Aboretum Trail Brewing Co.
Aboretum Trail Brewing Co. is located at 1351 Washington Blvd., formerly the home of Couch Brewery. Photo courtesy of Aboretum Trail Brewing Co.

Trouble on Arboretum Trail

After struggling to find patrons, Arboretum Trail Brewing taproom will be closing as of Aug. 31.

Owner Ben Steffen says his fall beers should be in stores by the end of September: Pump(kin) It Up, an amber pumpkin ale, and The Hills Have Pumpkin, a stout made with pumpkin rolls from Pastries A-La-Carte. This year, for the first time, there will also be a barrel-aged version, coming in at 12% ABV. That one will only be available at the pop-up events he hopes to do over the next couple of months.

In the meantime, Steffen will concentrate on expanding his distribution. He expects to be brewing again, but plans have not yet been finalized.

One of the newest Arboretum Trail Brewing beers, a hazy pale ale called It’s a Tough Location, is described as “paying homage to a line spoken over and over at Arbo.” Steffen puts it more bluntly: “The location should have scared me off.”

The brewery sits on an industrial stretch of Washington Boulevard (Route 8), off Negley Run Boulevard in Larimer. The speed limit is 35 mph but the cars are flying by at 50 mph or better. It’s a tricky left from the northbound lanes. There’s no foot traffic. 

Couch Brewery operated out of the space for four years, until closing in late 2021. Arbo opened the following spring.

Steffen has earned several medals as a homebrewer. His beers rate well on Untappd and BeerAdvocate. Four-pack sales are good. Distribution is picking up: Arbo beers have been on draft at Hemlock House and D’s Six Pax & Dogz in Regent Square, as well as at Mike’s Beer Bar on the Northside. More than 30 other bars and distributors carry them.

“I have the product. I have the work ethic,” Steffen says. But still … the tough location. Food trucks are hard to book because they’d rather park at busier breweries, “understandably,” Steffen adds. With few exceptions, brewpub events have failed to draw crowds. In addition, Steffen and his partner have had a falling out, so Steffen’s now the sole owner.  

Beer and slasher flicks: Aug. 11

If you like beer (yes!) and slasher films (uh … ), The Parkway Theater has an event for you on Aug. 11: a 3 Floyds beer tasting, along with a screening of the 1980s cult classic “Pieces.” The well-known slasher cinéaste Joe Bob Briggs says it’s “the best chainsaw flick since the original ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ Splatter City. FOUR STARS!” It will be there in all its gory glory, preceded by samples from the well-respected Indiana brewery. Of course, Abjuration Brewing is just across the lobby, so stop for a pint before you run screaming from the theater. 

Wigle Whiskey is planning a party to celebrate Puppy Love, its newest ready-to-drink cocktail, on Aug. 12. Dogs from Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh are invited. Photo courtesy of Wigle Whiskey.

Wigle Whiskey, music and dogs: Aug. 12

There will be whiskey and music and dogs at Wigle Whiskey’s Puppy Love bottle release party on Aug. 12. Puppy Love is a ready-to-drink cocktail made with Wigle’s Pennsylvania Straight Rye, Pomander Orange Bitters and simple syrup. Tickets are $25 and include a new whiskey cocktail dubbed the Tail Wagger. 

A portion of the proceeds benefit Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh (they’re bringing the dogs). Riley Grant and Company will provide the music. The event runs from noon to 3 p.m. in Wigle’s parking lot, leaving plenty of time to get to Barrel & Flow Fest — with a designated driver.

Visitors enjoy the 2022 Rhythm & Brews Festival in Bellevue. This year’s event is Saturday, Aug. 19. Photo courtesy of Bona Fide Bellevue.

Rhythm & Brews: Aug. 19

Bellevue’s third annual Rhythm & Brews Festival happens on Saturday, Aug. 19. Organized by Bona Fide Bellevue, the local community development corporation, it’s a beer festival, a music fest and a chance to explore the businesses along Bellevue’s main drag, Lincoln Avenue. 

A $45 ticket ($50 at the event) gets you samples from 20 local breweries and distilleries, each set up in a shop along the street. Participants include Cobblehaus Brewing Co., Lolev Beer, and of course, Lincoln Avenue Brewery. Look for Maggie’s Farm Rum and Goodlander Cocktail Brewery too. Bands include Rebel Revolver and Holy, Hers. Proceeds support Bona Fide Bellevue. 

Local medal winners

A couple of local breweries did well last month at the U.S. Open Beer Championship in Oxford, Ohio. Brew Gentlemen’s Muchos Mahalos won gold in the Berry and Fruit (passionfruit, orange, guava) beer category and its Garden Party scored a bronze medal among the vegetable beers. In the Barrel-Aged Brett/Wild Beer category, Cellar Works Brewing Co. in Verona and Sarver took home a silver medal for its St. Amelia Wild Ale

Work is progressing on CoStar Brewing’s Etna brewpub at 325 Butler St. A fall opening is expected. Photo courtesy of CoStar Brewing.

CoStar brewpub opening in Etna this fall

CoStar Brewing, the one-time pride of Highland Park garages, is looking at a late October/early November opening date for its Etna brewpub. From 2012 until a pandemic shutdown in 2020, CoStar earned a solid reputation, selling kegs to bars and restaurants. Co-owner Dominic Cincotta says they’ll have a 10-barrel brewing system. 

The brewpub will seat 70 indoors, with a larger outdoor seating area. Hopland Park Pale Ale, its signature brew, will be on tap, along with pilsner, kolsch, oyster stout, brown ale, and ESB — about eight beers in all.

“We like to do approachable beers,” Cincotta says. “We had made a good name for ourselves.” He’s looking forward to “getting the beers out to the people.”

Annette Bassett is a freelance writer and grant writer living in Bloomfield. She likes visiting local breweries, going to concerts and walking the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh while listening to audiobooks. She prefers wired earbuds.