Updated: You can raise a beer (and possibly the dead) in person at Necromancer Brewing Co. starting June 11. Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Pittsburgh’s craft beer family welcomed a new member May 21, when Necromancer Brewing Co. opened for can sales at 2257 Babcock Blvd. in the North Hills, in what had been a USA Baby store. They sold out in an hour and 15 minutes.
Inside the 14,400-square-foot building, which also previously housed a Spirit Halloween, owners Ben Butler and Aaron Easler sold four-packs of N-E IPA, Ever and a lemony grisette called Wildwood. This weekend they’ll release two more mainstay beers.
You can pick up the bundles of joy from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Or until the coolers are kicked.
It’s been about nine months since I first wrote about Necromancer, but I have a long history with its headquarters.
I bought my daughter’s crib, along with bottles, bibs and a breast pump, at the site 12 years ago when it was an infant gear superstore. This horror lovin’ mama also stocked up on fake blood and plastic ghouls during the structure’s stint as a seasonal emporium for all things spooky.
Now I can get beer there! Gosh, I love it when life comes full circle.
I didn’t see any babies during my sneak peek at the facility (although Butler is a new dad), but there are still a bunch of skeletons featured on the walls alongside the beer labels.
That’s Necromancer’s thing: It resurrects dead beer styles and gives them a modern incarnation.
“I’ve always wanted to have a brewery, but I didn’t want it to offer only trendy beers,” says Butler, a certified cicerone, the beer industry equivalent of a sommelier.
It’s not a new concept. The American craft beer revolution started in the 1980s by folks reviving old standbys such as India Pale Ale for the next generation.
Brewmaster Lauren Hughes, a veteran homebrewer and member of the Pink Boots Society and the Master Brewers Association, has spent years researching historic beers. She’s unearthed more than 60 recipes that she plans to modify to satisfy present-day imbibers.
Many beers of yore relied on spice mixtures rather than hops. The beverages packed a punch, but weren’t very palatable.
“The fun part is staying mostly true to style, but in a way people are going to enjoy,” Hughes says. “When you resurrect something, you can make it better.”
Necromancer will debut two to three new beers each month. Look for long-forgotten styles such as Kentucky Common Cream Ale, Schwarzbier, Braggot Ale, Purl and other ghosts of pints past.
On June 1, Necromancer will release She Knows Beer, a fruited IPA brewed with Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo hops and conditioned on heaps of orange purée for a citrusy tang. Necromancer collaborated with Trace Brewing on the project, which is spearheaded by the Pittsburgh Brewery and Taproom Diversity Council. Hughes and Necromancer’s Assistant Brewer Mikey Orellano serve on the seven-member committee along with Trace’s Aadam Soorma.
A portion of sales will benefit SisTers PGH, a Black and Trans-led nonprofit that serves QTBIPOC (Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color) and non-binary people in southwestern Pennsylvania. Trace also will host a benefit Drag Brunch on June 6 at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at 4312 Main St. in Bloomfield.
She Knows Beer is similar to the Black is Beautiful stouts created in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Beer-makers from around the city are putting their personal spin on the base recipe and then donating a portion of their beer’s proceeds to a nonprofit organization.
So, when will you be able to drink at Necromancer?
Butler says by the end of May there will be tables and chairs inside the 2,200-square-foot foyer. Food trucks will provide grub in the parking lot, which boasts 36 spaces. In 2022, Necromancer’s skeleton crew plans to ramp up production and open a 330-seat beer hall in the back of the building.
As a West View resident, I’m happy Butler and Easler decided to give birth to their dream in the North Hills. I look forward to watching it grow.
The NEXT Beer is a new column highlighting different brews, breweries and events in and around Pittsburgh. If you have a beer-related news tip, send me an email. Cheers!