Volunteers have put in about 600 hours to help Lincoln Avenue Brewery become a reality. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Hyslop Photography.

Bellevue residents will work for beer.

“We had 30 people show up to demo the building in three-degree weather,” says Joel Haldeman, co-owner of the not-yet-open Lincoln Avenue Brewery. “People just want to be part of making Bellevue better. It’s encouraging.”

Folks who log at least 20 volunteer hours will be enrolled in the Founder’s Club and will receive a 64-oz. growler full of beer every month for the first 18 months of operation. The business — the first of its kind since the borough lifted its long-time ban on booze — is set to open in late December.

Located in a 110-year-old building on the corner of Lincoln and Hawley avenues, the brewery is slowly taking shape. It is shedding the drywall and drop ceiling of its former incarnation as a dental office in favor of the original brickwork, wood flooring and tin tiles.

Workers are busy uncovering the old building’s long hidden charms. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Hyslop Photography.
Workers are busy uncovering the old building’s long hidden charms. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Hyslop Photography.

Haldeman and his wife, Amy, purchased the property last year and wrestled with what to do with it. The couple, who have three children, thought the neighborhood could use a family-friendly place where people could unwind after a long day. Joel, who occasionally made his own beer, knew Bellevue had a strong homebrewing community and looked to his hophead friend, Grant Saylor, to take the reins.

Lifelong Bellevue citizens, Saylor and his wife, Lisa — who met as teenagers at Northgate High School — were big advocates of changing the borough’s antiquated liquor laws to attract new businesses. Folks were apprehensive at first, thinking there’d be a nuisance bar on every corner and drunks passed out in the street. When the referendum question first appeared on the ballot in 2011, it lost by 30 votes.

Undeterred, proponents like the Saylors and then-council president Kathy Coder continued knocking on doors, rallying the community. Their hard work paid off in 2015.

“You look at all these towns where breweries come in and they attract a lot of people and become a destination,” Coder says. “That’s why I got involved. It’s taken a while and it’s not for a faint of heart, but people are seeing the benefit of it. Selling prices are going up. The town is starting to prosper. You see new life and new energy.”

The soon-to-open restaurant Revival on Lincoln is another driver of that progress.

Grant Saylor, a big fan of West Coast IPAs, says he’ll brew a wide variety of styles on Lincoln’s two-barrel system. There will be 12 taps, with six staples, five rotating seasonals and one “community collection,” that Saylor will concoct with a local homebrewer.

There will also be a small, locally-sourced menu featuring panini sandwiches, salads, charcuterie and baked pretzels with beer cheese and homemade mustard. All meats will be roasted and sliced in-house.

No word yet on an opening date, but we’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, the Haldemans, Saylors and their army of volunteer laborers can’t wait to raise a pint to Bellevue.

“Bellevue is experiencing a renewal of community spirit and, as a small borough so close to the city; it is exciting to see where it will go,” Grant Saylor says. “The business district is seeing new businesses open and houses are being renovated at a record pace. People are finding the hidden gem that is Bellevue. We are excited to swing the doors open and welcome in the community.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.