Post-Gazette Blogs

Adventurous ales in the Works in Butler

Is Butler Brew Works worth the four-year wait?

After getting a taste of La Noche Triste, I’d have to say it is.

I don’t know if co-owners Travis Tuttle and Nick Fazzoni feel the same way; I suspect that they’re just happy to get their first six months as a working brewpub under their belts. It’s been a long time coming, after all.

Mr. Fazzoni and Mr. Tuttle started down the road to open Butler Brew Works in 2012, but problems with their downtown Butler property — particularly the building that had been home to the Butler Hot Dog Shop, which had to be razed before any work on the brewery could begin — set them back financially and chronologically.

But it’s best to not dwell on the delays now that Butler Brew Works is open and drawing people from around the region. And it’s not hard to see why. The brick building at Main and Jefferson streets is a striking contrast to the drug stores that occupied the corner for years; inside, reclaimed pallet planks covers one wall and the massive sign from Reiber Block, another building Mr. Tuttle and Mr. Fazzoni had to take down before they started, hangs on another. It manages to be sleek and modern while still feeling warm and inviting at the same time.

Did I mention warm? If that’s what you’re craving, I’d suggest a glass of Machete, the double IPA that nicely masks its 9 percent ABV — until you’ve finished a glass — behind a swirl of piney citrus flavors.

And then there’s La Noche Triste, the milk stout that gets an injection of locally roasted coffee — my sample had the Main Street roast from Butler’s Cummings Coffee and Candy — post fermentation. It is what I want for breakfast; the rich, creamy sweetness of the lactose sugars in the stout swirl with the roasted coffee for a perfect pint. Maybe Butler Brew Works could start serving breakfast as well?

Post-Gazette coverage of Butler Brew Works:

Category: Butler County | Tags:

Beer is always in Bloom in West Newton

When he opened up Bloom Brew more than two years ago, Jeffrey Bloom didn’t have much space. His brand new brewery, after all, was tucked into the back corner of the of the West Newton Fire Department’s building.

That didn’t stop him from filling the spot with ambition. And kegs … enough to keep 24 taps flowing nearly all the time.

But the smaller scale of the brewery and the insanely ambitious number of taps actually work hand in hand, as does Mr. Bloom’s obsession with aging beer in wood barrels. An example: When the tap room was open this week, Mr. Bloom handed tasters of a new mango sour to several customers, clarifying that this version — the first to go on tap — was his least favorite of the six — SIX — varieties he brewed while tinkering with the recipe.

Six takes on one new beer? That’ll help keep those 24 taps from running dry, and it’ll give craft beer lovers in his neck of Westmoreland County a chance to follow along with the experiments.

While those sours and stouts sit in barrels, others are lagering. In the meantime, a steady stream of ales, which don’t require the same amount of production time, rotate in and out with the fussier beers … and there is always plenty of beer to choose from.

There are plenty of opportunities to help out the community, something that’s been a priority for Mr. Bloom. One beer, 82 Hot Head Red, benefits the borough’s fire department (with whom he shares a home; another, Brewce’s Ryed, benefits the local trail association (the Great Allegheny Passage runs by the brewery on the opposite shore of the Youghiogheny River); a third, Snewton IPA, benefits the downtown local development group.

Excellent causes, yes. But you could also just go for the beer … all 24 taps of it.

A good start for Helicon

It’s natural to expect that a brand new brewery might have some growing pains. Going from a homebrewing scale to a 15-barrel brewing system isn’t an easy transition, and that says nothing of all of the other tasks that come with opening and running a beer-making business.

Unless, apparently, you work at Helicon Brewing in Oakdale.

For Chris Brunetti and Andy Weigel, the first brew day on their new system wasn’t ideal — it took more than twice as long as it should, for one thing.

But it’s tough to argue with the result: 001 Pale Ale, a nicely balanced American pale that has become the brewery’s best-seller in its first month in business. Close on its heels: 002 India Pale Ale, a juicy New England style IPA that can make even a cold December afternoon feel like a day in the tropics.

Add to that — among others — a blonde ale, an imperial stout and what is sure to be a long list of Mr. Weigel’s lagers — all good enough to prompt a cult-like following among Pittsburgh’s homebrewing community — and you get the sense that Helicon is going to do just fine.

The brewery’s distinction of being the first in western Allegheny County — it’s just a few minutes’ drive south of the shopping areas in Robinson and North Fayette — will likely help as well, although that wasn’t part of the business plan; that’s just where Mr. Brunetti was able find space. It should work out well in the future, too; the parcel in Oakdale, the site of a former dog food factory, is big enough to accommodate the owner’s plans for a restaurant and other businesses.

And the fact that the Panhandle Trail runs right along the property means there should be a ready-made audience for a cold beer or two in the warmer months.

But don’t wait until then to give Helicon a try. You’d miss out on one of the region’s best new breweries.

Category: Allegheny County | Tags: ,

Giving thanks

Brian Eaton at Grist House: Thankful for session beers.

Brian Eaton at Grist House: Thankful for session beers.

If you’re here, it’s probably safe for me to assume that you’re thankful for craft beer.

It’s also safe to assume that the folks who work in the business — from distributors to brewers to bar managers — are pretty thankful for craft beer as well.

I asked a handful of our friends in the business to explain what they’re thankful for this Thanksgiving week … and I got anything but a bunch of canned, boring responses. And I added my own two cents at the end; spoiler alert: I’m mostly thankful for you guys, because you’re why we continue to do the show.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend, everyone.

Bonus Beer Me: What does a beer museum need?

We won’t promise that this counts as a preview, but when we asked Matt Sherwin and Joe McAllister, two of the founders of Brew: The Museum of Beer, for their thoughts about what a beer museum should include, we were definitely intrigued by their answers.

Category: Region | Tags: ,