One thing is for certain — Andy Kwiatkowski won’t be bumping his head on the ceiling at work any longer.
For almost three years, knots on his head have been a occupational hazard for Mr. Kwiatkowski, the head brewer at Mt. Lebanon’s Hitchhiker Brewing Co.; that’s understandable when your brewhouse is stuffed into a basement with a low clearance.
But when Mr. Kwiatkowski and Gary Olden, Hitchhiker’s owner, move into new digs in Sharpsburg later this spring, ceiling clearance won’t be an issue; the new brewhouse will be assembled in what had been the power plant of the old Fort Pitt Brewery complex between South Canal Street and Marys Avenue, and as you can see in the photo of Mr. Olden and Mr. Kwiatkowski, there is plenty of room.
That additional space will be helpful in another way: increased capacity. The Mt. Lebanon location is home to a three-barrel brewing system; in the Sharpsburg space, that gets bumped up to 15 barrels, which will allow Mr. Kwiatkowski to brew enough beer to serve two taprooms and still have plenty left over to sell to other accounts. And once the brewing actually begins, some of the new space will be filled with barrels … and they’ll be filled with sours or other barrel-aged projects that are Mr. Kwiatkowski’s real passion.
And that’s just the behind-the-scenes part of the expansive property. One the taproom is ready you’ll be welcomed by a 35-foot bar and an array of tables. It should be summertime when the space is ready, so Hitchhiker should be able to make good use of the large outdoor space behind the building. And as it does in Mt. Lebanon, there will be a limited food menu, supplemented by occasional food trucks.
The new brewery is a bonus for Sharpsburg, which welcomed Dancing Gnome just last year. Mr. Olden said the borough was welcoming and easy to work with — a nice contrast to previous expansion efforts that ended in frustration with Pittsburgh’s city government.
Sharpsburg knows brewing, of course. And while Hitchhiker won’t be as large as Fort Pitt was in its glory days — it was the largest brewery in the state at its peak in the 1940s — but both Mr. Olden and Mr. Kwiatkowski relish their connection to the borough’s brewing history. “When we set out to look for a space, I didn’t think there were a lot of spaces that still stood from back when brewing was here,” Mr. Kwiatkowski said. “It’s amazing.”
Post-Gazette coverage of Hitchhiker Brewing Company: