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Meeting an old friend in Beaver County

charles pour

I met Charles years ago.

But until my recent visit to Hollywood Gardens and Brixton Brewing in Rochester, Beaver County, I hadn’t had an opportunity to get caught up again.

Charles is the name of Brixton’s Belgian-style quadrupel, a complex, delicious monster of a beer. Back in 2011, it was the first beer introduced by Brixton, the house brewery for Hollywood Gardens, and I was so pleased to see him again when I visited.

Sightings of Charles and other Brixton beers had been occasional until October, when owner Frank Elia and brewer Zachery Ruskin really got going on their new 2-barrel brewing system to the degree that Brixton beers began to regularly appear on the tap list at Hollywood Gardens.

What was behind the wait? A little license juggling took up some time, but when Mr. Elia secured a brewpub license he and Mr. Ruskin set up a small system in the basement of the bar and began serving Brixton beers on weekends.

That Hollywood Gardens would be home a 12-tap system and a beer cave featuring bottles in the hundreds — much less to a brewery turning out quality IPAs and Belgian styles — is remarkable in and of itself. The bar was opened on Pinney Street in Rochester by Rocky Elia, Frank’s father, in 1958. Frank Elia took it over in 2009 after his father passed away and remade the place from a shot-and-a-beer bar to one that featured the craft beers he had come to love.

A chance meeting with Mr. Ruskin at the bar — and a few tastes of Mr. Ruskin’s home-brewed beer — got Mr. Elia thinking about making beer to serve in his place and in the spring of 2011, the pair hosted a welcoming party for Charles … and I was immediately smitten. So I was thrilled to see his name on the list when I visited last week. And just as thrilling? The other two Brixton beers on tap last week — a bitter named Matthew and a West Coast IPA named Robbie — were every bit as good.

It’s a small brewing system so for now, trying Brixton beers will require a drive┬áto Beaver County. But for a chance to meet Charles, Matthew or Robbie, it’s worth the trip.

Post-Gazette coverage of Hollywood Gardens and Brixton Brewing: