If anyone were doing a research paper and needed evidence that Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene is alive and booming, they needn’t look further than the crowds that rolled into the grand openings of Voodoo Brewery’s new pub in Homestead and Spoonwood Brewing’s brewery and taproom in Bethel Park on January 31st, 2015. Both locales had high expectations for their respective opening days, and both delivered in great fashion.
My partners in crime (girlfriend, sister, brother-in-law) and I kicked off our Saturday tour by venturing down to Homestead to see what Voodoo had to offer. For those unfamiliar, Voodoo Brewery is located in Meadville, PA and has been producing solid beers for over a decade. They offer a lineup featuring year-round classics, as well as a variety of barrel-aged gems that will ignite your palate and warm your insides. The opening of this new pub provides Voodoo the perfect platform to reach a steadily increasing Pittsburgh market with their stellar lineup of brews.
It only took a couple seconds to realize the word had spread: Voodoo makes awesome beer, and the local craft beer brethren wanted to drink it! Front to back, top to bottom, the new pub located in the former municipal building on the corner of Ninth and Amity Street in Homestead was PACKED with beer fans, all eager to get their hands on beers they’ve come to know and love, as well as some new offerings they had yet to taste.
There was a wide variety on tap…enough to keep us busy for hours. In my own typical fashion, I went IPA first. The Voodoo Hoodoo is a unique brew in that the seven hop varieties involved in its creation all begin with the letter “C” and its end product is a very piney, citrusy beer with a 7.3% ABV. IPAs are my style of choice and Hoodoo is a strong offering I’d highly recommend to anyone with hops on the brain.
Next, all four of us dove into Voodoo’s Love Child. This Belgian style tripel is aged for three months on Michigan sour cherries, Oregon raspberries, and passion fruit. This brew tips the scales at 9.5% ABV and is led by the pleasant fruit blend that masks the higher ABV. Not typically one to gravitate towards fruit beers, I can easily say I’d come back to this offering again, especially after several IPAs or heavier styles…which tends to happen more often than not.
Overall, Voodoo provided a great experience and truly captured where our city’s beer culture is headed. Hundreds upon hundreds of people came together, united by great beer and the common goal of seeing another craft beer destination kick things off. Voodoo’s pub has a bright future and I’m calling fives on a stool mid-bar to watch it all unfold!
Next on the day’s agenda was hitting up the highly-anticipated grand opening of Spoonwood Brewing, located in Bethel Park in the building that used to be home to Duke’s Station and formerly sat the Montour Railroad. I’ve been following their progress towards opening day on Facebook and Twitter and, whether it’s the fact they built anticipation so well, they’re close to home, I love trying new beers, or a combination of all three, my excitement was piqued as I grabbed the first available parking spot I could find.
Three things hit me upon crossing Spoonwood’s threshold: 1) “Hey, I just saw that guy at Voodoo,” 2) The crowd gathered inside made me realize immediately these guys were going places, and 3) this was one of the nicest brewpub setups I’ve ever seen! Incredibly clean, well laid-out, and transmitting a warm, convivial vibe, Spoonwood’s taproom was a grand slam…the type of place you’d chill on any given night, but also hold your wedding reception.
We were fortunate to approach the bar just as a couple was leaving, allowing us to stake our claim to some bar real estate for the rest of the evening. This also provided an up-close seat to view how hard the Spoonwood staff was working to ensure their guest’s glasses never hit empty. They were on top of their game, speaking intelligently about the day’s offerings and making suggestions based on their customer’s style preferences.
I immediately went to work and sampled each beer they had. I’m a firm believer that taste is subjective and, whether I rave about a beer or feel it missed my wheelhouse, it should never detour you from trying it yourself. That said, I’ll spare full reviews of each beer, but will gladly point out that each one boasted its own unique character and offered an interesting take on classic beer styles.
Being a certified hophead, I didn’t expect anything but the Killer Diller IPA to top my list as favorite of the day. But while it was good, it was the Bruna, Spoonwood’s Belgian Porter that clocks in at 8% ABV and brings forth a unique marriage between the two styles that works well, that stole my heart. My flight was also highlighted by In The Black, a well-balanced 5.2% American Stout that warmed the insides on a chilly afternoon.
I could go on with more on the rest of what I had, but you’d do yourself more justice by getting down to Spoonwood and sampling everything for yourself! Regular taproom hours kick off February 4th, so no excuses! Check out Spoonwood’s website for more info…
Accompanying a solid lineup of beers is a very nice food menu. After some tough deliberation, we dove into a Great Hambino pizza and some pretzel bites with house-made beer cheese. The bites were great, especially with the beer cheese to make them pop, and the pizza was a thin crust, light, but filling. These menu options offer the perfect complement to the beers on tap and offer several pairing options. Take a look at the full menu here.
I, like many craft beer enthusiasts, turned the page to 2015 and expected more exciting things to enter the mix of our craft beer landscape. Before January came to a close, Voodoo and Spoonwood made these expectations a reality by busting through the gates flying and setting the stage for more awesomeness as the days roll on. I can’t speak for everyone who came out this past weekend, but I’m going to assume I speak for the majority when I say thank you to Voodoo and Spoonwood for tremendous kickoffs, and cheers to all the great things that are to come!