When their homebrewing operation outgrew the confines of a domestic kitchen, five Dormont residents started making beer in the narrow streets behind their homes.
“Almost every road in Dormont has alleys shooting off of it. They really tie the community together,” says Cody Hoellerman. Now he and friends Lee Sifford, Jacob Maxwell and Patrick and Patricia McKinley, are bringing Back Alley Brewing to the neighborhood this spring.
The brewery will occupy the 8,000-square-foot former Dormont Borough Municipal Building at 2975 W. Liberty Ave. At full capacity, about 120 customers can occupy the taproom, but the large space allows for social distancing. There are two spacious rooms on the second floor for additional seating and private events.
To complement their pints, customers can choose from a menu of traditional pub fare.
The five-barrel brewing system, which is housed in a spot once occupied by the local fire department, will produce a wide range of beer styles, as well as hard ciders and seltzers and non-alcoholic soda pop. A commercial canning line will allow for libations to go.
The Back Alley crew has more than a dozen beer recipes they’ve been perfecting over the last decade. Fluffernut, an imperial ale brewed with butternut squash, vanilla and autumn spices, won second place in the 2019 All American Homebrew Competition in Cincinnati.
Hoellerman, who graduated from Pine-Richland High School with Sifford and Maxwell, says they’ve been getting a lot of advice from other brewery owners in the area, who are trying to navigate the ever-changing Covid rules.
Back Alley Brewing was set to debut last February, but the pandemic sidetracked those plans.
“It turned out to be a blessing for us,” Hoellerman explains. “It made us pump the brakes and rework our business plan with Covid in mind.”
A Honeycomb Credit campaign is underway to help get the brewery off the ground. There won’t be a lot of building renovations since the team wants to preserve the history of the structure, which boasts a parking lot and — of course — its own alley.
“We’re not going to change it up because it’s so recognizable,” Hoellerman says. “There’s a strong emphasis on community in Dormont and we want to reflect that.”