, it’s been great to get to know them at various beer events and, of course, drink the lion’s share of Hop Hired Hand as well. This beer isn’t as crisp as your typical saison, but the flavor is bold and incredibly unique, packing a flavor-filled punch in every sip. And it’s an award-winner, too. Says me.
To have an award-winning beer in your portfolio months before you open your door not withstanding, the guys behind Noble Stein are committed to listening to what their fans love and delivering a solid product that mirrors that affection. Zack Morrow, Alex Varner, Max Varner, and Ben Harley are the masterminds behind the operation and are four names you’ll be hearing more of in the near future as Noble Stein looks to have their space finished and ready for opening around December 2015.
The name “Noble Stein” is another representation of the true meaning of craft beer: the creation of an innovative, homemade product that’s designed for enjoyment, not inebriation. Your nearest dictionary will tell you ‘noble’ means distinguished by rank or title, and thus lends itself poignantly to our adoration of craft beers.
As the summer months slip away and the cold breath of Mother Nature gives us something new to complain about, we can take solace in the fact that the inevitable winds of winter bring with them the dawn of Indiana’s newest craft brewery. Get out your snow tires and travel safely…a trip to Noble Stein will be worth braving the elements.
Just as craft beer has boomed, so have spirits. Pittsburgh is home to two award-winning distilleries in Wigle Whiskey and Maggie’s Farm Rum, and Indiana now has an establishment looking to follow in their footsteps. Disobedient Spirits opened their doors just a few months back and brought Homer City, located just a few miles away from Indiana, a new destination with a warm atmosphere and ideal for enjoying great cocktails, live music, and bonding with your favorites folks.
The name itself speaks to so many different areas of the craft beer and spirits world we’ve come to adopt. You can talk to just about any brewer or distiller who has started their own operation and, most likely, the thought of “to hell with tradition” crossed their mind at least once or twice a minute. You see it in their demeanor and the products they make…they don’t fit the mold what was sold to us as the “traditional” way to do things. They are unique, innovative, and creative. They go against the grain…and that’s certainly another reason to embrace what they do. After all, who wants to be the same?
When business partners Bob Sechrist and Bob Begg decided to take that leap of faith and open Disobedient, they pooled together a lifetime of realization that playing by the rules didn’t work when some people had different rules to operate by. They look up to people who “speak truth to power” and those who stand up for those in less fortunate situations. Their venture was met head-on with trials and tribulations that could’ve potentially stopped their opening altogether. But they pressed on and Disobedient Spirits became the newest artisan distillery to rise up and take on Goliath head on!
Today, Disobedient has offerings of Premium Blue Corn Vodka, House Vodka, Maple House Vodka made with maple syrup, Blue Dog Corn Whiskey, seasonal fruit brandies, and a Cherry Whiskey that was released at the time of my visit last Friday. There are also plans for a bourbon in the next several months. The drinks I enjoyed while on site were on point with any craft cocktail I’ve ever consumed. Disobedient’s early commitment to quality will carry them far into the future.
You can learn more about Disobedient’s story on their website.
So, there you have it. Three new businesses, one mission: give the people what they want and what they deserve. There’s no telling what the future offers. But you can bet money these three entities will be a strong part of it.
Look out, Indiana County…you’re about to become our region’s newest craft beer and spirits destination!