There are a lot of great states for craft beer in the United States, but ask anyone in the know and they have to rank Pennsylvania near, if not directly at the top (we would). A large reason for PA’s dominance is thanks to the two great cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, each unique and each pumping out thousands of gallons of liquid gold every year. In no particular order below are some of the steel city’s finest breweries that you have to get to this year, we don’t care where you’re from.
Tucked away in the residential area of Millvale within Allegheny County there’s an undoubted neighborhood vibe at the brewery, with patrons strolling in and out of the open premise. This open layout, with its expansive outdoor drinking area gives an almost backyard BBQ vibe with imbibers bringing their dogs, and food being fired up, like pizza from Pittsburgh’s Driftwood Oven. For those that are more of the at-home drinker, Grist House successfully canned their first beer in October of 2016, releasing Fire on the Hill. This smooth, well-balanced IPA with 7.5% ABV has juicy notes of citrus and peach.
Founders Matt Katase and Asa Foster took a passion for making high quality beer and paired it with a keen art sense to create a brewery that both pleases palettes and the eye with ease. Their Beer + Yoga series has also been a huge hit where $5 buys you entry into a weekly yoga session that ends in the best way possible, with a 6 oz. beer pouring. And when the beers they’re offering are crisp, clean IPA’s like General Braddock’s India Pale Ale it’s no wonder the class spots fill up insanely fast. No slouches when it comes to one-off brews either, their Double Mex (9.9% ABV), an imperial, barrel-aged take on their fall seasonal, Mexican Coffee, boasts a robust Untappd rating of 4.56.
The best things come in small packages, this is an adage that perfectly fits the quant setting of Roundabout Brewing. Owned, and definitely operated by Steve and Dyana Sloan you’ll often find Dyana doling out delicious brews from behind the bar and Steve working in the back on his latest concoction. Steve’s got a little more than a modest resume with experience in 6 states and even more locations, one of those being in New Zealand, to go alongside being named 2012’s “Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year” at GABF for The Church Brew Works. In addition to standard growler fills, the brewery also offers 32 0z. Quart Cans to take a little something extra to go with you.
Taking a walk on the wild side has never tasted so good as it does at Draai Laag, a place where finding a French Monastic cabinet from the 17th century means you’ve got a yeast culture to make a new beer with. Funky, tart and wine-like these wild ales like their Cru and Ragnorok are staples of the brewery and make for a tasting experience hard to find in the city, state or even the country. Generally higher in ABV with a definitive fruit backbone Draai Laag’s brews offer a wide variety of flavors excellent for food pairing. From apples, to cherries, to raspberries and oranges, there’s not a fruit they won’t work into one of their brilliant creations.
A popular theme within finer restaurants is “farm to table,” the notion that the food you’re being served is locally sourced and hyper fresh. Hop Farm takes this belief and puts their own wonderful craft beer spin on it. When the season permits, local fresh hops are used in making some of their finest ales and give them that fresh picked, vibrant flavor. They also use an interesting “beer to burger beef” method where they’ve partnered with a local farm to provide their spent grain to be used in feeding their cattle. All of this serves to remind patrons that when they sit down for a pint and a burger they’re getting local ingredients that are supporting local businesses in and around the city.
Currently located in the Mt. Lebanon section of Pittsburgh’s residential sprawl, Hitchhiker has big, historic changes planned for 2017 and beyond. Plans are underway for their base of operations to expand into part of the old Fort Pitt Brewery building, located in Sharpsburg, with a 15 barrel brewing system while maintaining the 3 barrel system at their current location. That modest 3 barrel system is still churning out amazing craft beer, like their latest, Whole Punch: Pineapple, a juicy IPA brewed with milk sugar, Simcoe and Mosaic hops before being conditioned on vanilla beans and pineapples. They also have a nice added touch of personalizing their crowler cans to look like super sized versions of a can you’d find on the shelves of your favorite bottle shop.