In 2021, Ben Butler and Aaron Easler plan to raise the dead.
They’re opening Necromancer Brewing Co. at 2257 Babcock Blvd. in Ross Township to resurrect forgotten beer styles. They won’t be summoning spirits, just historical knowledge and brewing know-how.
When the 14,400-square-foot space, a former USA Baby and Spirit Halloween store with 36 parking spaces, debuts on March 1, it will be a pickup site for 16-ounce cans in four-packs and cases. Necromancer also will handle retail accounts for local bars and restaurants and will deliver beer to doorsteps within a 25-mile radius.
There will be several core offerings, including a New England IPA, a Belgian witbier and a grisette, plus 15 other specialty beers in rotation. They’ve already released Square Dancing, a collaboration beer with Sharpsburg’s Dancing Gnome. Their new offering, Fresh Grounds, a coffee porter made with Allegheny City Brewing and Press House Coffee, will be available on Dec. 23.
As the COVID-19 situation improves, the partners plan to open a 9,000-square-foot taproom, restaurant and production facility — also in the North Hills — by 2022.
“Right now, we’re focused on making really good beer and without putting anyone in danger,” says Butler, who, along with Easler, runs the Millvale-based marketing firm Top Hat.
The marketing company specializes in beer branding. They’ve created more than 200 unique beer can designs for seven regional breweries in areas from Alaska to Florida and helped to revitalize hometown favorite Iron City Beer. Those client experiences, combined with a love of the beverage, inspired Butler to become a certified cicerone, the beer industry equivalent of a wine sommelier.
Armed with his newfound expertise, Butler approached Easler about starting their own brewery, one that didn’t crank out trendy beers du jour but brought ancient recipes back to life. That is, he explains, how the American craft beer revolution started in the 1980s — reviving old standbys such as India Pale Ale for a new generation.
Brewmaster Lauren Hughes is up to the task.
The award-winning homebrewer went pro at several local establishments, including Penn Brewery. Lately, she’s been researching time-honored recipes that, for one reason or another, have fallen in and out of favor with the drinking masses.
“It allows me to flex my brewing muscles and take a crack at a style that no one has done in many years,” says Hughes, a member of The Pink Boots Society and Master Brewers Association.
The self-proclaimed hophead is excited for folks to try her hazy IPA, as well as lesser-known but historically beloved varieties such as Kentucky common cream ale and Schwarzbier, a black lager.
“It’s a bit risky,” Butler says of the decision to unearth long-buried recipes, “but we’re ready to plant our flag in the ground and show you a world of different styles.”